It’s a YES from me!

Hi friends, 

I read this quote recently, ‘put your YES on the table and let God put it on the map.’

I immediately thought of two significant YES moments.

The obvious being YES to Canada seven and a half years ago;  then there was this moment.

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I’m 22 years old, sitting under the African sun, the air is smoky as fires crackle outside homes along the roadside. I’m writing, not only saying yes to God, but to a place. To a mission and a lifelong love of a ministry. I remember wanting to go Africa the day I said yes to Jesus, anywhere in Africa! I’d tried to get there through various charities but it didn’t happen immediately. A ‘yes’ doesn’t mean we click our fingers and it happens. A few years later I went with a good friend to Living Waters to Mwanza, Tanzania. I remember more than one person saying to me ‘how do you think those poor Africans feel, you white people coming and going.’

Fair question?

Back to my journalling. I’m 22. I’m saying yes and ‘Lord, can my yes stay here, not necessarily live here, but commit to this group of people?’

And now 23 journals later, I am still staying yes, to the same place and people. My yes joined the unwavering yes of the ‘good friend’ I traveled with – oh and we’ve been married 19 years, he’s a veryyyyy good friend.

When my 14 year old Bella sent me a photo of her first African sunset over Lake Victoria a few weeks ago…

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…my heart beat faster, as it does when Emily’s eyes light up when she talks about Mwanza. Then came more pictures, and videos of laughter,  of movie nights and colouring and games with the children (we like to call it family night) and then the pics of helping in school, teaching ABC’s and 123’s.

Phil was able to spend quality time with Living Water’s staff, teachers and friends, looking into familiar faces and smiles, of newly weds or of new parents or into the eyes of those heavy with grief. 

To find a charity, a tribe, a ministry, a community you can invest in outside of your own comfortable world, whether one mile or ten thousand away – this is Jesus living, the way of the kingdom. For us it’s a blessing to board four flights and travel across the world to be with family. We love our Living Waters family – Carolyn, Agricola, Happiness, Lillian, Goodluck, Baby Agnes, Joyce, Doris, Fred and many, many more! 

You might remember a trip I took three years ago – I wrote about it, here and here  (this one was my favourite)  A friend on our team, Cathleen who lives in Kelowna, said YES too – to something she had no experience of, yet felt a call and passion to run with.

The dream to build a secondary school!

Three years later Phil and Bella were able to see Living Waters Secondary school close to completion. An inspiring, innovative project built from shipping containers! WOW! Follow the journey of the school here.

What are you saying YES to today that will live longer than you?

Have a great weekend,

Love, Michelle xo

P.S.  Thank you Carolyn for saying YES in the beginning!

 

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Into the Wild.

 

 

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The first time I visited Mwanza I was in a car accident. Phil and I were ‘just good friends’ and we were with the loveliest team – from Stourbridge, San Rafael and Coventry…

We entered the Serengeti with the roof up; Phil and I cozy on the front seat, team cameras ready, wind blowing in our hair.

Our guide decided we would like to see the ostriches. A whole herd of the odd looking birds with their skinny legs, big body and black feathers, those wings might not do much but those legs can run – not my favorite.

As our guide took off the path, and accelerated faster… the thrill quickly turned to threat as the jeep hit an area of water and we began to aquaplane.

Slow motion gliding ensued until the driver with no control let go, as did the truck – we spun and rolled – sending us in different directions.

I will spare the gory details but the scene was a mess – I lay motionless on the ground, with a potential broken back, a friend trapped under the vehicle, another broken collarbone. Detail spared.

Help was scarce – the first help came in the form of a man on a bike – then a packet of twenty cigarettes – perfect timing for us who had given up smoking to start again.

Help was eventually found in the form of a dump truck where we were loaded up, with me on the roof of the flipped truck as my stretcher. We were admitted to a nearby hospital where Phil took X-rays, a friend was operated on and the Masai nursed us on a maternity ward. We were thankful to be transported out of the area the next day by MAF (love you forever MAF) after the village had cleared an unused airstrip for us.

Fast-forward 18 years.

I woke on Wednesday at 4.30am to torrential rain. A storm of storms – lightening illuminating the whole house – thunder shaking the foundations – rain, rain, rain. It lasted for hours.

What’s more, it was our day off…and the team were excited to see the Serengeti!

My worst kind of traveling weather. Ugh.

As the morning progressed and our guide was late picking us up (TIA)

I began to feel more and more anxious about the trip, memories were flooding, images, fear, anxiety.

I began to pace up and down the living room.

‘Breathe Michelle Breathe.’

‘Jesus – me and you – we can do this.’

Cheryl sat reading her bible ‘read something to me’ I asked. As the word began to sink in – the presence of God arrived in freedom and healing. The trauma attached to the accident still evident and needing a freedom only God can bring. The team gathered. I had not orchestrated this moment, but God clearly had.

My bible was open to Isaiah 43.

‘Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you. I’ve called your name. You’re mine. When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you…’

You’re mine

When our life is entrusted to the ultimate healer… it means healing is constant and a process.

I have personally seen God’s healing in many ways – sometimes through personal prayer and reading God’s word – many times through counselling and therapy – and often through the Spirit of God orchestrating ‘a moment’ – and the beauty of those moments all woven together.

The enemy of our souls likes nothing more than to keep us bound in trauma, past experiences and old habits.

The lover of our soul changes that.

How He loves us!

So, in my new found freedom. I honestly felt immediately different – if only it were always like that eh?

I sat fearless in the front of the jeep for a new Safari experience.

Where we saw everything we wanted to see.

Where we were first at the scene for the best.

I told Stephen our guide – you need to know we will see a rainbow today and I spoke to him of God’s promise over our lives and what that means. Of course we did – and this rainbow was over us and ahead of us for miles.

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We woke early and opted for a 6am adventure…

‘Oh and Stephen. You need to know that today we will see the lion, not just any lion – but a male adult’.

He smiled.

‘There are no guarantees’ he said.

I smiled.

We were first on the scene for breakfast time in the wild, females and cubs feasting – jackals scurrying and scavenging hyenas laughing.

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We sat for a long time in awe at the scene – just feet away, nature in its glory.

Then… as promised.

Silence descended upon the scene. As did redemption.

As the King had the last laugh.

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Thank you for joining me on my musings from Mwanza!

Be blessed,

Love, Michelle

See below for more Serengeti pics…

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‘There is Love in our home now’

 

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It’s Saturday, 10am and 65 ladies slowly arrive.

They are dressed in their brightest and boldest, dresses and scarves flow, some even bridesmaid-esque.

The guests arrive by foot, ferry and dula dula.

There’s a feeling of celebration is in the air.

It’s time for our women’s seminar!

New notepads and expectancy are in hand … not forgetting the introduction of the ‘door prize’.

The first sessions explored what it means to live in intimacy with God and the life we are promised in doing so.

The team shared during the afternoon session – we had spoken of intimacy, so naturally spoke of the fruit produced and how that might look in our own lives.

Testimonies flowed. As did tears. Women are women.

One of my favorite parts of the day was the lunch we provided for these lovelies.

Served by the men. Yes the men.

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One lady commented how the food was like that served at a wedding.

A wonderful prophetic sign.

“He has taken me to the banquet hall, and his banner over me is love.” Song of Solomon 2:4

God had clearly ordained this time for these women – to be spoiled and cared for – for feasting and fun.

We declared the goodness of God and the banner of love waved high.

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As the day went on, we heard stories and we became friends I was reminded of my other favourite feast – of Psalm 23.

‘You spread out a table before me, provisions in the midst of attack from my enemies, You care for all my needs, anointing my head with soothing, fragrant oil, filling my cup again and again with Your grace’

God promises a feast set in the midst of a battlefield. Undaunted by evil or troubles. A feast prepared for these women in the midst of their enemies.

Their enemies?

Many the same as mine and yours. Many not.

Marriage problems, making ends meet, concerns for future, health issues.

There was much darkness to overcome, vivid nightmares to battle and the influence of witch doctors to flee.

These women saw a reprieve from their battles, as we declared the goodness of God enabling them to see the banner of love waving more once.

In addition to great food –  we feasted on the provision of promise, the sustenance of comfort – rest – peace – friendship – hugs – hope for another day…

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Psalm 23 speaks of the word ‘table’, you spread out a table – meaning to grow long, reach, spread and stretch forth. My prayer for these women as we sat together was that the provision and sustenance would go far beyond what we could see.

On our final morning a Living Waters watchman came to tell us that his wife had been at the seminar and had met Jesus.

His words were enough ‘there is love in our home now’…

Yes!

I just read this prayer today… for my sisters in Africa and for you wherever you are.

Join me in praying?

Lord, look…

Marriage & kids & relationships & people are ridiculously hard…. and they can make our hearts grow hard & our legs go soft & bottom line: we have no idea how to keep going on.

And You hearten us, Your Word breathing fresh hope into our bones:

“Be brave. Be strong. Don’t give up….

Become wise; point your life in the right direction…

You’re so steady & determined in your faith despite all the hard times that have come down on you…” 


That’s all Lord.

Make the bruised, brave.

Make the wounded, wise. 


Make the daunted, determined.

In the name of the only One who loved us to death & back to the real & forever life… In Jesus’ name,

Amen.

More soon,

Love, Michelle

 

 

The Least of These.

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Hi friends,

I am currently writing a few musings from my recent trip to Africa. Here’s the third.

When I first visited the Maskini 18 years ago it was in the city of Mwanza. This community would sleep by the water at night under makeshift then beg by day. As Mwanza developed over the years, their presence became a hindrance, until one day government intervened – they went to the city and forced the whole community into government vehicles and relocated them into a rural area miles from the city. Emotions of many were intense as this people group were uprooted without choice.

Shortly after, the river rose flooding the area where the Maskini once lived, they too would have been drowned if they hadn’t been moved.

Mysteries.

We travelled to the Maskini – the poorest, this community of generations where the eldest had suffered from leprosy, having lost limbs, fingers and toes, worn fabric wrapped around bodies.

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We arrived laden with donations of clothes we had collected from home and our Hope Centre at Willow Park. We also took huge bags of bulk food to distribute.

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But first, we gathered the community in their hall.

Without sound systems and speakers, mics and perfect acoustics we experienced the most beautiful worship, I am sure heaven joined in with the harmonies from a place of poverty and brokenness.

Beautiful.

Agricola asked me to share a thought. I looked at the few notes I had written and realized much of my Western creativity needed to go. What remained was raw truth.

I realized when all of my poetic quotes were removed our common language was the truth of scripture.

These people didn’t need clever words but encouragement that they were loved. Encouragement that we all belong to the same family, that God himself had adopted us, from the ends of the earth – the rich and poor. Encouragement that being adopted meant we could know an unconditional love often beyond our comprehension, yet somehow, their worship appeared to comprehend this love…

We had the privilege of praying for our new family, these outcast lives absent from touch were offered hands and hugs.

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We enjoyed giving clothes to the children, replacing rags with our own kids clothes. Replacing babies bare skin with love.

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Nouwen writes. ‘This is our great challenge and consolation.  Jesus comes to us in the poor, the sick, the dying, the prisoners, the lonely, the disabled, and the rejected.  There we meet him, and there the door to God’s house is opened for us’

We were created to touch. Yet so often, leprosy, whether actual or the leprosy of today, in all of its forms, prevents us reaching out and physically touching another person.

Let us change that, let’s keep the door to God’s house wide open.

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More tomorrow!

Love, Michelle x

‘When did we find You hungry and give You food? When did we find You thirsty and slake Your thirst? 38 When did we find You a stranger and welcome You in, or find You naked and clothe You? When did we find You sick and nurse You to health? When did we visit You when You were in prison? I tell you this: whenever you saw a brother or sister hungry or cold, whatever you did to the least of these, so you did to Me’ Matthew 25

 

Walking in Thanksgiving

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Happy Canadian Thanksgiving from our family to yours!

Here we are on the second day of my ‘Africa musings’. Read the first day here.

Gen 12:1 says Go to the place I will show you.

So I heard and I did. Gathered. Fundraised. Put on my best flip flops and travelled (flip flops not recommended 😉

During our fundraising activities a well-meaning lady told us that short term missions trips were a waste of time indicating that they did more harm than good.

What I love about visiting Living Waters is that we were not arriving there to take over and wave our magic wand of the West but rather to join in with the ministry and bless all that is already taking place – supporting teachers, and staff and simply being with the children.

Ensuring them all of a group of people in a faraway place, actually, a 14, 130km away place – who regularly pray for them, love them and think of them often.

‘Go where your best prayers take you’ says Buechner.

‘Put willing feet on your red letter verses and go’ says Me.

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Isaiah 52:7 ‘How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of the messenger who brings good news, the good news of peace and salvation, the news that God reigns!’

This became a relevant verse as we climbed to many mountaintops to share good news stories. Personal mountains, fear filled mountains and blatant ‘I cannot do this’ mountains.

What did that look like? Where did those beautiful feet take our team?

They danced with African congregations (the first time I had danced the conga around church) these feet skipped over ropes and walked African streets sharing good news.

They dodged scorpions, dragged themselves through airport corridors, and kicked own self at times.

They stood in front of hundreds of people – as the team shared painful stories, of loss and redemption, testimonies of God’s goodness and grace.

They stood strong – supported by team members cheers.

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They climbed from under a mosquito net during the night and paced a room in prayer as fever peaked and darkness raged.

These feet worked hard…

Each step we took was one of intention, digging our cracked heels into dusty soil.

As grateful passion was ignited to a burning flame because of our feet on the ground.

And now we are home, the all important question ‘How was it’?

A poignant question to ask this Thanksgiving weekend and I am reminded again to convert gratitude from Thanksgiving to Thanks-living.

I love Anne Voskamp’s thoughts on this ‘What if the question around holiday tables wasn’t –What are you so grateful for? But rather how are you changing the world because you are so grateful? What if gratitude always meant a question mark — asking how will you let your gratitude to Christ mark the world for Christ?… Thanksgiving is a verb – a way to walk, to respond, to give, to do, to change the world.

Buechner also says ‘Generally speaking, if you want to know who you really are, as distinct from who you like to think you are, keep an eye on where your feet take you.’

Let us find a way to walk this out.

More tomorrow!

Love, Michelle

 

Out of Africa

Hi Friends!

For the past 2 weeks I led a team of women from our home church in Kelowna, BC to Living Waters, Mwanza, Tanzania. The journey of 4 planes over 40 hours was certainly a time for our team of 8 to bond. A quick stop at Kilimanjaro, Emily and I pushing 8 suitcases outside of Naritobi airport, unexpected tourist Visas and Ebola screening added to the experience.

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We were volunteering with Living Waters, a charity Phil and I have been involved with for many years. I was excited to return to Mwanza and join in with all that God is doing through the ministry.

In terms of staying in touch with YOU my prayer-ers and cheerleaders, my plan was to blog throughout the trip – this didn’t happen.

So! Having been at home for a few of days and beginning to find a time zone that is beginning to resemble my own, I will share a daily musing from my African experience for the next few days.

Join me as I process? Starting now… 2pm PST. 10pm GMT. 1am East Africa.

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Sunrise in Mwanza

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Graduation. Celebration. 

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One of the first events we were involved at Living Waters was the graduation of 26 students from the Living Waters Elementary School. DSC04040

Some moving onto Secondary education. Some not. We look forward to the day when the Living Waters Secondary School exists!

I was asked to share a few thoughts at the graduation.

I love this verse printed on the Living Waters School uniform from Jeremiah 29:11 ‘For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.’

Truth. Yes. But sometimes I struggle with putting verses ‘out there’ without being a part of the application.

God uses us imperfect ones to fulfill His word and as much as I love Jeremiah 29:11 – I believe this verse needs action. Ours.

Before Living Waters Education Centre was in existence – before the building was built and teachers were employed and classrooms were full – local children would gather at Carolyn’s home.

The children who did not go to school. Those who were not receiving an education.

Living Waters staff would pull out a blackboard, lean it up against the wall and teach this handful of locals.

Back to the graduation – the first thing that came to mind as I shared with these young people and their family is the power of vision.

Carolyn pursued her God given dream and vision of a school despite setbacks and opposition. Despite it appearing to be beyond what could naturally be achieved.

In front of me sat 26 children who believed they have a hope and a future, experiencing first hand James 2:17 which speaks of faith being useless without actions.

Following the graduation, we sat with these teens in their royal blue graduation outfits drinking bottles of Fanta and asked them ‘What do you want to be’?

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We asked ‘Where? Here in Mwanza’?

Presuming they would want to escape to a ‘better life’ with their qualifications.

‘We want help the poor and the orphans – not in Mwanza’ one said ‘But with the poorest….like Somalia, where it’s desperate’.

Living Waters has not only offered an academic education but also the gift of discipleship and teaching children to recognize their God given calling too.

‘Works demonstrate what is alive on the inside. Outwardly manifesting an inward faith’

God sees the hearts of these young ones and I’m sure He is pleased.

Let us learn from them.

More tomorrow!

Love. Michelle x

Abiding not Striving.

It’s time for a catch up!

Summer in Kelowna saw bible camps, road trips, hikes, praying mantis finds and speedboat thrills.

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Summer in Kelowna was a houseful of the loveliest ones in our lives, alongside ‘one thing after the other’ … ending with an ‘all clear’ following my mammograms, ultrasound and biopsy. Thank you Jesus.

Nanny Pop (Phil’s Grandma) passed away which led the Collins clan back to Stourbridge where Phil led her funeral service, as the family were able to remember together. Sad days, walked out on Clent hills, with the best of friends in hidden caves and great pub grub.

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We enjoyed a God given moment as we left Pop’s house. His tears flowing in his grief – 73 years is a long time. Phil, myself and the children prayed for Pop, the comfort of God was present in the room – and in Pops heart.

And here we are at the end of September! We have just seen the end to our teachers strike so look forward to the twins starting their new school on Monday. We also have a Korean student, Chloe (12) with us for the school year. We recently enjoyed Korean Thanksgiving where samgyupsal, jjimdak, kimchi and dukboekki ’ were devoured by all!

The church enters a new season – our kickoff happened last weekend where all of our congregations joined our downtown service. A beautiful evening of worship, baptisms and community.

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We have Philip Yancey and Searchlight theatre with us this weekend at Willow Park Church for a time of understanding ‘What’s so Amazing about Grace’.

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As the children head back to school on Monday, I head to Mwanza, Tanzania on Tuesday.

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Phil and I have been involved with Living Waters for many years and I look forward to visiting there again with a group of women from our church. We will be involved in many activities – schools work, assemblies, helping in the children’s home, involved in the feeding program, leading a women’s seminar… and singing in a village church 😉

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Now those are our plans – we are excited for those, also for the surprises God has in store for us. We want to be love poured out to the lovely community in Mwanza, blessing the ministry that is established there.

More on that over the next couple of weeks, I will attempt to write and post pics as and when possible. Please pray for us – safety, health, for our families at home, for anxiety to calm, and for God to use us mightily!

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. Acts 1:8

A couple of months ago I started to ask God for a message to carry. It was no surprise when the Lord began to weave scripture together, confirming it each and every way I turned – everything I read, listened to and watched.

The message began as I browsed through my first bible. Remember those big NKJ bibles, enclosed in a burgundy leather case, complete with gold edge indexing? This bible is dated, underlined and highlighted in many places – the joy of my salvation jumping out in yellow marker. It’s a verse I underlined during my first year of giving my life to Jesus – the days where the presence was tangible and His whisper wild. It’s good to be reminded of those promises. To smile at those fulfilled and to question why some struggles remain the same.

It was this verse…

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, 
 whose trust is in Him. They will be like a tree planted by the water
 that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; 
its leaves are always green.
 It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7

I was promised drought will come…but that fruit will be produced.

The underlining is not just a cheesy exercise – it’s a lifeline – a promise.

A river in the drought.

God knew to highlight that verse to me in those early days. He knew that life would hurt me, that death would affect me, that I would despair for loved ones, that Christians….

He knew I would always go back to the promise, that even in that season there is fruit. I have a choice to make. It is easy in difficult times to put it down to a ‘season’ – dark, winter times when God feels absent.

This verse tells me another story. It tells me I am a tree planted by Gods river and that I can bear fruit 12 months of the year. The promise of nourishment. The person who trusts in the Lord is like a tree planted by a stream. The roots make their way to the fresh and nutritious flow. The tree will never lack for food. The promise of protection. The heat comes, but the tree by the stream is appropriately shielded. So the believer will experience heat through various circumstances and challenges. We need some heat to make us grow. But God will always be there to protect us. The promise of fruit. Dry times come. But the tree planted by the stream has everything it needs to bear fruit.

The beginning of the verse says ‘blessed is the person who trusts’ TRUST, a word that comes from a root word meaning ‘to lean on, feel safe or secure, to be confident, to find refuge and security’ It involves an act of the heart and will and weaves wonderfully with John 15 and abiding.

I have just written the seminar for the women’s day we are leading in Tanzania on Intimacy and Fruitfulness. So excited for this!  1 John 3:1 says ‘How great is love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God’ Lavish is an incredibly rich word. It means over the top – more than you can I imagine. Giving us the beautiful title of Son or Daughter!

Heidi Baker says  ‘We cannot create fruit, but we can live in intimacy!  A tree produces fruit by simply abiding, not striving’

Intimacy. But how? What does that look like? What is this fruit? I have gathered my thoughts from friends who live this out and will write a post on this in the next week.

Meanwhile I need to pack!!

I will leave you with a couple of questions:

What is the message you are currently carrying?

God has spoken promises over you – which one do you need to be reminded of today?

Love, Michelle xo

PS. Good to be back.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An African Adventure.

As you know we have been in the UK for the last few weeks. The final 10 days of our trip saw Phil, Emily and Jessica embark on an African adventure.

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Our long-standing relationship with Living Waters in Mwanza, Tanzania drew us back again to minister and work with our good friend Carolyn Philpott.

Phil sent prayer updates while they were away so I thought it’d be good to summarize them and add some of their pictures.

Today has been a busy day. I started the day praying high on a hill, gazing across Lake Victoria, as fishermen returned from a night on their tiny boats. Small lights across the water that look like a city afloat. Mud huts litter the hill and the smell of charcoal cooked breakfasts linger in the air.

 The faithful old Land Rover took us through dusty roads as we drove along the lakeshore. Lines of women carrying water, balanced beautifully, children holding hands walking to school, the dust lingering long.

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We proceeded deeper into the bush in search of a small hidden mud hamlet and a green valley that we hope will become a garden to feed the school children and orphans.

Food and education are two beautiful gifts we can offer.

     We stood on a rock hill and looked across this green land. The visit ended with chatting to the local chief. Jessica and Emily were surrounded by lots of children, who clearly had no school. They introduced them to digital photos and the wonder of the mini iPad.

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There was no church in the area, we prayed and dreamed of bearing other fruit for eternity.

Driving back I noticed spots I had preached at over ten years ago, small country schools, shady trees and the odd church building with no windows.

We arrived back at the village to a packed hall of 100 youth and adults. I was expected to preach for an hour and a half. I completed my task with passion then answered biblical questions for another hour. Emily and Jess will never complain about my sermons at Willow again!

  Friday was a day of the spoken word, We enjoyed a school assembly. Emily and Jessica answering questions about Canada, school and snow.

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I preached for four hours throughout the day in four meetings. Scorching heat powered through the tin roof, I drove through the heat with the truth of God’s. I have to confess that the smallest faded into a blissful sleep.

Many responded to the teaching. The teaching went deeper as we followed the trail of thought. We welcomed a whisper of wind, a refreshing gift from Lake Victoria. The questions became sharper from the teachers. My final hour dealt with marriage, contraception and the attitude of the Tanzanian man towards their wives. A biblical view of same sex marriage, the western church, the second coming, judgmental churches and back sliders. I really felt we trekked into cultural attitudes and offered clear biblical reflection.

  On Saturday morning, Emily and Jessica lead a morning of crafts, with children from the orphanage. Colorful beads, ribbons and cotton were in abundance as all the children proudly wore their new treasures around the village.

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I will post the second half of their trip tomorrow.

The Africa, England and the Canada time zones have created confusion in our minds and bodies this week.

The Canada time zone is getting closer everyday…

For now…Goodnight.

Love, Michelle xo

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