Monday, August 25, 2014

I am ready to slow down...

On July 27 I got a call from the President of SIM USA telling me that because two missionaries affiliated with SIM, Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol, had just been diagnosed with Ebola, I was now on the Rapid Response Team that was interfacing with our entire missionary team in Liberia.  As the Director of Member Care, my role was to be the primary interface between the US office and most of our US staff still in Liberia.

Thus began about two weeks of nearly 24-7 work, with international phone calls, emails and texts. Liberia's 8 a.m. was my 4 a.m. and because of the urgent nature of our decisions, I was up several times between 4 and my normal wake-up time responding to messages and was frequently home from the office mid-evening, only to have to spend time on the computer.

Besides covering for me in nearly every area of keeping our home functioning, Stan helped with driving one of three vans to Atlanta to meet a plane with 8 "non-essential" but pretty special missionaries and their children. After SIM and our partner, Samaritans Purse, were able to get the two ill missionaries evacuated to Emory University Hospital, we focused on bringing our remaining staff back.

Stan and I joined a small entourage that met a charter plane with our two missionary physicians and the husband of our sick missionary. The photo to the right came from Stan's cell phone--and in the original (which I do not have tonight) one can see that David is greeting me on the tarmac.

Once we had our people back on US soil, I was able to sleep longer at night, but still spent a good portion of each day focused on directing the team that cared for these dear people.

Arrangements were made for them to stay in an RV park in an isolated area on our mission campus. A number of people on my Member Care team took part in meeting the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of our missionaries.

Photo by Bethany Fankhauser
It was with an incredible sense of gratefulness to God that we celebrated the release of Nancy Writebol and Kent Brantly last week. The photo of Nancy and her husband on the right, reunited after more than 21 days apart, captures their joy and fills me with awe for God's work in their lives--and His mercy on us all.

And soon these missionaries will all be on their way to somewhere else--its time for them to go back to see families, take much-deserved family vacations, and assess with their supporting churches and families how they can continue to serve God during this time while waiting for conditions to change so they can return to Liberia.

My work will continue with our SIM USA Liberian team, but it will be less intense and not  face-to-face once they leave Charlotte. I have been honored to serve them in this difficult time, and am going to miss my daily update meetings with them.

For a complete set of stories related to SIM and our response to this Ebola Crisis, please go to And if you wish to be a part of helping SIM continue to respond to the Ebola crisis in West Africa, there is a link to a giving portal on that page.

Stan and I have a vacation scheduled for early September--we're especially thankful for the timing and look forward to getting away. I am definitely ready to slow down for a little while, and trust that nothing will deter us from this time. (You can pray towards that end!) We will be celebrating a big birthday for Stan and our wedding anniversary during this week away, as well.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Sending them on...

A little less than a year ago, we met the couple on the right at the SIMStart Candidate retreat. Peter and Ashley had sensed God was leading them to prepare to serve overseas, begun preparing but didn't have a location to serve. That weekend, they were introduced to the opportunities in Japan and our hearts were bonded to them.  Along the way they added a second daughter and raised their full support.  This family of six leave next month to begin their first three-year term of service at a church in the Tokyo area. It has been a delight to travel with them in this journey.

And then a few months ago, Rachel and Shelbey attended SIMStart. They thought about missions for a long time and are familiar with Japan. They grew up watching Japanese ANIME.  They  are studying Japanese from their marshal arts instructor.  Last month they were here with us for SIMGo, the appointee training program we offer for two weeks.  Now starts the process of raising support and fulfilling other requirements before they are ready to go.

Stan is serving as a coach for the appointees preparing for Japan. If you know him, you know how much he enjoys encouraging people to step out in faith as they discover those whom God has prepared to support them financially and in prayer along the way.

It has given us great joy to be able to see God lead others to head to Japan and serve through the SIM and Asian Access partnership. And having one person or family interested in Japan at each SIMStart could get habit forming!

Saturday, August 02, 2014

"oh for a thousand tongues to sing..." Try 13,000!

I think the first time I was ever in an arena singing praises to the Lord was at Urbana '73, the mission conference sponsored by Inter Varsity Christian Fellowship. It was awesome to sing "It is well with my soul"  along with 18,000 people.  

Last night, the music was different, but the "awesomeness" was there as Stan and I went to the "Elevation Worship Live Event" at Time-Warner Arena here in Charlotte. 

Over 13,000 people joined in a live album recording of songs that are sung weekly at Elevation Church. This is a church that meets in multiple locations and has an extensive online ministry as well.

Our third Sunday in Charlotte last year, we attended an Sunday evening service there, and were moved by an awareness of the Spirit at work.  The following two Sundays we witnessed several hundred baptisms.  To weary missionaries returning from Japan where we saw 30-40 people baptized in the 23 years at our church, this was like pouring water on parched ground.  In total over all campuses those two weekend, 3,000 people made this step of faith.

While we have a local church (half-a-mile away from our home) where we attend and are beginning to get involved, we have continued to attend Elevation frequently on a Saturday evening.

I had been looking forward to attending this for months. Events that are happening in our world, however, took over my life this week and I have been in a 24-7 mode on behalf of some very special people. Two days ago, it appeared that I would need to travel elsewhere on Friday, and I was doing fine until I realized it would mean missing this concert.  Like everything else this week, things changed, and my Friday evening opened up again.

The first song was "Unstoppable God."  The words of the refrain are:

Unstoppable God
Let Your glory go on and on
Impossible things
In Your name they shall be done

This has been a week of impossible things. Being able to sing in affirmation that our God is at work in those, for His Glory and in His name was a great affirmation.

So whether a cappella in four part harmony, or following words on a screen and massive sound, I am reminded that one day we will join with thousands upon thousands of people worshiping before the throne as we see in Revelation 7:

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice:

“Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb.”

All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying:

Praise and glory
and wisdom and thanks and honor
and power and strength
be to our God for ever and ever.