Smith Chapel

They needed help. The family had no place to live, few possessions and even less money.  Each day looked bleaker than the one before. Life in the local shelter grew depressing as they saw no way out. The world seemed dark and uncaring and yet….

Their situation caught the attention of a small church on Highway H and life began to brighten. Ron & Lucinda talked about what they could do and decided to take a risk. They invited the strangers to live in their home.

Jacob is only about 11 and as young as he is, he saw the need too. He looked in his own pocket and realized there wasn’t much there. Although he had no jingle in his jeans, he looked into his heart and there he found an idea! Jacob also knew an idea without action produces nothing. He did what every wise young businessman does, he got counsel from those who had lived longer and experienced more. Together Jacob, his parents and his church family put together rummage sale….two of them, in fact!  From idea and action, the family received some items they needed plus over $700.00 in cash! To them it seemed like they won the lottery!

As the church looked around to other communities beyond their own, they saw ways they could help other families in need as well. Tanya leads events in the surrounding small towns and connects with other church denominations. Building the Body of CHRIST in her area of influence is her specialty! When they discover kids don’t have enough to eat, they feed them. When they see people need clothes, they clothe them. They love and encourage with reckless abandonment!

Sunday Pastor Barry celebrated their leadership in loving and serving. He gave each one of them a basket made in a third world country. The weavers there are paid by a Christian ministry  so that the local workers can earn a living for their family and maintain their dignity. I found it interesting that the good pastor supports and encourages the efforts his local missionaries to America while supporting the economy and ministry efforts of those abroad.

Smith Chapel is located on Highway H in Marshall, Missouri. Their address is no coincidence because the “H” stands for HOPE and they freely give it to all in need. H.O.P.E. …. Helping Other People Everywhere

Mosquitoes

Anyone who has been camping knows how annoying mosquitoes can be. They seem to have a knack for finding spots on your body that a contortionist couldn’t scratch! Their favorite targets are behind the knee  or at the very center of the back!

Some circumstances in life are a lot like mosquitoes. They are not life threatening. It’s no good to complain about them, yet it just feels good to be released from frustration by letting out a good whine.

We are in the process of moving…again. It seems these last few years all we do is pack and unpack. In the course of all the things that could happen in a person’s life, THIS is nothing! Everyone has gone through it we reason, but somehow that doesn’t matter much when you are annoyed.

At this point we do not have the option to buy a place of our own and so that puts us in the position of  renting. We are also in the middle of scheduling 2013 speaking engagements and it looks like we may be on the road for 2-3 months next summer. If we lease, we end up paying rent for an apartment we don’t live in for 60-90 days. If we pay month to month, we have to move again in another 6 months plus put our furniture in storage. We already have a bunch of “stuff” stored at our friends’  house for the past three years. That’s a bit of an imposition on our friends (although they assure us it isn’t)….

Don’t expect you to fix anything, just needed to vent a bit and have someone pat my hand and say “There, there. Everything will be just fine.”  Thanks for listening. Sometimes, when you’re not around. I talk to GOD about these things. He’s a great listener, too!  Just the other day I had some cheese and whine and He patted my hand and said “Everything works for good…”

The Indigent

It was winter and he was living outside. He was chilled to the bone even when the wind didn’t blow. The two women he loved most in his life, both lost the war against cancer. An only child, and now he was alone. He drank to forget but that didn’t help so he smoked crack cocaine and he fell deeper and deeper into depression and isolation.

The Salvation Army offered a a warm place to sleep and he took it. He didn’t want the help. He hated asking for help although he knew he needed help. His days were lost in a fog; his nights in self pity. Mike didn’t know where to go or what to do. Each Saturday, he would go to Monroe Park. Christians came there to tell people about Jesus. “I don’t need to know about Jesus,” Mike thought. “I just need some help.”
It never dawned on Mike that Jesus was the help he needed. He thought he needed money and a job and a place to live and food. He needed a way to get all that. He hated asking for help but…this Saturday, he did. Not only did these Christians tell him about Jesus but they told him that Jesus was the Way….to get straight, get right, get a job, money and food. That day Mike took his first step forward; he listened, he believed and he accepted Jesus Christ as His Saviour.
These Christians didn’t just pray for him, they took him to a group home, got him working doing whatever needed to be done and got some food in his belly. He did all sorts of jobs for nearly six months before he told them…he was a dentist!
A dentist! Dentists aren’t homeless. They’re highly educated professionals. Dentists make lots of money, marry beautiful women and have children with a perfect smile. Whoever heard of a indigent dentist? Scripture, however, tells us that it rains on the just and the unjust. In the words I saw on a passing tee-shirt “Life Happens!”
He had lost his license due to his lifestyle but he soon began to learn that all things are possible with God. Through a series of events orchestrated by the Holy Spirit and the encouragement and love of Christians and Mike’s own courage, his life was resurrected! Little by little God has driven off alcohol, drugs and unworthiness

and Mike is getting stronger. Soon he’ll be able to be take full possession of the promised land of his life. Today Mike is working in a dental practice in Northern Virginia. He’s in the re-learning phase of things since his profession has advanced in his absence.
I share this story with you because I met Mike today. As I sat across the table, I had a difficult time imagining him as a drunken, dirty, smelly, homeless man. He was clean cut, personable, bright and in love with the Lord. Although he is a textbook example of the transformation that a life yielded to Christ makes, I wondered…..
How many people do I write-off as beyond help? How many homeless people have I passed by and didn’t speak with? And if my judgment was right 99 times out of 100…how about the one where I was wrong…isn’t the one worth the effort?

Saturday in America

Walking through Richmond, I noticed a woman sitting on a low wall watching me approach. “Got any money?”, she asked with a shameless smile. “What do you want with money?, I replied. “Need to get a cup of coffee and something to eat.”

I fumbled in my bag….DVD’s, phone, rock, a small bag of almonds and raisins but no cash. I always carry twenty one dollar bills in a small pouch to share as I can with folks along the way. It always freaks them out to have a “holy man” give them money. I think most folks have the idea that you give to “church” people but they don’t give to you. I looked around but couldn’t find the cash; must have left it in the RV, I thought. I offered Marie my snack of almonds and raisins but she politely refused.

Walking down route one, I turned onto Azalea St. and made my way to Chamberlayne. I hear a loud angry voice behind me but didn’t know if someone was calling me or just shouting. I walked to the corner, crossed halfway across the street and heard the angry voice getting closer. The traffic light had changed and I was stranded on the island in the middle of the street with traffic coming. I turned around to face “the voice” and I saw an unstable gentleman with matted dreadlocks, a multicolored beret style chapeau and a four foot long piece of PVC pipe heading my way.

He joined me on the island and asked me what I was doing. When I shared I was walking for Christ, his response was a loud and angry “BULLSH*T!” He then informed me he was a Muslim (a fact I’m not sure that they would be happy about) and then said “ALLAH!” several times. The light changed and we walked across the street together. I thought he was going straight and I was turning but as the second light changed, my friend went with me. I asked Willie why he was so angry and he went on a tirade about white people and the government. This was the first time I was glad to have a dark tan.

I told him people were people; some good some bad. I shared that I knew good black people and bad black people; good whites and nasty whites. Oddly, he agreed and told me of how he was very drunk one day and dropped his wallet containing $25.00. Three white women were following him, picked up his wallet and returned to him money intact. He was very surprised and touched by that.

He asked me if I wanted to go with him and get a beer. I said “I don’t do that any more.” He laughed. “Any more? That’s funny.” He asked me what changed me and I told him Christ. He just looked at me. As we continued to talk, I realized that Willie’s mental capacity was severely damaged by his lifestyle. He was not a man you could reason with but he was a man who you could plant seeds into.

Willie spoke of his wife very tenderly. He took care of her, he said. I wondered about their life and how they came down this road. I could see that beneath his cursing and anger was a heart that deeply cared for a woman. “I don’t know what I would do without her” he said. His demeanor was calm and serious. I wanted to dwell on his goodness at this moment so I said, “We know you’re a good man, Willie.” “WHOSE WE? He yelled.
“You and I, Willie. You and I” I replied half-laughing. He smiled.

He took my hand. “I’ve got to get back to my wife. She’s down there.” He said pointing south. I said “No, Willie, you have to up that street. That’s where I met you.” He held onto my hand and then we hugged. “Love ya, Willie.” I whispered…don’t know if he heard me. He zig-zagged across the street, waving his PVC pipe and shouting things I couldn’t understand.

I hadn’t gone far when I briefly encountered another man of the streets begging on an island between traffic. He, like Marie, asked me for money and again all I could offer was almonds and raisins. He was hungry; he took them.

I wonder about people; the roads we travel, the choices we make. What happens? I envisioned all three of these people as toddlers and then a great wave of sadness overcame me. It seems to be the way of the world; the way it’s always been…even in America. There are some you can help, some who can’t receive help and some who don’t want to be helped. So what are we, as Christians, to do?

Simply love them as best we can.
Pray for them as they come to mind.
Be thankful for what we have.
Share as we are able.

Surely

“My mother died in 2005 and since that time it seems my siblings can’t get along with each other. My father is still with us and I want us to become close again but I don’t know what else to do.” Joanna was beginning to get emotional.

Here we were on the street: a little 4’8″ bald headed white guy dressed funny and a 5’10” heavy-set black woman hugging each other as cars whizzed by and people looked on. Neither one of us cared a lick. I knew Christ, she knew Christ but more importantly…He knows us.

I love to pray for people as I walk; so many people and so many different issues. Some ask for healing of their grandpa from cancer, others ask for a touch of God upon their handicapped child. I always feel a twinge of sadness in my heart and a certain sense of gratitude as I quietly thank God that those problems aren’t afflicting my family.

This prayer request was different though. This one touched me and troubled me. It touched me because my own family is fragmented. It troubled me because family divisiveness is avoidable and correctable. Conflict in the family is almost always a matter of pride. We don’t understand each other and we’re too proud to ask for clarification. We have expectations that are never expressed and yet when they’re not met…we’re hurt. We have unrealistic views of what a family should look like and how “it” should act.

Friends are people we choose to have in our life. Family are people who are involved in our life through adoption, birth or marriage. Once you’re family…you’re family forever. Surely, we can put aside our pride for a moment and get along to share a meal or a holiday. Surely, we can pray that God bless our family (even the ones who push our buttons) with His best. If we can’t stand to be with “that woman” for an hour, surely we could be nice for twenty minutes and casually her presence.

God whispered to me as I walked today, “Nick, make an effort to be your best, regardless of response. Time is fleeting and life is precious.”

Sloooooow and Eeeeassy

Speed is matter of perception. A hundred miles an hours is a fast clip for a car but is very slow for a commercial aircraft. Ten miles an hour is a pace that just might win a marathon but will finish dead last in a sprint.

My perception is continually shifting when I think of this, our third 3300 mile walk across America for Christ. Deep within me, I want to be the hare, fully of energy and speed, and anxious to finish; gotta go, gotta do, hurry, hurry!
Like Dorothy, I want to get back to Kansas; to our friends and our church and familiar surroundings. Even though it’s summer, I find myself humming, “I’ll be home for Christmas. You can count on me.”

But, God and Lucy remind me, the journey is not about miles nor speed nor time. 3300 miles is just the name of the journey that tells us when we began and when we finish. The walk for Christ is about people. It’s about acknowledging Christ, building relationships, listening to stories, looking for people’s strengths and assets and encouraging them to use what they’ve got. It’s about loving people as best we can whenever we can. That all takes time and cannot be rushed.
God and Lucy remind me that the beginning our trip was fraught with mishaps and so it may be at the end. The significance of this mission trip is not determined by speed in which it is completed. Our culture values an action by how quickly it is done. God measures by how nobly a thing is done. Our job is to simply take our time and love well as we go.
Slow and easy wins the race,
Embrace God’s people and feel God’s grace.
Slow and easy; no need to hurry.
Don’t be anxious, fret or worry.
Bless and love as best you can
Take time to love your fellow man.
“Slow and easy,” whispers Christ,
“To show some kindness and just be nice.”

Grumpy Almost Misses It

“Where are you going?”

I was deep in thought and didn’t like the idea of being disturbed, plus I hadn’t been in the best of moods the last couple of days. Even though I was walking America for Christ, I didn’t greet Officer Benson with any of the joy of Jesus in my heart. We went through the normal routine…”Name…Birth date..License…wait for a moment while I run this.”
As the officer did his job, the Holy Spirit spoke to me. “You’re not being very nice.” “I know,” I mumbled back. I was beginning to mentally beat myself up when I heard from the Holy Spirit again. “I’m not condemning you, Nick. I’m just reminding you that you are better than you’re acting. A little smile or pleasant conversation wouldn’t

hurt.”
I noticed that police car said commercial law enforcement. I said, “I have a question for you”. He leaned against his vehicle, smiled and said “I have a couple of questions for you too.”
Well, it turns out there are only about 45 commercial law enforcement units in the state. They check on the weight of the trucks and in general, make sure the truckers are doing what they are suppose to be doing. As Steve and I talked….yes, police officers do have first names…I found out he was a born again believer, teaches Sunday School, is currently doing a series on the differences between Christianity and Islam and has a heart for people who do not know the Lord. He also has a group called Friends 4 Life that is open to all denominations and prays for needs as they arise. I enjoyed listening to his passion for the Lord and I began to genuinely like him.
As we parted company, the Holy Spirit reminded me of how close I came to missing out on meeting this wonderful man of God. Steve and I are friends on Facebook now and I have the feeling we’re going to be friends for a long time. He has about five years or so before he retires from the force but I wouldn’t be surprised if we found ourselves in the mission field together.

Pray With or For Someone Today

Ecclesiastes 1:9 tells us that there is nothing new under the sun. Thousands of years have passed since that was written and many “outside” things…clothes, architecture, modes of transportation… have changed….but people, well, we’re pretty much the way we were in the days of Solomon.

As we travel, we have met people who have endured the suicide of a spouse, the sudden death of a child, those who have battled sexual misconduct and others who have served time in prison. We have encountered addicts that are clean and those who cannot or will not get clean.

There have been families split apart because of misunderstanding and marriages wrecked because of financial pressure. We have met people who take all they can get and others who give without any thought of getting. We pray for them and with them without seeing any physical evidence that anything has changed. Sometimes we are tempted to get discouraged but then we remember… “faith comes by hearing” and then we remember: we are traveling America doing our best to plant seeds of faith by telling people about Almighty God.

As human beings, we don’t know what is going on in anyone’s heart or mind. We don’t know what to say to encourage them or lighten their load but the Holy Spirit does. So all any of us can do is ask the Holy Spirit to allow us to be a blessing to the person we are about to talk with.

Prayer doesn’t always change circumstances but we do know that prayer always changes people. Changed people move from the fear of society who criticizes them to faith in a God who loves them.

Lord, please let those we talk with today hear Your voice and invite You into their life. Help them to understand that You love them and that what they do with their life matters.

What If….

Throughout Scripture we are told that what we say has an impact on our lives. Speak sickness and lack and chances are you will have sickness and lack. Speak blessings and health and they manifest. Whatever we dwell on, we speak. Whatever we speak, we seem to support by our actions. Our actions, in turn, create our world.
Proverbs 18:21 says the power of death and life are in the tongue. Proverbs 12:14 says that a man is filled with good things from the fruit of his lips. Mark 11:22-24 says to have faith in God; whatever we say and do not doubt but believe it will come to pass…will be done for us. Jesus tells us again in John 16:24 to ask and we will receive and our joy will be complete.
What if Scripture were true? What if we could shape our world with God’s words in our mouth? Would you be willing to give it a try? Lucyah and I have listened to the words that came out of mouth and wondered….Why did we say that? That’s not what we want AND that’s not what Scripture says.

We’ve actually heard ourselves say “We can’t afford that?” when Scripture tells us we are the children of God and He owns all the silver and gold and the only reason we have not is because we ask not! Deuteronomy 8:18 tells us that God has given us the power to get wealth. So the question is…Are we using the power (speaking God’s Word to begin with) to get what we say we want?
“My back is killing me” comes from our lips instead of “my God is healing me.” The Word of God tells us we are healed by His stripes. The same Holy Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead raises me right now from a bed of sickening symptoms.
So…let’s get physically and financially well. Let’s start speaking God’s Word and thanking Him for the positive results that are starting to take root. Whenever you get tempted to confess a negative circumstance, speak one of these instead:

I AM healed by His stripes. (1 Peter 2:24). As I live longer, I get wiser, healthier, younger and stronger!

I AM getting all my needs met by my Father and all my desires are satisfied with good things. (Philippians 4:19 & Psalm 103:5).

I AM exercising my authority over the enemy; nothing harms me. No weapon formed against me prospers! (Luke 10:19 & Isaiah 54:17)



A Time For Every Season

Nothing works outs as planned. In a week’s time, we should have walked from Lynchburg to Charlottesville. Instead a week passed and we were still in Lynchburg!

Our new friend, Haniel, was working on a new web site for us and needed us to be around for a few days. Getting about five miles to the gallon with the RV, we didn’t see any reason to walk and then keep driving back each day. Lynchburg had a WalMart and that provided a place for us to park each night without a hassle.
Our good friend Pastor Bill Zulker has a sister (Betty) in town and we wanted to stop and give her a hug from him but we couldn’t connect with her. Then we received a message from a man who simply said he was told

to contact us. We wondered what that meant? It turned out that the mystery caller was a friend of Betty’s and when he called again, he invited over his home. Wallace & Elinor Turnbull were missionaries in Haiti for sixty years! They now work with the Haitian students that attend Liberty University. While we were visiting with them and hearing some of their marvelous stories, we learned that Betty was in the hospital and they took us over to visit her. Betty was every bit as delightful as her brother Bill. We managed to sneak in to see her again before we departed Lynchburg
During our travels, I noticed that the front tire was wearing badly on the inside and so we used our time to find a place that could do a front end alignment on our RV. I knew we would need one new tire but as it turned out we needed two! Piedmont Fleet Service was jammed up but service manager Louis fit us in on Friday morning. One look around made me feel confident in who we were dealing with. They service all the Emergency vehicles and firetrucks in the area and the place is so clean you could eat off the floor….really!
Now the day before we were scheduled to go to Piedmont, we had a flat. It was 11:30am and starting to get a little toasty. We called Good Sam’s and they told us help would be on the way…in two to three hours! Four hours later, a very nice policewoman stopped and asked if help was on the way. We explained the situation and
she called Good Sam’s who tracked down the truck coming to help. They said he should be there “any minute” and the officer said….in a deep officer-like voice “I’m waiting with these people.” Lucy and I were so excited! Our champion had arrived!

Twenty minutes later, the officer asked us to call again. Once again her strong voice asked with a tinge of impatience, “Where is he?” After some fumbling and “I’ll call him,” they said “He just turned on your road.” About five minutes later the driver arrived and started changing the tire. As I turned to thank the officer for the help, I saw her drive off. I said to Lucy, “We didn’t even get her name.” Just then I got a childhood flashback of a masked man and his Indian companion riding out of town.
I’m nor sure, but I think Lucy said. “Why, that’s the Lone Ranger.”
I checked to see how the tire changing was coming along and as it turned out we had two flats on the same side! The inner tire went flat putting extra weight on the outside tire. Plus the heat we’ve been having just made things worse and the outside tire blew. It was 5:00pm by the time we got back on the road. We were on our way to All Peoples Church to meet Haniel and Carmen. What a loving group of people…small church…big heart!
It’s been a most interesting week but as much as I enjoyed it all. I’m ready to get back on the road!