It is Good News

There are some things you can not experience by living an ordinary life in America. I love America, and I love my ordinary life. I am blessed beyond measure to live in a country where I can drink water without thinking twice and enjoy my air conditioning when it is over 100 degrees outside. I especially love going to worship with the other thousand or more people and reading my Bible with a cup of coffee when I wake up before the sun. But, if I stay in this comforting abyss forever, I am missing a greater joy. I had the blessing of experiencing it these last two weeks, and now I have a new addiction, a new dream. I dream of experiencing that joy all over again.

While visiting our aftercare home in South Asia, our team showered the love of Christ onto over one hundred girls. These girls have been abandoned or sold into slavery by their own families, and needed a place to be accepted and loved. We loved many of them straight into the arms of Jesus. I will never forget the exclamation of one who had just prayed to receive Christ. She excitedly told her friend, “He died for us! No other god would die for you!” It was at that point that I realized in my heart just how good the good news still is. See in America, we are often ashamed of the good news. We forget that as Romans 1:16 tells us, “It is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.” We have heard the gospel story over and over again and we become numb to its power. It is often only when you go to the far reaches of the earth and you find people who have never heard the story that you realize its power.

I also believe I understand Paul’s words in 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20 better when he says, “For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? Indeed, you are our glory and our joy.” To love someone so much to say that they are your glory and joy is to know the love of Christ. One day, my new friends will kneel beside me in the presence of the Lord Jesus. To look forward to that day, brings me immeasurable hope.  

There are people in America who have never heard the gospel, and going to the nations does not excuse us from the responsibility of reaching out to those who live around us. Going does not have to be an either/or scenario. The lesson of how good the good news is can embolden us and compel us to be more evangelistic here at home in America. But there are just some ways God works in other places that He does not do here at home. God still reveals Himself in miraculous signs and wonders in places where there are few Christians. In America, we are His signs. We hold His glory within us and like parking attendants in those bright orange vests; we point others towards Him and His righteousness. However, where there are few Christians, He still reveals himself in signs and dreams.

The young men on our team experienced this when praying for a man who had been unable to move his arm for three years. They prayed for him and he was able to move it. He praised God, and many came to know Christ as a result. We know that the story of God’s miraculous healing will be talked about in that village forever as a testimony to the glory of God. Our boys were awe struck to see God work in this way. Many people will go their entire lives never to see such a thing because they loved their ordinary life in America too much. These boys and girls accomplished more on this two week trip, than most Christians in America will experience in their entire lives.

We saw God work in ways that He simply does not do here in our ordinary, comfortable existence. I have a new addiction, a new dream. I want to hear the words my friend exclaimed repeated by others who have come to understand, “He died for us! No other god would do that for you!”

We Shall Overcome

Undisclosed Location | South Asia

July 14, 2010

“The Lord reigns, let the earth be glad; let the distant shores rejoice. Clouds and thick darkness surround Him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne.” Psalm 97:1

Rejoice that righteousness and justice are at the very foundation of God’s throne. It is who He is and He can not act contrary to His character. Today I stood and watched as 4 girls sang “We Shall Overcome.” They sang, “We shall overcome. We shall overcome. We shall overcome someday. Deep in my heart, I do believe, we shall overcome someday.” It impacted me so heavily because I know that these girls once lived in a brothel filled with filth. They were used up over and over again and treated like animals in unspeakable ways. Today they smiled as they performed a song with friends they have come to trust and love. They still have many obstacles to overcome, but they have love and champions to stand by their side. I am confident that our new friends will have bright futures.

As these 4 girls were singing this hope-filled song, another girl was living in deep despair. A rescue effort was being made to save her, and God was faithful to swing wide the door of this dark place. He reached in with His strong arm and pulled out the innocent young girl. She now has a chance to live life because there were some who shared God’s passion of justice. With time, this girl will smile, laugh, dance and sing again.

So often we speak of God’s righteousness, holiness, compassion and mercy. But, justice which is at the very foundation of His throne is misunderstood and overlooked. We think of injustice as life just not giving us a fair shake. We fail to realize that somewhere in the world the powerful are oppressing the weak. God calls us to speak out on behalf of the oppressed.

I urge you to embrace justice. Would the church arise and let this be our cry. Share Jesus’ passion for the innocent. Somewhere a young girl is in need of someone to speak out on her behalf. Somewhere a young girl is living in fear and dread as evil rapes her. Somewhere a young girl thinks she is forgotten and all alone. She needs someone to be her champion. She needs someone to reach in and save her. It may be that we are her only hope.

Speaking Love

Undisclosed Location, South Asia

July 11, 2010

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I have nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:1-3

It has been said that love is the universal language. Working in a place like India where it is hard to communicate can be frustrating. Trying to give directions or build relationships can seem next to impossible. There have been moments on this India trip where I have thought that I did not even want to try because it seemed too daunting. This morning, God reminded me that there really is a way to communicate without having to understand words.

1 Corinthians 13 has been called the love chapter and is often recited at weddings. It’s meaning runs deep and speaks of the power of love. You can do amazing things for God, speak many languages, teach, give everything away, even die for Him, but if you do it without love, then it is fruitless and meaningless. We have sacrificed a little to come to India, and if we do not have love, then, it is all for nothing.

I had a small victory today at Mother Teresa’s home for mentally challenged women. We have been sitting with the women, coloring, painting nails, or doing puzzles with them. Today I was able to get a handful of them to get into a circle, play a variation of duck-duck- goose, clapping rhythms and even sing Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes. That might not sound like much, but for me, that was a victory. I did all of this without a translator. With patience and persistence, love closed the language gap.

We have seen this all week long at the aftercare home. We have translators with us, and they are important, but most often, we are simply sitting or walking with a girl and speaking with smiles and affection. The girls at the aftercare home have never experienced this love language, and it has opened the doors to their hearts. They have been overwhelmed by our compassion, and they want to know why we would come so far and love them.

We have told them that we love because of Jesus, and because our love is so great, they also want to know Jesus. Seven more girls prayed to receive Christ today. It reminds me of the story of Ruth, which we shared with the girls on our second day. Ruth told Naomi, “Where you go, I will go. Where you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people, and your God, my God.” These girls do not have a family to give them a religion, and they now see us as their family. They have experienced our love and it communicates so deeply, that they want to know the same Jesus we know. They know that the gods from their childhood have not done anything good for them, and that there is no other god like Jesus.

We told them the story of Jesus healing the bleeding woman, and they could barely believe that He was powerful enough to do that, but also that He loved the bleeding woman enough to share His healing power with her. They have learned that He will do the same for them. He can heal their bodies, but also their hurting hearts, and no other god can do that. With Jesus as our God, it is not surprising that they too want have to have Him as theirs.

Concert of Love

Undisclosed Location, South Asia

July 11, 2010

My prayer warrior friend, Connie Sloan, sent our team in South Asia an encouraging message telling us she had been praying. She said that KBC had prayed for God to use the students’ giftings like a concert where each gifted musician adds to the whole in oneness and together makes beautiful music for the Lord. I have witnessed the very fruit of that today.

Many of these students have grown up together and have served the Lord throughout the years. They are all each uniquely gifted, and each of them desires to glorify God. You can see it in how they interact with those they are ministering to. Some of them joyfully bound up to the first person they see and give them a hug or a smile. Others wait for a quiet opportunity to have an intimate conversation. A few stay in the background, but are eager to serve and help where they are needed. God has used each of them to glorify Himself here in this city.

Today a young girl from the aftercare home accepted Christ. We rejoiced in her new life, and the girl told others that today she had made the best decision of her life and that she felt different. This young lady did not come to that decision based only on one conversation. This decision was made after a series of events made her realize that God was gently calling her name. It started back in January when Amy Granger and a few others first came to the aftercare home. Amy loved on this girl and never forgot about her. Many from our church began to pray for these girls. We gathered together and prayed that their lives would be restored and that God would reveal Himself to them. I even wrote a blog entitled, “Who Will Tell Them?” The question of who would go and bring them the knowledge of Christ was heavy on all of our hearts.

That question was answered when plans began to take the 12th graders to South Asia for their summer mission trip. Twenty something girls came half way around the world to share the love of Jesus with our girls in the aftercare home. This young lady that accepted Christ today has had the love of Jesus showered upon her by so many girls through dances, songs, crafts, Bible stories and games. Our girls have given out love and affection freely, and with all of these actions combined, the love of God has overwhelmingly filled the gates of the aftercare home.

Finally, God chose one of our students to start a conversation with this girl. They talked about Jesus and the young girl explained that she feels good inside whenever anyone talks about Jesus. She wanted to become a Christian, and one of our students had the privilege of praying her through it. Our student was beaming with joy when she recounted the story of how her new friend had changed her life.

It is exciting to see God work here, but not at all surprising. We have been expecting great things from this trip, and we are praying that great things would continue. As our students invade the dirty streets of this city, they wear their righteousness and salvation like beaming jewels. They are like an orchestra playing the music of the Lord, and its sound is so pleasant to the ears that it compels others to join in.

Life and Laughter

Undisclosed Location, South Asia

July 10, 2010

A cheerful heart really is good medicine and laughter is the overflow. Our girls’ team went back to our aftercare home today, and joy bursted forth once again. We broke into groups and taught them a dance, played games, made crafts, and taught them the story of Ruth. No matter the group, the girls were so happy that we were there. It didn’t take long for them to find friends, and many of our girls could be seen walking around with several pairs of arms wrapped around them.

Most of the girls in the aftercare home have been there for some time. After they are rescued from the brothels, they are brought into a separate part of the home. They have to stay in a protected area for 3 months before they can be brought into the main area. Some of our girls were able to visit with those who are in the guarded section. They talked about how grave their faces were compared to those who have had the time to heal. It was a reminder to us that these girls lived a completely different life before coming here. Every laugh, hug, and smile we shared today was us rejoicing in their freedom.

One of the aftercare girls did not want to participate. We were told she was in a deep depression. One of our girls befriended her, and talked and played with her, but the girl would never smile. As we were leaving on the bus, we were all waving out the windows and shouting goodbyes, and the girl smiled.

Sometimes we underestimate life. We tend to think of life as time slowly clicking by. But, when someone takes that life and stuffs it so far down that one can barely breathe from the weight of the oppression, life means something different. The freedom to experience life is only dreamed of and hoped for. These girls in our home have had their lives given back to them. Watching them play, dance, sing, and laugh, is seeing life. They have life on their faces, and it is a miracle from God. The only right response from us is to rejoice along with them.

Pushed a Little Farther

Undisclosed location, South Asia

July 9, 2010

Pushed to the limit, then pushed a little more describes the India experience. This is one of the poorest and dirtiest places in the world. When a visitor first arrives here they are attacked by new sights, smells, emotions, and weariness. It has been a joy for me to be with some of our Kingsland students as they worked through this. I am impressed at how they are willing to open themselves up to experience things they have never done before and allow God to work through them. These young men and women persevered today through the unfamiliar and the uncomfortable to obey God even when they wanted to run in the other direction, but God was faithful today to carry them through.

God showered us with so much blessing that it made all those tough moments worth it. Our young women have been eagerly waiting to go to our aftercare home to see the faces of those we have been praying for. As the bus pulled in and we started our walk toward the doors, the anticipation rose.

We walked in and were greeted with beaming smiles. It was clear that they had been anticipating us coming as well. They took us in to their living room and proudly gave each of us beautiful leis to wear on our wrists and gave us blessings on our foreheads. We were overwhelmed by the honor they showed us. From there, the celebration continued as they showed us around their home, school, and workplace.

The children in the classroom sang songs and said their alphabet for us, and we all squeezed in tight to watch through the doorway. We were overcome with emotion as we thought about what their futures could have been and the freedom that they have now. We danced, sang, laughed, and hugged each other as if we were long lost friends. The experience of seeing these girls exceeded any of our expectations. God blessed us abundantly. We would gladly go back through any of the minor hardships in order to see the girls’ joy filled faces once again. Being pushed farther and then a little bit more isn’t so bad when such great blessings are on the other side.

A New Adventure

Undisclosed location, South Asia

July 8, 2010

Isaiah 61:11 “For as the soil makes the sprout come up and the garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations.”

I left Houston on Monday and headed to South Asia to experience another one of God’s great adventures. I am leading a team of students from Kingsland Baptist Church, along with other 8 or so adults. Whenever I fly, I always imagine God taking the tiny airplane between His gigantic fingers and carrying it through the air to my destination, and then gently placing it on the ground. It is the same prayer I always pray before any flight, no matter how long and far. So as our plane lifted off, I prayed “Lord, take this plane and carry it with your strong hands and gently place it down when we arrive at our destination.”

After I prayed my prayer and we lifted off, I felt a strong sense of peace. God reminded me of His faithfulness and I rejoiced over the small things, such as room for my feet and good company. This entire journey has been clothed in prayer, not just in the last days of preparation, but in months of yearning to see the faces of the innocent saved.

As I reached for my Bible, it opened to Isaiah 61. This chapter is so relevant to our cause and to what we are hoping to accomplish by going to Asia. If I had room, I would go line by line though Isaiah 61, but, the last part of the chapter caught my attention.

“I delight greatly in the Lord; for my soul rejoices in my God. For He has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and like a bride adorns herself with jewels. For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations.” Isaiah 61:10

Getting to know these young men and women has been a joy to me. After traveling 3 days without much sleep, weariness sets in, however, on the Wednesday morning after arriving at our place of stay, they all geared back up to walk to Mother Teresa’s house to receive our assignments for the next week. We’ve had to make many changes and adjustments, but we are all ready to be used to impact God’s kingdom. As we walk the filthy streets of this city, serve at Mother Teresa’s and minister in our aftercare home, pray that their salvation would beam like royal jewels, and that as a garden causes a seed to grow, the beauty of your Majesty would shine through them to make sprouts of praise spring up from Asia.’