Sunday, December 27, 2009

100 Houses

Prologue (or just a little note)

I wanted to use real names to honor the people who have been so kind to us, but then they might lose their reward in Heaven (Matt. 6:1-4). That reward will be far better than my puny recognition.

Using full names might also open people up to “friends” of ours popping up and saying, “Hi, I’m a friend of Paul Young, and I heard you have good hospitality. Mind if I stay a year?” (We have “friends” like that too, which makes the hospitable one all the sweeter.) We’d like to protect our dear friends from abuse of their kindness.

In Cape Town we live near some people who reportedly pride themselves on their begging skills. We discovered, the hard way, that if you give a bag of peanuts to one, he’s going to tell all his friends, “Hey, there’s a soft touch at number 57,” and they would come by the droves. We had cheerful troops of little boys on their way to the beach, toothless drunks, unwed mothers with children in tow, all not wanting to miss out on a freebie. Some hid bikes and cell phones out of sight in order to look more plausibly needy. Others invented fabulous tales of “triple pneumonia” and all kinds of family members in hospitals or in the grave. One was telling me how his parents were both in Victoria Hospital. I guess I wasn’t pulling out the funds quickly enough, because he inserted, “And, I have another story…” and went on to tell me another yarn.

How do we know they’re yarns? When we check, we come up empty. Paul went to the home of a mom whom we were told had been robbed, moved away, and died. She was fine! So we must either conclude there was a miraculous resurrection or someone lied.

Anyway, I wouldn’t wish people like this on our friends, so I will not give enough details about anyone for strangers to track them down.


1.100 Houses
2. 2nd Milers
3. Nearest and Dearest
4. Prophet’s Chambers
5. The Days were accomplished
6. Devotional Dilemmas
7. RV Days,
8. Saddle-sore
9. Funny: Merry Heart Houses
10. Time Would Fail Me
11. Sowing in Tears
12. A Permanent Home

Second Milers

The church in Heidleberg, Germany blessed us with a trip to Bavaria and an opportunity to see some German castles.
Cinderella's castle at Disney World was inspired by this German castle.

Second Milers

We have stayed with many kind people, but there are some who have gone the second mile and beyond for us. We have dear friends in southern Georgia who have put us up in their double-wide trailer for weeks at a time. Sherrie was just a few weeks ahead of me in the child rearing business, so she and I became friends quickly and enjoyed long talks hashing over all the details of child birth and babies.

During the summer of 1996, we were scheduled to stay with Greg and Sherrie for two weeks while Paul preached at their church’s camp. We were supposed to eat in the camp’s dining hall, but Sherrie opened her own kitchen to us, stocked especially with peanut butter and eggs as she knew Paul needed them in his diet. I’d call that going the second mile, but none of us realized how much further than that she’d go!

On Friday of the first week of camp, Paul and I decided to squeeze in a horseback ride before I had to be at the pool to lifeguard for the girls’ swim time. We made sure seven month old Evangel was asleep for her afternoon nap, then we rather breezily asked Sherrie if she would mind if we left Evangel sleeping while we went horseback riding. She easily agreed. She might not have been so quick to agree if she had known I wouldn’t be back for three days.

It was a typical hot, steamy Georgia afternoon. The horse I was riding was not in the best of moods, and my riding was no help. He was used to being ridden Western style, so I tried to ride Western, but kept reverting back to the English style I was used to. It seemed to irritate the horse, and finally he had had enough. He ran under a tree, planted his feet and sent me tumbling over his left shoulder.

Paul saw my glamorous fall and hurried toward me on his horse. He was having troubles with his horse too-- a retired race horse who wouldn’t deign to go faster then a plod. He soon realized he’d get there faster by using his own legs so he jumped off and ran.

I lay stunned for a moment, then felt around for my glasses. I found them unbroken, and waved them at Paul in relief. I wanted to hurry to assure Paul I was OK as I could hear him running toward me, but his first words ended my illusion that I’d be all right in a minute. He took one look and said, “You have a broken arm.”

Late that night my arm was pieced together with a plate and 12 screws. The bone had broken into five pieces.

Sherrie kept baby Evangel along with her own one year old from Friday afternoon until I finally got out of the hospital on Monday. My parents drove 1400 miles to arrive in Georgia on Monday to take care of me and Evangel so Paul could go preach at his next week of camp. (They are second milers too, but family doesn't count.) Even after we moved into the trailer next to hers, Sherrie continued to help us in many ways, including bringing us the best pound cake I’ve ever eaten.
* * *

Another family that hosted us during a medical crisis was thousands of miles away in South Africa. In 2000 we were still years away from moving there, but we were on a trip so that Paul could preach in the schools there. We were staying at Skogheim Christian Conference Center, but they needed us to leave for a few days to accommodate a large group. They sent us to stay in an apartment of a nearby family who had a huge house overlooking the Indian Ocean, and a private apartment at the back. We scarcely saw the family at first, until an emergency forced us together.

I was newly expecting a baby at that point, but things were not going well. It looked hopeless to me, but I went to bed to try to give things a chance to heal. Paul took our Evangel and Timmy, then 4 and 2, in the car to the beach to play to help me rest. I did rest too, for an hour or so, then the sun started to set, and I began to wonder what had happened to Paul and the kids. Fear began to set in and I could not stay in bed any longer. I got up and got dressed with visions of something terrible having happened to one of the kids. I could clearly see (in my imagination) Paul desperately searching the waves for the body of Timmy or Evangel, unwilling to come home without finding them.

I cleaned the whole apartment, I prayed, and I cross-stitched until it got so dark I couldn’t see any longer. Finally, I went to the people who owned the house to ask for help. I hadn’t really met them properly at all, but when I began to talk to them, I just burst into tears and couldn’t talk. They were immediately kind and helpful. They waited until I could explain, and then they took over; the husband loaded me up to head for the beach.

Before we even got to the beach, Mrs. B. called on the cell phone to say that Paul was just stuck at the beach with car troubles. What a relief! Now I was just so embarrassed about my panic, but Paul and the kids really did need to be rescued so we continued on to the beach and brought them home.

Because of this, we got to know the B’s a little. I explained that I was probably more emotional because of the physical problems I was going through, and they jumped in to help on that. Mrs. B arranged an appointment with a doctor who confirmed that I was having a miscarriage and helped get me sorted out before we flew off to Kenya a few days later.
Their help may have saved my life as there was a chance of infection setting in.
* * *

Ask our kids to list their favorite people to stay with, and very soon one of them will yell out, “Pastor Hicks!” He and his wife have endeared themselves to our children more then nearly any other pastor. He understands that kids who have been in the car all day do not want to sit and hear their elders talk. He’d help unpack, and then say, “Do you want to see the rabbits?” or “Do you want to swing on the swing?” (It’s a huge swing, on a high tree on the side of a hill!) or “Do you want a ride in my jeep?”

Pastor Hicks has taken our kids fishing, and taught them to watch for satellites in the night sky. He inspired Evangel in the idea of raising rabbits, though she has never arrived at the point of eating them like he does. He and his church touched our family very much by planting a cherry tree in memory of our little Cherish who went to be with the Lord August 6, 2006.

Their home in Pennsylvania could easily be featured in Better Homes and Gardens because of all the special touches he and his wife have added to it. He took some wild hillside land and has made it a gorgeous, productive garden complete with a pond stocked with fish. They are an inspiring family to visit, and they make me think of pleasing the Lord by subduing the earth and having dominion over it and His creatures.
* * *

Before we even got married, another couple got on my “second milers” list. We were staying at a camp where Paul was preaching, but there were no meetings on Saturday so we decided to get some inner tubes and float down the Alapaha river, which forms part of the border between Georgia and Florida. I don’t remember what we did all day to make us get such a late start on our float, but it was really late in the afternoon when we put our tubes in. Mr. Miller had given us a ride up the river, and the plan was to float back to the camp.

We made memories that night! The river was low and running slowly. My tube was deflating as we went, dragging lower and lower in the water, as it got darker and darker. Snakes and alligators were in those waters, so I was screeching over every leaf that touched my foot.

Finally it was totally dark. The stars were beautiful when we could glimpse them through the tree tunnel we were floating under. It could have been a romantic trip, but it was feeling more like a survival trip. I wondered how we would know when to get out of the water since there was no building or marker at the camp. The river was way down at the end of a trail, far from the camp.

We floated for about 4 hours. I wondered if we’d shoot out into the Gulf of Mexico at any moment, but finally, a LIGHT! The Millers had decided we needed rescuing and had come down the trail to the river to shine their lights out onto the river so we could find our way out. I was SO glad to see these blessed people. It was way above and beyond the call of duty for them to rescue us. It was their only day off, with no campers to rescue, and the Evangelist and his fiancĂ© got into trouble. Sweet people!

We feel so privileged to have friends like this, who not only opened their homes, but took care of us too.

Nearest and Dearest

Youngs and Driggers families.

Nearest and Dearest

A family in Sioux City, Iowa, became very dear to us when we joined them for special meetings in the church they were trying to begin. They had seven boys when we first knew them, and they went on to add three girls to their family, just like Job’s second family. David and Elizabeth were so kind. When we stayed with them, they’d give up their bed for us and go sleep on the living room floor.

One night their littlest boy, Brandon, pushed open their bedroom door and came padding in softly calling for his mommy. I hardly dared to breathe for a moment. What would he do when he found the wrong people in his parents’ bed? I could imagine screaming or crying, but I mustered my courage and whispered, “Brandon, your mommy’s downstairs.”

I guess when you’re the youngest of seven boys, you’re tough enough to handle a little shock like the wrong people in your parents’ bed. Without a word he silently padded out again.

In one of those church meetings, Brandon professed faith in Jesus. Paul preached and drew, and invited people to be saved from the consequences of their sin. Three-year- old Brandon raised his hand that he wanted to be saved. Brandon’s mom saw him from the piano stool where she was playing the closing song. She made a mental note to talk to him to see if he really understood, but she had to hostess the fellowship time after church, take care of baby Emily, then rush home to get everyone to bed.

She wrote us later what happened. She was driving somewhere in the car with Brandon some time after the meetings had ended. She remembered guiltily that she had never talked to Brandon when he had raised his hand to say he wanted to be saved, so she asked him if he would like to get saved.

“Oh, I’m already saved,” came the confident reply from the backseat.

She was delighted and had to know more. He told her that he got saved when Paul Young was there. He knew that Jesus died on the cross and rose again three days later. He told her that he had trusted in Jesus to pay for his sins, and had asked Jesus to save him, and wasn’t that okay?

His mom agreed that it was. We were so glad when she took the time to tell us about it. Brandon is now about grown up, and we have heard he is still serving the Lord, going on missions trips.

We seemed to collect big families in our travels in the USA. We consider these friendships to be precious, and they have enriched our family immeasurably.

In North Love, Illinois, the Huber family invited us to their home after church services one Sunday. I sized up the young couple as they were pointed out to me before we met them, and quickly concluded, “Yuppies.” I wondered what we would find to talk about with this young, perfect looking couple though I noticed Joni was expecting. It was probably her first child so maybe I could share with her my great depth of wisdom I had acquired in the one year since we had our first baby.

Boy, was I in for a jolt. My “yuppie” couple was actually expecting their seventh child! They may have been perfect looking, but that did not hinder them from serving the Lord. I spent that first day at their house watching, listening, and learning from this sweet, wise couple. Instead of groping for things to talk about, the conversation was dynamic, and turned deep and serious. We stayed longer then we intended, and I remember ending the evening holding hands, on our knees, praying in their living room.

Here was a family who not only shared their home with us, they built us up,
challenged us, and gave us a visual godly example of a beautiful family who lived right, and made hard decisions for the good of their family.

I remember watching their little boys tearing around with cowboy gear and guns. I was still considering whether it was okay for Christians to let their kids play with guns. I don’t remember Joni’s exact words, but she mentioned something about how she was raising men, and their play was actually practice for something they might be called upon to do as men.
* * *

In Steinhatchee, Florida, Brother Richard and Miss Gwen have endeared themselves to our family in several unique ways. They are the only people who have ever taken us scalloping! They live right on the Steinhatchee River which opens out into the Gulf of Mexico, and they have toured us up the river and out into the Gulf in their different boats, showing us the sights and taking us fishing. One time when we visited they had an orphaned fawn wandering around tamely on their front lawn.

When they took us scalloping, I was fascinated. I didn’t know scallops have little neon blue “eyes” that shine out in a row between the two curved lips of their shells. What a beautiful thing! I was delighted to get to eat them afterward, such an expensive food, free for the taking--if you have a license, and dear friends with a big boat, and a few other details.
* * *

In Lancaster, South Carolina a pastor and his wife took us into their big, beautiful home, and made us laugh. We laughed with them until I was in pain! Not long after our last visit with them, the wife went to heaven, but what a precious thing to remember a couple for, laughter.
* * *
In Windsor, Florida, a church has made what looks like the ideal Christian community. Many of the church people have settled in mobile homes across from the church and school down a lane that drips with Spanish moss. Family and friends live within walking distance of each other, and the kids can always find someone to play with. They welcome us into this community each time we visit, and I yearn to settle there too. It’s not what the Lord has called us to right now, but it’s nice to know such places are there.

One memorable time when we were staying there, we got the call that Paul’s Dad had gone to heaven. Because Paul had a full preaching schedule, we weren’t sure if we would be able to make it to the funeral. (Sounds radical, I know, but we actually believe Matt. 8:22 and want to make sure we don’t neglect our calling to go to funerals.) I called his sister Grace to see what I could do to help from afar.

Grace asked me to share the call load so she gave me a few numbers to call. I checked with our host before calling, and told him I would use a calling card so he would not be charged. He said, “Don’t you dare use a calling card!” He told me all calls on his line were free because he had retired from the phone company, and they had given him this deal. Wonderful! Grace gave me more numbers. It’s wasn’t a pleasant job, calling older people and letting them know that another person their age had gone on ahead to heaven, but it was sweetened by the kindness of this man who let me make all those calls for free.

Prophet's Chambers

The beautiful home that was renovated by homeschoolers for missionaries in Epsom, New Hampshire. We felt like the snow was a special blessing just for us because it arrived during our first night in the USA in 2007.
Prophet’s Chambers

Some of our 100 houses have been church guest rooms, or “prophet’s chambers” inspired by the lady who kept a room for Elisha to stay in when he passed by. These are wonderful places to stay in, to come apart for awhile, to not feel like you’re bothering anyone, and to have no hotel expense, and we have been so thankful for them.

We had our favorites as we traveled across America. Out in Kansas there’s a church who keeps a whole duplex for missionaries. They built it especially for that, and entering it is like stepping into a model home, complete with a gift for the family! What a delight after a long trip in a car, to come to a place where the family can spread out, and relax!
* * *

In New Hampshire, two homeschooling families wanted to teach their sons carpentry skills, so they volunteered for the job of readying a house for missionaries. A derelict house was moved to church property, and transformed. It was gorgeous when we saw it! We got to stay in it for nearly two weeks. The first week we were a whole family in a time warp, struggling with jet lag. No one, not even the grandparents, would have wanted us then! We were all very wide awake around 3 o’clock the first morning, and the kids were bursting to get out into the new fallen snow. (You’re not used to snow when you live in Africa!) We would not have been the best visitors that time, and I’m so thankful we had our own place to stay in until our internal clocks got on the right time zone.
* * *

That church and others also stock these delightful guest rooms with books and videos or DVD’s, as well as lots of food, which show their consideration for those of us who travel as families.

One church in Georgia has a guest room with a king size bed (Yippee! Did I mention that Paul is 6’10” tall?) that opens out onto their gym. It’s always a treat to get there and let the kids run wild chasing balls for awhile.

Another Georgia guest room won our prize for the prettiest lighting. It was so romantic. It also had a bulldozer parked outside which fascinated our boys.

A third Georgia church has their prophet’s chamber come complete with a huge Jacuzzi! Well, it opens into the baptistery, and the pastor said we could take a dip if we had a mind to. We didn’t, but it was tempting.

It seems every prophet’s chamber has its perks, something special that endeared it to us. We like being close to the church so that there’s no travel time, and we’re right there ready for anything. Some have been as simple as a foldout couch in a Sunday school room. You just have to be sure you don’t lock yourself out of your room when you run across the church to use the rest rooms…as Paul discovered once when he was single. One feels a bit conspicuous in bare feet and a towel in a church.

In Germany a military church has a guest room right in the church, and our kids slept on inflatable mattresses in the church nursery. We thought that was nice, but then they did more: they sent us on a trip to Bavaria! We traveled through the Alps, slept in a chalet, and toured two of King Ludwig’s castles that could have come from the pages of a fairy book. We feel so blessed, and thank God for these perks which come “out of the blue”. It is all His mercy, sent by His people, and giving us fresh visions which help in more tedious times or when it’s our turn to do more of the giving.

In Warner Robbins, Georgia a church keeps a double wide trailer free for their missionaries way back in a field behind the church. Being in a field made me feel free to walk around in bare feet without danger of shocking anyone, but we were still close enough to town to walk over to bookstore for a browse.

“Don’t forget Megan’s church!”

“And Casey’s church”

“and Southington,” call my children and my husband when I ask which prophet’s chambers have stood out to them. “Megan’s church” in Albany, Georgia has let us use their prophet’s chamber even if Paul’s not speaking in their church. Once or twice when we asked if it would be okay to use their prophet’s chamber, and they’ve said, “Come ahead”, we arrived to find it full, and they put us in a hotel as their guests. Things like that make a person feel very small and unworthy, but thankful for their kindness.

“Casey’s church” in Thomasville, Georgia has not only welcomed us but our family and friends too. One time we had a Peruvian friend traveling with us for a few weeks before she went to Bob Jones University on a scholarship. The church welcomed Cecilia right along with us, and she ended up sleeping in the pastor’s study as it was the only other room that was air conditioned. She thrilled to the rain that comes down in torrents on hot, south Georgia days in contrast to the desert of Lima, with rarely more than a millimeter of rain per year.

Southington is in Connecticut, a dear church that puts up with a lot from us. We always seem to be arriving late at night and some long suffering person lets us into their bright, beautiful guest room. That’s a church you have to be a be careful in, as you can bound out of their guest room in the morning, and find yourself disrupting a serious class of Bible College Bible study.

We know two churches which have had people die and leave their homes to the church. Each has a special story.

In Michigan, a poor woman got saved through a nearby church, and continued in the things of the Lord, while her miserly, tyrannical husband made fun of her at home. She obeyed 1 Peter 3:1, “Likewise ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives.” It took many years, but that gruff, stingy man seems to have turned to the Lord while watching Billy Graham on TV just a few days before he died.

With her husband gone, the widow was left with very little money, but at least she was now free to begin cleaning up their little home that he had not allowed her to clean before. The yard was overgrown with weeds and full of rusty remains of old vehicles and other junk. It was a huge job and her friends from the church came to help. Someone was getting ready to tow away an old truck out from the overgrown field that should have been the lawn beside the house, when he found $20,000 in the glove compartment! From then on, the cleaners cleaned as though they were on a treasure hunt. They found more money stashed in hiding places, and the poor widow found she had plenty to live on.

She lived in that house, and served in that church for the rest of her life. She willed it to the church when she died, and they kept it much as she had it, neat as a pin, nicely furnished, and with the traveling woman’s dream: a washing machine and dryer in the basement.

I loved hearing the story of that house when we stayed there. I felt like I could get a little acquainted with the widow lady as her books and cassettes were left there for missionaries to enjoy. This is the clearest example I’ve ever seen of the truth of the Proverb, “The wealth of the sinner is laid up for the just.”

In New York an old man died and left his little house to the church. They named it the Charity House and keep it spick and span clean for missionaries. We’ve stayed there many times, but my first time stands far and away the most memorable of all of them, though I wondered if they’d ever let us stay there again after what we did. I’ll tell more about that in the next chapter.

The Days were Accomplished

The Days Were Accomplished

Back in my Peru days, I had been introduced to the idea of home births in a very favorable way. Paul’s brother had introduced him to home deliveries too, so we found ourselves in agreement right from the beginning that we would try to have our children as naturally as possible, outside of hospitals. We didn’t realize what adventures that would get us involved in.

In January of 1995, we had been married for over two years, and had no sign of any children on the way. Paul read in 1 Timothy 5:10 where widows are expected to bring up children if they are to be considered as someone to be cared for by the church. He deduced that God expects married women to bring up children even if they do not bear the children themselves. Paul is 18 years older than I am. As he meditated on this, he prayed and decided that if we did not expect a child that year, we would seek to adopt children. We were expecting later that month!

I have never heard of anyone else deciding to adopt for that reason, but we are rather used to being unique, and our plans for our own baby also progressed along unique lines.

When we found out we were expecting, we looked ahead to see where we were scheduled to be around the time of the baby’s due date. We were already scheduled to be in New Mexico and Arizona for the month of October. This was to be our first trip there, and so would be a little tricky to plan this birth since we hardly knew what to expect. We called our friends who had invited us to the wild West, to share our news and to ask advice. Carol Lewis quickly found another missionary who used midwives who could advise us. She gave us the names of two midwives, one across the border in Colorado, about two hours away, and the other in Gallup, NM, to the south, also about two hours away. Hmmm. Here was something to pray about.

So we prayed. We had been told that Juanita to the north was more highly trained, and more professional. We didn’t receive any direct guidance from the Lord, so I felt we should just make a decision to ask Juanita to help us. I spoke to her on the phone, and she was very cautious. She said she could not totally agree to be our midwife until she had met me, but she did tell me what tests I would have to take before she would even consider me.

It was like a scavenger hunt, gathering tests, results, exams, and vitamins from different doctors and midwives across the country, wherever we could find someone to help in our unusual situation. Apparently gypsies have gone out of style because our requests for help were a little disconcerting to some, but most midwives were more accepting of our situation.

We arrived in the west 16 days before the due date, and had a plan to meet Juanita soon. She had to cancel our first appointment as another lady was having a baby, so we postponed until the following Tuesday. Tuesday was still 10 days before the due date so that seemed to be no problem.

We drove down to Phoenix for services that weekend, and then decided to go see the Grand Canyon on Monday since we would be relatively close, and Paul wasn’t speaking in any schools because it was Columbus Day. On Monday morning my back hurt, and I wondered if it was a contraction, but many had told us about false labor, so we didn’t let it stop us from our sightseeing. I grew more uncomfortable as we went, but didn’t want to say anything until I was sure.

I had just about decided I was sure, when suddenly Paul announced that we would do a little flight over the Grand Canyon. It seemed sensible since we had so little time, as the best way to see the most, but what about this baby? It took a little while to get airborne, and then I had six contractions during that 45 minute flight. It was time to get serious!

We left the Grand Canyon after only one more stop (at McDonald’s,) and then needed to decide where to go to have this baby. Both Juanita and Emma looked about the same distance from the Grand Canyon, about five hours, but the one thing the missionary had told us about Emma was “she’d take anyone right off the street.” That was us! So we decided to head for Gallup.

Our baby girl was born about 8:30 p.m., 11 days early, and about two hours after we arrived at the house. Emma Estrada was a great example of hospitality. She welcomed us to her home (actually, to her daughter’s home as her own was getting the plumbing fixed), and I gave birth on a bed in the living room.

The next morning as we prepared to leave, Paul spoke to Emma about the Lord. With tears, she asked the Lord to save her, and we thrilled to be involved in another birth as she was born again. We sent out pink birth announcements with the joyful news of the birth of Evangel Lynn Young, and the re-birth of Emma!

Hanover, New York Two years and two months later, we came back from a trip to Africa, and I felt pretty bad. I took a pregnancy test, but it came out negative, so I thought I had picked up some African bug. Timmy turned out to be our African Bug. This time we had a midwife lined up in New Hampshire where my parents lived, and were planning to be all settled in there for a more tame birth. However, we were traveling up until the end of the pregnancy, and things don’t always go as planned.

Again, 11 days early, we were traveling in western New York State when my contractions started. Paul preached that morning while two-year-old Evangel and I packed at the hotel, and then we headed west to the Charity House.

It’s a rare thing in our travels that we get a whole house to ourselves. Most of our 100 Houses come equipped with friends, but the Lord knew our need that day. The Charity House had two bedrooms, so we had a place to stash Evangel for a nap, and to pray that she would stay asleep.

The pastor’s wife met us to get us settled in, and we hinted that perhaps I was in labor, but we didn’t elaborate, not knowing her well, or if she was sympathetic to home delivery. She looked me over and comforted me that I certainly had another week to go as I was “carrying high”, and then left us to get settled.

We checked the Yellow Pages for a midwife, and were amazed to find one. We thought at first that this was how the Lord had provided for us, but quickly changed our minds when the midwife began to lecture us on how irresponsible it was to be traveling this late in the pregnancy. “But I will come. That’s the kind of person I am,” she pronounced. We decided she was not the kind of person we wanted there, and thanked her anyway.

We took out the birthing kit we had with us, and Timothy managed to find his way into the world without any help from professionals. The Lord guided that day, and He calmed me in panicky moments during the delivery as I remembered His guiding.

Timothy was born about 4:30 in the afternoon. The pastor’s wife came back to check on us a little while later, and Paul went out to meet her. To her quick, “How’s Vicki?” he calmly answered, “She’s fine. We have a little boy.” Her jaw and pocketbook both fell.

I got worried about how the church people would feel about people popping into their guest house and having a baby. It’s just not your normal thing to do, but they were so sweet. They gave us a little baby shower the next day, sent a young pediatrician to give a medical exam, and have continued to call Timmy “the Charity House baby” every time we have visited through the years.

For our next two pregnancies, we did go to the hospital, but only as both of them were ending in miscarriages.

Rochester, New Hampshire Josh was on the way before we knew it, and we always laugh at how we found out. I had told Paul for an anniversary present for him, I’d eat no cookies, cake, or candy til I lost five pounds. I didn’t realize I was already expecting Josh, but I went for well over nine months before I lost those five pounds. I find it interesting that Josh is now our healthiest eater of the kids. My parents provided hospitality for his birth, and it was a special family affair with my sister and her family also on the scene.

My sister thought perhaps Joshua would be as special as John the Baptist because the whole house shook in the last few minutes before he was born. We wondered if was an earthquake to announce this special birth, but it was just that the garage got hit by a car! Names will not be mentioned as to who hit the garage and why, but they know who they are.

Cape Town, South Africa Cherish was our one and only home birth in our own home. She came along about two years after we moved to Cape Town, and was born the 30th of September, 2003. She was our quickest, easiest birth and was a blessing from the beginning, smiling at only three days old. I took 21 Cod Liver Oil pills the day before she was born, trying to get things started, and it just seemed to make everything go smoothly.

Devotional Dilemmas

An old definition of "Worship"is to "make like a dog" so I thought I'd stick a picture of our dog Berwick, with little Daniel, her "cousin" looking in through our security bars.
Devotional Dilemmas

Paul and I both believe fervently in having a time alone with God each day. In fact, Paul has written a concise little book called How to Have a Time Alone with God to help others get started. However, in our travels, as you can imagine, it’s sometimes challenging to get alone with the Lord as we sometimes only have one room for the whole family (like in a hotel), or sometimes just two rooms.

Let’s just say we have spent a lot of times in hotel bathrooms, not because of plumbing problems, but in order to be in a place where we can use a light. If we stay in bed, we’re liable to fall asleep in the middle of a prayer, or bother the sleeping spouse with a sigh or with whispering. Bathrooms are not bad places if you remember to bring a pillow.

The place is not only important, the timing is important. Even a bathroom loses its sense of solitude if four other people need to get in to brush their teeth or whatever. Paul is often up at 4 a.m. until 5:30 or 6 a.m. with the idea of catching a nap from 6-7 if there’s time. I try to get up around 6, so we’re often a tag team passing with a quick peck.

Why don’t we just share a room and a time? We do occasionally. We did yesterday, in fact, but we’re like two best friends in school who can’t be seated together or they’ll whisper. We get to fellowshipping instead of worshipping.

When monopolizing the bathroom is not an option, we sometimes retreat to our own car. This retreat doesn’t work if it is too hot, too cold, or too dark, but sometimes it is just right. Sometimes, however, Paul sees prostitutes and their “lovers” separating in the early morning hours after a night of revelry at the hotel. The frequency and brazenness of this is disturbing, and we ask ourselves what we can do to make a difference. We come back to simply continuing on in what we are doing—Drawing Others to Christ. He loved prostitutes enough that He did not leave them in their own sin, but called them to be His followers.

Paul has a plan for days when he must be on the road very early or for long hours. He listens to the Bible on cassette as he drives which makes the drive more interesting and profitable. One time his Bible reading tapes got him out of hot water.

Paul was driving in Kentucky, happily eating a sandwich he had just made while driving, when a policeman pulled him over. He had not been speeding (He rarely speeds, even when his wife’s in labor as I well know from Evangel’s birth.) Paul was not sure why he had been pulled over, but the police officer was acting very cautious toward him, and was obviously trying to sniff his breath.

Ham sandwich was probably the only result of his nose test, but his eyes were also scanning the inside of the car, looking for clues. He saw the box with the four boxes of cassettes with HOLY BIBLE in big black letters down their spines, and his manner changed abruptly. “Oh, are you a minister?” he asked. And Paul was soon on his way, marveling at the power of God’s name, pleased that God and His Word are still respected in Kentucky.

In thinking it over afterward, Paul figured he had probably strayed toward the side of the road while he was making his sandwich, and a truck driver may have reported him as a drunk driving suspect.

For years, the biggest interruption to our time alone with God has been our own children. Both of us hated to just brush them off so that we could be alone, knowing it looks selfish to them. We step in to run interference for each other, so that one is more “on duty” with the kids while the other is hiding behind a closed door.

Another thing we have done occasionally is to just include them in our time alone. Paul’s favorite spot, when we’re in Cape Town, is in his big black recliner in the living room. He would just scoop a little one up on his lap, and change his Bible reading to a section that little one might appreciate the most, like Daniel or Jonah or especially Elisha and Elijah.

In the early days of our marriage, on a trip to Guatemala, we were spending the night in an “elegant” hotel that cost about $5.00 a night for the two of us. It was charming, as can be imagined from the price. I wasn’t sure I should blame God for providing this one for us; maybe it should just be considered an overzealous attempt to live frugally. But I do consider it one of the 100 houses because it was so memorable, and broadened us in ways we needed to be broadened. It also has fun shock value. I love sharing about it with some pampered people who have never traveled.

It helps to have read an Isobel Kuhn book right before staying in a place like this. If I have just read Isobel Kuhn, I then look at roaches as part of the adventure story we’re living, and imagine how I will describe the hundreds of them with their wiggly antennas looking at me from a rough dark wall. The sound of a drunk spilling his innards just outside our door can become something to giggle about with Paul, as we congratulate ourselves on the charming hotel we have selected. We really congratulated ourselves on our wisdom in buying exotic towels as souvenir gifts for our family, as the single blanket was too small to cover us both, and too thin to warm us. We hoped the family wouldn’t mind if their Christmas gifts were slightly used.

As with other mornings, Paul and I were being a tag team. He got up to do his Bible reading, while I dutifully kept the bed warm for his return and caught a little more sleep. A short while after he came back, I got up to go where he had been, sitting on a little bench outside our room facing into the communal courtyard. It worked for him, but by the time I got there, our neighbors were starting to stir.

A pretty young woman came out of the little room across from us and saw me reading the Bible. Her opening line, in Spanish, was, “Oh, are you a Christian? So am I.”

You’ll excuse me for being skeptical, but this girl had obviously either never read what the Bible has to say about a woman being modest, or she chose to ignore it. A few minutes chat revealed she was also a dancer in the topless club adjacent to our charming hotel, and she was spending the night with a customer.

This meeting was so important for us. It left me flabbergasted because of her opening words. How could a person, living as a prostitute, who could quote many verses, call herself a Christian? Didn’t she know right from wrong? Didn’t she know we serve a righteous God? Yes, but she believed grace covered all. Yes, if you repent. “Be not deceived: neither fornicators …nor adulterers… shall inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9,10).

This encounter was just one of the little steps that led Paul, (my husband, not the apostle) to write his book Saving Faith, Does It Involve a Change of Behavior? Yes, it does! “Faith without works is dead.” It’s appalling to see someone take the name of Christ in vain.

I did keep in contact with the young woman, Doris, by letter for months, until she quit writing after we failed to supply $500.00 to get her brother out of prison in Arizona.

So my encounter with Doris would be considered a failure as time alone with God, but definitely an experience that the Lord used to shape us.

RV Days

RV Days

A special interlude in our traveling days was the three years when we lived in a motor home. We were led to start shopping for a motor home when we were near Phoenix once on a preaching trip. Phew, that is “motor home heaven!” If anyone needs a new motor home, that is the place to go as there are dozens of lots full of every size, shape and price. We hunted until we found an affordable one with ceilings that were tall enough for Paul to stand up in, and the whole thing delighted me by being decorated with pinks.

There were twin beds in the back for our two kids, and a large bed over the cab for Paul and me. We exclaimed over the cute, compact little bathroom, but so complete with a shower that ended in a little basin that was a nice little tub for kids to soak in. I loved the way I could cook in the kitchen, able to reach the fridge, sink, stove and oven without needing to take more than one step. We grew to love cozy nights sleeping in church parking lots, or in our family’s yards, or wherever we happened to land. A few times we just stayed in a rest area and that was special too. I can remember only twice staying in a proper camping area. There was also the occasional night when we parked with the 18 wheelers in a truck stop. Our entire home would rumble, but I found it soothing and we rested well.

Paul and I immediately enjoyed that we didn’t have to pack and unpack so often any more. Before that we had to plan about one hour a day for packing, on the average, every time we moved. One time we slept in 13 different places in 13 days. Packing could get tiresome, and the kids being only one year old and three years old at the time, they were not a whole lot of help. That motor home gave us instant relief in that area.

Another thing that had been of concern, was the verse “Withdraw thy foot from thy neighbor’s house, lest he be weary of thee and so hate thee.” (Proverbs 25:17). We felt more confident that we wouldn’t wear out our welcome, especially with longsuffering relatives who occasionally got long doses of our wonderful company.

We laugh now at the memory of our maiden voyage from Phoenix toward the East. We set off before sunrise, as it was beginning to storm, with all the windows open. The noise in that RV was startling! Everything was shaking, rattling, and bouncing. Cupboards popped open, spewing the few contents we had stored there. I assumed a position like a surfer and surfed around shutting windows while Paul drove, worrying about the smell and wondering if it was a gas leak. We drove east for three days, and were quite in love with our new home by the time we were on the east coast. The kids wouldn’t even bother to get out at rest stops any more.

We made good memories in that cozy home. Paul marveled that I could cook a turkey while he drove, and have it ready to eat when he stopped. Once we were eating a casserole in Orangeburg, SC when we got hit by another car backing up. It was just a small jolt, then we just laughed that our house got hit by a car. No damage was done.

Not all my cooking attempts turned out well. My parents gave us a microwave oven for the RV, and we were traveling in Tennessee, I think, when I got inspired to make microwave popcorn while Paul was preaching in a school. We were parked in the parking lot, and I started the microwave and then went to the back to help someone get dressed. Suddenly I realized yellow smoke was pouring from the microwave! I wrenched it open, and the popcorn bag was on fire in our brand new, shiny clean microwave! With a pair of scissors, I pulled the bag out and charged out the door of the motor home into the parking lot.

The entire line of parents picking up their kindergarteners was treated to the sight of a wild woman bursting through the door of a previously peaceful looking motor home, chasing a flaming bag of popcorn out into the parking lot, and stomping on it as nasty looking yellow smoke billowed in the air from the flattened bag as well as from the door of the RV. We survived, but the microwave was never so perfectly white again.

Another memorable moment was when I was resting up in our bed over the cab with the curtain closed. I heard our kids come in with a bunch of other little kids to give them a tour of our home. In general, I thought that was a good, friendly thing to do, because I know I’ve always been nosey about the inside of other people’s motor homes. But that time I just lay waiting tensely, hoping I would not be on display as part of the tour. Luckily, they just pointed up at the curtain and presented it as, “My parents bed is up there.” Then I could just relax and giggle at the candid comments about the contents of our home, even what was in the fridge.

One day we had just left Winder, Georgia and were headed toward a school in Mobile, Alabama, traveling down I-85 when we heard an ominous, “Bang.” We pulled over to inspect, and it was not a pretty sight, not a pretty sight at all. A tire had burst on the rear wheels, and it blew out the black water tank right beside it. A black water tank is the tank right below the toilet in the motor home, and it can hold quite a bit of um, black water and whatnot. Fortunately, Paul had emptied the tank just that morning, so the spillage was not as bad as it could have been. Still, it wasn’t nice.

We could still drive since there were double wheels in the back of that RV, so we limped in to get the tire fixed. It took hours, but wasn’t too bad as we had a Wal-Mart to walk around in while we waited.

We headed off again, hoping that we could still make it to Mobile before it got too late, when a car pulled alongside us and pointed out that one of our tires was flat—another flat on our motor home. The second time was quicker. Now we could not arrive until around midnight, but it was fine. Paul and the kids went to bed, and I drove along happily listening to a book on cassette, hoping we wouldn’t get there until I had finished. Early the next morning we saw that our little station wagon that we towed behind the RV also had a flat! How strange to get three flat tires in less then 24 hours in America. In Kenya, with all the thorns, it would hardly be worth mentioning, but on American roads, that was wierd.

Saddle Sore

Sometimes life just wears you out. Sometimes you just fall asleep in the wardrobe while you're playing Hide-and-Go-Seek. Sometimes your buddy has to give you a hand.


We have our rough moments in bopping around the world from house to house. One time we ate with a family who was selling a health food drink. As we ate, they gave us the pitch for their product. When we’re eating someone’s food, we’d like to be agreeable, but we didn’t want their health drink. As we tried to graciously decline, the sales pitch escalated. Talk about awkward! We were glad to escape from that one, and now it is just a memory that makes us laugh. Neither of us can remember now who it was that put us through that awkward moment.

In any rough moments, I found that books we have read help put our “sufferings" in perspective. After reading the apostle Paul’s list of tribulations in the Bible, I feel rather petty moaning about “sore-bottomitis” after an 11 hour drive in our padded car. We read Mountain Rain the story of missionary James Fraser, written by his daughter Eleanor. He hiked up and down steep mountains in China to reach the Karen people for the Lord. He was chased and bitten by dogs, shot at, and ate very skimpy food. How can I complain about a cramped car and food not quite as I would have chosen?

If I begin to moan about how often we are far from friends and family, it does me good to remember that in Hudson Taylor’s time, every letter took about two months to go from China to England, and another two months to get the reply. He had to endure the torture of that wait to find out if he had permission to marry his beloved Maria. That story makes me thank God for email, and should shut my lips from complaining about a “slow” connection.

Isobel Kuhn told of staying in crowded, flea infested inns in China. She found the perks in witnessing opportunities that came even while she was in bed. I guess I shouldn’t complain about my precious sleep being interrupted by a dog barking near a B & B where we’re sleeping. I’m called as a missionary, and am blessed in that calling.

Sometimes I'm tempted to complain because I can't join an exercise club or other groups, and it’s tricky to get music lessons for the kids. Woe is me!
Really it should be "Whoa is me" as in Whoa! Put on the brakes, and stop thinking like that! It’s wrong to complain, and the Lord tells us to be content with what we have. I find it matters a lot to whom I am comparing myself. If I look at settled, rich, well dressed church ladies, I can feel dumpy, frumpy, and lumpy, like a real sad sack with problems galore. Right about then it’s good to run across a list of some of the things the Apostle Paul went through and compare myself to him instead. Suddenly I know I’m on easy street, life is cushy, and I can be thankful instead of whiney.

In 2 Corinthians 11, Paul tells that he had so many beatings, he couldn’t count the stripes. Suddenly I feel wimpy to have been so upset about the few racial slurs I’ve had thrown at me.

Paul continues, “in prisons”. Well I do have something in common with him! I haven’t spent the night in a prison, but we go there for ministry.

“In deaths” yes, we’ve been touched (more like whammed) by death’s sting. But then the Apostle gets a little ahead of me, “Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one.” That shuts up a complaint about my backside being tired of sitting after 10 hours of driving.
“Thrice was I beaten with rods” So I can’t have a garden, at least I haven’t been whacked like that!
“Once was I stoned.” My husband Paul saw a man (a thief) stoned to death on his last trip to Kenya, and just hearing about it was shocking. If only he’d heard about Jesus! If only he’d decided to walk the way Jesus would have him to walk, that man wouldn’t have been stoned. How can I complain about the money used on a trip to Kenya knowing there are needs like his and many others?
In Peru, we got stoned ourselves. We dared to travel in the Andes Mountains on a day when some political party didn’t want us traveling. As we crept up the winding mountain road, Indians threw stones at the missionary’s car, smashing the back window. We didn’t know how ugly things would get on that dark night, and were thankful to arrive with only a smashed window and some dents.
“Thrice I’ve suffered shipwreck,” Well now, there again I can compare with the Apostle. Paul and I got engaged partly as a result of a canoe flipping over!
“In journeyings often.” I’m right with the Apostle Paul! We were away from home 9 out of 12 months last year. That’s journeyings often, but I think I’m catching on. These are things to brag about, not to complain about.

“In perils of water” Yes, we have to be careful what we drink too.

“In perils of robbers” Does it count that I got pick-pocketed in Peru? And my bike got stolen in South Africa.

“In perils by mine own countrymen” No, thank the Lord, we have never had our lives in danger by our own people, though they do present perils such as trying to lure us to live couch-potato lives.

“In perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren…”

If the Apostle Paul seems too long ago and far away, I have a host of others a little nearer who inspire me when I feel like complaining. My family is far away (boo-hoo), yet I am blessed that I can email very often, and get letters back. I read about Hudson Taylor, missionary to China, who had to wait 2 months each way for a letter to go. Imagine the tension as he waited for permission to marry his beloved Maria.
If a lack of privacy bothers me, I need to remember Rosalind Goforth, also in China, who lived with tour groups going through her home from morning to night, so that the Chinese could see that the “foreign devils” were regular people.

Darleen Diebler Rose is another one whose testimony makes me ashamed of petty complaints. She was captured by the Japanese when she was a missionary in New Guinea and spent 4 years in a prisoner of war camp, and was nearly executed for being a spy.

When bugs are an issue, I remember Isobel Kuhn, also in China, and her stories of inns with fleas.
None of those early missionaries had the benefit of an air conditioned car, or trans Atlantic flights, or KFC drive thru’s for quick meals. How can I complain?!

A new-to-me heroine to admire is Granny Brand, a missionary to India who is particularly inspiring in that she kept treating the sick and going after souls until she was in her 90’s. I sometimes find the aches and pains in my 40’s worth airing to the world, but not after a little session of reading about Granny Brand. She was still going around on horseback helping people when she was in her 80’s.

So I’m trying to be careful to compare my life and my trials to people who have lives and trials worth comparing to, people that inspire me to be content with the lot God has granted me, and not with those who might not even have the same goals as me.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Merry Heart Houses

How's this for a gorgeous house?!? We didn't actually sleep there, but we did tour the castle. I can't show the close up picture because some of those statues are indecent.

Paul's family's home in S.C.

In Connecticut a dear family opened their home to us at the last minute as their pastor had forgotten we were coming and had to quickly scout around for a place for us to stay. The wife especially was a little flustered by it all, and she apologized repeatedly for the supper and for being unorganized. We tried to reassure her that we were just normal people, and that we really appreciated the supper and all her efforts on our behalf. Soon got to know each other and felt at ease.

(One time a pastor’s wife in Iowa protested to her husband who had invited us to dinner, “But I’ve never met them! I don’t know what they like or don’t like.” To this he calmly replied, “Don’t worry, they’ve been to Africa. They’ll eat anything.”

We found this very amusing, and pretty much true, though I don’t know that Africa had much to do with it.)

There were more apologies when they showed us where we were to sleep. They had a cozy den, with the most comfortable fold-out couch we have ever slept on, (queen size and thick mattress) with a bathroom right there, which is always nice. We could see nothing to apologize about, but the host told us he had a clock collection. We assured him we were not bothered by clocks. We didn’t realize what we were saying! The entire wall was covered with dozens of antique clocks. They whirred, bonged and donged, chirruped, coo-cooed, clanged, and buzzed, on the hour, on the half hour, and some of them were even on the quarter hour. He went around and stopped all that he could, but some of them would just have to wind down.

It would take more than a dozen clocks to keep a tired evangelist awake, we discovered. But this evangelist’s wife, who didn’t have children yet to tire her out, spent a memorable night listening to one of the nicest clock collections we have ever seen or heard!

God bless the dear people who risk vulnerability by taking in the traveling man of God when they know that not everything is perfect.

On our one and only trip to the Philippines (so far), way back when we were newlyweds, we were invited to spend a night with a millionaire named George with an unusual testimony. As I remember it, he had become a millionaire selling jewelry in his early 20’s. Then he was kidnapped by his own bodyguards who demanded his fortune for ransom. He lost everything. During this discouraging time, he came to know the Lord, and gave his life to Him.

Now as a Christian, he started over again in the jewelry business, and became a millionaire again before he turned 30. After hearing Paul preach, he invited us to spend the night in his refreshingly cool, marble tiled guestroom.

That beautiful guest room revived me. I had been dragging around the Philippines, encumbered by jet lag and the heat, trying to smile at the right places, but definitely with very little perk. When we slipped into that air conditioned guest room -- Phew! It was nice! I took my sandals off and powdered my feet, and discovered how nice one can slide on marble floors with powdery feet. It was like skateboarding! Paul flopped on the bed, and I slid toward him and playfully dropped on top of him.

Immediately there was a sharp rap on the door. I jumped up to answer it, and our host entered briskly, “Time to close the curtains!” he announced. “We didn’t see anything, we didn’t see anything,” he assured us as he drew some curtains, but “me thinks he doth protest too much.”

After he left us to giggle at how embarrassing it all was, we studied the curtains we had thought were closed, and discovered that they were lace which would have been useful during the day, but as dusk was deepening, our room had become like a stage, facing out to where several (shocked?) women were waiting for their rides.

Overlooking Colorado Springs, CO, we had a funny experience with an anthropologist friend. Kendra traveled about as much as we did, all over the world, and was a fascinating friend. Her home was on a mountain overlooking Colorado Springs, and the decorating style evidenced all her exotic travels around the world. Even the bathroom was original. There was no door on it, and no curtain or covering on the shower. I’d just wave a hand at the lights of Colorado Springs twinkling below and say, “Hello, Dr. Dobson.” And hope he wasn’t really looking.

Time would fail me....

There really are over 100 houses where we have been welcomed. In heaven maybe we can give you a proper introduction to these fellow Christians, but here’s a little tidbit to whet your appetite.

Paul’s sister Joy has welcomed us many times with a fire blazing in a romantically lit room, artistically arranged and so cozy.

There was a little cabin next to a dam outside of Port Elizabeth, South Africa. I was sick and discouraged when we arrived, and after a week in that rustic beauty, complete with donkeys to play with, I was perky and ready to go again!

The Klopfenstein’s in Alabama took us into their beautiful home when we were newlyweds, and remain one of the very few families who have ever shared their family devotional time with us.

Deb H. in Indiana inspired me with being one of the hardest workers I’ve ever met. She and her husband would welcome us to their huge farm, treat us like kings, and manage to help family and neighbors at the same time.

In Standing Rock, New Mexico, the Foerster family took us on a memorable hike, mostly down in the bottom of a deep gorge. It felt like a step back into a Western movie, complete with Indians! The Foersters are missionaries to the Navajo Indians, so some of the Navajo kids came on the hike with us. The rock formations were stunning, and our whole family was thrilled with that experience.

The Wescos in Indiana invited us into their big home, where the mom sat and talked while some of her ten children prepared a huge meal for about 20 people. That bit of hospitality gave me some higher goals for our own children.

In Whiteville, NC, we love the Southern hospitality of the pastor and his church members. They make us laugh as well as take good care of us.

In Bloomfield, Pennsylvania, the pastor’s kids took our kids fishing and four-wheeling while Dad and Mom relaxed under some tall pines. Ahh!

At Calvary of Charlotte, the church keeps a house just for missionaries. One of the perks of that one is that there are handy thrift stores right nearby! Plus a walk to a huge purple jungle gym that our kids love.

The Barnes in South Africa welcomed us into their big, beautiful home, and then took us on a tour of a golf course at sunset where we saw game animals running free. Mr. Barnes let each one of us pick one of his walking sticks from his collection for our daily walks. A walk takes on a different quality when a polished walking stick is swinging jauntily in your hands. Just let a dog dare to attack!

A mission in Shelley Beach has welcomed us so many times and we delighted in those special opportunities to be so near the sea. The last time we were there, the property was for sale, and our little Cherish was offered a job as a real estate agent for her animated tour techniques for prospective buyers.

In Mulango, Kenya, the Mulango Bible Institute staff and students welcomed us, and gave us our own house for several months. We loved life in Kenya. I had to learn to cook goat meat and wash clothes by hand. Paul sometimes had to hike with his big bag of chalk art equipment over dirt trails to get to the schools where he would preach and draw. Other times our friend Samson Katanga would give him a lift on his motorcycle. It was funny to see Paul’s long frame curl on to the back of a motorcycle, carrying his chalk equipment to appointments.

When Paul preached he would sometimes receive an offering of beans, bananas, milk, or, our favorite, a live chicken! One white one became a beloved pet, named Musungu which is what they called us, meaning “white man.” Life was hard in some ways. I lost weight and gained muscles without any gym time, which I consider one of the perks.

Missionaries in Mexico and Peru have welcomed us with a place to stay and a ministry to do while there. We have some wild memories of both places, and would love to return.

Umtata, South Africa was another place where a whole mission welcomed us and we so enjoyed staying there. That mission ministers mostly to Zulu speaking, Amazioni church people. It was our first place to receive hospitality in a home sealed with cow dung. That got my attention, but it wasn’t bad.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Sowing in tears

I want to always emphasize how the Lord has blessed us, and how he has kept His promises to us. I’ve chosen mostly some of the good stories, the fun things that have happened. I don’t ever want to be like the 10 spies, complaining, discouraging others who are thinking of going into the Promised Land.

There are rough times, but there are promises for us in them too. One is “They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.” Psalm 126:5

In 1993, we were invited to Miami for the first time to preach at a large Christian school and church for a week. We were excited, but didn’t realize all that we would have to go through to get there.

First of all, we totaled our car in Anderson, Indiana, the night before we were to leave for the South which was discouraging. We hadn’t had that car very long, and were so enjoying the way it was so fuel efficient.

Paul’s brother Joseph bailed us out by loaning us his car to continue traveling in, so we set off for South Carolina in that. As we drove, the clutch
began to slip on that car, but we made it to South Carolina in time for meetings there.

The Pastor there was very kind, and said, “Leave that car with me, and take our church mini-van, and I’ll get this one fixed.” So we set off in this third car, still heading for Miami. We made it just south of Augustine, Florida, and we blew the engine out on that beautiful mini-van! The kind South Carolina pastor told us of a friend of his who would fix it for us, so we left it, and tried to rent a car.

At that stage, we didn’t have any credit cards, so we couldn’t rent a car. We ended up getting tickets on a Greyhound Bus. Instead of arriving Saturday evening as we had planned, we were now scheduled to get in around 5:30 Sunday morning.

It was a long night. I couldn’t sleep much on that bus, though Paul seemed to do OK. There were two guys talking near me, comparing the merits of different prisons they had been in. We had a layover in Orlando, and finally chugged into the bus station in Miami, around 4:30 in the morning. The pastor’s wife had told us that her husband couldn’t come to get us until 6 a.m. as that was a dangerous part of town, so we settled on a bench to wait. The pastor himself had other plans, and he was there already waiting for us, but we didn’t know it. So we waited on our bench, and he in his van until 5:30 when we found each other. Then we had to wait some more. The Greyhound people wouldn’t give us our luggage until 6!

When they did give us our luggage, we discovered that one piece was missing, the one we needed the most: Paul’s chalk equipment. They told us it would be in on the 9 a.m. bus. Paul was supposed to preach at 9:45.
The pastor took us to his home to get breakfast and a nap before church. After we got all settled in the van, after all those problems and aggravations, the pastor said, “You know, we never did confirm these meetings.” That’s when the tears came.

Then came the “reaping in joy” part. The chalk equipment arrived in time, and Paul did preach in his Sunday school and church. That first Sunday there were over 200 people present, the following Sunday over 600! Each day, Paul preached in the school of about 1000, and saw great results. The pastor and church family were very kind to us with many of them having us in their homes.

(P.S. In case you’re wondering about the car, a Miami family very apologetically gave us an old Reliant station wagon, if we wanted to try it. It got us as far as South Carolina again, where we gave it to someone else who had more time to fix it up, and we bought another one. People were picking up broken cars from us for weeks! The Reliant burned up on the side of the road soon after that.)

We are thankful for the 100 + houses the Lord has provided here on earth, and I think there must be more coming when we go to heaven. “I go to prepare a place for you” is the promise Jesus gave. Having seen His provision on earth, it is easier to believe that He will care for us well in the next life.

We’ve had other difficult times, but the one that stands out far above the others was when our little girl Cherish went to heaven.

You read back in the chapter about baby births about how Cherish’s birth was, by far, my easiest. She continued to be a dream baby. She began smiling at people when she was only 3 days old. She would smile for a camera soon after that. One thing I enjoyed about her, was that she actually liked to take naps. Before she was a year old, she would go to bed hugging a book to her chest. I envisioned her learning to read as a three year old.

When she woke from a nap, she wouldn’t always cry quickly to be picked up, but instead I’d often find her playing happily alone in her crib. She enjoyed her own company.

Once in a sing-song, tattletale kind of voice, four-year old Joshua reported from the living room, “Mommy, Cherish is being annoying.” Then came the indignant, “No, I’m not, I’m nice!”

Cherish always wanted to be involved with whatever we were doing. When we played our homemade version of Balderdash, a game much too old for her, Cherish would grab one of the little slips of paper and scribble a little bit on each one. She would hold it up to my eyes until I felt cross-eyed, and then demand, “Read dat. Read dat.” I would make up something like, “I love my beautiful Mommy,” and she was pleased with her writing results.

When we played the Matching game at the table during meals, she and her daddy would agree that her answer was strawberry ice cream, no matter what the question. If they were to match a state capital, a favorite dog breed, or a team sport, her answer was always strawberry ice cream. She and her daddy would high-five each other in delight over her brilliant answer.

I had visions of Cherish being a nurse when she grew up, as she was such a motherly little person, and so sympathetic with anyone who was hurt or even sleeping. She would pat her big brother Josh’s brow when he fell asleep at an odd time or in an odd place and try to help him to bed. One time I found the two of them under our bed, just about to partake of the delights of a bottle of Echinacea tablets.

She was a precious little one, a very loving child, and the beloved baby of our family. She was two years and ten months old when she got sick one night. Her sickness lasted less then 24 hours, and then she died in Paul’s arms in the Red Cross Children’s Hospital in Cape Town.

I had decided long before that I would say, “The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away, blessed be the name of the Lord,” as Job did when his loved ones died when I lost someone close to me. We did say that, and then we turned to the Lord for comfort. “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort, who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God,” (2 Cor. 1:3 & 4).

I was very interested to see how the Lord would comfort us. I have never known what to say to people when they lost a loved one, so I started making a list of all the ways He comforted us.

Cruising around the world staying in over 100 houses has given us friends all over the place. One of the comforts the Lord gave, was the sympathy of these dear people, our Christian family.

In Cape Town, friends arrived to comfort and cry with us. They came from my Bible study and book club, prison workers showed up, and friends from churches and schools where Paul has preached. Fellow homeschoolers brought food, and our dear friend Delgun helped with funeral arrangements as neither of us had a clue on how to go about that.

Our friend Zelda had already learned how to comfort from the comfort she had received. She had lost her husband to cancer earlier the same year. She showed up at our house with a huge cookie mix on the second day, and she comforted our children as no one else. She and her daughters led them in making beautiful decorated cookies in the kitchen while the grown-ups cried in the living room. I wouldn’t have known how to reach out to someone’s children at a time like that, but now I do. It is still a great memory for our kids, and was a great example for me.

Every day e-mail poured in, and I remember sitting with tears pouring down our faces reading dozens of letters from friends who were hurting with us. Most cards and paper letters didn’t arrive for weeks, because they were sent to our American address, my parents’ house, and our parents were not there. They were busy comforting us too! My mother and niece flew over from America to be with us for two weeks! So the cards and letters arrived when we were on a preaching trip, and the comfort continued even though we were far from close friends.

I learned that there is no one big wave of comfort, where the pain just vanishes and that’s the end of it. Instead there was more like a gentle rain of comfort, gradually lessening the hurt, and growing more trust in our God. It continually helps to remind ourselves of where Cherish is, who is caring for her, and that “In thy presence is fullness of joy, at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Psalm 16:11).

That final house is sounding good! We get longing for it sometimes. I’m collecting verses on what it is like there where our little one is, but I think only the tip of the iceberg has been revealed. There we’ll see the One who has saved us-Jesus-the One who has saved our children. We’ll really know Him, not just the misty idea we have now, and we’ll finally be like Him, free from this nagging sin that plagues us now.

God’s word has many promises like this one, and mostly they have a condition that has to be fulfilled. In our case, we had to obey to receive our blessings, and that’s normal.

No, the Lord has a carrot bunch dangling in front of us, with perks egging us on. We believe in what we do; we believe we’re making a difference as we see people give their hearts and lives to God and know that we had a part in that. He gives us joy in the journey. He fills it with beauty, fun, and good times with His people.

Our Permanent Home

Our 3 years in a motor home ended definitely when we moved to South Africa. We faced all the decisions anyone does when house hunting. Should we rent? Should we buy? Could we buy? We prayed for guidance, and asked questions of our South African hosts.

We only saw two houses before we went to see a duplex where the top half was for sale independent of the bottom half. The real estate agent only had keys for part of it, so we couldn’t see everything. Paul slipped off alone to quickly pray and cast lots to know the will of God. He came back and told me God had guided him to buy it!

“But…” I gasped. It seemed too fast. There were so many unknowns: who were the downstairs neighbors, being the one which seemed the most urgent at the time. But it was settled, God had guided, and, as usual, it was the best thing for us.

Time has shown us the following reasons:

1. The price was right! Real estate prices were really low at that time, especially this house! Even better, with the exchange rate that was phenomenally good at that time, we could afford this place.

2. It was secure. We were still going to be traveling a lot, and it was good that someone would always be on the property while we were away.

3. It was low maintenance. The previous owners had everything in great shape, with some nice built-in extras such as a long built-in desk in what was to become our office.

4. It was a good location, within just a few blocks of a major highway, the M-5, and a short distance from the M-3, another major artery, meaning Paul could get a good start to schools and churches all over Cape Town.

So our little home in Muizenberg is good for now, but it’s not our permanent home.

This world is not my home,
I’m just a-passing through.
My treasures are laid up
Somewhere beyond the blue.

We look forward to what God has promised us, “I go to be prepare a place for you.” John 12:2. “In thy presence is fullness of joy, at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.” Psalm 16:11.

It is easier to have faith in God’s promises of an unseen heaven, after seeing Him fulfill His promise of 100 Houses here and now.