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Archive for the ‘Missions’ Category

~ Written by Viki Rife

She wasn’t really my aunt, but all my childhood I called her Aunt Bertha, a common courtesy for missionaries who worked together. Her apartment was always open to my family. She especially took an interest in me. When I was young and fighting health problems, our family traveled to her city and stayed with her for treatments and my surgery. When there were complications with the surgery, she was like a second mother to me, letting my mother get some rest. I trusted her with all my heart.

When we moved to her city several years later, I would stay at her house when my parents had to travel so I wouldn’t miss school. We’d ride our bikes (she never drove a car) to market and to care for her ministry responsibilities. The conversations during those bike rides were deep and inspired me in ministry.

Aunt Bertha had a problem, though. Her rheumatoid arthritis was progressing, and she was finally told she needed to leave the mission field. She returned to the US, moving in with her brother and family.

I was fifteen when my family had a chance to visit her. She lay engulfed in a hospital-type bed that seemed to fill the room. My heart was broken, and in my teenage awkwardness I couldn’t really converse with her. My parents were puzzled by my lack of engagement.

The problem was, at that moment I became very angry with God. Here was this precious woman who had done so much for His kingdom, lying helpless! Is this how He rewarded His faithful ones?

In the decades that followed, I couldn’t think of her without feelings of pain and anger. God just didn’t make sense. I served him, but there was an underlying root of distrust.

One day I attended a women’s retreat where the speaker was a missionary to the same country. She shared that before she ever left for the mission field, she had the opportunity to meet a former missionary who was in her last days on earth. She shared that the veteran missionary told her that her disability was the most beautiful thing that had ever happened to her. “The past ten years have been the best of my life!” she told the new recruit. “I have gotten to know God in a way I could never have imagined. I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything in the world!”

At that moment, my bitterness melted away. God had taken care of Aunt Bertha in ways my physical eyes could not see. Since then, I’ve watched His faithful ones suffer and seen similar responses. We can see their suffering, but until we experience it ourselves, I don’t think we can ever know how God cares for His own.

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

“Turn to Matthew 6:19 in your Bibles, if you have them,” the African pastor said as he opened the service. I looked down at my iPad and chuckled. In that little screen, I had access to every translation, version, or paraphrase ever written. Within a moment, I could view the Scriptures in Greek, Hebrew or English.

The pastor had questioned whether I had one Bible. Little did he know I had countless digital Bibles and had at least five hard copies at home!

Despite the momentary humor, I was struck by the contrast between my attitude toward the Word of God in comparison to my African brother’s attitude.

He knew the price of having a Bible. Many of his loved ones had never seen a Bible—let alone owned one. He understood the preciousness of it. He knew what it meant to hunger for it. I, on the other hand, have never had to experience that hunger. I’ve never felt what it was like to long so deeply for a Bible of my own and wonder if that dream would ever come true.

What if I started treating the Bible as this pastor does? What if I continuously approached the Word of God with a fresh reminder of the privilege it was to freely read God’s truth? What joy would I experience which I may have forgotten?

May I never overlook the freedom I’ve been given to access God’s Word!

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~ Written by Viki Rife

Free Wash

For over thirty years I’ve wanted to put a sign up on our road from time to time that says “Rife’s Free Undercar Wash.” The county would not think it’s funny.

The family farm has a field with a natural spring. It has made farming that area rather challenging, but its location next to the road has made it a nightmare for the county.

They’ve brought engineers in to design ways to change the flow of the water. But no culvert, no field drain, absolutely nothing, can long prevent the flow of that spring along the road. The water ends up running downhill until it finds a place to cross the road, leaving potholes in its wake.

Sometimes a week after a heavy rainfall the water is still running, making its own streambed along and across the road until it reaches its goal—the neighbor’s pond a quarter-mile away.

I can’t help but admire that stream. I want to have the same determination to pursue my soul’s true home, my Lord Jesus, no matter what stands in the way.

“Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them” (John 7:38).

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~ Written by Viki Rife

I really hated to do it, but I had no choice. I picked up the scissors. I could hardly bring myself to start cutting.

This was my favorite plant, the one I hang outside my window every summer to enjoy while I’m having my devotions each morning. Whenever I look up from my reading and writing, there it is, swinging gently in the wind, with the willow tree in the background and hummingbirds stopping by to visit. It’s my little piece of heaven.

We’d had a hailstorm, and ever since then it had looked more and more pathetic. I had tried to nurse it along, but it was obvious that drastic measures were needed. I had one more thing to try before throwing it in the trash heap.

I started cutting back the long, hanging stems. With them came the few blossoms that were left. It no longer hung over the edges of the planter. The short, stubby growth that was left was a pathetic shadow of what had once brought me so much enjoyment.

Fast forward a month, however, and the plant once again showed energetic growth. It was fuller than it had been before, and covered with flowers and new buds. Something about cutting it back had brought new life.

Sometimes it’s hard to understand why God prunes us. Why would He make us give up a ministry that is blossoming? Why would He allow us to lose someone who is precious to us? Why would He leave us feeling as if we had been cut down on all sides?

If only we can remember He only does it for our good! He wants to give us a fullness that is greater than anything we have experienced. And the way He does it is by removing the dead growth. I wonder if He feels sadness in making us suffer, but forges ahead because He knows it’s the only way to save us from ourselves.

I’m so glad He doesn’t give up. 

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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 Viki Rife

It was a stormy winter night on Lake Michigan in 1904. But Harriet Colfax didn’t hesitate to get into her rowboat. One of the few female lighthouse keepers of her era, her destination was the opposite shore of the harbor at Michigan City, Indiana. There were two lights to help ships find the entrance to the harbor. They needed to be lit by hand each evening.

Harriet lived alone. If anything happened to her, there was no one to know or come to her rescue. The most amazing part of her exploit is that Harriet was 80 years old. The courage of this woman makes her one of my heroes. Lake Michigan, with its unpredictable weather, presents a challenge even in the summer. Winter would make it even more brutal.

Having seen a map of shipwrecks on Lake Michigan has given me some insight into what drove this woman. She felt a deep sense of responsibility to save lives. She spent 43 years at her post, making sure the lights were lit faithfully every night.

This story is a beautiful challenge for those of us who believe God has given us a mission to spread His light to those who are in danger. May we never, never allow the storms of life to cause us to abandon our call.

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More Than a Handout


~ Written by Viki Rife

Have you ever sent your children to the local dump to find food for the family dinner? Have you kept your children home from school because they literally had nothing to wear? Have you fed them dirt to help quiet them when their tummies rumbled?

Sadly, there are mothers who can say “yes” to those questions. Haiti is a country whose political and economic unrest is echoed by the ravages of hurricanes, flooding and earthquakes. Families are caught in a cycle of helplessness, with no hope of ever rising above their circumstances. Although humanitarian efforts have poured aid into the country, logistics and corrupt leaders often keep aid from reaching those who need it the most. And even when they receive aid, it only postpones starvation by a day or two.

You’ve heard the Chinese proverb, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” That is the principle behind the ministry of the women traveling this morning as a team to serve in Haiti for the next week. Each member of the team is also taking with her a sewing machine which will help Breathe Partners (formerly CPR-3) provide an opportunity for a mom in Haiti to develop her own business. 

The team members will be spending the week teaching the moms to use the sewing machines, as well as also ministering to the children. Please pray for Mandy Swain (Team Leader), Eunice Biehler, Cheryl DeBoest, Lydia DeBoest, Sally Miller, Theresa Overy and Peggy Riffle as they minister, and for the families that will benefit from their investment in their lives. 

To follow updates from the team, go to http://www.wgusa.org/haiti-2016/ or https://www.facebook.com/WomenofGraceUSA.

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~ Written by Viki Rife

“Don’t settle for what you alone can make of yourself.” 

This is the motto for FGBC leaders as they gather in various regions for annual Focus retreats. At the Southwest retreat this week, the question was asked of seasoned leaders, “What was the best advice you ever received? What was the worst?”

One of the “worst” pieces of advice to pastors that seemed to resonate with everyone was, “Don’t get too close to your people; it will open you to getting hurt.” Having grown up in a pastor’s home, I deeply understand the sentiment behind it. There’s enough pain in life without being wounded by your own sheep. And I’ve seen deep wounds.

There’s a problem with that approach, though. It just isn’t biblical. Paul speaks many times in his epistles about how dear the believers are to him. He looks forward to being with them so they can encourage him as he encourages them. We are to build one another up—you can’t do that if you’re using a ten-foot pole! Building God’s church is a hands-on, stone-on-stone effort. Leaders must model the kinds of relationships they expect to see among their followers. They must remember that they, too, are only another stone in God’s building.

The discussion left me with two prayers:

1. Lord, help me draw close to your people, even the ones who hurt me.

2. Lord, help me bless those who lead me, not tear them down.

I hope those are your prayers, too. Together, we can help each other make more of ourselves.

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~ Written by Erin Shuler

(Erin Shuler is spending the month of January ministering at Sonrise Orphanage in Uganda. She is a sophomore at Grace College.)

There are too many little hands!

Everywhere I go there are little smiling faces looking up at me. They either want to hold my hand or beg to be picked up and held. I am a complete stranger. My skin is a different color. I speak a different language. I come from a different background. But for some reason, these children trust me. They love me and they want to be with me.

While I settle into living in Uganda, going on a walk is a daily activity. As I’m walking, my hands and my heart are full. I have a child (or two or three) holding on to each hand and they don’t let go. But there are too many children. I can’t hold all their hands at once. As they are shoving and fighting over my hands, I have to calm several screaming or crying children because someone else stole my hand from them. I wish I could pick them all up and hold them forever. But I know I will never be able to do such a thing.

My heart is overflowing with love for these children. I wish they all had a family member who could give them the attention they crave and deserve. I wish being held, hugged, and having their hand held was a normal daily activity for them. They have been through more than anyone should ever have to go through. Yet despite their past and their current circumstances, you will never encounter a happier or more loving child than these.

I am incredibly thankful there is Someone who can, and is, holding on to these children and will never let them go. There is Someone who loves them more than I ever could. Someone whose hand is holding not only these children but the entire world. God desires to hold everyone’s hand.

When I am not enough for these children, He is. He is walking hand-in-hand with me, helping me up when I get knocked down. He comforts me when I get hurt, and is always there when and where I need Him. His hands are enough. I can let go and rest in His capable embrace because He has everything under control.

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~ Written by Sharon MacMillan

The Carrier Pigeon, a state-of-the-art clipper ship, ran aground 500 feet off shore in 1852 in fog and bad weather. It had traveled from Boston around Cape Horn at the southernmost point of South America, was only about 50 miles from its final destination, San Francisco. The disaster highlighted the need for a lighthouse at this particular location on the west coast. As a result, the Pigeon Point Lighthouse sent its first beacon of light out into the dark ocean on November of 1872 to warn ships and their crews of the impending dangers near the shore.    

A Fresnel lens was placed at the top of a 150-foot tower to direct focused light into its hundreds of prisms and lenses, sending out a strong bent beam of light every 10 seconds. That pattern is  known as a lighthouse’s “characteristic” pattern and identified it to sailors as the Pigeon Point Lighthouse. In those early days of the lighthouse, there would be no pattern of light without a diligent light keeper who would keep the candle burning, usually with sperm oil or lard.   

The Church projects God’s light to the world with her “characteristic” pattern. What do people learn about your Father through your speech, your actions and your attitudes? What is your  individual “characteristic” pattern of light?   

As we come to 2016 we are aware of the great need for the world to see our “characteristic” pattern of light. God designed us to be a people who intercede for the world, are inclusive with messy people, value them enough to train them for their place in Christ’s body, and encourage them along the way as they learn to participate in God’s purposes and plans for His Church. “They shall know you by your love.” That is our “characteristic” pattern for the world. 

We want to learn to pray for those who need light. In your daily prayers, please intercede for the design and implementation of the Women of Grace USA Prayer Summits that we hope to begin this year. Pray for Sue Knight, Nicole Miller and Sharon MacMillan as we seek the Lord for His direction in providing life-changing opportunities to grow deeper in the school of prayer and  intercession, enabling His women bring many to the Light.   

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