Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Oh Bla Di, Oh Bla Da...

...And life goes on...

Today, I have been home from Africa for a month. While my heart is frequently drawn back to my new friends and the precious people we met there, life goes on...And what a sweet, richly supplied life it is!

We are plugging along with Caleb's school year. Well, not so much plugging along this week, since we took the week off. Our scheduled week off was next week, but we had so many fun things planned this week, that I moved things around a bit. Isn't homeschooling great that you have the flexibility to make it fit your life needs and not make your life conform to school needs?

Caleb is doing great with his math. (I LOVE Rightstart Math btw.) He is daily seeing math all around him and is doing simple simple addition in his head. His reading is coming along...he knows the sounds of the letters, but is not blending well at all yet. (Any hints or suggestions on how to improve this skill would be well received.) His handwriting is about average for a boy his age...not great, not bad, but he is willing to practice and I see great improvement from even a month ago. Caleb LOVES history and a recent purchase of Adventures in Odyssey American history CD's has been a HUGE hit.

And then there is Nathan...or "I JUST NATE" as he likes to remind anyone who calls him Nathan, lovebug, or any other nickname. Nathan is 2 1/2 now and is clearly reminding us all daily. His favorite word is "No." But he likes to get creative with his No-ness. We hear NO, nope, nu-huh, No-Y, NONONO, and a few more that are just impossible to spell. Nathan definitely has a mind of his own and is not afraid to express it.

Although, Caleb started potty training right around this age, I am pushing it off a bit for Nathan. I am hoping he will get over the No's and then it will be a bit easier. He has asked to go potty a couple of times and been successful, so we will see...maybe by the end of the summer.

As for David and myself, we are doing slows down a bit for the summer (I hope!) and I think we both need that. We are praying through some big things for our family- seeking God's will for us and asking Him for the faith to follow His will. If you care to say a prayer for us, we would greatly appreciate it!

Till next time...Oh Bla Di!

Pictures are from recent visits to the NC Transportation Museum, strawberry picking and just fun around the house.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

And Finally, Dessert.

If our trip to Guinea-Bissau was a feast upon God's love and power, then the last day was truly desert. After leaving the village of Canquelifa, we spent the night in a hotel in Gabu, before heading to the home of Wade and Kate McHargue. Sitting and talking with them in fellowship was sweeter than any piece of pie could ever be!

I am so thankful for the McHargue's and their work in GB. I am so thankful for them opening up their home and pouring into us for the short time we were there. I am so thankful for the example of a real family doing real family things, who just happen to be doing this family life in a mission context.

Wade, Kate and their precious family have such a powerful vision for Guinea-Bissau and God's work through its people. Truly, Wade and Kate have such huge plans and hope for the tiny nation of Guinea-Bissau that the vision will only be successful through God's help. The McHargue's see the church in Guinea-Bissau becoming a light shining throughout West Africa and the world. They have establish a "Bible Bootcamp" in which men can come and live on their "farm" for three months, studying the word of God and ministering to the community around them. These men, their families and communities have been radically changed by the power of God's Word working.

The time at the McHargue's was not only of sweet fellowship, but of challenge and conviction. I was challenged to grow in my faith of God, my experience of His power and my desire to be fully dependent upon Him. I had to truly ask for God's help to keep me from being defensive and instead to open my heart to all He wanted to teach me.

(Rice fields are the mainstay sustenance for GB families.)

And, wow, did He want to teach me through this short visit.

If the day with them was dessert, the ride to the airport with Wade was something akin to a triple cherry on top. I wish I had a tape recorder to catch everything he said. Much of it spoke directly to my heart, allowing me to see areas where I desperately need God to change me and grow me to be more like him.

(The prayer building- being built to resemble the Tabernacle, will guide visitors through thoughtful and powerful times of prayer for GB and the world.)

As we got to the airport to wait for our return flight home, I rushed to write down the things I could remember Wade and Kate saying...some of it included...

The Kingdom of God has come to earth in you. The power of God is in you. Earnest, persistent prayer will be the break through for this nation.

There is an entire world we do not see. We are in battle with the spiritual realm on a daily basis. Be in the Word. MEMORIZE it and be READY for battle.

Seek the God of the Bible. Seek His heart. He always rewards the seeking heart.

Worry a little less about the fruit and a lot more about the abiding.

We are an Elijah generation, rising up to prepare the way for the second coming. Imagine that by the time our children are grown, there is no such thing as an "unreached people group."

Pray. Memorize. Be alert. Seek God's power.

May I listen. May it be so.
Your Kingdom come, Your will be done.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Side Dish?

On the Thursday of our week in the village of Canquelifa, we took a quick side dish of a trip to two of the other villages we are working in. We were able to visit Buruntuma, the first village our church built a church in and Kamajaba, the next village within which we will be building a church.

It was a blessing and a unique experience to see the fruit of others' labors where we have been and the hopeful fruit of labors that are only now known to God.

In Buruntuma, there exists a fully functioning church. Hope and joy mark its members. The pastor has a heart for his people and desires to see them grow and be discipled in their faith. He asked us to move the radio station which was built there for disciplining purposes to the church so he could better use it to reach the village.

The pastor has one young man, who was one of the first new believers in the village after our church's first evangelism trip there, as his right-hand man. This young man has already attended an intense Bible training "bootcamp" class and will be visiting/evangelizing/disciplining the other two villages until there are pastors in place over them. Now that is how the body of Christ is supposed to grow!

In Kamajaba, we had a taste of what the future fruit of our labors might be. They, like the other two villages, were kind enough to give us land upon which to build a church.

This land already has a building upon it which might be salvageable and is right near a already dug well (Which is a HUGE deal...the pastor in Buruntuma is currently hand-digging a well for the church and his family to use.) The leaders of Kamajaba were so excited to show us this land and seemed very eager for us to return in the near future.

I am so hopeful and excited to know that God is working in all three villages we have reached out to in Guinea-Bissau. It seemed very fitting that during our brief stop in Kamajaba, one of the village ladies brought out her 2 week old baby girl and allowed all of us ladies to hold her. My heart just poured out prayers over her as I cooed over her sweet fingers and little lips.

(That is the sweet baby's mom standing next to me in the white. My guess is she was about 14 years old.)

May this precious babe be a mighty woman of God, knowing Jesus personally, being used by God to spread His glorious name. May she come to attend the church and grow in God's grace and in the wisdom of His word. May she know true, everlasting life and be eager to share it with others.

May this prayer pour out over her and all those we met in Guinea-Bissau.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Main Course Part Two

Here is part two of our Canquelifa story...much of it is what I presented at church a couple of Wednesdays ago. As I said then, I don't tell you this to make you think I am crazy...though some of you will. I tell you this story to draw attention to an aspect of spiritual truth that we have nearly forgotten here in the states...

One of the overarching aspects of our trip was the reality of spiritual warfare. Spiritual warfare is not a popular topic for teaching from the pulpit or in a Sunday School class. We are so quick to remember that we worship the God of the Bible, but so quick to forget that Satan is still the same Satan of the Bible as well. 1 Peter 5:8 says, "Satan is a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour." While we know, he has lost the battle, he is doing everything he can to keep the battle going in Canquelifa and Guinea-Bissau.

We learned on our trip that the village we worked in, Canquelifa, is an extremely old village compared to the others we have been to, Burantuma and Kamajaba. Also, Canquelifa is surrounded by what the villagers call “Spirit Trees” which give the village special powers from the Spirits. While there seem to be a good number of Muslims in the village, honestly I would say that the village is 100% animist, with half of them wearing Muslim clothes. There are only a handful of children that were not wearing the animist amulets that supposedly protect them from evil spirits. It is my belief that Satan has had longer to work in Canquelifa and is deeply entrenched within this village.

The village of Canquelifa is marked by a spirit of apathy and indifference. Ephesians 6 speaks of evil spirits or principalities that rule over a specific area and I think the ruler of Canquelifa is apathy. Unlike the stories of the people of Burantuma who would come and talk with you, the people of Canquelifa just did not come. We felt a remarkable difference when we visited the two other villages. While in Canquelifa, we had a small group of children that would visit us each day, these were children that have made confessions in Christ and visit with the evangelist Lopez whenever he comes. Moreover, the king of Canquelifa is a physical representation of this spirit of apathy. The king will sit for hours in his chair sometimes listening to the radio, most of the time doing nothing. He, like the spirit of the village, is willing to let life pass him by.

We had three specific physical manifestations of spiritual warfare while in the village. After Monday night’s worship, we returned to the hut and went to sleep. During the night, as the wind blew hard, it sounded repeated like a large hand was banging on the roof. The window in my room sounded like someone was pounding on it and was vibrating with each blow. We could hear footsteps around the house and at one point even our translator thought someone was in the house. A spirit of fear and utter darkness engulfed us. The next morning, we checked and there was absolutely nothing that could have reached the window or the roof to make the noises we heard.

On Wednesday night, after an amazing night of worship on Tuesday, we were to show a film for discipleship to a group that had come to see it. Our group leader had tested everything earlier in the day and it worked fine. The time came and the generator just would not start. We borrowed another generator, got the film running and within 30 seconds the film projector bulb stopped working. It did not surprise any of us that when our tech guy at church checked the bulb upon our return, there was NOTHING wrong with it.

Friday, our last night sleeping in Canquelifa, was one of the wildest nights I have ever slept anywhere. A couple of hours after we went to sleep, there was this loud explosion which shook the wooden shutters of our hut. (Later we were told a Mango tree had fallen somewhere in the village. We never saw it and it did not fall anywhere near our hut.) Shortly thereafter, we once again began to feel the overwhelming fear and engulfing darkness that we had experienced Monday night. I repeatedly woke up feeling as if I was surrounded by a group of small, shadowy figures just staring at me. I can remember fighting to wake up and get away from them several times in the night. Jessica felt as if there was evil in her room and God kept telling her to turn away from it.

At one point, our house was surrounded by goats and others animals making noises that we had not heard all week. One of the noises that I will never forget was the chilling sound of a goat that sounded demented and very much like a man. So much I am still not sure that it was not a man making the sound of a goat. Satan did his best to frighten us, steal our joy and our peace.

I don’t tell you this to make you think I am crazy, though some of you will think that already. I don’t tell you this to make you fearful. For you see God was completely present in the midst of the attack. On Friday night, when things would get really crazy, Lena would sing to us and things would quiet down. In the midst of all the craziness, Lena kept hearing in her heart “These are mine. Back off.”

I can remember waking up at one point seeing a glow out in the middle area of the hut. It was so bright, I thought it was morning and that we had left the door open. I checked my watched and it wasn’t even 2 am yet. Friends, demons do not come with light. That light was God’s angels protecting us in the midst of the attack.

I have prayed since and wondered why did this happen to us. Why would God allow this warfare to become so real to us? The missionaries we visited with after the village shared with us that they believe Satan saw God’s light beginning to break forth in that village and was going to fight with all he could to get it out. But we know that darkness will never conquer light. My hope and prayer is that after living this and after you have read this, that Ephesians 6:12 would be so much more real to you.

"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places."

After describing the battle and our armor in Ephesians 6, Paul details how we are to fight- with all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints.

If we as a church are not willing to fight this spiritual battle, all of our work in Guinea-Bissau is for naught. We must get down on our knees, begging for Satan’s chains to be broken, and this village will be changed. While most of you will never get to travel to Guinea-Bissau, your prayers for the country, for the believers in the villages and for the national workers- Lopez, Carlitos, Weeay, the Pastor coming to Canquelifa, Pastor Felipe Ruthie, Ussai and others, will truly be what win this battle for the Lord.

(The Team)

"There has never been a spiritual awakening in any country or locality that did not begin in united prayer." A.T Pierson

"Intercession is truly universal work for the Christian. No place is closed to intercessory prayer. No continent- no nation- no organization-no city-no office. There is no power on earth that can keep intercession out." Richard Halverson

"Prayer does not fit us for the greater work; prayer is the greater work." Oswald Chambers

(Carlitos and Lopez)

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
(Ephesians 3:14-21)

(Ruthie and Ussai)

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Main Course Part One

The truck slowed down slightly as we entered the village of Canquelifa. Through the side rails, I could make out a line of small shops squatting under the tall arms of age-old trees.

On the other side of the street, the finishing touches were being put on a new school and bright blue medical clinic. From all sides, eager faces stared at the ramshackle group of "blancos" that had just entered their village.

As we exited the truck, the children immediately surrounded us, eager to touch our skin, hold our hands, just to smile and to receive a smile in return. My heart swelled with the excitement of the moment. These were the people I had been praying for the past few months. These people were the reason I had left my family and traveled thousands of miles. I finally was able to put a face, a hand, flesh to the desires of my heart. This was definitely my "main course" in Africa.

Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday mornings were spent walking around the village sharing the gospel with whomever would listen. We would approach a group as they sat working or resting and would begin to tell them that God loved them, He has a plan for them and that He desires a relationship with them. We told them of God's holiness and how it cannot be mixed with Man's sinfulness. We told them that Jesus, God's Son, was crucified, buried and resurrected so that He could act as the only bridge between sinful man and holy God.

Many listened intently.
Some joked and laughed at us.

Some announced they recognized what we were saying is truth and wanted Jesus to be their Savior and bridge.
Many nodded politely, rejecting what we said for various reasons.

Many who did believe almost instantly began to face rejection and ridicule from their friends and family.
Some who wanted to believe could not find the courage to stand up to the persecution.

Each time someone did believe, my heart swelled with the thought that I would be singing with them for eternity in Heaven. Each time someone nodded politely in rejection, my heart broke begging God to open their eyes and their hearts for just a moment.

Experiencing these moments of salvation and eternity was definitely the high point for me the entire trip. While I barely understand it and truly do not get it, for the briefest of moments I was able to touch eternity through these people and their decisions for Christ. Words cannot begin to express...

...And the absolute hardest part of the entire trip for me, was leaving these young believers without a pastor or someone who could daily disciple them in spirit and truth. The roof was put on the church building while we were there and all that is left is the floor. The church, the new believers and the village are waiting for the one God has picked out to serve them. Please join in me in praying for this man and his family you will see in part two, he has a tough road ahead of him.

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