Monday, January 08, 2018

Share the Sweetness

Since my last post back in 2016, I’ve had the privilege of traveling to Haiti, Dominican Republic & Mexico on mission trips along with keeping busy with finishing my nursing degree at a local community college. I've decided to share some of the experiences and lessons I've learned from these mission trips. 

Here's an experience from my time in the Dominican Republic back in August... Imagine you are walking along a slippery, muddy trail in the beautiful mountains of Dominican Republic. This is where my story begins. 

We walked along the jungle trail with a pep in our step. My friend was taking us to visit his uncle and aunt who grew oregano on the hillside. Along the way, there were cool streams to ford and large rocks and tree roots that crisscrossed the path. Small purple flowers bloomed along the path which brightened our journey. We began to smell a pleasant wafting of oregano even before we could see the uncle’s gardens. 

When we arrived at the top of the hill, their humble home looked more like what we would call a shack than a house. There were chickens getting ready to roost for the evening sitting on the porch walls. We greeted Auntie and then climbed the next hill in search of Uncle who was out in his field. Once we found him, there was an embrace and then the normal chit-chat for an uncle and nephew who hadn’t seen each other in more than a year. 

The dear couple was so warm and down-to-earth--my kind-of people. They invited us into their home for a few minutes to chat about life--all in Spanish of course.  Before we left they picked a few of the fresh mini pineapples that they were growing on their hillside to share with us. The taste was so rich and sweet--some of the best tasting pineapples I’ve ever had. We enjoyed snacking on a few before heading back down the trail--this time in the dusk of sunset. 

As we trekked back down the trail in the growing darkness, I couldn’t help but think about that dear couple. Even though they were living in a poor house on the mountainside in the Dominican Republic, they were so happy to give of the little they had. 

They were so isolated from what we call the basic amenities of the world. They didn't have any cell service or cell phones for that matter. No wifi. No grocery stores a few miles away. No large house or new car in the driveway.

Yet they were content with what they had and even gave of their God-given produce to share with us. 

Life at home in America is way too complicated so often. It shouldn't be as stressful as it is sometimes. Really. That sweet, simple life was so appealing to me.

We think we always need to get, get, get for ourselves--the newest iPhone or Mac computer, the coolest looking North Face jacket, the most expensive brand of shoes--when instead we could be learning how to be self-sustainable and be able to give of our own abundant blessings to brighten the lives of those around us. We probably don’t actually think about it like this, but materialism is so ingrained in our culture today that we can get sucked in without realizing it. 

I want my life to glorify God in everything and be a blessing and not a burden wherever I go whether here at home or in a land far away. 

My prayer is to be able to share my Savior’s sweetness just like the tiny pineapples gave of their juicy goodness and to live simply in the midst of a complicated world. 

Be a blessing, not a burden.

After all, it’s always “more blessed to give than to receive.” Acts 20:35 


Thursday, January 07, 2016

The Heart's Song

Lub, dup, lub, dup, lub dup…

The human heart keeps pumping and pumping—even during the night.

Yet, it’s not constantly working. In between each contraction the heart relaxes and prepares for the next squeeze. If the heart loses its ability to rest it can be a dangerous life or death issue.

The heart has been created with the perfect balance between contracting and relaxing - working and resting. And sometimes I feel that I don’t have the time to rest... as if it's a waste of time to really stop, think & evaluate.

No matter who we are — whether we hold an important office in the church, whether we’re an overwhelmed college student, a busy homeschooling mom, or a missionary in a foreign land who has to do the jobs of three people — we too need to make time in the middle of our busy lives to recharge from the Source of all life.

The fact is when we attempt less, we may actually be able to accomplish more. Also if we are empowered by the Life-giver, we will be more effective and will feel less strain on our weak shoulders.

I heard this powerful quote in a sermon recently:

“Let no one overtax his God-given powers in an effort to advance the Lord’s work more rapidly. The power of man cannot hasten the work; with this must be united the power of heavenly intelligences. Only thus can the work of God be brought to perfection. Man cannot do God’s part of the work. A Paul may plant, and an Apollos water, but God gives the increase. In simplicity and meekness man is to co-operate with divine agencies, at all times doing his best, yet ever realizing that God is the great Master Workman. He is not to feel self-confident, for thus he will exhaust his reserve force and destroy his mental and physical powers. Though all the workmen now bearing the heaviest burdens should be laid aside, God’s work would be carried forward. Then let our zeal in labor be tempered with reason; let us cease our efforts to do that which the Lord alone can accomplish.” 
Testimonies Vol. 7, pg 298

I’ve been struck again recently that busyness is one of Satan’s biggest traps. He doesn’t really mind if we are going to church, working hard for God, going to a Christian school, even reading the Bible… as long as we are too busy (even with good things) to cultivate a real abiding relationship with our Maker. He wants to steal our time and keep us so occupied that we feel like we don’t even have a few minutes to be still.

Sadly, I think Satan has this down pat. I believe he uses things like social media to fill the down times that could be used for heart-searching or Bible memory. At least for me, things like scrolling through my Instagram feed can become my default activity when there’s nothing else going on (even though social media can be used for ministry). It seems that I have a inner “need” to have something going on all the time. It’s hard nowadays in the rat race of life to actually have rejuvenating times of rest & reflection. (Note: This shouldn't be lazy lounging though.)

Pump, relax, pump, relax... work, rest, work, rest — that’s the heart’s song. And it needs to be ours too. Even when there appears to be an eternity of work ahead of us or our to-do list seems a mile long, it's necessary for us to set apart some precious time to rest in the arms of God.

Our spiritual life may be dying in the midst of working ourselves dry to serve others.

It’s a life or death issue.

My Jesus said these beautiful words long ago, yet they are still perfectly valid today —

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart:and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. 
Matthew 11:28-30

Let’s take advantage of that offer and not wait until our to-do list is completed. Let’s learn to sing the heart’s song.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

New College & Unconscious Influence

It has been a whole new experience for me to attend a secular, public college. My initial impression of the school on the first day classes was that of a busy airport... everyone seemed to be going about their own business, hauling their luggage (school backpacks in this case), trying to locate their correct "gate" (classroom) before the "plane embarked" (lecture commenced).  It was rare that I would gain eye contact with someone, much less exchange a smile...

This is different for me. You see, walking around on the Ouachita Hills College (which I still call my school) campus is an almost polar opposite experience. Wherever you are, either on the sidewalk or in the hallway, you almost never pass someone without exchanging some kind of greeting and a warm smile.  Friendly conversations are often heard echoing through the hallways between students or students and teachers. Everyone knows everyone at this school. It's like a big family. I'm truly blessed to be able to pursue my dream in health evangelism (Nursing), while still living in the midst of this warm, Christian campus. (Disclaimer: Even though the above is true, OHC is not a perfect campus and there are occasionally times when student's interactions are not so warm.)

So back to my new school, National Park College. There is such a kaleidoscope of different styles, cultures, clothing, & attitudes there. There are the timid youngsters fresh out of high-school, stressed-out parents who came back to school because they want to have a better paying job, artsy students that dress in astonishing outfits and some even topped off with bright blue hair.

Then there's the few overconfident body builders and the prissy, fancy girls that look like they spent two hours getting ready that morning. And there are a few bold homeschoolers that don't quite yet have their social skills refined - like the one guy that strides through the middle of campus with earbuds in his ears, enthusiastically singing along with his music. You just can't miss him.

Interestingly enough there are even a few girls that wear skirts like me. (Most of the girls that wear skirts have super long hair like the lady in my Algebra class that has hair so long it brushes her calves.)

Overall, I have enjoyed the classes so far... The teachers seem nice enough and I like how organized they are (probably because I'm a very organized person). The variety of new faces are becoming more familiar and I'm making friends with a few of them. I am realizing again that people are people wherever I go. All humans have their own triumphs and difficulties, their own joys and sorrows. And all of us need a Savior.

Another thing that's different in the NPC classes is that there's no mention of a loving Creator in heaven, who cares about us - even in A&P class that simply oozes with evidence for a wise, intelligent design. There are no prayers offered at the beginning of classes, like was the practice at OHC. I miss that.

I am so thankful that I had went to OHC first... where the Bible classes were more like a mini GYC (Generation of Youth for Christ) seminar session than a college lecture and where the teachers truly care about their students as if they were their own children. The principles I learned there have helped to create a strong foundation for my life and future.

~     ~     ~
Now for the story...
One morning early in the semester during a break between classes, I found a nice quiet picnic table up on a little rise by some office buildings. As I dusted it off, I noticed a guy from my college Algebra class seemed to be observing me from his picnic table across the way. I didn’t think much of it and sat down to study for the quiz in my next A&P class.

About 30 minutes later, I heard footsteps behind me. “Who could that be? Does that girl from A&P class want to study with me or something??”

I turned around and saw that it was that curly-haired guy from my Algebra class. He offered his hand for a handshake. 

“Hi, my name is Andrew. What’s yours?”

“Hannah.” I replied. Trying to quickly sift through my memory, I wondered, "Am I supposed to remember him from somewhere??"

He shyly continued. “Uh, well. I just wanted to let you know... that uh, well... I really appreciate it when girls dress modestly. Keep it up!”

“Oh... well, praise God!” I responded.

As he walked away, I realized anew that we Christians are being watched and may have more of an influence than we realize. It was also an encouragement to continue dressing modestly even if most everyone else wears mini shorts and tank tops. I think we girls don't realize how much of a breath of fresh air it is for the guys to be able to be around a young woman without being tempted by seeing too much form or skin. 

It probably took a lot of courage for him to come all the way over to my picnic table, which was not right along the path... especially at a community college where everyone is going about his/her merry way and sometimes don’t even seem to notice that you’re even there. 

This experience reminded of these words of inspiration:

"Our words, our acts, our dress, our deportment, even the expression of the countenance, has an influence... by our unconscious influence thousands may be blessed." God's Amazing Grace p. 231 

"The unstudied, unconscious influence of a holy life is the most convincing sermon that can be given in favor of Christianity. Argument, even when unanswerable, may provoke only opposition; but a godly example has a power that it is impossible wholly to resist."  Gospel Workers p. 59

It is my prayer that my life will reflect the lovely character of my Savior. May it be a light that shines brightly for Him in this world of sin & darkness.

May our lives be a witness for God wherever we go...

Remember you do have a powerful influence on those around you... Be a light for God.

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Genuine Humility

The topic of self-forgetfulness & humility keeps popping up in my devotions. Genuine humility is such an integral part of true Christianity... yet so often self shows its ugly face in our everyday interactions. 

As I was reading in a book called Dare to Ask for More by Melody Mason (an inspiring must-read), I came across this quote by Andrew Murray:
It is easy to think we humble ourselves before God: [but] humility towards men will be the only sufficient proof that our humility before God is real...
The humble man feels no jealousy or envy. He can praise God when others are preferred and blessed before him. He can bear to hear others praised and himself forgotten, because in God's presence he has learnt to say with Paul, "I am nothing." He has received the spirit of Jesus, who pleased not himself, and sought not his own honor, as the spirit of his life. (Humility and Absolute Surrender, pg. 25, 27)
Hmm. What a high standard! This quote really made me think. Am I truly a humble person? 

How would I feel if all my canvassing students were praised for their hard work, but not one word of praise was spoken in my direction for the many hours I had put in? 

Can I honestly give Jesus ALL the credit for my hard work and sacrifice? Or do I soak up the praise as a reward for my faithful service? 

Do I say to others, "It was Him! He deserves all the credit!" and then quietly think in my heart, "But I did do a lot of work. God couldn't have done all that without me!"?

I cannot be seeking honor for myself, while at the same time cherishing humility in my heart. I've come to the realization that I cannot be something and God be everything. 

True humility is rare, even in the Christian world. It's a gift that only God can give. It is this Christ-centered humility that I desperately need in my life... This is what Jesus had and I want to be like Him. 

How can this humility of such high caliber become a reality in our lives? 

It takes heart searching and self-examination. It takes time. It takes earnestness of purpose. It takes much prayer. It takes willingness on our part to receive and accept the God-given gift. 

Self must be completely extinguished.  

May we be willing to serve even if we never receive praise or reward... May we daily behold the Great Standard of humility and let Him remove our deeply imbedded pride. May there be less of us and more of Him. 

Are you willing to let self die? 
Deep-down genuine humility is what I desire. How about you? 
~    ~    ~ 
Pride is concerned with who is right. Humility is concerned with what is right. - Ezra Taft Benson
Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it's thinking of yourself less. - C.S. Lewis

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Day of Rejoicing

Note: I am back in the US now. Praise the Lord for safe travels over the many miles! I'm sorry my posts have been a little sparse lately. The last few weeks before I left were filled to the brim with many different activities. 

Let me tell you about Moo Koh Paw. She's one of the 10th graders who had attached herself to me. She has become dear to me over the past few months. 

She had been struggling with somethings in her life for the past few weeks...   Something just wasn't quite right, even though she tried to cover it up with laughing and joking. I could tell that she was troubled about something and deep in thought. I think part of it was her unwillingness to surrender (at least not yet). 

The two of us usually would joke, laugh, and play with each other. She has a lot of spunk and she always kept me laughing. (We have so many inside jokes with each other now.) There were times though that I tried to turn the conversation to more weighty things. 

One evening my room-mates and I had prayed--really prayed--for our dear friend, Moo Koh Paw. We prayed that she would not be at rest until she had surrendered her life fully into the hands of her heavenly Father. 

The next afternoon I looked over at her swinging in my hammock. I really wanted her to have inner, lasting peace. I decided to try to bring up spiritual matters. 

"Moo Koh Paw, I have been praying for you. Is there anything in specific that you want me to pray for you about?" I wondered if she understood everything since I wasn't speaking in her native tongue. 

She cocked her head. "Huh, say that again, teacher." 

I reworded the question."What do you want me to pray about for you?" I wondered how she'd reply to that type of question. I didn't have to wonder long.  

After thinking for a moment, she spoke solemnly in her broken English, "Teacher, pray for my heart. I have a bad heart. I have a big problem in my heart."

I nodded and assured her, "Yes, yes, Moo Koh Paw, I will pray for your heart. I want you to be truly happy in your heart, not just smiling on the outside. Jesus is the only one who can fix your heart."

Days went by and it was getting closer to the time of the baptism. We wondered if MKP would make the decision. She did want to get baptized - but she still wasn't sure. She said she had some questions that needed to be answered. 

Then one afternoon when we were all up in the Stecks house after lunch, I heard some all too familiar footsteps behind me and the usual burst of energy that came along with them. She knew where to find me if I wasn't down at my hut. She had a ball in her hands and I knew what that meant. She most likely wanted us to come play volleyball with her. But, I was entering grades into the computer which was a very important, time-sensitive project because graduation was coming up very soon. So I told her I probably wouldn't be available to play that afternoon. 

She skipped around the room for a little bit and then disappeared all of a sudden. "Well, that's not unusual," I thought. 

But then a few moments later I did hear an unusual outburst from Hannah Steck, "I knew it! I knew it was her that Thara Ehganyaw said wanted to get baptized! She's the 20th person so far!"  

Haley and I both looked up with excitement. "What, really?! Who is it?!!" 

"Just maybe..." I thought. 
"Is it Moo Koh Paw?!" I blurted. 

Hannah nodded with a grin. "She just told Thara Joko (Mr. Steck) to add her name to the list!" 

Haley and I looked at each other... we both had a little extra water in our eyes. 

Hearing of her decision made our hearts sing.  Our specific prayer was answered right before our eyes. I don't think we were the only ones that were singing inside...

"... Likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth..." 
Luke 15:7

Haley and I felt like skipping on our walk instead of strolling that day. 

My friends, God does answer prayers. 

On the bright and sunny morning of the baptism, there were 23 precious souls who were buried in the water. Praise the Lord! 

As Moo Koh paw walked confidently into the river when it was her turn to be baptized - we all joined in singing a song. It was a special song to her because of the words. It talks about how we can be whiter than snow and her name is in the song (part of her name means "snow"). 

"Wah nay moo koh paw, wah nay moo koh paw..." 

It was a special, touching scene to behold. 

And just for your information- all the rest of that special day, Moo Koh Paw, was grinning from ear to ear. She could confidently say that she was happy in her heart now. I hope and pray that it will stay that way.

Please join me in especially praying for Moo Koh Paw and the other 22 people who were just baptized. They will be special targets of the enemy and they will need special strength from Jesus to overcome each and every day.  

Here are a few pictures from the special day:

Walking down to the riverside

The line-up of baptismal candidates

The newly baptized students with a few teachers

The five students of mine who got baptized 

I miss these sweet girls!

Don't they look so happy?

Me & Tharamu Supweh 
(She is a teacher now who graduated last year.)

All the baptized students from this year and previous years

"... Likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth..." 
Luke 15:7