Messengers of hope...

Missionaries in Ecuador with International Teams and Youth World since 2002, parents of four children, and then some more children, directors of Casa Gabriel and now Casa Adalia, teacher and friend, but most importantly, redeemed by Jesus Christ and living out the ministry of reconciliation as messengers of hope. This is the story that God is writing through us.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Lead me on!

"Anyone who intends to come with Me has to let me lead. You're not in the driver's seat. I am. Don't run from suffering; embrace it. Follow Me and I'll show you how." Matthew 16 (MSG)

I am so incredibly thankful God is in the driver's seat. He is leading, in power, in love, in wisdom. He is my perfect, faithful leader. Why should I worry or fret? Lead me on, Oh Jesus.

    When I feel so tired emotionally I am not sure I can take another step.

When I hold a sobbing six year old who doesn't want to leave the safety of my arms.

         When I stand on the other side of the locked door of a broken girl. "It is ok." I say, "I will just sit outside here and wait for you." 

    Lead me on when there are no seeming resources, or answers.

When I am frantically hunting for a missing girl in the dark streets of Quito. 

               Lead me on towards justice and mercy. 

  Lead me in the wait, in the doubt, in the dark, in the light.

           Lead me, oh Jesus to You.

Let me put on the seatbelt of Your Spirit and Word. Let me sit back and exclaim over the breathtaking views. Let me anticipate what is coming around the next corner. Let me cry with and love with You in the brokenness. Let me laugh when I bounce high from the jar of the potholes. 

           Lead me on, Oh Jesus!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Come walk with Me

For about ten weeks I had the joy of studying God's Word with a group of women, most of them missionary moms serving in Ecuador. We studied "Children of the Day," a Beth Moore study on I and II Thessalonians. I missed several of the group sessions due to my unpredictable and extra busy schedule with Casa Adalia, but oh the blessing of those sweet afternoons when I could join the others in Esther Borman's living room, sharing together what God is teaching us, sharing our heartaches and frustrations, our times of rejoicing...and praying for one another. How I needed those prayers. I still do!

Here is a beautiful excerpt from the day we studied I Thess 2:12. May you be as encouraged as I was!

You and I can’t walk “worthy of God” when we’re walking alone, no matter how much sin we are dodging. The theology of walking happens in His presence.

The Bible unfolds with an image of God walking among His people and draws to a close with Jesus, His risen Son, doing the same. Between those corresponding divine footprints, hundreds of times and in multiple ways, He bids man “come walk with Me.” To walk “before Him”, as so many verses word the concept, is to live continually God-aware. 

To walk before God is to travel down the highway with your spiritual sunroof wide open. Even when you’re looking straight ahead, hands on the wheel, you know those rays are bathing you in warmth and that wind is cleansing the air. If the clouds are thick and heavy overhead, you know what’s above them. You relish hearing from God, talking to God, and also dwelling in contented secure silence before God, confident that He never budges.

That “secure silence” part is crucial. If misinterpreted, silence can become a one-grave cemetery for intimacy with God. We all have seasons when we don’t’ feel like God is near. They are temporary if we don’t break fellowship and walk off in a huff. Day in, day out, we take Him at His Word.

Come walk with Me. Even with a limp. That’s what Jacob did (Gen. 32:31). Even in the fire. That’s what Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego did (Dan. 3:25). Even when we feel like all hope is gone and no one came through. That’s what the two on the road to Emmaus did. (Luke 24:15)

Come walk with Me, whatever shape you’re in, no matter how wounded or bruised. Just bring Me your whole heart – even in ten thousand shards – and let’s walk the rest of this thing out together (2 Chron.6:14). “This is the way; walk in it” (Isa. 30:21). He will never lead you into the path of a freight train, but He’ll meet you in the carnage should you choose that route. He will never veer you from your destiny but, should another path seduce you, He can turn a long, ugly road back home. When you find yourself unwelcome where you thought you’d been sent, He’ll help you move on. If you walk out with Him day to day and season to season, even what seems like the most futile detour will end up taking you to a spot where a piece of your puzzle hides…

Just as Scripture testified that Enoch and Noah walked with God, may huddled angels whisper behind your back when the chronicles of history are complete, “See that woman right there? She walked with God. “ or “See that man right there? He walked with God.” 

Ok, my eyes are filled with tears at the thought of that someday when we will be in the never-ending-glory-land together. They are also filled with tears at the thought of the​ beautiful, extravagant love and grace of Our Jesus. On any given day or moment I can relate to walking with a limp, or facing a fire, or losing hope. Yet, 
because of Him, I am still walking! 

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Earth has no sorrow that heaven can't heal.

Where do I begin to try and write a blog after so many months of silence? I have to begin with, "God has been faithful, just like my dad said so many times." It is oh so true.

I wonder sometimes why He has assigned me the labor of such a ministry as Casa Adalia. My Spanish is inadequate, the legal system feels impossible to understand, and there are so few resources within the system that it can leave me feeling helpless and overwhelmed. But over the past weeks that have been especially difficult, I realized that I must stop trying to be adequate, stop wanting the answers for tomorrow, and just let God be God. You would think I would have learned this better by now. :)

As I type I hear the song "Come as you are." One of the girls from Casa Adalia is listening to music. She loves listening to worship music, often in English. Songs like "Oh how He loves us so" and "The Revelation Song" -- the music pours out of her room. Sometimes I hear her trying to sing the lyrics, nearly always off key. It is incredibly beautiful. But then there are other times. Dark times. Despair is heard instead of joy. Instead of music, I hear her sobbing, deep sobbing that seems to be without end. I hold her in my arms, tears of my own fall. I pray. I offer the only thing I have, my presence, but not just me, God in me. "You are not alone," I tell her.

This week our daughter, Danelle, sent me a video of the song, "Come as you are" by David Crowder. She said they sang it during worship at church, and it made her think of the girls in Casa Adalia. 

As I listen to the words, I hear Him beckon me as well, this 56 year old imperfect and tired mom who does not have the answer to "Why?" 

Jesus, I come. I lay down the burdens and hurt. I lay down my heart. There is no sorrow You can't heal. 

Come broken hearted. Let rescue begin.
Come find your mercy, oh sinner come kneel.
Earth has no sorrow that heaven can't heal. 
So lay down your burdens. Lay down your shame.
All who are broken, lift up your face. 
Oh wanderer come home, you're not too far.
So lay down your hurt. Lay down your heart.
Come as you are.
By David Crowder

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Robbed yet rich

Last Thursday, in the middle of a beautiful Quito afternoon, robbers broke a window in our living room, bent and broke the bars, then stole our two laptops, ransacked our bedroom and took the rent money and cash from my wallet saved in our dresser. The heavy loss is the info on the computers. Phil and I both work from our home office. It is also difficult to be without computers...I am writing from a teammate' s Kindle she lent us. Slowly. :)

My mother-in-law called today and encouraged me, "Often it is through necessity God works His plan." Yes, I am ever aware of my necessity and my inadequacy. And in my need God expresses His abundant grace. O that my eyes would be wide open to see God's expressions of grace, such as all the ways He is providing, how he blinded the eyes of the thieves when they dumped my jewelry box and left my diamond wedding ring. There is no other explanation for why I didn't feel frightened the night of the robbery or violated by the knowledge that strangers touched my clothes, looked through my drawers, looked through my wallet, saw my name, threw my undies on the rifled through my place of safety and refuge with evil intentions. Yes, I am overwhelmed with crazy, abundant grace.

My refuge lives in me and cannot be stolen. The things that make us rich cannot be stolen. Life eternal. Love unconditional experienced through friendship, family, community. Even my identity cannot be stolen. Who I am, the daughter of the King, my true identity, can never be taken. HE can never be taken from me, ever.

Casa Adalia -- Girls know how to have fun!

Recently I was appointed to teach one of our life skills classes at Casa Adalia. The topic? Personal hygiene... 

I introduced the theme by holding up a small, stained-glass vase, “I would like to show you a valuable object. What do you think makes it valuable?  Well, it is beautiful. I like to look at it. It is also valuable because it was given to me by my husband Phil. But, if I drop it, it will break. Or if I place it inside a cupboard, its beauty will be hidden. And if I want Phil to know I am thankful for it, I will take good care of it.

The same is true with our bodies. God created us in His image. He gave us marvelous bodies, much more valuable than this vase. BUT, in order for us to enjoy the bodies God gave us or to let Him know we are grateful, we need to take care of them. YOU are a beautiful creation! When we display our outward and inward beauty in the manner God designed, we are able to reveal to the world His incredible beauty.”
We then read together Psalm 139:13,14

Oh yes, You shaped me first inside, then out; You formed me in my mother’s womb. I thank you, High God—You’re breathtaking!
Body and soul, I am marvelously made!

Next, I handed out information on a variety of topics concerning personal hygiene. I challenged each person to create a poster to portray the main points from their handout.  When finished we each presented the information to the entire group. Everyone did a great job. We laughed, we listened, and we learned together. 

At the end of our time we made a natural face mask from oatmeal, lemon and yogurt.  We laughed some more as we blobbed on our face masks. I reveled in the sweetness of our group experiencing such joyful and educational “girl time” in a safe and healthy setting.  Gotta say...I am glad God made me a woman because girls know how to have fun! :)

Kristin, our house coordinator, displays her poster AND face mask!  

Monday, April 28, 2014

"Girls, I am here to tell you...He is alive!!"

Easter morning at El Refugio in Calacali, Ecuador -- picture taken by Sonnet Medrano
Last Friday's theme for our outreach at the safe house was the joyful news that Jesus is alive.  We decided to act out sharing a meal with the girls as though we were living in the days after Christ’s resurrection.  I was assigned to be Mary, the mother of Jesus…because I am the only one of our group old enough to actually have a son of 30 plus years.  J  Kristin would be Mary Magdalena and Desi would be Peter.  We brought a large loaf of bread, cookies, grape pop, smaller breads, a small wooden cross, large tablecloth, pens, tacks, Bible, scarves to cover our heads for the drama, and plastic, disposable glasses.  Bringing so many things is not necessarily a simple task since all of us travel from different parts of the city on trolleys and buses.  I smiled at the cross sticking out of Desi’s backpack as we hiked the final part of our destination on foot. 

We prayed outside the safe house.  Oh, Jesus, would you come and reveal Yourself through us?!

Many of the girls greeted us with huge smiles and hugs.  Several of the new girls hung back, observant and silent.  I was blessed to see “M’s” face light up.  (She is in process to come to Casa Adalia.  It has been a slow and often discouraging process due to a delay in obtaining the judge’s order.)  Rebeca (Casa Adalia's house mom) led us in a fun “driving” game where “the cop” chased “the offending driver” through “the avenues and streets” made by the rest of us standing in lines.  The sun was beating down with intensity, so after the game we moved to the entrance that was shaded.  I spread out the tablecloth on the pavement and placed the scarf over my head.  Kristin did the same.  Desi disappeared and returned displaying a beard and men’s clothing.  We all laughed.

And then the celebration began.  We invited the girls to the “table” and served “wine” and laid out bread. I blessed our time and "meal" in prayer.  We passed the large loaf of bread, each breaking off a piece.  The girls joked and laughed.  It indeed felt like a party.  Then Kristin began to share her story about Jesus and how impacted she was by His tender love, acceptance and forgiveness.  Desi then shared her story as Peter.  They were both very dramatic and animated.  I felt myself entering into the story, and I prayed silently for the girls to hear and receive the message of hope and truth.  Then I began to share my story as Mary.  Even when I made a number of errors in Spanish, the girls listened intently.  I felt my eyes sting with tears as I tried to demonstrate the depths of grief and then joy that Mary must have felt.  At the end, I said, “Girls, I am here to tell you that Jesus is alive.  He is alive!”

Rebeca led us in reading and talking about Luke 24:1-12.  I so love hearing these precious girls read aloud from their Bibles! (We give every girl a personal Bible if she would like one.) We then passed out pens and paper and Desi talked about how Jesus came to die on the cross so that He might carry our burdens and take away our sins.  She encouraged us to write down a weight or a sin we are carrying and to tack it to the cross.  They would not be read or shared; they were for God’s eyes alone.  The cross was soon covered with our burdens.  As I prayed to end our time, Kris and Desi removed all the papers.  When the girls opened their eyes the cross was empty, symbolically demonstrating the incredible power of the cross. 

We finished with a simple song, “Jesus is not dead.”  Two of the new girls then quietly pulled me to the side and asked, “Could you bring us our own Bibles next week?”  What a beautiful question…of course!

YES! Jesus is alive!    

Friday, April 4, 2014

Let me go back to Egypt!

Phil and Jose Luis on a Casa G mission outreach to a jungle village. 

In September 2008 I wrote these words in my journal, “Jose Luis, age 20.  Freed!  Passionate for Jesus!”  A former street kid and drug addict, transformed, living with purpose and joy.  Over the next two years we marveled at the depths of God’s word expressed through this young man.  His energy, enthusiasm, gifted expression of music through rap and love for deep conversations impacted all of us. 

Today Jose Luis lives on the streets; his seemingly only desire is to be high. 

Often we have seen in the lives of these former street boys a word picture of what for many of us our spiritual journey looks like.  Part of the journey to freedom and enjoying “the land of promise” includes conquering the giants in the land, those entanglements of learned behavior patterns and belief in lies stemming from a myriad of wounds and bad choices.  Facing the giant is scary.  The temptation is to go back to the comfort of the known.  To our Egypt.  

For Jose Luis one poor choice led to another and another.  Consequences, words of truth, expressions of love had seemingly little effect.  We watched helplessly as he chose to go back to the slavery of his drug addiction and his world on the streets.  We lost contact with him and didn't see him for nearly two years.

A number of months ago Jose Luis suddenly appeared back into our lives. He was high and dirty, suffering from a stab wound and an oozing abscess in his leg. 

After the summer of 2012 Phil shared the following with me, “How do I communicate unconditional love to someone like Jose Luis whose actions won't allow him to continue at Casa G?  I have decided I want to find him and just sit with him.  No agenda, no expectation.  Pray I would have an opportunity to demonstrate God’s unconditional love to him.”

Phil’s prayer was answered, but the addictions and behavior didn't change.  Jose Luis started showing up several days each week outside Casa G high, asking for money, clothes, something to eat or needing further medical attention.  We heard that his family refused to let him into their house because he had robbed them.  His behavior became more and more erratic and paranoid. Yet, Phil continued to listen to him, sometimes for hours, and to demonstrate unconditional yet firm love.  He offered to take him to a drug rehab center, but Jose Luis refused.  I was amazed at Phil’s patience and continued hope for him.  I just felt uncomfortable and unsure how to respond around him.

One day Jose Luis surprised Danelle, Nate (our daughter and husband) and me when he walked into a restaurant we were in and sat down at our table.  We offered him something to drink and then after talking briefly, mostly about difficulty with his ear, he placed his head on the table and fell asleep.  Having no idea what else to do, I placed my hand over him and prayed aloud that God in His mercy would touch him, would rescue him once again. “Even when we don’t deserve it, You are merciful.” 

A week later we discovered that the pastor of our church (which is directly across from Casa G) had taken him to Teen Challenge.  Jose Luis had been “terrorizing” some of the church members by asking rather aggressively for money.  One even called the police, and he was put in jail several hours.  Yet, once again he was extended mercy. 

Three weeks later Jose left Teen Challenge.

The church leadership listened to his reasons for leaving and placed him in their drug counseling program. They gave him a place to live at the church.  He was clean and happy, a different person. 

 Yet, Egypt beckoned.  Again he bailed.  We haven’t heard from him since then.

To be honest, I have not felt merciful towards Jose Luis, but rather completely frustrated.  I mean.  He was given so many opportunities. Right?!  He blew it.  Not just once but over and over.  He threw away his chances.  If he had finished his training at Casa G he would not be on the streets seeking his next fix.  He would be the one helping others find freedom.  I believe that.  I witnessed the incredible impact he had. 

But what does God see?  He sees a man who is alone and fearful and hungry and desperately suffering.  He sees one of His own who is lost and needs help to find his way back home.  I am so thankful God is merciful.  Always.  Every time we turn to Him in repentance, we are given another chance.  His forgiveness is unending. His love is unfailing. 

The LORD is merciful!  He is kind and patient, and his love never fails.  Psalm 143:8