Cuppa with Nancy

Cuppa with Nancy: Through the Valley of the Shadow

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me.” Psalm 23:4

Today’s cuppa is an organic black tea from Yunnan Province in SW China. It tastes like fall, rich and satisfying, with hints of smoke and dried peaches. Both the tea and the quiet hour are restorative. Rays of sunshine highlight the green, gold and garnet leaves of our dogwood trees. It’s ironic...the same frost that blighted some of our landscape plants has coaxed the deeper, more glorious hues of the dogwoods. Thank you, Lord, for giving us seasons in nature and in life. Thank you that your mercies are new for me this day and everyday.

Elizabeth and Ko Kyi at a church celebration meal

Elizabeth and Ko Kyi at a church celebration meal

Elizabeth and her husband Ko Kyi have led Firefall International/s Reading Room outreach for a few years in Myanmar. Their son is in grade school, a very outstanding and sensitive little boy.

About three months ago, they were blessed to welcome baby Rachel into their family. She was delivered by cesarean birth in total health. However, the next three days for Elizabeth were a journey through the valley of the shadow of death.

Her heart rate began racing, her oxygen rate fell to less than 70 and her blood pressure soared to 175/140. She was terrified. The doctors took her baby from her. Most frightening to Elizabeth was the stream of estranged relatives (on account of her conversion to faith in Jesus) who lined up to visit her at the hospital. She knew they were coming to pay their respects before her death. She cried out from her heart, “Lord, save me, save me!” She heard nothing in response, but knew her husband and others were praying. She waited in the shadow.

Meanwhile, the doctor asked Ko Kyi to prepare his heart that Elizabeth might not make it, saying they had done all they could. At first, he was overcome with sorrow at the thought of losing her and raising their two children alone. As he waited in prayer, a peace settled on his heart and he began to thank God for her salvation and the realization that if she did die, they would be reunited in heaven. “I had an assurance and a hope”, he said. “I also realized my mother put her life at risk in giving birth to me. I determined to share my thanks to her.”

On a Saturday evening in my home, Pastor David sent a photo of Elizabeth with Rachel shortly after the birth. The baby looked lovely, but as I studied Elizabeth’s swollen face, I knew in my spirit that her life was in grave danger. I began to pray fervently and with tears over the next two days. The local church in Myanmar prayed without ceasing.

Gradually Elizabeth’s vitals began to stabilize. She was restored to full health! A recent scan of her heart confirmed this.

Holding precious little Rachel (her Burmese name means Snow Emerald)

Holding precious little Rachel (her Burmese name means Snow Emerald)

Elizabeth-and-Rachel.jpg

Three weeks ago, I had the joy of holding their chunky, beautiful daughter and hearing them recount the story of their miracle.

When asked what was different in her life since these events, she shared two things:

  1. A new gratitude for life. “When my eyes open each morning, I thank God for this, that I am still alive today, because of His protection and grace.”

  2. A resolve to live for Jesus with all her strength. “I realize the time is short in this life. Every day is a gift.”

May this story of Elizabeth’s miracle touch your heart with conviction and encouragement today.

Gratefully,

Nancy




Cuppa with Nancy

Summer of Surprises

Volunteers in Vietnam teaching children

Volunteers in Vietnam teaching children

Arkansas summers are not my cup of tea, or should I say not my tall, frosty glass of iced tea!

Being freckled and fair, these 115-degree heat index days leave me drained and surly if I am honest. I long for the delightful breezes of April and October and the comfort of my old jogging suit. For me, summer in Arkansas is to be endured, at least the months of July and August. 

This summer, however, has been one of "suddenlys" and surprises. In May, our associate in Vietnam wrote to ask if he could spend a few days with us in early June as he was between Seattle and Pittsburgh on business. We enjoyed hosting him for a few days of fellowship and relationship building. During a conversation with a pastor and longtime friend of Firefall International, I shared the concept of sending college age volunteers to Vietnam to work in a children's center serving orphans and underprivileged children. Some preschoolers are guarded in their meager homes by siblings aged 8 or 9 while both parents work to put food on the table. This pastor immediately said, "I have two guys who need this opportunity. Can we set something up for July?" A day or two later, I found myself in the Little Rock airport introducing our associate from Vietnam to the two young men who would soon be spending a month serving in a culture a world away. 

Here we are in late July and the guys have been there two weeks already. The trip has been beneficial to both the college guys and the kids. The guys are gaining the priceless gift of a larger worldview enhanced by the compassion that cross cultural service gives if we come to it as learners, not experts. The children have grown in their English language acquisition, an amazing "lift" for disadvantaged children there. New friendships have been forged, treasured memories formed and a newfound appreciation of the many advantages in their lives. They toured a hospital a few days ago where 2-4 people share one small bed due to overcrowding. 

I have had the joy of hearing from the guys via Messenger every day or two about their strange and wonderful summer. At first, I had to face some jealousy that I was the "sender" and not the "goer" this time. As I embraced my assignment of coach and cheerleader, my days have been full of prayers for them and the children, plus laughter as they are stretched by new foods and customs. They are not fans of soup for breakfast. 

What a joy to be a tiny part of something God has sovereignly orchestrated to touch all these lives.  Hopefully, I will remember the summer of 2017 as the first time we launched volunteers to SE Asia and not another dreaded Arkansas scorcher. Their joy has become mine and that is sweeter than a giant gulp of southern sweet tea!

Gratefully,
Nancy

Cuppa with Nancy

A Symphony of Serving

I've been home from Myanmar for a few weeks. Yes, it's wonderful to return to my husband, my creature comforts and my two labs. Of course, there's no place like home. Each day I return to memories of the acts of service I received while there. To witness and partake of joyful serving is to be touched, softened and changed.

I am enriched by spending time among a community of Jesus followers who have learned how to serve. Pastor David's mother remembered my favorite Burmese snacks and welcomed me with them at the football stadium. Sister May insisted I wear one of her coats during a chilly night of Firefall Football Challenge activities in her courtyard. Jonah, our driver, arrived at our hotel on time and with a wide smile on his face, even when we had tire trouble on the road.

At May's farm, food for 200 was prepared, aluminum plates were filled, delivered and later washed in a symphony of serving. The laughter in the kitchen among the cooks and servers made the rest of us jealous to be with them. They understood the secret of serving and their joy was contagious.

I return with a deeper appreciation of the way serving touches the heart and paves the way for the love of God to enter. I know this because I experienced it firsthand. There's a fresh longing in my life to follow the One who said,"For who is greater, the one who is at table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves." Luke 22:27

Time to give it away!

A Cuppa with Nancy

Sand in My Shoes

Today’s cuppa is a fine Earl Grey tea from Sri Lanka, crafted by Dilmah. This is the first tea of its type that does not need milk to tame it for my tastebuds. Just a sliver of lemon and I am good to go! The fruity and full taste is simultaneously bracing and calming. It is a tea I will surely pack for teatimes, both morning and afternoon, during the many hotel stays to come.  

As my departure date for Myanmar ticks down to one week away, my expectation and excitement is rising. Crazy as it sounds, I love travel! Many ask how I can stomach the 16-hour, non-stop flights, the cramped seating, the oxymoronic “airline cuisine” and the jet lag which gift wraps both the departure and return across multiple time zones. 

To my mind, these things represent a small, low door one stoops to pass through into a wide arena of tastes, sights and experiences.  

My work with Firefall International gives me the privilege of strengthening national believers who are introducing the person of Jesus Christ to those who have never heard of Him.  I receive much more than I give. My heart is enlarged and challenged by interacting with heroes of the Christian faith.

My grandmother loved to travel, too. She used to say, “I’ve got sand in my shoes,” as she and Pa rambled across southwestern USA for month-long tours in their camper after retiring from their dry goods store in our small Kentucky town. I get it. Jim can attest that I am happiest when there is an open suitcase in a corner of our bedroom. I fill it with culturally appropriate clothing, a few creature comforts and items like copies of “The Jesus Film” on DVD in the Burmese language. Sometimes it’s vitamins for children, whatever is needed at the time.

Please do not pity me for the globe-crossing treks I make. To others, they might be torture. In my eyes, this love of travel is part of God’s design of me for the work He has given. Ephesians 2:10 reminds us that “we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

How satisfying to realize that my delight in travel is part of God’s design and delight, too.

The suitcase is open, the packing list lies beside it. Let the countdown begin! Please join me on this adventure by praying day by day. A prayer itinerary will be emailed out next week, so make sure you're signed up for our emails.

Joyfully,
Nancy

A Cuppa with Nancy

Nancy receives a coconut stuffed steamed bun at a riverside tea shop in Myanmar.

Nancy receives a coconut stuffed steamed bun at a riverside tea shop in Myanmar.

Today the cuppa is not my usual tea, but a delicious pour over from Ethiopia. I sip the dark and fruity brew and look out the window, studying the bare limbs of trees saluting the pale winter sky. My heart is still but full of expectation for 2017. "What is your promise for me, Lord?"

As I wait, a verse comes to mind. "Ask of Me and I will surely give the nations as your inheritance." Psalm 2:8. In this verse, Father is speaking through the ages to Jesus. As these words land in my heart, I am reminded that in Christ Jesus, this promise is mine as well. We are family. His mission is my mission. 

My response is a big smile from the inside out. I want to know the heart of Father more and live in confidence as He brings it to pass.

My heart inquires, "Lord, how do you want to order my day to extend the inheritance of Jesus?" For me, this involves conversations over lunch and afternoon tea with dear friends plus research and emails while planning the outreaches through soccer in Myanmar in April. Being a 62-year-old soccer mom is more fun than I could have ever imagined. I am grateful for my unconventional assignment, filled with wonder that He picked me for His team so many years ago.