Teacups in the Jungle

Life stories from a missionary mama

Today is Thanksgiving. This is a holiday I did not grow up with in N.Ireland but one that I have come to love over the years. Special memories of wonderful food and family gathered together with the purpose of fellowship and to give thanks to our Heavenly Father. This year we had an early Thanksgiving with Danny’s family before we left for the Philippines and it was a beautiful day of encouragement to one another and praises to God. It was so easy to give thanks that day. I remember well, that it was just the day before our meal when we had re-confirmed (after having to repeat her tests) that Izzy was ok to travel to the Philippines. Then the typhoon had hit the Philippines the night before our family get together, but an hour before our meal I received word that our friends in the village and our co workers on Palawan were all safe and well. We were so relieved and we praised the Lord. One by one, from the oldest all the way to the youngest, our family gave testimony to the goodness of God, and rightly so, we have much to be thankful for in these days.

We returned to the Philippines a few days after the typhoon but instead of going straight home to the village, we were asked to stay here in town for a few weeks, to help with the relief supplies which are being flown by our N.T.M.A. pilots to some remote islands off the coast of Palawan. The typhoon brought much destruction, loss of lives, loss of homes, families separated, towns and islands left bare. Day after day I have read stories in the news, names and faces have been put with the numbers and the stories are heartbreaking. Daily, as the pilots have returned from the islands they have also shared of the sights they find, houses gone, boats wrecked, no food and people surviving on seaweed until help was sent. I have looked, via photographs, into the beautiful faces of wide-eyed children who have seen sights we would wish no child should ever see. The country mourns.

So as Thanksgiving Day approached on the calendar, I was uneasy. To be honest I wasn’t sure at first why I couldn’t shake the feeling in the pit of my stomach. But it was this; I was feeling guilty for all that we could enjoy when there are those in this country (and all around the world who have nothing). How do we deal with that? Is it just enough to be thankful for what we have or is there more that we are to do?

This morning at 7.30am, Thanksgiving morning, my friend Candy texted me a verse, she had thought of me when she read it that morning, it was Habakkuk 3:19.

“The Lord God is my strength, and He will make my feet like hinds’ feet, and He will make me to walk upon my high places.”

It was encouraging but I wondered what had led up to this particular verse. When was the last time I read the book of Habukkuk? I had a look.

It was in these verses that the Lord challenged my heart:

17 Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls:
18 Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.
 

Even though all lies empty and barren, we can still rejoice whether we have or we have not; because it is not about the things that this world holds but instead it is all about Who holds this world in His Hands. The Lord of my salvation. Not the Lord of the crops (though He is) not the Lord of my health (though He is) not the Lord of my wealth (though He is) but the Lord of my Salvation!

Salvation is the gift that changed my life for all eternity. It is from this place at the foot of the cross that I can give thanks in all situations. At the foot of the cross victory was accomplished and death holds  ground no more. It is while bowed in His presence that I am ushered into this safe and holy place where I know, no matter what this life holds for me; Jesus loves me. My Saviour died for me on a cruel cross. He who was pure, bore my sin, so I may go free. There is Life after death because Jesus arose and He reigns on high forevermore. When Jesus died and I placed my faith in Him, He took my guilt and shame.  Today I can live guilt free and grateful, not for the gifts alone, but grateful to the Giver of all that is Life.

Thinking on this reminded me of the day we had to unexpectedly repeat Izzy’s tests at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, it was just days before our planned departure to the Philippines. On the way home in the car her Daddy was talking to her trying to explain the reasons why we had to go back to the hospital when a week before we had told her we were finished with doctor visits for a while. I listened as Danny tenderly went on to explain that Jesus always loves us, even when things happen to us that we don’t like and He will always be with us through those times. She hadn’t said anything and I was beginning to wonder what she was thinking about this whole conversation. It was then that our confident little three year old piped up from the back seat, (with a slight tone of exasperation at the over explaining) and she said this; “Papa, I know that Jesus loves me, because He died for me.”

Silence from the grown ups who had been doing all the explaining.

We can make it so complicated and over think things that are outside of our control. How could we ever look at anything in life and doubt that He loves us when He has shown us the greatest act of Love this world has ever known. The Creator, became the sacrifice for those whom He created. God’s only Son, died for me, and He died for you. Amazing. A place of Thanksgiving everyday when we ponder this miracle of Love.

So today, I know I have many things to list off that I can be thankful for but there is none greater or more precious than the gift of salvation. And, as my heart breaks for the people who have lost much in this country it also reminds me so clearly that people (no matter their station in life) need the Lord. They need to hear the news of Salvation. I am so blessed to have a small part in being here to help with the relief goods that are going out to the islands near us, but I pray for a bigger vision beyond a bottle of water or a bag of rice. Food for the body is not enough there must be also be food for the soul. I pray that these weeks of loving and giving to these needy people will open the floodgates for the message of the Cross. Though they suffer now and have nothing that this world holds dear, may this be a path that leads them to the Greatest Gift of all; the Saviour of this earth. The precious One, who is the Living Water and Bread of Life, to a lost and needy world.

And so, from a state of thankfulness to my Saviour, I know what I personally must continue to do; and that is; to make His Name known. “If the gospel is hid, it is hid to those who are lost”. There is no greater gift that we can share with another human being, than when we share the message of the gospel, with our lives. Standing together in this messy, hurt, fallen, upside down world and letting the Holy Spirit use our simple words, our small deeds to show forth His message of Grace and Mercy. Some days that involves loading bags of rice on to a helicopter, some days it is struggling through a difficult language so we can teach Word of God, some days it is being silent in the midst of accusation, some days it is just doing whatever we do and doing it all over again, and well . And then, there are acts and occasions that are no less extraordinary, times of sitting on the floor listening to our children, inviting a neighbor over for a meal, calling a family member on the phone, talking to the lady in line in front of us at the grocery store.  Ambassadors for Christ living out our lives for His great Name’s sake. This is where Thanksgiving brings me to today, and I am grateful.

Thank you to all who have donated to the victims of Typhoon and thank you to all who have prayed for the dear people of the Philippines. This week Danny and I will be finishing up our time here in town, though the relief efforts will continue here for some time.  As others come to help in the process we will now make our way home to the village. Home to a group of believers whose fellowship we have greatly missed and home to our house on the hill where our little family is very blessed to dwell.

“Lord, as we give thanks today, may our vision be renewed for more of You, and may Salvation be the Gift that we rejoice in this day and everyday, until one day we are Home at last with You.”

Grateful for the Cross,
Philippa.

Our early Thanksgiving just a few days before we returned to the Philippines. 🙂
Thanksgiving leads to living. Sending relief foods to those who are in need.

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