Friday, December 31, 2010

Treasures in the Dark

"I will give you the treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, who summons you by name." Isaiah 45:3 NIV 

It's daylight in Dallas, Texas the last day of the Year of Our Lord 2010. The sun is shining as the decade comes to a close. Wherever you find yourself on this day, I am sure you would agree it has been a roller coaster ride the last ten years. We started the decade off fearfull of Y2K (remember all the food and flashlights). And perhaps we are closing the decade with a glimmer of hope that the economy is finally going to turn around. At least Americans spending during this season would indicate we think we will be able to make payments on that plasma screen (with no interest until 2012).

The second year of the decade changed the world "as we know it." The attack in New York showed us we're not invincible. It brought a "darkness" created by the falling ashes of an empire. God's promises are true. He does give us the treasures of darkness. The place where what matters MATTERS. Where the main thing (our relationship with Him) becomes the MAIN thing.

Our country went to war, and we are still fighting the battle today. Whatever side of the political fence you find yourself on, I know I'm thankful there are men and women willing to sacrifice their time in the familiar, time with their families, time with controlled temperature and good food, and even their lives so that WE can have (and choose) all of the above.

"God, make a fresh start in me, shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life." Psalm 51:10 The Message

I pray the next 365 days will be like "in the beginning;" a Genesis week - creation from the chaos of the locations I find myself in. The creation of salvation stories from places of poverty and pain, illiteracy and illness.

"Then those whose lives honored God got together and talked it over. God saw what they were doing and listened in. A book was opened in God's presence and minutes were taken of the meeting, with the names of all the God-fearers written down, all the names of those who honored God's name. God-of-the-Angel-Armies said, "Their mine, all mine. They'll get special treatment when I go into action. I will treat them with the same consideration and kindness that parents give the child who honors them. Once more you'll see the difference it makes between being a person who does the right thing and the one who doesn't, between serving God and not serving Him." Malachi 3:16-19 The Message

Every time "we" meet together, whether in person or in emails our God is taking notes and names of the "God-fearers." He is listening in and preparing for His action in our lives to impact the days and weeks and years we have assigned to us.

The treasures we find during dark times, the secrets we discover in the hidden places does not make us modern-day "Pirates of the Caribbean," it assures us we are Ambassadors to the King.

"Our God makes His entrance, He's not shy in His coming. Starburts of fireworks precede Him." Psalm 50:3 The Message

Happy New Year!


Sunshine After Rain Ministries is a 501c3 organization. Contributions to the ministry are considered tax deductible by the IRS. Donations for the calendar year 2010 must be postmarked by midnight December 31 or made through Paypal via our website: www.sunshineafterrain.org



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Monday, December 27, 2010

Hunger

"It is only the poor and hungry, those most aware they need someone to come on their behalf, who can celebrate Christmas. " Archbishop Oscar Romero - martyred

If I have said it once, I've said it one hundred times, "Africa is my favorite place on earth!" I can't remember any word past the first line of the Leon Russell's rock classic, "I've been a lot of places in my life and times..." Well, perhaps I do remember more, but past the first few words the message loses it appropriateness, so I generally stop there.

Africa is my favorite place on earth.
As I was discussing this with my friends (who have made Ghana their home for the past 16 years) I was trying to pinpoint just what it is about the place and the people that I love so much.

I recalled images vivid in my mind from my summer trip to Tanzania. Women who had walked for 4 hours to hear what "these guests" would have to share with them from the Lord. I thought of the moment when they jumped (literally) out of their seats and screamed and wept when we told them we were giving them a Bible. I shared with my friend my embarrassment that I had never felt that way about the Word of God.

I love Africa, because being here, among it's people, in a land where our Savior found refuge - I appreciate "the possessions in our hands have little to do with the peace in our hearts.*"

I have been blessed to celebrate Christmas here in a land that knows great pain and poverty. I came to share the miracle of His entrance into our humanity as an infant.

My greatest gift this Christmas, was finally learning why I love being here so much; what "they" know that I don't. The Africans know what it is like to be hungry. I am not even referring to lack of food. The women in Tanzania responded the way they did because they hunger "for every Word that proceeds out of the mouth of God." Why else would they walk so far and weep for a gift that gathers dust on most of our shelves?

Jesus knew hunger in the wilderness. He understood thirst. He came for us even though we didn't know we needed Him to.

"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven."

It's hard be hungry when you live in the "Land of Plenty."

Waiting for the Lord's feast
Charlynn in flight

* "I need Africa more than Africa needs me." www.mochaclub.org


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Friday, December 24, 2010

LOST

There is not much to watch on TV here in Ghana. Fortunately my friends have a collection of DVD's to select from to keep us entertained once the sun goes down.

A few days ago we were reading through the titles when they said, "We have the first season of the television series "Lost," have you seen that?" I replied, "Are you kidding me? I love that show! I haven't seen the beginning, well - since the beginning. That gets my vote."

And so we began the journey that is the 21st century version of Gilligan's Island.

I interjected from time to time what I had heard about the series. How the creators knew from the start of the show how many episodes it would have (a luxury from a writer's point of view) and other trivia. But as I watched the show from "the beginning," I saw traces of "the ending." There were subtle hints woven in even throughout the Pilot Episode!

I just kept thinking, "Wow, what great storytellers. They pulled that element in at the finale." I have been thoroughly entertained - again. It isn't even because I "know how it ends." I appreciate the story and the intricacies of the plot line. What looks like a "bad" part, really has resolution later on. I'm not stopped by the "trying to figure it out," phase as so many fans of the series were. I am marveling at the "story." The elements that seemed haphazard the first time around, now make more sense.

I don't feel so lost.

I've read through the Bible each year for the past 20 years. Each December I reach the Revelation of John. From time to time I also read Eugene Peterson's book* on Revelation as well.

Peterson's book is not the classic eschatological exposition on the Revelation. Instead it focuses on the fact this is God's last word in His word. Chapter's discuss the last word on the Church, the last word on prayer, the last word on worship etc..

When I reached Revelation Chapter 12, the commentary was fresh again. The Beginning of salvation is written at the End of the redemption narrative:

"The Woman gave birth to a Son Who will shepherd all nations with an iron rod." Revelation 12:5

I found myself feeling like I did while watching "Lost." I was marvelling at the intricacies of the author and perfecter of our faith. God let us in on the secret from the very start of His story.

"He was chosen before the creation of the world" 1 Peter 1:20

It is well know the holidays cause stress and tension. People get depressed and there are more incidents of suicide during this season than any other. I think it is because people feel a sense of hopelessness at a time of year when everyone is supposed to feel hopeful. They don't see the details; how God worked out from the start the end and how the end ties to the start of our salvation story.
They are lost.

Tonight's episode (Whatever the Case May Be) had a scene that had us all in unison say "Wow." One of the characters is almost catatonic at the loss of a girl he was trying to help. An older woman assures him it is not his fault. He looks up with despair. She says, "You have got to ask for help." Later on they are sitting in front of a fire, he turns to the woman sobbing and says, "Help me." She puts her arm around him and says, "I'm not the person you need to ask."

WHAT!? We waited with breathless expectancy to see who she would tell him he needed to talk with. Would it be the protagonist doctor? Or the antagonist with the gun?

Instead, she said (on prime time television) "Heavenly Father, we need your help. We're here lost and we don't know what to do."

One of the recurring scenes starting the show has been the close up of an eye opening. The next time I open my eyes, it will be Christmas morning here on the continent of Africa (I am 6 hours ahead of Central Standard Time). My prayer for my friends around the world, near and far, is to keep your hearts open to the wonderment of His story. Look around with fresh eyes at bright lights on the tree and imagine the bright light of His glory. While looking at your small nativities, use a large imagination for the smell, the sounds and enjoy the beauty of a King willing to reduce Himself to the vulnerable nakedness of an infant. I think I would try to have His little fingers grasp on to mine.

He promises to reveal all the plot lines, and sub-plot lines and intricacies of our story to us in the end. Remember The Revelation, in the End, we win!

"Our response to the Nativity cannot be reduced to shutting the door against a wintry world, drinking hot chocolate, and singing carols. Rather, we are ready to walk out the door with, as one psalmist put it, high praises of God in our throats and two-edged swords in our hands." (Psalm 149:6) *Reversed Thunder: the Revelation of John & the Praying Imagination; Eugene Peterson

Merry Christmas
Charlynn

Pray for those who are lost!


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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Crappy Wrapper

Attention shoppers, only 3 more shopping days left - and then the dreaded job of wrapping all those packages begins.

I admit without chagrin, I AM a crappy wrapper! I never have been good at, even when I used straight-edged rulers, a perfectly flat surface, good ribbon and bows (as opposed to reused or Dollar Store ones). My packages never look that pretty.

This year I didn't even make an attempt when I sent out presents to my friends and family before leaving for Africa. I just stuck them in a padded envelope and sent them into the ocean of millions of other packages crisscrossing the nation.

I am a crappy wrapper, but I am a good "giver."

"God loves it when the giver delights in the giving." 2 Corinthians 9:7

I just finished wrapping up the last of the packages to go underneath my friends' Christmas tree. I wrapped everything but the hot sauce. I thought it would be fun for them to actually unwrap the things I brought; some were requested, but there will surely be some surprises too.

As we walked past the 10' tall evergreen (ever ready artificial) my friend remarked, "I think this is the first time packages have ever been under the tree."

To hear that was a delight to this warped wrapper. My children encouraged me to quit wrapping long ago. "Mom, we just tear the paper up. Why do you want to spend the time?" I suppose I just wanted the meager (in expense) items I had for them to look like a lot. Except for the fact, I'm a crappy wrapper!

I brought my own supplies: tape, scissors and of course paper that I wound up fighting with, cutting crooked, creasing poorly, and tearing accidentally. It supports the U2 singer Bono's non-profit for Africa (RED). On it are words containing the word red in parenthesis. I think it has a message to remember even if I didn't do such a good job.

Admir(red): as we give to those we admire, may we remember the One who admires us

Ado(red): may we remember the gift of Christ we received because the Creator adores us

Treasu(red): may we remember the greatest treasure is the priceless blood shed for our redemption

Inspi(red): may we be inspired to "Go Tell it on the Mountains

Enamo(red): may we fall deeper in love in the coming year with the King we serve

Kind(red): may we understand the kindred Spirit of our brothers and sisters around the world, when they suffer - we suffer

Sha(red): may we mindful to share with others from our place of plenty. No matter how the economy has impacted your circumstances, many millions in our world go to bed hungry

Chee(red): may we be cheerleaders of the disenfranchised in the coming days. A victory was planned for us through Christ's birth - that is something to cheer about

Inc(red)ible: may we praise God for His indescribable gift to us

Who is, Who was and is to come, would have appeared to the world to be a crappy wrapper.

He wrapped His only begotten Son in swaddling clothes and laid Him in a manager.

Following His example!
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Monday, December 20, 2010

Fall on Grace

"Hear the joyful sound of our offering, as your saints bow down."

The missionaries and the airline employee have fallen on the grace of the Father, and are relaxing in stretched out business class seats. Winging their way on what might be called a United Airline flight - but we know it was the effectual fervent prayers of the righteous that positioned them for His wings.

Our God saves!
Charlynn still in Ghana smiling
Thank you for your part!
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Standing By

"We will rise with You, lifted on Your wings, and the world will see that our God saves!"

I walked out into the heat of the African night on Saturday looking for faces that are hard to miss amidst the crowd of dark Ghanaians. I didn't see my friends, but plenty of people saw me.

"Taxi, madame?" "I will carry your bags for you," as hands quickly invaded way more than personal space to grab my overloaded luggage cart. The people are not unkind, or ill-meaning, they are opportunist to be certain, and someone with light skin on a dark continent usually spells m-o-n-e-y.

Ask anyone who has ever traveled with me, I can hold my own in such situations and NOBODY is touching me or my bags that is not authorized to do so!

Where were my friends?

One persistent fellow kept following me and saw I was scanning the crowds. He also was assured by me many times, I was not budging on the offer of help. Finally, he said, "I have a cell phone, do you want to call your friends?" Now that was an offer I couldn't refuse. I dialed the number and connected with them. "Where are you?" "Where are you?" They replied.

"I'm out here in a sea of darkness." We had inadvertently passed each other. As it turned out, they were dropping off a missionary couple leaving for furlough at the departure area above me, and in their haste to get downstairs to the arrivals, didn't scan the crowd that had made it outside.

I was in that crowd.

Standing by.

Watching and waiting.

Shortly after our hugs and thanks to the persistent gent, their cell phone rang again. It turned out the airline had placed an "embargo" on passengers flying "non-rev." From December 15 until January 15, people using "buddy passes" leaving certain "listed" countries could not fly without the airline employee who provided the pass. The missionary couple were no longer "on stand-by," they were out and out STUCK!

There was nothing else to do but to load them back in the car and drive the 1 hour back to my friends to try and sort the mess out.

Welcome to Ghana.

Sunday was spent making phone calls to family members who were meeting them, numerous calls to the airlines, emails to the employee in Columbus, Ohio on what to do, and waiting. An airline official suggested they return to the airport, only to be informed that there was no chance they would be leaving Ghana until the 15th of January - unless the employee flew to Ghana and took the flight back with them personally.

Who would do that? It's Christmas! Flights out of the US were being cancelled right and left due to weather. The employee, even with senior status would have to fly standby. Fly for 20 hours and then turn around and fly 20 hours back!

The odds and the weather were definitely in no one's favor. But by this morning an email came through letting them know the employee (a close friend of my friends) made the flight out of Washington D.C. and was on the way to the rescue.
All this activity made me think more of what a treasure we have been given. We all had dismal thoughts. "Oh, we can't ask this lady to do THAT! Not for us, she doesn't even know us that well. She just let us use these passes as a favor (to my friends)." This morning, my friend was looking at Facebook only to be reminded it was their friend's (the airline employee) birthday today.

Grace, undeserved favor was at work. So was a good dose of Christmas spirit.

"While we were yet sinners Christ died for us." Romans 5:8

Happy Birthday!

We have 4 shopping days left to show our friends and loved ones what they mean to us by giving them a gift. A gift they probably won't remember receiving next year. We are meant to celebrate what was given to us that we did not deserve, we could not afford to buy, would not dare ask, and we could not even imagine we needed.

The employee is here to accompany the missionaries back home, but they are still on "stand by."

Thank the Father for His sacrifice of His Son. It was a priceless and precious present. How WE give and receive at Christmas should reflect and acknowledge what was given to us. "Freely we have received, freely give." Pray for favor and space to get this couple (and the most grace-exhibiting employee) home for the holiday!

"But those who wait upon the God get fresh strength, they spread their wings and soar like eagles." Isaiah 40:31 The Message

I'm smiling still, and watching always!
Charlynn
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Thursday, December 16, 2010

GHANA - Calendar of Events

DECEMBER 17
Depart DFW

DECEMBER 18
Arrive Accra, Ghana West Africa

DECEMBER 19
Church Worship


DECEMBER 20 - 24
International Disability Center
Orphanage /AIDS Outreach

DECEMBER 24
Christmas Eve Program

DECEMBER 25
Merry Christmas!

DECEMBER 26
Church Worship

DECEMBER 27
Depart Ghana

DECEMBER 28
Arrive DFW

Ready for all the Father has in store for the coming year.

Lights, Cameras, Action!

LIGHTS!


Christmas lights are up all across the city of Dallas . We had a small “cold front,” but it left as quickly as it came. Today, it is almost 70 degrees and it does not feel like Christmas at all. It seems like a balmy day where anything could happen. What is happening in the weather of my apartment is quite usual. There are no “stockings hung by the chimney with care,” foremost because I don’t have a fireplace, but there is not one trace of a Christmas bobble because I won’t be home for Christmas. I can guarantee, I won’t be dreaming about being here either. I will find myself once again in the Harvest Fields of West Africa. The people are dark of skin, but the harvest is white! I suppose I can safely say, I will be having a “White Christmas” indeed. It will not be one that will change with the seasons or temperatures. It will be an eternal one based on the “real” reason for this season we have so commercialized.

CAMERAS!


In this fast-paced culture we live in, everything is being filmed and posted on-line. Celebrities who are caught having just a little too much cheer are uploaded and scandalized before the limo pulls into their driveway. I get the usual amount of forwarded emails meant to lift my spirits and supposedly, I will confirm my “Christian” status if I forward the information to at least 10 people. I just exhale and take a look at whatever inspiration was sent my way, and try not to be too cynical or Scrooge-like. I watched this “caught-on-film” moment and wept. Okay, so I always cry at Handel’s Hallelujah chorus, but this made me picture what could be a “Rapture” moment. Suddenly, in an uncommon place, the Name will be proclaimed, and then I suppose if it is anything like the Left Behind series, just our clothes will be left for others to wonder about. This incident took place in a shopping mall food court and… what can I say… but

Hallelujah! A King is Born. King of Kings, Lord of Lords, forever and ever, Hallelujah.

(view video at: http://www.youtube.com/user/AlphabetPhotography)

ACTION!


I’m taking action this Christmas. The One who broke into our history, asks that we tell His – Story. There is no better time of year than now to share the Good News. The One who created all things, and by whom all things are held together is asking us to come and see. Pick out your favorite Christmas Carol and sing like there is no tomorrow.

Because there just might not be.

But for today~

“The kingdom of this world is become the kingdom of our Lord. And of His Christ; And He shall reign for ever and ever! “

And although I am smiling in His service, it still makes me cry at times.

Friday, November 26, 2010

On Assignment

"...an apostle on assignment by Jesus the Messiah, writing to exiles scattered to the four winds. Not one is missing, not one forgotten, God the Father has His eye on each of you..." 1 Peter 1:1-2 The Message

It's Black Friday for shoppers across this great land. And though "black" tends to be suggestive of some ominous forces at work, it actually references when merchants can go from "being in the red" from slow economic times, to finishing the year "in the black."

The day after Thanksgiving.

The day of Thanksgiving, has been hard for me to celebrate in the traditional sense for many years. For the past four years I am just returning from India. A land of great poverty and darkness. Before that I was returning from or going into some third world, and feasting just didn't feel appropriate.

Don't get out your pedestals, the first thing I do on my way home from the airport is stop at a Mexican restaurant and indulge in unlimited chips and hot sauce, a plate full of enchiladas, rice and beans. I miss Tex-Mex!

Today is the day when the stores break down and slash prices on certain items (while supplies last). This tactic is meant to lure you into their web of coveting all the things you don't really need, but it is such a great bargain, how can you pass it up?

If the church were as focused on the great commission as shoppers are to "the day after Thanksgiving Day" sales - the world would be a different place.

Each year the proverbial sales start earlier and earlier. Last night the news featured coverage of devotees camped out in front of department stores like Toys 'r Us, Macy's and Best Buy. Those stores opened at 4:00am. This morning at
7:30 reports weren't on traffic problems but on the fact that shopping mall parking lots were already 90% full. You've got to start early to get the deals.

Jesus told His disciples the Harvest was ripe, pray to the Lord of the Harvest for more workers. He was telling them, and us, of the sales! Snap up the bargains! Run to get involved. Rise early to secure yourself a parking space and get out there. People are just waiting to hear the Name proclaimed. The Good News that you got THE bargain of a lifetime. Someone has paid your debt! You are debt-free in the eyes of the Creator.

I am filled with Thanksgiving.

Our team returned from India four days before the feast with so much to be thankful for. All our luggage arrived. The programs were full of seekers in spite of horrible weather conditions. We had safe transportation even with the wind and rain of a tropical depression bearing down on us. We stayed free of sickness though flood waters brought every unsanitary situation in to surround us - even in my hotel room! We saw hearts turn toward the one true Living God. We touched and danced with lepers. We celebrated the value of the orphans. We walked in the filth of gypsy slum communities and saw the beauty of their soul as they proclaimed the name of Jesus. We witnessed captives to 330 million gods set free. We saw the blind given the sight of heaven through God's promise. We were the first Christians to present a program at the school for the blind and disabled in its 150 year history! We boarded the plane confident we had completed the task we had been sent forth to participate in. Close to 1500 people had been ministered to, and heard the Name of Jesus glorified above all names.

When the disciples returned to Jesus (after having been sent out into the Harvest Field) they reported such great things. I'm sure like some of the things I am reporting to you. But Jesus didn't seem too interested in what they had accomplished; the healings, the demons being cast out, or even the message of salvation being shared. He cared about them fully understanding what He meant to THEM personally. "All the same, the great triumph is not your authority over evil, but in God's authority over you and presence with you. Not what you do for God but what God does for you - that's the agenda for rejoicing." Luke 10:20 The Message

I want to care as much about seeing the lost of the world come into the Kingdom as I do about those perishable treasures with prices slashed for the day.

I don't want to sweat about things to list I am thankful for when it comes my turn at the holiday table. I want to keep the main thing the main thing.

I am thankful my name is written in the Lamb's Book of Life.

God has His eye on us. God has His eye on each of the thousands of people I meet and touch in His name. He has not forgotten one of them, though the smiles of the caramel skinned Indian children, will soon turn to the dark chocolate smiles of African children for me (December 17-28 Ghana, West Africa).

My hope on this "black" day - is that we would see the harvest "white" and realize what a bargain we received. My prayer is that we would see our assignment. We would store up the imperishable things, things that will last - give the knowledge of the gift of salvation. These are what the Master remembers.

So should we.

"...you trust Him with laughter and singing. Because you kept on believing, you'll get what you're looking forward to: total salvation." 1 Peter 1:8 The Message

Thankful of the bargain
Mindful of the price He paid

Remember your year end giving!

To participate financially in our upcoming Christmas disability and orphan ministry outreach in Ghana, please visit our website:
www.sunshineafterrain.org


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Friday, November 19, 2010

Gump

It has just been one of those days.

Since arriving in Chennai (which seems like weeks ago) we have been faced with the threat of an approaching cyclone, stuck for hours in traffic jams, tried to ignore the noise, stomach the food and tonight attacked by a cricket while having dinner.

We also experienced the joy of over 500 laughing, smiling, chicken-dancing children and adults.

It is past 11 at night and the rooftop neighbors are still outside, shuffling and cooking and creating a cacophony accompanied by the incessant sound of blaring horns and screeching brakes of the cars on the street below.

This is our last night in India.

I confess I will not miss the noise.

At the end of a "harvest" day, when I am alone in my room with my two inch blank Blackberry screen, I can picture Forrest Gump sitting on the park bench casually speaking to waiting bus riders. What he is telling are key, often times iconic, events in history and pop culture. But even when describing meeting Presidents, he just says, "and I met the President, ahhh-geee-an."

I know the work going on in any given area is a battle being fought in the heavenlies. I know legions of angels are flying above fighting against any number of the enemies minions so the Gospel can be preached. I know, I know, I know.

While I am in the "zone" (of battle) telling a story, watching the children, dancing, and tying Gospel bracelets on hands that are seldom washed, I can tune out the surroundings. I don't "see" the rags that are serving as clothes, the hair never combed, the bare feet, the naked babies, the flies crawling in wounds or the scabies and scars.

I feel the full realization and satisfaction of doing what the Father sent me to do.

"For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."  Ephesians 2:10

One of my favorite bittersweet sayings of Forrest comes when he accompanies his friend Jenny to her childhood home. It is old and dilapidated, long since abandoned and now overgrown with weeds. She bends down and starts hurling stones at the house where she endured abuse and pain. Forrest tries hard to grasp what she is going through. In the voice over he says, "Sometimes there are just not enough rocks."

Sometimes there are just not enough words.

Speechless in a broken world.
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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Buckets of Goodness

One of the first things recommended to overseas travelers is to let go of their notion of time. Each day as we have been given a set time to be ready to leave, we instinctively ask, "Is that American time or Indian time?"

American time "is what it is." Indian (or pick a country of your choice) time is "add 15-30 minute increments as needed!" What we Americans would consider "late" is actually to be expected, anticipated and planned around.

A typical example: the hotel breakfast buffet is advertised and verbally confirmed to begin at 7:00. However, when we walked in at 7:15 the only item available was bread (self-toaster) and jam. This made for one hungry group of women when we checked out at 8:00! Indian clocks were running right on time.

The rain was falling as unpredictabley as the schedules. Sunshine would peek through the clouds bringing hope for our long drive, and just when the smile of relief would break across our faces, deluge!

"Open up, heavens, and rain, clouds pour out buckets of My goodness! Loosen up earth, and bloom salvation" Isaiah 45:8 The Message

But God IS merciful, and prayer does work. By the time we were ready to board, the drainage from the rooftops was all that dampened our clothes. Only once (during the 4 hour journey) did we have to pull off the road because it became impossible for the driver to see (cows don't really care where they are when it is raining so they are still on the roads).

God is pouring out His goodness here in India, salvation is ready to bloom! We will have 3 programs each day Thursday and Friday (and possibly 2 on the day we leave).

The farmers are ready.


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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

No News

...is good news?

Our hotel rooms here in Nellore are equipped with brand new high definition flat screen TVs. But since we've arrived they have remained a silent furnishing at the end of the bureau. After all, there are no channels in English and by the end of our day, we collapse in exhaustion and try to sleep through the sounds of traffic and the confusion of time zones. We haven't heard much news.

Okay, I did see the Dallas Cowboys won, but not much else has concerned us - that is until we heard today's latest weather report. Another cyclone is forming off the coast and could be heading directly for us!

While packing for India I watched the movie "Forrest Gump" and I can't help but hear in my mind Forrest say, "Again," (he was referring to meeting yet another President of the United States). I have viewed the classic so often, many of the scripted lines (as well as the distinctive way in which they were uttered) have become part of my own off-handed response to certain situations.

It has been raining here in Nellore for two straight days. Forrest thoughts, "In Vee-et-naaam there are all kinds of rain. There is fat rain, and skinny rain and there is even sideways rain." We've had a bit of all of the above.

We were scheduled to finish our time here in Nellore with a morning program before heading back to Chennai tomorrow. Now, we will be leaving at 8:00am trying to beat the storm.

"But you will not leave in haste or go in flight, for the Lord will go before you; the God of Israel will be your rear guard." Isaiah 52:12

Our part of battle that has been fought over the past few days is coming to an end. But just as the verse in Isaiah reminds us, God is before us (our vanguard) as well as behind us (our rereward)!

My friend sent me the handy Wikipedia definition: "The term rearguard (also rereward) originates from the medieval custom of dividing an army into three battles or wards; Van, Main or Middle and Rear... Rear guard troops can also be troops that protect the withdrawal of an army, blocking the enemy advance."

We have taken back territory from the enemy. We have laid claim in the hearts of widows, orphans, lepers, illiterate villagers, the young and the aged. We have come to proclaim freedom to the captives of 330 million false gods and idols. We are more than conquerors.

"You're my servant, serving on My side. I've picked you. I haven't dropped you. Don't panic I'm with you. There's no need to fear for I'm your God. I'll give you strength. I'll help you. I'll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you. Count on it." Isaiah 41:9-10

On the road again!

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Monday, November 15, 2010

Comfort

The trip to the village school took over an hour Monday morning. We dodged cattle unfazed by the morning rush hour traffic, and braked for the occasional dog. We honked incessantly to alert motorcycles with carefully balanced families and swerved to avoid potholes the size of small craters created by the cyclone's flood waters.

We were excited by the large playground that would serve as a perfect dance floor for the chicken dance, not to mention the games! But just when we were ready to break out the speakers it started raining.

The children were quickly huddled inside. The benches and books were collected to keep them dry and we all watched as the storm clouds dumped but did not dampen our spirits. That is until I realized the sound of rushing water created a certain need for a certain type of facility!

What appeared as a nice fall shower, was actually a deluge. Our dreamed of dance floor was a lake with hidden traps of sucking mud and muck! Nothing like getting a good soaking on the way to relief.

We finished up the program inside the small sweltering school room. There were no desks, no tables and no electricity. When we arrived to see the children outside we assumed it was because of the program. It had nothing to do with us - it had everything to do with necessity.

The children were happy, we were happy and the King was surely watching.

We returned to the hotel for our lunch break, a dry change of clothes and supplies for our afternoon adventure. We traveled the same road, saw different cows, dogs, people, and even a gaggle (or herd) of monkeys. We went further into the unknown, down narrow roads that became pathways of rutted mud and rocks.

The van stopped in front of a concrete square that was the new village church. There was a roof that would keep us dry, and there were children and adults eager to hear. The Pastor's son, had been let out in the village square to gather more children for the program. They followed him down the lane like a Pied Piper and soon the 10 x 20 room was packed. The only thing that kept us from adding more to the audience was the angry ant hill that was competing for territory.

Our team leader grew enthusiastic seeing all our additions and hoped to have even longer program time. Time to share the Good News more clearly, time to engage the children while making the Gospel Bracelets, time to make sure they knew and understood how much God loves them. Like the earlier rain, time was not on our side. As the sun set, the "church under construction" grew dark and our program ended too soon. Rain or shine this day, the Gospel was proclaimed, the Name above all names was lifted up, the saving power of the blood of Christ was shared and the message of hope in what looks like a hopeless land was given.

"Comfort, oh comfort my people," says your God." Isaiah 40:1

"7 Days to a Happier You," read the headline of an email sent courtesy of Ladies Home Journal. Since I will be back in the "good old U S of A" by then, I wondered what would make the rest of the cyber audience "happier."

The list of articles included ways on how to "take time for YOU," enjoy a "stress free holiday," and "5 keys to a better marriage." The recommendations covered eating well, getting proper amounts of sleep and don't forget exercise. Leaving India did not make the list of suggestions.

There was little comfortable about our day. When the rain came down at the school yard, again my mind went to the leper-beggar community with little to protect them and their children against the onslaught of the elements. They don't have seven days to "be happier." There is no need to establish an exercise regimen because they walk everywhere they go. And while there are lots of holidays in the Hindu faith, celebrations for those we see don't include feasts to forestall famine.

The happiness "how to's" made me realize how American's have become a culture of comfort. We like to feel good and comfortable. Comfort covers every aspect of our lifestyle. We want comfortable housing, clothes, shoes, cars and weather. But our comfort is not God's comfort. The comfort the Bible refers to is knowledge of His character and goodness, His provision and protection. His mercy and His salvation. It is not about feeling good - it is a knowledge and understanding of love.

We came to India to share that comfort. We are experiencing His kind of happiness each day.


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Sunday, November 14, 2010

Flood

A few days before we were scheduled to leave for India an urgent prayer request came from the Pastor in the area.

"There is a Cyclone (hurricane) headed for our coastline. Already many thousands of village people have been affected. There are deaths, the fishing towns have been devastated. Please pray for us."

I taped the BBC International News the following day because they generally carry far more reports on India and Africa than any American news agency. There was a lot of news concerning India alright, but it had nothing to do with the approaching storm. It had to do with the arrival of the American President. There was no mention of disaster, only "Peace, peace," when there is no peace.

We watched the internet, waited to hear from the Pastors, and we prayed. I thought of the times past we had traveled during the rainy season and the devastation caused by the rain on the makeshift housing of the villages we visit. I thought about the leper/beggar community who live in shelters constructed of sticks and thatching.

I copied down the verse in Isaiah regarding passing through the flood waters feeling it would be an appropriate strengthening Word.

"Don't be afraid, I've redeemed you. I've called your name. You're Mine... When you're in over your head, I'll be there with you. When you're in rough waters, you will not go down...I paid a huge price for you... That's how much you mean to Me! That's how much I love you!... So don't be afraid, I'm with you." Isaiah 43:2-5 The Message

The road from Chennai to Nellore was in good condition. It was dark (1:30am) when we arrived at the airport and it took 4 hours (instead of three) to make it to our destination. It was still dark. We couldn't tell what the conditions were. All we could see was the flood waters had receded. We were hopeful.

Yesterday, we headed out for our first programs at the orphanage and then the leper community. The roads were passable. There was activity on the streets and things back to their normal. It is far from "our" normal. There are still cows and dogs and wild boars, sorting through the debris in search of food. There are still motorcycles transporting a father a wife, a small child and perhaps a baby on the handle bars.

We even saw a monkey on the road much to one of my team members delight. We are not anywhere near normal to us or even Kansas, Toto.

But the things that are familiar and similar is the laughter. The smiles, the joy, and the Chicken Dance. I think each time I see it performed across the globe I hear the wings of angels fluttering beside me.

The orphans had a great time making new crafts, but the real delight of the day was the Polaroid photos taken at the leper colony. I could probably say with all certainty - they now have the first and most likely only picture they will ever own of themselves. They were delighted to see it develop right before their eyes. They were laughing.

They smile, just like normal people who are happy.

We walked through the village, past the debris brought in by the flood waters. We walked past scavaging dogs and pigs; past the huts held together with whatever twine they can gather. We walked past roofs of thatch and plastic bags. We drove back to our hotel...

where my room had flooded!

Water poured up from the bathroom floor drain, and the visiting plumbers only made the problem worse. The water was soon covering the floor in my room, where I was frantically trying to retrieve my shoes and luggage to higher ground.

The team leader came in and told us we were "evacuating" to rooms on a higher floor. It was a mess. It was a flurry of activity to cram our bags as fast as possible to get out.

I was frustrated, until I thought of the people I had just left. What did they do when the HURRICANE passed through their place? What did they do as the flood waters were rising? They didn't have any bags to pack. They didn't have any place to go. There was no higher ground for them.

There was only God.

"So don't be afraid, I am with you."

He is and was enough for them
And for me
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Friday, November 12, 2010

Go Therefore

The miracles of technology! I can picture Paul somewhere in the heavenlies a bit envious of my little Blackberry contraption. This surely is exceedingly more than he could have imagined from his prison

And while he had one of the great wonders of the ancient world in his backyard (the Coliseum in Rome), the silver shaped bullet with wings that just carried me halfway around the world would have been unfathomable.

Here it is a bit after 2:00am on a dark road in India and we are making our way from Chennai to Nellore. It's hard typing through the bumps, swerves, and general nauseas producing diesel fumes but... I am a communicator at heart with 3 hours to kill.

Some of you probably think I'm crazy, but I would pass my lesson on to you from my pal Oswald
and call myself abandoned!

"...I have abandoned to the great supernatural position of limitless confidence in Christ Jesus, which is really God's only call for a missionary." Oswald Chambers Oct 27

The trip was uneventful and long. Did I say long? I meant to say what I will repeat each day for the villagers and children gathered to see the strange colored visitors. "We live a long long long long long long long way from here! They laugh and by that time, I will have enough rest in my bones and food in my belly to laugh with them.

At approximately 4:00am we will reach our destination, check in, collapse, shower, eat, and be off for the Leper Beggar village in the afternoon.

We are 11 and a half (not sure why they have that 30 minute thing) hours ahead of Central Time Zone so try just subtracting 30 minutes from your watch and change day to night or night to day and you will be as confused time wise as my body is! But whatever the time - it is always a time to pray.

I am not just asking for prayers for our work here in India, there are thousands upon thousands of missionaries around the globe, taking back territory for the King. His Kingdom IS coming, His will IS being done.

"All authority has been given to Me... Go therefore..." Matthew 28:18-19

We are going -
Thanks for sending!

On the road for a long long long time!

He is coming like the glory of the morning on the wave,
He is wisdom to the mighty,
He is honor to the brave;
So the world shall be His footstool, and the soul of wrong His slave,

Our God is marching on going! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory!
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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Learning to Fly

"The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me; Your love o Lord, endures forever - do not abandon the works of Your hands." Psalm 138:8

I'm sad.

It is officially the final season of one of my all-time favorite shows. Clark Kent and Lois Lane will be leaving "Smallville" for good. Of course I went through this same emotional roller coaster last year when "24" ended and its protagonist Jack Bauer saved the world for the last time. I thought, "What will we do now?" But I was comforted by the notion that somewhere in the celluloid digital realms Superman was still on the scene.

Until I heard the news, after ten successful years - the show was OVER.

Next year will be a world without "heroes." It seems vampires and werewolves have taken their place.

On this, the final season of my super hero, he may actually come to be known as Superman (currently the Daily Globe in Metropolis refers to him by the moniker "The Blur"). And he might even learn to fly!

"For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you a future and a hope." Jeremiah 29:11

Today I fly.

Not on my own - mind you, but under the wings of yet another Lufthansa aircraft. And the verse in Jeremiah, I carry it with me. God not only knows the plans He has for me in India, He knows the plans He has for all the people I will meet: the widows, the orphans, the lepers, the untouchables, the "no-caste" beggars. We are the small part of His plan to give them the hope of the Living God, the Truth, the Light, and THE Way.

"I'm ready to fulfill my destiny."

Clark Kent, looks off into a distant horizon as he shares thoughts on a future bigger than he can imagine; a DESTINY! On last week's episode, a man from the future is trying to teach him to let go of his past mistakes (sounds a bit like biblical Paul), and to see what is right in front of him. Only then will he discover his ability to fly. In one of the closing scenes he is reminded of this when he embraces Lois Lane, who he loves - low and behold he lifts off the ground!

Forgive me if you think my penchant for heroes is childish, but remember I live in a world, where by the worlds standards, heroes are not only absent, so is God.

"Faith is the belief in things hoped for, as yet unseen. And without faith it is impossible to please God."

I am ready to fulfill MY destiny!

I am following the advice of Paul by "forgetting things past, I press on to the upward high calling of God in Christ Jesus." God is not absent from the places I go. He is present and waiting to reveal Himself to those who are listening. I have never seen more beauty, than while holding the disfigured hand of a man with leprosy and tying on a Gospel bracelet while telling him how valuable he was to the Creator.

I have never received so great a gift as when an orphan girl (who was having a birthday) ran back inside to share a piece of candy with me. This precious child (at 6)had seen her mother murder her baby brother and realizing she was next ran to the train station to find safety.

Jesus found her a loving home at Jane's House orphanage. Her smile that day was evidence He is faithful to help us to press on for the upward high calling.

The people of India we will be working with next week all need to hear and know and believe, there is a plan for them; a future and a hope for them. Their caste cannot stop it, their lack cannot, their poverty and disease cannot, the 330 MILLION opposing gods cannot.

God's promise!

"Look, up in the sky, it's a bird, it's a plane, no it's....."

Lufthansa flight 439.
But I hear there is a clown on board!

Flying high with a smile

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Saturday, November 06, 2010

"Your Pain...

...has changed me.*"

Not too long ago I heard a song by the Contemporary Christian artist Sarah Groves. She wrote it after a mission trip to Rwanda. The powerful video that accompanies the song can be found on YouTube (I Saw What I Saw).

I adopted the lyrics as a theme song and mantra for my life in the harvest fields. The pain of the people I encounter HAS changed me. I return to my home a different person than the one that left. This emotional growth is never more true than when I return from serving at the Wounded Warrior retreats.

I often share this particular area of service is the hardest thing I do in the course of the year. While the conditions are luxurious (held at a golf resort) compared to the other places I go (many times lacking hot water) the emotional toil is far greater.

I'm not sure if it is the age of the soldiers (many younger than my own children), the severity of their physical wounds (amputees, burn victims, and traumatic brain injuries), or the "collateral damage" I see on the faces of the spouses and children that makes it so very hard.

"I saw what I saw and I can't forget it; I heard what I heard and I can't go back...*"

I come back home each time (I have participated in eight such events) profoundly impacted truly knowing how great is the cost of our freedom. I voted in this election because I know men and women that paid a very huge price to give me the opportunity to do so. I read my Bible every day, because religious freedom is one of the cornerstones of our country. Many people I minister to will never have that luxury, out of poverty or threat of persecution.

"I know what I know and I can't deny it. Something on the road, cut me to the soul...*"

I am off again, to share the Gospel of freedom in India. Though you may shake your head at my travel schedule, or wonder about rest, and all the other things that take time in preparing for a trip overseas - don't. That "something on the road" is the burning passion to see nations turn to the Living God for their salvation and security. I do not take my freedom to do so lightly.

"Your courage asks me, what I'm afraid of, and what I know of love, and what I know of God.*"

This is what I know of God. He is the provision. He is the Father that runs down the road to meet the son returning home broken and filled with shame. He is the Father, that clothes the humiliated with a garment of righteousness. He is the Father, who leaves...

again and again,

to find the one sheep that is lost. I live to be more like Him.

"In this all-out match against sin, others have suffered far worse than you, to say nothing of what Jesus went through - all that bloodshed!" Hebrews 12:4-5 The Message

Changed by His pain
Always in His service,

*Sarah Groves - I Saw What I Saw

To participate financially with the ministry and donate online, please visit our website:

www.sunshineafterrain.org

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Friday, October 29, 2010

Blast

"...A time to cry and a time to laugh." Ecclesiastes 3:4

I know many tears have been shed by the spouses, children and even the warriors. I have shed thousands of tears at hundreds of goodbyes. Some of the experiences come with the knowledge I will not see the person again this side of glory - I know that. Yet, even in those painful partings it is not the same as sending a loved one off to war.

I can't imagine the tears shed when the phone call, or notification comes that a loved one has been injured.

I surely could never record the number of tears falling during multiple surgeries, painful rehabilitation as well as the days when they are just worn down - and out.

Before the soldiers and their families arrive the volunteer staff goes through a time of training to better prepare us. There are a few medical specialists here that provided us new (new to me) clinical information on what occurs in the brain during injury as well as healing.

Norepenephrine!

Since my first Warrior Getaway, I haven't really understood "why" the Imagination Station worked; I just knew it worked. It's hard to explain the sight of grown men and women wounded in battle, putting on prom dresses, way too small clown costumes and parading around grinning like they won the lottery.

Now I know. My array of crazy clothes, boas, wigs and wild wearables gives their brain a spurt of norepenephrine. I am not just a purveyor of fun - I'm a pharmacist!

As the warriors arrived they were quickly corralled by Care EE into the "dope zone." There aren't enough superlatives to describe a 6'4" soldier with a long brunette wig on, holding an inflatable guitar making like Jon Bon Jovi.

After dinner the children went off for their own age appropriate fun, while the adults were entertained by "Tina Turntable" and her sidekick (Dana Crews the Program Director). We enlisted a few soldiers and started the evening event with our own rendition of the famous tune by the Black-eyed Peas, "I've got a Feeling."

"Tonight's gonna be a good, good night."

A good night indeed!

We played various versions of games popularized by the TV Show "Minute to Win It." They included tying a pair of pantyhose (filled with tennis balls) to your head and knocking over water bottles; applying vaseline to your nose and putting your face in a bowl of cotton balls and filling a basket up with the fluffy captures.

One soldier was laughing so hard he was literally laying on the ground laughing until he was crying.

Now that's the kind of tears worth crying and counting. When it was all said and done I walked past one of the newcomers and asked "Did you have a good time?"

"I had a blast!" he replied. Then he broke out laughing. He said, "I haven't had a blast since...

Chuckle, chuckle

Iraq! He turned to his friend and repeated his "play on words." "Hey, I just said I haven't had a blast since Iraq." Laughter was heard far beyond the moonlit night at Tapatio Springs. It was heard in the heavenlies.

"A merry heart doeth good like a medicine." Proverbs 17:22

Dolling it out like a doctor!
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Monday, October 25, 2010

Vonnegut

I loved Kurt Vonnegut.

I haven't read anything he wrote later than 1985 but everything before, I devoured. From "Slaughterhouse Five" to "Breakfast of Champions" and all the novels and short stories in between, fascinated me. There was something about "the voice" he wrote in, or perhaps it was merely the odd quirkiness of his characters (misunderstood weirdos) that resonated with me at the time. But now, I am often reminded of one of his short stories. PBS produced it as a drama starring Christopher Walken and Susan Sarandon entitled "Who am I This Time?"

In the story, two small town extremely shy and unnoticed residents reluctantly audition for the local theatre production. Strangely, (perhaps due to their lack of personality) they are able to embody the characters of whatever particular drama they portray. The towns folk are so captured by their acting they begin to stage productions simply to see the performance. When the show closes they return to their unassuming lives, void of any sign of the outgoing thespians. The story ends with the characters being approached to star in yet another local rendition of a theatre classic. They turn to one another and say, "Who am I this time?"

"I entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view. I've become just about every sort of servant there is in my attempts to lead those I meet into a God-saved life." 1 Corinthians 9:22 The Message

I find myself in various cultures all around the world. I wake up in countries as diverse in climate as they are in conditions. One month I am in Africa, the next month Russia or China, and in the course of a year often twice in India. The food whether too spicy or too strange is at least sustaining. The people I mingle with generally don't look at all like the light-skinned fair-haired girl that I am. And the weather, well, I never can be sure of. Of all the climates, conditions and cultures I encounter perhaps the one I connect deepest with, as well as find the most difficult - are the soldiers.

Every homecoming I enjoy and look forward to is a return from the spiritual battlefield. One where souls are fought for and victory claimed. It is also where I see how the sin of humanity wounds and kills the spirit of the lost.

I still don't understand the great mysteries of God; how He uses costumes, silly hats, feather boas, and a Tina Turner wig to bring joy to the hearts of broken men and women. I don't understand the foolishness and I get anxious about "what if I'm not that funny this time."

Wednesday, I leave for the sixth Warrior Getaway in San Antonio. It is a "full-house," ministering to the more families than ever before! I returned late Saturday night from China, and unpacked one bag while packing another. I will take several of my "personas" to provide "the best medicine" for the weary and wounded.

I eat more than the "Breakfast of Champions." I feed on the Word of the Living God that nourishes and strengthens me for yet another battle. "I am all things..." All characters, the fool of all fools, so that some perhaps might be saved.

"I don't know about you, but I'm running hard to the finish line. I'm giving it everything I've got." 1 Corinthians 9:26 The Message

"Who am I this time?"

I'll be the one smiling, still serving, and still looking toward the goal of the upward high calling!

TEXAS - Calendar of Events

Oct 27
WEDNESDAY
Leave for San Antonio

Oct 28
THURSDAY
Training and Orientation
Warrior Families arrive in the afternoon
Evening Program of FUN!

Oct 29
FRIDAY
Full Day Children's Program
Evening Program of DANCE

Oct 30
SATURDAY
Full Day Children's Program
Evening FALL FESTIVAL

Oct 31
SUNDAY
Worship
Return to DFW

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Global Debt Crisis

"This is a terrific responsibility. Is anyone competent to take it on?..." 2 Corinthians 2:16

My time here in China is coming to a close. Today (it is already Thursday morning) I will be packing up and preparing to "move on." Tonight will be my last encounter with students. A select few will gather at my friends apartment for "English Corner." It will give them an opportunity to have conversational English. These evening meetings are small intimate gatherings designed to give students an environment where questions with depth can be asked and deeper answers can be given.

"...We stand in Christ's presence when we speak; God looks us in the face. We get what we say straight from God and say it as honestly as we can." 2 Corinthians 2:17 The Message

For the past week I have been watching the international news in the evening. There is also a program called "Dialogue" with an anchor woman who interviews leaders on current hot topics in the headlines. The "Global Debt Crisis" has been in the news every day as well as American pressure for the Chinese to do something about their currency. As I listen, my head just starts spinning. "What? What are they talking about? How can anyone fix this?"

In my confusion about global issues, lack of knowledge about monetary valuing and de-valuing, I realized it is the reason I came to China in the first place. I have THE answer!

I share during the question and answer time with these bright and eager university students the TRUTH. It is not about money, information, medicine or even people. The only thing that has the power solve the problems is knowledge of the Living God and what His love compelled Him to do. He sent His Son to pay the Global Debt! "For God so loved the world..."

Just in case you are wondering if I really had a chance to say such things in a "closed" country, the answer is, yes, many times over. The Truth was proclaimed in different and unconventional ways, but remember Jesus thanked the Father, for revealing wisdom to the simple and not the wise. (see Matthew 11:26)

You have supplied a "farmer" to plant seeds in the hearts of over 500 university students. You have practiced pure religion undefiled by reaching orphans at the Tai'an children's home. You have been faithful to ask the Lord of the Harvest! He has answered your prayers.

We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves!

The Harvest is bought and paid for - debt free indeed.
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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

99

"I love to tell the story
Of unseen things above,
Of Jesus and His glory,
Of Jesus and His love.
I love to tell the story,
Because I know 'tis true;
It satisfies my longings
As nothing else can do..."

It was a storytelling day. In fact it has been a storytelling week. I have to hand it to my friends working here in China. For the past ten years, they have seen the same tricks, and heard the same stories told over and over again. They still laugh, and they still take great delight in seeing the enthusiasm on the new "crop" of students' faces.

Each year they have remarked how the individuals I choose to "help" with the story are the perfect match. They are either the really shy ones that need a little encouragement to be engaged, or they are the class clowns that can really add to the delight of their classmates by their energy and participation.

"I love to tell the story,
'Twill be my theme in glory,
To tell the old, old story
Of Jesus and His love."

As I was reading His story, I noticed how the parables always created questions. This same scenario has played out year after year in China. The performance is the hook for putting the students at ease. We have always provided an opportunity for questions afterward. Generally they begin asking the secret of the "tricks" I have shown. Then they move on to more serious matters.

"I love to tell the story;
More wonderful it seems
Than all the golden fancies
Of all our golden dreams.
I love to tell the story,
It did so much for me;
And that is just the reason
I tell it now to thee."

The theme of many questions regards how I made a choice for "this type of work." After the lead in (I am a Christian) I always answer with the James 1:27 on caring for orphans. It gives ample room for, "As a Christian, the Bible is the foundation for my life choices... My love for God and His love for me compels me..." They listen, they take notes, they nod in agreement. My friend will always affirm, "The Bible, you understand, the book The Bible?" "Yes, yes, we know the Bible."

We work in tandem. Whether in the classroom or weeks after I am gone. They will use the questions (and answers) to create more opportunities and more seeds to be sown. "Remember when you asked the clown about why she went to other countries? Remember...?" In ten years we have heard thousands of students ask the questions (Why? How?) in one form or another, and we are prepared with the same old answer.

"I love to tell the story;
'Tis pleasant to repeat
What seems, each time I tell it,
More wonderfully sweet.
I love to tell the story,
For some have never heard
The message of salvation
From God's own holy Word."

Today, one of the students asked me to tell them a story about my children. I shared a time when they were very young and I was busy downstairs cooking dinner, they were busy playing school in the attic. I heard some strange banging noises and went to check on them. I opened my closet door that led into the attic storage area where the "schoolhouse" was located. As the door opened they all came piling out on top of one another, crying with despair. "What is the matter?", I asked. "We were locked in! We would have died in there! We would have starved to death!" I just laughed and said, "Didn't you think I would come looking for you? Did you think I would just sit down to dinner without my children? Don't you know I would miss you?" Of course they looked at each other and knew of course I would.

The students thought this was funny. But then, I was able to share His story about the "ninety and nine" sheep and the one that was lost. "I told you I am a Christian. Did you know Jesus taught those who followed Him by using stories. When this happened with my children, I immediately thought about Jesus' story of the one sheep that was lost. The Shepherd left the 99 that were safe and went to look for His sheep that had wandered off. That is how much God loves His children! His children that are lost in America, in China, in Africa, in India, He comes to look for them." They smiled. Perhaps some of them were hearing the Voice.

"I love to tell the story,
For those who know it best
Seem hungering and thirsting
To hear it like the rest.
And when, in scenes of glory,
I sing the new, new song,
'Twill be the old, old story
That I have loved so long."

Smiling, telling, and singing the same old song!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Oh O

If you have ever asked yourself, "How does she do it?" Other than the obvious first answer (the Lord) the second and sometimes obvious is Oswald Chambers.

At 5:30 this morning I awoke to blood-curdling screams. The sound was so strange at first I didn't realize what it was exactly. The fact that I also sleep with a pillow covering my head to muffle night time sounds in various parts of the world, added to my confusion. "Surely, that is not what I think it is." Then another scream; followed by weeping. I got up and went to the window to try and determine where this was coming from. The hotel where I am staying? The apartments behind, the street, a movie? Just as I would think it was coming to an end, it would start up again, louder, longer and more terrified.

I fumbled for the cell phone I had been given to try and contact my friends. There is no 911 here in China - or if it does exist, English would not be the language of the operator. Now, I could hear a child's screams and pleading as well. When I finally got through to my friends, even through the phone, they could hear what was happening.

They contacted the hotel (I was sure they must be able to hear) and the young desk clerk acknowledged the commotion and said the woman had mental problems. My friend said in no uncertain terms and in enough Chinese they understood, "If you don't call the police we will."

The noise stopped, I returned to bed and just prayed.

Other than the morning's events today was a Sabbath rest, and I joined the fellowship of foreign teachers this afternoon for Bible study. The meetings traditionally begin with prayer requests and praises.

One of mine was for the woman and child.

Tonight, my friends were walking me back to the hotel to speak (in person) to the night staff about what happened. As we looked to see what apartments were around it occurred to me, today just might have been the first time this woman (and whatever the horrific circumstance she is in) has ever been prayed for. I turned to my friend, "Think about it, who around here is a believer?" In this godless society, who turns to God for help?
Although my friends had warned me about the cultural norm of "not my problem" as well as the police corruption, it became even clearer in talking with the staff, they don't turn to their neighbors for help either.

I pondered what to share of the day. I opened up Oswald:

October 17
"Prayer does not fit us for the greater works; prayer is the greater work."

I am going to bed now, it's night here in a land of a billion lost souls with no one to cry out to when they cry. The neighbors may not respond to this one woman's cries but we know the One who does - and will.

Let's join together and do the greater work
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Saturday, October 16, 2010

Bow Down

I couldn't tell if the tiny hand gripping my finger tightly was that of a little boy or a girl. The hair on all of the children confined to the stainless steel beds is kept at a quarter of an inch.

The size of the child lying in the crib didn't really offer an indication of age either. There were children no more than 30 inches but already several years old. One way we were able to estimate was by the number and condition of their teeth.

*"Lesson One in the school of faith. That is, ...having to bow down before that which I could not possibly explain...."

Today was my first visit to the new multi-million dollar orphanage in Tai'an. The children moved in 18 months ago.

The new facility is phenomenal. Probably six stories tall with a center courtyard with a badminton net and ping pong tables. There are brightly painted murals on all the walls, and an array of umbrellas and silk flags hanging from the glass ceiling far above.

We called in advance to ask what was needed most that we could bring as a gift. Their answer - diapers. How can that be explained?

*...Usually, we need not bow. We can simply ignore the unexplainable because we have other things to occupy our minds...."

We arrived a few minutes late and were quickly escorted up the stairs where the older (and mostly able-bodied) children were waiting for their special guests. Our minds and theirs were occupied for over an hour with tricks, stories, games and of course the Chicken Dance!

We finished the program and took Polaroid photos with each of the kids. Then the assistant director took us to the "baby" rooms.

The older children share rooms and have joint bathrooms with the room next door. There is no comparing it to the old building. There is much more room, but there are many more

orphans.

The rooms are nicer, cleaner, bigger, more spacious and lovely. They house too many more broken, disfigured, and abandoned.

*"...We evade the questions...."
Tonight, after the performance for close to 150 medical students, I tried not to evade the questions. I answered honestly.

*"...Faith's most severe tests come not when we see nothing..."
I saw children crumpled in the corner of the crib come to life when I approached. I heard them laugh and giggle when I merely reached in between the bars and touched them through the layers of clothing they were swaddled in.

*...but when we see a stunning array of evidence that seems to prove our faith vain...."
There were at least four babies with cleft palates. Disfigurements easily corrected. Older children with cerebral palsy that could have greater mobility if there were more accessible physical therapy.

*"...If God were God,..."
Did He really knit together a child without a nose, whose family would abandon her?

*"...if He were omnipotent, if He cared, would this have happened? "
I knelt beside more than eighty cribs today, stroking the face of each precious and treasured child. I understood "whatever you do for the least of these" in a deeper and more profound way. Our Savior, became by choice - an infant! How much more disabled could the Creator be?

Here I am in China to worship, here at an orphanage filled with too many broken and abandoned children I am to bow down, here I am saying that You're my God.

And sometimes at the end of the day the smiles left behind turn to tears,
Charlynn

*Quoted from "These Strange Ashes" by Elisabeth Elliott
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Friday, October 15, 2010

Darkness Passing

"Its truth is seen. In Him and you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining." 1 John 2:8

The sun has set here in Red China, but today has been a day of "darkness passing." Since my arrival Wednesday I have seen over
350 University students. Hitting the ground running is an understatement! In a country with over a billion people - most lost to an ideology that denies the existence of God, "running with the horses" is what it takes.

The three classes have been lively. It is interesting to see what kind of questions are generated by the Spirit of God calling out to those who know His voice. My friend has marveled at what comes from these reserved and shy students. She prepared them in advance with certain vocabulary (non-profits, orphanage, orphans, humanitarian, disabled) that isn't typically found in conversations and curriculum. I still use words they don't understand and I have to make adjustments, but there is obviously an internal/eternal interpreter at work in their hearts.

As I prepared for the day, I was thankful to read the subject of Oswald Chamber's devotion:

The Key to the Missionary Message

"Paul did not say, "Woe unto me if I do not preach what Christ has done for me," but - "Woe is unto me if I preach not the Gospel." This is the Gospel- "The Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world!"

I knew there was a specific reason I needed to meditate on the message. Evangelism methods many times focus on "personal testimony." It is said "no one can argue what God has done for you personally." That is entirely accurate and true. The relative freedom (in a society closed to the Gospel) to make "personal" statements such as "this is what God has done for me and how He changed my life," has probably kept the government happy to grant me a visa year after year. Who is going to argue with a clown?

But a billion people need to know He died for THEM! When class was over this afternoon, one girl approached with her notebook and said, "Would you please write the most important sentence you know; one that has made the most impact?"

Thank you Oswald. "For God so loved the world, He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life." John 3:16

Tonight, at the end of another long day far away from home, I know there is a young girl probably studying in one of her many books, writing homework she must complete by tomorrow, and perhaps pondering things she might have heard for the first time. I know my God is watching over His Word, to see that it does not return to Him void. It is like a tiny seed, waiting to be watered, waiting to sprout, waiting for sunshine.

Faithfully farming with a smile on my face!

"...not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world." 1 John 2:2
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Thursday, October 14, 2010

Lake Wobegon

"And that's all the news this week from Lake Wobegon. Where all the women are strong, men are good looking and the children are above average." Garrison Keillor the Prairie Home Companion
My friend began each of her English speaking classes today with two questions written on the chalkboard. "What is the news this week in China? What about the rest of the world?"

The exercise is meant to assist them in changing their thought process from one language to another. Chatter breaks out as the students partner up and my friend makes the rounds through the classroom reminding them, "English only please."

After a few minutes they are asked to stand and give their answers. It was interesting and informative for the blonde, blue-eyed visitor at the back of the room. I learned the price of cabbage has gone up considerably here, and a fight broke out between the Chinese and the Brazilian basketball players. Noteworthy, but to an outsider not so news worthy.

What about the rest of the world?

Jeeely!

"Jeeely?" My friend responded. And then all the students said the word "rescue." "Oh, Chile. The 33 miners that were rescued after 69 days." Now, THAT IS news.

I have often heard, "All of heaven rejoices when a sinner repents." I can't say I have ever put much thought into the truth, actuality, or how is that REALLY possible until today. I thought it was like the tag line Garrison Keillor closed his "news from Lake Wobegon" with. All the women are strong, the men are good-looking and the children are above average. Angels rejoicing is a nice catchy phrase to end a sermon or after the sixth chorus of "Just as I Am."

But I have followed the news story of the trapped miners, buried beneath tons of earth on three separate continents. I heard it in Russia, in the USA, and now, in a country not so open with world news 20,000 miles away from the mining town where the event is taking place. Thirty-three men "trapped" have held the attention of the world for 69 days. Why did I ever find is difficult to believe, REALLY the rejoicing that occurs in heaven when a person "trapped" in sin is set free? Perhaps my brain and my faith is not so far "above average?"

My visit here at the university is designed to trigger questions that will have faith and spiritual answers. It has happened consistently every year I have come for the past ten years. Today one of the young men stood and asked what I thought was more important, meeting physical needs or spiritual needs?

This is what we have come to refer to as "the open door policy." While there are definitely limits on speaking about Christianity, there are no boundaries on sharing you personal answer about your personal belief. The students were eager to hear and listened attentively to my responses, all which generally began with the phrase, "I am a Christian...," or "as a Christian we follow the Bible...the Bible teaches..." "As a Christian I belief God the creator is good and just..."

The last question of the last class was "You take care of so many people, how do you take care of yourself when you are sad, or lonely, or hurting?"

Once again, probably like all the "strong women" of Lake Wobegon - I began, "I am a Christian...

I pray.

I have friends that pray for me and encourage me.

You out there, in Russia, in Ghana, in Kenya, in Tanzania, in Israel, in India, in China, in Texas (we are a whole 'nother country you know) and all over the good ole US of A, we ARE more than the above average residents of Lake Wobegon. We ARE children of the King. We are more than strong, we are CONQUERORS!

There may not be paparazzi hounding us on the streets, but what we are accomplishing here on earth IS being talked about in the heavenlies! ANGELS are watching us! Sometimes it's said, today's news is tomorrow's bird cage liner. What we do won't be found in tomorrow's trash heap it will be rejoiced over for eternity.

Smiling at the Headlines of service
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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Circles

I admit I haven't thought much about the derivative of the phrase "prayer circle" until I found myself reading the following verse in The Message:

"God's angel sets up a circle of protection around us while we pray." Psalm 34:7

Here in Tai'an, China I know I am in desperate need of some "circles." I arrived yesterday after 38 travelling hours and finally collapsed at 7:00 last night. I slept fairly well and I am feeling adjusted this morning. I await the arrival of my friend, and we will be heading out for our first round of classes. The goal is to prompt questions about "why" and "how" I do the things I do and go the places I go.

Once that is introduced, I will be free to give them the REAL reason (although it is not Christmas, Jesus IS the "reason for this season" here in China).

Please join me in making some circles by praying.

More to come
Until He comes
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Monday, October 11, 2010

Ice Makers, Hair Dryers and a Pot to $*#s In

Just six weeks after my 51st birthday I actually had a "senior moment." Until I crossed over to the downhill slide to glory, I flippantly (and crudely) referred to such incidents as "brain f*rts." Now, I know what my "senior" friends have been referring to. I suppose the Father was honing my compassion skills or letting me know- more to come.

I was packing for China, locating my costume, clothes, checking weather and all the other very familiar routines I execute before I leave for yet another foreign destination. For the life of me, I could not remember where I had unpacked (from Russia) my clown paraphernalia. Then to compound the senior confusion - I couldn't even remember how long I have been home; was my office unpacked when I got back? WHAT! I have been home for more than a few weeks!? What have I been doing with my time? Where is that important and convenient place I would have put the items I would turn around and reuse for China?

I decided just to go to my nice comfortable bed, access my refreshing shower the next morning, have a cool drink to make use of my handy ice maker (it has been 10 years since I have had such luxury). Then I would dry my hair in front of the bathroom mirror! Oddities of comfort that I am strangely unfamiliar with. My hair dryer would trip the breaker in my old apartment unless I was using the outlet in my living room. And the piece de' la resistance - a pot to....

sit down on.

Trust me, this really is a luxury; simple and taken for granted but I thank the Lord wherever I find myself in the world and this is afforded to me.

I located all I needed the following day, tossed it off to my AARP renewal lapsing, and prepared myself with the most important aspect before leaving on any adventure.

I pour over the Word and my selected Daily Devotionals. After the day I had experienced I took note of the Oswald Chambers entry:

"We are not made for the mountains, for sunrises, or for the other beautiful attractions in life - those are simply to be moments of inspiration. We are made for the valley and the ordinary things of life, and that is where we have to prove our stamina and strength....we are inclined to think that everything that happens is to be turned into useful teaching. In actual fact, ...it is to be turned into character." Oswald Chambers

I am not sure how much "character" squatting in jungles, deserts, and hillsides where I learned the hard way about gravity- I have formed - but I have definitely turned into a character filled with stories.

No ice, questionable food, odd smells, unsanitary conditions and all the other personal discomforts that remove any source of comfort from my zone has equipped me. Truly, I can agree with Paul, I have had much and I have had nothing and I have learned to be content in all circumstances.

I have also learned to be very thankful when I can sit down and read a magazine when the moment of "blessing" (as it is know in the mission field) presents itself.

I am returning to China for the 9th time. It will be a different trip than I have had the last eight years. My friends have relocated to Tai'an (the original city I visited in 2001). I will not be visiting Beijing or Jinan. I will be focusing on helping my friends plow the new fallow ground of the Medical University where they are teaching. This is an exciting opportunity. There are new students, new territories and many strongholds.

In 2001, on my first visit to China in one of the classes where I "performed" the Foreign Affairs officer was attending. He approached us after class and said "There is an orphanage here, will you go?". Of course I did. This was unprecedented access granted to a foreigner at the time. It opened the door for other foreigners to return to the facility to minister to the workers, hold the disfigured and dying, encouraging and love the living, and bring the light of Christ's love into a forgotten place.

When I sent out the email requesting prayer in 2001 - at the same time - my car was being stolen in Dallas! Then, you may recall 4 years ago, the Chinese government sent me a special invitation to attend the 90th Anniversary celebration of the orphanage. Much fanfare, special treatment and deluxe accommodations were given to the "special friends" of the orphanage. It was a mountain top indeed. But coming down from the mountaintop I faced the dark valley of the shadow of death. My companion was deliberately struck by a car.

It is clear there is a stronghold in this particular area. Tai'an is home to the holiest mountain (of seven) to Confusionism. The philosopher had a great enlightening there. It is believed if you see the sunrise after climbing to the top of Mount Tai, good fortune will be on your life. We take mountain REMOVING faith to this area. We are bringing TRUTH to bring people out of "confusion."

"God's protection is preparation for God's service. We go in that we might go out. We worship that we might work; we rest that we might serve." Warren Wiersbe - The Bumps are What we Climb On

I am climbing on the "bumps" of past experiences and exposure to traumatic and perilous events. I have been protected by the sovereign hand of the Almighty! I am here to worship the King I love. I have rested up to go out (again) and serve Him fully.

Jumping over stones with a smile
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Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Fair Fried Fare


"Why do you spend your money on junk food, your hard-earned cash on cotton candy? Listen to me, listen well: Eat only the best, fill yourself with only the finest...you'll summon nations you've never heard of, and nations who have never heard of you will come running to you." Isaiah 55:2;4-5 The Message

Each Monday night when I find myself state side, all three of my children come over to my house for dinner, "Monday@Mom's." It's a tradition we started at the beginning of this year and we have managed to carry it through with only a few absences (aside from my schedule).

My first week back from Russia, both my sons were at a friends "destination wedding." This week, knowing I would be leaving for China next Monday, my oldest son suggested we all go to the State Fair. It is a paradise of food, though mostly fried, of all varieties. There is even an annual contest for the Best Taste and Most Creative. Last year the grand dame of TV Talk herself appeared (Oprah) to try the award winning Fried Butter!

When I read the passage in Isaiah on Monday, I took note of the way The Message translated it. "Cotton Candy!" Okay, I would have none of that, and perhaps I could justify some of the items I would select that evening as having health benefits: protein rich (sausage on a stick), vegetables (corn on the cob slathered with butter), etc...

We come by our need of justification naturally. This "little" bit-o-bad we do, really isn't all that bad. What we do and how we give to support and follow the Great Commission is due to the economic downturn. We are building up storehouses when tonight our very lives may be required of us! (See Luke 12:16-21)

The calendar for our Fall Ministry may seem ambitious. October will find us in China and a few days after our return we will serve the Wounded Warriors in San Antonio. The following week will take us back to India. Impossible, nothing is too hard for the King we serve.

Each day as the "bad news" scrolls across the bottom of the TV channel, I see it as an invitation to share the Good News more, and more often.

I did eat the fried food Monday, but every day I feast on the Word of the Living God. Nations are crying out, "Come, tell us of the Savior." In the heavenlies, the Lord of all creation is still inquiring, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?"

I still answer with a smile, "Here I am, send me!"

There is still time and a great need for your prayerful financial participation in the upcoming Fall Ministry activities. You can impact the lives of over 2000 orphans, university students in China, wounded soldiers, their families in America, and rural village men, women and children who have never heard the name of Jesus in India. That's three continents of the Kingdom advancing!

To make a donation by credit card visit our website:

www.sunshineafterrain.org

Remember each day to "taste and see the Lord is good."

And just in case you are wondering about the bad stuff of the 2010 Big Tex Choice Award winners:

Best Taste
Texas Fried Frito Pie: a generous portion of chili accented with a hint of sharp cheddar cheese, encased in everybody's favorite corn chip. Lightly battered and fried to a golden brown perfection.

Most Creative
Fried Beer: Beer-filled pretzel pocket deep fried to a golden brown. One bite and the escaping beer serves as a dipping sauce.
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Friday, September 17, 2010

Hot Water

"I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage - with great patience and careful instruction." 2 Timothy 4:2

It is hard to "be prepared." Although it is the Boy Scout's motto, I am not sure even "Boy Scout" (or Girl Scout) training could prepare me for the plethora of things that can and often do go wrong in the mission field. My frequent mission traveling companion has a "what if" bag. In it you can find a variety of medications, preparations and of course duct tape. We all know that most things can be repaired with a strip of the mighty-handy gray stuff!

I have been back in the states a few days and have been occupied with unpacking the boxes I left behind in my new apartment. I entertained myself watching the classic "Gone with the Wind" (for the hundredth+ time) and noted probably for the first time just how many incidents there were in the life of Scarlett O'Hara that she remarked, "I'll think about that tomorrow."

For a person of faith, "tomorrow" has enough evil of its own. (Matthew 6:34) We are reminded in the Word, to ask for "daily" provision, live and plan for today. When I was speaking of my schedule to my new apartment manager, he said, "Whoah, don't people in your line of work (he knew I was a missionary) ever get a day off?" I laughed and replied, "No, there are people always on their way to hell." He laughed too - but it IS pretty serious business.

We have to be ready, in season and out. When we feel like it and when we don't. When we are carrying a "what if" bag and when we find ourselves in the "oh, *#&" position.

We were in Russia during the season of "no hot water." It has always seemed so strangely odd to my Western mindset, that the government controls ALL the hot water and the heat piped into apartments and buildings. During the fall, before the unforgiving Russian winter freezes the ground rock solid, maintenance is done on the pipes. They know, if some malfunction were to occur during the winter, well.... nothing could be done (or at least without great expense) to fix the problem until spring.

But before you get too sympathetic to this missionary going "without," let me explain. Due to the economic change in the former Soviet country, people now are buying small hot water heaters for this "season." Our hotel had one room with just such a heater, and we were able to access it as needed (along with all the other guests). Our Russian hosts were embarrassed and apologetic. I tried to reassure them, if I am not battling bugs in the bed or showering out of a bucket, all is good and I am fine.

The predicament did make me think of the "preparedness" of the country. They know (both the government and individuals) what needs to be done before the coming months of winter. They work to ensure they are as ready as they can be for the long season of frigid temperatures. They know how to survive, they are familiar with discomfort.

We, on the other hand, are not.

We are irritated easily, frustrated frequently, and in general aren't very patient when things break down.

"But you - keep your eye on what you're doing; accept the hard times along with the good; keep the Message alive; do a thorough job as God's servant." 2 Timothy 4:5 The Message

Over the short time we were in Russia, we ministered to close to 300 orphans. We encouraged the Body of believers, we supported each other, we kept the faith, we finished the race!

Thoroughly God's servant,
Smiling still
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