Friday, October 23, 2009

Not in God's Vocabulary

The sun rising in the east as I flew west to Cincinnati.

I enjoy flying. I think it's in the genes. My maternal grandfather was a pilot and co-pilot on a B-24J Liberator bomber during World War II. Even though he did not pursue flying after the war, his fascination with planes remained. In his post-war career, he supported the aviation industry as a sheetmetal technician and even made parts that went to the moon. Continuing down the line, my mom also enjoys flying and I believe has passed down that delight to me.

I find it thrilling to go to new places and often the quickest way is by plane. I am intrigued by the different airports I pass through, even though I may never walk out their doors to explore the sites beyond. There is a sense of exhiliration as the plane takes off and gains heights among the clouds, and then when it drops again and comes to a brake-slamming, nearly heart-stopping halt at its destination.

You can also see and meet some interesting people while traveling the skies. I had three most interesting experiences during my recent travels.

As I left Tupelo, Miss. early Saturday morning, Oct. 10, following my missions training, I boarded the small plane (the kind with only three seats across). To my surprise, there on the same flight was a man I had met in Tupelo the Sunday before. He was the teacher of the Sunday School class I had attended at the church I visited nearly a week prior. It was a fairly large church and I had had the option of going to another class, but had opted for the older singles class, which he was teaching. He recognized me on the plane and we exchanged greetings.

Believe it or not, this brought an assurance to my soul that God was with me and in charge of my travel plans. You see, I had nearly missed boarding the plane just minutes before because of a miscommunication about my departure time with my ride. But, I made it onboard, with a few minutes to spare.

As I settled into my seat and waited for takeoff, I pulled out "Streams in the Desert" to read the selection for the day. I found the highlighted scripture to be very appropriate. "Do not fret. (Psalm 37:1)." I thought to myself, "If only I had read that earlier," when I was stressing about how I was going to get to the airport. It seemed to be a message from the Lord that although the day had started rocky, He would be with me and all things were under His control.

I had two layovers that day as I traveled from Mississippi to Pennsylvania - one in Memphis and one in Cincinnati. I grabbed some breakfast in Memphis and as I sat watching the people bustle about, I thought to myself, "Wouldn't it be funny if I saw someone I knew?" I figured this was highly unlikely, considering I was in an airport I had never passed through and I didn't know a soul in Memphis. A few minutes later I moved to my gate to wait until boarding. After unsuccessfully trying to access the Internet, I looked up as I closed on my computer. There, down the row was an old friend. Since Sheri had moved several years ago from Oregon to Florida to attend school, I hadn't seen her much. In fact, the last time was more than a year ago, although we are friends on Facebook. I was shocked to see her and I believe it was the same when she saw me. We had a nice chat for about 20 minutes, catching up on each other's lives. (Even on Facebook, you don't always get a good idea of how your friends are or what they are up to.)

Sheri and I had the same flight from Memphis to Cincinnati, though we didn't get to sit near each other. Again, I marveled at God's mysterious ways and was blessed that He arranged our meeting. Both of us later noted that the encounter made each of our days.

Flying into Cincinnati.

Flying over the Susquehanna River that flows through Harrisburg, PA.

The third experience came as I was flying home from Pennsylvania this past Sunday. I again had a layover in Cincinnati and this time was flying to Salt Lake City before continuing on to Portland. I boarded the plane fairly early and watched as it filled up. As travelers continued trickling on, I kept glancing at the two seats to my right, wondering if anyone would claim them or if I would have a nice place to stretch out for a nap (especially since I had arisen at 3:37 a.m. that morning).

When nearly all of the passengers were on the plane, down the aisle came a familiar face. I knew this man and his small daughter in tow. I had met them more than three years ago on a different continent. It was Shem, of Shem and Catherine who ran the YWAM base on the island where I stayed for nearly five months when in Uganda. Shem and his young daughter had spent the last month in Ohio as the little girl had required surgery. They were now on their way to Montana to meet up with the rest of the family for the remainder of their furlough. Shem and I chatted for a bit and caught up on each other's lives and families.

I also could have missed that "chance" encounter as there were a couple of opportunities to give up my seat as flights were overbooked. Yet, I am glad I didn't.

I have heard and do believe that coincidence is not in God's vocabulary - not when we serve a sovereign, all-knowing God. Although I don't know all the reasons God orchestrated these encounters, they serve as reminders of the caring, loving and detailed Creator whom I serve.
I was doing a bit of research for this post, I came across an article by Joe Stowell that I enjoyed. He wrote:

"First, it’s important to know that the words luck and, for that matter, coincidence are not in God’s vocabulary. God’s hand is at work in every situation, coordinating every detail to accomplish His purposes for His glory and our good. No event is random. No moment is beyond His notice or beyond His control...He (God) doesn’t give a play-by-play on everything He is doing to coordinate the details of His providential plans. In fact, often His work is most clearly seen in the rearview mirror. But I’ve looked back enough times to see and trust that my life is not a product of good or bad luck, or of random coincidences. It is divinely shaped and guided by the providential hand of God toward a wonderful conclusion."

I also enjoyed this quote by writer Emma Bull (who is not a Christian, but I thought made an insightful statement).

"Coincidence is the word we use when we can't see the levers and pulleys."

Knowing that God is the Master Weaver, gently pulling through His large loom all the circumstances, encounters, relationships and experiences of our lives and weaving them into His master plan, gives me a peace and an assurance. Even the seemingly small and insignificant strands, like chance encounters on airplanes, He sees as important and for a purpose.

Mt. Hood - a beautiful site upon returning to Oregon.
Note: The photos don't necessarily have much to do with the topic of this post, but I thought they were pretty and I was blessed that God arranged some great views from my airplane seat. : )

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Goodbye Mississippi, Hello Pennsylvania!

I can hardly believe my week of missions training is over - it just seemed to fly by!! I thoroughly enjoyed meeting my fellow missionaries and the Global staff family. I also appreciated the great sessions, as there was a good balance of Biblical teaching and practical instruction. I have my marching orders now, so will be kept busy in the weeks and months ahead. : )

The training concluded Friday mid-day with a final challenge from longtime Haiti missionary David Heady. I so appreciated his message that we are not to get caught up in going out and doing good works. Not that good words are bad, but they should not be our focus. Instead our priority is to be in intimacy with Jesus. Our fellowship with Him will enrich and extend our ministry. I believe this is true, whether we are serving at home or on foreign soil. As Mr. Heady reminded us, without Jesus we can do nothing. After this final challenge, several Global missionaries and staff prayed for each of us missionaries. The tears flowed as I felt God's presence when these godly men and women prayed for me. It was a very good conclusion to a great week.

Holding my "Certificate of Participation." Notice the Ugandan flag in the background. : )

I flew out of Tupelo, Miss. early Saturday morning and had layovers in Memphis, Tenn. and Cincinnati, Ohio. As I sat in Memphis, waiting for my next flight, I thought how interesting it would be if I saw someone I knew. Of course, I don't know anyone in Memphis, nor knew of anyone traveling through there. However, maybe 15 minutes later, I looked up from my seat in the airport and saw Sheri Martin, an old friend, down the row. Wow - only God could do that! Sheri and I knew each other in Oregon, but hadn't seen much of each other over the last few years since she moved to Florida to go to school. Sheri and I chatted and caught up in the time before we boarded. It turns out we were both on the same plane, bound for Cincinnati. That was truly a divine appointment! I personally was blessed by God bringing me that special blessing and reminding me that He works in mysterious ways. : )

I arrived in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania Saturday afternoon and have been enjoying my time with my special sister. Leah is such a great hostess that I am getting spoiled! I am so very thankful for this time to spend with my best friend. : )

Well, I need to run! I hope you are all doing well. :)

With my dear sister Leah

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Training to Go with GO

The Global Outreach International (GO) office

Well, I have had two days of missions training - full days. Yesterday's topics included Global Outreach's (GO) core values, its history, missions finances and communication.

In the foreground is where we have gathered for the training sessions, with meals shared at the round tables in the background.

Today was another packed day, with presentations on purity, spiritual warfare, insurance, creating a budget, hosting teams and volunteers and taking care of such legal matters as writing a will, etc. I didn't realize there were so many details and preparations to be done in planning to be a missionary. It is not as simple as packing your bags, catching a plane and taking off overseas. Yet, I know these are important details that will help us be more effective on the field. And, I know the Lord and the Global staff will help me sort out everything I need to do in the coming weeks.

"Ask of me, and I will give you the nations for your inheritance." - Psalm 2:8

(Sign in the Global Outreach lobby.)

My favorite part of the training so far is becoming acquainted with my fellow trainees and the Global staff, especially in between sessions and during meals. There are 10 of us attending the training and we have been or are planning to serve in the following countries: Uganda, Kenya, Haiti, China, Ethopia and France. Some have made multiple trips to where they intend to return after the training. Others are already established in the country. Some of us are pretty "green" to missions - like me. We are learning from people who have spent from several weeks and months to 10-27 years on the field. Their testimonies and stories are such a blessing to hear.

Tonight at dinner, one of the longtime Haitian missionaries shared how her husband was one time wrongfully imprisoned. Someone had been caught stealing on their compound, but the missionary husband opted to show mercy and let the man go. The thief, however, turned the missionary in - wrongly accusing him of mistreatment. In Haiti, where you are guilty until proven innocent, the missionary was taken into custody. He was nearly put into solitary confinement cell, but a guard stepped in and placed him instead between two other guards, promising he would not be hurt. That same guard then heard the Gospel and accepted the Lord. The missionary was released the next day, but invited the guard and his friends to dinner at the mission compound. As they later sat around the missionaries' dinner table, a fellow woman policeman (who was not a Christian) identified the newly-saved guard as a believer - he was already shining his light.

Some time later, the same woman policeman was hurt (in an accident, I believe) and required extensive surgery. However, she refused to receive the anesthetic for the surgery until the missionaries came so she could accept Christ as her Savior. The woman policeman came through the surgery fine and as she recovered in the hospital, was discipled for three weeks by a nearby pastor. I wish I could remember all of the details of the story, but I know multiple lives were touched from that missionary's one night in prison. As his wife pointed out tonight, her husband would not likely have intentionally gone to that prison to share the Gospel, yet God orchestrated the whole series of events. And, souls were touched for eternity.

I know each of the missionaries could recount story after story of God's provision, miracles and evidences of power. After many years of service, they continue to be enthusiastic about missions. They are truly an example and a blessing. I look forward to "soaking" up more during the rest of the week. :)

Carving in Global Outreach lobby

P.S. Before I close, I just have to share something humorous. Since I am in Mississippi and a number of the people I am with are from the south, I have been hearing a lot of southern accents. However, after only a few days, I am beginning to "think" in a southern accent and almost feel like I am starting to talk with one, too. I was born in Texas and spent all of about two years of my young life there, but didn't realize an accent would come back so easy. ; ) Ah, y'all, perhaps it's all in my imagination.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Howdy y'all!

Me in the comfy Global apartment.

Greetings from the Magnolia State - Mississippi! After leaving Portland shortly before noon today, I arrived at the Tupelo Regional Airport (the smallest airport I have ever flown into) around 9 p.m. (7 p.m. west coast time) and am now at a Global apartment.

All of the traveling went really well today - aside from picking a seat near the engine on my last flight and vibrating the last hour of my travels. ;) Oh, well, it kept me awake.

I am the first one to have arrived for the training and am looking forward to meeting the others hopefully tomorrow. One of the Global staff members is taking me to their church tomorrow, so I am looking forward to that.

The apartment does have wireless Internet, so I will try and update this week. But, for now, I am going to head to bed.

Thank you for your prayers!

P.S. The answer to the poll is...

"For God and My Country" is the Ugandan motto. Good job for the person who voted for it!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

A Plane, A Plan, A Seed and A Young Man

I can hardly believe it, but my missions orientation training (MOT) is almost here. In a little more than 36 hours, I will board a plane and head southeast to Tupelo, Mississippi. The training is from Monday, Oct. 5, through Friday, Oct. 9. I have the incredible blessing of being able to stay in lodging provided by Global Outreach International and will be sharing an apartment with a couple who is also bound for Africa.

I look forward to visiting a part of the country I have never before been to. I am excited about meeting the other missionaries at the training (there will be 10 of us) and hearing their stories. I am also anxious to meet the folks who have been so kind and helpful over the last couple of months - the staff at Global. I am not sure what all the training will entail, but am trusting God to help me soak in all that I need to. I would certainly appreciate your prayers in the days ahead.

I am kind of a mix of emotions right now - excitement, nervousness, uncertainty, some timidity, yet boldness, and a measure of inadequacy. Yet, I believe God knows what is ahead and am confident He will be with me each step of the journey.


As I read a missions book yesterday, I was reminded of the tiny mustard seed. It is one of the smallest of all seeds, yet as Jesus said in Matthew 13:31-32, "it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree." This illustration shows me that God delights in using the insignificant, the obscure, the weak, the handicapped, because His power is all the more evident in these lives. So, I may find myself lacking in courage or skills or experience, but in the big scheme of things, that does not really matter, because the all-powerful, loving God overshadows all of those deficiences with His all-sufficiency.

If He can take a tiny seed and grow it into a tree, or use the cowardly to lead a nation or win a battle (the examples of Moses and Gideon), then He can certainly use you and I. May you rest in His all-sufficiency today.

Before I close this post, I thought I would share some photos of a cute young man I met today...

Meet David Andrew Smith!

For those of you who don't know, David is the three-and-a-half-month-old son of Andy and Karina Smith, whom I will be working with in Uganda. I was excited to finally meet this little guy after only seeing pictures for the last few months. I can attest that he is even cuter in person!

I am not sure if I will have Internet access during the training, but will try and update before I return home on Oct. 18. Oh, and after the training, I will be spending about a week with my sister, Leah, in Pennsylvania. Yay! I am so looking forward to seeing her.

Thank you for your prayers and support! : )