Category Archive: Compassion

post by carolnl | | 2

MIRACLES … AND NEEDS

Friends of ours invited parents of a former refugee and immigrant to Canada to stay with them when they came to visit their M*slm background Christian son in Canada. That was two years and 10 months ago. This family comes from a nation where persecution against Christians is strong and violent. Previously, a brother and sister chose to become believers and suffered heavy persecution in their homeland. When life became too dangerous, they fled to a nearby country, where they have been living as refugees.

An aerial view of a Refugee Camp
Aerial view of one refugee camp

When the parents left their country to visit their son in Canada, they were allowed to leave with the stipulation that they give poison pills to their Christian children who had become apostate. They took the pills with them, but disposed of them and didn’t act on those orders.

Another son back in their country has been badly beaten and suffered much because of his siblings choosing to follow Jesus, and possibly because he himself has now become a believer.  The parents think that he is a believer because he had been so eager to learn about Jesus and later, after the police stopped and searched him one time, he told his parents, “They don’t know that what I have is on the inside.”

Through conversations with their children, with our friends (through translation), and through the love of Christian community, the parents have both become Christians. Their immigration hearing was Friday this week. As they and our friends met with their lawyer, she thought their testimony was not very good (because of their poor memories and communication… possibly because of the trauma and PTSD) and they might lose the case. She was not encouraging and actually made the process difficult and frustrating for all of them.

Thursday night many of us joined a zoom prayer meeting where we “met” the parents online for the first time. What a joy to pray together with other believers that S and T would be able to remain in Canada, but above that, that God’s will be done, even if that meant a return to their country to be a witness and suffer for Jesus’ sake. We didn’t know which way the hearing would go, but knew already that one obstacle had been removed. A key government figure who planned to oppose their asylum request was no longer going to be involved.

The next morning, at least 106 of us had committed to pray during the hearing, many at specific times. Don and I prayed for those who would hear their testimony, that the parents would receive grace and favor and be at peace in this situation. Early in the afternoon, we received an email with a YAAAAAAAAAY Victory! in the subject line. I ran to find Don. The female decision maker had read all of the documentation our friend prepared (over 300 pages) the day before the hearing, and realized this couple would indeed be persecuted if they returned to their country. She granted them Permanent Residency and after five years they can apply to become citizens.

We were in tears, and we certainly know they were!! Tears of joy, of watching a miracle of God take place. There are lots of steps ahead–our friends’ church has hired them as janitors. They need to learn more English and at some point probably move out on their own. Our friends have worked tirelessly to help them, and they need respite.

But God is so gracious in granting this huge miracle!

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

I Peter 5:7, NIV

So we see God’s mighty hand at work on the one hand; and we plead for his mercy and care for so many other needs. God is a good Father and his ways are higher than ours. But we know there is significant pain all around us.

What can we do?

First, pray. Pray for those you know who are hurting, in need, lonely, afraid, sick. We so often think of prayer as a last resort when it should be our first. I love the way THE MESSAGE often refers to God’s name: God-of-Angel-Armies! Wow, to think our prayers can help move that mighty army!

Reminds me of a true story of an escape from Russia to China over the Amur River in 1929 Bolshevik Russia. The 26 escapees watched for times of shift change, when the smallest number of guards were on duty. They left at midnight, trying to keep babies from crying, horses from whinnying. They were never fired on and reached China safely. When the superiors questioned the two guards the next morning, they said “There were armed guards all around the group. We had no chance.”

Second, step in where you can. Visit, listen, share the love of Jesus with those who are open, bring cards, food or flowers–the list will vary depending on your life circumstances, location, etc.

Third, if you can, give to organizations that have integrity in reaching desperate needs…

  • worldvision.org
  • samaritanspurse.org
  • mcc.org
  • mercyships.org

Or to on-campus ministries to reach our students:

  • intervarsity.org
  • cru.org

And your local church likely gives a portion of its budget to missions and to community needs. We were part of one church which has given over a million meals to Second Harvest Food Bank; and joined with other local churches after a local tragedy shook our community. Together, the churches provided resources for counseling for the mothers of both the 15-year-old boy and of the eight-year-old girl he murdered.

We are the Church, Christ’s body here on earth. We’re in a spiritual battle and need to engage as he leads us. My way may be different than yours; and yours, than your neighbors’.

So let’s rejoice in God’s still-miraculous work, and pray for his guidance, his heart in us for the world around us.

The Judge

We sat on our couch, watching courtroom proceedings on zoom for seven hours.

It was sentencing day. The jury had already declared the defendant guilty. But both sides’ attorneys, as well as the perpetrator and the victims of his fraud were allowed to raise objections or make statements of his impact on our lives.

The Judge was consistently patient, listening to all sides. He treated each of us, including the defendant, with courtesy and respect. We were never felt rushed or like we were wasting the Court’s time. The Judge carefully expressed the rationale behind his decision to overrule or uphold each objection.

The trial has dragged on for four long years and four months. Along with quite a few others, Don and I were victims of the defendant’s fraud. We were all eager to put this behind us and move on. Some victims lost their life savings, pensions, and went into debt because they believed in the cause this man represented. Due to the stress of the fraud and trial, several probably died earlier than they would have otherwise.

We were blessed not to have fallen for “F’s” schemes longer than we did.

Even when handing down his sentence, the Judge spoke to the defendant with compassion. “You’re an intelligent man, and have done some positive things. I don’t know where it went wrong for you that made you choose to do what you did.”

BUT … the law was clear. He chose to go another way and has to pay the consequences for his crime.

We were very touched by one victim’s testimony. An articulate young man, he spoke of God’s forgiveness and desire for “F” to repent and seek forgiveness. He forgave “F,” but encouraged the Judge to give the maximum sentence in light of the loss, pain, illness, and suffering “F” put on so many.

It reminded me that one day we will each stand before the King of Kings, the fair and just Judge of all mankind. He has already provided forgiveness … but He gives us the choice of whether or not to receive it.

“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.

“There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son.”

John 3:16-17

God won’t ask how much we gave to this charity or that, or what good deeds we did. In love and grace, God has provided the way through Jesus’ death, resurrection, and offer of forgiveness and new life to each of us. Our choice is whether or not to receive it.

And our eternity will be based on that answer.

And this is what God has testified: He has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have God’s Son does not have life.

I John 5:11-12

My only answer to the King of Kings is “I’m here with Jesus, who died and rose again that I might have life eternal.”

Questions? I’d love to talk with you.

Never Forget!

Nineteen years ago on September 11th, I walked into my office building. The security guard looked flustered. “They flew into the Twin Towers.”

I hadn’t heard any news en route to work that morning, so asked what she was talking about. I rushed to my desk to turn on my computer and saw the horrors of 9-11 on my screen: planes crashing into towers, towers crumbling from the impact, people jumping out of windows to their deaths.

Then we began hearing about the heroes of that horrific day.

  • Firefighters who risked their lives to rescue people stranded on upper floors of the Twin Towers.
  • Jason Thomas (right), who was dropping his daughter off at his mother’s in Long Island when he heard what had transpired. A former Marine sergeant who had been out of the Corps for a year, he changed into the Marine Corps uniform still sitting in his trunk, and sped toward Manhattan, where he and others worked tirelessly for the next two and a half weeks to rescue survivors.
  • Policemen who searched the rubble for survivors and kept others away from the devastated area.
  • A cousin of my sister-in-law’s, who would have been on the 81st floor of one of those Towers except for running a bit late that morning. He and others loved and supported their employees through the tragedy, also sharing the comfort only Christ can give.
  • Todd Beamer who led passengers on Flight 93 to fight back when they realized the plane had been hijacked to attack the Pentagon. They, and all 44 passengers aboard the plane, gave their lives when the plane crash landed on a Pennsylvania field rather than into the Pentagon.
  • Husbands, wives, parents, children who posted pictures of their loved ones in hopes of finding them – in a hospital, with amnesia, even in a morgue; and many others.

We watched the New York Port Authority, the Police, Firefighters, Marines, and every day civilians work together to rescue survivors and recover bodies.

On 9-11 we promised never to forget!

And once again today, when our country is deeply divided and experiencing rioting, a pandemic, looting, fires, floods, murders and anti-freedom activists, we have heroes, many unsung. Let’s remember to pray for, and to thank those who are sacrificing for the good of our nation–firefighters, police, the military, medical personnel, pastors, and many other heroes who are working to bring relief where they can.

The words of Martin Luther’s old hymn still speak truth and hope, hope that goes beyond this life to the next.

1 O God, our help in ages past, Our hope for years to come,

Our shelter from the stormy blast, and our eternal home.

3 Before the hills in order stood, or earth received her frame,

From everlasting thou art God, to endless years the same.

4 O God, our help in ages past, Our hope for years to come,

Be thou our guide while life shall last, And our eternal home.

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise–in God I trust and am not afraid.

Psalm 56:3-4a

A Different Kind of Week

I felt a bit dizzy during the night Monday. When I wakened Tuesday I was quite nauseous. I stayed in bed until about 11, then Don prepared me a very light breakfast of fresh fruit.

Back to bed to sleep – for hours! It’s years since I’ve done that. At 4 o’clock I wakened, feeling like I was going to upchuck. I got up as slowly as I could and headed toward the restroom. I hit two walls on my way and barely made it before losing everything I’d eaten (or so I thought).

I called my doctor’s office at 4:50 to ask for advice. A nurse called back shortly. “You’re too late for office hours and urgent care won’t see you if you’ve thrown up today. You need to go to the ER and get checked out.”

I knew throwing up was one possible symptom of COVID-19, but I had no others.

“You don’t sound good, and I think it’s important you be seen tonight.”

“Do you really think that’s necessary?” I asked.

“OK. I’ll go.”

I dressed and told Don what the office had said. On the way I said “I really don’t want to throw up in your car, love.”

Don pulled into the ER driveway. I opened the door, and wallah – you guessed it! A kind man pushed me inside in a wheelchair while Don went home to wait (no visitors allowed).

Over the next five hours I was poked for blood tests (great job, hardly felt it), given an EKG, gave a urine sample, and was put into a bed and given two warmed blankets to cover me (later, a third was added). The nurses and aides were gracious.

At one point I overheard the woman next to me say “Thank you for being so kind to me,” and I prayed God’s blessing on her. I heard several “Code Blues” and felt it a privilege to pray for those individuals and the medical personnel caring for them. Of course I prayed for Don, at home waiting for news. I’ve recently been anxious over fires and riots and yet, in the ER I was truly at peace the whole time and so grateful for God’s presence with me.

From a wise mind comes wise speech; the words of the wise are persuasive. Kind words are like honey–-sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.

Proverbs 16:23-24 

I told one of my nurses I was praying for them, and he thanked me. “I really appreciate that,” he said. “I think this is the first year that people are really thanking us–oh, here and there people have, but as a whole.”

We were very thankful with the report that all my vitals looked good, no COVID, just vertigo. I left late that night with medication and exercises to help.

I’ve been very thankful for our medical personnel before, particularly when Mom needed care over the past year plus. But somehow when it’s you in that bed and waiting for results it really sinks in how much these men and women are on the front lines – doctors, nurses, phlebotomists, aides, registrars, cleaning staff.

Thank you, each of you, for treating me with kindness and respect, and ensuring you did all possible to check whether or not I had an infection or virus. God be with you, each and every one!

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.

Colossians 3:15

Prayer for a Pandemic

My emotions have run the gamut this week … fear, joy (at how people are serving each other), anxiety, hope, depression, and on and on …

How about yours?

Psalm 91 encouraged me this week, and I will copy it here in full.

1 Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.”

3 Surely he will save you
    from the fowler’s snare
    and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
You will not fear the terror of night,
    nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
    nor the plague that destroys at midday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
    ten thousand at your right hand,
    but it will not come near you.
You will only observe with your eyes
    and see the punishment of the wicked.

If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”
    and you make the Most High your dwelling,
10 no harm will overtake you,
    no disaster will come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you
    to guard you in all your ways;
12 they will lift you up in their hands,
    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
    you will trample the great lion and the serpent.

14 “Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;
    I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
15 He will call on me, and I will answer him;
    I will be with him in trouble,
    I will deliver him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him
    and show him my salvation.”

***

A dear friend sent me this wonderful prayer from the Sisters of the Incarnate Word. It reminds me that even in my concerns for my own family and friends, I need to remember the many others in very great need during this time.

Prayer for a Pandemic, Cameron Bellm

May we who are merely inconvenienced remember those whose lives are at stake.

May we who have the luxury of working from home remember those who must choose between preserving their health or making their rent.

May we who have no risk factors remember those most vulnerable.

May we who have the flexibility to care for our children when their schools close remember those who have no options.

May we who have to cancel our trips remember those that have no safe place to go.

May we who are losing our margin money in the tumult of the economic market remember those who have no margin at all.

May we who settle in for a quarantine at home remember those who have no home.

As fear grips our country, let us choose love.

During this time when we cannot physically wrap our arms around each other, let us yet find ways to be the loving embrace of God to our neighbors.

Amen.

https://www.ccvichapel.org/post/prayer-for-a-pandemic-cameron-bellm

God be with you, bless you, meet all your needs by His mighty power.