Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Isa and the Easter Eggs at Christmas



My sister Mindy says it's because of all the drugs that were in her mother's system when she was born or maybe the abuse she suffered in those first months of life as she was dragged through the streets with her Mom.  I don't know.  I only know she cannot keep still.  Stillness eludes her.....and us when she is present. I swear the expression "keep your hands to yourself" must have been coined for Isabella.  But somehow the Only One who has the power to truly still us did just that.

For several nights she had been begging me to get out the plastic Easter egg set that's under my bed waiting for...well, Easter.  I kind of put off her request since it's well...Christmas and we are focusing on the baby in swaddling clothes laying in a manger-the amazing story of His birth.  But if you know Isabella, you know she doesn't give up easily so finally she brought me the egg carton full of a dozen plastic eggs.  Each egg opens to reveal an item that represents a part of the death story and so in the middle of the living room where everyone else was busy conversing, Isa insisted that I read her the Easter story using the eggs.  Isn't that just like Jesus to show up in the middle of the throng.

As I began to read her the story, the other girls drew nigh and wanted to take turns opening the eggs while the story was being read.  First there was the donkey and then the silver chalice and the praying hands, then the whip, the crown of thorns and the nails and so on.  As we continued, the commotion in the room seemed to fade-only the intensiveness  of the story of the way He died seemed to capture our attention.  Finally we got to the last egg.  It was empty to represent the tomb and the resurrection!  And that's when it happened....that moment when heaven touches earth.

I asked each girl.  "Jesus made a way to go to heaven.  Are you sure you will go?  Jency was the first to respond.  At nine she is big for her age and her beautiful little face is full of freckles.  She was sure, she said, because she had invited Jesus to live in her heart.  Katherine was next.  She responded,  "Exactly what Jency said, Mom, but you know I am still having trouble with my ugly responses when you ask me to do something!"   Isa looked at me wide-eyed and said a very definitive "NO".  And then she said, "Can you really know that, Mom?  Do you know that you will go to heaven when you die?

So there it was, the very reason why the eggs of Easter had to be placed next to the Creche.  The Light came into the darkness to dispel the darkness in our forever.  "The birth of Christ brought God to man; His death brought man to God."

And so right there in the middle of the ordinary Isa asked Jesus to come into her heart and to make her new.  He came and stilled her soul and gave her an assurance of eternal life.

And so we celebrate!  Thank you Jesus for coming, for becoming a child, for taking on humanity so that the captives could be set free!


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

midwifery

It was unexpected and yet we had prayed for this very thing in the morning before we set out to do errands:  "Lord, give us divine appointments.  Please."  The Rockwood team and I had been shopping in the local supermarket buying coffee and last minute things for the five year celebration of a miracle healing God had done in my life.  We were all excited to see what God might do.  I stopped at the mini pharmacy right off the checkout line to buy Cipro for those suffering from stomach ailments on the team.  I asked for this highly efficient med for the dreaded traveler's diarrhea and while awaiting for it to be produced, I decided to clean my hands with my antibacterial hand cleanser.  I pulled out of my purse what I thought was this cleanser but to my surprise when I rubbed the gel on my hands it was not gel.....I had inadvertently purchased  oil drops for the hair which is highly pungent and not cleansing at all but the packaging is almost identical.  So there I was with smelly oil all over my hands and the person attending me at the pharmacy looked at me and handed me a Kleenex and suggested that I buy some gel from her.
One of these things  is not like the other
 So we got to chatting as I wiped my hands about how we can mistake one thing for something totally different and this topic led to another and soon we were conversing about eternal life.  I asked her if she was sure that she had eternal life and she replied with a resounding NO.  By this time another attendant had joined her behind the counter and she too said that she did not have any assurance of eternal life.  So I asked them if they would like to know how to have this assurance of where they would go after they died and both nodded their heads in the affirmative.  So I explained how the Bible was written, "so that you might know that you have eternal life."  They gave me their full attention as I explained how God had come to earth specifically to die in their place to purchase the gift of life eternal for them.  When I asked them if this made sense to them and if they would like to receive this precious gift, one of them exclaimed, "Who wouldn't want such an amazing gift!"  Suddenly the phone rang and the young woman with whom I had initiated this conversation excused herself to answer the phone.  So I prayed with the other woman but before she finished the prayer to ask Jesus to come into her life to take control, the other woman quickly hung up the phone and returned  to us and, without missing a beat, started repeating the prayer of salvation.  When we finished praying she lifted her head and said, "I got off the phone quickly because this was just too important to miss."  My eyebrows arched in high surprise.  This was amazing!  I could barely believe it or contain my joy.  I found a quote this week from Call the Midwife that describes how I feel about spiritual midwifery.

"There were days and deliveries where I couldn't believe it either, but this was and will always be the most commonplace of miracles. An event at once familiar and phenomenal, timeless and immediate. Briefly making angels of us all."

While this was written about actual factual birthings, it can totally be applied to spiritual rebirth.  There is such joy and phenomenalness involved in witnessing a new birth spiritually.  I can never quite get over it.  Each person's entrance into the Kingdom of God is at once familiar and breathtaking because of the working together of the Holy Spirit and the human porter of the message.   We are but midwives encouraging with waiting hands outstretched to catch the new believer as the Holy Spirit brings forth new life.  I still cannot believe He lets us participate in this great eternity impacting event.  And yet He does, over and over again.  It is one of the things we do as Christians that totally alters eternity!

After encouraging the women to attend their local church and to read their Bibles, I ran out to the parking lot where the team was waiting patiently for me in the back of the KIA pickup truck.  Sitting under the Honduran sun didn't seem to have irritated them, which I praised God for, and then I shared with them what God had done and they, too, rejoiced at the power of the Holy Spirit and His answer to our morning prayer.  The Kingdom of God enlarged by two.....

Oh God, thank you for letting us be midwives.  Thank you for letting us be a part of the enlarging of Your Kingdom.  May we be about Your business, trusting You to set up the divine birthing appointments and the daily witnessing with our lives.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

a strange opportunity



 I remember it was Thursday because I was taking a young woman from Wisconsin out to the Villa.  She is already serving at another children's home but has sensed that maybe God is calling her to work with us so she came to check us out.   We decided to stop for coffee at my favorite coffee shop (Expresso Americano which is the Honduran version of Starbucks only much cheaper) which is situated on the left hand side of a major intersection on the way out to the Villa.    I put my blinker on and turned left and before we got to the other side of the road, a huge dump truck rammed into the passenger side of the flatbed KIA truck I was driving.  He pushed us about 4 feet before we stopped.  I was kind of in shock  and trembling so it took me a minute to check to see if either of us were bleeding or broken!  Miraculously we were both only  a bit sore and my left arm was swollen from banging into the door.  I got out to survey the damage:  a huge dent right behind the passenger door (which they tell me is the strongest part of the vehicle) another dent running the bed of the pickup and the back tire was gouged.   Before I had a chance to do anything else, 6 men came towards me and started shouting at me.  They said things like “look what you've done, you didn't have your blinker on etc etc.”  Only two of the men were actually in the dump truck and the rest had just come alongside them.  They started banging on the back of the truck and started muttering threats like wouldn't it be better if I settled with them right now.  I knew they wanted to intimidate me into giving them money but somehow I managed to hold my ground and told them we would just have to wait for the police.

 Fortunately the guard from the agricultural school saw what was happening and came over to the truck and did not leave us until the insurance guy came.   Our insurance man came 2 hours later and then we waited 4 more hours under the hot sun for the police to arrive.  I kept praying that God would somehow bring something good out of this.   Just before the police came the driver of the dump truck approached me again and wanted to settle.  He began to say things like, “everything always goes wrong for me”  and “ I can never get a break”.  He said, “I’m not like you, I don’t have tons of money (Oh my if he only knew the truth!).  By this time Elvia had joined us and she told him that perhaps God was trying to get his attention and that maybe his decisions had not been the best so far and that if he so desired, God could change his life.  He listened and then left us again to go and wait for the police.

Yesterday we met in court.  I was sure that the judge would rule in my favor because Mr. dump truck driver had ignored my blinker and was trying to pass me right at a major intersection.  So you can imagine my surprise when the judge turned to me and told me in no uncertain terms that I was totally at fault.  I had the hardest time wrapping my gringo brain around that thought!  She asked me if I disagreed with her verdict and I said “Totalmente”!  I felt my face getting hotter and imagined the redness creeping up my cheeks as she went on to explain that in HONDURAS the law states that the vehicle turning left on a highway has to pull over onto the shoulder on the right side and wait for the traffic to go by before turning left!  Is that absurd or what?  So she asked me again if I was in agreement with her.  I told her no, that I thought that the law was “absurdo” but that if that was the law, then I was at fault.  The truck driver looked elated.  Then God began to speak to me in that still small voice that sometimes isn't as still and small as one might like.  He said, “You need to apologize to him.”  “Whhaaaaat, you’re kidding, right?  Not only was I broadsided by this inattentive driver but now because of a ridiculous law it’s my fault and YOU want me to apologize to a man who was threatening me and badgering me and didn't even care if he hurt me?”  But you know how God is….He can be bossy  and so I didn't even have to orchestrate the going towards this man…..because God set it all up.  He was right in the line behind me to get our licenses  back.  The Lord then seemed to whisper to me again, “What’s a little dying to the flesh if it means this man will receive eternal life?”  Because with Jesus, death always bring forth life.  So I asked the Lord for the necessary grace and turned to face this man and asked him if he would forgive me.  He kind of looked down and muttered something I couldn't make out but when he lifted his head back up, there were tears in his eyes.  I then told him that I thought that perhaps God had allowed us to meet in this weird way because He wanted him to know that He was a God of mercy and grace and that He loved him and had a purpose for his life.  I shared how Jesus had died in his place so that he didn't have to die….that he only needed to confess his waywardness and accept the gift of eternal life that God was offering him.  Would he accept Jesus into his life as his Lord and Savior?  He made some excuses about work and then finally he said, “I know that what you are saying is the Truth.”  I wish I could tell you that we prayed right there, that the police desk had suddenly converted into an altar rail but it was not to be, at least on that day.  The truck driver chose to leave without asking God to take control of his life.  But I know that God does not waste anything and that God’s Word does not come back void.  He is after that young man.  So I pray for him to come to Jesus, to surrender his life once and for all so that he can experience true joy and peace and that things might go well for him.

 A strange opportunity to evangelize!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Fire Fire everywhere!

“But now, this is what the Lord says, He who created you, O Jacob, He who formed you, O Israel: ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.’” (Isaiah 43:1-2)

It was in the pickup when I was alone and on my way out to the Villa that I had this thought that turned into a prayer.  I was thinking about all the divine appointments that God had orchestrated while I was in the States last week,  especially in New York City.  And the thought/prayer was, "Lord, there is so much need in this country and an appointment set up by Your hand would be a blessing.  I want to experience You today."  I thought about how I was alone in the van and perhaps someone needed a ride.  And then other thoughts took over.

Elvia and I had already scheduled an appointment to interview a 14 year old girl who our administrator Saira knew from her village.  We picked her up at the bus station along with her step-father and went to drink coffee at  Honduras' version of Starbucks called Expresso Americano.  It was a good conversation and a very divine appointment in it's own right.  This young girl shared her story and it was clear that she was a captive needing desperately to be set free.  It was agreed that she would return the next day with her belongings.  The sense of excitement washed over me as we went our separate ways for today.  It's the feeling that I have become familiar with because it happens each time our family grows.

On the way back to the Villa there was a gaggle of girls hitching a ride on the side of the road.  They were all uniformed in their school attire and they giggled as they got into the van.  Elvia scolded them for bumming rides (it's very dangerous to do that in this country with the way things are) and then proceeded to ask them if they attended church.  We discovered that all three of them were from the village that Jericho Villa is a part of.  And they all attended the local church but one of them had not given her life to Christ.  She listened as I shared about heaven being a free gift and by the time we reached the village she was ready to pray and ask Jesus to come into her heart.  She bowed her head there in the back of the van and received the gift of eternal life.  So precious.  It was then that I remembered the prayer from the early morning journey to the Villa.
The fire just as it started out of the fire pit

It was after lunch that the fire incident occurred. It was the answer to the second part of the prayer earlier in the day....the one of experiencing God.   I was sloshing some poisonous liquid onto one of our wooden benches to kill the termites and Leslie was helping me.  I heard the distant cries from the children out behind the main building but for some reason they didn't register.  I slopped some more death onto those pesky termites when Leslie screamed, "Mama Bets, FIRE!"  Suddenly I realized that something very-not-good was happening and I ran with the rest of the children to the back of the building where we have a large fire-pit for burning garbage.  The garbage burning had gotten out of control and flames were everywhere inside and outside the pit.  I began to come to and realized I needed not only to help put the fire out but also keep 16 children from getting hurt. 

Josue was already teetering on rocks way too close to the burgeoning flames.  I yelled for him to stay back and in a half crazed state started to hit those flames with anything I could find including my flip flops which was not very productive.  I noticed our new boy Harold lugging a huge 5 gallon jug of water trying to whip out the water over the flames.  He had been too long in the heat and smoke so I wrenched the jug from him and managed to put out more of the flames.  The wind did not do us any favors and the fire seemed to move like huge waves.  It did not look good.  It was Angie who had the brilliant idea of opening the spigot on the water tank.  The water swooshed out and all the children could now easily fill their many and sundry water receptacles.  I don't know how long we stayed out there working as if some unknown hand was orchestrating our movements.  I only know that I was overwhelmed at how well we worked together to keep that baby, that wild wild fire, from ruining our home.  We stood there in the soot and smoke and thanked God, hand in hand, for delivering us.
Daniel and Paola reenacting the drama of the fire!

and again

That evening for supper we ate home made flour tortillas and beans outside near the outdoor clay stove since the electricity was once again turned off for God-only-knows what reason.  I decided it was time to try an old recipe I had invented years ago when I lived in a small village and sometimes, as a result of a lack of available desserts, I  would put peanut butter and chocolate chips on flour tortillas and then toast them until everything melted together.  It was one gooey fun mess and the kids loved it.  The trauma of the unexpected fire fighting seemed to lessen by the minute.

We thought that we were in the clear, that the gallon after gallon of water lugged and splashed  all over the place had done it's work.  So I was surprised when I was finally in bed and writing this to hear my name once again being screamed by young girls who were frantic because the flames had reappeared.  It was well after 11 pm and this time I responded faster than the last.  We all did.  It seemed strange that the very area that had burned was burning again.  Suddenly Mario, one of our volunteers, began to holler FIRE AQUI at the top of his lungs.  Not only was there fire behind the house but the outdoor clay oven had somehow also gotten out of control and the wood panels lovingly put up by a volunteer group were now on fire.  Now the children were becoming frightened.  It was one thing to go through one fire but THREE in one day?  The enemy had definitely overplayed his hand.

Just like with the initial fire, we now stood together to fight the spiritual battle that we knew was raging against us.  I was amazed at the spiritual perception of the children.  They knew that we needed to fight not against flesh and blood but against the principalities of darkness.  They prayed like I have never witnessed before.  Little Miguel had his eyes tightly shut and his hands raised and was walking to and fro and praying out loud with a fervor I have never seen in this child.  Mario led the worship and while they praised and prayed,  I led a small band to anoint the buildings with oil and proclaim His protection.  It was after midnight when we sensed God's peace and that we could all sleep.  We thanked Him over and over that we were all safe and healthy and that the fire had been contained.

Always God brings good.  That combo of earth, wind, and fire all mixed with water was not pretty.  It got all over us and I think I even slept with it between my toes.  But it drove us to a deeper place under His wings.  And that is always worth it.  We experienced Him in the middle of the fire.