Women in the Mission and Ministry of Prayer

Founders of Knit-A-Prayer from left to right: Karen Wentzel, Sharon Wainwright, Rev. Dr. Richard Thompson, and Joyce Spetz. Photo courtesy of First United Methodist Church in Bakersfield, California.

Thousands of American service men and women have lost their lives in the on-going battle against terrorism. Since 2009, bodies of fallen soldiers, mostly from the war-torn areas of Afghanistan and Iraq, have been flown into Dover Air Force Base. At Dover, these heroes are given a dignified transfer as they are received by their grieving loved ones. And it is here that those loved ones are comforted by the ministry of the women of the First United Methodist Church in Bakersfield, California. The women call their ministry, Knit-A-Prayer.

The Dignified Transfer program at Dover has become a vital tradition of honor, respect, and a way of acknowledging the sacrifice of the fallen. Early in the Repatriation and Dignified Transfer program, chaplains at Dover asked for prayer shawls and lap blankets. They wanted grieving families to have something tangible to show that they were surrounded by the love of God and the prayers of fellow citizens. They also wanted them to know our country does not take their loved one’s loss of life for granted nor is it unaware of the deep grief the family experiences.

When families receive their fallen soldier at Dover Air Force Base, they are ushered onto the tarmac to witness a solemn ceremony as the casket is brought off a plane. Often the walk from the base to the plane is cold and windy. The shawls the family receives provide comfort both spiritually and physically. Many notes of appreciation have been sent to the Bakersfield women. For example:

“I’m writing to thank you on behalf of my sister. She and her family live in Arkansas. On November 20, her grandson, my great nephew, was killed in Afghanistan. When his dad flew to Dover AFB to receive his body, he was presented with a prayer shawl made by your group. Their hearts were touched by the shawl, the note you included, the words of comfort and the prayers that had gone up in the making of the shawl. I’m amazed at our God and how He works. Words cannot express our appreciation. God is good all the time. Blessings to you.”

Although the number of fatalities has fallen in recent years, the Methodist women in Bakersfield continue to pray and send the love of God to those who grieve.

In May, just before Mother’s Day 2017, Knit-A-Prayer celebrated its 10-year anniversary. It was founded by Sharon Wainwright, Joyce Spetz, and Karen Wetzel. When Sharon closed a needlework store she had operated for 22 years, she knew she must find something productive to do with her creativity and love of knitting. She mentioned this desire to her friends Joyce and Karen. Joyce knew about the prayer shawl ministry and ordered the book, Knitting Into Mystery: A Guide to the Prayer Shawl Ministry,which taught creating shawls as a way of nurturing one’s own and others’ souls through prayer.  The three women met several times to pray and seek the Lord’s guidance before going to their pastor, the Rev. Richard Thompson, and receiving his blessing to start a ministry.

The three women were amazed at the interest in their proposed endeavor. Within a short period of time, 25 women signed up and committed to bi-monthly meetings. These women were intergenerational ranging from college-aged to mature women in their nineties. Over the last ten years, these women have sent 2,700 shawls and lap robes to people all over the world.

Sharon and her friends began by contacting another prayer ministry in their church known as Prayers and Squares, whose chapter #317 was started in 2005. This ministry, launched by Isabel Carrera, promotes prayer through the use of quilts. The quilters were happy to see their prayer ministry expand to a group who knitted and crocheted.

The quilting ministry originally began in San Diego at another United Methodist church, that sponsored an informal quilting group. A member’s two-year-old grandson, Kody, ended up in a coma following heart surgery; he had little chance for recovery. As the women worked quickly to make a quilt to cover this critically-ill child, they prayed earnestly for him. Against the odds, Kody came out of the coma. As he recovered, his little hands touched and fingered the knots on his quilt. His doctors wrote into his medical chart that the quilt was not to leave his side! The quilt remained with the child through several surgeries, tests, and treatments. It provided comfort and strength for many years. Other patients began to ask about the ministry and soon it had spread to other churches including Bakersfield First UM Church.

The process of making these quilts is saturated in prayer. When a quilt is requested, it is personalized to the recipient on a label and dated. As the women of the quilting ministry piece their quilts and tie in square knots the thread that holds the layers together, they pray for each recipient. After they finish a quilt, it is displayed so that the congregation may come and say a prayer while tying a knot on the quilt.

The same process is true for knitting and crocheting shawls. From the beginning of the project to its completion, the women bathe their work in prayer. Each shawl begins with a prayer for the recipient and their needs even when those needs are unknown. When they knit at home, they pray over their work. Some use a knitting pattern, a simple knit three, purl three that represents the Trinity.

One knitter shared, “In a sense this ministry is a ‘blind ministry.’ When knitting or crocheting a shawl one doesn’t know where it is going, what will be the effect, who will receive it, but God knows.” Another remarked, “There is joy in selecting the colors of yarn for the next shawl as well as the pattern. One can meditate while knitting. It is peaceful in God’s presence.”

Each shawl and blanket is bathed in prayer. Photo courtesy of First United Methodist Church in Bakersfield, California.

Opportunities to witness and share the love of Christ occur when a knitter has taken her project outside her home and works as she waits for an appointment or meeting. As one knitter explained, “Often an individual will strike up a conversation when they see someone knitting. That opens the door to talk about the prayer shawl ministry and our faith.” When the women gather together at the church, they take time to lay hands on their work and pray out loud in a ritual of prayer. At the completion of each shawl, a card is attached that includes a space for a hand-written prayer.

In their own city of Bakersfield, shawls are sent to several hospice groups and shelters for battered women, abused children, and the homeless. The women provide shawls and support for the Dream Center, a ministry to young adults in foster care who are required to transfer out of the program when they turn eighteen. At the center they are given help finding a permanent place to live, help with writing resumes, and learning how to interview for a job as well as other life skills. 

The Knit-A-Prayer ministry steps into action when disasters of all kinds occur. In 2011, a 9.1 magnitude earthquake struck northeast of Tokyo; it was the largest ever to hit Japan. The resulting tsunami compounded the damage. Serving at the time were eight missionaries from the United Methodist General Board of Global Missions. The Bakersfield women sent their prayers and shawls to Japan, which were distributed by the missionaries along with other efforts by the United Methodist Committee On Relief (UMCOR).

GBGM contact, Claudia Genung-Yamamoto wrote, “These shawls have special meaning and we would like to distribute them through partner groups, especially through the Japanese church women with a message of God’s love shared with both Christian and non-Christians in the Tokyo area.”

Each package is a blessing to those who receive. Photo courtesy of First United Methodist Church in Bakersfield, California.

Closer to home, last summer these women sent shawls when one of California’s largest fires, the Erskine Fire, killed two people, destroyed 309 homes, and damaged hundreds more. People who lived in the path of the fire were in evacuation centers for weeks. These evacuees were not alone, for the Bakersfield women actively prayed and sent shawls through a long-time member of their church. He just happened to be serving as a local pastor for two of the communities hard hit by the fire.

The women share many stories where they have seen God’s hand on their ministry. One afternoon they received a request for a shawl from a lady in Missouri. She had found Knit-A-Prayer listed on a shawl ministry web site. She requested a shawl for a young adult man, seriously ill in San Diego. The shawl needed to be delivered quickly. Ironically, the daughter of the church’s administrative assistant was returning to San Diego that very afternoon. She took the shawl to the hospital and personally gave it to family members.

Another incident occurred when the women learned of a young girl who had attended VBS at the Bakersfield church. She was seriously ill with cancer. The mother was contacted and said she would appreciate a shawl for her daughter. When it was delivered, the little girl responded by saying, “How did you know that pink was my most favorite color?” She kept the shawl with her constantly through all her treatments until she passed.

Early in the spring of 2017, an adult nephew of a member of the Bakersfield congregation was seriously injured in an automobile accident. He was barely removed from the vehicle before it went up in flames. Doctors were unable to assure the family of his recovery. He was in ICU for a month and had many surgeries. Although he was not a believer in Christ, he kept the prayer lap robe with him constantly. All the prayers that were prayed for his recovery were eventually answered when he walked out of the hospital.

Prayers and Squares and Knit-A-Prayer are not ordinary clubs; they are not an excuse for women to get together for fellowship, although meaningful fellowship occurs; they are not just a creative outlet, although they are that as well. Prayers and Squares and Knit-A-Prayer are two groups of creative, praying Christian women, who like Jesus, are full of compassion; they are women who use their talent to make visible the love of God in the material blessing of a quilt or a shawl. Most of all, they are women who know the power of prayer to love, encourage, honor, heal, and comfort infinitely more than all they ask or imagine.

As Sharon Wainwright attests to the power of God working through the Knit-A-Prayer ministry, “God continues to open doors where we can offer a shawl and prayer. Our original hopes and dreams for this ministry were so small in comparison to where God has directed us. The ‘God winks’ have been many and the blessings numerous beyond measure.”

Sewing in Honduras

Sewing in Honduras by Lindy Thomas

This year I experienced a whirlwind 5-day trip to Honduras, where 5 amazing friends and I shared our love of sewing and hairdressing with children and teens. Our church has had a friendship with New Life Children’s Home for about 5 years now. Home to 44 children, currently ages 8-18, New Life was founded by a Texas couple in 1995.

I was recently helping two friends complete some little dresses for a missionary from our church to take to the Philippines. Sharon suggested that we should go to Honduras to teach sewing. Donna surprised us with her immediate enthusiasm for the idea, as she and her husband have been through some major health challenges in the last couple of years. Two more seamstresses joined our little group, and then Sharon talked our hairdresser, a wonderful Christian woman originally from Honduras, into joining us. God knew the skills and strengths we needed, and He miraculously provided funds, donated sewing machines and supplies.

We spent 3 intense days in our makeshift sewing and hairdressing workshops. Flexibility was key as the projects we had planned didn’t work out, but new ideas flowed and materials were found. We had more boys than expected and needs were identified, so we adapted, changed plans, and had a lot of fun. It was a satisfying moment during our last afternoon when we realized that kids were working heads-down at all 6 sewing machines and all of us were just watching. In Maribel’s room, kids were not only doing the hair styling but also instructing one another.

New Life’s goal is that the children will graduate with God’s Kingdom established in their hearts. We enjoyed fellowship and worship with these amazing kids as we shared our passions. We left them with hairdressing tools, 6 working sewing machines and supplies to continue exploring. Some will be able to instruct others; some might establish a trade.

Did we change the world in 5 days? No. We gave as we were led and got closer to what God inspired almost 5 years ago. “If it is from God, you will not be able to stop them.” (Acts 5:39) Our trust is in our God who loves those children and directs their paths.

Our Journey with New Life

My husband Lindsey and I first ventured to Honduras in 2013. A South Korean high school student who was living with us wanted to go on a mission trip. We decided to accompany her and I never dreamed that I would return to New Life three more times.

Wanting to contribute, we took a sewing machine so I could try to teach some kids to sew. Our lessons were a bit chaotic with one machine and all of the 51 children wanting to participate or at least watch. We found old sewing machines in a storage closet and were able to get one additional one to work. With intermittent electrical power and just 2 machines, we were able to knock out some projects but never had the chance to really focus on instructing any individual children.

Short-term mission teams at New Life spend time with the kids and help with various construction projects on the property. As we developed a relationship with the orphanage and its directors, we began to see that not everything brought by American teams is constructive or helpful. We gave too many gifts. We whipped out our iPhones and took pictures to post on social media, but the children never got to keep the pictures. We wanted to impart spiritual truths to these kids, but as we got to know them we realized that they had a lot to teach us.

At risk of sounding ungrateful to the sweet and generous people in my church, let me give an illustration. In an effort to include the church in our ministry to Honduras, a clothing drive was conducted. We got ages, sizes and names and families enjoyed shopping for an entire outfit to bless a child. We spent a Sunday afternoon distributing the clothes, making sure everyone got an entire outfit that fit. Everyone got decked out for church that evening. As we walked through the tiny Honduran mountain village, I thought to myself, “These kids look like American golfers.” Something seemed off. The attire was out of context.

The next year we conducted the same clothing drive. Our church generously supported the effort. When the team arrived at New Life, the director asked that they not give the clothing to the children. They had experienced problems with the children receiving so many gifts from teams that they came to expect them but then had a very hard time understanding the value of the gifts. They didn’t take care of their own things or respect the possessions of each other. The orphanage had established a merit store and they wanted all the clothes to be donated to the store so that the children could earn items one at a time with points for good behavior, accomplishments at school, etc.

This incident and others caused me to ponder and I gained clarity when I attended a workshop called When Helping Hurts. Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert authored a book by the same name and they provide many other outstanding resources, including a study written specifically for short-term mission teams that they can use in preparation for their trip. These resources articulate “a biblically based approach to poverty alleviation,” encouraging us to walk in humility with the poor in ways that lead to lasting change.

The original seed of an idea that God had planted with me in 2013 was to steer kids toward a possible trade or vocation or at least a useful hobby. We weren’t able to come close to accomplishing that goal on that first trip. In the intervening years, when we visited they had saved so much sewing for me to do that I didn’t even get a chance to work with the kids.

However, in that time, we developed a friendship with the orphanage’s directors and many others involved in the organization. We have been able to visit repeatedly and show the kids that we care and we will return. And this time, 4 ½ years later, others began to catch our vision. They want to set up a permanent workshop and have a local teacher work with the students. More importantly, we had time to visit with directors and teachers and learn about their goals and dreams for the children, and how we can come alongside them with appropriate support. We were privileged to see how beautifully God is working in the lives of the children as they mature in Christ.

How God Builds a Team

Sharon Roelke first voiced the idea to take this trip. She was the one who rescued an old sewing machine on our first chaotic trip and managed to make some curtains while working with the kids. Sharon has been involved in all aspects of church missions, going as well as facilitating and sending.

Teresa Daniels brought experience teaching children to sew. She worked tirelessly before the trip researching old sewing machines owned by the orphanage, raising donations, and getting materials translated into Spanish. Her methodical approach in the classroom gave us all a framework for working with the kids.

Rebecca Carpenter is an experienced seamstress and also has decades of experience working with youth at our church. Rebecca was diagnosed with cancer shortly before we left and faced surgery soon after our return, but she took the trip with courageous confidence that God wanted her to go. She made some very special connections with some of the children at New Life.

Donna VanSickler loves to sew and occasionally gets in over her head when someone has a need. Her husband Bill has been recovering from a long illness and a lung transplant. This sweet caretaker trusted God to take care of Bill and actually thought of our hard-working trip as a vacation.

Lindy Thomas loves to sew and spent many years custom sewing for a home-based business. She loved watching God bring out the gifts of the team members in the most complementary ways, meeting needs we had not even anticipated.

Maribel Aguilar is Honduran American and she connected with the kids immediately. They loved her salon classes and her spiritual encouragement. Thanks to Maribel everybody sure looked good by the time we left.

The team heading home (possibly a little weary). (L to R) Ron Thiesen, NLCH Director, Sharon, Teresa, Rebecca, Donna, Lindy and Maribel





Mission Through Everyday Friendship

Friendship Partners

In 2011 our church began to participate in an outreach program to the  International students at the University of Texas, Dallas.  The program is called, Friendship Partners. Mary Beth, one of our members, headed the program for our church; she is a professor in the business school at UTD. Her husband’s job had taken her family to China just a few years earlier. She brought back with her a love for International students, particularly Chinese students and a burden for their salvation.


College Day at our Church. Larry and I, our grandson Max, and Jennifer.

The program is designed to give foreign students the opportunity to interact with an American Family. Those who serve as partners help foreign students learn about our culture, and help them meet the challenges a new culture presents.

Early that fall semester, Mary Beth began to recruit members of my church to take a student. She approached me one Sunday at church. I told her I would think about it. It was a difficult time for me; I was exhausted; I didn’t think it would be possible. I had just finished executing my father’s estate. I had been with both my parents every day of my father’s six-month battle with pancreatic cancer. The day he died, my brother Mark had a 7-hour surgery to remove a stage four brain tumor. After my father died, I was responsible for my elderly mother, who lived just a few doors from me. And soon after I took on some of my brother’s business affairs.

My brother was in the last weeks of life when Mary Beth approached me to be a partner. My mother was in a rehabilitation center after surgery. Everyday I visited her; I accompanied her to rehab and we shared a meal. I really didn’t feel I could take on one more thing physically or emotionally.

Yet I wanted to be a part.   I felt the Lord really wanted me to do this. In fact, my family and I had been the recipients of just such an outreach. Much earlier, Larry, our two daughters and I had moved to Paris, France. We were apprehensive about uprooting our family and moving into a culture so different from our own. Our pastor told us of a family we had known early in our marriage. They were serving in Paris as missionaries just minutes from where we were going to live. They helped us find an English speaking church in Paris, showed us where to shop and so many practical things, not to mention all the encouragement and support we needed at the beginning of what turned out to be a great adventure.   I wanted to be able to do what had been done for me.

With much trepidation, I agreed to be a Friendship Partner. I share this because we all live busy lives. Most of us are not looking for anything else to take on. We feel overloaded as it is. And sometimes we do need to say no. But when opportunities come our way that have eternal value, the Lord will make a way no matter our circumstances.

I decided I would include my friendship partner in my life as my circumstances permitted. I would not neglect my own family for my partner, but I would include her when I could. The first day I met Jennifer was a busy one. She could only meet in the afternoon when I was scheduled to pick up my grandson from Kindergarten. She agreed to go with me. I will never forget her smiling face as she approached me. We began to share with each other as we made our way in the car to my grandson’s school. As we sat in the carpool line, I learned about her family and her decision to come to Dallas to do a masters degree in finance. In the middle of our conversation, I got a call from my youngest brother about my brother, Mark’s declining health and certain decisions that needed our help.

I had no intention of sharing all the difficulties in our family with Jennifer. But there it was. When my grandson got in the car, he had gotten in trouble for kissing one of the girls in his class that day. Jennifer thought that was hysterical. She then began to tell us both what school had been like in China and about the things that had gotten her in trouble. Both sorrow and gladness was experienced in the car the day I met my friendship partner. It was not planned it just happened. And what barriers that might have kept us from being close were miraculously removed as we shared happy times and tragedy. When I took her back to school, before she got out of the car, she said to me, “I am not a Christian, but I will pray for your brother and your family.” I began to pray for her.

That day was just the beginning of many days when I simply asked Jennifer to join me in the activities of life – activities like visiting my mother, sharing family meals, and holidays. She sent me an email shortly after attending our Thanksgiving dinner that year. In it she spoke of seeing our family come together after the loss of my brother Mark and spoke of how touching that had been for her.


Friendship Partner’s Luncheon

By far, the most important part of my life I shared was church. Many of the Chinese students had been told that in order to understand American culture, they would need to understand our religion. Several of Jennifer’s roommates and friends began to visit our church. We began a Sunday School class just for Chinese students. Many of them had very deep questions as they began to learn about Jesus, His offer of salvation, His teachings, and His work on the cross. One Sunday our pastor hosted a question and answer session. It was well attended, and many deep questions were asked and were answered.

I came to realize that most of these Chinese students had grown up without any religious belief. When they had questions about why there is life or how it came about, they had turned to science for the answers. Some were from families who had passed down their Buddhist beliefs, but far more had no belief system at all.

I will never forget the night we sat in my car long after the symphony concert was over. Jennifer asked me to explain the Trinity to her. How glad I was for the Bible studies that I had had which prepared me for that difficult concept. That spring on Easter Sunday, one of Jennifer’s roommates was baptized by immersion in a local Chinese church.


Friends are baptized at the Chinese Church

Jennifer continued to come to my church and joined a Bible study at the Chinese church. One day I shared something cute my granddaughter had said to me. Jennifer began to cry and said, “When I have a child, I will take her to church so she will be a good person.” It gave me the opportunity to explain that being a Christian was not just about being a good person. It was about relationship with Jesus.

Another time, Jennifer and I were sitting around my daughter’s kitchen table. My granddaughter’s birthday party was just winding up. My daughter’s friend, Kelly was sharing a moving story about her 4 year old niece who was battling cancer and was in the process of being healed. Again Jennifer began to cry. Then she shared the memory of a childhood friend who was very ill. The school never explained why the little girl stopped coming to class, but when Jennifer saw her friend’s mother holding a new baby, she knew the little girl had died. (China has a one-child policy.)

That day Kelly shared not only the gospel, but also all the Lord had done through her niece’s illness to minister to so many people. She looked Jennifer square in the eyes and took her hand and told her of God’s love for her and her friend. Only the Lord could have planned that.

Two years after our first meeting, Jennifer completed her masters degree and graduated. That Easter, she told me she had prayed to God for salvation.

Her parents came for her graduation. They stayed in our home for about a week.  It was a very special time and a very emotional time. There were lots of tears, because even though Jennifer was scheduled to fly back to China just after graduation, she had not decided if she would return or stay in the states. In the end she returned to China. I still see her waving at me from the car that took her to the airport as they pulled away from our house. But that has not been the end of our relationship; we continue to stay connected through email and Face-Time.

In his first letter, Peter tells us to be ready to give an account for the hope that is within us. The Friendship Partner Program is not meant to be used to proselytize. It is a program of friendship. But becoming a friend is about building a relationship and sharing who we are. As we share with others who we are, it is only natural that we share Him who makes life worth living. As we reach out to the strangers amongst us, we have a wonderful opportunity to welcome and befriend them. Who knows; we may be doing more for world peace and understanding than any number of other official efforts. More importantly, we have the opportunity to share the love of Christ and the hope that is within us which has eternal value that will live beyond our time here on earth.

E 15

My current Friendship Partners celebrate Easter for the first time.


Wesleyan Women in Mission and Ministry

This is the story of three women from First United Methodist Church of Carrollton in the North Texas Conference of the UMC who made a trip to Meru, Kenya to teach in a series of Women’s Conferences. It is not only their story, but they each share the Biblical teaching that the Lord laid on their hearts. And intertwined in each of their teaching, they share God’s faithfulness in meeting their own challenges.

LIndy Sharon Marian

Lindy Thomas, Sharon Roelke and Marian Griffin departing from DFW Airport

But the story actually begins about fifteen years earlier, when Ann Morell, wife of a former pastor at First United Methodist Church of Carrollton, Texas, was called into the mission work. After the loss of her husband, the Rev. Paul Morell, she answered a call to join Bridges International, an independent Wesleyan mission agency. Ann’s husband Paul had been active in mission to South America and other parts of the world. One thing Ann had always insisted – she would not accompany him to Africa. But God had other plans for Ann.

Ann would make several trips to Africa. The Morell School, named after Ann’s husband, was begun in Meru, Kenya by Bridges International. Ann would begin her work at Bridges by writing a manual for pastors’ wives. As Ann began her work with the women of Africa, she became aware of the barbaric custom of female circumcision. For years, Ann had taught that sometimes, part of healing and overcoming is a matter of “Replacement.” That is – God replaces the destructive ways of the world with His ways. She developed a program for young girls called the “Rite of Purity Passage.” It replaced man’s destructive and oppressive plan of female circumcision with a ceremony that retained God’s plan for purity and faithfulness.

In 2007, Ann Morrell returned to First Church to speak at a women’s retreat. Part of her teaching talked about her work with Bridges and traveling to Kenya. Out of that women’s retreat, the desire to take a mission trip to Kenya was laid on the heart of one of the women. Another, Sharon Roelke, had been praying about going to Africa. As a result of these two women, seven people from First Church went to Meru, Kenya. Relationship developed during that trip, and Sharon joined the board of Bridges about a year later.

Today, the original Morell Pastor’s School has become three schools in outlying areas. The ministry supports 15 children through their Impoverished Children’s Assistance Network-ICAN. Bridges provides food relief in one of the most impoverished areas of Kenya. They have continued economic development through chicken projects, garden-in-a-bag and farming Gods way. All these programs are open doors for the staff to share the gospel in schools and outlying regions.

(Left to Right) Sharon Roelke, Lindy Thomas, Marian Griffin and Ann Rosser of Bridges International Development visited a tree planted by Ann Morell during one of her trips to Kenya.

(Left to Right) Sharon Roelke, Lindy Thomas, Marian Griffin and Ann Rosser of Bridges International Development visited a tree planted by Ann Morell during one of her trips to Kenya.

Serving on the board of Bridges, Sharon became aware that the Women’s Ministry begun by Ann needed new leadership. So she asked several women from Dallas to go with her and teach the women. Marian Griffin and Lindy Thomas were the two that said yes. As you can imagine, deciding what to teach women in such a different culture was difficult. What is really relevant to their culture might not be to ours.

As they prayed and talked, one thing they knew; Our God and His Word are true and relevant in all cultures and at all times. They decided that each would talk about different aspects of God and the place to start is “In the beginning.”

Sharon with a worship leader from a church we visited.

Sharon with a worship leader from a church we visited.

We participated in 2 food relief efforts.

We participated in 2 food relief efforts.

Food Relief Lindy

The ladies who attended the 3 seminars were eager and always arrived early. Small children stayed on their laps throughout the days and everyone stayed until the very end of the all-day event.

The ladies who attended the 3 seminars were eager and always arrived early. Small children stayed on their laps throughout the days and everyone stayed until the very end of the all-day event.

Marian’s Story – Our Big God

When Sharon approached me about considering this trip to Kenya to encourage the women, I was the most ambivalent. In the midst of nursing an ailing back and preparing for our son’s wedding, I felt quite distracted. However, when it was time to purchase the plane tickets, I said yes. Then the recurring thought became: WHAT WAS I THINKING?

I felt much like Moses. “Lord, I’m sure you could find someone who could speak more eloquently than I! It’s okay with me if you want Sharon and Lindy to do all the teaching, and I will hold up their arms and be their cheerleader. But God had other plans.

Through years of Bible study, God has laid the foundation of His truth in my mind and heart and has given me a love for His Word. However, I felt very incompetent to communicate His truths in an organized and meaningful fashion. He was telling me to trust Him for spiritual growth in this area of communicating His truth. He would provide all I needed for this task, including a love for the women in Kenya.

Interestingly, my portion of the teaching was to focus on the topic of “Our Big God, the God of Creation”. So if our God was the One who created everything by speaking it into being, then certainly I could trust Him to give me His words and His heart to be His vessel in Kenya. I wish I could say that I sat down one afternoon and the words flowed onto that paper. It was a bit more tedious for me than that. Yet God proved Himself faithful in every detail of this trip.

I am thankful the Lord has placed me in a community of faith at First United Methodist Church, Carrollton, where my relationship with Him is watered, fertilized, pruned and prodded and where we are given opportunities to go and make disciples both near and far. I’m grateful for the prayers, support and encouragement of church members and our staff.

A special thank you goes to our staff associate, Cindy Shirley, for sending us off at the airport with these words: AUTHORITY and GRACE. Basically, “God has given you His authority and grace to go in HIs name to Kenya.” We are grateful to our husbands who were concerned about our safety and who met together several times while we were gone to pray for us.

Here is what I taught:

I am so delighted to share this time together as sisters in Christ. I love the joy I see in your faces as you worship God!

I live near Dallas, Texas with my husband Nathan. We have three grown children, Rachel, Philip and Matthew. We celebrated Matt’s marriage to Ali in June. So there is hope for grandchildren!

A few months after Rachel was born, our church offered a two-year Bible study that required reading much of the Bible. I wanted to learn the stories of the Bible so that I could teach them to my children. But more importantly, I discovered that every story in the Bible points to Jesus. All the stories from Genesis to Revelation are one big story about God’s love and His plan throughout history to reconcile us to Himself by sending His Son, Jesus Christ.

But this two-year Bible study was invaluable for another reason. When our oldest child Rachel was two, we had a second daughter named Bethany who was born in June just one month after we completed our study. Six months later around Christmas time, the doctors discovered that Bethany had a congenital heart defect. She became ill and died two weeks later.

Because of the time spent in God’s Word for those two years, I had a deeper understanding of God’s character, His unconditional love, and His sovereignty. I understood that God doesn’t cause our pain, but He sometimes allows it in the fallen world we live in for now. I knew that God didn’t cause Bethany’s death, even though He could have healed her on earth. I knew in my heart that God was with us. He had not forgotten us. He gave me that peace that passes all understanding that only He can give in times of crisis. I could trust Him with His plan for our family even if it didn’t make sense to us.

Today I want us to look at the first story in the Bible and think about the greatness of our God. HOW BIG IS OUR GOD?

Teaching: HOW BIG IS OUR GOD? GENESIS – In the Beginning, God….  

One of my favorite ways to start the day is by reading a Psalm from the Bible. These songs of the Bible remind me of who God is, His greatness, and His special care for us. Psalm 19 tells us:

The heavens declare the glory of God,
the skies proclaim the work of His hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they display knowledge.
There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the end of the world.

Everyone on the earth can see the works of God in the heavens and in all creation. Ever since man first looked into the night sky, he knew that he was a part of something much bigger than himself. The vastness of the heavens cannot be comprehended. The heavens speak of things eternal. And in looking at the heavens, we may imagine that perhaps we are really looking into the face of God.

So where are we in this place called the universe?

Our moon is our nearest neighbor. If the earth was the size of an orange, then the moon would be the size of a marble. One million earths would fit into the sun. Yet, our sun is tiny compared to other stars that scientists have discovered far away. We really don’t know how big the heavens are that God created.

God wrote, “I love you” in the sky and on the earth. He wrote His message everywhere for all to see! The apostle Paul in the New Testament book of Romans 1:19-20 writes that men are without excuse for failing to acknowledge and worship God. The truth about God is revealed in creation. It is plain for all to see. For since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen by what God has made.

He wants to show us what He is like and to help us know him. We see His majesty in the mountains. We see his beauty in the flowers. We see His power in the lightning before a storm. We see His love in the smiles of others. I have seen Him this week in the beauty of your country and people.

Where do you see God’s majesty and greatness in His creation? Tell the person sitting next to you. Thank Him for that right now!

Genesis 1:1-2:3 – God Speaks Everything into Being.

Now let us explore the greatness of God and His love as revealed in the first three chapters of the Bible. Genesis 1:1-2 tells us:

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless, and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

Although everything else had a beginning, God has always been. Psalm 90:2 tells us:

Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting, you are God.

So in the beginning there was nothing except God. Nothing to hear. Nothing to feel. Nothing to see. Only emptiness and darkness. I would like for you to close your eyes and put your hands over your eyes. Imagine total darkness, total nothingness. One time I was in a cave that had man-made lights. Then the guide turned off the lights. I couldn’t see the hand in front of my face or the path that would keep me from falling in a deep hole. It was total darkness.

Have you ever been in a dark place? Maybe it was a dark place emotionally or spiritually where you felt God had abandoned you. Maybe you have forgotten that God loves you. Well, God has good news for you.

Day One – God Speaks Everything into Being

In Genesis 1:3, God speaks:
Let there be light, and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day”, and the darkness he called “night”. And there was evening, and there was morning — the first day.

Also, in Psalm 27 we read:
The Lord is my light and my salvation;
Whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
Of whom shall I be afraid?

Greeting the ladies

God spoke everything into being. Hebrews 11:3 in the NT says:

By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is now seen was not made out of what was visible.

Everything was GOOD
Everything that God brought into being was good. This is repeated throughout the chapter as God continues to fashion the universe.

Light is Necessary
Light is necessary for making God’s creative works visible and for making life possible. For example, the plants will need it to grow and produce fruit. We always associate God with light. The pillar of fire was God’s presence leading the Israelites through the desert after they left slavery in Egypt. Jesus is called the “the light of the world” who leads us to the Father and who offers us new life.

God gives order to time by creating day and night. He is sovereign over time.
2 Peter 3:8 –
With the Lord, a day is like a thousand years,
and a thousand years are like a day.
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise.
He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish,
but everyone to come to repentance.

The Second Day
On the second day, God continued to bring order to His creation. He separated the waters to form an expanse called the sky (or the heavens).

The Third Day
On the third day, God brought order on the earth by collecting the waters on the earth to form the seas and the dry land. Then he caused the land to produce seed-bearing plants and trees with seed-bearing fruit. And he saw that it was good.

So after three days, God changed the formless earth into one with order. Now our big God begins to fill the emptiness of the heavens and the earth. (This was demonstrated with an inflatable globe.)

The Fourth Day
On the fourth day, God spoke into existence specific lights to fill the sky: the sun for daytime light and the moon and star for nighttime light. These lights would separate day from night, mark the seasons, and give light to the earth. And it was good. (Then I had to laugh as I caught myself explaining the seasons and the temperature variations we have in Texas from hot summers to cold winters. In Kenya, they live near the equator, so EVERY day is 12 hours long. The sunrise and the sunset are at the same time all year long!)

The Fifth Day
On the fifth day, God made the fish to fill the seas and the birds to fill the skies. He blessed them to increase in number. And it was good.

The Sixth Day
On the sixth day, God had a very busy day! First He spoke into existence all the living creatures to fill the land. This included the livestock such as cattle, the wild animals that I hope to see at Samburu Wildlife Park later this week, and the creeping creatures that move along the ground such as snakes and lizards (which I don’t like!). And God saw that is was good.

But God was not finished! He saved the most special part of His creation for last. Genesis 1:26-28-

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image,
in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea
and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals,
and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
God blessed them and said to them,
“Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.
Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky
and over every living creature that moves on the ground.

Then God provided vegetation as food for man and the animals.

The Trinity In Creation
First of all, note that it says: Let US make man in our image. The word for God that is used here is “Elohim” which is plural. So the Trinity God that we understand as God the Father, God the Son (Jesus Christ), and God the Holy Spirit were all active in creation. We have already seen the Spirit hovering over the waters in verse 1.

In the NT in Colossians 1:15-16, we learn that Jesus is also present in creating:

“Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.
For by Him all things were created, things in heaven and things on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities;
all things were created by him and for him.
He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”

Humans were created in the image or likeness of God. This sets us apart from all the other creatures. Molded in the image of our Maker, we have unique abilities. These include the ability to love and be loved, to respond to our master, and to think orderly about ruling our environment. God matched a beautiful creation with a creature who could appreciate creation and who could have fellowship with Him. So at the end of the 6th day, God has completed His creation. He saw all that He had made, and it was very good.

The Seventh Day
On the 7th Day, God rested from all His work of creating. He blessed this day called the Sabbath and made it holy (or set apart for Him).

So from nothing, God spoke everything into being and it was good. He gives order and purpose to His creation.

Genesis 2:4-25 God created Man and Woman

The second chapter of Genesis gives us more details about God’s creation of man. We see that God created man and woman AND provided a perfect environment for them to live in.

First we learn that God formed man from dust and breathed life into Him.

Then God placed Adam in a prepared garden called Eden that was full of plants and trees. These provided food and were beautiful to look at. We notice in this perfect world that men and animals did not eat meat, only plants. God commanded Adam:

“You are free to eat from any tree in the Garden including the Tree of Life,
BUT you must not eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil,
or you will surely die.”

Next, He gave mankind work to do:
First, man is told to rule over all the other earthly creatures such as the fish, birds, and land animals. Man has authority over them. He must care for them and use them to in the service of God and man. EX: My dad was a farmer. We also had some animals such as chickens, pigs, cows and sheep. My dad had to be sure the animals had food, water and shelter when needed. But the sheep took special care because they would eat too much and die if they were in the pasture too long!!

Second, man is told to be fruitful and multiply. This means to fill the earth with children. Through marriage, people are called to join God in the ongoing process of creation.

Third, man is told to work in the Garden and take care of it. The world will deteriorate without proper care. EX: I grew up on a farm. We grew cotton, corn and grain. One of my jobs was to keep the weeds out of the cotton field so that the cotton could grow properly.

Finally, God makes a suitable helper and companion for Adam. When God created Adam, He quickly realized Adam was lonely. Adam named all the animals but none of them were suitable to be his companion or helpmate. So God makes woman from Adam’s rib. God’s plan was for man to be united to his wife and be one flesh. Adam and Eve had no shame in their nakedness.

So God gives man and woman life, the perfect place to live, good food, purposeful work, dominion over the earth, and each other. God also gives us life and purpose and people to share life with.


PSALM 8 declares our special place in God’s creation:

O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.
From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise
because of your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.
When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
What is man that you are mindful of him,
the son of man that you care for him?
You have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor.
You made him ruler over the works of your hands;
you put everything under his feet:
all flocks and herds, and the beasts of the field, the birds of the air,
and the fish in the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas.

O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Genesis 3 – The Fall

So our story continues in Genesis 3 as we explore the greatness of our God. Unfortunately, everything changes. What happens?

The Fall
Adam and Eve deliberately disobey God. The serpent tempts Eve to eat the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil which God has forbidden.

Who is the serpent? He is Satan in disguise. Even Jesus tell us in John 8:44 that Satan is a liar and the father of lies. Satan’s goal is to alienate man from God.

How does the serpent tempt Eve? First, he causes Eve to doubt God’s Word. “You will not die” if you eat the forbidden fruit. Second, he causes Eve to doubt God’s goodness. “God doesn’t want the best for you”. “You can be like God if you want to … God doesn’t want you to be wise!” Next, he causes Eve to desire to be like God. She wanted to be her own boss instead of trusting in God’s authority and plan. Finally, Eve believes Satan’s lies instead of trusting in God and His Word.

Let’s pause and think about those times when we are tempted to believe Satan’s lies and to doubt God’s promises. Life’s hard situations cause us to feel overwhelmed, hopeless or forgotten. We doubt that God really wants His best for us. Knowing God’s Word can give us strength and hope.

This was true for me when our baby daughter Bethany died. As I mentioned before, the Scriptures gave me an understanding of His unconditional love and His peace. Also, my husband and I experienced God’s comfort through a loving church community that surrounded us. They brought food, cleaned our house, sent cards, prayed, and listened to our story of grief as often as we needed to tell it. We need each other. Part of God’s plan is for us to be in community.

The Role of Free Will
Now-back to our story in Genesis. Eve eats the forbidden fruit and then entices Adam to do the same. God gives us free will. We either choose for God or against God. We choose our way or His way. In 2 Corinthians 11:3 Paul warns:

But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.

After Adam and Eve deliberately disobey God, they feel guilty. They notice they are naked. They attempt to cover their shame with fig leaves. They don’t know that only God can cover our shame. They hide from God who comes for His evening walk with them. Note that God always pursues an intimate relationship with His children.

God’s Confrontation and Judgment
God confronts Adam and Eve for their disobedience. As a holy God, He cannot ignore their sin. He declares judgment on the serpent, Eve, and Adam. Fellowship with God as it was intended is broken.

Judgment on the serpent: God tells the serpent that from then on snakes would crawl in the dust. People would be afraid of the serpent and hate it.  Satan would continue to lie and alienate people from God.  God declared war upon Satan. Harmony between people and animals is broken.

Judgment on Eve: God tells Eve that she will have great pain in childbirth. Also, instead of being at peace with her husband, she will struggle in her relationship with him and will desire to rule over him. Thus, harmony between humans is broken.

Judgment on Adam: God tells Adam that the ground is cursed with weeds and thorns. Adam must now work hard. Growing food will be toilsome. Thus, harmony between people and nature is broken.

Genesis 3:15 God’s Promise of Redemption and Reconciliation
In spite of the brokenness of God’s perfect plan because of man’s disobedience, God promises redemption and reconciliation.

Satan Will Be Defeated
In His judgment against the serpent, God promises that one day Satan will be defeated. We see this in Genesis 3:15:

“I will put hatred between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers.
He will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”

The offspring of woman refers to Jesus Christ. This is the first prophecy of     Jesus Christ that gives us hope. “Satan will strike Jesus’ heel” refers to Jesus’ crucifixion when nails are put into his feet. “He will crush your head” means that Jesus will be victorious over Satan. Christ’s victory was accomplished through his death and resurrection. And Satan will be destroyed forever when Jesus Christ comes again.

Christ Will Come
I John 3:8 tells us that the reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.
Hebrews 2:14  tell us Jesus shared in our humanity so that by his death he might destroy the one who holds the power of death, that is the devil. Thus, Jesus frees those who all their lives are held in slavery by their fear of death.

God promises redemption and reconciliation by His mercy shown to Adam and Eve. He covers their nakedness by making clothes out of animal skins. They had tried fig leaves. But the shedding of blood from a living sacrifice was necessary to cover their sin and shame. God is the only one who can cover our shame so that we have restored fellowship with Him. God must provide the way for us to be reconciled to Him.

As promised throughout the Old Testament, God sent Jesus to be the perfect and complete sacrifice for our sin and shame. He took the punishment of death we deserve. As we trust in His death and resurrection, we are promised abundant life now and eternal life forever. Nothing can separate us from His love.

The big God who created the heavens and the earth is also the personal God who loves you and me. Isaiah 40:25-26, 28-31 sums it up this way:

“To whom will you compare me?
Or who is my equal?” says the Holy One.
Lift your eyes and look to the heavens:
Who created all these?
He who brings out the starry host one by one,
And calls them each by name.
Because of his great power and mighty strength,
Not one of them is missing.

Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
The Creator of the ends of the earth.

He will not grow tired or weary,
And his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
And young men stumble and fall:
But those who hope in the LORD
Will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
They will run and not grow weary,
They will walk and not be faint.

Following Marian’s testimony and teaching on Our Big God, Lindy Thomas shared about Our Personal God.

Lindy’s Story – Our Personal God

I was asked to go to Kenya to help out with women’s conferences. I have actually been asked several times before, but always declined because I couldn’t imagine going to Africa. This time, however, I was asked shortly after I realized that my daughters were in so much leadership at church that I’m really not wanted so much, as too many members of one family in leadership can look bad. Church has been my “thing” for a really long time, and to suddenly have very little responsibility there was a little strange.

As it turns out, this has been a welcome break. But at the time, I was wondering if I’d ever have a place, a purpose any more. And my friend Sharon asked again if I’d go to Kenya. She mentioned that they really respect and revere age over there, so my teaching would be valuable. “Count me IN!” Timing is everything…

Bridges International Development has done ministry in Meru for a number of years now. They’ve experienced a bit of a lapse in ministry to women, which is why my friend wanted to go. A local lady named Eva Mwenda set up 3 women’s seminars for us to conduct. We had 4 speakers and a fun lady from Oklahoma who taught the attendees how to make soap from goat milk. Eva translated for us into both Swahili and Kimeru.

Eva, our organizer, interpreter and worship leader.

Eva, our organizer, interpreter and worship leader.

My friend Marian opened the seminars with a talk about how big God is, as the creator who desires a relationship with us. Sarah followed me with a teaching on the Fruit of the Spirit. Sharon concluded the day with her teaching and testimony about a redeeming, restoring God.


Here’s what I shared:

Lindy’s Story and Teaching

Marian has spoken with you about how big and mighty God is. I would like to talk to you about how we can know that this mighty God also loves each one of us and wants to have a relationship with us. He is not only big, but he is a personal, intimate God as well.

I would like to tell you about a very difficult time in my life, and what I learned about God through it.

After my middle daughter Abbey’s wedding a few years ago, when we had just had a wonderful time with visiting family and all the festivities, I went for a scheduled doctor’s appointment. It was discovered that a large tumor had essentially exploded in my belly. I was quickly sent into surgery, and the doctors removed about 3 kilos* of tumor matter.

As I recovered, we learned more about the extremely rare disease I had. It was a type of cancer that comes on suddenly from the appendix and does not respond to treatment. It has an almost 100% fatality rate.

There is a song that plays on Christian radio in the U.S. that has these words:

“Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die.”

While I am confident that because of my faith in Jesus Christ and his resurrection I will go to heaven when I die, I also really wanted to live to see grandchildren, to see my daughters grow into women, to be with my husband and to grow old together.

So I went to God’s word. I read about Jesus healing people. I turned to the Psalms where the psalmist is not afraid to pour out his heart, including his fears, to God.

God led me to Psalm 139.

“O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it.

God who created the universe and spoke the earth into being has searched me and knows me. He knows my movements and my thoughts. He even knows my paths, including when I travel across the earth to be here with you!

He has hemmed me in behind and before, encircling me with his presence. His hand is upon me. I can’t even comprehend the ways in which he knows me.

For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.

When God knitted me together in my mother’s womb, he knew that something was eventually going to go terribly wrong in my body. But he also created a body that could heal. When you cut yourself, it is important to keep the wound clean, but nothing you can do will actually mend it. Two pieces of cloth stitched together are still 2 pieces of cloth, joined by thread. But when God heals a wound as he has made our bodies to heal, it becomes one again.

I am fearfully and wonderfully made and I am to be thankful to God for that.

The length of my life has been determined by God since before I was born. This disease did not catch God by surprise.

How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
If I would count them, they are more than the sand.
I awake, and I am still with you.

Here was my answer. I needed to dwell on, to think about, God’s thoughts. And that was plenty to keep me busy in my recovery from surgery, since his thoughts outnumber the sand.

Now, about my health, after 2 surgeries and a year and a half of uncertainty, the doctors determined that I was clear of disease. The medical people were amazed. I had been healed. This all began in 2006.

Many friends prayed for me when I was sick. They visited and brought food. But, most importantly, they prayed. You can hold each other up in the same way. I encourage you to do that.

Let’s look at the New Testament now and see what God’s thoughts are as we learn from Jesus. God knows me well, but he also wants me to be very close to him.

John 14 tells us about Jesus preparing his followers for the time when he would no longer be with them. He talked to them about:

•    A place prepared for them in heaven
•    That they could ask for anything in his name and he would do it
•    Loving him and keeping his commandments
•    A Helper, the Holy Spirit, promised twice in this chapter

John 14:23 – “Jesus answered him, ‘If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.’”

What does it mean to make a home with someone? It means to move in, to abide or live with. We have had a student from South Korea living in our home for the last 4 years. In the beginning, she was like a guest, but as time went on, our home became more and more her home.


Let’s look at John 15 and read about what it’s like to have a “home” with God.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.”

Jesus is the vine.

God is the vinedresser.

We are the branches.

The vine itself does not bear fruit. The branches are brought forth on the vine for the purpose of bearing fruit.

Because Jesus is not physically with us today, he counts on us to be his branches and bear his fruit.

Now there are 2 ways we see in these verses that branches are cut. A dried branch with no fruit will be cut and thrown away. A producing branch will be pruned in order to put all the sap into fruit production instead of just more branches.

Jesus told his disciples that they were already clean because of his word, so we know that they were not the branches that would be thrown away. They would, however, be pruned.

God wants to strip away the things in our lives that use up the sap, or energy, that could otherwise go into fruit production.

So he tells us to abide in him.

I love the beautiful vegetation here in Kenya. Last night I saw powpow (papaya) trees that were just bursting with beautiful fruit. If I cut a branch off of the papaya tree and took it home in my suitcase to Texas, would it grow papayas for me?

Neither can I bear fruit in my life if I do not abide in Christ Jesus.

John 15:5 – “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”

Apart from HIM we can do nothing.

Each lady received a Bible and some gifts from Texas. We had Bibles in 3 languages.

Each lady received a Bible and some gifts from Texas. We had Bibles in 3 languages.

Note that he says we abide in him and his words abide in us. How do his words abide in us?

John 15:8 – “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”

What happens when we abide in him?

•    We bear fruit
•    We prove to be his disciples
•    We live in the safe place of his love
•    We keep his commandments
•    His joy is made full and our joy as well – fullness of joy

John 15:12 – “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants,[a] for the servant[b] does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.”

Twice we’re told to love one another. Jesus calls us friends and promises to lay down his own life. “Friends” in the Bible is a term of covenant, the most sincere and binding kind of promise. He asks us to do what he commands, but only after he has foretold that he would lay down his own life for us.

Jesus tells us that he has revealed everything from the Father that we need to know. It’s all in the Bible on your lap.

He chooses his disciples to have the privilege of bearing fruit.

He promises again to give whatever we ask. “He longs to draw you to his side and show you his dreams for your life and the lives of others around you.” (Bonnie Floyd)

My experience with cancer and healing taught me many things. My self-sufficiency (my dependence on my own strength) was pruned pretty severely. I rejoice in my healing but I also know that God would still be in control even if he had chosen not to heal me here on this earth.

Abide in him. Make your home with him. Let his words abide in you.

My desire, the thing I asked God for, was to live to see my grandchildren. Let me tell you about my family…

3 kids


Sharon wrapped up the days with a teaching on Our Restoring God.

Sharon’s story – Our Restoring God

Sharon Teaching

Paul’s Prayer for Spiritual Growth –
This teaching by Sharon Roelke is taken from Ephesians 3:16-21 New Living Translation


In Ephesians 3, it says, “I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit.”

We serve a God who has glorious, unlimited resources. They are available to us through His Spirit. We need to avail ourselves of them so that we can be empowered.

“Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.”

We need to TRUST HIM

God makes his home in our hearts as we trust in Him. That means we need to “Let It Go.” But how to stop running the show and start walking in faith is challenging. We women are wired from birth to control (sometimes called the bossy gene). At the root of why we over-control is that we don’t trust God. We think we know better than he does just what is best for us. In the Amplified version, Psalm 46:10 says, “Let be and be still, and know – recognize and understand – that I am God.” Strong roots will be developed. We need to trust like Mary in Luke 1:38 “Lord, let it be to me according to your word.”


“And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high and how deep his love is.”

How often when our kids were kids did we say, “How much does mommy love you?” and spread our hands out as wide as we could – God’s love is so much greater! Too often we limit God by equating His love with our love. Don’t limit Him

May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that come from God.

We need to EXPERIENCE His Love

We will never be able to grasp God’s love fully, but we need to try.

I love the New Living Translation because instead of “steadfast love” they use “unfailing love.” That speaks to my heart. Like when someone hears something sweet and goes, “Ahh!”

Ps. 147:11 “The Lord delights in those who fear Him, who put their hope in His unfailing love.”

We need to focus more on His love for us than on our love for Him; on His faithfulness, not ours; on His strength, not mine. At Christ for the Nations International when I said, “Lord you know what I am like;” He said, “Yes, but what am I like.” Our completeness will come from Him. “He has come that we might have life and that more abundantly.” Why settle for less?


“Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen!”

“He is able to do exceedingly and abundantly above what we can ask or think.”
He is able to accomplish more than we might ask or think!!! His plans are above ours; it’s not what we dream up, it’s about him doing something beyond that.

It’s all about Him getting the Glory!

Although our lives do not look the same and our cultures are very different, the God we serve and His Word are the same. He wants us to experience Him and his love that is so far beyond us. He wants us to trust Him and know that he has plans that are exceedingly and abundantly above what we can ask or think, if we will allow Him to work these things out in our lives.