Jesus Thinks About Me

This is an article I wrote over a year ago, but never ‘published’.  The family information is outdated, but the message remains the same.  I’ve added a family update at the end.

The other night I caught myself thinking about my children….again. And I began to realize that my thoughts turn towards them multiple times a day – without me even realizing it.

Family

Trae, my oldest, is married to Christi – which blesses me with another child to think about. They are teaching English in South Korea and are expecting our first grandson in a matter of weeks. I’ve already spent lots of time ‘thinking’ about him!

Trae and Christi

Tanika is just finishing her junior year of college, studying special education.

Tobi lives with us in Niger and is almost done with 7th grade. He attends an international mission school in the town we live in.

I appreciate that I’ve seen where each of them are living life right now. It helps me when I’m missing them to picture them where they are.

As I lay in bed thinking about my offspring, I realized that I wasn’t really thinking about them, I was praying for them. And I do that often. And then I heard the Lord whisper to me,

“You think your thoughts turn towards your kids a lot? You have NO idea. You – you’re my kid. And you’re always on my mind.”

Then Psalm 139: 17,18 popped into my sleepy head.

How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand. When I awake, I am still with You.

And here I am thinking that I think about my kids a lot!

God’s thoughts towards me cannot be numbered. I live in a desert, so I can tell you from first hand experience, grains of sand cannot be counted! NOT possible.

Neal & Tobi in sand

As I see Tanika in her dorm room or standing in line at the salad bar, and I picture Trae and Christi leaving their cute (tiny) apartment to get on the bus that takes them to their job and the classroom they’ll be teaching in, or I see Tobi playing soccer with his friends, Jesus sees me. Me! He knows exactly where I’m living my life. The creator of the universe spends time thinking about me!

And more than that, He’s praying for me. Romans 8:34 tells us that not only did Jesus die for us and return to life, but he is sitting at God’s right hand….interceding for us! As a Scottish friend of mine says, ‘Have a think on that’! Jesus himself, praying for me!

Why do I think about and pray for my kids? Because I love them. Why does Jesus think about and pray for me? Because He loves me. And I love him – because He first loved me! I hope you’re following my logic here.

The Bible says, if you love me, you will keep my commandments. So that got me thinking (guess I’ve been doing lots of that recently) about how I could show Jesus my love. The answer is pretty straightforward.

By keeping His commandments. There are multiple scriptures that talk about this. Here are a few:

  1. Jn 14:15 If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.
  2. Jn 14:21 He who has My commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves Me
  3. 1 Jn 2:3 And by this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments
  4. 1 Jn 5:2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.
  5. 2 Jn 6 And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, that you should walk in it.

But I particularly love I Jn 5:2 –…. His commandments are not burdensome. He wants us to succeed in obeying Him.

Hausa Bible

He’s not expecting something impossible from us. One of the main reasons He wants us to keep those commandments is so He can bless us.

Now let me go one last step with my thinking. What are His commandments? Well, as a missionary the first thing I think of is the Great Commission.

Probably the most well known version of the Great Commission is Matthew 28:18-20

The Great Commission

…18And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19″Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

The Bible is full of examples of both God’s heart for the lost and His instruction to us to reach them.

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And His heart cry is clearly shown in the Gospels. In Matthew 23 Jesus is preaching to his disciples and to the crowds. He preached this message just a few days before he was crucified.

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones God’s messengers! How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me.”

Isn’t that how we feel when our children face danger, discouragement or difficulty? Or when we see them walking a destructive path? We want to protect them. To gather them to us and shelter them. It grieves us when we have the answer to their problem and they reject it. It can cause us to shed tears.

Do we shed tears over the lost?

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Jesus was weeping over the tragedy of the missed opportunity of salvation. Their answer was walking right there among them and instead of receiving him, they crucified him. This hurt his heart.

In Luke 19 He starts to weep as he approaches Jerusalem and says almost the same thing He said in Matthew 23.

Why was Jesus weeping? He was weeping because He is not willing that any should perish. The Bible clearly says this.

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 2 Pet 3:9

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He was thinking of me. He was thinking of you. And He expects us to think of, no, to reach the lost. He’s given that responsibility to us. He wants us to finish what He began. Honoring and loving Jesus by obeying His call to reach the nations is something He has equipped us to do.

Are you thinking about the unreached? Are you weeping for the lost? Are you reaching them? Are you rejoicing when they find salvation?

Danette & lady

If you love Jesus, you will obey his commandments.

FAMILY UPDATE:

Trae and Christi have our precious 1 year old Judah Neal Childs, and have just announced officially that #2 is on the way (major happy dance here).  They are living in Baton Rouge, LA and are working for Pastor Larry Stockstill and Bethany Church.

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We were hoping to take the little guy with us…

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Tanika has graduated from Oral Roberts University with her degree in Special Ed/Elementary Ed and will be going to Nigeria to teach school in Benin City Nigeria in August.

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Tobi is getting ready to start High School at Sahel Academy in Niamey, Niger – he’s an awesome kid.  Here he is with his nephew.

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Clearly, we are blessed.

Missionary Journey to Nigeria Part 3 — The ‘Where’

Ok.  So I haven’t blogged as much as I expected to.  BUT I have gotten lots of other things done.  Namely completing the children and youth ministry curriculum I had been writing.  Done.  Checked off the list.  That’s big.

Our time here in Benin City has been quite amazing.  We’re really having a lot of fun.  And lest anyone think we are ‘suffering for the Gospel’ on this here mission trip, let me set you straight.  First of all, we are receiving royal treatment by our hosts Archbishop Margaret Idahosa and Bishop Feb & Rev. Laurie Idahosa.  And they’re not even here!  They have an incredible staff here running things.  We are blessed!

This is the building we’re staying in.

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Here Neal and Tobi are discussing on our front porch…not sure what about.

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This is our first room – which is lovely.  But our hosts decided it wasn’t big enough for us so they relocated us to an even nicer room.  I don’t have pictures of the new place yet, but I will take some.

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Tobi has his own quarters next to us… He’s busy ‘doing’ school at the moment.

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This is the lobby of our ‘house’.  Our first room is the one on the left.  Tobi next to us.  We are now occupying the 3rd door .  There are 3 more rooms next to us.
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We are eating 3 meals every day.  And the only thing that I do with regard to those meals is nothing.  That’s right.  Nothing.  Not only do I not have to plan them, I have nothing to do with their preparation.  All I do is walk about 100 yards when the proverbial bell is rung.  We have been eating some wonderful African food.  Love it all.  There is nothing that we’ve eaten that we haven’t loved.  Seriously.  And clean up?  We get up from the table and say thank you.  We don’t even clear our own plates!  Tobi is generally a pretty grateful kid, but I’ve taken it upon myself to remind him of what a blessing this all is – and how easy it would be to begin taking it for granted.  He agreed on all counts.  It won’t be until we arrive home that we’ll see if he’s been spoiled.  When we finish a meal will he just walk away from the table?   For that matter – will I remember to prepare the meal?  Jury’s out on that….

Neal and Tobi enjoying ebba.

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Fingers are the preferred utensils for this meal…

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Now lets go for a walk around this beautiful compound, shall we?

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The main house.

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It really is beautiful.

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From a distance.

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Neal hangin’ with Jesus.

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Just thought this was a cute picture of Tobi.

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Nativity

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Tobi with Moses maybe?

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Now that’s a palm tree!

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Really big tree.  Gotta LOVE the tropics.

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Still on the compound.  It has it’s own mini-jungle.

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Did you know that’s how pineapple grows?

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Small…

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Medium…

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Large… Watch out Dole!

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Banana!

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Mango – not ready yet.

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Lemon – I think…

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Small papaya tree.

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Big papaya tree.  I think Neal is shaking it down. Or maybe holding it up.

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Not sure.

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Another not sure.  But it’s pretty amazing.

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As you can see, this is a very beautiful and very large compound.  An added bonus is that I have been able to run here.  Let me ramble a bit about that.  I’m not exactly sure what qualifies one as a runner.  But I pretty sure I’m not one.  However I have developed a kind of love / hate relationship with running.   I should also be clear though that I don’t really ‘run’.  I jog.  Slowly.  In Niger running is a very hot, dry and dirty undertaking.  And finding a place to comfortably run in clothes that are acceptable and comfortable at the same time…lets just say it’s a challenge.  So imagine my surprise when our first morning here I saw one of the staff walking around the driveway.  In runner’s attire.  I brought my workout DVD, assuming there wouldn’t really be a suitable place for running.  I asked around and found that yes, running here would be totally appropriate.  So that evening – off I went.  If I haven’t been clear – I don’t love running.  However – this run was heavenly!  I was still panting and sweaty. The humidity is unbelievable.   But I wasn’t full of red dirt.  The ‘track’ is the paved driveway around the main house.  I’ve been told it’s 1/4 mile in length.  Based on what I know my pace to be, I’m hoping that it is a bit longer than that.  But nevermind.  It’s a lovely pace to run.  As of today I’ve worked up to 10 laps. Then I walk 5.   Tobi runs with me every morning before he starts his school and is up to 6 laps.  Neal has of course asked Tobi why he is letting his mother outrun him…  But really,  what more can I ask for?  A paved and shaded running track, ‘O Happy Day’ pumping into my ears, mini-squirrels running around,  beautiful landscaping and the smell of beautiful flowers at every turn.  No wonder I couldn’t stop at 9 laps today!

Here’s our ‘track’.  This is a staged picture, but you get the idea.

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The sun was setting as we finished our walk around the compound.  You can see it in the distance.

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Here it is up close and personal.

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Next up will be WHAT we are doing.

But if you haven’t figured it out yet, we’re having FUN!

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What a Week!

I intend to write in detail about all that’s been happening on our journey to Benin City, Nigeria, but first I want to briefly recap this past week.  I know.  It’s  rare that I write anything briefly, but I will attempt it here…

Wrote a blog post

Wrote a partner update

Ran 11 miles

Walked 9 miles

Tobi completed a week of school

Finished writing Children’s Ministry Curriculum

Started and finished writing Youth Ministry Curriculum

Started and finished Curriculum handout

Did some laundry (by hand)

Listened to Neal preach in Faith Arena, his childhood church

Attended Bible School classes with Neal – greeted Hausa students

Listened to Tobi greet the Hausa class – in Hausa

Listened to Neal preach the chapel in the Bible School

Attend and greet evening class students

Greeted students in chapel – introduced and showed ministry video

Attended Faith Arena evening service

Spent time with old friends

Made new friends

Toured Faith Medi-Plex hospital

Ate African fast food

Went shopping – veggies, fruit, red pepper, wood carvings, silver, African clothes

Planned no meals

Ate 3 great meals/day that someone else cooked

Watched several episodes of Prison Break

Sweated buckets (this desert dweller hasn’t adjusted yet to the tropics)

And that was just this past week!

God is so good to us.  Not sure how else to express it.

More pics and details coming soon.

Missionary Journey to Nigeria Part 2

So.  Thursday.  We were thankful to have arrived at our hotel in Abuja and after an attempt to get fuel we decided to wait until morning – the lines were unbelievable.  I was more than ready to get out of a sitting position.  What I wanted was to be in a horizontal position.  We had to unload everything as it’s just not a good idea to leave things inside a vehicle overnight lest anyone think we left it there for the taking.  We tucked in for the night and enjoyed dinner at the hotel.  On the menu for Neal and Tobi was pounded yam and vegetable soup with goat.  Now I’m sure when I say ‘vegetable soup’ one might think fresh (well probably canned) veggies chopped up in a beef broth with leftover pot roast.  Or  something along those lines.  Au contraire mon ami.  Nigerian vegetable soup consists of what might be described as greens – lots of them –  chopped up and cooked in oil and spices.  Very spicy spices.  And a few other things.  Just the way we like it.  The thing you gotta love about Nigerians is they don’t even question whether you want it spicy or not. Not even if you’re a kid.  It just comes that way.  They are proud of the way they eat and you should be too.  Neal and Tobi were in heaven!  I opted for rice and a similar spicy red stew.  Also got a side of eggs for some protein – which were of course  cooked with freshly chopped habanero peppers.  Steam was coming out of my ears and we were all sniffling.

Tobi had his own room and enjoyed it – wasn’t sure what he’d think at first.  But he warmed up to the idea and then decided it was pretty cool.  Usually when we travel and stay in a hotel, we all cram into one room.  This time a friend of ours made the reservations for us – AND paid for the rooms.  We are blessed!  Not only did he pay for the rooms, he put down credit for us to eat.  He wanted us to eat well so he gave way more than we could eat at dinner and breakfast combined.    He’s a Nigerian that learned of our ministry when we were living in Diffa and would send support up from time to time to Diffa — to the church there.  We’ve been in touch with him since and he’s been such a blessing to us.

We asked  for breakfast to be ready at 7am and were pleasantly surprised when they called our room at 6:55 to say it was ready.  We, surprise surprise,  had spicy, spicy eggs and tea for breakfast.  I created a bit of a scene when I inhaled one of the peppers and it went down ‘the wrong pipe’ as they say.  Wrong is right!  Unbelievably painful.  Neal and Tobi could do nothing but sit there and watch me writhe and choke for about 10 minutes.  Fortunately no one else was eating breakfast…

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We learned the night before that it would be wise to ask our taxi man to come back and lead us out of the city.  The ‘hiccup’ could be whether he would come on time or not.  We were thinking (based on experience) that ‘on time’ would mean 30 or more minutes late.  We asked him to be there by 7:30.  We (by we I mean Neal and Tobi) packed the car before breakfast so  after I finished choking we went outside and to our surprise Mr. Taxi Man was there waiting for us.  Gosh, we are just being blessed all over the place!  We explained to him that we needed to get fuel, knowing he would lead us to the best place to do that.

Not being used to lines for gas, this is where we got in the cue.  There were 6 lines I think.

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We waited for about 15 minutes.  You can see the gate like structures near the road.  They go down the road in one of the lanes for several hundred feet.  That’s where you line up for your fuel.

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Neal was talking with the gas man about the cue and was told that this was in fact no cue at all – but a bit later and in the afternoon it would be backed up for a mile or more.  Once again, we were counting our blessings!

Thought this was a cool tree as we were driving through the city.

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This is about where Taxi man left us.  It was a very well spent $12 and on top of that, we made his day!  Fortunately we were leaving the city while the traffic backed up in the other direction for some serious rush hour.  Pretty impressive road systems though!

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Cool building – probably a mosque.

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Now there’s something familiar…

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Not too long before we were once again down to 2 lanes.  But pretty decent roads!  The challenge was getting by truck after truck.

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Tropics!

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Hard boiled eggs – snack time!  One can find a variety of items for sale on the side of the road.

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Riding can wear one out!

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Another familiar site… Those cows probably came from Niger.

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A mosque on almost every corner….

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But the churches are built on The Rock!

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There were so many crashed vehicles on the side of the road.

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At leIMG_0514ast every 5 – 10 miles.

I just got photos of a few.

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I’m convinced they were left there as a warning…

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Lunch in the city of Auchi at Mr. Biggs.  Mr. Biggs serves Nigerian Fast Food.  It is quite yummy.  Except for the chicken sandwich.  That’s not Nigerian and it’s not yummy.  Tobi and I both got one and had to go back and get the spicy chicken.  Now that’s more like it!  We are loving not having to travel with all our food and water for an entire journey, knowing there will be food to eat along the way.  Good food!IMG_0517

Even more tropical!  Lovin’  all the green!!

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They have quite an impressive compound.

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Palm grove.  Gorgeous!  And so foreign for us desert dwellers.

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Those are some serious logs!  Wasn’t real comfortable hanging behind him for too long!

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Getting closer.
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Benin City!  We have arrived!

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We arrived in the outskirts of the city at about 3:00.  Even though things had grown and changed drastically, Neal could find his way to the Miracle Center Compound where he lived and where the Bible School used to be.  We couldn’t quite make our way to Faith Arena or to where we were staying but Bishop Feb & Laurie Idahosa had made arrangements for us and we were soon settled in to our home for the next 3 weeks.  Which is where I’m writing from now.

Next post will be about our time here thus far.  It’s been great and has brought back so many wonderful memories for Neal.