Thursday, August 21, 2008

La Virgin del Cisne

August 20th is a National Holiday in Loja. The normal little tiendas are closed and an almost eerie silence falls over Loja. There aren’t horns honking or dogs barking. There are children laughing or people calling for attention. There is silence as we walked towards the Door to the City. We arrived at 4:00 pm and waited. As the hours rolled on, more and more people gathered until the streets were full. All waiting for the Reina de Loja to arrive. You may be wondering who it is that calls a city to a stand still. She stands at about a foot and a half in height, with dark brown curly hair, a several thousand dollar dress and gold jewelry. “La Virgin del Cisne,” Loja’s virgin (see picture below).

The Virgin supposedly saved a man dying of thirst on the road to Cisne and from that point on, Lojanos have held the Virgin del Cisne in high esteem.
Every year thousands of people make the trek from Cisne to Loja (some 75 km) to show their worship of the Virgin. Some show their adoration by doing the entire 3 day journey barefoot.
My friends and I stood watching as they brought the Virgin down the street preceded by dancers and surrounded by police. They clapped, cried, threw flower petals and worshipped.
My heart was broken for the people of Loja as I watched them praise a small wooden doll which someone had made and someone else had dressed up. I wanted to weep as I saw them pay their respects to a god who had eyes but could not see their pain, who had ears, but could not hear their cries, who had a mouth put would not speak the words of love that so many of them are dying to hear.
As I walked home that night, I so longed to cry out to them, “There is a God who sees you. There is a God who knows you and wants you. There is a God who wants something real with you… his name is Jesus.”
Oh, how I long that all would know of the saving grace of Jesus Christ.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Nothing Too Hard...

I recently received this email from Pastor Tobias, our beloved Pastor and friend from Kisumu, Kenya. (Picture to the left is of Pastor Tobias and his amazing wife, Susan) The Lord has put this man through so much, but he continues to be faithful, even when it hurts. When I read this email, I was truly moved by his faith. I pray it speaks to your heart as well.

"After arguing, complaining, crying and thinking about so many things, I have come to learn of the following that I would love to share with you. The first thing that God told me is that He will not bless or heal me because of what I have done in the Ministry or for Him in the past or I am still doing, but He will heal and bless me because of the relationship that I have with Him. My relationship with Him is more important than any other thing.

Secondly, the Lord told me that I should do and continue doing good in each and every opportunity that comes my way without expecting any good from those whom I have done good to but to expect good that comes from Him only.

Thirdly after my legs started aching and swelling and walking was becoming a difficulty and the Doctor prescribing nerve medication for the next one month, He spoke to me through the below daily devotion from Steve Troxel.

Nothing Too Hard

Jeremiah had been a prophet for nearly forty years by the time Jerusalem came under attack by the Babylonians. He had long been proclaiming a message of repentance, but the people continued to ignore his words. Now the enemy had surrounded Jerusalem and the end was near. In this time of great turmoil, God told Jeremiah to purchase a field from his cousin.

This was a strange request, but Jeremiah obediently purchased the field. However, he soon began to question God's reasoning: "See how the siege ramps are built up to take the city? Though the city will be handed over to the Babylonians, You say to me, 'Buy the field'" (Jeremiah 32:24,25). Jeremiah had been a prophet for many years. He had been given the privilege of talking directly with God, but this command just didn't make sense. Why should he purchase a field when the enemy was invading and taking prisoners?

God answered Jeremiah with a simple, yet challenging question.
Jeremiah 32:27
"I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for Me?" Yes, the enemy had invaded the land and would soon overrun the city of Jerusalem. But God's plan was for the people to one day return: "I will surely gather them from all the lands where I banish them in My furious anger and great wrath; I will bring them back to this place and let them live in safety. They will be My people and I will be their God" (Jeremiah 32:37-38). Jeremiah's field was to be a reminder that God would one day restore His people - a reminder that He could be trusted even in the face
of overwhelming circumstances.

We often have a difficult time seeing how all the pieces of God's plan fit together. He leads us down a path and we fail to see the purpose - especially when the enemy begins to attack. We want to fight back, but God says to patiently trust Him and pray. We want to determine a solution and solve the problem, but God says to love Him with all our heart and share His love with others. The times in which we are most tested and pressed down ought to be the times of greatest growth and closeness with our Heavenly Father. When it seems we have no where else to turn, we ought to rejoice and trust Him even more! Let's put our life firmly in His Hands and submit to His guidance - even when we may not see where we are going or how we will get there. Let's trust His ways and always remember...for God, there is NOTHING too hard!

Thank you for your prayers and continual support in these difficult moments that we have been going through.

God bless you richly
Tobias A. Omollo,
Proverbs 16:3 " Commit your works to the Lord, And your plans will be established."

Monday, August 11, 2008

Do you have a Battle Plan?

I am an awesome fretter. I'm not even kidding. I will stress about the littlest and dumbest things ever. This is where Satan gets me. So let me tell you what happened recently...
I had an awesome time this week at SLIC (its a spiritual renewal conference). I was truly blessed by the speakers and I felt like the Lord really spoke to me and through me. It was great! Like a lot of conferences I came back on a bit of a high, which was to be diminished quite quickly. I walked in my house and started looking for the keys to my room (attached to my wallet with complete with credit card and ID), but they were no where to be found. I dumped my entire back on the living room floor but still, nothing. So what do I do? I panic. Due to the awesome week I had, it was on my mind to pray, so I did. And then I called the place we stayed to see if they had it and they didn't. So they I freaked out.
After that was over, I called my friend who has the master keys. While I was walking over to her house to get the key to my room, I prayed and told God that whether I found the keys or not, I would still give him praise because I knew he was good. I swear, those words barely crossed my lips when it down poured. I was completely soaked and I just laughed and thought to myself 'Really?' as I stepped in a big mud puddle.

I got the keys to my house, came back and realized they were the WRONG keys. So I had to go BACK to my friend's house and get more keys. About this time I was on the verge of tears... so I cried and fretted and walked back in hopes of finding the right key. As I trudged back to my house, it suddenly hit me: SATAN was trying to LIE to me and DECEIVE me into believing that somehow God wasn't good and that somehow he was just trying to make my life miserable (like I said, I fret and make a big deal out of the dumbest thing!)
In that moment, I remembered something I had written a good 8 months before... "When being lied to by Satan there are a couple things you have to do":
1. Say out loud, THIS IS A LIE!
2. State the TRUTH.
3. Remind yourself of how God has been faithful in the past.
4. Remember the truth of God's Word and how he promises to be faithful in the future.

I know I sound like a self help book, but THIS really works for me (it might now work for you, but YOU have to come up with your own battle plan). So I said these things, felt better and then got a phone call from my roommate telling me that the hotel found my wallet and my keys with everything in it and they were going to bring it to me in an hour.
You see, I'm a great fretter, but I've realized that the Lord is not only bigger than my problems, he's bigger than my fretting, which is really impressive. So next time you begin to fret, pull out your battle plan... feel free to use mine until you get one of your own ;)