AUTHOR’s NOTE : As you read this I am away on a foreign mission trip to Belize. If you are a long time reader you have seen information about last year’s trip for quite a while. If you are new, I invite you to look into the archives for the Belize or mission trip categories to catch up. I hope to have plenty of new experiences to share when I return.
I remember a few years back when Bruce Wilkinson published his book based on the Prayer of Jabez. It covered a passage of scripture from First Chronicles, Chapter 4, Verse 10. From the King James version it goes like this:
And Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed, and enlarge my coast, and that thine hand might be with me, and that thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me! And God granted him that which he requested. 1 Chron. 4:10 KJV
The purpose of the book was to explain how God granted Jabez that which he requested. You see Jabez went on to a great deal of God given success. Mr. Wilkinson used the book to describe how anyone could benefit by developing their faith in God and keeping this prayer as part of their faith life.
To the best of my recollection my introduction to the Prayer of Jabez came about a dozen years ago. I bought the book and began to read about the power of this prayer. I had no way to imagine what the words enlarge my coast could mean, but I wanted to draw closer to Christ and widen my influence for Him.
Shortly after this I was approached by some of the Deacons and the pastor of my church to consider serving on the deacon board at our church. As the youngest deacon at that time I felt excited and yet a fair amount of trepidation. The experience opened my eyes to things one will not see outside of the ranks. There was many opportunities to minister and aid those within the church, something I would never have had the chance to do otherwise.
As the years passed more growth came in the form of new ministries and jobs. The 4 & 5 year old class for Vacation Bible School became my favorite and one of my God given gifts, the love of children, allowed me to have fun and wrangle 20 to 30 of that age with ease. My coast expanded in ways I could have never imagined.
Seven years ago I finally got the chance to go on my first mission trip. It was something I desired for many years, but just seemed to never be the right fit. A dozen and a half us from the church we attended then traveled from Virginia to Callaway Florida to First Baptist Church of Callaway where we proceeded to replace their aging shingle roof with a brand new metal one.
The congregation was aging and just did not have a pool of laborers that could physically handle the demanding work. We were lifting 16 foot long sheets of tin over 20 feet off the ground and using cordless drills to screw it down. All of this in the Florida heat of the second week of August. The congregation was so appreciative of our work, but I felt the blessing was mine for being able to help them.
With this experience fresh in mind I felt a burden to step up my efforts when I returned home. As many of you who read my blog will know, this period was the beginning of the effort to expand our church’s commitment to packing shoe box gifts for Operation Christmas Child. At that time our church was over three hundred members strong and the ability to do great things was just waiting.
Over the next three years we were able to send over 1,500 shoe box gifts to India and Africa. The thing about Operation Christmas Child at that time was that you really did not know where your gifts would go. I learned later through letters from box recipients that our boxes made it to the Asian subcontinent. The last year we worked with OCC our boxes were said to be intended for Botswana.
During all this time I could feel my faith being strengthened and deepened. Throughout the daily routines and losses it brings I could still find exciting things to focus my efforts on. This included the end of February 2010, when my mother finally succumbed to the lung cancer that she had battled for thirteen months. It was a hard experience, since my brother and father had died prior to this. But as I stood in the cemetery leading the interment service I felt like God had prepared me for not only that day, but so much more.
Last year I learned of an opportunity to stretch my coast even farther, to an international destination. For the first time I would be leaving my home country of the USA to be part of an international mission team. I only wish I had not waited so many years to do this. From the moment we landed in Belize City, Belize I fell in love with the country.
We got to see some amazing examples of people following God in faith. There was a couple from South Carolina who took on a children’s home, blending their two boys and little girl with a dozen orphans in a large house. We saw a team of young men in a traveling basketball unit playing pick-up games across the country as they shared their faith.
There was a couple who saw the need to start a soup kitchen in their home to feed hungry school children. You see there is no government funded nutrition program like my kids enjoy. Instead school lets out for an hour to allow the children to find their own lunch. What a great example of following the leading of God.
Perhaps the ministry that touched my heart the deepest however was an afterschool program in the village of Maya Mopan called the Heart House. It was a small building with a huge purpose. Led by a native from Belize and two other missionaries this ministry gave children a place to come after school to play, sing, enjoy crafts and learn about Christ.
When we arrived in December of 2012 they were already planning to expand their building for the future. Some of the plans included a covered reading porch to shield the children from the tropical sun and torrential rains. Other plans were for an enlarged library. That is what caught my attention.
Living in America I know how abundantly we have been blessed. I also know what is stacked in boxes and corners in most of the homes of people with children. I got an idea to collect children’s books to send to Heart House to fill out their new library. I knew God had impressed that idea on me and that He knew I would follow through.
You don’t know how much I was blessed with the outpouring of support from my church and friends for this project. Books came pouring in from all directions and when we arrive at Heart House the second week of December in 2013, we will deliver 600 children’s books for their pleasure.
My Prayer of Jabez experience is still ongoing. Now I am in the position of Missions Director at my church and trying to understand God’s purpose for our ministry. I can certainly testify he is faithful if you are faithful to Him and serious about your desire to serve Him. I look forward to the other directions my coast stretches as I continue to love and serve Him.