New Year’s Reminds Me of Church

Since it is New Year’s Day, I really can’t let this opportunity escape me to tell you a story about a New Year’s Eve in my childhood. Growing up, my family went to church. A lot. As in, most weeks we were at church a minimum of 5-6 times a week. And that didn’t even count the Bible studies my parents held in our home during the day while Keely and I were at school.

So, New Year’s Eve? We never went to a “party”. We did something way better. We went to church. I think people here in the States call it “Watch Night Service”.

The best part about New Year’s Eve Service was that we got to eat afterwards! But before I tell you about that, I need to share with you how my kid brain operated. Trust me. You want to read this. This is funny.

You know how you had thoughts about things when you were a kid, only to grow up and discover that what you thought was totally off base and just plain out wrong? Yep. This story is going straight down that path.

There were several instances in our growing up years that my sister Keely and I truly believed that the rapture had happened, that Jesus had returned and that we had been left behind. That is an indescribably awful feeling. However, now, those stories are hilarious in and of themselves. I need to make a note to write those down to share!

But I digress. Back to New Year’s Eve. Keely and I were sitting in the service, listening to our dad preach and singing songs and trying extremely hard to pay attention and not get in trouble. We knew there was food that would be served after the service was over, and that was supposed to happen at midnight! And our growling and rumbling tummies did not let us forget.

This is where it gets funny. I had in my head that we were “waiting and watching” for Jesus to come back to rapture us to heaven. I knew the Bible said that no one knows the day or the time, but New Year’s seemed as good of a time as any, and a good number of the Bride of Christ was conveniently gathered in churches across the world AND what else were we watching and waiting for? (Please note this belief was not something my parents told me, it was something I assumed.)

Now, I know that we are supposed to long for the return of Jesus and long for heaven…but at my young age, I was perhaps 7 or 8 years old, I had storybook visions of heaven and I didn’t REALLY want to go, (shocking I know!) because I was not interested in wearing a long white dress, playing a harp and floating on the clouds. (My view of heaven and what it will be like has since changed drastically. If you think we are going to be floating on clouds and turning into angels with harps, I encourage you to read the Bible to see what it says about heaven…. or even “Heaven” by Randy Alcorn. He is a very talented writer and has studied scriptures extensively. I recommend that book wholeheartedly.) I was also interested in seeing Jesus and God, and maybe Moses and Noah. I was also really curious about the pearly gates and the crowns of jewels, and I was anxious to see if I could walk on the Crystal Sea like Jesus and Peter walked on the Sea of Galilee. But not interested enough to want Jesus to come back before we got to eat pancakes and bacon!!

So, I spent my time, sitting in my chair, trying to be a good example and a great missionary kid, and I secretly prayed that Jesus would wait to come back until after we had the chance to eat.

If my mama and daddy had of known what I was thinking and praying…. I can assure you. I would not be here right now writing this story for you to read.

Isn’t it funny how we can take little things and twist them into our version of truth or reality? While ALL of my views on this have since changed, due to my personal study of the Bible and my personal relationship with Jesus, what I want you to know is this:

Jesus IS coming back. Do you know him? Are you ready? If you aren’t longing to leave this world behind and go to heaven, then I would wager to say that you may not know him quite like you should. But don’t despair! You can know him like that. He’s waiting for you.

To put it in simple terms, knowing Jesus can be compared to your relationship with your favorite person. Think about how you miss them when they are gone and long to hear from them. Jesus is the same way. He longs for you to talk to him, and you should miss him every second when you aren’t spending time with him.

Statistics are staggering regarding people’s viewpoints on whether they really want to go to heaven. Don’t get me wrong. They definitely don’t want to go to hell, but they want to wait to go to heaven until they are more mature and “ready” to sit on a cloud playing a harp. If you don’t really want to go to heaven because it sounds boring, then I encourage you to learn more about it!

Most importantly, I encourage you to ask Jesus to make himself real to you. He will. He did it for me, and he will do it for you. I started just like that. I asked him to show himself to me. I wanted to KNOW him. And he did. I started reading my Bible everyday and it was amazing. It was like he had a private conversation with me every single time I read. Before you knew it, I was spending all of my spare time listening to him and talking to him. My life hasn’t been the same since.

Do you know him?

Matthew 7:21-23

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name, drive out demons in your name, and do many miracles in your name?’ 23 Then I will announce to them, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you lawbreakers!’

Matthew 24:30

“Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the peoples of the earth will mourn; and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.”

Matthew 24:36-44

““Now concerning that day and hour no one knows — neither the angels of heaven nor the Son — except the Father alone. As the days of Noah were, so the coming of the Son of Man will be. For in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah boarded the ark. They didn’t know until the flood came and swept them all away. This is the way the coming of the Son of Man will be. Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. Two women will be grinding grain with a hand mill; one will be taken and one left. Therefore be alert, since you don’t know what day your Lord is coming. But know this: If the homeowner had known what time the thief was coming, he would have stayed alert and not let his house be broken into. This is why you are also to be ready, because the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”

Christmas isn’t over….there is one last gift…..

by: Stephanne Morris Marsh

If you are like me, the day after Christmas is really hard! All of that build up, all of that preparation, and poof! It is done. Over. Gone. If you are feeling a little rumpled in spirit today (a little Anne of Green Gables reference for all of you Anne aficionados out there), remember that you still have a Perfect Gift that never ends. Jesus is the gift that continuously gives, with no strings attached. He gives us unconditional love, no matter what we have done or where we are. There is not one single thing in this world (or out of it!) that can make Him stop loving you. His love is perfect and unlimited and is NEVER subject to variations. He doesn’t love you less because of what you have done or even haven’t done.  We are the ones that put those limitations on His love, and those limitations are false, and completely without truth. Hang with me here!

I know that there have been many, many times in my life that I have thought that I was unlovable, or even worse, unforgiveable.  But those are lies, straight from the pits of hell.  If you think that you are personally capable of causing the God of the universe to love you any more or any less, let me help you.  You, my friend, are not that powerful.  Jeremiah 31:3 tells us that “I have loved you with an everlasting love, therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.” Everlasting means never ending!  He loves us with an EVERLASTING love. 

If you feel far away from Him, or feel as though He can’t possibly love you, I would wager to guess that you just might be basing it off of YOUR feelings and YOUR behavior. When we are unhappy with our behavior, we tend to feel unworthy of HIS love.  When we feel unworthy of His love, then we tend to withdraw from Him and spending time in His presence, and even though it was us that chose to withdraw, usually out of guilt, we tend to feel and tell ourselves that God is withholding Himself from us until we get back to where we need to be.  This is a vicious cycle; one I have found myself in too many times to count, and one I observe my friends in as well.

When you base whether or not you are loved by Jesus off of your feelings, then you open your heart and mind up to the lies and trickery of the evil one.  Think about the person or people you love most in the world. Think about your relationship with your children, or if you don’t have children, think about your relationship with your parents. Is there ANYTHING that your child could do to keep you from loving them? I would wager to say that there isn’t.  You might be disappointed with their actions, but I would bet my bottom dollar that you would still defend them to the point of death.  If you don’t have children, think about the love your parents had for you.  If you are still alive and kicking, I have no doubts that your parents sacrificed MUCH to ensure your success. The love our parents had for us and the love we have for our children is absolutely NOTHING compared to the love that God has for each of us.  It isn’t even in the same league.  We can’t comprehend the great and everlasting love that He has for us.  All we can do is read the TRUTH (the words He gives us in the Bible) and ask Him to help us receive and believe by faith that truth. 

Romans 8:38-39 38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Psalm 13:5 But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.

Deuteronomy 33:27 The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.

1 John 4:15-16, 18 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God.  And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

He is always waiting on us to draw near to Him.  He is always waiting with His arms wide open.  He loves us with an everlasting love, no matter what we have done.  James 4:8 says, “Come near to God and He will come near to you.” So, crawl up in His lap today! He is waiting for you to press into Him, and lean on His everlasting arms, so that He can lavish you with His love. And speaking of LAVISH – (Lavish is one of my very favorite words!!)

Have you ever read Ephesians?? Just read Ephesians chapter 1 verses 7 and 8. I love the word lavished. It’s so luxurious!! In Jesus, God “lavished on us” (1:8) the “riches of God’s Grace” (1:7). There is no end to God’s favor. All of the riches of God’s grace are being poured out on you, now and forever. This doesn’t mean that you will be given everything that you want in this life. Not at all. What it does mean is that whatever comes your way, no matter what happens to you, Jesus will be there, working in each situation as long as you give it to Him. How insanely awesome is that?

I’ve been meditating on the Word of The Lord, day and night. I’ve been earnestly seeking His face. I can tell you, when you seek, you will find. When you ask, He will answer you. This is what I have learned:

Every answer we need, for every problem we have, can be found in God’s Word. When you are going through a tough time, it is not enough to know that God’s answer to the problem is “somewhere in the Bible”. Find the scripture in which God has promised the solution. Meditate on it until the truth of that scripture is revealed to you. If you don’t know where to start, google it! Seriously! The internet can tell you where to find scriptures for whatever you are looking for. It’s a great place to start. Or, look under key words in the back of the Bible. But be ready. When you search with an open heart, you will find what you seek, and oh, so very much more.

Proverbs 4:20–22
20 My son, give attention to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. 21 Do not let them depart from your eyes; keep them in the midst of your heart; 22 for they are life to those who find them, and health to all their flesh.

God has given us a sure way to receive the answers to our problems and challenges. It is His Word. Every answer or solution we need is found in the Bible. Find your answer today. Stop looking everywhere else. Go straight to the source and tell fear where to go. Let God lavish you with the perfect gift of His love today.

If after making it all the way through this blog post you still need something to lift your spirits and make you giggle, then might I suggest you read a story I wrote about a day when I was a very bad and naughty little girl? It is called, “Soda crackers and Fanny” and you can read it here.

Enough

By: Stephanne Morris Marsh

Laying here in the quiet wee hours of the morning, the faint glow of the Christmas tree lights peaking beneath my bedroom door; my mind is frantically racing, trying to remember if I’ve forgotten anything. This is it. It’s here. Christmas is here. All of the cooking, all of the hurrying, all of the scurrying, all of the buying, all of the wrapping and decorating, all of the madness that encompasses our North American Christmas is here. If I don’t have it, if I’ve forgotten it, it’s too late. My heart squeezes and tiny tears try to drip. Is it enough? Are my love gifts enough?  Will everyone understand the thought and preparation that went into what we’ve done? 

And then that still quiet voice whispers and I can feel the tension realease from my entire body. I nestle back into my pillow for 5 more minutes to listen to that voice I’ve come to treasure so dear. More priceless than silver or gold. More priceless than diamonds or rubies, it is the voice of my precious Savior. He reminds me that He came as THE GIFT. He came as the very BEST GIFT and nothing else matters. He reminds me that I am treasured. He reminds me that I am loved. He reminds me that as long as I present myself with kindness, humility and love, those are truly the best gifts I can bring. 

So I take a deep breathe and remember that I’ve done the very best I can. I did it all with love. Now, I pray that others see not the material gifts I bring, but the Giver of all good and perfect gifts, Jesus. Let them see you, Lord. 

I whisper my quiet thanks. My very grateful, overwhelmed thanks, and I am ready for this day. 

Merry Christmas to each of you, my precious readers, family and friends. My prayer is that the overwhelming joy of understanding who Jesus truly is would flood and fill each of your hearts.  Don’t let today slip by without spending time with Him. 

Always, Always……Make Sure the Mic is Off

by: Stephanne Morris Marsh

You know, sometimes, there are things that are so firmly imprinted in your memory, that you can recall them in extraordinary detail. People say, that with the passage of time, memories can fade, or that with the retelling of the story, details can be greatly embellished. However, I would argue, quite vehemently in fact, that this memory has neither faded, nor has it been fortified with “extras”. The story I am about to tell you will be told exactly as it happened. After all, no one in my family will EVER forget it! Isn’t that the way it goes with things that embarrass you right down to your toes? I do believe that this was more than embarrassment, this was deep, total, complete, mortification. So, grab a cup of coffee, and curl up in a chair, and prepare to be amused. On second thought, perhaps you should put your coffee down. I don’t want you spitting it all over your electronic device.

The year was 1988. I was 14. Keely was 9. My dad was 36 and my mama was 34. (The ages aren’t really important, but it does add lovely detail, don’t you think?) The location was somewhere on the eastern coast of North Carolina. I shall not name the town, to protect the identities of the innocent. We were “campaigning for Jesus and Ecuador”, itinerating to raise funds for our next 4 years on the mission field. It was a Sunday evening somewhere between Halloween and Christmas, and we were all exhausted. We had a morning service in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and after a quick lunch with the pastors of the church, we had jumped in our car to pound the pavement to the next church almost 4 hours away, for an evening service.

We arrived at the church a little after 5 pm, a little early for the 6:00 evening service. The pastor met us at the door and showed us into a nursery/missionary apartment where there was a bathroom, a bed, a few cribs and assorted nursery toys. He admonished us to make ourselves at home and told us that we could freshen up and rest for a few minutes before church began, because they had prayer in the sanctuary prior to the start of service. He gave my dad a wireless microphone and told him that we could take as long as we needed, that the prayer service usually wrapped up only moments before the 6:00 start time. He told us how to find the sanctuary, and my dad thanked him, and the pastor shut the door.

My mama and daddy stretched out on the bed, careful not to rumple their hair or their clothes, and professed they were going to take a 15 minute nap. Keely and I did what any tween and teen would do. We explored. We looked at all of the nursery toys, dismissed them as too babyish, and kept looking.
To be honest, we were hoping to find some juice boxes, or some of those vacation Bible school cookies, you know, the fake oreos or the flower cookies with the holes in the middle. But alas, there was nothing of the sort. We sat down at the end of the bed and looked at one another.

I don’t really recall exactly how we discovered it, but tucked away, between the bed and the wall, completely out of sight, were two old fashioned pea hampers. They were filled to the top with every missionary kids’ dream. Penny candy and penny toys. In retrospect, it is now obvious that this was left over from a harvest festival or carnival of some sort. There were Mary Janes and Bit O’ Honeys. Now ‘n’ Laters and Laffy Taffy galore! And the toys! There were Chinese finger traps and paper Chinese yo-yos! There were bouncy balls and little maze puzzles! I know you think that these things shouldn’t have interested us in the slightest, however, if you have read the story of the Gummy Bear on the Plane and The Hatchback of the Datsun, then you might just understand that these two simple hampers, filled to the brim with these inexpensive treats was like getting an unlimited shopping pass to your favorite store!

I can’t recall if it was me or Keely that grabbed the first handful of candy. But, I do know that we both ate it as fast as we could. We had a great pile of wrappers on the floor in between us, when we decided that we had eaten enough, for the moment. I then leaned over and grabbed two Chinese yo-yos and two finger traps. We sat quietly for a moment playing with them so as not to disturb our parents, but then….somehow, the yo-yo, with a mind of its own, went slightly to the side and smacked my sister in the head. She of course exclaimed out loud, (much louder than was necessary! I mean it was a PAPER yo-yo! But she was always overly dramatic.) and retaliated by smacking me right in the eye with her yo-yo. It was on. We were running, shrieking, hitting each other with the yo-yos, laughing, and trying to see how hard and far we could make the yo-yo fly out.

We screeched to a halt and became completely silent, the only audbile sound was the beating of our hearts, when our dad popped one eye open and glared at us. My mama sat up and asked us rather loudly, what in the world we were doing. She then told us in no uncertain terms, and a little more loudly than I thought was necessary, that “we needed to stop playing with the church’s “junk” and straighten our hair. ” She put her head back on the pillow, and then I heard her shriek. My dad had grabbed a paper yo-yo and slung it at my mama. By then, we were all merrily laughing and slinging the yo-yos hitting each other, and we were all talking about “how much fun it was to play with other people’s “junk”.” In an instant, my parents were off of the bed, and we were having a wild time slinging the yo-yos at one another. Things sobered up really quickly when my mama glanced down and saw the pile of wrappers at the foot of the bed. My mama proceeded to tell us that we had “stolen” candy, and stolen from a church! She was fussing to beat the band. Keely and I were just standing there, when our fun REALLY screeched to a halt. Because all of the sudden, there was a firm knock at the door.

My dad went to open it, and standing there, very red-faced and obviously disturbed was the pastor. He said, “Perhaps, before you start “playing with other people’s junk” and stealing candy, you should make sure the microphone is off!” He then spun on his heel and left us gaping after him.

I cannot even begin to try to describe how embarrassed we all were. There are not enough words! I can’t even attempt to do it justice. Even now, 31 years later, just thinking about it and trying to write about it, my cheeks are flaming red and I want to crawl into a hole. I was mostly embarrassed for my mama and daddy, and I had a sneaking and horrifying suspicion that we wouldn’t be getting a love offering that night. My dad still had to preach! My mama still had to sing, and yes, my sister and I had to still had to sing as well. We ALL had to go out and face the people in the congregation. We had to face them and smile while we were doing it! We all felt sick to our stomachs. My dad grabbed the offending wireless mic and slid the button to off. We soberly returned the toys to the hampers, disposed of our “stolen” candy trash, and straightened the bed. Then we straightened our clothes and our mussed hair, squared our shoulders, and resolutely walked out into the den of lions, errrrr, ummm, the congregation. I don’t think I have ever sat through such a quiet service. I don’t know how we did it. How did my dad preach? How did my mama and my sister and I sing? How did we sit there? I know our cheeks were flaming scarlet in color.

Normally, after a service, the pastor or the deacons would take us out to eat and then give us an envelope with a love offering that usually was enough to pay for our gas to get to the next location, and sometimes, there was even a little extra and a monthly pledge of support, but not this time. This time, we finished the service and we quietly left . That was a very quiet drive back home.

All of these years later, it is still a very embarrassing memory. Every once in a while, I am tempted to giggle when I think of it, simply because it was a rare moment that my dad had “let his hair down” and played with us while he was in his “preaching suit”. We had a glorious 3-4 minutes of having fun with simple toys. When I think back to the moment of my mama sitting up surprised that my dad had popped her playfully with the yo-yo, and my sister and I running around shrieking, it was truly innocent fun. I can assure you that we would have NEVER hurt anyone’s feelings on purpose and we would have never eaten the candy if we truly thought we were stealing it. The pastor had after-all, told us to “make ourselves at home.”

I think what has stuck with me after all of these years is the sadness I felt from the obvious disdain and lack of grace and forgiveness. The embarrassment that we all felt that we had been caught acting like normal people! Y’all, we were a young missionary family! We were tired, we were ridiculously poor, we sacrificed so very much, and there was no grace. No one even attempted to ease or lighten the discomfort of the awful situation with humor. And that breaks my heart. Because I witnessed situations like that more often than I would like to admit, I truly believe that is why I am the way I am. I am constantly cracking jokes, running interference, and trying to smooth things over. I never want anyone to feel like my family and I did in that situation. I mean come on! You had a bunch of mostly older people, praying in a sanctuary, and over the sound system, you hear a young family playing with one another, shrieking with laughter! That should have been hilarious! It should have made the people in the church laugh out loud. But it didn’t.

So, my take away from this has several facets. Please stick with me.

I think that there are many of us that grew up in a church just like the one that is described above. All of the right elements were there, the gospel message was there, but people were judgmental and God was portrayed as an angry God and our “fear” of the Lord was true fear, and not holy respect. That grieves my heart, more than I can put into words. It grieves my heart because so many people have walked away from church and a relationship with the Lord because the standards and the bar that was set was impossibly high. No one can follow all of those rules and live a perfect life, at least not without hiding something, and there are most certainly major things missing. Huge components of what make being a Christ-follower so amazing. Elements like joy and LOVE! That is precisely why God sent Jesus. He sent the New Covenant because the children of Israel couldn’t live by the Old Covenant. If they couldn’t what makes anyone think we could?

Much of my life, I operated from a place of fear. Fear of what would happen if I did or worse yet, if I didn’t do………whatever. Use your imagination and fill in the blank. I had head knowledge. I knew exactly what the Bible said and where it said it. I had head knowledge, but I didn’t have heart knowledge. Having heart knowledge is what makes all of the difference.

I was lucky in that I had an earthly father that I knew loved me. He showed me he loved me by the way he cared for me and our family. I never doubted my father’s love. And that, that is what opened the door for me to finally understand my HEAVENLY Father’s love. I knew I could tell my daddy anything and it wouldn’t change his love for me. Oh sure, he might be disappointed, but he wasn’t going to stop loving me, and I knew surely, he would do everything in his power to help me. It didn’t matter what I did. My daddy was going to love me in spite of whatever it was that I had done.
And y’all, my earthly daddy’s love, as wonderful as it is, is NOTHING compared to the depths of love that the God of heaven and earth has for me and for you.

Many people, however, weren’t as lucky as me. Perhaps you grew up with an abusive father, or maybe even without a father at all. How then, do you reconcile the love of a father and comprehend the love of our Heavenly Father when you have no experience to relate it to? Compound and combine that with the harsh church experience like the one above, and no wonder so very many people are turned off by the thought of “religion” and God all together.

I wish I had magic words or a formula for you to follow. I wish I could just “tell you” and the dawning of complete understanding would light in your eyes. I can try, but I can tell you now, I can’t do Jesus justice. There aren’t enough words to tell you how much He loves you. There isn’t a way for me to describe and explain how it feels to follow Him. I can’t put into words what it is like to Love like He does. All I can tell you is that it is worth pursuing. It is worth figuring out. He is worth finding. He is worth following and He is worthy of all of our love and praise.

If you only knew exactly how much freedom is found in Him. If you only knew exactly what the good news of the gospel truly meant, you would stop everything and pursue Him with your whole heart. If only you knew. Following Jesus and loving Jesus means you live your life differently. Loving Jesus changes you from the inside out. Once you truly KNOW Him, once you truly understand the depth of His love for you, once you understand EXACTLY WHAT He did for you on the cross, once you understand the true concepts of GRACE and MERCY, you can’t be the same. I am living proof.

See, once upon a time, when I just had the head knowledge, I was as judgmental as the people in the church we visited. I was downright mean. I am so ashamed to admit that. I am so very ashamed and heart-broken to think of the damage I may have done, or the people I may have turned off to living a life for Christ because I knew ABOUT Him, but I didn’t KNOW Him. My heart literally breaks thinking of the people I hurt when I thought I was “showing” them Jesus.

See, my Jesus, He ate dinner with the sinners. He wiped the tears from the face of the prostitute, He served and loved people. And they were changed because of His love. The people that came into contact with Him didn’t stay the same. They changed, because of His example. That is all I want. I want to live my life so that others see Him in me. I want to live my life so that people know that I am different. The Bible says that they will know us because of our LOVE. So, go out and love on people today. And hey, if a missionary family comes to your church, love on them extra big. They carry such a heavy load, and I can promise you that they are struggling more than you can see. Offer to fill their car up with gas, or give them a $20 bill and tell them to go get some candy, or to go to Dollar Tree to get some fun toys. I have heard, there are these Chinese yo-yos, and supposedly, they are the best things ever. Although, you might want to tell them they should keep them in the car, church just might not be the best place to try them out.

Jehoshaphat and the Dying Cat Song

by: Stephanne Morris Marsh

This is from an older (2014) journal entry. I’ve posted it on Facebook before. I did update it just now to reflect my current favorite worship song choices. I woke up thinking about it, and I’ve argued about posting it again. I even tried writing something else. But apparently, somebody is supposed to read it. I hope it is you. ❤

Jehoshaphat and the Dying Cat Song

Have you ever sensed The Lord telling you to wait? Or felt that the time wasn’t quite right for something? Have you every worried or been fearful about something or anything and everything? I know I have. The Bible tells us repeatedly not to worry and not to be afraid. It tells us that The Lord has everything worked out and that He goes before us, that we are simply to trust in Him and worship Him!! Sounds easy, yet probably the hardest thing ever to actually do. Right?

I have been stuck in 2 Chronicles for almost a year. 2 Chronicles!!!! Most people tend to ignore Chronicles altogether, but there are some wonderful lessons to be learned and wisdom to be gained from reading the words The Lord left for us.

We all know it is easy to say, “Praise the Lord! Hallelujah!” when times are good. It is easy to believe that God loves you when you are on the mountaintop enjoying the sunshine. But what happens when you are down in the dark valley surrounded by your enemies?

Perhaps today, you are in the valley of darkness and despair and you are asking, “Where is God?”

He is right there with you. The God of the valleys says to you, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)

This is the part I love. All of us southerners have at one time or another heard of “jumping Jehoshaphat”. However, In this story, Jehoshaphat didn’t jump. He waited. He was in a terrible situation. He should have panicked. But he didn’t. He prayed and he listened.

When King Jehoshaphat was surrounded and outnumbered by his enemies, the Spirit of the Lord came upon his prophet Jahaziel and he said to the king, “Don’t be afraid nor dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours, but God’s. You will not need to fight in this battle. Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the Lord, who is with you. Don’t fear or be dismayed. Tomorrow, go out against them, and WAIT, for the Lord is with you.” (2 Chronicles 20:14– 17)

What King Jehoshaphat did next was brilliant. He acted with wisdom from on high. Instead of putting his great and mighty soldiers and commanders in front, he put worshipers in front! What did the worshipers sing? They sang of God’s love for them — “Praise the Lord for His love endures forever!” And God utterly destroyed their enemies! They ended up slaughtering themselves (they fell over on their own swords!) while King Jehoshaphat and his people STOOD and worshipped! (2 Chronicles 20:21–23, NIV)

It is not the trials that make us strong, but our responses in those trials. The devil wants us to respond by asking, “Where is God?” But God wants us to respond with faith in His love for us. We are more than conquerors not because of our love for Him, but through Him who loves us. (Romans 8:37)

So whatever valley or trial you are in today, don’t be afraid. God is there with you strengthening and upholding you. Just sing of His love for you and let Him fight your battles for you! Sing!!!

Michael W. Smith’s “Surrounded: This is How I Fight My Battles”, Jonathan David Helser’s “Raise a Hallelujah”, and Rhett Walker’s “Believer” are three of my top favorite songs to belt out right now.

So… I say all of that to say this. If you are down in the lowest valley, if you don’t know where to turn, if you don’t know what to do, trust in your heart, tell God you trust Him out loud, and then worship.

Even if it sounds pitiful, even if it sounds like a cat is dying, start to sing. Sing until you become strong. Sing until you mean it. Singing makes the darkness flee and singing brings praise and worship straight to the throne of the most High God. He will hear you.

All He requires is for you to be faithful. Start with what you have. Your faith will increase. Bring Him your offering of praise.

Four of the wisest ladies I have ever known have told me when you don’t know what else to do, thank Him for taking care of whatever “it” is and then sing a song of praise. Two of them were my grandmothers and they walked more closely with The Lord than anyone I’ve ever known. These other two, I’m fairly certain they touch the face of God daily, plus, my Bible tells me so. Oooooh yes, and pick up your Bible. Read 2 Chronicles chapter 20. It’s in the Old Testament, before Psalms. I promise you will be glad you took the time to read it.

Confirmation and So. Much. Love.

by: Stephanne Morris Marsh (with inserts or is it excerpts….from Haven Floyd and Kay Morris)

So, what’s a girl to do when she has TWO stories she needs to share? I don’t want to create two separate blog posts, because one might get lost and people might not read it. And BOTH of these stories are worth knowing. Therefore, I am going to do the only logical thing I can do, I am going to put them BOTH in THIS post. I think it’s legal. Maybe. Please, bear with me and stick through to the end.  I think that you will be glad that you did.

I have already shared one post about God’s confirmation and knowing I was doing exactly what He called me to do. If you missed it, you can read it here. It is the second story, entitled “There is Something About a Name.” That being said, isn’t there always room for one more confirmation, well in this instance, two? You see, people think that I am so confident and sure of myself and my calling. Perhaps, if you’ve taken the time to read any of my recent blogs and stories, then you may have seen a glimpse of the insecure Stephanne that still tries to raise (or lower) her head from time to time.

I admit, there are many, many times that I, in my humanity question if I’ve bitten off more than I can chew with the Ecuador mission trips year after year. Am I trying to do things in my own power? Did I create my zeal and passion for Ecuador? Or is it a God thing? Have I made it into something bigger than He wanted it to be? Have I misheard my calling? And every single year, the Lord calms those thoughts and He reaffirms to me that He alone called me. He reaffirms to me that the seeds my parents planted years ago, were not in vain. He reaffirms to me that He is in control and working in the midst of the lives of every single team member. Every single year, there is a story from the past that comes to light and brings me to my knees with the deepest of gratitude, thanking God that He took our humble gifts and multiplied them for His kingdom. Tonight, as I read this post, I sobbed. Then I tried to read it to LBJ and he cried harder than me. 

Now, as I sit here, thinking and thanking Him for always, always being faithful, I was prompted to share the story I read on Facebook. Someone needs to hear that what you have done for Christ is NEVER in vain. He will always use it. You may not see it immediately, but boy when you do…be prepared to have your knees buckle as you stare in awe at the magnificence of the tapestry of the GRAND WEAVER.

Please. Keep reading the story below. You will be glad you did. ❤️🇪🇨❤️


Below is a Facebook post from Haven Floyd, Team Member, Heart for Ecuador 2020, written December 12, 2019 and shared with her permission.

I feel overwhelmed with emotion to share that I have been given the opportunity to participate in a medical missions trip to Quito, Ecuador in June 2020. Thanks to Stephanne Marsh, who has been organizing efforts to bring the people of Ecuador hope and love through medical, dental, and eye clinics for several years. Although Stephanne currently lives in North Carolina, the people of Ecuador are close and dear to the heart of her family. She grew up in Ecuador, and that’s how this all began. To learn more about Stephanne, and this effort, please visit www.heartforecuador.com.

As some of you know, I was born with underdeveloped lungs and spent almost the first month of my life in a glass isolate in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at the Medical University of S.C. I’ve always known that I wanted to work in the medical field, and maybe it was this early experience that draws me to want to help sick children and infants. Currently, this area of nursing is my intended field of study.

Beside me in the NICU was a set of twins born prematurely at 26 weeks. Both were on ventilators. Their mother was Hispanic, very young, all by herself, and spoke no English. None. At the time, my family’s church in Georgetown, SC had a fairly new pastor, and he came to MUSC to visit us. Coincidently (or not) he spoke Spanish, fluently. He spoke to this new mom, to ask if there was something, he could do to help her. She immediately started calling for doctors, because for the very first time she was able to learn details and ask questions about the health condition of her babies via a translator. This mother cried because she was so happy and so thankful. She had been worried that her babies were not going to live, and doctors were now able to let her know that was NOT the case. My mom STILL cries when she tells this story.

That pastor, Dr. Brad Morris, is Stephanne Morris Marsh’s father. At the time, he had moved back to the US from Ecuador, where his family had served as missionaries. Now, almost 20 years later, our paths cross again as I am blessed with this opportunity!

I need the help and support of family and friends to get there. First and foremost, please pray for me and others involved in every aspect of the “Heart for Ecuador” mission. Also, log onto the website above to find other ways to help, such as donating old reading glasses (I have a collection box for these!) Finally, if you can, please support me with a donation of $20 for a t-shirt (pictured) to help me fund my portion of this trip to Quito, Ecuador. God Bless.❤️

Aren’t these cute??? You should totally get one! (or three).

Here are shirt details:

Sizes:
Youth – M & L
Adult – S – 4XL

Color: Navy Blue

Suggested donation:

Donation – $20
(additional $4 if mailing is required)

Accept:
Cash
Check
Cash App- HavenFloyd
Venmo- Havenfloyd77


And now, if you have followed me and read this far, then you deserve a prize! For story # 2, I promise you will love this one, too, and it is totally worth reading. Although, you might need to get tissues.  Consider yourself warned. And one last note, I promise this all ties together!

Many of the reasons that I tend to second guess and doubt myself are due to experiences that I have had over the years.  I believe that is normal human nature, and I know that I know, that it is only through the strength, mercy, grace, and hand of God that I stay on the track that I do!

One thing that set me back and made me lose my identity and to be truthful, I came close to losing many other things, too, was the death of my precious mama.  To be honest, 1999-2008 is a total blur.  If you knew me then, I have probably already apologized to you, and if I haven’t, then please forgive me and know that I am very sorry for so many things. 

I was 25 years old, Jon and I had been married almost 4 years, and Julia was 6 months old.  My mama died at 46 years of age, after suffering interminably with adeno carcinoma of the lung which was induced (we believe) by the enormous amounts of volcanic ash she was exposed to in the early 1990’s living on the side of a volcano that spewed several feet of ash every single day. 

There are several things about this story that I didn’t realize I was going to share until this very moment.  Let’s just say that her death rocked me to the core and shook the foundation of everything I had ever believed.  I was angry, I was confused, I was incredulous.  How could a LOVING God let my mother, who had suffered horribly with the disease, die, just like that, when she had sacrificed her entire life in service to Him? I didn’t understand how my dad could keep pastoring a church, how can you pastor a large church without a wife? I didn’t understand why He allowed my 6-year-old sister to have to live without her mama.  And I REALLY didn’t understand how He could let her die when our faith was WAAAAY bigger than a mustard seed that she would be healed, here on earth.

When I tell you that it shook me to my core, that is an understatement. I could barely stand to step foot into a church for years.  What was the point? He was going to do what He wanted to anyway.  In my mixed up and confused mind, my upbringing and my knowledge of the Bible kept me from totally outright going over the edge, because I was scared to deny Him out loud, because I knew that could mean I would die and go to hell! I lay awake numerous nights or awoke in a cold sweat knowing I had a lot of things to straighten out.  But I would put it off, because surely a loving God wouldn’t have allowed any of this to happen.

And that my friends, is a lie I lived, and nearly 10 years of a life I all but wasted, because I believed the lies of the enemy.  The things he would whisper in my ear, and thoughts he would put in my head.  I got to the point where I believed that I was beyond redemption.  Beyond salvation.  I had taken bits and pieces of scripture out of context and twisted them so that I honestly and sincerely believed I was beyond the reach of God.  I. Am. So. Intently. Grateful. None of that was true.

God is merciful.  God is a God of love.  God pursues us. God will leave the other 99 to come and find YOU! You are never beyond forgiveness. Nothing you have done is unforgivable. You are never out of His reach. And….HE WILL PURSUE YOU.  All you have to do is call on His name. (Romans 10:13)  The Bible tells us that if we look for Him with our WHOLE hearts, we will find Him. (Jeremiah 29:13)

My redemption story is sweet, a little funny, but oh, so very precious.  Not long before we moved to North Carolina with LBJ’s (Laid Back Johnny aka Jon Marsh) job, I had a sleepless night and work wasn’t going well.  My heart was racing, and I just knew, I was going to die and go to hell.  That fear, that terror, is the worst thing I have ever experienced. I did the only thing I knew to do. I went to find a church. It was the middle of the day, on a Thursday. The first church I came to was a Catholic one.  I went tiptoeing in, and was just going to sit and pray, but instead, I ran smack dab (literally ran into him) into a jolly Irish priest.  Father Pat. He reached out to steady me from falling, and I stammered an apology and then burst into tears.  (Seriously, it was like a movie!) He patted me on the shoulder, pulled a clean handkerchief from his cassock or robe…..whatever it is called! (I grew up Pentecostal, not Catholic), and asked me what the matter was.  He led me over to a pew, and we sat down.  I was crying and snotting something terrible.  I somehow managed to get these words out.  “I am scared I am going to die and go to hell and I don’t want to, but I don’t understand God, and I might be a little bit mad at Him.” I will never, ever forget the look of compassion that stole over Father Pat’s face.   With his thick Irish brogue, he asked me, “Do ya be a knowin’ who Jesus is?” I assured him that I did.  He asked me to tell him who I thought Jesus was.  So I told him something very close to this, “I believe Jesus was the Son of God, born of a miraculous virgin birth, that he was crucified for my sin and that of all mankind, and that he died, was laid in a tomb and three days later he arose again, where after a while, he ascended to heaven and is seated at the right hand of Father God and that he will come back to take his church to heaven and to judge those who didn’t accept him.”  Whew!

Father Pat smiled, and said, “Ya do be aknowin’ Him.” I sat in silence, because I wasn’t sure what to do next.  Then he said, “You know about Him. But do you KNOW Him?” I was stumped.  He then went on to say, “because if you KNEW Him, you wouldn’t be having these fears.”

We talked for several hours that day.  I explained what I thought, and Father Pat gently and patiently corrected my twisted take on scripture.  I left that day, breathing.  We met together multiple times over the next few months.  He told me I was a firecracker and he surely didn’t want me coming to any of his Bible studies, and he meant that in the most loving way.  I found Jesus in the most unlikely of places, but I was desperate. And Jesus was so very kind and forgiving and He met me there and healed my heart. I have been getting to know Him BETTER, every single day since. 

So, my dear reader, I told you all of that because you needed that background knowledge so that you can understand the post I am about to share with you.  You see, 4 years ago, my daddy met and married the most wonderful woman, Kay.  She is beyond precious to me and our family, and honestly, I couldn’t have picked out a better woman to pick up where my mama left off if I could have chosen from any woman in the world.  You cannot convince me that God Himself didn’t hand-select her for our family.  Shortly after they were married, I asked her if I could remove “step” from our relationship on Facebook.  That word had such a negative connotation and I love sweet Kay so much more than that! I bestowed upon her the title of “Gift-Mother” in one of my Facebook posts, and it has stuck.  Kay is the best Gift-Mother in the world.  Just ask me or my sisters.  We will tell you.

In His time, God fulfills and completes what is necessary so that we can complete the work He has given us to do.  I believe that the gift of Kay to our family was the good Lord’s nod of affirmation that we were to continue doing what He called us to do.  You see, Kay loves Ecuador as much as I do.  But here, I will let you read it in her own words:


Facebook Post from Kay Morris, Friday, December 13, 2019

When I first met Brad, little did I know how my life would change. I’m not just talking about my first pair of blue jeans or riding on a Harley. Before I met him, I’d never traveled anywhere, except the beach or mountains or family visits to Texas and Michigan. And then we were married and before I knew it, I was on a plane to Ecuador. From the very first moment my feet touched the ground in Quito, I felt like I was HOME.

Growing up as a Southern Baptist, I’d learned all about missionaries but never envisioned myself going beyond the confines of my “little world”. Missionaries were different, especially called by God, and I imagined they already had their halos.

Fast forward to today when we’re planning to return to Ecuador in June with an eager and committed medical missions’ team. I’m so excited to go and serve and wish that I could adequately describe the people there. They are genuine and beautiful and worshiping with them is like a glimpse into heaven. On my first trip I quickly learned that there are no language barriers when it comes to experiencing God’s love.

We will be ministering to grandparents, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, who will walk miles to see a doctor or get a pair of free glasses. Supplies of medicine and used eyeglasses are already being gathered. Loving hands are making yarn dolls to help put smiles on little faces and lessen the fear of seeing a doctor for the first time. There will be laughter, tears, tired bodies and joyful hearts. And most important of all there will be a weary mom, a little child, or an ailing grandmother who will see Jesus through the face of a kind stranger, a “missionary” if even for a week, who wants them to experience the peace and joy that only He can give.

So, in addition to traveling with the team to Ecuador, another way I can give is through my heARTworks. All of the proceeds are going to help support this mission effort. I hope you’ll take a look at what we have left and “ready to go” and think about someone who might enjoy a heARTworks, especially knowing that it’s all going to bring hope and spread the good news of God’s love. Most of all we covet your prayers for the team of almost 60, eagerly awaiting our June trip.

You can see Kay’s heARTworks here on Facebook or here on her website. She really is so very creative! You should check her creations out!


And that my friends, is what I wanted you to see.  God is faithful.  God always confirms, and God always puts exactly who He wants and who you NEED in your life.  Sometimes, you are even lucky enough to have two confirmations in the same week.  He did it for me, and I know He can and will, do it for you.

Oh, and just because this has been a little heavier of a post than normal, I want to leave you with a tiny piece of advice.

When you grab your coffee cup to go get a refill, and then sling your water bottle under your arm to make a trip downstairs, perhaps you should ensure that the cap to the water bottle isn’t sitting on the desk.

There are lots of other things I could say about this, but let’s just say a 1/4 of a bottle of water can wreak more havoc than you realize. Perhaps I was a little too exuberant in my slinging. 🤷‍♀️😳🤷‍♀️ Or maybe that it was that I was eager to write this blog.

Grace

By: Stephanne Morris Marsh

Sometimes, even I, wonder if the grace of the gospel is sufficient for me. You see, sometimes, late at night, or even during an especially hard day; all of your would have, could have, should haves, have a tendency to come up and tiptoe or maybe even parade loudly through your mind. Sometimes, those thoughts make you think you aren’t worthy and that the gospel of grace has to be for everyone BUT you, because surely, you don’t count. But….you see, you do count. I count. You count. He counts. She counts. We all count.

God loved us at our darkest and our baddest. He held us with His biggest and greatest and grandest love. Jesus. He sent His son Jesus just for us. And He’d do it all over again. Even if it was just for you. Or just for me. He loves us that much.

The Bible is full of stories of terrible people who found love and grace and changed. Their hearts changed when they found God. Rahab is one of those people. She was a prostitute in Jericho. A prostitute! Yet, she saw something that made her heart want to change and follow the one true God. So she did. Because of that decision to change and follow God, not only was she spared, but her entire family was spared. And after that? God sent a Prince along to marry her. A real live Prince to marry a former prostitute. That’s redemption of the highest sort. But wait, it gets even better. Rahab became a Princess, who eventually became the great-great-grandmother of King David! The very greatest King of God’s people. The King who was always called, “the King after God’s own heart.” As if that isn’t good enough, it still gets just a tiny bit better. Rahab was not only King David’s great-great-grandmother, she was also the many times great-grandmother of the truly greatest King who ever lived – Jesus.

So, if God can take a prostitute and make her a princess? If God can take a prostitute and make her a princess and the grandmother of King David and then King Jesus? I’m pretty sure whatever you and I have done, is no big thing. And I’m pretty sure he’s got our story written, and that it is just as beautiful. And while we may not marry a prince, we are daughters of the one true King, and that makes our stories end happily ever after. Every, single time. #grace

And if you still aren’t convinced, that you are worthy or that His grace is sufficient for even you, then I encourage you to think about these Bible tidbits:

Noah got DRUNK

Jacob LIED

Moses was a MURDERER

King David was a MURDERER and an ADULTERER

Elijah was SUICIDAL

Jonah RAN AWAY

The disciples (those closest to Jesus) FELL ASLEEP WHILE THEY WERE PRAYING!!

Mary Magdalene was DEMON POSSESSED

The Samaritan Woman at the well had been DIVORCED multiple times and was SHACKING UP with someone else!

Paul was a MURDERER

The above people and stories are what many people take out of context to talk about how violent and evil the Bible is and that people who profess to follow Christ must be crazy. What they don’t realize is that God allowed their stories to be remembered and shared so that we would have hope that we, too, could change and live for Him. All of those terrible people have redemption stories. I have a redemption story. And so can you.

2 Corinthians 12:9 He (Jesus) said, “My grace is sufficient for you.”


Romans 10:13 Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

True grace finds you where you are, but it never leaves you there. It propels you forward compelling you to change. You will change when you truly follow Jesus. You can’t stay the same. And that is what makes GRACE so very beautiful because you will never want to be the same again. I promise. I know, because it happened to me.

If you are interested in this topic of “grace” and want to know more, feel free to reach out to me. I will be glad to share my personal story. Or, if you would rather, there is a book that I read upon the recommendation of a good friend. It completely dumped me on my head! I can’t recommend it enough. The book is by Chris Durso and is titled “The Heist: How Grace Robbed Me of My Shame”.

I definitely don’t get any kickbacks or brownie points for recommending this book. HA! It just changed my life, and I think it will change yours, too.

The Greatest Gift

by: Stephanne Morris Marsh

Ahhhhh, it is Christmas and the hurry and the scurry and the fuss and the muss……everything looks as though it should be perfect, and yet, so many of us are walking around with big gaping holes, searching for the ONE thing that will fill us up. We are searching and looking for what will make us whole. There is that one elusive puzzle piece that most of us are ALWAYS looking for. The question I get asked the most often is this:

Surely there has to be something we HAVE to do to get to heaven. Surely it can’t be as simple as just believing that Jesus is who He says He is and asking Him to be Lord of our lives and asking Him to forgive us of our sins. Surely there has to be more! Don’t we have to do something else? Aren’t there any more STEPS we have to take? John 1:51 essentially tells us that Jesus didn’t just come down to show us the steps we had to take to get up to heaven. Jesus came down and made HIMSELF INTO the steps to carry us up to heaven.

Everyone else may tell you the steps you have to take to get better, but Jesus is the only One who becomes THE step to take you there Himself. Because He loves you already. JUST exactly as you are. No. Matter. What.

Jesus doesn’t wait for you to be good or good enough. He comes to us exactly where we are, to be with us who are having awful, miserable, no-good days, right now! Jesus comes to carry us who are feeling lonely and depressed, mad and bad and sad, and anything but joyful and glad. Jesus left Heaven to be with those of us who feel left out. Who feel like we will never be anybody. Who feel as though we will never make the cut. Jesus comes to us who seem to get every step wrong, and He becomes the step, just to get us. Jesus left Heaven, just to have a relationship, with me. And with you.

Did you know that? Jesus came from Heaven, just for YOU. And He would do it all over again. Just for you.

What if today, you were able to look at your Christmas tree and see how it looks just a tiny bit like steps. Jesus made Himself into steps for YOU. He wants to give you the gift of letting Him carry you up, no matter how far down you’ve fallen.

Pause and think of the very wonder of it – Jesus picks you up at your lowest, gathers all of your scattered pieces, and puts them back together. It’s like waking up and discovering that all of your wildest dreams have true. And you don’t have to do one single thing, except accept it.

Jesus is the greatest gift.

#thegreatestgift

My Missions Perspective – Guest Blog by: Rev. Dr. C. Bradley Morris

People have asked me many times, what my perspective is on missions.  Having been a missionary for approximately 15 years I may have a few insights on the subject, none of which are earth shattering but none the less probably are not known or understood by those who have never been a missionary or contemplated participating on a mission’s trip.

When I was 12 years old, God called me to Ecuador to be a missionary in a Sunday night church service.  I had a vision.  In that vision I saw myself being paddled up a river in a wooden canoe by one a man who was behind me.  We came up on a sandbar/beach area along the river.  I climbed out of the canoe and the man who was paddling the canoe came and stood beside me.  It was when I turned to see the man that I knew that this was the Lord.  He stood head and shoulders above me, because I was still just a kid.  I did not see his face but I looked straight into the white robe he had on.  I had never seen a place like where we were, the trees were not the variety I was accustomed to seeing, nor the underbrush.  Then I noticed people, men and women coming out of the underbrush to where we were standing.  I was amazed because these full grown men were my height, that of a short 12 year old boy.  I asked the Lord, “Lord, where are we and who are these people?”  He answered, “We are in Ecuador and these are my people.  I want you to come and tell them about me.”  I had never heard of Ecuador, and didn’t know where it was or anything about it.  The vision ended there.

When we arrived home after church, I told my parents about the vision.  I asked my dad what, or where was Ecuador?  He took the World Book Encyclopedia off the shelf and we looked it up together.  After that I read everything I could about Ecuador.  I was only 12 years old so I knew I couldn’t go as a missionary then.  I continued with my schooling and when I graduated high school I sent my only college application off to South Eastern Bible College in Lakeland, Florida.  All of my friends had sent applications off to several colleges, but I knew I had to go to Bible College and that was what I did.  When God calls you, you do what you know to do then, in preparation for when you can go.  It may be for a few weeks or months or years.  Just do what you know to do in preparation of going.

When I met Cherryl, the mother of our daughters, and felt she was the one for me to marry, I told her about my vision and calling to be a missionary to Ecuador.  She smiled and said, “I was called to be a missionary too in my younger teens, but God never told me where he wanted me to go.  I am willing to go with you to Ecuador.”  We took our two small children with us, Stephanne Marsh, and Keely.  Stephanne graduated High School there and then our youngest Courtnee was born there.  Our whole family is invested in Ecuador with our lives.  And now Stephanne continues the work begun almost 40 years ago by her parents.  She has the language, the heart, and she knows the pastors.  Most of all she knows she is serving the Lord in doing what He has called her to do.

We finished Bible College and pastored for several years until we felt it was time to apply to the mission’s board and become missionaries.  During the time after our approval, we were traveling for a year to churches raising our support as missionaries to Ecuador.  I walked into a church in Grenville, SC where I was almost knocked off of my feet by what I saw.  The pastor of the church was there and I asked him about the drawing.  He said, if I remember correctly 40 years later who the artist was, that “it had been drawn in nightly services by Nate Saint’s brother who had been preaching a revival at the church.”  There was a 4 by 8 foot chalk drawing the evangelist had drawn.  What the drawing consisted of was the exact place where I had stood on the riverbank with the Lord in my vision as a 12 year old.  It depicted the place where the five missionaries had been slain by the jungle Indians in 1955, when I was only 4 years old.  I knew the story, but had never seen a picture of it.  God reconfirmed our calling to Ecuador.

Being a missionary or to do missions work short term involves a calling.  Not all receive a vision, not all are told where to go as I was.  It may be a gentle voice in your heart that God wants you to be a missionary as he did with my wife.  When the time and the place to go shows up on the scene of your life, you will know and God will confirm it in your spirit.  Then, just go.

My wife and I did go to Ecuador and I felt called to plant churches and teach a national pastor to be the pastor and then I would move on to begin another church.  My wife was called to work with the children in the community of the new church and train children’s workers.  We had been in Ecuador for some 10 years before God led us to the Amazon jungle area of the country to begin working with the Shuar Indians.  The only way in was by a small airplane.  One thing I had done while pastoring was to get my pilot’s license.  It came in handy many times there in Ecuador.

My wife and I trained pastors, and children’s workers, we also taught courses to these respective individuals in the Bible school and Seminary there in Ecuador.  The churches we started all ministered to the Ecuadorian people where they were.  The first church I helped start in Guayaquil is now one of the largest churches in Ecuador,  The last church I started in the heart of colonial Quito is a large church, but more than that in the ensuing 38 years or so it has planted 49 other churches in the mountains of Ecuador and placed pastors in each one.  It has used short term missions teams of a week or two maximum to come down for a new church plant to build a church building, or have a ministry team to the children and the area, or even a medical ministry team, and all the people that are touched for those couple of weeks or so are drawn into that new church.  Then there are many small churches scattered in the country that God helped me to begin.

So you see there are no truly short term missions trips, because the results that touch those Ecuadorian lives for those few weeks, last those people through eternity.  As missionaries we were privileged in Ecuador to help bring in, work with and oversee dozens of short term mission’s teams, whose ministry results kept us missionaries busy helping to teach and get those converts involved in churches and ministry.  Thank you to every mission team that came to Ecuador while we were there and everyone that has come since we left the country as missionaries.  God’s Kingdom continues on in His strength and guidance, without end.

As missionaries we found out and then lived by a very simple dictum: “Go where you are sent, give what you’ve got, and stay where you are put.”  God will do the rest.  We did our part and God did His.

God bless all who go to Ecuador on a mission’s trip to continue the work that God began even before we went in the early 80’s.

Guest Blog by: Mikayla Kent – Here I am! Send me!

Note: Mikayla Kent is my niece. I asked her if she would write a blog for Heart for Ecuador, and she agreed immediately. I have never seen such humbleness, passion, compassion, heart, wisdom, and the ability to be the heart of Jesus, in a teenager. Every time I read one of Mikayla’s blogs, I marvel at her ability to string words together so beautifully and with such deep meaning. Once you read this, you are going to want to read her other blogs. You can do that here. Mikayla, thank you so much for your heart for Ecuador and for your willingness to be sent. It is an honor to be your aunt.

Mikayla Kent – Author, Missionary, and Niece Extraordinaire

Isaiah 6:8 “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”

And I said, “Here I am. Send me!”

Hello, my name is Mikayla Kent. I want to share with you about my time in Ecuador. In the sweet summer of 2018, I hopped on a plane with my friend, to go and join my Aunt Stephanne on her mission trip to the precious country of Ecuador. The 2018 mission trip was split into two weeks, the first being the medical week, and the second being a construction week. At that time I truly had no earthly idea of the authenticity, joy, and love that I was about to encounter. I recall my first morning in Ecuador vividly, as we awoke to sun painted mountains, soft chatter in the alleyways, and the sound of humming cars passing up and down the streets. I remember stepping into Cemad (the church who is the head of this mission) that Sunday morning, with eyes full of awe as I witnessed the most authentic, joyful, spirit-filled worship of my life. I saw people fall to their knees in reverence, and lift their hands and voices in sweet surrender. These people live in a third world country, where poverty consumes people’s lives. Can you imagine carrying that weight? I am sure they have endless concerns and burdens that fill their lives, yet they fell before God with songs of pure praise and worship. They loved us richly and embraced each of us as their own. Worshipping alongside this church was one of the most humbling experiences of my life and challenged me to have a new attitude towards worship. I find myself continually swept away in an ocean of distraction, self-consumption and sometimes I even find my heart has grown numb to intentionally praising God. Witnessing the eruption of praise throughout that church humbled me in more ways than one; even just writing this brings tears to my eyes. The people, oh the precious people I cannot begin to accurately express the depth of their love and tenderness, both towards us and towards God. They covered us in love as they prepared meals for us, showered us in prayers that send chills down your spine as you can feel the spirit of God in the room. I could give you a list, full of reasons arguing why you should go on a mission trip to Ecuador, but the simple statement of “the precious people” is enough in itself. The week was faithfully led by my incredibly loving and Christ-filled Aunt Stephanne who led us in patience, grace, and pure passion as Ecuador is both her heart and home. She took us to five locations throughout the outskirts of Quito to set up our medical clinics for the people in the neighboring areas. The Lord moved in a mighty way throughout this week as we were able to see over 2,852 people in our medical and eye clinics to provide medications, treatments, glasses and most importantly the love of Jesus. My part consisted of assisting in children’s ministry, which was deeply rewarding. I cannot begin to paint an accurate picture of the sweetness embedded within these children, though there was a language barrier, they understand the language of love and affection. We were able to paint the mother’s and kid’s nails, color pictures, run around and play games, give tons of hugs and so much more. Our wonderful translator would read the kids a Bible lesson and then we would pray with the kids. Each day my love for these people and this country grew more and more as I continually experienced the depth of their love, kindness, humility, and grace. The most encouraging factor about partnering with my Aunt Stephanne and her connections to the churches throughout Ecuador is a promise that the work continues far after we are gone, they’re continually planting churches, and every single one built is still thriving today. Our team merely plays a part in their continual ministry, we add to their current efforts in spreading the gospel throughout Ecuador, for they are the ones on the ground, building relationships and shepherding the people. Each person who goes through the medical clinic is not only provided physical care but spiritual care, as the pastors and members of their churches collect addresses and ways of contact to ensure the growth and discipleship of new believers. The week was incredibly exhausting but in the most rewarding way, I am incredibly honored to have served alongside such loving doctors, nurses, youth leaders, students, and translators who walked with humility and grace. I am even more thrilled to announce that I am also returning in the upcoming summer of 2020 on another medical trip alongside many churches throughout the U.S. My heart truly cannot contain my excitement, I am eager to see how the Lord continues to move throughout Ecuador, and through this upcoming medical trip. All honor and glory goes to God for each of us are solely willing vessels, he is the one who saves. If you are considering going on a mission trip, I urge you to go and witness the faithful hand of God as he transforms, moves, challenges and humbles your own heart in unexpected ways. God bless you! 

-Mikayla Kent.