Saturday, October 27, 2012

Soon, no more "Goodbyes.". Just "Hellos".

It  was hard to walk into my house from Texas a week ago tonight and have no Ted to tell all that I am about to tell you. Be kind to widows, my friends. We tend to blabber.  I talk to my cats and they appear interested for about thirty seconds before they head for their food bowl.

My Father graced me with ten days of renewed wonder at His powerful ministry at Round Top Retreat in Round Top, Texas. Seeds are sown, plants watered and fruit has been harvested for over thirty years in this impossible-to-describe beautiful Place of Love that Euphanel and Nick Goad have built and offer to thousands who come. Each week a different group or groups come from far and wide. The week Nick Goad came to Christ, thirty-five years ago, he asked my Ted: "What does Jesus want of me? " Ted's reply: "Everything you've got!" Nick said, "He's got it!"  ...and he meant it

Last week FirstPlace4Health filled the Great House whose dimensions are exactly those of Noah's Ark. All rooms in every house are perfectly decorated in Texas style. Euphanel is a genius with style and color. I observed and participated in the eternal activity of the Holy Spirit as He touched the hearts of women from across the nation who came with varied levels of hope that they would learn  to eat right, exercise, and have renewed zest for Jesus and life.   My dear Michele, long-time professional entertainer on the world's stages, for the first time ever, led every session with upbeat  worship music she had either written or discovered as she searched for just the right words to put a new song in the hearts of everybody. Every meeting was a zinger.  Michele has lost 60 (That's 60!) pounds since last year's FP4H retreat. ...a perfect marketing visual for the program, wouldn't you say? I didn't want to say "goodbye" to my dear friends, Nick and Euphanel. My insides wrenched and I cried as we hugged.

Sometimes, after some "goodbyes" there are surprising "hellos". Our first son, Doug, now in Heaven with Jesus and his dad, was married to Judie for nine years when we lived in Houston. She lives in that city,  has a job that challenges her, but her greatest joy comes in being a mother to her adopted Chinese daughter, Harper. The two came all the way to Round Top to see me and there are no words to tell you what a gift they gave me. Over twenty-five years were swept away and left where they belong: in the past. She is a lovely Christian woman with a darling Christian little girl who drew a picture for me and addressed it to "Mrs. Jo". I love the way Texas kids are taught to treat adults.

This week I was kind of tired and sometimes glum from all the emotions my time in Texas stirred. Other friends came, but I simply had no energy to make it into Houston to see others and I am sad about that. I just couldn't do it this year. My dear Char and Jim who picked Michele and me up at the Bakersfield airport handed me "The Californian" with side-by-side obituaries of two men, Ken and Dexter, whom Ted and I knew for many decades.  One is in Heaven; the other, as far as the family knows, is not. How can this be? Both heard the Gospel. One received it wholeheartedly and gave his life to serve Christ and others; the other, wealthy by any standards, chose not to be in Heaven with Christ his wife and sons. I cannot get Dexter off my mind. He knew The Way.

The ministry God has set me apart to do will pick up this week and I am ready. A beautiful teenage girl called me early this week to tell me she is overwhelmed by the girls who are showing up in a restaurant to pray with her after school on Fridays.  "Would you come and help me, Jo?" Most of the kids who come to the Thursday study at the Howells are boys, and I love them dearly. I sat in on this girl's prayer time yesterday and boy howdy, how different this adventure is going to be! Girls spill everything. Guys? ...not so much. 

How do I know I am to immerse myself in the lives of more teenagers? He hasn't released me from this verse yet: " Even when I am old and gray do not forsake me, O God 'till I declare your power to the next generation; your might to all who are to come." Psalm 71:18

                                    HYMN OF THE WEEK: PRAISE THE SAVIOR

Praise the Savior, ye who know Him! Who can tell how much we owe Him?
Gladly let us render to Him all we are and have.

Jesus is the Name that charms us; He for conflict fits and arms us
Nothing moves and nothing harms us while we trust in Him.

Keep us, Lord, on Thee relying, whether living, whether dying
Let no bitterness or sighing mar our trust and praise.

Love, Jo

Saturday, October 6, 2012

God doesn't waste any agony.

I've gotta take a break from what is going on now in our country and pull up a miracle from the past.  We could surely use one now.

Had I known that the Lord was going to boot us out of the visible church when we left California after eighteen years of ministry I would have left skid marks all the way to Houston. You see, He deposited us there in December of 1974,  in a new pastorate. ... for three weeks,  then sent us off for weeks  and weeks to Southeast Asia where we moved from Tokyo , Japan to Hong Kong, China,  to Taipei, Taiwan, to Singapore, to Jacarta, Indonesia, back to Singapore, to Manila, Philippines, then to Viet Nam just as the axe fell and the boat people began to flee. Our mission? To encourage the missionaries in each country.  As our planes landed, we were quickly drawn into the human exasperations that plague every full- time Christian worker, whether in America or in the hinterlands. We barely had time to take a quick nap between each mission field before landing smack in the middle of the next muck and mire that our enemy, Satan had created to stop people from being reborn. (Tuck that away when the next bloody fight seems to come out of nowhere in your church or ministry.  No matter who the players are in  the drama the silent director is always Satan whose motivation is to stop the harvest.  His favorite cast: the older believers who should know better.) 

Viet Nam was the granddaddy of all mirey swamps. Literally.  We were working with Overseas Crusades Missions alongside Dr. Ed Murphy and his wife, Loretta, helping two American doctors set up a medical clinic in the highlands (Dalat), a couple of hours north of what was then Saigon.  Bunkers were everywhere; we were never out of hearing range of shooting. A beautiful team had led most of the Su Tong Tribe of about a thousand to Christ. They were without any medical provisions whatsoever. After a week of being in and out of the tribe, a knock came on our host's door informing us that we needed to leave immediately, or we would not be able to escape.

...but God was protecting this little tribe who had no way to escape.  A Vietnamese guerilla was captured by our army men and interrogated as to why this totally vulnerable tribe was never massacred.  His answer: "We couldn't touch them. They were always surrounded by a large white army." Now, let that roll around in your head and heart.

Our taxi raced to get us to the Saigon airport which was soon to close down. We were each handed a terrified  half-Vietnamese half-American baby to hold. Catholic nuns had rescued these babies and were bringing them to America for adoption.

Those experiences did something to both Ted and me. We could not speak of them, even to each other, for the feelings of horror from all we had seen in every country had numbed us. The words that had flowed from Ted's pulpit ministry in California no longer flowed.  I could not find joy in church meetings.  A Macedonian call came to me shortly after I had unpacked our suitcases, and I was off and running.  ...all over Houston. Ted gave that pastorate his best shot but soon I needed him to work with the men whose wives were coming to Christ.

Enter Euphanel and Nick Goad, new in Christ and ready to go!  Together we launched home ministry after home ministry which reached people at the top of the financial chain to the cellars of drug runners. Somewhere in that time frame, Euphie and Nick bought some acreage, a barn, farmhouse and tank ("lake")  a couple of hours  west of Houston and we began to escape the hot, humid city with them on weekends, dragging along college and career people, ...and that was the innocent beginning of Round Top Retreat. I suggest that you pull up the website. Thousands go there now, for thousands of reasons. I remain on the Board, and my dearest Texas buddies, Euphie and Nick, time our yearly Board meeting in October at the same time  First Place4Health holds their national gathering of men and women. That ministry has opened up another unexpected adventure for me. In my home as I write is a FP4H leader who is here for a break before we head into the Retreat at Round Top, Texas, next week. On October 10,  Michele, professional singer-turned totally committed Christian, and I will fly to Austin, where Euphie will pick us up and we will begin a week and two days of high adventure with FirstPlace4Health. Pull that ministry up on your computer too, if you are up for it.   I will return to my mountain on October 20. Try to survive without my blog.

                                   HYMN OF THE WEEK: TRUST AND OBEY

When we walk with the Lord in the Light of His Word; what a glory He sheds on our way!
While we do His good will, He abides with us still, and with all who will trust and obey

Love, Jo