Friday, December 30, 2011

Who are God's Children? Meeting Sara

12/30/11
The past few days have been heavy for me. Wednesday we went to the Rosemoor Rotary Home for the Elderly, and today we were at Bethdseda Hospice Home and Children's Home. The people we met blessed me, and my heart is broken for them.

I was slightly out of my comfort zone at the elderly home, as not many of the residents spoke English, and many were blind or battling dementia, which made making small-talk rather difficult. We sang some songs and danced around a bit, which was fun, but we would be there for a while and I wasn't sure how I would pass the time. Paul and Courtney were put to work shaving some old men's beards. We were thinking we could polish some of the ladies' fingernails or wash hair, but we were waiting on instructions from the nurse... so I went outside with my kids to get some fresh air and say hello to some of the residents there. That's where we met Sara. She spoke English!She began chatting away, mentioning several times that she was VERY OLD: nearly 100 years old (I am not sure how near 100, as she looked really great.) She started to share that everyone she loved: her mom, dad, brothers, husband, one of her two sons, were all dead already. She missed her home in Queenstown, and felt very lonely. One of her legs was an artificial leg, which bothered her. She told me she had a hard life. I asked her more questions about her childhood and her family, and she just beamed. I told her how happy we were to be in South Africa and how beautiful we thought it was here, and she seemed very pleased. Then, I asked if I could pray for her. I prayed fairly simply that God would fill her with his peace and joy, that he would provide comfort and that he would let Sara feel how loved she was. Tears just rolled down her cheeks. She told me quite proudly that she had been going to church since she was Violet's size, and even had her own Bible. We continued praying, thanking God for being a good God, and I thanked God for Sara etc. And the tears just kept rolling down her cheeks. "Donkey, Donkey" she said, which means thank you in Africaans. It amazed me actually that she felt like I blessed her that day, when she was the one who blessed me. What an inspiration to see an old woman who was in the end stages of a much more difficult life than I could probably ever comprehend, and the joy she had in her Lord Jesus Christ.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Do You Believe in Miracles?

December 28th
The plan: to make a pot of soup and bring it through the Blanco Township to deliver portions of it to any elderly, sick or women who have just recently had babies. The soup was a hearty blend of chicken, carrots, cabbage and beans with various herbs and seasonings. It simmered over the fire all morning, so by early afternoon we were ready to set out.

We walked as a large group: 14 YWAM, maybe 7 OAM, and a few of the local ladies who knew the most deserving houses, and several neighborhood kids excited to deliver with us. With a couple carrying the soup kettle, Liam being pushed in the stroller, Violet and several other small children being toted on hips or given piggy back rides, it must have been quite the sight, as each stop picked up a few more followers to join us on the mission. At each house three to four of us would head in with the soup to serve and offer a prayer for the residents. The rest of the team would wait patiently and pray for the visit, for the street, or just chat with the people beginning to congregate. We walked the streets delivering generous portions of the soup for over two hours. The pot never ran out.

When we reached the decided upon time to finish, there remained still enough soup for at least one more bowl. I've made large pots of food to entertain before, and I saw the amount of ingredients that went into the soup and the portions that were given... and while it may not have had to be stretched by 5000 or even 500, it was definitely stretched in my opinion. God is a God who provides, and he honors our attempts at helping others.

As if that isn't cool enough, I will continue. Jarryd, Tammy, Lola and I went to serve an elderly gentleman some soup. He was seated in a chair outside in the shade. He didn't speak English, but his name sounded something like "General," so that is what we are calling him. He quickly revealed to us his leg, which was extremely swollen and infected looking. He apparently had a disease called elephantitus. Dorie and Katie came over to join us and look over the leg. We wanted to help him raise his legs, but he was in too much pain to even move it at all. As I began to pray over the man for God's healing grace and mercy, Dorie trickled some lavender oil on the leg. He seemed very appreciative. We ladeled out the soup and said goodbye. As we began to walk away, he got our attention and seemed to be suggesting he wanted to stand up. Jarryd gently assisted him to his feet and a great big grin appeared on his face. He looked completely shocked and thrilled... his leg felt a lot better! He began to actually walk over to go sit in the sunshine to eat his soup.

There was one woman who had delivered a baby 2 weeks prior. Her hemoglobin couldn't have been higher than a 5 or 6, as she looked so anemic with completely white under eyes, pale color, and was experiencing very heavy bleeding. Katie, the midwife on our team, and Dorie went in and served a generous portion of soup. They were able to pray for her and her baby, and they promised to stop back the next day to bring some iron tablets. When they arrived the next morning, the underneath of her eyes had returned to red, and she reported that her bleeding had completely stopped and she was feeling much better (a process Katie thought would take another good week or two with iron supplements.)

God is a God of miracles. And this is only what happened today. We are at 9 total dramatic healings right now on this trip. ANd that isn't counting the emotional healing we are witnessing. People just begin to sob as we pray for them and tell them their Heavenly Father loves them, and that Jesus not only died for them, but he wants a relationship with them. This is incredible. And I am so honored to even be a messenger of God's love. Thank you Jesus!!!

Merry Christmas!

So this is Christmas in South Africa! Beautiful warm weather. No snow, but we did have an African version of a Christmas tree. We actually spent a couple hours Christmas Eve at the beach, which was very nice.

Christmas morning we got up early for breakfast and went to church. We then went to Blanco Township to walk the streets and deliver gift bags of treats and trinkets to 200 children. Next, we went to Kidstop to feed 130 street children Christmas dinner and distribute bags with toiletry items, new t-shirts and little toys.

Went back home to prepare our own celebration: African braai (like a barbeque, with various meats)and gift exchange amongst our team. And a most pleasant surprise: gift boxes from our family filled with goodies! My favorite truffles, little dolls for the girls, fun toys for Liam, pendants for Paul and me with the following verse:
Joshua 1:9
Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified. Do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.

I felt so encouraged to have a little reminder of loved ones back home, and to be able to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior with our kids and new friends. It was a very good day.

Test of Faith

I believe faith is a gift. I do not think it is something we can create as humans. I also believe that God is good to give us what we ask for, so if more faith is what we desire or need, we can simply ask Him for that: for strength, peace etc. Perhaps some people are given more of it than others, or for some it just tends to be more of a struggle. Much like needing to fill up the gas tank of your vehicle regularly, we also need our spirits to be filled regularly. When our car is filled with fuel, we can easily take for granted that we can go anywhere; but if we are not aware of the fuel level, we could eventually run out. Anyone who has ever run out of gas knows it is a very helpless feeling. And the worst of it is sometimes feeling so foolish because it could have been prevented. And the scary thing is, it can actually be very dangerous if left stranded in certain neighborhoods or weather conditions. Is it any different when we run out of faith?

After a wonderful fist week getting situated, and now starting to get into the various ministries, I was faced with my test of faith. It started when Violet threw up. No need to panick though, she is in good spirits and smiling. She says she feels fine. Everything should be fine. Then, a few hours later, she threw up some more. I am thrown into busy mom mode, because it is my job to catch the vomit, clean her up, and offer comfort, while still checking in with Lola and Liam and Paul, and washing my hands as often as I can, trying not to breathe in directly next to her mouth which is just inches form mine as we sleep side by side. Trying to catch a bit of sleep, but staying alert to the slightest movement or noise to signal a need for the bucket. Morning comes. She seems much better. Now just a little diarrhea. We should be in the clear.

Then it hits Liam. And I am faced with the challenge of trying to get a one year-old to vomit into a bucket. He is crying and trying to wiggle away from me, yet wants me to comfort him. Another night on alert, running to Liam repeatedly in the effort to at least salvage the sheets he is sleeping on, because we have already run out of towels and bedding with Violet. Morning comes. He seems much better now too. Yes, they both have some diarrhea, but Paul has gotten Gatorade and something form the pharmacy to help, so all should be good.

Then it hits me. I'm exhausted already from two sleepless nights. I spend hours in the bathroom passed the point of having every muscle in my body hurt from the gut wrenching vomiting. When my body is emptied and dehydrated, I weakly stumble to bed. And the fear sets in.

At this point, the kids still have diarrhea. They won't take whatever Paul got from the store. And I am struck with the realization that I have no idea what we got that has made us so ill. I remember getting the flu while pregnant with Liam and being so concerned that it could send me into labor. Now, similar thoughts are running through my head, and I am afraid to say anything to anyone, because I am also afraid of going into the hospital. And this is where I choose to panick and get mad at God. "What is this? You told me to bring my family here to South Africa, that wonderful things would happen, that it would be good for my family... what is this?" Discouragement and doubt had taken over all hope I had felt earlier about the trip.

I spent the entire next day trying to get rest and cuddle with the kids. While we were definitely getting better, I was still angry at God. I couldn't shake the feeling of defeat. I wanted to give up. I felt like I was worthless, and there was no way I would be able to make any difference in this country. And I realized the enemy had already snuck in and stolen my faith. I was on empty. And the worst part was I was too proud or ashamed to humble myself before God and ask Him to forgive me for believing lies from the enemy. It took a while for me to come around and turn to God in trust again.

I won't claim to understand why we got sick, or what the significance actually was: spiritual warfare or just germs, but I know that whatever the circumstances, instead of asking "where is God?" we should be asking "who is God?" Because our God is the same today as he was yesterday, and he will be the same tomorrow. He is a God of Love Always and Forever. When we choose to hold onto that truth, we dispel the lies the enemy wants us to believe. When we stop believing the lies, the enemy gains no ground. Where there is light, there can be no darkness.

Faith is that choice to focus on the truth. ANd we NEED the Bible and prayer time to refuel often. We can never take for granted that we are fine without the help of God.

Welcome to Out of Africa Missions

Week 1:
We arrived in George on December 14th. We are staying at the Out of Africa Missions (OAM) base. Once upon a time it had been a Bed & Breakfast. The front courtyard faces the mountains. There is a fountain/pond and beautiful flowering trees. The property is quite large, and there are several momma monkeys that live in the area and are known to rummage in the garbage. They are quite adorable looking (especially the little babies holding on) but I imagine they are a nuissance much like raccoons in Minnesota. We have been told not to go exploring in the tall grasses behind the property, as it is likely to encounter some large snakes. As I get the creepy crawlies thinking about that, I fondly think of my sister Christy, and pray for guardian angels to protect the property line.

Everyone is very tired. There are 14 of us traveling from the U.S. with YWAM, including our 3 children: Lola, 5, Violet, 3, and Liam, 1. There is a boarding house/dorm adjacent to the main house where we all sleep. Our family has a bedroom with a private bathroom. Space is definitely tight with a double bed, bunk beds, pack & play and sofa in the room, but it feels cozy. With wooden floors and running water, it is actually larger and much nicer than the shacks in the townships that house families larger than ours.

Day 1 (Thurs): Rest and explore a bit: there is a chocolate shop just down the road... known for truffles and nougats. The chocolate is made here and transported all over the world. It is yummy!

Day 2 (Fri): Weeding at the OAM base. Very good way to thank them for their hospitality. Then a couple hours in the late afternoon at the beach.

Day 3 (Sat): Walk to the market. Took a little longer than expected, so Lola got very tired out, but it was a beautiful walk. We had a wonderful conversation with a couple from Zimbabwe. Interesting to hear about the political tension there. The girls were able to pick some shiny rocks, and try African ice cream. Then we practiced dance I choreographed for team.

Day 4 (Sun): 3 hour church service... amazing singing, dancing and worship! Three languages spoken in the church: Africans, Kosa & English. Afternnon prep for skits and teachings for the week ahead.

Ministries for the week:
Kid Stop: A program for street kids that was started by Youth for Christ. They currently have a building and a day program for the kids, where they feed them 2 meals a day, have activities that are Christian based (songs, games etc. ) They also have a tutoring program to get the kids caught up to their grade level so they can be enrolled in school. They are waiting for staff and funding to launch the boarding house/orphanage phase of the project (the space is ready). So it is quite sad that for now the kids get turned out in the evening to be on their own. We are volunteering there to play with the kids, do skits etc. We will be feeding these kids Christmas dinner.

Options: a ministry which is to help pregnant teens and encourage them to keep their babies, offering christian counseling and practical baby items and food program. It also has a earned income program to help the teens with finding jobs or working at their boutique making cards, jewelry and sewing. We've only been there once so far, and we just helped weed their garden and sort donated clothes and help with some organization.

El Shaddai: minister at a rehab center for adults

Children's Hospital: Visit with the children and their families. Some clowning and praying.

Then back to Kidstop.

Hello to South Africa

December 14th
Wow. After months of leading up to this, we finally arrived to beautiful South Africa. It took a full 3 days of travel to get here (flights to D.C., then to Frankfurt, then to Capetown, then a 5 hour drive to George.)We showed up a bit disheveled and very exhausted. Liam was not a fan of flying, and we were tired of wrestling him on the plane and trying to entertain him in the airports. The girls were troopers, but were definitely dragging by the time we landed.

I gazed out the window of the back seat as we drove from Capetown to George and was amazed at the landscape. I fought through drowsy eyelids to take in the beauty of the mountains. But though all five of us were squished together in the back seat, I drifted peacefully in and out of sleep. And each time I would wake up I would thank God for this opportunity to see this beautiful country. And I felt in my spirit a happy anticipation that wonderful things were to come.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Thankfulness

After celebrating Thanksgiving, a full week-end of festivitities including the turkey, potatoes, salads, pie and so much more, I could not help but reflect on how blessed I am as an individual. I was surrounded by relatives, friends, and church members who love me. We celebrated the holiday in beautiful warm homes. We live in a country where privilege is the norm.

Enjoying the heart-warming comfort of such a time, I felt this strong sense that God was saying "This is what I want for everyone... every child of mine, in all parts of the world, to partake in a feast surrounded by the love of family." It breaks my heart that there are so many people in this world without enough food to put on the table to feed their own children, people with no bed or no home, and far too many people without any family to love them.

Here are some stats about South Africa:
14 million people face starvation
18.6% of children have no parents at all
In 2010, 280,000 people died of Aids
29.4% of pregnant women are infected with HIV/Aids
11.5% of population are refugees from Zimbabwe

Stats about our world (view an amazing 3 minute clip at http://www.miniature-earth.com/)
43% live without basic sanitation
18% without safe drinking water
14% hungry/malnourished
1 out of 100 adults infected with HIV/Aids

If all American Church-goers would tithe, there would be $1 trillion dollars to work with... (actual tithe annually is approximately $100 billion, of which very little is given for missions and development) Something to think about.

There is an amazing quote by Helen Keller that says this:
"I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do."

If you are thankful for the blessings in your life, my challenge to you would be to find your "something you can do" to bless someone else.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

TRUST or FEAR

TRUST OR FEAR

On August 28th, 2010, our son was born. William Ezra Barton. He was our surprise baby. Those who know us well know that a surprise for us was REALLY a surprise, as we had a history of challenges in previous pregnancies, where planning and much waiting and prayer were necessary.

Our first daughter, Ava, was stillborn October 26th, 2004. This was a tremendous loss for us, but through it all, God’s love carried us. And while we were unable to understand why it had to happen the way it happened, in the end I knew that the time we had with her was our gift from God, and the knowledge that God had adopted her into heaven, where we would one day be reunited with her, helped me to move forward with somewhat more of an eternal viewpoint.

So when our little Liam was born, I was thrilled to hold my precious boy in my arms after a fairly smooth labor and delivery. But, several minutes later, some uneasiness entered. His breathing sounded strained. We alerted the nurse, who then took him to watch him for a little bit… which ended up as having him transferred over to the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit.) He was put on oxygen, with tubes up his nose, I.V.s hooked to his arms, a feeding tube down his esophagus, monitors on his chest etc. and placed in an enclosed warming bed. He was diagnosed with pneumonia. He looked so tiny and fragile.

After a long 4 days of watching him closely, unable to nurse him or even hold him much, we were exhausted. I had actually been released at that point, and would be sleeping in the one small family lounge in the NICU, and Paul was going to go home and sleep. I remember sitting on the couch/bed that night and crying out to God, too depleted to even shed tears, “Lord, I don’t know what you are planning. I do not understand why my baby is sick. But I trust you. I believe you are a good God, and I believe you love us. It is important for me to tell you that no matter what happens, I will love you. But, right now, I feel alone God. Could you please just let me know you are here with me? I need to feel your presence.”

As I whispered those words, right in front of me, I visibly saw the image of outstretched arms, and I experienced the physical sensation of a warm hug enveloping me. Then, as quick as it happened, I fell instantly asleep.

I awoke to the knocking on the door, just a brief 10 minutes later. “Michelle, Liam is awake… would you like to hold him? He’s doing really well, so you may even try to nurse him.” As I went to my baby, I realized that I felt unusually rested. And I was incredibly encouraged to see Liam’s breathing and heart rate were nice and steady. After holding him for about 40 minutes, we got him situated back into his bed, I kissed him on the head and went back to my room.

I was struck by the realization at that point that my children were not mine at all. They would always belong to my heavenly father. I was fortunate enough to have the privilege of caring for them, like a foster parent, but the Lord would always have true custody of all of us. This thought is what stayed with me as we brought Liam home two days later. Did we ever praise the Lord!

Strangely, just after his 1st birthday, I was walking along the gravel road at YWAM and contemplating what my role was as “mother” to my 3 precious children on earth. The thought had been presented that as parents we are called to “protect” and “shelter” our children, and that perhaps by entering into missions we would not be doing that properly. So on a cool autumn morning in September, as the sun was rising and painting the sky a beautiful orange, I asked my Father what he wanted me to do as a mom. “God, you know my heart. You know I do not wish any harm or illness on my kids. Please guide me. I feel so strongly that you are leading us into missions… but what if I am wrong… maybe now is not the time to bring our kids. Please just give us more confirmation.”

What I got as a reply that morning was a reference to the Bible: Deuteronomy 6:4. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and all your strength.” As I was walking, I let that sink in. When I got back to my room I looked it up in my Bible and read several verses that followed. “These commands I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you rise.” I knew in my heart that this included trusting in him. I also knew that Jesus emphasized this to his disciples as well in Matthew 22: 37-40, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart with all your soul and all your mind... And you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Wow. I strongly felt God put on my heart that the most important job I have as a mother is to point my children to HIM. How would I be obeying this command if I did not trust the Lord to go where he called me to go? I can make choices motivated by fear… or I can trust in the Lord that he is with us when we reach out to others, and be the example to my kids that I want them to follow.

Isaiah 58: LOVING OTHERS

Isaiah 58: 6-14
“Is this not the fast that I have chosen:
To loose the bonds of wickedness,
To undo heavy burdens,
To let the oppressed go free,
And that you break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out;
When you see the naked, that you clothe him,
And not hide from your own flesh?
Then your light shall break forth like the morning,
Your healing shall spring forth speedily,
And your righteousness shall go before you;
The glory of your Lord shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
You shall cry and He will say, ‘Here am I.’
If you take away the yoke from your midst,
Extend your soul to the hungry and satisfy the afflicted soul,
Then your light shall dawn in the darkness,
And your darkness shall shine like the noonday.
The Lord will guide you continually,
And satisfy your soul in drought,
And strengthen your bones;
You shall be like a watered garden,
And like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.
Those from among you shall build the old ruins.
You shall build up the foundations of many generations;
And you shall be called the Repairer of the Breach,
The Restorer of the Streets to Dwell In.”

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

God, are you saying Africa? (Part 1)

God, are you saying Africa?  posted by Michelle Barton

I said I would start posting some of the experiences that have helped us move in faith with the plan to go to Africa. Plain and simple, some people would like to claim we are crazy... but, while I agree that this is a rather  "wild" adventure for our family, there is a difference between "crazy" and "called." So the question is, how do we know we have been called? This is how it began:

It started as a whisper. I believe it was probably December that I started to have this lingering thought from my heart softly saying "Africa." I didn't make much of it at first. In fact, the first thing I did was use that as inspiration for a dance recital theme, "On Safari." It then started to motivate my movie selections, so Paul and I watched movies like Invictus and Faith Like Potatoes. But there was something about "Africa" in my head that made me start questioning God if there was something more to it.

There were actually many new things going on in our lives at that point: Paul had just taken a job working for another cabinet shop, and I was preparing to close our dance and gymnastics business in order to stay home with our three kids.  We were already spending much time in prayer over these decisions, and felt comfortable giving up control and letting God just steer us. So I asked God what he wanted me to know about Africa.

Shortly after, I noticed in our church bulletin that a team from our church would be going on a short-term mission trip to Malawi.  Paul was already feeling a growing desire to serve the Lord in some more tangible ways too, so I told Paul, "I wonder if God is wanting you to go on a mission trip." I kind of thought God was just preparing me for Paul to be gone a short while. So, still curious about this, we began to voice this thought to a few close friends and relatives. When bouncing this idea off of them, it turned out that what we thought might sound crazy, was actually really normal sounding to them: our brother-in-law knows someone who does regular missions to Africa, and if Paul did want to go, he would even maybe go with. We found out at that time too that one of our new friend's daughter had just been on a mission trip to Africa too, and she had an absolutely wonderful experience. There was also their other good friend who has been working in Africa for years, and perhaps she would be a good contact for us to ask questions to.  Oh yeah, our other friends had an awesome story too about the guy they know in Africa.

Hmmm... so a seed was planted. It isn't that strange to be thinking Africa.

The funny thing is, I was still assuming that God would not intend for me to go... I mean, let's be real.  Paul could be good for this: he has a background as a medic in the Army, he's got carpentry skills, he's strong and outdoorsy etc. I am not these things. I am not putting myself down, I just know I'm better at being a mom. So, why am I the one hearing Africa all the time?

Continued in No Really, are you for sure saying Africa, God?

No really, are you for sure saying Africa God? (Part 2)

No really, are you for sure saying Africa God? posted by Michelle Barton

Okay, we were kind of thinking, that maybe someday, down the road, possibly, Paul might be supposed to go to Africa. Cool. So, while it still seemed that conversations about Africa were popping up all around us, we kind of claimed this as a "not right now" kind of thing. Like, maybe that whispering voice is just a subtle idea, a seed being planted for the future.

Now, as I mentioned in the last post, 2011 started as a year of change: Paul's new job, closing the dance studio and shop, and also we decided to join in the group of people leaving Westwood Church to begin the new church-plant Westbrook. We were excited about these changes. God was really showing up in huge ways to direct these decisions. And he was doing amazing things helping us in our relationship as husband and wife, as well as in other relationships too. We were loving the feeling of being led by God with specific directions, and feeling his presence and blessings when we were intentional to be still and listen to him. We wanted to get better at this.

We signed up for a summer "Life Keys" class at our church in pursuit of just a better understanding of God's calling in our lives (The class is designed to help a person assess their personality, life gifts, spiritual gifts, values and passions in the hope of best putting those things to use.)  Paul was exploring the idea of a more full-time ministry kind of career, and I, wanting to be a good partner, went along for the ride.

One night, being prompted to share with the others at our tables about ways God might be encouraging us or "speaking to us," I felt the urge to throw out my whole "Africa" thing.  I said, "I really think God is trying to get my attention about Africa. I just wonder if he is wanting us to go there or what, because it keeps coming up."

Later that night, one of the leaders of the class announced that he had invited a panel of guests to come in to share the ways they have used their gifts to serve at church and in the community. Of over 30 people who were invited to share, the 3 who responded first were the ones who would be there. So, the panel began to speak and, shockingly, two of them spoke about their mission trips to Africa! Now, I get that missions are a pretty normal thing to be talked about in a church setting, but our church is involved in several missions in various locations. The people who came to speak were sharing about the needs in Africa. And the one gentleman began to pass pictures, photographs of some of the African children he had met, and he handed them right to me. The gal asked the group too, "do any of you have any children's Bibles not being used, because the people are in need of Bibles. In this village, people do not have access to a Bible. There is one Bible with just the first 4 gospels. That's it. People are dying, and they have not had the opportunity to read God's Word."

My thoughts, "Hmmm.... we actually just ordered several children's bibles... we were thinking it would be nice to share with other kids we might come in contact with.  So, I guess the bibles are actually for kids in Africa. Is that it, God? Is this another peice of the puzzle? Are you wanting us to go on this specific mission trip through church, or just send the bibles, or what?"

I went home that night in a good mood about that; God was giving us clues. When we got home, we chatted briefly with our babysitter. She actually brought up that she had picked up a book of mine, "Don't Stop Laughing Now." It was just a book filled with various short stories that are not necessarily about anything, but rather cute and uplifting. After she left, I thought I would take a look at it, as I had actually never read it. (It was a gift I received a number of years ago, and it managed to get lost or left behind on the bookshelf.) I grabbed the book and, completely randomly, opened it toward the back. The page I began to read was a list of African cities. "What?"  Really, it was a list of African cities. The book itself was not actually about Africa, it just happened to have tucked into it a story included in it which happened to have this list of African cities. It went on to share humorous road signs and building signs the author had encountered in her travels. But what I got was a list of African cities.

"So, God, is there a particular city or part of Africa, or particular thing we should do? I'm totally getting Africa, but what is it that we are supposed to do exactly?"

Now it is maybe important to note that my attitude at this point, while being excited to hear God speaking into my life, was still kind of "just give me the bare minimum expectations, Lord. I kind of have plans already."

The next day I felt very strongly that God had imprinted on my heart, "There is not just any one thing you can do to check off a list to gain my approval. I am asking you to care about the children. Care about the African people.. Just as I care for you, I want you to care for them "

So there it was. Our mission was to care. And almost instantly, I went from having a completely ignorant and self-absorbed viewpoint to having a hint of what God's viewpoint is. He cares about his children. All of them.

"I tell you the truth, whatever you did for a brother of mine, you did for me."

Monday, September 12, 2011

Donations

Your generosity is very much appreciated! We are so very thankful to the people who have been offering to donate to our mission.  You may make a donation online at http://www.ywam-mn.org/ and under the tab "contact," you may select the "payment/donation" option. You will then be prompted to select "student tuition and/or outreach," and continue to note that it would be for Paul and Michelle Barton. 

Donations made out to YWAM or the Bartons may also be mailed to our home:
5995 Loring Drive
Minnetrista, MN 55364

Thank you, thank you, thank you! And may God bless you richly in return!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

MISSION: AFRICA

AFRICA, HERE WE COME!

The Mission

Our heart’s desire is to show the love of Jesus in very helpful and practical acts of service to those in need, while sharing the hope and peace that can be found in Christ. Our specific mission will be to show love and care to orphans, to minister to individuals involved in human trafficking, and to offer support to Aids patients and their families.

The Plan

Our family will be joining YWAM this fall and preparing for a two-month outreach to Africa. YWAM is the largest mission sending organization in the world, and we will begin their 12 week Justice and Mercy Discipleship Training on September 26th.  By Christmas, our family will be in an African country, either Mozambique, Tanzania or South Africa (TBD). Here we will be directly involved in the lives of real people.

The Prompting

God has stepped into our life circumstances in such a profound way, both closing doors and opening doors, this past year and a half. As he has steered our lives in this new direction, he has gifted us with great faith and trust.