Coco’s Challenge

 

Can you imagine the feeling of defeat and despair that one who has lost 10 family members to the Ebola virus could sense? We recently sat down with Coco Dahn and her husband, Peter, as she talked about the pain of having ten close family members pass away due to the Ebola virus over in Monrovia, Liberia. And if that pain isn’t enough, she still has three teen-aged children there who are trapped in isolation inside Liberia and whom she hasn’t seen in months (although she has spoken with them on the phone.) Their names are Bernice, Luther, and Nelson. Luther and Nelson are 15-year-old twins.Coco3

As you have probably already heard, the CDC is currently urging everyone to avoid nonessential travel to Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone because of the unprecedented outbreak of Ebola in those countries. The CDC further recommends that travelers to these countries protect themselves by avoiding contact with the blood and body fluids of people who are sick with Ebola.

There are reports of civil unrest and violence against aid workers all over West Africa as a result of this outbreak. In fact, the public health infrastructure of Liberia is being severely strained as the outbreak grows.

Coco1

Of course, the Liberian government has responded by recently implementing enhanced measures to combat the spread of Ebola. These measures will affect travel in, out, and within Liberia. This creates another aspect of Coco’s Challenge. movement of her children within and without the country. Here are the five-point measures that the Liberian government is taking.

  • All Liberian borders are closed except for major entry points.
  • There are new and stringent measures of screening for the virus to be implemented at those major entry points. Again, this affects ALL incoming and outgoing travelers.
  • There are new restrictions concerning public gatherings.
  • Quarantine measures have been established for communities heavily affected by Ebola; travel in and out of those communities will be restricted.
  • Authorized military personnel have been placed to help enforce these and other prevention and control measures.[1]

Coco2All of these situation make Coco’s story even more difficult. She wants to get her teen-aged children out of Liberia to a place where they can be reasonably safe. But they are trapped within their own city. Because of the quarantine measures there in the city of Monrovia, they are essentially confined to their house … even though they are not sick nor show any signs of the sickness.

So ISOH/IMPACT is trying to help Coco by getting her children out of Liberia. Phone calls are being made to immigration attorneys, emails are being sent to embassies, questions are being researched concerning medical and health screenings, and finances are being raised to support this massive project.

We are aware that there are many who are in a similar situation to the one that Coco is in. And we know we can’t help them all BUT … together, we can help one or two.

Would you consider making a gift of love to help us with this project? We are not sure what the final price tag will be because we are only in the initial stages. But we promise to be good stewards of the gifts that God gives us through you.OFDA-CDC_EbolaMap_08.20.2014 copy

If you want to donate, please go to the following website and click on the “Donate” button under “Where Needed Most”: http://isohimpact.org/make-an-impact-with-hope/ Be sure to let us know that this gift is for “Coco’s Challenge.

Thank you in advance and May God richly bless you in your giving.

Dr. James Garrett


[1] http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/notices/warning/ebola-liberia (Accessed September 17, 2014.)

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Tomatoes

Tomatoes

I really like tomatoes. I like them on hamburgers. I like them on other sandwiches. And I even like them simply as tomato sandwiches.

I like them as a juice. I like them in ketchup. I like them in salsa. And I like them in other sauces as well.

I like them in salads. I like them as fried green tomatoes. And I even like them raw (when they’re good and juicy.)

I recently picked up six cases of tomatoes and was amazed at their flavor and beauty.

Tomatoes originated in the Andes Mountains of South America and spread throughout the western hemisphere and eventually, the entire world after the Spanish began their exploration of the world.

Tomatoes are interesting because most individuals think of them as vegetables but in reality, the tomato is a fruit. (I think the fact that tomatoes are not “sweet” causes many to think this way.) To further complicate this issue, the state of Arkansas has named the tomato as both the state fruit AND the state vegetable.

And yet, the thing that I want to feature about tomatoes here is this fact: tomatoes are often harvested “early” or in an unripe state. This means that they are usually harvested while they are still green, before they turn red and are deemed as ripe. We often equate ripeness with readiness to be used and enjoyed. I think there is a parallel here with the Christ-follower, especially for the new believer. Often, it is believed that a new believer cannot be fully used by God because s/he is new, unknowledgeable concerning the faith, and, in fact, a novice. But I believe that EVERY believer can and should be used of God. Oh, maybe they are not thought of as mature, full of knowledge, and full of power; nonetheless, God is able to take even the most unlearned, unskilled, and  and use them for His glory.

And the sweetness and tenderness of the tomato continues to improve as the time for ripeness approaches.

And so it is for the believer.

So do not be discouraged because of your newness is the faith.

Do not be discouraged because of your lack of knowledge or immaturity.

Instead, be assured that God loves you.

Be assured that He has an awesome plan for your life.

Be assured that He equips you for the task.

And be assured that true ripeness WILL come … all in His time.

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Build Them a House

photo

I was recently having a meal with the children and staff at the Children’s Lighthouse in Perrysburg, OH. This place is certainly a bit of a haven for the kids … and also for the various animals. There are koi, chipmunks, cats, a couple of dogs … and two pigeons, Hope and Harmony.

Hope and Harmony come and go as they please … but they seem to love being here. In fact, it is nothing for them to eat out of the hands of the children or to stay overnight in the greenhouse on the property.

As we were all sitting out on the courtyard, I saw the two birds perched on the roof of one of the houses. My initial thought, as I was pondering how much these birds obviously love this place and feel welcome here, was: “Why don’t we build them a house of their own?”

Immediately, I was reminded of the Scripture surrounding the narrative we know as the “Transfiguration.”

Matthew 17:1-6- “Six days later Jesus took Peter and the two brothers, James and John, and led them up a high mountain to be alone. As the men watched, Jesus’ appearance was transformed so that his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as light. Suddenly, Moses and Elijah appeared and began talking with Jesus.

Peter exclaimed, “Lord, it’s wonderful for us to be here! If you want, I’ll make three shelters as memorials[a]—one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”

But even as he spoke, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy. Listen to him.” The disciples were terrified and fell face down on the ground. …” (NLT)

And it was as if I could hear the Father saying to me, “I have sent these birds here for several reasons. One of those reasons is this: that you might be reminded that I am pleased with this place and with the ministries it is carrying out to these children, the community, and indeed, the whole world.”

Certainly, there are many other truths that we can derive from this narrative BUT I am encouraged to look only at this one right for the time being.

What is truly done for Christ is what is blessed.

God empowers us to perform those tasks to which He has called us.

And He speaks over us, “These are my beloved children who bring great joy to me.”

I am not attempting to take the power of the Matthew 17 passage away from the words it speaks concerning Jesus Christ; it certainly speaks to His divine purpose … but I want each of us to know and to understand that God truly loves us. He is pleased with us … not because of anything we do or have done … but because of what Jesus has already done … because of Who Jesus is.

And He is pleased with the ministries to which He has called us.

And He empowers us to perform those ministries.

That makes me really excited about what God is doing in me, in the ministries in which I am engaged, about what God is doing in you, and in the ministries in which you are engaged. So let us go forth, knowing that He loves us, He purposes us, He equips us, and He is pleased with us … and it is all because of Jesus.

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Looking at Others

I have a special privilege of working with college and graduate students from all around the world. Of course they each bring things of interest to the table and I learn greatly from them as horizons are broadened.

Recently, one of my college students from a Latin American country wrote me a requested paper concerning freedom and what it means. It was interesting that she (and others) determined that the USA is not a free country because we have to follow certain laws, while persons in her and other countries did not have to follow certain laws.

She brought up the idea that children could drink if they wanted to in her country … without fear of being arrested. She also brought up the idea that persons in her country did not have to pay taxes, and therefore, when coming here to the USA, they felt that they could certainly take advantage of the system here because, in their frame of reference, the requirements that we have are of no concern.

Now please note, she was not being belligerent, nor was she being argumentative; in fact, she was even supportive of the opinion that she was stating; she was simply stating a fact.

I was amazed. It never occurred to me WHY people were doing what they were doing and acting like they were acting. And I had to stop and think for a minute: I wonder what would happen to our thinking IF we could take the time to try and understand why others acted, responded, and spoke out like they do.

And again, this is not an attempt to get us to pardon wrongs done to and within our country; it is to cause us to stop, listen to them, see where they are coming from, and then make the judgment that needs to be made. Of course, this is in complete contrast to the way that we sometimes do things. You know, see something we don’t like and then rant and rave about it.

Maybe what we need is a little more understanding.

Maybe we need a little more caring.

Maybe we need a lot less “jumping to conclusions.”

It may or may not change our thoughts.

It may or may not change our responses.

But it certainly will change our understanding.

It certainly will change our perspective.

And it certainly will change our attitudes.

Certainly there is a lot more that could be said about this, and perhaps more will be in the future, but for now, be challenged by the idea of giving others a chance. We may not change our minds … but we might just learn something.

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Where’s Your Passion?

I had a very exciting conversation with a young lady today. She was telling me that she had once began her studies to become a veterinarian but gave up because she was having too many difficulties with the studies. She obviously does have a learning difficulty but she had determined that her difficulty was simply too hard to carry on with her task so decided to lower her expectations a little to switch and become a veterinary technician.

As she was telling me her new goals, which she has been working on for about a year now, you could visibly see her lighten up and you could hear the excitement in her voice. In fact, she told me that wanted to tell many people of her new goal in life.

The excitement I heard, and that I related back to her, was her passion. She was iterating her passion. And it was contagious.

I have no doubt that Amanda will go on to finish her studies and will become a veterinary technician.

And I am pretty sure that she will specialize beyond that.

Why?

Because she was and is in the zone of her passion.

Passion is that objective that you have to have. You eat it, drink it, dream it … and live it.

And passion will carry you through in times when otherwise you might want to quit or give up.

And I know passion.

And I think we all know passion.

When is the last time you ever dreamed something so hard that you couldn’t let it go?

When’s the last time that you really lit up when you were talking about something … or someone?

When is the last time that you wanted something so badly that you knew you couldn’t live without it?

That’s passion.

A story is often told of a young boy who desperately wanted to learn a martial art. It is said that he sought out the training of a wise, old sensei.

In the boy’s search of the old man, he did find him. And he found him fishing in the middle of a stream.

The boy waited patiently on the side of the stream for what seemed like hours … simply in pursuit of being recognized by the old man.

Finally, the old man looked over at the boy and said to him, “boy, what is it that you desire?”

The boy anxiously responded to him, “Oh great master, I desire to learn your martial arts.”

The old man simply looked away and continued fishing … seemingly ignoring the young boy.

After a while longer, he again looked over at the young boy and said, “boy, what is it that you desire?”

Again, the boy responded, “Oh great master, I desire to learn your martial arts.”

And again, the old man simply looked away and continued fishing.

Finally, after another hour or so, the old man looked over at the boy and said to him, “boy, what is it that you desire?”

And, as the boy had before responded, he said “Oh great master, I desire to learn your martial arts.”

The old man motioned for the boy to come out into the water with him.

The boy, desiring NOT to show his excitement, waded out into the water to the old man.

When the boy reached the sensei, the sensei violently grabbed, pushed, and held the young boy’s head under the water.

The boy struggled violently as well.

..until at last, four bubbles come from his mouth

…then three bubbles

…then two bubbles

… then one bubble

At which the old man, grabbing the boy by the hair, lifted him out of the water … obviously (and literally) dying for air.

And the old man looked at the boy and said to him, “Son, when you want to learn the martial arts from me … as much as you wanted that next breath of air … come back and I will teach you.

This is an illustration of the power of passion.

Passion causes us to come back when all Hell is coming against us.

Passion is that thing that causes us to NOT give up when nothing else seems to be going our way.

Passion is what finds us successful.

Why?

Because passion creates within us an “I’ve got to have it … or die trying” attitude.

So again, I ask each reader today … what are you passionate about? And what’s it going to take to see your passion fulfilled?

And when you have answered those questions … carry on …. and see your passion come to fruition.

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The Road

It was a hard, cold, snowy winter in the mid-west this year. Historical temperature and snowfall-level records were broken and new ones were set. And schools in my area surpassed their allotted levels of cancellations several times over. Some have even said that the students are going to have to go well into the summer break in order to make up for those cancellations.

And many people continually fussed about the depth of the cold. In fact, it seems that complaints about the winter of 2014 far exceeded the appreciations.

But I chose to take a different tack. This year, I am learning to count my blessings and to appreciate the winter, the cold, the snow, and all other parts of life. In fact, for four weekends in a row, my wife and I had to travel between Chicago and Toledo round-trip. We experienced icy roads, sub-zero temperatures, white-out conditions, cars and trucks driving too fast and dangerously, and a doubling of travel times.

But rather than complain, I learned (and am still learning) to embrace this winter. I learned (and am still learning) to appreciate the cold, the snow, the wind, and the long travel times.

Why?

Because the Bible tells us that we are to focus on “what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. (Philippians 4:8 NLT)

Our attitudes must be transformed from the negative, sorrowful ones that many display into that which is full of hope, purpose, and vision. In fact, one of my favorite Christmas movies expressed a similar attitude as Bing Crosby sang:

When I’m worried and I can’t sleep
I count my blessings instead of sheep
And I fall asleep counting my blessings
When my bankroll is getting small
I think of when I had none at all
And I fall asleep counting my blessings

As I looked at the snow, felt the coldness, experienced the wind, and drove through the extreme slowness of the traffic, I chose to count my blessings, and to enjoy the journey of being blessed by Him.

I embraced this winter season.

Can you embrace the winter season of your life? And THEN move beyond it.

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Deadlines

As I write this, I am aware that recently, the last night of late night show host Jay Leno was on the air. My favorite part of his show has always been his Monday night “Head lines.”

But in this blog, I want to mention something that sounds similar, but plays out much differently:

Deadlines.

Deadlines are those things that many of us hate and yet, others of us love.

The deadline is that final moment when all must be said and done … And all must be turned in and submitted.

As I said, many hate these things. For those of us, these bring unneeded stress and pressure. These have driven men and women to do things they would later regret or to live in such a manner that one’s life could be shortened or caused to be less than full.

And other people love deadlines. For those of us, deadlines bring something similar to an adrenaline rush … And cause greater and more concentrated focus of attention and on detail.. Somehow, the need to finish by a certain time causes that time to be a motivator.

We all respond differently to deadlines.

But I want to suggest to each of us that deadlines are nothing to be played with. In fact, we each have an appointed time when life as we know it will all be over and all will have been said and done.

For that reason, I urge each of us to respond more intently to that focus of the journey of our life.

Our journey is not about what we have done right or wrong. It’s not about what we have planned and dreamed. And it’s not about what we have succeeded in or failed.

Instead, it’s about how we have lived. It’s about how we love God. It’s about how we treat others.

As Martin Luther King Jr. has said (and others have repeated):

    • It’s not about how long you have lived …
    • It’s about how well you have lived.

And Hillary Cooper once said,

    • Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take
    • But by the moments that take our breath away.

So I ask you today as you live, as you breathe and as you enjoy the journey:

    • How have you loved God?
    • How have you treated others?
    • How have you lived and forgiven yourself?

Answer those questions before the deadline is upon you

… while you still have time to do something about them …

While you have time to truly love and honor God …

While you have time to show and tell those whom you love that you really do love them …

While you have time to stop beating yourself up for all your shortcomings and failures …

While you have time to forgive yourself and to love yourself …

You know the time I’m talking about …

I’m talking about that time …

Before the deadline is up.

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Bumper Sticker Religion

 

We have a lot going around of what I call “Bumper Sticker” Religion. By this, I mean we tend to fill our lives with short, snappy statements that really sound good and really seem to make sense.

Such statements include: “John 3:16”, “Forgive and Forget”, “Let go and let God.” Of course, there are a whole lot of other, similar statements.

Obviously, few things are rarely as simple as they seem.

Surely, “John 3:16” is a simple statement that refers to the Scripture and is somewhat separated from these others but it is my fear that other such statements often do more harm than good.

I want to set the record straight.

Faith in Jesus is the beginning; faith in short, pithy statements is often a distraction.

Relationship with God is not initiated with cuteness and conciseness of communication; instead, relationship begins with revelation from God Himself and that revelation comes through prayer and/or the Word of God.

Relationship takes intentionality and some degree of work. And by work, I don’t mean accomplishment and defeating the impossible; what I do mean is that series of efforts of knowing Him.

(Of course, we could never get this part right on our own; we need His strength and His grace.)

And we are further equipped with the knowledge that as we draw hear to Him, He draws near to us. (And that’s the effort I’m talking about: drawing near.)

Never rest upon the concept that uttering the right words is enough.

Never rely on the thought that the summation of spiritual healthiness is achieved by a bunch of verbal gymnastics.

Instead, let us each draw near to God … let us establish a habit of seeking Him … and let us enjoy the journey.

If this article interests you, write me with your comments at: jgarrett1958@hotmail.com

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Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover

I had been working at a restaurant for several months as a cash register operator. I have always been pretty good at working with other people and have also found myself able to find a place of commonality with almost everyone.

One of my techniques is that I always look for some “in” in each person’s life, whether it is the manner of dress during the depth of winter, military clothing that they might be wearing indicating that they might have been actively involved in the armed services, to unfamiliar accents to … well, you get the idea.

Recently, a young lady came in on a Sunday morning.

After eating, she came to my register to check out.

Her bill was $12.83.

She paid me in all one-dollar bills.

So I, using my “skill” in finding an “in” to create conversation AND by the fact that I was working in the food preparation business, came to the following conversation:

So I am guessing that you are a waitress/server.

Again, I am just looking for friendly conversation.

And she, looking at me … but quickly turning away to leave, says “No. I am a stripper.” … leaving my dropped-jawed.

The moral of this story is that we should assume NOTHING of ANYONE.

Each of us is who each of us is. While we all have opinions of one another, we are sometimes short of the mark in getting that assumption correct.

On that note: no one really knows us except of God … and ourselves.

While we often are influenced by others’ opinions of us, the truth is that that it is we … and God … who are the true influencers of who we are and what we become.

Don’t let the nay-sayers and doubters sway you from your progress and personal determinations.

Follow who you are becoming … and be proud of it.

 

Dr. James Garrett can be reached at: jgarrett1958@hotmail.com

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Earth, Wind, and Fire

This is a post from one of my students from Ashland Theological Seminary, Dr. Darrell Williams. It is reposted with his permission. If you appreciate this blog, please send Darrell a thank you note at darrell527@sbcglobal.net

11 Then He said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; 12 and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.” (I Kings 19:11-12 NKJ)

In I Kings 19 we read of the prophet Elijah dealing with the earth, the wind and fire. Elijah was on the run from the evil Jezebel for his obedience to God concerning the false prophets. He took off on a journey into the wilderness. The angel of the Lord directed him to go and stand on the mountain. It is here that Elijah deals with earth, wind and fire. As Elijah stood on the mountain, a great wind came that was so strong that it broke the rocks of the mountains into pieces. We all have been in storms and experienced issues of life where it seemed that everything around us was falling apart. The Bible says the wind “broke the rocks into pieces” but notice it also says “but the Lord was not in the wind.”

As Elijah continued to stand on the mountain, an earthquake occurred; like so many of us the storms of life rage around us and as we are shaken pieces of our lives fall around us. We may begin to lose our footing and find ourselves in a state of panic. If the storm itself were not enough, now the very foundation of our lives is moving, unsteady. The Bible says “but the Lord was not in the earthquake….”

And finally there are the fires that spring up in life; the small sparks as well as the uncontrollable blazes; those issues that may test our patience as well as our perseverance. For pastors, it sometimes seems that congregations have several “small fires” burning throughout the church at all times. Despite your wise counsel and fervent prayer, Sister XYZ married the guy who could not even spell “LORD”, and now she and her “husband” are having marital difficulties. THERE IS A FIRE BURNING. Deacon XY has been way out of order in his duties; the congregants are beginning to notice so you must deal with him. THERE IS A FIRE BURNING. The pipes burst in the church from the cold weather and Trustee Y doesn’t have the “time” to handle the business to have it repaired therefore service may have to be canceled or moved to another location and it’s Friday. THERE IS A FIRE BURNING. The Bible says “the Lord was not in the fire.”

Throughout the earthquake, the wind, and the fire the Lord was not in any of them. But in verse 12 it says “a still small voice” was where He could be found. When you are faced with the trials and issues of life you must position yourself in a place to hear that still small voice of God. Your building/temple of your physical body may be breaking into pieces with the foundation of all you have ever known shaking around you, fires and flames hot against your face but the Lord can be heard in that still small voice if you seek Him.

Notice where Elijah was when this happens, he was on a mountain alone; by himself. When was the last time you went away by yourself to seek the face of God? It could be somewhere in your own home that is peaceful and quiet free of distractions or for pastors it could be at the church. The Lord told me that He wants to speak to you while you try and handle the earth, wind and fires in your life. But when He speaks you MUST recognize HIS voice!

So be encouraged even during your storms, the earthquakes and fires of life that the Lord is still there yet take a lesson from Elijah and go to that quiet place and meet God there.

Concentrate on the last sentence of this letter. As the words get smaller it is more difficult to read. The big letters are easy to see but as the letters get smaller you must look more closely. The Lord is waiting to talk to YOU.

How will He do it? In a still small voice!

Be Encouraged

Doc Williams

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