Saturday, December 13, 2008

Joy

"Thou will make known to me the path of life, in Thy presence is the fullness of joy, at Thy right hand are pleasures forevermore." Psalm 16:11

The last evening is here. Today I felt like wind blown leaf in a temporary resting place along the side of another foreign road.

Yesterday's flurry of activity began with our trip to the Grace Orphanage. In just one year, the entire landscape surrounding the old traditional Chinese neighborhood has radically changed. It made it difficult for us to locate. Although H (our friend and acting interpreter), had detailed directions, the cab driver still needed to stop and ask police as well as street cleaners where we were and where we were going.

The street is closed to traffic now, so the director came to the corner and a broad smile of familiarity and thanks broke across his face. He walked us the rest of the way to the building our arms loaded down with the packages filled with new shoes, socks, toys, gifts and other items we negotiated for the day before.

The 10 youngest children were there - many now old enough to remember last year's visit from the "soo-chow". We played games, told the Christmas story, took photos and closed with the children singing "Jesus Loves Me" in English. We took a tour of the building and saw the three new water heaters for the children's bathrooms as well as the air purifiers we purchased last year. Perhaps small improvements but they will make a big difference in the quality of life for the orphans during the cold winter months.

We loaded up and hurried back to the hotel to be picked up by the University's driver and taken to the performance. We drove away from the city and watched the car's thermometer continue to drop. The shoulders of tree-lined lane leading up to the campus were sprinkled with snow, the thermometer read -6• C.

It was COLD - but the warmth generated by the awaiting students was better than a blazing fire. I can't recall every entering a classroom that was heated adequately (for a Texan). Everyone in the audience remained bundled in coats, scarves and gloves. They laughed. The volunteers willingly acted out the stories. And in the end they asked the "questions" I am always ready to answer.

My friend G sat on the front row and prayed.

It wasn't long before the "why" question opened the door for the answer of faith. Then one young man asked if I would sing them a song. You might find this curious but it is not uncommon. I told the students I would sing the song of the orphans. I stepped off the stage and began "Jesus loves me this I know.. " I reached out and touched the hands of the audience members "yes, Jesus loves me, yes Jesus loves YOU".

More questions, deeper and deeper into the depths of faith came the answers. Several students asked H for her number so they could plan to visit the orphans. Today I received an email from the Ps in Jinan that already the ENTIRE class is arranging a visit to the orphanage!

This morning Professor N (S) who makes all the arrangements for my performance said one of our taxi drivers inquired what we were doing there and when he was told about our visit to the orphanage, he was so excited because one of his relatives is looking to adopt a child. S gave him H's number to contact Grace Orphanage and schedule a meeting. God work's in mysterious ways indeed. He guides us to the path of life.

I have been in China, but also in His presence. I can say this with confidence because I experienced great joy.

Pray for harvest hands! The Chinese people are hungry for love, joy and Truth.

Pray for the young girl student who approached me as we were leaving and took the scarf wrapped around her neck and said, "I must give you something, for what you have given me." She then began to cry. I embraced her and asked why she was crying and she could only choke out the words "I am so sad". Pray God's love comforts her and His Truth heals her unspoken pain.

Pray for safety and rest for the journey is long and never easy.

Pray for the meaning of Christmas to reap the largest harvest the workers have ever witnessed!

Pray for the gift we have been freely given to be boldly shared.

Praise God for the Reason of the Season!

All my bags are packed and I'm ready to go...

I've already said goodbye...
...Smile for me You are in His service too!
video

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

"Now to Him...

... who can keep you on your feet, standing tall in His bright presence, fresh and celebrating -" Jude 24 The Message

Our Master certainly kept us on our feet today! I met my friend this morning at her hotel and had my first non-Chinese breakfast in 10 days. It was quite continental: British cold baked beans, French croissants, Swedish museli, German sausage and good ole American scrambled eggs!

My friend H arrived to take us to shop for the orphanage. She already arranged the "big" purchase of new water heaters to enable the children to have hot baths (without having to heat water over the stove). Today we bought new shoes for each child, warm winter socks, and educational toys for the toddlers. The three of us then returned to stuff Christmas gift sacks and pack everything we will need to take tomorrow.

It will be jammed packed. First heading out to the orphanage - then immediately after returning we will be picked up from the hotel and go to the campus performing for close to 200 University students. Our day will finish late in the evening. But oh what a day.

Pray for joy and happiness for the orphans. The director told H, "I can offer you nothing for such a great gift but I will pray for you and your families".

Pray for the students who are taking time away from their end of the year exam studies to learn a lesson that will change their lives.

Pray for questions that will open the door (and their hearts) to the Good News!

Pray for us to "stay on our feet in His bright presence". Pray His radiance to shine shine shine.

Pray for our health (snow in the forecast). Pray for safety on the roads.

"God can do anything, you know - far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams!" Ephesians 3:20 The Message

Dreaming and imaging His abundant provision!

Monday, December 08, 2008

A Measuring Reed

A few weeks ago, I was reading in Ezekiel where the Lord instructed the prophet to write down the dimensions of the Temple. I confess, reading details like these in measurements I don't understand and frankly am not sure why I sure care about, I am tempted to skip on to the "good" stuff. You know the part where the justice of God is meted out against the enemies!

I realize however, the exact details and measurements are given to make sure we understand the "concrete" reality of the new Temple, the new Heaven the dimensions may not make much sense while we live in cities of concrete and steel - oh but one day, gates of pearl and fine gemstones. Not to mention the streets of gold!

Last night, at the foreign teachers fellowship, I think the "kingdom here on earth" could have been measured in the 10'x12' room. The participants went around the room making brief introductions of their name and country of origin. What a fulfillment of the prophecy, "all nations will praise the name of the Lord." Madagascar, Botswana, Tanzania, Rwanda, America, Hungary, Holland, Germany, Australia and of course one itinerant clown.

Each week, they meet together and praise the Living God, have Bible study, encourage one another and PRAY FOR THE HARVEST. Some are students, some are teachers, some are starting businesses as an avenue to share the Good News but ALL are about the King's business.

I was exhausted after the day at the Jinan orphanage, and yet I knew being among brothers and sisters in Christ from distant lands united for one purpose would strengthen me for the remainder of the task set before me.

Many students accompanied our group to the visit the children. I took many pictures for the Jinan group of adoptive parents so they can share with the children now living in the States the faces of their friends who have not forgotten them (on either side of the ocean).

I have noticed many changes here, in the eight years I have visited, but many things remain the same. I would say, the biggest one is the great number of people who have never heard the Good News or have any hope in the greater love of the Living God.

Keep praying. Keep holding up the harvest workers who live far from comfort and familiar things. Pray for their stamina, health, and unity.

Tomorrow I leave for Beijing. I will be connecting with friends flying in from the States a few hours after I arrive. Pray for their connections and rest on their long flights from America. Tuesday night I will have dinner with a few former students who have helped me down through the years. Pray for their hearts to be open to hearing the Good News, as they have seen the love of Christ displayed many times.

Wednesday we will spend the day making purchases for the orphanage. Pray for good negotiated prices so we can buy even more needed items for the children.

Thursday we will spend the afternoon with the children and then off to the University for a performance for the students at the Technical College. Friday will begin the process of our journey home.

Close to 800 University students, orphans and public school children have heard the work of the mighty King. They have ALL heard the meaning of the celebration of Christmas. Pray for harvest hands to reap mightily during this "season" of the Greatest Gift!

Packing up and moving on!

Saturday, December 06, 2008

A Real "Page-Turner"

Have you ever stayed awake late into the night, engrossed in a book because you HAD to know how the story would resolve itself? You keep telling yourself, "just one more chapter, surely the hero will turn everything around."

When the back cover is closed, we expect the story to have a fairytale "happily-ever-after-ending. The hero wins, the man gets the girl, the good guys win and the bad guys are defeated; all against the backdrop of a beautiful sunset.

Last night I stayed up past my bedtime...

turning the pages of my heart
while I cried myself to sleep.

Our team of three Americans and four Chinese were all excited to return to the Taian orphanage a two hour drive from Jinan. We were surprised by a late night phone call from "J". He would be taking the overnight train from his home in Shanghai, just to see the children. He is a businessman, recently married, and extremely busy working with a foreign company. But in 2001, he was a student of the Ps and served as my interpreter. Ever year since, he has acted as liaison between the government and orphanage officials to arrange our visit. He wouldn't miss this for the world (or a good night's sleep).

When we arrived in Taian, friends of the Ps once again arranged an inviting energizing lunch in their home. Hospitality is a great gift, but even greater is their service to enlist their students to make all the purchases for the orphanage. They encourage them to share what they are buying is for the children in the orphanage. They both shared, every vendor, from food suppliers to clothing stores ALL gave them a discount and expressed their appreciation for the help the children would receive.

Their office was filled with crates of fruit, milk boxes, biscuits, meat sticks, diapers, wash clothes, soap, shampoo, toothpaste and of course special treats! CARE EE sat in the midst of the all the "goodies" and praised God for the testimony in provision for the children.

Last year we were escorted to the new $30 million (US) dollar facility and were told the children would be moving here in September 2008. But when J contacted the officials, he was told the building is still under construction. Setting out for the orphanage, we found ourselves temporarily lost, passing by the old building because the facade is covered with scaffolding.

We were met with the usual fanfare - newspaper reporters, photographers, and a television crew filming every moment from arrival to departure! The children were all excited and seated around a play mat where I quickly joined them on the floor. We tossed a sponge ball around and from their cheers you could believe in their hearts they had just caught the winning pass at a Superbowl Game. Bells, and instruments were passed out and we quickly assembled a band and filled the room with music heard to the heavenlies. After Polaroid photos, and decorated frames, we were escorted to the original building home to the infants and severely disabled children.

It is the same building visited for the past eight years. But now choking dust, and a cacophony of hammering, constructing and destroying filled the stairways as we climbed the six floors to the children's ward. The first room at the end of the hallway was very familiar to us. There are 15 cribs with children a range of ages, but all with crippling disabilities. Even though they have grown, they remain in beds designed with the safety of babies in mind. As I knelt down to look in their eyes, pat hands and stroke faces through the bars, it seemed like a cage. Don't misunderstand this is not cruelty, it is necessity in a place where proper physical therapy and treatment is limited.

"This is not at all how we thought it was supposed to be..."*

We were then led to the room where we performed the first year. Now it is filled with more cribs. Each with a tiny child clothed with heavy quilted winter wear and covered by a thick blanket. The room had no heat. When I touched the tiny hands, they were ice cold.

"We can cry with hope"*

We went from crib to crib, touching, praying and wondering "why"? On the other side of the city a "showcase" is being built, and yet here and now - they are cold, in need of such basic necessities as milk and diapers. After we finished we were led to another room - filled with more cribs...

"We can say goodbye with hope"*

And we were led to another room - filled with more cribs...

"We can grieve with hope"*

And another...

My interpreter turned to me and said, "these children are dying."

"'Cause we believe with hope, there is a place, by God's grace, where we'll see your face again"*

One of the questions during the performance at the University was "do you ever leave really sad?" Truthfully I answered, "of course, there are many times my heart grieves for the conditions and situations I see the children in. BUT... I know God knows where each one of the children are born, He has numbered all the hairs on their head, and His promise is not to leave them or to forsake them. He has promised to give them hope and a future - they are created in His image for eternity! It is never easy, but it is the Truth I hold on to."

"We wait with hope, we ache with hope,

We let go with hope,"*

Pray for the last performance in Jinan at the orphanage. Pray for joy, pray for laughter, pray for HOPE!

Faithful, hope-filled and turning the pages
* Lyrics from "With Hope" Stephen Curtis Chapman

THE END OF THE STORY:
"He'll wipe every tear from their eyes. Death is gone for good - tears gone, crying gone, pain gone - all the first order of things gone... Write it all down- each word is dependable and accurate." Rev 21:4-5 The Message

Friday, December 05, 2008

"And makes the Nations prove...

... the glories of His righteousness, and wonders of His love, and wonders of His love, and wonders, wonders, of His love!" excerpt from Joy to the World traditional Christmas carol

Friday WAS full of joy overflowing

The invitation to perform at a government sponsored Primary School was approved at the request of an "English" volunteer teacher. A young man and his wife, who has now lived in China for over five years with three young children. They are committed to the harvest here for they have seen the ripe fields! The two older girls (3yrs and 2yrs) came with us to the school. It was humbling to see his commitment as well as sacrifice for the work of the Kingdom. He chuckled, as we were weaving in and out of the traffic (with no "child-safety" seats) and said, "this is all they know". He and his family are here to "hear" the NATION prove.

"the glories of His righteousness."

The auditorium of the school housing over 2000 children filled quickly with the chosen 400 (10 from each classroom). They were well behaved (for youngsters) but when CARE EE walked in the room - it exploded into squeals of surprise and delight. They were ecstatic to see a real "clown" up close. They had fun with the skits, the tricks and in the end, when time came to close, CARE EE wished them a Merry Christmas. I asked them, "do you know why Christmas is celebrated?" They all shouted back, "it is the birthday of Jesus!"

Just one week ago, the young man had carefully, shared the real meaning of Christmas. They remembered. When we walked out their volunteer "teacher" exclaimed, "WOW, they remembered."

"If I be lifted up, I will draw all men unto me."

After a brief rest, I made my way through the dark below freezing night across the campus to J's combined classes. He was unsure of the turnout because most of his students are older and have jobs and families. The room appeared a bit vacant with only 50 students but they were engaging and had a good time with the performance. Once again, the evening closed with a question and answer session.

For the first time I can remember, after I gave the explanation for "why" (because I am a Christian) I chose this type of job, one of the students said, "can you tell us what lead you to make this decision to become a follower of Christ, and when did this life-changing event happen?" You can imagine, the prayers that were immediately shot as arrows into the Throne Room from J,D, myself and the other Chinese believers in attendance. I was able to give a clear presentation of the message of the Gospel. We are all sinners, in need of a Savior. I also was clear in expressing, in America, many children are raised in Christian homes and exposed to the Truth of the Bible at an early age. But, the Truth can be understood anytime you hear it. God so loved the World...

"...and wonders, and wonders of His love."

In a few minutes, my friends will arrive with our Chinese version of an SUV, we will pack up the treats and goodies and head for Taian (two hours away). The children are still in the old facility and still in great need. This year we added diapers to the list of items we are taking to the precious disabled young ones, who must spend the majority of the day, confined to a crib.

Pray for safety on the roads.
Pray for joy among the children.
Pray for understanding from the workers of what keeps me coming back and back and back.
Praise God for the WONDER of His love!

And all the nations WILL bow before the King.
Kneeling

Thursday, December 04, 2008

T.I.N.A.

"T.I.N.A." is the acronym used away from home when faced with the unusual or strange. It is meant to secretly jostle (and quiet) one another, "This Is Not America." Often quoted, is the culture sensitivity reminder, "it's not bad, it's just different."

It's Friday morning here, and the University Hotel dining room was filled to capacity. Professors, conference attendees and a variety of other official looking people clamored around, with plates and chopsticks, dishing up breakfast. Can you imagine what they serve for breakfast? Chinese food of course! T.I.N.A. indeed.

This year I came prepared. Knowing the fare each day would be virtually the same (noodles, rice, ginger cabbage, steamed cauliflower, strange hot items I am too scared to try, and other hot liquids that are probably very healthy but... well different.) A good dose of protein is needed for a day filled with performances, exposure to the weather and the floating bacteria in the atmosphere. I added a new item to my list of "must have for travel" food bags. I have defeated the dreary common boiled egg by bringing packets of mayonnaise and mustard.

There I sit, alone, strange and VERY American, with cracked eggs and packets my fellow diners are curious about - to stir up "deviled" delights. Okay, so it is day three and I have had my fill of them. Tomorrow I may move to add PB&J to spice up my morning delicacies.

No, this is NOT America.

I cannot imagine University students being entertained by a "clown". Much less after a performance more suited to those under 13, to ask provocative life-challenging questions. A question asked last night during the Bible study (for the students) was "what I have learned" from my travels. I gave a lengthy response, but the core of the answer was love is communicated with much more than language. Everyone, young and old, feel the need for value in their life, purpose, and to know they are loved. It was a forum where I was free to share the full Gospel message. The love of God exhibited through the gift of His Son. This is NOT America, but people are God's creation wherever they find themselves geographically. People need to understand the real reason for Christmas. We don't need a "bailout" governments vote on - we need a Savior!

This afternoon, my first performance will be for Primary School students (about 500)! Pray for clear translation, joy and love to be communicated to the eager audience.

After a brief rest (and a PB&J) I will perform for J's combined classes. The conference room can accommodate 300. Pray it is filled to capacity! Pray for the questions. Pray for the Holy Spirit of the Living God we serve to answer with life giving, life changing truth.

T.I.N.A.

This is not America. This is the Harvest Field. "Red, and yellow, black and white - all are precious in His sight. Jesus loves the little children of the WORLD."

"On your knees, pray for harvest hands" Matthew 9:38 the Message

Hands serving, face smiling.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

"I Know..

... what your visit means to the children."

Those were the first tearful words from the last University student to hug me goodbye after the performance. I thanked her, but saw her turn her head to hide the tears running down her cheeks. I embraced her again and and through her tears she explained, "I am from the countryside, from a horrible childhood. My family was very poor, and I often did not have clothes to wear or even food. We lived in a terrible house that really was not even a house." She could hardly completer her sentences. "I know the greatest thing you give, you give hope. Tonight you have helped me understand that I too can give the gift of hope."

American culture is built on hope; with hard work anybody has a chance at greatness, paupers can become millionaires, people without education can teach themselves to read by fireside and change the nation (President Lincoln). One of the greatest privileges of our country, the land of "opportunity", is the abundance of hope.

The students prepared their questions in advance. They were cheerful, open and inquisitive about many aspects of non-profit work. It did not take long before the proverbial question was asked, "why do you do this type of work." From then on the discussion was centered on faith in the Living God. The Truth, the Light, the Hope and great love of God was proclaimed boldly to the eager, listening audience.

As we were heading back to the hotel after the performance discussing the many thoughtful and provocative questions of the students, D commented in an atheist society, when God's love is shown people respond.

The harvest is ripe, pray for more workers! And keep up your prayers for this one.

Sowing seeds of love in the field smiling

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Safe and Sound

It is a dreary Wednesday morning here in Jinan. After 24 hours of travel, plane rides, taxi drives and the burden of 200 pounds of "goods for services" - I arrived late last night. Sleep was fitful on the Chinese version of a mattress (closer to a floor than a bed), but I rested and now I'm ready to get started. My tiny room looks like a clown factory exploded with all the toys, trinkets, props, red wig and funny Christmas costume hanging from the doorpost.

Today will be the first University performance for around 150 freshman English majors. My friend discussed the "visitor" worked for a non-profit, but neglected (to surprise them) to tell them I am a clown. They are in for a surprise indeed!

Pray for JOY! A merry heart doeth good like a medicine.

Pray for the question and answer session to open the door to the presentation of the Gospel. Pray for those who know His voice to HEAR the Truth.

Pray for health and stamina. This will be a whirlwind "tour" and I need to remain well and armed against any weapon or bacteria the enemy would try to use to slow me down.

Pray for the real meaning of Christmas to be understood among a people who have eagerly embraced the man who wears a red suit and gives gifts. Pray they understand the gift of the shed blood of the one whose birth we celebrate.

Live from the red zone

Monday, December 01, 2008

Black Friday - Red China Monday

The sun has yet to peek its blazing head over the horizon here in Dallas, Texas. I arrived early enough to the airport to miss the masses of people returning home from the holidays. At 6am the airport is already bustling and the gate agent is growing tired of saying, "no sir, we are completely full."

Approximately 24 hours from now and 15,000 miles I'll be back in red China. My mind was reeling watching three days of reports coming in from Mumbai India. Many of you asked I if I knew anyone there. I do not, but many of my contacts have friends and family who no doubt were affected by the terror.

Terror can happen anytime, anywhere. Even in a Walmart parking lot by unarmed, unwitting and enthusiastic people searching for the best bargain before they run out. For the family of the employee, hearing the news this young man had been trampled to death - was terror. Something totally unexpected and out of our ability to affect the situation.

I praise God nothing is unexpected to Him. Nothing is out of His control or dominion. We will never find an empty shelf where His mercy and love should have been.

Please pray for our hearts to turn toward the necessary not the temporary. There are millions of children not clamoring or even expecting toys, they would just like something to eat. There are mothers and fathers around the world watching their children suffer unable to do anything about it. Terror and terrible.

Open your eyes to the greatness of the God we serve - trust Him for the need. After all the Word does say' "for God so loved..."

May we love so well - we tell others
Flying serving and smiling

"So, Roll up Your Sleeves...

…put your mind in gear, be totally ready to receive the gift that's coming when Jesus arrives” 1 Peter 1:13

Today, in Texas it is a warm, sunny day with a high of 63, my sleeves are definitely rolled up, as the sweat is dripping down my forehead! December is just one week away, and I am just one week from “leaving on jet plane” to China. I was encouraged reading 1 Peter 1, especially by verse 13. I have been trying to get my mind to the necessary gear to prepare for my eighth trip to the People’s Republic of China. Over the past eight years over 10,000 University students have experienced Sunshine After Rain! We have visited the Taian Orphanage seven consecutive years, the orphanage in Jinan for the last five years, and the orphanage in Beijing the past four years, consistently ministering to the children, orphanage workers and directors. Our visit is something they look forward to each year.

Through a variety of media opportunities (televised public performances, cover stories in magazines, radio interviews and last year even a documentary) close to 3,000,000 Chinese have heard the story of the ministry, our visits and care for the orphans in their country, as well as the reason we come, to practice pure religion undefiled according to the Word of the Living God. God used the simple (a clown) to confound the wise. His message of love and hope travels beyond our days and into eternity.

We may look at the future as uncertain, but there is no uncertainty with God. His Word does NOT return to Him void. It produces a harvest, some ten fold, some hundred, some thousand fold. We have seen it in the testimony of our work in China. Pray for the BILLION fold!! Nothing is too hard for Him.

Sleeves rolled up, coat packed and smiling in His service.

CHINA - Calendar of Events

December 1
Depart USA

December 2
Arrive in Jinan

December 3
University Performance

December 4
English Corner

December 5
Grade School Performance
University Performance

December 6
Taian Orphanage

December 7
Jinan Orphanage

December 8
Home Visits

December 9
Travel to Beijing

December 10
Preparations for Orphanage

December 11
Kindergarten Performance
University Performance

December 12
Beijing Orphanage

December 13
Return to USA

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Back in the US

Thank you for participating in prayer for our return back to the states. We have spent the last 12 hours slinging dirty clothes, bumping down the rutted roadways of Cap-Haitian and then trying desperately to avoid the mob of porters at the International Airport in Port au Prince. As can be expected once we arrived here in Miami our bags were the last holding us up through customs. This caused all five women and 400 lbs of luggage to run like Banshees through the maze of the airport.

Out of breath we made it to the gate only to discover a 40 minute delay! We are finally on board and bound for DFW. I will send out a final report by Monday. Thank you again for the coverage and "leverage".

Under the shadow of His wings

Friday, November 07, 2008

In the Eye of the Storm

There is a calm here in Haiti yet a flurry of activity. This morning one of our team members turned on the TV out of boredom, to stare at the snow and listen to the CNN audio. Unexpectedly, she heard "Hurricane Paloma in the Caribbean". She called our team leader and set is in motion back towards the US.

While Haiti is west of the storm - because of American's flight priority into Florida our flight might be cancelled. Here we go!

We Praise God for the "storm warning" and know we are traveling under His eye!

Flurring and smiling

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Displaced

We are back on the road again toward the village hillside where the Word of God is being proclaimed. This is our final day with the children. Today the Bible station will cover the crucifixion and the Story station will be the story of the Three Trees. Each day we have built upon the Rock of truth and not the sand of passing generations deception through voodoo.

Pray for our protection when the "walls of this Haitian Jericho" fall down! Pray for the hearts of the children to understand the depth and width and height of God's love for them through the sacrifice of Christ. Pastor G has asked us to climb the mountainside above the village today to hear (and see) the vision God has given him for the village. Pray for our mountaintop experience to carry down to the valley and become God's reality in this place.

I have received many emails regarding prayer for the Nation. I praise God for a new day and His promise for all Nations to be blessed by the sons and daughters of the King.

Last night I began humming the praise song "Rejoice in the Lord ALWAYS and again I say rejoice". I looked up the verse translated in The Message:

"Don't fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God's wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It's wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life."
Phil 4:6-7

Around the world, we encounter people who have been "displaced" from hope by war, poverty, and disease. With the power of the Word and the strength of the Living God we are battling to bring Christ to the center, to communicate the "sense of wholeness" God brings. EVERYTHING is under His control.

"Summing it all up, friends, I'll say you'll do your best by filling your minds and meditating on things true:
God is good

Noble:
God is faithful

Reputable:
God is trustworthy

Authentic:
God has never changed

Compelling:
God tells us to Go, and make disciples of all Nations

Gracious:
God's mercy is new every morning

- the best not the worst:
Our salvation is secure

- the beautiful, not the ugly;
Our nation has been blessed with resources 90% of the world cannot begin to imagine

- things to praise, not things to curse
God is still on the throne

.... Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work YOU into His most excellent harmonies. Phil 4:8-9

Now that is something to sing about!

Rejoicing and serving

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

A New Day Has Dawned

Dateline November 5, in the year of our Lord 2008:

As we bumped and rocked down the rugged roads of Limbe yesterday the sun was beginning to set. In the distance out over ocean a huge white billowing thundercloud glowed with orange and yellow hues from the rays of the sinking light. I looked at the beauty but remarked "there is a huge storm coming."

Our hotel receives only one TV channel and it is only on at 7 at night. Although we knew the probabilities and the projections and had a certain degree of interest toward what was occurring across the ocean - our hearts remained focused on the Haitian children we had spent the day with.

We return to the village this morning with the hope He has given us. Yesterday, the children that attended from school had to leave. It was obvious the enemy was trying to limit our influence by dwindling the numbers. It was a bit chaotic, but everyone on the team was "flexible" and we filled in with games and limbo and chicken dancing. Those we were left with laughed, played and heard the Word of God proclaimed from the hillside where the Bible station was set up under the trees. The enemy has no dominion!

Here, from Haiti we want to encourage you across the distant shores the Kingdom is advancing! Pastor G explained how "this generation" of village children will have no heritage of "voodoo". They will have a new inheritance built on the foundational principles of God's Word. Strongholds where the enemy has been entrenched are crumbling under the mighty power of the Almighty God.

Our eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord - and His truth IS marching on!

Those of us under the authority of the King have nothing to fear. May our hearts be reminded of the Prophet Samuel, upon the appointment of Saul as King over Israel "far be it from me to sin against God and cease to pray for you."

We are praying, we are marching and WE are still on the winning side!

Fighting in His service!

Monday, November 03, 2008

On the Eve of His-Story

We arrived safely in Haiti after a brief night's sleep (up at 4:30 am) and off to the airport. The flight to Port au Prince was short (not long enough for a nap) and we arrived to sweltering heat, a blustering wind and the sun reminding us - we are in a country where the only real change in seasons involves wet or dry.

Our Haitian national was not there to meet us (stuck in traffic) but we were greeted instead by a swarm of men grabbing our bags, luggage carts and whatever else they could vie for in the process of our trying to get out of the terminal. "No, no, no we do not need your help" did little to persuade the hoard following our movements and exchanging heated Creole on who was going to get the tip out of these Americans.

Finally, we did find the Pastor's wife and she lit into the men in an equally heated exchange. An exciting way to start the campaign! People pressing forward on all sides trying to get your attention thinking - you have what they want.

Years ago on my first trip to Israel (when tourism was still at its peak) the crowds astonished me. Buses at every local - people pressing forward - I was expecting serenity at each site time for reflection and deep spiritual contemplation. When I was relating this to a friend upon my return - her perspective opened my eyes. She said "you know that is probably just what it was like for Jesus. ".

Our second flight involved a plane a bird could have taken down and we flew low enough over the green hills and vales to see the occasional herds grazing far below. It was breathtaking. Whenever I am privileged to see God's handiwork from the heights, He brings to mind the verse "what is man that you are mindful of him?".

Now we are at our hotel overlooking the sea, in relative comfort far above the impoverished streets and neighborhoods we drove through to get here. We are waiting to participate in His-story!

History may change - but His-story remains the same.

He leaves the ninety and nine to save the one that was lost.

Searching and seeking in His service

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Key Battleground

Over the last few weeks I keep hearing the term "key battleground." It is used in the political arena to describe geographic locations on the United States map; these are States that could "go either way" as votes are cast; they are also called the "undecided." Campaigns have designed strategies and created commercials to persuade voters why they should make a certain choice.

Our "campaign" to Haiti begins in a few short hours. We will be flying to the political "key battleground" of Florida today, before heading on to Haiti early Monday morning. There we will encounter many "undecided."

The real "key battleground" is the souls of the lost - the hearts of men, women and children. We will definitely be campaigning for change! We want to give them an opportunity to decide on where they will spend eternity.

The apostle Paul wrote "I have become all things to all men so that some might be persuaded." This may be a poor strategy in politics - but the strategy that brings people to salvation is the same yesterday today and forever. Christ told His disciples "if I be lifted up I will draw all men to Me."

Our team will be using that strategy and claiming VICTORY in Jesus. He guarantees we are "more than conquerors", we are more than Senators or Presidents - we are servants of the King of Kings.

We are not in a race whose winner will be decided on Tuesday. We are not fighting in a "key battleground" to determine who will hold a term of office for the next four years.

There has been a call to prayer heard across the nation among Evangelicals. A call to turn our hearts towards God. Today as I embark on yet another "campaign trail" my prayer is that as Evangelicals we would pray for more than just protection for a Biblically based political view - but for the greater eternal view God desires, that people know He so loved the world He gave His only Son and whoever believes in Him will have eternal life!

Pray.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Change is Coming and a Clown is Leaving...

...the country that is – and only temporarily.

Because I’m a Texan, you know the subject matter is NOT a political statement. There are so many political emails flying through the internet inter-space, I wanted you to be aware of the critical call to prayer needed for our upcoming trip to Haiti.

The 2008 Hurricane season left Haiti devastated. Four storms in three weeks killed an estimated 700 people. Housing, crops and property were destroyed in a country considered severely impoverished. Considering the damage done to the Texas coastline from the last storm (Hurricane Ike), it is hard to imagine in a nation with few resources how recovery begins and where hope can be found. Because Ike did not affect the roadways along the northern coastal region, our plans for ministering proceed as planned.

The Message translates 2 Corinthians 4:1 like this:

Since God has so generously let us in on what he is doing, we're not about to throw up our hands and walk off the job just because we run into occasional hard times.

Next week, I am expecting big changes! I anticipate the Holy One of Israel to make Himself known through our minds, hands and feet as we minister to 300 Haitian village children. I am know He will CHANGE HEARTS for eternity! That promise excites me and gives me hope far greater than a temporary change in Presidents or politics. Our team of 5 will conduct a three day outdoor program for children in the surrounding rural area of Limbe, Haiti. The Haitian Pastor and staff we will be working alongside, planted a church in the village, and asked for a children’s program for those who do not attend school. He described them as the “poorest of the poor”. The Word specifically states in Proverbs 21:13 what happens when we fail to listen: If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered.

In a time when “cries” for our nation need to be heard, please remember to heed His message and respond.

No matter who wins the United States Presidential election, the King is still on the Throne of Heaven. He is still in control, He is still seeking the lost, and He is still expecting US to fulfill the Great Commission and GO!

Going AGAIN smiling in His service.

HAITI - Calendar of Events

NOVEMBER 2
Depart DFW
Overnight in FL for morning flight

NOVEMBER 3
Flight to HAITI
Team Leadership Meeting

NOVEMBER 4-6
VBS Program with Rural Village Children

NOVEMBER 7
Tour of Area
Ministry Opportunities

NOVEMBER 8
Return to DFW

Sunday, October 12, 2008

"I Still Have...

... my arms." Lt. N

The past two full days here in the Hill Country have been heart-felt, heart-changing, and heart-filled.

Families who arrived here broken in body and spirit have smiled, laughed, danced with titanium legs (or for Lt. N who lost both his legs in Iraq in May and is still waiting to be fitted) even wheelchairs.

I have seen angry hurting and confused children make new friends, giggle at silly jokes (yesterday we gave out certificates for things like the longest tongue, and blinking the fastest) and play like there was no tomorrow.

Some of the wounds are very evident. There are many amputees, and burn victims, but there are also Traumatic Brain Injuries (from IED blasts) that leave the soldiers with symptoms as varied as short and long term memory loss, to affected speech.

The first morning the Chaplain shared of one soldier who sent his wife and daughters but did not want to come because he is tragically disfigured over 97% of his body after being burned by steam in the boiler room of the ship he was serving on. His efforts (and those of his mates) saved the ship and the lives of the other men, but... his injury does cause stares he has not grown used to.

I sat with his wife and daughters (unknowingly at breakfast that morning) and his wife said "I wish my husband could be here because it is such a blessing - but... he is afraid of how people will react". While I was at the table he called and she said enough of the right things to give him the needed incentive and by dinner he had joined his family.

Tonight as the evening program was coming to an end - the parents were picking up the children from our program and allowing them to swim and splash in the pool one last time. I saw the wife of Lt. N and commented on the change I witnessed in her 11 year old daughter.

At first she stood back away from the table where I was seated, agreed she had seen a change, but added "We have changed too". By this time Lt. N had rolled inside and was playing Scrabble and laughing. She sat down, looked inside and said, "I have never seen him open up like this. But more than that I have never felt God this close. I knew He was looking out for me when He let my husband live, but here I have seen Him and His love for us."

For an hour, I listened to her story. She shared her heartbreak and her anger, and then she spoke of the first time her daughters saw their dad after his injury. "They were scared, and I was too at first. There were tubes coming out of every part of his body. My youngest (6) just stood behind me afraid she would hurt him. Then he said, "come here honey, come sit on the bed". My daughter backed further away until her daddy held his arms open wide and said "look, I don't have my legs but I still have my arms. I can still give you a big hug".

That was all it took, for the love of a father to be communicated to his child.

I have often seen that gesture (arms stretched open) to communicate the message of God's love for us by the outstretched arms of His only Son on the cross. But tonight - as I heard a wife and mother's story, I confess it took on a new dimension and depth of meaning.

The courage and sacrifice among these soldiers is humbling. The price they paid for my freedom - the freedom to share God's love and travel around the world to do so makes me even more grateful and determined to take NOTHING for granted.

There has been great sacrifice and blood shed on foreign soils through many years for our freedom. But an even greater sacrifice and precious blood shed on a cross for love.

"If that isn't love the ocean is dry, there's no stars in the sky and the eagle can't fly. If that isn't love then heaven's a myth, there's no feeling like this, if that isn't love"

God has blessed this time, God has blessed this place. God bless America and those who fight to keep us free!

In His service patriotically

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Red-White No Blues

Reporting in after the soldiers arrival. One of the first families to arrive had been here in April. The two children ran up and embraced me with an arm load of love. Miss C, you're back! We are so happy to see you. They had my undivided attention being the first to register. They told me about their summer activities that included camps and kayaking and then the boring stuff like school!

When they tired of their tales and more children came they went outside to play. It wasn't long before their mother joined us (my friend S and I) on the floor and shared the saga of family life since the retreat in April. She started by saying, "you know we wouldn't have made it without the retreat. We were headed for a divorce because my husband felt his injury (double amputee)was too much of a burden on me." But he was saved that weekend and now he has the faith and trust in God to make it. Since then he has been shark diving, sky diving, skiing, white water rafting - he is becoming the man God intended him to be." She told of his fear of not "finishing" something he started because he has never been a quitter. She then went on to say they had just participated in the Army 10 mile run held in Washington DC. "I have two herniated discs" she said, "but if he was willing to walk (in his newly fitted prosthetics) I was going to be at his side. There were times we were holding hands and I felt like I was pulling him, but he finished! They left Washington DC closed down for an extra 45 minutes so we could cross the line." Then she laughed, "he did beat the one-legged man".

Many along the sidelines cheered them on and encouraged them. I immediately thought of the verse, "since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses...let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us."

Each of us has a race marked out for our lives. For the men and women here at the retreat, the race included a battle they volunteered to fight, but injuries that unexpectedly cut short their tour of "duty". Our duty (that means you) is to carry the burden and lighten the load through prayer, to share laughter or a smile, and at times to listen with the gratitude of a person who enjoys the freedom they sacrificed for. There is more than a "duty" to be served here - there is the upward high calling - sharing the hope of Christ and the eternal victory found in Him.

At the last retreat 8 soldiers claimed "Victory in Jesus". Five marriages were restored and 12 children put their lives in His hands. There are 31 families signed up, 40 children and an army of angels watching over us.

Pray for protection, for open hearts, and for the battle weary to find strength in Him.

"Some gave all, all gave some" but One gave His only Son!

In service for the service men and women.
Humbled

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Debate

I don't know how the Presidential candidates did last night answering questions in the "Town Hall" forum. It is not for lack of interest - but time. I was busy packing my bags for the next adventure for the King and His advancing Kingdom!

However, for believer's in Christ there is no debate on the answer to the final question. When our life is over - did we love the Son of God and accept His redemption for our sins?

This morning I am being "deployed" down to San Antonio for the second Joni and Friends Warrior Retreat. There are over 25 families and 40 children!

The San Antonio office has done an amazing job enlisting many volunteers to help provide assistance on many levels. We have world class speakers, counselors, volunteers with a heart for service, and Bible based curriculum for the children to have an opportunity not just to learn more about a relationship with Christ, but for many a chance to trust Him for the first time with the rest of their lives.

The children of the enlisted may not see the battlefield, but they experience their own emotional war. Their parent "did the right and honorable thing" and paid a high price for that choice. The enemy has the territory of confusion and doubt to claim the lie "our God is not good, and our God does not care".

It is our honor to defeat the enemy and his lies by pouring love into these wounded hearts; the healing "balm" of God's unconditional love; to give them a picture of the victorious life and true victory to be found in His arms.

Don't forget to pray for me! That I may boldly share the love of Christ. Eight children were at the first retreat, so it will be a good chance to reconnect with them and establish a deeper a relationship. Saturday night, our team will present the Gospel and provide an opportunity for the children to make the most important decision of their lives!

This a battle of life and death - a fight to the finish. I don't know who "won" the most points in the debate, I don't know who will win the Presidential election - but I do know who wins in the end.

It is the King I serve
Smiling,

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

TEXAS - Calendar of Events

OCTOBER 8
Depart for Warrior Retreat

OCTOBER 9
Training and Orientation
Soldiers and Families arrive between 3-5 pm
Evening Program

OCTOBER 10
Full Day Children's Program
Family Dance-a-Thon!
Evening Program

OCTOBER 11
Full Day Children's Program
Fishing Tournament
Kayaking
Evening Program Sharing the Good News

OCTOBER 12
Nature Hike
Return to DFW area

Monday, September 08, 2008

Wrong Again!

Okay

Sometimes you just have to laugh to keep your testimony. Such is the case here in the Hyderabad Airport.

Last year when V and I were connecting through Hyderabad I was confident this being a MAJOR terminal there would be plenty for us to do at the airport - shopping, lounge, etc. When we arrived we discovered an airport smaller than Dallas' Love Field. AND we were not allowed inside until 3 hours before our after midnight flight. This left us in the company of 10,000 flies - certainly as many mosquitoes and a few women covered head to toe in Burkah's that watched curiously while we sat and applied a variety of bug-warding oils to all exposed areas we could modestly reach.

They giggled and wrinkled their noses at the smell wafting from our area of the room.

We were not happy but entertaining to others none-the-less. But...what are you going to do but be patient and wait. Much of the time I tried (vainly) to convince V of all the shopping that awaited us once the doors would allow entrance.

I was wrong (again).

When we finally did go inside (8 hours aromatically later) there was NOTHING! One kiosk selling Pringles and cookies (okay there were a few miscellaneous kitkats too - but it was slim pickins.)

I had to give the background (did I not too mention I have a lot of time on my hands) because NOW there is a state of the art 21st Century airport here in Hyderabad! When we first arrived I had to laugh at the luxury - the shopping - the restaurants - and we were only on the domestic side - my mind boggled at what lay in wait upon our departure through the International section. After all we would have 12hours in between flights.

I was wrong.

There is a down side to this new fangled fancy terminal it is about 1 hour from the city. So... To get to a hotel in between flights is a big hassle (think shopping time cut back). We arrived as scheduled - had a VERY helpful and friendly airline staff person help us collect our luggage and begin to escort us to the International side of the airport.

Wow - we passed a McDonald's and several other things that peeked our interest (come on after 8 days of rice, noodles and curry - even MickeeDee's has its allure).

At the check point we were stopped by the armed guards (typical) who proceeded to speak a battery of language that were bullets to our layover experience! Technically, our international flight leaves tomorrow (1:05am) so they were not about to allow us in TODAY!

I was wrong.

There went our VIP lounge, our shopping, our comfort et al. In spite of the best and valiant efforts of the porter, the Kingfisher manager - we were unable to get into the International side. They did however negotiate entrance back into the domestic baggage claim area where there is fewer flies and air conditioning.

We are sitting quietly now, all alone with only airport staff staring and probably wondering about our dilemma. V is doing EW business and most likely utilizing the power of the Holy Spirit not to slap me silly for convincing her to cancel our city hotel reservations (I said "think about the hassle and the luggage and the time and expense, 12 hours will go by in a flash - and anyway in that new fancy 21st century airport we actually SAW the shopping")!

Two hours down - ten to go - when you (in Central Standard Time Zone) finally awake and read this we might have gained access to the International side -

But I could be wrong.

Sitting sniffing Big Mac's and thinking of shopping...

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Belated Beloved

"Before I shaped you in the womb, I knew all about you. Before you saw th light of day, I had holy plans for you: a prophet to the nations - that's what I had in mind." Jer 1

One week ago today I did not celebrate my birthday. Instead I was somewhere 30,000 feet above the world making my way to India. V did alert the flight crew and they did provide a First Class chocolate - but it carried no fanfare or cards or presents in the cramped confines of economy class.

When we were deciding on the choice of dates for departure V asked, "are you sure you don't mind traveling on your special day?" Obviously, I did not - and considered it a privilege to make such a small sacrifice to be in the next place God had an assigned task for me to complete.

Today was our last day of programs. We began the morning at a small village church where I actually delivered the sermon (on Isaiah 53:1-5). We had the afternoon to get our finances for the trip in order and then we made our return to Goodman Orphanage; home to 13 precious children (10 girls and 3 boys). We arrived after dark but could see the shadows of the children awaiting our arrival at the gate.

We slowly got out of the car and were met with the traditional shower of marigold petals. It was only when we were inside the gates that I saw the sign stretched across the orphanage. "Happy Birthday from Goodman Orphans".

I had to hold back the tears as all thirteen children came forward with handmade birthday cards expressing a variety of birthday wishes: "we love you" "thank you for your visit" "God bless you". And of course they sang several choruses of "Happy Birthday to You". Believe me, belated did not minimize the abundance of blessings.

The first day of our arrival, Pastor J told us they recently had taken in a small girl who was begging and picking up food out of the village streets. He sadly said, the dogs and the ravens chased her for the small amounts of sustenance she was able to collect. He said, "sisters even though we do not have the money to take in another child we could not let this happen to the girl. We had no choice but to help her." He went on to explain her mother died and her father disappeared. No one in the village would take her in so night and day she just roamed the muddy pathways in search of scraps - less than a "rag picker" for because of her age and her size she would not survive long enough to make money from what she collected.

He told us her name, but said, "you can pick a new name for her". I of course spoke up and said "you can call her C..." to which V replied "but you could also call her V...". Pastor J laughed at our contest. I then explained my name means "encourager of women" but V piped up and said "well MY name means victorious". Pastor J said "then we will call her Vicki Charlynn" and she will be a victorious encourager!" We laughed at the thought and honestly thought he was just going along with our back and forth "name calling".

But tonight after the choruses were sung and the cards presented - the other children said "and here is V... C...". A beloved child rescued from starvation, abandonment and death, shyly offering only an occasional grin. A great birthday present indeed!

In the six days of programs - we have ministered to over 1700 village men, women and children. Many heard the Gospel for the first time. The Harvest here is daunting, but the faithfulness of the workers is inspiring. We will be back (before my next birthday) to sow, to plant, and to reap along with our brothers and sisters here in the fields of India.

May God bring the increase in your lives as you participate in the great commission -to the ends of the earth.

He is on His way
And so are we

Friday, September 05, 2008

Watch

... with Me". Matt 26:40

In the mission field it is easy to develop a watchful attitude: watching for God's hand; watching for God to "show up" in the midst of certain circumstances; and I confess watching for His favor.

In an environment as contrasting to God's goodness as India's - it is difficult to "watch" FOR Him. So many other sights and sounds and smells would tell your heart there is not much "good" in so much of "this". The evidence of a fallen and broken world is everywhere: extreme poverty, children naked and uncared for, roads congested with garbage and a variety of animals foraging through the rubble.

Here, there are people considered lower than those same animals that roam freely in the streets, as I said earlier we were with them yesterday, the "rag pickers". And as Pastor Johnson explained, "no one wants anything to do with them we must have a separate church for them, for even the children understand who they are and do not want to be ridiculed by the others."

Oswald Chambers always serves and trains me well both in the field and at home. This morning's devotion was Jesus charge to His disciples "watch WITH me". Our morning program was at the newly constructed "God's Presence Prayer Temple". Each Friday Pastor J and his team assemble in the village, fast and pray all day with the people who show up with a variety of ailments and predicaments.

As I looked out at the crowd of over 300 adults gathered, I learned the difference between watching FOR Him and watching WITH Him. The sick always sought out Jesus, loved ones brought their infirm relatives, parents brought in their demon possessed children, friends brought neighbors and lowered them through rooftops - all to get to the man they heard was healing.

I watched with my Master, the faithful, the faithless, and the faith seekers hear the Gospel proclaimed. I recalled the verse where Jesus said to the sick man "your sins are forgiven" and the Pharisees balked at His boldness. He replied, what is easier to say, 'your sins are forgiven or be healed?" After which He healed Him as well.

I live in a culture far removed from miracle "healings". I live in a culture that no longer chases after the Master's presence to get just a touch of His garment. I live in a culture where the "good" things are seen on every tree-lined street corner swept free of trash. I live in a culture where our constitution says "all men are created equal" - though some could argue various discriminatory claims - I have never heard of a race or class of people in America being consider lower than animals. I live in a culture where children are not running naked in the streets.

I watched WITH Jesus today, and saw the "Truth" that has set me free BUT - the "world" that binds me to disbelief. That IS the GOODNESS of our God. He redeems it all, He uses it all, He shapes it all, He controls it all, and He was and is and is to come!

We have boldly proclaimed the Good News to close to 1500 men, women and children. We have experienced the joy of the Lord and gained strength. We hold fast to this promise, "...be steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, for as much you know that your labor is not in vain."

Watching, waiting and still smiling (but itching less)

Thursday, September 04, 2008

The Den and the Din

It is loud in India!

Although Machilipatnam is not a big city by any standard, even late into the night the noise of the outside traffic can be heard - various levels of horns, blaring a variety of honks and beeps and blasts.

The constant drone of the air conditioner (praise God) drowns out some decibels but it is still there. It did not silence the sound of the thunder that echoed through the city at 4:00 am.

In many ways when we return to the confines of our hotel room in between programs and then at the end of the day - I feel as though I have entered a "den" of false safety. Here there are no lions, but mosquitoes, roaches, and something (as yet to be determined) that loves the taste of my blood lurk in wait for our return.

BUT, we praise God for ALL things - the toilets we no longer manually have to flush, the air conditioning cools our overheated bodies down and dries our sweat drenched clothes equally as well (no dangerous fan incidents).

We praise God for the HUGE (I am talking bigger than a toddler) monkey that scared us to death as we left our room yesterday because it brought the blessed joy of laughter (two chicks with hands full trying hard to get the door shut while screaming and trying not to drop our inflatable "world").

We praise God we brought lots of granola bars and nuts and M&Ms for treats so the curry doesn't overwhelm our delicate digestion. We praise God for the electricity that works 90% of the time - and of course there is the satellite we can't see allowing "notes" from the field to go forth and multiply into prayers that are availing much.

We have finished the third full day of programs and have seen close to 1000 village children and adults! The "den" also reminds me of the verse in Daniel: "But the people that do know their God shall be strong and do exploits." (Daniel 11:32)

Each day V records the name of the village, population, Pastor's name as well as anything else Pastor J shares (number of believers, miracle healings, etc). This afternoon, he said "this is the "Rag Pickers" village." We didn't quite understand the name or even come close to guessing the meaning, and asked for an explanation. "Rag Pickers", he said, "they are the people that dig through the trash dumps and find small items to sell that have been thrown away. Plastic or glass items, you understand "rags".

Unfortunately, we did.

The village was only a short distance from the city center and we arrived sooner than we thought. We were broken in spirit considering their circumstance but when we got out of the car the children ran to us smiling and laughing shaking our hands, saying "hello" and renewing our strength with their joy. They smiled more, laughed harder and listened with greater focus than anywhere we have been.

But whatever their lack, their hunger and thirst for the Word will be blessed!

"(they) defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. IS THAT NOT WHAT IT MEANS TO KNOW ME? declares the Lord?" Jeremiah 22:16

It IS going well, we know our Lord, we are proud to do "exploits" for the Kingdom is at hand, we can see it in the smiles of the people He sent us to proclaim the Good News to in India.

"...preach good tidings to the meek;...bind up the broken hearted, proclaim liberty to the captives...comfort all that mourn...give them beauty for ashes..." Isaiah 61:1-3

Tomorrow, we have a program at the Prayer Hall with V giving a message to the women, then on to another village in the afternoon. Keep the fervency of your prayers going forth to bring down strongholds and open the flood gates of His Spirit on this nation.

Listening and knowing He is smiling at our service

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Fighting the Good Fight

"If your enemy is the King's enemy, then your battle is the King's battle"
Pastor Tommy Tenney

We have not finished the race, but we are fighting the good fight! Today was the first day of our programs. We visited two villages and saw over 200 children and close to 100 adults who came to see what the visitors had to say and give.

The Good News was shared boldly, Gospel bracelets were made by both the young and old, and prayers that "avail" much were spoken over those who came forward for blessing and healing.

Pastor J has shared amazing stories of healings in the villages and has said "sisters, I didn't think my faith was big enough for praying and expecting healing - but what kind of God do I serve if I do not believe He is able to do the things these people are praying to their clay idols for?"

I immediately thought of the father who came before Jesus asking for healing for his son. The Message translates the passage "if you can do anything, do it. Have a heart and help us!" Jesus said, "If? There are no 'ifs' among believers. Anything can happen." ...the father cried, "then I believe. Help me with my doubts!" (Mark 9:22-24)

Tomorrow begins the Hindu festival for the god Ganeesh (the elephant god). All through the streets people are selling floral garlands, party favors, incense, food items, leaves and other things that will be offered to clay images of the idol. This is the god that favors businesses so the worship is big business!

Thousands of people fill the streets in anticipation of the celebration. They are looking for "something". We traveled over ten thousand miles to share the real "something". With such obvious devotion it seems a battle too big to be conquered by a small army of two American women. But...

The battle is not ours - the battle is the Lord's. "Be not afraid or dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours but God's." 2 Chron 20:15

Keep the intercession flowing and filling our souls with spiritual ammunition. We are feeling a bit more acclimated but the heat is debilitating, the bugs are buzzing and the food is hotter than the weather!

We praise the Living God who asks only for our hearts not garlands or offerings. We praise Him for being the God who listens and answers - and in the smallness of our faith shows Himself BIG!

Winning with a smile!

Monday, September 01, 2008

Seasons

We have arrived at our final destination Machilipatnam, all baggage (and bags under our eyes) normal and at no extra charge! We have had an afternoon nap and are preparing for dinner at the only "safe" restaurant in town.

Because of the recent cyclone season all of the fields we drove through on our two hour drive here were lush shades of green. Vicki commented on their beauty. Pastor J replied, "yes, now is the time of planting".

The farmers are back, ready to sow the seeds - for the harvest is plenty the workers are few - but we are ready!

Last night as we were driving through the dark streets of Hyderbad, with an unknown taxi driver, to a place that seemed much farther than we remembered, I made conversation to keep our minds calmed. I commented about people not equipped for the task (nothing spiritual just conversational) and Vicki rolled her eyes indicating her own feelings about not being ready for her job (Director of Orphan Ministry). I said, "look around- not many people are willing to do "this" Abraham stuff. Face it this takes faith!"

"When he was called to go out into a place... he obeyed, and he went out, not knowing whither he went." Heb 11:8

We laughed, eventually arrived safe at the hotel and slept as fast as we could before having to wake up for our morning flight.

We begin our village programs first thing in the morning, and will have two programs each day. Our projection is to minister to around 50 or 60 kids per village.

Keep us prayed up EPESCIALLY for health. We had to stop at the pharmacy on the way to the hotel for allergy medicine for both of us, and V for stomach acids. The enemy does not want us at 100% - but even at 10% we are stronger than he is.

We come in the name - and we are here to "hoe some rows!" Praise God for the "bringing in of the sheaves".

Satellites working - Spirit of the Living God moving in mighty ways.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Winners and Losers


"Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, "This is the way; walk in it." Isaiah 30:21

When my oldest son picked me up from the airport upon my return from Tanzania a mere two weeks ago, aside from the hugs, and typical "I missed yous, glad you're home safes" he asked me if I had been watching the Olympics. "Oh mom, you should have seen the 4x100 meter swimmers relay race, we beat the French!" In his excitement he went on to explain the win was by 8 100ths of a second. I can't even type that fast. "The French lost because at the very end, the French swimmer turned to look to see if he was winning."

The glance away from the goal, cost them the gold medal and history was made again for American team member Michael Phelps.

I saw the repeats of his victory speeches, and the interviews. I noted his humility on the historic precedence of winning eight medals. He replied, "I couldn't have done it without my team members." What is unique about the eight medals is they include the medals that take a TEAM to win! There can be no argument about the athletic superiority and prowess of Phelps, but without the excellence, commitment and PARTICIPATION of his teammates, the eight gold medals would not have been possible.

You might wonder "how" can I be leaving again when I barely unpacked only to repack for another journey halfway across the world. Because I have YOU in the "relay" right along with me. We are in this great adventure of love and faith together. I don't get medals for my part - only air miles, and this year we have logged in another 100,000 for the advancement of the Kingdom.

And for your questions, "aren't you tired, isn't it tough on your body, you are getting older (I will be traveling on my birthday August 31)?" The answer is "YES, YES, YES," and probably yes to many other things you may wonder about. However, when I think of 1.2 BILLION people living in India, many who have NEVER heard the name of our King, there is no way I can say "no".

I don't need to turn my head to see if we are winners in this race, or if the enemy is "hot on our heels" I know he is BUT I know we are "more than conquerors" more than world record setters, more than gold medal finalists. We are called to "run the race with endurance"

"...let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured ...consider Him who endured ... so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." Hebrews 12:1-3

Smiling in His service and Diving In,

"So if you'll take my hand we'll close our eyes and count to three,
and take the leap of faith
Come on lets go - I'm diving in I'm going deep in over my head I want to be
Caught in the rush
Lost in the flow
In over my head I want to go
The rivers deep the rivers wide
The rivers water is alive
So sink or swim I’m diving in"

Dive: lyrics by Steven Curtis Chapman

INDIA - Calendar of Events

AUGUST 30
Depart DFW

AUGUST 31
Happy Birthday in
Hyderabad


SEPT 1
Flight to Vijyawada
Drive to Machilipatnam

SEPT 2
AM Village Outreach
PM Village Outreach

SEPT 3
AM Village Outreach
PM Village Outreach

SEPT 4
AM Village Outreach
PM Village Outreach

SEPT 5
AM Village Outreach
PM Village Outreach

SEPT 6
AM Village Outreach
PM Village Outreach

SEPT 7
AM Church Program
PM Goodman Orphanage Outreach

SEPT 8
Drive from Machilipatnam to Vijyawada
Flight to Hyderbad

SEPT 9
Arrive DFW

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Psalm 96:10

"Say among the nations, the Lord reigns"

We have finished the job and this leg of the race set before us. We were surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses (YOU) walking the African plains with us in prayer. (Heb 12:1)

"By faith Abraham went ... not knowing where he was going."

Although we had seen a map of the Shinyanga region, and had some idea of the direction - two weeks ago we did not know where or why the Lord would take us to such a place, but by faith we went. (Heb:11:8)

We did not raise all the money needed for the trip or the costs of the Bibles, but like the commercial says "for everything else there is Mastercard." (Phil 4:10-19)

And as far as the "priceless" things we witnessed:

Katome villagers who have practiced sacrificial killing of elderly women - holding their first Bibles (Heb 4:12-13)

Those same villagers standing and reading the Word of God out loud with pride and honor at the gift they have been given (Eph 5:19-20)

Two Muslim men in the village asking for a Bible school and a church to be built to teach the children the "light". (John 1:4)

The tribal leader taking copious notes for one of the victims accused of witchcraft (because she is illiterate) so her daughter can read them to her and teach her whole family (Deut 6:7)

Village women bringing in a "thanksgiving" offering of peanuts and 5 gallons of honey for us to enjoy the sweet, savor and remember we "tasted" the Lord was good to us in every way (2 Cor 8:2-5)

Villagers and women in attendance at the conference in Mwanza chanting the same song "Unity" reminding us we are ONE in the body of Christ and when one suffers we all suffer! (1 Cor 12:26-27)

Naama, the late Bishop's widow who traveled with us transform from a bereaved woman who had not left her house in 9 months, to one filled with joy and new purpose speaking out to the villagers and the women of her husband's church showing strength that clearly came from God (Psalm 30:11-12)

The driver Exhoud, (whose pig had just had a litter that we were able to purchase two piglets from to help the Bishop's widow) agree to the task at Debi's exhortation to teach the young son how to raise the pigs and help his family (James 1:27)

Rev Sabina Lumwe, on the last day stand for women's rights in the Diocese in speaking with the Associate Bishop on the work women CAN do and are often the only one's willing to do (using us as an example of two years of prayer) (James 2:22-23)

Mama Shangwe, whose significant role in the region does not keep her from humbly serving as her church secretary or an escort and agent to 4 sometimes "needy" American women (Eph 6:7)

And my three team members who laughed through the long and dusty roads of Africa, uttered not one complaint after two meals a day of rice and beans, shivered under cold showers or NO showers, used handy wipes as a luxury item, wiped each others feet off at the end of a long battle filled day, and prayed the strongholds of the enemy down! (Eph 6:12-13)

These things ARE priceless. However you have participated in this LIFE SAVING and LIFE GIVING mission - may God bless you. 2 Cor 9:6-15

"The Lord reigns, let the earth be glad; let the distant shores rejoice." Psalm 97:1

From the home shores of American - I can still hear the echoes "rising from the African plains". The sound of the redeemed!

Smiling - still praising

Sunday, August 10, 2008

He Saw that it was Good

"And on the seventh day He rested"

It was truly a Sabbath day for us. We enjoyed a day of leisure that allowed us plenty of time to pack and ready ourselves for the return home tomorrow.

Last night at dinner Sabina asked the main kitchen worker (Lucy) if she and the others would like to participate in "church" with us and allow us to pray for her and her family. She was touched. I am not sure how many of those who receive their hospitality actually extend it back to them.

We told her we planned to dance - she laughed at the thought (come on you are probably laughing too). Deb asked what would be appropriate attire for our impromptu service, I advised "this will not be a "King David dance" you must wear underwear!"

Lucy and Sabina broke out with peals of laughter. It was a great representation of the verse "a merry heart doeth good like a medicine".

We shared funny stories of past trips and laughed well past the usual signal for bedtime (swarming mosquitoes). A good beginning to the end.

And this morning we WORSHIPPED!

They are a bit embarrassed of their English but they sang along with us, and of course when we cranked up "He Reigns" they danced!

We made up typical "white chicks who can't dance" hand movements (to fake everybody out) but nothing could compare to the voices in unison singing "Glory, glory, hallelujah".

It is words every "tribe and every nation" understand.

"God saw that it was good - and it was morning and evening" of the last day.

We turned in earlier than usual (but still after the swarms arrived) and approached our separate adjoining rooms laughing while trying to dodge the flying menaces hovering around the fluorescents beams at the doors. We were having a contest over who could unlock, open just the smallest crack and squeeze through without any added (face it they are waiting for our return inside our domain) minion mosquitoes making it in.

Giggling like school girls, we began shouting through the open windows at each other: "goodnight Deb" "goodnight Debi" "goodnight Iesha" I said "goodnight John Boy" and they said good night to me with their laughter.

And for someone who is "smiling in His service" there is no better way or bigger compliment to end any day!

"A cheerful heart has a continual feast"

Pray for rest tonight and good connections tomorrow. We will leave Mwanza at 8am Monday morning Central Standard Time and arrive at 1:15pm on Tuesday. A long long way but worth every mile.

Just think how far He traveled for us!

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Face to Face

For the past ten days, each morning our team begins singing praise songs, followed by a time of prayer. Before we left for Tanzania I looked at the schedule and prayed for appropriate "soul" songs to set our hearts in motion for the tasks prepared for the day. Of course when we arrived - our schedule changed: the best laid plans and playlists of mice and clowns!

However, in God's providence the praises we have offered have still prepared us and readied our spirits for the path He picked.

Today, originally would have been a "rest" day, instead it was the last day of the conference and the conclusion of our participation in what God was/is/ and will continue to do here in Mwanza.

One of our morning offerings was "Be Still and Know". With all we have seen, all we have heard, all we have driven by that has gone unnoticed it produced a certain consciousness: "be still and know that He is God, be still and know that He is faithful..."

When I tell you there a thousand sights and situations that confront your faith here in Africa I am not making an overstatement.

"For now we see through a glass darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then..." 1 Cor 13:12 KJV

The dirt and stone filled road leading to the compound where we are staying passes by a few mud huts. Each morning we wave to the naked children running around and the mothers washing or preparing the days meals while roosters and chickens are scattered by the noise of our van. But just before we reach the main road there is a plot of dark charcoal colored land where there are always people digging. Most are children which originally made us think they were playing. But one day when I saw clearly what they were doing I was shocked. I confirmed with Sabina what my eyes could not believe; they were digging through an old dump site for broken glass.

"Through a glass darkly..."

In Oswald Chambers study on Job, he states essentially when we are confronted with the tragedy of life we immediately think God where are you? When in actuality we have come face to face with Him and He takes full responsibility. It is the great tragedy of sin that created the need for the horrific sacrificial death on the Cross by the Son of God.

We don't understand the why of so many things. We couldn't fathom why elderly women were hacked to death, buried and buried alive for superstitious practices - but the Tanzanians could not understand why it is legal for pregnancies to be terminated in the United States with such frequency either.

There are things on this earth we simply cannot comprehend or explain. These children are not "recyclying to go green", if they do not collect enough shards of glass they go hungry, they go thirsty, and they stay naked.

"Be still and know that He is faithful, consider all that He has done."

We rejoiced seeing demons flee in the village - but Jesus told His disciples the thing to rejoice over was their own salvation (Luke 10:20).

He intercedes in our weak and feeble attempts to understand what there are no human words to pray (Rom 8:26) He equipped us through your faithfulness (Eph 6:18-19) He gave us this mission (2 Tim 1:9) before any of us was born. He trusted us to see His-story at a history making time.

And now we wait - like patient farmers for the Lord to bring the rain, to provide the sunshine and raise up more worker's for the Harvest that is sure to come.

"We have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation:

Trust steadily in God, (even when you see children digging through broken glass, babies starving, and AIDS victims shunned)

hope unswervingly, (along every path and road He leads you on even if it takes you to the valley of the shadow of death)

love extravagantly (show the people He puts in your path you trust Him enough to solve the problems of the world through what was done on the Cross, travel ten thousand miles at great personal expense to be His witnesses to the ends of the earth).

And the best of the three is love." 1 Cor 13:13 The Message

The best we have accomplished without question and with a smile

Friday, August 08, 2008

08-08-08

Today was an historical day! I don't speak of the Olympic Games in China - although I am sure the fanfare surrounding the opening ceremonies was impressive. Here in the city of Mwanza, there may be some households with televisions, but there was no mention of the competition.

Although I am not a big sports enthusiast I do admire the dedication to physical achievement it takes to become a participant in the global event. Individual superiority is awarded, but it also represents a national pride - being the best in your country. At the end of the day, one of the tallies is how many of each medal (gold, silver, or bronze) each country has won.

What fascinates as well as saddens me, is winners and losers are separated by tenths of one hundreds of a second! Which is less time than it actually took me to write that sentence. Just one breath or less - faster or slower determines the outcome of the race.

WOW

Can you imagine in a race with 20 participants the first place and last place may only be a few seconds a part?

in Tanzania they may not take note of Olympics, but we are training athletic evangelists. Women ready to run the race with endurance. And the life they have to endure illustrates God has already prepared them for the marathon it will take to bring the country out of the darkness into the light. These are not sprinters - they are in it for the long obedience in the same direction. Their hardships have humbled us, their hearts have given us new courage, and their faith and willingness to serve the Lord without an "agenda" provides a conviction for our own "service".

To start the conference, the Bishop of the Diocese spoke the words of Jesus to Peter "feed my sheep". He admonished the women to feed those around them hungry for the Word of God. He then turned to our team and said, "I like the name of this ministry Sunshine After Rain. We have much "rain" here in Africa: poverty, AIDS, alcoholism, killing of old women and now Albinos. But I feel now with this conference you will usher in the sunshine. God bless you for coming."

There is only one other time in history the date could have been recorded as it was today - a thousand years ago on August 8, 1008. I told the women this as well as the Hebrew significance of the number 8 equaling "new beginnings". There were 8 people saved in the flood - I smiled and said "so you see we are all relatives!" I continued and encouraged them to look at this date as the start of a "new beginning" in their life, their ministry and their country.

"Remember not the former things, neither consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness and streams in the desert." Isaiah 43:18-19

Tomorrow we will conclude with Bible training, forgiveness and taking action in the community with a Christ-like response. Our original plan was to give the participants new Bibles, but since all of these women have a Bible - we will have them pray over their Bibles as an offering to another village where the tribal killing is being done and there is NO WORD of God there. Sabina and Mama Shangwe said this will be a great honor to allow them to give this gift.

Pray for listening hearts; seeds planted deeply to bear a great harvest. We are on the home stretch - we are passing the "baton" in our relay race - and we are guaranteed the winners of the gold medal (Revelation reveals the race is rigged in our favor all along)!

"Everyone runs, one wins. Run to win. All good athletes train hard. They do it for a gold medal that tarnishes and fades. You're after one that's gold eternally. I don't know about you but I'm running hard for the finish line. I'm giving it everything I've got." 1 Cor 9:24-26

Not one tenth of one hundredths of a second late in His will

Which of course makes me smile!

Thursday, August 07, 2008

He Reigns

"It's the sound of the redeemed rising from the African plains"

Today during 7+ hour drive back to Mwanza I was able to pass the time Blackberry in hand and answer YOUR emails. It amazed me as I looked out over the savannah where thousands of sheep and cattle were grazing - electric wires crisscrossing the road and me, sitting in a moving vehicle connecting to a distant satellite seemingly out in the middle of NOWHERE!

The song we have opened our meetings with (I know it is a funny thought to think of us hooked up with iPod and battery operated speakers shouting from the depths of our souls - and not necessarily on key) in a 20x20 room with murderers, Muslims, thieves, pagans and in a virtual darkness, kept running through my head "all God's children singing Glory, Glory hallelujah He reigns".

As we prepared to leave our hotel this morning, I heard shouting and a great commotion not far enough away to be comfortable. My PTSD (post traumatic stress) kicked into high gear and I turned and asked Sabina what was happening. She looked pale (for an African) and said "not to worry it is just school children." Their cell phones were ringing, and they told us just to be patient and wait.

We did not notice the gates of the hotel compound had been closed and locked.

We had coffee, waited and in the distance heard the noise. After 15 or so minutes the driver returned and we were on our way. Two hours down the road when we stopped for lunch - Sabina leaned in and told me "you know that was not the noise of school children earlier? A riot had broken out after someone caught a thief - but the police were nearby and things were fine after some time."

I knew exactly what she meant. In my many visits to Ghana, my friends have explained when a thief is caught they are usually beaten to death or tied to a rubber vehicle tire and set on fire. Sabina assured me this had not happened as the police were able to intervene and save the life of the man.

This is the reality in Africa: justice sought with immediacy, revenge taken, answers demanded for the unanswerable (the death of a child, unfruitful crops, etc) and from the village we just left - elderly women murdered for superstitious beliefs.

This is the reality of God: He reigns!

We left the villagers with the challenge to be the answer to another person or villages prayers. We gave testimony God has seen what is happening here and we are His answer to the prayers. I asked "when will you answer the prayer of neighboring villages that do not have the Word?". We asked who would become the evangelist - they all raised their hands.

"It's the sound of the redeemed rising from the African plains"

There is still much work to be done and much fallow ground to be plowed to make ready for the seeds.

The last thing we did before we left the villagers was to provide low-cost mosquito nets. They clamored to purchase them ($1 instead of $4) and walked away with their Bibles in their hands and their "covering" under their arms.

Your prayers have covered and kept us. Please do not forget to continue to "cover" them. The only thing that breaks the yoke of the enemy is the freedom found in Christ. We gave them the tools, planted the seeds, beseech the Father to bring the rain.

You know He will - because He reigns!

And then there is always "sunshine After Rain"!

Pray for the start of the Women's Conference tomorrow.

Pray for our strength to return and our lungs to clear.

Pray and then pray!

No umbrella needed for His reign.