On The Field Update
The camp leaders (Ukrainian, Polish & American) gather at 7:30 for devotions before our camp day begins. I got to lead them this morning. All day yesterday I was praying for God to lead me to what He would have me share because I honestly had no idea what that was going to be. Several people have shared this week their personal stories of how they struggled when God’s answer to their prayers came in a way they didn’t understand or expect, or when they had to wait so long for it. That kept coming back to my mind as well as the fact that many missionaries (short term or longer) struggle at some point with doubts about their presence, purpose, and effectiveness. I went to Isaiah 55:8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.” As I read the surrounding verses, I was blown away by the perfect connection to our garden theme and our teachings this week on the Fruit of the Spirit. My sweet friend Sasha said to include our personal stories, even though I’ve shared them before. Because I believe what I shared about God having a purpose much bigger and farther reaching than we would ever think, I’ll share the thoughts here too. Maybe there is something here that will encourage you.
Yesterday was our son Ethan’s birthday. And as we celebrated the blessing of having him in our lives, I couldn’t help but think about the circumstances leading up to his birth. Ben and I aren’t as crazy as some of you with your families of 5, 6, 7 kids. We had kinda thought we would have two. But many of you know that our second child, our daughter Grace, passed away at birth. There is a lot more to that story, of course. But sometimes when I look at Ethan I wonder if we would have him in our lives if Grace had lived. I don’t know why we had to go through that tragedy, but I know God has brought so much good from it. Sometimes the plans we make for our lives and what God has in mind are not the same. I think it is because it isn’t really about us at all. It’s about a much bigger picture.
There’s another example from my life… actually, from my parents before me. When my mom and dad were dating, my mom had an opportunity to use her medical training on the mission field by moving to Zimbabwe to help start a new medical clinic, and at that same time, my dad asked her to marry him. There were several circumstances that meant that she had to choose between the two. You might assume she would choose the mission field, that choosing to marry my dad might seem like she must be ignoring God’s calling on her life. But she prayed and prayed about the decision, as was sure that she was making the right choice when she accepted the proposal. 45 years later, she was able to visit that exact medical clinic, which is still successful, and meet the people God had called there. And in that time, God has used her and my dad to minister to hundreds of college kids for several decades. They also raised my brother and I. We both have wonderful God-following spouses, who we partner with in multiple aspects of ministry and mission work, including our attempts to raise the next generation to follow and serve God. So my Mom obeyed what she felt God was telling her, even when it didn’t seem to make sense, and that one decision has had a ripple effect that has resulted in a much bigger spreading of the gospel in several countries.
I want to read Isa 55:6-13
Seek the LORD while he may be found;
call on him while he is near.
Let the wicked forsake their ways
and the unrighteous their thoughts.
Let them turn to the LORD,
and he will have mercy on them,
and to our God, for he will freely pardon.
‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,’
declares the LORD.
‘As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
You will go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
will clap their hands.
Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper,
and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.
This will be for the LORD’s renown,
for an everlasting sign,
that will endure forever.’
God’s ways, His thoughts, are so much greater than our human minds can understand. He is a master gardner. He sends out His Word like rain and it will not return empty. It will produce joy and peace, and all the other Fruit of the Spirit we are learning about this week.
You may have moments when you wonder why God brought you here, what your role is, or if there is anything you are accomplishing for the Kingdom. Trust the God who brought you to this place, time and purpose. Even if you never get to see the fruit yourself, He is is growing a garden beyond your imagination and you get to plant some seeds.
Day 3 Pictures
Click pictures to enlarge, then right-click to save images.
I know it’s been almost a week since my last update, but there has just been no time to blog. Since our trip to the concentration camp we have…
- said goodbye to the team from Savannah, GA
- finished the time with the Holocaust Survivors and said goodbye to our new friends from Israel
- “flipped the camp” (aka lots of cleaning, preparing beds, etc.)
- welcomed a new team from Rhode Island
- planning and preparations for Ukrainian Children’s Camp
- welcomed 80 kids and leaders
- finished two very full days of camp
Our title of this camp is “New Me” – The Fruit of the Spirit with a garden theme I (Rachel) was privileged to teach the very first lesson, in which I introduced the theme and taught the first characteristic – LOVE. I made the kids recite the day’s memory verse (“We love because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:19), and they had to express love by giving me a hug, in order to leave the chapel for canteen. It might have been partially a selfish ploy to get a hug from every single one of these precious kids, but I’m not ashamed to admit it! 😉
One of my roles is to put together a picture video for the evening session, so even if I don’t have time to write much, I’ll at least share those. You’ll be able to see all the great things going on and pray over this week with us!
Today was our trip to Stutthof Concentration Camp with the Holocaust Survivors. As you might imagine, it is always a somber time as we walk through the camp. But there is a Star of David monument next to the gas chamber where the atmosphere always takes a little turn. Many pick up rocks to place at the base in remembrance. This year someone had added a sign that read “Next Generation Israel”. Then we join hands in a circle around the monument for prayer and a few songs – a declaration that the Jewish nation that still lives! I was honored to stand between two of them, one a big man with a soft heart who was a little emotional as the singing began. I felt him squeeze my hand tight and he gave me a little half-smile and a kiss on the hand as the circle broke. Although we can’t communicate in words, I pray that the love of God is just pouring out of us into them.
We’ve been very busy with the Holocaust Survivors. Thursday was a nice road trip to Gdańsk, a beautiful city on the Baltic Sea. Yesterday, we did various activities at and near the camp (flea market, crafts, kayaking, etc) with them followed by a wonderful celebration to begin Shabbat – dinner, dancing, and a concert from guest musicians I could have listened to all night. Today, we held Olympic Games. This is one of my favorite days during this camp. They get so into the competition and it is just a great opportunity to just hang out with them.
Kazik has shared that he doesn’t think any of our Jewish friends came to this camp believing in Jesus, but there are some questions being asked that indicate they may leave different than they came. If not believers, at least with seeds planted and hearts a little more open to the possibility. Keep praying to that end!
Here is a collection of pictures to illustrate the events of these days.
Reblog from embracing-grace.org
Remembering our dear Grace, who would be turning 13 this year.
During our morning devotions today, our friend Jeff shared some words from Tony Evans about trials. It seemed very fitting for this day.
Trails can come from a number of directions. Sometimes God sends you a trial to teach you a specific lesson. At other times, it comes simply because you live in a sin-cursed world, and the curse rubs off on you. So you become the victim of a crime or accident or illness that crashes into your life. Sometimes trials are the result of your own sin. You yield to a temptation that leads to a set of circumstances that are tough to deal with. And don’t forget that the enemy can attack you with trials for the purpose of bringing about your spiritual defeat. So my concern is not so much the source of your trials, but what you do when they show up. How you respond to cataclysmic circumstances has a lot to do with what shape you’re in when you come out on the other side. (emphasis mine) The good news is, you’re not out there alone, because no matter what the source of your trial is, God has the situation well in hand. He can work out His purposes.
When you are going through a tragedy, you can either choose to run from God or towards Him. My whole life, I had been taught to trust God even when I don’t understand – that He is loving and good, always. So when tragedy struck our family and we lost our little Grace, I ran to Him. And that has made all the difference. I don’t know why we had to go through it, and I’m not sure it even matters, but I know beyond a doubt that God has brought good from it.
We are spending this week with Holocaust Survivors in Poland – people who have seen tragedy, hatred, and trials on a scale most of us can’t even begin to imagine. They may have spent years running from God as a result. Our purpose here is to show them the transforming power of turning around and running to Him instead.
The Holocaust Survivors arrived from Israel yesterday and we have gotten off to a great start together. Each year has been different, but this group seems to be particularly receptive to our being here with them. I was able to get to know Natalie, who is a physician and a psychologist. I helped her with her bags when they first arrived and then got to talk with her further later in the evening. She said that her training has helped her to discern between genuine and forced expressions of love, and she felt true love and warmth when I hugged her. It is her first time here and she wasn’t sure what to expect, but now is glad she came and is looking forward to the week. Thank you, God, for pouring Your love out through me and allowing me to be your messenger. I pray that hug will open her heart to receive so much more.
I was also able to meet Paula, who was helping Natalie and I communicate. She has an amazing testimony, which I got a preview of, but I will save that story for another post as I think she will be able to share it more fully later in the week.
Before bed, Kazik (our friend who lives in Warsaw and is a Christian-Jewish pastor teaching during this camp) met with the American team to talk about our plans for the week. He gave us a simple, but profound focus…
“Answer the question they aren’t asking.”
This is our mission.
This morning, Kazik asked each of them to introduce themselves and say a few words. There were many comments of how welcome they felt when they arrived. I made note of a few of the comments…
“We have been through all the hells there are, but now it is good.”
“It’s hard to believe that people would be so nice and warm to us.”
“I would just like there to be peace everywhere, and I am reminded that there can be peace when I am here. “
He primed the week with a small story of a situation when there were many women behind him, but among them he could recognize one voice – Dorota. How could he identify her voice among so many? Because he has been listening to that voice for 40 years of marriage, in a close relationship. How can we hear the voice of God? A thought for all of us to ponder.
We visited Ostróda with them this afternoon and then met for our evening session where Kazik shared his story of becoming a Christian and then, later in life, learning that he was a Jew. Often, there is little mention of Jesus in the early days of this camp. Many are very closed to teaching that Jesus is the Messiah, and would put up a wall immediately if they felt they had been brought here to be converted. Nevertheless, Kazik has been bold with his message right from the start this year.
It’s going to be a great week.