The family

June 3, 2014 Hitting the sack at 2:00 am is pretty normal after this night flight from Atlanta to Lima and being very tired is normal as well. No wonder we slept like a log until 9:30 am the following morning. After a Peruvian breakfast prepared for us by Laura, we went to get some groceries and were pleasantly surprised how warmly we were greeted by our former neighbors. We chatted with Yolanda our former landlord as we met walking down the street. A family who owns a coffee shop we often visited and vendors at the neighborhood market were hugging us and so happy to see us. The Peruvian culture of people caring about one another quickly reminded us of how the family of God should care for one another. I tend to think we often fall short of the command to love each other. Here we are in the middle of unbelievers and they are so warm and kind to us who are not really one of them. We are foreigners they have accepted and welcomed. It’s just a brief lesson for all of us.

As we spent a little quiet time this first afternoon, internet connection failed, and we reviewed the next couple of days’ itinerary; we are thankful for the love and friendship of Laura and Vico who met us at the airport, and saw that we were snug as a bug in the apartment last night, and constantly look out for us. In a recent email received from Laura, she said she looked forward to seeing her American Father (Papa Don), someone she didn’t have growing up. I do not know the circumstances of her childhood or teens, but I do know that she takes care of us like her own family. We are thankful for God’s provision in this area of our lives as well, to have someone who has taken us under their wing while we ministered to their people group.

This reminds me of the many times my parents hosted missionaries, visiting pastors and itinerant preachers in our home when I was a child. It was an opportunity to serve those who were called by the Lord to leave their own homes and minister to others. The family of God being so unique, we trusted those who came in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and shared what we had. My mother may have had meatloaf, mashed potatoes and green beans on the family menu when such a visitor was staying at our home, but she just made a little more and our family dining room table could seat 8-10 comfortably. I have cherished memories of many, many visitors and now equate that to those who provide for us when we are the guests in their home. The family of God is the best and our Father knows best!

Thought for today – from yesterday….how do we treat those who are brothers and sisters in Christ? Everything we have comes from the Father and it is our responsibility to be good stewards and use to bring honor and glory to Him.

I’m so glad I’m a part of the family of God…..

June 2014 – returning to Peru again!

June 2, 2014 – and we are off! Packing completed with 48 lbs of donated items for the Peruvians. 28 lbs of personal items, 11 lbs of office type items. Tickets and confirmation of those much-longed for comfort seats in hand. We are all set!

Not so fast. First of all our seats, although paid for November 23, 2013 and confirmed, were not comfort seats after all. No one at the gate desk could explain why. In fact, we were not even sitting together. Seems as though someone else got our seats along the way but before takeoff we were re-assigned to at least be side by side. Now upon return to the states, we need to go after a refund. I wonder if they would consider a refund plus interest since for 6 months they have had the payment in hand.

Next, the dreaded security check stateside and the customs scan once in Peru. It’s not that we do anything wrong or get out of line in anyway, but it seems as though Don’s pacemaker and titanium knees “attracts attention” and often gets him held up. We just plan accordingly and leave extra time in our schedule knowing it is always a possibility we will be delayed. Security was a breeze this trip and we were offered a space in the preferential line because of our gray hair! Getting older does have some perks! Isn’t God good? He knows what we need. Imagine that, do you think He had this in mind when He created us to have naturally gray hair the older we get? (lol)

Customs went well, although we were a little concerned when we read the ‘new’ customs rules and regulations of what one could bring into the country. You see, we received 20 sets of DVDs about running the software programs on the laptops which we were having other teams bring into the country for us, 10 Jesus DVDs in Spanish and 10 CD sets (2 in each) of learning English, for Spanish speaking people. This far exceeded the limit allotted. “OK Lord, you know our hearts and our plans for free distribution; you know we had no idea this was a problem; we leave this in Your hands to get us through the scanning process in customs.” That was my quick whispered prayer. Reading a little further on the list of acceptable and unacceptable items to carry into the country and …. ooops, we have 2 small kitchen appliances with us and had no idea we could not bring these into the country. What should we do? We prayed and again left the results in His hands. We knew all of these items were going to the Peruvians and we really hated the idea of having to show receipts of purchase (which we didn’t have) or face paying a 30% tax on what the customs agents determined were the value of each of the DVDs, CDs and small appliances. The remaining option was to let them seize all of them.

Prayer – it’s the one thing no one can really stop us from doing. Although it may have to be a silent pray many times. We teach our children to talk to God, tell Him anything and everything, to find peace in knowing that He knows. It’s times like this we become like little children again, just talking to Him and letting Him know what we are feeling and our hearts’ desires. How simple. How cool to have a heavenly Father who cares about these little things in our lives. As we walk with Him, letting Him guide us, talk to Him, and listen to Him, we do find the peace in circumstances that are trying because we have confidence in Him.

After claiming our baggage and heading to the last scan/inspection, I just whispered prayers and followed instructions. A uniformed agent was at the screening station peering into the monitor. There was no doubt he would see the questionable items. We knew the routine others had been through. We would be pulled aside, suitcases searched and possibly some items would be seized. Not sure if we would be facing any other problems or not.

What???? I couldn’t believe my eyes. As we began to load all three of our suitcases and two backpacks onto the beltway, a young lady, very attractive I might add, came over to talk to uniformed agent. He was very attentive to her and didn’t take his eyes off her while they continued their conversation. Well, now, you know we couldn’t hold up the line of other passengers approaching the scanning station, so after Don placed each item on the belt, we moved on through the scanner station, picked up our luggage as did the customers behind us and moved with the crowd out into ‘freedom’. You can believe we were thanking Him for His favor in this situation. The uniformed agent was distracted just long enough for our suitcases to pass through the scanner. When I looked back over my shoulder, the uniformed agent was sitting peering at the screening monitor and the young lady was nowhere in sight.

God showed up, and, this was just the start of our trip! I think this was just amazing — but then my Father is just that, He’s AMAZING.

Amusement Park Life

Oh what fun is anticipated when you think of the local amusement park with rides bringing screams and laughter, thrills and even a little anxiety. How well I remember Canobie Lake in Salem and Weirs Beach in New Hampshire as well as Palisades Park outside Boston and Riverside Park in Agawam, Massachusetts. I remember them well, for the fun of being with friends, but I hated the most-loved (by others) roller coasters! The rides, especially the coasters, I could do without. I really enjoyed being with my friends. A visit to Disneyland and Disney World with family and friends proved to be much the same except I was a young adult and could better handle the rides, although they were not my favorite part of the park.

So it has been in life. The ride has been, well let’s say, it’s been interesting. But the friends I’ve spent my time with along the way are what has made life so great. Some of my experiences have been much like the roller coasters. Something I didn’t like, didn’t want, and dreaded. Some of them I barely made it through, gritting my teeth, and having white knuckles along the way. But those friends who hung in there with me, encouraging me, telling me I would make it, and promising to be with me – they made the difference.

As I look back over the amusement park in life, I recall many periods of time in my life where circumstances surfaced and there I was again facing challenges (roller coasters) I didn’t want to deal with them. Two things changed – one, I entered adulthood and second, I began to know the peace that only comes from the Lord. Some of the family and some of the friends remain. God has also given me new family and new friends over the years.
Another ride many enjoy, but often made me sick, the playground merry-go-round (what was so merry about it?) or the teacups and other whirly rides that took me in circles faster than I cared to go; another picture of life. We seem to get going in circles faster and faster and never make any progress along the path that we are supposed to be journeying. We keep too busy doing things. We tend to repeat our habits and the ride soon gets old, real fast. At different times in our married life, Don and I have been on a roller coaster travelling up and down, curving right and then left, at increasing speeds which left me feeling in the pit of my stomach things were not right. Sometimes it was a merry-go-round we were on with the same end result. Nothing changed until we changed. We had to stop before things got better. I see this in so many other people’s lives as well.

I hate to tell you this, and don’t even like it myself, but things will continue to be roller coasters and merry-go-rounds in our lives. Facing them, and taking the situations as opportunities to learn from the Lord, learning to trust Him more and be at peace and thankful in all circumstances is worth the unwanted ride. What is the best part of this? It’s like the icing on the birthday cake! Knowing we have friends and family with us turns the ride into a precious memory rather than one we want to forget. Let me share one such example.

We have just been on a roller coaster of two days in the hospital with Don undergoing tests. We still have no conclusive test results for the reason he went into the hospital ER. But we do know after extensive tests, what is not wrong! His heart disease has not progressed, he has no need for surgeries or stents. We would not have known that if we didn’t spend the time under doctors’ care. The merry-go-round is testing, discussions, evaluation of prescriptions, and still no answer why the excruciating pain in the neck Don was suffering. We know no more now than we did before we went to the hospital. Now during our stay, we had some wonderful staff, and I reconnected with a friend I had not seen in over 15 years! My friend’s husband and Don were in the same hospital. Remember, I said friends make the difference on our journey? Friends were there with me in spirit, on the phone, texting, all sharing encouragement and their prayers and well wishes. This friend I reconnected with has been reading our newsletters, blogs, and facebook posts, all the while praying for us. We picked up where we left off and tried to catch up with one another in a very short hour visit. Yes, friends make the difference. We both have our own life’s circumstances to deal with, but it was good to know that she’s been on my TEAM (Together Each Achieves More) all along.

None of this should be a surprise to you (or me). You see scripture tells us the importance of loving one another, of friends, and warns us of trials and temptations that will come. It is through these that we learn more about Jesus Christ, more about ourselves, more about trusting Him, following Him, and hearing/listening to Him. He promises to be with us, never to forsake us, and to be our comforter, peace, and strength while on our personal journey knowing full well we will face roller coasters and merry-go-rounds time and again. I’m just glad He has given me friends to encourage me along the way and to help me stay focused on what the Word says and Who the Word is.

De we hear right?

In March and April of 2013 we knew we were to return to the USA from serving the Lord in San Juan de Lurigancho full time for the last 4 1/2 years. We heard very clearly from the Lord when we were in prayer assessing our upcoming year on the field. Returning to the states was the direction we felt called. No, not to stop or retire, but to live in the states to raise funds for the ministry and return to Peru a few times a year. Our short-term plan was to move in the direction of finding the right people to take over our weekly/monthly ministry commitments within 6 months. We believed we could then liquidate our apartment furnishings (by donating items to those friends who had need of our ‘stuff’) the following month, and return to Georgia no later than November 2013.

Wait a minute – it is only October and we have been home for two months already! Things took a turn and that is what I wanted to share with you.

We have found over the years that when one of us has heard from the Lord the other will also hear from Him regarding the same situation sooner or later. We have to be listening – for some reason we never get struck with a bolt of lightning (thank goodness!) but when we pray for guidance we need to be willing to hear and receive it. We can be committed to the Lord or His work without surrendering to His will. When we step out in faith and are obedient (without knowing the details) He can more easily get our attention and provide us with just what we need – guidance.

After praying about who we could turn some of our responsibilities over to, we realized that God had already (did you get that?) He had already put people in place!!! Early in July we began to take steps sharing where we believed God was moving us and why. We also determined the passion the individual Peruvians who had been coming along side us had and asked them if they would be willing to handle things in our absence. God had prepared their hearts as well, as each of them was very excited to partner with us in this way.

We began to look for affordable flight fares and found some for the first week in August. This was three months earlier than “our” plan! We didn’t understand and were actually pretty amazed that all the details were working out in a much shorter time frame than we thought possible. But we felt it was “God’s” plan and therefore we moved forward with it. Now that we have been here for the last eight weeks, we have insight into why God brought us home earlier than we planned to return.

Joy immediately went to see an orthopedic surgeon because her knees being arthritic were not as strong as she felt they should be and it was determined that her body had been compensating for the loss of muscle in her quads. The pain and lack of endurance she felt could be reversed through physical therapy, therefore avoiding surgery for the time being. The doctor fully agreed. She has been in P/T twice a week and has worked hard, thus enabling her to do things she has been unable to do in well over a year. (For example, the pain in her knee was causing her to have to take baby steps up and down the five flights of steps at the apartment building in San Juan de Lurigancho. She could not stand at a bus stop without pacing to keep her legs mobile. These are just two examples of what she was living with on a daily basis.)

Don developed quite a bad cough, and after x-rays he was diagnosed with pneumonia. He also had an incident at dinner one evening when food got lodged in his esophagus and although he was breathing and talking, the pain in his chest was excruciating. We went off to the emergency room at the local hospital and the doctor was able to release him to go home in a couple of hours with the food dislodged and the pain gone. He has since had the first of two endoscopies to assess the esophagus. He saw a dermatologist because a small growth on the bridge of his nose had been there for several months and the doctor biopsied it with the results coming back that it is a basal cell cancer that he needs to have further surgery to have the internal portion removed. It cannot be seen by the naked eye. That surgery is pending and will be later this month. Don also chipped a tooth and will be seeing our dentist this week.

WOW – this whole story is being shared with you to make one important point!
This is not about us. Simply stated, Father knows best!

Imagine us being in Peru, trying to manage all these medical needs in Spanish (when, you will remember, we are not fluent in the language). It is truly amazing to us that we knew without a doubt it was time to return to the states earlier than what we had planned. We had no idea why. We chose to be obedient. Although we certainly didn’t expect these medical issues or expenses, we know that God WAS speaking to us, we listened, and He has gone before us preparing the way.

The lesson for all of us is that being in communion with the Lord is the only way we will ever know what He wants us to do and after all, He has plans to prosper us and not to harm us. Here’s a thought for you. How often have you said to one of your children (or a child in your care), “listen to me” because you wanted to get their attention and give them a message? We are like that child and our Father is saying “listen” so He can tell us something important.

30 things we have learned in 30 days!

30 things we have learned (or relearned) in the first month back in the states.
1. Friends are friends forever. They really welcomed us home.
2. Our grandkids are bigger (and wiser) than I remember them being.
3. There are so many shades of the color ‘green’ in nature and we are enjoying all of them.
4. Shade from the sun is not hard to find.
5. Traffic travels fast and drivers stay in appropriate lanes.
6. Riding in our own car is soooo much more comfortable than on public busses.
7. Rain really soaks everything!
8. Peruvian music rocks!
9. Hearing ministry in English is wonderful.
10. Understanding and participating in conversations makes living life easier.
11. Cost of living in the USA is huge.
12. Conveniences are really a convenience.
13. It’s easier to fall asleep without hearing dogs barking in the street.
14. Air conditioning is great in the home, car, church, stores and restaurants.
15. Retail choices are abundant.
16. Couldn’t buy water from a coke machine at the mall. Sad we couldn’t work the machine!
17. Television can be addictive.
18. We miss our Peruvian friends
19. Drivers stop at red lights and use turn lanes.
20. Prayer is the key both here and there (Peru)
21. Our home church in Peru and in Georgia are both focusing on discipleship!
22. I’ve had to use my Spanish more than once!
23. Technology has advanced tremendously.
24. We don’t have to boil water before drinking it.
25. No need to travel an hour to get a Dunkin Donut coffee
26. Blueberries, cranberries, shrimp, steak, salads and lots of other food choices
27. I can flush the toilet paper!
28. Having a place in the mountains to visit is restful and refreshing.
29. BBQ never tasted so good (after 5 years!)
30. We still have a lot to learn! Not just about the American way of life, but in our walk with the Lord. There is a need for us to have open minds and open hearts to hear from the Lord and to learn what it is He has for us to do. Learning to lean on Jesus in all circumstances is always a challenge as we journey through this life. There are always needs to assess and assist. Caring for our neighbors and sharing Jesus with them is what we are called to do. Balancing our lives is not always easy. With all this in mind, we ask that you pray for us.

August 5th/6th 2013

August 5, 2013….and it’s over, just like that. But to make it easier for me to take it all in, I keep reminding myself and my friends that this is a relocation of our ministry. You see, 4 ½ years living in Peru has flown by and it’s hard to believe we are now back stateside. But I also want to tell you that it’s not over. It’s just begun. We are still on the journey. Life; a journey, an adventure with Jesus.

For just one more time, let me take you back a little in time. We were introduced to missions in Peru in 2004. We knew of the call from the Lord to “go” and received a call from a pastor to “come” and in obedience and faith we did just that. We had absolutely no idea how long we would be living in San Juan de Lurigancho. We just knew that was where we were supposed to be and found many areas of service for our Lord, but focused on a few that were related to children and youth. We firmly believe they are the future church leaders, Sunday School teachers, cell group leaders, pastors and missionaries. We felt led to share the gospel, plant seeds, and encourage and support both the Peruvian Christians and the children and teenagers they ministered to as well. You know the rest of the story (if you have been on the journey with us). If you do not, check out: http://www.conduitsforchrist.wordpress.com/ to catch up with some life in Peru.

This past week was filled with many last experiences of this, that or the other thing with friends (at least they were the last in the year of 2013). All were meaningful and memorable. But Lord willing, they will not be the final opportunities we have to work with these dear Peruvians, or to worship with them, or to assist them. They are such a warm, loving, humble people group.

The plans of God for us come straight from the Word of God in Ephesians 2:10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. We believe He has more for us to do and have a new vision to help the Peruvian Christians through AWANA Clubs, Basic Computers and Continuing Education.

August 6, 2013…..and now the beginning; the new phase of ministry. One of my favorite passages is found in Proverbs (3:5-6) Trust in the Lord with all my heart, lean not on my own understanding, in all my ways acknowledge Him and He will direct my paths. (I made that personal simply as a reminder one more time for myself.) The part I like is if I do as this passage indicates, He will direct my steps! First I must be obedient and He will guide me.

The Bible tells us that God our Father should come first in our lives, having priority over all other. We strive to give Him our best in all we do and say. We are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul and strength (this comes from Deuteronomy) and in Matthew we read this again. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. After that we give our love and attention to our family. It has been two days of visiting with the two youngest of our children and their families. Brunch both days never tasted so good! Seriously, having grandchildren snuggle and take turns sitting next to me (or Don) brings such joy. We are truly blessed. Don and I were able to connect with our accountability partners shortly after arrival. God has provided us each with faithful friends who pray for us, listen to us, encourage us, and even share words of guidance. Walking this journey with such good friends makes the difficult times a little easier. And our church family, Bridgeway, some of whom we have already chatted with, but more we will be able to see this Sunday, will help us begin anew.

We began this journey 4.5 years ago with the 9th verse of Proverbs 16 in mind and continue today while facing new challenges. In our hearts we plan our course, but the LORD establishes our steps. Please, pray for us.

Decorating 101

Decorating with socks! No, I didn’t say decorating socks. I’m not talking about embellishing little girls socks with buttons and bows. I meant what I said, decorating with socks! This idea didn’t come from Pinterest. But the idea was my challenge yesterday.

Let me take you back over the last 36 hours. Tuesday I did some laundry, hung it up to dry, nothing unusual about that. The problem is that the sun has not come out in three days, and it “rains” (well, here in Peru there is a heavy mist) each night. During the day the clothes seem to blow enough in the breeze to begin to dry out, but then at night that all changes and they are wet in the morning again. Well, as I was on the rooftop checking the status of our laundry, usually about 4:00 pm the weather begins to change and the night air starts to settle in. A sweet Peruvian neighbor was telling me the rain was coming and she was furiously taking down pretty damp clothing and was encouraging me to take my clothes down as well. She actually had another tub full to hang up. She came over and checked a few of our items and said they were almost dry. I knew that. But almost dry is not dry, right?

I knew she was trying to be helpful, so I listened. She chose to explain to me that hanging the clothes in the kitchen would be better than leaving them on the lines. I remember as a child my mother would light the gas stove (oven portion) and pull out the racks for us to put our wet hats and mittens on when we came in from playing in the snow, and they would dry quickly as we sat facing the open door sipping on hot chocolate. Soon we would be warm, the mittens would be dry, and we would be out in the snow again.

So, my clothes came down off the lines. As I returned to the apartment Don asked if they were dry. I responded, no, but they are dryer than they will be in the morning. Then I told him about our neighbor. Oh course I couldn’t leave my clothes out there another day (day #3) and ignore this wise woman’s advice. That would be rude. And, after all, it was common sense she was telling me.

Now what should I do? I decorated our apartment with socks (and other items!). Yep, it was definitely interesting enough. We went to bed early – it was cold, about 64 degrees indoors – and the socks were not yet dry. Upon rising this morning, the streets outside were wet. My neighbor was right. The “rain” came and everything indicated anyone with clothes on the line drying was going to have to leave them there another day. However my neighbor (I’m pretty sure) has almost-dry clothes, as we do, this morning.

Ever ignore the wise advice of a friend? Of course you have. Who hasn’t? Were you sorry in the end that you didn’t listen? Of course you were. It seems to me that when someone speaks we should listen and learn from one another. And I know, if you have been reading my blogs that you know where my thoughts have been recently. The advice or warnings we read in scripture should not be taken lightly. The entire Bible is full of wisdom. Reading is not enough. Thinking more often we need to ‘listen’ as we read and take what we read as truth, to be our guide.