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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?”

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Inspired

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Once the Lord allows your heart and mind to see His face in another part of the world many questions begin to flood your mind.

What am I suppose to do now?

Now that You’ve shown me this, allowed me to experience this, helped me grasp Your world just a little more… how is my life suppose to look? What do You want me to do in my own life experience to make Your Holy Name great?

What did you want me to see, Lord? How do you want me to change?

How can I support the missionaries more, Lord? How can I pray for them daily? Is my life just to go back to being as it was before you showed me all that you’ve shown me?

There’s no doubt that a short term mission trip will rock your world and make you come to terms with just how BIG our God is. It also causes a shift in thinking about how you live and just how selfish you really are.

This week at the clothes closet the Lord has shown me that He is bringing the nations to our front door. It’s not that I haven’t realized this before. Many times I stand in that building and I am one of 5 English speaking people among 10-15 people. Usually there are Burmese speaking, Spanish speaking, Chinese speaking and English speaking people all working together to help find things for their families. It’s truly amazing.

The new revelation, however, is that the Lord is putting them in my path for a reason and He is challenging ME to do what I can to reach them with the truth of the gospel. We live in the Information Age. Language barriers are no longer an excuse. The fact that these people are coming to us with needs, greater than that of warm clothing, is inspiring me to think outside of the box and just TRY!

While in Africa we stayed with the McDaniel family. Lee and Tracy are plain people like me. They grew up in the south… also like me. They are educated, have a family and love Jesus… just like me. What I admire about them is their courage, obedience to God’s Word and faith to step outside of themselves to learn a language that they would not otherwise know, live in a place that they probably would not otherwise live and work among a people that they do not know… ALL FOR THE SAKE OF THE GOSPEL.

It challenges me. It inspires me! Here I stand with the opportunity to meet people that I would otherwise not meet, in languages that I would not otherwise ever hear, and I have the chance to DO SOMETHING. It’s really not so different than living in Africa… well, let’s not go THAT far. Africa? Well, It’s a lot hotter, a lot less developed and a lot more challenging, but the opportunity here in the United States IS the same. God’s asking me, “What are you going to do?”

So, I’m trying. The people who work with me are trying. We are all trying to have clothing available for them so that when they come we can invite them to church, give them a Bible and try to share the gospel. Other missionaries are praying for us. One came and wrote out the plan of salvation for me in Spanish so that I might be able to share with someone if the opportunity arises. While she was there she lead a man to the Lord in Spanish!

He is here. His Spirit is alive. He’s working among His people and the opportunity IS here. The question is, “What are we going to do?”

WE are missionaries. Right where we work and live and play… we ARE salt and light if we will let Him use us.

I can’t speak Burmese. I can speak a tiny bit of Spanish and sometimes my English gets all jumbled up. It’s just that we can’t sit on the sidelines and wait for a missionary to come and save 'them’. NO! WE ARE the missionaries. Be inspired! He WILL use us! Plain old people who love Jesus? They are the BEST kind of missionaries.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Processing

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It’s been 4 days since I have returned from Mozambique. Four days since I sat on an airplane, looking out a window over it’s giant wing, and wondered how Africa would change me.

While I was there my phone was stolen.. or lost..or somehow it was no longer with me. At first there was a little panic… the idea of not talking to my family or being connected to home made me a little sick to my stomach. That is until He said, “My grace is sufficient for you,” right into my spirit and I realized it was no accident that He would want me and my heart all to Himself.

People ask me, “How was your trip? Was it fun?!?”

Fun? Well, the blessing of the the joy of the Lord with a team that had the same focus as me brought much joy. The missionaries and their dedication to minister to people who would never hear of His promises and love otherwise brought tears to my eyes with joy, and yes some components were fun. We danced and sang and gave pedicures and laughed at our limited language abilities… so yes, there was an element of fun. But “fun” is not the first word that comes to mind when processing the magnitude of responsibility that’s placed on each of us to “go into all nations,’ and “make disciples”.

I suppose there are lots of different feelings and thoughts as one enters the United States after seeing, smelling and feeling such a different culture. If you asked each of the 10 team members that went on this particular trip you might get 10 different answers! Some come back with a stronger resolve to share Christ in their everyday lives. Some are emotional at all that they’ve seen and America makes them sad because there’s a  greater awareness of our selfish materialistic attitudes. Some have a greater purpose in life and the trip allows their walk with God to go to a deeper and more personal level once they realize that His heart truly IS for the whole world and the fact that we NEED Him and His Word to help us know Him more as we set out to make disciples.

Our church has taken the stance of challenging our members to “Live Sent” and I am so thankful. While it’s true that Bible studies and being a part of the body of Christ is essential to my walk with God I do not think that I have grown more than in the times that He has stretched me through missions.

The Bible comes alive to me as I read it and understand His heart for ALL people to come to Him in repentance and that He wants NONE to perish. (John 3:16)

Worship is sweeter. (And I usually BAWL!)

Missionaries, and their heart for their nation, challenge me to not settle for sitting in the pew on Sunday mornings, but to go into MY nation and share with the poor and down trodden.

I hunger and thirst for righteousness.

His death on the cross, FOR ALL TRIBES AND TONGUES, becomes more dear to me as I look past the people around me and realize that His blood was shed for EVERY sin that was EVER committed in ALL of history and for ALL mankind.

I’m, by far, not the first person to go on a mission trip. I am not the first one to be challenged or changed. I am no where close to a missionary that has given up a life that was much different (and possibly easier) and I am positive that there’s SO much that God has to do in me.

Sometimes, I believe, He allows us to experience things so that we gain a greater glimpse of Him and that realization brings us to our knees. I suppose that’s where I am… on my knees. My heart and mind open to His leading and my heart tender from what He has allowed me to see.

Who am I, Lord, that you would show me such favor? And where would I be without your grace?