Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Treasures & Treats

As you probably know by now, the name of my church family is The Nest.
During the summer we like to do fun activities with our kids and teens. We call these activities Nest Quest.
This week's NQ was called Treasures & Treats. We went on a "treasure hunt" then ended up at Sweet Cece's for a cool treat of fro-yo! Yumm!!
We met at the statue on the square in downtown Franklin, TN to ask God for clues about where He wanted us to go and who He wanted us to love in His Name.
Amy took the girls and I took the boys.
When we asked God for clues, we got the following words and pictures in our boy got one of the cannons on the square, another got a lamppost with a single lamp on it, another got the number 5. One got the number 301, and another got a rainbow. The oldest two set off in one direction and I took the younger three with me.
The oldest (my 16 year old son, Blake) had seen with his spiritual eyes a bunch of random numbers, which then narrowed down to 301. As they walked down the sidewalk, his friend looked up and saw the address 301 on top of one of the storefronts on Main Street, so they went in. It was a realtor's office. They followed a man inside and saw a lady sitting behind a desk. They boldly explained what they were doing and asked if they could pray. At first the man seemed resistant, but the woman smiled broadly and excitedly said, "Oh my gosh! Yes! Please pray!!", so they prayed a blessing over the business and the people, then left to catch up with the rest of us.
Meanwhile, our little group decided to walk in the direction in which the cannon was pointing. It took us to a corner on the sidewalk. Now, all around the square there are lampposts with double lights on them, but there, behind a tree on the corner was a single lamppost! There weren't any people there and the boys sensed we were to continue walking, so we did. We were looking for a rainbow. Since it's summer time, many of the stores had brightly colored window displays, so we'd stop at each one, ask God if this was the place, and He'd say no, so we'd move on. We even saw a ship model in an antique store window, which had cannons in it, but still just sensed this was God saying we were moving in the right direction, but weren't to stop yet.
We continued down the sidewalk all the way to the end, where Starbucks is. As we stood on the corner, wondering where to go now, I said, "OK, Lord. We've followed Your clues, but now we need You to really make it clear." As soon as I said this, I looked down and there on the street were 5 rainbow colored arrows all pointing across the street! They were some sort of advertisement, but we laughed, saying "Well, you can't get much CLEARER than THAT! I mean they are ARROWS, for cryin' out loud!!" We looked across the street and there were two men carrying on a conversation in front of one of Franklin's dearly loved historic churches which sits on that corner. We made our way across the street to wait for their conversation to end. As we waited, the youngest boy in our group (age 7) kept saying he thought there was something significant about the church.
We overheard the men say goodbye to each other, then they both began heading off down the sidewalk. I thought, "Oh no! They're leaving! Now what, Lord??" Then as one continued on his way, the other stopped to push the button for the walk sign, so we saw our chance and took it. We went up to the man and I introduced myself, giving a brief explanation about what we were doing and told him God had really highlighted him today. I mean, He even sent ARROWS to point him out to us!!  I asked him how we could pray for him and he responded, "Well, it seems pretty clear you all are listening to the Lord and He knows what my prayer needs are, so let's see what He shows you!" Wow! OK, here we go!!
So, we prayed for him and as we did, he kept saying, "Wow. Wow. Wow." and shaking his head as if he couldn't believe it! We felt like the lamppost and rainbow were significant and God was reminding him that He is lighting his path and that He's keeping His promises. Afterward, he said how amazing it was and he encouraged the boys by saying how bold they were and that what they were doing matters. He then told us he works for a major musical instrument company and is over the worship dept., where he sells musical instruments to churches! That explains why the boy was sensing something about the church!
God could have delivered His messages directly to this man any number of ways, but how fun that He chose US to be His messengers that day! 
We met up with the girls, heard their story of praying for a woman at a jewelry store, then went to Sweet Cece's to celebrate God's goodness. 
As I walked down the sidewalk toward my car, I noticed those rainbow arrows every few feet along the way. How funny that none of us had seen them earlier until we asked God to make it clear! Boy! He sure did!!
Loving The One and loving the one is SO FUN!!!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Savannah Smiles

Brooke, my sweet "adopted" daughter, Kellie, and I had the honor of traveling to Savannah, GA to spend time with some amazing folks, Jason Lee Jones, his family, and church family.
Jason is an anointed worship leader who travels the world, leading worshipers into the throne room. He has been an integral part of Brooke's story.
One day during Harvest School, Brooke had a powerful vision. She and her Harvest School sister, Lorraine, were set on fire and burned up til there was nothing left but ashes, then God poured Living Water on them and brought them back to life. As Brooke was trying to tell Lorraine about this, Jason (of course, not knowing what Brooke was seeing in the spirit) began singing about fire!
God told Brooke that He was burning away everything in these girls that was not Him. He wanted to totally consume them. For ten days, the girls experienced His Presence as an all-consuming Fire, and for ten days, Jason (still knowing nothing of this vision) sang about fire!
Just when Brooke thought she couldn't take it any more, because what she was experiencing was so intense, Jason announced that they'd been singing about fire long enough and it was time for some Living Water!!  Wow!!  Only God!!!
It was this encounter with the Living God that led Brooke to get baptized by the Holy Spirit in the Indian Ocean. It was this encounter that God took her back to again and again following the tragedy she walked through in February.
A few weeks ago Brooke and some Harvest School sisters got to travel to Sarasota to visit their friends who were leading Harvest School there. This trip was marked by favor in too many ways to count, but one way is that Brooke got to meet Jason and his precious family. She got to share with them her whole story and the role Jason played in it. What a blessing that Jason told Brooke he wanted to adopt her as his spiritual daughter. He prayed an impartation prayer over her, basically freely giving to her what he's freely received in the realm of prophetic worship, particularly in Portuguese, since Brooke wants to teach the boys how to lead worship and they speak Portuguese.
Jason's ministry is based in Savannah. He had a rare free weekend at home which coincided with a rare free weekend for us, so the three of us headed down to spend some time there.
Jason has such a Papa heart and pours into so many young people's lives. So refreshing to spend time with world changers. His lovely wife, Gina is wise beyond her years and I enjoyed visiting with her in a picturesque park setting. The two of them are raising two little world changers of their own, Josiah and Faith Tuesday. What joy they carry!
We also spent time with Josh and Rachael, who met at Harvest School and are now engaged to be married. They both tap into the heart of worship in a very special way and it was a blessing to be around them, soaking up their passion for Jesus.
Friday morning we spent some time at the Jones' home, then we drove into Savannah for lunch, and dropped by Jason's mom's house for a brief visit. She is paralyzed and Jason adores her. As we entered her room, there was such a sweetness radiating from her. We prayed over her, blessed her, and left feeling very honored that we got to meet her.
Friday evening we went to Jason's church, which meets in a beautiful home. Since our church, The Nest also meets on Friday evenings and we started out in a home, it felt like home to us. The biggest difference was that here we usually worship with recorded music, but there Jason led live worship. It was water to my soul.
Jason then said he felt like some folks were in need of a hug from Papa and he would be honored to be His arms, so several came down to the rug where he was sitting and he just embraced them. Some were visibly touched by the Father's love in a deep way. Love looks like something and love is simple. That moment, it looked like a hug.
Jason shared a good word then introduced Brooke, who shared her testimony. While she shared, Josh scooted over near me, removed my shoes, and bowed over them, washing my feet with his tears. I could feel the warmth of his breath on top of my bare feet, and I was undone. Such a humbling experience. There really are no words. The next day as we ate lunch while touring lovely Savannah, Josh announced to the table that Brooke was his hero. While in Sarasota he'd wept over Brooke's feet as well. He said she looked like Jesus to him and I was his Mary. He honored me for saying yes to God. Wow, Jesus. As I said, no words will suffice, except humbling...
After Brooke shared, Jason asked me to join her on the rug and everyone gathered around and prayed over us. I could feel love and honor pouring out all over us. So beautiful.
Then Jason said he sensed there were people there who needed freedom from fear and asked Brooke and me to pray over anyone who needed it. He asked those who wanted prayer to raise their hands and there was a pretty, petite girl sitting right next to me who raised her hand, so I put my arm around her and she collapsed into my arms, weeping. I just sat there and held her, stroking her back, loving on her, praying as words came, but mostly I just embraced her, allowing Jesus to love her and break off chains of fear through me. 
A young man came to me and asked if I would pray for his wife. I prayed as the Spirit led and as I chatted with her afterward, I discovered that her dad is the one bound up in fear, which keeps her from fully walking in her destiny, because she doesn't want to cause him worry. I shared with her that I too used to be bound up in fear, but what God used to break it off me was declaring His Word out loud. I took up my sword of the spirit and declared its truth over the lies behind fear over and over again until I was finally free. Freely I have received, so freely I gave to this precious one and her dad. Do it again, Lord!
I love being on the receiving end of love, but even more I love being on the giving end. Being able to minister in His Name makes my spirit come alive. What an honor to be His hands and feet.
Saturday I was the "old lady" walking around town with all the young "whippersnappers"!  They were so sweet to let me tag along and I thoroughly enjoyed their company. While enjoying the lovely city of Savannah, we did one of my other favorite things - swapped God stories! At lunch I sat by a young man named Isaiah who looks like Bruno Mars and has an incredible testimony! He shared his story and I shared with him stories from treasure hunts God has taken me on. He peppered Brooke with questions about life in Mozambique, since he's praying about joining Jason on his next trip over. This young man is a dazzling bright light in the Kingdom!
After a long day of sightseeing, we returned to Jason and Gina's house, even though neither of them was there, and popped popcorn, made brownies, played Wii, and just hung out. Then Josh pulled out his guitar and he, Rachael, and Brooke led us in some spontaneous worship. Perfect way to end a wonderful day.
We drove back home Sunday with happy hearts, thanking God for this new branch of our family tree. I just love the way He knits hearts together with His children all over the world. He knits us together with the thread of His love. Loving The One through worship and loving the one through honoring and ministering in His Name, which in turn, is a way of loving Him, since He's the One Who calls us to! What a blessing to be part of this beautiful cycle. It does indeed make me smile...which makes Him get the picture!

Monday, April 22, 2013

We Will Go March 2013, Days 3 and 4

See previous post for days 1 and 2 of our Spring Break mission trip to We Will Go. 

On Monday love looked like physical labor as we helped work on restoring one of the former crack houses to make it a place where Kingdom work will take place. I was so proud of all our kids as they donned masks and gloves and ripped down dry wall, hauled lumber, pulled nails, swept, and did everything the adults did with no complaining. Since we have now been to WWG a number of times, they have seen the transformation with their own eyes and they now have a sense of ownership in this beautiful place where the restoration of these houses is a prophetic declaration of the restoration of lives by the love and power of Jesus! What an honor to be a small part of such a big thing! Wow, Jesus!

Tuesday is Hands and Feet day at WWG. This means walking with neighbors though the clothing shop, assisting them in finding garments and toiletries, loving them, and praying with them. I got to go through with Ms. Hattie. What a sweetheart!  I held her well-loved Bible with the purple cover for her while she chose outfits and shared her story with me. She is the rock in her family...the one who takes care of her ailing daughter and rebellious grandson...she is the glue that holds them together and sometimes that gets hard, but thankfully Ms. Hattie knows and loves The One Whose yoke is easy and burden light. We returned to Peace House for Bible Study and prayer. I served Ms Hattie some hot coffee and returned her Bible to her, which she cradled in her arms as the precious treasure it is.
After a quick bite to eat, we went back to work. This time we split up into various groups...some cleaning up the worship pavilion and readying it for the Passover meal to take place later in the week...some helping with front porch ministry as canned goods and love are given to those with appointments...some doing yard work...and some cleaning Love House to bless the sweet missionaries who live there. This last is the team I ended up on. The first time we went to WWG, I cleaned this same house, but for a precious family who lived there at the time. Now it is occupied by single girls who have said yes to Jesus. 
On Saturday, a new friend had found his way to WWG. His name is Marvin and he'd walked three miles in the cold because he was told he would find love and help there. Because of abuse in his childhood, he was a confused man who was dressed as a woman, complete with hair extensions, fake nails, a high-pitched voice, and he called himself Marvina. Amy loved him where he was, shared Jesus with him, and he gave Him his life that very day. She brought him upstairs when I was organizing the clothing shop and we helped him find some men's pants and shoes in his size, and she helped him remove the extensions.
He returned every day we were there. On Tuesday, as we cleaned Love House, he sat at the table with Brooke and Sarah, as they helped him with one more step of his transformation, the removal of his fake nails. Afterward, we gathered around him and prayed, prophesying and declaring his true identity as a beloved SON, a MAN after God's own heart, an OAK of RIGHTEOUSNESS! Wow, what an honor!
So, Tuesday love looked a myriad of ways...just like Jesus, Who IS Love is multi-faceted...we can never exhaust the possible ways of loving in His Name, because His love is limitless...whether it's given to a sweet woman who has walked with Him all her life, a missionary who has sacrificed the comfortable life, or a confused man who has been tormented by the enemy...Love meets us where we are and transforms us into His likeness.
When Jesus returned to Heaven, He gave us our marching orders. He gave us the key to the Kingdom. He gave us the authority to act on His behalf. This day we were His hands and feet, loving The One and loving the one...

We Will Go March 2013, Days 1 and 2

We were blessed to be able to return once again to one of my favorite places on earth, We Will Go Ministries in Jackson, MS. On our way down on Friday, we finally got to meet my dear sister/friend, Tina Boyd (Nick's Mom). We enjoyed a long lunch with her and time to get to know one another better. Funny how we feel so close to one another, especially with all we've been through together, yet this was our first actual face to face meeting!  What an amazing woman she is! Such an honor to do life with her.

Someone else I'm honored to do life with is my precious covenant friend, Karen. We've been dear friends for 20 years and she is my greatest intercessor. We met while pregnant with our girls and have been on an incredible journey together. What a blessing to get to stay in her home with her sweet family.

Saturday we went to work day at We Will Go. Every time we visit it feels like a family reunion, getting to hug necks of people we hold so dear. I ended up on Meridith's team. Mer is an amazing missionary at WWG who Brooke met on her first trip to Mozambique with the Lancaster's, while Mer was a student at Harvest School. God knit their hearts together and while Brooke was at Harvest School a few months ago, Meridith and Laura came to Nashville and stayed in our home. Laura and her sweet family live in one of the bunkhouses at WWG. I felt an instant kinship with these two faith warriors and it was so precious getting to spend time with them this week.

Anyway, back to serving on Mer's team...we headed to the clothing shop to do some organizing upstairs. A team from the International House of Prayer in Kansas City was visiting and some of them ended up in our group as well. We enjoyed getting to know one another while sorting and praying over clothing donations. Saturday evening I went back to Karen's and enjoyed time with her family, then Sunday we went back to WWG to meet up with the rest of our team from The Nest. We moved into the bunkhouses and prayer walked while waiting for afternoon church to begin. On our way back to the worship pavilion, we noticed a couple sitting on the steps in front of the cemetery, eating an orange. We stopped to say hi and invite them to church. The man, who called himself "Red", shared that he knew and loved Jesus, but just didn't feel like he could join us for worship. We shared with him that Jesus loves him just as he is and that all are welcome in His house. It was getting time to head back, so we said goodbye, then he started sharing again. This went on several more times until finally we just had to politely move on with one last invitation for them to join us.

We entered the nearly full worship pavilion, hugging lots of folks we hadn't gotten to see until then...again like a sweet family reunion...Brooke had the honor of sharing her story with everyone, then David shared a good word about perseverance. After service, we transformed the worship pavilion into a dining hall and sat, ate, and fellowshipped with neighbors. I ended up sitting beside sweet Mr. Cliff. He looked and smelled like he had not bathed in months and was missing so many teeth, I could only understand about half of what he said, but he had the most precious twinkle in his eye and a lopsided grin that was so endearing...when he found out I was from Nashville, he beamed proudly as he said he'd gone to grad school at Vanderbilt in the '60s. I wondered how in the world someone with a master's degree had ended up in this condition, but I didn't ask. Instead I just listened to him the best I could as he talked and talked. I noticed others starting to clean up and tried to get up to help, but he continued to talk. As I finally broke away from the conversation to help with clean-up duties, I patted him on the back, blessing him, then moved on.

Later as I reflected on the day's events, and asked God "What did love look like today?", I realized some of the obvious things such as hugging necks of beloved friends/family, serving, praying, etc...but what He revealed to me as I thought about Red and Cliff was that with them love looked like simply listening to them talk. It occurred to me that they are lonely and while thankful for the invitation to church and the hot meal, what they really craved that day was a listening ear and companionship. 

It's not complicated. It's really very simple. Sometimes love looks like listening. God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason. We should listen twice as much as we speak. Listening to someone, no matter how they look or smell, shows them they are a person of value and worth simply because they are created in the very image of God Himself...they are someone Jesus thought was worth dying for...they are someone worth loving...

Listening...a simple yet beautiful way to love The One and love the one...

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

But God...

I’ll go ahead and inform you up front, this is a long post!
This story has already been shared worldwide, so rather than keep my thoughts to myself, I wanted to share them with you, in hopes that you will join me in giving glory to God for all that He has done, and hopefully you will find encouragement in the midst of your own trials.

Thursday evening, February 21, 2013  I received a phone call that caused my heart to fall to the floor. I was talking on the phone with a friend and heard the beep indicating someone else was calling me. I checked to see who it was and noticed Amy Lancaster's name pop up on the screen. I thought to myself, "That's odd. Amy always texts, she never calls!" By the time I ended the first conversation and clicked over to Amy, she had already left a voicemail. What I heard chilled me to the bone. "Jill, I just heard about what happened in Tete and I want you to know I'm praying fervently. If there is anything at all you need, call me..."

What flashed through my mind was the worst thing imaginable for any parent. I pictured my precious daughter dead. I immediately called Amy back, saying I had no idea what she was talking about, so the first words out of her mouth were, "Jill, I need you to sit down." When she said that, again, I'm imagining the unthinkable. So, in a strange way, it was almost a relief when she said that robbers had broken into Nick and Marlene's house, where Brooke has also lived for the last 3 months, tied them up, gagged them, and stole all their valuables. As horrific as that was to hear, I was so relieved they were alive, I couldn't even comprehend the magnitude of what she was saying. They were alive!! That's all that mattered in that moment. She said Nick's mom, Tina, had called her after Nick had informed her, because she knew Amy had been through similar circumstances and could tell me in just the right way. How kind of our God to protect Tina from having to deliver such hard news and to break the news to me through someone who is such an example of staying true to her calling in spite of the many attacks from the enemy she's endured throughout her life and especially throughout her ministry. Amy immediately began praying over our family and giving God glory for His protection and rescue. God brought such peace as she prayed. His peace really does pass understanding. We hung up with Amy promising to continue to pray.

Thankfully, Eddy was home, so I filled him in, then I called Tina. We wept together, prayed together, declared scripture over our children together, and encouraged one another. You know the verse in Ephesians that says, "...speaking to one another in psalms..."? That is basically what we did. Neither one of us had our Bibles opened in front of us, neither was frantically searching for an appropriate verse, we were simply allowing God to bring verses to our mouths. As I reflect on that conversation, I realize what a beautiful gift it was. Memorizing scripture is challenging for most of us, and I heard myself saying verses I didn't even remember intentionally memorizing, yet in the moment I needed them, my God gave them to me. As mamas to these amazing missionaries of ours, we could relate to each other in a way no one else could. The funny thing is we've never even met face to face, and any correspondence we've had has been through Facebook messages or texts, so that was actually the first time we've even heard each others' voices, but God has so knit our hearts together, it honestly felt like we were speaking as old friends.

I hung up and called my friend Amy Stewart, asking her to send a prayer request to our church family. Amy loves Brooke almost as much as I do and cried and prayed with me. The last thing I said to her before ending the conversation was, "Amy and Tina both say she's OK, but I just need to hear her voice". Within five minutes, God gave me my heart's desire. Brooke called!

She was crying and her voice was shaky, yet there was still an underlying strength in her words. I will not go into all the details, and I may not have the exact sequence of events down, but basically two men with machetes broke into the back door and went to Brooke's room first, asking where the money was. Disoriented, she gave them her purse. One guy took her debit card out of her wallet and asked what it was. She said, "It's just a card", and he miraculously tossed it aside. He attempted to force himself on her, but miraculously the other guy said, "No. That's not why we're here. We're here for the money." They went through stuff on her shelves, but miraculously did not touch her passport! They dragged her into the other room and told her to wake up the others. She tried to warn them to bring a weapon, but the guys told her to only use names, so she called to Nick and Mar. I'm unclear on the order in which things happened, but I do know that the three of them continued to tell the guys that Jesus loves them, that they didn't have to do this, etc., even offering them water in Jesus' name. The one guy tried to force himself on Marlene, and he ended up dislocating her jaw, but she was miraculously protected from what could have happened. Meanwhile, in the other room, Brooke and Nick continued to share the love of Jesus and to declare praise to Jesus. At some point, the guy tried to force himself on Brooke again, but miraculously God protected her. Eventually, all three ended up being gagged and tied up. The robbers stole their iphones, ipads, computers, tv, and everything of monetary value, BUT they did not steal their passports, documents, or credit/debit cards. Most importantly, they did not succeed in doing the unthinkable to the girls nor did they kill them. When I think of what could have happened, it is so clear to me that God was protecting them. I'll touch more on that later, but for now, the rest of the story...

Marlene somehow managed to free herself and get a knife to cut Nick and Brooke free, then they got in the truck, which the thieves miraculously did not take, and drove to the Cain's house. The Cain's are a missionary family who has been there for a few months, but recently discovered God has other plans for them, so they are actually coming back to the states. Miraculously, they were still there for Brooke, Nick, and Mar to go to for help. They gave them one of their phones to use to call the police and to call their families. The police came, then the three went to stay with some friends who have a lovely home that Brooke described as looking like Paw Paw and Grammy's. I was so thankful God took them to a place that felt safe and familiar, where they could feel secure. These sweet friends allowed them access to their internet, so they were able to message loved ones via Facebook. 
Here are a few excerpts from some of the posts:
From Brooke
Friends please please stop pray for me Nick and Marlene right now!! we had a terrible and scary thing happen to us last night/early this morning at 2 am. Two guys broke into our house, they tied all of us up and stole everything from our house except our credit cards, passports, and documents. They attempted to hurt me and Mar, but Jesus was protecting us. We are safe now at some of our friends house. Will go to police later today after we try to sleep. They stole our phones and everything so we have no way of communication right now. Just pray for peace and protection for us and that they find the two guys, please. Jesus is so good and we are so thankful for our lives and we know that God has us here for a reason and the enemy CANNOT stop us! Will try to update as soon as we can....
From Nick
... Please pray for Jesus to have mercy on these men. While they were tying us up we told them that Jesus loved them and died for them and that they didn't have to steal. We shared the gospel with them as they took almost everything we own...May Jesus be glorified thru this horrific experience. 
 From Brooke
...The whole time the guys were in our house and beating and trying to sexually abuse me, all i could say was "Jesus Jesus Jesus help us! I will still praise you in the good and the bad times!" This just gives me more of a motivation to stay here and fulfill the call that Papa has on my life here because obviously the enemy is scared and wants to stop us. but guess what? WE WON'T QUIT!
From Brooke
SO happy to report that i slept so well last night!!! Jesus is really answering the prayers of all of you around the world, for rest. The amazing people we are staying with have such a beautiful home that they've opened up to us for however long we need. it doesn't even feel like we are in africa! A/C in every room, running water, and a HOT SHOWER WITH WATER PRESSURE! Jesus truly loves us to be able to stay here after such a traumatic thing happened to us. thank you all for praying. please continue to pray! 
From Nick
UPDATE: On behalf of my family I am so honored and more than blessed to thank the 100's of people all around the world who have messaged, wrote on our walls, befriended us, prayed & offered helped thru this horrific situation. We have packed everything up from our house and put it in storage and we're staying with friends now in a safer place. We're a little better today but still shaken up. Mar & Brooke still need lots of prayer as they took the worst of the assault. We're once again homeless and praying for God to provide a safer place we can afford. Through this the Lord has taught us so much! To love our attackers even in the midst of them abusing and stealing from us was an amazing thing. Jesus has shown us that when we told them that He loved them & offered them water & everything else that was in our house without even thinking about it, that was HIS HEART, HIS love being revealed to them through us. We were just blessed to be the vessel. He loves those men the exact same way he loves us and our prayer is that they radically encounter Jesus, his mercy & extravagant love. We believe the seeds we sown will never leave them. We're not super-heroes or great amazing people...we're just saved by GRACE Christians walking in our DESTINY answering the call on our life. Our prayer for all of you believers is to do the same. Answer the call & walk in your Kingdom Destiny. We know this was an attack of the enemy because he hates us and he knows how Jesus is going to use our boys to further the kingdom & change the world & he doesn't want that to happen. He wants us to quit & go home but that's not an option. We won't quit. We won't give up. Now it's time to press in, seek his face and run harder than ever to share the gospel with a lost hurting world. We love each & every one of you and we're so very thankful to have all of you in our lives. We pray blessings and favor over all of you in Jesus mighty name. 
From Marlene
Words cannot express how thankful I am for all of your prayers and encouragement... Jesus showed me a glimpse of what "UNCONDITIONAL LOVE" looks like. While they were tying us up I told them that Jesus loved them and that He had a plan for their life, they did not need to steal Jesus could provide for them. I was taken by one of the men to a separate room away from Nick and Brooke, he tied my hands, feet, mouth and punched me in the face and started doing horrible things to me that are just not worth mentioning, while he was doing all of these things all I could pray in my mind was: Jesus please have mercy on him, please have mercy on him, over and over again....I was overwhelmed with compassion for the man that was hurting me so much. I knew it wasn't him it was the devil that wanted to hurt and destroy me. I finally understood how Jesus could love me first before I loved him. I have cried many, many tears and please do not think I'm a hero or an amazing Christian or crazy because I'm not, I'm just certain of the calling God gave me. I know the devil hates me and he knows how many souls I am going to take from him and win for Christ and this is why he wants to destroy me. I am now more in Love with Jesus than ever before and want to run faster and preach to millions the urgency of our call. Jesus is coming back soon and we need to win more souls for Jesus. What do you think would happen if we truly start loving the way Jesus loves us? It is not always easy but Jesus is worth it all. My prayer to you that are taking the time to read this is that you really understand that love covers a multitude of sin and that Jesus has chosen us ALL to be His hands and feet here on earth, what a privilege we have to be sons and daughters of a King. Know you are chosen and hand picked to be a bright light in darkness.YOU are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 1 Peter 2:9
From Brooke
...This morning i spent some time outside in the back yard and i just sat down and started praying. Jesus was saying "I'm holding you. You are safe. It's ok to cry. Let it out. I'm comforting you." I sat out there and cried for i dont know how long. Just really letting Jesus begin to heal me. He was showing me where He was during the whole situation. He really allowed me, Nick, and Marlene to love the two guys who did this to us. It makes so sense in our human minds, but Papa loves the guys as much as he loves us. I'm really praying for mercy for them and I want them to get caught so we can minister to them in the prison! I want them to come to Jesus and be wrecked for him. What an amazing testimony that will be. Glory!
The next time I heard Brooke’s voice was two days later. This time she was LAUGHING! They had gotten a call from Mama Heidi saying Papa Rolland was flying to Tete to get them and take them to Pemba for some TLC. Yet ANOTHER miracle!!  Wow!!! Only Heaven itself would be a better place to go for healing and rest. I was undone!! If my precious girl couldn’t be in MY arms, then whose arms would I rather her be in than Mama Heidi’s? Wow!

From Brooke
...We are here [in Pemba] now and doing so much better and i'm so so happy to be here with my family...the missionaries here have been so incredible blessing us and just holding us and praying for us. Mama heidi held me and prayed for me for a while last night. Tonight the missionaries are having home group and they just want to pray for us and bless us and soak us in His presence. There is truly no place i'd rather be than right here in this glory bubble. AND my harvest school sister Mia is here and i didn't know!!! i cried forever when i saw her!!! so so happy...
From Mar
I am beyond blessed to be around our Iris family, so thankful we have a momma and papa that truly love us and support us....Today while I was looking at the beautiful Indian ocean I started asking Jesus a lot of questions, and wondering if something was wrong with me? Why didn't I feel the way the world thinks I should?I'm not mad, I don't have hatred in my heart and I definitely was not quitting and going back home.Jesus gently replied "What if I allowed this men to come in to your house and do what they did, because I knew you would speak to them about me and tell them how much I loved them?" He said: "What if that was their only chance to hear that I died for them and that I have a future for them? He said again, "What if?"Jesus waited till I answered him.My answer was: (Then it was worth it all) My heart my passion my mission is 2 share the gospel and the love of Jesus to every person that I come in contact with. I am truly humbled that in the hardest most difficult situation, Jesus chose me to love the unlovable and to make His name known.To God be all the glory 
Brooke said Mama Heidi loved on them, prayed over them, and declared destiny over them. She said Brooke is a voice for the voiceless, an advocate for not only Shekinah, but all street! Heidi’s assistant, Antoinette handed her a stack of cards from Iris missionaries and staff, and when she opened the one from Heidi, there was a little money in it...miraculously, the same amount that was stolen from Brooke’s wallet! Heidi didn’t know!  Wow!

Thursday afternoon, Eddy came home and told me to come out to the garage to see something. There, inside our garage, which we usually keep closed, was a huge bird’s nest on top of some golf clubs! God often uses nests to reveal Himself to our family, so I got excited, then it hit us both at the same moment what its significance was. This was yet another miracle! There is a small broken window on our garage door, which they had flown through in order to get inside. They had gone through BROKENNESS to build a place of SAFETY! Wow! We receive this as a sign for Pioneer 61!

Friday morning, my day began with a phone call from Tina with the most wonderful, miraculous news! Nick and Mar had been given a dream trip to Switzerland and France!! The details of how this came about are so crazy and so God! Nick loves snowboarding and fashionista Mar has always wanted to go to France! God is granting the desires of their hearts.

A sweet missionary friend, Tetra, is from here in TN, but serves in Pemba. She had been home for the holidays and was planning on stopping in Tete on her way back to Pemba, but those plans had fallen through, and she ended up going straight to Pemba. She arrived Thursday and spent Thursday night with Brooke, star-gazing and loving on each other. I'm so very thankful God worked out their schedules, so Brooke could be with someone she loves and trusts. Yes, this is another miracle!

Friday afternoon I received a delivery of beautiful fresh flowers from a kind friend who said God told her to send them. Wow! THEN, as I’m in tears over this unexpected gift, I get a phone call from another friend with some good news about a business I’m building. Wow!

As I took a shower that afternoon, and the water rushed down on me, I was overwhelmed with how much my Abba loves me! He had been showering, lavishing His extravagant love on me and those I love all day long!

The night this tragedy occurred, after all the phone calls, I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep, and needed to have my phone near me in case Brooke called again, so I made a little nest on the living room couch, and I laid down literally hugging tightly my Bible to my chest. Various times throughout the night, I would open up to the psalms and just drink in the Living Water that was so soothing to my hurting soul. So many times the psalmist would list all that was coming against him, not ignoring it, but acknowledging that it was happening, yet he didn’t stay in that place of despair...he said an important word...BUT. This is bad, this is hard, this stinks, BUT GOD...BUT God, You are GOOD; BUT God, You are faithful; BUT God, You protected, delivered, redeemed...BUT God...fill in the blank...

That night and the next three nights I got very little sleep. I sobbed and grieved deeply for what my precious girl, and these two others I consider my own kids, went through. I cried tears of thankfulness for all that God spared them from and tears of joy over each miracle He revealed to me. I received countless calls, texts, emails, and Facebook messages from the dear body of Christ all over the world. In those moments when all I could do was say the Name, Jesus, I was so thankful for all my brothers and sisters around the world who were interceding on our behalf. I felt like Moses when Aaron and Hur held up his arms for the battle. 

When I would feel a twinge of fear trying to work its way in or anger or unforgiveness, I would hear Jesus saying, gently yet firmly, “Fix your eyes on me.” Not just turn your eyes upon me, but a resolute “Fix” them right here. As long as I was looking into His beautiful eyes, I knew we would all be OK...more than OK...He is REDEEMER, therefore all this would be redeemed for HIS glory! In fact, it already is being redeemed in so many ways.
Strangers are writing generous checks to replace what was stolen, friends are giving sacrificially, healing trips are being provided, and people who have been far from God are commenting on Facebook updates that Brooke is a role model for them and how impressed they are with her faith over fear...all I can say is, “Wow, Jesus!”

Every time I think I’ve allowed God to break out of the box, He breaks out of another one that I didn’t even know I had Him in! With every impossibility, He is showing us...BUT God...I keep picturing one of those Roadrunner and Wyle E Coyote cartoons where the dynamite igniter thingy gets pushed and the box explodes into a million pieces with splinters flying everywhere!!

We have had to engage in some hard conversations with well-meaning folks who love Brooke dearly, but don’t understand why she would ever want to return to such a dark place, and who don’t understand why Eddy and I didn’t hop on a plane to go get her and bring her home to live a “normal” life. We’ve even heard comments alluding to the fact that maybe this happened, so she would come home where she belongs. We’ve seen them wrestling with unforgiveness toward the attackers...

Our answer to all these is BUT God...But God said in this world we’d have trials, BUT He has overcome the world!  Peter said, “Dear friends, don't be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead, be very glad -- because these trials will make you partners with Christ in his suffering, and afterward you will have the wonderful joy of sharing his glory when it is displayed to all the world...keep on doing what is right, and trust yourself to the God who made you, for he will never fail you.” And he said this while enduring unimaginable persecution. 

What if Paul had turned tail and run when things got hard? We wouldn’t have many of the verses that have been our anchor through this whole ordeal...verses like, “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” 

Speaking of, what if JESUS had decided not to go through with the suffering...let that one sink in a moment...what did JESUS say about HIS enemies? “Father, forgive them (um..just a reminder, that’s US!), for they don’t know what they’re doing.” The guys who did this to our loved ones do not know Jesus. They live in darkness, in bondage to the real enemy...the enemy whose mission in life is to steal, kill, and destroy! They are living in the same way you and I would be living in if it weren’t for Jesus. You see, when Jesus was tortured  and crucified, it was for those men just like it was for you and me. We are no more deserving than them. If someone hadn’t told you and me the Gospel message, where would we be today? 

Jesus is the One who had the idea for us to be the ones who go into ALL the world...if not Brooke, Nick, and Mar, then WHO? Who will take light into the darkness? Who will love the least of these? They are the ones who have been called to love the “street kids” in Tete, Mozambique. They are the ones God Himself hand-picked to declare that these boys are sons of God Most High, oaks of righteousness, diamonds in the dirt. He never said it would be easy. In fact, He said it would be hard. BUT hard does not equal impossible

Folks have made the statement, “If it happened to MY child, I would...”
The truth is none of us knows until we are experiencing the trial, how we will react in the moment. We may think we’d do such and such, but until the moment comes, we just don’t know what we would do. I recently read in an anointed book called Carvings in His Palm by Brenda Craig the following statement regarding moments of intimacy with God:

“These times are important, and you must always remember them. They are like heavenly excursions where I let you taste, touch, and see the essence and beauty of Heaven. Fill yourself when you are with Me, for there will be times you are not in this place of intimate communion. There will be times when cold blasts of stormy weather assault you, making necessary a withdrawal from your heavenly account. An account where you have stored up future nourishment from the joy abiding deep within you at this time - joy bubbling up from deep within your well of salvation (Isaiah 12:3).”

I am not some super Christian. I am just someone who is madly in love with Jesus and loves spending time with Him. I am so thankful for those precious moments leading up to this tragedy, because I have definitely made some hefty withdrawals from that account!  When you spend time with someone, you get intimately acquainted with them and what I’ve come to KNOW about my Jesus is that He is ALWAYS good, His Word is ALWAYS true, and HE is ALWAYS worthy of praise! He not only PROVIDES an answer for every situation, He IS the answer to every situation! He IS Love, He IS Peace, He IS Grace, He IS Redeemer, He IS Rescuer, He IS Joy, He IS The Rock, He IS Healer, He IS Savior, He IS Lord, and on and on and on! This is why I choose to fix my eyes on Him! He IS Truth that cancels out EVERY lie of the enemy! He is totally trustworthy...yes, even with my most precious cargo - my children...

My children aren’t really MINE anyway. They are HIS. He created them. He knows them. He loves them. He has good plans for them. He entrusted them to me to train up according to His way, and I’ve done my best to do so...not perfectly, but leaning heavily on Him every step of the way and thanking Him for His grace in the moments when I forget to do so...As hard as it is to imagine, He loves them even more than I do. He can do a much better job of taking care of them than I can. And yes, He WAS taking care of Brooke, Nick, and Marlene on that awful night. He took care of them in so many ways! And He will continue to take care of them as they continue to lay down their lives to follow Him. 

Several years ago I did a Beth Moore Bible study called Believing God. One thing I learned from that study has become ingrained in my spirit. It was a declaration we said every time we met:

God is Who He says He is. 
God can do what He says He can do. 
I am who God says I am. 
I can do all things through Christ. 
God’s Word is alive and active in me. 
I’m believing God!

I have decided to eliminate the phrase “I can’t believe...” from my vocabulary! You know how we say things like “Oh my gosh! I can’t believe it’s only been a week and look at all God’s already done!”? Well, from now on I will say, “Look at all God’s done! I CAN believe it, because that’s Who my God is!”

So, for what can I believe Him? These scriptures are a few we’ve clung tightly to during this time:
“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in Me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. BUT take heart, because I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
“You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.” 1 John 4:4
“Dear friends, don't be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you.
Instead, be very glad -- because these trials will make you partners with Christ in his suffering, and afterward you will have the wonderful joy of sharing his glory when it is displayed to all the world...keep on doing what is right, and trust yourself to the God who made you, for he will never fail you.” 1 Peter 4:12, 19
"No weapon that is formed against you will prosper...” Isaiah 54:17
“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed ; perplexed, but not despairing ; persecuted, but not forsaken ; struck down, but not destroyed.” 2 Corinthians 4:8-9

So, I can believe Him to overcome. I can believe that HE is greater than Satan. I can believe Jesus and we are partners. I can believe we share His glory. I can believe HE can be trusted. I can believe that no weapon will prosper. I can believe we are not crushed, despairing, forsaken, or destroyed! I CAN believe all these and more, and I CHOOSE to believe all this and more! 

I believe every single time we pray, something happens in the spirit-realm. I have prayed Psalm 91 over all my children, including Brooke as well as my spiritual children like Nick and Mar. What I see with my eyes may not look like they were protected. I mean, the break-in still happened, right? BUT I shudder to think of all they were actually protected from! We have no idea what sort of battle was actually going on in the spirit. Remember, the enemy’s ultimate mission is absolute destruction! Did he succeed? Absolutely NOT! All he succeeded in was pushing us all closer to The Father’s heart and deeper into the arms of Jesus, depending more than ever on the power of the Holy Spirit! The enemy’s schemes have totally backfired on him! Hallelujah!!  If anything, this attack has just made Brooke, Nick, and Marlene more resolute than ever in the mission God has called them to. 

When Eddy and I first saw that Nick had posted not only about the robbery, but the attempted sexual assault, we were a little taken aback and thought that part of the story should have been kept private, but Brooke explained to us that they all decided the whole story should be told, because it did happen and it is part of what God rescued them from. As I thought more about it, God began revealing to me being open about it, it has exposed the darkness, bringing it into the light, which renders it powerless! So many suffer these kinds of attacks and worse, yet suffer in silence, often for years, and the enemy wreaks all sorts of havoc and whispers all sorts of lies about their identity. So, as difficult as it was to see those awful words in print, I’m glad they exposed the darkness and can boldly say, yes, awful stuff happened, BUT worse stuff did not. Yes, they experienced tragedy,  BUT their lives and their ministry ARE NOT DESTROYED!! Soon after this revelation, I read in Carvings in His Palm the following statement:
“Only hidden things or those not dealt with give the enemy power over you.”
I love it when God confirms what I sense He is showing me. Nick, Mar, and Brooke did the brave thing by exposing the darkness. February 17 was Brooke’s 19th birthday and at church we asked God what was on His heart for her. My 16 year old son, Blake, said God gave him a picture of her name written as an acrostic. God said the “B” must stand for BRAVE! This was 4 days before the attack! Wow, God!

Brooke told me that one night after the attack, she was having trouble sleeping because the enemy was trying to torment her with images and memories, BUT God took her to Psalm 124:

" ‘Had it not been the LORD who was on our side,’ Let Israel now say, ‘Had it not been the LORD who was on our side When men rose up against us, Then they would have swallowed us alive, When their anger was kindled against us; Then the waters would have engulfed us, The stream would have swept over our soul ; Then the raging waters would have swept over our soul.’ Blessed be the LORD, Who has not given us to be torn by their teeth. Our soul has escaped as a bird out of the snare of the trapper ; The snare is broken and we have escaped. Our help is in the name of the LORD, Who made heaven and earth.”
I love the image of the bird escaping from a trap and can just imagine these three amazing young people flying freely, taking this message of love to the ends of the earth! 

As I started the process of writing down this story several days ago, I felt overwhelmed as I thought about ALL the MANY miracles God has done. I felt like I could identify with John when he said, “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books that would be written.” John 21:25
And the cool thing is that we are just at the BEGINNING of this story and there are already SO MANY details God is doing! 
So, I’ve done my best to remember as many things as possible to write for the purpose of giving God glory, encouraging anyone going through trials, hopefully answering questions anyone’s had about how we have gotten through this, and because I absolutely LOVE the power of testimony! 

This story is most definitely one of loving The ONE and loving the one...even when it doesn’t make sense...

I can’t repeat it often enough...God is GOOD, His Word is TRUE, and He is ALWAYS worthy of praise!!!

Stay tuned, as I’m SURE there will be MUCH more to this story in the coming days...

Thank you and bless you all for your prayers, encouragement, messages, gifts, generosity, sacrifice, friendship, and LOVE!
Keep loving The ONE and loving the one...

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Brooke update 2/19/13

Click on the link below to see what's going on with Brooke: