Sharing sermon notes preached this past weekend at Happy Trails Cowboy Church in Ware Place, SC.
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Sharing sermon notes preached this past weekend at Happy Trails Cowboy Church in Ware Place, SC.
Sometimes I have Liberia deja vou.Today was one of those days. For a split second there is this flash back, and I’m in Liberia, West Africa again.
First, we woke up to a warm, humid day. The high was supposed to be around 90, but the thermometer in the truck said 97. In Liberia, that’s a regular day. (Pictured: A palava hut in Liberia).
Second, and the most powerful in causing a Liberia day dream, was the smell of wood smoke in the air in the morning. The smoky haze today was from the huge wildfire down east North Carolina burning in three counties. But the smell immediately transported me to morning on the ELWA campus. (Pictured: A girl taking homemade charcoal and putting it in plastic bags for sale. One bag is enough to cook a meal. This is the way most folks cook in Liberia.)
There, the whole area smells like wood smoke in the mornings because the oppressive heat, humidity, and night-time dew has kept low to the ground the smoky smell of a thousand smoldering piles of wood being processed by average Joe Liberians for sale as charcoal. (Pictured: bags of charcoal – or ‘coal’ as the Liberians say – ready for sale in a rice bag covered over with palm leaves. This is enough for a couple weeks to a month or more. In the foreground is sugar cane ready for sale. They’ll cut off whatever size you want to buy to chew on.)
Third, this evening I grilled some pork chops, and before the meat went on, I roasted some corn on the cob, in the shucks, over the charcoal. One of our favorite afternoon snacks on the rough roads in Liberia, especially traveling from Buchanan back to Paynesville was to stop at a market in Grand Bassa County and buy each one in the truck an ear of roasted corn to eat going down the road. (Pictured: A Liberian market.) Liberian style corn is usually roasted by a young girl over a charcoal pot, so it has that same smoky flavor ours did today, but they roast them bare, without the shucks, giving kernels too long over the heat a hard shell.
Here in North Carolina, Amanda and I like to peel back the shucks, take off the silks, salt and pepper and butter the ear, then carefully put the shucks back and roast the corn in the ear over the coals about 15 minutes on each side. That way we don’t get the hard kernels like the Liberian girls have on their ears of corn, but we get the smoky flavor and even heat inside the shucks. It beats corn on the cob boiled in water.
In Liberia I got up every day feeling more than anywhere else that my life was counting for something valuable in the Kingdom of Jesus Christ. I’ve been to Liberia four times since 2003, and Amanda and I had the privilege of living there together only about nine months. (Pictured: Kids cooking on a coal pot on the porch.)
But Liberia marked us deeply. It is a better place to raise a family.
Despite its inconveniences from time to time, we miss the place very much, and I miss that daily inner assurance that I was making an eternal contribution and living a life of Romans 12:1-2 worship for the King of Kings.
On Friday, we enjoyed doing a missions program for the first graders of Spartanburg Christian Academy located at First North.
On Saturday, Luke and I enjoyed shooting clays with the men’s ministry of First North at River Bend Resort north of Lake Bowen.
We also reconnected with a friend from Presbyterian College days, Jennifer Perry Scruggs, a member of First North.
Imagine our pleasant surprise when we found the table next to us was manned by friend Brad Wall of Global Gates working in New York City. Enjoyed connecting with him again.
To God be the glory!
Be sure to sign up for our prayer letter at http://eepurl.com/76ulp.
The training was held at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary’s Charlotte campus, and the forty-one attendees from all over the country and two other nations worked hard from 9am to 5pm Monday through Friday.
Bible-based trauma healing is a way for people to deal with heart wounds through the power of Scripture. I attended in preparation for Liberia, but it is useful here in North America as well.
Now a duly certified apprentice facilitator (which means I know enough to be dangerous!), I am looking forward to sitting in trauma healing sessions led by Liberian brothers and sisters in Christ to see what they emphasize and how they lead it.
The people at my table were an SIM USA staffer, a Mission to the World worker with refugees in Dallas, a Campus Crusade for Christ staffer from Orlando, the wife of a Navy chaplain, and a PC USA community health education worker in Ethiopia.
Here is a link for you to read more about Bible-based Trauma Healing: http://thi.americanbible.org/
The orthopedic surgeon has recommended ankle surgery for Gene. Progress and healing has plateaued and a third MRI has provided objective evidence of chronic issues only fixable with surgery. The surgeon is going to perform the procedure in such a way that he will try his best not to break the leg bone. If so, the recovery time will obviously be shorter. We have been waiting for three weeks for word about a second opinion or a “go ahead” from the adjuster. Since this is a worker’s comp situation, a lot of time passes between steps which may (and probably will) affect our faith leave date of July 31. Pray with us that all these things will happen in the Lord’s timing and healing.
George Whitefield, the famous English evangelist, said, “O Lord, give me souls, or take my soul!”
Henry Martyn, a missionary to India’s Muslims, cried as he knelt on India’s coral strands, “Here let me burn out for God.
David Brainerd, missionary to the North American Indians in the early 18th century, prayed, “Lord, to Thee I dedicate myself, oh accept of me, and let me be Thine forever. Lord, I desire nothing else, I desire nothing more.” The last words in his diary written several days before he died were, “Oh come, Lord Jesus, come quickly. Amen.”
Thomas à Kempis, 1379-1471, said, “Give what Thou wilt, and how much Thou wilt, and when Thou wilt. Set me where Thou wilt and deal with me in all things as Thou wilt.”
Dwight L. Moody implored, “Use me then, my Savior, for whatever purpose and in whatever way Thou mayest require. Here is my poor heart, an empty vessel, fill it with Thy grace.”
Martin Luther prayed thus on the night preceding his appearance before the Diet of Worms: “Do Thou, my God, stand by me against all the world’s wisdom and reason. Oh, do it, Thou must do it. Stand by me, Thou true, eternal God!”
“Praying Hyde,” a missionary in India, pleaded, “Father, give me these souls, or I die.”
On my first trip to Liberia, West Africa, with Campus Crusade for Christ in 2003, I had the privilege of meeting a remarkable woman named Feeta Namien. Mama Feeta leads an orphanage in the center of the country near Gbarnga, but when I met her in 2003, she was a squatter just outside of Monrovia with about 85 children, displaced by war. Mama Feeta hadn’t planned to head an orphanage. She had sort of inherited about 45 newly orphaned children in the middle of the night in 1994 when she was hiding in the bush while a military group burned her village.
A soldier found her lying still in the bush outside the village, hiding. He rolled her over and told her to take the children whose parents had just been executed. First she said, “They are not my children. I can’t take them.”
Pointing a gun at her, the soldier replied, “Then we will kill you and all the children.” Suddenly Read the rest of this entry
Hudson Taylor famously said, “God’s work done in God’s way never lacks God’s supply.” Our 1998 Ford Expedition has been costing on average $500 per month for repairs for several months, and it was already too small for our family since our precious little Caroline came this past July.
At the end of December, I stopped by our mechanic’s and asked him what the new sound coming from under the hood could be and how much would it cost. He fixed it, but there was another problem that was a matter of time before it would put us on the side of the road. The new problem would be at least an $800 fix.
He sat down, took a long look at me, and for the second time in the last six months said, “Gene, please find your family something else. I can send you to a friend at a dealership.” This time I obeyed him thinking that when your own mechanic tells you to buy a new car, it must really be time. At the dealership, the salesman had no inventory available for 12-15 passenger vans. We needed to find something, so I even tried driving a van for sale by a church, but it was a 1991 and had not been driven for two years. Even the seats were moldy. I couldn’t bring myself to put my family in it. The kind of transportation we needed was not easy to find. Twelve or fifteen passenger vans are not exactly high volume sellers.
The push was, we had our first big trip in some time coming up in mid-January to invite people to join our team on this God-sized mission to Liberia. We knew our Expedition couldn’t handle it, and the thought of being on the side of I-95 with seven scared kids made my stomach turn. Our Expedition’s reliability was already so poor that Amanda and I high-fived with a “Thank you, Lord” every time we made it to the grocery store, church, or home. Our other car had already been parked for a month awaiting for God’s provision for its repair. Yet still we were sure it was probably unwise to finance a van when we were headed to the mission field.
Then we called CarMax in Greenville, SC, on New Years Day to see if they were open. The sales person found something that was much better than anything we would have chosen for ourselves: a 2014 Ford E-350 12 passenger van. It was in Gastonia, NC, so the sales person initiated a transfer. We were excited, but a down payment was needed, and time was running out with trips close on the horizon to Columbia, then to the Florence area in SC and the Fayetteville area of NC.
So what did we do? We did what we could. We followed the Hudson Taylor method. We prayed for provision, and we asked our intercessors and those we talked with to pray with us for wisdom and provision. And we waited. If there’s anything we have learned in this journey, it is that the Lord is always on time, but He is rarely if ever early. There is a reason for that. It exercises and strengthens our trust in a God of good character. So we kept praying and kept waiting. We had excited hope at first as we prayed, then waning hope, then that hope would return.
On Thursday evening, a farmer called and asked me to meet him the next morning to pick up a check. It was for the amount we needed for a down payment! We drove down to Little Mountain, SC, picked up the check, returned to CarMax in Greenville, took ownership of the new van, drove it home, packed our luggage, and headed to Columbia to speak at the SC Campers on Mission annual meeting on Saturday morning. That is God’s timing!
To those of you who prayed with us for this need, thank you for your prayers. And about that hesitancy to finance a car when we are on our way to the mission field? We already have two parties interested in buying the van from us when we leave for West Africa. In the meantime, the payment is much less than we have been spending on repairs to the old SUV. He has provided safe transportation for us to go about His work in preparing for Liberia. He is indeed a good, good Father.
As our Rachel (age 9) sat in the van on our test drive, she told me, “Daddy, I feel safe in this car.”
Ava-Grace was jubilant on the way home from our ministry event in Columbia, “Daddy,” she said, “This is a super, awesome, amazing, God-blessed van!” Yes, darling, it sure is.
We look forward to giving the opening devotion at the South Carolina Campers on Mission annual meeting in Columbia, SC, at 10am on January 9, 2016, at the South Carolina Baptist Convention building. We plan to bring our family, and we will also share our vision for career mission work with SIM in Liberia, West Africa. It would be great to see you there!