Hope in God

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This week I’ve had to preach to myself, like the Psalmist did in Psalm 42. He complained about being down-in-the-dumps, and then he answered himself, all in the same verse, with hope-in-God talk.
Psalm 42-5

I’ve been discouraged because I’ve been busy with so many things, none of which seemed to matter. I went to the Bible and searched for HOPE.

First a reminder, hope in God is not just wishful thinking, making a wish on birthday candles or the first star you see at night. It’s not the kind of hope someone might have when he crosses his fingers.

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It’s so much more than that. It is the kind of hope that William Carey had. “Expect great things from God, attempt great things for God,” he said.

It doesn’t matter that I am not doing great things right now. Perhaps, I have lacked hope that God is doing great things around me, perhaps even through me and in spite of me.

William Carey noticed God’s great achievements. He dared to attempt great things. God is still doing great things through William Carey who, among other things, translated the Bible into several different languages, Bibles which are being read all over the world two centuries later.

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I found so many other encouraging verses about hope in the Bible. Here are a couple favorites:

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Am I expecting great things from God in my ministries?

(Yes, but, Lord, help my unbelief!)

How about you?

Posted in ELC

A Full Weekend

A glimpse into last weekend…

Maria and Katie

Most importantly, our youngest daughter, Katie, graduated from Northwestern College. We didn’t get to be there, but Maria flew in from Seattle to be with her sister and keep us updated with photos and video clips during the ceremony. Our sweet, beautiful daughters.

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Yes, we missed sharing the joy and the laughter with our wonderful graduate. What a peach!

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We stayed in Bahrain and stayed busy.  In Mother’s Day worship, on Friday and Sunday, Keith and I were in a skit with our “three teenage children” who forgot it was Mother’s Day and didn’t appreciate at the beginning of the skit all their “mom” did for them.

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Great worship services with a beautiful praise dance!

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Everyone was asked to wear pink to church.

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On Friday evening, we went to a 25th anniversary celebration and renewal of wedding vows. It was a beautiful occasion. I wore my first sari.

Be Not Afraid

On Saturday morning, I led devotions at AMH. Keith does it several times a week, but it was only my second time so I was a little nervous. Appropriately, my topic was FEAR, or more accurately, FEAR NOT.

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On Saturday night, the MOMs group came over and we baked cookies and cupcakes. It was lots of fun and much activity. Katie’s graduation was happening toward the end of our time together. We tried to watch it online, but I guess I was on the wrong Internet connection so the live feed didn’t work.

Later, Keith and I watched the graduation ceremony in quiet. It was lovely and we took it all in. The busyness of the weekend probably helped us keep our minds off the fact that we couldn’t be in Orange City for Katie’s graduation.

When I led devotions Saturday morning, I shared “Be Not Afraid,” by Jesuit priest Bob Dufford. I was reminded of this beautiful song that we had sung during school mass last spring. It was just at the time we were first hearing God’s call to move to Bahrain. It was a powerful song for me then, and it is now.

You shall cross the barren desert
But you shall not die of thirst
You shall wander far in safety
Though you do not know the way.

You shall speak your words in foreign lands
And all will understand
You shall see the face of God and live.

Be not afraid
I go before you always
Come follow Me
And I WILL give you rest.

If you pass through raging waters
In the sea, you shall not drown
If you walk amidst the burning flames
You shall not be harmed.

If you stand before the pow’r of hell
And death is at your side
Know that I am with you, through it all.

Be not afraid
I go before you always
Come follow Me
And I will give you rest.

Blessed are your poor
For the Kingdom shall be theirs
Blest are you that weep and mourn
for one day you shall laugh.

And if wicked men insult and hate you
All because of Me
Blessed, blessed are you!

Be not afraid
I go before you always
Come follow Me
and I WILL GIVE you rest…

You can listen to John Michael Talbot sing it here. Absolutely beautiful!

Thanks to Liz for the pictures of graduation and to Vinolia for the picture of our skit in church.

Inadequacy and Other Thoughts

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Recently I was reading Luke 9 and I noticed a distinct contrast between what the disciples said and did in the first half of the chapter and in the second. In the beginning of Luke 9:

  • The twelve disciples were sent out by Jesus, successfully “bringing the good news and curing diseases everywhere.”
  • They witnessed the feeding of the five thousand.
  • Peter declared Jesus was the Messiah of God.
  • Several witnessed Jesus’ transfiguration on the mountain.

But, interestingly, after all that, the Luke 9 account takes a turn. Here is Luke 9:37-50:

37 The next day, after they had come down the mountain, a large crowd met Jesus. 38 A man in the crowd called out to him, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son, my only child. 39 An evil spirit keeps seizing him, making him scream. It throws him into convulsions so that he foams at the mouth. It batters him and hardly ever leaves him alone. 40 I begged your disciples to cast out the spirit, but they couldn’t do it.” 41 Jesus said, “You faithless and corrupt people! How long must I be with you and put up with you?” Then he said to the man, “Bring your son here.” 42 As the boy came forward, the demon knocked him to the ground and threw him into a violent convulsion. But Jesus rebuked the evil[h] spirit and healed the boy. Then he gave him back to his father. 43 Awe gripped the people as they saw this majestic display of God’s power.

While everyone was marveling at everything he was doing, Jesus said to his disciples, 44 “Listen to me and remember what I say. The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of his enemies.”45 But they didn’t know what he meant. Its significance was hidden from them, so they couldn’t understand it, and they were afraid to ask him about it.

46 Then his disciples began arguing about which of them was the greatest. 47 But Jesus knew their thoughts, so he brought a little child to his side. 48 Then he said to them, “Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me also welcomes my Father who sent me. Whoever is the least among you is the greatest.” 49 John said to Jesus, “Master, we saw someone using your name to cast out demons, but we told him to stop because he isn’t in our group.” 50 But Jesus said, “Don’t stop him! Anyone who is not against you is for you.”

Mr. Christopher spoke at the English Language Congregation (ELC) recently and said when God calls you, his will will take you into situations unexpected, inadequate, and incomprehensible.

Keith and I looked at each other often during the sermon.

Yes, God’s will has put us in such situations. Unexpected, definitely. We were not looking to move or change our situation. Then God asked us to move across the world to Bahrain. Unexpected? Yes.

When Mr. Christopher got to inadequate, it really resonated. In my life I tend to be a proud person who likes to be adequate and effective. God has shown me, like the disciples, that there are many things that I cannot do except through his power at work in me.

First, look at the disciples in just this one short passage. Were they inadequate for what God was requiring of them? Definitely! In just this passage alone:

  • they couldn’t do it
  • they didn’t know
  • they couldn’t understand
  • they were afraid to ask
  • they strived to be put on a pedestal as the “greatest”
  • they disallowed other disciples’ good work

The disciples were inadequate, rough hewn, unexpected choices. Jesus called them to follow him, though. He’s done the same to inadequate me.

  • I had never been out of North America when I was called to leave everything and move to Bahrain.
  • I knew nothing about the Arab culture or living in the Middle East.
  • I, so far, have never learned a second language.
  • I am humbled at being asked to help lead church school at the ELC.
  • I am inexperienced and too old to teach kindergarten, yet God called me to that position.
  • My faith seems like toddler faith compared to so many of the saints I’ve met here.

I am inadequate for the tasks set before me, but so were the disciples.

And finally, God’s will puts us in situations that are incomprehensible. Especially in the questioning times, I’m reminded of Job when God asked him: “Have you comprehended the vast expanses of the earth? Tell me, if you know all this.” (Job 38:18)

No, God, I haven’t. I can’t really tell you anything. I’ll be quiet now. “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:7)

I found it interesting that Mr. Christopher said that God’s will WILL (not may or might) take you into situations that are unexpected, that you are inadequate for, and that you humanly can not comprehend.

What impossibility is God calling us to be and do today?

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The Power of Place

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The American Mission Hospital has a track record. For over one hundred ten years it has provided excellent health care with compassion and understanding. That history gives this place a power of location. People know how to find AMH, and they know what they will find when they come here for care.

American Mission Hospital is located in the heart of the busy capital of Manama, Bahrain. It is very interesting that the address of the American Mission Hospital is:

PO Box 1,

Isa Al Kabeer Avenue,

Block 307, Manama

The Kingdom of Bahrain

It is an interesting historic fact that the American Mission Hospital has the unique distinction of carrying the PO Box 1 address, so any mail in anybody’s name with PO Box 1, The Kingdom of Bahrain, will get here. In addition, any mail with just the name  ‘American Mission Hospital’ on the envelope will also be delivered here.

We are easy to find.  We have been around a long time.  People know where we are and why we are here.

The hospital is on Isa Al Kabeer Avenue. Sheikh Isa was the late King, and the hospital is on the road named after him.  “Isa” is “Jesus” in Arabic and “Al Kabeer”  means “great.”

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It is a beautiful coincidence that the American Mission Hospital stands on ‘Jesus the Great’ Avenue here in Manama.  Read the words of the mission statement of this beautiful place:

“We are here to serve the people in Bahrain in the Spirit of Christ who went about doing good to all who came to him.”

It does matter where you are located in space, time, and spirit.

Posted in AMH

Wake Up

My Exhausted Guardian Angel

Thanks for all the prayers! We are now officially licensed drivers in Bahrain.

View From the Driver's Side

Since the traffic wasn’t too bad, Denise took her maiden voyage about a month ago. Safely.

Now, today she tried her first solo drive. Safely. Praise the Lord.

Guardian Angels: A Heavenly Conversation

God will put his angels in charge of you
to protect you wherever you go.
They will hold you up with their hands
to keep you from hurting your feet on the stones.
You will trample down lions and snakes,
fierce lions and poisonous snakes.
Psalm 91:11-13

Denise’s Guardian Angel: Whoa, that was a close one! Did you see the size of that hole I just helped her avoid? She puts on a lot of kilometers walking around here and seems to find more than her share of sidewalk holes, loose bricks, and uneven pavement.

Keith’s Guardian Angel:  How about this guy? I’m really getting worn out with Keith. I wonder if Peter made the right assignment for me? I mean keeping Keith safe while driving in Bahrain! This is exhausting. I can’t take my eyes off him for a millisecond. Did you see that? He just drove through the round-about, crossed two lanes of traffic and almost got T-boned by a Toyota SUV. In addition to stopping the SUV, I had to push three pedestrians and a bicyclist out of the way to save them too. He just can’t keep track of so much traffic. How long can I keep going with this gig?

DGA: Well, I guess I should be thankful she’s not driving.

KGA: Yet! I heard talk about them going to get her a driver’s license.

DGA: God, help us all!

KGA: And another driving issue I hope he learns. Keith doesn’t understand how to use his car horn here. People honk their horns for all kinds of reasons–mostly friendly. “Beep, Beep, I’m coming around the corner. Do you see me?” Or “Beep, Beep, come on into my lane, but hurry.”

Keith had a throat infection and needed an IV for dehydration. He was at urgent care, not an in-patient. All in a day’s work.

When someone cuts him off, he honks like an American. Angry. His honking just invites others to  pull into his lane too. He’s hopeless. I’d rather get a more relaxing stint, like protecting a high rise window washer or a Formula 1 race car driver. At least they know what they’re doing!

DGA: That sounds like a great idea. Window washers and race car drivers don’t encounter nearly as many viruses as Denise is finding. Between the new bugs she’s never met before and the kindergarteners helping to spread them, she’s met 32 new viruses. I’ve managed to help her trim that down to only three colds so far.

KGA: She’s also managed to share those viruses with Keith on occasion. At least they are in good hands at the American Mission Hospital. That makes our work easier, doesn’t it?

DGA: Yes, you’re right, but, hey, we better quit talking and pay attention to those lions and snakes up ahead!

This picture was taken after their first solo driving trip. THEY MADE IT! That was a milestone!

Breakfast in the Souq

Breakfast with Gary BrownThis morning I had breakfast with Gary Brown in the Souq Bab Al Bahrain at Naseef’s, located in the heart of old Manama, the capital of Bahrain. Gary taught and was the principal at Al Raja school for 32 years. He speaks Arabic fluently. As I listened to him order breakfast in Arabic and greeting and talking to people in the shops in Arabic I now have this deep desire to learn how to speak Arabic too.

Initial Observations

Denise and I have been in Bahrain for 3 weeks as I write this. So here are my initial observations as we begin our ministry here:

  • Bahrain is a nation of many nations.  In my first 4 days here I personally met individuals from 18 different nations.
  • The American Mission Hospital is deeply respected by the people and the leaders of Bahrain as a place of healing and hope.
  • We have experienced warm and genuine hospitality from everyone we have met.
  • We experienced a warm thank you and send-off for Chaplain Appu and Lali Varghese for their 12 years of faithful service at the American Mission Hospital.
  • There is a spiritual vitality in this place.  The worship at the English Language Congregation is beautiful and inspiring.  There is a commitment and a heart to love the people of Bahrain with the love of Jesus.
  • The food is delicious, and we are invited to many homes where we are experiencing hospitality and amazing meals.
  • It has been a challenge to get to know and remember the names of a large number of hospital staff members, congregants, and teachers and students.

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Chaplain Keith

The Journey

We are now in Bahrain!

It was an interesting journey to arrive here.  Our flights were all delayed or canceled along the way, beginning in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where we had a two-hour delay.  This resulted in missing our connection in Chicago.  We were booked on three separate flights out of Chicago. After about a two-hour delay because the cabin of the airplane wouldn’t warm up due to the  faulty external electrical system, we made it to our connection in Washington, D.C.  When we got on that plane, though, we were delayed on the tarmac because of smoke coming out of a vent.  After awhile we were cleared to fly.

When we landed in Kuwait it was determined that there was an oil leak in one of the engines and the plane was grounded.  United Airlines only has one flight a day into Kuwait, and they had no flights the next day (Christmas Day), so we were stranded.  Since there were so many of us who needed an alternate flight, some were able to get onto a flight and some were given a hotel room.  We did not get to the hotel until 1:30 AM and had to return to the airport at 4:30 AM to try and get on a Gulf Air flight to Bahrain.

In this beautiful hotel in Kuwait City we had time for an amazing meal with nine fellow travelers and a shower and then back to the airport.  It turned out that all the morning flights had no room for us, and we didn’t leave Kuwait until 6:30 PM  Christmas day, 24 hours later than our original flight time.

I couldn’t help but wonder what it was like for Mary and Joseph to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem and then to wind up sleeping in a stable and then have  a baby.  We had nothing to complain about.

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The good news is, we arrived in Bahrain at the same time as Maria coming from Seattle.  We were warmly welcomed at the airport by Jim Harrison, pastor at the English Language Congregation, and his son, Jonathon, and Appu Varghese, retiring chaplain at the American Mission Hospital.

When we arrived the country was decorated for National Day with many beautiful lights on the trees and buildings.

We have begun to settle down in our new apartment, and I am looking forward to beginning my work at the American Mission Hospital.

More soon. In the meantime, here are a few pictures from our first few days.

Across the Water

Denise and I will be going “across the water” to Bahrain on Monday, December 23.  We will arrive two hours before the Christmas Eve Service on December 24 and will, if all our flight connections are on time, worship our Lord with our brothers and sisters in Bahrain!

This has been an amazing eight months since Chaplain Appu Varghese spoke at American Reformed Church asking if anyone might hear the call of God to come and serve in Bahrain.  “If God is calling, you cannot say no!” he said.  We said “yes” and our yes to God’s call is coming true!  It has been an amazing journey.

Katie and Maria will be coming with us to see this new place God has called us to.  We are deeply grateful and humbled by all your love and support we have received during this process.  Thank you.