Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Friday, November 13, 2009
Giving directions is not always easy because many times, there are no signs marking the names of roads so you have to depend on landmarks. I had a team meeting yesterday and one of my teammates was sick so my time to drive alone had finally arrived. I got directions, asked the Lord to be with me and off I went.
This was around 9:30 a.m. and luckily much of the morning traffic had cleared. I found each turn without any problems and made it to the meeting in 30 minutes. Praise the Lord!
It's the small steps that will slowly help me get adjusted to the vast difference of life here in Nairobi, compared to Johannesburg. I'm looking forward to the day I can hop in my white station wagon (complete with a blue racing stripe) and take off to anywhere I want to go, know how to get there and when to attempt leaving my house. God is good, all the time...
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Since moving to Nairobi, I haven't had too many issues with power outages but today is making up for it. I'm not sure what's happening on the compound but the electricity has been going in and out all morning. Surprisingly though it hasn't bothered me too much. God is giving me an extra dose of patience today so I praise Him for that.
It has been such a blessing to live close to Jeff. We live on the same compound, just around the corner from each other, about a two-minute walk between our houses. We only have nine months left in our term and I stand in awe at God's provision by placing me to serve in the same city as one of my best friends. As Jeff and I say, "PTL!" (Praise the Lord).
Blessings to you today.
Thursday, November 5, 2009
We spent one week in and around Banjul, Gambia, visiting with the Jola people. The Gambia is a tiny, coastal West African country that runs through the middle of Senegal. The people were wonderful and so friendly and the Atlantic Ocean is just as beautiful on the African coast as it is in America.
After our week in The Gambia we headed to Bamako, Mali, to visit some friends and help them with an orientation video. It was an especially great trip for me because I got to reconnect with some friends who I met in Virginia last year. What a blessing to see how they are being used to reach the Bambara people! While there, my friend Mitch took us to a village in the bush he visits often, where we stayed overnight. The people in the village were so inviting and made us feel right at home. We had some great meals (all the men shared one large bowl of rice with peanut sauce, eating with our right hands) and enjoyed great fellowship with the people. That night, Mitch, Jerry and I stayed under a small grass straw structure (picture a manger) where we slept in sleeping bags on the ground and were watched over through the night by cows, goats, chicken, sheep...you get the idea.
We finished our visit Tuesday and left Bamako that evening flying overnight back to Nairobi. It was a great trip but I was happy to get back to Nairobi and continue trying to get settled into my new home.
Me and Mitch in the village
Our accommodations for the night
Time of worship
Making peanut sauce
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Photos from Rhino & Lion Nature Reserve
Ever seen a turtle smile?
Perhaps the happiest turtle in South Africa
Friday, August 21, 2009
You are all
Big and small
Beautiful and wonderful
To trust in grace through faith
But i'm asking to taste...
For dark is light to You
Depths are height to You
Far is near
But Lord, I need to hear from You
Be near, oh God
Be near, oh God of us
Your nearness is to us our good
Be near, oh God
Be near, oh God of us
Your nearness is to us our good, our good
Your fullness is mine
But, o, to taste
To know much more than a page
To feel Your embrace...
For dark is light to You
The depths are height to You
Far is near, but Lord
I need to hear from You
Be near, oh God
Be near, oh God of us
Your nearness is to us our good
Be near, oh God
Be near, oh God of us
Your nearness is to us our good, our good
I have been a Shane & Shane fan for years now and this song is one of my favorites. There are times lately when I've felt so far from the Lord and long to be near my God. At times I find myself in "slumps" where my time in the Word is an obligation and my prayers feel like nothing more than words. Complacency, apathy and impatience rear their ugly heads more often than not. I remember a time a few years ago when the Lord called me to do what I'm doing now; a time when I couldn't get enough of His words; a time when I felt like I was sitting at the feet of Jesus, my prayers a deep and personal conversation with Him.
I long for those sweet times with my Lord.
"But, o, to taste. To know much more than a page. To feel your embrace. Be near, oh God, your nearness is to us our good..."
Saturday, August 8, 2009
During FPO, we were told of big changes ahead as our company was on the brink of a major reorganization and personnel in support roles should be prepared for changes in our jobs. Upon hearing this news, I continued enjoying my time at FPO but knew my role in South Africa could change, perhaps even a change in location.
These past 10 months have been wonderful serving in Johannesburg. I’ve met some incredible people and have assisted our leadership in various projects and meetings. During this time, however, I’ve always sensed my role in South Africa would be temporary and God would use me here for a season and then use me in other areas to meet other needs.
In April, I was approached by one of our region’s media team leaders about needs in Nairobi, Kenya. We talked about my background in journalism and the possibility of working with the east Africa team once my current term ends next August.
At the end of May, I traveled to Nairobi to visit my great friend, Jeff, who serves there. I was blessed to spend almost three weeks in Kenya and had another opportunity to visit with the media team. Still, we did not think any moves to work there could happen until next year.
After returning to Johannesburg I began thinking about the possibility of using my journalism background on the field and soon started praying and discerning if the Lord was putting this desire on my heart. The more I prayed, the more I felt led to pursue this opportunity but wanted to be 100 percent sure, without any doubt, this was a “God-thing” and not a “Blake-thing.”
As I sought answers and clarity over this, I knew my answers would be found in His word. The Lord reminded me how he led me to Proverbs 3:24 – 27 to confirm His call on my life to serve overseas. So I went back to that beautiful book. The following verses are how the Lord spoke to my heart:
“In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.” – Proverbs 16:9
“How much better to get wisdom than gold, to choose understanding rather than silver!” – Proverbs 16:16
“Whoever gives heed to instruction prospers, and blessed is he who trusts in the Lord.” – Proverbs 16:20
A desire to serve in this role in Nairobi was growing in my heart and I humbly asked the Lord to guide each step of the way, to open the doors if He so willed, or shut them if now was not the time.
I was desperate for the Lord’s wisdom and sought discernment and understanding of what He was doing in my heart.
I trusted the Lord when He instructed me to pursue this opportunity now, rather than later.
God has proven faithful these last several weeks as I began pursuing a new role that brings a new home for me in Africa. He has continued to confirm His plans for me to transfer to Nairobi and now it appears I will be moving sometime in October.
When He called me to serve overseas in 2004 He led me to return to the University of Arkansas – Little Rock to complete my bachelor’s degree in journalism. Now I know why.
What a blessing this journey of the past few weeks has been for me. I know I’m truly not worthy of this work and am incapable of taking on this role without the strength, grace and mercy of my heavenly Father. While I am leaving behind some of the most incredible people I’ve ever met in Johannesburg I am so excited and blessed to be using my gifts in writing to share God’s stories in Africa and to be moving near some of my closest friends in the world who I went through training with one year ago.
Praise the Lord for His faithfulness and reminding me His plans prevail over mine and He can choose to send me and use me anywhere and anytime He desires.
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
This was taken in October just before I moved to South Africa
Beth Julianna Chandler, 5
Kati Nicole Chandler, 2
Holly Grace Chandler, 1
Beth, Holly & Kati
Kati & Beth
Me & Beth
Me & Kati Boo
Me & Holly
Thursday, June 18, 2009
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Over these last few months Jack, Ryan, Justin and Micah have become some of my closest friends and brothers in SA. God answered my prayers for close friendships when He sent these guys to Joburg. Along with them, there were also four girls who I became great friends with - Jarah, Amanda Hill, Amanda Holiday and Nikki. What an incredible group of people they are.
And just in the last few weeks I was able to spend some time with a Hands-On team who served in Botswana. Hunter, Brett, Stirling & Allison are a fun group and I wish we could have had more time to hang out.
Today I had to say goodbye to my Hands-On brothers and sisters. Their time here is almost done as they finish their days at debrief before heading back to the states Friday. Goodbyes are never easy and in this life God has given me here in SA, goodbyes are frequent and have yet to not stir up any bittersweet emotions.
Jack, Ryan, Justin and Micah, I love you guys and am blessed to have you in my life. You guys amaze me and it will definitely be different around my apartment without you being around. The Lord has big plans for you in the states and for some, big plans for you back in AFRICA. I'll look forward to the time we see each other whether it's this side of the world or the American side.
Sunday, May 17, 2009
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
In June 2004, after my first mission trip, I was called to serve our Lord overseas. I spent almost two weeks in Jamaica with a group of students from First Southern Baptist Church in Bryant, ministering to physical and spiritual needs. God changed my heart in Jamaica and I knew He had big plans for me to leave the comforts of America and go out to make disciples of all nations. I love sharing the testimony of God calling me to be a missionary and the best way I can do this is chronologically.
- June 2004 – KEITH, JAMAICA. Mission trip with FSBC students where we prayer walked, assisted in building construction, held worship services in the streets, personal evangelism and more. After returning to Arkansas I knew God was calling me to missions but I had no idea where to start. I began praying through this call and felt God was leading me to return to the University of Arkansas at Little Rock to complete my bachelors degree.
- January 2005 – reenrolled at UALR and began the first of five semesters to finish my degree. I prayed the Lord would provide the means for me to go without having to increase my student loan debt. He was faithful and provided a scholarship from my church.
- June 2005 – TECPAN, GUATEMALA. Served with a prayer walking team from FSBC in the mountains of Guatemala with Peter & Theresa Cunningham, ISC missionaries with the International Mission Board. The Lord taught me about pride during this trip.
- July 2006 – BANGKOK, THAILAND. Served with a university ministry team from The Summit Church at San Dusit Rajahbaht University in Bangkok. We built relationships with students and helped them with English. The Lord reminded me of how lost the world is and the darkness that covers so many peoples and need to hear the fundamental truths of Christianity – the saving grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
- March 2007 – LAS VEGAS, NEVADA. Served with a student ministry team from Summit in North Las Vegas to assist Grace Point Community Church in distributing promotional material for their Easter Service. The Lord reminded me of how lost Americans are and that I can be content if He leads me to serve in the US in the future.
- May 2007 – Graduated from UALR with a BA in Journalism.
- August 2007 – WINDHOEK, NAMIBIA – Served with a team from Summit where we did children’s ministry in the townships on the outskirts of Windhoek (VIND-hook).
Upon returning to the states from Windhoek, I could not get Africa out of my thoughts or heart. I would wake up in the night thinking I was still there. One night I had a vivid dream of running through a building where a chaotic scene was unfolding. There was fire and people screaming and I was at a near panic knowing there were children who needed rescuing. I ran into room after room, scooping up kids and rushing them to safety.
One night not long after the dream and many sleepless nights, I decided to look at the IMB’s website to see what opportunities there were. I found a job in Zimbabwe that caught my attention but that was the extent of it at that moment. I went to sleep but soon found myself wide awake. The Lord brought to mind a recent message by my pastor, Bill Elliff, from Proverbs. Bill said the Holy Spirit would often wake him during the night and lead him to the Word where he would always find “nuggets of truth.” The last thing I wanted to do was be even more awake and read my Bible, I just wanted to go back to sleep. Sleep was not coming.
I opened my Bible to Proverbs and began reading. Chapter one…chapter two…chapter three…and the Lord stopped me as I moved on to chapter four. He guided me back to chapter three, specifically to verses 21 – 27:
“My son, preserve sound judgement and discernment, do not let them out of your sight; they will be life for you, an ornament to grace your neck. Then you will go on your way in safety, and your foot will not stumble; when you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet. Have no fear of sudden disaster or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked, for the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being snared. Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act.”
I read this passage several times until the Holy Spirit made clear to me what was happening. I reflected on how God called me to missions in 2004 and the first step in the process was the finish college. I finished college four months earlier, went to Africa and now He was telling me it was time. Sleep came and it was sweet, just as He promised me in His word.
The next morning I started the application process with the IMB. A lengthy ordeal, I finished the application in January 2008.
- April 2008 – I attended the ISC/Journeyman matching conference at the International Learning Center in Rockville, Virginia.
- June 2008 – WINDHOEK, NAMIBIA. Led a team from Summit back to Windhoek to do children’s ministry and traveled through Johannesburg where I met my future supervisor, Wade Coker.
- August 2008 – moved to Rockville, VA, for two months of Field Personnel Orientation at ILC.
- October 16, 2008 – left the US to begin my first missionary term serving in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Friday, March 27, 2009
- Gracia Burnham
In the Presence of My Enemies
This semester, I'm required to read a missionary autobiography for my seminary class. I chose the story of Martin & Gracia Burnham, New Tribes missionaries serving in the Philippines who were captured by terrorists and held captive for more than a year in the Philippine jungles. Martin was killed in crossfire between the terrorists and the government and Gracia was rescued and reunited with her family in the States.
The Burnham's story captivated me and reminded me how missionaries and Christians around the world are persecuted for their faith. In the end, after Martin's death and Gracia's rescue, she reflected on how greatly her life has changed as a result of their captivity and the struggles in her faith during their time in the jungles.
The above quote spoke to my heart, though. When we answer the call to serve our Father and make disciples of all nations, we begin a new life and it's not easy. We miss our family and friends, we miss all things familiar, we miss life events of those we love but we do it with great joy amidst other emotions.
This life in South Africa is a new life for me with new people, new culture and new way of life. But this new life, although different, is a good one. In fact, it's a great one. Gracia's life changed drastically, more than most of us on the field. But as she said, "He is for me, not against me." Perhaps the thing that brings me the greatest joy is knowing this is God's will for my life...what a humbling thought!
I praise the Lord for bringing me to South Africa to serve here. It's not always easy but it's continues to be a blessing. I encourage you to learn more about the Burnham's story by reading In the Presence of My Enemies. It will surely touch your heart. For more information on Gracia's new life, visit www.graciaburnham.org.
Friday, March 13, 2009
1) It took me 12 years to finish my bachelors degree (I took a break from college…twice)
2) I lived in the same house, in the same town (Bryant, Ark.) from birth until I moved to Virginia last July and then to South Africa last October
3) My jobs in life include (in no particular order) being a gopher boy and other things at the Arkansas Highway & Transportation Dept., a substitute teacher, assistant sports editor at a local newspaper (I HATE sports), portrait photographer, freelance writer, office manager, asst. director of a Boys & Girls Club, after-school day care helper and now, serving in South Africa
4) Disney World might be my favorite place in the world. I went four consecutive years (2001 – 2004) and plan to go when I come back to the states – Space Mountain….WOOOHOOO!
5) Beth Burnett Loggains (BB) and I (Big W) can quote just about every line to Scream 3
6) Daniel Campbell and I can quote just about every line to Don’t Be Menace to South Central While Drinkin’ Your Juice in the Hood
7) Becky Barnes (Beckith) and I (Blaketh) used to go to Refuge at Ouachita Baptist every Thursday night, eat at Weng’s Chinese buffet before we left and jammed out to the likes of the ODB going down to Arkadelphia and sometimes on the way back
8) Candy Freeman Millwood (Cadence) and I (Blakemous Welchie) wrote three chapters of a murder novel titled “The Mulcher” in creative writing. We left our classmates captivated and hungry for more
9) Nick Dorsey (Tookie) and I have been to Jamaica, Hawaii, Philly, New York City, Colorado, Chicago, San Francisco, Thailand, Nambia, Las Vegas, Baltimore and probably some other random places together over the course of five years
10) As our Hawaii trip was concluding and we had been flying all night, Nick and I got in a fight (verbal, not physical) at the Minneapolis airport and didn’t speak to each other until we got back to Arkansas
11) If you can’t tell, I have lots of nicknames. They include – Blaker, Blue, Big W, Big Dub, Dub, Dubs, Grape Juice, Welch’s, Blaketh, Blakely, Blakers, Big Double-V, Blake-ums, Blakemous Welchie, Poppy…
12) I was in a school musical in eighth grade called “Nickelodeon.” I sang, I danced, I wore a cummerbund and bowtie
13) I’m not getting married. Ever.
14) I love to sing
15) I love rap and hip hop (I’m ghetto at heart)
16) In kindergarten, I chased the crippled boy in my class on the playground…yeah, I was mean
17) Jeff Norton (Tanker) and I have the BEST bathroom stories EVER from when we stayed in the African bush in Zambia….the Roman Basillica…
18) When I was 19 or 20, I was jumping on my trampoline (which we got for Christmas one year when we were kids) with Heath Gober and I came crashing through the mat and hit the ground…hard
19) When my sister (Keilani) and I were kids, we used to play a game called “toot practice” where we made fart noises on our arms and then would give each other prizes like a piece of toilet paper for whoever made the best fart noise
20) Tracey Campbell and I had the FUNNIEST weekend in Paris when I went to visit her and Paul in the UK in 1998. One night we laughed until we cried because of all the stuff that was happening
21) BB and I used to do cheerleading stunts in her swimming pool every summer and I learned to do a backflip off their diving board
22) I’ve seen Milli Vanilli, Young MC and MC Hammer in concert
23) I met the cast of Saturday Night Live in New York City in 2001
24) I laugh at my humor more than anybody else
25) I voted for Bill Clinton when I was old enough his second term and I STILL don’t regret it!
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
Saturday, February 21, 2009
26 October 2008
Kevin Rodgers (Youth Pastor Kev)
1. Suffering matures us (James 1:2-4)
2. Suffering weans us from self-reliance (2 Corinthians 1:9)
3. Suffering is an evangelistic tool
4. Suffering increases our great reward
5. Suffering helps us minister to others
6. Suffering keeps down pride (2 Corinthians 12:7)
7. Suffering identifies us with Christ (Phillippians 3:10)
8. Suffering identifies us with our people
excerpt from my journal:
"This morning we started with a worship service after breakfast followed by a message from Kevin. Chris Nalls, Johanna and I led worship with five songs. Kevin gave one of the best messages about suffering and being a missionary I've ever heard. I began thinking about how suffering for Christ as a missionary goes farther than imprisonment, persecution or violence. There is so much emotional suffering we go through by leaving our families, our friends and the lives we've always known. He also talked about when we are hurt by those we've poured our lives into when they say or do something against us. Having a servant's heart and truly finding joy in doing things for those I love can often lead to feelings of being used, taken for granted or taken advantage of. Though these times are frustrating, I have to remind myself to do things for others because I desire to glorify God, not for my own gain..."
Today, I say rejoice in serving others and find joy in suffering for the glory of God, whatever that means for you. God is good, all the time...
Monday, February 16, 2009
So Friday, Paul and I went to Freedom Park Secondary School where he ministers, to attend their achievement celebration and Valentine’s talent show. During the celebration they recognize those students who have excelled in each subject and grade.
It was encouraging to not only hear how well these students performed but also that the school was taking a day to publicly recognize these achievements. It certainly is a morale boost for the kids and an incentive for them to work hard and succeed in their education, encouraging them to become productive and responsible citizens (I think I borrowed that thought from the Boys & Girls Clubs mission statement – hey, that was my life for three years!).
It also touched my heart to hear the administrators encourage the students to be strong in their faith and seek to glorify God in their achievements and life. Though it is not a faith-based school, the leaders appeared to be believers and opened the doors of their school for Paul to share the gospel of Christ and disciple believers there. They even had a time of worship during the celebration!
After the celebration, festivities continued with a talent competition. These students love to dance and it shows! They are talented in hip hop but definitely add an African flavor to it. It was a fun afternoon watching these kids show off their moves and the fun they had doing their thing.
Here are a few photos from the day…