Daniel’s Prayer

In our devotions this morning, we read Daniel’s prayer as found in the book of Daniel, Chapter 9. Good words then and good words now.

“Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant. For your sake, O Lord, look with favor on your desolate sanctuary. Give ear, O God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. O Lord, listen! O, Lord, forgive! O Lord, hear and act! For your sake, O my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name.”


Meet the Russell family

UPDATE TO THIS POST: It appears that they will be flying via Air France. For the most current information, click directly to their blog below. Thanks for the prayers and thanks for private messages sent…

I know that I write this over and over and over again. But it’s the truth: We meet the most amazing people here, and many of them through the process of adoption.

May I introduce you to a family that personifies stepping out in faith? I cannot share all that has happened to this precious family since they decided to say ‘yes’ to adopting Katia, but most of their story is posted on their blog: One little girl…great big God.

The link takes you to Tuesday’s update and prayer request. And quite a request, I might add. But nothing is too hard for our God.

Maybe someone reading this blog has some connections with the airlines. It will need to be someone with some decision-making power. As it stands right now, as you will read in their blog post, no airlines is willing to fly with Katia aboard. Why? Well, it’s not just her health issues, though she has many. Her mother is a nurse and is prepared to handle whatever comes along during the flights. But the reason she can’t fly is that she is too old to be on a lap — she MUST occupy her own seat. Regulations. All children of her age (7 or 8) must sit buckled into their seat for take-off and landing.

Here’s the catch: She only weighs just over 12-13 pounds…more like an infant. AND one of her health issues is that she does not bend at the waist. Her parents purchased a harness in the States that would attach her securely to her mother or father. BUT she is technically too old to take off and land in that position.

So, I am asking you to pray for a solution. Or contact someone connected with the airlines, if you have friends there.

Oh, and the embassy would not issue a visa until she is cleared to fly. So, another step needs to be repeated in this whole process once they can book tickets! Pray for quick action on their part.

We have been blessed with the Russell’s company for a couple of dinners while they’ve been here and we marvel at their faith lived out day by day. Calmly putting one foot in front of the other. Praising God along the way.

May God bless them richly! And may their return to the States be as a family…all together!

False teaching

Attached is a link that directs you to an open letter of repentance from a woman who formerly promoted the teachings of Henry Blackaby and Beth Moore. Her letter and the links she provides explains better than I can why she is concerned with their teachings and particularly their teachings about contemplative prayer.

Once you are on her blog, you can see some follow-up posts as well as read comments from those in support and against her view.

One of our responsibilities as a Christian is to be Bereans…search the Scripture to see whether what is being taught is actually true or not.

I encourage each one of us to be a Berean.

Good Morning Girls

Okay, so I realize that I’m often the last to know about all kinds of things.

And this is no exception: I have just discovered an online Bible study called Good Morning Girls. It’s exciting to me because their general approach to Bible study is EXACTLY what we just practiced in Belgium last week at Prayer Week. Writing out the verses in your own hand, really slowly meditating on the Word, recording observations in the verses and also applications and prayer. S O A P. Scripture, observation, application, prayer.

Pretty simple, but oh so effective. God speaks through His word and allowing yourself time to soak in a few passages a day is marvelous. The added accountability of working through the passages with others is simply a bonus. And others’ insights can be so inspiring. Praying for iron to sharpen iron.

Anyway, I discovered this group on facebook. And there are groups popping up all around the world to begin a study beginning on Monday (that’s TOMORROW!) on Ephesians. In twelve weeks, we will have written and meditated on the entire book. I love it.

Anybody want to take part with me? I am hoping to start a group on facebook…or be invited to an ongoing group…and I’d love to study this with some of YOU! We can take part through facebook and/or email. Or this blog, if you think that might work.

Let me know if anyone is interested! I’m in.

A Positive Life

While in Belgium, I read a short book written by Shane Stanford. It is his personal story. How the diagnosis of HIV+ affected his life and those lives around him. At the time that he was diagnosed, it was pretty much a death sentence.

Oh, how I wish we could spread the truth of this disease quickly to the world. The unnecessary hurt and isolation that accompanies this diagnosis could be greatly alleviated. But where to start? I guess it comes back to one person at a time, one church at a time, one community at a time. It’s sad to say that not even all medical workers understand how the disease is spread or not. So who’s teaching the patients and their families? And their friends? Thankfully, much information is now available online. But how do you determine what’s true or not? Patients will certainly seek out the truth, but will our churches? Are our churches safe places for HIV+ folks to come in…and be real? Is the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS ever going to be reduced? Will we continue to THINK we know the facts and yet not take the time to learn them?

Some of the author’s toughest moments came as he was approaching his own ordination…which meant he would be assigned to a church…but what if they wouldn’t accept an HIV+ pastor. The team determining whether to ordain him or not had some soul-searching questions to answer for themselves.

Fortunately, Shane Stanford had some strong advocates. Not to mention a calling to the ministry, an uncompromising work ethic, and obvious people skills. (These same pluses became minuses when he began to try to ‘prove’ that he was a good choice as a pastor. Workaholics don’t make the best pastors…or husbands…or fathers.)

When I think back on what I read, I am struck by the family support — particularly his grandfather who was devastated by the diagnosis. His wisdom helped carry Shane through the teen years and beyond. I get frustrated, even angry, by the attitude of some people…even healthcare workers. Prejudiced. I am thankful for his advocates on several different levels.

And I think about Alina.

Nine years old. HIV+. Kidneys destroyed by TB so she has lived at a hospital for 3 years to receive dialysis every other day. Mother died. Father deserted. Only chance of a transplant is from a family donor with the operation taking place in another country — aunt doesn’t want to ‘put her through anymore.’ What?!?! No transplant = certain death.

Obviously this little girl needs an advocate. A noisy unrelenting one.

Jim has tried numerous ways to locate doctors/hospitals to take on this precious life. But, to no avail. Still looking. Can’t quit. This book has reminded me to keep speaking out on her behalf. To keep her story out there. To allow Him to use people I may not even yet know to come to her rescue.

Please pray with us. We know that God is not surprised by any of this, and that He will use this episode to His glory…somehow. May He use us as instruments in His hands.

And may we be quick to give Him all the honor and glory.

Loving from afar

They’re up. They’re out. And they should be on board the first of two flights today.

And I already miss each one of them.

I’m sad to not see this little coat hanging near the door.

I am really thankful that we had a week of prayer in Belgium last week that also included a day of silence and fasting — fasting from physical food as we eat of the spiritual and fasting from conversations with each other so that we have time to converse with the Lord.

I am also thankful that I wrote my thoughts that day. Among other thoughts:

Recently a woman in our church simply declared that if she had 3 children in America she’d be there, too! Insinuating that something must be wrong with me if I continue to stay in Ukraine.

Others ask how I can stand to miss these early years with the grandchildren. They could NEVER do that.

Well, the truth is that they haven’t been called by God to leave them! I have. And HE provides what I need — the grace, strength AND the technology. I see my grandchildren every week…if not everyday.

My first love is Christ. Followed by my husband. The LORD gave Jim to me and me to him. He entrusted us with 3 precious children to raise for Him. Together we did that. But the goal of parents is to raise your children to love and honor God…and then release them to serve Him…wherever that might be. And to raise their OWN children to do the same. Encourage them as we can. Offer advice, when asked. Love them.

But my intense child-rearing days are past. As we started, so now we return: a couple devoted to each other and serving our God together. Wherever that may be.

We have work to do.

I purposely had not posted these thoughts earlier. I really wanted to see how I would feel when I actually had to see them off. I hate good-byes. And I always cry. And today was no exception.

My mother’s heart wants to be with my children. I’d love to watch Anna receive her degree. I’d love to help Jeanne as she nears the birth of her second child while chasing after her first! I’d love to watch Jamie be a daddy, up close and personal. And I love their spouses — such wonderful Godly partners!

My grandmother’s heart can never get enough of the little ones. Even if we lived in the same town, it wouldn’t be enough.

But my heart belongs to the LORD. He is knitting Jim and me ever more close as we continue to serve Him in Ukraine. My heart fills with joy as I watch Jim in action…kind words here, constructive criticism there, consultation here, teaching there, prayer throughout.

This is one wife who counts herself most fortunate to be following after a husband who follows hard after God.

Operation World

Operation World posted a great list of specifics to pray when praying for missionaries.

This is one of the big ones, but one of the most important for prayer!
Missionaries. The harsh realities of spiritual labour soon dispel the imagined glamour of pioneer missionary work. Both the missionaries and the churches that send them need to have realistic expectations, adequate support on every level and unflinching devotion to the task. Pray for:

a) Vital, supportive home fellowships of believers who are willing to pray the missionary out to the field and keep him or her there through the years of greatest effectiveness. This is difficult to maintain with rapid changes and turnovers in membership and in the pastoral team in most congregations. Congregations must see themselves as local launching pads for the essential task of global mission, rather than as local institutions where foreign ministry is an optional add-on.

b) The supply of their financial needs. Mission is too often regarded by churches as a charitable extra – if there are sufficient funds left over from the local essentials. Many missionaries live sacrificially for Christ, in harsh and demanding contexts, with simple lifestyles and neither present nor future guarantees of income or security. This is especially the case for those from newer sending nations where churches do not yet appreciate the importance of financial support for mission. Missionary lifestyles also need to be sensitive to the living standards of the contexts in which they work.

c) Adequate preparation for missionary work. This is arduous and long – theological training, ministry experience, language learning and adaptation to a new land may take years before an effective ministry can be exercised. Those years can be traumatic and discouraging. The significant number of missionaries who fail to return for a second term of service is indicative of possible deficiencies in selection, preparation, structure and pastoral care. With the increased amateurization of mission, training and preparation are increasingly compromised for the sake of getting people “on the ground” as soon as possible. But it is more training – and not less – that will see healthy, growing, culturally appropriate churches planted in cross-cultural situations.

d) Cultural adjustment. Many prospective missionaries cannot make the adjustment to new foods, lifestyles, languages, value systems and attitudes. Some return home disillusioned and with a sense of failure; others react wrongly on the field and hinder fellowship and witness; yet others go too far in their adaptation and compromise their health and sometimes their faith. Wisdom is precious in such situations, as is an authentic biblical love for the people and culture where the work is occurring.

e) Spiritual vitality and a rich devotional life. In the role of spiritual leadership, as a living testimony to the efficacy of the gospel, often in isolation from other believers and as an ambassador of God’s Kingdom in dark places, a missionary cannot afford to exist with a tepid spiritual life.

f) Protection from Satan’s attacks. The powers of darkness are real. In many areas, Satan’s kingdom has never before been challenged. Missionaries must be more vigilant on the field than in home situations. They need to be able to discern between cultural differences and spiritual opposition, but the spiritual authority to resist evil attacks is even more vital. These can come through many means, including physical health and disease, attacks upon the mind and attitude, in relationships and in physical threats such as violent attacks and hostage taking.

g) Family life. For singles, the missionary call may mean foregoing marriage for the sake of the gospel – loneliness can be a heavy burden to bear. Yet, singleness on the field can also bring rapid language and culture acquisition and flexibility of lifestyle and ministry. For others, family life may be made difficult by living conditions, inadequate amenities or lack of finance; long separations, many visitors and excessive workloads may disrupt it. Missionaries’ children may be separated from their parents for long periods because of education; children’s educational needs bring to an end the field ministry of countless missionary families. But family life can be a real asset for integrating into the target community as well as a great opportunity to demonstrate the gospel through family relationships.

h) Calling and commitment. The assurance that God has guided one to a particular ministry is often the only anchor to retain workers in difficult situations, misunderstandings, broken relationships and “impossible” crises. Pray that none may leave a place of calling for a negative or superficial reason, but only because of a positive leading from God.

i) Built-in obsolescence. Missionary presence on a field could end suddenly for a host of reasons; when expatriate workers make themselves irreplaceable this can spell disaster for the health of fledgling churches and movements. Success should be understood as having been achieved when the missionaries are no longer needed for the role for which they came. The ideal goal of all missionaries should be to train their own replacements from among local believers.

j) Re-entry – temporary or long-term – which can be traumatic. Returning missionaries need adequate debriefing, preparation for reverse culture shock and the continued support of God’s people; these help establish an effective rapport with churches at home, build a fruitful ministry on the home end and prepare for a return to the field.

For more information from Operation World and about Operation World, click here.

Prayer Week

Midnight here. Need to pack to be ready to head to the airport to catch a flight to Belgium, site of the Prayer Week this year. We will be gathering with like-minded medical professionals from across Europe to pray for God’s direction in how He might use this profession to His glory in the coming year.

It will be great to see some old friends and meet new folks — we are feeling part of the group now as we attend our third Prayer Week. Tuesday night is such fun as we gather over dinner.

As has been the procedure in the past, Wednesday is a day of fasting and silence. As our friend Chris Steyn explained last year: Fasting from physical food as we eat of the spiritual and fasting from conversations with each other so that we have time to converse with the Lord. It allows us the time to deal with issues that we need to address before we continue on as a group.

I’m looking forward to the teaching that is scheduled for us, and the multiple times of prayer. Such an encouraging, challenging, refreshing, reflective time.

Not sure whether we will have internet access or not, so this may be the last post until late Sunday or Monday. Please pray with us and for us as we seek God’s face…not His hand…over the next days.

Visa news

Laws can change quickly here in Ukraine. And usually that’s not a problem for us.

But currently visa laws and interpretation of the laws are changing. And that might prove to be a real challenge for us.

We have multi-entry visas that expire in 2012. No problem. We just received an e-mail from an official who said that the visa will be honored until its expiration date.

Foreigners staying in the country for longer than 90 days of any 180 days need to be registered in their area. Typically not a problem. BUT our visa TYPE is not going to be available after September 10 and the office doesn’t know how to register us.

Normally we’d sit back and see how this plays out. But we are leaving the country on Saturday and won’t be back until a couple of days after the new laws become effective.

As of yesterday we felt confident that we could return on our current visas and then would have 45 days to register. Surely the registration office would know how to actually process us by then.

And then today we received this notice from the American Embassy:

If you have a valid visa and OVIR registration but not a residency permit you can stay in Ukraine as long as your current registration is valid. Once you leave the country, however, you will need to obtain a new visa abroad to qualify for legal residency under the new system. Regardless of the expiration date, “old” pre-September 10 visas will no longer be valid for entry into Ukraine after September 10

Not much we can do ourselves at this point. But God remains fully in control.

Please pray that we will not be turned away at the border when we return on the 13th.

Children need YOU

I need to get our newsletter written. And I need to submit the text for our updated website.

I’d like to watch a bit of Wimbledon. Or the Women’s World Cup. And, hey, the Tour de France is due to start on Saturday.

And yet my mind is on children. My own grandchildren — cannot WAIT to meet the newest addition next month and spend time with the firstborn grandson as he really considers walking on his own. Love, love, love.

Today I spent three hours with a 4-year-old and her mother — Masha is one of my English students and I’ve been working with her privately throughout the summer. Love that giggling little girl.

And, of course, I’ve had Vanya on the mind. Who hasn’t? What a sweet little boy — who thinks his new parents are cool. Such a God story.

But I’ve been thinking about the ones still here. Who may never be adopted. Who may never be in a foster care setting here. Who have no contact with a special adult who will show love and care.

I’m thankful for ministries looking for mentors. I’m thankful for ministries educating caregivers AND orphans about how to live outside the institution walls.

Please pray for the thousands of orphans in Ukraine and the hundreds of thousands throughout the world. Ask the Lord how even YOU might be part of the solution for these children. As parents. As mentors. As a prayer warrior. As a financial help to adopting families. As a caregiver to the families left at home while parents travel to adopt.

Think creatively. Out of the box. And help the least of these.