Sunday, July 30, 2006

...Tijuana or Bust!

Rocky Stanley just left for Mexico yesterday, but, Praise God, we have the opportunity to hear from him with some pre-trip thoughts. The following post was written by Rocky just a couple days before leaving. Remember to keep him in your prayers throughout the next week!

Here's Rocky...

Rocky Stanley’s Mexico trip – July 29 through August 5

I have partnered with Teen Mania Ministries by accepting a position as a missionary advisor for a mission trip to Tijuana, Mexico. We will be leading a group of twenty to thirty teenagers in reaching out with the love of Christ by physically building homes for underprivileged Mexican nationals. During the course of the week we will also be playing sports with Mexican children and working with local pastors to minister the gospel through children’s teaching programs and young adult bible studies.

Some thoughts on missions

God said, " My people are destroyed for a lack of knowledge" Hosea 4:6. God also says it is not his will that any should perish; 2 Peter 3:9. As Christians we have the greatest knowledge available to man; the knowledge of how to receive eternal salvation through the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. How can we deprive our brothers and sisters of such a wonderful free gift? Jesus said "freely you have received, freely you must give" Matthew 10:8. Jesus also said "neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house" Matthew 5:15

It is our duty as Christians to go out into the world and minister life to people. Jesus said "go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature" Mark 16:15. It’s the great commission, not the great suggestion! Jesus also said "herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples" John 15:8. Finally, Jesus said this gospel of the kingdom must be preached to all the world before he returns. We’ve been commissioned. We’ve been equipped. We’ve been empowered. Let’s bring glory to God. Lets reach out to the lost. Let’s obey the Lord. What are we waiting for?

Friday, July 14, 2006

With Faith and Patience

I'm sure there are many of you out there who have heard or sensed the call of God on your life for some particular area of ministry. For me it is missions--for you it may be something else. But after a time, when we don't see it happening as quickly as we are expecting, we begin to question what we think we've heard. "Maybe God didn't really say that." Or, "Maybe He was just testing me, to see if I was willing." I'll admit, I've done that a few (million?) times myself! But sometimes we have to realize that just because He's given the call or promise to us, doesn't mean that the timing is right for it to happen.

I've heard Joyce Meyer say that we live in a "microwave society"; we want it all right now! And when we don't see it manifest within the first few moments, hours, days, or weeks, we are tempted to give up and say that it wasn't really God. Or, worse yet, we complain to Father God. "I don't know why I didn't get to lead the choir (...get to preach in the sanctuary...or get to go on that mission trip). God, it's just not fair! I thought you loved me. You said you'd give me the desires of my heart, and it didn't happen!" [Pout, sniffle, sigh, stomp!]

I really like what James said in James 1:2-4 (KJV):
2 My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; 3 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. 4 But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
I've thought about that scripture, especially the part that says, "let patience have her perfect work," . How does patience have her perfect work? Let's look at what the author of Hebrews had to say in Hebrews 6:10-15 (AMP): [Bolded Emphasis Mine]

10 For God is not unrighteous to forget or overlook your labor and the love which you have shown for His name's sake in ministering to the needs of the saints (His own consecrated people), as you still do. 11 But we do [strongly and earnestly] desire for each of you to show the same diligence and sincerity [all the way through] in realizing and enjoying the full assurance and development of [your] hope until the end, 12 In order that you may not grow disinterested and become [spiritual] sluggards, but imitators, behaving as do those who through faith (by their leaning of the entire personality on God in Christ in absolute trust and confidence in His power, wisdom, and goodness) and by practice of patient endurance and waiting are [now] inheriting the promises. 13 For when God made [His] promise to Abraham, He swore by Himself, since He had no one greater by whom to swear, 14 Saying, Blessing I certainly will bless you and multiplying I will multiply you. 15 And so it was that he [Abraham], having waited long and endured patiently, realized and obtained [in the birth of Isaac as a pledge of what was to come] what God had promised him.

Did you see what it said!?! Faith people are to put "absolute trust and confidence" in God's power. We can't look at the clock or calendar and say, "Well, God hasn't come through, I guess I'll have to take care of the arrangements myself." (When we do that we end up with an Ishmael situation!) Nor can we say, "It didn't happen, I guess it just wasn't meant to be." And then go off and forget about the call.
In order for patience to have her perfect work, we must not give in to the temptation to give up! I heard someone share her testimony one time and she simply said, "I'm still here! I haven't given up!" It's hard when it seems like we've waited for "forever" and still haven't seen a manifestation of the promise or fulfillment of the call. But Hebrews says that it is "by practice of patient endurance and waiting" that we inherit His promises. The following picture was taken in 1986...TWENTY YEARS AGO...when I was training at Food For the Hungry's Missionary Training Center to do overseas missions and relief work in Africa.
Sandi in "The Kitchen"

At that time the call on my life was already several years old, and I was impatient then. It's twenty years later... I haven't set foot on African soil YET. But the call and the dream are still as fresh as they were 20+ years ago. And I'm Still Here! I haven't given up!

Monday, July 10, 2006

Part 3...Mission Destination: Your Own "Back Yard"

Well, back to my story which began two posts ago... I actually had part of it written yesterday, but thanks to a computer glitch...Anyway...:{ We headed off towards Mount Rogers to take Romulus back to his truck. During the 2 hour drive there we had a great time talking. Romulus is a Theology Professor at Berry College in Georgia, a ministry candidate in the Episcopal Church, a husband, and father of two children. He'd been homesick and wanted to get back as quickly as possible- thus the shuttle. He could have ridden back with his hiking partner the next day (at no cost), but felt an urgency to go the end of this post you'll see how God moves even when we're clueless! Anyway, Jed, Romulus, and I had an interesting conversation (we had a lot in common), and of course we got to talk about the Lord and how He works in our lives.

During our conversation Romulus asked me if he could send me a check when he got back to Georgia. He didn't have much cash on him, just plastic. Being as I try always to let the Lord lead in regards to shuttle fees, I said that was fine, as long as he could cover my round trip gas before we dropped him off. (He did that plus $30 cash before we left him.) I gave him my address so he could send a check to me. One thing that I've learned over the years is to trust God, not the people to whom I'm ministering, when it comes to finances. If I have a peace about something, it doesn't matter whether or not it looks in the natural like I'm going to come out on top, I always do! You can't out-give God! Anyway, we got to Romulus' truck, prayed with him, and headed back home. That seemed like the end of that story, but God wasn't done yet.

When I got back home around 11:30pm, Tin-Man and Scarecrow were already camped out in the spare room. In the morning I had an opportunity to cook them a good breakfast before they left and then brought them back to the trail about 7:00am. (I had to be in Lexington by 8:00am) Before I'd dropped them off, I'd gotten their email and blog information, and later that evening I logged on to check out their blog entries for the trip. I'm going to share an excerpt from it and the comment that I was able to make in response. I mostly minister to people by Love in Action, but in this caase I was able to share a little of my heart in words, too. Here's part of Scarecrow's blog entry:

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Trail Magic comes knocking.
There's a little thing called "trail magic" out here, and it comes in many forms. A gallon jug full of water sitting on the trail in a dry stretch, a surprise cooler of sodas and juice, even a fresh pizza delivery straight to a shelter or campsite around dinnertime. You never quite know when it's coming, but we've found there to be an endless source of trail angels out here to provide such welcome surprises. Don't have much time, and I'll hope to give a bit more explanation later, but I'm sitting at the computer of such a trail angel right now, by far the most helpful and generous we've encountered, Mouse's Motor. She lives in Salem, VA, and what started as a half mile lift back to the road ended up as multiple shuttles around the area, a warm and dry place to stay for the night (shower! i got to shower!), and a hot breakfast of sausage and eggs. Might we upgrade this to "trail miracle"? Think so. .... For now, we're happy, healthy, clean and dry, and immensely grateful to Mouse's Motor!!!

I was surprised to find myself (Mouse's Motor) as the topic of her journal entry, but it gave me an opening to minister. Here is part of what I was able to comment in response:

Sandi said...
Hey, Tinman and Scarecrow,I didn't expect to be the topic of your post- I'm only one of MANY people who are blessed by meeting people such as the two of you. My pastor preaches that, as Christians, we are blessed to be a blessing. That's what I strive to be to those around me. It's not saying much if you just do something for someone with expectations of getting something in return. When the experiences of your hike are just a distant memory, I pray that the knowledge of God's love for you will live on strong in your hearts. Anything good that I am or do is all because of Jesus.

Their lives have been touched by the Lord, and I believe that the seed sown into their lives will not return void.

I know I'm running long again, but I've got to get back to "the rest of the story" on Romulus. I went to the mailbox a couple days ago, and there was a letter from Romulus. The following is an excerpt from the letter:
Dear Sandi,
Thanks again for giving me a ride to my truck last Friday night. I was really eager to get home and you made that possible. My cell phone battery was basically dead, but I was able to check one message as I drove & learned from it that a friend of mine had died (not unexpectedly) & that the funeral was Saturday at 11:00. With the help of Coca-Cola, I drove all the way back, arriving about 3:30AM, & could therefore go to his funeral. That made getting back that much more important to me.

There was more to the letter, but that was the gist of it. It's an awesome thing to see how God orchestrates our steps to bring something together for someone when they don't even know they need it done. It was important to Daddy, God, that Romulus make it to his friend's funeral, because it would be important to Romulus. Oh, yeah, he was true to his word about sending me a check. In with the letter, which itself is priceless to me because it represents God's love and caring for his children, was a check for $100, which was a total blessing to Jed and I.

I stand in awe of the one who created each one of us. The one who knows the numbers of the hairs on my head, the one who cares about even the sparrow when it falls. Pastor always says, "We are blessed to be a blessing." And that is true. But it's a circle, because we are also blessed while being a blessing.

There's a story about a little boy who's walking on a beach. The beach is literally covered with starfish that had been washed up on the sand. As a man watches, the little boy picks up one starfish after another and throws each one back into the ocean. Finally, the man walks over and says, "Young man, you know you can't save all these starfish. There are just too many of them." The boy smiles as he reaches down and picks up one and then another. He turns to the man and replies, "No, I may not be able to save all of them, but I can save this one...and this one...and this one."

If we each reach out to "this one...and this one", all of those people whom God places in our paths, together we can impact OUR OWN "BACK YARD" for Christ. My heart for "Back Yard" ministry is in Trail Ministry...Yours might be the Moms at your child's school, the kids who play basketball down the street, or the guys at work. Be prayerful, be sensitive. If God could use a donkey, a raven, a fish, and even ME, I know he can use you, too! Grace and Peace!

Mission Destination: Our Own "Back Yard"...Part 2- Tin-Man, Scarecrow, and Romulus

Wow, time sure does fly! I didn't plan to take so long to post Part 2. But I've got more to add, so that's OK. In my last post, I had started to introduce you to the Trail Ministry that I've been able to do since 1998, and I was going to share some of the things that the Lord has done in the last month. Please read that last post before you finish reading this one.

My previous post mentioned giving rides to thru-hikers and even taking them home with you. Keep in mind, I'm speaking specifically about Appalachian Trail Thru-Hikers, NOT ordinary hitch-hikers (although I've picked up many of them, also) or other people groups. And remember my disclaimer: I only do things as led by the Holy Spirit. Some people I just smile at and drive on by!

The first group of hikers I want to share about includes a couple who stayed with me the night of June 23 and another hiker I picked up that same day. (That was during the several-day stretch of torrential rain that we got last month.) Earlier that day I had given short rides to several hikers...trail to store and store to trail. Two of those hikers were Tin-Man and Scarecrow (a.k.a. Andy and Lauren in the "real-world".) They had asked if I knew of anyplace to stay in the area, and I'd mentioned that The Homeplace in Catawba lets hikers camp out after 8:00pm and sleep on the gazeboes. In all, our conversation lasted all of about 5 minutes. About 15 minutes after I'd dropped them off, I realized...Duh! They could stay at my place! I drove to the next place where the trail would cross a road and left "Trail Mail"- a note in a Ziploc bag- hanging on the stile that crossed over the fence there. My note said I'd be at the NEXT road crossing at approx. 4:30-5:00 and that they could stay at my place.

I arrived about 15 minutes later than I'd planned, and they weren't there. A quick check of the trail register (~0.10 mile back down the trail) showed that they had already come through, so I headed down Catawba Mountain. I found them partway down and gave them a ride to The Homeplace. It wasn't raining much right then, so they said they'd stay there for the night. When I left them I went back to the first little store in Catawba, picked up two guys, Romulus (Harvey) and Coyote Paul (Jeff), and dropped them off at The Homeplace. As Romulus got out he asked if I did any long distance Professional Trail Shuttles (providing rides for hikers for a fee) and I said, "Sure!" He had just completed a section hike on the AT and his truck was parked at Mount Rogers. I made arrangements to come back later that evening and pick him up to shuttle him to his truck.

Normally, I call my son first to check his availability to ride with me when it's a guy, but I had a peace when I answered and I was sure Jed would be available (and he was). When Jed and I came back later to get Romulus, it was raining pretty hard and blowing. Even the protection of the gazeboes was not enough to keep the hikers dry. Tin-Man and Scarecrow came over to see if my offer was still good, so all three hikers and packs were loaded into the car. On the way to my place I learned that Tin-Man worked for the US Patent and Trademark Office for 3 1/2 years and that Scarecrow had just graduated from Yale. I dropped Tin-Man and Scarecrow off at my place, explained the idiosyncrasies of my shower knobs, showed them where the internet was, gave them the spare house key, and headed out towards Mount Rogers.

Well, I've gone long again, so I'm ending this hopes that I've drawn enough of your interest that you'll read the next one...and I'll finish my story in Part 3.