My hubby is on the other side of the world tonight-  somewhere along the border of India and Nepal.  He's there to share the good news of Christ with some of the 2.88 billion people yet to hear His name.  "Unreached"-  that's what they call them.  From where I'm sitting among the comforts and conveniences of America, the thought of anyone actually being unreached in this day and age seems somehow impossible.  But, sadly, if you care enough to take a look outside your comfort zone, you, too, will find them!  2.88 billion of them- having never heard the name of Jesus!  And if someone... anyone doesn't do anything about it... they never will!

This is an embarrassing indictment against those of us who call Jesus "Lord", because when it comes right down to it, most of us that have been "reached" aren't really worried about those that haven't!  Let someone else do that.  Someone else better equipped to reach them.  Someone else more spiritually gifted to reach them.  Someone else with the financial ability to reach them.  It doesn't really matter!  Just let it be someone else!!!  But I'm beginning to wonder...  If I am not that "someone", who is??

Two weeks ago, my spiritual hero, John Monger, stood before our church body and shared his story.  John was born and raised as a devote Buddhist in the country of Bhutan.  But he felt empty and hopeless until, at the age of 16, he was introduced to Jesus Christ at a secret meeting deep in the jungle.  He had never experienced such joy and hurried home to share his new-found faith in Christ.  He was spit upon by his father and rejected by everyone he loved.  Just months later, while celebrating his first Christmas as a follower of Christ, undercover police officers arrested John and his friends.  They were stripped and beaten continually because they refused to deny Jesus.  They were finally given the choice to either deny Christ or leave the country of Bhutan.  So as a young teenager, John set out into India and then to Nepal to somehow share the Good News of Christ with the millions of unreached people surrounding him.  He shared the Gospel anywhere anyone would listen, and began establishing churches among the Bhutanese refugees living in Nepal.  Again, he was arrested by undercover police officers and spent the next 15 months in the prisons of Nepal.  There he was tortured and persecuted for his faith continually and promised relief only in denying his Lord.  International aid groups and ministries finally secured his release through political pressure and John was reunited with his family and friends at the Bhutanese refugee camps.  He was invited to attend seminary in India for several years.  It was there that he met his wife and together they returned to Nepal to share Christ with the countless unreached people of that region.  John and his wife finally agreed to come to America as religious refugees and now live in Austin, Texas.  But John is not here to pursue the American dream.  He is here only long enough to obtain an American citizenship and the protection that will afford him to return to Nepal, to India, to Bhutan and beyond, so that he can share the Gospel with those that have yet to hear.   

I simply can't add any documentary of my own to John's "modern day Paul" story to even describe the impact his incredible love and devotion to Jesus has had on my life.  My problems and misplaced priorities pale in light of his unwavering commitment to reaching the unreached with the Good News of Jesus.  I possess the same "treasure" as he does... and yet I have spent most of it, for most of my life, on ME!  I am simply not OK with that anymore.  And I wondered how anyone in the building, listening to his story, could leave after hearing his testimony not feeling completely undone!  And yet some did!  I watched them hurry out the nearest exit, climb into their nice SUVs and drive to join friends for lunch at a nearby restaurant of their choice.  Some were even bold enough to express their thoughts... "Why did he come here?",  "Why should we go there?",  "Shouldn't we be helping people closer to home?"    

I remember my own husband turning to me 18 years ago, after a moving presentation about the unreached people of Russia, asking the same questions.  It surprised me, coming from him!  Turns out he was apparently trying to rationalize his way out of going on a mission trip himself.  God didn't let him get away with it, though, and just a few months later, he was signed up for the next mission trip to Russia and asking the FBI for time off work so that he could go.  The FBI finally agreed.  Little did they know that this trip would be the end of his career with the Bureau.  That trip, 17 years ago, changed him...  In fact, it changed everything!  For the first time in his life he saw the heartbreaking hopelessness of the unreached.  He came home and quit his job and for the past 17 years he has dedicated his life to reaching as many of the unreached with the love of Christ as humanly possible.  Doug is an amazing man of God and I want to be more like him!

But I'm a wife-  I'm a stay at home mom.  And I am anything but gifted in evangelism!  How could God use ME???  I finally agreed to travel to Russia with Doug on what would be my own first mission trip.  After all-- this was our new life and I wanted to be a part of it, even if I did feel completely under qualified!  I forced myself to believe that God would somehow use me in spite of myself!  The trip was a personal disaster!  When my flight landed in Moscow, Russia the city was in the middle of a hundred year heat wave!  Really?  I don't do heat well at all!  Especially if that heat is not accompanied by air conditioning!  This mission trip was no "vacation" and it didn't include 5 star hotels, so air conditioning of any kind was out of the question!  I found the nearest translator and begged for a fan.  I could tell by the look on her face that she didn't understand my southern english.  I tried to demonstrate by showing the effect the said fan would have on my hair- blowing in the delightful wind.  I was relieved when it appeared she finally understood!  Relief was on it's way at last... until she returned with a blow dryer!!!  

On the first day in Volgagrad, Russia we hit the streets running.  So many of the unreached needed to hear the Good News of Jesus and we wanted to waste no time in telling them.  The team was divided and sent out across the city.  I had assumed that I would accompany Doug on this evangelistic outing and watch the process as the supportive wife I am...  But before I knew what had happened, I had been paired with a translator and sent out to share Christ ALONE!  This is not quite what I had signed up for, and I was petrified!!!  Our job was to go from apartment to apartment and share Christ, while inviting them to our nightly outreaches.  I am not lying when I say that I had never prayed like I prayed that day!  With every knock on every single apartment door, I prayed with all the faith I could muster.... "Oh, dear God, PLEASE do NOT let anyone answer this door!!!!"   Needless to say, Day 1 was an epic fail from my point of view!!!  Maybe God couldn't use ME after all!  I cried my half naked, very hot, miserable self to sleep that night- only to be awoken by the crawling of a cock roach across my belly.  "Please, God...  can I go home now???"

But Day 2 brought with it a special surprise from the Lord.  Volunteers were needed to go to the local orphanages and minister to the children.  I nearly assaulted the team leader!  Now we're talking!!!  Count me in!!!!  That day changed me...  In fact, it changed everything!  I would return to Russia 8 times to bring the Good News to a few of the 147 million orphans of the world.  God used those trips to reignite the passion deep within my heart to adopt at least one of those orphans as my own.  And the rest, as they say, is history...

I have finally discovered that God can use the treasure within me to reach the unreached too!  No, I'm not an evangelist.  I don't have the passion or the gifting of my evangelist husband.  And I can hardly even relate to the ways God has chosen to use men like John Monger!  But 16 years ago I was introduced to a special group that I DO have a passion and a gifting to reach!  And there are more than 147 million of them!  How could I possibly hear of the hopelessness of so many unreached orphans and not feel moved to be the someone that does something???  And yet for years, I was that someone that did nothing!  And I tried rationalizing my way out of doing something with every excuse in the book!   

You might even recognize a few of these---  "I'm out of the baby stage now!  How could I possibly go back?",  "We don't have the kind of money it takes to adopt!",  " What if loving an orphan as my own is hard?  What if it costs me something?",  "What if she's sick?  What if we lose her?", "What if, what if, what if..."  But if I've learned anything about God over the years, I've learned that He is completely unimpressed by my excuses!  And now, as I sit here and look back upon those excuses with 20/20 vision, I am embarrassed just typing them!  

When Doug left the FBI for full-time ministry to the unreached, we didn't have a clue how we would pay our bills... We were called stupid, naive, and unwise to leave the stability of government work to rely fully on God instead!  And yet, He has been faithful to provide so that the unreached might have hope!  "God's work, done in God's way, will never lack God's supplies" (Hudson Taylor)   

When we stepped out to adopt our 1st from China, and our 2nd, and then our 3rd, we had no idea as to how God would accomplish such a financial feat to rescue 3 from the 147 million unreached orphans through the empty bank account of a missionary family.  And yet, in so many wonderful and unexpected ways, He did!  God is faithful to provide so that the unreached might have hope!  "God's work, done in God's way, will never lack God's supplies"

Any hope for Rachel came with a hefty medical bill attached.  We had NO ability to scale such a financial mountain.  But it simply never crossed our minds that God wouldn't take care of what we needed, to do what He had asked.  God is faithful to provide so that this precious unreached little girl might have hope too!  "God's work, done in God's way, will never lack God's supplies"   

Tonight, while Doug is being used by God on the other side of the world, I am being used right here at home!  My mission field is now tucked in for the night down the hall--- 3 precious little girls- once abandoned, once orphaned, once hopeless, once unreached...  But unreached no more!!!  Thank you, Lord, that you can use even ME to reach the unreached!


God asked me to give away a treasure last night...  I was shocked at first!  This treasure has no monetary value and it was something I felt God had given directly to me simply to delight my heart!  Now, suddenly, I was feeling nudges to give it away.  I decided that a compromise might be worth a try.  I had another treasure, much like this special one, I could give THAT one away instead...  I'd keep the best for myself.  My conscience was pricked all day...  It seemed God didn't like my compromise the way I'd hoped He would.  I was hanging on for dear life to my treasure!  Finally I decided that such a request from God was ridiculous!  Surely I'd made this whole thing up in my head from the start!  After all... who could possibly love my treasure as much as I did?  And what if the recipient didn't understand it's value or what a prized possession it was to me and they completely took it's beauty and sentimental value for granted?  No... I'd keep it!  God would understand... IF, that is, this had been His idea in the first place!!!  Still... my conscience refused to leave me alone!  Or was that God's voice I was hearing again???  URG!!!  "But I love my treasure, Lord!... What if You never give another one like it?"  What was I thinking???  If you've done any reading on this blog for very long, you should know something about me---  Saying "No" to my Lord is simply NOT an option, no matter what He asks of me!

My mind started scrolling through Bible stories where God specifically asked His people to sacrifice their "treasures".  Immediately my thoughts turned to Abraham- the Father of our faith.  In fact, the Bible says that Abraham was considered righteous because of his faith.  That faith was put to the ultimate test when God asked Abraham to sacrifice his beloved son, Isaac!!!  Such a sacrifice is unimaginable to me as a mother!  And yet, God celebrated Abraham's willingness to obey Him with the exclamation- "Now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me." ... His most prized possession!  Willingly given up because he had faith that God would ultimately provide all good things for him, regardless of how the loss of his greatest blessing appeared from his limited point of view!  I felt no need to look further, since I was certain there was no greater sacrifice required of a man that could be more treasured than his own child.  The treasure that I am presently clutching is embarrassingly small in comparison!

I went into my special "nook" to pull my treasure from the perfect location where I had it beautifully displayed.  I admired it again... noticing all the beautiful details that made this particular treasure so special to me. I even considered how I might possibly get away with telling the Lord that I'd decided to go against what was now obviously His leading.

...OK!  This is quickly reaching the level of ridiculous and at this point I'm frankly embarrassed to even admit here just "what" that treasure is.  But for the sake of authenticity and complete honesty... I'll lay my pride down and cough up the truth.

My treasure is a conch shell!  Yes... a shell from the seashore!  I know--- random and ridiculous!  I can feel your eyes rolling as you read!  But before you judge me too harshly, maybe I can explain or somehow justify myself.  Time with the Lord on the beach is beyond special for me!  There is nowhere on the planet where I feel God so near as when the two of us share life through our "talks" on the beach.  Over the years I began collecting special treasures as we walked together that came to symbolize special things that He was teaching me or leading me to do.  Many of you may remember that a feather found along the beach in 2003 was what the Lord used to begin our adoption journey to Kate.  And you could bet your life-savings that the feather from that December day is a treasure I'd most hate to part with!!!  But second only to that feather, would be the very treasure God was now asking me to bless someone else with--- my beautiful conch shell!  It had washed right up to my feet one day while I was spending some special time alone with the Lord, and I celebrated that gift from Him as if I had discovered a million dollars in a bottle.  Over the years I have delighted to find that God loves to lavish His love on us in very unique and "personal" ways.  And for this beach lover, there's hardly a better way to say "I love you!" then to wash a beautiful conch shell right up at my feet!   I danced and twirled and said "Thank you, Lord" at least a million times before hurrying back to our hotel room to show off my gift to Doug!

I've found more than a few conch shells on that very beach since that day, but none so beautiful or special as THAT ONE!  In fact, I'd gladly share one of those smaller, less treasured conches should I ever feel an occasion warranted such a gift.  But today, it seemed, God was asking me if I'd willingly part with my favorite... my treasured gift from Him.  It's rarely been so obvious that He has something to teach me about "letting go" of the things I hold dear!

I'm honestly shocked that you're still reading such silliness!  But since you are, I'm wondering if maybe I'm not alone in clinging too tightly to my special treasures.  I think that if I'm really willing to take a good look into the crevices of my heart, I'll find some sweet blessings from the hand of the Lord that I've loved so much, I am not willing to share them with anyone!  And suddenly I realize that I just might be getting to the bottom of God's message for me in all of this insane prying of my fingers from a common sea shell!!!  God blesses us, so that we might bless others!  His blessings were never intended to be hidden away on the shelves of our lives for our enjoyment alone.  Instead, He gives to us that we might give to others!  This simple truth obviously has far more reaching application than my battle with letting go of a shell!  But I'm sadly reminded by the Spirit that if I'm slow to part with things with mere sentimental value, how will I possibly part with and sacrifice things of REAL worth when He asks me to?

Just this morning at church, I sat and listened in awe once again as my hero in the Faith, John Monger, shared his testimony of persecution and torture for refusing to deny the name of Jesus.  He told of his conversion to Christ in the jungles of Bhutan as a 16 year old boy when he surrendered his heart to the Lord and promised to serve Him for the rest of his life... no matter what it cost!  Little did he know then what that promise would cost in the years ahead.  And yet, he remained strong in the power of the Lord as month after month he was tortured for his faith.  He has sacrificed more in his 20 year walk of faith then I will likely sacrifice in a lifetime.  But he literally gushes with JOY!  Even as he talks of the terrible mistreatment he suffered at the hands of unbelievers, he speaks as though he remembers it with joy!  "Glory to God!" he says again and again.  Sacrifice has become a way of life for John and it overflows from his incredible love for Jesus!  For a moment I am brave enough to glance into my own heart and am saddened to find anything there that I would not willingly sacrifice with joy out of love for Jesus.  And I realize that I have many miles to go in learning to love Him more when my struggle of the weekend is found in releasing a simple treasure found on the beaches of Florida.  But even as I blush with embarrassment, I am thankful that the Lord has not given up on me yet.  He continues to push me on to greater sacrifice so that I might know an even greater joy!  May I be quicker to release my treasures Lord, knowing that the TRUE treasure is YOU!

 John Monger in the vehicle he had prayer for!
Earlier this weekend I had the absolute joy and privilege of participating in a gift from God to one of His servants...  It too, cost me something and I was feeling a bit proud that I had so willingly given up something of value to myself, in order to be a part of what God was doing in the life of another.  Any second thoughts I might have had in letting go of a little "extra" for myself to bless someone else, was instantly washed away when I saw the absolute delight on the recipient's face in receiving that gift of answered prayer from the Lord!  Nothing I could possibly sacrifice would EVER be able to bring the joy that giving it away for another brought!!!  If a "joy cup" can overflow... mine was bubbling over!  And yet, less than 24 hours later, I was struggling to give away a sea shell!!!  God seems to have a special way of keeping me from the pride that so easily creeps in when He allows me to somehow be a part of His love story.

I feel humbled tonight. God has done HUGE things around me and in me this weekend and I am grateful.  I am ending this day with new resolve!  I will pass on my treasure (aka: a conch shell!) to another, lest that very treasure remain in my hands as a reminder of my blessed, but very selfish, heart!  Even before I let it go... I know what I will find on the other side, as I can feel it creeping in already!  Immeasurable JOY awaits me!!  Overflowing and bubbling over!  And as I release my treasure tonight, I wait with great expectation in discovering how God will uniquely say "I love you, Lori!" tomorrow!

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."  Matthew 6:19-21
God is so incredibly good!  We are celebrating His answer to our prayers for John!

May my precious treasures grow to love Jesus like these men of God!

The HOPE of Easter...

When Christ was born, HOPE was born with Him!  But HOPE was never more fully alive than in His death!  This simply makes no sense in our human economy.  Had we been alive 2000 years ago and witnessed His gruesome death with our own eyes, I think it unlikely that we would have characterized that day as a day filled with HOPE!  That God uses death and darkness to usher in our greatest HOPE defies human reason!  And yet, tonight as I pray and beg God for a heart that will give new life to my daughter, I am haunted by the thought that her only HOPE lies in the death of another.  But those thoughts are far too "weighty" for my own fragile heart and I must leave them in the hands of a Father who is all knowing, all powerful, all loving, and fully able to handle the things I can not even begin to understand.     

I can not explain why God placed His sovereign hand over the life of a broken-hearted orphan, abandoned on the streets of China.  Or why through miracle upon miracle He preserved her life, and provided a way for her to finally come home!  Or why on this Good Friday, that "hopeless" little girl now waits for a new life that can only be found in the death of another.  But if the death and resurrection of my Lord teaches me anything, it teaches me that God can be trusted with things far too difficult for me to understand.  That trust brings peace.  And it brings a sweet confidence that I am welcomed before Him to ask with HOPE that this Easter morning will bring with it a new heart and a new life for our precious Rachel.    

Rachel's story has changed my own life in so many ways.  And I've marveled as I've watched God use her story to weave Himself through the lives of the people I love.  Ellie penned the story in her own words this week and it is proudly displayed on the chalk board in our kitchen for all to see!  And Kate... how can I even begin to write of the beautiful ways the Lord is working in her precious heart?  To hear the prayers of simple trust from her lips these days humbles me and reminds me why our Savior said that we should come to Him as a child would!  Such yearning for Truth leads to many difficult questions, though, and I've wondered if she understood exactly what a new heart for Rachel meant for another child... for another family... until she came to me and Doug this week and offered her OWN!  "I will give Rachel MY heart," she said, "and be the first in our family to heaven!"...as if she somehow thought this might be an acceptable exchange!  Suddenly the reality of the cross and what it's HOPE cost Christ came fully alive in our home!  The Gospel beautifully illustrated through the lips of an 8 year old girl!

Sadly, Rachel's heart tires more with each passing day.  Last week she seemed especially weak and several times I noticed her quietly removing herself from the giggles and fun to sit and watch from the sidelines instead.  On one occasion I slipped onto the bench beside her just in time for her to ask me "Why?"  "It's your broken heart, Baby... but soon you will be able to laugh and play too!"  I tried to encourage her as she wilted across my lap.  "Come on, Dr Fricker!" she said.  "Hurry!"  Listen to the cries of your precious Rachel, Lord!  Please, DO hurry!  And while you're at it, Father... would you give me a new heart too?  I'm quick to forget how broken my own heart is,... how hardened I've allowed it to become by the pain of the last year,... or how quick I am to nurse and protect my wounded heart when what I really need is a transplant from the Lord Jesus Himself!  I am painfully aware that my own need is as great as Rachel's.  And suddenly the message of Easter and the heart Christ died to give us both becomes more real than ever before!  Thank you, Lord, that even when our "Good Friday's" appear hopeless, Easter morning brings news that HOPE is fully alive!  May it be more true this year than ever before as we await news of HOPE for Rachel...