Friday, May 29, 2009

Twenty miles up in these mountains is where our Uganda team is heading to serve among the Tepez people of the Karamojong (just like the village in the foreground).

Preparing teams for such ministry as this is such a significant task. I take very seriously, the role of doing all I can to be sure they are prepared as best they can be. The combined efforts this year of Xtreme Teams International (XTI) and Awe Star Ministries to prepare 10 college students plus leadership for eight weeks in the African bush, is both a blessing and an opportunity for ongoing prayer!

These students had to raise far more money this year than any of them have raised in the past. While it was a stumbling block in many ways (which is easy for most of us to understand), in God's economy, He saw fit to open His storehouse, that each of these plus three leaders and two small children were able to embark on this journey that He called them to.

What a privilege to spend time hearing the hearts of and teaching their hungry minds how to live and survive in this culture. God has prepared them for their summer of self denial. Parents have yielded their children to go and serve. I cannot wait to see how my Heavenly Father works in and through their lives!

One of the people going is a three and a half year old girl. She is the oldest of two children of two of our leaders. Her name is a Karamojong name. At three pushing four, she is a veteran of missions in Africa. This is her second journey to this continent...this country. She calls it, "my Afrita!" (no that is not a typo).

She has been talking about getting back there for months. She recently asked her daddy, "why are we flying to Afrita?"

He responded, "because it is too far for us to swim."

To which she replied, "I could swim there...with my floaties!"

This is a precious young lady who already loves the people she will encounter.

You see, she recently told her daddy that she had a dream and that in her dream God spoke to her.

Her daddy asked, "What did God say to you?"

She replied, "I can't tell you!"

"Why not?" begged her father.

"Because what He said, he told me to tell the children in Afrita!"

As this story was relayed to me on the way to the airport by her dad, she chimed in with..."and I didn't tell you did I, daddy?"

She is a veteran of Africa. She is a veteran of hearing God's voice.

You see, her mom is pregnant with child number three. This young lady and her little sister are both going to live in the bush for eight weeks with mom and dad.

After setting up this trip, and securing this family to lead the team, as they are veterans of this country and this land, they discovered they were pregnant.

After much prayer and consideration (including bringing the family back two weeks early to assure no complications from flying), we all agreed they were God's chosen ones to lead this team (along with my friend Larry Singletary of XTI, who served as a missionary in Karamoja for 10 years).

As mom and dad went to the doctor for prenatal visits, this young lady informed them that mom was carrying her baby brother. "We don't know that," said her parents. "We have not been told yet."

"That's okay, I know it is a boy. God told me" she relayed.

Her parents would soon learn through and ultrasound that they were going to have a son!

Not long after this, the question of his name came up. Mom and dad were discussing name choices, when big sister chimed in with what the name was to be. Mom and dad were not considering the name she revealed. She was adamant about her choice.

When they pursued her as to why the name was so important (she had been calling him by his name for some time), she told them that God had told her the name. When they pursued this further, she relayed, "well actually daddy, He told you but I heard Him say it."

Daddy and mommy were stunned!

They took a step back and reconsidered their options.

He is due around August 9th. The family is scheduled to return around July 11th. The rest of the team is due back on July 22 (along with the other four Awe Star teams).

Not long after the impending celebration of all God has done through this summer, a little boy will be born...having spent a couple of months in his mother's womb. His name? It won't be a Karamojong name like his sisters. It will be the name spoken by God and heard by a three year old.



Tuesday, May 26, 2009

At the celebration of BJ's life, 97 students responded to the call of Christ to take His name around the world!

I think it is time to update you on what that looks like (as much as I can).

First, I want to remind you that BJ's cousin Joshua, who bears BJ's Sword, was the first to stand that day, to proclaim that he was called. Three years later, he would stand on a street corner in Peru and preach the Word of the age of 9!

Many went before BJ. Many went with BJ. Many have gone since he went. With the help of Mercyme and many of you, a fund entitled BJ's Hope was established. It is a missions scholarship that my family oversees, with the privilege of helping to send students around the world to serve!

This week, I am helping to prepare a team headed to Uganda and then later, our other summer missions teams, I think it relevant to tell you the places we have been able to help fund the work of our King.

So far, BJ's Hope Scholarship has help send students to the following nations:

Chile, Ecuador, Egypt, France, India, Kenya, Maldives, Peru, Philippines, Uganda and the USA!

We praise God for His provision! We know there are those who responded that day that may have gone elsewhere that we have lost track of. We praise Him for this journey!

A school in Piura, Peru, which carries BJ's name continues to function, in the raising up of children through educating them in the ways of our Lord.

We are receiving an increasing number of requests from more and more students who are called from all over our country to go and serve all over the world. We are so thankful to be a part of this. We also know that the resources are finite.

BJ would be thrilled to know that he has been a part of sending students to so many places! We trust you are as well.

What a privilege and a joy it is to be able to assist those who respond to God's call to GO! We always wish we could do more. It never seems like we are giving enough.

I will be gone the rest of this week to prepare a team of 15 (three are leaders and two are young children of the leadership) to head to Uganda for eight weeks. This group will live with the Tepez tribe of the Karamojong people (to learn more about them you can read my blogs from early February).

This team will join the Chile, Peru and South Asia teams on July 22 in Dallas, to celebrate all the Lord does this summer, to reach the unreached.

They urgently need your prayer support...even now as they train to go.

Have a great week!

Thank you for giving! Thank you for mobilizing! Thank you for GOing!


Friday, May 22, 2009

Four members of BJ's last team came to visit us the January after he passed away.

The past couple of days have been long, and exhausting, but in a good way. I am trying to prepare the team we have going to Uganda. I met with the leaders of that team yesterday. They will be working with the Karamojong tribe for 8 weeks. They will be stationed in the mountains above Moroto.

The team comes together for training on Sunday, and will depart on Thursday. We are almost ready!

Simultaneously, Walker Moore (President of Awe Star) and I have been helping one of our staff and good friends, get a roof on his parents house before it rains!

I don't think you could call either one of us "skilled labor" in this arena. We both have experience from the past (he more than me) and were able to help with the "grunt" work.

For the past two afternoons, we have headed out to their country home to do what we could, to help. By the time we left last evening, all of the new decking and shingles were up, except for some finishing touches.

After the first afternoon, I was not sore or 'feeling it,' much. Today, I do feel it, and I don't want to feel it anymore.

Honestly, this family was so appreciative of our menial labor. In total, those of us working were, two sons (one of whom is on our staff) and their father (who is about my age).

For as long as I have known this family, the father has been battling brain cancer. For months, his vision was decreasing and his equilibrium fading. It was extremely frustrating for him and this family.

It is difficult not to be fearful through such events. They have persevered. Recently, he began some new treatments that have increased his vision and his equilibrium substantially enough, that he was on the roof with us!

The sons (both college students) showed concern for their father, but did not limit his movement. They did seek his approval, and he gave it.

It was such a pleasure to be able to assist a family that reflected Christ in their relationships.

There was the obligatory sibling rivalry. Walker worked with the older brother and I with the younger. The older had spent a summer as a laborer on a roofing crew, so he knew what he was doing. The younger has so much knowledge in so many areas, that it is intimidating. He isn't, but his wisdom is.

Last summer, when we were training our teams for the summer and Whitney came to see me and her car broke down, it was this younger son, Kenny who fixed it!

He takes care of the information systems in our office. He leads our teams to Chile. I have served with him in Mexico, Ecuador and Peru. He is a remarkable young man.

During our Missions conference last November, one of the young ladies from his last Chile team and her mom and little sister had car trouble, and Kenny drove over three hours to assist them and bring them safely to the event.

We didn't even have to ask...he felt the responsibility for this young lady because she had been on his team...he had been her leader. The best leaders are first excellent followers...of Christ!

I am thankful to have the privilege of serving alongside such remarkable young men as he!

Should the Lord tarry, the future of His ministry rests in the hands of young men such as Kenny. I praise God for him, and the loving way he cares for his family, his friends, office staff and his teams!


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

My girls

For those who don't know me, yes, the end of the last blog was a feeble attempt at humor.

I met a man through my ministry here, who at the age of 73 has developed a significant missions heart. I first learned of him after we moved here, and heard his name on occasion in our office.

By his admission, he refused to do anything with his Christian life until three or four years ago. By that time, he had lived a significant portion of his life and marriage, knowing what Scripture taught him to do, but ignoring it.

He and his wife had become complacent, together. The pastor at his church admitted to him that he never shared his faith with anyone either, unless they came to the church asking questions, or sat in Sunday services. In effect, Sunday after Sunday, week after week for over half a century, preaching happened, but there was no connection to action or real change in life...reportedly, for anyone in this church.

A few years back, he realized that he could not sit and do nothing any longer. He got involved with a jail ministry and a Sunday morning truck stop ministry. His wife thought he had lost his mind. She told him he didn't need to do any of those things as a sinner saved by grace. He told her the Bible teaches that we are to live our lives as a reflection of our Savior. He couldn't do that by sitting at home any longer. The Lord wanted more from him.

My first trip to Peru, I got an email from our office requesting that I bring this man a large map of Peru. He had recently funded a church plant in the country and wanted to know the geography of this nation.

Since then, he has funded seminaries in both Peru and Malawi.

God has been doing a significant work in this mans life! He who could not publicly share his faith, now does so frequently. He uses his life to speak Truth to others.

He and his wife gave generously to missions over the last couple of years, as the Lord drew him closer.

After nearly 55 years of marriage, his wife succumbed to cancer on Mother's Day. He buried her Wednesday of last week.

He said when his wife took ill, he had incredible peace from the Lord. He knew it was the Lord because over a dozen years ago, she had been diagnosed with another cancer and it nearly crushed them both. They struggled to combat the disease then, as she went through 24 chemo treatments that seemingly, ravaged her body.

He had a terrible time then. He is at complete peace now.

The peace of a loving Savior resides within this man. He came to our office yesterday and spent the day with us. He went to dinner with Deanna, Lauren and I last night, and then spent the night in our home.

He spoke of his bride with such love and care. He gave credit to Jesus, for bringing him through. He knows the Lord has plans for him to continue ministry for the remainder of his life. He is working with his children and grandchildren to do likewise. He is "testing the waters" to see if perhaps he can go overseas to do ministry.

He is a blessing to me. He is a blessing to his family. He is a blessing to the heart of God. I wish he were the rule, rather than the exception. At a time of significant grief in his life, he is pointing others to the Savior!

I thank God for his witness!


Monday, May 18, 2009

family and music

For some reason, after all of the flooding rain and high wind we've had recently, my house has started to make some new creaking noises. It is taking me some time to get used to them.

When you move into new surroundings, there is always that period of time, where you learn what settling noises your house likes to make. Kind of like it is talking to you as you try to drift off to sleep at night. It's pretty much like drinking a cup of coffee an hour or so before bed time. You lay there pleading for sleep to come, and noises to go.

I thought this honeymoon with our house was over.

Ours has started over with some new ones. I am not a fan.

I am a creature of habit. I liked the old noises. I like to know what to expect and do not always do very well when routines get broken.

Deanna and I have a morning routine. We usually get up around the same time. She jumps into the shower and I go make coffee. We go on getting ready for the day, which includes, study time, writing, some discussion, and getting ready to leave for work.

This morning was a bit different. I came to the computer and had absolutely nothing to say. After checking e-mail, I headed to the shower. By this time, Deanna was nearly ready. She kissed me goodbye, and headed off.

After showering, I turned on the iron and the news, chose my clothes, and began to prepare them.

After pressing my shirt, and tying my shoes I turned to head down the hall toward the garage.

I heard a footstep.

My pulse began to race.

This was not the type of step that was trying to be stealthy, but a loud purposeful step. It took my breath away.

I began to speed down the hall, and could see light penetrating through the front windows, casting a shadow of movement where the hall spilled into the entryway. I could feel my heart beating in my head.

I called out..."Hello!"

I think my voice was mixed with anger, surprise and fear.

No response.

Who was this and how had they gotten into the house? They must have broken in while I was in the shower.

The movement continued.

Suddenly, I realized I had no weapon for protection! Just me and a long narrow hallway... kind of like the shooting lanes at an indoor firing range...only I was the paper target.

Then around the corner came the tiny little frame of my high school, teenaged sized wife.

She finally forced out, "it's me."

Too late, my pulse was already traveling the speed of light...I was heaving for body thought I'd just finished a marathon.

"I decided to stay and check my e-mail before I went to work," she offered calmly.

My bladder was prepared to spill my morning coffee onto the hall floor!!!

Somehow, I usually know when she does this. Today was different for some reason.

I do not like the level of fear and surprise I experienced. Yes, relief flooded in after realizing who was there, but it took my heart a long time to stop pumping enough blood for the two of us... I'm still breathing heavy!

I have seen this kind of fear in the lives of others. Usually at funerals of non-believers. It is a very sad thing to know that people do not have the security of knowledge in where they are headed upon death. This fear preys upon them when they lose a loved one.

It is one of the most difficult places to be... present where you want to offer enouragement and support, but you feel a sense of abiding hopelessness for them.

Interestingly, this can be one of the best times, if you wait upon the Lord and look for open doors, to find out what the other person thinks or believes about God and a relationship with Him.

I don't mean engaging them at the funeral (I tried that once...not a good plan). I'm talking about being sensitive in the days after, and trying to schedule time to meet them for coffee, to see how you might be able to help. I mean, going beyond, "let me know if we can do anything for you," and actually taking an active interest in meeting the most obvious need.

God uses the times of brokenness like these, in the lives of those He is trying to draw to Him. We can help by being intentional in reaching out to them.

Okay, my pulse is nearly back to normal.

I'm thinking of getting my bride one of those kitty bells to put on a necklace, so I will know where she is...


Thursday, May 14, 2009

Kristin and Deanna...Kristin is helping us lead our Peru team this summer. She was on BJ's last team...

I find myself having to withdraw a bit from writing here. So much of what I have to say is extremely important (to me), but I fear comes across as judgmental when I put it to paper.

I have no sense that what I convey is bearing fruit. I am not looking for affirmation. I want to know that people are responding to the call of Christ in their lives.

A friend came to me recently and said, "I am so tired of people telling me they cannot wait until Christ returns. If they really felt that way, shouldn't they live a life that reflects it?"

She has a valid point. We tend to use our conversations about Christ's return as some sort of an out...a place to hide.

If we truly had a heavenly mindset, we would not be just talking, but we would be out sharing who Jesus is with the lost... those that Jesus doesn't desire to see perish apart from a relationship with Him.

My purposes in writing on this site are about bringing glory to God and attempting to motivate others to do so. We cannot afford to look at our relationship with Christ as a place of refuge without being active in doing what He has called us to do.

Most of those who make such statements (as the one my friend is tired of hearing) are not doing anything to share Jesus, they are just tired of having to do life. Much of the reason we have little joy in life is that we don't focus on serving Him, but we put most of our effort into building our own earthly kingdoms, and it makes us tired and frustrated.

Jesus told us not to store up for ourselves treasures on earth, but to store treasures in heaven. That means we focus on doing what He impresses on us to do. We live to serve Him and His desires.

Some are offended at this, wanting just to be saved by grace without ever having to do anything... especiall if it makes them uncomfortable.

We were not called to lives of comfort... as my son made so clear by how he wrote and how he lived. Yet it is what most believer's do. We seek to be comfortable. We pursue the American Dream, and forsake the call of Christ.

We let precious few things get in the way of our comfort. Things that challenge us or make us ill-at-ease, are quickly weeded out of our lives and discarded.

People spend ridiculous sums of money every year on vacation, and have nothing to give to the Lord. People spend insane amounts on elective surgery to "look better," but never do anything to 'serve better.'

Good intentions don't merit any applause.

Our lives are supposed to be a sweet aroma to Christ our King. Instead, we are building mighty fortresses that only an elect few are aloud to enter. We don't let many past the security gate of who we really are.

Christ's return for those who toss the phrase about, often is more about reaching that place where the problems of life cannot touch them. Where they can take their ease in their heavenly mansion, which surely must be more comfortable than the earthly ones they are constantly building.

We Christians will stand before the judgment seat to give an account of how we lived our lives for Him. Way too many of us are going to merely survive as those escaping through flames. We have built little to nothing on the foundation of Christ. What we have on earth may invoke the envy of neighbors, but a Mighty God has no need for such poverty.

What impact have we had on or in the lives of the lost, the broken, the orphans, the widows?

James 1:27 says, "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."

We are pretty good at quoting the first part of this verse. Who even remembers the last part?

If we follow the call of our Savior successfully, then we would not be making such large storehouses on earth, we wouldn't be tearing down our current barns to build bigger ones, to hold more stuff. We would be tending the needs of others. We would be serving. We would be having His impact and leaving His mark on the world. Not living life trying to make one for ourselves.

Until we get this, we will not be keeping ourselves from the pollution of our culture. Rather, we are embracing it and teaching our children to do likewise.

There will be those who will be quick to ask how I have a job if it weren't for the giving of believers.

Believers spend four times more per year on weight loss than they do missions. If every believer gave $2 a month to missions, it would increase giving by 90%.

Not only do most of us not give with our lives, we don't give with our money... and it won't be long before our vile taste in the mouth of a Holy God causes vomiting.

If we say we get it, then we will demonstrate it by the actions of our lives... everyday.

Don't talk about His return and your desire for it, unless you are "actively, forcefully, even violently,"* out there making a difference for Him. The corresponding joy will be apparent in your journey of faith and will help overcome the low selfish ebbs we are each prone to.


* I am in no way encouraging violence, rather quoting my son and implying the significant effort we must put into living for Him.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

on Mother's Day!

Whitney came and surprised Deanna this past weekend, and it was such a great time! The days preceding, Deanna had been feeling blue over the fact that she would not be able to see her whole family on Mother's Day.

Whitney arrived Friday evening, and was able to spend the weekend, and Lauren came over and was with us most of the time. Deanna thoroughly enjoyed herself!

It is difficult not to be a bit melancholy on special days like this. Memories of the past, and desires for the present, often bring on reminders of what cannot be.

I was thankful this year, that Deanna took those emotions and did something to bless others in the midst of feeling them.

Since BJ passed, the Lord has given us a responsibility to do what we can to be available for others who suffer similar loss. This is not something we have asked for, or even pursued...nonetheless, it has come to us.

This past year, two different families in the Tulsa area, that we are familiar with, suffered the loss of their only son. While the circumstances are not exactly the same as our own, the loss felt by these parents and siblings is.

The intense longing these mother's feel, to maintain connection to their young men, cannot be described in words that others can truly understand.

Deanna receives this visitation, frequently. These mother's who have experienced many firsts over the past months, both had their first Mother's Day apart from their boys. This is can be an excruciating time.

Deanna saw fit to reach out to these women. At the risk of getting into trouble for writing this, I just have to say how thankful I am that she would not sit back and wallow in self pity and pain, but would allow this to motivate her to reach into the experience of friends, and try to stem some of the pain.

Years ago, when Deanna got into the 'cult of Scrapbooking,' (I am so funny) a side of her materialized I had never seen. Her creations are beautiful. She uses that same ability to occasionally create cards. She did so in this case.

We will always have choices in our lives. Making the right ones, reflect a level of intimacy with our Savior, that too few have.

At a time when her own pain surfaced with a vengeance, and she could have become distant and bitter, her choice was to reach out and touch others.

Being an encouragement in the lives of others, will always bring a sense of His affirmation into our own lives...if we are acting from right motives.

The challenge before us is to do likewise. Reach out from the places of pain or joy in our own lives, and be a blessing to others.

This is love.


Friday, May 08, 2009

in front of our Carmel, Indiana home

A week ago, when I walked into the home of a Bhutanese family, I was met with several culutural differences (Bhutan separates China and India). First, the aroma of curry hung thick in the air. Second, the living area was lined, wall to wall with single beds and futons, as this family is large, and many live there. Third, and perhaps the most striking, is that the mother in this home, sat aloft a bed with her legs "Indian style" and her hands pressed together at her chest...very much resembling buddha.

It took me several seconds to recover, and greet her..."Namaste."

The men in this home were away at work and school. At home on this day, were two daughters, mother and a friend. The two daughters were late teens to early twenties. They spoke English reasonably well, and were full of questions.

As Larry and Terry did their best to answer each question, I took in my surroundings. Blank walls and filthy carpet seemed to adorn every apartment we visited. Not very homey or inviting.

However, each family overcame the septic nature of their surroundings by going to significant lengths to make sure we did feel welcome. After a few moments of listening and asking for interpretation, the mother left the room, and returned some time later with fruit slices and a drink for each of us.

She was a good mother who interacted lovingly if not powerfully, with her daughters.
Her Bindi was smeared on her forhead...something she would have rectified had she been aware. Her daughters did not wear one.

In the course of conversation, it became apparent that one daughter (who came in briefly while we visited) had lost her job earlier that day. She was fired for being to slow of a worker at the local Mexican restaurant. The irony of this strummed at my emotional heartstrings.

The other two daughters were underemployed and hoping for something better. This was a proud family who was willing to work very hard to make a living and the transition into living in the US.

The contrast between the beauty of Bhutan, and the flat, near desert like nature of south Texas, must have required adjustment.

Still, in overcoming the obstacles, this family was advanced beyond the others we saw, in terms of their command of our language, ability to get around the city, and the family working together to live.

They were a very warm people, who seemed to bristle more than the others, at the mention of prayer or God, through fairly casual conversation.

The love this mother instilled in her children was being extended to us. The lostness of this family broke my heart. To be lost and completely unaware is a poverty.

Since my return, Deanna and I have been doing some research to try to find a similar place to plug into in Tulsa. We are very interested in working to meet the needs of the nations.

I am very thankful for a loving mother, who instilled in me, the values I carry, the love for others she taught me to have, and the strong sense of family we maintain.

The greatest gift she gave me, was in showing me Jesus. The same gift her mother gave her. Where would we be without that one signficant relationship? Perhaps, bitter and broken.

One of the best ways for me to love my Mother, is to love others as she taught me. Many mothers teach their children to love, too few teach them to do so with the heart of the Savior.

Thank you Mom, for loving me enough, for sacrificing even now, to reflect the love of Christ into my life.

While some mothers physically take on the posture of false gods, you have taken on the attributes of Jesus, and taught me to love without condition.

Thank you! I love you!!!


Wednesday, May 06, 2009

My friend Justin, who gave his life, while serving the Lord in India last August

While speaking at "Perspectives on the World Christian Movement" last week in San Antonio, I was approached by a Pediatric Intensive Care Unit nurse.

I thanked her for her service as a PICU nurse, and told her how important the role she filled was to us. I shared with her that the nurses on BJ's floor had become family to us during our 6 week hospital stay, and that we had the utmost respect for those in her profession.

We talked for quite awhile. This was a career woman who was somewhere around my age or older. I talked to her about the number of times we saw nurses shoulder abuse from angry families who struggled to deal with their stress and/or grief.

A look of knowing came across her face.

She began to tell me the following story.

When her children were young and she was working through the first years of her profession, she really struggled when a patient passed away. She spoke of how amazing her husband was at helping her handle her grief.

She would arrive home and he would see the brokeness in her eyes, and encourage her to head up to their room for some alone time. Her children wanted to know why Mommy wasn't spending time with them. Her husband told the children, an angel was born in heaven today, and Mommy is thanking Jesus.

This became far too common. Years as a PICU nurse had given way to seeing this happen over and over.

One afternoon, she had assisted in an emergent situation on her floor. A two year old boy was very ill. She had been caring for him for some time. When his SAT's began to plummet, a doctor came in and they began to work feverishly on the lad.

A number of procedures had to be done. One involved her pushing some fluid in through the child's iv. She asked the doctor if he was sure since it could have a serious impact on the already heightened situation.

"Push it!" he told her. So she did.

The young boy flatlined.

They worked at a frenetic pace trying to bring him back. For over two hours, they worked the code. Finally, when all attempts had failed, the boy died.

She was overwhelmed! Her grief forced in and claimed her countenance.

That evening, her young daughter approached her and patted her on the leg and said, "Mommy, was an angel born today?"

A couple of year later, she and her family were celebrating the holidays. They were eating out at a restaurant and enjoying some much needed family time. As she sat there, she saw a young boy at a nearby table that looked familiar to her. She thought about it a moment, and not retrieving a memory, she moved on.

Some minutes later, she was startled by an interruption. "Don't you work at the hospital?" came a question from the mother at the other table.

"Yes," she responded.

"In the PICU?" asked the same lady.

"Yes, that's right," she offered.

"You're the nurse who killed my baby!" shot the mother.

My new friend sat in stunned silence. The boy who looked familiar was the little brother of this former patient. This mother had been pregnant with him, while her two year old grew very ill.

She could not respond. She had no words, just a rush of fresh grief.

She finally excused herself and went to the car.

Bitterness had ravaged this young mother's life after the loss of her son. She carried with her a vendetta, always threatening to surface. Christmas seemed like that time, so she let her wrath and fury, fly.

This nurse who has given her life to serving the sick and broken had to carry this for the rest of her life. Her eyes moist to overflowing as she spoke, evoked a like response from mine.

How could this happen?

The anguished mother was clearly a victim of the enemy. Bitterness over her loss had replaced the joy of life.

Death threatens to claim many collateral victims.

The Lord gave me words of love and encouragement to speak over this nurse. She was not the author of death. She was the benefactor of the brutality of words from brokeness of soul.

She received them, and had grown strong from having God's hand on her. She was not calloused.

I am so very thankful for this nurse, for that fact that she took the time to share this painful story with me, for the many nurses and other medical staff who had such a profound impact on our lives.

We can never express enough, the deep gratitude and appreciation we have for those who took such precious care of our son.

Hug a nurse today! Tell them how appreciated they are!!! They are His hands.


Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Somali marketplace in the Kakuma, Kenya refugee camp

While visiting San Antonio for a couple of speaking engagements, I had the privilege of spending part of a day with Larry and Terry Singletary and their family. It was a blessing to visit with them. We spent time at several places. They took me to the Alamo, to the Riverwalk, and to a popular restaurant downtown where we sat outside under a portico.

While I enjoyed their company and getting to know them better, what had the deepest impact on me, was going with them later that afternoon to minister the needs of the nations.

As I stated yesterday, I visited with Iraqi's, Bhutanese people, and Somali's.

When we knocked on the door of the Somali household, it looked like every other apartment door. One could not tell what nation they might be entering until the door opened, to reveal the heart and beauty of each land.

Behind this door, on this day, were walls adorned with materials from their homeland, Somalia.

No walls could be seen. This mother had taken material from her country and covered every square inch of wall space. Some were brightly colored, others a bit more muted. All served to transport you to a new land.

Children ran everywhere. The apartment was small. There was no furniture in the living area, save a small love seat over in the corner. The floor was covered with the same rugs I had seen in Kakuma while visiting the Somali people there.

This mother, who wore an ear to ear grin, had made this tiny apartment, home to her seven children. They ranged in age from a few months to around 14 years old. She insisted that Larry and Terry sit on the loveseat. She disappeared for a moment and then returned with a chair from the other room, for me to sit in.

Her children circled me with laughter. I felt as though I was in the vortex of their joy. I sat and quickly had my lap filled with little ones. Three of them discovered the light on my watch and were occupied for many minutes, illuminating the face over and over again.

I asked each their name, and the response I was given every time was a name I could not repeat without practice. The newest born was only a few months old and had been named "Larry" because of the affection this mother has for this precious couple who tends to her needs.

Her needs are significant. Her husband has another wife. He moved here with both of them, and lives several apartments away with the other...she has a smaller family.

Seven children in a small apartment can be chaotic. Two small tv's were playing simultaneously, situated, side by side on different channels. A third was off, but not usually, I'm told. Many children, and many interests only increases distraction.

I cannot begin to tell you how precious and trusting these little ones were. They wanted to know my name, to touch the contours of my head, to look at my watch, and all at the same time. I was thrilled to have them love on me so.

My skin was the wrong color, my nationality from the wrong side of the pond, my belief in Christ, still foreign to them, but they loved on me...and they didn't even know me. I received unconditional love from my new friends, and I gave it in return.

My heart began to break for their dire circumstances. The husband only comes around when he has a little money for his family. She has no other source of income. She has too many young children to be able to work. My friends did not know how she was able to survive.

Her concern at this moment, was a dirty floor and an unexpected visit. She and her oldest daughter, swept the food and other debris out of the way, while her younger ones romped with glee at visitors.

The energy level of the little ones could have generated light in the darkness of that room. No lights were on and even the sliding glass door was hidden behind African jute.

The Singletary's are very open with their faith with this Muslim family.

The oldest son arrived home from school, and it caused an eruption from his siblings. Waves of motion rushed his direction.

Larry went over to him and explained the English test/class to be offered the next morning, and encouraged him to get his family there for assistance.

As we arose to leave, the tops of our heads were once again tickled by creations of this mother which hung down throughout. Balls of material and fringe displayed color and made the room brighter without natural light.

These children are the ones Christ compels the disciples to allow to come to Him. He is not put off by their origin, their skin color or their social status. He loves them because that is who He is. It is who He desires that we be.

In the midst of all we seek to do, that we would reach out to these and meet needs, would create a platform and a relationship from which Truth can be spoken...or we can retreat behind busy lives and blaring televisions, being confident of our own security in His Kingdom and deciding that it is enough...someone else will take care of them...or not.


Monday, May 04, 2009

Echo Ranch Bible Camp, Alaska

My time in San Antonio was amazing! While there, in addition to speaking in two churches, I visited Iraq, Bhutan and Somalia!

You may wonder how this was possible!

Through many cultural things that are happening around the world...through tragedy, the Lord has brought the nations to US!

While I was in Africa a couple of months back, I visited Somali's at Kakuma's refugee camp in Kenya.

This time, while in Texas, I visited refugee families who have been relocated to San Antonio. These people have nothing.

Today I will tell you about Iraq.

I had the privilege of sitting down with two Iraqi families, in their homes. These people were precious!

Catholic Charities pays for housing and expenses for three to six months for the refugees who are moved to cities around the USA. There are many cities around our country who are home to these displaced peoples from around the world. While it is a privilege to have them, few are meeting their needs. For believers who have wanted to serve the Lord by serving the nations, here is a perfect opportunity!

The nations have come to us, and in loving them and serving them, Christ can be reflected into their lives.

First, I was in the home of Nadia. Nadia has a beautiful Iraqi family of five. There are two pictures on her wall. One of her and one of her husband. Shiite Muslims killed him, before they were relocated here. She is a widow who speaks an extremely small amount of English, trying to find work and trying to support her four beautiful children. Her two daughters, though small and young, look like Persian princesses. This woman who was of significant means in her own country, has nothing here. She works a morning job at a local motel, making beds. It is not enough hours and not enough money to support them. She expressed a strong desire to find better work so she could afford child care and to cover family costs.

Still, she served us orange juice in glass goblets. My friends Larry and Terry Singletary (I went with Larry to Africa) worked hard to communicate with Nadia. We were there in part, to let her know that in the morning, a test was being given in her neighborhood to determine what English skill she had, so she could plug into an ESL class at the appropriate skill level. The trouble was, this class was happening, and no one had been told. We were making rounds to try to get them to attend, so they could learn our language.

Imagine being deposited into a country with no money or means to make it, being given support for a few months, and told, "learn our language, find a job, and be able to make it on your own before the money provided runs out!" I don't know that I would make it.

These people are soo thrilled to be here! Their enthusiasm is contagious! Their outlook bleak. Their lostness, devastating.

At the end of our time with Nadia, we visited three other places. I'll skip the last family, as they were also Iraqi. Fahlee and his family of six, live in a two bedroom apartment on the second floor. All four of his children have Retinitis Pigmentosa. An eye disease common in the Middle East, from which there is no cure. His children will likely never drive.

They have been here for seven months, and their children were not in school! Larry had discovered this two days prior to our visit, on a previous visit. He was not there to see Fahlee or his family, he was visiting a Bhutanese family next door.

Upon leaving, Fahlee, who sat out in front of his place looked sad. Larry reached out to him. He soon discovered how long his family had been here and that his children were not in school. He vowed to assist him.

Two days later, upon our visit, all of the appropriate paperwork had been delivered by the heretofore, unhelpful caseworker. Larry had ignited the process and got things moving...just by his presence and asking questions.

Fahlee and his family surrounded us. They immediately brought out refreshments and the files of paperwork to enroll his children in school. The paperwork had been provided, but no assistance to fill it out. Fahlee speaks very broken English, his family, none.

The paperwork to be filled out was in English on one side, and Spanish on the other. This only makes sense for the region they are in, yet it makes no sense whatsoever that they received no instruction to complete the paperwork or assistance with translation.

Larry and Terry led them through each page, showing them where to sign. It was like a home closing...they signed their names about fifty times. Larry would return the next day with a copier to document their birth certificates.

I got to interact with the children...I had them crawling all over me. They are so beautiful. They are so lost!

This family, and Nadia's were so extremely grateful for this intervention...this building of friendship. I got to use a couple of Arabic phrases I learned while serving in North Africa a few years back. It brought glee and delight from this family to hear an American use their language...even a little bit!

Today, these four children begin school!

Bridges are being built by the Singletary's and those who work with them, to speak Christ into the lives of each refugee. They are very intentional in speaking about God and telling each family they are being prayed for. Some are more receptive than others. The point is, the Singletary's are being intentional in their faith and in their service. They are not paid to do this. They are believers, meeting the needs of those whom Christ loves.

We can go a do likewise! Find out where the refugees are in your area, and begin to serve them! You never know who will come to Christ as a result of just loving people! You can be assured, the opportunities are much higher, when we become intentional with His love!

Tomorrow, visiting Somalia...without any pirates.