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~ Written by Viki Rife

It’s time to speak up about fathers. Our society has become increasing hostile to the role of fathers in the family. Movies and sitcoms portray fathers as more of a hindrance than a help to their families. The concept of an absentee or clueless father seems to be the norm today.

As strong women who live by God’s values, we can have a part in helping our men reclaim their place in the family. This is not accomplished by reminding them of their failures.

Instead, we need to treat them with respect and consideration, and model for our children and grandchildren the importance we attach to their role. We need to affirm their strengths and their wise choices. Our support of dads can free our men to receive with joy the responsibility God has placed on them as fathers. 

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~ Written by Viki Rife 

It happened during Christmas break from college my freshman year. During the break between Sunday School and church I stopped at the bathroom. I heard a mom bring her preschooler into the next stall. The youngster asked a question that had apparently been triggered by something he had heard in his children’s class. I held my breath. It was a tricky question. I felt sorry for the mother.

While I don’t remember the question any more, or what she said, I remember thinking, “Wow, you really need to know your theology to be a mom!” It awakened in me a desire to dig into God’s Word so that someday I would be a wise mom who knew how to take advantage of her child’s curiosity to point them to God’s truth.

I don’t think that mom knew how important her child’s question was, not just for him, but for a shy college student in the next stall. Her biblical perspective inspires me to this day. Thank you, dear friend—you never volunteered to be my mentor, but you are!

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~ Written by Sharon MacMillan 

If there were ducks to be placed in a row, they would be fluttering in all directions. My husband and I feel like we are in a Stage Nine hurricane. Circumstances around us are blowing out of control. We’re trying to finish study projects. Fix up our home to sell. Move to Texas in May so I can get to Japan by June to help my son’s family welcome their twins. I catch my frenetic self over-thinking how to solve things, only to be set back to where I started. I feel like I’m lying face down in the mud, like a storm-blown fence, waiting for someone to help me up so I can move on to the next set of circumstances.

Then I remember to whom I belong. I am the daughter of the Almighty God, the Master Builder, the Perfect Manager of everything. I go into His presence a bit shy for being so slow to turn my mess over to Him. But I don’t find condemnation or see a finger pointing. I see arms that welcome me in. His presence is the place of peace, safety, security, and help. What was I thinking, trying to manage life without Him?

Then I realize He’s arranged my hurricane so I would come to Him. He wants to teach me something from his treasure box of riches. His Word reads, “I will bless the Lord who has given me counsel, my heart instructs me in the night seasons. I have set the Lord before me because He is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.”

My heart feels the warmth of His love. I read on. “You will show me the path of life; in your presence is fullness of joy. At your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

God is delighted and honored as I answer those who say, “How did you get through all those circumstances?” I tell them, “It was the Perfect Manager who helped us. He’s known for doing all things well.” 

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~ Written by Nicole Miller

The story was not a new one, but on this day it resonated with us in a way that amazed us. We were sharing with our SMM (Sisters Mentoring with a Mission) girls in our after-school discipleship ministry the story of Abram. God asked him to leave his homeland and go without knowing the details. We asked them, “What do you think his response was?” They had a variety of answers ranging from “maybe he had questions” or “maybe he hesitated.” They landed on the answer, “Abram said yes!”

As we asked the girls what their responses would have been, many of them replied that they would have said yes too, even if they had questions. It’s easy as young people, and even as adults, to hope, even believe deeply, that we will always respond “yes” when God asks us to do things. Knowing this, my co-leader Santina and I wanted to draw in a bit of our own story and tie it into the 7th grade girls’ lives.

We had previously asked the girls how important SMM was to them now that they are in middle school. The answer was unanimous: “Very important.” So we shared with them, “Last year when you asked us to have SMM in the middle school we could have said no.”

The look on their faces was showed their shock. They couldn’t believe we could have made that choice. When they asked about it in the elementary school SMM last year, though, we had no idea how to make a middle school program happen. But it felt as if God was asking us to do it. So we answered yes without knowing how it would happen. Through our efforts, but mostly God opening doors, we were able to start our after-school SMM in the middle school this year.

As we retold this story, we wanted to share the complete picture with our girls. So we kept going back. If Santina hadn’t decided to serve in SMM several years ago, she would not have met these girls when they were in 4th grade. In fact, if she hadn’t said yes to going to Grace College she would not have been able to say yes to SMM.

Following this line of thought brought us back to a series of “yeses.” If I hadn’t said yes to leading the elementary SMM, there would never have been a program in the first place. On and on, the series of single “yes” moments went. A simple opportunity to say “yes” or “no” to God may seem like a small moment, but you never know where one “yes” will lead. This train of thought was a great lesson to teach our girls, but ultimately it gave us as leaders joy and hope.

Sometimes ministry can begin to feel tedious. It is easy to lose sight of how big God’s story is. As we took time to connect to these girls’ lives, God moved our hearts to recognize how precious our “yeses” have been. We have had the chance to know one another, to know our girls, to serve God, just because of a mindset of simply answering yes when God asked. 

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~ Written by Rosa Munoz 

My life is full of new beginnings. In January 1983 I came to the USA, a new country, with great expectations of new adventures with my husband Hector Melendez. We had very little financial resources and connections. We had left our family and friends in our native land, Puerto Rico. Immigrating to a new country, culture, place, and environment was exciting but challenging.

I remembered praying and telling God, “I will look to you, follow your will with all my heart and mind. Oh! my Heavenly Father, my Lord all the days of my life.” The Bible reminds us about God’s faithfulness in Lamentations 3:21-24. His hope, faithfulness, goodness and provision have been evident throughout the 34 years of my life here in the USA.

We started out in Miami, Florida, for seven years. I experienced growth in a different aspect of my life. We then moved to Tampa in 1990. We had hoped for a baby, but it wasn’t until September 1992 that our miracle baby, Matthew, came to us. We rejoiced in God’s faithfulness in giving us a child.

A year later, my husband died in a car accident. I began a new, different life as a young widow with my little one-year-old in Tampa. Once again I waited on God, looking to Him and relying on His faithfulness, hope and provision. My focus became seeking God’s direction for taking care of my little boy and pleasing Him. I praise God for the godly women He brought to my life and the prayer partners who strengthened and helped me to grow daily in Jesus Christ. I was learning that I was not alone.

The next summer I met a widower, Jesus Munoz, with three children. He had been through similar life experiences through losing his wife in a car accident. God was preparing a new beginning for our lives. After four years of friendship and God’s perfect timing we married in July of 1998. This brought on another new beginning as we embarked on blending two families, church planting and leadership development. It has been a great gift to our lives. I have been richly blessed to meditate on my memories of new beginnings and remember that God is faithful. Our hope is in Him.

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~ Written by Cathy Simms

Have you ever thought about how you treat people when you enter your church on Sunday? Do you enter your bank or grocery store and treat others the same way? How about your friends and family?

Philippians 2:4 (NLT) says, “Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.” It begins with taking “me” out of every situation and putting “others” in its place. When we have the mind of Christ, we are able to see others as Christ sees them.

The word “servant” is defined as “one who serves others.” Galatians 6:3 (NLT) says, “If you think you are too important to help someone in need, you are only fooling yourself. You are really a nobody.” It is in small acts of serving or looking out for others’ interests that we grow like Christ. He specialized in menial tasks that everyone else tried to avoid.

Small tasks often show a big heart. Having a servant’s heart is revealed in little acts that others don’t think of doing. Sometimes we need to serve upward to those in authority but sometimes we need to serve downward to those in need.

So I challenge you, don’t wait until Sunday to think about how to help someone. The people God puts in your path today need to know somebody cares! Who will you be willing to serve today?

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~Written by Erin Shuler

There it was—the full blow! It was time to make a choice. Was I in or was I out?

For a long time I have had an idea of where God was calling me. I was so excited to follow it and see what would come of it! God placed a desire on my heart to leave the comforts of home as I know them and pursue Him through caring for and loving on orphans in Africa. After visiting Africa for the first time, I came home ready to leave everything behind and dive right into the life I felt I had been called to live. But time passed, and even though I knew my calling hadn’t changed, I felt myself wishing it would.

Driving down the road one day, I realized for the first time how alluring the idea of the American dream was to me. I didn’t realize how hard a fight it was going to be to walk away from ideas that had been engraved in me since birth. I finally realized the impact of what a decision to move across the world was going to mean. It was no longer just giving up a career I didn’t want anyway or money I could have made. I was missing out on all the big and small things that would happen in the States while I was absent. It meant possibly missing my siblings’ weddings. It meant missing the birth of future nephews and nieces. It meant losing the chance to be a part of the lives of people I suddenly realized I wanted desperately to be a part of. It meant risking relationships I already have and can’t imagine not having. It meant no house with a white picket fence, no being one of those soccer moms, no elaborate thousand-dollar weddings or expensive car. 

I realized for the first time that day I had spent my entire life filling my head with ideas that matched the American dream. When I pictured my future, I never saw myself in Africa. I saw myself in America with the “perfect home and family.” So could I still do it? Was I willing to give up what was asked of me?

The truth is the life I have is not mine. It was given to me with the intention that I use it to bring God glory. My purpose is not to live the life I dream but rather the life I have graciously been given to further the kingdom of Christ. Christ has loved me and I in return will love. I will fall in love a hundred times over with every smiling face and every child I hold and touch.

I will love well because Christ has perfectly loved me.

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