Monthly Archives: March 2014

Joy and Light

During our orientation meeting, Mark reviewed our schedule for Wednesday morning. He asked us to share Bible Study with a group of three women believers in a remote village. Bible study would be followed with teaching them a craft project in an effort to help them earn money.  He said, “The last time we saw Anna, her hands were ravaged with sores where she’d been bitten by termites. She had been to the mound in search of food for her family.”

Mark developed the idea to teach them to create notecards. He would provide the supplies needed and would buy back the finished product. Enabling the women to make a marketable item was our version of teaching them to fish for life rather than giving them food for the day. It would have been easier to donate money; however, everyone in Niger will be saying “I believe in Jesus” if we start distributing cash. It’s a dilemma. We want to help, however, gifts can create false conversions.

I’m thankful for Terra’s artistic gifts and was relieved when she agreed to teach the women. Her assignment wasn’t an easy task. Women in Niger usually don’t attend school and can’t read or write. Explaining the purpose of a notecard was difficult. It took several attempts to describe which side of the folded paper was the front. Next they had to be taught how to hold a pen, and how to trace the outline of the wooden pattern on the fabric.  Finally, Terra taught them how to grasp the scissors to cut the material and glue it to the notecard.  Keep in mind there was no table or proper work surface. It took more than an hour to create the first finished notecard.

I will never forget their smiles of joy as they each proudly presented their finished notecards.  Mark will return next week and buy all they have to sell. Some might look at these simple cards and shrug. But when I view the results of their efforts, I’m reminded of their joy. I may never see these women again until we meet in heaven. Until that time, I’ll remember seeing the light of Jesus in their eyes, in a country that desperately needs His light.

I’m the Least

I started a Bible study, Gideon, by Priscilla Shirer in February. As I studied chapter six in the book of Judges, I felt a bond with Gideon.  “And he said to him, ‘Please Lord, how can I save Israel? Behold my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.’” Judges 6:15.  So many times I’ve asked myself, “What can I accomplish by going to Africa?  I’m not a Bible scholar. I don’t speak the language. I am the weakest.”

As we entered a new village on the second day of our trip, I felt the heaviness of our task. It was a long drive so it was already hot. The population of the village is about 5,000. We had to ask a young boy to lead us to the school so we could deliver a gift of school supplies. The director of the school was polite but curt. As he turned to leave, we were on a slight hill and I could see the many walled compounds. Again I wondered, “What can we accomplish?”

We stood at the entrance of the first compound where a group was standing inside the walls. Our translator, Biba, smiled and explained the purpose of our visit. Without hesitation, they told us they did not have time to talk with us. We thanked them and moved down the sand trail and listened. You can’t see over the walls of compounds, but you can find women by listening. The women are always working. Their jobs include: gathering water, pounding millet or cooking and caring for their families. It’s easy to hear the rhythmic thud of pounding millet.

Our team continued to walk and approached another compound and saw a circle of women. We greeted them and asked permission to visit. They simply stared at us without speaking. Biba said, “They have not offered us an invitation. We should go.”

After our third rejection, I felt defeated. I didn’t know what to do. We’d travelled so far and no one wanted to listen. I was thinking about Gideon and remembered that God had told him, “But I will be with you.”  I stopped in the middle of the street and said, “We need to pray.” We prayed for God to clear a path for us and to call his sheep. “My Sheep hear my voice.” John 10:27.

After our prayer, we continued to walk through the maze and found ourselves in a central public area with a well.  Many women were gathering water. We greeted them and explained that we were Christians. Immediately, one of the women left and returned with a mat and unrolled it. We sat on the mat in the shade and started to share. A man suddenly pushed through the crowd and sat across from me. This is very unusual behavior for a Muslim man. I expected him to tell us to leave. Instead, he said, “It is good for people to hear what you have to say. Everyone should decide for themselves.” This was an amazing comment to come from a Muslim man.  We continued to share scriptures and covered the IMB’s version of From Creation to Christ, also known as C2C.  The growing mass of people closed in on us. As Biba interpreted, her eyes grew large as she studied the pressing crowd. This is not normal behavior for Biba. I’ve been with her through two other mission trips and she is always calm and confident. However, she continued to interpret and speak fearlessly. Every mission team needs a Biba. She is a blessing.

Each of our team members spoke boldly and proclaimed the gospel. I felt the power of the Holy Spirit so strongly it was overwhelming. We estimated that perhaps 100 people had surrounded us. When we rose to leave, the crowd dispersed. That’s when I realized that we were sitting in the shadow of a large mosque. It had been to my back as we entered the central courtyard. I had only seen the well. We had been preaching the gospel in the Mosque courtyard. I felt weak in the knees as I realized what we’d done.

For the rest of the day, we were welcomed with smiles, laughter and interest. I believe two factors impacted our success: 1. We prayed and called on the power of the Holy Spirit.  2. Our prayer partners were praying. It was about 11:00 am in Niger when we prayed, but 5:00 am in America. I believe one or more of our prayer partners had risen early and prayed for us.

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9.  I am the least, but He is the most powerful. That’s why I’ve been called to go to Africa.

Overcoming Fear

unreachedOn the first day of outreach in Niger, Africa, we visited a village on the road to Namourou. I suppose the people would be considered an unreached group because of the 200 women I met, no one had previously heard the name of Jesus.  The population of the village is about 9,000.

lunch

When we parked in the shade of a thorn tree at 9:30 in the morning, the temperature was already 90 degrees with a high of 100 degrees expected. This is considered a mild day in March. The teams divided into men and women. The four men were to deliver medical supplies to the health clinic, and the four women were provided supplies for the school. After our gifts were delivered, we were to visit homes and hope that we were invited to visit. After our gifts were delivered, we had nothing else to offer except the name of Jesus. We can never supply enough medicine meet the need. We cannot feed all the hungry. But we can share the name of Jesus with everyone we meet.

village_street

I studied my surroundings and tried to calm my fears. As we prepared to depart and enter the maze of pathways that are neighborhoods, we held hands and prayed. I was reminded of Matthew 10:12-15 “As you enter the house greet it. (13) And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. (14) And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town. (15) Truly I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town. Jesus’ disciples were instructed to take nothing. I had a backpack of supplies and a ride back to the air conditioned mission house. I even had fancy water bottles that would spray a mist. Unfortunately, the mister doesn’t work if you freeze the water. I was terrified to enter the first compound. And then I remembered all the people at home praying for me, and suddenly I had peace.

As we trudged through the sand, I studied the mud brick buildings that probably looked the same as when Jesus walked the earth. We stopped at the first compound and were greeted. We introduced ourselves and explained that we were Christians and asked for permission to share scripture. After a tense moment of waiting for an invitation, one woman entered the building and pulled out a mat and unrolled it under a shade tree. This was the invitation for which we’d been waiting.

First we discussed the similarities between Christianity and Islam.  They agreed there is a heaven, and there is a hell, and we all want to go to heaven. When we asked the women, “How do you know whether or not you will go to heaven when you die?” They responded, “No one knows. Even religious teachers don’t know.” Now we had an opening to share the “Good News.” We asked them, “Have you ever heard the name of Jesus?”  No one in the crowd of thirty had heard of Jesus.” We held up our Bible and started at the beginning.

bible_study

The crowd continued to grow and as we read the story of Adam’s sin condemning us all.  We shared about God shutting the door to Noah’s ark, and it was too late for everyone else to be saved. We told the story of Abraham being willing to sacrifice Isaac as a sin offering. And finally we explained God’s love for us which he demonstrated by sacrificing his Son for our sins. These women had never been told that God loved them. They had never heard the name of Jesus. They did not know that they had a choice and that they could be assured of spending eternity in heaven if they accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

We asked them if anyone was willing to believe in Jesus. There was no response. And so we prayed that the women would think about the stories we had shared. I will never know if the women we met will believe in Jesus. I spoke the name of Jesus in a place that was completely dark. I overcame my fear and sowed the seed. Only God can reap the harvest. We were welcomed everywhere we stopped, and crowds grew at every home. I will continue to pray for the women and men who heard the name of Jesus for the first time, and I will pray that others will go and boldly proclaim the name of Jesus.

I am blessed for having the experience of being a disciple in a foreign land. I am grateful to be reminded that I am completely dependent upon God all the time. I appreciate the many people who faithfully prayed for me. And I am thankful that I was able to overcome my fear. I hope I remember to trust Jesus every day.

My Safe Place

In four days, I plan to leave on a mission trip to Africa. Yesterday, a friend said, “I’ll never go on a trip like that. I wouldn’t feel safe.” I have some bad news for my friend.  There is no safe place on earth for anyone.  To quote my Daddy, “If you are born, you are going to die and there is no one who can do that for you.”  Just because we live in America, we are not safe. Turn on any television or radio and you will hear of a robbery, traffic accidents, random shootings and chaos.  We, and the people we love will suffer at some point in our lives. The only safe place is covered with the blood of Jesus.

If you have ever considered the mission field, this is the plan of action I recommend: 1) Pray. The mission field is all around you. You don’t have to go to a foreign country. It is more difficult for me to share the gospel in a rundown trailer park in my hometown than in Africa. 2) Study God’s word. How can you share the gospel if you don’t know the gospel? 3) Trust God. He has such an awesome plan for your life. If you let go of the fear and trust God, he will amaze you with his rich blessings. We cannot fathom the goodness of God’s grace. And finally, be thankful in every circumstance. God does not promise an easy life. In fact, if we follow Him, we are assured that we will be persecuted.

Pray, Study, Trust and Be Thankful. To find true safety, “Follow Him.”