Hangin' Out in Karongue

Hangin' Out in Karongue

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Happy Anniversary Gayle!

Eighteen years ago today, when Gayle and I said, "I do," neither of us had any idea where the Lord would take our lives together. We were new Christians excited about our new life with the Lord and our new life with each other; just beginning to learn our identity in Christ and starting our journey of identity together.

And it still seems hard to believe that was eighteen years ago.

The greatest gift of my life has been the gift of Jesus Christ. He saved and transformed me, not because of me and what I did nor because of my merit or goodness, but because of His unyielding love and sacrifice for me. That is a gift without rivals and a gift that can only be given by God Himself.

But second on the list is my precious wife, Gayle. And she too is a gift from God. From a human standpoint our "chance" meeting over 19 years ago was absolutely improbable. But from God's vantage point it was another piece of the puzzle of amazing grace that He was putting together in my life.

I often tell Gayle that I was in love with her from the first week that I met her. And she likewise always says that she was not nearly  that quick on the draw. When we were dating we were separated by almost 200 miles (and as she would say, almost 8 years!), but thankfully with some time (and heavy doses of my charm!) she began to see the light!

We both became Christians about a month before our wedding and the presence of Christ in our marriage has made all of the difference in the world. It has been amazing not just to "grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ" as an individual, but to be able to do so with the one that you walk through life with.

Our life together has not exactly gone as we scripted it in those first few years of marriage, but one of the mind-blowing things about Gayle is that she has always been great with where God has taken our family and our lives. She was okay when we left our "careers," sold our dream home, and took our two-month-old son and moved to Kentucky for me to attend Bible college and seminary. She was okay because she trusted God and (for this I am eternally grateful and overwhelmingly amazed) she trusted me. Later, when we moved even father away from family and familiarity to serve in Idaho she was equally happy and content. Very early in our marriage she once told me, "I am okay wherever we are because the Lord will be there and you will be there." She has always just wanted to be where the Lord would have our family be. And now we find ourselves in a village in southern Senegal serving the Lord Jesus and the Diola people here.

Gayle has always served our family and those around us with amazing grace and care, but since being in Senegal I have seen this quality magnified. I have watched her sit with our neighbors and wrap sheep intestines around sheep stomach lining in an attempt to connect with the women for the sake of the Gospel. I have seen her wash clothes by hand at 7:00 in the morning so that she can begin homeschooling our children inside our home where the temperature is 95 degrees. And on a daily basis I see her clothes wringing wet with sweat as she manages our home.

And she does so without complaint. During one of our two mile walks under the hot Senegalese sun, Hosanna once said, "Mama never complains. She must just complain on the inside." Indeed, I have found a virtuous wife who's worth is far above riches (Proverbs 31:10).

I am sure that back home in Florida in our storage unit there is a wedding picture of Gayle and me. And were we to see it I am sure we would comment that we had much less grey in our hair than we do today and that we were much less wise than we are after 18 years together. But we could not say that we loved each other more that day in 1996 than we do today. For everyday we grow in love and appreciation for one another as we together live submersed the grace of God.

Indeed, I could go on and on with all of the ways that God has used Gayle to bless me and our family, but all of those roads lead me back to His grace. I am continually reminded of how undeserving I am of all of God's grace. I guess that is the great thing about grace: you get the overwhelming blessing that you do not deserve. And that is exactly what I got 18 years ago when I married Gayle. Happy anniversary Gayle! Thanks for being the second best gift I've ever received!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Pray During Tabaski

Tomorrow Muslims all over the world will celebrate "Eid al-Adha" or the "Festival of the Sacrifice." Here in West Africa the festival is known as "Tabaski." It commemorates when Abraham, according to the Koran, was willing to sacrifice his son Ishmael. (The Bible recounts this story quite differently and can be found in Genesis chapter 22.)

Our neighbors performing their sacrifice
behind our house last year.
Tomorrow morning our Muslim friends here in the village will go to the mosque to pray while the women and girls stayed behind at their home to continue to prepare for the days festivities. After prayers at the mosque, they will return home and "sacrifice" their ram. The oldest man of the home will dig a small hole in the yard of their home with a machete while the boys will go to get the ram. They then will hold the ram on the ground while their father slits its throat and the blood of the ram will spill into the hole. And they will do all of this with the hope that the spilled blood of this ram will atone for their sins of the previous year.

And next year they will repeat the same process, just like they have done all of the previous years that have gone before.

The Bible teaches that "in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins" (Hebrews 10:3-4). Thankfully, the Bible teaches that Jesus "offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins" when He gave His life as a sacrifice for our sins on the cross (Hebrews 10:12). Jesus, the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world, provided for us a sacrifice that does not need to be repeated, but rather needs to be embraced, cherished, and trusted.

Pray with us for the Muslims of Diouloulou and southern Senegal. Pray that they might forsake the rams of Tabaski and embrace the Lamb of God that truly takes away the sins of the world.