Sunday, April 23, 2017

I Will Give You Rest

Sometimes it's easy to see the burden that others carry...more often the burdens are invisible. 
My prayer for the ZK people is that they will come to Him, and lay their burdens at his feet. I pray that they will learn from Him, and that they will find rest for their souls.

What's it like in Pine Hill?

        Four years ago, on May 1st, we moved to the village of Pine Hill. You won't find "Pine Hill" on a map--that's not the real name of the community we live in. But, for security, we don't use the real name in any publication.
 It's hard to define "Pine Hill." Recently we had a discussion as to whether it's a community, hamlet, a village, a town, a city...

The walls in this house are a
combination of tin roofing, boards,
and small branches.

The term ‘village’ refers to a small area with small population which follows agriculture not only as an occupation but also as a way of life.

We also realize that the population, which numbers around 6,000, can be misleading. It sounds like a town based on those numbers. But, we have limited gas station or post office; water and electricity are unreliable; local stores have a decent but limited selection of goods. We have roads that have been paved, but are in desperate need of repairs.

A traditional ZK shelf...
Instead of a support underneath,
or nailing it to a wall,
a shelf is hung from a post
using wire or rope.

Many houses are made of cinder block. Others are made from boards. Tin roofs are most common. The government has assisted in making sure that houses have concrete floors.

Baby chicks and drying coffee beans!
This lady was out looking for water.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Great Joy!

For the last year or so Levi has been telling us that he wants to be baptized, but when we would sit down to talk to him about what it means, we never felt he really understood enough. But we kept talking about it. A lot. (It tends to be a topic that we talk about at our house often.)

Even last week, while studying our Bible lesson during homeschool, Levi brought up the topic again. Clay happened to be home, so I sent Levi to talk to him. Again, we didn’t feel he quite grasped the significance of how our sin separates us from God.

Sunday night, Levi got in trouble for his misbehavior. Specifically, we told him that his actions were a direct result of his anger towards his brother, and that was sin.

We didn’t think much more of the incident. It was kind of a typical evening…until Levi approached me, sobbing, and he told me, “I don’t deserve to go to heaven!” It took me a minute to understand what he was talking about. Levi said, “Because of what I did…I don’t deserve to go to heaven!”

“I agree with you,” I told him. “You don’t deserve to go to heaven because you are a sinner. But you know what? I don’t deserve to go to heaven either, because I’m a sinner.”

Levi looked at me a little surprised, but kept sobbing uncontrollably.

I reminded him of the lesson from our Bible study group from the week before. “No one is righteous. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. But…while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. He gave His one and only son, who died on the cross, and he promises that if you believe in Him, you can have eternal life. If you confess your sins, He is faithful and just to forgive you and cleanse you from all unrighteousness!”

“I want to be saved,” Levi muttered through his tears.

“Do you want to ask Jesus to forgive you?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said.

And so, I was given the blessing of listening to my son pray and ask Jesus to forgive him of his sins. He repeated the ABCs of Salvation that is taught in the VBS curriculum…admit that you’re a sinner, believe that Christ died for you, and confess that Jesus is Lord.

All of this was repeated through tears, and occasionally he was overcome with sobs. But after praying, he felt a peace that passes all understanding.

For me, it was heartbreaking to listen to him sob as he realized the gravity of his sins. But, it was joy to listen to him confess Jesus as Lord. And it was a reminder to me…when was the last time that I sobbed over my own sin? When was I heartbroken over the thought that my sin separates me from Jesus?

“For godly grief produces a repentance that leads
to salvation without regret,
whereas worldly grief produces death.”
2 Corinthians 7:10

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Random thoughts and pictures

This is the view that we often see when we travel
out of our village. We have to cross the mountains!

You think your housework is tiring?
These women cook over a wood of course, they have to have wood.
Your commute to work gets icy?
Imagine this in the rain!
And remember, it rains an
average of 12 ft per year.
A few kids...
keeping their distance!
This was our first trip into this remote
village. We hope to return soon!

A mom and her kids, hiking back up
to their house. This is a path that we
take to visit our friend, Felicity.
Since my knee surgery last year, I
have to be careful when I visit.

See how the clouds settle down over the village?

This is a local construction site.
This ramp is how they get the
materials to the roof.

Open Their Eyes

Through the eyes of Levi...

We used to visit this house on occasion, and there were always eyes peeking at us through the slats. And you know what, my kids enjoy peeping through those slats too!
Smiling eyes of Ryan


       Now we are meeting in this home weekly, sharing the Good News, building relationships...

                ...and making memories that my kids will never forget.

Beautiful eyes of Ellie

My prayer for my children...
         and for the ZK people
...that God will open their eyes.

Bashful Matthew

" open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light
 and from the dominion of Satan to God,
 that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance 
among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me."
Acts 26:18

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Showers of Blessings

Ellie, imitating the flamingos.
Have you ever had one of those days where you stand in awe of God?

Today Clay and I celebrate 15 years of marriage. That in itself is a blessing. We had decided to spend two nights in the city of Villahermosa, Tabasco. The first day, we swam in the pool at the hotel. Clay got to eat KFC, and in the evening we went to the cinema to see the new Star Wars movie.

The second day included a trip to the zoo where we saw animals from all over the world. One of our favorite parts of the zoo is the aviary. There are pink flamingos, toucans, roseate spoonbills, and so many other birds! One of the toucans was especially social and let us get really close for pictures. And of the flamingos had some peculiar traits which made us laugh!

Posing with the toucan!
                                                          In the evening, we had planned to eat at Maiña, a Brazilian steakhouse. We had been looking forward to this special treat for some time, and we had received a gift from a friend in the States, with a note encouraging us to do something special. (It's one of the more expensive restaurants because it's an all you can eat buffet where they bring the best meats right to your table!)

Before we headed up to salad bar to fill our plates, we joined hands and prayed, as is our custom. We thanked God for the day, and asked a blessing on our meal and on the restaurant employees. We enjoyed an amazing meal. And the service was great. What a great blessing for our 15th anniversary!

But the amazing part was still to come.

We asked our waiter for the bill, but he said it was paid in full. We were confused...maybe we didn't understand his tabasqueño Spanish accent? We asked him what he meant and he explained that the owner of the restaurant overheard us praying before our meal, and that our bill was paid.

The owner and our waiter are both believers. Our waiter hugged us and told us it was his pleasure to serve us. He thanked us.

All because we took a moment to bow and pray. We are humbled...and honored.

And we still have that gift to use for another the blessing lives on!

Guaraná soda! Yum!
Guaraná soda...

Ryan, being served more meat!
A plate full of seafood!

Saturday, November 26, 2016

His Words Shall Not Return Empty

"For as the rain and snow come down from heaven
 and do not return there but water the earth,
 making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, 
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty, 
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, 
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it."
Isaiah 55:10-11

     When we first moved to Pine Hill 4.5 years ago, we met a young man named Nathan. We spent time with him occasionally, including a couple trips to a cave for some spelunking. And Clay always shared a Bible story. Things seemed to be good. He was quiet, but friendly.

     Then one day, about 2 years ago, Clay was visiting him in his home. As he started to share a Bible story, Nathan got upset. He said, "When you talk to me about God and the Bible, it makes me nauseous!" He was rude and angry with Clay.

     Clay was a bit shocked, but he only responded, "May your words fall on you." He figuratively shook the dust from his feet, and left.

     About 6 weeks ago, Nathan showed up at our house around 9pm to visit Clay. We were a little shocked and even suspicious of his intentions, but polite. This happened about 3 more times, random visits from Nathan, until one evening he told Clay, "I feel that I offended you 2 years ago. I want to apologize."  Things evidently hadn't gone well for him since that conversation, and he attributed it to the words spoken by Clay, a man of God.  

     We were shocked by the apology because it's really not cultural for a person to apologize for their actions.  Nathan kept showing up at our door. He even came during the heavy rains when most people would stay bundled up near the fire. Clay wasn't home that afternoon, but Nathan came back again that evening. It was as if he had a burning desire to hear the Word.

     As Clay shared his testimony that evening, he explained that as a youth he had prayed, confessing that he was a sinner and asking God for forgiveness. Nathan responded, "Lets do it! I want to pray like that too!"  And so he did.

     Again that night we were shocked and amazed. It had taken four years for that seed to sprout, but God's Word did not return empty. That weekend, we were surrounded by physical darkness--heavy rain and power outages. Times like these it's easy to feel depressed or sad or overwhelmed by the darkness. But God's Son was shining in that darkness.

     Since then, Clay has met with Nathan to disciple him and he has joined us in our home for worship. Pray for Nathan to grow in knowledge and faith! His journey is just beginning, and we stand amazed!