REST IN HIS WAYS (see Flex and Bend)
If you look at the world, you’ll be distressed. If you look within, you’ll be depressed. But if you look at God, you’ll be at rest. — Corrie ten Boom
The last three months have amusingly let echo in our lives an expression passed among Ivorian believers. “Man proposes but God disposes” (Proverbs 19:21 TLB; Thomas a Kempis, Homo proponit, sed Deus disponit, from Of the Imitation of Christ). Reviewing our last quarterly and the weekly editions that followed, we know a virus changed the plans of millions of people even more than for us.
In February, we rushed preparations to renew contact with ministry partners in MI, ID, IL, OH, NC, FL, MO, and TN. As COVID-19 reactions struck and slowed our sharing in services and Bible studies during our first three of five weeks in MI, quarantines, and shutdowns led us to spend our last eight weeks in Cookeville, TN mostly. Now we have eight weeks remaining before our planned return to Africa where borders re-open, and flights recommence. Taking a status check, we recognize that we have not personally seen 80% of our ministry partners as intended to share about God’s mighty works in Cote d’Ivoire. These paltry written communications remain our principal means of sharing even though we are in the U.S. Calls and videos were also limited until recently by our inability to plan and a speech difficulty. (Verlin’s #3 required extraction in twelve pieces, followed by a dental implant preparative surgery when most dentists could not see patients. Lots of swelling!) Returning would concern us if we were not confident that “Man proposes, but God disposes.” Our Lord works out everything as we live.
COVID-19 did not surprise our Heavenly Father. Though our activities altered from travel to much work on the homestead, vehicles, and books, the changes were part of a plan. No matter the circumstance, if we walk obediently, our confidence reflects that of the warrior-king and prophet David. Psalm 138:8 passes along his certainty that the Lord will perfect the word of truth that concerned him. In other words, the Lord fulfills His purposes for each of us. We rest in that promise, as well.
REMAIN IN HIS WORK (see Phone a Friend)
Security is having the Word of God in your own language. Peace is having the Word of God in your own heart. — Corrie ten Boom
During April and May, we also spoke with Ivorians about ministry progress. We share with you some snippets of news we received that encouraged us. Ivorians were inspired by the fact that we were able to help at least five Americans start Discovery Bible Studies (DBS) and rejoiced to hear of the faithful financial and prayer partnerships that you provide.
Several DBS trainers in our home town continue meeting in small groups. They follow government guidelines for social distancing and wearing masks. They cancel or divide gatherings of more than ten people. K., the trainer who shared with us, said he now better understands how the early church multiplied so rapidly despite persecution and opposition. Adult studies continue to flourish during the pandemic, though he disbanded the weekly meeting with children for a time. He reassures parents that he will restart as soon as possible. Numerous parents continue to thank him for the pertinent lessons he taught their children on health and hygiene with Bible stories.
- A regional FWB pastor reported that his whole church began using DBS all over their village during the pandemic. It let them continue meeting for prayer and Bible study and worked beautifully. The pastor noted that giving to the church remained stable, and maybe even grew a little! (This effort stemmed from church members attending the early December 2018 training that readers enabled us to host.)
- Another CHE trainer working in southeast Cote d’Ivoire visited house-to-house in his village to explain COVID-19 prevention. He now works to continue that training process in several new locations further north. We praise the Lord that participating members of the Global CHE Network worked quickly to provide specific lessons for workers worldwide.
- One national coordinator for CHE confirmed his awareness of 300 DBS groups that began to meet after an early March training. These do not count the thirty+ of his home church or others mentioned herein. The Lord has moved in his spirit to prepare and propose a CHE project to touch 10,000 homes and teach how to limit disease transmission. CHSC staff checks on this side of the ocean to see if a grantor will fund the nearly $20,000 project. In the meantime, just this week, we learned that a supportive African CHE visionary helps the Ivorian start.
- These brief conversations demonstrated how CHE and DBS touch healthcare, education, church life, village life, and the unreached. We marvel at the efficacy of this combination to impact every aspect of culture.
RELY ON HIS LEADERSHIP (see Normal is Nice)
Our return to stay and expand Cote d’Ivoire CHE ministries amidst churches, NGOs, clinics, health professionals, and to extend CHE use among school children largely depends on whether the university team maintains the Community Health Evangelism (CHE) training planned for September 14-18. If sustained, we will return in August as planned. If funds are insufficient to stay three or four years, we will help with the university training, handle issues at our home, and return to the States and complete ministry reporting. So far, neither our flight nor the training are canceled.
If, however, the university training is canceled due to COVID-19 reactions, we will rebook one of our current tickets for the first quarter of 2021. If the Lord permits, we will resume travel this next month and beyond to thank current ministry partners and seek new ones through the fall and early 2021. Either way, we rely on the Lord to clearly show us which option is best. “Man proposes, but God disposes.” The Lord fulfills His purposes in each of us.
REJOICE IN HIS PROVISION
Put yourself, your ability, your money at God’s disposal. He can do so much more with it than you can. — Corrie ten Boom
We continue to be amazed at the Lord’s provision through our ministry partners, even as difficult financial days hinder many families. You give faithfully and sacrificially for the sake of His Name and the spread of the Gospel in Cote d’Ivoire. This report marks a first from which you and we can draw encouragement. We are blessed to share for the first time since joining the CHSC this third quarterly donation report in succession that shows our monthly budget being met. Large one-time gifts or special offerings appear to be the reason. We trust God to reveal how the trend can continue as we seek monthly donors to enable our return for another three to four years.
PRAISE & PRAYER REQUESTS
- Pray for Ivorians who also adjust to new restraints posited by COVID-19. Although many restrictions are lifted, especially concerning life in the interior of the country, obstacles to overcome remain. A May 28th report stated that any person on an incoming flight to Abidjan will be quarantined for two weeks at a government-appointed facility. That certainly dampens the spirits of anyone arriving for a short-term business trip or visit.
- Pray the developing CHE project comes to fruition and reaches into thousands of additional Ivorian homes with the hope of the Gospel and its practical training to prevent communicable diseases. Whether the project takes flight, or not, support in prayer the CHE teams who labor tirelessly already. Ask the Lord to give them strength, encouragement, perseverance, and much fruit for their labor.
- Continue to pray for peaceful Ivorian presidential elections this fall, even as we all pray for our nation’s political meltdown. This latest U.S. Embassy report indicates relevant growing tensions.
- Verlin’s mother and Debbie’s parents are in their 80’s. When we consider their positive spirits, clear thinking, and independent living, that is hard to believe. Debbie’s parents need to move to a one-level home to evade stairs in months to come. She spends a few days here and there to help them sort through 27+ years of ministry memories from Africa and the accumulation of “stuff.” Pray that an explicit provision of a best new living arrangement develops, which is accompanied by the strength and grace to accomplish the move.
- Verlin had oral surgery in late May to prepare for a tooth implant. Ask for complete healing that will not hinder our return to the field.
Your partners in the Gospel,
Verlin and Debbie
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Andersons Witness in Africa.
It is also a brand of bottled water in Cote d’Ivoire where we serve.
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