My Whirlwind Week in Myanmar

The current cuppa of choice is a strong and malty Golden Yunnan tea with a touch of sugar and a splash of half and half.

As I rest on my comfy couch on this quiet Sunday evening, I can hardly believe the miles I have traveled since a week ago Friday. That ‘s when I made a quick trip to carry some of the provision you gave to fund the construction of the creative outreach center in Pastor David’s city. I did not share openly about this trip in an effort to be wise. Thanks be to God for His provision and protection for His purposes. 

I joined Pastor David and his wife in a city high in the mountains of Shan State, Myanmar. The Glory team was there playing in a national tournament. They lost in the penalty kick portion but represented themselves well. Delivering your generous gifts to David and his wife in my hotel room that night was a holy moment of prayer and partnership. Many of you had the joy of meeting David this summer as he shared his vision for the outreach center. With provision gathered, a construction document can now be issued and construction will begin in October! 

A highlight for me was the invitation to share with church members on Wednesday evening. Approximately 60 people packed the “upper room” of a home, sitting on the floor to worship, fellowship and hear the Word of God. Most touching for me was the glimpse of David’s mother lost in worship, just weeks after the passing of her beloved husband. He died a few hours before David returned from his summer visit to America. David’s mother taught David (and many others) to pray by her righteous example. She is the mother of House of Glory.

At the home gathering, I was struck by the ability of even the youngest children to sit and sing and listen to the teaching. As I shared (with David translating), my goal was to exhort the church to remember their identity as a people of prayer and God’s Presence, especially during the upcoming months of construction of their physical location. They are the church, not the long-awaited building. May this truth continue to be their legacy. Lastly, we were offered rice soup with chicken, quite delicious. The youth group served and cleaned up afterward.

My last two days were spent visiting the Reading Room and catching up with the lovely family who leads this ministry. I saw firsthand the dozens of sturdy, colorful and engaging children’s books recently purchased through your donations. Children in Myanmar are just like children here — they want to enjoy colorful and engaging books! Now we can offer them many more. Thank you. 

Supper on Thursday night was very memorable. I had the joy of hosting the leaders chosen by the ladies of the congregation. We enjoyed sharing a family-style meal and a free flow of ideas about ways to help women and children in the area. This group of ladies pray together each week and their love for one another as well as their community is evident. How beautiful is the body of Christ!

Walking with Jesus is certainly never dull. A few weeks ago I had no idea I would be making such a trip this fall. I am grateful for your generosity and for the calling by Jesus to partner with His vision in extending the family of God. I am also thankful to be back home, safe and sound. 

Thanks for having a cuppa with me,


Reading Room Hosts Discussion for Youth

While Pastor David was visiting in the USA this summer, the good work of the Glory Reading Room was ongoing.


In the photo above, you get a glimpse of a literary discussion group led by an outstanding young man and follower of Jesus Christ. He trained to be a lawyer and currently heads his own private academy. Through fellowship with the football team, he grew in his hunger to learn of God’s love displayed to the world through Jesus. A convert from the Muslim faith, he is standing strong and serving with a zeal that touches my heart each time I am around him. 

The strategy for these scheduled interactions is simple. A topic is announced and those who are interested will gather for learning and discussion. Pastor David or Eliz, our director, often lead the groups. The Burmese people are readers and love to discuss their thoughts over tea and of the things I admire about their culture. 

Learn more about Director Eliz and her family

Eliz shared that she would like to enhance the children’s book collection at the Reading Room. She would like to purchase 75 books at a cost of $300

If you would care to give to this cause or ongoing book needs, we are happy to receive your donation (of any amount). There are currently 1,200 members of the Reading Room.

Thank you, Firefall Friends, for reaching and lifting this community through literature and love. 

Pastor David Comes to Arkansas

Everyone who heard Pastor David speak was deeply moved by his courage in the face of persecution and his faith to move forward in the plan of God.

David, from Myanmar, was with us in Hot Springs for less than a week, sharing his heart with churches, a home meeting and other groups who gathered to hear his story. He explained the clear call of God at 17 to leave engineering studies in the university and reach the Burmese people (only .07% Christian). He honestly recounted the difficulty of starting House of Glory Church, how they have been kicked out of meeting places over and over, how church members have suffered beatings and other hardships because they follow Jesus.

Now is a time of favor with the community leaders because of the success of the Glory Football (soccer) Club and the blessing of the Glory Library, open to the community with over 1,200 members.

In June Buddhist monks interrupted the church service held in a tent-like structure, demanding that they no longer meet as such a large group (250-300 in attendance). The civil authorities allowed the monks to prevail and have prevented the church from meeting — unless they can build a permanent structure.

If the church can build the community center they envision housing the Glory F.C. offices, the Glory Library and a space for community events (available to House of Glory Church on Sundays), they have the approval from the authorities

The cost for the building is $60,000 and half of that amount has been raised! The House of Glory members sold their pigs, motorbikes and jewelry to give what they could. When $45,000 is in hand they will begin building and must be finished in one year. Considering weather, September is the best time to begin. We are praying with David to reach the 1st goal of $45,000 by September and the full amount of $60,000 by the end of 2019.

We give a heartfelt thanks to the generous partners who have given to make this vision a reality. If the Lord touches your heart you, too, can be a part of this miracle in the making! You will be investing in a strategic ministry that will impact a community and continue sending church planters throughout the nation.

God is faithful! We trust that He will finish what he began for His glory!

The Quest to Stay Refreshed

It’s been a while since I shared with you in A Cuppa with Nancy. Today, I am sitting at my kitchen table, looking out on our beautiful backyard as I write. We have had a very rainy year so far, so the grass is extraordinarily green. Instead of my usual hot cuppa, I am enjoying a tall and fat glass of delicious iced tea, brewed from Marks and Spencer’s Gold Bag (if you are into details). Ahhhh, so nice. 

When I ponder the need for refreshment, my thoughts travel to Vietnam. There is no place hotter or more humid than Vietnam, in my humble opinion. Nowhere else is a cold drink more appreciated.

Iced Vietnamese coffee

Iced Vietnamese coffee

Iced Vietnamese coffee (with whole milk, no sugar, my preference) comes with iced lotus tea at no charge in the thousands of coffee shops across Vietnam. The Vietnamese are proud of their coffee and rightly so. 


In the above photo, you will see Pastor Dennis with Minh, enjoying conversation while sipping on his cooler of choice, a fresh coconut. This is a double duty treat. First, you sip the restoring water of the coconut through a straw, then you can scoop out some of the tender meat of the coconut with a spoon. 

My refreshing drinks here in Hot Springs, Arkansas are many. First is our wonderful, free mineral water with a slice of lemon or lime, Topo Chico mineral water from Mexico and iced black or herbal tea with mint from my herb garden (a nod to my Kentucky roots). 

Did you know that by the time you experience thirst, you body is signaling its need for rehydration? It is important to pay attention. 

Keeping my spirit refreshed isn’t always automatic for me. I can allow the cares of my day, critical thoughts or “phantom conversations” in my head, to leave me spiritually parched. 

The solution is simple, it lies in returning to Jesus and partaking of Him, the Living Water. This calls for repentance, reflection and drinking deeply of His grace and goodness. After 53 years of following Him, I need Him more than ever to refresh me when the cares of my day leave me thirsty and dry. 

As the “dog days” of summer are upon us, let’s remember to keep hydrated for our bodies’ sake and to keep on drinking deeply of God’s presence for our souls’ sake.

“On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.’” -John 7:37



My Mission Trip Fail

God’s Man

From the time of my conversion as an 18-year-old, I was all-in. An unashamed Jesus Freak, I witnessed in my college classes, quoted scripture to my druggie friends, and created a radio show to play “Jesus music” on the brand-new campus radio station. My unrestrained boldness later got me kicked off the station. My prayer was, “Lord, I’ll go wherever you want me to go and do whatever you want me to do. I will follow wherever you lead me.” And I believed it until my first mission trip.

The Scottish Revival Team

While in seminary in California, I joined a team planning an 8-week mission trip to Scotland. We prostrated ourselves on the floor praying together and fasting every week. We believed that God would use us to impact towns and cities leaving a trail of revival behind us.

None of us were prepared for the hardness of heart and outright rejection of the gospel that met us like the stone walls around the city of Dundee. Before going on the streets to witness, we prayed until we felt the clouds of darkness lift. Sometimes we prayed 4 to 6 hours straight. I remember a man telling me emphatically while pointing to his 4 year-old son, “I’m going to hell and so is he, and I don’t care!” He turned, quickly boarded a bus and was off in a puff of smoke, leaving me feeling sorry for him and angry at his spiritual blindness.

We met 12- and 13-year-old alcoholics who were more vile and hard-hearted than the off-duty Marines we witnessed to back in California. Day after day and week after week, rejection after rejection, my soul became sick from seeing people in such hopeless darkness.


When I returned from that mission trip, wounded and spiritually broken, I knew that if God called me to return to Scotland as a missionary, I wouldn’t have what it took to say yes. No longer was I God’s man for any assignment. I had failed in Scotland and failed as a disciple of unwavering obedience. From then on, I would walk with a limp.

A Door into God’s Grace

Being broken and unable to trust in my own heroic obedience opened a door of God’s grace. Whatever I do, whatever challenges of faith I overcome, it is only by the grace of God. Any lasting fruit from the work of Firefall International is by His grace. 

The relationship I have with you, and your faithfulness in prayer, and generosity in giving is (you guessed it!) only because of the grace of God.

We see God at work, joining our hearts together and joining us all with our partners in other nations. We watch the Lord saving lives and transforming communities. We can lift our hearts together in worship and know that He has done it all by His grace for the praise of His glory!

Learn more about Jim’s life in ministry by reading his new book, Finding My Father.

Q&A with Eliz

Meet the Hostess of Our Reading Room (Glory Library) in Myanmar

Eliz with her son, husband and daughter

Eliz with her son, husband and daughter

1. How long have you been serving as Hostess of the Reading Room and how did God direct your path to be here?

I have been serving for three years as Hostess of the Reading Room. As I love reading and teaching since my childhood and I have a burning desire to share about Jesus since I got saved, those two fires made me to be a hostess because I could implement this vision in the Reading Room.

2. What do you love most about your work? What is your greatest challenge?

I love to make more new friends from the community and hopefully introduce them to the Living God by talking to them about literature and blessing them through their children by teaching them. Sometimes some people in the community oppose us by lying about us in the community where we serve, saying we are only helping people to make them convert to Christianity.

3. How is the Reading Room impacting the area?

At least 30-40 people come to the reading room for reading and borrowing books daily as the current membership is more than 1000. I can communicate  with them regularly like very good friends as this is a very first step to share with them about Jesus. Some of them are police and military officers, medical doctors, government school teachers, educated workers and Buddhist monks.

Then, I can make friends with the poorest people in our community by teaching their children every evening, those who could not attend any tuition class. I can communicate with their parents, too, as I share about Jesus little by little.

4. What are the services offered?

We engage the people who like to read in our library by talking about the literature that they are interested in. Then, I can search for the books that they would like to read.

Then, I frequently moderate the groups for literature discussion in accordance with the topics that they are interested in. I lend some books to the people who would like to read at their home for two days. I teach some poor students (especially English and Mathematics) every evening for two hours. We have hosted some competitions of quizzes, storytelling and debates with more than 200 students with the government schools.

5. Tell us about the educational training you and your husband are offering. How can we help?

Both of us were trained at the university in Mandalay city for four years each after we finished the high school in our hometown. Now my husband attends some short courses of teaching kids and educational training. I intend to study some courses in library science and teaching methods when my daughter is older.

6. Were you raised a Christian? Please share your testimony & the recent brush with death you had

I was born into a Buddhist family. I was raised up in a traditional Buddhism home. Actually, I was mostly an atheist before I met  Jesus. I started to hear about Jesus when I married with my husband, Kogyi. He always shared with me about Jesus for three years. Though I could not believe Jesus when he began to share with me, I started to taste His love and power when we prayed together and as the Lord healed my uterus problem. I accepted Jesus as my personal Savior and Lord in 2009. My life was totally changed since I believed in Him. Even though my parents and relatives rejected me because of my conversion, I followed only Him all the rest of my life as I found the eternal life only in Jesus.

I walked through the valley of death when I delivered my second child, Rachel, in 2018. The physician told my husband about my heart problem as the situation was 50-50. I thought that I would not see my husband and my two kids anymore as I could not breathe and fainted for some minutes. But the Lord allowed me to overcome that shadow of darkness as many people were praying for me. The doctors also commented that it was a miracle! As for me, I learned that the Lord let my life continue because He would like me to shine more in my community by serving them from the Reading Room so that more people might know Jesus as their Savior and Lord.

Read more about Elizabeth’s miraculous story in this Cuppa with Nancy.

7. What are your interests & hobbies? What kind of reader are you? How did you learn English?

My hobbies are reading, teaching, photography and listening to songs. I love to read fiction, novels and translation writings. I learned English in school and through self study.

8. What is your vision for the Reading Room?

I would like to communicate between the church and more people in our community through the Reading Room by blessing them in various ways so that this unreached and untouched people group might receive the unfailing love and eternal life of our Lord Jesus.

9. Is it difficult to live onsite?

By the grace of God, we could handle in His way though everything is not easy.

10. How can we pray for you and your family?

The Lord might give us wisdom from above to communicate with unbelievers and to teach poor students. Our two children might receive the assurance of salvation and might grow physically, mentally and spiritually. The protection of our Lord - because some do not like us, many love us. Wisdom from the Holy Spirit to share about Jesus with people as they open their hearts. For our heath, too!

11. What else do we need to know?

I just would like to say words of thanks to God firstly for this opportunity of participating for His Kingdom and righteousness in a small part. Then, I am really thankful to Firefall International and all supporters of our family and this reading room as we could continue our vision through your support in prayer and finance. I pray for you and your families often as this is the greatest thing that I could do for you. It is true that we could not implement our vision through this Reading Room without your help.

12. Would you mind sharing your age and birth date? Ages of your family, too?

My birthdate is June 9, 1987 (32 years old). Kogyi, my husband, is 36. Son Daniel is 13 and baby Rachel is 9 1/2 months old.

13. Favorite verses?

Psalm 30:5 "For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night but rejoicing comes in the morning.”

Luke 18:27 "Jesus replied, ‘What is impossible with man is possible with God.’"

Joshua 1:9 "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."

Jim's Thoughts on 40 Years of Marriage

When I heard her pray, I could tell that she knew Jesus intimately and loved Him passionately.

We were in a chapel service of a start-up Christian university. Nancy’s spiritual passion (and stunning beauty!) quickly drew me to her.

In time we discovered we shared the conviction that marriage was only a possibility if we could serve Jesus better as a couple than single. I am also convinced that God created me for life with Nancy and her for me. Our marriage is part of God’s eternal plan for our blessing and His glory. And God plans well. That doesn’t mean it has always been easy.

A young woman whom we love, who knows us well, has often traveled with us for ministry in Asia. A few years ago on a trip in Myanmar, referring to Nancy and me she remarked, “You two are more different than any two people I know.” I don’t doubt that!

Nancy’s article tells some of our story about how that dynamic has worked out. Here are some of my thoughts that complement hers.

I’ve heard a lot of Biblical/theological discussion about the roles of men and women. What is the Biblical role for a husband? What is the Biblical role for a wife? Had we tried to follow the popular guidelines I think our marriage, and for sure our fruitfulness in the kingdom, would have been shipwrecked. We just don’t fit the stereotypes.

I think a better approach is to ask, “What gifts has God given?” I say that because God has given Nancy gifts that are not usually ascribed to the “role” of a wife. Nancy is a visionary and an initiator who can see and create what God wants to happen. An experienced missionary speaking of spiritual vision said, “Those who see the invisible can do the impossible.” God has created us to partner together in these faith ventures. Over the years (and none too quickly), I’ve learned to trust and appreciate Nancy’s gifts and contribute to the process in the areas of my gifts.

Nancy & Jim

Nancy & Jim

Our life and ministry together, by the power of the Holy Spirit is more than the sum of the parts. We bring our fish and loaves and Jesus brings His blessings, multiplies the resources and “feeds the multitudes.”

Now don’t get the idea that our relationship is only a functional strategy to extend the kingdom. For sure, by God’s grace, that happens (and I’m in awe when I see God at work). Loving Nancy is, for me, a source of joy and completion. She is an example of generous, compassionate love to me. I am loved in a way I never dreamed was possible. I look forward to our love growing in the years to come.


Nancy's Thoughts on 40 Years of Marriage and Ministry

"O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His Name together" Psalm 34:3

These words of exhortation adorned our wedding invitation and program. Jim and I chose this verse to represent our prayer and belief that we could serve God better as a couple than as two single people. When we met in graduate school, we each were committed followers of Jesus, pursuing education to equip ourselves for greater service to the Lord. We were the last people looking to find a mate, but God had other plans. Drawn by a desire to pray together for the spiritual life of our student body, we grew more and more comfortable with each other. We realized that ours was more than a prayer partner interest. After a few tumultuous months of engagement, we married on May 26, 1979. Two strong and independent followers of Jesus had a lot to learn about becoming one.

Nancy & Jim cutting the cake at their wedding

Nancy & Jim cutting the cake at their wedding

Jim and I are polar opposites in every aspect of the personality spectrum. I am an extrovert, he is an introvert. I am a "messy" by nature, he prefers tidiness and organization. I vent when something is bugging me, he is prone to bury it and keep on keeping on. As you might imagine, there were many years of "storming" before we reached some "norming" in our relationship.

A friend and fellow minister shared a pearl of wisdom with us many years ago. He said, "there will be times in your life when one of you is the race horse and one is the work horse and this will switch in different seasons. What is important is that you learn to COMPLETE one another and not COMPETE with one another." We have revisited this word from heaven on many occasions and reminded ourselves that what matters is loving and supporting each other as we seek to walk in obedience to God's call.

In the early years of our marriage, Jim was a pastor and youth leader and I was a stay at home mom. A former researcher and writer for a national television program, I loved my 24/7 unpaid job of forming the character of three amazing little girls, but sometimes struggled with feeling isolated and forgotten. When Jim would take a team of young people to Mexico for a mission trip, my part was to deal with broken down appliances or tires that always seemed to deflate after he departed. When I realized that this was my "work horse season" and training for future harvest, I could relax and enjoy the treasures God was giving me each day with Hannah, Abby and Grace. What a privilege I had to be with them as they grew in physical, mental and spiritual development. Our daughters are our great blessing from God.

Years later, when we worked together in ministry, we began a learning curve of understand and respecting one another's gifting and personality. I learned that setting an appointment with my husband to discuss a matter was much preferred by him than my popping in with my thoughts as "the spirit moved me." I also learned that a well written email was the superior form of communication at times. Agreeing on a start and end time for a delicate conversation helped us quite a bit, too. We try to never let the sun go down on our anger, and for the most part we have been successful. Practicing forgiveness is key. I am still perfecting this art!

As the Lord began to send us out to the nations together and separately, there was a new season of mentoring and fruitfulness as we sought to encourage national leaders in ministry and in their marriages. The things we learned in the difficult, stretching seasons were not only for our good and growth, but for sharing with those who looked to us to give input in their lives. This has been a great source of fulfillment as we see what happens when we share "warts and all" about some of our struggles and how the Lord came through in us, between us and through us.

As I enter into the next season of life and marriage, I continue to be amazed at this journey with Jesus and Jim Pennington. His faithfulness and discipline in prayer, fasting and Bible study have brought untold blessings to our lives and ministry.  We now have three amazing married daughters, three outstanding sons-in-law and four adorable grandchildren by God's grace. We have known the Lord in intimacy and in power. We have traveled to thirty some nations sharing His love. We look forward to the days ahead, enjoying them together.

Jim & Nancy with their four grandchildren (left to right: Henry, Eve, Lucy and Jack)

Jim & Nancy with their four grandchildren (left to right: Henry, Eve, Lucy and Jack)

“O Lord, You are the portion of my inheritance and my cup;

You maintain my lot.

The boundary lines have fallen to me in pleasant places;

Yes, I have a good inheritance.” Psalm 16:5-6

Check back on Thursday for Jim’s thoughts on 40 years of marriage and ministry!

Just Call Me Professor

I get a kick from walking across a university campus.

Maybe it’s the historical architecture or maybe it's the atmosphere of optimism that learning can create a better world. I am a Learner, at least that’s what the StrengthsFinder assessment told me.

This year, I was asked to design and teach a doctoral level course on Missional Ministry in the School of Divinity of Regent University. It was an online course, so I was in front of my computer rather than in some historical building, but the results were still inspiring. My class of doctoral candidates were men and women, racially diverse, and from several denominations. Most were serving churches as the lead pastor.

For 15 weeks we read, prayed, discussed and learned together. I don’t know what you imagine goes on in a class like this, but in this one (PMIN 761), the Holy Spirit was at work to bring spiritual and missional transformation.

Some of the books from Jim’s course

Some of the books from Jim’s course

Eighty percent of the churches in America have reached a plateau or are in decline. One student said that 75% of the churches in his denomination have not seen a conversion in a decade. American church life must be radically transformed to once again obey Jesus’ commission to make disciples.

Several of the students in my class were able to reorient their ministry goals and methods because of the impact of the class, with a renewed commitment to making disciples.

After this experience, I envision an academic setting where, more than gaining knowledge, lives are transformed, godly vision is united with faith, and obedient men and women commit their lives to make disciples and glorify Jesus.

By God’s grace that is what we experienced. I believe that God has opened another door of ministry to fulfill his Great Commission by multiplying leaders who say “Yes” to the call of God.

Myanmar Trip Report

A Quick Recap

We had a wonderful week in Myanmar as a part of our last trip, filled with Reading Room learnings, football/soccer playing and much more!

  • Strategic friendships were formed in the Reading Room training we offered. Dennis Owens instructed and encouraged parents and educators. The founder of a well-known private academy was with us, along with many lovely mothers, babies and grandmas.

  • A beautiful spirit of fellowship surrounded the four days of football competition and evening outreaches. The local team, under Pastor David's mentoring, has become skilled at creating a warm and joyful atmosphere which keeps the athletes engaged.

  • On the closing night, Pastor David introduced Jesus and His love for all people, Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu, every one of us. You could have heard a pin drop in the hall as David shared for about 20 minutes. Many teams came as groups to receive the written and recorded versions of the Book which tells of the love of Jesus. I had a profound sense of being in the middle of a miracle. This is a result of your prayers.

Get the recap on the Vietnam part of the trip here.

Some photos from Myanmar

Pho Chan’s Story: Growing in Love & Grace


Several years ago, we told the story of Pho Chan’s conversion when Pastor David shared about the love of Jesus to teens. His family beat him on his back with bamboo rods until the blood flowed. He was disowned for following Jesus Christ. Pastor David opened his home and taught Pho Chan the life of following Jesus Christ by making him part of their family. He learned a trade, participated in family devotions and grew in connection and service at the local church.

Today Pho Chan is strong in his faith. He married a passionate, lovely believer whose English name is Ruth. She leads worship and prayer at the church. God has blessed them with a beautiful son. Besides driving a taxi (converted 3-wheeler motorbike), Pho Chan is a vital part of the Glory soccer team. He also serves as a coach of the Eagles team, which is an outreach boys team targeting poor neighborhoods. His family is warming to his faith as they see him as a loving and successful man, husband, father and son.  

It is gratifying to return year after year and see the growth within members of this beloved fellowship. This is the fruit of love and New Testament discipleship. How beautiful is the Body of Christ!

Thank you for your prayers for continuing growth among new believers in Myanmar.