Monday, August 31, 2015

Scattered: A Reed Family Update

It's time for a Reed family update and our renewed love affair with Skype.

Grenoble, France
On Wednesday I dropped Hannah off in Chicago as she left for four months to Grenoble, France on a last semester with Calvin College to finish her third major.  She will be staying with a host family, taking five classes, learning French, and hopefully enjoying the culture and the environment.  The biggest challenge for Hannah is to not try to over-achieve and to enjoy herself!  We are very excited about this opportunity that she has and hope this will be a good transitional time between a very busy four years of college to the next phase of life!  Skype will continue to play an important role in our lives as we learn to touch base with each other frequently through Skype!

Hannah leading worship on her last Sunday in town at Madison North.  They gathered around her, prayed for her, and sent her off!
Noah and his Hannah
 Noah will be starting his senior year at Calvin (!!!) and will be moving into the Knollcrest East apartments with four other guys.  Last year he as a Resident Assistant; the year before he was a Barnabas (floor chaplain), and this year he gets to just be a student!  I'm happy about that.  He has learned and developed great leadership skills, but there are times when my kids need to learn to just be!  He will be finishing his degree in International Relations and is starting to think about what happens after college.  His love is peace and reconciliation and would love to work with the UN in some way, or maybe Amnesty International or something like that.  He spent this past summer working fulltime on Calvin grounds, working with heavy machines and coming home very dirty every day!  He has a girlfriend whose name is also Hannah, which we are figuring out (mostly by "your Hannah" or "sister Hannah").  She happens to be in Honduras for this fall semester (also in her senior year) and so Noah also will be on Skype a lot!

Michael posing with a philosopher at Kings College London.
Michael continues to do his good work at Eerdman's publishing.  After watching him work for a couple of years now, I am beginning to understand the language of the authors with whom he meets, most of whom are so passionate about various and obscure aspects of the Bible and bringing new light and perspectives on the Word.  The recent time that I spent with Michael in the UK, I heard authors tell Michael how much they appreciate him - he doesn't just "want their books" but he cares about the subject and speaks very intelligently about what is needed on so many different Biblical topics.  He really helps them to shape their books and the direction to meet what Michael sees and hears is needed by the Church.  I was so proud of him as I listened and watched him interact with both well-known and lesser-known authors.  He is passionate about his work and brings that passion to each and every meeting.

As for me, I am heading out to Ghana and then to Kenya again, leaving on September 11.  (I tend to fly out on September 11 - it must be that there are cheap flights that day for some reason!)   I will be teaching Church-based Business as Mission for one week at the Presbyterian Training Center for about 75 pastors and church leaders; then I will be teaching one week in Accra with ICM Ghana for about 35 pastors.  After that, I will be flying to Kenya for a few days of meetings, and then starting an eight day Training of Trainers, with trainers coming from Egypt, Uganda, and of course Kenya.

Michael and I will also be back to Skyping for the five weeks that I'm gone; it's true that much of our relationship was built on Skype and we are happy to have it - but of course we prefer being together in person!

Update:  Our prayer partner, Mary Springer, focused in last week's blog, did pass away on Saturday, August 29.  Thanks to all of you who prayed.  We are thankful that her pain is now over and we are thankful to God for a life well lived.  We will miss her.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Asking for Prayer for a Pillar

Anyone seeing Mary Springer would not think of a "pillar."  Mary is petite, blond, with an open caring face.  She is always ready to break forth into a smile or laugh that lights up her eyes, and those same eyes are equally willing to fill with tears because of her very compassionate nature.

But don't let that fool you.  Mary is a pillar.  A pillar of strength.  A pillar of determination.  A pillar of faith.  A pillar of persistence.  A pillar of faithfulness. 

If you have been involved in my work in any way - West Africa, East Africa, Canada, the US - over the past eight years, you may not know but Mary has been praying for you, faithfully.  FAITHFULLY!

And now, Mary, who has been fighting cancer for several years (and when I say fighting...I mean F.I.G.H.T.I.N.G!) has entered into hospice care and it seems her fighting days may be nearing a close.

So I'm asking you to join me in prayer.  Prayers for healing because God is able!  Prayers for an ease of the significant pain that has racked her body for some time.  Prayers for her peace of mind.  Prayers for her husband and children.  As her pastor put it, Mary is "outwardly wasting away; inwardly being renewed."  Her faith is strong, even now.

I have known Mary for many years, as a fellow member of Madison Square Church.  But I didn't really get to know her until she came to Liberia in 2006 through our church partnership, to participate with a children's ministry called Pebbles and Stones.  It was there that I got to know Mary better and learned what a prayer warrior she is.  Shortly after that, we asked Mary to join our weekly prayer call for the work of business development.  Mary prayed about it, confessed that she didn't "know much about business" (even though she runs her own counseling practice), but that she is willing to commit to prayer.  At that time we had a group of maybe seven or eight people who called in weekly for prayer.  Over those years, people have dropped off, one by one.  But not Mary.  Even though the focus shifted from Liberia to Ghana, then to West Africa, then to Kenya, she stayed.  Even though her life changed and she went through normal life challenges, she stayed.  And throughout her fight with cancer (I think she was diagnosed in 2011), she still didn't stop joining this prayer call (except for a handful of times when she was just too sick), as well as participate in any meeting we had in Grand Rapids about business development and discipleship.  That, dear friends, is faithfulness.
Mary, in Liberia.  Mary is in the white shirt and yellow skirt.

And now it is Dave Graf (who has been in these prayer calls since 2006), Mary Springer, Michael and myself who are on this prayer call weekly at 7 am on Tuesday mornings.  We have become very close because of this.  Mary prayed me through the loss of my husband Bob; prayed for my children as they mourned their Dad and went through numerous transitions since then; prayed me through the changing of jobs; through the challenges of development work in Africa; through the fear of getting into a new relationship with Michael; and fervently for many businesses by name, as well as many country issues in West and East Africa.  It wasn't unusual for her to tell me at the end of a call of a vision or impression that she had for me, that ministered to me in one way or another.

And so I'm asking for prayers for this faithful sister in Christ today.  Will you join me and stand in the gap for her, as she has done for so many people over the years?  Someday she will meet the people she has prayed for over the years, as you may also meet this woman who has prayed for so many.  We look forward to that day with confidence.

Monday, August 17, 2015

The UK

One of the perks of my work is that I am able to accumulate air miles.  Michael had a two week trip scheduled around the UK for his work, with all his expenses covered.  We looked at my air miles and figured that if I used them all, I could accompany him.  So for two weeks, I'm tagging along with him as he visits the major universities and colleges in London, Oxford, Cambridge, St. Andrews, Edinburgh, and Durham.  We are taking the train around, which is great, and really gives us a lay of the land.  I realize again on such a trip that I am not a tourist by nature, nor do I like big cities or places swamped by tourists.  The best place so far has been St. Andrews, a town of about 60,000 (35,000 are students at the University of St. Andrews!) right on the North Sea - absolutely beautiful.  After all the hustle and bustle of the other places (especially London), my soul immediately found a connection at St. Andrews.
An enjoyable bike tour around Oxford
The actual lamp that inspired C.S. Lewis to write about Narnia.
Michael and his colleague, James, in stocks, as they deserved.
The streets in Oxford.  Oxford was used a lot for the Harry Potter films, so many Harry Potter tourists and places to visit from the movies.
One of the beautiful buildings in Oxford.
The streets in Cambridge.
This AMAZING cathedral was built under the rule of Henry VI, Henry VII and Henry VIII.  Bob was fascinated by Henry VIII and it was so cool to see that part of the organ covering was Henry VIII's gift to Anne Boleyn. 
This cathedral in St. Andrews was destroyed in 1549, having been built in the 1200s. The story is that in 1549, John Knox preached a sermon and told the people to take the cathedral down.
The beautiful North Sea and relatively untouched beach with many fisherman still working.
Taken in St. Andrews, by the North Sea.
Four mile hike along the sea in Scotland; so very beautiful.
Fields of wheat everywhere in Scotland...along with many free range cows and sheep.  Very peaceful and beautiful.
Tomorrow we will take the train to Edinburgh, then to Durham, then back to London, and then home on Friday.  I have been able to get some writing in while Michael is in meetings.  Our two main tourism days were the two Sundays that he was mostly off.  Thanks to technology I still was able to attend the International Council meetings that were being held in Bakersfield, CA with ICM.  They went from about 5 pm to 1 am, but I was thankful for the ability to connect.  Here is a picture of the International Council, with my Skype picture there as well!

Monday, August 3, 2015

Back on my feet

I'm back on my feet again, taking another step, thanks to the prayers and encouragement of many of you.  I'm not 100% yet but continuing to move in that direction.  I am in Bakersfield CA as I write this, prepared to go into another week full of meetings with International Christian Ministries (ICM).

Last Monday evening, after I sent out the "Flesh Eating Bacteria" blog, we had a guest over who happened to get sick.  She apologized profusely for having thrown up in our bathroom.  I reassured her that there was no need for apology - I was sorry that she had gotten sick!  But the next day I thought about that exchange and I realized that I too feel like I "threw up" last week on this blog.  And I too want to apologize for that.  I know that there was some real sickness that legitimized the entry, but I still feel bad about it, just as our guest did.  However, I also acknowledge that this is a "Reeds In The Wind" web-log - not an ICM or work blog.  This blog has been like a journal for me, capturing my life on a weekly basis for the past ten years.  It allows me to not feel so alone on this journey, and I am privileged to have company in the likes of you reading it and commenting on it.  I keep the topics to work, family, and faith, and if I need to get personal, I can.  I try to keep it as positive as I can, but sometimes, thankfully rarely, I "throw up."

But so many of you responded with such graciousness and kind words.  And so many prayers were lifted on my behalf.  I truly felt the darkness lifting by the end of that day.  And my face has fully healed.

So thank you.  And sorry.  I'll try not to do that too often.

A number of you wrote and said that you identified with those dark thoughts and dark places.  For those who did, let me pass on some of the wise words I heard in this past week:

From my boss, Dr. Phil Walker, in response to these words of mine:  "See how many people are looking to ICM and to you - good, serious people with serious medical issues - and you can't do anything."   "Ah, the great lie.  Of course you cannot do anything.  It is not yours to do.  While we can “feel” responsible, we have to remind ourselves over and over that God has chosen the weak things of this world to confound the strong.  I know in my mind that only God can handle these things (this is what Grace really means).  But my emotions cry out that “I” should be able to do something.  It is in our helplessness that we grow in Grace (2 Peter 3:18).  I came to the end of myself in 1982 after doing some amazing things in Southern Lebanon preparing to launch a ministry among Muslims only to have my family life collapse around me.  I went to my knees by my bed and cried out to God, “what do you want from me?  I have given you my life, my wife and my children.  I live through constant danger, bombings and little to no benefits (life salary etc).  God’s answer changed my life, “I want you.”  Suddenly I realized that I could never do anything in my flesh that would “fix it” for others.  If God does not do it, I cannot and should not try to make it happen.  It is in this place of helplessness that I find rest."

From my pastor, Rev. David Beelen:  "One line in your blog struck quoted an easy line that people throw out too easily (and you used it that way)..."God does not give us more than we can bear"  In fact, God often gives us more than we can bear....most days this feels like more than I can bear.  Which then leads me to dependence and some prayers of desperation."

From a dear friend in Iowa, Ron Rynders:  I have had the privilege of reading the Bible for each of my grandkids. I have 11, and I am in the middle of #9. Having just finished Jeremiah yesterday, I was sort of in the mood for getting this. Here’s a guy who got laughed out of town every time he opened his mouth. Sometimes he got dumped into a well, all alone, up to his armpits in mud. Hungry. In jail. Ridiculed. And much of his rejection came from people in his own profession. But above all, he had to learn that it was not a matter of getting approval or support from anyone on this Earth. It was all him and the Lord. When God spoke to him, he transliterated it to the people, no matter how important the people were and no matter how objectionable the message was to the hearers. He dictated his book, and the king burned it one page at a time. So he just wrote it again… and then, for all his work, he was led off with the captives to another land. Thing is, what Jeremiah said, came true. The test of a good prophet is if her words are true. It’s not about support—God owns the cattle on a thousand hills; he only has to sell one cow, and you’re all set. It’s not about printing a book; there are many publishers. 

So here I am, rambling about what you wrote, and countering some of your problems with a nice, safe distance between us. I’m really sorry. I just want to give you that hug again, and tell you what I think about the woman I have come to respect deeply. God has confirmed over and over that he supports you, relates to you, meets your needs, answers your prayers. He loves you with an everlasting love, and that’s all that matters. When perspective comes, your body heals, and time has passed to heal your troubled soul, you’ll look back on this and see how much muscle you obtained from the late-July turmoil in 2015. You lost a husband and learned to smile again. You have spoken the Words of Truth into many lives. God has poured you out, and though this dry spell is difficult, you will arise to show his glory, with or without money from supporters."  

From Karl Westerhof, on staff with the CRCNA, a friend of Bob's who has become an encourager to me through the blog:  "You  wouldn't think God would let it happen.   You wouldn't think the old self still has so much toxicity to release.  You wouldn't think it would hit you when you are at home.   But, bam!   And on top of all that, your feelings and memories take you right back to the grief and mystery of Bob's death.   Yes, all that is right inside your brain, ready at any moment to be triggered again. And then you get to telling yourself a bunch of junk.... what if my whole ministry is a delusion?   I'm accomplishing  nothing, doing harm, creating dependence, blowing smoke, pretending to be significant, yadda yadda. This is a litany from hell.  God never promised to get me out of trouble, but he does promise to get me through it.  So, Renita, it's a deep pit, and it's dark, and you can't even imagine how so many things can go so wrong at the same time.  I'm not going to remind you of the good things; I'm not going to quote a sunny scripture; I'm not going to tell you to buck up and pray more and all that good stuff.   It don't work.   I think we can look squarely at the darkness, stare deep into it, feel the feelings, and grit our teeth and repeat "I trust you God".  And there in the depths we find a wrecked but risen Jesus, who totally gets it, who knows how really terrible it can get, and who is with us in every breath with his own new breath, his divine wind, his Spirit, and he will not let us go.  Period. Oh, whoops, there I went with some good words that might sound useless.  Sorry.  Not.   Renita, I'm praying for you.  Karl"

And this is only a very small percentage of the wonderful and wise words I received.  How blessed I am!  The body of Christ is truly a wonderful thing.  Thank you, dear friends, for being with me on this journey.