Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Why do we 'Do' missions anyway?

Lessons Learned Along the Way: Worship as Missions: "“Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn’t. Worship is ultimate, not missions, be..."

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Home Stretch!

We drove out to Area 5, a relocated village on the outskirts of Tete City. The small church that meets here is on fire for God though it gathers for worship in a cardboard box… literally. The pastors are very young and they are eager for this new season of the village to be a new season in the growth of the church as well!

Our first outreach was in the afternoon attended by many children and mothers. After the dancing and praise, Bill spoke a testimony calling the people to come to know Jesus. Many came forward and gave their lives to God and the church probably tripled in number just from that one service. One woman showed up to give a testimony with her baby. Last time the Wheresoever team was here, they prayed for this baby who had been diagnosed HIV+. The mother came and testified that the baby is now testing negative for HIV! God is indeed good!

Just before the 2nd outreach began, a dust-storm blew in to the village with high winds and swirling clouds that made the sunset through the baobab trees turn hazy. The crowd that had gathered dwindled to about half of the previous outreach that day. Charles shared a parable about seeking the One True God Who Loves and several ladies came forward to receive Jesus afterwards. Once the ministry time was finished, folks scattered due to the increasing dust flying around the ground.

We slept well, having found a guesthouse with air conditioning. We hadn’t had any A/C available in any of the cars or any of the accommodations, but we enjoyed the comfort and luxury of a good night’s sleep. The white noise of the A/C also had the added benefit of covering the noisy highway sounds through the night.

We spent Tuesday morning getting supplies in downtown Tete. After picking up a soldering iron and a thermos, we joined the rest of the team on the road to Mamese village #2. We stopped briefly to pick up our luggage and began the 2 hour journey towards Mamese village. We had to stop for fuel on the way, so we took advantage of a local gas “station.” Unfortunately, there were no clean restrooms nor cold drinks available.

We got to Mamese village but didn’t find the other part of our team there. After checking throughout the village, we determined that due to the risk of the car failing on the way back to the base at Vila Ulongue, we would head on and leave the team to do the outreach Wheresoever they might be!

The drive back was through beautiful African savannah. We were blessed by a beautiful sunset over the mountains. The setting sun seemed to be our closing sign that we have come to the end of our Mozambiquan adventure. We have had obstacles and setbacks, but we realize that God is moving in Mozambique and His enemy doesn’t like it. But no matter what the devil has to say about it, Jesus is Lord over Mozambique!

Monday, October 4, 2010

1 Step forward, 4 steps back?

The tribal drums sounded through the night while noises of animal screams and growls punctuated the rhythmic tempo. The traditional animal dancers – worshippers of animal spirits – were holding a celebration or ritual dance. Scenes from Tarzan played through our minds as we tried to sleep.

We had just finished 3 days of pastoral training and seminars. Several churches in the border area of Saqama and Zobue had invited Wheresoever to come in and put on these seminars, since few of the pastors have theological or other spiritual training. As part of our mission, Bill spoke about faith, Steve K. spoke about the spirit of anger, Steve E. on business, and Charles on resisting fear as well as the essentials of the Christian faith. Kenneth and Enesia Lewisi - a husband and wife team that helps lead Wheresoever in Africa - had added their topics as well on the power of prayer, and the Holy Spirit.

We were amazed to find that the pastors and leaders were so hungry for the training that they would forego lunch each day since no one wanted to leave the training to prepare the meal. We ended the seminars earlier than usual so they could find food for the evening. Most of the visiting pastors slept overnight in the beautiful church high on the hill. We saw the Holy Spirit touch and fill them with a new zeal for their churches and power for the work in their area.

Though the seminar went very well, not all our ministry was so successful. We had planned 3 outreach crusades in the area, but were beset by strange hindrances. We had arranged an outreach on Friday by the mountain church but that was on school property and the authorities denied us permission to setup there until after dark – too late for us as we had an evening crusade planned elsewhere.

Our next crusade, the same day, was scheduled for the evening (around 7 p.m.) but, after we had shown up and setup, it had to be cancelled due to a child’s funeral taking place next door. The following Saturday evening, the amplifier blew during the last day of seminars and we had no means of broadcasting voices or music to large crowds without one.

Sunday morning, all of us split up and brought messages and greetings to various churches nearby. We found most of them to be quite small and with little but 4 walls and roof to show that there was a church meeting there. One church that Bill Moore spoke to had almost 20 people, but only 1 Bible – and that belonged to the Pastor. There is so much work to do here, and so few resources or people to help. God, send out harvesters!

Sunday afternoon, we hit the road to Tete City, the capital of the Tete province. Since the team is so large (18 of us total) we have to use 2 vehicles to transport the equipment as well as the people. About ½ way to our destination, the smaller vehicle containing 8 of us overheated and steam began rising from the engine. A water-coolant line had busted and we could not drive it again without finding parts and repairing it. It was arranged that the larger vehicle would tow the small one, but that left 8 of us wondering how we’d get to the city.

Along came the local transportation – a mini-bus meant to hold about 15 people. There were plenty of seats for us, so we piled in and began our journey. Even Danny & Lindy had not taken cross-country local transport before this, so it was a new experience. As we drove into the lower plains, the heat began to be noticeably more humid and hotter. We’d stop every few miles and pick up more passengers. By the time we were close to our destination, 28 men, women, and children were packed into the 15 passenger vehicle!

We are thankful that we made it safely. Once again, however, due to the late hour of our arrival and the separation of the team, no outreach could be carried out – 4 significant outreaches cancelled in just 3 days! We prayed together as a team and plan on forging ahead without allowing a victory for God’s enemy!

Our time on Monday has been spent looking for car parts and another amplifier. Our plans are to do 2 outreaches today and one tomorrow afternoon. Following Tuesday’s outreach, we’ll drive back the few hours to Vila Ulongue, the base for Wheresoever in Mozambique.

We hope to finish strong, so pray for us as we impact this area for Jesus, bringing hope and healing for the lost. The needs are evident around us, but the equipment is hard-pressed and it wears out quickly in this harsh climate. We are still praying for another vehicle that will be reliable and we are confident that God has a plan. Thank you all for your prayers – they are VITAL to this work.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Taking Jesus to the uttermost ends of the Earth

As we load up the Cruiser with the supplies and equipment, we work hard to get all of the team into the single vehicle that will carry us into the distant village. This is both one of the most difficult yet enjoyable parts of our work here. The discomfort of sitting on broken benches and holding equipment and bags on our laps is overshadowed by the enjoyment of singing, fellowship, and friendly chatter among the group. We are praying hard for God to provide another vehicle for Wheresoever Ministries, as having a single truck is really hampering the plans laid down for outreach. Meanwhile, we pack ourselves in like sardines and hit the road - or cowpath - with joy.

The night ministry is quite interesting. The people here love music and dancing so the local team hooks up loud-speakers and lights and begin exuberant worship and dancing. This always draws a large crowd - averaging about 300 the last couple of nights. They introduce the crowd to the concept that worshipping God is enjoyable and not drudgery. Often the entire crowd is clapping and dancing along with the team.

Once they've gathered around and enjoyed worship - which in actual fact is spiritual warfare for the beginning of the preaching - there is usually a testimony that comes on, followed by a message of God's love for the people. At the end, to keep their interest and drive home the point, there is usually a skit. Last night, we watched a rather creative interpretation of the Prodigal son story, which had the crowd laughing and clapping enthusiastically.

At the end, many men, women, and children came forward to give their lives for Jesus. And, of course, that is why we are here. That is how we can bear with the transport problems, the change of food and hygiene habits, the lack of our own western comforts - these are but temporary sacrifices for an eternal gain.
Pray for us to be safe in the vehicles, to maintain good health, and to hear from the Holy Spirit as we move around Mozambique in the next several days. Your prayer support and intercession is vital to the work that we do here. We are merely the spear-point. You are the shaft of the spear as God thrusts it into the nation of Mozambique.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Orphans and Preaching in the Bush

We drove precariously through the narrow cow-lane up into the hills towards the village clearing. The battered old Land Cruiser wheezed and groaned as it picked over the rocks and through the deep ruts and holes in the dry red dirt. The vehicle was packed to over-flowing with people and equipment for the outdoor evangelism service we would start when we arrive in the remote village.

We had just ministered to several orphans at a local church off the highway. We were so blessed to be able to deliver new t-shirts, soap, and notebooks to the children. They all live with a foster-family, but they are often overlooked when provisions are made within the families. The children listened closely when they heard the story about Cain and Abel and how God can give us strength to resist temptation to do wrong things. Danny and Lindy Bravo elicited roars of laughter when describing how the Azungu (white folks) had such a hard time flying all the way from America to see them in the little thatched-roof brick church. Several bright faces responded to the invitation to follow Jesus with their lives and hearts.

Now we were crowded with 17 of us in the rusty and dilapidated Land Cruiser, carefully trying to find a way up to the village high up in the hills. We had learned that the “traditional animal dancers” – those who worshipped animal spirits and strived to emulate animals themselves - were due to hold a ritual dance that night – in the same spot we had chosen to preach and teach! We prayed fervently that God would give us favor and that those who would be normally worshipping created beings would instead hear about the one true God who loved them more than any animal.

We set up the spot under two large trees. Unloading and starting the generator, we soon powered up a small soundboard, speakers, a keyboard, bright lights and microphones. Night had fallen and music and invitations over the loudspeakers drew locals out from the bush from the dark of the evening. Many had never been to church and didn’t know the traditional responses to shouts of Alleluia and praises to God that came from the local team as they began singing and dancing in worship to Jesus.

After much joyful worship and dancing, Charles shared a story of God’s love proven through creation and the sending of His own son to die for the lost and His resurrection to eternal life for all. Steve Konzman shared from his own testimony about how he found God in the midst of trouble. A drama emphasized the hold that sin has over us until we turn our lives over to Jesus. Finally, the invitation was given to those who would receive and many hands were raised as they prayed to ask Jesus to save them.

God is at work in these people – they are seeking and searching for deliverance from their spiritual bondage. Wheresoever Ministries is hard at work, bringing the Good News to those who have never heard. They are in need another vehicle, as our trip here has amply demonstrated.
Pray for God's provision for this. Also, please continue to pray that our team would be effective in bringing God’s message of love and salvation to the people of Mozambique.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Mozambique at Last!

Steve Estes and Charles met with Steve Konzman and Bill Moore at Johannesburg Airport Friday morning, Sept. 24th, while Ron Elmore caught his flight back to the US. The new team flew on together to Lilongwe, Malawi. Upon arrival Friday afternoon, we gathered together all of our checked luggage (supplies for Wheresoever Ministries) and went through customs with no problem, by God’s protection.

We were then whisked away to the home of nearby friends that host missionaries in Malawi. We found immediate trouble in logistics as the main vehicle we were to use had to have the manual gear housing replaced. Easy enough, except that finding a replacement part proved to be difficult and, as of this writing, unaccomplished. Remembering our lessons in flexibility, on Saturday morning we switched to a different vehicle, piling on the supplies and piling in the missionaries.

We spent a wonderful time driving to the border of Mozambique. The border crossing was interesting, as we had to exit at one border and walk across a “no-man’s land” to the next border. We re-loaded ourselves into the vehicle and began driving when suddenly our customs paperwork went flying out of the driver’s window. It was now about 7:30 p.m. and fully dark – this was the darkness of an African wilderness, not of a city or town street. With our small flashlights, we searched the side of the highway under the blanket of stars sweeping overhead. God lead us to finding the documents in the brush, we sped away and finally arrived at the team base.

After a good night’s sleep, we woke to roosters crowing, dogs barking, and children laughing outside the windows. We headed off to the church service, where several of the local Foursquare Churches had gathered for a bi-monthly fellowship. We had a wonderful time entering into worship with our brothers and sisters, dancing and singing into the morning. Charles and Bill gave a greeting to the congregation. Afterwards, the local leaders brought a short message and we entered into a time of prayer for healing and deliverance, in which each of the team was directly involved.

After a very late lunch, we walked over to the local prison – a squalid and unadorned cement block building with about 100 men crowded into a place designed for 40. We worshipped together with the men and then Steve Estes and Steve Konzman brought a message of hope for the men inside. Several declared their desire to follow Christ as they felt the tug of the Holy Spirit leading them.

The end of the evening was a time of relaxing and enjoying dinner with the local African team with whom we will be spending our days. We’ll drive out Monday to meet the orphans that Wheresoever has been providing for and afterwards to an evening crusade. This will be Tuesday's plan as well.
Our hope and prayer is that God will make Himself known to those He brings us into contact with and that we’ll be obedient to follow His direction. Please continue to pray for us as we travel around the province and proclaim His name in this nation.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Swaziland, farewell

Our final day in Swaziland has been a joy. We headed out towards Nsoko, where Adventures in Missions (AIM) has their Anchor Center. On the way, we stopped at Matata and bought some supplies. We arrived at the Carepoint and met with Eric and Matt, American missionaries stationed here. They helped us as we carried the supplies and four mattresses to the tiny shack where the four boys that Ron and Ann Marie Elmore sponsor live.

What a wonderful experience to see the boys as their eyes lighted up upon seeing 4 mattresses. They were quite excited to realize that they'd be sleeping on real mattresses for the first time. They knew we'd be coming today and had taken care to clean and sweep up the little 10x10 hut. In addition to the mattresses, Ron delivered some extra special treats like fruit and eggs that they don't often get to eat.

We leave Swaziland with confidence that we will keep the command of God to "look after widows and orphans." Hope Chapel does this now in our own community, but we are looking forward to seeing how God will lead us to serve the "least of these" halfway around the world.

Tomorrow, we head out to Johannesburg, South Africa. We'll stay overnight with some friends there and then Ron Elmore will fly back to Raleigh while Steve Estes and Charles meet up with Bill Moore and Steve Konzman at the airport. From there we'll fly together to Malawi to join up with Danny & Lindy Bravo of Wheresoever Ministries. We'll be spending about 2 weeks working with them in Mozambique.

Please pray for our team as we begin work in Mozambique. We want to see the Lord glorified and His name spread among the people there. Thank you for your faithfulness in prayer and support.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Carepoints and more Carepoints!

It seems we are finally rested enough to get through our jet-lag. The time difference is only 6 hours, but after flying for about 19 hours, that adds up. We were rested this morning when we left for Mpaka, a town east of Manzini. The carepoint there has a kitchen area, storage, latrine, water, church facility and a playground. The children there, however, are not sponsored for food or schooling. We found this little girl there with her mother.

We visited a few other carepoints as well, heading up into the mountains with Dennis to look at a brand-new carepoint – Ngungwane – which had just been built about 2 months ago. The view from the top of the mountains was beautiful, though the drive on the rocky dirt paths led to a few exciting moments wondering whether we should have rented a 4-wheel drive instead of a sedan.

Progress on some of the sponsored carepoints has been, according to Ron and Steve, remarkable. Some of the 5 places we visited had newly built fences and kitchens, and other signs of progress. The children still are fed, but the extra facilities make it easier for the Gogos to care for them during rainy season.

We ended the day with a visit to Mpholi, where Pastor Bill had made a sweet friend last January. The good news is it seems there is a newly built kitchen ready for use there as well! If His people will listen, God will get the job done of taking care of these little ones – we must only be faithful to His command to do our part.

Tomorrow, we’ll be heading back to Nsoko one last time and encouraging the missionaries there, as well as playing with the children. Swaziland is a hard country, but God is at work here. We want to bring hope to those who have none - our partnership with Adventures in Missions and Children’s HopeChest will enable those who have no bread to eat and be satisfied while they also hear about He who is the Bread of Life.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Swaziland - AIM & Nsoko

Our first full day in Swaziland. This photo is Dennis & Zwakele Brock, AIM missionaries. Dennis is from NY state and has been in Swaziland for 4 years. He met Zwakele in a local church and they married a couple of years ago. They are expecting their first child in late March. Hope Chapel is hoping to support them and their work here in Swaziland on an ongoing basis, if possible.

After 24 hours of travel, we finally arrived and spent Sunday night in the Tum’s George Hotel in Manzini, Swaziland. After breakfast, I, Ron, thought I had lost my wallet, but discovered it well-hidden in my room, much to the relief of the team – and an answer to prayer. Dennis and his wife gathered us together and on we went to Nsoko Swaziland, about an hour from where we are staying in Manzini. We stopped for lunch at a Game Preserve and met up with Jumbo, AIM’s director for Swaziland. We then went on to Nsoko and the anchor center for the carepoints in that region. We met the Peterson family who had just arrived for a 3-month stint working with the orphans at the Nsoko carepoints. Their story is inspirational – ask me about it sometime.

Finally it was time for my visit with the 4 boys Ann Marie and I sponsor. The boys live on the homestead of an elderly Gogo (grandmother). In this photo is the Gogo, and from the left, Mandla (11), Sibusiso (9), Cel-musa (5), Sanelo (10). This was my third visit to see the boys at their home and they were very excited to receive some t-shirts and a football. We spent a good time throwing the ball around and playing. After much too short a time, we left to go and look around a potential carepoint – Mbuthu. It is a bare-bones area, lacking in all basic necessities, but being a place of feeding for about 30 children.

We headed back to Manzini, ready to continue tomorrow with what God is bringing us. Tuesday we will be visiting an established carepoint – Tambini – where we hope to get a full picture of what our carepoint could be. Next we go Mpaka, which is unique in that it is a completed and built-out carepoint, but no children have been sponsored as of yet. Before the end of the day, we’ll head over to Mpholi to visit the children there – along with Pastor Bill’s sponsored child, Simongele.

Please keep us in your prayers as we finalize the carepoint selection. We have seen God at work already, and are confident that He is leading us as we go.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Flexibility is Key!!

When going on a mission of any kind, the first rule is: Flexibility is key! Don't expect your expectations to come about as planned, but be pleasantly suprised when they do. When they don't, look around and see what God is doing...He may have a plan that you were unaware of.

We started our trip to Africa leaving RDU at a reasonable hour, everything packed, no problems with checked luggage. We arrived at Dulles and had a nice lunch waiting until our check-in time. Well, we arrived at our gate with a few hours to spare and discovered that, not only was our flight not on time, it had been cancelled until the next morning. That put our schedule behind by a day! If we hadn't been flexible, we would have lost it big-time.

The airline put us up at a hotel and we invited a few other stranded travellers to join us for dinner. Well, we ate with a couple of muslims from another African country and a young South African teenager returning home after working a summer camp. We had a wonderful time getting to know our new friends and a few questions were asked and answered. At the end of it all, we were invited to continue our discussions as we could. Could this have been a God moment, even before we left the USA?

My thoughts are this: Why do we believe that we must leave our own shores to be a witness to the world? The world comes to the USA everyday! International students, foreign tourists, legal and even illegal immigrants - they come to the USA and we are already here. Think about it.

Finally, we arrived a day late to Swaziland and we'll be heading out tomorrow to look over the Carepoints where we hope to begin sponsoring children. Keep us in prayer and let us give thanks for God's plans - even when we don't fully get them.

God is indeed good....all the time.

Your Hope Chapel Missions Team

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Lessons Learned Along the Way: The Mission Trip Phenomenon

Lessons Learned Along the Way: The Mission Trip Phenomenon: "I have a love-hate relationship with mission trips – at least the ones that my husband takes 2 or 3 times a year. I love that he is fulfilli..."

Monday, September 13, 2010

Swaziland - Nation in Need - From Lonely Planet: "Currently, Swaziland’s greatest challenge comes from the HIV/AIDS pandemic; the country has the world’s highest HIV infection rate (almost 39% for adults between 15 and 49 years of age), and life expectancy has fallen as a result from 58 to 33 years. It’s estimated that there are currently more than 70,000 AIDS orphans in the country, and by 2010 [that is NOW] one out of six people will be a child under 15 who has lost both parents."

Steve Estes, Ron Elmore and Charles are heading to Swaziland Africa on Saturday, September 17th. We go to secure a place - a Carepoint - for Hope Chapel to begin sponsorship of a small fraction of these 70,000 AIDS orphans. Please pray for us that God will give us favor and that the details of our commitment to the Carepoint will be worked out clearly.

Psalm 82:3-4 Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Remembering our Place

As we go along in life, sometimes we need to be put in our place. We've traveled many places and served all over, and observed the state of the world and still, we forget how blessed we are. I think this blog posting says it best, so I'll let the blogger speak.

But as those who are called to take the Good News all over, sometimes we need to remember to be thankful for where God has put us. We also need to think about how we use our own resources - is it mostly for our own comfort? Do we give to help other in a way that is meaningful...or is it just our leftovers? While I'm not bashing the lifestyle of most of us, I'm asking that we think - and pray - about how we can share what we have somehow.

We are blessed to be a blessing!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Trusting God to Grow Seed

Well, we’re back—much to my dismay, I must admit. After spending many months preparing for this trip, it seems strange that it’s already over. But the work the Lord has been doing in El Salvador is far from over! His name be praised forevermore! As I returned to classes today, I had several people ask me what I did in El Salvador and every time I told them the trip wasn’t at all about what the team did, it was about what GOD did and is still doing!

One of the things that stuck with me the most from the trip was our outreach in the girls’ prison on Thursday. That was a rough day for me. The girls are split into two groups—the girls who are waiting to hear their sentences and live upstairs in the prison, and the girls who are serving their sentences and live downstairs. It was a blessing to sing with the girls upstairs as they unashamedly praised the Lord! When asked if any of them wanted to rededicate their lives to Christ, almost all of the girls came up and prayed with us. How awesome to see those girls desire Christ-filled lives! (Note: We were not allowed to take pictures in the prison. The photo above is from the park outreach day.)

The girls downstairs, however, were tough. They live in a world that is cruel and unfair and their hearts are hardened as a result. I admitted later that I didn’t want to look in their eyes because what I saw there scared me. Just one glance will tell you everything you need to know about their lives—they are young but the world has been mean to them and they are determined to make it on their own. They have no need for this Jesus we spoke of.

To see such disregard for the Word of God first startled me, then frightened me and eventually even angered me. Couldn’t these girls see we were trying to provide them with hope and a way to eternal life? How could they simply turn and walk away from it? As usual, the Lord turned my eyes back on myself and I realized that I have often done the same thing. He reminded me that He still loves them even if they show no interest in Him, and that my job is not to be angry with them but to pray for them.

The Lord is moving in that place. The Lord is moving all over El Salvador and the work He is doing is nothing short of incredible! Please continue to pray for the county of El Salvador, Lorraine and the work she is doing there, and the people we met this past week. Seeds were planted and His name was glorified—we can ask for nothing more.

Thank you again for all your prayers! There may have only been five of us who went to El Salvador but it was your prayers that got us there, kept us safe, and made a way for the Lord to work through us! Only when we arrive in Heaven will you know the full impact of your prayers!


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

For God's Glory

What a great day! We went to an orphanage again today. At the orphanage we worked with the children with special needs and the babies that we spent time with Monday. When we arrived, we split into two groups and the group I was in went to help with the baths for the children with special needs, but their baths were already completed. So, we went out to their shelter outside in the courtyard. Robert Gray, the PE/Physical Therapist was there again today. We were able to play with the children using his equipment that he has built over the years. The children played with the balls hanging from the roof. Several of the children could use their arms, so we put them near the balls and played with them and let them play by themselves a little while we worked with some of the other children. Robert had built “benches” on wheels, so a couple of the children got to be strapped to the wheel-boards to try to push themselves around. It was so fun to watch their faces as they played with these “toys!” (Robert has been coming from the US and working with special needs children for three months each year for several years. He complimented Lorraine and told her that this team has done more with these children in two days than any team has done in the entire time he’s been coming. All praise goes to the Lord who enabled us to work well with these children!)

After a couple of hours, it was time for the children to eat lunch. We helped the workers feed them. Some had bottles of pureed food, some ate whole foods, and some ate soupy foods. It was messy! We were able to use extra shirts as bibs today, so the children stayed pretty clean and dry throughout the process.

After our quick lunch, we were able to go play with the babies. This is my absolute favorite part! We were able to carry them around, change their diapers, change their clothes, sing little songs to them, and play Patty-Cake with them. Wish you could have seen the babies faces light up. The one or two workers that take care of them don’t have time to feed them by holding them and rocking them; we did. What a blessing! Nothing compares with cuddling a little tiny baby and rocking them.

This evening, after eating a pork roast dinner prepared by Chef Greg, we will be working on the drama that Laura Kuhns and Megan Creed put together and practicing songs in Spanish for tomorrow’s undertaking. Thank you, Lord, for allowing us to do all this for Your Glory.
Thank you for all your prayers!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Small Talents, Big Changes Day By Day

Today we visited the girls of Hope House. In January we did many repairs to this house so today we went back for minor follow up repairs and were pleasantly surprised by the condition. The picture is of Lorraine McNeill, Hannah's Hands missionary, and Myrna of the house.

All of the work we did in January was appreciated and was being kept up! The house looked great and when we arrived the girls were all doing homework.

When the homework was finished Sheila gave sewing lessons on a brand new sewing machine to all of the girls. Now they have a talent they can work with. While that was going on Curtis and I worked on plumbing, painting and fixing of cabinets but we did this with 2 of the young men from the boys orphanage (Faith House). We worked with them to teach them how to do these basic yet important skills. What a joy to see the satisfaction on all of these young men and women when we were finished! They were so proud and now this week the boys will go back on Friday and while the girls have a bible lesson the boys can finish what we taught them! What a great experience to work with them while mentoring them at the same time.

When We finished at Hope house it was off to San Diego Beach. What a blessing to get to go and unwind for 3 hours after our day with the children yesterday and reflect on our first 3 days.

Please pray for our team, as tomorrow we return to help with the babies and special needs children again. The things we see here are difficult to understand and heart wrenching.

We ask that you pray for strength, courage and wisdom from God for all of us.

I end by asking you to read Mathew 25:32-40 which ends with "And the king will answer and say to them, Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to me"

"The way to the Father is through the Son"

Greg Lewis

Monday, March 8, 2010

Their smiles broke our hearts

We are now on day three of lots of sunshine, Spanish, and wonderful, heart-breaking service! Sunday (yesterday), we attended the Union Church with Lorraine and met and were encouraged by some of the other believers. After lunch with our translators we headed over to Mi Casa, a home for orphaned boys and girls. We had worked with the kids from Mi Casa on saturday night to put together a drama to present in a community park on Sunday afternoon. The kids from this orphanage are so well behaved and loving towards each other, it is truly encouraging and wonderful to see. Some of the older boys (college age) who used to live in the orphange but have now 'graduated out' have chosen to stay involved with the orphans who are still there. These young men live together in an apartment, go to work each day at their jobs, have their own bills to pay and their own lives to worry about, yet they have all decided that they want to spend some of their free time with the younger children, and spend some of their salaries to help with the upkeep of the orphanage! It's incredible the love that exists between these kids!

At the park we put on a drama and a little bit of music. There was not a huge crowd of listeners, but our mission was as much about sharing the gospel of Christ as it was about teaching the orphans and helpers to share the gospel of Christ. The kids were wonderful and really seemed to enjoy putting on the drama! Laura, Sheila and I began the singing in the park with our fumbling Spanish, but by the end the children had taken over and were singing the Christian songs they knew. It was a beautiful thing to witness! As they sang, several people from the park (most of them claiming to already be born-again christians) came up and asked for prayers and talked with our team some!

Today (monday) was the most difficult day for me so far. We got an early start and went over to a state orphanage that houses babies, children with special needs, and young pregnant girls who have all been raped by family members. We split ourselves into two small groups: one group with the babies and the other group with the children who had special needs; we switched stations after lunch.

It was difficult to see the conditions of these children. Most of the babies had rashes and their skin was dry and cracked from the heat. The saddest thing, however, was that their eyes just seemed so lifeless. The woman who works in the baby room truly does love the children, but the fact of the matter is she is one woman who sometimes has over a dozen babies to take care of. She told us that sometimes all she can do is start at the first crib and go down the line changing all the diapers, then start over going down the line giving each child a bath, then start over again with a bottle for each child. She has no time to give special attention to each child, nor hold and play with each one. We prayed over the babies and told each one that God made them and loves them more than they can imagine. It is my prayer that those words will follow those children for their whole lives, and that they will come to know just how much they are worth in God's eyes.

Playing with the children with special needs was fun, simple, but emotionally challenging. Most of the children are in make-shift wheel chairs, and only a few can speak. Their smiles say it all however, when you begin pushing them around in circles. Their eyes lit up like Christmas had come; and all we had done was push their wheelchair and make zooming noises. In those smiles I saw complete joy, and felt complete sadness.

For the most part, no one is allowed into this orphanage to visit the children. For several years they shut out any groups wanting to come in and help because some people were taking pictures of the children and then getting the organization in trouble for the conditions of the facility. It is not so much that the organization neglects the children or that they don't treat them well, it is simply that they do not have enough resources or staff to keep everything perfect and lovely. These people do the best they can with what they have, and it is a blessing that there is a program for these unwanted children at all. But even so, the children get hardly any personal interaction - no sensory stimulation - and they seem so lifeless. We did meet a man today who has been coming to the orphanage to do physically stimulating activities with the kids for the last 4 years. He told us that today was the liveliest he had seen the children in a long time, and he believed it was because of the attention and interaction we were giving to them! We praise God that we can be a spark of light in the lives of these children!

(By the way, because of the recent tension over visitors in the facility, we are not allowed to post any pictures from the state orphanage on the internet).
We stayed at the state orphanage today from early morning until mid-afternoon and afterward were mentally and emotionally exhausted. But God is our sustainer and we trust Him to give us new strength for tomorrow! We are having a wonderful time here and being blessed by everything we see and everyone we meet. We are growing in our giving, and I know God is working in us just as much as He is working through us.
Keep checking for updates!
In Christ,

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Riding Shotgun with the March El Salvador Team

Lorraine McNeill, ministering in El Salvador with Hannanh's Hands International, had a need for additional people to fill out her March missions team!
Megan Creed and Laura Kuhn, students at Appalachian State University, graciously welcomed three of us from the January 2010 Hope Chapel team to join them for this March trip!
Allow me to introduce the March 2010 Hannah's Hands team! In this picture, left to right, are Laura, Megan, Sheila Smith, Greg Lewis, and Curtis Smith.

We arrived in San Salvador around noon on Saturday, and traveled to the Mission House to drop off our bags and Lorraine, and then take a quick tour of the area. Our driver gave us a tour of the countryside few people have the opportunity to see! We definitely took the "road less traveled"! Within minutes of leaving the city of two and one-half million people, our van was driving along a trail bordered by beautiful trees and plenteous vegetation. Breath-taking vistas and humble dwellings were interspersed along the way. Vehicular traffic was unusual here as attested by the local people's inquisitive reactions to our passing by. The few people we saw were walking several kilometers from the last bus stop back up the mountain to their humble homes. Cows laid claim to the right-of-way, and we were happy to yield, as their horns were much bigger than ours, and turning around on this rocky, narrow trail was not an option. We could not have planned a more effective team-building adventure!

Stay tuned!


Saturday, February 6, 2010

Hearts Overflowing

We arrived home Sunday, January 31, after spending an extra day traveling because of the snow and ice in Raleigh. With all internet and electrical blogging challenges, we were not able to communicate much while we were gone. An evening will be schedule (TBD), for the team to give a full report, for now a summary…….

We have all heard from a distance about orphans, “care points”, hunger, and the amazing death toll AIDS is taking on Swaziland’s population. We quickly learned there is no way to indirectly experience the reality of 80,000 orphan children living on the very edge of hopelessness. Most have no parents, many families are led by 9-10 year old children and most are unable to attend school because public schools charge tuition and uniforms are required.

A whole new model of what “need” means became clear when we learned that care point orphans gets 6-8 meals a week and the sum of orphans’ possessions is often the clothing they are wearing

and yet at each location we visited, we were greeted by excited children with ready smiles, ready and willing to be hugged, held and played with. Other faces held the heaviness of their lives. Sometimes we physically hurt to leave a care point after only a couple of hours of time spent with children who have no less need of a mom and dad than our children back home. Our hearts and minds were opened wide as we visited many care points.

We selected two of the “greatest need” care points for you “heart gifts” (sweater, jackets, crocs and plastic ware) to be distributed. Dennis, our American guide for the week, will send us pictures when they are given to the children.

We also visited homes of families that had a family member dying of AIDS. I can’t remember a time when I felt more inadequate than when we listened to and prayed with a mom already grieving her dying son asking us, ”…why does God allow so many innocent people to die so miserably?” Our hearts just ached and we so wanted to provide some kind of comfort. When we talked to a Swazi pastor later he said, “…when you visit a family like this, you just join in what they are feeling that day…if they are dying, you die a little with them…if they are having a good day, you have a good day with them. When you pray, you simply pray what is in your heart. Mostly dying people like to feel someone is sharing a small part of the difficult journey they are on.”

We met many “Gogos”(women and grandmas who cook and provide some level of care to orphans at the care points), ........

as well as a number of Swazi pastors, Adventures in Missions (AIM) missionaries, Tom Davis from Children’s Hope Chest and many other Swazi believers who have amazing hearts to do what they can. We left Swaziland with hearts overflowing with excitement and passion to return to Hope Chapel to tell our stories and build a God inspired vision as to how our Hope Chapel family will rise up to be impactful in the lives of Swazi orphans, and do the good work of the Kingdom to the end that God will be glorified by our collective efforts. Let us pray together as we seek God’s will as to how we will put arms and legs to the vision we are developing even as we speak. Stay tuned to hear of ways you can take one of these children by the hand and be an instrument of change that will change the destiny of a child and maybe …a nation