December 24, 2009

"Don't Forget About Us"


This Christmas as we enjoy the freedom God has given us here, I can't help but remember how God calls us to pray for our fellow believers and brothers and sisters in Christ who are suffering persecution for the sake of the gospel:
"Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering" (Heb 13:3)

Here are just a few things going on right now that you can pray for as you celebrate and worship this week:

Pakistani Christians living in tents, left homeless by violence labeled "the worst against minorities in the country this year". (CNN)

The thousands of families in the Phillippines who have been violently run out of their homes in an ever-growing persecution/violence against Christians by neighboring Muslims.

The ongoing genocide of the Karen people and Christians in Burma as the government seeks to wipe them from the country.

North Korean Christians, considered one of the communist government's "most vile threats", with some 154,000 in prison concentration 'death' camps and others regularly disappearing (CNN).

The 70,000 Indians who are living in shelters after intense persecution from militant Hindus in Orissa state.

The 50,000 member church in China that was recently shut down by the government police and its leaders who were sentenced to years in hard labor camps. Also, the unimaginable beatings/torture/persecution of China's house church leaders and members. More Christians are in prison in China than in anywhere in the world.

Churches in Iraq that are being targeted and blown up.

Iranian and Iraqi Christians in prison simply for refusing to renounce their faith in Jesus...
for everyone who cannot celebrate Christmas openly for fear of persecution.

For believers in countries that experience heavy persecution:
Indonesia, China, Tibet, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Nepal, Vietnam, Laos, Burma, Morocco, Turkey, Nigeria, India, North Korea, Colombia, Sri Lanka, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Belarus, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Cuba, Maldives, Lebanon, Jordan, Qatar, UAE, Oman, Mindanao (Phillipines), Azerbaijan, Egypt, Syria, Algeria, Libya, Eritrea, Sudan, Ethiopia, Tajikistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Bhutan.

If this type of knowledge makes you cringe and your tendency is to look the other away or want to ignore it, that's ok. But take it to God, and ask him to show you how he feels about his people. He will break your heart for his suffering church... and this is a beautiful thing. We need not be afraid of this kind of compassion. It softens our heart and leads us closer into God's heart.

And there are so many practical things you can do to help, also... write letters to government officials to pressure them to release innocent prisoners, give money to the incredible projects going on by Voice of the Martyrs to support persecuted Christians by providing them food, supplies and medical treatment for wounds and scars. Go to www.persecution.com if you want more information on each country's situation (click on Restricted Nations tab at top) and info on how you can help!

December 1, 2009

KGF, Thailand, and home again.

Sorry we haven't written in a while. Lot going on lately. Here's an update:

We went to KGF last week (two hour train ride from us) to meet up with some people we know and minister with a church there. Our church in America is connected with this ministry through a man named Jimmy, who married the pastor's daughter and goes back and forth between KGF and America. It was a really great way for us to end our time in India. The ministry was warm, welcoming, and full of love. The place holds the pastor and his family, as well as some orphans and widows who they care for. We really liked being there- the community among the Indians was so rich that the more rustic conditions (from what we were used to) faded into the distance. KGF is smaller and less developed than the city we live in, so we were able to see a whole other side of India which we also really enjoyed. We loved spending time in people's homes, eating and drinking tea with them, praying for them, and being a part of their lives. We loved what we got to do and how we were included as part of the family, even if only for a short time.

Here's a quick rundown: we went with the team and church to villages and shared Jesus with them, some for the first time. We talked about the difference between putting your faith in idols made of stone and clay and putting your faith in the one true God. We prayed for people who were sick, and saw God heal! One time a few of us prayed for a baby with a burning hot fever. Ten minutes later, the baby's forehead felt as cool as mine! The people began to believe because they saw God move!

We also helped the church encourage some of the local village churches. Ben was able to share a word God had spoken to him about someone there that night, and when he was finished a man came forward and publicly gave his life to Jesus!

I was able to ride on the back of Laban's motorcycle (the pastor) out into the country to a village the church had spoken in earlier that week. At that time, a woman there said she was being "tortured by an evil spirit". When prayed over in the name of Jesus, she said the spirit left her and she wanted to give her life to Jesus. Upon our visit she had stripped her home of all its idols and whitewashed the walls. She wanted us to pray for her home and her family as they put their trust in God alone.

Each of the villages that the church ministers to has one person from the church that lives there. One of these men, Solomon, has a huge hole in his tin roof where the water pours in and runs through his home every time it rains. The hole has been there for 6 years now because every time he has some extra money, he gives it to the widows in the village for food. I've never met anyone so selfless. That's what many of the people we met here are like.

We also brought with us some audio-recording devices that play the New Testament in Tamil and Kannada and run on solar power (for those who can't read and don't have electricity). The widows of the village who had already received one would get together and listen to the 'black box' every Monday. One of these women (in the pic) gave her life to Jesus after listening to the words. The others gave their lives to Jesus while we were there!

(Picture: Pastor Laban, Solomon, and some of the widows)
There's a lot more to say, but overall we are really thankful for the encouragement of this church and for allowing us to be a part of what they are doing.





Ben wearing a lungi- I think he looks pretty good, don't you?














In ending about KGF, here's a little piece of Indian culture for you:
The train stop at the town we were staying does not allow reserved seats and the train is always packed, so Arvind had two of his friends ride from the previous stop to save seats for us. When the train came we quickly found them in a window and Ben and I struggled to push our way inside the train. It was so packed that we couldn’t get through before the train took off, so we passed our bags over everyone's heads to the friends, and then we climbed up over the seats. The two men then climbed over and pushed their way to the door to get off (but didn’t make it before the train left) so they jumped off the moving train and waved goodbye to us from the street. On the ride home I held a baby for a standing woman, and Ben held a little boy, who's first word (pointing to Ben's arm) was "White?"

THAILAND

We also returned from our trip to Thailand. We went there to renew our visa (it's one of the countries closest to south India), but we took full advantage of the trip and enjoyed biking around Chiang Mai and seeing Thai culture. We flew into Bangkok but spent almost all our time in Chiang Mai, a northern city. Ben's dad had been there the previous week on a medical mission trip, so it was a perfect opportunity for him to leave us some things we needed. Chiang Mai was perfect. Beautiful, not intimidating, and authentic. The Thai people are so approachable and friendly, laid back, and hospitable. Many of the people we met had hilarious personalities. To make it even better, the food is so good. You can step outside your door and buy any type of food imagineable in fresh markets (which were ultra clean). We loved our time in Chiang Mai.








(the Grand Palace in Bangkok)

When we came back to the home, there was an adorable new member of the household! 4-year-old Vetry was taken in after his mother committed suicide (in front of him) by pouring kerosene over herself and lighting a match. He is a wild child, but a real cutie. It's fun to see him start to learn English words as he only speaks Tamil. Last night, he told Tammy that he was having horrible nightmares at night and was being visited by demons (every time he slept he would wake up afraid/crying). Not sure what was going on, everyone prayed over him for the nightmares to stop. He slept perfectly last night, and said that "Jesus came and helped him". Isn't that awesome?

We'll be saying goodbye to India and leaving for America next week. Please pray for us as we have some big, specific needs and uncertainties.

We can't wait to see you! Signing off from India (but not from blogging)....

October 6, 2009

On Dance


Today I was spending time with God, and found myself struggling for words of any kind. So often, I find words fall completely short of who God is, of my own experiences, of what I long to communicate to Him and to the world. In a different culture, sometimes words can be your enemy when you communicate something other than what you meant to, especially when you have been struggling with words lately as I have been. Today my feet felt a longing to dance, and so I gave up on words and lost myself in this form of wordless expression. Dance is a love God has given me, and it is most pleasing when used to worship Him. I don't care who is watching or what people think about me. For then I am flying, participating in a beautiful conversation between myself and my God that nothing in this world can taint.

This is why I come alive when I dance out of what's in my heart:

Because prayer does not always have to be expressed in words.
Because words are limited to our finite understanding.
Because it is utter abandoment; it does not hold back.
Because it is honest, genuine and real.
Because it knows not the past nor the future; it is completely and utterly in the present.
Because I don't care what others think.
Because it knows no language and can be expressed to all people.
Because it knows no worries.
Because it is not easily miscommunicated.
Because it is prophetically giving of your entire self.
Because it is beautiful. It is pure.
Because it makes sense that the only way for me to express the overwhelming abandon in my heart is through the use of my entire body.

Because it is the opposite physical expression of being locked in chains. It is the expression of complete freedom.

Because when I dance "neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, can separate me from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8)



September 14, 2009

Trees


Today is a special day that marks Ben's and my first year of marriage. I guess that makes us non-newlyweds. As we have been filling in for houseparents at the home, our day off this week just happened to fall on this glorious Monday, September 14, our anniversary... a little gift from God.

With no real knowledge of anything new and special to do in a city we have just now become familiar with, with little to get or make for each other in the way of 'surprises', since our weekly day off is always spent in the presence of each other and as I, Lisa, should not meander alone, and without the usual access to unlimited resources and supplies we are accustomed to, I wondered what the day would bring.

We ended up at a little restaurant we have frequented before, with checkered red table cloths and park-style benches, sharing a philly cheesesteak sandwich. Then, Ben hands me something simple - a card he made. Just a blank sheet of white paper, folded, with a small drawing of a tree. Along the border is the verse that we decided over one year ago to center our marriage on. With more wisdom than I could appreciate at the time, Clay had asked us to ground our marriage in a verse. I had been drawn to one in Jeremiah about a tree, not particularly moving or lovely. Today those verses were filled with deep meaning. I think I began to understand why we had chosen them.

And in that simple moment, I became overwhelmed by it all. Our lives, the past year. How just one year ago we were saying our vows in Athens, with plans that seemed so certain. The sudden change that was catapulted through a difficult event, and the whirlwind God took us on, changing our hearts and leading us into the unknown. How we had just enough money from our wedding gifts to purchase, not furniture for my future home like I had always envisioned, but tickets to fly halfway around the world. How we left all of our once-precious things behind for people we had never met, all the things we gave up to come here, some things we never told anyone about... and the incredible embarassment I feel when comparing these things, that feel like huge sacrifices in my own eyes, with the sacrifice Jesus made for us. How this past year has kept us clinging to the truth that God is good, and that he is the best and only leader of our lives. How we've battled through loneliness and confusion, realizing that perhaps God's desire has been to teach us things other than what we anticipated. How he has been faithful to us here... How good his plans for us truly are.

I thank God for Ben, for the man he is. If you are drawn to people mostly for surface things like extrovertedness, social ease, or humor, you may overlook a quiet, unassuming person like Ben, often reserved and rarely the center of attention. Yet, it is character that is the true test of a man, of what is deep in his heart when the other things fade away. If you take the time to truly get to know this wonderful person, as I and many of you have, you will be blessed to know someone with uncompromised integrity, someone who walks uprightedly before God in love, steadiness, loyalty, and purity. Someone who chooses good over evil, love over judgment, humility over pridefulness...even moreso in the quiet of his own room than in the presence of a crowd...who makes such choices regardless of whether anyone will come to know about those choices. A man of true character that I am blessed to share life with. I know many of you are equally blessed to know him as a son, a brother, or a friend.

So thank you, God, for the first year of many. Our future is in your hands.

Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.
For he will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when the heat comes,
it's leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.
Jeremiah 17


September 10, 2009

Hospitals... again


Bhuvanese cut his wrist with a machete today while trimming branches. He cut through three tendons. We were on our way to Metro (India's Sam's club equivalent) when Tammy got the news. He's going into surgery to hopefully get back full use of his hand (he has not been able to move his thumb since it happened). I think it's major surgery. Pray for him! Ben is staying with him in the hospital tonight. In India, you have to have an 'attendant' (friend/family member) to stay with all patients while they are in the hospital. They have beds there for this purpose. This is the third person to have a major medical crisis within the past few months (Tammy, Narmadha, Bhuvanese)... not to mention stitches, a fractured wrist, broken toe, and heart complications. Crazy stuff...

August 28, 2009

Update


I'm realizing that I haven't really given much information about what's been going on at the home. Part of the reason is that we want to use a lot of discretion with how much information we share about the home and kids for its safety and well-being. That is one reason why we do not post any pictures of the kids and home. We do send out an email once a month, so if you would like to get more specific information on what we're doing, ways God is moving, see pictures, etc., please send us your email address.

Last month a team from America came for 10 days and we helped some with their stay. It was interesting to have so many Americans at the home, a nice change from the daily routine, and also allowed us some extra time to hear about the awesome testimonies of the kids' lives, persecution in India, and Hinduism. A twist was thrown into the visit when 8 year old Narmadha took a hard fall from the playground and was in the ICU with severe head trauma. Thankfully, she came out of it quickly and is doing fine.

There has been a lot of sickness going around the city and our home. Several boys and girls are staying home from school (teachers' orders- swine flu scare) and each day someone new has come down with a fever. The past two days I was houseparent for downstairs girls' home because one of our staff members had a relative die suddenly of swine flu. The houseparent stays in the home around the clock with 11 or 12 girls ages 3-18. They go through their daily routine from 6am to 10pm and try to keep everything going smoothly. Two of the third grade girls were sick, so I stayed with them during the day since they could not go to school. Being a houseparent is a lot of work, but I enjoyed spending that time with the girls and thought it went fairly well. I was thankful that I have been trying to pay close attention to what goes on in the homes in case I was needed to fill in last minute (it's harder than you would think to figure out what all 11 kids should be doing at any given time!) Even then I'm sure I still missed some things, I feel like I'm getting more and more comfortable. The girls were pretty well-behaved and I only had to give one punishment. I have to say, I'm really starting to love these kids. They are wonderful.

Ben and I were also able to watch the kids' perform in traditional Indian dances, songs, and skits for Parents Day at the school. It was great, apart from skits where I couldn't understand a word and missed the Indian sense of humor. I was surprised at how proud I felt of the kids, as if I had known them longer than 2 months and was a part of their family. I guess that's a good sign. They are so talented!

We're just back to the normal schedule now, with Fridays off. I noticed today that I felt significantly more comfortable and at ease in the city and within a culture so drastically different from my own. I think I am finally passing into an easier adjustment period... awesome! September will mark Ben and I's first year annivesary (!) as well as a 4 day trip to Ooty as a home during the kids' vacations.

Please keep praying for us and for the home. Mostly, for more of Jesus in all areas- our lives, the kids' lives, the home, and all relationships here. We would also love to meet some people and make a few friends to spend time with. It's been difficult for us to meet people outside the home. Lastly, we have a big decision we have to make within the next month that will greatly affect our future... so we need to hear God clearly.


That's all for now!


August 11, 2009

Indian English 101


You may think that if you speak the same language, communication will be easy. However, you would be incorrect in your assumption. Even if you can get atune your ear to the Indian accent, you will still regularly find yourself thinking, "huh?"

Let's go over a few basics for communication here. Granted, a few of these words may actually be Tamil, not english, but no matter.
(spelling accuracy is optional):

tiffin = snack
boochie = bug of any kind
chapel = shoes
jeddies = underwear (must be said with a giggle)
current = electricity
grams = beans of any kind (I think)
jootie = ponytail
swabbing = a type of mopping on your knees with a rag
pie = floormat
dustbin = trashcan
"keep it" = put away or bring it
"simply he's doing" = he's doing just to do, not really trying
frock = dress
mixture = a popular crunchy, spicy snack

August 9, 2009

Yokes



I’ve been doing some thinking about yokes lately. See, in India, you often see bullock carts on the road. They are long-horned animals with wooden yokes on their backs, dragging a cart behind while a seated rider whips them lest they slow down.

Jesus talks a little about yokes in the Scripture. Yet, when you aren’t around them, it’s hard to fully grasp what he is describing, hard to obtain the fullness of its meaning. Like so many things from Jesus’ time that we don’t see in modern day, there is a richness that is lost for us.

When I see these poor animals here in India, I sympathize for them and their mundane existence. Day after day, they walk the streets carrying heavy pieces of wood upon their shoulders. They have no choice, they have no rest.

The Jews had quite a yoke laid upon them, the Law of Moses. It was a heavy burden, impossible to sustain. I can’t imagine what it was like to live under such legalism. Just spend a few minutes in Leviticus and you’ll see what I mean. It must have consumed their minds and everything they did, constantly leaving them unsure of whether they were in or out of God’s favor.

Jesus came to free us of this burden and offer us his yoke instead. “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,” he says, “for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light”.

Jesus offers us his grace in return for our yoke, yet often times we don’t take him up on the offer.

It’s like we say “ok, sure, thanks” and then we pick up our old yoke and keep moving like the bullock cart.

We pick up our yokes of condemnation, guilt, fear, regret, striving to please man, other people’s burdens…we pick them up and we keep walking.

In the early church in Acts, the disciples met together to talk about how the Gentiles were becoming Christians. A question remained unanswered: these people aren’t Jewish, so should we insist that they come under our Law? To be a part of our new faith, must they be circumcised like us? Peter's response was sharp:

“Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear? No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”

Jesus offered them his yoke, yet their first tendency was to pick up their old ones instead.

Maybe it was comfortable for them. After all, it was what they were used to. Too often the familiar is comfortable, even when it keeps us from something better.

Maybe they were scared to take Jesus up on his offer because it was such a drastic change. Freedom can be scary.

Or maybe it just seemed too good to be true. Maybe, deep down, they thought it couldn’t that easy. When things seem too simple to be true, we try to complicate them.

But can we really knock the disciples for their inclination? Isn’t it often our first tendency, as well? I’m not talking about what we know in our heads, I’m talking deep down… what we live. We continue to put on yokes for ourselves that we were never meant to bear.

Jesus really did come to free us from the bullock cart. He really did come to offer us his yoke. It's that simple. We don’t need to complicate it. We need to know it, live it, breathe it.



August 4, 2009

Update on Narmadha

Thank you for all who read our post and prayed for Narmadha. She has recovered remarkably over the past 24 hours and should be out of the hospital within the next couple of days. Her doctor says she should suffer no long-term damage from the fall. Praise our loving, healing Father!

August 3, 2009

Pray

One of our little girls, Narmadha, fell from the playground yesterday and hit her head hard. She is in ICU with a brain contusion and has had brain swelling and bleeding. It is pretty serious so please pray for her. She has been in a lot of pain and her heart rate has been unsteady. Pray that her heart rate would be strong, her swelling would go down, and her pain would subside. Thanks.

July 31, 2009

How to start a riot


I experienced my scariest moment in India last week. We learned about cultural sensitivity the hard way.

A team from America had just arrived to the home for 10 days. They were sent on a scavenger hunt in the city market in order to overcome their fear of communication and become immersed in the culture. Ben and I took part because we had missed out on this experience when we arrived 7 weeks ago.

After an hour of picking up random cheap items, we had almost finished our list and had to take a picture of all our items. So we spread out everything on top of the newspaper in a local language (one of the scavenger items) and took a picture.

Then I started to notice some people crowding around us. “Oh they are just interested in what we are doing” I thought. So we didn’t pay much attention. Then I noticed that the crowd got tighter. I turned around and was a little uncomfortable at all the staring people surrounding us.

Then we heard her.

A Muslim woman was yelling and pointing her finger at us. We had no idea what she was saying. She got louder and louder and shook her finger down at our items. She was beside herself angry. We were confused. “What’s the problem?” I thought. We tried to figure out what was making her so angry as more and more people crowded around to see all the commotion. She pointed to an item on the newspaper, the pair of chapels (sandals). Thinking that she thought we had stolen it, Ben grabbed the matching sandal in its bag and showed it to her. She was not appeased. We were still confused.

Then we got it.

The paper was a Muslim paper, which meant it had religious symbols on it. We had placed shoes on top of it. It was extremely offensive to her. In India, your feet or shoes are the ultimate sign of disrespect.






We tried to apologize to her, told her we didn’t know it was a Muslim paper, and grabbed our stuff quickly, but she wouldn’t have any of it. She was walking out into the street yelling to people, trying to get others to respond, screaming obscenities about Americans. Most of the men just stared at her, unsure of what to say.

I was pretty terrified. We grabbed our stuff, caught an auto, and left. As we left, the woman began scolding the newspaper stand for selling something Muslim to Americans.

And finally, when we relayed the events to Tammy later that day, she told us how they had to shut down some streets in Mumbai after riots started when someone threw their sandal at a Hindu temple.


Hmmm… won’t be making that mistake again anytime soon.

July 20, 2009

Deserts


Let me start by saying this entry is rather personal, yet I find this kind of writing, in the posture of listening, therapeutic. Read at your own risk.

Let me also start by saying how I just recently discovered the incredible view from the terrace of the upstairs boys’ home, along with its most spacious dance space. I have decided to make this my frequent visiting area.

God seems to be fond of deserts.

The Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years before crossing into the promised land.
Jesus was led into the desert for 40 days before the start of his ministry of miracles.
God allowed Job to be brought through his own desert, when his whole family was destroyed in an instant.
God allured the adulterer into the desert in Hosea, in order to “speak tenderly to her."

Note the common theme here of being "led" into the desert. They don't just stumble and fall into the desert. The move is purposeful, planned.

For me personally, I would consider the past 2 years a desert. Of course, amazing things have happened within these two years, including my marriage to Ben. But when it comes down to just the raw experience of God and myself, I would have to label this time a desert.

You see, before this time I enjoyed a consistently close, warm relationship with Jesus for 3-4 years. I would talk to him and he would talk back. I would feel and experience his presence. I would receive revelation and life from the Word. Worship was incredible and God’s power was all around. It was so great that when people talked about being "dry," I couldn’t even relate. What's that like? I wondered. In my personal life, I was usually a confident, able person. I thought of myself as social and at ease around others, often offering up comfort to those that were shy or anxious. I was confident of my skills and abilities as I was excelling in most areas of my life (I was probably too confident).

Then, like a thief in the night, I experienced a change in 2007. God felt far away, as if he was no longer available at any moment. I found myself plagued with doubts about my capabilities, which led to fear and anxiety, and a slow regression of my abilities. This often happens with fear. Psychologists call it the "self-fulfilling prophecy." I would simply say that fear paralyzes us… it prevents us from acting... it takes away our motivation through insecurity and the constant nipping of “failure” at our heels. Slowly my talents and abilities began to "freeze," and I developed insecurity. I started experiencing some anxiety in social situations. Sadly, I feel like a different person now than 2 years ago. The real “me” has been struggling to surface.

For a long time, I fought this desert. I cried, got angry at God, tried to push through it with prayer as if I could change its length by sheer will (or maybe I could somehow twist the arm of God to show a little mercy), and tried to figure out what I had done wrong to make this happen. Why did He feel so far away and how could I bring him back?

Then today, on the upstairs boys terrace, it finally hit me.

I can’t make the desert go away, I can’t fight it (well I can, but it sure is tiring), and I can’t even blame God for it. I can only embrace it.

I think that's what Jesus did.

And this got me thinking more about deserts. I mean, what is their purpose really? We hear lots of sermons on the "desert" and pushing through it, maintaining discipline, etc. But I wanted something more, something personal, and I wanted it from Him.

In Deuteronomy, it says he led the Israelites “all the way into the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart” and to “teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord."

So... what exactly is in my heart, God? Do I live on everything you provide for me (the bread) or on you alone?

In Hosea, God says “I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her.”

In Psalm 66, it says that he “brought us into prison and laid burdens on our backs. He let men ride over our heads and we went through fire and water.”

Matthew says that “Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days and nights to be tempted by the devil.”

So I realized I am in good company. Even Jesus was led into the desert. This is not the end of the story, however. The story never ends with the desert.

Later, Deuteronomy says “For the Lord is bringing you into a good land- a land with streams and pools of water... where bread will not be scarce and you will lack nothing.”

Hosea follows with “Then I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the Valley of Trouble a door of hope. She will sing as in the days of her youth.”

Psalm 66 ends with “But you brought us into a place of abundance…Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld his love from me!”

Jesus came out of the desert and began the most incredible ministry of all time, followed by the saving of the world.

And finally, Revelation says “to him who overcomes, I give the right to sit with me on my throne.”

The Psalmist got it right. God doesn’t withhold his love from us. Who are we to think that just because we can’t experience his love right now, that he is withholding it from us? Jesus cannot be anything other than who he is. It is we who must struggle through our flesh, doubts, and resistance. In the end, we must die. In embracing our desert, we die. It is only then that we are able to live.

Job says that “he wounds, but he also binds up; he injures, but his hands also heal.” After Job lost his entire family and all of his own dignity, it says that God gave him twice as much as before and blessed the latter part of his life more than the first. These blessings, however weren’t why Job embraced his desert. It was because of who He was.

And so I have unashamedly decided to embrace my desert. I no longer will rack my brain for revelation about why, I will no longer condemn myself or God for its existence. I’m not sure how long it will last… months? Years? Maybe a turn is right around the corner. No matter, that is not my concern.

Today I simply danced. I danced to God, I “danced upon injustice” for this country, this city, the people, but mostly for myself. I stopped thinking and I simply offered what I had to Jesus…myself. It may not be enough to please those around me, but it’s enough for him.

I will embrace the desert with my God… I will embrace whatever he brings my way, keeping my eyes fixed on the only thing worth looking at, Him. Not his felt presence, not his revelation, not his power, not his voice, not even his promises, though he has so many wonderful ones for us in the desert. Just Him. He is no less himself because of my current circumstances. He was, is, and always will be Himself.

I Am.

And THAT is enough for me.


July 19, 2009

Saree Experience


I thought I would blog about my experience wearing my first saree.

First off, Periamma (houseparent) takes me to a local shop to buy one... there is a lot of talking in Tamil, a man pulling down 100 boxes of fabric from the shelves, arguments over prices, people holding colored fabric up to my face while bluntly referring to me as “so thin” (which I'm not sure is a compliment) and pointing out colors that do not look good on my skin... until three fabrics are finally picked out and paid for (about $7, half the original quote thanks to a seasoned Periamma), and I am left scratching my head wondering what are the two other pieces of fabric I bought.

A few days later Arul (another houseparent) takes me to a tailor (who also doesn't speak English). He measures all parts of my torso... women unashamedly ask me “How much?” when they see the fabric I brought with me... and the tailor asks me how long I want the sleeves. Um... well how long are sleeves supposed to be? I pick a random place on my upper arm and indicate the length. Then Arul gives me the receipt, tells me it will be ready on Monday (but be sure to drop by on Sunday to remind him to have it ready), and we walk home, stopping at a miscellaneous shop for a saree pin... at which Arul hands me a piece of bubble gum and puts some jasmine flowers in my hair.

So when Tammy announced to everyone that the children and staff were invited to a wedding of a member of the church, Molly suggested I wear my saree. Heck, why not? When else would I wear it? I want to be a part of the culture... simple things like adapting your dress and communication style certainly helps, right? (side note: I would really love to take part in more cultural activities, but we haven't yet figured out how to do that, considering our semi-isolated location (which is really a blessing for the home) and flip-flopped schedule of mornings free (which otherwise I tend to like).

So the day of the wedding Arul comes to help me put on this big piece of fabric that I have no idea what to do with. Well, at least I can put on the tailored top, I thought, and had it on before she came in. After some serious laughter, Arul pointed out that I had, in fact, put the top on backwards... the hooks go in the front. In the front? I thought. No way! I was a little skeptical... then she showed me her top and how the fabric was draped over the hooks so you couldn't tell… I was finally convinced. After about 1o minutes and lots of pinning, I was wearing finally wearing a saree. I felt more than a little self-conscious. Periamma told me I should start wearing sarees all the time now like they do, because they were “fitting for me”… hmm... I don't know if I'm at that point yet, but I have to admit, they are comfortable, feminine, and modest. Props to Indian women for knowing how to wear fabric. Please come to America to teach a society plagued by casualness how to dress!

Here are a couple pictures of my saree experience.





Arul, Periamma, and Shantu

July 4, 2009

Shortly After Midnight


Shortly after midnight, I realized what was the highlight of yesterday. Fridays are our day off, and I convinced Lisa to visit the city center by bus rather than taxi for reasons of economy, observation, and cultural identification. The sexes seem to be kept separate whenever possible in India, and buses are no exception. Ladies in the front, men to the rear. I sacrificed my male dignity in order to be Lisa's closest travel companion near the front, only to be given the boot midway through the ride by an elderly woman who simply stated "Lady's seat" and motioned for my removal.

Kindly people notified us of our proper point of disembarkation: "Indian Express." We quickly traversed three lanes of standstill traffic and followed the masses toward the nearest intersection. Along the way, Lisa noticed a beggar with an abnormally large leg and tried in vain to bring him to my attention. My eyes and mind were elsewhere - on the traffic, Lisa, Lisa's purse, and a bus stop somewhere in hiding. After reaching the intersection, I reconsidered Lisa's suggestion of taking an auto (taxi) instead of another bus and doubled back.

Again Lisa spotted the beggar and asked me, the treasurer of the day, for some change to give him. She handed him 10 rupees, the equivalent of 25 US cents, which is considered a healthy gift. I am ashamed to say, except for Lisa, I would have given half that amount, if anything. Even worse, I barely glanced at the man out of suspicion he would ask me as well for a donation. I looked long enough, not to see him as a human being, but to make a medical diagnosis of his physical ailment, what looked to be elephantitis of the leg. His bloated right leg, like a well-fed python, gruesomely snaked back and forth along the ground before burying itself in his shoe.

In my search of an auto that would offer me an escape from my own guilt, I tried to block out the beggar’s pleadings. Then Lisa mentioned that the beggar was trying to tell us something, not asking for more money as I had expected. When I moved closer and gave the man my attention, I realized he was telling us how to catch our next bus.

I thanked him and, clothed in shame, quickly guided Lisa in the direction the man had pointed. Oh, how I wish I had spared at least a few minutes to converse with the man and offer to pray with him. He had been so eager to help us and had been so happy, when we expressed our gratitude to him. This man, I am sure, sits on a dirty sidewalk every day and at knee-level begs people for the scraps from the wallets. Every day he asks for help, and he obviously wants to reciprocate in some way. We blessed him simply by receiving his help and following his instructions. That one interaction was the highlight of my day, and possibly his too. God is so intentional, so relationally complex, so loving, so good. I look forward to more God-ordained appointments and the opportunity to share His love. I long to encounter that man again, to give him a hug and get to know him. I may have missed my opportunity with that man, but God is the gracious God of second chances. There are so many others waiting to be noticed and loved.


June 30, 2009

View through the City


So after two weeks we had our first day off on Friday! Every Friday we will have free to go into the city and spend some time together away from the home. Our first trip was pretty fun, and we thought we'd share some short video clips of riding throught he city. Note the traffic rules... or lack thereof! (This isn't a good depiction of where we live, which is outside the city and much different, more rural). Enjoy your view of the city!


video


video

June 29, 2009

God Came Down


So this is one of the worship songs Tammy taught the kids, and I love when they sing it... sounds like angels. Enjoy!



June 21, 2009

Oh Happy Day


Update: Tammy's surgery went great and they were able to go in microscopically, which means she can return home on Monday! Praise Jesus! Thank you for all your prayers.
--------------
I thought I'd give you a little illustration of things seen while on our 30 min bus ride and short walk through to Tamil-speaking church.

Laneless roads where the first car in a space gets the right of way (after the roaming cows, that is).

Entire families on motorcycles (the most common personal transportation) with Dad driving, wife side-sitting with infant on her lap, and two small children squished between... one helmet, if you're lucky.

Kids playing and laughing on the side of the streets.

Long stretches of dumps with sewage rivers running through... from which arises the most putrid smell you can imagine.

Women dressed in an array of beautiful colors and garments of sweeping cloth.

A dead rat the size of a small cat, pointed out to me by one of the girls.

Street vendors pushing their fruit and vegetable carts... or a million other things.

Men going to the bathroom openly on the side of the road (yes, grown men).

Beggers, young and old, wandering between cars during stalled traffic with outstretched hands.

Temples decorated with many of the thousands of Hindu Gods.

Trash everywhere, and a constant smell of trash... sometimes with a few child or adult rummagers, looking for something edible.

Muslim women in full burkah, sometimes a complete black shroud, others with their eyes peeking through the fabric.

Cows, ox-carts, and donkeys roaming the streets.

Men covered from head to toe with soot as they work in the roads.

Stray dogs rummaging through the trash, some with huge open wounds.

While riding through the city, I sit in the home's bus, looking at the sites and listening to 15-year-old Jemi sing along next to me as the music plays ... "oh happy day, when Jesus washed my sins away... oh happy day". I sense Jesus's love for this place and am drawn to it in the way I often am to third world places. Amidst the trash, poverty, and confusion there is a God who's glory covers the whole earth as the waters cover the sea... and I find myself meeting Him most often in places like these... Oh happy day, when Jesus washed our sins away. Oh happy day...

June 17, 2009

Prayer Needed


Here's a quick update on what's going on at the home. We need lots of prayer for Tammy, the director. When we arrived to India last Thursday she was feeling horrible, and soon after she was admitted into the hospital and then the ICU. They discovered she a gallstone which led to pancreatitis. To make things more complicated, she also contracted Hepatitis A and Jaundice. So, she had the first surgery yesterday to remove the gallstone, and it went fine, though it was a pretty miserable experience for her. Today they will go in for the big surgery- to remove h,er gall bladder. This is a big deal because if they cannot go in microscopically they will have to cut her open, and it can be complicated to get to her gall bladder because her intestines and pancrease are irritated from the pancreatitis. Also, there is a high risk of infection and long recovery time if they have to do the surgery this way. So all that said, Tammy and the home really need your prayers. Pray that the doctors would have no trouble going in microscopically and that there would be no complications, that she would not need to have open surgery. Pray for her complete healing...Pray for her strength, rest, and comfort for the children. Thank you!

June 16, 2009

Good Morning India


Outside our room in the play area

Imagine being woken up at 5 in the morning by the singing of 20 children. 30 minutes later, Indian sunlight begins filtering through the window. The children of Mother India are early risers, and this home is no exception. When I step outside our small apartment, the first thing I see is the resident pets, two beautiful boxers, Dora and Rocky, tear across the backyard in hot pursuit of one another. Then I look past the back wall to gaze at another beautiful blue sky decorated with a few wispy clouds, before I notice music drifting in from a local mosque or Hindu temple.

Our very first morning in India was quite different. We stepped off the plane before dawn and after waiting for our bags for at least an hour and a half, plenty of time for any baggage handler to pilfer through our belongings, walked outside to find nobody waiting for us. Fortunately, Lisa had a contact number, so I walked up to this man who sat by a landline phone and asked to make a phone call. He bobbled his head; I was immediately confused. Was that a no, because I was in line behind the other man next writing in a logbook, or a yes? I looked at Lisa, and she reminded me that was the "okay" head bobble we had read about. People hear communicate with a movement with their head - a "yes" nod, a "no" shake, or a "sure/okay/I guess so" bobble - more than they do facial expressions, and the "bobble" seems to be most commonly used. It is hard to hold back a smile when encountering this answer to a question.

We were soon picked up and driven to our new home, a concrete complex composed of three homes linked by a covered veranda, a garage, a playground, a prayer garden, and our guest house in the backyard. One of the homes houses upstairs boys and downstairs boys, the other, upstairs and downstairs girls, and the third, living quarters upstairs and a kitchen and office below. Above our apartment live the three most mature boys.

The children greeted their latest additions to the family, BenUncle and Lisa Auntie with the instant respect reserved for all elders. Before we knew it, we had unpacked a few things in our sparse apartment and were sitting down cross-legged on the hard concrete veranda with the children for dinner, Lisa with the girls and I with the boys. People instructed us how to shovel food in our mouths with our hands, without the help of utensil or napkin, and showed me where to find water to put out the fire in my mouth.

How different this culture is from my own - in some ways so much better, more difficult, and simply different than how we live in America. Half the female staff share the responsibility of caring for the baby of the bunch, Arumai, one year of age. Tots receive so much affection they often confuse aunties with their own mothers. Children are extremely respectful. Men may link hands or ride together on motorcycles, but men and women show zero affection for one another in public. Clothing must loosely drape over the body and cover shoulders, legs, and ankles, but most women leave a section of their torso uncovered. Showing the bottom of your feet is a sign of disrespect. Most food has the same soggy consistency and is almost always 90 percent rice. Stray cows share the road with "cars" ( moto-rickshaws), motorcycles, and various breeds of buses, vans, and trucks. I could go on and on.

Here at Grace Home, its English name, Lisa and I gradually are stepping into our new roles, still not fully defined. In the morning we fill the children's metal lunchtins with food or supervise computer learning games for three small girls. We may wash up the youngest kids, Peter and Menekah, after lunch and put them down for their three hour nap. The remaining children return from school between 3 and 4, so at this time, Lisa and I head off to our respective houses and join up again at bedtime. I alternate weeks between the upstairs and downstairs boys, and Lisa does the same with the girls. Each of the 4 homes has a houseparent, all aunties and uncles, for the title "mom" is reserved for Tammy, the director and founder.

Here's our schedule right now at a glance:
7:15 Serve the kids their lunches and help see them off to school.
8-9 Little girls play on the computer and then get ready for school at 9:30
9:00 Staff meeting and prayer
Our free time
12:30 Lunch. The two littlest ones are home and get ready for their nap.
3:30 Kids come home from school, have their snack, and take their bath.
4:00 Little kids play, older kids can have free time or some have to study
5-7 Tuition homework/study groups. I will have sixth standard kids, Lisa will be with the little ones doing work stations.
7:15-7:45 Devotions and prayer in the home, which we will be leading regularly.
7:45-8:30 Dinner
8:30-9 Clean up and chores, bedtime for little ones
9-10 Older kids study and then bed.

The prayer garden

June 6, 2009

A Life in the Day of a Sex Worker in India


This is a life in the day of Mariam L., 42, a sex worker in Kalighat, the poorest red-light district in Calcutta, India.


I wake up around 5am so I can use the latrine early, while it’s still quiet.


I share it with nine other households. Each has one room about 8ft square. Although Kalighat is a red-light district, families live here too, street vendors and stall workers, but most prostitutes live alone like me.


My room doesn’t smell so good because it’s next to rotting rubbish and the latrine, but it is away from the street.


I go back to sleep until 8. My bed is a thin mattress on a board lifted off the ground by red bricks at each corner. Under the bed are the pots I use for cooking and washing.


My saris and underclothes are strung on a wire across the small window. I have electricity, a light bulb, a fan, a black-and-white television and a suitcase.


If I’m on my own, as I mostly am, I make tea, heating the water on a kerosene stove in my doorway. If my babu — he’s like a special client, a temporary husband, you could say — is with me, I give him naan bread and sweets. Calcutta is famous for its sweets: all colours and varieties you can buy here.


Then I go to the vegetable stalls outside and buy ladies’ fingers, brinjal, potatoes, tomatoes and garlic to cook later.


I put on eyeliner, a bindi on my forehead, my jewelled earrings and gold bangles, and I am working the street by 10am. There are three of us who mostly go together — Arati, my best friend, and I watch for each other. I work a little strip just outside the slum beside the Mohambagam football club.


There is a disused pitch and that’s where I go with my clients. Mostly they are strangers, rickshaw drivers or hawkers.


Kalighat is the cheapest red-light district, but I have to work here because I’m old now. I need to make 250 rupees a day [about £3.50]; my rent is 45 rupees a day and I am paying off a loan to my landlord for hospital treatment. My clients don’t have much money — maybe I get 50 rupees a time. I try to make them wear a condom but mostly they don’t. I have been very lucky: I don’t think I have any sexual diseases. There is a clinic in Kalighat run by the Hope Foundation for us. I go a few times each year.


When I was young I worked on a jetty on the Ganges — they call it Babughat. I would go with men on boats they rent. Then I would have 10 or 12 clients a day easily, shopkeepers or truck drivers, and each would pay me 250 rupees.


My own family in Bangladesh has no idea if I am alive or dead. I grew up in a small village with three older brothers and a baby sister.


I was trafficked here when I was 14 by a man who married me. His real wife and children were here in Calcutta, and he brought me here. He sold me to a brothel. I was terrified, but he was my husband and I thought I had to do what he said. I did not have the guts to tell my family what had happened to me, so I never contacted them again.


If I‘m lucky I finish around 9.30. There is a lot of waiting around now, so we drink Bangla liquor, a strong illegal drink they sell on the streets. I drink it quite a lot — it helps. If I have made enough money I go home with Arati, and maybe we go to my room or her room and share some food. But if business is slow I stay out all night.


Even if I finish early, I can’t sleep until 2 in the morning. I worry about so many things. I have had six pregnancies, but I only have one child, Sheila Khatoon. She’s 14 now and she lives in a girls’ home run by the Hope Foundation. I visit her on the last Saturday of every month. I tell her I sweep in a hospital, and I wish I did, but no one would employ me now. She lived with me until she was seven.


She didn’t go to school and I couldn’t really look after her, but I didn’t bring men back to the room with her there. Then the Hope Foundation found her on the street. I wanted them to take her. If my daughter was to take up this trade, I would want to die. No mother can imagine such a thing as this. But she would have had no choice if she’d stayed here.


At night I think of my parents and my daughter. I think of what would happen to her if I died suddenly. I worry about how I got myself into this situation and what will happen to me in the future when I cannot make money any more. Around 2am I fall asleep, and then I don’t dream.

Andrea Catherwood is the UK ambassador for the Hope Foundation
Interview: Andrea Catherwood.

June 4, 2009

Eyes to See

And Elisha prayed, "O Lord, open his eyes so he may see."
Then the Lord opened the servant's eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. (2 Kings 6:17)

"All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine
and make it known to you."
(John 16:15)

Heal my heart and make it clean
Open up my eyes to the things unseen
Show me how to love like you have loved me
Break my heart from what breaks yours
Everything I am for your kingdom's cause...
(Hillsong)

Open our eyes, we pray!



May 15, 2009

India and Prayers

This will probably be our last post before India. Next week we will be out of town for 5 days and then we will be moving out of our apartment and spending some time with our families in SC and FL before we leave.

A specific request to please be praying for our health as we transition to a new country.

We are so excited and ready to be in India. I'm craving God's presence there as I've felt him tell me to have high expectations of His presence. Please pray for grace for our transition into the home and the culture.

All the prophetic words and prayer we received on Saturday and Sunday were such an encouragement to us. You don't know the impact they had! We are so incredibly blessed to know such amazing people. Thank you for your support... we really needed it.

Stay tuned...

Adventures at the hospital



A few weeks ago at the Well, I felt led to talk to this couple who work at YWAM Atlanta. They both have incredible evangelistic hearts and spend their time reaching out to people in downtown Atlanta and at Georgia Tech. After just a few moments with them, I knew they had a part of Jesus's heart that I needed in my life right now. On the way home that night, I had a picture of myself praying for a woman with a braced up foot at the mall. I thought this was funny since I hate the mall and hardly ever go there. Turns out, I ended up at the mall a week later to pick up my contacts. There were very few people there and I was done with my errand quickly. With a short, half-hearted breath prayer on my way out I said , "well God if you want me to pray for a broken foot you better show me because I'm on my way out!". The next second, a woman rolled by me on a wheelchair with her foot in a brace. Go figure. I stood there for like 5 minutes, struggling with my own fear. I couldn't believe how strong that fear was, and realized I had let it build in me by not stepping out more regularly in the last 2 years since my Wesley internship. I ended up praying for the woman, who has diabetes, but was incredibly disturbed by the stronghold of fear in my life.

A couple we recently met, Shaun and Naomi, came to Athens Wednesday night to hang out and do some ministry. I thought this would be great since I really want God to shake this fear. Earlier in the day, Ben felt God's leading that we should minister to people in one of the two hospitals in Athens. I had never been to this hospital and Shaun and Naomi had never even been to Athens, but we all prayed beforehand and agreed it was the right place. I felt like God gave me a specific name of an employee that works there- first and last name, and his race. Naomi and Shaun saw a picture of someone in a wheelchair with a red balloon, and a big heart. So off we went to the hospital to see if God wanted to touch anyone. As soon as we got in, we realized there was almost NO ONE there. It was so quiet. My friend Kim asked an employee if this man worked there (the name that I felt God was saying to me). The lady confirmed that he did and described what he looked like, cornrows and all! They tried paging him to meet us. We waited for him and I couldn't wait to see what God wanted to say to him, but he never came. He either wasn't working that night or was tied up. Maybe God just wanted to encourage me that I DID hear his voice clearly. Maybe he wants us to go back. Either way, please pray for this guy.

On our way out, we just happened to see a woman being wheeled out the door with a red balloon attached to her wheelchair! Naomi and I went up to her and talked to her briefly. Her name was Martha and turns out she just found out she had an enlarged heart. It all fit with what God had spoken earlier- a red balloon, a wheelchair, and a large heart. Because of his word, we really believe God wants to heal Martha. Please pray that her heart would go back to its proper size and that Jesus would be glorified.

A great thing about the night was talking with Shaun and Naomi afterwards. It was one of the most encouraging conversations we had had in a while. They are both walking in the things we feel like God is leading us towards. It was so encouraging to hear about their path of faith and trust in God. Whether they realized it or not, they spoke words of life, words that gave me life. It connected right with our hearts. We really needed that encouragement.

I'm still disturbed when I examine the fear in my own heart, the desire for approval and the fear of rejection. It is crazy how we can hear God's call yet still experience so much fear in our obedience. But God has been teaching me that HIS approval is the only thing truly matters, and it makes the rest so much easier to let go of. Just the other day in church He said to me over and over "you are not a fool, you are not a fool, you are not a fool" until I almost broke down weeping right there. It is true that many people, both non-Christian and Christian, can view us as fools (heck I used to be one of them), but thankfully God says the foolishness of Him is wiser than man's wisdom, the weakness of God is wiser than man's strength...

I need so much grace but Jesus has a neverending supply... Please pray for these people mentioned above! And please pray that I would hear his voice clearly as I go to India. I desperately need to hear him clearly. Thank you!

May 8, 2009

The Fatherless


So I know I have gotten in the habit of copying and pasting parts of other people's blogs, but sometimes I can't help myself. I came across an entry from Sarah Olds, a former director at Wesley who works with street children in South Africa. Here is what she wrote:

Today, the sections that I read in each one of these books all quoted Matthew 25:31-46 in part or its entirety.

"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. "Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'

"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'

"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

"Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.'

"They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?' "He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.' "Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.

"God created you and I to express His goodness. “Every time you perform a loving act; every time you alleviate human suffering or bring hope and joy into a person’s life, you’ve expanded the good and increased the honor God receives for creating you in his image. God loves when his children reflect his character. (Wide Awake)

I’m a missionary in Africa. . . yet I’m challenged by this passage of scripture. How many times do I miss an opportunity to express God’s goodness to the people so close to His heart – the fatherless. Look at these statistics I read in Fields of the Fatherless:

•More than 1 million children are trafficked every year as sex slaves and another 8.4million children work under horrific circumstances – forced into debt bondage or other forms of slavery, prostitution, pornography, armed conflict, or other illicit activities.
•Today there are over 143 million orphans in the world. That’s one child in every 13!
•10.9 million children under the age of 5 die in developing countries every year – malnutrition and hunger related accounting for 60% of these deaths.
•More than 13 million orphans were added to the total in 2006 alone.
•Every 5 seconds a child dies because he or she is hungry.
•By the end of 2006, there were 2.3 million children living with HIV around the world, and over half a million children became newly infected with HIV in 2006.

These statistics break my heart. They overwhelm me. They challenge me. How many times have I passed by a hungry child begging for food without offering him something to eat? How many times have I seen a child living on the street and dressed in rags yet not given him clothes? 143 million orphans in the world. How many of them live in Maputo, Mozambique? How many of them do I pass by everyday?

Thanks Sarah.... http://sarah-n-africa.blogspot.com/

April 24, 2009

I'm Done!



After 13 years of public school, 4 years of college, and 2 years of graduate school, I AM OFFICIALLY DONE WITH SCHOOl! Praise God! Let it be forever! After 7 years in Athens, I am ready for a change.

Disclaimer: This graduation regalia is not actually mine. I refused to give in and purchase them. My fellow friend Anissa insisted I take a picture in hers (by force :) One UGA graduation ceremony was enough for me...


2009 School Counseling cohort with our major professor. Woo-hoo!

April 18, 2009

Answered Prayers


Some cool answers to prayer we have seen lately:

I wasn't sure what I should do about my Compassion sponsored child while we are in India. The day after I asked God to show me, I was at a district counselor meeting. A counselor I never knew until that point turned to me and asked if I knew anything about Compassion because she heard them doing a campaign on The Fish radio and was thinking about sponsoring a child! I told her about my child, how I like Compassion, and within a few minutes the answer to my prayer had come. She is taking over my sponsored child for me and her own children can write to her! And a friend is taking over Ben's sponsored child.

What do we do with all of our stuff- furniture, kitchen stuff, everything, when we go to India? Should we store it (but where?), give it away? (to whom?). We were praying a lot about this and then after a few weeks we learn of a missionary family from Scotland who are taking a year long furlough of rest in the US beginning in August. They will need everything- furniture, dishes, all living items. What an incredibly perfect answer to both of our needs! Now our stuff will be a blessing to another family of believers who have been serving God for 7 years.

What to do with my car? Hesitant to sell it and not have a vehicle when I return, plus it's not worth much. Where to store a car and who will take care of it? Should we get rid of it? Were praying about this and our friends who live out in the country offered to keep our car. Their daughter will be home for the summer so they could use an extra vehicle for that time and would be willing to keep our car maintained. Thank you Chris and Janett!

God is good and really showing his faithfulness in helping us get to India. We are still praying about a lot more things but are confident in God's response!!

April 17, 2009

Pray for North Korea



I'm not sure if you guys know much about the situation in North Korea, but God has really burdened my heart with this country and the people and Christians there.

North Korea is currently the most isolated country in the world, with restricted entry in and out by the most heavily patroled border of over 3 miles. The country has been labeled more 'purely genocidal' and oppressive than any other country in the world right now. In the past little information has been known about what goes on except when people escape to countries like China and are safe to be witnesses.

The country is strictly ruled by "Dear Leader" Kim Jong il, son of the "Great Leader" Kim Sung. Without enough food supply within the country, the people regularly starve and live in barenness. Stories of parents allowing their children to starve to save themselves is common. The people live under the strictest of laws, with army guards to enforce them on every street. Anyone who is a threat to the regime, especially Christians, are sent to labor camps where they are tortured and executed. The Word of God is not allowed into this country in any form, neither is any communication with the outside world through any form of media, which results in a people who are made to believe that the rest of the world is poorer and more opporessed than they are. Those that manage to escape the 3 mile border into South Korea or China are often hunted down and returned for punishment. If anyone is found to be a Christian, his family and three generations of his family is sent to camps to eliminate the 'seed of dissent'. There they are tortured, executed, and used for experimentations in developing nuclear chemical weapons.

I'm following this post with some information because I think it's much easier to pray when you know what is going on. I copied exercepts from a few articles from BBC and other European papers.

The first article I read was on Camp 22, one of the horrific concentration 'labor' camps in N Korea where Christians and other enemies of the regime are sent. A former prison guard escaped the country and lived to tell about what he participated in and what he saw while working there. It's a pretty disturbing article because the things going on are like those at the Holocaust. Revealed: the gas chamber horror of North Korea's gulag

Here are the excerpts from the Human Rights Watch Report and the South China Morning Post.:
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Hundreds of thousands of people, often Christians, are in concentration camps, enduring regular torture. Executions are common. Prisoners unable to contain their horror at executions are deemed disloyal to the party and are punished with electrical shock, often to death. Others are sent into solitary confinement in containers so cramped that their legs become permanently paralysed. Eight Christians working in a prison smelting factory died instantly when molten iron was poured onto them, one by one, for refusing to deny their faith.

Yet something remarkable is happening. A growing number of North Koreans are escaping, to China or South Korea, and many of them are turning to Christianity. There at last they find hope.

German doctor Norbert Vollertsen was stationed in North Korea in 1999-2000 for the relief agency German Emergency Doctors. Later he interviewed hundreds of North Korean refugees in China and South Korea. His message: what has been going on in North Korea for more than half a century bears a strong resemblance to the World War II Nazi genocide against Jews.

“Like the Jews then, Christians in North Korea face their executioners praying and singing hymns," he related. But as the church father Tertullian…said at the dawn of Christianity: "The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church." Vollertsen, whose reports have made him a legendary figure in Japan and South Korea, found out that as a result of this Communist campaign of persecution an underground church was growing rapidly. "I am sure that once North Korea is free, Christianity will boom there in a way that will even dwarf its growth in the South."

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YANJI, CHINA- Mayhem suddenly erupted at the Sunday service last month in the capital of the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Region of Jilin province.

Plain-clothes North Korean agents raided the church and seized the stunted children, shouting and struggling. Witnesses said they were led away and almost certainly taken across the border back to North Korea to face indoctrination in labour camps.

The children are a handful of those caught up in a secret war being waged on both sides of the Tumen River between Christian missionaries and North Korea's security service.

As a starving and despairing population loses faith in the cult of former leader Kim Il-sung, many North Koreans are joining underground churches, suspected by the regime of being at the heart of a growing resistance movement.

This year there have been reports of a large-scale manhunt in North Korea and the execution and imprisonment of North Korean Christians and their families, many of whom are fresh converts. "

Kim Jong-il is now using the army to operate house-to-house searches for Christians. They look for any pieces of paper, " said one source.

"Whoever has a Bible in their hands is accused of being a spy - anything connected with the outside world can mean arrest and death," said another.

The North Korean security apparatus has now taken the counter-attack into China. This year the number of refugees crossing the border has fallen sharply.

"Some think they are fewer coming over because they are toughening controls - it is certainly not because their lives are any better," said Erica Kang of the Good Friends, a Seoul-based Buddhist charity group that has carried out surveys among refugees.

Fear may be one reason that North Koreans stay at home. Another is that China is said to be hunting down the refugees and returning them in larger numbers. It is also believed that Beijing is tolerating the activities of perhaps more than 100,000 North Korean agents who are allegedly kidnapping refugees and murdering missionaries on the mainland.

For North Koreans caught in underground churches, punishment is swift and brutal. In December, a small group of Christians in Chongjin, in the country's northeast, were discovered at a meeting and arrested. The 11 men were beheaded at a public execution as a lesson to others and the women and children were sent to labour camps.

Yet letters smuggled out of the country are dangerously frank. "We almost starved to death but you sent food unexpectedly. We have unspeakable joy," reads one letter.

"We don't know how long this suffering will go on. We have joy in our hearts. Almighty God prepared paradise in heaven for us and this mortal life is short. We are diligently preaching the Gospel. We tell people the food comes from Christians around the world. Our members are increasing day by day."

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Please pray for the people of North Korea! Our prayers are effective!






April 12, 2009

Happy Easter!


Christ is Risen!

"And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless..."
1 Corinthians 15:14


April 9, 2009

Identity


I really liked this post from my friend's blog Kristin McClendon, so I copied it here:

A Moment With Ashley

When you first meet someone one of the first question they'll ask is, "What do you do?" If you're in college they'll ask, "What college do you go to?" If you're in high school or middle school they'll ask, "Who do you hang out with?" These questions are all asking the same thing. They're trying to figure out who you are, and without saying another word, after you've answered the question, they immediately have an idea of who you are. Rich, poor, smart, dumb, popular, not popular...the list goes on. While assumptions may be true the problem arises when we center our lives around what other people see. Lets look at the life of David.

David was a shepherd, we often read this and think WOW a shepherd that's so great he got to sit and talk to God all day in a beautiful pasture. Let me put this in perspective, a modern day equivalent would be mowing the lawn. Imagine Jesse coming up to David and saying, "Son I want you to mow our 800 acres of land." You can picture David looking out at the land and then saying, "Ok dad." So the next day David gets up and starts mowing, he doesn't even get one strip of land done and has barely anything to show for the work he did. Everyday he goes out in the hot sun, no one see him, no one knows him, no one cares. David was the youngest in his family, and the only son of his mother. When Samuel came to meet Jesse's sons they didn't even bother to go and get David. In man's eyes David looked like nothing, but in God's eyes He saw a king. "For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart" (1 Samuel 16:7). Want to know why God chose David to be king? Because David didn't look at himself as a shepherd, he saw himself as a worshipper above all else.

Sometimes we get so wrapped up in what we're doing on this earth that we forget what our primary purpose is, and that is being loved and a lover of God. What we do on this earth is important, but it's not the main reason why we're here. We are here to cultivate a relationship with God, by realizing that we are loved by Him and then loving Him back wholeheartedly in return. The problem comes when we try to put what men see ahead of what God sees. David didn't see himself as a shepherd or a king before he saw himself as a worshipper. When we put our earthly identity ahead of our heavenly identity is when we find ourselves in trouble. David didn't go out trying to find a way to be king, instead he postured his heart rightly before God and said, "If you want me to be a shepherd for the rest of my life that's what I'll do." I'm sure some days he didn't want to be out herding the sheep, but then he remembered..."All I have to do is be confident that God loves me, and love Him back. Ok I can do this....I can do this." God found David "I have found My servant David...with My holy oil I anointed him" (Ps. 89:20). "He also chose David His servant and took him from the sheepfolds; from following the ewes that had young He brought him, to shepherd Jacob His people" (Ps. 78:70-71). David didn't try to exalt himself, but God saw what He was doing and it moved His heart, and He went out and found David in the pastures so that He could be king.

Today I encourage you to check your hearts. What have you made your primary identity? Are you defining your life by the One who loves you? Are you being faithful in the pasture, or are you trying to make yourself king?

God Bless