Saturday, January 30, 2016

Humble, Uncomplaining Servants

Last weekend we took a trip out to a village far off the beaten track to visit some missionaries whom we'll call Josiah and Elizabeth (not their real names).  John is the Regional Director for missionaries involved in evangelism and discipleship in this area and Josiah and Elizabeth are under his care, so we wanted to visit them where they live and work.  Not only that, we've known each other ever since we started our missionary careers in the early '80's.  Our Deputy International Director was visiting, so it was our privilege to have him go along with us. 

We traveled on the paved road for a couple of hours and then headed off onto a dirt road that led through several villages until we came to the up-and-coming village where they live. 


Their village has electricity several hours a day and is in a valley that allows a gardening industry to flourish.  In spite of it's out-of-the-way location, merchants come from all over to buy produce there to sell in other markets.  Surprisingly to us, since we had very few fruits and villages in the village where we lived for 16 years, they don't lack for many fruits and vegetables.

Josiah and Elizabeth live in a typical "apartment" complex.  By that, I mean that there are four or five connected houses on their compound.  Each one has a privacy wall around it, but neighbors are very close indeed.  Elizabeth's kitchen sink, stove, and fridge are on the terrace which is kind of also an outside living room.  Off the terrace is a bathroom with a shower and toilet.  Inside the house is a room that runs the length of the house and which is their living room and dining room.  Behind that are two bedrooms.  They got a nice cross-breeze, but have no glass on their windows so there is no way to keep out the ever-present dust.

We had a late lunch with them and then had a walking tour of their village. 


We were able to see the land that they've been able to purchase for a pastor's house, and as God works and blesses, a church, and possibly a school.

You'll notice that my pictures from the first day have a beautiful blue sky and from the second day the sky has no color.  During the night a strong wind blew and by morning heavy harmattan had descended (and is still with us a week later!).  By the way, harmattan is the dust that blows down from the Sahara Desert and hangs in the air like a thick fog.

The next day we had a service in Josiah and Elizabeth's home.  A student from the secondary school, presumably the only Christian in the school, came to worship with us.  After a shared meal we headed out to visit three of the evangelists in the area. 


Each evangelist had his own story and we wished we had a longer time to get to know them better.  They speak a different vernacular language than we do, so we were relying on Josiah to translate for us.

The first evangelist is young and he and his wife have one child.  He shared with us how when he first came the people in the village were unkind and kept their distance from him, but now that they are seeing he is an honorable man of integrity, they are beginning to trust him.

We headed on through the bush to another village.  

The evangelist there has a small church.


He and his wife have 10 children and, like the others, rely on his own farm to provide food for his family since the salary he receives is not enough to provide for his family.  He was telling us that the town where he grew up is known as a Christian village.  It is said that that town no longer hears the call to prayer.  When we were there, his children were busy washing their clothes in preparation for school the next day.

As we approached the third village, Josiah led us through the back streets of a village, up one narrow lane and down another.

The third evangelist has several men who were already Christians when he came to the village, but he has had a hard time winning their trust.  He has a thriving literacy ministry with over 20 children coming to learn to read and write.  They range in age from 6 to 20.  

He told how last year during the meningitis epidemic, over 20 children in his village died.  They received a vaccine, but it was not for the strain of meningitis that was going around so it did no good in protecting the children.

In the village where we used to live, the kids were quick to gather around.  Here they kept their distance more than I'm used to, and I had to work hard to finally make a little friend!

Josiah and Elizabeth visit these evangelists regularly.  They feel that their work is best done in equipping these men.  Josiah also travels to a Bible school about an hour a way every week to teach there.  

As we headed back to the capital city, our Deputy International Director asked us what touched us most about the weekend.  We both mentioned the enormous needs and how we could use so many more missionaries in the area to share the good news with those who are living and dying without ever having heard of Jesus.  Then he shared that for him it is the way that Josiah and Elizabeth serve so faithfully without complaint.  The entire weekend we were there, we didn't hear one word of complaint....not about where or how they live, not about the frustrations in the culture, not about the administration, not about how isolated they are.  The closest they came to complaining was to state their frustration with their internet situation.  And even then they said that there is nothing they can do about it, so they don't stress about it.

He's so right!  I think the two things that characterizes Josiah and Elizabeth is that they are humble and uncomplaining.  They know what God has called them to do and they just do it.  They don't expect anybody to make life better or easier for them.  They don't spend a lot of time traveling to the capital city for a break (which would not be wrong to do!), they just do their job.  They are an amazing couple who don't look for any praise or glory.  They are people we tend to take for granted because they stay out of the limelight.

I'd like to take both what impacted John and me and our Deputy International Director and say that we need more humble, uncomplaining servants to reach those who are living and dying without knowing Jesus.  We don't need heroes or amazing people.  We just need people who know what God has called them to do and who do it.

Monday, January 25, 2016

(Re)introducing Myself -- Outside the Frame

I am so excited to be joining Suzanne from The Glorious Mundane for this bi-weekly link up! To join the link up be share to click on Suzanne's name above.... it will take you to her page to link up your blog! :) Please join in the fun!

The link-up is called Outside the Frame and the aim is to draw bloggers together who are willing to be open and honest about life outside the frame of the camera.....  Pictures can make our lives look perfect and this is a chance to be real, to show what is outside the frame.

So here we go!

As I walk down the street, I get called "Annasara!" a lot.  I'm not sure how I feel about being called "White person!"  Mostly, I wish people would call me by my name, but I guess they can't do that if they don't know my name! I think "Annasara" makes me feel like I'm an oddity.  I guess I like "Annasara" better than "Hee Haw!", which I also get a lot.  "Hee haw" is a corruption of "Nee haw"  (Not sure how to spell it), the greeting in Chinese.  How anybody thinks I'm Chinese, I'm not must be my brown hair and hazel eyes.  

The names I like best are "Nancy", "Hannatu", "Mom", or "Grandma".  In the past I got called "Miss Hall" or "Mrs. DeValve", but that was when I was teaching school.

As "Nancy", I am a daughter, a wife, a friend, an aunt, a sister, or an employee:  daughter to Don and Betty, 

Helping my mom pack to go to Nigeria where I grew up.

wife to my amazing husband, John, 
Yes, I was all of about 95 pounds when we got married!

friend to many, 
aunt to 16, 
sister to two plus their spouses and three brothers-in-law and their spouses, 

My brother, Dean, my sister, Natalie, and me holding the cat.  We also have a brother in heaven.

and a missionary with SIM.

Me in my office, several haircuts ago.

As "Hannatu", I have a pronounceable and understandable name among my Nigerien friends (my friends at the office and church all call me "Nancy").  When I was a missionary in Nigeria, a friend and I had supper one evening with a Nigerian family.  He told us we need African names, so we told him he could have the privilege of naming us.  The name he gave me is "Hannatu" and I've used it ever since.  It is the same as the name Hannah, and Nancy is actually a derivative of Hannah, so it works really well.

I've been "Mom" or "Mommy" since 1989 when our first child, Daniel was born.  He was joined by his sister, Suzanne, in 1991.  I've love being a mom!

"Grandma" is a fairly new name for me since our first grandbaby is only 17 months old.  Of course I haven't heard her say my name yet, but I'm sure she'll be able to say it by the time we see her again this coming summer! :)

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Ever Thought Much About the Holy Spirit?

Have you ever thought much about the Holy Spirit?  Probably most Christians haven't.  We believe He's real and He's part of the Trinity, but what part does He play in our daily lives?

Recently I have read four books about the Holy Spirit that I found helpful.

Forgotten God by Francis Chan is a great introductory book about the Holy Spirit.  I read this book second, but I’m going to start with it because if you have never taken an in-depth look at the Holy Spirit, this book is the best of the three to start with.  Compared to the other two, I’d classify it as an introduction to all that can be said.  It’s also written in a modern style and is, I’d say, geared towards the current generation, though it’s a great read for any generation.
     Mr. Chan’s title is chosen because we speak a lot about Jesus and His love for us and His work on the cross and we speak a lot about God as the one who holds it all together, but we speak very little about the Holy Spirit.  Chan reminds us that we aren’t called to live a better life, but to live one unexplained without the Holy Spirit.  What would my life look like if I stop forgetting the Holy Spirit and allow Him to be part of my life?  Rev. Chan says, “God wants the praise for what we do in our lives.  But if we never pray audacious, courageous prayers, how can He answer them?  If we never follow Him to positions where we need Him, how can He show up and make His presence known?”  This quote also jumped off the page at me:  “You don’t need the Holy Spirit if you are merely seeking to live a semi-normal life and attend church regularly. … You only need the Holy Spirit’s guidance and help if you truly want to follow the Way of Jesus Christ….”

I Believe in the Holy Spirit by Michael Green is the one of the three that I read first and that I took the most time with, looking up and studying each passage he mentioned.   At twice the length of Forgotten God, this book goes into a lot more detail than Francis Chan’s book.  Rev. Green traces the history of the Spirit starting in the Old Testament and then spends the majority of the book on the Spirit’s work as seen in the New Testament and its implications for us today.
     From this book I learned that the Holy Spirit’s two main functions today is to point to Jesus and His glory and to make us like Jesus.  The spiritual gifts He gives us are lent by the Spirit for serving others after the pattern of Jesus and we are given the energy and strength to carry out these gifts by the power of the God of the universe.  Each one of us has a different gift.  Each service that we perform is different.  And the way that God energizes or works through us is different.  But each gift points to Jesus and builds up the Body to be like Jesus.
     Rev. Green’s book is quite intellectual, almost a text book, but is also very easy to understand and not boring at all. 

The third book I read is a much older book entitled The Person and Work of the Holy Spirit by R. A. Torrey.  This book is a classic and worth reading.  Doctrinally he differs slightly than Rev. Green on a few things, such as when one receives the baptism of the Holy Spirit (I would agree with Rev. Green, but you’ll have to read both books to know what their positions are. J ).  R. A. Torrey was probably the Francis Chan of his time, so his writing style is very much what was in vogue in the late 1800’s.  His sentences are very long, but his writing is also interesting and engaging, so it wasn’t difficult to read.  The book presents a systematic overview of the person and work of the Holy Spirit, so it’s more like Michael Green’s book than like Francis Chan’s book in that regard.  The one thing I really liked about this book is that for every work of the Holy Spirit that he wrote about, he included a real-life example of how he had seen that take place in real life.  This book is free for Kindle, so if you want to read one of these books, but don’t want to spend money, choose this one.  You won’t be disappointed.
The Fruits of the Spirit:  Living a Life Connected by Gary D. Anderson is a self-published book that I downloaded at some time for free on Kindle (it is no longer free).  I did not think it was written very well and found several errors and an over-use of exclamation marks!  But reviews on Amazon say it was well-written, so I guess you’ll have to read it and be the judge.  That said, I’m so glad I read this short book (72 pages), because the challenge Mr. Anderson throws out is a good one.  He says that we spend so much time trying to discern our gifts of the Spirit that we forget to produce the fruit of the Spirit.  If we would focus on dwelling in Christ and in producing the fruit of the Spirit, we would, as a result, be practicing our spiritual gifts with no need to try to figure out what they are.  The one flows naturally from the other. 
So, there you are….if you’re looking for a book about the Holy Spirit, here are four good recommendations.


Thursday, January 14, 2016

My Book List for 2015

 I read 50 books in 2015. When I counted up my list I had to go back and re-count because I've never read that many books in a year, at least not since I started keeping a list. I think it was in large part because we had a stay-cation this year, so I did a lot of reading during that month.

I will not do a book review of all 50 books, so don't despair. I just want to talk a little about my top 10 favorites, and then just list the rest. These aren't listed in any particular order, mostly just by the date when I read them (January at the top of the list, December at the bottom).

1. When Mountains Move by Julie Cantrell
This was one of those books that when I closed it at the end, I felt like I was saying good-bye to people I knew. The characters, the plot, the setting....all were so well-crafted that I felt like I was there witnessing the story. It felt true to life, showing the stress of setting up a homestead in Colorado and the toll that takes on a marriage, hiding lies, and finding redemption. Apparently this book is a sequel to another, but it reads well without ever having read the first book.

2. The Sleeping Night by Barbara Samuel
This is a well-written book, exploring a cross-racial relationship in the deep south in the 1940's. There were a few mild cuss words and a "fast-forward" sexual scene that prevents me from a whole-sale recommendation. But it was very well written, reminds us of our history and the abuses of which we as a country have been guilty, and was difficult to put down. I really enjoyed this book. It looks like most of Ms. Samuel's novels are pretty sleazy, so I haven't bothered checking out others of them.

3. One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp
While the writing style isn't my favorite, with lots of flowery descriptions, I loved, loved, loved this book. I was challenged to adapt an attitude of gratitude. Any book that moves me forward in spiritual growth is a good book.

4. Surprised by Oxford by Carolyn Weber
I reviewed this book on my blog here, so I won't say more, other than that this may have been my favorite book of the year.

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5. Walking the Bible: A Journey by Land Through the Five Books of Moses by Bruce Feiler
This is another one I reviewed here on my blog.
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6. The Unquiet Bones by Mel Starr
I have read three of Mr. Starr's books in this series and have enjoyed them. I got another one on my Kindle as a Christmas gift that I'm looking forward to reading. This series was reviewed here.

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7. Eat That Frog! 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time by Brian Tracy  
This book gives some really helpful and practical hints about getting more done more efficiently in less time.  Of course, the author makes it sound like if you do everything he says, you'll be wildly successful, seemingly never taking into account that things happen that are out of your control and may not turn out just as you plan. I've reviewed this book here.

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8.  Boaz Brown by Michelle Stimpson
Written by an African American, Ms. Stimpson gives a fresh perspective on racial prejudice.  The main character meets a man who she refuses to acknowledge as the man of her dreams because he is not the “right” color.  Once she acknowledges her feelings for him, she has to face the disapproval of her family….but their reasons are deep and complicated.  Ms. Stimpson is not only humorous at times, but also deadly serious, giving us much to think about regarding prejudice, love, and forgiveness.

9.  I Believe in the Holy Spirit by Michael Green
I plan to do a more in-depth review of this book and a few others soon.  So for now I’ll just say that if you would like to do a more in-depth study of the Holy Spirit, I would recommend this book.

Image result for i believe in the holy spirit by michael green

10.  The Land Between:  Finding God in Difficult Transitions by Jeff Manion
Rev. Manion recounts a real-life experience, either of his own or of somebody he knows personally and then builds on that to look more closely at the experience of the Israelites in the wilderness and how we can apply those experiences to the difficulties we may be going through.  This was a practical and encouraging book.

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And the rest of the books I read, with an occasional additional note, are:
11. Trophy Child…Saving Parents from Performance….Preparing Children for Something Greater Than Themselves by Ted Cunningham
12.  Praying the Names of God by Ann Spangler – I have to admit I read most of this in 2014.
13.  The Power of Praying for Your Adult Children by Stormie Omartian – This almost made the top 10 cut.  If you have adult children and if you are a praying parent, make sure you read this book.
14.  Dreaming of a Father’s Love by Sharon A. Lavy
15.  A Plain Scandal:  An Appleseed Creek Mystery by Amanda Flower
16.  The Choice by Robert Whitlow – I like everything I read by Robert Whitlow, so this almost made it in the top 10 as well.
17.  The Life and Prayers of Saint Joan of Arc by Wyatt North
18.  I Called Him Dancer by G. Edward Snipes
19.  Tell Your Time:  How to Manage Your Schedule So You Can Live Free by Amy Lynn Andrews
20.  Pretense by Lori Wick
21.  Spiritual Warfare:  The Battle for God’s Glory by Jerry Rankin
22.  In Between by Jenny B. Jones
23.  Just One SIMAIR Story by Rich Schaffer -- Review here.
24.  Rhythms of Renewal by Letitia Suk
25.  Lily Cigar by Tom Murphy – Don’t waste your time or your money.  Review here.
26.  The Strength to Stand, My Cancer, My Blessing by David Adams -- Review here.
27.  Forgetting Tabitha: The Story of an Orphan Train Rider by Julie Dewy – Don’t waste your time or money.  Review here.
28.  Be Joyful by Warren Wiersbe
29.  A Corpse at St. Andrews Chapel by Mel Starr
30.  A Trail of Ink by Mel Starr
31.  In Name Only by Ellen Gable
32.  America the Beautiful by Ben Carson -- Review here.
33.  Telling God’s Story by Preben Vang & Terry Carter
34.  The Double Comfort Safari Club by Alexander McCall Smith
35.  The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party by Alexander McCall Smith
36.  Mentor Like Jesus by Regi Campbell -- Review here
37.  A Love for Delicious by Cynthia Hickey
38.  Someone’s Daughter:  In Search of Justice for Jane Doe by Silvia Pettem
39.  Take One by Karen Kingsbury
40.  The Servant:  A Simple Story about the True Essence of Leadership by James Hunter -- review here
41.  The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection by Alexander McCall Smith
42.  The Vow by Kim & Krickitt Carpenter – If you’ve only watched the movie, you’ve got to read the book.
43.  A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens – Dickens never fails to delight me.
44.  Bill Bryson’s African Diary by Bill Bryson – This was a disappointment as it’s basically an advertisement for CARE.
45.  Forgotten God by Francis Chan
46.  Candle in the Darkness by Lynn Austin
47.  Encounters with Strangers by Nubia DuVall Wilson
48.  Daughter of Twin Oaks by Lauraine Snelling
49.  Near to the Heart of God:  Meditations on 365 Best Loved Hymns by Robert J. Morgan
50.  The Person and Work of the Holy Spirit by R. A. Torrey