The purpose of this blog is to give thanks to the Lord and to proclaim His goodness.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

We Are God's Workmanship

One of my favorite ministries is discipling the kids at New Day. After three years of working with our older kids, I'm now working with the middle kids. They are a little more challenging than the first group because they wiggle a little more and do not have a long attention span. But, at the same time, it is a privilege to be given this opportunity to invest in their young lives. 
Some times they are even standing on their heads when I am teaching.
Our focus since January has been Ephesians 2:8-10, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--not by works, so that no man can boast. For we are God's workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."

We first focused on verses 8 and 9 and the gift of salvation being something that we don't deserve, don't earn, and cannot boast about. We emphasized that our good works cannot save us. 

In the last month we have focused on verse 10. We looked at the good works that God has prepared for us to do even before we were born. We've talked a lot about people in the Bible who were called by God to leave their home, often not by choice, to do good works that He had prepared for them.

We looked at the story of Moses and how God's plan was for him to grow up away from his home in a palace so he could learn the ways of the Egyptians and be prepared to lead the Israelites out of slavery. He did not make the choice, God did. 

We looked at the story of Esther, an orphan, who left the home she knew with her cousin Mordecai to become the queen so that should could save her people from destruction. She was not orphaned by her own choice, did not even become the queen by her own choice. It was all part of God's plan for her life to do the good works He had prepared for her in advance. 
I often wonder what great plan God has for these girls who have all been chosen to live at New Day.
We looked at the story of Daniel and his three friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who were taken from their home to Bablyon where they had to make tough decisions to stand up for what was right: to not eat the food forbidden by God, and to not bow down to the golden image. Going to Babylon was not their choice, but it was all part of God's plan prepared in advance for them. God had good works for them to do in Babylon so that His name could be made known. 
I think about these boys who have all, in some way, been taken away from their home to live at New Day. God has a special plan for each of them. 

We looked at the story of Samuel, and how he too was taken from his home to live in the temple. It was not his choice, but it was all part of God's plan prepared in advance for him. In the temple he learned to listen to God's voice.  

We looked at the life of Jonah and the plan God had for him. But because he did not like God's plan, his life got all twisted up and we all know where that got him.

The game of Twister helped us introduce the lesson on Jonah and what happens when we don't want to follow God's plan.

We also looked at the story of Samuel, and how God's plan for each of us is to learn to listen to God's voice. We had fun listening to different sounds downloaded from the internet. Some of the sounds they were familiar with, others they had to be told what they were. Samuel didn't know God's voice at first, he had to be taught by Eli, who knew God's voice. 

I love discipling these kids because it keeps me on my toes. These lessons are a great reminder that God has a great plan for our lives that started before we were even born and continues on throughout our lives no matter how old we are. 

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

The Path of Joy

We are back in Zambia now after five months in the states, and what a sweet welcome we had. It is great to be back and to meet our new children and hug the necks of those we left behind.
Wes getting to know our youngest, Luyando
 But as the old saying goes,
"We are not in Kansas anymore, Toto."  It doesn't take long after stepping off of the plane to see that we are no longer in America. 

The culture is different.  We are on African time now. Things move slower. No one is in a hurry. Late is not coming in one minute after something starts but more like one hour, and then that's not really late.

Emma and Justin like to stop in to play with the toys
in my classroom after breakfast.
The sounds are different, at least for us city folks. We wake up to cow bells, the sounds of pigeons cooing, and people walking by on the path near our house. New Day is not exactly a quiet place, but we love the sounds, especially the sounds of the children at play.  

The smells are different. It is hard to explain, but things just don't smell the same in Africa. You just have to come and smell for yourself. 

The sights are different. We see villages with huts surrounded by dirt yards with a few flowers here and there, instead of large well-landscaped bedroom communities. 

Our lifestyle is different. We live with our windows and doors open. We have spiders and lizards on our walls. We walk down red-dirt paths most of the time instead of sidewalks. And, we don't get off the path for fear of snakes (at least I don't).

This leads me the point of this blog. When we were in the states, I was asked to be the speaker at an evening ladies fellowship at our church in Nebraska. Even though I was nervous, I accepted the opportunity as I felt it was something the Lord really wanted me to do. However, when I heard the topic, "How to Stay on the Path of Joy," I wanted to back out. You see, for about six years I had strayed from this path even though God had placed me in the most amazing ministry that one could ever ask for. I had wandered off into the tall grass and lost my joy.

I wrote the lady in charge to ask her if I could take it a little different direction, sharing my testimony of how I got off the path of joy, but how I also returned. She agreed. 

In 45 minutes I shared with the ladies how I had got off the "Path of Joy" because of disobedience based on pride. God had asked me to do something, but because of pride I had not obeyed. The following acrostic sums up what I shared:

P= wrong perception of God’s plans
R= refusing or resisting God’s plan
I= insisting that our way is best
D=dwelling on “self.”
E= entertaining bitterness

I also shared with them how God, through His mercy, brought me back on the path of joy through the miracle of Wes' stroke.

As I was preparing the lesson, God gave me a verse that showed me that to stay on the path of complete joy, I had to walk in obedience to whatever He asks of me. 

John 15:10-11- "If you keep my commands you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commands and remain in His love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete."

I was nervous about opening up and being so vulnerable. After all, these women would go home and tell their friends and husbands about my struggles. But, although the enemy whispered his lies that I should not be so vulnerable, I knew God had very specifically told me to share what I had put down on paper. I'm glad I did because God used my testimony to touch the lives of several women who were struggling with similar issues.

A few weeks later, one woman who had attended the meeting, handed me a gift after church. Inside was a plaque with one word, "JOY." 

I have placed this plaque in my kitchen right by the sink because I know I will see it every day. I know it will be a reminder to me of how I got off the path of joy, but also how I have returned. It will be a reminder not to wander off the clearly marked path of obedience that has been marked for me into the thick bush where there are snakes and other dangers that will cause me to lose my joy. 

Since coming back, I have seen how the enemy has tried to get me off the path of joy several times, mostly with physical issues:  tiredness, back pain, a sore throat, and stomach problems. I know what he is up to so I am determined to stand strong and stay on the path. 

What a blessing to be able to teach
PreK this year. 
Wes and I have made a joy jar in which we are putting little pieces of paper with different ways God is blessing us, things to be thankful for, and things that bring us joy as we go through our days. Today I am going to put into that jar that I am thankful even for the physical 
problems I've had since returning. I'm thankful that the one who lives in me is greater than the one who lives in the world.  I am thankful that God has brought us back to minister to the precious children and people of Zambia. 

My prayer for you and for all of us is that we will learn to walk in obedience so we can experience His complete joy!

Friday, 30 December 2016

Torn Between Two Families

When we left to go to Zambia as full-time missionaries in 1998, we had no idea how hard it would be to be so far away from family.  Phone service and internet was very poor, and since we didn't come home for three or four years we missed out on watching our nieces and nephews grow up, family vacations, special birthdays and holidays, and most of all the opportunity to talk to our parents and siblings any time we wanted. 

Thankfully, in those early days, Facebook did not exist so we did not see all the pictures of things we were missing, and what we couldn't see didn't hurt as much. I say "as much," because just knowing that our family was celebrating special times and events together without us was very hard at times-- especially at Christmas.

Today, in our present ministry at New Day we are able to come to the states every other year to raise support for the orphanage and see our physical family. This is a great blessing, but at the same time it is hard because we have another family that has captured our heart. We are torn between two families. Our heart strings seem to be pulled in two directions and sometimes it seems they will break. 

They may not be our physical
children, but they have our heart.
When we said good-bye to our New Day family in August, we felt a deep sadness not knowing for sure if we would see them again on this earth. But, when we arrived in the states and were reunited with our physical family, our hearts were filled with joy at being with them once again.  

During our five months in the states we had the opportunity
It's hard to talk about our kids at New
Day without getting emotional. 
to travel and tell people about New Day. Every time we shared we felt a tugging on our hearts to be with them, but we also had a tugging on our hearts to be finished with our speaking tour so we could be with our parents and siblings.

We were blessed to stay with our
parents for the months of November and
December. What a gift!
Now it is time to go the opposite way and the feelings are the same. We are gearing up to say good-bye to our physical family, also not knowing for sure that we will see them again on this earth. We feel sure, however, that when we arrive "home" to our New Day family, some of the sadness will be dispelled by their hugs and smiles.  We will be filled with joy at being with them once again, but we also know that there will be a lingering sadness of not being with our physical family on this side.

Hear me out, I'm not complaining, not many people get the joy of having two such wonderful families, I just wish we could all be together in one place. Hmmm, for those of who know Christ, some day we will. That will be great, our two families united together getting to know one another. Honestly, I can't wait for that day. 

Thursday, 8 December 2016

A Fighting Spirit

Gertrude is one of our girls at New Day that I can relate to because she is a fighter and so am I. Let me explain.

I'll never forget the day that we went to visit Gertrude's village to see about bringing her to New Day. Her grandmother was caring for her after her mother's death but did not feel that she could care for her any longer. After visiting for some time, we decided that Gertrude should join our New Day family.

On the trip back to New Day Gertrude was talking up a storm asking lots of questions. This was very unusual because usually the first day is very scary for the children. One question she asked was, "Do the children at New Day fight?" Papa Wes told her, "No, we don't allow the children to fight." Well, maybe they do sometimes, but it is not something we just let go by. We didn't know why she would ask such a question until after she had been with us awhile. We learned that Gertrude liked to fight. In fact, she picked on Joseph, one of her new brothers, relentlessly. 

Gertrude has since accepted Christ and is growing into a beautiful young lady. She still has a fighting spirit, but as she grows we pray that her fighting spirit will be used for God's glory.

Like Gertrude, I've always had a fighting spirit within me. This fighting spirit got me into a lot of trouble before accepting Christ and it still gets me into trouble when I don't submit to the Lord's plan but try to do things my way. 

We were so young when we started our mission
career in 1991.
On the good side, this fighting spirit has helped me to stay on the mission field many times when I wanted to give up. It has helped me say "no" to things that I know are not good for me, and it has most recently helped me to come out of a long period of spiritual dryness.

Okay, it is time to get to the point of this whole post. I have struggled to keep up my blog for the last six years for various reasons. I had decided to forget it once and for all, and then my fighting spirit kicked in again. My first thought was "No, I don't want to do this again," but then I remembered a verse the Lord had given us while Wes was in the hospital following his stroke. Psalm 11:4 says, "Let those who fear the Lord say: "His love endures forever."  Wes and I made a commitment that the Wilcox house would say "His love endures forever," every opportunity that is given to us. I guess, for me, that means blogging again!

I've decided to use my fighting spirit this time to keep up this blog in spite of the obstacles that I know will come at New Day, like: power outages, a busy schedule, internet problems, and just plain not wanting to blog. My prayer is that each blog post will be a testimony of God's goodness and His enduring love. I pray that this time my fighting spirit will be used for God's glory!

Author:  Laurie Wilcox