Rejoicing in the Valley

Yesterday morning I sat down at a kitchen table, and for the first time in over a month, had devotions from an actual Bible. For some this may not seem like a very big deal, but for me it was an incredible blessing.

Many of you know that in March, I began to have serious eyesight issues because of cataracts in both eyes (with my left being more severe). As time passed, my eyes continued to degenerate, till in mid-May reading my Bible was almost impossible.

Because of the greater medical technology in America I after prayer decided to take a medical furlough at the end of June instead of getting the surgery done in Saint Vincent. While this was definitely the right decision to make, it meant putting up with blurred eyesight for a long time.

Over time, the frustration of not being able to do things I was used to doing (like reading my Bible) grew and grew. I finally reached the breaking point, and allowed the quiet anger about my situation to become discouragement and depression……

That was three weeks before the flight!

Thankfully the Lord convicted me of my self-pity, and I submitted to a life with massive cataracts (though it was frustrating).

God through the Holy Spirit brought verses to mind that helped me submit to the frustrating situation. One that was particularly encouraging was Jeremiah 29:5

Jeremiah 29:5 Build ye houses, and dwell in them; and plant gardens, and eat the fruit of them;

Jeremiah here is speaking to Jews who were in Babylonian captivity. Many of them were frustrated by their lack of freedom, and would later try to escape Babylons control with the power of Egypt. Jeremiah though encourages them to do something different….

He tells them to submit in captivity

Instead of trying to escape the situation that they hated, they were encouraged to continue there long-term. As they flourished in a painful situation, the Lord promised to give peace.

The application is to stop fighting the plan of God. There is no way that we can escape it anyways! Instead of looking for a way out, the Lord calls us to humbly accept the trial that comes from His hand. Because we know the Lord who brought us in, will bring us out.

For me personally that verse meant accepting both the good times, and bad times from God. It’s amazing how we praise God on the mountaintop, but have a terrible attitude in the valley isn’t it? But as we commit ourselves to consistent service in the valley, God will do a great work.

I can honestly say living with severe cataracts wasn’t enjoyable, but I thank God for it. Because its in the valley that He drew me closer to Himself.

When Snack Cakes are a Luxury

In about four days I will board a plane in Saint Vincent, and early Sunday morning, arrive in Richmond Virginia.

the interesting thing is though I am excited about being home, a big part of me doesn’t want to go.

Please understand that doesn’t mean I don’t love America. But SVG has been my home for so long, believe it or not, America feels strange!

Having said that, there is one thing I miss about America….convenience

In the States you can get just about anything that you need at a local store thats about fifteen minutes away. Whereas in Saint Vincent (and on most mission fields) you just can’t get many things.

For instance, in late February my iPhone battery died. In America thats an easy fix since you can get a new one tomorrow from Amazon, or go to any number of stores. In my case, a proper replacement battery was never found. I’m sure there were some individuals who had one, but no phone technician in Kingstown could find one.

Though this lack of convenience is frustrating at times, it’s actually a blessing. Because it shows just how many things we enjoy in life that are actually “luxuries”, or things we could live without.

When I first came here, there were certain things from America I truly missed

  1. Pepsi and Coke (they are expensive here, so only an occasional treat)
  2. and high quality American coffee (they do have Folgers and Maxwell House here, but I am admittedly a “coffee snob’

At first I really missed things like this since they were a habitual part of my life

And then something strange happened…..

I didn’t want them anymore!

Now I still like soft drinks, and good coffee. But my desire for them grew weaker. And over time I learned that I could actually live without them!

when most things in life are luxuries we learn to live without them, and we also greatly enjoy them when they are experienced

While going through the relief barrels that were sent from the States, I set aside two different things for some children who visit for Bible stories.

  1. The first was a box of crayons and colouring books
  2. The second was a box of “little Debbie snack cakes”

now to be honest these items would be appreciated by a child in the States, but it wouldn’t really bring a lot of excitement

for the Vincentian children who had never eaten something like that, it was a treasure!

In the end I’m thankful that the Lord has helped me leave behind some conveniences of home. Because now they can be appreciated more.

As I prepare for a medical furlough I’m planning to greatly enjoy the luxuries that America provides. But at the same time, those luxuries will lead to thankfulness and praise to the God who provides them.

Missions is embracing Rest

Last week this time I was getting ready to visit a local clinic, and get my second vaccine shot.

I don’t share that to start a big debate over whether or not a person should be vaccinated. It’s my opinion you should be for your safety and others, but the point of this post is what happened AFTER the shot.

I fully expected to feel awful the day of the shot, so didn’t plan much afterwards. I ended up getting home around 2:00, and spent most of the day in bed after that.

Following that day of rest I woke up Wednesday sore, but with good energy, It felt great to have strength during the day that helped me catch up on what wasn’t finished Tuesday.

Then Thursday came

I woke up not feeling too great, but was able to get stuff done that morning. But around 2:00 though my whole body started hurting! So I ended up spending much of that day in the bed or resting as well.

Thursday really frustrated me because I wanted to do work, but my body just wouldn’t co-operate. Yet looking back on it, I believe it was Gods way of teaching me a lesson.

I love being busy, which is not a bad thing. However, it’s easy to begin worshipping my work, In other words, i find my identity (happiness) in how much is accomplished during that day. When productivity becomes something that I worship instead of God. It is a problem.

So the Lord gave me two days last week with little work accomplished.

As the frustration faded Thursday afternoon, the Lord reminded me that effectiveness or “getting things done” wasn’t something to be worshipped. Instead it was a form of worship to God.

This makes all the difference because my identity and happiness doesn’t have to be found in how much I accomplished that day. Instead it’s found in the cross of Christ, and Gods placing His righteousness to my account.

This doesn’t mean I should sit around and do nothing all day. It does mean that God in His grace gives me days of rest. And those restful moments come because the work of Salvation doesn’t rely on me.

Thankfully my body is back at full-strength and I’m slowly but surely catching up on unfinished tasks. But I’m grateful that even if the to-do list is never finished, I will still be Gods child.

A Testimony of Peace

Things have been incredibly stressful for individuals here since the volcanic eruptions began.

Anxiety is heightened for those who live in communities like mine who are already struggling with poverty before the eruptions began. However, the greatest anxiety is for those who are displaced from “red zone” areas.

One of the sister-churches of Tabernacle Baptist is in the area of Fits-Hughes, which is very close to Chateaubelair, where the volcanic eruptions did serious damage with ashes.

At this time it isn’t possible to travel there by vehicle, and the area itself is viewed as “unliveable” because of the amount of ashes on the ground. It will probably take six to seven months before individuals can move back in comfortably.

A Believer from the church in Fits-Hughes came by a few Sundays ago to make sure we were having services. He told me that he’d be back yesterday. Sure enough, he showed up before church, so we were able to have some fellowship together.

I was struck by the calmness and peace in this mans heart, which was remarkable considering he had to leave not only his home. but his livelihood since he was a farmer.

Again and again in our conversation he thanked the Lord for His goodness, and expressed a desire to serve Him in good and bad situations. We were also blessed by a short testimony of Gods goodness during a praise time during the service.

More than anything, this mans life and attitude was marked by a peace. A peace n a very stressful situation that can only come from God.

As I thought about his testimony yesterday, my mind was reminded a Christians life should be marked by peace

There will of course be experiences of emotion or anxiety, but for the most part, the Holy Spirit gives to us a calmness in a crisis. This peace is an incredible blessing since it loudly proclaims the Gospel through a transformed life.

This peace is also in contrast to the world, that is filled with anger and frustration.

last Wednesday afternoon I took some short-term missionaries from Campden Park down to my side of the island. Driving past the church, we saw two women standing near each other in the road loudly shouting and cursing. In a small way, this illustrates the sinful response to pressure or stress.

Life is frustrating and heaps great amounts of anxiety upon our hearts. This is why we must turn to the Lord with our burdens. When we give everything back to God with an open hand, He fill our hearts with a peace.

A peace that shines brightly in the world of anger and bitterness.

Giving What They Really Need

As April comes to a close, I am incredibly thankful for the opportunities that the Lord has given to minister in a practical way to the people of Barrouallie and surrounding villages since the eruption on April 9.

There is still a definite need for immediate help through relief packages, and bottled water 1. But slowly but surely, it is time to transition into a deeper ministry.

by this I don’t mean providing food isn’t important (it obviously is). But there Is a deeper need than just physical relief.

that is a need for discipleship.

By using the phrase “discipleship” I am referring to evangelism (bringing them to Christ), teaching of Scripture, and sending them out to do the work themselves. I referenced this idea in a post last week you can find here.

Its incredibly important to understand that a persons greatest need is for discipleship. Someone who will listen to their needs, explain the Gospel, and lead them to Salvation.

But its even more important to understand people crave this kind of relationship in their hearts.

The Lord has opened the door for me to have lots of conversations about the Gospel, and what the Bible teaches during this time of crisis.

Along the way I’ve realised what people want far more than a bag of food, or a case of water

A listening ear…..

Attentive eyes….

And Gods truth

Again this doesn’t mean the food isn’t important. It means long after that food is gone, a true friend who will give Godly counsel is far more important.

So we keep giving out relief to those in need. But understand taking the time to sit down, understand their need, and minister to it with an open Bible is more important in the long run.

  1. You can’t currently drink the water