The WWE Opened The Door to Knowing A New People Group???

Disclaimer- I don’t watch the WWE. ๐Ÿ™‚

In my life of teaching and helping refugees and immigrants, I have gotten to the point that I expect to be surprised, so surprises don’t get to me much. They are a common everyday occurrence in my life. But sometimes there are ones that I get a kick out of and ones that lead to blessings.

In 2007, we had a new people group come to Lincoln, The Karen People from Burma. The Karen People were forced to flee their homes to refugee camps in Thailand because the military dictatorship was trying to kill them off. Coming to Lincoln started with a trickle of a few families in 2007 and then it was like the gates were opened as many more came in 2008 and kept coming.

I had three Karen women in a morning class I taught. None of them were over 5 feet tall and one was maybe 4′ 10″ at best. They were sweet women, moms, and trying to figure out life in their new country America. They smiled and at times giggled as we studied. Each Friday I would ask about the weekend to help the students practice using will for the future. When I would ask, “What will you do this evening,” they would answer, “teacher- Big Show, Undertaker, Batista.” I had no idea what they were talking about, so after a few Fridays my curiosity was aroused and I googled Big Show, Undertaker, and Batista. What came up were images of WWE wrestlers. I laughed to myself over the thought of my three small, petite, and sweet-natured students being fans of the WWE.

 

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Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

They also talked about Karen meetings for Sundays and said the word Bible. They invited me to one of their meetings. I wanted to learn more about this new group of people in my city, so I visited their meeting in an apartment. The first year and a half they were here, they had meetings in their apartments because they did not have a church home yet. My first time with them I heard their beautiful harmonizing as they sang, in a language I still don’t know, and they faith was obvious.

After that I spent time with them every Sunday and taught bible lessons through a translator for them. I had a small Hyundai at the time and would make 3 or 4 trips, taking three or four at a time,ย  on Saturday and Sunday afternoons to take them to a Asian market to buy food.

This may sound funny but when I would visit them I felt like Gandalf visiting hobbits in the Shire, not so much because of the fact that most were small in comparison with Americans, but more because of their warm hearts, their love of simple things in life, and how vulnerable they were because of not knowing what potential problems could happen in their new city. They were so much fun to be around too.

I was even given a traditional Karen robe to wear at their meetings.

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me with an elderly widow from Burma

I love my Karen friends and also their fellow refugees from Burma, The Zomi People and the Karenni People. Their music is beautiful, their clothing is colorful, their hearts are warm. I have enjoyed worshiping in the Karen church and also the Zomi church here in Lincoln.

Oh by the way, the sweet little elderly woman in the picture above is standing up ๐Ÿ™‚

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Fell Asleep and Missed The Opportunity

It is a bit humorous for me to remember it. It was late August of 1991 and late in the afternoon that day. I had spent the night before driving from Lincoln to Minneapolis a 430 mile drive . It was also the night before registration day at school. Early in the morning, I went to register for my classes and buy my textbooks for the semester. Other students invited me to a Minnesota Twins versus Seattle Mariner baseball game. I had never been to a professional baseball game before, so I jumped on the chance and went with them.

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To say I was tired is an understatement. I was exhausted. I had driven six hours the night before and had little sleep. Registration was crazy and hectic. There was no online back registration back then. But it was my first ever professional baseball game, so it didn’t matter whether I was a Twins fan or not. It was just exciting for me to be there.

We sat in the hard plastic shell seats which were about as comfortable as sitting in a classroom chair all day. Even though I drank a large coke for the caffeine to stay awake, I fell asleep in the hard plastic chair about halfway through the game partly because it was a scoreless boring game up to that point and mostly because I was EXHAUSTED.

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Suddenly the crowd broke out in a roaring cheer so loud that it woke me up. Kirby Puckett had just hit the game winning home run to break the 0 to 0 tie at the end of the game to give Minnesota the win. I missed it. I missed the only score of the game and the game winning score no less because I had fallen asleep.

The disciples, Jesus’s closest followers, fell asleep shortly after Jesus asked them to watch and pray while he prayed the night he was arrested.

Sadly sometimes I have fallen asleep while praying.

I don’t want to miss opportunities to share the love of Jesus because I am not awake spiritually. My time in this life is growing shorter by the day. We only have a certain allotted number of days in this life.

I love the bible verse Galatians 6:10- “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”

My desire is to show the love of Jesus through my actions and to take each opportunity God gives me. I don’t want to ‘fall asleep’ spiritually. What may seem small to us, can seem HUGE to others. I don’t want to miss an opportunity to show the love of Jesus. There is so much suffering in this world and so many people who are searching for someone to show them they care.

That is why I embrace opportunities for even small opportunities such as joining a circle dance with Yazidi refugees.

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Or trying to get an 85 year old grandmother from Mexico to smile

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Because God has called me to SHOW the love of Jesus to people.

Well it is Wednesday almost the weekend. Hope your day is blessed and this blog posting is a small part of you feeling God is with you today. Thanks for reading ๐Ÿ™‚

Another Typically Unique Saturday Filled Me Up :)

Yesterday was another one of my typically unique Saturdays and the kind of day that filled me up spiritually, mentally, emotionally and yes physically. It all started with teaching my ESL Reading group at my church and seeing my Haitian, Japanese, and Yazidi friends there.

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A huge blessing was visiting the home of a family from Iraq with a few friends from church. My friends from Iraq are going through a rough time and to know that a few women from church came to bless them by taking them shopping today was heart warming. The wife/mother was touched and I have to admit when she started to cry, it was hard not to myself. I definitely plan to keep in touch with this family. They sent me home with a bag of apples. Yeah apples ๐Ÿ™‚ Love apples with cheese or peanut butter.

In the late afternoon and evening, it was quinceneara time. A quinceneara is a 15th birthday celebration for a girl in Mexican culture. The girl was treated like a princess wearing a gown and having her aunts, female cousins and mother putting various types of jewelry on her and also a tiara. She danced a father/daughter dance. She danced several dances. It was her time in the spotlight and to feel like a princess.

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I met her 85 year old grandmother who flew in from Acapulco to be there. I hope I can travel at 85. That is the love of an abuela, grandmother, to travel a long distance. We had fun with sunglasses.

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A few weeks ago, I wrote about a call for help in the evening from someone struggling. The party was for this person’s daughter. What a blessing to see the family together, her daughter beaming, and my new friend doing well.

I even had a divine appointment to share Jesus with someone at Walgreens. A woman pushed a cart in for someone else and said, maybe I won’t go to hell if I do things to help people. OPEN door to share about the love of Jesus. We talked about how she can know for sure she is going to heaven if she comes to faith in Jesus and that he died for us.

So spiritually yesterday was definitely encouraging. I have found when I share and show the love of Jesus, I feel close to God.

Yesterday was also mentally and emotionally encouraging getting a chance to see a family blessed by visitors, to see a mother be able to celebrate her daughter’s 15th birthday after a difficult time a few weeks ago, and making new friends.

Yesterday was also physically a blessing because there is A LOT of good food at a quinceneara. ๐Ÿ™‚

Oh and by the way, I even won a prize during a game for each table at the quinceneara, ๐Ÿ™‚

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Hope your weekend is blessed.

Going With The Flow- Conversations While in the Water

Love Saturdays for several reasons; 1-I can sleep late ๐Ÿ™‚ , 2-I see my friends at my Saturday morning ESL reading group, and 3-I never know what God will do on a Saturday ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚

Yesterday I got up about 8:30, not the terrible 6:30 during the week ๐Ÿ˜ฆ lol, and spent some time praying over my day. I asked Jesus to lead me to who he wanted to connect me with that day and to help me show his love to those I would encounter.

After my morning group, I went to Madonna Proactive to do my water exercise. When I first got there, no one was there, so I thought- “oh another day alone, maybe I will get more writing ideas.” But God had an appointment for me. I LOVE it when God surprises me with a divine appointment.

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As I was walking, I saw a young woman who works there part-time. I hadn’t had a chance to chat with her for a few months, so we waved and I stopped to chat with her. Megan will graduate in May with her Masters degree from Doane College. She played volleyball in college and has been involved in Fellowship of Christian Athletes, FCA.

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Megan is a delightful young lady who loves Jesus. It was exciting for me to hear that she will join FCA as full-time staff reaching out to high school/middle school coaches and athletes. We chatted off and on as I did my water workout. We talked about keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus in ministry, so we do not lose heart in the tough times. I am confident Megan will do great working with coaches and youth. A few links for Megan and her ministry.

Nebraska FCA

my.fca.org/meganfletcher

I left feeling so encouraged to know a quality young person is devoting her life to serving Jesus and reaching out to youth and coaches.

As we were talking, I noted two women walking around the aqua track. I told Megan, “I bet I can greet them in their language.” The women came around by us and I asked them where they are from. They told me they are from Tajikistan, so I greeted them in Russian with Previet Caudula, trying to spell it phonetically ๐Ÿ™‚ , and they smiled and then told me they speak Russian but Persian is the first language so then I said, Chootoree- again phonetic spelling attempt ๐Ÿ™‚ , and they were surprised.

I love divine appointments whether they are for encouraging a fellow Christian or for sharing Jesus with someone. Divine appointments have a special way for me to see God is working in the moment. At those times, I feel close with God as he guides me to who he wants me to connect with.

So it was another typically unique Saturday for me. Each Saturday is unique in my life, which makes them typical but all unique.

Hope you have a blessed Sunday and please check out Megan’s link and pray for her.

Surprise Reunion Reminded Me There Will Be Reunions in Heaven/Remembering My Father

Each year the 3rd Monday in April marks an anniversary that most of us would not want to have and each year at this time I tend to get a bit down and reflective. In fact, I haven’t been able to write the short story yet that I usually post on Tuesdays for my other blog, encounterswiththeancients.com, because my creative side gets stymied when I get down. I think part of why I get bogged down with this is that it was mostly me with my father in his final days. Yes I helped him to be in contact with my siblings, but there are many parts of his final days I have never shared. I carry them with me in my memories and there they will stay. I want my siblings to be free of it. But a surprise blessing today reminded me that reunions do happen.

Last week I shared about seeing the movie I Can Only Imagine and the memories it evoked for me of my father and how God worked a miracle for me to be able to help him find peace with God in the final year of his life-ย Forgiveness from me led to my father receiving forgiveness from God.

It was the third Thursday of April 2009 that the decision was made for my father to be placed under hospice care. He deteriorated quickly and by the next day, Friday, it looked like it would be very soon for him to pass away. I was able to use my cell phone on speaker for him to hear and speak with my older brother and younger brother living in other states. On Saturday he rebounded, but on Sunday he started to decline again.

Throughout my life with Jesus, when there was something Jesus wanted to show me, many times a song would be in my spirit. There was a song in a musical at my home church on Palms Sunday that year and one of the songs was Life Goes On about the truth that for those who believe in Jesus life does go on for eternity.

On the Monday morning my father died, God woke me up with that song in my spirit and I knew what it meant. I got up and got ready then I drove to his nursing home. While I was driving there, they called me on my cell phone to tell to get there as soon as I could. When I arrived, he was comatose and not responsive. I sat down and read from 1 Corinthians 15 to him as he was dying. His last breathe was while I was reading the part about the seed that falls into the ground. Only a few days later did it dawn on me how fitting it was for him to die at that moment because he loved rose gardening. But his story does not end there. He is in heaven now.

This afternoon I had a surprise reunion with my friends Isis and Eduardo from Brazil. They came to the U.S. to take their daughter to Disney World and decided to come to Lincoln to see old friends. They contacted me and we met for coffee this afternoon. I met their almost 4 year old daughter Julia. It was a wonderful reunion with precious friends with hugs and shared memories. The kind of reunion that puts a smile on your face.

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When I came home, I sat down and it dawned on me what had happened. God blessed me with the surprise reunion and reminded me there will be wonderful reunions in heaven. One day I will see my father again and there won’t be labels like alcoholic. Only two souls enjoying heaven because of God’s grace in Jesus. There will be many other reunions in heaven.

This isn’t Music Monday, but I want to share the song with you that was in the musical at my church- Life Goes On.

 

Prayer- Waiting? Not so easy

I have heard it many times that there are three possible answers to prayer, yes, no, and wait. Yes is so easy to accept. When God says yes, it is easy to jump up and down and get all excited.

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When the answer is no, for me, it is an answer that eventually I can accept and move on.

But when the answer is WAIT??? Sometimes I feel like this after a short time wondering when it will happen.

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Yes I know I need to trim my beard but that is beside the point ๐Ÿ™‚ I posted this picture on my instagram account encounterswiththeancients_mattย about desperately waiting for spring. The calendar says it is spring. The tree pollen is letting me know it is spring, but we are having record cold this weekend.

Waiting for spring is nothing really. In a few more days it will be warmer here and I know that. Waiting for the Lord can be a different matter. Pray about something and then waiting? I can tend to anxious wondering WHEN.

My second trip to Romania to teach English, in June 1998, we were delayed an hour leaving Amsterdam for Bucharest. I prayed on the plane for us to get going. I knew what it meant. The missionaries were waitingย for us at the airport and that we would arrive in Constanta late. We finally got to Bucharest and got on the chartered bus to head to Constanta and along the way the bus driver started swerving around things. I looked out the window and saw fallen branches in the road. A strong storm had come through not too long before we drove through the area. If we had arrived on time, we would have been driving through that storm and perhaps been in danger. I learned from that tangible moment that waitย means trust.

Trustย in God’s timing. He is eternal and sees everything past, present, and future all at the same time. He knows what is ahead of me, the dangers, pitfalls, the whens and hows of things coming together. Those trips in Romania I relied on translators to guide me through the city and culture. Trusting God means relying on him to guide me through life. He loves us more than anyone else ever will, so we can trust him for the timing of the answers to prayer. To be honest, it isn’t always easy to do, but it is so worth it. It helps me to not be so anxious if I remember that God has my best interests in my mind.

Jesus Came to Seek and Save the Lost, What About Us?

Jesus contrasted himself with the evil one when he said of himself, “I have come that they may have life” and of the satan, “The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy.”

Jesus also said that he came to seek and save the lost.cross-sunset-humility-devotion-161089.jpeg

SO what about us? How can we participate in seeking to bring life to others?

There are many ways to be part of showing the love of Jesus to others in hopes of bringing them life.

1- Share the comfort God has given you that Paul talks about in 2 Corinthians 1.

I admire a young woman recovering from Eating Disorders who writes a blogย  ย  ย  ย  ย  Beauty Beyond Bones. She shares about how Jesus helped her recover from an Eating Disorder through her blog.

We can get involved in helping others through direct contact also. I work with refugees and immigrants in my home city. Through spending time with them and helping them, I have had the opportunity to share Jesus with them.

2- Support others in prayer and/or financially that truly work to share Christ’s love.

I am NOT talking about the TV people!!!

One ministry that I support is Love Justice International. It is a ministry that intercepts victims of human sex trafficking and also has group homes for the children and young women they rescue. This is an terrible problem in the world. I wrote a fictional story about Mary Magdalene meeting a young woman who was a victim of sex trafficking in my blog of short stories-ย Jessica’s Encounter at The Harbor Coffee Shop. If even one young woman reads that story and it gives her the hope and courage to look to Jesus for help to escape, all of my blogging would be SO worth it.

3- Get involved with our church. Find a ministry in your church that you feel passionate about and get involved.

4- PRAYER. Since I found out I have Celiacs Disease, which is just another autoimmune problem added to my list, I have really simplified my prayer life. I start each day asking Jesus to help me show his love to those I will see that day and to give me opportunities to share his love. That is how I start my prayer time.

These are just a few ideas that come to my mind.

There is so much suffering in the world around us, in the lives of people we may know or we may not know. There is a simple yet most profound message we can share with those who are suffering- Jesus Loves You, but that message comes packaged in the love we show in practical ways, in small things, in big things, through personal contact, through being vulnerable to share.

They are among us, they live close to us, they live far from us, they might be silent, they might be vocal, BUT, they all need JESUS.

Your dream did not end. It is on a different path. A Conversation with a Yazidi refugee.

Tuesday evening I had the privilege of visiting a Yazidi family and having dinner with them in their home. I mostly talked with a brother and sister over dinner for about an hour. I have found the best way to get to know my refugee friends is to visit them in their homes and spend time with them listening, sharing, and letting them teach me about their cultures. Our conversation Tuesday evening meant a lot to me as we talked about them building their new lives here in America.

Building new lives can be a daunting task. My refugee friends leave behind their homes, their careers, their friends, and family. Basically they lose everything in their lives when they flee to a refugee camp and then they lose what little they have in the camp to come here. The emotions they experience is a mixed bag of excitement when they first come, happy to be safe, sad to leave behind those they love, grieving who and what they have lost, fear of their unknown future here and feeling lost here. They come to their new country and are faced with learning a new language, a new culture, and building new lives and careers.

As we talked Tuesday evening, the brother expressed his sadness over losing his dream of becoming a lawyer. He had to leave school behind when they fled the murderous thugs who came into their area. I shared with him that feeling sad is normal and that I would be concerned if he was not sad over what he had lost. Depression and sadness over losing so much is a normal response to an absolutely abnormal situation. He told me, “I lost my dream.”

When he said that, it caused me to think about when I left the university in Minneapolis in 1994, not even finishing the semester, to come back to Lincoln. At that time my dream of becoming a pastor seemed to end. It seemed that I would die soon due to my health being so bad. I went through over a year more of getting worse and then a year of recovering and relearning things as I recovered. I felt my dream had ended. It did not end however, it took a different path. Now I teach English and am in part-time ministry. It was from my life experience that I shared with him a thought in hopes it would help him.

Your Dream Did Not End. It Is On A Different Path.

It is at moments like these that I am reminded of how Jesus was made complete by his suffering. How could Jesus who has always been perfect be made complete? Because when he suffered in this life things such as the death of his earthly step-father Joseph, being hungry, being rejected, being falsely accused, and physical pain and death, he became our sympathetic high priest who is able to sympathize with us in our weaknesses, so we can come to him with confidence.

It may sound strange to you, but I am grateful I went through my own suffering because I can draw from that experience as I share and spend time with my refugee friends.

For my new friend, I shared with him about how I had to rebuild my life and that my dream went through a new and different path. We talked about some steps he can take for his dream ย to take a different path here. We talked about many other aspects of his new life here in America. I hope to visit them again and join him and his sister on their new path to their dreams here in America.

If onlys, I wishes, answered with But Then. Reflections on recent birthday.

So my recent birthday had me getting a bit reflective about my life. I think it is because I have more birthdays behind me than I do in front of me. It was kind of a taking stock of my life moment.

As I reflected on my life, I kept having thoughts of- IF ONLY I HADN’T or IF ONLY I HAD. You know- MISTAKES. If only I hadn’t made that mistake. If only I hadn’t sinned in that way. If only I had made a different decision. If only I had gone a different way in life.

Those were accompanied by the I wishes. I wish I had kept that job and not gone to bible college in the 1990s. I wish I had had different parents. The I wishes kept flooding in.

Then as I prayed, I was reminded of Romans 8:28- For God causes all things to work together for good, for those who love God and are called according to his purposes. God can work everything together. That includes my mistakes, my sins, my struggles, and the disappointments in life. It does not only include my successes and abilities. Each step of the journey is included in the all things.

As I reflected on Romans 8:28, I had one answer to all of the if onlys and all of the I wishes. The answer was BUT THEN. It all came down to BUT THEN, I would not have met all of these wonderful refugees and immigrants. I would not have been able to share God’s love with people from literally all over the world. Example- If only I had kept my position as a sales rep selling office furniture, I would be much better off, BUT THEN I would not have met my friends from all over the world.

Basically, I realize that my life’s journey led me to the point of being able to help and be friends with people from Brazil, Burma, China, Mexico, Vietnam, Iraq and many other countries. I have had so many opportunities to share the love of Jesus with people from all over the world. I hope to have many more years of being able to share God’s love with refugees and immigrants.

Biryani Lunch with Yazidi Friends

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My home city Lincoln Nebraska has the largest population of Yazidi people who have come as refugees in the United States. I have enjoyed teaching them and getting to know them the past several years. The numbers have grown since the genocide a few years ago. I can still remember seeing the video footage of Sinjar Mountain being full of people who fled from the dangers in various cities and towns in Iraq to escape the genocide.

I have felt a burden in my soul to try to spend more time with my Yazidi friends in Lincoln. They have been through terrible atrocities and are trying to make a new life here in America. I keep thinking of a John Michael Talbot song that has the lyrics of- “Christ has no body on earth but yours, no hands no feet on earth but yours”. My desire is to show my Yazidi friends the love of God by helping when I can and through friendship.

Sharing a meal together and talking is a wonderful way to share friendship. I love to eat food from other countries and experience other cultures by sharing a meal. On Saturday I shared a meal of Biryani with my friend Khudaidah and Waheda. They were my students several years ago. We have kept in touch via Facebook off and on, but I wanted to catch up with them. The Biryani was delicious and the company was great.

I have to admit that our conversation was intense at times as we talked about the genocide, but I am grateful I could be there to listen and show I support them. There is no quick fix for what they are going through, but an understanding and empathetic ear can be a small piece in the puzzle of lives being pieced back together.

I hope to visit them again soon and also to check in with more of my Yazidi friends here in Lincoln as well as people from other countries and cultures and hope that in doing so I can be Christ’s hands here in my community.