Category Archives: Missions

“Come to His Table”- Theme 2018!

By | Be Brave Series, Bible, Missions, Personal, Studying Scripture, Suffering, Testimonies | No Comments

Remember the Alamo!” It was the statement that was shouted in the middle of the iconic battle in San Antonio, Texas. Those words gave a reason to fight. A focus-point when all around them was crumbling. Battle cries are important. They become fuel for the fight.

Every January (since 2014) God has given me a theme to live by. A mantra for the year. A focus-point for the next twelve months. Some of them I’ve loved…and most have stretched me beyond myself.

In 2014: Do Hard Things

In 2015: Reflect the Son

In 2016: God Writes my Story

In 2017: Be Brave

Each year has perfectly mirrored what might go through your head when you read the above statements. I did hard some things in 2014. I learned that it wasn’t all about me in 2015…that I was only to be mirroring Jesus. In 2016 I had to learn to surrender my life story to Him and that He would write it better (not easier, but BETTER) than me.

This past year was a game-changer for me. I literally emerged from the other side of 2017 a completely different gal than the one who started it. It was truly, my year to BE BRAVE. For the record, it seemed like everything I did in 2017 was out of my comfort zone. My friend once commented that last year was like being inside a violent clothes dryer. You get out feeling sore, disoriented and a little out of sorts. Sometimes God calls us to seasons of “being in a dryer” for His glory and our good.

Which brings me to the year 2018. Anybody else wincing? Signal the drumroll, please…because my new battle cry is about to debut!

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I have felt the finger of God on my heart for the year 2018. His heart for broken and needy people has suddenly come to life for me. It’s His will that none would perish. That all would gather at His table. I’ve seen hungry women. I’ve been desperate for His living water myself. Time and again. So it only made sense when I felt Him drop this year’s theme for me…

COME TO HIS TABLE.

Both the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” Anyone who hears should say, “Come!” And the one who is thirsty should come. Whoever desires should take the living water as a gift. (Revelation 22:17 HCSB)

Come to His table. This means a variety of things for me. The table is a place of bonding and discussion. It’s a place to be filled…both your stomach and your heart. Mentoring happens at the table. Homework questions are answered. Family conversation is plentiful. Even more so at the Table of the Lord.

Come to His Table.

First, coming myself to receive nourishment from Him. I cannot persuade others to come to His table if I haven’t been there myself. I’ve seen women (and men) who are so FILLED with Jesus that you feel like talking with them is touching the hem of His garment. You know what I mean? You KNOW that she/he has been at His Table. They have been fed by His Word. They have received freely of Him and His truth. Somehow, every conversation points you to His Table…because their life is inviting you to go there.

Next, I need to be running to the dark and dying world and bringing others to His table. If I’m being fed at His table, I will naturally want to share His saving nourishment with others. I want to be a woman who invites others to His Table.

Saving a seat for my neighbor. For the gal in the grocery check-out line. For the girls I lead home Bible study with. For the little people at church I have in the nursery. For the women I minister to in prison.

Come to His Table.

His Table means healing. His Table means wholeness. His Table means restoration and redemption. Thirst quenched. Hunger filled. Worry erased. Fear melted and replaced with FAITH. Perspectives are radically changed. At the table, weariness is replaced with strength…HIS strength. I don’t know about you, but His Table is where I want to be.

My battle cry for the year 2018? COME TO HIS TABLE!

You’re invited, friend. Come to His Table.

 

(This post was originally published on Faith’s blog Living Brave and Courageous on January 1st, 2018. PCM will be adopting the same theme this year: “Come to HIs Table”.)

Contagious Courage

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“Get up, for the matter is your responsibility, and we support you. Be strong and take action!” Ezra 10:4 HCSB

Sitting in my room at fourteen years old and reading his story was the first I heard of him. The man I read about in those pages was a pastor in the Ukraine and had the faith of a giant. I read about the things he believed God for and it made me crave to have that kind of trust. I learned about the orphanage that God had miraculously built…when the funds didn’t exist on paper. His courage made me want to be brave too.

Here’s the thing. Courage is contagious. It spreads to the people who are with you or around you. It infects the people in the circle of your existence. Courage is a choice…of that we can be sure. But if you are Brave, it’s easier for me to be too. That’s the way it works.

It reminds me of yawning. Seriously. Have you ever watched someone yawn and then seen the chain reaction of the people closest to him or her? I’m even yawning right now just seeing the word on this page!

So it is with courage. If you see me living brave, or even read the story of a Christian who lives brave, it will be easier for you to step out in faith. There are hundreds of battle tales of rally cries and courageous chants that have spurred men and women to give everything they have in the face of death. Why? It’s easier to be brave if a friend is standing next to you. (Why else do you think that roller coasters are generally rode in pairs? Or flying for the first time is easier with a friend?)

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As a kid I loved dominoes. Not really for the game part, but because I loved to set them up in rows of twists and curves until I emptied the entire box of dominoes. Then, I’d nudge the first domino and watch the chain reaction. It was a thrilling five seconds.

Maybe we are a little like dominoes too.

Have you ever met someone who was so courageous that it spilled over onto everyone they bumped into? That’s the kind of woman I want to be. I want to start a chain reaction. Something that moves me to action for Jesus SO MUCH, that others can’t help but get excited and follow Jesus bravely too.

Now we all have different lives and gifts and talents…so our lives SHOULD look different. But the Bible says hundreds of times to have courage and not be afraid…and so I think God meant it to be noticed. As varied as our lives may be, we are all called to be Brave and courageous in our own ways. For you, it might be talking to people you don’t know at school or befriending the new girl at church. For me it will be a completely different set of knee-knocking assignments. But my assignments aren’t better or bigger..they’re just different because I’m a different person than you.

I’ve met girls who have looked me square in the eyes and told me they could never do what I do. Maybe they’re right… but it’s not because I’m a super Christian, it’s because I’m a different person. God has called me to a certain set of brave assignments. I have also been face to face with people who LOVE talking in front of large groups of people. That I don’t get. But they are beautiful daughters of the King called to a completely diverse set of courage-jobs. I’m also certain there are things you’re called to that I would find terrifying or a piece of cake…and visa-versa.

This is how God designed us. To need each other. To love each other. To cheer our friends and family on. He wants us to be a crowd of completely unique and gifted people unalike and dissimilar from each other…and yet beautifully fit together like a puzzle. Cookie-cutter sameness is WAY overrated, friend.

So if courage is contagious…you need to surround yourself with courageous people. Brave people. People who believe God is capable of using little-‘ole you for His plan. Read stories of great Christians who were valiant in the faith. Study God’s Word and rehearse the times He did CRAZY feats through ordinary people like you and me. (One of my personal favorites is Gideon!) When Jesus calls you to be brave, grab a friend’s hand and ask her to pray like mad for you. Or better yet, have her go WITH YOU on the adventure. You will be strengthened and you’ll make a ton of memories together…which will certainly include laughing and crying.

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That Ukrainian pastor? He’s still working hard for the Lord and when I was 20 years old (six whole years after I read about him) I met him in person. That will forever be one of the unforgettable events in my life. There’s something about meeting someone who has so affected the course of your life, and yet you’ve never even seen them before. It’s hard to describe what went through my head, but I knew that with the language barrier, I’d probably never be able to accurately say what his faith and courage had done to change my life. My 14 year old life.

Later during his few days visit to our area, I was able to sit with him and an interpreter at supper time. I wanted to ask him one question. When I finally mustered up the gumption, I spit it out. “I’ve heard about the incredible things you do in Ukraine and how God is working through you and your ministry. You are a great man of faith. What is your secret?” I’ll never forget his answer. Humble, but confident, he looked me straight in the eyes and said…

“I’m just a little man with a big God.”

There are a thousand things he could have probably said and been right. But he turned my focus from doing things to being…just being God’s daughter afforded me everything I needed. Knowing Who Jesus really is gives you faith. I was just a young gal…with a big God. And that was enough. Pastor Pavel probably knew that if I could grasp that truth, I’d have all the faith and courage I needed. And I think he’s right.

Courage is not pulling yourself up by your own boot straps. It’s not muscling your way through tough times and putting on a strong face. It’s not even having all the right Bible answers and sounding the part. True bravery and courage can only come from the Power-Source Himself: Jesus. He makes us brave. He gives us everything we need at just the right moment to be courageous.

Contagious courage is when a believer who knows of Jesus’ power rubs off on you. They somehow create a hunger in you to trust more. To see Jesus in full color. To have bigger faith that He. Can. Do. It. Mark Batterson said it like this: “Your ‘Brave’ is someone else’s breakthrough.” That kind of courage is beautiful….and I want to be so sure of my Jesus that my courage to follow Him spills over onto the people around me. Like Pastor Pavel did to me 15 years ago.

This Thanksgiving…who has changed your life by their courage? Now go and thank them. Let’s start a chain reaction of courage!

“Indeed, God is my salvation; I will trust Him and not be afraid, for Yah, the Lord, is my strength and my song. He has become my salvation.” Isaiah 12:2 HCSB

 

Bravery that’s Bigger than Me

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It was March 2017. I had been through the ringer and I had no idea what was up the pike for me in life…just weeks away. In January God had given me the year’s theme: Be Brave. I could feel Him kneading the truth of His Word into my soul. I was praying for His Be Brave assignments. Now I know that praying for life missions is akin to praying for patience…but we live and learn.

A mere few months later, I was sitting across the dinner table from a good friend and prison chaplain, hearing his plea for more help. I could feel my spirit stirring. I knew that feeling…the Lord prodding me in a certain direction. “I need more female volunteers for our October trip. We will be going to several women’s correctional facilities and I’m short-handed. Would that be something you’d be interested in?” I sat there soaking it all in. I’d grown up around prison ministry my whole life. My dad had been involved in helping with this particular ministry, but this was a new angle. This was ME.

We asked some questions…what would that look like? What would I be doing? What were the dates and expenses? But it was pointless. I already knew the answer. I could sense the Lord moving me for weeks to something and I saw clearly: this was it. This was my missing puzzle piece.

I don’t remember everything I said that day, but I know at one point I leaned back in my chair, took a deep breath and said, “Uncle Bob, this terrifies me. So I’m pretty sure this is what I’m supposed to do.” And that was that.

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Courage is a funny thing. It never feels heroic. Or at least not to me.

Most times, courage feels down-right crazy. Scared-out-of-my-wits crazy. Roller-coaster crazy. Out-of-your-comfort-zone loco. Even foolish. Sometimes being brave looks like sticking my neck out and doing something I’ve never done before. Or being stretched way beyond human capabilities. It ALWAYS looks bigger than me. Braver than me. And generally speaking, there’s not a guarantee of the outcome.

That’s why it’s called courage. Faith. Brave Living. The “risk” factor is what makes us lean into the only One who really knows the outcome…Jesus. We feel like we’re jumping into the darkness blindfolded. But all we need is to trust our Guide…because He can see the whole path clearly.

Yes, prison ministry wasn’t on my radar for the year…but it was apparently in His blueprint.

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Fast-forward six months and I was standing in the airport security line with MaryEllen. We were heading out for three weeks of prison ministry and adventure with Jesus. I was walking in obedience. Nothing more. I didn’t feel brave. Or ready. I just knew I was called to walk through the door and I prayed like a mad-woman that He would go with me. I remember whispering under my breath as the plane took off… “God, You know this is a one-time-deal, right?” I’m sure He smiled.

Words are inadequate to express what happened to me in the next few weeks. Radical changes occurred in my heart. I saw the world in a new light. I saw the previous months of pain I had went through as a stage to show-case His glory and connect with the broken people around me. I saw Jesus in a beautiful way…as the One Who came and rescued me from myself. My Sin-bearer and the Lover of my soul. Emmanuel. God with me. God with us.

Redemption is a beautiful thing…but sometimes when we grow up knowing “Christian-ese” and hearing all the lingo…we miss the awe of it all. Being able to get involved in prison ministry was like stepping into a place where Jesus was showcased in full-color. Prison is a broken place…and He thrives in our brokenness.

I remember one day when I had a conversation with a middle-aged woman who was feeling out of hope. She had made some pretty big mistakes that landed her in prison. She was feeling hopeless and unwanted…and I could see all the pain and uncertainty etched in her face. She was crying and telling me her story. My heart broke for her. The pain of feeling overwhelmed by sin and guilt. I knelt down by her chair and tried to speak words of encouragement and truth to her. I’m not sure what all I said, but I remember telling her, “I just want you to know that our Jesus is a God of REDEMPTION. He loves writing the last chapter. And maybe He’s brought you here so He can start something new. There is always hope with Jesus.” With tears running down her face, she responded, “Thank you for saying that. I needed to hear that.”

The next morning, the same lady came in for class and was clearly looking for me. She seemed timid, but I knew she wanted to say something so I walked over to her. Immediately she put her head down and nervously said… “I couldn’t sleep all night. And I even hesitate to ask you this because you’re so much younger than me…but yesterday you kept mentioning the word redemption…and…I don’t even know what that word means.”

If she could have seen into my heart in that moment it would have been full of amazement and excitement. I was getting to share Jesus and the Gospel with this woman! What a treasure to lead someone to the Throne and introduce them to Jesus.

We take it for granted, don’t we? The lingo many of us have grown up learning and speaking since we were toddlers…and yet some people never hear. Some never hear the truth of the Word until they’re adults. It’s humbling to stand in front of a group of women who have lived way more life than you…and yet are asking you simple questions about Jesus and the Word. It makes you grateful. It challenges you to dig deeper. To savor the beauty of the Bible. To stand in awe of the incredible gift: the knowledge of Jesus. Why would He give me such a privilege?

In case you’re wondering, this lovely lady became my sister-in-Christ that warm Florida day. She listened with rapt attention as I explained that Redemption means “bought back”…that Jesus chose to buy her back when she was in sin and He wanted her to be His forever. With tears streaming down her face, she surrendered that day. And I’ll never forget her radiant smile when she graduated from the program and shook my hand… “Thank you SO MUCH for coming here,” she said. I responded with “It was my pleasure,” amid the tears rolling down my cheeks and the lump in my throat.

I was the one blessed. I left changed.

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There are a thousand things I learned in those three weeks of prison ministry…and I could blog about it for ages. There are parts about the trip I’m still processing. Questions that are currently unanswered. But suffice it to say, I am a different woman than the one who flew out of the airport in late September 2017.

It was the longest I’ve ever been away from home without any family. It was scary. Big stuff. Crazy, mind-boggling, what-was-I-thinking stuff. This was a wild roller-coaster that I was both terrified and excited about. I’ll always be thankful that God allowed MaryEllen and I to go together…it gave us one point of familiarity among a thousand unfamiliar. We were able to encourage one another and pray for each other. On our off days, we were able to enjoy the ocean and talk through the stories and experiences.

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What brave living is God calling you to? It’s probably the scariest thing on the horizon. Friend, if I could say one thing to you…you there, standing on the edge of your future, it’s this. Trust Him and step out in Faith. He has an incredible plan for you and it will require getting outside of yourself. That’s where He is. He will make you brave. In the beginning, I had no idea what those three weeks of prison ministry would hold…but I knew one thing, and I was clinging to that promise with everything in me.

Jesus was going with me. Guaranteed. That’s the fool-proof plan, friends. Jesus leads and I follow Him. Would I do prison ministry again? Absolutely. Willingly. Enthusiastically! Bravery that’s bigger than me is the best kind…because that means Jesus is there. Sign me up, friend. I want to be wherever He is.

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you: I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will place My Spirit within you and cause you to follow My statutes and carefully observe My ordinances.” Ezekiel 36:26-27 HCSB

God Meets You Wherever You Are

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As I entered the year 2017, someone ask me: “What do you see happening in your life this year?” My response was “I feel that the Lord is going to do something new”. I really had no idea what it would possibly be! Just a few days into the new year, the Lord brought this verse to me… “Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people and the sheep of his pasture”, Psalm 100:3. I love this verse. It has such a special place in my heart now. I have gone back to it several times throughout the course of this year. It is such a beautiful reminder to me that I do not belong to myself. I am the Lord’s. He has made me.  So if I am His, shouldn’t I be living my life for Him?

In the previous months I had been staying fairly busy helping with different care-giving needs in the neighborhood, but when the new year arrived, they came to an abrupt stop. I wasn’t needed anymore. What was I to do now? The first six months I pretty much was at home helping out on the farm. At times, I asked the Lord, “Is this really the new thing you have for me in life?” I can now say that I am grateful for those six months. The Lord used that time to strengthen my relationship with Him in so many ways. I found a new love for His Word. A deeper desire to know more of His heart for me. I have seen the power of answered prayer and restored relationships. Honestly, I have seen more of who Jesus is! He is so amazing.

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God used that time to prepare me for these last 5 months. They have brought so many amazing opportunities to serve Him.  In March, Faith asked me about going to the Prisons in Florida in October with her. I thought this idea sounded so neat! I had heard so much about prison ministry and I wanted to experience it for myself. I ask my parents what they thought of me going on this missions trip. They encouraged me to seek the Lord about it, and that they would be seeking His direction as well. Within a few weeks the Lord had given me very clear direction through His Word that I was to go. I shared with my parents what the Lord had revealed to me. They weren’t as sure as I was! They told me they didn’t think they wanted me to go.

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I suddenly wondered “why Lord would you lead me and not my authorities?” But I trusted that my parents knew best and I was very content with their decision. I knew God must just have something else that He wants me to be doing with my life. It was completely out of my mind until one day in July, my Dad came to me and ask if I still would like to go serve in the prisons. Yes, I certainly did!  Then began the amazing journey that I would love to tell you about!

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Before going to prison, I had a formed idea in my mind of what all prisoners were like…Cold hearted, sad, lonely, unforgiving, only thinking of themselves, the list goes on…… How do you think of those behind prison walls?  I am here to tell you differently! During the two weeks I spent with the inmates, their lives taught me so much about genuine love for one another, joy, forgiveness, self-sacrifice, etc. Several of the women in the prison we were in the first week have personal relationships with Jesus Christ. It was an incredible sight to see when they all came together to study more about our KING and LORD! The way they live their lives has been an inspiration to me. If one of them was having a difficult day, she was not going to be going through it alone. She was going to be surrounded by loving ladies who would offer her encouragement and pray over her. When adversity would arise in the prison, you could see and hear women all over in our classroom praying and petitioning the Lord for His mercy on their behalf. I want to have this kind of dependence and faith in Jesus Christ!

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One morning as Faith and I were setting up and preparing for the day of teaching, two of the inmates came in early and we were visiting with them. Then they asked if they could pray for us right there on the spot. Wow! That was so amazing we were incredibly blessed. Even though these ladies are in prison, they are serving Jesus with all of their heart. What a beautiful example of Jesus working in and through our lives wherever we are… when we are yielded to Him.

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What did God show me during this time spent with these precious ladies? They are just like me and you. Some are younger and some older. They all have families and those they love. They all have interests, talents, and dreams for their future. They are no more sinful then me just because they are in prison… all sins are equal in that they separate us from God. (Romans 3:23). God meets with His children wherever we are. Praise the Lord for loving us so unconditionally! Please be praying with me for the lives of our brothers and sisters in prison all across the world. God loves them just as much as He loves you and the person sitting beside you in church on Sunday morning!