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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Right Shoes and A Father’s Love

Sometimes you just can’t get over the way that the Lord loves us, can you!? His love is lavish and amazing and so incredible!! The clothing ministry is such an incredible place of specific blessings that you can’t really turn your back for a minute because God will just show up in such unexpected and awesome ways!!  Whether people that visit the ministry realize it or not, God meets such individual and exact needs that you can NOT deny His presence there… and it blows me away EVERY. SINGLE. TIME!!

Yesterday was NO different.

A sweet, sweet man came into the ministry yesterday. His smile was so genuine and his old eyes sparkled. It was obvious that he needed clothing and shoes as he was wearing socks and flip flops on a day when the temps were not out of the high 40’s. What he did have he wore with pride and he cared about his appearance. He was very clean and well put together though you could tell that he was in need. His spirit was just so gentle and when he came in I just prayed, “Lord, DO IT for him!”

He started looking through the clothes and spent a considerable amount of time trying things on. He wanted a few ties for church. He was so precious hanging things back on the rack with extreme care with the things that did not work for him.

He came to me and said, “Do you have any more shoes? I really need them. This is all I have.” I said, “Well, we do have a few more pairs in the back. We didn’t have a spot for all of them out here. What size do you need?” He said he needed a 12 and so I went to the back.

There were 2 pair. Yes, two pairs of size 12’s. I am typing through tears remembering the look on his face as I walked out with TWO pairs of shoes for him. HIs precious face just lit up and he said, “Oh, I will take it! I will take it!” There are just not words to explain it.

Oh, GOD! We are unworthy of such favor!! That You would allow us to see such grace and provision is just beyond me!!

Another woman came and she shopped for a while. It was her first time there. She found a few things to wear, but to my surprise her blessing did not come in the clothing as much as it did in the invitation to church.

See, every time someone comes in we ask if they have a church home before they leave. It’s really simple. We just say, “Do you have a church home?” Sometimes they say yes and move on and sometimes they say no and we give them our church info. and invite them to attend.

This particular lady was holding her bag of clothing and getting ready to leave and I asked, “Do you have a church home?” I was so concerned when she started getting tears in her eyes. “Oh honey. My church is in such a mess. No one gets along. I just need a place to worship.I love to sing! I want to just sing!”  I hugged her and I said, “Please, come here. We’d love to have you! Come and sing!” I gave her information about the service times and she continued to cry. “God really does love me, doesn’t He?”

You never really know what the needs will be exactly. You just know that the people are usually not there just to be there. These are divine appointments that the Lord uses to show us His grace, provision and glory! I have to honestly say that I am humbled and moved to tears myself as the Lord continues to bless and meet needs like only He can! He knows each need before they walk in the doors and He has the exact item that they need just waiting for them.

I am in awe. I am humbled and I can’t wait to go back to see what He does next!

Oh, I just love Him! Don’t you!?!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

When the World Comes to You

One thing that I really felt convicted about before deciding to go on a mission trip outside of the US was the fact that there is a HUGE mission field right here in our own backyard! For years I thought that I would love to go somewhere to serve, but I just really needed to start right here before I ventured off. Hence the Laundry Love Projects and the Clothes Closet were born in me. I decided that if I never got the chance to go somewhere else that I needed to at LEAST try to love on those in our community. God is so good to bless me with more opportunities than I’d ever dreamed.

This past week our Children’s Ministry Coordinator and our Women’s Ministry Coordinator contacted me a second time about a group of people in great need within our church.

The church staff was caught off guard a few months ago on a Sunday morning when a large group of Asian people showed up for Sunday school and church! They spoke little English, but wanted to attend service and they wanted their (VERY LARGE) group of children to be in Sunday school.

After piecing together the story they found out that this was a group of refugees that had moved to our area 4 years ago. They all live together in some apartments that are not far from our church, and they literally had the clothes on their backs.

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A missionary had been to their country and had told them about Jesus. When they started living it and renouncing their native religious beliefs they were persecuted. They had to flee their country and were displaced for a period of time before they were brought to the US and set up with a place to live. All they needed (in their eyes) was a place to worship.

As the ministry staff met with them more and realized that they literally had NO means of provision for their families and no beds, furniture, pots, pans, etc. they knew that they had to do something.

When they first asked them, “What do you NEED?” Their response was, “For our children to know Jesus.”

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As you can imagine the ministry staff has been just blown away by their humility and their simple requests that they and their children be allowed to attend church and nothing more. It was not until the church started asking questions that they found out that the physical and nutritional needs were so great.

There is also a great need for clothing. YAY!!!!! That is where the clothing ministry came in! I was so excited when they said that they were bringing them to “shop”!

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After taking them to our food pantry they brought them to me. We got each of them registered and many of them were carrying children on their backs.

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This was the smallest one and she looks so much like her mom! This lady spoke English just enough to help us explain the system of the clothing ministry to her friends and family. We were so thankful for her because the language barrier is always so frustrating!

We mainly have clothing but every once in a while we will get a small donation of soap, tooth brushes, tooth paste, etc. We were able to give them those supplies and they were THRILLED! One lady looked at me as I bagged up the soaps, etc, and she said, “Free?” I smiled and shook my head and she said, “OH! Thank you!! Thank you!”

The biggest miracle of the day, however, occurred when the bedding came. When I opened the store that morning someone had come into the Clothing ministry building and they’d left some VERY cute quilted comforters and matching pillows, etc. They were just adorable, but I have NO room for them. I was kind of frustrated because I knew that I would have to send them to Goodwill and I didn’t want to!! They were in SUCH good shape and they were sets that someone would have loved to have, and I wanted so much to bless someone with them.

When the ministry ladies arrived they started explaining to me that these people had all been sleeping on pallets on the floor in their apartments and that they did not have beds. I took them to the back where the bedding was waiting to go to Goodwill. “Can they use this?” I asked. “ARE YOU KIDDING!!? We are in the process of finding beds! This will be PERFECT!”

Seriously, God? HOW do You do it?!

One of the ministry staff ladies said that she has two young children and she knows that it is not the season for her to go out of the US on a mission trip. She said that she had prayed that the Lord would bring the mission to her. She has been blown away by the way that the Lord has truly done that and thus has started something in her that she had never dreamed!!

All of us are just in such awe and amazement at how our God answers prayer and meets just the most basic needs right when we need it. That bedding didn’t come 2 weeks ago… it came last week. We’ve started to switch things from winter to spring and we’d just “beefed up” the store. God knew that we’d need every stitch of clothing for the needs of these people and He continues to provide over and over again.

Monday, March 18, 2013

I Never Promised You a Rose Garden!

I always think about that old song when things get a little hard. Do you remember it? It was an old country song and I was really young when it came out, but I do remember those lyrics…”I beg your pardon! I never promised you a rose garden!” Now you can sing that all day! You are so welcome! HA!

It’s not that things are really bad around here at all! There’s just a LOT going on and we are just plain T-I-R-E-D. summer 2012 136

We’ve had a wonderful weekend with our Disciple Now Youth Weekend at our church! The Lord showed me that having 15 girls for the weekend could be such a great time of growth for them, and also give them a little glimpse of missions. I loved having the teens help with some of the things that we need for the upcoming Africa trip and they were so willing! Doing VBS anywhere, but especially in a place with limited resources, takes a lot of planning. These girls helped sooo much!

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I love having others involved and hopefully they are catching the vision that we can share Christ and His Word in so many different and creative ways. These girls are putting together visuals for the story of creation for us to share with the churches and children in Africa. I can NOT wait!

We’ve also had a sweet friend return to the States after seven months in Africa! We are so excited to have her home and to see that she is doing so well! She’s just beautiful and I can’t wait for things to slow down a bit so that I can hear ALL that God has done in her since she’s been gone.

Caroline is VERY happy to see her!

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She will actually help us care for Caroline while I am gone and I could not be more thrilled to have her! She is use to helping care for and homeschool 3 girls while she worked in Africa so she is perfect for this job! We will be meeting soon to plan and talk and plan some more. It’s the most amazing blessing!! The Lord truly is providing in every way!!

Things are still in progress as we plan to leave in a MONTH! I can not believe we are getting so close to our departure date! I plan to put our itinerary on my blog in hopes that you will pray for me and our team as we head out for this adventure!

We have been buying things that the missionaries need, planning Bible stories with illustrations and skits and crafts and we’ve been getting SHOTS!! Lots of immunizations are needed to travel to a 3rd world country so that we are healthy while we are there and when we return. Never in my life have the words “malaria” and “typhoid” been a part of my regular vocabulary!! We’ve also continued to try to raise money so that all 9 of our trips are paid for before we leave. God is good and He’s continuing to provide. He will do it! I just know He will!!

SO at some point this house needs a good cleaning! I suppose I should get busy, but please know that your prayers are so appreciated and felt as we prepare to go! Some of you have stopped me to say that you enjoy reading my blog and that you’ve prayed! HOW PRECIOUS!! I had no idea! What a blessing you are to me!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Planning

The calendar around here is just insane lately! We have so much going on with fundraisers and preparing for my trip, but there’s also friends getting married and showers to be held and field trips and Easter is coming and there’s spring break… not to mention work!! It is CRAZY up in here!

When you travel to a 3rd world country there are all kinds of health precautions that you have to take including several shots that are required by the Center for Disease Control. Fortunately, my doctor was able to help me with most of my needs but some of them have to be taken care of through other organizations. I never thought that I’d use the words malaria, typhoid and yellow fever as concerns as I travel!! I’m all caught up though and am glad THAT’S over!

While in Africa we will do VBS type work with the local churches and we will spend 2 nights in the bush (in tents… holy cow!) where we will also seek to share Christ through VBS. We have been asked to bring limited supplies because the missionaries want to be able to show the local pastors that this type of ministry can be done using local supplies. Their goal is to use our ideas to help the pastors see that they, too, can do different types of ministries to reach each age group for Christ. We’ve been given a list of items that we will have at our disposal:

coconut shells

sand

dirt

palm branches

string

plastic bags

aluminum cans

sea shells

They do have access to a few paper supplies, etc, but overall the list was very limited.

We asked if we could bring beads where they can use the string that is available and we could teach them the gospel using the witnessing bracelets. The missionaries said that witch craft is very prominent there and that idols are worn for protection, for health, for fertility, etc so they are not sure that we can use the bracelets. They do not want the people to think that this bracelet is their salvation!! They ask the people to remove all trinkets from their arms and necks once they pray to receive Christ as a sign that they fully trust in HIM alone!

The Lord is so good to us though. There are MANY ways to share His truths and one thing that the people there DO love is acting. Skits can be used to share any concept from the Bible so for each time that we are with them we have a skit that we will share to help us portray the Bible story for the day!

We have many other things that we will do while we are there. We will help do a little training for the local pastors and their wives. We will help with some repairs on the missionary houses and we will help with some of the ministries that already exist there. We are also so excited to see some of our friends that have been there serving for a year! God is using them in some amazing ways and we can’t wait to hug their necks!

We will also be by the Indian ocean and we are excited to know that our dinner will be caught fresh each day and prepared by the missionary ladies. We’ve heard that it is just beautiful!

I can’t wait to share more with you! Hopefully, some pictures soon!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Don’t Wanna Miss The Blessings

Well, we are pressing along with the plans for the mission trip to Africa. We’ve had another fund raiser and the Lord blessed us beyond belief again! A few of the team members have their trips entirely covered now and some of the rest of us are still working, but it’s all coming together!

One thing about our team is that we are ALL really strong personalities. None of us are really the type to hang back and not take the initiative to do what needs to be done. While this is a GREAT thing it can also be a little… shall we say… in your face!? Um… too many chiefs and not enough injuns? Too many shepherds and not enough sheep?!

Yeah, you get the picture.

Since this is my first trip out of the country, and my first mission trip with a team like this, I am sensing the need to become a complete  and total sheep. As hard as it is for me to admit I need to listen and follow and do what I am told. I am so tempted, at times, to pick up the reigns when I see things that need to be done and just start to plan!!

Fortunately,  I have some friends who know how to put me right back in my place!! I am so grateful for this because I know that they want me to see the blessings that the Lord has in store without me trying to control it all! Now their delivery of this news could be a little more gentle. I think it went something like,” You just need to shut up and wait.” Can’t get more direct that that!

We received our tentative schedule for the week that we are there. I seriously think there’s one, ONE, planned shower time. A different friend gave me some baby wipes and told me that those would suffice as my “bath” until I could find a good water source.

What have I done? And don’t you wish you had fine friends like mine?

Who knows what God has in store for me? I know that, though my feet are still in US soil, He is already teaching me that :

*this life is MUCH bigger than my own little problems.

*it’s NOT all about me

*there are others who need resources around the globe that I can drive a short drive, and pay a few dollars for, with little effort.

*this life is not something that we DESERVE. We have such a mindset of entitlement here… like taking a shower!

*His love is bigger than the US and the church that I attend.

While I have KNOWN these things in my mind for many years the truth of the matter is that they have not always mattered to me until now.

I do NOT want to miss one blessing here. I am in complete awe of the things that He is already doing in me and in my team. I can’t wait to see what He has to show me as I continue in this journey.

I just wanna be a sheep!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

It’s Snowing! Let’s Have a Car Wash!

Today was our first fund raiser for our mission trip that is QUICKLY approaching! EEK! We have a GREAT team and a GREAT leader who can do about anything so we trusted that it would be a top notch set up. He did not disappoint. He was there with everything ready to go and we were going to have us a CAR WASH!

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Let me back up a tad. Earlier in the week some of us started looking at the weather and questioning the temps. The forecast called for low temps and possible precipitation with the possibility of snow. We know how it is in the South, though… one minute it’s warm and the next it’s freezing… so no one really said anything about it until yesterday when the forecast was STILL calling for snow. WELL, we get up this morning and hmmmm….. there were a few flakes falling from the sky. If you look at the bottom right there’s a snow flake in the picture above.

Our leader decided that it probably would not last and that we were pressing on. So press on we did! We also decided the night before that we’d do a bake sale and let the ladies stay out of the water. Aren’t we SMART?! And a little crazy?

Who ever heard of a car wash and a bake sale in the snow?!? Yeah. Us, either.

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Well, the local Lowe’s Home Improvement Store let us use their parking lot and THANKFULLY they let us use their car port loading area of our bake sale. It snowed for a few hours but nothing stuck so we enjoyed the sights and friendly faces, and we were able to stay out of the wet and sell some things to add to our car wash total! GOD IS SOOO GOOD TO US!

Over all it was a successful day and we are excited to know that we are getting closer to raising the needed funds to head to Africa in April!! Can’t wait to see what He has in store for us next! No one said it would be easy, right?!? And no one even CLAIMED that one of us is sane so… no real surprises here! Smile