Tuesday, December 23, 2008

An Article I was recently asked to write

Denise Johnson missionary in Poland

I have been ministering for 22 years in Poland. In the beginning I visited twice a year encouraging the believers I had met on my first short term missionary trip with my local church. As time went on I found myself sharing in churches & youth camps, smuggling Bibles, teaching parenting & marriage courses, coordinating small humanitarian projects. When communism fell it changed the whole face of ministry in Central and Eastern Europe. It was during this time that a number of my Polish friends began to ask me to come to Poland to stay. To be honest it hadn’t really crossed my mind to be a full time missionary. As I prayed about it & sought God’s confirmation it became clear that the 10 years of “commuting” to Poland had written Poland & her people deeply on my heart. Although I was still physically living in Kirkland, WA my mind & heart had already relocated.

As Poland has changed and adapted to being part of the free market world, NATO, and most recently the European Union so has my focus. My primary goal is to be Christ’s vessel of unfailing love & faithfulness through modeling integrity & truth, while teaching & empowering individuals to minister God’s love & power in everyday life. Today that includes pastoring a small group of believers in a suburb of Krakow (Nowy Targ). Teaching parenting classes in a small Church of Christ fellowship (2 hours away). Recently I’ve had the privilege of collaborating with a Church of Christ pastor in Krakow to reach the university students.

One of my greatest joys has been the relationships I’ve been able to build with my some of my neighbor ladies through teaching an English conversation class. Once a week four ladies come to my home for tea & conversation. This is a time for them to share what they are struggling with and to be heard. We have covered all topics under the sun from marital issues, struggles with church practices, and questions about Protestant beliefs. This time is the highlight of these ladies week & all the while opening the door to their hearts.

Pray for:
An experienced church plant couple to come join the work.
Strength & encouragement for the church in Nowy Targ as they are a long way from any other fellowship.
New doors to open in the community

Friday, December 05, 2008

Thanksgiving!

I pray that everyone had a wonderful time with family, friends or whom ever you found yourself with I hope that it was a time of Gratefulness to our Father who has provided all that we need.

My Thanksgiving was VERY full of food, people, family and events. The strangest thing was I found myself confronted with a whole new type of culture shock. Holidays: The clash between expectations (mine) & the reality. Somehow my expectations were based on nostalgic memories that kept my family in the place it was the last time I was with them 13 years ago. How unrealistic is that?

13 years ago my sister was single, my brother was married, my nephew was 1, my nieces weren't even a glimmer in any one's eye, both my Dad & my Grandmother were with us & I lived in my little condo in the woods in quaint little Kirkland. In contrast: my sister is married with in-laws...funny how that happens (very nice I might add) & 2 adorable daughters. My brother is divorced with a son & a daughter as well as a significant other with 2 daughters. Both my Dad & my Grandmother have gone on to be with the Lord. I live out of a suitcase while I ate Thanksgiving dinner in my sister's dinning room on my Grandmother's table, gazing at her hutches that once were the center pieces in my condo in the woods. IT WAS a GREAT TIME! But it was definitely different from my unrealistic nostalgic based expectations.



I enjoyed a time of baking pumpkin pies with my nieces. I was able to share Wednesday evening ThanksLiving service with 4 of my nieces. We had tons of fantastic food that was contributed by the various participants. We played games, ate, laughed & enjoyed one another.



Then Sunday I gave my 1st support raising presentation. It has not been one of those things that I have felt particularly comfortable in but I was looking forward to it. I spent 3 hours listening to Polish music and preparing the room with table clothes, candles, displays, coffee, tea, & ME.

It was a great turnout...about 30 people. I felt more in my element than ever. And even though the economy is not exactly optimal for fundraising Jesus was there. I know that His economy works miracles. By the end of the evening I found myself well on my way to my budget goals. I still need to confirm my budget with Foursquare but this is what I have come to:

Including all my expenses, ministry expenses, insurance, travel, etc. I need monthly commitments of mailto:50@$50 (individuals) and 5 @ $500 (churches)....(this still needs to be approved).

After Sunday evening:
4 individuals renewed their commitment @ $35 ea/mo & 5 new partners @ $35 ea/mo. That's $350/mo pledged at the 1st presentation. And there was nearly $400 in one time offerings. That is the best and most encouraging response I have ever had. EVER!


There are 20 other individuals & 4 churches who have given financial support at one time or another this last year. If those individuals would renew there commitment at $35 or more a month that would be another $700/month. And the churches $300 or more a month that would be $1200. That would put me more than half way to my goal of $5000/mo.


Jesus is Great!


Please pray that I would be a great presenter of the heart of Jesus.

Monday, November 24, 2008

New Friends!

Wow! What an amazing weekend! It has only been three days but I have seen & met so many great people. It started Friday when I was invited to attend a home group made up of people interested in missions. Most of them have been on a mission trip to the Philippians. One couple is in the process of preparing to go there as long term missionaries. Another woman will go on a short-term team to train pre-school teachers. Another person is hoping to ride his bike across America to raise money for missions. We shared a Thanksgiving meal together and then had a fabulous time of worship, discussion of Pastor Jim’s sermon & prayer.



After that time I “hitched” a ride to me sister’s where I got a personal demonstration of her Creative Memories scrapbooking things. Those of you who know me, know that I enjoy these creative …crafty things but envisioning the end product is not one of my skills. But it was fun to see what excites my sister. I also enter a drawing for some free materials. And surprise, surprise I won! My sister and my nieces swear it wasn’t rigged. I got a very cool album, papers & stickers. Now I just need some free time & inspiration.



Saturday & Sunday I spent most of the time at church. I set up a display on Poland and the work there & I was introduced at all 3 services at Eastside Church. It is amazing how challenging a 2 minute introduction can be. Pastor Matt said a few things and then asked me what people could pray for. It was as if he read my heart, so when I went to say something it was all I could do to not cry. And Pastor Jim reaffirmed me and Eastside’s commitment to me. It is the 1st time in a really long time that I’ve felt like I truly had a pastor: someone who is a mentor & father figure.
You know it could be perceived that being in 3 almost identical services could be boring. Yet I found myself absorbed by the worship in every service & being touched by something different in each sermon. Today I was stuck by the number of people my age and old who were jumping around in worship to Jesus like a bunch of youth at camp…ok maybe that is a bit of an exaggeration but not much. It is so nice not being the only one acting like a kid for Jesus.
After each service I met and talked to many people. Unfortunately, my memory is much shorter than I would like when it comes to remembering all the new names and faces. But along with the new ones I also was reacquainted with many old faces that I haven’t seen in many years. Out of those conversations came a request for prayer requests…so here it is…Furlough, The Field, and Redeployment:
Furlough:
1. Peace that everything is in my Father’s hands & I can completely trust Him with it.
2. A vehicle from January 1- February 25, 2009.
3. Finances to cover my uncovered medical expenses (deposit, co-pay, dental, eye exam).
4. Quality time with my family, primarily my nieces & nephew.
The Field:
1. The protection of the hearts, minds & spirits of the people of congregation in Nowy Targ.
2. A group of individuals willing & committed to build long term relationships with Poland & her people.
3. That they would grow stronger in their trust in Jesus & really learn to take care of/love one another.
4. A couple who has church plant experience to help to round out a church plant team in Nowy Targ…to mentor, disciple & empower the nationals to lead.
5. Strength & courage to pursue Jesus with their whole hearts, no matter the cost.
Redeployment:
1. Clean bill of health
2. Clean out storage & have a garage sale of unnecessary items.
3. Support:
a. 5 churches committed to:
i. Pray
ii. Go
iii. Financially: @ $300/month
b. 40 individuals:
i. Pray
ii. Connect with individuals
iii. Visit
iv. Financially @ $50/month
c. Finances to-date - approximately ½



At the end of my day at the church I got to walk home in the warmth of a beautiful sunny day. Then I got to go to an international potluck dinner. If you have never been to one you should try it. Each person brought something that would be from their country of ethnic heritage. It was an amazing display of diversity.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Culture Shock

For me the biggest culture shock about being in the US is the spiritual life. I'm sure for many who live here it is easy to become discouraged by the deterioration of Christian values & in some cases even freedoms, but for me is it an oasis of rich Christian blessings.

Yesterday I had the privilege of going to Marysville for the 40th anniversary of Pinewood Elementary, where I was part of a team, 18 years ago (Yikes), that piloted the elementary school counseling program. But before the festivities began I got to spend the day in the local Starbucks. I tried to mind my own business but I was constantly being distracted by people: engaged in Bible Study, talk of what the Lord is doing in their lives, disciplining one another, or talk of praying for others that weren't there. These were people of every age and walk of life. A group of middle aged ladies for a day out. A woman teaching a younger woman how to live a life devoted to Christ. A group of teens just randomly talking about their lives and freely sharing their personal relationships with a living God.

It was amazing to not be the only one with a Bible and notebook sitting on their table. I don't know but as Thanksgiving draws near I'm always reminded at just how VERY blessed I am. All the opportunities, privileges and resources I have been graced with.

I challenge you to look for God's blessings in this day...and thank God and those around you.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

FMI Missionary Training in Orlando

I came here not know what exactly to expect. First, let me just say how grateful I’m to be part of such an open, wise, gifted and diverse family. Each person is a wealth of the Lord’s essence. After the 1st day it seemed that we had been here for a number of days as we had covered so much material. It truly is an intensive. I can see how much I have needed a “tune up”.
I have become aware of a lot of little things that have crept into my life that kept me from walking in the fullness of the Lord’s power, grace and compassion. It is as if the harshness of life has stripped away layers of who God has made me to be and left me with the lies of the enemy. These last few days have revealed my condition, brought healing and empowered me to implement God’s truth once again.
There is so much to say and process unfortunately there isn’t much time to communicate it. But one thing from Sunday: The pastor from Deeper Life Assembly Foursquare our host church here in Orlando give an incredible message about us being the lambs of God being sent among wolves. And that we need not fear or shrink back because we have the Lion of Judea within us. I realized how many times I had, unknowingly, backed away from believing God for more in Nowy Targ because I was afraid of other people or the reaction of the “wolves”. Somehow I expected that those in the world would be happy I was there and “warmly” accept me with open arms. I was shocked that I didn’t get the response I anticipated and I found myself hurt and discouraged. I believed a lie. The lie began with the idea that the world is a safe, friendly and accepting place. Then it took me to a place that said I am alone, stupid, powerless, and God doesn’t really see or care.
The truth is: Jesus said, “…I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matt 28:20b)
“For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13)
“Those who are spiritual can evaluate all things…we understand these things, for we have the mind of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 2: 15-16)
“You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4)
I am a weak willed, redeemed, servant of the Most High God. He never leaves me, NEVER! I have the strength and power that has been given to me through the in filling of the Holy Spirit that the Son has sent to me. My mind has been united with the very Mind of Christ which enlightens me with all the wisdom and discernment necessary to navigate this life. Finally, Jesus Christ indwells me giving me to power to overcome all things.
Attached are some pictures:


Beth and Jonathan Hall
FMI Director of Missions











Mr. Missiology
John Amstutz









John & Sonja Decker
Practical Holy Spirit
Ministry trainers









Special Music by
Deeper Life Assembly
Gospel Steel Drum Band








These Teens Blessed us Missionaries with
The Old Rugged Cross
And another amazing piece

Friday, October 24, 2008

Feeling Blessed!

Feelings often have a way of pushing or even driving my thinking. As the challenges of life press in sometimes my awareness of God’s blessings in my life are hidden in a fog of emotions: frustrations, disappointments, aggravation with the injustices of life. It is almost as though each feeling breeds a rabbit like litter of more feelings that come between me and being able to see the face of God and His faithful, gracious works in my world.
And then, as miraculously as the sun bursting through the dense autumn fog, my eyes see HIM. I am aware of His hand in the orchestrating the moments of my life, the events of my day, and the wake of His influence in and through my life.
Feeling Blessed has little to nothing to do with monetary or material gains. I think for me it has everything to do with the eyes of my heart. Those eyes that finally SEE as the Son break through the fog of emotions in my life.
Yesterday was one of those such moments. I was STRUCK with the overwhelming sense of being BLESSED. The SON penetrated the fog of my world to show me the wonder of His world, creation and the awesome privilege of Him sharing it with me. I became almost fixated on the majesty of Mt. Rainier as it loomed over its subjects, of which I have been one since childhood. I was amazed as I took in the suns reflection off the new snow that seemed to come all the way down to the civilization down below. I found myself searching for a place to take that perfect picture that would capture the essence of my experience. An ideal location where the iridescent yellow and bright red leafed trees would frame the mountain as the masterpiece that it is. But is it really possible to “hold” the blessing(s) of God in ones hand?
I don’t know. It is almost more like a flow of essence…life…love…character. That penetrating light bursting through the fog which changes me, then reflects off and onto the next person to continue its life transforming work.


As a young teen I dreamed of travel, travel throughout Europe: Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Holland, etc. I had great hopes of seeing and experiencing the castles, cathedrals, monuments, parks and wonders of the Old World. Just recently I realized that those things were the fog. The real essence was found in the simplicity of the culture being manifested in the people of those places and the wonder of God in His unique creation in each of those places.
I consider myself extremely BLESSED to have had the privilege of seeing God’s amazing unique ART in nature. I have seen a river in Sweden that was so pure that it looked like silver. Through the last few years I have been able to call Bern, Switzerland a second home. There the Aare River flows through the city and it is the most unbelievable glacier blue. In the last month or so Jesus has taken me to Ireland and Spain. In Ireland, the Emerald Island, I saw rivers that are the color of Guinness beer (brown). They are as clean as the silver river in Sweden but God blended the elements of the earth there to paint those rivers a very cool brown. Then a few weeks ago while I was in Spain with the other Foursquare missionaries I was looking down on the river that flowed around the great city of Toledo. There in the middle of an arid and brown terrain was a green river.
Each culture, people, land is uniquely blended together to reflect an aspect of our unlimited, creative God, who finds great delight in BLESSING.
Lord Jesus, penetrate my fog. Help me to see your blessings in my life today! I desire to have a heart that is filled with gratefulness & has eyes to SEE those blessings you have sent to surprise me.
Thank you for exceeding my wildest imaginations of what life could be.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

New Friends!

Those who know me know how much I love my kitties, particularly my Pepsi kitty. She has been my snuggle kitty for 6 years now. She has kept me company and has shared my bed. Most of you also know that my love of dogs...well...is limited. All that being said, let me introduce you to my lastest companions:

Meet Pee Wee and Rudy! They are the beloved dogs of my niece Reilly and nephew Walker. I have been staying with them for the last week. When the kids leave for school in the morning I find my bed being invaded by Pee Wee and sometimes next by a jealous Rudy. Amazingly enough they are very sweet and quite lovable.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

People Often Ask

People often ask me what a “normal” day is like for me as a mission church plant pastor in a small town in central Europe. Their motivations vary; some are just curious, others are looking for some way to relate to my world, still others desire to understand what life is like in another country. Whatever their reason sometimes I struggle to know how to answer. My days are always different. My office is where ever the people I serve are. In some ways it is similar to general practitioners of days long gone by; whose offices were where ever they had their bag and the people that needed their help.

Recently I have found my territory being stretched to lands far from Nowy Targ to the people who have traveled to other countries in search of work and opportunities. As I visited these individuals I discovered that though they now have work and resources they are lonely, isolated, and struggling to find hope. So what do I do? I visit those in need of the hope and encouragement of Jesus. A couple weeks ago I was in Ireland with K & D in Galway: pray that they would see Jesus in their daily lives as they embrace the blessings they have received. A & T: Pray that Agnieszka would grow in her confidence to speak English. Pray that T would be encouraged and strengthen in abilities to build bridges between Polish & Irish workers. Also that he would have the freedom to lead his Charismatic prayer group to the place Jesus is calling them to. In Killarney…A & N: Pray for the health and safe delivery of their 1st child the beginning of the New Year. Also pray that they would find fulfillment and satisfaction in their relationships in Jesus. Wednesday I had the pleasure of a wild adventure. I traveled my car, train and ran walked through Vancouver, BC’s Chinatown to meet with Arie. He showed me his world…the life of an engineer on a cruise ship. Though the visit was short (3 hours) and the travel was 6 hours I’m sure that my friend has been encouraged and strengthened.

Monday, September 22, 2008

God's provision

It's funny...You think you understand family, or church but it isn't until you have needs that you see the substance of your beliefs. Saturday I had a work party at my condo. There were 6 people I had never met who had come to paint my place to get it ready for the next tenants. They came from all backgrounds: a single mom with 2 kids, college student, a retired personal shopper, a near retirement nurse in a correctional institution, a professional painter and his new hire. What do they all have in common? Jesus! And a willingness to share what they have or have recieved with others. I was the reciepient of a huge blessing. They painted the whole condo in one day. All I have left is a bit of touch up and clean up.

Thank you Jesus for sending these people to bless me.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Honor

Yesterday...the eternal day of travel from Nowy Targ to Seattle, I was struck with how honored I am to be Jesus servant. The honor of serving the people of Poland for Jesus. I think of all the young adults in my life who I have had the priviledge of speaking truth, hopefully more God's truth than my own, into their lives. I have had the opportunity to see them take their "1st steps" so to speak in Jesus, independent life, finding their unique place in the Body of Christ, learning how to be men and women of integrity. And each time I feel like a parent watching their child perform in the school play. What an intense feeling of honor to know them and pride to see who each one of them have become and are in the process of becoming. Thank you for letting me be a voice in your lives. I pray that it comes from the heart of Jesus.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

An Irish Adventure

This is my first time in Ireland. In some ways I feel very much at home. It is so green and the rain is very similar to Seattle but these days I'm not so sure that I'm a Seattlite. Ireland's booming economy has prompted many Poles to come here for work. It is estimated that there are 120,000 Poles living in Ireland a country of a little more than 4 million. At the moment I'm in Galway on the West coast of Ireland. It is believe that there at 10,000 Poles in this city of 60,000. So, about 1/7 people you meet on the street speaks Polish. In the time I've been here I would say that it true. There are Polish people everywhere; shop assistants, wait staff, shopping, walking and chatting, pushing baby carriages. So, the Polish part of me feels a bit at home.

Though there are a lot of Poles you don't see many of them mixing with the Irish. I wonder why? Maybe it is the language? But all the Poles I have run into in shops and service industries speak great English, they even sound a bit Irish...at least to me.

Yesterday was a beautiful day and I had the opportunity to see some of the countryside. We went to a place where Ireland resembles the moon.
I wonder what Jesus is doing in this situation with these 2 cultures mixing together? Pray for me as I watch, observer, seek God's heart and pray. What would He have me to do? If anything? How can I help and/or support the Polish people who live here? Is there anyway for me to help the church in Ireland connect with these Polish people? Jesus reveal your heart!
Lord may these stones cry out with Praise to you that all the people here would know You and glorify Your Name!

Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Invasion of Nerds!

In July a young woman from the Seattle area was visiting and she brought with her a deck of cards. Who would have thought that such an inocent thing could start a new trend. She taught us a couple of games but the one that seemed to stick was Nerds. I remember playing in Junior High but it had been a long time since I had played it. It was sort of like riding a bike. But the amazing thing is that it has become away of creating an atmosphere of "family fun" in my household as well as I have been able to share it with families in Brzesko where I have been teaching parenting classes and this weekend I've been playing with my Polish friends in Ireland.

It truly is an invasion of the most unusual kind!

Thanks K for ministering the gift of fun!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Ireland

I want to thank all of you who have responded to my request for prayer it really DOES make a difference. Things seem to have calmed down a bit or at least it's not a landslide of "strange" events & praise God I haven't had any more insects in my shorts.

Thursday I leave for Ireland for 10 days on to visit and to see what God is doing there among the Polish immigrant population. I did a bit of research and found that Ireland has a population of less than 4,000,000. Believe it or not there are more than 60,000 Poles living and working in Ireland. From the studies and first hand reports the Poles are hard and faithful workers but they are very isolated from the mainstream Irish population.

I don't know what God is doing but I know that my Polish friends have been begging me to come visit and that there are a number of other lonely Polish people living in Ireland.

Pray that the Lord would open my eyes and ears to what he is doing there. May the Lord Open Doors that can't be shut.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Jesus transforms Me

Sometimes life travels at such a fast pace that it seems like it was just last year when I made my first visit to Poland or last month when I moved here. Yet when I look around I have to pinch myself to believe that this is really Poland, daily life has changed so much. I have done many things over the years from speaking at camps and churches to starting a church and hosting a large international youth camp. But the one thing that has remained the same is that I have been one who has loved and shared the life of Jesus in the truth and grace of God's word. And particularly with young adults.
Today was our 4th Bible Study on the Sermon on the Mount: Confronting the Culture in which we live. Every week has been different...not because I planned that way but because that is how God chose to meet the needs of those who came. I like order and some element of consistency but this has not resembled anything that I would have planned. It has been on different days, different times, usually starting late and ending when we end. But through it all there has been a distinct presence of the Holy Spirit. It isn't about me, or the format, or even the content...it is about Jesus and us sitting at His feet and listening to his voice.
Today was particularly special as we had 5 people (other than myself) 2 of whom I would say are individuals seeking to understand who God can be in their lives. And tonight they were able to really voice that desire. The others really shared what they wanted to see Jesus do in their lives not just things they wanted to have or be changed but how they wanted Jesus to live in and through them.
I'm always surprised how Jesus can use the same tools (me, Bible Study, etc) in new and different ways. I guess that is why in my heart I'm still "28" though I can tell "I remember when ..." stories like an eighty year old.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

July Newsletter

Denise’s News from Poland
Os. Witosa 4/8, 34-400 Nowy Targ, POLAND
Phone: 48-18-266-5899
Email: denisecjohnson@hotmail.com
www.journeyofheart.blogspot.com

July 2008

Dear Friends,
Today while engaged in my seasonal lawn mowing ministry (cutting the communal grass for my apartment block) I had an interesting thought…or maybe feeling is a better word. As I walk back and forth I have various thoughts, sometimes complaints but I like to try to pray during that time. But today I had an overwhelming sense of understanding for single Mom’s. I realized that I am like a single Mom. Although none of my children are of my own flesh and blood, most of them don’t live with me, some live with their parents, some live in rented apartments but all of them are written on my heart. Like a single Mom I cook, clean, fix whatever breaks; try not to worry about finances and to trust Jesus. My “kids” need me to encourage, counsel, and guide on a multitude of subjects from child rearing to purchasing a condo or advice about dating relationship and job hunting. It is such a privilege to have this place in their lives. As I walked back and forth I experienced a sense of grief, not unlike that of the single Mom, that my “kids” have no “Father” in their lives. It wasn’t a sense of lack so much for myself but for these young people. They have no godly male role model to love, care and show them what the Father’s love is like.

A Missionary “Single Mom”,
Denise
News Briefs
Travel: April 19th to May 4th I traveled to Switzerland for a Pastor’s Conference. It is a great opportunity to meet and fellowship with other Foursquare workers in my region of Europe. Praise God for frequent flyer miles! While in Switzerland I saw the doctor about my leg. But because the doctor decided not to operate I had lots of time & strength to meet with people. It was really encouraging for me and I believe it was for my Swiss friends as well.

May 24 -30: I flew to Houston for the Foursquare Convention. I’m so glad I was able to go. It was an important time of me building relationship with the new leadership within the Foursquare Missions Office. I also had opportunity to talk with Pastor Jack Hayford (The President of Foursquare). It was a meeting I couldn’t have gotten even if I had planned it ….God has his ways and timing. It is always amazing to me when I’m in a crowd of 3000+ people that are coming and going and I can actual meet the people I need to meet. I had many opportunities to meet with friends & to be encouraged and strengthen. I even got to go to NASA space center…it was one of those unspoken prayers that Jesus faithfully hears and answers. Please pray for me that would have the drive needed to follow through on the tasks necessary to follow up with these contacts.

I had been planned to go to Ireland in June. I have a number of dear Polish friends who have relocated there for work. They have been begging me to come and encourage them. I have actually bought tickets for Aug 28-Sept 9th. I ask that you would pray that the Lord would use this as a 1st step to reach to Poles who have gone to Ireland in search of a better life. May they find the Bread of Life who will meet their every need. I still need $500 to cover the expenses of this trip.

Furlough: Soon I will have my 12th anniversary of living in Poland. It is definitely a time of transition and what God would have me to do & where in Poland. I will be returning to the US for 5 months during that time I have some very specific goals. 1st my family needs me – particularly my nieces and nephew. It will be the 1st Thanksgiving with any of them and the 1st Christmas for the girls and the 1st Christmas my nephew will remember. 2nd Now that I have become a Foursquare Missionary I need time to build relationships with the Foursquare Churches in the US and to increase my support base. 3rd is to actually have a bit of a rest. In the past when I have been in the US there has been little time for family and no time for “vacation”.
Please Pray For:
Churches who really desire to partner in the work in Poland.
Rest
Quality time with each member of my family
Who will stay and take care of my home in Poland?
Where I will stay in the US?
The care and protection of the sheep I will be leaving in Poland.

Parenting Classes: I have been traveling to a town east of Krakow, called Brzesko about once every couple of weeks to give parenting classes. The pastor and his wife there have 2 young children and they find themselves surrounded by people (inside & outside the church) who have teenage boys that are struggling. Soon I will have the 4th meeting. We hope to schedule a day when the parents can meet with me together with their youngster for specific counsel. Please pray that this will bring hope and life into the families of this small community so that they may give glory to Jesus and seek his face.

New Bible Study: Since the closing of the building in Zakopane in February there have not really been regular meetings in Nowy Targ or Zakopane. I felt that the Lord wanted me to wait. I really Hate that word. So, I have been waiting for that moment when at least one individual would desire to meet and be committed to it. Last week we started just such a study. One person was desperate to learn how to walk closer with Jesus and there 4 who came for the 1st meeting looking at The Sermon on the Mount of Olives and how to live victoriously in a culture that is in direct opposition to the kingdom of God.

“Being Fulfilled as a Single”: The pastors of the Church of God in Krakow have asked me to speak at a special meeting for singles on Sept 12. I will be giving a “workshop” on how to live a fulfilled life in Christ as a single person.

Health: I saw the doctor in Switzerland and he wasn’t sure about surgery, so he gave me a cortisone shot and prescribed some orthopedic shoes. He said to give a try and if it still isn’t better after 2-5 months return to Switzerland for 3 weeks for tests and possible surgery. I still have pain from time to time but my physical therapist has released me because there is nothing more he can do.

Krakow Bible Study Group: Life Hurts God Heals. The study was completed the end of June. The material and the relationships that were built brought a lot of healing and new perspective into the lives of those who participated. The pastor I am working with was so pleased with how well it went that I will be traveling with 4-5 of his leaders to a “Celebrate Recovery” (the adult version of LHGH) training weekend the 1st of August in Cieszyn, Poland.

50th Birthday Party: For those of you who didn’t know I turn 50 a few weeks ago. Yup, it’s true. It is quite difficult to get my head around it. Since I didn’t have a 30th, 40th party or a wedding reception I splurged and used some money I had saved to have a party in a local restaurant. My good friend Julie and her daughter Kirsten came from the Seattle area. It was a great opportunity to give my testimony, as Julie was the one who really showed me the love of Jesus. There were 20+ people, most of who were in their 20s. Some are walking with Jesus, some are seekers but all know (now) exactly why I do what I do and why I am like I am.

Current Financial & Other Needs:
I want to thank all of you who have been so faithful to support me in prayer and finances. This month I experienced a drop in support of 50% for the second time since March. It is quite a challenge as inflation is sky rocking. I try not to “think” too much about it but with gas at nearly $9.00/gallon, food, utilities going up & the dollar continuing to drop its value it is difficult to not worry & trust Jesus. My car has needed repairs 4x already this summer to the tune of $1000. It is particularly a challenge at this time because I have 2 young women who have recently returned from an internship training program in the USA, who have not yet found full time employment. So my support, that was budgeted for 1 is stretched to provide for 3 (plus one small cat). Your prayers are greatly appreciated for the Lord’s provision and peace while I wait.
Thanks so much for all your prayers and support, Denise

Please make your financial contributions to Mission Dispatch. Please attach a note with my full name: Denise Johnson. And mail it to: Mission Dispatch, Inc. 21911 76th Ave W., Suite 211, Edmonds, WA 98026
.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Weathering the weather of Life

I don't know what life has been like for you lately but for me the circumstances in my life have covered the full spectrum of the weather man's forcasts. I realize that my goal as Christian is to firmly plant my feet on the Rock of Jesus in the midsts of the storms of life. Not so long ago I was encouraging myself and others to abide in the "eye of the storm" where there is the stillness and Peace of Jesus. The overwhelming circumstances of today it feel more like an avalanche! When an avalanche comes there is little or no warning and it rushing in overtaking everything, destroying, upsetting, crushing, pressing in all around, sucking the very air out of life, etc. There is no "eye" in the storm in which to find peace. There is no "solid rock" on which to firmly stand.
Jesus where are you? How do I find my footing? How do I get out of this or through this? It is just TOO much! It is so hard to even find my breathe.

In the midst of my panic I hear that still small voice of my most faithful friend, Jesus. "Here I am!" "I AM Here!" "Take my hand" "I have weathered every weather known & unknown to man" "Take my hand and walk with me...I will show you the way through even this avalanche" "Just Trust Me!" "I AM Greater than even all these circumstances!"

Jesus help me to seek YOU in the midst of the avalanches in my life. Help me to trust you and to listen for your voice and to recieve your help, comfort and encouragement.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Happy Birthday to Me!

I recently turned 50. Some people would say that I should talk about how old I am, especially being a woman and all but somehow by talking about it I'm able to get my head around it a bit. I have always looked younger than my age. As a matter of fact, my first year teaching the custodian tried to remove me from the teacher's lounge. In the end he was so embarrassed that all my requests for maintaince were completed first.
Now I find myself reflecting more....
Reflecting on what the Lord has done in my life, what I have learned and am learning, and the adventures I have had with Jesus. Lately, this has translated into "Stories". Sometimes even "I remember when...stories". Fortunately, they are not about walking to school in the middle of winter in 5 feet of snow. But rather stories of lessons with Jesus. Sometimes I really feel like Jesus sitting with his disciples and just telling stories about life as it is and how it is in the Kingdom.
Next week I will start a Bible Study and it is interesting as the passage I felt that we were to use is the Sermon on the Mount of Olives. It is that image of Jesus just hanging out with his friends and telling stories. Stories about life.

I got a bit distracted...My Birthday!
I had a week long celebration. It started with my good friend from Seattle coming for a visit together with her daughter. It was particularly special as this person was the one who really show me the love and character of Jesus. So, at my party I was able to share with the 20+ people who were there that my being here in Poland is a direct result of this one individual being faithful to be herself and let Jesus redeem and work through her. And if she hadn't been obedient then I wouldn't have known the Love of Jesus and I never would have come to Poland. It was also interesting because I had invited a variety of individuals but in the end most of the people who came were my "Kids", of the 22 people who were there 18 were under 35.

What does this all mean? Or what is the significance?
It's hard to say...
I guess, that when a person racks up 50 years of life they want to know that their time here on earth has meant something. And for me, not ever having any children of my own there is always the question what kind of a heirtage have/will I left behind?

I think that the party demonstrated, at least to me, that I have in fact touched lives. Eighteen young people have come to know the life and character of Jesus. They may or may not be walking with Him but they have come in contact with His love and care.
Pray for me as I continue to encourage these young people, tell them stories and show them the Love of the Father.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Parents

I haven't shared much about what I have been doing ministry wise for awhile. Mostly because it hasn't been the sort of thing that is easy to really describe. But this last Monday I gave the 2nd in a series of Parenting Classes in a small church in a town east of Krakow called, Brzesko.

This is something that I have been praying about for a long time. Helping parents to communicate and work with their children is a passion of mine. For years it has been difficult to watch both children and parent struggle when I knew I could help. But when Jesus opens doors they cannot be shut.

The news of these lectures has begun to spread throughout this cute little town. People who don't go to the church are coming. Please pray for my next lesson that I will continue to be able to really speak to their needs in practical ways . It will be on July 14th. Then on the 18th I will return to meet with each individual family unit (parent/child) to talk about whatever issues they are dealing with.

As a result of these 2 simiple lectures the pastor in Krakow has heard about it and is looking forward to having me do something similar in Krakow when I return from my furlough.

A Calling

Sometimes I think that we over spiritualize our life with Jesus and what it all should look like. We spend a great deal of time trying to "find" God's will for our lives or what we are "called" to do. Or where and who we are to serve. I don't think it is that complicated. Who ever I meet where ever I am are the people God has for me to serve. And I don't think that we have to "search" to find God's will. Why would He hide it? I think that we are to be our best self allowing Jesus to live through us.
I'm convinced that Jesus has created you and me for a purpose, and that we are uniquely designed for that purpose.
Today I was reflecting on who I know myself to be and what that means. Or at least what I know it to mean today.
It is interesting learning again and in a deeper way who Jesus has created me to be and what that means. I know that I am to be like -
Jeremiah: one who stands alone bringing God's love & word to expand His kingdom to a stubborn and rebellious people.
Nehiamiah: one who organizes & coordinates those who are needed to get the task done.
Barnabas: one who encourages individuals to growth and maturity.

I know these are the things I have been created for because they come so naturally to me that it is like falling off a log. When I have the opportunity to use these skills I am filled with joy and fulfillment.
Jesus, you have called me to use those skills to be the touchable you to the people who live around me.
John 1:14 "So the Word (Jesus) became human (real, touchable) and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father's one and only Son."
Jesus you have called me to be Your flesh here where I live. Just like you made your home with us, I have made my "HOME" among these people. May it be said of me that I am one who is full of your unfailing love and faithfulness. Lord, I ask that all will see Your glory through my life, the glory of the Father and the Son.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Finding the HUB in my life

It's strange how one can live for years even knowing and serving Jesus, yet not really fully living the abundant life. I realize that I have missed knowing the fullness that Christ has to offer because I was too busy doing the "right thing" and sometimes even for the "right reason".

I don't think that I would have done/or made any different decisions but how I lived out those decisions would have a different look.

Never before have I felt such an intense need for the presence of Jesus in my life. He has truly become my "Daily Bread" that nuritious and strengthens me. He is my very "breath" without communication with Him throughout the day it is as if I have an asthma attack.

There is nothing legalistic about it but I almost experience a physical reaction.

It is strange yet at the same time comforting to know that my Lord is that close and that my awareness of His presence has become that sensitive. I have no desire to have anything less.

I was reading a devotional book that discribed it as a wagon wheel. The Hub is the center of my life, the heart, my life with Jesus. The spokes are life's things that distract me and draw me away from the source of life.

Sometimes I feel like I live my life either jumping from spoke to spoke or running along the outter rim of the wheel struggling to keep up. I realize now that I was just wearing myself out. I wasn't able to fully experience and appreciate the "spokes" in my life; the people, places, opportunities. I was too exhausted to know what was right before my eyes.

Lately, I find myself RUNNING to be in the HUB. I find great joy and peace just sitting in the HUB. The interesting thing about being in the HUB is I actually have time and energy to experience and enjoy each and every spoke in its time. Another thing is that "work" that I thought was SO important for me to accomplish and kept me running around in circles, or from spoke to spoke, is actually completed by the "gravity" and momenteum of the wheels movement around the HUB.

In the HUB there is solitude, it is never lonely. The motion and potential chaos of the spokes never dislodge the HUB's peace. The depth of the relationship found in the HUB radiates to each and every spoke. It is never ending as the HUB is in constant communion.

Jesus, help me to live my life from the HUB where you are. When I find the chaos of life creeping in help me to find my way back to the HUB where my heart & soul find peace and I can breathe the breath of life once again.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Accountability

During the course of the last month I have had 2 dear friends challenge my thinking on the subject of accountability, one from Switzerland and one here in Poland. I’ve found myself wondering where I got my thinking about accountability and I realized that I had never actually searched God’s Word for myself or even thought about what others had said or taught me.
What does it mean exactly to be accountable?
Who should I be accountable to?
What should accountability look like?
Who is my leader?
Is accountability a linear process or could it possibly be more like a web like process?
What exactly does the Bible say about accountability?

I have always felt that accountability was very important…that there needs to be people in my life that know me and can speak freely and openly into my life. People who know how to challenge me in love and discipline but I realize that the most meaningful accountability partners in my life were not necessarily the people that one would think. They were mentors from mission agencies in other countries, prayer partners, Bible Study Leaders from ecumenical groups, but mostly they have been friends. Does that mean I’m not being accountable? How can that be if those people are godly, wise, and mature Christians who know me well and point me to Jesus’ best in my life?

It is very interesting to me that there are individuals who have had all the “appropriate” accountability structures in their lives; church counsels, pastors, support groups, etc, yet some of those individuals still seem to fail morally and in doing so they not only destroy their own lives but those of their family, friends and people from their churches. On the other hand, there are those individuals who seem to have no accountability structures, as we would recommend, that go on to greatly impact the world for Jesus. I’m thinking primarily of some of the early missionaries, who followed the call of Jesus to the jungle or some uncharted territory and people with their Bible, a coffin full of their personal items never to have contact with anyone “at home” again. One such person was David Livingstone. He lived a life that was morally pure in a pagan culture without his wife or peers completely cut off from “Christian” society for many years. Yet he greatly impacted Africa for Christ.

In this era of multiple ways to be and maintain connection with people and to get the support and encouragement to live a life worthy of the Gospel somehow we seem to be weaker in character than many of our predecessors. Why is that?

When I actually looked up accountability or to be accountable in the Bible I didn’t find any model like the one I had in my mind. I had envisioned a linear model, in which you/I had a pastor or leader that would be my primary source of input, correction and encouragement. That being said, rarely have I actually ever experienced such a relationship, yet that was the model I had envisioned in my mind.

As I have contemplated this I have explored what it means to be in a linear model of accountability. This model looks something like the chain of command found in the military, where the “less experienced/learned/wise” person submits to the authority and thinking of the wiser more experienced to do what that person sees as the right thing to do. Of course this is a VERY simplistic description but it gives the basic idea. Yet sometimes in the body of Christ, with the best of intentions, we set up accountability structures that mirror this thought. But what are the ramifications and messages that are sent by such a system?

Firstly, by having such a linear way of thinking about accountability I suggest that there must always be someone, a leader, who is over me and someone over that person and then someone over that person and so on. But eventually that hierarchy must come to an end and who is the person at the end accountable to? Secondly, what do you do if there is no one willing or capable of being that wise, loving, caring and challenging person in your life? Maybe they are busy with other people or responsibilities or you find yourself being one of those people who have move up the “line of accountability”. So, where does one go from here? Or are you just not submitted or you are not accountable? Hmmm.

Thirdly, and from my perspective most importantly, “Who is your leader?” I thought Jesus was to be my Leader. I think in the linear model of accountability it is too easy to rely too much on the “leader” and not on Jesus. It is also too easy for the “leader” to influence those they lead to follow their voice (unintentionally of course) instead of the voice of the Lord. I have also observed that “followers” in such a model can often have a difficult time hearing the voice of the Lord for themselves. They can become self-conscious and doubt what they have heard the Lord say. Sometimes they are afraid of asking questions about the advice for fear of being perceived as “rebellious” or “unsubmitted”. This is strange to me because God challenges us to ASK Him, question and even argue our case before Him, yet we as leaders can often be threatened by a follower who asks, questions, desires to know and understand the reasoning behind our thinking and advise.

Don’t misunderstand me, I believe strongly that we are to submit to leadership and that they have God-given insight and wisdom to speak direction, encouragement and correction into our lives. But I think when we follow a linear model of accountability we limit the effectiveness of that accountability and we set ourselves up for abuses. I know I want those who follow me to listen to my “great” advice but I’m challenged to encourage them to ask questions, seek the advice of other wise people, especially those who think differently then me and above all else ASK Jesus! I think too often we rely too much on our wisdom (godly though it may be) and experience, above challenging our followers to HEAR the voice of the Lord for themselves. Proverbs 11:14b “…there is safety in having many advisers.” Proverbs 15:22 “Plans go wrong for lack of advice; many advisers bring success.”

All that being said what is our Biblical model? The one I would like to focus on is one Paul shows us. He obviously was submitted to the authority of the leadership in Jerusalem but foremost in his thinking was being submitted to the voice of Jesus. There were times when there was disagreement, discussion, prayer and the Lord’s final will was reveal. But how did this work?

I’m no expert nor am I a great Bible scholar but may I suggest to you that perhaps a healthy accountability structure is more like a web or a network of relationship that represent a wide range of input just like the body is made up of many parts why shouldn’t those we receive counsel from be just as diverse and represent as many different aspects of the character of God. I’m sure there will be someone who would say that this could be confusing. Yes, this could be true but if we have taught our followers to hear the voice of the Lord and to screen all advice through the Word and Prayer, I am convinced that the God peace will reveal Himself. I think that it is better that those who follow me know how to think for themselves and to hear God’s voice for themselves than to be running to me with every issue. 1Sam 3:2-11. Not because I’m so bad or not wise enough but rather it is because my role is a secondary one to Jesus.

In my searching for some insight into accountability I found something interesting in Jack Hayford’s book “Pastors of Promise”. He described accountability as a boxing ring. He suggests that there are 4 influences that create the shape of the accountability structure:
Our relationship with our family/or household (he said wife but I have no spouse)
Our friendship with Christians
Our stewardship of our money
Our interaction with our Lord.
Pastor Jack says that the ring is to remind us of our own responsibility to “fight the good fight” and to follow the rules. I think it is also a good example of how accountability works in the sense that only the boxer enters the ring, no one else. Not the trainer, or the doctor or anyone else. Hayford says “The ropes establish a perimeter, guarding me from accidentally transgressing appropriate boundaries but they do not substitute for my own external performance, internal responsibility to fight by the Rulebook or my personal actions in the eyes of the Referee.”
In away I like to think of these four influences as the posts on which our web of accountability can be built.
Our relationships with those whom we live: Those individuals with whom we live know who we really are. There is no hiding how we live because they see it. I think this is why the Apostle Paul requires leaders to have their household in order. Accountability is about me being transparent and congruence between my inner self and my outer self. People with whom I live can help me to truly be consistent inside and outside.
Our Christian Friends: These are people who are truly FRIENDS. They know me. They can be peers or mentors or both. They know how to listen to me and how to help me clarify what Jesus is saying to me. They don’t necessarily have answers or advise but they continually point me to Jesus, His Word and His Ways. They pray with me and check back to see what the progress is. According to Hayford these relationships need to include the following in order to have the basis to be truly accountable:
Joke and have fun together
Relax, to “let down” from …pressures
Become transparent regarding personal need or concern
Enjoy & be unaffected in discussing spiritual matters
(Straight) communication – encouraging, critiquing, supporting & making observations
Submit to gracious “iron sharpening iron” confrontation
Pray together without pomposity, judgmentalism or mere formality – but with tears for each other’s needs, with faith for each other’s blessings and with joy in each other’s hopes.
Some scriptures for you to consult with this Rom 12:5, 10, 16, Rom 14:13, 19; Rom 15:7, 14; Heb 13:13, 1Cor 11:33; 1Cor 12:25; 1Pet 3:8; Gal 5:13; Gal 6:2; Eph 4:2; Col 3:13; Eph 5:21; 1Thes 4:18; Heb 10:25; 1Pet 4:9, 10; Jam 5:16
Our Money – How I handle my money has a huge impact on every area of my walk with Jesus. It affects my faith, how much I trust Jesus, the condition of my heart towards others, and my ministry. There are 2 things I would like to highlight from Hayford’s book on this. The first is “If I refuse to honor God’s Word that ‘the tithe belongs to the Lord,’ and withhold offerings born of faith, the life-giving, multiplying spirit of grace cannot be released because my money isn’t being put in the circle of obedience.” Secondly, a leader’s “personal accountability in all his living will inevitably be very closely related to the way he handles his money, and his heart attitude, concerning finance.” Now, this may be an area where someone may call upon the help of a Christian friend from “post” number 2 to keep you honest before the Lord but no matter what it will require you/me being transparent to ask for help and to admit the need.
Our Interaction with Jesus – This is the key or cornerstone to the other accountability people having any influence. As Hayford says, “…all human help and accountability is only as effective as a person’s initial commitment to “walk with God in integrity.” This requires an honestly before the Lord in which I willing and openly expose my true self before the Lord. I completely pour out my hurts, pains, expectations, desires, disappointments, angry, failings and successes with the purpose of Him communicating His love, correction, conviction and healing. This is something I have fallen upon over the last 6-9 months. An honestly before that Lord where I am completely laid bare. I give Him complete freedom to communicate anything to me. I have to admit that I have confessed more sins in the last bit of time than I can remember doing in a very long time. My time with Jesus is a time of interaction. It is through this time of interaction that my heart is soft to hear and receive correction. It is also because of this time of interaction that I am not devastated when someone criticizes me because I am assured of the Father’s love and care of me.

I believe that accountability is an important principle for us to maintain in our lives. It helps us to continually grow and change to be more like Jesus. It helps us to keep from falling in to moral sin and can assist in safe guarding our character. For me, at this time, I will endeavor to employ a combination of the boxing ring and the web with Jesus as the beginning and ending point of it all.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Being Freed from the Shoulds in Life

Awhile back, the Lord was challenging me to be freed from the "shoulds" in my life. Those thoughts and expectations that I had put on myself and my performance as a Christian, Pastor, Missionary which kept me from seeing Jesus in the midst of my life and joining with Him where he was working. How I should have a church service? What type of "worship" I should have? What a good sermon should be like? You know, it had to have so many points with a fill in the blank bulletin insert and a conclusion that ties it all together.

I realized that my life in Christ is filled with freedom. He came to set me free from the shoulds in my life to follow Him in faith and trust that He has created me the way I am for a purpose. And how I am is perfect for the tasks that He has prepared for me. Today I read a short text along this thought I would like to share with you. It is from "Here and Now. Living in the Spirt" by Henri J. M. Nouwen
Without 'Oughts' and 'Ifs'
It is hard to live in the present. The past and the future keep harassing us. The past with guilt, the future with worries. So many things have happened in our lives about which we feel uneasy, regretful, angry, confused, or at least, amivalent. And all these feelings are often coloured by guilt. Built that says: 'You ought to have done something other than what you did: you ought to have said something other than what you said.'These 'oughts' keep us feeling guilty about the past and prevent us from being fully present to the moment.
Worse, however, than our guilt are our worries. Our worries fill our lives with 'What ifs': 'What if I lose my job, what if my father dies, what if there is not enought money, what if the economy goes down, what if a war breaks out?' These many 'ifs' can so fill our mind that we become blind to the flowers in the garden and the smiling children on the streets, or deaf to the grateful voice of a friend.
The real enemies of our life are the 'oughts' and the 'ifs'. They pull us backward into the unalterable past and forward into the unpredictable future. But real life takes place in the here and the now. God is a God of the present. God is always in the moment, be that moment hard or easy, joyful or painful. When Jesus spoke about God, he always spoke about God as being where and when we are. 'When you see me, you see God. When you hear me you hear God.' God is not someone who was or will be, but the One who is, and who is for me in the present moment. That's why Jesus came to wipe away the burden of the past and the worries for the future. He wants us to discover God right where we are, here and now.

I pray that the Lord will help me and you to live NOW. Communicating all that is on our hearts so that He becomes the center of our world and that we can be free to be His creation in this place at this time.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Faith in Jesus when the fruit is not visible

I recently returned from an inspiring week in Houston, TX at the Foursquare Convention. I watched Jesus orchestrate meeting after meeting. With some 3,000 participants, housed in more than 3 hotels, it was often difficult to figure out where I was going let alone where I might find someone I was hoping to meet.
Lord also spoke to me in very powerful ways. I will be processing everything for awhile. One of the things I heard Jesus say LOUDLY was: “Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not yet seen.” Hebrews 1:1
That verse is resonating within my being everyday since I’ve been back. My faith in the unchangeable Christ who always fulfills His promises gives me the hope that every promise He has given me for the Polish People WILL come to pass. And my HOPE in the risen Lord is the only evidence that is needed to press on because it is not what is seen but the TRUTH of His WORD that makes His will a reality here on earth.
"My hope is set on nothing less then Jesus Christ his Blood and Rightousness."
I pray and ask for your prayers that I would hold tight to these truths. That no doubt or negative thought would be allowed to steal the Hope that is within me.
I’m also including an excerpt of an inspirational story sent to pastors that I just received. This story is something that challenges me to Fix My Eyes on Jesus and to look to the future with Him. I hope that it will do the same for you as well.

“…A lieutenant colonel in the Army's Warrior Transition Brigade, Gadson is a former West Point teammate of Giants wide receiver coach Mike Sullivan. Sullivan initially had invited Greg to address the team before they played Washington D.C. (American football team). At the time, the Giants had become discouraged after their first two losses of the season, and were assuming that all of their practice and preseason work was in vain. From his wheelchair, Greg gave an inspiring speech. He talked about serving in Iraq that past spring, when a roadside bomb blew up the truck he was riding in, costing him both legs above the knees. He admonished the team to look toward the future instead of back at the past. "It's not about what happens to you in life," he said. "It's about what you do about it. It's about making the most of all your opportunities ... because I'm here to tell you, it can end in a flash." Greg's pep talks left a lasting impression on a team who suddenly realized they had a lot going for them, and they needed to quit complaining about each other and instead start working together as a team. Out of the challenges he had endured just months previously, he was able to bring hope and encouragement to a team that desperately needed it. At Walter Reed Hospital, Greg Gadson experienced what happens when:
Friends (from West Point) rally around someone in great need. (Philippians 2:4)
You stay focused on what you have, not what you don't have. (Philippians 2:14-18)
Acts of kindness remind you of how powerful it is to be a part of a team. (Philippians 2:25-29)
Adversity can bring out the fight in a person. (Philippians 3:12-14)
If things haven't quite worked out the way you planned, consider Greg's inspiring story ... as well as Paul's reminder that "God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:19 NIV) “
Thank you so much for your faithfulness to Jesus and me.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Missions: Where is the greatest need?

Many Christians are interested in being used by God in the mission field. We often hear the concern for the lost in the "10/40 window". There are concerns for the Aids victims in Africa and the political unrest there that threatens the lives of 100,000's of people. We are challenged to pray for the persecution in the Muslim areas of the world or what is left of the Communist ruled countries. Or maybe you have heard about the horrid living conditions in the Phillipino slums. Then of course there are always the multitude of options right outside our doors at home.

This week I was meeting with a pastor friend of mine in Krakow and he slipped an interesting flier into my hand that I would like to share with you.

Facts:
* In an article printed in Evangelical Missions Quarterly; April 2004, one country topped the list for having a need for church planting missionaries.
* Based on the "N" Formula, this country is 10,000 times more needy than Papua New Guinea or over 200 times more so than Mexico.
* There are cities in other countries with more missionaries than this entire country.
* As a percentage of the population, there are 4 times less Evangelical Christians living in this country than there are in Saudi Arabia.
* There are nearly 1 million people per church planting unit in this country.
* Of the nearly 2500 counties in this country, 2219 have no Evangelical church of any kind within their borders.
* Within these 2219 "white spots" a total of 600 people die each day - with little or no exposure to the love and grace of the gospel.

The country?

POLAND

Please Pray with us:
  1. For more workers for the harvest
  2. For people to stand along side those currently laboring in the fields and lift up their weary arms.
  3. For Polish believers to have the courage to stand for the truth of the gospel regardless of what others may think or say.
  4. For what and how God would have you be involved

Just in case you were wondering I live in a "white area" and Krakow is red but there are over a million people in Krakow.

These statistics were taken from the following sources:

  1. "Where are Pioneer Missionaries Needed? by Marten Visser. Published in Evangelical Missions Quarterly; April 2004, pp. 220-227.
  2. Operation World; Patrick Johnstone; 2001
  3. GUS (Głowny Urząd Statystyczny), Official government statistical information service

What's the Hotest Housing market in Europe?

According to Forbes....
Those living in Poland, the European Union's fastest-growing housing market. It tops the RICS survey of 21 leading economies in Europe. House prices there grew at the phenomenal rate of 28% in 2007.
Poland: 28%
House-price inflation was sharpest in Central and Eastern Europe, and Poland's growth was practically off the charts in 2007. The price per square meter of new apartments in the bustling capital city of Warsaw more than doubled between 2004 and 2007. But a slowdown is expected to start 2008. Borrowing costs in Poland are rising, thanks to increasing interest rates, and foreign investors are catching on that prices are peaking. Less people have been buying the country's raft of vacant and unfinished properties.

Interesting...who would have thought?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Thanks

I just wanted to take an opportunity to thank all of you who have been praying for me during the last month, particularly that the Lord would release his financial blessing.

As usual He met every need and as usual it was not in the way that I thought He might.

Thank you to all of you who responded to the Lord and sent gifts. My support was back up to what it has been. This learning to walk by faith at a deeper level is a bit challenging and to be honest stressful. Thanks for standing with me.

Please continue to pray for the Lord's release. I will soon have 2 young adults who will be staying with me as they transition back into Polish life after being interns in the US. I'm confident that the Lord is faithful to meet all our needs according to His riches and glory.

The Defender of Widows

Father to the fatherless, defender of widows - this is God, whose dwelling is
holy.
Psalms 68:5
Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed.
Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows.
Isaiah 1:17

God is the defender of widows. I have one such person in my church who needs God's help in defending her rights. She is retired but has to work if she has any hope of having money to buy personal items, prescriptions and sometimes food. She has no children or family able to help her. Her landlord is trying to force her out of her sub-standard housing by raising the rent to the point that it take all of her retirement.

I have suggested that we propose a remodel that would divide the apartment into 2 spaces (she doesn't need all of the apt) while improving this woman living conditions. The remodel would include the bathroom: upgrading the bath, sink and putting in a toilet (she currently uses one in the corridor). Upgrading the heating to a more efficient system. Putting in a kitchette. Upgrading the doors and windows to be more effective protectors from the cold winters. Finally, reconditioning all the walls and painting.

Please pray for the Lord's favor and the finances for the remodel. And if this should be accepted by the landlord for volunteer laborers to do the work.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Doctor's Update April 28

Some of you may be wondering what the doctor said.... well he decided to give me a cordozone shot in my ankle and to wait and see. He has also prescribed some special shoes to stablize my ankle. There are quite expensive, around 600 CHF or $580. Please pray that the insurance will pay for them. If my ankle doesn't inprove in the next 2 months I will need to think about surgery. That will mean 3 weeks in Switzerland.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Culture: Understanding culture's place in my life

It is funny how I see my truth as God's right perspective of His Kingdom when in fact it is just me looking at the world/God's Kingdom through the glasses of my culture. Through the past couple of years the Lord has been pressing me as a result of my culture clashing with Polish culture to find Him in the midst.
One of the things I realized is that I couldn't really know & understand the effects of my culture, beliefs and values on my thinking, behavior and even my understanding of God until I could embrace the good, bad and the ugly of another culture. It all began a couple of years ago when I was going through Rick Warren's Purpose Driven Life. There was one statement that got under my skin. He mentioned that, whatever you are passionate about today will become a part of who you are in 20 years. It is at that time that I had been ministering in Poland for 20 years. It was at that moment I got a bit scared. I felt a small voice scream in side my heart,"Oh no Lord...I don't want to be Polish!" And then I had to ask myself why not. What was I so afraid of?
It was in that process that I realized that I was seeing the unredeemed Poland, it's people and it's culture through the glasses of my unredeemed American glasses. Then I prayed that the Lord would work into me the redeemed qualities of Polish culture. That somehow through the work of Christ's blood it would transform those things that I was afraid of becoming into the very character of Jesus that only the Polish people can truly represent well.

Isaiah 45:22-23 "Let all the world look to me for salvation! For I am God; there is no other...Every knee will bend to me, and every tongue will confess and give praise to God."

As I looked at these verses I realized that each people group and their culture represented an aspect of God's imagine that could not be complete without them. I saw in a much deeper way just how important not only our uniqueness as individuals is but also as separate cultures. And just like individuals our cultures have been corrupted by sin and no longer reflect the true and uncompromised character of the King.

Jesus is calling me to submit all of me...including my culture to Him and the working of His Holy Spirit. I believe that when I really allow Jesus to work in me in this way I'm not only transformed into His imagine but the reflection of Him within my life will reveal the redeemed elements of my culture. My Swedish/French American, Polish culture.

Friday, April 18, 2008

SMSs

Sometimes I'm a techie novice. But I have begun to use and enjoy writing sms' or for the American crowd...text messages. One of the things I do is save those encouraging messages for those moments when life it a bit too much to handle. Then I go back and read those uplifting words. A few weeks ago I had a problem. I had kept so many of those messages that I didn't have room for new incoming messages.

I broke down and cleaned out all those messages but I just didn't have the heart to erase them from existence so I transfered them to my journal. I thought it might be interesting for you to read some of these messages. Hopefully they will be an encouragement to you as well.
Today I will share two of those messages.

Thank you for attending the presentation. Everyone was very impressed by your knowledge, philosophy, warmth & attitude.

Dear Denise! I want to once again express my gratitude for everything you're doing for me. It is extremely hard to meet people like you these days. Take care!
PL

Monday, April 14, 2008

An Act of Worship

Mondays are typically my "Sabbath Day". I have been learning what that means to rest in the Lord and to put aside "ALL" work...emails, computer stuff, ministry, etc. It has been a bit of a pendulum swing trying to find the right balance without being legalistic while at the same time really trusting Jesus and understanding that HE is God and I'm not. Meaning that I will not be able to FINISH. This of course has been a great challenge for someone like me who has a strong need to have closure. Yet in it all have found a greater peace and trust in Jesus than I could ever imagine. I also have begun to experience a level of freedom that I could not have thought possible before. Let me just share with you about my Monday.

Who would have thought that paying the bills could be an act of worship?

I walked into town to get money from the ATM & pay my bills before spending time with Jesus at my favorite cafe. A month or so ago I wouldn't have allowed myself to pay the bills on Monday as it is my "SABBATH". But today all the way into town I prayed for God's help with my finances...we discussed various options of which there really aren't any. I voiced my concern of my quickly diminishing bank account, the dollar value dropping like a rock, and the cost of living skyrocketing to the European standard. Realizing all the while I may not have money to pay the bills that come next week let alone buy food. As I reached the ATM I realized that I have been faithful to do, give, share, budget, tithe in every way. I have no choice but to trust Jesus. I put in my card and took out my 450 zloty to pay the phone bill & condo dues. Thinking that that would give me 50 zloty for whatever but with the fees for paying the bills it cost me 21 zloty more. Jesus I Trust You!

On my way to the cafe I thought I would stop and see one of my students who works across the street from the post office where I paid my bills. I asked about her health, as she has been sick and if she would be joining us for lessons this week. Stuff like that. Like I usually do. Then out of the blue she invited me to have coffee with her. We talked about this and that...then one thing led to another. All of a sudden I found myself sharing my life with Jesus. The grace, love, freedom and peace I've found in Him. We talked about how Jesus made away for us to have direct conversation to the Father and how I read my Bible. By the time we ended our conversation I had been there 3 hours. Jesus starts and He finishes things. I pray that the power of His true word would be firmly planted in this woman's life that she might know the freedom that comes from being in a personal relationship with Jesus.

The numbers in my bank account may continue to diminish but the joy and life that I experience with Jesus is worth it all.

Friday, April 11, 2008

God's Creative Spirit

This is a prayer request:
One of the young women from the Thursday Bible Study is starting a franchise business. This young woman was in one of the first Bible Studies that Carol and I did 11 years ago. There was a group of about 10 young people who travel from a town 2 hours away to be in this study. Now Ola is living in Krakow. And Yes, you heard me right creating a franchise from scratch. Tonight she share with us not only an idea but a reality. Next month "The Polish Hot Dog" stands will hit the streets with hopes of 1000's of them being spread throughout the country and maybe even Europe. It is an original version of the New York style hot dog stand, complete with cooperation from Coke Cola.

All I know is that I tasted the dogs for myself and it is worth the price of $1.50. Look out McDonald's there just might be some competition around the corner.

I don't really understand business let alone franchises but I ask that you would join with me in prayer that God would bless this creative idea and that it would not only be a blessing to many but bring glory to the kingdom.

You can find their webpage at www.polishhotdog.pl . It's in Polish but take a look at it anyway.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

God's Timing

Have you ever noticed that when things don't go the way you or I want them to go, that there is the thinking that God's timing is off?

Today I was reading the story of the death of Lazarus. I realized that so many times I, like Mary and Martha, say to Jesus "If only you had been here Lord!" All the while I'm implying that Jesus made a mistake by delaying. Or I question His love for me. Or maybe I believe some lie of the enemy that I have done something wrong to cause this delay.

I lose sight of God in all my attempts to "figure it out". God's ways are not all about "ME", they are about Him and His glory. John 11:4b "No, it happened for the glory of God so that the Son of God will receive glory from this."

I also realized that I usually don't pay attention to all the times God's timing is amazingly perfect. Those situations when things come together when there is no reasonable way they should have or could have.

Like today when I left the cafe where I had been spending time with Jesus. I was thinking about anything or anyone in particular. I had no "spiritual mindedness" about me what so ever. If I had been thinking of anything it was how I was going to walk home without getting soaked.

As I stepped out the door I greeted the lady I have come to know as the Ice Cream Lady. She owns the local traditional homemade ice cream shop that is only open from spring to fall. I didn't think anything of it at first. But....she did something very unusual. She took me by the arm and said "Come and see". She wanted me to show me how they had remodeled the ice shop. For some reason this woman I have only said "Hello" to for 20 years needed me to see and approve of her work. It's hard to explain the feelings I felt...maybe honor, acceptance, I didn't even really know what to say.

But back to timing: If I had waited for the bill instead of paying at the counter I would have missed that woman.

Then as I continued my trek home through the pouring rain (of course I hadn't thought to take an umbrella) I bumped into a student I had last year when I substituted at the local Community College. I had even forgotten that I had prayed that the Lord would allow me to meet her in town one day because I felt a connection with her. Today was the day that the Lord had ordained as the day we should meet and exchange numbers.

I guess I need to remember. when I want to have my 3 year old temper tantrum because God didn't show up according to my timing, that Jesus really does LOVE ME and His plans are perfect and beyond anything I can possible imagine.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Growing Faith & Trust to a New Level

"Do you Trust Me?" Jesus asks.
"Well of course I do, Lord."
"How much do you Trust Me?" He asks.
"I trust you with everything, Lord. I left my home, career and country to serve you...of course I trust you." "I trusted you when you asked me to take only teaching jobs here that would develop relationships for your kingdom" "And you have been faithful to meet my every need."

"But will you Trust Me if it looks like the money won't be there?"
"Sure Lord, no problem, you're God I can trust you." "But wait!" "I don't see the money?"

The Lord is challenging me to a new level of trust. I cancelled the lease for the building in Zakopane and the Lord was so good to give us favor with the landlord that he let us out early and compensated us for the repairs we had made. But the young couple who had been living there and renting a room have gone through financial problems and didn't pay 2 months worth of rent (which meant I did).

"Yes, Lord, I trust you"

Then when I got the final electric bill 2 weeks ago & it was over $500 and they couldn't pay (I had to pay). (Of course the contracts were in my name so I was a bit stuck). Then my gas bill came. It was a bit higher because I had had a number of guests (showers you know).

"I trust the Lord"

I will have to pay some US taxes this year as none of my donation points handle withholding. Plus, my health insurance is due in June. The dollar dropped again to the lowest I can remember to 2.15 zolty to the dollar. Any one or even two or three of this at one time would be a stretch but now I'm at a bit of a panic.

"aaaah, trust? Lord, aha, I trust....you."

My monthly support has been averaging (to Mission Dispatch) $1,300 per month. With all the above challenges it would be tight but managable.

"Oh yes, Lord, I trust you"

However, THIS MONTH my support was $440.

"Now Lord, you said I can trust you...right...that you will take of me if I'm faithful to you...right?"

Now my rationale mind goes nuts. I am the daughter of a banker. I've had a savings account since I was born. And I hate being over-extended even just a bit. I know that I will need to fill the tank in the car at least 2 more times ($65 each) this month if I fulfill my ministry obligations. The phone bill and the condo dues are coming at about another $150. Physical therapy $40. The way I do math, that leaves about $150 for food for the month. Not to mention that my washing machine was leaking the last time I used it, it's time (past time) for the car to go for a check up and my computer is seriously limping along. Oh, I have a house guest who is unemployed.

"Jesus, can I really trust you?" "I mean really?" "Jesus I have to trust you because there is no other way through this."

Jesus says, "I love you and I will not leave you alone in the struggles in your life." "Watch, See, I take care of my sheep"

***While writing this post I recieved a phone call from a woman asking me to come visit. Of course I said yes but I had no idea what the reason was for the request. After finishing this post I went for the visit. Upon arriving she told me that it wasn't urgent that I come but that she had something for me. It was an envelop with payment for some editing I had done months earlier.

Yes, Jesus you do take care of me. You are teaching me what it means to live by daily bread. Thank you for today's manna.