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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

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….

Russians and Intimate Relationships…

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What in the world Russians have to do with intimate relationships?  Well, not much, except that they have them!  😀

I enjoy passing along resources that have inspired or impacted me.  These two books are recent reads, and they did both!

Red Notice is a book of business intrigue, unbelievable corruption and amazing perseverance, and not only that, it reads like a first class novel, but it’s all TRUE!  Higly recommend it!

Scary Close challenges treasured paradigms of relationships and self-protection.  His style may be a stretch for some at first, but it is well worth persevering!  Don’s vulnerability inspires others to take a closer look at the things that may hinder the type of relationship(s) we so desire.  If you are a couple, you might want to consider reading it together as it is worth discussing.

Two Worlds…

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Living between two worlds…both a joy and a challenge…

This season of my life has served as an incredible reminder of what it is to live between two worlds.  As a follower of Jesus, I am always an “alien and stranger” on earth, but some seasons highlight this truth more than others.

While in the US, I fully give myself to the joys of family, friends, familiar surroundings, and known activities/traditions.  Even in the midst of that joy, there is sometimes an ache that a whole realm of my life is unknown to those around me while still very, very present in my heart and mind…South African friends, new traditions and activities that I have grown to love, new experiences that have broadened my sense of the King and His world.

On the flip side, while in South Africa, I give myself fully to wonderful friends, new experiences, and kingdom work that brings great joy.  However, there can sometimes be an ache at the lack of a sense of history, the knowing of my “roots”, and the familiarity that can only come with time.

One world often excludes the other and yet also enriches the other in unseen ways.  It is both a strange and beautiful experience.

In a fresh way I am realizing all over again that I am not a citizen of earth.  My true citizenship  is secure in heaven and doesn’t change.  I am known there FOREVER and fully, and there is a shared history with friends that dates back to the foundations of the earth and has everything in common through Jesus.

There is one King.  He is eternal and doesn’t ever get elected or dethroned.  I have a home that has been built with my specific desires and being in mind from which I will never have to move…built by One who knows exactly what I need.

He has visited and been a citizen of both places, and He knows all aspects of my current worlds.

In this season, I am so grateful that Jesus is “the sure foundation of my times.  A rich storehouse of wisdom, salvation and knowledge….”  He is my source of joy and hope as I transfer from one world to another, belonging totally to each in different ways, but often feeling a bit abnormal in both because I really belong to another world all together–an eternal one!!

Signature :: Laurie

Generations of Blessing

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“One generation will commend your works to another; they will tell of your mighty acts. They will speak of the glorious splendor of Your majesty…”  Psalm 145:4-5

This Psalm was on my heart as I prepared to pray a blessing at my brother Jared’s wedding–a joyful celebration of grace!

In preparation for the blessing, I gathered Bibles from my Grandpa Bell and my Grandpa Doden as well as my new sister-in-law’s grandparents, as both sides have a rich heritage of faith in Jesus.  This stack of our grandparents’ Bibles sat on a chair in the middle of my parents and Whitney’s parents during the wedding.

As I blessed Jared and Whitney and faced that stack of Bibles, I saw in it a beautiful picture of God’s faithfulness.  He promised that He will show love to a thousand generations of those who love Him and keep His commands, and He is faithful to His promises.  In the midst of battles and struggles of our different family members, this is a promise that we claim and remind Jesus of often as we pray together on our Tuesday night family-wide prayer call.

That picture also brought such gratefulness in my heart for the faithfulness of our grandparents and parents who have sought the Lord and talked to us about their journey with Him.

I have the honor and privilege of investing in the same way with children coming behind me, some within my family and some within the broader family of Christ.  How I pray that these kids will know and testify for themselves that Jesus is GOOD, and that He is big enough to do ANYTHING!

That’s what I believe and am talking to them about these days, even in the midst of my own battle for faith sometimes!!

Believing Him for a thousand generations…

Signature :: Laurie

Experience Africa 2015–a family reunion…

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A family reunion…that was the phrase used to describe the essence of our time together in South Africa on Experience Africa 2015.

If you had been eavesdropping, you would have heard laughter and tears around the meal tables, sharing of life experiences across generations, speaking of truth into each others lives/situations, the telling of some great romance stories, and the sharing of wisdom in business and ministry.

Twelve people of all different ages and countries…they had never met before, but they share a rich bond of faith in Jesus and similar places of life in business and ministry.  Together we experienced physical and spiritual adventures for 11 days in an unbelievably beautiful country.

It was delightful and refreshing in every way.

We spent time on the breathtaking coastline of Capetown and the surrounding areas in the beautiful southern region of South Africa.  We hiked in a rain forest, walked on top of Table mountain overlooking the tip of Africa, hiked sand dunes in the early morning, experienced a South African wine tasting, strolled the coastline, experienced a true South Africa brai, feasted like kings and queens, and received a ministry overview of Africa.

Josh Patty led us in studying and experiencing how to hear and discern God’s voice in the noise of life during our retreat time together.  Through the teaching and discussions we were challenged, encouraged and equipped for our different places of business and ministry.

After Capetown, we moved north for our safari in the African bush.  What an incredible worship experience seeing God’s creatures great and small!  There was really not an animal that we wanted to see that we didn’t get to see.  Even our guides were amazed.  What a gift!  The hours we spent together in the open air vehicles with our guide, driver and each other was full of joy, laughter and amazement.  During our safari time, we also were given a fascinating economic overview of Africa, sparking some  good discussion.

The staff in both locations where we stayed blessed us and were blessed by us in very significant ways.  Several times members of the staff approached me and asked, “Who are these people?  We have never had a group like this before.”  I think they saw Jesus in us.  We got to pray for some of them toward the end of our time in ways that I pray will impact them forever.

After the trip finished, one of our trip participants told me, “I actually cried when we left each other at the airport.  I knew we would have a good time, but I didn’t expect to make life-long friends.”  A portion of this South African “family” informed me that they are having a reunion this summer, and though I am going to miss it due to travel,  I love watching these relationships continue.

It was a sweet and blessed family reunion in South Africa where we all walked away richer…in relationships, in refreshment, in kingdom work, and in our walk with Jesus.  I’m so very grateful.

A piano, Poland and Grandma Bell

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What in the world do a Piano, Poland and my Grandma have in common?  Well, there’s a story…

I knew my Grandma Bell as a gentle, sweet and lovely woman, even though her children sometimes affectionately refer to her as the “sergeant.”  She was a homemaker extraordinaire, and our childhood was filled with wonderful smells of pies, cookies and fresh or canned garden vegetables at Grandma’s house.

In addition to her culinary skills, Grandma Bell was also was an accomplished pianist and a diligent student of God’s Word.  She was trained at Moody Bible Institute and up until her death in her 80’s, my Grandma used her piano  and her weekly Sunday School class to disciple young students and young adults.  She left her family quite a legacy.

After my Grandma went to be with Jesus, she left me her treasured piano–one of her main discipleship tools.  As I was living with roommates in a smaller condo at the time, I did not have the space for her piano.  So, I asked dear friends of mine, Korban and Tanya Miller, if they would like to have a piano temporarily, knowing that it would be loved and used by Korban in both playing and teaching music, as he is an accomplished musician himself and was the lead worshiper at my home church.

About ten years went by, and in an amazing turn of events, Korban and Tanya and their kids made the life-changing decision to move to Poland to be part of a movement of God among the youth of Central and Eastern Europe with an organization called Josiah Venture.  Together, Korban and Tanya are leading the launch of Poland’s evangelistic and discipleship music club called Fusion.

As they were packing a container of items to be shipped to Poland, they thought about Grandma’s piano and called me.  What to do…a family heirloom with lots of memories, and a group of young people in Poland who would learn about music and Jesus using Grandma Bell’s piano.  After some consideration and talking with some family, I decided that Grandma’s piano needed to go to Poland as her legacy was going international!

I visited Korban and Tanya in Poland for the first time this last November, and I got to see and celebrate Grandma’s piano in action.  Grandma Bell’s gentle smile must light up her face in heaven as she and Jesus celebrate the use of her piano to disciple youth in Eastern Europe.  She loved Europe.  I’m so grateful for our heritage of faith in Grandma Bell and the joy of one generation “declaring His works to yet another.”