Love in Disguise by Wil Triggs

When one of my friends moved away from DuPage County, he told me that one thing he didn’t like about living here was that no one just dropped by to say hi.

He grew up in Michigan, where, he said, people commonly just stopped by and knocked on a friend’s door. It wasn’t scheduled. There was no agenda but to say hi. The door opened. Food and talk was shared—just a normal part of life.

When he told me, I had to admit that I guessed it was true.

I generally don’t just knock on someone’s door unannounced, even if it’s a close friend. There have been times when I’ve knocked on my neighbor’s door, but there’s a reason: mail put in the wrong box, a jar of ice cream sauce at Christmas, a gift for their daughter’s First Communion. We’ll visit across the fence or when we’re both shoveling snow. We’ve shared barbecues or parties with them, but it’s always been planned.

So I’m not what anyone might think of as spontaneous when it comes to people dropping by or us dropping by unannounced.

I do recall one time when there was a knock on my door.

It was Sunday. The delayed timer on our oven made it possible for us to roast a chicken while we were at church. We could come home and take most everything out of the oven and refrigerator and sit down to a very nice Sunday lunch in no time.

So it was one of those Sundays when the knock happened.

We had just sat down. Sparkling water with a slice of melon. Golden chicken. Knock. Roasted potatoes. Knock, knock. Green salad. French green beans. Knock, knock, knock. Who could that be? Knock, knock, knock, knock.

Not wanting to be separated from my food, I sighed. I got up from the table and opened the door.

A man was on the other side. I had never seen him before. He wasn't selling anything. He asked for the former owners of the house—actually, two owners before us. We happened to know the couple. I explained that they no longer lived in the home. They had moved away.

Visibly disappointed, the man looked downward, somewhat crestfallen and said nothing.

Now I had a choice. Do I close the door on him?

With the smells of what seemed to me to be a delectable Sunday meal awaiting for me, I thought to myself, What if this man is Jesus in disguise?

I didn’t mean it literally, but I did think of the Scriptures.

So the words came out of my mouth, “We’re just sitting down to lunch. Would you like to join us?”

Did I really just say that?

He looked up, his countenance changing for the better and walked through our door.

Lorraine quickly set another place at the table.

He was hungry. As we ate, he told us his story, and it was a hard one. He was out of work, had no car, was living in a motel on Roosevelt Road that rented by the week and his week was coming to an end. From many years before, when he lived in the Wheaton area on a more permanent basis, the previous owners had befriended him. We knew them from College Church and it was clear from what he said that they had a godly touch of grace with him.

On that Sunday, he was just passing through, headed to what he hoped would be a job that might lead to a place to live and a settling down. He walked the several miles from the motel where he was staying to our home in the hopes of reconnecting with his friends from the past. We told him about our lives, too, and got to talk about faith. Jesus is good, he agreed.

Instead of reconnecting with old friends, I guess he got to make some new friends that day—Lorraine and me. After a leisurely meal, one that lasted longer than normal, with dessert and coffee served one after the other, in the Russian style, we prayed with him, and he prayed with us.

I drove him back to his motel and did my best to help him with a little more. He said thank you. We shook hands and looked in each other’s eyes. I told him I would pray for him.

Years have gone by. I’ve never seen him again.

But you know what? That man blessed us. I’m glad I didn’t close the door. To share our stories, enjoy a meal together and spend time in prayer transformed the afternoon into a sacred time together. People matter.

I think of him at Sunday dinner fairly often. And sometimes, on Thanksgiving, I wonder where he’s at this year.

Who is knocking on the doors of my life this year? Will I open the door?

…thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
for his wondrous works to the children of man!

For he satisfies the longing soul,
and the hungry soul he fills with good things.

Walk, Run, Go

What does Thanksgiving, a STAMP team and the Dominican Republic have in common?

Many of us may not realize the answer is, "The Turkey Trot." This annual Thanksgiving Day event grows out of our 2013 STAMP team to the DR. It's a beautiful example of how a short-terms missions trip can grow beyond the actual trip itself. As you read this, consider when you've finished something how God might be working in new ways to do more than you expected.

The Turkey Trot began as a fundraiser for the STAMP team six years ago as it headed to the community of Hato del Yaque in the Dominican Republic. “We spent our spring break holding basketball clinics, running a VBS, and serving lunch to kids in the community," explains Barb Nussbaum, a member of that 2013 STAMP team. "A local pastor, Pastor Elido, established a church and wanted to use it holistically to support the community.” explains Barb. After the trip, the team wanted to continue supporting Pastor Elido and this community in tangible ways. But how?

College Church missionary Kyle Bradley, the host for that spring break trip, asked the team to consider “continuing in mission” by raising funds for two full basketball courts behind the church. These courts would allow the church to become even more a gathering center in this community and attract kids to play sports and hear the message of the gospel.

The Turkey Trots in 2014 and 2015 raised funding for the basketball courts. “In 2015, Kyle approached us about installing lights, so the courts could be used day and night. As a result, kids in the community not only learn valuable sports skills, but also, and more importantly, hear the message of Jesus from national missionaries who serve as coaches," points out Barb. "And the lights on the courts? This helps keep kids out of trouble and in a safe community at the church in Hato del Yaque." Meanwhile, Turkey Trot funding has also helped clear a baseball/soccer field in the same community.

Members of that 2013 STAMP team still joyfully "continue in mission" with GO Ministries by hosting the annual Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot—now in its seventh year. Last Thanksgiving more than 250 runners participated in the 5K run/walk at St. James Farm.

"This Thanksgiving, all the money raised will be used to launch an initiative to provide small-scale employment and revenue through GO Ministries’ Kingdom Business area of ministry," Barb explains.

Sometimes it's easy to think that when a missions trip is over and your service ends, that's it. The end. The Turkey Trot, however, reminds us that kingdom service has the potential to grow and bear fruit long after your specific ministry ends. With that in mind, come run with us at St. James Farm on Thanksgiving morning!

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Everyday Heroes by Wil and Lorraine Triggs

Everyday Heroes

We are writing this from LittWorld 2018 in Singapore. As some of you know, Media Associates International is allowing us to serve with them during this global training event. With delegates from 52+ countries around the world, LittWorld is a treasure trove of Christian communicators coming together for training, encouragement and prayer. When it comes to getting time with people from other parts of the world apart from the specific assignments from MAI, the challenge from the viewpoint of a couple of story-tellers like us is where to start.

This time, news events and our hearts for persecuted people converged. We got to meet with many people from “closed” countries. In fact, the red or green color on our nametags identified whether it was safe to photograph and post on social media.

There were moments when most all of us stopped what we were doing to pray for Pakistan with the news that Asia Bibi was released from prison and riots and protests were breaking out. The people from Pakistan were concerned, eager to get back, to be with their families and stand with their churches.

In smaller groups, and one on one, stories of faith emerged from people who different parts of the world where being a Christian costs something more than it does in Wheaton. We could describe these men and women as courageous and noble people, heroic, like superheroes of the faith, who serve God at all costs no matter what.

But the thing is, that’s not exactly the way they are.

They are humble, ordinary people. They have jobs. They serve in their churches. Some of them embraced communications and media to help their churches or Sunday schools or their fellow believers navigate relationships. They are doing the best with what they have and helping point people to Jesus in diverse circumstances. Some have grieved the loss of loved ones. Some struggle with the health of elderly parents or grandparents. Others face doubts and questions about their lives. They may struggle to make ends meet. Even those who are taking risks are often doing so unnoticed by most of the people around them.

Heroism comes in small ways while we are living our lives. A lot of times that means just taking the next step or speaking grace-filled words into a tense situation or closing the door and praying to the One who sees, hears and answers.

Peter—a LittWorld friend for several years now—said that people often ask him how he could live in such a difficult place for Christ followers. Peter’s reply is that greater is he who is in us than the one who is causing all the chaos and destruction.

Personally, we do think our brothers and sisters like Peter and others we can’t name are heroes (and we can hear them all protesting that no, they’re not), but we also know heroic brothers and sisters at church, who look at chaos or tragedy or loss and declare that greater is he who is in us than he who is in the world.

This is something we can all do in our own ways today.

Fresh Water Words by Wil Triggs

On the Dreamliner headed to Singapore

Flying mostly over water, this plane a covered wagon

Across the great ocean plains, headed to the great west of the far east

Old friends to see, new ones to make, the chance to learn and hear

Bottles of water to hydrate, books, art, media to celebrate

Return your seats and trays, upright and locked

The blind to see, we begin our descent

Words gathered toward Word, the lame to walk

Drawing near the oasis of others and Other

The roof comes off, drink, see his handiwork of now

Seat belts click, tires thud, friends lower the paralyzed man down 

We land at the feet of Christ to be healed.

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Unexpected Water Source by George Bednar


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There wasn’t really anything unusual about that morning. Everything was just as it always was. The air cooled from the night. Early rising villagers walked cattle past our hotel and out into the fields. Across the distant horizon, tourists floated in hot-air balloons.

We finished our breakfast and hopped onto our motorbikes to head out into some familiar villages. Perhaps all that “normalcy” caused us to neglect prayer that morning. We were usually quite diligent with prayer, but that day we pressed on without it. Thankfully, we didn’t get far.

The Lord blew up one of our motorbike tires even before we got to the end of the gravel road.
 
As we waited beneath a shade tree for the motorbike repairman, our prayerlessness hit us simultaneously. I spoke up and said, “I’m fairly confident that the Lord blew up our tire on purpose so that we wouldn’t go any further without having spent time in prayer.” The team agreed, and we huddled up to pray.

We asked the Lord to forgive us for stepping out into such an incredible task without having spent time praying for our hearts and for the hearts of the people.

We asked the Lord to guide us that morning. We asked him to guide us to people who needed the gospel, who were ready to hear the gospel and who were even ready to receive the gospel. Over the years in Myanmar, we had found that praying this way, coupled with the assumption that God was indeed answering those prayers, caused us to see people and situations differently. Praying this way gave everything purpose. We were passing people on the street whom the Lord was causing us to pass. We were seeing people and going places and having conversations all under the direction of our sovereign Lord. Praying this way and believing God was answering gave us confidence and boldness that we would not have had otherwise.

We prayed and said amen. Soon enough, our tire was fixed, and we were on the move again. We chose to leave the paved road and instead took dirt paths through the arid landscape. We had been down this one dirt path many times, and while slightly more dangerous than the road, it was the quickest way to get to the villages that day.

We never actually made it to the villages.

TAKE TWO
The Lord blew up another one of our motorbike tires.

Our team stopped again to check the damage. One of our Burmese partners had driven over some of the fiercest thorns I’ve ever seen. The tire had no chance. He got off his motorbike, looked at the rest of us and said, “The Lord wants us to share here right now.”

We were stopped in front of a little farm. We had passed by this little farm hundreds of times and never really thought about it—until now. Our entire team walked down to the little farm house to see if we could find any workers there. At the house we found a young man and his wife. They didn’t own the farm, but they did have a pretty nice setup. The farm’s owner hired this man and his wife to tend the land and, in addition to paying them, allowed them to stay in the little house for free.

They greeted us as most Burmese would. Smiles. Palm sugar and fermented tea leaf snacks. Hot tea to drink. Apologies for the weather. And conversation. Our conversation seemed so natural. It was fluid and full. We discussed their farm, their family, their lives. We discussed my family and my life. We joked and laughed. Our conversation lacked the awkwardness that often accompanies “random” encounters like this. This was special.

During our conversation, the man asked me if he could show me something. I said, “Sure!” Burmese men traditionally wear long skirts called a “paseo,” and to hold it up, they tie the top into a knot. Burmese paseo knot-tying is an incredible art and, when done correctly, the knot serves as a pocket. Well, this young man untied his knot and pulled out two full-sized lizards.

He smiled and said, “Watch this.” He threw the lizards out into the sand and, before they could collect themselves and scurry off, the farmer’s dog sprang into action. The dog ran out and carefully gathered both lizards in his mouth and brought them back to the farmer. The farmer tied them back up into his paseo and assured me that he was planning to eat those lizards later that night.

THE ANIMATED VERSION
After a while our conversation naturally shifted to weightier topics, and I shared the gospel with him. When I was done, I asked what he thought about all I had just said. His response shocked me.

“I’ve heard this story before. I have heard of this Savior before,” he said. How had he heard before? When had he heard? This didn’t make any sense. His farm was out of the way, down an unimportant dirt path in a city with no real gospel presence. I asked him to explain.

“I went into the city a couple weeks ago and I purchased a cartoon movie. That movie was called the ‘Lion of Judah’ and was about a little lamb,” he explained. “That movie told the same story, but I did not know that it was real. I did not know that this Jesus was real. I want to believe in this Jesus. I believe that this is true so please tell me what we should do.”

AN UNEXPECTED BAPTISMAL
We spent the following day and a half with this young farmer and his wife. We taught them more about Jesus. We taught them more about forgiveness and restoration. We taught them worship songs and how to pray. We even taught them about the public step of baptism.

Before we left, the young farmer and his wife both asked us if we would baptize them because they wanted to make that public declaration of their faith in Jesus. The only problem was that they weren’t close enough to the Irrawaddy River, and although they lived on a farm, there was no real source of water that we saw. They asked the owner for permission to leave the farm but were denied.

We had run out of ideas and just as we were about to say our goodbyes, the young farmer shouted, “Wait! I know what we can do! Follow me.” We followed him through his field to a ditch. The ditch protected his crops from flood waters during rainy season. Just on the other side of the ditch was a small trough. “I didn’t think this would be deep enough,” he said. “But what do you think? If we filled it with as much water as it can hold, can you baptize us here?”

We filled it up and, before going any further, we walked back through the gospel message with the farmer and his wife. We reviewed all that we had studied together about Jesus and about the story of the Bible and about baptism. They assured us that they were ready. One at a time, they sat down in the shallow trough and were baptized.

PRAISE GOD FOR BUSTED MOTORBIKE TIRES
We had no intention of stopping at this farm when we started out. If things had gone our way, we would have zipped right passed this young family in route to bigger, more important places. But we finally stopped and prayed. We prayed. God answered. He guided just as we had asked. He changed hearts just as we had asked.

Praise God for busted motorbike tires. Praise God for out-of-the-way farms and for awakening hearts to faith. He does infinitely more than all we ask or think. This young farmer and his wife, our brother and our sister, are evidence of that. 

God of Hope, God of Mercy

A prayer from A Pastor Prays for His People by Wendell C. Hawley

Faithful God, forgiving God, holy God,
We have your Word, your promise—and we trust in the fact that
the Lord is near to all who call upon him.
to all who call upon him in truth.
We have been invited to ask, to seek, to knock with the promise of an answer,
for we believe you rule over all,
and in your hand is power and might.
So we address our petitions to
the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, worthy to receive honor
and glory for ever and ever.

Father God, we would that our moments of trust were with us always,
but events come into our lives and we are filled with questions.
We need the reinforcement that you have the answers.
We stand mute before inexplicable circumstances, but there are no
mysteries for you.
There are no facts you do not know;
no problems you cannot solve;
no events you cannot explain;
no hypocrisy through which you do not see;
no secrets of ours unknown to you.

We are truly unmasked before you, and you see us as we really are—
filled with our pride,
our selfishness,
our shallowness,
our impatience,
our blatant carnality.
We would despair were it not so that
you, O Lord, are compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness.
You have not dealt with us according to our sins,
for as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is your lovingkindness toward those who fear you.

So we crave today
a clean life,
a quiet spirit,
an honest tongue,
a believing heart,
a redeemed soul.
Thank you, God, that the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from
all unrighteousness.
Now, may we enjoy you forever!

Everything to God in Prayer by Lorraine Triggs

As a parent on the receiving end of calls from our young adult who is supposed to be on his own, I now marvel at my mother’s patience with my endless calls home when I was first on my own.

I don’t remember the drama that prompted one call, but I am certain that once my mom said hello, I jumped right in with all the details of the situation.

“Well,” my mother finally said when I deigned to give her a chance to reply, “did you pray about it?”

“No,” I said. “I’m telling you about it.”

You know, confiding in my mother—that mother-daughter bond is much sweeter now that I 'm older than it was in my recently-out-of-college independence. I wanted her advice. She should be flattered that I sought her out.

“I’m going to hang up now,” my plainspoken mother said, “and you can call back once you prayed to the Lord.” And she hung up on me.

Let me say it again. I called my mother for advice and she hung up on me.

If texting had existed back then, you could be sure I would have texted ??? And you could be sure my mother would not have replied, not even with the praying hands emoji.

I shouldn’t have been surprised. My sisters and I had been around her long enough to know that she truly did “carry everything to God in prayer” as the old hymn encouraged.

She carried everything to God in prayer the afternoon of my father’s funeral. Everyone was ready to head to the church from the funeral home, except for my mother. I was sent back to look for her. My mom was right inside the door, praying with a young woman.

“Mom, come on.”

She heard me but she didn't respond.

“Mom-m-m-m-m.”

She ignored me, finished praying with this stranger, and then hugged the woman good-bye. Taking me by the hand, we walked to the waiting car.

“Why did you have to pray with her and make everyone wait?” I asked.

My mother looked at me. “Lorraine Elizabeth, I lost my husband, but that young woman lost her child and she needed prayer.”

Nehemiah and my mother would have gotten along famously. His go-to was prayer—not talking about prayer, not reading about improving one’s prayer life, but praying to God. As soon as he heard about the broken-down walls of Jerusalem, he “sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven.” (Nehemiah 1:4) I like to imagine that Nehemiah just plunked himself down right where he was and started praying.

Even these years later, I marvel that my newly widowed mother stopped what she was doing to show love and to pray with the grieving mother at the funeral home.

Her instinct to carry everything to God in prayer is rooted in understanding who we are and who God is. We: the servants and sinners; God: steadfast promise keeper.

Unfortunately, my natural instinct toward self-sufficency often uproots my understanding of who I am and who God is. Lorraine: capable, in charge of things; God: does what I want when I get around to asking him.

As long as I am in charge, my instincts are to trust myself, not God. Or to trust my mom. Or my husband. Or my colleague or friend. None of us are truly in charge, so why do we keep telling ourselves that we are? And forgetting the God who gives and loves and waits and keeps on loving no matter what.

No, the people I love are not to stand in the place of the God who loves. When I carry everything to God in prayer, then I recognize that he is in charge of me and my people.

God: in charge of things; Lorraine: needs help to do what he wants even and especially when it's not what she wants.

I am working at honing my instincts when it comes to prayer. After all, I have my mother's legacy to uphold.

I realize now that when I called my mother for advice and she hung up on me that she was giving me her advice. Sage advice. Click. Dial tone. Don't look to people when you should be looking to Jesus. Pray to the loving God of the universe.