21 December 2012

Haiti-- our next ministry country?

Well,  what do you all-- the readers-- think?  Should we expand into Haiti in 2013? We have the opportunity to make a survey trip to visit a specific orphanage with a  good  partner contact and good ministry references. There are several smaller works that can also be visited.   Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere. Since the earthquake, the situation of orphans and other needy children are all the greater.  It is  a short plane flight  to go to visit and would be easy  to manage our program-- at least as far as time and distance is concerned. But- we do not need any more added to our work load.  Our small staff stays pretty busy as it is. Another country means more  travel, more paper work, more recruiting sponsors, more evaluation, accountability tasks and expenses.  I am sure there are many children in need in  Haiti, but we have no shortage of children in need.  And-- I am not attracted to Haiti-- not at all. When  I think of  Haiti,  I think of  dirt and disease,  hardships and heat-- all things  that  are true of Asian countries and no issue at all to me there.  Haiti is one of the few places on the planet that  I really have no desire to visit.  But that is  one reason  why I think this opportunity has come from the  Lord.  It has not come from my own desires.  I would like to add in a people group   from along the Amazon  River in  South  America. What a  delight it would be to see that famous river and the tropical birds and fish that have always delighted me. Or.... we have been asked many times to consider orphanages in  Mexico and  I am ready to go there. We've had some strong invitations to various places in  Africa   that seem to fit with what we do.  And  my love and longing for Asia is well known.  But it is not any of these, but Haiti which is  developing in  front of us now and just as in other countries, we are taking one step at a time.  Please pray with us as we consider this important decision.

New Ministry Logo!

We have a new logo!  We have wanted  a new one for a while now, but found it to be a difficult task and a difficult decision.  A logo is an important issue for a business or a ministry. It is also harder than it would seem to find or make one. I  imagined that someone with artistic talent would simply doodle on a napkin while waiting for a meal in a restaurant and there the new logo would emerge.  But there is more to it than that.  A logo needs to be the right color and style.  It needs to communicate clearly and it needs to be something you  REALLY like because the logo is used on everything. We wanted something simple and professional, but  a little bit emotional.  We did not want cartoon characters nor something that looked stiff and stuffy.  We did not want a symbol that needed explanation. We did not want it to seem overly feminine or masculine or childish. We wanted it to be different from everyone else's,  but not  TOO different-- not wierd or offensive or funny or  plain. We wanted some color in it, but something that would also print well in  black and white, when needed. We wanted it to be easy to read.  We wanted it to fit in a square box for  Facebook and  T-shirts and all kinds of signs.  But we also needed  it to make a nice letterhead.   This was not too much to ask, was it?   Evidently all of these little things do add up to a challenge to the artist, because  I cannot remember exactly how long it has been that we have been thinking and wanting to make the change.     We talked to a number of different people about it and tried not to be shocked at the prices quoted by some of them. I guess a business  might pay  a few thousand dollars for something that could be drawn on a napkin, but this ministry was not going to do that. Finally, the Lord has given the answer-- and it came through the hands of our daughter in law. We are very pleased ( delighted!)  to present this final result which we will be using from 2013 and on. It is everything we wanted.

Christmas Trip 2012

Every year, we need to collect materials for our sponsorship program. We need new photos of the children, progress reports with information updated and we try to get each child to write a letter  or draw a picture for the sponsor. As the program grows, the  annual  "admin"  task become more difficult and time consuming as well.  I used to do this alone,  then with  Tamara along  to do the photography.  But this year, we decided to form a little team to go along with us and help. We scheduled the trip for December so to pack and give the Christmas packages at the same time. What an exciting time it was to see poor children, who rarely get anything new, as they opened their bags. We took a few small things to add into the bags,  but most of it was collected and packaged by the Nepali partner for each  program and  funded from our Christmas giving.  We needed to visit every children's home and every church sponsorship program  during the two weeks  planned for this team.  At each stop, we prepared the gift bags. We gathered the children ( and the parents in the case of the church sponsorship programs) and taught from the Christmas story.  If the child had  entered our program within the last year, s/he might be hearing this  Story for the very first time. It is good to stop and ponder that even tasks that seem  familiar and ordinary to us-- such as telling the Christmas  Story, might be profoundly new to someone else.  Most of us in the US do not even know when or remember how we heard it for the first time. It might be part of our faith, but it is also part of our culture. The women on the team were a huge help as we continued with the work-- taking photos, filling in  progress report sheets, distributing pens  for letters and crayons for pictures,  making sure the names and ID codes are correct on each one.  We gave each child his gift. We processed some new children into the program   and updated the list as we heard of some who had "graduated" out. There is a lot of administrative work involved in a sponsorship program.  But it is very satisfying to look around a room and see children who could never have attended school without the help.  We saw children receive new Bibles and jackets, school tablets and candy. Widows and pastors are encouraged as they know that an American sponsor cares about them personally-- just as the Lord cares for each of us personally--and that sponsor is helping to meet their child's needs. As we sat with children in our children's homes, it is a little scary to think of the responsibility on the this little ministry as the  full support of orphans and abandoned children rest upon us. But-- it is the work the Lord has given to us.  We trust Him in it.  And  I do love the job.....
    The women on this team received an excellent overview of our ministry in  Nepal. They visited most of the areas where we work and experienced a little bit of what life is like in   Nepal-- such as  the food, the  rough mountain roads, the unheated buildings and the lack of hot water in the shower.  One of the places we  worked was Trisuli-- a village up in the mountains, where-- as far as  I know-- no foreigner has ever gone, except those with  Allow  The Children. The little church in   Trisuli  rests on a ledge of ground carved out of the side of the mountain.  One is wise to avoid walking too close to the edge,  where the drop is too far to see all the way down. The space between the drop off and the side of the church building, is perhaps not as wide as I would choose.  I often wonder about the children getting too close to the edge. Why do  they not put up some kind of fence or safety barrier.  But  I suppose if they did, the whole world of these people would need to be fenced. They would probably wonder how we can live with busy streets coming right up against our property and no protective fence. In Trisuli, we slept all together on  the floor in one room.  The toilet required a short hike, which was no problem, except for the cliff edge which was still there in the dark and the leopards which were also there- somewhere in the dark.  No I am not kidding. This was a missionary trip, not a tourist experience. Yes.  I love it.

Medical Ministry in Nepal

 Allow  The Children has funded and
facilitated medical clinics  for about two weeks each year for a number of years now.  We set up in churches or whatever building is  made available to us-- or even the open air. Most of the people from the village can think of some reason to see the doctor.  Typical problems are skin  rashes, infections from insect bites, pain in the knees or any joints, gastric (heartburn)  discomfort. But we also see some potentially serious conditions suffered  by people who have little access to medical care.  They are hard busy days, but it is very satisfying to bring some help to these people.  For the Hindu people in each community, it might be the first time that they have come inside the church.  Now-- after meeting the pastor and some of the believers, it will be easier to join a worship or fellowship gathering in the future. As we are busy with the patients, other members of the team are filling their own roles. The pastors move among the people meeting them, praying for and with those who are open to that, building the relationships that will bear fruit in the future.  As the people wait for the doctor, a woman was sharing the gospel with her picture flip chart. Each time we hold the clinics, the  village churches grow. Many were hearing the story of a Savior who loves them for the very first time.
    One of the places where we held a clinic was at  our Maranatha  Children's  Home.  Last year,  we set up on the front porch, but this time, the church building was complete. We had prayed for it for years.  We were working on it and fund raising for it for years. Now the ground floor was  finished and we  were using the building for the very first time.   We look forward to  pastor training, gathering for our children's sponsorship program, medical clinics, and the growth of the infant  local church in this place.

20 December 2012

Bibles-- God's Word in the hands of His believers

One of the many tasks we are privileged to do on a mission trip is to distribute  Bible to people who do not have one.  It is a rare joy to place a copy of  God's Word into the hands of a believer who will use it and cherish it.  Bibles are printed and sold in  Nepal-- in the capital city, but it is not an easy thing to obtain one in the village, and so many people are so very poor that they cannot pay for it. As funds are available, we  provide Bibles for the children in our program checking that each one has a copy in the best language for him, whether that is Nepai or some tribal language or in some cases, English.  If the child is in an English medium school, he may not be able to read Nepali well, if at all, even though it is his first and native language. We also distribute them through our partner churches, which in turn carry many of them to their daughter churches. Finally, we use them in our evangelistic outreaches, including the medical clinics and the Jesus  Video projects.  During the medical clinics, for example, the pastors are busy moving  among the people  building relationships, inviting the people to the church and will give a Bible to those who show an interest. It is impossible to measure the impact of a  Bible in the hands of a believer, a pastor or a seeker.  It is a living ministry all its own with no need of our involvement beyond providing it.  It is a thrill to me every time we move through the process again-- ordering the Bibles, purchasing them, loading the heavy boxes into the vehicle and taking them down again at the place where we will distribute them.  Every hand  that I have seen receive one, handles it carefully and with great respect and gratitude.What a privilege.  May the Lord bless it and multiply and use His Word as only He can.

Teaching Bible in the village school

One of the special blessings  of the October 2012 trip, was  a visit to a little school in the village. It is a new project  attached to one of our partner churches. It  had not been there when I last visited  about a year ago.  The school is a very simple cinder block building divided into four sections or classrooms.  There were no supplies or equipment or teaching materials of any kind.  Parents should provide notebooks to write in for their child, but many do not buy them. Children wandered in throughout the morning with no particular attention to a schedule.  They filled the seating available in each room.  The special blessing was  that these children were being taught  by a boy who was a graduate  grown up in our  Maranatha Children's Home-- a boy who many have had  little  education himself without our program. He did not have any particular teacher training, just the basic education  approximately  the same as high school in the US. Now, he was  sharing what he knew with these young  children, moving from room to room-- giving some instruction and assignments, then moving on to the next room.  Since the school is so small, he was able to keep ear shot of each group as he worked with another, but all the same-- it looked to be a challenge that would  stretch a professional, experienced teacher in the US.  The school is  in a village more than an hour from  a road.  They rarely see anyone  from outside their own community.  Whether from  cultural habit or  fascination with a foreigner, every child sat attentively as  I spoke with them. I learned that while the school is a project under the church, most of the children are Hindu. Our boy from  Maranatha--now a man with a big responsibility-- is a strong believer, but would not be allowed to openly teach faith based  topics in the school.  If he taught a Bible story directly, there could be some complaints  from parents, but not much could be done about the foreigner. With a translator who had come along with me, I dove right into New Testament theology, telling the story of  a small man who climbed a tree to see  Jesus   and his surprise to find out that   Jesus knew his name, and cared about him and wanted to visit in his home.  I told the Hindu children that  Jesus knew their names too and love them and wanted them to know Him.  Then,  I moved to the next room to tell the story again--four times to four different age groups.  Every child's eyes were intent upon me and a few had lower jaws dropped.   What a privilege to tell the story.  As you read this account, please stop and pray for these children and for God's  Word to grow richly in their hearts and for the witness of their Christian teacher to the children and the whole village.

19 December 2012

Street boys, now young disciples for the Lord

Action  Love  Children's  Home is our newest project.  Born out of the slum ministry in the capital city of  Nepal, the 10 boys were on the street last    April  ( 2012).  They  survived by begging and  foraging through  garbage for food. They lived  under conditions of the "poorest of the poor."  Some of them had families, but would be better off without them. Some of them had already been arrested for petty theft. Some of them were little boys alone in the world,  trying to live long enough to grow up.      After 6 months in our children's home, the transformation was amazing.   The street boys looked like children in any of our homes.   They were dressed in modest, but good clothing.  They were clean.   They carried book bags and they  dug through them for their books, and notebooks and pencils.  The house father  reported that he needed new school uniforms-- that they have already outgrown the ones bought in  April.  They were eating regularly for perhaps the first time in their lives-- and it brought about a growth spurt. As  I entered the home, they were having their devotions. The pastor/house father, came and went, torn between visiting with me and  directing the activities-- and  popping up to his own flat to prepare the food.  The boys continued in his absence, with one who seemed to be assigned to choose the songs to sing, to lead the prayer and to help some of the others to find the place where they were reading their Scripture. It might have been a little smoother if the pastor was  constantly present, but I was impressed with their ability and desire   for spiritual things.   Because--  Allow The Children is delighted to "rescue" a street boy. or any child who is orphaned, abandoned,  hungry, a victim of violence.   But the reason we do what we do is for them to know the  Savior and to have the same chance that all of us have to choose to  follow Him and serve Him. We do it to provide the means for a new young believer to become a strong, committed one.  Lord sent us to "make disciples."    We hope and believe that He is pleased to see some disciples come out of the slums and perhaps someday lead others out.

Women's conference in the jungle

Women's conferences are one of the common events we do in  Nepal. It may not seem to be work that fits under the name, "Allow  The  Children," but discipling those who  teach and care for the children is one of the most important parts of a ministry to children.  We actually do nearly as much work with the churches as we do directly with children-- pastor training, Bible  (and other Christian literature) distributions,  Jesus  Video outreaches into villages, medical clinics,occasional building projects. Hence the motto we are using "Loving His  Children;  Building His Church."  Special events and training for men outnumber those for women, probably  threefold, so it is a privilege to do something  just for the women.  The cost is minimal. We usually provide lunch.   For this conference in October 2012,  I was the only speaker.  They have some praise and worship, prayer times during the breaks, but I was scheduled for four speaking sessions which is a challenging day for me in the best of circumstances.  And  I was not at my best on this day.  I had been suffering with some significant back pain which was worse when Standing for a long period.  Fortunately,  I could walk around a little bit as I talked.  At the lunch break, our  Nepali partner found a bed for me in a nearby home. As  I lay there among the simple furnishings,  I wondered ( not for the first time) what  I was doing here.   I pondered the fact that  I was about an hour into the jungle, speaking in a village church in  a little country on the opposite side of the planet from my own home country.  Why did the Lord let  me do this?  I would never have imagined that  I would be here.There were certainly stronger believers, more eloquent speakers, more educated prepared women, certainly better physically fit women who could be doing this teaching. I also wondered why  I loved being here.  It was hot.  Bugs were biting.  My back hurt.  I was not that fond of eating rice every day and it was difficult to avoid the spicy foods that sometimes made me....  let's  just say  sick...for a few hours after even one or two small bites.  I was struggling to prepare what to say in the next session. It was easy to think of the negatives.  But right along side all of it, were people who are hungry for God's  Word, children who need help and a place clearly where the Lord has brought me to serve. I rested and then went out to tell precious sisters in the Lord of the time when a young girl was found to be with child.  She gave up all of her own hopes and dreams and plans to turn her heart to  her God and say,  "Behold,  I am your handmaid.   Do with me as you  choose." Of course, it was an amazing, special privilege to raise the   Child  Jesus  from a baby. She must have felt very unworthy and inadequate at times.  But it was the assignment the Lord gave her. The right thing to do is to accept it, thank Him for it, and then  to give the very best we can in whatever  He chooses to do with our lives. That is what  I want to do. And I think it is alright that I love the work.

Climb to Light and Flame

It really is not that  far to the  Light and  Flame Children's  Home from the place where we need to leave the vehicle.  It is just that it comes at the end of such a tough day.  A special permit is required  for me, a foreigner, to go up the mountain past a certain point. We make those arrangements before  I even come into the country. It is always a hassle and the partner usually write a few times saying "we probably cannot get it this time",  but  I ask him to keep at it and  thus far it has always happened. Bangladesh calls the area "hill tracts" but after hard  driving since dawn and the last few hours straight up on  what must be one of the world's most treacherous roads, it seems to define "mountain" to me. We are going to a place unspoiled by modern  technology and  unreached by the gospel.   Islam  never reached these tribal people, either. When statistics are given that Bangladesh  is 97% Muslim, it is these remote tribal  areas that  make for the  few percent short.   Christianity does not even receive a mention.  The mountain views are incredible and with thick jungle foliage as far as can be seen. It would be easy to get lost in this area-- which is the concern which leads to the  restrictions on foreigners. Evidently a few have been invited for an unexpected stay by some folks hoping to collect expense money for their hospitality. There is no security or  preventive measures in place.  The  signing in with the guard posts and the careful perusal of my paperwork are designed so that if  I become dead or missing, they will know WHO they have lost and failing to sign out  before dark as required, lets them know the fact if I am lost. It also cuts out the casual sight seer. My reasons for  being in the area are also carefully evaluated. Thus far, I have successfully avoided getting "lost" or captured or trampled by the wild elephants.  The partner brings as many men along as our vehicle will hold and more wait for us when we arrive in the village. I always feel very secure in their care. They carry the things we have brought.  One of them  puts by bag over his own shoulder.  I take the ride across the river in the hand cut boat, then climb up  a vertical embankment that always leaves me exhausted. The men circled me and patiently waited until I was able to continue.  It is a only a  few more minutes to get to our children's home  where the children are waiting excitedly for our visit. Light and  Flame is a very simple structure. There is one room for boys and one for girls.  One for each of the two couples who live there with the children. The kitchen/dining is a separate building and the toilet/bath  is separate. The children sleep on nice wooden platform beds. Each one has his/her own bedding,rolled up during the day to keep it clean,  a few changes of clothing, two good meals a day, and attends school.  That is high living for these kids, almost every one an orphan or half orphan.  Most of the children would never have gone to school without this ministry and none of them would have the spiritual training.  Orphans and half orphans often live with relatives or step parents who do not want them.  Abuse of all kinds is common.  They may have been treated as servants in the home. They may have been given less food or poorer quality food than others in the  family.  More than one mother has fallen on me crying her thanks that her child is with us. It is worth the work and the hardship and the cost and the risk to manage this ministry in this difficult place.  It is incredibly,unquestionably worth it.