How to Survive Storms and Thorns

We all face seasons of storms and thorns. My mother died unexpectedly in 2003, and her funeral was the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend. I attended Daddy’s funeral on that same holiday in 2004. He was laughing one day, gone the next. All three of my siblings experienced serious health issues during this season of loss. I was terrified I would lose them too.

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I was reading scripture and ran across, Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 ESV. My face grew warm, my stomach churned, and a rage consumed me. I was acting like a child having a temper tantrum. It humbled me to discover the shallowness of my faith.

THe feet of a young woman as she is standing on the beach

On the weekend preceding Memorial Day in 2005, I was with my sister who was recovering from breast cancer and said, “If no one I love dies this week, I’m going to say, ‘Thank you, Jesus’.”  After two consecutive years of mourning, I faced the holiday with anxiety.

The loss I endured that week was my career. The CEO of the company where I worked informed me that the decision has been made to outsource my department, and my services were no longer needed. I was numb, crushed, and heartbroken. What had I done to cause this calamity? I’m ashamed to say I couldn’t force the words, “Thank you, Jesus” out of my mouth.

I recognize the summer of 2005 as a turning point. With no career, I was available to help with Vacation Bible School (VBS). The theme Bible verse was Deuteronomy: 6:5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. It was embedded in every story and song. On the Friday following VBS, we loaded our car and headed for the beach. On Sunday morning, we rushed to the Baptist church and realized we had missed the service. People were just walking out, but they pointed across the street to the Methodist church. We jogged across the street and found a seat. As I stared toward the front, the verse being projected behind the pastor caused me catch my breath. Deuteronomy 6:5.

I felt a chill, and every hair stood on end. I’d sang and read this verse over and over during the past week, but I hadn’t taken the time to consider the scripture.

I spoke to my minister when I returned home and asked, “What do you think God is trying to tell me?”

He frowned. “Sometimes scripture is difficult to understand, but this verse is clear.”

I still didn’t understand.

“God wants you to love him with all your heart…”

“But I do love him.” And then I remembered my rants, the angry outbursts, and my bitterness over losing my parents, the worry for my siblings, and my disappointment in losing my job.

After much introspection, I came to the understanding that God wants me to love him, unconditionally. God doesn’t owe me anything. Even though I was an adult, my personal relationship with God was shallow. I’d counted on Mom to be my prayer warrior instead of trusting in Jesus.

I discovered that to be able to trust Jesus you must spend time in scripture and prayer.

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God is so good. All three siblings recovered from their illnesses. He provided a wonderful position for me as the director of a small-town library. Books have always been something I love, and three years ago I started writing. This week, on the Tuesday before Memorial Day, something amazing happened. An agent with one of the most prestigious literary management companies in the nation offered me a contract. My life has not been perfect, but I can have perfect peace if I trust Jesus.

Today I’m on the mountain top, but I know there will be valleys to pass. I pray that I learned my lesson and abide in faith, hope and love, so no storm nor thorn will not break me.

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#nostormnorthorn #abideinfaithhopeandlove #memorialday

Calling All Prayer Warriors!

I’ve had a tough few weeks with more irons in the fire than I can effectively handle. But what should I give up? My mission work? Serving my home church? My job? Serving my family? Serving my home community? Serving my work community? I’ve also been plagued by jealousy, which makes me feel underserving of God’s blessings. Who am I to share the gospel when I’m such a sinner?

I’ve felt overwhelmed to the point of sleepless nights, tossing and turning, and worrying about a hundred things over which I have no control. I’m scheduled to attend a writers’ conference next week, and I’ve thought about cancelling my trip. I’ve allowed Satan to discourage me.

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On Thursday morning, I threw in the towel and turned everything over to God. Last night I slept through the night, and for the first time in days, I feel refreshed. Thank you Jesus!

A lovely friend and sister in Christ suffered a stroke last week and has been transferred to Hospice. Please pray for her and those who love her.

One of my coworkers faced a terrible health scare. Yesterday she received fantastic news from the doctor. Thank you, Jesus! I am grateful for her demonstration of faith as her prayer has been, “May God’s will be done and may he give me the strength to bear it.”

The Kenya mission team is hosting a fish fry tonight to raise funds for our trip. Please pray that God will provide the funds we need. Please pray that our team will be obedient and that God will prepare us. Please pray that God will soften the hearts of the unbelievers we meet in Kenya.

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Early last week I learned that one of our team members may have to pull out of the trip. Yesterday, another person said they would love to take his spot. Please pray that God will pave the way for whoever is supposed to be on this team.

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I’m going to stick with my original plan and attend the writers’ conference. Please pray that I will be able to concentrate so that I can improve my writing skills and that my work will glorify God.

Thank you for your prayers and support. I have faith that great things will happen because I believe in the power of prayer. I’ll give you an update next week.

Philippians 4:6-7 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

1Timothy 2:1 I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercessions and thanksgiving be made for all people –

Bible Group Praying Together

 

#thepowerofprayer #prayforoneanother #prayforafricanmissions #africamissions

Would You Be A Bold Witness?

A stranger stood in front of me at an event and ranted, “You should be fired!” She shouted.

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My jaw dropped. When she stopped spewing venom, I asked, “What services are we not offering that you’d like to see.”

She stepped back and scorched me with a hateful look. “It’s not my job to do your job.” And she stomped off.

I have talented and trained staff, so I’m accustomed to receiving compliments. The tirade from this angry citizen stunned me.

A friend said, “Forget it. You know it’s not true.”

I’ve been burdened by this furious lady all week. And finally, it hit me. What terrible things must have happened to her to fill her with such rage? It dawned on me that I should pray for her. “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Matthew 5:44

a woman is praying to god with hope

This experience made me consider, What is it like to live in a country where Christians are persecuted? I know my friend, Ibrahim, faces persecution on a daily basis and yet he continues to be a bold witness. I have to wonder if I would be an unflinching witness. I can’t be positive because I was shaken by the rant of one angry woman about my work performance.

I am thankful for this experience because it gave a splinter of glimpse of what it might be like for my brothers and sister living in countries that persecute Christians.

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Would you be a bold witness? Only God knows the answer.

#boldwitness #christianpersecution #prayforyourenemies

Kenya Mission Schedule

Many have asked me about the schedule for our Kenya mission trip, so I’ve written a rough outline of how we’ll spend our time. About five days will be spent travelling, three days on the mission field and two days resting or touring. There’s a reason the Tharaka are an unreached people group. It’s hard to reach them because of the terrain. See below a picture of the type of vehicle we’ll use to reach them.

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Thursday: Depart for Nashville Airport at 10:00 am.

Friday evening at 8:00 pm: Arrive Nairobi

Saturday: Orientation, shop for supplies and rest to recover from jet lag.

Sunday Morning: Depart at 7:00 A.M. and we hope to arrive at our campsite by early afternoon and set up camp. This is a picture of a typical camp site.

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Monday:  Door-to-Door visitation around the site where the missionaries and pastor hope to plant a new church.  We will visit homes and share “Creation to Christ,” the gospel, and invite neighbors to the activities of the next two days. We will form teams of a volunteer and national partner with translators.

Tuesday Morning: Vacation Bible School for the children; Afternoon: We’ll offer separate classes for the women and men.  Women’s topics:  women’s health classes and water purification. Men’s topics:  animal care and nutrition, and water purification. We’ll also share the gospel in these sessions in some way.

Wednesday Morning: Vacation Bible School for the children; Afternoon: Separate Classes for the Men and Women continued. Evening: We will show the Jesus film in the afternoon or evening and offer an invitation. At some point, we will have a celebration time with our Kenyan partners to thank each other and close our project of working together.  Depending on the schedule, it could be in the afternoon or early evening.

Thursday: Morning – Break Camp and travel to a lodge and national park. This is a picture of a room. Notice there are no walls.

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Friday: Morning – Photo Game Drive. Afternoon – Return to Nairobi.

Saturday: Tour Nairobi and visit elephant orphanage and depart for the airport in the evening.

Arrive Home: Sunday evening.

It may seem to some that it’s too expensive to travel so far and only be able to spend three days on the mission field. However, I know that three days of camping, and working in a brutal environment is about all my aged body can withstand. I pray I can meet the challenge, but I know I’ll be exhausted. I wish I could spend a larger portion of my time in Kenya on the mission field, but I’m not physically able. This is what it takes to reach an un-reached people group and the price we have to pay to take the gospel to the ends of the earth.

Romans: 10:14-15
“How then will they call on him in whom they have not believe? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “”How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’”

#notgoingtoAfrica #Africamission #Kenyamissions

Still Going to Kenya?

It’s not often I watch the news, so I was unaware of the attack on the students in Kenya when I entered church last Sunday morning. So the question, “Are you still going to Kenya?” caught me off guard.

“Of course,” I replied. “Why do you ask?”
“Have you seen the news?”
“No.”

My friend opened his phone and pulled up an article from USA Today telling me of the Al-Shabab gunmen killing 147 people at a University in Kenya on the previous Thursday.

I was stunned. The evil one had stolen my joy. I can tell you very little of what the minister said on Easter Sunday morning. My heart goes out to the Christian and Muslim families who lost loved ones. And I pray for the terrorist. “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

I wish I could tell you that I didn’t consider cancelling our trip, but I did. After much prayer, I am happy to write that our team is holding fast to our plans because we know that many are living in darkness, and we have the light to share.

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I know many consider me crazy to travel to a terrorist hot spot, but I know there is no place safe place in the world in its present fallen, sinful state until the prince of this world is driven out. Let us never forget that Jesus triumphed over Satan in His death and resurrection and that Jesus will have the final triumph. And so, I plan to follow Jesus, wherever that path may lead.

Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become ‘fools’ so that you may become wise.” 1 Corinthians 3:18.

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Pack Light – Buy Local

If there’s one thing I’ve learned when planning a mission trip, it’s to pack light. On our first venture to Africa, we purchased everything we’d need for our Bible School in the U.S. This included: snacks, t-shirts to give away, crayons, coloring pages, etc. We used every ounce of the airline’s weight allowance (two – fifty lb. trunks per person.)

 

Pile of backpacks - backpacking concept isolated on white with clipping path

On the second trip, we visited purchased food for snacks, backpacks for orphans, and soccer jerseys in the local market. Purchasing items in Africa had seven benefits. 1) Less luggage to pack. 2) Less luggage to handle. 3) Less luggage to lose. 4) We boosted the local economy. 5) Prices were cheaper in Africa. 6) We gained a better understanding of the culture by visiting the local market. 7) The market gave us another venue to share the name of Jesus.

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If you are planning a mission trip, check with your local contact and determine what is available to buy in the area market. I’ll never forget the look on the face of the young man who sold us the soccer jerseys in the Niamey market. His hands shook as we counted the money. We also gave him a $20.00 tip because he ran to different vendors to find the exact jersey’s we wanted. When we made the final transaction, the crowd around us applauded.

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I pray that each of us who are physically able will answer the call to share the name of Jesus. Blessings are awaiting you.

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#Africanmission #nigermissions #niameymarket

Will the Need for Pure Water Lead Others to Living Water?

The blessing of clean, pure water is something most Americans take for granted. What if you had to walk 10K (over six miles) each day to gather water for your family? This is the reality for many mothers and children in Kenya.

fresh water pouring into glass

Our missionary friends in Kenya have explained that women in the region we’ll be visiting, often walk over 10K each day (over six miles) to gather all the water they can carry. The more scarce the water, the more contaminated. Water filters cost about $25.00 which is outside the reach of most people. I have the ability to buy some water filters, but how can I decide to whom to distribute this precious item when the need is so overwhelming?

water,

I am exploring the feasibility of carrying Jonathan Ogelsby’s work from Niger to Kenya. See fofohari.org. Jonathan has developed artwork to teach women about good sanitation habits and about solar disinfection. Solar disinfection requires clear plastic bottles and sunlight to sanitize water. See: http://www.cdc.gov/safewater/solardisinfection.html. The artwork is key because many of the people in the region are illiterate. McDonald’s uses pictographs to train workers around the globe in food safety and hygiene. So we know this technique works.

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Please pray for God to provide me with the knowledge and tools to save lives and souls in Kenya. Please pray that God will use this need for pure water as an avenue to open discussions to receiving His living water.

#africanmissions  #fofohari #kenyacleanwater #Kenyamissions

Pray First – Then Travel

The first activity when planning any mission trip, whether you are walking across the street or flying across the ocean, is prayer. We must call on the Holy Spirit for guidance.

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When planning an overseas mission trip, the thought of missing a flight is worrisome. If our team misses one connection, we could be stranded for days, and this has happened. All of our tedious planning of the 10-day schedule unraveled. I’ve learned that I must trust God to direct every step, and take care of every small detail. He will ensure that I arrive at the proper destination at the proper time.

Connections sign in airport

On our first mission trip to Africa, our flight to Atlanta was delayed, we were re-routed to Detroit, and missed our connection in Paris. Nothing went as planned and the team was stranded in Paris on New Year’s Eve in 2011. I’ll never forget our surprise when we noticed the name of my sister’s hotel room in Paris was called The African Suite.  From the moment I read the name of her suite, I knew we were in the right place.

Africa_Suite_door

Because of our delays, our schedule was thrown out and we arrived at village A on a different day than planned. A businessman named Baashear accepted Chris that day. He was visiting relatives who invited him to hear our message. If we had been able to maintain our original schedule, he would have missed hearing about God’s plan for salvation.

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Village A is close to the Mali border and because of civil unrest, it has not been possible for American missionaries to return since our visit. But a small clutch of national believers continues to meet and to share the gospel with their neighbors. The national believers can travel to our missionaries for Bible study and discipleship training. Christianity is spreading in village A, and I pray that Baashear is growing in his faith.

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Prayer is the key to mission work, and it is the key to our daily lives. We can do nothing without God. I hope prayer is the first and the last thing you do each day. I pray that Christians in America are sharing the name of Jesus with others. There are about 13,000 people in my community that don’t attend a church on Sunday mornings. I don’t have to travel to Africa to find people who need to hear about Jesus, I can walk down my country road to my neighbor, but first, I need to pray.

Pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances. 1 Thessalonians 5:16.

#africanmissions

How To Afford a Mission Trip to Africa

I’ve been blessed to travel on mission trips to Africa, and I’m planning my fourth trip in August. You may wonder how a small-town librarian affords such a venture. And so, I’ve put pencil to paper to demonstrate how small behavior changes grew my mission fund.

businesswoman with a note-book

I stopped grabbing breakfast at my favorite drive-through restaurant. The average cost was $3.27 per day. Multiply that figure times five days per week = $10.60 and you’ll discover that I save $850.00 annually by eating breakfast at home.

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I decided to pack my lunch. If I buy lunch at a cheap fast-food restaurant, the expense is about $6.00 per day. The lunch I prepare from home is estimated to cost about $2.00. There are many days, I eat left-overs, so $20 savings per week is a conservative estimate that yields and annual saving of $1040.

A school lunch with a deviled ham sandwich, apple, granola bar and textbooks

I gave up sodas in 2013. I did this for health reasons, but at three sodas per day at a cost of .58 cents each. ($1.74 x 7 days per week) $12.18 x 52 weeks = $633.36. Today, I drink water that costs next to nothing.

fresh water pouring into glass

I used to replenish my skin care products about once per quarter at my favorite department store.  The minimum cost was about $100.00 for a moisturizer and a bottle of makeup. I won’t include the extras such as eye-shadow, blush, and mascara. I decided to switch to drugstore brands and cut the cost in half. Instead of $400 per year. I spend $200 and save $200.00.

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I’ve had my hair highlighted for years every other month at the local hair salon. The cost was $80. To color my hair at home, it costs $9.00, saving me $71.00 six times a year which total to $426.00

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To summarize:

  • Breakfast & coffee at home: $850
  • Brown bagging lunch $1040
  • Giving up sodas: $633.36
  • Using drugstore brand skin care products $200.00
  • Home hair-color products $426

Grand Total: $3149.36 which is enough to pay for a mission trip to Africa.

I don’t consider any of the choices listed above to be a sacrifice. Today, I eat healthier and save money.

If you want to go on a mission trip, but don’t have the funds, I challenge you to look at your spending habits and open a saving account. The money will add up, and before you know it, you’ll be on your way.

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1000 Wins

Congratulations to Coach Mike Krzyzewski for his 1000th win. As a Kentucky Wildcat Basketball fan, it’s difficult for me to pat him on the back when some of those victories were losses for my favorite basketball team.

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Photo: Rob Kinnon, USA Today Sports

Few of us will make the headlines like Coach K, but we all have gifts and special work that God has prepared for us. Ephesians 2:10 For we were all his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared for us.

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This is a picture of Terrian Lakes, a security officer at Boston Children’s Hospital. He walked through a blizzard to get to his post. Countless healthcare workers put their health at risk every day. A few make the news, such as the Ebola fighters, but most go unnoticed, even by the patients they serve.

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Firemen and police officers put their lives at risk every day as do countless other first responders. You may be like me, and know that you don’t have what it takes to be that kind of hero, but there are many ways to make a ‘win’ for God.

I’ve recently learned of a program called, Room at the Inn. It all started in December 1986 when four churches in Nashville, TN opened their doors to the homeless. Their core values: Through the power of spirituality and the practice of love, we provide hospitality with a respect that offers hope in a community of non-violence.

Kitchen Serving Food In Homeless Shelter

Today there are over 180 congregations with over 6000 volunteers. I wonder how many thousands of homeless people have slept in a warm, safe environment, offered food and shown hospitality as a result of this program. One person saw a need, acted on an idea, and thousands have benefited.

Each of us has opportunities to make a “win” for the Lord every day. We can lift a prayer for a stranger, encourage someone who’s down, and offer a helping hand. We can do our unglamorous jobs to the best of our ability.

Someday, we will all be called to be accountable for our actions. 2 Corinthians, 5:10 “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.

Consider the treasures you are storing up for yourself. Luke 12:15 “For one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

As impressive as Coach K’s 1000 wins are, the more important achievement is the number of young people he’s mentored. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to say Coach K brought thousands to Christ? And maybe he has… but only God knows.

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I want to live my life in such a way that there is rejoicing in heaven. Luke 15:10 “There is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” I want to win hearts for Jesus. That’s the ‘wins’ that count.

#1000winscoachk #roomattheinn