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WRITE: Here I Am, Send Me? Courage in Costa Rica (Never the Same Missions, Part 1)

WRITE: Here I Am, Send Me? Courage in Costa Rica (Never the Same Missions, Part 1)

Dear Friends, I don’t keep my love for missions a secret. Over the past few years, I’ve had the privilege of serving the Lord in six different countries (two of them twice) on mission trips. For the past five years, I’ve traveled with Never the Same Missions and first SUSIE¸ then Sisterhood Magazine as the writer for their annual missions trip. In 1996, author and speaker Susie Shellenberger, then of Focus on the Family and Brio Magazine, first partnered with Steve Goley of Big World Ventures on an international mission trip. The goal, as Susie says, was to produce a trip that gave teens the combined experience of “missions, youth camp, and an old-fashioned revival.” Over the years, Never the Same has refined the trip, taken thousands of students and adult chaperones overseas, and seen tens of thousands come to know Christ as a result. This past year, my husband and I served with NTS in Costa Rica, our first mission trip together. My article about the trip was scheduled as the cover story for Sisterhood’s January issue. But near the end of 2014, the publishing house that produced the magazine closed temporarily and shut down Sisterhood permanently. That’s a loss not only for me but for the thousands of teen girls who need and want a positive, Christ-centered print magazine. Rather than waste my article, I’ve received permission to share it. You’ll find it in four parts, posted in this blog both this week and next. If you have any interest in missions, I hope you’ll read, share, and visit the links above for more information. Here I am, Send Me? Courage in Costa Rica by Marti Pieper Think you’ve got excuses to avoid the mission field? Check out these beauties: I’m not qualified. I’ve got a lot going on. I’m needed at home. I’m in mourning. I’m unworthy. Meet a man who could have used all these excuses and more. In fact, if we matched him up to a checklist of qualifications, our missionary candidate would score a perfect zero. Except in one area. When God called Isaiah, the Old Testament prophet, he responded not with excuses but faith-filled courage: “Here am I. Send me!” (Isa. 6:8). And so did the nearly 200 Never the Same summer missionaries to Costa Rica. When I spent two weeks with them this past July, I saw courage in action—over and over again. Courage to Ask: Jordyn Join me on a journey (co-sponsored by Big World Ventures and Susie Shellenberger Ministries) that began long before our training time in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. For a soccer-playing girl named Jordyn, it started last summer on the Never the Same trip to Peru. There,...

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WRITE: Devotionals, Out of the Dust, Free and Clear

WRITE: Devotionals, Out of the Dust, Free and Clear

Today’s devotional concludes our series from missionary Avis Goodhart’s memoir, Out of the Dust: Story of an Unlikely Missionary. And it’s a fitting day to conclude, because Out of the Dust has now released in multiple venues. Also, because of a misunderstanding on Amazon’s part, the Kindle version is temporarily FREE. The publisher tells me this won’t last long, but if you’ve enjoyed the devotionals, feel free to take advantage of this accident. We’d love it if you could help spread the word about Out of the Dust, since all proceeds go to benefit Avis’s important work in Peru. Blessings! #14 Free and Clear  Scripture Reading: And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19). Thought: If we step out in obedience to follow Him, God takes care of the details. Excerpt, Out of the Dust: In November, 2001, I returned home from a month-long mission trip. Within weeks, doctors discovered that my husband, Dean, had inoperable cancer. I put my mission work on hold to care for him until his death in February of the next year. I still feel sometimes as though I’ve lost my anchor. Dean was that for me. He held our grown kids, finances, and home together while I ran all over the place. And he kept track of everything, including me. I set everything else aside during his final months to focus on him. But just as he told me, God was preparing the way for me to serve overseas full-time. He took care of our finances first. Thanks to Dean’s wise money management, we had no house payment. But while he was ill, the bills mounted, and the funeral cost more than his burial policy covered. I started calling around to figure out what we owed. With our small savings and the huge gift from the pie supper, I was able to pay off his doctors along with the imaging clinic. But that left the biggie: the hospital. I made the phone call and reached the accounting department after a few transfers. I explained who I was and that I wanted to begin paying my huge bill. Something incredible happened next. “You owe nothing, Mrs. Goodhart. You’re free and clear.” That news still flabbergasts me. It was a turning point, one of those times where you know God is sending you in a particular direction. I realized that being debt-free was a beautiful gift, but back then, I had no way to know just how beautiful. When I think back, I realize I would never have gone to the mission field with unpaid debt. I would have gotten a job, started a business,...

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Write: Devotionals, Out of the Dust, Purpose-Driven Prayer

Write: Devotionals, Out of the Dust, Purpose-Driven Prayer

What do we do when we face what looks like an impossible task? Today’s Out of the Dust devotional shares the story of some volunteer missionaries who, along with their leader, Avis Goodhart, cooperated with God in accomplishing His work. What do we do when we face what looks like an impossible task? Today’s Out of the Dust devotional shares the story of some volunteer missionaries who, along with their leader, Avis Goodhart, cooperated with God in accomplishing His work. #13 Purpose-Driven Prayer  Scripture Reading: Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose (Phil. 2:12-13).  Thought: God works in us to make sure His purposes are accomplished. Excerpt, Out of the Dust: As my passion for international work grew, I began leading multiple mission trips a year. When I took a team into Honduras, we had lots of items to take with us: personal luggage, medical supplies, and shoeboxes filled with toys and other children’s items. This was back before the days of severe baggage restrictions, so we planned for everyone to bring along two large tubs filled with items we wanted to deliver. I called ahead, and the airline okayed the containers as long as they stayed within the weight limit. The team agreed to confine their personal luggage to one carry-on apiece. We ended up with twenty-five bins of shoeboxes and medical supplies and one shared bin filled with the team’s tennis shoes. When we got to the airport, the trouble began. An airline counter employee refused to check us in. “But the children at the feeding station need these supplies,” we told him. “What can we do?” We turned our prayers into action. One at a time, the team members opened their carry-ons and began putting on every piece of clothing over the clothes they already wore. They then transferred the items from the tubs into their now-empty carry-ons. “That’s enough!” the man at the counter finally said. He checked in the remaining tubs and watched our overdressed team members march onto the plane like robots, their limbs stiff with extra clothes. They didn’t care how they looked. They just wanted the shoeboxes to reach the kids. (Chapter 15) Prayer: Father, forgive me for sometimes giving up when the situation looks impossible. Help me to recognize you as Lord of all and to trust you to accomplish your purposes.   Do you have a question, comment, or prayer request? Feel free to share it below or email me...

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WRITE: Devotionals, Out of the Dust, Lesson Learned

WRITE: Devotionals, Out of the Dust, Lesson Learned

Avis Goodhart’s life story is not a Bible study, but it contains many life lessons. In today’s Out of the Dust devotional, she shares one from which we can learn alongside her.  #12 Lesson Learned  Scripture Reading: Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen (Ephesians 4:29). Thought: No matter what a situation may look like, we need to keep our words about others kind, pure, and wholesome. Excerpt, Out of the Dust: In 1998, when Hurricane Mitch hit Honduras, I knew God wanted me to help. I collected a truckload of supplies from our Arkansas community. After several adventures on a shrimp boat in the wake of the hurricane, the supplies and I, along with my Honduran friend Gladys, made it to the capital city, Tegucigalpa. By daylight, all we could see was destruction. The slick roads were covered in mud. Almost every treetop had furniture or other household objects lodged in it, and any houses that remained had suffered horrific damage. Hurricane Mitch’s terrible power had stripped most people’s clothes from their bodies. They covered themselves with blankets or anything they could find. I remained in Honduras for two more weeks. We’ve had some terrible disasters in our country, but the Hondurans had no insurance, no savings, no anything. Yet they still managed to smile. Gladys and I went out to the refugee camps set up in the state schools, where the scenes were equally unbelievable. People were trying to cook in old paint cans or discarded pieces of tin. The hurricane filled the outhouses with water and mud, but everyone needed them. Gladys and I dumped bleach in each facility to help prevent disease, working like crazy to help in any way we could. On one of the first afternoons, I saw a big Coca-Cola truck heading up the mountain. “Look at them, taking advantage of people who have nothing left,” I told Gladys, sure the company was making money through disaster relief. Later that day, one of the area men told us about the visit from the truck. “They handed out bottles of water and soda,” he said. “No one had to pay.” There amid the tragic scene, I had to stop and repent. My words reflected my poor attitude. I judged the company without knowing the truth. Later on, God would remind me of this incident whenever I was tempted to question someone’s motives. There are always things we don’t know. (Chapter 13) Prayer: Lord, guard my heart and my tongue when I’m tempted to make a snap judgment. Help me check my...

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WRITE: Devotionals, Out of the Dust, Battles and Blessings

WRITE: Devotionals, Out of the Dust, Battles and Blessings

How can a good God allow bad things to happen? The problem of pain is one of the classic questions theologians and others explore. In today’s Out of the Dust devotional, Avis Goodhart shares her answer and how God turned a disability into an asset. #11 Battles and Blessings Scripture Reading: Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything (James 1:2-4). Thought: God can use everything, even our trials, to carry out His purposes and bring Him glory. Excerpt, Out of the Dust: The spiritual battles continued on my next trip to Honduras, when a strange facial paralysis struck me. A diagnosis of Bell’s palsy didn’t keep me from serving on the mission field, but it did keep me home from my teaching job that fall. By November, though, I realized something else must be wrong. The Bell’s palsy had healed, the swelling disappeared, and the virus that caused the problem had vanished. So why is the pain so horrible? I wondered. The neurologist who examined me said some of my nerves had healed the wrong way. This left me with severe facial spasms, eyes that wouldn’t water, and unbearable pain. Another long round of doctor visits began. I missed my students, but I couldn’t return to teaching. Not yet. . . . I finally wound up at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, where I received Botox shots to relax the cramping in the left side of my face. These reduced the pain and improved my appearance, but the nerve damage had its effect. I couldn’t pronounce certain words correctly. I had hearing damage in my left ear and reduced sight in my left eye. Some speech pathologist friends taught me how to speak and gave me exercises to help me close my eye. The shots, which I still get every six months or so, make the pain much more bearable. I still struggle to pronounce words correctly, but with God’s help, I manage. “How could all this happen to you when you were doing the Lord’s work?” people often ask. God’s Word says it rains on the just and the unjust. And the Bible also says, And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28 NASB). I know God heals. I’ve experienced healing and I’ve also had the gift of healing operate through me. But sometimes, He has another plan. After months of waiting, praying, and seeking medical help,...

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WRITE: Devotionals, Out of the Dust, Power Surge

WRITE: Devotionals, Out of the Dust, Power Surge

News Flash: The publisher and Amazon have arranged an early release. So the book is now available in all Amazon formats (paperback and Kindle) as of today. Check the links at the bottom of the page to order through your favorite bookseller. Remember: You’re not just buying a book but giving to the ministry Avis founded in Peru. She is keeping none of the proceeds for herself; all will go to support her work.  We often feel bound by our physical limitations. In today’s devotional from our upcoming release, Out of the Dust, Avis Goodhart shares how to move beyond those barriers.  #10: Power Surge  Scripture Reading: Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Thought: When I walk in the Spirit, bodily limitations disappear. My spirit me is much bigger than my body me. Excerpt, Out of the Dust: At age fifty, I took my first international mission trip. I went to serve the people of Honduras and was amazed at the ways the Lord worked. I returned from Honduras a changed woman. Not just because of what God had done there, but because He chose me to do it. For years, my eyes bore the same sad expression I see on some of our children. Everywhere I went, a sense of shame and dirtiness accompanied me. Satan was doing his best to keep me on the sidelines. And that’s where I see so many believers today, put out of commission by a past event. Maybe they were abused. Maybe they feel inadequate. For them, fading into the pew is the safest route. It’s a lie. The deceiver uses our own memories to sidetrack us. But I learned to do what all believers must: Focus on my identity in Christ Jesus. Through Him, I can do anything (Philippians 4:13). We’re forgiven. The limits of our abilities no longer bind us. We are Jesus’ inheritance with new resources, new talents, and renewed spirits. Many years ago, God invited me to come out into my spirit, where bodily limitations disappear. Suddenly, I understood: my spirit me is so much bigger than my body me. Our spirit joined to His Holy Spirit opens limitless resources. God wants us to think outside the mental boundaries we set. We must learn to depend on His abilities in us to accomplish whatever He calls us to do. (Chapter 11) Prayer: Holy Spirit, lead me to a place of full surrender. Fill me and help me walk away from my bodily limitations into total dependence...

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