Friday, July 22, 2011

My favorite picture

We just finished our second week of summer VBS.  It has been a long, hot, yet fulfilling week.  As I have been looking over the pictures I took, this one (above) has made me smile over and over again.  We met in a public park and had some grandmas join our group of kids.  And, yes, these grandmas even received candy for answering some questions from the Bible story correctly!

If I could choose only 5 pictures to show you that depict Ukrainian life, this would definitely be amongst those top 5... possibly even the top three.  Ukrainian grandmas like the ones pictured above are such a part of life here.  You see them everywhere you go.  They are the matriarchs of society here.  In this picture you can see them carrying out their favorite past time.... discussing.  And in this particular picture they are discussing today's lesson of Zacchaeus!

Monday, July 18, 2011

God's Protecting Power


A guest post by my hubby, David, who blogs over at In Support of Israel.

Riding the bus from our village into town this morning, I shared an amazing story with Jolene that I had just read in a letter from my Uncle Tommy Ashcraft. We were on our way to begin our second week of VBS this summer, and we had some time to talk as we sat together on the bus. The story I shared brought tears to Jolene’s eyes as she, once again, realized the Lord’s miraculous protection of our family and their ministries during dangerous times.

As you are well aware, Mexico has become a very dangerous place to live due to the ongoing drug war. Forty-five members of my family live in Mexico, so you can imagine the amount of time I spend in prayer for their safety. Uncle Tommy pastors in Monterrey, Mexico, and each Sunday they rent buses and bring in families who do not have vehicles to church.

At 9:30 a.m., Sunday, July 3, in Monterrey, gunfire broke out between drug gangs. At precisely that same time, just a few hundred yards away, a bus from Uncle Tommy’s church with a group of their church people was on their way to the morning service when the bus’s engine suddenly died. The driver later said that the bus had not previously had any mechanical problems. When the police arrived to divert traffic around the gun battle, the bus started and arrived at church with no further trouble. I wonder *Who* stopped that bus engine?!

Yesterday at 6:10 p.m., less than three miles from Uncle Tommy & Aunt Brenda’s house, an area where Aunt Brenda’s soul-winning group often goes, a man was gunned down. He was one of 19 people recently murdered or found murdered in their area. They have had to postpone their youth camp because the area where it was scheduled to take place is so compromised by the violence.

What Uncle Tommy wrote in conclusion was a blessing to Jolene and me, and I am sure it will be to you as well:

We know of several missionaries in our area who have returned to the States because of the violence. I do not blame them. Everyone must do what he thinks is right for him, his family and his ministry. There are 18 soldiers temporarily stationed less than a mile from our house. For all practical purposes, we are under martial law. We have given the army permission to land a helicopter on our church parking lot if necessary.

God has protected us. It is somewhat disquieting to stop and think of what is going on in our immediate vicinity. But multitudes of other missionaries live and have lived under much more difficult circumstances. Perhaps theirs just do not receive the press that ours do. We all know pastors in the U.S. who are facing difficulties with whom I would not want to trade places. Everyone is struggling. We all struggle: we just struggle in different ways at different times.

We share these things with you not to alarm you or curry your sympathy. That’s not what we need or want. We do need your prayers, as do all your missionaries. We know “...that the same afflictions are accomplished in (y)our brethren that are in the world.” (I Peter 5:9). When everyone else’s troubles are over, and we are the only ones suffering, then you can feel sorry for us. Until then, just pray.

Our church continues to reach several hundred people with the gospel each week. Two people, a mother and son, reported leading their first souls to Christ last week. That happens in almost every Sunday-evening service during the soul-winning report. Four people volunteered to work in the Sunday school, bringing our total to over 100 Sunday School and children church workers.
Thank you again for your prayers for our family!


Friday, July 15, 2011


The first change is my new blog header.  What do you think?!  I am "moving furniture" a bit around here and am not done, but progress is being made.  I am one of those people that likes to keep life interesting, so I like to change things on a pretty regular basis.  Yes, I am a "furniture rotater!"  But, I do think this blog header is here to stay!  I love that it is unique to our family....
  • Four kids... four letters in the word "love"
  • Three boys and one girl, thus making the colored heart unique to our one girl
  • The word "love" being a part of my title anyway!
The next change in this family is that we are officially DONE with school today.  Yes, we are slow to finishing, but we were put behind with a medical furlough to America this winter to add a new baby to our family.  We will be celebrating by taking the kids to a little cake place in town and letting them pick out their own piece of cake behind the shiny glass. 

The third change is that we now have concrete in our garage.  This is big news for us around here because the kids can now enjoy their {short} summer vacation playing basketball outside (and no longer in my living room!)  I know I promised pictures of our home, and I'll get to those soon.   With a busy family and a busy ministry [David is filling in as pastor again this summer... until October], I am only blogging twice a week.  But, I'll start posting those soon, so be looking for them.  The tour is about to begin!

Monday, July 11, 2011


I have never experienced the loss of a child.  However, I am a mother.... four times over.... and I can honestly say that losing one of my children is one of my biggest fears.  Just the thought causes tears to well up in my eyes.  Why?  Because my selfish, earthly desires are to have them near me forever.  And, I think if you are a mother, you probably can relate to those feelings.

The purpose of our recent trip to Israel was to comfort the Israeli parents who have lost a child.  These children were soldiers who were killed in action fighting terrorism.  There are several brigades in Israel, but the specific one we helped host an event for is called the "Givati Brigade."  Since this brigade's existence, 198 of their soldiers have been killed.  And we were there to comfort their families.

Each year these 198 families are invited to the Blue Bay Hotel on the Mediterranean Sea for a three-day vacation and memorial ceremony.  My childhood pastor and other American friends have helped support this effort for several years now.  Because of our Russian language capabilities, David and I were invited to help comfort the many Russian-speaking families who attended.  [It is important to remember that Israel is a "melting pot" of nationalities due to their dispersion throughout history.  Therefore, many languages are spoken in Israel, in addition to Hebrew.  It was mind-boggling for me to watch my hubby communicate with people in Russian, English, Spanish, and even sign language!  Ummm, yes... he's brilliant. {smile}]

Every. single. Israeli is required to serve in the army, including the young ladies.  In the picture above, our little Micah is enjoying the attention of some of these girls.
At sunset on the night of the memorial ceremony, the grieving families were walked down the grandeur steps of the Blue Bay Hotel through a lighted path, as they listened to our cheers and applause for their heroism.  This was a very touching moment for them... and for us.
(Above) The beautiful banquet area before the ceremony began
(Above) On one of the days of their paid vacation, several buses were rented that took the families to a few historical museums.  David is standing with our Russian Jewish friend, Shimon, at one of these sites.  Shimon lost his only son six years ago, and he and his wife are of the age that they cannot have any more children.  I simply cannot imagine such a loss.  I watched this man shed fresh tears as though his tragedy happened recently, when he spoke of his beloved son. 
(Above) Another day was dedicated to relaxing at the hotel and giving the ladies and children time to sit together around tables and work on crafts while they fellowshipped.  Even some of the men participated!  There was a station for making jewelry...
(Above).... A station for making "candy shishkabobs" (my personal, favorite craft there!  I made three to take home to my older kiddos - which they were very pleased to receive.)
By the way, we are going to be using this idea at our upcoming VBS next week.  Our Ukrainian kids are going to LOVE this!
(Above) ...There was a station for making mosaic wall hangings....
(Above and below)... And a station for painting glass wall hangings.

This precious mother (above) and her daughter (below) are the most recent ones out of this brigade to lose a loved one.  We sorrow with them, as their grief is still very fresh.

Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.  Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem...  Isaiah 40:1-2a

Thursday, July 7, 2011

An Evening on the Mediterranean

[My bloggin' girlfriend, Maria, over at Raising 4 Princesses did a recent post on editing photos.  Go here for that post to see how I did my editing.  And, thanks, Maria!]
We were recently in Israel, and arrived a day earlier than our group.  We had a very special evening together, just the three of us (David, Micah, and I), on the coast of the Mediterranean.  The experience was in.cred.i.ble.  We had time to remince about our last 11 years together as husband and wife (remember that we were busy with Backyard Bible Clubs on the day of our anniversary?).  

We also enjoyed remembering what it was like when we just had one child.  Boy, that was a long time ago!

I am forever grateful that the Lord allowed us this one special evening together.  It was unforgettable...

Monday, July 4, 2011

You Might Be a Missionary Kid If...

■You flew before you could walk.

■The U.S. is a foreign country.

■You watch a documentary on National Geographic and recognize someone.

■You consider a city 500 miles away to be "very close."

■You’re only 7 years of age, but speak with authority about the quality of airline travel.

■You’re in college now, but the stringy hair and braces picture taken while you were in 5th grade is still gracing refrigerators all across America.

■Your father stops 8 times on the way to church to pick up 19 people in his 12 passenger van (and this seems normal to you.)

■You own personal appliances with 3 types of plugs, know the difference between 110 and 220 volts, 50 and 60 cycle current, and realize that an adaptor isn't always enough to make your appliances work.

■Monday is your "Day of Rest"

■You marvel at the cleanliness of gas station restrooms.

■You think VISA is a document stamped in your passport, and not a plastic card you carry in your wallet.

■You automatically take off your shoes when you get home.

■You wonder what a dryer sheet is.

■You've been lost in a large, foreign airport and knew what to do.

■You don't know how to count American money.

■You know what a water closet is.

■Adults want to pay you to teach them English.

■You believe vehemently that football is played with a round, spotted ball.

■You think in grams, liters, and meters.

■Your family stores buckets of water in your kitchen and bathroom. 

■You've spoken in dozens of churches but aren't a pastor.

■The majority of your friends don't speak English.

■Someone brings up the name of a team and you get the sport wrong.

■You can amuse yourself for hours with a cardboard box.

■When you are on furlough, you or any one of your siblings could step into the pulpit and finish your dad’s sermon because you know it by heart.

■You can't answer the question, "Where are you from?" or.... "Where are you from?" has more than one reasonable answer.

■You speak two languages, but can't spell either.

■You`re 18 and you have a passport, but no driver's license.

■Your life story uses the phrase "Then we went to ..." five times.

■Your family sends you peanut butter and Kool-Aid for Christmas.

■You sort your friends by continent.

■You are grateful for the speed and efficiency of the U.S. Postal Service.

■You realize that furlough is not a vacation.

■You know how to pack.

■ You don't think that two hours is a long sermon.

■You don't know whether to write the date as month/day/year, day/month/year, or some variation thereof.

■011 is a familiar area code.

■You do your personal devotions in another language.

■You understand the meanings of "living by faith" and the "power of prayer."

And the list could go on and on, my friends....