Full of Strength

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Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually!”
1 Chronicles 16:11

Some days I feel weak. I grow weary doing what God has placed on me, even though I know His calling is amazing and full of adventure. I still find myself tired when tasks take longer than expected, people don’t respond how I think they should, or I simply get physically worn out. Learning how to tap into God’s strength appeals to my weariness.

Nehemiah 8:10 says, ” … for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” When I read this, I began to wonder how the joy of the Lord is my strength. We learn from Galatians 5:22 that joy is a fruit of the Spirit. True joy comes from the Holy Spirit, not from ourselves.

How do we experience more joy? Psalm 16:11 tells us, ” … in your presence there is fullness of joy … “ Being aware of and enjoying God’s presence infuses us with incredible joy. His presence fulfills us in so many ways!

What is it about joy that gives us strength? Joy motivates. Motivation empowers. According to Proverbs 17:22, “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” Think about a patient with a life threatening illness. Patients who have internal motivation to live often recover or live longer. In contrast, those who let go of life often take a turn for the worst. Our personal motivation hugely influences our physical selves. Joy from God that surpasses human understanding motivates and strengthens us to continue through trials.

My conclusion is this:

Experiencing God’s presence produces joy,
which produces strength.

Therefore, “Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually!” tells us exactly how to live full of strength. I love the use of the exclamation point in this English Standard Version translation. What an exciting life we can lead when fully experiencing God’s presence!

Scooping Seeds and Sealing Envelopes

Seed packing event

Volunteers pack vegetable seeds

This weekend, I experienced an example of people coming together for the good of others. Back in December, a church in Texas took up a Christmas offering, and they chose to spend it eight months later on a vegetable seed and school supply packing event with GAiN. This church not only offered the event to their own congregation, but they opened spots for community and church leaders, and others who have a desire to help people living in difficult places around the world.

Seed packing event

Seed teams work together

People of all ages—about 250 in all—poured through the church doors on a Saturday morning. Each received a task assignment. Families with small children were directed toward the school supply packing area. Other young children helped place instruction stickers on seed packet envelopes. Older children and adults scooped seeds, sealed envelopes, or banded packets into stacks of ten and boxed them for shipping.

After a short orientation, the work began. Chatter abounded as seed scoopers acquainted themselves with their envelope sealers. Chants echoed as good-natured taunting swapped between onion and collard green packers. Who would finish packing their seeds first? Runners, including myself, ensured seed bowls remained full and envelope stacks stayed tall. As plastic shoe boxes filled up with sealed seed packets, a runner whisked them to the boxing area. This whirlwind of activity continued for about 2.5 hours.

Seed packing event

Scooping okra seeds

When the last seed was poured and the last box taped, a total of 36,000 seed packs and more than 1300 school supply kits were boxed up and ready to ship to countries in Africa or the Middle East.

What happens next? When seeds or school supplies are requested by a GAiN field ministry partner, GAiN staff will load these items along with other aid onto a shipping container and send it on its way. (That description was an over-simplification. A lot of logistics work happens between here and the destination!)

Once received, GAiN partners will have seeds and school supplies to give to people who can’t afford to eat, much less send their children to school. These important supplies make a way for GAiN field partners to show the kindness of Jesus to hurting people. The seeds offer an opportunity for families to work a garden, feed their family nutritious vegetables, and even provide some income through the sale of excess produce.

As communities cultivate the seeds from this one event, the total yield could be as much as 360,000 pounds of okra, onions, and collard greens.

Seed packing event

Okra seeds ready for shipment

It’s events like these that paint a picture of the universal church. On a Saturday morning in August, a lot of people sacrificed their time to be part of something that will make a huge difference to someone they will never meet. This is love in action. I John 4 says, “No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.” God’s love becomes evident when we give ourselves out of the love God gives us. And great things happen when we give together!

The Power Within

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The focal point of my devotional time this year came to rest on God’s presence and His Spirit within me. I’m learning how marvelous it is to live with the knowledge that God desires me to be fully present with Him! Through awareness of His presence, I am able to make wise choices, go in the right direction, hear his council, tap into His strength – and His power. It’s from strength to strength (Psalm 84:7) and from one degree of glory to another (2 Corinthians 3:18) that God guides us through this journey called life.

As He does the work of conforming me into the likeness of Christ, He reveals His glory in me. This happens because His powerful Spirit lives inside of me. In the Old Testament, God gave no one but the high priest the authority to enter the area of the temple where the presence of God resided. This “Holy of Holies” hid behind a massive curtain. Only at specified times could the high priest enter this area, and then, only after fulfilling certain requirements. Otherwise, he would die.

The solemn job of the high priest had to be taken with all seriousness. I don’t think I can truly understand the nervousness and anxiety the priest must have felt leading up to the day on which his duties required him to disappear behind the curtain! According to Exodus 28:33-35, the high priest wore bells on his robe so people could listen for him moving around – an indication that he had not been struck dead!

Because of the sacrifice of Jesus, this awesome, powerful God lives in me. He forgives my wrongdoings because of Jesus’ obedience and my belief. This is why I can approach Him with confidence (Hebrews 4:16), not trepidation. Because of his desire for relationship with us, He made a way for us to come to Him. Through this relationship, we receive the power to live and work according to God’s perfect will, which offers unimaginable joy and satisfaction!

Wheelchairs for the Disabled in Zambia

According to the World Bank, between 110 and 190 million adults suffer from a disability that impairs their ability to function normally. Many cultures in developing countries view the disabled as cursed. With no means to provide for themselves, and often no one to take care of them, people with disabilities fall deeper into poverty.

training for caregiversIn August 2015, a Global Aid Network (GAiN) team launched a new model for disability ministry. Previously, teams who provided mobility aids fitted
and maintained wheelchairs. This method created dependency. GAiN’s team of four therapists taught 20 Zambians the skills necessary to fit wheelchairs for those with mild disabilities and to bring encouragement and hope to patients. The newly-trained Zambians then fit 25 people, under the team’s supervision. They also learned how to share the gospel with disabled people and their families. The team left 125 wheelchairs for the Zambians to distribute.

wheelchairs for disabledA 25-year old man, Ruben, also benefited from the wheelchair fittings. An accident at the
sawmill where he worked left him paralyzed from the waist down. Although young and capable, Ruben spends each day sitting in his yard with nothing to do. He owned a wheelchair before, but it became useless because of disrepair.

Ruben’s friend and advocate learned about the training and took him to receive a wheelchair. The team encouraged Ruben, explaining that God has a plan for him, regardless of his physical condition. Because of this special training, Zambians can continue ministering both physically and spiritually to many families in their community.

GAiN sends hundreds of wheelchairs and other mobility aids to developing countries each year. Through mobility ministry, GAiN desires to show kindness and love to people who often are cast aside. With this help, Ruben and other capable people like him can find their God-given purpose and make a life for themselves.

* At GAiN, I tell stories of life change, letting people know how their gifts and donations make a difference in people’s lives. Originally, photos and portions of this post were used in one such report at GAiN.

Why Does Satan Exist?

John 10:10Satan causes a lot of disappointment, hurt, strife, confusion — the list of negativity continues. Have you wondered why God allows Satan to continue? If the enemy comes only to “steal, and kill, and destroy,” why not eliminate him now rather than wait until after Christ’s return?

IT’S ALL ABOUT
GOD’S GLORY.

Just as “God longs to do works through us that can’t be explained except by His reality,” 1 His glory shines brighter “when humans renounce the promises of Satan and take pleasure in the greater glory of Christ.” 2

When we encounter difficult circumstances, Satan feeds us lies intended to cause us to fear, make harmful choices, and turn from God. However, when we cling to God in our struggles, we turn from Satan and God gets the glory. “Our God is always turning what the enemy meant for evil into our good if we will choose to love him above all else.” 3

Without Satan in the picture, the miraculous display of God’s love, mercy, and grace would not be possible. “If God had simply terminated Satan, then it would not have been so clear that God is both stronger and infinitely more to be desired than Satan.” 2

GOD WANTS US TO
CHOOSE HIM OVER SATAN.

By doing so, we receive the abundant life Jesus came to offer us.

The Lord calls us to rejoice in Him always. Always means all circumstances (Philippians 4:4). Understanding the purpose of Satan’s existence can heighten our sensitivity to his schemes in the midst of difficulties. Being wise to Satan’s devious strategy gives us the ability to accept the joy found in God alone, regardless of our circumstances. We can rejoice knowing that by rejecting Satan’s lies, we glorify God!

Armed with the knowledge of Satan’s purpose, I have an even greater desire to not allow Satan a foothold – not even a tiny one. The joy of the Lord now has deeper meaning for me, and it’s a tremendous weapon against my enemy!

* First 15 Devotional – Abiding Fruit
** Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ by John Piper
*** First 15 Devotional – Abiding in God’s Joy

Tanzania’s Dangerous Water

Boy digging for water

The air feels hot. The ground parched. No rain. A small boy, or more commonly a group of teenage girls or a mom, seeks out one of the shallow holes dug in a field. Has someone already gathered the water that seeps into the bottom? Maybe it’s time to try digging a new hole.

This is a typical scenario in rural African communities. This time-intensive process takes hours each day, the walk home especially difficult carrying a bucket of water – if they can even fill a bucket. All this for water that is unsafe to drink because of contaminates that cause illness, and even death over time.

You’ve likely heard similar stories. But, did you know another threat lurks around the villages of Tanzania that lie near the Serengeti?

Hyenas.

Hyena Habitat near Dotuk Wita-1Because a large number of people access water from the same source, and because of the amount of time taken per person, long lines form during peak times of the day. Therefore, many women and children set out during very early or late hours to retrieve water. The rocky hills near Kilulu Village, Tanzania conceal hyena dens. During dark hours, hyena attacks become a real threat, especially during the dry season when water collectors wander further from their village seeking water.

This womDotuk Wita-14an from Kilulu experienced tragedy resulting from the danger of trekking to fetch water during dark hours. One day, about two years ago, a few of her nieces and her 3-year old daughter, Happy, headed out to a shallow well for water. Along the way, hyenas attacked and mauled one of the girls. Even worse, these predators carried little Happy away. Tragically, she was never recovered.

Another woman from Mahina Village recounts her story:

Hyena attack victimWe were waking very early in the morning. One day I woke up at 4:00 a.m. and took my bucket to go get fresh water and met a hyena. The hyena began to chase me.  I ran hard, but I fell and broke my leg. The hyena did not attack, but it is common for the hyena to chase.

This attack happened eleven months earlier, and she is still healing. The woman from Mahina smiles. She now has a clean water well in her village. Both Mahina and Kilulu recently received new water wells provided by GAiN! Now, women like these can feel safe performing the daily task of collecting water. Having water access within the village reduces the possibility of encountering hyenas on the prowl because the task is not so time consuming that they must set out during dark hours. And each woman brings fresh, clean water home to their families.

* At GAiN, I tell stories of life change, letting people know how their gifts and donations make a difference in people’s lives. Originally, photos and portions of this post were used in one such report at GAiN.

Water in a Dry Land

water well
Mtshabezi village in Zimbabwe struggled with the lack of clean water throughout its entire existence. A river serves as their water source, but each time villagers need water, they must carry buckets to the river and back – a total of 2.5 miles. To make matters worse, the water is contaminated.need for clean water

Upstream villages use this same river for bathing and washing clothes. No toilets exist, so human waste potentially washes into this river. Animals stand in and walk through the water. This is the water they drink. Illness from this water is a constant.

The church in Mtshabezi desires to take care of the people in their community and share the gospel with those around them. The church seeks ways to specifically care for AIDS orphans who live in the village. Many are HIV positive and need medication, but traveling to the doctor poses a challenge. Since 1980, the people have wanted to build a school, but they have been unable to make bricks without water close by. Over the years, they’ve managed to erect two walls. The children now meet for class within these two walls.

During their first encounter with Mtshabezi, GAiN provided seeds. The church farmed a garden using these seeds, and its success made some amazing things happen. They grew vegetables that helped feed the orphans in their community. Proceeds from the sale of excess produce helped pay for transportation to get these children to the doctor for medication. Produce also funded scholarships for four students to complete Bible school. These students now travel on motorcycles to surrounding villages to teach Sunday School to children there.

Because of the diligence of the church and the people, GAiN wanted to do more for Mtshabezi. GAiN secured funds towater well drill a water well in the village. On drilling day in October 2015, the anticipation and excitement was high, but after drilling 215 feet through rock, no water appeared. But, these disappointed people didn’t give up. They praised God and prayed that He would provide another way.

In January 2016, a second drilling attempt produced water! People desperate for clean water collected the runoff in jars and buckets. After installation of a hand pump, clean water flowed. At the sight of clear, fresh water, those gathered couldn’t contain their joy! The sounds of singing, laughter, and dancing filled the air.

clean water

Now the people of Mtshabezi can grow even more fruitful gardens, live without illness caused by water contaminates, and make bricks for buildings. And, maybe more students will continue the mobile Sunday School for years to come. God used seeds, water, and the care of compassionate people to display His love for the people of this dry land.

* At GAiN, I tell stories of life change, letting people know how their gifts and donations make a difference in people’s lives. Originally, photos and portions of this post were used in one such report at GAiN.