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Famous Last Words

Good morning friends,

Hope you’re all well and happy. Tony and I have had a great week, taking our government’s suggestion that we discover the sights close to home until travel restrictions are lifted. In an effort to comply, we took a little 3-day wander up into northern Queensland.  Even though it’s winter, the tropical nature leaves it chilly but beautiful and we’ve returned happy and refreshed. Up there in the middle of the north, you can find the stomping grounds of the late Steve Irwin, otherwise known as “the Crocodile Hunter”.  He had a T.V. show back in the 90’s that attracted quite a following.

Steve was known for his enthusiasm for wildlife and his daring encounters with them.  While filming “Worlds Most Dangerous Animals” in 2006, he closed in on a giant stingray for one of his classic shots; nose to nose so to speak.  I’m sure he was explaining with his trademark enthusiasm about how they are misunderstood…or endangered, or some such, but the stingray must have gotten offended and gave him a flick of his tail as he scurried out of the photo.  Unfortunately, the lethal barb pierced Steve’s heart, and he died almost instantly.

I’m not going to call Steve a “Hero of the faith” for several reasons.  I’ve just finished reading another book about him, and I, along with many Australians have to say, although theologically he was sort of ‘out there’, the guy was passionate about what he DID believe in, (saving wildlife), and went to the N’th degree to show it.  Actually he and his family have done HEAPS of good things, and continue to do so, for the long-term protection of endangered species in Australia and all over the world.

But what I want to say is more about “passion” and not really about Steve.  Another story popped up this last week that reminded me about passionate people. Many of you would have seen it, but I thought I’d give him a well-deserved focus since his passion went far beyond environmental issues.

His name was John Harper and he, as a Scottish Baptist minister, was all about seeing the lost come to Jesus. Many were the men, women and children who ventured within range and were awarded with the complete plan of salvation, right from the Bible. Perhaps some were offended by his zeal, but all that was forgotten the night John found himself in the icy waters around the sinking Titanic. After seeing that his daughter and sister were safely in a lifeboat, he began to swim to the hundreds of struggling passengers around him. Skipping the preliminaries, he would come up close and shout out, “Are you saved?” This elicited several responses, but among them were several who prayed to receive Christ.

One man refused his appeal rather vehemently, so John took off his life jacket and gave it to him, saying, “Here then, you need this more than I do,” and swam over to someone else.  Later he came back around to the man, and together they prayed a prayer of confession.

Eventually the numbing cold water took the life of John. Of the 1,528 people who went into the water, only six were rescued by the lifeboats, including this new Christian who was wearing John’s life jacket.  Four years later, at a survivors meeting, this same man recounted how John Harper had led him to the Lord.   He went on to share how he was one of the few who heard John’s last words, shouted out as he went down for the last time, “Believe on the Name of the Lord Jesus and you will be saved.”

Thankfully for most, it doesn’t take a sinking ship to bring a person to Christ. The Good News itself, prompted by God’s Holy Spirit, is enough to remind most of us that we all need His saving grace.

Beyond that, we would all do well to remember John Harper, a real “Hero of the Faith”.

Whatever situation you find yourself in this week, be it a sinking ship or a CoVid-laced conversation, take the opportunity to offer the question in whatever words are appropriate, “Are you saved?”

Till next time, the Lord willing,

Marsha

“Whatever your hand finds to do, do with your might; for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going.”

(Ecclesiates 9:10)

Slavery to Freedom … and Back

Another week down with Covid.  I admit I’m a little bit discouraged today because it seems that we, as a people, just can’t come to peace with the thing. I hear from others in the world that there is a rising trend to just “move on” and let it run its course. But here in Australia, the government is determined to stop it with increasing restrictions and lockdowns. I don’t know what the best course should be, but it’s not hard to see the effect it’s having. Even our churches are finding it harder to be cheerful in the face of such restrictions. We want to do the right thing, obey those in authority and all that, but it’s frustrating.
I think it’s by God’s grace this week that we came across an excellent film while we are waiting out yet another “stay at home” order. If you have a Christian network or maybe PBS, check out “I AM PATRICK”. It’s a recent “doco” (as they say here), or documentary-movie about the life of the boy who became known as the Irish “St Patrick”, in spite of the fact that he wasn’t actually Irish.

The scene was set in the AD 400’s, not long after Christ had lived on the earth Himself. Patrick, about 16-years-old, was a well-educated and privileged son of a member of clergy in what is now western Scotland.  Like many youth, his ‘faith’ was not quite his own yet, but he was a nice kid and went along with what he’d been taught.

And then things got bad.  Marauding bandits came from across the Irish Sea. Patrick was captured and hauled off with several of his friends, whom he would never see again.  After a choppy three-day crossing, his captors made land, and he was drug off the boat, propped up and sold as a slave to the highest bidder. With no common language, and following gestures, he was pulled and pushed up a mountain, given a staff and told to mind the flock of sheep there.
Six long years passed.  But sometime during that ordeal, as he lay hungry, sick, wet and discouraged beyond measure, in a delirium, he had a real encounter with the Savior.  He became convinced that God alone was with him, and would sustain him. The experience gave him a sense of joy he had never known.

Gradually he settled into his lot, learned some language, made friends and began to tell them about his love of the Savior. Then one night, he had another vision, telling him that he would be rescued, and … well, ya gotta watch the movie.

Happy ending. Music turns to major, the lights come up and you start to leave the theater.

But wait …… Patrick did make it home and was re-united with his family. He enjoyed his mama’s cooking and the opulent life once again.

But soon he realized that he could not leave a pagan people in darkness no matter how much his own Anglo Saxon people (including his family and  the church) believed that neglect of these barbarians was entirely appropriate.
Patrick went thru the training and years of preparation and finally, with the guarded blessing of others, returned to Ireland.  There he managed to win, educate, baptize, train and start hundreds of congregations for Christ and His ministry. They were of ‘Catholic’ appearance as this was the only church at all until the 1500s and Martin Luther’s ‘reformation’.   Where and when Patrick died isn’t known, but decades later when the Anglo Saxons failed fell into barbarianism themselves, the Irish Christians were there, once again to come across the water, but this time to nourish, educate and win back most of Europe for God.

What a hero… and yet to our knowledge, Patrick never wanted or knew that he had garnered such respect. As I said, he died without notice, no one venerated him till many, many years later.  As far as he was concerned, he was just a guy who loved God and what He had done for a lonely, lost enslaved boy.

Looking at Patrick’s story, I’m encouraged to think that I could be happy in whatever situation comes my way, relishing in the fact that I am loved and provided for by such a wonderful Savior.

We may feel today that we’re ‘slaves’ to a virus that’s constantly changing and mutating, but God has never changed. He loves us as He always has, and He asks only that we turn away from our fears and toward His smiling Face.

Have a good week!

Marsha

Safety and Goodness

Good morning followers,

As another week has spun by, I’m happy – I think – to report that, at least as far as we’re concerned, absolutely nothing of any interest has happened to us this week.  Here in Queensland, CoVid restrictions are some of the lightest in the country, with the major hassle having to wear a mask everywhere and use the “Contact Tracing” app on our phones so that Big Brother always knows where we are. I laughed when I heard the other day that the police in some city in America were not apologizing for accessing that information to round up criminals. The police here responded with, “That’s terrible! And furthermore we’d like to do that as well.”

Even though I have no outstanding warrants, I still can’t help but feel a little uneasy as I go from shop to shop, leaving digital footprints all over the place. But really, folks, this is nothing compared to what a lot of the world is experiencing today, and even, I believe, what a lot of you are having to endure. And when you come down to it, every generation has had its trying days, and by God’s grace have moved on to the next generation. So in that spirit, I want to talk about someone with whom just about all of you are familiar, C.S. Lewis.

He is absolutely one of my favorite authors from the early to mid last century, writing such fascinating Bible-based stories like The Chronicles of Narnia and The Screwtape Letters as well as books that make us go down deeper and stay down longer, like Mere Christianity.

It was in that last book that Lewis shared an experience that began to pull him away from atheism and into faith. As he was going somewhere on the bus one day, he noticed two men were arguing over the last seat available, each one making a case for why he should sit there.

“I should sit because I’m older,” said one man.

“But I should sit because I have a heavy load and I’m traveling further” countered the other.

Lewis noted that neither man was basing his argument on his ability to take the seat by force, but rather on an innate “right” to sit, calling on some universal “ought” that neither man could verbalize but nevertheless both recognized. How could they do that, thought Lewis, unless there is indeed an Absolute Right and Wrong; and if that’s so, then where did it come from?

This line of reasoning led Lewis to search for, and eventually reconnect with the God he’d been taught about as a child. He went on to become a great professor at Oxford, and then at Cambridge. Interestingly, he was friends with J. R. Tolkien, the creator of the Lord of the Rings, a series of stories that eventually made its way to Hollywood. Both Lewis and Tolkien were interested in writing fantasy novels, but Lewis, with his new found faith, insisted that he wanted his stories to communicate Divine truth. Today if you were to hold up Lord of the Rings next to The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, it wouldn’t take long to figure out which one came from C. S. Lewis. His work has been a great blessing for both me and my kids. Lord of the Rings has been no less significant, but for the most part, has mostly succeeded in giving us nightmares.

Here’s one of my favorite quotes from the Wardrobe to help you face these days of uncertainty. Remember that the lion in the story is called Aslan, and it’s not hard to see that He is none other than Jesus. Lucy is hearing of Aslan for the first time, and asks Mr. Beaver,

“Is he quite safe?” asked Lucy.

“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver. “Of course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

So, my prayer for each of you this week is not necessarily for safety (tho that would be nice!) but that we might walk with our King, Who is and always will be good.

Marsha

Tragic Little Heroes

Dear friends,

We’ve had quite a week, starting with the chance to hold our new grandson, Jeremiah Nathan. The moment quickly passed, when our state of Queensland, because of a few new cases of COVID, announced a snap lockdown, telling us all to “go home, and don’t come outside til we say so.” During that drama, “Jay” (as we’re going to try to call him) and his mom were required to stay in the hospital for a few more days until he could pass his “jaundice test”. It was heartbreaking to see the kid, having just discovered the joys of being held by Mom and Dad, now laid under a light with his eyes covered in gauze. He passed with flying colors on Friday, however, and is now discovering the huge estate he’s inherited, complete with the family dog. That sounds like a sermon … but I think that’s Tony’s department. Now it’s Sunday, the lockdown has been lifted (provided we keep wearing our masks), and I think we may just mosey 60 miles up to Brisbane this afternoon to give him another cuddle.

I was going to paraphrase this little ‘note’ sent to me by some dear missionary friends from Africa, but I realized the one who sent it is a much better author (and surgeon!) than I am, so please read with me what she wrote. I’d like to call this blog “The Heroes Who Live as Children”.

But first, a little context. The scene is set in a forgotten corner of Angola, featuring Missionary Doctors Daniel and Priscilla Cummings (Daniel was a Japanese Missionary kid and our Trevor’s best friend and who grew up in and out of our house). Their website is  https://www.healthservicecorps.org/chsc-hospitals/kalukembe-hospital/ and you are more than welcome to send all your money to them.  They’re the ‘real deal’.

Here’s what she wrote:

“Our friend Pedro and his brother Avozinho (”Little Grandfather”) had been picking, as they often do, unripe goiabas for several hours in our yard. It was still early, but he called out, a respectful distance from the front door, and asked to speak to me. It was unusual for Sunday morning, but I went out, and he shyly asked if he could have something to eat, “The Hunger” was too much he said…. explaining quietly that he and Little Grandfather hadn’t eaten in three days. His mother was bedridden and couldn’t sell fish and his pregnant, 16-year-old sister was gambling away the money she earned, refusing to buy food. Breakfast in Angolan Portuguese is known as “Mata Bicho” : “Kill the beast” … and the beast of hunger was still growing stronger in Pedro’s belly.

“Pedro is 10-years-old and a full foot shorter than our Ezekiel (also 10), probably from malnutrition. His head is scarred and indented in a corner, and I’ve always wondered who beat him there as a child. The neighborhood children used to tease him for his funny shaped head. He lives in a small, crumbling, adobe house in the “Sanzala” neighborhood (in Brazil, where I grew up, we call it “slave’s quarters”). He just started going to school (after many years of encouragement), though has a somewhat erratic attendance given his responsibility to feed his siblings. He usually is selling small piles of bananas or avocados for a profit of 5 cents, which he mostly has to give to his parents. His home life is sad, dark, abusive, with a mother accused of witchcraft, being responsible for the death of a grandchild and selling poisoned fish.

But Pedro is a kind, quiet child. There are often several other small children who usually follow him as they scavenge for food, especially Avozinho, whom he cares for like a father…. Avozinho reaching for his hand and Pedro always clasping it with tender reassurance.

Of course we prepared Pedro a good meal. After all, I’ve known Pedro for 5 years now. He is our friend. He’s consistent, kind, honest and trustworthy. So I was surprised on Thursday when in the middle of work in the OR, doing a fistula repair, I hear a conversation behind me about a student’s computer being stolen by one of “my” friends from Sanzala.  I can only imagine what hunger will drive a child to do, but it was surprising to hear that it was Pedro. Others accused him of stealing a computer last year, of regularly breaking and entering homes, and his father said to the young men holding him hostage they could do with him what they willed: he was a child who “messed around too much anyway.” The young men beat him, trying for a confession and discovery of the computer’s location. He didn’t know.

“I confronted with him yesterday morning, the self-righteous lady that I am (God forgive me). I asked in an almost accusatory tone, what he had done. He related the whole day, and ended asking me in a tired hoarse voice that seemed to have repeated the story over and over, “Would I not have told them, as they beat me, if I had known?” I tried a different angle, reminding him I was his friend and didn’t want to find out later. He stood his ground. I finally brought up God, as if He were my last card, saying we are people of Truth, and don’t lie. Liars, as my father always said, are children of the Devil. He said he wasn’t…. then he prayed, quietly saying, “Jesus where I walk You are, where I was, You were too.”

“And as he prayed, I confessed. Jesus, walk with me too. Pedro doesn’t often go to church, he and Avozinho wear mostly Zeke and Elie’s old clothes, but he walks The Walk. You can judge a man by what he says in the church, but as others have pointed out, it’s what he does outside that matters more.”

It’s me again, Marsha.

As the Sunday School song goes, “Jesus loves the little children of the world.”  I pray especially for the little heroes who have it so bad, burdened with the responsibilities never meant for children. As our little Jay will be able to enjoy every advantage, may little Pedro also bask in the love of the Savior……… and please may he have just a little comfort for the sweet boy that he is.

Till next week,

Marsha

Our Quiet Heroes

A very good day to all,

And it has been.  After seemingly countless hours of waiting and watching, today we emerge as grandparents to our 4th little boy! YEAH!

This week I want to give you one of J. John’s “Heroes of the Faith” with just a little twist to what’s on my mind right now.   I find myself comparing this hero to my son-in-law, Chris.

So first let’s have a look at Joseph.  Yes, you guessed right, this is not about anyone in the recent past, but of Joseph and Mary, of about 2100 years ago, or as is more often stated, “Mary and Joseph”.

J. John refers to him as one of the “Heroes in the Shadows”; and that fits perfectly with our new daddy, Chris.

As we read in Matthew 13:55, Joseph was a carpenter. Chris uses his tools to create masterpieces in the IT world. In Matthew 1:19, we’re told that Joseph was a ‘righteous man’. Personally, I’ve always rejoiced that the description fits Chris as well. We know from the fourth chapter of Luke and the first chapter of John that Joseph was from Nazareth and little more. Chris is a local boy from a wonderful family right here in the Gold Coast where we live.

What makes Joseph unique is not that he was handsome or rich but that he presented as a helper and enabler, albeit it from the shadows.  This he managed to do in the relatively male-dominated world of the Bible. If you think about all those so great men of the Bible, technically, they are not this one. For example, yes, Joseph did get a couple of messages from an angel, but only in a dream … nothing in-your-face personal like Mary did.  To our knowledge, Joseph didn’t write down anything, he was never quoted, and he got nothing published as did Mary in her famous, “Hymn of the Magnificent” (found in Luke 1:46-55).  This too, is exactly how our lovely Chris is: quiet and confident but just as happy to not be out there stealing the show.

“Quiet Heroes” often rule, and with a strength that’s amazing, from the shadows.  Seldom front page but still vital.  They play their accepted secondary role with grace and charm. Another attribute of these heroes is a ’shielding’ role, that in the process creates a strength all it’s own. I’ve bumped up against strength in Chris on a couple of occasions when I got a little too involved in trying to run my daughter’s life even after she had left the nest. The experience left me a bit surprised, and at the same time profoundly proud of this wonderful man who had taken over my shielding role.

And lastly, both of these men have a strong supporting role. The Bible tells us there were many more children later on in Mary and Joseph’s life, and Joseph worked hard to take care of all of them, The last mention of him was when Jesus had supposedly gotten lost back at the temple. Joseph was there on the spot, looking for and finally finding his precious Son. A good father in every way.

Like Chris.

Heroes in the shadows rarely seek attention, and not surprisingly hardly ever get the recognition they deserve. But where would we be without them!

We’re looking forward to a fun-filled week, watching our little ‘Akachan’, as the Japanese call them (meaning ‘cute red thing’) fill in and blossom out to be all that God created him for.

Happy Trails,

Grandma Mae

Dying and Being Reborn

This week I was checking something on the website of our lifetime employer, the International Mission Board, and I came across something I hadn’t noticed before.  It was sort of like the “column 8” of a newspaper.  There it was: a full color, carefully crafted Obituary page (and pages and pages) of all of those amongst our more than 4000 missionaries who have “Gone Home” this year.

Talk about interesting!  And here I am writing about Heroes.

I was mesmerized for almost an hour, just gaping at all the names. There were so many that I knew from our long history with the Board; people who had stood alongside with us in Africa and Thailand, Taiwan and Hong Kong and of course so many in Japan. Added to that were the people we’d met in passing on our Stateside Assignment years, when our paths crossed while speaking at different churches.

It’s hard to explain the ‘camaraderie” that one feels when you find someone who’s walked a similar path with so many shared values and experiences.  I chuckled to myself as I remembered some of the unspoken ‘foibles’ that were left out, so that nothing but true saints in the Lord shown down from my screen.  But then, maybe that’s the way God sees us.

Anyway, I decided NOT to further this distraction by adding up the accumulated years of service, years those precious folks had dedicated to sharing their faith with the world.  Suffice it to say, it left me proud to have known these guys, and proud of the God who sent them out, and then took them back into His Loving arms. Some had served for decades, some for only weeks. I remembered reading somewhere that the average life expectancy of a missionary to Liberia, West Africa in the 1800s was only about four months. (Now it’s much longer thanks to medicine). And yet when each arrived at the throne of God, each heard those wonderful words, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant”. I must add that even though most of these folks lived in various forms of difficulty and privation, the average age of the bulk of them were in their late 90’s.  I’m sure someone could think of an appropriate comment …

As we continue along on our journey here in Australia, just living life as we can, we’re pretty sure we’ll be welcoming grandson #4 into the world this week. Be sure to look at all the “Letters to Schnicklefritz” on Tony’s Facebook page. Google Facebook, Tony Woods. It should be right on top. Or, drop me a line and we can send them to you.

I was happy to come across the following verse below in my Bible reading this morning.  I know it’s out of context; actually God is telling the Israelites what they missed out on, but anyway….  This is the version from my “Message” Bible (which I’m sure will raise a few eyebrows!), but it spoke to me, reminding me of the HOPE we have for the heroes of the future.

Isaiah 48:19 in the Message says, “Children and grandchildren are like sand, your progeny like grains of sand.  There would be no end of them, no danger of losing touch with me.”

I’m reminded that we are all ‘progeny’ of great heroes who have shown us the way.  Aren’t we blessed to have known them, and now we send that love down to our kids and their kids and their kids…….
God bless us all.

Marsha

Heroes Unawares

Hello from Chilly Australia!

If you’ve never thought the words “skiing” and “Australia” go together, just go to the internet and check out for images from one of our many ski resorts at Thredbo, down in the Snowy Mountains.  Granted, as a Colorado girl, I still miss the dry powder snow from my childhood, but for Down Under, one can’t complain! This year is particularly cold and they’ve been able to start the season earlier than usual, so much so that we may be able to go down and have a peek tomorrow.

Tony and I are in Canberra this weekend, celebrating the Queen’s Birthday (and my own, while we’re at it), but we came mainly in order to look up an old and very dear friend, Hillas Maclean, retired Head Librarian of the nation’s Parliament Library.  He’s a hero to us; he and his wife were our first Aussie friends. I’ll never forget coming here to settle permanently so many years after that first meeting, and finding beautiful cards written and individually posted to each of our children in our new mailbox, welcoming us and saying, “We will be your Australian family”.  His wife, Rhoda, passed away a few years ago, but Hillas, now 92, is still living independently and is a joy to be with.

I’m still on the “hero” theme, so in addition to the Macleans, let me tell you about some others whom we never met, but rather, met the products of their heroism.

Many years ago in far away Perth, on Australia’s west coast, we were introduced to some friends of our friends. It wasn’t long before this new couple had become our own friends as well. As we got to know them, the question of how they’d come to be Christians came up.

It seems that they, being quintessential Aussies; free thinking, laid back and full of energy, in keeping with their vibrant personalities, decided to quit their jobs and dedicate some extended time using up their youth and their savings to see the world.  This is a very common activity amongst Aussie youth.

And then it happened.

Somewhere in Europe …… in a hostel, they made a casual acquaintance with three backpacker guys.  Sitting around a campfire, these boys said in passing that they were Christians and, when questioned, basically explained what that meant to them. The next day they all parted ways.

End of story.

Or so they thought.

Months later, the couple returned home and in the process of settling back down, looked at each other and said, “We want to be Christians like those guys.” Sunday came around, they walked into a church, and the rest is history.

Recalling the events that led up to such a life-changing decision, this couple realized that they had never even caught the guys’ names, nationality, or anything else about them. The only reference they can give to this experience is taken from 2 Corinthians 2:15-16, “For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved …”

“That’s what these guys were,” our friends told us. “… a fragrance that stayed with us for the rest of our journey, and brought us at last to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.”

I’m pretty sure these unsung backpacker heroes would be delighted to know “the rest of the story”, but at least they will know when they get to Heaven and find each other!

Think about who you are and what you do in every day circumstances. Who knows? You might be changing a person’s life and not even know it! Next time you’re talking with someone….. pause for a second and ask yourself, “What do I smell like?” I pray it will be easy on the olfactorys.

We’ll see you back at home next week.  Nicki’s getting closer and closer to her due date, so stay tuned!

God is Good,

Marsha

A Girl Named Pandita

Hello fellow readers,

I’ve been enjoying traveling with you to different parts of the world on our search for Heroes.  I thought I’d grab another of Canon J. John’s heroes for today.  All is well here in chilly Australia except that we’re (the country, not us) battling an “Indian strain” of COVID.  Because of all the news, I’m seeing a lot of people turning their thoughts toward India and perhaps dredging up some past prejudices.  However, J. John has recounted an interesting story of an Indian woman I had never heard of. It’s a story I think needs to heard and remembered.

Pandita Ramabai was a truly extraordinary woman: reformer, educator and evangelist. She was born in 1858 into a British-ruled India that was dominated by the Hindu caste system. At that time, people were placed in rigid social levels and women were considered definitely as inferior to men. Her father was a high-caste Hindu priest who, defying tradition, taught both his daughter and her mother to read Sanskrit, the sacred language of the Hindu scriptures.

When she was 16, Pandita lost her mother, father and a sister to starvation, victims of a nation-wide famine. One brother survived, and the two walked all around India. She was gifted with an astonishing memory, and used it to recite Hindu scriptures in exchange for food.

Pandita was never one to abide by cultural rules, and soon married a man from a different caste. Sadly, her husband died, leaving her a 23-year-old widow with a daughter. Seen as an orphan, a widow and a single mother, Pandita was rejected by society, but that did not stop her from speaking out. She formed an organization that promoted women’s rights, the education of women and an end to child marriages. Eventually, her voice was heard among the British elite, giving her even more opportunity to speak her mind.

In such an environment, it wasn’t long before Pandita came across Christianity. She read Luke’s Gospel and was drawn at once to the way Jesus treated women with love and respect. She became a Christian, which made her very unpopular among the Indians who knew her, but actually increased her voice for reform. She traveled to England and America, joining with other Christian women activists but always focusing her harshest criticisms on her home country.

In 1888, Pandita returned to India and opened a residential center near Mumbai, where young widows could learn to read and write in a safe environment. “Mukti”, as the center became known, grew to over 1500 residents, producing some of the most influential women of the time.

By the turn of the century, word of the Welsh revival was being heard everywhere, and the Mukti Center welcomed the news, joining in prayer for revival in India. By 1905, thanks to Pandita’s encouragement, Indian Christians carried the Gospel all over the country in a movement similar to what was being seen all over the world. By now, Pandita’s life had a new power and joy and although she remained heavily involved in social work, she was now an evangelist, preaching to all a message that focused on Christ, the Holy Spirit and prayer.

Pandita was an extraordinary linguist – fluent in seven languages including Greek and Hebrew – and in the last two decades of her life worked to create a new and more accessible Bible translation in her own Marathi language. It was finally completed just days before her death in 1922 at the age of 64.

What an amazing story of an amazing woman! Sadly, Indian history has almost forgotten her. But I think it’s time for us all to be reminded of this true “Hero of the Faith”, Pandita Ramabai.

Never underestimate the power of a woman.

Till next time, Marsha

Those Little Heroes

OK, since travel is still up in the air, I thought I’d take you on a virtual trip back to Africa today, that is, if you’ve gotten over your jet lag from last week’s visit to Japan. I hope one day soon we’ll be able to REALLY get on a plane! It’s frustrating and at the same time encouraging to know that here in Queensland, with a population of over 5 million, we’ve had only 7 deaths to Covid, and one of those seems to be directly related to a glitch in the vaccine. Yeah, we’ll step up eventually for the “jab” as they call it here, but only because we want to have the airline’s approval to fly.

In the meantime, we still have our memories, and with the internet, can ‘travel’ all we like.  I talked for an hour with my sister, over 10,000 miles away, and it didn’t cost a cent! Life is good.

So back to Africa.  As you probably know, Tony & I spent our first overseas assignment in Zambia, central Africa, doing church and youth work, as well as teaching school.  We were 23 and 25, and had applied for a post in Switzerland or else someplace exotic like Bali, but the International Mission Board sent us on a much greater ‘adventure’ to Africa.  I’m sure it was a “God thing”, because we fell in love with the continent, doing two more “stints” in West Africa and Ethiopia, until we deemed ourselves too old for any more such adventures.

But I digress.  Here’s our ‘Heroes” for today:

This time instead of some famous names you may know, these were two eight-year-old boys, Claridge and Noah.

When we arrived in Zambia, we set out to convert the enclosed porch of our house into a “Youth Center”.  We lived in a home normally provided for British employees of a local copper mine. It looked like something out of an old Humphrey Bogart movie, with a screened-in porch around two sides, making it perfect for the task. We scrabbled together a ping pong table, a dart board, some Gospel leaflets and set up shop.

No youth came. We discovered that most of the young people we met in the surrounding churches worked every day, and besides had no way of traveling from their villages into Luanshya.

But we found no shortage at all of the “little neighbors” who lived and played all around us. After a few days of hesitation, they came, and they came in waves. From daylight every morning to well after dark, they were on our doorstep, on our porch and soon, in our hearts. Living in town, most of them spoke English and loved to practice it on us.

It didn’t take long to find the prime movers in the group: Claridge and Noah. Unlike the rest of the children, they considered themselves part of our family, to the point that we finally had to devise a flash card system for the front door. If the card was green, come on in! A yellow card meant, “Knock if you have business, but otherwise the center is closed. A red card meant “Even if the house is on fire, DO NOT KNOCK!” This worked for some of the kids, but Claridge and Noah happily disregarded them and continued to make themselves at home. And, I have to admit, we loved it, and them.

They were also a huge help in our study of the local Chibemba language. We would struggle for hours, often shouting out in frustration, “But why can’t I say it like that??” to which they would answer calmly, “Because it’s wrong.” Other times they just looked at us and giggled.

Fortunately, even though we never mastered the language very well, we managed acceptably, thanks to the ever-present Claridge and Noah. It wasn’t until later, when we got to Japan, that the language came between us and food, and we had to knuckle down and get serious.

But those “little neighbors” came faithfully, and our youth center thrived, becoming something like an ‘every day Sunday School’ where kids could come play a game, have a snack and learn about Jesus. Two years later, when it came time to leave, we were so sad, knowing that we’d probably never be back. There were no missionaries to replace us, so the house reverted back to the mine and the youth center was a thing of the past.

Now, fast forward about 20 years. We were in Japan, and I got a letter, forwarded to us by the International Mission Board.

“Dear Mr. Tony’, it began. “Do you remember me? This is Noah.”  Of course we remembered him.  He continued, “A few years ago, Claridge and I had been out drinking and fighting like we always did on Saturday nights. We called ourselves the “Fight Boys”, and were proud of how bad we were.

But one Sunday morning, I awoke out in the field, sleeping off the night before. It was still dark, but I heard someone walking by.  He was whistling that tune you taught us so many years before, “Jesus loves me, this I know”. Something in me stirred. I got to my feet, and found a church. Now I’m training for the ministry and wanted you to know.  Please pray for Claridge, he needs to remember Jesus too.”

In the words of a friend, “You just can’t make this stuff up.”  Claridge did remember. He came to Jesus, and today both of those boys are GODLY men. Noah is a Pastor, and Claridge is a leader in industry, looking forward to early retirement so he can preach the Gospel.

Thanks to the internet, we are able to keep in touch with them, pray with them and rejoice as God blesses them and through them blesses Africa as well.

Isn’t God just SO FAITHFUL!!

I hope you all have a blessed week. I hope you find some little ones to be heroes to you!

Marsha

Sister Heroes

Today, in thinking about heroes, I want to take us back a few years to a couple of women I mentioned in my blog before.  They continue to ‘impress’ me with their story, so here it is.  Back in the 50’s, right after the war, a young girl named Hiroko Nomura, came to know Christ as her Savior, thanks to the witness and direction of a missionary man named Bob Sherer  Like many others before her, Nomura san’s conversion was not met with welcome arms back home.  In fact, her entire family were strict followers of a militant arm of Buddhism, a sect known as “Sokka Gakkai”. Unlike most Buddhists, who are very open-minded when it comes to other faiths, Sokka Gakkai insists upon strict adherence to its beliefs, which span every aspect of life, including one’s finances, family ties and political persuasion.  So Nomura san kept her Christianity a secret for many years. Then, in a bold decision, she asked Bob to baptize her in their city of Kobe at midnight on Christmas Eve.  That must have been chilly! Nomura san continued working faithfully for her aunt during the daytime while secretly studying the Bible with the missionaries at night.  After a few years of this, Nomura san had made friends with several missionaries, including some in the mission office up in Tokyo.  One day, she was asked by the mission if she would consider moving to the far northern island of Hokkaido in order to live in and care for a mission house whose occupants were leaving soon for a one-year furlough in the United States. She did. About that time, a young lady from Arkansas by the name of Miss Annie Hoover appeared on the scene. From the outset, Annie felt called to Hokkaido but being a single young woman, the mission deemed it to be too “remote”, and assigned her instead to work in the Tokyo mission office. Annie never gave up her calling, however, and when a new missionary family moved to Hokkaido, Annie was finally given permission to move as well, provided she lived within shouting distance of the new family. It wasn’t long before Annie had started a church plant for Sapporo Baptist Church (which is still thriving) in her living room.  When the missionary couple on furlough returned, the church plant was going so well that Nomura san, instead of returning south to her Buddhist family, moved into Annie’s house to be an ‘aide’ in her work. These two adapted to life together as sort of ‘big sister and little sister’.  It was such a good fit that they ended up working closely together in ministry for the next 40 years. We visited in their home back in the early 80’s, and I observed that Annie always spoke English to Nomura san. She said this was done initially to help her learn the language, but eventually became the norm. Nomura san, in turn, always answered Annie in Japanese…. unless of course there was a difference of opinion, in which case Annie would speak in Japanese “so that you are sure to get my meaning”, and Nomura san would reply in English “since you obviously have missed a few of your Japanese lessons.”  How funny the adjustments we all make to stay happy under one roof! As time went on, each lady did her own thing. Annie excelled at preaching and doing evangelism; Nomura san, being the faithful side kick, was great at writing hymns (more than 16, I believe) and doing pastoral care. They did corroborate in creating the first Bible correspondence course using the radio.  Annie printed all the materials for it in her garage workshop, and even later produced the Masterlife course in Japanese as well. Both ladies were instrumental in getting 6 churches up and going, including what is certainly the ‘mother church’, Sapporo Baptist. Some of you may not think that’s too many, but believe me, in Japan, it’s a huge achievement.   Nomura san would teach someone to play the small organ or piano that Annie always provided from her own money to the new churches. Both of these women are in heaven now, but they were truly “Heroes of the Faith”, as our devotional said this morning, “Thinking more of what God wanted from them rather than what they wanted from God”. Keep on keeping on, Marsha