Michaela was born at 7:30PM on May 8th. That night was a very stormy night with lots of lightening, thunder and heavy rain. Both Derek and I wondered if that was a sign that she would have a thundering personality
The first thing I noticed when she made her entrance into the world was that she had my husband Derek’s dimple in the very same spot and the same side of her cheek as he did. I excitedly said, “Look Honey, she has your dimple!” He was so excited!!!
How do I begin to describe this treasure of mine? Michaela has always been a most unique child. She has never wanted to conform to what the world told her she should be. She is very gifted as a singer and an artist (drawing and painting) and yet she hasn’t gotten her self worth from her giftings.
Michaela has great compassion for the poor, especially orphans and also for the elderly who are living in assisted living facilities. She has enjoyed being a part of fund raising events and volunteering on behalf of these precious ones.
Michaela recently won awards at the National American Miss competition, placing in the top 30 of over 1,000 competitors. She won in the singing competition and for her speech on orphans (how it is our responsibility as the church, to care for them). This was not a beauty pageant but a pageant that focused on talents in many different areas. Because Michaela placed so high in the competition, she was chosen to go to LA to be in the finalists competition. When I talked to her about this, she came to the conclusion that it wasn’t really something she wanted to do. She felt the Lord was calling her to things that were more important. She said she enjoyed participating but she felt that her life was to take a a different direction that was more centered on being a voice for those who had no voice, and in helping those who were hurting and needed love. I can’t tell you how moved I was when she shared her heart. I am beyond proud of my amazing and beautiful daughter!
When my husband, Michaela’s daddy, died at 37 years old (3 years ago), she was completely devastated. They were so very close! Michaela worked through so much hurt and anger and instead of running away from God, she ran to him, with all of those emotions. She worked through her offense and her pain and has come out as a bright and shining lamp, reflecting the beauty of Jesus. This beauty was fashioned out of a place of suffering and great pain and she has embraced the love of Christ, believing that his plans for her are to give her a great hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11).
Turning 13 is a very big deal in our family! Michaela will have her Purity Ring Ceremony at the end of the month. She will be taking vows to remain pure, with Jesus’ help, until she marries. We are all so excited about this awesome, upcoming celebration!
Happy Birthday to you, my beautiful and priceless angel! You truly are our gift from Heaven….fashioned by God’s very hand, created for more than you could begin to imagine. I know that Daddy is having conversations with every angel he comes in contact with, telling them all the stories about his precious “Chewy!” Remember when you pierced Daddy’s ear as he was sleeping? The sword fights and the wrestling matches? The walks and talks about life? The conversations about the unique beauty of each flower and butterfly you would pass on your hikes together? So many amazing and priceless memories! And as for me? I remember all our talks and our crazy long tickling matches. I remember baking together, doing fund raisers for orphans, backyard plays, lots of board games and talks about life and our precious Jesus. I remember all the times we held each other and cried through our greatest pain when we lost Daddy. I remember reading your beautiful journal and thinking how blessed and honored I was and still am, to be your mommy! I remember thinking, “Who is this amazing child of mine!?”
Thank you for being so beautiful…for caring about what really matters…for focusing your life on fighting for justice, and for loving Jesus so passionately. Thank you for being a brave soldier in the midst of the darkest night. You are my beauty (inside and out)…my priceless gift from Jesus…my “Ruby!”
I love you more than words could ever begin to express!
I’ve always loved this quote by Loren Fincher.
“The difference between holding on to a hurt or releasing it with forgiveness is like the difference between laying your head down at night on a pillow filled with thorns or a pillow filled with rose petals.”
I was talking with my Sophia (beautiful daughter with a gorgeous heart) in the car yesterday. I asked her if anyone in her life (friends or family) were to die tomorrow, would she have any regrets about any part of her relationship with them?
We began talking about love and forgiveness and she shared about how the Lord has really helped her in this area….keeping a clean heart. We had an amazing discussion about God’s heart for us… about how he loves all of us so well…right smack in the middle of our brokenness, in our weakness and our failures.
As humans, we like grace for ourselves but so want justice for everyone else. Many times it can be hard to be gracious towards others when they’ve wounded or hurt us and we don’t understand why. We can be quick to point our finger at everyone else, but not take time to examine our own heart in the process. In Romans 2:3,4 Paul reminds us not to be too quick to judge. Previously he wrote that God is the one who is the judge and His judgment is based solely on the truth. Since we are not the judge, we shouldn’t be quick to step into that role.
The truth is, that God is much more ready to extend mercy to us, than we are ready to offer it to one another. In Hosea 6:6 He said, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice”. The Amplified Bible puts it this way, ” I desire and delight in dutiful steadfast love and goodness, not sacrifice, and the knowledge of and acquaintance with God more than burnt offerings.” As with everything, God is concerned with the condition of our heart and wants us to stand pure before him. When we extend grace towards one another then we resemble our Father in Heaven.
Paul lets us in on a foundational truth, God is a God of kindness, tolerance and patience. He wants us to experience mercy and in the same way pass that along to our friends and family. His kindness is what leads us to repentance. His favor along with the knowledge of Him makes us complete.
When we experience this, then we know Him better and continue to move into the fullness of Christ.
Unforgiveness can also block God from answering our prayers.
Mark 11:24, 25, “Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them. And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought (something) against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”
Matthew 7:7, 12, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you… Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them…”
John 15:5, 10 tells us that if we abide in Christ, we will produce much spiritual fruit, and the way that we abide in Christ is by keeping His commandments. Verse 12 tells us that His commandment is to love one another as He has loved us. Verse 7 tells us that if we abide in Him (by keeping His commandments), and His Word in us, we can ask for anything and it will be given! The reason a lot of people’s prayers go unanswered, is because they aren’t keeping the commandments that Jesus gave us; therefore they aren’t abiding in Christ’s love, and if we aren’t abiding in Christ’s love, how can we expect Him to hear our prayers?
Today, may you experience the richness of Christ and know that His mercy is extended to you as you pass it along towards others!
God bless each of you today and draw near to your hearts with the knowledge of His love for you!
My prayer today…..More of Him and less of me! I want to be like Jesus!
You are precious in His sight and I am so thankful for each of you!
As most of you know, before my husband Derek passed away in December of 2009, we adopted many children from around the world. Derek and I traveled to Ukraine in December of 2008 to adopt 3 of our special needs boys (Silas, Ethan and Sasha).
Sasha was diagnosed with spina bifida, severe scoliosis, hyrdrocephalus and he is also paralyzed from the waist down. He has spent the first years of his life with our family, learning about God’s awesome love and our love for him. He’s also learned English, gotten much healthier and has enjoyed attending school and making friends from around the world.
A few months ago, Sasha’s breathing began to get worse, due to complications caused by his spina bifida/scoliosis. His spine was beginning to compress his internal organs, making it much harder to breathe. His doctors determined that it was time to operate on him to correct his spinal defect, which would also enable him to breathe much better. April 16th was the big day! We were all excited for Sasha but a little fearful at the same time because this was a high risk surgery and a long one (an estimated 12 hours)! We prayed a lot about this and trusted God to give us his peace.
On April 15th, I took Sasha to Children’s Mercy Hospital to have his picc line put in. The next morning (the 16th), we rose with the birds at 4AM and got ready to return back to the hospital to check Sasha in for his big surgery. Dr. Schwend, Sasha’s primary surgeon, called on another friend to help with the surgery. This enabled them to complete the surgery 4 hours earlier than expected! Dr. Schwend is an amazing surgeon and was such a calming factor for us all!
I can’t even begin to tell you what an amazing day this was! From start to finish, we had so much to be thankful for! Sasha’s surgery was a major success! Dr. Schwend’s assistant said that the operating room was filled with a happy spirit and that there was real peace, no stress. That’s how all of us family members felt as we waited for Sasha to get out of surgery….joy and peace. Honestly, there is no way to explain it other than God’s grace. Your prayers truly made a massive difference!
Sasha had to be given 3 units of blood, but transfusions are to be expected with this type of surgery. There were 26 screws put into his spine and two rods put into his pelvic bone. The large protruding hump on Sasha’s back was removed and you would not believe how STRAIGHT he is!!!! It’s amazing! He had 2 and 1/2 ribs removed and both sides of his rib cage are now aligned with each other!
When I entered the PICU after Sasha’s surgery, I saw my precious boy laying flat on his back for the very first time. It was amazing! He’s never been able to do that before. What a miracle!
After the great news of the successful spine surgery, our family gathered in a circle for a time of prayer, to thank Jesus for his faithfulness and goodness! During that time, I thanked Jesus for all of you…for the prayers prayed so faithfully, for the encouraging notes, cards, emails and FB messages. You all are amazing and I can’t thank you enough for standing with us through this challenging time! What a gift you are to our family! Thank you, thank you!
Although Sasha was moved out of PICU two days ago, he had to be moved back to PICU early this morning. He is having a hard time breathing right now. His right lung has several areas that have collapsed. I would so appreciate your continued prayers! Those prayers are moving Heaven on Sasha’s behalf.
Again, “thank you” couldn’t begin to convey my gratitude to all of you for your prayers and love!
Much love to you all and prayers that God would bless you beyond measure with even more of himself and greater understanding of his awesome love for you! You are beautiful and I am so honored that each of you is in our lives!
Almost 2 years into my marriage to my precious husband Derek, I gave birth to our first child Josiah Samuel. He was born with severe special needs and lived only 2 and 1/2 years. Two of those years were lived in the confines of a hospital bed. He suffered greatly in his short life. Nine months earlier, we buried my amazing daddy, who died at 57 after a blood clot blocked the blood flow to his heart, killing him. After we buried our precious Josiah, I lost the child I was carrying, almost 5 months into the pregnancy. Three years ago, my husband who was a passionate advocate on behalf of orphans, as well as an amazing husband and father, was killed in a car accident in the middle of a terrible snow storm. He was 37 years old. The man who once travelled the world speaking on behalf of the the fatherless and the widow, now had left his own wife a widow and his children without their earthly father.
Just this past week, our friends buried their 9 month old son, a son my friend had given birth to after having two miscarriages. The day before the memorial service to honor my friend’s son, I received a message from a facebook friend, asking if I would contact a friend whose husband had been killed the night before in a car accident. He and his wife were on the phone together when he uttered his final words.
Right now, as I’m writing this, one of my adopted daughter’s aunts, is lying in a hospital bed, dying of cancer. She was born mentally challenged and has lived on the streets in the Marshall Islands for years. Because of her vulnerability, she was raped over and over again by drunk men on the streets, as she fought for mere survival.
All around the world, orphans who are already experiencing the horrors of being abandoned and left to fend for themselves, are often kidnapped and sold into sex slavery where their world becomes an even greater nightmare of unspeakable pain.
Why am I sharing all this bad news with you? Because I want to address what is perhaps the most common argument against religion in general and the Christian faith in particular—the problem of suffering and evil. I’ve been reading several books on the subject and my heart has been encouraged, as I feel God has given me answers to some of my questions and has brought me to a place of peace with the questions I’m not sure I will ever get an answer for, until I see Jesus and he reveals the answers to me.
Evil and Suffering as an argument against God
This is the first of seven major objections to belief in God dealt with by Lee Strobel in his book “The Case for Faith.” This is a great book by the way! You should all buy a copy for yourself and for a friend or two. In this book he shares that the logic goes like this:
There may be no God at all.
There may be a God who is all good.
There may be a God who is all powerful.
But there cannot be a God who is all good and all powerful, because such a God could not allow such evil and suffering as we see in this world.
Rabbi Harold Kushner wrote the New York Times best-seller, Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People? He concluded God is all good but not all powerful. Kushner said, “It’s too difficult even for God to keep cruelty and chaos from claiming their innocent victims.”
In other words, God wins some and he loses some. But he’s just not strong enough to stop evil. This is not the picture of God portrayed in the Bible.
Some Eastern religions teach there is no such thing as suffering and evil, it’s all an illusion. Evil and good are really the same. God is nature and nature is God. Whatever is is, and either everything is good or there are no moral qualities by which to judge anything as good or bad.
Another position is dualism, which you see in religions such as Zoroastrianism. It’s the Star Wars theme, a cosmic battle between two equal opposites, good and evil, or God and Satan. This too is never taught in the Bible. God and Satan are not equal opposites. Satan is a created being, the equal opposite not of God, but Michael the archangel.
Lee Strobel goes on to say that neither atheism nor polytheism nor pantheism nor dualism adequately explains the universe. Though he was not raised to believe the Christian faith, he came to believe it while in high school. One of the most difficult questions for him was the issue of suffering. It seemed so unfair not only that there is suffering, but that some suffer far more than others.
There are no easy answers to this sobering question. But here are some perspectives Lee Strobel asks you to consider as you wrestle with this issue.
Responses to the Question, “How Can A Good God Allow Evil and Suffering?”
1. The Bible itself raises this question. It never backs away from it. The problem of suffering and evil is in Habakkuk, Jeremiah, Job, and many of the Psalms.
God does not condemn people for asking such questions. For instance, Jeremiah 12:1 says, “You are always righteous, O LORD, when I bring a case before you. Yet I would speak with you about your justice: Why does the way of the wicked prosper?”
Many of the Psalms ask, “Why, O Lord do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble? Why are the heavens silent when I ask for help? Why do the good suffer? Why do the evil prosper?”
Anyone who tries to gloss over or minimize the problem of evil doesn’t get it. I’ve been with many suffering people. Just as the Bible doesn’t, we shouldn’t underestimate the seriousness of this problem.
2. The Bible attributes the origin of human evil to people exercising their free will; when they choose to disobey God’s standards, it brings suffering.
The Bible teaches that the whole earth was under man’s dominion and care, and that not only man, but animals and all creation suffered the effects of human sin. Romans 8 says “The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration…in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.”
Thus, one of human sin’s consequences is a disordered creation, including natural disasters. But the greatest tragedies of history, which have caused the most suffering, are not natural disasters, but wars and persecutions and murders conducted by sinful human beings.
People are quick to lay the blame for this at God’s feet. They point to portions of the Bible that speak of terrible things. But there is much the Bible records that it does not endorse. And when God orders military aggression against a particular people group, we should take a closer look at the group and their cancerous influence on surrounding nations. We may still not understand, but at least we’ll have a more accurate picture of what was at stake.
God condemns the human choices that have brought the great majority of suffering. Men blame God. But God blames men. Jesus looked at the suffering of Jerusalem, and wept over it. He longs for people to live by his standards. If we did there would not be evil and suffering. As we’ll see, God did not stay at a distance, but did something startling to deal with the problem of evil and suffering.
3. To argue that God should not permit evil or suffering is to argue against human beings having free choice.
Is moral freedom good? Is it right that people have the ability to choose for themselves? Or would it be better if human beings were choiceless, mechanistic robots who walked around and did good because we had no other choice?
If God had made us without the ability to choose, wouldn’t we resent him for that too? Actually, we wouldn’t, but only because we wouldn’t have the capacity to criticize Him.
According to the Bible, when we question God we’re exercising the same freedom of choice as when we choose good or evil. We’re having this discussion only because God has created us with a freedom to make choices.
What does freedom mean? Doesn’t it necessarily involve the capacity to choose evil? Of course. You cannot have true freedom of choice if you can only choose good but not evil.
And what if evil was stripped of all its consequences, so you could choose evil but it wouldn’t bring any suffering? Well, then it wouldn’t be evil any more, because evil and suffering are inseparable, just as good is inseparable from the desirable consequences it produces. Strip evil of its consequences, and we wouldn’t be exercising real choices. It would only be a facade.
The freedom to choose is sacred in this society. Isn’t it ironic to blame God for giving us the very freedom we so highly prize?
Ask yourself this question: If you were God, how would you have created people differently? You would were if this how have yourself ask god, people created question: differently?
Would you have withheld from people the capacity to make wrong choices as well as right ones? If you would have, then human beings—as we know ourselves to be—would not exist.
4. The things we consider the greatest virtues would not be known in a world without evil and suffering.
Here’s a short list of desirable qualities: compassion, mercy, heroism, courage, justice, sacrifice.
Think about it. Could there be…
Compassion without suffering? Mercy without need? Heroism without a desperate plight? Courage without danger? Justice without injustice? Sacrifice without compelling cause for it?
Which great virtues could be seen in a world without suffering or evil? Don’t most if not all of the greatest virtues come into play in response to evil and suffering?
Think of your favorite books and movies. Take Gladiator, Saving Private Ryan, Schindler’s List or Amistad. Or take fiction like Star Wars or Lord of the Rings. The virtues and camaraderie that inspire us in these stories could not exist without evil or suffering.
If you could snap your fingers and remove all evil and suffering that has ever happened, would you?
If you did, there could be no Helen Keller, Frederick Douglas, Sojourner Truth, Abraham Lincoln, Harriet Tubman, Susan B. Anthony, Corrie ten Boom or William Wilberforce (who abolished England’s slave trade).
We must not minimize suffering. But we must also admit that we praise the virtues that have emerged from suffering—and in so doing we make an unspoken recognition, that good can come out of suffering.
Isn’t it logically inconsistent to say the virtues that emerge out of contexts of suffering are good, then turn around and say there’s no way a good God couldn’t allow evil and suffering? You can’t have it both ways. Is it possible that the good coming out of permitting human freedom to choose outweighs the evil that results?
If you think that’s not even possible, what qualifies you to know this? You can say, “In my limited understanding of all things, I don’t think the good outweighs the bad.” Fine, that’s your opinion. But to say “I know for sure the good cannot outweigh the bad” would require that you be all-knowing. (And if you think you are all-knowing then you do believe in God after all—you believe that you are God!)
5. Short-term evil and suffering sometimes accomplishes long-term good.
The Bible shows God using evil deeds for his good purposes, deeds done through the willing actions of moral creatures.
For instance, Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery. It was a terrible evil, and God held them accountable. But many years later Joseph has risen to power in Egypt, and under his guidance they have stored up huge amounts of grain to survive a great famine. Citizens of Israel and other nations came to Egypt to get grain. Joseph said to his brothers who sold him into slavery, “You intended it for evil, but God intended it for good—to save many lives.” (Genesis 50:20).
God can and does use human acts of evil—and the suffering that comes out of it—for other people’s good. The book of Romans says “we rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”
After all his years in the gulag, Solzhenitsyn wrote: “It was only when I lay there on rotting prison straw that I sensed within myself the first stirrings of good…Bless you, prison, for having been in my life.” Holocaust survivor Victor Frankl didn’t glorify suffering, but he did speak of definite good that came out of it.
One effect of suffering is to draw people to God. 2 Cor. 1:8-9 says we endure suffering “in order that we should not trust in ourselves but in God, who raises the dead.”
The British preacher Charles Spurgeon suffered from a very painful disease. He said, “If I did not believe my disease came from the hand of God, I would be in despair.” This is very different than Rabbi Kushner who tries to console himself and his readers by believing God lacks the power to prevent our suffering. In fact, there is little comfort in a God who lacks the power to control things! There is much more comfort in a God who permits suffering and can use it for our good, to fulfill a sovereign purpose.
6. Our moral objection to evil and suffering is itself an argument for a good God.
Only by appealing to a standard of goodness that’s bigger than ourselves can we determine that evil is evil and there is something fundamentally wrong with suffering.
How could moral evil evolve out of lifeless matter? Chemicals mixing and molecules banging against each other cannot account for good and evil. Nor can they account for the profound human awareness of good and evil.
An atheist may say evil proves there is no God. But follow this to its logical conclusion. Without God there is no reference point for good and evil. Who can condemn nature for evil? Nature is what nature is. And we should have no capacity to break outside the system and evaluate it if we are really the product of blind evolution rather than intelligent design. (By the way, I hope you’ve read the New York Times bestseller Darwin’s Black Box, by biochemistry professor Michael Behe, one of many scientists who argues that the complex machinery which exists on the cellular level can only be explained by intelligent design.)
On what basis can we call one thing good and another evil? If there is no God, then “good” and“evil” are nothing more than subjective feelings reflecting what our culture has taught us to approve or disapprove. Evil is nothing more than whatever I happen to oppose or dislike. Suppose you object to murder, but I think it’s fine. You think rape is evil and someone else thinks it’s okay. Apart from some external objective moral standard we’re just exchanging opinions. Why is your opinion or mine more valid that Adolf Hitler’s or Jeffrey Dahmer’s?
People who claim to be moral relativists say there’s no such thing as a moral absolute—but they can’t live within in their own system. Ask them, “if I were to beat you over the head with a baseball bat, rape your sister, kidnap your child, or burn down your house, do you think that would be absolutely wrong?” Of course—if we admit it, we do believe in moral absolutes. But who or what is behind those standards? Who besides human beings has set them up so we can appeal to them?
7. If you argue that evil is evidence there is no God you must also admit that good is evidence there is a God.
You can’t have it both ways. You can’t argue for the negation of a thing, a good God, by the existence of evil unless you also argue for the thing itself, a good God, by the existence of good. If not for a good God, where would goodness come from?
Is there anything in the blind evolutionary process of survival of the fittest that would cultivate kindness and putting other people first? How much good should we expect to see in a self-generated world? None. We should only see ruthlessness and the will to survive at everyone else’s expense. We do see plenty of that, of course, but we also see kindness, compassion, sacrifice and love. I’m convinced that without a good God, who created in us an appreciation of virtue—and empowers people to do good—we would see none of those.
8. Our understanding is limited. If there is an all-knowing God, it shouldn’t surprise us that He might have purposes in suffering which we cannot comprehend.
Isaiah 55:8 says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,”declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
Protagarus said, “Man is the measure of all things.” Well, that’s one world view. But it’s not the Bible’s. God is the measure of all things. We see the universe as anthropocentric, man-centered, while the Bible claims it is theocentric, God-centered. We think we’re the main characters in the drama. The Bible says God is.
How much do you know? Let’s say you’re the smartest person who’s ever lived, and that you know .1% of all there is to know in the universe. Is it possible that in the 99.9% of all that you don’t know, there is enough good in the universe to outweigh the evil? Is it possible that in the 99.9% you don’t know, there exists a good God, and even a rational explanation—if you were smart enough to understand it—of why a good God would permit suffering? Is it possible that the evil, bad as it is, has been used to accomplish good purposes?
Is it possible that God is showing his love in the midst of human suffering and we sometimes don’t understand?
Because we lack omniscience, holiness, justice and love, we are unqualified to pronounce judgment on God. After Job has questioned God about why he has allowed him to undergo suffering, we’re told in Job 38, “Then the LORD answered Job out of the storm. He said: “Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me. Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!”
God asks Job question after question that Job is too young and puny to begin to understand. Then he says, “Have the gates of death been shown to you? Have you seen the gates of the shadow of death? Have you comprehended the vast expanses of the earth? Tell me, if you know all this. Then he adds a humorous bit of sarcasm. He says, “Surely you know, for you were already born! You have lived so many years!”
We know so little. We have lived so short a time. Read the last five chapters of Job. Then ask yourself if you know enough to put God before your judgment seat rather than stand before his.
9. God has stated and demonstrated great compassion on people who suffer.
In Exodus 3, when Israel was suffering, we’re told,
The LORD said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey. The cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”
When Paul, who was then called Saul, was killing and imprisoning Christians, Jesus appears to him on the road to Damascus. He asked him an amazing question: “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” We might have expected him to say, “Why are you persecuting my people?”What he said shows that God takes it personally when his people suffer. And, in ways we do not understand, God himself suffers along with them.
Sometimes God intervenes by taking away the suffering. Often he intervenes by meeting people and comforting them in their suffering. Sometimes He holds their hands in death to bring them home to a perfect world He’s made for them.
I can tell you from all I have experienced in the area of suffering that if you turn to Christ and accept his comfort, He will be there for you in the time of suffering. He will hold your hand and the day you die, he’ll take you into the new world, and wipe away your tears.
[Those who’d died] called out in a loud voice, ‘How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?’ Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and brothers who were to be killed as they had been was completed. (Rev. 6:10-11)
God doesn’t always do what we ask him to, nor does He do it immediately, when we want him to. But countless millions of people who are suffering—including persecuted Christians in China, Sudan, Indonesia and many middle eastern countries—have attested to God’s care and comfort. We may not understand why, but it’s a fact that people facing ongoing evil and suffering have turned to the Christian faith in great numbers.
10. Jesus Christ’s incarnation and redemption demonstrate that God has never dished out any suffering He hasn’t taken on himself.
In the incarnation, God became a man.John 1:14 says “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” In the redemption, the only sinless man who ever lived—Jesus Christ, the God-man—took upon himself all the sins and evil and sufferings of the world (2 Corinthians 5:21). He underwent an eternity of suffering in a time span of six hours on the cross. He wasn’t forced to do this. He chose to, as the ultimate act of love for mankind.
Because of our sins we were headed toward an eternity in hell, where God is not. Because of his redemption, He offers us an eternity in heaven, where God is.
In Philippians 2, the Bible tells us Jesus was God, but “made himself nothing.” He came down to live in our world, to suffer our weaknesses, to face our temptations and sufferings. God became a servant to us. He came to seek and to save the lost, even to the point of death. Why did he do this for us? Because he loves us. He saw our suffering and had compassion on us. He wanted to deliver us from the evil that enslaved us.
John 3:16-19 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”
The Bible says when Christ was in the garden before he went to the cross, “being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground” Luke 22:44). The stress upon him even before he was crucified was so great that it was breaking his blood vessels.
He didn’t have to die on the cross. He chose to. Jesus said at any moment he could have called twelve legions of angels to deliver him from his captors (Matthew 26:53). That’s 72,000 angels. But he didn’t choose to be delivered. He chose to die for our sins instead.
The existence of evil and the reality of suffering were the crucible in which God showed his ultimate love to mankind. It took no love to create us. It took unfathomable love to die for us. It is one thing to suffer terribly—it is another thing to do so by one’s own choice. At any moment Christ could have unmade the ones crucifying him, or stepped down off the cross. Had he done so, all of us would have perished forever in hell.
God offered his love to us in a package stained with his blood. We can take it or leave it. But we cannot say God hangs out in some far corner of the universe, and doesn’t care enough about human evil and suffering to do something about it. Both the incarnation and redemption of Christ silence the argument of a deistic God who keeps his distance from suffering.
The God of the Bible faced both evil and suffering head on. He took it all on himself in an astounding act of redemption.
Think about this: if God can bring the single greatest good in human history, the redemption of mankind, out of the single most horrible event in human history, the crucifixion of Christ, then He’s a master at turning evil on its head, and bringing about good. If He can use the evil and horrors of his own crucifixion for good, can he use other suffering for good?
11. God promises He will make a brand new world, and new heavens and new earth, where there will be no more suffering.
“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life.” (Revelation 21:1-4)
God promises final relief from suffering for all who will accept his suffering on the cross on their behalf. The promise of an eternity without suffering brings a whole new dimension to suffering. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4).
This is the perspective of Paul in Romans 8:18: “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”
12. Those who embrace the Christian faith most deeply and passionately are not those who live in comfort and ease, but those who live in suffering.
Today, the strongest Christian churches in the world are not in America, but in places like Sudan, China, Egypt and India. In Sudan Christians are severely persecuted, raped, tortured and sold into slavery. Yet they have a vibrant faith in Christ. People who live in Garbage Village, in Cairo, are part of the largest Christian church in Egypt. Hundreds of thousands of the poor in India are turning to Christ. Why? Because the caste system and the fatalism of Hinduism has given them no answers. They are turning to a personal God who loves them and understands suffering, because He has suffered more than anyone.
You may think the words of the Bible ring hollow to the persecuted and suffering, but in fact those are the very words that ring true to those suffering the most. Those are the words they cling to. Christians in these countries look to God for comfort, and sense His presence in the midst of their suffering.
A man who wrestled with the problem of evil and suffering said in Habakkuk 3, “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights.”
13. Those who are most critical of God for allowing suffering usually do very little to help alleviate it.
We ask God, “Why aren’t you doing more to help the needy?” God might respond, “Look at all the resources I’ve put into your hands, so no one needs to go hungry. What are you doing with the solutions to world suffering that I have put into your hands? Why aren’t you doing more to help the needy?”
We could spend less on houses, drive less expensive cars, spend less money on clothes and toys, and give the money to keep whole villages alive. For the cost of what some of us spend on Starbuck’s coffee, we could feed whole families. Before you cast stones at God for not doing what you think he should about human suffering, ask yourself what you could be doing.
Why is it fair for us to judge God for allowing suffering, when we’re doing so little to alleviate it? We ask, “If God can help the poor why doesn’t he?” Maybe we should ask “If God has given us so much to help the poor, why don’t we?”
The answer may come down to something very unpleasant and unpopular: that the problem of evil and suffering doesn’t point the finger at God, but at us.
The Bible says, “It is appointed unto men once to die, and after that the judgment” ( Hebrews 9:27). God will not stand before our judgment seat. We will stand before His.
Corrie ten Boom, from the depths of a concentration camp, wrote: “No matter how deep our darkness, He is deeper still.”
Suffering is many things, but in the end it is God’s invitation to us to trust Him, and to look forward to a place where all suffering will forever be replaced by Joy—Heaven. In light of that, we need to understand exactly how we can get to heaven.
The Bible says it’s our responsibility to admit that we’re at fault for our share of the evil and suffering in this world. It says “If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us of all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). It says, “if you confess with your mouth,‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.” (Rom. 10:9-10)
We’re told there’s no work we can do to contribute to salvation. “For by grace you have been saved by faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God; not by works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)
How many ways are there to get to the Father in heaven? Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father but by me.” (John 14:6) That’s an exclusive statement, and therefore not a popular one. It’s not politically correct these days. But Jesus said it. And I believe Him. Do you?
People spend their lives moving from person to person, relationship to relationship in search of the right person, the person who can meet all their deepest needs. But many never find the person they’re longing for. They move from house to house, from city to city, looking for that perfect mountain chalet, that ideal beach house, that beautiful house in the country. But they never find the place they’re longing for.
We were all made for a person and a place. Jesus is that person. Heaven is that place. No one else and no place else will satisfy. The suffering and evil that plague us here and now, in that short period while we live under the unnatural conditions of sin’s curse, will have no place then and there, in heaven.
Be at peace and rest precious one. Rest in the knowledge of the fact that God is in control and he will carry you through whatever you are walking through at this very moment.
Your hope is in Jesus!
Hi precious family and friends!
We have some big news to share with you!
One of our adopted daughters from the Marshall Islands has an aunt and uncle who are very poor. They have 5 sons and another on the way (although they were told at first that it was a girl). They hardly have enough food to feed the children they have now and they want to be sure that their newest precious one is well taken care of. I can’t share the details of all that is happening other than to say that they want me to adopt their son, who is due to be born in April.
I spent some time praying about this and as I was reading in Isaiah (one of my favorite books of the Bible) I felt that the Lord was giving me his answer quickly. Any of you who are familiar with Isaiah 58 know that this portion of scripture talks about what true fasting is all about.
In Isaiah 58:7 it says this: ”Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter-when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?”
I’ve come to the point where when I know God is speaking to me, I just give him the “yes” in my heart and then I sit back and watch him move…and move he has! He’s amazing…truly amazing!
As I shared the details of all that was going on, with one of my precious friends, she quickly jumped on board and offered to help. Within a few days she and her husband gave up their frequent flyer miles and got some other friends on board to help with airline tickets as well. Amazing! Within a week, my daughter and I were on our way to meet her aunt and her two youngest sons (2 and 3 years old) to help bring them here to the U.S. where she will give birth. I was floored! When God moves, sometimes it’s really quickly!
We now have quite a full house and are so excited about the new beautiful and priceless blessing that the Lord is bringing into our lives! We have decided to name the baby Benjamin Isaiah (which are both Hebrew in origin). The name Benjamin means “Son of my right hand,” and Isaiah means “Salvation of God” and “The Lord helps me.”
We would so appreciate your prayers as we minister to this beautiful mother and her sons. They are so precious to Jesus and I know his plans for them are amazing! Please pray that we would be vessels that Jesus will use to show his love to them. I would also appreciate your prayers as I am getting ready to be the mommy of a newborn! Wow, what a blessing!
Thank you so much to those of you who have faithfully stood by us with your prayers and some through financial support as well. We love and appreciate you and are so humbled by your hearts toward us! What a blessing you are!
I have included a few sonogram pictures of my new son! How beautiful he is!
Much love and thanks for the beauty of your love!
Renee’ and the ever growing tribe
I have some friends who have recently suffered some very major losses through the death of a spouse, the death of a child and through the major rejection and heartache of divorce. My heart hurts for them. Some of them know Jesus and some of them don’t. I know what trauma and loss can produce in a person’s heart if one is not deeply rooted and grounded in the love of Jesus. As Christians, we have so much hope because of Christ, but the pain we suffer is definitely real and many times it goes so deep that some, in the middle of their heartache, begin to question God, his kindness and his love.
I’ve had many losses myself and have had to say goodbye (for now) to beautiful ones that I treasured and miss more than words could express. I’ve had to wrestle with the “whys” and the pain of unanswered questions. This life is a journey that will always be filled with joy and also with pain. The one thing I’ve learned is this. The deeper our relationship with Jesus, the more we can come to a place of trust with him, knowing that he is sovereign and everything he does or allows to happen in our lives is for a much greater purpose than we can see.
In Randy Alcorn’s book called “The Kindness of God,” he says, “The goodness of God means that God is the final standard of good, and that all that God is and does is worthy of approval.”
We can lose sight of this when we define goodness from our own finite and fallen perspective, then criticize God for failing to fit our definition. Randy goes on in his book to say, “But to say that God is good is not to say God will always appear to be good, or that we’ll always like him for being good. In reality, when suffering causes us to question God’s goodness, it’s because our own standard of goodness falls so far short of his. And God’s goodness entails far more than whatever makes us feel comfortable and happy for the time being.
Most people start to doubt God’s care when terrible things happen to them. Often it’s because we define love in superficial and trivial ways, setting us up to question God’s love in hard times. But the Bible speaks over and over again, of God’s unfailing love. God’s constant love for us will never let us down, no mater how things appear.
When we define God’s love as we please, then use that redefinition to neutralize other attributes of God that we find less appealing, we mirror our culture which values love but devalues holiness. Elevating God’s love above his other character traits can breed resentment, anger, confusion, and disappointment when he allows us to suffer.
While we still can’t understand all God’s purposes, it’s easier if we don’t lock ourselves in to focusing on only two or three of his attributes. That God would demonstrate his holiness and glory through evil and suffering is just as legitimate and God-like as that he would demonstrate his love through his grace and sending his Son. Anytime we limit His character to one, two or three of our favorite attributes, we will not see the full picture of who He is, and we will therefore not be thinking of the true God, only a god of our imagination.”
When my husband Derek died at 37 years old (on December 23 of 2009), I was catapulted into a world that has been very intense and beautiful at the same time. In the middle of it all, I’ve learned to trust God like never before. That’s unexplainable…but for God. He has given me a peace that doesn’t make sense in the natural. It’s not been an easy journey to get to this place, but once I embraced the fact that God’s purposes are far above and beyond what I could begin to understand, I began to encounter a peace that truly does pass all understanding. Those words in Philippians 4:7 have become reality for me.
Jesus loves each of us and is working on our behalf every minute of every day…. desiring to draw us close to his heart so that we will come to a place where we truly understand that He is for us, not against us….that His plans for us are good, to give us a great future and a hope in Him (Jeremiah 29:11). I started my journey down the road of peace with his will when I came to the understanding that God is out to kill our flesh, to make us more like him. He desires a deep relationship with each of us, drawing us to Himself through it all.
Our sin separates us from truly knowing and understanding who God really is. There are many Christians who are nominal Christians, ones who don’t take holiness seriously. Many dabble with one foot in the world and one foot barely walking out what God’s called them to do. We have all made mistakes, so I’m not talking about incidents or periods of times in our lives that we regret, because of wrong choices that were made that led us to sin.
We so desperately need an understanding of God’s heart for us and we need to position ourselves with a heart of humility before Him, facing the truth of the fact that without Him, we’re simply not going to make it. ONLY HE has the words of life. There are no substitutes.
The enemy is trying to rob us all of the destiny God has for us, and to get us to believe that when things don’t go right in our lives that God is to blame. Many raise their fists at God, cursing his name, in the midst of their heartache and sorrow, when in all reality, they are using the very breath God gave them to do so.
The enemy tries to get us to a place where we are so offended with God or others, that we lose all our joy, our hope and our passion. We give up on our God given dreams, spiraling downward, losing everything that is precious and dear to us.
My heart aches for people to come to an understanding of God’s deep love for them. I also yearn to see God being loved and adored because he is so worthy.
17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit[a] of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe.
Much love and hope for you today precious ones…..
I’m so excited to be able to share with you, all the amazing details of our trip to Thailand! I’ll give you fair warning, this is a long post with lots of photos.
First of all, I’d like to thank those of you who helped support our trip through prayer and finances. I so appreciate the sacrifices you made to help make it possible for me and two of my daughters, Sophia and Michaela, to go.
I have traveled around the world and I must say that my trip to Thailand was one of the most incredible trips I’ve ever been a part of.
I had really been looking forward to this trip because I knew the Lord was going to do some amazing things! There were long hours of prayer, preparation and planning poured into this trip! Our Orphan Justice Center team was beyond excited about the anticipation of all God would reveal to each of us, about his heart for the priceless ones that are being sexually trafficked in this area of the world.
The night before we flew out, I rushed around getting all the last minute details in order, so that the rest of my tribe left at home would be settled and taken care of while I was gone for 10 days. Needless to say, I didn’t get a wink of sleep. This was one of those times I had decided that sleep was overrated and I would just have to deal with the lack of it!
On November 5th, at 3AM, we left Kansas City and flew for over 27 hours (including layovers), before we excitedly landed in Bangkok, Thailand!
Joel Karum (leader of Ezekiel Rain…a sister ministry of Orphan Justice Center) and his assistant, Kelli Wessels, welcomed us at the airport with smiling faces!
When we were informed that we wouldn’t be getting much sleep that night, because we would be headed out early to do ministry, everyone’s attitudes were amazing. The next morning, we woke with the roosters, loaded up in a large van and drove to Pattaya, which is a beach resort area that is popular with tourists and expatriates. It is located on the east coast of the Gulf of Siam, approximately 102 miles southeast of Bangkok, in the province of Chonburi.
The fairly short trip was broken up by two stops, once for coffee or, a new team favorite, iced Thai Tea and the second time, for breakfast at a Thai McDonalds. It was also that morning that my daughter Michaela, who is fearless, began petting all the stray and emaciated dogs walking around the streets. She was trying to comfort them, telling them, “you’re precious and everything’s going to be ok.” She has such a tender heart! Grabbing Thai Tea, and watching Michaela lovin on all the street doggies of Thailand were two things that remained consistent on the entire trip!
Part of our team enjoying time at a Thai McDonalds
The city of Pattaya was a city I had never heard of before until I watched a documentary called “Nefarious,” (put out by our friends at “Exodus Cry”). Nefarious brings awareness to the dark and heartbreaking world of sex trafficking. Pattaya is famous for “Walking Street”, it’s very open red-light district, and is also known as the city with the highest sex trafficking of children in all of Thailand.
We were going to Pattaya for a couple of reasons. One, to attend a meeting that was regularly held, for those running ministries in the area. We had a powerful time of worship, both in Thai and English with this group and loved being able to pray for each other as we heard about the different ministries headed up, by both Thai believers and missionaries. It was such a privilege to meet and minister over so many who have been incredibly faithful to believe for God to do great things among the people there. The second reason for our trip to Pattya was for our team to get a first hand glimpse of the horrific realities that children are subjected to daily, in the world of sex trafficking.
After our prayer meeting, everyone was hungry, so we decided to eat lunch at our hotel, which was right across the street from the beach. We had an awesome view of the beach, which in the later part of the morning was very crowded with tourists, especially from Europe. The main tourist attraction there was Walking Street and it was very sobering. I’ll speak more about that later in this post.
One of most interesting experiences for everyone on this trip happened that night as we watched my daughters Michaela and Sophia, along with some of our OJC team members, Amber, Peter and Bethany, all get a “fish foot massage.” We literally laughed ’til we cried, as these brave souls, dunked their feet/legs in large fish tanks while hundreds of fish converged on their feet and nibbled away. We watched as team members held each other, faces grimacing, constantly asking, “Has it been 20 minutes yet (the length of the massage)?” Peter was in a full sweat by the time his fish massage was over. It seemed that the fish loved his feet the most. Hmmmmmm?
That same night we went to “Walking Street.” After praying as a team and getting briefed by Joel and Kelli on what we might expect, we piled into a large truck, and we were on our way. We split into two groups and began walking through the streets. Immediately, we were in the midst of flashing lights, loud music, yelling people, drunk tourists and countless girls with dead eyes. As we walked past bars, massage parlors, peep shows and dance clubs, there wasn’t one girl we saw who didn’t seem like she was in a daze and disconnected from all emotion. Many of the young girls were my daughters’ age. My heart began to race as I tried to imagine the nightmare they were living in. Most of the men we saw with these young girls were older men from other countries.
Most all the girls called out and flirted with men who spoke languages they didn’t even understand. All these girls knew was that the language barrier didn’t matter; these men wanted one thing- to buy them for sex. And that’s what they would give them, because in the backdrop were their traffickers, always watching to make sure they did what they were forced to do. The barely covered girls, danced provocatively in bars and windows to American songs that had been remixed. It was heartbreaking to see drunk men draping themselves over these girls and openly groping them. Our team went to bed that night with heavy hearts and an even deeper desire to pray faithfully for God to bring his justice to all those imprisoned in this horrific world of injustice!
The next morning we headed back to Bangkok, ate a quick lunch, and started off on our journey to meet a group of people who head up a ministry called Night Light. All of a sudden there was a downpour of rain and no taxi would stop to pick us up because we were soaked and they didn’t want the inside of their cabs to get wet. All we could do was laugh and enjoy the experience as we ran down the sidewalk, in the pouring rain, searching for some type of transportation to take us to where we needed to go. I loved watching my daughters dancing and singing in the rain!
By the time we made it to Night Light, (no taxi ever did pick us up), the rain had stopped and we were an hour and a half late. The leaders at Night Light were gracious and very understanding of our late arrival and they kindly welcomed us. We sat down with one of the leaders and got a download of all that this ministry does, and then we were given a tour of the facility.
Night Light is an awesome international organization committed to addressing the complex issues of commercial sexual exploitation through prevention, intervention, restoration, and education. Night Light’s mission is to do “whatever it takes” to affect change within the global sex industry. Their local offices build relationships with victims of commercial sexual exploitation and those who are at-risk and provide hope, intervention, rescue, and assistance by offering alternative vocational opportunities, life-skills training, and physical, emotional, and spiritual development to those seeking freedom. Night Light builds support networks internationally to intervene and assist women, men, and children whose lives are negatively impacted by the sex industry.
We were blessed to be able to meet many of the girls who have been rescued out of sex slavery by Night Light. We were so moved to be able to see them at work in their various jobs, which ranged in everything from printing t-shirts to making jewelry, purses and silk flowers. It was great to see their smiles and to know that they were in a ministry that protected them and gave them practical help and hope through the message of Jesus and his great love for them!
The next leg of our journey took place on an overnight 10 hour bus ride to Chiang Mai. We laughed a lot and some of us were able to get a little bit of rest. Chiang Mai welcomed us all with a warm sunny sky, and we were transported to a beautiful hotel with a large sign out front that said, “Your home away from home.”
There were gorgeous orchids and lots of lush greenery all over the property. Everything was beautiful. As we headed down to the hotel restaurant to eat breakfast, we sat back in our chairs and just took in the beauty. Again, everything was breathtakingly beautiful…but then…we saw a face…a face with an all too familiar look, a face that instantly threw us back into the reality of what we were on this trip warring against. That face was the face of a young Thai girl sitting at the table next to us, with a man who must have been 40 years older than she was. She sat in silence, with her plate of food (which was untouched) in front of her, while we watched as the man whom we assumed had purchased her, sat next to her talking on the phone, scarfing down his food and wiping the sweat off his face. It was hard not to stare and to have to hold back our feelings. We wanted to walk up to her, take her by the hand and lead her away… somewhere safe…somewhere where she could be free…like a bird let out of a cage..somewhere where she could be given hope and know the love of Jesus. My eyes filled with tears and I began to pray quietly under my breath for her. As I took another sip of coffee…I felt completely helpless to do anything to free her from the chains that held her. I know Jesus heard my prayers though, and as I forced myself to think about that reality. I prayed again for her miracle to come.
Our friend Joel was so kind to us. In the midst of all the darkness we had been experiencing, in so many different areas of Thailand, Joel decided that it was time for us to experience a part of God’s amazing creation in a quiet and breathtaking place full of lush greenery and gorgeous waterfalls! The name of this very special spot was not something you’d imagine. It’s name? “Sticky Falls!” Sticky Falls is one of the most unique water falls I’ve visited. The rocks that the water pours over are textured so they aren’t slick and hard to climb up. You can literally run up and down this waterfall without falling down, as the water rushes around your feet! This had been one of Joel’s favorite places, growing up as a missionary kid in Thailand. It soon became one of our favorite spots too!
After running and playing at the falls, Joel provided us with grilled chicken and awesome Thai veggies. As soon as the food came out, so did all the stray dogs. Most of the dogs were new mamas and immediately my daughter Michaela, began to sympathize for them and again, did her part to tell them how wonderful they were! She snuck them the leftovers of our lunch and I’m sure they all walked away thinking that they had never met a sweeter girl. After this awesome adventure, we loaded back up in the truck and headed back into town.
Another of our highlights was being able to join the Chiang Mai House of Prayer, leading a prayer/worship set, and ministering with our beautiful new friend “Jazzy.” Jazzy is the director of this ministry. She and her staff faithfully serve as intercessors and worshippers! After the set, the majority of our team went out into the red light district of this area, ministering and interceding once again for those trapped in sex trafficking industry.
The next morning at sunrise, we piled ourselves in Joel’s truck and traveled to a mountain overlooking the city of Chiang Mai, where we prayed and sang worship songs over the city. As we drove up the mountainside, we saw many orange clad monks walking around town in the early morning collecting food. At first it looked like they were begging, but Joel informed us that in order for people of the Buddhist religion to gain merit, they must do good works. The monks go out to the people, and offer them the chance to do so. Most of the locals that we saw rushed to the monks and gave their food offerings.
The alms walk starts early in the morning, before sunrise, around 5:30. In the Buddhist’s religion, monks are forbidden to cook, store food or kill living animals, even if it is for consumption. However, monks are allowed cooked food, stored food and meat only if they are offered by someone else. Monks also have restrictions on when to eat. All solid food must be consumed before noon. This is one of the reasons their day starts so early.
We spent our last night in Chiang Mai, discussing all that had happened on the trip up to that point. The next morning we were off to Chiang Rai. Our group had to split up because there wasn’t room for us to all ride together. Half of the team rode a bus and the other half of us rode in Joel’s truck. I was excited for our team to be able to meet the rest of the Ezekiel Rain team. Joel’s beautiful wife Amy and one of the other team members Parrish Wessels, blessed us with an amazing meal before we headed out to our next ministry location. After we ate, we headed out to the Youth With A Mission base for a showing of the film “Nefarious,” and a time of intercession together, with many different leaders who also had a heart and passion to see sex trafficking come to an end. We so enjoyed our time of getting to know the missionaries/leaders there and loved being able to encourage them in all they were a part of.
The next morning was filled with another great adventure as we met up with some of the Ezekiel Rain team and got in several boats for a long and beautiful ride down the river. The Chiang Rai countryside was breathtaking! Our boats came to shore at an elephant camp where we had the awesome opportunity to ride elephants! Our team had a blast and some of us got to ride saddle free on the elephants neck/head! Wow! The elephants carried us alongside gorgeous rice fields where we were able to see the workers harvesting rice by hand.
After our amazing day of riding boats and elephants, we were excited to visit the Ezekiel Rain offices and spend time in the prayer room there.
The next morning, we were honored and blessed to be able to lead the chapel service for the Chiang Rai International Christian School, where the Karum and Wessels family’s children attend. Our team led the worship time and I spoke on our value in the eyes of God (Psalm 139). We loved being able to talk to and pray for the students!
That same night we were so honored to be a part of the dedication of “Derek’s House.” When we first drove up to the house and entered the security gate, I was overwhelmed by the peaceful presence that rested over the property. One of our team members and I got out of the truck and our eyes filled up with tears as we stood in front of Derek’s House. The safe house that my husband Derek had talked about raising up, with Joel, Parrish and their families, was no longer just a dream…it was reality! It literally took my breath away for a moment as I looked at the land, the home, and the prayer room built on the property. My heart was overwhelmed with joy and yet sadness too, because Derek wasn’t there to celebrate this beautiful house of refuge with us. I was so blessed that two of my daughters were able to join me on this trip and share in the excitement of the dedication. Joel and I both shared and Joel not only translated for me, but for himself as well…wow, what a challenge, and he did a great job! My daughters, Sophia and Michaela spoke after me and then Kelli Wessels presented us with a beautiful artist’s rendering of Derek’s House. We’re so excited that we’ll be able to have this hanging on our wall here at home! I’m not able to share actual pictures of this special home because it is a safe house but I am able to show you the artist’s rendering!
The staff at Ezekiel Rain and Derek’s House is amazing, with beautiful hearts for justice!
The James 1:27 message of pure religion, taking in the widow and the orphan, is a mandate from God for us all. I can’t begin to tell you how humbled, blessed, and honored we are to be able to partner together with Ezekiel Rain and to continue to believe God for great things, trusting him as the King of Justice, to move on behalf of these priceless ones!
We love you Joel, Amy, Parrish, Kelli, all your beautiful kiddos and the rest of the staff at Ezekiel Rain! Thank you for all you are doing to help set the captive free!
I’ve been thinking about the subject of “suffering” all day today. Both my son Sasha, and my cousin Cheryl, are in a battle for their lives. Sasha’s spine has collapsed and he is getting ready for major spine surgery. After recovering from breast cancer 4 years ago, my cousin Cheryl has cancer ravaging her body once more. She too, is going in for very risky and dangerous surgery on Monday.
Having lost mine and Derek’s firstborn son Josiah at 2 1/2 years old, my Dad at 57, and my husband 3 years ago at 37, my mind seems to be in a Heaven mindset all the time.
I have read my share of books on the subject of suffering and especially love a book by Randy Alcorn called “If God is Good.” It’s a big fat book filled with deep truth and lots of hope!
Pain and suffering is inevitable because we live in a fallen world. 1 Thessalonians 3:3 reminds us that we are “destined for trials.” We don’t have a choice whether we will suffer—our choice is to go through it by ourselves or with God. Suffering teaches us the difference between the important and the transient. It prepares us for heaven by teaching us how unfulfilling life on earth is. It helps develop in us an eternal perspective. Suffering makes us homesick for heaven… boy does it ever!!!!
Deep suffering of the soul is beyond the ability to completely capture through words. I’m three years down the road with the loss of my husband. There are still times I wake up in the middle of the night and ache for him. There are times I still look in the mirror and can’t believe I am a widow with 12 children. My husband used to travel the world, speaking on the orphan and the widow and now his very own family has a front row seat to what that looks like.
Our family’s suffering has truly given us great expectation for the reality of heaven, where there will be no more tears, no more suffering, no more death…only the purest form of love, the most beautiful peace, the most magnificent and loving God, embracing us for all eternity!
In 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 Paul says this.
“Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, for what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
One of the effects of suffering is that we loosen our grasp on this life. Isn’t it crazy that we sometimes view life in this fallen world as wonderful as we sometimes think it is? Suffering reminds us that we live in an abnormal world. Suffering is abnormal—our souls protest, “This isn’t right!” I have heard people ask, “What kind of cruel God would deliberately make a world so full of pain and suffering?” They’ve lost track of history. The world God originally made isn’t the one we’re experiencing.
In Randy Alcorn’s book, “If God is good,” he says this…
“People spend their lives moving from person to person, relationship to relationship in search of the right person, the person who can meet all their deepest needs. But many never find the person they’re longing for. They move from house to house, from city to city, looking for that perfect mountain chalet, that ideal beach house, that beautiful house in the country. But they never find the place they’re longing for.
We were all made for a person and a place. Jesus is that person. Heaven is that place. No one else and no place else will satisfy. The suffering and evil that plague us here and now, in that short period while we live under the unnatural conditions of sin’s curse, will have no place then and there, in heaven.”
Suffering can make us long for the new heaven and the new earth where God will set all things right again.
Suffering dispels the distractions of this life and puts things in their proper perspective. I remember when mine and Derek’s firstborn son Josiah passed away. We walked around several stores in a daze, trying to find just the right paper to use for Josiah’s funeral program. We felt like we were on another planet as we watched the people around us. They were completely unaware of the heartbreaking grief we were experiencing. They were laughing, goofing around with each other, and just getting on with life as usual. Derek and I had a son laying in the morgue, getting ready to be prepared for burial…and for everyone else? It was life as usual. All Derek and I could think about was our beautiful son, how much we would miss him, and how amazing it would be when we were with Jesus and he would make all the wrong things right.
Many of us don’t have much trouble understanding that our precious and amazing Jesus loves us; but we can easily forget how much He longs for us to love Him back. Suffering scoops us out, making our hearts bigger so that we can hold more love for Him. It’s all part of His plan to draw us closer to Himself. God really does know what He’s doing…. what he allows us to go through. We just need to trust Him.
Knowing that God is going to do what he’s going to do doesn’t mean we should just shrink back and not contend for a miracle. It pleases God for us to line up our faith with his and to ask Him to move the mountains. He loves to work on behalf of those who love Him.
God is in control! He loves us and his plans for us are way beyond what we could dream up for ourselves.
Jesus, please draw us all to yourself. Do whatever it takes for us to get to the place where we are loving you well. I can’t even begin to come close to giving you the glory you so deserve Jesus, but I want to do all I can, even in my weakness, to love you REALLY, REALLY well!
I love You…..I trust You…I want more of You in my life…..do whatever it takes Jesus.
I wanted to share with you about an upcoming Orphan Justice Center ministry trip that I will be taking with two of my daughters, Sophia (14) and Michaela (12) on November 4th; and give you an opportunity to pray about pouring into a ministry that because of Jesus’ incredible kindness and heart for justice, is changing lives around the world.
As many of you know, my husband Derek and I, founded the Orphan Justice Center 5 years ago. Before Derek went to be with Jesus, he began spending time in Thailand, and dreamed and prayed about one day sending a team out there. It was Derek’s desire to see teams who would learn the language, work alongside the pastors, and plant a safe house for children who would be rescued out of the sex slave industry.
Here is what my girls and our OJC team and I will be doing on this trip:
- Dedicating the restoration home for children, “Derek’s House.”
- Visiting the Red Light district in Bangkok.
- Strengthening the Chang Mai Prayer Room.
- Ministering at a local orphanage.
- Participating in a prayer walk just over the Myanmar border for the coming transit highways.
- Praying and leading worship at another prayer room in an area we are unable to disclose.
- Encouraging and praying for the local staff.
- Witnessing and leading worship in 2 local churches
HOW CAN YOU HELP?
The total cost of this trip, which includes airfare, housing, food and travel expenses will be $2,500 per person-a total of $7500 for my girls and I. Sophia has already raised $1,600, which leaves $5,900 left to be raised.
I’m asking that you please pray and consider financially supporting us in this work that Derek began in Thailand.
More than anything, I am asking for your prayers to surround our team on this trip. There is so much warfare in this area of the world and we will really need strong prayer support.
PO Box 47
This past Saturday my priceless and beautiful daughter Telma was married to her handsome and amazing groom, Isaac. The theme of my heart throughout the entire day was “Redemption.” I have watched this gorgeous daughter of mine transformed from a broken, hurting little girl, into a woman of God who is full of life and hope. I watched her standing beside her precious Isaac, who has embraced her with the most beautiful and powerful love, and my heart was full.
“My biological father left, after getting my biological mother pregnant. I was born with severe scoliosis, having a 115 degree curvature of my spine. My mother couldn’t handle the stress of taking care of me. After being passed around to several different people who provided shelter, but were not able to care for a child, I ended up doing whatever it took to survive. Alone and unprotected, I learned how to fight on the streets. Looking back, it’s hard to believe the situations I was in, as I defended myself and searched desperately for food.
The one room house I lived in was often used as a place for people to have sex. I would get paid a soda or a bag of chips to be a lookout while various sex acts were taking place right in front of me. One day I met twin girls who told me about this missionary guy with cool hair that was leading worship in my own language. I felt compelled to go and hear him. As I sat with his wife Renee’, and their family, I found out that they were planning on adopting the twins. To the majority of the Marshallese children, all Americans are rich movie stars and I wanted to be adopted too. Two days later, before the sun came up, I knocked on the door of the apartment that they were staying in and asked if I could play with the twins. Not only did I get to play, but Renee’ welcomed me into the apartment for the remaining week they were there. When they had to leave, I was devastated! Renee’ held my face and wiped my tears, promising to find me the help I needed. I didn’t really think it would happen, but Renee’ kept her promise. Six months later, I was part of Renee’ and Derek’s family. The missionary guy with cool hair and the beautiful mom were now my very own parents.
It took awhile for me to realize that I didn’t have to be in charge of me anymore; there was actually a family that wanted to take care of me. It took a little bit before I was free to be me, free to hope for my future, free to feel loved, secure and blessed. There are so many kids that live on the streets in the Marshall Islands, but God knew me and rescued me through two very loving and Christ-like people. When I was adopted by Derek and Renee’, I began to experience what it was to be loved, cherished and valued. In the past few years, God has given me a greater revelation about who He is, as my friend and my Father. God allowed me to experience His amazing love as a daughter and to experience the joy of being loved.”
Telma and her new “Daddy,” developed a very close relationship. She learned to know and understand what the pure love of a father meant. Derek protected her, nurtured her and taught her all about the love of her Heavenly Father. Telma only had Derek as her “Daddy” for 7 years. He was killed in a car accident 1 and 1/2 months before her 20th birthday. She was on her way (with Youth With A Mission) to Rwanda to work with orphans when I SKYPED her to tell her about Derek’s death. After flying back home for Derek’s funeral, despite her great loss and deep heartache, she returned to Rwanda to complete her outreach to others who desperately needed to hear about the hope of Jesus and his great love for them.
Isaac and Telma chose to get married on August 25th, the day that would have been Derek’s 40th birthday. Telma wanted to honor the memory of her father, who was such a huge part of her restoration. I know without a doubt that Derek is rejoicing in this marriage, and I can just picture the celebration that he was having in Heaven as he watched this beautiful miracle of redemption! Telma and Isaac had a “Celebration/memorial” table in Derek’s honor in the foyer of the wedding venue. Derek’s mom Miriam, baked his favorite cake (German Chocolate) and Telma had her favorite framed pictures of her with her Daddy, and a letter to him on the table as well.
As we continue to walk through these life-changing moments as a family, it still stings that Derek is not here to be a part of them, celebrating with us. It still hurts our hearts that he wasn’t here to walk his third daughter to marry, down the aisle. It still pains my heart that he was not there for the father-daughter dance, or to celebrate like the wildly amazing and awesome man he was, dancing the night away with his children. Oh how the children and I miss him! Derek was such a good father, and all that he poured into his children is reflected in the beauty of their lives. One day, God will wipe away every tear and His justice will reign. I can’t wait for that day to come! God is sovereign, perfect in all his ways and I trust Him to continue the good work that he’s begun…bringing beauty from ashes.
This is a letter that Telma wrote to her dad on the day of her wedding. She and Isaac had this printed on the back of the wedding programs.
I am still blown away that our incredible Father, handpicked this precious girl to be part of our family. A street kid, forced to defend herself, rescued, adopted, and restored. We literally watched her transform before our very eyes. And now this incredibly strong woman of God is beginning her life as a married woman. I cannot wait to see all that God has for Isaac and Telma as they start their life together. I know He has amazing things in store for them!