10 People Who Inspired Me in 2010

 “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24 NIV

About a year ago, I shared in this post how friends of ours had spurred me on toward love and good deeds. As I reflect on 2010 and continue to thank God for their friendship and encouragement, I thought it’d be fun to share some other sources of encouragement and inspiration that might just inspire and encourage you, too.

1. My husband, Michael, always inspires me, and for so many reasons. In August I blogged about 15 reasons why I love Michael. I should also note that in the first three months of 2010 Michael lost 65 lbs., and he has kept them off! Yay! But of more significance than his weight loss are his spiritual gains in 2010. He has clearly grown closer to the Lord  — through prayer, Bible study, and Scripture memory — and that truly inspires me! What a blessing to have a strong spiritual leader in our household.

2. Our pastor, Steve Anderson, is a wonderful, encouraging pastor, as well as leader of the small group in which my husband and I participate. In November while he was serving as a short-term missionary in Nicaragua, I blogged here about how thankful I am for Pastor Steve and his lovely wife Sharon. They are truly wonderful people who bless us each week. When he returned from Nicaragua, Pastor Steve told us an amazing story about handing out baseballs and Beanie Babies to the children there. God performed a miracle that day! You can listen to him tell the story if you click here. It starts at 19 minutes into his sermon “Whose Stuff is All This Anyway?” By the way, you can find out more about short-term missions and adopt-a-pastor opportunities in Nicaragua by visiting Repairers of Broken Walls.

3. Andreas Custer is the Student Ministries Director at our church. He’s a great guy, and while our family doesn’t yet have any students in his ministry, his contagious passion for the Lord and inspiring manner spills over and touches our family regularly. After visiting Gettysburg and other Civil War battlefields this fall, Pastor Andi preached this really dynamite sermon about fixing our eyes on Jesus in the same way soldiers fix their eyes on their battle flag. The key Scripture passage he used was Philippians 3:7-21, and he explains that those who have their eyes set on earthly things, in contrast, are enemies of the cross.

4. Karen Wistrom at Family from Afar is a working mom with four children, two biological and two adopted, and is a child sponsorship coordinator for Children’s HopeChest. Besides raising money for all sorts of orphan-care projects, she traveled to Ethiopia this fall — for the third year in a row — to minister to orphans at Kind Hearts, where our sweet Dawit is. Thanks to Karen, we were able to put together this little care package for Dawit in August, and then a couple of months later Karen sent us pictures of Dawit receiving it. Yay, Karen! 

5. Samantha at Little Goody 2 Shoes is an 11-year-old who is selling bottle cap necklaces to raise money to buy shoes for orphans in Ethiopia. We bought a few of them that say Kind Hearts, and they are so adorable! To date, Samantha sold 314 necklaces and raised enough money to buy 103 pairs of new, custom-made shoes for orphans at Kind Hearts and two other orphanages in Ethiopia. Way to go, Samantha!

6. My own daughter, Linnea, at the ripe old age of 7, decided to donate 11 inches of her hair to Locks of Love in February. She was so brave and so passionate about giving to a little girl in need. That was a lot of hair!  

7. Author Ann Voskamp at A Holy Experience is a farmer’s wife, homeschool mother of six, and an amazingly gifted writer. She faithfully uses her gift for God’s glory. I am so eager to read her latest book, 1,000 Gifts, which will be released Jan. 25.

8. Writer Holley Gerth at Heart to Heart with Holley is another writer whose words transcend into the spiritually inspiring realm. She also faithfully uses this gift to point others toward God.

9. My beautiful and sunshiny friend Alice, who recently moved to our little town, totally inspires me to be a better mom and to more intentionally play with my kids, especially while they are still willing to play with me! Alice is outgoing, full of life, and truly a fantastic cook and baker. All those traits come in handy as a stay-at-home mom to three handsome and energetic boys, all under the age of 5! While the girls and I were over for a visit last week, Alice gave us all flashlights, turned off the lights, and asked us to hunt for stuffed animals that had been hidden around her kitchen and living room. This “jungle-safari” version of hide-and-seek was great fun! Thanks for being so wonderful, Alice!

10. And last, but certainly not least, is Jodi, another beautiful friend of mine who inspires me to be a better mom and not neglect my creative side.  Jodi is a tea-drinking homeschool mom of five children, ranging in age from 1 to 13. She also teaches art, jazz, and tap dance lessons. My daughter is in one of Jodi’s art classes and adores every moment of it. If I were to write a biography about Jodi, I’d entitle it Everybody Loves Jodi. She is creative, encouraging, sweeter than pie, and everybody loves her! Last I checked she wasn’t sporting a red cape, but she is truly a super woman, empowered by God. 

Now I’m shutting my laptop and heading off to play Little People with my 5-year-old, so it’s your turn to share.

Who has inspired you in 2010? Do tell!

Pray. Thank. Repeat.

Pray. Thank. Repeat.

I read that somewhere recently — probably over at A Holy Experience — and those simple words have encouraged me to use my blog to give thanks to God for His abundant blessings. And what better time to start than right now?

One person in my life who I am especially thankful for is our senior pastor.

Pastor Steve shepherds his flock like no other pastor I’ve met. God has given him amazing gifts for encouraging and teaching, and Pastor Steve faithfully uses them for God’s glory. He’s a genuinely friendly, gentle, humble and wise man who is constantly striving for holiness. He deeply loves the Lord, studies diligently, and preaches heartfelt messages straight from God’s Word.

My simple words will never do this man justice, but I assure you he will have many rewards in Heaven!

Pastor Steve is on a mission trip, which is probably why he came to mind when I set out to write this. He’s spending the week in Nicaragua, leading a conference for pastors and their wives. He’s also visiting some remote churches very near and dear to my husband, who also traveled to Nicaragua two years ago on a mission trip.

Please join me in praying for Pastor Steve and his lovely wife Sharon. They are wonderful, wonderful people, and I thank God for them.

What are you thankful for today?

I think of the lost language of thanks and I wonder what will happen to the culture of Christians if we don’t speak the tongue taught by the Father… He gives grace and we speak the language of Christians when we give thanks. This is who I am. Gratitude is the culture of the sinners made saints.” -Ann Voskamp

Nicaragua Story Published in BGC World

This month’s issue of The BGC World, a magazine published by the Baptist General Convention, features a shortened version of my story about the mission trip to Nicaragua as well as a photo of the team (which included my husband!) Here’s a link to the PDF of the page:

Building Hope and Friendship in Nicaragua

Hand-mixing cement and carrying it in buckets without handles in 90-degree weather thousands of miles from home is certainly a strange way to build friendships with people who don’t speak your language. But that’s exactly what my husband and five other men from our church did earlier this month.

The guys spent the first week of 2008 helping our adopted church in Asedades, Nicaragua, construct a new building to better accommodate its growing congregation.

To complete the building – adding a floor, a porch, steps and a roof – the men worked with nearly a dozen local volunteers as well as the local pastor and his family, Pastor Cesar and Celina Alvarez and their 13 children. The new building is three times the size of the old building, which was so over-crowded that only the women and children fit inside. All the men had to stand outside, often in the rain because the average annual rainfall in that region is about 80 inches.

A nearly four-hour drive from the capital city of Managua, Asedades is a poor, remote, mountainous village of fewer than 1,500 people. Very few cars travel the rocky path through the village, mostly just cattle, horses, donkeys and people.

Alvarez and many other pastors in rural Nicaragua have great difficulty providing for their families because they often receive less than $35 a month from their congregations. That’s according to a ministry called Repairers of Broken Walls (www.rbwmissions.com).

Nicaragua is one of the poorest countries in Central America; its economy is severely depressed. Civil war, hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, mud slides, tornados and economic collapse have caused devastating poverty in many parts of the country. The under-employment rate is 46%, and 48% of the population is below the poverty line, according to The World Factbook. What’s more, many Nicaraguan children don’t attend school because they lack money for shoes, uniforms, books, and lunches.

Although the primary focus of this trip was the construction work, the mission team ministered in other ways as well. Pastor Steve spoke on a nationally broadcast Christian radio program twice, and he led a seminary training conference for about 37 Nicaraguan pastors and their wives, most of whom have never had the opportunity for any formal education. The National Association of Evangelical Pastors of Nicaragua coordinated the conference.

“I spent three to four hours speaking through a translator,” Pastor Steve says. “I shared things that the Lord has taught me, and we encouraged one another. We all understood that pastors are not immune to struggles, and we committed to pray for one another.”

 The men all say they fell in love with the people of Nicaragua, especially the children. They gave away children’s books, Frisbees, play dough and a suitcase full of Beanie Babies, which Oakwood’s children’s ministry had collected. They also distributed a suitcase full of medical supplies to the evangelical association’s clinic in Managua and a suitcase full of books to the pastors at the conference.

Repairers of Broken Walls was pivotal in preparing the men for this mission. Enrique and Carol Acosta serve as the directors of this ministry, and they accompanied the men on this trip. They assisted the team by translating, cooking, offering first aid and helping with the construction work. The Acostas have coordinated more than 35 mission trips to Nicaragua and Mexico over the last several years. Their goal is to facilitate Christ-centered, international relationships that serve, encourage and disciple.

For the past several months, the mission team met regularly to discuss logistics and participate in a missions-oriented Bible study. Through donations and fundraisers – which included clearing tables and washing dishes at Pizza Ranch, serving food at various church gatherings, and selling Oakwood sweatshirts – the team raised $15,000 for the construction costs and travel expenses.

The team returned to Minnesota on Jan. 8, but this trip is just the beginning, Pastor Steve says. The church intends to become more than one-time visitors to Nicaragua. Lord willing, Oakwood plans to unite with Alvarez’s church through on-going team trips, correspondence, reciprocal prayer initiatives, and sharing of their God-given gifts with each other.  

The Acostas say this partnership can be more than one church helping out another, poorer congregation. “It can be the Body of Christ working together to complete God’s purposes and to show the world that Christ was who He said He was because His people really do love one another,” they say.