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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. 

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.”

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…

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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….

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His “Songbird”….

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I LOVE to sing, not because I am good at it, but because the Lord constantly seems to be giving me a song…

Growing up at home, we only listened to Christian radio (A shout out for Evie, Amy Grant, Steve Green, Larnell Harris, and Sandy Patti! 😀) and classical music.  Friends laugh at my limited music repertoire including only two genres–except for Barry Mantalo’s “Feelings” and “You write the songs that make the young girls cry.”  Those were on the 8 track demo that came with our stations wagon.  I secretly listened to it while Mom and Dad were gone. 😂”

I laugh, but I am actually grateful.  The Lord speaks to me in song–in prayer times, in the morning, in the middle of a conversation.  There’s a lot of music He has put in to draw from and very little “interference” music.  I even found out a couple years ago, that my middle name “Linnette” means “songbird.”

In the last few years, I have seen Him speak to people in transformational ways through song.  Last year on several occasions I sang something He brought to mind, and someone cried, another received a picture, or a sense of God’s love.

It’s not like I have a great voice.  I don’t.  There’s nothing to take credit for.  It’s HIM!

Right before Christmas, I was at my church and a woman I have never met before from our prophetic team (people trained and tested by mature believers who have the gift of prophecy) gave me a “word.”

She said she saw me with a guitar, asking me if I sang.  She continued by saying that she sensed that I was called not just to sing but to change atmospheres.  😳 WOW!!!  Jesus has the power to change hearts/atmospheres, and He can do it through His songs!!

Shortly after that, I felt prompted to try out for our church worship team–for the first time in my life.  Last Sunday was my first Sunday.  What an incredible joy it was to look out over His body and sing–sing because He has called me to, because He wants to change atmospheres.

Our team in unity felt called to “sing” in the first service for healing.  My friend with cancer and pain was at that service.  She texted me Monday afternoon to say she had her first night of no pain on Sunday night, and it has continued.

That’s just one example, but praise Jesus that He has the power to change things–ANYTHING.  Nothing is impossible with Him.  He is my Father…The KING!

“All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name…”,

Pete and Deb Ochs

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This next month is FULL of events.

I have been asked to serve over this next year as a “mentor” in an “Accelerator” program for non-profit and for-profit promising entrepreneurs. Our first event is happening next week.

Early February, we are hosting a week with Pete and Deb Ochs—an amazing business couple from Wichita, KS.   God has both humbled and used this couple to build his kingdom in unique ways, including starting a successful business in a maximum security prison in the US while also discipling and investing in the inmate employees.  You can see their story here.

While here, Pete and Deb will be intersecting with the South African business community in many different venues/settings around personal humility and living His kingdom in business settings.  We will also be facilitating two Journeys of Generosity during that week.

The Lord recently reminded me that the next month has NOTHING to do with events but everything to do with Breakthroughs.

South Africa has been at a point of crisis, and other countries in Africa are as well.  There is such a profound need for the children of the King and citizens of His kingdom to rise up in this country and continent, and bring His kingdom in Africa as it is in heaven.

I ask you to pray with me for—TRANSFORMATIONAL BREAKTHROUGHS!!

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