Waves of Mercy

According to Mercy Ships, five billion people lack access to safe surgery. Children, teens, and adults suffer and die every day from treatable causes, and one child in eight will die before age 5.

In 1978 Don and Deyon Stephens founded Mercy Ships in Switzerland. Don says that “A devastating hurricane, meeting Mother Teresa and the birth of his special needs son drove an idea that would bring hope and healing to the world’s poorest people.”

First idea for a ship that would travel to countries without medical faculties and help came to Don at 19. His youth group saw a hurricane that came through the Bahamas when they were there. He heard someone praying for a ship that could come in and provide the care needed after such a tragedy. Later when he and his wife had a son born with special needs, he was reminded of that prayer and how many with such problems had no way to go for help. Finally, visitng with Mother Teresa she encouraged him to follow the dream God had first planted when he was a teenager.

The first Mercy Ship was a Italian cruise liner built in 1953 and called the Victoria. Converted into a mobile hospital it was renamed Anastasis. The Stephens lived on the first ship with their family for the first ten years of operation. The ship was retired in 2007 and replaced by Africa Mercy.

According to Mercy Ships “It is estimated 16.9 million people die globally each year from conditions requiring surgical care. 32% of all global deaths are a result of the lack of access to safe, affordable, and timely surgery.”

Mercy Ships until this year had one ship to reach out to the poorer nations with medical care. However, they have added a second ship, Global Mercy. Building the ship began in 2017 and was just completed last year. The ship passed all the testing to prove it sea worthy and will officially began serving the needy in March of this year. This ship has six operating rooms, 200 beds, a laboratory, general outpatient clinics and eye and dental clinics.

These ships not only provide needed medial care, but they also work to train local nurses and doctors to continue the care when they are gone. Since over 50% of the world’s population live nears a coast, the ships are the perfect way to bring this much needed health care.

The doctors and nurses who serve on Mercy Ships do so without any compensation.

Since its founding in 1978 Mercy Ships “has worked in more than 70 countries providing services valued at more than $1 billion, treating more than 2.5 million direct beneficiaries. Each year Mercy Ships has more than 1,600 volunteers from more than 40 nations. Professionals including surgeons, dentists, nurses, healthcare trainers, teachers, cooks, seamen, engineers, and agriculturalists donate their time and skills to the effort. Mercy Ships seeks to transform individuals and serve nations one at a time.”

There are many amazing stories of lives that have been changed because of the work of Mercy Ships.

To read some of these stories – and see more of the work of Mercy Ships, visit their website:

I’m Rich – How About You?

These thoughts are not my own – I am sharing the message my pastor gave us this week.

She told us that if we make $37,000 a year we are in the ranks of the rich when compared to the rest of the world’s population.

Then she listed the “rich” people problems we face all the time. Things that we complain about – and do not really stop to think how many in the rest of the world would be grateful for those problems.

  • Our cell phone service is bad.
  • Our air line flight has been delayed.
  • Amazon is out of the size we needed.
  • Amazon promised shipment in three days and we now have to wait a week.
  • We have to get new tires for our car.
  • Our laptop stopped working and we have to buy a new one.
  • The lines at McDonald’s are too long.

And we could go on and go about the “problems” we complain about every day without realizing these are “rich” people problems.

We take so much for granted in the USA.

Yet, at the same time we know there are many in our country who are struggling financially right now.

According to Feeding America, 1 in 9 Americans struggled with hunger. In 2019, 35,207,000 people were food insecure.  Food insecurity exists in every county in America.  Millions of people are still struggling to get by because of underemployment, stagnant wages and the rising cost of living.  To these Americans, food has become an unaffordable luxury. 

In 2019 more than 5.3 million children live in households struggling with hunger.  Approximately 25% of children in households at risk of hunger may be forced to rely exclusively on hunger relief organizations to make ends meet.

According to the USDA, in 2020, 35.3 percent of households with incomes below the Federal poverty line were food insecure. Food-insecure households include those with low food security and very low food security. Rates of food insecurity were substantially higher than the national average for single-parent households, and for Black and Hispanic households. Food insecurity was more common in both large cities and rural areas than in suburban areas.

As I look at these statistics I realize how blessed I am. My husband and I have a freezer full of food and a pantry with shelves fully stocked. Yet, my studies have shown me that many elderly have to decide between buying food or purchasing needed medicine.

So what do I do? Just feel bad and move on with my life? Or, try to help in some way.

If you fall in that category of having plenty of food, I challenge you to reach out and help

  • Find a food pantry in your area and contribute food and/or money. Money is probably better than food because most food pantries can purchase food in bulk at much cheaper prices than an individual can. If you give food, think dried and canned goods. And please, check for expiration dates and do not give something you would not eat.
  • Many schools have food programs – check with your local school.
  • Do a volunteer food drive.
  • Volunteer with your local food pantry or with the Meals on Wheels program.

I am grateful that my church works with Compassion in Action, a local group that helps with school children who are food insecure, and with a local food bank to distribute food to those in need every month.

My pastor shared the story of the farmer in the Bible who had a huge harvest. His response to that was to build more barns and then sit and enjoy his success. While Jesus was clearly not condemning being successful or even rich (many of godly men in the Bible were wealthy) or being a good steward of what you have, He clearly tells us we are not to trust in our own riches. Our trust is to be in God.

Also, we are not to grasp on tightly to what we have, but be willing to let go and share with others.

Finally, when we talk about riches we usually think of money or possessions. But I am rich in so many other important ways – ways that money cannot buy. Family, health, peace with God.

I think of a song my mother used to sing when I was a child.

If you are one of those who are food insecure, do not be afraid to ask for help. Check with your local church, your local school. There is help out there – and you should not feel bad about receiving.

If you are one who is truly “rich,” be grateful but also reach out and share with others.

As my husband often said when he preached about giving generously to others, “I never saw an U-Haul truck following a funeral car to the grave.”

In the words of Jesus:

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

History Written in Stone

Following the Oregon Trail we came upon a large rock made of limestone. The rock stood high above the Platte River Valley. The soft limestone rock made it easy for people to carve their names in.

Travelers heading for Oregon carved their names in the rock. More than 700 names are on the rock. At one time the names included dates as early as 1829 and one reportedly from 1797. Historic experts judged these names as authentic. If true, they would represent the earliest white people to pass by here. They would have been mountain men who were fur traders.

Soldiers from hereby Fort Laramie also carved their names here. As the state of Wyoming first became a territory and then a state, cowboys and ranchers added their signatures.

Of course many of the old names have been lost due to erosion of the rock. Also many tourists have added their names. But the oldest names are protected by a tall wire fence.

I wanted to get closer to the area where it appears the oldest names were, but my husband was not sure how safe that would be. You could see that the rock had been crumbling for a long time. Who knew when the next portion of the rock might come down.

While we enjoyed seeing the names and to us it was a wonderful history lesson of our westward expansion, I had to realize to the Native Americans this was not something to enjoy.

Native Americans also used this rock for writing their own pictographs and marks. Years ago these markings were visible. But, just like the land that was once their hunting grounds, these markings have been lost as the white men added their names and marked over the Indian markings.

As I looked again at these pictures and remembered our trip west, I was reminded once again that our history lessons in school have been one-sided. We have read of the bravery and courage of those who left the east and traveled mile after mile to the west to build new cities and create farms. Little is said of the Native Americans who were pushed off their lands and had treaty after treaty broken by our government.

Still, for one who is a history nut, it was awesome to stand there and think that I was standing where some young family had stood almost 200 years ago. I tried to imagine what their thoughts were. Excited, scared, unsure.

What really excited me was standing in the ruts the wagons made in the soft limestone. In TV programs and movies we always see the wagon trains being pulled by horses and moving at a reasonable fast pace. In reality, these wagons were pulled by teams of oxen, mules or heavy draft horses. The horses we see on TV could never have made it over the mountains pulling those heavy Conestoga wagons.

The Mormons who followed this trail actually used push carts and walked the entire distance.

Traveling through the open terrain where you could see for miles in our air-conditioned car with restrooms, restaurants and hotels easily available, I really could not imagine what those first brave families heading from comfort and home to the great unknown.

Why I Go To Church

This Sunday I had to miss church. It is the second Sunday I have missed because I have been sick. Recovering now, but I so hate to miss church. Somehow the week is just not the same when I have not been able to meet with my church family and join in praise of God and hear His word.

Many times I have heard the statement “You don’t have to go to church to be a Christian.” And the one I love is “Going to church does not make you a Christian any more than sitting in a garage makes you a car.”

While I agree with those statements and sadly realize that many people think going to church makes them a Christian without any real commitment to the Lord or any attempt to follow His word, I question why we would say that.

Of course, there are many who cannot go to church because of health issues or work issues. With the Covid-19 this past year many of us could not go to church because our churches were closed. But I have to wonder why anyone who calls themself Christian and can go to church would choose not to.

Oh I know. There are many stories of people who have been hurt by the church. Members who were judgmental, personal rejection, people who acted one way in church on Sunday and lived differently the rest of the week and the list goes on and on.

I have been hurt – badly hurt – more than once by church people.

So why do I still go to church?

  • First, because I believe the church was God’s plan for spreading the Good News.

In Matthew’s gospel we are told that Jesus declared “you are Peter (which means rock) and upon this rock I will build my church.” I know different denominations disagree on exactly what that meant for Peter, but putting our differences aside, I think we can see that Jesus had plans to use men to build the church. Notice that He did not say “build the church” but rather “build my church.

However, in today’s world the definition of “church” has lost its original meaning.

Look in a dictionary and you will find “church” explained this way:

  •  A building for public Christian worship.
  • The public worship of God or a religious service in such a building
  • The whole body of Christian believers; Christendom.
  • Any division of this body professing the same creed and acknowledging the same ecclesiastical authority; a Christian denomination.

But the word “church” is not actually in the original manuscripts of the Bible. The word that was used (and was translated into church) was “Ekklesia.” In the time of the Greek Empire the word was used to describe the assembly of free citizens to discuss, debate and express their thoughts on the community, the government. Many say it was the beginning of a democratic society.

This word is a compound word. “Ek” means “out of.” “Kaleo” mean “to call.” So the church is supposed to be people who have received the call of God and the outcome of their answer to that call.

Simply put, ekklesia means community.

Just before He went to the cross, Jesus prayed to the Father for this community. In that prayer He said,

I ask not only on behalf of these (that’s the disciples), but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word (that’s us), that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17:20-23)

  • Most of the New Testament is addressed not to an individual, but to a community of believers. Many of the Psalms talk about praising “in the congregation” or “in the sanctuary” indicating there was a place for worshipping God with others. The Revelation given to John was for the seven churches. When Jesus left His disciples His instruction was to gather together in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit came. The book of Acts shows that they were in a group praying together – in unity – when the Holy Spirit came. Later as Peter preached a powerful sermon we are told that “the Lord added daily to the church such as should be saved”. As people came to faith in Jesus Christ it followed that they were to be a part of this community of believers.
  • In the Apostle Paul’s writing he referred to the church as a body. He talked about we all are a part of that body. The body is made up of many different parts – but if we remove a part from the body, that part will die. And although the body may go on living, it will not be as good as it had been before. From that illustration I understand that to remove myself from my church family has a great danger that I will spiritually begin to die. And even if I am so strong, so spiritual, have such a great knowledge of the Word of God that I would be fine without being a part of a community of believers, that is all the more reason for me to attend. The church needs me just as I need the church.
  • The example of Jesus when He was on earth. Luke’s Gospel tells us that “And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day.”
  • To set an example for my children and grandchildren. In our society today our youth are being hit with false ideas and dangerous teachings. While the church is not supposed to be the only place our children learn of God (in fact the Bible is clear that main responsibility belongs in the home with the parents), faithful attendance sends a message to our children. It tells them belonging to a community of believers is important.

This community of believers is far from perfect. Why? Because it is made of people just like me – and I am certainly not perfect. I fear that we view church like a consumer. “The church doesn’t meet my needs.” Sorry, but the point of being a part of a community of believers is more than having your needs met. It is to also help meet the needs of others. The New Testament is full of calls for us to minister to others. While we can do that outside of church – and we should – I think it again speaks to the idea that Jesus had when He prayed to the Father that we would be one. Here are some of those “one anothers.”

“…Be at peace with each other.” (Mark 9:50)

“…Wash one another’s feet.” (John 13:14)

“…Love one another…” (John 13:34)

“…Love one another…” (John 13:34)

“…Love one another…” (John 13:35)

“…Love one another…” (John 15:12)

“…Love one another” (John 15:17)

“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love…” (Romans 12:10)

“…Honor one another above yourselves. (Romans 12:10)

“Live in harmony with one another…” (Romans 12:16)

“…Love one another…” (Romans 13:8)

“…Stop passing judgment on one another.” (Romans 14:13)

“Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you…” (Romans 15:7)

“…Instruct one another.” (Romans 15:14)

“Greet one another with a holy kiss…” (Romans 16:16)

“…When you come together to eat, wait for each other.” (I Cor. 11:33)

“…Have equal concern for each other.” (I Corinthians 12:25)

“…Greet one another with a holy kiss.” (I Corinthians 16:20)

“Greet one another with a holy kiss.” (II Corinthians 13:12)

“…Serve one another in love.” (Galatians 5:13)

“If you keep on biting and devouring each other…you will be destroyed by each other.” (Galatians 5:15)

“Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.” (Galatians 5:26)

“Carry each other’s burdens…” (Galatians 6:2)

“…Be patient, bearing with one another in love.” (Ephesians 4:2)

“Be kind and compassionate to one another…” (Ephesians 4:32)

“…Forgiving each other…” (Ephesians 4:32)

“Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.” (Ephesians 5:19)

“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Ephesians 5:21)

“…In humility consider others better than yourselves.” (Philippians

“Do not lie to each other…” (Colossians 3:9)

“Bear with each other…” (Colossians 3:13)

“…Forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.” (Colossians 3:13)

“Teach…[one another]” (Colossians 3:16)

“Admonish one another (Colossians 3:16)

“…Make your love increase and overflow for each other.” (I Thessalonians 3:12)

“…Love each other.” (I Thessalonians 4:9)

“…Encourage each other…”(I Thessalonians 4:18)

“…Encourage each other…” I Thessalonians 5:11)

“…Build each other up…” (I Thessalonians 5:11)

“Encourage one another daily…” Hebrews 3:13)

“…Spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” (Hebrews 10:24)

“…Encourage one another.” (Hebrews 10:25)

“…Do not slander one another.” (James 4:11)

“Don’t grumble against each other…” (James 5:9)

“Confess your sins to each other…” (James 5:16)

“…Pray for each other.” (James 5:16)

“…Love one another deeply, from the heart.” (I Peter 3:8)

“…Live in harmony with one another…” (I Peter 3:8)

“…Love each other deeply…” (I Peter 4:8)

“Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.” (I Peter 4:9)

“Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others…” (I Peter 4:10)

“…Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another…”(I Peter 5:5)

“Greet one another with a kiss of love.” (I Peter 5:14)

“…Love one another.” (I John 3:11)

“…Love one another.” (I John 3:23)

“…Love one another.” (I John 4:7)

“…Love one another.” (I John 4:11)

“…Love one another.” (I John 4:12)

“…Love one another.” (II John 5)

Final point is this verse in Ephesians:

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.  In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

If you have been hurt by the church, do not give up on it. Find another church. We have doctors/hairdressers/restaurants that we have difficulty with. We do not stop going to a doctor, getting our hair cut, or eating out. We just move on to find another one. I am not advocating moving around from church to church like a consumer. But if you have been hurt, the answer is not to ignore the plan of Jesus as we are told that Jesus not only loved the church – but gave Himself for it.

Ephesians 3:19 – “even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.”

Focus on Mission — Thoughts of a Retired Pastor

Acts 20;24 But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. Gospel – Good News G – God’s O […]

Focus on Mission — Thoughts of a Retired Pastor

I Asked for Two Years – I Now Have Nine Years

When I was 54 years old I was diagnosed with a very aggressive and advanced stage of breast cancer. My doctor said I had only a small chance of still being alive in ten years.

Ten years – that would put me into retirement age. At that time I planned to retire at age 62. So I figured if I could last ten years and retire at 62 that would give me two years to enjoy retirement with my husband.

For years I had worked a secular job which kept me busy with work Monday through Friday. My job was a very demanding job and often required overtime. When the weekend came I was really not free to enjoy time with my husband because he was a pastor. That meant that much of his weekend was involved with the church.

So I thought if I could just make it to those ten years, that would give me two years of retirement to enjoy more time with my husband.

That is what I asked for – “Lord, let me live to retire and give me two years to enjoy some quality and quantity time with my husband.”

As the time grew near for my 62nd birthday, I was thankful that I had made it eight years – but finances dictated that I needed to work until I was 65.

“Lord, let me live until I am 65 and give me two years of retirement with my husband.”

Well, obviously I made to 65. What is so wonderful is today I celebrate nine years of retirement. Nine years ago today I walked out of MidAmerican Energy Company for the last time. Still praying for those two years of retirement with my husband.

God has given me now nine years of retirement – and I am still going strong looking forward to many more years.

What I have been able to enjoy in those nine years.

Seeing my oldest daughter get her Master’s degree
Seeing my youngest daughter become an ordained minister in the Wesleyan Church
Being able to just “hang out” with my grandsons
Enjoying my “crazy” grandchildren – and seeing two of them happily married
Meeting my first great grandson – and looking forward to seeing the second one.
Getting to watch this youngest granddaughter grow up.

And all the trips we have been able to make:

All across the south loving the old oak trees and the Spanish moss.

Enjoying the beach and the carriage rides.

And out west to Wyoming and Montana following the Pony Express/Mormon Trail.

Being a history nut I have been able to visit many former presidents’ homes and I loved walking the grounds of Fort Laramie.

Seeing the names carved into the rock at Register Cliff.

But most of all, I am so grateful for all the quality and quantity time I have had with my husband, my bff, these past nine years.

Still my bff after nine years of “real” togetherness!

Thank you Lord for your blessings on me!

My Challenge for 2022

This time last year we hit the 1000 game mark in our ongoing Scrabble contest. It is doubtful that we will ever reach the 2000 game mark, but we still enjoy playing.

This New Year’s Eve found my husband and I tied for number of games won for the year.

Sadly, I must report that he won the game yesterday – so he is the reigning champ for 2021.

But this year is going to be mine!

Happy New Year to my readers!

The Party’s Over

It is now four days since Christmas. I have my Christmas decorations all boxed up and downstairs in the storage room. Today I am dusting, vacuuming and doing whole house cleaning. Getting rid of the cookie crumbs in the carpet, the shiny tinsel that dropped from the tree ornaments as we took them off the tree. Giving my stove a good cleaning and getting rid of leftovers we did not eat

Many love to keep their Christmas decorations up until after the New Year. But I am not one of those. I love Christmas and look forward to putting up the tree and getting out my candles and angels. As soon as Thanksgiving day is over we decorate.

But to be honest, as much as I love the bright lights by the end of December I am ready to get back to more “normal.” Out goes the angels and snowmen and “Jesus is the reason for the season” and in comes the family photographs and winter decorations.

Although I know spring is still a long way off, now is when I start thinking of planting new flowers and longing for the first pop of daffodils in the spring. This year our daughter in North Carolina sent my husband some seeds from her own flower garden. We are really looking forward to having flowers from our daughter’s garden. Already thinking about where we will plant each packet of seeds.

For some there can be a little depression or feeling of loss after all the time spent shopping, decorating, baking and all the family gatherings and other Christmas events. For me, I feel a new sense of “let’s clean house and start planning for next year.”

But as the festivities of Christmas is over and we put up the decorations and move back to “normal” life, I wonder do we just as quickly put Jesus back in the box. We did our thing – we went to Christmas Eve service and sang “Silent Night.” Now we move on.

We often see signs at Christmas time that say “Keep Christ in Christmas.” I often wonder when people say that, what happens after Christmas. Should we not keep Christ in every day, every season, all the time?

As I try not to grumble about the cold and snow and look forward to planting my flower seeds in the spring, I want to keep Christ in each and every day.

Hope you do also!

Merry Christmas!!!!

To all my friends and readers, it is my prayer that you have a great day!

Merry Christmas from St Johns Michigan!

The Greatest Man in History… Jesus; Had no servants, yet they called Him Master. Had no degree, yet they called Him Teacher. Had no medicines, yet they called Him Healer. He had no army, yet kings feared Him. He won no military battles, yet He conquered the world. He did not live in a castle, yet they called Him Lord, He ruled no nations, yet they called Him King, He committed no crime, yet they crucified Him. He was buried in a tomb, yet He lives today (Lyle C Rollings III, 2008).

by https://gracequotes.org

My Husband Gets His Revenge

Those of you who follow my blog know by now that my husband and I are Scrabble addictions.

We have kept a record of our scores since 2008. Equally matched in skill, we usually remain only one or two games ahead of the other one.

Recently, however I seemed to be on a winning streak. As I was leading with four games ahead of my husband, he began to get nervous. If I got too big a lead it would be hard to catch up with me.

So when we sat down to play this week, he informed me he was out for revenge.

Boy did he get it!

For those of you who are not Scabble fans, you get seven letter tiles to make your words. If you can use all seven of the tiles in one word you get not only the actual points of the word you made, but an extra 50 bonus points.

He began the game by using all seven tiles and starting off with 50 bonus points. No big deal I thought. That early in the game I had plenty of time to catch up. But he did not stop there. Of the first six words he made, five were made using all seven tiles. Now he had 250 bonus points.

And the rest of the game was all in his favor! He not only won the game – he beat me by over 200 points.

Still, considering he had 250 bonus points I think I did okay.

Now he only has to win the next three games to be equal with me again.

Don’t think I am going to sit idly by and let that happen.