May news update
As I have mentioned before, I try to have a different missions booth each month at our local church. Recently the focus was on Israel (where I lived for over a year in the mid-1970s) and, as we were approaching Easter, I also shared about the Sedar (Passover) meal celebrated by Jesus at the Last Supper. I stay by the booth throughout all 3 services to chat with anyone who stops by to learn about that country, and it is interesting to watch as literally hundreds of people pass through the foyer. Most just smile as they pass (not really interested in all the work I put in!); some come over to see more and chat; but also there are some who actually seem to hurry past, almost afraid to make eye contact! I am not soliciting donations, as it is purely to promote awareness and perhaps connect with others interested in missions – sadly, a rather small number even in our very active church!
The other day as I was praying about some families in the special needs community (again small in number, yet thankfully now connected by the internet!) I was struck by the similarities to missionary work. When you go to live in another country with a totally different culture, it changes your life forever! We had to totally rearrange our priorities, learn another language (so we could at least try to understand what was going on!) and it greatly impacted how we spent our time, energy and finances. It actually put us even further out on the “fringe” of the “normal” lifestyle, and we just had to learn how to face and overcome obstacles basically by ourselves (trusting in God) since very few other people really understood what we were going through.
Over the past 4 years, I have become more and more aware of how families with special needs children (or adults!) similarly live on the “fringe”. Whatever the diagnosis of special needs, it brings a total end to all previous routines, plans and dreams! It is like being dropped into a foreign country – you even have to learn a new language of medical terms to try to understand what is going on! Priorities must be changed, and how time, energy and finances are spent are all drastically impacted. One big difference however, is that with special needs the situation is not voluntary – and it likely will last a lifetime! Life suddenly consists of frightening challenges, unanswered questions, endless bureaucracy, and exhausting frustrations! One may wonder why God does not bring miraculous healing but instead allows such anguish, and even suffering. Yet it often produces selfless heroes, compassionate siblings, and dedicated advocates pushing for change. Every time I hear the details of another family’s struggle, I am struck by their resilience and determination not to give in – and often their strong faith which is an inspiration to others! Bible promises like the following aren’t just encouraging verses – they are vital, life-giving tenets that are often desperately clung to just to keep going!
I can do all this by the power of Christ. He gives me strength. Philippians 4:13 (NIRV)
Here is what I am commanding you to do. Be strong and brave. Do not be afraid. Do not lose hope. I am the Lord your God. I will be with you everywhere you go. Joshua 1:9 (NIRV)
So don’t worry, because I am with you. Don’t be afraid, because I am your God. I will make you strong and will help you…. Isaiah 41:10 (ICB)
So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Galatians 6:9 (NLT)
So, when we cross paths with such a family, let’s not “pass by” trying to avoid eye contact, but instead step forward to love and befriend them and be inspired by their story! Blessings, Shirley.
Pastor Sika in Togo – He has been taking some time off from ministerial duties to rest and regain his strength, as he learns to deal with managing diabetes and his other medical issues. However he reports that he is now feeling better and getting back to his activities. We keep him in our prayers – along with all at the Joseph Project Orphanage as they continue with school and work on the agriculture project (funds still needed for fertilizer and weeding). Please pray for the funds for another JP student (Julienne) to enter apprenticeship, and for the continuing construction of the church building in Lome. Pastor Sika and Lucie are also praying for the remaining funds so that they can fulfill their vision of opening a Christian bookstore in Lome.
Irene in Kenya – She and the family are continuing the children’s ministry developed by Mike. This picture shows Irene teaching a group of children in front of the house that Mike completed shortly before his passing in November 2020. Here is the link to a recent video of 13 year old Joy doing puppet ministry, showing she has the same gift as her father had!
A couple of weeks ago, I prepared a kids handout about Kenya for the missions booth at church and included Mike’s story. Here is a link to that pdf file
Pastor Honore in Central African Republic – He sent these photos of the Easter celebrations at the CEERCA church, which is a few miles outside of the capital city of Bangui. In addition to celebrating Jesus’ resurrection, they also celebrated the 6th anniversary of the church, which has grown amazingly in size. Another 10 believers were also baptized at Easter; a new church was planted in another village in recent months, and the school continues to grow and bless many children who would otherwise not be able to get schooling.