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.”