Good bye 2013, Hello 2014

Well, here we are on the last day of 2013. It seemed to go by very quickly… it was a good year. Much less drastic than 2012, for me, but still very full of learning and doing and stretching. I made it out of the country on a mission trip, which was something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. Bright Lights grew quite a bit in size and I was more focused on it than I’ve been in the past. I was able to help Pregnancy Solutions get their new location ready to open. I got guitar lessons and can play a few songs now. I survived several potentially life threatening situations. I grew in my walk with God and made it through some rough spots. I met lots of great people and read some good books. I surrendered stillΒ  more to God.

I’m really curious about this upcoming year. For some reason I’ve always felt like it would be a momentous one… I’m wondering if that was just a feeling or if something really is going to happen. There are a lot of possibilities and opportunities this year, a lot of things I’m praying about and considering. So it should be interesting.

And… I need to go because we are going to have a new year’s eve party in a few hours and it’s going to be lots of fun. πŸ˜€

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On Guard

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One of the highlights of the trip ended up being our guards. Whenever people from the US see or hear about them, they usually get rather alarmed and think of how dangerous it must have been for us to have needed guards. Well, yes. But we saw a lot more. We saw the governor taking care of us.–she is a friend of the ministry (in spite of being communist, go figure), and when she heard about the attack on SOS in Nigeria, she said, “not on my watch” and sent us four guards.

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I must admit, at first it was rather startling to see guys with M16s hanging around. Not exactly something I’m used to. We were all a bit uneasy about it, since we had no idea what sort of men they were. But we also saw an opportunity: to share the gospel and to love them. So we were very nice to them–thanking them, giving them plenty of good food (And snacks. Their pockets were full of snacks by the end, haha.), praying for them, talking to them about life and Christ, getting them to join in on our fun, taking them with us when we ministered in the villages (partly for our safety, but I think it really was more for their benefit.) and so on.

Oh, and we also saw an opportunity to take pictures with them. πŸ˜› This was the last day… on the left is Jose A. and on the right is Sgt. Jose. (we had three Joses)

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And I’ll put this one in here just because it’s a great picture.

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On the last morning, Shelly and Paul had a really good opportunity to talk to the guards and have a Bible study with them. Several of us had been talking to them all week, but that morning was very special. I went over closer to pray, and ended up joining the group… I pulled over a chair for Sgt. Jose and myself. I mainly just listened and prayed. I was really excited, not only because of what was happening, but also because I actually understood most of it even though it was nearly entirely in Spanish. It was a very neat experience. The best part was that several of them indicated that they were ready to accept Christ. I am not sure exactly what happened with them, but they are certainly very close and there is at least one of them that I believe got it. We have been in touch with him via facebook and there is some evidence of life change. Please be in prayer for them.

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During our group devotion time, we had been talking a lot about being watchful and on guard in our prayers… I thought it was a nice idea, but wasn’t exactly sure what it meant in real life–Until the the night before we left, when I sensed something wrong spiritually. Three times in a row I either heard or heard of someone being criticized. I prayed some, but then as I was sitting and thinking about it, I saw one of the guards over on the side, watching. And I realized that it’s just like their job, only they are looking for physical trouble and we are looking for spiritual trouble. Most of the time it seems like everything’s fine–until it’s not. And if you aren’t watching, you won’t see it until it is too late.

In the experience that I had that night, had I not been paying attention, I would not have realized that it was a spiritual attack, and I would have been swept right into it. In fact I almost was, which was part of what raised my suspicions that something was actually wrong spiritually.

After I realized that about being on guard, I went and talked to a lady on the team that I had become close to, and we prayed together. It turned out she had been criticized as well. Shortly after we prayed, I was talked to. If I hadn’t been praying and seeing the trouble, I likely would have responded differently and it could’ve become a real issue. Instead we ended up all praying against that spirit of criticism together, and we were more united instead of less so. It was not a very nice experience on the whole, but I learned a lot.

Since coming back to the US, I realized how few of us are on guard spiritually here. I know my guard went way down when I got here. If it wasn’t for my experience there, it might have stayed down. However, I was watching, and I saw what was happening… the more I think about it, the more disturbed become.

Something is wrong, really wrong, here in the US. We don’t even realize that there IS a battle half the time… It seems to me that the enemy has quite the deception going on here. There, people know there’s a real spiritual battle. Here, we’re “too smart” to believe in all that. Oh, our prideful, intelligent ignorance. How blind we are! And how much power we have given to the enemy. There is so much evil here that we just don’t see because we aren’t looking. We aren’t on guard. And so the enemy infiltrates with little to no resistance… and too often, by the time someone sounds the alarm, it is too late and much damage is done. We are not even defending ourselves in prayer and in the word… much less actually attacking and doing damage to our enemy.

I am pleading with God that He will open the eyes of the US church… that she will stop being deceived by her riches and see what is happening. There is so much we are missing… both of the very real spiritual battle and of the riches of Christ. It deeply saddens me… how much more must it sadden our dear Savior. We have become like those who…

…have healed the hurt of the daughter of My people slightly,
Saying, β€˜Peace, peace!’
When there is no peace.
12Β Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination?
No! They were not at all ashamed,
Nor did they know how to blush.
Therefore they shall fall among those who fall;
In the time of their punishment
They shall be cast down,” says the Lord.

Jeremiah 8

Let us fall on our faces before God and ask for His forgiveness and healing. Let us watch and pray.

And… it Already Happened.

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The trip was amazing in so many ways… I will be blogging about it for a long time, most likely. But there are a few things I want to talk about right now, and they’re thoughts that came after the trip. So… here it goes.

Coming back home was way harder than I expected. I didn’t want to leave… and then when we got to the Atlanta airport and there were two TVs on one wall with a stupid story about Duck Dynasty and a newspaper article with “Obama” in it, and there were so many people who weren’t happy and weren’t speaking Spanish, and there was SO MUCH STUFF and it was so bright and there were so many words and… I just wanted to go back. It didn’t help that more and more team mates were leaving at each part of the trip, starting the day before.

I was happy to see my family, but even home felt odd and unfamiliar. I’m afraid I wasn’t very mature in working through it… nor was I focusing on others.

Sunday morning, though, I went outside to pray and think and read my Bible… and I realized something.

When I was in Central America, there wasn’t the slightest wondering whether or not I needed God’s help. I was tired and sick; I was in a strange place; I was with loads of new people; I was doing things I’d never done before; I was very obviously involved in God’s work… and so forth. I knew right from the start that I had better spend time early in the morning praying and reading the Bible or it just wouldn’t work. And I did. And God gave me strength and words and blessing. It was hard; but He was there.

Back home I wasn’t spending time with Him first thing. Somehow I thought I didn’t need Him anymore; not consciously, of course–not in so many words–but that’s what I was saying. And that’s a huge part of the danger here. There, we were well aware of the dangers, both physically and spiritually. We were alert; on guard in our prayers.

Here, you don’t see the battle sharply. It’s still there; in some ways even worse than in Central America. But in America we can afford to cover it up. There, when you don’t know if you’re going to have food for the next day, and your life is in danger from many other directions, it’s pretty hard to pretend. Life and death is a real and constant struggle. But here… we can actually seem to get along okay without God. We can distract ourselves from our soul struggle. We can bury it. Of course it doesn’t quite work, but we still try. And to some extent we don’t see it anymore; we don’t have to face it straight on.

There, you look into these beautiful faces and you see a person without God, without hope, and your heart aches for them to know, to see. You so badly want them to get it–you want them to come to Christ. And you pray and you cry and you hike and you keep on even though you’re sick and don’t really have the strength. Because how else will they hear?

Here, you hurry along quietly in your busy busy day (why must we always be so busy? What’s so wrong with just being alive, talking and BEING?), mostly ignoring others. They are just as lost as those dear ones there; but yet, somehow, it is easier to ignore. They can figure it out; someone else will tell them. They already have enough information, they already have their own beliefs.

There, you speak words of encouragement and blessing to your brothers and sisters in Christ… you realize vividly how tough the battle is for them. You ask how they are, and really listen. You do whatever you can for them with what little time you have, and you wish you could do more. You give hugs. You pray. You love them. And you can’t even speak their language.

Here, we’re often “too busy” (with what, pray tell??) even for that. We don’t usually take the time to really know how people are doing; we don’t love enough to help even though it hurts and it’s messy. We know the language; we live close by. And yet somehow we don’t see how hard the battle is here, for them. Perhaps because they aren’t sitting in a mud hut and telling you about how hard life is as one of the only Christian families in the area. But that doesn’t mean that things are okay.

It’s tragic, really.

And I pray it ends with us. Let’s not be too busy for people, saved or unsaved. Let’s take time to listen, to really care. To pray. To help.

So This is Happening!

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Our room has been taken over by suitcases…

Yeah, we’re taking all that… plus 3 backpacks and another carry-on suitcase, if we can persuade Josiah he needs it. πŸ˜‰ Not sure how carrying all those will go, but I suppose we will figure out a way… We aren’t quite finished packing, so we’ll be working on that tonight and tomorrow and the next day. We are leaving early Thursday morning (leaving home at 4am and leaving the airport at 7:30).

All the big suitcases will be empty or very nearly so on our way back… most of our personal stuff will be in the carry-ons. The five big suitcases are full of clothes and bags with gifts for the children. We have a very generous church family. πŸ™‚

Well, I have lots more pictures from the last few weeks, but I don’t know if I will get them up before the trip, and I don’t know if I’ll be able to blog during the trip. Oh well. I shall return for sure after the trip, but it may take a while since Christmas is right afterwards, plus company and all sorts of other things.

Please be praying for us! Pray that we will be bold for the sake of the gospel, that we will be filled with Christ’s love, that God will help with language barriers and translators and all that, that we will stay well/accept illness gracefully, that the team will be unified and a good witness, and whatever else comes to mind. Thank you!! πŸ™‚