12.13.2008

Messy

There are 1.2 billion people in the world living in extreme poverty on less than a dollar a day. There are 38.6 million people diagnosed with HIV worldwide. There are nearly 30,000 children under the age of 5 dying each day of hunger and preventable diseases.

There are stories of abuse, neglect, and evil that freeze my heart and stories of stupid, senseless poverty that bewilder my mind. There are countless children, little treasures, knit together, inch by inch, by God - slowly undone by disease, poverty, and abuse.

And no matter how much I want to forget that these numbers represent real people, I know that each one of the nearly 30,000 children is a story of a treasure. A diamond God crafted to catch and reflect his light just so…but now kicked in the dirt, muddied, unrecognized, and abandoned.

Even though the United States is in a recession, we are still very rich. I know that’s hard to acknowledge sometimes. Even when some of us can find ourselves scrimping for groceries at the end of the month and calculating not going certain places to make sure we can make it on gas that month, we are still very, very rich in comparison. These are inconveniences, not poverty.

I see the levels of wealth and poverty in America - in my own city. And as I am uncomfortable financially at times, I know without a doubt that most of the time, I have more than a lot of people out there. And I wonder, what is God’s vision for what the world should look like?

Looking at God’s word, this isn’t the first time that question has been raised. The nation of Israel, in the times of Isaiah was faced with a similar question. The people of Israel were a good people. In some ways they were like you and me. In many ways they were better. They were pious, keeping up their religious practices. They were prosperous, enjoying the fruits of their righteous nation. They were well intentioned, regularly seeking God. They were fasting and praying. And they very rightfully asked God, “Does this not please you?” The reply…

“Is this what you call fasting? Do you really think this will please the LORD? No, this is the kind of fasting I want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people. Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help.” Isaiah 58

I can’t help but make the comparisons…these Israelites’ religious lives sound a lot like ours. They went to Temple every day. They devoted themselves to learning about God. They prayed faithfully. Ok, so we don’t go to church every day. But when I read this, I see myself and so many Christians I know - eager for God to come near, attending church once a week and reading the bible faithfully. Good Christians. But God was not impressed with the Israelites. And I’m not sure he is pleased with my religiosity either. I can’t help but ask, “Why not, God?” He answers…

“Do you really think this will please the LORD?”

What does God want from me, from his people? What is true fasting, true religion? God says it is this: “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress.” (James 1:27)

Feeding the poor, caring for the oppressed…that’s messy stuff. But what if what God wants is messy? What if, like the Israelites, my spiritual service is a bit too tidy? A bit too focused on me? What if what God wants from me is something completely different? Not to stay at home perfecting myself, but to go out into the world; To transform it through action, in service and in love.

(Adapted from - HOPE LIVES: A Journey of Restoration)

11.30.2008

Weekend

Here's where I spend most of my weekends!


I took this pic in between services this weekend. I am very blessed to be on staff at Community Of Faith. We have a wonderful church. To find out more about our church, you can log onto our website. You can even watch video of our sermon's online!


Most of my weekend is spent next to Matthew's sound board...I snapped a photo this weekend!

11.29.2008

Party

So I'm up late Saturday night cooking after a few eventful trips to the grocery store! We are having a holiday party with my small group for lunch tomorrow (well...today) after church. I was at work all day Saturday, so I needed to go to the grocery store tonight after church to get eggs to make my dessert. Well, I went to the store and bought everything BUT eggs. I got home, put my PJ's on, and got ready to begin cooking and realized I didn't have the eggs. So I had to get dressed again and go back to the store. FRUSTRATING! But it was worth it...we will have fun tomorrow!

11.28.2008

Thanksgiving

For the first time since I can remember I wasn't home in Mississippi with family this Thanksgiving! But I did have my Houston family here that took me in and shared a wonderful time together. I'm so thankful for the Shool's and how God placed them in my life from the beginning of my time here in Texas. Actually I met and connected with my "Mama Marianne" even before that, when I came here on an interview. They are precious to me and certainly have the gift of hospitality! Here's a pic of our Thanksgiving table...


After lunch/dinner...we played games. I try to spend one night a week with the Shool's for what we call family dinner night. They have us all hooked on this dice game called 10,000. It's a fun game to play with alot of people! Well, Marianne gave me some dice of my own yesterday...so now I can start getting all my friends here hooked on it too :)


So my next Thanksgiving/Christmas party is Sunday...and we will be playing 10,000 with my new dice!!

11.14.2008

What Does it All Mean?


I'm curious to hear your thoughts on this video! I know what this means to me, but what does this mean to you?

11.12.2008

Chickens Have Hatched!

Ok, I still have a couple more Oaxaca blogs to update you with, and I'll get to it soon (I promise!) Hopefully you've already read my Oaxaca Day 3 blog so this makes sense. If not, please click here and read it first.

I'm so excited to tell you that the chickens have finally hatched!!!! YAAAY!! It's really cool what these little chickens will mean to this community. I remember the last night sitting at Kerry & Mauri's dinner table praying for the chickens to hatch...well, now they have! Check them out!




11.05.2008

Thoughts for the Day (Post Election)

OK...a friend of a friend posted this on facebook. I am reposting this here because it's exactly what I am feeling at the moment and I couldn't have written it any better myself, so why try....

I'm writing primarily to Christians.

I was thinking just today about all the expectations that people had of Jesus when he rode a donkey into Jerusalem. For many, the cry "Hosanna" (meaning "God save us") had very little to do with salvation from sin and self in the terms Christians are so familiar with, compared with how much it had to do with being freed from Roman rule.

Jesus came to bring a whole different kind of kingdom.

We have a new group of politicians in Washington now. I don't have a terrifically large amount of faith in any group of politicians. This new group will at some point fail even their most ardent supporters along the way. If we are expecting, especially as Christians, for some politicians, regardless of their stripe, to save us, and that if the wrong group of politicians is elected that somehow all is lost, then we are placing our faith in the wrong things.

The church, when it is at its best, has never depended on political power to thrive. Every time it has (think Constantine), it has ended up in a very ungodly place over the long term. Jesus spent precious little time being concerned with what the political rulers of the day thought or did. Ironically, those in the Jewish hierarchy who spent considerable time trying to maneuver amongst and manipulate the levers of political power- the Pharisees and Sadducees- were the only groups of people Jesus continually and consistently criticized.

The church is today at its strongest and most vibrant in some of the most politically-oppressed corners of the world. In its early, formative days, it was always on the fringe- a counterculture. It neither sought nor sat in the halls of power.

We should be thankful every day for the political system we have in America, and the freedoms we enjoy . But as much as those things are an American right, they are not necessarily a Christian "right." They are a gift.

How will we use that gift? Certainly, voting, in whatever way, is a civic responsibility. But if we were expecting Barack Obama or John McCain to change the world we find every day just beyond our door for the better, we are expecting the wrong things, and too much. It's not up to them to change our world. It's up to us to change our world. God working in us and through us to be sure, but it's up to us.

Tomorrow, whether the events of tonight were a loss or a victory for each of us, we will each open our front door and face a world- people, circumstances, situations, relationships, needs, hope, despair- that we have individually been given the opportunity and the chance to change. The president-elect can not affect each of our highly unique worlds nearly as well as we can, and with the power of God in us, we each have far more than even the greatest world ruler.

Either or any political party can only bring a new flavor of empire, just like the Romans did of old. We- you and I- have the chance to be part of bringing a kingdom, a new kind of kingdom, which both shatters and exceeds any empire.

11.01.2008

Haircut?

My friend, Kat, is a stylist who lives below me in my apartment complex. She cuts my hair, but she's always re-scheduling for this or that...and tonight her excuse was that she forgot to bring her sissors home. Well...I was having NONE of that! LOL!! So tonight, I got my hair cut.

You'll have to see this for yourself, so check out the video below. Our apologies for the pajamas and no makeup, but this was just tooo funny not to share!


10.30.2008

Oaxaca - Day 3

Well, I’ve learned more about Chickens than I’d ever thought I know! Thanks to Kerry Johnson, our Communityfor missionary to Oaxaca! I meant to do a video blog while there to talk about it, but we were so busy I never got around to doing it.

Kerry & Mauri work with indigenous people in Oaxaca up in the mountains. There, a lot of people have no means for income and typically no running water or electricity…or so they think! Until they get a visit from Kerry Johnson!

Kerry & Mauri do several types of projects with the people. The projects aren’t the priority, the relationship is…but the project provides the avenue to build the relationship. Some of his projects include building greenhouses, providing light by using and installing solar panels, water projects (you can read about one in my earlier blog) and animal husbandry projects. I want to share about our 3rd day in Oaxaca and our animal husbandry project. Animal husbandry is the science of breeding, feeding, and tending to domestic animals, esp. farm animals. Our project was chickens!! (I was a little excited)

I have to start this by telling you that about a week or so before we left to come to Oaxaca, Kerry emailed to tell us he had a shipment coming by FedEx to Aaron’s house (one of our associate pastors). He asked for us to pick up and bring them with us to Oaxaca. He never said what it was, but mentioned that it would be life changing for the people up in the villages. I told Aaron that I’d come by to pick them up on the day we left. Little did I know it would be egg incubators and electronic egg turners…ha! I’m sure it was a funny site going through the scanners at the airport and through customs.

So on Day 3 they picked us up to head up the mountain for our project, but first we had to stop at the egg place to get some eggs. The guys went in and came out with like 40 something eggs for us to take up the mountain. Now, let me explain the road up this mountain. It’s very winding and about a 2 hour drive…and a very BUMPY drive at that! So we had to hold the eggs up in the air to keep them from getting broken, several different ones of us took turns being the mother “hen,” so to speak.



there was some discussion on who held the chicken eggs the longest!

Once we got to the village, we were greeted by the sweet, sweet people. We took the egg incubator, the eggs and a solar panel up the hill. While there, Kerry installed a solar panel and wired them a light bulb into their house and it also powered the egg incubator and the egg turners.














installing the solar panel on the roof













these children were watching them so intently!

Here’s where chicken education comes in. Now I might not have all this completely correct because it had to go through translation to get to me (and it’s been a few weeks) but here’s some information you might find handy if you ever want to raise your own chickens.

1. When loading the eggs into the egg turners you put the small portion of the egg in first and the larger rounded portion of the egg up. BECAUSE (this is cool) it’s better to have the bigger portion up because there is an air pocket in the top of the egg where the chicken breathes and as the egg turns, the bigger side of the egg gives the chicken more breathing room. (Isn’t that crazy! Who knew!)
2. Chicken egg shells are porous so air comes into and out of the egg so the chicken can breathe in the air pocket.
3. Chicken eggs have to be turned manually every 4-5 hours. Or you can use electronic egg turners (which we brought with us to put in the incubators).
4. Chickens hatch in about 21 days and with incubators and electronic turners, they typically yield about an 80% survival rate.
5. To know if an egg has fertilized, you will start to see lines sort of like veins in the egg shell.















here they are right side up in the incubator!
There’s probably more, but I forget. What’s cool is that in about 21 days these people will have close to 30 something chickens. They can use them to eat, to reproduce more eggs and more chickens, sell them for income, share with their village friends to continue building relationships, and much more! Kerry & Mauri are big on sharing. They will remove a project if a person is not sharing it. They tell them to give away to people who are really struggling.

This particular village was having some hard times with a neighboring village…for some reason there was some animosity between them in the past. So when Kerry began talking with the village about sharing, a lady brought this other village up and Kerry explained to them that they should take the first step in repairing that relationship by giving them some chickens from this bunch when they hatch. Kerry also shared this heart wrenching personal story with them about helping your fellow man. I will not share it here, because I know it’s very personal to Kerry; but I can say that it had a profound impact on the people of this village as he shared from his heart. I saw grown men crying and all the people in the room appear to be very touched by what he was sharing.

While the project installation was going on, the women of the village cooked us a big meal. It was an honor to allow them to serve us that way. I know it was a huge sacrifice to feed us and a very special time for us to share in a meal with them.



This village of people had a very sweet spirit about them. It was a lot of fun to interact with the children and the ladies of the village.

















In particular it was really nice for me to see the men of the village show a lot of affection (hugs) to their children. I’ve traveled a lot all over the world and this was a rare site for me and it touched me to see it so prevalent in this village.

There was also a little baby in the village that had Down syndrome. We were told that she wouldn’t make it too much longer, but she was just precious and it was touching to see the entire village just love on this little one and how much “light” she brought to everyone as the loved her. When we asked her name, they told us that they all just called her Sweetheart.


On the way down the mountain we stopped by a village where Kerry had worked previously in building a greenhouse. This particular greenhouse housed tomatoes. The lady said they get tomatoes off these vines 8 months out of the year. I am sure this project is life changing in how it provides income for the entire village.






I am so thankful for people like Kerry & Mauri Johnson who not only give their lives loving on people who live differently from them, but also for the creativity and knowledge that God has given them to serve people. Say a prayer today for them, and it’s my hope that every time you have an egg or a tomato, that you’d be reminded of them and that you would say a prayer for them personally and for their work.

10.29.2008

Oaxaca - Day 2

Sorry it’s taken me so long to get back to this. I like to process through things and have plenty of time to put it all together…so now, hopefully I’m back on track. If you missed Day 1, please check out the blog below or by clicking here.

On our second day in Oaxaca, we went to church where our missionaries Kerry & Mauri attend. Their pastor, Marceleno, travels with them to do the work in the villages. I want to spend this post talking about him.

sorry his eyes are closed

I am so impressed with Marceleno (I hope I’m spelling his name right). By the time Sunday services had come, we had already spent a full day with him working in a village. I had not had much time to interact with him because he spoke no English and I spoke no Spanish and we were working in a village the entire day.

The morning of the first day, Kerry and Mauri told us that before they picked us up for our day up the mountain that he’d been up for several hours helping a member of his own community with an issue. I didn’t think much about it then…but while sitting in church the next day, during his message (because I couldn’t understand), it gave me time to really think about him. By nature, I am an observer/processor. I can watch people for awhile, how they interact with others, and feel like I know them as well as if I’d spent hours in conversation with them. So on this Sunday, I was thinking about Marceleno, and God showed me a lot about his leadership as a pastor, but more so about his character and heart.

Not only is he pastoring a church, but he’s up in the wee hours of the morning on a weekday helping a member of his own community, AND he’s also spending the majority of his time up in villages with people who could NEVER, EVER attend his church. He is passionate about it! This told me a lot about him. It told me that it’s not about getting numbers into his own church (those village people would never be able to attend his church) but it’s totally about building relationship with people to either have the opportunity to share Christ with them, or to just follow God’s command to help the poor.

This man spends his life serving the community around him, but more of it with people who would never be a “number” in his church. That’s proof to me that his heart is pure and his priorities are straight about what is important to God. It’s not about how many people we can get into our own church, but how many people we can get into God’s kingdom. And it’s about doing what God asks us to do as Christ followers: “…whoever is kind to the needy honors God.” Proverbs 14:31

There’s this phrase David Shook uses (our Communityfor Director) ….Kingdom Business, we call it kb for short. I like that phrase! Thank you for letting me share a minute about just one of many people who are changing the world doing God’s kingdom business. Pray for him today!

10.27.2008

Church is Fun!

Ok, I promise I am planning to put up more posts about my trip to Oaxaca soon, but while you wait I thought I'd share some fun stuff with you. This weekend we just finished up a marriage series at COF. We ended it with a mass renewal of vows ceremony where couples could renew their vows if they wanted. It was alot of fun! After each service we had wedding cake (some birthday cake...hehe...Teri!!) and punch in the lobby.

Anyway, Donald came up with the idea that we should have tuxedo shirts made for the band/worship leaders and production team...hahaha! We looked soooo silly! But it was fun!!




WOULD YOU LET THESE PEOPLE BE YOUR WORSHIP/PRODUCTION STAFF?? HAHAHA!

After services on Sunday our staff team had lunch at Donald's house with our band. We had a great time. If you want to see a little of what we did...check it out on Donald's blog by clicking here. Yes we can be a silly bunch, but I truly love these guys!!

10.12.2008

Oaxaca - Day 1


We are having a wonderful time in Oaxaca! On Saturday, we took off up the mountain for a 2 hour drive to go visit a village. We came to the house of a lady where we were going to give her water. Kerry (our missionary) was putting together 2 tanks and a submersible pump to pump the water from the river down below up the hill to a tank near her house. In return for this service, this lady was to share it with her whole village.

Most of the work was pretty heavy duty, so Kaye and I, and Mauri (our missionary) got to hang out with the mom and her daughter Maria. Maria was about 8 years old and very smart. I love the fact that you can go to a country and not know the language and still be able to communicate. Sure, there were times that I wished I could speak with her. But it was so fun to be able to communicate with her all day non-verbally.

Maria doesn't go to school. There were no 'neighborhood kids' around. She spends the day by herself all day with her mom doing chores. I felt for her as I thought about the fact that she doesn't really have anyone else to play with. I know she doesn't know any different, but it's difficult to see a child and not see them playing with others. Her life certainly is very different from the world we know.

Maria loves flowers. We spent the day with her going up and down a big hill collecting bouquets of flowers. She was precious as she explained to us in Spanish what each flower was.



After a while, we came back up to the house and Maria asked me to write in English on a pad of paper and she would copy me. I wrote all types of things on her paper. She wrote the alphabet in English twice and then I began to write sentences and let her copy them. I wondered if some day she'd be able to speak English, so just in case, I wrote her sentences like, "Maria you are very special." "Maria, God loves you," etc. I think it would be pretty cool if in a few years she could remember the white girl who visited her and be able to read those messages from me in English. My prayer is that someday she would be able to attend school. They say she cannot attend because of her vision, but it's probably about school fee's and uniforms.

At the end of the day we loaded the truck and stood in a circle and Kerry asked how we could pray for them. I couldn't understand very much because it was all in Spanish, but at times Mauri would translate for me. Their only means of survival is the corn they grow on the mountain, and this year has been tough for them because the soil isn't fertile and they had too much rain this year, so they had no crop. They are having a pretty bad year. They also asked us to pray for their other two children who are struggling with different things in their family.

I sat there as I watched our missionary, Kerry; share from deep within his heart. I was touched as he had tears streaming down his cheeks as he explained how big God was and how God cares for them. I watched as the older brother in the family tried to hide his tears as Kerry talked. It was very touching. Kerry and Mauri are doing a wonderful job here with the people of Oaxaca, and their love for them is very evident in everything they do. We are lucky to have them on board with us at Community of Faith. And I am lucky to be here to witness their wonderful work.

Right now I am waiting on them to come pick us up to take us to church, so I'm excited. More later!

9.30.2008

Give Me Your Eyes



Here is a video that we played this weekend in our services. I thought I would share it with my friends and family who aren't COF attenders. This is a video/photo compilation of some of the work COF did this summer.

You will see clips from Burundi, Africa. This is a people group in Africa we have become friends with. We are partnering with them as they try to attain land and education for their children, and much more. We will have a relationship with them for many years to come. We plan to take at least 60 people to Burundi this coming Summer. We are just beginning our partnership with the people of Burundi, so be looking for more to come.

There are also clips from our trip this past summer to Zambia. Here we lead camp for over 2,000 AIDS orphans. Also COF is building an orphanage there. You can read more about our trip to Zambia on this blog and the ones following it.

There are clips from our trip to Oaxaca, Mexico with our missionaries there. We take part in all types of projects such as animal husbandry, drilling water wells and many, many more. You see more about them here. Note: I am leaving for a trip to Oaxaca on October 10th, so be looking for blog updates about this.

Included are clips from our orphanage and community center in Costa Rica.

Also are photos and footage from the makeover project we did with Bane Elementary right here in Houston. To find out more, click here.

I hope you enjoy! I feel so blessed to be a part of a group of people that have such a passion for the world and the community around them. There are also many, many partnerships and projects our church has taken on locally alongside the Bane Elementary Makeover project. These are more long term volunteering efforts instead of project driven efforts, so it's hard to capture in a few words the extent of it. That's for an upcoming blog! :)

Oh yeah...props to Matthew Crook, the best technical director in the world for the vid!

9.28.2008

Sleepless Nights

Last night was just one of those nights (I'm sure we've all had them). I was up all night. I was tired when I went to bed, but I just couldn't get to sleep. All night I was frustrated about it. After what seemed like a looong night, the alarm went off at 7am and I got up to get ready for church.

In between services today, I was talking with Mark (my pastor) and in the conversation I told him that although I don't typically have completely sleepless nights, last night I was up the entire night. He mentioned that he hoped I prayed for him and I had to look him in the eye and say I hadn't. We both laughed, but it was a good reminder for me. I pray for him and Laura often, quite often actually. I pray for our entire staff because the attack on us can be pretty intense because of the work we do. But last night, I wasted it. I was too consumed with me.

Then tonight, "coincidentally" I'm reading in Exodus and came across this verse: "Inside the Tent of Meeting, the Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend." (33:11) But you have to read the whole beginning part of the chapter about when Moses was leading his people out of Egypt; a WHOLE bunch of people, flawed people (people like you and me and the rest of the world). It says that he would often set up a "tent of meeting" near the camp. Everyone who wanted to make a request of the Lord would go near the tent of meeting and make their request.

BUT...when MOSES went to the tent of meeting, all the people came outside their tents to watch. Can you envision that? Do you wonder why it was different when Moses went? Why it would evoke such a response from everyone? Well, it tells you why. When Moses went into the tent, a great big cloud would come over the tent and hang out there while Moses was inside (are you still picturing this?) Then, that's when that verse, verse 11 comes in..."Inside the tent of meeting, the Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend." Now that's pretty cool. Moses had reached such an intimacy with God as an intercessor (someone who pleads on another's behalf) that he could speak with God face to face like you do with your friend.

I read a quote once that said "an intercessor is someone for whose sake others are blessed." For Moses’ sake, for his intimacy with God, a whole nation was both spared and blessed. You can read all about that in the OT.

It's about selflessness. When I was awake all night, I WAS praying, but I was praying, "Lord, let me go to sleep." I bet I prayed that a hundred times last night. It was selfish. Mark was not reprimanding me today in any way, he wasn't speaking that way with me, and we actually laughed about it. But it's a lesson for me today, one I already know, but needed to be reminded of. I would love to be that someone...that because of me, someone else is blessed because I interceded for them.

9.24.2008

IKE STORIES: The Good Out of the Bad

Ok, I can't tell you all that other stuff (in my blogs below), without sharing the good stuff. First off, if you want a laugh, go check out Donald Butler's Hunker Down reports we taped the night of the hurricane. I stayed with him and Gretchen and their children to ride out the storm. I think we used humor to cover the fear. For some good fun and a few great laughs, check them out here. You might have to scroll back a few posts to get to the original one titled: Hunker Down Houston and then follow them back up to Hunker Down 7.

Ok, so the Hurricane hit on Saturday, and we still had church on Sunday by generator and candlelight. It was really cool. We had 2 services and about 1,000 people came. It was a really sweet time for us to come together. Laura Shook told us a story, and I'm probably gonna do it a giant disservice because my memory is terrible, but here's the gist of it:

There was a pastor who was helping his church coordinate a community fair. They wanted vegetables at the fair, but had nowhere to get them other than the "butcher." The Butcher was a guy that everyone was afraid of and no one associated himself with. The pastor decided to go and ask the butcher if he could get vegetables from him. So he went to the butcher’s house and the butcher met him at the gate and growled at him, "what do you want?" and the pastor told him he wanted vegetables for the fair. The butcher replied, "Can’t you see I'm busy. I can't help you." The pastor asked what he had to do, and the butcher said he had to clean the pig trough. The pastor said, "I want to help you," and so he did. (I know I'm getting the details of this story wrong...but oh well). Then the pastor went back every day for 6 weeks and cleaned the pig troughs. After 6 weeks at church one Sunday, the butcher walked in the door and everyone was afraid. The butcher went up to the pastor and spoke of how much what the pastor did in cleaning the troughs did for him to change his life.

Mark and Laura talked about how now was the time to serve our community. Serve it in the good times, but also in the tough times. That's what Community of Faith is all about; to serve your community, no matter what.

We had sign up's at two separate tables in our foyer; One table for people to list friends and neighbors of theirs that needed help. The other table was to sign up to help. I had the privilege of helping coordinate these teams. I think I took over 400 phone calls to my cell phone between Sunday and Wednesday of that week and sent and received no telling how many emails and text messages, all to/from people wanting to help. I am astounded at the kindness of people. I think that's why I've been so emotional about it. I talked first hand to quite a few people who lost everything and were so amazed that people would help them without even knowing them or being a member of their church.

We moved several families completely out of their houses, we cut down trees and cleared debris, we fixed roof's and fences, we distributed MRE's, ice and water at the FEMA PODs (Points of Distribution), we worked for the Houston Food Bank, we delivered meals to people in the meals on wheels program that couldn't get out of their homes, we helped at the George R. Brown Convention Center putting together care packages to those evacuated to shelters and lost everything in Galveston, we delivered hot meals to those who just needed to feel like "home," and to be reminded that everything was gonna be ok. Our church also funded and sent out a mobile feeding unit out to the hardest hit areas, and probably countless other things that we'll never know about.

I'm not saying this to be bragging, please don't read that into it, I'm NOT saying that. I'm saying this to give the positive side to the devastating thing that has happened to this area. Texan's are helping Texan's. Churches are being what the church was meant to be...we are BEING the church. We were even privileged to run into a guy and a few of his buddies that just got in their car and drove from Georgia to cut down trees. We used them to help clear trees from several of our church member’s roofs.

I am reminded of a guy in our church who had signed up on the "needs help" list and also the "I'll help" list. He got called up for the "I'll help list first." I called him up to help deliver a hot meal to someone. He never spoke at all about his needs at his own home. He delivered the meal and called me to tell me that he'd do it every day this week if I'd just give him a name, number and address. The next day, I flipped the page to my "needs help" list and saw his name there, his house had a tree on the roof, a hole in his roof, gutter damage, etc...and he never mentioned a word to me about it and was so thrilled to help out after the storm. Then we were able to turn around and serve him. It was a cool experience.

A few years ago a bunch of my friends and I were hanging out and talking, I had recently moved to Houston, Texas from Mississippi. I had only been here a couple of years and my native Texan friends said that you couldn't be called a "Texan" until you meet specific guidelines (this was all in humor). I can't remember all the rules, but it was something like...you had to live here at least 10 years to be able to refer to yourself as a "Texan", or you could "marry in" if you married an original Texan and after 5 years of marriage you could claim the name early. To hold your name as a Texan, you had to proclaim it to everyone whenever you went out of state, "I'm from Texas" (and be PROUD of it). There is a traditional love of state and if you attack a Texan, you draw fire from all Texans. There were a bunch more, but I can't remember them. But in chatting with them this past week after the storm, I've been told that if you "hunker down" through a hurricane and survive it, you automatically become a Texan for life! So I guess I finally made it! LOL!

9.23.2008

IKE PHOTOS

I found some photos online to show those of you who aren't from here a little about what the devastation looks like from Hurricane Ike. A few of these came from NY Times and others from Houston Chronicle and other sources.


(Houston Chronicle Photo)



(Houston Chronicle Photo)



(AIM Photo)



Here's a little taste of what downtown Houston looked like
(NY Times Photo)


Yes, that's glass from the skyscraper windows
(NY Times photo)

9.21.2008

IKE STORIES: Hurricane Rules To Follow

If you weathered Hurricane Ike with us, you can skip this one. You already know this stuff. This is for my non Texas readers:

Rules to follow when a hurricane is impending:

1. Stock up with non-perishables for 3 days.
ACTUAL RULE TO FOLLOW: Stock up for a MONTH of water and non-perishables. Your power may very well be out for a month. (1 week later, 1 million Houstonians are still out of power - the boil water status has just now been dismissed.) Remember to fill pitchers of water up and put in your fridge, even if you DO get power back, a week of not being able to drink the tap water is a pain. You can't use it for meals (unless you boil it), you can't brush your teeth (I feel like I'm on a mission trip), you can't really wash your dishes with tap, etc. Even if you get power back and just need groceries, a week later all grocery stores are still not open and not nearly fully stocked; even Wal-Mart for awhile was only letting people in 10 at a time and rationing what you get. The wait to get in Wal-Mart is crazy long.

2. Get a little bit of gas for your vehicle
ACTUAL RULE TO FOLLOW: Fill up your tank and go to Wal-Mart and buy as many gas cans as you can, and fill them all up with gas (BEFORE the storm). The line to get gas is HOURS long for many, many days afterward. (People had generators, but couldn't get gas to run them). If you have to go back to work or travel anywhere for the week after, you'll have to wait for hours to get gas...or spend a good bit of time driving around looking for a gas station that has power so you can pump gas. (NOTE: gas pumps do not work without electricity).

3. Be sure you have a land line with a NON-CORDLESS phone attached to it.
ACTUAL RULE TO FOLLOW: This one!!!! Cell phone circuits will be completely busy. You won’t get calls in or out for days. Texting will work somewhat, although at times they will be delayed for hours. (Even a week later my phone at times wasn't ringing, but I'd suddenly get a voice mail.)

4. Stock up with battery operated supplies: radio, flashlights, fans, etc.
ACTUAL RULE TO FOLLOW: This one too! If you live in Texas humidity, by all means go purchase one of those small battery operated fans (you can get them at Wal-Mart, Target, etc.) And make sure you have a radio and extra batteries for all. After the power was off, it was great to be kept up to date about what was happening by radio. (Even though at times it was frustrating because it was the TV news on the radio and sometimes they talked like you could see what they were saying).

5. Watch it when driving
ACTUAL RULE TO FOLLOW: this was another good one...and still is! With the flooding, trees down and debris all over the roads, light poles snapped in two and power lines down... these are all good reasons not to get on the road. Even a week later, many red lights are still blown away and not replaced, or broken. So that means big intersections will now become 4 way stops...which translates - LOOONNGGG drive times and waits to get anywhere.

MORE GOOD RULES TO FOLLOW: Make a friend with someone who owns and operates a chainsaw. Have friends who are carpenters, roofers, maybe even with someone who works for Centerpoint Energy. Live next door to a grocery store so your power will be turned on first. Live in Texas, these people have the best spirit of anyone I know; friends and neighbors helping out friends and neighbors...it's a beautiful sight.

So although the storm didn't affect you other than your gas prices, and CNN and all the major news networks have left to go to the next big story....we're still here, in lines at the grocery stores, at the gas pumps, in lines at red lights that don't work, with no electricity, no food or water or ice. Many have lost their homes but haven't even been allowed back to see the damage or begin to rebuild...and the rest of the world goes on.

Don't worry, I don't blame you...you can't understand unless you've experienced it. It's human nature to forget when it's not right in front of you. But I will ask you to remember to pray for those who are struggling and will for quite some time. Maybe every time you go to the gas pump and don't have to wait in line for hours to get it, you'll remember to pray. Or when you can just go into the grocery store without a wait, without having what you purchase be rationed, you'll remember. Or maybe when your cell phone rings you'll remember. Or when you walk into your house and the AC is pumping, and you have cable TV, and you can open your fridge and get something cold to drink, or you can cook, or you can brush your teeth with water from the tap, you'll remember to pray....the people most devastated by this storm really need your prayers!

And for those Texas readers who kept reading even though I said to skip it, here's a reminder for me and you...

Leaky roofs, no electricity, no gas, no Wal-Mart or grocery store, no red lights, no good water, no food, no vehicle, heat and hunger, survival at it's minimum...the majority of the rest of the world lives like this every single day. This is not a devastating natural disaster for them, this is daily life. These are inconveniences for us. Use this time to remember those less fortunate than us as we are forced to relate to them.

And let's all pray!

9.18.2008

IKE STORIES: A Warm Meal is Like Home

I typically use writing to help me process through things, so I might be writing about Ike a good bit over the next few posts. After the storm, over 2 million people were without power. We were "powerless" (in the words of Donald Butler) and also completely exhausted because this particular storm was soooo huge that it just went on throughout the entire night and half the next day.

After the storm passed, I really wanted to go home to my apartment. Mainly to check on things, and also to just feel a little bit like I was at home. As I left the Butlers in the early afternoon on Saturday and drove out in the Fairfield area, it was interesting to see the actual effects of the awful wind we heard all night. To see the devastation all over was surreal.

As I was almost home I noticed I had a voicemail on my cell phone. Cell phones weren't ringing - and it was difficult to call on them, but a message would show up at random times (its still doing this 6 days later).

It was from Stephanie, a friend of mine who left a message saying she already had her power back and for me to come over if I wanted. I didn't call her back because it was almost impossible to call out on cell phones at this point. But mainly it was because I just wanted to go home.

As I drove up into my complex, it was incredible. This complex was built to look like it's in a forest. There were trees down everywhere (thankfully not on our roof) and debris all over the place. We obviously didn't have power. I hauled all my stuff up to the third story of my building and dropped everything in the floor and sat on the couch a minute to settle and let things begin to process. I was completely exhausted.

But it was sooo hot. I looked on my thermostat and it registered 86 inside my house (3rd floors are hot). So I opened the balcony door and tried to get still on my couch to take a nap but it just wasn't happening.

Then I remembered that phone call from my friend Stephanie and I thought, "Sherry, this is ridiculous...it's stupid to be here in the heat with no power, when your friend has power, showers and all the nice things that go with it." So I picked up the bags I'd just dropped in the floor a few minutes before and went right back downstairs and loaded them in the car and drove right to Stephanie's house.

I walked in her door; into her nice, cool house and breathed a sigh of relief. After we sat there talking for a little while, they jumped up and said, "Let’s make spaghetti for dinner." I thought that sounded wonderful after all we'd been through. The smells were amazing as they cooked and then we sat down to eat.

As I was sitting there I thought to myself, “this warm meal....it just feels like home.” You know, the feeling you get when no matter what is happening to you or has happened to you…“home,” makes you feel like everything’s gonna be alright. I know that sounds crazy, but that's what it really felt like to me. And I felt it even more as I got to take a nice shower, blow dry my hair and get into a bed and sleep awhile.

A few days later I was coordinating disaster relief for COF. There was this one person who did not ask me for help, but another friend of hers called me and told me that this particular lady was having financial trouble before the storm and she couldn’t afford to stock up before it. And then her power had been out several days and she had to throw away everything in her refrigerator and freezer and she didn't know what she was going to do. She said she was crying. My heart broke. Then in an email a little while later, another church member mentioned to me that he works for a restaurant and would be getting off at 8pm that night and wanted to know if anyone could use a warm meal. I knew immediately what he should do, and I had him take it to this lady.

Now most of you might think a warm meal isn't much, or that it's very temporary. I've even thought it myself for a moment when I saw the Red Cross setting up a mobile feeding station in the parking lot of a grocery store. All they were handing out was one warm meal to people. I caught myself, but before I did, I was asking..."shouldn't they use that money on something else that could be more lasting?" Then I remembered the spaghetti that Stephanie and her family made for me and I thought, "No way, a warm meal means everything....it makes you feel like home, like everything’s gonna be ok."

Don't underestimate what the little things mean to people. That's my lesson in this.

9.17.2008

IKE STORIES: Don't Be Alone In A Storm

I have so much to say that I'm keeping running notes in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike. I'll just blog a little about it every day. It might be random or out of order, but at this point it's the only way I can gather my thoughts enough to share with you.

On Wednesday night I got the news that Ike was heading our way. I began making plans and starting processing through what I should do. I got gas and went to the grocery store after a meeting at church Wednesday night. I got what I thought I'd need for 3 days. I began filling up water pitchers to put in my refrigerator and everything else you do to try to prepare for a devastating hurricane. I had intended on staying in my apartment and "hunkering down" (a Texas term).

On Thursday, Gretchen Butler called me and demanded I come to their house, that I shouldn't be alone. I told her that I appreciated it, but I was fine.

But the more and more I began thinking about it and looking at the storm on TV as it was approaching, the more fearful I became. Its times like these that you just want your family, to just feel at "home" around those who love you and know you best. I didn't have that because my family is very far away. At that point I decided to go to the Butlers house on Friday to ride out the storm with them.

I can not even put into words what we experienced during the storm. It was very scary, the unknown was unnerving, it was pitch black dark but I could hear the wind in a way that is indescribable. I could not see the damage it was doing or if anything was coming towards where we were staying. I know I prayed through most of the night, having the peace of God through it is the only thing that would calm my fears.

To experience God and how big He is in a storm like that is a great point of reference. To relate the power and strength He has to a hurricane is interesting, while at the same time receiving His peace through the relieving of my fears as I am praying to Him through the night. It reminded me of people who are going through storms in their lives, that through it all they have the opportunity to feel His peace when they should be scared out of their minds.

I won't lie, often times my humanity took over and I was fearful. I remember during the worst of the storm, sometime during the hours of 4 - 6 AM, I was listening to the TV news on the radio and there was this lady who had also been listening that called in. She explained where she lived and how she was in the eye (the calm) of the storm at the moment, but could hear the reporting of how horrible it was on the back side of the storm to the people in Galveston. She was completely afraid, crying. She said that she couldn't afford to get out because she lost her husband last year, and that she was afraid all during the first half of the storm and was terrified about what was coming towards her and wanted to know if what she was hearing on the radio was coming towards her. The newscasters were so great with her, they asked her to stay on the line, and over the radio brought on the meteorologist and had him speak with her directly to answer her questions and calm her fears.

This lady was alone and afraid. And I think to myself, that could have been me, alone and afraid. But I had people like the Butlers who took me in. Sometimes it’s just good to go through a storm WITH someone. I also knew my mom (who was in Mississippi), who was probably just as fearful as me, was praying. I also got a text from one of my best friends (also in Mississippi) at around 1:30 AM that just said, "I want you to know, I'm not sleeping. I'm not there with you, but I am up with you and with you in this storm, and I'm praying."

So this is a great lesson. You don't have to be alone; whether it's in a REAL storm like Hurricane Ike, or any storm you go through in life. Sure, Jesus can calm the storm, or calm YOU in the storm. But at times, He will also use others to go through the storms WITH you. Trust me, it makes a difference.

9.12.2008

Hurricane Update

Ok...I'm not posting too much. I am staying at the Butlers house (our worship pastor), so click here to get updates from the hurricane. We are having fun, but this is serious stuff, so laugh...but pray!

Hurricane Ike

Hi everyone! I am riding out the hurricane. Be praying for us, i will keep you posted on what's happening. Our church will rally together on Sunday to try to formulate teams to help the hardest hit areas.

9.05.2008

Deathtrap?

There's this place that's become pretty special to me...




here's a quote of what someone said about the area:

"That’s a war torn area of Houston. Even police are afraid to go to that part of town. AK-47 is the order of the day. Basically, if a person doesn't dress/act like they just came out of prison you don't fit in. Gotta look gangsta or else! There’s an abandoned apartment complex where homeless and drug users go to die…called the “Death trap.” Need to place a Mortuary next door to save a trip or 2 or 3. Wear blinders like a horse would. The whole quadrant needs to be nuked, mushroom cloud the whole joint! Its urban blight at its worse/finest. The patient is now officially deceased! Everybody go home...."

Well....I completely DISAGREE!! Watch for updates!

"If you are generous with the hungry and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out, Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness, your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight. I will always show you where to go. I'll give you a full life in the emptiest of places — firm muscles, strong bones. You'll be like a well-watered garden, a gurgling spring that never runs dry. You'll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew, rebuild the foundations from out of your past. You'll be known as those who can fix anything, restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate, make the community livable again." Isaiah 58:10-11

8.29.2008

Oaxaca, Mexico Missionaries

In case you missed it, I just wanted to share with you some footage about the work our missionaries are doing down in Mexico! I can't wait to visit them soon! :)

Small acts of kindness - loving people to Christ - Meeting needs - that's what we do in Oaxaca!



Props to Matt for his awesome video and editing skills!

8.28.2008

Who Are You Asking?

I've been completely overwhelmed by how God is working with a particular project in my ministry. It's just in it's "thoughts" and development phases, but I have been amazed how God has brought all different unconnected types of people into my life that all might have a part in this ministry...either by advice, or experience or knowledge, or partnership. And none of them have been connected before.

At the same time, I see little "seeds" that God is planting within our staff and church members to begin the process of opening our hearts to this very different type of ministry.

Sometimes I think I'm crazy for thinking so big. Most of the time people don't believe me when I speak out big dreams...and then they happen. This project is BIG. It's dangerous, it seems impossible, and I have no idea what I'm doing or how I'd do it. But I guess that's the best place to be, that way no one can get credit for it except God.

Just yesterday I spent hours and hours talking to people, scouring the internet to get answers to my "how" and "what" questions. I was finding NOTHING. Then I just stopped....

A voice in my head (or should I say my heart) said, "Sherry, who are you asking?"

I was looking for conferences, looking for people to do the impossible, looking for people with past experience with what I wanted to do, looking at the internet to find someone who could help me...all adding to my frustration because I was finding NOTHING.

And then I realized....

I hadn't asked THE One who knows.

Yes, sometimes I'm an idiot. So I asked Him....

and I already see Him working!

8.22.2008

School Starts Again!

I'm excited that school is about to begin again and the kids at Bane Elementary will get to see their new playground. Below is a video of the community project our church did this summer:

8.14.2008

Olympics

Today I looked up the word Unity in the dictionary. Here is what it said: Oneness of mind, feeling, etc., as among a number of persons, concord, harmony or agreement.

Did you know that the early olympic festivals were held between many Greek cities as a sign of unity?

Now, I'm not boycotting the olympics or anything. I'm watching it off and on. But I've been frustrated that this country, China, has been allowed to host the olympics this year. My thoughts have been: that I am not, nor do I want to be, known as a country that is Unified in the way China conducts itself. I am NOT in agreement with them. Not only does China offer arms to Sudan to kill it's own people, there is also no religious freedom there. The government pretty much does what it wants to do.

About a year and a half ago a group of olympic atheletes got together and testified to the IOC (International Olympic Committee)that they would like to stop China from hosting the Olympics. Several of their visa's to China were denied for the Olympics.

Today I was reading an email where a Chinese pastor (called pastor "bike") worked with Voice of the Martyrs to create a prayer band for Christians to wear, to remind them to pray for the persecuted Christians that are in China. Over 800,000 of these bands have been circulated. I was at my home church in Mississippi last weekend and they passed them out on Sunday to remind people to pray for China.

On Aug. 6, Pastor "Bike" was arrested while trying to deliver medicine to his ailing wife. His wife and another pastor were also arrested. AND, Chinese officials are opening a full investigation of the Olympic Prayer Bands that were distributed to house church members within China.

Come on...prayer bands!

I've really been frustrated with China. And I might have just ruined my chances of ever getting a visa to visit China after posting this. They are probably typing my name right now into the "can't visit China" database....But I've been to Sudan, I have close personal friends there, I've seen firsthand what's happening there. I don't understand at all why the international community is not doing something. I'm very frustrated.

I know boycotting is not the answer...I'm not sure, but I don't think Jesus boycotted...he loved. And we are supposed to conduct ourselves as much like Jesus as we can....

So how do we love China and at the same time help them to change. How do we speak into the lives of the "powers that be."

Maybe by having the Olympics there....

We'll see! That's my prayer.

7.31.2008

I Saw What I Saw



"Your pain has changed me
Your dreams inspire
Your face a memory
Your hope a fire

Your courage asks me
What I'm afraid of
Your courage asks me
What I am made of
And what I know of love."

---Sara Groves

God has been using my experiences in Africa and all over the world in a powerful way in my life lately. I feel as if He's really speaking to me about ministry and also about injustice; not just overseas, but even right here in our own neighborhoods.

The powerful impact that Prisca had on me since the trip to Africa is just the start of the work God is beginning to do in my life.

Life and ministry is a journey....more about that later!

7.19.2008

My Journey

Ok, so first I must apologize for taking so long to post more about this. I've been processing the Africa trip for awhile. I've still been praying for God to tell me what I'm really supposed to "do" with the knowledge that someone I love, a child I spent 8 hours a day 5 days a week with, a child that I have grown to love - that I've asked God to help me love...is starving, sleeping on the floor, often beaten, lost parents to AIDS, etc.

I've traveled alot. I've seen alot of poverty. For the most part I've come to the realization that it's happening all over the world. It's always affected me, but I've been ok in taking the knowledge that I now have by seeing it, and put passion into praying for those situations. But this is one of the very few times that I've really grown to love someone that is in this situation. It's a big thing to swallow. It's different. I haven't known what to do with it.

Sure I can pray. Sure I can be grateful for what I have. But how do I live, and what do I do, with knowing someone I've grown to love, is suffering so. How can I be ok with that?

The more I've tried to process and "chew" on that, the more God speaks to me about the injustices in the world. That sometimes I just can't DO anything, other than pray and speak with passion about it to whomever will listen. And to remember.

There is good news. The organization I went with does a huge work with these children, but there are too many children. The world is hugnry. No, not OUR world...but the rest of it. This organization can't do it all. They are a beacon of light to most of the children we see while hosting camp. But there are sooo many more. Check out this quote:

"To satisfy all the world’s sanitation and food requirements would cost only $13 billion, hardly as much as the people of the United States and the European Union spend each year on perfume." — Ignacio Ramonet, The Politics of Hunger, Le Monde Diplomatique

So is God calling me to "do" something...I don't know. I have a deep, sinking feeling He just might be...but He hasn't let me in on what that is.

Until then...

I pray.

"Caring for the poor is lending to the Lord, and you will be well repaid." Proverbs 19:17

"If you are generous with the hungry and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out, Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness, your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight. I will always show you where to go. I'll give you a full life in the emptiest of places — firm muscles, strong bones. You'll be like a well-watered garden, a gurgling spring that never runs dry. You'll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew, rebuild the foundations from out of your past. You'll be known as those who can fix anything, restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate, make the community livable again." Isaiah 58:10-11

7.16.2008

Hit Us When We Are Down....

Yes, the enemy does attack us at our weakest points, but we can't just think of satan as this sneaky serpent who nibbles just at our exposed weak parts. Sometimes he attacks us at our strongest points. We have to also see him as someone who can hammer hard at our very strengths.

Think about how he caused Peter to fall - by striking him where he thought he was strong - his ability to command leadership.
Sampson - his strength was his weakness...and satan knew it.
Job - satan trapped him in his integrity - his strongest spiritual asset.

Have you ever felt the same thing? That in a place where you feel strong is where satan tripped you up? Where you felt secure, he stripped naked? Like Job, have you ever thought too highly of your strength and then it became your pride? and then when pride entered, the enemy helped develop a blind spot?

Even with Jesus, satan tried to throw him off by attacking his sonship. "If You are the Son of God, command that these stones..." (Matthew 4:3). Of course satan knew Jesus was God's son; and acting on that knowledge, he tried to shrewdly twist Jesus' strongest element into something devious.

So keep your eye out on your strengths, the devil is not always creeping around hidden, sometimes he will hit you exactly where you think you are strong by creating a blind spot through your/our pride in our strengths. That simply means...I must be careful to let my strengths simply be my strengths, but never my boasts.

What are your strengths? watch out!

7.06.2008

Zambia - Camp Life 2008 Video

ok...this isn't the best edit, but I wanted to go ahead and get something up from our trip. Hope you enjoy!

the thing about this video - if you watch it towards the end as we are giving the gifts away, you see how happy they are just to receive a jacket. For you to understand the significance of this, you have to know that the majority of these children only have one meal a day, if that. That meal consists of a meal mixture that has no taste, it's just something that fills their stomach to survive. Most of them sleep on the floor in the sitting room of their homes. They never get gifts, they don't know when their birthdays are, many of them are abused and nearly all of them have lost 1 if not both parents to AIDS. We didn't just give them the gift, we tied this giveaway in with the whole week where we'd been teaching the the 23rd Psalm, the Lord is my Shepherd. We told these children who have nothing, that God is everything they need and he will provide for them - he would prepare a table for them.

6.30.2008

Your Troubler

I'm still reading, "Daily with the King," so you might be on this journey with me awhile if you're reading my blog. Today I am reading about relationships. It says in the book, Next to the problem of self, the greatest problem I will have as a disciple is my relationship to others. When that relationship is pure, there is no greater joy; when sour, no greater heartache. But what do I do when a friend becomes a "holy irritant?"

I read the verse in Ephesians 4:2 that mentions "Forebearing one another in love." To forbear means I will accept others the way they are without rejection.

We tend to pick friends who are most like us, or sometimes we just find ourselves with friends, and we try to change them to become more like us when they rub us wrong. But we all need a person that we allow to be our "troubler." Someone who can tell us like it is, regardless. If you can find this person and build up the level of trust and know that they love you no matter what, then this person will do wonders for your heart. BUT, you have to grant this person the right to exist in your life and say their piece, so you can learn from them and even be molded by them.

The book says, God deals with me in strange ways, none stranger than my troubler. He may be God's velvet glove to smooth away the crustiness of my heart.

I know I have a few select friends that I am their "troubler," mainly because I speak truth and I speak it pretty boldly. These friends have allowed me in their life and have come to realize that whatever I speak, I do it out of love for them. I love them too much to NOT say the difficult things. I love them too much to lie to them. These relationships with these people are sooo rare, and I know they are for a lifetime.

I also have a troubler. She is one of the most encouraging people in my life, I love her dearly and she will always, always, always be in my life. But she doesn't back down in asking me the difficult questions when she needs to. I love that about her. Sometimes she will ask me a difficult question because she thinks she sees something and she might be wrong, and at those times I could get ticked at her, but I don't...because I know her...I know she is asking me those questions out of sheer love for me. So I can respect that. Other times she has seen something, and she was correct, but instead of dismissing her or acting out in anger towards her, I respect her and she makes me think about it in a different way. I have learned so much from this person, she has made me a better person.

So if you don't have that "troubler" in your life....or you have it, but you aren't embracing it and trusting that the difficult questions are out of love....then change it. You need these people in your life. They make you better.

6.26.2008

Simplicity

Keep looking for more info on the Africa trip. I am processing right now and will have some updates on that soon. But it is so great to be back. I have missed worship here at Community of Faith. I am the program director for our services, and I've really missed it. I hated that we came back midday on a Sunday, so I have to wait all week for a weekend service. So I'm pretty excited that it's almost here.

I was reading today in my book, "Daily with the King." The title of this chapter is 'Unadorned Worship.' It says, God is the most complex being in the universe; yet when it comes to His relationship to people, He wants utter simplicity. The altar the Israelites were to build for God was to be of unhewn stones, with no tool or cutting instrument used upon it (Expdus 20:25).

The message is clear. God knows man's tendency to adorn, to artify, to decorate a thing until man's talent overshadows the instrument itself.

I am thankful that COF doesn't try to "flower" things up in our services. It's neat to try to be excellent, but simple; so that we don't mess up God's message that He wants to get through.

There's this fine balance we must all find. We want all the nice technology (which I think we have). We want to be creative (which I think we are)....but we have to make sure we don't do those things to show OUR talent off. And yes, we have plenty of talent at Community of Faith, I am astounded by it at times. All the way from our pastor's to our worship leaders, our band, our tech people, our greeters and parking lot people...they are all amazing. But we have to make sure that its not our talent that shows, but our relationship. It's about our motive: we have to make sure that we want people to want the relationship we have with God, not the talent we have. Hopefully, when people see our relationship with God, and how simple it is to have it, then hopefully they will want the same.

6.18.2008

Prisca's Story

Today has been another hard day. I want to share another child’s story with you so you can pray for her. Her name is Prisca:



She is 10 years old. Prisca lives with her aunt because her father committed suicide last year and her mother just died on Saturday. She has one baby sister who has also moved with her to her aunt’s home.

They both sleep on the floor in the sitting room. They do not get breakfast or any dinner. Sometimes they will get lunch. She says she is very hungry.

I also asked her if she attended church and she said she attended Zion Church and my Zambian partner told me that this church is part of a cult.

She cried a lot today as we talked and prayed with her. I sobbed thinking how this little one just lost her mother a couple of days ago and her father just last year from suicide. Now she is hungry, sleeping on the floor and not sure if she is going to be taken care of.

Please pray for Prisca. I did see her smiling a little towards the end of the day today.

Pray also for me. This is a very emotional thing we are doing. God has entrusted us these children for one week to try to make a difference in their lives. I don’t just want to give them one, good, happy week. But I want to give them something that will change them on the inside. We feel sooo helpless because we can’t do much to change their circumstances, but we do have the power to help change what happens to them on the inside. We are sharing Jesus with them through our own stories…pray that she will receive and understand the message of Christ this week.

I am still pretty sick. I have run fever all day and feel like I have the flu, but I think it’s just a really bad sinus infection from all the wind and dust here. Pray I get better before the plane ride home. I am on antibiotics now.

Thank you for sharing in these children’s lives with me!

6.17.2008

Prosperity

Yesterday we started a new week of Camp Life with new children. I got another group of girls ages 9-15 this week. Here they are.





These children are very different from last week. They are soooo sad, there is nothing I do can get a smile from them. I can tell just by looking at them that their little lives are difficult.

I want to share with you Mulelengi’s story.



She is a little girl about 12 years old. She lives with her aunt and uncle who have 5 boys because her aunt took her from her mother and father and brothers and sisters because she did not have a girl. She wanted a girl to clean the house and mind the house for her. Mulelengi was taken away from her mother in the year 2000 and has not seen her since. She misses her family very much. She shared with us that she wanted to go to church every week, that her aunt and uncle go and take their children, but leave her at home because they tell her to watch the house. She never gets to go to church.

Mulelengi never has breakfast, nor dinner. She says that sometimes she has Sheema for lunch. Sheema is just a corn meal mixture that has no taste. Most of the time she says she is very, very hungry. She says that she loves camp life and that this is more food than she has ever had.

Mulelengi sleeps alone at night in the sitting room, on the floor.

During our time together she began to cry. In Zambia it is not typical for a child to show their emotions this way. She hung her head low and sobbed. I told her to look at me. She would look up and then look away. She wouldn’t make eye connection with me over 2 seconds. I kept trying because I wanted her to see the love in my eyes. Finally I got her to make eye contact and I told her that it was ok to cry, and that what was happening to her was a terrible thing, but through all of this that God is with her.

On Monday, we wrote each girls name down on a roster sheet and I took down Mulelengi’s name and noticed that it was a different type of name. In Africa all names have meaning, the people here are very specific in what they name their children. There are several Zambian people here with the name, Blessing, Righteous, Innocent, etc.

I asked my Zambian partner if she knew what Mulelengi meant, she said no, but that she would find out. This morning she came and told me that she found out that her name meant, “that she would never own or have anything.”

So during our time together I asked Mulelengi if she knew what her name meant, and she knew exactly what it meant. So then I told her that I would be changing her name. I asked her to give me a little bit of time and then I would have a new name for her.

Then my Zambian partner told me that she kept noticing that she has scars all over her face, her arms, her legs and even on her chest. She told me that this was a covenant. She called them tattoo’s. She said that they take knives and put herbs on them and then cut her all over, as they give a curse over her. My Zambian partner mentioned that it was probably to declare that she would never have anything (her name).

I took Mulelengi in my arms and held her as she sobbed and I prayed over her for a very long time. After I prayed for her I told her that I was changing her name to Prosperity. And I explained what her new name meant.

And I finally saw a small, little smile from Prosperity.

Pray with me for her as this week goes along, that she would really grasp, “The Lord is my Shepherd,” this week (our camp theme). That she can know Him in a very personal way. That He can be the light in this child’s very dark world.

Thank you for reading my stories. Also if you have a chance, pray for me. I have a really bad sinus infection (probably from the dust) and just started an antibiotic today, but feeling kind of bad. I really need to feel better, not only for the kids, but I don’t want a head cold on the airplane for 18 hours coming home.

6.14.2008

Our Orphanage in Zambia

As most of you know, Community Of Faith is building an orphanage with Family Legacy. Below is a couple of pictures of our actual orphanage:




Here is what a completed one looks like:

6.13.2008

June 13, 2008 - Lusaka, Zambia (Africa)

Yesterday, each child received a brand new pair of shoes, a new camp life tshirt and a bandanna with their school color. We had to get there early to get the shoes lined up. If you can imagine trying to fit 1500 kids in tennis shoes and tshirts in a matter of 3 hours….it was a huge undertaking. The kids were soooo excited! Most of them have never even received a gift before.





We spent a few hours after that doing a group session and a small group. Then after lunch we boarded the buses with our children and went back to their schools with them. They were even more excited to take us with them to their communities. Once we got to their communities we walked around and spoke with and met people. It was really nice. This little girl followed me around everywhere.



After that we came home and got ready for bed again because today was to be a very long day.

We got up early this morning to get to camp early before the kids because today we were assembling packages for each of our children. Each child was to receive a pencil, 3 bookmarks and a postcard, a cup, 2 book bags and a warm camp life fleece jacket. Greer, the camp director said that this kind of present to the kids is life changing for them. This will probably be the biggest gift they will get in their entire life. Also most kids are very cold right now because they don’t have good jackets, so this will be huge for them.

All week we have been singing a song, “The Lord is my Shepherd, He gives me everything I need….” I could try to explain this moment today, but words cannot do it…you will have to see for yourself. When I get home I’ll post the video. The kids were so excited when Greer just held up that they’d be getting a pencil today. Then he went down the line of all the giveaways one at a time. Once he got to the fleece jackets the kids screamed soooo loud and were jumping up and down, several crying. All the little ones ran up and overtook the stage jumping up and down and doing cartwheels and then they attacked Greer with hugs. It was the cutest thing I’ve ever seen.

As soon as we got them calmed down, we sang the “The Lord is My Shepherd" Song again. They lyrics are “The Lord is my Shepherd, He gives me everything I need.” I looked over at a girl singing in the line next to me and she had big tears rolling down her cheeks. I looked at her face as she sang and held her hands up, I could tell that she was really singing with all her heart that The Lord was her Shepherd and that he gives Her everything she needs. It was a sweet moment!

The video will come once I get home and can edit it! I can’t wait for you to see it! Below are my girls in their new shirts with their new tennis shoes.



I had to say goodbye to these precious girl today...probably forever, but they will always be in my heart! Next week is a new week of camp with new campers! So I'm excited!