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Prayer Requests from Sutherland Springs

One week ago today a gunman walked into First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas and opened fire during the Sunday morning worship service. Twenty-six worshippers were killed. The other 20 in attendance were injured. In this community of just 400 people, everyone lost someone – a mother, father, sister, brother, daughter, son, or friend.

Is Prayer Enough?

Some have gone to Sutherland Springs in the wake of this tragedy to help. To feed, to counsel, to hug. Most of us have watched from a distance. Wondering what, if anything we can do. We can pray. But is it enough?

An MSNBC journalist asked Pastor Paul Buford the same question. Buford is the pastor of River Oaks Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, just down the road from the First Baptist Church. Buford’s church immediately became the ministry center for the families and law enforcement after the shooting. Buford’s answer was unequivocal. “Absolutely. We know prayer works. It brings comfort to the one praying and the ones being prayed for.”

The Apostle Paul also knew prayer works. In his second letter to the believers in Corinth, Paul asked them to continue to help him by their prayers (2 Corinthians 1:10-11). We can help Sutherland Springs with our prayers. Let us boldly approach God’s throne of grace on their behalf in the days and weeks ahead.

Specific Prayer Requests from Sutherland Springs

Sometimes we want to pray but aren’t sure how or what to pray. We can always pray “generically,” but I wanted to pray specifically. So, I contacted Martha Buford, the wife of the pastor at River Oaks Church in Sutherland Springs. I’ve known Paul and Martha for years and have ministered with them a couple of times in the past. Martha graciously shared some specific needs that are immediate and pressing. The following requests come straight from Martha:

Pray for today’s worship service at River Oaks Baptist Church – The sister church of First Baptist Sutherland Springs is holding services this morning, Sunday, November 12th, at 9:30 am. Please pray for each soul in attendance. There may be many there who don’t know Jesus. Pray for their hearts to be inclined towards Him. Pray for God’s name to be glorified. Pray for peace and comfort but also joy to be experienced as the community worships together. Pray for Paul Buford, the pastor of River Oaks, as he leads the service. Pray that God will give him boldness and wisdom as he proclaims God’s Word, and strength as he ministers. Paul is also grieving the loss of friends.

Pray for God to strike down the spirit of fear that threatens the community – Martha shared that the children of River Oaks are afraid to come to church today. Last Sunday morning, during the gunfire, River Oaks church went into lockdown mode. Just imagine how that event alone impacted the children in the nursery. The photo below is from the grounds of River Oaks Church earlier this week. They have been purposefully working with the children to ease their fear.

Volunteers playing with Sutherland Springs children. Used with permission.

Pray for the mourners as they attend funerals – Funeral services will be held every day this week. Remember, everyone in the community was either related to or knew everyone. They will all be attending service after service. Every day. Please pray for their emotional and physical strength and stamina. Pray for God’s unique comfort to hold them up. Pray for the privacy they need to mourn. Pray for all the details of each service to fall into place.

Pray for the family that lost 8 members – Everyone is devastated, but this family has also been decimated. One man lost his wife, five children, and his parents. Please pray for his emotional and spiritual healing.

God is Working in Sutherland Springs

One specific thing I have been praying is that God will be gloried and the Gospel proclaimed. As I wrote in an earlier post, God did not cause this tragedy, but His is working in it and through it. He is glorifying His name through His people in Sutherland Springs. If you’d like to know more, watch this video interview with Paul and Martha Buford.

Let’s keep praying. Our prayers do help. They do make a difference. Let us be faithful.

Let me know in the comments how you are praying for the community of Sutherland Springs. 

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10 Tips to Help Your Speaker Do Her Job

Women's MinistryNot long ago I spoke at a women’s retreat in another state. When I arrived at the hotel, a few members of the women’s ministry team were gathered around the registration table in “panic mode.” Several things had gone wrong at the last minute, the name tags were missing, and a snowstorm was rolling in.

You know what? The women who attended didn’t notice any of these things. They enjoyed the fellowship and God’s Word ministered to their hearts. The weekend was wonderful – snowstorm and all – because the women’s ministry team had focused on the most important things.

We women do love all the special touches at an event. But decorations and door prizes are like fancy wrapping on a package. It’s the contents in the package – the spiritual message and personal ministry – your women will take home.

This women’s team made sure the content of the event met the needs of their women by providing me with everything I needed to prepare and taking good care of me while I was there. They enabled me to carry out my ministry to the best of my ability.

Want your event to meet the needs of your women? Use these tips to help your speaker minister as effectively as possible to your women.

  1. Give her one contact – More than likely, your speaker is working with multiple churches at a time. If every member of your team contacts her about different aspects of the event it only distracts her from her task. Appoint one woman on your team to be the speaker’s contact. Then let her handle all communication with your speaker.
  2. Pray for her – Your speaker needs your prayers both before and during the event. She may have spiritual struggles, family issues, or illness. Be purposeful by putting it on your event to-do list. Ask your team to join you in praying for her and help them know how to pray. (See “6 Ways to Pray for Your Speaker.”)
  3. Remember her job description – Over the years, I’ve been asked for decorating input, sample retreat schedules, and help with technology. Even though I don’t mind helping when I can, it does take me away from my primary task – preparing the message from God’s Word. Your speaker probably has multiple women’s events for multiple churches on her calendar. Help her keep her focus on her God-given task. Don’t ask for her opinion on the food or with games.
  4. Diffuse any “landmines” – A couple of years ago, I was half-way through a retreat when one of the members of the ministry team told me the church had recently discovered their pastor was having an affair. I quickly reflected on the talk I’d already given. Had I said anything that would have poured salt in the wound? Make your speaker aware of any big issues happening in your church or with any of the women in attendance that could affect her messages or her interaction with the women before she comes.
  5. Give her the demographics – The more your speaker knows about your women the better she can target the message. Give her details like age range, level of spiritual maturity, and church background. Are most of them stay-at-home moms? Or do they work outside the home? Is your church in an affluent suburb or the inner city?
  6. Share the purpose of the event – Make your speaker aware of the primary reason you’re holding the event. Is the event your big, annual outreach event or a retreat for spiritual renewal? The nature of the event greatly affects not only your speaker’s message, but her delivery as well. She wants to help you reach your goal.
  7. Set aside a “ministry area” – When I speak at a women’s event, my ministry task goes beyond just voicing a message. I believe God has me there to minister to the spiritual needs of the women in attendance. Yes, that’s giving the message, but it’s also praying and talking with women one on one. But that requires a quiet corner. Set aside a spot – either a separate room or a discreet corner where your speaker can meet individually with women.
  8. Enable her larger ministry – Many women’s speakers bring books and other materials to your event. Provide outgoing, dependable women to run her product table so she can focus on your women. Bless your speaker by telling the audience about the book table yourself and encouraging them to visit it. Many speakers feel awkward “marketing” themselves. Do it for her so she can minister freely.
  9. Watch for “monopolizers” – You know these ladies because they’ve also demanded a lot of your time. Whether she wants to share her life story, pour out all her problems, or talk to your speaker about how she can get into speaking too, you may need to run interference so all your ladies have an opportunity to connect with your speaker.
  10. Provide a private sleeping room and bathroom – Many speakers ask for this in their speaking agreement. It’s not that she is “anti-social” or demanding (usually anyway!). No, your speaker needs a quiet, private place where she can go to pray and prepare to speak to your ladies.

Your speaker longs to be effective. She desires for God to use her in the lives of your women. You can help her help them.

What other ways can you think of to help your women’s event speaker?

 

 

 

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Glimpses of Bangladesh

Want to expand your view of our great God? Just travel to the other side of the world. He is already there, working in every culture, in every people group, revealing Himself to every race in every language.

This time last week I was in Bangladesh, in South Asia, with a team of 7 women. Our primary purpose was to lead a retreat for teenage girls at the Light of Hope Learning Center. This center provides basic education, life skills, and biblical teaching to at-risk girls from the slums of Bangladesh.

Safety issues limit what I can show you and tell you here, but I can share a few glimpses.

Our team spent 7 days in Bangladesh not counting travel time. We worked at 3 different day centers in two cities, spent some time with local Christians, prayer walked through a Bihari refugee camp, and visited with people in a Dhaka slum area.

Our team outside the guest house where we stayed.

Our team outside the guest house where we stayed.

Geneva Camp for Bihari refugees in Dhaka.

Geneva Camp for Bihari refugees in Dhaka.

Playing a relay game with the girls at one of the centers.

Playing a relay game with the girls at one of the centers.

Visiting with children in a Dhaka slum.

Visiting with children in a Dhaka slum.

slums 10

Laughter and sweet smiles.

Bangladesh needs Jesus. The work seems overwhelming, but God is good. And He is powerful. I’m praying for His people who serve there. They love the people. They pour themselves out. May God strengthen and empower them to complete His work.

Read this for more about the Bihari people.

Read this for more about The Light of Hope Learning Center.

 

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I’m headed to South Asia. Will you pray?

nieghborhood 4x6Right now I am putting the last things in my suitcase. Tonight, me and six other women will board a plane and head to South Asia for a short-term mission trip. I would covet your prayers for the team and ministry as we go!

Here are some of the things we will be doing in the name of Jesus:

  • Leading a retreat on biblical friendship for at-risk girls at a day center.
  • Meeting with and encouraging national women believers.
  • Teaching Bible stories and doing games, and music with boys and girls in two other day centers.
  • Teaching the Bible and doing crafts with moms and young women.

We will be traveling starting tonight and arriving at our destination early in the morning Saturday, March 14. We will be on the ground ministering from Saturday, March 14 through Friday, March 20. We will be traveling home on Saturday, March 21.

Here are a few ways you can pray:

  • Health and travel safety of our team members. Peace about those we are leaving behind.
  • Final planning and preparation.
  • Strength, unity, and bonding of our team. May God unify our minds and bond our hearts to each other. May He help us to work together as a team to fulfill His purposes.
  • Those we are working with there. Pray for their emotional, spiritual, and physical well being. Pray that God will use them powerfully.
  • The three centers and their staff. Praise God for this incredible ministry to the children. Pray that God will provide for the staff and strengthen and grow them spiritually. Pray for their effectiveness as teachers and spiritual mentors. Pray that God will supply all the financial needs of the centers and that they would stay right in the center of God’s will and purposes for them.
  • The children – pray for them in every possible way you can think of – their salvation, their spiritual growth, their health, their protection from trafficking, their futures, their families

I have kept this information general for safety concerns. But God knows all the details! Your prayers would benefit God’s Kingdom and encourage us! Will you pray for us?

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4 Things Your Pastor’s Wife Wish You Knew About Her

How do you feel about your pastor’s wife? Perhaps you think she’s the greatest example ever of a godly wife and leader and you hope some day to be just like her. Or maybe you think she needs to step up her game a notch or two, and be more involved or act friendlier or change the way she dresses or …

Join the InsanityOkay, I am exaggerating just a bit. But the wives of our church pastors and ministers hold a very visible and precarious position. The church usually has certain expectations. Everyone knows who she is and all eyes are often on her. Unfortunately, we often misjudge – and mistreat – our pastor’s other half.

Last week, I had the chance to sit down with author, TV show host, and pastor’s wife, Rhonda Rhea. Rhonda’s new book, Join the Insanity, written specifically for women in the “P-Dub” club (short for “pastors’ wives), encourages pastors’ wives in their unique role and encourages them to love their church and make Jesus look good.

Rhonda and I talked a lot about pastors’ wives stereotypes and how the church can best support and encourage P-Dubs. One question really sparked some great conversation:

What do P-Dubs wish the women in their church knew/understood about them?

  1. “I’m just an average chick” – Pastors’ wives don’t have a super power. They don’t have some super spiritual characteristic unavailable to the rest of us. They’re just another Christian woman doing the best they can to follow Jesus. They just happen to be married to your pastor. Women of the church can encourage P-dubs to thrive by letting go of preconceptions and allowing her to be who God created her to be.
  2. Being on a pedestal is a scary place – This position of high-visibility is a place of extremes. P-dubs often either receive harsh criticism or glowing accolades. According to Rhonda, “usually we haven’t earned either.” Let’s release our P-dubs from unrealistic expectations and see her for the wife and woman God created her to be.
  3. Many P-dubs are hurting – Ministry is difficult and it often comes with hardship and pain. P-dubs can carry many wounds. They share their husbands with the entire church. They often live life in a fish bowl. And – believe it or not – sometimes churches are extremely rough on their pastors and their families. Let’s reach out to our P-dubs. One of the best things we can do is ask our P-dubs how we can pray for them and then do it!
  4. P-dubs have to do friendship differently – Their husband’s position puts them in a precarious position. They can’t share everything they know with their girlfriends and we wouldn’t want them to. They can’t “play favorites.” They must be cautious about friendship. However, they also desperately need and want girlfriends in their church. Offer your P-dub your friendship. She’s more approachable than you might think. Ask her to lunch. Be interested in her. In other words, treat her like you’d like to be treated.

Let’s share some wisdom! What do you think is a way we can encourage our P-dubs?

Find out more about my sweet, funny friend Rhonda Rhea, her ministry, and her books.

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You Can Help Girls Half a World Away

Almost two weeks have passed since I last blogged! But I have a really good excuse. In the last month I’ve traveled to Bangladesh, Norway, and the Czech Republic. I’ve been on 16 planes and slept in 8 different beds. I’ve struggled to communicate with people of 5 or 6 different languages. I’ve traveled in planes, cars, vans, buses, boats, subways, trams, CNGs, and rickshaws.

I have been blessed by God’s people all around the globe. I have hundreds of photos to share and dozens of stories to tell. But if I could only tell you one thing, it would be this: You can help girls and young women at high risk for human trafficking in Bangladesh.

Poverty creates easy targets for trafficking. There are plenty of easy targets in Bangladesh. According to a February article in Liberty Voice, this south Asia country is top of the list for human trafficking. Although exact numbers are hard to nail down, several articles and reports I found estimate that about 15,000 women and children are trafficked out of Bangladesh each year.

The scope of human trafficking worldwide is overwhelming. One person can’t stop this devastating injustice. But one person can make a difference in the lives of a few.

Light of HopeIn 2006, two American Christian women founded the Light of Hope Center in Chittagong, Bangladesh. The center provides education, vocational training, life skills, and more – all in the name of Jesus – to young girls from the slums. This work broadens future possibilities and lessens the chance of trafficking for these girls.

I am a member of a team – Bangladesh for Faith and Freedom – formed to support the efforts of the Light of Hope Center in these ways:

  • Raise awareness
  • Rally prayer support
  • Train and mobilize short-term volunteers
  • Facilitate BFF parties

You are officially invited to help! Here are a few of the ways you can make a difference:

Light of HopeWould you consider joining the fight against human trafficking? Find out more by visiting the BFF site. You can contact the BFF team at bangladeshbff@yahoo.com or contact me.

One person can impact a few. What will you do to make a difference?

 

 

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Will You Pray for Me?

While you read this, I’m in the air somewhere between Chicago and Istanbul. I’m part of a seven woman, short-term mission team to Bangladesh. (For more info and honesty about my apprehension check this earlier post.)

For the next 10 days, we will work with believers who operate a center for girls. An article from Commission Stories describes The Light of Hope Learning Center as “a day shelter where impoverished girls receive education, basic health care, moral instruction and life-skills training, as well as earn a small income through creating handicrafts.” And of course, they teach them about Jesus. (Read the article more information about the work there, our trip, and opportunities to help.)

Will you pray for us? Here are a few specific needs:

  • Pray for the team’s health and physical safety – Malaria, food and water borne illness, and political unrest are real possibilities.
  • Pray that we can connect with the girls and their families – We are going into a very different culture. I long for them to see that we care about them even if we struggle to communicate.
  • Pray that God will use our strength, skills, hands, and hearts to meet needs while we’re there.
  • Pray for the team members’ relationships with each other.
  • Pray that God will give us discernment and wisdom for every situation.
  • Pray that God will clearly show us how we can be ongoing advocates for the work there.
  • Pray however else God leads!

My plan is to blog while I’m there, but access to internet will be spotty. Check back when you can! You can be our mission partners. We return February 27th. In the meantime, will you pray? If so, let us know in the comments!

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A Mother’s Grief

Wende Parsley and Ethan, a mother's grief

Wende and Ethan

Two years and counting. My friend Wende continues to grieve the loss of her son Ethan. In the spring of 2010, an aneurysm in Ethan’s brain – caused by Arteriovenous malformation (AVM) – ruptured and Ethan woke up in Jesus’ presence. (Wende and Ethan’s story is featured in “Unshakeable Faith” but you can also read it here.)

Recently, Wende sent me a poem she wrote on the first anniversary of Ethan’s death. It’s emotional, honest, and hopeful. Although grief sometimes seems to take on a life of its own, God is faithful to work through it to shape and strengthen us. Wended graciously shares her poem of grief with us today.


“Grief” by Wende Parsley

It is always there
This thick, grey ball of feeling just behind my face.
It travels down through me and connects with my soul,
There are traces in every cell
Daring to seep out.
Impossible to hold in.
Everything is colored by it
Forever changed.
Some days, even one small, negative word pulls it forth.
At other times, it bubbles out freely, slowly
Always replenished by a seemingly never-ending pool.
This is a gift from God.

Eventually, as it lightens and loosens,
Small burrows are left behind.
Places for new.
It is a way to forever keep what has been so lost
Inside of me forever.
Replacing parts of my being with tiny pieces of joy,
Spiritual remnants left on earth by my son.
This is a gift from God.

Tragedy and suffering become glory.
The worst in me will be transformed
Into something worthy.
Gifts passed on are more purposeful now.
The legacies of others flourish in me,
As if my struggle has made them stronger, greater,
More permanent.
This sorrow will matter.
It will bring a new brightness to the world.
This is a gift from God.

Wende sees God’s hand in her grief. She sees Him working in it to transform her worst into something worthy. She recognizes God’s work to be a gift to her in the midst of her grief. Thank you Wende for sharing your grief with us.

How have you seen God work in the midst of your grief? What did He teach you that you can share with us?

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Friend or Foe – Monday Minute in the Word

Monday Minute in the Word, devotionOver the years I’ve felt mostly support as I’ve taught God’s Word, ministered to women, and served in the church. I wrote “mostly” because there have been a few minor occasions when individuals objected to a certain aspect of ministry or a specific action. While none of them were serious, it did give me a sense of what strong opposition by another believer might feel like.

Support or Opposition?

I thought of this recently when I read about the friendship between David and Jonathan during my daily quiet time. As always, Jonathan’s loyalty struck me. But this time through 1 Samuel, what stood out even more was how Jonathan’s support of David sharply contrasted with Saul’s opposition.

19 Saul told his son Jonathan and all the attendants to kill David. But Jonathan had taken a great liking to David 2 and warned him, “My father Saul is looking for a chance to kill you. Be on your guard tomorrow morning; go into hiding and stay there. 3 I will go out and stand with my father in the field where you are. I’ll speak to him about you and will tell you what I find out.” 4 Jonathan spoke well of David to Saul his father and said to him, “Let not the king do wrong to his servant David; he has not wronged you, and what he has done has benefited you greatly. 5 He took his life in his hands when he killed the Philistine. The LORD won a great victory for all Israel, and you saw it and were glad. Why then would you do wrong to an innocent man like David by killing him for no reason?”

1 Samuel 19:1-5, NIV

Jonathan recognized God was working through David to accomplish His purposes (vs 5). Therefore, Jonathan supported David and refused to side with his father. Saul opposed David because of jealousy. David’s success drew attention and Saul sought his own glory instead of God’s. Jonathan was David’s friend, but his father Saul was David’s foe.

Unity among believers

Jealousy is only one of many reasons believers oppose each other. Tradition, misunderstanding, personality clashes, hurt feelings, and more all work to pit believer against believer. God calls believers to unity (1 Corinthians 12:25). He wants us to strengthen, encourage, and help each other as we carry out the work He has for us.

God uses many wonderful Christian friends to spur me on in ministry and service. In fact there have been a few times that I might have given up on a task had not one of them “intervened” with encouragement. I thank God for every one of them.

I also want to support other believers. I want to be a friend and not a foe as they serve God and minister to His people.

In what ways have other believers supported and encouraged you? Is there someone in your life now that needs your support? How can you do that in practical ways?

 

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Famous Last Words – Anna

Have you ever noticed that many older Christians “retire” from serving God? Once they aren’t working or their kids are grown or they can’t get around like they used to, they step back from active involvement in ministry. They continue to attend church, but they pretty much become a Christian spectator. (Lord, I’m praying already that this won’t be me.)

Anna, the Jewish prophetess, is a great example for all of us as we get older. (I know, some of us are older than others.) We meet Anna in the temple not long after the birth of Jesus. Joseph and Mary took Jesus there to observe all the ceremonies required by Jewish law.

36 There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. 38 Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.

Luke 2:36-38, NIV

Although some scholars think Anna could have been more than 100 years old, she had not retired. She constantly served God and His people at the temple. Although we don’t have a specific quote from Anna, the Bible does tell us that after she met Jesus, she “spoke about the child to all…”

Anna faithfully witnessed about Jesus Christ to all who would listen. The implication is she continued witnessing until her death. I can imagine that the last words on her lips may have been, “Jesus is the redemption of Israel!”

Will you testify about your Savior with your dying words? Who do you need to tell?

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