Category Archives: Uncategorized

Past and Present

 

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Paul was ship wrecked, in prison, and experienced divisions. Was he a failure?

Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness (2 Corinthians 11:30). He explained, “I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

When we think we fail, let’s look at Paul. He found contentment in his weakness. How many times do we get discouraged because things don’t go our way? Could it be that it is God’s way we should want, not our way? Of course, we do!

In our last few years, the scenery around us seemed bleak. We’ve asked many more times than three that Chuck’s pain be gone. The answer seemed to always be no. But, we should never quit praying and always find joy in our trials. Because, one day, all questions will be answered––maybe on this side of heaven but if not for sure on the other side. What we have learned through this is simple––never give up. But also, many other lessons learned.

In our weakness, we experience His strength. How have we gone on, continued the ministry, and not given up—because in our weakness He is our strength. We can boast of our weakness because the power of Christ rests upon us. It’s not easy, neither is it without questions or inner struggles.

Let us remind you of what God accomplished last year through our weakness, hardships, persecutions, and calamities––without saying, nothing as devastating as the apostle Paul experienced. He faced much worse but triumphed in weakness.

After almost three years of dealing with the debilitating pain of nerve damage from Shingles, we were directed to a surgeon in Pittsburgh for a consultation. Allow me to slip in here that during the three years of searching, Chuck endured many techniques to relieve his pain both here in Bolivia and in the USA. Some helped for awhile, others made him even worse. During all of this, Chuck refused to give into the pain.––except for the first few months when he could hardly get out of bed because of the many drugs to get him out of pain (at one point 30 per day). My main task during this time consisted of tying him down—not literally but definitely a daily challenge.

During our furlough and busy schedule there were times of excruciating pain for him. But, God got us through and God’s people understood and lifted us through their love. God’s power in our weakness was so evident to us that our joy in it all somehow raised us above the circumstances––His promises evident. It ended as one of our most encouraging and delightful furloughs ever––despite the hardships.

We returned to the States last February for my cataract surgery and also a solution for Chuck’s pain. Then, a consultation with a surgeon who claimed to have the only answer for Chuck’s pain—a very risky surgery but the only hope of help. Chuck’s decision only. He had no reservations. On a snowy morning—actually a snowstorm––at 3:30 am we headed to the hospital an hour away.

All prepped, the nurse whisked us to pre-op. The doctor arrived late and in a huff from traffic jams from the snow storm. As he began explaining the procedure, my jaw dropped. I asked a question and immediately received an abrupt answer and confrontation. The surgery could leave Chuck paralyzed, or with a lazy leg, or possibly be unsuccessful. This was the first time hearing of all the risks of the surgery. He gave us five minutes to decide to proceed or not. If not, there would be no second chance for the surgery. Chuck insisted on going through with it. Now here is where the rubber meets the road for me. I like to be in control. It took a few minutes, but yes, it was Chuck’s decision. I would have to trust the Lord—imagine that! In missionary training we often joked—“If all else fails, trust the Lord!” We were not in a remote location with limited health care. It was the best of care and I couldn’t trust Him? But, the one facing the surgery—Chuck—rested in Jesus for the surgery. I’ve never seen him as calm as he was that day.

Through that five hour surgery, I barely talked––I prayed! Tears came easily and words weren’t flowing—strange for me. But, engulfed by a Presence of Peace in my heart beyond understanding–– how else could I get through those hours of uncertainty?

The Results:

Where are we now? Chuck’s pain from before the surgery is 90% gone. But, he faces the aftermath of surgery injuries. The inflammation is now under control but there is a tightness where nerves were cut and also his leg is weak—but all in the process now of being controlled. This takes a year out from surgery to subside. Therapy helped his leg but still it isn’t up to par—but without a limp as in the first few months after surgery. Since the doctors here began treatment for the after effects of the surgery, we have seen great improvement but still a ways to go. Won’t you make it a matter of prayer to see Chuck fully healed from it all? We count on your prayers, and we know you are faithful to us and God’s work here.

NOW FOR MORE PRAISE!!

What have we seen in ministry this past year after returning in May. We’ve had many trials but many, many blessings and answers to prayer.

In June my foot found its way under a taxi’s wheel. After therapy and injections, I am fully recovered. PTL! It could have been so much worse. God protected me for sure.

In July, my publisher contacted me and offered a contract to publish my books in Spanish. How could I fit that into my day? A friend who has a language institute here in the city agreed to work with me to do the translation.

August our pony (16 years old) died. God brought us a rescue animal—Molly. She’d been mistreated in her former home, obviously. Rocky—20 years old––has accepted her and has recovered from his loss of Adrienne. To many, it may seem like they are just animals, but God says take care of animals and really, they brighten our days, not to mention bring smiles to the children who visit Rumi Rancho.

Not long after, I came down with a very mild case of Shingles—doctors here still debating what the strange bubbles could have been. After the treatment for Shingles, they went away. Whew! We all know what those things can do.

In September our couple who worked here for 16 years left—a mutual agreement. We jumped in and did everything ourselves. Some nights almost collapsing from the load. All the while, praying for God to bring relief and faithful workers. He did! And, even more experienced help in ministry. Our long-time friend and fellow ministry helper returned from working in Spain and offered to help. Guichi worked with us for 20 years and trained under Chuck in ministry. We also have two teen guys from our Quechua church coming a few days a week just to help with the physical load. One of them is active in the church and the other knows Jesus and is beginning to show signs of growth in the Lord. A young university girl is coming form the city twice a week to help me with the classrooms and classes. She is active in our city church with the music group and helping in the children’s programs on Saturdays. It’s true––God gives the best to those who leave the choice to Him. He provided!

In October we began a mentoring ministry with our Quechua church. The leadership came to ask us to do this. They are accepting counsel and direction and the church is growing and adding souls again. Thank you for prayers for the church, it has been a long time coming to see this happening. What a joy for us. God is moving in miraculous ways.

In November we were directed to two neurologists who are overseeing Chuck’s progress. No doubt God directed us to them because they are monitoring every step of the way and improvement is evident at each visit.

In December my books released in Spanish. It excites me to think children who speak Spanish all over the world could read about Jesus through my books in their own language.

Our city church group went to the mountains a day after Christmas for three days of ministry. Many heard about Jesus and received eternal life. Children received gifts and food and God provided safety and good health for the group.

God supplied abundantly for the Kids’ Christmas for both our area of Rumi Rancho and the mountain trip. What a blessed Christmas seeing all accomplished for the kingdom of God. We are blessed to have the privilege to proclaim His Word throughout the mountain and valleys of Bolivia. Your gifts and prayers made it possible. Thank you!

Our Quechua church near Rumi Rancho reached out to the community with programs and fun things for kids as well as food and gifts for Christmas. Your gifts and prayers helped to do it all.

Rumi Rancho—us—delivered gifts and food to the neighborhood kids on Christmas morning. Now that was Christmas for us! Also, we delivered food for a Christmas meal where we knew there would be no Christmas meal. We returned home and enjoyed a chicken dinner and then collapsed. 🙂 Mission accomplished.

January 2016

Please look back and see your part in God’s work here. It is appreciated, and God smiles on you for your faithfulness to His work and us. You make us smile too. When it’s a hard day, we thank God for His faithfulness, and He reminds us of His workers behind us. Then we smile big! Please cover us in prayer as we come to mind in all of the above situations.

February 2016

In February, I signed contract with Pix-N-Pens Publishing for my first non-fiction book, Dancing Like Bees, to be released by October 2016.

Just like Paul, we all face our ship wrecks, our prisons, and even divisions. But, we are content in all circumstances because He is our strength in our weakness. Happiness is temporary from circumstances but joy is constant and from God.

God is our strength. In Him is our hope. He directs our every step and teaches us what is good for us. Praise Him with us––what a loving God we serve!

Isaiah 48:17
This is what the Lord says—
your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:
“I am the Lord your God,
who teaches you what is good for you
and leads you along the paths you should follow.”

Can’t wait to see where He leads in this new year––along the paths with you!

Enemies Encamping

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Fire on the Mountain-–Fear in the Valley

This was the scene looking out of our upstairs windows a few years ago. The enemy was encamped and ready for war. Intruders had entered our village and threatened to wage war on the people of the community–hoping to acquire land by force.

The day before, many were injured as the squabbles turned into physical confrontations. Then the enemy camped on the mountain, and the stand off began. Psalms 27:3 says,”Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war arise against me, yet will I be confident.” The war had begun, but the community people didn’t back down––instead they made plans for the attack. They prepared, they planned, and they carried through together.

When the enemy moves in for the siege, are we ready? The people of our community were ready, united and determined. They moved up the mountain setting fires, creeping step by step, until the enemy was smoked out and left. Victory was theirs.

It wasn’t the first time the enemy moved in. Nor will it be the last. Until the final paperwork is completed for the community property, the enemy will continue to try to move in.

As I watched the fires flame and inhaled the smoke, I felt fear from this enemy too. What if they returned and encamped on the mountain behind our house? Were we prepared for the enemy’s attack? Would the community people come to our aid?

But what about my spiritual enemy? Am I prepared with the whole armor of God for his attacks?

Can we say as the psalmist?––”…though war rise up against me, yet will I be confident.” Our enemy will not give up either, but we can be confident that God promises to protect us and give us the victory when the enemy encamps about us.

Quilt Cuddlers

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And the Lord God said, “It is not good that man should be alone;
I will make him a helper comparable to him.” Genesis 2:18

Monday nights here in Rumi Rancho are nights of laughs, lessons, and love with our “Big Kids”. Our ministry is dedicated to kids, teaching practical skills and Bible to underprivileged kids in the rural area where we live. But at what age do we stop teaching those who need Christ and help for their daily lives? Our vision is to never stop teaching those who need the Savior––no matter what the age of the “kids”. Our age limit is birth to death.

God burdened us for a group of young couples here in the area. These young marrieds grew up with us. Most of them were in our computer classes and our youth group here in the church. The girls, now young ladies, were in my baking classes. As time marched on they married, had babies, and grew away from church and us.

In recent years, we have seen divorce rates begin to go up in Bolivia. They are not at 50% as in other parts of the world, but the trend is beginning here too. We know the time is now to begin teaching and helping these couples, before they reach a point of no return in their marriage. They are still kids to us!

It is never too late to save a marriage. We know all things are possible with God. Some of these couples are already working on problems and recommitting their lives to the Lord. Others are close to accepting Christ as Savior.

They are our “Big Kids” now, and we are the “Old Kids” teaching them. But, we are all God’s Kids––daily needing His help to have a marriage that will glorify Him. It isn’t easy, but it is possible! For those of us blessed to have a spouse, let’s work at our marriage every day, so we can grow old together and cuddle under a quilt with each other, not alone.

“And now abideth faith, hope and love, these three;
but the greatest of these is love.” First Corinthians 13:13

Thorns and Roses

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“Do not be afraid, though barriers and thorns are all around you…” Ezekiel 2:6 (NIV)

Are there thorns around you? Most of us have that one person (or persons) in our lives––those who God uses to perfect us. Yes, you say. Me too. Does that person criticize but never edify? Do they pretend to be your friend while you truly try to be a real friend? When in public do they act as though you are best friends but in private constantly demean you? What’s a friend to do?

First, realize that this friend may never accept advice. While they are encouraged by the Word, they may not adhere to God’s correction from the Word. Time after time and over and over, they jab your side. It hurts. The thorn could eventually gauge your side, draw blood, and embed itself in your body. To heal, you must remove that thorn. But, before allowing it to embed itself, ask how Jesus would act.

I’m sure you can visualize many examples of thorn-like friends. I have a writer friend who wrote a blog, but her thorn-friend constantly copied her ideas, her blogs, and even her books. I empathize with her because I’ve experienced that also. It takes a lot of work to get those blogs or books written for readers and then to see it copied is unfair. Not to mention, it is plagiarism. So what did my friend do? My friend quit writing. Yes, she did. The situation seemed impossible to resolve, so she just gave up.

We must never give up on the things God calls us to do. We shouldn’t be afraid but trust God to work a way around the thrones, through the thorns, or by the thorns. He will do it. “Faithful is He who calls you who will also do it.” First Thessalonians 5:24 (NIV) Remember roses emerge through the thorns. Don’t pluck out the rose bush because of the thorns. Look for the roses. Prune the thorns back so you can enjoy the roses. But, if the whole bush is just thorns, then remove it. It may be time.

How about you? Is it time to prune the thorns around you? Or, are you the thorn? I know in marriage, we sometimes don’t realize how we jab away at our relationship daily. If we don’t realize our spouse’s (or friend’s) wounds, inflicted by us, we may wake up alone one day with no friends and maybe no marriage. While we all have those thorns in close proximity, let’s look for the roses, and prune the thorns so we avoid the anguish of bad relationships.

Remember to thank God for the thorns that cause us to grow in our walk with Him. By His pruning, we look more like Him.

How to Find Your Proper Place

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Where is home? Is it where your family lives? Where your work’s located? How do you find the comfort of home? Do you feel out of place? Maybe you’re looking in the wrong place.

Living in two cultures brings with it a sense of not belonging anywhere. Not only do I live in a foreign country, but I also live in a Quechua village. Three cultures and three languages colliding together to make the mix even more interesting. Feeling out of place is an understatement. Yet, somehow I am at home. When we arrive in the States, I feel at home. My language is spoken. My friends wear what I wear––well, once I get to a store and update my look. Then comes a new haircut. Yes, friends make sure I get where I need to go for this new look. I look the part, but am I at home? Yes! Why? How can I be at home in two places and still not fit into either place?

The answer is simple. I’m at home because I am where God wants me to be. I am in His will. “Home” is being in God’s will.

Matthew 6:33 “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (NIV)

In God’s will, we have a proper place of belonging––a home. One day we’ll arrive in our forever home. Until then, we find a home in the center of God’s will.

Are you in your proper place? Is there a warm spark of home in your heart?

Burdened Burro

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Can you see the burro?

Did you know, if a burro is overloaded he will sit down and refuse to move? It’s true, we see it happen on the road in front of our house. The burros in our village still carry a load of corn or alfalfa from the fields to their homes. They return home alone––they know the way.

This poor guy must have been on the brink of sitting down. Maybe the limit was just one more cornstalk. How do the owners know the limit of their burros? It must be that they live and work with these animals day in and day out for many years. Burros can live 30 years or more; they will work hard for many years. But, if they are abused their life-span will be shorter.

What can we learn from the burro? Do we know when to sit down if the burden is too much, the way the burro does? Like the burro, we have a Master who knows us, He walks with us day in and day out. If we are over-burdened, who’s fault is it? The Bible says God will not give us more than we can handle.

Maybe we have put the burden on ourselves, and it is time to review our priorities. Maybe we can delegate––let go. We are about to start a young couples’ workshop here in Rumi Rancho. God has worked it out perfectly, but we had to seek help––we couldn’t do it all. Six of us will do the necessary things to make it come together. Chuck will lead the study, Juan and Amelia will help with the setting up, and Pablo and Nathaly will lead the singing. I will show up with the snack, and of course, add some laughs when things start to get dull. By delegating, we can do more ministry and be more effective. We can reach and teach more children and adults, because God has provided a way, so we won’t be over-burdened.

If we think we can’t do one more thing, maybe we can’t. Time to sit down. God is not going to over-burden us. But, we can over-burden ourselves.

The burro’s master knows his animal’s limit––our Master knows our limit.

Matthew 11:30 “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Hit and Run

'This type of injury wasn't so common, before the invention of the wheel. '

‘This type of injury wasn’t so common, before the invention of the wheel. ‘

My account of Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Often we get ask about our daily life here. What do we do in a day? Here’s an example of things that come up.

How was your day? Does it top ours?

James 4:7 “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”

Renewing a Driver License in Our World

As you read this, keep in mind that six months ago Chuck renewed his license in two steps. He went right in, did the paperwork, no eye tests, just a photo and picked it up the next day. Six months later, this is what I have to do…

A funny thing happened today. As we were standing in line in a government office (because there were no seats in the room filled with a few hundred people), I looked around at the crowd. Chuck had just gone to ask the military lady if they respected preference for senior citizens. They call it third age here. You know, like we’re on our last leg. She said yes, so we got to STAND and wait for the next possible desk to take us. I turned to Chuck and said, “Look around, there are no old people here. Probably because they are either dead or can no longer drive. He chuckled––no pun intended. Well, yes, it is intended.

Chuck said, “Aren’t you glad I look old, so we get to skip up the line?”

“Yes, I am,” I replied. “And, you should have brought along that cane you don’t use anymore. It would have added to the look.”

Now, I have to tell you this license renewing process has been going on for weeks—yes, weeks. It started with going first to find out how to begin the process because things change daily here. We arrived at the police station and climbed five flights of stairs (try that at 8,500 feet). Did I mention the looks we get as we make our way? We are strange looking of course, (blonde hair, fair skin) so many stares—like who are they and what are they doing here. Used to be lots of us here but no more. So, we arrive on the fifth floor and then get ushered into a room. Oh wait, we’re told first to go get a ticket so we can then stand in line. Where do we get the ticket? At a bank across town. We take a taxi so the process goes faster because of traffic and no parking spaces in the main part of the city. We buy the ticket and return to the police station. First, we go across the street to a small room. I sit on a stool without smiling and have four photos taken that we were told to get. Then, back to the police station where they told us to come back tomorrow. But, it’s the weekend, so next week. Now we are in the second week.

Week two and three… Did I mention a trip to the eye doctor because my eye is bothering me? It turned out it’s just dryness because of the dust and dryness here right now. A few drops a day and all’s better. So, we go back to the police station the next week. I get in line, an hour later I get my eye exam—I passed of course but on my form it says my eyes are illuminating—probably the new bionic eyes they have never seen before. I pass and get the form. We’re told to come back in a few days to pick up the license. That office is located in a different part of town where they process all documents. That brings us to Monday––we go to pick it up.

By now we’ve paid about $50. We find the right person and ask to pick it up. She asks for my background check. No one said anything about a background check until now. Chuck explains he didn’t have to do that—well I do need one. We have to go back and pay $20 and get a form to proceed. We go to a bank, get the form and return to the office. He stamps my form, and we head to the police station again for the background check. The next day we return at two minutes till 3 pm and are told we have to come back in the morning, they close at three—something new we didn’t know.

This morning, Wednesday…

We head out early this morning so we won’t be standing in line in the afternoon heat. So there we stand, two third age (old) people waiting for our turn. They call my name, Margaret. I always wonder who that is at first. I am usually Margarita here—everyone calls me that, but then the new law that all government forms have to have my passport name on them. And now another problem. I’m finally called to the desk. We go through the finger prints, again, a photo, again, all the questions, again, and then he says to Chuck, “You understand more Spanish—right?” What?? Okay, he does all the government work and yes, he handled government work for many missionaries over the years but, hey, I know what you’re saying right here in front of me. I speak the language too. No, I didn’t say that out loud.

So he says to Chuck, “She has an alert here on her ID card. When it has these two letters after her number, it alerts us to stop the process and investigate why she can’t have a license. Someone will investigate why she has this alert.” Okay, you know I am the one who always gets checked in airports, both here and there. But now, we find out my ID for here—renewed last year—is marked as a person to check before they renew my license or any other official business. Are you still with me. I’m not making this up. Truly, truly!

As we sit waiting, the TV is showing alarming scenes of things taking place in another part of the country. They finally call us back and send us to a different desk. He explains that I have three different names in the system, and they can’t give me a license until this is corrected. They send us upstairs to the desk for foreigners. We talk to one lady; she sends us to another desk. They are sorry, but I can’t get a license. We ask what we can do to fix this. The answer is nothing until they fix it in the system. So how do we do that? After much discussion, she gives us a name. We have to write a letter. We leave there knowing this will take months and months. We call our lawyer (brother of our pastor’s wife). To save time, because it is almost 12 pm when everything will shut down until 3 pm, Chuck heads to the lawyer’s office in a taxi while I go to do a few errands and meet up later. We meet up again. Chuck goes to pick up a few things to finish our painting jobs, and I plan to meet him later. I head one way, he another. I continue on my way in the taxi while he gets in a different taxi. Let me explain here, we sometimes park our vehicle and take a taxi to save time and the hassle of parking problems. It’s better to do this than pay for parking by the half hour. And, if you don’t get back to your car on time you get a clamp on your wheel and then the process of that could take hours and a fine.

So here I am at noon today on my way in the taxi alone. It’s noon, the height of traffic. The taxi driver cuts in front of three lane traffic to get me to where I am going. He pulls up, I get my leg out and am just standing up when the car begins to move. I feel my foot and leg under the wheel. I have boots on which caught under the wheel. I don’t panic, but I did scream thinking he’d stop—he didn’t. I think to myself it’s best he kept going, or my leg may have stayed caught under the wheel. But, I didn’t expect him to just speed off. Hit and run! I don’t remember shutting the door. No one came to help me, probably because I just walked away and called Chuck as if nothing had happened. I saw a bench nearby and thought I needed to see if I was bleeding. Took off my boot. Just a small cut but hurting. Chuck arrived, we went to get the car and headed for the clinic.

The x-rays showed no broken bones. The car ran over my heel and was a hairline from crushing my ankle. The boot must have caught and pulled my leg under the wheel because I remember thinking thank you, Lord, it’s out from under the wheel. I’m off my feet for five days, pain pills, and ice. Also, watching it to see if anything else develops. It could have been so much worse. Were you praying today? I know I was covered in prayer. Thanks for prayers past and prayers future.

When the enemy hits us with something, we can resist him. We can call on the name of Jesus, and the enemy runs. He hits and runs! We have the victory! When he hits call on Jesus, and he’ll run!

In all our years of starting classes for the new semester, something ominous has happened just before. We are days away from beginning classes and look what obstacles are in our way. We are resisting, and we know he will flee. We have the victory. Classes will begin. The Word will go out, and souls will know Jesus because our God reigns.

Our lawyer is now handling everything. My ID card has to be corrected first, and then they will issue my license. Pray for a miracle that it will be solved quickly. It could take months. Probably they will have to issue me a new ID card—about $150, then the cost of the license all over again, and the lawyer’s fee. Who would have thought I’d have medical expenses to renew a driver’s license.

Praise God with us—last week we bought all the computers we need to start classes next week. He supplies! His perfect timing!

So now you know how we spent our day, how we spent our support, and how we spent our energy. All in the line of service. Whatever it takes. Have you sung that song lately? “Whatever it takes, that’s what I’ll be willing to do.” Whenever I hear that song, I wonder, Lord, am I willing? We count it a privilege to serve God. We are willing to be here and much more; we count it an honor to be missionaries and serve the King of Kings! We rest knowing when we pray, He answers!

How was your day? We have much to be thankful for today and every day! We count it all joy…

Ordinary People~Extraordinary Friends

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I am blessed with true friends. But, in an imperfect world–including the Christian world––we are hurt by friends. I’ve been hurt, and I guess maybe you have too.

There are many varieties of friends. Some stay forever, some just pass through your life for a season. All are a blessing or a lesson. Some tell you how to pack your bags while true friends ask how they can help pack your bags.

Which friend do you prefer––the teller or the asker? What if a friend insists on telling me how to pack my bags to return to Bolivia having never been there? Is that friend concerned about my needs or just opinionated––even in things they know nothing about? How do you react to such a friend? Maybe you have them! Maybe that person needs a true friend to learn how to become one. Can I be that friend? Can you?

“An unfriendly person pursues selfish ends and against all sound judgement starts quarrels. Fools find no pleasure in understanding but delight in airing their own opinions.” Proverbs 18:1-2 (NIV)

I don’t want to be unfriendly, do you? But we all have our opinions. If we daily become more like Jesus, can’t we become extraordinary friends by seeking God’s mind before speaking instead of blurting out our opinions?

I have friends who are extraordinary, and I’ve seen them do extraordinary things for God and me. They bless me, and they teach me how to be a true friend.

“A friend loves at all times…” Proverbs 17:17 (NIV) I am a recipient of that love and friendship. I see Jesus in those friends whenever I am with them. They are always willing to sacrifice for others, and they radiate with the love of God. Oh, to learn from them and have others see Jesus in my life as I see Him in theirs.

When we arrived in the States last May, we had an apartment waiting for us. An old friend offered it to us free of charge. He said it needed to be cleaned because the previous renters had abused it. We expected to do the work it needed and eventually furnish it with the necessary things to make it livable for our five-month stay.

Two of our extraordinary friends picked us up at the airport at midnight and drove us home. An hour later, we climbed the 20 plus stairs to the apartment we’d call home for the next five months. We were prepared to live with the basic needs for such a short time period––a bed, a shower, and a microwave for the few meals we’d be eating on our own.

We opened the door. A cute little lamp shed a soft glow around the room. A cinnamon scent filled the air. We walked into a cozy room filled with furniture, curtains, and even decorated with adorable wall hangings and twinkle lights. We searched for words––I am never speechless––but none passed our upturned lips. We walked around the apartment taking in the incredible scene of hard work by extraordinary friends. The couple with us (extraordinary friends also) allowed us to drink in the moment. Kitchen fully equipped––cupboards filled with food, dishes, silverware, and basic needs in the frig. Bathroom––everything we needed, even toothbrushes and cleaning supplies and creams, shampoos, and candles and lacy curtains. Bedroom––a bed with a beautiful comforter and curtains to match and oh, did I mention, dressers, lamps, and even an ironing board and iron. Plus wall hangings, so cute and handmade with love.

We returned to the living room and noticed one more detail previously missed. If you haven’t shed a tear yet you will now, get your tissue. Above the couch, a wall hanging made of an old window frame, just adorable. But wait, there are photos hanging by clothespins on twine in each windowpane. They are photos of our grandkids, our kids, our animals, and even a few of our ministry. I felt warm, moist drops of joy fall over my cheeks. We were home!

Who does this sort of thing? Extraordinary friends! They are ordinary people who are extraordinary friends. I am learning to be a friend. I may be an ordinary person, but I want to become an extraordinary friend. I have the best example to follow. His name is Jesus. I see Him in the acts of my extraordinary friends.

What kind of friend are you? Will you strive to be an extraordinary friend?

Hollywood Stars or Heavenly Stars?

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When I walk out our back door at night, I see a clear sky. We live on the outskirts of a large city where the stars shine brightly. There is no pollution, just clear nights with shining stars. The beauty of God’s heaven shines clearly without the pollution of civilization. When you look at the sky in the city at night, you don’t see the stars, but they are there––just not shining through.

There are days that I am polluted too. Jesus can’t shine through. Do you know the feeling––maybe tired or complaining and grumpy too? Philippians 2:14-16 says “Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life…”(NIV)

My friend Debi once asked me (20 years ago), “If you won the lottery, what would you do?” Kind of hard to win if you never buy a ticket. At the time, we were raising support to come back to Bolivia. We didn’t know if God would bring us back to Bolivia or if He had another plan for us. We prayed for His plan but in our hearts we hoped to return to our ministry in Bolivia.

Before I could answer Debi’s question she said, “You don’t have to answer––you’d go to Bolivia, right?” Right! We wanted to hold out the Word of Life for the Bolivian people and shine like stars for Jesus––showing His light through us. God gave us the desires of our hearts.

We are stars for Jesus––those who know Him as Savior and Lord. Somedays we may not shine as brightly as other days. But it should be our hearts’ desire to shine for Him so others may see Jesus shining through us as we hold out the Word of Life. Then, they too may become a shining star for Him.

Wouldn’t you rather be a Heavenly Star with eternal rewards instead of a Hollywood star with only earthly rewards? I know not many of us have a chance to become Hollywood stars, but we all have the choice to become Heavenly Stars––shining for Jesus.