missions

Day 20: Bad to good

Paper Tigers & Impressing God

A Write 31 Days Series

God doesn’t waste anything.  He has the ability to take our worst hurts in life, redeem the hurt, and use the circumstances for good.

This idea could not be better illustrated than through the story of Joseph.  Joseph was thrown into a pit by his brothers, sold into slavery, falsely accused, falsely imprisoned, and forgotten.  God weaves this story of heartache and betrayal into a redeeming story of saving the nation of Israel from starvation during a famine.  He also brings healing to the broken family.

Joseph tells his brothers this:

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.
— Genesis 50:20 ESV

In my life, I have seen God take horrible situations and use it for good.

Here are some examples for you.

  1. Using the hurt of loosing my brother to spur me onto more, deeper ministry, especially to Ethiopia.  I tell the story here.
  2. On my third trip to Ethiopia, God called a young man who had lost his brother-in-law to join our trip, and God used his testimony of loss and salvation to share the gospel with young men in the ministry we visited.  (Click here and scroll down to number 6.)
  3. I have been able to use my testimony of loss to contribute to the website The Gift of Second.  They have visitors every day looking for encouragement after losing a loved one to suicide.

God can also use something non-spiritual to lead someone to know Him.

Here are some examples of that.

  1. My friend Jackie was assigned community service after being convicted of a crime.  That community service brought Him to my church, where my father-in-law led Him to the Lord.  Jackie has been one of the employees at our church that's been there the longest.  He met his wife at our church, and he adopted four children.  God moved in Jackie’s life beginning with something non-spiritual, state-issued community service.
  2. One of my favorite stories from Tony Kriz’s book Neighbors and Wise Men is the story of the man in the communist country of Albania becoming a Christian through a National Geographic magazine.
  3. While my husband was out of the country doing mission work in Mali, I was under serious spiritual warfare.  I was having such a tough time, James was beginning to wonder if he would have to try to find a way to leave the mission, before it even began, to come home and help me get through my struggles.  I begged him not to even consider coming home.  The devil would have won that battle if he abandoned his mission only a few days in.  I went to a worldly yoga class, and God really spoke to me as I was doing the breathing and meditating on Him.  He reminded me how much He loved me, how precious I was to Him, and to put on the full armor of God to fight off the fiery darts and lies that the devil was discouraging me with.

God can and will use any and everything on this earth to show us that He loves us and advance the gospel.

We discussed motivation on day 6, and we decided that God could even use our bad motivations to advance His gospel here on earth.

Praise the Lord that He is able to use awful things for good.

 

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I like to include a song with each blog post.  Here you go.

Day 8: Guest Post

Paper Tigers & Impressing God

A Write 31 Days Series

Today I'm turning my blog over to the capable hands of my church & home school friend Cassie Haney.  Cassie, her husband, and her five extremely adorable children just moved to Guadalajara, Mexico as YWAM missionaries about 6 months ago.  A few weeks ago, the Haney family came to visit us at our church, where we will always consider them members, and gave a small report on their missionary efforts.  Cassie's husband Luke spoke about what he had learned on the mission field.  To my surprise, he began to say some of the exact things I had been planning on writing in this series.  I knew I needed to ask them to be a piece of this series.  Cassie graciously wrote these encouraging words for you and me:


As much as I wish it wasn’t true, many years of my life in childhood and as an adult have been spent fearing paper tigers. I was a huge people pleaser, parent pleaser, teacher pleaser, youth minister pleaser, coach pleaser, friend pleaser, put on a happy face, “everything’s perfect here I don’t need any help from you but I can help you if you need me” type of girl. This attitude served me well in my youth, I did well in school, had lots of friends, and my parents were generally happy with my behavior. However, these traits began to feel more like chains as I progressed into adulthood. I became a secret keeper (a.k.a. liar at times), because I was scared to bring to light the darkness that was in my house. I was a pretender, going on for many years as if I didn’t have any skeletons in my closet. I was an enforcer, requiring my children to uphold this pretend world I had created. The truth was that I was always afraid. I felt incredibly guilty about who I was, and how I was behaving. I knew I was far from God. The scariest part of it all, was the reality that I didn’t know my way back to Him, and if it depended on me, I was toast. 

At that time, with nothing to offer, no good deeds in my pocket, my family life was a mess, my heart was hard, my parenting was ugly . . . I had literally nothing going for me spiritually . . . that was when I cried out to God. 

 

Jesus saved me. 

Jesus saved my marriage.

Jesus saved my family.

 

He is no paper tiger, He is the LION OF JUDAH! 

 

When He moves, it is undeniable. When He creates, it is undestroyable. When He saves, there is no vulnerability. When He loves, there is no pride left in me. There is power even in the mention of His name. 

Wow.

My God pulled me up out of the slimy pit, I was rescued from myself . . . not because of my redeeming character qualities, or my good deeds, or my positive attitude. All glory to Him. 

Because of the way He rescued me, I understand that it simply doesn’t matter very much who I am or what I do . . . as long as I’m with Him. I don’t need to be “happy”, or “good”, or “cheerful” as if He needs me to be that way. He doesn’t need me. I hope that I would never bow my knee and serve a “god” who needed something from me. If He needed me, then I would be the god. NO! I need Him, He is worthy, He is Jesus Christ, Lord and Savior! If I am happy, good, or cheerful it is because He loved me first, not because I’m doing Him a favor.

Jonah wasn’t “good”. He didn’t cheerfully fullfil is Christian duty by happily going about with the “joy of the Lord” on him in service to God. He was no people pleaser. God used angry, spiteful, bitter Jonah . . . because God chose Jonah. God gave Jonah what he needed because God had what Jonah needed. Jonah didn’t have it . . . but God could use Jonah because God is more than able to account for our shortcomings. 

So why are we prone to make God so little and paper tigers so big in our hearts? Why do we let fear of men override fear of God. Why do we believe that the physical world is more real than the spiritual? Why do we allow ourselves to be slaves?? We are free, under the care and grace of our loving Father and Savior, the LION of Judah, the worthy one, Jesus Christ. I encourage you to bow your knee, look up, and find salvation!

-Cassie Haney



I'd like to thank Cassie for contributing this to the series.  I know Cassie well enough to know that every single word of this is true and sincere.  I would encourage you to read through Cassie's blog on a day you need a pick-me-up.  She has a brightness about her that brings joy to my life.  Mexico is blessed to have her. 

I would like to give you, the reader, an opportunity to support missions this very minute.  I watched the Haney family sell everything they owned to move to Mexico and begin this chapter in their lives.  Luke left a profitable optometry business that he had begun to go into this mission field.  Selling their possessions covered this half year they have spent in training, and now they are raising support to continue their mission in Mexico.

God might be prompting you to financially support their mission, either a one time gift or monthly.  Click here to find out how to do that.

 

 

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Day 3: Memorial

Paper Tigers & Impressing God

A Write 31 Days Series

Yesterday I wrote about learning to water ski, as a kid, to impress my dad.  That memory popped into my head recently at the strangest moment.  I was in Washington DC for an overnight stop before flying to Ethiopia with a mission group.  We had 26 suitcases, each 50 pounds, full of supplies and donations.  We had checked them in Dallas, and we had to claim them all and take them to our hotel for the night before checking them again in the morning.  This meant we had to drag all 26 suitcases through the airport, out to the sidewalk, across traffic, and down to where the hotel shuttle would pick us up.

(Photo by Traci Judd)

(Photo by Traci Judd)

As I was dragging 100 pounds and my carry-on through the airport, out the door, and across the street, the aching in my arms jogged the memory of aching arms from water skiing.

I also had a Bible story pop into my head as we crossed the street in front of the airport.  I immediately thought of the Israelites passing over the Jordan River on their way to the promise land.  God had them carry stones, one for each of the twelve tribes, and place them in pile as a memorial.

When all the nation had finished passing over the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua, “Take twelve men from the people, from each tribe a man, and command them, saying, ‘Take twelve stones from here out of the midst of the Jordan, from the very place where the priests’ feet stood firmly, and bring them over with you and lay them down in the place where you lodge tonight.‘ When your children ask in time to come, ‘What do those stones mean to you?’  then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it passed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. So these stones shall be to the people of Israel a memorial forever.”
— Joshua 4: 1-3, 6b-7 ESV

God wanted the Israelites to remember what God had done for them; He had brought them out of Egypt and into the promise land.

The best way to remember something is having a physical reminder and a muscle memory for that event.

Think of the way Daniel son was trained by Mr. Miyagi in Karate Kid, not that this is equivalent to the example out of scripture, but it is a good illustration.

 

Wax on, wax off.

Paint the fence.

Sand the floor.

 

God told them to pick up some rocks, knowing how the guys I know operate, they probably scoured the river bed and bragged who had the biggest rock to contribute to the memorial.

As they carried these big, heavy rocks, they were creating a memory.  And what they were to remember wasn’t what they had done, but what God had done.

After arriving in Ethiopia with all 26 of our heavy suitcases, I sat on my bed and thought all of this through.

I wanted to not remember that I had carried supplies for orphan care to Africa.  I wanted that muscle memory of dragging those bags halfway across the world to remind me of what God had done.

God had not only worked all of the circumstances out for good so that our orphan care trip was possible, but he was bringing my heart into a better place, a place filled with grace and freedom.  He was using my serving Him to teach me that what I could do for Him wasn’t where my security should come from.  What I could do for God shouldn’t be where my value comes from, and it was never going to make me holy in the sight of God.  I could never impress God with my proper behavior or good works.  My worth, value, and righteousness comes only from Him.

That is what He has done.

That is what we must remember.

 

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I like to include a song with each blog post.  Why not?  Music is the best.

My Third Visit to Ethiopia

My trip to Ethiopia this July with Storytellers Missions was such a good trip.  I want to tell you about it. 

When I got home from Ethiopia mid-July, all I wanted to do was sit by the pool, watch my kids swim, and read.  Now that the kids are back in school, it seems ridiculous that I haven’t written and posted this yet.  I’ve been home for over a month, but I still want to let you in on God’s goodness that I witnessed on this trip.  I especially want those of you that prayed for me and my daughter Lucy and/or supported our trip to know how God was glorified.

This is my third summer in a row to visit Addis Ababa, Ethiopia with AWAA Storyteller Missions.  The last two years, I have written very thoroughly about my week, including highlights of each day of the trip.  I believe doing that in this blog post would just be redundant.  There are things about my trip that don’t vary greatly from the last two years, traveling, from Amarillo to Addis was largely a similar experience.  I don’t have anything interesting to add.  Instead of giving my report in daily reflections, I’m just going to give you the most interesting observations.

 

1. Encouraging Reports of Domestic Adoption

 

This is something I observed last year, but I continued to see positive improvements in this area.  Socially, adoption has not been accepted by Ethiopian people.  That opinion is beginning to change.  America World Adoption has taken a proactive role in changing that social norm, even though it doesn’t benefit them financially at all.  In fact, one of the nannies employed by America World’s transition home was proud to share with us that she was pursuing adoption of a beautiful orphaned girl in her care as a nanny.  This sweet nanny has no children of her own, and a very modest income.  The fact that she was willing to sacrifice financially and personally to add a child to her family through adoption was really beautiful.  The ripple effects of her adoption is helping change the social norm of her country.  Please pray that adoption becomes more accepted in Ethiopia.  If children can be cared for and loved by a family in Ethiopia, that is so, so much better than a life in an orphanage.

(Photo by Traci Judd)

 

2.  Traveling With Adoptees

 

I had the great privilege of traveling with the Heckart family.  Ryan and Karmyn Heckart adopted two brothers through AWAA’s Ethiopia program two years ago.  The boys they adopted are named Jackson and James.  This was their first time traveling back to their birth country since their adoption, and getting to see their reactions to Ethiopia was worth billions to me.  Our first day at the guesthouse, they served us a very typical lunch, penne pasta with veggies (carrots, cabbage, zucchini), oil, and basil.  It was quite good, but watching James devour it was hilarious.  At one point he said, “I’ve had dreams of this pasta.”  It was adorable.  Karmyn was able to arrange visitation with the boys’ birth family.  Our fourth day there, Karmyn, the boys, and Karmyn’s other two children went to the boys’ aunt’s home.  About 15 members of their birth family came to visit, including their sister and a living grandfather.  By all reports, it was a very lovely visit that had some heart-wrenchingly touching moments as they bonded over the love that everyone had for the two boys.  Honestly, thinking of ever visiting a birth family of the child we will hopefully be allowed to adopt seems pretty scary to me.  It is not any kind of social situation I have ever been involved with, and the feelings all sound very, very big.  Hearing Karmyn talk about that meeting made me wish that I had been there.  It didn’t sound scary; it sounded precious.  We were able to take the boys’ aunt and sister out to dinner with us during the week and also have them visit our guesthouse one night.  Jackson was able to remember all of the language.  He was able to converse in Amharic with his family, the nannies at the orphanage the boys lived in, and the driver we had all week.  In fact, he made great friends with the driver, as they bonded over “the raps music” (as our diver called it.)  James, who is two years younger, could recognize some Amharic, remembered a lot of words, but he couldn’t converse at all.  He was however an excellent dancer.  Ethiopian traditional dances all include some amazing shoulder movements, and everyone was impressed with his moves.

 

3. The Kids Presented the Gospel

 

Since we had mainly children on our team, we empowered them to share the gospel on our trip.  Karmyn found a great idea of sharing major points from the creation to Jesus.  Two of the adults held a clothes line, and the 7 kids (my daughter Lucy being the oldest and 8 year old Dawson being the youngest) hung a picture on the clothes line as they shared their piece of the story.  The kids were able to share that presentation at each of the orphanages we visited, as well as the ministries Hope for Korah and Make Your Mark.  Oftentimes children are underestimated by adults.  They are not often given opportunities to share their faith or participate in ministry to others.  Since we were doing the presentation to children, I believe letting children share with children was the most powerful presentation of Jesus we could have offered.  The children were really listening as those seven children, two of which were Ethiopian, share about the story of the Bible.  Karmyn did something else really smart.  She made mini-coloring books with the pictures the kids had placed on the clothes lines.  She also added Bible verses in Amharic.  We were able to hand out hundreds of these to the children we shared with.  I am so proud of the kids.  So many adults will never have the opportunity to stand on foreign soil and proclaim Jesus to a crowd of people while having a translator share their words in a foreign language.  These kids have already done that at their age of 8 to 17.  God used them mightily.

(Photo by Traci Judd)

(Photo by Traci Judd)

 

4. Communion

 

I had the joy of taking communion at one of the churches we attended in Addis.  It was such a special moment, sharing that with believers in Ethiopia.  I will cherish that memory.

 

5. Small Improvements

 

My favorite thing about going back to the same mission field three years in a row is seeing the small improvements in the children’s lives each year.  The smallest thing can give me so much hope that the Church is making a difference for orphans and marginalized families.  The biggest improvement I saw in the large baby orphanage we visit each year was that they had new playground equipment.  That is something the kids hadn’t had before.  Honestly, the soccer ball is still their favorite form of entertainment, but it was getting a lot of use from the handful of kids who had physical disabilities.

There were also big improvements in one of my favorite ministries in Addis, Hope for Korah.  Their ministry has grown year after year, and it is obvious God is blessing their efforts.  They had a new program for families to join that included classes in money management and a group savings account to be used for business start-ups within the group.  Hope for Korah and the groups rally around each other’s entrepreneurial ideas and help make those dreams into a solid business plan.  Since jobs are so hard to come by in their tough economy, starting a business can be life-changing for a family in extreme poverty. 

The children’s ministry in Hope for Korah had grown as well.  They had Bible studies in the evening for the older children, and they had begun renting a soccer field once a week for soccer clinics that included Bible teaching.  If you don’t follow Hope for Korah on Facebook, I would encourage you to do so.  It is a very worthy cause if you are looking for a ministry in Ethiopia to support. 

 

6. Testimony

 

One of the team members from Karmyn’s church in Perryton was Justin Thompson.  Justin was able to share with about 20 older boys after our team helped with a soccer clinic at Hope for Korah.  He shared his testimony of losing his brother-in-law to suicide, his life before meeting Jesus, and how God had changed his life.  Sitting in that little room in Korah, the economically poorest community in Addis, was on of the most spiritually deep experiences I have ever had on mission.  It was clear to me that his testimony was sinking into the hearts of those boys in a deep and profound way.  The air was thick with the Holy Spirit’s movement.  I know the pain of losing a loved one to suicide, and I knew in my heart that most of the boys in that room had suffered some type of deep loss in their short lives.  Hearing hope come from such pain and despair was an unbelievable experience.  Justin was not planning on coming on our trip to Ethiopia until unexpected circumstances caused him to join our team at the last minute.  I know God had Justin go to share that night, and I know his testimony was used to further the Kingdom.

 

7. Sponsor Family Reunion

 

America World Adoptions has a sponsorship program that allows about 100 families who are in danger of losing their children be supported through sponsorship.  Sponsor children are given a better chance to stay with their family as they face the difficulties of poverty.  This year we met five mothers who’s children are sponsored through this program, and we heard their stories.  Their stories were extremely hard.  All of them had lost their husbands, one because of war and the others because their husband had chosen to abandon their families.  Two of the children we met were products of rape.  They were loved and their mothers expressed that they were thankful to God to have that child.  That was a humbling story, and it was a little shocking to hear it more than once.  It was beautifully redeeming to see how much these children were loved by their mothers.  

 

This was the third time to get to meet sponsor families, and one of the women, "M," was a family I had visited on my first trip to Ethiopia with my friends Barry and Shelly.  We had visited her modest home two years ago and met her lovely son "S."  "S" had grown a few feet since we met him two years ago.  "M" remembered having us to visit her home, and was glad to see me.  When our visit was over, she gave me such a long, hard hug.  It was such a dear moment for me.  Pray for "M" and "S" with me.  Their small family of two has faced such hardship, but they love Jesus and they love each other.  Pray God keeps them healthy and encouraged in their faith.

(If you want to read more about first meeting "M" & "S", scroll down to "Day 8" on this link: http://www.jenniferllane.com/heswithus/2014/09/my-week-in-ethiopia.html)

This year.

This year.

2 years ago.

2 years ago.

 

8. State of Adoptions

 

It was clear during my trip that less and less international adoptions are being processed from Ethiopia to any other country, including the US.  This is the first time that I did not see any adoptive families at the airport in Ethiopia.  Our agency’s transition home has downsized their property, and had very few children.  Adoptions have not stopped, but they are on a very slow trickle.  The large orphanage we have visited year after year still is busting at the seams with children, but the government has no interest in allowing a large quantity of adoptions to continue.  Ethiopia is broken into nine regions (kind of like states.)  Many of those regions have closed adoptions completely.  God keeps giving me a hope that doesn’t seem logical that we will still adopt a son, even in these dire prospects.  The logical part of my brain wants to point out the facts, but there is still a flicker of hope in my heart.  God is not finished with our adoption story.

(Photo by Traci   Judd)

(Photo by Traci Judd)

If you'd like to read about my other visits to Ethiopia, here are links to the blog posts.

 

My first trip to Ethiopia.

My second trip to Ethiopia.

 

 

With my blog posts, I always like to share a song.  This song really speaks to my "try-hard, good-girl" heart.  I especially love the lyric, "I'm realizing that all my striving is just chasing wind.  But you freed me so I can just be.  Nothing to prove.  Nothing to loose."  That is a lesson I had to learn the hard way this year, and laying in my bed each night in Africa, I'm not ashamed to admit that I listened to this song on repeat.

#servetogrow

How do we grow spiritually?

Just answer that question in you mind for a minute or two.  Really think about it.  Think about how you have grown spiritually over the course of your life.  Has growth come during times of study, times of trials, times of prayer, times of listening, times of reading, times of working in ministry, times of serving the poor, times of serving your family, and/or times of teaching?  If you are like me, you would probably say yes to all of those times that have offered the opportunity to learn more about the God’s love for us.

I would like to propose a theory that, as I looked back and took survey of my spiritual life, I found that the most growth happened in either times of trial or times of serving others.  I learn things studying God’s Word, I definitely do.  I not negating the importance of His Word in any way, shape, or form.

So if this might be true, that trials and service bring fruitful times of growth, why wouldn’t we embrace those times.  We cannot and should not bring trials into our life.  God is in charge of that, and let’s keep it that way.  But we can take a proactive role in making service a big part of our lives.

I want to focus more of my writing about this idea.  Writing about it will help me as a writer try to find what is true.  As I do, I will be using the hashtag #servetogrow.  Please join in.  I need your help as a reader.  I need your feedback.  If you are instagraming pictures of your Kingdom work or sharing a post on Facebook or Twitter about you experience serving others, use the hashtag #servetogrow.  If you do that, I can find your posts.  I want to test my theory out.  I want to see God use your gifts in service and see your spiritual growth happen.

Today I also want to share a story with you that is a perfect example of growing closer to the Lord during service.

My friend Cassie Haney and her family are just beginning a journey as missionaries to Mexico.  When they gave this testimony at church, it brought tears to my eyes.  I know it will bless you heart as well.  Click over and read this.

 

Beautiful time of prayer as they prepare to leave on mission to Guadalajara. I got a little choked up, as a daughter of a daddy, when this sweet daddy was giving his blessing to his daughter, son-in-law, and 5 grandchildren to move 1,200 miles away to share God's Love with a whole new community of people. Pray for the Haney family in the coming weeks. What an adventure!

Beautiful time of prayer as they prepare to leave on mission to Guadalajara. I got a little choked up, as a daughter of a daddy, when this sweet daddy was giving his blessing to his daughter, son-in-law, and 5 grandchildren to move 1,200 miles away to share God's Love with a whole new community of people. Pray for the Haney family in the coming weeks. What an adventure!

The Haney family were so full of the Joy of the Lord because they were serving Him.  The woman spotted that and received joy also by giving to their family’s mission.

You don’t have to move to a different country to serve Him.  When you are intentional about seeking to serve, God will use your willingness where ever you are.

When God’s grace places us into the position of serving Him, we can give, receive, and truly experience the Joy of the Lord.

 

"And let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful." - Titus 3:14 ESV

 

Each post I like to share a song I'm enjoying.  I love this new album by Santigold, and I love this song.  It's the bomb.