God Hears Our Cries!

29 May
Over ten years ago I, along with millions of other people all over the world, read a little book entitled The Prayer of Jabez by Bruce Wilkenson. It’s a small book based on a short, yet powerful prayer of a man in Scripture most had never even heard of. This prayer from 1 Chronicles 4:10 says this …
Jabez called upon the God of Israel, saying, “Oh that you would bless me and enlarge my border, and that your hand might be with me, and that you would keep me from harm so that it might not bring me pain!” And God granted what he asked.
Jabez was a man with a mission. Yes, he desired the blessings of God, but he also longed to be used of God in some way. When he prayed, “enlarge my border,” he was asking God to give him a greater sphere of influence. He also asked for God’s protection from harm.
And God’s response … He granted what Jabez asked.
 
It’s interesting to note that this is the only place in Scripture that Jabez is mentioned, yet God honored the prayer of this seemingly unknown man from the line of Judah. He heard his humble cry and responded. He saw him! In the midst of a long line of descendants, God inclined His ear toward him. He was not forgotten, cast aside, or overlooked. Jabez was remembered.
During our time in Swaziland we have had the privilege of doing home visits each afternoon. What is a home visit, you may be wondering? A home visit is an opportunity for us to take a child or group of children home, meet their parents or caretakers (if they have them), take them food, hear a bit of their story, talk with them about Jesus, and pray over them.
 
Today we had an amazing home visit! Two groups piled into one van. There were 19 of us in this van – eight adults and 11 children. The driver dropped us off near each home and our group carried the bags of rice, beans, maize, and other food items up the dusty path that led to the home we were to visit.
 
This particular visit was unique because there was actually a complete family unit present. There was a mother and a father. Please understand that it is very rare to see a father figure in a home and even more rare is the opportunity to engage in conversation with a dad. This family was truly special!
 
Our guide for the home visit, Xolani, is the Shepherd at Ruby’s Care Point. When we walked up, Xolani told us to place the food on the ground and sit on the cinder blocks outside of the home. The mother and father, along with all of the children sat outside by the door of the home, as well. Xolani began talking to the parents, telling them who we were and why we were there. They shared with him a bit of their story and he then translated back to us.
 
He told us that they had been praying for God to provide for them. They had both recently lost their jobs and though they had been trying to survive, things were grim. They had tried to plant a small garden, but it had been destroyed. They had searched for jobs but were unsuccessful. They were completely without food and in their words, “they had very little hope.”
The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are open to their cry. – Psalm 34:15
The mother then shared with us in English how very grateful she was that we had come to bless them. Then a really amazing thing happened. The father began to talk to us, not in English but in SiSwati. He, too, expressed his gratitude and thanks to God for providing for his family.
 
We explained to them that it was not us, but God who had heard their prayer and answered it.
 
After this we presented them with the food and exchanged hand shakes and hugs. They kept saying how they were overwhelmed with the provision of God!
 
We asked if we could pray with them and they responded with a joyful, “YES!”
 
Praying here in Swaziland means that everyone prays his or her own prayer to God, out loud, at the same time. It’s really an incredible sound! We all began talking to God at once. It was a beautiful! A sacrifice of praise to the Lord!
 
We asked if we could have a picture together and they agreed. We embraced again and said our goodbyes.
Jacqueline home visit
 
As we were walking back to the van, Xolani shared something profound. He shared how amazed and overwhelmed he was at God’s provision to answer his prayer. He explained how very difficult it is to do what he does. He shepherds the children at the care point, but he is also the one responsible for deciding who gets a home visit. He said that he prays and prays to have discernment so he can know who needs a visit that day. He expressed his gratitude to God for leading him to choose that family on this day!
 
Xolani said something else that really convicted me and touched me deep inside my heart. He said, “God wants us to be obedient to Him and if we will just be still, stop all of our busyness, and sit at His feet, we can hear His voice and know what to do.” 
 
Now that is not a new truth to me. I have heard that truth, read that truth in God’s Word, and taught that truth many times. BUT … I don’t always live that truth. Busyness takes precedent over stillness. I fail to stop and see the miracles God provides for me with daily. 
 
Today this family discovered God in a way they had never seen before. God (El Roi) pinpointed this little family, in this little house, in the tiniest country in all of the world. He didn’t need a GPS or Google Maps either. The very hand of God reached down and scooped up this little family. He heard them, just like He heard Jabez, and He granted what they asked. He showed Himself to be Jehovah-jireh, their provider.
 
Do you see the multiple miracles in this story? HE saw. HE provided. HE used this team of ordinary people to be His ambassadors of love. And God didn’t just hear this family’s prayer. He heard Xolani’s prayers, as well, and He blessed Xolani for His obedience. 
 
In Matthew 6:25-31, Jesus said these words, 
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?  Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life.”
 
What miracle has God blessed you with recently? 
 
I pray that we not only notice the miracles, but that we, like this family, are overwhelmed by the goodness and grace of God every single day!
 
Oh, that God would bless us indeed, expand our territory, keep us from harm, and hear our prayers!
 
We love you!
 
Swazi Summer Team 2015
 

“We want to be a sending church not a sitting church” – Dr. David H. McKinley

28 May

Our experiences over the past couple of days are worth more than words can describe. We again had a day full of moments that broke our hearts for what breaks His. The picture one might envision when imagining what our Christian brothers and sisters in poverty endure daily can often be skewed from reality. Here’s what we see: A country where the average lifespan is 33 years of age, most children are without one or both parents, children raising children, families living in a home the size of a large vehicle without any running water or electricity, children some as young as two walking alone to get to our Care Points, yet despite what our eyes see as poverty they are quite rich. Their joy and love for the Lord is astonishing. They love without reservation and judgement. They sing to God as though they are at His throne. We are amazed at what God is doing here, and we are thankful to be able to experience this in person. Without your prayers and support we would not be where we are today and for that we are forever grateful.

everybody two

Pictured above: Dinner and worship spent with old and new friends! A wonderful visit with our friends on mission, The Spraggs.

Child with bowlMissy nurse

Carolyn baby cheekLaura child eatingChildren washingJacqueline wiping faceChandler hairLiz childrenKolbi food bowls                                                    Madi sleeping childCorbin Eli children

Our team working hard tonight after a day at the Care Points to get cards written for the children. Thank you to all of those who wrote cards and sent pictures to your special friends, they are going to be ecstatic!

Swaziland Summer Team 2015

team making cards

Today Was a Good Day!

27 May

Forever etched in my memory is the sight of tiny, brown bodies sitting in small chairs and tables coloring. They were quiet. Quieter than two, three, and four year olds should be. They sat listening to their teacher giving instructions. As we walked in my eyes were drawn to a little girl in a pale pink skirt. She was so pretty, striking in fact. She looked at me and smiled a big Swazi smile. Then my eyes saw twin baby girls, probably 15 months old. They sat in dark green chairs still. Still, they were perfectly still! I’ve had three children and never do I remember 15-month-olds sitting all by themselves without entertainment completely content.

PrincessesEli

Each of us found a table and sat down to interact with these delightful little bundles of joy. Then the teacher had them get up and sing for us. What a beautiful sound! Tiny voices raised in song to Jesus. We sang a couple of songs with them and then they had the blessing. It was time for a late breakfast.

Again, I was shocked as I watched these little babies pick up their bowls of porridge and walk to a spot on the grounds. Where are the spoons? (That was my first thought.) No sooner than I had it, did I see there little fingers find the porridge and then their mouths. 

JQ2Liz

Dirty hands and faces mixed with wide-eyed smiles and grateful hearts make a good day in Swazi!

We played and sang, talked and laughed, danced and made new friends. 

CoblyCorbin2

Later in the day we split up. Some stayed at Timbutini and others went to Ntabus (Ruby’s Care Point). Many found their someone special and bonded. Some play soccer (and got their tails kicked!), some read to the children, some danced, and we all took lots of pictures together!

At the end of the day we watched as these precious ones walked home. They waved, and smiled their happy, joy-filled smiles and meandered home. 

We each had the opportunity to make a home visit today, as well. I think the shock-value of the homes these children live in will remain with us. As our car drove to the home we were to visit, our guide got out and opened the gate. This “gate” was made of barbed wire and sticks, not at all like the white picket fence that surrounds my comparatively posh home. I felt a twinge in my heart at the stark contrast between western culture and third world.

We met and prayed with a family of eight children and their mom. Her oldest has TB and hasn’t been coming to the care point recently. We prayed over him, talked with the family, and brought them food. 

Home Visit

Again … it was a good day in Swazi!

When we returned to our hotel, we found out about the passing of a dear friend, Mr. Bob Gordon who had suffered with ALS for many years. We are all deeply saddened by this loss and send our love and prayers to the Gordon family.

Jesse Powell shared something incredibly special during our devotion time tonight. He shared that two things have made an impression on his heart the past six years, the children of Swaziland and Bob Gordon.

Jesse

He told us that one Sunday morning he saw Bob at church and witnessed someone asking him how he was. Bob’s reply was this: “Every day is a good day, somedays are just better than others.” This expression of gratefulness and inner joy struck Jesse and caused him to choose to have a “good day” every day! What a testimony of the grace of Jesus Christ in Bob’s life! Heaven is sweeter today with you, Bob!

I don’t know what most days are like in Swaziland. I imagine they are pretty much the same for these children. I’m fairly certain that every day for them is a good day. Unlike us, they don’t know any different. They aren’t tainted by western culture. They aren’t burdened by infinite to-do lists, bills, shopping, over-eating, stressful decision-making, and the cultural norm of endless activity. Busyness is not in their vocabulary. They focus on today and they are … filled with joy.

What does that say to you and me? Could it be that the “things” we strive for in search of happiness keep us from the ONE thing that will make us happy? 

Psalm 16:11 says, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence is fullness of joy. In your right hand are pleasures for evermore.” 

Chandler JQ

God has really been challenging me to “Be Still.” I think that’s the main reason He brought me here. He wants me to understand that it really is a good day when I simply choose … Him.

Much love to each of you! Enjoy more pictures below!

Swaziland Summer Team 2015

AmyAuntie Laura

Austen and CorbenCassey and Nancy

BradKatiann

Maddie and TamaraMissy

Robin

Anticipation. Motivation. Affirmation.

26 May

Three words come to my  mind as I type this post:

  • Anticipation
  • Motivation
  • Affirmation

Anticipation: We are all anticipating our time at the care points tomorrow. We are excited, scared, full of wonder and expectation. I know I am wondering what my reaction will be when I “see” and “experience” the care points. Will I cry? Will my heart be broken? Will God ignite a passion in my heart like I’ve never known?

Who will I bond with? What will they think of me? What is their story? When I look into those big brown eyes, I am anxiously wondering … what will my response be?

Motivation: It’s been seven years since Scott Hall was motivated to travel to Swaziland to see what it was truly all about. He came alone, not knowing what to expect. Captivated by the sight of a little girl named Nokwanda, he would never again be the same. What captured his heart was a six-year-old little girl, walking with her two siblings toward him. Her 18-month-old brother, Sethu was on her back and her three-year-old sister, Nomvuyo was holding her hand.

Three Children

Nomvuyo, Sethu, & Nokwanda – 2008

She was six! A care-taker at age six!

Nokwanda and her siblings came to the care point to eat. She would get three bowls of food and would first feed Sethu, then Nomvuyo. After she took care of them, she would take her bowl and eat half and save the other half, putting it in her bag for later. 

Nokwanda & SethuC - Nokwanda carrying Setu

Sethu, & Nokwanda – 2008

This little African girl motivated the heart of this 40-something-year-old business man from Georgia. How, you might say? Love, compassion, mercy, the hope of Jesus … all of these things tuned Scott’s heart and caused him to share his story with others to be a voice for the voiceless.

That’s why when he found out he couldn’t come along with us on Sunday because of a passport issue he worked so tirelessly to remedy the situation. He is highly motivated to get here so he can continue to be a voice. We received this email from him today regarding his status:

From Scott

As you may have read, I was not allowed to board the plane on Sunday due to the limited number of blank pages in my passport. I was instructed to call the passport office, make an appointment and hopefully they could extend a bit of grace and allow me to travel. I continuously called the number and tried to make an appointment through the automated system, however, that system was down. With yesterday being a holiday, I was unable to get to the passport office until this morning at 8:00 AM – along with a few hundred other people that were in a crisis as well. We were all told unless you can prove there was a death or a pending death, they would not be able to give anyone an emergency appointment today.

I left the passport office with not a lot of hope, but with one thought. Did I know anyone that might be able to get to get in touch with a congressman that could possibly make a phone call and secure an appointment for me? Today, my “angel contact” was Penny. She has a friend that works for one of our congressmen. She called her friend, who in turn made a phone call, which resulted in a 10:00 AM appointment at the passport office.

I am happy to say that I picked up my passport up at 3PM today, and I am booked on a flight out of Atlanta at 7:23 PM tonight and will arrive on Thursday in Swaziland!

What causes a 50-year-old man to spend four days to get to the other side of the world to see the least of these? Pure love and genuine compassion!

Scott, me and Nokwanda

Nokwanda – 2013

Affirmation: Amy shared a beautiful devotion with us late this evening. God has really been showing her a lot about Psalm 139:23-24. I found this very interesting because I’ve been reading Psalm 139 over and over recently. She opened my eyes to some new thoughts tonight though.

Verse 23 says, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts.” 

She challenged us to really ask ourselves about the motive of our hearts. She asked us to articulate why we came. Did we come so we could feel good about ourselves for helping these poor little children? Did we come for personal gratification? Did we come to perform and receive affirmation from others or did we come to share the Good News of Jesus Christ? 

She challenged us to search our hearts and discern the real reason for coming. Did we come to thrill our own hearts, and our own need for something significant or did we come to fulfill the needs of others and experience a divine dance with our heavenly Father?

Who knows what God will teach us individually? Who knows what kind of impact we will have on these little ones or the impact they will have on us? God knows!

He knows, He sees, He plans, He ignites passion, He motivates, He affirms. 

I can’t wait until tomorrow!

Swaziland Summer Team 2015

The Lord Gives and the Lord Takes Away (Job 1:21)

25 May

We arrived safely in Johannesburg, South Africa and are in our hotel for an overnight stay before we travel to Swaziland in the morning.  We want to share with you how our God is guiding and teaching us.

 We started out our trip with the most amazing God moments.  We had gotten through the check-in  process and God showed up big.  Several days ago, someone generously donated hoodies, t-shirts, flip flops, water bottles, and small backpacks.  We were concerned about taking the extra baggage but we wanted to bless these precious children. Since two of our travelers are Delta frequent flyers, we called ahead and received approval for the extra bags at no charge.

Upon arriving at check-in, the agents wanted to charge us nearly $1500 for the extra items. After a phone call to Delta (and prayer) they lowered the cost to $450. But … all of a sudden they decided to charge us … you guessed it $0!!  That’s right – no dollars!! For no reason other than God turned the hearts.  

Yes, God is here with us. He is going before us and behind us. He is hemming us in. (Psalm 139:5)

We’re not done yet. There’s MORE!

Next we headed to oversize baggage where they wanted to open our oversized baggage individually … are you kidding me? Really? They were also going to send us back to check-in where they were going to charge us an additional $450.  Again we began to pray! This was going to be a LOT of trouble and take a LOT of time.  But God had it!  From out of no where they let us through without a second thought. That’s right … HE turned their hearts again.   God turned the hearts of four different Delta agents at different times to let us know that He was in our midst.

When we arrived at the gate, we were told that Scott Hall couldn’t board the plane because he didn’t have a blank visa page in his passport.  He had two blank pages but the pages didn’t have visa printed at the top.  We were all stunned because we rely on Scott so much to lead us.  He has been very important to this ministry in solving problems in the past and we were at a loss of what to do without him.  We then remembered all that God had done at the beginning of the day and reminded ourselves that God is our leader.  Even though He had removed Scott from our team, He had given us so much already.   He goes before us and behind us.

Miracles are all around us … all the time. Do you recognize them when they occur? I know that often times I don’t recognize those everyday kind of miracles. Instead, I wait for something BIG. God is in the business of helping us get through the BIG and the SMALL. He takes really good care of us ALL THE TIME. 

I read a quote from Priscilla Shirer recently that said this:

“When you witness a miracle, do you try to figure it out or reason it out or do you recognize that it’s GOD and worship Him in the midst?” 

We are keeping our eyes WIDE open for the hand of God. There are Miracles All Around, and we are praising Him for the work of His hands. We will praise Him when He gives and when He takes away.  We will be praising Him through it all.

Blessings to you prayer warriors. Keep on praying for us!

Swazi Team 2015

Obedience Brings Blessings

17 May

Swazi team two

LUKE 11:28 “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”

I look at this team and all of the youthful faces and I’m amazed at how they have allowed God to work in their hearts.  They are giving up part of their summer where they could lie on the beach or hang out with their friends.  They choose instead to sit on the dusty ground while holding a dirty child and sharing the love of Jesus.  They have sacrificed many material things in order to pay for this costly trip.  Why we ask?  Because they love Jesus with all of their hearts and want to obey Him.  Because of their obedience, God is blessing them in ways they never imagined.  I’m not talking about worldly material blessings.  I’m talking about the filling of the Holy Spirit that takes over your heart where love and joy overwhelm you to the point of tears.  That’s the kind of blessings this team is experiencing already and the trip hasn’t even begun.

Though there is tremendous blessing, there are also attacks from the enemy in the form of conflict, distraction, doubt, fear, busyness, and so on.   We ask for your prayers of protection from these attacks so that we can make our final preparations to do what God has called us to do.  “He who is within us is greater than he who is in the world.”  (1 John 4:4)

We are thankful for each and every one of you!

Swaziland Summer Team 2015

Front Row:  Eli Scott, Nancy Scott, Austin Heider, Jacqueline Heider, Carolyn Powell, Chandler Schmitz, Tamara Mahoney, Madison Hall, Elisabeth Putnam, Robin Hall.

Back Row:  Brad Willis, Kolbi Willis, Laura Starnes, Jesse Powell, Kati Ann Wright, Corbin Hughes, Amy Woody, Casey Willis, , Leigh Ann Schmitz.

Not Pictured: Scott Hall,  Melissa Prince

22 Apr

“We must do the works of Him who sent us while it is still day.  Night is coming when no can work.”  John 9:4.

With all the events happening in the world, there is a sense of urgency to fulfill the mandate by the Lord to go and make disciples of all nations.  On May 24-June 4, another mission team will travel to Swaziland, Africa to continue the ministry that began in 2007.

God has placed a burden on twenty hearts ranging in ages from the very young (11 yrs. old ) to not so “very young” (we won’t say).  It has been a humbling experience to watch the Lord put this team together in a short amount of time.

We are looking forward to seeing our Warren Baptist missionaries, Stephen & Charity Spragg, who are serving full time in Swaziland.  If you would like to write them a note of encouragement, please send to the address below and we will hand deliver for you.

We have a need for letters for the unsponsored children.  If you would like to help with this, please include a picture of yourself in the letter and leave a space at the top to add the child’s name.   There will be a bowl in the Global Cafe at Warren Baptist or you can mail the letter to Warren Baptist Church at 3203 Washington Rd. Augusta, Georgia 30907.

One of the most important components of a team is the people who never leave home.  If you are reading this blog, you are also part of this team.  We count on your prayers and encouraging words and we will not be able to accomplish this mission without them.

We covet your prayers for the following team members:

Jacqueline Heider, Austen Heider, Corbin Hughes, Tamara Mahoney, Carolyn Powell, Jesse Powell, Elisabeth Putnam, Leigh Ann Schmitz, Chandler Schmitz, Nancy Scott, Eli Scott, Laura Starnes, Casey Willis, Kati Ann Wright, Brad Willis, Kolbi Willis, Amy Woody, Madison Hall, Scott Hall, Robin Hall.

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