It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year! VBS!!!

I love Vacation Bible School!  I would be happy doing VBS every week of the year–very happy and very exhausted!  Our Hispanic VBS starts tonight.  Can’t wait!  As I am preparing the final details to be ready to host over 100 kiddos this evening, my heart reminds me of hundreds of children who have come to our VBS through the years.   So many precious memories….

Stopping to pick up children at a small house on a dirt road in West Columbia, the kids already waiting on the porch jumping up and down with excitement so eager to come to church.  Would that they never lost that excitement to learn about God.

Feeling terribly sick before VBS one year in Mexico but pushing myself to go because I was the director.  Dragging myself out of the car at church to be met by a little girl who hugged me tightly and proclaimed, “Te quiero mucho!”  (I love you so much!)  Suddenly feeling much better and inspired to keep on going!

Watching the look of awe on a little boy’s face the first time he ever heard about heaven and how he could live there one day!

Knowing that the only place some of the kids hear that they are loved and feel that they are loved is at VBS each year.

Telling the old, old story on the Mexico teen missions trip last summer and having the joy of leading 23 children to Christ.

Three-year-old Sarai learning the Bible verse last year and enthusiastically quoting it to me all year long!  She has ALREADY learned the first verse for tonight’s class!!!!

The time one of our bus riders flipped off a passing driver and she got so mad that she stopped her car, got out and started yelling about our bad-mannered children.  Our bus driver gently told her that all kinds of children were welcome to come to our church and hear about Jesus.  May that always be true!

The J’s working along side us helping out wherever and whenever needed.  Wouldn’t want to do VBS with out them!  One of the J’s telling of leading a child to Christ and what a great experience it was.

Our church teens also happily helping out wherever needed–leading songs, riding the bus, taking kids to the bathroom, helping with crafts, starring in dramas!

Boys and girls excitedly giving their offering waiting to see who’s gonna win and whether the pastor or his wife or one of the J”s is gonna get the pie in the face for losing on Friday night.

Using glitter on craft projects and after endlessly vacuuming trying to clean up deciding to ban glitter for all future art projects!  jaja

A mom showing me a picture of her children’s graduation diplomas from all the VBS’s they have attended at our church through the years.

Running into kids who have grown up now and sadly no longer attend church but still greet us with wide smiles and tell us how much they loved coming to church and VBS when they were younger.  May the seeds planted yet bring forth fruit for God’s glory.

Pray with us that many new children and parents would attend and hear the old, old story and become new creatures in Christ this week.  May God give us fruit that remains.

I love to tell the story!  ‘Twill be my theme in glory!  To tell the old, old story of Jesus and His love.


It Shall Be Well–Women of Faith

When I think of women in the Bible who demonstrated extraordinary faith, the Shunammite woman is at the top of my list.  The Bible does not tell us her name, just calls her a great woman.  There are many reasons she was a great woman, but one of the greatest no doubt was her amazing faith in time of heartache.

We read Bible stories too swiftly.  We already know what’s going to happen so we just skim along not stopping to imagine how Bible characters must have felt during times of harsh trials and testings.

The Shunammite woman inspired her husband to build a little chamber for Elisha to use for rest and refreshment while traveling around serving the Lord.  Elisha wanted to reward her for her kindness.  I love her answer when he asked, “What is to be done for thee?”  She answered, “I dwell among mine own people.”  She was content and sought no recognition or reward.  So Elisha rewarded her with God allowing her to become a mother.

Years passed and one day her son became ill.  Like many fathers his dad said, “Carry him to his mother!”  His mom cared for him as best she could, but by noon he was dead.  I am amazed at how the Shunammite woman reacted to this heartache.  Her only child, no doubt the joy of her existence, had just passed away.  Instead of weeping and wailing, accusing her husband of not taking better care of him, or railing against God who did not stop the tragedy from occurring, she sprung into action.

She did not even tell her husband what was going on.  She just told him she was going to visit the man of God.  I love, love, love her answer when he asked why.  She responded, “It shall be well.”  (2 Kings 4:23)  She trusted that everything was going to be all right.  We already know that her son is going to be raised from the dead.  We know the story has a happy ending, but she did not know that when she replied by faith.  She trusted God with the outcome long before she knew what that outcome would be.  Great was her faith!

When Elisha saw her coming afar off, he sent his servant to ask her how the family was.  Again the Shunammite woman replied with great faith, “It is well.”  (2 Kings 4:26)  How could she say that?  Her only child was lying cold and lifeless on a bed back home.  She did not know if the man of God could or would be able to change her sad circumstances, but she chose to trust God when there was no earthly reason to do so, when she was experiencing the greatest heartache any mother can ever experience.  Great was the faith of this great woman!

After Elisha found out her concern, he sent his servant to check on the child.  That was not good enough for this mother.  She exclaimed, “As the Lord liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee.”  (2 Kings 4:30)  So Elisha got up and went with her.  This great woman did not give up until she received the answer she sought.  Again I say great was the faith of this great woman!

Years ago this story was a personal blessing and encouragement to my soul.  I was pregnant with Joshua in Mexico and going a Christian doctor in Arizona who had helped me in earlier pregnancies.  To save money I had some blood work done at a Mexican laboratory and took the results to the doctor’s office in Arizona.  After viewing the test, the nurse practitioner said with no compassion whatsoever, “The results show there is something wrong with your baby.  Your baby has downs.  You need to have an ultrasound.”

With sadness and fear I went to have the ultrasound.  As we waited for the official results, I thought of the Shunammite woman and her great faith that enabled her to say, “It shall be well,” when she had no idea what the outcome would be.  “It shall be well,” I whispered with tears and tried to trust the Lord.  Some hours later we received the glad news that the original test results were incorrect, and there was nothing wrong with our baby.  It was well–and it would also have been well if God had chosen for our baby to have downs syndrome.  God makes no mistakes.  His will is good, acceptable and perfect.

There are many times in life when we face great trials and heartache.  We have no idea if God will give us the happily ever after we long for or permit us to go through much suffering.  May we have faith like the Shunammite woman and say no matter what our present circumstances, “It shall be well.”

The J’s–Dear Jesus, HELP!!!!!!!!!

When Jimmy was born, Judy was eight, Jason was seven, Johnny was six, Josh was four, Julie had just turned three (two days before) and Joey was one!  Needless to say, I was rather busy. We had always wanted a large family, and God had given us the desire of our heart.

We attracted many stares whenever we went anywhere!  I got so tired of answering the question, “Are they all yours?” that I had a t-shirt made up with their picture on it and the caption:  “Yes, they’re all mine!”   That way hopefully the question would be answered before asked!  ha!

One time Grace Baptist Church loaned us their church van when ours was broken down.  We took the J’s to a downtown park to burn up some energy.  As they were busy playing, a lady approached me and said, “I saw the sign on your van.  The children are so well behaved.  Is this a day care?  I’d like some information about it!”  “No,” I replied with a chuckle, “It’s no day care!  They’re all mine!”

Talking with some of the girl students at the Bible institute in Mexico, I mentioned that I had always wanted to have lots of children.  “I’m so glad to hear that” one of them exclaimed.  “I thought your husband made you have all these kids!”  Nope!  In case you were also wondering, it was mutual.  He wanted six.  I wanted eight.  We compromised and had seven!

Of course, it was challenging!  When I had three J’s under three years old, our mission church did not have a nursery.  Many, many times I got three small children ready, took them on the hour ride to church, sat on the back row, tried to keep them quiet, heard very little of the sermon, tried to fellowship with others after the service, then made the hour long trip back home exhausted.  Sometimes I was so tired I wondered why I even bothered to take them to church!

Once in awhile I would gaze up at my husband standing in front preaching and think, “I’ll trade you places.  You come back here and try to keep three little ones quiet, and I’ll go up there and preach.  Preaching would be easier!” haha

I tried to homeschool Judy, Jason and Johnny while keeping four younger children entertained and dealing with the many interruptions involved in living on the mission field.  Often I was alone with my children all day long as Jacinto was busy serving the Lord teaching in the Bible institute and planting churches.

Though I loved the J’s dearly, once in awhile I felt myself losing it!  Whenever I felt frustration overtaking my soul and my patience reached the end of its limit, I would look at all the J’s and say:  “Stop!  We need to pray!”  Everyone would gather round, and then I would pray, “Dear Jesus, HELP!!!!!!”

The older J’s said to me disapprovingly, “Mom, why do you pray like that?  What kind of prayer is that?”  I replied, “The Bible says God is…a very present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1)  “I’m in trouble, and I need help!”

And God would help me time after time.  He was a very present help.  I did not have to spend hours searching for him, make a pilgrimage to some church or do a certain amount of good deeds to convince God to help me.  He was right there.  Right when I needed Him.  He never failed me.

And still to this day though most of the J’s are grown and have left the nest, occasionally I find myself feeling overwhelmed for one reason or another.  I still pray the same prayer on those occasions, “Dear Jesus, “HELP!”  And God is still right there.  He knows my needs, my frailties, and He continues to be a very present help in all trouble!



Mexico Memories Lasso Your Thoughts

The great thing about having an overactive imagination is all the added creativity and spice it adds to life.  The terrible thing about having an overactive imagination is all the added worry and stress crazy thoughts can produce.

For example, I do not enjoy riding rollercoasters and hardly ever do so.  While others are screaming and enjoying the adrenaline rush, I am busy imagining myself falling and picturing my bruised and bloodied body lying on the ground below.  Kind of takes all the fun out of the experience!

Years ago in Mexico my overactive imagination kicked into full gear every time Jacinto was late getting home from anywhere.  There were no cell phones back then to send a text that he would be home later than planned.  I did not worry too much if he was a few minutes late, but after 30 minutes or more my worry antennae would be on full alert.

I knew that the road he traveled back and forth on to visit our village church was very dangerous.  The highway was very narrow, very dark and often used by drunk drivers.  As more time would pass, my eyes would become glued to the clock.  “Where is he?” I would wonder nervously.  “Why isn’t he home yet?”

I would start to imagine that he had been in a car accident.  I could picture so clearly his broken body thrown out of the car by the side of the road.  Would anybody stop to help him or would he suffer alone?  More time would pass, and I would start to plan his funeral!  Then I would fret, “How am I going to take care of all our little J’s by myself?  Should I stay in Mexico or move back home and live with my parents?  What job could I get to support us?”

About the time I started imagining our destitute children growing up without a daddy, Jacinto would walk in tiredly through the door.  Usually he was late because he had had an unexpected opportunity to share the gospel with some needy soul.  All my crazy worrying once again for naught!

Finally I decided that I could not continue with all my crazy thoughts every time he was late.  I made a decision to trust the Lord and choose not to let my imagination run wild.  No, I did not do this perfectly and still do not till this day, but when I catch myself worrying and imagining things that have not yet come to pass, I try to stop and recommit myself to trust in the Lord with all my heart.

It’s a decision and a determination not to let your thoughts run wild.  “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and brining into CAPTIVITY EVERY THOUGHT to the obedience of Christ.”  2 Corinthians 10:5

How Do You Stir Up Your Hubby?

When thinking about wives in the Bible there seem to be more examples of bad wives than good ones.  Who comes to mind as the worst wife ever in the Bible?  Jezabel without doubt!  I Kings 21:25, “But there was none like unto Ahab, which did sell himself to work wickedness in the sight of the Lord, whom Jezabel his wife STIRRED UP.”

The phrase “stir up” appears 45 times in the King James version of the Bible.   Every wife has great influence over her husband and “stirs him up” in good or bad ways.

What are some bad ways to stir up your husband?

  1.  Grievous words  Proverbs 15:1, “A soft answer turneth away wrath; but grievous words STIR UP anger.”  Years ago when Judy was just a baby, Jacinto was talking with a man in our church after a service in Mexico.  The man asked Jacinto, “Why was your daughter born in the USA?  You’re a Mexican.  She should have been born in Mexico.  You are a traitor to your country!”  My husband was very annoyed.  They began to argue.  God gave me a few words to say, “You know, it doesn’t really matter what country you are born in.  As Christians the important thing is that our citizenship is in heaven!”  They both agreed with me and stopped arguing!  A soft answer turneth away wrath.
  2. Always be irritated about something  Proverbs 15:18, “A wrathful man STIRRETH UP strife; but he that is slow to anger appeaseth strife.”  Little habits of your husband can drive you crazy.  How many arguments have there been since the world began over leaving the toilet seat up, which way the toilet paper should hang, squeezing the toothpaste from the middle of the tube–it seems all marriage fights start in the bathroom!  ha  None of these little irritations are worth starting World War III over!
  3. Pride  Proverbs 28:25, “He that is of a proud heart STIRRETH UP strife; but he that putteth his trust in the Lord shall be made fat.”  A wise man who has been married over 50 years once said, “You will have a better marriage if you care more about your relationship than being right.”  Always insisting you are right will not lead to marital bliss.
  4. Resentment  Proverbs 10:12, “Hatred STIRRETH UP up strifes; but love covereth all sins.”  No one gets married dreaming of having a home full of hatred and strife, but we all know it happens sometimes.  Never keep mental lists of all the wrong your mate does to you.  It is exhausting and leads to resentment which can lead to hatred and endless strife.

What are good ways to stir up your husband?

  1.  Motivate him to use his talents for God’s glory  2 Timothy 1:6, “Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou STIR UP the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands.”  Believe in your husband and help him believe in himself.  A few years ago I asked one of our men to teach a class in our VBS.  He told me he could not because of work.  A few days later he came back and told me he could do it.  What changed his mind?  He went home and talked with his wife who encouraged him and offered to help him.  They both have been faithful Sunday school and VBS teachers for many years now–all because the wife believed in her husband and motivated him to serve the Lord.
  2. Encourage and lift him up  2 Peter 3:1, “This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you, in both which I STIR UP your pure minds by way of remembrance.”  You should be your husband’s loudest cheerleader.  Ecclesiastes says that two are better than one because when one falls the other raises him back up.  When your husband gets discourages, try not to get discouraged with him.  It is your time to remind him of God’s promises and faithfulness in the past.  Keep an Ebenezer book where you write down answers to prayer.  Get that book out when discouragement comes and remind yourselves of God’s unfailing grace.

Nobody can stir up a husband like his wife can!  Let’s be sure we are stirring up our husbands in good ways and not bad ways!

Thank God for Kidney Stones

Nine years ago in May,  Jacinto was bothered by a very painful kidney stone.  He had had one some years before back in Mexico, and with a little help from a doctor we had been able to get rid of it using a three day fast of distilled water and pure apple juice.  We tried that diet again for this kidney stone, but it did not work.  So off we went to the doctor.

We weren’t particularly worried as we waited in the doctor’s office.  We were just eager for Jacinto to have relief from the terrible pain.  Imagine how surprised we were when the doctor told us, “Yes, you have a kidney stone, but the scan also revealed that you have a golf ball sized tumor in the other kidney.  It is most likely cancer!”

I was in shock!  Tears whelmed up in my eyes, and I said to Jacinto, “I’ve got to get out of here!”  I hurried out of the doctor’s clinic and looked up at the sky and whispered, “I thank you Lord that I am not mad at you!”  It had only been five years since Jacinto’s massive heart attack.  Here we were again with serious health problems.  In the midst of the fear and pain was God’s peace that passeth all understanding.

Any operation Jacinto would undergo would be especially serious because of the condition of his permanently damaged heart.  Even getting anesthesia was dangerous.  Many people prayed for us, and family came in to be with us.  Jacinto was in God’s hands.  No better place to be.

After the operation, the doctor informed me that he had removed the entire kidney and that the tumor was stage two cancer.  He said that this kind of cancer was a silent killer.  Jacinto would have felt no symptoms until it was too late.  If he had not had the kidney stone and gone to the doctor for relief, he would not have known about the cancer and would have been dead within a year!

Jacinto has now been cancer free nine years.  We thank God for that kidney stone that saved his life!

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose.”  Romans 8:28

Mexico Memories Happily Ever After

When I first met Norma she was a single mom of eight-month-old twins living in a one room adobe hut with her parents and several siblings.  Her husband had abandoned her and gone to the United States looking for work.  Norma was having a hard time and was very open to the gospel.  She accepted Christ and began growing in the Lord.

Time passed and Norma was lonely.  It was so difficult to mother twins by herself and thrive in her crowded living conditions.  Though she knew it was wrong, Norma found a new man and moved in with him and his parents.  Soon she was pregnant.  His parents never accepted Norma and not long after her baby girl was born, she was kicked out and ended up back in the village living once again with her parents.

We tried to encourage Norma to make things right with God and come back to church, but she was not willing.  Her face reflected the emptiness of those who willfully forsake God’s commands and go their own way only to discover whatever they thought would make them happy does not satisfy.

To our surprise one Sunday morning Norma showed up for church with her three children nicely dressed and a strange man!  There was no time to greet them before the service started.  All during church I felt sad thinking, “Norma has shacked up with a new man.  She is still running from the Lord.”

However, after church was over Norma introduced us to the strange man who turned out to be her husband!  When he went to the United States looking for work, he got picked up by immigration and put in jail to await deportation.  While he was in jail, some dear soul went to the jail, witnessed to him, and led him to Christ.  After being saved, he realized that he had done wrong in abandoning his young wife and children.

When he was deported, he came home and reunited with his family.  He accepted the new baby daughter as his own acknowledging that he was also at fault for having left Norma when she needed him.  All the children looked so clean and happy.  Norma’s face no longer reflected disillusionment and despair.  Now her face was wreathed in smiles.

Only God could take their lives twisted by sin and bad choices and transform them into happily ever after.  God can still do the same for us today!  The gospel still works and transforms lives.  No sad story is so hopeless that God cannot turn it into happily ever after!  What a mighty God we serve!

“Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us.  Now unto him be glory….” Ephesians 3:19, 20.