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Can’t deny His voice – next steps

I’m publicly sharing my journey with God over that last few months so that I can answer the ‘What?!”Why?’ or ‘How?’questions that are certain to follow my decision to pursue being a midwife (in some form) when we return home. Too many things have happened that I can’t call a coincidence. I believe God is very purposeful in His timing.

The following prayer has been the stimulus to the changes in my life over the last five years. There is nothing magical about the prayer itself, but when prayed with sincerity is a good model for me to follow and remember to surrender everything to the One I call Lord and Master. It is taken from the book ‘Experiencing God’.

Lord, You have an assignment for me that is God-sized. To accomplish it, I must have the faith to make the adjustments you require in my life. Show me how. I am willing, Jesus.
You may change my circumstances.
You may change my relationships.
You may change my thinking.
You may change my commitments and priorities.
You may change my actions.
You have my permission to change my beliefs, even those I have so proudly held for years. Change whatever is necessary for me to carry out Your assignment.
I surrender to You. I depend entirely on You. I wait for your call to action. I want to think Your thoughts, act in Your ways and focus on Your purposes. Give me the faith and courage to pay the cost in every area of my life to obey you fully.
Show me where You are at work. Help me trust that what You have shown me is true. Teach me to pray every situation through until You accomplish what You have shown me You would accomplish in the situation.
I know you in a personal love relationship. I trust You to bring each work You show me to completion. I will obey You and join You in that work. In doing so, I will encounter and experience You. Amen.

So midwifery…where did that come from? That is exactly what I started asking this voice that kept coming back to me again and again. I am not a nurse, I have never pictured myself doing any kind or form of nursing and honestly I still have a hard time picturing me being a midwife. But I couldn’t deny the prompting so I did some searching. But first, let me back track to God’s time table for you.

My cousin’s wife, Vicki, has been a midwife for 25+ years. They have lived most of this time in the Philippines and have set up their own non-profit organization www.mercyinaction.com/ Mercy In Action sets up and funds free birth centers for the poor families in the Philippines and have delivered more than 12,000 babies. Vicki is also a teacher/trainer of midwives. I have the upmost respect for their work and have kept up with what is going on with them through my parents when they would come back to the states for visits; but I have not seen them for 30 years….. Then, who shows up at our doorstep in MI shortly before coming to Cambodia?! Yes, my cousin and his wife!! Still, I never have thought of this avenue for myself.

It started about 6 months ago that I couldn’t shake the persistent thought of being a midwife. Finally I decided to visit www.mercyinaction.com/ and checked out what the schooling requirements were. When I read it, my thought was, “Yep, I don’t know where that thought came from but I am definitely not made for this. I do not have the brains for what is required of me.” It is a condensed course, packing18 months into 3 months. So with that, I dismissed it from my mind. Approximately two weeks later, Chet came into the kitchen while I was cooking dinner and tells me he thinks I should look into becoming a midwife. WHAT?!? “Where did that come from?” was my question to him because I had said nothing to him about it. He told me, “I don’t know, I can just picture you doing that”. When I told him that I had already looked into it and dismissed it because it was more than I could handle, he just told me that I didn’t give myself enough credit. Although I admit that I believe God prompted that conversation with Chet and his confirmation of my ability was encouraging, I still brushed it aside.

Then, three months ago I found myself having a conversation with Chet and giving ultimatums of what I would or would not do in the future. Immediately following, I felt the rebuke from God because I was, (by giving my ultimatum) putting God in a box and taking control of my life rather than submitting to God’s desires. So once again, I began to pray the above prayer and the first thing that came to mind (that I had not thought of for awhile) was being a midwife. A few days later when I was out with a couple of friends we entered a coffee shop and I thought I recognized a pastor from Byron Center. Yes, he looked enough like this pastor that I (because I’m not shy) asked if it was him. It wasn’t, but my friends and I got into a conversation with this group of men. One by one they told who they were and why they were here. Some were visiting, others worked for organizations here in Phnom Penh. All, except for one man, mentioned only themselves. Only one said, “My name is Gideon and my wife is midwife.” Where did that come from?! No one else mentioned their wives. So I sheepishly asked what the need for midwives are, of which he replied “It’s a Great need”. My next step was to come home, e-mail Vicki and ask her to pray for me and if she had any advice. To sum it up, she said, “If God is calling you to be a midwife, you will not be able to do anything else, unless you deny His voice.” Well that is telling it like it is – but I thank her for her bluntness and speaking the truth in love. She also asked me if I was working with….. are you ready….yes, Gideon’s wife. What a small world!

Still fearful, I questioned God about how “I” will be able to make this happen. I am still worried about the academic part because it is a condensed course and that overwhelms me – I can’t deny it. I also wonder how I’ll pay for it; we are just coming off of the mission field. But, God still speaks. As I was studying one morning before church, I was reviewing the name of Adonai. I quote from the book “Lord I want to Know You” “O Beloved, do you see that our responsibility is to bow before His throne and say, ‘My Lord’? With submission comes all we need for the task He puts before us. Whatever it is, as Adonai He supplies what His servants need in order to perform their master’s will”.
Later at church that morning, Pastor Ann had a word from the Lord. “What is in your hand? Just give it to Me. Don’t worry, I’m not looking for talent or abilities. I just need you to be available. When you surrender to me, I am the One Who supplies your needs to accomplish My will. Just give me what is in your hand.” I believe this to be the stamina and ability to accomplish the academic side as well as the finances to do it.

So it is in faith that I submit. I am telling you this because it is also a form of accountability that will move me in my next step of faith. I read recently (and it is true) that you can’t move or go on a journey with God if you are unwilling to move/change. So please pray with and for me and the family as I take this next step of obedience. – Virginia

The Glory Is In A Promise Fulfilled

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
Luke 2.13-14

IMG 1747

The early morning street sounds are the same. Here in Phnom Penh its a morning no different than most other mornings. There are sounds of car and motorbike horns as they make their way through the narrow streets of our neighborhood. There are trucks at the construction materials ‘store’, across the street, being loaded, by a front-loader, with sand, rocks or bricks for the work that’s on today’s agenda. The street vendors are making their way up and down the street with bells and noise-makers announcing their approach and tinny sounding prerecorded messages broadcasting their particular products, fruit, eggs or loaves of bread. And so it is very much a normal day.

Its much the same as it likely would have been on that morning in Bethlehem. Aside from the very few who were aware of the birth of a particular baby (some shepherds, 3 traveling magi, Herod, Mary and Joseph) it would be a day like any other in the town. Some others would slowly become aware of the event as the shepherds (the first missionaries?) recounted their encounter with the angels to those that they knew. For the most part though it was a low-key event that marked the beginning of a world-changing life. The incarnation, God in a physical human form. Few knew of the event and those few that knew really did not yet fully grasp the significance and probably, as did Mary, tucked it away “and pondered it”. Aside from the appearance of the angels to the shepherds there really wasn’t much glory involved. No pomp and circumstance, no spectacular fireworks display above the manger. Very few others would have been aware or even had any reason to expect the significance of that particular day. It was not, by normal definition, glorious.

Being here in a different culture gives an opportunity to ‘ponder’ the significance of that event as well. Because for the vast majority of those around us life goes on as usual today. For us, except for what we import ourselves, all of the peripheral activity and traditions are forcibly stripped away. For those around us, there is no ‘Black Friday’ shopping, no urgency to find the best/most for the least, no hours spent decorating house and tree, no schedule full of parties, no ‘hustle and bustle’, no candlelight services, no Silent Night. And in this environment I ‘ponder’. Why were the angels praising God? What was the big deal? Was it the baby? Or something else?

I think something else. The baby is a beginning. Not the end, but the first giant step towards completion. All the magnificence and splendor that we impose on the occasion belies the unassuming humbleness of it. Its easy to stop at baby Jesus in the manger and focus on that event, but that is only one aspect of the much larger picture. Its in the larger picture which surrounds this humble beginning, that God shows His faithfulness. His promise to provide a way to set the world right begins in humbleness, in a manger, with a baby. And there lies the magnificence. The glory. Its not in the humbleness through which it occurs and its not just in the baby Himself (worthy as He is to receive it), but its in the proof, again, of God’s faithfulness to His promises. He promised a Messiah, salvation, and He delivered, faithfully. There is the glory.

28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:
29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. 30 For my eyes have seen your salvation, 31 which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.”
Luke 2.28-32

As you participate in all that this holiday season entails, the events, the bright colors and family gatherings be sure to remember that God is faithful in All His promises. From the small (His personal promise to Simeon) to the large (His promise of making salvation available to all). From the birth of the Messiah to the ushering in of His Kingdom, the promises and prophecies of God are always fulfilled. He is Always faithful.

Therein lies the glory of it all.

Glory to God in the highest!!

chet

I want to Cling

Two nights ago at Water Festival approx 350 people died here in PP by either being trampled to death, electrocuted by downed power lines or drowning as they sought to escape the stampede of people and jumped off the bridge into the river. We have not heard yet what caused people to become frighted to cause this horrible tragedy. At least another 500 people were injured.

Our life is so brief and so unsure. None of us know what tomorrow holds – or the next 5 minutes…Our only certainty can be where our strength and salvation are found. In the LORD God Almighty.

As I was listening to the Hallelujah Chorus last night I bawled..Tears of thankfulness, tears of joy, tears of sorrow for those who don’t know Him as King of kings, Lord of lords, Lord God Omnipotent Who reigns forever and ever!

This morning I read from Jeremiah 12:11 ” ‘For as the waistband clings to the waist of a man, so I made the whole household of Israel and the whole household of Judah to cling to Me’ declares the LORD, that they might be for Me a people, for renown, for praise and for glory; but they did not listen.”

Romans 11 tell me that I am grafted into His chosen people by faith. God, I pray that I would be faithful to cling to You – not casually like a scarf over the shoulder that can be easily blown away, but cling…up close and personal cling; and not just in the easy times but in the tough. YOU are my breath of life, my hope, my salvation…and You are my rock and my shelter in times of trouble. LORD God – Thank You for loving me more than life….literally!!!

Virginia

Pastors’ Wives Retreat

“For the eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His” 2 Chron. 16:9

Satan does his best to distract our attention, our hearts and our commitment to His plans, but God will not be mocked!! We just finished up the first Pastors’ Wives Retreat at Sihanoukville and God was as faithful as the tides on the gulf coming in. Honestly, even on the bus ride to the retreat I was wishing I was any place else other than on my way to help teach these women how to have “A Heart Like His” which was our theme. Since I’m am still lacking in the language dept. I decided to listen to my praise music and spent the trip there in prayer. Surrendering the responsibility of the outcome and teaching over to the the Holy Spirit and just being a willing vessel to be used was a burden I should have given over earlier – but better late than never!

The three topics built on each other perfectly and the first nights devotional set the perfect tone for starting anew as we searched 1 Cor 13:4-7 to learn that in order to love like God we also must forgive like God. We concluded the night by writing down those things we need to let go of and burning them – giving them over to God; washing our hands and accepting His cleansing and then partaking of communion together. I never realized the brokenness that was so prevalent among the women here, but God stripped them to their very soul and offered them His acceptance, strength, comfort, love and forgiveness. There is a bond that only women can share and this sisterhood allows us to be real and seek the support (emotionally and spiritually) from each other to “spur one another on toward love and good deeds” Heb. 10:24.

This was a whirlwind couple of days for all of us. So much was taught, shared, encouraged, surrendered. I will continue to pray for each of these women and those they have influence over. As long as we can remember that we are held in the very palm of God and trust in His sovereignty; that nothing happens without His permission; that He uses every instance in our lives to mold us more and more into His very image. As long as we don’t lose focus that He is using us to write His love letter to those around us, I know we will all be used by God in great ways. And to that He deserves all the glory!

Smiles & Hugs

“Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier” Mother Teresa

This should be my goal everyday. Not just because I’m on the “mission field” (I use that term lightly since every place is a mission field), but because I then believe I’m being a better reflection of Christ. I try to remember to pray and ask God to show me His divine appointment for the day – but sometimes I get too caught up in ‘me’ to care, and instead head out to have a “woe is me” day.

Let me tell you how thankful I am to you who pray regularly for me/us and those who send encouraging words in response to my “Need Prayer Now” request. Prayer is a catch 22 isn’t it? God knows our need before we even ask. His son sits next to Him praying 24/7 on our behalf. The plans of the Lord will not be thwarted….and yet He still desires us to lay our needs before Him. In the end…God is faithful even when I’m not. He knows exactly what He needs to do to send me my “Hug” for the day and encourage me back to obedience. Today was one of those days.

This morning started out as one of those mornings that anything I said was going to be wrong. Argh – I hate days like that. Why even try?! So when Bekah just wanted to go to the mall with a friend and hang out, it sounded like a good escape and time alone. While she roamed the mall with her friend I decided to take advantage of the inexpensive manicures and go relax. This was the begining of God’s hug.

Cambodians are sooo very friendly, especially to foreigners. They were so excited that they got to work on a beautiful young woman (their words not mine – but the begining of my smile). Where in the states would I be treated like royalty for $4.00? Anyway, we enjoyed our time together. A couple of them spoke a little English while I tried to speak as much Khmer as I could and they were happy to teach me words/phrases that I wanted to know. They LOVE IT when we try to speak their language! Then, one of the young gals shared her snack with me. Not really sure what it was I ate. She said it was a fruit and it did have a core, but it tasted more like a mild cheese. We dipped it in sugar and it actually wasn’t too bad. Although I wouldn’t want to eat a lot of it, her hospitality of wanting/insisting that I share some touched me. They all seemed to appreciated that I partook and shared a new experience (for me)with them. The time together brought a smile to all of us:) A hug from God.

A few minutes later while I still had some time to kill before meeting back up with Bekah I decide to relax with an ice cream. As I sat there, an older gentleman with an infant came and sat down on the bench right next to me at my table – literally right next to me. This is when it’s a good time that my personal space is smaller than most and the fact that I, in an odd way, enjoy strange encounters. He obviously was making a point of wanting to sit next to me with his infant because first of all he didn’t buy his ‘waffles’ from the area I was sitting in and second he kept saying “hello madam” and wanting the baby to “see” me. Funny how even with infants, they do notice that we white people look different because they are just as mesmerized (this isn’t the first time). Anyway, he was most friendly and just wanted to talk to me. Again a stumbling of our languages:) When I asked how to say “waffle” in Khmer he was going to share his waffle. No, I didn’t take a bite; but again the quickness to freely share with me brought another smile to my face. As soon as he was done eating he was gone. Just another brief hug from God.

Heb 13:2 reads “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.” Today, rather than me entertaining the angels, I believe God sent them to minister to me and remind me of His faithfulness. I know that we are here for a purpose and I sometimes wonder whether we aren’t here to learn as much as we are to help educate. But either way, I thank God for the “hugs of encouragement” that He sends to recharge me! What a great day!!

Virginia

Give thanks with a grateful heat

For the first time (or at least that I paid attention to) I saw people sorting through the garbage dump. These people sort through the garbage to find what ever they can to clean and sell for food, to reuse for a many different purposes or maybe just for food themselves. I know that back home during garage sales we use the phrase “one mans junk is another mans treasure” but here it is “one man’s garbage is another man’s life!” . It really makes me ponder the wasteful and ungrateful mindset of so many of us. v

Week in Review

Had a few folk here from KCC for an Int’l Steward workshop for our pastors this last week. It was a packed few days but medicine for my soul – even when I didn’t realize how much I needed it :o)

Bekah and I took Kim up to Siem Reap for a quick visit. I enjoy the architecture of the old wats/temples – but the Floating Village still has my vote (and my heart). We had a different guide this time – so I got, not a different perspective, but a new perspective. Our guide grew up and still lives in the floating village. Boats that I saw before and thought to be family “travel” boats to get their fish to the market I found out were actually their homes. They were no more than a little longer row boat that you and I might take out for a leisurely afternoon, but with families of 4-7 people living on them!

You might recall me telling you about our last visit when a young boy hopped aboard to sell us drinks. Our guide encouraged us to show them that we already had drinks and motion them NOT to hop aboard. He told us that parents keep their children from going to school to help them sell items and earn a living; but that just the day before when a girl was jumping back into the boat with her mother that she fell in the water and was decapitated by the propeller. He watched as the mother cradled her dead child. He is passionate about taking care of the children and making sure that they get an education – an opportunity that he wished he had growing up. He speaks 7 languages; all self taught by just visiting with tourist like ourselves, but is unable to get a job as a guide in the city which would pay more because he doesn’t hold a certificate of formal education. If our kids could only see how good they have it….

One of my highlights was meeting a 14 yr old deaf girl and being able to converse with her!! Sign language is not a universal language – each country has their own and is not usually similar to one another. So my guess is that since Cambodia was colonized by the French and ASL has French roots that Cambodian sign language must also be derived from FSL. What ever the reason for us to be able to understand each other – it was definitely a kiss from God for me. My heart smiled and I realized that my passion for working with the deaf is still alive!

We’ve been so blessed – I hope that we were able to be a blessing to those we met. Still seeking to hear His voice and follow His footsteps. Pray for us as we continue to connect with people.

Virginia