Do All Lives Matter?

standard July 17, 2016 5 responses

Recent events have left no doubt that our country is broken and hurting.  We are especially heartbroken in Louisiana today at the news that three police officers have been shot and killed and three additional officers are injured during a senseless ambush attack in Baton Rouge. This attack comes on the heels of the loss of Alton Sterling, an African American man who was shot and killed as he wrestled with two police officers on July 5, and the loss of five Dallas police officers in a sniper attack on July 7.  Everyone’s emotions are running high. We respond with posts bearing hashtags such as #blacklivesmatter and #bluelivesmatter, each with extremely valid reasons of why these particular lives do matter.  The #gaylivesmatter community is saying, “Don’t forget about us…we are hurting too.”  So we come up with an all-inclusive #alllivesmatter.  And, yes, all lives DO matter.

So, what is the solution to all the chaos we are currently facing and how can we do our part to promote healing?  And where is God in all of this?

When Paul was writing the Book of Philippians, he was facing days of uncertainty and dire circumstances (think oppressive Roman imprisonment).  Yet the over-arching theme of this book is for the church at Philippi to have JOY and UNITY despite their circumstances as Paul was striving to do in his own life.  He gives these simple instructions that also applies to our current reality as much as it did to the early church.  The solution lies in these words:

“Let your gentleness be evident to all.  The Lord is near.”  Philippians 4:5

Could it really be that easy? Well, I suppose it depends on what your definition of “easy” is.

Gentleness, a fruit of the Spirit, is used in this verse as an adjective meaning that not only are we to be considerate of others, but we are also to treat people in a manner that is “fitting, right, or equitable.”

The word for all is πᾶς meaning just what you think it does: each, every, whole, ALL.

God is telling us that we are to treat each and every person that we come into contact with on a daily basis with consideration and view them as equitable in God’s eyes.  Whoa! Take a minute and let that soak in.  If we are all equitable in God’s eyes, then why are we still stereotyping each other? And therein lies the rub. We all want to be viewed as if our life matters and we want to be treated in a fair and equitable manner.

But most definitely, killing is not the answer; anger is not the answer; retaliation is not the answer.  Love is the answer; peace is the answer; gentleness is the answer.

But why can’t I just live my life and you live yours? Why do I have to be considerate of others and their feelings?

The answer is this: Because the Lord is near.  This does not mean the Lord is near as in the Holy Spirit is among us (even though He is), but this is better translated as “People get ready! Jesus is coming!” 

If we really believe that all lives matter, then we have an obligation to not only be considerate, but also to be the Light.  Pointing others to Jesus, telling them of a Savior who values their life so much that He gave His own life.  Ultimately, Jesus is the answer.

So, you see, healing is never “easy,” but you and I can do our part to show the world that all lives matter by doing these two things in our everyday lives:

  1. Let your gentleness be evident to all. To the black police officer who took a vow to protect you. To the young white man you pass on the street. To the person bagging your groceries. To your gay coworker. To the waitress serving your food. To your spouse. To your children.  To ALL.
  2. Let your light shine. The world is watching and waiting to see how we will respond. Resist the urge to speak out judgment or condemnation on others who are different than you.  Rather speak the name of Jesus…the Name above all names…the only name that saves.

He is near and He is the original author of life.  His desire is that everyone (all) would come to repentance and know Him as their Savior (2 Peter 3:9).

He is a God who truly believes that ALL LIVES MATTER. 

The Next Step

standard June 22, 2016 4 responses

Now that I have made it through three years of seminary and have graduated with my Masters in Theological Studies, many of you have been asking me what my next step will be.  It’s a valid question and one that my husband would like the answer to as well!

The spiritual answer is: I’ll do whatever the Lord tells me to do.  But the more accurate answer is: I don’t exactly know yet.

When I began this journey several years ago, I felt a calling on my life to be a Bible teacher to women.  That call was confirmed by the Lord through people who I respect in the faith.  I had already been leading a Women’s Bible Study at my church, but I felt the Lord calling me to go deeper.  I felt that I needed to be better equipped if I was going to be a professional Bible teacher, which led to seminary training.

And now that I am trained and equipped, I am ready to hit the ground running and produce a little ROI (that’s a financial term meaning Return On Investment) for all those tuition expenses I incurred for our family.  Yet, there is no job waiting for me.

Instead, my future is a wide open space with several different paths that could be taken.  It’s exciting and scary at the same time.  There are endless possibilities and opportunities, but knowing when and how to start is a little daunting.

It’s going to require (dare I say it?!) FAITH.

But isn’t that what walking with the Lord is all about?  Taking that next step in faith, and then another, and then another.  Sometimes we’ll stumble a bit, and other times we may fall flat on our face, but we’ll let our Savior pick us back up, dust us off, and set us back on the right path.  And other times we will see so clearly the victories He has supplied us with and we will rejoice and celebrate.  Step by step we’ll just keep exercising our faith until we’ve done all we can in this lifetime and then we’ll walk straight into His loving arms.

So for now, I’ll just keep putting one foot in front of the other by writing that next blog post for Reflecting Light, sending devotionals to Lifeway Women and other venues for publication consideration, speaking at Women’s Conferences (contact me!), asking the Holy Spirit to illuminate the path I’m supposed to take.  Knowing that with each step taken I can stand on His promise with confidence that He who began this good work in me will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6).

What next step is the Lord asking you to take in faith?  I’d love for us to walk together.  We can encourage each other to press on in this walk of faith knowing that there is strength in numbers and that our faith is grown when we step out of our comfort zone.

Will you join me?  Yes?! Then let’s go!

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Do it, Lord.  Illuminate the path You would have us take today.  Keep us moving ahead, taking those next steps in FAITH knowing that You are faithful to complete that good work in us that You began all those years ago.  Let us reflect Your light to the world and may You always be glorified with each step we take.  Amen.d1ebd3d4457ed37c130ef2fa090d4542

Hands and Feet

standard March 25, 2016 Leave a response

It’s been over two weeks since Northeast Louisiana was drenched by torrential rains and flooding.  We received over 24 inches of rain in a short amount of time and the water had nowhere to go, except to flood entire neighborhoods and homes.

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Evacuations were issued.  The young and the old were leaving by boats in the middle of a severe lightening and thunderstorm.  Some waited it out, only to find that they would be trapped inside their home for days until the water slowly receded.  It was especially sad to see home after home filled with water and belongings just floating among the rain soaked walls.

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But as the sun finally began to shine on our community, so did the church.

It didn’t take long before disaster relief teams were formed and entire church bodies were mobilized and sent out to the neighborhoods that were hit the worst.  I witnessed one such congregation come to the home of my friend whose home had been flooded with several feet of water.  These men and women worked swiftly and tirelessly to remove her furniture, rip up her stinking carpet, salvage what they could, and sweep out the remaining water.  And when they were done with her home, they moved on to her neighbor’s home, and then the next home.

They did not do it for pay or recognition.  They didn’t even do it because they had a personal relationship with the homeowners.  They did it because they believe that they are the hands and feet of Jesus.

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And then came the food.  In the south we believe that feeding others is one of the top ways that we should show each other love.  And we did it well.  Those that flooded in my neighborhood had both lunch and dinner delivered faithfully by the local churches and volunteers.  One church I know provided over 10,000 meals to the surrounding community.  I was blessed to be able to work on my own church’s cook team and I’ll just say the eatin’ was good!  Hands and feet of Jesus delivering meals.

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“Hands and Feet” was the term that I heard over and over again throughout these past few weeks.  St. Teresa of Avila painted this beautiful picture that I believe encapsulates our community so well:

“Christ has no body now, but yours.
No hands, no feet on earth, but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which
Christ looks compassion into the world.
Yours are the feet
with which Christ walks to do good.
Yours are the hands
with which Christ blesses the world.”

Today as we reflect of Jesus’ death and the nails that pierced His own hands and feet, I am thankful to be a part of His body.  A body that believes in extending love and compassion to others.  A body that does not sit idly as neighbors suffer, but are willing to get their own hands and feet dirty.  A body that reflects His light.

Happy Good Friday, Friends! Thank you for being His hands and feet!

When Valentine’s Day Makes You Feel Unloved

standard February 10, 2016 Leave a response

Valentine’s Day is fast approaching and everywhere you look there are stuffed teddy bears holding red hearts, big balloons with “Be Mine” stamped across it, and rows and rows of chocolate.

But what if Valentine’s Day holds no joy for you and the thought of all those happy couples feeding each other chocolate-covered strawberries is enough to make you want to scream…or at the very least, eat a whole bag of conversation hearts?

Such was the case for me one particular Valentine’s Day.  I was in high school and did not have a boyfriend or even the prospect of one.  All that week my school was taking orders for Candy Grams to be delivered to the one you were “going with” or “had a crush on.” (Sidenote: Candy Grams are most certainly from Satan.)  Needless to say, I was having serious anxiety about going to school that day knowing that all my friends would be receiving multiple Candy Grams and I would be left feeling unloved, unpopular, and every other kind of “un” you can think of.  Yet each time the classroom door would open for a Candy Gram delivery, a little bit of hope would spring up inside of me: A Candy Gram for me? Sike!

Well, someone must have seen my misery because that Valentine’s Day morning when I went out to my car there was the most amazing surprise waiting for me!  Helium balloons with “Be My Valentine” written across them filled the space in the tiny car and on the driver’s seat was a box in the shape of a heart filled with Russell Stover’s chocolates with a note that simply said, “Your Secret Admirer.”  I drove to school that day on cloud nine with the biggest smile on my face, wondering to myself: Who could this wonderful Secret Admirer be?  And how did he know that I loved Russell Stover’s candy?  That’s the very same brand that my dad always gets my mom for Valentine’s Day!

That day I didn’t care how many Candy Grams were passed out to other girls.  I had a Secret Admirer and I felt loved…even if I did suspect that the admirer was pretty close to home.

You have an Admirer too, Friend!  He longs to lavish you with sweet surprises and love.  He sends you Valentine’s notes with things like,

How beautiful you are, my darling! Oh how beautiful! (Song of Songs 1:15)

I will go before you and I will be with you.  I will never leave you or forsake you. (Deuteronomy 31:8)

I am abounding in love and faithfulness. (Psalm 86:15)

That’s better than a plain old Candy Gram, don’t you think?  It’s endless love from a faithful God who thinks you are the most beautiful woman He has ever seen.  And you are beautiful, you know.

If you find yourself this Valentine’s Day without an earthly Valentine, that’s ok.  Pick yourself up a box of chocolates and shake off the urge to want to strangle the stuffed bears.

Remember that you have Someone who loves you to the moon and back.  Literally.

 

It’s Just a Season

standard January 27, 2016 Leave a response

Our family has a saying that we commonly use if things in our lives start to get crazy and we begin to feel overwhelmed:

“It’s just a season.”  

I have always loved this expression because it helps remind me to take a deep breath and remember that whatever I am going through is just for a season and this particular season won’t last forever.  My dad also says, “It’s not eternal,” which is essentially the same thing, but it helps put things in a spiritual perspective.

I wonder if you’re feeling like me today and you need the reminder that the season you are currently in is not eternal, even if it may feel that way at the moment.  Maybe you are a young woman waiting on Prince Charming to make his grand appearance into your life and you are beginning to think that he should learn how to stop and ask for directions based on how long it’s taking him to get to you (Been there!).  Or maybe you’ve just had your first baby and you now have firsthand knowledge of why sleep deprivation is used as a torture tactic to break down the minds of criminals in the prisons (Can I get a witness?!).  Or possibly you have a loved one serving overseas and you are counting down the days, hours, and minutes until he/she is safely home.  You tell yourself, “It’s just a season, right?”

That’s exactly right.  And thank the Lord, we are not alone in all this.  Solomon (as in the wisest man who ever lived) did some pondering of the seasons as well in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8.

For everything there is a season,
  a time for every activity under heaven.
A time to be born and a time to die.
  A time to plant and a time to harvest.
A time to kill and a time to heal.
  A time to tear down and a time to build up.
A time to cry and a time to laugh.
  A time to grieve and a time to dance.
A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.
  A time to embrace and a time to turn away.
A time to search and a time to quit searching.
  A time to keep and a time to throw away.
A time to tear and a time to mend.
  A time to be quiet and a time to speak.
A time to love and a time to hate.
  A time for war and a time for peace.

The wonderful thing about these verses is that every “low” season has a counter “high” season. Part of living in a fallen world is dealing with hard or low seasons, but if we have accepted Jesus as our Savior, we are guaranteed victory.

Are you in a time of planting in your job or at home?  There’s good news! A harvest is coming.
Is God telling you to tightly hold on to something, or is it time to let it go?
Has your heart been torn apart by a severed relationship? Your God can tenderly mend it.
Are you rightfully grieving an unthinkable loss?  Take hold of the promise that you will dance again.

It’s true. For everything there is a season.

But here’s the best part!  Solomon goes on to tell us in verse 11, “Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.”  

Isn’t that the truth?  Even though we cannot see how this season will work itself out, God sees! And not only does He see, but He makes the result beautiful.

The takeaway from today’s Reflecting Light is this: should you find yourself in a challenging season of life, remember that God is in control. Take a deep breath in and release it slowly.  Close your eyes and repeat after me,  “It’s just a season.”  And then believe in your heart of hearts that everything is made beautiful in its own time. 

What’s Your “Word” for 2016?

standard January 13, 2016 6 responses

Years ago at the church I attended, our pastor would always encourage us to adopt a specific word for the year.  I thought this was a great idea in theory, but I never took the time to actually implement it.  Boy, was I missing out on a simple joy that this life has to offer!

Speaking of joy, fast forward several years to 2015 where my friend Lesli adopted the word Joy for the year. You may remember her post JOY: A Choice, Not a Feeling.  I watched her take this word and run with it. And guess what? Joy permeated her entire year.  And not just hers but also those she came in contact with.  It was truly a joy to be around her.

Another good friend of mine chose the word Love to focus on for the year and she noted how crazy it was that she would see the word everywhere around her…in her news feed, on her favorite brand of clothing, and in verses of Scripture that she had read a hundred times before but never really noticed the word love.  It got to where so many others knew her word was Love and they would send her text messages or post to her Facebook wall whenever they saw the word.  How nice to be known to others as love!

So how does one go about picking a word for the new year?  Well, there are several ways.

  1. Think of something that you’d like to work on in the new year.  Not just as a new year’s resolution, but something that you will carry with you throughout the year.  One great idea I heard was from a friend who wants to improve her self-discipline (i.e. putting limits on entertainment; doing the hard things first instead of procrastinating).  Now, that’s a word!
  2. Choose something you want more of in your life: Gratitude, Peace, Patience.  The list is endless.
  3. Let the Holy Spirit lead you to a specific word. Now, of course I know that He will be at work in the above two ways as well, but this approach is just strictly having Him lead you to a random word.  Such was the case with the selection of my personal word for 2016: Hope.   A precious friend of mine gave me a stack of cards on HOPE.  At first, I was thinking, “I’m digging it. Hope for the future, and all that.”  But when I really sat down to think about it, there IS so much for me to be hopeful about in 2016.  Hope for my mom’s total healing from breast cancer.  Hope for my girls and their continued spiritual growth.  Hope for this new Bible study that has formed that I have the honor to teach.  And such an expectant hope of where God wants to take Reflecting Light as a ministry after my graduation in May.  The Holy Spirit whispered to my soul, “Take it, April.  Pick up the word Hope.”  So I did and I am loving what He is teaching me through this “not-so little” word.

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Once you have your word selected (or in #3’s case, given to you), take some time to look it up.  You can go to Blue Letter Bible and plug your specific word in and voilà…every verse containing that word will be listed and you can study it in-depth with their study tools.  It’s so easy and you don’t ever have to be intimidated by an old-school concordance again.

Lastly, let the word take up residence in your heart and in your actions.  If your word is gentleness, let it be evident to all (Philippians 4:5).  If it is self-discipline, memorize 2 Timothy 1:7.  If it is hope, then study the book of Jeremiah and learn exactly what God meant when He said He will give us a “hope and a future.”  The point is simply to carry the word with you throughout the year and let God teach you about it through His Word.  Nothing could be more fantastic.

I told you, Dear Reader, that our future is bright for 2016 and it can be richer with a simple word.  So, tell me, what’s your “WORD” for 2016?

Taking Baby Jesus Out of the Manger

standard December 2, 2015 5 responses

Christmastime is here! One by one the boxes come out of the attic and treasures from years past are rediscovered.  A handmade ornament here.  A special candy dish there.  A picture of your child screaming while sitting on Santa-from-the-Mall’s lap.  Oh, the memories.

One thing that our family likes to collect is nativities.  We have several from around the world: Peru, Israel, and I even brought back one from El Salvador this year.  We have full sets from Willow Tree and Fontanini.  We have big ones and small ones.  Like I said, it’s our thing.

As I carefully unwrapped one manger scene to display, I was thinking of the sweet baby Jesus asleep on the hay and what an amazing gift it is that heaven came down to create this scene.  Everything is so serene, so tender and mild.

But I wonder, how content are we to let Jesus stay in the manger?  

The beauty of the nativity is that Jesus was born to provide salvation for ALL PEOPLE.

Luke 1:77-79 states that Jesus came for this reason:

to give his people the knowledge of salvation
through the forgiveness of their sins,
because of the tender mercy of our God,
by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
to shine on those living in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.

Jesus did so much more than just being born on that Holy Night.  He grew up and He provided the world with what they so desperately needed…salvation and the forgiveness of their sins.  He came to provide LIGHT and PEACE.

In light of all this revelation, I decided to give myself a little Christmas Challenge.  I started with reading the Christmas story in Luke, but instead of leaving Baby Jesus in the manger, I will continue reading one chapter per day.  By Christmas Morning, Jesus will have died for my sins, been resurrected from the grave, and ascended into heaven. How sweet is that?!  I would love for you to join me in this challenge too!

This Christmas let’s take Baby Jesus out of the manger and make Him Lord of our life.

Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask Thee to stay
Close by me forever, and love me, I pray.

Bless all the dear children in thy tender care,
And take us to heaven, to live with Thee there.

The Quest for Perfect Peace

standard October 28, 2015 1 response

What is your number one desire?  Is it healing, security, a husband, a baby, or maybe forgiveness for another? Do you wish that you had a peace concerning that desire?  Do you believe that a quietness in your spirit would make all the difference in the world?

Or are you in the middle of a raging storm and you are frantically looking for Jesus to quiet the wind and the waves by simply uttering the words, “Peace! Be still!”?  Maybe you are suffering from the loss of a loved one, a broken marriage, a wayward child, or perhaps bankruptcy. You have seen how others seem to have a peace in the middle of their storm and you want to know how to have it too.

I recently had the privilege of serving at a women’s retreat where I encountered many beautiful women who are actively seeking the Lord.  As I got to know these ladies, the overarching theme of the weekend seemed to be a quest for peace…a desire for peace in the broken areas of our lives and a realization of how peace was granted in others.

This reminded me of one of my most favorite Scriptures of all time found in Isaiah 26:3. It says,

“You keep him in perfect peace
whose mind is stayed on you,
because he trusts in you.”

The phrase “perfect peace” is actually shalom shalom in Hebrew, the same word repeated twice resulting in a beautiful picture of peace repeating itself.  Strong’s Concordance defines it as a “completeness” or “soundness.”

Wouldn’t you love to have a sense of completeness or soundness of mind for whatever desire or situation you are facing today?  Yes, of course every woman would like to have this kind of peace in her spirit, but how?

Isaiah says this perfect, complete peace is given to those who have their minds stayed on God, meaning that our mind is “supported, unflinching, or firm.”  A mind filled with the “soundness”of peace.  Still, how can this be achieved?  The answer is found in the next line: TRUST.

Funny how it all comes back to trust.  Trusting Him with our fears and failures, to pick us up when we fall down.  Trusting Him with our hopes and futures, to fulfill the work that He has started in us. Trusting Him with our marriage, our kids, our finances, our healing, or any other pressing need we have.  Trust.

You see, our trusting, believing heart allows our minds to stay firm on God and the result is a perfect, complete, repeating over and over again peace.  It all goes hand in hand.  So why not reach up your hand today to be held in His?  He is waiting with open arms for you to trust in Him.

O Lord, how I want this sense of completeness and soundness in my own life.  I want to be a woman who radiates peace in the midst of a storm. Please give me Your perfect peace because my mind is steadfast and I trust in You.  Amen.

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Now it’s your turn!  What is your favorite verse on peace?

(Today’s post was powered with Logos.)

Looking for Jesus in the Storm

standard October 14, 2015 5 responses

There once was a couple who took a cruise along the Caribbean where they were looking forward to a few carefree days of rest and relaxation. When they boarded the ship they met their room steward whom they instantly liked and they thought it was clever how many creations he could produce from bathroom towels. One night a storm started brewing, causing the woman to be a little nervous. Her husband, ever the optimist (and a heavy sleeper), assured her that there was nothing to be scared of and rolled over to catch some zzz’s. A few hours later he woke up to the boat rocking and he noticed that his wife was not beside him in their small bed. A tad alarmed he sat up but to his relief she came through the door. “Where have you been?” he asked? She calmly replied, “I was out looking for Jesus.” Well, by this time the man was wide awake. “Jesus?! Is the second coming happening?” She answered seriously, “No, Honey. Remember our steward’s name is Jesus? I was just checking to see if we needed to do anything in case the storm got worse.” This made the man chuckle, “Oh, you mean you were looking for ‘Hey-sus.’” And it was then that they realized that they were speaking of two totally different Jesus’. One had the ability to show them where the lifeboats were located, but the other had the ability to BE the lifeboat!

I was laughing hard when my friends told me their “lost in translation” story, but it got me thinking of the time that the real Jesus calmed the storms for the disciples when they were afraid. The gospel of Matthew tells the story like this:

Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”

He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.

The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”

Matthew 8:23-27 (NIV)

I wonder if any of you have been in this same situation: you are cruising through life at optimal sailing speed when suddenly a FURIOUS storm appears and threatens to drown you in an instant. I know that I certainly have.

It’s one thing when there’s a chance of rain and you are prepared with your rain boots and umbrella, but it’s a totally different experience when a dangerous storm comes out of nowhere, leaving you not only drenched, but also scrambling to keep your head above the water.  As you’re gasping for air you decide to do the only thing you know to do. You go to Jesus and wake Him up. “Lord, please save me! I’m about to drown!”

Then you notice that He’s already awake. He says to you, “Do you really have such little faith in Me? Why are you so afraid?” You list out your reasons for being afraid, but as you speak them out you start to realize that He is bigger than all of your fears. Every single one.

And with a simple rebuke to the wind and the waves, the storm subsides and everything is completely calm. You begin to trust Him again to hold your today and your tomorrow. You bow down in reverence as you ask yourself, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey Him!”

He whispers to you, “Of course they do. My name is Jesus. The One and Only.”

El Salvador: Land of Physical Poverty Yet Spiritual Wealth

standard September 30, 2015 5 responses

Last week I testified to God’s faithfulness to allow me to participate in a Mission/Vision trip to El Salvador with Compassion International.  I had mentioned that it was a trip of a lifetime, and it was! Just knowing that I almost didn’t get to go made the whole experience extra sweet and special for me.  I soaked in every moment.

“Praise the Lord, my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
The Lord works righteousness
and justice for all the oppressed.”

Psalm 103:1-6 (NIV)

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El Salvador is a beautiful land with rolling hills and lush landscape, and it is sometimes referred to as the “Ireland of Central America.” But despite its geographical beauty, it is a place where poverty runs rampant as do the gang members.  The problem seems to lie in the educational system: public grade schools are conveniently located to the students, but the high schools are sparse, requiring extra transportation costs.  Many of the families cannot afford this extra cost so the child drops out of school making them an easy target for the gangs to pick up as a new initiate.

Our group of women could feel the oppression as we drove through the littered streets.  Gang signs were present on poles, marking their territory lest anyone else try to lay claim.  We were told to put our cell phones out of sight or else they would most likely end up on the black market.  An armed guard or police officer was stationed at most of the establishments we visited.  The average family monthly income in the rural areas of El Salvador is $120.  Let that sink in for a moment. That’s only $1,440 per year to support an entire family.  Yet even through all the impoverishment, I saw a land of hope.  And that hope lies in the faces of the children.

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The first Compassion center we visited was extremely new, only a few months old.  Casa de Pan (House of Bread) is run by Carlos and Candy who have a passion for the children and love them with an agape love.  You could see the gratitude that Candy had for the Compassion sponsors and she teared up several times when describing how much this center means to each child that visits it. It is a place where they can come twice a week to receive a meal (of which they usually save as much as possible to take back to share with their families), tutoring for school, and a chance to hear about how much Jesus loves them.  Most of them do not hear from their parents that they are loved, much less that they are smart or valuable. The center tries to teach them that they have a hope and a future in Christ.

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(The children sang “Open the Eyes of My Heart, Lord” in English.)

After we visited with different families in the community, we returned to Casa de Pan to pray over those running the center.  But oh my were we in for a treat when Candy started praying over us with the rest of the center members praying out loud at the same time. The Compassion interpreter did an excellent job of translating, but it didn’t really matter. The Holy Spirit’s presence was so strong that it was all we could do to try to keep it together.  We had been to church…in the purest way! Praying for one another, lifting each other up to Jesus, knowing that He will supply every need.  These people are desperate for the Lord and it spills out into their everyday life.  It was a rich moment that I hope never to forget.

The Prayer at Casa de Pan

As I was leaving, I slipped Candy a $20 bill and told her that it was for the offering plate.  She was crying and telling me “Gracias, gracias, gracias!”  It struck me that I had spent more than that on a pedicure before I left, of which the paint was already chipping off.  I am sure that the twenty dollars I gave her went a lot further and will have a much more lasting effect than a pedicure ever could.  Candy had told me that through the church she and Carlos feed the entire community on Christmas Eve.  When I asked her where the funds for that came from she said, “The Lord always provides.”   That’s what I would call being “spiritually wealthy,” wouldn’t you?

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If you are interested in sponsoring a child from El Salvador, please contact me or visit compassion.com/elsalvador.  Release a child from poverty in Jesus’ name.