A Stroke of God’s Love

God is awesome.  Let me just say that really quick.  I just have to give Him so much praise.  Yesterday I lost count of how many times I cried overwhelmed tears due to the way God was moving in response to prayer.  I am still in awe of him and so excited  that so many have seen Him in big ways in the last week or so.  I believe the best is yet to come.  In advance, I apologize if this blog post is a bit back and forth and a bit long.  I hope I don’t miss any details.

Many of you already know that Josh and I have taken in an exchange student from Belgium.  She is such a great fit for our family.  She isn’t used to having much younger kids in the home, but she is patient and has adapted well.  Her spunk and sass is a nice addition to the male-heavy tone in our home.  🙂  She has been such a blessing to our family.  We decided to host through Cultural Homestay International (CHI), an organization I would recommend if you are interested in doing the same.  Our family will never be the same having had her in our lives.  She is such a ray of sunshine in our home.

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On August 25th, I logged into facebook to find a message from our CHI Tennessee coordinator saying the following:

Students and families please keep a 16 year old young man from China in your thoughts and prayers today. He is an exchange student with CHI in the state of Illinois. He is in critical condition after suffering a stroke yesterday while in PE class. He has a blood clot in his carotid artery. He is unconscious and on a feeding tube at this time. Please pray that his family will get here safe and quickly and that a miracle will happen for him.

Naturally my heart began to cry out to the Lord for healing and peace.  I instantly placed myself in the shoes of his host family and his natural parents.  My word.  I cannot even make myself go to either one of those places.  God impressed upon me to find a way to serve him during that time.  While our coordinator and her assistant were on their way to St. Louis to show support for that situation, I contact them and asked if I could organize a card shower for the student and host family.  They agreed.

This is what was posted on facebook.  This is still an option of you’d like to get involved:

CHI Card Shower

A. Send greeting cards of encouragement to his host family, his biological family and/or him. We are asking that you put “Host Family” “Student” or “Family” in the lower left hand corner on the back of the envelope so each card can get to the right person without the cards having to be opened first.

B. Send a prepaid debit card to be used by the biological/host family for gas, food and/or personal items associated with staying at a hospital and possibly rehab center for a little while. There’s no telling how long they will be here, but his biological family had to leave China quickly. Changes are they forgot things. We all know how expensive eating out can be and what a hit that can take on one’s finances. If you were a person who wanted to rally your Sunday school class, this would be a great option for a group support effort.

C. Send Domino’s, Jimmy John’s and/or Pizza Hut gift cards. The cafe on site is reportedly VERY expensive. There is a Pizza Hut on site so these could be used there or for delivery. All three of these places deliver. This would be another great option for Sunday schools or small groups to either purchase a variety of cards or one larger card to one place.

D. For those in Coffee, Bedford, Franklin, Cannon, Moore and Warren counties: I am collecting non-perishable foods (peanut butter crackers, fruit cups, pudding, granola bars, etc), gum, mints, small coloring/activity books, cards etc to for the family to use in the waiting area. I will be sending this box NEXT FRIDAY (the 7th) to give people enough time to gather items and meet up with me. Depending on where you are located, we may have to meet in the middle.

The last I heard, nearly $100 in prepaid VISA gift cards had been received and delivered to the family!  Thank you for helping!  That’s awesome!  Donations also came in locally of food and financial support for the care package.  That was shipped out today and should arrive Tuesday!

During the coordinator’s stay in St. Louis, they posted this update:

He has a tiny hole in his heart that has probably been there. The doctors believe that the long flight caused the blood clot to set up and it has just been floating around until it found the hole and that is where it lodged.

They have removed his breathing tube to see how he is going to do on his own. China will only allow one emergency visa so his natural father is getting that. The flight is so long so hopefully he will be here in a couple of days.

At this point many began to pray that God would work it out so that both parents could travel to be by his side during this time.  A time later, we were given this update:

Update: His family will arrive tonight at 9:15. His parents and little brother all got their Visas!!! He is conscious, but still unable to move anything on his left side. Thank you all for your prayers and support. We will be heading back later this evening.

Praise GOD!  God provided for his whole immediate family to travel to be by his side!  That’s something only God could do!  He went above the law of the land to provide for this student!

Upon their arrival, CHI hired a translator to help the family speak with doctors about decisions and to gain their whereabouts.  From what I understand, it is unclear how long this individual will be able to stay to offer his services.  Something in my heart just wanted to cry.  Having been to India, I can slightly relate with how it feels to look around and see VERY FEW people who look and sound like you do.  Here are these parents (and brother) plunged into a situation where their son is very sick, they can’t speak the language, are unfamiliar with the food, have no idea how to get around (not that they would probably want to leave their son’s side)…and the translator will only be available for a short time.  My heart just felt so bad for them.  I tried to think of people I knew in the St. Louis area and remembered one of my friends all through school lived in Missouri.  I contacted her on facebook and began to discuss the cards and then expressed my desire to find someone to reach out to them in person.  I began to look for Christian chruches in the close proximity to the hospital with not much luck.  I thought maybe I could help coordinate meals for the family and general outreach during this hard time.  Each time I found one which looked promising, there wouldn’t be contact information available.  SIDE TANGENT:  If you are in charge of a church website, PLEASE make sure there’s a phone number listed.  Your website is somewhat ineffective if someone in need can’t have access to you or your ministries by way of phone.  Looking back, I can see it was God’s plan though.  Just yesterday, September 3rd, I did yet again another  search for churches in St. Louis.  What popped up?  “St. Louis Chinese Baptist Church!”  I literally sat there with tears in my eyes.  I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.  I didn’t type in anything special.  Nothing different from the other searches I had done for a week leading up to yesterday.  It was just God’s timing…and it was perfect!  And guess what?  There was a phone number so I called and left a voicemail.

After a couple of hours, I called again because I figured nobody would be in the office on Friday.  The following is a bit of a summary of our conversation:

A man answers the phone: Hello?ME:  Hi this is Andrea, I called earlier about a Chinese exchange student who is currently being treated at St. Louis Children’s Hospital…”
It was at that moment my brain realized when he answered the phone he said, “Hello” and not something along the lines of, “St. Louis Chinese Baptist Church, this is ____.  Can I help you?”
ME:  I’m sorry.  Is this St. Louis Chinese Baptist Church?
MAN:  No.  I don’t go to that church anymore.  When I did attend there anymore.  How did you get this number?
ME:  *Palm to face*  I’m thinking, great….I thought this was God’s provision.  “I searched for churches in the St. Louis area whom I thought might help reach out to a Chinese exchange student who is being treated at Children’s Hospital. Do you by chance have the phone number for that church?”
MAN:  They don’t have a lanline number that I know of.
ME:  Oh boy…ok, well…. hummm.  What about an email address?  I tried to email them but the email was returned because that email address isn’t in use anymore.
MAN:  That was also my email address.
ME:  Shoot…ok.  I am looking for a church who can reach out to a Chinese student and his parents.  He is an exchange student and suffered a stroke last week.  His parents are in from China but they don’t speak English at all.
MAN:  Do you have an email that you can send?  I will forward it to the pastor of the church I go to now.  It’s called Chinese Gospel Church.
ME:  Yes.  I will do that when we get off of the phone if I can have a good address to send it to.
MAN: *he gives it to me*
ME:  Great!  I will send it to you when we get off the phone.  Thank you!

A few hours later, I got a phone call from a number I didn’t recognize.  Normally I just let it go to voicemail, knowing if it is a sales call they won’t leave a message.  Moments later, my phone beeped with a voicemail.  Because I was making dinner I wanted to check it.  When I did, I got tears in my eyes again.  It was an elder from the Chinese Gospel Church calling to get room number and additional information about the student.  Not only was I connect with this church in a way that the world would say was “by chance” but they had follow through!  I called the gentleman back and discussed the student’s and parent’s situation.  I inquired as to when this weekend he would be traveling to the hospital to make a connection.  He said it wouldn’t be this weekend, but that very evening.  Keep in mind please it’s 9pm while we are on the phone.  We prayed before we got off of the phone and looked very much forward to hearing a report.  Later I learned that he wasn’t able to visit because visiting hours ended at while we had been talking on the phone but that he and his wife had plans to go around noon the today (the 4th).  To God be the glory!  A willing and ready servant!  You know, it’s great to see someone with the shoes of readiness firmly secured.  Praise the Lord!  Not only that, he said that they would be turning this into a local mission of sorts.

We are a homeschooling family.  While I was at Co-op today, I got a phone call from a Missouri number.  I quickly answered it and learned it was an additional elder from Chinese Gospel Church wanting to clear up some communication issues.  He also confirmed that they would be working with their fellowship this weekend to make a plan to surround this family in love and service while they are here.  I was so overwhelmed by God once again.  Currently I am waiting on a report from the meeting that was scheduled to take place today.

Where does this mission project go from here?

Because of the predicted amount of time the family will be at the hospital (they should be able to check into the Ronald McDonald Home sometime soon), I am encouraging those willing to serve somehow through this situation to consider the following in order to keep the support rolling.  Don’t forget you are welcome to rally your own church/Sunday school class to get involved.

Two flatrate boxes were sent to the family of a Chinese exchange student who suffered a stroke last week.  Thanks to God for the provisions that made this possible.

Thanks to God for the provisions that made this possible.

  • Purchasing a package of blank cards from a dollar type store, stamps for those cards and go ahead and address the cards.  When God leads you to encourage the family, host family or student, please feel free to do so.  I am also giving them out to families with whom I share his situation with who want to help.
  • I will be putting together another care package shipment to the family in October.  If you would like to help provide items for the box, financial gift to purchase things for the box or pay for shipping, you are more than welcome.
  • I learned that the host family is traveling every 3 days or so to the hospital.  Their family lives approximately 45 minutes away so they are spending a decent amount on gas each time.  I plan to send a card to them also with a prepaid VISA card in it for gas expenses.  Maybe consider doing the same?  I know if our student was the one sick, I wouldn’t be able to just stay at home.  I would be heartbroken and would want to be there, too.
  • PRAY for the student’s healing!
  • PRAY for Chinese Gospel Church and the work they will be doing for this family.
  • PRAY for the peace and comfort of Christ to be accepted by the family of this student.

As of right now, this is what I know about our support efforts. Thank you for those of you who have been a part of this outreach.

  • 4 states are represented among those who have agreed to send cards to the student, family and/or host family!
  • Close to $100 has been sent to the family by way of prepaid VISA cards!  I have been notified that more are expected to be sent as well!
  • One church in South Carolina, primarily comprised of single moms, has agreed to take up a special offering for the family and to send cards!
  • Countless churches across the United States have placed this situation on their prayer lists.
  • God heard the desire of the student’s brother to have Legos to play with.  They were purchased for the care package without even knowing of his desires.

I believe that God has something bigger in store for this student and for this family.  I just can’t wait to see what he does in their lives.  His healing power, his ability to provide comfort and peace during this time of crazy circumstance…  Only He will be able to be glorified in the end.  He has already showed His power and I don’t see Him walking away now.  He is mighty to save and worthy of praise.

 

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On a Mission: Haiti/DR day 3

Monday.  What happened Monday.  Oh yes!

Each morning at 9am, we meet in the chapel on the grounds to study God’s word with one of the full time missionaries.  While we were sitting there, John Hanley told us about the work projects that needed to be done this week while we were here.  There were several to pick from, I personally had already picked “Harvest Moringa” from the cards taped to the ice maker earlier in the day.  I had remembered from last year the team told us about this miracle vitamin plant that the missionaries were researching and trying to incorporate into the kid’s diet.   That plant is called Moringa.

Miranga 1

Moringa is a bush-like plant that has thick stocks with branches like the one shown above growing out of it.  A group of us cut off the branches and smaller stocks and harvested the leaves.  Basically we just plucked them and put them in a screened tray so they could dry out.

Miranga 2

Once the trays dry out for a couple of days, the dried leaves are then ground into very fine powder which is then used to sprinkle on the kid’s food to help them grow.  It doesn’t alter the taste of the food but the kids get extra vitamins and nutrients without the added hassle of handing out 20+ pills a day.  Sweet!

Another interesting bit about Moringa, the stocks can be planted back into the ground and it will regenerate.  Isn’t that amazing?  Oh man, I forgot to take a picture to show the ground.  My husband said it was the hardest, most challenging job he has ever done…digging the holes to replant the stocks I mean.  Each time he would go to dig a hole, the rocks would fall right back into the hold he had just dug.  Jimani, DR is in  the mountains which means the ground is rocky.  So rocky as a matter of fact when I go out to the balcony in the morning to have my quiet time, my eyes hurt because the morning sun is shining on white rocks all over the place.

Let me go back to the devotion time.  John told us that Moringa is in many places around the world.  If you look specifically where it grows, those areas also have a high malnutrition rate.  Isn’t that amazing??  This super food that God provides that can grow in HOT low rain climates and is plentiful in areas where food and nutrition isn’t available just like that. By the way, it grows in India, too!  Our God love us so much.  He cares about the little details.  Do you think it’s by chance that these plants grow in these areas?   I don’t.  Nothing happens in life that isn’t filtered through or directed by the hands of God first.

While in devotions, many times we are asked to share what God is doing in our lives, what he’s revealed to us or just something cool that happened.   I chose not to share in the group setting but I did share at our team session later that night.  I just kept thinking about how God knows our EVERY need and EVERY detail of our lives.  Let me back up and tell you one very important thing I forgot to mention about day 2.

Possibly, some of you here reading are from the 50 cent auction group on facebook that I belong to.  God used Crystal Jacob’s jewelry to get that concept into my head yesterday.  On Sunday, the timing just seemed wrong but I had won a bracelet with the tree of life on it.  It’s an adjustable bracelet that has several different strands on it with different charms.  I saw the charm several weeks ago, 5 weeks ago to be exact and bidding on each one posted and was out bid 3 of the 4 weeks before my trip.  FINALLY the last possible week to win one, I did!  It was awesome and I was very excited about it.  When I picked it up, I was able to purchase another one which hadn’t been picked up by the winner.  I had actually gotten outbid by someone else and lost that very bracelet just weeks before.  Because of this I had one to give to Melissa and one to give to Kate, her daughter.  I just thought it would be nice.    I presented Kate’s to her Sunday after services and she loved it.  She ran straight to her mom, interrupted her conversation and showed it to her.  Melissa was so taken aback by it.  I gave her hers at that point and she began to weep.  I thought to myself, “Rut-roh.  What’s wrong?  Maybe she is just happy to have gotten a gift?”  She wasn’t able to talk so Kate told the story.

In March or April, they lost their son.  His name is Micol (in America it would be spelled Michael).  He was Dominican born and was in his teen years.  There was such significance to all aspects of the bracelet.

tree-of-life

To start, there was the tree of life in the center.  One of the reasons the tree of life is so significant to this children’s home is because Micol had had a dream and shared it with Melissa one day about a tree without leaves.  As he walked closer to the tree he realized it had birds all over the branches and all at once they began to fly at him and past him.  Melissa commented to him, “Gosh that must have been really scary!”  Michael explained to her that it was a very peaceful feeling actually, not scary at all.  In Isaiah, the bible talks about being oaks of righteousness.  They claimed that verse as the way they would raise these children at the home.  That all came through divine guidance.

Infinity

Secondly, there was an infinity shaped charm.  After Michael passed away, a friend of the family had a dream about Micol.  I didn’t have the privilege of meeting him but learned that he rode a motorcycle everywhere he went.  That’s typical here in the Dominican.  In this dream he was driving a figure-8 as fast as he could on the grounds here.  The sun was shining VERY brightly, but not hot.  Just bright.  At some point in the dream she realized he was actually driving in a sideways figure 8.  When she woke up she asked, I believe her husband, what he thought the dream meant.  He told her the sideways figure-8 is called an infinity sign which means never ending.  He felt like maybe Micol was telling her that he was on the ride of his life now and never wanted to stop (get off his motorcycle).

TwoDoves

The final aspect of the bracelet came from the two doves with a pearl between the two birds.  Apparently for two weeks after Micol passed, two doves sat outside of one of the women’s door who works with Chadasha in the children’s home.  She felt like it was a sign from God that everything was ok and that Micol was at peace.  The pearl, if I remember correctly, comes from the fact that “Kate” means pure and they raise their children on a path of purity.  Pearls are a symbol of purity.

Can I just say I had NO IDEA about all of this.  I knew the orphanage used the tree of life as the symbol, that’s why I wanted to win it, but had no idea about the other stuff.  As a matter of fact, I have never talked to Melissa or Kate ever before we got to the Dominican Republic.  To be honest though, even the people who have been down here in years past didn’t even know the story behind those symbols.  God is so good to meet us where we are and give us the assurance and the peace we need through the pain, at just the right time.  For me, since I am not Melissa or Kate, for me it gives me hope that God really does know me, inside and out as well as everyone else around me.  He sees all and is all to all of us if we are just obedient to listen and obey.  What if I hadn’t kept bidding on those bracelets?  What if those other women hadn’t shared their experiences with Melissa?  Nothing in life happens unless it’s filter through God’s hands first. Simply amazing!

That evening, Becca and Matt gave Melissa and John a quilt that Becca and I had spent time putting together for the family.  It was a family picture quilt.  It was such a pleasure to be able to present it to them as a means of comfort, and when the time is right, memories.

I leave you with this (as it’s 11:57pm).  Please don’t under estimate how much God loves you.  He can provide anything you need, for any reason you need it.  Many of the people in the surrounding areas don’t claim Jesus as their Lord.  But you know what?  He provided Moringa anyway.  I didn’t have to win one of those bracelets, let along have the chance to purchase an extra one.  But God made a way.  Maybe you are trying to decide how you are going to buy meals for your family tomorrow.  God’s got you covered, some how, some way.  Maybe you are sick and feel like you will never get better.  Trust in God and he will absolutely see you through to the other side of your pain and suffering.  Maybe you’ve lost a loved one and feel all along.  Rest assured, he will provide ways to show you his love and comfort.  I pray we all have eyes wide open and hearts full of anticipation to find it.

Edited to add: Day 4 blog.

Cheers,
Andrea

Struggles in the Calling

VictoryTomorrow

You know, there are a couple times in my life where I can honestly say I know what this means.  Right now is definitely one of them.  I wrote a couple of months ago about the calling God has placed in my family’s life, possibly to relocate to India in a few years.  For the first month of this journey, God was moving at alarming rates in many different areas.  A friend of mine felt the calling about two weeks before but I knew nothing about her calling.  After we found out about each other’s calling we compared notes so to speak to find out God was speaking to us in shockingly similar ways.  Our husbands were behaving in much the same way and similar scriptures would come to us through different avenues.  It was very obvious that God was doing something HUGE here.  Everything was exciting and fairly smooth sailing for the first month, month and a half.

During the evening hours of the day God spoke to me through bible study and prayer, I learned that a couple who lives in India who run an orphanage were going to be in Tennessee the next month (April).  They would be addressing our church and sharing about life in an orphanage.  At that meeting, our pastor and his wife announced that we would be forming a vision trip to go to India in December to work at this couple’s orphanage and to seek God in where to plan an orphanage in the state of Rajasthan.  My husband and I agreed at that time to work toward earing enough money to go on this trip.  From that week to the present day we have encountered nothing but hardships.  On one hand, it’s easy to get discouraged.  On the other hand, it’s incredibly exciting!  One of the ways you can tell you are in the Will of God is if there are forces coming against you to get you to stop.

“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” Ephesians 6:12 says it best.  I know that if we were walking along the status quo, everything would be peachy.  There was no time or financial commitment being made.  There was no need to rearrange our schedule or set new priorities.    See before we gave a definite, “Yes,” to traveling to India, it was all just talk.  There was no action to anything.  Once the action started, that’s when things started getting real.  Let me break down how my family’s last month or so has been.

April 25-27: Andy and Susan came to share about their orphanage.
Josh and I had communication issues and I thought he was putting his foot down where India was concerned.  Relationship conflicts started and lasted for about three days.  I was so sick at the thought of not being able to do what I felt God had so clearly called (and confirmed through bible study, sermons, prayer time, etc) me to do that I literally only got a handful of hours of sleep over those three days.  By the end of the 27th, we were on the same page and agreed that we would do out best to make it to India with God’s help.

April 28: Josh’s truck breaks down and has to be put in the shop.
   Due to the shop rates and parts needed to fix his truck, we were put into financial hardship.  Payment arrangements had to be made and we were forced to float money from one account to another.  Stress builds.  We borrow a family member’s vehicle so he can get to and from work.

May 1:  Josh’s truck gets out of the shop only to find out it has different and more significant issues than we started with.
Naturally the vehicle has to go back into the shop.  Because of the way the shop schedule, diagnosing the issue, ordering parts, installing them etc.  it was going to be sometime the next week before it would be done.  During this time, the loaner truck’s alternator goes out and has to be replaced.  Add more stress and immediate financial pressure.  Loaner vehicle is fixed.

Weekend of May 2: Josh’s boat breaks down.
         All Josh has wanted since the fall was for his boat to run so he could take the boys fishing.  Now it’s barely running.  He calls the shop, it’s going to be $100 to fix it.  He withdrawals the money early the next week to pay the boat mechanic and the money gets stolen from his vehicle.  He has to withdrawal another $100 to pay the guy because the work’s been done and he is ready to be paid.  It’s not like we could just say, “No thanks we don’t want your service anymore…”  It’s already done. Truck gets out of the shop on that Monday (May 5th).  The shop admits it was their fault as to why the second issue arose and wrote off the shop labor and the parts for the second visit.  The first visit amounted to $500 give or take that would be due asap.

May 6th: Josh is on shift, the suspension on my truck goes out.

Back suspension goes out in my vehicle.

Back suspension goes out in my vehicle.

The day after my husband’s vehicle is fixed and the day after we sent out 60+ support letters to friends, family and churches we had attended in the past, my airbag suspension in my vehicle decides to go out.  It was fine all day.  The boys and I pulled into Sonic to get a drink to cool us down.  All is well.  Pull out of the stall after getting said drinks, it feels like we are trying to drive with a bounce house in each of the rear wheel wells.  No I didn’t hit a curb on the way in, or a small child.  They just….died while we were sitting there.  I pulled over two blocks later to take this picture.  The rear bumper was lower than my knees.  Folks I am only 5 foot 3.  That bumper was LOW.

Week of May 9th:
My vehicle goes in for repair.  We hadn’t returned the loaner vehicle yet so all of that time in between God was faithful to provide transportation to us at no cost.  Yea God!   My vehicle is fixed right away but costs close to $500.May

May 12:  Josh’s boat dies again.
Josh’s boat dies again, this time it is down for the count.  At this point, our money reserve is empty and a lower engine repair isn’t cheap.   It will sit until we can either afford the repairs or GOD provides another working motor.

May 25th:  Meeting about our upcoming Haiti/Dominican Republic mission trip at church.
We were asked to bring our passports to this meeting so the leader could scan in our passports for Cadasha (the organization we will be working through down there) and to print a copy for the church’s records.  We also need to be able register online with Cadasha since we hadn’t done that on our own time at this point.  We both brought out laptops.  Because my husband is a civil service worker he keeps an overnight backpack in his truck with his glasses, contacts, electric razors, etc.  We through his computer and our passports in there and went to the meeting.  Everything got turned in, we are good to go!  We had also taken the India mission trip money that we had raised into church to turn it in but because we were so busy with Haiti stuff, we forgot to turn it in.

May 26th:  Josh wakes up to go to work and discovers someone got into our trucks overnight and stole the backpack.
         I get woke up early the next morning to Josh calling me with the news.  The police come and file a report.  I didn’t touch my vehicle in case they got in there.  I couldn’t see from the window that anything had been taken.  I walk the neighborhood and find no traces of the computer or any of our belongings.  All we really wanted was our passports because at that time we had 18 days until we left for the DR.  No luck.

May 28th:
We discover that we were missing mission money and put two and two together to realize it had gotten left in my vehicle Sunday evening when we came in for the night.  Remember, we didn’t get it handed in to church that night because we were rushed??  We called the police to add it to the report.

Mau 30:  We travel to Atlanta to get replacement passports expedited.
Thankfully the $420 needed to replace the passports was able to be covered by my church’s mission fund.  A church member heard about our situation and gave us $200 for travel expenses and our pastor let us borrow one of his vehicles to make the trip.  With the luck we had had with our vehicles that month we were worried about taking them on the road.

Josh driving on the way to Atlanta.

Josh driving on the way to Atlanta.

  All in all, God was amazing to provide for that situation.  Instead of focusing on the reason for the trip, we decided to treat it as a date to Atlanta and we actually had a really good time.  We were given instructions to eat at The Varsity in downtown Atlanta.  Turns out it was right up the road from the passport office.IMG_20140530_145313_870[1]

May 31: God provides two yard sales worth of items for us to sell online to help make money for our India mission fund.
When God provides, he provides big!  We have joked in the last few days that the $0.50 auction group on facebook has moved into our house.  I am thrilled to be able to go to the meet up this week so we can free up some space in our home.  We literally got so many donations to sell, it filled our garage, our school room and part of our living room!  Yowza!

That brings us to June.  We were told at the passport office we could expect to get our passports on June 4th which is a Wednesday.  Much to our surprise, they arrived on the 3rd!  What a relief!  We were going to make it to Haiti!  Woot!  $225 in donations came in on the 5th of June to help us make our deposit for India (due the day after we get home from our Haiti/DR trip).  That’s such a blessing.  We have two weeks to raise $1,000 and one of those two weeks we will be out of the country.  I have listed a bunch of items for sale on the $0.50 action page on facebook but it won’t be enough to get us to our deposit amount.  Only God can do that at this point.  I started today making follow up calls with the churches we sent sponsorship letters to.  Hopefully while we are gone on our mission trip God will provide in awesome ways.  I KNOW we have been called to go on this trip.  I know that he will provide.  Sometimes the wait and the anxiety I sometimes allow myself to feel in these times is overwhelming.  But I know my God is bigger than all of that.

Please continue to pray for us.  If you feel lead to give financially to help us make our deposit deadline for the India mission trip, please send your contributions to the following address:

Trinity Baptist Church
C/O Jennifer Neel
1513 McArthur Street
Manchester, TN 37355
BE SURE TO PUT “WARREN FAMILY INDIA MISSION TRIP” IN THE MEMO!

I appreciate my readers and the feedback you provide here, via email, facebook, text and calls.  Thank you for holding us up in this crazy time.  Pray we keep our eyes fixed on Christ during these trials.  Pray for God’s will to be done.

Cheers,
Andrea

On a Mission: Rajesthan, India Cake Fundrasier Wrap Up!

IMG_20140511_000323_648[1]Mother’s Day Cake Fundraiser!

This past weekend, I worked to complete 18 cakes, countless cake all truffles and many more cupcakes to sell for Mother Day celebrations around the county.  Everyone who ordered cakes were very sweet with their comments and reviews of the cakes.  Above is a picture of the spice cakes I sold.  It is 100% gluten free and 100% delicious!  They are moist and PACKED with spice flavor.  I sold a total of 3 of those.

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Next comes the chocolate covered strawberry cakes!  A total of 9 of these were sold to people in my church and the 50 Cent Auction I belong to on Facebook.  Some requested dark chocolate while others had theirs made with milk chocolate.  When you open the cake box, the aroma just billowed out like the waves in the sea.  Oh my goodness!  Super yummy!

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A total of 6 white cake orders were placed.  One was personalized, two were plain, one was made into cupcakes and another was for a baby shower.  Actually the cupcakes were for the baby shower too.  I love to make buttercream frosting.  There’s something about the way it melts in your mouth when you take a bite and how moist it keeps the cake that are just so….heavenly!

The above picture is of  a baby shower cake I made for one customer made from a white cake and buttercream frosting.  The frosting was dyed pink and her cupcakes were died purple.  Unfortunately the chocolate butterfly ended up breaking in the box so I had to replace it with another butterfly which laid flat instead of it being propped up on top of the cake.  I had spelled the name wrong so I ended up removing the wording and replaced it with piped frosting lettering instead.  Perfect I am not.  I am thankful for grace on the side of the purchaser.  She was very sweet and understanding.  This was my first attempt at making chocolate detailing and I think I need a little more work before I offer it to the public.  Live and learn!

I have updated the contributor’s page at the top of my blog to reflect the latest financial contributions that came in this week.  You all are investing in something so much bigger than what you see in your day to day lives.  Children will be saved from a life of torture and slavery.  They will be fed and not abused.  Women in the snare of sex trafficking will be given a new lease on life.  They will be taught a life skill which will help them to provide an income for their families.  HOPE will be given.  Please pray for the lives whom we will touch one day.  I’m guessing we are still a couple of years off until those things will happen, but this vision trip in December, which you have contributed to will get us one step closer to opening the doors to our new facilities in India.  The final picture can’t happen without this first step.   Thank you for your support and believing in us to fulfil what God has asked us to do.

Cheers!
Andrea

I Am More Important Than My Kids and Husband

It is 12:56 on Sunday morning and I am typing in sync with my husband’s snoring.  He was quick to sleep tonight.  Me?  Not so much.  I am trying to get laundry caught up, mind racing about my oldest son’s health because of the comment he made right before bedtime tonight:  “Mom my neck inside really hurts.  It has gotten worse as the day has gone on.”  It seems like everyone has a touch of something right now.  Some of the families at church have been out for weeks!  I find myself pondering about what tomorrow will be like, outside of the frigid temperatures and possibility of snow, I mean.  Continue reading

What Happens When God Shows up to a Half Marathon Race

Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
10 If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.

Ecclesiastes 4 : 9, 10

Rest assured, you will read this post from start to finish in one setting.  I, on the other hand will be stopping several times during it’s completion as I recall the events and cry.  May I be the first to say God is so good.  He cares SOOOooo much for you and hears even your unspoken cries for help.  He loves you so much that he makes a way for your needs to be met.  He will also knock you down a peg or two if your chest is puffed too far out.  He is the Great I Am that we sang about this morning in service.  There is nobody above him, nobody beside him.  He is the Great I Am…and I am amazed that he even cares that I exist. Continue reading

Grace like Banana Bread

What’s better than running first thing in the morning?  Hearing and receiving God’s living WORD first thing in the morning!  Have you seen the movie “Faith Like Potatoes?”  It’s an amazing story about how God brought a Scottish potato farmer named Angus Buchan out of alcoholism and anger into a worldwide ministry through a community testimony service.  I’ve seen this man preach in person and WOW!  To say he can touch the inner most parts of your being is not enough.  Well I had a day that I would describe as “Grace like Banana Bread.”

As I shared before, I went running with the Mach Tenn Running Club at 5:30 Sunday morning.  Directly afterward, I came home, showered, enjoyed an amazing breakfast prepared by my fireman husband, then headed off to hear Pastor Scott preach it, man!  The guy is real, he’s down to Earth and brings the word in a way I am quite confident that everyone in the house can understand and receive it.  I thank God for him and his family and the way God is using him to transform our community for His glory.

He wrapped up a 4 week sermon series on money entitled, “Money Matters.”

Money-Matters

WAIT!!  Don’t close this tab yet! I know exactly what you’re thinking I’m going to say…you need to tithe.  NO (well yes but…) that’s not the message for today.  This whole series is about the fact that everything is God’s.  Our money included but not exclusively our money.  Our families, our minds, our homes…everything.  As a matter of fact just a couple of weeks ago I wrote about what else he had to say on the subject.  This week, we talked about the fact that if we understand grace, we naturally will be cheerful givers, and not just with our money but with our whole lives.  Grace, defined biblical is being given a gift that one can’t afford, deserve or work hard enough to obtain.  This is where my tears just began to pour out of my tear ducts. I mean rivers, people.

God's provision through his infinite grace.

God’s provision through his infinite grace.

This beautiful home that God has given to us is WAY beyond what we have worked to obtain.  We wouldn’t be able to afford it if it weren’t for God moving mountains and piecing together circumstances just perfectly.  There is nothing in my life, my husband’s life, my kids life…that any of us have done to deserve a blessing of this magnitude.  A friend of mine has told me repeatedly that it’s God’s grace that he freely gives as to why were have found ourselves in this season of our lives.  I heard what she was saying.  I even pondered what she was saying.  It wasn’t until I was sitting in the second row of the 10:15 service this past week that the entire tide of God’s grace really sunk in and knocked my emotions over like a tug boat in the middle of the ocean.  I was completely overwhelmed by how God relates to and with us.  My word…even now as I type that my eyes are almost too moist for me to see the words as I type (it’s a good thing I took keyboarding in high school or I’d be up a creek).  So basically we don’t deserve the house we are in at all, but through God’s grace,  that I don’t even fully understand, we have been given a gift so huge we could never possibly pay God back for it.  Through the realization of what he has given us, I can’t help but overflow with gratitude.  Through that gratitude, I have the drive to do all I can to glorify Him with this home.  It consumes my thoughts, actions, feelings, emotions…to the point of struggling to breathe.

Ever since my husband and I decided to take the plunge and agree to take over this home, I have been planning what to do to bridge the uncomfortable gap of being the newbie in the neighborhood.  If you follow me on facebook, you may have even contributed to the brainstorming process. You know how it is when someone new moves in next door.  You watch as they pull out piece after piece from the moving van or vehicles, so much so you wonder if they have rented a circus car in the shape of formerly said mode of transportation.  In the house they go with each arm full.  Day after day you watch as the sweat rolls down their faces and backs during the physical labor of relocating every item that belongs to them and you wonder:

  • Who are they?
  • What are they like?
  • Are they weird?
  • I wonder if they are “good” people.
  • Are they private people?
  • Do they let their kids run the neighborhood?
  • Are they going to take care of the place?
  • I hope they aren’t partiers.  And on and on.

Who makes the first step in breaking down those barriers?  Tradition says that the established neighbor is the one who is to reach out to the new family, however in my past experience, this simply doesn’t happen anymore.  Though I have taken welcoming gifts to new neighbors in the past in keeping with tradition, I have taken it upon myself to break down those barriers when we are the new family coming in more times than not.  As I have said before when confronted with this very question, If I wait for someone else to make the first move, I’ll be waiting my whole life.

My youngest son and I with a basket we delivered to new neighbors.

My youngest son and I with one of six basket we delivered to our new neighbors.

If you read the first post I made about our decision to move here, you will remember that I strongly feel God has a plan to use us while we are here.  Have you ever been confronted by someone who is well meaning in their approach to get to know you but you just know they have an ulterior motive?  Me too and it’s annoying and most times I do everything I can to avoid that person from their on out.  I truly do want to get to know my neighbors as we are leaving a neighborhood which is very close knit.  We adore each of the families on our street.  To say we were comfortable there would be an understatement for sure.  I would love to be able to foster those sort of friendships again here.  I also know that in order to be effective for Christ, a foundation of friendship, trust, and love has to be established first.  I have no intentions of using my bible as a hammer to pound people between the eyes.  From the deepest part of my soul, I want to bring the peace and love of God to a hurting world.  The bible says that we are to reach people in our own town, state and country as well as the other parts of the world.  Did you get that first part?  Our own town…the people we interact with on a daily basis…that’s our first mission field.  How do you do that effectively?  By meeting people where they are, growing the friend relationship and then taking opportunities God lays in your path to share what he’s done in your life.  Do you think that just because someone has a nice car, house, well dressed kids, smile on their face that they aren’t hurting or have doubt about why they are even alive?  Is it possible that the people you talk to on a daily basis have deep desires to end their lives or are trapped in addictions, be it Rx drugs or sexual addiction?  The though of him using me…a stay at home, homeschooling mother and wife…who runs to maintain her sanity most days…to reach any of those people and others utterly blows my mind and humbles me to the core.

First two dish cloths finished and placed in baskets.  I put together six baskets total.

First two dish cloths finished and placed in baskets. I put together six baskets total.

Over the past week, when I haven’t been working on filling sponsorship orders, I have been creating dish cloths for our neighborhood introduction baskets.  Each one was done in white cotton yarn and each had a unique pattern from the others.  These were far from cookie cutter cloths and each one took several hours to complete.  I wanted something in there that was directly from my hands for the personal touch but also to soften up the basket a bit.

Ripe bananas to make banana bread with!

Ripe bananas to make banana bread with!

After church, I spent several hours mixing up and baking banana bread from scratch as well.  I think my husband nearly had an emotional breakdown when I told him there wouldn’t be any leftovers for us to enjoy.  I’m pretty sure he told one neighbor it was pure torture to be in the house, smelling it bake, knowing he wasn’t going to get to have any.  He cracks me up.  I also whipped up a batch of chocolate chunk cookies as well.  In my opinion, they weren’t the BEST cookies, but they were alright.  Who doesn’t like a cookie straight out of the oven after all.  Within an hour of all of these items coming out of the oven, they were packaged and we were out the door.  The bread was still warm when we handed the baskets over.  Mmmmm…makes me hungry just thinking about it actually!

In addition to the handmade and baked goodies, I attached an index card with a note saying it was nice to meet their family, all of our names and the ages of our children, our address and our phone number in case they ever needed or wanted to contact us.  My hope is that they reach back to us, at least with a wave as we see each other out and about over the next days and weeks.  I plan to create more baskets as the weeks and months come.  I just think it would be so cool to be able to personally introduce each of the homes in our little subdivision.  Put names to faces, kids with parents and houses with families.  My husband and I, along with our three boys walked around to the house in front of us, behind us, to either side of us and two other homes in the neighborhood to start the process.

In November, a new ministry in town called S.H.A.R.E. (Sharing Him and Reaching Everyone) has encouraged each of us to reach out to our neighbors.  I hope by that time I will have made contact with everyone and will be ready to further follow up with them over the course of the month.  My prayer for the people in my closest reach is that they grow a sense of community with one another in Christ so that we can support each other in struggles and in good times.  I pray that a fire is started in this community that engulfs the entire town.  Wouldn’t it be amazing if the property value of these homes sky rocketed as a result of the supply and demand created because everyone wanted to be a part of the brotherhood here?   I believe we will see Mark 12:30, 31 in the flesh.  People loving God first, and loving their neighbor as themselves.  With that, people will start treating people the way they want to be treated (Luke 6:31).  I’m sitting here praying for everyone in the neighborhood as I type this and Chris Tomlin’s song God of This City popped into my head.  Fitting I believe.

Lets go back to the picture of those bananas for a second:  Ripe bananas to make banana bread with!
The sight of those bananas is pretty nasty when you think about it, isn’t it?  Nobody in their right mind would think, “Oh those look fantastic!  I think I’ll just dig right in!”  No, on the contrary, most people throw them out when they get the slightest hint of brown/black on the peel.  And to buy them from the store that way?  HA!  I think that’s the way God sees each of us…even you reading this!  We deserve nothing more than to be thrown out with the evening trash.  Dirty, rotting, mushy messes of people.  We make mistakes, say things we shouldn’t, think things that would make our mother’s put us in time out for a long time, gossip with the best of ’em, lie, cheat and steal.  And God…he couldn’t bear to see us discarded. Not only did he buy us while we were still horribly disgusting, He also gave us a gift far more precious than a beautiful home that we could have never gotten on our own.  He gave us his SON!  I mean I love you, but I’m not sacrificing any of my kids for you…not even on a bad day!  But God did!  Even though we don’t deserve to be given another chance.  Even though we deserve to be thrown into the fires of hell on a daily basis, he loves us too much.  Instead,  He takes our nasty peels off, mixes in a little bit of grace and mercy.  Folds in a mixture of patience love and peace.  Pours us into a mold that shapes us to fit His plan for our lives, puts us through the fires of trials and bakes us into a perfect loaf of banana bread.  It isn’t until we are banana bread that he can deliver us to people who need fed with the ONLY food that will satisfy.

Thank you God for picking me as a nasty banana.  I submit to your plan and ask that you make me into banana bread as well.  I give you this home, this family, this neighborhood for your service.  My answer is “yes” to what you have for me here.  To be honest I am a wee bit intimidated but I know I can do all things through your Son who strengthens me.  Have your way, Lord.  Have your way!

Cheers,
Andrea