Sunday, November 02, 2014

Day of prayer

Today at church my pastor really focused on the issues going on in Houston with the mayor issuing subpoenas and talking about persecution in America. I am thankful America has much more freedom than many other countries. We may not have these freedoms much longer. So many in leadership are working toward the best for society ... at the expense of personal freedoms.

There are pastors and church leaders in prison suffering for sharing their beliefs about the One True God.

I am sorry that things in America took center stage today as opposed to our brothers and sisters suffering elsewhere. I feel that the Houston topic should have coverage but I am praying today for the persecuted in Iran, North Korea, China and other places. I am praying for the uprising in Burkina Faso and for those in the path of the lava in Hawaii

I also pray for orphans ... there are so many children who do not have parents and struggle for basic needs. I have friends who serve with orphan placement organizations who are trying to help meet some of the kids' needs.

I am praying for a friend who is spending the last days of her father's life saying goodbye. While in mourning already, she is trying to serve him honorably in his last days while also supporting her mother who is saying goodbye to her husband, her lover and her friend.

I prayed today for friends running in Raleigh's marathon as well as the marathon in New York.

The Bible talks about praying without ceasing. How do we do that?

By making everything about prayer.

As my head is pounding, I pray Lord, help me. Lord lighten the pain or take it away. As I drive pray about the soccer mom whose stickers on the back of her car help me to pray for her honor student or that the gospel will be heard while her son plays in basketball at a local church.

While watching the news or even the political commercials that come on so often since the election is Tuesday, I pray for God to end the bitterness. I pray for those running and those helping the campaign. I pray for ISIS' hold to lessen. I pray for people to be open to the gospel.

I pray for my neighbor Donald, a Vietnam veteran whose tough exterior is often hard to get past. He is gruff and often drinking when I encounter him. He gets in my personal space. He complains about everything. He has his reasons for not going to church. He doesn't have a filter so what he says can be insulting ... even if he doesn't mean anything by it.

Lord, help me to speak peace into his life. Lord, help me to confront him with Your Truth. He says He has a personal relationship with you but sees no hope or good in the world.

I pray often ... because I am His, and He hears my prayer.

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Cranking it up

Hello? ....

Hello! HELLO!

I know, it's been a long time but I decided to try to get my blog back up and running. So much has happened in my absence. I won't bother trying to update everything just yet but in the days ahead I hope to share some of the things that have happened. Some will be recent, and some will go back even before I stopped blogging on a regular basis.

"In the beginning God created the heavens and earth." (Genesis 1:1)

Let's face it ... God is a much better writer than me. Thankfully He allows me to be a part of sharing what He is doing around North Carolina on a regular basis. God is at work.

He is using N.C. Baptists to share the gospel, plant churches, provide meals and more. I am thankful for the exposure to just a glimpse of what God is doing.

The image at left is a "fully charged" symbol. I see Americans especially wearing down their energy levels with their busy lives. We need to have time to step back and recharge. You may have realized that some people require more sleep than others, but we all need sleep.

“Praise be to the Lord, who has given rest to his people Israel just as he promised. Not one word has failed of all the good promises he gave through his servant Moses." (1 Kings 8:56)

God knows you need rest. He even took a day after creating everything (Genesis 2:2). 

So how do we rest?

-- Guard your sleep. 

You have to learn how to sleep. Reserve your bedroom for rest. Do not read or watch TV in your bed.

If your body is not used to getting rest, don't expect to sleep eight hours a night right away. You will have to work up to it.

--Wake up at the same time every day.

This is one of the hardest things to do. But your body likes routine. If you go to bed late, try to get up at the same time as usual the next morning. Or at least as close as possible. I confess, I am not always great at this but I definitely feel much better overall when this occurs.

-- Take naps.

That is, if your body needs it. Some people need short naps. Some need long naps. Find out what works for you. If long naps make you grumpy try to take shorter naps. Some people do better without naps. I only occasionally take naps ... and then it usually involves a cat in my lap.

-- Restful activity.

OK, what? I know. It sounds weird. But there are some things that if I do them, they keep me relaxed. Reading (depending on the topic) usually works for me. Propping up in my recliner also works (again, for me; it is my blog after all). I like puzzles too. Find something that relaxes you.

-- Proper nutrition.

I will admit, and it readily visible, that I am not the model for nutrition, however, I feel better when I eat better. Certain foods and drinks make me feel tired and interrupt my rest. When you plan ahead it better enables you to have a healthier day.

These are just a few things that help me. And it is a process. Each moment of every day I choose. I choose to eat the cheeseburger over the salad. I choose to eat the fries over the fruit cup. I choose to go to bed at 10 p.m. instead of 11 or later. I choose to drink water instead of soda.

Rest. Your body needs it. Your mind needs it. Getting the proper rest will allow you to crank it up the next day ... Don't forget to turn your clocks back!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Not even close

It was one year ago today that Haiti was struck with a devastating earthquake.

A lot has been done to help the country and its people over this last year. But we’re not even close to healing the wounds that were suffered and the problems the country had even before the quake struck.

I had the privilege to go to Haiti in October. Some of you may have read my posts from that time. Thank you for caring and praying. If you’ve gone, thank you for going. If you’ve sent, thank you for sending.

I saw a lot of hope while I was in Haiti. They are a resilient people. I did not work with North Carolina Baptist Men or Samaritan’s Purse, who are sending many teams down to help. Both these organizations are doing a wonderful job.

I did go with a group from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, where I am a student. We helped at Canaan Christian Community near Montrouis. This compound has a medical clinic and a school for children with and without families. They also coordinate with a network of pastors across Haiti in getting resources and supplies to where they are most needed.

I was praying before I went to Haiti and continue to lift up prayers. Seeing a glimpse of the devastation and the needs of the people makes it personal.

Each year Southern Baptists set aside certain times for offerings and prayer for various mission endeavors. During Christmas I prayed for various people groups that the International Mission Board focused on for the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, and soon it will be time to concentrate on prayer for the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering.

As a former North American Mission Board missionary I know how important prayer is to those serving on the field. As someone who prays I know that having specific prayers helps me feel a part of what is going on around the world.

I am blessed to have numerous friends willing to go wherever God calls. I am thankful for them and their heart of service. What about you?

Have you gone? Have you prayed?

When I’ve gone on mission trips in the past, someone always asks, “Why are you going there when there are needs here?”

Nothing I’ve ever done before has opened my eyes to the needs around me like going on a mission trip. Haiti was actually my first foreign mission trip. Most of my trips and service have been on a local and nation basis.

Going on missions is a time of concentrated prayer and service. It will wear you out physically, mentally and spiritually. But it will also give you a different perspective on your circumstances.

Generally the person who asks that question has never been anywhere to serve and doesn’t freely open his wallet or her pocketbook for anyone. They might attend church regularly but it is not a personal relationship they are having. It is a public act they fulfill in their community.

Lord, help them to see the needs around them but to also be open and available to help or go to places outside their comfort zone.

We’re not even close. No, we’re not. But God wants us to be a praying people seeking His guidance in what seems like insurmountable circumstances.

I serve a great and mighty God. I pray you do to!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Day 5 in Haiti: Making plans

A group left early to go on a 2-hour hike to a village in the mountain; I didn’t think I could have energy for that and the beach this afternoon with the kids; while I think it would be amazing to watch the sun rise as I climbed a mountain in a foreign country I really want to have some energy to play with the kids at the beach this afternoon.

Isn’t it funny how we make plans?

It was my plan to try to catch up on some work. Little did I know I would injure myself. The group was starting to trickle back to Canaan and I was in our room. They went to eat and I went back inside. I started thinking about packing to leave because we were starting out the next day. I reached for something on the dresser and moved my foot at the same time. My foot touched a slick spot on the floor.

I don’t know what it was. It could’ve been water leftover from a leak that flooded our bathroom and part of my room. It could’ve been bug spray. I usually tried to mop up any spills on the floor, which tended to happen when I was covering my ankles.

When I hit that slick spot both feet tried to correct my balance but resulted in going in two different directions.

The doctor stateside said it is a severe sprain.

It kept me from participating in the beach activities although I did go. I talked with a few of the kids and held some of the younger ones when they were tired. That is a comforting feeling. You just know the little ones are nestling in to the sound of your heartbeat. With your arms wrapped around them, they probably feel a sense of security.

Believers can find security in God. When all else around us is crumbling, the strongest foundation we can find is in Christ.

These children at Canaan Christian Community hear about Christ and other Bible truths on a daily basis as they memorize scripture and study His Word. Many of them seem to have a relationship with Christ. I pray that is a truly personal relationship.

My new friend Jimmy (seen in photo center, in yellow shirt, helping set up medical mumba tent earlier in week) was an inspiration this week. He served as a translator for the dental team. From Port-au-Prince, he came to spend the week with us at Canaan to help out with the big group. We had a great need for translators — at the medical and dental clinics as well as with the pastoral training that went on with 46 Haitian pastors.

Jimmy lives in his car. He has a business repairing cell phones and selling them. A lot of the Haitian people have a cell phone.

He also tries to put Jesus movies in Creole so more Haitians can here of the hope that can be found only in Him.

The house he shared with his parents was badly damaged in the Jan. 12 earthquake. His parents now live in one of the tent cities in Port-au-Prince that have popped up everywhere.

Throughout the week Jimmy worked with the dental team to provide cleanings for all the kids, staff and pastors as well as some walk-ins through the medical clinic. They cleaned a lot of teeth.

There were a lot of Haitians I met who didn’t have much materially. But the joy that exuded from them can only be described through a relationship with Jesus. They thank God in all circumstances.

I hope and pray that I learn this lesson as well.

See photos.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Day 4 in Haiti: Sweaty

Sweaty palms.

No, I’m not nervous.

It’s my new way of life in Haiti.

Of course, my palms aren’t the only thing that sweat here. Sweat oozes from every pore.

I’m a spoiled American missing my air conditioning.

But when the Haitians even say it’s hot, you know it is the truth.

To add to my sweatiness, I also have ant bites on my ankles and a heat rash.

Each new obstacle reminds me to be thankful.

Talking to Celienne, a 16-year-old girl here, and the girls she shares a room with, you see so much joy. From before the rising of the sun until well after the setting of it, the girls sing. She has a beautiful smile. She knows that this place offers her a greater opportunity at a better future. If she studies hard, she might be able to go to college and find a good job.

I share the “penthouse” apartment on the second floor of one of the girls’ dorms with two lovely ladies from Tennessee. They are part of my team that is here working this week. Each morning, they too can hear the lovely voices raised in song. Usually it’s in Creole but sometimes in English. Mostly Christian songs but sometimes secular.

Music is part of the lifestyle of Haiti.

You can share the joys and struggles in song. Music lifts the spirit. It encourages.

The braying of a donkey interrupts the sound of children chanting to learn a lesson in school.

Even the pastors who are here for training share together in song. At each meal, we come together and sing a song, clap and pray.

The pastors left today to head home. One of our team members drove the bus of pastors, leaders and school children.

I can’t imagine driving on these roads.

The bus driver even said at least one of the bridges was out, and he followed a line of vehicles down the side of the embankment and into the water. It is Haiti, after all, and a bridge that is out doesn’t slow them down much.

As an American, I take a lot for granted. My life grinds to a halt when my Internet connection is down or phone lines don’t work. Many times I am so reliant on technology that I don’t know how to operate without it.

I had a song in my heart as I watched the sun set above the community where I am staying. I walked up the hillside and saw the light painting the mountains and highlighting the ocean. It is beautiful here. From the people to the landscape, you can see the ugliness — the years of soil erosion and cutting trees — or you can choose to see the beauty — lush grass and trees or a smile.

I also got to hold a precious little boy today. He seems so serious. But he loves to be held. He latches on for dear life to anyone who wants to hold him. I don’t know his story. Who knows what he has seen in his short life here, but Lord, I pray for him and the other children. I pray God watches over them and keeps them safe.

Lord, open my eyes to the beauty around me. Yes, I need to know the reality of the poverty, but help me to find joy in the midst.

Lord, help me to be thankful in all circumstances. Help my joy that I find only in You be evident to all.

More photos.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Day 3 in Haiti: Tiny baby

Most of today was spent working with Sister Gladys, one of the founders of Canaan Christian Community. She needs lot of administrative help. She not only runs this place but she also is in charge of about 150 churches. Her father was a prolific church planter and these churches have stayed in contact and basically made an association.

For many of these pastors this was the first time they had ever been to Canaan.

The most heart-wrenching story of the day was one of a premature baby.

Born about 12 days ago, the baby was released from the hospital and basically sent home to die. The doctors told the parents that the only hope the baby had was to buy some formula to build up its nutrition. But a relative – not even the parents – brought her into the clinic today. She weighed less than two pounds.

The dad, not seeing the point of paying for something that would most likely result in death, had condemned his daughter to die without even trying. The mother was most likely malnourished. Reality is harsh here. Life and death part of every day.

Elsie, who is in charge of the clinic, and two of our volunteer nurses went to Port-au-Prince to try to take the baby to the hospital. She was turned away from at least three hospitals before one agreed to take her.

Of course, that is also dependent on the money provided by Elsie and the medicine that they had to leave the hospital to buy nearby. Even then there were about 60 babies in this one area of the hospital.

In spite of this harsh reality, you see hope here. Many times when Haitians build they leave room for growth to a second floor. On the drive here and even here on campus, the buildings have rebar and plumbing pipes sticking up from the roof – looking toward growth in the future.

We ended the day without me taking a shower – again. Our water-soaked floor became even worse with the sink leak and the toilet overflowing. I did not want to have to wade through “water” to get a shower. Maybe tomorrow. There is always hope.

It was too late to try to go somewhere else so I went to bed dirty again.

If this is the worst I have to deal with I feel very fortunate.

More photos.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Day 2 in Haiti: Fortified peanut butter

Last night I went back to my room shortly after a bunch of Haitian pastors arrived on campus. When they arrived, they shook hands with the people meeting them in the cafeteria and began to sing and pray.

While I couldn’t understand a word they were saying I could understand their heart for God. They so desired to get some formal training that some walked up to seven hours to a car to then drive three hours to get here.

Almost 50 pastors are here learning about the Bible, getting better training and receiving encouragement from our pastors that we brought here. They are from various denominations. It is amazing to see

This morning I woke up to the girls singing in the dorm below our room.

After breakfast I went down to the medical clinic where Tuesdays is a special day. Mainly women bring their malnourished children to receive a special paste made up of peanut butter and vitamins. The women are supposed to come every week to get their children the treatment they need.

Medical staff weigh and measure the babies to see where they are and whether they qualify for the treatment. Called medical mumba (Creole word for peanut butter), the clinic drew about 50 patients today not including those who were seen by the other medical personnel.

I did not sleep much last night. I finished up with Internet stuff after 11 and headed back to my room. It took a while to find my stuff to get ready for bed. I was thankful the power was on in my room even though we still didn’t have light in our bathroom. But we have an American style bathroom. I’m so thankful for that!

I spent time in prayer for the day. While it wasn’t a long trip, it seems like we are a long way from home — or the comforts of home. The humidity is definitely high. Everyone is sweating, even when they are standing or sitting still. Our kitchen crew is thinking steps ahead trying to make sure there is enough food for the children, staff, our team and the pastors who are here.

I slept off and on but I am not tired today. Each time I woke up — be it for the wild dogs barking off and on, or the rat scurrying around on or in the roof, or whatever that sound was in my room that I really don’t want to know what it was — I took time to pray and thank God for the many blessings I have.

See more photos: