Monday, August 29, 2011

Volunteer Testimony: LHBC (August 2011)

For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.  Ephesians 2:10
I like to think of these good works that God prepared for me beforehand as doors. They are doors placed in front of me that I choose to walk through, because I know that God has placed them before me and expects me to walk through them. 

God has been softening my heart to travel to Africa for over 2 years.  It wasn’t until this year that I felt the burden of disobedience if I did not go. God revealed to me that missions is not something you choose to do when you feel like it, but that it is a mind-set...a lifestyle...a commandment!

My husband and I have called Mark and Parker Phillips dear friends for years.  Many emails were sent between Parker and I before she mentioned the possibility of painting with some of the women in Boubon, a village of Niamey.  I was hesitant at first, understanding that there would be language and cultural barriers and also a lack of supplies.  I almost told her no.  Then I realized that my plans lended to little faith in what God’s purpose for my trip was.  I was to bring color into this dark world.  As God created something from nothing, I was about to tell the women of Ayorou and Boubon about His great love for them through a blank canvas and a bible story. My prayer was as they would pick up their brushes and begin to paint that they would understand God is a creator, an artist. In fact, He is the first creator and the first artist. He had everything imaginable and unimaginable at His disposal when he created. It was a palette of raw materials and colors that He used to make what we see around us, what we don't see, and what we haven't seen yet.  He created them in His image, and wanted a relationship with them. 

Many of these women have never even picked up a pencil, yet as we started to pass out the paints and the brushes, we saw smiles start to form on faces that were hard when they first entered the compound.  Then the brushes hit the canvas, and then and there it didn’t matter that they couldn’t speak to me, or that I couldn’t tell them they were painting a tree, what mattered is that I was building a relationship with them.  I was then reminded that God was in control of the paint brush.  Day after day, these women would return, with hopes of creating a masterpiece and hearing a story of God’s faithfulness.  Each day, more and more would share of what they had learned the day before and God still proved faithful.

The one believer in Boubon, Sam*, has a wife who attended our class each day.  She is not a believer.  At dinner one night, Travis Ayers shared with me that when he was there in May, he had never seen her with her head up, never with a smile, and that he witnessed her running into the house with her painting in hand, grinning from ear to ear, with a new found confidence.  I wept.  How could I have ever doubted that because of my own fears and weaknesses that He would not complete His plan.  His light was shining all through Boubon!

As encouraging as our time in Boubon was, it was the picture that God painted for me, in Karma, that will forever be engraved in my heart and never far from my thoughts.  As we sat in a mud hut of this dark, dark village, casual chit-chat ensued between our team, villagers, and translators.  It was then that Stuart Borders asked if he could share the story of Creation to Christ.  By this time men, women, and children were crowded around and we got the “okay” to share.  It was beautiful...Stuart speaking God’s promises, Cephas (the translator), telling the stories in Zarma to the Songhai, and heads nodding all over the room as they tuned their ears to God’s word.  A prayer of blessings was spoken over them,  then a woman spoke from the back of the room.  Her words were, “If you did not come to tell us, how would we know?”  She spoke scripture from Romans10:14 and did not even know it.  It states, “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” I wept again.  That should frighten us that there are so many who still have not heard of Jesus for the very first time. We should be burdened to go and evangelize to those in Niger who have now heard and need to make the choice to follow.  We need to teach them to live life taking God at His Word.

I went on this mission trip to love and to minister to others, but most of all I just wanted to love God and to give him back his place as God.  My eyes we opened once again to His faithfulness.  We should ask and expect Him to answer, knock and expect doors to be opened.  I will always take Him at his Word knowing He has never changed.  I will let God be God. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

august 2011

Prayer Partners,

Thank you so much for yet another month of your faithful prayer support! We apologize for the delay in sending this newsletter. As has been the theme of our lives lately, we've been busy!! We hosted a team of 6 from TX, Mark & Randy were able to travel to Accra this last month to visit with Gomer, and we finished with a team of 8 from KY. God is doing amazing things among the Songhai &, dare I say, in the lives of our volunteers that we can do nothing more than stand back & be in awe! Your prayers are so vital to our ministry to the Songhai & those that work alongside us. We cannot thank you enough!!

Please be sure to check out the blog for the story of Sam* & David* as well as for coming testimonies from recent volunteers. Also, we want to congratulate Ava for gathering the most new prayer supporters during our More Prayer, More People contest. She recruited 64 new prayer partners for the Songhai team!! Overall, we added almost 100 new prayer supporters. Please continue to send us email addresses or names of anyone that would like to be added to our prayer team. Please continue to recruit your friends, family, SS classes or small groups to pray for the Songhai!

Thank you again for your prayer support each month. Thank you for holding the ropes. Please continue to pray for the Songhai people to know Jesus as their Lord & Savior & for many, many more to come out of darkness into the Light!

that ALL may know HIM,

Mark & Parker Phillips <><

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

LH recap video

Personal testimonies from the Living Hope team will be coming your way shortly but, in the mean time, please enjoy this wonderful video full of pictures made by one of the team members, Amy Richey.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Weekly Prayer Focus: LHBC team

Please be in prayer for the volunteer team here from Living Hope Baptist Church. They are spending the week along the "Road to Karma" as well as one day in Ayorou. The men are doing discipleship lessons with the 1 believer in Boubon in the mornings while the women are doing art classes & evangelism stories with the women of Boubon. In the afternoons, they are sharing the C2C in all 3 villages on the "Road to Karma."

Please pray for the one believer in Boubon, S*, as he listens to & learns the discipleship stories that are being taught. Pray for the words to remain in his heart & mind & that God would ignite a passion in him to share what he's learned with those that do not believe yet.

Pray for the women attending the art classes. So far, there have been as many as 8 women that have attended at one time. They are in a secluded area where they are free from distraction & able to focus on the stories being presented. They are also learning how to paint & are enjoying it immensely. The women are very proud of their artwork & are full of such joy as they learn these new skills everyday. Pray that as they hear the stories from God's word of His love & salvation for them, that they would believe & trust Him as their Savior.

Pray also for the men & women who the team encounters as they share the C2C story with multiple groups along the Road to Karma in the afternoons. Pray that God's sheep would hear His voice & many would be called to salvation.

Please also pray for the team. Pray for health & safety. As of yet, no one has gotten sick. We've even been blessed with cooler weather & an afternoon of rain. Pray that God would continue to protect their bodies from illnesses.

And lastly pray for their time in Ayorou. They will be meeting with the group of believers to study God's word together. The women will also meet with a group of women to do an art class. Pray for the women in the class that have yet to believe; pray that as the word of God is shared with them, they will hear & respond to the message of salvation.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

news from Gomer: August 2011

Dear Friends,

I want to start by thanking you for your faithful prayers and support.  God is faithful to answer our prayers for His will to be done.  I am thankful for friends and family that will lift me and this ministry up before God seeking His will.  Many of you have answered God's call for funding this mission, and for that I and several Songhai are most grateful.  May God bless you.

It is Ramadan, a time when Muslims fast during the day and pray for visions and revelations.  Join me in praying that God will speak to the hearts of many Islamic Songhai this year and that they will dream about and have visions of Jesus, the Way, the Truth and the Life, let us pray that many will come to know this one and only Savior this year as their Lord and Savior.

I want to thank God for sending Mark, Randy and Cephas to us last week to minister along side us.  I was actually a little leery at first of them coming the first week of Ramadan, afraid the Songhai would be angry that we were trying to disturb their holiday, but I was reminded by God just how powerful and how His timing is just perfect every time.  Many of the Songhai were very warm and welcomed us with open arms.  I was struck by some of the conversations we had and was shown again and again that God is moving among the Songhai.

Several of the Songhai told us they are ready to accept Jesus, they have begun to pray and seek God, His Son and they want to be Christians, but it is hard.  Imagine being told all your life that a group of people are filled with hatred, they are vile, evil, war and hate mongers, and now, you are to become one of them.  To know that you will lose your job, your housing, your family and many friends, to be shunned, to be an outcast to be unwelcome in a society that is focused on relationship, all to become something you have been taught all your life was wrong and evil.  Six young men that work together, each told us their desires to accept Jesus, all not knowing that the others around them are also wanting to accept.  Imagine, if we can pray that God will create a conversation with them that would lead to this group accepting Jesus together.  Imagine them leading the way, lighting the path, becoming the trailblazers for their friends to follow into God's eternity.  Pray that these young men will accept Jesus, boldly, that they will stand for Him, live for Him and become witnesses for Him, His love, His peace, and His joy. 

Pray this Ramadan for the ones who have already accepted Jesus and are living out their faith in the Songhai communities.  They are under constant pressure to fall away from their new found faith.  There are a couple who need our prayers as they are seeking to make public their acceptance of Jesus as Savior.

Pray for M*, W* and M* as they grow in their faith, pray that God will use them in powerful ways to reach-out to their friends.  Pray that they will be bold, courageous and that they will allow God's strength to lift them above any persecutions and hardships and bring them to a place of peace in their lives.  Pray for their families as they wrestle with the decisions these men have made.

Pray for Mitch* and his family.  As I speak, Barbara* is recovering from a bad case of malaria.  She was bed ridden for about three days and is just now getting up and around again.  Pray that she will soon come to the point of accepting Jesus as her Savior.  Mitch is encouraged that she has not spoke of Ramadan and did not take part in the fasting.  Pray that soon this will be a Christian family, one before God in Salvation through Jesus Christ.

Join us in prayer for the next few months as we seek God's will for the future.  We are planning to go back to Niger in October if all goes well. We are trying to work out travel arrangements and this is an expensive trip.  Many of the Albasan guys have gone back now to work on family and village farms, we want to go spend some time with them and their families to foster the relationships and to share the good news of the Gospel with their Moms and Dads, brothers and sisters, friends and neighbors.

Pray as we seek God's wisdom for the next couple of Mission teams coming in November to seek the Songhai here in Accra.

Pray for the Bissa Team from Scotts Hill Baptist Church as they prepare to come in September.  We will be with them a lot and look forward to ministering with them.  God has put the Songhai and the Bissa here together in so many areas, they are friends and neighbors and we have started a Bible study and it is attended by both Songhai and Bissa.  God will raise up encourager's to the Songhai through the Bissa.

Praise God for His faithfulness, His answers to Prayers and for His will to be done.

Pray for the Muslims during Ramadan that many will see Jesus and know He is God's Son come that they may have Salvation through Him.

Praise God for bringing Mark, Randy and Cephas and using them in many great and powerful ways to accomplish His will of reaching out to the Songhai here.

Pray for the Songhai that know the truth, that they will be emboldened, strengthened and courageous to accept Jesus as Savior.  Pray God's peace will comfort them and be real to them.

Pray for the few who have come to Jesus and have made it known, that God will built a hedge of protection around them, and He will everyday give them comfort and peace, joy and love as they seek to live out their Christian lives.

Pray for Mitch* and his family.

Pray for us as we start to plan and prepare to travel to Niger to minister to the families of the guys that have been here and now gone back home.  Pray that God will use this opportunity to reach many in the villages with His Gospel, that they might know the true and living Savior.

Pray as we prepare for the teams coming in November, and pray for Jimmie Suggs and his team from Scotts Hill Baptist as they prepare to come minister to the Bissa people.

Praise God for all He is doing and rejoice as we see Him calling His lost children home.

Pray for me, that I will always and only seek to do the will of Him who sent me. That I will be a good and faithful follower of Jesus, a reflection of the Light of this World.

      I praise God for you all.
      In His Service,

Monday, August 8, 2011

Weekly Prayer Focus: Ramadan

Please be in prayer for our friends & neighbors this week (& month) who are not believers & are celebrating the Muslim holiday known as Ramadan. Ramadan is the yearly month of fasting that Muslims observe. Fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam & one of the highest forms of Islamic worship. As soon as the sun starts to peek out in the morning, Muslims begin to fast until the sun begins to set in the evening. They do this for one month as an act of faith & worship towards Allah while seeking his mercy & hoping to put another notch in their efforts to gain entry into paradise.

While we do not claim to be experts on Islam or Ramadan, we have noticed some things in the last 5 years of living here. First, many Muslims seem to be at a more heightened sense of their spiritual state than at any other time of the year. While they are working so hard & seeking to please their god, they are very aware of what all they are having to do to earn their salvation, so to speak. This is good for us in that they seem to be more open to hearing what we believe as Christians & it gives us a great segway into explaining that salvation is a free gift & not earned.

Many Muslims also believe that Christians do not fast because they never see us doing it or because we do not, as a whole, set aside a designated time to do it. During the month of Ramadan, they continually ask us if we are fasting & why we do not. This gives us a great opportunity to speak to them about what the Bible says about fasting.

What we have also noticed is that new Christians are very timid about breaking away from this tradition of Ramadan. For one, when they do not fast during this month because they are no longer Muslims, they stick out like a sore thumb.

Imagine if all your life you've celebrated Christmas with your family & many, many other families. And then you are told that it's not what the Bible says is right. So on Christmas morning, you stay in your room or go somewhere else. You do not open presents nor do you give presents. You do not eat Christmas dinner with your family & friends. Now what is your family going to think about you? What about everyone else who expects you to be there or expects a gift from you or maybe even bought a gift for you that you now refuse to accept? You would definitely stick out & be questioned or maybe even ridiculed about your new belief system.

For our brothers & sisters here, who are sometimes the ONLY believer in their family or their village, this has huge implications when they choose to not participate in what EVERYONE else says is right & pleasing to their god. It has even larger implications here in Africa than rejecting Christmas in America when community is at stake. In America, if you choose to reject Christmas, well ... most people think you're crazy & then think, "Well, that's more for me!" Here, if you reject what the rest of the community says is right, you risk losing the actual community ... which is your livelihood.

Community here would be like going to Wal-Mart in America & being told your money is no good or being refused service at Chik-Fil-A because of your faith or being kicked out of your house & no one, no where allows you to stay with them. That is community here & that's what's at stake not only when you place your faith in Christ in this country among these people but also when you make a blatant stand against your former faith by choosing not to participate in one its greatest & most revered holidays.

So while you are praying for our dear Muslim friends who have yet to accept Christ as their Savior & are desperately seeking a way to please God during this month, please also pray for those that have already chosen the narrow path. Pray that they would stand strong in their faith while everyone else around them shuns them or ridicules them for the decision they've made. Pray that God would supernaturally remind them of His acceptance of them & assurance of their faith. Pray that He would bless them above & beyond their imaginations as they daily count the cost to follow Him. Pray that they would be so bold in their witness, even during this month, to share the hope they have found & the salvation they have found in Christ.