Tuesday, December 22, 2020

The Now and the Not Yet

Waking up early this morning, I was able to view all the posts of friends far and near that were praying for me yesterday. Due to a biopsy that found noncancerous abnormal tissue, I had a procedure to remove the abnormal tissue and to ensure there is no further concern. We are praying that the procedure will further confirm that there is no cancer.

Today, I am overwhelmed with gratitude. Certainly I am grateful for your prayers, because I know the power of prayer. Yet, my heart is so full this morning seeing so many people that have been so dear to me take a moment a bring my need before the Lord. I thought of how each of your stories connect with mine.

Hermanos Dominicanos: When I think of my my beloved hermanos Dominicanos praying, I know the power of their prayers. In fact, I really learned the power of prayer from them! These are a people who have seen hardship, trials and also so many miracles. Their faith never ceases to astound me. Oh how I love my familia Dominicana!

Friends in the journey: The friends that we have met in this journey, visiting churches, or those that came to us in the DR, those that partner with us through so many years, so many trials in prayer and finances. You have so often been a source of strength, to say thank you is not enough.

Pastors: Our mentors, leaders, pastors that are praying for us, when you took the time to pray and let me know--I know you are very busy people with so many responsibilities, I am overwhelmed by your love.

My MFF family-- you will always be my family, no matter where you live or where I live. God gave us to one another so it means a lot to me to know you are praying.

My SAGU family: My people group. my students, my colleagues. You are the people that live shoulder to shoulder with me (only now we wear masks). You see me on the good days and the bad days. You have loved us and supported us from the moment we walked on the campus. I cannot begin to say what your prayers mean to me because you are the family that God has given us for the part of our journey. You are people of prayer and beautiful faith. I love you all so very much. Thank you for praying.

My biological family: I have been blessed to be born into a family that believes in the power of prayer. My mama and daddy faithfully pray for us everyday and I am so grateful to always be covered by their prayers. I also have so many wonderful praying relatives that took that time to post. Though we are scattered all over the world, we remain close because of our faith. The heritage that we carry is so significant to me in these days of trusting the Lord .

So in this week of Christmas, I am in the middle of some unknowns. The now, and the "not yet." And isn't this really what Christmas is? It is a celebration of the now. NOW Jesus is with us. NOW He is my prince of peace. AND it is the celebration of the NOT YET. Jesus is coming again!!! And when he comes there will be no more sickness and no more pain. The NOT YET gives me beautiful hope in a world of pandemic and pain. The NOW gives me peace because, HE really is with us, right here, right now.

I love each of you mucho y grande. Merry Christmas

Monday, July 08, 2019

My Home Church

There are memories in every corner of this church.  I could almost hear Miss Pam scolding us for goofing off when we were supposed to be helping in the church kitchen.  I could also hear my 16 year old self telling my little Missionette girls to stop running down that long hall in the church. I could see myself in the back pew passing notes to my friends and pretending to read the Pentecostal Evangel. (It seemed legit when I was bored)

The altar is still the same too. The corner when Jesus spoke so clearly to my heart, with tears dripping on that mauve carpet. It’s tan carpet now, but the corner feels the same. Sis Neugin is there, she might move a little slower but her prayer power is the same. Oh how I loved when she put her hand on my shoulder in those altars.

Visiting my home church after so many years away felt like such a gift. To hug the necks of so many who have had such an incredible impact on my life is a treasure that is indescribable. They let me sing and lead worship as a young teen. I probably didn’t deserve it— I was raising my hands on Sunday and dabbling with the world on Monday.

They sent me on my first mission trip. I am sure they could have never imagined how that trip was a pivotal moment in my life. It was at at a time when I was trying to figure out if the faith of my family was really MY faith. I was at that “fork in the road.” Their prayers and support were like a magnet that held me to the right path. They had no idea. 

They have faithfully supported us since I began this missionary journey. Most of these precious saints are retired military, a barber, teachers, real estate people,—every day hardworking people. They probably cannot fathom how their offerings, given from hard earned money, are literally changing the whole world!

I mean we are not a big church with flashy lights or even coffee in the foyer but we are a world changing church. I hope they know that. I hope they understand that their worship on Sunday and their work on Monday - Friday is significant because they come together. I don’t know if they can see it, but I do. I see so much beauty, wonder, grace and even genius in what it means to bring people together into a humble community of faith, where together they love Jesus and His work.

Perhaps the most precious memory is the center aisle of the sanctuary. The one that I walked down to say “I do” to the love of my life. The memory of his expression when he first saw me coming down the aisle is forever wrapped up in my heart. And I thought of my living, death-conquering Jesus on that day when he first sees His Bride, the Church. What makes us beautiful to Him? It isn’t a state of the art sound system, and it won’t be the coffee or the color of the carpet. It will simply be our common our adoration of Him in everyday life, loving everyday people and coming together to love Him.

Thank you Valparaiso First Assembly of God for showing me what it means to be a part of the Church that Jesus gave his life for. I will always be indebted to you for this priceless gift.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Holly the Wonder Dog

A dear faithful friend of mine died yesterday. She was elderly; we knew it was coming, but it is never easy when the family dog, the most faithful of friends, breathes that last breath.
It was Christmas 2003 when my parents came to visit us in the Dom. Rep. Alexander, 8 years old at the time went to my mother with literal "puppy dog eyes" and said, "Mamaw will you buy me a puppy for Christmas because I know my mommy wont buy me one." Mamaw decided without even blinking an eye that Alexander MUST get a puppy for Christmas. Of course I wasn't in favor of the idea but there was no stopping her. The boys were getting a puppy. We found her in a sketchy little corner barrio in Santo Domingo. She was already 3 months old, so I insisted that we see some younger puppies. The owner was able to get puppies from somewhere nearby but when they came, she was so jealous of those puppies, barking as if to say "But I chose you, I'm your puppy, not those babies!" It was over; she won our hearts!
We named her Holly because she was our Christmas present. The boys adored her. I wasn't a fan. She barked at everyone who came to the door, and every sound on the outside. She would bite anyone who seemed like they would threaten her boys. And she ran off when ever we opened the door! Usually, that was as we were running out the door for church or school. It made me livid!!! I could not stand that dog! Then one day she got out as we were trying to go to church and a little kid was playing outside, and with her idea that she must protect her boys, she bit at the ankle of one of the kids. The parents were so mad at me for letting the dog out. I was embarrassed.Nelson was out of town and so we talked about it over the phone. It had become such a problem that we were concerned about our testimony in the neighborhood. So I gathered the boys together and explained that we had to get rid of her. Alexander, looked at me with tears in his eyes and responded "So mommy if I mess up and make mistakes are you going to get rid of me too?" His question broke my heart. Grace was extended, and somehow Holly began to win me over.

Most likely it was because she began to be a pretty amazing dog! She killed the rats, mice, snakes and tarantula that were a terrible menaces in the DR. I started to call her Holly the Wonder Dog and she became part of the family. She even learned to sing! She and I would sing together and she had this amazing ability to match the pitch of a note that I was singing. She also hated when we traveled. She would get inside our suitcases as if today "Why don't you take me with you?"
When Troy went off to college, she missed him terribly. We would say "Where's Troy boy, Holly? WHere is he?" She would look up at us with a puzzled face and then she would search profusely for him sniffing every nook and cranny of the house, hoping to track him down.
Still, our Dominican dachshund got to travel more than most dogs when we brought her with us to live here in Texas. I always felt bad that her quality of life kinda went down coming here. There were no more rats to chase and kill, no sounds from the outside in our closed up home. No maid to be her companion by day. Still, she deserved to get old, fat, and incredibly lazy these past few years. She had been an amazing and faithful friend.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Delight in the Differences

The tragedy in Charlottesville headlines news reports and social media on this Sunday morning. Many churches are addressing the evil of prejudice and hatred, and we pray against this demonic force of division that threatens the beautiful, diverse United States of American, this nation that was founded by immigrants and traditionally welcomes the refugee.

On this 13th day of August, in the middle of news of the Charlottesville  tragedy, God in his divine and sovereign plan connected us to an opportunity to preach in a church of refugees from the Congo. The church was planted by a Pentecostal pastor and his family who themselves were the victims of a genocide in the Congo. As a result of the genocide they fled to Burundi and while in Burundi on the 13 of August in 2004, This family and many others in the church suffered a horrible tragedy that today is known as the massacre of Gatumba. One of the survivors of the massacre, who was just a young girl at that time, is now our student at SAGU.

And while I have never been to the Congo of Africa, it was a dream come true for me to worship with my African brothers and sisters. Though our languages were different, the music was different, and we were the only white people in that church, we were united in love for Jesus and love for one another as brothers and sisters in Christ. And that kind of love makes all the differences seem insignificant. In fact, that kind of love makes the differences a delight.

The music was different but oh what a delight! I couldn’t understand the words but I could understand the praise!!! The children sang and danced after they took the offering and little by little the women and men joined the dance at that front of the church. It was a “running in place” dance and oh what JOY! The people whistled and shouted out with a kind of yodel shout. It was glorious. And then the Pastor invited Nelson and I to dance with the people, without hesitation, we joined the dance. As soon as we began dancing,  the rest of the congregation pulled out their cellphones to record the visiting missionaries dancing the African dance.

After church we went together to eat an authentic Bayamulengue food, the food was different but oh what a wonderful delight! We shared stories and testimonies of God’s love an favor as we ate together.

And while it was our hope that our ministry was a blessing to the church, we were blessed so much more. There was the offering placed in Nelson’s hand by a young man, a refugee from Burundi. He said “I was so blessed by the message of God from a man of God and  and so I wanted to bless you.” Brother Joseph came the pulpit and said, I am praying that my children will be missionaries. I want to send my daughter Sarah to SAGU, so she can be a missionary. And I am so thankful for this missionaries to come here and bless us that I am going to put gas in their car for their trip! And just when I thought we couldn’t be more blessed the Pastor’s wife gave me the most beautiful African dress that fit me perfectly! Giving only produces more giving. Our cups are over flowing. 

And all the while I am in awe that God would weave my life into this story of redemption and grace on the anniversary of a massacre. I am in awe that God is always on mission even in our messes, in our tragedies, he is always at work weaving a redeeming our story. And as prayers are lifted from pulpits across our country, I can’t help but be filled with hope that once again God is on mission redeeming a tragedy.

There is such delight in the differences and once you have sat at the table and eat foofoo and beneit, you are forever addicted to living life in the differences. There is nothing better. My life is fuller and richer because of the differences.

And God invites us to play a part of his redeeming work. I am so glad that today God gave me the opportunity to worship with people so different from me. I am so grateful that he is weaving me into this story one connection at a time.

Still, my heart grieves that the same country that rescued and welcomed this Buyamulengue family after their tragedy, can also be home to people who reject that beauty of our diversity. Lord, have mercy on the United States of America and redeem our story once again. 

Sunday, July 23, 2017

The Light on the Path Evangelical Church

The little pink church has its name painted in red on the front wall “The Light on the Path Evangelical Church.” Hidden in the back parts of the Central mountain range where the people live in shacks scattered in the countryside, on that path traveled mostly by donkeys and motorcycles, the little pink church makes its great aspiration; to be a light on the path. 

I smile to myself because I know that “The Light on the Path Evangelical Church” (TLOPEC) probably only has electricity for just a few hours a day. So while the saints are gathered and the electricity goes out, the praises are sung all the louder. I know this because this is how it works in church, here on our island, with the all-too-common power outages. The fact is that the Dominican power company cannot “turn off” the light of the Gospel.

Yet I am inspired by the TLOPEC church. With so little resources, why should they even bother? As paltry and pathetic as this little church seems, I can see a dream alive! At least they are getting a few people together, at least they are worshiping, at least in the midst of the darkness of poverty, the The Light on the Path Evangelical Church decided that they would sing together when the power goes out. 

Still, the TLOPEC church is a great metaphor for what it really means to be a church, to be that which Jesus shed his precious blood for. It seems like sometimes our great aspirations are dwarfed by our actual accomplishments. How easily we sneer at the church today. Love God? They can’t even paint. Spread the saving message to the World? They can’t even spell. (yes there are a few typos on the walls) Yet, I see so much beauty, wonder, grace and even genius in what it means to bring people together into a humble community of faith, where they need each other and where together they need God. 

And how many dreams and aspirations are hidden in darkness because we are waiting for resources, or excellence, or perfection? Surely, I understand the need for quality, but I wonder how often our lofty ideals for a glitzy and glamorous presentation extinguish just plain being a light; right where we are, on a path traveled by donkeys and motorcycles. 

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Unsung Heroes

When I was a little girl, I wanted to be Amy Grant. Seriously. I used to sing with the hairbrush and imagine the lights and the crowd. Of course, it was a righteous dream; I was planning to sing for Jesus.

I put a lot into singing as a child and teenager. I took voice lessons and learned to sing operas. However, that was not the path that God had in mind. Little did I know that his plans for me would be taking me to sing on dirt road paths in hidden places in small little churches with tin roofs, dirt floors and wooden benches. In the end, I think I got a better gig than Amy Grant. What JOY to see Jesus and his work in the small, hidden places.

And as missionaries on this little island I have met so many Unsung Heroes. Some of them built a small classroom for our missions students in the DR. It isn’t state of the art but we made sure that there was room for the black board and maybe even a projector.

And I watched those walls go up and I thought of all the world changers that would sit in that room. I could just imagine their Great Commision dreams being formed in that little classroom. Some of them will reach the Muslim world, some will go to jungles, some may plant underground churches in China. And they will be unsung Heroes, no one will know their name. But oh the names that will be in the book of Life!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Mother on the Metro

Stories from our Cairo adventures.

The best way to describe our first experience as a team of 10 getting on the Cairo metro is to relate it with your idea of trains in India. People are packed in like sardines and the challenge is in the exchange of people getting on and people getting off, and doing this before the doors close and the train moves on.

We entered the metro ready to squeeze 10 people together on the same car. This was unrealistic since the cars were packed. So Nelson rushed to a car that was further, and I followed, until our leader said, “Not this car!” So I obediently followed Nan, one of our group,  onto another car. Nelson made it to the far car without me, and I made it with Nan, but Adam was literally pushed off of the metro by an older man that was not about to be squished. The doors closed and it was just me and Nan sandwiched in with a car full of men. (Our team was riding together on the mens car. ) Nan knew that we had two stops and then we needed to get off. It was a little intimidating but we felt secure together and after all,  it was only two stops!  We also knew that we would need to wait for our leader because he did not make it on that car.

However, The situation was a little "hair-raising" in that car of men. The older gentleman was not happy about being squished like a sardine. So when we got to the first stop he began to yell at the passengers getting on. He was angry! Yelling in Arabic, one of the men who had jumped on responded back to him. An argument ensued and each one needed to have the last word. One man tried to calm the angry guy down but there was no stopping him. He just kept yelling getting angrier and angrier.

Nan and I were just a little overwhelmed but reassured by the thought that we would be off at the next stop. Still, it was somewhat unsettling. Then we came to the stop. Whew!

We reunited with the group and went on to the next train. This train was not so crowded but we still had to stand. I ended up standing next to a woman who was seated with her small son and baby nursing on her lap. I smiled at the little boy and his mother, trying to make a connection. The mother looked at me with lifeless eyes. She was obviously poor, perhaps even a beggar but she did not beg from us.

The baby was over dressed and must have been so hot. He stopped nursing and was squirming a little on her lap. The little boy was agitated too because he didn’t have enough room to sit. Then suddenly the man sitting next to the mother insisted that I take his seat next to the mother. I refused at first, wanting to offer it to someone else, but he was insistent. So I sat down, and then I noticed that the baby was falling from the mother’s lap. The little boy tried to help, but the baby was hard for him to handle. I gladly took the baby in my arms to help. However the baby was so upset and really wanted his mama. So I tried to place him back in his mother’s arms but she was unresponsive. She stared blankly and her body was stiff. I wondered if she was having a seizure. We had a nurse on our team and so Sheila went immediately to her side, but she didn’t seem to know what was going on. The only other explanation was spiritual. Perhaps there was something demonic going on with the woman. We began to pray and I grabbed water bottle from a team member to share with the baby. The baby gulped the water and settled down.

Then one of the men on the train rushed over to help. He began screaming in the woman’s face. Another woman came as well. The woman tried to get the man to stop screaming, but he insisted. Our leader said she was telling the man that it could be a medical problem. However the man recognized it as spiritual. He called it a Jin. and then he turned to a man behind him that had a Quran. They began reciting stuff out of the Quran and yelling in her face. With every recitation she became more stiff. Yet we saw tears falling from her eyes and running down her face. He turned around and we began praying and speaking in tongues under our breath. Every time he turned,  I looked the mother in the eye and I said “Jesus!” She would soften. Her eyes would respond. This went on for a while. The man would check the Quran and I would get near her with the baby and say Jesus. I spoke Jesus over the baby. I spoke it to the woman. And every time she would soften. He would return and she would stiffen. Finally, he was giving up and got out of her face.  We all kept praying. Something released and she put her hands on her face and screamed.

Once the was responding I quickly handed her the baby. She held her babies close and cried. We just kept praying. Someone handed her water bottles, but she refused them. This never made sense to me. We were getting near our stop.  It was one of the many moments I have struggled with leaving a baby, wondering about the future of that little one, when everything within me wants to keep the baby!

We walked off the car and I knew that this was a divine appointment. The Lord had arranged it all. God as always, on mission, and giving us amazing opportunities to join him, to represent him and to be his hands and feet.

And I knew that moment was for Jesus to use my arms to hold that baby. My voice to speak his name in the face of that desperate woman. However, It was not a moment just for me to experience, it was a moment for Jesus to take on flesh in that metro car. It was a moment for His name to be exalted and powerful in the face of evil. It was God on mission and incredibly he chose me to join Him.

To think that we would not have met that woman had our leader not been pushed off that metro car. I know that woman will never forget that moment. It has to be inscribed in her memory banks. and I believe that a seed was planted, something was happening and I cannot wait for heaven when I will see the results. Yet while we may not know the rest of the story there is one thing remains incredibly clear. The power in the name of Jesus!

Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor
and gave him the name above all other names,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.