Let us run the race

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Bread or Candy?

 Mark 10:15 “ I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive
 the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it."
Can you imagine asking a child if he wants more bread or just candy, and he answers, “Just bread, please”? We minister to Quechua children in the valleys of Bolivia and in remote mountain villages. Every Christmas, we travel to villages high in the Andes Mountains, above the tree line. We take gifts, food, and the Good News to children living without even the basic needs, and without Jesus.

Little Paco met us coming into his village. He was wearing sandals made of truck tires and had no sweater for the cold weather. We gave him a sweater to keep him warm and food for his tummy. His eyes lit up when he saw the gifts and candy, but what he wanted most was the bread––a real treat where there’s no firewood to bake bread. When he heard the story of Jesus, he accepted the gift of salvation joyfully and without hesitation. 
Paco is just a little guy, but with a big story that points the way to heaven; trust the Father, believe in Jesus and enter the kingdom with childlike faith. Paco may only have bread when we visit, but he will always have the Bread of Life.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Plugging into the Power

I've never done all the Christmas decorating by myself––until now. My husband was on his way back from the States, and I decided to have all the decorations up and glowing when he arrived. Thank the Lord that he won't be needing surgery as originally thought and has received some answers for his health issues.

So I trotted to the garage, sorted through the boxes and took out the strings of tree lights. I always trim the tree but never put the lights on the tree––that's my husband's job. They were all neatly rolled and easy to untangled. A sure sign it wasn't me that put them away last year.

I fiddled to get the bulbs in just the right spots, and Tah Dah!––ready to plug in. That wasn't so hard.

I was careful to first plug them into a transformer to convert them––thinking they were 110 volts. We have 220 volts here, and I wanted to be careful not to blow up the tree by blowing out the lights.

The lights were dim, barely shining––what could be the problem? After scratching my head for a few minutes, I realized the lights were 220, so no need for a transformer. I plugged them directly into the full source of power, and they twinkled brightly––how lovely to see them glowing in all their beauty.

When we're not plugged into God's power, our light is dim just like the tree lights that weren't drawing on the full power they needed––they weren't brightly shining. But, when plugged into the power source, they brightly glowed. So we too, when plugged into His power, will brightly twinkle with His radiance and beauty.

My tree is twinkling brightly, and I'm making it a daily goal to be plugged into the Power, so that I can brightly twinkle for Jesus this Christmas season and all year round.

Christ is born! Merry Christmas!

Psalm 147:5 "Great is our Lord and mighty in power; " (NIV)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Heavenly Hugs

Heavenly Hugs

Heavenly Hugs

Deuteronomy 33:27 “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms;”

   I have the blessings of many hugs in our ministry. We live in a rural area of Bolivia where we teach practical skills to underprivileged children, while reaching them for Christ. This picture was taken when I went to the local government school to register these precious children for our computer classes; they blessed me with heavenly hugs.

   Often we are asked what we miss most from home; that’s easy, family and friends. Our granddaughter recently celebrated her ninth birthday; we missed the party and hugs. But, there is a heavenly hug available. It travels through the heavens and comes out through a phone or a computer. We are blessed by the technology we have available to us today. Before the Internet, we got mail once a month and rarely made a phone call. Now we are blessed to have instant communication daily.

   God has blessed me with a ministry of physical heavenly hugs from children every day, and ethereal heavenly hugs from across the miles often. Even when I miss a birthday party, I am content where He has me. He is my refuse, under His Everlasting Arms of heavenly hugs.

To all my internet friends, hope you feel the hugs. Thanks for your friendship through the heavens!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Funny Face

When I was a little girl, my grandfather used to say to me, "Make a funny face." I'd crinkle my nose and scrunch up my face. Then he'd laugh and give me a hug––I loved that––making him laugh and getting hugs. Neither of us could have ever imagined that he was preparing me for a time when I would make children laugh in Bolivia. It gives me joy to see kids laugh and their parents also. Bolivians almost never smile for a photo, unless of course, I am taking the picture and making funny faces.

Last year was the first graduation ceremony at the Catholic school in our area. Finally, children here are able to have a high school diploma. There was a tornado the night of graduation last year––this year a thunderstorm. But in the wind and in the rain, the program continued.

I was honored to be asked to present two diplomas––one for a kindergarten student and one for Noelia, my student who attended Rumi Rancho classes for many years. All of the graduating girls were in my Bible and cooking classes.

Psalm 126:3 says, "The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy." What a privilege to share the gospel with girls like Noelia. I may be able to bring smiles to their faces by making a "funny face", but only Jesus can make their hearts smile and bring joy to their souls.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Content in All Circumstances

Bread for Children

This is one of my favorite pictures of my husband. He loves being involved in this ministry in the mountains. When he had back surgery a few years ago, his first question for the doctor when he woke up was, "Can I go on the mountain trip six weeks from now?"

Right now, he is in the states waiting to hear if he needs surgery again. One opinion says no, and we are waiting for the second opinion––hoping it is the same. I'm sure Chuck is already planning to be on the trip a few weeks from now––Lord willing.

Each December, we wonder how God is going to supply all we need for the many ministries we do at Christmas time. He never fails to supply for exactly what He wants done. Chuck told me about a discussion he had with a group of our supporters on the night of his birthday. They arranged a surprise birthday party at a restaurant and of course, gave Chuck the floor to speak. Everyone joked that he finally didn't have to share his time with me––there was no chance I could steal his thunder that night from thousands of miles away.

Then he told me of one question he was asked by the group. "How is your support?" His answer, "We're fine." This is one reason he needs me by his side:-) He is a man of few words when he speaks. I am the opposite. He never elaborates––I go on and on. Yes, we do compliment each other. We joke that we can't even remember not being married.

We are fine. God does meet our needs. We are blessed. But there are always needs for the ministry. If we don't inform about our ministry needs, how will God supply? One of the hardest things as missionaries is to tell of our needs, especially when so many today have needs also. But God's work can't go on if we aren't His voice for the work He wants done.

When our property paperwork costs mounted up, we didn't have the funds we needed. God supplied every need. This month, the month of December, it is always a matter of prayer for all we need for the Christmas ministry. Yes, Chuck and Peggy are fine, we have a roof over our heads, we have food in the cupboards, but many around us don't. Some don't even have shoes. We take hundreds of sandals to the mountains––typical ones that the people here wear. We take food, and medical supplies. We even take vets and vaccines for their animals. Gifts for the children and bread are the highlights of the trip. To see a child light up with the same smile when they receive bread as when they receive a babydoll or truck––it brings tears to your eyes. We also give to those around us in our village and over the mountain behind our house and our two churches. And the best gift we share––Jesus. How do we do all of this on our monthly support, we don't––but God supplies for this need.

The apostle Paul detached himself from nonessential things to concentrate on eternal things. Philippians 4:12 says, "I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in every and any situation, whether well feed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. (NIV) We are fine, whether abased or abound, because we know God provides for us and the ministry. We even have those nonessential things that Paul didn't. But, when we do need more support, God touches hearts. When we abound, we do even more ministry––more eternal things. That's why we are content––because God knows and supplies our needs!

 Chuck had it right––we are fine––in plenty or in want.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Two Tough Turkeys

The turkey tales I have to tell don't resemble the beautiful turkey in this picture, but they do hold a special spot in my heart. The first, because it was the first turkey I ever cooked––two months after my wedding day. The second, because it was my son's turkey––placed in my freezer without my knowledge. I have many precious memories to be thankful for on this Thanksgiving Day. Psalm 107:1(NIV) "Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever." As the years pass, I realize that it is a blessing to be able to remember.

After many years of eating turkey, I suddenly developed an allergy to the bird. I don't look forward to turkey on Thanksgiving now––unless I want to look like Frankenstein or meet the Lord face to face. After two reactions, it was certain I had an allergy to turkey. Then, my third encounter with a turkey was an accident. I forgot that the gravy was turkey gravy, but after that reaction I will never forget again. It took the doctors four days to get my hives under control.

But, I've had other encounters with turkeys. I also have experience cooking turkeys. As a new bride, I looked forward to cooking my first Thanksgiving dinner. Far away from our home town, we celebrated alone. My husband was in the Air Force, and we lived in Las Vegas, Nevada. Now you may think that was glamorous, but it wasn't. We lived on an airman's salary and buying a turkey was a big expense for the special day. We got up early, and together we made the stuffing, packed it in the bird and shoved it in the oven. After a few hours, we checked the bird. We thought it strange that there was no wonderful aroma coming from the oven, and looking at it––well, it was still raw. Huh, two hours more should do it––we reasoned. We closed the oven door and waited.

The table looked lovely with my wedding gifts of silver, crystal, and candle sticks placed on the perfectly pressed tablecloth. The potatoes were cooking, and the red cranberry sauce contrasted the green linen tablecloth––my decorating skills were developing. If only that turkey would cooperate. It didn't. After nine hours in the oven, it was tough and still not cooked. We were so disgusted that we took that bird for a long drive in the Nevada desert and threw it out of the convertible we were driving. Good riddens! Did we ever know what happened? Never! But, I can tell you that story has been told over and over and usually it sounds as though the cook messed up. I will never agree––it must have been the oven! My first turkey--tough and uncooked! And it's still haunting me today––every time the story is told.

The second turkey tale involves our son. We were new missionaries on the field and had just purchased a freezer, a big deal in those days--30 years ago. We had chickens in the freezer, and at this point in my life I had learned to cook. But, cooking in Bolivia is different. Because of the altitude, everything takes longer to cook. I took the bird out of the freezer, thawed it and put it in a pot to boil. I checked that bird every hour, and every hour it seemed less cooked. Memories of that first turkey were still haunting me. I wondered what this bird had against me. After six hours in the pot––you guessed it––it met its fate in the mountains of Bolivia. But, this story has an ending that was resolved.

Our son had gone hunting and killed a wild turkey. Wild Bolivian turkeys are the same size as chickens. He never told me the turkey was in our freezer. And, I didn't know it was a wild turkey or the secrets of cooking this exotic Bolivian bird. But, I did find out why that so called chicken never cooked––because it wasn't a chicken at all. Unlike the Nevada turkey––I do have an excuse for the Bolivian turkey.

I hope your turkey isn't a repeat of my turkey stories this Thanksgiving. It wasn't funny at the time, but they are good, funny memories now. We have so much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving Day. Good and funny memories are a blessing to be thankful for too.

Happy Thanksgiving! Hope you make some good memories on this special day––even funny ones.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Hanging by a Hair

Some days, you just need a friend to pick you up. They may be hanging by a hair too, but they are ready to pick you up when you need a lift.

"Two are better than one, because they have a better return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up." (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 NIV)

Lately, I've been blessed by those friends. When I'm in need of a flower to brighten my day––they offer it. They hold out a hand and lift me up. We "hang" together. Thank God for friends––blessings from Him!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Shine like Stars

 Hollywood Star or Heavenly Star?

When I walk outside our back door at night, I see a clear sky. We live on the outskirts of a large city, and here in the boonies the stars shine brightly. There is no pollution, just clear nights with shining stars. The beauty of God's heaven is visible without the pollution of civilization. When you look at the sky in the city at night, you don't see the stars, but they are there––just not shining through.

There are days that I am polluted too. Jesus is not shining through. Do you know the feeling––maybe tired or complaining and grumpy too? Philippians 2:14-16 says "Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life..."(NIV)

My friend Debi once asked me (some 16 years ago), "If you won the lottery, what would you do?" Kind of hard to win if you never buy a ticket. At the time, we were raising support to come back to Bolivia. We didn't know if God would bring us back to Bolivia or if He had another plan for us––we prayed for His plan, but in our hearts we hoped to return to our ministry in Bolivia.

Before I could answer Debi's question she said, "You don't have to answer––you'd go to Bolivia, right?" Right! We wanted to hold out the Word of Life for the Bolivian people and shine like stars for Jesus––showing His light through us. God gave us the desires of our hearts.

We are stars for Jesus. Somedays we don't shine as brightly as other days, but we try our best. It's our hearts' desire to shine for Him, so others may see Jesus shining through us as we hold out the Word of Life. Then, they too may become a shining star for Him.

Wouldn't you rather be a Heavenly Star with eternal rewards instead of a Hollywood star with only earthly rewards? I know not many of us have a chance to become Hollywood stars, but we all have the choice to become Heavenly Stars––shining for Jesus.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Encamped Enemies

Fire on the Mountain-–Fear in the Valley

This was the scene looking out of our upstairs windows a few weeks ago. The enemy was encamped and ready for war. Intruders had entered our village and threatened to wage war on the people of the community--hoping to acquire land by force. 

The day before, many were injured as the squabbles turned into physical confrontations. Then the enemy camped on the mountain, and the stand off began. Psalms 27:3 says,"Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war arise against me, yet will I be confident." The war had begun, but the community people didn't back down––instead they made plans for the attack. They prepared, they planned, and they carried through together.

When the enemy moves in for the siege, are we ready? The people of our community were ready, united and determined. They moved up the mountain setting fires, creeping step by step, until the enemy was smoked out and left. Victory was theirs.

It wasn't the first time the enemy moved in. Nor will it be the last. Until the final paperwork is completed for the community property, the enemy will continue to try to move in.

As I watched the fires flame and inhaled the smoke, I felt fear from this enemy too. What if they returned and encamped on the mountain behind our house? Were we prepared for the enemy's attack? Would the community people come to our aid?

But what about my spiritual enemy? Am I prepared with the whole armor of God for his attacks?

Can we say as the psalmist?––"...though war rise up against me, yet will I be confident." Our enemy will not give up either, but we can be confident that God promises to protect us and give us the victory when the enemy encamps about us.

Monday, September 10, 2012

In Memory of My Kelsey

Kelsey Lee Cunningham
September 6, 1994--September 8, 2012

Incase you missed Kelsey's story in The Voice of Grace and Truth, I'm posting it today.
 In memory of the best furry little girl ever!

Happy Birthday America

      On July 4th, I will wear my flag sweater. I am old, 126 in dog years, but I’m not as old as my country, the United States of America. This year, on its birthday, my country will be 235 years old and we will celebrate at my house with a big party. I can wear my flag sweater because where I live it will be winter in July, that’s because I live in South America, where my parents work. The seasons are opposite here, which means while it is summer in the United States it is winter in South America.

       I was born in the USA; it says so on my special papers. They say I am Kelsey Lee, Shih Tzu, girl dog, born in 1994, in Florida. I am 18 years old in people years, even that is old for a dog.  I am proud to be an OLD American dog.
     Our country has a special birthday paper too. It is called the Declaration of Independence, signed on July 4, 1776 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. On that date our nation was born, July 4th is its birthday. This paper announced that the 13 colonies wanted freedom from the mother country of Great Britain. The colonies wanted to form their own country and make their own laws; they wanted to be free. The signing of The Declaration of Independence was the beginning of America’s fight to be a free and independent nation. It wasn’t easy to become a free nation. There was a war and many people lost their lives, they were heroes because they died for our country.

     Every year on July 4th, we have a special picnic at my house to celebrate America’s birthday. I love that party with all the hotdogs, fireworks and ice cream. I wear my flag sweater, it is red, white, and blue, with stars and stripes, and it even looks like a flag. Our flag is our most important symbol of our freedom. When our country was just beginning our forefathers, the founders of our country, decided to make a new flag. George Washington, our first president, asked Betsy Ross to sew the first flag. He was told she could sew better than anyone and that her husband was a soldier who died in the war; he was a hero. Betsy Ross was happy to sew the first flag.

     It was decided that the flag would be red, white, and blue, with stars and stripes.  The color red would be for victory, white for purity, and blue for loyalty. The stars would be for each state and the stripes for the 13 colonies that became the first 13 states.

     One year later, on July 4, 1777, the sky of Philadelphia was lit up with bonfires and candles were glowing in all the windows of the homes and stores. Church bells rang out and even cannons were shot from ships. It was America’s first birthday party. After that people all across America celebrated the birth of our country every year on July 4th.

      Many of the men who wrote The Declaration of Independence prayed for guidance from God as they served our country. In my house we always pray for our country and our leaders. The Bible says in Ephesians 5:20 “Giving thanks always for all things unto God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Let’s always thank God for our country and ask Him to bless The United States of America.

"Red Sweater Girls"

 You may be gone from my side,
but you'll always be in my heart!

"God will prepare everything for our perfect happiness in heaven, 
and if it takes my dog being there, then I believe he'll be there." Billy Graham

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Everlasting Rock

An annual celebration is underway here in Cochabamba. The festival of the Virgin of Urkupiña is celebrated with dancing, parades, and rituals that take place the third week of August. During this time, the traffic is so dense on our road that it takes us two hours to advance a few miles––if for some reason, we need to venture out during this mad rush. Recently our main road was paved, bringing with it more traffic than the years before. Looking out our windows at 6 a.m., we can see a steady stream of busses, taxis, and cars racing by on our main road a half mile from our house. They are rushing to reach the mountain 5 miles away.

This mountain is the location of the ceremony that takes place each year. It was here that the legend behind the festival began. The legend tells of a poor shepherd girl who met a young girl on this mountain while tending to her sheep on a hillside near Quillaqollo, a town outside Cochabamba. The young girl gave five stones to the peasant girl. When the little peasant girl returned home, she took them out of her pocket to show her mother. The stones had turned to precious gems. The girl's family was rescued from poverty. When people inquired as to the whereabouts of the encounter, the girl replied in her native Quechua language, "Urkupiña."

Today, this celebration, in honor of the legend, attracts nearly half a million people each year to the area of Cochabamba. The festival begins with a colorful parade of over 10,000 dancers and musicians, helping to spark the excitement of the celebration. Following the grand parade, a Mass takes place, a solemn event that ends with a march of the image of the Virgin of Ukupiña through the streets of Quillaqollo. The festival ends with a procession up the hillside where it is said the young girl appeared. Festival participants carry rocks they gathered the year before, and miniature objects of the things they desire for the coming year, in hopes of receiving a blessing. These stones and objects are symbolic of a loan, for once blessed you must return them to the hillside at some time in your life. Next, the participants break off their rock for the coming year. If the rock is large, it will indicate prosperity for the coming year.

The festival of the Virgin of Urkupiña is a spectacular event in Bolivian culture. It is a blend of Catholic faith and Bolivian tradition that attracts not only Bolivian people, but people from all across the globe, making the festival of the Virgin of Urkupiña a unique and spectacular event.

We won't be attending the festivities for two reasons––for safety reasons in large crowds, and we already have our Rock who provides all we need. "Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock." (Isaiah 26:4 esv)

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Wingin' it Without Wires

We're wireless here in our ministry. A few years ago, our son upgraded our computer technology, and we entered into the 21st century. It's all dandy––until there's a problem. We'd rather be held up by the wires. Our wires could be our jobs, our spouse, our savings or our health. But, what happens when we lose those things?

I'll admit, I sometimes freak out when a problem seems insurmountable. When the wires are pulled out from under me, I get scared. Right now, I face being a caregiver to the guy who has taken care of me for many years––my high school sweetheart––now my old age sweetheart :-). I know this illness isn't fatal, and time will heal––but how long will it take? It's difficult to see the ones you love suffer, and even more difficult for them. Isaiah 41:13 says, " For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear: I will help you." A promise from God––He will help us through anything we face.

It's a bit scary not having the wires under me, but it is also comforting to know I don't need to depend on the wires. I only need to depend on the One who is the Wire.  This wireless living may be a bit freaky, but I have help from the One who takes hold of my hand and will never let me fall––with or without the wires.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Fires and Faith

Tonight is believed to be the longest and coldest night in Bolivia. It is the holiday of San Juan. All over Bolivia people will build fires, sing and eat by the fire, and be warm. Tomorrow morning, we'll awake to a fog so dense we won't be able to see out our windows, and the smoke will burn our eyes for days. Even though it is prohibited now to build these fires, still the tradition continues. Not even the threat of being fined stops the tradition.

In a small town tucked away in the lowlands, this holiday began centuries ago. The town was founded by a Jesuit priest. It was here that the town celebrated their Patron Saint San Juan (John the Baptist) and named a church in his honor. Every year thousands flock to this town to walk over hot coals. They believe only their faith will enable them to firewalk, because without faith they will burn from this earthly fire.

Thankfully, by faith, I'm saved from the eternal fire through His Son. God's promise in Isaiah 43 says He protects me from all the fires of life and from the fires of the afterlife.

How many still trust in traditions rather than the Savior tonight? This holiday we can see believers going to our churches where they will celebrate being saved from eternal fire. However, many outside still sit by their fires and walk on hot coals. We have Good News for them––they can be saved from the eternal hot coals by faith in Christ.