befriend

Is friendship something you struggle with? Have you been burned recently and, as a result, you are more cynical toward friendship? These are questions that I have asked myself lately. Therefore, when I saw the title and subtitle of this new book by Scott Sauls, my curiosity got the better of me resulting in another book purchase.

Now that Sara and I have both read the book, I’m glad I purchased the book. We now have new eyes regarding friendship, and these eyes for friendship go beyond my small radius of community or society but now extends to the entire world and culture out there. Scott Sauls does a great job of helping you see what you can’t see right now and exposes you to people that we can now befriend as a result of our faith and trust in Jesus Christ.

In order to wet your appetite, I’m going to post a few quotes that Sara and I found impactful throughout the book. I pray that you enjoy them!

You can purchase the book here.

love is complete, love is at its most healthy place, when the duties of love are driven by the delights of love. – page 189

When we prioritize the duties of love and cease nurturing the delights of love, what used to be our greatest source of companionship becomes our greatest source of loneliness. – page 190

When we lose our intimacy with God, God isn’t the one who has moved away. – page 190

when we walk with him only side-by-side and not face-to-face, it’s just a matter of time before we turn ourselves back-to-back with Jesus. – page 192

For when you are face-to-face with Love himself, you become more loving. When you are face-to-face with Kindness himself, you become more kind. When you are face-to-face with Generosity himself, you become more generous. When you are face-to-face with Hospitality himself, you become more hospitable. It’s how Jesus works. He rubs off on us. – page 194

Aim first at delight, and you will get duty thrown in. Aim first at duty, and you will get neither. – page 193

Real friends not only agree but disagree; real friends not only applaud each other’s strengths but challenge each other’s weaknesses; real friends not only enjoy life together but struggle through life together; real friends not only praise one another but apologize to and forgive one another; real friends not only rally around their points of agreement but love and learn from their points of disagreement. – pages 4-5

Shame-the disquieting, vague sense that there’s something deeply wrong with us, that we are not enough-keeps us preoccupied with ourselves and inattentive to the needs of others. – page 11

Jesus has lifted our shame off of us, nailing it to the cross. – page 13

Grace comes before ethics. No condemnation comes before the morality discussion. Kindness leads to repentance. Love-the broad embrace of Jesus’ narrow path-creates the most life-giving experiences you’ll ever be part of. – page 19

We must become convinced that Love has to be a person to us before it can become a verb. – page 23

Faithful are the wounds of friends who show me a mirror, who praise the good in me but who also point out what’s hurtful, because such wounds are surgical, not punitive. Such wounds are restorative, not insulting. – page 56

Remaining calm, loving, and nondefensive, no matter what the political outcomes, is the way of Jesus-and of his followers who have their kingdoms rightly ordered. “Do not fear, little flock, for I am with you,” says the King. Do not rejoice when you find yourselves in temporary positions of power and influence, Jesus says, “but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” – page 177

Rapture Come Quickly

Maybe you have heard someone say or even said to yourself, “I sure hope the rapture comes soon.” I’m sure that some part of each person who says that really does desire to see Jesus face-to-face, but, if you are like me, I think the more likely wish of our hearts is to escape a current trial.

The Bible is filled with encouragement for those in trials of any kind. Do we find the same wishful thinking we see our hearts crying out for, or is there something even better that God’s word points us to? Let’s take a look:

Psalm 33:16 The king is not saved by his great army; a warrior is not delivered by his great strength. 17 The war horse is a false hope for salvation, and by its great might it cannot rescue. 18 Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love, 19 that he may deliver their soul from death and keep them alive in famine. 20 Our soul waits for the LORD; he is our help and our shield. 21 For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. 22 Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us, even as we hope in you.

The psalmist highlights our tendency to put our hope or trust in man-made devices like our armies or our strength (vs. 16-17), but the better promise and hope is in the steadfast love of the LORD (v. 18). As a result of this more certain hope, we can wait in the midst of our trial (v. 20) and experience joy and gladness even in our waiting (v. 21).

Psalm 42:5 Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God…11 Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God.

Notice how the psalmist attacks his downcast soul, he calls out to hope in God. Additionally, note how the psalmist is talking to himself. Instead of believing that he can encourage his own heart through a change in circumstance, the psalmist calls out to hope in God.

Romans 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Romans 12:12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.

Romans 15:13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

Look at how the Apostle Paul encourages the Romans in the midst of their sufferings and trials. He doesn’t pray that they would escape them or have a change in circumstances, but instead he points to the hope that does not put us to shame because by faith in Jesus Christ we have obtained access into this grace that we know God gives us even more of as we are humble (James 4:6).

So what is our posture in the midst of trials, sufferings, and difficulties? Our posture is one that holds tightly to the hope we have in God through Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit for the Day when all evil is extinguished both in the new heavens and new earth and in our hearts. Even as our hearts cry out to escape a trial or to avoid a trial, we have something even better to put our hope in, Jesus Christ, who conquered death by dying, who made sin powerless by taking on all our sin, and who made our future certain by raising from the dead.

Brothers and sisters, may we experience the joy of our salvation in our daily living as we abound in hope and rejoice in hope, who is Jesus Christ, the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27).

Why Sponsorship with Family Legacy?

Psalm 68:5 Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation.

Deuteronomy 10:18 He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing.

Psalm 146:9 The LORD watches over the sojourners; he upholds the widow and the fatherless, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.

James 1:27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

Our family of five just returned from our trip together to Lusaka, Zambia to serve and love the orphans in Lusaka. Zambia has the highest orphan population per capita in the world. A year ago my wife and I made the trip without our kids, so we have a unique privilege of seeing things from two vantage points.

Last year we had 14 kids to find sponsors for and this year we have 7 kids.  This year we were able to see the transformation that took place in those kids who became sponsored last year and find out how their lives have changed. One such girl in my wife’s group shared that while she was beaten last year, she is no longer beaten because she was now going to school with Family Legacy. Previously, this little girl had no value to her family or community, and now with education, she was valued and therefore not beaten.

Additionally, these kids are now speaking English, understanding English, and are more vibrant in just one year. English is the official language of Zambia, but education is needed in order to learn the language. Otherwise, all the children grow up learning and understanding a tribal language with only the ability to communicate it orally.

Every child we spoke to this year loved going to school, and the primary prayer request we heard from all our kids was that they wanted to keep going to school. As far as those kids who did not have a sponsor yet, their prayer request was that they would have the opportunity to go to school. Education in Zambia is a rare privilege for few children in the country, but Family Legacy has created the opportunity to provide top level education for children that are sponsored.

So why should you sponsor a child?

Education – Just like the real-life story above, education for these orphans is a life changer. They become valued in their family and community. The hope that can be expressed in words and stories begins to take root when their educational needs begin being met.

Food – Likewise, as part of the opportunity to attend school in their community, these orphans are given a healthy meal to enjoy. Most orphans of Zambia will eat once or twice a day with the content of those meals being only tea and nshima (a grits like mixture). IMG_2140.2

Due to the malnutrition of these orphans, they will appear many years younger than their actual ages. Sponsorship allows them to receive a nutritious meal giving them the opportunity to develop physically.

Discipleship – While education and food will provide orphans the opportunity to grow socially and physically, they likewise need to know about a Hope that goes beyond any of our circumstances. It is through these felt needs being met that Zambian orphans can actually hear the gospel without being distracted by their lack of education or empty stomachs. Sponsorship ensures that these children will also be taught the gospel, that there is Hope for life beyond the boundaries of this world through faith in Jesus Christ, who lived a perfect life, died a death we deserved, and raised to life to live forever at God’s right hand to this day.

Change – Being able to see our orphans after one year has given us physical proof of change. Those three reasons above are not just abstract ideas or concepts, but we have seen with our eyes and touched with our hands the actual change that takes place in the lives of the orphans through sponsorship. Yes, sponsorship really does make a difference in the individual lives of orphans and in the communities all over Lusaka, Zambia.

For example, see the following picture:

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As the verses at the beginning of this post indicate, we serve a God who has a heart and love for the fatherless, the orphan, and we have the privilege and responsibility to care for and love the orphan. Sponsorship through Family Legacy for one of these orphans is just the way we can do this.

Our family has been sponsoring two orphans since 2012, and we have seen just how transformational sponsorship can be in these children, in our lives, and in the lives of our own children. Take the plunge and allow your heart to love like you did not know it could when you sponsor one of these orphans.

You can sponsor kids at the following links:

Boys to Sponsor

Girls to Sponsor

So What Happened?

 

My posts since Tuesday have been intentionally cryptic in that things have been happening here that I simply was not prepared to write about in detail. We have come to the end of Camp LIFE, and we are preparing to have our final parties tomorrow. I think you need to know the following details to produce praise in you toward God and result in additional prayers for the trip home starting tomorrow night.

My Friday of Camp LIFE was completely different than the others except for Gretchen. As you see in the picture associated with this post, Gretchen is in a hospital room, and she has been there since Tuesday afternoon.

Before I share with you how we end our week in a hospital in Lusaka, Zambia, I’m going to give you a list of things that are unique to this trip.

  • Gretchen was a last minute addition to the group going to Zambia due to an available spot and funds.
  • Meagan Graham wanted to come on this trip, but the list of participants was full until we offered to have her sleep with our girls.
  • At no other times in our lives do we have instant access to a top-notch doctor.
  • Due to our group’s association with Izzy’s House, we were given extra Zambian partners in three of our groups. Usually we have two partners, but these three groups had three.
  • My family shared groups this week, so Trevor helped me with our boys and Kristin and Samantha helped Sara with her girls.

With these facts in mind, the following took place Tuesday afternoon. Gretchen began to feel abnormal tingling and felt nauseous and weak about 1pm Tuesday at which time Sarah Winebrenner gave her some nuts to eat. Our large group time started at 1:30pm, and Gretchen thought she had not drank enough water resulting in her feeling bad. She drank a whole 20 oz. container of water at the start of large group. Gretchen continued to feel bad whereby Sara Krupke was encouraging her to go to the clinic (instant access to best doctor in country).

After feeling like she was feeling better, Gretchen began to meet with her group to share the gospel when the same tingling feeling came back at which point she felt like she was going to faint. She knew she needed to get to the clinic right away. Mercy, one of her Zambian partners and one of Izzy’s House girls, guided her to the clinic, which was only yards away.

When she arrived, she described her condition to Dr. Brad Guffey, who made her drink a salty fluid suspecting that she was dehydrated. After making Gretchen lay down, she completed the first bottle full of liquid at which point Gretchen experienced a serious seizure. Her face turned purple, her hands turned purple, and she was described as frozen. Dr. Guffey went into immediate action to save Gretchen’s life. Yes, Dr. Guffey most definitely saved Gretchen’s life in the middle of Lusaka, Zambia on a Tuesday afternoon.

Just as a quick side note, it’s amazing how when one of your close friends has a real near death experience that it puts so many other events in their proper perspective. Our life is so short, and we have a tendency to become so wrapped up in the heat of the moment of our lives that we fail to remember that God is in control and that our life is incredibly short.

Dr. Guffey was able to stabilize Gretchen at which point she was rushed to the best and closest hospital in Lusaka where she has been ever since. As a result of this traumatic episode, Family Legacy and our group have been maintaining constant care of Gretchen by having someone stay with her in the hospital at all times, and Dr. Guffey has requested that one Family Legacy employee is always awake throughout the night watching Gretchen.

As another side note, Family Legacy has been fantastic! We have seen one employee after another take their turn in the hospital, which is something they never planned to do, but they come with smiles and loving hearts. Wow! Their goal of ministering to both the Zambian orphan and American family could not have been seen anymore better than this week.

So why those details above? Our group has had to share many responsibilities including spending the night in the hospital each night until we leave tomorrow. This would not be possible unless all those things above were true. God knew what we needed so far in advance that our only proper response is to praise Him.

Furthermore, consider with me the timing of this event. If Gretchen had this episode at any other time, in any other place, she likely doesn’t have the immediate medical care to save her life. If you just ponder these things, what can we do but overflow in thanksgiving for our loving Savior God Jesus Christ.

The rest of the group enjoyed their final day with the kids handing out their new backpacks, enjoying a balloon release, and giving them heart-felt, full of tears hugs. God is so good, and as God does every year, our hearts are full of His grace as He has moved in us while also blessing the Zambian orphans.

Please pray for our flights home tomorrow night. We will all be working together to ensure that Gretchen is cared for and monitored throughout both flights. Be watching Facebook to find out when we hit the ground safely in Houston Sunday afternoon.

Hard Things

Our day on Thursday was full of hard things. We began by visiting the Bauleni Family Legacy School, which is busting full of kids that our group and everyone associated sponsors.

This was the first thing hard thing we encountered. During our time at the school, one of the orphans grabbed Amy to ask her where Izzy was. Even though it has been three years since Izzy was there, these kids don’t forget you. This girl wanted to know where Izzy was.

Amy found me and handed her off for the explanation. Needless to say, it was extremely difficult to get the words out of my mouth that Izzy had passed away but that we were there because Izzy loved the orphans of Zambia. You can read more about it in an earlier post (Why Zambia?) if you haven’t already.

The next hard thing we faced was the community day. This is when we see first hand the poverty, the horrible living conditions, and the messed up theology of the Zambians. The whole two hours of walking in the slum is very heart breaking and overwhelming. But it is also very enjoyable to walk around with your group and see them find people just hanging around their one-room houses that they share Jesus with.

After the community portion of the day, we came back to the Legacy Center and had a great visit with the Tree of Life kids. We spent time with the child we sponsor and saw some really heart warming things. You can check them out on Facebook pictures. That ended a very full day that started earlier than the rest.

At this point in our week, we are physically exhausted and emotionally spent. You can see it on everyone’s faces. It has been additionally difficult because we have two people in our group who are sick, which has made the logistics of handling everything each day more challenging.

All of this to say that we could really use your prayers for the coming days. We are trying to make sure we have everything worked out to complete our Friday of camp and then for our final day prior to leaving for the airport on Sunday night. Given that we are tired in every way, all of your prayers are appreciated and coveted as we enter these final days.

Those are the hard things we are encountering. It is very likely you have the hard things you are facing. We have been reminded over and over again of the faithfulness of God in the midst of all of these challenges. We pray that you experience that same goodness of God in your life as we have seen first hand all week.

 

Getting in the Groove

By Wednesday of Camp LIFE, the kids know you, the Zambian partners know your style, and you are comfortable with the schedule. It was nice to have a day that ran smoothly from beginning to end even with some situations that needed to be handled.

It’s easy for a routine day to cause you to put a little more trust in yourself than you should. Sitting in villa time (debriefing on your day and looking ahead to tomorrow), we were reminded that we are in Zambia among orphans that are in great need. All of us have kids that don’t have their parents, eat once a day, and have been wearing the same clothes for all the days of camp. Therefore, it was a good reminder that it wasn’t in our best interest to be putting any trust in ourselves as much as we remember our big God remains in perfect control.

Tomorrow is really a big day in the week of camp. We travel to Bauleni to tour the school facilities of our kids, which everyone visits tomorrow for an hour. Then we head out from the school and travel to our different communities to walk the compound and share Christ with anyone we meet. The orphans, who have learned the evangecube, are the main communicators of the gospel during this time. We will have the opportunity to spend the most time with our kids compared to any other group.

This is also a time where our kids have a new level of respect and love for us as we walk where they walk and experience where they live. Our affection for one another only grows after this experience.

As part of our week, we conduct “blessing times” with each child to find out their circumstance, assess their need for further help, share Jesus with them, and just take the opportunity to bless and love them. Over the course of the week, you begin to see every child warm up to you as they see you really care for them, you hold their hands, and give them hugs. The transformation from Monday to Friday is remarkable.

We appreciate your prayers for what we have ahead of us tomorrow and Friday. Our group is praying for all of you as I’m sure we are missing our homes, but we are enjoying and savoring our time here in Zambia. Thank you for joining us in our journey.

The following verses come to mind, so I hope you find them encouraging.

Hebrews 4:14-16 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Enjoy the freedom and confidence of drawing near the throne of the most high God who will hear and answer your prayers because of our great high priest, Jesus. That is something worth dwelling on, tasting, and seeing the goodness of God.

Never What You Expect

We began our day as we did the day before praying together as a Villa group. This is our group of 18 plus three Matrangas who are Camp LIFE experts having attended 11 years. 

My encouragement to the group praying was that we would freely experience the full range of emotions we would feel today knowing we would enjoy the high of singing, dancing, and spending time with our kids but the sorrow of the low when you hear of the poverty and pain the orphans experience. My reminder was that Jesus was perfectly human and experienced all those emotions that we clearly see presented in scripture. 

As much as I thought the day would go a certain way, it just didn’t. I can’t necessarily articulate what that means except our prayer tonight together left me thinking of Ephesians 3:20, “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us.”

When things don’t go like you expect, we usually have this feeling that something is wrong or God is absent or He isn’t in control. Instead, maybe Paul meant just that scenario with Ephesians 3:20. God is doing something abundantly more than our thinking could ask or comprehend. Yep, God is in control. 

Maybe you have felt this way. Events in your life transpire that make you think everything is going all wrong, but maybe God has orchestrated those events to ensure the maximum glory for His Son and your good. If we knew what God knew, we would make the same things happen, even if completely chaotic from the world’s point of view. 

Yesterday’s quote about prayer could not have been more timely. God is doing His work among our lives and in the lives of the orphans, and He is using all of our prayers toward that end. We serve an amazing God that can hold the vast number of universes in complete order while knowing us personally and intimately down to the finest detail. 

Yes, life can be extremely challenging, hard, and take your breath away difficult, but Jesus remains on His throne. His kingdom remains in order. So we rest in the finished work of Christ even as we struggle through life. 

This is the hope we have to offer and point to when we speak to the Zambian orphans. I have shared the gospel over and over again, and it never gets old to share or remember this gospel for myself. Sinners are lost but then found, and our Father throws a party for such as these. 

Tomorrow is another day filled with dancing, singing, and spending time with our Zambian children, many of whom you are sponsoring. There isn’t one child who isn’t incredibly grateful for their sponsor. You are like a parent to them to allow them to attend school that they cherish, a meal that helps them see that the gospel is real, and discipleship that points them to Jesus over and over again. 

Let us keep praying for the glory of Jesus in our lives and through our lives. We need it desperately!