Friday, December 10, 1999

VOLUME 7 - 1999

Thy Word is a Lamp

... unto my feet

promised in the Psalm truly “His word has been a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my paths.” Six years ago, I made a trip into Turkey carrying three Russian bibles with me. The event that took me there would also have many Russians in attendance. I eventually gave them to a group from Siberia and what pathways they lit from there only the Lord knows.

However, this past September as I was making my 8th trip to Israel on my birthday I thought again of the path those Russian bibles may have taken. Eight is the Hebraic number for “new beginnings”. What better time to finally be baptized in the Jordan River. After all I had a Russian mission trip following, then off to Romania.

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven Matthew 6:19-21

I was preparing my heart at the baptismal site when a large group arrived. In the distance as I carefully listened to their singing I heard a familiar word lifted up in their melody “Yesus” (Jesus in Russian). I ran over to the group and tried to find someone who understood English. I explained “I’m a missionary about to leave for Russia”, but somehow that part got lost in the translation.

The woman inquired “do you believe in Jesus?” Over and over I tried to tell her through my tears that I was on my way to Russia to minister to the orphans there, but her English was limited. She asked the pastor who was already in the river if he would baptize me and he answered enthusiastically “Da, da” he would be happy to. His only English “do you believe in Jesus?” “Yes, yes” I replied and down I went.

As I emerged from the waters, one of my first thoughts was perhaps this Russian Jew, a believer in Yeshua had somehow gotten the word and his faithful pathway had led him to immigrate to the homeland – and just maybe he was from Siberia!

Thursday, December 09, 1999

Treasures in Heaven

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven Matthew 6:19-21

Each time I make a visit to the Jemima House Orphanage in Bet Jaila, Israel I come away with new insight and conviction. On my latest trip to visit the children I went as a “real girl” much to their amazement and surprise. (Of course they asked me to bring CARE EE back next time)

Ed Vohlbehr the director shared stories of his latest additions to the household. I listened intently with my two friends Patti Scalf (principal of Jerusalem School) and Mary MacPherson (a teacher at the school).

We heard about a severely retarded blind boy left at their doorstep they’ve nicknamed “Moses”, and a tiny girl no bigger than an infant that is eight years old. Seriously malnourished, and brain damaged Ed brought her to Jemima House fearing that she would not survive the winter.

We descended the stairway into the basement for Ed wanted to introduce us to “Mouse”. The catatonic boy has lived at the orphanage for the past eight years. Ed told how his wife Helen had been asked to write something about each of the children they cared for. She wrote of their boy “Mouse” and his basement home explaining when he first arrived, he suffered from seizures, yet he played happily with the other children earning the nickname Mouse.

As the years passed the seizures took their toll on his body and has now left him bed ridden, all laughter and playfulness stolen. Her last comment was “he would surely be seeing Jesus soon.”
Ed smiled “but Helen saw Jesus before our little Mouse did”.

The tenderness in his eyes did not express grief at the loss of his wife last year. They were illuminated by his faith as he explained his sustaining philosophy. “You know” he shared “the Lord tells us not to store up our treasures here on earth. When Helen died I knew that we had nine children stored as our treasures there. They were waiting for her and so they will wait for our little Mouse and me until we arrive”

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:21

God's Harvest Field

For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building. By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. 1 Cor 3:9-10

By the time the team of thirty-two Americans arrived at the hotel in Voronezh, we had traveled sixteen hours by plane, twelve hours by train, and an hour by bus. Looking discreet was not possible, our eighteen hundred pounds of humanitarian aid shouted all on its own that we were not “from around these parts”.

Despite jet lag, a night on the train and a cramped bus ride, the excitement of actually “arriving” fueled everyone’s energy. The noise of so many people, trying to coordinate suitcases, humanitarian aid, printed material and locate their rooms confounded the hotel employees and other guests. What are “they” doing “here”?

Which suticases go to which, counting out gospel tracks and bibles, assigning and coordinating, grabbing a snack of bananas and cheese just to keep going, such is the activity during the first hours of arrival at our destination.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9

“THE BIBLES GO TO FIVE” came the instructive from our team leaders Ann and Robert Fuqua. One room on the floor was delegated just to store them. Dollies were loaded and a “fireman’s line” in the hallway worked feverishly to stack over one thousand New Testaments we were delivering across the region. Do you know what that many bibles in one place looks like?

The stacks reached over five feet high and at least that wide. The sight was so striking that several of the team stopped and admired the handy work of the Lord, praising Him for assigning us this task.

At the evening meeting we discussed the week ahead, committed to prayer our efforts, and thanked Him for the opportunity. Here on the fourth floor, gathered thirty-two Americans from diverse cities, different backgrounds, and various ages. We sang praises to our King, in a city eight years ago no foreigners were allowed to visit because of the aerospace industry centered there, in a land where before the fall of communism such subversive behavior led to imprisonment.

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:10

Our leader Albert “Bud” Toole shared with the group how the first time he came to Russia, he was able to carry only a few pocket-sized bibles. He had spoken to his interpreter on spiritual matters and expressed his desire to give her one of the bibles. She was very reluctant to take it, telling of serious consequences if she was caught with religious material. They finally arranged to make the exchange in a public place, the bible wrapped in brown paper went from one hand to another’s.

He also said, "This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how.” Mark 4:26-29

In less than ten years, mission groups now have the freedom to bring bibles in to Russia by the hundreds of thousands. While the hotel staff and guests may have thought our group strange – at this point in time we were far from a unique occurrence. They see mission groups coming and going on a regular basis. Living in the West, where bibles are more likely to collect dust than breakdown strongholds it is easy to forget the power of the Word.

Those little brown paper wrapped bibles, given out by soldiers in the army of the Lord were far more powerful than any nuclear arsenal our Senate has every approved.

So is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. Isaiah 55:11

Thanks be to God we participated in a harvest we did not sow, traveling through the ripe fields of Russia. Because of the faithfulness of men like Bud Toole and John Maisel (founder of East West Ministry) who answered the call to go into communist countries carrying the Word of the living God and the hope of Christ to a people living in darkness, a great harvest is being reaped in the former Soviet Union.

So mightily grew the Word of God and prevailed. Acts 19:20

Witness the Workman

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the Word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15

The region in Russia we made our way across is one that any Chechen terrorist would traverse as well. Because of this the authorities stopped our bus on numerous occasions. While this may seem like a time of tension to foreigners traveling in a strange land across rural and remote areas - to our bus driver it was an opportunity.

Each time he was flagged down by officers, he boldly got off the bus and began to tell of the group inside. Our interpreters nervously relayed his conversations with the police to us. “He is explaining you are American
CARE EE using balloon diplomacy!missionaries on the way to an orphanage. Now he is asking if he can give them a Bible!”

I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.
Phillipians 1:20-21

In a country where 700,000 pastors lost their lives under Stalinism and the communist regime, here was a man that had no fear to express his beliefs, to let his light shine no matter the consequence.

Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.
2 Tim 1:12

More than his witness to the officers, was his lesson to the American passengers.Countless times I have heard excuses on why a person doesn’t witness. “I don’t really know the scripture well enough” or “what if they ask me a question I don’t know the answer to?” The enemy keeps too many gripped in fear and shame that we “don’t know what to say.” It is time to forget our fears and lay hold of the power of His testimony.

If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father's glory with the holy angels.
Mark 8:38

In the Heat of the Battle

(or meeting up with the Methodist)

Praise be to the Lord my Rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle.
Psalm 144:1
Across the room, the familiar sounds of a Southern drawl made us smile. A team of Baptist missionaries from South Carolina was enjoying their farewell dinner as we were anxiously having our introductory one. While forty people were learning about what lay ahead for them in the battlefield, a group of twenty was reveling in the miracles that had occurred during their service. Soldiers in the battlefield, in from the frontlines of Romania with the team from “Wheels for the World” as reinforcements coming in after them.

The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 2 Corinthians 10:4

When faced with the overwhelming need in countries such as Russia and Romania, it is easy to get discouraged by what impact a small battalion of believers can make. Yet during that first evening in Romania we saw how mighty is the General that we serve. He is faithful to “raise up” new workers for the harvest field. Over toast and tea the next morning we met a couple from California with Campus Crusade, working with a pastor in Bucharest. We exchanged stories from the differing “fronts” we had fought on, what the challenges were ahead, and committed to pray for our individual warfronts.

Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 2 Timothy 2:3

When the administrative team arrived in Craiova, Gheorghe Ardelean, the pastor explained he also had a group of Methodists from England coming the same week. He apologized for the time constraints that would place on him, and the spatial accommodations for our equipment would need rearranging. Knowing the difficulties that lay ahead, we started “praising God for the Methodists!” not knowing how the General was going to work this one out. We chuckled at the thought of a team of Brits, knowing He would.

He may please Him who enrolled him as soldier. 2 Tim othy 2:4

The team from Manchester, England arrived to distribute humanitarian aid for the local orphanages. While the group appeared with the best “proper English” style, they endured with laughter, smiles and brought a fresh face of joy to those of us “from the colonies.”

And how did our General “work out” the circumstances? At the last minute one of the English team members was unable to make the journey, he called to ask if another of the husbands would be willing to take his place. Penny Bennett was sure her husband Tom would say “no”. Surprisingly when she asked, he replied he would see if it was possible to take the time off from his government job (inwardly knowing he probably had no chance of being let off on such short notice). Much to everyone’s surprise, he was given permission to accompany the group.

On their first day out in Craiova, he realized orphanages were really not “his thing”. As he spoke with Jim Cowart our wheelchair Mechanical Guru, he relayed that he had been stopped at the airport because he had forgotten a pair of pliers in his coat pocket! Voila! We desperately needed an extra hand helping to repair and fit the 108 wheelchairs, now we “praised God for the Methodist” in earnest.

What started out to be a “strain” on our distribution, ended up being one of the delightful blessings. The Lord brought two teams of people, with very different “fronts to fight” to work alongside one another.

We may never see our English reinforcements this side of heaven, but we are assured in the coming Kingdom the fellowship we’ll share as we sit with the former “veterans” of Romania we were privileged to meet. The South Carolina Southern Baptists, the California Campus Crusaders and last but certainly not least the Manchester Methodists!

Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called 1 Timothy 6:11-12

He's Got the Whole World

Autumn in Eastern Europe oftentimes means wet weather. While we were in Romania daily the rain came down accompanied by a cold October wind. The Sunday before our distribution was to begin, we made a presentation at the Baptist church of Pastor Jorge Ardelean. As CARE-EE waited out in the unheated hallway, I thought “how did I get so far from home?”

I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong… that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith. Romans 1:11-12

When I made my entrance, the children, bundled up against the cold of the evening, threw off their gloves and ran to touch and embrace the very colorful stranger in their presence. I performed the usual magic tricks, told the story of the “Three Trees” and held up an inflatable globe to show where I lived in relation to Romania.

While Dallas is a well-known location due to the popularity of the television series, I admitted that I’d never heard of Craiova before. They all laughed. I told them I would never know how to find my way back to their city. But then I shared with this small band of committed believers, facing persecution from the orthodox in the community, it didn’t matter that I didn’t know where Craiova, Romania was - God knew exactly where they lived, worshipped, laughed and cried.

He was watching over them, and had impressed upon many hearts from across the globe there were people in Craiova He was concerned about. And so we were sent, setting out like modern day Abraham’s - not knowing where we were going.

By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. Hebrews 11:8-10

For the closing I sang with the help of the other team members “He’s got the Whole World in His Hands”. We tossed the tiny air-filled globe through the church and the children’s hand reached high as the chorus echoed in the hall “He’s got you and me brother in His hands”. We smiled while our hearts agreed in AMENS.

And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations
Matthew 24:14

The Handkercheif of God

Sometimes has wheels

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. Revelation 21:4

Each day was bathed in tears. Late in the second afternoon a woman came up to the registration table, clutching her daughter’s paperwork closely to her chest, fighting the cold wind, and bracing herself against the coming darkness. Her daughter had cerebral palsy and now at twenty-two had begun to refuse to eat, sustaining herself with only one piece of bread each day. The mother through tears explained her daughter’s reasoning “she says that she knows I have to carry her everywhere and she doesn’t want to gain any weight and be a heavier burden”. We all cried.

And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David; my daughter… Matthew 15:22

The next day when mother and daughter arrived the joy on both of their faces when the daughter was fitted with her wheelchair, could not be contained nor described. The medical supplies and care that we take for granted literally meant life for this young girl.

As they went in to hear the gospel presentation, their smiles and thanks to God went before them and now roll along after them as well.

Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him. Psalms 126:5-6

Joyful Noise

The cold damp weather had taken its toll. The last day of the distribution, I sat on the wooden floor trying to keep a steady hand against the temperature while CARE EE was about to make her last appearance. Sandy Setliff our team leader came into the house and said “hurry, CARE EE needs to come outside, the people out here have been waiting and they desperately need cheering up”.

Going out into the drizzling cold is not my idea of a fun day, or even a desired mission field. But the Lord had something in mind. Coming to the end of our work, what better thing to take part in than praise!

Praise him upon the loud cymbals: praise him upon the high sounding cymbals. Psalm 150:5-6

When I walked out, there on the benches of our makeshift outdoor waiting room sat six adults who had accompanied their disabled neighbors, friends or relatives. There were also five adults with various disabilities ranging from cerebral palsy, to double amputees. Their faces bore more misery than a day in the cold drizzle could have created. I made my entrance with the hooting horn of a clown. At first only their heads turned, undaunted I kept up the noise. I got the electrical keyboard out with its preprogrammed demo music. I danced in circles, honked the horn, and sang along with my portable piano.

The smiles came slowly, but when I enlisted the group to help in the impromptu band – those who could stand did. They also handed out the instruments. Each individual took bells, cymbals, and tambourines ready to make a “joyful noise”.

Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms. For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods. Psalm 95:1-3

Pre-programmed music is helpful for the first ten minutes, but when “Jingle Bells” is the only familiar tune in a foreign land it can be cause for “Excedrin Headache 101”. After the fifth solo of the Christmas song, I taught English to the willing band members. “Now repeat after me “Hey”. “Hey” they replied in a baritone depth appropriate for the dreary setting. “When I point this stick say “Hey”. I jingled and they jangled the instruments and at the appointed moment enthusiastically responded “HEY”.

Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands. Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing Psalm 100:1-2

After ten minutes of responsive singing, the therapist in the back came forward, the pastors wife and cook came out of the house, Damarius their daughter came in from the registration desk, each curious to see what was going on. For all they could hear was the group loudly repeating “Hey, hey, hey”. When they saw the “band” and their smiles, and what the “hey” was going on – everyone broke out with laughter. Seven measures of recorded “Jingle Bells” has never been so entertaining!

Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Hebrews 13:2

The Widow's Mite

If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him? Matthew 7:11

Christmas came in October. Although the city of Craiova had no decorations, our distribution site down a cobblestone street, behind yellow warped and aging metal gates looked like the scene of a child’s birthday party. Balloon flowers with green-foiled leaves, heart balloon bouquets and multi-colored streamers adorning every tree and clothesline brought cheerful smiles despite the dreary weather.

But the decorations could not cover the despair and difficulties we witnessed. Lives of suffering in isolation, without dignity, dependant upon the mercy of others. Family members came inside the compound carrying in their arms adult children who had never been mobile. Friends carried neighbors on their backs and sat them in the temporary wheelchairs. Those affected by disability wept at the thought of the great gift they were about to receive.

Yet the condition of their bodies, did not affect the generosity of their hearts. Each day grateful recipients, family members and neighbors would return bearing gifts to show their appreciation for what they had received. At the end of the first day, a woman whose husband had received a wheelchair returned carrying a butcher paper wrapped package. Inside, hats she had crafted for each of the women (and clown) on the “Wheels to the World” team.

Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty...” Mark 12:43-44

The last day of the wheelchair distribution our occupational therapist, Karla Farrow had a very special birthday. An elderly woman returned dressed in fine clothes with hair neatly combed, to see her. Through the interpreter, she handed Karla a gift explaining that her sister (who had recently had her leg amputated) wanted to show her appreciation for the time and care Karla had given during her wheelchair fitting.

Then will the lame leap like a deer … Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away. Isaiah 35:6-10

She related it was something her sister had made prior to losing her leg to the surgeon’s knife and her hands to the arthritis that left them mangled and unable to sew. Karla unwrapped the package to discover a beautiful hand woven blanket. This was truly a treasure that offers more than mere warmth to all hearts.

Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way; say to those with fearful hearts,

"Be strong, do not fear; your God will come … he will come to save you." Isaiah 35:3-5

Praying in Tongues

We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. Romans 8:26

Throughout the week of the distribution, we had many opportunities for prayer. Our group consisted of four Americans, a Romanian interpreter, and the Dutch financial officer for JAF Europe. At the close of our daily bible study, after our nightly debriefings and at the church services we attended, we prayed - each in our own language. What a beautiful sound from the body of believers as we offered up our concerns to the King in Romanian, Dutch and English.

As I listened to the prayers of the saints not understanding anything, the omniscience of our Father struck me. Here, brought together by His hand were six children speaking to Him their needs, concerns and cares. He was listening and understanding each word spoken, with language no barrier to Him.

The old joke “what do you call a person who speaks only one language? An American” was embarrassingly true in our small group. In Israel, when I encountered the Russian Jews at the baptismal, they spoke enough English to share the gospel, the same was true of the Hebrew they were diligently studying. The first conversation they were learning with enthusiasm was the language of being an ambassador for the King. And while we in America marvel at our multi-lingual counterparts we come across – how often do we consider the facet of the Father that speaks and understands all language?

After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, Revelation 7:9-10

A Starfish

(named Marius)

Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:58

The man walked along the ocean shore in peaceful solitude contemplating the meaning of life. The tide had brought in thousands of starfish soon to die stranded on the beach. In the distance he observed another man, leaning over picking up one starfish at a time and tossing it back into the ocean. Soon the first man caught up with the second. “Why are you wasting your time with those starfish. Can’t you see there are literally thousands along this shoreline! What difference can you make?” At that, the man gently bent down picked up another helpless starfish and cast it far out into the waters. “It made a difference to that one.”

And a certain man lame from his mother's womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms of them that entered into the temple; Acts 3:2

Friday evening the rain came down with a fury, but that did not stop the faithful from attending the prayer service for the “Wheels to the World” distribution. Braving the elements was a small task for the parents of Marius. They came into the church carrying the small boy and the newspaper article with Joni’s picture and title “Help for the Handicapped”. They asked if they were in the right place. Proudly I responded with a smile – “yes, you are definitely at the right place.”

And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple; and he healed them. Matthew 21:14

We didn’t see them again until late on the last afternoon. Coming in while our impromptu band was playing “Jingle Bells” Marius was glad to handle a tambourine and join in. He was the last one to receive a chair that last day. CARE EE walked back with his parents to the fitting area. Janet Michaels the physical therapist seated him in a pediatric wheelchair. As I bent down to talk to him he began to weep uncontrollably. I was fearful that I’d frightened him. I had our interpreter ask if he was scared? He shook his head. “Ask why he is crying” I said. To which little Marius replied “I’m crying because I can’t walk.”

Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I to you: In the name of Jesus Christ… Acts 3:6

The fifteen year-old Luiza had seen more than her share of sorrow in the last three days, but the tears of this child was more than she could bear. She turned her face and walked out of the fitting area so that he would not see her crying. I grabbed a music box and wound it. When he heard the music, he smiled brightly and bravely wiped his face. We went through all the magic and toys my red bag of tricks held, Marius enjoying his private show. Then we took out the infamous keyboard, and he quickly began to sing into the microphone “jingle bells, jingle bells” the familiar (after fifty choruses) carol never sounded so good.

Insomuch that the multitude wondered, when they saw …. the lame to walk: …and they glorified the God of Israel. Matthew 15:31

There were many blind and lame left unhealed when Christ departed from the Mount of Olives. Marius did not leave that afternoon healed. His small legs were still deformed, but he and his parents left with more than a pediatric wheelchair, crutches, and a walker that he can utilize as he grows in height. This family and each one of the over five hundred families ministered to by the “Wheels to the World” campaign left with the hope of the risen Christ. The team finished up the week knowing our labor was not in vain. We boarded the train back to Bucharest, and the plane back to the States saddened by the many lives still in great need.

But the departing smile on the face of Marius, reminded each of us “we made a difference to that one”.