Handling Poop

“What is the hardest part of your ministry?” No one has ever asked me this question, but that hasn’t stopped me from thinking of an answer.

I just wrote about one of the most potentially dangerous incidents in the school (click the previous blog). This left me in a mild state of catatonia for a couple of days. Anything that threatens the safety, whether physically, emotionally or spiritually, of my kids is certainly difficult.

I haven’t written much about the stress of dealing with the bureaucracy, or drunken or corrupt government officials. I guess it’s obvious why. For sure, that is a major stressor in my life.

So far, however, there is one part of my ministry that gives me the most anxiety: Marital/parental issues. I’m neither married nor a parent, and that is the entire point. My teachers are. I deal with parents every day.

The first time I had to deal with serious marital issues, I had to call my Mom and ask her for prayers nd counsel. I had to counsel someone whose husband had left her with his relatives (the bride price means she belongs there). He hardly gave her enough for her and their son, yet whatever little he gave had to be shared among the entire household.

Today I had to speak with someone whose husband was fighting with her because she was caring for and providing for her ailing father. He refused to give her money for their household saying, “You have a job, don’t you?”

When I was in seminary, they warned me about this. My professor warned me, “In ministry, you are dealing with people. People poop. When you are in ministry, you deal with a lot of poop.”

Physical, stinky poop is probably easier to deal with than life poop—the poop that comes because we live in a sinful world with sinful people. As Pastor Peter shared with us the other Sunday, “Kwo pe yot (life is not easy).”

You can’t live in a bubble. Well, ok, you can. But if you really want to DO ministry, you can’t. You will see the poop. You can’t escape from it. Single? You will deal with some of the ugliest marital problems. Not a parent? Your heart will be broken with the most unthinkable acts a parent can do to a child, or vice versa.

Kwo pe yot.

For in this tent, we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling. 2 Cor. 5:2

We groan in this sinful world, and we need to be here, to fulfill the ministry of reconciliation entrusted to us. We are ambassadors. And we are not ambassadors in a lovely, neutral country like Switzerland. We are ambassadors in war-torn Somalia, where hostiles are everywhere. We are ambassadors in a country that is cut off by an evil, heartless ruler, who would withhold every true happiness from all its inhabitants.

The only hope in this is that the One who has given us this ambassadorship has promised to never abandon or forsake us. And he always keeps his promises. He is not distant or unreachable, either. He has given us His Spirit, as a seal, He had equipped us, He has given us an open line of communication in prayer. He lives to intercede for us, and for those we love.

Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 2 Cor. 5:20

That is all I can do, and all I really must do. I must point them, and myself to Christ. I am following the One who washed the feet of those he loved. In those days of dusty, muddy, donkey-trodden roads, that’s basically handling poop.

Breathe in. Handle the poop. Breathe out. Know that you are not alone. There is grace. This, too, shall pass.

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Trial By Tugu

I just knew that metal crushing sound was not right. A tugu tree was cut down, and it had fallen right on top of our newly renovated building, which houses the remedial classroom, isolation room (for  sick children) and clinic.

It had fallen right smack in the middle of the isolation room. One of our teacher aides was there, along with the sleeping baby of our other staff member. Both, thankfully, were unscathed.

As I looked at this incredible spectacle I just felt my whole body go numb. I was very thankful to have someone to call. Our school Director is a very Godly, calm, sober-minded and wise man. He is my age but he has the wisdom that comes from God, along with years of dealing with difficult situations like this.

After seeking for prayers from friends through Facebook, and informing the team about the damage on Voxer, we briefly discussed ways to clear the rubble and keep the building from further damage. I say “we” but I was mostly listening and watching while our Director handled everything.

“Just keep your heart,” he told me as we sat in my office. “We will work on this together.” I thanked him, and the practical questions in my mind ceased for the moment. I trusted God’s hand upon this man. Amazing. I have someone that I can completely trust. He is a true brother in Christ.

I used to jump into action at these times. Today there was just nothing I could think of to do. I could just stare into space. I wondered about my failure as a leader. I doubted my ability for the simplest tasks. I knew the teachers needed me to reassure them. I wasn’t. I was sitting in my office, confused and defeated. Perhaps it was time to surrender the leadership of the school to those who seem to be doing it so much better. FAILURE was written all over my brain, my heart, and even my countenance.

Then I remembered the great tragedy that struck Charles Spurgeon’s ministry when he was a young minister.

On the evening of October 19, 1856, Spurgeon was to commence weekly services at the Royal Surrey Gardens Music Hall. That morning he preached at New Park Street Chapel on Malachi 3:10: “Prove me now.” With chillingly prophetic voice he declared, “ … I may be called to stand where the thunderclouds brew, where the lightnings play, and tempestuous winds are howling on the mountain top. Well, then, I am born to prove the power and majesty of our God; amidst dangers he will inspire me with courage; amidst toils he will make me strong.… We shall be gathered together tonight where an unprecedented mass of people will assemble, perhaps from idle curiosity, to hear God’s Word; and the voice cries in my ears, ‘Prove me now.’ … See what God can do, just when a cloud is falling on the head of him whom God has raised up to preach to you.…

That evening Surrey Hall, capable of holding up to twelve thousand, was overflowing with an additional ten thousand people in the gardens. The service was underway when, during Spurgeon’s prayer, several malicious miscreants shouted, “Fire! The galleries are giving way!” In the ensuing panic, seven people died and twenty-eight were hospitalized with serious injuries. Spurgeon, totally undone, was literally carried from the pulpit and taken to a friend’s house where he remained for several days in deep depression.

Later he remarked, “Perhaps never soul went so near the burning furnace of insanity, and yet came away unharmed.” At last he found comfort in the verse “Wherefore God hath highly exalted him, and given him a name that is above every name.” Spurgeon was but a soldier; the Lord was the Captain of the host, hence victory was assured. Yet until Spurgeon’s death, the spectre of the calamity so brooded over him that a close friend and biographer surmised: “I cannot but think, from what I saw, that his comparatively early death might be in some measure due to the furnace of mental suffering he endured on and after that fearful night.” – From Christian Today Library

I don’t have that trial that Spurgeon had, but I have the same God. I can trust Him. My heart and my strength fails, but God is the strength of my heart forever (Psalm 73:26)

God, my faith fails tremendously on this day. I am anxious, I am weary. Be my strength and my hope. Amen.

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He is God, I am Not

Something strange has come over me lately, and it was filling my heart with fear.

Several circumstances have contributed to this feeling, so let me back up a bit. It’s a well-known fact that I was reluctant to take on this role as Head Teacher. I’ve written about it before, so you probably know why by now.

Even though I’ve had a year’s experience doing this, I can’t just look back at the last year for answers. We have a new remedial classroom that adds an entirely new dynamic (and schedule) to the school. We also have a new class that has grown unexpectedly (from 12 last year, we now have 19 in our Primary Three class).

I thought perhaps this was what was causing my heart to be shaken. But then I realized there was something more.

There was a true story that kept coming to my attention; a story about a munu (foreigner) who opened a school in this region. It started out as a very good hospital, they told me, but then the munu left and the hospital has not been the same.

This came up in several conversations within a few days. Someone even asked me straight, “How can you assure me that the school will keep its standards when you go?”

I didn’t say much except to assure him that our teachers are being trained, and constantly reminded of the school’s mission.

Inside, however, there was a bit of panic going on. I can’t guarantee tomorrow, so any assurance I would give would be false. I should have told Him that this school is in God’s hands. Perhaps I was forgetting that, too?

Then, one teacher who had wanted to bring her other child to our school told me that she could no longer do so. The reason she gave me was that the charity organization had refused to continue financial support for the child because our school “might close down again.”

Indeed, even though this is our second year since re-opening, the rumors persist that we might close the school again.

I didn’t realize that these things were weighing heavy on my heart until later. The problem was that I started to think of my beloved teachers, and the children we minister to. I began thinking, “What if the school DID close down again? What would happen to these precious people into whose lives I have rudely barged in?”

When you “Go into the world and make disciples”, you are barging into people’s lives. You pour something out of yourself each time you love, and teach, and disciple. And they, in turn, pour something out of themselves as they accept you, and learn, and love you back.

The danger comes when you start thinking it’s in your hands and that you actually call the shots.

Does the school depend on me? Are these teachers mine to protect? Are these children really mine to keep?

Thankfully, God’s work is in His strong hands. And to get out of the dreaded “what-ifs” I went back to the “why” I got here in the first place. Mom always told me that I always need to be SURE of where God is calling before I jump in. One of the reasons she gave is so that I could always look back and be assured that if God called me, He would always bring good from whatever happens. He will always accomplish His will, and He is never thwarted nor taken by surprise.

God brought me here. He brought these beloved people into our school and into my heart. He has a plan, and He holds the future. I am not God, thankfully, and He is. What a blessed assurance!

2 Tim. 1:12 …I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him on that day.

Dear Lord, thank you for your sovereign grace that inspires trust in my heart. You are in control of all things. You love your sheep more than any of your undershepherds. As I point these sheep to you, we may be confident that you will keep them and finish the good work in them. You are worthy of my trust and loyalty, and I will follow wherever you lead.

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When the Desert Floods

Who chooses to live in the desert? When I first came to Gulu, long before I even knew God was going to call me here, my Ugandan friends joked, “Welcome to Sudan!” The climate in Gulu is much harsher than Kampala’s. Kampala boasts of its climate. It has a comfortable temperature range. Even during dry season, it’s never too dry, not like Gulu.

I prayed that God would not send me to Gulu. To me, Gulu was like the Bible’s Negeb region. I thought it was parched and dry and unsuitable for sustaining any life. Negeb’s root actually means “to be dry.” Why would I want to live in a dry (and dusty) place?

I’ve been contemplating about the Negeb for some years, since it is mentioned in my favorite psalm (126). Verse 4 reads,

Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like streams in the Negeb!

The rest of the psalm speaks about mourning before rejoicing, sowing before reaping. I once read a commentary on it that explained that near the beginning of the planting season, food was scarce. The remaining seed in the barn could be used for food, but instead, the farmer plants it to reap a harvest. Can you imagine a farmer putting food that could be on the table into the ground, counting on a harvest for the next season? Can you imagine the faith it takes to plant those precious seeds? And then, can you imagine the rejoicing when the harvest comes in? I imagine that the bigger the hardship in the sowing, the greater the rejoicing in the harvest.

What does it all have to do with the Negeb? I didn’t really understand it until I came to Africa. I was supposed to go to a desert region in Kenya a couple of years back. We had booked a flight but never made it because the rains had begun. When it rains in the desert, it floods, I mean dangerous floods that can carry away large vehicles and make any existing roads impassable. When the psalmist was asking God to restore his fortunes, he was asking God to flood him over with them!

God doesn’t call his people to the Negeb for no good reason. Whatever the seeming magnitude of the personal sacrifice, the promise is bigger.

If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light shine in darkness, and your gloom be as the noonday. And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire IN SCORCHED places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a WATERED GARDEN, like a SPRING of water, whose waters do not fail.

It takes faith to believe it, doesn’t it? A lot of God-only-can-give-this-kind-of faith.

Even now, I can say that God’s blessings in my Negeb far outweigh any perceived hardship in living here. God keeps his promises. He has never failed, He never will.

Abraham’s journey to the Promised land brought him through the Negeb.  I wondered why Moses mentioned that seemingly insignificant part of his journey (Gen. 12:9). Abraham went when God said “go,” even though he didn’t really know where he was going. Abraham went by faith, knowing that when God promised, he would keep it. As Abraham’s daughter (in faith), I know my final destination—that city with a sure foundation (Hebrews 11). My brief sojourn in the harsh Negeb is directly related to the joy I will experience in the presence of my God in glory!

If you’re hesitating about going through your Negeb, may I exhort you to pray with me? Lord, my eyes can only see as far as this parched land. When you tell me to go, my feet are slow to obey because of my myopic vision. Give me the faith I need to take the next step, and the joy in simple, trusting obedience. Let me look for that place where

The things of earth that cause my heart to tremble
remembered there will only bring a smile.

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Hannah’s Prayer

When I was about 11 years old, my favorite singer made a public announcement that she was having a baby, and that she chose not to marry the baby’s father (this was a big deal in late 70s Philippines). That made a big impression on me, a young girl who had just found out about her father’s mistress, and who never had a Christian upbringing (some people would say I did, but that’s for another blog). I decided I would just be like my singing idol. I would sing for a living, and I would also have a child without the “complications” of marriage.

As it turned out, my “singing career” didn’t last long, and I never had the child I selfishly wanted to raise without a husband. It all worked out. My father died just when I began singing in a band, and I needed a more steady job. Christ found me, and I learned the real significance of marriage and family. I wanted to follow hard after God, and singleness let me do that with more focus. Singleness allowed me to say “yes” to God in many ways I could not have as a married woman.

Then I turned 40. God called me to become a teacher. I was involved in children’s ministry. The irony hit me. Hard. Many times, the children I worked with would be abandoned, neglected or abused. Sometimes, I wish I could just take them away from the pain, adopt them and love them the way I think they should be. I couldn’t. Not only did I not have the means, I also knew these children had families—in some form—who would not want their children taken away. Some would, for financial or other reasons, but a child is not a commodity to be bought or traded.

I never really thought about this seriously until I turned 40 six years ago. Every month, my body prepares to have a child. Sometimes, the hormones get the better of me and I weep for another potential child “lost” in the ways of nature. On especially difficult days I would imagine what my child might look like, and grieve all the more.

Like the biblical Hannah, I wept before God, cried for a womb that never bore. Unlike Hannah, I have no husband and am past the age of safe childbearing.

I kept this verse in my heart:

Sing, O barren one, who did not bear; break forth into singing and cry aloud, you who have not been in labor! For the children of the desolate one will be more than the children of her who is married. Isaiah 54:1

Who wants to be called barren and desolate? Here, in Uganda, where I serve as a single missionary, to be a mother is the greatest honour a woman can have. It is undesirable to be single and not have a child. A woman remains a “girl” until that first child is born. I sometimes wondered how I could earn respect from others when I remain childless. Yet there is a promise in that verse that I cherished.

Working with children can be heartbreaking. Every day, I find out more versions of vulnerability and abuse. As I learn about my kids’ families, I worry about them more than they themselves do, because they don’t know any better.

My kids. That just naturally flowed out of my typing fingers. They are my kids. I have them for at least five hours a day, longer when they get older. I have a God-given opportunity and responsibility to impact them with the gospel. On some days, I am in awe at this calling and feel wonderfully blessed. On other days, the heartache is too much.

Yesterday was one wonderfully blessed day. I received a letter from a parent, who wrote:

Interestingly enough, he misspelled my name (“h” is very hard to place and pronounce in this place). But that first sentence, from a Ugandan man, was like a balm to this weary soul. More tears came, but they were tears of joy and thanksgiving. God was right, as always. Sometimes when someone else makes the observation, it makes a greater impact on the heart–particularly if that someone’s worldview clashes with what he says!

Hannah had her Samuel, whom she dedicated to God. As soon as he was weaned, he was taken to the temple. She had other children, too, because God is generous like that.

I’ve had more children than Hannah, though I have not carried a child in my womb. This was only possible because God gave me the grace to say “yes.” Sometimes that “yes” would be reluctant, even tearful and fearful. But God always accomplishes his will—and does exceedingly, abundantly for his children.

Being the weak believer that I am, I will have more bad days. But thanks be to God, there are these blessed, joyful, significant days to look back on. Pain, hardship, tears, and the feeling that we are incomplete will always be with us while we are in this flesh. We groan with creation for the time when we will be glorified with Christ through Christ. Let us not grow weary in saying “yes” to him, not for the fulfillment or joy it may bring, but because He is oh, so worthy of it.

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For What It’s Worth

When I was a lot younger, my older brother, whom I idolized, challenged me to jump off a cliff into the ocean. There was only a meter-wide gap between rocks I would have to miss if I wanted to keep my bones intact. Despite my fears, and against my better judgment, I jumped off that high cliff. My arms and legs stung from the impact of the water, and I was close to tears when I swam to my brother for help. At the top of the cliff, I thought the risk involved was worth the chance of proving that I was “cool” and “fearless.” It really wasn’t. My brother laughed at me because instead of dropping down straight, like he told me, I tried to spread my limbs in the hope that they would slow down my fall. He blamed me for the pain I felt, even as he was comforting me. Let’s just say it wasn’t very comforting.

I’m too old to take that kind of risk, but life is full of risks. Taking the bus to Kampala and back is a risk. Being in Gulu is a risk. Re-opening a school that encountered many problems in the past is a risk. Training teachers and pouring my life into them is a risk.

Exhaustion, sickness, disappointment, emotional pain, even death—these are all possible consequences of what God has called me to do. But He is worth it. Unlike my brother, God never dares me to take a risk without the assurance of His provision of grace. And He has already planned ahead–even though He hasn’t shown it to us yet. No one is going to laugh at me in the end, even though I follow God imperfectly.

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. Romans 8:18

Whatever the consequence of following hard after God, it is worth it. He is worth it. It’s not at all like risking an injury or an accident. In fact, it’s not a risk. The glory is assured. All our tears will be wiped away by God Himself.

He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth… Isaiah 25:8

It is all worth it. And on that day, we will look back and regret all the fears, the doubts and misgivings we ever had about following God. The most glorious part of it is, God will not reprove us there. His grace will be so glorious and all-encompassing. It will be enough to forget this fleeting life, even if it may be full of adversity. Glory!

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Our Hurried Pace

“Americans have watches, we have time.” This is one of the first lessons I learned in Uganda. It simply means that Americans tend to keep to their strict timetable, but Ugandans (and most other Africans) will be more fluid and adjustable.

“I’m on my way,” can mean a two or three hour wait. I remember helping Mom prepare a Filipino lunch for some guests who came four hours late. We were very worried that the food we had cooked (Asian noodles) would go bad before we had the chance to eat!

And then there’s the concept of morning and evening. Technically the day here doesn’t start at 12:01 am. It starts with the sunrise. When I asked someone to meet me at a bus stop somewhere in Kenya, I told him my bus was arriving 2 a.m. on a Friday. When I arrived, my friend was nowhere in sight, and I could not get a hold of him because his village was so remote that there was no mobile signal in his house. He thought I was arriving that night.

The correct way to tell him of the time of my arrival would have been, “I am coming on Thursday night.” Because, hey, it’s still dark, so it must still be night. Big lesson learned, after being stuck in a very cold street with a bank security guard who kept trying to convince me to come home with him after his shift. I found a hotel instead.

When I went to the US recently, I was surprised at how relaxed I had become with regards to time. I was at an orientation where people kept us on a strict timetable. Even though I wasn’t trying to delay anything, I found myself getting stressed with the idea of people constantly pointing to their watches and telling me, “It’s time.”

Yet it seems I have not learned all there is to learn about African time. This week, I had to ride with a van that had an average speed of 15 kilometers per hour. The gear shift was acting up, so we even had to push it once when it could not get itself out of a shallow ditch. It took us one hour to make a trip that would normally take 20 minutes.

Have you ever tried to push a vehicle you are on by shoving your body forward? That’s what I felt like doing the whole four trips that I have had to take on that van.

I found that in my heart, I was taking it in stride, enjoying the view that I have come to ignore while driving at a faster pace. I found joy once again at being able to say “bye” back to the children who would call out, “Munu (white person), bye!” I found delight in being able to lay down my rights to be on time, so that I could be on God’s timetable.

What really shows my sinful impatience is when I am dealing with “stubborn” children. This week I felt like the kids have been an extra amount of ornery and a stronger measure of defiant. Of course, it’s always the same children who get into trouble. In my mind I want to say, “How many times have we been over this?”

I wonder how many times God could have said that to me, and yet he has been infinitely patient with my sin. Impatience with others is a greater sin for me, who has received so much patience and grace.

Sometimes I need to learn to sit still (without jerking forward) and wait. Many times, in prayer, it seems like I’m jerking forward, telling God to do something either “right now” or “real soon.” I feel like God is moving too slowly, or worse, taking me the wrong way, as if I knew better than He. Other times I feel like I’m stuck in a ditch and God has not heard my cries.

He has. He knows. He is patient. He has perfect timing.

Lord, help me to sit still as I wait for your answers to these prayers. I know you have heard me, and that you are sympathetic to my circumstances. You endured much more than this, and overcame. Give me that strength, that self-control, to wait upon you.

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The Happy Wall

I recently “updated” my happy wall. It was a Saturday morning and usually I just jump right into cleaning and laundry after breakfast. But I was looking at my wall (it was somewhere between the top picture and the bottom one), and I felt there was something missing.

I noticed a change in myself lately. I wasn’t as easily discouraged as I was a couple of months ago. I was happy more times than sad. I wasn’t even remembering some very painful personal issues that had tenaciously clung to my heart for some time. Something must have changed, but what?

I recently went to the US and had so many happy things happen there, that I knew I had to put those memories on the wall. All the while, I was singing this hymn in my head:

When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.
Count your blessings, name them one by one,

Count your blessings, see what God hath done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your many blessings, see what God hath done.

As soon as I had gotten more pictures up on the happy wall, I started cleaning. What do you know, I had to kill several spiders before noon. I hate spiders. I hate looking up and seeing their webs because they look dirty and ugly. I thought I should keep track of how many spiders I have to kill every week. It would be a big number.

Then I remembered the hymn again, and I thought, why did it never occur to me to count the many times I looked for spider webs and found none?

That’s just like life sometimes. We live, we work and move, and we often get so lost in the everyday things that we become myopic. We see only what we choose to see, in our limited range of vision.

We need to step back and look at everything from another perspective. When I went away, met lovely people with whom I could share God’s work in Gulu, and got a chance to miss my work, the teachers and the children at school, that’s what I got.

Even when we don’t have a chance to go away, taking a step back in prayer and meditation on the Word and work of God offers the same opportunity. Making a practice of seeing our lives through the lens of God’s Word is not just refreshing, but necessary for survival on the battlefield (aka mission field).

If you’re discouraged, or in any way feeling like life isn’t worth the next step, take a step back into God’s Word, then pray like this:

Loving Father, thank you for… (fill in the blanks).

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Strength for the Sower

The very good things in life often take lots of time. Just like the farmer, who sows his seeds, nourishes his crop and waits for harvest time, we work, pray, and wait.

I have had time to think recently about sowing and waiting.

He who goes forth bearing seed and weeping [at needing his precious supply of grain for sowing] shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him. Psalm 126:6

Planting takes faith. It takes faith to believe that the seed that was planted will receive the perfect amount of sunshine and rain to yield a harvest. It takes faith to believe that pests will not come, or at least be controlled when they do come, so as not to destroy the expected harvest.

Faith allows for risk.

In the verse above, the farmer could provide his family with more abundant food if he would only keep those seeds for eating rather than for planting. Perhaps by the time planting season has come, the last season’s harvest has dwindled, and there is little that remains in the store for food.  Yet he has to plant that precious seed, risking it, in the hope that it will bear a new harvest.

There is a cost and great risk in being a sower for the kingdom of God. A missionary will find his life transplanted into a foreign land, where often war, disease or other causes of hardship will come. If it is a missionary family, the risk is greater for the smaller children. I can only think of those missionaries who buried their wives and/or children in foreign lands.

A modern missionary will live a life without many things that were a normal part of his past. He may not have hot showers, his favorite fast food, his favorite coffee, a properly functioning vehicle, well-paved roads, efficient government services, and many more.

Beyond simple inconveniences, however, today’s missionary will deal with people who have become accustomed to the “relief” era. I speak for people who are ministering in villages that were once ravaged by war and received assistance from inter-governmental agencies. They must balance compassion and a desire to obey God’s commands to give to the poor, the widows and the orphans without fostering unhealthy dependency. They will deal with posers and hypocrites who will take advantage of them, widows who will spend money on vices instead of their children, and perhaps even thugs who will harm them for material gain.

Then there are other courageous souls who minister in “closed” countries, who risk their lives daily for the sake of the gospel. The latter part of Psalm 126:6 is a promise. It is a promise that better things are coming for those who believe. It is a promise that the cost that accompanies sowing the seed of the gospel is nothing compared to the great joys that lie ahead.

But the promise of the Bible is not just for things future. Recently I read during my devotions this promise:

And [God] Who provides seed for the sower and bread for eating will also provide and multiply your [resources for] sowing and increase the fruits of your righteousness [which manifests itself in active goodness, kindness, and charity]. 2 Cor 9:10

God provides. He gives all that we need in this life and ministry. He gives not only material needs, but also wisdom, discernment and strength for every day. We are blessed yesterday, today and forever in Christ!

Lord, thank You for the promises in Your word that give the sowers of your precious seed the strength for day to day. Thank You that we are blessed not just in the consummation of your kingdom, but also today. Thank You for the grace you give for the harvest! Thank You that You ensure the harvest!

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The Remains of the Day

I haven’t been able to sleep well the past three nights (If you know me well, that means I have gotten six hours of sleep instead of my usual eight). I guess I’m a bit anxious about flying to a place I’ve never been, to see many people I have never met.

Then I also think of all the airline mishaps in the past few months: One plane disappears, one is shot out of the sky, another is escorted by military jets because of a bomb scare, and yet another crashes.

I’m not afraid to die. I believe I am ready, by God’s grace, if He would ordain to take me home through accident, heart failure or terror attack.

There is only one thing I wonder: would I glorify God in me death? Would I be willing to confess Christ to someone who threatens to kill me because of His name? Am I willing to lay down my life to save others if need be? Am I really as brave as I think I am, or am I just like pre-resurrection Peter, who promised to follow Christ unto death and yet denied Him three times?

None of us who profess Christ want to see that look. It was a look of love that Jesus bestowed upon Peter exactly after the rooster crowed, but it was a look that could break the heart of any Lover of Christ. We have seen it in our own lives, perhaps repeatedly, but we don’t ever want to see it again.

The answer, of course, is not in me, and I am foolish when I look for it within. The answer is in the grace that God has promised to give at the right time in the right circumstances. The martyrs who died at the stake probably flinched and pulled away after a careless sip of scalding tea. But when the time came for the fire to be lit under their feet, there was grace.

If I focus on my resources, or on the desire to be safe, all my anxious thoughts might imprison me.

I was at a friend’s house watching Remains of the Day, and we both walked away from that film feeling sad yet strangely encouraged. Here was a man who never took a stand (he was too busy being a butler) at a crucial point in history. Here was a man who never took the risk of declaring his love. Here was a man who lived with the remains of his day—did he even realize what he missed?

Life is risk. I could die through a slip and fall in the bathtub. I could die in an accident while stepping out to pick up something from the supermarket around the corner. When I was a child, I knew of another child who died when she slipped and fell in a stream that was four inches deep!

The question is not how safely I lived my life, but whether or not that life was spent well. What am I pursuing, and how will I feel about this ten years from now? What consumes my time, my thoughts, my resources? Will I be ready to give an account to the One who lent me this brief time on earth?

A.W. Tozer wrote:

The man with a cross no longer controls his destiny; he lost control when he picked up his cross. That cross immediately became to him an all-absorbing interest, an overwhelming interference. No matter what he may desire to do, there is but one thing he can do; that is, move on toward the place of crucifixion.

Because, my friend, the risk in following Christ only puts this temporal life on the line. The gain in taking that risk is eternal.

Lord, give me courage to follow you. Plane crashes, religious persecution, ebola, and anything that may give me pause in following you can only hurt the body. You have sealed my soul through Christ. Let me not hold anything back. Let me see the greater joy in store for me, the same joy that Jesus pursued, “enduring the cross, scorning its shame,” before He sat down at the right hand of God (Hebrews 12:1-4). For whatever remains of this very brief “day” on earth, may it be lived courageously and boldly for you.

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