Saturday, February 16, 2019

Enlarge Your Tent

"Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; 
lengthen your cords, strengthen your cords" (Isaiah 54:2 NIV).

Do you like change? I cringe at the word change, but yet, my life continues to change with each new year that God gives me to continue serving Him. I should embrace change when God says, "Enlarge your place of your tent,"––it means He is enlarging my ministry that I might expand His kingdom with Him. I should live as though I have it all––because I do. I have God, His power, and all I need to do His will. I have a tent (my place of service) but, it's up to me to stretch and not hold back because I am comfortable in my smaller tent. Still, I'm bunkered in––comfortable in my smaller tent and holding back. Stretching my tent curtains wide is hard with my narrow vision. Then, I reflect on my first night in a tent.

My experience with tents is limited to one camping adventure with our Sunday School class many years ago. A member of the class had an enormous army tent and offered it for the trip. Let me say this––we were young. We were energetic, and our group had a unique bond. We did fun things together and always enjoyed food together––lots of scrumptious food. But regardless of the sweet fellowship and great food, this trip would prove I had no missionary blood in my veins––zilch. Comfortable doesn't describe my first and last tent experience. The word glamper didn't exist in the dictionary at that time. 

After our group spent hours assembling the humongous beast, we all placed our cots in family sections and then gathered around the bonfire munching on hotdogs and marshmallows. Before bedding down for the first night of our memorable trip, we had a time of prayer and praise. Sweet voices joined in campfire songs that filled the fresh night air. Toasty and sleepy, we bedded down in our prepared areas. Everything quiet, with crickets rubbing their legs in the distance and a hooting owl hovering near, the night sounds lulled me to sleep. Until in the dark, a shill scream woke everyone. It was me screaming. "There's a snake over there in the corner." 

The campers leaped from their comfy blankets and flashlights beamed everywhere in the tent. Looking for the snake, one man asked, "How could you have seen a snake in the dark?" I didn't. I was dreaming--of snakes! More like a nightmare but oh so real. Of all the memories of that camping trip, which one do you think everyone remembers? A few years later when God called us to the mission field, what story do you think surfaced? Snakes in the tent! In that tent, on that night I couldn't have imagined the snake stories to come––a coral snake in my kitchen in Bolivia–– that I almost stepped on in my bare feet (among other snake stories). My tent stretched to Bolivia where God enlarged our ministry many times. And, now once more through Worthy Words Press to print books in Spanish for underprivileged kids I feel the stretch.

So why not stay where I am––comfortable with a ministry with more than enough avenues of outreach? But, what if I had never ventured from the first tent with the "snake" that didn't exist? The "snakes" in our tents sometimes keep us from strengthening our cords by trusting God to enlarge our vision and outreach. Oh, the blessings I would have missed and the opportunities to expand God's kingdom with Him. God has a bigger vision and more blessings waiting when we stretch beyond our abilities and trust Him who is able to do all things outside our comfortable tent zone.

Do you find yourself stagnant and desiring to stretch your "tent" to do more for God, but you are holding back? Most of us find ourselves in that comfortable zone and like being inside our small tents. But, outside it waits the extraordinary things we never dreamed we could do--and apart from God, we can't. But, when we stretch our tents, we find the joy zone, knowing it's not anything we can do but everything God can do through us. And, God gets the glory.

I know God will get the glory when Worthy Words Press reaches underprivileged kids for Him through books with worthy words that tell of Jesus. I'm enlarging my tent of ministry, and it's not easy and a bit scary, but oh, so exciting too.

When stretching our tents results in God being glorified, that is God's will! Let's not hold back.
Go ahead, enlarge the place of your tent and let God get the glory.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

A Valentine's Day View 1981

“And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord 
who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful,
  putting me into the ministry,” 
 (I Timothy 1:12 NIV)

Early on the morning of February 14, 1981, Valentine's Day, we touched down for the first time in Cochabamba, Bolivia. The view of the Andes Mountains from the plane's windows was breathtaking; they made Pennsylvania mountains look like molehills in comparison. Tucked into the mountainside and throughout the valley, we saw little mud huts; that also was a view that made us realize we were in a foreign land.

We were met at the airport by a mission representative, then climbed into the back of a truck and headed to the mission home. This was Cochabamba, the second largest city in Bolivia, but to call it a big city was a stretch. We felt the dust from dirt streets on our tired faces, and bounced around when an occasional pig or cow darted in front of the truck. Our kids, then ages four and 12, were taking it all in and loving every minute. I was wondering why we were told Cochabamba was a big city, it looked more like a town in the movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. I had no idea this trip would seem like a "kiddie ride" compared to our next few weeks.

Our first bus trip to the mission school eight hours from the "city" confirmed that Bolivia had some of the most dangerous roads in the world. I tried not to look over the cliffs; they had no guardrails and a view of 1000 feet drop-offs. And I can't forget to mention the drunk bus driver who drove as if he were in the Indy 500. 

In our first month in Bolivia, Chuck was arrested in the market place for not having ID (his passport was in the capital city with our visa applications), a bomb went off down the street from the mission home where we were staying, and the president of the country threatened to cut the fingers off all missionaries in the country. Before having to be evacuated, there was a government overthrow, and a new president was chosen who was more sympathetic to missionaries. We still have all our fingers.

Our life has continued to have the same thrills for 38 years. So why do we stay here? There can only be one answer; God put us in the ministry. And, in fact, God has opened a new ministry for us through Worthy Words Press––printing books in Bolivia to gift my children's books in Spanish with Bible principles for underprivileged kids––kids with no resources to buy books and who live in remote areas of Bolivia, many who have yet to hear of Jesus.

For God so loved the world... Someday we'll have a view in heaven of those we came to serve and accepted God's free gift, Jesus. 

   Happy Valentine's Day

We're thankful God enabled us and put us in the ministry, 
so we can share the
 Greatest Love Story of all time. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Valentine's Day Words

Worthy Words or Just Noise?

Valentine's Day is here, and images of hearts emerge everywhere. But, how is my heart and yours? Missionaries tell of how we came to our respective fields of service to love the people. Sounds easy, doesn't it? And, of course, it is what every supporter (and God) expects of their missionary. It's truly the desire of most of us. If I had to guess, I'd say most missionaries won't admit how hard it is at times to love the people they serve.

So let's examine the myth (the traditional story). You know the one. "We love the people we serve." Let me say; it's only God's love that allows us to love the people we serve. We love them because of God's love. However, you don't have to be on the mission field to find it hard to love others. Let's face it; some people are hard to love––maybe I'm one of them.

 On the field, we serve the unwanted, the poor, the not so clean, and sometimes even the wealthy who want nothing to do with God. But, God loves us all and desires for all to hear His Word and know and love Him.

How many times have I said, "These are the people we came to love." When I see a two-year-old child playing on a busy road with little clothing my first remark is, "Where is that mother?" And, not with loving words do I spit those words from my mouth. It's heartbreaking. Or, how about when the people I came to love don't want to hear about God and despise me? Do I love that person? It's not easy but possible. But how?

If we're honest, most of us know people who unnerve us. It may be a family member or even a good friend, but they are there to stay--stuck in our lives. So what can we do about these unlovable ones in our lives?

1 Corinthians 13:1-3 (TLB)

"If I had the gift of being able to speak in other languages without learning them and could speak in every language there is in all of heaven and earth, but didn't love others, I would only be making noise...If I gave everything I have to the poor people, and if I were burned alive for preaching the Gospel but didn't love others, it would be of no value whatever."

There you have it--just making noise. I must love that mother who doesn't care for her children, and cuddle the dirty and unloving. That is God's love--not mine. So instead of making noise with my words, I must speak with God's love and show His love. Only then will I make lovely noise with worthy words.

The world begins the big love celebration in a few days, Valentine's Day. Let's celebrate God's love every day with a year-long Valentine's Day. The noise we make can wake a soul to find God but only with lovely noise that is from God's heart! Let's make lovely noise this Valentine's Day and not only love the lovable but the unlovable also. They too need God's love that flows through us.

Let me add one thing to clarify how much missionaries love the people we serve--no matter how hard. We know that we love them when we cry as much leaving them behind to go on furlough as we do when we leave our family and friends after furlough. We do love the people we serve. It's not always easy, but with God's love, it is possible.

Celebrate God's heart this Valentine's Day–-with chocolate too. I'm sure God loves chocolate! He made it for us. He loves us that much--and much, much more.

Let's be of value and make lovely noise with worthy words.

Happy Valentine's Day––all year long!