50…the faithful Shepherd…COVID
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
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.
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…
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.
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,
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
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….
It was a grand story how it all came about and there is quite a history around the particular street I moved to—one that the Lord spoke to me on when I was jogging almost two years ago now.
Two years ago in April, I was staying at a place called “Mustard Seed Guesthouse.” I had been looking for a place to stay, and I found this place on line and loved the name, especially as I was standing in faith for some things the Lord had spoken to me about in South Africa.
One morning I decided to go for a jog. As I ran, I turned onto a street called “Boundary Lane.” Almost immediately as I turned onto that street, the verse “Your boundary lines have fallen in pleasant places, surely you have a delightful inheritance” starting going through my mind on repeat (Psalm 16:6). It was the strangest thing. I was also listening to a playlist on random with 300 songs on it and right at that moment Chris Tomlin’s song “Boundary Lines” started playing on my iPod.
As all this was happening, I was saying to the Lord, “there must be something special about this street.” I even stopped at a house where some people were outside their house to ask about a certain property on the street which was beautiful but rundown. It turned out that the man I talked to was a real estate agent and he knew all about the street and the property.
When I came back last year (a year an a half later), I contacted this same real estate agent to ask if there were any garden cottages for rent on Boundary Lane. He didn’t know of any. After that conversation, I didn’t pursue Boundary Lane any further but ended up going to Pin Oaks, the place I stayed during my first year in South Africa.
I started looking for a new place toward the end of last year, as I wanted something a bit bigger where I could have people over and practice hospitality. I looked at so many rental properties, but most of them looked very stark, and I didn’t have peace about any of them.
So, I was back to square one. As a last resort, I decided to go on Airbnb and see if there might be a listing that would be willing to take a longer term renter.
I found two houses that might be a possibility that I approached. I knew the general area the houses were located in, but there is no way to see a specific address on Airbnb unless you actually book. Out of the two houses, one owner responded and told me I could come over right way to look. I asked for her address and she said BOUNDARY LANE. I almost fell off my chair…a garden cottage on Boundary Lane!!
So, I’m now living on Boundary Lane in an absolutely charming little place where “my boundary lines have fallen in pleasant places and where my inheritance is delightful!”
I walk this street on a regular basis, praying and claiming the inheritance that the Lord has given me in this country!
My Secret Garden
The Secret Garden–a beautiful story. I also love the song “I come to the Garden alone while the dew is still on the roses…He walks with me and He talks with me. He tells me I am His own….” It was one of my Grandpa Doden’s favorites.
Every morning as I sit in my chair with tea and chocolate with Jesus, I sit looking out into my “secret garden.” Jesus gave me my own “secret garden” here in Joburg…right outside my door–literally.
Though it might seem insignificant to some, to me it is love. My Father knows what ministers to and refreshes my soul, and He gave me a unexpected, lavish gift in this new world where He has put me, knowing that it would bring life to my soul.
“I go to prepare a place for you, that where I am, you may be also.” There’s something so amazing about the character of God in that phrase. He’s intentional and personal in preparing a home for us, knowing us intimately…caring about the details of where He will bring us to live with Him forever.
Though Jesus was talking about heavenly homes with those words, I think He was also expressing the nature of our Father God. Our Father prepares intimately and provides abundantly in the places where He puts us–South Africa included.
Pictures of His provision in my new world:
From a beautiful, gifted hairstylist…to my favorite and only perfume (which I have never seen in any other country)…to some wonderful new friends…to a car…to an incredible host family…to a secret garden–all gifts from my Father’s hand. Sometimes the small gifts mean even more than the big ones because it shows that He really KNOWS me…intimately.
“My God will supply all of your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” He provides according to His “riches” and not His “discount coupon book”–how I love that!!” Each and every need of my heart is met lavishly–those spoken, those unspoken, and even those unknown to me…but known fully by Him.
My Secret Garden–“the joy we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known.”
Sometimes I just need a reminder…a reminder that He is present…a reminder that He never leaves me or forsakes me…a reminder that He is good and that His love endures forever.
Last week was one of those weeks, and He sent me several reminders–some with more “drama” than others.
After getting texts from friends one morning with pictures of a rainbow, this scene greeted me as I walked out of our ladies’ Bible study that night. I actually gasped when I saw it. The picture doesn’t begin to capture the full beauty of that sky. I called back to the Bible study girls to “come out here fast” as He was showing off and I didn’t want them to miss it!
We all stood there in awe for 5 or 10 minutes as we watched Him paint…paint His love, His faithfulness and His goodness across the sky!
That may sound cheesy or romantic to some, but I take these gifts personally because I think He gives them to me personally…if/when I have eyes to see.
He loves me, and He tells me to “proclaim His love in the morning, and His faithfulness at night.”
The bookends of that day–a rainbow in the morning and the glorious sunset at night–reminded me of His love for me in the “dark”…and of my own need to proclaim what I know to be true in my head though sometimes need a reminder of for my heart.
“You are good and your love endures forever!”
There’s nothing that moves our God like the faith of His people–believing God for who He says He is and all that He says He can do. He esteems it. He requires it. It moves Him.
Hebrews 11 is legendary in celebrating some of the “heroes of faith” in the pages of God’s story.
As the Lord has sent me to different corners of the world, I have had the honor and privilege of meeting Hebrews 11 “extension” heroes–people that would definitely be included if the chapter kept going. By faith, Svonko…
In November, I was in Slovenia, a former communist country in which the Spirit of God is moving in some powerful ways today. However, there was a time, not so long ago, when Slovenia was very dark, very foggy, and almost devoid of any overt sign of spiritual life. In the midst of the overwhelming hopelessness of communism and post-communism, there was at least one man, among others, who stood in FAITH–believing God can and would change the atmosphere–do the impossible. Svonko….
I’ve known Svonko for about 14 years now, and every time I enter the church where He serves in Ljubljana, Slovenia, I breathe life–faith, hope and love. Though he and I have had very few personal conversations, I’m so grateful for his life…for the way his bold faith challenges my own. God has honored his faith. He has seen Jesus move in power and is still believing Him to do more.
I needed fresh wind for my own faith journey that day in November, and Jesus gave me “manna” through this hero of faith as he spoke words of life from Ezekiel 37, “Prophecy to these dry bones….”
As I have the privilege of meeting, hearing about and reading many stories about heroes of faith, I choose to claim my spot in that lineage–the lineage of Abraham, my Grandpa and Svonko.
By faith, Laurie…for the glory and honor of my King.