Friday, October 28, 2011

New Family Pictures

This is my crazy family!  Our family with my 94 year old Mamaw, Mom, Dad, two sisters and their families.  Including Mathiang, there are now 13 grandchildren with another addition currently being adopted from Ethiopia.  When he comes home, there will be 14 grandchildren from my parents' three girls!  Surprisingly, Colby Grace is the only girl amid all the boys.  Bless her heart!
 All of the grandchildren...well, it's hard to take the perfect picture....
Our complete family!  Mathiang, Me, Reid, Weston, Mason, Godwin, Franklin, and Braden.  What a blessing!

For those who check in occasionally to see how Mathiang is doing; he's astounding all of us!  This year he has joined the Cross Country team at Maryville College.  He's running the 8K in 32 minutes!  His l-o-n-g legs help him, and the team has nicknamed their 6'5" teammate, "The Intimidator."

Mathiang is still maintaining a high GPA in his junior year majoring in International Business.  Additionally, he is tutoring other Sudanese in the community to obtain their GED diplomas.  Because he is able to speak Dinka, his ability to explain complex problems becomes much easier without a language barrier between himself and his students.  He is changing the world for other Sudanese refugees.

One of the most amazing changes for Mathiang, has been the gift of a new smile.  When Mathaing was 10 years old, six of his bottom front teeth were extracted.  This is tribal custom for the Dinka tribe.  (The teeth are pulled without anesthesia and, if you are a man, you do not cry.  Mathiang, at age 10, did not cry.)  Mathiang also had several top teeth missing from poor dental care.

A dentist and an oral surgeon in Maryville donated their time and services to correct Mathiang's teeth through several surgeries.  Over $15,000 of dental treatment!  He was in surgery for six hours this summer with his final surgery coming in January.  His new implants give him the the most striking smile!  What a gift!  Mathiang confessed having his teeth repaired is a dream he has always had, but he never thought it was possible.  Thank you to both of the doctors who made this possible for him, and to my sister, Kelly, who connected with these doctors and cared for Mathiang after surgery.  Thanks, sis!

Mathiang hopes to return to Sudan this summer for the first time since he arrived in America in 2001.  He has been offered a teaching opportunity through Africa ELI, and will begin this summer.

It is hard to believe God's incredible goodness allowing Mathiang to overcome great adversity.

Mathiang ran for his life at age 7.  Crossing Sudan to Ethiopia then Kenya by foot.  He walked thousands of miles with no shoes, no food, no water.  Mathiang attended school for the first time at age 11.  He learned his alphabet by writing in the dirt.  He survived on a tiny amount of corn, oil, and salt for over nine years.  He arrived in America in 2001, at 6'5" weighing 120 pounds.  He took the test for his GED three times before he passed it.  He could barely read a newspaper article in English when he arrived, yet now is pursuing his college degree fully in his second language.  Mathiang has persevered.  He has continued running the race, even with hurdles in front of his dreams.

We stand amazed at everything the Lord has done in Mathiang's life.  (Honestly, "amazed" is an understatement!)

I asked Mathiang if he ever imagined his life would be like it is today.  He looked at me and said, "It is all because of God."

Yes, my Sudanese son, it is all because of God.  He had plans for you from the beginning.  What a privilege to see His plans lived out in your life.

"Every good and perfect gift is from above, the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow."  James 1:17

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Which Way Do I Go?

 I love watching Godwin experience the newness of everyday life.  Riding a little tractor, petting a goat, seeing the brightly colored fall leaves, watching the leaves fall and crying out, "Look Mommy!"  He is experiencing so many things for the first time.  I've realized how often I "miss" the beauty in everyday life.  I'm so thankful he is, once again, pointing it out.

 Recently, my mom took our family to a Corn Maze.  All of my sisters' children were with us, so they skirted off ahead of us quite sure they could navigate the maze on their own.  My mom, Reid, Godwin and myself were left to our own leading in order to find the way out.
 Reid held the camera and snapped shots while we were on the path.  As we meandered into the puzzle, we grew farther from the entrance and the exit.

Every time we came to an intersection, we would ask Godwin, "Which way should we go?"  His tiny finger would point left, right, or straight, "Dat way," he would advise.  In fun, we would follow his suggestions.
Once, I could no longer grasp my bearings, I recalled how my sister, Kelly, told me she becomes claustrophobic inside of Corn Mazes.   We were walking deeper and deeper into confusion.

We continued to allow Godwin, our three year old, to lead us through the maze.  "Dat way."  "Dat way."
 We continued walking in directions against our better judgement.   It was fun to let Godwin make the decisions about which way to go.  What harm could come from it?
 After we were far past any clear path, we came to yet another intersection.  "Which way should we go, Godwin?"  "Dat way," he responded pointing left.

Reid quickly stepped in.  "No Godwin, we are going to go this way," turning right.  Godwin no longer held the reigns to lead us, Reid was now showing us the way out.  "Come on, this way," Reid beckoned. Godwin, Mom and I followed.  Reid traipsed on ahead of us.  He was out of sight for a bit, but we could still hear his voice.  "Keep coming. This way."  Knowing Reid's voice, we continued on toward him.

Within a few moments, we were out of the maze.  Thank goodness he led us on the right path.  Reid had led us out of confusion into safety.
I looked back at the maze.  Corn everywhere.  It was difficult to see the correct path, even from the outside.

We spent the majority of our time trusting a three year old to lead us.  How could he know which way is on the right path?  Yet, we allowed him to be our guide.

"Which way do I go?"

"Dat way," respond the voices of the world.

I wonder how many of us navigate life trusting the wisdom of others with the spiritual maturity of a three year old?  We allow advice to flow to us from people who are not grounded in God's word.  They tell us, "Go this way."

Finally, in the midst of chaos, once we are deep into a mess, the voice of the Father breaks in.  He whispers to us, "My child, you are on the wrong path.  You are headed no where.  Come this way.  Follow this path toward me, and I will lead you.  You simply need to follow.  Child, come.  Follow Me."

Who is leading you today?  What are you following?  What path are you on and where is it leading?  

God is beckoning you.  He is whispering wisdom to you.  Listen for His voice to lead you.  

Child, come.  Follow Me.

"The sheep hear His voice, and He calls His sheep own by name and leads them out.  When he has brought out all his own, He goes before them, and the sheep follow Him, for they know His voice."  
John 10:3b-4

Out the Middle of a Corn Field

What a wonderful day we had at the Corn Maze!  Thank you, Mom, for the wonderful treat.   I learned a life lesson as we followed Godwin throughout maze, and the Lord gave me a few verses for these photographs.

I love how God is always speaking if we are listening...

"But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light."
1 Peter 2:9

"He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’”
John 7:38

"So these days were to be remembered and celebrated throughout every generation, every family, every province and every city; and these days of Purim were not to fail from among the Jews, or their memory fade from their descendants."
Esther 9:28

For the pictures below, I thought about, "An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, But she who shames him is like rottenness in his bones." Proverbs 12:4, but it sounded too prideful.  (Ha!  I am totally kidding!)

Actually, the following verse fits beautifully.

"For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh."  
Genesis 2:24

Now that Weston, our 11 year old, is passing me in height...
"Her children rise up and call her blessed."
Proverbs 31:28

 Oh, Lord, thank you.  I am so blessed!  You are so good!  Thank you for speaking to me on this memorable day.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

A Big Call from our BIG GOD

We are back.  We've been waiting to post until our new blog was complete.  Yeah!  It's finally here!

Why the delay?  We are making steps to move our family to Ghana, West Africa to serve our Lord.  God has clearly spoken to our hearts, that this is his plan for our family.  We plan to go and minister to the orphans in Ghana and also take the gospel of Jesus into the unreached areas of Ghana.

Population - 23 million
People Groups -  109
Unreached Population - 2.3 million

Unreached People Groups - 19
Orphans - 1 million  

 We will be partnering with Feeding the Orphans to respond to the many needs of orphans within the country. With insufficient food and lacking medical attention the need is great, but their greatest need is to know Jesus. Our family plans to be the hands and feet of Jesus to these forsaken little ones.

Through Meaningful Life International, we will share the gospel with outlying tribal areas who have not yet heard the name of Christ. We will be extending hope through training local pastors, organizing medical outreaches, drilling wells for clean drinking water, and building sustainable relationships to empower the people of Ghana. 

God has been working on our hearts for quite a while.  He has asked us live as if we truly understand, "Each man's life if but a breath."  (Psalm 39:5)  He has asked us to step off the luxury cruise liner into the waves with our eyes fixed only on Him.  He has asked us to "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation."  (Mark 16:15)  

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

 He has asked us to live out what we believe.  Yes, Lord, send us.  

We live such an adventure with Christ, don't we?  So, are we crazy?  Are we fools?

Some say we are.  Some have said that to our family.  If we were not certain of God's call for us, I think these comments would cause us to waver.   However, if our gaze is fixed on Him and our ears are tuned to His voice then the other voices fade.

God is writing a story. His story.  He is writing history.  Every person has a role to play in this chapter.  Our role is to GO.  To minister on the ground in Ghana.  

What is your role?  What is God asking of you?  You have an important role in His story as well.  What is it?  My prayer for you today is that you would step into the adventure.  Whatever that looks like.  In whatever way God says.  My guess is that it will not be comfortable, and it will not make sense to the world, but it will be part of God's incredible plan for this world.   

Step into the adventure...won't you?

"Each man's life is but a breath..."  Psalm 39:5