Posted in Feeding, Missions, Perspective, Provision, Sick, Waiting

The Pots Were Too Small

I feel like everyone’s grandmother. Whenever someone comes over, the standard question I ask is, “Have you eaten?” I don’t know why I have this seemingly inborn need to know if someone is alright, if they are hungry, if I can do something. My mother was the same, she went to great lengths to make sure everyone had something to eat. I think she must have had this tendency passed on to her from her mother, my grandmother. I remember at our family gatherings, as a small child sitting around the table, my grandmother fussed over everyone, making sure everyone had what they needed.

Now this mantle has fallen on me and try as I might, I am unable to shake it.

Often when we say we “need” something, we really don’t need it; we may be more comfortable with it, but it really isn’t a need. My husband (the ultimate non-shopper) says, “You can’t wear more than 1 pair of shoes at a time.” To date, I’ve not been able to win that argument (please message me if you have something I can use when I’m out shoe shopping with him next time).

In the past 31 years, I’ve been blessed to see hundreds, thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of hungry people fed here in Africa and I’ve not yet tired of handing out plates of food to those beautiful extended hands. When someone is truly hungry, that plate of food speaks more of the love of God to them than thousands of hours of the best preaching on planet earth.

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Feeding in the hospital, September 2018

Matthew 25:31-40 NLT vs. 35 For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home.”

Today, as we do every month in Bujumbura, Burundi, our church team fed in a local hospital. Here in Africa most hospitals do not feed their patients. Therefore, reaching out and feeding the sick translates into feeling better faster as patients need to eat well to recover properly; poor nutrition equals poor recovery. As happy as I was to go feed, I knew that we wouldn’t be able to feed all of the patients. The pots were too small, we didn’t have enough for everyone and this was not at all to my satisfaction.

While waiting for the food to cook (we feed roughly 100 patients), my eyes caught a glimpse of 2 very large pots that looked familiar. I found out they were cooking pots that I had bought in 1997 when we were feeding 1,500 displaced children daily during a time of unrest in the country.  My heart sank when I learned that the church cleaning team was using them to wash chairs. Soon, however, it was time to go and my mindset changed from what I saw at the church to the task at hand – tending to the sick in hospital.

As we handed out a cooked meal, soap, and sugar, I visited a man, Yakobo, who has been hospitalized for over 2 months after being hit by a car. He was transported from his village to the capital where we live to get help and that help was delayed due to a lack of funds for much-needed surgery to treat multiple fractures in his right arm and both legs. We first met last month just a short while after his accident and when I met him, his situation moved me to tears. I began writing email appeals, spreading his news everywhere in an attempt to find help for this dear soul.  His hospital bill was over $500.00 (expensive for this particular hospital) and neither I nor the church had money to pay for this bill on top of everything else on our plates. While we waited for God to answer our prayers, I sent food to him and his caretaker weekly. I struggled to keep myself positive – how was he going to get the attention he needed?

Just a few days ago, while fighting worry over his situation, I was messaged online by an anonymous local donor who wanted to help. They requested his name and where he was located which I gladly supplied. On Friday when we delivered his food to him we found Yakobo smiling, he had his first of 3 surgeries. I chastised myself for being surprised at this answer to our prayers – God heard and answered in a way we weren’t expecting. Yes, more surgery is needed but we know that God never leaves a project undone.

Yakobo recovering from surgery
Yakobo recovering from surgery after 2 months in hospital. September 2018

More critical needs came to my attention today and together with the team, we did our best to address what we could. It was tempting to feel desperate for all the different situations until we passed by another patient that we had prayed for two months (yes, two months) earlier: a small child who had an advanced case of tuberculosis and malnutrition. Two months ago when we initially prayed for the child, I fought my own feelings about what could be done for her in such a state. Her stomach was distended due to severe malnutrition and she cried constantly as severely malnourished children do. Today, while still in poor condition, she was markedly better and eating. We stopped to give thanks to the Lord for more answered prayers – indeed God would finish what He had started, full healing is on the way.

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Still in frail condition with TB and malnutrition, this one is beginning to make a recovery.

 

As we were finishing, the painful reality of how little it seemed we accomplished that morning hit me. Driving home, the usual chatter going on in the car, I prayed, “Let us do more.” My mind then returned to the big pots at the church and I smiled remembering how many times from 1987 until now God has come through to help us feed the hungry. Where will the money come from? I don’t know – I’m on a “need to know” basis only but there’s one thing I know:

The pots were too small today, but we can fix that.

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Bought in 1997, my big pots are ready to be fired up again.
Posted in Adoption, Church planting, Destiny, Ministry, Provision

The God Factor

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“It’s all about who you know.”

That’s what “they” say, whoever “they” are, and I’ve found this statement to be true. Wherever we have lived, we get to know different people in the offices and businesses we frequent. As time passes and we build relationships, I try to see the same person each time I need to visit those places. A friendship of sorts is established and I find my errands to be much more palatable when there’s a friendly face behind the counter.

When we began the long, and sometimes frightening, process of adopting our youngest daughter Andreya, there came a time that we needed a Malawian passport for her in order for us to travel. Her adoption had yet to be finalized and obtaining her passport could have been impossible, had God not intervened. Through a series of events, God gave us favor with an immigration official in the city we were living in at the time, Lilongwe, Malawi, and the unheard of happened – she was granted a passport in just 24 hours. It was a miracle as passports can be held up for months and even years; God just showed up for us.

Fast-forward almost 10 years and we found ourselves in Blantyre, Malawi, planting a new church. We made application to renew our work permits enabling us to stay in the country, and it became apparent that their approval was being delayed. As it is with obtaining passports, it’s not uncommon for work permits to be held up indefinitely. Our temporary permits were valid for only 3 months and time was becoming a critical issue. So we decided to go to the immigration headquarters and find out what was taking so long.

Who did we find had coincidentally been reassigned from Lilongwe to Blantyre? Our contact who had helped us with Andreya’s passport all those years ago sat behind his desk welcoming us. A smile crossed his face as he said he recognized us – even before we recognized him. He looked to Andreya and my husband said, “Here’s the one you helped years ago in Lilongwe,” and a moment was spent giving account of her adoption story to our longtime contact.

You’ve guessed right if you thought that our permits finally did get processed in a reasonable time period. God made a way – and to this day I wonder if this man was reassigned to Blantyre just so he could help us. Yes, I am that convinced that God loves us just that much.

The people we know are more than simple acquaintances or friends to help us socially or emotionally cope with the ebb and flow of life. God connects people on purpose and sometimes those connections are evident, and at other times, they are much more subtle. In fact, I wonder how many of our connections in life go unnoticed by us as to having a “God factor” attached to them. Perhaps only eternity will tell of the puzzle God pieced together in our lifetimes.

As I write this today, Andreya is sitting next to me enveloped in her little girl world of make believe, makeup, and dress up. I look at her little face and find myself wondering what the God connection with her will be? Who will she reach and where will she go? Her older siblings have all made their launch into the world and are making the mark God has destined for them and I wonder where will their connections take them and their children?

I’ve also learned that the connections that bring us places often aren’t what we would think to be the obvious important connections: those with influence and money. God connections often start with ordinary people who lead us to those who can open amazing doors of opportunity. God opportunities are not clothed with money; His opportunities are those that bring us to people, to others. When we look for God opportunities in the form of reaching out to people, God in turn reaches out to us and takes care of our every need. Real value is found in people, not in what they have or what they can do for us; it is for people that Jesus died, not for what they have (John 3:16).

God had Samuel connect David, the unknown shepherd from Jesse’s family, to his destiny (1 Samuel 16:1). Long before that destiny was fulfilled, David was connected to other very normal (some might even call dysfunctional) people whose problems had overwhelmed them (1 Samuel 22:2). Yet this band of dysfunctional outcasts became the foundation for David’s future kingdom and household, and from this household, Jesus was born (Matthew 1:20).

1 Chronicles 14:2 TLB “David now realized why the Lord had made him king and why he had made his kingdom so great; it was for a special reason – to give joy to God’s people!”

God has connections waiting for us just outside our front doors wherever in the world we find ourselves. They may be (and probably are) dysfunctional to some degree, don’t have much to offer, but unbeknownst to them – they are a God connection and have the “God factor” attached to them.

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Posted in Dreams, Hope, Missions, Provision

Dream On, Little One

 

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I photographed this little boy this past Sunday. He is one of millions in Malawi – may they dream and live for better times.

I remember daydreaming in math class and being rudely interrupted from my reverie by my 3rd grade teacher.

“Lea! Stop daydreaming and pay attention!”

In my defense, she wasn’t the easiest teacher to listen to at the time when I was an easily distracted age of 9. I don’t remember what I was daydreaming about, but it certainly was more interesting than the droning on of Mrs. Parker and math. My daydreaming in math class continued for a couple of years and there was a consequence. I ended up having to go to summer school for math in 5th grade – my teachers attributed my falling behind to my daydreaming. I couldn’t help it that math wasn’t as interesting as daydreaming about being a princess over a huge kingdom where I could order as many pizzas as I liked.

I learned my lesson and began paying attention in math class, but I still wanted those unlimited pizzas!

Growing up, my daydreams gave way to other, more grown-up dreams. I dreamt of doing something for God with my life, going to be a missionary in Africa and doing whatever I could to help people, children specifically. Maybe I would be a nurse? Doctor? Those were removed from my list quickly as the sight of blood and other undesirable chores that nurses or doctors have to do changed my mind.

Years later, all grown up, I find myself as a missionary in Africa working in church planting and community outreach, mostly to women and children. I hadn’t dreamt of half of what I have gone through – but I have lived my dream.

This weekend at church was a busy one; I taught an early Sunday morning class, we had our regular service, and afterwards we had a baptism service. It may not sound busy, but believe me, these weekends keep us on our toes. I smiled this morning as I thought about the weekend, there were so many lovely moments: from having a nearly full class with almost perfect attendance to hearing my husband preach a great message (he is my favorite preacher), and finally watching people get baptised.

Then, I remembered the little children I watched playing around the periphery of our church tent where we meet (yes, our church is definitely no frills). I watched them cartwheeling, playing, and caught one of them looking off into the distance as if to daydream. I wondered what that little one dreamt of.

Here in Malawi, most children have their dreams snuffed out before they even have a chance to dream. For most of them, their dreams consist of not going to bed hungry or hurting or alone. They dream of not being abused or of their parents not dying and leaving them orphans. Their dreams are simple ones that those of us who have food security, families that love us, and have at least had the luxury to dream, cannot understand.

I can’t fathom being hungry for my entire life. Here in this part of Africa, 46% of our children under 5 suffer from stunting, which is a prevailing hunger that prevents proper growth in children. When I look at our children whenever we meet, most of them come from the poorer communities around our church, I realize just how serious the situation really is. Children are visibly smaller than they should be, and my heart aches knowing that many won’t reach adulthood and for those who do, chances are they won’t be able to have sufficient education to afford them the luxury of dreaming for a better life.

We run a feeding program in Lilongwe, Malawi, about 5 hours away from Blantyre. We have seen an amazing difference in the children who have been eating at the site regularly. A few years ago, a medical team from Joyce Meyers Ministries (who has been helping us feed in Lilongwe since 2007) came to hold medical checks in various places throughout the country. Their findings were, among those they surveyed, that ours were the most nutritionally secure children in Malawi.

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In a country where 45% of the population is under 16, you can understand that the scope of the problem is greater than 1 feeding program can handle. While we can’t reach them all, we can reach some. We are working on opening a feeding outreach in Blantrye, financing another feeding program of course has been a great hindrance but also the red tape involved has prevented us from receiving some food aid that has been promised to us. We continue to pray for solutions; this is proving a challenge, as the country itself is not producing enough to feed its own population.

So we reach those we can, feed those we can, and bring education (our newest outreach) where we can. But I can’t help but feel for the little ones who have yet to dream, for those playing around the church this past weekend. For that little one standing alone, I pray we find a way for him to dream on.

Matthew 25:40 AMP The King will answer and say to them, ‘I assure you and most solemnly say to you, to the extent that you did it for one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it for Me.’”

 

 

Posted in Fasting, New Year Fast, Obedience, Provision

Day 4 – He Didn’t Stutter

Today we have a guest blogger, Ishah Whipple. Her contact information is below. I’ve enjoyed reading her blog; she has a transparent style of writing that is refreshing. Her love for God is set openly on display as she shares with us today how God doesn’t backtrack on His words: He doesn’t stutter!  

I find her entry for today on point with the path the Lord has been bringing us on: focus, obedience, clarity.

I hope you enjoy her writing as much as I have and follow her blog as well. Blessings!


I can still remember it like it was yesterday. Funny thing is, it happens to us on a daily basis in various ways and it’s up to us to make the right choice.  Whose voice will we choose to listen to today? Ours, the devil’s, or God’s?  Yep. There’s three of them.  Let’s go down memory lane and maybe it’ll help you to understand where I’m coming from.

It was the year 2014 and me, my husband Deric, and our four kids lived in South Florida.  We were at a place where we had backed away from God due to a mix of bad decisions and some church drama.  We were given word after word from what seemed like everyone in the entire world that God was relocating us, but we were so busy being bitter about our present circumstances that we flat out didn’t care.  

We spent months in pure misery as every aspect of our lives began to slip away from us. Friends, family, jobs, finances. Our marriage was falling apart before our very eyes and our children were fighting like cats and dogs. We were a wreck. 

One night my husband and I fought so bad that he started to pack and leave the house. I thought for sure it was all over.  I screamed and cried wondering how we ended up in such a low place. It was God and God alone that softened my husband’s heart that night to stay. We spent all night and most of the morning sitting on our bedroom floor talking and crying. We knew exactly how we got to that place and knew the only way out was to shut out the world and seek God like never before. 

We needed a word and some direction from God without any interference. 

For about six weeks we spent every waking moment outside of work and school praying, worshipping and drowning ourselves both individually and as a family in God’s word.  We had mornings where we would all be in tears, faced down on the floor just crying out to God. We put our desperation on display and let me tell you, God rocked our world!

By the end of those six weeks, God had made it clear that we were going to be relocating and we already knew where.  We had never been to South Carolina, but we knew that was where He was sending us.  We had no jobs, money, or a place to go.  All we had was a word from God and a promise that He would keep us.  I have to be honest and tell you, I wasn’t having it.

I knew I heard God. Never in my life had I been so confident in what I heard. Not only did I hear Him, but my husband heard Him too. My husband was ready. Like annoyingly ready. He was ready to pack up and go without knowing where we would go.  Me on the other hand, I was ready to go as long as I knew we had a house to go to, jobs to start and a full outlined plan.  Needless to say, I was about to learn a hard lesson in faith.

Now listen, I had a great job with benefits and even though the world was crumbling around me, I was determined to have a plan that I could see so I could then obey the word. Because that’s how God works right?! Wrong!

I remember being at home, working on my laptop and it suddenly shutting down. I became immediately frustrated because I had work to do.  I called coworkers and their laptops were just fine. I called IT and they didn’t find an issue with my laptop or the network. I sat there frustrated and blurted out, Ok God! What is it?! I get up to take a ride with my husband and he reminds me to check on a friend of ours who recently lost someone. I call her and she picks up the phone speaking in tongues. 

Great……here we go! Let’s see what You have to tell me!

She immediately began to rebuke me for my disobedience. I was shocked. She said, You know, the mere doubt of God’s Word is disobedience. Why are you being disobedient? If God gave you a word, do it! Don’t question it. The moment you question His word or put conditions on His command, you become disobedient. You know better than that!

I sat there in complete silence….with the occasional sniffle and whimper. I knew what God had told me. I just kept asking for Him to repeat Himself because it was so out there that it honestly scared me. She then prayed for us and politely got off the phone. I sat there like that five-year-old child who just got spanked because she knew better. I knew what God said and I didn’t immediately obey.  I had to make it right.

I went to the room, with my husband right beside me and typed up my letter of resignation. The moment I signed it and pressed send, my laptop immediately connected back to the network and all was well. Two weeks later, we packed up our two cars, four children and everything we could fit in those cars and left to South Carolina. 

Moral of the story, it’s been two years here in South Carolina and we have not lacked for a thing. We’ve had our ups and downs and life has certainly not been a bed of roses, but we’ve been completely changed.  Our children have grown to love God and ministry like never before at such young ages, our marriage is stronger than any marriage I’ve ever known, our faith is solid and ever growing, and we have a ministry that is being birthed through the lessons learned throughout our transition.

Today I challenge you to simply obey. I challenge you to seek God like never before and to be open to whatever He shows or tells you.  The unknown can be a scary place, but what is scarier is living outside the will and purpose of God for your life. I’d rather take a step into the dark hallway with God than to jump off the cliff on my own. Hallways always lead to doors whereas a cliff leads only to jagged rocks.

Remember, you are God’s children. The voice of a stranger you will not hear. Ask God to quiet those voices…including your own….so you can hear His voice and be obedient to what He says. He will never steer you wrong and has nothing but great plans for you. Don’t make Him repeat Himself. You heard it the first time. He didn’t stutter.

Until next time, be blessed!


Contact information for Ishah:
Email: mrzwhip@gmail.com

I’ve been asked how to comment on the blog itself so here’s how: click on the title of the blog you want to comment on and it will open to that specific entry. At the bottom of the page is a comment/share section. On the bottom right of the page is a “follow” button if you would like to receive the blog by email instead of reading offline.

How’s your fast going? It’s day 4 and we are getting into the thick of it and I feel it for sure. Take it easy if you’re doing a more conventional fast; make sure you’re drinking water and getting rest. I’m leaving you with a fasting YouTube link from Jentezen Franklin that will give great advice and encourage you to keep going. It’s a great resource, I highly recommend listening to his short messages (about 20-30 mins each).