Not The End of The Story…

All of us have faced or will face chapters in our stories that may seem like they could never bring a happy ending. Elisabeth Elliot and Marjorie Saint both could have felt that way in the second week of January 1956. 

That was the week they found out their husbands had been brutally killed by the men they were trying to reach with love, hope and God’s gift of eternal life.

That was the week they learned that they were now widows and that their children would never see their fathers again. 

But that wasn’t the end of the story as you can learn for yourself in this recent BBC report containing thoughts from Elisabeth’s daughter and Marjorie’s son and through Jungle Pilot and children’s books like The Fate of the Yellow Woodbee and Pilipinto’s Happiness (written by Elisabeth’s daughter, Valerie).

Sometimes we’ll get to see more of the story. Sometimes we may not get to see every chapter. Still, when we face tear-filled times, may we have the grace to remember they are not the end of the story…and it could very well be that the best is yet to come.

A Tale for October 31st

The Haunted Room. As we look ahead to October 31st, a night when much of the world wants to think of goblins, ghosts and other ghoulish notions, what better title for those seeking extra intrigue? (Read by flashlight or dancing fire flame for added effect!)

Yes, this story presents its fair share (or more!) of mystery, but even before you get into the action there is something engaging about this book. 

Right after the “Contents”, you’ll find a letter from the author, A.L.O.E. – A Lady of England as she was known when her suspenseful tale first hit the presses in 1889. Here is a snippet:

“It is under peculiar circumstances that A.L.O.E. sends forth this little volume. As it is passing through the press its author is preparing to enter on a new field of labour in the East, as an honorary member of the Zenana Mission in India…”

Ah, the Zenana Mission brings to mind another lady of England. Amy Carmichael went to India with the Zenana Mission in 1895 and stayed there until her death in 1951. Amidst her efforts to rescue girls and boys sold into such horrors as temple prostitution, Amy was also a writer though not of fiction (to my knowledge) like A.L.O.E. and a reader. Did A.L.O.E. and Amy ever read each other’s books? Did they ever meet, either in the British Isles or in India?

Such speculations aside, it seems safe to say that Amy would have approved of The Haunted Room if she had read it.

Shed some light on the subject and see (or listen!) for yourself as we move toward October 31st. 

4 Books for Dads and Kids to Read Together

Looking back, some of the greatest influences on my life were the books my dad read to me. Those nighttime hours with their giggles, gasps and pleas of “Just a little more!” are also some of my most treasured memories. 

I know not everyone has a father who read aloud and that not all dads are readers. That’s why I hope a handful of suggested stories could inspire a few fathers, grandfathers, uncles and older brothers to tuck the little ones in or gather them close, turn on a mellow light and open the pages of an adventure. And, don’t forget, the kids could even read to the grown-ups!

Here are my “4 Books for Dads and Kids to Read Together”

Little Britches: Father and I Were Ranchers by Ralph Moody – Hold onto your hats – your cowboy hats, that is! – as you head to Colorado with you51LPv60V6jL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_ng Ralph Moody and his family. Life is rough in the west at the beginning of the 20th century, but Ralph faces obstacles with admirable pluck. While your eyes might shimmer over the losses the Moody family faces in their new home, you will also laugh together at the wild adventures of hardworking Ralph. But be warned, you might just have to read the rest of the series to find out what happens…and you might end up with a bunkhouse full of little cowpokes on your hands!

 

The Chronicles o44280f Narnia by C.S. Lewis – Ok, yes, this is actually seven books instead of one, but they kind of go together…Could you find a better adventure to embark on together than exploring the land of Narnia? Along the way, you can all grow to appreciate the literary skill of one of England’s finest authors. a man who thought deep but cared enough about children to write well and understandably. Ponder the lessons and legacy of the series together. I have a clear memory of my dad pointing out a certain character to illustrate the kind of guy who would make a good date! 

Flight of the Fugitives (from the Trailblazer Series) by Dave and Neta Jackson – I picked this book as an example of the engaging historical fiction that c51BckAEa5bLan make for great shared story times. I haven’t read Flight of the Fugitives in quite some time, but I remember the story of missionary Gladys Aylward. This kind of book can introduce readers to people and places that would otherwise lie unknown. It can help us to better understand the world in which we live as we get to know people who have gone before us and cultures different from our own. Books like this can definitely lead to cries of “Just one more chapter! Please!”

13221561_1627566167563366_9125659327019340017_nThe Bible – Obvious? Perhaps. Yet – on the off chance it isn’t – I had to list this Book of Books. Not a book for bedtime to hold the attention of young ones? Well, you need not start with Lamentations! Try one of the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke or John) or a Psalm like Psalm 139. The Bible has been labeled “the Book our mothers read” (John Greenleaf Whittier). I hope it will also be the Book that our fathers (and grandfathers, uncles and older brothers) read with those they hold close to their hearts. 

Of course, there are so many other wonderful books out there. (Ideas for forthcoming posts a-brewing…) For now, may these four titles give you ideas. Imagine someday that a little one you read to might be looking back on lessons learned and times treasured like I am now. Happy reading! 


Your Turn: Did your parents read to you? What were some of the books you enjoyed most as a child? Or which books do you enjoy reading to children now? 

Unbound: Thoughts on The Power of Written Words to Speak over Time

Have you ever come across something in a book written years ago and connected with it? I recently experienced this when I skimmed through The Journals of Jim Elliot. On page 364, Jim wrote,

“Overnight on the hook off San José, Guatemala…If I ever travel here I must make sure to see Antigua, the third largest city, thrice destroyed by the volcán ‘fire and water.’ It is Spanish colonial….” [1]

That paragraph caught my eye because I know that place. While, I think Jim Elliot never did get to Antigua, Guatemala, knowing that he was so close and wanted to go there gave me a connection to the man who wrote these words more than half a century ago.

That’s the beauty of books, isn’t it? They – especially the great ones – are unbound by the shackles of time. Long after mouths are voiceless, words written may still touch the lives of thousands or hundreds of thousands or even millions. 

On the one hand, that’s a huge blessing. We can reap such encouragement from reading the wise words of those who have gone before us, who faced what we face, who learned the lessons and are willing to help us escape needless pain, who recorded the faithfulness of God and so remind us that He was and is still working. Much of The Journals of Jim Elliot could be described by those statements.

On the other hand, the reality of this power of written words could give us pause before we pen our thoughts. Of course, it’s fine to ink ideas that are not meant to be shared, but what if your journal were unbound to the reading world like Jim’s? What would the words you – or I – wrote in our reflections say? If someone read them, to what (or whom) would they say you or I was most connected? And to what/whom are we linking our readers? 


[1] The Journals of Jim Elliotedited by Elisabeth Elliot, (Grand Rapids: Revell, 1978), 364. 

From Potter’s House: A Little of What I Carry with Me

Potter’s House, Guatemala City

I’d like to share with you a bit of this place that is part of my story. Would you stop by for a moment?

When you think of a “potter’s house” you might think of a potter sitting at his potter’s wheel, turning cool, soft clay into pots, mugs, bowls and other useful treasures.

Sometimes you might see him reworking vessels that started to go wrong. He refashions them carefully and then – ta-da! – the piece of artwork is ready for service. 

Just like in Jeremiah 18:1-4 (ESV) – 
The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD:
“Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do.”

Well, at this Potter’s House, there is no wheel and there are no newly-made pots. But you can still see the work of the Great Potter turning clay into useful treasures. He has many helpers who work hard themselves, but when it comes down to it, they stand in awe of the Great Potter’s handiwork.

You’ve figured out, right? The Great Potter is the Lord God, and at Potter’s House in Guatemala City He is in the business of forming and shaping lives – even reworking lives that were getting bent out of shape. His people are His vessels of clay as well as His treasures.

If you want to read more about the story and work of Potter’s House, you can at www.pottershouse.org.gt. The site does an excellent job of explaining more about the ministry.

What I want to share with you is a little of what I carry with me from Potter’s House

1) There are no social barriers to God. The people Potter’s House serves work and live in the garbage dump. They don’t have wealth, position or possessions to make them “valuable”. Yet God cares about them as His special creation. He cares about them as much as He does middle-class and wealthy people. (Vice versa, God cares about wealthy and middle class people as much as He does poor people.) One story that’s been told at Potter’s House is about two little girls who prayed for a long time for three people. Those three people were a) an alcoholic from the garbage dump, b) one of the Guatemalan leaders of Potter’s House – for his English to improve especially; and c) for a particular President of the United States! Talk about stretching across social boundaries!

2) No one is out of God’s reach. Those people in the garbage dump may feel forgotten at times, but thanks to the work at Potter’s House, for thirty years they have had an opportunity to see that God has not forgotten them. Remember the alcoholic those two little girls prayed for? What were the “chances” of him ever giving up drinking there along the edge of Guatemala City’s garbage dump? It certainly couldn’t be said that he had a great support network. However, the Great Potter touched his life and made him a new vessel in His hands!

3) When God’s people see His work, it’s awesome. Have you ever been astounded by the skill of a craftsman as he works? That’s how I (and others) have felt as we’ve watched the Great Potter reshape lives at Potter’s House. Like I mentioned, the Great Potter has quite a few workers there who work hard and well, but – if we have our thinking straight – we know that God is directing everything. We, too, are only vessels in His hands. Of course, we know God is working all the time, but we don’t always feel like we can see it. I think this is especially true for the Americans who visit Potter’s House. In a way, Potter’s House ministers to these Americans just as much as to the Guatemalans because it is a place where they get to see the Great Potter at work. They come away with a sense of awe…and maybe with the clay of their lives reshaped a little! That’s why I say “when God’s people see His work, it’s awesome.”

There you go, my friends, that’s a little of what I carry with me from the Potter’s House in Guatemala City. There is so much more I could say and so many stories I’d like to share, but this is a start, and I’ll save the rest for another time.

Until then, I hope you know the thrill of seeing the Great Potter at work and feeling His hand on your life.

A Love Story

On Valentine’s Day, 1948 a young couple celebrated their wedding. One witness remarked that “not many are privileged to see such love and total giving on the faces of two people. I will never forget it.”* Little did the bride and groom know that sixty-eight years later, their story would be known the world over. 

I first “met” the groom Nate Saint through the pages of The Fate of the Yellow Woodbee by Dave and Neta Jackson, a book my dad read to me. Later, I discovered more about Nate when an excerpt from Jungle Pilot appeared in my school reading book. I savored that story and years later tracked it down to read it again. Combine those experiences with stories from my dad about working at a mission hospital in Ecuador, and Nate was stamped on my hero list!

However, it wasn’t until this past month that I actually read all of Jungle Pilot: The Gripping Story of the Life and Witness of Nate Saint, Martyred Missionary in Ecuador by Russel T. Hitt. It lives up to the “gripping” claim and is the perfect post for this week because the story of Nate Saint is a love story. Or maybe it’s actually a loves story. Let’s look at these “loves” one at a time.

Jungle Pilot is the story of a man who loved to bring others into his corner of the world through writing. “I don’t want to be a great writer but I long to express myself…I want to share the stories that are unfolding all around me. Mine would only be attempts, to be sure, but these attempts plus helpful criticism from others may help me eventually to be able to tell stories with the flavor that can only come from an eyewitness.” (pg. 11) This love poured itself onto letters, journal entries and articles. What a mercy that it did because these words eventually formed the structure of Jungle Pilot

Early on in Jungle Pilot, we see that Nate’s story is also the story of a man who loved flying. After his first experience behind the controls with his brother Sam, “he never could get enough of airplanes,” (pg. 46). Speaking from personal experience, it is a thrill to hold a plane’s controls! Nate possessed a keen mechanical ability as well. His sister-in-law once said, “I wearied of nuts and bolts for dinner,” of the dinner table conversations they shared (pg. 52). As Nate worked his way through Army Air Corp training, it seemed that he was made to be a pilot. Then – just as he was about to start flying – his childhood nemesis osteomyelitis returned. Although he stayed in the Army, he would never fly there. “I was heartbroken,” Nate reported (pg. 66) about his shattered dream. However, he soon got back on his feet. It’s a good thing he did, too, because within a few years, Nate found himself flying as much as he could. No, he wasn’t dodging or dropping bombs with the Army, but flying with Missionary Aviation Fellowship (MAF) had plenty of dangers lurking in short runways, unexpected downdrafts and more. Thankfully, he had people around him to help him bear the load of work and worry. Of those people, a few stand out, especially his family.

Undoubtedly, Jungle Pilot is the story of a man who loved his family dearly. You’ll have to read how Nate and Marj met for yourself. (God writes the best love stories, doesn’t He?) The love evident at their wedding only grew deeper with time. Once Nate wrote to Marj about their wedding: “If I had known you before as I know you now, I would have answered the preacher with a shout instead of a quiet ‘I do’.” (pg. 183) This real-life love extended to their children as seen in Nate’s response to the news that Kathy was born. (He was in Panama at the time for medical care while Marj was in Ecuador.) “Thank God for the wonderful news in the telegram…Honey, don’t be afraid to give that little gal lots of loving. She’ll need the practice for when her daddy gets home…I can hardly wait to see our precious baby.” (pg. 139). Later, Stevie, and Phil joined the family.  Amidst all the demands of pioneer missionary work, Nate made time for talking with his little ones, sharing Bible stories and praying with them (pg. 180).

But Nate’s love extended beyond his family making his story that of a man who loved others, even the unloved. He showed love for the the missionaries in his daily service as a pilot, mechanic, handyman and friend. He loved the native Ecuadorians and the Shell Oil workers as he used his skills to help them as well. Then his love reached beyond the jungle barriers to the unknown tribes, even the “Aucas” – known as killers – who could give him nothing in return. After his death, his wife Marj wrote to their children, “For a long time you children have prayed for the Aucas…Daddy would want you to love them and thank our heavenly Father that our prayers for these Indians are being answered,” (pg. 286).

Yes, Jungle Pilot is the story of a man who loved writing, flying, his family, and even strangers. Yet there is one more love left and it’s the greatest love of all. Jungle Pilot is the story of a man who both loved God and trusted God’s love. Of one life-threatening experience, Nate wrote, “I wasn’t afraid to die…And more important, I knew that God loved me like a son. The proof of His love was His real Son who suffered in my place on a Roman cross at Calvary,” (pg. 91). If you read Jungle Pilot, I think you will agree that it was this love that fueled everything else Nate did. This was the love that compelled him to say, “May His will be done,” (pg. 66) when he realized his Army pilot life was grounded. This was the love that inspired him to have engraved on his and Marj’s wedding bands Psalm 34:3: “O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together.” It was this love that emboldened him to serve the missionaries under hazardous conditions to help them in “giving the Word of Life” (pg. 35). Lastly, it was this love that enabled him to live out this verse: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends,” (John 15:13, KJV) on January 8, 1956 when he gave up his life for the Aucas because “they too were men for whom Christ died.” (pg. 35)

There’s so much more I could say, so many stories I didn’t share. I hope you’ll get an opportunity to read Jungle Pilot for yourself and be able to feel like an eyewitness to Nate Saint’s story. May we all know what it is to love to do good things and to love people. Even more importantly, may we know the love that the heavenly Father has lavished on us – both on Valentine’s Day and every day – and may it be the fuel for everything else we do.  


If you would like to read Jungle Pilot, you can get both your own print copy AND audiobook version by making a donation of $10 or more to Missionary Aviation Fellowship (MAF) this month (for first-time donors).  

* Russel T. Hitt, Jungle Pilot: The Gripping Story of the Life and Witness of Nate Saint, Martyred Missionary in Ecuador, with an epilogue by Stephen F. Saint (Grand Rapids: Discovery House Publishers, 1997), 122. All quotations are taken from this book unless otherwise noted.