Monthly Archives: August 2016

From Africa to the Omni

Last week I attended the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) conference hosted at the elegant Omni Hotel in downtown Nashville, Tennessee. https://www.omnihotels.com/hotels/nashville/property-details/gallery

Photo courtesy of Chris Mayhew

A week early, I’d stood in the schoolyard of an African village and measured the arms of women, infants, and children for malnutrition to verify the eligibility to receive a vitamin supplement. As I measured, I prayed for the child’s health, while mothers probably prayed her son or daughter would qualify for the vitamin supplement. Can you imagine wanting your child to be considered malnourished?

The culture shock of returning home from Africa is always a challenge, but my head spun as I sat in the five star hotel banquet room with a filet mignon on my plate and remembered one child in particular who was limp when I measured his arm. Most of the women and children we met were healthy, but I can’t forget the few who were not. Another team will visit in September. I pray they will find healthier children.

Photo courtesy of Scott Hudson.

We’ll never have enough food to distribute, nor enough medicine to heal the sick in Africa. But we can share the living water, the bread of life, with everyone and give them the hope of eternal life in heaven. That’s why I go to Africa and I have to focus on that mission or I’ll become discouraged.

On my drive home Friday evening from the Omni, I took the wrong exit off the parkway and ended up in a neighborhood that made me uncomfortable. A group of teens stood under a streetlight and yelled at me as I passed. It didn’t take long for me to turn around and return to the parkway. A week earlier, I’d walked through an African village, surrounded by Muslims, and I felt completely at ease.  But here, at home, fear clutched my heart. What if, I had treated the young men who yelled at my car the same way I treat the people in Africa. What if, I’d rolled down my window and said, “I’m a Christian, and I’d like to tell you about Jesus.”  I pray for the day I’ll be a bold witness wherever God leads me. The lost are all around us. I pray that all Christians will rise up and share the gospel. “So that we may boldly say, ‘The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.’” Hebrews 13:6

Blessed in Africa

If I had to use one word to describe my recent mission trip to Niger, Africa, it would be blessed.  For weeks I worried about being stranded in Istanbul for two days. We had sixty-five minutes to make our flight connection and if we missed it, the next plane to Niamey would be two days later. We made it to the gate in fifteen minutes. The Istanbul airport is huge, chaotic and bustling with people. I consider this feat a miracle. When will I learn to trust Him completely? “Depend on the Lord; trust Him, and He will take care of you.” Psalm 37:5.

Our plane circled the Niamey airport for an hour due to a thunderstorm and the Muslim man sitting next to my sister asked her to hold his hand and the two prayed together. It’s unusual for a Muslim man to touch a woman not a relative, much less to ask her to hold his hand and pray. “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Matthew 5:44.

Attending a church service in a remote village that held fast to the gospel when the missionaries left was one of the highlights of my trip. We don’t know who first visited this tiny village, but a missionary I will call John Smith stumbled upon them and now visits regularly to teach them more. More than fifty people attended the church service and stayed all afternoon for more training while the children learned Bible stores and colored outside. “So then brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions, which you were taught, whether by word of mouth of by letters from us. 2 children_coloringThessalonians 2:15.

girl_workingThe women of Africa always touch my heart. They work from before dawn until dark gathering water, cooking over an open fire, cleaning, and caring for children. A baby is usually strapped to a mother’s back as she works. We are always treated as honored guest and welcomed to sit in the best chair if they own a chair. A mat is also pulled out  for us to sit on. These women and men show respect and listen to our testimonies as we share God’s plan for salvation. Many people fear visiting a Muslim country. The people wandering the aisle of my local Walmart scare me more than the people in Niger.  All the people I met in the villages were kind and generous.  We have many things in common, especially that we want to spend eternity in heaven. Unless something drastic changes, most will die never having heard the name of Jesus. I pray many more will answer the call to go to Niger so that all may be saved. Don’t let fear stop you.

What a blessing to be allowed to travel to Africa again. I am the most pitiful of missionaries and I often wonder why God has allowed me to be a part of his plan when there are so many more qualified. An example that will make you laugh out loud is a picture of my tent. When I purchased an air mattress for camping, I had no idea of what I was buying. The kids in the village got a kick out of seeing the size of my twin mattress grow higher and higher. It wouldn’t fit inside my tent, so I placed the tent on top of it. I might have floated away during the rainstorm. Believe me, if I can travel to Africa, you can probably do it too.

For those of you who prayed for our team, THANK YOU. Everything went smoothly and our team had a spirit of unity and love.

If you ever have the opportunity to join a foreign mission team, I hope you will grasp it with joy. I’m always reluctant and just like Gideon, I ask for signs. God never lets me down. Even though I am inadequate, He supplies me with everything I need. I can’t do anything without God. It is He who will reap a harvest.

BibaThis is a photo of me with one of the best blessings of my life. She is my Sister in Christ who interpreted for me, cared for me and treated me like royalty. I won’t  post her name for fear of persecution. I cannot imagine the number of people who will be in heaven because of the seeds she and her family have sown. Of course it is God who will reap the harvest. Pray for her health and safety and that God will continue to bless her and those she loves.

Maybe the reason God calls me to go to Africa is so more scales will be removed from my eyes.  I pray God will help me bless others as he has so generously blessed me. I am a weakling, but He is strong.   “So that, Just as it is written, Let him who boast, boast in the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 1:31.

 

 

Jealousy—Biggest Obstacle to Friendship among Authors by Mary Ellis

Mary_EllisWriters often create characters with some rather profound lessons to learn. If we’re smart we can learn those lessons along with them. Working in the competitive world of publishing, I often struggle with ego and pride. Authors are as ked to blog and Facebook, tweet and pin, to draw attention to their books and ultimately to themselves. Available slots on publishers’ lists are shrinking and will continue to do so. So what does that bode for authors who are also friends?

Jealousy and envy are deadly pitfalls that every writer must grapple with. Human beings are naturally wired to be envious. We spend much of our lives jealous of something or someone. As children, we yearned for a brand new bicycle or a trademarked Barbie doll if Grandma could only afford a knock-off. As we grew older we turned green if a classmate received a new Mustang for their birthday. Women have often coveted longer, curlier, or straighter hair, or to be taller, shorter, thinner or more voluptuous. Males aren’t immune to those emotions either. My husband envies men who still have thick heads of hair.

When couples get married, they strive for a new set of goals: a house with more bathrooms, a bigger yard, or a better school system so their children will excel. We might think ourselves content until a neighbor starts living the lifestyle of the rich and famous. Then the green monster rears its ugly head.

As I get older, I’m no longer envious of possessions. A larger house means more to clean, while a bigger yard means more lawn to mow. I am content with my current home, car and financial circumstances. But as writers we’re subject to a different type of envy: so-and-so receives a contract with a huge publishing house, a five-book deal, several award nominations, or lands on a bestseller list. Once we attain that list, then there’s the top position to strive for. Does this sound familiar? I battle the monster by not reading reviews and not checking my numerical placement on lists. But I assure you, this is an ongoing battle.

Lately, I’ve been envious of the ability to write faster and thus, have more time for relaxation. I might not covet a mansion in a gated community, but show me an author who breezes through deadlines while maintaining a social life and my vision clouds a greenish hue. I am making progress. I joyously celebrate the accomplishments of my peers, including those I will never achieve. But if a writer turns her book in early, while redecorating her kitchen and learning to speak Mandarin, she had better keep the last two details to herself.
Mary_EllisMary Ellis has written twelve novels set in the Amish community and several historical romances set during the Civil War. Her latest, Magnolia Moonlight, is part of a new mystery series, Secrets of the South, from Harvest House Publishers. Before “retiring” to write full-time, Mary taught school and worked as a sales rep for Hershey Chocolate. Mary enjoys traveling, gardening, bicycling and swimming, and lives in Ohio with her husband, dog and cat. She can be found on the web at: www.maryellis.net or https://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Mary-Ellis/126995058236

Magnolia Moonlight3Here’s a little bit about Magnolia Moonlight. When a preacher takes his own life, the congregation is quick to believe rumors, but his widow knows this was no suicide. When Price Investigations scratch beneath the surface, they discover Reverend Dean was a victim, not a thief.  They uncover an elaborate pyramid to bilk millions from non-profits, thousands of miles from where no one is whom they appear to be.

#MagnoliaMoonlight

 

 

Our African Mission Trip Schedule

africa_team_2016It’s hard to believe the African mission trip we penciled on the calendar in March 2014 is days away. This is a picture of everyone on our team except Melanie. My bags are packed, weighed, and stored. Each team member is allowed to check in two 50 lbs. pieces of luggage and carry on the plane one 16 lb. bag.  Any extra luggage space is used to deliver supplies to the missionary families living in Niger. Food takes up the most weight, but it’s a necessity. We’ll be camping for five of the eight nights so I packed an air mattress and folding chair. Bible school supplies also take up space, but we’ve learned that it’s fun to visit an African market to buy cookies and snacks for the children in Africa. market

A trip like this isn’t inexpensive but our church family and community are supportive. We hosted a fish fry fundraiser last week to help pay for our supplies and thanks to my Sunday School class providing deserts and another church member donating ten lbs. of white beans, we cleared over $3,500. The most money we’ve ever raised at a fundraiser is $1800.  I feel this is another affirmation from God that we are to go and not worry.

In case you’re wondering how we’ll spend our time, see below our schedule.

Day 1 and 2: Leave for Atlanta Noon. Flight departs Atlanta 10:00 pm and
arrive 23 hours later.

Day 3: Morning – Breakfast and orientation. Afternoon – Souvenirs & Market Shopping

Day 4: Morning – Pack for village. Afternoon. Travel to village A and set up camp.

camping2Day 5: Morning – Attend Church Service. Afternoon. Evangelism training with adults &
Children’s Day Camp.

Day 6: Morning: Men farming with believers. Women Children’s Day Camp. Afternoon: Return to Niamey.

 

Day 7: Depart 6:00 am for Village B. 10:00 – 4:00 Women/Children’schurch
Malnutrition Clinic. Return to mission compound.

bible_schoolDay 8: Travel to Village C. Evangelism training all day. Show the Jesus film Camp.

 

Day 9: Evangelism in villages(s) 10:00 am travel to Village D. 2:00 Children’s Day
Camp. 5:00 Evangelism Training. Camp.

parachuteDay 10: Children’s Day Camp. Overnight in Village D.

Day 11: Women/Children’s Malnutrition Clinic. Morning. Afternoon depart for Mission
House, Pack and catch midnight flight to USA.

Day 12: Arrive home.

Please keep our team in your prayers. Pray that we will remain healthy, safe, and there will be a sense of unity and love among us as we are tired, hot and dirty. Pray that God will prepare the way. Pray that God will soften the hearts and minds of those who hear the name of Jesus and that His sheep will hear His voice. Pray for a bountiful harvest. We covet your prayers. And so I invite you to travel with us. Please cover us with your prayers and be one of the most important parts of our mission team – a prayer warrior. Thank you.