Sunday, November 09, 2008

Ed Edwards to Join Living Well Full-time

"Marriage Missionaries”

We recently had the opportunity to meet a couple from Florida, who have a ministry similar to Living Well, self-described “marriage missionaries.” At first, I thought that was kind of an odd description. But, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it was exactly what God has called me and Donna to do. The definition of a missionary is “one who goes out representing someone or some cause.” Missionaries represent Christ with His plan of reconciliation, salvation, and victorious living, according to the principles and precepts in His Word. All Christians are called to be missionaries, not just those serving in a distant country. Some are called to be vocational missionaries and I believe we, at Living Well, are among those.

The family fabric is unraveling. One notable research project estimates that $6 billion is lost by American businesses due to decreased productivity stemming from marriage and relationship difficulties. Divorce and out-of-wedlock childbearing cost U.S. taxpayers more than $112 billion a year. [report] America faces an extreme urgency to protect and strengthen marriage and families. We feel compelled to minister in that regard.

Every time we have the opportunity to sit across the table with a couple in marital distress, we’re serving as marriage missionaries. The same is true when we offer counsel and guidance to those in financial bondage, when we teach a group of engaged couples preparing them for marriage, when we lead seminars on relationships or guarding your heart, when we assist churches to establish and maintain effective marriage ministries through our involvement with Marriage Network Oklahoma, and when we offer training and encouragement to pastors and their wives in East Africa. We are serving as “marriage missionaries” in all our Living Well endeavors!

During the last several months, I have truly wrestled with God. Although I knew the story well of Jacob in Genesis 32, and I have certainly had many times in my life when I argued with God, for the first time I wrestled with God. It became very evident to me and Donna that for Living Well to go to the next level of ministry that God wanted, we needed more manpower. When we founded Living Well a little over five years ago, our long-term goal was to work together full-time in our ministry. That time had come, but I struggled with the decision. I am a detail person who likes order and normalcy. For people with this bent, change is often hard. We tend to settle in and resist change, especially a change of this magnitude.

So, the Lord and I wrestled! After months of prayer and godly counsel, our decision was made and God won the wrestling match! As of the end of this year, I will end my tenure of over 21 years as facility manager at Putnam City Baptist Church to come on board full-time at Living Well the first of January. We are very excited about future ministry opportunities. My full-time involvement will enhance our counseling ministry, especially in the area of personal finances. We will also be able to accept more teaching and speaking opportunities. Our leadership in Marriage Network Oklahoma can deepen. Our trips to Africa can be lengthened to several weeks, allowing us to be better stewards of time and funding, touching more pastors, their wives, and their churches.

In today’s troubled world, “Marriage Missionaries” are needed more than ever. We are ready to serve, but we can’t do it without each of you. Your prayer and financial support undergirds everything we do. Founding Living Well in 2003 required a step of faith. Now God says it’s time for a “leap” of faith. We must double our monthly financial support base to cover my salary and our medical insurance. We greatly appreciate the faithfulness of our financial supporters and humbly ask you to prayerfully consider increasing your support. For others, we ask you to consider including Living Well in your giving back to God for His work. [to donate] We love and appreciate all of you and look forward to seeing what the Lord’s hand will do in and through the ministry of Living Well.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Where's Your Hope?

Is our hope in the government, what happens on Capitol Hill, or is it in the promises of God represented by the rainbow?

Symptoms or Systemic?

In thinking about this economic "bail-out," I am wondering .... are we treating symptoms again? ... or is it a systemic problem in our culture?

It seems that the highest moral good in our culture is economic prosperity. When we have a problem, it usually goes back to "it's the economy, stupid!"

People are making moral decisions based on how it will affect them financially. Older people are living together, so that they don't lose their deceased spouse's retirement. Younger people are living together outside of marriage to save money. Companies conduct unethical practices to make more money, as long as it is legal .... forget the ethics.

We now have a high rate of out-of-wedlock births in some segments of our culture because they would lose their government welfare benefits if they got married. That created a multi-generational practice of not getting married. Now many men and women don't even aspire to marriage because they have never experienced a family situation with a mother and father.

Some people base their giving to needs based on whether they can get a tax-deduction for it. I wonder what would happen if we went to a flat rate tax, with no deductions, would the churches and nonprofits survive?

At some point, our government and our culture is going to have to ask ourselves whether economic prosperity is going to be the guiding decision of our country? We are going to have to ask whether it is in the best interest of our country to have easy credit, even if it means an economic slow-down or that not everyone will attain the American dream of home ownership.

Michael Novak said:
Western democratic capitalism is like a three-legged stool, resting on political freedom, economic freedom, and moral restraint. Take away moral restraint, and the stool collapses.

Is the stool collapsing? Is the reason a lack of economic freedom or political freedom or is it a lack of moral restraint?

Let Wall Street have a nightmare and the whole country has to help them get back in bed again.

Will Rogers said that over 70 years ago. How little life has changed.

Is there a relationship between economics and morality?

Or has a sound economy become the highest good?

What has happened to our economy and how did we get here?
We have worked with people, who are in economic distress, in Christian financial counseling for 17 years, and with young, engaged and newly married couples for the last 13 years. We saw the train wreck coming for many years, as did many others. The red lights were flashing but the train wasn’t slowing down.

The lure of debt dangles before our eyes every direction we turn; the temptations are everywhere. The Bible says in Proverbs 22:7 “the borrower is servant to the lender.”

We have seen three foreboding snares in which people, especially young people, get trapped. Each snare is bound up in debt.

The bait for each trap is materialism, greed, consumerism, instant gratification …. Whatever you want to call it...

The first is school loans. We have seen people with more than $100,000 in school loans. They are easy to get, always available. We heard a story just today from a parent of a 39 year old who is having trouble paying her school loans. They go on forever.

The second trap is a new car with little or no down payment. Again, these loans are easy to get. Within a year, many people find that they can’t afford the payments on the car. They are “upside down” on the loan, they owe more than the car is worth. The chance of selling the car and getting out of the payments is nil. Car dealers make it easy though, they will let you buy another one and roll-over your debt into a new loan!

The third trap is buying a more expensive house than a person can really afford. Home buyers often gauge which house they will buy according to what the mortgage company will loan them. Mortgage companies will loan a person much more than the person can afford and often they do not require a down payment.

This third trap was the tipping point of the financial crisis we have today.

Mortgage companies often sell the mortgage to another company after the home is bought. After practicing this procedure regularly, many of them realized that they weren’t really taking a risk to be the initial financier of a home. They financed homes without being stringent on the qualifications of the buyer. The company who bought the loan had not qualified the buyer themselves. They had no idea if the person could make the payments…. and so on and so on.

The house of cards has now collapsed.

What are others saying?

By the time you read this blog, the decisions on Capitol Hill may be finalized. Right now, politicians are debating, main street Americans are angry, and Wall Street is on a wild, roller coaster ride.

Some politicians are calling the government bailout “socialism.”

Chuck Colson, on his website called Breakpoint, says that the cause of the market meltdown was moral failure. Free markets—capitalism itself—can thrive only when corporations and individuals exercise moral restraint. When those restraints fail, government regulation is sure to follow; which, in turn, makes free markets less efficient, and certainly less free.

Moral restraint, you see, requires a set of morals—beliefs that some things are right, and some things wrong. To put it more simply, moral restraint requires a biblical worldview.

Last July, in a private gathering, someone captured President Bush on a mobile phone. When asked about the cause of the global credit crisis, the president responded, “There is no question about it. Wall Street got drunk.” The president paused, and said, “That’s one reason I asked you to turn off your TV cameras.”

Michael Novak writes about the relationship between the free market system and morality: Western democratic capitalism is like a three-legged stool, resting on political freedom, economic freedom, and moral restraint. Take away moral restraint, and the stool collapses.

The Facts of Personal Debt

A study released in January of this year, The Barna Group provided a data-driven snapshot of the U.S. population, providing a dose of objectivity to some much-debated, often-misunderstood issues. The Barna research explores matters beyond "who-will-Christians-vote-for" questions - for now - in favor of examining the perceived importance of 10 diverse issues. In the top tier of the ranking, three issues were considered “major” problems by Americans (all faiths, party affiliate, etc.): Those included poverty (78%), the personal debt of individual Americans (78%), and HIV/AIDS (76%). The issue of personal debt rose to the top when the survey group is delineated into Christians who have a deeper faith and among Republicans.

From MSN Money:
Of the households that did carry a credit card balance, the median amount owed was $1,900. That means half of the households with a balance owed more, and half owed less. (Medians are less subject to the skewing phenomenon that plagues averages; that’s why economists tend to favor them.)

Bill Whitt at the VIP Forum, a Washington D.C. research firm, by analyzing the credit card debts of all the households the Fed surveyed, Whitt discovered:
· Only 29% of households owe $1,000 or more on their cards.
· 21% owe $2,000 or more.
· 6% owe $8,000 or more.
· 4% owe $10,500 or more.
· 1% owe $21,400 or more.

Does this mean all the hand-wringing over consumer debt is so much noise? Hardly. Although most Americans seem to be avoiding the credit card trap, there are still plenty of people on the financial edge: More than a third -- 36% -- of those who owe more than $10,000 on their cards have household incomes under $50,000, according to the VIP Forum analysis. The percentage of disposable income used to pay debts is still near record highs.

Bankruptcy Rates
The U.S. bankruptcy filing rate climbed again in August of this year, reaching a new post-2005 high of 4,476 filings per day. The year 2005 is significant because it was the year that the bankruptcy law changed making it more expensive and more time-consuming to file bankruptcy as well as making bankruptcy less effective once debtors got to bankruptcy court. Despite these changes, the bankruptcy rate has become staggeringly high, and we appear to have returned to an era where we will have well more than 1 million annual bankruptcy filings.
[Read statistics]

What do I do with all this information?

A few basic principles that guide us in the Christian life will also serve us well in this area.

First - pray for those who are in authority. Pray for their wisdom but also their sense of morality and ethics.

Second - take responsibility for any part you have in accumulating debt or being unwise in your spending.

Third - and most important, seek God’s heart and guidance on finances.

Fourth - Be involved in the culture. Share your perspective with your government representatives. Find out who might need help in your sphere of influence. Share what you have learned about finances in a way that honors God but gives grace to the listener.

Fifth - Don’t panic. Your reaction to the economic climate today is a barometer of your trust in God. Is your security in money or in the government or the political system or in Wall Street or is in God, our Father, our Creator, and our Sustainer?

Managing money is not rocket science.

Three practices will take care of most decisions in regards to money:
1. God owns it all. Seek Him about what to do with His money. Use His plan.
2, Spend less than you earn. Do not go into debt. If you are in debt, make it a priority to get out.
3, Save first, before spending for your wants of the day. A dollar spent today precludes how it can be spent in the future.

The Bible and Money

"Let your character be free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, 'I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,' so that we confidently say, “The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid" Hebrews 13:5-6

“The earth is the LORD's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters.” Psalm 24:1-2

"But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith, and is worse than an unbeliever" 1 Timothy 5:8

"The wise man saves for the future, but the foolish man spends whatever he gets" Proverbs 21:20, LB

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Remembering the Sights and the Smells of 9/11

After viewing several video segments, some of them from amateurs, I remember the intensity of this day just 7 years ago. I remember driving to work that morning. As I drove, I heard the first news of the plane attack. I remember the sinking, familiar feelings of the Murrah bombing six years earlier. I remember thinking .... "Oh no, here we go again." I had been at work a few minutes, trying to figure out what was happening, along with the others in my office, when my 16 year old daughter called me from school. She asked me what was happening to our country - was someone attacking our country? I told her that I thought it was isolated, although I wasn't sure, but I was hoping. I told her not to worry - our country would be okay, we could deal with whatever was happening.

How did we even work that day? We were in the business of giving others hope; we were there to offer God's strength to those who needed His hope and His strength. We couldn't quit doing that for the day; we couldn't say to them that we couldn't grab onto Him that day.

As a ministry of healing and hope who had served in the middle of America's most dramatic bombing before that day, we were asked to come help the New Yorkers offer that same healing and hope of our Lord in the middle of the new biggest tragedy of our time.

As the director of training and one who was tasked to bring together people to produce materials quickly, I waited to go on the second team to NYC. I arrived in Manhattan about a month after 9/11. Our team arrived just before dinner. As soon as we ate, our leader of the first team took us to see the smoking remains of the Twin Towers. He is a retired Marine, no wimpy slouch. As we looked and smelled the air ... our Marine, with a voice choked with emotion, shared his perspective .... every American needs to see this up close and feel the atmosphere and smell the smoke of the burning pile.

None of us wanted to talk about what was in the pile burning still, one month later, before our eyes. Ashes still filled the air. Steam would shoot out of the pile when the round-the-clock, heavy equipment operators pulled some big pieces of steel or concrete off and air hit the hot materials and caught fire anew. The fire would hit the moisture that had been poured on to contain the heat. The smoke and steam would collide into a never ending plume rising over Manhattan, visible for miles.

How can we see what the video of the tragedy and the people who stood and watched it? How can we see it and not be deeply sad and deeply angry at the evil, sick minds who conceived it? Have we lost sight in our country of the intensity of those days? Of the depth of perversion of the people behind that attack? Is it not obvious that they hate us and want to destroy us? How can we become complacent and apathetic about the need for vigilance?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Shack - My Thoughts and Others - Donna Edwards

Usually, I don't review books on this blog. but The Shack debuted on the New York Times bestseller list at #1, has been on that list for 13 weeks, and has sold over one million copies; a real feat for any book but even more so for one independently published (some friends of the author started a publishing company to publish this book after it was rejected by Christian and secular publishers). This book has been more widely embraced and more widely criticized than any other Christian-themed book in recent remembrance. I read the book several months ago because a friend asked us to read it and give my opinion. After my thoughts, I have included a synopsis of the story, some links, and some quotations.

For those who know me well, you know that I have an opinion on most everything. However, This book has left me in a quandary.

I had many thoughts and emotions run through me as I read it. I had to go back and read the beginning again to ascertain if it was really fiction or if it was a person’s account of their experience. The writing style made it sound like a true story. I found it painful to get through the first part about the abduction and death of Mack’s daughter. I was frustrated to see God the Father, Papa, depicted as an African-American woman. I was confused with the description of the garden. I was disappointed that Jesus’ majesty was not more prominent.

But I thought the writer did a great job of portraying… every man’s questions about pain and suffering … a God who sees the whole picture, even when we don’t…a God who anticipates our needs before we do…the freedom of forgiveness… what faith really means… of the hope of heaven…. of how reason and emotion can limit a personal, intimate relationship with God.

Would I recommend it? Not to everyone, but I have seen some benefit from it, especially those dealing with grief and whether God is loving. Just remember - it’s fiction. Don’t build your theology on a story. Study the Bible for yourself to find out what God is really like. Let your faith become something you live!

A Synopsis of The Shack
The Shack is a book that seeks to provide answers to the always timely question “Where is God in a world so filled with unspeakable pain?”. It is a tale that revolves around Mack (Mackenzie) Philips, whose daughter was abducted during a family vacation. Though her body was never found, evidence was found in an abandoned shack to prove that she had been brutally murdered. Mack visits the scene of the crime and there experiences a weekend-long encounter with God, or, more properly, with the Godhead.

The Author's Background
William Paul Young wrote this book in 2005 as a Christmas present for his six children (age 14-27 at the time).

The book is fiction; a very important point to never forget. Young says he wrote the book as a metaphor to explain his life to his kids.

Young was born to Canadian missionary parents. He live in New Guinea among the Dani tribe until he was six years old. His parents were emotionally distant. He was so integrated into this pagan culture that he thought he was a white Dani when he was sent to a Christian boarding school at the age of six. He was sexually abused by the Dani natives and by older boys at his boarding school.

He later goes to a Bible college, seminary, and marries Kim, his wife. At 38 years old, he begins the hard work of coming to grips with the damage of his inner self. Kim insisted he face all of it after his infidelity in their marriage. He spent 11 years going through that process.

After writing the book for his children, he gave a copy of the manuscript to another Christian author; he loved the book. The end result was that no secular or Christian publisher who would publish the book, so a publishing company was formed to print the book and less than $500 was spent on marketing. The news of the book spread by word of mouth.

What Others Are Saying
The book has a wide range of critics and supporters.

A sampling of the praise:
Eugene Peterson, “When the imagination of a writer and the passion of a theologian cross-fertilize the result is a novel on the order of The Shack. This book has the potential to do for our generation what John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress did for his. It’s that good!”

Wayne Jacobsen, “Don’t miss this! If there’s a better book out there capturing God’s engaging nature and his ability to crawl into our darkest nightmare with his love, light and healing, I’ve not seen it. For the most ardent believer or newest spiritual seeker, The Shack is a must-read.”

Michael W. Smith, “The Shack will leave you craving for the presence of God.”

Dale Lang, father of student killed in Columbine copycat shooting, “This book goes beyond being the well written suspenseful page-turner that it is. Since the death of our son Jason the Lord has led us to a small number of life-changing books and this one heads the list.”

Patrick M. Roddy, Producer of ABC News, “With every page, the complicated do’s and don’t that distort a relationship into a religion were washed away as I understood Father, Son, and Holy Ghost for the first time in my life.”

A sampling of the critics:
Mark Driscoll, pastor, Mars Hill Church "If you haven't read The Shack, don't!"

Tim Challis, “As I read the book I saw that, from beginning to end, The Shack has a quietly subversive quality to it.

The author very subtly criticizes many aspects of the church and contemporary Christianity before replacing the concepts he criticizes with new ones…. I urge you, the reader, to exercise care in reading and distributing this book. The Shack may be an engaging read but it is one that contains far too much error. Read it only with the utmost care and concern, critically evaluating the book against the unchanging standard of Scripture.”

Dr. Albert Mohler, “This book includes undiluted heresy.”

The Shack, official site
Wm. Paul Young, the author's blog
Christianity Today, Reading in Good Faith
Christianity Today, Fiction for the Faith-Starved
Christianity Today, The Trinity: So What?
Audio downloads:
Alber Mohler, part 1, part 2
Available to purchase:

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Politics and Morality

"The nerve of the problem is:
They moralize on politics but they politicize morality."
Ravi Zacharias

Ravi Zacharias explains that the problem with politicians in America today is that they take a topic that is not really an issue of morality, such as global warming, but they make it a moral issue. But then issues that are issues of morality, such as marriage, and make it a political issue.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Paralysis by Analysis

I watched the Saddleback Forum this weekend and found it to be very interesting. I thought Rick Warren had some very good questions that showed the values and decision making process of both candidates.

The distinction between the two became very clear. While both candidates have thought through most of the issues, they have two completely different styles. Obama is very much one to consult many people. While it is good to seek wise counsel, he seems to fall into the category of paralysis by analysis. He makes every topic gray.

When asked a very simple question about when life begins, he gave a clever response about that being above his pay grade. The reality is that he didn't want to answer that question definitively for fear of making one side or the other mad. His record shows that he will support abortion rights.

While he seems like a likable personality, he reminds of someone who "says nothing very well."

John McCain has many attributes that people don't like and viewpoints that they don't agree, but he is very decisive. Most issues are clear cut to him, not much gray. That can be great if you agree with him.

The forum made the values and the style of leadership very clear to the American public.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Picking Out a China Pattern

We do a lot of work with couples getting married - premarital education and counseling. If they are already engaged, they are consumed with preparing for the wedding. They spend time getting registered for different items at Target, Dillards, etc.

Usually they register for a particular china. They go look at different patterns - what does the plate look like in this pattern? What about the cup and saucer, the bowls? What kind of serving pieces come with it? The pattern determines how all of the rest of the pieces will look.

With the Olympics, the China pattern takes on a new meaning. The basic beliefs and values of their country determine the pattern of their lives. With the dictators of the last few decades, they have indoctrinated the people with the belief that there is no God. If there is no God, who determines the values and to whom are the people accountable?

Their country has decided that the political leaders determine the values and that they are the only ones to whom everyone must be accountable. Their values are based on what they believe is best for their country and its image.

If that is the basis of their value system, it easily follows that they add computer generated fireworks to make sure they show up and look they way they want them to. It is in the best interest of the country to use the best Chinese child voice to go with the best Chinese child face. It is in their best interest to make passports to verify the age of their young gymnastic girls, so that they can compete whether those ages are accurate or not.

It is sad to me that they don't believe that they have the ability to present a great culture and a great people without being deceptive. I think it is an insult to their people. And it only brings more distrust from the rest of the world when we see the China pattern.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Olympic Picture of God's Love

While I was watching the Olympics, I saw one of those personal interest stories that grabbed my attention. The story was about Oksana Chusovitina (from the former USSR, now living in Germany) and her son. ( She won a gold medal in 1992 and is now one of the oldest gymnastic competitors at the age of 31.

In the special feature, she told about the story about her son who developed leukemia. She said:
When a child is born, everything in life changes. You live for someone else. I would give my entire life for him.

You live for someone else. You live for someone else.

Those simple sentences express the heart of most parents for their children. How often do the children realize that concept? I remember when our grandson was born last year. Our son said "Everything is different now." He suddenly saw all of life differently. He saw us, his parents, differently.

As Christians, we are children of God. If those sentences express the heart of a fallible human, how much more do they express the heart of a perfect God? Not only would He give His entire life for us, He did give His life for us. How often do we consider God's heart for us as we go through everyday life?

Oskana ran into a road block in getting treatment for her son in her native country, so she began searching her gymnastic community to find help. Though friends in Germany helped Oksana find a place for Alisher's treatment, she was uninsured and had no way to pay for it. A the 2002 French International in Paris, an announcement was made about Oksana's situation and the global gymnastics community rallied, donating enough money (about $200,000, including a large sum from Liukin's World Olympic Gymnastics Academy) to defray the costs of his treatment and allow Oksana to stay in Germany with her son. Though the contributions helped, Oksana continued to compete because prize money she earned financed his care. "If I don't compete then my son won't live; it's as simple as that," the 27-year-old Chusovitina told Reuters in 2002.

God's devotion to each of us far exceeds what any mother or father would do for their child.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Rhett and Megan O'Briant Experience in Zambia with Living Well

We really appreciated all those who prayed for us while we were away. We definitely felt that God was watching over us as we were away. We lost our luggage, but we received it in time for the conference. The A.L.A.R.M staff was so kind to us. They worked very hard to make sure we enjoyed our stay. We also greatly enjoyed each member of our team. Ed had a passion in his teaching in Zambia that was extraordinary. He was an amazing leader during the conference. Donna had a way of connecting and engaging the participants in the lessons. It was very clear that the Zambians enjoyed her teaching.
There were several things we noticed about Zambia. It had a wonderful climate with temperatures in the 80s for highs and low humidity. The area smelled of grass fires. We saw man people walking everywhere we went at all times of the day and night. Their native language was called Bemba and their currency was called kwacha. Many people there were unemployed from the copper mines.
While there, we soon discovered that there were frequent daily power outages. This also affected the water supply. Many times we did not have hot water and the pressure was really low. We soon learned to take showers whenever there was water.
On Sunday before the conference started, we went to a local church service. The church was only a couple of blocks away from our guesthouse so we walked. It really touched us to hear their singing from several blocks away as we approached the church. Their worship was very strong and lively. We definitely felt God’s presence among the Zambian people. We also got to witness several baptisms after the church service. After each baptism the people sang and presented each person being baptized with flowers. After the service, the people greeted us in the churchyard.
The conference was held at a camp that was a forty-minute drive outside of Luanshya, the town where we were staying. On the drive each morning, we saw many people walking to school and work. Many also carried their goods to the local market each morning. Once we turned off the main road, we drove down a road for about 2 kilometers. It was like driving in a cow pasture. It had tall grass on both sides. People walked out of the tall grass on both sides so there must have been many villages in this area.
Ed opened the conference with a greeting and the first training session. He spoke with and amazing strength and showed and tremendous passion in his message. Donna was very good at getting the participants engaged and participating in the lessons. We felt blessed to have these two leading us. The first day, we read a case study about the pastor, and then split into two groups of men and two groups of women. The participants had a great discussion time about the pastor in the case study who was focusing so much on his ministry that he was leaving his marriage and children behind. It sparked some very interesting discussion. The pastors and their wives were very well spoken and addressed the issues we were talking about head on.
On Tuesday we went to a school with Megan Lea and Jacque. We traveled down roads that were covered with potholes. We swerved all over the roads, shoulder to shoulder, to avoid them. When we arrived, we learned that the age group of students that Megan and Jacque would speak to had been sent home because they had not paid their school fees. They ended up speaking to a younger group of students than they had planned. The girls were able to share about their heavenly father’s love and to share about child abuse with these kids. The children were very respectful to their teachers and to us.
On Wednesday, we went back to the conference. We were able to share our marriage testimony and then to teach our first lesson on using Godly communication with your spouse. One of the couples at the conference volunteered to help us hold up hearts for our lesson. As we discussed ways of communication that break down our marriage our volunteers tore off parts of the hearts they were holding. Then we began teaching Godly strategies to improve communication. While we were doing this, the participants put their hearts back together with glue. At the end we discussed how the hearts were still torn even though they had been but back together and the only way to completely heal them in your marriage is to use forgiveness.
Megan got to celebrate her 29th birthday at the conference. She was given a birthday card and everyone sang. It was a very unique and special birthday for her. Beatrice also had a birthday cake for her that evening after supper. It was definitely the most memorable birthday she has ever celebrated.
On Thursday, we taught another lesson. It was on conflict resolution in marriage. We started out the lesson by showing the participants a film canister, which represented marriage. We then poured water into the film canister. After that we showed them an antacid tablet, which represented conflicts in their marriage that were not resolved in a Godly way. We then put the antacid in the canister and shut the lid. In a few seconds the lid burst on the canister and hit the roof. This demonstrated that unresolved conflict can cause and eruption in your marriage. This set the stage for us to talk about ways to resolve conflicts in a Godly way.
Several times during the week, Donna and Ed facilitated question and answer sessions. The participants submitted the questions. Ed and Donna gave the participants time to share their ideas on how to handle the situations and then Ed and Donna finished by sharing God’s word on each topic. The participants often recognized that their cultural beliefs and habits were different than God’s plan. They recognized the need to change in several areas.
As we finished up the last two days of the conference, we had several people who shared testimonies with us. One woman told us that she had counseled a couple and when they came back a few weeks later with the same problems, she told them to get divorced. She told us that now she has some other tools to give couples that come to her and are struggling. Several of the participants also talked about how important the communication lessons were to them. This made us feel like we were accomplishing the work that God had sent us to do.
Looking back, we clearly see that God called us in this mission to trust Him. He showed us that he was in control. We also learned to look to Him as we prepared our lessons. We feel that he clearly showed us the activities and stories to share in our lessons and it was an amazing experience to see how the people understood very clearly what the message was that we had been sent to share.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Beauty and Danger

This image encapsulates east Africa.

Africa has a beauty that is not found anywhere else - in the scenery, the animals, and most of all, in the people. But there is also danger - as depicted by the broken glass and razor wire on top of the wall of the compound where we stayed in Luanshya, Zambia. The compound walls are necessary to protect possessions from thefts. The mosquitoes carry malaria. The water is unsafe to drink. We are careful what we eat. The beauty and variety of wild animals must not be mistaken for safety.

As foreigners, we are not accustomed to the differences in food, safety, and customs; but we remain vigilant to enjoy the culture, the landscape, and try not to offend our hosts. They know something about living life in this precarious balance between life and death.... beauty and devastation.... hospitality and caution.... physical need and joy in the present.... gratitude for what is received and generosity in what is given.... praise, worship and crying out to God in desperation.
We go as teachers.... we have a lot to learn from them.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Jacquelyn Edwards and Megan O'Briant Speak to Zambian Students

Jacquelyn Edwards of Oklahoma City and Megan O'Briant of Dallas spoke to over 700 studants in Luanshya, Zambia. They spoke about purity and abstinence and about God as their Father and Protector. Zambia has a very high HIV/AIDS rate. The life expectancy is about 37 years. Zambia is a Christian nation, constitutionally. They are open to people speaking about their Christian faith in the schools.

Jacque uses Skittles as a visual aid in teaching. In the following photo, the students swarm Jacque for the Skittles that are left.

For some reason, our Zambian hosts called them "Jac and Mega." They made a sign for their room to commerate their new names.

They are apprehensive as they are apprehended for the third time. The police kept "arresting" them.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Living Well at Masaiti Christian Centre, Luanshya, Zambia

This series of photos shows the camp where we taught the conference. We stayed in Luanshya and most of the participants were from that community about 20 km away. After turning off the highway, it says that the camp is 2 km down the long, winding road but it seemed much further. As with all roads in Africa, people are walking - you are not sure where they are coming from or going to. There was more than one fork in the road; each time an almost indistinguishable sign showed the way.

The women start washing clothes the first day of the conference. Both women who are bending over washing clothes have a child tied onto their backs. They hang their clothes on a wood structure that was a stage at one time.

These huts were for the men who came with a wife.

This building was the venue for the teaching time. The middle section was the classroom. A room on the left was for women who attended without their husband. Many of them had small children who spent their afternoons on the porch by the classroom.

This hut is for the owner of the camp grounds to live in when he is there. It has a bathroom, bedroom, and living area. We were able to go to this hut if we needed to rest, use the bathroom, and have lunch.

The cooking is done outdoors. In the photo with two women stirring a big pot, they are probably stirring the staple for their diet "shema," which is in a following picture.

Africans are tremendously resourceful. They only have electricity at this camp in the evening; they use a generator for that power. Here is a source for hot water. Then we see the shower facilities for those attending the conference.