Friday, March 30, 2007

VOLUME 14 - 2006/2007


"Master, I know you have high standards and hate careless ways, that you demand the best and make no allowances for error. I was afraid I might disappoint you, so I found a good hiding place." Matt 25:24-25 The Message

Entering into the eleventh year of ministry and mission, I can say with absolute certainty, the needs of the world will always outweigh the supply, there simply is not enough. No matter how many goods and services are brought in, no matter where, there will always be those sitting on the sidelines of the “supply” wondering “why is there not enough for me?” The more I see, sometimes I feel I understand more the teachings of Christ on “the poor you will always have with you.” Matthew 26:11He saw the crowds and His heart was moved with compassion, for they were like sheep without a shepherd.” Mark 6:34

I grieve at the reality, and realize I understand less and less. The “why” of so much wealth, access, information, and opportunity poured out on some areas (and people) and for others: no clean water, no education, no love, no life?

There are all types of people on the sidelines: children who see gifts being handed out by the thousands, and yet they receive nothing; villagers watching while the children who are getting “educated” receive something while they and theirs do not; orphans across the globe who watch images of happiness and families; humanitarian relief reaching some but not all, people affected by wars and natural disasters current and past left with internal scars unseen.

And then there are our own sidelines: It is often said regarding mission work “some go, and some send”. But unfortunately there are many who sit on the sidelines doing neither. Watching, listening, sometimes hearing the plight and the problems and then… back to work on Monday, life and living while thousands of men, women and children around the world must wonder “why is there not enough for me”? We are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, and while it is generally interpreted as a group cheering us on to the finish line of the race set before us, they are also witnesses against those who sit on the sidelines of “faith without works”, in a land of plenty.

As partners with the work of Sunshine After Rain Ministries, you aren’t on the sidelines. I “go”, but you “send” through your generosity and faithfulness. I hope you enjoy reading of YOUR adventures, YOUR race, YOUR work, YOUR ministry, and always YOUR mission, and how you answered His call. Friends, the harvest is ripe. In the last 14 months WE have reached over 50,000 people with the Good News. Get ready to send, this worker is set to GO!


Flight Plan

Over the past 14 months I have achieved a new “status” with Star Alliance airlines. The year took me more than 100,000 miles, and not “as the crow flies!” We have shared the Good News with over 50,000 people! However, this “status” does not cure boredom, assure or afford upgrades, or much of anything besides a pat on the back, an introduction when I board the aircraft, and the ability to sit in the lounge while I wait at airports around the globe. The night before I leave on any given mission, I try and watch a mundane movie to take my mind off the long hours of flying discomfort, knee strain and general complaints awaiting me the next day.

We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us. 2 Corinthians 5:20

“Flight Plan” happened to be my movie of choice before beginning my February 2006 trip to Ghana. The story: a woman, a big plane, and a missing child. The crew proceeds to try and deal with her hysteria, her knowledge of the plane (she helped design it) and of course the daughter no one else has seen. Is she crazy? Grieving over the death of her husband? Has she been taking drugs? Many of the celluloid passengers just stared and gave dirty looks at the inconvenience of having to stay strapped in while the plane was searched. They even applauded when she was put in handcuffs and led back to her seat. The tension mounts as she escapes - causes even more inconvenience and the big “reveal!” The FBI agent was plotting all along to extort $50 million dollars! Clever, yes, but he underestimated the women's passion to find her lost daughter. I am reminded of our Master's lesson and passion – the Shepherd leaves the 90 and 9 to find the one.

Jesus came to seek and save the lost. I know He has more passion than an Academy Award winning actress playing out grief and despair in a made-up movie. I know because He says He does, and I have seen His passion in a thousand faces across the globe. As well acted and dramatized as the scenes were (a mother grieving for a lost child), the loss and sadness our Father feels is so much greater. So great is His desire to search for the lost and broken in the world - He shared His passion through “gifts” – calling saints to the Harvest Fields to labor and toil, to show His love and to tell of His sacrifice. We can be assured, the King will not stop until all who are called hear His voice and respond. I plan to keep going right to the end.
I may fly with “status” but I soar on the wings of your prayers!

He will not grow tired or weary, and His understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; BUT those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:28-31

Bringing in the Sheaves: Martha's Melody

Missions are bonding. Working together for a common Kingdom purpose, provides a tangible example for the message of being “one” in the Body of Christ. During the first days in Ghana as we waited for the release of the Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes, our team of six American women along with the in-country missionaries had plenty of time to share life stories, life times, and life’s tears. We coped with hours of frustration, days of delays, and time on our hands. We traveled to and from places hard to visualize, but found ourselves continuously amused and encouraged by the road signs which became our “SIGNS”.

To pass the time, we praised. Eight Baptists (past, present and recovering) in a car can come up with a lot of hymns! Martha, our resident wise one, even confessed to playing the piano for her church in a crunch. However, she was limited to those written in the Key of C (no sharps no flats). We got a good laugh on that one because there were only about three standards everyone remembered penned in the simple Key of C. As we belted out the classics: Old Rugged Cross, He Lives, Victory in Jesus, Onward Christian Soldiers, somewhere in the back of the van the comment came “can’t you sing something that’s at least from the 20th century!?” To which Martha replied, “but we were just about to get to Bringing in the Sheaves, that’s one I can play on the piano.” A huge roar of laughter erupted and when the chuckles died down, we started with the more modern “This is the Day.” We grew quiet as the sights and sounds, smells and uniqueness that is Africa, closed in around us. The sign on the taxi ahead read “Perseverance – To God Be the Glory.”

Our final day of distribution was to four of the orphanages I visited during 2004. The children had grown feet, not inches since that time and were eager to hear more stories, and see new “tricks”. Once the program ended and the gifts were handed out, we had time to enjoy the children. We watched them open their gift boxes. Their eyes lit up seeing familiar items like flashlights and of course candy! They proudly donned their new sunglasses, and posed with proud toothy grins.

At our last stop, the children asked if they could sing a song for us. “Of course” we answered and quickly took out our cameras and turned on the video. “This is the Gathering Song”, the leader said and with a one, and a two, and a three, they began: “Sowing in the morning, sowing seeds of kindness… we shall come rejoicing bringing in the sheaves…”

Perhaps it has been explained to these children about sowing and reaping for the Kingdom. They may actually know what “sheaves” are. But when they began the chorus, it was clear – God’s favor was upon us. And for Martha, through her tears of joy, hearing one of the only hymns she could play on the piano from orphans in Ghana, she saw a small portion of her very own sheaves.

Yes, we left rejoicing!


Out of Chaos ~ Creation

April took me back to Sri Lanka for the third time. Our programs consisted of stories, games, and crafts. The first time I heard Aaron Burke (of Gateway Outreach) describe his idea for the craft, (to cover notebooks with colored paper and glitter), I laughed and protested the mess. He assured me it would be “fine” (not exactly fine art) and fun for the kids, and I knew in the end it’s all about them. After six days of crayons, cut outs, glue, stickers and not enough scissors, the chaotic art developed its own beauty.

Once crafts are over, we scan the scene, look at the huge mess of stickers unstuck, glue globbed, paper shreds and crushed crayons littering the floors of the churches and orphanages our programs are held at. We make our apologies of course, but are always met with a “don't worry, the children had a good time!” Aaron was right.

When we returned to the Agape Children's Home, it was a giggling reunion for some, but for the 17 new orphans, we were met with strange skepticism. However, once the program started their grimaces turned to grins. It was delightful to see them have fun, express joy, surprise, laughter and enthusiasm at – you guessed it - those darn crafts! Oh, they had a time alright, and as the darkness settled in outside, the Pastor ran and stole light bulbs from various other rooms in the orphanage to give illumination to their creation process.

Once again, I looked down at the floor: EEGADS! Scraps, globs, gloop, gross! But when I looked up, the Faithful Father revealed something new. The children were all tightly holding their decorated notebooks as if they were masterpieces - beauty from the ashes of trash. I told them to look down and asked “what do you see?” It was hard to miss, and they offered a quick easy answer “a BIG MESS!” I went on to explain, “That's right, but in your hands you hold something beautiful. Now if someone walks in and looks at the floor, they would agree with you about the mess. They might not see what YOU created from out of the mess. Children, God is doing the same thing with you and me. Our circumstances may look like a mess, spilled tears, torn hearts and crushed spirits – but God is busy creating something out of what we only see as “ashes of trash.”

He promises to hold you close. YOU are His masterpiece and great treasure.”

He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor …, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve … to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. Isaiah 61:1-3

His Pleasure

“You shaped me first inside, then out; You formed me in my mother’s womb” Ps 139: 13

My encounters across the world with the disabled are quite similar, they have a culture all their own and spoken language is oftentimes a non-issue. I found it true with the children and adults living at the Mother Teresa home in Kandy, Sri Lanka. We were given approval for our visit, but with conditions: restricted photographs, no videos, and we must understand the children are in a severe state. Once inside the confines of the compound, we discovered a wide diversity of age and disability among the residents. They ranged from infants (abandoned for various reasons) to the aged (finding shelter and friendship), from severely impaired by disabilities to simply despairing from poverty. Some were reserved, some were frightened (by the over stimulation), but there were also affectionate enthusiasts. I pictured them all as my dear sweet Jesus.

A grinning girl jumped up from her seat when I walked through the gates - giggling, smiling, grabbing my hand, mumbling an enthusiastic greeting. But here is why I could so easily picture the hand of my Master reaching out to me through her: she walked me around the room and introduced me to her friends, when they were scared or pulled back she would reassure them I was okay. She would pat me or hug me and encourage them to do the same. Some were terribly disfigured; diseased hands outreached waiting and wanting to be touched. It was as if He was saying: “This one needs you, this one needs to feel accepted, and this one needs to be shown My love. Let Me introduce you to My friends, those I hold in the highest esteem!”

You might assume they wouldn’t (or couldn’t) or even shouldn’t be entertained by “tricks” and stories – oh, but there you would be mistaken. And as for assembling “volunteers” for the stories - they were eager to come forward and be a part of what was happening up front. They donned the silly hats and props like contestants in a Beauty Pageant, and in so many ways they were!

It was His handiwork that formed them in the mother’s womb, deemed them acceptable, lovely and desirable just as they are. I told the story “The Legend of the Daisy” (God creating the flowers just for beauty’s sake). The Rose asks to be important -the Tulip wants to be admired but not used - the Violet too shy to come out of her forest of fear. And then there is the Daisy, enthusiastically asking to be scattered abundantly to bring joy and happiness into the lives of children.

Today, as those perhaps least beautiful by the world’s standards, laughed, smiled, and took delight in being “chosen” to participate and be “used”, my eyes didn't take in the brokenness or the tragedy - in fact before me I saw HIS field of Daisies.


I am Sarajevo

Former war zone
experiencing recovery
but in the deep struggle of a nation
remains in my body, echoes like shrapnel
“why do I do the things I do not want to do?”

The landscape is beautiful
if you squint
if you look past the buildings
filled with bullet holes and mortar blasts
I am working on re-plastering those places
so the evidence of the war I have been through
is inoffensive
after all – I know wounds worry people

There are areas in the city of my psyche
completely repaired
people feel hope in that place
but just when a passerby thought I was safe
they encounter a sign - skull & cross bones
“Beware of mines”
While there haven’t been too many
accidental explosions lately
knowing they are there - and not
knowing where they are
is unsettling.

Even though many scars are re-plastered
and old war wounds healed
the rest of the structure
bore the blasts
and deals with the unseen enemy
who could any day rear its ugly hatred
point a rifle of accusation - and shoot
I have an enemy – who says I am not worthy
of love or life

I am Sarajevo.

From a Hillside in Herzegovina

I celebrated Mother's Day in the warmth of a Bosnian spring sun. Sometimes I find it hard to be away from family during holidays and crisis, but I praise God for the privilege and opportunity to share with His “family” and countless children around the world. After church, CARE EE and friends drove off for the Roma (gypsy) village, home to many of those in the worship service. We were driving into the mountains for an hour when we turned up the dirt road leading to the village. The young man with us, asked if I had seen such a “road” before. I had to laugh - I have seen MANY such roads that are hardly roads.

The village makes money by collecting iron and steel, burning and cleaning it and then reselling it for cash. You cannot imagine the piles and piles of old cars, pipes, tires, broken refrigerators and machinery, anything that was once something - now waiting for the inferno to turn them into a cash commodity. It was hard to negotiate through the men young and old on the roadside, kindling fires of all sizes, and avoid killing the wide variety of chickens, goats, cows, dogs and cats that casually crossed our narrow path without fear.

We arrived at the top of the hill, and at the end of the road stood a house (sort of). Like many structures in third world countries, half of it is finished, and the rest is waiting for funds or families or furniture. Of course our approaching vehicle caused quite the stir, stirring up more than dust as we got out of the car. Not so curiously, CARE EE caused a crowd immediately, and the children hurried to open the door and let the stranger out into their midst. What would I bring them, why was I there? Some spoke enough English to say “what is your name?” “My name is...” “How are you?”

When CARE EE answered - grins broke out across their faces, laughter erupted and happiness was widespread. Their grins were a mixture of broken, missing and decaying teeth. But they were grins none the less. Their clothes, were not much more than rags, only a few wore shoes, and they were often oversized, mismatched hand-me-downs barely staying on to protect their small feet. Their hair had most likely not been combed this week (or month), and as for baths, the dirt that covered them, covered them! And while this sad physical state exists among these gypsy children, they are still children. They are still laughing, smiling, and having fun playing the “King and Queen” in the stories I tell. And, through the work of two dedicated Finnish missionaries committed to living in this former war zone - they ALL know about Jesus!

As I told the story of redemption high on the hill, overlooking an impoverished landscape more like a series of junkyards than a village for humans to reside - I asked questions to the wide-eyed crowd. “Do you know who the baby in the manger is?” “JESUS” they yelled back enthusiastically. “Do you know who calmed the sea in the boat?” “JESUS” they laughed wondering why I would ask questions with such an obvious answer. “Do you know why the cross points the way to heaven?” “Because He died for our sins!” they smiled.

“On a hill far away....” there is knowledge of the old rugged cross. There are children who know, who trust, who believe in the Name of Jesus. There are illiterate parents who learn of the Savior because their children come home from Bible lessons and tell of His love. There is hope in a place where hope is forged in the fires, because they know there really is only One hope that saves. It may not save them from poverty, it may not remove them from the pit of forged found-ironwork around them, it did not save them from being caught in a war, but it will save them in the end.

Praise God for THIS indescribable gift! As Paul wrote to those back home in Jerusalem “brothers I want you to know what is going on in the field.” I write to you. I want you to know what YOU are a part of. Some through financial gifts, some through prayers, but all will share in the Harvest of souls in the joy shared and the love brought to this hill! We are ONE in the body of Christ.


Jesus Starts with a "J"

His face always makes me smile.

And when I saw him arrive at the Joni and Friends Family Retreat camp - he was smiling back. “CARE EE, you’re here – it’s good to see you!” It took time for Jay to reach me with his labored steps affected by cerebral palsy. It did not however, affect the strength of his heart’s affection for his favorite clown! His convulsive arms embraced me wholeheartedly.

Whenever I would walk through the dining room, the chapel, or pass from one building to the next – if Jay was around, he was around me. “Charlynn, I like Playdo, do you think you can find some for me? When’s CARE EE going to be around?” I would explain my schedule and various “characters” appearances, Jay would just be staring at me, hanging on every word, waiting for his opportunity to say, “You’re my friend.”

I confess, when I was in a hurry (from performance to performance) Jay’s shout “Wait up CARE EE” would pause my steps with a sense of impatience. Jay’s mother would come to corral her son and try and to explain to him my rush. Jay would counter ALL explanations with his own answer, “But CARE EE is my friend.” We would hug, he would release his grip and say, “See you later friend.”

On the day of the talent show, each encounter with Jay brought out a big smile. “CARE EE, you’re in for a big surprise tonight.” Without question, the Family Retreat talent show does hold huge surprises. It is a night families cherish and the kids can’t wait to show us their “stuff”. We have wheelchair jumping, poetry reading, pianos tickled, and voices of angels couldn’t sound any sweeter than those of our camp’s children. They proudly take the stage and praise the God they know loves them.

It was Jay’s turn at last. He kept looking over to the side of the stage where CARE EE was standing, distracted that I was not next to him. As he began to sing, he motioned me beside him. “CARE EE’s my friend” he told the audience as he put his arm around me to steady himself. I mostly looked right at Jay while he sang, but from the corners of my eyes I could see many in the audience crying openly. They couldn’t see the tears of a clown, running down her white cheeks – I’m not sure Jay did either – because nothing was going to stop his serenade to his friend.

“Jesus, be my center, be my source, be my light… Jesus.”

Jesus. His name starts with a “J” – and this week at camp I saw in my friend Jay glimpses of Him: always quick to acknowledge I am in the room, ready to say hello, always wanting to stand right beside me and to tell everyone I am his “friend”. And when it came time to show off his talent – he wanted to do it with me right by his side.

Somehow I know Jesus is doing the same!


On a Hill Far Away

In August 2006 Sunshine After Rain Ministries led its first team on a trip to Tanzania, East Africa. Six women set off to train, bless and learn from women living in remote villages. Ms. Sabina Lumwe (our leader during the 2004 Kenya women’s training) arranged a conference for ninety women to be held at the Vuga Bible School (built in 1912 by Germans for a mission post). It took days of flying, and treacherous bus riding to arrive at the compound set high in the Usambara Mountains. Our quarters were the Bishop’s guest house sitting at the bottom of the acreage where the Bible school is located. French doors opened to a stone porch filled with faithfully tended flowers and overlooking a spectacular view of the mountains and valleys surrounding us. We felt privileged. It was obvious God had protected this place on a hill and long used its sanctified ground as a place where His light had gone forth into a dark nation.

“Here's another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We're going public with this, as public as a city on a hill... Now that I’ve put you on a hilltop...” Mat 5:14-16 The Message

Each day of the conference, we took our afternoon tea with different groups of laywomen. Sabina explained they were leaders of small bible studies, and some of churches or prayer groups. This would be our opportunity to get acquainted in an informal setting.

On our first day, eight women sat on the stone bench with the beauty of the backdrop and took tea and biscuits. We were able to ask them questions, and they were able to do likewise. We began by asking, “What is your day like?” It was hard to keep our mouths from dropping open as they said, “The day starts at 6:00 am, letting the animals out to pasture, gathering firewood, boiling water, preparing the meals, getting the children off to school. We finish at sundown to begin again when the sun rises.” They asked if we had children, husbands, etc… and we asked the same. The oldest in the group had 14 children (none born in a hospital) and again our mouths strained against dropping as they shared one by one a few facts about village life for a woman.

The sun was setting and off in the distance, we began to see the roads fill with women who had left the conference. Sabina and those who had joined us for tea pointed to the farthest mountain. They shared the women were walking up that mountain, down the valley and even past the farthest hill in the distance.

The sight, miles away, of women walking up a hill to return home to tend animals, gather firewood, boil water, care for children and rise the next day to walk back 3 hours to hear what WE would have to say humbled us. We all prayed to have something worth their sacrifices made on the hill.

Royal Crowned Cola

You are a royal priesthood, co-heirs with Christ." 1 Pet 2:9

After the closing ceremony concluded (with eighty-plus Queens adorned in their newly acquired crowns), we shared our last afternoon tea time. The sun was shining on our little spot of hillside and although simple plastic, the crowns glittered like gold! As the women made their way down to the courtyard in front of the Bible School they steadied their headpieces like newly crowned beauty queens. Faces shone with pride. Laughter filled the air and their abundant joy was contagious.

What a sight they made as they gathered as a group for a parting photo. Once all the digital cameras had been passed forward and faces framed for posterity, the women lined up again to go through the ceremonial hand washing. They passed by the table set outside and selected their tea biscuits and today, for a special treat, a SODA.

The ritual of afternoon tea is one of those strange echoes of colonialism still practiced even in a remote village hillside. Stopping to “take tea” is an extended and expected form of hospitality. Tea the common, Coke the extravagant. As our team sat down and scanned the crowd of crowned black beauties seated on the small retaining wall, we chuckled under our breath, thinking it was too bad the drink offering wasn't R.C Cola (Royal Crown).

As it was, we were quite content gazing at the harvest.

We “had a Coke and a smile.”

Consider the Birds

Our tears mingled with the African sisters we came to know and love. It will be difficult for the angel stenographers in charge of counting tears to separate which one goes into which bottle! Ninety women have been fed and nurtured, they have grown in spirit and in truth, and we saw a small portion of the harvest as the attendees gathered an offering of rice and staples to take to the orphans of the Irente Center the day after the conference ended.

The return ride from the compound (Irente Center) housing the blind, disabled and baby orphanage brought another potentially terrifying drive – but I would break into a chorus with the three African women who had joined us for the day:

“Hallelujah HAH, Hallelujah HAH, Hallelujah HAH…”

Maria, the oldest, kept at it for me to learn to carry the tune, while Margaret and Joness would giggle at my efforts to ward off my fears with praise. Then Maria broke into a song of her own making. Each verse she sang was regarding a member of the team or something about the conference. The other women would offer the responsive chorus:

“wonderful, wonderful, wonderful…”

At one point, her singing stopped abruptly, interrupted by tears of joy, thanksgiving and sadness at our soon departure. Sabina, in the silence, took time to explain some of her refrains: “Thank God for sending Charlynn to us we pray she comes again. Thank God for sending Debi to us. Thank God for His mercy and love toward us, may it never end.”

We have had the humbling privilege to travel (by bus) the long steep mountainous roads these women walk daily. We have experienced their servanthood through bucket after bucket of boiling hot water that has been carried down the 100 yard precarious path so six white women could bathe in hot water borne on the burden of the third-world each morning and evening. Our hunger has been satisfied by a cook and house girl who arrive before dawn to begin preparations in virtual darkness and stay well into the night cooking by candlelight, our hearty meal. We sit enjoying a leisurely dinner and conversation while they wait – so they can clear the table, and set the table for the next day come the following sunrise.

Months before we arrived, Sabina described the women to us “birds” waiting to be fed the spiritual food of the Living God. At times I have felt like a beast – with tender feet, sore back and bones from traversing the cobblestone incline up to the church each day. We have consumed more water individually than they probably see in a month. And as for the toilet paper we have used – at each request for more rolls, a quizzical look would come across their face. I’m sure they could not imagine wasting so much of such a precious commodity as paper.

“Even Solomon in all His glory was not clothed as these.” Matt 6:29

As we prepared to leave Vuga for the next stop on our journey back home, twenty or so of the conference Queens arrived to bid us farewell. They shook our hands, hugged us, blessed us and sang. Eager to send us off with songs of Thanksgiving and praise to the God we all served well over the course of our time together.

And their faces were like that of angels.

And Their Faces Were Like That of Angels


Old Wisdom in a New Place

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: … a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and time to dance…” Ecc 3:1-4

Things change. Plans are interrupted. Successes are stolen by surprise, and our joy can turn to sorrow at a moments notice. This sentiment is not new, and as Solomon in his wisdom stated, “there is nothing new under the sun.” There is a very real and present danger surrounding us 24 hours a day. While this enemy may go unseen by most, he is not inactive or go un-credited when tragedy strikes unexpectedly. My scheduled fall trip to China was advanced a few weeks when I received a special invitation by the Chinese government requesting my presence at the 90th anniversary celebration of the Taian Children’s Home. You may recall I have visited this orphanage each year since 2001, and in 2005, the ministry donated 15 wheelchairs for their needs. It was a great honor and an “offer I couldn’t refuse”. Arrangements were made, visas applied for and off again to the other side of the world.

My in-country connections coordinated the details, and our friend Brenda Adams (who was already there), would accompany me down to Taian for all the official ceremonies. We were treated with the highest honors, given a hotel suite, even grand dining with government officials. The officials made requests and promises for future ministry opportunities to additional orphanages. We had arrived into the realm of “trusted friend” in Chinese cultural terms. We gave an evening performance for the orphans after dinner, and the next day were seated on the stage with local and national officials in front of an audience of 500. The children of the Jinan Children’s Home for the Disabled performed as did the Taian orphans. It was a wonderful and touching performance. Brenda and I headed back late in the afternoon on Cloud Nine on the bus with the children from the Jinan Home.

In just a few hours, the enemy would try to steal the joy, the success, and the victory we accomplished in the Kingdom realm. On our way home from dinner, as we made our way across the University campus to the hotel, Brenda was deliberately struck by a car. A nightmare of activities (ambulance, police, emergency rooms, diagnosis, and surgery) consumed ensuing hours and coming days. Our plans had definitely changed. But God’s presence and reassurance surrounded us. Brenda was hospitalized for almost three weeks and it was another few weeks before she could safely return home. After much prayer I flew on to Beijing, for my University performance and visit to the House of Hope Orphanage. There was nothing I could do personally that was not already being attended to by friends (American and Chinese). It was a season of sadness, but the season of joy would come only a few months later when Brenda RETURNED to China (bringing materials, gifts and humanitarian items) with her husband and family. She exhibited an irrefutable testimony of grace, forgiveness and the mercy and love of God towards the people in China. His truth goes marching on!

Even Now

“… not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. "I tell you, whoever acknowledges Me before men, the Son of Man will also acknowledge him before the angels of God.” Luke 12:6:8

I confess, in my weak spiritual moments I use humor to deflect and get me beyond my anxiety or nerves. And as I enter an orphanage or other performance venue, I send up an arrow prayer like the cupbearer to the King (see Nehemiah) “Lord you got me into this You'd better show up.” He does faithfully and it's interesting to watch how HE behaves. Sometimes I will see His glance come across the face of a knowing child. At other times it will be through the arms wrapped around me in a welcome embrace.

He must have sensed I needed something special to erase the memory and trauma of the accident. The sinking feeling I had of Him as my “Protector Father” abandoning me in my time of need. His response and attention came at me like a steam roller in the body of a three-year old giggling girl. Her mouth deformed by a cleft palate, did not stop her from laughing and grinning a wide crooked smile. While the other children were friendly and excited they could not match her abundance of energy. She was a non-stop motion of flaying arms and legs - using CARE EE's body as a jungle gym and gymnastic springboard. She laughed - jumped - laughed - hugged - laughed - touched the sparkles on my noise - laughed and ran around the back to play hide and seek with her red-headed friend.

I received His love through her. I took her enthusiasm as His encouragement “I am glad you are here. I L-O-V-E YOU, this much. Have fun with me. Have some fun for me, show these abandoned and broken the delight, touch and love of their creator God. Go for it!”

When the performance started my little bundle of love sat right in front where she could get a full view of me and me of her. She kept me focused with smiles and giggles. At the end of the program I lay down on the floor and got “dog-piled” by the rambunctious two and three year olds. Right across from me on the mat was my friend. We exchanged knowing glances and though He didn't audibly speak - in her eyes I saw His heart -

"Well done my good and faithful servant - enter into the joy of your Master."

- then she broke out in giggles as we both got up to say goodbye, until the next time.


Life is Urgent

“Jesus said to another, Follow Me! He said “certainly, but first … I have to make arrangements for my father’s funeral.” Jesus refused. “First things first. Your business is life, not death. And life is urgent: announce God’s Kingdom!” Luke 9:61 The Message

I planned to return to Sri Lanka in the fall of 2006, and yet the Lord had other plans, close but…. Aaron Burke of Gateway Outreach, notified me the situation in Sri Lanka was growing more dangerous for foreigners because of increased civil unrest. The day I left in April, there was an attack in Colombo near the hotel where we took our last lunch. Aaron’s enthusiasm to continue to “go forth to the ends of the earth” is contagious, and he said “Char, I have a contact in India where we can do an outreach. Let’s go there.” I was ready, willing and able – and off to the next great harvest field on earth. There are over 1 billion people living in India, less than 2% of them are professing Christians – sounds like an opportunity to me! Three Americans and 15 local missionaries (not all are pictured above) worked together for 10 days. We sponsored a pastor training seminar, held a program for the orphans at the COM (Christian Outreach Missions) children’s home, conducted believer’s meetings in the evening to strengthen the local body, and organized two children’s festivals with over 1,000 children attending. We also had an opportunity to work in rural villages ministering to over 3,000 children and adults. It was a phenomenal experience! I saw so many new things about the God we serve. I gained a deeper compassion and commitment to the work He has commissioned me to do. And I realized, there are so many people in the world who have NEVER heard the Name of Jesus. I am eager to get “on about my Father’s business.”

You can imagine there are many good stories from such a harvest. I will only share a few that made the greatest impression on me during my first journey into the land of saffron and silk. The village outreaches, especially ones in gypsy areas of the countryside were amazing adventures into a world seldom seen by foreigners. One of the first things you notice in a gypsy village are the clothes worn by the people. The children’s attire is predominately the same – school uniforms and shorts with un-tucked well-worn shirts, but the women wear beautiful multi-layered silks of bright colors banded in gold and silver trim, and when strangers or men approach they are quick to pull a scarf over their head. Most wear elaborate beaded nose rings for adornment and jeweled bangles on their wrists. The women always sit on the peripheral of the crowd of children – occasionally, when the gospel began to be preached they gathered the cloth beauty that covered their outside and left empty inside.

To break the proverbial ice, we hand out balloons when we arrive but then as we prepare to leave the children clamor to have one more “pooka” even though they are hiding them in their hands or pockets. At one stop, after the program Pastor P asked us follow him to the house of the one believer (out of 700 people) in the village.

We stepped inside the one room house, and noticed a picture of Jesus hanging proudly on the wall in the 8x8 space. The Pastor asked Aaron to bless the couple and their house. They knelt on the mat in front of him and he placed his hands on their humbly bowed heads, and prayed for blessing and boldness to speak the truth into their community. I looked around the small room. The garments they owned were hanging on a clothesline strung from one corner to the other. There was an old drink crate suspended on the wall whose small compartments held the entirety of their worldly possessions. Their hospitality humbled us as they passed around a plate of cookies and glasses of tea, and as soon as the plate was depleted, the husband ran out and purchased another sack of cookies.

I wanted to cry in humility. These people were honoring God, and giving to us out of thanks for bringing the Gospel to their village – to help “them” tell the Good News. It made us bold and courageous to “go” to the ends of the earth – privileged to see what awaits us. We loaded the car and set off for the next village “in the dark” literally and spiritually.

Again, we parked at the outskirts of the village and started our praise and prayer walk down the dark streets. The smell of fire permeates the air. Women crouch around small flames in the streets cooking the night’s meal. Children run freely up and down the lanes along with a menagerie of animals. We are the curiosity in this place – and they wonder not just “who” we are but “what” we are. In this particular village the best place for our presentation was directly across from the Hindu temple. We presented the Gospel, sang praise songs and watched the children watching us, and seeing Him. At the close of our program, the Pastor led the people in an altar call of acceptance and salvation.

“Come follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” Matt 4:10

I think today Jesus would also say “I will make you fishers in villages in India, among gypsies and outcast, orphans in all parts of the world, learned University students in China, tribal women suffering in Africa, the war wounded in Bosnia, and disaster victims in Sri Lanka." He is calling to those who are listening. The conversations in heaven are always concerned for the lost and hurting of this world.

“ and then I heard the voice of the Master: “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?” I spoke up, “I’ll go. Send me!” Isaiah 6:8

Can You See Me?

When Isaiah spoke to the Lord and said “Here am I. Send me”, the Lord replied, “Go and tell the people, “Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving”. Both Jesus and Paul quoted the verse during their ministry. They spoke truth to their generation and those following warning against the refusal to “hear” and to “see”.

But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. For I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it. Matt 13:16-17

As I travel the globe following the call, I am exposed to a great deal of the poverty and plight of individuals living and struggling to survive in the Third World. I see and hear their experience. It takes an emotional toll. I had been fearful of traveling to India, having read books and seen movies such as City of Joy; hearing of children maimed by adults, to command higher sympathy while begging for money in the streets of Bombay and Calcutta. I thought it would be too much for this already sensitized heart. But when I heard the voice of the Lord calling me to India – I didn’t hesitate. I fully trust Him with the outcome of each and every journey; even those leading into what I fear may be the Valley of the Shadow of Death.

I knew He would be with me in India.

“Perfect love casts out fear” 1 John 4:18

My heart, my eyes, my ears were filled with love for the country, when I left the country. I felt a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment at the harvest. I returned to Bombay to catch my flight home to the states satiated by the experience, but sadness was also packed in my bags. I arrived in the dark, and I would be leaving in the dark. The Pastor arranged for his brother to meet me at the airport and escort me to the international terminal. Once we were in our makeshift cab – the traffic swallowed us. The night closed in around us and the horns were relentless in their constant blaring, warning, signaling for squeezed through passageways. I never cease to be amazed how inches separate life, limb and certain death – but somehow with the aid of beeps and brakes people make their way crossing oncoming traffic, wrong directional, no directional and just plain chaos without being crippled.

The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear?” Psalm 27:4

We came to a large bridge and stopped at the light just near the underpass. Immediately, we were surrounded by beggars - children holding infants knocking on the window, making gestures of hand to mouth and then pushing the babies forward to further elicit sympathy. In the darkness you could see hundreds of children walking from car to car – negotiating their way through the pile up. Trying to determine which one would likely offer something for their effort and risk. One small girl – seeing a light person in a cab decided patience would pay off. She kept knocking on my window, making noises, calling out “Auntie, Auntie”. She held her face up to the glass – peering inside through cupped hands. Looking, waiting and working the system she has been brought up in. I could not make myself look at her. I could not “see” her.

There was a great deal I did see under that bridge - hundreds of children and dogs, foraging through the garbage, and the fires, built for warmth, or light or food – perhaps. I always take my cue from the nationals and ask about the appropriate response to beggars on the streets. Often it feels heartless and gutless.

One day on the streets of Hubli a child approached the Pastor with an outstretched hand. I watched to see his response. He said a few words and turned her away. I questioned his reaction wanting to know how foreigners, but not just foreigners but Christ followers should act. He explained as long as they can make money begging they have no desire to better themselves. And when they receive response from well-meaning foreigners it makes the process and the pursuing that much greater the next time – a reward for bad behavior is how he put it.

And there’s the rub as they say. “Don’t give a man a fish, teach him to fish”. I always ask –“Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, what about THIS?” Where are You?” I often hear His gentle answer to my anxiety “You’re here aren’t you – it means I’m here too.” Christ told His followers, “The poor you will always have with you.” I understand more and more there was NOT enough money in the world then – there is not enough money in the world NOW to solve the problems: children abandoned to the streets, simple medical care not available, lack of clean water and sanitation killing hundreds of thousands each year. He was telling them – AND me – AND you - there is only one solution to the problem “ME”.

“All His ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong…” Deut 32:4
Christ explained service, “Whatever you have done to the least of these you have done so unto Me”. He explained religion “pure and undefiled” is to look after widows and orphans. He explained prayer, “If you being evil know how to give good gifts, how much more will your Father in Heaven give good gifts to those who ask! Pray without ceasing.” He explained what we are to do “Go make disciples of all nations unto the ends of the earth, preach the Gospel.”

In the dark night with a faceless child peering through the window of a dilapidated taxi – I felt her gaze and question “can you see me?”

I prayed to understand. I prayed to see Him for HER answer.
“Young women will dance and be happy, young men and old men will join in. I’ll convert their weeping into laughter, lavishing comfort, invading their grief with joy.” Jeremiah 31:13 The Message



Twenty-one servants ushered in the New Year in Voronezh, Russia. Working with East West International has taken me to the former Communist country 14 times; this would be my seventh trip to Voronezh. The thought of Russia in winter isn’t a warm one, but the mission to bring Christmas to the orphans who had no family to spend the holidays with certainly did warm our hearts, and brace us for the cold weather. Most of the American’s on our team were new to mission and orphanage ministry. It brought its own dynamic. There are a lot of “nerves” to work through, as well as the basic chaos of how to smoothly transition in the program from one “station” to the next, what to do with the children during down time, and lots of other little kinks that typically work themselves out in one way or another. The children we were seeing in Semiluki were “true” orphans. We would be their “family” for the holiday, there to provide them with comfort and hope for their future. It was a task not without its critics.

One team member’s interpreter wondered if we weren’t just giving the children a “false” hope. Happiness for one day, only to leave them longing and hoping for more. It was, and is, a valid question. Do these “visits” produce more pain than the short-term, short-lived pleasure and presents are worth? The veteran team members and leaders expressed the “purpose” of our time with the children. A time to illustrate “God has a plan”: a plan to prosper and not to harm, a plan to give them a future and a hope.

Jesus was not an economist, a psychologist, a politician or a lawyer. He came as a human who entered in to the suffering of humanity. He did not address the economic plight of the people by making them all millionaires. He did not analyze their problems and issues and offer a “ten steps to happiness” program. His nation and people were in bondage to a foreign land, and yet He was no diplomat negotiating for their freedom or moral justice.

What He did do, was to walk, talk, eat, sleep and teach among the people. He touched and His touch healed. He taught, and His lessons changed hearts, lives and eventually, the world. He “dwelt” among them. He didn’t strategize, He simplified. He isn’t asking any more of us today with the children. Our in-country leader reminded us the “operative” phrase in the well-known, oft-quoted verse: “pure religion undefiled is this, to VISIT the widow and orphan “IN” their distress”.

The verse does not say fix their circumstance, share the gospel, bring money, rescue or adopt them – it merely says VISIT.

VISIT: to go to and stay with (a person or family) or at (a place) for a short time for reasons of sociability, politeness, business, curiosity, etc.

While it is said 90% of mission work is “showing up”, perhaps the other 10% is to keep in mind the “strategy” is in the simplicity of the VISIT.



"Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth..." Matt 5:5

My future inheritance has nothing to do with an impending death in the family. It has to do with a death that occurred almost two thousand years ago; guaranteeing my future and adoption for eternity. Life sure would be easier (at least by the world’s standards) if I already had my treasures, a big bank account and lacking nothing materially. Alas, God’s economical perspective is not mine.

As I “go” and return, and “go” – I try and remind myself, in His accounting of things, we are an international investors. But as He reminds us, where our heart is, our treasure is also. My heart is with the orphans of the world, with the disenfranchised, the displaced and the disabled. There is much to be romanticized about the “adventure”, distant lands and iconic landmarks most never see in a lifetime. But the “theory” of the adventurous journey carries the weight and responsibility of communicating the Good News and telling “God’s Story” to you.

I have seen the Red Square and the Kremlin, but also thousands of Russian orphans hidden in remote and rural institutions constructed by an ideology void of God and, since its collapse, holding no future. I have walked atop the Great Wall in China and entered the once Forbidden City, but I have also seen hundreds of girls abandoned to a life of hopelessness, because in a society with a one child policy, male children are seen as the only future aging parents will have provision. As for those born with a disability, most are virtually discarded and devalued for life. I saw the snows of Kilimanjaro, but also the street children who forage among trash heaps for food. I feel my responsibility is to share the beauty IN the ashes, as well as bringing the hope and truth of the God I love and serve, Who gives beauty FOR ashes.

The Director of Orphan ministry of East West International and I left Russia and traveled on to India. Our teammates were on their way back to the USA, to comfort, family and familiar food. As for us, fighting the good fight of faith as “career officers”, we carry on, to the upward high calling. During the trip, we will analyze the “battlefield”, develop “fighting strategies”, and determine how many “battalions” of willing “soldiers” we will need to enlist to conquer the land! India is a nation with over 300 million gods, the “war” seems hopeless. In the coming days, we will take our cue from a wise Israeli King (Jehoshaphat) who went before His Lord and said,

“The army is too vast for us to conquer …but our are eyes are fixed on You.” 2 Chron 20:12


“but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head.” Matt 8:20

Our work, set apart before any of our days came into being, was completed. Ornaments and bookmarks were decorated, and Polaroids would serve as a reminder (even if only temporary) of our visit. We loaded up the “stuff”, gave last minute hugs, and headed through the mud and slush towards the bus that would take us back to Voronezh and eventually, for most of the team “home”. We left at the children’s lunch time, which gave them a destination they needed to rush off to, as well as sparing us a long tearful goodbye.

I looked up at the windows of the building and saw one lone teenage girl as she stood watching our departure. From her third story window she had a good view of twenty Americans, along with their twenty interpreters, walk away. I waved frantically from the bus, to catch her eye and acknowledge her perspective. She waved back and kept watching the trail of people filing past her perch, unaware of her pain, and passing under her tears.

When everyone had finally filtered on to the bus, our leader began commending the team for a job well done, persevered with grace, and “gold stars” all around. One of our youngest team members said, “so what does that get us?” to which our leader replied, “You get to go home.” Applause broke out – but my heart broke with it.

Jesus speaks in the eighth chapter of Matthew, on the cost of being His follower. By this time in His ministry, He was gaining in popularity and many were seeking out His companionship for further learning opportunities and perhaps to see the “show” that surrounded Him. One eager young man asked to become a follower. Jesus’ welcome to him was met with a response, “but first let me go and make funeral arrangements.”

Jesus then remarked on his own “homelessness”, perhaps in an effort to illustrate being tied to nothing and no one. Once, when told His family (mother and brothers) were outside, He said, “these are my mothers and brothers”, making His family with those in His presence, instead of those who shared His family history. I believe there is a lesson there, for us who “go”. We are uncomfortable, inconvenienced and exhausted by all things unusual: the food, the toilets, the beds, the buses, the weather, as well as the cultural and language barriers that seem daunting at times. But in the back of our minds at the end of any given day spent on foreign soil, we harbor and nurture the thought “we are going home soon.” The image of the girl watching us leave to go “home: stayed with me. And as the “yeahs and yahoos” were shouted over our departure – I wept.

A single girl, peering out an orphanage window wiping away tears, represented the hundreds of thousands – “homeless”. No mother’s embrace at night, making warm meals, or giving hugs. No father’s instructions to sons, protection for daughters, or provision for family.
Our identification with Christ, must tie us to the circumstantial “homeless” and relieve our own “away from home-ness.” His identification with who family is, must bind us to make us family to those whose presence we find ourselves in. While we are away from home and family, we must learn ways to better “BE family” and “create home” for those we serve. Perhaps then, when we walk towards our own “home” we will not walk away from those we leave behind, peering out the windows and wiping away their tears.

“HE WILL wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain for the old order of things has passed away.” Rev 21:4


“Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; His love endures forever. Let the redeemed of the LORD say this… “ Psalm 107:1-2

One destination for research and development on behalf of East West International was to Madurai in the southern portion of the country. We met with Sony and Soso Prince of Redeeming India and visited the baby orphanage located high in the mountains above Kodaikanal at the end of a one-lane dirt road. Stairs and makeshift bridges covering streams of mountain water led us to the “saved” infants in their hilltop sanctuary. The building was a two-story structure with multiple rooms and a kitchen. In the first room were the oldest little girls, six precious ones sitting up amidst rag dolls and stuffed animals, astounded by the incoming guests. Several began crying, looking to their caregiver for comfort.

The others moved on to tour the facility while I took a seat and blew up Happy Face balloons to distract them. After a short time they began to enjoy the brightly colored new additions to the array of play things. I rose, to look for the others and came to a room with six tiny babies lying on a bed. Their caregivers standing over them were making sure they were wrapped up, warm and happy. The oldest one was the most animated, and when our driver came in and started talking and making faces, she just smiled and giggled readily.

“Nursing infants gurgle choruses about You, toddlers shout the songs that drown out enemy talk.” Psalm 8:3

The innocents were literally snatched from death and the evil intent the enemy had for them. Here they lay, looked after, a future, a hope given to them by the obedience of a family and workers dedicated to seeing the plans to “prosper and not to harm” the Father has for these precious ones. The process of “redeeming” these babies is difficult as well as dangerous, involving many people willing to risk their lives to save these girls from murder at the hands of midwives under the direction of paying superstitious parents. I encourage you to visit the website to learn about the ministry and the practice of female infanticide in the village areas of India.
“I knew you before you were born, I formed you in the womb.” Jeremiah 1:3



"Great multitudes were gathered together..." Matthew 13:2

Around and around and around she goes – where she stops only God knows! I returned from Russia and India with only a few short weeks to prepare for my sixth Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas Child distribution. While this would not be the first outreach of 2007 for Sunshine After Rain Ministries (typically Ghana is the first mission trip of the new year), it is certainly the most significant in numbers. Fourteen thousand gift boxes to hand out to twenty-eight thousand eager hands, not to mention the thousands who come to see what we bring, who also hear the Gospel message. No matter how many times I stand before a crowd of eager African children, the site still takes my breath away! As far as my near-sighted eyes can focus I see their upturned faces, straining to see over those in front of them, edging ever closer and closer until a veritable shoving match ensues. Combined with the heat and the numbers, it doesn’t take long until those closest to the front start to trip and fall, and out come the switches of the teachers trying to contain the crowd and the unruliness.

The first morning of the distribution started out bumpy, due to late trucks and difficult load ups. But when we arrived the crowds were waiting. It was hot in Ho region, and with the added dust in the air kicked up by 8,000 moving feet – it quickly made for unbearable circumstances, bearable only through Christ who continued to strengthen us all. The longer the program takes the more the word spreads through the town and more village children and parents show up. Parents in great need, parents wanting something for their child, all saying “Madame, where is my box? Do you have something for me?”

The multitudes showed up for Jesus. The Word tells us He was moved with compassion for they were like “sheep without a shepherd.” Mark 6:34 Even then, Jesus knew many would walk away from His presence “without a shepherd.” He knew healing, full bellies, wisdom and promises wouldn’t change their hearts. During the distribution we offer not only a small physical token, but a greater gift of His love to these, we are laboring to serve. The multitudes are still showing up to see Jesus. We prayed each day they found Him.

“God’s bright glory has risen for you. The whole earth is wrapped in darkness, all the people sunk in deep darkness. But God rises on you. His sunrise glory breaks over you. Nations will come to your light; kings to your sunburst brightness. Look up! Look around! Watch as they gather…” Isaiah 60:1-4