Tuesday, January 30, 2007

To the ends of the earth....

"and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." Acts 1:8

Those words were spoken by Jesus to his earliest followers almost 2000 yrs ago. As I read them, I began to wonder what it must have been like being in their shoes (sandals); Just how far did they have to go to reach their "ends of the earth"? How'd they get there? How long did it take? Was it hard? What sacrifices and risks did they face? Were they afraid? Who supported them? What language and cultural barriers did they have to overcome? What was the long term impact of their work? Was it worth it?

You've just gotten a glimpse into the thoughts that have been rolling around in my mind (that's scarry!) as we continue preparing for the trip to Swaziland.....our "ends of the earth". The trip itself will take just about 30 hours travel time and cover nearly 8,654 miles (that's as the crow flies, but we'll be taking a plane...sorry! :-) That's pretty far...but in reality it's a journey that's been in the works for quite some time (look up Ephesians 2:10). I read something this week that said: "It is estimated that in the next 50 years, the Swazi people may become extinct (due to the Aids pandemic) unless profound change is realized." I don't know about you, but there's no sacrifice or distance too great...if it means being able to reach out and save a life. So, to "the ends of the earth" we go! That's just a little of what God's been laying on my heart this week. Thanks for listening. I'll blog again soon. Here's some more we can be in prayer about:
  • That God would bring healing and wholeness to the Swazi people
  • That airline tickets & other transportation would be available at a good cost
  • That laws in Swaziland would be changed to protect the poor and oppressed
  • That God would raise up people to be sent out into the harvest field (Mt. 9:37-38)
  • That all of our financial support would be in place by the Mar. 4th deadline. (If you'd like to partner financially, you can go directly to: www.james127.org and use PayPal to contribute. Please put my name in the "item/product name" field. All contributions are tax deductible. Thanks!)

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Diving In...

"With God all things are possible". Matthew 19:26

The process is under way. I got my final Hep. A & B shots today, my youngest daughter has begun her passport processing (the oldest already has hers), and I picked up the paperwork for my husband to get his updated. The immunization shots are the next step for them. I won't deny that as we venture out on this journey, it's both exciting and scarry at the same time. Great challenges lie ahead. As we've been praying and asking God to provide in every way for this trip...we realize that we'll need to raise close to $10,000 for all of us to be able to go. ($8,000 of it by March 4th in order to purchase the airline tickets). That's only 5 weeks away! While on the surface it may seem impossible, I was reminded that "With God all things are possible". Yesterday I had a chance to speak with an elderly Christian lady...a dear friend of mine...about the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead. She was such an encouragement. She promised to pray and reminded me that if God has called us to this work, He would provide in amazing ways. So...with that being said, we press on and continue this leap of faith. To paraphrase the Steven Curtis Chapman song : "We're diving in, we're going deep, in over our heads we're gonna be (already are!).....so sink or swim, we're diving in!" Thank you in advance for your support, both in prayers and financially...so that together, the 'impossible' might become possible.

Also, many of you have been asking: "When are you going and what will you be doing on your trip?" So, in reponse to your questions, here's the 'tentative' plan and itinerary:
  • Wed. July 11th - Depart from USA
  • Thurs. July 12th - Arrive in Johannesburg S. Africa/Overnight sleep (we'll need it!)
  • Fri. July 13th - Travel to Swaziland/ Visit Manzini Community
  • Sat. July 14th - Work projects in Manzini Community
  • Sun. July 15th - Worship and Dinner with Manzini Families
  • Mon. July 16th -Work projects at El Shaddai Orphanage
  • Tues. July 17th - Work projects at El Shaddai Orphanage
  • Wed. July 18th -- Cultural village/ Hlane game preserve/Gala dinner
  • Thurs. July 19th - Install fencing, plant vegetable gardens at Kuphunga schools
  • Fri. July 20th - Complete any unfinished work projects (**Additions: time with the orphans/prayer walk/hospital visits)
  • Sat. July 21th - Fly out of Johannesburg
  • Sun. July 22 - Arrive home in USA

God bless you as we partner together to make a difference and bring hope to our world.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Beautiful feet!

" How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!" Romans 10:15

Well it's official...we've had our first meeting as a group. There are 29 of us on the list going to Swaziland and we had a chance to put faces to names. How fun! It was exciting going around the circle, hearing a little bit about each person and how God has brought them to be a part of this 'team'. (having all of my family represented was an extra special blessing!) Here's a picture :

From now until our departure in July, we'll learn alot together about: ourselves, the Swazi culture, the desperate needs of the people there, and how God is calling us to help. Today as I was reading I came across something that impacted me. It said:

"Everyone wants to be significant...we want our lives to count for something bigger than us. Many try to find significance through their accomplishments, wealth and possessions....but in reality, true significance comes as a result of serving others".

Profound words that I think each of us are just beginning to understand. To fill you in a little more about the trip: we're working in partnership with New Covenant Church (my home church) www.cliochurch.com and Compassionate Life Foundation www.james127.org The foundation is a locally based (Swartz Creek, Mi) non-profit organization started by friends of mine that have been to Africa many times and were on the trip with me last March. When you get a chance, check out their website and mission statement and you'll get a glimpse into why I'm going back. Please know that every one of you who are reading this are invaluable to me. Assembling the 'extended team' of those who'll join me both in prayer and financially is vital in making this trip a reality...it couldn't happen without you. Some initial things we can begin to pray about:

  • Proper immunizations (and that all group members are healthy when getting them)
  • God would be preparing in advance the work He would have us to do
  • God would prepare the Swazi hearts to receive us...and that they'd see Jesus in us
  • That we would trust God to provide the funds needed to go
  • That lives would be transformed (ours as well as theirs)

Well, that's it for now...but hang on....we're just 'peeling back' the first layer of this adventure. There's much more to come! I'll be posting more soon...but in the meantime, please feel free to post comments...hearing from you is a blessing and encouragment! Thanks again....I love you all!

Saturday, January 13, 2007

World HIV/AIDS Day

DECEMBER 1, 2007 is WORLD AIDS DAY . Begin to PRAY now! Every day, 8,000 people around the world die from AIDS. Another 14,000 become infected with the deadly HIV virus that causes AIDS. In all, there are 40 million people living with HIV on our planet today. Every morning, 15 million children wake up to another day without the loving embrace of the parents they've lost to AIDS. Millions of other children are living with or caring for parents who are chronically ill because of the disease. And 2.3 million children are themselves infected with the HIV virus. The tiny African kingdom of Swaziland is the most HIV-infected country in the world. Nearly 42% of its population is carrying the virus. In 1987 the first AIDS case was reported in Swaziland, by 1992 the infected rate was 3.9%. By 2002 the reported cases of AIDS had reached 38.6%, an increase of 900%.
Age spread of the disease
in 2002: 15 – 19 / 32% infected 20 – 24 / 45% infected 25 – 29 / 47.7% infected. HIV/AIDS is a huge problem there and they desperately need help! I believe God is calling His people to be a part of this effort of awareness, prayer and help for this pandemic. Bob Pierce, founder of World Vision, stated: “Let my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God.” Would you let God break your heart over AIDS?

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Here am I. Send me!

"Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" And I said, "Here am I. Send me!" Isaiah 6:8

It's been almost 1 year since I had the privilege and opportunity of going to Swaziland, Africa for the first time and being a part of an amazing work; one of helping the poor, the widows, orphans, and those suffering from the Aids pandemic. It was so life changing that I called it my "Bloomin' Onion" experience...one where the layers (and blessings) continue to be peeled back. Many of you reading this helped to make that trip a reality as you encouraged, contributed and prayed with me every step of the way. For that I am forever grateful...it couldn't have happened without you. But as I often think back about that trip...one phrase keeps resounding in my heart and mind....said to me by one of the little Swazi children just prior to my return to America....."Don't forget about us". It was at that time that a piece of my heart was left behind for good. Thankfully God has not let me forget. In fact, He has graciously opened the door for me to return this coming summer, July of 2007. But this time, in answer to my heart's cry, I will not be going alone. By God's grace, my husband, 2 daughters, one of their friends from college and about 20 others from our church and community will be going back to Swaziland to continue this very important work. Amazing! Oh...and there's one more that I'm hoping will join us on this journey....YOU! You don't have to 'get on the plane'...but I'm asking that you'd please be in prayer as to how you might join me...as we together step out in faith once again, to make a difference in our world. Thanks so much.