Thursday, December 2, 2010

Wait, What Are We Doing?


Hello!
I’m writing this now as Christmas, and all the shopping that comes along with it, is before us and fills our thoughts and much of our free time.  It is a fun and crazy time of year, and honestly, I rather love the craziness.  I am just as guilty as anyone in getting caught up in the over-the-top gift giving, crafting, decorating, cooking, baking, and hosting and attending holiday parties.  For me, all that is fun.  However, (you knew that was coming didn’t you?) as a Christian it can be a hard time.  It can be a hard time for one’s faith to grow during this time because often we’re running around focused on ourselves and our families and friends.  Suddenly it’s Christmas and your pastor at church tells you that you’re supposed to be thankful for Jesus making the sacrifice to come to earth as a man.  An incredibly humble man who took no glory for Himself though He is King of All, and a man who further sacrificed himself for us through His death on the cross so that He could be the perfect payment for our sins.  Just as He was resurrected from the dead, so are we resurrected from our bondage to sin and we are reconciled to God because of Jesus.  But the problem is, when your pastor says that you think “Oh yeah, that is right, this is all about Jesus and I should be thankful for him.”  And then you either feel guilty because in the month leading up to Christmas you’ve had one of your driest spiritual times yet because you’ve made no time for Him, or you push guilty thoughts away because you are more focused on the ham that is currently roasting in your oven at home, or what side dishes you need to make when you get home so it can be ready to take to your in-laws the next day, or what the presents beneath the tree contain.  But all of this is shallow.  I am not going to recommend to you what you should do in order to be on an all time “God-high” come Christmas time, but one thing that Scott and I feel has been place on our hearts by the Holy Spirit this year is giving. 

Jesus never took glory for himself, ever.  He always gave glory to the father and served everyone else.  Here is his mission statement taken from Isaiah 61:1  “The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners,” you’ll notice that it says nothing about bringing glory to himself, instead it is about serving and freeing.  And we are called to be like him, 1 John 4:16b-17 says, “God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus.”   So to go backwards and unpack that, let’s figure out more of John’s definition of love is first.  Earlier in that same chapter John says “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” So from that we can conclude that love is sacrificial, will give anything, and love initiates, love goes first and does not wait for reciprocation to act.  So, God is this love and if we live in this sacrificial love then we must live in God since they’re one and the same.  But how is love made complete, or perfect, in us, imperfect people?  Love is made complete when we, in this world, are like Jesus.  Jesus initiated love, relationships, reconciliation, and forgiveness, even when it seemed unfair to extend such grace, he was ironically humble and selflessly sacrificial.   When we are like Jesus our love is perfected, our imperfect love cannot be complete without God, he perfects our motives, our love, and thus us.  When we are like Jesus, and our love is made complete in him, then we can have confidence on the Day of Judgment.  (Isn’t that a whopper?  On the Day of Judgment I think I’ll feel more like peeing my pants in front of The Holy One than having confidence.)

So, be like Jesus.  That begs the now clich├ęd question, “What would Jesus do?”  “What would Jesus want us to do on his birthday honoring him?”  Normally when you honor someone you recall or do something that they did.  I think Jesus would want us to honor him by giving of our wealth and our talents and our love to those who need it. He would want us to love, to give, to “proclaim good news to the poor, bind up the brokenhearted, proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners.”  Scott and I do not need to be lavished with gifts, God has already done that, and we believe he’s given us these gifts so that we might bless others with them (Matthew 25:14-30).  We are only stewards of all of our blessings, not owners.  We want to bless those who need it most, we want to bless those who are always on God’s mind: children, orphans, widows, the poor, the oppressed, etc.  We want to let our light shine, and with that, bring hope.  Hope for those who currently have none.  Why not act like a Christian on the day that the world sees as a Christian holiday?  Why not give?

So, what does that mean for Scott and I?  Scott and I will not be giving extravagant gifts for Christmas.  They will be simple, under $20.00, and often homemade (just because I like to craft/bake), however, in conjunction with these gifts, we will be donating towards organizations that are doing great things for God’s kingdom in the names of our family members.   

What if you still want to buy elaborate (anything over $20.00) gifts for loved ones because it is “tradition”?  Well, I say challenge yourself and give dollar for dollar what you spend on loved ones to a charity/mission organization(s) of your choosing.  So if you spend $500.00 on gifts total, give $500.00 to a mission organization.  I know this is a big challenge for some of you, but that’s the point.  So go for it!  My bet is that you’ll find it freeing, satisfying, rewarding, fulfilling, mood-lifting, and thankfulness-inducing. 

If you are already as excited and pumped about this idea as we are then “Hallelujah!”  If you are, then I believe you are doing what Romans 12:2 instructs, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”  When your will aligns with God’s will, BIG things can happen!  Then John 15:7 applies, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”

Below I’ve listed some organizations that I really like that may give you some ideas.
  • World Vision http://www.worldvision.org/#/home/main/christmas-gift-catalog-items-1-1271   World Vision is probably one of the most well known and largest Christian humanitarian organizations there is and they do great work.  While you may know them for their sponsor a child program or their relief work, they do SO much more than that.  Poke around their website and see if something doesn’t stir your heart.
  • Stop Child Trafficking Now http://www.sctnow.org This organization fights child sex trafficking within the US by going after and convicting the predators.  To understand more about the magnitude and frequency of child trafficking in the US click on one of the news links under “”Latest News” on the right hand side of the page.
  • Freedom Firm http://www.freedom.firm.in/  This organization rescues female child sex slaves in India.  Read one of the girls’ stories and you’ll probably start to cry.
  • Hope of the Nations http://www.hopeofthenationstz.org/casey-finch/  My dear friend Casey Finch is a missionary for Hope of the Nations in Tanzania and you would not believe the things she has done and experienced, you would be amazed at the spiritual warfare she has encountered, and you would be awestruck at the lives changed because of God working through her.  Please pray for her.
  • Charity Water http://www.charitywater.org/  Charity water is an awesome and necessary organization that drills water wells in villages in developing countries so the people can have access to clean water that won’t make them sick or kill them.
  • African Children’s Choir http://africanchildrenschoir.com/   Yes, this is the amazing, famous, made-me-cry-for-a-half-an-hour-before-I-could-get-a-grip-on-myself African’s Children’s Choir.  The money raised by this choir, comprised of some of the neediest children in their respective countries, goes to fund or help fund quality schools and orphanages in seven different countries in Africa, giving superb, free, educations all the way through the University level.  The kids at these schools represent the hope and future of Africa.
  • Ascent Ministries http://ascentbase.org/   My friends Jeff and Natalie (married) are a part of this ministry.  They voluntarily live in a house they bought inner city Kansas City surrounded by gangs.  There, they primarily minister to the young men around them.  Jeff is a volunteer football coach at the local high school where he reaches out to many of the young men on the team, after school a lot of the neighborhood guys come to hang out at their house just to be in a safe, peaceful place where they will be loved.  It is dangerous, but God is protecting them and the stories they share in their quarterly updates have God’s fingerprints all over them.  I write all of this b/c their website does not share this, perhaps to protect the people they are ministering to.

So that was just a quick brainstorm but there are many more!  Like Durham Rescue Mission in Durham (helps homeless and addicted meet Jesus and become contributing members to the community), the SECU House in Chapel Hill (a free place to stay for families who have someone critically ill at UNC Hospital), Compassion International, missionaries that you may know, mission groups focused on the elderly with no family, Ronald McDonald houses, etc. etc.

Ok!  That’s it!  If you’d like to share, we’re excited to hear what you’ve donated to!  Sending you many blessing and love,
Whitney and Scott

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Grandpa Will

My Grandpa Will died August 22nd, 2010. He was 77 years old. He led a good life here on earth. His current, and permanent, residence is in Heaven where he is happily and energetically praising God night and day. The following are my unedited thoughts upon my grandpa's death.

I don't think I have very many memories of my grandpa. Perhaps if someone told me about something that happened, then I might remember it, but I can’t remember on my own. I do remember, vaguely, going to his seed corn warehouse once, riding with him on his riding lawn mower, and playing baseball with him once or twice when he was in good health. Of course, every Christmas we would get together and I remember how he always had food on his chin while eating the Christmas meal, how he always started opening his presents first before the kids could even have a turn, and how he was always the first to be ready to go home, as if he and grandma were in some kind of a real hurry. I also remember that when you’d shake his hand he would grip your hand very tightly. Is it pathetic that I call that a memory? I’m sorry, but I cannot remember much else. It is not his fault. For the past eleven to twelve years, after his brain aneurism, he’s been without much of his original personality. There was never seemed to be much to talk with him about. If I asked him a question, I may get a one-word answer back. If I asked him a question about selling seed corn or farming, perhaps I’d get a sentence response, but I didn’t know anything about these subjects so there wasn’t a lot I could think to ask him. If I asked him how he was doing, his automatic response was “Good, and you?” I don’t remember if I answered back “good” or if I took the time to tell him what was going on in my life. I hope I would have done the latter.

Apparently before his brain-bleed he was more interested. He’d watch the news, go to the college football and basketball games, and go to my cousins’ baseball, soccer, and basketball games, but after, it seemed he lost interest in all that. Perhaps that’s why he never came to one of my high school or college tennis matches. Perhaps he also didn’t come because he didn’t understand tennis and therefore it wasn’t exciting for him. I did live over and hour away from him, and he was never the type to leave his small town to go to the “city,” perhaps that is why.

For my grandpa’s memorial service my mom asked me to read something she had written. It was kind of like a poem of memories with every line ending in “you were there.” I found it ironic that I was reading something that proclaimed how my grandpa was “always there” yet I remembered so little of him. When was he there? Several people told me at the visitation or after the memorial service how he had been there for them and for my family. I’m glad he had been there, and it made me feel good about my grandpa to hear it. People flew in from all over the place to come for the funeral; my grandpa must have meant a great deal to them. Still, despite my mom’s memories, despite people’s praise, despite the large number of people that came to honor my grandpa and hug my grandma, I could not reconcile how he could have “been there” for me, his granddaughter. But then, a half hour before the memorial service, as I was nervously rehearsing what my mom had written, I began to realize how he had really been there for me all along and, in a way, continues to be there for me. The second to last line of my mom’s poem reads something like “When we needed a father to pray for us and our families, you were there, on your knees each and every night.” Apparently, a few months before his death, my mom had asked my grandpa if he had been praying for his family when she had seen him kneeling at his bedside every night as she grew up. His brief answer was a swift, “You bet.” There is no doubt in my mind that my grandpa and his prayers are in part to thank for my wonderful family. I am enormously blessed to have the family that I have. My grandpa’s faithful prayers have helped to shape our lives thus far, and his prayers will continue to go with us now and in the future. In this sense, he really will be “always there.” Thank you grandpa for always being there for me even when I didn’t realize it. Thank you that even though we didn’t always have a lot to talk about, your love was always with me.

I love you,

Whitney

Heavenly Father,

Thank you for my family! Thank you for my grandma and grandpa, for my aunt and uncle and cousins, for my mom and dad and brother, for my husband Scott, and for Scott’s family. You have blessed me greatly!!!! Thank you. Please be with us all, let us come into your presence and rest, may we not be too prideful and refuse to give you our burdens to carry, may we know and experience your infinite love and your peace. Let us have teachable hearts so that we can learn from your wisdom and follow your ways. Let us serve one another humbly, love each other selflessly, support and encourage one another, and forgive each other readily. Let us live in peace as far as it depends on us. Thank you. I pray these things in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Beginning to Understand

"Sin? Me? No, not often, not in a 'bad' way anyway. I am a 'good' person after all." That is what I normally think, and that is why, in my "heart of hearts," I am jaded to the wonder of the cross. I don’t think I’m all that bad. When a youth group of the church that I attended in my hometown asked random people in a coffee shop if they thought they were a “good person,” almost everyone said yes, with a few people that identified themselves as Christians saying “no.” If we think we are good, then we have no need for a savior and Jesus doesn’t make sense. At most you might think it is noble of him to sacrifice himself for others, offering himself as the perfect atonement for everyone’s sins since he led a sinless, perfect life. You might tip your hat to that, say “thank you kindly sir” and be on your way. I’m guilty of it. I’ve known it for a while. I can praise and thank God for my life and the people in it, I can praise him for each breath he gives me and I have no problem doing it sincerely. What I can’t do is begin to understand the greatest gift God has given me in my salvation until I understand the gravity of my sin (and the sin of humanity in general).

The other night I saw the movie “The Green Mile” for first time and wow did it move me. I couldn’t go to sleep that night because my mind was still whirling from the movie. In the movie, the character of John Cauphy (not sure if I’m spelling the last name right, all I know is that it is “like the drink, only spelled different”) is on death row accused of raping and murdering two little girls, however (Spoiler!) he is wrongfully accused. John is blessed, or perhaps cursed is a better word, with two amazing gifts: he can heal people by momentarily taking the sickness/evil upon himself and suffering before “coughing” it up, and he can also see into people’s hearts and know what they’ve done. The movie does a great job portraying the wickedness that exists in man and when John says he has had enough of this world you understand why. When Tom Hank’s character (the death row guard) asks John Couphy if he should let him escape or proceed with the execution, John says he will be executed and he is ok with it, in fact it would come as a relief to him. You get the sense that John is a lot older than he appears to be, and the hurts and pains caused by evil that he has witnessed and taken upon himself grieves him terribly and has worn him down. It is when John explains the pain that other humans have caused that I began to understand my own sin and the necessity of Jesus. Jesus too was wrongfully accused. Jesus too died in place of other peoples’ sins. Jesus bears the hurt in pain of everyone as a compassionate and loving God. Jesus, as the Living Word, has been around for eternity and has seen more injustices and felt more pain than we can imagine.

The thing that I realized is that I, as a sinner, hurt Jesus too. Whenever I sin I rarely only hurt myself. Is it possible to sin and only hurt yourself? Often I will hurt others with my pride, by being judgmental, by being bitter, with my selfishness, etc. I am so guilty. Even though I may not have physically committed a terrible crime in the world’s eyes, like murder, there have been times when I’ve been so angry and frustrated I have thought some terrible things in my fit of rage. In the Bible, Jesus says that thinking things is just as condemnable as doing them. (Matthew 5). The Bible also makes it clear that your sin is not relative to other people’s sins. For example, I might think that I am not that bad of a sinner because I have never done anything thing “really bad” like murder, stealing, adultery, etc. but that would be comparing my sins to other people’s sins and you can always find someone who is “worse.” Instead, our sins are relative to God’s holiness, which thus makes every sin about the same in severity because the amount that they are separated from God is infinitely farther then they are separated from themselves (if they are indeed separated). When we understand just how far we are from God’s holiness, then we can understand more of God’s love and what an amazing thing Jesus did for us on the cross. How do we understand the difference between God and ourselves? Study the Bible. The more I read the Bible/the Word of God/what Jesus personified, the more I see my own flaws. It isn’t fun always, but it does bring me closer to God, humbles me, and allows me to praise God even more.

If you can’t see your own sin, deny it, make excuses for it, then you are deceiving yourself, as well as harming yourself (though you may be too stubborn to realize it). “5This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. 7But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

8If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.” 1 John 1:5-10

With confession comes healing. With the beginnings of understanding the cross, comes the start of a great adventure--with a happy ending. ;)

1 Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name.

2 Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits-

3 who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases,

4 who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion,

5 who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.

6 The LORD works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed.

7 He made known his ways to Moses, his deeds to the people of Israel:

8 The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.

9 He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever;

10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.

11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him;

12 as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

13 As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;

14 for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.

15 As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field;

16 the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.

17 But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD's love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children's children-

18 with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts.

19 The LORD has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all.

20 Praise the LORD, you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, who obey his word.

21 Praise the LORD, all his heavenly hosts, you his servants who do his will.

22 Praise the LORD, all his works everywhere in his dominion. Praise the LORD, O my soul.”

(Psalm 103)

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

GOD HEALS

WOW! Praise God! Praise His holy name! My friend in Tanzania (Casey) who I had the vision about (see the posts titles "Peace" and "Encourage") just sent out an email telling the amazing things that God has been doing in Tanzania through her and others! Continue reading below to read parts of her latest update . . . and be encouraged! ;) Note: I put the last part of her letter first and the first part after it for those of you who want to know more about God working in Tanzania and Casey's life there. I have kept her letter exactly how she wrote it. Please pray for these people and for Casey.


Now I can share my favorite story from our time in the village: GOD’S HEALING POWER! During my door to door with Oscar, my translator, we met an old man weaving baskets in the shade. We started talking to him and found out he was a Christian. So I asked if we could pray for him and he said, “Yes, please pray for my son, he is crazy, but he’s all I have left to take care of me.” When he called his son no one came. Then we went to the garden and found what looked like a 15 year old boy playing in the dirt. He wouldn’t answer me when I greeted him. He wouldn’t talk to anyone actually. He was to our eyes mentally handicapped. I was immediately reminded of the scriptures where they brought a sick boy before Jesus who had seizures and people presumed he was medically ill, but Jesus cast a demon out of him. So, I prayed in Jesus name for evil to leave this son. I just prayed for him to be healed. But nothing happened then so we finished talking and moved on. When I left the mother came home and told her son to go to the church again to get prayed for. So the next day he came and all of the team and I prayed for him. Again nothing big happened. I decided the next day after that to visit them again. The father said to me right away when I saw him that he was so grateful because his son was HEALED. I didn’t know if it was for real so I asked to see the boy. He was resting so they awoke him and brought him out. He immediately greeted me and my jaw almost dropped. It was a surreal moment. I knew that only one day ago this boy was crazy and not comprehensive. He had been that way for many years. And now I stood looking at a different person. The father said, “Now he is helping me and he acts like a human, thank you”. I praised God. The mama was there and asked us to pray again because she was very tired and having bad dreams at night. I told her how many times headaches and tiredness come from not drinking water since they hardly drink any and then I talked about dreams. I told her how many times satan tries to attack us or scare us in our dreams. But she simply needs to plead the blood of Jesus over her mind and over her house and read scriptures before she goes to bed. Then I wondered if they had ever gotten involved with any witchcraft because that could be the cause if they have any of that still in their house. It’s like an open door to demons to come. They said no, but that they used to be Muslim and killed a goat once for witchcraft purposes, but nothing else since they became Christians. I told them to renounce any evil they had been involved with so there would be no connections. When we held hands to pray I just prayed in English with them. As I was praying and renouncing evil in Jesus’ powerful name, I felt a hand shake a little. So, I opened my eyes and saw the mama was twitching and shaking for a moment. After we finished praying she told me that sometime while I was praying she felt like spirits were leaving! Hallelujah! Here is a picture of our team praying for the boy who was healed and the family and I after he was healed.


The team and I were really excited and we saw such a huge change. We gave the boy a bible and found out that he was 19 or 20 (they don’t remember). Then we found out his name was Monewa which means the oppressed one or one who people throw stones at and is defenseless. So, I told the parents he needs a new name. See, the family had 9 children and 8 of them had died from sicknesses. He was the only child left. I was so sad at his name, but I prayed and felt like God wanted to bless this son of his, that this would be the year of God’s favor and blessing on them. And the family renamed the son Imani, which means faith! Please pray for this family. They have special place in my heart. They need help physically, financially, and spiritually. I noticed the father’s knee bent backwards when he walked. It was hard to look at but he never asked for prayer for it, just for his son. Even now, if you have 30 seconds, pray for this family, pray for this village, pray that Jesus touches their lives. Pray that their eyes would be opened to see the truth. Pray for the Muslim community. Many of them just believe in Allah because that is what their families knew, they never questioned what they believed or tried to find out for themselves the truth. In talking with them they have many similar beliefs but I tell them the reason they need Jesus. They have no atonement for their sins. And ALL have sinned. There is no sacrifice that will do except the blood of the Holy One who never sinned. See, even here people kill goats or drink the blood of people because they think it atones for their sins. But the blood of animals does nothing for humans and even the blood of humans cannot cleanse us because all have sinned, except one. His name is Jesus. He is the perfect sacrifice, “once for all” –Hebrews 10:10.


*If you are unfamiliar with demons (a.k.a. evil spirits) check out what I've written at the bottom of this post.


The first part:

Note: I havn't included all of the pictures Casey mentions, but other than that I chose to keep her letter exactly how she typed it. I did put a few words in bold though.

There were nine people on this team from California and we kept them busy. The picture is of the Knepper’s, the Ramsey’s, I and the team. The first few days we had different activities planned such as experiencing the “Day in the Life” of a Tanzanian. The women caught, killed, plucked, and cooked chickens for the men who were pouring rock all day long for 2,000 shillings, or two dollars. On Sunday we visited five different churches in town where they were able to preach. The people here love guest speakers so they made all of us preach. They don’t mind sitting through 3 sermons, no one is checking their watch when we run over time. I also took the team to kids club in Kamala and Ujiji, villages very close to Kigoma. The taught and played with around 400 kids. Ujiji is known for its high witchcraft and Muslim population. We know we have to be careful while we are there. They have thrown rocks at us before. We don’t have a building to teach in either. All of the kids just gather in someone’s yard. While two of the Tanzanian kid’s club leaders were teaching two Tanzanian mamas walked by. One woman said to the other, “If I found my son here I would beat him”. Pray for the Christians in this village. We told them how much they encouraged us and went home. Next we went to a village called Igalula. To the left is a picture from the helicopter. But, sadly we didn’t take a helicopter to this village. We took an 18 hour boat ride, an experience I will remember forever. On this small boat there were 200 people, 50 oil drums, chickens, bags of rice, and our team. First, to get on the boat you have to ride a little dingy out to it and sort of jump onto the bigger boat. It is scary as the waves are crashing and people are handing up babies and bags for you to catch so they can jump on. It was very very packed on the boat. We left Kigoma at 7 pm and it soon became dark. I tried to find a place to sleep but I had to step over mamas and babies in the dark to find a little nook. Tons of mamas and babies down in the hull sat on top of the drums but in the middle of the night the men stopped at many villages along the lake and dropped off a few oil drums. So we awoke every hour or so to move out some oil drums. I felt like a human-tetris-piece sleeping on top of luggage and people. The babies and mamas just went to the bathroom down in the hull since it was an 18 hour journey and there was no toilet. So the smell or urine filled the air. Along with that was the smell of vomit of some of the people who didn’t scale the side of the boat soon enough to throw up overboard. During the night a fisherman was sleeping on a skinny board lying across the hull and he fell off landing on top of me. Luckily a tarp draped across the beams partially caught his fall before landing on me and the people beside me. I was fine and we made it to the village finally where we all crashed and fell asleep, still feeling the waves rocking us. Thank God we finally got to these people. The picture on the left is us taking the dingy out to the bigger boat. The picture on the right is the morning after our 18 hour boat ride. I’m somewhere down in the mess of luggage.

In this village we did many kids clubs as they flocked to us. We also got to teach kids club leaders how to lead their own kids clubs in their villages. The picture to the left is just a pack of kids that followed us that day.

We also got to do medical ministry with our doctor. Below is a picture of the line of people waiting to see the doctor. He was able to see about 120 patients everyday for 5 days. People would start forming a line at 5 am just to see Doctor Len who comes at 9am after morning devotions, worship, and chai. The team and I would also hike everyday to more remote villages surrounding Igalula. Sometimes we hiked two hours to get to our destination, preached and did door to door, then hiked two hours back. But their was so much fruit. I really enjoyed talking to many people outside their house about my love for Jesus. “For the love of Christ compels us…” –2 Corinthians5:14.

I even got to sit down with a group of Muslim men and tell them that I loved them and that Jesus loves them as we sipped some coffee. We had some pretty interesting conversations. And many people gave their lives to Christ. We brought around 50 bibles to the village. The problem is they still need so much more. Many Christians there will go their whole lives without bibles. Even pastors and leaders in the church don’t have bibles. So, they always remind us to bring bibles with us when we visit. And they cherish the Word. When we gave a bible to a Muslim man who heard about Jesus he sucked it into his chest and held it against his heart, thanking us. It was so cool to see. Please pray for the Word of God to spread in this place. I
got to talk with a man named Fanwel and Imanuel about Jesus. They still weren’t sure if they believed the whole Jesus story so I continued to visit them. Finally one day Fanwel told me he was ready to receive Jesus, so he and his wife prayed with me. Pray for him too. I’ll never forget his beautiful smile.

Above are some mamas we met on our walk. Left is a creek we had to cross to get to the villages Rukoma and Buhingu to preach. I am standing with my friend and translator Rashidi.

At night we were able to bring a small generator and projector to show the movies: Passion of the Christ, Jesus film, Muslim testimonies of dreams of Jesus, and a testimony of AIDS. It was so amazing to see 300 people come out to stand for two hours and watch these films. They have never seen a TV in their life, let alone a big screen movie of the Passion. Here is a picture of Harold and Gabriel the translator leading people in prayer. Many many people prayed to receive Jesus that night as Gabriel translated. Thank God! Pleasepray that they will get connected to a church and continue to learn about Jesus. These villages were “spiritual warzones”. We would hear drums beating at night in the distance as we lay in our tents. These were drums the fishermen would beat at night. They like to use witchcraft to help them catch fish and they were calling the spirits to come. Then we would wake up in the middle of the night to the Mosque’s call to prayer. Also, many homes in the village have a tiny little grass hut in the backyard. These are supposedly homes for their spirits to live. Needless to say we prayed a lot, and God moved powerfully. Then Casey continued to write what I've posted above.


Please pray for these people in Tanzania and pray for Casey and her team there too. As Casey says, "God bless you! Mungu awabariki wote!"

*In the Bible Jesus deals with demons on numerous occasions. To read about these check out Matthew 9:32-33, 4:24, 8:16, 8:28-34, 12:22-29, 15:22-28, 17:14-18, Mark 1:32-34, hmm, here's a good one Mark 16:17, and etc. etc. If you're still curious go to Biblegateway.com and type "demon" in the top search box (you'll get 80 results in the NIV translation). I also want to note that demons are definitely still around today in the USA and all around the world. I could go on for awhile about that and it's too much to explain here right now so if you want to know more just ask.
May God be with you,
~Whitney

Monday, September 7, 2009

Encourage

Recently I have been learning a lot about the power of encouragement. I am also learning that I don't do near enough of it. My parents might tell you that I did plenty of nagging, trying to self-righteously push them to do things that I thought they should do, but that is not encouragement! Encouragement can come in many different forms though. At summer camp as a kid, I remember doing this thing where everyone would have a paper lunch bag with their name on it and you would write down "warm fuzzies" (compliments, nice things) about everyone on a scrap of paper and put it in their bag. I loved to read mine, I especially treasured the ones that happened to reassure me in an area where I doubted myself the most. Recently, I've seen encouragement in monster cookies sent to a friend competing in an Iron Man (2.5 mile swim, 115 bike, and then a 26.2 mile run--I'm not sure if I have the bike distance right but it's long!), a (second) thank you note a year after the event to a pastor, and the vision I shared in my last post gave great, and perfectly timed, encouragement to that friend.

For whatever reason, I normally don't give that much credit to encouragement and perhaps that is why I don't do it as often as I ought. However, the three recent forms of encouragement described above meant more than I could have ever supposed to the people who received it! I too have been encouraged recently. I performed in some skits at church and afterwards many people encouraged me by telling me that I did a great job. It's a small thing to me tell me that, but to me it meant so much! And you know that perfect timing of the encouraging vision I had? Well, that definitely encouraged me to know that God's totally working. It also reinforced that God has chosen us to do his work. He could have encouraged my friend himself, but instead he chose to work through me. Often God's method of choice is to work through us instead of doing everything himself. In fact, I think because he worked through me, the encouragement my friend received was greater because God was glorified even more and we were both encouraged by it.

As you can see from these different examples encouragement can be many different things, big or small, but they all bless people and give them strength. It is so important that we encourage one another. You see God's people encouraging each other throughout the Bible. Hebrews 3:13 "But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness." It is important that we encourage because the world is hard and the devil is always on the attack. Add into that the fact that God usually choses us as his method to spread the good news of salvation and you really find need for encouragement. I often either feel inadequate/unworthy to spread the gospel or I'll be selfish and forget (yikes!) about others. Either way, I would benefit from someone practicing 2 Timothy 4:2 on me, "Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction."

So let us encourage one another with the same purpose as Paul, "My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ" (Colossians 2:2). Finally, let us not forget that we already have eternal encouragement from the promise that we will one day be reunited with God where love reigns and there is no more evil or pain. "May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word." 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 (emphasis added).

Monday, August 24, 2009

I was reading this devotional online and I found this comment on the devotional to be very interesting and, I believe, true. I post it for you to reflect on. Here it is:

Steve Faris
August 22, 2009 10:20 AM
Enjoyed this Aaron. And then going the next step you suggest of the challenge to "Run to Jesus", can be a real dagger, and I believe is, for many us who confused running to the religion of Christianity versus Jesus. One runs to the things surrounding Jesus (religion) and not Him (relationship), ends up in a worse situation than before. Trying to substitute one form of sedative (accomplishments, thrill, numbing of pain, etc) with another sedative (religious activity, ritual, traditions, cultural interpretations of Christ, etc) only serves to scream to us of worthlessness and emptiness. And how easy that is to confuse. The more I seek Jesus himself, the more I am both at peace and challenged - and it is all good. The more I seek things claiming to represent Him, the more I am frustrated and disheartened - and even more so inclined to wonder what life is all worth. Thnx for your words and they are a reminder this morning to run to Him alone, and not the things that are man made images of him. Appreciate your efforts amidst his body to point people to the living and satisfying Bread.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Peace

I went on a run tonight and it was so peaceful.  The sun had set, the sky was a vast, deep blue with just a bit of light blue, and a strip of pink leftover from the sunset to the west.  I praised God for his majesty, his greatness.  I prayed for friends that are his faithful servants as they bear witness to him around the globe.  As I did this, an image came to mind; it was almost as if they were floating on an invisible cloud in the big, velvet sky.   They were in his presence, only God and them, and He was smiling at them, adoring and proud, protecting and loving.  Just like a father.  With this image I was filled with such peace -- I still feel it now!  It's like I'm in a cloud of warmth and love, with nothing to fear.  With this peace, I knew that my friends were well, and well loved, and I understood a little bit more about how Christian martyrs can often be completely peaceful when they are tortured or executed.  Sorry to be blunt, but it's something I've always wondered about.  You see, at that moment on my run with that image in my head, I was home, I was at ease, I felt such great comfort and love.  I praise God for giving me the gift of my faith, however small it may be at times.  I know I have nothing to fear and tonight, unlike so many others who are lost, confused, abandoned, and frustrated, I fear nothing.  PRAISE GOD!