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The Face of Jesus

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The body of Christ–I honestly don’t know what we would do without people who are the face of Jesus to us in the midst of both celebration and crisis.  

My value of community has always been high, and yet after walking through this last month and a half, Jesus has grown my appreciation for His body as He has shown his face to us in such significant ways through his people.  

I want to tell you about some of them…it has given me a very practical picture of how to walk this journey with others as well…

With both Daniel and me sick and quarantined, normal things were challenging–shopping, cooking, cleaning, errands, and many other normal life things.

During that time, and almost from day one, we had friends who made and delivered meals. Some sent frozen meals while others brought meals they had made, but each one was SUCH a gift, and the care that it represented was so incredibly meaningful. One particular friend brought a meal which was so beautifully presented and it happened to be on Daniel’s birthday as well. We were blown away by His goodness. Just amazing.

We had several friends who asked if they could shop for us, and knowing that we had resources that we could draw on when we needed it was SUCH an incredible gift. One Bible study friend in particular who got us groceries had just walked the exact same journey—husband just out of the hospital and only just recovered herself from COVID. Such a gift.

Our dear connect group friends went TWICE to get oxygen when we desperately needed it. Daniel was too sick for me to leave him to go, and the oxygen company wasn’t sure they could deliver that day. I was overwhelmed in every way, and they called just then. I just sat and cried. My Father, knowing my weakness (the oxygen tanks were even to heavy for me to lift), provided, at every step.

When I was still in the E/R with Daniel, Ali asked me if I wanted her to fly home (she was a 2 hour flight away) so that I could stay with her while Daniel was in the hospital. Not knowing how long Daniel would be there, exhausted from many long and awful nights and not wanting to face the reality of Daniel’s hospital stay by myself, her offer was an oasis for me, bringing tears yet again. I was so very grateful.

When I arrived at Ali’s house, after a tearful leaving of Daniel at the hospital, I was greeted by roses in my room, snacks next to my bed and nutritious meals in the refrigerator, a gift from dear connect friends who had offered many times to shop and bring meals. They also sourced a bed for me so that I could sleep on the floor next to Daniel in order to care for him while also getting sleep myself.

Daniel was alone in the hospital with limited to no contact with even me. I was asking the Lord how I could be “present” with him in the ICU so he was not alone and would be encouraged to fight. I asked family and friends to write letters that I could deliver to the hospital. Over 60 of our friends/family wrote letters to him–meaningful, heartfelt letters! They were full of Scripture and song and amazing words of affirmation and were so incredibly encouraging to both him and me. It gave him courage and community in the midst of a very hard and sobering reality.

And prayer…we got texts, facebook messages, e-mails and daily phone calls from people from all over the globe that were praying for Daniel’s healing. We cannot begin to express our gratitude for the “prayers of the righteous men/women that availed much” on our behalf. We experienced peace in the midst of the storm, and a miracle of healing. This is the fruit of the prayers of God’s people.

Since arriving home, Daniel and I have been processing all that the Lord has done. We continue to pray for restoration in every way–body, soul and spirit. We desire to walk out of this time with every possible treasure that the Lord has for us.

We have seen the face of Jesus through His people and I believe we are different because of it.

50…the faithful Shepherd…COVID

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50…I turned 50 on Feb. 7th, and our plans and God’s plans in celebrating that milestone turned out to be very different…

 After a wonderful Christmas holiday with my niece and nephew in Mozambique, two days later, I wasn’t feeling well and went for a malaria and a COViD test.  The COViD test was just a formality as I had just tested negative 4 days earlier, but much to our shock, the test came back positive, starting the journey of a lifetime. 

Daniel tested negative at first and nursed me through my worst.  However, I started seeing symptoms in him a few days later, which started a battle for me with fear, which is truly a BIG battle with this disease.  

I was still sick myself, but the night that fear started coming over me, I spent a few hours in the middle of the night with Jesus, reading scripture outloud, praising and thanking Jesus, using my offensive weapons of warfare.  I can honestly say that, though Daniel’s situation became very serious, fear did not grip me again  after that night with Jesus.

Daniel had incredibly high fevers, and after 10 days of following a strict COVID protocol and administering many things at home, he was worsening by the minute.  In the middle of the night, I knew we needed to go to the hospital…and soon.  He really did not want to go, as the hospital is the last place anyone wants to be in this season (bless the amazing staff who are serving so sacrificially there)l  The ICU’s are full with desperate cases with no visitors allowed, and hopelessness can abound in these wards, but after a night of singing and praying over him, when morning came, we headed to the ER.  

When the ER doctor saw Daniel’s arterial oxygen level, they immediately admitted him to the ICU.  Due to the realities of the COVID situation, we waited from 9am to 5:30 pm in the ER for a bed to come available for him, as the hospitals are full.

Some of the stories of the intimate presence of Jesus in the midst of this journey are below.  We got a front row seat to God’s miraculous power in our lives, and I also believe that Daniel and I had the unique privilege of carrying the hope of Jesus into the hospital and the “darkness” that  is so prevalent in these times.

As the word got out, MANY started interceding for Daniel, both locally and around the world, and Jesus heard our cries.  From one day to the next we heard unbelievable progress.  And by the miraculous grace of Jesus, given many heartbreaking stories we have witnessed here, I brought my husband home from the hospital 4 days later , still with a long way to go to complete healing, but with story after story of God’s faithfulness and miraculous power.  

Jesus…the name above ALL others…the power of Jesus to heal, to deliver, to bring life,  to meet us in the valley of the shadow of death, to bring hope where there is none, to eradicate fear, to provide in unbelievable ways–these are the things that we are celebrating in the midst of recovery.

And 50…I have never been so grateful (the picture above was my “drive by” b-day party with Daniel 1 week out of ICU).  My Father gave me incredible gifts….His presence, an intimate knowledge of Him in the valley  of the shadow of death, unbelievable friends/family support and the life of my precious husband with whom I hope to serve Jesus until we are very old.

Great is your faithfulness to us, Jesus, and we lift your name higher than any disease, any situation, or any trial we may face.  

“I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the Lord has done.”  Psalm 118:17

Angels in the ER

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I want to share two of MANY stories of our Father and the way His presence has been intimately known in every part of this journey. I thought it might bless you today. I know it did me…

I had the most amazing experience …in the E/R where we were waiting for a bed for Daniel. 

Daniel was pretty non-responsive as he was so sick, but I was sitting on the edge of his bed and had been praying over him and then just started singing “It is well with my soul” in our little room, head raised and hands on Daniel. 

All of the sudden I heard another voice join in in an African language and then another one, harmonising with me. (which made me cry and much harder to sing, I must say).  Daniel opened his eyes to see. Two precious nurses joined me in the room to sing “It is well with my soul” in their own languages and then we continued with “How Great Thou Art.”

Moments where heaven touches earth as we are petitioning our Father with everything in us. This was precious to me—just another message to say “He is with me/us. He knows, and He rejoices in our praise in the midst of the storm. 

Right after singing with these beautiful women, the guards in the parking lot came in and asked me to move my car, as it was parked in front of the E/R. I left Daniel for a few minutes, and though I was cheerful and encouraging when I was with him, when I went outside, I cried.

I was looking for a parking space, and I saw one beyond some barriers, and started heading that way. In South Africa, there are often parking attendants who look after the cars. One of them approached me, telling me that I couldn’t park behind the barriers. I explained the situation to him, and he looked me straight in the eye and said, “Ma’am, God is BIG, and all is going to come right with your husband.” Then he proceeded to let me park there.

I went to the parking lot two other times, and each time he reminded me how BIG God is and that everything was going to be okay. I cried every single time, knowing he was speaking truth to me at the Father’s request.

Jesus has his servants everywhere, and they are so often what the world would call “the least of these.” This man was doing a lowly job that day–watching over cars–but Jesus put him there, and he was on important kingdom business. To me he was a beautiful servant of the King–a messenger of my Father. He spoke my Father’s words with my Father’s heart. How very, very grateful I am for this man. He may have been an angel, I don’t know, but he may have just been an ordinary man, filled with an extraordinary Jesus.

I am a servant of the King as well, and I want to have the same awareness of kingdom business that these nurses and this parking attendant had, speaking words of life and light when Jesus gives me opportunity.

Precious. Beautiful. Jesus. So grateful. 

Dancing with the Beast…

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A while ago, the Lord gave me a picture…Beauty and the Beast dancing–the Beast (Him) in his blue tuxedo and Beauty (me) in her beautiful yellow dress…It is the picture from which dreams are made….

The Beast, in all of his ferocity, frightening strength, and majesty has singled me out and asked me to dance.  He calls me “Belle”…His “beauty.” I accept the dance because I am mesmerized and awed by his presence.

He leads me out onto the dance floor, and I can hear the beautiful music of the orchestra fill the air, stirring my senses. He takes my hand and we start to dance. He begins leading me in a beautiful, graceful waltz, but instead of following His lead, I stop, stomp my foot and insist that he lead me in a fox trot. I am sure that He intended to dance a foxtrot with me. After all, I was right there when I consented to the dance and heard the music start.

So, instead of being the picture of beauty and grace for everyone around to see, I end up tripping all over the floor as he faithfully leads me in a waltz while I still try to dance a fox trot, convinced that the fox trot is REALLY what He wants me to dance. The picture loses the “dream” like quality it had at the beginning. I start to get angry and upset and begin to even question His ability to lead.

With the gentleness that He alone has, He cups my face in both of His hands, looks me right in the eye, gently reminding me that my beauty and grace come with my submission to His lead. He specifically designed the dance to show off my beauty, but even more importantly to display His own majesty and power. Everyone around witnesses His glory and the joy of the dance when I follow in step with Him.

This picture has marked my life…

One of the dances He initiated with me was a “single” dance, and it was a LONG one. I spent some time stomping my foot on the dance floor because of some of the painful, hard steps in that dance, sacrificing some moments of potential beauty and grace. Now though, as I look back, I am so very grateful for the lessons, the sorrows and the joys in that dance. My leader knows…

These days, our dances have a different rhythm–marriage, living in a foreign country, challenges, joys. There are times when I still stop and question, when he holds me tighter to keep me from running into others or when I try to anticipate the next dance and get ahead of His lead. With each of my false moves, He patiently and lovingly embraces me in my questions and stumbling…His grace….

I am sure of only two things in this season–the dance of this moment and the Leader of my dance. My beauty and His glory are brightest when I submit to being led into new, unexpected places by One who alone knows how to get me there.

Warfare and Orphans…

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We were cleaning out storerooms in the US, and I came across a box of books. Dressed to Kill was a gift given to me at least 10 years ago.  I put it on a shelf, and never read it.  However, having just come through an incredible season of spiritual warfare in South Africa, my desire to learn was significant.  WOW!!!  I cannot recommend this book enough. It is biblical, practical and very insightful with pictured illustrations of the Roman armor that Paul saw everyday while writing Ephesians 6 about the armor of God. An incredible tool!  Here’s a brief description…

“Rick Renner’s book Dressed To Kill is considered by many to be a true classic on the subject of scriptural warfare. The original version, which sold more than 400,000 copies, is a curriculum staple in Bible schools worldwide. Now, in this new, beautifully bound hardback volume you will find: * 512 pages of reedited text * 16 pages of full-color illustrations (exclusively available in the print version. Not available in eBook). * Questions at the end of each chapter to guide you into deeper study In Dressed To Kill, Rick explains with exacting detail the purpose and function of each piece of Roman armor. In the process, he describes the significance of our spiritual armor not only to withstand the onslaughts of the enemy and but also to overturn the tendencies of the carnal mind. Furthermore, Rick delivers a clear, scriptural presentation on the biblical definition of spiritual warfare – what it is and what it is not. He stresses, “Your unbroken, ongoing fellowship with God is your absolute guarantee that you are constantly and habitually dressed in the whole armor of God.” When you walk with God in deliberate, continual fellowship, He will enrobe you with Himself. Armed with the knowledge of who you are in Him, you will be dressed and dangerous to the works of darkness, unflinching in the face of conflict, and fully equipped to take the offensive and gain mastery over any opposition from your spiritual foe.”
 
I have a shelf of “favorites”–books that have impacted my life that I want to reread from time to time.  The Autobiography of George Muller is one of those. His faith and perseverance demonstrated over YEARS while working with orphans as well as other kingdom endeavors is truly mind-blowing.  I was inspired all over again to trust my Father, to walk by faith, and to believe and ask Him for BIG things.  Another highly recommended read.  Here’s a brief description…

“What can be accomplished in an ordinary man who trusts in an extraordinary God? George Müller discovered the endless possibilities!
These excerpts from his diary allow Müller to tell his own story. Join him on his journey from a life of sin and rebellion to his glorious conversion. Share his struggles and triumphs as he establishes orphan homes to care for thousands of English children, depending on God’s response to his prayer of faith to supply all things. You will learn how to:

  • Pray in faith and receive answers
  • Seek God for direction
  • Find the ultimate purpose for your life
  • Rest in God’s loving care 

George Müller’s unwavering, childlike dependence upon his heavenly Father will inspire you to confidently trust the God of the impossible in every area of your life.”
 

 

A Divine Tale…

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Once upon a time there were two women…two countries…and one BIG God…
 
Michelle (middle top) came into my life through my friend Celeste (left top). Michelle was hungry to see more of God, as is Celeste.  So, four of us started meeting together, seeking God for things He alone can do–healing and transformation.

On a Thursday morning last November we witnessed firsthand the redemptive nature and power of our Jesus as we heard Michelle’s story…

Michelle had been a practicing New Age Medium for years.  As she rose higher and higher in the New Age movement, she started channeling spirits and sharing that channeling with others.  She was studying one of the “spirits” on the internet when she saw the word “demon” and “demonic” in association with that spirit.  She thought her work in the New Age was her service to God, so the fact that her activities had any association with the demonic was a complete surprise and shock to her.

In September 2018, in the midst of her confusion and questioning, she bought a Bible with the intent of proving false what she had just read about New Age and the demonic.  She studied, read, researched and prayed, trying to prove that New Age was really of God,  In the midst of her Bible search, she met Jesus, changing everything for her.  Though no person was there to teach her or lead her to Jesus, the Holy Spirit and the Word of God were her teachers. Michelle KNOWS Jesus in ways that many people don’t know Him after a lifetime of discipleship and teaching.  I was blown away by her wisdom, maturity and knowledge of our Jesus.  Her Bible was one of the most well-worn Bibles I have ever seen.

As a New Age Medium, Michelle had an international following of about 150 people, and she began sharing what she was learning from the Bible with these followers. Thirty of these people decided to become followers of Jesus as well.  It sounded like New Testament times!!  

One of theses “followers” was Mateja (bottom right) from Ljubijana, Slovenia.  Just like Michelle, Mateja wanted to be discipled and learn more of Jesus. As Michelle shared this with us, I thought of my dear friends Josh and Kristi Patty (bottom left) who serve with Josiah Venture in Ljubljana.

We contacted Josh and Kristi, and it turned out that they lived 15 minutes away from Mateja!  Mateja only knows 1 person in South Africa.  Josh and Kristi only know 2 people in South Africa, but God’s amazing plan was to connect them through  South Africa, and they are all experiencing the incredible joy of God’s power and a kingdom work as they meet together.

The things that Mateja and Michelle are learning are being passed on to the others that have come to Jesus out of the New Age Movement–some in South Africa, some in Slovenia, and some in places all over the world, types of people that would never have a chance to meet or share Jesus with.  

God’s stories, His plans, His connections and His ways are just AMAZING…How I love Him and His incredible “Divine Tale.”

A Gift…

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In this new season of marriage (to an amazing man, I might add 🤗), the Lord is stretching and growing me in significant ways, and I couldn’t be more grateful.  Though I could share many different facets of “learning,” the one that is top of mind is the recent gift that my Father gave me on Easter Sunday morning….

Over the last month, I wrestled with a lack of peace and some uncharacteristic agitation in both my thinking and actions.  I was tired on a regular basis (thinking it was jet lag from a trip back to the US) and I truly couldn’t seem to get to the bottom of it.  In that place of confusion it seemed to me that circumstances and interactions with certain people were causing my agitation. However, the truth was that I needed a revelation from Jesus of my own heart–the part of my heart that I could not clearly see.

The Saturday before Easter, I was so discouraged that I finally started asking Jesus to help.  I know He was just waiting for me to ask so He could pour His grace over me.  I went to sleep that night, and about 2:00 am he woke me up.  As I was laying there, I received a revelation of two words–“scorn and disdain.”  He told me that I was fighting a spirit of “scorn and disdain” and that they were rooted in pride and that I needed to repent.  Wow!!  I knew I didn’t come up with that!  

I cannot tell you how grateful I was (and still am) for the gift of repentance.  I truly didn’t know what to do or where to turn, and in His absolute love for me, He showed up with the gift of His conviction and repentance. I almost couldn’t wait until morning to confess, repent and be done with this thing!  

Easter Sunday morning dawned clear and bright and I had the amazing gift of celebrating the reality of the cross and the power of repentance that was bought through Jesus’ blood as I kneeled with my husband before my Father the King and repented, receiving grace…His amazing and unlimited grace.  

Joy, energy, clarity of thought and peace returned instantly after my repentance, and it was only then that I realized how much energy had been wasted in living with the sinful mindset that I was operating in.   

Repentance…what a gift…one that I want to receive and embrace every time as an amazing gift from my Father who loves me more than I can even imagine.

Our Miracle Wedding…

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OUR MIRACLE WEDDING…
This is one of the most unusual and Special update letters I have had the privilege of sending to you all!

Some of you know this, and others may not.  In a crazy turn of events and answer to many years of general prayer and 5 1/2 years of specific prayer, I married a wonderful South African man named Daniel Edward Nell on September 8th, 2018!

Our Love Story…(as Originally Printed in our Wedding Program)

Though we initially met at a board meeting in Kenya of
Afmin (now Emit), a ministry we both were involved with, our story together began 6 1/2 years ago.  After being counseled by a friend and ministry leader Chris DeWet, to invite Daniel to go on the first En Gedi Experience to Israel (which he declined), Laurie was making a trip for En Gedi to South Africa in September 2012.  To follow up with the En Gedi invitation, Laurie met with Daniel for an afternoon coffee, which turned into a late and delightful dinner.

Laurie and Daniel enjoyed each other, conversation and time together from the start.  After 3 months of talking by Skype and  a month of officially dating, Daniel came to visit Laurie in the US to meet her family in March 2013.  Though it was a wonderful visit in every way, Daniel was not ready to enter into a relationship and shortly after the visit, he broke off the relationship.  

In the aftermath of that breakup, Laurie was heartbroken with a lot of questions, especially for God, and she went through one of the darkest seasons of her life.  In prayer and counsel in community, Laurie believed she was led to continue to pray that the Lord would restore and bring resurrection to the relationship with Daniel.  This continued to be her place of faith for the next 5 1/2 years.

In a series of events not connected at all to Daniel, Laurie was called to engage in a ministry called Generosity Path in expanding “Journeys of Generosity” in South Africa, eventually including a move to South Africa in January 2016.

Laurie and Daniel did not see each other at all between April 2016 and January 2018.  Toward the end of that time, the Lord had been speaking to Daniel separately about Laurie and after a series of  “divine appointments” where they “ran into” each other several times, Daniel contacted Laurie on May 1st, 2018 for coffee.  That coffee turned into lunch, which turned into dinner, which turned into today, September 8, 2018, our wedding day.

There are many incredible details that make up our story, and we are unable to share all of those in this short note,  but our Love Story is a series of miracles and a living testament to the glory of our God and Father the King!!  

Our wedding and marriage is proof that NOTHING is impossible with our God! 

Here is a link to our relationship  photo album online for any of you who might want to see pictures.

Here are two short wedding videos that capture the absolute joy, miracle and fun of our celebration:
Wedding Video #1
Wedding Video #2 

Stories of faith breed faith, and my prayer is that our story of God’s work in the “impossible” brings fuel to your own faith journey.  

With great joy, celebration and increasing faith,

Laurie

Faith Book…

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These last 6 years have been a school of faith in a deeper way than I have ever known before.  In my journey with Daniel, the Lord spoke to me repeatedly so many different ways, asking me to continue to pray, believing that He had Daniel for kingdom work and for me even though there was absolutely NO INDICATION that this would ever happen.  In fact, there was every indication that it would NEVER happen!

In 2013 (right after Daniel walked away and broke my heart) the Lord prompted me to keep a picture “journal” of God’s revelations to me, affirming my stand of faith every step of the way.  Little did I know that it would be a collection over 6 years.  If I would have known, it would have led to despair, I think.  SO many times, I thought I was out of my mind to continue on with this journal, but every time I would pray, I just knew that I didn’t have the freedom to walk away.

The week before our wedding, I finished our book of faith–a collection of @ 475 photos in my picture faith journal–each one with an explanation of God’s speaking to me during the 6 years of my faith journey.  What an amazing “Divine Review” with Jesus I had leading up to our wedding as I finished this book.

Here is a sample of the faith book pages…

He is SO faithful.  He keeps His promises. His word to me never changed.  He is the “promise maker and the promise keeper and He finishes what He began.”

What a joy to present this book to Daniel on our wedding day.  It will forever be a “stone of remembrance”–of our God, His word, His faithfulness, and my/our school of faith.  

There is great value in keeping record of our God, His word to us, and His journey to fulfillment of that word.  Journals (of all sorts) have generational power to testify of the greatness of our God and inspire faith in others!!  If you have never kept a faith journal individually or as a family before, it’s always a great time to start!

“How great is our God…sing with me how great is our God.  How great, how great is our God!!!” 

“Out of Africa”–Friends, Gifts and Joy

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On January 23, 2016, I showed up in Johannesburg, South Africa with a vision from the Lord (at least I sure hoped it was!), two suitcases, a place to stay for two months, and not a single friend in a city of 10 million.  Wow!!  Am I crazy or what??

I had no idea what kind of ride this would be, but looking back now, two years later, the Lord has surprised and amazed me…

He brought me here with a picture–a picture of light emanating from South Africa into the rest of Africa, changing the foundations.

As I have walked with Him in the midst of this picture, I have watched Him change hearts here in South Africa through the Journeys of Generosity (JOG)–an experiential encounter with God’s generosity toward us over a weekend of stories, small group discussion, Biblical readings and times alone with the Spirit of God.   People have encountered the Father’s love and generosity in a way that is transformational.  It’s amazing to watch.  JOGs are being done in other parts of Africa now, with South Africans leading the charge!  Light–His light emanating from South Africa into the rest of Africa.

Part of the “light” picture that I felt like He gave me was that there was going to be a strong movement of business people (and even specifically men) who are FULLY surrendered to the Lord and will take His kingdom through business into Africa in transformational ways.  I have seen some of this start to happen as well, and I continue to pray for this “band of brothers” that the Lord will raise them up in POWER to change foundations of culture through business.

In the midst of the joy of watching Jesus at work in the big picture of this country and continent, there have also been gifts–incredible gifts from my Father.  I have a community of friends that I love, pray with, laugh with, and even invite myself over to dinner at their home(s).  I have a beautiful place to live that faces a garden and feeds my soul every single day.  I found a wonderful hairdresser (Girls, you know what a miracle that is!! :-).  I have opportunities to go on safari and WORSHIP (Honestly, I don’t know that there is a greater worship experience for me than watching the majesty and intricacy of His creation as seen on a safari drive.  He’s magnificent, our Creator God).  I have experienced the body of Christ in different cultures and expressions every Sunday.  I had a visit from my family to share my world here with them.  Joy…gifts…friends…Jesus….

All in all, in my two year “review” this month, I am celebrating…GREAT is Your faithfulness, O God, my Father….