A joyful man…

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God has blessed me with a number of godly men to speak into my life ever since I was a child. Pastors, Bible Teachers, Disciples of Christ, Men of God who’s lives reflected all they spoke of.
Today as I stepped into my husband’s discipleship class in a village in East Africa, my heart overflowed. To begin with, my husband is one of those men. His love for the Lord has exploded into every aspect of his life. And this man radiates Jesus.  
Today he was talking about rejoicing in the Lord. How our lives should be so filled with the joy of the Lord that all those who come in contact with us, see Jesus.  
He went on to describe a man I’ve known my entire life. His joy bubbles. Everyone of my lifelong friends will attest to the fact that his love is as sincere and infectious as it gets.  
My dad has considered this man his best friend for many years. He has always been there for my family. My first recollection is of the time my brother was run over and dragged by a school bus in a near fatal accident. I remember Pastor Don ministering to my entire family. He simply has always been that spiritual leader, always quick to be there. Weddings, funerals, hospitals…. there he is.
Last year I was home and my dad was in the hospital. I walked in to see him and there sat my childhood pastor. This tall towering man jumps to his feet (albeit a bit slower these days) and gives me a love filled, tight and hearty hug. I’ve always always loved those hugs. He always asks about my kids, who all know, love and respect him as much as me. There are a couple things he has said, that my kids will repeat and credit him to this day.
Well, this morning, as my husband was trying to define rejoicing, being joy filled to his 12 men he has disciples now for 3 years, he looked at me and with tears welling up, choking up a bit, he says, I told them the best example I know is Don Ralston.  How I use to look at him and wonder, “how can anyone be so happy?”  
Pastor Don, thank you!! Thank you for decades… for a lifetime… of living the joy of the Lord. Thank you for always singing a song of joy. Thank you for demonstrating the inexpressible and exceeding joy of Jesus. Thank you for being a steadfast example of one who loves, who trusts and who obeys the Most High God. Thank you for having an impact on my entire family, my grandmothers, my parents, my siblings, my husband, my children and 12 Kenyan pastors in East Africa. I love you so much!  

Passing the Baton

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  • This has been a day of retrospect… a day where God has my attention.

Randy has gone to Nairobi to pick up a new friend. So I usually try to use these times to sit quiet before the Lord. I’m reading some biographies of some men and women who represented the exchanged  and abundant life I daily desire. The team outside are all working so hard to accomplish all Randy left for them to do. So I decided to make them ‘popcorns’. Yes, plural. I decided to listen to some teaching while I popped 8 pots of corn for my 20+ hardworking friends.

I love these people. They have become like my kids. I love being a mom. I always have. And 35 years ago as I was anticipating my first baby at the young age of 20, I was filled with eager joy. I wasn’t walking with the Lord at the time. I had been raised in Truth. I knew Truth. And I believed Truth. But I was not walking in it. Even still, I knew even before my child was born, it wasn’t about me anymore, this child, any future children, they needed Truth.

And in my quest to see them get that, The Lord got me. Over time I became a lover of His Word and a believer in prayer. God used many people to disciple me as I was determined to teach my kids. And teaching them the Truth drove everything I did. I can say that honestly. I may not have had the purist motives some of the time, but I was very cognizant of the potential message in my actions, my words, my responses, my life.  Oh… I made so many blunders, and outbursts, and mess ups and mistakes… but I can absolutely say that my primary focus, my deepest desire, was that my kids knew Jesus, knew the power of His resurrection, that they knew His faithfulness and His love and that they grew up to walk and abide in Him. That was all I cared about, far over education, careers, even relationships, I wanted them to KNOW Jesus.

Again, you don’t need to ask them, I’ll admit… I made so many mistakes and dropped the baton regularly. But I do believe that God saw my desire and poured out grace beyond measure. Grace that covered my mistakes. Grace that covered my outbursts and my messes. And, day by day, month by month, year by year… I grew, they grew and together, ONLY through the grace of Jesus, we are all living for and diligently serving our Savior. We are all eagerly awaiting His return and we are all consciously spreading the gospel and making disciples.

Yes, I know what a privilege and amazing blessing this is. I do not take it for granted. And my husband and I praise our God daily for having revealed Himself to them. It is this faithfulness of God, having seen it proven through my kids and so many other ways that gave me the courage to trust and obey God when He called us to Africa. Out of the blue, never a dream, at a season where it made NO sense, He called us to Kenya and again, He has blown me away.

Well, today, as I was listening to some teaching, I found myself before the Lord. I was being clearly taught something that I think God has been trying to show me for some time. But somehow, this message, this pastor, this time… God’s anointing, God’s desire for me to ‘get it’ spoke deep down in the innermost center of my heart. This pastor spoke boldly of God’s Truth, of His call for holiness and righteousness, he taught of the utmost importance of the furtherance of the gospel and how my motives to serve MUST BE for His glory. I want to want to!!! Oh God may my conduct be worthy of the Gospel and may I stand fast.

  • What moved me to share this today… was after years of praying that God would speak and reveal Himself to my children THROUGH me, desiring to pass them a baton of faith… today… He spoke and revealed Himself to me…. THROUGH my son. The Baton of Faith has most assuredly been passed and I simply praise the Name of my Jesus!!!!
    Hey, if you want to hear some sound and spurring teaching… check out Pastor Ryan Saul at CalvaryWT.com. He lives and he teaches…. TRUTH!

His perfect time

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I am American.”Time is money”

Raised by the clock-punctuality is key!
I am in Kenya

“African time” – slower than island time

And likely my biggest cultural struggle. It brings out the worst in me for sure!
Today, I left a few minutes late. Ugh

Stopped to pick up the mandazi, they were not ready.

Went to pick up Levi – he was late.

Had a bit of trouble with the car, delaying us several minutes.

Went to pick up Dennis – he was late.

Feeling that flesh rising up… “Oh Lord please help me!”

As we sat on the side of the road awaiting Dennis, a woman came to the car – she wanted “something to eat”. So I reached around to the back seat and came out with some warm mandazi for her. “No! Ninataka pesa”. I want money. I responded with a forced and fake smile, “pole, hakuna pesa”. ( I’m sorry, I have no money.)

Watching from across the street, a young man began laughing. As the woman walked away, he came over. He wanted a job in my compound.

We were still waiting on Dennis, so we started a conversation. He asked what I do, where I lived. I asked, “do you know Jesus?” “No one knows Jesus”, he responded.

I have NEVER before gotten this response and my heart sank. “He is history”, he said.

I ALWAYS hear the answer yes, I know Jesus! Even if they don’t.

I told him that Jesus wants him to know HIM. He died so you can know Him!

“You cannot know someone you can’t talk to”. “Oh, but you CAN talk to Him, I talked with Him just this morning!!” With that he nervously stepped back, somewhat chuckling, “you must have a devil, saying you spoke to Jesus”. “Oh NO!” I proclaimed, “He is real, He is! And He desires a relationship with you!!!”

I invited him to church. He told me it is too far. Both Dennis and Levi spoke to him in Kiswahili a bit. I sat and prayed as they did. I then handed him a Kiswhaili tract.

He would not allow me to pray with him. But as we drove away, the guys and I prayed for Jonathan, asking that it might please The Lord to reveal Himself! Oh please, use this meeting which I KNOW you ordained, use the seeds of TRUTH that were spoken, use that tract and Your Holy Spirit, make Yourself known… That Jonathan might know that You are God and that You love him!!

Lord, help me, please, to rest in You and to trust Your clock. Your clock that keeps perfect time!

If this is the only reason…

(Saturday’s Story)  Yesterday evening, our young friend Derrick asked if we could take him to town with us today so he could visit his sister.  He was at the front door at 7:10 this morning with a bag of avocados for me and ready to go!

He helped me load up the car. He then waited patiently while we got ready, reading his Bible notebook that he keeps at our house and diligently takes notes every time he sits with Randy when he studies.

Derrick is 10 years old, lives in a mud house with his sister and his mama.  He has older siblings that live in Kisii Towne.  His father died years ago and he loves spending time at our house.

40 minutes into our trip and he says his sister is at school and he will just go to class with us.  I kind of thought that was what he wanted anyways.  I looked over at Randy and just smiled.

With great attention and a sense of ownership, he assists Randy with every piece we lug into the venue.  He sets up the white board and places the story clothe out.  He watches me set all Randy’s books out, I set his Bible out and his glasses on top, the stack of homework and his lesson book.  I’ve had Derrick intently observe things before… he not only wants to help with these set ups… he intends to do precisely as I do.

Saturdays are in a boardroom on the second floor of an office building in KisiiTown.  With wood lined walls and a conference table that is easy 40 feet long, seating for about 35 people, the room can feel just a bit intimidating.

Derrick sat at the front of the room right next to Randy.  The first segment is the chronological Bible Storying.  The man who had the assignment today stood and basically read it right from the sheet, and what he didn’t read he was adding, often inaccurately.  When he was done, Randy pointed out some things and then asked if anyone wanted to repeat the story of Cain and Abel.

With just a little hesitation, Derrick stood, Randy smiled real big and said go ahead.  Derrick then told the story absolutely perfectly and with much emotion. He paused at just the right time for the interpreter, so as NOT to break the thought. When he finished… “And that’s the end of my story”… He sat down. WOW!  Each of the men, most pastors, simply applauded when he was done.  Impressive and exactly what the whole concept is all about!!  I felt such a sense of mama pride.

Derrick answered questions and followed the entire class intently.  I think he wrote down the entire Overview of 1&2 Samuel and 1&2 Kings.  The Inductive Study portion in the afternoon even kept his attention.

God has plans for this boy!  Derrick wants to know Jesus more.  And if Derrick is the only reason we are here…  It is worth seeing this young boy develop a love and passion for God’s Word that is just what Kenya needs!

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God at Work

This morning I woke up at – what is becoming normal – around 4:45 to the first crows of the rooster. I’m usually up for good – this might have to do with the “lights out” when the sun goes down. I’m okay with this – I’ve always been an early to bed, early to rise – albeit this is even early for me!

 

I have been using my early mornings to pray and intercede – usually for my family during this time. Then I get up just before dawn, and by candle light, I prepare some breakfast, usually a hard boiled egg and a banana.

Then I have my quiet time and I begin with a devotional given to me by a very sweet lady in our church, just before we left to come to Africa. Voices of the Faithful, a daily devotional written by missionaries from across the world. I even ordered a box and passed them out before I left. I will confess I’ve had to read a couple at a time recently but it is definitely the FIRST daily devotional I have actually STILL been reading in July!

 

So – today – the devotion was about a young girl in this missionary’s village who had brought a neighbor to church. After the service they were given time to introduce any guests and as this young girl was introducing hers, the neighbor leaned over to whisper in her ear. With a huge grin, the young girl announced that her neighbor wanted to receive Jesus. The church went silent as she walked to a prayer partner who led her in prayer. When he was finished he said “AMEN” just a bit louder. The church broke into spontaneous cheering, song, praise and celebration. The missionary pondered the celebration and rejoicing happening that very moment in heaven.

This devotional made me desire that celebration. I even posted the devotion this morning on FB, as I was praying for opportunity. As I read through Colossians again this morning, I continued thinking, God, reveal Yourself today!!!

So – we loaded up and took the 80 minute drive to Suneka, a village on the other side of Kisii Town. I was starting another class with the women there today! I was excited to have this chance again.

For three hours, 15 women crammed into this little room, with each wall covered in mismatched lace, flowers hanging from the rafters and the two tables covered with cloths that remind me of something my grandmother would have had.

We had a remarkable time in the WORD. We introduced Paul’s letter to the Colossians, listened to it read in Kiswahili by a great program I found and then, we began to look at the book inductively. I spent a good amount of time today, introducing and sharing about myself, my love for God’s Word and why I love this book. I shared about my family and my church back home. All this I can do in Kiswahili and the women love to hear me fumble through that. Then, we looked at how being IN CHRIST is all we need. We look at how the FULLNESS OF GOD is available to those who believe. We skirted over the book and God stirred in each of us an excitement of what He has in store for us over the next couple months.

As we were finishing, Randy came to the door. He peeked his head in and excused himself for interrupting and ushered two women in. “These ladies would like some prayer.” We welcomed them in. Karibu sana!

One of these women wanted prayer for a husband. She wants to be married. The other wanted prayer for her husband, stating he needed to know Jesus. Through my interpreter I shared a few things, and then my interpreter turns to them and asks – “are you saved? Have you ever repented of your sins and asked Jesus to be your Savior?” To my surprise both of them said no.

Without thinking, I asked, “why then do you want your husband to be saved? Why would you come here asking for prayer to a God you don’t know? You know your husband needs salvation, do you not realize you too need to be saved?” She began to cry.

What happened next is hard to explain, but the Holy Spirit filled that room as these two women literally fell to their knees. The prayers were in Kiswahili, the questions and answers were as well, but what I witnessed was salvation… salvation and celebration and rejoicing and singing.

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Just this morning, I asked God to reveal HIMSELF, to let me see Him at work… and… in HIS A-MA-ZING faithfulness – He totally answered my prayer! What’s more, I watched the women I had just sat with for 3 hours, sharing the very scriptures from their notes that we had gone over in our study. Telling these ladies they were new creations in Christ. Then, they were given a piece of paper, with references to my favorite prayers in all of scripture – the four of Paul’s in Ephesians, Philippians and in Colossians. The women were telling these two they needed to pray for their husbands… both the one that had one and the one that wanted one. THEN — they assigned the ladies a partner that will tend to them and make certain they are in church on Sunday and will be sure they join us next week!!!!!

This was my day today… a witness to the miracle of salvation… a part of the celebration with the angels… allowed to be a part of God at Work!!!!

Things under the sun…

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So Randy and I have walked with The Lord for nearly 30 years. We’ve sought Him, we’ve served Him, we’ve studied His Word, we’ve prayed and we’ve seen His faithfulness first hand! We’ve prayed many countless times through the years together, interceding for our children, our marriage, one another. I’ve watched Randy grow in Christ sometimes pole pole (slowly) and sometimes right before my eyes.

Last week, after some challenges, disappointments, set backs, several very long months of language study, after feeling defeated and inept in our studies… We made a decision to go away… to set apart… With purpose. We realized our need and had a great desire to seek our God, to hear from Him, to wait on Him, to rest in Him and to expect that in His faithfulness He would reveal, speak, meet, refresh and totally pour Himself out!

We had an amazing weekend! Randy felt we should go though the book of Ecclesiastes together????? Ahhhh okay? We first read straight through it and still, I thought, ahhhh hmmmm okay?? Then we began to dig in a bit deeper.

Written by Solomon… The wisest man, the richest man… It is thought provoking as he writes of so much… “Under the sun”. That phrase is used 29 times! Constantly he wrote of the things “under the sun” with no real eternal perception throughout most his writing. While we are not finished going through this book, Gods purpose for us to take a look, at a book I must confess I’ve never spent much time at all in, His purpose is certainly to remind me I can NOT be looking at my life, this mission, Kenya, Kisii, Randy, my children, my grandchildren, my “pain”, my upsets…. I cannot be looking at these things… “under the sun”… but rather… through and in the SON!!!

It is clear that apart from Christ and an eternal perspective… There is very little… actually… there is nothing left!

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As God is refining me, refining us… I am more and more in awe that He would invite me to be apart of HIS plan.

We had such a sweet time together, enjoying His creation, taking advantage of our Kenya resident status, and prices, setting ourselves apart and with purpose, seeking Him, as I must also confess…. We’ve really never done

    together like this before in prayer and fasting. And I can say it WILL happen regularly!

    As a result of our time we have made some plans subject only to His Hand. We will remain here in language school through May. We then will spend a couple weeks gathering supplies, packing and finalizing some things here. Then we will take another week to do as we just did… Set apart and sit before Him. After that we will head to Kisii, move in and spend that last week of June settling in. Also during this time, Randy will be preparing for his first session.

    He will teach 2 ten week sessions this year. Each session will have seats for 8 men and will meet three days a week for 6 hours a day.

    I will be going back to the states mid October so as not to miss a very special wedding! Randy will fly out Dec 5 or so after his second session and we will break for the holidays, returning early January to begin again.

    We have a number of specific prayer requests…

    1. Pray for a continued drawing to Him. Pray for our walk, our commitment, our prayer time, our time in the Word, pray for our abiding in Him…. Apart from which… Is only under the sun.

    2. Pray for our language learning. We are actually making sentences and can carry on a simple, albeit, broken conversation!

    3. Pray for Kisii. Pray for those men God is already preparing to take through His Word.

    4. Pray for the orphanage and school. Pray that God will direct the next steps there and that He would be glorified through the outreach to young people who have no one. This arm of the ministry is on the alter for Gods direction. Pray for wisdom, discernment and for specific leading as a we move forward.

    5. Pray for those God has called to teach His Word.. That they will guard the treasure, study to show themselves approved, rightly dividing the Truth. Pray for them as they minister to their flocks.

    6. These people know the stories of the Bible probably better than you or I. But I am finding that few are actually walking with Christ, abiding in Him and actually understand the Gospel. Pray for hearts like our teacher Peter… Who pastors a church down the road. Pray for those God wants to put that heart in!

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    7. Pray for Gods provision. We have a few expenses not budgeted for or not budgeted enough for. God has been amazing to provide and we know He will continue.

    8. Pray for the next phase of adjustments and cultural shock as we move up to the village.

    9. Join us in thanking and praising God for some very encouraging brothers and sisters… Both in the states and in Kenya! We are blessed beyond measure. I was pretty humbled by the outreach of encouragement after my blog about my Jericho wall. Our family back home shot through the miles to embrace me. And we have been blessed by amazing missionary friends here — most with years of experience — and each one opening wide their arms and their hearts. Oh God is so so good!

    10. Finally, please pray for protection from the enemy. Please seriously intercede for us. Know we have a prayer journal we are faithful to go through… We welcome opportunities to pray specifically for you.

    Tu basi… That is all!

    We love you and thank you and praise our God for you as well!
    In Him!
    Randy & Kari

Grammy, I promise….

As I am dying….

….May my expectant and hopeful heart say “take me”

I remember a few years back when my grandmother died.  She was 94 years old, still drove, lived alone and went every Thursday morning.. For as long as I can remember… To minister to the “old people” at the nursing home.

She fell sick and was diagnosed with bone cancer in April or May.  I remember being over there one day as she was dressing and I could hear her in her room “Jesus, You are going to have to help me with this or I won’t be able to do it….  speaking of the daily shot of B12 she had given herself for decades.  That was common place, she prayed for and about everything.

She declined quickly.  She remained home with my mom, dad & my aunt caring for her.  The grand kids that lived locally all made regular visits.

I remember the August day she died.  I went over there on my lunch break as I had been doing.  My mom and aunt were there.  I went in to see Grammy and she had grown restless that day.  She saw me and her eyes opened wide and she pulled me down, “Kari, you need to pray!  You need to pray for Kris, pray that she would see the Truth and that she would know Jesus!”  Kris is my cousin who does not believe Jesus is THE WAY or the authority of God’s Word.

“I will Grammy, I promise, I will.”  She immediately relaxed.  It was as though that was her only struggle, her only undone thing left. She fell completely at rest as she passed that baton.  You see, my Grammy was a serious pray-er.  Praying hours a day.  She loved The Lord with a depth I am only now appreciating.

I don’t think Grammy said another thing that really made sense to those of us surrounding her.  She spent the next several hours drifting.  At one point, there was NO doubt she saw someone none of the rest of us saw.  She seemed to be fixed with her vision and her attention.  She spoke but not to us and we could not make out what she said.  But, she smiled and with her frail thin arms she reached out as to say, take me, come get me and take me with you!

I know The Lord ministered to my grandmother that day… And not too many moments later, my Grammy was lifted up into the arms of her Savior.  And it was beautiful and an amazing blessing to witness.

It was so – because my 94 year old grandmother had been dying for some 45 years, ever since she had given her life to Christ.  Romans and Galatians talk about our dying to this life, dying to sin, dying to ourselves.  That process, for those of us who believe, will carry on until the day He takes us home.

Grammy had some quirks, like us all, that didn’t always align with her profession, but no one could deny her heart’s total and complete commitment.  As I have struggled with my own dying, the “death to self” we are called to surrender to, I’ve come face to face with facets far more painful than quirks….  The pain of letting go.  The pain of trusting when I haven’t seen the plan.  The pain of the unknown.  The pain of desperate dependence from one who has always been independent.  The pain of realizing my sin and then knowing what it is responsible for.  I am seeing more and more of myself that God needs to transform. And having a mirror lifted before my eyes —  I am moved to my face before Him.

You see, somewhere along the line, Grammy became convinced that her Savior was worth it…  worth whatever He asked, wherever He led.  In the depth of my heart I am convinced of that as well!

Last week I cried out in the pain of death.  And with the faithful love that never fails, with the mercies that are new everyday, through the very Bride He’s preparing me to be a part…. God lifted my eyes.  I am filled with thanksgiving for all those who encouraged and prayed.  Please don’t stop!

I still don’t know how God does or will use the likes of me, and I am trying NOT to resist the death I can literally feel taking place in my heart, but one things for sure….  I will rejoice if, when that day comes, I have submitted to this spiritual death of my old self and in His transformation of my heart…. Oh I will rejoice… if I have only the burden of a persistent prayer to hesitate me from lifting my arms and saying, take me!!