Friday, April 29, 2011

Anne-Marie: Selling used goods


Anne-Marie Hood is another of those dear people who recognized a God-designed service opportunity and didn’t just wonder if she could make a difference.

Like Ele Parrott and Thom VotawAnne-Marie stepped out with great energy and did what she could.

I’m eager for you to read how she has stepped forward and daily makes a significant difference through her ministries in Canada.

Selling Used Goods
Helps Spread the Word of God
Anne-Marie Hood

I became involved with the Bibles for Missions (BfM) Thrift Store Enterprises in the fall of 2008. Fred Meyerink, Store Developer for the Bibles for Missions Thrift Store Enterprises came from Chilliwack, British Columbia, to Fredericton, New Brunswick, to do a presentation.

Meyerink told the story of two men who in 1989 went to India on behalf of The Bible League of Canada (TBLC).

While there, they were greatly touched and disheartened to learn that so many people had never heard the Word of God, and they wanted to do something about it. They returned to Canada and presented the idea of opening a Bibles for Missions Thrift Store, where all the proceeds would go back to TBLC to assist them in their endeavors to send translated Bibles to India and other countries around the world.

Meyerink also showed a DVD entitled, Unnoticed 1 - Literacy Training in India that really caught my attention. It was the story of a woman who could not read, which resulted in her being constantly taken advantage of by merchants in the village where she purchased goods she needed.

A missionary from TBLC presented this woman with Bible in her own language and taught her how to read it. The woman’s life drastically changed in a multitude of ways. It was unbelievable. Her story greatly touched my heart, not only because I love to read but reinforced how we take our ability to read God’s Word for granted.

I committed to be the Secretary for the Steering Committee that was initially formed and continued in this role when the Board of Directors was established in January 2010.

Due to the hard work of dedicated volunteers, the Grand Opening of the Bibles for Missions Thrift Store in Fredericton was held on November 9, 2010.

Since its humble beginning in 1989, the BfM stores in Canada now total 39.

The statistics show that to date, BfM has raised over $32 million for TBLC – including the $4.7 million donated in 2009. The proceeds from selling used goods provide TBLC with over 50% of their budget. Volunteering for BfM provides an opportunity to be a missionary right in your own community.

I can personally attest to this Scripture verse from Proverbs 16:3, as it speaks volumes: Depend on God in all that you do and your plans will succeed.

Friends, be sure to look into these two valuable, vital ministries, The Bible League of Canada and Bibles for Missions Thrift Store and consider how you could be involved!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Could a Vision Trip to Kenya be in your future?


You and I are just ordinary people, yet God has designed us for greatness—the kind of greatness Jesus modeled: He said whoever wants to be great must become a servant in the same way he was a servant (Mark 10:44-45).

In February, Plant the Seeds of Greatness month, I promised I’d introduce you to people who have dared to be great—people who live out a distinct Jesus-style service.

One such person was Ele Parrott. If you missed my posts about Ele, her story is a must-read! Click on When God gift-wraps an old toothbrush.

Dr. Thom Votaw is a dear friend who recognized his God-designed service opportunities and embraced them with gusto!

I’m so excited to tell you about an amazing Vision Trip that Thom is putting together. Maybe YOU can participate!

Welcome, Thom, to Grandma’s Letters from Africa!

Vision Trip to Schools for Children of Missionaries
Teachers In Service, Inc.

The purpose of Teachers In Service is to work internationally with teachers and schools of missionary children (MKs); a Vision Trip will complement this work and you are invited to participate.

The parents of these children contribute to the Great Commission of Christ. When the educational needs of their children are not met parents are faced with the decision to return home, become a teacher themselves (leaving their own work undone), or search for another solution. At the present time there are approximately six hundred teaching vacancies worldwide and these affect the spreading the Word of God to the nations.

One of the things TIS is involved with is recruitment of MK teachers. We believe there are underrepresented pools of potential teachers, some of whom have been asking God, "Where to now, Lord?"

In order to reach these teachers we want to take individuals who will become part of our recruitment efforts on a Vision Trip to visit MK teachers and schools and to talk with parents.

These individuals may come from:

• Christian faculty on secular and Christian college/university campuses and others who have access to students (youth group, campus ministry, job fair, etc.)

• Church and missionary groups who have working, former, retired, or prospective teachers among their members or who know teachers

• Christian high school leaders who work with Christian groups of students

• Those who are involved with communication of some sort (paper, email, texting, blogs, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) that will be read by teachers

Following the Vision Trip, participants, now armed with first-hand experiences and having caught the vision themselves, will become actively involved in recruitment of MK teachers, thus extending the efforts by TIS. They will communicate with and encourage prospective teachers to pray about and to consider teaching children of missionaries.

Teachers may be recruited from:

• Working teachers,

• Retired teachers,

• Former teachers, or

• Prospective teachers still in college or high school.

The Vision Trip will be to Kenya, Africa, in June of 2012. A percentage of the cost will be covered by a grant from a Christian foundation with the balance assumed by participants. (A grant proposal will be submitted through Wheaton College.) The total cost of the trip will be around $2,500 for ten days. Participants will need to outline how they intend to become actively involved in MK teacher recruitment when they return from the Vision Trip. They do not necessarily need to have experience in teaching.

The trip will include a game drive in a national park in Kenya, shopping in Nairobi, and meeting with indigenous people. It should be noted, however, that this is not the purpose of the Vision Trip but merely to take advantage of the surrounding area.

Thank you very much for your consideration of and prayer about participation in this Vision Trip.

If it is of interest to you please let us know so we can include the total degree of interest in our grant proposal. More and on-going information may be found at

If you are not interested in the trip but are interested in MK teaching yourself or in recruitment of MK teachers please contact TIS. Information about Teachers In Service may be found on our web site.


Thom Votaw, President
Teachers In Service, Inc.
Vision: A Perpetual Surplus of MK Teachers by June 2013


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Special Edition: Spiritual Memoirs 101

Announcing my new blog,
Spiritual Memoirs 101

Your stories are part of God’s stories,
and God’s stories are part of your stories.
People need to hear those stories!

A rhema moment

About ten years ago while reading Deuteronomy 4, I had a rhema moment—an instant when “a word in Scripture zings you,” as Priscilla Shirer describes it. It’s a flash of “Aha!” when God gives extra significance to a Bible passage and you know He is speaking to you.

Deuteronomy 4:9 tells us to remember what we’ve seen God do for us and to be sure to tell our children and grandchildren. I had read that verse many times before but that day I had a rhema moment. That verse took on new meaning and urgency. I knew I had to do something about it.

At that time, I wasn’t even sure what a memoir was but soon discovered memoir is a perfect format for telling kids and grandkids what God has done. A couple of years later, I started teaching memoir classes, first in Washington State, and now in Missouri.

And now, for several reasons, the time is right to begin my new blog, Spiritual Memoirs 101.

I’ve designed the blog with busy people in mind. If you miss a week, or a month, no worries! Each blog post, each lesson, is archived and easily accessible in the blog’s sidebar.

About the blog

Spiritual Memoirs 101 is about inspiration and celebration, with a focus on Deuteronomy 4:9, “Always remember the things you’ve seen God do for you, and be sure to tell your children and grandchildren!”

Inspiration is one of my favorite words. I pray that within my new blog, you’ll find inspiration.

What words come to mind when you think of inspiration?

I think of infusing with enthusiasm, encouragement, passion, gusto, and eagerness.

Week by week, we will examine the art and craft of memoir and, as we do, my heart’s desire is that you’ll receive inspiration to write and write and write and write.

Celebration is another of my favorite words. It conjures up images of cheering, praising, and applauding.

I pray that within and beyond my new blog, you’ll participate in a celebration—ultimately a celebration of God in all His goodness, faithfulness, holiness, and splendor.

May God help us remember all we’ve seen Him do for us, and with us—and even in spite of us.

May He give us a longing to write those stories for our children, grandchildren, and “spiritual” children as well—precious people God has brought into our lives whether we share DNA or not.

Connect your stories with God’s stories.
People need to hear your stories. Believe it!

Click on Spiritual Memoirs 101 to follow the blog.

Click here to follow Spiritual Memoirs 101 on Facebook.

Let your friends know! See that little gray and white square down there on the right, the one with the “f” symbol? Click on that and a link to this post will appear on your Facebook wall. There are also little tabs for Twitter, e-mail, etc. Please click on them and let  your friends know.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Worms, anyone?


Ah, recent blog posts have convinced me that MK (missionary kid) stories have gotta be among the greatest in the world! Agree?

Someone ought to write a book full of nothing but MK stories. Maybe someone already has. If so, let me know.

Here are a few more MK tidbits:

Miss Karen Thomas, a teacher at West Nairobi School the year it opened, asked her middle school students what they’d learned since arriving in Kenya. These kids came from around the world, and their answers tickled me:

I’ve learned that chickens are in many ways like people.

I’ve learned how to recognize a jigger (bugs that lay eggs under your toenails).

I’ve learned to watch a Maasai warrior kill a goat without throwing up. (I think he/she meant “I’ve learned to watch, without throwing up, …”)

I’ve learned that the roads in Kenya are really bumpy.

I’ve learned that Kenya is really different than the Netherlands.

I’ve learned how much fun it is to get mail.

I’ve learned that having friends helps a lot.

I’ve learned to drink dirty water.

I’ve learned to get along without HubbaBubba.

I’ve learned to walk and walk and walk and walk.

I’ve learned to bring my own toilet paper on trips.

I’ve learned that people smell different because of the food they eat. 

I’ve learned that if you turn Africa sideways it looks like a horse.

I’ve learned to be careful with the flashlight in the choo (outhouse/toilet).

I’ve learned to expect to run two hours late when you’re on African time. 

I’ve learned that beauty depends on the person who is seeing it. (from Chapter 21, Grandma’s Letters from Africa)

(That's Miss Tipton and Miss Thomas in a teachers' skit, I think.)

MKs have been known to eat and drink any number of—shall we say “interesting?”—menu items:






“jungle ice cream,”



One MK in Venezuela writes about liking worms better than her mother’s chocolate chip cookies. Really! You’ve got read this:

The earliest memory I can recall clearly is eating worms instead of my mom's chocolate chip cookies. I may have been crazy, or simply craving worms. I don't know. But they were smoked, and they were very tasty. They taste a lot like beef jerky only a little bit more ... um ... wiggly. Plus, they are long. About a foot long.…

They are much tastier when they are cooked, as are most foods. But, eating them live and raw can gross out any tourists or city-folk and it is fun. I used to snack on them like potato chips. I prefer them over potato chips.… (Read more at Worms!)

Wanna see a of a beautiful little blonde-haired MK eat worms in Thailand? To watch a 48-second video, click on Ava eats worms. For real.

Many of you have amazing MK stories. Please share them with us!

You can (1) leave a comment below, (2) e-mail me at GrandmaLetters [at] aol [dot] com, or (3) leave a comment on Facebook.

Related posts:

Adventures of an MK
Two tons of mean hoofs, horns, and leather
Big buffaloes ahead, so close we could smell them
Teeth sharp enough to slice off a man’s finger

Friday, April 22, 2011

We have never heard that story before!


Why did we leave our kids, parents, friends, jobs, and homeland and move to Africa?

Because of stories like this:

Bible translator friends and colleagues of ours worked among Kenya’s Sabaot people. Their kids attended our West Nairobi School.

The first Easter the Sabaot heard the Easter story in their own language, one woman said, “We have never heard that story before. It’s wonderful!”

The pastor replied, “Yes you have! Every Easter I have told you the Easter story.”

She said, “No, I’ve never heard it before.”

“Yes, you have,” the pastor replied, “but in the past it has not been in your language. Now you can understand it because it’s in your own language.”

“Read it again! It’s wonderful!” she begged. “Read it again!”

That’s why we moved to Africa.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Teeth sharp enough to slice off a man’s finger


Continuing with missionary kid stories:

“Ah,” George smiled, and paused. Did I catch a hint of a gasp?

He was examining a piranha—a dead piranha—dangling from my son’s hand.

“Those teeth are sharp enough,” George said, “and those jaws powerful enough, to slice off a man’s finger with just one bite.”

And suddenly I looked at my son, Matt, through different eyes.…

Matt attended first, second, and third grades at a school for MKs (missionary kids) at the end of the road in the middle of nowhere in South America.

That place was a boys’ paradise:

They went butterfly hunting, 

Brahman bull chasing, 

snake hunting,

insect collecting (one of Matt’s classmates collected cockroaches!),

and caiman hunting (relatives of both crocodiles and alligators).

They played futbol (soccer),



and volleyball.

They tried to get glimpses of howler monkeys in trees.

They owned pets: dogs, cats, aardvarks, snakes, and parrots.

They climbed trees: avocado, mango, papaya, and lemon.

They went mud sliding and bike riding.

They swam with sting rays.

And they went fishing.

The older boys were great at helping little kids discover the marvels of that wonderland.

One day Tommy, a neighbor boy in high school, asked if Matt could join him and his little brother, Glenny, on a fishing trip. The lake was within easy walking distance, only a few minutes away.

I didn’t think twice. I said OK.

Later that afternoon, Matt arrived home clutching a piranha in his fist.

“Let me take a picture!” I called, running for my camera.

Then Tommy’s dad, George, appeared at our back door to inspect the prize.

At that time I didn’t understand the nuances of Matt’s catch so George educated me: “Those teeth are sharp enough, and those jaws powerful enough, to slice off a man’s finger with just one bite.”

I had no idea! What kind of mother would let her child do such a dangerous thing?

I tried not to make a scene, but I couldn’t help glancing down at Matt’s fingers. They were all there. I could only pray silently, Thank you, God, thank you for keeping my boy safe!

But Tommy and George took it all in stride.

“Now, Matt,” Tommy said, “cut off its head and bury it in the dirt. Come back in a day or two and all you’ll find will be the jaws and teeth. Ants will eat everything else, and you’ll have a great souvenir.” 

Tommy turned to me. “You can fry that fish for dinner.” And I did.

“It’ll have lots of bones!” Tommy had warned, and it did, but that was OK. The memories were worth it.

And now, all these years later, we sit around the dinner table and Matt tells that story to his daughters and nephews and passes around that set of jaws and razor-sharp teeth.

As for me, the recollection brings smiles, and I still thank God that Matt has all his fingers.

Many of you have amazing MK stories.
Please share them with us!

You can (1) leave a comment below,
(2) e-mail me at GrandmaLetters [at] aol [dot] com,
or (3) leave a comment on Facebook.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Big buffaloes ahead, so close we could smell them

Today we continue with adventures in Togo, West Africa,
with MK (missionary kid) Brandon

Part One: Adventures of an MK

Another buffalo hunt was memorable for a different reason. They couldn’t have known how that day would turn out.

Brandon, his dad, Mike, and fellow missionary, “Uncle” Dave, hit the road at 3 AM. Three hours later, they left the truck behind and started hiking.

The day grew hot, over 100 degrees. The threesome and their guides had spotted four big buffaloes and pursued them for hours.

Brandon said that as the day wore on, “I knew we were lost but Uncle Dave and Dad were just thinking about those big buffaloes up ahead. They were so close we could smell them.”

After sunset, their guide, Joseph, accidentally spooked the buffaloes and they took off. Darkness enveloped them so the hunters decided to make their way back to the truck, but they hadn’t brought a flashlight. “If the Lord hadn’t provided a full moon that night,” Brandon said, “we wouldn’t have made it.”

By then Brandon had hiked more than 15 miles. He was tired.

And he was hungry. He hadn’t eaten since 11 that morning when he’d had a couple of oranges and half a sandwich.

He was thirsty, too. Though they’d carried lots of water with them, they’d drunk it all. “The river water would make us sick if not boiled or filtered,” Brandon explained. “But Uncle Dave had special tablets that make water safe to drink after an hour even though it still might have dirt in it.”

Brandon cupped his hand around the side of his mouth and leaned over. “Don’t tell my mother,” he whispered, “but we were so thirsty we even drank water straight out of the river.”

Darkness, fatigue, hunger, and thirst weren’t Brandon’s only problems. “It’s very dangerous after dark. Lions come out. Buffalo and warthogs, too. But I’m mostly scared of snakes after dark.”

In the moonlight at 11:30, the men spotted a house and a man tending a fire to keep wild animals away. They asked him for directions to the nearest road. While the men talked, Brandon dropped to the ground and rolled up against a log to rest. After Mike and Dave sorted out their location, the weary hunters set out again.

They’d pushed on for almost seven miles when they came to a road. “Uncle Dave recognized that road. He said he’d been on it before, and we were less than half a mile from the truck!”

“But I was exhausted. I couldn’t walk another foot. I plopped down by a tree. Uncle Dave hiked to the truck and drove back.”

In the wee hours of the morning, they arrived at Dave’s house and his wife Jan had dinner ready for them. “Antelope my dad had shot another time,” smiled Brandon, “with mashed potatoes. We had a feast that night. That felt so good. By the time I fell asleep it was three o’clock in the morning.”

Experiences such as that 24-hour adventure have made MK life good for Brandon. “I’m privileged to be here,” he said. “I’d have to be a lot older to go hunting in the States. And not many kids have a dad who can go out and shoot a West African Buffalo.”

Hunting for big game was not Brandon’s only interest in Togo. He and his friend J.J. sometimes filled their backpacks with tracts and handed them out as they rode their bicycles.

Once a man asked what their tracts meant.

“We told him all that we could in French,” explained Brandon. “But he still wanted to know more. So we told him to stay right there, and we rode down and got J.J.’s dad. He came and talked to the man. He said he wanted to buy a Bible, and he bought it with 200 francs (about 80 cents U.S.). The next day he went to church and accepted the Lord. There were sign-up sheets for those who wanted to be baptized, and he was the first to sign up.”

That gives the term “missionary kid” a new meaning. Brandon was more than a missionary’s kid. He was a kid who was already a missionary at age 11.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Two tons of mean hoofs, horns, and leather


Today we continue in Togo, West Africa,

At age 11, Brandon had already gone on four big-game hunts and lived adventures most kids only read about or see on the big screen.

Let me be quick to point out that Brandon, his father Mike, and another missionary, “Uncle” Dave, hunted only to provide food for their families and others.

By the time I met him, Brandon had brought home partridges, hawks, doves, guinea fowl, a Togolese eagle, and small birds called Senegalese rollers.

Brandon was most impressed when his dad, Mike, brought down a West African Savanna Buffalo, one of the deadliest animals in Africa.

Even though Brandon didn’t go on that particular hunt, he knows the story by heart and is proud to tell it.

“From 200 yards, Dad shot a male buffalo behind a lung and broke a rib, but he just kept running. It didn’t even slow him down.”

Mike fired again, hitting the buffalo in the back.

Bleeding, the massive beast ran across a river full of “crocodiles, foot disease, snakes and all kinds of terrible things.”

Mike and their guide, Joseph, pushed through the chest-high river with their guns on their heads.

On the other side, they had tracked the buffalo through six-foot tall elephant grass for about a mile when he turned and splashed back through the river, the men chasing behind.

When the buffalo climbed up the riverbank, Mike fired, barely missing. This sent the buffalo—and the men—plunging across the river again.

The buffalo, angry and tired, crashed through the river once more, with the men slogging behind.

Mike lost sight of Joseph as he ran ahead but then, “Suddenly Dad heard two shots. The buffalo had charged Joseph so he’d lifted up his double barreled shot gun and shot the buffalo once under the eye and once in the neck, but the buffalo came even faster.

“Dad heard Joseph call in French, ‘He’s coming!’

“Dad looked and saw Joseph running toward him. About 15 feet behind him was the buffalo, running head down, charging, gaining on Joseph every second.”Pursued by two tons of mean hoofs, horns, and leathery hide, “Joseph threw his gun down and ran right by my dad.”

“The Buffalo did too, stepping on the toe of Dad’s boot. Dad threw himself backwards into the tall grass. He was thinking, ‘This is the end. I’m going to be crushed by a buffalo.’

“But instead the buffalo chased Joseph up a tree and waited for him to come down.”

After the buffalo wandered away, Joseph climbed down, rushed to find his gun, reloaded it, and scrambled back up the tree.

“He aimed and fired a slug into the buffalo,” Brandon continued. “By now this buffalo had five shots in him.”

“My dad stepped out of the deep grass and looked around. He spotted the buffalo sitting on his hindquarters with his head in the air. He turned around. My dad aimed and shot. The buffalo fell over dead,” Brandon said with obvious pride in his father.

Next time:
They couldn’t have predicted that one day would last 26 hours.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Adventures of an MK


We’re still in Chapter 4 of Grandma’s Letters from Africa,
where, in Togo, I might have met Mary Gardner.

Upcountry in Kara, Togo, I ran across an amazing MK—missionary kid. By then, at age 11, Brandon had already gone on four big-game hunts and lived adventures most kids only read about or see on the big screen.

While hunting was an adventure for Brandon, it had to be for a purpose. “My mom won’t let me shoot anything unless someone can eat it,” Brandon explained.

“When we get birds we give them to the forestry agents who take us on hunts.”

Antelope and buffalo have graced dinner tables of numerous missionary families, African pastors, employees, local people, and guests at special occasions.

Brandon got his nickname, Pediatric Partridge Plinker, from a missionary Brandon affectionately called “Uncle” Dave, a hunting buddy of Brandon and his dad.

“Uncle Dave gave me my nickname one day when we hadn’t seen any kob to shoot. He and my dad spotted a partridge. They suggested I go ahead and use up my shots on it. I leaned on the back of the truck and aimed. But the partridge disappeared behind a bush 80 yards away.

“Then I saw its head come from behind the bush. So I imagined where its wing would be and pulled the trigger, shooting through the bush. All of a sudden that partridge was flopping around.”

Impressed by Brandon’s successful aim, Dave called Brandon the Pediatric Partridge Plinker ever since.

“The big-game hunting trips have been the highlight of my time in Africa. And Uncle Dave’s really special to me.”

Brandon was most impressed when his dad, Mike,
brought down a West African Buffalo,
one of the deadliest animals in Africa.
Come back next time
and I’ll share Brandon’s story with you!

Monday, April 11, 2011

God’s fetal position

Sometimes missionaries never return home.

In addition to people and situations I wrote about last week, there’s also

Bob Dye,

Ed Fabian,

Martin Burnham,

Nate Saint, Jim Elliot, Ed McCully, Roger Youderin, and Peter Fleming.

Contemplating dangers on the mission field can make us run in the opposite direction, hunker down at home, and scream, “No! Not me! You’ll never find me on the mission field!”

And yet, Nate Saint said, "And people who do not know the Lord ask why in the world we waste our lives as missionaries. They forget that they too are expending their lives … and when the bubble has burst they will have nothing of eternal significance to show for the years they have wasted."

I have a hunch all of them lived—and died—in agreement with words Paul penned back in New Testament times:

“… I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ,
whether I live or die.
For to me, living means living for Christ,
and dying is even better.
But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ.
So I really don’t know which is better.
I’m torn between two desires:
I long to go and be with Christ,
which would be far better for me.”
(Philippians 1:20-23, NLT)

Even so, we mourn and reel when good people are murdered. It does not seem right. It is not right.

Recently Marcia Lee Laycock described a friend’s poem, full of powerful images:

"…It’s an image of God curled into a fetal position, and the wailing sound of His weeping.

Sometimes we ask hard questions. Why did that baby have to die, God? … Why are those people in Africa starving? We don’t usually get a good answer to those questions. They leave us numb and they leave us wondering if God is there.

But then there is that image and that sound.…

The picture my friend painted with his words was of a God who cares, a God who feels our pain, a God who mourns with us.…

He is also a God who will answer. He is a God who acted to redeem all that was broken in our world. He is a God who continues to do so. The redemption was accomplished on the cross of Calvary, but it is not yet complete.… The world will one day be made entirely new, entirely redeemed.

God’s plan is unfolding. What then, should we do in those times when we groan and feel there is no answer? Again, scripture tells us – “To act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).

Humility before God bows the knee and continues to believe. Humility before God acknowledges His sovereignty and calls Him good. Even when [people] die and the pain of this world overwhelms, humility before God says, “Blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Hard Questions, from Grace Fox’s blog; emphasis mine)

 Related posts: Did I meet Mary Gardner?, Missionary life and death, Within grief we hear the Lord whisper, Why do we go?, What motivates people to work on the mission field?