Saturday, May 2, 2015

A Rare Exception


"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable— if anything is excellent or praiseworthy— think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me— put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you."
— Philippians 4:4-9

(Rob writing from U**ne)

It seems to me that some people come to faith in Christ naturally, willingly; while others must be dragged to faith against their stubborn wills.

My wife belongs to the former set. Ever since I've known her, Julia has been a positive personality who firmly believes that God is good, and that He works actively every day for the good of His children. Her deepest desire has always been to step into God's work, whenever and wherever she could.

It pains me to admit that I belong to the latter set. Much as I aspire to faith like my wife's, I tend too often toward skepticism and gloom. One of the greatest fears of my life has been that my naturally lugubrious nature might drag Julia down— might prevent her from doing some good work that the Lord set before her to do.

By God's grace, not this time! In a broken world filled with compromises and trade-offs, the adoption of orphans like John and Aaron is one of the most unblemished good deeds I can think of. I am so, so glad that I didn't stand in the way.

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As one who aspires to greater faith, I often seek inspiration from others.

Sometimes I find inspiration in the past, as in the story of George Müller. For those who don't know, Müller was a Prussian-born missionary who founded several institutions for orphan care in England during the mid-1800s. Müller is best remembered for these two hallmarks of his ministry:

  1. Müller depended on God to answer specific prayers, often in the nick of time. For example, one morning Müller and his orphans sat down to thank the Lord for a breakfast which He had yet to provide— for the table before them was as yet empty. The next minute, a baker arrived to say that something had told him to arise early that day and bake extra bread for the orphans. The minute after that, a dairyman arrived to say that his milk cart had broken down just outside the orphanage. Would the orphans like to have the milk, seeing as the warm weather would spoil it before his axle could be repaired?

  2. Müller somehow managed to raise all of the money he needed for his many ministries without ever asking anyone for money. This was one preacher who never passed the plate when he led a church service! Instead, he left the offering plate in the back, and let the Holy Spirit inspire believers to give whatever they would. The funds for Müller's orphanages came not from targeted fundraising campaigns, but from believers around the world who mysteriously felt led to contribute to what Müller was doing.

Which isn't to say that Müller didn't communicate his need. A big part of Müller's job was to speak and write about what the Lord was doing through his ministry, so that believers could be inspired to help.

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A few weeks ago, I met someone who reminded me forcefully of George Müller. His name is Slavik Puzanov, and he comes from this country. Together with his wife Alyona, American missionary Laura Rechkemmer and others, Slavik leads an orphan care ministry called Nasledie Heritage Foundation.

You may remember that the funds from Julia's Mulligan Stew fundraiser last year went to support Camp Lela. This annual summer camp is one of Nasledie's biggest ministries, bringing the love of Christ to hundreds of orphans every year.

If you're curious about Camp Lela, then consider taking a couple of minutes to watch this video:



Doesn't this camp look fantastic? Imagine suddenly getting the chance to do all of this, after spending so many dreary days at the orphanage! So active, so creative, so spiritual and so fun!

When I compare the somber faces I see around here every day to the glad faces in that video, I can hardly believe it's the same country. The difference, I believe, is that Camp Lela introduces people to Christ in a new way, an evangelical way in which few here have met Him before.

Honestly, I've never seen another camp like Lela. How I wish we could have sent our older boys to a camp as good as this!

Rob and Julia's eldest son Ben volunteering at Camp Lela last year!

But Camp Lela is only one of Nasledie's ministries. Every weekend throughout the year, Nasledie mission teams share Christ in orphanages all over their region, building relationships in anticipation of camp. These teams reach out to eighteen orphanages in all, and will soon add a nineteenth. The good they do in these orphanages is incalculable.

Another Nasledie ministry involves the ongoing war in eastern U**ne, which we Westerners too often forget. Nasledie's response to that war is to share Christ with the many refugees who have fled to its region. Slavik reminded me of something that people who haven't personally experienced war often forget— that even if the war should end today, years must pass before life can even begin to return to normal. Many refugees who try to return to their homes will find them in ruins, or so damaged and looted as to be unlivable. War refugees need food, shelter and time get back on their feet. Nasledie's vision is to fill those needs in the name of Christ.



How can I convey how immensely inspired I felt after meeting Slavik and team? Let me just say that as a natural skeptic, I often prefer the spiritual heroes of the past to the ones I meet in the present. With my insincerity detector permanently set on maximum sensitivity, I rarely place my trust in anyone, much less someone I've met only once.

Slavik proved to be a rare exception. Despite the profound language barrier between us— for Slavik speaks little English, and my R**ian/U**ian was as pathetic then as now— my heart knew immediately that this was a Christian leader I could trust, one whose vision I could support without the slightest misgiving. The trappings of religion mean nothing to this man. His religion lies not in lavish buildings, rituals and robes, but rather in simple faith, prayer and action.

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The reason behind all of my long-winded blather is that with our adoption going on, Julia won't be able to do a Mulligan Stew this year. This year, all Julia and I can manage for Camp Lela is this George Müller-style, non-fundraiser fundraiser: we're sharing the need with as many people as we can, in the hope that the Holy Spirit will lay it on many hearts to support Camp Lela again.



Starting next month, Nasledie hopes to invite a total of about 700 orphans to 7 different camps. The cost per child is about $60, bringing the total need to about $42,000. As of today, they've raised about half that much— which means that without the other half, 350 orphans will miss their chance to go to camp this year.



It pains us deeply to think that so many poor orphans might miss their chance to go to camp this year. If you have anything to spare, then I strongly encourage you to support Camp Lela, and soon. We can testify that Nasledie is a godly ministry that will steward your funds wisely, and will use them to do inestimable good.



To donate to Camp Lela online:

Please FOLLOW THIS LINK to the Camp Lela YouCaring page

To donate by check or money order, please snail mail:

International Messengers
P.O. Box 618
Clear Lake, IA 50428
Please include a note to indicate that your funds are for Camp LELA!

There are many ways to care for orphans. One is to support adoptions like ours, and we are so grateful for all of your kind gifts in the past! Another is to support ministries like Nasledie, which care for the innumerable orphans who are always left behind. We believe that God is not limited to one way or the other; rather, He treasures all our efforts to do good in His name. If you are looking for an effective ministry that you can trust, then Camp Lela is a great, safe choice.



1 comment:

  1. Sponsored one child last year and 2 this year! What a great ministry!

    ReplyDelete

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