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Out of the Mouths of Babes

woman praying with sunset in background

One morning I was at the store picking up a few items I needed for the day. I had my two grandsons with me. As I walked through the produce section, I met an acquaintance I had not seen in a while. We exchanged hellos. She then asked my grandson what his name was. He responded, “My name is Jax.” She then asked him if he went to school. He replied, “I go to Yuma Lutheran School and I am in the first grade.” Then she asked my younger grandson what his name was. He quickly ducked his head behind his big brother. Jax spoke up and said, “This is my brother, Ryker. He goes to preschool at the Big Red Barn. But, my school is much better because I get to learn about Jesus, my Lord and Savior. Ryker’s school doesn't teach that.” The woman replied with a smile, “You are so lucky to be able to go to such a wonderful school.” Jax smiled back, and said with confidence, “Yes, and soon my brother will be able to go Yuma Lutheran School too, so he can learn more about Jesus.” We laughed all together, treasuring the words that had come out of the mouth of my grandson. What a wonderful gift he was able to share with an acquaintance of mine, in the produce aisle at the grocery store, God’s promise of salvation.

Devotion:

Out of the mouth of babies and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger (Psalm 8:2).

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes (Romans 1:16a).

What a blessing to recognize and rejoice in the faith of a little child. It is a great witness to all who hear the Father’s words from a little child.

Prayer:

Thank you Heavenly Father, for your Son, Jesus Christ our Savior, and for the Holy Spirit that sustains us and guides us through all things. Let us have the faith of a child, and that we can boldly proclaim the Gospel through our words and our actions. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

Nancy Pendleton
Pacific Southwest District

We would love to hear YOUR stories! Please send them our way at depgo@lwml.org.

Thanks from the Gospel Outreach Committee!

Opportunities to Share our Christian Faith

woman praying with sunset in background

In the past twenty-five years or so in my city in southern Michigan there has been an influx of Spanish-speaking citizens, mostly from, in, or near the state of Michoacán, Mexico. The local people have experienced a learning curve in becoming accustomed to having these immigrants among our population. The Mexican natives have frequently felt a sense of non-acceptance.

I volunteer through my county Literacy Council and have been entrusted with a student named Maria. I work with her to develop English reading and writing skills, but I have also learned much from Maria. Over the past thirty-three months, Maria and I have established a warm relationship which we both cherish. We have enjoyed reading, writing and conversing in English together, and have frequently found opportunities to share with each other our Christian faith and convictions. I have introduced Christian books to Maria, which we read together, and she has gifted me with a flip calendar featuring daily inspirational Bible Scripture selections. While Maria and I share together, she gains confidence in her English communication skills and I have learned greater empathy for the challenges an immigrant faces in a new culture. I have felt that the Heavenly Father has placed me as a literacy coach with the perfect Christian friend, and Maria has shown the same sentiments to me. Praise God!

Devotion:

Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person (Colossians 4:5-6).

All opportunities are a gift from God. Let us recognize these opportunities and share the love, grace and mercy of Christ with others. Our actions and our words will be praise and worship to our Heavenly Father for his many gifts to us, especially the gift of redemption.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for giving us opportunities to share your love with other Christians and thank you for giving us opportunities to share with those who may not yet know you. We give you glory, praise, and honor. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Mary Craaybeek
Michigan District

We would love to hear YOUR stories! Please send them our way at depgo@lwml.org.

Thanks from the Gospel Outreach Committee!

God’s Timing is the Right Timing

This past fall, my aunt passed away. She and my uncle had been married for 62 years and they had no children. My sisters and I were always a part of their lives and they were always a part of everything we did; holidays, birthdays, and school events. The one exception was church activities. They were not involved in the church in any way, and we knew not to invite them to church activities. My uncle was very dependent on my aunt – you see at 84 years old he did not read or write. She took care of all of the paperwork for the farming business, read all of the mail, did all of the banking, etc. Simple things like knowing how to run the washing machine or microwave were things he did not do. To tell him how by saying “turn the knob to start” didn’t work. You had to show him how, and then give him time to learn. So, after my aunt’s passing, not only was he grieving the loss of his spouse, he had lost his business partner, his written communication, and his confidence.

A couple of weeks after my aunt passed away, my uncle was ready to go to the sale barn for lunch and to interact with friends. While he, my mom, and I were having coffee and rolls and waiting for others to arrive, we were talking. I don’t really remember what the conversation was about, but something was said about going to church on Sunday morning, and out of my mouth came these words – “Would you like to go with us to church on Sunday?” — “I’ll come and pick you up.” (These words were from the Holy Spirit, not from me — I knew better than to ask this man who I’ve known my whole life to go to church — because I knew the answer would be “no” — it always had been, even when I was a little girl.) Well God had different plans. Initially, my uncle said “I’ll have to think about it.” However, by the end of our time together that day, my uncle wanted to know if I really would come and get him for church and I said yes, I would and we set up a time for me to pick him up.

man praying

On Sunday we went to church together.  I think Pastor had the perfect message for my uncle that morning, but I didn’t know how much he had gotten from that message. Feedback after church was that he liked the minister, we sat too close to the front, and that the organ was too loud. I thought I’d really messed up — more bad comments than good. But again, not my timing, but God’s timing, was at work. He wanted to go back the next week, so my sister picked him up. They sat on the opposite side of the church from the organ, and a little farther back. It was better. My sister continued to pick him up for the next several weeks. Then he began to drive himself. He continued to go and said that his time at church made him feel better and that it was comforting. Once again, God was at work in the details.

Then my uncle began to talk about baptism and that he wanted to be baptized. A few weeks later, he was baptized! God’s perfect timing for him.

Devotion:

Do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour.  For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you (Matthew 10:19b-20).

I am amazed how God worked in this very sad and challenging situation with a family member, to put the simple words of asking him to come to church with us into my mouth, and then put it in my uncle’s heart to say yes. God’s timing was indeed the perfect timing.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for the opportunity given to me to care for my uncle in his time of need. Thank you for your perfect timing to allow your words to be spoken through me and for opening my uncle’s heart to say yes to your invitation of hope and salvation. May we remember that you are always with us as we love and care for our family, friends, and neighbors, and that in your time, you will give us the words we need to share with them. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

Crystal Miller
Nebraska North District

We would love to hear YOUR stories! Please send them our way at depgo@lwml.org.

Thanks from the Gospel Outreach Committee!

Afterglow Overflow

woman praying with sunset in background

When we are enjoying the end of a beautiful sunset, we would do well to turn 180 degrees and check out the afterglow in the eastern skies, which is often as lovely to behold as the sunset itself.

At the end of an uplifting, though often exhausting, LWML Pacific Southwest District Convention, there is also a beautiful afterglow as we, on our way home, reflect the beauty of the Lord with whom we have spent such wonderful moments. The blessings we have received spill over to bless those we encounter.

Our trio experienced this most emphatically, and twice, within a couple of hours of the convention’s closing worship. What we thought was a frustrating development — a dead battery in our car in the parking garage — created opportunities to share the love of God. While waiting for AAA to arrive with our needed help we had lunch in the casino — and asked our waitress if we could pray for her. She was very touched and requested prayers for her daughter who was facing health issues and surgery. Beyond our prayers, we were able to offer specific encouragement, as one of our group had a child go through the very same challenge. Then when we got to the car and met the AAA technician, we again asked if we could pray for her. She, too, teared up and shared some very personal challenges her family was facing. Along with our prayers with and for her, our group again had some very specific experiences we could share showing the hope God gives and some specific steps to get her the help she needed. The three of us were blown away that the Lord would lead us to those in need immediately following the richness and beauty of the convention. While we may never know how things turned out for these two women, we will never forget the warmth and joy this afterglow provided for us.

Be encouraged, be brave, be ready — share the afterglow of the time you spend with Jesus!

PS: We especially treasured these experiences as we crawled south on I-15 amid the throngs of those leaving Las Vegas, as it took us over 8 hours to get to San Diego!

Devotion:

He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen—by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead (Acts 10:41–42 NIV).

Talk about “afterglow” — just think of how the people who met Jesus after his resurrection were glowing! Are we not also those “who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead”? Do we not partake of Jesus’ body and blood during the sacrament of Holy Communion? So, therefore we too are commanded to “preach to the people and to testify.” We may not have seen Jesus face-to-face but we have the gift of the Holy Spirit to guide us and direct us in all things. Praise God for these everyday opportunities to share our glowing faith with a stranger in our midst!

Prayer:

Dear Father in Heaven,

How can we ever thank you enough for the gift of “mountaintop experiences” where we feel so much closer to you? Help us to understand that when we are in fellowship with each other, reading Your Word, sharing the Lord’s Supper, and singing your praises, it’s so much easier to feel close to you. When we leave your house,   send your Holy Spirit so that we might be bold to share those experiences with others. Please continue to remind us that, while we are basking in the glow of the Son-rise, others are suffering in darkness. Embolden us to bring peace and comfort to those around us through the message of your saving grace. Amen.

Linda Koch
Pacific Southwest District

We would love to hear YOUR stories! Please send them our way at depgo@lwml.org.

Thanks from the Gospel Outreach Committee!

God’s Intentional Friendship

nullOver ten years ago I attended a Bible study that was held at a local assisted living facility. That is where I met one of the residents and became friends with Mary. I followed Mary every time she switched living facilities. I wanted Mary to know that she was not alone and that I was there for her.

Mary and I had many talks over the years she spent in assisted living and finally the nursing home. We were each other's cheerleader. We talked about Bible passages, sermons, the books we read together, church newsletters and about our families. She prayed for the people at the nursing home, her caregivers and their families, her daughters and for my family.  I prayed for God to give Mary strength, patience, confidence and hope in her final years. I prayed for her daughters who rarely came to see her, for her roommate who went for a drive with her son one day and ended up being drop off at the nursing home, and for all the caregivers who served the patients faithfully and put smiles on their faces.

Mary spent her final years talking to her caregivers and fellow patients about God, while handing out Portals of Prayer Devotional books (in English and Spanish) to everyone who wanted one. On Christmas and Easter she would hand out Christian tracts (in English and Spanish). On other holidays, she would pass out cards and bookmarks I had made with Bible verses on them. She also gave away Christian books that she had read. These opportunities allowed her to talk to others about their faith.

I received a call today from the social worker at the Nursing Home where Mary was residing. She called to tell me that Mary received her Crown of Glory this morning. I was happy for Mary, for she had longed to be with our Heavenly Father but I am missing my friend.

Devotion: 

I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers, because I hear of your love and of the faith that you have toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints, and I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ. For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you. (Philemon 4-7)

The week before Mary passed away she had been reading an inspirational book and had it out on a table by her bed next to her Bible. The social worker had often been offered devotional books, but always declined the offer. On the day Mary received her Crown of Glory, the social worker saw the book and picked it up. She has decided to read it. I guess Mary got to give out one more book. To God be the Glory!

As I talked with the social worker, we told stories back and forth about how God had touched our lives. She relived moments at the nursing home where she was able to talk to and bring the word of God to the dying. It was a healing conversation for both of us, full of God’s promises.

I never got to be with my mother in her final days, but I was privileged to be able to help a friend in her final years.  It was a gift to both of us.

Prayer:

Dear Father in Heaven,
Thank you for the many friendships you have bestowed upon me. Thank you for the many opportunities that you give me to share the saving grace of the Gospel with others. Thank you for your Holy Spirit that guides me and gives me courage, to tell others that you put in my path, about our Lord and Savior, Jesus. In Jesus name, Amen.

Nancy Heredia
Pacific Southwest District

We would love to hear YOUR stories! Please send them our way at depgo@lwml.org.

Thanks from the Gospel Outreach Committee!

Witness Opportunities

womanThe Lord has blessed me with a job where I work among people throughout the day giving me many opportunities to witness to those he brings in my path throughout my day. One particular evening, I was busy working in a store when I noticed this young pretty lady shopping in the make-up aisle. I approached the young lady to greet her with God’s blessing and to see how she was doing.  As we began talking, the young lady began to tell me her story. She told me she was married with children and how her husband was not being a husband. Amber shared that her marriage was not good and that she thought if she would apply for a divorce this would scare her husband and he would change his ways. However, what Amber thought would change things for the better, became totally the opposite. She began to tell me how her husband put a restraining order on her and how her husband had the children and that she was unable to see them. She was now homeless, living in her van. Amber proceeded to tell me that she did not know where to turn, so she turned to using drugs and the only friends she had now were drug users who did not treat her well.

Amber shared with me that she had been eating out of dumpsters and she began to steal food to get something to eat.  I asked her if she wanted to meet me at the Subway in town once I was done with work and she agreed. We shared one another’s phone numbers. I finished my work and met her at the Subway. We ordered our meal and sat down to eat and I prayed the common table prayer.

Amber and I began to talk more about her life and what she was planning to do. I told her I did not want her to live in her van. I began contacting homeless shelters for her to stay in. I was able to find a shelter that had room for her. The woman at the homeless shelter wanted to speak to Amber and as they began to speak, they realized, that they knew each other.

Amber and I hugged each other as we said good bye, and I gave her some money to help her out.

A year had passed since that fateful night. I was traveling for work and stopped at a gas station for directions. As I was talking with a helpful young lady, she asked me if I had ever worked in Hayward, Wisconsin and if I had ever taken a lady out to eat. Immediately I asked, “Are you Amber?” She said yes, and we hugged for a long time. The Lord brought us back together once again and she updated me on how she was doing and we shared phone numbers once again.

While we know the Lord works in mysterious ways and in ways we could never imagine, sometimes we aren’t able to see the details of His plans. Our task is to keep joyfully serving wherever He has need of us.

Devotion:

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
 (Psalm 27:1)?

So let us love those who the Lord puts in our paths and let His light shine through us and to those around us.

Prayer: Dear Jesus, thank you so much for people you bring into our lives each day so that we can be your witness, your ambassador, and your light. Thank you for the opportunity to share your love with others facing difficult situations and therefore glorify your Holy name. Amen

The name of the woman in this story has been changed for privacy reasons.

Mary Scharenbrock
North Wisconsin District

We would love to hear YOUR stories! Please send them our way at depgo@lwml.org.

Thanks from the Gospel Outreach Committee!

A Tale of Two Sisters

two sisters

This story involves two sisters. Way back in 1995, I was matched with Victoria through a well-known national mentoring organization. At that time she was ten years old and we became fast friends. It wasn’t long before Victoria was attending church with me, bonding with the youth-group peers, and eventually being confirmed. In 2001 my husband and I were led to become her legal guardians and to have her come to live with us. So, the two people who had always agreed to be childless became parents of a teenage girl! Victoria especially loved the LWML ladies and always wanted to be involved in our projects. Victoria even served as the vice president’s page at the 2003 LWML convention in Oklahoma City and was a YWR to the 2011 LWML convention in Peoria. Today, she is happily married and living about one-hundred miles away. She is and always will be “our daughter.” Great story, right? But wait! There’s more!!!

During the early years of my mentoring relationship with Victoria, I would occasionally bring her siblings (two brothers and Veronica) to church with me. Usually this was for special things such as Easter and Christmas. One thing we all love at our church is Easter breakfast followed by an egg hunt and worship celebration. The kids always enjoyed it, too. Fast-forward now to about three weeks before Easter when I received a social media message from Veronica with questions about our church’s worship times and nursery availability. Veronica said she and her husband were planning to visit the following Sunday with their little girl! Visit they did and the next Sunday as well. Many people at our church remembered Veronica so it was just like one big family reunion! This young family eventually became members of our congregation. Veronica has mentioned more than once that she remembers coming to our church at Easter as a child and is very much looking forward to celebrating this coming Easter with us. Wow. But wait! There’s more!!!

On Easter Sunday, Veronica’s little girl was baptized! Yes! Baptized on Easter Sunday! Alleluia!

So, the moral of this story is that you just never know if, when, or how God might bring to fruition the seeds that you’ve sown. You might not even know that you’ve sown any seeds! Here we are, at least twenty years later and Veronica has been moved by the Holy Spirit to start attending the church she visited as a little girl. And, her little girl is now baptized. Now, THAT’S a story!

Candy Habich
Mid-South District

Devotion:

Let us not become weary in doing good,
for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up (Galatians 6:9).

There isn’t a whole lot more to add to this verse, is there? Just try to remember it! The most insignificant, trivial act might plant a seed in someone’s heart that doesn’t sprout and grow until many years later. It’s the “at the proper time” part that is the focus. All things happen on God’s timetable, not ours. And, sometimes, as in this story, we are blessed to see the outcome. So, don’t give up!!!

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You so much for the times, like this one, where You allow us to see a glimpse of an outcome that only You could make happen. Thank You also for the gift of your Holy Spirit who, despite our human efforts, leads people to You. Please, Father, send your Holy Spirit into our hearts as well, so that we might be encouraged to share your word wherever and whenever we can. We also ask that You help us to trust You to take it from there! Amen.

We would love to hear YOUR stories! Please send them our way at depgo@lwml.org.

Thanks from the Gospel Outreach Committee!

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