Friday, October 26, 2012

The Value of Thanks

Rudyard Kipling was a great British poet whose writings have been a blessing to many and brought a fortune to the writer. A newspaper reporter came up to him once and said, "Mr. Kipling, I just read that somebody calculated that the money you make from your writings amounts to over one hundred dollars a word." The reporter reached into his pocket and pulled out a one hundred dollar bill and gave it to Kipling and said, "Here's a one hundred dollar bill, Mr. Kipling. Now you give me one of your hundred dollar words." Upon receipt of the bill, Rudyard Kipling looked at the money, put it in his pocket and said, "Thanks!"

Did the reporter get his money’s worth?  We might think not.

But then, what, after all, is the word “Thanks” worth?  If it’s missing after you have served, after you have given, after you have gone out of your way, does it not bring many questions and concerns to mind?  Questions such as:  “Did he even notice?”  “Did she think she deserved it?”  “Was I out of line to do the good thing I did?”  “Do they want me to keep doing what I’m doing?”  “Maybe the person I helped didn’t want the help!”  We might also wonder what that person’s lack of gratitude is telling us about him.  But a little word, “Thanks,” erases those thoughts.  It encourages us to do more good.

“Thanks” was important to Jesus.  We recall the time he healed the ten lepers (see Luke 17), and sent them off to the priests to be examined and declared clean.  Only one of the ten turned back to give thanks to Jesus.

Jesus was glad he did.  But he wondered about the other nine.  “Were there not ten cleansed?” He said, “but where are the nine?”  All had been given a significant gift.  All had been given the SAME gift.  Yet only one says “Thanks,” and the rest say nothing.

Would we have been the one, or among the nine?  In daily practice how is it?  How do we respond to what we have been given?

And what have we been given?  In the Lord’s Prayer we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” Luther explains that daily bread includes “all that belongs to the wants and support of the body, such as food, drink, clothing, shoes, house, home, land, cattle, money, goods, a good spouse and children, good rulers, good government, good weather, peace, health, order, honor, good friends".  God has graciously supplied these things, and if He has withheld anything, it is because of His love and for a higher purpose than we might be able to see.

The natural human tendency is to grumble when we think we lack something rather than to thank God for what we have.  The Thanksgiving holiday reminds us that we need grateful hearts.  But where do grateful hearts come from?

The account of the healed lepers might serve to illustrate that grateful hearts come from something called humility.  Jesus notes something interesting about the leper who returned thanks.  He was a Samaritan.  The others apparently were Jews.  Ordinarily you wouldn’t find Jews and Samaritans together, but this group was brought together by their disease.  Ordinarily the Jews despised the Samaritans, because they were a mixed race, descendants of Jewish and heathen intermarriage.  The Jews were God’s chosen people.   They had the prophets; they had the promises; and they thought themselves special because of it.  They looked down on others, and especially the Samaritans.  The Samaritans knew it.

Who, then, of the lepers, do you suppose accepted the healing with the most humility?  Is it possible that the nine Jews who were healed by a Jew felt in some way deserving, but that the Samaritan, who also received the healing, was amazed that Jesus, being a Jew, would even give him the time of day, much less heal him?  Could it be his humility that explains his gratitude?

But when it comes right down to it, who, in reality, WAS more deserving of the healing?

Actually neither one.  All ten were healed on the same terms - it was a merciful gift from God.

The difference was in attitude.  And Jesus was glad for the gratitude He saw in the Samaritan, because it revealed humility, and it is to the humble that God can give His grace.

Isaiah 57:15 says, “For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.”

Peter writes, “…for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.” (1 Peter 5:5)

As we enter the thanksgiving season, if we find we are having trouble being grateful, perhaps our problem is deeper than ingratitude.  Maybe we need to ask God to reveal to us our sins of pride.

President Lincoln, April 30, 1863, put it so well in his Proclamation for a National Day of Fasting, Humiliation and Prayer: "We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven. We have been preserved, the many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own.

   Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self‑sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to God that made us! It behooves us, then to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness."

Lincoln spoke on the national level, but on the personal level too, may we in humility be reminded that we are nothing more than recipients.  May God give us hearts to better recognize the bounty with which He has blessed us, and in humbleness of mind, may our hearts overflow with gratitude.

Jesus is glad when He sees a grateful heart, because it reveals a humble heart, and a humble heart is a heart God can bless. That’s worth much more than a hundred dollars.

Jim Fugleberg

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Prayers Answered for Uganda Workers

We went to the Jinja immigration office today and spoke with the head officer.  I explained that Micah is in the process of applying for a work permit and that I'm here visiting.  He says that my paperwork checks out just fine---and that am welcome to renew my visa when the 24th of November rolls around.

God wins. Praise the Lord!
- Andrew Olson

Note: see previous post for additional information.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Pray for Ugandan Short Term Missionary Assistants


Trying to cross the border ended badly as Micah and I spent the night awake in “no mans land” between Uganda and Kenya. We were denied exit from Uganda on the basis that we’ve been “working in the country without a work permit”. The officer says it’s going to cost us $30 a day for the 110 days we’ve been here---and he flagged our visa. Then, we were sent home.

Although we’ve been trying to uphold Uganda’s laws, a major roadblock is in sight. We are going to try to get the correct paperwork and explain the situation (that we are unpaid). Neither of us wants to be bribing government officials, which is “normal” over here. Please keep us in your prayers as we seek a solution to this problem.

- Andrew Olson and Micah Berger

Monday, October 15, 2012

International Bible School Opening in Ukraine

School opening 1As we try to sum up this past month- namely the beginning of the International Bible School here in Ukraine- we can go no further than to first express our gratitude and praise to the Lord. A lot of people have dreamed about this Bible school becoming a reality, yet it was His dream first. He has called many people from different nations to be part of this work, and He continues to call us to action. The work has only begun! It is an exciting time, yet a very important time for the foundation of the school.

The school officially opened September 16th for our nine full-time students, representing Belarus, Russia and Ukraine. Andy school retreatenjoyed a great week with them on the staff student retreat week, when they camped in the Crimean Peninsula. Classes are in full swing now, and Andy is busy teaching and then preparing more for the next day. They are an excellent group, and we are looking forward to building our relationships with them.

It is amazing to think that after so many generations of attempting to stamp out the existence of an all-powerful God, there is hope for future generations. "Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord. They will proclaim his righteousness, declaring to a people yet unborn: He has done it!" Psalm 22:30-31. It is our prayer that this Bible School will be an effective tool in rebuilding the Body of Christ in the former Soviet States. To the team of praying people behind this ministry, THANK YOU. We need your prayers!

In Jesus' Love,
Andy and Monica, Moriah, Isaiah and Josiah

Editor’s Note:  You can read the full newsletter here including how you can pray for the ministry in the Ukraine and the Coyle Family.  You can visit the Coyle’s Blog here.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

A Promise is a Promise

Last month I promised to introduce you to the new girls in the Miriam Home—both the residents and staff. Since life around here changes all the time, since I made that promise we have had changes, so here is the latest!

I mentioned three new girls, two of whom have already left. Yasmin is a 15 year old girl who came to us because her family had literally fallen apart. Yasmin was adopted when she was four days old, but sadly it was always made clear to her that she belonged on condition. Up until she was 14 Yasmin fulfilled the expectations of her parents, but during the last year she began forming relationships that her parents didn’t approve of (with good reason). Though their concern was valid, their response was more difficult. The family is quite wealthy, but has never had any involvement with the church or things of God. Without God’s grace to turn to Yasmin’s parents simple decided to return her, after 15 years, as if she was a pair of shoes. After just a few weeks here in the Miriam Home we began to suspect that the relationships Yasmin had formed were really attempts to find people who would accept her. Just recently she went to live with aunt and seems to be fitting in well.

Josi is ten years old and is a whirlwind! She came to us from another city, while the local juvenile  authorities sought  a long term family and real help for her. Josi had been basically living on the streets, but not because of drug abuse or neglect. Itappears that Josi has some form of mental    illness that has not been diagnosed or treated. She goes from a calm, tranquil child to a whirling dervish in a flash. In general she is affectionate and gentle but suddenly, for no apparent reason, she becomes verbally abusive (though not physically). Josi was only in the Miriam Home one week, it was sad to see her go when we had so little time with her, Because she is, again, outside of Campo Mourao we don’t have a way of keeping up on her progress, but we can pray that God’s best plans for this young lady will come to pass!  

Our third new girl is Ana Maria. She is a lively 13 year old who looks strong and independent but is filled with fears and doubts. The reasons for her being in the Miriam Home are quite confusing—everyone you ask has a different opinion. For Ana Maria, the biggest problem is she doesn’t feel that any one believes her, and she isn’t really sure who she can trust. It looks like Ana maybe with us for a while.

There is a fourth new resident in the Miriam Home. Francielle (10 years old) arrived just two weeks ago and she is a treasure. Fran is use to fitting in to new situations. She actually lived in the Miriam Home before (when she was very young) because her mother is a street person with serious mental problems and she has never been able to care for her daughter. Sadly, Fran passed from one relative to the next and none of them actually cared for the child (the most recent aunt and uncle were so abusive that Fran can’t go back to her school because there is a fear they will go after her). Please pray that we will hear God’s direction for this sweet girl.

But not everyone new in the house is under the legal age to vote! I’d like to introduce Nathalia and Jaqueline, new to the Miriam Home team. Nathalia is a vibrant young Christian who is our new social assistant. She has a whole hearted love for the children and one of her first projects here was praying for the right person to fill the last remaining staff vacancy - the psychologist. The answer to our prayers arrived the beginning of September when Jaqueline joined us. She has already proven to be a treasure and together, these young women are working to find the best options for the children and their families!

Editor’s note:  This is just part of Jonni’s news this month.  To read more on the continuing story of Cleberson, please read here!

Ambassador Institute-Curriculum Review

Editor’s note: This is the 6th and final installment  from the Fall Inquiry Newsletter.

Below are some excerpts of lesson goals that have been recently reviewed. Since the training is oral, the goals along with the written questions help direct the teachers in their instruction.

Genesis 3 – The Fall into Sin

Knowledge – To understand the punishment for sin and the price of disobedience to God.  To understand the ways of the devil in his fight against the followers of God.

Attitude – To realize that the results of sin are long-lasting.  To believe that when we fall short of the standard of God, He reaches out to us in love with a plan to bring us back to Himself.

Actions – To be obedient to God and to His commands.  To stand against Satan in all of His works and all of His ways.  To trust in the Messiah who came to offer forgiveness of our inherent sin.

Genesis 12 – The Call of Abraham

Knowledge – To understand that when the Lord calls us, we will not know everything about what is going to happen to us.  To know that the Lord desires to bless us, speak to us, and to be adored by us.

Attitude – To trust that the Lord has a plan for us and that He will bless us when we obey His instructions.  To desire to be a blessing to others.
Actions – To obey the Lord and worship Him without questioning His reasons for what He asks.  To go where the Lord tells us to go without hesitation.

You can find the entire Inquiry here.