Thriving in All of Life’s Landscapes

“Oh come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker! Psalm 95:6 

God recently gave me an up close and personal message on Psalm 1. The object lesson unfurled while I visited the Cleveland Botanical Gardens. While the crisp, gray air rustled the barren branches outside, I walked through a lush canopy of verdant trees and flowing waterfalls dotted by glimpses of vibrant butterflies and the songs of cooing creatures. As I took in the sights, the juxtaposition of the external bleakness and this fertile interior triggered a recollection of Psalm 1:1-3 --

“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on His law he meditates day and night.

“He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.”

Cle Botanical Garden pic 20181223.jpg

Prior to my Garden visit, I had been doing my best – in the middle of a very busy holiday season -- to focus on God’s creation. I was trying hard to implement a little advance test-run of the journal prompts found in WOW’s 2019 Calendar: Praying through our Pens. WOW’s hope is not only to share the 2019 prompts on our blog and Facebook page, but also to record our personal experiences as we follow the prompts ourselves. January is my month to contribute a post, and while I was excited about what God would unveil, I also questioned whether holiday festivities might distract me from my mission. I should have known that our faithful God would work in and around me to show me His genius in the middle of an afternoon excursion.

At first, I simply was mesmerized by the lush greenery and lively colors of the butterflies dancing around me. As I continued to wander down the botanical paths, however, I sensed a whisper in my soul.

“This is the picture of life with God,” my soul resonated. “No matter how bleak one’s surroundings may be, a soul that delights in Him will be lush with life. Though the earth is iced over, your heart will overflow with Living Water. Though the trees and vines are barren, you will bear fruit in its season. Though the leaves are withered and falling, your life will be ripe with resiliency.”

Friend, it is amazing enough that God stopped me in my tracks to give me a Bible lesson in the Botanical Gardens. But He gave me far more than an object lesson that day. Indeed, He gave me a testimony. You see, over the past several years, life dealt me some struggles that left me parched and dry at times. Yet, rather than allowing me to stumble toward fleeting fixes, God continued to draw my gaze back to Him and the truth of His word. The more I delighted in Him, the deeper my faith roots grew. And the deeper the roots burrowed, the more His fruit flourished in and around me – no matter how the landscape looked.

So, yes! As Psalm 95:6 encourages, I will worship and bow down! I will kneel before my Maker! For God is good and true and worthy to be praised. And He reminded me of that during a visit to an indoor garden. Oh, come! Let us continue to adore Him!

-- Linda R. Maynard © December 2018






A Peek Through the Window: Vietnam Outreach

The fields of Vietnam are ripe for a gospel harvest! Although only the 65th largest country in the world by area, this south China country has the 14th largest population – nearly 94 million people. Yet, only 1.8 percent of the Vietnamese know the love and grace of Jesus Christ.

For that reason, The Chapel has partnered with Pastor Minh Dang of the Vietnamese Church in Akron, along with the Evangelical Church of Vietnam, to plant new churches throughout North Vietnam. The first seeds of this effort have been sown through the establishment of five “love homes,” small Bible fellowships that meet in the houses of local pastoral leaders. The hope is that these fellowships will attract more and more people and eventually grow into thriving, Christ-following churches.

While all of the current love homes are located in the Thai Nguyen Province, only one is situated close to Thai Nguyen City. The remaining four homes are found in rural areas of the country, and residents are very open to the gospel there!  Thirty to forty people meet in each rural love home – which actually is a small building attached to the houses of each church planter.

More than 85 percent of the Vietnam’s residents are Vietnamese. However, there are 50 other minority groups that reside in the country, as well. Though statistics show that nearly three-quarters of the population practice folk religion or are not religious, the Hmong people have been very open to the gospel. Another people group, however – the Tay people – have been quite closed. Less than one percent of this group profess belief in Jesus Christ. 

One church planter has a deep desire to reach the Tay people. He and his family not only have built a love home among them, but they also have established a small convenience story right next to the home. Providing groceries and other items to their Tay neighbors has been a great outreach for this church planter and his family.

“This pastor wants to reach into (the Tay) people group by providing some of their humanitarian needs,” says Todd Schreiner, Outreach Pastor for The Chapel. “He hopes to build a bridge and share the love of Christ with them, and supporters of the Vietnam Global Outreach can support him in his great work!”

Another way that we can support these servants for Christ is through the donation of a bull to each of the pastoral families we serve. By raising and selling the cow or bull, the pastoral family not only can provide for its own needs, but also have enough money left to purchase and raise another cow or bull. This type of support allows The Chapel to take the first step with our Vietnamese missionaries, but gives them the charge and freedom to carry it forward.

You can hear additional updates about the growing Church in Vietnam when you attend the Very Special Purse Party V: Windows on the World. This fun, festive, faith-building event will be held on Thursday, October 4, 2018, at Guy’s Party Center in Akron. For ticket information, please contact Kathie Brown at

-- Linda R. Maynard © August 2018

Photo caption:    A Vietnamese pastor’s wife stands next to one of the cows provided to her family through The Chapel. By raising, selling and reinvesting in cows or bulls, the family earns an income on which to live as they carry out God’s work.

Photo caption: A Vietnamese pastor’s wife stands next to one of the cows provided to her family through The Chapel. By raising, selling and reinvesting in cows or bulls, the family earns an income on which to live as they carry out God’s work.




The Spirit is on Me

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners.

                                                                                                Isaiah 61:1

I have always loved these verses.  I read them and think of Jesus first, how he brings good news to the poor and brokenhearted.  He proclaims freedom for the captives.  He gives light to those living in darkness. 

It's also easy to imagine Isaiah proclaiming these words to his people because he is one of the great prophets of the Bible, anointed by God.  Of course he had the power to proclaim good news to the poor and bind up the brokenhearted!


But what about you and me?  When I read these verses more closely, the first sentence catches my eye:  “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me.”  God’s Word repeatedly tells us that if we have put our whole faith and hope in Jesus Christ, we too have the Spirit of the Sovereign Lord in us.  In Ephesians 1:19, Paul reminds the church of the Lord’s “incomparably great power for us who believe.”  Paul explains that this incomparably great power is the same as the mighty strength God exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms. 

The same power that raised Jesus from the dead lives in us!

Therefore, if God’s incomparably great power lives in each of us who are in Christ Jesus, we can proclaim and live out the same words as Isaiah.  The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me to proclaim good news to the poor.  The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me to bind up the brokenhearted.  The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners. 

Of course, we can’t possibly do this in our own power or strength.  But in Him, all things are possible.  I recently read Church of The Small Things, The Million Little Pieces That Make Up A Life (author, Melanie Shankle), a light-hearted read about the importance of living out the many small acts of faithfulness that make up a lifetime of glory to God.  At one point, the author writes:

We can never underestimate the grace and the strength he will give us for whatever he is calling us to do and whatever challenges we’ll face.  What he has planned for us is higher and deeper than anything we could ever hope to achieve on our own.

It’s too much.  It’s too much for us to do in our own strength because we will mess it up, but he knows that and uses us anyway.  It’s never about creating or doing or being something that’s perfect.  It’s not about having all the right answers.  It’s about being his.  It’s knowing that he who has called us is faithful.

(Church of the Small Things, p. 147) 

Just like the Lord’s anointing of Isaiah, I believe He longs to fill us with more and more of his Spirit to proclaim the good news of Jesus to the poor, brokenhearted, and oppressed.  As servants who are filled with the Spirit of the Sovereign Lord, the sisters of WOW seek to be the hands and feet of Christ for the poor and oppressed around the world.  Through many acts, large and small, seen and unseen, using each of our God-given talents and abilities, we can proclaim good news and freedom to the poor and oppressed. 

As the Spirit of the Sovereign Lord leads you, will you consider partnering with us in this work?  There are many ways to partner with us in serving the poor and oppressed, including but not limited to attending the Very Special Purse Party V on October 4th, attending a Journal Jam and Java event, purchasing journals, attending upcoming craft shows, and praying for our mission.   We all have this privilege of joining God in his work as He leads us.  To Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine!  (Ephesians 3:20)   

I love how Isaiah 61 ends:

For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow,

So the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations.

(Isaiah 61:11)  We plant, He makes it grow.  Keep planting, friends!

-- Ashley Manfull © August 2018



A Peek Through the Window – Designs on Windows on the World

“The LORD has given them special skills as engravers, designers, embroiderers in blue, purple, and scarlet thread on fine linen cloth, and weavers. They excel as craftsmen and as designers.” – Exodus 35:35 NLT

Just as each Very Special Purse Party has its own purpose, each one has a very special theme.  It takes unique talent and qualities to pull together design ideas that not only point to the purpose, but also have a way of uniquely glorifying the Lord. 

Heidi Holbaugh and Linda Lallathin head up the very special team of "craftsmen and designers" who bring the Purse Party décor to life.  Their skill and eye for design brings forth beautiful displays, centerpieces, favors, table settings, tickets and all of the many decorated items required.  They have devoted their time to our many Purse Parties in the past, and this year's event will be no exception to the talent they provide.  We are blessed and grateful to have them serve WOW in this unique way.

This year's logo:  Windows On The World displays windows with images from around the world showing how WOW and our friends love and care for others. WOW wanted to celebrate the fifth purse party and the global impact that God has made through WOW and our friends!

When asked what are the main ideas being used for decorating, Heidi explained, "The centerpieces are lanterns.  They have glass "windows" on each side.  They symbolize the "light" we want to shine through our actions.  The bible verse attached to them reads:

‘Jesus said, "I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’ John 8:12 ESV.

The lanterns will be in various colors and styles...unique, just like the women that WOW loves.  Linda Lallathin further expressed that "lanterns are very popular and they liked the 'farmhouse-destressed' look and they work well with window frames."

Linda chose the colors based on the scrapbook paper she found. The patterns are chic and vintage-inspired country designs in an assortment of somewhat muted colors. The displays at each table will be monochromatic with various patterns used in the same color story.

A special part of the design committee is to provide a favor for the guests. Linda came up with the "purse favor picture holder".  "We wanted the favors to be practical as well as pretty.  The guests can take them home and use them to display a favorite Bible verse, photo or recipe.  The centerpieces will make a nice gift for one of the women at each table too!" Heidi adds.

Below is a peek at some of the work at hand as WOW prepares for this year's Very Special Purse Party V.  Come and experience this special event! See how the Lord is glorified through the "light" of the actions of his designers! We know that your attendance will only magnify the light of God’s love for the poor and oppressed! (For ticket information, contact Kathie Brown at

-- Lorraine Pruitt © August 2018








Peek Through the Window: Cambodia Part 2

Their Words and Their Precious Faces!

The children of Asia’s Hope are the reason WOW dedicated the VSPP IV funds to build a new home for more children to be rescued.  They are the reason that the Chapel supports 4 of these homes. They are the reason that our church sends two teams each year to be with these children and young adults to let them know how much they are loved by us and by the God of the Bible!


I had the privilege of being with these approximately 100 children and young adults in June, and I want to share some of the sentiments and words that they shared with our team while we were there.  First I want to share the evidence that the program is working, not just in a “saving their lives” kind of way -- which it does -- but also in a way where you can see the development of confident, secure, bright young people who love Christ.  We started by being with the Battambang (BB) #6 family.  These teens and young adults have been with Asia’s Hope for approximately 7 – 8 years. 

Next we saw the BB #11 family.  Below, they are posing in the home built by VSPP IV funds holding their backpacks for which they were truly grateful!  It truly was a big deal!


BB#11 has been open for about one year and after spending some days with them, we went on to BB#12.  Those children were mostly younger and had only been rescued about 3 months ago.  Our last stop was Prek Eng #1 which is just outside of Phnom Penh.   These children and young adults have been in the program for several years, most are in university or nearing the end of high school, and a couple of them recently married. 

There was a theme that our team noticed with the children from BB#12, having only been rescued recently by Asia’s Hope.  They were precious, but seemed more emotionally fragile than the other homes. Their eyes showed a little less animation, but their personalities were sweet, playful, and joyous.  The children from BB#11 were well-adjusted (still very affectionate and engaging) though as you can imagine, the parents were still helping some of them deal with the struggles of their past.  This home is full of Christian music and many are learning to play the piano, guitar or rhythm (they’re hoping for a drum set in their home someday). 

The BB#6 teens were thriving in school and life and got along amazingly well for a large group of teenagers living together!  Their lack of selfishness was remarkable!  Many of them spoke freely and often of their love for Jesus and about how grateful they are to Him and the Chapel for allowing them to be in Asia’s Hope.

Finally, the PE#1 teens and young adults were completely engaging, resilient people who have plans for their future. Some of them already are realizing those plans as they finish university and go into the work force.  There are three very young children in PE #1 who have been recently placed in Asia’s Hope due to abandonment or other sad circumstances.  These little children are quickly gaining a sense of self-regulation as they are surrounded by so many older siblings who model for them and help to nurture them as they have been nurtured.

PE #1 Fun

All this to say that the longer the children are in Asia’s Hope, the more they learn of Jesus and are loved by godly people, the more their physical and emotional needs are met… their hope for the present and future becomes dramatically obvious!  I fully expect that our future Chapel mission teams will see the children of BB#11 and #12 flourishing more and more in the love of Christ and their environment!

The words of the Asia’s Hope children and teens were often “gulp-worthy.”  For instance, we heard some of the children tell about how they fast and pray for us (The Chapel people here in the US) one Saturday a month!  Humbling, huh? We swallowed hard another time as we sought to learn more about the new children of BB #12. We sat down with interpreting help from the BB #6 kids and heard the stories of some of the older children – truly sobering.  One part of this little interview was to ask each of the children what they like about living in Asia’s Hope.  There were some answers that were as you might guess, such as, “I like having a dad and mom,” or “I like having food!”  However, the two common answers that we received from almost all of them was that they liked being “safe” and being able to “go to school.”  Can you imagine?

Here are some children showing off their schools (though I don’t have any picture of the university, I must note that the university students also made sure that we saw their campus!)

As I end this long post, I want to share one more thing that was another theme of the Cambodian children of Asia’s Hope:  HUGS!  No matter the extreme temperature and humidity, these children are extremely loving and they love hugs on top of hugs!  Because you are a part of this ministry, enjoy just a couple of the hug photos below and imagine that they are hugging you, because, trust me, if they could, they would, because of their joy in Christ and gratefulness! 

-- Shelly Mountjoy © July 2018






































Peek Through the Window: Cambodia

The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed,
    a stronghold in times of trouble.
Those who know your name trust in you,
    for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.

                                                                                    Psalm 9: 9 - 10

I was in high school in the late 70s when we first started hearing about the horrors of the Khmer Rouge Killing Fields in Cambodia which involved the brutal murder of over a million of the country’s top citizens.  We’ve learned since then that the insanity of Pol Pot’s regime also included abolishing money, schools/education and all well-educated people, 20th century technology, families, towns, hospitals and the list goes on! 

There is no doubt that this was a most severe oppression of an entire county!  The result of this devastation is that over 40 years later, the Cambodian people are still working to recover in every way imaginable.  The high rate of poverty seems to affect Cambodia’s children the most, causing many to live in unsafe conditions with very little food. 

The large majority of people in Cambodia are also struggling spiritually because they put their trust in the religion of Buddhism.  The evidences of this can be seen on every block in the cities where personal shrines, massive temples and/or monks are in view in every direction. In the country, Buddhist temples rise up out of the landscape along with many personal shrines in front of even the poorest of homes.

The physical environment of Cambodia is actually quite beautiful with lush vegetation of all types, amazing and delicious fruits, fertile rice fields during the rainy season and the use of gorgeous wood in many settings.  The Cambodian people are also beautiful with skin that appears as the best “Coppertone tan” imaginable, shiny black hair and dark eyes. 

This physical beauty juxtaposed with the earlier mentioned fact that many Cambodian children are unsafe, hungry and desperate is hard to swallow.  But there is amazing news that many of you are actually a part of! I was recently able to see Asia’s Hope first-hand. Asia’s Hope is a Christian organization that has stepped in to rescue children and young adults, keeping them off of the streets and away from the horrors of starvation, sex trafficking and other real dangers.  Asia’s Hope takes in children who are orphaned or who are in the care of one family member who is completely unable to care for the children for one reason or another.  The children are given a home with parents, siblings, food, education and medical care.  Most importantly, they are told about Jesus who is their refuge, stronghold and salvation!

In a post later this week I’ll give specific examples of how the Asia’s Hope Cambodian children and young adults have had their lives changed since arriving!  It is a real demonstration of the psalm noted above. This psalm can be read from the perspective of the oppressed people who are being saved, as well as people like you and me who are seeking and trusting the Lord on their behalf. 

If you were a part of WOW’s Very Special Purse Party (VSPP) IV, you too helped these very same oppressed Cambodian children to receive this abundant life!  Stay tuned for more information about the upcoming Very Special Purse Party V where you can again have the amazing opportunity to change the lives of oppressed people in a global way! 

In the meantime, please enjoy the short video below that shows the children and young adults of Asia’s Hope Cambodia worshipping our Savior.  It takes no effort to see how grateful they are to Jesus for the way that He has rescued them from many physical horrors and saved them for eternity!

-- Shelly Mountjoy © July 2018

The Melody of True Love


Third grade in our household always brings the dreaded year of the recorder!  Do you remember learning to blow into a cheap plastic recorder when you were a kid, longing to play sweet melodies of “Hot Cross Buns”?  Unfortunately, what usually comes out is just the opposite!  Many repeated loud, harsh screeching sounds, woefully off key.  While I admire my kids’ efforts and enthusiasm to master the recorder, wow does it hurt my ears!

The Lord uses a similar illustration to express how He feels about our worship when our heart is not in the right place.  In the book of Amos, God sends Amos to announce judgment on Israel because of their extravagant indulgence in wealthy living, while at the same time committing extreme injustice and oppression of the poor.  Amos 5:23-24, the Lord rebukes:

Away with the noise of your songs!
I will not listen to the music of your harps.
But let justice roll on like a river,
Righteousness like a never-failing stream!

God tells his people that their songs of worship are nothing but noise to Him because of their acts of injustice and oppression.  Ouch.  Let that sink in for a moment.  Not only are their songs of worship nothing but noise, God tells his people that He despises their religious feasts, cannot  stand their worship gatherings, and has no regard for their offerings. (Amos 5:21-22)

The Bible uses a similar noise analogy in one of its most cited passages, the “love chapter” in 1 Corinthians 13.  Paul writes, “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.” (1 Cor. 13:1)  It all comes down to love.  Do we love what God loves?  Do we hate what God hates?  If God loves the poor and oppressed, we too are called to love the poor and oppressed.  If God hates injustice, we too are called to hate injustice.  Jesus says, “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” (John 14:15)

I don’t know about you, but when I worship God and praise Him, I don’t want it to sound like the screeching noise of my third grader’s recorder.  All of our “religious” practices are worthless in God’s sight if we do not care about the poor and oppressed.  Let’s all take a moment to reflect on the condition of our hearts, and ask God to give us a greater heart for the poor and oppressed.   

With what shall I come before the Lord
And bow down before the exalted God?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings
with calves a year old?
Will the Lord be pleased with
thousands of rams?
with ten thousand rivers of oil?
Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?

He showed you, O man, what is good.
and what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:6-8)

- Ashley Manfull © July 2018


Mozambique Outreach: Making Disciples in Macalawane

WOW Building of Macalawane Church 20180712.jpg

Several years ago, a group of mission-minded Chapel members with a love for Mozambique gathered before God to discern His vision for the church’s outreach to that African nation. After prayerful discussion, the vision became very clear: build the Church. Today, The Chapel celebrates, as God’s imparted vision has become a reality with the establishment of the Church in Macalawane. In partnership with Free Evangelical Assembly of Mozambique, and under the local leadership of Pastor Benedito and his wife, Lucia, The Chapel has acquired the land, paid for the building of a church structure, and served on outreaches to the surrounding community. Why is this effort so important?

“Healing, restoration and wholeness come through the Church as we gather together in the fellowship of believers,” says Pastor Todd Schreiner, pastor of outreach at The Chapel. “God’s call on all of us is to fulfill His Great Commandment and Great Commission. The Church in Macalawane is fulfilling those commands.”

The Great Commandment tells us to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, and mind, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. ( Matthew 22:37-39) Pastor Benedito and his wife are living out this commandment by serving God wholeheartedly in their outreach to Macalawane. Their love of God has become contagious as they come alongside fellow villagers in Macalawane, sharing the truth and love of Jesus Christ. People like young mom, Ida.

Ida recently shared her story of struggle as she sought the truth about God, but found only confusion in the churches she attended. Then, she met Pastor Benedito. He visited her home and shared the gospel, and the truth of God and His word became clear. She now attends the new church in Macalawane and says her life has changed dramatically! Click (here) to watch Ida tell her testimony.

And Ida is not the only villager whose life God is reshaping. Even the tribal chief of Macalawane is being moved by God through the provision of clean water. On a mission in 2011, The Chapel heard of a village that had been dealing with a devastating outbreak of cholera. Their only water source was a bright yellow pond (most likely contamination), and their only means of filtration was the dirt that surrounded the pond. The short-term missionaries brought back the news of this great need, and members of The Chapel, as well as friends of WOW – Women for Oppressed Women, responded to the call. A well and water purification station were established in the village, providing a pure water source to the entire population. That humanitarian effort opened the village chief’s mind and heart to the establishment of the Church in Macalawane. Now, villagers not only are receiving clean water for their bodies, but also the Living Water of Jesus Christ, which hydrates the soul eternally!

Since its founding in 2011, WOW’s goal has been to provide life and livelihood to the poor and oppressed in Africa, Asia, Greater Akron and around the globe. The projects we have presented to you, our friends, have met the humanitarian needs of the people we serve; thus, opening their hearts to the message of life eternal through Jesus Christ. The support you have shown through your generous donations to WOW not only has helped to provide clean water to the Macalawane villagers, but also has opened the door (literally) to the Church of Jesus Christ!

And opportunities continue. The Chapel devotes itself to uphold Pastor Benedito and his family as they finish the planting of the Macalawane Church. Additionally, new humanitarian projects are being discussed and prepared, which will provide self-sustaining livelihood to more villagers. Meanwhile, a new water project is being established on the other side of the globe in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. The Yucatan is another missional outreach region that The Chapel is supporting, and your generosity of WOW’s projects over the past year are helping to bring this pure water project to fruition.

WOW will be celebrating the work in the Yucatan and peering through the looking glass at The Chapel’s other global outreaches, at The Very Special Purse Party V: Windows on the World. The 5th presentation of our signature gala event will be held on Thursday, October 4, 2018, at Guy’s Party Center. Doors open at 5 p.m., and tickets are $25 each. As always, guests will be treated to a party prelude, a delicious dinner and the opportunity to support the Yucatan and some other surprise endeavors as you browse and buy from our four purse boutiques and bid on our silent auction satchels and themed items.

For information on the Very Special Purse Party V: Windows on the World, check our Facebook page often. Tickets go on sale August 1.

-- Linda Maynard © July 2018

Happy Independence Day!

It is a beautiful, sunny Saturday. Today, the air finally feels like summer; the birds fill the breeze with their songs as they float from tree to tree. The bright, blue sky is draped with drifting clouds. The house across the street is clad in its patriotic attire -- a vibrant, American flag hangs from a pole on the front porch. The gentle wind flicks it from one side to another.


Each of the 50 white starts intricately woven into the rich, navy fabric symbolizes one of the 50 states that compose our country. The 13 stripes represent the original 13 colonies that gained independence from Great Britain. I cannot help but feel thankful when I reflect upon the beauty of the American flag. Americans declared independence from Great Britain because of the great oppression the British inflicted upon the colonists. The American colonists had come to America in search of a new lifestyle.

Liberty was born in July of 1776. Because America was no longer a slave to Great Britain’s dominion, they could grow and flourish. Eventually, this newfound freedom led to the beginning of a new chapter for our country.

Do you ever feel as if you are crushed under the oppression and dominion of our sinful nature? I know I do. There are times that I feel I don’t have any other choice but to give into my flawed human nature. These selfish desires and sin patterns are HEAVY. They sit on us-- like a weight on our shoulders, disabling us to move any further for the kingdom of God.

John 8:36 says, “So if the Son sets you FREE, you will be FREE indeed.”

As children of God, we are no longer slaves to our sin. We are no longer slaves to our earthly desires. We are no longer slaves to our pain. The Spirit of the living God has rescued us from this old lifestyle and has given us the power to turn away from our sin. We can shed that skin with confidence in knowing that our God is with us and for us and will lead us to the best that life has for us.

The independence we gain from the release of sin’s tyranny in our lives gives us peace. It engulfs us in confidence and strength. He has already paid the price for the sin in our lives.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m still human. Very, very human, in fact. I still sin (a lot). I still wander. I still act against the guidance of the Spirit in my life. But I rest in the fact that my sin has no power over me! I have a choice. Every day I can choose to say no to myself, and to say yes to my God.

This Independence Day, amidst the fireworks, cornhole, and barbequing, I encourage you to spend some time thinking and rejoicing over the freedom we have been given in Christ. God has truly fought the good fight to rescue us from our ultimate oppressor.

Happy Independence Day!

Streams of Living Water

“If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, from his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water.” John 7:37-38

During a recent missions trip to Ichmul, Mexico, one of the most interesting women I met was Bartola.  We connected instantly because she was a wife and mother of three daughters similar in age to my own.  Once we made that connection, she began to tell me her story.  Bartola was only able to attend school through the second grade because her grandfather needed her help at home to raise her siblings. Her father passed away when she was one year old, and her mother abandoned them shortly thereafter.  Her grandfather was very knowledgeable of the medicinal properties of plants and herbs, and shared his knowledge with her. 

Bartola was proud to tell me that her girls have never needed to go to a doctor for illness; she helps them with what we would call naturopathic medicine when they are ill.  However, about a year ago Bartola began to have chronic stomachaches herself.  These went on for several months, and nothing she did seemed to help ease the pain.  Thus, she began the medical journey.  However, this came at quite a financial cost.  The family had to make an unimaginable choice: seeking to find out what was wrong with Bartola physically, or keeping their palapa (home).  Unfortunately, they could not afford to do both. 

The family decided to put their home up for sale and move in with Bartola’s in-laws.  After seeing many doctors in Peto, Tejelope, and Cancun, Bartola’s stomach pain improved. But, as a mother, she still hopes to provide a home of their own for her family someday.  Bartola expressed deep gratitude toward the women of WOW for being given the opportunity to provide additional income through the making and selling of hammocks. Hammock sales put her one step closer to helping her family achieve their dream.  She also is very excited to be a part of the water station micro-enterprise that WOW has worked to provide through the Mission House for the Ichmul community. 

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I pray for Bartola, and the other women that I had the opportunity to share with throughout my week in Ichmul.  A well from which water is drawn is such a beautiful picture of Christ’s work in our lives.  While on the trip, a geologist in our group shared that when you dig down in the earth for water, the drill must penetrate deep enough to be able to receive the flow of the water back up and out.  We can choose the site, we can drill down deep in the earth, but we are completely dependent on the water to flow back up through the earth.  The same is true of us: I can choose the women I share Christ’s love with, I can go deep with them on the struggles of life and God’s words of truth, and I can pray that it sinks deeply in their hearts and minds. Yet, I am completely dependent on the Holy Spirit to enable them to receive and accept it, and for Christ’s  living water to flow through them.  Just as He allows each one of us to accept that truth, and then living water to well up and flow out of our lives.

Lord, let these precious women of Ichmul choose you, and may your streams of life-sustaining water begin to flow through them. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.