Comfort For The Soul

I have talked in past blog posts about serving the poor by providing food, clothing and shelter but this is a story about the need for spiritual comfort.

Below is a message I received about the Ebola outbreak from a friend that we met during our 2007 Liberia mission trip…

“Yesterday we experienced a terrible and serious situation in Johnsonville. Saturday morning about 10 am, we saw a convoy of about a dozen vehicles driving in from the city. The convoy of Armed Forces of Liberia, The ministry of Health, Internal Affairs, Justice, Police and Red Cross ambulance. We were caught by surprise. We were asked to go indoors. They told us to stay indoors because the convoy contained dead bodies of Ebola victims. We went indoors but later came out. Little did we realize that the district commissioner and the land Inspector had given permit to the Ebola team to bury dozens of dead bodies which were being carried in a KIA Motor truck. A chain caterpillar began to fix the damaged road. Following that, a long convoy apart from the first started approaching. They came to bury all the dead bodies collected from various hospitals in Monrovia. Villagers protested and refused to let the government officials in. A heated argument ensued and this resulted in the firing of guns for several minutes. They beat residents wounding several and then buried the bodies. As I write, there are a few among residents that collect water from unprotected wells.

There is complete fear upon us as there are lot of gun men around. Today, the faces I saw in church made me cry. Our people are in complete desperation and suffering. They cannot do their normal activities for fear of catching the Ebola sickness. We are thinking about providing relief and continue to feed hungry children who are cracking kernels for food. Tell the world that we need help. Our country is falling apart.”

Not being able to help someone in a tangible way is a bit disheartening and requires us to be dependent on God for his mercy.

I know we can’t all serve in missions, but we should all try to understand; and therefore, have compassion for those in need around the world. The reality is that the poor will always need our help. We need to respond when we can whether that is moving our hands and feet locally, sponsoring a child, sending someone who can go overseas, sending any form of encouragement, or praying. To help us understand the suffering of the poor who have no voice, this would be a good time to ask ourselves “what would we do if the government wanted to bury bodies with deadly diseases in our neighborhood?”

Wrestling with Contentment

Over and over again people tell me they are waiting for God to do something significant in their lives and most of them are usually dreaming and hoping for something specific. It breaks my heart when they do not see how God is already working through the everyday circumstances of their lives and all they need to do is join in.

We sometimes look and pray so hard for God to do something big through our lives that we do not see what He is currently doing through the people and circumstances around us. I have come to realize in my own life that God was preparing me for what I am doing now and I can only assume He is still preparing me for what He wants me to do in the future.

I also had a dream and prayed hard for it. It was to work in ministry full time. I was tired of working for the perpetual business dollar. However, no matter how many jobs I applied for in the church and with other nonprofits, I could not seem to get an interview. I ended up working at the Star Tribune for twelve years and those who knew me best were the first to say I did not fit in.

I kept busy by working through eight jobs during those twelve years and focused on doing the best work possible. While I continued to pray, all I could do was live my values, serve unconditionally and wait for that ministry opportunity. When I became discouraged or frustrated during times of inequities, I reminded myself to focus on doing the job as if I were serving God — not man (Colossians 3:23). I painfully had to make decisions based on my values instead of what would help me gain favor in other people’s eyes or get that next promotion.

I remember one instance when I was applying for a supervisory position but the hiring manager was confused when I told him I had a servant leadership managerial style. Needless to say, I did not get the job.

On November 30, 1993, I wrote in my journal: “I need to be content in whatever situation I am in rather than always looking for God’s Will in something else. Instead of looking elsewhere, I need to look around at what I’ve already got. Where I am now IS God’s Will. God put me here.”

In the meantime, to ease that discontented feeling, God provided ways for me to serve Him in the church and on overseas mission trips. Although I did not realize it at the time, God used those years of experience in business and volunteer work to prepare me for the job I have now. He even provided a situation where I could finish my Bachelor’s degree and the only thing I had to pay for were my books.

It was June 2007 when the Star Tribune offered their first voluntary buy-outs. I did not accept it at first but woke up the following Sunday to the realization that God had provided the opportunity for me to get out of the trap I had been in. I did not recognize it at first because I had assumed it would come in the form of a new job offer. This open door required me to step out in faith. It meant that I had to quit my current job before acquiring another one.

One week after accepting the buy-out, I received an interview at Northwestern College and within one month, I was working at KTIS meeting with donors, listening to their stories, getting their feedback, answering their questions and making sure their needs are met. God had been waiting for me to let go and then He provided the opportunity.

I, like most people, knew I had finally landed my dream job. It is much easier now that my work matches my values and I can openly live out my faith. Only months after I had started, when I ran across former Star Tribune colleagues, they commented that I looked happier and they could tell that I had finally found the place that was “a good fit for me.” At the same time, I soon found that there are expectations and responsibilities that come with full time ministry. Now, more than ever, I need to strengthen my knowledge of the scriptures. In other words, I need to read more and serve deeper than I ever had before. However, this is not rigorous work. It is who I am so it fits my life and I can live it 24/7.

Every person I meet and every concert I attend challenges me in my faith and understanding. For instance, here are photos from “The Story” Christmas concert this past year with Stephen Curtis Chapman, Newsboys, Selah and Natalie Grant. This is one of those times when pictures cannot begin to describe how inspirational it was.



When I think about my previous post regarding simplicity and this subject of contentment, I cannot help but think about the people I have met during the foreign mission trips I participated in during the past 10 years. I have personally seen that our ability to provide for our own basic needs and buy those things that make us comfortable (give us temporary happiness), are among America’s biggest distractions that keep us from seeking and depending on God’s activity in our lives. In third world countries, they depend on God for their basic needs. In most situations, it is their next meal. But yet, they have a faith that is so strong it has brought me to tears on several occasions. They want to be like us but I want to be like them!

It is time for me to write about my life changing mission trips to the Philippines, Mexico and Africa. I will begin those with my next post.

2nd Miracle for Premature Twins — part 6

Through it all, my husband and I were proud parents of our little babies. We had so much trust in God to heal them that we didn’t see how sick they were. Instead, we saw a future with two beautiful little girls. Therefore, we were bewildered when people wanted to “wait and see how it went” before having baby showers, and that they reacted with shock and pity when they saw pictures of the girls. Especially after our second miracle, our hope and trust in God to deliver them was stronger than ever.

As I mentioned in my last post, the doctor told us on their tenth day that Rachael’s kidneys were failing and they had done all they could do for her. In addition to that, her heart ductus had reopened and she was too small for an operation to close it again. This caused her kidneys to stop functioning so they could no longer feed her protein to heal her lungs. The doctor said that if the air leaking from her lungs reached her heart, we would have to give them permission to pull the plug. He gave us so little hope that I came close to stopping my journal entries. We could not imagine ever being able to give the doctors permission to pull the plug. All I could do was go to Rachael, who was now in an open warming bed because of all the tubes and work being done on her, and hold her tiny hand. This was just about the only part of her body free from medical equipment. I spent the time telling our two pound baby how much I loved her, I prayed out loud so she could hear, and talked to her about our God who heals. Needless to say, everyone else we knew continued to pray as well.

Two days later, on Oct 30th, Rachael’s heart ductus closed, her kidneys started functioning, and they started feeding her the protein she needed so her lungs could begin the slow healing process. Although the doctors had no explanation for it, we knew it was God’s answer to prayers. On the day things turned around, Rachael’s nurse hung a sign above her warming bed that said: “For little Rachael there’s a particular reason that this is a special Halloween season. She’s been haunting and spooking and fooling us all, giving no night of sleep to that doctor on call! But little girl we’re failing to mention, you certainly deserve all that attention. Cause speaking of ghouls, goblins, tricks and treats, you’re an especially sweet treat that can’t be beat!”

It was an exciting day when the doctors took the girls off the muscle relaxant, Pavulon, and the girls were able to open their beautiful brown eyes to take a peek at mommy and daddy. Then it was a couple weeks before the big moment when we could hold Jessica in our arms and one month before we could hold Rachael. They had to be bundled up so much that the only thing we could see were their faces. And then, those had to be covered with an oxygen mask.

Jessica was also a fighter but she was in a position to express it more vocally than Rachael. I will never forget walking into the NICU nursery one morning for my daily visit and they had tiny Jessica wrapped up like a mummy in blankets and she was beat red in protest wailing at the top of her lungs. Even as a three pound baby, they could not keep her arms down and hold her still in order to draw blood from one of the veins in her head. It had gotten to a point where they had poked her foot for blood so many times that they were trying to find new places to draw blood.

After one and one-half months, the girls were transferred to the second level care nursery at Fairview Hospital. Their three month stay in the hospital consisted of constant ups and downs in oxygen pressures, as well as various drugs for blood pressure control and fluid on the lungs.

At three months of age and almost five pounds, Jessica was able to come home and we were greeted with a banner across the front of the house that said “Welcome Home Jessica.” Although it wasn’t necessary, we were so nervous that the doctors allowed us to bring Jessica home with a CPAP machine. After one night of listening to the sounds of the machine and getting up to make sure she was still breathing, we realized the machine was too nerve-wracking and the only way we could find peace was by giving our worries to God and trusting Him to take care of her. Besides, he brought us this far! The next day, we returned the noisy CPAP machine and prayed hard before going to sleep. Everything went well. Rachael came home the following week but had to return a week later for a double hernia surgery. Thankfully, she had to stay only one night for that.

Until this day, we thank God that the girls came home breathing on their own and with no shunts. Rachael was weak on the left side but with a lot of love, continued prayer and physical therapy, she learned to adapt with very few problems.

That first year was a lot of work and I felt like a nurse with all the measuring and monitoring I had to do. Even though it was full of sleeping and feeding struggles, that first year was also filled with precious baby memories and I have a great photo to share with you next time of our “cabbage patch” babies.

1st Miracle for Premature Twins — part 5

When I finally got pregnant, I was 24 years old and thought I had control of my life. I expected to have a healthy baby, take a six week leave of absence, and return on schedule to my career.

Everything looked good those first several months of pregnancy. My eight week ultrasound looked normal and the morning sickness was controllable. Then, at the 20th week, the doctor told me I was measuring too big. He thought it was either diabetes or “multiple gestation.” I just assumed it was diabetes and went in right away for the diabetes test. Then I followed-up on the appointment that the nurse scheduled for me to get an ultrasound. Since everything looked normal during the eight week ultrasound, I didn’t expect to find anything different this time. However, the minute the nurse put the scanner on my belly, we couldn’t believe it. There were two heads and two bodies. It was twins! Even the nurse hadn’t expected this new revelation. I decided to not tell my husband over the phone so I carried the big news with me all day during work until he picked me up from the bus stop that evening. When he asked how it went, I handed him the first ultrasound photo and said “this is baby A” and then the second photo and said “this is baby B.” He said, “Oh, so what did they say?” He thought I was handing him two ultrasound photos of the same baby. So I repeated myself and emphasized the baby A and baby B. We pretty much spent the rest of the evening standing around looking at each other in shock.

Not long after this discovery, the doctor instructed me to take maternity leave and lay on my back as much as possible. It wasn’t easy to stay on the couch while watching my husband cook and clean.

By the 27th week, I had a lot of back and low abdominal pains and found out on the 29th week that I was dilated to three. The doctor scolded me for not realizing that I was in labor and sent me to the hospital so he could put me on medication to stop the contractions. At the time, there was a new drug to speed up fetal lung development but it was not approved yet by the FDA so we could not use it.

After a week in the hospital and on medication that kept me awake all night, the contractions began again. Then the drama began and they transferred me to Abbott Northwestern Hospital. Abbott has an underground tunnel to Children’s Hospital where they were better equipped to care for premature infants. That is when one of the doctors told me that the twins had a twin-to-twin transfusion and were therefore creating too much amniotic fluid. This caused me to be too large and, thus, sent me into premature labor. That explained why at 30 weeks I was already outgrowing maternity clothes.

The doctors knew what they were doing when they took me into the operating room in case natural delivery did not work. After just a couple pushes, Jessica’s heart rate plummeted so the doctor ordered the anesthesiologist to put me under and the girls were born by cesarean with 20 doctors and nurses in the room.

Born 10 weeks premature, Jessica was 2 pds, 12 oz. and pale because she didn’t receive enough blood during the twin-to-twin transfusion and Rachael was 2 pds, 15 oz. and red because she received too much blood that did not circulate, which overloaded her organs. Therefore, Jessica needed a transfusion for additional blood and Rachael needed a transfusion to replace her “sludgy” blood.

The first couple days were very difficult and the girls were on 100% oxygen with maximum pressures. On the second day, Rachael hit a critical level and the doctor told us that they were giving her all the oxygen they could but the oxygen levels in her blood were still not high enough to survive. He asked if we wanted to baptize her. There were now people from all religions praying and lighting candles for the girls and we embraced the promise of James 5:16.

Then our first miracle happened. Rachael’s lungs collapsed from the pressure of the respirator. This was good because now the doctors could insert a chest tube to release the air, reinflate her lungs, and give her the oxygen levels she needed. Over the next week, she needed seven chest tubes and they had to keep repositioning her little body in ways that would allow the air to rise and escape from the tubes.

In the meantime, Jessica also reached critical oxygen and pressure levels but her lungs were stronger and did not collapse. Because she had to sustain pressures for a longer period of time, her head bleeds were a little more advanced. However, by the grace of God, it didn’t manifest itself in any way.

It was a sad and empty feeling leaving the hospital without my babies that week. My husband and I filled our days over those next three months driving 30 miles to and from the hospital to touch the girls and talk to them so that they would know they were loved and someone was waiting for them to come home. We hated to leave after visiting with them because their progress was so much better when we were there. Whenever we returned home from our visits, we would call the hospital to check in one more time before going to bed for the evening and, invariably, the nurse would always tell us that the girls’ readings dropped after we left.

Once we were past the first critical week, it didn’t occur to me that the girls’ lives were still in danger until the doctor told us on their tenth day that Rachael’s kidneys were failing and they had done all they could do for her. Then he went on to say that we should be prepared to give them permission to pull the plug. There was so much air leaking from her lungs that there was a good chance it would get to her heart, which would lead to death. God gave us extra strength and hope during those days that can only be described as “a peace that passes all understanding” (Philippians 4:7). I came to know the God of miracles and will continue with His next miracle in my next post.

Answered Prayer for a Family — part 4

Before I could drive, I had two good friends who would walk a mile with me to school. The one friend walked a mile before she even met up with me because she didn’t want to get on the school bus full of bullies. This friend came from one of those traditional families that I admired so much. It was even her mother who drove me to the hospital when I fell and cracked my head while ice skating.

When we were 19, this friend called me to ask if her brother could hang out with us that evening because he had just been discharged from the Navy. I said yes and as soon as I hung up the phone, I looked him up in the yearbook to get another look at this mysterious brother of hers that I had only seen from a distance. I was already wondering if it would be possible to become part of a family that actually ate together, played together, supported, and loved one another.

It turned out that he went dancing with us every weekend. I got to know him and saw that he had a good heart. It did not take long for his sister and me to concoct a plan to get him to drive me home. After dancing, we always went out to eat chow mein. One evening I told my friend (while making it loud and obvious across the table) that I needed to get home early that evening because I had homework to do. My friend acted as though that was a problem for her and so my valiant husband to-be stepped in to offer me a ride. That was just the beginning. We had a wonderful conversation and discovered we had a lot in common. Most importantly, I learned that he had actually attended church in the past and believed in God. He did not yet know that he could have a relationship with God through Jesus but at least he was not turned off or hostile towards religion. This was the first time I dated anyone who didn’t ridicule my belief in God.

After two years of dating, we decided to get married at the Lutheran church where I was confirmed. Although I had not gone to church for many years, I still felt drawn to read my Bible every night before going to bed. However, I did not preach at my husband. I just kept myself accountable in my search for God’s guidance and continued to pray and wait on God.

A little over a year after we were married, we moved into our first house and I knew I had to find a Bible believing church. Then, almost the next week, the men from Coon Rapids Baptist Church knocked on our door to welcome us to the neighborhood and I invited them to come in as though I had already been waiting for them. We started attending their church and my husband accepted Christ as his savior in 1983 — 10 years after I had. That is when God answered the prayers of an 11-year-old child who begged for a Christian home. I was finally able to dedicate my life to Christ and get baptized in front of the church with my husband. And so, I was ready to get started establishing the life I had always wanted (Psalm 71:19-20).

Little did I know how much God had planned for me and how much it would take to break down the walls of protection that I had built. In my next post, I will tell how God taught me to cry and melted my heart through the birth of premature twins.

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