Effective Without Words

Help me to love with open arms, like You do
A love that erases all the lines, and sees the truth
Oh that when they look in my eyes, they would see You
Even in just a smile; they would feel the Father’s love*

These lyrics became my prayer on a recent humanitarian outreach trip to the Middle East. My inability to quickly connect with people felt like a weakness, a flaw that rendered me ineffective in ministry outreach.

But God encouraged me with the story of the Good Samaritan. He called me to join the outreach team to do good for people in a culture different than my own. The Samaritan didn’t preach, teach, and possibly didn’t talk much to the injured man he helped. His actions, not words, made all the difference. His example is one Jesus would have us follow. Be kind to your neighbor. This is the reason I traveled to a place I never thought I would go.

God also revealed to me that the commandments given to Israel during their desert wanderings were intended to set them apart. Their lifestyle was to be a testimony to the nations around them.

From a Bible in a Year devotional:

God intended them to be a highly visible example both as to the nature of the God they worshipped, and as to the quality of social justice embodied in their community. In other words, following the example of the Good Samaritan has an evangelistic consequence.

When we live the life God asks of us, people take notice. Our lifestyle is a testimony. How we behave, how we love, how we show kindness matter immensely.

As I read God’s word at the conclusion of my trip, I sensed His love for me. He revealed that nothing I do in the name of Jesus is without effect. Although I recognize I need to do a better job of using my words to share Jesus, God affirmed through His word that my time in the Middle East was in fact effective.

*Chorus of “For the One” by Brian Johnson and Jenn Johnson

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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!

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.

Camp Resident Uses Skills to Care for Neighbors

The people of South Sudan find themselves caught in the middle of a war that is tearing apart this new nation. Decades of civil war with Sudan, and now internal power struggles, have taken their toll. As a result of the violence, a staggering 1.55 million people fled their homes, displaced in their own country. More than 600,000 sought refuge in neighboring countries.1 Families desperately seek new homes, new ways to work, and a way to start over with nothing. Food, clothes, medical care, and other basic necessities elude those trying to survive.

Mangateen Refugee Camp-16One camp houses thousands of displaced families who came from the northern part of South Sudan where intense fighting and civilian deaths prompted the exodus. Tents measuring approximately 25×35 ft. fill the camp area. Multiple families crowd into these shelters, amidst their meager belongings, and call this their new home.

Unsanitary conditions in the camp promote the spread of communicable disease. Unfiltered drinking water trucked in from the Nile introduces contaminates that cause cholera and diarrhea. Human waste from overflowing latrines and open defecation washes through the camp when it rains. With too few mosquito nets, malaria runs rampant. Constant illness increases the suffering of these people.

Jengo**, displaced from his home, lives in this camp with his family. He saw how contaminated water, uncontrolled waste, and lack of protection from infected mosquitoes created preventable illnesses. Instead of fixating on his own suffering, Jengo took action, using his medical skills to run the camp clinic – with very few resources.

Mangateen Refugee Camp-121Jengo described the frustration he feels when a patient lies before him that he cannot help because medicines or supplies are unavailable. Jengo says, “It is very straining if you know what to do, and you don’t have the right material.” Through GAiN and their partners in South Sudan, the camp clinic received medications and supplies for treating people who flock to the clinic.

The antibiotics included in one shipment of donated medications treated at least 200 patients in the camp. Because of the great need, the clinic quickly ran out of supply. Jengo desires to foster preventative habits. Therefore, his staff instructs people to wash their hands so that cholera and diarrhea occur less frequently, reducing cases for which treatment is required. With fewer preventable illnesses, available medications can be used for more severe diseases such as malaria, pneumonia, typhoid, and TB. Because of help from GAiN and Jengo’s dedication to his new neighbors, the internally displaced people in South Sudan have a chance to be healthier and happier.

Manga Ten Refugee Camp-4

** A pseudonym

* 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.

Global Missions, without Leaving the US

Humanitarian aid packing event for global missions - GAIN International

Twice a year in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania mission-minded folks come together for the cause of the hungry, poor, and thirsty around the world. Pennsylvania is home to the GAIN Logistics Center (GLC), the warehouse that receives, preps, stores, and ships humanitarian aid to our Cru partners in difficult places like Africa and the Middle East. The semi-annual Mission Packing Project, held at the GLC in June and October, gives people an opportunity to participate in global missions without leaving the US.

Humanitarian aid packing event for global missions My second week working at GAIN, I traveled to this event. Although it is a week-long event, I was there the last two days. My assignment was to participate in many different stations to learn how each area works. I folded used clothes, sorted new clothes, scooped beans for meals, worked on an assembly line packaging drip-irrigation systems, assembled Gospel bead bracelets, and traced and cut patterns for LuoPads (feminine hygiene supplies for women in developing nations). And, there were stations and jobs that I didn’t get to try. A lot of aid was sorted, assembled, and packed during that week!

Global missions - Gospel bead bracelet Humanitarian aid packing event for global missions - drip irrigation

Many church and youth groups traveled to the GLC; some of those churches offer this as an annual mission trip. Locals come to the packing event, and some also volunteer at the center regularly. If you have been looking for a way introduce your kids to global missions, this is a great place to start. The packing event allows families work and learn together. There is even an interactive exploration station specifically for kids to teach them about the people and countries we serve.

I was impressed at the number of elderly people who attend every year. They really have a heart to serve! A nursing home or assisted living center even came for a little while one day to help put together school supply care packs. That station is mostly worked by kids who come with their families. It was wonderful to hear stories of how the kids helped the elderly participants by holding the supply bag for them as they shuffled around the station. This is not only a place to ultimately serve the global community, but also to serve those working beside you.

Global missions - humanitarian aid packedGlobal missions - humanitarian aid packedThe tally board displays the work done during the week. These pictures were from the last day, but the board didn’t include the final numbers. But, you can see what types of items are prepared for shipping and get an idea of how much was done. (Click these to see a larger image.)

I will likely be working at this event each June and October. It’s a fabulous opportunity to bring your family and serve together. I invite you to come join the fun! The next event is October 12-17. Registration will begin soon!

The Adventure Begins

IMG_2193Today marks the end of my first week working in the mission field. Well, in this case the “field” is an office, but I’m on mission all the same. I started my temporary employment with GAiN until I become a full-fledged Cru supported staff member.

After only a week, I’m feeling the excitement of spending my work days participating in something bigger than me. I’m starting to learn how the donor-to-field process works. Citizens living in war-torn, disease-devastated, and disaster-ridden areas of the world need assistance to get back on their feet. People need access to food, clothes, shelter, water, health care. As an organization, GAiN seeks out generous donors who can and will provide financial gifts or gifts in kind that we then distribute to men, women and children around the world. My job is to tell the stories of lives impacted. Stories give donors visibility into who benefits from their gifts, keeping donors engaged in the work of blessing others.

I have been reflecting on how grateful I am to be born into my family. God has consistently provided me with an abundance of food, opportunity, education…the list goes on. Aid recipients around the world were born into difficult circumstances. None of us had the option to choose the life we were given. Some are born into wealth, others into poverty. Some have opportunity, others are forced to scrape by with little hope for change. I count it a privilege that I can offer my time and resources to help make way for survival and hope for so many souls like the Haitian kids in the image below.
IMG_2510

Did you know you can join me in what I’m doing? By becoming a prayer and financial partner, you make it possible for me to tell the stories that illustrate the impact donors have on lives. Your ongoing gifts go directly to the work of storytelling. You can make an impact starting today!

If you would like to make a donation, visit https://give.cru.org/0783151, and click the Give a Gift button. I am grateful for your partnership!

Next week, I will be visiting the GAiN Logistics Center in Pennsylvania. I’ll be participating in a semi-annual packing event at the warehouse where aid processing, packing and shipping take place. These events are a great way for everyone to get involved! You’ll hear more about my experience in the coming weeks.

Trust Despite the Question Marks

My first mission trip was to Swaziland, Africa in 2008. I learned a lot about trusting in God’s provision when he calls us to do something for His kingdom.

It was September, 2007. I had just made the decision to go on my first mission trip. Wow, Africa! I was excited to be going on a performing arts trip. We were planning to partner with a local Wesleyan church for a free concert in a park in the middle of the city of Manzini. My role was to sing on the worship team, but also to dance with my two dancer friends. We had two dances as a group, and one dancer (not me) did a ballet solo on pointe.

DSC_0172Shortly after making the decision to go on this grand adventure, my husband and I took a vacation to Maine. It was beautiful! We stayed in a nice bed and breakfast on a hilltop with a wonderful view. A couple days before heading home, we spent the day hiking. Our trail followed the shoreline. The path was an uneven path, not a paved walkway. Yet, not too difficult. We were hiking on the mountain side. It was a full day, and I slept well that night!

The next morning, I awoke to something completely unexpected – pain – all over. Before I even got out of bed, I asked my husband to find me some ibuprofen. Was I THAT out of shape? Our trip ended, and we went home, but the pain continued. I’m not one to go to the doctor at the first sign of a cough or runny nose. I just ride it out until it’s gone. But this was different. The next week, I made an appointment. My pain was in most of my joints, on both sides. The doctor referred me to a rheumatologist. What just happened??

The day I went to the rheumatologist, the pain had gotten so bad I couldn’t even bend down to tie my shoes. What was I going to do? I was supposed to be traveling to Africa in 5 months. I began to give in to fear and anger – and doubt. The rheumatologist did lots of blood tests. My symptoms were presenting like rheumatoid arthritis. I began steroids to reduce the inflammation and pain. Then, she decided to put me on long term drugs used for treating RA. How were these going to affect me physically? Would there be side affects?

Do I go to Africa?

There were so many unknowns about the drugs, the arthritis and about going to Africa in general. I prayed to God to tell me what to do. After I got over the self-pity because of what I was experiencing, my fear began to subside. My prayers were being heard. I knew what I needed to do. I would NOT let the devil convince me that my fear should keep me home. I would go to Africa. And then there was peace.

The long flight was a bit difficult. I experienced some stiffness and pain, but it was manageable. The dancers and I rehearsed for quite a while after arriving and settling in. I overdid it. I started hurting and had to lay down for a while. That evening, we were supposed to dance at a worship service. When I woke up from my nap, the pain was still bad. It hurt to walk. How could I possibly dance? Fear began to set in again. How would I manage this trip if I can hardly walk? I prayed, and others prayed, too. This is where God showed me he gives power and ability to those he calls for a purpose.

About 45 minutes before the worship service was to begin, I started feeling better quickly. I realized I would be able to dance after all – and I did! I knew for a fact, that was God at work.

During the remainder of the trip, I still had some stiffness and pain, but every time I needed to walk, stand to sing, or dance, I was able. The glory of that goes to God who gives what we need just in time.

swazi1 swazi2 swazi3

Since then, the arthritis has only gotten better. I’ve never had an episode again like the first one. I still take medications, but on a much smaller scale. In fact, there is a possibility I will be off of them within the next couple years. We’re taking it slow just in case.

“He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases.” Psalms 103:3

Maybe He will heal my physical disease this side of Heaven. If not, I know my spiritual “diseases” are being healed daily. The lesson I learned on that trip to Swaziland about trust prepared me for more things to come.