Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Hey It's Good to be Back Home Again

(In case you were wondering, that title's a line in a song)

Ah. Beautiful hot. Nothing like coming back to HOT weather when you've been immersed in cold, bone-chilling stuff. I love Louisiana.

After the looooooonngg trek from Swaziland to Louisiana, the wonderful greetings from our great family at the Baton Rouge airport was overwhelming. Rhodes and Rhett (Danny's two-year-old twin sons) hollered "Maw! Maw! Maw!" (that's close enough to 'Meemaw' for me!) and "Pop! Pop! Pop!" melting two old people all over the sidewalk. Hugs from the grandkids (Tori, JD, Lincoln and aforementioned Rhodes and Rhett), son Danny, and nephew Todd were worth the torture of being squeezed up in an airplane for all those hours...

So it's back to this other life...

Popeye's (cajun) chicken. TJ (barbeque) Ribs. Land of lovely laundry stuff--Tide, Clorox, Downy (ah, Downy). Grocery stores with all the shelves well-stocked. Jumbo eggs that are really jumbo--and white. Jimmy Dean sausage. Kleinpeter milk. Community coffee. Iced tea. Rice Krispies. Bounty paper towels. Corn bread. Blue Bell Moo-lenium ice cream. (Well, that's at least 20 lbs. the first week back.)

And cheaper gas. Yes, cheaper. We were paying more than $4 a gallon in Swaziland. I don't want to hear you whine about the gas prices here.

The lump-in-the-throat sight of all the Old Glory flags on the streets, put up special for Memorial Day, flapping in the breezes seemingly saying, "Let Freedom Ring!" and "God Bless America!"

One of the very most important events in our USA life is attending services at Healing Place Church. Wow. We just sat there in the Saturday night service and soaked in the presence of the Lord. Enjoyed the warmth of the fellowship of the saints. And celebrated the thrill of joining our voices in praise to the Lord along with the hundreds of others during the praise and worship.

Yes, and hey, it's good to be back home again.

Monday, May 22, 2006

The Best is Yet to Come!

Sometimes being across the ocean and on the other side of the globe has its difficulties. We love being here--we thank God almost every day that he has allowed us to be here doing what he's called us to do. But when there is a change in the life of a loved one back home in the USA, it's hard to not be there to just wrap her in my arms and share Jesus that way.

Just today we got an email from a friend in Texas. Her loving husband of 38 years died after a short and terrible illness. She is struggling with how to pick up the pieces and continue on with her life.

I know other folks have the same experience--it happens every day. So that's why I'm sharing my email response with my blog-readers. Maybe these words can help someone else along.


hey carol,

dave forwarded your email to me...i am so so sorry about johnny. sorry for you and the boys...NOT sorry for johnny. he's walking streets of gold!

i know it has to be difficult (an easy word to say--hardly covers your feelings and situation) for you now. you and johnny were so close...

it just seems i need to say this to encourage you: God still knows where you are, what has happened to your life, and he has a plan for the rest of your life. if he didn't, he'd take you home now. the best part is, he won't hide his will from you. he may not reveal it all at once (it probably would be hard to believe or bear) but he will guide you day by day.

dave has a good analogy for this guidance thing. if you want to drive to dallas and it's night time, you get into your car, start the engine, turn on the lights, and head out. you cannot see all the way to dallas. you see only as far at the headlights reveal--enough to drive in safety. but you don't stop--you don't turn around and go back home--just because you can't see all the way there. you know dallas is x-many miles down this highway and after a time you will arrive.

this is like your life now. it's sort of the same highway you have been on, but your earthly companion isn't with you. it's just you and Jesus. not a bad companion! you are still on the highway to heaven driving through your life--but you can't see all the way there. the world is dark--but you have the Light with you. he gives you enough to see as far as you need to be safe. keep driving. he does have a plan for you. he will keep you safe and see to it that you make it all the way to heaven one day.

and you know he won't let you starve. he won't let you get behind in your bills. he'll show you how to do the stuff you need to do--or what to do about getting it done. he will not abandon you just because johnny isn't with you.

and the plan he has for your life is delightful. be it the job you feel you need or not, you will be happy in your work if you allow him to guide you into it. and whatever you do, do it as unto the Lord. cheerfully and wholeheartedly. HE WILL BLESS AND GUIDE YOU.

hang in there. don't quit. this is the time to see God in a way you have never experienced him before. the best is yet to come!

Saturday, May 20, 2006

A Song for Every Occasion

My mom was full of songs. She had a song for every occasion. And she sang all the time.

I guess I inheirited her gift.

There are words that can be spoken during an ordinary conversation that will just trigger a song. My grandkids think I am making up songs to go with their words. Not so. I have my mom's gift. Those ordinary words bring forth the song.

Yesterday a butterfly came fluttering through the house. Levi commented, "Look at that crazy butterfly." Whoops. Here comes a line from a song: "I'm crazy about you, you butterfly."

Levi just looked at me like as if to say, "Meemaw, where do you come up with those songs?" So I showed him. I pulled up my iTunes and there it was. Andy Williams, "Butterfly." I proudly played it for him. He was impressed only a wee bit. It's a 50's tune, and a tad out of style, so he wasn't interested in hearing the whole (short) thing.

The reason I know so many words to so many songs is because my mother sang all the time. She always had a song in her heart. I learned all the oldies from her (and I do mean OLDIES...she died last year at the age of 88...her favorite singer was Rudy Vallee). I remember all the songs I sang in Sunday School. I can still recall the words to the hymns we sang in church. And now those "new-fangled" tunes from HPC, Hillsong and Delirious roll around in my head.

Music buries deep inside our hearts. That's why it's important that we pump good music into our ears. Negative stuff drags us down. Happy music lifts the spirit.

I want to be able to reach into my soul and pull out a song of praise to my Lord when I am feeling blue--it will put me back into a right spirit.

I'll sing the story of Jesus at the kitchen sink or at a CarePoint along with the little kids who are learning about his love.

I want to sing when I'm healthy, and sing my way through sickness. I want to sing when the night is dark. I want to sing in the sunshine, I want to sing in the rain (uh oh...here comes another song--can you guess what it is?)

Jesus has put a new song in my heart. I have a reason to sing!

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Our Other Life

It's nearly time for us to leave Swaziland and head for our responsibilities in the USA. Just for three months.

To our other life.

Life is so totally different here as compared with there.

Here we have the beautiful rolling mountains--green and lush with grass and scattered treees, along with huge boulders popping up everywhere. There are signs all over these mountains of an active volcano having existed in another era. Bubbles of humongous lava rocks creating the freakiest looking hills. (Imagine a 4000 foot bubble of rock rising from the hillside--calling some of the more athletic of our 'Cup Team to climb it...but then that's another blog.) Down in the valley the trees are full of monkeys..."rather cheeky fellows."

Louisiana has its own special beauty. The Manchac Bayou behind our house lollygags its way to the Amite river. The trees hiding that bayou conceal birds and critters that we can hear day and night--bird songs/frog songs, take your pick. Even an occasional coyote (I think). And mosquitoes.

Louisiana food takes the blue ribbon. Oh, how we miss the spicy cuisine. We faithfully sprinkle Capt. Jim's cajun seasoning on our Swaziland meals, but it's not enough. We can cook red beans and rice. But it's not the same. And there is nothing like Popeye's...

However, the food here is fresh. The freshest and tastiest fruit and veggies... And the custom is to eat that fruit chopped up with thick fresh cream poured all over it. ahhhhh. Then sometimes daughter Susan feels sorry for all of us ('Cup missionaries), sacrificing as we do without our cajun cuisine, and has us all over for a big pot of jambalaya. Her housegirl bakes fresh break daily. Not just bread, but bagels and even pretzels.

But then that takes me to our CarePoints where we feed the needy kids. The meals are simple, but nourshing. And full of laughter and chatter of our kids who have come to know Jesus and experience real Hope for the first time in their lives...

Driving here is on the left side of the road, sitting on the right side of the car. The hardest thing to get used to is the turning signal. In one life that little lever is the turning signal, the other life it is the windshield wipers. And the corners...at the corners you aren't sure how to expect that guy across the way to make his turn. Hopefully you don't get into the wrong lane when you finally get the nerve to make your own turn.

Air conditioning? In Swaziland you open your doors and windows. No screen doors, no screens on the windows. The critters fly in and the critters fly out. Lizards are welcome inside because they eat the flying critters. Heating? We are fortunate enough to have an electric room heater and a fireplace. The room heater is used at night in our bedroom to keep us from freezing to death during the cold winter nights. We are seriously thinking of investing in an electric blanket.

Electricity. Here it is 220v. And the outlets are weird. Strange even. For the few electronic gadgets we have that are 120-220v both, we still must deal with the outlet/plug thing. So we have a bunch of those changer things. Plug it in the wall, and then plug your little gadget into it. Computers, curling irons, camera chargers, etc. have this capacity. One must always remember to check the little small print on the item to be perfectly sure it is okay to plug it in. Many guests have blown hairdryers to an early death by not checking carefully. The first 15 seconds they got a great gust of hot air...

Here in Swaziland we have family and friends. We will miss each one.
There in the USA we have family and friends. We will delight in seeing and being with everyone.

The biggest change we face in our transforming lives is our church. There is NO PLACE LIKE HPC. We are so looking forward to being back in our home church. The internet is a weak substitute for the real thing. (especially when you are paying by the minute--and downloading could take all day and all night). Ah, to be standing in the middle of all those wonderful people praising the Lord in total abandonment...singing with hands raised to the Lord in loving worship...to breathe in the atmosphere of the fellowship of the saints...to delight ourselves in the Word, coming forth from our pastor, presenting the message under the holy anointing of the Spirit of God...

On the other hand, praise and worship takes on a different feeling here in Swaziland. I love the freedom the born-again Swazis have to dance and sing--the harmonies and exhuberance with which they offer their own scarifice of praise. I'll miss that while we are in our other life.

So next week we will leave our Swazi house and then 33 hours later walk into our Louisiana house. Longest leg of the trip is about 18 hours. Ooof. Not looking forward to that part.

It will hurt to hug our grandkids (and their parents!) here good-bye... But we are getting anxious to hug our other grandkids (and their parents!) that we haven't seen since January.

Maybe we'll see YOU too. Please pray for us to be safe and sane (that many hours scrunched up on a plane can drive you crazy) on the way home...to our other life.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Charles & Kristen

Well, they got here.

And hit the ground running…

A couple of snags about their Johannesburg / Matsapha tickets that got ironed out finally; getting the jet lag under control; learning to drive on the wrong side of the road and on the wrong side of the vehicle; getting lost in Manzini; meeting all the ‘Cup missionaries and staff; eating at the “Rodgers’ restaurant” (the local hangout for American missionaries—everything from celebrating birthdays to in-depth Bible studies and ladies’ teas happens at the Rodgers’ house); and finally getting to meet some of the ‘Cup kids…now they are well on their way to getting settled in.

Sunday dinner was celebrated at a local Chinese restaurant. It was the same day Charles drove on the "other side" for the first time. Although a bit white-knuckled, he did very well.

We are SO glad that they are here at last!

PS Trinity loves Kristen.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Wonder Women

A few days ago we were visiting one of the in-progress building sites of another CarePoint, this one in Makholweni, Swaziland. What I encountered both surprised and blessed me.

Half the volunteer crew were women!

There was Ben (our son-in-law, ace missionary, head of Children's Cup in Africa and father to three of our awesome grandchildren) standing on a scaffolding of sorts, working right along with the rest of the guys, sloshing cement on the concrete block walls of our soon-to-be CarePoint.

And right in front of me were the women of the community shoveling and sifting sand to be mixed with the cement to be made into the concrete they were using on the walls. (Ben says these women out-work the men!)

Everyone pulls together to get the community CarePoint and running. Then when it's time to fix the food, more volunteers come and cook.

Also volunteering are the Bible Club teachers, school teachers, camp counselors for Patrick and medical assistants for Teresa. One CarePoint even has a volunteer gardener who grows vegetables for the kids' meals and planted flowers around the building to make it a very beautiful place.

The kids always win when it's done this way.

Servant's hearts--in action!

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Rwanda Prison Ministry

Here is a photo of Dave and me at one of the prisons in Rwanda where Joyce Meyer provided packages for each prisoner--filled with much needed and appreicated toiletry items and books about Jesus.

Interesting thing: prison uniforms are in HOT PINK. I guess you couldn't escape into the woods and expect to hide very well wearing hot pink!

After Joyce spoke to these prisoners (many who were in there because of genocide deeds), she invited them to receive Jesus and have freedom in their hearts. Hundreds raised their hands and prayed the ageless sinners' prayer.

That's what it's all about...


Dave and I just returned from several days in the tiny country of Rwanda in central Africa.

Twelve years ago right now there was a horrible genocide going on there--unspeakable killing, beating, raping, torturing of neighbors, friends and family which lasted 100 days. All because someone said one kind of people was inferior to the other and must be eliminated. Including the children...

We were there to be a part of Hillsong's great plan to bring Hope and Peace and Forgiveness back to Rwanda after all those horrific days. Mark and Darlene Zschech felt God leading them to organize 100 Days of Hope this year to counter those awful hopeless ones.

While there we visited a genocide Memorial in Kigali (the capitol city). It was one of the hardest things I have ever done--to walk through those rooms and hallways of videos and pictures and stories of the dastardly deeds. The hardest of all was the room dedicated to the memory of children. I wept as we walked through, reading the captions on the giant-sized photos. Name, age, favorite food (ranging from chocolate to potato chips); favorite toy (a ball, a stuffed animal, a truck); best friend (quite often "mommy" or "daddy" was the answer); and finally, the way they died..."bludgeoned" and "hacked" and "shot" and "stabbed" were common answers.

Needless to say, I couldn't take any more. I had to go outside and wait for Dave on a little bench in a small garden just outside the building. I felt like vomiting.

You can imagine how the survivors must have felt (and actually still feel) when it was all over. There's not a person on the streets today without a story to tell. Not that they want to tell it--shame and guilt weigh heavy on their souls. Everyone has suffered--the victims as well as the victimizers.

It is time for a change.

Joyce Meyer and her team were holding services in a huge stadium while we were there. The stadium was the same place where people had hidden during the genocide, hoping for safety--only to be attacked with guns and grenades--and no way to escape. This past weekend was different.

The praise and worship music wafted its way to heaven as the voices of thousands of set-free Rwandans lifted their faces to the God who brought them through the disaster and now promises them new Hope. P&W leader, Jackie, radiated the love of Jesus as she led us all into the presence of God.

Special music by Delirious! was heavily anointed--bringing us even closer into the presence of the Lord. (Okay, Delirious! isn't my type of music--I still prefer Southern Gospel--but anointed praise gets my attention!) It was so easy to just let Jesus minister to our hearts.

On the last night God poured out His Spirit in such a marvelous way that everyone was saying God has begun a new thing in Rwanda. That hurting place has become a healing place. Even after the service was over, thousands of people hung around, not wanting to go away from that wonderful presence of the Lord, and enjoyed another hour or so of more praise and worship with the JMM music team.

Not everything went easy in the planning of the events of that weekend (the devil was scared of losing his playground)--but in the end, the Lord accomplished what He wanted done in the hearts and lives of hundreds of thousands of hurting Rwandans.

Something new has begun.

In July Hillsong will wrap up the 100 days with a concert in that same stadium. Boy, would I love to be there!