Life in Nepal, Previously Published

a cup of tea?

This is the last of a series of 12 articles published in the Adventist Review 

“Where can I get a cup of tea?” he asked, winking exaggeratedly. Must be a nervous twitch, I thought as I pointed down the road and said, “Try the blue stall under the big tree.” His request was strange when tea stalls are plain to see along the roads of Nepal. It took several inquiries about tea before I realized there was something more to tea than tea—especially since all the lost tea drinkers seemed to have a nervous twitch.

Tea here is synonymous with gratuity. Someone does you a favor, you slip them some money. And the favor can be as simple as helping you find the bus station or as complicated as getting an ultrasound machine out of the airport customs office.

“Tea” is a contradiction to my clear cut, no-nonsense Adventist way of doing things. When everything is either black or white, life is simple and uncomplicated; every action redeeming or damning. So I want nothing to do with tea–the sleazy kind you pass under the table or the caffeinated kind you slurp.

Lessons learned from my upbringing in a typical, cloistered Adventist campus play my conscience all the time. But reality is that here in Nepal nothing gets done without at least a tiny sip of tea (If you know what I mean). Last year I met a director of Southern Asia Division who has two different business cards. One reflects his position as Brother So and So, Director of Something Good and Pure; while the other insists he owns a tractor company. The card he presents depends on who he is having tea with. He neither moonlights nor gets two pay checks; The two business cards and the lie are connected to his sincere work for the Lord—It’s just that there are places and situations that he can have access to only as the owner of a tractor company.

These low-key, Mafia-like dealings shatter my Adventist black and white, do’s and don’ts system. To add confusion to my already rattled conscience I think of my Ethics class in College where we discussed (without coming to satisfactory conclusions) grey situations –like telling one lie to protect the truth or taking one life to save many. And I think of Mission Institute where we learned about conceptualization and how morality is often intertwined with culture and that missionaries need to be flexible without being intolerant. And I ask myself “Whose standard should guide me? Is there room for compromise? How can I be ‘Christian-ly’ different when I’m easing into their way of doing things?” So many perplexities in so many shades of grey when I step out of my black and white world!

My husband has taken to tea drinking—both kinds. He does it with ease; yet I know he doesn’t like tea—either kind. So I asked him how and why he did it. In his observations and explanations I found understanding.

Tea—the drink—is weak, milky, and extremely sweet. It is offered when you visit a home or an office. To refuse the beverage would be an insult. You can’t claim to be lactose intolerant, diabetic or even just too Adventist. Talking business over a cup of tea binds two people with a shared purpose. Tea—the gratuity—works the same way. You would offend a Nepali by calling  it a bribe.  It’s a gesture of confidence in the person and assures smooth transactions in the future. Nepalis never forget the people they’ve had tea with. You become friends for life (or until you stop having  tea with them).

“Tea is all about building relationships,” was Roy’s closing phrase. “And without relationships, YOU will never get anything done and THEY may never get a glimpse of Christianity.”

I hear many tea drinkers say of my husband: That Christian is a man of his word. A trustworthy man. An honest man. A fair man. May he live a 100 years.

Of me they say nothing. All I get is a wary smile.

What is right, what is wrong? Don’t ask me. One thing’s for sure—”Missionary-ing,” even in Jesus’ day, was done in a very grey world. As for me, even with Roy’s explanation, I continue having trouble seeing the value of compromising my standards in the grey area of tea drinking.

Oh for black and white again where everything is clear!

Previously Published

elizabeth bathory: lessons from the blood countess

Among the ranks of the heinous is Jack the Ripper, the Boston Strangler, and Ted Bundy. But none come close to the fetes of the Blood Countess. 650 known deaths and possibly many hundreds more are accredited to her fame.

Elizabeth Bathory was known for her beauty, lustrous black hair, and striking eyes. She changed her clothes five or six times a day, spending hours admiring herself in mirrors. She was of royal blood and well-connected: She was married to Hungary’s “Black Hero,” Count Ferencz Nadasdy and was related to princes and kings, bishops and cardinals.

It was a time when it was common for people of royalty and affluence made life miserable for the poor and working class. Elizabeth’s family was especially known for their highhanded cruelty towards the people who worked for them. She was just a child when she witnessed the torture of a gypsy, who was sewn up alive inside a horse and left to die!

Such experiences did not evoke pity or compassion in her heart. Instead, she was drawn to the morbid and the occult. She lured young girls with the promise of work and tortured and killed them for pleasure. She got her kicks placing girls in a cage too short to stand in, too narrow to sit and one that had a dozen spikes jutting into the compartment and swinging the cage to cause the spikes to tear the girl to pieces; inserting red hot pokers from the fire into nostrils or splitting mouths open with her bare hands; slitting the wrists of girls and letting the blood completely drain out to a fill a bathtub (She believed that bathing in young blood would keep wrinkles away); and biting her victims until they died.

The more she killed, the more embolden she became. She moved from killing peasant girls to those of noble birth. Finally it took the Emperor of Hungary to order Elizabeth’s own cousin, the Count Cuyorgy Thurzo, who was governor of the province to put an end to her flagrant show of power.

A trial followed and Elizabeth Bathory was found guilty. But her power and influence continued to protect her. While her accomplices were put to death, she was merely committed to house arrest until her natural death four years later.

Elizabeth Bathory had access to power and wealth to make an enormous, positive impact in her community. But she chose to use it to satisfy only her primal needs. She had the opportunity to become a leader known throughout the political world of her time. But she chose to be remembered for her inhumanness.

Leadership and influence is not measured by your power and gain; Leadership is measured by the people who follow you because they want to. Consider the powers with which Jesus lived on earth. Should he have succumbed to his powers for evil, imagine the consequences! Consider the power and influence you have as a leader and ask yourself if you are a steward of them.

Life in Nepal, Previously Published

the plight of little girls in Nepal

A bright-eyed, bubbly, powder-fresh little girl skipping about without a care in the world is a sight that gives one the warm fuzzies. For birthdays, Christmases, and even for no special reason, you shower her with gifts. And stores that cater to little girls have never-ending supply of trinkets and treasures. But did you know that just about the price of a few toys every month can buy life for a little girl in Nepal? For girls in Nepal life is anything but made up of sugar and spice and everything nice.

The stories about the plight girls are many and begin even before birth—aborted female fetuses, suffocation at birth, abandoned by family, child labor, debt bondage, early marriage, prostitution, etc. While the stories are many, they are commonplace. You don’t read much about these girls in the papers. Only a handful of organizations try to make a difference. Even the government has no social service or welfare plan for unwanted girls left of the streets to fend for themselves.

Consider these facts and you’ll see the value of sponsoring the life of a little girl in Nepal:

1. The general male female ratio in the world is 1:3. But in Nepal, because of the abortion of female fetuses, the male female ratio is 1: 0.9. (District Demographic Profile of Nepal, 2003, published by Informal Sector Research & Study Center). About 2/3 of the girls in Nepal lose their life before it even begins.

2. 7 percent of girls are married before age 10 and 40 percent by age 15. (United Nations research as quoted on EquityFeminism.com)

3. Approximately 63,230 girls each year are forced to labor. Of these 3,027 are under the age of 6. (District Demographic Profile of Nepal, 2003, published by Informal Sector Research & Study Center)

4. Every year around 10,000 girls, most between the age of 9 and 16, are sold to brothels in India. (Tim McGirk, “Nepal’s Lost Daughters, India’s soiled goods,” Nepal/India:News, 27 January 1997)

5. It is not uncommon for parents to sell their daughters and for husbands get rid of their young unwanted wives for US$200 to $600. Depending on her beauty, a girl can fetch anywhere from less than a water buffalo, to slightly more than a video recorder. Organizers in rural areas, brokers and even family members sell girls. Husbands sometimes sell their wives to brothels. (Tim McGirk, “Nepal’s Lost Daughters, ‘India’s soiled goods,”Nepal/India News, 27 January 1997)

6. “Deukis” is a system where by rich childless families buy girls from poor rural families and offer them to the temples as though they were their own. These girls are forced into prostitution. In 1992, 17,000 girls were given as deukis. (Radhika Coomaraswamy, UN Special Report on Violence Against Women, Gustavo Capdevila, IPS, 2 April 1997)

Life in Nepal, Previously Published

God’s price tag

This was written by Dr. Silas Gomes and me. It was his experience. (Previously published in the Adventist Review)

“Nitrogen, oxygen, hydrogen, very well, thank you. Nitrogen, oxygen, hydrogen, very well, thank you.” I turned towards the sound of the nonsensical “English” chant and saw the source—He was dark, gaunt, skinny, dirty and almost naked.

He seemed so out of place—he was a lower caste in an upper caste village; his dirt caked body was incongruent with the full river flowing just a few feet from us; his blabbering in the quietness of the Sabbath morning was disturbing.

It was a special day and I wished he would leave before the rest arrived. I was there early after ensuring that my patients were taken care of, switching my turn to speak in church, and driving an hour on mountainous road.

Not the best time to be annoyed by a mad man, I thought as I tried to avoid eye contact with him. I hope he doesn’t stop to pester me for money. But He didn’t stop; He just walked on by. He didn’t ask for money; he just mumbled “Nitrogen, oxygen, hydrogen, very well, thank you.”

As I breathed a sigh of relief from inconvenience, the pastor, church members and the 13 baptismal candidates arrived in the hospital bus. My heart swelled in pride and happiness at the sight. Baptisms in Nepal are done secretly and quickly in rivers that run through remote areas. This was not a time to take in nature, drag out the service or loiter around. The group was already on their way to the river bank and I was getting ready to follow them when I heard him: “Nitrogen, oxygen, hydrogen, very well, thank you.” Oh. No! He’s back! Maybe he’ll just pass me by again, I hoped as I quickly walked to my motorbike to get my gadgets and myself ready to record the baptism for posterity.

It was a beautiful baptism. After the wonderful fellowship and lunch that followed, it was time to go. The bus was the first to leave. As I was about to get on my motorbike the man was back. This time he had an empty plastic bag held open. It was obvious he was hungry. It was obvious he was hoping that someone would throw a few scraps of food. Yet all I could focus on was his skinny, dirty, half-naked body and his not-so-lucid mind. I didn’t want him near me. I didn’t want to have to deal with him.

I quickly got on my motorbike and drove away. My engine hummed against the background of “Nitrogen, oxygen, hydrogen, very well, thank you”. As I wound my way back to the hospital I was consumed with the plight of that hungry man and the realization that I had with me a can of potato chips I was too full to eat. The chips were probably all that man needed to make his day. Yet there I was driving away with it.

I have not been able to forget that man. One look at him and I had decided he was not worth my time. The value I placed on him was based on his appearance and his words. One look at him and I had decided that he was not worthy of being part of the baptism scene or my lunch.

As a human being I have this problem of placing face values on people. It is easy to judge people by their appearance, their social status, their mental acumen, and the comfort level I have in their presence. That is my humanness, my weakness.

That crazy man has made me understand God’s love more clearly. The price tag He places on each of us is so high that all the gold on earth will not be worthy of us. The value He places on us is that of His own Son. Should the earth have been populated by just one dark, gaunt, skinny, dirty and almost naked man mumbling “Nitrogen, oxygen, hydrogen, very well, thank you” all day, God would have still sent His Son to die just for him. God would have done that because His value system is not like mine. He holds each one of us gently in His loving hands, turns us over and over, sees all our flaws, all our handicaps, all our disabilities—and then tags us all equally worthy.

devotion, Misc Stuff, Previously Published

four-step discussion

Preaching a 40-minute sermon is sometimes easier than leading a 15-minute discussion; delivering  a monologue is easier than initiating dialogue! Try this four-step method the next time you are to lead a discussion.

Step 1: Illustrate. Tell a story. The right story has power. It can reel in the wandering mind, bring the soul to attention, and impress upon the heart a thought to last a lifetime—all in a moment.

Step 2: Quote.  Plant your story in an environment of credibility. Quotations and passages from authoritative, respected sources not only provide this environment, but also anchor the listener to your story.

Step 3: Reflect. Throw out a few questions to provoke thinking and start and start a discussion.

Step 4: Apply. Invite the participants to incorporate into their lives the story and the quotations they have reflected on.

Now, let’s try this method using the topic Forces of Habit.

Illustrate. “On the western slopes of the Rocky Mountains, a giant Sequoia lies rotting. It was a growing sapling when Christ walked the shores of Galilee. When Columbus discovered America, it was reaching maturity; during the America Civil War, it looked down from lofty heights. The tree seemed destined to live many more centuries. Then, a few years ago, a tiny beetle started to burrow into its bark and lay eggs that would produce other beetles. It seemed like an unequal battle at first, but the few beetles multiplied into hundreds, then into thousands, and finally into millions. First they attacked the bark, then they worked deeper into the trunk, and finally, they were eating the very heart and strength of that magnificent forest giant. Then one day, the rains came, the winds blew, and lightening flashed. And after withstanding the elements for centuries, the giant tree fell. Not because of the elements, but because of the weakening effects of those tiny beetles.

“Bad habits do the same to people. They slowly take a toll until the day comes when the person falls like that giant tree.”—Zig Ziglar

Quote. “The person who has been born into God’s family does not make a practice of sinning, because now God’s life is in him; so he can’t keep on sinning, for this new life has been born into and controls him—he has been born again” (1 John 3:9, TLB).

“Fix your thoughts on what is true and good and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely, and dwell on the fine, good things in others. Think about all you can praise God for and be glad about” (Phil. 4:8, TLB),.

“Sow an act and reap a habit; sow a habit and reap a character; sow a character and reap a destiny” (an old proverb).

Reflect. Why is it hard to admit that we are doing something wrong? What role does confession play in the breaking of a bad habit? What confidence does Jesus’ death on the cross give us? What should we do with our evil desires? How do we nail our desires to the cross? What specific differences might we expect if our lives were Spirit-controlled?

Apply. Being filled with the Holy Spirit is an ongoing process—you can’t be filled with the Spirit today and expect the supply to last a lifetime. Translated most accurately, the Greek verb, be filled (as in Eph. 5:18), would read be always being filled. Having once had an experience of being filled with the Holy Spirit is not nearly as important as being filled with the Holy Spirit today. We need to make a conscious, rational decision to yield to Christ’s control. And when we do so, the Holy Spirit’s power will be released. As we continue yielding, He will fill every part of us.

What can you do today to be open to whatever the Holy Spirit wants to do in your life? What steps will you take this week to break a habit that keeps you from growing? With the Spirit in control, how do you see yourself thinking and acting?

devotion, Previously Published

telling it like it is

Texts: Matt. 4:18–22; 10:24, 25; Mark 3:13, 14; 8:34, 35; Luke 14:25, 26

Jesus lived in a time where stories were used very specifically. A story wasn’t just something you read to put a child (or an adult) to sleep. Stories were used to derive a legal conclusion; teach a moral lesson; illustrate an idea in philosophy or in faith; or to share a wondrous or miraculous event. And these stories were told in three different styles: as in a dream and something that does not really take place in the physical world; as a real event but related as a metaphor, using symbols; or as a real event but related in an exaggerated manner to emphasis certain points.

In making His call to discipleship (Luke 14:26, 27, 33), Jesus goes all out on the story-telling tactic of exaggeration and draws a mental picture of a disciple —The man is standing at the doorway of his house, a new disciple ready to embark on a journey. To publicly display his total, 100% commitment to follow this radical man Jesus, he’s called the leaders of his community to bear witness of what he is about to do. The neighbors are there and so is the press. This is important because it is BIG and because it doesn’t happen often–The man writes off his parents forever; he is now dead to them. He gives his wife and children his permission; he blesses them into a new life without him. He executes his new will and testament; He donates all his things except the clothes on his back and the extra set in his satchel to Goodwill. And then as a final salute to his calling, the man calls to his neighbors to pick up the heavy cross made especially for him and strap it to his back. That cross, he claims, will remain on his back throughout his discipling journey! 

This severely exaggerated story of Jesus can scare the average Christian. It’s as though Christ is calling us to be suicide bombers—Forget yourself, your family, your job, your life—just strap a bomb to yourself and die for the cause, if that’s what it takes! Not many of us can commit like this so we end up feeling like we’d never live up to Jesus’ expectations of a disciple and therefore, we might as well give up right now.

What we need to do is to remember that Jesus was trying to make a point. He wanted there to be no doubt about the level of commitment He expected, the magnitude of the call, and the power of the Spirit that He had to offer each of us to be His disciple. Let’s convert the story-telling technique of exaggeration of Jesus into plain, today’s language to understand what Jesus was saying:

The urgency of the call. When Jesus called his disciples (Matthew 4:19) Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men there had to be something in His voice, in His body language, in His demeanor that expressed urgency. We know this was probably true because of what the disciples did: Immediately they left their nets and followed Him (v 20). This does not mean that they stopped being fishermen and husbands. There are numerous references in the Bible to their occupation and their homes after this call; they continued living like regular people and carried out their society and family responsibilities. But the key point is that the moment they said YES to Jesus, they put Him FIRST and everything else second.

When Jesus calls us to be disciples, the time to answer is NOW. The lifestyle of stewardship demands an immediate response. Besides, if Jesus didn’t think we were ready to be His disciples, He wouldn’t bother calling.

The prerequisite of the call. When He called them to be fishers of men in Matthew 4, Jesus had no intention of sending them in pairs at that very moment. That call was to walk with Him, learn from Him, abide in Him—until such a time came that He was ready to send them (Mark 3:13, 14).

The prerequisite then is to learn at His feet before following at His heel. Jesus is not a one with illogical expectations: When we’re called to be disciples, our creator God personally trains and equips us for the task. We need to remember that we are merely tools placed in His hands. We have nothing to fear.

The side effects of the call. This is the most amazing perk of accepting the call to discipleship—When the disciples recognized the urgency of the call and made it their priority, they were immediately placed in a training program of emulation of Christ. And in doing so, they experienced awesome side-effects—a) Cross-bearing (putting Christ above self, family, job, culture and everything) was a joyous, willing, and voluntary act; b) Witnessing was a natural way of life!

When we are true disciples, what was once difficult is now a piece of cake. What was once a burden is now the farthest thing on our minds. This is not because of our own strengths but because in imitating Jesus, we’re becoming more and more like Him each day.

So, what Jesus was really saying is that a true life of discipleship requires Him alone as Lord of our hearts and lives. He’s not calling us to a one-time zealous act of martyrdom; He’s calling us to a life-long expression and reflection of His love. The result: Everyone around us will yearn to be disciples too!

Discuss

What are the privileges that come with being a disciple? (John 15:7-16)

Think of phrases that describe discipleship (Eg. growing in the image of Christ). Consider scenarios in your church where you can use these phrases to encourage Christian growth.

devotion, Previously Published

inspired word of God

Age Group: High School

Key Text: All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness (2 Tim 3:16, NIV)

Materials needed: Paper, pens, chalk board

Introduction:
One cold night, a colporteur encountered a robber who ordered him to light a bonfire and burn his books. The colporteur lit the fire, and then asked to read a little from each book first. He read the twenty third psalm from one; the story of the good Samaritan from another; the Sermon on the Mount from another; 1 Corinthians 13 from another. At the end of each reading, the robber said “It’s a good book. We won’t burn that one; give it to me.” In the end, none were burned; the robber left with all the books. Years later the man turned up again. Only this time he was not a robber; he was a Christian minister. (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible, The Letters to Timothy, Titus and Philemon, St. Andrews Press, Edinburgh, Scotland, 1975, p 201)

Activity:
Option 1: Give each several pieces of paper and pen. Ask them to put their Bibles away and say: “Pretend all our Bibles are destroyed. You have to rely on your memory. For the next five minutes, write down all the Bible verses you can say from memory (once verse per piece of paper), including the reference if possible. Post the verses on the wall under the categories Law, History, Poetry, Prophets, Gospels, Epistles.

Then ask questions like What made this exercise difficult? Why is it we reproduce so little of the book we use so much? What difference should the Bible make in our lives? Why do we feel more comfortable with some parts of the Bible than others? What is it that keeps us from studying and learning more from the Bible?

Option 2: Distribute portions of a recent newspaper. Have them glean stories of people who were in a difficult, happy, sad, or strange situation. Encourage the class to contribute recent, personal experiences. Draw a 2-column table on a chalkboard. The heading of the left column is “In this the situation.” The heading of the right “The Bible says.”

As the class finds stories, write a brief description of each in the left. Stop when you have about a dozen stories. Now have the class find encouraging, faith-affirming Bible texts   that can be encouraging to the individuals in the stories.

Bible Study:
Option 1: Divide into five groups and have each study 2 Timothy 3:16, 17 along with one of these passages: Hebrews 4:12; James 1:22-24; Luke 16:17; 2 Peter 1:20, 21; 2 Timothy 2:15. Questions they could tackle: What do these verses say about the Bible? What is function and purpose of Scripture? What results can you expect in your life from studying the Bible every day?

Option 2: Divide into five groups and have each rewrite one of the following passages to give it a personal and contemporary application. Then have each group read aloud the original passage from the Bible followed by their paraphrase: Matthew 5:13-16; Romans 8:38, 39; 1 Corinthians 13:4-12; Philippians 4:4-7; Hebrews 13:1-3; James 1:2-8. After the sharing of these paraphrases, emphasize the relevance of Scripture and the importance of personal application in the studying of Scripture.

Discussion:

 

 

  • If you know the Word and don’t do as it says, what does that say about your respect for God and His authority?
  • How can you develop a personal checklist to ensure you say and do what is biblically right?
  • If someone told you the Bible was just a how-to book for good moral behavior, how would you defend it as being the inspired Word of God?
  • How can you communicate the message of the Bible with confidence and yet without arrogance?
  • How can you safely compare what people say about God with what the Bible says?
  • What can you do when you find it difficult to believe without seeing?

 

 

devotion, Previously Published

it takes just one

Age group: high school, college

Introduction: Elijah began his life as a nobody. By the time someone got around to writing his story, no one could remember who his parents were. But because of the special connection Elijah had with his sovereign God, he became a somebody. He became the very hands, feet, and voice of God. God spoke through Elijah. God performed miraculous feats through Elijah; God brought about a revival through Elijah. Today you too can be a somebody for God. You can do it the same way Elijah did it! Be connected, always, to your Savior through a humble lifestyle, fervent prayer, and an attitude of faith.

Study: James 2:14-26; 2 Thessalonians 2: 13-17; 2 Timothy 1:1; 2:13; 2 Peter 1:-11
Ask yourself the following questions: How is my faith reflected in the things I do? In which part of my life is it most difficult to exercise faith?

Apply:

  • Make a list of the people in your life you trust implicitly. Then, write each one a note of appreciation this week for their influence in your life.
  • Nurture someone else’s faith in the good in humankind. For example, leave a note of thanks and encouragement (along with your tip!) for the server when you eat at a restaurant.
  • Collect poetry on the subject of prayer. Then, take the time to appreciate the collection and be blessed by it.
  • Ask someone who knows you well to point out your strengths and weakness. Next, find specific ways to use your strength. Ask God for help in strengthening your weaknesses.
  • Subscribe to a magazine such as Discipleship Journal that will enrich your spiritual walk.
  • Trace your foot on construction paper. Next, as artistically as possible, fill it with statements that reflect your spiritual goals. Frame and hang it where it can serve as a reminder of where you want to go!
  • Start a book exchange. Meet your friends at a local donut shop once a month to swap books that will help you grow in your connection with the Lord.
  • Begin a mid-day devotion time with a book such as Oswald Chamber’s My Utmost for His Highest.

Additional reading:
Arthur F Miller Jr., Why You Can Be Anything You Want to Be, chaps.7 and 8
Corrie ten Boom, Reflections of God’s Glory

 

Life in Nepal, Personal Ramblings, Previously Published

the view and the fog

(published 2003, Adventist Review)

Sometimes a fog of discouragement clouds my vision and my view is not very appealing. What once brought pride and satisfaction is now a pathetic sketch of mishaps and coincidences. What once was a source of encouragement is now a sore irritation.

Without a WOW moment in a while, my spirituality is in a slump. When the petty takes control of the day, it’s difficult to remember what it was like just a while ago. Clouds hang heavy at such times. Times like when . . .

I read the chronicles of conversion in other 10-40 window areas and can barely hear a few lethargic sheep bleating in the Nepal fold;

I return from vacation to be bombarded by complaints of irate workers about trivial problems;

I take 3 hours and pass 7 army checkpoints to travel 12 miles to do my weekly shopping;

I find Roy at times too busy being missionary in Nepal to be husband and father;

I read an anonymous letter listing the sins of a church leader in Southern Asia;

I learn that the three new members joined the church because they thought it guaranteed a job.

At such moments I hear a voice telling me “Pack up and leave. NOW.” And I embarrassedly remember the accolades and praises we receive from friends back home—all in admiration of what we are doing in Nepal. If they could only see me now!  The weight of my gloom emphasizes the hypocrite within me. What am I doing here? I should be home, close to my college-age son. I should be concentrating on my career. Is it all worth the spattering of miracles now and then?

Discouragement can be fatal to spirituality. It quickly translates a satisfying spiritual past into a series of superfluous, insignificant blah blah blah’s—noise that drowns out the good and positive.

From the lessons I learned since at my mother’s knee, I know what I must quickly say to the one sucking out my enthusiasm–“Away from me, Satan!” The solution to my negativity is really as simple as that. I need to get the focus off myself, get off my high horse and let go of the reins. In my humanness, the present looks bleak and hopeless. But heaven looks down, sees God in control and cheers the march forwards and upwards.

So I force my unwilling soul to do what is unnatural at the moment—I get down on my knees. I raise my soul heavenwards. I tightly shut my eyes so I can see.  And I see people touched by God’s children passing through this land.

I see Biku Maya. Homeless and illiterate, she can’t understand what goes on in church, but she comes anyway—just to be in God’s house, with God’s people. She comes because someone, a very long time ago, showed her the compassion of Jesus.

I see Aarti. She used to work in her mother’s tea stall from before sunrise to way past sunset. But now she goes to school because John and Ruth who came here as volunteers one summer are giving her the gift of education.

I see Dawachiki. She used to be a beggar outside our walls, but the hospital stepped into her life some 30 years ago. Now she is a ward aide in the hospital and has seen her daughter become a nurse.

I see Surya. She began doing odd jobs around the hospital at the young age of 13. Today she is the hospital’s chief financial officer. Her life is such an intertwining of Adventism that she’s decided to join the church.

I see Bishnu. He struggles with alcoholism in a land that does not recognize it as a disease. The hospital now conducts one of the two Alcoholics Anonymous programs in the country–to bring hope to him and others like him.

I see terrorists, near death, brought to this hospital because they know that here compassion overrides prejudice, hatred, and even fear.

I see women who can now ride the bus and shop on their own because ADRA has taught them to read and count change.

I see these lives touched by those who come and go, those who leave behind a legacy of God’s eternal control over His church, over His people, in this country and everywhere.

Where I am today, the view may not be good, but if I listen hard enough, I hear Him through the din and fog. He tells me “Do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” Joshua 1:9

devotion, Previously Published

barnabas: God’s way is my way

Age: High School, College

INTRODUCTION

Barnabas is the perfect  example of witnessing—He did more than travel from church to church, playing administrator. The Bible says he was a good man, full of faith, full of the Holy Spirit. Witnessing is living and breathing God’s love. Witnessing is using everything we have for God’s glory.  So, in order to be a “real” witness, I need to begin with the basics and ask myself these questions: What do I have that I can use to live and breath God’s love? What are the special buttons and functions that God has created me with? How am I gifted? And how can  I boldly use these gifts to live a life of faith?

CONSIDER

  • Taking inventory of your special gifts and talents by asking others and yourself what your strengths are, and deliberately trying to use some of those skills everyday.
  • Creating a business card  or poster that offers “free” services of your special skills to those in you community, church or work place.
  • Keeping track of your faith walk by starting a two-column journal: column #1—date and description of incident; column #2—date and outcome of  having put incident in God’s hand
  • Starting a yearly indoor/outdoor herb garden that reflects your relationship with God—Plant a new herb for every major trial you overcome by trusting in God 100%
  • Reading through the Gospels and Acts, using a Life-Application Bible.
  • Setting aside a specific time (about 10 minutes) everyday to go to God in prayer and submission, and asking Him to reveal His will and use you as He sees fit.
  • Decorating a quiet corner or room in your house that friends and family can use to relax, reflect, and reconnect with God—Fill it with photo albums, devotionals, poetry, music, potpourri, soft cushions, and knick-knacks.
  • Watching the movie Dead Poet’s Society—In the movie, the teacher urges his student to “seize the day.” What does this mean for you as a Christian?

CONNECT

1 Peter 4:10, 11; Daniel 2:19-30; Ephesians 4:11, 12

Counsels on Stewardship, chap. 24 and 70; The Faith I Live By, chap. 6;Evangelism, chap. 5;

Arthur F Miller, Jr., Why You Can’t Be Anything You Want to Be, chaps. 2 & 7; Donna Partow, Becoming a Vessel God Can Use; Video by Gateway Films/Vision Video—Not Without Hope.