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Thursday, May 21, 2015

Quick Change

It was a Tuesday. She came in looking a little rough. I’m not being judgmental. She knew it and she was hoping to find some things at the clothes closet.

She was a single mom. Her son had been kicked out of school because of behavior and other issues. She was tired and she had kind of given up on taking care of herself.

No makeup.

Dingy shirt.

Ripped pants.

Dirty flip flops.

Hair pulled into a pony tail. Kind of greasy looking.

I don’t really think she expected to find a place that might love on her a little. It was another place that she’d heard about that might offer her some help.

Maybe even just let her dig through a box.

“Ma’am, what size are you looking for?” I asked.

“Well, I actually have found some things! I am excited to see that this place offers nice things! Is it all donations?” she asked. She had a different light in her eyes than when she entered.

“Yes!” I said. “ We have been blessed with very nice donations from people in our church. I am glad you are finding things.”

I was even able to help a little with some toiletries and underwear. Her kids were needing those things, and quietly, so was she.

Before she left she asked if we had programs for kids at our church. I told her about our upcoming VBS and about other opportunities that kids have at the church.

I talked to her about the single mom’s class.

I gave her a Bible.

The very next day we were open was Thursday. It was a steady day with people coming and going. I was standing near the desk helping another customer when the door opened.

It was her.

Her hair was washed and pulled back in a bun. She had on make up and she was dressed in white pants, a sweater and a tank top and she was wearing a matching necklace. It all matched. She looked so pretty and so different.

“HI!” I said. “You are back! You look so nice today!”

“Yes,” she smiled. “I brought my friend with me. Everything I am wearing came from you!! Look at my necklace. It matches and looks so nice! I am so excited that everything fit and you all helped me so much!”

It was almost as if a woman that had been locked inside had come out again! Her face was radiant and her eyes excited about how she looked and how she felt about herself.

She brought her friend into the store and helped explain everything. She helped her shop and she helped make stacks of clothes for her friend’s family.

She was giving back.

She was taking what she had been given and using it to help someone else and she was doing it with so much pride. It was as if the Lord Himself had whispered, “I’m carrying you. I’m here and I want you to tell someone else this same message.” And she was.

Before she left she thanked me again and again. She asked for information about the church for her friend and she wanted her to have a Bible, too. I honestly could not believe the difference…

… and yet that’s just like the Lord. In His time, and in His way, He makes all things new. You just never know exactly how He’s going to go about it… or when. And every once in a while He allows you to see it. First hand.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Just Do Your Job

They came in as a group. They usually do because not many of the women drive and depend on their husbands to bring them to shop. Once they have a ride several Asian ladies bring their children to find things to wear.

I noticed one of the young ladies stayed behind. She had a calm demeanor and a sweet look in her dark eyes. She kept near the back of the group until everyone was entered into the computer. She helped with their English at times and smiled at everyone. There were several children, and if they could walk, they would come up and hold her hand or she would address them if they were running or into things.

She finally approached the desk and I asked for her I.D. card. She said, in very plain English,  “This is my first time here. I had to drive today. I also had to come to see the place that has helped so many of my people.”

“The Burmese?” I asked. “Your English is very good. How long have you lived here?”

“Seven years. I have lived in America for seven years, but I have only lived here for a few years. I work at a clinic and I help the doctors care for my people. I am single, but I have family that lives with me and I help take care of them, too. Can I shop for them today?”

I explained how our system works and told her that we would be happy to help in any way.

“You have no idea what this place means to us. I was happy that it worked out for me to come, meet you, and see what my people talk about. Our children grow so quickly and we can buy a few things, but this place allows us to have enough as the children outgrow things.”

My heart began to beat so hard… just like when the Lord begins to speak directly to me about something that needs to be said and done. But what? I had no way of knowing what He wanted me to say other than to share the gospel. I can’t usually do this with these people because they speak little English. But now was my chance!!!

She began to walk around looking for items for her family.

As she made her way close to the desk where I was standing I said, “It makes my heart so glad to know that we are helping your people. One thing REALLY bothers me, though. I can not speak to your people. The language barrier is hard and I can’t share Bibles or Jesus with them because I do not have them in your language.”

Then I knew why my heart was beating so.

Her eyes lit up and she said, “THAT is my job!”

I am sure I looked so confused, and for a moment I was a little concerned about what she might say. Many cultures participate in idol worship and continue to worship false gods. I was praying that the Lord would help me know what to say next and praying there would not be confrontation!

She continued.”You do not have to minister to my people in that way. You are doing what God has told you to do. Now it’s time to do my job.”

I looked at her a little confused. “But God has only given me the clothes to help me meet physical needs. The spiritual needs, and sharing about Jesus is more important and what we wish we could address with your people,” I said.

She smiled, “Oh, I know! You see, for so long I have asked God to do a work in the hearts of my people in Burma. I have prayed for my country with weeping. I came here so burdened for them and I continued to pray for my people and one day the Holy Spirit tells me… your people are RIGHT HERE.”

She pointed around the room at the people that she’d driven to the Clothes Closet. I began to understand the calm demeanor and gentle spirit. It was the presence of the Lord and my heart was filled with so much joy that I literally could not move, but hung on her every word.

She continued. “There are so many children. We have many families with multiple children and I am not married and I don’t have children of my own. The Holy Spirit told me to teach the children. He said, “THESE are YOUR people,” and I realized that I wasn’t doing my job. Yes, I still pray and ask God to work, but it’s my job to tell them, THESE, about salvation.”

“Do you drive them to church every week?” I asked.

“No, I teach them in our apartment complex. Every Sunday I have Sunday school and I tell the 20 children that the Bible is one book and that it has two parts… the Old and the New Testament. I tell them that Jesus is at the center of the Bible and that He loves them. I tell them every week and God is giving me a vision that He will grow them to love Him. I am only to be faithful to teach.”

She paused.

“I am so humbled by this. There are times that all I can do is cry because the Holy Spirit is so strong and He is directing my way.”

I had heard in the past that many of the Burmese refugees were here because they had come to belief in Christ and had fled their country because of their longing to worship Him in freedom. Many came with the clothes on their backs hoping to make a life in the United States where they could teach their children Truth. I knew that several families came to our church and brought their children to Sunday school, but as with any group of people, there are those who do not believe and are living in rebellion. They came with their families, but are not going to church or hear about Christ on a regular basis. My heart had been burdened for a long time about only giving clothes, meeting only external needs, but never knowing whether or not they’d met the One True and Living God.

phone pics 2013 018phone pics 2013 021

“So, what can I do to help you?” I asked.

“Pray. That is all that any of us really CAN do. God has made it clear to me that I am to do my job and that the results are up to Him. That’s what you should do, too. When they are standing in front of you, and you are folding their clothes, you pray for their hearts to be stirred. Pray for them to be receptive to the gospel and don’t worry about the language barrier. They are shy people. They don’t have confidence in the English that they do know so don’t worry. You just pray.”

She continued,” Don’t worry about the Bibles. Among just these people here there are two dialects. You could not have enough Bibles for each dialect and you could not know who speaks which one! You pray and you trust God to use you and the clothes to point them to Him.”

I was still. Completely still.

The Lord was sweetly telling me, “She’s right. You don’t pray enough for the people. You must TRUST that I am able to use ANYTHING to reach them. It’s not UP to YOU!! Just be faithful to what I tell you to do, and trust that I am at work.”

I asked her if I could have the honor of praying for her before she left. She shopped a little more and brought her items back to the desk. I removed the hangers and then walked around to pray for her. She fell to her knees with her arms in the air and blessed the Lord during the entire prayer.

So humble. So willing. So used by God in every facet of her life.

Challenging me to trust. Challenging me to obey. Challenging me to press on in what He has called me to do.

The Lord moved during that time and even now my heart beats hard as I tell, feebly, of His impact.

I took a picture of her and put her name in my calendar so that  I would continually pray for her… though I suspect that I won’t need the reminder. Her name, and that day, will be hard to forget.. you see her name? It’s Mercy.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Why Exchange Students?

In the fall of 2013 and in the fall of 2014 the Lord opened opportunities for me to go to Africa. It changed me. Never in my life had I been exposed to such a different life.

Africa 117

While the lives of the people struck me to the core and the lives of the missionaries challenged me to live a life that makes a difference there was nothing quite like the faces of the children.

Africa 116

They live in a place that offers little opportunity. They are beautiful, smart and so curious about life. They wanted to sing and laugh and dance and play and create and listen and see what new things they might learn from us… the Americans. Africa 070

While I am not na├»ve enough to think that America.. with our broken lives and hurting culture… would solve any problems that these children might face I do believe that we STILL live in the land of opportunity and freedom. We have amazing families that live through terrible circumstances and still have faith that things will improve.

Africa 157 

We have resources and experiences that people in many countries do not have, and we CAN make a difference in the life of a student. So many want to be doctors, lawyers and teachers. They want to learn English so that they can be effective in more than just their native tongues and they are eager to learn.

We can help them to see that education is worth it and that there’s something placed within us by the almighty hand of the Living God that tells us that there’s right and wrong, good and bad and that there’s love. Amazing, life giving love!

me and kids

When I went through the airport in South Africa, I stopped at an airport restaurant to buy a water and prepared to board my flight. Two South African girls working behind the counter asked me where I was going and I said, “America.” Their faces! They lit up with the biggest smiles and they said, “We don’t want to move there. We just want to see it. Just one time, could we come with you?”

I have never forgotten that.

I have a friend that works for the exchange student program that I am now employed by. When she posted on Facebook that they were looking for host families those two hopeful faces came to my mind. Our home needs some repairs and so we are working on that in hopes that we can bring a student to stay with us for the academic school year.

No doubt, there will be issues arise. It won’t always be easy and there will be differences to work through. In my mind, nothing worth having is easy all the time.

I’m just excited to see what God has for our family and it is my prayer that I can impact more than one life through this exciting opportunity to be God’s hands and feet to the world! One child at a time.

Friday, April 3, 2015

The Bread

Beth Moore wrote, when speaking of the table of shewbread in the tabernacle, in her Bible study A Woman’s Heart, God’s Dwelling Place,

“When the unleavened bread was set before God on Golgotha, this tabernacle shadow, the bread of the Presence, found it’s fulfillment. As the sun ceased to shine that Friday afternoon, the Sabbath abruptly pressed in. The sun set early for a while that fateful afternoon, almost as if God wished to hasten the end of His Son’s agony. “He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied.” Isaiah 53:11

For hundreds of years the sacrifice was made daily in the courtyard. God’s chosen people were seeking to atone for their sins using the blood of lambs, bulls and cattle. God gave them the guidelines:

the bread was before Him continually

the incense would burn on the altar continually

the oil in the lampstands would burn from a continuous supply of oil…

and yet it was not enough.

I am not Jewish.

Were it not for Him choosing me, loving me first (1John 4:19) and showing His love for me would I even be privy to such knowledge?

Would this Gentile be able to understand that His plan included me?

“Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.” 1Corinthians 10:17

“For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to Him, “” Sir, give us this bread always.” Jesus said them, I am the bread of life; whoever come to me shall not hunger….” John 6:33-35

Today, I am praising my God and my King for coming as the Bread of life so that even in my sin the Father might be satisfied and see the blood that was shed for me. On my own I am completely doomed to hell. His life, the Bread of life, was enough.

“…. there no longer remains a sacrifice for sin.” Hebrews 10:26

Friday, March 27, 2015

Urgency to Tell

I suppose this post could come across like I’m preachin’. It’s really not my intent. It’s more like, oh I don’t know, maybe God is just revealing some things to me about myself, and about Christians in general… just wait. You will see what I mean.

The truth of most of my life is that church and God’s Word have been, and are, my very lifeline. However, while I knew what scripture said about telling others about Christ and the hope that He brings… I never really had the guts or determination to share those lifelines with others. It was like I chose which parts of the Bible I wanted to obey and the other parts that made me uncomfortable…well, those didn’t apply to me. Right?

It’s true… that has been most of my life until these past two years as God has completely changed my perspective.

What would YOU do if  four women walked into your day with similar stories of abuse and the need for shelter from a raging storm in their own homes? They aren’t bearing physical scars (at the time) but the hurt and humility are clearly a burden that each of them bear. Clothing? Is that going to solve the deep hurt that each woman feels?

Or maybe that lady that looks like she is living on the street walks into your presence with bandages on her arms. You ask how she’s doing and her reply is, “I’ve been better.” You ask what happened and she says, “This is just from stress… and you think I’m pitiful, don’t you?”

Your reply might be, “No ma’am. I think you are hurting and the ONLY thing I can say to you that might help is that there is a healing balm in Gilead. His name is Jesus.” A pair of shoes might help her in the short term, but what will heal that pain that’s too deep for anyone to see until she mutilates her arms for all to see? 

Or maybe an elderly woman is suddenly in front of you. You ask how you can help and she says, “Well, I’ve raised my children. Now, my children have left THEIR children with me. My daughter is on drugs and living on the street. She came into my home, demanded money, and when I wouldn’t give it to her she took all of my clothes and poured bleach on them. I need clothes.” What do you say? Are clothes REALLY all she needs?

So much of my life has been surrounded by church. Church buildings, church people, church life. My mom and dad took me to church and kept me there until I was in college where I played around and skipped church here and there. I rebelled some, but my story mainly surrounds the protection of many prayers and love from many God- fearing people along the way even though my life was tainted by sin. I married a Godly man and into a Godly family. To say that He has been very present in my life would be a fair and humbling statement. To say that my heart has been far from Him at times and that my sinfulness has separated me from Him would be true, but His steadfast love and protection has been overwhelming even in my sin. 

I can’t wrap my mind around the hurt that people endure outside of the walls of the Bride of Christ. I can’t until it walks right in front of me and the Lord whispers, “What will you tell them? Will you give them just clothing? Will you share Me?”

Is that how it is with most of us “church people?” We don’t sense the real urgency to share Christ because we don’t get it? Are we so tightly wrapped in our church bubble that we fail to connect with the society around us that is going straight to hell without Christ or are living in hell because Jesus isn’t even a factor in their reality?

I have to say that I do not regret being sheltered from the harshness of life in some ways. It makes me grateful for those who prayed for, loved and kept me. It has, however, caused me to not know a lot of the realities of life and now that I am in my 40’s God is peeling back layers to allow me to see just how much hurt there truly is… and even then I only see a few minutes of their lives. Who knows what they live in on a daily basis and just how far the pain truly goes??

God.

He is the only one that TRULY sees every single fiber of their being and if I am not going to tell them when they stand in front of me… who will? 

Doesn’t He hold me accountable to tell of His goodness with urgency? Doesn’t He call me to not just choose to believe His promises for myself, but to tell others that His word says, “Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before Me.” Isaiah 49:16

The answer is yes. The Lord does hold me accountable to tell. His Word commands that we go into the nations and make disciples, and somehow, as I grew into an adult in the church, I thought that may have meant those special people that He calls to be missionaries.

You know? I get so distracted.

Being a wife and mom, wondering what my friends are doing and where I need to go for the next errand… what we will have for dinner and whether the laundry is done or not… there are SO many things that keep me in my own little world. God is just showing me in REAL LIFE that He has such a greater purpose for me and every other Christian that truly wants to follow Christ with all of their heart, soul, mind and strength. It’s URGENT!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Answer to Prayer

It has been a while since I’ve updated this old blawg! I guess, like everyone else, I’ve been busy with holidays and family. Now that things are slowing a bit I hope to update things more frequently!

God’s continued faithfulness, however, has never slowed down! He has been showing us His faithfulness on a daily basis with so many things. I’ve had several of you tell me that you are just in tears over hearing the stories of the Lord’s provision in the life of others through the Clothes Closet ministry. Let me tell you… you aren’t the only one in tears!!

Over the holidays I was so blessed to have one of our missionaries come serve in the Clothing ministry along side our team of workers! Katty is a precious young woman that serves in Ecuador and she was in the US for a few months. While she was here she was able to come and serve for a few hours on 2 different days. She speaks Spanish (of course!) and so having her there REALLY helped. She wrote out the gospel in Spanish for me so that I can have it to share with the people that come in to shop. WHAT a blessing!!

Two things  that I loved about Katty being with us was that she prayed for us while we were working and she easily engaged with people that spoke Spanish when I could not. 

One day the clothes closet was so crowded. We were very busy and Katty was standing near the door as people came and went. One lady had her hands full with two little girls and a huge bag of clothes that she’d found for her family. As she approached the door to leave Katty simply said, “Can I tell you about Jesus?”

The woman began to immediately weep! Katty and I exchanged looks and I began to pray. We took her girls to the front of the store and gave them seats while Katty took their mom to the dressing room to talk with her in private.

What happened next was nothing short of amazing.

The woman began to open up to Katty about her life. She lives with a man that loses his temper and sometimes hits her and the girls. She decided a few weeks ago to take the girls to church where she heard that God loves her and has a plan for her life. Just that day, she said, she prayed that God would send someone to tell her about how to ask Jesus into her heart. She didn’t really understand it all, but she wanted to  and she needed someone to explain it to her. She also needed a Bible.

She told Katty that when she said, “Can I tell you about Jesus?” she began to cry because for the very first time she knew that God had truly heard her prayer.

Katty was able to share the gospel with her, lead her in how to pray and ask Christ to forgive her and live in her heart and life, and we were able to find a Spanish Bible for her.

Because of the language barrier there would have been no way that I could have shared the gospel with this lady. The Lord allowed Katty to be in the United States AND in the clothes closet at the exact time so that this precious sister in Christ could meet Him face to face and her life could be changed forever.

There are a few things that I walked away with on a that day.

1. I hope I never get over the lengths that God will go to just to reach  one lost lamb. The way that He orchestrates every detail and pursues each and every life so that they might come to repentance should bring every believer to our knees in praise of His matchless name.

2. I pray that I am able to be more and more out of my comfort zone and eager to share the gospel with whomever God places in my path. People are hurting and dying in their pain because they don’t know that there IS hope. Katty’s obedience to share about Jesus was literally an answer to a woman’s prayer. We never know how God might have the exact plan for us!! All we have to do is be obedient to share His love!

3. It is imperative that I am in God’s Word EVERY day. The very things that He directed Katty to say that day came directly from His Word. If I am not willing to spend time with Him and pray then how will I  know the will of the  Father and His Word as I try to lead others to Him? I need Him every single hour of every day and I can’t have that relationship by just being in church on Sunday.

Please pray for us? We are so excited to see the Lord at work and we desperately need prayer in knowing how to reach people with the truth. Joblessness and homelessness can bring so much despair. Women that are being abused or domestic violence in the home between family members is very prevalent. People do not know where to turn when they are so hopeless.

Only Christ is the answer. He alone can meet our true needs, and today we are praising Him for the lives that He’s touching and the difference that so many are making through volunteering, donating and praying. Thank you so much for YOUR help! God is using every person’s touch in this ministry to make a difference in our community.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Pumpernickel and Pajamas

She came in with tears in her eyes. I knew she was having a hard time just being there.

“Hi! Can I help you?” I tried to sound happy but it was obvious that this was not going to be easy.

“People told me to come here,” she said. “I’m really in need of help and this is hard for me… the asking.”

“Ok. Can you tell me a little bit about what’s going on?” I asked.

“Well, I am in my late 60’s. I have gotten behind on my property taxes, I have no food in my house and I am just really struggling. There was another church that had offered to help me, but they are on the other side of town and I don’t have the gas to get there.” This time when she spoke a tear rolled down her cheek.

I knew that I could not help with property taxes, but we could help with a little food. She had not mentioned clothes, but I noticed that she was wearing sandals and short pants.

When I asked if she was familiar with our food pantry she said that she had heard that we had one. When I pointed to the building (at the other end of a long parking lot) she sighed. “I just walked all the way to you from there. I didn’t know where to go so I parked there. I really didn’t know what to do.”

The Lord told me to put first things first… He told me clearly that we needed to pray. I asked for her name and in the parking lot we prayed about her situation. I told her that He is our Provider and asked if she knew the Lord. She said that she did, but that she had not been very good at listening to Him. Her pride had really gotten in the way.

The Lord said, “Don’t make her walk back. Drive her.”

There was a line of people waiting to get into the clothes closet. How was I going to leave the clothes closet to drive one lady back to where she needed to be?? The other volunteers stepped up and I asked her to get into my car.

Once we reached the food pantry I went inside ahead of her and asked the men there to really take care of her. They were delighted.

I returned to the clothes closet where the door stood open as people waited to be served. Near the end of the line was a quiet man standing patiently with his hands folded. I recognized his face and knew that he had been before, but I could not remember his name.

“Hello, sir! How are you today?” I asked.

“Hola, senora. I am fine.” He said. He was so gentle in how he spoke and had peace in his eyes.

I took his ID card to look up his name in our computer and saw that he had not visited in a while.

“Are you ok today, sir?” I asked.

“Well, my wife? She has had brain surgery. She is home now but she spent many weeks in the hospital. The surgery left her unable to speak and unable to move. The doctors say she will improve, but it will take a while. I was wondering if you have pajamas?”

I remembered one pair of new pajamas that we had held just in case someone needed them for a hospital stay. We don’t normally keep them because people generally wear them when they are sick, and we don’t really have the space.

“Sir, what size would she need?” I asked.

“Small. She is so small now,” he said.

I walk to the back to look at the set of pajamas. They were grey with pink trim and so soft. And they were a size small.

Underneath them were a new pair of slippers that I had forgotten that we had. I immediately got a lump in my throat. God began to remind me that His hand is never shortened and that He is present in EVERY situation. I was so excited to tell the man about what I had found, until…

I went into the room where  three of the volunteers were sorting and I said, “Ladies, remember these pajamas that we said we’d save for someone’s hospital stay? He’s here! The Lord has brought the man for his wife. She had brain surgery and needs these pajamas!”

All three of them smiled at me, and one of them said, “No! Look in that bag. We just received a WHOLE BAG of size small pajamas and robes. They are BEAUTIFUL and brand new! We knew we didn’t normally keep them and there are several so we didn’t  have space for them all…”

I went to the bag that they referred to and there they were… a white night gown with beautiful bead work, a pink robe, a precious pair of soft pink pajamas and a white robe… all of it new, all of it small and all of it perfect for this lady.

I walked to the front of the store and I found the man. When I walked up to him I tried to speak, but I began to weep like a BABY! I began to explain to him that we didn’t usually keep the pajamas and how they’d just found these just for his wife when he interrupted me.

“My God is bigger than brain surgery. I have slept on a sofa for a month while my wife lay in the hospital bed. She prayed for pajamas. He has answered her prayer. I have prayed for healing. He has begun to give her her speech back. My GOD IS BIGGER!”

I was a complete and total mess. As I went to the front to fold the pajamas the other shoppers in the store noticed me crying. I could NOT help it. The presence of the Lord was so strong. It was more than I could take, and so I told those standing in line about his story and about the pajamas. 

One lady spoke up, “I remember when a man that I worked with trusted God with EVERYTHING! I didn’t know God then and it made me so confused when he would talk about God providing. Now, I know God and you are RIGHT! That is clearly the Lord working on that man’s behalf!”

I prayed with the man before he left and he hugged me. I was totally in awe of the Lord’s specific provision in this man’s life. As he opened the door to leave…. she walked back in.

“Hi!” I said. “Were they able to help you at the food pantry?”

“Oh yes,” she said. “As a matter of fact… there’s something kind of funny. See, I can’t eat regular bread and would you know that they had pumpernickel?? Who would have thought that they would have had the ONLY bread that I can really eat at a food pantry?”