October- A Special Memory for Me

October has special meaning for me. I will never forget a day in October 1989 that changed my life and ministry.

One Saturday evening I went to see a film by Billy Graham Ministries-Caught. The story line of the film is about a drug addict from America on the streets of Amsterdam. An evangelist from India in town for the Billy Graham World Conference for Evangelism reaches out to and helps the young man come to Jesus and be freed from his addiction.

At the end of the film, it shows Billy Graham speaking to the conference. He did the finger point thing as he said, “And do the work of an Evangelist.”

At that moment, it felt like a arrow through my spirit. The moment I will never forget is what happened when I returned home from seeing that film at a local church.

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I walked in the door and as soon as I entered my home I felt the presence of God in a way I never had before. I fell to the floor in his presence. Images of people needing help and feeling hopeless kept going through my mind. I felt in my spirit a message-:”everywhere you go I will bring people across your path who feel hopeless for you to share me with them.”

A few days later I went to get my haircut. I had never met the woman who cut my hair before. While she was cutting my hair, she shared with me about a trauma in her life. That was the first in a continual series over the years of people opening up to me. It still happens often to this day.

Over the years, the Lord used that as a training ground to prepare me for the ministry I have today reaching out to refugees and immigrants. Refugees are by definition people who feel hopeless in this life. When I meet refugees, share the love of Jesus with them, and help them, I often remember how it all started that October day 30 years ago.

Do you have a special October memory?

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

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Story Time- Lost and Confused in a Women’s Clothing Department

I have a habit in late September and early October each year of looking at my students’ feet. There is a reason for that. Some of my students in my morning class are new refugees who have never lived in a place that has snow or cold weather. I look to see if they only wear sandals/ flip flops or they wear shoes. If they only wear sandals/flip flops, I talk with them through a translator to ask a simple question- Do you have shoes?

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A few years ago, we got shoes for two of my students who were new from the refugee camp in Thailand. They had shoes, but then I realized they would need socks.

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Off I went to a Shopko store to buy them some socks. I went to a strange realm called the Women’s Department and got confused.

I should say that I have found my way through some of the largest international airports in the world traveling alone. I have found my way through the streets of cities in other countries.

But I was lost in the Women’s Department. I must have looked confused because a sales clerk came up to me to ask if I needed help. I said, “I need to buy socks for two of my students.” She showed me some fancy frilly socks of all kinds of colors.

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I still looked confused. Then I said, “I want their feet to be warm for winter.” Then she showed me the Women’s Sports socks. Basically the same as Men’s only smaller and with pink toes. I bought two packages for my students.

My students were happy to have the socks. Their feet stayed warm all winter.

It is good to have a guide like the young woman who worked in the store when we foray into new ventures.

One of the many comforting things about knowing Jesus is that he not only knows the way, HE IS THE WAY. In John 14 Jesus said:

“Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

No matter what we go through, experience, and encounter in life, Jesus already knows the outcome. He knows the way through it because he is the way. He has no boundaries of time, so he is already in our future.

So for me it is best to ask Jesus before I get lost along the way just as I should have done immediately upon entering that strange unknown to me world of the Women’s Clothing Department.

Maybe since I now have experience shopping in a Women’s Department, a few of my little sister bloggers will want some fashion advice from me. Let’s see, maybe Dawn of drawingclosertochrist.com , Brenda of becominghistapestry.com , Herry of herrychiccounsels.com , Deandra of deandrahurst.com , Yeka of passcodelove.com , Saania of saania2806.wordpress.com , Kim of fearandovercome.wordpress.com , Sonrisa of livingbyfaith.travel.blog Charli Jo of charlijosblog.wordpress.com , Sherita of plantingseedsingodsgrowinggarden.wordpress.com. Which of you would like a FREE Fashion consultation from me? haha

Thank you for reading. God Bless

My City- The Lincoln I See- Vietnamese Friends

It has been a huge blessing for me to get to know many people from Vietnam living in my city. Many have been my students. I always look forward to joining them for cultural celebrations such as for Lunar New Year.

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We have Vietnamese restaurants and markets in my city. I love to eat a rice noodle soup called Pho.

The work ethic is strong in the Vietnamese community and education is highly valued. It is common to see my Vietnamese friends work hard, save money, and buy houses. For the families that came as refugees, the parents work hard in places like meat packing plants and focus on making sure their children get a good education.

It was my privilege to help a group of young people from Vietnam with their English and to prepare for college.It started as a small group of me with three teenage boys. Then two more came. Then a sixth one joined and we switched from meeting at the library to meeting at my church for a larger room. At one point we had an average attendance of about 14 each weekend afternoon.

It was a blessing for me to be able to go with them to New Student Enrollment at the university here as their “parent” due to their parents having to work or not knowing enough English to be able to understand. It was my privilege to help them with scholarship applications and college applications.

There were fun moments too. I will never forget the first time they asked me if we could have a party and not study because it was Christmas break from school. They told me they would bring the food. The food ended up being candy, chips, soda, and other snack foods. 🙂

From this group, one is now an Architect, one has her MBA and CPA and has a great career, one got a degree in Computer Science, one just graduated from Pharmacy school and got her license to be a Pharmacist, four others are in Pharmacy school now, others are in Nursing programs, got degrees in engineering, and one is currently in Medical School and will be a doctor in the future.

I feel it is important to share about them because they worked so hard to achieve. Also it is important to understand that while yes at first refugee families need assistance, the benefit to our country in the U.S. in the future is tremendous.

My group of young friends did not forget their old teacher. Last year while I was having trouble due to chronic illness, they blessed me with a gift that helped me make it through the summer. I shared a post last year- A Breakthrough Thanks to My Friends. This year in the summer I hit another rough patch and they have blessed me again.

If you have the good fortune to meet a refugee family here, remember the children may very well end up being your doctor, pharmacist, accountant, architect, nurse, computer programmer etc in the future. 🙂

Thank you for reading. God Bless. 🙂

My City- The Lincoln I See

As I think about my hometown Lincoln, there is the Lincoln that I see and the Lincoln that my friends at church see. My church is on the east side of the city in an affluent neighborhood. My friends there mostly see people in their neighborhoods and in their workplaces. Don’t get me wrong. They are good people who love others with the love of Jesus well. They have done wonderful things for refugees here.

The Lincoln that I see is a very diverse city. When I go to some supermarkets in the middle of the city or in the north of the city, it is like being in an international airport. As I walk around, I like to listen for different languages and greet people in their language to give them a pleasant surprise.

The Lincoln I see is a city that has refugees from all over the world. The Lincoln I see is a city that has immigrants from all over the world. Sometimes I feel like I have failed at communicating the Lincoln I see to my friends.

There are connections like the one my friends Lorri and Scott at church have made with a refugee family from Iraq. It is a family that had very few friends even in their own community as evidence by when I helped this family move in December 2017, NO ONE was there to help them. Lorri and Scott have loved this family and done wonderful things for them including having them out to their home and taking their children Back to School shopping.

My home church has also done wonderful things for a group of refugees from Sudan. We also let a refugee family from Ukraine hold a wedding ceremony at our church for free. Many times I have used the church pick up to help families move. My home church has also helped refugee families with benevolence needs.

The Lincoln I see has people who have been victims of ISIS in Iraq, people who left Ukraine several years ago because of religious persecution, people from Bosnia who escaped the genocide of the 1990s, people from Burma who fled the dictatorship that sought to kill them, people from Vietnam who fled after the fall of Saigon, people from Congo who fled the violence there, and people from Sudan who fled the killing of Christians there. The list could go on and on. Our school system here has children from over 100 languages groups.

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They are people looking for the faintest of hopes and looking for someone to reach out a friendly hand. They are people who have survived horrors my friends at church could never comprehend.

The Lincoln I see is a city that has opened its arms to welcome refugees. I have been so impressed by teachers in the schools. One year the Blue Angels were practicing for an airshow. When their jets flew over the school where I teach, the little children in ELL. English Language Learners, hid under their school desks scared. The sounds caused their PTSD from war to kick in. They did not have enough English for the teachers to explain what was happening.

I strongly believe that refugees are on the heart of Jesus.Why do I say that? Jesus began his earthly life as a refugee. All one has to do is read Matthew 2 in the bible:

“When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”

 So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod.”

Fleeing to escape because government troops that are coming to kill you is exactly what a refugee is. Joseph was told to take the baby Jesus and flee to Egypt because the king’s troops were coming to kill Jesus.

If Jesus spent his first years on earth as a refugee, do you think he cares about refugees?

For a while on Sundays, my posts will be dedicated to various groups of people who came as refugees to the Lincoln that I see.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

A Fibro Friday, but a Blessing Too :)

Yesterday morning, I gave a presentation for other Family Literacy Instructors for using Google Classroom. The picture is me afterwards stopping at a coffee shop to recover. 🙂

However, it was a Friday that started with waking up with pain. I almost called to cancel the plans for me to present. But I just prayed and went. I am glad I did. That is the reality of living with chronic illness. Sometimes it is pain, sometimes it is fatigue, and sometimes like yesterday it is both. It rears its ugly head at inopportune times.

It was great to see my fellow instructors. My new assistant was there too. Among my fellow instructors, four were my assistants in previous years. I introduced my new assistant to them and encouraged my former ones to commiserate with her about having to put up with me for a year. 🙂

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After the summer I have had, it was a blessing to see them and to be forward focused on my class starting again. It was also a blessing because I love to see how they are doing in their lives now.

One of them stands out to me. She has really taken off and has impacted the community. She is not only teaching her own Family Literacy class, but also works with various cultural centers helping refugees and immigrants. But I am proud of all of them. 🙂

It is exciting to think about seeing returning students and meeting new ones. There will be Hispanic moms, moms from Burma, and moms from the Middle East.

Hope you have a blessed weekend. Thank you for reading. God Bless.

Small Things in Love

Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” Mother Teresa

I love this quote by Mother Teresa. It is inspiring to think of a small woman who ended up becoming famous because of her life of showing love in small ways such as providing comfort to the poorest of the poor in India. It was in the every day moments of her life there that she showed love through giving someone a bowl of soup, a blanket and a bed etc. Her goal was not to become famous. Her goal was to show Christ’s love.

I was reminded of that this week when I was at the open house at the Elementary School where my Family Literacy Class meets. A Yazidi woman walked by with her American friend. She told her American friend, “He is the teacher who loves Yazidi people.”

After the genocide in August 2014, the Yazidis were on my mind and my prayers. I read a book in June 2015 titled They Say We Are Infidels by Mary Belz. In her book she shares about the oppression Christians have faced over the centuries in Iraq and the Middle East. She also shared about the oppression of the Yazidis and how the Christians and Yazidis helpd each other. When I read the book, I felt even more love for Yazidi people.

I learned how to say- Hello, how are you my friend- in their language. I have made it my practice to greet Yazidi students in their language as they sit in the lobby at the college where I teach in the evenings. I want them to feel welcome.

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We can overlook how meaningful the small things done with love are to others. My desire has been to show my Yazidi friends and other refugee friends the love of Jesus. I want to help my friends from other countries feel welcome in my city. I haven’t thought about what reputation I am developing. I merely want to show love.

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But the little things done consistently over a period of time add up to how others perceive us.

Another quote by Mother Teresa I love is:

Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.

In these days of turmoil around us, it is even more needed to spread love, the love of Jesus.

Let’s pray about, think about, and seek out the small things we can do with love. 🙂

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

What I Want to Say to my Yazidi Friends

A tragically sad anniversary is today. Today is the 5th anniversary of the genocide committed against the Yazidi people in Iraq by terrorists. Thousands were killed in one day. Women and children were kidnapped and forced into unthinkably horrific situations.

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My home city of Lincoln has the largest number of Yazidis in North America. I have been blessed to share meals in their homes, have them in my English classes, join them for fun celebrations, and enjoy their friendship. I learned how to greet my Yazidi friends by saying Hello my friend in their language, so I can try to make them feel welcome.

A few things I wish to say to my Yazidi friends today.

1-Building Your New Life Here Will Honor Them. What I mean by that message is that my friends are safe here and they can build a new life. Their children can go to school here where their religion is not a factor. They and their children can have new lives and a future. By doing so, they can honor their lost loved ones and friends.

2- Your dream is not over. It is on a different path. In your home country you had dreams about life and the future. You can still have your dreams just in a different place and on a different path far away from the violence.

3- I love my Yazidi friends.

4- I stand with you.

5- I know God loves you. Jesus said, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, so that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life,”

Why Love Compels Me

“For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died”

That passage in 2 Corinthians 5 expresses much to me about why it is important to me to share Christ’s love with refugees and anyone who has suffered in life.

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But there is a backstory to it all that I rarely share.

I occasionally listen to a song from the 1990s Runaway Train by Soul Asylum. It was originally not only a hit single but also used to raise awareness about the plight of runaway youth in the U.S.

The song still resonates with me. I was one of those youth for about a year. I was the son of an alcoholic father and a mother who had mental illness. I never knew a moment of feeling safe when I was a child. My response to it all was to explode in anger one day as a teen which led to me leaving the house. I stayed with a friend’s family and crashed on couches of other friends. At times I slept on a park bench,

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Never knowing peace as a child and teen, as a young man I only cared about making money until one day I ran into the presence of Jesus. His presence was so powerful and full of love that I gave my life to him in July 1989.

Experiencing illness to the point of losing memory and losing everything in my life led me to not knowing what would happen next. God led me step by step.

Having been rescued from darkness by Jesus, my hope is to participate with Jesus to rescue others from darkness.

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When Jesus led me to reach out to refugees, I understood how they feel. I knew how it felt to not feel safe and to wonder what would happen next. That is the experience of refugees. They flee because they are not safe and they wonder what will happen next.

When I experienced the love of Jesus, it compelled me to share his love with others. As 1st John 4 says:

“We love because he first loved us”

Knowing what it is like to be forgiven of so much, to be received despite my cold heart, causes me to desire for others to experience the depths of God’s love.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

Walking Alongside Friends who Struggle/Spotlight on a New Blogger

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Mental health issues can be misunderstood by some who follow Jesus especially if they do not struggle with them. However, we are called to bear one another’s burdens in Galatians 6:

“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ”

Throwing out a quick cliche or a bible verse and expecting that to fix the problem can actually do more harm than good. Coming along side as a friend is most helpful, but that requires understanding and patience on our part.

I loved Hannah’s story–Vulnerability– in coping with social anxiety. Her blog is Grace to be Imperfect at gracetobeimperfect.com. Through sharing her story, she sheds light on what it is like for people with Social Anxiety. She is a new blogger and I highly recommend reading her post.

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A listening ear, a helpful hand, a prayer partner, and trusted friend are what can help a person who is struggling.

I have found that for my refugee friends who have experienced trauma listening to them is a gift to them. I can’t take away the trauma they have experienced. I wish I could.But by listening to them and helping them as they start their new lives here, they find they have a friend they can trust.

Because we read about miracles in the bible that happened suddenly, we can make the mistake of thinking God always works that way. Yes, God does still work miracles. But he also works through us to comfort others. Paul shared about it in 2 Corinthians 1:

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God”

We can be of comfort for those who struggle with issues like anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress by being a friend who walks alongside them as they seek help.

Please check out Hannah’s blog. Thank you for reading. God Bless

Building A New Life

One thing I try to instill in new refugees is that whatever job they take is their first job in America. We talk about building a life here step by step. Their new lives are not going to happen overnight.

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Starting a new life takes time. It isn’t easy to be patient with the process. They need to learn survival English, get a first job, get their kids in school, get things over time for their apartments, and go to many appointments.

I explain to them the importance of continuing with their English learning, so they can improve their lives here in the future.

When I teach newcomer refugees about building their new lives here, I think about how God helps us to build a new life in Jesus. Paul wrote about it in Philippians 1:

“being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

When I think about who I was and what I was like 30 years ago when I rededicated my life to Jesus, I realize how much I have changed and grown because of God working patiently in my life. He works in our lives to prepare us and help us grow. He has a purpose in mind for us as Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

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Some changes can happen quickly such as giving up old bad habits. But the realization of what he is calling us to and the changes in us that go along with that process takes times. I did not realize what he was calling me until 11 years after I rededicated my life to Jesus. It happened step by step, day by day, through being willing to try new things and most of all being led bu Jesus.

We are always under construction by the master builder Jesus. The good news is that the master builder loves us and wants the best for us.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.