Sometimes it’s up to us to let God bring the good from our bad

Yesterday we went to the beach in Haiti.  It’s the best beach in the region. It truly looks just like other Caribbean beaches. But there are no tourists at the Haitian beach.  Nearly every white person who goes to this beach is here because they believe Jesus has sent them. Yesterday the only other white person there was the father of a girl killed in the earthquake. She was here as a Christian missionary. After her death, her father bought property and started an orphanage near the beach. He named it “Be like Brit” naming it for his daughter Brittany. They are feeding, teaching, and raising 62 kids to follow Christ. 

This morning I was reading Philippians when Paul wrote that his own misfortune was actually a blessing because it has led to the advance of the Good News of Jesus & the glory of God. 

Paul, like Brittany’s dad did, and like you and me do, basically had two choices when bad things happened to him. One option would be to pout, feel sorry for himself, question God as if God has forsaken him or punished him, and go so far as to turn from God or turn to false gods, including in our own society – drugs and alcohol, or here in Haiti – voodoo.  The other option was to discover ways in which God might be working and molding him, and then walk that path, no matter how difficult, trusting God that if you continue to believe and follow Him, that you will see Him work through the pain, and perhaps even eventually allowing you to see some of the good He brings out of it. 

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The Lord will provide

Yesterday we delivered rice and beans to people in the area we’re staying. Everyone went out in the morning and 4 of us went out in the afternoon while the other 5 painted at the school. 

I knew that Steve and I were going out in the afternoon bean delivery, but wasn’t sure if anyone else was. I found out Molly, our pediatric nurse practitioner was going. Then at the last second, Gary, the doctor with us, decided to go. I said to Gary on the way out that it seemed like a waste for a doctor to be delivering beans and rice. I consider it unskilled labor.  

But God showed us why Gary and Molly were delivering beans and rice yesterday afternoon. We had split into two groups with Molly and Gary going one way and Steve and I going another. When we were coming back together we saw Molly on the ground waving to us to let us know where she was. As we got nearer, we saw she had a bloody wash cloth holding a 10-12 year old’s foot.  She told us that they had 3 bags of rice and beans left and had walked back this trail and say a young boy drop to the ground and scream. He had cut his foot. 

They needed something clean to apply pressure. As it turned out we had taken JoLynn’s backpack to carry beans and rice. It had a clean wash cloth in it. And Gary had brought a couple of suture kits that he had tried to give away at the medical clinic he volunteered at the day before. The lady at the medical clinic told him he had better keep those kits that he might need them. He did. Those kits had a needle for numbing and the stuff to stitch up his foot. 

I am always amazed how God places the right people in the right places with what they need to glorify Him.  And he does the same thing in our daily lives at home as He does in Haiti. 

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What you have earned

Yesterday the two medical members of our team worked at s medical clinic and most of the rest of us worked at a pharmacy counting and separating pills.

I was with our medical people when they were told that diabetes was a big problem here in Haiti and that people mostly get the diabetes drug metformin pills (which is the same drug I take).  My doctor told me that nearly all diabetics eventually move to insulin shots if they live long lives. My doctor is one of the doctors on this trip. He was told yesterday that insulin is so expensive here that they only subscribe it if the person has shown an effort to try and control their diabetes with diet, exercise, and weight loss. If the diabetic patients do not show any effort to control it, they will remain on the pills.  That means their. Lois sugar levels will remain high, their vision will eventually be impaired and their feet will eventually lose blood flow, along with other problems including death.  In America, of course, patients are moved to insulin when they need it, not having to “earn” the right to receive it. American diabetics are shown grace and receive insulin even if they have been poor patients on the pills. 

Some people look at salvation with an “earn it” mentality.  God does not.  We are saved by grace.  Nobody can “earn” their salvation. This trip to Haiti, along with any of our good works and deeds, is merely a response to the grace we have already received from God. He gives grace abundantly, when the truth is none of us deserve it. 

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Share your story here

I’m writing this week from Leogane, Haiti. Diane and I have seven people with us who are experiencing their first trip here and 6 of the are on their first international mission trip. I know some of their friends are anxious to hear how it is going.  It is well. It is well, it is well with our souls. 

I do not think there is a person in our group who did not shed tears on our first day here, including Diane and me who have been here multiple times.  Diane said last night that she and I are blessed when we bring new people here to be able to see Haiti through their eyes.  That was so insightful and true for the two of us. We have a doctor an a pediatric physician’s assistant with us who used their gifts yesterday and who have work in the name of Jesus lined up today.  We have a sixteen year old who reminded us all at communion last night that if you have $20, you are more materially blessed than most people in Haiti. And she and others shared that here we will learn how to live with a blessed attitude no matter our situations.  We have a married couple, who on day 1 are already saying “we have to start working on others at home to get them here”. We have one person who has served as a pastor the last two years who has proven through that and through this trip that he is willing to say yes to the Lord. He will now work with youth and missions at our home church.  And then we have JoLynn.  She a person with us who has one of the kindest hearts I’ve ever known. She has been on mission trips and other times she has been a financial sender of others as she stayed home and worked.

And God has brought the nine of us together for this short week.  I was writing today as much as anything to let their friends know they’re ok and walking in God’s will. But something hit me as I opened my blog app to write today. When I open it it says “share your story”. I am reminded that’s what we’re all called to do, wherever we are. And when we tell our story, it is to tell of Jesus. 

That brings to mind these lyrics from “My Story” by Big Daddy Weave:

If I told you my story

You would hear hope that wouldn’t let go

If I told you my story

You would hear love that never gave up

If I told you my story

You would hear life but it wasn’t mine

If I should speak then let it be

Of the grace that is greater than all my sin

Of when justice was served and where mercy wins

Of the kindness of Jesus that draws me in

To tell you my story is to tell of Him. 

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A problem that’s not going away

Late last night I was checking the church to see if my friend Andy had taken the trash out.  Andy is a Friends Aware client who helps us out by taking Wednesday dinner trash out on Thursday for Friday trash pickup.  When I walked in to the social hall and turned on the light, a bat began circling the room.  I ran out of the room.  I am seriously recovering from head trauma this week.  I am not interested in a new injury from chasing a bat or from the bat itself.  Thinking I saw the bat come out of the small furnace room in the corner of the social hall, I wondered if it would go back in there.  So I went back in, and after a dozen fly-bys it did and I ran as fast as I could and shut the door.  I put a note on the door so nobody would be caught unaware.  And now it’s morning.  The problem is not going away.  I know a decision has to be made about how to handle the bat situation.

I am reminded of all the people riding the fence about a decision regarding giving their lives to Jesus.  The last two days in my blog I addressed skeptics and doubters.  Today I am addressing people who are so close to being a Christian, but who have not completely committed.  In my experience, that is the most dangerous place to be.  The enemy can cunningly convince you that you are in a safe place with Jesus, when the truth is you are as far away as people who know they do not believe… because you have not made a decision to forsake the world for Christ.  You cannot be wholly committed to both.  The world is OK with your indecision and/or decision to split your devotion between the two.  God is not.

Do not love the world or the things in the world. ~ 1 John 2:15a

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Trusting Him Part II

Yesterday’s blog post about buying chicken, running into walls, and God’s providence went viral compared to my usual blog posts.  I know why.  It’s because we all have the same questions.

The other night I went out and stood in the parking lot of the church, looking up at the stars, and asking myself and asking God about life, difficulties, eternal life, and anything else I could think of.  And He said….  That would be a good story if I were able to say, I heard Him say, “I’ve got this, don’t you worry or wonder what I’m doing.”  But I did not hear anything.  I was not overwhelmed with a peaceful feeling.  I just stood there looking up and wondering.

I told the Wednesday night crowd last night that I am not recanting my faith or having a crisis of faith.  There have been enough things that have happened in my life to know that God is at work even if He never does anything else in my life. I love the line in Brad Paisley’s song Today:  “…the memory of a day like today can get you through the rest of your life.”

But I understand skeptics and I am not critical of those who cannot bring themselves to believe.  I pray for them.  I remember one time being at the bedside of a sick person and I asked them what they thought happened after they died.  They said, “I think I will lay in a box and rot.”  The person still let me pray for them before I left and my prayer for them was that God would show Himself to them in a way that they could not deny it was Him.

God is so gracious that if we will give Him a chance, He will prove Himself.  And if you are reading this and you are a skeptic, all I can do is ask you to give Him a chance.  on the other hand, for those who would call themselves Believers, during the times that we wonder, we must remember His faithfulness from the past.  And this is not a new problem.  Moses told the Israelites the same thing:

 …don’t forget it was the Lord who set you free from slavery and brought you out of Egypt.~ Deuteronomy 6:12

Do not forget what the Lord has done in your life.

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All I can do is trust Him

About a month ago Diane and I were in Aldi’s grocery store and we watched a girl put a big, handwritten pink sign in the meat department.  When she walked away I went over and looked and it said “Chicken Thighs – $3.00 off per pack”.  As I looked closer, there were 8-10 thighs in a pack and ranged in price from the upper $2 to mid $3 per pack.  We bought 25-28 packs and our total cost was $10.  And we froze them.

Yesterday we cooked 5 packs of them in crock pots for chicken and gravy for our Wednesday night dinner this evening.  Last night about 9:00 Diane and I went to the church to pull the meat from them.  We finished about 10:15 and I was headed out the back door (pictured) with a pyrex container of the scraps (to throw in the weeds for the animals) and a big, full, trash bag for the trash company to take today.  As most things do, it happened quickly.  I tripped (either over the track for the retractable screen or over the trash bag) and with arms full, smashed forehead first into the wall.  My forehead is pretty roughed up.  The next time you see me, you will be one fewer person I have to explain this to.  For others, when they ask, I’m going to start singing Kenny Chesney’s “We went out last night”.

Every time something good or bad happens, I think about God.  The way I understand His Word, I believe He knows everything.  I do not believe He causes everything, but He certainly allows things to happen.  He can prevent anything, and sometimes He does prevent things and other times He allows things to run their course.  And He is not obligated to explain any of His reasons to you or me.  And in the midst of all His power and knowledge, He give us free will.

He knew when the girl put the chicken sale sign out a month ago that last night I was going to fall into that wall.  When I was born, He knew that when I was 55 I would not have the hair to hide the ugliness that is my forehead.  And He has a purpose for everything He does or does not do.  He has a purpose for everything He allows and everything He prevents.  And all you and I can do is trust Him, even if we are honest enough to admit that at times we wonder about His ways.

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