Wednesday, December 01, 2004

VOLUME 12 - 2004

The View from Here

Up above the clouds
there is no crying
His hand has wiped the tears
from every face
no sadness and no sorrow
where night shall be no more
for all the former things have
passed away
Excerpt from
Sunshine After Rain Poetry and Prose
“Please make sure your seat belt is securely fastened…”

I settle into my window seat and watch from the tiny portal at 21A, luggage load into the “belly of the winged beast.” It is my familiar ritual, but in these post-9/11 days, international travel is seldom familiar. There are new security checks, no more nail files, and guarded looks toward foreigners. I hold my breath as the plane takes flight, not for fear of flying or of the future, but for the ministry adventure awaiting this foreigner. I will be the stranger in a strange land.

Flying often may add frequent flyer miles to my account, but look on the faces below and see what is added to your Kingdom account!

“… I am looking for what may be credited to your account…” Philippians 4:17

I travel the miles, but you make possible the smiles. You enabled a year of diverse mission and ministry. Your generous faithful support and prayers continue to keep us flying to “the ends of the earth” sharing the good news.

Fasten your mental seat belts, hold on to your hats, turn the page, read of the adventures you took part in, and the lives eternally changed, credited where it counts!

…store up for yourselves treasures in heaven… For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:20-21


On the way
against the world
against the flesh
against the devil
against the questions
against the answers
against the ticking clock
against the lie

In truth
with the widow
with the childless
with the orphan
with the broken
with the poor
with the hungry
with the need

In life
for strength
for grace
for mercy
for love
for gentleness
for patiencefor peace

Listen to me, all you who are serious about right living and committed to seeking God. Ponder the rock from which you were cut, the quarry from which you were dug. Isaiah 51:1


Watching His Word

…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
In a visit to China’s Shandong University, a graduate student requested to write an article for a regional magazine (see magazine cover below). Our University program is designed specifically to generate questions that allow for faith, hope and love answers to be heard clearly and effectively. Although evangelism is strictly prohibited, answers to direct questions regarding personal beliefs are allowed without censure. From the article and accompanying translation on pages 3-5, you will see the accomplishment of His desire and the achievement of His purpose.

Shandong Province is situated in the eastern part of China on the lower reaches of the Yellow River. The province has a total area of 156,000 square kilometers (about 60,235 square miles) and a total population of over 90 million.

Nobody really knows how many Christians there are in China. Accurate statistics are hard to come by because there is no systematic or standard reporting system and the numbers change rapidly. Estimates for members of registered (government sanctioned) congregations range up to 15-20 million, with more than 37,000 congregations meeting in church buildings referred to as churches and 25,000 meeting in other locations, referred to as meeting points. But there are also many millions of believers, perhaps 45-80 million of them, who meet in house churches that are not government approved. Even by placing the estimate at the high end of 100 million total Christians, one is reminded that there are still more than one billion Chinese who don't know Christ!

When He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them …Then He said to His disciples, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field." Matt 9:37-38

TRANSLATION: Walk towards the World with a Sunny Smile

We heard from Mrs. Deborah Phalen one week ago that they had invited their American friend named Charlynn Johns to visit them the next week. At that time, we only knew that she was a volunteer of an organization for cripple people. She is from Texas in USA , and has three children: the oldest daughter is 23 years old; the second son is 19 years old; the youngest son is 17 years old . This year she is just 44 years old. Eight years ago she took part as a volunteer of a charity organization. In these eight years she covered more 10 countries, and visited lots of orphans and cripple people including old people, women and children there.

In that morning she came - a woman with golden hair and blue eyes. She seems much younger than her age with all smiles on her face. When Mrs. Phalen introduced her to us, she screamed with smile constantly. Mrs. Phalen asked us whether or not we still remember which state she comes from (Texas), she screamed again. We could know that she felt she was being praised from her screaming. Mrs. Phalen is a very careful professor with her work, and her classes are very interesting, and popular with students. This time she gave most of the time to Ms. Charlynn. First of all, Ms Charlynn gave us a short time speech, and then waited for our questions with interest. She constantly made encouraging gestures with her hands, facing these shy Chinese doctors.

Then we asked: Why does she take up Charity career? Do her family support her career? How does her fund come from? What difficulties did she meet at the beginning? How does she communicate with cripple people in different countries? She listened quietly and then answered questions warmly sometimes with exaggerated gestures. The answer to those questions are very simple: Because of love; Because she loves these things. Her family supports her career very much, and her children are proud that they have a great mother. Charlynn also said: “ If you give more, you will get more.” She has gotten grateful smile from these cripple people. This is the third time for her to come to China, she has been to HangZhou, Jinan and Tai’an orphanages. She said that when she went to Tai’an orphanage last year her clown face scared some of the cripple children, but later they were attracted by her. When she left, many children felt very sad, embraced her tightly and waved to her constantly. She said that she never could forget that.

Charlynn learned how to put on make-up from a professional “Clown School”. The process of putting on make up is pretty complicated, but watched her putting on all of her makeup. Actually, putting on make up is secret, but this time was an exception for our Chinese students.

At the beginning, we didn’t know what she would do. We felt that she maybe just taught us some reasons like other people did when they visited our university. In general, that’s one kind of feeling of facing camera, sitting seriously. At first, Charlynn also did like that, but she was putting on make up. She put on powder on her face first, and then put on colorful oil on it. She explained the reasons while making up, and also appraised by herself, making us open our eyes widely to see what on earth she would make her up like.

Soon she became a happy clown. Her first performance is to take out three strings of different lengths. She let us observe carefully. She said: “Look, these three strings don’t have the same length; it’s like our life. We all want to be just the same as others. How could we make one end of each string together with the rest? However, these three strings changed suddenly, unto all the same length! When she showed us after turning her hand around, we all felt so surprised by that, and asked how she made that. Surely, that’s just magic! When Charlynn told us how the trick worked, we laughed. That was such a simple method, which magicians’ use that cheats our eyes in performance. She told us we must be careful when we observe exterior things; don’t be overconfident with your eyes and your brain. What is critical is to use your mind. Probably we are not the same with others, cripple or something else, but don’t worry about that. If you concern yourself with others, you will find that we actually also can do things well as others do. At that time, we came to know that Charlynn was using an interesting performance to implicate and teach us something else, which is one person can’t be always the same with others, but don’t be obsessed by that; if you use your heart you will be able to know we always can find we have something in common with others from our bottoms of the heart. It seems like cheating by us, but it is used often in our life, especially for those cripple people who are in great need of concern.

Walk toward the World (cont)

In one game, she asked four students to perform with her together; one was a girl, the other three were boys. She wore different head decorations, which represents different trees for the three boys, and each of them held a shinning star like angels. But that girl had nothing at all, these three boy acting like trees screamed proudly around the girl: “We are great; We are strong; We are important!” However, the acting girl cried sadly, she was one poor apple tree with nothing, and then Charlynn let her pray, that she be the same image as those strong and important trees. So her resolutions came true after she prayed, but every time she would have new discontents. She wanted to be more like other trees. Then later, she could bear delicious fruits, but she was still unhappy. Suddenly, one apple fell to the ground, broken into two halves. Charlynn said seriously with that broken apple: “Look, in fact, the core of apples are the same. They have no any difference; the difference between them is just outside.” We became quiet all, for an interesting story contain so much wisdom and inspiration of a foreigner.

Another game she played is blowing balloon. She took out a balloon first and asked us how to blow. We gave our ideas such as following: Put it on your mouth first, then blow it. She did as we said, then the balloon fell down from her mouth. Then we said “we also need to tie it after we finish blowing.” So she blew up one balloon. “Now, if I stick this balloon with a big needle, what do you think will happen?” she said. “Surely it will explode” we replied. Some students even covered their ears, but a strange thing happened, the balloon didn’t explode at all after she stuck it.

We all felt so amazed. She told us it depended on how you did it. You know, balloons always have a part on it. If you stick the needle through the thickest part, the balloon will not explode. On the contrary, if you did through the thinnest part, you will definitely hear the sound of explosion. She demonstrated that’s true; it’s just only a common knowledge.
But her purpose is to try to tell us something else, that is how you should treat and guide those cripple people, and how to make them find the best life style for them and no dangers happen to them. The spirits of cripple people are like the thinnest part of balloons, which is easier to be broken, fragile and needs concern badly.

In the meanwhile, it seems like she was reminding us that we should notice the way that we communicate with other people. Don’t find the most fragile and sensitive part of people, the place where it is easy to hurt them. Charlynn said: “Today, the purpose of my program is to help you learn to smile to others. When you face smiles from cripple people of different countries, you will be able to find that they understand you and talk with you from the bottom of their hearts. I also want to say to use your loving heart and smile, then your right ways of communications with others will guide you be able to approach cripple people and bring love and dignity that they need most. I wish that this class could bring a happy memory to you.” She bowed to us to express her thanks. She seemed to be touched by our understanding and warmth towards her. We were full of thinking and gratitude by 3 hours face-to-face talking. What she told us seemed very simple, things we have known since we were children. But her vivid performance reminded us suddenly the simple reasons from the surface have strong function, which at least can make us aware of how to love other people not only those who need help badly in the world. We know she will go to other places to help other people in China. She is very busy, but very happy. Just like words of one song: “I will be happy because others are happy.” She is doing what she likes as most Americans do. She assists people who are in great need of help, and brings them happiness.
She travels different places in the world, playing the role of her own clown. Life is a big stage. Charlynn is also doing THE MISSIONS THAT GOD GIVES HER, playing the role on her own life stage. After class for a long time, we could still remember Charlynn’s smiling face turning up in front of our eyes, inside of which is a heart full of beautiful happiness. We know that she will continue to walk forward to go to other places in the world, bringing people who need help, happiness and good fortune FROM THE GOD.

Our God

The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Deut 6:4

Along with the article in Shandong Province magazine we were also given an amazing broadcast opportunity for Shandong Province Radio. A team of people came to conduct a one-hour interview for the "Sunshine Ladies”. I had an opportunity to tell how God's love has made the difference in my life, and how important it is to share God's love with others. When the interview was over I presented the woman with Joni's Erickson Tada’s autobiography (in Chinese). The woman was very grateful and said "I think I will find my God in these pages!" I replied, "if you are looking for Him, rest assured you will find Him - He is looking for YOU!"

When our time was over, I inquired how many people would hear the broadcast - to my amazement she replied "Oh about 20 million!!!"

He is watching over His word and will perform all that He has planned.

Praise God for His opportunities and the future plans He is arranging for us again in China this Fall.

The Wrecking Crew

The tools of our trade aren’t for marketing or manipulation, but they are for demolishing that entire massively corrupt culture.

In Shanghai, China, a city of 13 million, the economic influx of Western money is evident everywhere. Twenty-four hours a day many old buildings and historical sites are being torn down and replaced with glass and steel architectural marvels. Where real estate is a premium – the higher the building the more money generated for the owners. One day as the Joni & Friends Wheels for the World team made our way through choking traffic, we passed a structure not more than 20 years old but only about 10 stories high. Suspended from bamboo scaffolds were workers with handheld sledgehammers bringing the building down – brick by brick.

We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ.

During the height of its building boom in the mid 90’s, 1/5 of all heavy cranes used in the world were operating in Shanghai! Yet here, where so much high tech and sophisticated construction is proceeding – simple manpower was being used to employ more of the masses. I was struck by the parallel between the men on the scaffold and our own small team of Christian workers bringing down spiritual strongholds – brick by brick (one person at a time) – ideology by ideology, gaining access to hearts with the gift of a wheelchair and a Bible.

The SARS threat had put the Joni & Friends wheelchair delivery on hold for almost six months, (from April to October) causing many logistical issues and more government involvement with the chairs left for us to deliver. Undaunted, our team of eight, shared joy and smiles, over 100 wheelchairs, and for many the gift of the first Bible they have ever owned. We continue with all diligence the work He has set before us, bringing down strongholds and building up the Kingdom!

Our tools are ready at hand for clearing the ground of every obstruction & building lives of obedience into maturity. 2 Corinthians 10:4-6

Eternally Engraved

You’re our last hope. Is it not true that in You the orphan finds mercy? Hosea 14:3

While China’s policy of one child per family effectively slowed the population growth in a country of over 1.3 billion; it has left thousands of female infants abandoned to an increasingly overcrowded institutional system. Ninety-five percent of the healthy children living in Chinese orphanages are girls, a number ranging over several hundred thousand.

“I will not leave you orphaned. I’m coming back” John 14:18

Prayers prevailed against bureaucratic challenges, allowing us to revisit the orphanage in Taian for the third consecutive year. After arriving, no one in our party was without a personal escort, encircled on both sides by enthusiastic children. For the first time the director and his staff allowed us to visit the baby room, a surprising display of trust. The nursery area was not unlike others I have experienced - an open room with too many cribs lined against the walls, too few caregivers and even fewer toys. “CARE EE & Company” blew bazillions of bubbles, tickled fingers and toes, and spoke the international babyspeak of “googoos and gagas”.
Afterwards, our performance for the older children included tricks, storytelling, and the special treat of taking a Polaroid picture of them with the clown! As we prepared to leave, the director of the orphanage thanked us for our continued remembrance of the children, the photos and gifts of toys and school supplies. He then presented CARE EE with a beautifully engraved jade plaque commemorating our visit. It is a day I will never forget.
"Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of My hands." Isaiah 49:15-16

Far away places have become part of the geography of my heart. One such place internally-eternally mapped for me, is the orphanage in Taian. Joy paved the road, prayer made a path where there was none, and I journey there frequently looking at the smiling images of the children who call it home.

Joy in the Journey

Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, "The LORD has done great things for them." Psalm 126:2

And what a journey it was in China! Daily performances at the University, visiting a local kindergarten class and of course the day we spent at the Jinan Orphanage for the Disabled. We were allowed to visit the 138 children because of the great need at the facility. While there is fear in allowing foreigners in to such facilities, the children’s welfare took precedence with the director. Before going, we asked, “what would you like us to bring, what is their greatest need?” We were told “bring anything, they need everything.” Sunshine After Rain donors contributed for just such an opportunity, and several of Ms. Phalen’s students gladly did the shopping. Looking diligently for bargains on socks, blankets, towels and toys, they even negotiated good prices for milk and basic food supplies. We arrived with boxes and sacks filled to the brim and hearts ready to pour into theirs.
Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house. Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. Malachi 3:10

The children LOVED the clown, and she loved them back! The stories and tricks presented a problem for the interpreter. She was so caught up in the performance that she frequently just stood, mouth agape wondering what would happen next. At that point another student in the audience would make the translation for her, garnering even more giggles from the children. They enjoyed having their picture made with CARE EE and found the Polaroid pictures quite a surprise. At first unable to comprehend the pictures needed time to develop, they laughed with delight to slowly watch their faces appear on the photograph.

Although it has been a year since my visit, the ministry at the orphanage continues to develop as well. Sunshine After Rain left $250, used for purchasing 50 new pairs of shoes, 10 sets of long johns, 15 winter coats and 84 pair of socks. Just before the Christmas break Ms. Phalen held a silent auction for the orphanage. Students contributed a wide variety of items and then “auctioned” them. The two University classes were able to raise close to $200, enabling the purchase of even more warm clothing items and much needed basic supplies. The Phalen’s are now back in China and the clown is on her way in the Fall of 2004!

China Finds Hope

…the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven … All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing… Colossians 1:56-6

Ask a farmer if he enjoys plowing fallow ground in the heat of the day, and the response will likely be “it’s a job that has to be done”. As I travel from country to community, I carry seeds of faith and hope from one side of the globe to the other, scattering as I go. Work in China, where Communism has sown seeds of atheism for over 50 years, is hard labor for those in the harvest field. This is a germination story.

He continued, "Do you see how this story works? All My stories work this way. The farmer plants the Word.” Mark 4:14 The Message

On my last night in Jinan, students from the University came to say goodbye. Two of the female students took me aside and said, “We are not Christians, but we believe in what you are doing. The stories of the orphanage in Ghana really affected us. As Chinese students we have very little, but please take our money to the children in Africa, we want to help.” I was deeply moved and agreed to carry their offering to the Village of Hope in Ghana on my next trip in January 2004.

Three months later, down the road that is no road by our standards, I took their contribution to the orphanage. After the performance, we made a special presentation to the director. The children lined up, happy to sign a card filled with thanks, good wishes, and blessings for me to send to their new friends in China. Then they sang a song for us “In times like these, when I have lost my mother, when I have lost my father, when I have lost it all – I still have Jesus.” Somewhere in China two women heard a story of Africa and now children in Africa at Village of Hope are praying to meet them in Paradise – far from Communist China – far from the despair of Africa – but not too far for Hope.

Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord's coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is … James 5:7


Non-diplomatic Community

Remember your journey…that others may know the righteous acts of God… Micah 6:5

In January I returned for the fourth time to Ghana. I’m not sure I will ever get over the sites of Africa – a foray into uncivilized civilization. “God Saves Hair Cuts”, “Protect Us From Evil Tires & Brakes”, “God First Carburetor” Talismans of faith and protection displayed so proudly and openly! Images of life far out of the fast lane, the smell of livestock commingled with lives. Red dust in the air mixed with heat and 100% humidity weighed heavily upon this winterized Texas traveler.

The road from Accra’s suburb of Medina, to Echoing Hills Home for the Disabled is quite an “African experience”. Once you turn off from the main thoroughfare, commerce of all kinds commences; household goods hang from tree branches, and mattresses, ready for honeymooners make good afternoon resting spots for vendors unable to rid themselves of their wares. Cars compete with goats and the gutsy pedestrians bravely trying to get from here to there – but where is there? The last turn leads to the end of the pavement and to the raw red earth rising to choke the unfortunate not traveling by car. Allan and Patsy Fulton (APF Ministries) both commented it was good for the Deputy Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services of the United States of America (Claude Allen) to arrive by a “real” African road; one that would lead him through the squalor and poverty surrounding the oasis of mercy – Echoing Hills Home for Disabled.

The Director, William Aghbetti, greeted me with warm enthusiasm and reflected on my first visit in 2001, one that brought the Fulton’s and their well-digging ministry to the complex. The US government was now investigating the success of that water project as a model for future wells in the region. But imagine the schedule of a clown and a government official’s visit coinciding! It was no coincidence – more like God’s providence. Cell phones rang between security personal and various aides. The US Embassy Site Director explained in detail where we should be standing for the greeting, what could and should be said, all to ensure proper protocols were followed; exciting, and yet so alien in this uncultured setting.

“… you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of My name. This will result in your being witnesses to them.” Luke 21:12-13

Sirens blared, blue lights flashed from the police motorcycles leading the official motorcade, while the maelstrom of dust created by the fifteen-car entourage mostly obliterated the approaching vehicles. Police first, then security, and finally the official stepped out into the heat of the day, into the heart of Echoing Hills Village.

I think we were all a bit surprised to see the Deputy Secretary was African American. It seemed to immediately make him more approachable by those of us gathered for this momentous occasion. He was very cordial, and of course “diplomatic”. Allan spoke eloquently of the efforts initiated by APF/Living Water Ministries to provide the well. He explained the obvious benefits of safe, clean and sanitary water, not only to Echoing Hills and their 40+ disabled residents, but also to the surrounding community. One that had been forced to dangerously gather water (unclean at best – poison at worst) from an abandoned cement encasement for old telephone wire; unbelievable to learn, astounding to see first hand. The well enables them to give water freely, and helps the community see the disabled no longer as cursed – but blessed.

Our group (consisting of Diplomatic Corps, Embassy Personnel, TV Crew, Journalists, Diplomatic Security, and of course VERY armed guards with VERY BIG guns) all crossed the property hearing about Echoing Hills Village, how it began, what it does, and the 100% funding from US Christian organizations. After the tour of the facility, including stops in the Joni & Friends Wheelchair workshop, we gathered for a performance under the thatch-roofed gazebo by four of their residents.

Once the officials had taken their seats, the cameras rolled, the drums began, and their beat summoned the awaiting dancers. The brightly colored costumes and headdresses were striking on the four figures wildly gyrating, their movements momentarily masking their very apparent disabilities. The rhythm rocked the rafters, while the performers moved in motions of unabated passion for life – they danced!

Then maidens will dance and be glad, young men and old as well. I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow. jeremiah 31:13

The Deputy Secretary fought to control his emotions, eyes welling with tears several times. When it was over, the Director explained how the four “dancers”– before coming to the Village had been at death’s door, their lives marked by depression, starvation, and self-inflicted wounds. Claude Allen (the Deputy Secretary) responded with a very sincere “God bless you”, and in that moment there were no diplomats, no countries, no language or color barriers. We were in a community of God service, brought together by Christ.

But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous. Luke 14:13-14

We walked back to where the forty residents were gathered under the shade of the trees. Politicians and those who accompany them are familiar with navigating quickly through crowds. But this was no ordinary crowd. Many have joints and knees with huge baseball-sized calluses formed from pulling the dead weight of their broken bodies through the dirt, using flip flops to protect their hands from shattered glass and rocks in the roadways. Those not crawling have an assortment of equipment - old stools utilized for walkers, handmade crutches, canes crafted from tree branches, wheelchairs with only steel rims and ropes holding the discarded parts together. An obstacle course I’m sure they have never encountered before.

But amidst this array of the broken and beaten down was laughter. I think their joy caught the visitors off guard. The gathered group was not a constituency to be “worked”; they were simple human beings involved with making various cloths, personal hygiene items and enjoying the company of others. The group interacted, laughed and proudly showed us what they were doing. The typical “flesh” pressing of a politician was not so typical. Here it involved laying a hand on a withered leg, reaching to embrace one with no arms, touching the face of a child so happy, his spastic head moved uncontrollably, and looking deeply into the features of one whose cataract covered eyes could not register the sincerity of the beholder.

Coming from the land of “Much, More and Medicaid” to seeing what happens to people who have NO resources – no care, no advocate in the halls of the state, that for us - is traditionally believed to be there to protect us. Here, a representative group from the United States of America saw Echoing Hills Village; the largest facility for the disabled in the ENTIRE country. It houses a mere 42 individuals in a nation where there are 2 million affected by disability. 1,999,958 falling through not “cracks” in service – but great canyons and crevices of NO help at all. Reality check – they were definitely not in Kansas anymore.

You cannot enter into this kind of reality and claim “diplomatic immunity”. As believers in Christ, we were definitely a non-diplomatic community, providentially brought together, at this time, in this place to see how in the world our different “worlds” can help. I believe they all were moved and I pray what they encountered changed them.

One visit, one day by an American representative - what can that do? Remember, one visit one day in 2001, the King’s clown came and things changed!

Pictures from My Purse

Samaritan's Purse Operation Christmas Child Delivery
3,000 Gift Boxes!


Blowin' in the Wind

We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us. 2 Corinthians 5:19-20

Being an ambassador certainly has it’s own share of adventure! Just look at CARE EE kneeling on the streets of Beit Jaila with Palestinian children curious to know what a clown would be doing in their part of the world?

“You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend’, and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that.

We were certainly challenged in March. There was a bombing in Ashdod the day before we were scheduled to be in East Jerusalem at the Jerusalem School, and in Beit Jaila at the Jemima House Orphanage. Mary McPherson, Director of the Jerusalem School, had to make special arrangements for our transportation from the school to the orphanage, because Israeli cab drivers will not drive into East Jerusalem or Beit Jaila. Afraid that the recent terrorist attack would shut down security checkpoints, we took the back way – through no man, woman or clown’s land!

I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. Matthew 5:43-48

Let out on the side of the road, we climbed over a ridge to wait for our ride to the orphanage. Go ahead, laugh at the thought of a clown crossing over into "enemy" territory. We were quite a spectacle. Everything was fine - there were lots of Arab men standing around waiting to take people into the territory - but "WHERE WAS OUR RIDE" we stood there waiting and waiting - drawing quite a lot of attention.

What does a "clown" do in enemy territory? She practices "diplomacy" blowing up balloons and handing them out to the growing number of gathering children - of course! Our transportation finally arrived - after one car stopped and asked "what are you doing standing out here in the middle of the road? Giving out balloons - give me six for my children at home!"

The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind, the answer is blowin' in the wind. Bob Dylan

After the performance – at the Jemima House, we were taken back to the crossing where we waited for the cab we called from the orphanage to arrive. The sun was setting in the West - toward safety, the people around us on the road were sensing that it could be a dangerous place for foreigners (even a clown) to be standing after dark. Several, asked if we wanted their assistance to leave the area. Mary said the only "safe" cab would be on the way soon. There we stood, in the growing dark - three Americans and a CLOWN huddled together against the brisk cold wind blowing across the mountains. An hour seemed like an eternity but our ride finally appeared and we were on our way back to safety - another adventure as special ambassador for the King completed!

In a word, what I’m saying is, GROW UP. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you. Matthew 5:43-48 The Message

Love Builds

… the God who builds a road right through the ocean… Isaiah 43:16

To those of you who would like to see Jesus here on earth, may I recommend the Jemima House Orphanage in Israel? I saw Him there on my first visit in 1997 and every visit since. How? Where? In the love, patience and dedication of the founders, Ed and Hellen Volhbehr, in the commitment of the workers tirelessly serving 24 hours a day in a cramped facility. But most of all - in the songs of praise in four languages (Hebrew, Dutch, English, Arabic) from the severely disabled children abandoned and left to die by their families, thriving on the love and care of the Master. I report in 2004 He is still there, blessing the children and workers with His presence and a brand new facility, one specifically designed for serving the needs of the disabled made possible in part by an exceedingly generous donation from a friend of Sunshine After Rain Ministries.

… I rest my feet on earth. So what kind of house will you build me?" says God. Where I can get away and relax? It's already built, and I built it." Acts 7:49-50

Snapshots of Our Future Home


Mother's Day

God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! Ephesians 3:20 The Message

East West Ministries International scheduled a sightseeing trip for the team to St. Petersburg after the week of orphanage outreach concluded. Unable to justify the additional expense to the ministry associated with the excursion, I planned to return to the States early, until I received an “out of the blue” telephone call while sitting home on a Sunday afternoon. A curious accent asked, “Is this Charlynn?” Thinking it was a friend playing a practical joke – I answered in my best Spanish “si, si amigo”. “WHAT?” exclaimed the voice at the other end of the line. “Who is this?”
It was my friend Paula Vanttinen calling from Helsinki, asking when I planned to return to Europe. She had recently moved, and her workplace was adjacent to an orphanage with 75 children with mental disabilities. We lost touch after 9-11 (my last visit to Finland), but she was excited to begin a new ministry and asked permission for a special “clown” visit for the children. When could I come? The mysteries of God and His timing! I told her I would be returning to Russia in three weeks. The scheduled leisure time in St. Petersburg for the team, would allow me to travel inexpensively to Helsinki for additional ministry.
After arriving in St. Petersburg, I was escorted by two Russian friends through the maze of underground railway stations, and boarded a train bound for Finland. Paula was excited to see me, but soon shared her disappointment; most of the children at the orphanage would be with extended family the day of our performance. Mother’s Day in Finland is a national holiday. Shops are closed; people are having picnics, and families are brought together to celebrate. I assured her the Father had a plan; the provision of flights, trains and translators was no mere coincidence. I was excited; I couldn’t wait to meet these six very special children.
The next day at the orphanage, CARE EE and PALMINA (Paula) told stories, dazzled with tricks and took Poloroids. Because there were only a few children and plenty of film, they became enthusiastic photographers. They laughed and giggled while snapping photos of the clowns, the teachers and their friends making a variety of silly faces. As we were leaving, the teacher pulled us aside to thank us for the visit. She pointed out one of the little boys, and said, “Today was his first day here.”
With that sentence spoken, I felt the extravagance of God’s love. The length He is willing to go, the love He showers on the most unlikely and unloved. He provided a day of joy for this boy and his friends, a memory filled with laughter. A Father’s plan for a Mother’s Day.

I know what I'm doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for. Jeremiah 29:11 the Message


Time to Dance

Tune me in to foot-tapping songs, set these once-broken bones to dancing.
EACH WEEK AT THE CENTRAL BAPTIST CHURCH in Voronezh, you will find an unusual gathering. In this group are children with Down syndrome - though some are well into adulthood, and parents who are working hard to provide in a country where there is little provision for those considered on the margins of society. They come together to encourage and support one another while the children engage in a variety of activities and crafts. Sorrow is shared, joy is found. There is music, poetry and dancing. On a blustery day in March, our team from America arrived with gifts and games to share; but we received far more than we offered.

ONE BY ONE, the children came forward with a song, with poetry, with art, with dance – showing a little fear – but no shame. They were not relying on the greatness of their efforts – but on the encouragement of their loving parents.

ANTON AND HIS FATHER had a carefully rehearsed number. Anton approached the center of the room; his father placed a cape on his drooping shoulders and took his place proudly on the sidelines – giving directions, mimicking the forgotten motions, and grinning from ear to ear. The music began and Anton leaned down to take the hand of his chosen partner, placing it carefully in his own. The two returned to the center of the makeshift dance floor, and with timing orchestrated by the diligence of a faithful father, they danced with small circular turns, even an overhead twirl. There on the sidelines stood Anton’s loving father, ready to remind his son of the next move.

WHAT A PICTURE OF HEAVEN for those of us fortunate to observe. Our faithful heavenly Father stands on the sidelines of our lives, encouraging those of us willing to step out on the dance floor of our present circumstance. We are deceived into thinking we have so little to offer. But what can Picasso paint the creator of the platypus, or Mozart offer musically for the conductor of the thunderstorm’s symphony? Yet, He is watching in delight our simple obedience to the next well-orchestrated step. He stands in the wings giving us our cues through the Spirit. Shadowing the motions and moves that will bring glory to His Kingdom. He applauds us, as proud as any parent beaming with joy at the performance of his child – even one with a Down Syndrome son on a dance floor in the basement of a Baptist Church in Russia!


Sounds of a New Song

They sang a new song before the throne… Revelation 14:3

On the last night of Joni & Friends Family Retreat the applause of heaven is heard loud and clear. A talent show is held where the participants deserve more than Grammy’s, Emmy’s or other laudable awards the world can give. They perform comedy with courage, dance with dignity and sing with sonorous joy. With the popularity of the network show American Idol, those in charge of the night’s entertainment decided upon our own version - American Miracle. You see these performances are miracles. All flaws and flubs accepted as part the show and a portion of His mercy. On this stage, no one is kicked off or humiliated - every effort is celebrated.

Hoots and holler’s cover the sound of sniffling noses, and clapping hands offer a small reprieve from wiping back tears. Rachel, in her soft and lilting voice, wooed us with Ariel’s theme: “I want to be up where the people are”. Her father later explained how she related to the Little Mermaid, wishing she too could walk, run and dance like other children. Naomi belted out the Broadway classic “Tomorrow”. After the show, the realization this was her last night to spend with her new friends overwhelmed her. She began to sob inconsolable. CARE EE, standing close by approached her tenderly and said, “Naomi, tonight you taught us a great lesson.” Catching her breath the thirteen year old asked, “what lesson?” A clown offered a grin and began to sing “the sun will come out tomorrow you’ve got to hang on till tomorrow come what may”. Naomi smiled, wiped her face and an impromptu duet broke forth “tomorrow, tomorrow, there’s always tomorrow, it’s always a day away.”

Near the end of the show and all of our emotions, the Myers trio came on stage. With her mother Janell holding the microphone, and her sister Lauren carrying the tune, Leslie sang “I Can Only Imagine”. When the song ended, through thunderous applause, Janell shouted out with the agreement of the entire earthly and heavenly audience, “In Heaven there are NO wheelchairs, broken bodies, or tears – I can only imagine!”


Face to Face

There's a lot of suffering to be entered into in this world—the kind of suffering Christ takes on. Colossians 1:24 The Message

In Africa there is a saying “God is good, all the time – all the time God is good.” I like that. I come home from the journey and find myself regularly repeating the phrase. And yet, in Africa, I am confronted with images God is not good - and certainly not all the time. I see children barefoot, hungry, dirty beyond belief, with flies feeding on their open untreated wounds. God is good?

We stood on the edge of a hilltop overlooking the city dump. The valley so deep, the people below were hard to identify amidst the mounds of trash they sifted through. The Nakuru Relief & Development ministry, which brought myself and three other women of the Fellowship Bible ministry team, teaches the homeless to forage through trash for discarded food to feed their children. Perhaps it was their smallness in the immensity of the wasteland that overwhelmed me. Or maybe it was the children holding our hands, excited to have visitors in a place few outsiders dare to invade. God is good?

… I've prayed for you in particular that you not give in or give out. When you have come through the time of testing, turn to your companions and give them a fresh start. Luke 22:31 The Message

We stood on hallowed ground. Taken to a place on earth where faith could fail, confronted with the realization those we saw from a distance, to survive merely prolongs daily suffering. Face to face with insurmountable indication of God’s absence, we were challenged by His presence. “Can you be My witness when you return from this place? Can you say God is good all the time?”

We stood the test and we return to you, to tell of a place in Africa where God resides in the ministry of faithful, doing what they can to help those in dire need and to teach them not only where to find food, but where to look for life.

We pray that you'll live well for the Master, making Him proud of you as you work hard in His orchard. As you learn more and more how God works, you will learn how to do your work. We pray that you'll have the strength to stick it out over the long haul—not the grim strength of gritting your teeth but the glory-strength God gives. It is strength that endures the unendurable … Colossians 1:10-11


Then He said, "Go into the world. Go everywhere and announce the Message of God's good news to one and all. Mark 16:15 The Message

There is no draft for this war. Not the war in Iraq, or the spiritual battle that surrounds us each day. Although I grew up in the Vietnam era, my age kept me somewhat innocent of the combat and home front conflict surrounding it. Now that both of my sons are the same age of most soldiers serving, I am no longer innocent of either combat or conflict as it approaches my home front. Let me assure you this is no pre-election outcry for either party or problem. I find myself on a different battleground, and the analogies of enemies and armies have long been referenced.

This is no afternoon athletic contest that we'll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels. Ephesians 6:12 The Message

Fourteen women from Fellowship Bible Church Dallas prepared six months for the mission trip to Kenya. Let me repeat, fourteen women. The combination of hormones alone could have resulted in an unpleasant boot camp. BUT, the Spirit of the Living God prevailed, not unpredictable hormones. I had reservations about being a part of a team, most of who had no prior foreign mission battlefield exposure, but I also felt the stirring of His Spirit calling me to be the combat chaplain. Each of us had specific roles to fulfill for the ministry to the laywomen in the Nakuru area. Each one of us answered His call to arms - we were soldiers at once, but we were not young!

Be prepared. You're up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it's all over but the shouting you'll still be on your feet. Ephesians 6:13 The Message

We are still on our feet, we survived, we thrived together. We mingled our tears with our fellow sister soldiers in the fields of Africa. We learned how to sing a song in Kenya, and we taught how to dance with freedom rhythms! We had our eyes opened to the problems and the suffering, we remain diligent, we remain standing in the gap for we know we are still at war.
In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other's spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.


And don't forget to pray for me. Ephesians 6:18 The Message

Chosen - Choosing - Choice

You didn't choose me, remember; I chose you, and put you in the world to bear fruit, fruit that won't spoil. As fruit bearers, whatever you ask the Father in relation to Me, He gives you. John 14:16 The Message

I hope you enjoy reading the 2004 edition of The Forecast many times. Share the adventures with your family and friends. These are your stories, and I hope you realize daily the increase in your Kingdom account balance! Together, we stand as His chosen. Sowing seeds, bearing fruit, traveling and telling others of Christ alive – His Kingdom coming soon. We fight the good fight, keep the faith, and we will finish the race.

They're holding on, not because of what they think they're going to get out of it, but because they're convinced of God's grace and purpose in choosing them. Romans 11:6

The newsletter opened with a photo, one of Michelangelo’s nonfiniti (unfinished sculptures):
Michelangelo's theory that sculpture is an "art that takes away superfluous material." The great master saw a true sculpture as something that was already inherent in the stone, and all it needed was a skilled chisel to free it from the extraneous rock… no matter what the sculptor's intentions, it is remarkable, a symbol of the master's great art and personal views on craft as his Slaves struggle to break free of their chipped stone prisons. SOURCE: Frommer’s Tuscany & Umbria, 4th Edition from the internet site

I look back over the year of ministry and struggle with things left undone and the things I have left to do. Next month (October) I travel to China, to visit children trapped within stone walls of orphanages. I struggle with the suffering here on earth so many must endure. I wrote the poem Chosen as a reminder of the Creator’s steady hand upon my life, chiseling away the unnecessary “superfluous”, and His intention to make each of His chosen more Christlike. We pray to reflect His strength in times of hardship, His grace in days of discomfort, His mercy in place of judgment, His love for those hard to embrace, His gentleness in the midst of chaos, His patience when the rope’s end flies out of reach, and His peace when frightened.

We are in need of substantial donations to cover the upcoming outreach in China, and for our year-end overhead costs. Please pray for this ministry God has given us.

So, friends, confirm God's invitation to you, His choice of you. Don't put it off; do it now. Do this, and you'll have your life on a firm footing 1 Peter 1:10

Let us face the day as His chosen, choosing to live a life that will bring honor and glory to Him. Today, make the choice and make a difference - somehow to someone somewhere!