Monday, October 9, 2017

A Book Review...

Yes, it has been a very long time since I have posted and even today, this post is a bit different than usual.  I received a free galley book, Isaiah's Daughter by Mesu Andrews, to review for a website.  
So, here it goes....

Mesu Andrews is the queen of Biblical Christian Fiction.  I have loved all her other books very much.  In my opinion, this book did not rate as highly as all her other literary offerings.  Ishma has been brought to live with the prophet, Isaiah.  The book chronicles her childhood and growing up years.  During the majority of the book, Ishma and Hezikiah (the crown prince of Judah) were children, slowly growing older as the book continued.  Mesu did a fabulous job of creating a fictional story around the true Biblical passages.  When they finally were old enough to marry, I just thought that the story skipped large passages of time with a weak romance between the two of them.  The premise of the story was intriguing.  I just think that the passage of historical time needed was just too much for this story.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

A Hidden Cost of Missions

There was nothing easy about leaving our family and friends as we left the States to follow the call with our three children to international missions.  In some ways, it was a tiny relief to finally make that break and get on with the next chapter of our lives.  Looking back, I realize that I was a bit naive in thinking that the goodbyes were over until we came back to the States and had to leave again.

In the 7+ years that we have been in Zambia, we have had 27 more goodbyes to say to other missionaries as they have left Zambia for various reasons.  Some came and went while we were here, some we didn't even the opportunity to say goodbye to as we were not in Zambia when they left, some were here before we ever arrived and left while we were here.  Many different scenarios yet all were difficult - some more than others.  I was recently at a meeting when one missionary lady stood up to show a beautiful picture of about 8 ladies.  She was heartbroken.  These were ladies on her team and now, she was the only one left on the field.  I feel her pain.

I am an introvert.  I have learned that about myself.  So, honestly, I do not make friends in a flash.  Right or wrong (really, it's probably wrong but I am just trying to be transparent here), I make a distinction between an acquaintance and a friend.  I have also learned that I look for ladies with whom I can go deep, quickly.  When that happens, I'm all in yet the heart ache is when, for whatever reason, many of those friends leave the field.  More goodbyes, more heart ache, more lost friends.  It's like the good byes never stop.  Nothing ever stays the same in this world of missions.  As missionaries, we share a unique lifestyle - with it's joys, sorrows and frustrations - and so many times, that quickly and steadfastly bonds us together.  We share a life together that our blood relatives and US friends will possibly never completely understand.

This is a cost that I did not know to count.  How your heart swells with a new friend and plunges when another goodbye happens.  It is so wearisome on my heart as people seem to be constantly coming in and out of our lives.  They take little pieces of my heart with them.  Sometimes, I wonder how much more of my heart do I have to give to others but then the Lord reminds me that he is "near the brokenhearted; He saves those crushed in spirit" Psalm 34:18.

Now, please don't become worried about me.  I honestly am fine right now.  My heart is right with the Lord and I am not currently struggling over much with this.  I really just wanted you to know that there are so many of us who wrestle with this reality.  Had you thought of this before when you pray for missionaries?  If not, please consider adding a new dimension to your prayers for us that the Lord will be our constant friend.  He is that and so much more.  James 4:8 says "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you."

There is a cost in the call to missions.  But even now, as I am discovering some new costs that I didn't previously understand, I can unequivocally say that the cost is worth it!  
Jesus is worth it!

"For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory." 2 Corinthians 4:7

This is what all of our lives are to be about - no matter what...

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The Keys to the Master's Orders

I have just returned from a week in Kenya at a Prayer Forum for Sub Sahara African Peoples.  It was a compelling time spent there with several other missionaries as we humbled ourselves, confessed the secret sins in our lives, learned to truly hear the Word of God and to have faith in the Lord (not ourselves).  We also learned 'how' to pray with Praise, Confession and Intercession.

Prayer is not a formula.  It is a relationship, an exceptionally powerful relationship - not through our own human power but through the power of a relationship with the Almighty God, the King of Kings, the Savior of the World.

In missions, more missionaries is not the answer to the vast lostness of the world.  You can't just work harder or do more, even though so many may, at times, tumble into this trap.   Oswald Chambers says that "the key to the missionary's difficult task is in the hand of God, and that key is prayer, not work."  He goes on to say that "the key to the missionary's difficult task is not the key of common sense, nor is the key of medicine, civilization, education or even evangelism.  The key is in following the Master's orders - the key is prayer."
Prayer is the battle.  The backbone of missions is prayer.

Matthew 9:38 says that we are to pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His Harvest.  This is what the Lord is asking you to do.  
Humble yourself.  
Is there a broken relationship in your life that has unintentionally, maybe even unknowingly come between you and the Lord?  Confess this to the Lord then go and confess this to that person with whom you have a broken fellowship.  
Pray and seek the Lord.  
He has a work for you to do and that work is prayer.

Here are some ways that you can pray:
Pray that our whole family will faithfully share Christ at every opportunity.
He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation." Mark 16:15

Pray for Zambia to humble themselves and pray and seek the Lord's face and turn from their evil ways so their sins will be forgiven. 1 Chronicles 7:14

Pray that our dependence will only be on the Lord.
"Trust in the Lord will all your heart and do not rely on your own understanding."  Proverbs 3:5

Pray for our family to stand firm in everything.
"For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory." 2 Corinthians 4:17

Will you pray?

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

This is Missions...

I recently read a blog post on A Life Overseas.  I really admire this blog and the various articles/blog posts that I have read.  This blog post spoke about what missions was in an Asian setting.  I have been thinking a bit about what missions is like to me, here in Zambia....


This is missions.....

It's waking up in the middle of the night when the electricity is out and trying to kill a buzzing mosquito in your net.

It is never wanting to throw away any container that could possibly be useful in the future.

It is loosing a child's shoe in the pit toilet because you can't manage to get his clothes off of him in the tiny stinky space and hold him semi over to dirt hole so that he can do his business.

It is five adults and seven kids all having the time of their lives seeing who can kill the most mosquitos in one room.

It is watching the stories of the Bible come alive (on a felt board) in the eyes of beautiful ebony children.

It is eating Ben & Jerry's ice cream for supper while in the States, just because you can.

It is realizing the key to a happy life might just be a good shower and a comfortable bed.

It is praying fervently over your sick child because there is not adequate medical care.

It is driving on the left side of the road in a new city with people literally all over the road, shifting a stick shift and talking on the phone while trying to convince a loved one in America that you are a bit busy at the time to talk to them.

It is your children learning to love the nations while on a walk with Dad.

It is having your 8 year old son spontaneously share the gospel with a man at the market and the man coming to know Christ.

It is being stopped crossways in the middle of a road and being almost sure that the cars coming at you full speed with either stop or swerve around you.

It is being in almost total wilderness/bush and knowing without a shadow of a doubt that God knows exactly where you are, even if we were not so sure at the moment.

It is saying goodbye to family and friends way too many times to count and having your heart crack a little every.single.time.

It is heart-rending when after you share the Gospel with someone and their only response is that it was a good story.

It is having to explain the most basics of American culture and life to your children when we are back in the US.

It is hearing a young new believer say that his life has changed since he has met us (and Jesus Christ).

It is walking through a small town's market and having all the ladies who are selling vegetables spontaneously and collectively cheer when they see your whole family.

It is realizing your son has arrived in the grocery store with no shoes on (more than once) and being ok with it.

It is seeing a young pregnant demon possessed woman writhing on the floor of the Baptist church.

It is a tiny, dirty, beautiful ebony hand slipping into yours.

It is doling out American Peanut Butter M & M's one at a time (and not every time they ask) to your own children.

It is never again fitting in anywhere - in the USA, nor in Zambia.

It is pure joy to be given the daily opportunity to die to self and share Jesus with Zambians.

It is knowing that it is all absolutely worth it and you would do it all over again if He asked you to.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Our Stateside in Pictures...

There are LOTS of pictures in this post as I try to show you in pictures our most recent time in the States.  I very much apologize for my lack of postings and I am going to endeavor to keep our blog more up to date!

In October, right before we left Zambia, Jeff and Steven hosted a special lunch for the guys that have been involved in their street vendors ministry.

They gifted us with a painting of our family.

 Just a few days after we arrived in Texas, we celebrated Zoe's 11th birthday on November 11th.

 A few days later, we got together with the family to celebrate again.

 ALL of Jeff's family were together for Thanksgiving.

The kids and I loved Happy Hour at Sonic!

 We were all astonished at the bounty of readily available snacks.

 Christmas - a few days early in Texas.

Driving 14 hours to Kentucky...

Christmas day in Kentucky.

 After Christmas, we travelled to South Carolina for a few days to visit family
and found Krispy Kreme!

After South Carolina, we travelled through New Orleans on our way back to Texas.
Here we are enjoying beignets at Cafe DuMonde.

 Levi had accepted Christ in Zambia but we were not able to baptize them as most churches just have Baptism a few times a year.  So, we waited until January so some of Jeff's family could attend.

 Just a picture of the kids as we shared about Zambia in churches in Texas.
We spoke 37 times in 25 weeks!

In February, we were able to be in our church's new directory.
Here is a shot of us after the official pictures had been taken.

 A friend let us come out to the barn and she gave the kids impromptu riding lessons.

 February also saw us at Great Wolf Lodge to have a short mini vacation.

 Jeff ran his third marathon at the end of February.  He came in first in his age group!

In March, we were able to spend too short of a time with great friends of ours.
This family is so dear to us!

 At the end of March, we celebrated the three April birthdays - Levi, Kirby and Steven - all on the same day!

 At the first of April, we travelled to San Antonio to meet our volunteer team that will arrive in July.  Jeff also did some training for them to prepare them for evangelizing in Zambia.

 The day of Levi's actual birthday - April 5.  We had gifts then went to Chuck E. Cheese for lunch.

Spending the last days with the family.  Cousins Unite!

 Just three days before we left Texas.  Frozen yogurt with family.

 I got a whole cake to eat right before we left!  Yum!

 The last day arrived - traveling to Houston - on the way back to Zambia.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Coming Home

As we swiftly approach the time for us to board 2 planes that will take us back to Texas (in 10 days to be exact), I have been asked if I was excited about going home to America.  
Quite frankly, that is a complex and multifaceted question.  

Where is a missionary's home?  Truthfully, a missionary's home is Heaven.  We live a life where we never really fit in.  We have been radically changed by living overseas so that living in America, even for a short time, is like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole but also, our blatant American-ness, is never fully disguised here in Zambia. 

Are we looking forward to 5 months in America?  I speak for myself, when I cautiously, say "I think so."  Why am I cautious?  Well, for one, life in America - for all of us - is just a pause button on our real life here in Zambia; a very busy pause button at that.  Yes, I am totally looking forward to time with our families, every convenience imaginable, toilets that flush all the time, conveyor belts at the grocery store, electricity full time, shopping, and worship with my church family but really, it is very easy for me to get overwhelmed by the everything-ness of America.  Also, as missionaries, we have learned to go deep into relationships very quickly and sustain those relationships at all costs.  When we return back to the States, it is like we are trying to re-insert ourselves back into the lives of the people that we left almost 7 years ago and it doesn't always work they way we hope.   

We are not spiritual giants.  We are just people who live in obedience to the Lord at all costs but to tell you the truth, we desperately need encouragement, refreshment, and authentic relationships, too.  We will spend a lot of our time while in the States speaking to Southern Baptist churches about what the Lord is doing here in Zambia but we also need people to come along side of us to prop us up and choose to live life with us while we in America.

So, are we coming home?  No, but let us all rejoice that none of us are home wherever we are on this planet called Earth.  However, we are all looking forward to that celestial home of Heaven.  
Let's live each day to glorify the Lord and share His gospel at every opportunity.
We can do this together...

Friday, August 21, 2015

Cambio, Variazione, Umschalten, Changez = CHANGE...

Nothing ever stays the same.

I think that I speak for many missionaries in saying that this is one of the most difficult parts of being a 'sent out one' - change.  It seems like we live with almost constant change.  One of the most heartbreaking aspects of missionary life for me is the ebb and flow of friends.  It takes a very special relationship for me to define as a friendship.  I have had some friendships to burn starlight bright while they were with me (or near by, in the same country) then fizzle when they left Zambia.  Other friends are friends for life but life has taken us in two separate directions so that our communication has dwindled to be distressingly infrequent.  Nothing ever stays the same.

It is also hard to watch friends and families struggle with changing relationships.  My daughter's best friend just left today to go to boarding high school and the mother of the daughter who has gone to boarding school will come home to an early empty nest.  This hurts my heart for both of them.  This pain of separation, this changing of life is hard.  Nothing ever stays the same.

Jesus says in John 16:33, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world."  

Nothing ever stays the same but in these lives full of trouble and change, there is peace.  Please pray peace over us all as we cope with changes in relationships, changes in families - that we will have peace and take heart because Jesus has really overcome the world.  Pray that our hearts will not be hardened but they will be open and willing to embrace others for the sake of the Gospel.  
Let it be so, Sweet Jesus.

More birthdays...

I had a great birthday on August 18th.  My wonderful hubby made me a Caramel Toffee Crunch Cheesecake, bought me some beautiful flowers and made me homemade french fries with cheese and bacon for supper.  It was a wonderful day with mother/daughter pedicures, lunch with friends and supper with family.
I am so grateful for my Lord, my life and my family!

 Playing with the camera - the girls and me...

Happy birthday to me - until next year.....

Lights Out!

Zambia is in the middle of an energy crisis, nation wide water rationing, increasingly frequent petrol (gasoline) shortages and an unavailability to find gas (propane).   Economists are saying that by November there could be a total blackout.  One can only guess to what could be intended by ‘blackout’. 

What this means for us is that we are having recurrent power outages for 7-10 hours a day, most days of the week; the city water is often turned off which means very low water pressure with an inability to take showers at times plus a struggle in attaining more gas for our gas stovetop.

We are usually able to cook food when the power is out but most of our other missionaries only have electric stoves and ovens.  We are tremendously grateful that we have a gas stovetop - although, alarmingly, we have not been able to find more gas for our stove top (believe me, we have searched Lusaka) and we will soon join the ranks of those with no cooking ability when the power is out (which is becoming more and more frequent).  Some missionaries even loose water completely when the power goes out, not just low water pressure like in our home.

So, we have had to become a bit more creative in cooking.  We bought a small two burner stove top to use for light cooking when the power is ON so we will save our gas for when the power is OFF.  Every Friday night (for over 6 years) is Family Night when I make homemade pizza and we watch a movie or play games together.  Sometimes, that is difficult when the power is out so Jeff has ingeniously figured out how to make pizza on the stove and we have to watch our movies on the computer or play games by candlelight.

Here are a few pictures from our last stove top pizza night...

I have explained all this, not for you to have any extra concern for our family but to allow you to see that Zambia is in a bit of turmoil right now.  I ask you to pray for the country leaders and government of Zambia.  Please pray that they will act with integrity and wisdom in all ways to steer the country through these challenging times.  Please pray that our family (and other missionary families) will choose joy in the midst of frequent power outages and all that comes along with Zambia's energy crisis.

A little late on the birthday post...

We celebrated Hadassah's 14th birthday on July 28, 2015.  
Here are a few shots from her early morning gift opening.

She had also been wanting to cut her hair and soon after her birthday she went from the above picture to the below.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Snapshots of Castle Hills First Baptist Church, San Antonio Volunteer Team 2015

This is the second year that we have hosted a team from San Antonio, Texas - Castle Hills First Baptist Church.  They did awesome last year and did so again this year.  Monday thru Friday, we did door to door evangelism in the morning and children's ministry each afternoon.  Saturday they showed the Jesus Film in an area where a national pastor is trying to revive a dying church.  Those words seem easy to say but we all worked super hard this week - sharing the gospel and wrangling several hundred children each afternoon....

 Hadassah with some new friends...

Children, working hard...

Zoe and some new friends...

Levi was tired...

Jeff, sharing Christ with a group of guys...

Zoe loves to hold the babies.

The coloring sheets and crayons were a huge hit!

Even Levi got to color a bit.  Don't let this picture fool you, the other side of the church was full.  This side was just the overflow...

Zoe, helping to pass out crayons.

This man came to know Christ and returned the next day for Jeff to disciple him.

The mothers and grandmothers also loved to color!

In the middle of the compound.  Jeff is wrapped in gold material to signify God and Levi is just sitting down (yes, in the dirt) to watch...

Castle Hills FBC Volunteer Team and The Lowe Family