Category Archive: Helping Each Other

When Tragedy Strikes

Like many of us, I’ve had a heavy heart this week. Another shooting in Southern California left twelve dead, others with horrific memories and their aftermath. And fires, in both Northern and Southern California. The town of Paradise decimated, 23 reported dead as of Saturday evening.

Amazingly, the Paradise home of dear friends of ours is still standing, as is their church. But for several days they didn’t know whether or not they still had a home. Others I know have lost everything, except in most cases, their loved ones. Homes are gone. Lives are lost. And even if you still have a home, there is currently no water in Paradise, no power. So as of yet there is no possibility of returning to the homes that remain.

Our friends who still have their home are in the minority. We’ve heard that 80% of Paradise is simply gone. Destroyed. Decimated How do you even begin the overwhelming task of starting over? And how do you move back into a home that is still standing when all around you is destruction, ash, rubble?

Others have certainly gone through that. In countries where persecution abounds because of ethnicity, or faith, or religious differences, many have fled their homes with nothing more than they could carry. Here in California, many escaped the Camp Fire, or the Malibu fire, or another, with only the clothes on their backs. Plans for family gatherings at Thanksgiving and/or Christmas or Hanukkah must change because people are now homeless.

So how do we help?

  • Tell people we’ll pray for them – and then DO IT! If the words are simply the “thing to say” in a tragedy, they are meaningless. Perhaps instead of just saying we’ll pray, we can stop and say “Let me pray for you now” and do it immediately, and then continuously.
  • Pray for the firefighters and emergency responders who so faithfully serve in these difficult times.
  • Ask what help they need. Someone commented that they went into Target to buy necessities only to see the store full of people walking around, dazed, not knowing where to begin. If you’ve lost everything, do you start with food or with medicines? With blankets or underwear?
  • Find ways to give where funds will be allocated in appropriate ways. The worship pastor at our Aptos church is from Paradise. He is there this weekend, meeting with the church from which he came to determine how we can help. Twin Lakes Church will give us opportunities to give in meaningful ways that are based on a real assessment of critical issues.

In the tragedy of these days we have an opportunity to come alongside those in desperate need, and love them in the name of Jesus.

My friend Shirley Fransen Holm posted this article on Facebook Saturday. What a beautiful picture of what it means to come alongside those in need.

At my synagogue, I’ll take 20 Mennonites over one armed guard

After telling the disciples he would soon leave them, their hearts were also heavy, Then Jesus said “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

Our hope is in the God who is present, the God who has promised never to leave or forsake us, and who calls us to be the hands and feet of Jesus to those in need.

Hope for Women and Children in Crisis

Glass walls surrounded from floor to ceiling. With a 110-foot high domed ceiling above us, Don and I climbed the stairs to the mezzanine where h’ors d’oevres and drinks were being served. With a view of downtown San Jose all around the City Hall Rotunda, we met our friends Bonnie and Bill Fitzgerald, who had invited us to the Hearts of Gold Gala for Cityteam’s Women’s Ministries.

Following a delicious dinner and auction of donated experiences, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo spoke about the linkage of government and the faith community. San Jose has a homeless population of 4300 persons. Of those, about 1500 are women, often with children. These are among the most vulnerable, and he thanked Cityteam for their significant role in bringing hope and healing to many of these women and their children.

Cityteam President Glen Peterson also shared that the San Jose Cityteam Board just voted to add another 150 beds for women in need to the fifty currently available in their two women’s programs, Heritage Home and House of Grace.

Heritage Home helps pregnant women with both immediate needs and long-term solutions. Its structured program provides “housing, meals, clothes, strollers, car seats, and diapers in addition to mentorship, education, parenting classes, Bible studies, AA meetings, life transformation classes, and career workshops.” https://www.cityteam.org/san-jose/programs/

We heard the story of a young mother who has learned how to parent effectively and is very excited about raising her daughter with lots of love and an understanding of who Jesus is. This young woman has gained the tools necessary to move forward with hope. “My daughter never has to see me high, or stoned, any more … I can’t believe how much I love her,” she beamed.

House of Grace provides a “long-term, life transformation program” so that addicted, abused or homeless women can rebuild their lives while keeping their young children with them. The program “addresses chemical dependency, abusive relationships, and other self-destructive behaviors … women are mentored and taught how to rejoin the mainstream of community life and become productive citizens supporting themselves as well as their families.” (*) And their onsite nursery provides a safe and caring environment for newborn to five-year old children.

Both Don and I were deeply touched by the stories of lives changed because of the love of Jesus Christ and his people. Gala attendees were generous with their bids and gifts to help women in crisis find meaning, purpose, and life skills to help them reenter mainstream society.

And as Cityteam Vice President of Development, Michele Ruby, told us, each section of the Rotunda’s dome must be interlocked with its neighbor to provide the structural stability needed to hold the roof up. A beautiful analogy of the body of Christ. As Pastor Tim Wood said this morning, the shields of the Roman empire were not meant to protect only the soldier behind it; those shields interlocked so that a phalanx of guards could move forward in battle together, much stronger than any one of them alone. So when scripture talks about putting on the whole armor of God, it’s not just referring to what I do individually, but to how I am connected to others in the family of God for added strength and stability.

So last night we joined our shields together with Cityteam to serve women and children in need. May God bless them, every one!

Question: where are you linking your shield with others for added strength, stability and effectiveness?

Kicking and Screaming!

“I don’t want to miss this wedding and time with family; but all I really want to do is stay home and unpack more boxes.”

Don and I had committed to a family wedding months ago. But as I surveyed our new home, I felt overwhelmed with the need to get the boxes emptied and their contents put away. We’d moved just two weeks earlier and the house was still a bit chaotic, as was the state of my mind.

For the past few months I’ve had trouble sleeping every 2nd, 3rd or 4th night. When that happens I get up and work. I’ve unpacked up to 10 boxes during the night before finally falling asleep sometime between 2:30 and 4 am. My awake times are usually quite productive but of course, the following day(s) I’m not worth much.

Fatigued as I get, I still have a choice to make. Will I grumble and grouse, or will I choose to remain positive (perhaps quietly so!), knowing those around love me dearly (and I them); and that the next night offers another opportunity for rest.

So with all that was on my mind I was concerned about attending a wedding with dark-rimmed eyes after a sleepless night or two.

At the rehearsal dinner, I mentioned my need for prayer for insomnia. Several offered to pray for me. That night I slept eight good hours. After the wedding Saturday, I slept eleven hours! I am so grateful for the prayers of others, and for the weekend away. Although I left home kicking and screaming (figuratively speaking), Don and I both needed this total break from packing and moving and unpacking to get some much needed rest. The wedding was beautiful, and we loved the time we spent with family members all weekend–precious time not to be missed!

Moving is stressful. I was interested in the responses of others to my question about the hardest part of their last move. Some were funny, like “getting out of the recliner”. But others talked about the physical and mental exhaustion, the lack of storage, the boxes everywhere and no floor space, and thinking they were finished only to find more boxes to unpack. One mentioned moving an upright piano, and still another, losing their community of friends and prayer partners. Leaving a home you loved, friends and a church community, as well as doctors and other service providers, is a challenge.

We’ve been home from the wedding a week now and I’ve continued to sleep well. I imagine that’s partly because we’re feeling more relaxed. Critical items are unpacked, the house is taking shape, and we can now work at a less pressured rate. My insomnia seems to have been related to having too much on my mind, and having a hard time letting go of those thoughts. And God’s grace, through the prayers of family and friends, helped me let go and sleep. What a blessing!

It’s useless to rise early and go to bed late,
    and work your worried fingers to the bone.
Don’t you know he enjoys
    giving rest to those he loves? Psalm 127:2

 

 

He Sees the Sparrow Fall

I heard Don walking toward our office.

“There’s a deer in the yard. I think his leg is broken. We should probably call Animal Control.”

I went to the back deck to look and sure enough, a beautiful fawn was struggling to get to her feet. She tried so hard to roll from her side to her feet. But every time one of her legs would buckle underneath her and she would fall back, getting weaker with every attempt. It hurt to watch.

I called County Animal Services, explained what we saw and asked for their help. The fawn lay on her side (which I learned is dangerous for deer because their sternums get blocked), panting and shaking with what appeared to be shock. I thought about taking her water but resisted, knowing my approach would probably only terrify her more. Within thirty minutes an Animal Control officer was there. He threw a towel over her eyes to calm her while she bawled in pain and fear. The officer couldn’t feel a break in her leg, but there was a bruise on her face. She had likely been hit by a car and had head trauma. He carefully picked her up to transport her to a local vet. Had the fawn lain there a few more hours, I think she would have died.  

Oh, it hurt to see this animal in pain, frightened, unable to help herself.

I know deer can be destructive–they’ve eaten some of our plants and flowers and we get ticked off. We also try to plant deer-resistant flowers. But these creatures are still beautiful, graceful creatures of God, and watching/hearing her pain went deep.

And if I hurt when an animal with whom I have no relationship is in pain, how much more must our Father grieve when he sees our pain? How deeply he wants us to come to him with our needs, hurts, fears. When we strike out on our own, we often make the situation worse. When we turn to him for help, he can bring beauty from ashes (last week’s post, http://carolshope.com/2018/07/beauty-for-ashes/).

“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (I Peter 5:7) 

He understands our pain. Scripture tells us that when his friend Lazarus died, Jesus wept (John 11:35).

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.  And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Matthew 10:29-31)

If God cares for the tiny sparrow enough to know when it falls to the ground, how much more does he know when we are in need of His divine intervention, His loving guidance, His complete forgiveness?

Question: What is heavy on your mind and heart today? I encourage you to take it to Jesus and allow him to lift your burden.

post by carolnl | | 2

What is Success?

 5:00 am Saturday. Most of our missions team met at Peninsula Covenant Church in Redwood City. One of the three team vans picked Don and me up in San Jose, from where we headed to meet the rest of the team at Starbucks in Gilroy.

Tools – check

Passports – check

Toilet paper – check

Clothing, sundries, hats – check

We were as ready as we were going to be.

11:30 pm Saturday, we drove through the gates at Rancho Santa Marta in the Baja. My leg was screaming.

Our usual 15-hour drive to the Ranch, 65 miles south of Ensenada, had taken 18.5 looong hours. As we left the Bay Area we enjoyed reconnecting with former team members and getting to know new ones. After stopping for a fast-food lunch near Magic Mountain, one of our vans refused to start. AAA towed it to one service center which wouldn’t take it because they were going to close at 5:00. We went to another, determined the repairs would not be a quick fix, and made the decision to leave the one van behind to be repaired, and reload three vans into two.

We emptied most of the three vans, took out non-essentials (a coffee table, several boxes of t-shirts, some equipment), and repacked people and materials tight into the two other vans, then finally took off again. At Chula Vista we stopped to fill up with gas and enjoy a quick fried chicken tailgate dinner before climbing back into the vehicles to cross the border.

After unloading our weary bodies and supplies at the Ranch, we crawled into bed. I took two Advil PMs to knock me out, wanting very much to be in church Sunday morning.

As the team historian/photographer, I took some photos during the worship service. My heart was renewed as I greeted old friends. I turned to where three of our team stood to sing, and watched one of our new team members who is also a relatively new Jesus-follower. Eyes closed, his face lifted to the heavens, tears streamed down Miguel’s face. And I began to weep as I saw the adoration, praise and worship on his face.

The worship leader introduced separate prayer times for pastors/missionaries; for the Ranch, staff and children; for those who are ill. Children stood voluntarily to give thanks to God for everything from a barbecue this afternoon to their teachers and house parents.

Ranch Director Rod’s sermon, in English and Spanish, addressed what it means to be a success. Miguel is a picture of success. Coming from a difficult background, he said “God, you said if we would seek you with all our hearts we would be found by you. Where are you?” As he kept praying that prayer, God showed up and changed his heart and life. At the end of the sermon, Rod’s father-in-law, Bill, who founded the Ranch with his wife Kaye, stood. “Son-in-law,” he began, “your success will be reflected in the lives of these children who will grow up and change the world.” What a touching and meaningful encouragement.

Drawn into Miguel’s worship, I actually had my first message long before the singing ended and the sermon began.

I am so thankful to be here once again, with staff and children we love dearly.

Some of us have been at RSM for years already; others are brand new this year. God seems to meld us together as we drive and share and snooze along the way, and then throughout the week as we work together.

This week our primary focus is putting up trusses for the new high school building. The Ranch is home to 40-45 children, many learning disabled, some abused, some orphaned. Some will grow up and become teachers or come back to the Ranch as house parents; others will never have the skills or maturity to leave the Ranch and will be given work to do here into adulthood – gardening, cleaning, animal husbandry. Don and I have come to love this ministry to Mexican children in need; and to the 220 students bussed into school from up to 60 miles away during the week.

Pray with us as we serve this week: our attitudes (especially when we get weary), our unity, our effective work on the projects and love for the kids as we see them throughout the week, as well as the day we’re divided into groups to have lunch or dinner in one of the four residences; the piñata and s’mores party (no chocolate, too much caffeine) one afternoon. I look forward to seeing many young friends we’ve watched develop over the past eight years, to reconnecting, loving on them, and praying for them and for their teachers and house parents. Pray that our service will be an outgrowth of our worship of our good God, and will honor Him.

I think of what success means for our team this week. Scripture says “In everything you do, do it as unto the Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks …” Success will be our working in unity, encouraging each other, not only doing the work effectively but with grace and joy. The HOW will be as, or more important, than the WHAT.

Thanks for praying with and for us. Buen dia!