13 November 2006

Hundreds and HUNDREDS of Candles

So, last Sunday (the 5th), I turned the big 2-5! It was kind of low-key. I was in L.A. for a conference, so I got together with a few friends for dinner the night before and had lunch and dinner with some new friends on my actual birthday. It was great. I'd really been looking forward to 25. I just KNOW it's going to be wonderful. Well, the day before my b-day, I come to find out that one of the presenters at the conference, informed his audience that you are no longer cool after 24 (to teenagers). I was mortified (not really--I found it kind of amusing, and have since been told that this does not apply to me)! The second blow came when my 5 year-old nephew was reminiscing (this weekend) about helping me blow out my "hundreds and hundreds of candles!!!!" I have to face it, I'm getting old. And I LIKE IT!!!!

22 August 2006

Need a Job?

I had some circumstances, today, that required me to drive my mom to work this morning. As I drove back to the main street, I noticed a few gatherings of hispanic men along the road. It was a normal occurrence, but I had totally forgotten about it.
These men weren't causing trouble, but they were talking to each other and looked expectantly at EVERY car that passed them.
I used to drive down this street fairly often, and sometimes you would see some waiting into the afternoon. These men simply wait for somebody to hire them for the day, or even for a few hours. I've always wished I had a job to give them. I expect they are hard workers.
Today, I prayed as I passed them that God would provide for them and their families. And I thanked God for the desire they had in their hearts. As I continued on my way, I thought about a scene from Cinderella Man, set during the depression, where James Braddock (played by Russell Crowe), must stand and wait, every morning, to be picked (or not picked) to work that day. Every man standing there needed work, desired worked, and tried, how they could, to find work. But unfortunately, there weren't enough jobs to go around.
I feel a bit like I'm babbling, but felt like writing some of my thoughts from my head.
Thank you Jesus, for day laborers, for those who give them work and for the patient attitude they have in waiting on your provisions. May you bless them immensely. Amen.

01 June 2006

Out of the Mouths of Babes

Yesterday, I went to my parents' house for dinner with my sisters and their families. My sister, Heidi, and her family just arrived back into the area after a couple years in Alaska, a couple years in Oregon and the last year in Alabama (just across the border from Florida). Her husband's in the Coast Guard. Following is a conversation I heard between my niece, Cheyanne, who is six and her cousin--my nephew--Samuel, who is almost five.

Samuel: I'm almost done, Madison--I mean Cheyanne.

Cheyanne: Who's Madison?

Samuel: Madison is my friend from Alabama.

Cheyanne: What's Alabama?

Samuel: Alabama's the city I used to live in, but now we're moving to California--Actually I'm in California.

Cheyanne: Oh. OK!

I loved it.

This reminded me of an entry my mom showed me from her journal from when we moved out to California from Illinois. I was almost three. On the way here, we visited my grandparents in Kansas, my grandma asked me if I was moving to California. I said, "Yeah, but we're moving to Petaluma first." (Obviously because we were moving to Petaluma, California)

Fun stuff. Kids are great!

14 May 2006

I Know You, Do You Know Me?

I feel like I make a great effort to get to know, and REALLY know the people I am around regularly. And even, some I only see from time to time. But I came to a realization tonight. I don't think they know me as well as I know them. I'm trying to figure out if it is because they don't want to work at or try to get to know me, or if I just put on that good of a front. I wonder. I think I NEED somebody to know me.

07 May 2006

Just another way God uses Starbucks!

No matter how evil you or I think Starbucks is, God uses it for AMAZING things!

Tonight, my Girls Bible Study girls and I were set to head to the Claire's Outlet, but called and found that it was closed. So, I suggested we go to Starbucks and use the giftcard I just received.

Well, the first thing God does is makes the total for 5 drinks EXACTLY $15--exactly the amount of the giftcard. How likely is that? For the next 20-30 minutes we just hung out, chatted, played checkers, spelled words we will never use in regular life (you know Starbucks is promoting a movie about the National Spelling Bee). Just before we were going to leave, the girl who had been sitting behind us, apparently doing schoolwork--a girl who smiled at me on our way in--said hello and asked me if she knew me from somewhere. I didn't recognize her right away, but she asked me if I had worked at Mt. Gilead. I told her "No, but I've been there." She then asked me my name and I asked her hers. Upon hearing her name, I knew immediately where we knew each other from. We had attended Vacation Bible School at Hessel Church in Sebastopol in junior high. That was over 10 YEARS AGO and she recognized me.

I am certain God was a part of this. She asked if we were a Bible Study and then asked where we go to church. She said she had just returned (two weeks ago) to her walk with Christ and was looking for a church in Petaluma. She will be coming next Sunday. God puts us exactly where he wants us, when he wants us to be there. I never ever expected him to use me/us in Starbucks today how he did. Honestly, I felt a little guilty about going to Starbucks instead of holding Bible Study and discussing the Bible. Instead, God had us living like Christ in Starbucks for one girl who needed to make a connection to a local church. God is ALWAYS in control (even when I think I am).

Thank you, Jesus, for using me in your timing and not mine.

20 April 2006

Cambodia, Here I Come (again)

My Dear Friends & Family,

I’m so excited to have the opportunity this summer to return to Cambodia, with Hope Chapel (Santa Rosa, CA) to serve a Foursquare Children of Promise (FCoP) Orphan Home. I would love to share a little about last year’s trip and how you can support me this year.

Last year, I was blessed and amazed by the outpouring of support you showed. Your prayers, kind words and financial support are eternally appreciated. It’s hard to put down in words how much of an impact you have made. After an entire day of plane travel, we arrived in Phnom Penh (Cambodia’s capital). Upon arrival, we visited the national training center, received a short “orientation” from Anna Blake (the team coordinator for FCoP in Cambodia) and had our last western-style dinner, before spending one night and traveling by bus for two days to reach the Chhuk Orphan Home in the Oddar Meanchey Province.

We were immediately and whole-heartedly welcomed by the orphans and the staff at the home where we spent the next week digging, laying brick, pouring cement, painting (88) shutters & railings and window frames. Also, we blew bubbles, made crafts, had a puppet show, learned Khmer (the Cambodian language—I can count to 29), taught English, played soccer, dodgeball, and baseball, and so much more. We ate pork & rice for nearly every meal. Yes, even breakfast-although a great alternative was the fresh French Bread sold by young girls in the town. One loaf cost 500 Riel (about 12.5 cents). The peanut butter we “smuggled” into the country was delicious on this bread.

We instantly loved the children, who were such a bright contrast to the children we saw begging on the streets of the larger cities. Although, they had lost so much, they knew that life has so much more to offer than poverty and approached each day as a blessing. The time to say goodbye came much too quickly. On the way home, I had the opportunity to tour Angkor Wat and other beautiful temples in Siem Reap (including one featured in Tomb Raider), shop in the Russian Market in Phnom Penh (what deals I made), and a couple days of site-seeing in Hong Kong. All of this was amazing, but none of it compared to the time we spent with our friends in Chhuk.

This year, our current plan (which is subject to change—as we discovered last year) is to travel to the Ratanakiri Province in Northeast Cambodia (near the Thai and Laotian borders). We are expecting to build a cafeteria and also hope to offer a dental clinic, as one of our team members is a dentist. The area we are headed to can be best described as very tribal. Many of the people do not wear modern clothing and each of the 12 tribes in this province has its own distinct language.

I am eager to embark on this adventure and look forward to sharing with you upon my return. I would be blessed to share this experience with you. Would you like to have a part in this adventure? The most important way to get involved is to pray for me, and the team, in the months leading up to our trip and especially during our trip. You can also support me financially. The approximate cost, per person, will be $1800.00. Please pray about how you might be able to support me. Thank you for your love and support.

Go to warmblankets.com to read more about Cambodia and the FCoP Orphan Homes and visit www.hopeforcambodia.net to learn more about this year’s team, the project and our journeys—both here and overseas.

Love and Blessings,

Liz Jones

Please email me to let me know you are praying for me, or to find out where to send financial support.

28 March 2006

Invisible Children

Dear Friends & Family!
Sunday night I got the opportunity to see an amazing film for the second time. The film is called "Invisible Children." It was made by three young men who left for an adventure in Africa the same day the war with Iraq began. They weren’t sure exactly what story they would come back with, but they knew they were entering dangerous territory. Initially they wanted to get into Southern Sudan, but ended up documenting children in Uganda who have been deeply impacted by the Ugandan war.
Let me share my paraphrase of the situation there and what these young filmmakers documented. Each night thousands of children walk into the cities to sleep under verandas, in hospitals, anywhere they feel safe from the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) which has made a habit of abducting children to brainwash and train into warriors, to abduct more children, etc and oppose the government. The founder Alice Lakwena, and the current leader, Joseph Kony, of the LRA claim to be led by a spirit and use witchcraft and intimidation as they lead their soldiers. Children as young as 5 are daily exposed to brutal killings in order to desensitize them and mold them into child soldiers.
One boy, Jacob, in the film said this:
"I have nothing. I don’t even have a blanket. We don’t have anything to do with food. Maybe we can eat once a day…so it is better when you kill us. And if possible, you can kill us, kill us. For us, we don’t want now to stay. …no one taking care of us. We are not going to school…" Jacob and his brother escaped from the LRA after their older brother was killed.
I first viewed this film, with some girls from my church about a year ago. Afterwards, we all just sat their and asked, "What can we do about this?" Children’s lives are much too precious to just ignore. The filmmakers have since formed a non-profit organization devoted to making the public aware of this situation and taking whatever steps they can to stop it. See, the American government knows about this situation, but when the filmmakers went to Washington to ask what they are doing about it, they were told that they needed to see the American people take an interest in the troubles in Uganda. You should check out their website to find out more: www.invisiblechildren.com.
My friend, Kara, works for Invisible Children in San Diego, and is sending me a few copies of the DVD to share with people I know. I am hoping to show the film to whoever would like to see it within the next few weeks.
Besides donating money (which is of course a great thing to do), one way I am planning to support Invisible Children, is in taking part in their "Global Commute Night." On April 29th, in 136 cities all across the country and a few in other countries, people are taking to the streets and doing just what the children of Uganda do every night, walking from their home to a safe-place, where they can sleep for the night, without fear of being abducted. I’m heading to San Francisco (the location hasn’t been solidified—but Union Square is what they think) that night. Will you join?
I know my few paragraphs can’t even begin to describe the impact this film has made on me and so many others. I hope you will visit their website and that you will have the opportunity to view the film as well. It is truly heart-changing.
I love you all, and I thank God for the protection he has provided me each night.

10 March 2006

Doors are opening in North Korea!

I received the following email today at work. This is so exciting. I honestly don't know much about North Korea, but I know enough to know that this is a monumental occurrence.

North Korea Allows Foursquare Prayer Teams

The North Korean government has agreed to allow entry of up to 300 people at one time to pray over their nation and in their cities!

Rev. Dayoung Kimn, a Korean/American Foursquare leader and LIFE Pacific College graduate, is organizing prayer teams, a large conference, an English camp for students and various sports outreaches.

Rev. Kimn has done a great deal of work in China and has been sending supply containers into North Korea for the past two years. His petitions to the government were granted the first week of March, allowing ministry teams to enter the county for the 10 weeks between August 10th and October 10th.

Rev. Kimn is appealing to local Foursquare churches and individuals to pray for these outreaches and consider joining him in going to North Korea during this historic opportunity to reach a nation that has traditionally been closed to the gospel.

If you would like more information about how you or your church can be involved in a World Impact Team to North Korea please call Foursquare Missions at 888-635-4234 Ext. 4320 or email: teams@foursquare.org

So who wants to go with me? This would be friggin' amazing (Sorry--I don't usually use such "language," but I am really fired up about this)!!!

22 February 2006

Two Sponges

This afternoon, I took a moment to ask myself, "When is the last time you got genuinely excited about sponges?" Well, honestly, I can't remember. But in the last two days, I encountered two people who were extraordinarily excited to receive two sponges. And these weren't your top of the line bath sponges. They were more like 4 for a dollar (at the Dollar Store), regular old kitchen sponges.

Sponge Story #1:
I met Esmerelda about a month ago. And for the last four weeks, every Thursday, I've visited her in her neighborhood. Every week she would run out and say hello and ask us what "goodies" we brought. Now, before I go any further, I need to tell you Esmerelda is about 6 or 7 years old. She is part of one of many families in Papago Court that I have the privilege of delivering groceries to--families, who basically can't afford to buy enough groceries on their own.

Each week, I am a part of a group that delivers 200 bags of groceries to two adjacent streets in Santa Rosa. Esmerelda is such a fireball of energy and excitement. Maybe my second week out I told her, we would be coming back that Saturday for a party. That was all she had to hear--she would be there. That Saturday, as we were setting up tables for a BBQ; chairs for a mini-church service; and putting out clothing, backpacks and other supplies to give away, I said to Esmerelda, "See--Didn't I tell you we would have a party?" She quickly responded, "This isn't a party, this is just a bunch of stuff." I suppose she was right. The stuff doesn't make the party. About an hour later as I was turning the jump rope, I asked her if it was a party yet and she whole-heartedly agreed. The next Thursday I saw Esmerelda carrying a bag of groceries with extra bread and boxes of donuts packed on top. As she carried this back to her house, she called over her shoulders, "I'll be right back for some more GOODIES!" It was one of the most precious things I ever saw.

You, quite possibly, are wondering where the sponges come in. This week we went out to Papago Court on Tuesday instead of Thursday. Esmerelda didn't come out right away, but when she arrived, we all knew. She brought home a bag or two of groceries and then came back out to play (A lot of kids come to help distribute groceries and meet new friends like Esmerelda). When we had one bag left, Esmerelda hopped up into the truck and looked inside and saw two sponges at the top of the bag. She was ecstatic. She grabbed them and claimed them for herself. Immediately she rubbed them (both) on her face and proceeded to "wash" everyone else around. In time she shared one sponge with Katie (one of the kids who came to help) and the two of them continued washing anyone they could reach. I've never seen kids have so much with a sponge that wasn't wet.

I never, before, could have believed that about $0.50 worth of sponges could be such a blessing to one person. But Esmerelda changed my mind.

Sponge Story #2
Recently I met a woman who needed help. She needed groceries and gas. She had just found out that her husband (or ex-husband) had cleaned out what little money she had in her bank account. With two teenagers and a seven-year old to feed, she was feeling desperate. I honestly was a little overwhelmed by her problems, so I asked one of the pastors to speak to her. He talked to her for a while and prayed with her and took her to get some gas. We refered her to Hope West for groceries, but I was afraid her message on their machine wouldn't be picked up right away, so I got her number and told her I would call her before I brought her some groceries.

Starting at about 2PM I tried to call, but the phone just rang and rang. So, I just left the groceries in my trunk and determined that I would call her the next morning. I tried, but still couldn't get through, but she called me and gave me her address and explained she would be home for the next two hours. She offered to come to me, but I wanted to make sure to get her a gallon of milk and a few other items. About a half hour later, I made a quick trip to Safeway and then made my way to her house. When I arrived she was on the phone, but told the person on the other end, that her "friend, Liz" was there. I was honored that, without really knowing me, she called me "friend."

For the next 20 minutes she shared the details of her life with me. The painful moments of the last few years and specifically the last few months. She shared that she was raised in an atheist family, but through a friend, came to church and experienced God's love and forgiveness for herself. This woman has been broken before and knows she will make it through this, but still struggles with how and why. She appreciated the limited scripture I could share with her and was pleased to have me pray for and with her. As we were talking, I understood why God didn't allow me to "drop off" the groceries to her the night before. She didn't NEED the groceries, she NEEDED the encouragement, a listener and a partner in prayer. As I was about to leave, she looked at the top of the groceries and exclaimed, "SPONGES! I needed these." God surely provides what we NEED.

I look forward to sharing with her in the future. Please pray for this woman.

REMEMBER: God will provide all your needs.