Sobering Words

I’m taking a short break from the photos of our trip to Amsterdam.  There are many outstanding quotes from my journals that I’d like to share this week.  First, insightful words from Compassion’s Vice President of the Latin America and Caribbean Region.  I met Edouard Lassegue and his wife years ago when I was in Haiti for the first time; at the time he was the President of Compassion Haiti.

Now he very capably administers, counsels and directs a much larger region.  This man is kind, warm, humble, caring, energetic and especially passionate about helping children in need.  This is his recent update:

I want to thank you for your faithfulness in praying for and supporting Compassion’s work in Latin America and the Caribbean.  Your unwavering commitment in uplifting this region to God’s care is an affirmation of the power and solidarity of the global Church, which I believe is the main reason for the gains the region continues to experience.

Over the past decade, the Latin America and Caribbean Region has seen ongoing progress in many socioeconomic areas.  In fact, today, many economists attest that the majority of the countries in this region have been experiencing modest, but steady annual growth rates.  What’s more, these countries are also seeing declining extreme poverty rates with citizens generally becoming healthier and better educated.

These are encouraging highlights, but regrettably, they represent only half of the present situation.  Today, this region remains the most violent in the world, with one of the highest homicide rates ever.  Most of the clashes involve drug and gang activities, resulting in ruthless and barbaric murders.

Our region also faces natural disasters of all kinds, including flooding, hurricanes and earthquakes.  Haiti, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic continue their recovery efforts from hurricanes and tropical storms, while Mexico focuses on reconstruction from earthquake devastation.  Heavy rainfall in Colombia and Peru have brought about flooding and higher incidents of mosquito-borne illnesses.

But, in the midst of it all, I am so inspired by the dedication and courage of our church partners.  They do not complain; they do not back down.  That is why we count it a distinct privilege to walk alongside them in this vital ministry of releasing children from poverty in Jesus’ name.

So please don’t stoop praying for the Latin America and Caribbean Region.  Pray that the Church stays firm in the midst of the violence that surrounds them, serving as an example of Christ’s truth and love.  Pray for the safety of families and children–many of whom face the threat of violence every day in their normal day-to-day activities.  Pray for governments and local branches of authority, that they will “step up” and care for the people they profess to serve.

The troubles of the Latin America and Caribbean Region will not fade by just good intentions.  Real progress and peace will only come through a change of heart and mindset, and as followers of Christ, we know that is the work of the Holy Spirit.

Thank you, again, for your prayerful support.  And may you be encouraged that all things are possible through God — and that includes a transformation in Latin America and the Caribbean.

In the spirit of the triune God, Edouard Lassegue, Vice President of the Latin America and Caribbean Region, Compassion International

Here is the link for my second visit with Josue, and with his younger brother that I also sponsored later.  If you would like to sponsor a child, click here and you can search a child from Latin America or the Caribbean!


God is Real–Part Four

How do I know God is real? I’ve experienced Him in extraordinary ways; it’s as simple as that. To read what I’ve written in previous posts of this series, click here:

God is Real–Part One (a baby that nearly didn’t make it to birth)

God is Real–Part Two (a specific healing, and one that was not a healing)

God is Real–Part Three (a hurtful e-mail)

God is Real–Part Five (a zany miracle)

Here is another example of my experience with God, proving Himself real to me.  Years ago I had a skiing accident and tore my ACL.  It was repaired and I recovered well, with the help of physical therapy.  Then, several years later (perhaps 20 years ago now) I went to a couple’s home for a farewell party and their dog came running out to greet us.  Since it was heading towards my bad knee I twisted to avoid it.  Just like that, my knee gave out, for the first (and only) time since surgery.  I couldn’t walk on it and was soon in surgery for an arthroscopic procedure to see what was injured.  The ACL was broken loose and balled up in the center, so the doctor removed it through the tiny incision.  I was supposed to undergo physical therapy for a few weeks, recover from the surgery, and then have the ACL repaired.  For a while I was getting better, and no longer needed to use crutches.  But after about six weeks I realized I was getting worse again and eventually had to use crutches again, due to the pain.  Surgery was not possible until we could discover what was going on with the knee.  After bone scans, a spinal tap and more physical therapy, it was decided that my knee had developed Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD).  As I understand it, it’s a nerve related disease with no apparent reason for the pain (it is now known as “Complex Regional Pain Syndrome).  It has to do with messages being relayed by the nerves back and forth from the brain.  We decided against knee surgery to repair the ACL and, in fact, my knee was very stable, surgery didn’t seem necessary, and it was not recommended with this new problem of pain.

Now fast forward a few years.  They had said that “RSD” could develop anywhere in my body, and when I needed surgery in both shoulders for bone spurs, they were reluctant to do the procedure, and put it off as long as possible, for fear that RSD would develop.  But the pain was getting worse and we eventually decided to do one shoulder; the result was great.  We waited six months; I healed up from the surgery and had no RSD causing further problems, so we decided to do the other shoulder.  However, as soon as I began to recover from the second surgery, I became aware of the fact that “RSD” was now in several areas–both knees, my neck, and both shoulders.  I couldn’t reach for items in the kitchen cabinets without deep pain; it hurt to open a door or even carry a purse.  I could hardly function in normal ways.  One night, I prayed to God, “I can’t handle this.  You’re the only One that can heal me, and I ask you to heal me.  I can’t function.”

Lo and behold, when I awoke in the morning the pain was gone, 100%, even in my knee.  I knew I didn’t need to take the Tylenol that I has been taking each morning.  There was NO pain.  I didn’t take anything for over a month.  And then the pain returned, but only in the knee.  Why?  I believe He allowed the pain to return in one area in order to remind me that everyone has some kind of pain.  Think about it:  you do somewhere–relational, financial, spiritual, or in some other area.  Somebody you love has died, or will die soon.  Some relationship is not quite what you’d hoped it would be.  Parenting is hard.  Jobs are difficult.  You’re frustrated with politics or the church or your community.  Everyone has pain.

I’ll never forget the fact that God healed me overnight, and that it lasted a full month.  I’ll never forget that others around me are hurting, too.  I’ll never go running to another doctor to see if he or she can heal my knee; I already know that God is the One who can heal it, and He will if He chooses.  Previous to this I had gone to many different doctors and was receiving suggestions coming from lots of people about how to find healing.  I no longer need to run around to every doctor and clinic.  I’m OK with the pain; I can live with it and be thankful every day that it isn’t my back, or a more serious condition.  I use a great knee brace when standing for any length of time.

Do I ever go to doctors any more?  Of course, but I’m no longer looking for answers to this knee problem.  Why doesn’t God heal every disease and pain for good?  I don’t know.  He will when we arrive in Heaven, assuming we have trusted Him with our lives and salvation.  But I do know, for certain, that He’s real.  I’ve experienced His instantaneous healing more than once.  A month without pain was heavenly, literally; how much better will the real place be!

God is Real — Part Two

How do I know God is real?  The answer is that I have experienced Him — answering prayer, showing His presence, giving peace, giving direction, bringing help.  Here is another story from my own life.

Years ago I was asked to speak for a women’s retreat here.  In the days preceding the special weekend I started to get a respiratory infection, and by the day preceding, I had lost my voice completely.  In fact, I could only whisper, and I had a big lump in my throat.

The women were gathering the night before to set up and to pray together, and I whispered my prayer request to them — “Please pray that God will either heal my voice OR show us who is supposed to speak in my place.”

I’ll never forget when an elderly lady in the circle prayed for me.  She didn’t ask for God to heal my voice OR give direction; she simply asked for Him to heal me.  The instant she prayed, I felt a cool breeze go in my mouth, down my throat and dissolve that lump.  My voice returned instantly.  I’m not one to get up and run around shouting, so when we finished praying I simply said, “It’s back.  My voice is back.”  Then I told them what had happened.  Sure enough, my voice was completely well for the speaking engagement the next day.

Does God always heal?  No.  Why?  I don’t know.  But I have a follow-up story to share.

A few months later I was supposed to speak in another event several miles away from Buffalo.  The night before, again, I was not feeling well, and wasn’t sure whether I should go or not.  My prayer that night was that God would either heal me or let me know by morning if I should cancel.

That night, two of our kids were up sick in the night; real sick.  I knew I could not go to the speaking engagement.  The group asked me to re-schedule and we did.  Without any planning on our part, on the date we rescheduled, my in-laws happened to be coming through Wyoming, through that very town.  My mother-in-law was able to meet with me at the speaking engagement, and she even brought a friend that lived in that town.  Both she and the friend did not live many years past that speaking engagement, and it was the only time she heard me share publicly about my faith.  I know that God knew what He was doing when he stopped me from going the first time.  Whether He heals or not when I pray, I know He sees the full picture and knows what is best.  I also know, from experience, that He very definitely can and will heal instantly, sometimes, when we ask.  I have another experience similar to this to share with you sometime in the future.

For corresponding posts see these links:

God is Real–Part One (a baby that nearly didn’t make it to birth)

God is Real–Part Three (a hurtful e-mail)

God is Real–Part four (pain)

God is Real–Part Five (a zany miracle)


Still Coughing

What does coughing have to do with prayer?  Another special devotion I read in Haiti from A Word for the Day  was regarding the Greek words “proseuchomai adialeiptos,” which means “pray without ceasing” (see 1 Thessalonians 5:17).  The author explained it this way:

This word was used in Roman times for a nagging cough; while the person didn’t cough every moment, he would still cough often, so it could be said of him, “He’s still coughing.”  In other words, prayer is not just those specific times when we pray, but also a constant communion with God, a continuous consciousness of God’s presence in which we view everything in life in relation to Him…every moment is a moment for prayer; like the cough, we’re still praying.  In short, we view everything that comes along from a spiritual perspective.

Well, it just so happened that I read this the morning after I visited the orphanage in Haiti.  One girl really caught my attention because she had a constant cough like this.  I really took it to heart to pray for her and to understand what it means to “pray without ceasing.”  It doesn’t mean to pray 24/7; it means you keep on praying, keep on returning to it.  I would say my life is like that.  I almost always try to see things from God’s perspective.  If I’m not happy with a situation, or if I’m frustrated, I will say (literally) to God, “What’s this about?  What are You doing here?”  — in an effort to get His perspective.  I am continually returning to pray, regarding nearly everything in life.  I never want to try to control Him; I simply want to leave things in His hands.  He knows best.  I pray in order to commune with Him, express my trust and need of Him, and seek to understand.  Like a persistent cough, I will never stop praying.

I give thanks to my God for every remembrance of you, always praying with joy for all of you in my every prayer, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.  Philippians 1:3-4 (HCSB)

For this reason also, since the day we heard this, we haven’t stopped praying for you.  Colossians 1:9 (HCSB)

Energized by God

I was reading the Bible every day that I was in Haiti, just as I do at home.  I was also reading the devotional A Word for the Day, by J. D. Watson.  I really agreed with what he said about prayer, particularly as seen in the verses below.

The effectual fervent prayer of a rightous man availeth much.  James 5:16 (NIV)

The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.  James 5:16 (NASB)

He pointed out that normally we think this means that righteous people’s prayers are more powerful or effective than unrighteous people.  Or we think that we need to pray long and hard.  This is what the author said:

Many people take this verse to mean, “If I pray fervently and intensely, if I just pray hard enough, long enough, and often enough for a particular thing, it will happen.”  But such an idea flies in the face of the principle that prayer involves conforming our will to God’s will.

The Greek word for “effectual fervent” is the word “energeo,” which means (not surprisingly) “to energize, to be at work, to effect something.”  This word is almost exclusively used in the Bible for the work of divine or demonic powers.  Two scriptures that use this word (in opposite directions) are Ephesians 1:18-19 and Ephesians 2:1-2.

I pray that the perception of your mind may be enlightened so you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the glorious riches of His inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of His power to us who believe, according to the working of His vast strength.  Ephesians 1:18-19 (HCSB)

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins in which you previously walked according to the ways of this world, according to the ruler who exercises authority over the lower heavens, the spirit now working in the disobedient.  Ephesians 2:1-2 (HCSB)

The author continues:

…it’s then easy to see exactly what James is saying.  He’s not telling us that we accomplish much by our own energy in prayer, but rather that our prayers are strong, because they are energized by God.  We could translate this verse, “The God-energized prayer of a righteous man is strong.”

Isn’t that great?  It’s never about us; it’s always about Him.

For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to desire and to work out His good purpose. Philippians 2:13 (HCSB)

For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.  Colossians 1:29 (ESV)

Notice the children praying in the video below — this is what I’m talking about!

Morning Chats

Lord, as I continue to remember all the sponsored kids You’ve provided for us, I’m so grateful for each one.  Thank You for our very, very special Emjay!  It seems like a dream that we got to spend a whole day together right after she graduated from LDP.  I’m so thankful for Emjay in my life today — morning chats on Facebook, shared prayers, teasing, laughing and crying together.  I love her so much and thank You for bringing her to me.

I also recall the day I saw a photo of my special  Jerica, in Kenya.  I just couldn’t resist her beautiful smile, and asked right away to sponsor her.  Feeling that it was very likely that she had lost her sponsor, I wanted to be active in encouraging and supporting her.  I’m so very proud of her and believe she has a bright future ahead!  Thank you for all her special letters throughout the year.

It was a blessing to sponsor Mod-Dang, if only for a short while.  Getting to meet him was a delight — watching him try to learn English, getting accustomed to his laughter, seeing his leadership and respect for the other children.  I will miss him but know that he is in your hands, wherever he is.

The next correspondent child You brought me was our sweet Muuo, also of Kenya.  I was grateful that although his sponsor could not write to him, she was kind enough to request a correspondent.  And what a timely moment for Muuo to step into our lives — the very week Chris was trying to decide whether to return to his job as a pilot or not.  Muuo’s letter that week — “I want to be a pilot when I grow up” was the answer to our prayers!  We knew You were speaking.  Muuo is a brilliant young man; I’m so very grateful to be able to write to him.

The next photo to catch my eye was Subha, in his shirt and tie.  Although I knew I could not take on another sponsorship at the time, You opened the way for a men’s Bible study to support him financially, so that I could be his correspondent.  You are amazingly real to me!  Thank You for this opportunity to be friends with Subha, this brilliant young man who has big dreams and plans for his life.

I’ll never forget seeing Michael’s photo the first time, my new little correspondent.  He has the sweetest mother who also writes to me a little bit.  I’m so pleased to be able to be friends with this little family, and what a sweet little boy he is!

I never imagined what would happen next.  Muuo’s sponsor was asking for a new child to sponsor, and specifically asking that I be the child’s correspondent, once again.  What an amazing gift it was to be asked to choose the child myself, from anywhere in the world!  Although the decision did not come quickly, I decided on Thailand, once again, and this sweet little face was sent!  How I love our little Waranya!

The icing on the cake, Lord, was hearing that Waranya and Muuo’s sponsor wanted to meet me — and that she was right here, in my own state!  We did meet and all I could think was, “Who could’ve imagined another person so close to home that ALSO loves and prays for Waranya & Muuo!  Someone with the same passion for the same two kids; unbelievable!”

Lastly, You provided yet one more child to correspondend with, Joseph.  I do not even know him very well yet, not having received a letter yet.  What will our future with Joseph be?  What stories will we share with each other?  What prayers requests will we pray for each other, and what will be his dreams, strengths and passions in life?  I can’t wait to draw nearer to him, Lord.

Thank You, thank You!  You have surrounded me with precious children all around the world to love, support and grow with!  You are gracious beyond measure!

I have been sharing my prayer of thanksgiving to the Lord for each of my sponsored children.  I hope you will think about sponsoring a child, too, and will at least take a long, serious look at these children in need.  If you are not able to sponsor at this time (or take on an additional one), will you please at least pray for each one on this page?  If you already sponsor a child of your own, and would be interested in corresponding with another child, check out this post for more details.

Thank You Prayer

Lord, I want to thank You for bringing me to the ministry of Compassion International.  I had been praying about which company I could trust.  Then Dr. Marilyn was home on furlough from Haiti and I asked her, “What happened to the people hit by the hurricane?  How do they live now?”  She answered, “Well of course, the children on Compassion didn’t miss a single meal.”  I was thrilled that You answered my prayers so specifically!  That very week I picked up the phone, called Compassion and asked to sponsor a boy from Haiti.  Then — completely out of my control — You sent me Josue, my precious little boy, Josue.

What a delight it has been to write to him all these years and receive his letters!  I’ll never forget the day I was so discouraged and begging You to come to me in some special way and speak to me.  That very day, in my mailbox, was a letter from Josue saying, “I love you, and I put your photo on my bed to remember to pray for you every day.”  Wow Lord.  You make Yourself so real and certain to me.  And what a thrill to see him in person again this year!

Sponsorship has been a huge part of the journey.  My next sponsorship began when I found out that girls in Thailand were being kidnapped and placed into prostitution by men promising decent jobs in the city.  When I heard of this deception I called, again, that very week, and asked for a little girl from Thailand.  Again, completely by Your hand alone, the sweetest little girl was sent to me — Siriporn.

What a great blessing to know her and to see her (not unexpectedly) accepted to LDP!  She’s amazing — I love her so much — and to attend her graduation was a great joy and deeply moving event.

To get to write Junior, sponsored by a church, was another journey with a young man who became troubled for a while and even dropped out of Compassion for a while.  It was truly miraculous how You brought him back into sponsorship, after I visited him a couple of times.  I’m still amazed every time I think about how that happened, the timing of it all, and the fact that now He’s graduated, settled and moving forward.  Again, very real ways You have shown Your active and loving presence.

Upon Josue’s graduation You allowed me to stay in the family and sponsor his little brother.  I had no idea which sibling would be sent to me, but You chose my dear friend, Enold.  His needs were deep and You have made it possible to give him a bright future.  How exciting to meet him finally, after all these years, and to spend time with Josue again and with the whole family!  Thank You, Lord, thank You for making it possible!

I had enjoyed corresponding with Junior so much — and now You gave me the opportunity to correspond with another LDP student, Luis, whose sponsor was not able to write.  This young man is impressive in every way!  I can only hope and pray that I will be able to attend his graduation, too, in another year.  His letters have been so encouraging to me — deep and thoughtful.  He has a very bright future ahead of him, I know, as You lead Him.

I couldn’t turn down Brayen’s child packet when I saw it on a table.

He was the first one I chose myself, having looked into his eyes and seen something really special.  And it has proved to be true.  This young man is brilliant, forward thinking and has already been participating in leadership within his Child Development Center.  I pray he can also be accepted to LDP when the time comes.  You alone know what is best for him, Lord.

I can’t thank You enough for all these special children!  How could I ever have guessed just how much they would impact my life?  You work in ways that are beyond my imagination; You put all the details together so perfectly.  Thank You, Lord.

I will continue praying for my sponsored children in a future post — watch for it soon!  Obviously, some of them have not been written about in blog posts yet, but I will do so  in the future.  Each one is writing their own story day by day with me, as we share letters and get acquainted with each other.  I hope there will be future visits to each of these special young people, and that you too, will get involved in sponsoring a child.  There’s nothing else like it in life — the pleasure it brings, satisfaction, friendship and sharing in life’s dreams, needs and joys.  You can click here to choose a child to sponsor, and I know it will change and bless your life, just as it has mine.