Saturday, April 12, 2008

Water into Wine

"...Jesus told the servants to bring the water jugs..."

Our morning devotional (led by one of the physician's who has been working with the soldiers) was on the first miracle of Jesus at the wedding in Canaan. He asked that we look at the passage from the servants point of view. Jesus asked them to do the heavy lifting, and told them to carry the full (20 gallon) jugs. How many of you have lifted one of the water cooler jugs? It is no easy task.

But the point of the devotion on our last full day of the retreat - was not so much the heavy lifting but the fact the only people who knew about the miracle (the fact the water had been changed into wine) were those laborers (not invited to the wedding) doing the heavy lifting.

We were all uplifted and ready for the days heavy lifting! Especially upon hearing 7 soldiers committed their life to Christ after hearing last night's message delivered by Nick.

The day was filled with a fishing tournament, horseback riding, and games. The kids were ecstatic, the servants did heavy lifting and our God showed up.

Tonight, J and I orchestrated a Trivia Game filled with much laughter, joy and enthusiasm (even though the prizes included Vienna sausages and Spam.) The final speaker was Jonathan Spinx who delivered a powerful message of life before and after Christ. As he closed with an invitation message and asked for commitments one young man stood to say yes to a new life. Jonathan then asked them men to pray with him for Christ's love and change in their hearts. Many men stayed behind after the closing and spoke with the various lay workers, the speaker and the Chaplain's in attendance.

Even if you count only 8 definite acceptances of salvation that is close to 50% of those who have attended. Not bad for a handful of servants pouring out the Miracle Jesus has allowed us to see!

Tomorrow Joni will deliver the closing message of hope and offer once again an opportunity to decide who they will leave here serving - they will still be servicemen but we pray they will be serving the King.

The clowns will present the Gospel during Children's church and one of the staff will give them an opportunity to make a decision. You are the ammunition arming and equipping us to bring down the strongholds and continue doing the heavy lifting! We have seen the Living Water quench the thirst of these desert fighting soldiers.

God bless America and those who serve "One Nation" that started under the One God!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Ten Fingers and Ten Toes

One of the first things uttered and eagerly waited for at the birth of a new baby is the phrase "all ten fingers and toes are here - he/she is beautiful! That phrase typically is used to indicate a healthy baby.

Today, at the Warrior Retreat marked the anticipated arrival of Nick Vujicic (www.lifewithoutlimbs.org ) As you may understand from the name of his website, he was born without arms or legs. He was basically born (and has lived 25 years) with only a torso and a small appendage where a leg would have been, should have been.

Part of the testimony he gives as a world-renowned inspirational speaker is the pity people felt for his parents when he was born. But, as he tells it his parents praised God! His father (a pastor) knew God had blessed them with a child who would only survive with God, and God would use him to encourage those who face great discouragement.

Here we are, all able-bodied, weary, and grumbling like Israelites in the desert because we are short of volunteers, no one has any experience, in our youngest group we have a crier, a crawler, and a kicker! As we were taking a heavy sigh at the afternoon break we started to walk to our room and complain (after all I just returned from India) up rolls Nick, pushed by his caregiver in the child-sized stroller his torso easily fits in. Beaming an infectious smile, he stops and says in his charming Australian accent "hey love, how are you doing? Come give a hug"

Okay, here is a guy with no arms or legs saying as casually as saying nice to meet you - give me a hug! It is - no disrespect or pun intended - totally "disarming"! We hugged, he chatted with us and told us he had just arrived TWO HOURS earlier from Columbia SOUTH AMERICA! There went my "just got back from India excuse and moan."

God is faithful!

Just when His children start throwing a party of pity, He opens our eyes to a different reality, and just how much mercy He is capable of, and how adequate His provision ALWAYS is.

We are humbled by the opportunity God has provided for us here at the Warrior Retreat. There have been many chances for the families to be ministered to as well as the love of Christ illustrated through the speakers, the volunteers, the Chaplains and leadership.

Many of these soldiers started life in a delivery room with the word of health uttered "all ten fingers and toes". Now, many in the prime years of their life have lost those symbols of health. They are fitted with prosthetic arms or legs - they don't have fingers and toes.

Our continued heart and prayer is as they hear testimony of the magnitude and goodness of God, (despite the broken neck of a 17 year-old girl - the birth of a child with no limbs at all, the hardships of an abused child who turned his anger into a world championship kick boxing career - and ultimately a testimony of God's mercy on his son diagnosed with terminal brain cancer ) they will find hope in the place where hope will not fail.

The enemy is pulling out all the stops to weaken and break us, irritate and tire us, and frustrate us to the point of grumbling. We know God parted the Red Sea at the moment the Israelites were at their most frightened, weakest, and weary moment. Tomorrow we are watching to "behold the power of our God". We need it!

Fight the good fight of faith with us and continue to equip us with you faithful intercession. Strongholds are coming down.

We are more than conquerors!

In the battlefield humbly with a smile

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Off to Battle

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33

Once again, I am sending out the call to arms! I have just been in the US for a little over one week, and find myself called back to duty down near San Antonio, TX (not such a long drive and no airplanes are involved). It is with great privilege I have been asked to participate at the first Joni & Friends retreat for returning wounded soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan.

What began as an unsure position with few children on the role, has turned into 4 full days of very active duty serving close to 25 children. We have lots of amazing activities planned: rock wall climbing, Nascar simulator, fishing tournament, fire truck with demonstration, and of course clowning around. Sunshine After Rain Ministries (through the generous contribution of supporters) has underwritten Trail Rides for all of the kids to participate, as well as providing funding for a soldier and his family of four children to attend (they were the last on the waiting list).

Please pray for strength, health and heart. My dear aunt who has accompanied me to Family Retreats for the last 5 years will be coming along to be my right hand clown! I have also enlisted the services of the Family Retreat Child II Director to work alongside us in the children's program. We need all hands on deck, all hearts in prayer, and all spirits lifting us high as the enemy will seek to retain his stronghold of discouragement and despair among these courageous soldiers.

There is a very real and present danger as we move into the enemies territory. We are committed, we are armed for the battle through your prayers and financial support, and we are ready to bring down strongholds!

For information on the speakers who will be encouraging the soldiers, visit the following websites:

http://www.lifewithoutlimbs.org/

http://jspinks.org/

http://www.joniandfriends.org/about_joni.php

God bless you, God bless us, God bless our troops, and God bless America!

Smiling, serving and saying AMEN,

Monday, April 07, 2008

Endure Hardship with Us

Tomorrow, I leave for the Joni and Friends (JAF) Wounded Warrior Retreat. The invitation to participate came just as I left for India before much information had been released to the JAF corporate office (i.e. how many soldiers, children etc…). I wholeheartedly agreed and was genuinely honored to be considered for “duty”. When I returned and spoke with the Director, I realized the time and physical commitment was much more than I signed up for (after all, I just returned from a battlefield halfway around the world).

War is War, and the battle for eternity is not over yet! This is a fight there is no retreating from. The General we answer to assured me He would provide the strength and support necessary for me to complete the mission. I understand these wounded young men and women (some as young as 19), returned having left a great part of themselves on the battlefield. But they willingly signed up – knowing the cost could be their lives, their future, and their hope. Many came home from the battlefield paralyzed, severely burned, missing arms, legs, sight and hearing. They sacrificed for freedom.

It is sobering, and humbling to grasp the courage and strength they have on a human level. Our prayer is through the speakers, the attention and care they are shown these next few days, their hearts will be healed on a spiritual level and grasp how great is the love God has for them. We pray they will come to see a new future, a new hope, and understand the sacrifice of One who died to set them free.

I never understood the purpose of “Boot Camp.” It always seemed cruel and unusual punishment of youth volunteering for the dangerous position of defending freedom. However, when I had the privilege to talk with a soldier enlisted in the army and ask the reason for all the shouting, yelling and what I thought was “cruel” treatment, he explained quite simply, “We are preparing them for war, not a picnic.”

As soldiers prepare to leave for the battlefield, the reality must seem a distant danger as they hold hope high; to defend with honor and return home to the ones they love. My friends may tire of my “battlefield” analogies when speaking of faith and endurance and getting ready to go “again”, I catch myself saying, “This is war” many times. I have endured hardship, and troubles, attacks, as well as seeing a friend “wounded” in action. All these “war” times, my heart and spirit tell me have been in preparation for my next “Tour of Duty”, to serve the real soldiers home from a very real war.

We live in perilous times, but we serve a Mighty King! Join with us in support as we serve the soldiers who willingly defend our nation.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

TEXAS - Calendar of Events

April 9
Depart for Warrior Retreat

April 10
Arrive at Retreat Center and Set Up
Soldiers and Families arrive between 3-5 pm
CARE EE & Nellie Bell Evening Program

April 11
Full Day Children's Program
Evening Program - Clown Around and Around

April 12
Full Day Children's Program
Trail Ride
Fishing Tournament
Adult Evening Program - Fanna White and her Bucket of Fortune

April 13
Children's Church
Sharing the Good News
Return to DFW area