Russell Family Mission UPDATE!

Rusty traveled to the Philippines in late April to reconnect with the people we were ministering to and with during our first term. The goal of the trip was to encourage the believers there, propose a ministry of reconciliation and seek God’s will for future ministry. Mike Alianza, from CJ Ministires, was also in the Philippines during the same time. Both men reported that God is at work in the lives of those they met with.

It was a sweet time of reconnection with the Ati again. “Baby” Amy (orphaned at birth) is growing up and her family calls us her American Lolo and Lola! (Grandparents)

Lito, the Ati man who was hospitalized for nearly 9 months, is home. He is not able to walk or work and his family is practicing grace and forgiveness as they care for him. Praise God the bondage to alcohol has been broken! We are still praying for complete physical healing and spiritual restoration for Lito.

Rusty met with ministry leaders and sought their opinions regarding future ministry in the Philippines. He was blessed to be able to encourage Pastor Rolando and Teresa as they are facing trials in their school ministry. Please join us in prayer for them, as they restart their school and feeding ministries in a new location. Pray that they will not become discouraged and that God will provide for them in every way!

Thanks to the generous gift of one of our supporters we were able to help a family get back under roof. Elsie’s nipa home had its roof torn off during the typhoon last November. Since then the family has been living “under the stars” with no roof over their heads. Another ministry had donated building supplies and we were able to help them hire a small crew to replace the roof.

There are so many stories that could be told of the lives, challenges and blessings of our dear Filipino friends. Thank you for remembering to pray for this ministry to the poor, outcast, and broken.

FAMILY NEWS!

BEN AND MEREDITH ARE MARRIED!!!

They were blessed with a rainy day, but a beautiful indoor service at MGBC and a fun celebration of their new life together at the Stern Barn! The newlyweds will reside in Sebring, FL were Ben is on staff at Grace Church Sebring and Meredith will look for a teaching job.

Carrie graduated from the Great Commission Bible Institute in early May and then traveled with her class and teacher, Dr. Randy Smith for an educational tour of the Holy Land. She is now back in Martinsburg. Carrie is working at Home Instead senior care and is seeking God’s plan for her life. She has been offered a position in an orphanage in the Philippines, which she is prayerfully considering.

Adam and Josh are working on a fast-track plan for graduation from high school this winter. Both have jobs in fields they love. Levi is currently on mission with City Life tour, a 3 week inner city ministry team. The rest of the “Russell Sprouts” are growing and enjoying life in the US as we pray for God’s leading for future ministry in the Philippines!

 

HOW CAN YOU BECOME INVOLVED IN WHAT GOD’S DOING IN THE PHILIPPINES?

We are partnering with CJ Ministries to help the Ati owned and operated preschool in the village of Carla. Their light materials building was completely destroyed in the typhoon and yet they preserved through the school year and the parents helped by rebuilding a temporary structure. The new school year began in June and there are a record 70 students enrolled! CJ Ministries is currently raising funds to build the Ati community a more permanent preschool structure. 

In the meantime, the teachers are asking for more chairs. If you would be willing to make a donation to help provide chairs for the students, please contact us or see the link on CJ Ministries website. 

We need to raise about $150 for this chair project.

www.cjmi.org

We are also seeking sponsors for the high school students in the Ati villages. We have 16 students in grades 7-9 that need a prayer partner and encouragement. Would you consider this unique opportunity to mentor a high school student in the Philippines?

 Contact Kristin for more info!

 

 

 

Open Letter to New Missionaries

It may sound like a trite sentiment, or cheesy lyrics from a country song, “But you’re gonna miss this…”Image

It’s been eight months since our family left our hearts on the mission field in the Philippines. What seemed to us to be a “premature” departure, we entrusted in our all-knowing and all-loving God to be what was best for our family at this time. Not a day goes by, though, that we don’t think about, pray for and desperately miss our new friends and brothers and sisters in Christ that we left behind. 

Lately I find myself dreaming of the Philippines almost every night. Last night I had a wonderful conversation with a dear friend by way of my dream. Our ministry was to the poorest of the poor and they don’t have internet access on a regular basis. Occasionally my friend will get on a public computer or use a friend’s internet-capable phone to check her Facebook page. It seems that always happens when it’s the middle of the night here (12 hr time differences will do that!) and we haven’t been able to connect in real time. I send her pictures of the kids and messages, but its sometimes months between times she gets online. I can get some news from the village from neighbors or two of the folks in the village that have higher paying jobs and access to the internet. So a “dreamed” conversation with an old friend is about the only solace for my soul, for now.

When we first moved to the Philippines there were a lot of cultural differences, and some of them I was pretty uncomfortable with. One in particular, is the Filipino tradition of touch. Women will sit together, holding hands while talking. Everyone hugs. An arm around the shoulder of a friend is a cultural way to say, “I am here for you.”  In a culture where they don’t have a lot of things, they do have each other. This close, relational lifestyle is physically demonstrated by physical touch. I know some Western families where this is also true, but that wasn’t the way things were in my family of origin and consequently our own family is less physical than many. I remember being terribly uncomfortable with all the hand holding, hugs and touching. It was awkward and outside my comfort zone.

But as I think about those days living abroad, what do you think I miss the most? 

In my dream last night I sat close to my dear friend, our hands clasped together, her hand rubbing my arm… and we talked, we laughed and we cried. This was life in the Philippines. And though it was far from my “normal” it has become one of the things I miss the most.

What I wouldn’t give to be crowded into a super-packed jeepney again. 

To be helping a sick child or mother get the medical care she needs

To run out of some basic cooking ingredient and send Jon to the sari-sari at the end of the road for more

To bargain at the market again for the best price on fresh mangoes or pineapples

To enjoy a fresh coconut fallen from the trees in our yard

and on cold winter days in Pennsylvania, I’d even be happy to line dry my clothes in the hot breeze off the ocean, again.

 

So to new missionaries just starting out on the field…. 

Soak up every moment. Savor every difference. Embrace every challenge. Allow your heart to fall in love with this strange new land and these wonderful new people God has called you to serve. Those inconveniences, hassles and headaches– those are the things you will treasure in the years to come. When you come back to your culture of origin, whether after weeks or months or years, those “crazy” things about your host country and the people who call it home, will be the things you miss the most. Praise God that He has created such diversity! Praise Him that He’s blessed you with this opportunity to experience another culture, to love another people, His people! The temptation will be there to grumble– living cross culturally is an emotional challenging experience. But you will always be so much richer for it and trust me, someday…. you’ll miss this.

 

Blight

If I was a person that believed in spirits, the way some tribal people do, I would have blamed it on our friend, Arlin. He commented on the enormous growth in our aquaponic tomato plants as “Some of the biggest tomato plants,” he’d ever seen. A nice compliment and I’d have to agree. The steady supply of nutrient rich water to the roots and the lack of competition from weeds, made our first ever aquaponic tomato plants huge.

DSCN3143

Then I saw it. That first dark spot on a leaf. A few hours later, more leaves were affected. I began pruning the diseased leaves. Thankfully the tomato plants had plenty of foliage.

But the pruning didn’t stop the disease. 12 hours later there were more browning leaves and more spots on the stalks. More pruning…

It was painful to see something that once was thriving start to die. It hurt to prune off the infected leaves and stalk. At first it was just foliage, but soon, branches with flowers or fruit had to be cut.

Image
As I spent time trying to heal my blight-infested tomatoes, I thought about how the garden is a picture of our lives. Whether the church, the community, a ministry, our government, our homes, our families, our hearts… it all starts the same.

Things are thriving and everything seems wonderful. Then a small brown spot appears. One spot becomes two, two become four, four become eight, eight become sixteen and soon there is almost more brown than green. Now it’s not just sickness, it’s dying.

All that potential for fruit, gone. The once beautiful creation is now drying up, withered and darkened from the effects of sin.

It’s the same cause. Sin. The curse on the world. The thistles and toil that we must strive against since Eve took that fruit from our Enemy in the garden. There was no late blight on those first tomatoes in the Garden of Eden. Just as there was no sin until Adam and Eve disobeyed.

The effects of sin are everywhere. People we love are battling cancer. Others are facing heart disease or dementia. Still others grieve the loss of a child, a spouse,  a parent… We live in a world that is less than perfect because of effects of sin on creation. Our bodies are weaker, our gardens are vulnerable.

Our souls are vulnerable, too.

Sometimes the effects of sin are just part of life. It’s painful to see someone we love suffer from cancer or to watch a garden full of fruit dry up and die before our eyes. Helplessly we watch and pray…

It’s a reminder though about sin. Some things are cause and effect. And sin is ugly. It causes pain. It delivers suffering. It brings death. It’s not a game and you can’t control it. Jesus taught that a “little sin” will spoil the whole.

The whole garden.

The whole church.

The whole community.

The whole ministry.

The whole government.

Your home.

Your family.

Your heart.

Life is busy and full and I think we don’t often take time to reflect on the simple truth of the Bible. We want to over look those hard parts about sin and what it has done and will continue to do to our world.  Pruning the death out of a bed of blighted tomato plants gives one time for reflection. We want to thank God for sending Jesus as our Savior. We look forward to eternity and the glory of Heaven. And sometimes we still sin like it doesn’t matter. As if it doesn’t still kill.

Jesus has already won the victory over sin and death. And some day, maybe soon, He will make all things right and dry every tear from our eyes.

But until that day we live in a world corrupted and changed by sin. By the Holy Spirit’s power and God’s grace, let’s try to live as obedient sons and daughter’s of the King of Kings.

Let’s prune out gossip and slander.

Let’s cut away the hate toward those who are not like us, yet they are created in the image of God.

Let’s seek to become more like Jesus. Love like He loved. Serve like He served. Obey the Father, at any cost. Spend time in the Word, and talk to your Savior.

We can’t cancel the effects of sin in this world. But His love will make this a better place.

From His Hand

Psalm 105:2

Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts.
 
Making the adjustment from full time ministry to life back home on Mill Lane has had some challenges for me. I miss the days that I got to sit with the hurting or the sick in Carla village. I miss the Ati kids and the wonderful way they welcome my kids in the village and how they drank up Carrie’s teaching of God’s word in Tagalog. I miss my friends and special friend and helper, Emmalyn. 
 
I have decided that the best course of action is to strive to live in the moment and embrace the work God has for me now,  no matter where He plants us in this life. So when I am in the Philippines, I will enjoy coconuts, pineapple, fresh tuna, the simplistic life of the village and the love of those very special people. When I am here, I will embrace the wonders of American life; cheese and variety of foods, gardening and canning, Bible studies and Christian books and my family and friends here.
 
This week I made my first visit to a favorite old haunt, the Morrison’s Cove Produce Auction. I had a few extra cucumbers from Mom’s garden and decided to make some old-fashioned Bread and Butter pickles that I had been craving. I ended up with a 1/2 bushel of cucumbers, 1/2 bushel of candy onions and a peck of peppers. 
 
The first day I made a two batches of Bread and Butter pickles. This didn’t even put a dent in my cuke supply, so I began searching the internet for other recipes.
Next I made a batch of Sweet and Hot Relish. Still lots of cukes…
 
A friend from church heard about my pickling spell and offered her favorite recipe, given to her by a dear pastor’s wife. This recipe called for a sprig of dill in the bottom of each jar… something I didn’t have on hand.
 
One of the transitional challenges I have had to coming back to the USA, has been the amount of “running” people do. Gas is expensive and the White Whale isn’t the most gas efficient mode of transportation. Consequently, I don’t just “run out” to get things when I discover I am out of something. I learned to make do without many things in the Philippines and I have often employed that skill since arriving home. 
Saturday morning dawned dreary and gray and I planned to finish my pickling spell and finally get the kitchen pulled back in order. As I drank my morning coffee I was looking out the window at my raised bed kitchen garden.
 
“What’s that big tall plant over by the peppers?” I asked Rusty.
 
“I don’t know. I didn’t pull it because it kind of looked like a Queen’s Anne lace, but not really, I thought maybe it was something,” he replied.
 
“From here it sure looks like a dill…” 
 
Sure it enough, it is a dill! Nothing I had planted, but apparently a “volunteer” plant from our tenants last summer or perhaps just a wonderful provision of a loving God.
 
It’s a small thing. But it’s really quite big… that God loves us and cares enough for us to know our needs or even sometimes just the desires of our hearts and He orchestrates creation to provide just what we need, just when we need it.
 
My heavenly dill is in full flower, so I missed my chance to really harvest a lot of leaves, but there were just enough to place a sprig of dill in the bottom of each of the jars for Connie Russell’s Ohio Sweet Pickles… and I will harvest the seeds to try in the aquaponic greenhouse over winter.  And with each dill plant, I will remember the day that God showed his love through a miss placed plant.
 
Image
 

The Head-Heart Connection

I was first introduced to this concept about 10 years ago during a sermon on giving and financial management.

“Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Luke 12:33-34 (ESV, emphasis mine)

Often we think of these passages, (Matthew 6 teaches the same principal) as a way to examine our hearts. I believe it was Dave Ramsey who said that if you want to know what’s important to someone look at their checkbook register. But this sermon put a new twist on this timeless principal… one that enable us to make positive changes in our lives, rather than just examine the results.

The message challenged the listeners to put their money or treasures (time, children, other blessings of this life) where they wanted their hearts to be, because if our treasure is someplace our hearts will naturally follow.

It’s the head-heart connection. When you know what you should do in your head, but your heart is not quite there yet. The speaker that morning challenged us to go ahead and put the “head knowledge” into action and in doing so, your heart will follow.

I believe it is like this with many areas of obedience in our lives. How often do we know, because we study the Word and are growing in knowledge of God’s character and plan for our lives, what we should be doing, but yet we are timid in our hearts to take that step of faith?

A dear friend of mine is passionate about adoption. She had felt God’s call on her life to be an adoptive mother from an early age. She’s passionate that we, God’s people, are God’s plan for the orphan. Life circumstances made adoption seem unlikely for many years for this sweet woman, but God never allowed her to forget His plan for her family.

After the birth of two biological children, that she never thought she’d have, her family was faced with a decision. Would they still obey God and open their home to adopted children, even now that God had provided them with children in the natural way?

My friend is adamant that the next step was just blind obedience. They began the often long process of adoption, only to be surprised that God’s plan was to take a much quicker path. Within nine months, they were in Ethiopia meeting three new sons.

If my friend had waited til the timing was perfect, they might never have obeyed His voice in their lives to open their hearts and homes to these precious boys.

Perhaps the most powerful part of their story happens well after they brought their boys home from Africa, after the boys mastered English enough to communicate well. The youngest one day asked my friend, “Mom, what took you so long to come get us? We waited and waited…”

My friend could only be truthful and tell her sweet boy, “I am sorry. It just took me awhile to obey.”

How is God working in your life today? What areas do you know in your head that you need to surrender to Him, yet your heart resists? May you be encouraged today to step out and faith… do what you know He is asking you to do and your heart will follow.

Image

Provision

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained. Philippians 3:12-15 (ESV)

 

Ever feel like you keep learning the same lessons over and over? I have invested the last two decades in learning “patience” and while I do not feel that I have completely mastered that, it does seem that in the last few years the lessons have moved on some new subject matter.

 

As we arrived back home,  a few people wondered, “what next?”  Our mission gave us a three month grace period to get back on our feet stateside and now that time is quickly coming to anend. We had been praying for God’s direction for Rusty’s employment or business opportunities since before we left Balusbos. Not long after our arrival home, a friend from church approached Rusty about a possible product line for him to sell. There were lots of details to work out, as with any business deal, and the exact structure of the business plan was more or less up to Rusty. 

Image

 

It seemed to me that this business opportunity would be basically resurrecting “Russell Dairy Services, Inc.” with a new product line. God has richly blessed our family through this business over the last 15 years, but as with any business it has it’s draw backs. Somehow I had hoped that God will provide a job or business opportunity that was truly divine… none of the negatives, just showers of blessings! I know, I am terribly idealistic and very unrealistic!

As the weeks passed and the business structure slowly came together, I found my heart resisting more and more. Restarting Russell Dairy Services seemed like such a set back to me. Instead of rejoicing in the blessings of the past, my heart only wanted to focus on the bad parts of the business. Instead of enjoying the comfort of familiarity, I wanted to complain to God that He had not given us something new and wonderful. 

How often are we like discontented, spoiled children? When it rains, we want sunshine and when it’s hot and sunny, we grumble that it hasn’t rained. Praise to our heavenly Father for His immense patience towards us, his often ungrateful children.

 

The other lesson that I seem to be learning recently is how to wait on the Lord. By this I don’t mean waiting on the Lord for the big things of life, though there has been plenty of practice in that area as well. What I seem to be learning, little by little, bit by bit, is how to rest in knowing that He is in control. My heart often resists, even when I clearly see Him moving in our family. My mind knows that God is in control and that He will take care of us. Sometimes it just takes a little while for my heart to catch up with my mind. It’s during these times that I need to slow down and rest in Lord, allowing Him to change my heart and soften my overbearing or controlling spirit. 

One of the most practical tools I have discovered for adjusting my heart during this time of watching and waiting on God, is to focus on the blessings and things I have to be thankful for. I am finding that as I focus on all that God has done in our lives, through our ministry, and in our church, I am less prone to wanting anything but what He has planned for me. In this time of rest and waiting, I am growing and learning again that He will comfort, He will bless and He will provide. 

May you find yourself waiting on the Lord and counting your blessings today… and everyday!

Image

Fish 4 the Hungry

The Russell family is pleased to announced that we’ve finally been blessed with a name and additional direction for the ideas that have been floating around in our heads since February.

Fish 4 the Hungry is our new ministry, focused on employing aquaponics food systems to alleviate hunger around the world. God gave us the name as we were driving across the beautiful flat lands of western OH into Indiana. Rusty and I were headed to the gorgeous north woods of Wisconsin for the first International Aquaponics Conference, held at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.

While there we had an opportunity to not only learn more about the science and methods of aquaponics, but met with missionaries from around the globe with a similar heart to serve the poor and hungry with practical help! God has people positioned in Haiti, Zambia, Nigeria, Indonesia and the Philippines working on using aquaponics to reach the hungry for Jesus!  What a mighty God we serve!

Now that we have a name, we’ve launched a humble website at 

Image

Kristin tours the media beds of vegetables at Nelson-Pade Aquaponics, part of the International Aquaponics Conference

www.fish4thehungry.com 

As you will see at our website, our prototype aquaponics food system is under construction! We hope to have our first fish by July 1 and Kristin already has flats of seedlings started that are just itching to get in the nutritious waters of our media beds and float rafts!!

In other ministry news, Kristin finally followed that still small voice, often prompted by you– fellow believers and soldiers in the fight– to write a book. The first attempt has about six chapters in very rough form right now. We’re trusting that God will provide the time and vision for completion and eventually a publisher. One step at time…

Family wise, we are doing well… finally getting to enjoy some nice weather… we thought we were all going to freeze to death with the brutally cool spring we had in Central PA. The last few days the temps have been in the mid 80′s and while everyone here thinks it’s HOT, we think its just about right. :)

Carrie is working as a counselor at Camp Mantawagan for the summer and Josh works there part-time as a grounds helper. Adam has two jobs on dairy farms, one of which has him (and Rusty) up at 4 am every morning to milk. Levi has been hired out on several odd jobs, helping local farmers with extra chores, cleaning a barn for a fall wedding and picking strawberries.

Jared and Jon have enjoyed getting back together with friends. Both boys will be at church camp this summer. Jon has a big garden out and both boys are currently sitting along the road selling home-brewed iced tea.

Luke and Mark spend much of their days in the creek, fishing or catching crayfish or minnows, usually with a couple of neighborhood boys.

Matthew has a newly expanded vocabulary of all the things he never knew existed in the Philippines! He still talks about life in Balusbos and misses his Ati family very much! 

Last weekend marked one year count down for Ben and Meredith’s wedding. Ben is staying busy at his videography job at Grace Church Sebring and moonlights with a lawn care crew and in the coffee shop at Books A Million. We’re looking forward to our visit in August when we take Carrie to Great Commission Bible Institute. Leaving two children in FL…. that ought to create localized flooding from all the good-bye tears!

Following Jesus is a fun adventure! Sometimes the path a little foggy and seems terribly hard to navigate. Other times the Son is shining the path is clear and bright. Any time, He is right there with us, urging us on, loving us unconditionally and protecting and guiding us. We praise God that He is always with us on the way, as it gives us the strength to follow Him  no matter where He leads!

Blessings to you!

Mission Update

I know, I know… it’s been awfully quiet on here. Sorry about that. Those of you who know me well, know that I love to talk. But when things aren’t “Ok” with me, I get quiet. My husband knows that when I get quiet, there’s trouble…  Maybe I learned that from toddlers, when they were quiet I always knew I had better check on them because that’s usually when they were making the biggest mess.

My silence has not been because I am making a mess, but rather because I am trying to clean one up. The mess has been me. It’s been a rough two months. I won’t lie. Or sugar coat it. Or pretend that everything is wonderful. If you read my blog, you deserve better than that.

Our family flew back to the USA (or ‘Merica, as Matthew calls it) on April 17. We landed and LA and drive from LAX to a little town outside of Sacramento. That was a lovely drive. The gorgeous and nearly unimaginable San Joaquin Valley is an agriculturist dream. Never in my life have I seen so many miles of production agriculture. We literally drove for hours through nothing but orchards, groves, vineyards, cattle lots, and fields. It was definitely worth the price of admission!

Once into the Sacramento area, we picked up a 15 passenger van and started east. We quickly headed into the gorgeous mountains and decided the first day of driving had gone so well that we’d head straight into Reno, NV.

The sights along the route into Reno and through the gorgeous Sierra Nevada mountain ranges into Utah and then into vast Wyoming were wonderful. Our older boys, who had never been further west than Indiana, were glad they got to see some of the amazing diversity in God’s creation here at home. We dropped south a bit into Colorado and saw snow in the Rockies, as we continued east through Kansas in route to Beth’s home in eastern Kansas.

We had a lovely three day visit with Beth and Larry and then drove to Missouri where we had a quick overnight with Russell relations (from both sides of the family!) before the long drive straight home.

There has been an amazing amount of things to adjust to in being home. The temperature, which has been one minute freezing the next minute almost Philippine-like, has been a physical adjustment. The food, type, amount and variety, has been another adjustment. Grocery shopping, running teens to jobs and having the phone ring have all been “new again” experiences that have elicited a variety of emotional responses.

I won’t lie. I am not completely thrilled to be home. It’s been wonderful to see family, we enjoyed a great four day visit with Ben and Meredith over the Memorial Day holiday. It’s been good to reconnect with friends. But I miss my Philippine home. I miss my Ati friends. And I miss having the feeling of purpose and need in my life.

This experience has been more like a death for me in more ways than I would have ever imagined. I think because of the way it all came about, the feelings are more dramatic. The emotional cycle, for me at least, has been very much like the grief cycle. That means there’s good days and bad days. Days when I can easily accept this is God’s will and plan for my life and days when I feel disconnected from Him and don’t understand His plan.

Pastor Adam preached on Job on Sunday and needless to say I cried through the whole message. The Lord has made a variety of things very clear to me in the past two months and has shown me ways that He has used these circumstances to protect me, teach me and guide me.

“‘Mericans” like to know what’s up and apparently by our very nature, we are obsessive planners. Consequently people have asked us frequently if we are “settled in” and if Rusty has a job. The short answer is no and no. We don’t have a plan, but in a way we feel like that’s OK, because we aren’t supposed to be the “planners” anyway. That’s God job. So we are waiting on Him.

Does that mean my husband sits around all day waiting for God to give him the answer? No, he’s out talking to people and selling ag products to make some cash to support our family. Or he’s reading more about aquaponics or designing an aquaponics system in our former dog kennel. We are just taking the next step, doing the next thing, trusting the Lord– one day at a time.

We know He’s calling us to serve Him. We know He’s given us a burden for “the least of these” impoverished people. He has blessed us with a heart that wants to serve His children who have the most basic human needs unmet (food, water, ect) as well as the most significant of all needs, the need to know, love and serve Jesus as Savior.

What does that look like? Well, that part we aren’t sure of yet. We are learning about aquaponics, believing that it has the potential to greatly impact the need for healthy food in third world countries and impoverished urban centers all over the world.

There’s more about aquaponics in our latest supporter newsletter.  If you’d like to be on our mailing list, please email me at dozenrussells@gmail.comImage

Thanks for praying for our family. Thanks for allowing me to be real. Thanks for your patience during my days of silence. I hope you will be inspired to encourage someone with a smile, a word of encouragement or a note today. You never know who might really need it and even if they are having a great day… everyone loves to be encouraged! Won’t you ask God to send you someone to bless today?

Clarity

This walk of faith is not always easy for me. I like to know what’s going on. I’d like to know the future. Or at least that’s what I always think when we’re in the midst of some big decision…

Realistically I know that I really don’t want to know the future. I truly believe that our all-knowing, loving God protects us from things in the future until we are ready for them. Like a loving parent who gradually allows a child more and more freedom to explore the world, God holds us back sometimes until He knows we can handle it.

For quite a while Rusty and I have been praying for clarity in a particular situation. I don’t know what I thought the outcome would be, I guess I had not really thought through all the potential options. I was so focused to getting clarity, knowing what it was that we were supposed to do next, that I didn’t even think about how that might look when it finally happened.

I have a bit of a tendency to worry and “over think” things. I must regularly give this over to Jesus, especially in the last 20 years. It’s been a life-long part of my sin nature, as I clearly remember my Mom admonishing my tendency to worry about everything as a child. She used to say, “You’re gonna have a heart attack by the time you are 30!”  Thankfully she was wrong… but no doubt in large part to the healing and restorative power of the Holy Spirit in my life.  I know that He is working in me because I am not who I used to be!

Living a Christian life of faith and reliance on God might seem like a cool adventure to some, but others are frustrated by the lack of control over their own lives and circumstances. To be honest, I have found myself in both camps. Especially when there is a life changing decision on the table, I want to get impatient and have answers. The Old Testament tells a story of sweet old woman named Sarah, who was so godly that God had promised to make her the mother of his chosen people, a great nation. Her reaction to God’s promise was to laugh out loud and her impatience with God’s time line caused her to take matters into her own hands. The world is still reeling from her bad decision… a reminder to me of the eternal consequences of not waiting on God!

I am learning, albeit slowly, that waiting on God works every time. It’s the waiting part that is so hard. The enemy whispers lies that you’ve missed the answer or that God is not going to come to your rescue or that you made this mess yourself… so you had better clean it up. It’s easy to forget that God loves us and pursues us with a love and a faithfulness we cannot even comprehend. That’s why reading His Word is so important while we pray and wait for God’s time and God’s answer. I have found that He will answer, in His time, which is perfect for me, whether it felt like it or not during the wait.

Watching God work in our family has been an amazing adventure. When He opens doors for us, it is so exciting to follow His lead, knowing that we are safely in the will of our loving Heavenly Father. Often things don’t make sense on a human level, which can be a challenge for our teens who are still young in their faith or for unsaved friends and family who find our ways very strange indeed. Following Jesus wholeheartedly brings a supernatural peace, even in those situations that don’t make sense humanly.

Today I would like to encourage you to stay strong if you are praying for answers, wisdom or clarity. Remember you are not alone, the path of faith you are walking is narrow and sometimes rocky, but there are many who have walked this way before. Don’t lose hope, Jesus will answer and His answer is ALWAYS worth the wait! And the “peace that passes understanding” will flood your soul…

Philippians 4:7

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Image

Path into the Ati village.
Photo credit Carrie Russell

Perspective

Today was another busy day full of ministry. Like many days, it was full of surprises and “divine” appointments. Most of what happened today was not “good” but it was good to be here to be God’s hands to the suffering. 

It started out with what seemed like a bad decision with transportation, that enabled me to be in the right place at the right time, as our dear friend Janet had another attack of pain and shortness of breath. I met them in the road, as they were making their way to the hospital. Though I was already late for meeting another Ati woman to take her to have her foot wound cleaned, I immediately jumped in the back of the trike to the local hospital. 

The staff, already familiar with Janet’s grave condition, gave her immediate attention and oxygen. Quickly the doctor looked over her new medication list and the notes from Janet’s new cardiologist. Her face was compassionate and serious as she told me they would do what they could to make her comfortable– ease her chest pain and supplement her with oxygen. The doctor asked about the age of Janet’s youngest child (3) and her face was solemn as she told me that these episodes will continue, getting more frequent, as Janet’s condition declines.

At about the same time, our trike driver appeared at the door, with Evelyn, the woman with the foot wound. I asked them to wait a minute, and told Janet and Junior, her husband, that I needed to take another patient to the main hospital in Caticlan. I prayed with them, kissed her forehead and headed out to my next “job.”  

As we drove the 3 km to town, I thought of the implications of the doctor’s words. Of a young mother getting weaker and weaker… Of a husband watching the mother of his children slip away… Of five sweet kids who will need to be more independent  and take care of each other and their mother and home as the weeks and months progress.

The visit to Baptist hospital was fairly uneventful. There were five Ati patients hospitalized, but three of them were in the process of being discharged to go home. Our special little baby Amy, is there again… Another bout of diarrhea and dehydration for the world’s tiniest one year old. The doctor wanted to switch her to distilled water for her formula preparation, so I located a source for that and brought them a jug back to the hospital.

After a quick stop at home to prep for the feeding at Carla, grab him quick bite to eat and pull together food to take back to the folks in the hospital, I found myself sitting in Janet’s hospital room. She feebly ate about four bites of rice and laid back down In pain. As I watched her rapid and painful breathing, I thought about the wonderful priviIege I have to be here to hold her hand. 

I have lead a life of privilege. Janet’s condition was caused by an untreated strep infection that destroyed her heart valves. Poverty created her situation and continues to cause her suffering. 

 

I am thankful that Janet is not only a friend, but more importantly a sister in Christ. I am thankful that I have had excellent health care, affordably available to me throughout my life. I am thankful that we have always had enough to eat, a house with electricity, running water and modern conveniences. Janet has never had any of those things. I am thankful I have not had to make hard choices about my children’s futures or even whether or not I had the resources to care for them, like some of our Ati friends have had to wrestle with.

It was a good day, even though some “not so good” things happened. I pray that my help is a blessing to those in need, because I love to serve them and the perspective their lives bring to mine, is worth more than I could ever express or hope to repay.