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.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Sometimes a Shepherd

It is 7 o'clock here in the village - do you know what that means? Outside we hear the generator engine begin cranking up to provide us with our few hours of electricity. It is one of our few guilty excitements as we sit in virtual darkness when the sun sets. We start looking at the clock and counting down - 6:57, 6:58, and when 7:00 comes and no lights the exclamations can be heard across the courtyard.

We are strangers in a strange land, and in our total American skin, at the end of the day covered from head to toe with the red dirt of Africa we praise God for Wet Wipes and deodorant.

After a tangle free night, we were all ready to begin the last day of our village work. The car started with no problem and we were off to another "upward high calling" across the African plains.

All the participants were waiting eagerly in the building. We began by passing out the Bibles. When we asked them if this was their first Bible the majority of them raised their hands and clapped for joy. Deb spent time teaching an overview of the Bible and giving many verses for them to write down to look up for help with daily life. At the conclusion, their questions indicated they had a clear understanding of the presentation and were hungry for more.

"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be filled". Mat 5:6

It was amazing to hear their questions, to see them look through their first Bible to find chapters and verses, and to see testimony of the verse: "in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.".

In the darkness of the room there was the electric feeling of the Spirit of Truth breaking through the darkness.

I presented the Gospel before Iesha spoke on forgiveness and gave them verses to write down and showed them the "Lord's prayer". We broke for lunch leaving them sitting pouring over the Word. When we returned they were still looking through the Word, sharing verses and sitting together in small huddles like they were part of an ongoing Bible study.

We cried.

When we began the seminar again, one of the older Muslim men said "we need a Bible school to teach our children.". Another Muslim man asked for a Bible for his wife, and told the Pastor when the church is built he will be there.

Debi concluded the day with Love. How we should respond to one another followed by Advocacy - how a community should respond using Mat 25:34-45. To our amazement one by one the participants stood and read 2 verses a piece WITHOUT even being prompted to do so. They took pride in the reading of the Word they had been given.

Now I am beginning to feel a bit like the Apostle John who concluded : and there are many other things which Jesus did, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books (or email). John 21:25

The Pastor prayed at the close and asked the people to pray believing God would hear them and answer their prayers. The Pastor prayed with force and conviction, and we could hear various voices echoing and after a few minutes one woman starting screaming out "Jesus, Jesus, Jesus" it was one of the few true "deliverances" I have witnessed. She was thrashing and screaming and the Pastor went and laid the Bible on her head and there was silence.

Enemy defeated.

The nation of Israel had the King they asked for (Saul) they had a significant army and yet they stood by and let a giant blaspheme the Name of the Living God afraid to move forward. God sent a shepherd to feed his brothers and wound up using him to knock the enemy down with a stone and behead Goliath with his own weapon.

As our team was debriefing I said "we cut the head off the Giant today". "You think?" They replied and as Deb had given the villagers the illustration of holding their Bibles up in their hands and saying "swords up" I confirmed her instruction "swords up - God's Word is sharper than any two-edged sword. The Word is now in the village - satan has lost his dominion."

As we were saying our farewell's the village women came in chanting the word "upendo" (love) and laying before us a huge sack of peanuts and a 5 gallon jug of honey - we wept at the "widows mite". For we have given out of our "plenty" - plenty of Bibles in our homes, opportunities to teach and be taught, food on our table each night, electricity to run every modern gadget and entertainment device, water clean enough to drink straight from the tap, and the ability to bathe with hot water and bubbles if we should so choose. These gave out of their poverty and yet through the Word they were made rich today.

Sometimes God sends a shepherd, and sometimes He sends 4 American women willing to go without showers, electricity, running water, or other modern conveniences for a few short days to witness the "captives" set free!

"The Lord is our shepherd, we shall not want, He made us lie down in the dark nights of Africa, He lead us without running water, He restored our souls through your prayers.

He lead us in the path of righteousness to teach for His Name's sake. And yea, though we walked through the village of the shadow of death - we feared no evil, for we knew He was with us, His presence was present and comforted us.

He prepared a table before us in the presence of murderers and thieves, He anointed and appointed us for this time and this place. Our cup ran over with the sweet treasure of honey from the poor.

Surely goodness and mercy will follow us on the 7+ hour journey to Mwanza tomorrow, and we will be once again in the house of the Lord forever.

Smiling Amen

Monday, August 04, 2008

Darkness Meets Light

"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven.". Matthew 5:16

Yesterday, as we were making the long drive to Shinyanga, Mama Shangwe and Sabina both kept saying "we must get there before dark, otherwise people will see you (white women) and all this luggage on the roof of the car and it will bring danger.

Swerving around the potholes created a slow down - but as soon as the road was passable again they would encourage the driver to speed up. This did not make us feel particularly at ease considering where were going there is virtually no place to hide - or "blend in".

We did arrive before dark (barely) got settled into the rooms only to discover we had no electricity and the sun was sinking fast. Our minds were put at ease when Sabina told us the generator would come on when it was completely dark.

Here when I tell you it is dark- I mean it is DARK! It is VOID of all light. When the generator turns off after 3 hours there are no street lights shining in, no ambient light from TV screens or computer monitors to keep the blackness from being total.

This presents a problem (again after the day's two liters of water) sometime in the middle of night. We are sharing rooms here, so when one person wakes to nature's call usually the other one wakes after hearing the toe-stumping "oh" or as happened last night Debi entangled by the decorative hippie beads separating the bedroom from the toilet. Just as she thought she was heading in the right direction, the beads turned her back towards the bedroom. Listening through my slumber to her torture I realized I had the "light" (flashlight that is) and switched it on to show her the clear path.

What a difference a little light makes! It was a great metaphor to begin our work in the village.

I asked Mama Shangwe the size of the village (assuming perhaps 100 families) she told me there were many more than that - I inquired why do you call it a village - to which she replied "you will see, they have no running water, no electricity nothing really for themselves. ".

And see we did:

Wide dirt roads for the burro-pulled carts to pass down, mud huts on both sides, hundreds of children running to see the "car" coming and people curiously watching from their doorways and places of business.

After a bit of difficulty finding our place of meeting (the village tribal council building) we arrived. The 50+ attendees were inside waiting (in the dark). The small bit of light that came through was soon further diminished by children and onlookers standing blocking the doorway and windows. Although the room was a mere 20x20 it was hard to see the black faces other than those on the front row.

We made our introductions and Deb began the conference speaking on fear. She shared openly and vulnerably which engaged the crowd almost immediately. It surprised us the people were ready to listen to learn and to dialogue with us on what was happening in the village.

When we took comments and questions one Muslim man stood and said "you have brought light, after today we will follow your light." We were blown away!

The rest of the day went far better than we could have imagined. During the break one woman came to show the scars left by the attack she endured from her brother who accused her of bewitching him. We went to a small back room for privacy and she dropped the back of her dress down to show the wounds. From the looks of the injuries, it appeared as though deep gashes of flesh has been cut out of her back and the stitching to close the wounds had not been the work of a skilled doctor. She also had a deep impression across her skull. Sabina and Mama Shangwe comforted her and listened intently as they tried to translate her story. From time to time she would wipe her eyes - the pain of the wounds still fresh emotionally and still causing physical pain as well. She told them she could not read or write, but one of her children could read the notes for her. For the rest of the days program, the village elder (a Christian man) took very detailed notes to give to her. It was a remarkable act of servitude.

We closed the day telling the attendees we were giving them Bibles in the morning they all clapped. I also told them God says He is watching over His word. Tonight I said is the last evening your home will not have a Bible - from now on whether you read it or follow it God will be watching it!

Pray against the traditional healers who were mocking us as we left telling the people we were lying to them.

Pray for the church that the Village elder has promised to give land for after we leave (a DIRECT result of this conference).

Pray for the Muslims and others who have not experienced salvation that tomorrow as the Gospel is fully and clearly presented hearts are repentant and redeemed for eternity.

Pray we continue to speak boldly against this demonic stronghold.

Pray for our protection (we are watched by an armed guard) but satan will not want to loose his grip on these people.

Praise God for Debi's upbringing at the side of her father (a mechanic) who once again REPAIRED a dead automobile! Her advice - always keep Alka Seltzer handy to clear corroded battery cables.

Praise God for His complete provision. A light has come into this part of the world. "In Him is life, and the life is the light of men" John 1:4

No electricity required!

Smiling though you can't see it in the dark

The Weight of the Wait

"For God is not slow as some would count but long suffering so that none should perish"

When we left Dallas a week ago, we had a schedule, a plan in place, presentations prepared, we were ready. And while starting the Women's conference the day after we arrived seemed like a huge challenge we were grateful we would have an opportunity to "practice" before the critical time came in the village.

God had a different schedule.

We had a few restful days, official greetings of the Diocese, a visit to the Sukoma (the tribe of the village) cultural heritage museum and a two hour presentation at the church yesterday.

Today we made the 7+ hour drive to Shinyanga region. Considering we are in Africa I can report for the most part of our 400km journey the road was good. There were short stretches where floods had washed out parts of the pavement but that is nothing in comparison to some of the highways and byways I have traveled. And here over 200 miles from anything resembling a city, somewhere flying overhead far above what the naked eye can see is a satellite transmitting this message.

I don't understand it. But there is so much more that I don't understand about the unseen that is all around us! We have been introduced like dignitaries to the various officials in the region - and yet when it comes time to make my team introductions I am quite clear - we are not here as a denomination, or a country, or people with the professional background or schooling for the situation the villagers are facing. We come in the name of the Living God - that is all we have

And yet all we need.

The wait is over. Tomorrow we will travel 12 miles of dirt paths to reach the villagers. Today, Iesha asked one of the church workers if they thought we would actually be around the men who had murdered the widows. Without hesitating he said "of course - you will meet them - they will shake your hand. "

The weight is heavy, but we have taken on the yoke of Christ and know He is carrying the "lion's share" of the load.

Pray for the Holy Spirit to pour out as in the Book of Acts like "Fire from Heaven". Jesus had the disciples "wait" in Jerusalem and perhaps that is a portion of what our "wait" in Mwanza was about.

We have no running water, only 3 hours of electricity, holes in our mosquito nets BUT

We are traveling with the King, He has come and He is conquering in the darkness with the power of His Word.

Smiling with my sling shot and a pocket full of rocks!

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Strong's Strong

"Fight the good fight"

Familiar right? But tonight as Deb was trying to search for verses appropriate for her topic of "fear" she sat with one version of the Word Debi sat with the New King James, I had the Message BUT I also had the Exhaustive Strong's Concordance in the back of my KJV which comes in handy (in a way).

The three of us sat trying to look up various forms of the verse Deb thought she wanted "you know the one about enduring or something like that?". Debi furiously flipped to the ending of Paul's letters and I hit the Strong's (strongly of course). We would find a reasonable one "maybe that is it" Deb would say, "but I think it is the one with the athlete". Off again, it was Bible 101 in the room until she was finally satisfied the verse picked was what she was thinking.

I admit all the "versions" can throw us as we search for what the Lord is aiming at - but sometimes I believe He enjoys our digging in and searching for wisdom as a treasure!

Today, we worshiped in one of the Diocese churches with about 400 in attendance. We gave greetings from YOU their brothers and sisters in America who are praying for them. Then we SANG our song "He Reigns". It might not have been the greatest rendition - our voices cracked, the sound system gave "feedback" but our hips moved (not too much for you Baptist) and our hands were raised - I guess you could say it was a Bapti-costal performance. The congregation loved it got up and danced and whistled and joined in the Hallelujah's.

"All God's children singing glory glory, hallelujah He reigns!"

After the service we ate lunch and then conducted a leadership conference for over 30 women and men Pastors and lay church workers. They gave us warm feedback and were moved we would come so far to help the people in the village.

Tomorrow we will make the 7+ hour drive to the village to begin the conference on Tuesday.

Please continue to pray for our health, traveling mercies, and the flood gates of heaven to rain down on the souls of the villagers.

Pray the God of all comfort gives us the ability to comfort those who we will meet that have been victims of horrible crimes. Pray for wisdom on sharing the truth, and pray for courage.

We are listening to God's words to Joshua "be strong and courageous, I will be with you wherever you go". BUT we need the covering of your prayers on our behalf, they need your stronghold crushing intercession so they may experience Freedom in Christ.

We are strong in the power of His Word, and for those verses we can't remember where they are - well we've got "Strong's".

Ready with beautiful feet.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Covering

For those of you who have never slept under a mosquito net let me take a few minutes to describe the feeling: knowing there are potentially deadly malaria infested mosquitoes buzzing around in the night quickly inspires you to take down the thin swinging apparatus hanging over your bed and carefully tuck down ever corner. For a moment the envelope of mesh makes me feel like a princess guarded in a cocoon of safety. That is until I hear the inevitable "zzzz" sound of a friend inside the secured boundaries - then after a panicked moment waiting for it to land (so I can put myself out of the tortuous fear of a blood sucking bug attacking at will during the night - I say what we should all say first in any scary situation - "with God as my Savior what have I to fear? Go ahead you minion of the enemy out to disturb me - drink the blood of royalty and DIE!". Well, I don't say it that nice ;o) but you get the picture.

Here in Africa, mosquito nets literally mean life or death. I listened to Bono giving a speech on hearing about the number of deaths by malaria here (surpasses that of HIV/AIDS) and he said "you mean to tell me all it would take to save lives is a $2 mosquito net?"

Intercession is often referred to as "prayer covering". You might think as far removed from this situation as you are - there is not much importance in what you are doing to influence the critical nature of this mission. But as I read your encouragements and prayers I feel "covered". Our team is strengthened and when we do hear some annoying "buzz" from the enemy - we are armed with your supply of ammunition to shout out like the shepherd David to the mighty Goliath "I come in the name of the Lord of hosts... and all the assembly will know the Lord saves not with spear and sword: for the battle is the Lord's and He will give you into our hands". 1 Sam 17:45-47

In the middle of the night when nature calls after 2 liters of water - getting out from under the "covering" can be challenging in the dark. What begins as a sanctuary soon becomes a trap! You are fighting with what feels like a giant spider web.

But once out and over (no double entendre intended) one is quick to seek the safety, and in darkness cover up completely for continued rest.

The disciples tried to cast out a demon and were unsuccessful in the ninth chapter of Mark. The father then took his tortured son to Jesus who quickly cast out the spirits and the boy was at peace. The disciples were confused having previously seen success in casting out demons. Jesus explained:

"This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting." Mark 9:29

We might have had our share of "success" stories in the field, and witnessed the hand of God on many occasions - but the Father impressed this verse upon me for the task at hand.

YOU are our pray-ers! This enemy stronghold will NOT come down without YOUR faithfulness.

HE is asking you to do your part to help cast out the demonic influence of the village that is murdering the innocent under superstitious influence.

The mosquito net is working to guard us physically, the intercession is covering us spiritually, the battle is the Lord's.

He is faithful to hear and mighty to save!

Covered and smiling,

Friday, August 01, 2008

Velveeta

Be ready in season and out... 2 Tim 4:2

Outside the crickets are singing and inside the iPod is tuned to my "Surrender" playlist. The wild dogs surrounding the compound have yet to begin their cacophony of aggression so peace is present in the dark African night.

What was scheduled to be the first day of the conference actually turned into a day of preparation and rest (much needed). We were able to sing praises out loud this morning and even dance (who says Americans can't rustle up some rhythm) as we sang out loudly the song "He Reigns" which starts with the words "from the sounds of the African plains" and conclude in the chorus (this brought the Baptist to dancing) "all God's children singing glory glory He reigns".

What a treasured moment of His provision. He was definitely inhabiting our praise - the dance I'm not so sure about given our Caucasian awkwardness.

Mama Shangwe - the leader of this region (Sabina is her boss) gave us the schedule changes much to our surprise - but no surprise to God. Today we drove to Lake Victoria took a few photos, had a Coke and discussed the upcoming topics and how to address the situation we will face in the village. Sabina shared photos of horribly burned dead bodies, hacked corpses of elderly victims, a young woman whose brother had inflicted deep gashes with a machete (in an attempt to kill her) as the local Shaman said she was bewitching his possibility of gaining wealth. Hard to believe, difficult to digest and even greater still knowing the implications of the charge we have been given.

Saturday, we will travel to a see a performance troop to familiarize us with the culture of the village.

Sunday, we will address a group of widows at the church.

Monday is still our full day of travel.

Tuesday and Wednesday we will be with the villagers. They know we are coming and why.

Thursday is a full day of travel back to Mwanza.

Friday and Saturday is the Women's Conference.

Sunday we will meet with local church leaders on addressing human rights and suffering.

Because of the changes what we PLANNED to present has been modified and now God's hand is pulling the curtain further back. Sometimes this "peek-a-boo" on the projects gets a little tiring. But as I mentioned earlier in the 7/28 Oswald Chambers -it is about the process.

Here we are in the "process" I can't say it is enjoyable, or particularly comfortable - but what I can say is "cheese". Smiling at the eternal picture. Like the great American standard Velveeta - our presented material and our hearts are being processed to last through eternity. I'm not sure Velveeta will be in heaven but today it served a good purpose for the illustration. There are things you might not consider gourmet or even that palatable, but in a pinch - shelf life counts! His Word is never failing, His character unchanging and His mercy is new everyday.

Keep praying, keep processing and smile (say cheese) for you are in this service with us!