Last night about 9:30PM, Robbie was watching a Kentucky basketball game and I was absorbed in a crossword puzzle when we heard gunshots down the street. The sound of gunfire doesn’t usually draw our attention anymore, because the guards here are known to routinely fire shots into the air. But something was different this time. The shots came too close together; they couldn’t have been from the same gun. Then we heard screams.

A vehicle came speeding by, and we looked at each other with alarm. What had happened? The screams and cries continued, and we knew: someone had just been murdered.

Robbie locked Claire and me up in the house and went down to the street to see if he could help. After what seemed like forever, he returned shaking his head. “It’s Nico.” My heart sank.

Nicodemo and Dana are our neighbors and good friends. He was born in Jerusalem, but had married and settled down here in Honduras. He owned an open-air restaurant downtown called Las Tejas; it was one of our favorite spots. He and Robbie had gone on a four-wheeling trek up into the mountains together once. I had always enjoyed talking to his wife Dana; we had gotten together a few times for coffee while Claire and Jacobo, their four year-old son played together. They were a sweet couple.

We had invited them to church countless times. Nico called Robbie one night, asking him to come by and talk. He got right to the point, “How do you know the meaning of life?” he wondered. Robbie was able to share the gospel with him, but Nico did not make a decision.

Then Sunday before last, Nico and Dana finally came to church. Robbie preached a clear gospel message from Galatians, and they listened attentively. Afterwards, one of our church men asked Nicodemo if he enjoyed the message. “Yes, it was great…but I wanted to hear more!” He assured us they would be back.

As I walked down the road last night, just a block from our house, I saw bullet casings, a watch, and finally Nico’s lifeless body, bleeding in the road. Dana was doubled over on the ground, wailing and begging someone to get a doctor. “Take him to the hospital! Please!” she screamed. I tried to comfort her, but I don’t even think she knew me; she was out of her mind with grief. She vomited and fainted a few times before a family member finally dragged her to the house. She had watched her husband gunned down for his vehicle. I silently thanked the Lord that Jacobo had not been with them; he was with his grandmother, asleep in the house.

We need your prayers this morning. Please pray for Dana and Jacobo. Pray for Robbie and me to be a help and comfort to this precious family. Pray for our team; to be perfectly honest, acts of violence that strike so close to home always shake us up. We are not immune to fear, even after being on the field for five years. We find ourselves solemnly asking if we really do believe in the Lord’s protection; those aren’t just words to us anymore.

I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, LORD, only makest me dwell in safety. –Psalm 4:8

The Honduran Michael Jackson

I never knew his real name; everyone in Quebrada Seca called him Michael Jackson. He was a black man, but the similarities ended there. Our MJ had very little in earthly possessions. He lived in a tiny makeshift shack by the river’s edge. Michael earned a few lempiras here and there, selling fruit from the basket of his rusty bicycle. I spoke with him only once, when I bought some lemons to make a pie; but I often spotted him around the neighborhood while we were on visitation. Several people in our church gave him food when they had some to spare. They themselves were poor, but Michael was painfully destitute.

I seldom thought of him, until that Sunday morning in late December. Robbie was preaching a Christmas message, when suddenly there was a loud explosion. It sounded like lightning striking a tree, but there were no clouds in the sky. Probably a transformer exploding, we assumed. Our city’s power grid is overloaded, and such explosions are frequent.

But heading home on the bus after service, our church people were met with a tragic sight. Hanging from a nearby power line was the charred body of Michael Jackson. A crowd gathered to watch as he was lowered to the ground. It was common knowledge that in order to earn extra money, he would charge about $10 to reconnect someone’s power after it had been cut due to unpaid bills. He worked bajo, bajo (illegally) in this dangerous work until he grabbed the wrong cable, instantly snuffing out his life.

Faces pressed against the glass, unable to look away, we were sobered by thoughts of death. A man unexpectedly entered eternity. We had tried to meet his physical needs, but what did we do for his soul?

The world lost two Michael Jacksons last year. One lived in a mansion, one in a shack. One was sheltered by scarves and umbrellas, the other burnt by the sun. One sold platinum albums, one sold fruit. One had unmatched fame, the other an unmarked grave. Both are now in eternity, their lives on earth a haunting memory.

Is one any better off than the other?

For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. –James 4:14

Did you encounter someone today whose life is empty? Rich or poor, educated or ignorant, powerful or weak, they have the same need. Show them Jesus Christ.

Don't forget to submit your question by the end of this month in order to participate in the drawing for a Honduran coffee gift basket! Is there something you would like to know about life on the mission field? Ask me this week!

The Uneaten Cucumbers

I recently spoke with a friend who is struggling with morning sickness in the early stages of pregnancy, and our conversation took me back to my own pregnancy four years ago. I was the typical first-time mom. I read a stack books on pregnancy, learning everything I could about the new life growing inside me. I took my prenatal vitamins religiously, being sure I had the recommended amounts of iron, calcium, and folic acid. I made a diet plan, determined to eat right, count those extra 500 daily calories, and steer clear of sweets and soft drinks.

Remembering a favorite veggie from my childhood, I bought a few pounds of cucumbers, peeled and sliced them, then placed them into containers of apple cider vinegar to soak in the fridge. A good ol’ Southern way to eat fresh cucumbers! I couldn’t wait to dig in the next day.

But when I awoke the following morning, I said hello to nausea and goodbye to eating well! I couldn’t keep anything down. Like many pregnant women, I discovered “morning sickness” is a very loose term that can mean, “morning-noon-and-night” sickness. As soon as Robbie sprayed on his cologne that morning, I went running for the bathroom and never looked back. The very thought of those huge containers of cukes in vinegar gave me cold chills. I couldn’t even go in the kitchen, let alone open the fridge. The only things I managed to keep down were dry toast and Sprite (which had been a definite no-no just 24 short hours before). My carefully crafted diet plan was decidedly thrown out the window until the end of the first trimester.

It amazed me how quickly my tastes changed! Poor Robbie was given the task of disposing of two large jars of cucumbers and vinegar (double-bagging to spare me the pungent aroma). In less than 24 hours, what had seemed so delicious was the very thing that made me sick.

What is the Lord doing in your life to change your tastes? Do you have an appetite for the things of the world? Unlike my first-trimester experience, God gives us a taste for good things. He helps us develop a disgust for all that is worldly and unholy, and a hunger for the pure and right. We’ve seen it time and time again with new Christians here in Honduras; a new creature in Christ will have new desires, new goals, new dreams. I pray that my tastes will keep changing, molding my will into His will.

Delight thyself also in the Lord: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. –Psalm 37:4

ATTENTION "Real Missions, Real Life" Readers! March is "Question and Answer" Month! Is there something you would like to know about life on the mission field? Every reader who submits a question will be entered in a drawing to win a Honduran coffee gift basket! Email me your question(s) at

Raising a Missionary

Last year, my mom sent me a stack of old letters that my dad had written to her when he was in graduate school in 1980. He had gone to Florida for six weeks, leaving my mom and me in North Carolina. I was shocked to read the following words in a letter that he had written when I was just an infant:

Giving over completely to God I believe means a sacrifice. You don’t sacrifice to God that which is of little value or low esteem. My family—you and Chris—are of very high value to me. In a real sense you are both my sacrifice to God. I believe he’s accepted it. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to someday see her tearfully walk up the airplane ramp with her husband to go to the mission field? God may call upon her to sacrifice family time for His work. I want her to be able to respond unhesitatingly to that call.

I couldn't believe it! My father had very specifically predicted my life’s course when I was only four months old! Was he some kind of modern-day prophet?!?

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that this was not so much a prediction as it was a decision. He had not merely guessed at how my life would turn out. He had determined which way he wanted me to go—the way of sacrifice.

The decision to serve the Lord is not a single one. It’s hundreds of thousands of decisions made habitually over many years. For me, it began with decisions I did not even make myself…going to church every Sunday, reading a Bible story and praying each night, attending a Christian school. These were life-altering decisions that my parents made for me.

But sometimes it’s those seemingly trivial decisions that become very important down the road. I remember countless spankings because of my refusal to speak to adults. Instead of saying, “Oh, she’s just shy. It’s a stage; she’ll get over it,” my parents forced me to be polite. And I am thankful for that training when I greet the first-time visitors each Sunday at our church. I still feel timid inside, but my parents helped me win that battle years ago. I can't help but wonder if I could have ever worked up the nerve on my own to knock on a stranger's door and give them the gospel; I seriously doubt it. My parents trained me to overcome my natural shyness so that it would not hinder me from doing the Lord's work one day.

Doing God’s will is not an “event” our children will encounter one day down the road. It’s today. It’s now. It means I can’t let Claire tell me “No!” It means I make her come when I call. It means I discipline her attitude, not simply her actions. Preparing my daughter for lifetime service to the Lord is an intimidating thought. But, thank the Lord, it’s brought about by one decision at a time, beginning with the “little things.”

What Are YOU Throwing Away?

“You’re throwing these away?!?” The garbage man who had begun to rummage through our bags pulled out several old magazines and held them up, his face incredulous.
“Well, yes…,” I stammered, a little embarrassed.

“I can sell these!” He pulled them out one by one, wiped clean the ones soiled by discarded food, and carefully set them aside. “Tell me when you are going to throw out good stuff like this!” He looked suspiciously at our other bags in the back of the truck. I knew he would go through those as well.

There are few things more sobering than having someone rummage through your trash in search of a treasure. When we take our trash to the dump, I watch in horror as the people who live there delve into the bags and scarf down old pizza slices, stale bread, and overly ripe fruit. How can we have so much and not even realize it? I always think as we leave.

We are extremely rich compared to the average Honduran, but not simply because of our material possessions. We have the incredible treasure of a personal relationship with the God of the Universe. Every day, we can take time to communicate with our Creator. Yet we often take this precious gift for granted.
As we step into eternity and the Lord reads our names from the Lamb’s Book of Life, will we be asked by a tearful soul, “You knew this and did not tell me?”?
What does your relationship with God mean to you? Is it as unimportant as yesterday’s trash, or do you treat it as a valuable treasure, sharing it with those you meet? Someone you know is starving for what you have. Tell him about Jesus today.

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