Saturday, April 30, 2016

Her Story Quotes by Shari



What an awesome privilege we have as missionaries to physically stand in the place of Jesus, many of us in lands who for the most part have never heard of Him.  I get asked often by the Thai people, "Why?"  
"Why do you live here?"
"Why do you teach children for free?"
“Why are you willing to pick up my child when I am not available to bring them?”
“Why don’t you charge for the meal you provide after your church service?”
 “Why do you want to learn our language?”
“Why do you come visit in my neighborhood every week?”
“Why do you open your home to everyone?”
On a weekly basis I get asked one of these questions or something similar. And just today, after a lady found out that I had helped to purchase new school uniforms for a couple girls, took them on a small sight-seeing trip yesterday to visit the summer palace and the sea, and let them spend the night at my house last night, I was asked, “Why do you help those two orphan girls?”
For the most part, those that come to live in Thailand often fall within one of these categories: people looking for pleasure that is readily available, people looking to escape their past or start over, or people looking to build a business and make a profit
I don’t fit into their concept of a “farong” (foreigner), and so they are skeptical of my motives.  To answer these questions, I most often say something about wanting to be a help to anyone I can.  After a bit of thought and looking at me somewhat sideways they usually say the words, “Jai dee” which means “good heart.” It is then that I have the opportunity to tell them that, no, it is not that I have a good heart, but that God does.  He is not the aloof being that they pray to in fear and think doesn’t hear them or understand their life or situation.  He loves them and wants to have a close relationship with them, and He sent me here to Thailand to tell them about Him and to show them His love. What a joy it is to see them mull that over in their minds and then readily open their hearts to hear what else I might have to tell them about God and His love for them.
I’m thankful for each of you who stand in Christ’s place all over the world, and how grateful I am that He allows me to stand in His place here in Thailand.
Matthew 25:34-40  
Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat:
I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink:
I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
Naked, and ye clothed me:
I was sick, and ye visited me:
I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?  Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?  And the King shall answer and say unto them,
Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the
least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.




Thursday, April 28, 2016

No, You May Not

We are right on the brink.

Furlough is mere weeks away.

It sounds easy enough, right? Buy plane tickets, pack, and head out.

I wish it were that easy. Instead we have to arrange someone to stay in our home. We have to make sure those working in the church in our absence are ready. We have to design updated prayer cards, display banners, and make a new video. We have to schedule meetings with churches. Furlough preparation is a lot of work!

And then there are the little things. Very... important... little things.

There are little things like training our children to re-enter American culture. (And reminding ourselves about American culture, too!)

It seems easy, right? After all, we are Americans.

But increasingly, I find myself saying, "Oh, we can't do that in America." Around the dinner table it seems I have noticed how much we have adapted to the culture. It's great here, but on furlough?


For three and a half years, we have lived among a people who have completely different manners and different standards of what is acceptable. So how do we train our children for furlough? How do I prepare my college-bound son to reintegrate? How do we prepare ourselves?

The conversations go a lot like this:

Son, in American you cannot wear that. It's fine here, but athletic socks with your church clothes and shoes will not work in America.

I know usually I tell you just to pick it up and eat it with your hands, but in America they rarely use their hands for things like that. So let's practice how you have to eat this in America.

It's no big deal here, but please don't ever talk with your mouth full when we are in the States.

Michaela, we are going to have to practice reaching out to shake men's hands without looking like we are touching a dead frog. It's normal for men and women to shake hands there.

Yes, you will have to wear your shoes in church there... and, no, you may not take them off when no one is looking.

Burping is rude in America. So, let's try not to do it here. It will be good practice.

Don't stare.

No, you may not wear socks with your sandals in the States.

People in the States are very sensitive about their weight. Do not call anyone fat. Yes, I know it's a common conversation here. Yes, I know people call us fat here. America is different. Let's just treat that word like a bad word while we are in the States, ok?

No, you most certainly may not walk all the way to the store in the States!

Stop staring.

Don't slurp your drink. You cannot do that in the States. If the straw makes noise, it means you are done. (And, no, it doesn't matter if our national friends think this is the stupidest rule ever.)

People in the States have an imaginary three foot bubble around them. Stay out of their bubble. No, I am not joking.


Um, if you see two men or two women holding hands in the States, it doesn't mean friendship. So, don't do that.

In the States... Always... flush... toilets.

You don't have to turn the water off in the shower while you soap up there.

I said no staring.

No, you don't have to wait for the power to come back on to do that there. The power stays on there.

Stripes and plaids do not go together there. And you can't wear the same clothes two days in a row there.

You have to get a clean plate each time you go for more food at a buffet restaurant.

You have to wear a seat belt. It's the law. Everywhere. Yes, in every State.

There is a seating capacity in the States. You can't just keep piling people in the vehicle. There has to be a seat belt for each person.

It's rude to talk in another language other than English in the presence of someone who doesn't know that language. No, I don't know why.

Are you still staring? You gotta stop that.

No, you cannot wear your tennis shoes with your nice church dress there.

Never reach across someone at the dinner table. You have to ask for what you need instead. I know they see it as laziness here. Remember the three foot imaginary bubble?

And, yes, we will sit on pews... no, you may not sit on the floor. The pews are padded. You will like it.

Stop staring...

There is no need to carry toilet paper. Every bathroom has some. Why are you looking at me funny? I am not kidding!


Stand in line, and don't jump to the front. Don't forget the three foot bubble. No, no one is going to jump in line in front of you. People in America all stand in lines, and they get crabby if someone breaks that rule.

They will not know what petrol is. You have to say "gas." And we have to pump our own "gas."

It's o.k. if you forgot the English words to the song... they will have hymnals in English there.

Just remember, America needs Christ, too, and there are brothers and sisters in Christ there who will love us no matter how quirky we have become.

Are you STILL staring?





Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Vacation Bible School - Scheduling (re-post)


I originally wrote this post and several others regarding the planning and execution of a Vacation Bible School program about two years ago. Since that time, some new ladies have joined our BMW group and have asked that more information regarding these topics be shared. I will begin by re-posting many of the previous posts and hopefully add to them as questions come in. I pray the lessons we have learned in the building of a children's ministry might be helpful to you in your ministry.


--Originally posted on February 27, 2013


One of the most effective ways to boost your Sunday school class attendance is to hold a Vacation Bible School during summer school break on your field of service. I say that because summer is not June, July, and August for all of us around the globe! For the next few weeks, I am going to share my experience in planning and executing a VBS program on the mission field. I pray these posts will be most helpful and encouraging to those of you who have been wanting to plan such an event in order to help grow your children's ministry.

My husband and I have been working in Russia for fourteen years. Just over seven years ago, we moved out to a village to begin a new ministry. After getting settled in a bit as a family, we secured a room in the local House of Culture to meet in for services. We immediately started a Sunday school class which met in the same room, just before the main service. Upon getting to to know a few families, we planned our first VBS program in 2007.  Since that time, we have held week-long VBS programs each summer. God has blessed, and these programs have become a favorite summer activity for many of the village children!

VBS Children and Workers  - 2007
In order for a VBS program to be a smooth success, most of the preparations are made in the months prior. Although you may be nervous about it all coming together at the last minute, I can honestly say that if you have prepared well enough ahead of time the problems (if any) will be minimal during the actual execution of the program. Then, as each day passes, you can relax a bit and enjoy the week more!

Very first day of our very first VBS 2007
Starting from the beginning of the planning process and building up to the week of the program, I will break down the planning process into several sections. In this first post, I would like to cover the scheduling part of the program.

Months ahead of time:
1. Determine WHERE you will hold the VBS program - Ideally you should have several rooms inside a building (in case of rain) and a nice yard or open field outside for more active games and activities. IF you have a situation like ours to where you do not have a building available and must meet outside, don't forget to have some sort of  tents or shelter in case of light rain.

2. Determine WHEN you will hold the VBS program - Planning the date requires much consideration. If you are in a smaller city or village, check with the school administration to find out their schedule so that you don't schedule a VBS program during the same hours of the school's day camp program times. Here in Russia the children also attend long summer camps. Often there will be a general date when most of the children leave for camp. Being aware of these dates helps you have more children in attendance and prevents them from missing either the beginning or ending of the program.

3. Determine HOW LONG the program will last (which days of the week and hours per day). We usually hold VBS on Monday through Friday from 11 am until 1 pm. If we have a daily craft time, we extend it until 2 pm. Speaking from personal experience, that is plenty of time! You may only be able to do three days a week. Whatever the case, do your best to ensure the best time frame for the most children to be able to attend. Also, remember you want to have a FULL schedule with little to no downtime. It is best to keep the children busy and not give them time to wander around because wandering results in a quick loss of control! Strict time frames help them stay busy, help the time pass quickly for them encouraging them to come back tomorrow, and help you maintain order.


4. Determine WHO (workers) will be involved. This is a big decision! You may not have anyone to help besides yourself (husband and wife); maybe you have several missionary families in the area, or maybe you have a few nationals to help out. Whoever you have as help, make sure the duties are distributed accordingly. A new missionary that has not yet learned the language will not feel comfortable leading the songs! Also, if you are helping another missionary and your job/s have been assigned to you, be sure to see them through to the end. If you volunteer to do something, do it! There is a balance that is necessary when working with other helpers in these type of programs. For one, people (nationals) are watching! They are watching the faces, personalities, expressions, body language, and interaction between the workers. They are watching how well the whole program is thought through and organized. They may not be able to pull something off like a VBS program, but they will sure be there to watch how you pull it off! Trust me, if you hold your VBS program outside, they will come to watch! That can be a good thing or a bad thing. The Lord can use a well-organized plan to help you win the hearts of your neighborhood, village, or city. The Devil can use a poorly organized program against you. Doing things 'decently and in order' (I Cor. 14:40) will be a huge benefit when you go to introduce yourself to those parents and grandparents later. When everyone understands what is expected of them and is committed to helping in whatever capacity needed, the whole program can run like a well-oiled machine!

Next week, we will discuss more of the paperwork involved in planning a VBS program. We will view a sample schedule, talk about themes, teaching materials, and such in order to work out the details of VBS planning.

In the meantime, please feel fee to write me at: danddsterling@juno.com with ANY questions, concerns, ideas for discussion that you would like to know more about so that we can be better prepared to use one of  the greatest evangelistic tools in Children's ministries - Vacation Bible School.


Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Children's Ministry and Growth {Guest Post}

Children’s Ministry and Growth

Not everyone is called to work with kids or youth. I am so thankful that God did put that love and desire in my heart to teach kids and mentor teen girls! I always look forward to Sunday mornings and Thursday evenings with “my kids.” I wanted to share a few things I have done since being on the field.


This was the start of my kids' class when I first arrived. It ranged from ages 2-17. Of course the 17-year old is more my helper and crowd controller!:) As the church itself started to grow we started to get more kids coming to class. I started a points system with my class. You get a point for attendance, bringing your Bible, memorizing your verse, bringing a visitor, helping with weekly outreach, and singing special music in the church service. The reward would be at the end of a specified time period. The winner would get to go out to eat at the restaurant of their choice. I have found that food really is a great incentive for kids! Not too long after I started teaching the kids' class, we held Holiday Bible Club (Vacation Bible School). After a great week of Holiday Bible Club we had added two more girls to the class. We were then able to start Thursday night youth class. Thursday evenings give me a longer time with the kids, and they get to play games, learn music, and learn a lesson from God’s Word.


Over Christmastime, the kids got to decorate their own full-sized gingerbread houses. I don’t think they had ever done anything like that, and they seemed to have a blast. Once again I implemented a points system for Thursday nights as well with a reward “of their choice” should they win. We will know this June who the winners are for the first half of the year. It has been so much fun seeing the kids grow and learn. Sometimes we as teachers wonder if they are getting or understanding anything, but time and time again they prove to me they do hear and it does click. I love the looks on their faces when they make the connection that one lesson we had coincides with another lesson months down the road. Of course we had a Christmas program as well. They did such an amazing job with their lines and songs. For me programs are so much fun. Parents get to see their kids in action and hear the Gospel!


As we began the New Year we also began a monthly Youth Fun Night at my place. Once again, I wanted to give the kids another opportunity to get together, get to know one another, and possibly invite friends who wouldn’t go to church but who might feel more comfortable at a less “formal” gathering. Each time we meet, I do an object lesson that helps to share some truth from the Bible. Some of the themes we have done are Movie Night, Ice Skating, Game Night, Make Your Own Pizza, Play the Wii, Basketball, and Badminton.  Of course my house cannot accommodate basketball and such, so we rented a community room for that. I have seen an increase in attendance to our Youth Fun Nights by some who are not youths, but my goal is for those who want to come to feel free to come. Some of the young adults who come are not faithful yet to church, so I know they are at least getting something when they come for the Fun Nights.


We just passed the time that we celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord. Once again the kids did a special program for that. It is such a blessing to see them get excited about inviting their family to see the presentation. One of our newer girls had her parents come and watch. I do not believe any of them are saved, but they heard the Gospel that day and are planning on coming again! As I look back on these last seven months, it is so clear that God is at work. It is nothing I can do and nothing Bible Baptist can do, but God is leading and guiding. Ladies, especially those like me who are serving single, don’t give up! Don’t believe the lie that Satan tells you about it not being worth it. The hard work, the tears, and the happiness are more than worth our time. These precious children want to learn and grow. They want to have fun while learning. It has been a stretching experience to learn to adapt my lessons to such a large age group and yet, I wouldn’t have it any other way. If you are struggling for ideas I would happy to be of help. Or if you have ideas you would like to share, I am all ears! Just know that God has called you to the place you are. Some of you feel you don’t do well with teaching kids, but that is where God has you. That is ok! One thing I have learned, kids really don’t judge you. They will never know your worry or fear over whether you said or taught exactly what you were ‘supposed’ to teach. Let God lead your lesson. I have found that I planned on going the way the lesson plan was, and while teaching, God led it a different way. Just be willing to serve and watch God give the blessings and results!                  

Guest Post by Deana Hewston, Missionary to Scotland  

       

Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole


If you love Chicken Cordon Bleu but just don't have the time to make the original dish this recipe is an easier version to give you the taste you want in less time!





Ingredients:

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut in half
12 slices of thin sliced ham
1 1/2 cups swiss cheese, shredded (replace with Gouda or another available cheese)
3 Tbsp. butter, melted
1 cup of buttery crackers, crushed (I think bread crumbs would work great)
3 Tbsp. grated parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
Sauce Ingredients:

3 Tbsp. butter
3 Tbsp. flour
1 cup milk
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce


Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and coat a 9 x 13 baking dish with cooking spray or margarine.
Layer the chicken in the bottom of the baking dish. Next, layer with ham slices and then cover with shredded cheese.
In a medium bowl, blend the crushed crackers, grated Parmesan, salt and pepper. Sprinkle the cracker mixture over the cheese to create the next layer.
Pour melted butter over the top of the casserole and bake for 30 to 35 minutes until juices run clear and cracker crumbs are browned a bit.

Sauce Instructions:

Create the sauce by making a rue. Melt the butter in a saucepan slowly. Whisk in the flour and cook for just a couple of minutes. Remove from heat, then slowly pour in the chicken broth and milk. Make sure to continue whisking for about 5 minutes or so as the sauce thickens.
Remove the sauce from the heat and stir in the Dijon, Worcestershire, and salt and pepper to taste.
Top each serving of the casserole with the warm creamy sauce. Enjoy!


Saturday, April 23, 2016

Her Story Silhouettes by Shari {#9 Margaret Laird / Little Acts of Love}


Hey there, I'm Shari. One of my favorite things to do is read about or study the lives of those who have gone before us or who are walking beside us in this endeavor of being a missionary lady.* 

Their stories challenge me, encourage me, and teach me. My hope is that these "silhouettes" or glimpses of their lives will do the same for you.  

Each silhouette contains a small synopsis of a lady’s missionary service, a particular story from her everyday life that resonated with my own, and a short Bible study about a truth that I learned from it. I hope that as you read these posts you might be challenged to find out more about these great ladies, that you might find something that speaks to your heart or helps you in your own ministry, and that ultimately you will be encouraged to remain faithful to your calling.

So grab a cup of tea, sit back and enjoy, and let me tell you about her story.




Silhouette:   

Margaret Nicholl was born on July 31, 1897 in Denver, Colorado. After graduating from Colorado Women’s College she felt the Lord calling her to missions work. She enrolled in Moody Bible Institute in 1917 and after completing a two-year course, she returned to Denver for nurse’s training which would allow her to qualify as a medical missionary. 

She was one of Baptist Mid-Missions first missionaries and decided to go to the French colony of Ubangi-Shari in the Central African Republic (CAR). After studying French in Paris for a short period of time, she arrived in the town of Sibut in 1922 at the age of 25. There she studied the Sango language for a few months, before moving to the town of Bangassou to open and run a French school. She made it a goal to teach her students to read not only French but their native language of Sango. Teaching them to read Sango was a slow process which she nearly gave up on, but eventually she had one of her smartest students try to read the words of John 3:16 that she had typed out on a piece of paper. It took several tries of reading it out loud before it made any sense to him, but when it did, he was so shocked he threw the paper out of his hands and said, “That paper talked to me.” Margaret said, “Yes, that’s God’s message of love for you.” And then he looked up at her with questioning eyes and asked, “Does God know my language?” Margaret along with other missionaries worked hard to translate the Bible into the Sango language. Although the New Testament was translated by 1935, it took them almost another 30 years to complete the Old Testament.

During her first year on the field she met Guy Laird, a fellow missionary whose wife had passed away. She refused his proposal of marriage twice, but after falling in love with him and his son, Lawrence, they were married in 1924, fourteen short months after she arrived. She gave birth to Eleanor in 1925, Arlene in 1927, Marian in 1928, and Clifford in 1931.

Shortly after Marian was born, Margaret and her husband were approached by the French government, who having come to recognize the boldness of the missionaries, asked them about the possibility of opening up a mission station at Ippy. Ippy was an area inhabited by the fierce cannibalistic Banda tribe that the French had unsuccessfully sent three representatives to at different times only to have them be eaten by the villagers. After much prayer they agreed to go. The Banda tribe members observed them from the moment they arrived - how they slept, how they ate, how they dressed, how they bathed. Nothing seemed to be sacred, but Margaret just kept showing them love and allowing them into her home and life. The word Kota means big in the Sango language. If something was very big it was Ko-ota. They affectionately called Margaret, “Ko-o-ota Kota Mama.”

While her husband worked on building the church, teaching the Bible, and training those who wanted to learn more, Margaret focused on helping people medically. One of her first experiences on the field was watching villagers dance on a mass grave where 300 wives of a chief who had recently died were buried alive with him. She was fearless when it came to the Banda’s superstitious beliefs about death and many times showed her trust in God to protect her while she nursed the sick and dying. She made do with what supplies she had, but prayed daily that God would let her open a hospital so as to better serve the people. One particularly important chief, who Margaret was able to nurse back to health from his death bed, ordered that anytime she entered a village the talking drums were to be sounded and everyone was to stop what they were doing and come to hear her speak. Sometimes she would have 250 to 500 people gather within minutes of her arrival at a village to listen to her share the Gospel. God gave great liberty and protection as she showered the people with her love and her patience. It took 18 years for that chief to get saved, but because of his orders many came to know Christ as their Saviour.

Although they had many converts the church they established at Ippy remained small because every time they trained a convert in the Bible or in a trade they left to be a witness in another town. Eventually they had converts all over the country who were winning their own people to the Lord.

In 1945, when Margaret was 48 and her husband 61, he died of the dreaded sleeping sickness. It did not help that the nearest hospital was 75 miles away and the incompetent doctors misdiagnosed him several times. When he was finally diagnosed properly, he was administered too much medication which caused a brain blockage. She did not see her husband’s death as the end of her ministry in the CAR. On the contrary, it fueled her prayer, “God give me a hospital at Ippy.”

God provided her with the funds needed to buy and ship eight tons of medical equipment and 20 tons of cement for the hospital’s foundation. Everyone thought she was crazy, but she knew she was called, and after being on the field for 30 years already, the hospital was finally being built. The hospital at Ippy ended up servicing missionaries, natives, and French government officials alike from the entire region. Its facilities included 60 beds, 2 operating theaters, and a library with over 1,000 English-language medical textbooks.


Margaret served her Lord in the Central African Republic for over 40 years - 1 year as a single missionary nurse, 22 years as a missionary wife, and 19 years as a missionary widow.  She returned to the States in 1964 and passed away in June of 1983. From her first experience on the field where she had to make herself a home out of an old goat house until her final years where she had a working hospital, a nursing program that produced the highest quality medical staff, thousands of converts, and many churches started, she kept a faithful heart that consistently showed others God’s love. She is truly a woman of whom it can be said, “She hath done what she could”!

Her Story/My Story
In 1952 Margaret was awarded the French Legion of Honor from the French government in Paris. She was happy to receive it, not for her own honor, but because she knew it would help better the relationships between the French and the missionaries. For the most part the French government officials had been quite antagonistic towards the missionaries, but had recognized Margaret’s great love and care for the African and Frenchmen alike. In her own words, “I had done nothing outstanding to receive this merit from the French government or anyone else. All I can say is that the French are just like anyone else; they respond to love. And I thank God that He has taught me to let Him love people through me.” So many times during her 40 years, the people had seen God love on her in small ways from providing a yearly supply of oats and prunes for her children through local Portuguese minors to the major miracle of getting the 28 tons of cargo for the hospital up the Congo River when everyone said it couldn’t be done. She in turn showered her love on anyone the Lord let cross her path in small every day ways like giving food to those in need, rocking a crying baby, lending a helping hand, or having a listening ear. She was always ready with a Scripture verse and a ready smile.


She was also awarded the Distinguished Alumni of the Year award from the Women’s College of Colorado in 1962 and the Anna Eleanor Roosevelt Memorial award for the Daughters of Hadassah that same year. But, the award that meant the most to her came from the hands of the President of the Central African Republic in 1961. She was awarded the Central African Republic Knight of the Order of Merit, the highest honor of the republic. At the citation ceremony the gentleman officiating the ceremony started with, “When I was born, Mrs. Laird was there.” With each statement about different stories he was aware of – a birth gone wrong, a sick loved one, a hungry child - he ended it with “Mrs. Laird was there.” Before the award was given to Margaret, the president came on an inspection tour. Nothing was mentioned about her founding of a hospital that saved the lives of so many or of the French school she ran that taught the people to read in their own language. Instead the president was told how she allowed the Africans to play in her house and with her children, how she never fed her kids without feeding the village children who played at her house, too, and how she would take in babies and feed them until they were strong enough to go back to their parents. It was enough for the president to concur that she deserved the award. At the final ceremony the president of the country summed up her life with one final sentence and gave the reason for her great success, “We need to say nothing except Madame Laird is the mother of us all. We love her because she first loved us.”


In 1999 while serving as a missionary in Rotorua, New Zealand, the Lord made Himself real to me through one of His small creatures. I was going through a particularly rough time and decided I needed to find some solitude, so I locked myself in a cottage by a beach for a few days. I read the book of John over and over and poured my heart out to God. I felt like if I could just see His face somehow or feel His touch I could keep on going. On the third day I left the cottage and went for a walk. I cried to the Lord and told Him I had to know He was walking there beside me. Just then a fantail flew near and sang me a little song. I quickly took a picture hoping I had captured him as he flittered around.* The fantail is a very small native New Zealand bird. It flits around and only perches for a few short seconds each time it lands, and, although it isn’t an uncommon bird, you don’t often see them. The little fantail followed me down the long path to the beach that day. What a special moment that was, and I thought to myself, “God does know I’m here. He is walking beside me, and He loves me enough to let me know it.” Through the years, at different times, I’ve asked the Lord to show me a fantail again, and, knowing my human frailty, He has always obliged. It is a special treat and a reminder of God’s presence and His love as I serve Him.



In December of 2007, my dear sweet Grandmother went home to heaven early one Monday morning. Within a few hours I determined it would cost too much to go home for the funeral, and decided to take a walk in the park just down the street from my home. Since my grandmother loved flowers, I took my camera along hoping to take some pictures for a remembrance of the day. As I passed through a grove of trees a bird nearly hit me as it swooped down and then landed on a branch above my head. When I turned to look, it was a fantail. I couldn’t believe the Lord’s goodness, and I hadn’t even asked Him for one. I grabbed my camera and prayed it would sit long enough for me to capture this moment. Of course, it flittered away and back again as fantails do. Since fantails are rarely seen in groups of more than one or two, I thought it must be quite fast because it seemed to be in one tree and then the next and then back again. All of a sudden, I looked up from my camera and realized it wasn’t just one fantail, but many, many fantails. They filled the trees that circled around me wrapping me in God’s love. I was able to take many photos that day, and one little fantail in particular stayed long enough and let me get close enough that I was able to take a video of him.*



When I felt the Lord moving me to Thailand, I was so disappointed that I’d no longer be able to see my special “I love you’s” from the Lord, but many of my friends and church members gave me fantail decorations so I could see them in my new home. Just a couple days after I arrived in Thailand I happened to be looking out a window when I saw a bird fly to the wall that separated the properties below me. It was black and about the size of a Robin, but flittered around back and forth; then its tail fanned out just like our precious fantails in New Zealand. I was eager to check the internet for what kind of bird this might be and found out that fantails are not just native to New Zealand, but there are over 50 species of fantails all over the world. Thailand has five different ones, but the type I see most often has a cross that appears on its tail feathers when they are fanned out. The Thai word is นกกางเขน pronounced noke gangcane and means the Cross Bird.* When I see them I am reminded not only of Jesus’ great act of love He did for me on the cross, but also for all the little acts of love He shows me every day.



Study:  Little Acts of Love

It is easy sometimes for missionary ladies, especially ladies with small children, to wonder what “great work” it is that they are doing for God. Even I, as a single lady who appears to have hours upon hours to devote to the work, sometimes look at my life and think, “What great thing have I accomplished for the Lord?”


When I was a young missionary, it was all about making plans to do great things for God. As I’ve gotten older, I have realized that it is not the grand gestures or the great accomplishments that matter for eternity, it is the little acts of love. It isn’t the amazing banquet that you were able to coordinate or the library you’ve meticulously catalogued that will be remembered. It isn’t the perfectly orchestrated Sunday School class or the beautifully crafted decorations in the church that will be remembered. It is the little acts of love you show on a daily basis that will make the difference in the lives of the people you are called to serve. As Margaret said, “How can they know the sincerity of the message unless there is the evidence of love in the little lowly things done by the person who gives the message?

So it is I find with God, as well. It isn’t the grand gestures He makes towards me or the miracle prayer requests that He answers every now and then that continue to touch my heart on a daily basis. It is the small acts of love He shows me daily to let me know that He sees me, He hurts with me, He cares for me, He walks with me, and He loves me.

I Corinthians 13, that great chapter on love, tells us that everything we say, every bit of wisdom or knowledge we impart, every bit of faith we show, and every material thing we “suffer” without so that others might have is as tinkling cymbals, sounding brass, and has no profit if we do it without love.

I John 3:16-18 say,
“Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.

But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?

My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.”

Take heart my comrades, anyone can show little acts of love no matter what other limitations you have in your life at the moment. Search for opportunities or ask God to bring the opportunities to your doorstep that will allow Him to show His love through you.

The people we are called to serve don’t need the grand gestures.
They need the little acts of love.







If you'd like to find out more about my story, you can click on this site's "Contributors" tab or visit my website. http://sharihousethailand.wix.com/servingjoyfully


I'd love to hear about your story, too. Feel free to leave a comment, or friend me on Facebook, or visit me in Thailand.  I have a great guest room.  :)




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*Disclaimer:

I have chosen to highlight the life of these ladies because of what they have accomplished for the Lord not because I agree with their doctrinal beliefs.  As with all study of man, our focus should be on the character traits they bestowed in their lives that allowed the Lord to use them, how the Lord used them, the methods of ministry they incorporated that allowed them to be effective, etc.  We do not study man to get our doctrine.  Our doctrinal beliefs should only come from the Bible.  To that end you may find you don’t agree with the doctrine of a particular person that I write about, but I believe there is still much wisdom we can gain from studying their lives. 

* Photo by me on the beach walk.
* Photo by me at the park on the day my Grandma passed away.
* Stock photo - www.surfbirds.com



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Resources & Book List:

They Called Me Mama, Margaret Nicholl Laird. 1975. The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago.



Thursday, April 21, 2016

Forgotten Grace

Have you ever embarked on a new adventure in life that overhwhelmed you?

Many would agree that, that the adventure that overwhelmed them was going to the mission field. You arrive in a strange land, where virtually EVERYTHING is completely opposite than anything you have ever known. Literally if you took every aspect of your life (manners, customs, clothing, gender roles, religion, politics, child training, social skills, family practices, speech,etc.) and did the exact opposite you would have a slight idea of the shock you encounter when you move abroad.

It's in times like these, when life is more frustrating, overwhelming and confusing than you can imagine, that you fall on your knees and beg God for grace in the tiniest of things. Some of the prayers I have prayed during our beginning years on the field would look something like this.

"Lord, help me not be angry with the woman using my clothes line in my backyard"

"Lord, help me not to be angry with the people who push and shove me through the grocery aisles."

"Lord, help me to remember that the frustration I feel when my electricity goes out right as I go to put my dinner in the oven or blow dry my hair is sent from the devil to steal my peace. Help me to have victory over anger and frustration."

"Lord, please help us to have peace and victory in our spirits as we are surrounded by idol worshippers."

As you read these, you may think,"What trifle things to pray over." But indeed they are not. It is when we bring ever frustration to the Fathers feet and beseech him for grace that we can deal with any situation with grace, poise and joy. It gives you the patience you lack in the flesh, understanding that only patience can provide, strength that only God can give and peace that the Father is in control and all will work out for good.

Fast a Forward five years- We have lived on the field about 6 years at this point and we are generally accustomed to the foreign ways and culture that surround us. Are there times it baffles and confuses us? Absolutely. But we understand so much more and our patience has been strengthened greatly. So we have arrived, right.......? We don't really need the same dose of grace we once did, when we were lowly missionary newbys, right?

We have learned patience. We give a light chuckle over the irrate new missionaries who storm around constantly livid at the culture; the insane traffic, the post office that has you running in circles with no hope of finding a package anywhere, constantly running out of anything and everything you need at the store. Yawn......been there, done that, prayed through and now I'm comfortable. I have finally found regularity in this foreign world and my stress meter isn't constantly bugging out. I'll gladly encourage others as they seek to figure this out but I'm awfully glad that isn't ME in that situation.

As we sink into this boat of comfort, we slowly lessen our requests for grace when frustrations come. They are so much less often and our patience has grown so much it isn't quite as necessary to beg God for grace for every little issue. We begin to master the talent of, perseverance. And not just any perseverance, perseverance with a smile and a praise on our lips. We power through the daily issues ( lack of water, vehicle breakdowns, sickness, lack of electricity, language blunders) without a sweat.

Then however God begins to load your wagon a little heavier. First you are given one heavy situation you didn't anticipate. It's hard, everyone can see that. Anyone would struggle. Anyone would find it hard to have a joyful spirit and a peaceful disposition in this situation. You begin to weaken, but you still lean on that trusty old perseverance muscle you have been strengthening so diligently over the last many years. You know you need Gods help. Anyone can see you do, but you can't seem to find your way back to living from grace to grace.

You power through, it wasn't pretty, but by golly you made it. Whew! Life will be normal now....right?......right?! Hardly any time passes at all and you realize you can't find normal. One MASSIVE situation after another keeps piling on top of you. You look for answers. You doubt. But still you persevere. God gives you nuggets of truth that keep you plowing on. We post on Facebook all the wonderful blessings the Lord has given but in reality we are grasping at any little snippet of light to keep the darkness of frustration at bay. We are more frustrated than we can remember being in years. But if we keep going it will get better....?.....IT HAS TO GET BETTER. I can't tell you how many times I heard the phrase, "Next year will be better" in the last year.

The new year comes and passes and yet one after another, life altering changes rock your world. Your finding your perseverance muscle is so weak it's begging for attention. It's begging for a break. Quitting never enters your mind, but your daily walk has become reminiscent of one who carries many injuries. But the motto still rings out, "Just keep pushing, just keep praising, IT WILL GET BETTER." But....in a small whisper you think, "I'm not sure how much more I can handle."

A time of refreshment and relaxation has arrived. I sadly limp in and drop in the seat. We are blessed to spend this time with men of a God and fellow missionary friends. From the moment it begins, a refreshment for our very souls begins to happen. The speaker preaches a message on Isaiah that echoed in my heart all evening. I went back and read the passages again.

"Then said I, Lord, how long? And he answered, until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate, And the Lord have removed men far away and there be a great forsaking in the midst of the land." Isaiah 6:11-12

These questions filled my mind-

How long will I serve with gladness?

How long will I glorify God in my weakness?

How long will I exalt Christ in my crisis?

How long will I follow Christs calling on our lives?

Do I have an expiration date on my love, service or surrender?

These were very serious questions for me. You see because I had constantly forgotten the grace God had at my disposal and was living on my own perseverance through every struggle and trial. I had gotten weak. So weak I wondered how much more I could handle. I thought surely God would take away the never ending crisis' and give me peace again because he must know, I can't handle all of this. When indeed He had abundant grace at my fingertips everyday through every struggle that could have allowed me to walk with grace and joy through any and all situations BUT I had instead leaned on my trusty muscle perseverance.

This thinking is very dangerous. Because when you start to believe that you are at the end of your rope and Gods not getting you through anymore, you will take drastic measures to find a way out. Praise the Lord, I was not at that place but it's possible for anyone if they don't find a way back to trusting in God's grace.

That is when all those simple, insignificant prayers from our newby days came flooding back to my mind. I started to realize, when did I stop asking for God's grace to face every problem? When did I start to think I could handle this on my own? I'm not sure the when or the where but I knew I had to go back that place where as an overhwhelmed new missionary, I cried out for grace for every frustration, no matter the size. I didn't have shoulders or perseverance muscles big enough to carry the burdens I had in life AND God didn't intend for me to. He intended to show me his miraculous hand of grace in my life everyday. He intended to show the lost a supernatural God, that can empower me to deal with situations unimaginable for normal fleshly man. He intended me to live by grace.

I have since heard a quote that has further encouraged me to endeavor to daily live by grace.

"If your complaining and whining about all the problems in your life you aren't embracing the grace God has given you. Because God gives us all the grace we need for every situation."

Ladies I encourage you no matter how long or short you have been a Christian, missionary or servant, live every day embracing Gods grace. He never leaves you with less than you need. He never gives you more than you can handle, through His grace. And we are never strong enough to persevere in our own strength.

Embrace Grace!