We have developed a weekly prayer guide . . . Read it by clicking the image below and to the left

27 August, 2014

What if ...? Would...?

I enjoy learning as much as I enjoy anything. I like to read and I like to study. I do both whenever I can. In recent months my daily schedule has been flexible enough to allow me snatches of time for these favorite activities. There is a lot of information input processing in my mind, heart and spirit. Jeff helps it all take shape as we talk, share Scripture research and pray together. I am grateful for him in my life!                                                       
Early in August I completed my examination of the book of Daniel. I still don’t have it all sorted out but I know I am learning a lot! Previous to Daniel I slowly moved through a lengthy study in the book of Exodus. There are lots of holy gems there! Many thoughts are rolling around in my head. I notice most of them begin with, “What if?”         

What if we, the Redeemed of the Lord, served our King as Daniel served the kings of Babylon throughout his captivity? What if we carried out the spiritual disciplines as faithfully as Daniel? What if the only thing in us found to accuse and convict us was being guilty of consistent prayer to the Most High God? What if we were as bold as Daniel and his fellow Hebrews in speaking truth, given to us by Truth Himself, to the political leaders of our time?

What if we, the Redeemed of the Most High, proclaimed His kingdom and His righteousness as eagerly as we proclaim our food and entertainment choices? What if we stimulated one another with songs of praise and psalms and testimonies of God’s faithfulness as willingly as we challenge one another with good causes? What if we poured blessings over others as boldly as we pour cold water? What if we made known our repentance and God’s forgiveness as often as we make known our disdain for others’ choices and actions? What if we wanted others to know as much about God’s work in our hearts as we want them to know what we went and what we did today?

What if we took God at His word and did all things without grumbling or complaining? What if we did not think of ourselves more highly than others? What if we had the attitude of Christ Jesus in all things? What if our thoughts centered on what is good, right, pure, lovely and…? What if it was obvious to others that we are disciples of Jesus Christ because of how we love each other?

What if we worked as hard to prepare for the culture of heaven as we do to keep from sacrificing any of the comforts of our own culture? What if we lived like the Church of Acts and there was no disparity between neighbors? What if we really, really were sharing, kind, patient, humble, gentle, forgiving and longsuffering?

These things I ponder. What if? And then I wonder, would…?

If we did these things, would our social media postings, tweets, likes and comments look any different than they do now? If we did these things, would the news media have any different stories to report? If we did these things, would there be fewer hungry, lonely, homeless, thirsty and ill people in the world?

If we did these things, would missionaries get to be like Moses, who told his contributors to stop giving because he had already received enough donations to fully fund the mission? If we did these things would we look at others and, like Christ, feel compassion for them? If we did these things, would our world be completely different? If we did these things, would it be as in God’s word, that others would see our good works and glorify God?

Hmmm, what if…? Would…? I wonder and I pray. “Oh Head over all, create in us a clean heart. Give us, Your Church, pure and God-centered hearts. Transform us into Your likeness, oh Bridegroom, so that we reflect you accurately. Let it be so and let it begin with me.”


14 August, 2014

Play date, Sheep and Angels

Thoughts today are running backward again, flipping pages in my brain to a story of years ago. Perhaps this is a sign the story is to be shared. Here it is….

Once upon a time, long (well, not soooo long) ago, in the land of Kenya, lived a daddy, a mommy, a preschooler and a baby. They lived down by the river but the preschooler’s friends lived up near the top of the hill. One fine day a friend called for the preschooler to “come up to my house and play.” A play time was arranged.

The preschooler (Lizz) & the baby (Chris)
This mother gathered up the baby in her arms, took the preschooler by the hand and off the three went up the hill. They walked on a sidewalk along the edge of a sharp drop off down toward the river, beside a dirt, rural road. Cows and sheep were grazing on the grassy roadside. The mother and preschooler chatted about the animals and fun-to-be-had with friends.

A few steps beyond a grazing ram they approached a ewe with a small lamb hugging close to her side. A couple more steps and the mother had a fleeting thought, “I wonder if the ram belongs to these two, and if he does, will he mind our walking by?”

Out of curiosity she turned to look over her shoulder at the ram. She was shocked to see the ram nearly upon her, head down and running full steam. She grabbed the preschooler and swung her behind herself, hugged the baby tight and tried to dodge the ram. His hard forehead hit her square on her shin. Her leg nearly buckled beneath her but she grabbed up the preschooler and tried to hurry off.

The ram was not to be dissuaded. He backed up, put his head down and charged again. Again the mother, now holding a scared preschooler AND the young baby, tried to dodge the ram. He was quicker on his four feet than she on her two and he hit her again.

The mother tried to limp off but the ram hit her again. She narrowly avoided being pushed backwards over the steep drop off. Her prayers were now audible, no longer just in her head. The ram did not let up. He took a few steps back and charged again.

This time the mother’s leg could not withstand and down she went, flat on her back. The two young ones in her arms were now screaming with terror. The mom’s prayers were escalating in volume as well. The ram backed up and waited a moment. The mother was unsure what to do. It was difficult to try to get up while holding both frightened children. She started to roll to her side.

And then the ram charged again. All that the mother could see was the ram’s head moving in the direction of her baby’s head. The mother quickly rolled all of them to the other side and the ram narrowly missed them.

The mother began screaming for help as loud as she could in as many languages as she could remember. The ram charged again and once again the mother rolled them all away from his head. He quickly put his head down hard on her shin again, temporarily pinning her in place. All three people were screaming loudly.

Just then the mother heard another voice. All she could hear was the voice shouting, “Sheep! Sheep!” As she rolled onto one shoulder away from the ram she saw a young man at the top of the hill running toward her. Then there were two, then three young people running down the hill to them. The ram had time to charge once more before the men reached him. They had grabbed sticks on their way down and began beating the ram back, forcing him away from the mother and her children.

A missionary nurse was among those who ran down the hill and she gently helped the mother let go of her children and handed them off to others. The nurse then helped the mother to her feet. She was shaken but able to stand. Her sobbing quickly diminished and she was able to comfort her crying children. The nurse escorted them the short distance back to their home, where they sat holding onto each other in a tight grip. The preschooler and the mother kept asking, “Are you OK?” Both wanted to be assured all was well with all three of them. The nurse stayed and offered comfort and prayerful words of thanksgiving for protection. She called the daddy and asked him to come home and help his family. He came quickly.

That evening in their family devotions the preschooler recounted the story several times, always ending with an emphatic, “God’s angel ‘tected us!” The family’s prayers to God were of thanksgiving for the ‘tecting angels providing God’s protection from harm. They also expressed thanks for the many people around the world that pray for them, asking God to keep them safe and to help them always know what they should do.

That missionary family has never forgotten that scary scenario. They have never forgotten that God has ‘tecting angels serving to watch over them. They still remember that many people all around the world are praying for them.

Thank you for praying for us. And today we wonder, were you one of them praying for us in 1993? Did God ask YOU to pray for ‘tecting angels to keep us safe from a charging ram? If so, now you know the rest of the story!

07 August, 2014

Safari, Screwdrivers and Mud

We haven’t done much, or maybe nothing, with "Throwback Thursday" (TBT). However, today shall be different. We can thank Eloise Withrow Hockett for this. Her accounting of a recent trip with colleagues into Mt. Elgon National Park in Kenya brought this memory flooding back. We have enjoyed talking about it and laughing. Then we asked ourselves, “Do we still remember the all important lesson? Are we still living it out?”

It was our fifth wedding anniversary. We went with 2 and ½ year-old Elizabeth to visit WGM family of ours living in Kitale, Kenya. We had been living in Kenya for almost a year and had never visited Larry and Joy so that weekend seemed the perfect time.

As we arrived at their house, Larry was out in the garage. He had washed the car, cleaning it inside and out. We had a lovely evening in their home. Joy made a wonderful supper and told Elizabeth, “After supper I will give you some candy corn. This is Halloween night and someone in America sent Aunt Joy and Uncle Larry some candy. We will share it with you!”

We had such a good time together that evening, laughing and sharing together. Elizabeth fell asleep before anyone remembered about candy corn. We all slept through most of the heavy rain in the night.

The next morning we all piled into the car Larry had so nicely cleaned. We carried a packed lunch, binoculars, plenty of bottled water and a few toys to entertain Elizabeth in the car. We were excited for our safari. Larry and Joy told us we might see Colobus monkeys, elephants and a variety of other forest animals.

We arrived at the gate into the park. The officials there greeted us, took down the vital information about our vehicle and its passengers and on in we went. They reminded us we must exit the park through this same gate because every night they checked to see if all vehicles leave the park.

Off we went. We all enjoyed the monkeys and their fun antics when leaping from one tree to another tree. The new-to-us birds, butterflies and flowers were wonderful. We were all having a great time!

Until we got stuck. We were stuck-stuck. The road puddle depth could not be seen and as the vehicle went down the mud grabbed tight and wouldn’t easily let go. Stuck we were. Larry, Jeff and I got out to push while Joy expertly took the driver’s seat. Elizabeth was placed by a bush and told to stand there while we got the car “unstuck.” Joy gunned the accelerator and we pushed…and got splattered with mud. The vehicle finally surged forward, slipping and sliding until Joy “landed” it a short distance away on solid ground.

When we got back in the vehicle Elizabeth was quite frightened. She told us clearly that she did not want to do that again! She did not like seeing all that take place, especially the spinning of the mud from behind the tires. So, when the next time came we got her out of the vehicle and put her behind a bush where she could not see the car but we could see her just fine. That worked well the next couple of times we landed deep in a muddy hole in the road. After each time Elizabeth carefully handed us wet wipes to help us wash up.

Late in the afternoon, as we were making our way through the forest back toward the gate through which we entered the vehicle once again went down and the mud gripped it tight. Larry tried to go forward and back but there was no moving the car. He and Jeff got out to assess the situation and from their exclamations Joy and I could tell it was not good news. The men discovered the car was high-centered on the rise between the two tracks of the road. Ugh!

Larry decided he should get the machete and shovel out of the back of his car. He went around and opened the back of the station wagon. He stood there and was very quiet. Then we heard, “Uh oh. Oh, my.” The other three of we adults looked at each other. Joy called out, “What, Larry?”

Larry came back around the car, shaking his head. “Well,” he said. “I cleaned the car yesterday. I took out the machete and the shovel and stood them in the garage while I thoroughly cleaned everything. I put my tool bag back in, and the car jack, but then the Stanfields arrived and I forgot to go back and put the other things in. I have looked and all I can find to help dig out this mud is two screwdrivers.”

We adults all looked at each other and then burst into laughter. Oh, we laughed so hard! “What an adventure we are having,” we said between laughs. Soon we settled and had prayer together. After a bit more talking a plan emerged and we each went to fulfill our part in the strategy to dislodge the vehicle.

The two men each gripped a screwdriver, got down on their bellies and started chipping away at the mud. I got Elizabeth situated in a clearing behind some very low bushes off the side of the road and gave her a book or two to use. Then Joy and I went searching for large stones we could place under the wheels of the vehicle so they would not just sink down when the men lowered the mud ridge.

And so our time passed. Chipping away at the mud, stones put under the wheels, then more chipping and on went the repetitive cycle interrupted only by we adults gathering together to get a drink of water and to pray together. We could see the sun getting lower. We knew the rule was to be out of the park before dark. We kept at it.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth was playing nicely. We could hear (and watch) her talking and singing while arranging stones and leaves and small fallen branches.

Larry was beginning to feel the stress of the situation. The guys tried to increase their rate of chipping but the mud just would not give way. We ladies kept a steady supply of large stones available. Once again we stopped to pray, acknowledging God’s sovereignty and power. We committed it all to Him.

Soon thereafter, Joy and I paused as the stone pile was more than adequate beside the vehicle. We watched Elizabeth. She had several stones lined up in two nice rows. Branches were at the stones, along with leaves she had arranged. She stood in front of the rows of stones and we listened in.

“Now sit quietly, children. Thank you for coming to our Sunday school. It is now time for prayer, and then we will sing a song or two. Everyone close your eyes and pray.

“Dear God, we are here in this special Sunday school class. We are praying for our missionaries. You know they are stuck in a forest and they need to get out. You be with them. Help them not to get scared. And God, help them get out before they get in darkness. Help them to get home so they can have the candy corn Aunt Joy forgot to give them when she promised it to them. Amen.”

Joy and I looked at each other only to discover we each had tears in our eyes. Then we heard the men exclaim and we saw them grabbing for stones. We hurried to hand them stones to place under the wheels. We told the men the prayer we heard prayed in the Sunday school taking place just off the road. Larry said, “Well, God hears the little children! We prayed several times but when she finished praying the mud gave way. Let’s hurry and get out of here and get her some candy corn!”

Sure enough, within 10 minutes Larry was able to drive the car out of that hole. We cleaned up and quickly reloaded the car. Dusk was turning to darkness! Larry drove as quick as was safe. Even so, it was well after the fall of dark when we arrived at the gate.

The official who came to the car told us, “See that lorry (truck)? We are loading it now to go searching for you. What happened?” Larry told him and the official laughed when he heard the only tools we had were screwdrivers. He then expressed both his sympathy to us and his relief they did not have to out searching.

You can be sure that when we got back to Larry and Joy’s house Elizabeth was well satisfied with candy corn. Before we all headed to bed we prayed and asked the Lord to help us always remember to pray in faith, just like a 2 year old leading Sunday school in a forest.

We have never forgotten. The prayer is still often referenced in our family. Our faith continues to grow.

What life lessons are you hoping never to forget? Has a child ever been the one God used to teach you? We would love to hear your stories!

01 August, 2014

SURPRISED! But not so much.

A book we want to publish one day is a photo essay of things people carry on their motorcycles. Here in East Africa a motorcyle used as public transport is called a boda boda (bode-uh, bode-uh). It never seems to amaze us what can be carried on a boda boda. Just when we think we have seen it all we get surprised.

This past week we were surprised as we drove through a small community near Lake Victoria. We were bouncing along on the rough, narrow dirt road. As we rounded a curve a boda boda came whizzing past us. We looked and looked again. (Well, I did. Jeff was driving.) Sure enough, we were surprised!

Riding behind the driver of the boda boda was a young woman. Draped across her lap and the seat-space between her and the driver were two large and overlapping pigs, heads down, snouts and ears flapping as they bounced along. They were not piglets, nor were they state-fair-sow-with-13-babies-size, but they were big enough to consume all of the space allotted to the young woman and them.

We commented, “Wonder what it feels like to ride this road on a boda boda with a large pig on your lap as you bounce along, each bump met with slamming against another pig.” I still wonder…

Does it feel like being a missionary on home ministry assignment, knowing that in order for you to return to the land where God has led you to join Him in proclaiming His kingdom a volume of money must be pledged and given by folks listening to God speaking into their lives, but the pledges and donations are not forthcoming?

Could it be compared to having your loved one get sick in a land where scary tropical diseases and parasites abound, access to health care is limited and then when you do get them to a health care provider, he says, “Hmm, we need to run some tests. This could be serious.”?

Is it anything like praying without ceasing for one the Lord has laid on your heart and you invest some of your resources to share life with her and point the way to Jesus, then she chooses to disregard God in the choices she makes?

Is it possible it is something like working with government offices in a land not your own, and every time you are asked for more documentation and sent to yet another desk or office the task that seemed so simple in the beginning now feels monumental?

Would one say it is comparable to entering a new service location, knowing for certain God Himself led you there, but your heart gets discouraged amidst the “not knowing” and limited ability to function as you expected and your ideas of ministry seem to fade into the distance while you learn how to greet people, where to get food, how to dispose of your garbage and how to find rest in the new environment?

How it compares to living out the gospel among people who perceive they are too poor to make any difference, and everything that is said or done to empower them to bring positive change is met with requests for funding or provisions?

Now that I think about it, maybe we shouldn’t have been surprised by what we saw on that boda boda. I guess it wasn’t so unfamiliar after all. It seems we have already seen it… in the mirror, in Scripture, in our co-laborers. And it is doable. Not so bad, once you get used to it, especially when the driver is our God.