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Portions

 

 

 

Outside my window a pair of birds peck the ground in search of food. It’s 2pm. Maybe it’s the way they are unhurried, or the search itself that reminds me of those people: those who are quietly~ brutally~ being exterminated.

The email I received days ago haunts me.

These people imprisoned for their faith, prisoners of conscience, are simply disappearing. Their former “home,” the ghastly, dreaded Camp 22, is a prison the geographical size of Los Angeles… but it’s becoming a ghost town. The rapid depopulation speaks of horrors beyond imagination.

It’s brothers and sisters who are being subjected to these atrocities. 

On the basis of lengthy and detailed testimony from former camp guards Ahn Myong-chol and Kwon Hyuk, are revelations of the DPRK’s inhumanity and include claims of human vivisection and chemical and biological weapon experiments on prisoners.

They include the murdering of whole families in gas chambers.

Kwon, the former chief of management at North Korea’s Camp 22 and former military attaché at the North Korean embassy in Beijing, said, ”I watched a whole family being tested on suffocating gas and dying in the gas chamber: parents, one son and a daughter. The parents were vomiting and dying, but until the very last moment they tried to save the kids by doing mouth-to-mouth breathing. For the first time it hit me that even prisoners are capable of powerful human affection.”

What do we do when brothers and sisters suffer? 

Do we push away from the table, step out into the cold, reach out a hand, throw a life-line, do something?

Or do we flip channels and forget about it?

And I’m sitting there with a sick child in my lap, watching birds hunt food when the absurdity of it all hits me.

Maybe it’s time we got off Facebook and got on our knees.

Maybe it’s time to quit being a consumer and start being a contributor.

And maybe instead of Candy Crush it’s time for our hearts to be crushed… for someone without a voice…without a choice…without a hope.

Is that really asking too much?

 

“One of the great uses of Twitter and Facebook will be to prove at the Last Day that prayerlessness was not from lack of time.”

~John Piper

For a people chosen of God, blessed beyond measure, our Holy and Gracious Master calls us to fast, to withhold ourselves from a self-indulgent life:

 

“Is this not the fast which I choose,
To loosen the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the bands of the yoke,
And to let the oppressed go free
And break every yoke?
“Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry
And bring the homeless poor into the house;
When you see the naked, to cover him; And not to hide yourself from your own flesh?”

Isaiah 58:6-7

 

After dinner I reach for the ipad.

Then I think twice. It’s time to fast. I set Pinterest aside and pick up prayer for Camp 22 and men and women who don’t have a choice. I pray for my children, the world’s children, the next generation. I pray for courage and faith and truth and character. I pray for light to invade the darkness and overcome it.

In this turning, spinning world where our days are limited and our influence profound, prayer seems the better choice.

Today, will you set aside 10 minutes to pray for North Korea?  Here are some resources to learn more. But beware, the content is disturbing and is not suitable for children:

 

ASSIST News: Huge Massacre in North Korea’s Killing Fields

60 Minutes Documentary on Camp 14

Prayer Guide for North Korea {Pre-Kim Jong Un but still good}

 

Just 10 minutes today? Every day?

 

The Coin

 

 

It was eighteen years ago that she gave us the coin.

That was before she accused Dad of running around with a young woman at church. Nearly split the church wide open. Dad came home with a shot gun and the counselor had to intervene and they’ve been seperated ever since.

But eighteen years ago was before all of that happened. Before tongues wagged and hearts broke and tears fell and things were never the same.

We were sitting at the supper table after church, Jackson and I. And Mom, she handed us a Canadian Maple.

“You’ll face hard times together,” she said. “Here’s something for you to put away for a rainy day, for when you just don’t have anything else.”

She slipped us the coin and we tucked it away and for eighteen years of marriage, while we traveled the world over and back again, that coin stayed in the attic, tucked away in its plastic sheath.

Until recently.

Jackson took it out.

He opened the safe where important documents are kept and he slipped the coin out and he looked at it.

“We need groceries,” he said.

I knew what the words cost him. I knew the pain of a hardworking man not able to fund a trip to the grocery store. But I also know something else about him… that walking the path of the Lord’s will is more important to him than anything else.

“The Lord’s going to take care of us,” Jackson continued. “He always has.”

He looked at me as he fingered the coin. The clock ticked and the fridge hummed and four little bodies lay tucked in their beds, oblivious to the choices of their parents.

It’d be a shame to just spend this.” He said it thoughtful. Slow. The processing of a man intent on what’s best for his family.

I thought of the growing grocery list: bananas, bread, jelly, toilet paper, trash bags. I thought of the empty cupboards and the empty bank account and I knew they would stay empty.

I want to invest it,” he says it slow, sure, sacred- like; an act of worship.

 

“What do you think about us selling this and giving the money to feed the Nuba people in Sudan?”

I choke back the tears and say YES! What better way to invest than in another person?

We get down on our knees and pray. “Thank You, Jesus,” I pray. “Thank You we get to be part of this, part of ministering to Your body. Thank You for the chance to give our best.”

The next day, Jackson goes to sell the coin. He returns home with $1500 cash, 15 crisp hundred dollar bills.

My man, he knows how to invest.

 

That Sunday we slip the bills into an envelope and write “Sudan” on it and we listen to the guest speaker, a Sudanese pastor.

“We take trip to Sudan,” he tells us. “We buy grain and take it into the Nuba mountains. My people are starving. They are hiding in caves and are being bombed every day. Life is hard. I cannot forsake them.”

And on this side of the world, brothers and sisters, an entire association of churches, pledge to help. We send two men with our Sudanese brother into the mountains of Sudan.

The mission is dangerous. Sudan is in turmoil and these men are entering the war zone.

The team gets stuck in Cairo. It takes days, then weeks, for the money transfer to go through. The rains are forecasted to begin any day in Sudan and when that happens, they will not be able to travel.

The team encounters one difficulty after another…they get sick, they can’t locate drivers who are bold enough to trek into the war zone, the money still won’t go through…

The team contacts us and asks everyone to fast.

We all feel the spiritual warfare of this mission. We know we battle not flesh and blood.

The call to fast goes out and we stop eating. At dinner time, the kids ask why I’m not having meal with them and I explain about the Nuba people and the need for God to provide a way. Jackson is working late…but fasting. Friends text to let each other know we are in this together.

All over our little town, we call on the Lord, asking Him to move His mighty hand. We pray for our brothers and sisters hiding in the Nuba mountains.

The Lord hears.

I get the message on a Monday morning:

“Team Nuba were able to get up the mountain, get the grain/oil/supplies to the people, and even pick up 500 refugees on the way back and safely transport them to a camp near the border.

Said they haven’t had sleep in 70 hours but they were in very good spirits. Their plan is to get rested up today and start the journey home tomorrow.
PLEASE DO NOT STOP PRAYING NOW!”

 

I fall to my knees and thank God. I ican see those faces, the mommas. The babies. All the blank stares.

But this time, I see the smiles.

It is such a sacred thing to be a part of, there is such a deep intimacy with the Lord. It is an hour before I can even call Jackson with the news.

All day, I break out in random song. When I pick oldest up from school, I excitedly tell him the news and we hoot and holler in the car.

 My Nuba sister is hiding in a cave somehwere with her children. But tonight, she will have food to give them. Tonight, she knows that the world hasn’t forsaken them, her brothers and sisters living in houses with heaping plates…well, she knows we care.

Tonight, she knows that her God delivers.

Jackson eats with us tonight, and he breaks the bread:

“Share with God’s people who are in need.

Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me…

Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for Me.

And if anyone gives a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward.

So do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”

 

Jackson and I just look at each other.

We both feel it, the pleasure of God.

And as we eat our simple meal, we enter into our inheritance.

And I’m so full, I’m just about to pop.

Come back tomorrow, Thursday, June 21, for an update on the Sudan mission!

 

Invest means “to use, give, or devote (time, talent, etc.), as for a purpose or to achieve a profitable return.”

Sometimes when you need something the most is when you *need* to give it away.

We can spend a life or we can invest one.

“But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.  What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ.” Philippians 3:7-8

 

Linking up with Ann today

To live Fearless

In a world that says, “Have it your way, serve yourself, look out for your own best interests, spend your life…your resources…your talents…on yourself…,” there are the rare voices that say something different: live counter-culturally. Give your life away.

It’s true. We can live for something greater than ourselves.

The question is,   Will we?

 

Here’s the storyof one man who did.

 

 

 

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You’ve Got A Friend {How Jesus Loves}

 

When I shook his hand back in early ’02, I had no idea that needles had been shoved under those fingernails, that an electric baton had been placed in his mouth, that he’d shrunk up so small his own family didn’t recognize him.

It was his mother who finally confirmed his identity through a tiny birthmark on his shriveled, malnourished body.

Husband and I were standing in the parking lot of the missionary training center. “They are headed to your country,” our mutual friend said and a translator interpreted the introduction. Husband and I beamed, fresh and inexperienced, ready to change the world for Jesus’ sake. Ready to forsake it all. Ready to give our lives.

I had no earthly idea that I should have dropped to my knees right then and there and washed this man’s feet.

He shone Jesus. He oozed Jesus. He was filled with the joy of the Lord.

It wasn’t until later that I read his story, an absolute incredible story of a life filled with Jesus and poured out for Jesus and used by Jesus so powerfully and I couldn’t put the book down!

It was in those pages that I read of Brother Yun and a crazy man named Huang:

One morning the director of the prison called me to his office. He courteously offered me a cup of tea and asked me to sit on a soft chair. He said, “Yun, I know you believe in Jesus. Today I’ve decided to give you a special assignment.”

I thought he was going to ask me to report on other prisoners, but the director continued, “In cell number nine is a murderer named Huang. Every day he tries to kill himself. He is crazy and tries to bite the other prisoners. We’ve decided to send him to your cell. From now until the day he is executed we want you to watch over him and make sure he doesn’t harm himself or the other prisoners. If you don’t remain alert, and he kills himself, we will hold you fully accountable.”

When I heard this news I immediately felt Huang was a precious soul the Lord had given us to rescue.

When Huang was brought into our cell the next morning, I thought he was like the man possessed by a legion of demons, in the fifth chapter of the Gospel of Mark. He was handcuffed behind his back and had chains manacled around his ankles. He spoke filthy words and kept trying to mutilate his body by cutting himself with his ankle chains. He was ferocious and full of hatred, and just 22 years old.

In cell number 9 the prisoners had treated him like an animal, kicking and punching him. They’d refused to feed him for days. Instead, they mocked him by deliberately pouring his food over him. His clothes were covered with food stains.

One day, out of sheer desperation and pain, Huang waited until nobody was watching and rammed his head into the wall as hard as he could, in a bid to kill himself. He survived, but left a dent in the wall.

…For many days he had not washed because of his chains, so he smelled terribly. Because of the love of God in our hearts, we loved Huang. The cell mates pointed to me and told him, “This is Yun. He is our leader and a Christian pastor. Do not fear. We will take care of you.”

I asked everyone to give Huang some of their precious drinking water. We filled a basin and I carried it to Huang’s side. I tore off part of my shirt and dipped it in the water. Then I gently cleaned the dirt and dried blood from his face and mouth.

After drying his face I tore off part of my blanket and cleaned the cuts formed by his handcuffs and foot chains. I used a little toothpaste to disinfect his raw wounds, then carefully bandaged them.

Huang didn’t say a word. He just sat there with his eyes wide open and stared at everyone. I knew the Lord was already touching his heart.

At lunchtime we each gave some of our rice to our new cell mate. I used a spoon to feed Huang…

Dinner that evening happened to be the time for our weekly mantou (a small piece of steamed bread). All the brothers looked at me. I knew they were so hungry. I told them, “Today we’ve already shared our rice and water with our new friend Huang, so we can eat our own mantou tonight, but I hope you’ll share some of your soup with him tomorrow.”

I fed Huang first and then started to eat my own meal.

When I took the first bite of my mantou I felt like crying. A tender voice welled up inside me, saying, “I died for you on the cross. How can you show me that you love me? When I am hungry, thirst, and in prison, if you do these things to the least of my brethren, you do them unto me.”

Immediately I knew God wanted me to sacrifice what was left of my mantou and give it to Huang. I bowed down and wept. I said, “Lord, I’m also starving. I feel so hungry.

A Scripture from the Bible came to mind, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?” (Romans 8:35)

I wrapped the rest of my mantou in a handkerchief and placed it inside my clothes, saving it for Huang. Immediately peace and joy returned to me.

The next morning’s breakfast consisted of watery noodle soup, containing just a few strands of noodles. We all shared with Huang, but he wasn’t happy even with his larger portion so he shouted to the guard, “I’m going to die! Why don’t you give me a good sized meal? Are you trying to starve me before you execute me?”

Right then the Lord told me, “Hurry, take the mantou from your shirt and feed him.” With my back turned towards Huang I broke the bread and placed the pieces of mantou in his soup bowl. Immediately Huang’s stony heart broke.

Huang dropped off his chair, knelt down on the floor, and wept. He said, “Older brother, why do you love me like this? Why didn’t you eat your bread last night? I am a murderer, hated by all men. Even my own parents, my brother and sister, and my fiance have disowned me. Why do you love me so much?”

I knew this was the time the Lord wanted me to share the gospel with him. This hardened criminal tearfully accepted the love of Jesus into his heart.

~From Brother Yun’s biography The Heavenly Man: The Remarkable True Story of Chinese Christian Brother Yun, one of those books that will change your life. Brother Yun also tells what happened to Huang after he received Jesus. Truly amazing.

 

And this man reminds me of the tender love of Jesus and how we are to owe no man anything but love and do I love like that? Do I allow myself to be loved like that, to know the love of Jesus that deep?

To experience the deep, tender, passionate love of Jesus means I allow Him to use my body as His means of expression, as the vehicle of His demonstration. “God is love and the one who abides in love abides in God and God in him. By this, love is perfected…” I John 4: 16-17

Perhaps my body goes hungry. Perhaps my body grows tired. Perhaps my arms ache and my feet blister and my heart hurts. By choosing to love, God’s love is perfected in me.

So when I hear of a mom and son in our area for medical observation, I jump at the chance to be His hands, His feet, His expression of love. Will He really allow me to play such a part? Amazing! 

It’s not much, but it’s a Holy Spirit prompting and I follow it. I print the card and glue it onto construction paper and write on it, “You’ve got friends in Memphis.” And I attach it to cookies and deliver it so they know that Jesus is with them and Jesus people are here for them and even if they are far from home they are never far from His arms and we are ready to make sure they don’t ever forget.

So I want to say the same to you, dear reader: “You’ve got a friend.” Jesus is with you and Jesus people are here for you and even when it seems like you’re all alone, the love of Christ is there, compelling another to express His love to you.

You are loved and you’ve got a friend.

Can I express it to you, dear friend? Here, take my mantou and know the love of Christ…

**Such a blessing to meet this blogger friend in person. Jennifer has mentored me in so many ways through her testimony and her family’s faith walk. An honor to meet her and son Nathan… And please…consider reading Brother Yun’s story? I promise you will be glad you did.

Gaining Mileage from Pain

It’s been nearly a year since she up and left the relationship, our relationship. A sisterhood friendship.

It still aches and hurts and I see her and we work together at church and even laugh together…but she’s made it clear that a working relationship is okay, but a friendship is not.

Not anymore.

We’ve been friends for a decade and a half, ever since Husband and I led her and her family to the Lord.

But a year ago, she saw how deeply adoption has affected our family. She saw what it looks like in real life to “enter into the distress and affliction” of another. She saw raw pain, a stark broken heart. She saw family life not tied up in a neat little spiritual bow and it was more than she could take.

It was more than her Christianity allowed.

And I learned a thing or two. I learned many Christians want to have $3 worth of God and keep their SUV’s and their houses in the country and their tidy little Christian lives and know nothing of the hard faith that visits the orphan and widow in their distress.

There’s no way to visit another in their distress without getting dirt under your nails and salty tears on your shirt and blood smears on your skin.

I learned most American Christians don’t know about entering in, and that I don’t either.

We know about birthday bashes for our kids and camping trips with the family and working overtime to have nice things and entertaining ourselves silly, but we don’t know about entering into the distress of another.

We know about Bible studies and women’s conferences and sharing over coffee…but do we know about rushing to the side of another bruised and battered and left for dead? Do we know about giving up our provisions and our promising outlooks and our rest and our schedules for another who has no other hope?

And when I’m parenting a Little Bit of a girl who stretches me everyway imaginable, I wonder what it really looks like to enter into the affliction of another? What does it look like to make myself the bread she needs, the water she craves, to satisfy the oppressed soul within her?

Then it’s Friday night and I stop for gas on the way home with the kids when oldest son calls. He’s in the other car with his Dad.

“Mom, we stopped to help someone with a flat tire. Dad just wanted me to let you know.”

“Okay,” I tell him, thankful for a man with living faith, a man who enters in. “I’m not home yet, do you need me to come help?”

He asks Dad and Dad says yes, come help because we might need to give this lady a ride and it would be good to have a woman there, so I turn right at the light instead of left and I find them on the side of the road several miles down.

Her name is Dominique and she’s got a curly haired baby girl named Amaura who blows bubbles and makes the funniest noises in the backseat of our car.

My kids eat that baby up.

“Dominique,” I speak firm, trying to be more confident than I really am. “Now anytime I’m in a situation like this where I have a few minutes with a stranger, I know it is an opportunity from God.”

“Perhaps He wants us to be a blessing to each other?” I suggest.

Amaura has stopped blowing bubbles and has started crying now. Louder and louder. But I press on.

“Is there any way I can pray for you?” I ask her.

“Oh yes,” she says. “I’ve been interviewing with Walmart for two days. I work two jobs already, trying to provide for Amaura and I’m trying to get my own place, you know? Just trying to make it.”

Her phone rings and it’s her boyfriend. He’ll meet us at the shopping center in town. They talk about the flat tire and about where she left the car and we pull into the parking lot and the time has gone and what blessing have I been?

I pull up beside the white truck waiting in the parking lot. A big, rough looking man is standing beside it, arms crossed.

“Dominique, before you go can I pray for you?” I ask her.

“Yes,” she says and I reach out and put my hand on her shoulder and I bless this woman who I don’t know and I pray God’s favor upon her and that sweet fatherless baby in the back.

Then they get out and the man thanks us and we say it’s because of Jesus and He loves you and we all go our seperate ways.

I wonder why? Why would God allow me to touch another’s life… even in such a tiny way? Why would He allow me to be His hand on her shoulder? His voice of love? His expression of care and concern?

Me so messed up and mind-numbed and simple and plain. Me rejected by a sister-friend.

And He reaches deep and speaks kind and I know that to enter into the distress of another is a gift.

I weep.

I weep at the God who gives chance after chance and blessing after blessing and who blessed me through a woman named Dominique far more than I blessed her… and who gives me morning after morning to enter into the pain of another, day after day, gift after gift.

How could I be so blind? So tired of it all? So faithless?

Little Bit comes to me and this girl who looks opposite of me, she calls me momma. She holds up her finger. “I hurt my singer,” she says. “Can you kiss it?”

And I kiss her finger and rub it and cup her close and pray. “Forgive me, God,” I say. “Forgive me for seeing how others have left me in my pain more than seeing the gifts You give to enter into another’s pain. Forgive me for not seeing the means of entering into fellowship with You. Forgive me for becoming oh so tired in well doing. Oh, forgive!”

And I pray for my friend, the deep loss. “Bless her, Lord. Bring her opportunities to know Your love and grace in fresh and powerful ways. Allow her to be an instrument of Your grace.”

The ache, it’s still there. The tear stains and blood smears and dirt under nails. But within, I feel the sun rising.

 

Sacrifice Out

Not all of us are called to plant the flag.

Some of us will be Jake and some of us will be Jonathan and some of us will be Audrey Caroline.

We each have a role to play.

Some of us will give our lives on the beach, not making it beyond the sandy shores, our bodies paving the way for comrades behind us.

And some of us will step over the fallen, taking the cause one foot further before we meet our reckoning, the bullet with our name…the explosion that takes our gutteral last and ushers us in to hear the words, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant. You’ve done what I purposed for you to do.”

Perhaps some of us won’t be in the second wave or third wave that hits those bloody beaches. We’ll be in the umpteenth wave, the bodies long gone, the blood seeped through and washed away by sand and salt.

Will we forget why we are here? Will we press on, into the jungle, ever pushing the edge of danger? Or will we vacation on those beaches, the place where others before us fought to pave our way?

We must not forget why we are here. We are here to take the cause of Christ one more foot, one more inch, one more life further into the domain of darkness. Though it takes our all, the gates of hell cannot stand against us.

Am I willing to be the sacrifice out? Am I dedicated to myself? Or to the Kingdom to which I belong?

I suck breath in and know the dividing of hearts and intentions, the Word that pierces and evaluates. And I am found lacking.

Only a handful get the honor of planting the flag; the others of us get the honor of paving the way for it. That is no less honor.

Will I embrace it?

Will I honor those who gave their lives on the shores…in the thick…in the foxholes… in their youth…in their gray…by being faithful to take it the next leg?

And if it means my blood and body pave the way for the next wave behind me, will I give it gladly, with a whisper, “Thine be the Kingdom…and the power…and the glory…”

He speaks it deep and I stay in this place. He invites me to train for my part. He invites me to let my arms and heart and mind be disciplined by Him for when I am “up.”  For I will be called upon…not to vacation the beaches but to bathe them in my blood.

To live and die for His cause and His body that continues throughout the ages.

It is a daily invitation, to let Him mould me in the ways of true nobility. In humility. In servitude. In giving up for the greater advancement. In seeing significance in the mundane. In full obedience. This is  true purpose, this living for Something greater than one’s self.

As former IMB president Jerry Rankin said, ours are lives given, not taken. Because when we play on His team, the agenda isn’t about us. It is about His team, His kingdom, His glory, His pre-eminence.

We know going in that some of us will be sacrifice outs. So we train to fight hard and give our all and when it’s our turn to pay the ultimate, we’ll rejoice to know we are advancing the team.

In Living and In Dying.


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