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Update from the West Family

Note from GapFill.org’s Founder: I just received Kay and John West’s newsletter and thought I would share it.  If you are facing hardship or seemingly insurmountable obstacles in your own life, I hope you will do as the West’s are doing – pray, let go, and let God!  

JohnandKayWestFor as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways . . . Isaiah 55:9

Before leaving for the mission field, we got some wise advice about what not to put into newsletters, such as emotional pleas for financial help alongside photos of emaciated and starving children.  It has been our desire to glorify God in every message we send, and we generally prefer to send newsletters that are uplifting and encouraging. Our Lord has blessed us beyond measure, and has used these jars of clay in ways for His Kingdom far beyond anything we could have hoped for or imagined. Therefore sending missives full of joyous reports has been effortless and sincere.

Yet God has impressed on my heart this time to share some of the heartbreaks we’ve been dealing with. If there were no sorrow, there would be no need for God’s compassion; if there were no grief, there would be no need for God’s consolation. It is in the darkest times that He shines the brightest. We are learning to “let go and let God” and pray that as you read these heartrending situations you will also know and trust in His great love and the hope that is found in Him alone.

One of the biggest challenges we face here is seeing relentless poverty and disease, and simply not being able to “fix” it all. As white Americans, we are persistently sought for solutions. There is a prevalent belief among Swazis that all Americans have infinite resources and infinite wisdom. It is easy to fall prey to believing we must solve every problem and meet every need in our own strength, and it is distressing not to be able to do so when the suffering is so great. We must resist the trap of “playing God.”

As missionaries representing Jesus Christ, we want to do our best to show His mercy and provision. And often we do have the God-given resources and are able to help. Those times are wonderful, and we are careful to always reflect the glory and honor back to Him.a colile

Yet there are many other times when “all” we can do is share a few verses and pray with the one asking for miracles.  In our flesh, this is painful, but we know that it is in these times that we can share the powerful truth that ONLY the Lord is able, that ONLY Jesus is the way.  We must teach reliance on Him alone.

For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength. 1 Corinthians 1:25

Situation #1
During our hospital ministry time a couple of weeks ago, our team encountered a young woman who is in one of the ladies’ Bible study groups Kay leads. Nelsiwe grew up on the streets as a child when her parents were killed in a car wreck and her father’s other wife (remember that polygamy is practiced here) kicked her siblings and her out of their home. She found refuge as a young adult with a kind woman of God in one of the mud hut communities here. However, once she acquired AIDS and tuberculosis, her benefactor was no longer able to care for her with her own meager resources. Nelsiwe begged her stepmother to take her in, to no avail. After sleeping in a neighbor’s outdoor toilet for several nights, she made her way to the hospital seeking medical help. She is very sick with TB and wound up spending the night in a nearby field while waiting for medical care. When we heard her story, we immediately prayed seeking God’s guidance, and then began contacting every resource we knew. No one was able to take her in. With hearts breaking, we bought her a decent hot meal and a warm blanket since it’s winter here, prayed with her and hugged her, and had to walk away, and let go and let God. We continue to check in on her and pray for her and dream of a better way.

…so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand…, and after you have done everything, to stand. Ephesians 6:13

Situation # 2
A thumbs upA few months ago a three-year-old boy, Siyabonga, went missing. Both his mother and great-grandmother attend one of our women’s Bible study groups. Though a missing persons report has been filed with the police, no trace of the child has been found. It is believed that the boy was either sold into child slavery and taken to another country, or ritually murdered for “muti”—a potion concocted by witch doctors here and believed to produce power for recipients. We will never give up hope and continue to pray for answers, but we are also called to grieve with this family and to help them let go and let God.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5

Situation #3
Recently we were teaching a message from God’s Word with some fellow missionaries in one of the villages. All went well until we began sharing communion with the believers there. Suddenly, a drunk man began shouting nonsense words and causing quite a disturbance. While we continued passing out the elements, determined not to let anything disrupt this holy time, another man happened by. Apparently this second man had just gotten off from working in the fields nearby, noticed the commotion, and decided to help us to pacify the first man. A shoving match rapidly ensued, ending quite abruptly when our “benefactor” picked up a large rock and hit the drunk man in the head with it, causing blood to spurt all over. This in turn caused everyone to scatter because of the fear of AIDS transmission. Apparently the drunk fellow was ok because he continued his ranting and raving. All this happened in a matter of minutes, and all we could do is let go and let God because it was all out of our control. We continued to minister to the stragglers, but left rather shaken up. This story is not over. In an amazing turn of events, we met the girlfriend of the inebriated gentleman a couple of days later when we were ministering at the hospital and led her to the Lord! Stay tuned!

…”My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness…” 2 Corinthians 12:9

Situation #4
Ncamsile is Kay’s interpreter, ministry assistant, and close friend here. This single mother of six lives in a mud hut village amongst the poorest of the poor. Since she’s started serving the Lord full time, she has been abundantly blessed in many ways through God’s grace poured out through many of you, yet life is still brutally hard for her in Ncamsile with heavy load--still smilingmany ways. Ncamsile never complains and is always full of joy. We were horrified to find out recently that she and her young children had been without enough food to eat all week as she had recently had to pay school fees for her older children and had to make the brutal choice as to how best to use the little money she had. Thankfully we were able to intervene and she and her kids now have enough to eat again. However, we know we cannot magically transport her to a better life; we are unable to meet all her needs. No matter how much we love her, in fact because we love her so much, it is imperative that we let go and let God.

So shall My word be that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it. Isaiah 55:11

Situations #5, 6, 7,…

  • Being far away from family members in crisis and unable to come alongside them—let go and let God.
  • Knowing there are children in desperate need but there is a power-hungry bureaucrat in the way, all we can do is wait for the permit for the children’s home and—let go and let God.
  • Feeling we can’t face one more day of the incessant need all around us—let go and let God.
  • Sitting in an African hospital for emergency surgery for my hubby—let go and let God.a kids
  • Facing the reality that we can’t heal every sickness, can’t feed every mouth, can’t force a man to stop beating his wife and can’t encourage her to leave because she has no place to go and no way to support herself or her children, can’t stop every death—let go and let God.
  • Attending the funeral of yet another child—let go and let God.

The story is told in Luke 5 of fishermen not catching any fish all night. Jesus told them to cast their nets and suddenly their nets were so full of fish the nets began to break and they
had to get help to collect all the fish. This teaches us that we can do nothing on our own strength. All we can do is what we are called to do to the best of our God-given abilities, and trust Him for the outcome. In that, we rejoice, and hope that you do as well.

Those who sow in tears shall reap with joy. Psalm 126:5

If this post has left you with an ache in your heart; or if you are facing hardship or seemingly insurmountable obstacles in your own life, we hope you will do as we do—pray, and let go and let God! He is faithful, loving, and good. He is wise, all-powerful, and merciful. He is our ever-present help in our time of need, and He will never leave us or forsake us. Amen! Leaning on His everlasting arms!

John and Kay West are missionaries in Swaziland (A country slightly smaller than the state of New Jersey, ruled by the world’s last absolute monarch. An African kingdom of approximately one million people…who are dying at an astonishing rate) .  Visit the “Items Needed” tab on the GapFill.org website to see how you can help the West Family.  To receive GapFill.org’s blog posts automatically via email, enter your email address in the “FOLLOW GAPFILL VIA EMAIL” box on the right-hand side of the blog and click “Follow”.

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What Happens When You Say “Yes” to God!

I just started an Online Bible Study called “What Happens When Women Say Yes to God”  through Proverbs 31 Ministries.  This is our first week and so far it has been great.   One of the things we are doing today is called a” Blog Hop” where we read each other’s blogs. We had a set of questions to pick from and since my answer pertained to GapFill.org I thought I would post it on the blog and make GapFill.org part of the Blog Hop.  The question, #yestoGod, is to share a time that you said “yes” to what God wanted you to do.  So here goes…

Bible Dedication

As some of you know, Kathy Vanaria, who spent 25 years in Papua New Guinea (PNG) translating the Bible into Mesem, was returning to PNG in January of this year for the Bible dedication.  Many people from her church organization were going and she also was hoping that I was also planning on going.  She has been telling me about the dedication for the last few years and I had been putting aside the money each month and had saved $4,000 for the trip.  I kept telling her I wasn’t sure if I was going but saved nevertheless.  Honestly, I really was super scared to go.  You see I am a “Marriott” type girl who hates camping, and well…going to the jungle was just beyond a reasonable request.  Even if Kathy and I go waaaay back (old college roommates).

So the time came for me to book the ticket.  I had waited as long as I could and it was a month before the trip so I knew I needed to do something.  I contacted the travel agent that Kathy had given me and days later she sent me the flight info.  Well, I was stopping in counties I didn’t even know were on a map for a price tag of over $5,000.  So that settled it, I wasn’t going.  I had save $4,000 and I knew just what I was going to do with the money.  One of the GapFill projects we had going at the time were hearing aids for Phil Rojak.  He needed them before he returned to his missionary work in Papua New Guinea.  GapFill had only raised enough money for about 1/2 of a digital hearing aid, which of course would be of no value.  So, I knew exactly what I was going to.  I was going to give the $4,000 to Phil so he could return to PNG with 2 digital hearing aids.  Perfect!  I had been thinking about this over the last few weeks and me not being able to get a flight that I could afford was perfect confirmation.  Also, since I really didn’t want to go anyway, this was a “win” for everybody.  But something inside just knew it wasn’t a “win” for everyone.  It was not what God wanted.  I can’t explain why, but I had this inside, gut-wrenching feeling that this was wrong.  I knew my girlfriend Kathy would be disappointed but hey…I was giving her friend Phil his hearing aids so she couldn’t be that mad.  But no matter how much I tried to convince myself this was all good, it just didn’t feel like it was “all good”.  No matter how hard I tried to make this wonderful plan work, it just didn’t.  I just knew God wanted me to go to Papua New Guinea not matter how much I pretended not to hear Him.  I remember thinking, “God, what am I going to tell Phil when he has to return with no digital hearing aids”.  I remember believing God was saying to me, “Not your concern, you have to trust me here”.

Trying to Book a Flight

So I tried for about 2 hours online trying to get flights to work on my own…nothing…I remember I kept thinking.  I don’t get in God, nothing is working and I just kept getting more and more frustrated.  So…what do I do when I want to relax and calm down…you guessed it…I eat ice cream!  So I went downstairs and got a big cup of chocolate ice cream, mixed in some chocolate chips and put some cool whip on top.  Now I could clear my head…

So, after that sugar rush I had some more energy…so I said to God…”Okay, I will try this one more time then I am going to bed”.  It was getting late and I had to get up at 5 am for work the next day.  When I went upstairs I pulled out the itinerary of another couple that was going to the dedication from the Boston area.  I thought, “Let me look and see how they are getting there”.  Well after about 1/2 hour I had managed to find flights that would put me in LA in time to catch the same flight they were going on to Brisbane, Australia then to Port Moresby in PNG then to Lae in PNG which was where I needed to get to.  I remember having two browser windows open as I had one half of the trip in one window and then the PNG flights in another window (you could not book straight through to Lae, believe me I tried).  I calculated the total cost and it was less than $4,000.  So there it was staring me in the face…and I sat there for maybe 15 seconds.  I knew I only had a certain amount of time to hold the flights.  And well…something inside me said, “Just Do IT”… and I did…I just did it.  I hit that “purchase button” on both windows and charged my credit card.  I remember thinking, “God this is soooo crazy… I have no idea what I am doing.  This is soooo out of my comfort zone”.  And then I thought, wait until I tell my husband Bill in the morning, it was now well after midnight.  He is going to think I have totally lost it.

Mesem New Testament

Kathy Vanaria and Joyce in Papua New Guinea with Mesem New Testament

The Morning After

The next morning, as I was kissing my husband good-bye before I went off to work, I told him, “Oh…by the way…I booked my flights to Papua New Guinea last night”.  He just gave me his “unbelievable” look like he does when I come up with ideas that I think are great and he thinks are well… let’s just say…not so great.

When I had got downstairs I had a voice mail on my cell phone.  It was from Brady Forseth, the executive director of Starkey Hearing Foundation.  He said he was traveling for 6 weeks throughout West Africa, India and the Philippines and had heard about Phil Rojak’s hearing aid need and he wanted to let me know that he believed he could help Phil.  He mentioned that he wouldn’t be back into the United States for a couple of weeks, but left his contact info.  I remember sitting in my kitchen with tears in my eyes, almost feeling scared of the immense power of God.  Here was a man that I did not know, calling me from overseas, the morning after I had booked my tickets, to tell me he could help Phil with his hearing aids.  I was stunned!

It Gets Even Better!

Phil_withHeardingAids

Phil with this new digital hearing aids!

But the ending gets even better, Phil was given not just one set of digital hearing aids that would enable him to hear better than he had ever heard before.  But due to his remote location and challenging climate in Papua New Guinea, Bill Austin, the CEO of Starkey Hearing Foundation,  provided a second set of hearing aids for back-up.  This way Phil had an extra pair in case he needed to send the first pair in for repairs or calibration. They even supplied a self-address pre-paid envelope for him to mail them back in.  Two sets of digital hearing aids, given for free.  Something I couldn’t even fathom.

”God is able to do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever!  (Ephesians 3:20-21)

This is the God we are saying “YES” to.  To Him Be the Glory!

Joyce is the founder and executive director of GapFill.org with a masters in nonprofit management.  Visit our “Items Needed” tab on the GapFill.org website to see if God is calling you to “fill in the gap”  for a missionary in need. To receive our blog posts automatically via email, enter your email address in the “FOLLOW GAPFILL VIA EMAIL” box on the right-hand side of the blog and click “Follow”.