Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Look to the Future: Praying for the work to be done

Jimmy and his team are home; Africa 2014 is over. But that doesn’t mean the work is finished.

Despite the delays in luggage and the resulting shortage of tools, they installed the solar panel system in the home of a doctor and his family. One thing North Africa has in abundance in sunshine; a solar panel electrical system makes a huge difference for those serving in this region! We received this note yesterday from Doc, “Every day we think of you guys and cherish our fridge and freezer and power…I have not turned on the generator since you left!! Amen!!! Now the battery to the generator is dead…need to charge it. It’s a great problem to have. The system is running beautifully!”

You may recall that Jimmy flew to visit missionaries serving in a different location after they finished installing the solar panels. Grow Barefoot worked with this family two years ago to provide them with solar power as well. He flew in to find the village surrounded by floodwaters; they are a community entering a time of disease, food shortages, and inaccessible medical care. I don’t have any miraculous updates for you on this issue but we continue to trust the One who is the worker of miracles. Please join us in praying for this village as they recover from this debilitating natural disaster. Their national government told them they would not provide any assistance. Floods may have cut off all roads to the outside world, but the road to Almighty God – paved in the prayers of His people – is never cut off.

We didn’t know until Jimmy began his journey home that his friend there, Kap, is also suffering from severe malaria. Despite the lack of available medical care, he continues to improve quickly. Again, God answers prayers.

Which is why I appeal to you today

God does answer prayers. So, I’m asking you to pray for Grow Barefoot as we consider how to work in this region in the future. Some projects we are considering include –

  • Doc would love to have a medical team come in to do a clinic. The surrounding villages and tribes need so much in basic medical care and education.
  • Doc would also like to begin a milk clinic for babies whose mothers are unable to nurse or are just not available, perhaps due to death. GB has worked with a milk clinic in Haiti; perhaps we can combine knowledge gained in Haiti to help begin a program on the other side of the world.
  • Kap is already working on digging three or four wells in outlaying tribal areas so the people may have access to water. This is an immediate need.
  • Kap would also like to start a training center in his area. They would teach English, water cleanliness, and job skills for people to develop a trade, earn a living, and create jobs in the community. This is a great method to build relationships with the people, which in turn leads to great discussions and opportunities to share the message of Christ.
  • Kap and Chica would also like for me to come and lead a conference based on “Seven Roles, One Woman” for the local women in their area. The Muslim population accepts the book of Proverbs so this study based on Proverbs 31 may be a great way to build relationships, help women understand their value in God’s eyes, and share Christ with them as well.
Please pray for our continued ministry in these areas as we desire to follow where God leads.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Holy Anguish: Praying for those who hurt

Our last post shared about the flood crisis Jimmy flew into during his current trip to Africa. Much of that post came from Chica, the wife of the couple with whom he worked while in that particular village. The following is another section of the email I received from her regarding their current situation. 

Before the floods even hit, a flu-like sickness hit many of the people. As Jimmy said in a text message at one point, "People are dying all over the swamp." (The swamp is their nickname for the area.)

With that explanation, here is Chica's update...

Last week the local religious leaders said the amount of sickness in our town is due to people not following Mohammad's way correctly. The leaders announced that everyone was supposed to wash with hot water mixed with salt and neem leaves at 11:11. Then God would hear them, and He would heal them. Well, a lot of people did it. Neighbors checked on each other to see if they did. Then they decided they should have a sacrifice, too. Just maybe, God would be pleased and take away the rampant sickness. So, lots of sacrifices and blood was split.

Then this week it flooded.

I asked my neighbor, Ash, and she told me that the washing was silliness. That it is not commanded, but praying is commanded. So, everyone should just pray. I shared with her about why I don't spill blood. I shared that I agree we should only look at God’s Word and see what it says; follow that, and not listen to what others say.

She said, “Who would ever think that God needed salt?”

Today, it was just Ash and me on the mat. It was a sweet time for me with her. Please pray for her – and for my boldness. Pray for her as this is abnormal for her to go against what everyone is doing and say these things. Pray for me that God would increase my love for Him with all of my heart, soul, and mind so my words flow from my heart and not rehearsed. Pray that I have the courage to continue to be bold with her.

Also, please pray for me to have a holy anguish for all of the peoples here.

I realized I was in anguish – just nauseated – thinking of the villages cut off by the flood during this season. Malaria is coming; it always does. The way to the hospital – the way to the saving medicine – will either be very difficult or impossible. Many will die. It makes me so upset inside… then angry… and then really sad. I wish they just had the opportunity to get the medicine, if they chose to come in. Dumb flood!

And at the end of today, I realized I’m more upset about this crisis and thinking how can we fix this than I am about the same people cut off by the flood of sin. Sin is reality; it always is. The way to the ultimate saving grace – the way to healing that will save their lives and give glory to the Healer – will be very difficult. Many will die. And that should also make me so upset inside… then angry… and then really sad. I want them to have the opportunity to get to salvation by grace, if they choose to come to Him. Dumb, deceitful father of lies!

So I am praying that our Father will give me that holy anguish for them.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Floods in the Desert: Praying for a messed up world

I began my last article with a list of some of the concerns in our world right now. As I typed the list, I thought, “Jimmy doesn’t even know about much of this as he’s virtually separated from world news in such a remote location.”

Jimmy didn’t need access to world news, however, to know people are in danger and hurting. He flew into his own situation right there.

First, let me catch you up on his location. After finishing the current solar panel installation, he flew to the village where he led a previous solar install two years ago. The following is a description of what he found there – some written by me from a compilation of his text messages, most written by Chica (the wife of the family with whom he’s staying.)

Yikes, did it flood.

The rainy season had been off and on. However, the night before Jimmy flew here – literally hours before the plane took off from his solar project – the rainy season turned on. 

A flash flood came through; the pressure of the water blew four culverts out of the road. The road is made of hard red clay. A few sections have culverts made of concrete and large causeways built under them to allow water to flow north to south to the millet fields. The water was so much and so fast – plus engineering didn't take water pressure into account – that it washed away these causeways.

So now the area is completely flooded. The floods extend for miles and miles and miles; the causeways are huge drop off cliffs. They cannot fix the road until all the water covering it completely subsides and dries up. That won't be until after rainy season and some strong African sun. Rainy season ends in October; then, the roads have to dry up and work vehicles have to get here. It may easily be November before they begin to fix the roads.

The broken culverts happened right outside of town. The truck stop and outlying neighborhoods are under water. I keep thinking, “Don't drink this water! We don't need typhoid and cholera.”

But, I know others are thinking, “Free and convenient water.”

It's all perspective, I suppose.

We visited neighbors today. Everyone is talking about what the floods mean for our community –

  • The flood wiped out fields that farmers planted only a couple of weeks ago. All that work, all that seed, and all that future harvest – gone.
  • Food and fuel prices will be high and then higher as the harvest will not be brought in. Prices have already increased by 25% in one day.
  • Our village is cut off from the road to the north, the country to the east, and the capital city. All of our goods come from those locations. We are literally an island right now.
Folks are scared. What does this mean? They don't know. Will there be enough food? Will the mills still run to grind the grain if the gasoline runs out for the generators? What about medicines for the hospital? People are thinking about the villages that weren’t flooded, but are cut off by the flood. Those people have no way to the market, no way to the hospital.

Some people are driving large market trucks to a certain point in the road; they then use dug out canoes to bring goods into our town. So some things are arriving. That is good. If they can keep essential supplies arriving, that is great.

Kap and Jimmy wanted to see if they could offer some aid. They went to the governor’s office but he had left on travels. His offices are chest deep in water. So, with no local leader, figuring out how to get to people who know what is happening is difficult to chaotic right now. The folks are worried about the river – which is on the other side of town – overflowing its banks.

So, the overall feeling right now is fear. And helplessness. So then more fear.

Please pray for us - that we can help with the immediate crisis and that we can bold in our faith. Pray that we can work past the fear and helplessness of being cut off from the surrounding communities as we try to reach a people who are cut off from the grace of our living Savior.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Finding Good Things in Bad Times

It’s been a rough week. Jimmy is in Africa which leaves me as a single parent of four (make it five) active girls.

A beloved grandparent is suffering through some hard medical times. The whole extended family hurts along with him.

Celebrity status doesn’t affect me; people are people, regardless. But Robin Williams’ suicide hit me kind of hard. It’s rough to see such a beloved entertainer reach that level of despair.

Ferguson, Missouri, is a mess right now. 

The Middle East has been a simmering cauldron for too long. It appears it may be about to boil over. The terror of ISIS, combined with the war between Israel and Hamas has also weighed heavy on me. That’s not to mention the Syrian conflict, Iran’s continued pursuit of nuclear weapons, and Putin’s actions in the Ukraine. All of it may play a role in the onset of very dire times.

Every afternoon I have a cup of coffee. During these hot summer months, I usually drink it iced, flavored with sugar and half & half. Stay with me…this is connected to the first part of my article.

This week that afternoon coffee has tugged at my heart. For some reason, I found myself being conscientiously thankful for that coffee each day. Perhaps it was the Spirit’s prompting. I held that cup each afternoon and was acutely aware that God blesses even in hard times.

This may sound silly. Imagine how I felt, however, when this series of text messages came in from Jimmy regarding their current project in Africa…

God is good. We are completely finished with the electrical work. Big Daddy R will now get some quality time with his grandchildren. It’s fun, fun as I sit here and watch him be a jungle gym for their young birthday girl. Doc’s birthday is today, also. Sitting in an air cooled, 78° house while the temperatures soar outside is an awesome birthday present.

It was great to see the joy on Posey’s face when she got to make iced coffee for the first time. Then, I saw the joy on Doc’s face when he got to taste it. These are the simple things we in America take for granted – things we think we have to have to survive.

Lights, cooling fans, and refrigeration will make Doc and Posey’s work in the desert so much easier as they bring living water to this dry land. 

We have seen and heard good things. 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Missions: Debunking the myth of the hyper-spiritual

Some people think missions’ involvement is too hard. It’s something they could never do.

It’s only for the hyper-spiritual.

It’s all about preaching, …and saving lives, …and Bible translation.

It’s all about mountain-top power moments where the Spirit moves radically in our lives.

When it comes to missions, sometimes people do those things. Sometimes people have those moments. But most often, international missions is doing what you do here – only you do it there.

Jimmy has sent me several text messages from their current project in Africa over the last few days. They don’t contain any radical salvation stories or mountain top moments. I hesitated to share them with you because of that lack of emotional, spiritual impact.

But then I realized that part of what we at Grow Barefoot want to teach people is that missions is doable for everyone. And I’m guessing a lot of you can identify with these stories because they’re a lot like what you do everyday – you go to work and do your job. If you're doing it to God's glory, doing it in Africa instead of America doesn’t make it any higher of a calling.

So, here’s a compilation of those messages.

Day 3 – Out to the village

We woke up in the city at 5:30am and headed to the airport to fly a small 4-seater plane out to the village. We met Coffee – a coordinator for that region – but he had eaten something the night before that, um, let’s just say it didn't agree with him. He was unable to take us to the airport. So, a strategy director over north central Africa who had come in the night before took us to breakfast. We ate at the same bakery we had eaten at two years ago.

After breakfast, we went to the market to pick up some fresh vegetables to take out to the village. We got to the airport and bused to the hanger with the small plane. We had a smooth flight as we again overlooked a barren wasteland of dry desert alive with fresh grass and flowers. In the desert, the promise of the rainy season is the promise of hope that God will provide.

The flat land reminded me of driving through Kansas on I-70. We could see scattered rain showers as we dodged weather and clouds. We arrived in the village with a greeting of over 40 people and a huge cardboard welcome sign that the missionary children had made from the solar panel boxes. The rest of the welcome party was for a sick woman very high up in town that had needed medical attention in the city.

Details have been blurred for their protection

We started working after lunch at 1pm; we worked until 10:30. I held a brief class on solar power and what we were going to do first.

ü  Get the control panel set up on the wall.
ü  Get the cables set up and wired.
ü  Get the batteries set in place and hooked up for charging.

It was a good day’s work. Despite the early start and the long workday, sleeping was a bit difficult even though it was very cool in the 70’s.

Day 4 – Making progress

We have all the cooling fans up and running. We’ve been working from 7am to 8pm every day. Everyone is getting tired. But we are about finished. God is good. It rained today and brought 70° winds that felt like air conditioning. It’s humid but comfortable at 82°. We just have half the house lights to go before they’re complete. We should have that done tomorrow. We’ll run the outlets but not hook them up. I trained Doc today how to wire the dc and he did all the lights. It took a little longer but he was excited to know how to do it. We are staying at the clinic guest house so we only see the area in the morning. We will be going to the village and market on Saturday. 

More to come...

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

ISIS & Christians: Why do we care?

Internet circles are abuzz with the atrocities committed by ISIS against Christians. We’ve all read of the horrors. We’ve wept, prayed, written, questioned, and spoke out. But I have one remaining thought that I haven’t yet seen addressed…

Why do we care?

Before you think I’m as cold and ruthless as ISIS, let me continue. China has been oppressing the church for decades. Muslims have been killing Christians for centuries. Syrian forces have killed 170,000 in recent years, many Christians among them. Egyptian forces burned churches to the ground only a few years ago. Boko Haram recently kidnapped hundreds of Christian girls and the secular world expressed more outrage than did the church.

Grow Barefoot has friends working in places around the globe whose names and locations we can’t put in our articles. To do so would put their lives in danger. We have friends whose governments gave them 24 hours to leave the country or be imprisoned for the mission work they were doing.

This stuff has been going on since the time Christ walked on this earth. So, why do we care now? Why is the American church seeing these things with fresh, raw eyes? Why are we collectively feeling that nag in the pit of our stomachs that says something is wrong? Why are the silent now speaking? Why are the stingy now sacrificing?

I might know the answer

“Don’t you yourselves know that you are God’s sanctuary and that the Spirit of God lives in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16).

Here’s the answer – the Spirit that dwells within each of Christ’s followers has said, “It is time.” You don’t get to ride the fence any longer. You don’t get to attend the Country Club Church on Sunday morning and not care the rest of the week.

You get to experience life as did the Apostle Paul who wrote, “My eager expectation and hope is that I will not be ashamed about anything, but that now as always, with all boldness, Christ will be highly honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For me, living is Christ and dying is gain” (Philippians 1:20-21).

Paul knew something about persecution. He experienced it repeatedly. I can’t write the way he did as I’ve never been through the sufferings he endured.  And yet, as I write about more extensively in Everything We Need, Paul wrote about seven benefits of persecution…
  • Serves to advance the Gospel
  • Encourages others and reduces fear
  • Causes rejoicing
  • Promotes patient endurance
  • Teaches us to trust God and the power of prayer
  • Is a source of comfort
  • Brings us to maturity

We do care

We care not because ISIS is any more horrific than countless other persecutory murderers in the past. We care not because the lives of the Iraqi Christians are more valuable than the millions slaughtered for their faith in centuries past. We care because the Spirit tells us it is time – time to care, to pray, to speak out, to share, to love, to grow, and encourage.  He tells us He has a plan to carry out in this time and place and we have a part to play in it. And our response is to humbly fall to our knees – not only to pray for the innocent lives suffering in another part of the world but to also pray how we might serve and love during such a time as this.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Be Flexible: God has a plan

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ… (Ephesians 1:3).

This was the main point of my pastor's sermon. His sub-points came from the continuing verses but those points aren't my point so I'll stay quiet on those for today. 

At the end of the service he asked us to share why we will bless the Lord. “I will bless the Lord because...”

I answered, “I bless Him because He is sovereign. He is absolutely in control of every detail.” At the time, Jimmy was flying somewhere over the Mediterranean Sea.

I received a text from him a few hours later, “Just landed. No bags. Did not make the flight in. Tuesday maybe.”

Neither his nor Big Daddy R’s luggage had made it onto their plane. Many of us have had this happen; we all know it’s an annoyance more than a catastrophe.

But here’s the deal…

Jimmy and Big Daddy R had to leave their city of arrival in less than 24 hours – a small plane waited to fly them to their remote work site. The bags wouldn’t arrive for a minimum of two days. They couldn’t stay in the city until the bags arrived; the bags wouldn’t have a way to get to them when they did arrive.

Here’s the other deal…

The two men came to do a job – a job they only have a few days to accomplish. Their tools and supplies are in those bags. They can’t complete the job until they have those items.

To be continued…

Remember, nothing random happens in God’s kingdom. If you wonder, read God’s declarations in Job 38-41 to which Job replies, “I know that You can do anything and no plan of Yours can be thwarted (Job 42:2). Experience has taught us that He has a plan in all that He does. I’m reminded of when I led a group to do a project in Haiti and our luggage also didn’t arrive. By the end of the week God had blessed us to see His mighty work through our divine inconvenience.

So this article will have to be continued. As of right now, we don’t know why Jimmy and Big Daddy R are in Africa to do a job while their tools and supplies sit in Europe somewhere. But we know God has a plan in it – a reason for the annoyance.

As Jimmy stated in a later text, “Be flexible.” The plan was to go, work, and get the job done. God apparently has a different plan. So Jimmy and Big Daddy R will flex with the situation as they seek to accomplish God’s plan – not their own.