And then what?

What is the worst thing you can imagine happening to you? Is it—

the loss of your job?

your marriage ending in divorce?

the death of a mate or child?

the thought of being single or childless all of your life?

cancer?

What would you do if that dreaded thing actually happened? It’s hard to think about that. Yet I think it is a good thing to ponder.

I am reminded of the advice of Beth Moore in her Bible study course, “Esther: It’s Hard Being a Woman.” She said that when you really fear something, you should explore all that could happen in that situation by asking yourself “And then what?” repeatedly. Beth’s worst fear was that her husband would leave her for another woman—and worse—that Beth’s children would like the other woman. After processing through the pain and rejection and devastation of it all, she realized that at the end of all of the “And then what’s” Jesus would be there, giving her a hope, a future and a purpose. And peace came.

When I read this study, I had several areas of fear in my life. One was the fear of dying, because a doctor had just told me that he thought a lump under my arm was cancerous. I feared death because I didn’t want to leave my parents, husband and children without my care. And to be honest, I also worried that I would be forgotten. I followed Beth’s advice as I tracked what could happen. My thoughts went something like this:

I might have cancer.

And then what?

I could die.

And then what?

Well, I would go to heaven.

And then what?

I’ll be with my precious, Jesus. I’ll be without any pain or sickness or fears again. That’s a gain for me. No fear in that. But Brian and the boys won’t have me to care for them. And my parents will be devastated, as I’ll be the third child they lost.

And then what?

Well, Lord, you will not leave or forsake my husband, my boys, or my parents. And you promise to use everything for our good and your glory. So, you’ll use their pain to draw them closer to you and to bring glory to your name.

And then what?

Since they have all accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior, I’ll see them again in heaven one day.

And then what?

Well, Lord, I’m afraid everybody will forget me here—that my life here will not have mattered.

And then what?

It sure hurts to think about that, Lord. But the truth is that eventually I will be forgotten here. But you allowed me to share your word with people—and you promise that your word will not return void to you. So my life has counted in sowing seeds of faith and love that you will water and nourish and eventually harvest. It doesn’t really matter if anyone remembers me. What really matters is that they remember you.

So, what is the worst thing that can happen to me?

I die and go to heaven to live with Jesus for all eternity. God takes care of my family, who will one day join me in heaven. He won’t ever leave or forsake any of us. He will use everything for my good, my husband’s good, my children’s good, my parents’ good. We are safely in His hands at all times. He will use the seeds that I have planted for His kingdom.

I guess that isn’t so bad after all.

So, what are you afraid of?

And then what?

“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” 1 Peter 5:7.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” Romans 8:28.

Fight on!

Each day we hear more in the news about all sorts of crimes, terrorist attacks and war. We also hear plenty of debate regarding whether women should engage in combat, and whether we should give up or alter our Second Amendment right to bear arms in pursuit of that illusive dream—safety. I have very definite opinions on these matters, as I am sure you do. I also have strong opinions about a form of warfare we each engage in every day, whether we are aware of it or not—spiritual warfare.

When a crime is committed, everyone wants to know who committed the crime and why. We need to remember that the one behind all ugliness, illness and evil is Satan, the enemy of our souls. Our battles, large or small, are against him. God calls and equips each one of us, men and women of all ages alike, to fight these battles victoriously.

Life is hard and evil abounds, but we have no reason to fear. The Bible tells us to “be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power.”¹ Thankfully, our success does not depend on our own strength. Those who believe are equipped with “his incomparably great power . . . which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead,” which is “far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.”² There is no greater power! The combined power of every ruler in the world—past and present—is nothing compared to the power of Jesus Christ in us.

His power enables us to “stand against the devil’s schemes.”³ It’s important to note that all the devil has are schemes. Already defeated by Jesus’ death and resurrection, Satan only has power over us if we believe his lies. Although we are victorious and free, we sometimes live as if we are defeated. The choice is ours. It all depends on what we believe.

My friend, Jon, is well over six feet tall. Jon’s three-year-old neighbor barely came up to his knees. In spite of that, the boy firmly told Jon, “I’m stronger than you!” To this claim, Jon lifted the boy above his head asking, “Now who is stronger?” Ignoring Jon’s power, the boy declared, “I’m still stronger than you!” This is how the devil acts toward us. Although defeated, he is desperately trying to make us believe he is more powerful than we are so he can intimidate us into living a life of fear and defeat. But when we remember that we have the power of resurrection in us, we see his claims for what they are—nothing but wishful thinking and baseless boasting.

Throughout my life, Satan’s lie of choice against me has been that I am guilty and worthless. When the lies became overwhelming, accompanied by horrific nightmares, I shared with a Christian couple that I felt like I was wearing a heavy cloak. They asked me some questions: “Did I want to wear this cloak?” No! “Did Jesus want me to wear it?” Absolutely not! “Who would benefit from me wearing such a cloak?” Only my enemy! They told me the truth—I didn’t have to wear the cloak. I only needed to claim my power through Jesus’ blood to have it removed. Following their example, I reminded Satan that I belong to Jesus and am covered by His blood, that I did not want to wear this cloak and that he was to take it off and never bring it back. I stood on the Truth of Christ’s power to free me. I felt the cloak fall from me, bringing freedom I had never experienced before. I have never worn the cloak again. I still hear lies I need to combat with Truth, but I know who my defender is and that makes all the difference.

Without my cloak, I was ready for a new wardrobe. Thankfully, the Bible tells us how to dress for success. We are to “put on the full armor of God.”⁴ A wise woman challenged me to read Ephesians 6:10-20 daily, seeing myself as literally putting on the five pieces of armor and claiming the protection each provides. That practice has made a huge difference in my life.

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Jesus said, “The truth will set you free.”⁵ Perhaps that is why the belt of truth is the first piece of armor listed (v.14). While placing the belt around my waist, I ask God to replace every lie in my mind with His Truth, and to help me to dwell on and speak only truth. I make sure to cinch my “belt” tightly around me, as it has a habit of falling down around my feet.

Next is the breastplate of righteousness (v.14). The word “righteousness” used to scare me because I thought it meant doing everything right. But the Bible shows righteousness as faith-in-action. Romans 4:2-3 tells us that Abraham was not considered righteous because of what he did, but rather because he believed God. I am so thankful for Hebrews 11, which tells of people who had faith in God. Each person mentioned made terrible choices, yet pleased God through faith. Righteousness is not being perfect—it is trusting in the Perfect One. This goes right along with the shield of faith (v. 16). “Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”⁶ As I put on the shield, I thank God for the things His Word says about Himself and His power, as well as His plans and promises for me. I also ask for the faith to walk in those truths.

Every good wardrobe needs the right shoes. Our armor includes shoes of peace (v.15). The Bible gives the message, “Do not be afraid!” in some form 365 times!  That is not a coincidence.  Every day of the year you can pick up your Bible and read a different assurance that God is with you—you need not fear!

Helmets serve many purposes. In sports, they identify what team we are on and provide protection. The same is true of our “helmet of salvation” (v.17). As I put it on, I ask God to protect my mind from evil, illness, injury, confusion and deception. I also ask for His love to be reflected off of me like sunlight off of a polished helmet.

The last piece of armor is the “sword of the spirit, which is the word of God” (v.17). Simply owning a Bible does not provide any power or protection for me. I only benefit from the Bible by reading, studying and memorizing the words within. When I am in battles, the Lord will bring the words I need to mind. Our sword is a mighty weapon because Satan is powerless against the Truth.

Nothing will prepare you for life like putting on the full armor and covering every part of your day in prayer. Victory is assured!

¹Ephesians 6:10

²Ephesians 1:20-21

³Ephesians 6:11

⁴Ephesians 6:11

⁵John 8:31b-32

⁶ Hebrews 11:6

(This is a modified version of an article I wrote for the Fall 2011 edition of wec.go magazine.)

picture taken from thecassidygreen.blogspot.com

A Bridge to Everywhere

Picture this: A bridge that goes everywhere. Anyone can access the bridge from any place at any time. Christians can use the bridge to go to the remaining 6,864 unreached people groups (2.77 billion people) and tell them about Jesus in their heart languages. Sounds like an impossible dream, right? Well, maybe not.

Keith Williams* is a man with a mission. His goal is to see this bridge accessed and to get as many Christians on the bridge as soon as possible, heading toward the unreached with the message of salvation through Jesus Christ. Obviously, no physical bridge could ever span the entire globe. But another kind of bridge exists that is currently used by billions of people. What bridge could possibly be accessed by so many? Enter the mobile phone.

During the ten years that Williams and his family served in the Arab world, he noticed the growing availability and influence of the mobile phone in people’s lives. He set out to find a way to use the mobile to share the gospel, believing it was the most appropriate technology for the task. Although the Internet has been effective in reaching many people, it is accessed by only 1.97 billion people (29% of the world’s population). Satellite TV broadcasts have reached deep into closed countries, bringing the gospel of Jesus Christ to unreached Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and others.  However, there are only 550 million TV sets among the 5.6 billion residents of the developing world. Short-wave radio used to beam the gospel to listeners around the world, but the shift to FM broadcasting drastically reduced missions’ ability to effectively utilize radio. Too often these types of media do not touch the lives of those we seek to reach or are too costly to employ effectively. But the mobile phone is used by over four billion people, with just under two million subscriptions added daily. It is also simple and economical to use. Illiterate goat-herders are producing content such as home videos, accompanied by popular local music, for their mobile phones at no cost to themselves. Missionaries and local believers can do likewise.

Why is the mobile phone so popular? While many people cannot afford to purchase computers or televisions, most can afford mobile phones. Africa, the world’s poorest continent, has seen a phenomenal 550 percent growth in mobile phone usage in just the last five years.¹ The people of India now have better access to mobile phones than to toilets.² Bedouin in the Middle East no longer choose where to set up their camps by locating good sources of water, but rather by where they can get mobile phone service. For your average citizen of the developing world, the mobile phone wraps up the capabilities of a computer, TV, music player, camera, video recorder and game system into one affordable and easy-to-carry package. Ninety-nine percent of all mobile phones are capable of SMS texting. The UN estimates that 6.1 trillion text messages were sent in 2010, making texting the most widely-used electronic communications method on the face of the planet.

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Due to its popularity, the mobile phone serves as a bridge to those living beyond the reach of the Web. Many evangelistic video clips and Bible passages in various languages can be loaded on your mobile phone and shared with others.  Workers in some Muslim countries now share segments of the Jesus video, as well as other videos made especially for the mobile phone, with friends and contacts.  If the viewers like the video, the missionary sends it to their phones by Bluetooth and the viewers can share it with their family and friends and continue spreading it to others. In this way the videos and passages go beyond their small circle of acquaintances. They may be shared with thousands of others.

While working in the Arab world, Williams and his wife had their mobile phones equipped with short selections of the audio panoramic Bible, numerous spiritual poems and musical Psalms, as well as over 40 videos of Bible stories from creation to the crucifixion, all in the language of their people. This technology was an invaluable resource for them. Because viewing and sharing photos, music, and videos on mobile phone was so common among their people group, it was completely natural for them to pull their phones out and share video or audio files. Missionaries all over the world could have similar resources on their phones—always ready to share.

The mobile can also serve as a great tool for short-term missionaries who have limited time to learn the language of a people group. Although the mobile will never replace our need to study languages and culture, new technology is being released all the time that allows workers to interact with local people while they are still learning the language. Services are available that translate text messages to other languages before sending them. Other services immediately translate spoken messages, allowing users to have conversations in languages they have not yet mastered.

This bridge isn’t only for those going to other countries. You can use it wherever you live or work. You may not carry gospel tracts, Bibles, computers or portable DVD players with you each day, but you probably have a mobile phone with you most of the time. You may already have family pictures and fun videos on your phone that you share with others. If your phone was equipped with resources that point to Christ, think of the opportunities that might arise for you to use them throughout the day. Many Christians want to share their faith with others but aren’t sure how to do it.  Breaking the ice by sharing video clips and other resources via mobile phones could provide opportunities to share more deeply with others.

We live in a rapidly-changing world, and we must change with it to share the gospel effectively.  As the saying goes, “When the winds of change blow, some seek shelter, others build windmills.” Williams and others are choosing to build windmills by making evangelistic materials in various languages accessible to missionaries and teaching them how to use mobile phones to share the gospel. Although excited about the possibilities, Williams recognizes that the mobile is not a magic wand of evangelism. He says, “We must always remember that our faith remains in God and not in technique or technology. No technological innovation will ever change the fact that, unless God moves by His Spirit, people will not come to Christ. Prayer will always have the ability to reach and change more people more deeply than virally-transmitted videos or any other wonder program we devise.” Please pray with us that God will use the ministry of Mobile Advance to reach many people.

The mobile device in your pocket right now has more computing power than the entire Apollo space program had just 40 years ago!³ It’s time we pull them out of our pockets and use them for the glory of God. If you want to know more about using your mobile to share the gospel or how to help build this bridge to the unreached, please visit www.mobileadvance.org.

*pseudonym

¹Smith, David, “Africa Calling,” The Guardian, October 22, 2009

²UN News Center 2010

³Quadir, Iqbal Z., “In the Hands of People,” CNNMoney.com, August 13, 2009

Portions of this article have been taken from Mobile Advance’s website: www.mobileadvance.org. Other portions are from the article,“The Little Phone That Could: Mobile-Empowered Ministry” by Keith Williams & Leith Gray, from International Journal of Frontier Missiology, Fall 2010. To read the entire article, visit their website at www.ijfm.org.

(I originally wrote this article for the Spring 2011 edition of wec.go magazine. A free pdf of the current edition of wec.go can be downloaded from this site: www.wec-usa.org. The picture of the girl with a mobile phone, which was not used in the original article, was taken from www.dialaphone.co.uk.)

Bridge to Nowhere

In Honduras stands a bridge “linking nothing to nowhere.” So says USA Today of the Choluteca Bridge.  Built by the Japanese as a gift to Hondurans, this bridge survived the devastation enacted by Hurricane Mitch in November 1998, while over 150 other bridges were damaged or destroyed. The Japanese company that built the bridge was so proud that their bridge was the only one standing at the end of the storm that they used a picture of it in their advertisements. The only problem is that while the bridge remained where it stood, the hurricane had redirected the course of the river. The bridge stood over dry ground.

We use bridges every day. We drive across various kinds, from quaint stone bridges spanning streams to giant suspension bridges crossing miles of water. We use bridges in music and theater, on ships and in our eyewear. Some people have bridges in their mouths! Each bridge serves basically the same purpose—to connect two or more things, whether literally or figuratively. So, what does one do with a bridge that no longer connects anything? Is it, in fact, still a bridge?

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Though the Choluteca Bridge became a tourist attraction, it certainly did not fulfill the purpose of its designers. Jesus Christ is a bridge between man and God. We, as Jesus’ followers, are also designed to be bridges, connecting the unreached with the gospel of Jesus Christ. As the church of Christ, we must continually evaluate whether our bridge is still spanning the water, still serving the purpose. Just as the Choluteca River changed course, the course of people’s lives is ever changing. To continue reaching them, we must build new bridges or extend existing bridges.

It is amazing how many bridges exist today that were simply unheard of 100 years ago. We must access these bridges for the purpose of reaching the world. It will do little good to grab our shovels and try to redirect the river to flow back under our bridge. We are called to be “all things to all men so that by all possible means [we] might save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22b). We must invest time to understand people’s lives and needs and how best to reach them, instead of stubbornly sticking to “how things have always been done.” Such bridge-building opportunities call for flexibility.

Flexibility is a good and necessary tool as we build bridges. Winds blow and even the ground beneath us flexes, and we must be able to flex with it. The key is to remain flexible while not weakening our foundation or compromising the truth. Another bridge illustrates this point perfectly. The Tacoma Narrows Bridge was built at the end of the Great Depression. The original plans for building the suspension bridge were solid but expensive. The builders decided to go with a less-expensive and less-sturdy alternative, with the understanding that the new plan would provide for more flexibility.

Flexible it was! The bridge was called “Galloping Gertie” because it literally bounced. Drivers on the bridge marveled at how cars in front of them seemingly disappeared as the bridge rose and fell. Sadly, the flexibility also made the bridge weak in strong winds. On November 7, 1940—just four months after the bridge opened—winds caused a rocking motion in the bridge. With increasing momentum, the bridge began to twist from side to side, rising and falling 28 feet up and down every five seconds, tilting at a 45-degree angle. The violent motion caused girders to twist and cables to snap. Within minutes the bridge collapsed. Months of hard labor, along with six-million-dollars in construction costs, were wasted. We, too, could spend much time, effort and money building bridges that will not last. We must never compromise the strength of our bridges—built on the foundation of Jesus and always true to His Word. Anything else will be a bridge destined to collapse.

Like the designers of the Choluteca Bridge, we take pride in our well-built bridges. But if they become bridges that link nothing to nowhere, with the river we hope to span running the other direction, it is time to burn those bridges and build new ones that will enable us to reach those who have never heard of the greatest bridge of all—Jesus. As Christians, we rejoice in Jesus as our bridge to God. “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2:13).  As individuals, we are called to tell everyone about our Bridge.

What bridge is God asking you to build or cross this year? Not sure? Pray for wisdom. And make sure to read my next blog. I’ll share about a bridge that most people carry with them everywhere they go. You probably have one in your pocket right now! Learn how to use it effectively for the glory of God and the growth of His kingdom!

(This is a modified version of an article I wrote for the Spring 2011 edition of wec.go magazine.)

Unwrapping each other

Can you imagine how successful a sports team would be if each member of the team played individually, with no team strategy? It sounds like a recipe for disaster, doesn’t it? In many ways, the body of Christ operates as a team, and far too often we seem more interested in competing with each other than in working together. How is this strategy—or lack thereof—working out for us?

As with sports, in the body of Christ each team member has a unique role. Thanks to God’s great creativity, we differ in our looks, our talents, our families, our responsibilities, and many other things. I’m so glad He didn’t use a cookie cutter when He made people–how boring life would be if we all looked and acted the same! But there is one way in which we are all the same. We are all on a journey together, aren’t we? A journey to know God and live our lives to the fullest in Him.

Each one of us has a unique life and unique experiences that we can share to encourage each other along on the journey. Think about the story of Lazarus in the Bible (John 11). Jesus brought Lazarus back to life, but then what? Jesus did not unwrap Lazarus. He turned to the people around Lazarus and told them to unwrap him from the grave-clothes. And so it is with us today. It is Jesus alone who saves us, but thankfully He has given us a community of people around us to help us become free from the things of our past—and anything that drags us down and kills our spirit—and to help us go forward in freedom and victory.

When I think of unwrapping something, I think of a present or a piece of candy. There is enjoyment and anticipation in the process. When God allows us to help unwrap others, He gives us something sweet—the chance to engage in other people’s lives, to walk with them and learn about them and grow together. Comparison has no place in the unwrapping process. It only robs us of joy in each other and in every aspect of our lives. I enjoy public speaking. I have no vision for designing a room for an event. My boss dreads public speaking, but rocks at making any room come alive. My gifts are not her weaknesses. Likewise, her gifts are not my weaknesses. We have a deal—I’ll do the talking, and she’ll make the venue perfect for the occasion. We are a team. Together we can accomplish far more than we ever could alone. The same is true for each of us. We don’t have to compete with each other to find favor with God. The body of Christ is made up of many different, but equally valuable, parts.

“Now if the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,’ it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be” 1 Corinthians 12:15-18 (emphasis mine).

If we stop competing and begin working together, there is no limit to what the Lord can do through us. So, let’s take the Lord’s advice—“If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other” Galatians 5:15. Instead, let’s “encourage one another and build each other up” 1 Thessalonians 5:11.

Who can you encourage and build up today? Let the unwrapping commence!

Of Cabbages and Faith

(I had the privilege of sharing this powerful testimony of God’s provision in wec.go magazine a few years ago. I enjoy re-reading it, as it always encourages me to trust God deeply. I hope it does the same for you! Thank you again, Aletta Markus, for allowing me to share your story!)

In the early 1960’s, I was a nurse at the East London General Hospital in South Africa and head of the hospital’s Christian Nurses’ Fellowship. I invited Corrie ten Boom to speak to the nurses. I enjoyed listening to Corrie’s stories of God’s faithfulness. She shared about a vitamin oil she gave to her sister who was ill. Every day she poured oil from the bottle, wondering how long it would last. Many other women in the prison were sick. She also gave oil to them and yet it never ran dry! I remember thinking, “God, You will multiply oil and do miracles for Corrie because she is so special.” And then the Lord spoke to my heart, saying “You are also special. All my children are special to me.”

Corrie always stressed things like, “His promises are sure; His blessings are great; His grace is sufficient; His presence is near; His mercy is everlasting and His Truth endures to all generations.” One of her favorite quotes was, “Let God’s promises shine on your problems.” And I thought, “Wow! This is something I really want to hold onto.”

After Ed and I were married, the Lord led us to join WEC. We went to the South African headquarters for candidate training. Will and Rhodie Dawn were the South African Directors for WEC at that time. When I worked in the kitchen, Rhodie always said, “Now trust the Lord for the meals.” We didn’t have an abundance of money or food. One day we sat around the table and had water and a little bread because that’s all we had. I apologized for having nothing more to serve. Rhodie said, “Aletta, you need never apologize. If God has just provided water and bread for us, we will be thankful for that. We need never, ever apologize.”

Ed and I planned to serve in Colombia, South America. However, the Dawns had not been on furlough for 16 years. So, Len Moules requested that we stay and look after the headquarters to give the Dawns a much-needed break. We agreed and lived there with a few other WECers and an African sister who came to live with us because of persecution.

I was in charge of the kitchen and had to trust the Lord for His provision. He provided in many strange ways! The one special day I want to tell you about is when the principal of the Missionary Training College (MTC) called to say that 16 people from the college would be joining us for dinner that night. I gasped. I hung up the phone and went to the pantry. It was pretty bare. There was a large package of Jell-o and a few bananas, so I thought, “I’ll put some bananas in Jell-O and have a dessert! Now, what for the main dish?”

I went to the kitchen and opened the refrigerator. Inside was one cup of ground beef and a little bit of leftover mixed rice, carrots and peas. I mixed them together. Cabbage rolls came to mind. I had never made cabbage rolls in my life! They served it at the MTC and I had the recipe. But I didn’t have all the ingredients to make it. I thought, “Well, Lord, I have to make this.”

I went to the produce box to look for cabbage. The box was empty. My dear African sister said, “Sometimes Mrs. Dawn will reach her hand up and up and up and come out with something.”

I put my hand back in the box and reached up and up and up but found nothing; absolutely nothing! I went to Ed and the other men to ask for a quarter so I could go out and buy a cabbage. They all searched their pockets and had no money! My dear African sister and I ran down the passage to the front door, hoping someone had left food there for us. There was nothing. The mailman came and dropped the mail through the slot. I ran to get it, hoping it contained money. Again, there was nothing. We went back to the kitchen and I said, “Oh, God, if I only had a cabbage I could try to make the meal for tonight.”

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As I stood there, someone knocked on the kitchen door. We both turned around, and I opened the door. There was a well-dressed lady with a beautiful hat and gloves and handbag. She excitedly said, “Don’t thank me! Don’t thank me! Thank the Lord!”

She took us back to her van where men were offloading two big wooden crates. We couldn’t see what was in them. As she drove off I was stunned! I called Ed to come over and open the crates. He opened the first crate–cabbages! And the second crate–cabbages! God knows how to provide! I was just so amazed! I had my cabbages!

I began to boil water to blanch the leaves. As I prepared the meal, I must have been working unconsciously because I don’t know what I was thinking. I only had this small bowl of meat mixture and yet I took out three long cooking trays! As we laid the cabbage leaves down, I didn’t take a little teaspoon, or even a tablespoon of mixture. I took a large spoon and I scooped and put it on the cabbage leaf and rolled it up. When I finished the first tray, I was just crying and crying. And I didn’t want to stop. When we finished the second tray, my dear sister raised her arms in the sky and was yelling, “Oh glory!” I was crying out, “Yes, glory to Jesus.” It was overwhelming. And we finished three full trays before that mixture ran out!

It was a miracle! But that wasn’t the end of the story. When the MTC group arrived, we told them the story of how God had multiplied the mixture. We were almost ready to eat when the telephone rang. The call was from an Australian lady whose mother had recently died. Her family had put her on a cruise and told her to contact WEC when she got to Durban, South Africa. The lady said, “I have just docked at Durban. I heard about WEC and I would love to come and have supper with you.” At first I wanted to say, “Stay in Durban and have supper. I’ll fetch you afterward. We are only having cabbage rolls.” But then I remembered the lesson that I learned so hard, “Don’t apologize for what God has provided!” So, we held back supper, and the men went to get her. We didn’t tell her the miracle that God had brought.

Part way through the meal, the lady began to cry. I thought she felt sorry for us because we only had cabbage rolls. The men sitting by her asked what was wrong. She said, “You don’t know what this meal means to me. My mother died recently, and mom had a favorite dish. Her dish was cabbage rolls, and these taste just like Mom made them.”

I was so humbled! God had prepared and ordained that meal right from the beginning because He knew who was coming and He knew who He was going to bless. It encouraged us and the MTC students to see that He is faithful, He answers prayer, He provides for us. We just need to trust and obey.

By Aletta Markus with Penny J. Hood

cabbage picture from The Vegan Project (http://theveganproject.ca)

Confessions of an April Fool

As we were returning home today from four days of visiting our families, I thought about posting on here that my husband and I are expecting. That might be a bit of a shock to those who know we will turn 50 and 44 this year, respectively. Some will look at the date and laugh, while others may forget for a while that this is April Fool’s Day. I have fallen for that in the past. It sounded like something fun to do until I realized that some people would miss my follow-up post saying it was all a joke—and I would have a lot of explaining to do later. So, forget that.

I was also rehearsing my to-do list, ready to hit the ground running as soon as we got home. As I looked out the window and thought of all I needed to do, I realized I was playing the fool. My mind wasn’t even taking in the beautiful weather today—all I could think of was how much I had to do and wondering how quickly we would get home so I could get started. I stopped myself, and took time to really look around. And then I took time to ask God to forgive me for being an April Fool. Then my heart turned to thanksgiving. I thanked Him for the beautiful blue sky and for the fluffy white clouds that make so many interesting shapes. When was the last time that I just stared at the sky and enjoyed the clouds and made up stories about them? As a child I wished that one would come down to my yard so I could jump on it like a giant cotton ball. I was disappointed to learn they were made of water. It’s been years since I thought much about them. It was nice to take time to just enjoy them today. I also thanked God for the many shades of colors that He created, and thanked Him in advance for all the shades of green that will soon cover the brown trees and ground. As I thanked Him, the weight of my to-do list fell away and I just felt joy—joy in His love for me, joy in the forgiveness He has offered to me, joy in the life that He has given me to live, joy in the things I get to do (not have to do). And as we pulled into the driveway, I didn’t feel a compulsion to hit the ground running. I will do what I can do tonight, but also take the time to enjoy the process. I no longer want to be an April Fool—or a fool in any other month. I want to take time to smell the flowers, listen to the birds, and read the clouds—and to thank the One who made them.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above” James 1:17.

“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever” Psalm 118:1.