Friday, December 23, 2005

Sing and make music in your heart to the
Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father
for everything, in the name of the Lord Jesus.

Eph. 5:20

With thanksgiving I remember my mother-in-law, Kathrine Bender Schulz (Mom), who was born in Balsar, Russia. My father-in-law (Dad), Heinrich (Henry) was born in the states, but just barely. My in-laws were German Russian. Their Prussian grandparents went to Russia when Katherine the Great was Czarina. They lived in the Russian Steppes near the Volga River and were known as the Volga Germans. Many German Russians immigrated to the states and settled mostly in Eastern Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, North and South Dakota and Minnesota - lured to the states with the promise of free land. Dad's uncle immigrated to Argentina - again the lure of making good. Mom and Dad grew up speaking German. Their schooling was sparse. Dad had four years of schooling - Mom had six years. Mom helped her dad learn enough English to become an American citizen. Because of the Americanization Movement, at that time, if the father of an immigrant family became a citizen, the whole family was granted citizenship.

Debts were sin. The family had borrowed money to come to the states and that money had to be paid back. Grandpa worked for the railroad and Grandma took in washing. When Mom was 12 she went to live with a family as a house-keeper. She cleaned the house, washed the clothes and cooked. She made a quarter a week. On Sunday Mom would go home to her family and lay that quarter on the kitchen table.

When I was 18 years old, I married Tom and became part of this extended German-Russian family. One week after I married, Mom took me to meet "the family." No English was spoken. At one point, Aunt Theresa said, "Let's speak English so Dottie can understand." but aunt Idt said, "Ach, Let har larn somesing." I was finally able to understand conversations after I had been in Holland. (Dutch is not German, but I can understand German. Germans, however, usually cannot understand Dutch. It is too gutteral!)

Christmas was a nice holiday time with the Schulz clan. It was never extravagant, but the food was always luscious. Mom was known as the best cook in the county, even when she only had a wood-burning stove to cook on. We ate kraut runzas and vereniky and hoolapsi and kugen. I learned to fix all the dishes and now my girls cook them all, too. When we lived overseas, I bought a German cook book, but none of the dishes Mom cooked were in the book. I found them in a Russian cook book, though. What Mom couldn't do with noodle dough!

One time Mom told me that as a child she had always wanted a teddy bear, but there was never enough money for such an extravagance. That year when we went shopping for Christmas, I remembered what Mom had said about always wanting a teddy bear. I found a medium size, soft cuddly bear at a department store and on a whim, bought it. I always knew Mom liked me and approved of me, but when she saw that bear, she jumped up, grabbed me, hugged me and kissed me - a pretty spontaneous act for a stolid German woman whom I never saw cry! From then on, that teddy bear had a special place in the living room. It moved with Mom and Dad from the farm to town. When Mom went into the Care Home, the bear went, too. Giving Mom that bear changed Mom's and my relationship, too. From that day on, I was Mom's dear friend. I got to hear special secrets and the hugs seemed to be more special.

I wonder if we appreciate Christmas like Mom and Dad did. Getting an orange at Christmastime was a special treat. At my house growing up Mama and Daddy saw to it that we had an orange and some nuts in our stockings. Under the tree was a special treat - a real cocoanut, which my Daddy would crack open on Christmas day. What special memories.

Those special people are all gone now. Mom was buried seven years ago today. My happiest memory of her was seeing her face when she got a teddy bear at age 80. Thank you, Mom, for teaching me what gratefulness looks like.

Many of you who read this blog will experience a multi-cultural Christmas. Treasure that time. I know many of you will adopt many of these customs and pass them down to your families. I hope your Christmas memories are as happy as mine. Use this special time to make a memory you can recall with joy someday!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.


Thursday, December 22, 2005

I sent this urgent email out at 9 a.m. this morning.

My dear Prayer Warriors,

Got a call this morning at 6:30 a.m. for prayer. Kyle Holton, missionary in LaChinga, Mozambique:, is gravely ill. For several days he has been unable to lift his head. Kyle's wife, Ginger, took him to an Indian doctor who gave him very strong malaria medication, even though the blood tests were negative for malaria. The medication is making Kyle throw up. Kyle and Ginger, who have two small children are alone. Their team mates are in the states.

Their sponsoring church has asked Ginger to arrange for Kyle to be evacuated to South Africa, where he can receive proper medical treatment. The evacuation plane will not arrive until tomorrow. If Kyle has cerebral malaria - tentative diagnosis - it could be fatal. Cerebral malaria is the worse form of malaria. Prayer requests: 1) pray that the medication Kyle is receiving is the right medication; 2) pray for Ginger's endurance - she has been caring for Kyle night and day without help for several days, plus she has two very young children to care for. She has another night to go through alone; 3) pray the plane is large enough to hold not only Kyle, but the whole family.

Please call your prayer ministries at your local churches and ask them to pray for Kyle and Ginger. Pray for Kyle's extended family - this has been a year of many losses for them. Please get on your knees for this family. I am thankful I have you to call on when prayer is needed. Our God is able!

Around 2 p.m. I sent this email out:

Dear Prayer Warriors,

Your prayers are being heard. Some Australian Baptist missionaries heard of the Holton's difficulties. They came by and took the boys, Asher and Eli, for the afternoon and part of the evening. Ginger was able to pack. The boys are now asleep (it is night time in Mozambique now). Kyle was able to keep down some of the pain medication long enough for it to begin to work and was able to take a warm shower, which helped him feel better. I thank God they had water and that it was warm. That within itself is a small miracle! Though Kyle is still extremely ill, he is no longer in "screaming" pain.

Aviation Fellowship, who is flying to Mozambique to help them evacuate, has an apartment on their compound in Nels Pruitt, South Africa (north of Johannesburg), for Ginger and the boys to stay in. Also on the compound is a hospital that specializes in malaria. God be praised!

I am grateful to God for better news. I am grateful to you for praying for this couple. Kyle and Ginger thank us for praying.. Ginger said that she feels "at peace." She believes it is because of your prayers. This ordeal is not over. Please continue to pray.

And shortly after 5 p.m. I put these thoughts together:

I listened to a great series of sermons this last year called Prayer for Dummies – 12 in all. It made me think. However, I’ve been as affected by the “off-the-cuff” remarks about prayer made by my preacher and others I’ve come to know this year as I have been by sermons. I find that I pray more than I used to. I have a prayer notebook and five pages of it are filled with names of people I pray for. One page in my notebook is filled with answers to prayers. The rest of the notebook is filled with my personal notes, some personal written-out prayers and some articles on prayer - still, I wonder if I have the kind of faith that prayer calls for.

Yes, God has answered many of my prayers. Some answers to prayer have been so personal, I could never share them with anyone, and it is those personal answers to prayer that have convinced me that God has had compassion on me – on me. When I think about it, I tear up. I know a God who answers prayers.

But, God hasn’t answered all my prayers, even when I prostrated myself, wept, and begged. I decided a long time ago that God is God and I am not! So, when I pray, I do not presume that I know how God will answer my prayer. That makes me wonder if I’m a doubter – perhaps a person who does not pray in faith.

A missionary wrote the following in his blog: “I was called upon to go with some other men to pray for an old man who had dislocated his right femur over a year ago!! They said he “broke” it but I’m wondering if it were truly broken how he’d be doing as well as he was (walking with a walking stick). They tried all kinds of traditional methods of healing (cannot imagine how many voodoo sacrifices have been made), but someone told the man we were having our meeting today, so he asked for prayers. Believe me, I was shocked upon hearing the awful story and then seeing him “flex” his upper thigh in a highly abnormal position, and then seriously perplexed how this prayer team might pray for him…then who might the team decide should pray? Yep, me! Lord, forgive my unbelief, and do a miracle in that man’s leg anyway for the sake of your glory!!”

I feel the same frustration. Perhaps I am too western – too educated! Yet, I find I trust God with my future, my life or death more than I ever have before. I know I live with a lot less fear than I used to. But I don’t claim verses for myself and I don’t presume God will answer my prayers as I want. Perhaps, to pray is to have faith.

Please keep praying for Kyle and Ginger. He seems better because the pain medication is working, but his condition has not changed. Please pray with as much faith as you can and I will pray with as much faith as I can. Lord, help our unbelief.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Who am I, O Sovereign Lord,
and what is my family
that you have brought me this far...

How great you are, O Sovereign Lord!
There is no one like you, and
there is no God but you...
2 Samuel 7:18 and 22


That God has been good to me is an understatement this year! This has been one of the happiest years of my life. I feel that God has used me in wondrous ways. Working at Missions Resource Network has been a great joy

At York College the best part of my day was chapel, especially when it was a Praise Chapel. The best part of my day here is our daily devotional. Invariably I get to hear what my colleagues are working on and doing. We pray about everything. I work with the most wonderful people! They are supportive of me and any one of them would step up to the plate to be there for me, should I need them. In this ministry I also get to hear about the good things happening in our brotherhood. Most of you who know me well, know that my passion is missions. That passion is getting fed in this job. Missions Resource Network has blessed many and has been blessed by many.

Another thing that makes this year so special is all the ways I have been able to grow intellectually and emotionally. I’ve attended different conferences and spoken at a few, written different research papers and general articles and worked personally with different missionaries and congregations. That means I have had time to read and to study and to learn new things. What a joy! That also means I have been able to interact with others one-on-one and in groups. I am amazed that no matter where I go, there are those God-arranged-appointments I didn’t know I would have. These coincidences bless my life is such surprising ways!

I struggled with different things when I was trying to make the decision of whether to move to Texas and take this job or not. Could I leave my house? Those of you who have visited me know how beautiful my home in Nebraska is. It's one of those lovely, big old-fashioned homes built in 1923. Could I leave teaching? I love students and love being with them. Being in a classroom brings me a special kind of joy. Could I leave the Counseling Center? Helping people solve their problems and seeing young people grow made me feel glorious! I spent many years jumping through the educational and legal hoops to get those licenses that hung on my wall. Could I give that up? When I went in to resign from York College to work at Missions Resource Network, I left with a leave of absence. That was a beautiful gift! When I moved to Texas, I literally walked out of my house and left it as it was – furniture, china, crystal, silverware, wall clocks, sheets on the bed, etc., everything is still there. I have a lovely young couple house-sitting and taking care of all my things. Right now they are busy shoveling my walks! I followed my son’s advice. He suggested I look upon my sojourn in Texas as a camping trip. I just brought what I needed, along with personal pictures and mementos. These decisions have literally allowed me to grow spiritually. And that has been my greatest blessing for the year 2005.

My small apartment, which I think is erg gezellig, an almost untranslatable Dutch expression which means cozy, homey, comfortable, welcoming, hospitable, lovely, warm, gracious, etc., has been just right for me. I was feeling it was a little small one day when I was expecting 12 people to come by for the evening, when it occurred to me that I raised four children in an apartment this size when we lived in Holland. We even had other people live with us from time to time in that small apartment and it all worked out. I had to admit, I had gotten spoiled. One of my better decisions when I moved here was not to get cable. Of course, without cable, I miss my “most favoritest” program, Monk, but Steve Moore, who used to teach at York and who now teaches at ACU, has kept me in Monk tapes, as it’s one of his “most favoritest” programs, too. Thank you, Steve!!! Of course, I still watch Mystery – my other favorite program. So, with little to watch, I have had time to read lots of books – about one a week. I listen to tapes, especially sermons, and I have spent a lot more time in Bible study. At York I was heavily involved in the Master's Apprentice Program. Here I take my turn at facilitating a weekly neighborhood Bible study, am involved with the prayer ministry, and am getting involved with the peacemaker ministry here.

My life here is literally filled with good things. I took some returned missionaries with me to corporate worship one Wednesday night. After services we walked around trying to find someone they knew, but as we walked I began introducing them to people I knew. That night I realized how many people here I know now and how many of them are very dear to me! I feel so blessed! When I first came here and walked into the huge building where the body of Christ meets, I literally drew in my breath. I thought to myself that I would never make it here, but just the opposite has happened. I have never been so happy. I think people get tired of hearing me say, “I love my church,” but I do. I have never been so well fed, so encouraged, and so proud to be a part of the body of Christ. Everyone, regardless of background, is welcome here. There are countless ways to help people here, also. This body of believers really believes that the grace of God is bigger than any sin or mistake and they also believe that the power of God is bigger than our limits (these are words out of my preacher’s mouth). As a result I pray more, I study God’s word more, and I reach out to others more. This has been my greatest blessing in being here. I would not trade the spiritual growth I have experienced this year for any of the things I left behind.

This is getting to be a long Christmas/year end letter. I have not told you anything about my children and grandchildren. Well, they are all wonderful and I’m looking forward to being with them all this Christmas season. My grandchildren are now 17, 14, and 3. My Dutch children will be arriving in the states on Christmas eve and I can hardly wait! Steve and my grand-dog are driving down from Nebraska for Christmas and of course, my Texas children will be around. My apartment will struggle to hold us all – but it will! The walls will sing with joy. Who am I that I should be so blessed? 2 Samuel 7:18.

To all you beautiful people whom I love, who seek and save the lost in many different areas of the world, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy and Blessed New Year.

God is great and greatly to be praised.

Love’s prayers,


Thursday, December 01, 2005

What I Wrote

Looked at Mike Cope's blog this morning - probably the most read blog of anyone I know - and saw his congratulatory note to Rick Atchley for receiving the Alumnus of the Year award last night. I was privileged to be in the audience and it truly was wonderful! There is something so joyous and good in seeing someone receive honor, especially if it is deserved.

Then I read the comments to Mike's blog and a dad asked us to respond to his daughter's blog. His daughter needed encouragement. So I went to her blog and read it...and this is what I wrote:

I don't understand it either, Jenny. My daughter lost four babies and all I could do was hold her and cry with her. My best friend lost her sister and her sister left two young children. All I knew to do was cry with her. When my son died the verse people would quote to me was Romans 8:28. I hated that verse. I lived in Job, Psalms and Ecclesiastes a long time. I read every book that explained why God acted as He did and found them all unsatisfactory. Thought I might write my own someday, but I still don't have anything better to say. I will tell you that who I am today was forged in fire back then. I don't understand this God, but I love Him. I finally had to decide that God is all powerful and that He is also good. That is called faith...and if the mountains fall, the earth trembles and the sea roars, I decided to trust Him - no matter what.

Jenny, I am praying for you and your daughter - your whole family. I am so sorry that you are experiencing this gripping pain that is so unexplainable - the loss so real.

God is good. I am convinced of that! Going to Mississippi tomorrow. I have never been there. I am conducting a Church Reentry Workshop. The church in Oxford wants to bring home their missionaries right. I'm really excited.

In two minutes I'm leaving the office to go watch my granddaughter play soccer for Dallas Christian. She's really very good!

May God bless you all.

Love's prayers,