Saturday, September 20, 2014

Mercy Floats: A Free E-Book

What 18 year old knows the answer to the question, "What should I do with my life?"

I surely didn't. I only knew my restless soul and quitting college to move into an apartment with my best friend sounded like the fastest way to freedom.

My father saw straight to my heart and asked a new question, "What about missions?" Sitting together one evening in our family's basement office he opened

The faces caught me first. Before and after pictures of men, women, and children. Cleft lip and palate, goiters, cataracts, club feet, the joy of restored lives practically jumping through the screen.

"Why don't you do something like this?" Dad asked.

And I did. For two remarkable years I lived and worked on-board the Mercy Ship M/V Anastasis and sailed the western coast of Africa.

Wounded men, women, and children received back their dignity. The lame walked, the blind received sight, a future of promise and possibilities returned for the hopeless.

Mercy Floats is a collection of letters and stories sent home during the ship's outreach in Benin, West Africa.

The opportunity to live and work on the M/V Anastasis was a life changing gift for me. This book is my gift to you. It is my hope that the stories within these pages spark the same intense passion for a healed world in your heart as living them did in mine. They are a testimony of God's grace, love, and mercy for all the world.

To download the book click the book cover. This book is given freely, please feel free to share it as well. May it be an encouragement to you and all who read it.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Raging Sea

With the end of summer my inbox fills with stories and newsletters from friends having gone for a week or months as volunteer in some capacity. Some stay close to home, some go abroad. No matter where they've gone or for what length of time, my heart is on fire as I read their stories. 

My heart is on fire because that's how it began for me also. Raking leaves for the elderly in Chicago. Cleaning up school yards and helping with a kids program in Mexico. Playing with Hopi Indian children in Arizona. Building a medical clinic and loving on orphans in Benin. Holding hands and praying for the sick in The Gambia. Painting a school building in Sierra Leone. Working alongside church leadership in Guatemala. Hanging out with teens at the group home.

Those trips sparked a profound change in my heart. The deep desire to see the world healed and realising that I had a part, no matter how small it may be, took root and forever pulled my eyes up off myself.

Today it's six months in to this new life in Papua and I feel the change. It is deeper, more cutting this time. There is no relief after a week, month, or even year. I'm still here, still will be here, for years to come. And change keeps pounding at my heart door demanding to renovate the whole place.

Do you remember the story when Jesus fed thousands from five loaves and two fish? "You give them supper" he'd told his disciples. And despite their hard, unbelieving hearts Jesus worked his miracle and the disciples then gave out the food watching as each man, woman, and child had their fill.

Can you imagine it? You know there is no way this is possible, but somehow with all your doubts and limits it's still your hands that are handing out the miracle. You aren't just standing by witnessing the miraculous you, even in spite of yourself, are actively part of it. 

As soon as the meal was finished Jesus insists his disciples get in the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side. He's going up the mountain to pray and will meet them later. They get in an go. I can only imagine the conversations they must have been having by the end of that day.

Late that night a storm rises and the disciples struggling at the oars are badly battered by wind and waves. Fear overtakes them at the sight of Jesus walking across the raging sea. They were scared out of their wits."A ghost!" they said, crying out in terror.

But Jesus was quick to comfort them, "Courage, it's me. Don't be afraid." and Peter boldly asks to walk out on the waves. "Come ahead." Jesus responds, and Peter steps out of the boat.

Looking down Peter sees the waves and as fear overtakes he begins to sink. He cried, "Master, save me!" Jesus did not hesitate. He reached down and grabbed his hand. Then he said, "Faint-heart, what got into you?"

And that's where I find myself.

I've been part of the miracle. In all those weeks and months in other places it was my hands that carried and gave away grace and love both tangible and intangible.

Eyes still wide remembering miracles of how the smallest offering could multiply beyond our wildest dreams we got in the boat and headed to the other side.

These last few weeks a storm rages. The compounding loneliness of being away from family and friends, the continual stress of immersion into a new language and culture, the to-the-bone tired and brain ache that we just can't shake, the anticipation and sadness of soon leaving a town and friends we've come to love to start all over in a new town, waves and wind batter and we struggle at the oars.

Desperate for Jesus I jump out of the boat and as I sink in fear Jesus grabs my hand and I hear him say, "Faint-heart, what got into you?"

As the two of us climb back in the boat the wind and waves die down. How could I forget? All those miracles. My own hands a part of them.

"Faint-heart, what got into you?"  

I was afraid, Lord. I took my eyes off of you.

I'm sorry. I know better. Thank you for always rescuing me.

Italicised scripture quoted from Matthew 14: 13-31, The Message