Following in Faith…

hand and hand medicalTHANK YOU to all who took time out of their day to pray for “E” and his family in their emergency. (Click here for the backstory) I’m happy to report that he is now at home, continuing his recovery under the loving care of his wife and community, with the assistance of a local doctor who graciously agreed to transfer him to his care.

The hardship of having a patient in a hospital almost 2 hrs from home was wearing hard on “E’s” wife as well as the entire family who was tasked with caring for the couple’s 5, 3 and 1 year old children. After 18 days of IV medications, the provincial hospital decided to release his care to another doctor near us, enabling the family to be reunited. E’s treatment will continue for many, many months and we continue to pray that God will fully restore his mind.

Meningitis is a dangerous disease and even more deadly here where treatment options are so limited. The family has been blessed by God with a second chance. E’s wife could have ended up like so many others in the tribe– young and widowed with many small children to care for. We’re praising Jesus for His healing power and thankful for whatever small part we played in that.

Thanks to a generous donor from our sending church, we will be able to not only help continue the medical treatment, but assist the family with basic groceries til their bread winner is able to get back to work.

That, my friends, is what following Jesus looks like…

Over the last eight months we’ve been presented with several opportunities to walk along side folks in the tribe that are facing enormous medical challenges. We’ve found that not only has obedience to Matthew 25:34-45 and James 2 been powerful in our own personal walk with Jesus, but doing things God’s way has opened doors to share the Gospel.

Go figure, when we do it God’s way… there’s blessing AND growth.

 If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food,  and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? ~~James 2:15-16

You can be a part of this Jesus sharing ministry, too.

Please continue to pray for E– physically and spiritually that He will some day acknowledge the love and truth of Jesus. We’re trusting that God will use this ’emergency-turned-saga’ for His glory in the days, weeks and months ahead.

You can pray for the Ati people. Pray for open hearts and God’s work in their lives.

You can give, too, and help us walk along side our Ati friends when tragedy


Your gifts to our medical outreach will enable us to help with life-saving medicines. You can give someone like “E” a second chance at life and the opportunity not only hear about Jesus, but see the difference He makes in your life! 


Define: Emergency

open doorIt was a typical Saturday night, dinner was over, the guys group boys had headed home, showers were done, or nearly done and Rusty and I settled into our room to watch a K-Love’s Mercy Me concert online.

Luke came to our door an announced, “We have visitors…”

The next few minutes were a jumble of languages and emotions. Instantly we knew something was very wrong. The local pastor and his wife had brought an Ati lady whose husband had been sick over the last few weeks. In and out of the hospital twice in the last 14 days, we thought he was getting better…  but now the situation seemed so grave.

This morning he awoke but could not talk. His hands shook and his eyes stared off. The family took him to the local hospital but there was no hope there. The doctor said something was wrong with his brain and he needed to go to the provincial hospital in the city.

The wife looked exhausted and distressed. The fear of losing her husband in her thirties was real and painted a picture of pain that was hard to look at.

“We have no money”

The pastor’s wife explained that they were going to a village friend’s home who was a member of the local town council, to see about getting use of the area’s ambulance for the transport to the city about 2 hrs away. We promised to help however we could, including traveling with them in the ambulance tonight if needed.
Within an hour and half a text came from the pastor saying that they located the ambulance and would be leaving soon. The village friend had offered to go with the couple for the night and we could meet them at the hospital first thing in the morning.

Sunday morning dawned and Rusty was on his way to the provincial hospital. When he arrived he found the patient tied to the bed, eyes rolling back in his head, restless and agitated. There were medicines needed that the hospital did not stock, so he quickly purchased those at several of the small pharmacies that line the street facing the hospital. The medicines were expensive, just a 24 hrs supply cost more than an entire month’s salary for the patient.

A CT scan was ordered. The government hospital does not have a working machine, but fortunately a newly built cooperative hospital across town housed both trained staff and functioning equipment. The cost of this necessary diagnostic test was nearly a month and half wages for laborer, like our patient.

Back at the provincial hospital the wife and Rusty had a long afternoon of trying to soothe the patient and discourage him from tearing out his IV and catheter. Shortly afternoon the wife made a sigh of frustration as she noticed her shirt was wet. Many hours away from her nursing child left this mother uncomfortable and in need of relief.

Rusty texted me this update and in a few hours I was on my way to the city with the youngest member of the family and a helper from the village. The mother smiled to see her precious daughter again, a beautiful picture of hope and life amidst the gray, hopelessness that surrounded her in the overcrowded medical ward of the hospital. She went outside to nurse the baby and enjoy a few hours of bonding and fresh air. We sat with the patient, sometimes holding his hands and massaging them to help release the tense grip and tugging to be free. We used a section of an old cardboard box to fan him, and occasionally dabbed away the perspiration from a combination of an overheated room and the physical exertion of restlessness.

His situation seemed desperate. Yet no one on staff was desperate to help. Family members of other patients, nearly 18 beds crammed into a small ward, looked sympathetically in our direction. He was clearly the sickest person in the ward. It was clear too, that they were Ati and poor and though everyone shared in the same misery of poor ventilation, high temperatures, inadequate beds and the trials of illness, a few of the families offered the wife a few extra pesos to help with their needs.

It was well after dark and public transportation is sometimes difficult to find as the hours get later, so we headed back home with the baby and her helper. It was a physical relief to walk out of the hospital, but our hearts were heavy for the situation our friends were in and our heads were begging for answers.

Why was he so sick?

What could be done to help him?

Would he live?

Very early the next day Rusty returned to the hospital, expecting a treatment plan to already be in place. The doctor’s morning rounds had only ordered more of the same expensive medications and there was still no official “read” on yesterday’s CT scan. Even though we’ve walked this path with Ati patients before, it’s always hard for us to accept the brokeness of the public hospital system here. Only the rich can afford private care, which leaves the public hospital over-run with needy patients. Even those who have the government health care plan, like our patient, must endure long waits for care and treatment. Everyone is in the same boat and few people have greater expectations. But we know it doesn’t have to be this way. And that time is not usually your friend in matters of the brain. So Rusty begins to ask the hard questions– “When will we have the results of the CT scan?”

The nurse reported that we will have the results in another 24-48 hrs. Rusty replied that this is unacceptable. After all, he paid an extra fee for a STAT reading. He decided to travel back across town to the facility were the CT scan was done to ask them about the STAT reading. He’s greeted at the radiology department with the official reading. Back across town, he presented the results to the nurse who takes them immediately to the doctor on call in the emergency department. The CT scan revealed swelling and fluid in the brain. The doctor’s recommendation is another transfer, this time to the government hospital in the next province, about 4 hrs away.

I received a text from Rusty with the news of a possible transfer as I am getting the couple’s children, ages 5, 3, and 1 into a public transportation van to come visit their mother. Another feeding is needed, and the mother is desperate for a few happy moments with her children who’ve been in the care of family members in the village throughout this ordeal. It’s been a few years since I’ve had three children under 5, but it felt strangely familiar even though we only share a few words in common. Before too long, the older two children were asleep, the sweet 2 yr old girl on my chest and her strong and handsome almost 5 year old brother curled up on the seat beside us.

By the time we arrive in the city, the family still has no answers. There are only more questions. How will he be transported? The provincial hospital doesn’t have an ambulance that travels outside of the province. The community ambulance that brought him here from the local hospital isn’t available for this trip either. Perhaps they could ask at the capital. Then there were the fees. First for the ambulance, then for the driver, and next for an ICU nurse because the patient is in grave condition. Grave condition, yes, but yet little is being done here to help him!

We take Mom and the kids to a local restaurant for lunch and a break from the stress. She looks exhausted but somewhat happy to see the joyful antics of her sweet children who are completely unaware of the seriousness of their situation.

Finally around 4 in the afternoon a neurologist comes to assess the patient. Having read the CT scan results and the patient’s history, she makes her recommendation. The swelling in his brain is causing his symptoms but she does not think a shunt is necessary. She strongly advises against transfer to the public hospital which she characterized as even more overcrowded and understaffed than this one. She said she’s personally known of patients who were transferred there who waited an entire month to have surgery! Her best recommendation would be a private hospital in the larger city, but estimated those costs to be between 350,000-450,000 pesos (around $10,000 USD). Knowing that the patient is an indigenous farmer, she quickly rules out that option.

The neurologist decides that the swelling is most likely caused by either meningitis or tuberculous of the brain. Both are serious infections, but best treated by high strength IV medications. She insists that he be moved to either a private room or the isolation ward in case the disease is contagious. She orders the first round of medication– that again cost two month’s worth of  a worker’s salary. men-praying-hands

It can feel overwhelming to us as we walk with people through these medical trials. There’s a real sense of hopelessness and desperateness about a person when they are faced with a life or death situation and have no ability to get the help they need. Prayer is of course key during these times, a constant abiding comfort that God sees our circumstances and hears our cries to Him. Prayers offered in Malaynon and English, prayers begging for healing, for rest, and provision for the unimaginable needs financially.

The prayers of the saints around the globe carry and sustain, both our family as we walk with those suffering and those who’s lives have been forever changed by the health crisis they are now facing.

The end of this story has not been written, but there’s great comfort in knowing that God knows, He sees and He hears and most of all He loves. This can no better be expressed than in a simple, yet powerful prayer shared by one of our precious prayer warriors:

Father God, You not only made but you also love “E”. Lord, You have allowed this infection to be in his brain and You are able to touch him and do away with it. Father, if it please You, this is what I ask for “E” to Your glory, so that the Ati people would see Your care and Your mercy though this situation. Lord God, You are the Great Physician, You know every cell in his body and nothing is too big or too difficult for You.Thank you that You love “E” and desire only the best for him.

 We appreciate your prayers for this family and their situation. We share their story, first in an effort to flood Heaven with prayers for our patient’s healing. But we also hope that you will reflect on your blessings– those of good health, quality healthcare, and options in a time of need. If you are moved to join us in our mission to be the hands and feet of Jesus to those less fortunate among us, we hope you will explore this blog and our ministry website to learn more about partnering with us in this ministry. Thanks for your prayers!

Thoughts on a Rainy Day

photo (39)It’s rainy season here, which because of an El Nino cycle the Philippines is in this year rainy season has been a bit of a hot, sunny disappointment. But today we have an good, old-fashioned rain day… not unlikely a snow day in PA where the focus and pace of life is distinctively different and perhaps even a little reflective.

As I reflect over the last month or so of life in the Philippines I’m reminded of God’s goodness and faithfulness to us as a family. Even though the temperatures are crisp and the leaves aren’t transforming into brilliant reds, oranges and yellows here, I am feeling the spirit of thanksgiving.

In light of this week’s events, specifically, first I am thankful for God’s gracious provision. He has faithfully shown us again and again that He is trustworthy and we need not fret for He will provide. Now, I’d be less than truthful if I allowed you to believe that I never worry. There are days when the demands of ministry and the great needs of the people we minister too overwhelm me and cause me to take my eyes off of Jesus as Provider. I wonder how there will be enough pesos to help with the medical needs or how we can bring clean water to the village without a line item in the budget.

Then this week, at the very moment that we were having a discussion with our mission director about fundraising needs for the ministry, we received an email from a friend of the ministry telling us of his substantial donation to the Clean Water project. My first reaction was speechlessness… which literally continued for a while as I tried to wrap my mind around the idea that God had meet our need. He had met the need of the tribal people to have safe water to drink. He had heard our cry to Him and He answered!

We’re reading through the Gospels as a family. As we read, it’s struck me how often Jesus has to say “Oh you of little faith!” (Matthew 8:26, Matthew 6:30, Matthew 14:31, Matthew 16:8, Matthew 17:20 and more!)and then I look in the mirror and know that the same is just as true of me. He has proven over and over that He is a faithful provider and yet I allow myself to take my eyes off the Master and begin to sink in the waters of circumstances. I’m like Peter who boldly stepped out of the boat and onto the water to walk to Jesus, only to see the huge waves crashing around me and begin to doubt or fear. (Matthew 14:22-33)

I’ve found through the years of raising many children, homeschooling, being self-employed business owners, reaching out to people at home and abroad that it sadly does not take much to get my eyes of Jesus. But thankfully as I’ve aged, I find it easier to turn around and meet the gaze of the Savior. He’s always there waiting for me to stop trying, stop controlling, stop fretting…. and fall into His arms.

I think that’s the thing about getting older and hopefully wiser that I love the most, the depth of love and relationship I can experience with my Savior. I remember as a young mom attending a hymn sing where we sang, “What a friend we have in Jesus.” I remember thinking how sweet it must be for the “senior saints” in our fellowship to sing those old, precious words. Yet, the older I get, the more I cherish that friendship, knowing Him more, trusting Him more, loving Him more. And how sweet to know that He has loved me the very same, every day. Whether I’m leaning hard on Him or selfishly fluttering in my own strength, Jesus never changes. What a sweet and beautiful truth!

So I reflect on God’s goodness and pray that I will have the faith to trust Him even more!

What things do you allow to take your eyes off of Jesus?

Can I pray with you for more faith to trust Him more?

This life of faith is a journey we all walk together. I would love to hear from you, pray for you and share our walk Jesus with you! Let’s be the church to each other!

The God who Provides

10869880_10153530433879540_1058087322747146526_oEach morning Rusty takes Matthew to Carla to attend preschool with his Ati classmates. The morning usually includes harvesting vegetables from the community garden and sharing them with the school lunch program or mothers who are happy to include the fresh veggies into their family’s simple meal plans of rice and dried fish. This particular morning Rusty had an “appointment” to take an older gentleman for an ultrasound. The patient had had abdominal pain for more than two weeks, and having completed the prescribed regimen of oral antibiotics with no relief, was referred for an ultrasound evaluation. As they prepared to travel into town on a tricycle, the son in law of the patient “J” asked Rusty if it would be OK for his brother in laws wife to come along for an ultrasound, too. The young wife was obviously very pregnant and the family said they were hoping to learn when the baby would come. Rusty agreed and the small group made their way to town.

The only ultrasound within 2 hrs is a twice weekly clinic held in a combination pharmacy and tiny doctors office. A local doctor, who we count as a friend, has established this clinic setting, that while usually quite busy and overcrowded, is an essential blessing to the community. This day was particularly busy and the group of patients and family supporters along with Rusty waited on the street for a couple of hours until it was their turn.

As is often the case, since in the Philippines priority is given to pregnant mothers in any queue, the expectant mom we’ll call “M” went first. The doctor that performs the ultrasounds is an MD and trained radiologist and she quickly determined that “M” and her baby were grave danger. Doc came to find Rusty and explain that the baby was in distress and that there was almost no fluid protecting the baby. She recommended that she be admitted immediately and have a cesarean delivery as soon as possible.

This is not so simple. There are no surgical facilities at the nearest hospital. Emergency surgery first means a 2 hr ride to the nearest city.

Uncharacteristically, Rusty left his phone on the charger at the house that morning. At about the same time he was learning of the emergency situation, I was being visited by the family of another young mother who had also been transported to the regional hospital. Thankfully, this mother had avoided a surgical birth, but was in need of our assistance and the family asked if I could go to her.

With school finished for the day, I quickly showered and left to catch first a tricycle to town and then a van to the city. I told the older kids where I was going and that I expected Dad home soon and to please, remind him to check his phone as soon as he got home.

About 10 mins into the two hour van journey I got a text from Rusty. I asked how his elderly patient was, as we expected there was potentially an appendicitis issue that may also need surgery and therefore transport to the city hospital. He said that he didn’t know but he was not far behind us with another patient, an emergency cesarean. We discussed the pros and cons of the several hospital options and decided that we only had one chance to make the right decision. He sent me ahead to the newer, better equipped private hospital to let them know that there was an emergency cesarean coming in a private van. Rusty had hired a private van because the wait for an ambulance is often long here and it seemed to him that time was of the essence.

Once the patient and her family arrived in the city, things moved quickly. The ER doctor accessed the situation and agreed with the ultrasound doctor’s diagnosis, confirmed by a still sky-rocketing fetal heart rate. We also learned that “M’s” water had broken on Saturday (this was Monday) but no labor had started. Thank God she was brave enough to ask for help, even though she had no idea the seriousness of her situation, God was working in her life! The OB on call was summoned and within ten mins she arrived and began to assemble the surgical team to do the delivery. “M’s” mother was a littler leery of the financial estimate that the hospital staff gave for the cost of the birth and after care. “M” dates had the baby at only 35 weeks gestation and the medical team was concerned that there could be additional pre-term issues with the baby. We reassured her that this was what needed to be done to save the baby and maybe even her daughter’s life and that we were trusting God to provide. Reluctantly she agreed. But seemed stressed not only by the grave situation they found themselves in, but the looming bill that accompanied these troubles. We stopped and prayed with her and asked God to protect “M” and the baby and provide for their needs.

Before dark, our first time mom, with little understanding of what was about to happen except that her baby was going to be born, was wheeled into the surgical suite. We waited in the OB ward with “M’s” mother, husband and brother in law. It was a long silent wait as they nervously shuffled their feet in their flip flops and patiently waited for news. After what seemed like too long for me, the guys took a walk and not long after they left the room a nurse invited “M’s” mom and I to come to the NICU.

photo (26)

“Behold, God is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life” Psalm 54:4

Praise the Lord we were greeted by a smiling pediatrician holding a beautiful, healthy newborn baby girl! Weighing in at 3 kilos, she was a healthy full term baby, despite the challenges of the last few days. A few hours later “M” was wheeled back to her room and the stress of the surgery and the situation seemed to wear on her face. She was silent as I congratulated her and told her how beautiful her little girl was. It was all too much to take in for a first time mom from the village. Having had five cesarean deliveries myself, I knew exactly how she felt.

We were amazed at the beautiful way God had orchestrated this potentially fatal situation on behalf of this young family. We truly acted on faith as our monthly medical budget was more than exhausted by the estimated cost of the care. We shared the praise report of a healthy mother and baby with our prayer team and shared too the need for additional gifts to cover the costs. At first we had a three replies, and we were encouraged! As the week came to a close, though, it was time for “M” and baby to be discharged and this meant payment in full of the bill. The final cost was lower than the high end estimate, but still racked up to $1790 USD. A bargain in the American medical system, but exceedingly more than even middle class Filipino families could shoulder and well above what was left in our medical budget. We pulled resources from our other areas of expenses and trusted that God would provide still in some way. We never told anyone how much we were short, but trusted that God knew and that He must surely have a plan.

Almost a week later, we received a note from a friend at home, who wanted to let us know that $1200 had been sent to our mission to help with “M’s” bills from a group of friends and supporters at home. This was exactly the amount that we had been short, demonstrating once again that God is our sure Provider.

He provided a safe delivery for “M” and her baby. He provided the facilities and staff that are not locally available. He put it in “M’s” heart to ask for help. And now He provided every dollar to meet the need of the bill.

Praise the Lord! May the news of His greatness be spread throughout the Earth!

The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season. You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing. ~Psalm 154:15-16

P.S. The older gentleman did indeed have an appendicitis issue, but was able to resolve it with IV antibiotics and a brief hospital stay. He’s now at home too, finishing his recovery before he returns to work. In fact, all six of the indigenous patients hospitalized on this particularly busy week are home and expected to make full recovery. Praise the Lord!

To find out more about our mission to the indigenous peoples of the Philippines, see our ministry website or email us directly.   http://www.cjmi.orglogo1

A Day in the Life… Part 2

       The local hospital is about a 15 minute tricycle ride away. Established by the founders of our mission, when they on field here in 70’s and 80’s, Aklan Baptist Hospital, though under new ownership still honors the founders commit to serve the Ati indigenous people. Check-ups (a visit with the doctor almost always because of a problem) are free and if a patient needs to be admitted their stay and doctors care while admitted are free as well. Patients only need to pay for labs, x-rays and medicines. Any patient that is admitted and also has PhilHealth has the majority of those costs covered by insurance. However many times people do not seek medical care because they don’t even have the money to pay for the trike ride into the hospital.
       The new baby, his mother, and his grandmother arrived at our house at 1 pm and Rusty and I switched roles in our tag-team mission here. Rusty resumed school with Jon, helping him with his pre-algebra work, while making sure Levi got to his Pre-Calculus which comes to him by way of BJU HomeSat DVDs. In between math assignments Rusty researches Philippine farming methods and information sheets on local vegetables and pests. Sometime around 2 the donut man comes through the neighborhood pedaling his bike, ringing his bell and selling big sugar coated donuts 5 pesos a piece.
        Meanwhile back at the hospital, we waited for the 1:30 start up time at the hospital, after their 2 hr noon break. Today the doctor on duty was one of my favorites, even though the grandmother of our patient had hoped for the older doctor who they consider to be the best “baby doctor” at the hospital. In the Philippines there’s a policy that pregnant women, senior citizens and the disabled always go first in line, so we were the second to be seen, after an older gentleman. The doctor at first seemed concerned by the mass on the baby’s head, but quickly assured us that it was a normal hematoma, likely a product of a difficult delivery and that it would resolve itself in a few days to a week. But what was concerning him was the baby’s yellow coloring and at 8 days of age, he felt this was indicative of an infection and wanted to start him on IV antibiotics. He offered to administer them on an out-patient basis, twice a day for a week, or to admit the baby today and take a slightly more aggressive course for the first two days. He asked which I preferred and I told him to ask the family. They opted to have the baby admitted today.
         Getting the IV in this tiny newborn was not an easy or particularly pleasant experience, but after three attempts the team was successful in his little foot. The baby’s mother, just 16 yr old herself, seemed a little overwhelmed and sad and I tried to reassure her and encourage her while we waited. Still it was hard for me to walk away with the baby’s grandmother, leaving her and her precious little one in the hospital nursery alone.
       I came home to busy house of conversations, games and lunch clean up. The isolation has been good for the family relationships. I feel like the kids play better together now than they ever have and most of the times they are using their imaginations together. We remind everyone what day it is as plans are made for the next activity, our twice weekly Praise and Prayer time in the village. I remembered to defrost the meat for tonight’s dinner, a rare treat of grilled hamburgers, only the second time in over 4 months that we’ve found beef that looked worthy of purchase.
       The family departed for Carla village for Praise and Prayer time a little after 4 pm, Jon and Matthew on Jon’s bike and the rest of us on foot. We met up with two partially full tricycles at the end of our road and then proceeded into the village. We walked in, greeting children and mothers and grandmothers along the way. Rusty and Jon gathered some fresh cow patties for the compost bins and the rest of visited with friends, gathered chairs and watched the children play. After about 20 mins a nice sized group had formed, and after Rusty returned from a quick hike to the upper village to help the family with the hospitalized baby with travel expenses, we began our Praise and Prayer time.
      Carrie has been leading our worship time with a group of nine mostly Tagalog praise songs and her guitar. We sing a variety of songs each time, and today our list was di ctated by the forgotten capo. We sang three beautiful worship songs together and then continued our Bible reading from the book of Mark, the only book of the Bible ever translated into Malaynon.
     We then asked for prayer requests, which are generally given in a mix of Tagalog and Malaynon, and sometimes English when they feel like they aren’t making themselves understood and someone in the group knows the English words. Today we heard requests to pray for a husband who injured his leg working in the rice fields, the hospitalized baby, safety for Carrie’s travel and their request that God would send her back to them soon, the need for reliable transportation for the many Ati school children who lives in the furthest village from the Ati schools as well as for Rusty and I to have success in learning Malaynon. Rusty opened our prayer time and several of the men and one of the women prayed aloud before I closed our time in prayer to the Lord. A few more conversations ensued while the children dispersed to play. Rusty made arrangements for our dear Ati friend with a tricycle to pick up his patient early in the morning for their trip to Kalibo for follow-up care. We talked about a possible field for sale that could be a good location for hospital. I told a couple of the ladies about Luke’s birthday party on Sunday and then we headed for home. Our friend drove us on his tricycle, but Jon and Matthew were already home and had unlocked the house.
     Thursdays are “sari-sari” night, where the Russell kids get somewhere between $ .50-1.10 US value in pesos to spend on snacks or treats at the small stores in the neighborhood. I had Jon take our landlord the utilities payment for July and used the change from that to give the kids their weekly spending money. Rusty and Carrie started working on the charcoal fire and making hamburgers while I retreated in frustration and exhaustion to my room and my fan.
      I was profoundly impacted again at Praise and Prayer time how handicapped we will be when Carrie leaves. It’s been so nice the last 4 months having her here to help with music and language. As the prayer meeting has grown, the language barrier seems larger to me.  It’s so hard to listen to several people talking at once, as they share their requests and search for the right things to say or agree with each other as they share. Tonight I am exhausted mentally. I love having our kids at Praise and Prayer time, but they often will try to talk to me when others are speaking in Malaynon. I have to focus so hard to follow conversation in Tagalog or Malaynon that my kids extra noise just seems to push me over the top. By the time we’re done in the village I just want to be alone. Since quiet doesn’t exist here, I just turn up the music and try and tune them out. Yes, I do feel like a lousy mom. And I’m thankful that the feeling doesn’t last. But I absolutely come home some evenings completely spent and needing to reset, refresh and reload.

     But dinner prep is calling so I leave my retreat for the role of sous chef. It really was the perfect storm food wise this week… good quality hamburger rolls (finding ANY hamburger rolls is a challenge, ones that taste good is a really big deal), reasonable quality meat, and we even splurged for tomato ketchup! The food storm happened because I had to be in Kalibo with Carrie earlier this week to pick up her passport and exit visa.  I happened to have red tomatoes, yellow onions, mustard (rare too!) and American style mayo (brought all the way from Manila!). It was a delicious dinner, nicely complemented by four small crabs the neighbors gave us! I even managed to gather goods from afar to make cheddar macaroni salad! That’s cheddar cheese carried home from Manila, mayo from manila, plain yogurt in place of sour cream from Kalibo, hand chopped sweet pickles to make relish and carrots instead of bell peppers because there aren’t any peppers available now. It was very, very close to home!

     It’s a quarter after 7 and we’re still eating dinner, we sit around a small glass coffee table, some kids on small plastic white chairs, some on the floor, a few on the sofa and Rusty and I on the always present green plastic chairs. Jon’s best friend from the neighborhood pops his head in the gate, looking for Jon. Every night, sometime around 7:30 or 8 pm, Jon takes his buddy on his bike (two people on a bike here is sort of the norm) to a little mom and pop restaurant up the road. It’s literally a small grill and some pre-prepared foods in the front of their house. Each night Jon’s friend buys steamed rice and usually BBQ (skewers of marinated pork, grilled over charcoal) for their dinner. Jon’s friend and his dad are the only ones at home, his mom died and his older brothers have moved to Manila to find work. The dad works on the boats and its just easier for them to buy their simple dinner than to try to cook for two after a long day on the water.
      Tonight its Jared’s night to do the dishes and dinner clean up. He does a great job at it and we’ve decided recently to encourage him in this skill by offering a small payment for his services. I have a birthday party menu to plan, since we’ve decided to have his party in the village, it’s kind of a big deal. We’re planning games (oh that reminds me…. I need to put prizes on my list!) and a huge clothing giveaway. I’m trying to figure out how to amplify sound, because it will be loud with hundreds of people there…. do we rent a karaoke machine? Everyone would love that….
     It’s not even 8 pm and I’m exhausted and ready for bed. My hubby is still eating his “nobody is counting” serving of cheddar macaroni salad, singing my praises (it is his favorite.) The kids need hair cuts. Luke wants to make his baptism video. So much to do, so little time. :)  The kids are playing and Rusty is outside starting more seedlings for the gardens now, and I’m writing…. Ok, second wind, or just necessity and Luke and Matthew have their hair cuts and the boys are cycling through the shower. Jon’s complaining that the shower is cold.
      Tomorrow will bring another day, mostly different, some things like eating lunch and dinner together usually and school work stay the same. Some mornings I’m called away to the hospital with patients and Rusty does school with the kids. Or they work on what they can on their own til I get back. We’ve all learned to be flexible. And when someone has to go to Kalibo, it helps if you bring back Dunkin Donuts for a treat… or the fixings for grilled hamburgers and cheddar macaroni salad….
     Lights out starts at 8:30, first with Matthew, who sometimes passes out even before, especially if he walked to and from school that day. Mark, Luke and Jon are to be in bed by 8:30 too and lights are off everywhere by 9. The teens bring their devices downstairs so not to be tempted to chat with friends to stay wrapped into their Clash of Clans world. The kids bedrooms are all upstairs and Rusty and I have a room off that kitchen that we still share with Matthew. We lock up the house, refill the water filtration system and call it a night. Most days the day ends the way it began, in prayer together. If there’s energy we talk and sometimes we watch an episode of a favorite American TV show or some nights we just lay in bed and watch the botiki (gecko like lizard) catch bugs on the wall. If we get a really early start on the night, like a night when the kids are watching a movie together or something, we will watch a Francis Chan or other preaching video. It’s awfully nice to have that option, as we couldn’t stream video during our first term.
      So there you have it, friends, a “typical” day in the life of the Russells’. No two are ever quite the same, but you get the idea! Each one finds out pouring ourselves out, leaning hard on Jesus and thankful for the blessings He’s given in every aspect of our lives. Even the hard days, especially in the exhaustion, it’s clear that this mission is His and He IS the power and the love.
PS Rusty was proof-reading for me and the power flashed off. “That would be an interesting end to your story,” he said.
Thankfully, it came back on in a few minutes. That’s always good news!

A Day in the Life… Part one

The day dawned before sunrise with the first crowing of the neighbors’ roosters. Sleepily, I peeked with one eye to see that it was not daylight, rolled over and tried to go back to sleep. But as so often happens, my mind was awake so I laid in bed and prayed while the roosters cried and the sun slowly rose. My first thoughts were thankfulness for my husband who lay snoring softly beside me. And then I prayed for my friends and family at home who’s work days were coming to a close. I prayed about the needs in the Ati community; all the sickness, injury, spiritual blindness and unforgiveness that binds our dear friends. I prayed for wisdom about an upcoming project. And with some sadness I prayed for Carrie and her transition to GCBI, this time as a mentor, and for our transition here without her.

A little before 6, Rusty woke and we prayed together for this new day, asking God to give us eyes to see His work for us this day. About a quarter after 6 a motorcycle with a horn drove by as he does every morning, selling pan de sal throughout the neighborhoods. Rusty jumped out of bed, found 30 pesos and met him at our bamboo gate. Then he started coffee while I re-hydrated from the night with a big glass of water and settled in to my “bed chair” (pillows propped on the bamboo headboard) read my morning Scripture. I’ve been reading through Hebrews and finished chapter 13 and began to read in James.

As the coffee brewed, Rusty sat on the plastic chair near our desk, which is just a plastic table with a pretty table cloth, and began his morning Bible reading. A few minutes later he selfless located headphones for me and I enjoyed an encouraging and challenging word from Tom Barlow, lifelong Grace Brethren missionary now serving in England, but visiting my home church of MGBC. Sometime in the middle of my the message, my sweet hubby brought me a cup of coffee and started waking Matthew up because it was nearly 7 am.

Matthew woke in a reasonable mood and announced that instead of his usual coffee, pan de sal and oatmeal, today he’d like leftover rice with sugar and milk. Matthew currently attends the Carla Ati Learning Center where Carrie is the substitute teacher in his class.

By 7:30 Carrie was out the door to class and the push was on to her Matthew ready and wake the rest of the kids up. Rusty headed out to Carla with Matthew around 7:45. Since Carrie had left fifteen minutes earlier it had started to rain, and Rusty struggled to carry a tray of seedlings for the gardens and hold the umbrella. Today instead of walking to school they walked to the main road and took a tricycle the rest of the way.

School starts at 8 am and most days Matthew is tardy. But today he arrived in time for opening activities. Rusty proceeded to the garden to harvest vegetables for the MASA school lunch program, which feeds about 100 elementary aged kids in a school for Ati children only. This day he also shared vegetables and seedling with ladies in the villages who had interest. They talked about long range plans which could include women from the village working in the garden as it expands and provides even more vegetables.

At home I am busy teaching mark and Luke and supervising the education of Jon, Jared and Levi. The kids pretty much make their own breakfast, today Mark had cinnamon toast, Luke had coffee, Jon toast with jelly (from Manila) and a big cup of coffee, Jared had coffee and pan de sal and Levi had coffee and peanut butter toast. Some days the boys make fried eggs or egg sandwiches, and occasionally they will join their Dad in his daily bowl of heart healthy oatmeal. I hardly ever eat anything for breakfast, still harboring my bad habits from adolescence and apparently inadvertently passing it on my own kids.

Everyone has a set syllabus of school work and recently everyone’s been working fairly freely and independently. We often have discussions about science or history or the Bible. Some days we have impromptu medical discussions fueled by the ever changing needs of the Ati community.

While Luke and Mark worked on their daily math lessons I took some time to open the giving file from our missions home office. I am always so humbled and grateful as I read over the list of friends who financially support us. There’s usually some unexpected blessing hidden among the cells of the excel spreadsheet; the sweet surprise of a gift from someone who hadn’t given before, or the extra gift someone sent along with their monthly support. Like the comfort of an old friend, there’s the faithful and true giving that is reflected in every month on the line being full. These gifts to the Lord, which He has allowed us to use for Him here, are the fresh air of love and encouragement in our lives. Even more than the dollars, the prayers of those who give and those who can’t hold us up like Aaron held up the arms of Moses in Exodus. It’s our joy to pray for these sweet partners in ministry and ask God return their blessing pressed down and running over.

Today’s lunch was macaroni and cheese and tocino (sweet pork product here). Just before I began to boil the pasta water, I checked my phone which had been charging in the bedroom window. I had a new text from Rusty which read:

“Have patient to go to baptist (hospital) after lunch. 8 day old with fluid on skull.”

My heart sank. That can’t be good, I thought. As I waited for the water to boil I did something I rarely have the luxury to do before a check up, I googled it.

Afterward I wished I hadn’t! Jared and I had a discussion about hydrocephalus while I prepared lunch. Shortly after 11:30, Matthew and Carrie arrived home. Matthew is always full of stories from his day or the trip home or his plans for the afternoon.  Luke and Mark we’re all ready to play, Jon took a lunch break to join in the fun. A new sound at a new time came down the street this day… a young man on a pedal bike that had been retrofitted with a small side car was ringing a bell similar to the bell for ice cream. I handed a couple of kids 5 pesos and they headed out to the street, and discovered the new vendor was selling mango/banana shakes in tiny little cups. These inexpensive, sweet tasting treats held everyone over til Daddy got home for lunch.

We waited til a little after noon when Rusty arrived home to eat. He explained that he had been working on starting a new garden in the upper village when a family who attends church with us approached him about the newest member of their family. Born 8 days ago at home they noticed a bump of fluid on his head at about 5 days of age. They said they were hoping not to have to disturb us, but it wasn’t going away, could we take them into the local hospital for a check up?
Check back tomorrow for Part 2…


Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You’ve never failed and You won’t start now. ~Oceans, Hillsong United

My kids love to explore the sea, which is just a few feet from our home, especially at low tide. This week they discovered a very interesting creature trapped in the tidal pools at low tide. Luke managed to get it squeezed into an empty plastic water bottle and brought it home to show everyone in the hopes of identifying it. Google is certainly our friend here. Turns out that Luke found a displaced “sea pen,” a colonial organism that typically is found in waters deeper than 10 meters.images

After checking it out, we returned it to the sea, but it most likely won’t survive. It’s built to thrive in the deeper waters, not the warm and shallow waters of the tide pool.

Sometimes I can relate to the sea pen. But instead of being washed into shallow waters, I’ve been pulled into new depths. It’s dark there and a little scary.

It’s unfamiliar and way out of my comfort zone.

I can’t touch the bottom and still have my head above the waters.

It’s the deep darkness of sin. The pain of engaging with people who are still trapped in the darkness. The brokenness of selfish choices, the affects of hopelessness that sometimes look like alcoholism, or extra-martial affairs, or physical abuse. The hardships of a fallen world where young mothers find out they are TB positive and difficult interpersonal relationships keep entire villages from having access to safe drinking water. It’s orphans, robbed of a mother’s love due to some health condition that would be barely be a bump in the road in the first world.


One of the many joys of ministry here, my sweet “adopted granddaughter” Amy. Her mother died at her birth, leaving Amy and her brother Jared in the care of family members in the tribe.

So what they live in bamboo houses with grass roofs?

So what if they wear mismatched clothes that no one else wanted?

Poverty is not the biggest hurdle.

Sin is.

In my heart.

In their hearts.

In your heart, too.

We have more in common than you would think.

It’s my privilege to go deeper. First I must go deeper with Him.

“Blessed be the name of God forever and ever,
    to whom belong wisdom and might.
 He changes times and seasons;
    he removes kings and sets up kings;
he gives wisdom to the wise
    and knowledge to those who have understanding;
 he reveals deep and hidden things;
    he knows what is in the darkness,
    and the light dwells with him.” Daniel 2:20b-22 (emphasis mine)

photo (12)

Celebrating a wedding in the community. We’re praying this is the first of many to come as hearts are drawn to obedience to Jesus.

That sea pen that Luke found has a very cool feature to its simple creation… bioluminesce. The ability to make its own light.

We have the light of Christ in us. The Light that shines bright in the darkness, in the depths of sin and brokenness. The Light that can offer forgiveness to those who have offended or hurt us. A Light that can transform the darkest heart, heal the shattered heart, and offer hope to live for eternity with Eternal Light.

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”John 8:12

There’s a lot that’s broken in my world.

But if social media and Fox News is any indication, there’s a lot of broken in your world, too.

Let’s be the light in the deepest darkness.

“Your love is deeper than any ocean
Higher than the heavens
Reaches beyond the stars in the sky
Jesus, Your love has no bounds
Jesus, Your love has no bounds” ~ Jesus Lord of Heaven, Phil Wickham



photo (6)  God has been leading our family on an amazing journey of knowing Him deeper and in new ways. It’s such a thrill to be Jesus follower, because it’s a      process that never ends. As a homeschooler, I have long been a proponent of “lifestyle learning,” which means providing a rich environment in which  learning is on-going, regardless of the season, the location or the age of the individual. I feel like this reflects what our life in Christ should be as well, a  daily rhythm of knowing our God more, experiencing His love, grace, and compassionate mercy more and more each day.

A lifetime of learning to be  more like Jesus.

And then there’s grace…

Our home church has the word “Grace” in the name. We all talk about grace in the Christian circle, but I am beginning to understand that God’s grace,  like so many of His attributes something we really don’t grasp at the heart level in its richness and fullness.

And because we don’t really “get it” we mess things up… for ourselves, for others in faith and we essentially limit our reach to the unbeliever. Is anyone beyond the reach of Christ? Of course we say “No!” but too many of us (fingers pointing backward toward myself too) doubt that grace is really available for all.

I’m a justice kind of gal. Grace is not justice. I’ve personally wrestled with this issue for a quite a while, and have “blamed” it on my upbringing and past. But recently I was challenged to think that everyone struggles against grace, its just how we are wired. Rusty and I have been “relaxing” in the evenings with some preaching videos and recently watched this zinger by Tullian Tchividjian.

He’s a no-nonsense, call-it-what-it-is kind of speaker. And his words are true. We don’t really get grace.

Because if we did the church would look different.

We would BE different.

And Jesus’ kingdom would grow because nothing is as irresistible as grace.


My prayer is that you’d join us on this journey of grace. To re-examine what you believe about God’s grace to us if you are already a Jesus follower.

To believe that Jesus loves you, died for your sin and has taken on your punishment to grant you eternal life, if you’ve never come to that place in your life.

To fall fully, recklessly, endless on the grace of a Holy God.


Six Truths in 6 Weeks

In lieu of a “Day in the Life” post (which will be forth coming) and in honor of completing our 6th week in the Philippines, I wanted to share with you 6 truths we’ve experienced in 6 weeks…

6. A big glass of cold water is the most refreshing, yet rare treat!

It might not seem like a big thing, but in 90% humidity with temps hovering around 90 degrees in the day and the low 80s at night, this simple luxury is just that! We are blessed to have a small ref (refrigerator) with a tiny freezer and no automatic ice maker (gasp!). With ten or eleven of us living here, chilling water or having ice on hand is a constant challenge… so when you can pour an ice cold glass of water…. ENJOY!

5. Expect the unexpected…
Our days are never the same and we wake up not knowing what our day will bring. Earlier this week I

This is our transportation until God provides something else. A motorcycle side car, Carrie and I up front, with four Ati ladies and two babies in the back... Off to the hospital....

This is our transportation until God provides something else. A motorcycle side car, Carrie and I up front, with four Ati ladies and two babies in the back… Off to the hospital….

accompanied two patients to the local hospital, one little boy with a broken elbow and another little girl with skin problems. While I was out, five different Ati visited Rusty at our home, each one sharing their concerns and needs for the community. On another day this week we had been searching for African Night Crawlers for sale in the Philippines in order to start vermicomposting beds to improve the poor mountain soil in the Ati villages. I “happened” onto a website that listed a place just a mile and half from here that we had heard about on our first term, but never visited. Turns out we had a nice 2 hr visit with some new friends who share a passion for gardening, homeschooling and life in the Philippines. Without an prior planning on our part, a wonderful new door was opened and a new relationship has begun!

And we're off....

And we’re off….

4. The familiar is favorable; the new a pure delight!
I’ve been pleasantly surprised how nice the familiarity of our old “home” area in the Philippines has felt. Granted we are only 6 weeks in… the shoe could be ready to fall (see the next item on the list!) but overall, knowing what to expect in the culture, food, climate, language and being in a familiar area with old friends and familiar routines, seems to make the transition to life on the field again, a but more smooth… so far….anyway….
The new things: faster internet, access to more Western restaurants, a few more American food choices in stores than before, all add to the new delights in our new home.
3. Situations can change faster than you can blink…
I chalk it up to spiritual warfare, but man, can situations spiral out of control in record time here! Just this evening, we had just had a wonderful gathering in the village with really encouraging spiritual fruit, and then, during dinner… a huge argument broke out that ended in tears and storming off and hard things said…  Come on, already! Is the emotional roller coaster really necessary???  I can go from top of the world feeling blessed to tearful wondering what I did wrong in about 2 seconds flat. Good thing the love of the Savior is never-changing!
2. People are more similar than different.
It’s really sad that people tend to see differences in others. We tend to look at the outside, the socio-economic, racial, regional, or language differences. But whether you make $100,000 a year or $1,000 a year, people’s heart desires are very much the same. We all want to know we are loved and that we matter to someone. We love our kids and grandkids, feel gratitude when we experience God’s healing touch or His unfailing mercy, and have similar hopes and dreams for a better future for the next generation. It might be a trite old saying, (We all put our pants on one leg at a time) or a corny country lyric (We all bleed red) but the truth is God created humanity to have more in common than not, and that certainty should be a great joy and unity builder within us all!
1. When you really don’t feel like it, obedience is the best option…
Today it was hot. REALLY hot. As I rested after lunch in front of the fan, I felt like I was in a convection oven as the hot air blew around me. This afternoon’s plan was a time of Praise and Prayer in the village, but I just wasn’t feeling it. Carrie wasn’t feeling the best either and a couple of the boys (who shall remain nameless) were in a bad mood too. But rather than make excuses and stay home (to be hot and miserable with each other!) we headed out to the village.
And what a blessing was in store….

At first there were just a few ladies and teens hanging out in the grass roof covered pavilion, so my big boys decided to pick a nasty looking boulder in the soon-to-be garden area and try to remove it. As two of my teens demonstrated their strength and tenacity with the deeply entrenched rock, more ladies came to join us. Then Carrie began to play the guitar and a few more ladies joined. As we began singing, another couple of ladies wandered into our little shelter from the heat as did the rock movers. Beautiful praises to God were lifted in Tagalog and English, and then one of the ladies volunteered, shyly, to read our passage of Scripture for the day! What a wonderful blessing!

The group freely shared prayer concerns, which I noted to be primarily PRAISES to God for his care, provision and protection in their lives and circumstances. One lady asked that we pray that all the Ati would come to know Jesus and THANK HIM for those who already follow Jesus. How humbling to us and precious to God!

Then, as we began to pray, some in English, some in Tagalog, one of the ladies prayed aloud in Visayan. What a sweet, sweet blessing and encouragement to me. As she began, I whispered, “Thank YOU God for showing me (again) the importance simple obedience”

It’s probably a lesson I will learn 100 times more… but the sweet results of faith-driven obedience are truly a refreshment from the Lord!

Discouragement, one of the enemy’s favorite weapons

The last few weeks have been busy and in ways kind of hard. I’ve had to be away a lot and have felt drained from the demands of people’s needs. The Lord has blessed me with a quiet day and I knew that I should blog, but I just didn’t feel like I had anything of value to share. I was working on pulling together some information on my laptop and came across part of a chapter of a book I was working on a few years ago. It was entitled, “Discouragement,” and re-reading it really blessed my soul. I hope it will bless yours as well….

“Satan always has 500 reasons NOT to do whatever we know we are called to do. Don’t let him discourage you!” ~Rusty Russell

Head games.

I think especially as women, we are vulnerable to spiritual attack that comes in the form of lies the enemy whispers to us. We need only look at the very first tactic Satan used on Eve in the garden. He made her doubt what she knew about God’s goodness and love.

“Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” Genesis 3:1 ESV

Sometimes his tricks are like this, asking us to question the motive and character of God. Sometimes his tactic is to simply make us believe we are not who God says we are. We start to believe the lies when we think we are not a good mom to our kids. We let him influence our actions when we allow our discouragement to prevent us from encouraging others. We trip and fall on our faces when we allow the enemy to keep is in the bondage of sin, or fear, or faithlessness.

I am not a perfect mom. I have a tough group of critics at home that could easily list for you my personal short comings and weaknesses. I am not a superwoman. I get frustrated when people joke about that because of the size of my family or the ministry God has called us to do. But trusting in the sovereignty of God means that  I accept, believe, and embrace the truth that I am the best mom for these children. Does that get me off the hook when I blow it? Absolutely not! But I can never believe the lie of Satan that says someone else could have done a better job with these kids.

The truth is God built your family. He put you and your husband together and your children, whether by birth or adoption, were chosen for you by God. He chose you to be the one to care for, shape, love and mold this precious child of His for His glory.

Not for your glory.

Not for their fame or success.

For His glory and His fame, alone.

Each sibling in the family is placed there for a reason. I need to remind my kids of this sometimes. A pair of boys gets into a fight and feelings get hurt. From the child’s perspective, suddenly this kid in my room; who plays with me, laughs with me, and learns with me is my worst enemy. That’s when I remind them that God put them in THIS family for a reason. God knows what He’s doing and even though your brother is driving you crazy right now, God put him here for your own good. It feels good for me to say it out loud, because the truth is I need to hear it sometimes too.  We can rest in the fact that God is good and He means all things for my good and His glory. Does that mean all things are “good?” No, it does not! Cancer is not good. Sin is not good. Pain is not good. Often my kids are not good.

It’s what these things produce in us that is good.

Discouragement can be rampant on the mission field. It seems to be a natural by-product of living in a foreign culture away from everything and everyone familiar. Discouragement can come when there is a three hour line at the bank to pay your rent. Discouragement can come when the market vendors would increase the price to you because you are a foreigner. Discouragement can come when the power goes out just as you were beginning your home schooling day or at bedtime when you’d worked in the heat and humidity all day and had been looking forward to the fan after a cold shower. Discouragement can come when you are hungry for a slice of sourdough bread with real butter, but there is no such thing to be found. Discouragement can come when you can’t make yourself be understood by a person you are ministering to. Discouragement can come when the hospital staff says, “Not today. Come back tomorrow,” when your little friend has already been waiting 9 days in the hot, crowded hospital room for his surgery.

Discouragement is distracting and gets our focus off what we’re supposed to be doing.

I’ve struggled with discouragement off and on through the years. When I was a mom with a gang of toddlers and babies at home, I would get discouraged. When I was a mom with teenagers who were struggling through life’s challenges, I would get discouraged. Moving overseas doesn’t change your life, it just changes your address…. so yes, homeschooling and doing ministry in a third world culture, I get discouraged.

The antidote is ENCOURAGEMENT.  Duh, you say… but I can’t encourage myself.

But you’re wrong. You can.

Whenever I am feeling down about my life, I would purpose to think of someone who had it “worse” than I did. Let’s say I was having a day of feeling overwhelmed by kids and their messes. I would ask the Lord to help me think of someone who had it worse. Maybe it was a mom with a brand new baby at home. Maybe it was someone on bed rest. Maybe it was someone who was trying to raise babies and care for aging parents at the same time. Maybe it was a single mom who was trying to get by without the love and support of a husband. First, I’d pray for that person. Then I would see what God had me to do. Sometimes it was a card, or an email or a Facebook message. Sometimes God would have me bring her a meal or get them a gift card or drop off a special dessert. Suddenly *my* mess and problems didn’t seem too bad. I felt better. I felt blessed.

It is easy to reach out to someone with a text or an electronic note. Remember that when you felt the need for some encouragement, so does someone else.

The simple act of obedience (even when I don’t *feel* like it)  will make everyone’s day better!

The key to defeating discouragement is to live an out-ward focused life. The other key is keeping in close fellowship with God. When the attacks come, and they will if you are living for Jesus, you need to be in the Word and in prayer. Use a prayer journal to help you see how God has answered prayers. I found that my prayer journal was a good place to “vent” my hurts and frustrations, too.  In our first term overseas, I learned to rely on journaling and prayer to “talk it out,” because sometimes the experience was too raw and real for me to dump my hurt and pain on top of what my husband was experiencing. Even though Rusty is my best friend and very often my spiritual guide, I found that some attacks were so close to the heart of both of us, that I had to rest in the Lord first.

It was a good lesson, one I should have learned a long time before.

Discouragement is like a wrestling match. The enemy will first attempt to immobilize you. He will make you feel weak and unable to minister. Then he will slowly start to take you down. You will feel like you have lost your friends and soon start to feel like God has abandoned you, too. If you can’t break his grip before this point, he will likely get the pin. Once you allow him to convince you, even if just emotionally and temporarily, that God is not on your side, he has won. Thankfully, the enemy may win some battles, but we know Jesus will win the war. And when you get up again, dust off the broken spirit and wipe away the tears of defeat, you will hate the enemy even more than before. You will want to stay out of that miry pit and you will strive to help others before they succumb to the lies and tactics of the enemy. In that way, good will come from your pain and God will receive the glory!

My favorite sign along the 7 hr bus journey across Panay island.  Don't let the enemy discourage you...  MAN-UP, JESUS WINS!!!

My favorite sign along the 7 hr bus journey across Panay island.
Don’t let the enemy discourage you…