Category Archive: Helping Each Other

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.

Dead Battery

I sat in the car, writing a different blogpost than this in longhand while Don went into Lowe’s to pick up supplies.

He returned, loaded his purchases, and turned the key in the ignition. Grrrrrr … nothing. He has a small charger in the car so plugged that in and we sat and waited. My honey was discouraged for a number of reasons so we talked and I silently asked God to encourage him.

Still nothing after about twenty minutes. Then a big pickup pulled in next to us. Both Don and I had the same thought – “he’ll have jumper cables.” We looked over to see if the driver was getting out of his truck. I could tell he was on the phone, but we kept looking to see when he would be available.

He noticed us watching him, opened his window and asked if we needed more space to get out of the car. “No,” Don responded, “but my battery’s dead. I was hoping you’d have jumper cables.”

“I sure do,” Tom responded. “Let me just finish my phone call.”

Tom connected his cables to our battery and, after a few minutes, our car started up like a purring cat.

“You’re an answer to prayer,” Don told him. Since we were parked in a Veteran’s parking spot, Tom asked if Don is a vet. They chatted for a few minutes and, amazingly, Tom is a Veterans’ Benefits Coordinator! So he gave Don his card in case Don has questions about his benefits.

What an amazing God-moment! Although we could have called AAA (and waited for them!), God provided just the help we needed – and more – in a short amount of time.

Casting all your cares upon Him, for He cares for you.

I Peter 5:7

LEAN

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”

Proverbs 3:5-6 ESV

The game was close, the players intense. Suddenly a Viking went down, the ball spiraling out of his hands. A Saint picked it up and, in the melee around the player on the ground, ran a clean run into the end zone for a TD! Wow, no obstacles in his way. He grabbed the opportunity and ran with it, literally!

That TD was taken away from the Saints because the knee of the Viking who initially carried the ball was on the ground before the ball left his hands, taking it out of play.

Nevertheless, I was impressed with the Saint who took advantage of the opportunity at hand.

How often do we take advantage of such opportunities to live or share our faith? When a ball is fumbled, do we grab it and run with it, regardless of the outcome?

And what about when I’m the one doing the fumbling? Irritable, moody, feeling overwhelmed with the day to day tasks of life? Do I look for ways to work through those feelings or allow them to overtake and overrun me?

Two of my grandnephews, one ‘leaning’ on the other – a picture of how I’ve felt this week!

In my last post I wrote about looking for my word for the year. I thought it might be GAZE – to gaze on my God and take in His presence, His peace, His character. I’ve tweaked it a bit, to LEAN. I choose to lean on, and into, Jesus in the ups and downs and sleepless nights and writing pressures and joys and challenges that make up the patterns of my life. So if you see me grouchy, out of sorts, or needing encouragement, feel free to remind me to LEAN.

“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”

Ephesians 5:15-17

Joy and Pain in Tandem

I was part of an extended family who lived together in the ghetto, in men’s and women’s staff homes. We ate together, worshipped together, and ministered together. When one of us, or of those to whom we ministered, was hurting, we all hurt. When we learned of incest, of some of our young teens selling their bodies, of the death of some we loved, we shared the pain.

  • In case you don’t recognize me, I’m the one sitting on the floor, top right photo; and the blonde on the right, lower left photo.

When gang members threw bricks through the women’s staff windows and we received threats of death or mutilation, our staff guys came and sat with us ’til two or three in the morning, until we were calm enough to sleep for a few hours.

When our teen girls taught us white Mennonite girls (who didn’t dance) their moves, I was the proud winner of the dance contest. Yes, there were only three of us in competition, but still …

When a few of us drove down the street and saw a woman in a phone booth, bleeding, we stopped to help.

We laughed and shared retreats, Bible studies, and music together, within our staff and with our teen choir. We prayed and saw God answer prayers for us, and for community members. We led Bible studies, teen and children’s clubs, distributed food and clothing as we became aware of specific needs.

Many teens, and some adults, committed their lives to Christ during the ten years I served there. And while it was a time that eventually resulted in burnout, fatigue, a decimated immune system, and some long-lasting painful effects, there is still so much for which I am thankful.

I’m thankful for …

  • The God whose heart is for reconciliation, so much so that He sent His Son, Jesus, to be sacrificed to provide the way of reconciliation between God and mankind … for me, for the world.
  • Co-workers who ministered together amid fear, joy, and the reward of seeing children, teens and adults reconciled to God through Christ.
  • These dear friends who challenged me, and each other, to look to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.
  • Those who came to faith in Jesus Christ, who now have established Christian homes and are living out their faith in their communities.
  • The opportunity to serve, to rely on God in unfamiliar situations, to watch Him work through my weakness.
  • Deep friendships that were broken for a time, but have been renewed, reconciled, and are meaningful and rich with love.
  • Family and friends who prayed for and supported us in the ministry and its challenges (and after!), and for the wise, godly counselor who helped me heal after leaving this ministry.

So, sometimes joy and pain co-exist. The loss of a dear spouse, when there is joy for the years spent together and that suffering is over, alongside the agony of loss.

The pain of illness along with the joy of growing nearer to Christ.

The loss of a friendship along with thankfulness for God’s presence within the pain. And sometimes, the reconciliation of those friendships.

Can you think of a time when you felt both pain and joy in a situation? When you experienced reconciliation? How did that encourage your heart?

“All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

“But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me. So I take pleasure in weaknesses, insults, catastrophes, persecutions, and in pressures, because of Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

II Corinthians 5:18-21; II Corinthians 12:9-10

The Lonely Bench

There it sat, a stark white bench, alone on the inner edge of the school playground, next to the basketball and tether ball courts.

My third-grade Kids’ Club students and I were talking about honoring others, prior to hearing the story of David and Jonathan’s friendship. Jonathan honored David by putting his friend’s needs–for safety and protection from Jonathan’s father Saul–above his own. I asked the kids when they, or someone else, had honored them. They told me about the “lonely bench”.

If someone is lonely, feeling isolated, they can sit on that bench. The school has taught students to watch for children who feel lonely, and to reach out to include them. I heard about times when my kids invited children on the lonely bench to play with them. One told of a time when he sat on the lonely bench and another child invited him to play, and how good it felt to be included.

I love this idea. It’s awesome that some children are vulnerable enough to admit when they feel lonely or left out, by sitting on that bench. (One girl called it the friendship bench. Either works!)

What if we adults could be this open, this vulnerable. Instead of putting on a brave front, of masking our fears, insecurities, and/or loneliness, we had “lonely benches” at our churches, universities, community centers? And what if those in leadership fostered a culture in which we looked for and reached out to those on lonely benches, and allowed others to reach into our lives when we were the ones on the benches?

CS Lewis said, “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: “What! You too? I thought I was the only one.” 

How about such a bench in our homes? So that husband or wife or child or sibling or parent could sit in that one place, indicating we felt lonely, needed some extra conversation, hugs, presence, time. How would this deepen our friendships within our marriages and families? Our communication and openness to each other?

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work; If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!”

Eccesiastes 4:9-10 NIV

And while a lonely or friendship bench is a small thing towards increasing compassion and understanding between people, it is a step. Would having such a bench help those who think they’re worthless to feel more special? To feel included? To pass on to others the kindness they experienced from one who invited them to play, who sat and listened to them?

What do you think?