Tuesday, May 9, 2017

What good can come out of ????

For those of us with much biblical awareness we recognize that just about everything is upside down in Jesus' Kingdom perspective.  The first shall be last, and the last shall be first.  The wisdom of God is foolishness in the world.  The least is the greatest.  The poor are blessed and the rich are brought down.

God took me down one of those roads last week as I have been working on fundraising for Haiti.  I was scheduled to speak at a Mother/Daughter banquet at my aunt's church.  It is a little Presbyterian church in the little town of Cambria, about 400 people.  I wondered what God might be up to in this little, off the beaten path village.

I had traveled home from Holland, MI earlier that day, which is about a six hour trip. I showered, changed, gathered up my projection and computer equipment, plus brochures, jewelry I was selling, etc. and dashed off to Cambria, a 2 hour trip west, picking up my mom on the way.

I was weary, and thinking, "What good can come from Cambria?"  much like Nathanael asked when told by Philip, "We have found the one that Moses wrote about in the law, the one the prophets foretold, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph!"   Nazareth, that little podunk village?  You are talking about the Messiah here! God wouldn't let the Messiah come from that scrappy little village, that nowhere.  Everyone needs to know that he is here...a little fanfare would help. Nazareth, ha.

I know better, but sometimes I get sucked into thinking I need to find people with lots of money, discretionary funds that they would be willing to invest in Haiti.  And there may be those people out there, but in my wiser moments I also realize it is usually the humble, the "nobodies from nowhere"  that have hearts open to God's spirit of generosity.

And so wearily I arrived in Nazareth...I mean Cambria, and met with about 35 wonderful sisters in Christ. We shared a meal, a potluck, with tables overflowing, and I shared my story of what God is doing through Help the Youth and Beautiful Response in Haiti.  Humble, compassionate, generous hearts were opened and the people of Haiti were blessed.  Three students will be able to go to school next year because people who have never met them care, people who had never met me before that evening opened their hearts and pocket books.

Once again I learned my lessons in the upside-downness of the Gospel.   My heart was warmed and I hope and pray that they will welcome me again.  Cambria is a good place for Jesus to show up and blessings to flow.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Ice chips! So Yummy!

Last week I had a nasty bout of stomach flu.  Very possibly the worst episode of activity leading up to dehydration I've ever hard. (Wasn't that nicely worded :)  At 2:00 in the morning I wanted to guzzle glasses of water, but knew that my system wasn't ready for that. So I made Al get up and get me a glass of ice chips.

Oh my goodness! It tasted so good.  I would eat a spoonful of chips and then force myself to wait about 20 minutes to eat some more.  As I relished these delightful chips of cold clear water I thought, "If I never eat anything again but ice chips I'll be fine. I"ll never put anything in water again to change the taste, no tea, no coffee, no gatorade, nothing but cool clear water!

I know, a little overboard, but it was real in the moment.

My thirst led to thoughts about Jesus, the living water.  Jesus, the one who quenches our thirst.  I thought about what makes me spiritually thirsty.  How much do I long for more of Jesus?  What sets Jesus apart from from all other spiritual nourishment and refreshment? What wakes me up to my need for Jesus, the living water?  Do I long for what Jesus offers me?

Often I drink most deeply when I'm also weeping most deeply.  Perhaps tears of sorrow, but also tears of awe for the fact that Jesus is present, real.  For me it happens through worship times when the words of a song or hymn just connect with my spirit to nourish me, or the Scripture speaks into the longing of my heart, or convicts me of sins I need to deal with.  Sometimes in prayer with others the community is so strong and Jesus presence is so sweet it feels like fresh rain. And sometimes the chaos in the world is so overwhelming I long for the Living Water to flood over me, to lift me out of the fear and muck I feel mired in.  Living Water...always available to wash us clean, set us free, nourish our souls, quench our thirst.

I'm wondering when it happens for you?   When do you find yourself longing for the Living Water?  

Looking Ahead

This is a big year!  Our son, Cory, turns 40.  I turn 65. I know, those of you who know me can't believe it :)  and neither can I, and Al turns 70; even harder to believe...but all true!  How does this happen?

So we are acknowledging that, even though we are still working hard, we are in our "golden years." Multiple trips to Haiti each year, visits to our kids and grandkids in Australia.  Life that is full and rich, even in the midst of the current chaos in the country.

Then there is the reality that we need to plan ahead...without knowing how much "Ahead" there is; 10 years, twenty years, thirty years, tomorrow?  As we contemplate this our thoughts run to Haiti. How can we ensure that the work that is being done through Beautiful Response and Help the Youth continues.  We are not in this for the short-term!  The needs are long-term: and we have children who will need assistance to become all God has created them to be for many years.  We are in for the long-haul.

When God first turned our hearts back to Haiti we realized it would involve raising funds.  Our first response was, "But God, you know we are not good fund raisers!"  (Yep, God knew, and assured us he would be the provider we needed.)  Today we look back on God's faithfulness, and ahead realizing that we need to set up a trust or foundation to provide a base for the fundraising that will need to continue.

On the one hand that is very intimidating for us. Again, WAY out of our comfort zone!  On the other hand it is very exciting.  How will God provide?  Who will come forward to give?  What will this need to look like?  Where are the "cattle on a thousand hills" that God has reserved to help his children in Haiti?  Where will we get the boldness to invite people to be a part of something life changing for so many people?  How much, Oh Lord?  How many people will be blessed in the giving and receiving?

We are also mindful that we need to watch for the next generation of leaders to take on this ministry 5, 10, 15? years down the road.  Who will God raise up?  Who will find their calling in joining this partnership with our Haitian friends?  Who will fall in love with God's leaders as well as the children of Haiti?

Big questions...big challenges!  We need your prayers!  We need your eyes and ears.  Please join us in the quest for big hearts and the ability to invest emotionally, spiritually and financially in the work God is doing through Beautiful Response in Haiti.  So many of you are dear to our hearts.  We thank you for your love and support!

Sunday, January 22, 2017

More Prayer?

I am so excited about the opportunity I am having to bless and invest into the lives of "young" moms.  Friday one of them said, "Yeah, but I'm the oldest of the "young moms."  So perhaps I should say, "The next generation."  I get to be the mentor that Pat Doolittle, Christine Noorlaag, Jo Bush, Shirley Borgman, and so many others were to me; beautiful women who are/were a little farther down the road of life than me.

Friday some of us were meeting for a Bible Study. It was a semester break day, so there were children playing while we met. Sometimes people are tempted to cancel, or postpone when the kids will be with them.  I'm so glad we didn't on this Friday.  

Part way through the morning we paused for a time of listening as we did a guided imagery prayer. In the midst of our silence, from around the corner, we heard 6 year old Judah softly singing, "Change the atmosphere, build your kingdom here, we pray."  Sometimes that is what listening for God sounds like.

Mary has two little adopted boys from an eastern european country. They are 5-6 years old, and both have Down's Syndrome.  We had been meeting for about an hour and a half and Jonah, who is quite non-verbal, was ready to go home. He climbed up on his mom's lap and was whining a little.  I said I was going to close in prayer and he settled down.  I prayed for the families and said Amen.  Jonah looked at his mom and signed, "more prayer."  His mom asked him if that was what he wanted and he signed again, "More prayer."  I prayed for Jonah rubbing his back, and he then was all ready to go.  It was beautiful and humbling. 

There are times we get reminded of what we really seek and how God wants to show up.
"You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart."  Jeremiah 29:13

"And a little child will lead them."  Isaiah 11:6

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Go out!

Manite, a Haitian friend greeted me and said, "I'm going to go out and preach the gospel!"  During the week there had been evangelism training by their local pastor, and prayer meetings in preparation, and now they were heading for nearby villages to preach the gospel. (Romans 10:14 How can they hear unless someone preaches to them?)

It was Friday morning and we were in Haiti.  The truck had been loaded with pots and pans, rice and beans, veggies and even beef and chicken. It was loaded with Haitian students who would be cleaning veggies and beans, tending fires, and setting rocks at just the right angles for the huge cast iron pots. We were cooking up a feast for a beach party in Con Crab, a nearby village. We played games with the children, we slivered green beans with half a razor blade, and a village was fed. "Together we preached the gospel."  (James 2:16 Suppose a brother or sister is in need of clothing or food, If one of you says, "Go in peace, keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?)

I walked through the village with one of our team.  We found an albino grandmother with a huge sore on her leg, and another elderly woman with a tumor on her back the size of a baseball.  They invited us into their humble homes, so glad we had come. We brought them food from the feast and prayed with them. It didn't matter that we knew so little Creole, Jesus was there. "Together we preached the Gospel." (Colossians 3:14 Above all else, clothe yourself with love, which binds us all together in perfect love.)

All week long we SAW the Gospel being lived out...sometimes we had the joy of being part of it. All week long we HEARD the Gospel being lived out in songs and prayers, in thanksgiving and petition, in laughter and cries.
All week long we FELT the Gospel being lived out in JOY and LOVE, in HOPE in the midst of weariness.  It has been a tough time for all of them.

I have to admit it is easier to see the Gospel...the Good News...being lived out in Haiti than it is here in the US; at least for me it is. I think about the quote attributed to Francis of Assisi, "At all times preach the Gospel, and when necessary use words."

The Gospel is certainly needed here as much as in Haiti.  I long to see it: justice, mercy, love, compassion, encouragement, joy, hope, kindness, faithfulness, humility, forgiveness...good news for the poor, the captives, and that's us as well.

Let's go out and be it!  That is our calling as Jesus followers, and the world certainly needs us to be all God calls us to be.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Eyes, Ears and Spirit Engaged

Do you know this story from Luke 7:36-50?

Jesus went to a dinner hosted by pharisees, people he knew were probably trying to trick him, rather than really listen to him.

A woman with a well-known, less than glowing reputation entered the courtyard with a bottle of perfume. She proceeded to anoint Jesus feet and wipe them with her hair and tears.

There was tension in the room.  This woman had the ability to "defile" you by just touching you, and Jesus was allowing her to do this to him.

There was tension...there was smugness...there was disdain...AND there was love...there was peace...there was forgiveness.

Al preached on this a couple of weeks ago.  We looked at the pharisees, and the forgiven woman, but what really struck me was looking at Jesus.  Ever since I have been drawn back to this story to contemplate Jesus presence through it all.

While the room is abuzz with the smugness and disdain, Jesus is enjoying the love poured out by the forgiven woman.  He doesn't listen to the voices in the room.  John records several times when Jesus says, "I only do what I see the Father do.  I only say what I hear the Father say."  This is the voice to which he is totally tuned in.

Then he says to Simon, "Simon, we need to talk."  He reminds Simon of what he has not done for his "guest."  He tells a short parable.  He then blesses the woman.

What struck me was Jesus' non-anxious presence in that space.  He is so tuned in to the Father he knows what is truth...he knows what he needs to do...he refuses to be ensnared by the response of others.

I want to be more like Jesus.  I want to be that non-anxious presence in tension filled places.  But, I realize I need to be more disciplined about listening to the Father; better at seeing how God is at work in the world, and my little corner of it.

In our tension filled world today, maybe we need to start by kneeling at the feet of Jesus and asking him to teach us what that looks like for each one of us.

Lord, where are you calling me to be a presence for you?  Teach me to listen for your voice.  Help me to rise above the fear that seeks to blind us to your truth.  Calm my heart and fill me with courage and confidence in you, my Rock and my Salvation.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Sowing Seed and Watching Them Grow

"I do not sow my seeds on the rocks.  I sow my seeds on the good soil!"  These were the words out of TiCarme's mouth after we met with the director of the trade school where Lynx, one of our Haitian students is learning to be a mechanic.  We had just been told that he was at the top of his class, a leader and a great addition to the student body.  TiCarme glowed like the "mom" she is to all 100 of these students.

I spent 4 days in Haiti with Kevin and Sandra Ernst.  Kevin is a professional film-maker and is donating his time and talents to making a promotional video for Beautiful Response, our US fundraising side of this work.  I can't wait to see what Kevin produces!!  The goal was to capture the heart of what God is doing in Haiti through Help The Youth, and as the days progressed I could see Kevin and Sandra making that heart connection.

In the eyes, smiles and stories of the students and leaders HOPE shone through.  Here was an island of hope in the midst of so much despair.  These were lives impacted by the love of God and grace of Jesus.  At one point Sandra commented on the appropriateness of our name, "Beautiful Response."  She said, "It is the perfect name. You can't come here and meet these people and not have your heart changed.  You can't go away without responding to what God is doing!"  They weren't drawn only to responding to the needs...there are huge needs which can be completely overwhelming, but they were responding to the HOPE that exists because God is at work through the Haitian leaders and students.

Like TiCarme we sowed our seed in good soil when we invited them to join us in Haiti.  They are donating all of their time in Haiti and the time Kevin will spend producing the video stateside.  What a gift!  They are also committed for the long haul...hearts touched, beautifully responding, telling others!

Al and I covered their airfare and in country expenses, enabling them to go down.  We know it was seed well sown.  If you would be willing to help us with those expenses we would be most grateful!

Sowing Seeds and watching God produce a harvest is amazing!  What seeds are you sowing?

For those of you not sure of the structure of our partnership let me explain a bit:

Beautiful Response is a 501c3 organization that is committed to coming alongside indigenous missions and organizations where God is already at work through amazing men and women working within their communities.

Currently we have partners in Uganda...Raising Up Hope Uganda (RUHU) Caleb and Sonja Schut are the point people.
And in Haiti...Help The Youth (HTY)  Al and Holly Schut are the point people.

Our partners have the leadership, gifts and abilities, the knowledge of the situations and needs in their countries, and the faith they need to be used by God to bring change and hope.

We have been blessed and humbled to be called to come along side them to provide the financial resources and to be their friends, brothers and sisters, in this work.

For more information or to give online go to www.beautifulresponse.org  Indicate if your gift is for Uganda or Haiti.  We also ask for your prayers for our friends and partners and for us, as we seek to do our part in this kingdom work.

UPCOMING TRIPS:  July 25-29 Young adult and family trip.
                                    November 14-18
                                    February 20-24