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Joyfully Sharing Your Gifts And Talents:
Making Sure It’s All About Jesus

Matthew 5:16-ESV

In the same way,
let your light shine before others,
so that they may see your good works
and give glory to your Father
who is in heaven.

Mike and Becky with the 2018 Torchbearer group.

Psalm 37:4 ESV

Delight yourself in the LORD,
and he will give you
the desires of your heart.

There is a Joy in Taking the Stage

There is a joy in taking the stage
and becoming as one
with your character
in the play
which sets free your heart and your soul

A Torchbearer enthusiastically
playing a part.

for praising the Lord as
free as a bird singing
his song in
God’s garden as natural and grand and as
beautiful as a tall tree
pointing to Heaven for
all to see—
for you are rejoicing before everyone
in the might and the power
of our Heavenly
Good Father.

You Are The Star In My Life

Finding our true
Identity in Christ.

You are the star in my life, dear Lord,
You are star in my life, dear Lord.
You are the main attraction
and I just play a part.
The loud applause I get sometimes
is because of who You are.
You are the star—Your are the
Star in my life!

Positive I.D.
Nan Allen, Tom Fetkke, and Dennis Alllen

When we have God as our Father, Jesus as our Savior, and the Holy Spirit as our Comforter; there is no limit to the joy we experience in our lives. There are such mighty moments of triumph, such astounding miracles of insight and understanding, such overwhelming strength for living. This week I wish to bear testimony to a particular type of joy God grants each of us as His children, when he takes some ability He has given us, which brings gladness to our hearts, and allows us to offer that ability to Him in worship and in service. It may surprise some when I say  I have experienced this joyful reality in the area of drama. In my years of teaching in Africa no single activity resonated so fully with enjoyment in my heart, as did working with students in staging gospel dramas. This entertained and challenged the hearts and minds of audiences made up of fellow students, families, friends, members of churches, and even, on occasion, prisoners. I so loved seeing student actors get caught up in the fun, the power and the glory of the stories they acted out on stage, presenting the glory of the Gospel.

God began to prepare me for this delightful task, when as a summer

Torchbearers in the midst of a Gospel-proclaiming drama.

missionary, I had the opportunity to participate in a traveling variety show, Parables, under the direction of Marsha Eichenberg.  She trained us in the basics of drama, and then turned us loose to have fun and share our skits and songs enthusiastically with folks gathered under summer nighttime skies. We sang and danced and mimed our way through lots of silly songs and short bits of drama as a way to earn a hearing for the gospel in inner city neighborhoods, state parks, and church parking lots. Our seriously dilapidated, brightly painted, converted bread van, allowed us to haul stages, lights and sound equipment, so that we could set up just about anywhere. While we never knew for sure if our worn-out van would get us there and back, we had more fun than you can imagine, and our audiences seemed to enjoy our crazy antics almost as much as we did; and most importantly, hundreds of people heard God’s eternal message of salvation and love. I absolutely loved it!

After that summer, when I went to St. Marys, Georgia, the First Baptist Church already had a youth choir. The youth group proved eager to get involved in sharing the Gospel. So, we became the group, Heaven Bound.  A mom, Patty Ross, led the choir, and I led the drama group, as we produced popular youth musicals.

A powerful dramatic and musical presentation of Jesus’ life, death and
His resurrection.

These included The Clown, Celebrate Life, Bright New Wings, etc., and we traveled as far away as Kentucky, Tennessee, Florida, Alabama and to other parts of Georgia. The youth and their parents worked hard all year long so that we could take off in the summer and share the Gospel through these musicals. We traveled on old, but pampered buses the dads somehow managed to keep running. The church youth director, Barbara Lundin, kept all of us under control, so to speak, and we all had tons of fun as God touched countless lives over those years.

Well, when God fulfilled his missions call on my life, and I arrived at Baptist High School in Jos, Nigeria, I discovered enthusiastic students more than eager to also share their musical and acting talent to present the Gospel. In fact, at Baptist High,  there were already student choirs singing in Hausa, Yoruba, and in English. So, the students responded quickly to a new opportunity to join music and drama together when we began the Torchbearers’ ministry which continues to this very day, thanks to the long-time commitment and directorship of Mr. Emmanuel Adeshina.

I have to admit that drama for me was recreation. At Baptist High School on

The Torchbearers always enjoy sharing their talent
for the Glory of God.

Wednesday afternoons I so anticipated getting together with the Torchbearers when we prepared skits, dramas and musicals for sharing the Gospel. The students refreshed me with their delight as they took the gifts God had given them and worked together to present powerfully entertaining productions which entertained and inspired our school community, other nearby churches, schools, and sometimes, even the inmates in the Jos prison. The students were so creative, I could just toss out a scripture challenge which dealt with an issue Nigerians faced. Then, as a team we would craft one or two or three skits, which did as Jesus’ parables did—caught up the audience in the truth they needed to face and the Gospel they needed to accept. We prayed a lot. We laughed a lot. We worked a lot. We had so much fun. And in all of that, we felt God’s pleasure. This is what God graciously accomplishes when we individually and together surrender to Him our gifts and talents. Praise God, the performers and the audiences are all tremendously blessed.

One of the most enjoyable shows the Torchbearers presented  every year at Baptist High School featured the students impersonating various teachers and personalities from the school community. The first time they did this I heartily laughed along with the students and staff as I easily recognized our

For the students
and for me, Torchbearer
rehearsals were filled with lots of hard work
and fun—
all for God’s glory.

Principal,Vice-Principal and various teachers and workers exaggerating the walk, the gestures, the voice and the mannerisms—everything that made that person special and unforgettable to us all. But when not one, but several stepped out on stage dressed just like me, walking just like me, talking just like me, using their hands just like me—even using catch phrase I would use; I was truly amazed, and laughed so hard I just couldn’t stop. What fun to celebrate the uniqueness of each one of us, and to do so in such a hilarious way. You never know yourself until others mirror for you all of your eccentricities. I don’t believe I have ever had so much fun.

And through it all,  God was preparing each of us for trusting Him more. He was preparing each of us for serving Him more. He was preparing each of us for overcoming boundaries more often in His Name and for His Purpose. He was demonstrating to us how He lovingly has made us for His Purpose and His glory, and that as we respond to His challenge, we find the deepest joy in serving Him.

Have you noticed how God works through our life experiences, our abilities, our acquaintances, and even our moves from place to place? He purposefully does it all. In fact, He so majestically puts it all together that He is glorified, so the Gospel is spread, and so we are deeply, completely filled with abundant joy in  serving and being loved by Him? We are a blessed people, indeed.

People DO
need the Lord!
For after all,
LIFE IS ALL ABOUT JESUS!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HEALING HANDS: IT’S ALL ABOUT JESUS

 

Mrs. Comfort
Adewenu Taiwo

 

Psalm 103:1-5

Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and all that is within me,
bless his holy name!
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

HEALING HANDS

Thank God for those He gifts
with healing hearts and healing hands,
who follow closely in His steps
blessing all of us who suffer.

Mrs. Taiwo In Her
Early Days Of Nursing

They follow in His Way,
Jesus, their Lord who deeply cares
for those who suffer any pain,
sharing loving and healing power.

With their knowledge of the
healing arts, and with His
grace to
inspire hope they use each tool
the Great Physician shares.

As they pray they work even
as He leads compassionately
and give God glory
as He lovingly heals.

In His Gospel ministry among us on this earth, Jesus beautifully demonstrated God’s compassion for suffering children, women and men as He reached out and healed them. What a beautiful picture of God’s Messiah touching those in pain as He gifted them healing for their bodies and souls. God’s Way incarnate in Jesus so often declared His Love when He looked deep inside the hearts of people and saw their deepest need, then lovingly and powerfully met that need.

In this world today we are similarly blessed by doctors and nurses, therapists, techs and other health professionals, who continue blessing those in need as God uses their gifting and training to bring healing. In our own time in Nigeria, Mrs. Comfort Adewenu Taiwo, a school nurse at Baptist High School, (We called her Mrs. Taiwo.) epitomized this ministry of healing. For many years Mrs. Taiwo worked as a nurse at the Evangel Hospital in Jos, along-side missionary doctors and nurses,

Mrs. Taiwo Admires A New Baby.

even as she and her husband, Moses Adekojo Taiwo, raised six children During that time, she miraculously survived the original Lassa Fever outbreak in Jos. Maybe this played a part in giving her such a Christ-like heart for all her patients. She brought to each patient she treated an obvious faith in God and a strong sense of confidence in the medical care at Evangel. Every patient Mrs. Taiwo treated was encouraged by her tender care and by her obvious knowledge and skill.

We at Baptist High School were excited when she agreed to establish a school clinic for our students and our staff. Now, BHS had been blessed to have a Journeyman nurse, Ruth Robertson, who cared for our students with Christ-like love and compassionate care. We had all kinds of illnesses at a boarding school of 450 students. Students suffered from the usual varieties of viruses, the flu, malaria, and injuries; but also chronic and occasionally critical issues, such as asthma and sickle cell anemia. Ruth and Steve made many a “midnight “ run to a particular local hospital where our students received excellent and timely care. So, Ruth’s excellent service set us up to recognize how much our school would benefit from a school clinic.

Then Mrs. Taiwo, came in and immediately set up a clinic, stocked medications, won the students’ and staffs’ trust, and built an ongoing ministry, which made life for all us healthier and so, better in our faith and work. I particularly recall Mrs. Taiwo’s strong, yet comforting hands. Time after time I watched her calm a frightened and hurting student, give them expert care, pray

Mrs. Taiwo Ready To Treat Students At Baptist High School

with them and either put them to bed, or send them back to the dorm or classroom. She made rounds through the dorms to check on students too weak to get out of bed, and in general, gave encouragement and appropriate treatment to all in need.

Like any good nurse, she knew when to smile and encourage, and when to give the “look” which said, “For your own good, do what I say, or else!” She could “mother” with the best of them when ten or eleven year-olds grew homesick; but she could also play the “drill-sergeant” when tough guys needed a strong dose of fear-emphasized good sense. She also had a great sense of humor, which she used at just the right time to distract a whining student.

Most of all, Mrs. Taiwo  clearly loved others in a Christ-like way. With her strong hands and her big heart, she brought hope and healing to those in distress and pain. She joyfully shared her love for Jesus in everything she did. Teachers, students, and staff members,knew instinctively

Current school nurses, Mrs. Aliti Matthew and Mrs. Sarah Koda, consult with ailing student.

they could trust her, even if the medical treatment might occasionally seem painful. Everyone knew they could trust the school nurse, Mrs, Taiwo. She fully walked in the footprints of Jesus. Because of her and so many others like her, we bless his holy name!

 

 

 

 


 

 


Colossians 1:15-20 ESV

He is the image of the invisible God,
the firstborn of all creation.
For by him all things were created,
in heaven and on earth,
visible and invisible,
whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—
all things were created through him and for him.
And he is before all things,
and in all things hold together.
And he is the head of the body, the church.
He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead,
that in everything he might be preeminent.
For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,
and through him to reconcile to himself all things,
whether on earth or in heaven,
making peace by the blood of his cross.

IT’S ALL ABOUT JESUS

A precious young heart—ALL ABOUT JESUS

In my heart and in my soul
and in my mind and in my strength
there is no other name
than Jesus
who works His resurrection
power and His brand new birth, His
gift, the Holy Spirit
alive in me,
reconciling me to my own
Father in Heaven who welcomes
me home in His glory and
for my joy.

What does this statement mean: “It’s all about Jesus?” That is a very good question. Now, that I have shared some stories about people and events which have exemplified that bold statement, let’s discuss what I mean when I use it in describing a person, a group or an experience. To understand how I view this powerful truth, let’s break it down word for word.

IT

Ayuba and Victoria joyfully continue to teach Pastors and their wives, and it is ALL ABOUT JESUS.

First, let’s examine the pronoun IT. A pronoun always refers us as readers to someone or something. Here the “IT” refers to LIFE. We are talking about LIFE in all of its glory, but also in all its struggles. In LIFE we all have those “too good to be true” days. “Praise the Lord!” Yet, we also have those “no good, very bad” days. “Help me, Lord!” We enjoy those days when everyone wants to be your friend. Still, we also have those days when “you couldn’t buy a friend, even if you had the money.” There are those days when you feel like you are “on the top of the world.” But there are also those days when you are struggling alone “stuck on the bottom.” Most importantly, though, you experience days when Jesus has your heart; but you also endure those days when you hold your heart for your very own, not for Jesus. So, “IT” is the precious gift of LIFE God gives you everyday. How we use “IT” makes all the difference. We choose a LIFE for Jesus or a LIFE for ourselves  I have been writing about those who both faithfully and powerfully live lLIFE for Jesus. They give their “IT” (their entire LIFE) wholeheartedly to Jesus.

’S’ (Apostrophe S)

That (apostrophe) S is actually the word IS. You know, in the midst of experiencing

Becky’s parents exemplify God’s people at their best—
humbly living out in service to others their faith ALL ABOUT Jesus.

God’s Call Moses had the courage to ask God His Name. And surprisingly (because we understand so little of the wonderfulness of God), He answers. He says, “I Am that I Am.” In a way, God said to Moses, “You cannot know me on your own, but I choose to reveal who I Am. I exist, I alway have, and I always will. Because I exist, you and every person exists—never by your own choice, but by My Will, My Power. Every living breath your lungs inhale; every beautiful flower your eyes see; every bird’s delicate song or noisy call your ears hear; every gentle touch or strong embrace your body feels; every delight you feel when all is right; or every fear or doubt you sense when all goes wrong; you have all of these because I Am. You are because I Am. Because God is, we are. That’s the ‘S in IT’S.

ALL

Pastor Haggai accomplished much in the Lord’s Kingdom ALL FOR JESUS.

This use of the word, ALL, is as a pronoun and not as an adjective. If it were an adjective, the statement would read, “It’s all Jesus;” meaning everything in life is Jesus or is like Jesus. We cannot say that, based on the Bible, which proclaims clearly that Jesus is unique; there is no one, there is no thing, there is no event like Jesus. We ARE saying Jesus and His redemptive presence is the very best that can happen for every person, for every thing and for every event. When He is on the Throne with the Father, on earth as it is in Heaven; then all is well. So is ALL the story of life, ALL the story of this world, and ALL the story of the coming New Heaven and New Earth are ALL about Jesus. Each story I tell in these posts is about people, groups and events who make the best decision to make ALL their lives, ALL their thoughts and ALL their actions, ALL ABOUT JESUS. This is why their stories are beautiful and enjoyable and blessed.

ABOUT

Now, there could be two ways of looking at the preposition, ABOUT.  We could use the word to say things are approximately near or something like Jesus. This is NOT the ABOUT we are talking about. Rather we are proclaiming that when you take all there is in life; when you take all the things, good and bad, in life; when you see all the beauty, all the power, all the glory; but also the horror, the pain and mystery; in all of that we come to recognize as the purpose behind it all (to glorify God and to redeem every circumstance, and indeed, all of history); then, every bit of it all is ABOUT Jesus and His Life, His Death and His Resurrection. Jesus underpins it all. He holds it all together. He alone victoriously withstands

John and Louise lived incredible lives of love for others—ALL FOR JESUS.

all the doubts, all the questions, all of the Enemy’s attacks; and in the end through His absolute obedience and His perfect day-by-day living—all of history is indeed His Story—all glory to God and all everlasting joy for His Children—all ABOUT Jesus.

JESUS

You know, in a way, none of the other words matter. It all comes down to the One Name, the One Person, the One Savior, the One Lamb, the One Shepherd. JESUS is the one Hand reaching out and calling us, each of us, to Himself where we find forgiveness for going our own foolish way. JESUS is the One who is not only His own Resurrection and Life, but our own as He lovingly bids us to join Him at the foot of the Cross, where we can lay down all of our burdens, and be raised up, embraced by His loving arms to carry us ultimately Home to our Father. And as JESUS leads us always heavenward, He gives us the indescribable privilege of praising His Name, glorifying God, using every breath, every gift, every moment, every day to proclaim salvation in no other name than JESUS.

So, these stories I write are the testimonies of lives and actions and words which claim this incredible privilege. They proclaim with all  they have, and  with all they are,  for all the world to see and to hear and to know;  JESUS is Lord. So, I invite you to keep reading in the weeks ahead. IT’’S ALL ABOUT JESUS!

 

 

 

STONEY AND DOT

Stoney and Dot loved sharing every delight, especially sweet treats like a nice, thick milk shake.

Proverbs 3:1-6 ESV

My son, do not forget my teaching,
but keep my commands in your heart
for they will prolong your life many years
and bring you peace and prosperity.
Let love and faithfulness never leave you;
bind them around your neck,
write them on the tablet of your heart.
Then you will win favor and a good name
in the sight of God and man.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.

 

OUR FATHER AND OUR MOTHER

From young newlyweds to working hard and raising kids to doing and involving others in missions, for Stoney and Dot it was always, “All About Jesus.”

Our father and our mother,
always together, or so it seemed,
living and loving and laughing
and struggling and working hard;
yet through it all, seeking and hungering
after our Lord who became more so
each year they lived their chief desire
and their ultimate destination.

Our father and our mother,
always together, or so it seemed,
doing so many things remarkably,
yet goofing up on occasion
like all of us will—but always seeking
Him who became their ultimate
blessing for their sons and for their
daughters, a heritage to treasure.

Our father and our mother,
always together, or so it seemed,
hand-in-hand, smiling with joy
in Him who as their Father,
their Savior, their Counselor,
led them always to trust
Him and serve Him further,
loving all of His children together.

DOT AND STONEY

Dorothy Net Hamilton
Stonecypher
DOT

“Stoney and Dot.” “ Dot and Stoney. “As Becky and I settled back into life “back home” after thirty-seven years in Africa; and as we began getting acquainted and reacquainted with our church family at First Baptist Glencoe, we noticed how almost everyone who had known them always spoke of them together. We heard “Stoney and Dot, . . . always did this . . . ;” or “Dot and Stoney, . . . always did this. . .” Once we noticed how often people spoke of them together, we got to thinking about it, and it made sense, and it made us happy.

Actually, by this time Dad had gone on to his reward several years earlier, leaving Mother alone; but people still thought about them and talked about them together. And, as I said, it made sense, and it made us happy. For as long as we could remember, they had been a team in marriage, in parenting, in serving through their church;  and most importantly, in their faith. The beauty and power of Christian marriage made them into an amazing team, Jesus, Mother and Daddy—all working together for God’s glory.

Some of the happiest years of their lives, (next to raising five remarkable and

Clarence Ray
Stonecypher Sr.
STONEY

wonderful children, no doubt), came as they served under the Alabama Baptist Convention and the North American Mission Board, enlisting and training volunteers who served throughout Alabama, throughout the United States, and throughout the world. In their retirement years they found great joy in serving disaster-stricken communities, in often forgotten places with very little witness for our Lord; in Nigeria twice, and in Minnesota one summer . Now, even thoughthey loved being with their daughters (Celeste, Abby and Lisa) and their sons (Ray and Mike) and their families; they occasionally got so excited about yet another mission trip, they forgot to let families and friends know they were going. Their hearts just got so excited whenever they went somewhere to serve the Lord.

A Young Mother On Mother’s Day

When they had the opportunity provided by pastors Bill Morgan, Vince Whittington and others, to study God’s Word and how to better share the Gospel Story with others; they were among the first to get involved. They both had a deep, deep hunger for knowing their Lord, His Life, His Word and His Love for every person and all peoples, wherever they lived. So, if it meant sleeping in a gym on mats, taking flights across the world, or serving a small church in Minnesota; they were always ready to go. Whatever it took and wherever they needed to go, they sought with all their hearts to follow their Lord obediently; and as they did, their Joy grew ever deeper.

Can you imagine how much fun it was for us as children, children-in-law, and

A Young Stoney Honoring
Dot On Mother’s Day

grandchildren; to see their eyes shining while they excitedly told about their latest adventure in going somewhere among some new folks, and sharing the Gospel, which meant everything to them? What a blessing for all of us! What a challenge for all of us!

And all of these adventures for Stoney and Dot, or Dot and Stoney (whichever you prefer) took place after they had faithfully and lovingly raised their five children; both working long hours and scrimping and saving and loving and listening and supporting in good times and bad their often rambunctious  children. You would have realistically assumed that after all of those years spent working at the Alabama Gas Company (Stoney) and Dot (Etowah Manufacturing and the Tax Accessor’s Office), while fully committed to being there for their children;  Dot and Stoney would be ready to sit awhile and rest. Not at all. They got their second wind (the Holy Spirit) and spent, I believe, the happiest years of their lives, living, breathing, speaking; and most of all following their beloved Lord in sharing the Gospel.

Dot and Stoney
And Their
Rambunctious Crew

Now, when in all of the years of your life, you watch such enthusiastic obedience to the call to make life ALL ABOUT JESUS, and when you observe the miraculous way God uses such lives so beautifully and powerfully lived, then; you will not be surprised to know how confident their children are that they certainly heard hearty, welcoming words; “Well done, good and faithful servant;” as they were welcomed through Heaven’s gates. Nor would any of us be surprised if we should catch a glimpse of Dot and Stoney or Stoney and Dot (whichever you prefer) hand-in-hand around the throne, exultant and joyful, praising their Lord.

Speaking on behalf of Ray and Sandi, Mike and Becky, Celeste and Jim, Abby and Jeff, and Lisa and Ben; be assured we have been blessed by their lives lived out so well, demonstrating how wonderful our lives can be if we live as if all that matters in the end is this: “It is, indeed, all about Jesus.” Amen.

 

 

Colossians 3:23-24 ESV
Whatever you do, work heartily,
as for the Lord and not for men,
knowing that from the Lord you will
receive the inheritance as your reward.
You are serving the Lord Christ.

Watch The Laborers In The Field

If you watch the laborers in the field
your eyes will tell the tale
of the place of faithfulness and
obedience in working hard
toward the Master’s abundant harvest
as they till the hardened
soil until it is soft enough
to receive the dormant seed
along with dependable watering

and weeding and treating
against bugs and pests as
seedlings grow up tall and strong
and begin to put on their fruit
which grows luscious and tasty,
ready for harvest banquets.

Rev. Dr. Ayuba Iliya Bako

The first time I met the now Rev. Dr. Ayuba Iliya Bako, he was a new student at Baptist High School, Jos. In English class he immediately impressed me as one of the hardest working of my pupils. Although he did not come from a home where only English was spoken, he never hesitated to work hard and complete all of his assignments. Neither he nor I could have known at the time how important his studies in English language would become for him. You see, he was only just beginning a long series of steps in his educational journey, which would eventually lead him to earn his Ph.D in Old Testament at the Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary. Always, his hard work and perseverance led him into a distinguished series of accomplishments in his theological studies. This, in turn, led him into an equally impressive career in teaching and administration, serving the Lord through theNigerian Baptist Convention.

It all began with Ayuba’s (That’s Job in Hausa.) heart for the Lord, full of eagerness to tackle the hard work necessary for achieving such high levels of achievement, and also full of a desire to serve His Lord by working diligently in preparing pastors and teachers  to enter the rich harvest fields in Nigeria and beyond. Ayuba  and I had a unique set of working relationships. I was his English teacher, but I, at one point, was also his House Master;  while he also worked on occasion in my house to earn extra spending money. He always impressed me in terms of his hard work and the excellent quality of his work. However, we did butt heads regarding one particular issue in the dorm. I insisted that students get in bed and get some valuable sleep before they rose

early in the morning to go out and do the work assigned for them around the school campus. Ayuba, however, wanted to study through the night, determined to give every bit of effort to learning all he could in his desire for an excellent foundation for further education. So, on countless nights I would find him out in the circle with a candle reading one book or another. We never really came to an agreement on that matter. I kept on sending him to bed, and he kept on sneaking back out to continue his studies.

Mrs. Victoria Ayuba Ilya Bako

After he had completed high school and then, his first step in theological studies, he returned to Jos to teach in the Pastor’s School. This is when I met his wife, Victoria. She came to work as a secretary while I was serving as Principal at Baptist High School. I quickly discovered that she was every bit as hard working as was Ayuba, and her work was also just as commendable.  When she typed a document or a test or a letter, it was perfect. Not only did she type for me, but also for many teachers, who needed her assistance also. You will notice in their pictures; both of them have delightful smiles, which reflect their joy in working in service to our Lord. Victoria’s bright and friendly personality also made her an excellent secretary, as she warmly greeted  staff, students and visitors who needed to see the Principal.

Ayuba and Victoria have three beautiful children.

When the opportunity came for the two of them to return to Ogbomosho so Ayuba could further his theological education to qualify for higher levels of teaching, Victoria helped support them by typing papers for students, their families and their friends.

Upon completing these studies, Ayuba returned to Jos and not only taught at the Pastor’s School, but became the Principal of the Pastor’s School, and then the Rector of the College of Theology.  During that time there were constant challenges, but Ayuba led  humbly with grace, and in all ways, Christ-likeness. Under the leadership of Nigerian Principals, including Ayuba, the Pastor’s School grew larger and stronger as it served the student pastors and their wives, who were also provided training. Eventually the Nigerian Baptist Convention made it a College of Theology, equipped to provide Biblical and Pastoral Studies at higher levels of qualification.

The last time I talked to them in 2018, Ayuba was working toward his Ph.D at the Seminary in Ogbomosho. Victoria also continued her studies, earning a Master’s Degree at the Jos Evangelical Theological Seminary. It is notable that

Ayuba’s hard work earned him the Hebrew Award at his PhD graduation at the Nigerian Baptist Seminary in Ogbomosho.

Ayuba’s hard work through the years paid off as he won the Hebrew Award at his graduation. Now they are both teaching and training the next generation of Baptist Pastors, missionaries and teachers, including both husbands and wives. As the number of Baptist churches continue to multiply across the middle belt of Nigeria, the opportunity to teach and disciple these pastors plays a pivotal role in building Christi’s Kingdom.

What a privilege to observe the faithful lives of Nigerians like Ayuba and Victoria who work so hard and faithfully in God’s harvest field. It’s all about Jesus and how He not only changes lives, but develops them for service in the Kingdom of God. In doing so, men and women like Ayuba and Victoria discover just how rich life becomes when you faithfully serve Jesus with all of your heart, soul, mind and might. Clearly, their lives are all about Jesus.  Praise be to God!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Celebrating Vacation Bible School: It’s All About Jesus

 

Celebrating our allegiance to God’s Kingdom together in VBS.

 

Deuteronomy 11:18-19 NIV

“Place these words I’m speaking on your heart
and in your very being.
Tie them on your hand as a sign.
They should be on your forehead as a symbol.
Teach them to your children,
by talking about them when you are sitting around your house
and when you are out and about,
when you are lying down and when
you are getting up.”

Celebrate The Power Of God’s Word

In my heart and in my mind and in my very soul
and with every bit of the strength I have
I want to celebrate the beauty and the power
of God’s miraculous and His precious Word.

I want to sing out loud and clap my hands and turn around

Celebrating as we sing and dance in VBS.

and shout my praise to Him who is my God who gives
me joy that never ends and holds me in His loving
hands for He is good and He is the great I Am.

I want to teach His children His Good News for God so
loves us each and every one He sent His Son to live
and die and live again His resurrection raising
us to live with Him in glory above.

I want each child to discover Him who loves us most
and worship Him with everything He places in their
hands for all the days they are given on this earth
and for eternity with Him in His Heavenly Home.

Celebrating the gift of prayer in VBS.

I want to celebrate today the pure joy I feel when I look every year and see, and listen and hear the marvelous stories of Vacation Bible School. When I see the videos of children laughing, singing, dancing, running, jumping up and down; then listening, (remarkably) with open hearts to hear the Words of the Gospel Story, which make all of these celebrations true and worthy. I just love watching children have so much fun celebrating the Name and Life and the Death and the Resurrection of Jesus— and all the love and joy He has to give.

I want to celebrate today the men and women, young and old, who year-after-year happily give their time to make all of this fun possible. I celebrate those who put up the signs, decorate the halls and rooms, prepare the costumes, serve the snacks, teach the songs and dances and the gospel stories. I celebrate those who greet the families, cheer for the children, and everybody who gathers just to prove the Love of Jesus to the hearts of these precious children’s hungry hearts.

Celebrating being with friends in VBS.

I want to celebrate D.T. Miles in Hopedale, Illinois (1894) and Virginia Sinclair Hawes in a beer parlor in New York City (1898) who pioneered the idea of providing Bible classes during the summer. I want to celebrate ladies like Billie Rains, Inez Jeffers, Flora Alvis, Pink George, Lois Starnes, and Betty Swinford,  and so many other ladies, who lovingly and enthusiastically taught me and hundreds of other children over my growing up years in First Baptist Church Glencoe. I celebrate Billie Rains for heading up VBS and arranging parades on fire trucks to give us such fun as we rode and shouted “Come to Vacation Bible School” through our small town. I want to celebrate Inez Jeffers for being the best-ever story teller, grabbing our attention as she told us tales which delighted us with tales of the lives of those who spread the Good News of Jesus. I want to celebrate Flora Alvis who mentored me as we worked together

Celebrating good food in VBS.

one summer, teaching a lively and wide-open to the Spirit, group of fifth and sixth-grade boys and girls.  I want to celebrate Pink George, Lois Starnes and Betty Swinford, along with all of the others who worked so hard to make our learning times so much fun. I want to celebrate the results—so many  young lives deciding to follow Jesus each and every year.

I want to celebrate how God has used His investment in my own life by such faithful servants as these. They made learning the books of the Bible so much fun, I treasured having that tool for Bible Study fresh in my mind over all of these years. They did the same with precious memory verses which have provided strength and encouragement throughout my life in Africa and in the United States. They shared with me wonderful stories of godly heroes who have inspired me as I have followed God’s Path for me. They taught me the Word of God, His Story, His People’s Stories, His Promises, His Assurance, and most of all, His Powerful, Saving Gospel Plan, so that I have been challenged, upheld and inspired throughout both the good and the bad as I have lived out His plans for myself and my family.

Celebrating the gift of Worship in VBS.

I want to celebrate the days and lives happily invested into the sowing and harvesting of young souls for God’s Kingdom each and every year. I want to celebrate church families like ours who all over the world set aside precious time  to prove the love of Jesus for every single child. I want to celebrate Shelley, Jill and their team who are praying and preparing even now for the rich harvest awaiting us as we look toward VBS 2024!

IT’S ALL ABOUT JESUS!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

See That Glimmer In Their Eyes? It’s All About Jesus

John 8:12 ESV
Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world.
Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

You See Jesus In Their Eyes

First, you see it in their eyes,
His light so bright
you squint
a bit
from all the truth
that shines
just the like the sun
bursting forth
at break of sun
conquering darkness
in the glory
of His rising sun
who is the way,
the truth, the light
and blesses those
who are His own;
He brightens
every thing they do
along with all they say;
He so reflects
himself in them
you always want
to walk and talk
with Him and them.

John and Louise Hill … You can’t help but see the glory of God in their eyes.

Some people just shine. They so truly reflect the life and light of Jesus, you just get happy when you see them coming. You just can’t help it. I guess it’s a little bit like what Jesus’ followers must have felt when they saw Him coming. I can just hear them telling each other, “Oh, look! It’s Him. I was hoping he would get here before the evening. Now, just imagine! What will it be tonight? After the meal? One of His stories? Singing some Psalms together? Will he leads us in prayers? Will He heal some people?” It was always a privilege to be with Jesus. These days, it’s a similar privilege to be with such folks like John and Louise Hill. When you have to say good-bye, you can’t wait until the next time you see them.

For both Becky and me, in Nigeria,  John and Louise were definitely some of those people who shine, all because their lives are all about Jesus, and it shows. They glow. I first met John and Louise about two weeks after I arrived in Jos for the very first time. Baptist High School was fine. The staff and the students were great. The other missionaries were terrific. I was feeling really satisfied with all that I was doing. But, my body had a bit of trouble adjusting to the food, the water and the air. So, I came down sick. Well, both Baptist High School people and missionaries did everything to get me through this illness, but to no avail. I remember worrying that I might be shipped home in shame without ever having the chance to get fully established in my missionary service.

Then John and Louise burst on the scene. They had been down country in mission committee meetings at Ogbomosho. When they got back to Jos, someone told them about my illness; so they hopped in their Volkswagen bus and drove out to the compound where I lived near the school. They loaded me up, and before I knew it I had been tucked into one of their spare bedrooms at their house in town.

John and Louise dressed up well for special occasions, wearing well-matched Nigerian outfits.

Louise, a trained nurse, soon had me on a diet featuring lots of fluids, tasty broth, jello and of course, the missionary secret to good steady health, nice thick, homemade yoghurt. It took some getting used to the sharp taste and the thick consistency of the yoghurt, but it did, and still does, work wonders. Pretty soon I was feeling better and was enjoying the lively and jovial banter between John and Louise and their many visitors. Their African friends filled their days as the Hills welcomed them; laughed with them, served them water or tea or squash (a British sweetened fruit syrup you mixed with water); advised them and always prayed with them. What a delight to enjoy their loving, welcoming hospitality.

Now, I had lost my appetite, but Louise knew how to deal with that. First, she threatened me with a trip to the hospital if I did not eat. Next, she fixed delicious and savory meals no one could resist. To be honest, I was having about as good a time as could be imagined; and before I knew it I was strong and healthy and eager to get back to Baptist High School and my work there. In fact, I returned thoroughly encouraged by the joyful example of sharing the love of Jesus so spontaneously and naturally as both John and Louise did. Just like Jesus, they made every person feel special.

Once Becky had joined me, she had the opportunity to join one of Louise’s discipleship groups studying Masterlife. In her group there were five women, including an Indian English professor at the local university, an architect married into the family of a former Nigerian head of state, the head nurse from a local hospital,

Louise enjoys time, with Norma, a disciple and a “daughter” who has spent her lifetime ushering others into God’s Kingdom.

and a teacher. In fact, the professor actually came to faith in Christ through that Masterlife group. Louise always made her groups Christ-centered, lively, uplifting, encouraging and fun. She also worked with local pastors’ wives, teaching them to do beautiful needlepoint art for their homes and friends, in addition to the Bible teaching she did with them in Hausa.

John also did discipleship with local pastors and with other members of the international community. He won to Christ and discipled a dentist from Sri Lanka, and actually turned him over to me for continued discipling, so he could move on to someone else. John and Louise valued people; so they knew how much they were loved and appreciated for themselves. What better reminder of the congenial way Jesus related to people as he traveled throughout Judea and in Galilee.

John and Louise also emphasized the importance of prayer. Like Jesus, they spent much time in personal prayer and in prayer with those who needed to know Jesus. They further emphasized prayer with the pastors, their wives and their fellow missionaries. I will never forget one day our Jos group of Baptist missionaries were meeting in their living room at the Baptist Center in Jos. As the host, John was to do the devotion. (Now, here’s a confession which might disappoint some of you. But the confession is good for my soul, and will help make a crucial point about John’s heart for God.) Some of us younger missionaries were a bit unfair to John and his soft, quiet voice, which sometimes  made us a bit sleepy on warm Sunday afternoons when he spoke at prayer meeting. But on this day I learned something about John I had somehow missed. He had chosen to read Psalm 139, but he did not not simply read it; he obviously felt the power of every word of this beautiful Psalm about God’s intimate and loving involvement in each of our lives. Pretty soon the Holy Spirit moved him so, tears were coursing down his cheeks; and no matter how softly he read that day, God touched each of us deeply. In her own prayer life Louise exemplified her strong sense of self-discipline by getting her walking done each morning by walking around the tennis court as she went through her extensive prayer list. It seems that might have been the only time no one was allowed to interrupt Louise, since she was spending this time with her Lord.

Not only did John and Louise have eyes that sparkled as they reflected the joy God gives to His children who so clearly live for His glory; but their always uplifting spirits shone brightly for HIm and His Way. They combined deep faith in God’s Goodness and His Wisdom, with old fashioned, good sense. So, very naturally folks from all different backgrounds were always seeking them out for encouraging and wise counseling. Jesus was always in the very midst of such conversations. Both their eyes and their hearts invited you inside for genuine and prayerful attention to any questions life brought your way.

John loved visiting and teaching among the peoples who lived on the Jos Plateau.

In helping Nigerians start churches, John often advised them to buy property built upon the quite common volcanic rocks scattered everywhere on the Jos Plateau. Such land plots were often the most affordable for young and struggling churches, because no one else wanted them. As it turned out, such foundations proved especially sturdy in later years, especially when the churches were being attacked by angry mobs.

Now, do not make the mistake of assuming life was easy for John and Louise. During the time we knew them, they continued parenting four children, at times spread all over the world. Their quiet and gentle nature sometimes invited less appreciation and respect  than was merited from within both the Nigerian and the expatriate community. Even  spending their lives totally absorbed in enjoying their ministry led some colleagues to think of them as a bit isolated. Nothing was further from the truth; they loved Jesus and they loved living life in the midst of His people.

Isn’t it wonderful how God takes folks like John and Louise, who gladly embrace the truth? Life is all about Jesus, being found by Him, living for Him, and enthusiastically and lovingly bringing others to Him. No wonder both their lives and their eyes sparkled. The glory of God shone beautifully in their eyes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WHEN CHALLENGES ARISE, IT IS DEFINITELY ALL ABOUT JESUS

Lamentations 3:22-25 ESV

The Steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
The LORD is my portion,” says my soul,
”therefore I will hope in him.”

We Are Blessed By Our Father

We are blessed by our Father
who made us for His glory
and in His Love sustains us
as He leads and by His strength
so guides us we may face
every challenge before us.

We are blessed by our Savior
who shepherds and protects us
and calls us by His Love to
His side and freely provides
the sustenance we need
for the challenges before us.

We are blessed by the Spirit
who comforts and upholds us
and in His Love empowers us
as He inspires our hearts
and informs our minds for
every challenge before us.

For every challenge we must face
we have the glory of the Father,
we have the love of our Savior,
we have the wisdom of the Spirit—
our deliverance is in God
and every victory is His.

Believe it or not, the events described below, did, indeed, happen. Believe it or not, the couple caught up in the events described below, did continue to experience God’s Love together. Even now they continue to testify to His ever-present faithfulness. Believe it or not, God’s Word and His Presence in our lives remain constant no matter the nature nor the events which have surrounded us, (as demonstrated in the events explained below).

Becky and Mike walking by faith together in their faithful God.

This couple (not-so-young-as-many such husbands and wives) were married on January 2, 1988 at the First Baptist Church in Glencoe, Alabama. To be honest, the families of both the bride and the groom felt a bit overwhelmed by the presence and unpredictable antics which took place, as members of their Nigerian Mission Family and and the Heaven-Bound youth group from St. Marys, Georgia joined in the festivities.

After their honeymoon in St. Petersburg, Florida and after a special reception for family and friends in Muncie, Indiana; the couple spent four weeks in a lovely honeymoon cottage in St Marys, Georgia. Then, as they continued to adjust to married life, they found themselves traveling back to Nigeria, where both had served separately as individuals before meeting during Mike’s first furlough, and after Becky had completed her two-year term.

In just a matter of weeks Mike and Becky met up with Steve and Ruth Robertson in the international wing of the Atlanta International Airport. Though younger, the Robertsons had been married longer, and were heading to Nigeria as a Journeyman couple assigned to Baptist High School, Jos. When the KLM flight approached the Kano Airport, the hot and dusty conditions did not allow the pilot to land. Instead, he flew over to Accra, Ghana. There the Stonecyphers and Robertsons waited with roughly three hundred other passengers until midnight, when milder temperatures and the settling of the harmattan dust made a landing possible. When those hundreds of people began rushing towards the boarding gate, Mike and Becky  hurriedly explained to Steve and Ruth how to push along with everyone else if they hoped to catch the flight.

By God’s Grace they did, and landed in Kano around two A.M. Actually, the late hour meant that the customs people were too tired to raise a fuss about the large number of boxes accompanying the equally weary couple, so things went pretty smoothly. Jos missionaries had been warned that the newlyweds were basically bringing their whole household, without the house itself, that is. So, they had sent three empty vans to convey them, the Robertsons and their loads back home

Challenge #1
Bathtub Electrocution

While Steve and Ruth got settled into staff housing at Baptist High School, Mike and Becky spent a week getting ready to move into a mission house in Jos. Things seemed to be going smoothly, until at the end of an exhausting day, Becky settled into the bathtub for a relaxing soak. That went well until she reached to pull the metal chain attached to the drain stopper. As she did, she felt electricity coursing through her body, and she could not let go. Quite naturally, she screamed for Mike, who came running, along with James, the Nigerian electrician, who was working in the house at the time.

Well, it was the kind of scream which demands quick action. So, Mike and James went rushing through the bathroom door together, only to see Becky sitting in the tub. James backed out in a hurry. Becky explained the situation to Mike, who then explained it to James , who ran to the pantry, and turned off the electricity. Thankfully, Mike was then able to help Becky out of the tub. Apparently some wires which should not have been touching, were. Whew! For weeks and weeks Becky stayed out of that tub, and used the one in the hall bathroom.

Challenge #2
Food Poisoning

So, Mike and Becky moved into their house, and then began preparing themselves to temporarily relocate north to Zaria, where they would study Hausa for six months. They also had time to enjoy visiting with Jos missionaries, especially those assigned to Baptist High School. They made a special effort to get with one Journeyman, Martha, who was teaching music; and would fill in for Mike with the Torchbearer Drama Group while they were away. The three went out to eat at a Lebanese restaurant, and enjoyed their tasty, exotic meal, featuring some delicious hummus. However, the next day the three of them came down with a severe cases of para-Typhoid. Apparently the water mixed in with the hummus was not so pure as it needed to be. That meant high fevers, aches and pains, and gastrointestinal symptoms which weakened them all significantly. Becky made a distressing discovery about her new husband; as his fever rose, he laughed uncontrollably. So, as they both struggled through the first night of their illness, she also had to put up with his laughing, making stupid jokes, and laughing some more. It is to her credit that he lived through the night. With good care and the prayers of their missionary neighbors, and by God’s Grace, they did slowly recover.

Challenge #3
Setting Up Housekeeping In A Fishbowl

Now, Mike was returning to language school for his second round of Hausa Language Learning. Becky was beginning her first such experience. Along with them, three other couples, senior missionaries all; were to study Hausa with them as these missionaries sought to strengthen their ministry among Nigerian peoples in the North. The school itself was hosted on the Baptist Publications North in Zaria, directed

Becky and Mike, happily married, show off their tailor-made Nigerian outfits.

by another senior missionary couple who had made arrangements for the school. So, three experienced married couples had the opportunity to encourage the newly married couple, who were learning how to do married life in their midst.

All of them did so helpfully and sensitively, much to their credit. Still, there were challenges. For example, Becky had not used a pressure cooker before, but with clear instructions, it seemed simple enough. So she put on some beans to cook, and continued with her studies; when, to her horror, she heard a loud explosion. When she and Mike rushed into the kitchen, they saw the cooker had blown its pressure valve. Water and steam were erupting, making, as it turned out, a permanent stain on the freshly painted ceiling. In the meantime, their neighbors came over to see what in the world had happened. That was the last time Becky used the pressure cooker for quite some time. Still, by the Grace of God, no one was hurt.

Language study begin at seven in the morning five days a week. It met in a spare room off the kitchen in Mike and Becky’s house. So, everything had to be spic and span, ready to welcome their fellow students, bright and early. At one point this became especially difficult, when all of Zaria lost city water for a couple of months. An irreplaceable part had spoiled, and had to be shipped from outside the country. In the meantime the missionary families collected rainwater, and even had water brought in from Jos over three hours away. During these days Becky and Mike learned how to take teacup baths, stretching every drop of water as far as they could. They and the Halls across the road, washed clothes in an old-fashioned wringer washer, so that water could be used over and over again. This worked well until they noticed tadpoles swimming around in the wash water.

Challenge #Four
Emergency Surgery

Language Study went well as Mike and Becky worked hard in class in the mornings, with a language informant in the afternoon; and as they attended a Hausa Language Baptist Church regularly. They enjoyed good fellowship with their missionary friends and with Nigerians from their church. However, as they were nearing the end of their studies, Becky began having occasional piercing abdominal pain. One of the senior missionaries, a nurse, took her to a doctor there in Zaria. He did a pregnancy test, which came back negative. Nothing would relieve the pains, which continued. Though the phone in Zaria had not worked in a long time, it miraculously came on, and Becky was able to explain her symptoms to a missionary doctor in Jos. He ordered Mike to get her to Jos as soon as possible.

This meant driving roads, which in some places, had more potholes than road. Mike literally had to drive off the road, down into deep valley-like potholes, and from right-to-left and back again, on long stretches of practically speaking, non-existent road; all, as gently as possible to avoid causing an attack of Becky’s pain. By God’s grace, they made it, and the doctor and his colleague decided to do exploratory surgery. They did so, and found a cyst, which was causing the intense pain, and successfully removed it.

Now, the surgery took place in an excellent African missionary hospital. There were, though, a few added additional challenges for Becky.  During surgery Becky had to inform the medical team she was feeling their activity as they explored her abdomen; so, they had to switch mid-surgery from a spinal to general anesthesia. Then in the midst of a busy surgical schedule, after successfully finishing with Becky, the workers took her outside and left her there for some time, until two missionary friends went searching and found her. Next, when they got her settled into a private room, the mattress in the bed was so worn out, she had to keep the bedpan under her for support. Imagine! However, by God’s grace she recovered well.

Challenge #5
A Broken Wrist

Becky and Mike were able to soon thereafter, return to Zaria, complete their studies and return to Jos to prepare for taking up their duties at Baptist High High School. During those weeks of preparation Mike spent some time playing tennis for exercise. One day, as he was improperly backing up (and not turning sideways to retreat) he fell hard on the concrete. He fell so hard on his bottom

It seems like Mike will never learn some things; but Becky keeps trying!

that he totally lost his breath. His tennis instructor hurried to him, and helped him to get up. For some unknown reason, he finished the lesson. Anyway, afterward, he could barely walk. By the next day, his sitter was really, really sore; so painful he did not notice the funny way his hand hung limp. Their missionary doctor neighbor assured him his sitter would recover, but he suggested an x-ray for his wrist, which was, indeed, broken. So, he was to spend the end of this first year of marriage, wearing a cast. This was not so great a burden, but he did feel bad that he kept whacking Becky on the head with his cast when he turned over in bed. Believe it or not, they did not figure out until almost time to have it removed; they could have simply changed sides of the bed to protect poor Becky’s head. By God’s Grace both survived.

Well, enough is enough; and believe it or not, all of this happened, pretty much as I’ve written—as best as I can remember. Do believe this: God has abundantly provided the grace needed even as an inexperienced and sometimes silly couple, learned to thrive in His Love, whatever came, and as they learned to serve Him together, whatever the challenges which came their way. Today we are more convinced than ever of God’s eternal faithfulness and His day-after-day, year-after-year all encompassing love. By God’s Grace we praise the Lord!

Mike and Becky continue to find great joy as by God’s Grace and by His Will and provision they adjust to keeping up with the hectic pace of life in the US.
Believe it or not!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

When Things Get Really Tough, It’s All About Jesus

2 Chronicles 20:15 ESV
He said: Listen King Jehoshophat
and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem!
This is what the LORD says to you:
”Do not be afraid or discouraged
because of this vast army.
For the battle is not yours, but God’s.”

Remember, We Serve A Mighty God

Remember, we serve a mighty God
who proved His
resurrection power
when He rolled the stone away
and Jesus arose victorious
forever over
sin and death,
so we are His children eternal.

Remember, we serve a mighty God
who formed a path
right through the sea
and routed  their Egyptian enemies—
He buried them under angry waves,
horses and riders
caught in the mud
to allow His people to go free.

Remember, we serve a mighty God,
the Lord of Hosts,
who upholds His people
ever leading them towards His Promised Land,
circling the city of Jericho seven times,
all her walls
come tumbling down,
HIs own people victorious in Him.

Remember, we serve a mighty God,
great Yahweh, LORD,
who hears the prayers
of Jehoshophat their king,
and destroys three armies, all left dead
on the ground
for opposing Him,
all Judah rejoicing, praising God.

Remember, we serve a mighty God
who saves
His servants exiled,
bound in the flames and among the lions,
interpreting dreams, humbling
almighty kings,
living their lives
faithfully though far from home.

Remember, we serve a mighty God,
who spoke through
Prophets bold
His eternal, His Gospel plan,
Wonderful
Counselor,
Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Remember, we serve a mighty God,
The Morning Star,
the great I Am,
Jesus, the Way, the Truth, the Life,
the One True Vine, the Good Shepherd,
the Lion of Judah,
the Lamb of God
who takes away the sins of the world.

I Thank God; Jesus never dodged the challenges, the opposition, the suffering, nor never the threats—rather, He walked steadily the path which God had laid out for Him through the wilderness, up on the mountains, down in the valleys, even on the stormy sea—in the upper room, into the garden, before the Sanhedrin, the Roman Governor Pilate, the so-called King Herod, along the Via Dolorosa, the despicable cross, the cold, dark cave and inevitably—resurrected and ascending victorious back to the Throne of His Father, our God.

Because of His glorious example, over the course of this life, when tough times have arisen, through the strength and inspiration of Jesus’ example, I have always been encouraged to trust in God, and in His power to see every challenge met for His glory. When Baptist High School lay in ruins after a mighty windstorm, God rallied His people, and through His provision and by His strength, the staff, students and their parents, not only persevered, but triumphed in a mighty testimony to His power over the forces of darkness. Then, when Hillcrest School and all of Jos suffered through a turbulent time of rioting, burning and fighting around the city, God led the way, His people followed, and the peace of the Gospel has continued to spread.

Canoes became a necessary tool for rescuing books and equipment from inside flooded campus buildings.

Finally, at Sahel Academy in Niamey, Niger, when floodwaters rose and all seemed lost; when the small Christian community in the midst of overwhelming lostness, responded with unity, hard work and determination—all trusting in Jesus; God once again proved His faithfulness as He daily encouraged and nurtured them until miraculously, classes resumed at two new sites within a matter of weeks. And, at the same time He raised awareness among His people all over the world; and they responded with prayers and gifts and volunteers, so that before the next school year, Sahel was open for business at a revitalized, refurbished and renewed “same old campus.”

Those who braved the muddy waters to do rescue work had to be treated with strong anti-biotics to fight off skin infections.

Never have I seen so many come together day-after-day inspired and determined to do whatever work was necessary until the school could reopen. Surely God had in place such people whose hearts and minds and bodies stood ready to be used by Him to accomplish this mighty miracle. Led by an indomitable Director, Brian Bliss, and so many who followed his example, literally into the midst of the murky flood waters; the Sahel faith family worked hard from dawn to dusk every day; and the work was in every sense of the words, down and dirty.

Some had to wade the flood waters. Others had to man canoes which were floated into the library and classroom buildings, rescuing books and equipment and supplies which had been purposely raised so that the waters

Even the playground surrendered to the flooding waters.

did not harm them. Others had to load these loads into pick-ups which carried them to the other side of the Niger River, where others waited to receive them and store them at a sister school, which made available vacant classrooms for storage. Every single one of these items had to be washed in bleach solution to avoid the threat of mildew.

In the meantime, others had to scout out possible sites to resume school for both elementary and high school students and teachers. These survey teams had to consider various possibilities, which might suffice for continuing school for the completion of the school year, which had only just begun. Within a week, the survey group located two oversize houses with enough rooms, one for the elementary school and one for the high school, within about a mile of each other. The Director had to negotiate, reach agreements; so, the renovation and improvements needed to make the houses as suitable as possible could begin.

Finally, all of that cleaned up and sanitized furniture and equipment, and all of those salvaged books had to be loaded up from storage and moved into the new buildings. At the same time an IT specialist had to work day and night in order to get a computer lab set up at the high school so that on-line learning could continue. He also had to get office computers, printers and copiers working in place within both buildings.

This is how an African city looks when flooded with rainy season muddy waters.

All of this exhausting array of work had to be completed in a matter of a few weeks. By God’s Grace and by His Strength, and through the incredible amount of hard labor done by a remarkably committed Sahel School community, classes did, indeed, resume within a matter of a few weeks. It definitely reminds me of Ezra, Nehemiah and the faithful during their time of rebuilding Jerusalem after the exile.

The lesson is clear: God unites, upholds, guides, energizes and gives victory to His People when overwhelming needs arise. He always has. He always will. We do, indeed, serve a mighty God, a loving and a giving God. Truly, truly, truly; “When things get really tough, it really is all about Jesus.”