Saturday, November 7, 2009

Turn us again to yourself, O God...

The Daily Reflection written by Mark D.Roberts a few days ago, focused on Psalm 80. His thoughts centered on the phrase, Turn us again to yourself, O God..., which are found in verses 3, 7 and 19. He had encouraging, enlightening and hopeful things to share about this passage but my heart lingered on that one phrase - Turn us again to yourself, O God...

There are several things I find in these words which bring me delight and hope. This prayer by Asaph asks God to "Turn us" to himself. The scriptural basis for the fact that we can ask God to originate the turning not just for ourselves but for others is something I hadn't located or mindfully registered previously. I have frequently prayed for myself and others to turn to Him in repentance but I perceived the turning to be a personal response to God as a result of confessional prayer. I had not grasped the reality that God is at work "Turning us" as we pray and petition with intercession on behalf of ourselves and others.

This verse in Psalm 80 provides not just a glimmer of hope but a burst of evidence that there's life changing influence coming from our loving, merciful and powerful God when we pray with these words of conviction - Turn us again to yourself, O God... I pray today with renewed zeal for those including myself whose hearts need "turning" again to God.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Celebrating Halloween at Laity Lodge #3...

I have posted two blogs about the concert with David Tolley on Halloween evening at Laity Lodge. With my little Canon camera, I was able to capture several of his remarkable renditions that evening. Today I am including a clip of his presentation from PHANTOM OF THE OPERA. He asked for all lights to be turned off leaving just the glow from the candles inside the "Choir" of carved pumpkins. David Tolley's hands on the Steinway marvelously created the spooky mood so appropriate for that evening.


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Celebrating Halloween at Laity Lodge #2...

Yesterday I posted an entry about the weekend retreat I attended at Laity Lodge. A highlight of the weekend was the concert Saturday evening with David Tolley. I used my little Canon camera to film several of the pieces he played. He gave me permission to share them here and on my Facebook page. I think you will enjoy hearing his remarkable compositions.

It was Halloween evening when this concert took place. Pumpkins had been carved as an art project for those who wished to "play" during their free time in the afternoons with guest artist Meg Lowry Sack. Someone created 3 jack-o-lanterns with a musical theme to honor David. They were placed beside him for the concert at the Cody Center.

The piece I'm including in this post, is a number which David shared for the first time at Laity Lodge. It is entitled, REAL FRIO LOVE. The name was selected as a way for David to honor Mr. and Mrs. Howard E. Butt. REAL is the name of the county in which Laity Lodge is found. It is pronounced as a 2 syllable word - Re al. But of course the word also can mean what we usually think of when we see the word real - i.e. genuine, authentic, actual, true. FRIO is the name of the river along which the H.E.Butt Foundation property sits. LOVE is a personal expression which David feels for Mr. and Mrs. Butt because of the many ways in which they have shown him and his family the warmth of their very real, genuine and authentic welcome, grace, affirmation and generosity. LOVE is also an expression which can be used to describe the relationship Mr. and Mrs. Butt have shared with each other for nearly 60 years. David has composed a lovely melody and dedicated it to Mr. and Mrs. Butt as he prepared to play it during the concert.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Celebrating Halloween at Laity Lodge...

I attended a wonderful retreat last weekend at Laity Lodge. The artist for the weekend was Meg Lowry Sack who led a pumpkin carving session for folks during their afternoon free time. The clever and creative jack-o-lanterns surrounded the Steinway at the Cody Center. This provided a festive Halloween atmosphere for the concert on Saturday evening with David Tolley. David has been a guest artist at Laity Lodge on at least an annual basis since 1986. My husband and I moved to TX in 1985 for him to begin work with this wonderful ministry. In our nearly 25 years with the H.E.Butt Foundation ministries, we have had the privilege of hearing David many times. We are very grateful for that blessing in our lives. David has become a friend and I want to share some moments from his concert Saturday evening. He opened his concert with a number he composed for EuroDisney. His 18 hour complete work continues to play there. Hopefully you will be able to enjoy HEAVENLY FLIGHT as it was performed to open his concert at Laity Lodge.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

A Tribute to Joe Maxwell...

The earliest memories I have of Joe and Kathleen Maxwell were made while my daughter participated in a gymnastics class at their studio in Kerrville, TX. They were welcoming, loving and professional as they guided a cautious young girl into their world. They made their world safe and fun.

A few years later, I would connect with the Maxwell family again when their oldest son was assigned to my 6th grade Language Arts class at the public school where I was a teacher. Austin was a model student - bright, respectful, conscientious, friendly and a capable participant in class. Finding out that he received an appointment to the Naval Academy in Annapolis after graduation from high school came as no surprise to me.

I was not too frequently in settings with the Maxwell family but because of their prominence in our community, I followed the work into which God led them. Everything I heard and read underscored the fact that they lived their lives seeking to worship, serve and spread the Kingdom of God.

For many people, Joe's diagnosis of Merkel Cell cancer early in 2009 was a shock and a tragedy! People around the world joined a band of prayer warriors reading their CaringBridge posts to follow his progression through surgery and treatment. Each entry was encouragement to the reader even when the news was disappointing and dire. Joe, Kathleen and their children steadfastly maintained their strong faith and trust in a loving God. That faith remains even though Joe's fight with cancer ended early on October 8th.

As Joe was about to be discharged for the last time from MD Anderson Hospital in Houston, TX, a reporter from the NY Times interviewed him and Kathleen. The article was published today and has a mention of Joe. May it be one more way in which his life serves to share God's truth with a world in great need of being in a forgiven, redeemed relationship with Joe's Savior.

Kathleen will continue to share her journey through a blog she has just begun.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Moldova Boxes - the end?

With hope, trust, gratitude and joy, our team packed 31 boxes - over 800 kg, nearly a ton - of goods donated for the people in Moldova with whom we'd be spending a week in early August. Those boxes were taken to the shipper and on July 24th began their journey which only God foreknew. If you followed this blog during our time in Moldova, you know that the boxes had not arrived by the time our team did and were not released by the time we left.

Yesterday, September 24th is the day those same 31 unopened boxes returned to the room in which they were packed! Following is a note written by our team member whose steadfast commitment to the boxes was given with grace and determination - an effort our team only minimally comprehends. She shared these words to communicate her final chapter of this drama.
Hello Everyone,
The boxes are back, safe and sound in Kerrville! This morning I headed to Houston to get them. It is hard to think that 2 months ago today I made the same trek to drop off the boxes. This has been a long and trying experience. I wanted to let the team know, from me, that I appreciate all the support, encouragement, patience, and prayers that I have been shown as I have worked to resolve this situation.

The original intent for these boxes was to bring gifts to the Moldovan people and although that mission has yet to be accomplished I believe that God used these boxes to accomplish a different goal among us. While in Moldova we were able to see how it was His presence not the presents we brought that the children desired. Once we arrived back in the states He continued to use these boxes to teach/remind me of how sovereign and unfailing He is and how His plans are better than our own.

In closing, when we were in Moldova someone told me, "One day we will be able to look back at this and laugh.", well I am not quite there yet but hopefully one day soon.

Thanks again for everything,
It is a relief to have this gnarled episode finally resolved but many unanswered questions linger. In the days and weeks ahead each member of our team will prayerfully ponder what we are to learn from this experience. It will not be wasted work if we allow God's creative redemption plan to guide us into an even closer commitment to Him and a deeper dependence on His sufficiency.

How sweet to have experienced first hand the truth of

Proverbs 19: 21
Many are the plans in a man's heart,
but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails.
So we give thanks for the safe return of these boxes and pray for wisdom as we decide what to do with the contents which await the revelation of their Divine Purpose.

And may I not soon forget the freedom that comes without the encumbrance of "stuff" - even stuff with noble, worthwhile intent.
August 6 - 16, 2010
Pray about your participation!!!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Remembering 9/11...

My family and I lived in NYC from January 1976 - November 1979. We were taken to the World Trade Center by a friend who worked for the NYC Port Authority. Because of his employment, our tour of the tower included some background scenes and information to which I now wish I had paid better attention. But I remember well the moment I walked to the windows of the restaurant on the 107th floor and looked down! My whole body trembled as my mind was moved to ponder a series of "What ifs".
  • What if there were no window and wall here?
  • What if this window broke and I fell from here?
  • What if the elevator breaks and we have to walk all the way down?
  • What if I worked here and came here everyday?
  • What if something happens while we're up here and we can't get back down?
But the day I was at the top of the World Trade Center, nothing bad happened. I had the joy of looking out over NYC and seeing for miles. I had the exhilaration of coming down so rapidly in the elevator that I lost the awareness of how high I'd been. I had the thrill of experiencing the delight of this man-made wonder which stood in tribute to amazing genius and engineering.

I doubt that during my first visit to the World Trade Center I ever imagined a day when that building would fall in tragedy and horror as the world watched. And on that day eight years ago when those buildings fell, my sense of loss was great!!! I no longer lived there but a son and his wife did so my first call was to him to find out where he was and to make sure he was safe. He answered his phone and assured me that he was safe. He and his wife were on tour with My Brightest Diamond and were not in the city. Next calls were made to friends who lived there. We learned that all our friends were safely accounted for but they were linked to others who were still missing. The church which had been our Brooklyn employer was being used by folks stopped in evacuating traffic beside it on the BQE - Brooklyn Queens Expressway.

So today I remember, with the same emotion that day brought, the impact of the attack of terrorists on American soil. And as I recall the sadness and horror of that day, I lean with strengthening trust on Jesus' words to his disciples:
John 14: 1
"Do not let your hearts be troubled.
Trust in God; trust also in me..."
With gratitude and hope, I continue to serve and trust the God in whom my confidence rests. He has not eliminated evil from our world but He does continue to empower his children with strength to walk through shadowy valleys of death without fear of evil because he is with the sheep of his fold. This truth allows me and all who follow the Good Shepherd to have hearts at peace despite a world in panic.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Celebrating Second Son...

Thirty-six years ago, this was the day after Labor Day. We had been invited to a friend's home for a picnic supper that Labor Day. As I enjoyed the bounty of that feast, I thought I might later be sorry for my indulgence. I was 9 days from the due date of baby #2. So as I awakened in the night with an upset tummy, I was sure it was the meal of the night before. But I was mistaken. It was an 8# 12oz perfectly created baby boy deciding to arrive early!!! He was in a hurry to come but we just made it to the hospital for a nurse assisted entrance. I was mentally prepared to love him but when he was placed beside me and I felt him snuggle close, I was irresistibly taken under his spell. That spell remains strong today despite some teen battles he sought to win.

He, too, chose a godly (though non-Norwegian) wife. Together they operate and think "outside the box." They have a heart for reclamation - people, places - e.g. a Detroit neighborhood - and families. And they challenge complacency, materialism and music done poorly. It's refreshing to be in conversation with them because you are sure to be queried if you seem to be thinking from a stale point of view. They have views not often expressed in American church pews these days. But hearing how they and their friends are grappling with life leads me to think they are people who are making a difference in this world. I'm thankful to have a son who chooses to swim upstream.

So as I rejoice on this son's birthday in God's gift to me through him, I pray that God will continue to be his hope.
Psalm 71: 5-8
For you have been my hope, O Sovereign Lord,
my confidence since my youth.
From birth I have relied on you;
you brought me forth from my mother's womb.
I will ever praise you.
I have become like a portent to many,
but you are my strong refuge.
My mouth is filled with your praise,
declaring your splendor all day long.

Happy Birthday, Son James

Thursday, September 3, 2009

My Grandchildren start back to school...

Wearing the uniform of Veritas Classical Christian School , my 4 precious, precocious grandchildren headed off early Sept. 1st for their first day of school this year.
Lots of Norwegian blood is flowing through those mostly blond, blue-eyed children which is a source of delight in our family. But a greater source of joy is the spiritually maturing heart of each child. How grateful I am for a son who chose a godly (Norwegian) wife. That choice provides my grandchildren with both father and mother who lead their family through word and deed with the commitment Joshua stated to the Israelites:
Joshua 24:15
"...choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve,...
But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord."

As my grandchildren and their parents begin this new school year, I offer this prayer for them.
Dear Father,
It is with a heart full of praise to you that I begin this prayer - praise for redemption and grace that provided the way for me to become your child.
How grateful I am that you have given me the desire of my heart and have blessed me with children and grandchildren.
My prayer today is for my oldest son and his family. Lord, you have given me biblical words to express my requests for them. May I be faithful to "...wrestle in prayer for you that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured." May I also "...constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours, and every act prompted by your faith. We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ."
For these parents I pray that they will not allow anyone or anything to take them captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. There are so many unbridled and deceptive philosophies in this society - those that come from media, print and thinkers who have been led astray - build a hedge of protection around this family that they may not become captive to enticing lies.
Your word is full of instruction for children but today I ask you to help my grandchildren not to "...let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity." I pray that they will train themselves to be godly, learn obedience as Jesus did and believe with a lifetime of trust that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life.
With confidence I claim that
Flowing from tested truth, I desire for my dear ones to be strong and courageous. To not be terrified; to not be discouraged because the Lord their God - who is also my God - will be with them wherever they go - as he has been with me wherever I have gone.
Being in your presence through prayer, is a privilege for which I am deeply grateful. Though physical miles separate me from my family members, there is no distance in order to be in your presence through prayer. Your compassion and mercies are redemptive for me and for all who follow your truth. Thank you, Lord, for caring for my children and grandchildren as they go forth to learn this school year. May their thirst for knowledge be satisfied with truth that honors and glorifies your word.
With trust in the Lord who is faithful to all his promises, Amen

Monday, August 24, 2009

1st Day of School a few years back...

Through my connections on Facebook, I have been enjoying the photos and comments of those who are sending off children to their first day of school today. It has been many years since my own children headed off to their first day of school but I have not forgotten those experiences.

I decided to attempt to locate a few photos of those days. I found several of our oldest son - the first one shows him heading off to 1st grade at PS 185 in Brooklyn, NY. The year in 1st grade was a challenge. It was the height of budget cuts in NYC and 70% of the cuts had come from the school system. There were 37 children in his 1st grade class - 13 spoke English as a 2nd language, 6 spoke no English at all, 3 were identified as emotionally disturbed - one of those dropped his crayons into the heater which filled the room with smoke; and started a fire in the closet on another occasion. His teacher learned after the 1st day of school she would be teaching 1st grade. She thought she would have a kindergarten class but because the 1st day enrollment required another 1st grade room, she was moved there. And with a 4 yr old plus a baby at home, I had no time to volunteer to help the situation. There were no music, PE, art or library teachers. But our sweet son survived and has overcome the deficiencies of that year.

Another photo shows him starting 2nd grade at PS 170. During the spring of 1st grade, we started our son with a reading tutor. She worked wonders with our son who for some reason wasn't getting too much attention at PS 185. We learned that the reading program used in 1st grade was a sight reading method and he was more created to learn with a phonetic approach. The tutor used a curriculum which was used at PS 170 and our request to switch him to that school was granted for 2nd grade. He thrived in that new school.

Another photo shows two brothers on the front steps of our home in Brooklyn, NY. They were both headed to PS 170 for 1st and 3rd grade but by November our family would move to Hartland, WI where my husband would pastor his 3rd church.

During our short 18 months in Hartland, our boys would ride a bus to school from our home on Dona Rd. In 3rd grade our oldest son was in his 4th school. He had gone to a small Lutheran church school for kindergarten.

Our daughter began school while we lived on the grounds of Camp Timber-lee near East Troy, WI. I haven't found a picture of her as she started school but I did find a picture of her as she cradled a baby chick at the camp farm. We had a wonderful time as a family living there for four years.

My hearts desire as a young woman was to be a wife and mother. God brought that desire to fruition for my life and I am extremely grateful. The time of sending our 3 off to their first day of school is in the past but I treasure the blessing of those days and the privilege I have of being a mother.

From my perspective, the profession of motherhood is a very high calling. I'm thankful that motherhood and homemaking are gaining in credibility as a chosen line of "work" - a profession - for many women. I am a cheerleader for Stay-at-Home moms. It is not the profession all women need to choose but it is a profession which ranks equal to any other profession a woman can choose. It is an honor to have been a Stay-at-Home mom for 15 years while my children were pre-schoolers and through most of elementary school before I added income which was used primarily for college educations.
Proverbs 1:8,9
Listen, my son, to your father's instruction and do not forsake your mother's teaching. They will be a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck.
So as the school year begins, my thoughts blend the activities of life today with deep gratitude and sweet memories.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Happy 43rd Anniversary...

John and I joined our lives at Faith Baptist Church in Madison, WI with our families and friends as witness to what we had no reservations about doing. He was 23 and I was 21. He had completed undergrad school and had a teaching contract at Badger High School in Lake Geneva, WI. He would teach speech and be assistant drama coach for a campus which produced 2 major musicals each year. I would continue in school to complete my undergrad degree in obedience to my husband though I had pleaded with him not to insist I return to school. I had been out of school for a year which will be the subject of another blog someday. But John knew he was headed for the pastorate and he felt his wife should have a college degree. How grateful I have been for many years that he wisely encouraged my continuing college education.

August 20, 1966 was a picture perfect day. Our wedding was everything I had dreamed it would be. I have no doubt that I was naive and young but my faith was in God and so was John's so we have weathered the subsequent years of relationship deepening experiences - some blissful, some beneficial (after the fact).

John wrote the vows we memorized and spoke to each other that day. I was proud of him then and I remain proud of him today. Here are the words we spoke from our head and hearts:
Linda, before God and these witnesses, I take thee to be my wedded wife and so covenant as the head of our home to faithfully love and care for you alone through all of life together, to share with you that depth of love that comes through knowing Christ in plenty and in want, in joy and in sorrow, in sickness and in health until death shall separate us or until Christ returns.

John, with God and this company in witness, I take thee to be my wedded husband, and so covenant to faithfully love and care for you alone in plenty and in want, in joy and in sorrow, in sickness and in health so long as we both shall live. With confidence and deepest love I commit to you all that I am and have and hope to be till death shall separate us or Christ returns.
John's faithfulness to me and our family has undergirded us with godly strength. Our love was untested but placed trustingly in what has proved worthy of trust. We are blessed.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Remembering Moldova...

I spent some time yesterday placing over 120 of my Moldova pictures in an album. I'm not yet the creative memories type album person, though I'd like to be and may get there someday. Right now I feel it's an accomplishment when I get photos into an album with slots so that others can see the sites and faces that held my time and attention for a week but continue to hold my heart with deep concern and interest.

There are 11,000+ children living in boarding schools - essentially orphanages - in Moldova where the population is 4.5 million people. 87% of these children have a living parent but those parents are unable for many different reasons to give them care. Children begin school at age 7 in Moldova so that is the youngest age of the children living at boarding schools. They age out after grade 9 - usually about age 16. And then what? If there is no one to offer a home, these children are on the streets.

Fortunately for Moldova, CERI, Children's Emergency Relief International, has a strong presence in the country and provides services for the children who apply for and get accepted into the Transitional Living Program. This program intentionally provides support to children who get accepted into a school for higher education and training. To fund this ministry, sponsors are sought for the children, funds are sought from donors and some funding comes from grants. While in Moldova recently, I learned that 27 of the 100 children currently in the Transitional Living program are waiting for sponsors. So much more could be done if sponsors were found for those children. Because costs for the ministry have exceeded the income, there have been recent cut backs in personnel and services. This fact is heart breaking for me. I've seen first hand how hard the Moldovan CERI staff work and I've seen the benefit of their important ministry.

To sponsor a child in the Transitional Living program, the cost per month is $100.00. Children a little younger can be sponsored in a Quality of Life program for $70.00 per month. My husband and I have the privilege of partnering with friends to sponsor a set of twin girls. We had the joy of spending a few hours with them while we were in Moldova recently. During the year we're able to communicate through CERI staff in monthly email letters. We are planning to add a couple more girls to our sponsorship family as soon as the paperwork is processed. I can't think of a better way to spend some money than to help children have the opportunity for education and training along with the love and truth of God's word shared through His people.

Please consider child sponsorship for Moldova. How rewarding it is to pray for a child who longs to have a caring person consider them worthy of love, attention and a little financial help. What a joy it was for my husband and me to witness the commitment to Jesus of one of our twins while we were with them at a camp in Moldova a few weeks ago. And now we can encourage the spiritual growth of these girls while praying that they will not fall prey to traffickers or other forces of evil.

There's a child waiting for you to want to be their sponsor.

P.S. If you're following this blog and wonder about our boxes, they are still lingering in the airport while more needed documentation for clearing customs is provided. Keep praying.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Moldova Follow-up #1

I was unable to add photos to my posts from Moldova but today I have added a slideshow and will place some selected shots on this post.

The team of 10 from TX was a well prepared and capable group of God's chosen for this purpose this summer. All of us had made previous trips to Moldova and were eager to revisit the country and children we have all come to love dearly.

Rom. 10:13b-15a "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent?
And in our team's case, it was mandatory for us to have people who could translate our English words into Romanian words in order for our audience to understand God's truth we were hoping to share. How grateful we are for a talented, capable and willing support team who partnered with us to impart our Savior's message.

My class was the adult teachers who spend at least one month of their summer vacation supervising the children at camp. I have met with the adults each year for the past 5 years that I've been with a team to Moldova. Some of the gals I'd met previously; others were new. In the hour we spent together each day, we read the same passages of scripture the children are using in their groups and we shared comments about the scripture and about other things in our lives. These photos include the gals who were faithful in attendance. Svetlana was the team leader for the camp and has become a special friend over the years. As we spent our last day together on Friday, she thanked me for "sharing with them; for teaching them new things and for reminding them of things they had forgotten." It is God's word which does not return void so I'm very thankful for opportunity to share God's truthful word with them.

So many children and adults have become very dear to me. It's difficult to select any who are more special than others but I became especially connected to a couple of sweet girls who are new this year because the orphanages where they had been living were closed and they moved to Internat 2 - the facility we've been working with for the past 5 years. These girls are full of huge potential as they are very academically bright. They are physically beautiful and they responded to human touch and attention with gratitude, smiles and heart wrenching closeness. Just posting their photos is causing my heart to fondly recall the special moments we shared and to turn my fears for their futures to a God who is able to protect and prosper even those without a biological family to love, support and treasure vulnerable girls while giving them guidance on the path of life.

The other two girls we had the joy of spending some time with are the twins we help sponsor. They graduated from the orphanage a year ago and are attending a trade school where they are able to live in a dorm during the school year. They are shy, quiet, cute girls who have committed their lives to Christ and are growing as His disciples with the help of the Moldovan CERI (Children's Emergency Relief International) staff who provide training and encouragement for the future of 100 children in the Transitional Living Program for those who have aged out of the orphanage and now have to care for themselves.

I am returning to my life in the states but cannot help but remember with prayerful hope and trust the children and adults in Moldova who have impacted me deeply. I'm already planning my next trip though that will probably not happen until next summer.

And if you're wondering about the status of our preshipped boxes of supplies, they are still at the airport in Chisinau waiting for still more documentation before making it through customs into the hands of the CERI staff there. I'll let you know when their status changes.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Safely Home in TX - Aug, 10, 2009

We're home in Texas and all is well here!

We had a 60 min. delay leaving Frankfurt because a passenger checked in for the flight but didn't board so luggage had to be located and removed from the plane. So we had about an hour to get through customs in Chicago and get to our gate for San Antonio. We made it! But our luggage didn't!! Probably will get that tomorrow delivered to our homes.

John had a good conversation with a man from India sitting next to him between Frankfurt and Chicago. Their lengthy discussion included spiritual sharing. He accepted John's gift of the Bible he carries while traveling.

We slept some on our return but bed is calling now. Thanks for prayers for safe travel.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Moldova, Sunday, August 9, 2009

Sunday is drawing to a close. We have just finished our last delicious meal prepared by the team house cook, Lilia, and we have debriefed for nearly an hour to relate some of the highs and lows of the week. It was a very constructive time of praise and helpful ideas which we concluded with the singing of a verse of HOW GREAT THOU ART. We have been a team which has loved, given, sacrificed, laughed and sparred while serving our Lord and each other.

Most of us attended 1st Baptist, a Russian speaking church this morning where we enjoyed a 2 hr. service of wonderful music and preaching. As we listened to magnificent songs of praise, I envisioned the moment told about in Rev. 7:9

After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne
and in front of the Lamb.

I imagine that when all believers gather before God's throne in heaven, we will all understand or we will all speak the same language as we together worship the Lord. This morning was a hint of what that scene will be like and it was filled with emotion for John and me. Worship and praise to Jesus can be recognized and felt in any language I believe.

Following lunch we had a couple hours at the art market where I purchased a couple things a friend asked me to buy and visited the Bucaria candy store for a few items.

We've been packing and savoring our final moments here. It's load our suitcases at 2:50am, depart for the airport at 3am and leave for Frankfurt and the USA at 5am. We're expected in San Antonio about 3pm or so CDT.

I'm grateful for another opportunity to serve in this ministry with some of the 11,000 orphans of Moldova - 87% of whom have a parent or parents but who are unwilling, unable or disallowed from caring for them. This has been another week in which my life and heart have been profoundly impacted and in which I have experienced the power of God flowing through me to extend His love and care. May I continue to serve as He enables and provides.

The next word from me will be stateside. Thanks for your continued prayers as we wearily wend our way homeward - a blessed team.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Moldova, Saturday, Aug. 8, 2009

Our day is drawing to a close and it has been one in which we have gone several ways in order to spend time with sponsored children or participate in a very enjoyable Moldovan ride in the country. I was part of the team which loaded into a van at 9:30 for some sightseeing. We stopped first to tour the beautiful, new CERI offices then headed to Cricova to see about a tour of underground caverns which produce limestone blocks. But the place is closed on weekends. From there we headed to Orhei where there is a 13th Century underground monastery. We got in some good walking to visit that and to enjoy the scenic, fertile valley below the cliff concealing the ancient monastery. On our return, we stopped for lunch at a restaurant beside a small lake where we enjoyed traditional Moldovan food - Mamaliga (probably not spelled correctly). We arrived back at the team house where we were joined at 4pm by Elena and Valentina Sitic, the girls we help sponsor. They are quite shy but answered our questions, asked some and were good listeners. It was another precious time with them. Elena told us she had been thinking about her spiritual decision for a long time and knew it was time to make her decision Thursday evening. She said her sister had been talking to her about it and encouraging her. She said she feels freer and happier now. They told us they will be visiting Jesus Savior Baptist Church tomorrow with a cousin. We are very thrilled about this as it will be a good church with an active youth program which they can get involved in. They are such pretty and sweet girls.

This evening was our appreciation dinner at La Tafaz Restaurant where we enjoyed an abundance of Moldovan foods. It was a good time to thank our support team - translators and drivers. We could not do what we do without their skill and participation.

We will attend 1st Baptist tomorrow morning and we understand there will be a wedding in that service as there was last week at Jesus Savior. This time we will be worshipping in Russian.

How can it be nearly time to pack already? Thanks for your continued prayerful involvement with our team. God is sustaining us.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Moldova, Friday, Aug. 7, 2009

We made it!!! Through the week at camp, that is. We must have had God and adrenaline pumping energy into our weary bodies but we all had a good morning at camp. The temperature here now is so pleasant - actually was cool this evening. I took some clothes and supplies to my class of teachers and they were able to enjoy those items. We have only the boxes we brought with us on the plane but that included enough socks for everyone in camp, some clothing for the translators and teachers and a few items for children.

We have not had our usual "treats" for classtime at camp as our granola bars etc. are in the boxes that we never got. We have all noticed that no child has ever asked nor complained about that. No child has ever asked for clothing or shoes as they've done in the past. And this evening as our day and time with them ended, there was no sadness that we did not have a significant bag of goodies for them. We did have a handful of candy and Goldfish crackers in a little bag and that was about it. Our personal attention has supplied what they needed the most.

So about the boxes!!! We learned today that the last 6 boxes arrived this afternoon at the airport. Allison and Connie headed there as the rest of us had lunch. But they learned quite quickly at customs that the task of having the boxes clear customs would take much longer than an hr. or 2. With a broker it still takes 1-2 days. Therefore our boxes will not be cleared until the first of next week at the earliest. I am disappointed that we will not be here to assist with the task of sorting and distributing things as it will be a large task for an already very busy CERI staff. We have learned that Procargo of Houston will refund in full the amount our church has been charged for this shipment. They are assuming full responsibility for failing to "do their homework" before and during the shipping of our cargo. For that we are grateful.

There isn't time this evening, since it's nearly midnight, to develop my thoughts about what God has been teaching us/me about what we/I thought were needed supplies. Obviously developing disciples isn't dependent on "supplies". It's much more about developing relationships which is a commitment of time and presence - not presents. I have been realizing that what I have in my head and heart of God's word so that I can share out of the abundance of those truths, is what is useful when "stuff" isn't available. I need to do better in that area so that I'm even more equipped when Plan A turns into Plan B, C, D or ...

As we concluded this evening in the gazebo, I asked the children to find their teachers and join them for some final moments. I began to collect my things when I looked around to see that the 5 or 6 teachers who have faithfully come to my group, were surrounding me saying that I had told everyone to find their teacher so that's what they were doing! They had many expressions of gratitude to share but Svetlana shared the most. She thanked me for sharing so much with them, for teaching them things they didn't know and reminding them of things they had forgotten. God is so good!!! I had shared with them each day the same passages of scripture and the stories which were being shared with the children - Abraham, Noah, Joseph, Moses and David. These teachers have an Orthodox experience but weren't familiar with much of what we talked about. I am so grateful for what God accomplishes through a translator and His word.

Two young women have become very special in addition to the teachers. Viorica is 13, Lena is 15. They are both very lovely, smart, precious girls who hungered for physical closeness with someone who probably was a mother or grandmother figure. It was my privilege and delight to provide some moments of healthy touch and affirmation. I will certainly miss them.

The week has flown by and so many memories are embedded in our hearts! We have been so empowered and sustained by One so much greater than we are. Just to have the privilege of serving Him is pure joy. My heart is overflowing with gratitude.

Tomorrow will be a day to have some diversion. Some team members who sponsor children will be spending time with their children. John and I will meet again with Elena and Valentina for a couple hours late afternoon. We will spend some time midday seeing some of Moldova we haven't yet seen and in the evening we will enjoy traditional Moldovan food at a restaurant where we will express our deep appreciation to our translators - they have been stellar!!!

Sunday we will visit 1st Baptist - a Russian speaking church - the mother church in Moldova. And shop a little at the art market before packing to travel back to the states on Monday.

We continue to be sustained and encouraged by your prayers and encouragement. Thanks so much.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Moldova, Thursday, Aug. 6, 2009

It is 1am here and our team has just returned from our evening at the Transitional Living camp in Calarash. This was an exceedingly meaningful evening for John and me as we got to spend the whole time with the precious twin girls we help sponsor. They are 17 yrs old and are in vocational school following their years in the orphanage. I met them in Dec. but this was John's first opportunity.

We sat at a picnic table with a translator and shared family photos and information about our lives. We had a couple of hours for this before dinner. During our conversation, John and I both shared about how we have lived our lives and how we came to our lives of commitment to Christ. We asked the girls about their lives and whether or not they had a relationship with Jesus. Valentina immediately said that she made a commitment at a camp 2 years ago when an American team came here to do what we are doing now. I asked Elena what her experience was and she was quiet. I asked if she was still thinking about it and she said, "Yes". We told them we pray for them often and will continue to. We asked our translator to share with the girls how he came to faith. We don't really know the story as he spoke only in Romanian.

After dinner, there was an evening program which included a message by Anatoli, the translator who had been translating for us and who is working with our team this week. He had given a clear witness during his message regarding the importance of choosing a relationship with Christ when young and not delaying and he explained how that was done. At the close of his message, he invited anyone who was ready to make that commitment to come forward and light a candle to signify their choice. Elena and several others were out of their seats immediately and lit their candles. How precious to have this very special moment happen while we are here! It's a moment we will never forget! And how sweet to have these dear girls beside us for a few hours of hugging, holding hands and sharing our love as best we could.

Our morning at camp went well. We had a few more sprinkles of rain but are rejoicing in cooler temperatures.

Tomorrow is to be our last day at the camp. Pray for us to "end well". We are all pretty tired but are soldiering on with strength only God can be providing.

Our hearts are full. Tomorrow will be difficult as it means saying such difficult "good-byes".

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Moldova, Wed. August 5, 2009

Another amazing day!!!

Allison and Connie headed off to the airport and the Customs office at 8am to continue the quest for release of our 15 boxes. I have just heard much of the story and it is full of twists and turns. Even though the head of Customs for the whole country of Moldova signed off on releasing the boxes, our 2 courageous gals were told there were still more steps to be completed before they could be released. A broker needed to be hired and an invoice noting the value of each item in each box needs to be completed on a form in pencil. Allison did get inside the Cargo area of the airport where she was able to see our boxes. She said they looked great - they are in terrific shape! She was able to see what numbers were on the boxes and then was able to determine whether or not our most needed boxes were here. You guessed it - none of the boxes on our top priority list were here. They are still in Riga and there was no flight from there today.

Allison's class was handled during her absense by her translator and 2 young, teen, Moldovan helpers we have. They did fine and enjoyed the opportunity.

The rest of our team carried on with our planned lessons and activities without a hitch - except for some figety kids that challenged our discipline plan. It's amazing what can be done with a few sheets, some clothespins, a cardboard box, a few puppets and a working digital projector! We are all pretty excited about our creativity and ingenuity. My morning went very well and I especially enjoyed a very meaningful discussion with my teachers during our hour to share some Bible study and conversation. They are quite willing to talk and listen so I'm really enjoying these 5-7 gals.

Today was the day to buy an ice cream treat for each child and take those with us when we arrived back at camp late afternoon. As we loaded the ice cream, threatening black clouds broke into thunder, lightening and rain. Why not?

The lead teacher for the camp suggested we move our event into the dining room which we did. Tables were pushed back and children lined their stools in rows to be served the ice cream and then be ready for our evening "Gazebo Time". We were able to set up the sound system and the projector and hang our "fancy" screen on the windows there. There was excitement over the ice cream treats but quite good attention and participation during the program.

There is a child here whose parents are gypsies. His deceased father was a street musician and this son is very musical. Last year a brother was also at the camp who played the accordion and this boy sang. Yuri plays the trumpet so this morning played a solo for our session. He is terrific! This evening he played his trumpet along with the singing and picked things up so quickly without any music. He takes lessons from a teacher at the boarding school.

Our evening session also included a drama about Joseph and his father and 11 brothers. Peggy and John orchestrated this with their class of boys and it was quite well done.

One of the translators is new this year. Anatol plays the pan flute. He gave a performance of that and it also was wonderful. He is a very godly, humble, capable young man who has been doing youth ministry for 8 years. He's a seminary student somewhere. So we had a number of fun elements to the assembly. We would have had an Adam Raccoon power point story but the lap top decided to mall function and made that impossible.

We have all been commenting on how well things are going without the things we thought we needed. We are not a discouraged team. We are experiencing the strength and wisdom we need when we need it. The week is passing quickly and we're loving our interaction with all here.

I have had significant conversations with 2 young gals. Because of my interest in them, they have gotten quite attached to me. They hug, kiss and walk with me whenever they can. They hold my hand at days end all the way to the van. They are beautiful, sweet girls whose stories are heart breaking. Lena had never been to school due to addiction and illness issues with her parents until she was 10 years old. She is now 15 and at the top of her class in everything. She and Eureka and the teachers are being etched on my heart along with so many other sweet faces.

Some scripture was shared in a comment left yesterday and it was just what we needed as we process the delay of our boxes. But our inconvenience pales when we think of Joseph's life and the lives of so many of these children.
God instructs us to.....
"Do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.
You need to persevere, so that when you have done the will of God,
you will receive what He has promised." Hebrews 10:35,36

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Moldova, Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2009

The theme for today was PROMISES - Gen. 6:5-9:17. We talked to the children and adults about the promise God made to Noah after the flood. God said that never again would he wipe out all his living creatures by flood, and God placed a rainbow in the sky as a sign of his faithful promise. We had an opportunity to present the truth of God's loving faithfulness in always keeping his promises.

It is not difficult in this world where our dear children live to find examples of the difficulty of many humans to keep promises. There are examples of broken promises in lots of places. And as a team, we have a case study very close at hand of a broken promise related to our preshipped boxes of supplies. The boxes were once again denied space on a flight from Riga today. Our shipper out of Houston has a motto; SERVICE IS OUR EDGE. But because of negligence (and the forces of evil), our shipment has endured what is becoming an unending list of hold-ups. Connie, CERI''s Moldovan head, and Allison spent at least 3 hours at the airport talking to customs, filling out documents, composing letters, getting signatures - the list is staggering - but to no avail. There were hours on the phone to Houston and Riga after that but the 15 boxes could not be released today since it is only half the shipment. There will be another attempt tomorrow by these 2 gals so perhaps a way will be made for the boxes to be released to us. So we'll see if there is a new spin to the PROMISE example in our midst.

The rest of us had a more satisfying day. Since the digital projecter was working last evening, we took it to the camp with us. We flattened a big box, covered it with a dark sheet then a white sheet which were held taut by clothespins and hung that in the gazebo as a screen. It worked!!! We were very pleasantly surprised by the outcome of our creative team idea and energy - wonder who sparked that! So my power point programs rolled and were well received. Of course another hitch struck our first attempt this morning as the computer was operating off battery and went dead half way through the story!!! So......... we decided it was a great time to say, "Come back this evening to find out how this story ends!" and sent everyone off to small group time.

The day was hot but we're from TX and VERY used to that so we carry on without ac or fans at camp. Most of the time we can find the shade of a tree and enjoy a slight breeze. It gets coolish at night so we don't suffer while sleeping without ac. We have fans at the Team House.

The teachers at the camp are helping with discipline in the large group sessions and that is great. The children have beautiful singing voices and I especially love hearing them sing in Romanian the songs I'm familiar with in English. And having the teachers in the Gazebo means we have their listening ears as well.

A number of children shared in Gazebo Time with solos, memorized poems and a skit today. There are some very musically gifted children. Tomorrow a child who plays a trumpet is on the schedule.

Tomorrow's theme is Leadership and our story will be about Joseph. How will the boxes be an illustration for this theme? Stay tuned for an update in 24 hours.

We are strengthened by your godly encouragement and frequent prayers. We continue to have joy and strength for our days.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Moldova, Monday, August 3, 2009

A beautiful morning became a very hot afternoon and that was endured while enjoying sunshine all around us and in us.

Our day started well with our opening time in the Gazebo for singing and other sharing related to our theme for the day of "Friendships". I have been leading those times after our Moldovan translators lead the singing. It definitely is taking me out of my comfort zone but we're managing to have some variety - skits, stories and some kid sharing of memory verses etc. I had hoped to use a digital projector with some Power Point stories with pictures which I created but we weren't able to use that machine all day. It is being borrowed from a local pastor and his son was able to come to the Team House this evening and get it working for us. If we can hang a sheet or finagle a system for a "screen", we'll be able to use it tomorrow. For today I managed to "story tell" and paint the pictures with words. The kids seemed to engage quite well. I am using the Adam Raccoon stories and after looking everywhere in Kerrville for a Raccoon puppet or stuffed animal, I had found one at a Thrift store for $.50 the day before we left. It has helped immensely as a visual with the words.

Small groups went well for the team with the children and I had a good hour with the adult teachers. They are very friendly and appreciative - not too talkative but good listeners.

Our activity periods stretched our patience but the kids participated quite well and were enthusiastic. Time was cut a little short in our 3rd and final rotation because the pool times got started. The kids were thrilled to jump into the water on this hot day.

During our lunch time back at the Team House, we learned that the Baltic Air flight came in on time from Riga but did not have our boxes! They had again been bumped due to high volume of luggage by the passenger load. We are disappointed for certain but are discovering that God is at work in and through us even without what we thought we "needed" - technology and supplies! We are now experiencing His provision and hopefully learning His patience.

As I rise to share during our Gazebo times, I breathe a prayer that God's ideas, thoughts and words will come from my mouth. I usually like to have my thoughts on paper - completely composed in advance. Well, that luxury is not part of most of this week but I'm experiencing the deep joy of finding myself able to flow with what comes to my mind. I am deeply grateful. It's definitely the Lord calling to mind and memory what's there from past engagement with His word and ways.
As I write this, I have found I Peter 1: 6b-7
... you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These
have come so that your faith - of greater worth than gold, which perishes even
though refined by fire - may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory
and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

So despite our disappointment that things aren't going as smoothly as we would like, we are blessed by the responses of those we're spending our time with both at the camp and as a team. We're working well as a team and have terrific CERI support staff and translators working with us here.

My day is ending with a heart full of deep gratitude - for all prayers, for God's provision of all we need and for the opportunity to share truth and love with delightful Moldovans and to have that love returned many fold.

Continue to pray for the boxes. Allison remains in contact with Procargo in Houston from which we're receiving apology. An attempt will be made tomorrow to see if we can redeem the partial shipment that is here. There is very little if any personal items in the boxes so if they arrive after our departure, that will be OK though we will regret leaving all the work to the CERI staff here for disseminating the items. God is in control. I will choose to trust Him.