Monday, May 29, 2006

More Wedding Pics

The Happy Couple

I wonder who'll be next.........?????

Beth dancing with the kids

Mr. Hollywood. Get used to seeing this face--it will be on the big screen soon.

Jarrod's toast as the best man

Linnea dancing with Elizabeth

Ted can cut a rug, too!

But Cassidy is too tired. Being a flower girl is hard work!!!

Time to dance....or like Adam, do the "Roxbury" theme.

Various groups of friends.....

That's all, folks!

The way a wedding should be

This past weekend was really special for us. Joel-- who has been the leader of our campus ministry--got married!

His bride Sharon graduated from Muskingum college in Ohio, but we have been blessed to know and fall in love with her over the past two years as well. She is a beautiful, passionate, godly woman.

They have spent a lot of time at our house, and will always have a significant place in our lives.

Making it even more special was that Doug performed the wedding--his very first one ever!!!!!

The whole ceremony, from start to finish, was a celebration. It ended with Joel and Sharon leading the congregation in a time of worship.

But there were so many special aspects to this wedding, and is was truly a reflection of who Joel and Sharon are.

First, every one of the bridesmaids and groomsmen are not only joyful Christians, but all actively involved in ministry. Two are with Campus Crusade, another going overseas to serve this Summer, two involved in working with at-risk kids, and another in training for the mission field. All of them are leaders in their church and in their local campus ministries.

When it came time for the congregational singing, it was so cool to watch the bridal party truly worshipping!!!!! And at the reception, when the best man, Jarrod, gave his toast--he spoke about how there is a special beauty to a woman who loves Christ that is unlike any other beauty.

Several of our CrossSeekers were involved in the wedding or came as guests. One thing I love about them, anytime that we get together, is that they are full of JOY. These guys are so much fun. I realized again this weekend how blessed we are to know these special young men and women.

But another thing I noticed was how diverse Joel and Sharon's friends are. It was a blessing to see people from so many different backgrounds come to celebrate this day with them. Many of their friends are from other religious backgrounds, so it was a wonderful testimony of what a Christian wedding should look like.

And to make it even more special, they will be spending their honeymoon working with a Compassion International school in Peru. They will be there for two months, before they start their new jobs in Washington D.C.

They are also sponsoring a young man, Sylvestre, from the school in Peru. At the reception they had cards and magnets with his picture on the tables, and asked people to pray for him. They also had cards inviting other people to sponsor a needy child.

Joel and Sharon's hearts beat missions. Whether they end up going to the field someday, or staying in the States, I know that they will be involved in reaching every nation, tribe and tongue with the gospel. Because they have a passion to pray and give and go.......UNTIL HE COMES!!

Joel (far left) and the rest of the Peru team at the Compassion International school back in March.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Honoring the Sabbath

I have been reading in Exodus as one of my quiet time passages, and recently read the part about being put to death for not honoring the Sabbath.

That got my attention. I know that we are not under the old law anymore. But it still seems to be a pretty significant principle throughout both the old and new testaments. There are two clear commands for that day: to worship and to rest.

I'm not so sure we really honor the sabbath in our society today. I started thinking about all the ways that the subtleties of the world have crept into our sabbath observance.

I'd like to say that I have never shopped on a Sunday. But I can't. It's just so easy to "run by the store and grab a gallon of milk." And what about eating out, which is something we do mainly on Sundays? Aren't we causing others to work on Sunday by doing so?

Then there is the issue of sporting events. In our area, as kids get older, most of the competitive sports leagues have games on Sunday afternoon. And it is definitely true for college-level athletes.

What about professional sports? We live in an NFL city. What about attending Steeler games? NASCAR races? Golf tournaments? Marathons?

Then there is the issue of church. How many of you find yourselves so busy on Sundays with meetings, choir practices, wedding/baby showers, lesson preparation and so many church events that it ends up being a day of exhaustion rather than a day of rest?

Another issue is movies, television, music and the internet. How careless are we with what we fill our minds with? Joke about? Do we "check out" of our spiritual mode after leaving church, and then assume we can do whatever we please?

Where do we draw the line? Have we, like the Israelites, become so "comfortable" with the culture around us that we have adopted their heathen practices? Are we breaking this commandment without even realizing it?

I don't have the answers. I am still asking these questions myself.

But as I've been reading through the Old Testament, it struck me how much things have stayed the same. The children of Israel went through cycles of following God wholeheartedly, then slowly slipping into the practices of the idolatrous culture around them. Sometimes when I read about their sin, I want to ask them, "how can you forget your God so easily, when you have SEEN His faithfulness, and He has provided for you over and over again?"

Yet aren't we exactly the same? We have seen His faithfulness, and He has provided daily for us. We also have something the Israelites did not have. We have the living, active Word of God to hold in our hands and to read and study personally. So we really are without excuse.

What do you think it means to honor the Sabbath? I would like to hear your thoughts.

Isaiah 58:13-14 "If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of the LORD honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly; then you shall take delight in the LORD, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken."

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Calling all you ordinary people!!!

I don't know about the rest of you, but I am growing weary of the recent negativity in the blog-o-sphere. So I'm fighting back!!!!

I am officially declaring this a "nice" site (with a small sprinkling of "cheesy.")

You are welcome to comment (or even post!) here. This is an "I like everybody" website. That means you don't have to understand soteriology, or be ultra-educated, or have read the latest Bryan McClaren book or even have to like Starbucks to post on my site. (I'm sorry Kevin, but coffee-haters are people, too.)

I don't even care if your comments make sense, or if you like to end your sentences with multiple exclamation marks!!!!!!!!! I want this to be a safe place for everyone to come. Because You are special, and people like you!!!!!!!!

But Art and Dorcas tell me that all blogs should have rules. So here are mine:

1. If you have a pulse, you can post here.
2. If you don't have a pulse, you can still post here. (but I will be scared).
3. Play nice. (That means no slamming, YELLING, cussing, nastiness, deliberately blowing people off, condescending or "drive-by posting").
4. Optional rule: Sing, "It's love, it's love, it's love that makes the world go round...." as you type.
5. Your pictures don't have to be remotely related to your post content (see example above.)
6. You have the right to be "BA-leted" (must be read in a Strongbad voice) should you break these rules.
7. If you are like my friend Francie and not a fan of sentence structure or splling but would rather write your comments in one long stream-of-consciousness then you are still welcome at this site. the interest of generating some positive conversation in the blog-o-sphere, here's a topic starter. Your answer can be a true story, totally random thoughts or a complete bunch of foo-feee. (oh, and new and original words are welcome here, too.......)

It was a seemingly ordinary day, until.............

Global Community

Yesterday I was speaking by Instant Messenger with a friend who lives in Mozambique. It was so refreshing for me to talk to another "kindred spirit", and to catch up on her life and family there on the field. Thanks, Angie!!! I really needed that.

As I finished speaking to her, I realized something. My best friends, those truly "kindred spirits" who I relate to on a heart level--are spread all over the world!!!! And it has to be that way, because we've all been commissioned to take the gospel to the ends of the earth.

I have prayed so much for God to send me a couple of close friends here in Pittsburgh, and wondered why He has not answered that prayer. But in reality, He HAS answered my prayer--just not in the way I would have expected. Most of my friends may not be here physically, but we live in an age of technology where we can connect GLOBALLY.

So I am adapting my idea of what "community" looks like. And I need to say thanks to some people.

Joel and David--thanks for calling me all the way from conference in Seattle, and for your wisdom and prayers. You have no idea how much of an encouragement you were to all of us that day.

Guy--thanks for the great material you sent. Your example, and your faithfulness, have meant so much to us. This new direction we are taking is going to be unconventional and messy----but exciting!!!! Your affirmation means a lot. We would love to meet you guys sometime, when you're back in the States. Plus it would be cool for your Anna and Joshua to meet our Anna and Joshua. ; )

Vicky--thanks for the phone call. I really miss "girl" time, and miss getting to serve with you and Kelly. And can't stand that we're so far away from those sweet kids!!!! But we love hearing about your ministry, and are excited about your connection with the local college, too.

Dan and Rachael, Angie S., and Ron--thanks for stopping by my blog--and especially for the kind words about my parents. It encourages me to know that others love them, too!!!!

Our Pittsburgh church planting team--I really enjoyed the meeting and lunch with you. Wish we all saw each other more often. I am blessed to get to work alongside you guys.

Massa--thanks for your listening ear and servant heart. We would have been lost without you these past 2 1/2 years. We still owe you dinner and a family outing. Just name the time. : )

Francie--thanks for your fun voicemails and emails. You always make me smile.

Jason--thanks for keeping me posted about your ministry, and for making me laugh. : ) I appreciate the lightheartedness and need a break from all the intensity sometimes.

Steve W., Art, and Dan--thanks for the kind words of encouragement, and especially the prayers. : )

Paul--thanks for sharing your heart with us, and letting us be part of this new adventure in your family.

Adam--thanks for your words of appreciation to us. Your email made me cry. You will always have a special place in our hearts--you're one of our "kids" now. But we also look forward to our new relationship as teammates. Next year is going to be amazing.

Phm 1:4-7 "I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers, because I hear of your love and of the faith that you have toward the Lord Jesus and all the saints,
and I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ. For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you."

Monday, May 22, 2006

It's up!!!!

All of you who know me well also know that for two years I have been waiting.....somewhat patiently.....for my punching bag to be put up here in our house in Pennsylvania. It was my birthday present when we first came to Pittsburgh, and the promise to hang it has been given to me for Christmas, an additional birthday and Mother's Day.

But today, the promise came to fruition!!!! Doug figured out a way to attach it to the "I" beam in the garage. So no more improvisation!!!! I no longer have to set it up, punch, set it up, punch, set it up, punch. :)

What a great day!!! And I can even find a verse that is applicable (I know it is a stretch. For all you literalists--I am having some fun here.)

Heb 6:15 And thus, having patiently endured, he obtained the promise.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Servant Heart

This picture was on the NAMB website, and we didn't even realize it!!! That's my Dad, Jerry Schleiff, in the foreground.

It was taken on one of the trips with his Arkansas Disaster Relief team--feeding those affected by the hurricane.

I wanted to share this picture because it characterizes my Dad. He has such a servant heart. One story in particular sticks out in my mind.

There was an epileptic man, Manyai, who lived near our mission station at Sessami. Manyai was a sweet man, but was too disabled to care for himself. He smelled of body odor and urine, and his beard was tangled and scraggly. The other villagers shunned him.

But every few months he would show up at our house, and after eating a good, hearty meal, he would submit to Dad for his annual bath. It literally took hours to wash the layers of dirt from Manyai, and to shave his matted hair and beard. It was such an labor of love. I will never forget the friendship between Dad and Manyai.

But my Dad is like that with everyone. As kids, if we ever needed anything, he would bend over backwards to meet that need. Each morning he would wake us up gently with a cup of tea and a backscratch. (That was usually followed by him coercing us into a morning run. He and I still enjoy going to the track together--and Dad will be 71 this year!!!)

Even now, he and Mom have people in their house constantly--especially college students. And the first words that you will hear out of Dad's mouth when someone walks through the door are, "Hey, can I get you anything?"

Mom and Dad just love people. They have adopted "kids" all over the world. After serving for 28 years in Zimbabwe, they had the opportunity to work at IMB headquarters in Virginia. But instead, they chose to go to Asia and spend 5 years as Member Care personnel--serving, encouraging and supporting other missionaries.

The amazing thing is that my Dad has had opportunities at various times in his life to take denominational positions that carry some prestige. When he was younger, he could have been on staff at a large church in Texas. But he has turned all of those down and opted for the mission field. It has meant working in some dangerous, tough places.

He has not had a high-profile life, but he has certainly had a rich and meaningful one. I don't believe we'll know the full impact of my parent's lives until we get to heaven. So much of it has been lived in quiet, servant-hearted anonymity. And I could not be prouder of them.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Tribute to Mom

Today is my Mom's birthday, and I wanted to write a tribute to this very special woman. She has not only been an amazing mother, but a friend and mentor.

There are so many qualities I admire about her--especially that she loves the Lord and taught us about Him. When we were little, every morning we would walk by Mom's bed and see snuggled under the covers in her "turtle" position. She would be face down, with her knees pulled under her and Bible open, and her eyes closed in prayer.

I have often thought how Mom's "turtle" position, with covers pulled over her head, was much like Susanna Wesley's apron over her head. Both mothers had their own way of teaching that time with God took precedent over everything else.

Mom was a great teacher. She seized natural opportunities to show us about the qualities of God. I remember the first time she cut open an apple and showed us the star inside. And how she illustrated the story of Elijah and the widow by putting a marble in a jar of oil. She would hold the bottle up (causing the marble to block the oil from running out) and tell us how the widow's oil was running out. But then, God miraculously provided more oil!!!! (she would tip the bottle so the oil flowed around the marble.) I thought that was amazing. My Mom could do magical things.

She is also an loving nurturer. Every morning we would awaken to the aroma of breakfast, then go into the kitchen to get a hug and a cup of hot tea from Mom. Anyone who knows Barbara Schleiff knows that her love language is feeding people. Which was not an easy task when we lived in the bush. Everything had to be grown, picked and cooked from scratch!!!!

Mom is a lot of fun. She is spunky, and funny and loves to tease. She also has a slightly competitive edge, which usually comes out in board games. I remember many late nights of playing "Texas 42" or putting together a puzzle. And she loved to embarrass us at mission meeting by getting up and doing skits for the group.

Mom has some incredible faith. She has always lived by the principle, "If we really need it, God will provide." I remember one time we were way out on a dirt road in the bush, and had a flat tire. When Dad started to put on the spare, he discovered it also had a slow leak. We were not sure what we were going to do.

Then Mom pulled the bubble gum she was chewing out of her mouth, stuck it on the hole in the tire, and prayed, "Lord, you know we need to make it into town, so make this bubble gum hold." We actually made it those next several miles--over terribly rough roads--and into a service station!!!!

She also is a woman of prayer. One night, Dad was up late reading by candlelight as he often did. Suddenly, he noticed a cobra slithering into the bedroom. In a panic, he tossed his shoes at it, then the book.......then the candle. Uh-oh. Not a good move. Unsure what to do next, Dad leaned over and shook Mom awake. "Barbara. BARBARA. There's a cobra in the bedroom."

Mom woke up just enough to comprehend what Dad had said. Then she pulled the covers back over her head, and said, "Honey, I'm praying for you" and went back to sleep. (We never did find that cobra.)

Mom also is a woman of incredible courage. One incident that stands out in my mind was when we were living in Gweru right after the war was over. The city had a new mayor named Kombayi, and he was an evil and ruthless man. He had a gang of thugs that accompanied him wherever he went. People were severely "dealt with" if they crossed him.

Well, Mom felt like God told her in her quiet time one day to go and confront Kombayi for his actions. She also felt that she was supposed to present the gospel to him.

So after a week of prayer and fasting, Mom made an appointment with him.

I thought she had lost her mind, and when she walked out the door that morning to meet with him, I really felt like it might be the last time I saw my mother.

Kombayi did not accept Christ that day, even though Mom gave him a Bible with some very impressive passages highlighted (including some on sin and judgment.) However, one of the men who worked in his office was so moved by Mom's courage that he accepted Christ, and years later became a deacon in our church.

From that time on, though, whenever Kombayi saw my mother in town, he would cross the street and come over to greet her warmly (with all his thugs in tow.) She is the only person I know of who he treated with that kind of respect.

Mom's heart, though, is illustrated best in a conversation we had recently. She had really been missing having opportunities to share Christ. "I feel like I'm always around Christians now that we are retired, " she told me. "I just miss getting to tell people about Jesus."

She asked me to pray for her to build some relationships with lost people.

About two days later she called, all excited. One of the universities in town had called and asked if she could host some international students. When they arrived, there were two vans full of new students. Mom quickly discovered that most of them were not Christians.

She was in missionary heaven!!!! Since then, she has continued to build relationships with several of them, and even mentors three or four of the girls. She has started a Bible Study with the ones who were interested in learning about Christianity.

Mom's life has been a reflection of her favorite bible verse.

Proverbs 3:5-6 "Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight. "

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Pittsburgh's religious climate--what does the future hold?

Yesterday, Bishop Donald Wuerl, head of the Pittsburgh diocese, was named by Pope Benedict XVI to be the new Archbishop of Washington D.C. The position is an incredible honor and many are speculating that he will one day be named a Cardinal.

His new role in D.C. will carry significant responsibilities with it. He is already being bombarded with questions regarding immigration, and whether communion should be administered to Senators who are pro-abortion.

This is huge news for our region. Over 800,000 people in Pittsburgh are Catholic.

But the Catholic church is also in crisis. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, on a given Sunday only 36 percent of parishioners attend mass. The number of active attenders has fallen significantly. Just a few years ago the number of practicing Catholics in Pittsburgh numbered more than a million.

Bishop Wuerl's top assistant, Auxiliary Bishop Paul J. Bradley, sees the falloff in Mass attendance, and the influence of "The Da Vinci Code," as hints of a church-wide problem in faith.

"Not unlike other parts of the church in the United States and other parts of the world, there's a growing number of nominal Catholics, fewer practicing Catholics," he said. "It's a reflection of where we are that a particular movie could affect a person's faith perspective."

And there is a shortage of priests as well. Only one man was ordained this year.

So how does this affect our city? There is no doubt that Bishop Wuerl, with his charismatic personality and sharp intellect, influenced more than the religious climate of this region. The political and social climates have also been shaped by his leadership. The Catholic church is so strong locally that it is often referred to as "the church", and news from the diocese is reported regularly in the mainstream media.

It will be interesting to see what happens in the days ahead--both in Washington and here in Pittsburgh. It will likely be several months before a new bishop is selected for Pittsburgh. That nomination comes directly from Pope Benedict XVI.

You may be asking why I would write a post on this, especially since I am Protestant.

But those of you living in regions where Catholicism is the predominate religion can understand. Most of my neighbors and friends are Catholic. This affects them significantly, so it affects me, too. We live in a culture that is very much influenced by the Catholic church, and these changes will impact our entire city.

Please be praying for the city of Pittsburgh in the days ahead. Be praying for those people who are struggling with faith and wondering how God and religion fit into their lives. Bishop Wuerl allowed a lot of inter-denominational freedom and cooperation. Pray that the new bishop will do the same. And please continue to pray for our lost friends and neighbors--those who don't know what it means to have a personal relationship with God.

Cute story

We had our primary elections yesterday.

I took Joshua with me to vote. They had brand new computerized machines, which intrigued him. He wanted to try them out. So I let him enter all of my votes. Suddenly, right in the middle of it, he stopped and got this horrified look on his face. In a loud whisper he exclaimed, "Are you sure this is legal??? I'm not 18 yet!!!"

Everyone in the room had a good chuckle at that.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

A Child's Cry In the Night

I was awakened about 3 this morning by a sound that startled me awake. It was the muffled cry of one of my children.

I quickly realized that it was Anna, and that she was having a nightmare. After making sure she was alright, I settled back down to go to sleep.

But as I lay there, I reflected on how amazing it is that a mother can sleep through other noises of the night, but at the slightest whimper from her child, can be instantly brought out of a deep sleep. A mother's ear is so attuned to the voice of her child, that even in a semi-conscious state she hears it.

It made me think about Psalm 34:15 "The eyes of the LORD are toward the righteous, And His ears are open to their cry."

If we as earthly parents are so attentive to the needs of our children, how much more does our Father in heaven watch over us? We can rest assured that God not only hears us, but is listening deep into the stillness for the faintest cry from the heart of His child.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Maybe she won't see me.......

Joshua trashed his room this morning. So a few minutes ago I went outside and told him to come straighten it up.

I was perplexed when I walked down the hall and heard absolute silence. Didn't sound like much cleaning was going on.

I walked in and found him--crouched down behind the toy box.

A picture says a thousand words..........

Friday, May 12, 2006

When Perseverance Pays Off

Today I overcame on obstacle in my life that has haunted me for years now. After 2,862 attempts at Spider Solitaire, I finally won a game.

"Why is this relevant?" you ask. "Why should I care?"

Bear with me......I really do have a spiritual application here.

I love 2 Corinthians 4. It is one of those passages that has gotten me through so many times in ministry when I am exhausted and just want to give up.

I had hoped to see more results in our ministry this past year than we did. There are so many students who I truly believed would accept Christ this year but who did not. I claimed and truly believed the promise of Psalm 126:5-6. "Those who sow in tears shall reap with joyful shouting. He who goes to and fro weeping, carrying his bag of seed, Shall indeed come again with a shout of joy, bringing his sheaves with him."

God did not choose to work in the way I had expected this past year. But He is God, and His plans and timing are far better than mine.

Sometimes I want to give up. I am tired of sterile, dry, intellectual Christianity. I want so much to KNOW Him. I want to be clearer in my understanding of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I want Him to be able to use me with the power and authority that He intended for His children to exercise. I want to please His heart, and be a light that draws people to Him.

So even when it may feel like I am never going to "win", and that I am fighting a losing battle, I know in my heart of hearts that I MUST persevere.

And someday, whether here on earth or not until I get to heaven, I am confident that I will see the results and obtain the reward.

Gal 6:9 Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.

Girls Day Out

My kids had a half day of school, and Joshua went home with a friend. Doug was on campus. So Anna and I went out for lunch. We took that picture ourselves. Can you tell? : )

As we were eating and talking, I realized how thankful I am to be a Mom. God has blessed me with two very precious kids who are not only warm and loving, but also very fun.

But my heart also goes out today to those who have lost children or not been able to have them. One Mom here in our community just lost her husband and two of their three triplets (age 4) in a tragic car accident. The third child is in Children's Hospital. Pray for the Morrison family. This will not be an easy holiday for them.

I have so many friends who want desperately to be parents, but God, for reasons which I don't understand, has not allowed that to happen. My heart breaks for those couples.

Lord, thank you so much for the blessing of Anna and Joshua. They are such a precious gift. But I also pray for those families who are hit hard by this holiday celebration. Please wrap your arms around them and comfort them.

Psa 34:18 "The LORD is near to the brokenhearted And saves those who are crushed in spirit."

Isn't She Beautiful???

Steve McCoy and Joe Kennedy say "Friday is for Photos." So I wanted to post one of my favorites. This is my niece discovering birthday cake. Isn't she a cutie?

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Above all, put on love

Friends for over 25 years......Jeff, Chris, Brian and Doug

I have noticed lately that my name and Jeff Young's names are being pitted against each other in the blog-o-sphere because we have some differing views.

I just wanted to make something clear: I love Jeff Richard Young!!! He was in our wedding. Doug was in his wedding. They were all in Jeff, Brian and Tommy's weddings. We get our families together as often as we can.

Jeff and I butt heads sometimes because we are both passionate individuals who stand strongly by what we believe. But that's one of the things I respect MOST about him. I also appreciate the fact that he is quick to forgive and let go of things.

I wish all of you could know Jeff in person. He is an amazing pastor, husband and Dad. He is warm, loving and really, really funny. He can cook, and sing, raise sheep, and speak Arabic. He likes OU football. He is ridiculously smart. He has an amazing wife and kids with the most beautiful eyes you have ever seen.

Jeff and I may not agree on the doctrines of grace, or homeschooling, or anchovies on pizza. But we both love the Lord, each other, and desire His glory above all else!!!

I wanted you to see our families together. There is a very special bond of friendship among this group of guys. (Bear in mind, these pics were taken a few years ago, when they could still run at this pace. Since then, 7 more kids have been added, 5 of which were contributed by the Young clan. : )

Brian, Chris, Doug and Jeff playing the ultimate game--Settlers of Catan.

Hey, Jeff. No biting on the court

Instructing our children in the important things of life

With wives Kiki, Amy and Susan (Chris' wife, Kelly, was taking the picture) and two of the kids.

And more kids.........

Preparing to play the amazing game of plungerball.....

Col 3:12-17 "And so, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. And beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father."

Rainy Day Photo

I love rainy days, and today is one of them. There's no way to capture how beautiful it is right now. Everything is so green and the colors are so rich. But here's my attempt to take a picture of the rain from our back porch.

God's Calling is not emotionally secure

The end of the war brought peace, but also new challenges. Many whites fled the country. Integration of the schools began, and it was rocky. The first Prime Minister's term of service was short-lived and unsuccessful. And then Robert Mugabe, the notorious Socialist-Marxist leader who still controls the country, came into power.

My one and only fist fight occured during that time. I hit this guy Clive in the nose (and bloodied it) for calling my African friend Heather a derogotory name. (Heather was the first black student to be integrated into our school.)

But in a lot of ways, those early teen years were some of my happiest memories. We had a strong group of youth in the mission, and great community in my local church. Then there was Indira, my best friend, who had moved to Zimbabwe from Tasmania. The two of us were inseparable.

I was finally getting to experience life as a real kid, without the fear of being "hunted."

Our family also spent quality time together. We have always enjoyed being outdoors, and were finally able to have some freedom. Every Friday night was our family game time. We had constant visitors--my parents have always had a "come one, come all" policy. I think my Mom's real calling was to be an army cook, because she was always feeding someone, and we never knew who might be spending the night.

But then came three events that totally rocked my world.

One of our fellow MKs, Chip Corley, was hit by a car and killed while riding his bike. Our whole mission family was devastated.

Then another tragedy struck. Aunt Jeannie Elliff and the four kids were on their way to our house, with plans for all of us to go to a youth retreat together. But they had an accident on the way.

The van rolled, and Beth was trapped under it. She suffered severe burns because the engine was on top of her. The rest of the family only had minor cuts and scratches.

I will never forget seeing Beth laying on that gurney in the hallway of the hospital. She was in such agony, and parched with thirst. I actually remember her saying, "If you love me, you'll give me a drink of water." That broke my heart. She was not allowed to have anything because of the severity of her burns.

I thought my friend might die that night. It terrified me, and made me angry when I saw the doctor ignoring her, even flirting with some of the nurses. He was totally cold and indifferent.

Aunt Jeannie was finally able to get a plane to fly her to a better hospital in the capital. (I don't remember where Uncle Tom was that weekend--maybe out of town.) Thankfully, Beth survived. But she needed better treatment, so the Elliffs ended up leaving Zimbabwe and returning to the States. That was a tough loss for me. Beth and Amy were like my sisters.

To make matters worse, we later learned the accident was deliberate. When Aunt Jeannie had stopped to get gas, some men had inserted a matchstick into the valve of her tire to cause a slow leak. It was the loss of pressure in the tire that caused the van to flip.

But even in that, we saw God's providence. The men had followed Aunt Jeannie from the gas station, probably intending to rob her(or worse.) But when the van rolled, a train happened to be passing and the engineer saw the accident. He stopped the train and helped lift the vehicle off of Beth.

His presence probably deterred those men from hurting the Elliff family. I know that God preserved their lives that day.

Then we began to have issues in school. Because so many teachers had left the country, the educational system was in crisis. So the government came up with a plan to educate "ex-combatants" (aka "terrorists") in a 6-month teaching program and plug them in as teachers.

That brought a whole new set of issues, and was the first time that my brother and I had been on the receiving end of such racism. We both had teachers who hated us--just for being white (we were now minorities in our school.) Mark even had a teacher throw a chair at him.

Then came the final straw. The government decided to create "labor forces" for the youth of the nation. They were patterned after Hitler's nazi youth gangs, even having political rallies on Sundays. If we stayed in the public schools, we would have to serve in the labor force.

So the decision was made to send us to boarding school in South Africa. At the tender age of 14, I had to leave home and go live in a different country from my parents.

That was tough. The security I had always found in both my biological family and my mission family was now gone. Thankfully, my brother was with me in South Africa for a year. He has always been my anchor--especially through high school and college when our parents were so far away.

Those events were hard, but they also made me stronger. And through it all I can say, "For the LORD will not abandon His people, Nor will He forsake His inheritance."--Psalm 94:14.

Monday, May 08, 2006

God's calling is not safe

WARNING: Contains some graphic material.

(top)Rhodesian soldiers charge into battle, with bayonets drawn. Soldiers would often stop by our mission station. I remember one time, when I was about 5, a troop came by our house after a skirmish like this. They had the body of a terrorist thrown in the back of their truck, and blood was still dripping from the bayonet of his AK47.
(middle) Funeral of the Elim missionaries
(bottom) Authorities gather remains after a viscount passenger plane was shot out of the sky near Kariba. Our friends, Jeremy and Karen, died in that crash. They were returning from their honeymoon. To make matters worse, terrorists found the crash site and shot many of the survivors.

Last year I visited with fellow MK Aaron Hood. We were talking about his life in Colombia, and my heart broke as he told how his Dad was murdered in front of their house in Bogota.

Another MK I know watched her mother be brutally gang raped at gunpoint.

And a third MK was herself assaulted and gang raped by a group of men in an Arab nation, while returning from babysitting for another missionary family.

I could tell you story after story like that.

For years I questioned why God would allow horrific things to happen to families who had given their all to follow Him.

It has only been in the past few months that God has given me peace in this area.

The healing really started for me last Fall. About that same time, Dr. Jerry Rankin, president of the International Mission Board, came to our state convention. As he started his message that night, I knew I wouldn't be able to stay in the room. I had heard him preach this sermon twice before.

I went to the back of the sanctuary and slumped down on the floor in the corner. My heart was pounding, and hot tears burned my face as he recounted the stories of missionaries who had lost their lives on the field. The way he told it made their deaths sound so noble and romantic.

But inside I was screaming, "It's NOT that way!!! It's scary, and horrifying, and UNFAIR!!!"

Afterwards I went up to him, and blurted some emotional response through my tears. I'm not even sure what I said, but it was something like, "those were real people to me, not just names in a story. I'm not okay with all of that."

I'll never forget his reaction. It was so kind and compassionate. He did not try to explain the suffering away as being "God's will." He did not make light of my feelings, or treat them as trite and irrelevant.

Instead, he took my hands in his, and with tears in his own eyes, said, "I know, Kiki, I know."

His actions spoke volumes. With that one gesture, he communicated, "I don't fully understand it either. And it hurts me, too. But God is good. God is Sovereign. And one day we will fully understand the purpose of 'lives given, not taken.'"

Not long after that, I asked my parents why we had stayed in such a dangerous place. My Dad responded with empathy but conviction. He said, "I cannot make an apology for the call of God on our lives."

I am finally coming to a place where I can accept what it means to "take up the cross and follow Me." I can't say I fully understand, but I do know that God is good. I know that God is Sovereign. And our time here on earth is just one small part of a bigger story.

I am also learning that the fullness of God's grace and glory seems to shine brightest when set against the backdrop of man's depravity. In the darkest times God's love and mercy are fully illuminated.

I've been asked to share more about my past, but haven't wanted to or really known how to until recently. I was between 8 and 10 during the worst years of the war. So I'll reveal a segment of that time period with you.....

1978 was a stressful year for our family. The war had gotten bad. We had grenade shields on our windows, and most of my friends went to school in armored trucks. Landmines and ambushes were common hazards on the road. We had forced military curfews--no one could go out at night. Travel between cities only occured in armed convoys. Everyone carried firearms--even to church.

Terrorist attacks on mission stations had increased. We had already been forced off of the Sessami station, and were now on a station outside Gwelo.

A few months before, my friend Pieter Brand had lost his Mom and Dad in an ambush. They had been going to one of their preaching points on a Sunday morning, when the terrorists cut them off on the road and shot them in cold blood.

Terrorists struck again on June 15th. We got word from our Sanyati station that missionary Archie Dunaway (one of my favorite "uncles") was missing. He was a sweet man, who absolutely loved MKs and spoiled us rotten. Whenever we would go visit him in Sanyati, he would have a big cookout on the anthill. We also liked playing with his little chihuahua, Joe. The two of them were inseparable.

So when his truck was found that horrible night, with Joe still inside, we all knew something had happened. His body was discovered a few hours later. He had been bayoneted numerous times, and the African people were forced to stand around and laugh as he died.

The next day we all evacuated to the MK home in the city. Whole families were jammed into tiny rooms.

About the same time, we learned from security forces that my Dad's name was on a terrorist hit list.

Eight days later, a mission station on the Eastern border was attacked and entire families were murdered. Here is the newspaper report......

On the night of June 23, 1978, Elim Mission in the Rhodesian Eastern Highlands was subjected to the worst massacre of missionaries yet experienced. Terry Blocksidge reported in the Sunday Mail (Salisbury):

Eight British missionaries and four young children - including a three-week-old baby - were bayoneted to death by terrorists on Rhodesia’s Eastern border on Friday night in the worst massacre of whites since the six-year-old war began.

Three of the missionaries were men and the others women.

A sixth woman was stabbed and beaten and left for dead. She staggered 300 m into the freezing Vumba bush to spend the night before being found semi-conscious by security forces yesterday. Despite intensive care in a Salisbury hospital she subsequently died.

The gruesome murders, by a group of eight to 10 terrorists, happened at Emmanuel Mission School - 15 km south-east of Umtali and 8 km from the Mozambique border - once used as the Eagle boarding school.

The dead, who belonged to the Elim Pentecostal Church, were:

* Mr. Peter McCann (30), his wife, Sandra (also 30), son Phillip (six) and daughter Joy (five).

* The Rev. Phillip Evans (29), his wife, Suzan (35), and their daughter Rebecca (four).

* Mr. Roy Lynn (37), his wife, Joyce (36), and their daughter Pamela Grace. She would have been three weeks old yesterday.

* Catherine Picken (55) and Elizabeth Wendy Hamilton- White (37).

* Miss Mary Fisher (28).

Most of the women had been sexually assaulted, and one mutilated.

The children had been dragged from their beds. Two children were in yellow pyjamas, one with a red dressing gown, and a third in a flowery nightdress.

One child had her tiny thumbs clenched in her palms.

Even hardened security men were stunned by the bloody scene and stood around silently. “The quiet is uncanny”, said one.

Mr. Brian Chapman, director of the Church in Rhodesia and South Africa, visited the scene yesterday. He said: “We saw no humanity here.”

The massacre began shortly before 8.30 p.m. when the white families were forced by the terrorists from their homes and classrooms, and marched to a playing field.

Near the sports pavilion, about 400 m from the main school, they were split into groups, then beaten with lengths of wood and logs, and stabbed.

When security forces reached the scene yesterday, the full horror on the cold, mist-and-rain shrouded Vumba mountainside confronted them:

A mother, beaten to death, lay with her young baby. The baby had also been savagely beaten.

Their arms stretched out to each other, their hands resting an inch apart. The child’s hand was clenched.

The mother had a hand squeezed tightly around her engagement ring, turned into her palm, as she reached for her baby in her dying moments.

Nearby, another woman had died from an axe-wound - the weapon still protruded from her shoulder and two men, one with his hands tied behind his back, lay beaten and slashed to death.

A blood-soaked chunk of wood had been dropped near to them.

Three children lay in a pitiful huddle, with two women’s bodies next to them.

Some had raised their arms to defend themselves from the brutal blows.

Witnesses say that the missionaries were praying for their perpetrators as they died. Since then, several of those terrorists have come to faith in Christ. And the work that these brave missionaries started is being carried on today by Zimbabwean nationals.

Richard Smith, son of retired Elim missionaries, reports that "the leader of the rebels became a born-again Christian a number of years after the fact and was able to meet with Peter Griffiths (who was back in the UK at the time of the massacre)".

There were also two children who were away from the mission at the time of the massacre--Timothy and Rachel Evans. They lost their parents and little sister. I don't really know where they are now, but wonder what their perspective would be.

Matt. 16:24-25 "Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it."

Murder of Missionaries in Rhodesia

Anatomy of Terror

Paintball and Campfire

This weekend was our end-of-year paintball outing and bonfire. We had at least 43 people there.

Anna got to play her first paintball game--that's her at the top. It was a really great time of fun and fellowship.

But as we were sitting around the campfire, it struck me how much our group has changed since our bonfire last year. Not only have we grown in numbers, but there was such a clear testimony of how God has worked this past year.

There were six new Christians in the group. And there were at least 8 who are not believers at all (and I don't know about the visitors who were present.)

During the testimony time, it was cool to hear what God was working, and a theme began to emerge. Some of the new Christians told how they had thought we were a bunch of "Jesus freaks", but were also attracted to the love and joy exhibited by the group. And two of the non-believers even shared stories, prefacing their testimony with "I am not a Christian, but....."

One thing that struck me was how our group is not ashamed to speak the truth boldly. There was no attempt to re-package the gospel or market it in a way that would be more palatable to the world.

The way of the cross is tough. And it is exclusive. Jesus said in John 14:6, "I am the way, and the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father but through me."

But it is also a place of joy, freedom and refreshment. Matthew 11:28-30 says "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."

I believe the world wants to hear the truth. They are hungry for freedom and rest.

Two of our new believers said that the knowledge that we prayed for them by name to come to Christ impacted their lives tremendously. Our group does not hide the fact that we want our friends to find the joy and truth of Christ. We tell them that we are desperately praying for the eyes of their spiritual hearts to be opened. We speak the truth in love.

One other thing that was encouraging was having three of the leaders of other Christian groups at the bonfire as well. We have started being intentional about supporting, praying for, and encouraging one another in our ministries.

This coming year we will be doing more activities together. There is such a sweet spirit of unity among all of the Christian groups. We have a shared vision and desire: we are so hungry to see Christ glorified on our campus.

Ashleigh, one of the leaders of Intervarsity, shared how in their own group they have sensed that God is preparing them for something big next year. There is a spiritual sensitivity on campus that has not been there before. There is a hunger and passion among the Christian students, and a new sense of urgency.

Several in our own group, as well as the two leaders who were there from Christian Student Fellowship, affirmed what Ashleigh was saying. We have felt it, too.

But then something interesting happened. Another student spoke up and said that he sensed the spiritual activity on campus recently, too, and that he had noticed the unity and shared vision. He wanted his group to be part of that--and he is Muslim!!!

God is AMAZING. I am thankful. I don't know where we are heading, and still don't really know how to do campus ministry any more than I did two years ago when we got here. But our God who has called us is faithful, and HE will do it. (1 Thess. 5:24)