Thursday, September 17, 2009

Oh, The Faith

Mrs. Laura Martin is our guest blogger today. Laura is a very gentle, yet passionate Woman of God. I have the privelege of seeing her minister to children every day. Thank you, Laura, for sharing!

Oh, The Faith

Larry Vann, a collegue and good friend, encouraged me to write on this blog. I can only pray what I share will be an encouragement and faith builder to someone in their time of need. We left for India in July of 1998 with our three children ages 7, 4 and 18 months. Our 18 month old son had just been diagnosed with severe asmatha after 3 consecutive bouts with pnemonia. When we arrived in Calcutta, our son just simply could not breath due to the pollution and dust in our city. It was a long six months of regularly walking him through the night just to keep his breathing passages open. We then moved to New Delhi, yet it was listed as the most polluted city in the world in the early months of our arrival. One day the pollution level was so dangerous they deemed the air quality equal to when the Nazi's were bombing London. Needless to say, his situation was no better there. We were at the end of our capacity to stay in India with our son suffering in this manner, yet we felt we were there in obedience to the Master's call. God surely knows what we can handle, so His healing touch solved the looming question of whether we should just pack up and go home. One Sunday night in a church service for minster's in Calcutta, our son was laying on my lap listening to the message with his eyes closed. I thought my little three year old baby had been sleeping, but he was, incredibly, paying attention to what was being said. He opened his eyes and asked me to tell him again what it meant to be saved. I explained a simple Gospel message, and he asked me to pray with him to accept God's love and forgiveness. After that prayer, he told me that he wanted to be healed by God. He wanted to be free from all the medicines and breathing problems. I told Cole that his daddy and I had prayed for years, and maybe it was time that he asked God for himself. He led me into the aisle as others were down at the alter praying. He kneeled down and wept as he ask God with childlike faith to heal him. He then went down to the alter and prayed for many of the pastors present in that service. Many of them thought he just wanted to be held, but they soon realized he was praying for them! Not something we had trained him to do, but it was a move of God in his life. From that day until this, 10 years later, Cole has never taken an inhaler or any other asthma related medicines or had any breathing trouble whatsoever. The Lord Jesus either healed him to relieve him of the "thorn in his flesh", healed him so his parents wouldn't give up on their call or a myriad of other reasons. It doesn't matter why, but we will never cease to praise Him for His intervention which brings Him glory alone!!!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

BIG Picture

Shirley Stone is our guest blogger today. Shirley is an incredible Woman of God who loves to love on others. She is a mentor to many and friend to even more. Thank you for sharing, Shirley!

The Big Picture

Big picture vision is my prayer lately in all areas of life. God sees all, is intimately working in all aspects of life. Without him we would not take the next breath, so to ignore Him or leave Him out of anything is so offensive and ungrateful of me. NO more picking and choosing or compartmentalization of my world, please!! Renew my mind so I will know what is best!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

God is God

Page Hughes is today's guest blogger. Page is a wonderful woman who is very involved in women's ministry, missions, teaching, christian counseling, raising a family and supporting her husband. When I asked our small group to use one word (the first word that came to mind) to describe Page, this is what was said: amazing, Jesus, smile, sweet, selfless. If you know Page, you know that she loves Jesus and shares that love with everyone she encounters.

God is God

I have forgotten how finite the picture is that we paint in our public schools. Since homeschooling Gene' I have see a fresh how the reality that God created all things and all order is designed in Him covers every aspect of our lives. When we take God out of the equation anything no matter how ludicrous can be taught as fact though in deed it is only theory. Without proof one can say anything, but when you have to prove it, most theories are done away with. Gene' has been frustrated for years when evolution was taught as fact. If you look at the world and measure it by the world's standards, we think we are much larger and in control than we are. We can and do compartmentalize everything in our lives, and even God sometimes gets a box or corner. When you come at it from the Biblical view that God is in everything, created everything and will be here when everything we know is gone, it helps us get a better perspective of what truly is reality, not just what we choose to believe. I praise God that this year Gene' and I both have a fresh perspective even on education that God is God over science, history, math, art, dance, and even foreign languages. It is because of Him we can see the order in all He has created. We are privileged to live under the hand of God.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Fruit of the Spirit

Another guest blogger, Steven Thomas Stone! Steven is a high school senior and has a BIG heart for orphans and the poor. He is a very bright light in this world!

Fruit of the Spirit

As a senior in high school, my first semester is a wee bit stressful when I actually take the time to slow down and think about what I have to do. From juggling school, school organizations, work, and church, it can get a little overwhelming. And of course, we cannot forget the choosing a college. Ah yes, the single choice that gets me ready to enter the net 4+ years of my life. And when I look at a college, there are several things that have to be looked at and considered: first and foremost, does it have a bevy of majors that are at least in the ballpark of what I want to do? What's the student body count? Student to teacher ratio? Living arrangements? Distance from home? COST? All of these are carefully deliberated and thought about before I even come close to choosing a school.

Of course, there are those out there who are only focused on certain aspects such as: major, campus life, Greek life, football (sad, but true), etc. These people are willing to say no to a few preferences in order to get wat they really want and are good at. For instance, if a school is perfect for their career, but cannot afford to live on campus, then they may have to live at home.

Sadly, I think we have all become accustomed to our lives that are perfectly customized for us in just about every area, that this sense of entitlement bleeds over into our spiritual life. The prime example is in a commonly used teaching of Paul in Galatians.

So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of your sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the Kingdom of God.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Galatians 5:15-25

This is a passage most who have attended church have heard at one point or another, yet it is one of the passages of scripture that is almost always interpreted incorrectly, mainly due to this idea of picking and choosing. First off, it's not that hard to get: follow the Spirit, not the flesh b/c it's dark, horrible, sinful, despicable, and no good comes from it. It then lists acts of the sinful nature that we should avoid, ok pretty much everyone agrees that that's all bad and don't do it, and if you don't agree then you just need Jesus and I'll pray for you.

BUT, it's the next few verses that are always mis-interpreted. People read the characteristics of the fruit of the Spirit and decide, "Ok, if I truly want to know if I am being led by the Spirit, then these characteristics will be evident in my life." But they use these characteristics like spiritual gifts for instance, "Oh well, I'm really good at being gentle and kind....but not so great at self- control." or, "Well I've got self-control and joy down, but I am not the most patient person in the world." And their next statement is usually something along the lines of, "O well, i guess Im just not meant to be a ____ person." (fill in the blank with area of struggle).

This error is brought to you by the letter "s". This is all because they misread one word and add an "s" to it. Let's take a look. The verse DOES NOT say, "The fruitS of the Sirit..." It says, "The fruit of the Spirit..." These are not a bunch of individual fruits of the Spirit, they're not side items, it's a combo deal. They are all CHARACTERISTICS of the fruit of the Spirit. In other words, if you truly are living by the Spirit, ALL will be evident in your life. Not some, not one, not all but one, all. Plain and simple. We do not get to pick and choose here, if we are truly following the Spirit, these will all come naturally as fruit of that decision.

No, you're not going to naturally be good at all of these, but the Holy Spirit will work on you and reveal when it is that you could have done better, and if you are willing, will slowly chip away at you and help you with the traits you have trouble with. Now I'm not saying that you're gonna be perfect at it all the time, I'm sure as heck not, but you will slowly begin to see the opportunities you have to share these traits. If you can't see them yourself, pray God opens some opportunities for you, I promise He will. God Bless

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Accept the Calling

We have encouraged our faith family to submit their thoughts to us for inclusion on the M25M blog and on our facebook page. I was pumped to receive this note from Caleb Hughes. We are active members at the same church Caleb and his family serve. He is one of those kind of guys who has it going on and who everyone likes - yet he is so grounded in his faith. Caleb gets it.

Submitted by Caleb Hughes

When I say Lebron James what comes to mind? Legendary? Hall of Fame? Millionaire? All of these things are accurate words to describe the NBA superstar that is Lebron James. When we see Lebron playing on TV we expect nothing short of greatness in his sports performances. He comes out each night and gives all star performances because that's what he gets paid millions to do. When he signed his multi-million dollar contract he committed to his boss that he would do his best.Lebron spent many years developing his skill set into the phenomenal basketball player he is today. Now don't get me wrong it was not all him, God gifted him, but he spent many days and years in thorough practice. He was molded into the money making machine he is today. But what if Lebron James went out and did not perform like he is capable of? Even worse what if he played like a YMCA city league player? If we saw James doing things that were not all star worthy, like walking up and down the court, shooting on the wrong basket, etc. we would instantly recognize him as not performing like he has been called by the team's boss to perform. He would not be playing up to the contract he has been signed to play according to.

Today, most of the individuals that make up the church walk in their faith like a Lebron James that doesn't live up to his contract. As Children of Christ (Christians) we have spent a time (whether large or brief) growing in our faith and slowly becoming the man or woman of God we will one day be. But the life of a Christian is not just self-growth and growing in the Word, etc. But we have at some point been called by the Most High to do SOMETHING. Now, whether it be something as huge as living on missions or something as common as walking over and talking to the lonely individual on the park bench, we have been called by the Holy Spirit dwelling in each of us do be obedient and respond to His call.

The call of the Holy spirit on us is our contract offer. Our boss (God) extends a contract our way. We are told to sign it and perform according to his wishes. It saddens me to see the people of God living a luke-warm faith. The Bible says in Matthew that we are to SHINE like a light in the darkness in the world. The children of God have been instructed to live on a constant mission as we are going through daily life (Matthew 28). We are contracted players under the rule and governing body of God Almighty. He has called and willl continue to call you to do His work. It is time to start performing like a future hall-of-famer and live up to your contract. Obedience to the Word is Truth.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Atta Boy!

Who doesn’t like a pat on the back? I have, many times, found myself basking in the light of praise and “atta boy’s” for things that seemed to be a big deal at the time. I was seeking the praise of man. When someone would shine a flashlight on me for something positive, I really got caught up in that. We all do, don’t we? But the glory of men quickly fades in the light of His glory. Its like shining a flashlight outside during the brightest part of the day.

How long I have sought identity in self through the eyes of others. I have found that seeking the praise of others is like trying to stand on quicksand. Not very stable.

Jesus, in His last days on earth, saw the foolishness of man in seeking praise of man. Although He never sought pats on the back, we can learn a valuable lesson from the way he was praised and heralded one day and thrown to the wolves just a few days later. The same people who praised Him, crucified Him. Matthew 21: 9 The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed him shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanna in the highest!” They were giving a huge pat on the back. And, like quicksand, the very people who gave praises on Sunday, turned on Him just a few days later. Luke 23: 18-21 With one voce they cried out, “Away with this man! Release Barabas to us!” Barabas had been thrown into prison for an insurrection in the city, and for murder. Wanting to release Jesus, Pilate appealed to them again. But they kept shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” Ever expereinced having someone "turn" on you who you thought "had your back?" Of course you have. We all have. And I am sure most of us have turned our backs on the same people we, at some point, gave praises to.

We must seek the glory of God. It is that simple. We must give all glory, all the time, to our Heavenly Father. If we seek praise for self or of self, we are trying to steal praise from Him. Pretty simple, isn’t it?

Father, forgive me when I have sought glory from man. It has been in vain and, most times, not been used to glorify You. I no longer care about what man thinks about me - as long as I am in Your will.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

An Angel Among Us

Donna Scott Rogers was born on December 1, 1969. I had the pleasure of working with Donna the past 5 ½ years through our youth football and cheer program. She was the Cheer Board President. She impacted countless little girls from her service to our cheer program as well as coaching several squads. Her service to the Lord included her work with the pre-school and children’s ministry. Can you imagine the impact she has and will continue to have on the Kingdom? Her light will outlive all of us. She was both a sheep and a lion. For those that knew her, you knew she would take care of business, but in a compassionate and loving way.

Donna was on staff at FBC Alabaster until just a couple of months ago. We had one of our daughters friends over last night and I overheard her speak of Donna and how important she must have been at FBC because she had her own office! Have you ever heard that a good leader must be a servant first? Well, that was Donna. A servant. I clearly can recall seeing her pull up at our office the same day she had a treatment. Sick, tired, weathered, stressed, she still unloaded boxes of toys she wanted to donate to Toys for Tots. Selfless. Yesterday, she knew the time was near for her to be called home. She asked a friend of hers to come over and paint her fingernails because, as she put it, “I can’t go meet Jesus with my nails looking like this.” She was prepared.

Donna passed from this life the morning of July 30, 2009.

I am certain her family is aching tonight, the first night they don’t have her at home. Even in their great loss they know this incredible wife, mom, daughter and friend is dancing in the streets of Heaven tonight. Can you imagine her welcoming committee at the gates? Wow.

To the woman of God; the loving wife; the incredible mom; the enduring friend; mentor to thousands; light in a dark world; loyal family advocate: tonight we all miss you, Donna. We will not remember you because of your illness. We will remember you because of how you lived. I would love to have been there to hear the Lord tell you, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” We look forward to seeing you again.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Making Much of Him

Before I went to bed this morning, my goal today was to make much of Him. I was going to be very intentional with every move I made so all would know that He is King. That He is the Creator.

But just when I least expected Him to make much of me.. well, He did.

I have been in the job hunting market for several weeks now. Not really a comfortable place to be, considering everything that is going on in the global economy. But He never promised us worldly comfort, did He? Especially if we are actively in/seeking His will. We have recently experienced strong resistance from our own family regarding us following His lead.

I walked into the front door of a very well-respected Christian School this morning with the idea of planting a seed. I knew enrollment had to be down because of all the layoffs and such, especially in the white-collar sector. I have a Christ-Sister that is working in administration there – so, obviously, that helped with getting me face-to-face with the CEO. This gentleman has supported Matthew 25 Ministries in the past – both financially as well as in prayer. So I knew of him and likewise.

One hour into the interview, he offered me a newly-created position and I begin work in two days. And to think that my intent today was to make much of Him. We can’t out-do God! We can’t out-give God! We can’t out-love God! But we can praise and worship and give thanks, especially when He makes much of us.

So tonight we will celebrate with our entire family and with our dear, dear friends – members of our covenant family. We will celebrate our God and how he makes so much of us.

Will you join me in giving the Lord praise?

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Two Words

John 3:16. Probably one of the most recognizable verses of scripture in the world. The man who Jesus shared these forever-changing words with is Nicodemus. I did as much research on Nicodemus as I could and I still know very little of him, other than what is mentioned in John Chapter 3 and again in John 7.

Nicodemus had a very impressive resume’. He was a Pharisee, a member of the Sanhedrin and “Israel’s teacher” (John 3:10). He was impressive. At the top of the religious ladder, so to speak. And two words tell me that he came down from the ladder to walk the streets, searching for answers: at night. He comes at night. When John later tells of Nicodemus, he doesn’t tell of his view from the top of the ladder of religious supremacy. He tells of his character: “ Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night.” (John 19:39).

I focused on Nicodemus as a man. Not so much as a religious leader and a person who was held in such high regard from a knowledge perspective. This wealthy religious leader, Israel’s teacher, came down from the ivory tower to search for Jesus in the streets of Jerusalem – at night. I imagine him slipping around in the shadows, trying so hard to go un-noticed. He couldn’t afford for citizens to see him; to know he was searching for answers. Gossip could hurt him. He had much to lose… Israel’s teacher, his position on the ruling council of the Sanhedrin, his peers. But he still decided to go.

Nicodemus heard of the teaching of this Jesus. He heard of the fit Jesus pitched when He saw the temple had been turned into a market. He heard of Jesus’ claims - “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it in three days.” Who could explain such claims, such words? Israel asked its teacher. But he had no answers. So he came at night. But at least he came.

Imagine the meeting. By all accounts, when the Pharisees and Jesus had encounters, it usually wasn’t over coffee at the local Starbucks. Those encounters usually involved Jesus setting their butts straight. Not comfortable for the Pharisees, I imagine. I know how it feels to be called out by Him.

The man who visited Jesus at night was told the most revealing eternal truth ever known to humankind. Can you imagine?

Jesus was straightforward. He gave Nicodemus answers. He gives us answers. Jesus was willing to meet Nicodemus at night – and I am certain he was very tired from sharing the Gospel all day with hundreds, if not thousands. But that is the way He is. He makes time for us. Day or night. Religious leader or prostitute. Just as we are, exactly where we are. Even at night.

I never want to be ashamed to seek Him during the daylight. I want my actions to be a beacon of light. Lord knows I have been like Nocodemus. I sought Him at night, in the shadows. Afraid of what it would cost me if others knew I needed to know more. To be more. What about you? Are you willing to seek Him, regardless of time of day and who knows? I want to look into the eyes of Jesus. And I want Him to see into mine.

Monday, July 13, 2009

You Have A Visitor

At The Home of Martha and Mary

Luke 10: 38-42 38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!"
41 "Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."

For the past month or so, I have been able to sit. All my adult life has been spent, for the most part, getting after it and pouring all I am into work. Mostly career, but also pouring myself into ‘good work.’ I must admit it has been very fulfilling to be able to look at things from this perspective – from the feet of our Savior. Why in the world hadn’t I been able to sit here before? It has been my choice all along.

Instead of spending all my time in the business of preparing for the visit, now I have chosen to recognize the King has long been here. I recognize the choice to be in full devotion to Christ Jesus. I am choosing to spend time with Him, not just for Him.

Lord, forgive me for being so distracted in preparations and drawn so little by your presence.

“….but only one thing is needed.”

He wants us to come from the kitchen and spend time in adoration at His feet. Will you come?

Friday, July 3, 2009

Hidden Lesson

As I woke this morning, I couldn’t help but watch Ashley, my wife, as she lay sleeping. I found myself reflecting on her service to me as her husband and her service to our children. Ashley has always put other people before herself. She has a servants heart. I so love that about her! Looking at her made me proud to be her husband. Loving her makes me feel so full.

As I began to stir from the bed, the idea came to me to offer her a tribute through this blog. To share with anyone whose eyes would see this how wonderful a person she is. I wanted to tell anyone who would listen how unique she is. How talented she is. She is the face of our family. When someone hears “The Vann’s”, they see her. I am proud for this woman to represent my family name. I love her so much.

When I began reading scripture, seeking a proper way to honor her this morning, I came across the story of Jesus, May and Martha. Just as Ashley would have it, my intent of this post was changed. I intended to honor her with words. Instead, my focus shifted to honoring our Father. It is quite simple, much like Ashley. Time spent honoring God this morning was actually honoring all that I love. I honored my precious wife by honoring, praising and spending time with God.

Ashley, as you lay sleeping at this moment, know that I had planned to honor you with words this morning. But, as God has done more often than not lately, He has molded something different from me. But, then again, honoring Him means more to you than anything else I can do.

That is just how you are.

Thank you for showing me that.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Take this hallway..

A couple of weeks ago we carried a team of people to the Atlanta International Airport. Their destination? Swaziland. If you have been in any modern airport, I am sure you have noticed the really wide corridors. Especially the ones in and around check-in. As we neared Gate A-7, we noticed a small, soft-spoken security officer trying to direct people down an obscure, narrow hallway. The throngs of people walking through the main corridor continued about their business – very few people listened to the officer and even fewer followed his instruction: “This is a security checkpoint. Trust me. If you do not follow this hallway, you will not be allowed to enter this area.” He kept saying to the people passing by, “Trust me.” We even noticed people stopping to curiously look down the narrow hallway, then look back in the direction they were walking – then continue on their way. Some of the people who didn’t follow the officer’s instructions later came back to where they were told they should go. I still don’t know where all those other people went. According to our new friend, they must have left the airport because they sure weren’t going to be able to access the gate area unless they went down this hallway. Who knows? They may still be aimlessly wandering the wide corridors of the Atlanta airport.
There have been many times when I felt as thought I was aimlessly wandering through life. I walked by a Man who told me that if I wanted to reach my destination that I needed to go down a path less traveled. He told me the route I was taking was very wide and seemingly easy to travel. But He also told me that the wide and easy path would lead to destruction. I believe we all go down the wrong path from time to time. I am so thankful today that God remains faithful to us. He is still standing at the crossroads, ready to lead us down the path that leads to eternal life.

Matthew 7: 13-14 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only few find it.”

Life is like a road. Most of us will travel a road to get somewhere today. There are many streets that you could have taken, but you wouldn't have ended up where your destination is. You had to follow a certain path to get where you are going. If you'd taken a different road, you probably would have ended up somewhere else.

Jesus said that the choices we make in life are like picking which road to take. He describes two roads. One is wide, and flat, and easy with a wide gate at the end. The other is narrow, and rugged, and difficult, with a narrow opening at its end. Most people take the easy road, and few take the narrow one. But Jesus said that the wide and easy road leads to destruction, and the straight and narrow road leads to eternal life.

When we have to make choices in life, we have to base our decisions on more than what is easiest. Often what seems easiest or most appealing is the worst choice we can make. Satan wants us to sin, so he makes sin look good. But we have to know where our decisions will lead us. We have to look at the consequences of our decisions.

We can't take the easy road to get to heaven, we have to follow the narrow road. Some people think they can do both. Is it possible to drive on two different roads at the same time? Is it possible to drive in two different directions? There are times we think we can do wrong and be right. We think they can serve God, but do everything we want to do. Jesus said this is impossible. We have to decide to follow God, and put His will first.

Jesus is standing at the gate saying, “Trust me.” What road will you take today?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

What would you do?

We received word this morning that the roof on the building at the carepoint we hold dear has been blown off by a wind storm. While we are very proud to have the building, it was in pretty rough shape. There were holes in the tin roof, holes in the walls and the mortar in between the blocks was beginning to erode away. I imagine it didn't take much to destroy what was there.

This building is critical to the ongoing efforts of Kriek and Jumbo Gerber and Children's HopeChest to develop relationships and disciple the people of that area. Food and supplies are kept in a small room in the building. When children come to the carepoint that are sick, the Go-Go's let them sleep on a mat in the building. When the weather is not conducive for being outside, they all pack into the building to seek shelter. Without a building to store food and the pots to cook in, there is no food for the children. We simply cannot and will not allow that to happen.

We need your help. If you feel led to help with this project, please contact me @ right away. We are on a mission to gather funds by this weekend and begin repair immediately. In the meantime, please prayerfully consider what it is you can do and keep praying for the people of this area. Will you help?

It is so easy to see the good in this happening. Matthew 7:24-27 Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, and the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.

Our prayer is that in every deed, word, thought - in everything that is done, it will be to Glorify our ord and expand His Kingdom. Blessings -

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Team is HOME!

We made the trek to Atlanta early this morning to pick-up the team. While they all are heartbroken, they all seem to be doing ok physically. Many of them slept this afternoon, which was to be expected. I will update with photos in the next couple of days.

Thank you, Team, for giving of yourselves this way!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Team in Nelspruit

Got a phone call from Nelspruit, South Africa! My Bride, Ashley, at a pace of 112 m.p.h., began telling me all she could in a short period of time! End result? The Team is doing really well. It was difficult for them to leave Thulwane this morning. They feel like they are leaving a huge part of their hearts there. And they are. They fostered and strengthened relationships that have transformed lives in Swaziland, as well as in the U.S. Everyone's heart is broken... and that is not a bad thing. In that brokenness is where we find Jesus.

They are now resting at the hotel and will get up in the morning and visit the market and maybe witness some of God's creation in and around Nelspruit. Please continue to pray for them and for the people of Swaziland. Blessings -

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Tuesday Update

Heard from the team this morning! Every team member is doing really well. There have been no problems to speak of. The Holy Spirit is moving at the carepoint! The older kids are opening up - which is a big deal. Because of their culture, there has been an emotional wall with many of the older kids and some of the adults. Reports are that the prayers you have been offering are being answered! Please keep praying for this! We also received news that the land the carepoint is on has been purchased (in full)! This is yet another prayer answered! We could not do anything from a monetary investment stanpoint (facilities) until Kriek and Jumbo could acquire the land. Please pray for God's will to be very clear to those who will make the decisions on how to move forward. Keep pressing forward, Team! Do not take one hug, one prayer, one encouraging word or a single ounce of energy with you when you leave the carepoint today! Leave it all there!!! Blessings -

Monday, June 15, 2009

No News is Good News

We did not hear from the Team on Sunday or today. As always, this means things are going great! Please keep the Team in your hearts, minds and prayers! Blessings -

Sunday, June 14, 2009

As For Me and My House...

Today, the team will be at Thulwane leading bible study along with the D-Team. Another project will be to paint the Home that Love built. Before the house is to be painted, scripture will be written on the walls. This home will be covered in the Word of God and has been dedicated to Him. We had dozens of people submit the scripture that will be written.

For the team today, please offer a prayer of thanksgiving for the people of Swaziland, for the AIM staff, for Childrne's HopeChest, for the sponsors of the children and for the partners in ministry. Our prayer is that God be magnified in all they do. Blessings -

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Word up!

Got a brief word from the team today! Of course, everything is going well! Since our partnership with AIM and Children's HopeChest began at Thulwane in February, 2007, we have seen an incredible transformation with the people of that community. God has worked through Kriek and Jumbo Gerber, the "D" Team, the Go-Go's and even the older children. We are so priveleged to be a representative of our Savior! He has wrecked our hearts for the good and that is what calls us to action. Thank you, Jesus!

Please allow me to share a bit of scripture that reminds me of the mission of not only our team from the States, but our team in Swaziland:
Matthew 5: 13 "You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness,how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men."

14 "You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven."

Our prayer is that anything we do or say reflect the immense love of God.

Friday, June 12, 2009

In a flash...

In a flurry this morning, several of our team members updated their status on facebook.. They were in and out in a matter of minutes! While we would love to hear more from them, I am sure you will agree that we would rather have them in the field than in the office! I will summarize what was posted this morning.

In a brief email from Crystal Baltimore:

"Hey! Things here are GREAT!! You would not believe how big the kids are and how much they have changed! Love is walking and talking and gving everyone kisses... Tomorrow is BIG FUN day and we are having jump castle, cupcakes, hot dogs and who knows what else!

Our lodging has been great and we all have been getting settled in. We did medical clinic today and there were soooooo many new little one's. Everyone is doing good. Ashley made it through the flight, no problems... well, LOTS of questions but no major issues.

As for prayer needs, please continue to pray for the relationship with the older kids to be more open and easier..pray for the relationship with the Go-Go's and for safe travel and good health for the team. Kriek and Jumbo are great!!!"

Updates to facebook:

"Stephanie Sharpe Sirmons is in Swaziland having a tremendous time. I can't tell you what a blessing it is to be here, loving on these precious babies. Please tell Madalyn and MaryDee we love them and we hope to talk to them soon. I can't wait to tell ya'll how amazing this country is, and how much we love these children aready. It is absolutely unbelievable. Love ya'll!"

"Allison Sides Clyburn is in Swaziland having an AMAZING time! It can't get much better than this! Please tell Madeline and Emma that Mom and Dad miss them very much! We love you, but we are still doing God's work in Swaziland! Lulu, Sipho, and Gilligan are doing fantastic and all say 'Hello!' We hope we can talk to you soon! Love, Mom and Dad!"

"Steven Thomas Stone is at the AIM office in Swaziland!!!!! Love you guys! Keep praying."

"Ashley Shirley Vann is in Swaziland and loving it! We had an awesome experience today at the carepoint providing a medical clinic. Bud, it's everything you said it would be! You won't believe the transformation with Love! I have some very good video for you!!! I love everyone and keep praying!!"

"Amy McAdams - Hey everyone! We are here and safe. Having a wonderful time. Please tell my family we are missing them! We love you all....Pray for us!!!!"

The common denominator? Child-like faith and a vision of hope!

So there you have it. You know what I know. Blessings -

Thursday, June 11, 2009

No word today...

No official word today - which means everything is going well! It is difficult for us to have patience or understand why we cannot get word from our team - things are different in Swaziland - especially from a technological perspective. Internet is an absolute luxury. So here we are. Waiting to hear and to share in the daily victories the team will experience. While waiting, we can continue to pray. And pray. And pray some more. Let's honor our team by lifiting them to our Father.

1 John 5: 15-15 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, he hears us. And if we know that He hears us - whatever we ask - we know that we have what we asked of Him.

The key is for us to seek His will. And if we ask for His will to be done and for us to clearly see His will, then our prayers will be answered. It's all about alignment!

Father, I come to You with a soft heart tonight. We miss the members of this team so much. While it would have been really good to hear form them, I know that You have annointed each of them and they are in Your will. Please continue to bless them and those they encounter. I know Your light is shining through them. Thank You for that. Thank You for using them to teach us. Thank You for giving us the opportunity to lift each one of them up to You. Thank You for giving us patience and a sense of calm while we eagerly wait to hear from them. Whatever Your will is for this team, I gladly ask You to reveal it to us. It is not about us. It's about You. We want to glorify You in all we do and all we say. Please use the team of people who are here supporting and praying for the team. Use us to glorify You with our words and actions when we tell other people about this campaign. I ask for these and all other blessings in the precious name of Jesus. Amen.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Team is resting....

I just received an email to let us know the team made it to the hotel. Kriek and Jumbo had snacks waiting for them! Everyone is doing well and "very excited!" Ashley said everyone did fine on the flight. They leave early in the morning for Swaziland! Lodging plans have changed a little. The team is no longer staying at Emifini. I am not sure where they are staying but I have been assured they do not have internet access.. Jumbo has already stepped up and told the team he would make arrangements for them to get us a message when he can. Please join in covering the team in prayer - also please pray for Kriek and Jumbo, the D team and that every move that is made, every word that is spoken, will show the love of Jesus. Blessings -

Team landed safely in Johannesburg!

According to Delta, Team Swaziland has landed in Johannesburg, South Africa. Praise the Lord! Lets all join in to continuously cover them in prayer! We will update just as soon as we have made contact. More than likely it will be late tonight. Blessings -

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Boarding Call at 8:35 pm, cst.

After a delay of little over an hour, our Team is boarding! I spoke to several of them and they are all in high spirits and very excited to be on their way! Crystal and Ashley will email me when they can and I will update the blog just as soon as I receive the information. Speaking from experience, please take the time to reply to these posts... they will all huddle around a laptop to read the messages!!!

Thank all of you for your prayers, support, supplies, encouragement and wisdom you all have shared in recent months with our team! We are all so blessed because of you! We hope to have an update tomorrow night.

God is so very good! Please feel free to join us in giving thanks and praise to our Lord!

Monday, June 1, 2009

THE House that Love Built

The one-year anniversary to our team’s first campaign in Swaziland is next week. There will be a team of 19 people going back to share the love of Jesus. While there, the team has the opportunity to paint a new home. Because of some very generous people, Love, Mandisa, Mugelo and Blue now have a new home! A floor that isn’t dirt, a roof that doesn’t leak, doors that lock, windows to see thru…. no more bugs crawling through the cracks in the walls of the hut. No more sleeping in the mud. No more unwanted visitors who will harm them. No more of that. A home. A real home.

We want to thank those who selflessly gave money toward this project. In particular, the McAdams family. We want to thank Kriek and Jumbo Gerber, Dennis and Zwakele Brock, Children’s HopeChest, Adventures in Missions, the “D” Team and the people of Thulwane for looking out for these four little Angels.

I mentioned our team painting the house when they are there in mid-June. Before the painting begins, we plan to cover the house in Scripture. Scripture will be actually written on the walls – a blanket of protection – and then the final coat of paint. So this is where we need your help. Please take part in this project by submitting your favorite scripture to us. It can be any number of verses. How cool is it that we all can play a part in covering this home with the Word and with Love? Please pray that this home will be a springboard for a healthier, happier life for these children. Now bring it!

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Visit To The Homestead

What did we learn from Love? We learned patience. We learned understanding. We learned compassion. We learned hope. We learned, well.. we learned to love.

A few of us were able to go to the homestead of these four little girls. Picture the reality that four precious little girls, the oldest of which is five years old, living at this homestead alone. All alone. Caring for themselves – the most vulnerable of the weak. As we were talking to a neighbor, the girls came from their stick and mud hut to sit with us. They treated us like we were somebody special. Love went back and forth into the hut. She wanted to show off her “dress clothes.” She only had to change shirts once. That’s all she had. But she was proud of that. Looking back at pictures, the girls wore different clothes a couple of days – but they simply exchanged clothes with one another to have something different to wear. Four little girls sharing clothes. How proud these little girls are of their shared skirt!

Imagine what is was like to not have a mom or a dad there to make certain they brushed their teeth or washed behind their ears. How hard is it to fathom the emptiness they feel? Imagine the sounds of the night. Imagine the cold – the dampness – the darkness.

The visit to the homestead forever wrecked Natalie Mays, Alexis Vann and me. Almost a year later and we still find it difficult to revisit those raw emotions. But we are thankful to have experienced the things we did that fall afternoon. We looked into the eyes of Jesus that day – and I pray we remain broken and humbled with a spirit of compassionate action for the vulnerable and poor. God is good. He is faithful. He is love.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The House that Love Built - Part 2

Our first introduction to the children of Thulwane was through this video shared by Tom Davis with Children’s HopeChest. Please take two minutes to watch this video. Very moving.

This little girl hadn’t always been in a wheelchair. Before her traumatic experience, she walked around and played like most children her age. During her recovery period, her Gogo would place her in a wheelbarrow to get her to the carepoint so she could eat. Kriek and Jumbo Gerber, Missionaries in Swaziland, purchased the wheelchair for Love and this is where her life began to change… for the better.

We had absolutely no idea we would actually get to meet the little girl in the wheelchair. But we did. She is such an Angel!

The next blog will detail our first encounter with Love and what we learned from this little girl and the other children at Thulwane.

Friday, April 10, 2009

The House That Love Built

I am going to attempt to paint a picture of life around Thulwane, which is near Manzini, Swaziland. Telling the story of Love and how God is transforming lives will also be my intent.

Excerpt from my journal entry on June 9, 2008: "The children of Thulwane - it is so difficult to comprehend surviving that life as an orphan. We walked to three different homesteads to do visits and we were scared to death - and it was during the day. I imagine the nights are very lonely. No electricity. No streetlights. Better yet, no streets. Other than at the carepoint, there is no place to provide very basic care. A simple runny nose can turn into flu. Flu can turn into death. In Africa, its about survival. The strong make it. The weak don't. The orphans stand very little chance of making it to 15. The average age expectancy is something like 35. In America, we stand a better chance of dying in a plane-to-plane collision than to die of starvation or neglect. It's just a different world here. God, help them. And please give us the heart to help them. We need revival. "

"This particular campaign was quite redemptive for me. Of all the death, despair and dead-end roads from the campaign last fall, this one was just the opposite. Even in extreme poverty, there is hope for a more rewarding life - especially from a spiritual standpoint. I see hope for Swaziland. Jumbo Gerber told us, "remember that healing must take place from the inside-out and Swaziland is the pulpit of Africa." It can happen. One person at a time. God is alive and well!"

Over the next week, I will be sharing the story of redemptive love, a stick and mud hut and the House that Love built.

Friday, February 27, 2009

My name is Larry and I am a Pole Vaulter..

I, obviously, am a fan of Facebook. When used with the right intent, this social network can be a great tool to reconnect with people, make new friends, share ideas, faith and resources. A users’ ‘status’ allows us to share, in a sentence or two, what we are doing or thinking at any given time.
I typically don’t have very interesting status updates and on this particular day, I shared that I had a dream about being a champion pole-vaulter. That was a strange dream. But a friend of mine, Amber Wheeler, had an answer to this dream… I asked her if I could share her thoughts with you and she agreed.

“Hi, Larry. I believe this to be from the Lord for you, but as I usually tell people, pray about it and see if it comes into alignment with what others are thinking. The Lord woke me this morning saying, “remember what Larry wrote on his status about pole vaulting?” “Tell him that he can fulfill his goals, but I need him to fulfill My goals. And My goals are higher and beyond his reach. He needs to set the bar higher so that he can only accomplish the goals with my help. I AM the Champion who will get him over that bar!”
Have a great day!”

Wow. Thank you, Amber! You hit the mark with your interpretation and I appreciate your courage to share. I think we all can take a dose of courage from her example to be bold and share with others!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

A Miracle on First Street North

A couple of weeks ago I went to the ER because of what I thought was me giving birth to something. Diagnosis? Kidney stone. One too large to pass. A few days later, I returned home minus the mountain-of-a-stone and an addition to my body – a stent from my kidney to my bladder. After a couple of days at home, I went back to the ER for an overnighter because of infection and extreme pain. Two days after that I went back to my doc to have the stent removed. That was a bad deal. Complications and I was back in the hospital the same day. Another stent was put in the next day (Valentine’s Day) – and that is where this story gets intriguing.

After returning from surgery I became incredibly sick and began to get violently ill. Vomiting, the chills, fever spiked to 103.something, my chest began killing me, I was talking out of my head.. I only know this because Ashley, my wife, has recounted it to me. I was out of it. I do not remember a thing about this. Ashley just told me last night that I even had a word with satan. “You think you are a bad-a** but you’re not. You have been defeated.” I got chills when she told me about that. There was some type of battle going on. I don’t have my arms all the way around this yet – but I was on satans bad list. Once the symptoms of a problem with my heart intensified, I was rushed to ICU at around 6 pm on Valentine’s Day.

All roads with my health led to either one of two things: a heart-attack or a condition called aortic dissection. Neither of these prospects was good, wouldn’t you agree? I was put on oxygen, given nitroglycerin on two occasions, had every monitor known to man hooked to me, iv’s in every possible place. Once I was told what they thought was happening to me, I became hysterical and inconsolable. I repeatedly begged for my family – I suppose I felt the need to tell them some things. Can you imagine this? Can you imagine being Ashley when the physician came to her in the ICU waiting area and told her what he thought the possibilities were? He said to her, “we are also checking on an aortic dissection and those are usually fatal.” Then he walked away. Thank God there were dear friends from our small-group there with her. I can’t fathom that news.

Rewind with me for a minute. There have been so many people praying for me. Praying with me, praying over me, praying for me when I didn’t even know. People in Africa, Germany, India, the Dominican Republic, Asia and the U.S. People I know and people I am becoming friends with. They had been praying for my recovery from the kidney stone issues and for our family to be protected. Saturday night, the prayers changed. They were praying for my heart. They were praying that if it not be His will to call me home then to heal me. To mend me.

As I was being wheeled to the CT scan area, my wife was informed that a surgery team was in place. This was getting pretty serious. Ashley had even started to think about what she would do if something really bad happened. I cannot imagine.

If we don’t believe in miracles and His ability to heal, why do we pray for that? If we don’t have the faith that He can heal, then we will be proven right. God loves for His children to pray. God loves to heal. God loves to love.

Have you ever heard anyone say, “It’s God’s will,” or “just leave it up to God” when faced with a serious illness or some type of tragedy? We cannot fall into that trap. God wants us to pray to Him for help. In Luke 18:1 Jesus told His disciples that they “should always pray and not give up” and then Jesus asked “…will not God bring about justice for His chosen one’s, who cry out to Him day and night?” We should pray to God from deep within our hearts and with all that we are – we should pray for healing. Expect it. Don’t give up. God wants us to ask Him for help. He loves us!

Just this morning I received an email form a dear friend that lists 40 verses of scripture related to healing. After further research, it is believed that over 20% of the Gospel is about the healing ministry of Jesus. Jesus taught His disciples how to pray and to heal. He sent them out to carry-out His work. Our church, , began House of Prayer during this past fall. A church that does not teach healing is like an elementary school that doesn’t teach math. Wouldn’t Jesus want His followers to pray for healing today?

At some point during the chaos, God healed me! Do you comprehend what I just said to you? I was miraculously healed by the King of Kings this past Saturday night! When I tell you that we will give Him the glory and credit for this, I am not joking! Thank God for those who earnestly prayed for my healing. Thank God for those who believed I would be healed. Thank God for faith the size of a mustard seed. Thank God. In the name of Jesus, I claim my body is healed and I believe with all of my healed heart God was pleased with those who diligently prayed.

By midnight this past Saturday night, I was settled in to ICU room 16 at Shelby Baptist Hospital in Alabaster, Alabama. No sign of a challenge with my heart. No ‘reasonable’ explanation as to what was going on the past 10 hours. I am sure there will be people who will doubt all of this. There are too many times that we have discounted miracles as, ‘unexplained’ events. But today, I know better. I know I was healed!

God receives glory in healing and good health, not in sickness and death. For God is Jehova - Rapha, the God of healing and of life, not a god of sickness and death.

Today, as I sit at home with no problems with the kidney stone and no issues with my heart, I am so thankful to those friends, family and even strangers who prayed for my healing and who prayed for my family. God is good. He is so good.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

We All Have a Platform

This is a blog I first posted on July 24, 2008. I am not at all a Florida fan (Alabama), but I cannot help but support someone who stands for what is good. Tim Tebow is a good man. Now he is the MVP of the BCS National Championship game.

In this part of the country, late-summer means one thing… it’s time for football! Seriously, football is a big deal for many, many people – including me. I’ve played it, watched it, dreamed about it, obsessed over it and am now even coaching the game. I would have to classify myself as a person who loves football.This past week, the SEC held media day for their member schools at the Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover, Alabama, which is about 8 miles from where we live. My family is huge Alabama fans and I typically follow this media spectacle to see what the outlook is for other SEC schools. One team that keeps my interest is the Florida Gators. I suppose I keep an eye on them because they always are in the hunt for a national title, especially now.
Florida has a very special player that is the center of their team. He is the heart of Florida football. At the end of the 2007 season, this guy was showered with awards, recognition and accolades. Look at this list of awards and accomplishments: The Heisman Trophy; Maxwell Award; Davey O’Brien Award; AP Player of the Year; Consensus All-American. One would think this post would be all about football. But it’s not. It is about a young man named Tim Tebow - who some would call the best all-around quarterback in the history of college football.The following are some quotes from Tebow while he was in Hoover this past week:“If I can change a kid’s life for the better, that’s much more important to me than going out there and beating Georgia or Florida State or whatever team it is.”

Tim Tebow has been mission- minded his entire life. It is second nature to him. His parents were missionaries. Tim was actually born in the Philippines. Actually, Tim has been on three different mission campaigns since winning the Heisman Trophy.
“We had three breaks. For those three breaks I went to the Philippines, Croatia and Thailand on three mission trips,” Tebow said. “All three of those places I got to do a lot of very neat things, preaching in prisons, in schools, in hospitals, in marketplaces.”
Why does Tebow spend time sharing his faith and working with the poor? After all, Tebow is a superstar. His fans shower him with enough praise to last most of us a lifetime. “The reason I do it is because it’s more important than football to me,” Tebow said. “Doing those things, taking my platform as a football player and using it for good, using it to be an influence and change people’s lives, that’s more important than football to me.”
“I can take what I do in playing football as a game and change people’s lives with it. That’s why football is such a great game. That’s kind of why I do the things, preaching in prisons, doing those different things, trying to take advantage of that platform that God has blessed me with.”
God has blessed Tim Tebow with the physical skills and mental toughness that will make him a football legend. But this 20 year old gets it. He is trying to take advantage of the platform God has blessed him with.

“I want to do everything in my power that football gives me to influence as many people as I can for the good because that’s gonna mean so much more when it’s all said and done than just playing football and winning championships,” Tebow said. We all can learn a lesson from this guy. We have all been blessed with a different platform. Each of us can take full advantage of what God has given us to stand tall for the Kingdom of God. That will mean so much more when it’s all said and done.