Petra

The word, “Petra” is one I’ve been sorta familiar with a long time, but since hearing a lot of your comments lately I’ve been getting a whole new appreciation for it. There’s the obvious things, like the Christian music group we grew up with, and of course its significance as a scene in one of those Indiana Jones movies. But honestly, I just had NO IDEA!

Let me see if I can hit the History Highlights:

There’s evidence of the place being occupied by one bunch or another for thousands of years; even suggested that this was one of the destinations of Jacob’s brother Esau, who if you remember, lost his birthright.  It’s quite possibly associated with those “proud hearts” the prophet Obadiah spoke against. “Though you soar aloft like the eagle, though your nest is set among the stars, from there I will bring you down, says the LORD (Obadiah 1:4).

There’s even a lot of support for the idea that Petra will be the place where those who find Christ during the Tribulation will gather to escape the minions of Hell, who will be bent on their total annihilation. It won’t work, by the way, since Christ will return to save the day; and for that reason, it’s said that this is where the Second Coming might begin.

By the 1st century AD, work at Petra was going strong, inhabited by a people known as the Nabataeans, and it wasn’t long before it was a major destination for caravans coming in from the East. As we were walking down the long narrow entrance into Petra, we could still see carvings in the sandstone of camels loaded with goods … almost like billboards welcoming the merchants.

Of course it wasn’t long before Petra’s success got the attention of the Romans, who arrived and announced that they would be taking over the business now. According to them, it was a mutually agreed-upon acquisition, but one can’t help but wonder what the Nabataeans thought about it, given that so many arrowheads, spear points and siege rocks were discovered around the basement of the Temple of Zeus … great place for a “last stand.”

By the early 300s, Petra was a full-on Roman city, complete with amphitheater, markets and baths. Interesting though, that the caravan folks began to simply go around Petra (thus avoiding being taxed)  and took their business elsewhere. The result was that by around 600 AD, the place was deserted and all but forgotten.

Time marches on … for more than a thousand years to be more exact. In 1911, a British explorer by the name of Burkhardt hood-winked some Bedouins into thinking he was a Muslim pilgrim looking for a place to sacrifice. They led him to the secret place of Petra’s ruins, he took notes and got the word out, and the rest is history.

What an amazing place.  Just to think that things this old, so beautiful and perfectly preserved, all made by man searching for God………..well, as I said on Facebook, it rendered me speechless……

Which of course no one could believe!

Now we’re sitting here in Hong Kong where we’ve been having a ball for 4 days. Old friends from both the Japanese church and the International church have been SO GOOD, feeding us til we’re bursting at the seams and plying us with stories from the “good old days” about 20 years ago when we lived and served here.

Tony’s delighted to be presenting his Anagaion discipleship course (right about now in fact, if you’re reading this on Sunday morning Hong Kong time).

Before you wake up again, HOPEFULLY we’ll be air bound for HOME!

It’s been a wonderful trip, but we realize that it’s time to be back to reality.  Can’t wait to see those grand babies either!

God Bless, Marsha

Zoned Out

Good Morning all,

Some of you have been following our adventures in the Middle Eastern country of Jordan this last week.  I’ve posted more pictures than anyone wants on Facebook, so I’ll spare you more of the same this morning.

The capital city of Amman, where we’ve been for 5 days, is made up of geographical ‘zones’.  Beyond that I have no idea where I am most of the time because it all (sorry) looks alike.

As you read this, we’ll be on our way to the ancient ruins of Petra, but today our travels took us to another ancient city called Jaresh. Fascinating place, I have some thoughts on this that I’m still categorising in my mind and may share with you later if I come up with anything that makes sense.

I would like to tell you about two ‘zones’ I lived in, at least in my mind, for most of the day.

The first several hours and the last one, I’ll call the “Traffic Terror Zone”.

A lovely guy named “Bashar” picked us up at our guest house an hour late.  We were relieved that he had a late model car with seatbelts.

Within minutes I could guess that he fancied himself a Formula One driver, because before we’d ‘clicked in’, we were off like a young pony with a burr under the saddle.

Bashar talked and waved his hands as he drove pell-mell north on a pretty big freeway, winding and climbing while changing lanes constantly without even a glance behind.    Tony assured me he was only going 80, but it felt like we were in a rocket.  We passed numerous traffic signs to Syria, one hour away, and saw a few police vans with guns mounted on the roofs.  He assured us that all is well and we arrived at Jaresh in record time. I gathered my wits and crawled out of the back seat, whereupon he pointed to the gate of this marvellous and ancient temple ruin, and said, “Back here, 2 hour”.

After collecting ourselves with a visit to the “W.C.”, we then spent the next two hours walking around in the hot sun. Our phones recorded 5 miles, and that didn’t take in the steps.   We took so many pictures even we don’t know what we saw, but it was interesting.

Now, lets enter into the second ‘zone” and I’ll call that the “Gastronomical Nightmare’.

On the way up the highway, Bashar careened off the road to buy us some RAW eggplant for us to taste.  That was followed by another screeching stop for orange juice.

Make no mistake, we LOVE to eat, but the last week my stomach has been revolting (or maybe it’s me that’s revolting, but you get the idea).  We’ve even had the privilege of visiting one lovely American raised and trained doctor the day we arrived, I was so crook.  She prescribed “Spasmomen” and got me on my feet but that may be too much information.  Let’s just say, my stomach is a bit delicate.

When we staggered back from our self guided HOT SUN tour, Bashar indicated that now we would eat a buffet.  I demurred politely and said I’d like a drink and maybe some Baba Ganoush.  (Roasted and mashed eggplant and some spices, very easy on the stomach).

Well, there must be some regional differences in Baba Ganoush, because what I got most resembled a good RAW salsa, filled to the brim with onions, peppers and who knows what else.  Wash that down with a nice lemon/mint slushie complete with the whole fruit, skin and all, and enough mint to bring tears to your eyes..

I was holding my own after this sumptuous lunch when we started home, only to screech to a halt.  Bashar ran into a shed and came out with two large cups saying “Doctor! Try this!”  He called Tony that all day because I’d put the suffix, just for fun, on the paperwork.

His offering: two big glasses of fermented sheep milk. It was actually rather good, somewhat salty and reminiscent of Grandma’s buttermilk. I sipped it carefully for an hour and felt better.

But wait!  There’s more.  Another stop for a large a plate of figs, washed lightly with a bottle of water beside the road.

We asked to be dropped at a mall where we said goodbye and staggered in.  It was very modern with all the anchors stores, Body Works, Bed Bath and Beyond, H&M and a food court.   We settled on a strong cup of coffee to settle our stomachs……….and of course…. a Cinnabon.  Some people never learn.

So now back to the first circle of terror.  The taxi ride home brought to mind the words I’d seen from one of my readers this morning, who quoted, “The clinging hand of His child makes a desperate situation a delight to Him.”

Tony didn’t notice as he hopped in the front seat of the taxi that I didn’t have a seat belt in the back.  Again, we bolted into traffic with the driver playing a selection from his iPhone what might be called “contemporary Islamic Music” with a lot of ‘Allahs’ in every other word. Not to be outdone, I discovered that “God” was finding its way into my own thoughts as well. Tony said later that it was “somehow significant” that the young man seemed to be clutching the steering wheel in one hand and his prayer beads in the other with equal dedication.  For myself, I was catatonic with fear, gripping the seatback and bracing for impact.

And so the ‘message’ of today’s blog (if there is one) is two fold:

First, we can’t wait to get to the civility of Hong Kong this next week where Tony will be presenting his Anagaion course to our friends at International Baptist. And while Jordan’s been fun and interesting, we can’t wait to eat back to ‘normal’ Hong Kong fare again, like pigeon, pork and chicken feet!

And two, we’re ready to be home. Hopefully the 23rd.  We’ve got to settle down and act like adults.

Ya’ll take care now, hear?

Marsha

Walls

Good morning all, Hope you’re enjoying lovely sunshine as are we!

Many of you have surmised that we’ve been in the tiny country of Malta this last week.  As you’re reading this, we’ll be worshipping at the St Paul’s Cathedral in Valletta.  We wanted to go there and thank the nice people whom we met over two years ago who were so kind to pray for my healing when I had (but didn’t know it yet) Chikungunya, a mosquito borne mutation of Malaria.

Because of that miserable first visit, where we spent most of our time at the hospital, we decided to have a ‘do over’ now that I’m well, and I’m happy to say I’ve spent most of the week with my heart in my throat in awe of the amazing history of this place.  Needless to say, Tony’s been enraptured with it all as well.

If you ever thought the Bible was just an allegory or a “made up” story, read Acts 27 and 28.  The good Doctor Luke reported Paul’s adventures here in Malta with such accuracy and attention to detail, you can almost smell the salt in the air as you read. The little apartment where we’re staying this week is just up the road from the beach where most people believe Paul and his captors swam ashore after being shipwrecked. And looking at all the churches, shrines and souvenir shops in the area, I can almost believe it. But there is some controversy as to the exact location. A good case can be made for another spot just up the beach, and I like that place because divers actually brought up four 1st century anchors there that sound a lot like the ones that were cut loose from Paul’s ship (Acts 27: 29, 40). Yesterday, Tony and I went to the museum where the anchors are on display, but the room was undergoing renovations so we couldn’t get in to see them!

We did visit the cave where Paul and the other prisoners were held for the three months while they wintered on their way to Rome.  A lot of evidence even outside the Bible supports it. So it was exciting to see. Above the cave now sits a gargantuan church built in AD67 by one of the nobility that Paul led to Christ!  How amazing.

But my moral treatise this morning is not about Paul, it’s about walls.

I’ll try to put in a picture of the city of Valletta (Sorry to those viewing the website blog; I’m technically challenged today).  The castle/fort/city of Valletta was built by some Crusaders, known as “The Knights of St John” around AD1073.

Before you think ill of the Crusaders, they did stop the westward expansion of the Ottomans and that needed to be done.  In the words of my Church History professor, “If it wasn’t for the Crusades you and I would be Muslim now”.   Modern history (today) tells us that this may be happening again if we’re not careful.

But back to Malta.

In 1530 the tiny island of Malta was given to the Knights of St John along with the responsibility of protecting ALL of the Mediterranean. The ‘rent’ for this privilege was one falcon a year.

And so they began……….and this is what struck me this week.

These knights, before anything else, concentrated themselves to Christ and built the WALLS of the city.  Most of them exist even today, strong as ever 600 years later.

Without fortifications, there can be no safety.

I was raised in a fairly normal family, and was afforded a fairly normal happy life.  Marriage for these 48 years has been wonderful.

Some of this, I believe is due to the fact that I felt secure within my walls.  I think now we call them “boundaries”.  Check out Psalms 74, where it talks about God setting up the boundaries in and around us.

Now the city of Valletta is a vibrant bustling city, The knights made it 268 years and did a tremendous service to humanity as well as world history. They eventually ‘fell’, partly because many of them had essentially lost their calling and had taken up the art of “corsair-ing” (That means ‘privateering’ for the sake of profit…..not a noble cause for a Knight supposedly dedicated to God).  There was also the fact that by now most of the knights were French and so welcomed Napoleon when he invaded Malta. Napoleon abolished the Spanish Inquisition, which I think was a good thing, but as far as the romantic vision of knights and fights for the rights……that basically came to an end in Malta.

So what are the walls that protect you and keep you on track for your service to God? Those things would make some great points in a sermon that I’m bound to hear from Tony one day soon. A few suggestions: Reading your Bible every day, surrounding yourself with folks who can keep you encouraged and accountable, reminding yourself daily just what God has called you to do, becoming so close to God that when the enemy knocks at the gate, you won’t be tempted to go open it and see what he wants.

Build your walls, keep them strong!

Love ya, Marsha

Wind and Rocks

As expected, we’ve had a lovely week here in Ireland.

After saying goodbye to 40 of our long lost Journeymen friends at the retreat (but only after agreeing to meet again in two years) we headed east, bound for Belfast. It was a very cheap airline, Thomas Cook, but the plane was clean and new.  We’d never experienced the A330LDL, which has the bathrooms downstairs! That made for a roomier upstairs, if you didn’t mind negotiating a spiral staircase during turbulence. Nice experience, beautiful flight.

We arrived in Belfast to a charming B&B, then headed out to meet the man I mentioned last week, the father of a friend we met during a tour of Campus Crusade’s filming of the Jesus video.

Charlie is an 85 year-old retired salmon fisherman, living right on the shores of his beloved Port Rush. His home looks like a restored lighthouse, complete with a wall-to-wall view of the raging North Sea and a massive pair of military grade binoculars to keep tabs on everything. As the incoming waves threatened to sweep us away, we watched seals riding the surf, then fed his pet Herring Seagulls that come by daily.  Finally we settled in around his peat fueled fireplace for a cuppa.

What an interesting man!  Unfortunately although Charlie’s life has been weathered with a good humor and an absolute gift for telling a story, he doesn’t share the views of his fourth daughter (whom we met in Florida). In his own words, “She’s gone a bit balmy with religion.”

We pray that our visit softened him somewhat to the faith his daughter embraces, and that one day soon he’ll understand the reason she’s gone this way.

Inspired by Charlie’s stories, we set out in earnest to see the sights of Ireland.  It felt good to be back on the left side of the road, even if it was quite a bit narrower that what we were used to. We arrived at our second B&B to find that somewhere we’d crossed from Northern Ireland (England) into The Republic of Ireland.  I rather thought the ‘crossing’ would have been more dramatic, but I’m coming to think the border may now exist mainly in people’s hearts (where we’re finding that it exists with quite a strong conviction).

OK, enough travel dialogue.  Here’s the thing that made us stop and think.

We’ve especially enjoyed the rolling hills covered with lush green grass with lots of varied livestock.   Every field is bordered either with either thick hedge rows or stone fences.  The fields are quite small as well.

It was explained to us that the fields are the product of ‘as many rocks as you have to remove to plow in your immediate space……i.e.; the more rocks, the larger field you can build a fence to encompass.  At least that’s how it went before things got civilized and people started using surveyors.

The rock walls have a real charm, like picture postcards. But I have to say that a big part of the charm is the haphazard way the rocks are stacked…. Dare I say sloppy?

But it’s by design, we were told. The walls are “dry stacked”, without mortar, to allow the wind to blow right through the cracks. Why? You ask. Because if the wall was a solid buttress, the wind would eventually prevail and blow it over.

As Tony says, “Gotta be a sermon there, right?”  Perhaps it’s a weak one, especially with all the admonitions in the Bible to ‘build your house on the solid rock’ etc.  But gaps? To let the wind thru?

Ireland is two things, GREEN (lots of rain which thankfully we missed) and WIND.  We visited the ‘Cliffs of Moher” where on average at least one person a week falls or is blown off to their death, never to be recovered.

The ‘winds’ of our life sometimes feel like they will blow us over.  The ‘rocks’ we find in our field sometimes feel more like a curse than a chance to expand our boundaries of experience.

BUT if we can arrange and stack those life problems and let the gaps take the gusts, perhaps we can have a secure life, rich and green.

And here’s a Bible verse for you to chew on.  Nehemiah 4: 2 and 3. It references the Ammonites discussing the Jewish rebuild of the Temple.

“He spoke in the presence of his brothers and the wealthy men of Samaria and said, “What are these feeble Jews doing? Are they going to restore it for themselves? Can they offer sacrifices? Can they finish in a day? Can they revive the stones from the dusty rubble even the burned ones? Now Tobiah the Ammonite was near him and he said, “Even what they are building– if a fox should jump on it, he would break their stone wall down!”

How often were the Chosen People of God mocked by people who just didn’t get it that God was on the Jews side. Walls are walls and they serve a purpose, usually to be strong, even if it means letting the wind blow thru instead of knocking them down.

May the Road rise up to meet you, may the wind be always at your back……..I think that’s how the Irish Blessing goes….

Till next week, which should find us in a warmer place, Marsha

Community

Good Afternoon!

If you’re getting this email earlier than expected, it’s because in a few hours Tony and I will be on a plane leaving America and headed for Ireland. In the hope of getting this away before we leave the internet, I’m going to try and send it right away.

So Tony mentioned that last week that by talking about the “Band of Brothers” experience of spending the week with the retired ancients in our mission, I may have inadvertently left you, my loyal readers, out of the picture.

I had to agree… Now I need to talk about YOU!

Last Saturday as we were walking through North Carolina’s Ridgecrest Baptist encampment, I mentioned to one of my friends that I had to mail out the blog, because if “Texas woke up at 6AM Sunday and it wasn’t there, they’d be stressed”.

That friend was evidently one of those dear people I mentioned last week who sometime regard me with a mixture of patience and pity. I got one of her looks just then, as if to say, “Seriously, do you really think they care?”

But somehow I feel that you do.  Care, I mean.  I have no way of knowing how many of you actually read my blog, but I do get enough comments to know that some do, and based on that, I’d like to suggest a new category with just YOU in mind.

Let’s call it “Community”.  I don’t know all of you, and many of you don’t really know me, but thru Christ, we are ‘neighbors’, and much, much more.

I know that you make my life more rosy, knowing that you’re there………and that you care. Sometimes I even feel you watching over my shoulder, clicking your teeth in warning, saying. “Watch out there, you don’t want to have to have another online confession ”.

As I write this, we are finishing up the 44th Anniversary Journeymen reunion that brought us down to this part of Florida yesterday. Many of the attendees were also with us last week at Ridgecrest, having completed their Journeyman tour (two years of short term missions) and going on into career missions like we did. But about forty others in our group went on into secular careers and except for the occasional reunion we’ve had no contact with them.

It’s been a bittersweet experience, learning how their lives have turned out. Some have died, some are dying now of cancer. Some have lost husbands and wives, children and abilities. In many ways, those folks are a little like you, my precious readers. I don’t know some of them, as some of them married into the group later. Others I had no idea about, since we’ve had no regular contact over the years.

But one thing we all share together, just as I hope and pray I share with you: we’ve put our trust in the One Who made us. The kinds of things they.. and you… have experienced in a lifetime are common to anyone, anywhere. Certainly as God’s children, we have no exclusive right to the thuds and thrills that come with living. But the thing that sets us apart and makes us this “Band of Brothers” is the faith that knows that this life is not all there is.

Like the “dew on the grass” that’s gone before you know it (Isaiah 26:19), our lives are lived in joy and pain, grief and glory, but that will all soon be a thing of the past, leaving just …. us! with an eternity to experience together and a loving Father Who has been a part of it all since before we were born.

And so I thank you for listening as I often think out loud……living my life under your gaze and feeling that somehow we share our lives in the process.

As I mentioned above, if you’re reading this now, it means that the internet worked and we’re off to bonny Ireland.  A recent DNA test says I’m 27% Irish and Tony’s 7% with a twist of Olde English. Who knows? We may hop off the plane and break into a jig.

And then last Friday, just to add a sweet little topping to our week’s adventure, we popped into the museum that tells about the making of the “Jesus Film.”  Long after the crowd left the tour we were still talking to our lovely guide, who happened to be from…….you guessed it, Ireland.  Her 85-year-old father lives within a stone’s throw of our first stop on our anticipated “Woods Driving Tour”, so we promised to give him a call when we get there. She was delighted and told us that her father “loves to tell stories”…..I wonder who you’re thinking of when you read that? (Buddy?)  Do stay tuned!

And so, young reader, please look on us old folks with a measure of appreciation for what we have to offer, knowing that all too soon it will be your turn to do the offering. To those “more experienced” among us, enjoy the fellowship we have, knowing that it’s just a foretaste of what lies around the corner.

Young or old, I love you all.

Marsha

Band of Brothers

This last week I’ve experienced more emotions and learned more about myself than I ever imagined.

Tony and I both came from small families, and as we get older that’s growing even smaller as we float our way to the top of the survivors.

However this last week, we’ve been with 1200 RETIRED Missionaries, all from the International Mission Board.  We ourselves were totally supported by them for almost 40 years.  Gathered together were the young folks like us (late 60’s) all the way up to the wheelchair ridden hunched over ones who are near 100, all having served the same mission board, put up with the same authorities, (and loving most of them), learning the same acronyms like CPM and PBD and of course the OOBs……and all the rest……..

I think my point is, that by nature of the job, we’ve spent more time and association with these folks than we ever did with our families or even our country.  It was said many times that with most of us having logged in 30 – 40 year careers, the aggregation of the 1200 of us represents nearly 27000 years of service.

And then I realized something else, possibly a bit of a shock.  For most of our lives, we’ve either been a bit reviled or a bit ‘pedestalled’  (is that even a word? Let me explain, we were often put on a pedestal, even though we seldom deserved it).  Most of the ‘reviling’ came from people who either don’t share our religious beliefs or don’t ‘get’ our foreignness. Some of you, especially those who read our blog but don’t know us, sometimes tend to over-esteem us.  Others, and they are many, roll their eyes in patient disgust and quietly put up with our idiosyncrasies. You know which of these people you are.

But I think, last week in that meeting, that I finally understood that with all of our escapades and adventures sharing God’s story throughout the world, THIS “Band of Brothers’ are the only people who can really understand us up close and personal!  Sure, we’ve had our ups and downs with each other, but because of our shared history, or maybe our shared weirdness along with the shared dedication to the same cause, we really are “US”.  We can be ourselves and no one thinks we’re strange, because in large part, they are strange as well.  This must be how old soldiers feel; like family, but family that’s shared more than most families.

And so it’s with renewed support, finally knowing who we really are, we carry on to our next reunion: the Missionary Journeyman class of 1973-75. One hundred of us went out to the four corners of the earth to serve for only 2 years.  In our case it was in Zambia, Africa. That experience set us on the path of career missions.

Many of the same folks were at last week’s big reunion, but we’ll see most of the rest of the Journeymen next week, so that’ll be a lot of fun. We drove the 8 hours down to Florida with our good friends, talking and laughing the whole way and even missing an intrepid Alligator trying to cross the freeway.

And then next Sunday afternoon we’re heading off to balmy Ireland (or more likely ‘chilly’ Ireland), perhaps on another search of where we really came from! hahaha

Wish us luck!  Marsha

Bugged

Lately, as you’ve surmised, we’ve been in the States on a crosscountry tour renewing old family ties, awestruck by the way God has been working in and through all of our lives to weave the tapestry that is us.

It’s been a good trip so far, lots of fun, laughter and good visits.  Time and again, in our visits, we could point to significant moments in our histories… some good, some not so good. But put those moments all together and it’s easy to see the Hand of God in our lives, and that’s always encouraging.

So…….my mother died when I was 14.  Most of you know that.  It probably helped shaped who I am.  I can’t remember a lot of the things she taught me, at least not specifically, other than a lot of what I learned more through experience than words.  Love, the power and Presence of God, how to wash behind my ears, stuff like that.  I remember some of the lessons about responsibility, enforced by daily chores, like carrying the family “night potty” down the hill to the outhouse without slopping it…..an experience for a six year old that only lasted about a year or so till we got indoor plumbing.

Some of my mother’s most passionate lessons that I remember involved the topic of cleanliness. According to her, if you had the misfortune of having cockroaches, you probably weren’t going to heaven.  God didn’t allow slobs in heaven.  I got that. We lived in dry cold Colorado, where they could hardly survive, so we felt secure.

After she died, two things happened that made me question these lessons. The first was my becoming an adult, with all the “real life” experiences that tend to make me more tolerant. The other was moving to the mission field, where the concept of cleanliness is sometimes defined in different terms.

One of my first “unclean” encounters was with fleas. They were fairly common in Japan, even in homes that were spotless. I nearly killed our cat with flea powder until I realized that our Japanese visitors weren’t as horrified about the pests as we were.

Then my children, being the loving things they are, gave ME lice….brought home from kindergarten.  I still remember the night when I woke up Tony and asked him to look at a particular place on my head and he said, “It’s moving”.  Tears in the bathtub as I scrubbed my hair over and over, followed by months and months of self-examination both outwardly and inwardly, wondering what sort of ’degenerate’ I was to host such things.

And the lessons continued over the years. I got Scabies in Africa, Ringworm in Japan, and don’t forget the cockroaches!  Living occasionally in the tropics, we’d have rat-sized ones that would come up the drains into the house and wake you up in the night scurrying across your face.

I only mention these things because last night we settled into a nice enough little hotel on our way to Ridgecrest Conference Center in North Carolina.

The point of this whole trip across America is to attend four glorious days of celebrating with fellow IMB missionaries who have retired and joined the ranks of “Emeritus”. Our mission board puts this event on every 5 years for anyone who qualifies and can still put one foot in front of the other.  We’re excited!

But in this humble (yet somehow expensive) hotel, we had another ‘first’ experience.  I’d like to say that, after 40 years on the mission field, I would be able to face BEDBUGS with some degree of aplomb and say,  “Hah! I’ve seen worse. Bring it on!”

I’d like to say that, but I’m afraid my response was more like, “Don’t touch anything!!  Grab the bags, we’re outta here…take a look at the top of my head”… Fortunately the hotel was sympathetic to our plight and they agreed we’d have a full refund and we agreed we wouldn’t post the name of the place online.

Yes, the lessons still continue, even at this stage of my life. I gave this great consideration in our new (Motel 6) place as I scrubbed every inch of myself raw wondering, really, am I learning anything thru these experiences?

I think I can say I’ve learned to temper some of my Mother’s passion, admitting that uncleanliness and immorality don’t necessarily go hand in hand. I’ve learned that in some environments the presence of a rat or a cockroach are not a call to arms but rather an invitation to reach out to those who live daily in such conditions. I’ve heard that with the cessation of the use of DDT, bedbugs and other vermin are coming back into our lives, even in nice hotels.

And I remind myself that people’s souls are worth far more than the things that surround them, after all.

But I’ll have to say that there are some pests who will NEVER make my “okay” list. I will never accept rats in my pantry, cockroaches in my cereal or bedbugs in my sheets!

I hope you have a pest free week. But more than that, I hope you have a chance to be salt and light in whatever circumstance you find yourself.

One hand on the Bible, one hand on the bug spray. I don’t know…maybe there’s a sermon in there somewhere.

Have a good week!

Marsha

Integrity

Good morning,

Last week we talked about ‘integrity’, that is, doing what is right regardless of the circumstance and standing up for Christian values no matter what the world says.

This blog won’t be long because I realize half of my readers are on “Labor day weekend” as are we.

But I want to tell you about an amazing thing that has happened in Tony’s family over the past few years and how it all started with one man’s integrity.

Years and years ago, his cousin was invited to an evening rally of some kind with his boss.  Apparently it was especially for men and according to his boss, would be ‘interesting’. Ordinarily, the cousin would have politely refused, but instead agreed to go. And the reason? This boss had always impressed him because he had displayed more integrity in the time he had worked for him than he had witnessed in his whole life. That alone was enough to convince the cousin to sit up and take notice when his boss said “it might be interesting.”

The cousin had no idea his boss was a Christian.  When he got to the event, he realized that the meeting was a Christian event, complete with a down-to-earth explanation about what a life of faith was all about.  As he listened, the penny began to drop.  So THIS was why his boss was known for his integrity. It was part and parcel with living as a Christian.

As the evening continued, he found that this new life they were talking about was all he’d ever wanted; he just hadn’t realized it till that night.

There are other little ‘mini miracles’ of this sort in the family, but let it suffice to say that a WHOLE family became believers in the One who made them who they are today.  All committed Christians, some in ministry, others in ministry where they serve……..

All because of a random man who had “Integrity” as his aura.

And just to top it off, today yet another cousin in this awesome family has decided to follow the Lord in baptism this weekend!

How Great is our God!!

Positive Power

These next couple of weeks I want to talk about ‘reputation’ and ‘integrity’.

The reason is because I’ve come across some living examples of that lately.

Today I want to tell you about one of the men whose job was to translate for the Texas team while they were in Tokyo. I only met him the first day we arrived but immediately I felt like I’d known him all my life. Here’s what he told us about himself:

His name is Tetsui san, but when he’s in English speaking company, everyone calls him Mike. He was born and raised in Japan, and taught all the values that Japanese hold near and dear, such as unswerving loyalty, perseverance, and most of all, success accompanied by making a lot of money

He graduated from one of the best universities in Japan, then went to work almost immediately for the well-known Canon Corporation (we know of their cameras but there’s a lot more to the company).

He climbed up the corporate ladder, with one promotion following another. Then he was transferred to Dallas, Texas.

There he made friends with an American colleague who was going through a bitter divorce as well as, or perhaps because of, some serious health issues.

Tetsui (or Mike) felt real pity for the man so he went to a bookstore and browsed thru the ’self help section’, using what he could in his limited English to find a book for his friend.

He came across the “Power of Positive Thinking” by Norman Vincent Peale.

Now, say what you will about Mr. Peale, God used the book to speak straight to the heart of Tetsui. As he read, he began to think about all the references to the Bible. Could this be something for me? Finally, after much thought, he bought a Bible

Things went along, Tetsui found that he was reading the Bible more than he was reading Mr. Peale. What was intended as a way to help his friend became more of an “answer book” for his own needs.

Soon, he found a Japanese church in Dallas and started attending. The more he learned the more he realized that he’d been looking for God all his life, but wasn’t aware of it. He became a Christian and was baptized there at the Japanese church..

Then, as he continued to grow, Tetsui became convicted that he had not told anyone at work about his decision. This struck him with terror because in a Japanese company “being different” is NOT something you want to be known for. More often than not, standing up for Christ can be professional suicide.

But finally Tetsui could bear it no longer and he humbly shared with his boss about his newfound faith.  He waited for the consequences and almost immediately they came.  He was passed over for his next promotion, and the next and the next.

But rather than become bitter, Tetsui just lived the Gospel, letting anyone and everyone see the love in his life. For three years, he continued to be faithful to his work, and faithful to his God.

Then one day the boss called him into his office. “Well, there goes my job”, he thought as the elevator went to the top floor.

But instead he was ushered in and offered a cup of tea.  Then the boss said, “I’ve been watching you and I think even though you’re a bit strange, you’re a real asset to our company.”

And what do you know, he was leap-frogged to an even a higher position than he would have had in the natural order of things. His faith grew as did the company in his competent hands.

Finally at they young age of 50, as an executive, he was pretty much set for life, so Mike retired and came back to Japan as Tetsui san, enrolled in Bible school and graduated as “Tetsui Sensei”.

He started a small urban church where he has been a pastor for over a decade, making a real difference in a lost world.

He was such a blessing to us and to all on our team.  Please pray for more people to ‘do the right thing’ even when you might be scared.

Love ya. Marsha

What a Little Compassion Can Do

Good morning all,

Today I want to tell you about a lady who recently was with us on the mission team when we were in Japan a few weeks ago.

Her name is Eva (Pronounced ‘Evah’) and she’s from the Philippines. She’s married to a sweet ol’ southern boy from Mississippi.  They married just 6 years ago after a 20+ year courtship.  They met when he had come to the Philippines as a young seminary student to preach a revival and she had been his interpreter. She had a busy life, as did he, but they kept a writing correspondence going until one day the shy bachelor finally popped the question.  They were inseparable as we went from activity to activity on our trip, usually holding hands and smiling at each other.

One day we were all riding somewhere on a train and I mentioned teasingly something about her waiting 20 years to marry Bill.  She asked me if I knew her story and when I shook my head “no” she continued.

“You know I”m a Compassion child,” she said as she looked into my eyes seemingly searching for a response.  I jumped back and she said, “Yeah, I know, you must think I’m pretty awful”.

In case you don’t know what a Compassion Child is, it’s a child that’s in some way supported by Christians, usually in third world or otherwise conflicted countries.  There are several agencies out there, World Vision, Samaritans Purse, the Red Cross, etc.  Some are good, many aren’t so much, but Compassion has always stood high in the ranks for it’s spotless integrity.

We, as a family, have supported a number of children thru the years, figuring it was a good ‘exercise’ for our kids to participate in giving up close and personal. Unfortunately (I can’t tell you the name of a single child we helped……..possibly because they just didn’t seem real In my mind.

Anyway, I quickly spoke up about her rather odd response. “Oh no, you’re not awful!”, I replied,  ”it’s just that as a Westerner, this is the first time I’ve met a Compassion Child. I don’t think I or any of my friends have ever imagined that there was a real person being helped out by our giving!”

She laughed and continued.  ”When I was 9 years old, my mother died two weeks after giving birth to her 7th child.  I was the oldest, so I became the mother.  Then, after about two more weeks, my father disappeared.”

She went on to explain that there was a little shelter of sorts at her grandparents, but they were in no way able to help, physically or mentally; they being old and needing care themselves.  The seven children had to get by with what they could forage with Eva being responsible for all of their ‘mothering’, including the two week old baby.

She remembers trying to kill herself at least twice, maybe more.  She also remembers praying to a higher source (the family was NOT Catholic or any religion but she felt that there had to be a God).  She would cry out “I don’t think it’s supposed to be like this, I’m a CHILD!”

But she soldiered on, stayed in elementary school or at least somehow reaching the requirements to matriculate into Junior High school.  Then finally someone in the village suggested, “Why don’t you go to that church over there?  They have some sort of program that might be able to help you kids.”

She went and they signed the kids up.  Yes, they would be able to help. And so began her life as a ‘Compassion Child’.  The ’support’ that she got for her family was THREE DOLLARS a month!!! “How in the world could that help?” my Western mindset screamed at her.

“Oh, You’d be surprised what you can do with three dollars,” she smiled back.  “It became the difference between despair and hope”

And so she found some happiness, went thru Junior High and had high enough marks that Compassion made an exception and kept her on the roles, even though children were usually let go after reaching age 15 or so.  In the process of being loved, she became a Christian, as did her siblings.  When she graduated from High School and was just 18, her father wandered back in as if he’d just stepped out for something.

Later in the time we were together, she was sharing her testimony in a Japanese prayer meeting and this time someone was translating for her. She spoke of how she struggled and it was only God Himself that could allow her to forgive her father, particularly because he was bringing his  second family with him.

The translator was stumped. Japanese do not tend to have second families……but finally everyone understood.  He had left seven small children and went to live with another woman who then in turn gave him another double handful of kids.

Well…….Eva was able to forgive him, and not only forgive him but love him and invite the two families to be one. Gradually everyone in the now HUGE  family turned to Christ as well.

Eva went on to go to College and then Seminary, now able to support herself and her siblings with the belated help of her father.   It was there, as a full professor of evangelism, that she was translating for Bill those 26 years ago. And now they are married and happily living in his inherited home in  Mississippi (He’s an only child, by the way).

She finished up her story with a beaming smile. “We go see our Philippine family every year at Christmas. It’s so much fun to see what God has given us.”

I must say, Bill and Eva were a joy to work with, never complaining or wanting their own way, but then I guess that’s how she brought herself up! Can’t we rejoice with all the ‘orphans’ that God has loved and cared for over the years.  I’m reminded of so many verses, but here are a couple for your Sunday morning musings:

“Father to the fatherless, defender of widows–this is God, whose dwelling is holy.”    (Psalms 68:5)

“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”      (Philippians 1:6)

And finally,  “Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.”       (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

Pray for all the little ‘Evas’ out there who aren’t having childhoods. Pray for God’s comforting Hand on them and pray for Christians like Compassion and others to reach out to be a part of a wonderful story.

For those of you who can see the eclipse tomorrow, have fun and remember how great our Creator is!

Marsha