In Sunshine or
Linda L. Linn
Gladly Serve God In Sunshine or Storms
Linda L. Linn
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or
utilized in any form by any means, electronic or mechanical,
including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage
and retrieval system, without permission.
Printed by TheBookPatch in the United States of America.
About the Author
The author, Linda L. Linn, has lived in Colorado all her life. She has believed in, and loved Jesus since she was a young child. When not doing housework, cooking or baking, she likes to play the piano, write stories, sew, and read. She also enjoys travel and photography.
Before she retired, she enjoyed teaching first, second, and third graders in the public school system for 27 years. She and her husband, Richard, have traveled to see much of God’s beautiful creation in the western United States. They are presently living in Montrose, Colorado. She hopes you enjoy this novel.
This novel is dedicated with gratitude to
the one and only God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
He is the supreme and sovereign ruler,
and He is the only one deserving of our praise and service.
Who might be the next to fall in love in Pine City and find a loving spouse so they can be married and serve God together in unity? Maybe somebody we haven’t met, because the ones we already know aren’t ready to start thinking in that direction yet, but give them time. As you read this third novel in the Sunshine Series, be looking for clues about the unmarried people in the Character list which is in the Addendum. Some will get married and some will decide to stay single.
Either way, how much can the people in Pine City do for Jesus before he returns? You’ll get to notice how Jesus loves and leads some his followers to love and serve him in new or old ways. You might also get some ideas of places where you might like to travel.
Maybe you’ve wondered what happened during the amount of time the author skipped at the end of the second novel in this series. This book fills in some of that interval.
If you haven’t read the first two novels in the series, it would be most helpful for you to read “Everywhere There’s a Sunrise, Let’s Tell the Good News, and “Rejoice as the Sun Shines on Restorations,” before your read this one, “Gladly Serve God In Sunshine or Storms.” All three books are available to buy as printed copies from thebookpatch.com. Or you could get each of these books as ebooks or PDF files, free of charge from free-ebooks.net and read them in the right order.
This is a work of fiction, except for the Bible Scriptures, which are God's Word and are therefore true. The State and National Parks and Monuments are real places where some of the people in this novel travel to visit. No person in this novel exists in real life except for God the Father, God the Son, (also known as Jesus, the Messiah), and God the Holy Spirit. All the other characters, places and events in this novel are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or to actual events is purely coincidental. But, many things in the story, and especially the miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit can really happen.
This novel is meant for adults, not children, although with parental guidance, it has parts children might learn from or enjoy.
Scriptures are shown by italics, and are this author's paraphrase of the King James Version of the Holy Bible. I chose the King James Version because it has no copyright. Basically, what I do is to change words like "thee" and "ye" to "you", "thy" to "your", take the "eth," etc. off words, and sometimes use synonyms, to make it sound like more modern English. You can do the same thing as you read the suggested old hymns in a hymnal.
The author encourages you to look up these scriptures in your preferred Bible translation and read them there also. The Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs chosen for this novel really do have meaningful words and teachings. I encourage you to look up each hymn and spiritual song in a hymnal or songbook.
If you don’t have a hymnal or a songbook, try looking up the title of the song on the web to find the lyrics. Reading the lyrics for the songs, finding pictures of the real places people travel to, and other things the characters look up on the web could enhance this story if you can take the time to do it. Just type the song title, name of the national park or any other topic into the search engine for the web and you can find a wealth of information.
There’s a list of the characters and horses in this story in the addendum at the end of this novel. It might help you to keep track of who is who as you read. Maybe you’ve wondered what happened during the amount of time the author skipped at the end of the second novel in this series. This book fills in some of that interval. You might also get some ideas of places where you might like to travel.
If you decide to print the novel from a PDF file, you can use a regular bookmark to keep track of where you stop. If you are reading it off the computer screen, just write down the page number where you stop reading. If you are using an ebook viewer for an ebook, it should have an electronic bookmark.
1 Corinthians 7:2,8b,26,38b,
Paul was single and advised, to avoid adultery, let every man have his own wife, and every woman have her own husband, but he said to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I, … because of the present distress…” he concluded, “he who gets married does well, and he who doesn’t does better.”
Anita was talking to her husband, Don Ross, who pastors Grace ‘n’ Faith Church #4. Their children Timmy and Mary were asleep.
Anita shared, “I’ve been wondering who in our congregation might be the next to fall in love and get married.”
“Yes, I’ve been wondering about it also,” Don agreed. “There is that one couple who have been dating for so many months already, but it’s hard to tell yet where it might lead.”
Anita remarked, “I wouldn’t be surprised if they do, pretty soon though, because they’ve been dating for so long already.”
He nodded, “This is one of the good things about this job. We usually get to know about these things before the rest of our flock learn about them.”
This prologue contains some of the people in their congregation and what they are thinking or have thought in the past about getting married or not. In this story, it will be interesting to see what they do.
Riley was talking to his parents, Patrick and Glenda O’Connor, after Fiona’s wedding. “I don’t think it’s God’s will for me to get married right away. As I’ve been praying about it, I think it might be eventually, but right now I have the wrong kind of job. It would be hard to be a good husband when I’ll be gone so often and for long times as a salesman for my company.”
His dad, Patrick, nodded, “I’m glad you’ve prayed about this part of your life and are following God’s leading.”
“Yes,” agreed Glenda, “as your mother I’m especially relieved to hear about your decision and plans. And since you’ll be traveling so often, what do you think about getting an apartment of your own?”
He answered, “I’m undecided about it.”
“Well,” inserted Patrick, “Your room here is always a choice. It makes more sense than spending a lot of rent money on an apartment that will be empty so much of the time.”
“But I don’t want to take advantage of my parents and look like I’m not being responsible,” argued Riley.
“Nonsense!” exclaimed Glenda. “We’d love to have you here when you aren’t traveling. And I don’t care what other people might think. It was so nice to have Fiona living here when she came home from caring for Great Aunt Cara.”
Riley conceded, “Thank you both, I do enjoy living here, but I would feel much better about it, if I could pay you room and board.”
Patrick jumped in before Glenda could disagree, “How would it be if you pay us what you think your room and board would cost, and we put it in a special account earning interest to be your nest egg when you get ready to move out on your own and maybe get married? You could also save some more on your own.”
“I like the sound of this idea,” concurred Glenda. “In fact, if you will stay with us when you’re not traveling, I’ll extend my leave of absence permanently from my job and be a homemaker. Then when you aren’t traveling, I can enjoy some time with you like I did with Fiona.”
Tony Valdez, who is the assistant manager during the evenings at Fiesta Restaurante had decided to remain single after his one and only date with Esther Beckett. He realized he couldn’t really consider marriage because he had chosen a simple lifestyle so he could serve his Lord better. He wanted to be available to do whatever God wanted him to do and not even think about getting married.
Ben Clay looked up from his project one evening to see his sister, Amelia, who was still a senior in high school, standing there waiting to be noticed. She asked her brother, “Ben, are you going to get married?”
He was a little surprised at her question, but answered, “I’ve decided I need to wait until I get started in my career and know that I have enough money to support a wife and family. Before that I still need to finish another year in the trade school so I can be a contractor. Besides, I’m also waiting for an answer from God about whether to stay single or get married.”
Amelia said, “I think what you just said makes good sense. I know I’m too young to think about it yet, even though some of the girls at school are planning weddings right after they graduate this year. I want to go to the trade school and learn all about how to run a business. Then I’ll start praying for the same guidance you are.”
“Your thinking is good, Amelia,” agreed Ben. “I think too many kids get married too young and then regret it.”
“Right!” exclaimed Amelia. “It’s a very important decision and if it is God’s will that I do get married, I plan to do just what Fiona did before she married Matt. She had a whole list of things to find out about him first. I’m glad they’re very happily married.”
“I am too,” stated Ben. “They make a perfect couple.”
Unice Logan works full time at Mercy Valley Ranch as the veterinarian for all the horses on the ranch and family nurse practitioner for the people who live there. She has never been married, and since she believes her job is her ministry, she hasn’t even considered getting married.
Aneko and her brother, Yoshi Suehiro, were remembering back to a time when they were eating supper at a restaurant in the city where they lived for a few years after finishing high school and a year at the trade school. Their conversation went like this.
Yoshi asked, “What do you think about this city where we both moved after a year each in the trade school in Pine City?”
“I don’t like it very well,” answered Aneko. “It was my idea to move here and see if I could get a good job and meet some other Japanese young people since there weren’t many in Pine City.”
Yoshi agreed, “I followed your lead for the same reasons, and my job here is just tolerable. So far I haven’t found any young people who appeal to me.”
“How do you feel about marriage?” asked Aneko.
He responded, “I’m not sure if I ever want to get married. I’ve seen too many unhappy couples and divorces.
“I agree.” Then she added, “Mom and Dad have a very good marriage, but I fear those are few and far between.”
“You’re right,” and then Yoshi stated, “I don’t think our parents would do it, but I know that I don’t like the Japanese custom of the parents arranging their child’s marriage.”
Aneko exclaimed, “I don’t either! It would be scary and undesirable to marry a stranger and not know if you could ever love the person.”
He nodded, “I’d rather never marry than to have to do it that way. How’s your job here?”
She replied, “My job is not very good. It pays enough to support me, but it’s not very fulfilling. I’ll admit that I’m thinking about moving back to Pine City because it is a nicer city than this one and I miss the mountains and our parents.”
He admitted, “If you move back there, I would be even more lonely here, so maybe I’ll consider moving back there too.”
Shortly after that conversation they both did move back, became believers in Jesus, and started working with their parents in the restaurant, which had the name Ami’s Japanese Restaurant.
During one of the conversations Ruth Beckett, Maria Gomez, and Pam Green had about marriage, Maria had mentioned, “Julie found a real gem for a husband. There aren’t many like that around.”
“For sure!” exclaimed Pam, “and that’s one of the reasons I decided to stay single. I definitely enjoy living in my little walkout basement apartment without another human being to please. Knowing I can please my Lord is all I need in order to feel content.”
Ruth added, “Yes, it’s fabulous to be in the center of God’s will.”
At another time Maria was talking to Ruth, “I'm so glad I decided to remain single. I was disappointed when Ted and Julie moved to the ranch so they could be foster parents to four girls, and I was no longer part of their small group, but I really like being in the same one you’re in. And I like our four member ministry group.”
Ruth responded, “I’m glad, because I like having you in both of them. It’s another example of how God works things for our good.”
“Yes,” Maria agreed, “and he also worked it out so I get to see how the plan for the ranch is working, plus I get to continue my friendships with Julie and Esther. Furthermore, I enjoy doing things with both of their girls. It’s really like another ministry for me to do for Jesus.”
Ruth shared, “That’s wonderful, and it’s the same for me, plus I get to go every weekend either to the farm or the ranch and therefore, I get to go horseback riding almost every Saturday or Sunday. I’m getting acquainted with my four ‘little brothers’ at the farm, and I have four young ‘nieces’ at the ranch.”
“I’m glad for you, Ruth,” remarked Maria. “I’m more busy, enriched, and fulfilled now, than when I was wishing for a husband or that Ted and Julie would stay in town.”
“Indeed, it’s great when we can accept God’s will.” Then Ruth mentioned, “my brother, Jason, feels the same way we do, since he decided to stay single. Now he goes to the farm to do things with his ‘little brothers’ every Saturday.”
Maria responded, “I’m glad. Thank you, Jesus for working out all the things in our lives according to your will instead of what we thought we wanted in our lives. Your way is so much better!”
Beth Davis is the Principal of the Grace ‘n’ Faith Church Christian School. She isn’t married and feels it’s God’s will for her to remain single. She knows that if she got married and had babies, she’d have to give up her position at the school.
Denji told his parents, Afta and Hana Suehiro, “There aren’t very many Japanese young people my age in this city, and especially in the church we attend, so I think I’ll pray and ask God to lead me about what to do as a career and whether he wants me to get married or stay single.”
“Good thinking, son,” Afta commended. “It’s very important to have a career started that will give you enough money to support yourself and a wife and family if God wants you to have those.”
Hana agreed, “Exactly, and since you’re still a junior in high school, you’re young and have plenty of time to make those kinds of decisions. I often wonder about my sister’s kids, though. They are old enough that I’d expect them to start thinking about marriage. Oh well, it’s really none of my business anyway.”
Mark 16:15, Jesus said, Go into all the world,
and preach the gospel to every creature.
About nine months after the children had been assigned to
Mercy Valley Ranch and Farm
In early March, on a Saturday evening after supper cleanup Mindy Jones called out, “Hurry, Dad and Mom, it’s time for the TV show, ‘Meet Some of Jesus’ Servants’ to start! And tonight it’s about our church!”
They called back, “We’ll be right there!” They hurried in and all three sat on the couch to watch it together.
Interviewer: Welcome to this program where you can meet some of Jesus’ servants. Today I’m going to interview the pastor of Grace ‘n’ Faith Church #1. He’s already told me that he’s single. Why did you decide to remain single?
Pastor: First I’d like to say that this interview is not just about me. I am a spokesman for Jesus and his church. To answer your question, after a lot of prayer and Bible study, I felt I could serve Jesus more effectively if I would stay single.”
Interviewer: And why did you start Grace ‘n’ Faith Church?
Pastor: While I was in seminary, I heard a song called “Go Right Out,” sung by the Cathedrals. It’s message was that somebody ought to go tell the good news of salvation to the people who are lost in sin, so they can repent, confess their sins, and believe in Jesus to forgive them and give them eternal life. The tune and lyrics kept running through my mind and I couldn’t get rid of them. I finally realized I am one of those somebodies, and each believer is also one of those somebodies, and Jesus can work through us to bring the wanderers in.”
Interviewer: I agree. Nobody can do it alone.
Pastor: Exactly! First, I needed the time to be able to talk to people. Years ago, I had a dirt bike I really enjoyed, but it was only a one person activity with no chance to talk to others. So I sold it after taking a picture and enlarging it to poster size to remind me to use the time and money it would take for my selfish enjoyment to tell others the Good News instead. Second, I needed a church with believers who would let Jesus work through them to continue the work he started when he was on the earth so long ago.
Interviewer: But you were still just one person. How did you get the church started?
Pastor: For a couple years after I graduated from seminary, I traveled and searched for churches that were like the New Testament church, and were doing Jesus work on earth. I worked with many good churches and observed their Christian schools. With all this knowledge, I moved back to Pine City, where I had grown up, because it needed a church and school like those. I got a job to support myself and pay the rent on a large house where I could start a house church. I went out and brought in one wanderer. Together we brought in more until we had enough for a small number of believers to meet on Sundays in the house for a service and on Wednesdays for a small group meeting. We went out in teams of two or more, and Jesus led us and worked through us to do miracles, or continue telling the Good News.
Interviewer: How long did it take after you got here?
Pastor: It took about a year. Then we started to grow faster because the people caught the vision and ran with it. When we got too big for the house, I moved out of the big house into a small apartment. We’d meet in the park when the weather permitted. We had baptismal services in public swimming pools where we could present a short explanation of the Good News to other people who were there watching. Many people responded to the invitations. By wintertime, we found a church that would let us rent their facility on Saturdays. They even had a baptismal we could use. We rented from the same church for about two years while we collected money to build our own facilities.
Interviewer: What was your collection strategy?
Pastor: At that time, and presently we have a box with a slit cut in the top, at the back of the sanctuary where people donate the amounts God leads them to give, and it’s always enough to do what God tells us to do. We have never had to get a loan for building projects. There are no salaries paid to the pastors including myself. Also the congregations donate enough money to pay for the running of the church and school, insurance, maintenance, and so forth, and any extra money we give to worthy ministries.
Interviewer: When did you start the Christian school?
Pastor: We started the second year by having mothers who would do day care for children the same ages as their own. With the help of teachers in our church and what I learned by visiting those other schools, we developed a curriculum for kindergarten through the third grade.
Interviewer: So the school has been an important part of your ministry almost since the beginning.
Pastor: Yes, I yearned for a way to train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it, as it says in Proverbs 22:6. Plus I wanted them to be trained to go into the public schools in fourth grade and on, as missionaries.
Interviewer: Has it been effective?
Pastor: Very, although it’s slow, because they understand the importance of making friends before sharing. Most of them continue being missionaries in middle and high school, and as adults.
Interviewer: Let's go back and talk about how your church has grown. What happened after you built your own buildings?
Pastor: The members of Grace ‘N’ Faith Church continued doing ministries in teams of two or more with Jesus directing their words and actions. Jesus did many miracles through them and the result was usually that a lot of people believed in Jesus when they saw the miracle and listened to the explanation of the Good News. So the church numbers have had a steady growth. we’d start groups for the new believers to teach them how to live their new lives and soon they were out there bringing more lost wanderers to the church. When we started having four services each weekend, I knew I couldn’t be an effective pastor to that many people, so we became twelve churches with the same name plus a number. Each church has its own pastor who supports himself and his family, if he has one, and is able to effectively pastor his congregation.
Interviewer: I know that worked well for a number of years and then what happened?
Pastor: We had a tremendous growth spurt and felt God leading us to build duplicate facilities with enough pastors for twelve more churches and enough teachers for a new school on the other side of town. The new buildings were also funded by member’s giving and we have no debt. All the churches continue to grow as God adds new members to his church.
Interviewer: Do you plan to add more duplicate facilities as needed in the future?
Pastor: No, that same year, we sent a church planting group of ten couples to a city we knew needed a good church. They’re doing such a great job that we will send a group from whatever church reaches about 200 members to plant a church wherever it is needed. This will keep the size manageable without needing to build again.
Interviewer: I see our time is up. Thank you for all the information you shared, and God bless you and the church as you all continue to serve him.
That evening right after the program, Ami Suehiro shared, “This was really a good program. I’m glad we get to attend this wonderful church. Also, Aneko and Yoshi, I want to thank you again for the wonderful job you’re doing in the restaurant.”
Tomo Suehiro tacked on, “I feel the same way! Plus it’s so good to have you back home again! This house was too big for just Mom and me when you were living in the other city.”
“Thank you for the compliments,”Aneko responded and Yoshi added his thanks also.
Ami inquired, “What have you two been thinking about marriage lately? We haven’t had much time to discuss it for a while.”
“It was fun to go to Sunny and Esther’s double wedding, replied Aneko, “and the skit was hilarious, especially since we knew the story that went with it. I personally can’t imagine getting married like Sunny did to Felix Lucero on faith that God would fill both of them with love for each other. But I got to talk to her mother later and she informed me that they’re both very much in love now.”
Tomo inserted, “I’m glad to hear the good report. I never have liked the Japanese custom of parents arranging their children’s marriages. Ami’s parents wanted to do it for her, but she was already in love with me. I’m sure glad they didn’t push it.”
“What a relief!” exclaimed, Yoshi. “It’s great to know that Aneko and I don’t have to worry about it. I’d rather stay single than do that.”
Aneko nodded and added, “My brother and I continue to ask God what his will is for us about getting married or staying single. I hope he makes it very clear!”
Ami shared, “Oh, I think he will. He doesn’t want us to be in the dark about his will.”
When the founding pastor arrived home after the interview, he was tired, but thankful. He immediately prayed, “God, please help the churches in Pine City, in the USA, and abroad to have even more impact now and until Jesus returns. Help us to fulfill Jesus great commission to go into the world and tell the Good News, as it says in the last verses of Matthew 28.”
An idea came to him at the end of his prayer time, “Have all the small groups write things they’ve done and the results, plus other things they’ve desired to do or see done.”
He would use this idea first with his own small group, which consisted of all the other pastors at his facility. If it was a useful idea he’d have the rest of the small groups in all twenty-four churches do it. His own small group yielded many good activities.
Therefore in the next small group meetings, each facilitator handed out paper to the members and requested, “Please write down some things you’ve done to tell the Good News, or are doing, with God’s leading, and the results you have had.” He gave them time to get finished and then instructed, “Think of things you would like to do, or you might do later, or will do later, or would like to see somebody else doing. Write those next.
When he noticed that most people were finished, he explained, “The founding pastor of Grace ‘n’ Faith Church had all of us pastors and wives do this at the last small group meeting we had. He was so pleased with the many things we wrote that he asked us to do this with our small groups. He said he would have the church secretary compile the lists so there would be no duplicates and as soon as it’s ready and printed, we can hand out a copy to you. You can take a few more minutes to think and write anything else you desire to add to your list. Just think, even if your idea seems small to you, if you’re willing to share it, maybe somebody else can use it also as a way they can serve Jesus gladly.”
When everyone was finished writing he went on, “As soon as possible, there will be some of those well known booklets about many of these activities, including how to implement them. The pastor of Church #1 might be calling some of you to get more information to put into the booklets. Therefore please put your name and phone number on your paper before you give it to me.”
The next church services of the twenty-four Grace ‘n’ Faith Churches after those small group meetings, began with a short video by the pastor of church #1. He stated, “The interview went well and we’ve been doing a very good job so far. What I’m going to say next is not meant to put anyone on a guilt trip. You all are doing a great job already. I just feel an urgency to do more, since the time we have left, might be very short to bring the lost ones into the fold. We need to continue what we’re already doing, plus enlarge our impact on our worlds by gladly serving God even more now.
“After Jesus returns, the time to evangelize will be over. So I share my vision with you because Proverbs 29:18 says, where there is no vision, the people parish. If each of us would add just one more activity to reach those people, our impact might be doubled or more!
“So as soon as the lists are compiled, we’ll give each family or single person a copy and you can look through them and pray for God to lead you to one or more he desires for you to do. I’m already working on booklets to go with some of the more involved activities. If you’d like to help with a booklet or more, please let me know. The people in the church plant who went to the southern city will also receive copies of the list and can request booklets when they’re available.”
When the short video ended, the service continued with Spiritual Songs and Bible verses and teaching about the need to increase our effectiveness in fulfilling Jesus great commission to go into the world and tell the Good News, now and until Jesus returns.
The songs included “Go Right Out and Bring Them In,” and ‘Til He Comes,” and “I Will Serve Thee.”
The pastor explained, “Today we were told to give you people practice using your concordance. Think about the words in one of the songs we sang today and find a verse that would go with at least part of the song.”
As they were looking he wrote the three titles on a chart with space for the verses they would find. He’d have them read the verse into a microphone so all could hear.
“Go Right Out and Bring Them In:” Luke 15:4,5, What man of you, if you have a hundred sheep, if you lose one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine and go after that which was lost and find it. And when you have found it, you rejoice as you bring it back.
‘Til He Comes:” John 9:4, Jesus said “I must work the works of him who sent me while it is day. The night comes, when no man can work.”
“I Will Serve Thee:” 1 John 4:19 tells why we serve, We love him, because he first loved us.
The teaching time was about gladly serving God continually until Jesus returns. The members looked up synonyms on their cell phones and shared them. He also wrote those on the chart and instructed the people in the congregation to copy what was on the chart so they could refer to it later.
Gladly: joyfully, willingly, eagerly, cheerfully, with gratitude,
Serve: to work for, do a job for, carry out the wishes of someone,
God: He is the preeminent one in the universe! He is the LORD, the sovereign One. He is God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, The Supreme Being, the Lord Jesus Christ, plus other names,
Continually: repeatedly, frequently, regularly,
Until: up to the time of the event mentioned,
Jesus returns: our Savior comes back like he said he would.
When the pastor noticed that most people were finished copying the things on the chart he continued, “Today we’re focusing mostly on the present time and until Jesus returns. Then we believers will continue to serve God for eternity in ways we cannot even imagine.”
The people in the congregation nodded and smiled.
He continued, “The pastor who founded Grace ‘n’ Faith church shared his vision with all of us after praying that we would catch his extended vision by continuing to do the good things we are already doing, plus as he said, ‘enlarge our impact on our worlds by gladly serving God even more now.’ Let’s all be praying in unity for that same desire as we wait to receive the list of ideas. Now let’s sing the song, ‘Til He Comes’ one more time before we go home.”
As a result of the pastor’s video and the teaching time at the service, most of the people in the church prayerfully considered the activities on the list they received and asked Jesus to guide them to the one or ones that would be best for them to do. They escalated their ministries to include at least one thing Jesus guided them to do from the list of possible activities. Some added activities to their jobs or changed to jobs where they would be able to witness better. Perhaps you’ll notice some new ideas from the list as you read on in this story. Other people would choose things that had already been done effectively by somebody else.
One weekend when Ruth was staying with her sister, Esther, and husband, Nathan Mendoza, on Mercy Valley Ranch, Esther shared, “Nathan and I really liked the pastor’s interview and the small group meeting and church service, plus the list of ideas. We are praying about another ministry we can add to being foster parents to these girls who had been abused.”
Ruth said, “I liked all those things also, and I’ve been praying about the same thing for myself. I think God will show all of us when his timing for each of us is right. Maybe we all need some more time focusing on what we are doing here on the ranch.”
Esther nodded, “What a good point to keep in mind, especially continuing to teach them about the Bible and how to live for Jesus.” Then Esther mentioned, “I remember when you asked me if I could have been in that strange situation of dating two men simultaneously, for such a time as this, as it says in Esther 4:14b. Back then, I didn’t think I could ever be like Esther in the Bible. But that situation has turned out to be the greatest way for me to serve God that I could ever imagine!”
“Absolutely!” agreed Ruth. “Besides, it turned into another way I could serve him also. I’m so glad I get to spend time with with you now and help you with your four foster girls, Lucia, Val, and the twins, Holly and Willow. Plus I get to help Dad and Mom on Mercy Valley Farm with their four foster boys who had also been abused.”
Esther added, “I agree, and it’s hard for me to believe that our girls are seven years old now and already accepted Jesus as their Savior when they were six. The teachers told Julie and me all our girls had caught up in areas where they were behind. We’ve been here for almost a year already. It was the most wonderful idea Oscar and Vera could possibly have come up with, to turn their profitable dude ranch into a cluster of ten homes for four abused foster girls each.”
“Yes,” said Ruth, “I always enjoyed coming here when it was a dude ranch, but it’s even better now. Every house is always in use, and the horses get more exercise than ever before! I’m just so thankful that I still get to come here. Now it’s much more often than it was when we only got to spend an occasional weekend here.”
Esther exclaimed, “For sure, and I even get to live here all year around and help raise these four precious girls with Nathan! I also remember telling you at one time that it might be easier for me to remain single than try to choose the best husband, but that there might be a lot I’d miss out on having and doing with the right man. I can see I would have missed out on this tremendous opportunity. I’m really happy I stuck with the adventure and God chose the best husband for me, plus the girls he wanted us to raise. Nathan is truly the best husband!”
“Indeed he is!” Ruth concurred. “I couldn't be happier for you, my dear sister. I enjoy seeing you so happy and fulfilled.”
Esther replied, “Thank you, Ruth. I had no idea how marvelous my life could be back when I was hoping to get married. This is more than I ever could have dreamed up.”
“I’m sure,” Ruth nodded, “That’s the way God often does things.” She paused and then went on to say, “I noticed several months ago that you removed all the head and foot boards from the beds here, but I haven’t had a chance to ask you why. They do look very different from what I was used to seeing.”
“Yes, I did,” stated Esther. “When I went to visit Fiona on the Sunday afternoon right after we became reacquainted with Nathan and Felix, she told me that it’s much easier to make and unmake beds without head and foot boards and you don’t get skinned knuckles. I really like it this way.”
Ruth declared, “Indeed it would be, I think it’s a great idea and I intend to do the same thing as soon as I get back to my apartment.”
“I’m glad,” Esther remarked, “but don’t do it by yourself. Nathan removed all of ours and he’s really good at it. We stored ours in the garage. So let me ask him when he can do it and we’ll come help you. I just wish you and I had learned about it sooner. It would have kept us from so many sore knuckles, and would have saved us so much time and effort dusting.”
Ruth laughed, “I completely agree. I can donate mine to a thrift store in the city. Oh, I forgot to tell you, a month after your wedding, I converted your bedroom into a combination study, library, sewing, and exercise room. It’s been working very well for me and it helped me to not be so lonely every time I went past your empty room. Being able to come here to visit you, Nathan, and your girls has been just what I needed.”
“It’s the same for me,” Esther concurred. “The extra room in this cabin is just right for you being able to come visit, plus it’s a sewing and music room. It’s great that Nathan wants you and Maria to come on alternate weekends. He’s so understanding and supportive, and besides, he also enjoys having both of you come here.”
One evening a week or two after the pastor’s interview, the supper things were all cleaned up, so Vern, Lora, and Mindy Jones were sitting in the living room.
Mindy confessed, “Dad and Mom, I have something that’s been bothering me lately. High school is going fine, except I don’t like having to change into the gym uniform and then shower after gym, because there’s no privacy in the locker room or showers.”
They were listening politely, so she went on, “It didn’t bother me as much in middle school because there were many other girls who hadn’t developed yet either, but now I seem to be the only one, and several of the mean girls have been making fun of me every chance they get.”
Lora compassionately said, “Mindy, I’m so glad you told us about this and didn’t keep suffering in silence.”
“Yes,” agreed her dad, “we want to know about everything that concerns you, Mindy. I think I lost track of your age and development with all the other things we’ve been doing. Would you be willing to go see your mom’s doctor, who is a lady, and let her examine you to see if there are any reasons you aren’t developing like the other girls?”
“Yes I would,” answered Mindy, “if Mom will go with me. I haven’t gone to see very many doctors, since I’m usually healthy.
Lora responded, “Of course, Mindy, I’ll be glad to go with you. It sounds to me like it’s time for you to have a check-up. I’ll call tomorrow and make an appointment for you on a Saturday afternoon so we can both go see her and not have to take time off from school. She’s very nice. I think you’ll like her.”
“Thank you Dad and Mom!” exclaimed Mindy. “You’re the best!”
They both replied, “And you’re the best too!”
Lora called at noon from the school the next day, and was able to get an appointment for Saturday the same week since someone else had canceled theirs. So Lora typed up a summary of Mindy’s history and her concern on the computer’s word processor, printed it out, and they took it with them to the appointment.
On Saturday the nurse came in and took Mindy’s temperature, blood pressure, pulse rate, asked questions, and typed things into the computer. Lora gave her the summary and she typed some more things from it. Then she took the summary with her so the doctor could read it before coming into the room.
When the doctor came into the examining room she quickly put Mindy at ease by her friendly manner. She asked some more questions and then left for a short time while Mindy undressed and put the funny paper gown on with the opening in the back. She and Lora laughed at how funny it looked and felt. She was glad the room was warm so she didn’t have to shiver.
The doctor came back in and examined Mindy thoroughly, saying many things to reassure her. Then she left again while Mindy got dressed. In a short time she came back in and sat with them on the chairs in the room so they could talk.
The doctor said, “Mindy, my examination shows that you are a very healthy teenager, but it is very unusual that you haven't developed in the usual feminine ways yet. I don’t know for sure, but it could have been caused from the grief you experienced when your birth mother died in childbirth, somehow subconsciously shut down that part of your development so that what happened to her wouldn’t happen to you. I admit I haven’t ever heard of something like this occurring, but the human body and mind are very complex. And I can’t think of any other reason.
Mindy asked, “So from what you said, I understand that I’m healthy, but so far I haven’t developed like the rest of the girls are doing. Do you think I ever will?”
The doctor answered, “There is no way any of us can tell, but even if you don’t, it will not have to affect your ability to live a happy life, except for before and after gym classes. I know how nasty some girls can be and I hope we can find a way to get you away from them.”
The doctor turned toward Lora and questioned, “Is there any way you could take Mindy out of high school and do home schooling so she doesn’t have to go through the mean teasing? As a doctor, who has just told you she is healthy, I can’t write a note excusing her from gym classes.”
Lora replied, “We understand that, and we will figure out a way to do it just as soon as possible. Thank you for your good advice. It’s a relief to know that Mindy is healthy.”
“You’re welcome,” said the doctor. “Mindy, it would be a good idea for you to start coming here for a yearly checkup plus whenever you have any questions for me to answer.”
Mindy responded, “I’ll plan to see you again in a year or before if needed, and I also thank you for your help.
The doctor nodded and waved as she went out the door.
The Suehiro family was having a discussion after breakfast and
Ami mentioned, “The other day we were discussing marriage. Do you remember the last time we had a phone visit with your uncle and aunt, Afta and Hana?”
“Yes I do remember,” answered Aneko. “Hana said her sister’s son and daughter are our ages, except the boy is the older one.”
Yoshi inserted, “Yes, they’re our cousins because Dad’s brother married her sister, but they’re still strangers to us. We don’t even know their names.”
Tomo shared, “Well, your mom and I have been discussing the pros and cons of traveling. I’ve always had a desire to travel and see my twin brother and his family who live pretty far east of us, plus any of the scenery along the way there and back. What if Mom and I could meet your cousins while we are there and evaluate them. Then if we think they might be possibilities, we could invite them to come visit and help us in the restaurant. If they come here, you both could evaluate them yourselves.”
Ami admitted, “I personally have never felt like we could do any traveling because of the restaurant, but now that you two have come home and are working here so well, I think it might work.”
“Indeed!” exclaimed Aneko. “I think it would be wonderful for you to be able to go, and I guess it would be okay for you to meet and evaluate our cousins. Since they’re not blood relatives, they might be possibilities, but Yoshi and I both said not too long ago, that we are not in a hurry to get married.”
“Right!” Then Yoshi inquired, “If you go, how will you get there?
“Well,” replied Tomo, “neither of us wants to fly or go on the bus, or by train. The last time we talked to Afta I mentioned a motorhome.”
“I remember,” stated Aneko, “and Mom said something like she doubted it would ever happen.”
Ami concurred, “Yes I did, but that was when I felt we couldn't travel because we needed to be here for the restaurant. Actually, I think a motorhome would be the ideal way to travel.”
“Although,” Yoshi observed, “it would take a lot more time than flying would.”
Tomo inserted, “True, but we could see so much more scenery along the way.”
“Plus,” added Ami, “I think we could get the booklet about travel evangelism and have it be another ministry we could do as a couple.”
Aneko declared, “Since you could minister as you travel, I really hope you’ll go for it, Dad and Mom! I think Yoshi and I can handle the restaurant for a couple weeks while you’re traveling. We could hire a waitress for the days you’ll be gone.”
“I agree,” Yoshi tacked on, “let’s clean up the dishes and go visit an RV lot to see which motorhome you might like to consider.”
Tomo smiled at his dear children and then responded, “Thank you both for understanding and encouraging us to go ahead with this idea. We might be able to help bring some more people to Jesus.”
Ami added, “Yes, and we’d appreciate your prayers for us.”
Aneko and Yoshi promised they would be sure to pray.
When they arrived home from the doctor, Lora and Mindy told Vern everything the doctor had said.
“Mindy, my dear daughter,” Vern shared, “I really am happy and relieved to find out you are healthy. I’m sorry this has happened to you and caused you to be hurt by the mean girls who made fun of you.”
“Thank you,” Dad, “I agree, it’s not pleasant to be teased, and since there is no way to tell whether I’ll ever develop and the doctor can’t get me excused from gym class, then I’d rather not have to keep going to public school.”
Vern nodded, “I agree absolutely. Lord we pray and ask you for wisdom about what to do in this situation.”
After a time of silent waiting, Mindy smiled and suggested, “I wonder if we could get Fiona to tutor me by phone during the school days and I could finish high school on line here in our nice home with the computer in the office. Then it really would be home schooling.
Lora asked, “You wouldn't mind being here alone all day?”
“No,” she shook her head. “I like our home and it would be quiet and easy for me to concentrate.”
“Vern inquired, “What will you do to take the place of gym classes? Too much sitting wouldn’t be good for your health.”
Mindy replied, “Each day I could get plenty of exercise as I help with the children when I go to Fiona's house in the afternoons and maybe I could use the exercise equipment they have in their home.”
“I like your idea,” Vern declared, “I’ll call Fiona right now and ask her to think and pray and discuss the idea with Matt. She can let us know what they decide. We can pay her whatever they think is fair.”
So he called and talked to her right then.
Then Lora remarked, “This would be a good plan for these four years of high school and since you’ve already told us you’d rather go right to Fiona's house after school rather than sign up for sports or other clubs or activities, you won’t be missing out on very much at the school.”
“Exactly,” Mindy concurred, “and the fact that I’m not developing in the normal feminine ways does not have to be a bad thing. In fact, Dad, I think you will be relieved to know there will probably be no chance for me to have a problem with childbirth.”
“Absolutely!” he exclaimed, “I couldn’t very well ask your prospective husband to have the operation I had, since I now know it was not even a Biblical thing for me to have done. But God has forgiven me.”
Lora commented, “Yes, and if it is God’s will for Mindy to get married, there are other ways for them to obtain children to raise, if God wants them to, like being foster parents or adopting.”
Mindy laughed, “Marriage or singleness seems a long time away from now, since I still have at least four more years of schooling. But I know I should start praying and preparing for whatever the Lord wants me to do about it and what career he would choose for me.”
“Indeed,” agreed Vern, “Lora and I will pray for you also.”
When the phone rang in the evening after supper, Vern answered with the speaker on so Lora and Mindy could hear. Fiona had called and said, “Vern, I talked to Matt and we prayed. I’ll be happy to tutor Mindy on the phone, and if she’d like to come here half an hour early every afternoon, there would be no chance of her running into any of those mean girls on their way home from school. Then she can use the exercise equipment right when she gets here, so we won’t get busy and forget.”
Matt added, “And there will be no need to pay us anything. Mindy won’t take very much for coming to help us, so this can just be a little bit extra we can give her for all she does here.”
Vern responded, “Thank you both! Could she begin coming to your house early this coming Monday? The sooner we can get her out of that situation the better.
“Of course,” Fiona answered, “this will work out fine.”
“Very good,” said Vern, “then I’ll go take care of the paper work at the school before I go to work on Monday. God bless you both!”
When they finished talking Lora said, “We can spend the rest of the evening and part of tomorrow looking for the best online home school program.”
After looking and comparing several Christian programs, they chose the one they felt would be best. So Mindy was ready to start bright and early Monday morning.
During their Sunday morning horseback ride with Candy and her family, Mindy, Vern, and Lora explained to Candy and her family why Mindy was going to do home schooling. They understood and were supportive.
Candy shared, “I know how mean those girls can be. I'll miss seeing you at school and eating lunch with you.”
Mindy responded, “I will too, but maybe you and June can continue ministry times together.”
“We will,” replied Candy, “and I’m glad you get to come ride horses with us every weekend.”
Mindy declared, “I feel the same way! It’s something I always look forward to doing.”
The Jones family had Pastor Ross and family over for supper Tuesday evening. Vern and Lora explained the situation to Don and Anita while Mindy entertained Timmy and Mary. Now all the people in their lives who needed to know, had been informed about this big change and would be praying for everything to go well for them.”
When the church time changed to 6 PM Sunday, on the first weekend in April, it didn’t work as well for the father of the quadruplets, Lily, Violet, Iris, and Rose, who lived at Mercy Valley Ranch with their foster parents, Ted and Julie Blake. Supper was very late for the girls, and that made it late for them to get back to the ranch and also made it late for them to get to bed.
That evening when he brought them back to the ranch he mentioned, “Since the time for the service changed to 6 PM this week, it didn’t give us as much time to do things together as a family. I wonder if there’s some way we could improve this.”
He and Ted and Julie talked about it for a while and came up with some ideas but they didn’t seem very good, while the quadruplets whispered in the corner.
Pretty soon the four of them raised their hands like they would in school, and he called on them.
Lily suggested, “Maybe you could come here after lunch on Sundays and spend the afternoon with us on the ranch.
Iris added, “We could teach you how to prepare and ride a horse, so we could go horseback riding together.”
Violet tacked on, “We could show you places we enjoy here on the ranch and we could hike together up to Lavender Falls, and show you the interesting rocks there.”
Rose went on, “Then we could help fix supper here, eat it and clean up the kitchen, change our clothes and ride with you to church. We can all sit together like we always do and then we can come home with Daddy and Mommy.”
He smiled lovingly at them and replied, “I like your ideas. If it is all right with your daddy and mommy, let’s try it, starting next week.”
Ted and Julie nodded, smiled, and agreed to try it.
“What time should I arrive here?” he asked.
Julie answered, “We are usually finished with lunch and cleaning up after it by 1:30 PM.”
Therefore, the next Sunday he got there promptly at 1:30 PM and the girls gave him a complete tour of the ranch. He watched them help get supper and enjoyed eating with the family. Then he and his girls cleaned up afterward. They changed clothes and rode with him to church. Each girl always remembered whose turn it was to sit next to Father or Daddy or Mommy in church, where they helped hold the hymnal, sang well, “followed” along in the Bible, and listened to the teaching.
After church he declared, “I thoroughly enjoyed my afternoon with all of you today. Thank you very much.”
Ted responded, “We enjoyed it also, so can we expect you to come to the ranch next Sunday?”
“Absolutely!” he answered, “maybe I’ll get to learn how to prepare and ride a horse next time.”
All the girls smiled, nodded, and gave him hugs before he left.
The next Sunday afternoon, when he arrived right on time, Ted asked, “Would it be all right with you if we come along on your first horseback ride, just in case there are some problems you might not know how to handle?”
He exclaimed, “Oh yes! Please do come for this one and all the time. I enjoy your company and it will always be safer this way.”
The quadruplets were dressed for their ride when he got there. They were so excited, but as usual they used good self control. They got a helmet for him out of the tack room, plus halters and lead ropes, and then walked to the pasture, where the horses came to greet them.
He watched as each girl walked up to the horse of her choice talking to it and stroking or rubbing it in places it liked to be rubbed. Then they put on the halter and attached the lead rope. Lily chose Princess, the tallest of the small horses. Violet chose Socks, the next tallest. Rose picked Rusty, smaller still, and Iris chose Honey, the smallest horse on the ranch. They had decided beforehand that it would be fun to be on stairstep horses.
Meanwhile, Ted and Julie had chosen Coco and Dark Coco and suggested that he choose between Coffee and Tea, the other two medium sized horses, so he wouldn’t seem so high up as on some of the taller horses for his first ride. Julie held their horses while Ted helped the father with the halter and lead rope on Tea, the horse he chose. Each one of them would be riding on Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horses, which don't trot, so this also would be easier for his first ride.
They led the horses back to the tack room and the girls showed him how they tied their horses, brushed them smooth, and checked and cleaned their hooves. Then they watched to see that he did it all correctly and complimented him on a good job.
Next they showed him how to saddle and bridle a horse by doing it on their own mounts. Ted and Julie, who were also finished with theirs by now, tightened up the cinches on the girls saddles and then helped him wherever he needed help. The quadruplets showed him, on their horses, how to mount the horse, how to use the reins to turn or stop the horse, and how to get it to walk or go faster.
Before he mounted up he remarked, “I never realized there would be so much to learn about horses and riding. I’m glad I have had such good teachers!”
The girls beamed with pleasure at the compliment, and they started up the road. They rode at a walk or the single-foot gait, which is so easy to ride, and stopped after half an hour so their father wouldn’t be so stiff when he got off. Then they removed the tack and brushed the horses and cleaned their hooves before taking them back to the pasture and leaving them after strokes and thanks for the good ride. He watched as the girls cleaned up their tack and did the same for his.
He stressed, “Thank you all for this first lesson and the ride! I really enjoyed it, although my legs do feel strange now! I’ll go buy myself a helmet to use when I ride here from now on.”
In their own words, the girls each told him he was welcome and that they had enjoyed the ride also. Their experiment had worked well, and the family had many good horseback rides when the weather permitted. If the weather didn’t cooperate, there were plenty of things to do in the house or in the game rooms of the big house.
Their father got to enjoy the early part of Resurrection Day, (their preferred name for Easter) on the ranch later in April by coming early for the special sunrise service. The weather was nice enough that they didn’t have to meet in the big riding building. Instead they gathered on the lawn of the big house and sang many songs to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection.
Then he went back to their home and had breakfast with the family. After helping with the cleanup, he took the girls with him to spend the day at his home and to visit their Grandpa and Grandma in Pine City. He brought them to church for the service at 6 PM and they all especially enjoyed the ending part where Daddy read the scriptures out of the Bible to go with a slide show about the holy day. The eight teenage girls from the ranch in their costumes came up on the stage to act out finding the empty tomb during the last scene of the slide show and scriptures.
The already proven idea of two by two ministries continued to be a weekly activity of the members of the Grace ‘n’ Faith churches.
Matt and Fiona Anderson were happy they could leave baby Patrick, and toddler Johnny with either set of grandparents, her mom and dad, Patrick and Glenda O’Connor, or Walt and Betty Evans who had adopted them in their hearts. They had told both sets that they could consider this an additional ministry, since it made it so much easier for Matt and Fiona to go do their two by two ministry.
So one sunny day, with Patrick and Johnny well cared for, they went with their frisbees to the park to do part of the course and hope to find somebody to talk with about the Good News.
Before long a young man came up to them and said, “Hey, you’re that couple who was here a few years ago. I see you have both improved, but you’re still not using the disks that work so well on the course.”
Fiona replied, “You’re right. I remember you telling us about those disks, but since we don’t do this very often, we decided to stick with what we had already bought. You have a very good memory. It’s been about three years ago, and we were just dating then. Matt and I are married now and have two little boys.”
He remarked, “Time sure does fly. Congratulations.”
“Thank you. I remember you also,” added Matt. “I also thank you for telling us about the disks when we were just learning about this game. We were watching you just now and you’re very good at it. How about sitting here in the shade on these benches? We have some apple juice in those little individual boxes and they’re still nice and cold.”
He responded, “Great! It sounds delicious, and I am pretty hot and rather tired right now.”
“You must practice a lot,” Fiona mentioned, “because you almost always hit the goals.”
“Yeah,” he agreed, “this is something I really enjoy doing.”
At this point, Fiona felt it would be best if she would stay quiet and pray for Matt to continue the conversation, turn it to spiritual matters, and pray for the Holy Spirit to draw the young man to Jesus.
Matt inserted, “I'm sorry we disappointed you by not getting the right kind of disk. And this reminds me of how often in my life I’ve disappointed God. Every time I miss the goal, it brings to mind a definition I heard once for ‘sin.’ To sin means to miss the mark. In other words it means to do the opposite of what God wants us people to do.”
He asked, “How do you know what God wants you to do?”
Matt answered, “Sometimes my conscience tells me when I’ve done a wrong. Other times I remember what I’ve read in the Bible, and know I’ve missed the mark again.
“Oh, it’s not a very nice feeling,” the young man observed. “I don’t like it, and I don’t even know very much about the Bible except the Ten Commandments.”
Matt concurred, “Correct, it’s definitely a terrible feeling and one all humans have, because if we break even one of God’s commands, we’re guilty of breaking them all, as it says in the Bible in James 2:10,11. The final result of sin is separation from God and heaven and eternity in the other place.”
“Yuck!” he exclaimed. “Now I feel even worse!”
Matt emphasized, “I would also, but I’m very glad we don’t have to continue to have these terrible feelings.”
“Really?” he asked, “How do you get rid of them?”
Matt explained, “God loves the people he created so much that he made a way for them to be forgiven when they sin if they will believe in Jesus, God’s son. God sent Jesus to earth to live a perfect life in order that he could pay the penalty for people’s sins by dying on the cross and being raised back to life on the third day.”
“I’ve never heard anything like this before,” said the young man.
Matt continued, “The books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John in the Bible tell the story of Jesus life, death and resurrection.”
“I don’t have a Bible,” he admitted.
“Someday you can buy one,” suggested Matt. Then he went on, “If we will believe in what God did through Jesus, confess our sins to Jesus, ask him to forgive us and help us to live for him, he will be glad to do it. When we do it, he saves us and promises us eternal life in heaven when this life is over.”
What if I sin again?” he asked.
Matt replied, “I’m glad you asked this question. You probably won’t sin as often, but none of us will be perfect until we get to heaven. So when we do miss the mark and sin again, the Bible says in 1 John 1:9 that if we confess it, God is faithful to forgive us and make us clean.”
The young man thought it through. “So we don’t have to go around feeling awful about the bad things we do, or go to that horrid place. I would like to have that good feeling and the promise of eternal life in heaven. Do I have to go to a church and get down on my knees and have a preacher help me pray?”
“Not at all,” Matt responded, “you can pray right here on the bench in the park or anywhere else, and God will hear and answer you.”
“Okay, I’ll do it!” he exclaimed. “God, I know I sin a lot, and I want to be rid of this awful feeling. I believe in Jesus, your Son, and what he did by dying on the cross and being raised the third day. I confess these sins to you.” He listed quite a few and then went on, “Please forgive me for all my sins and help me to live for you.”
He sat still for a few moments and then smiled hugely. “He did it! I don’t understand it, but I feel good, clean, and forgiven. I’ll remember to confess quickly every time I goof, and I’ll trust God to help me do better. Thank you so much for helping me to understand about this.”
“You’re very welcome,” stated Matt, “and we are rejoicing that you made this very important decision.”
All at once the young man jumped up and asked, “Would you stay here so I can go get my friends and bring them here to listen to you so they can know the same feeling I have?”
Matt smiled, “Of course, we’d be glad to. We’ll see you and them soon right here.”
Fiona made a cellphone call to tell the grandparents what was happening, and they’d be later coming to pick up the children.
He ran to find his friends further down the course and returned with four of them. They were all a little out of breath from the run, but listened attentively as Matt shared with them what he had just told the young man and asked if they had any questions.
Nobody did, so the young man declared, “You guys, you better do this so you can get rid of those awful guilt feelings and know you’re going to heaven and never have to fear going to the other horrid place!”
Meanwhile, Fiona was praying extra hard.
He tacked on, “I’ll tell you what I prayed if you don’t know what to say.” They nodded so he told them and explained, “You don’t have to use my exact words though, and you don’t have to be in a church. I did it right here on this park bench!”
Pretty soon all four of his friends had prayed their own version of the prayer and were amazed at how great it felt to be forgiven and filled with hope.
Matt invited, “We’d like to have all five of you come to church and sit with us on Sunday at 6 PM. Here’s a little booklet you can read before then, which explains more about what we’ve talked about here today. There’s a little card inside that you can fill out and bring with you tomorrow. It just asks for your name, address and phone number, and if you would like to join a small group to learn more about living your lives for Jesus now. We’ll meet you in the entry way and you can sit with us. Then, at the end of the service, we can take you to meet our pastor, and you can give him this card.”
The young man stated, “We’ll all be there. Thank you for caring enough to spend your afternoon explaining this to all of us. We’ll see you tomorrow at church at 6 PM.”
The rest added their thanks and then everyone went their separate ways.
Matt and Fiona hurried to the grandparents home and they all had a great praise session after hearing about the salvations!
This would be the second week Vera and Oscar Yardley, Karen Spencer, and all eight foster girls went out to gather wildflowers for the scrapbooks they were going to make. Karen’s husband, Jeff, was at his job in Pine City, so he couldn’t join them.
Stella shouted from a distance away from the others, “Here’s a nice group of several different kinds of wildflowers!”
The others came running, stopping short so they wouldn’t step on any of the flowers.
Christy suggested, “Let’s identify all of them before we pick any. We all brought our notebooks like Vera recommended last week, so we can write down their names.”
“Right,” agreed Emma, “If we pick them first they might wilt before we get them home to press them under the books.”
So they identified all the flowers they were going to pick and wrote their names and page number of the book they used.
Karen noted, “Writing these down now will save us time at home. As soon as we arrange the flowers to be pressed, we can put the book on top of the newsprint covering them and copy their names on the scrapbook pages for each one.”
“At our house,” stated Lisa, “we are using lots of the encyclopedias to press the flowers. They make good weights.”
Nan remarked, “We are learning a lot by doing this project.”
“Yeah,” admitted Ellie, “I had to relearn one thing the hard way. I forgot Vera’s warning to not look at how the pressed flowers were doing for four weeks, so I picked up the book off my last set of flowers to look at them and ruined all of them. I’ll have to do that set over.”
“Oh no!” exclaimed Liz. “Stella and I will help you do them over, just tell us a couple of names, and we’ll gather some of those today along with our new ones and you can get the rest with your new ones today.”
Ellie said with relief, “Thank you both for your kind help. It will make it a lot easier.”
Hanna commented, “I’ll bet your mistake will help the rest of us remember better so we don’t have to learn the hard way too.”
Vera commended the girls for the good job they were doing on this interesting project.
By now they were all finished identifying and writing the names so they went to pick the best specimens they could find for each name they had written. Then they took them home and pressed them. After putting them under the heavy books, the girls prepared the pages in their scrapbooks to be ready for these flowers in about a month.
Walt and Betty Evans prayed a lot about how they might expand their ministry. Walt mentioned, “I’m not sure what else we could do, beyond the two by two ministry we do once a week. We were taught how to do it in our small group when we became believers.”
Betty read the list. “Right, and it’s a good ministry. Here’s one on the that list suggests going out more than just once a week, like if we both go together whenever we need to buy something.”
“It sounds like a good idea,” agreed Walt. “Since my job as the boss of Evans Construction Company takes so much of the rest of my time, we could add that idea for the two of us.”
Betty agreed, “And besides we really can consider it another ministry to take care of Johnny and Patrick every other Saturday, so Matt and Fiona can go out unhindered to do their two by two ministry.”
“Yes, and in addition,” added Walt nodding, “it gives us more time with our ‘grandsons’ plus their parents when they come to drop them off and pick them up.
Betty concurred, “Yes I like that part too, and they told us last time how much it had helped them. Also, I’ll continue to read over this list and ask Jesus to guide me to something I can do while you’re at work.”
Later that day she called her friend Glenda O’Connor to see if she would be interested in praying about working as a team for Wednesday Bible Study and Story groups using the materials they could check out from the church. Glenda agreed, and they got started right away on an idea they both knew was already being done and was effective even though it took time to see results.
Several weeks later Glenda suggested, “Our Wednesday groups are going so well and we’ve learned enough so I think we could start to work separately every day doing an After School Place for whatever children need it in our neighborhood.”
Betty concurred, “Yes, it would multiply our efforts and reach more children for extended times, rather than just once a week in one neighborhood.”
Glenda continued, “Exactly, so we’d be letting more children come to Jesus as it says in Mark 10:14-16. We could stop in the church office after church this week and look at the booklet that goes with this activity.”
“Certainly” said Betty,“and if it looks like something we think we could do, we can each get a booklet to read and get prepared for an even bigger ministry for each of us.”
They read the booklets separately, discussed the program with their husbands, got their support, and were ready to discuss the booklets after their next Wednesday groups.
Glenda shared, “The booklets provide training and the church has materials for After School Places to keep the kids off the streets or from being home alone when school lets out.”
“Right,” said Betty, “and it can include tutoring, or help with homework after they play a few active games to give them a break from school work.”
“Yes!” Then Glenda read from the booklet, “Providers who tutor will need to work with the school teacher on what will help the most. The hours needed are from 3:30 to 5:30 PM for elementary age or 2:30 to 5:30 PM for middle and high school students except for on Wednesdays, each one is an hour earlier because of early release time. Most families reserve the weekends for their own family time and church.”
Betty mentioned, “I think I could start with the same children we’ve worked with here at my home as we team taught. I’ll need to go talk to all their parents and see if they’re interested in a place their children can go each day after school instead of being home alone or wandering around on the streets.”
“What a good idea for you to do,” Glenda agreed. “I’ll need to start from scratch in my neighborhood. I know we did the Wednesday groups for free, but like it says in the booklet, we need to charge the parents something so they buy into the program and their children feel more obligated to come every day.”
Betty nodded emphatically, “Exactly! I was considering doing it for free, but I can see how it would be better to charge a weekly fee. Then it’s up to the parents to insist that their children come daily. They can check a child’s whereabouts on cell phones, or just call us to check. We should give them our phone numbers.”
“Right,” then Glenda suggested, “so let’s take the rest of this week to talk to parents and try to be ready to start by the week after next.”
Betty responded, “Good idea, then we can tell the children on Wednesday next week about our plan.”
The same evening after supper dishes were finished Glenda explained, “Betty and I did decide to try the After School Place program separately so our two neighborhoods can be covered. I’ll need to go door to door and find out who’d be interested in this program.”
“Good, I’m sure you will both do well.” Then Patrick prayed, “Father in Heaven we all ask for you to help Glenda as she prepares to start this program. We’re all in agreement about her doing this ministry.”
“Yes,” continued Riley, “and when I’m not traveling and get to come home early, please give me the best ways to help Mom with this program.”
Glenda added, “Thank you for the time I have available right now to implement the After School Place, and that Patrick and Riley are so supportive. Please show me many ways to make it a fun and useful time for the children who come.”
So Glenda went door to door, explaining to the parents about the plan to give their children a place to go after school until their parents get home from their jobs. The ones who wanted to let their children go to her house after school helped her come up with an appropriate price per child per week. She would have eight children of different age levels to begin the program. Maybe others would like to join when they heard from their neighbors how much fun they were having.
Betty would be starting the program with the same ten children who had been coming to the Bible Study and Bible Story times. Their parents were thrilled that a neighbor cared enough to want to provide a place their children could go to daily after school.
On the playground at the church school one day Mary said, “I wish you girls could have been in the small group we were in during the church service. We had fun there.”
Iris asked, “What did you do there?”
Timmy answered, “We played fun learning games about how to live for Jesus because we had asked him to be our Savior.”
The twins, Hope and Joy, both nodded their heads. They are good friends of Timmy, Mary, and the quadruplets,
Rose mentioned, “Our daddy and mommy have been teaching us about that at home.”
“Plus,” Lily went on, “we learn a lot by being in the church service every week.”
Joy said, “I noticed you were there yesterday. I didn’t know you girls go to the same church we do.”
“Me neither,” stated Rose, until we saw you yesterday. Is your small group over now?”
Hope replied, “Yes, it ended the Sunday before, and from now on we’ll be sitting with our parents in the regular services.”
“You’ll like the services,” Violet informed them. “Pastor Don is a very good teacher.”
Mary smiled, “I know. He’s my daddy and Timmy’s too.”
“Wow!” the quadruplets all said at the same time, and then remembered that Timmy and Mary's daddy and mama came to ride horses with them every other weekend. They just had not connected him as being the same person as the teacher in the church.
Lily declared, “We’ve learned a lot about all our friends today. Now we know we have even more in common.”
“Right,” added Violet, “we all attend the same school and church.”
Iris tacked on, “Plus, we’ve all accepted Jesus as our Savior.”
“Yep,” continued Rose, “and we’ve all been learning how to live for Jesus.”
Timmy went on to say, “And along with those things, all seven of you girls are my sisters in God’s forever family.”
Hope remarked, “So then, you are our brother.”
“Hey, she’s right!” exclaimed Joy, ‘so let’s join hands and sing the chorus that goes with the song ‘We Will Stand,’ because it talks about us being brother and sister, and working together for Jesus until he comes back again.”
After reading the list of ideas they got from their churches, some other ranches and farms of various kinds in the Pine City area, and even in other places that just heard about the idea, became groups of Caring Foster homes. So Oscar and Vera Yardley’s yearning to be able to leave a legacy with their dude ranch was fulfilled for them and then multiplied when others followed suit. They were glad they could write their idea for the list and then help write the booklet about how to do it for others.
A dude ranch and a fruit orchard near another city used Oscar and Vera’s idea for Caring Foster Homes. The dude ranch started with girls who were 14 or 15 years old, and the fruit orchard welcomed families who would care for boys who were 14 or 15 years old, since those ages are harder to place in homes and are harder to reach out to. They used lesson plans obtained from William Beckett on Mercy Valley Farm and Karen Spencer on Mercy Valley Ranch, and continued with some of their own. Many more children were reached in a shorter amount of time since new ones came to replace those who were ready to be productive citizens and also spread the Good News when they turned nineteen years old.
One ranch was a working cattle ranch. They encouraged their present employees to take care of two or more foster boys each who were 14 or 15 years old since it’s so important to reach them with the Good News.
It was like a dream come true for many of the boys who were assigned to that ranch. They got to live in loving, caring homes and also got to learn how to ride horses, round up cattle, rope them, and put tags in their ears instead of branding them, which this ranch didn’t like to do. They went to Bible Study Groups like William had on Mercy Valley Farm, so they could learn about the Bible and build relationships with other boys their ages. Some of them accepted Jesus within a few months of living there. For others it took as much as two years, but the parents and their Bible teacher were persistent and patient. It paid off in the end.
Mindy was studying at home with the computer. She got stuck when she couldn’t figure out the answer to a question about English grammar. After looking in several different places, she called Fiona with her question.
“Hi, Fiona. This is Mindy, and I’m stuck on a question about when to use or and nor in a sentence.
Fiona advised, “Try looking it up as a question on the web.”
“Thank you Fiona,” said Mindy. “I’ll try it and only call back if I'm still stuck.”
Later she walked to Fiona’s house to exercise and help with Johnny and Patrick.
Fiona mentioned, “I assume you found the answer to your question, since you didn’t call back again.”
“Yes,” Mindy smiled, “it worked very well and I found several other answers later in the day, so I thank you for the good advice. It takes a lot less time to find answers on the web than trying to look in the encyclopedia, or other books we have at home. In fact I finished that lesson so quickly that I got started on the next one.”
“Great!” declared Fiona. “I know you don’t get stuck very often, but it’s nice to have a good way to find answers.”
“Indeed it is,” then Mindy changed the subject, “plus I enjoy coming here half an hour early to exercise. Your equipment is nice, and I like doing this a lot better than the gym classes.”
“I like it also,” agreed Fiona, “especially when the boys stay asleep long enough that I can join you. I know it’s good for me to exercise, and it’s more fun when I can do it with you. Matt still goes running on mornings when he knows he won’t get much exercise at work.”
Mindy stated, “I’m glad to know I can help you also. This plan is working well for me, and I hope it’s the same for you. If I call at a bad time please just tell me you’ll call me back when you can. I understand how it is with two little people needing your attention.”
“Don’t worry, Mindy,” replied Fiona, “and if I can’t answer the phone right then, just leave a message and I’ll call you back as soon as I can.”
“Super!” exclaimed Mindy, “I’m relieved we got that worked out. It’s fun for me to do home schooling, and it’s a relief to not have those mean girls making fun of me. Oh, now I hear some noises from the nursery. Our exercise time is finished, so this is perfect timing.”
The parents on Mercy Valley Ranch and Farm had their small group times on the ranch or farm instead of going to the city, since it was about a twenty minute drive. Also they needed a place for the children to meet at the same time they did, but in another room in the house with two parents rotating to teach them things more on their age and interest level. Now that most of the children had accepted Jesus, the facilitators all decided those children in their groups could join them for communion times in the adult small groups.
They would sing “Come Celebrate Jesus,” and “The Communion Song,” which go with Luke 22:19 below.
The first time for the girls or boys, the facilitator would explain, “We wanted you to join us for communion, because it is a special time when believers can remember what Jesus did for us and thank him for it. Jesus established it during the last supper he and the disciples had before Jesus died on the cross.
“It was a Passover meal like the people of Israel ate just before the last plague in Egypt. Exodus 12 explains that they were to kill a spotless lamb, and put some of its blood on the doorposts of their homes so the first born in their family would not be killed that night. The lamb was to be roasted and eaten with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. Each year after that, the people were supposed to eat another meal like this to remember that God had passed over their oldest child, so he or she did not die.
“It was during a meal like that, Jesus instructed his disciples to remember him in a special way. Everybody please find Luke 22:19,20 and follow along as I read, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it. He gave it to them saying, ‘this is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.’ They didn’t understand it at the time, but after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension they did.
“We don’t eat roast lamb, but we do remember that the lamb was spotless and perfect like Jesus who never sinned. Jesus died for us so we can be forgiven and live with him eternally. Leaven in the Bible represents sins so we use unleavened bread which has no yeast or baking powder in it to make it rise, because it’s the kind of bread the Passover meal was supposed to have. From verse 18, we know that the cup had the fruit of the vine, which is wine or grape juice. In our group, we like to use grape juice, because none of us want to ever become addicted to alcoholic beverages.
“The bread and grape juice are to remind us of Jesus body and his blood. 1 Corinthians 10:16 says, The cup of blessing … is the communion or sharing in the blood of Jesus, and the bread we break is the communion or sharing in the body of Jesus. This is the verse that is used to get the name, ‘communion,’ for this special time.
“As we take communion together, remember Jesus and thank him for his birth, life, ministry, death, burial, resurrection, ascension to heaven, where he intercedes for us, and that he will come again.”
Small pieces of unleavened bread were handed to each person who held it while the facilitator read Luke 22:19 again. Then they all ate theirs at the same time, remembering what it meant. Next a very small paper cup of grape juice was given to each person who held it while the facilitator read Luke 22:20 again. They drank it slowly as they thanked Jesus silently for all he had done and was doing. The children were glad to be included in this meaningful time.
One Saturday evening in June, Don and Anita Ross were watching Timmy and Mary swinging on the set in their backyard.
Anita declared, “What a charming wedding you performed this morning.”
“It certainly was,” agreed Don, “and you were right about that couple who’d been dating for so long.”
She continued, “We never did find out why they waited so long, and I know it’s not any of our business.”
“No,” he admitted, “they didn’t tell me much of anything about themselves, but it’s okay. We don’t need to know.”
Right then, Timmy and Mary ran up to the porch and sat on the steps to visit with their parents.
Mary shared, “I've been in kindergarten already for half a year, and I still like it a lot.”
“I liked all if it,” commented Timmy, “and I like first grade too. This year Hope and I are in the same classroom.”
“Joy says it isn’t fair,” Mary informed them. “She’d like to be with them.
Timmy explained, “It would have been very nice, but the school won’t allow twins to be in the same classroom.”
Mary cheered them up, “Well at least all four of us get to play together at recess times.”
“Right, Mary,” agreed Timmy, “this year we don’t have to have a special time to play with the twins on Saturdays like we did last year.”
Their parents smiled and agreed with their beloved children. When Timmy and Mary went back to the swings their parents continued their earlier conversation.
Don said, “It’s so interesting to watch the flock God gave us.”
“It certainly is!” Anita exclaimed. “I enjoy this place where God put us, and I like to see how he leads and guides some of the people in church #4.”
Don nodded. “Right, and we even get to hear about stories, without names of course, from the other pastors when we go to our small group on Mondays.”
“For sure,” she agreed. “As usual there were several June weddings this year in the rest of the churches. It’s a neat tradition.”
Don concluded, “Yes, and this is indeed a perk we get to enjoy, as we do this ministry for Jesus.”
Vern, Lora, and Mindy Jones have enjoyed traveling during school vacation weeks in a used motorhome they had bought after a family meeting one Saturday morning last year when Vern had asked Lora and Mindy if they’d like to travel and see what God made in other parts of the United States. After Vern, Lora, and Mindy returned from their first trip, they were tired, but ecstatic! The following is part of their conversation when they got back home after their first trip.
Mindy stated, “I didn’t know traveling could be so much fun!”
“Nor did I,” her dad responded, “but I’m glad we came home a little early so we can get reorganized and ready to go back to work and school on Monday.”
Lora agreed, “Yes, it was a very good idea to come home before we got too tired to do anything when we did get home.”
“I like the way the motorhome worked for us,” Mindy went on to say. “Like you had said, Dad, there was plenty of room for us in it. I didn’t feel crowded at all.”
Lora continued, “Right, Mindy. It was truly comfortable. I like having our own place to live and sleep after a busy day of sight seeing.”
“Yes, Honey,” agreed Vern, “for me it was a lot better than trying to find a motel or hotel every evening.”
“You’re a hundred percent correct, Dear!” Lora exclaimed.
Mindy remarked, “We saw so much beautiful, fantastic scenery, and I think we all enjoyed using the new camera you bought for our family, Dad. I’m looking forward to seeing the pictures we all took.”
Lora added, “Yes, it was fun to take turns with the camera.”
“Indeed it was!” Then Vern suggested, “Shall we get our food and belongings out of the motorhome, and put everything away? Then after supper, we can download the pictures on the computer and watch a slideshow of our trip.”
Mindy declared, “Super idea, Dad. With all of us working together, it won’t take long to unload the motorhome and put our things away.”
During their next trips, they started to discuss and pray about how they could turn their traveling into a ministry to serve Jesus. They were glad to find an idea on the list of possible evangelistic activities they received from the church and they made plans to go on the Fourth of July week for their first ministry trip. The booklet about travel evangelism for sightseers was very helpful.
“In order for this to work for us” Mindy asked, “should we stay in campgrounds along the way?”
Vern observed, “Absolutely, and we’ll need to accept the extra stress it will take in order to plan our trip more carefully so we can try to get to a campground in time to get everything set up and ready for right after supper.”
“Yes, for a ministry like this it will be worth the extra stress,” agreed Lora, “and we’ll need to ask the camp hosts for permission to use the amphitheater for meetings if there is one.”
Mindy went on, “If there isn't one, we can use the neat little folding chairs that fit into the space under the back bedroom of the motorhome.”
“Right, Mindy,” agreed Vern, “and we can put up a sign at our campsite about a hymn sing and question/answer session. I like the idea on the list. It says, Got???’s about God? Come to a hymn sing, and get them answered.”
Lora continued, “Yes, and if the timing seems right, we can then give a gospel presentation. Since none of us plays the guitar, or keyboard, we can use SD cards in a boombox and hymnals we bring with us just like the small groups do for the singing time.”
“Right, and for those who are saved,” exclaimed Mindy, “a church can be planted like the booklet explains!” She read the following: “When people visit other places as vacationers or traveling 'missionaries,' sometimes a group of new believers results from their ministry. If they don't have a good church and small groups to teach new believers how to live their new lives, a pastor from the evangelism classes can quickly be sent to facilitate a small group for them and they can become a church. Their church can grow and evangelize their city. If only one or two people become believers, the “parents” should get their names and phone number and keep in touch with them until a church plant group can be sent to start a church in their city.”
Vern commended her, “Good job of reading about it, Mindy. It will mean much more work for us and extra planning, but if even only one person accepts Jesus as Savior, it will be well worth the effort.”
Lora nodded emphatically, “Definitely! Also, I just noticed it says in the booklet, ‘You will probably need to teach the people who come to your meetings how to use the hymnals since most people these days don’t know how. Especially show them how each verse starts with it’s number in the first music staff and continues on down the page. If there’s a refrain, it will be sung, and then they go back to the top for verse two and so on, until the song is finished. It might be helpful for you to read a song all the way through, and have them follow along, before you add the music.’ It’s a good idea.”
“Oh my!” admitted Mindy, “I never would have thought about that fact. I guess we can’t assume the people will know how to use a hymnal, but we can ask them first and then teach them if they don’t. Next we need to decide where to go. The booklet mentions that it will be best if we travel to state and national parks or monuments.”
“Yes, here’s the book of maps,” Vern invited, “gather around and we can pick one or two we all are interested in seeing.”
“Oh, Dad and Mom,” exclaimed Mindy, “this is so exciting! We have the best family!”
Lora concurred, “We sure do, and it certainly is exciting to plan to travel and minister! And since we can use our enjoyment of traveling to tell the Good News it makes it even better.”
Amelia and Ben were enjoying supper with their parents at home after a day at work.
“It seems strange,” commented Amelia, “for me to not have any homework.”
Her mom, Connie, acknowledged, “I imagine it does, since that was a way of life for you all during the years you were in school.”
“You’re right,” she replied. “It’s been several months since I finished my trade school classes and I like my job with you and Dad at The Garden Shop, but I feel a little lazy about not working on something when I get home.”
Ernest, her Dad, smiled and teased, “Well, you could bring home some of the bookkeeping if you’d like to have some homework.”
Liking his humor, they all laughed together and then her brother, Ben, suggested, “Maybe you could use some of that time to do an independent Bible study on a topic of your choice.”
“Excellent idea, Ben!” responded Amelia. “I remember wishing I had more time for something like that when I was in school. Now my lifestyle has changed, and I’ll get started right away after helping with supper cleanup.”
“Perfect,” then Ernest asked, “Ben, how is your job?”
He answered, “I think it’s terrific. I got my desire of being able to work with my friend Matt who taught me so much while I helped him on his house. He continues to teach me at the job, and on top of that I get paid for it!”
Amelia clarified, “So you’re still learning about construction and contracting even after two years in the trade school?”
“Precisely,” he responded, “on the job training is much more effective than book learning. The trade school did give me good background knowledge, though.”
She nodded, “I know what you mean. My year of learning about bookkeeping and small businesses gave me the foundation I needed to build on at The Garden Shop. I’m still learning how to make the specific details fit.”
Connie complimented, “I think both of you are making outstanding progress, and I’m so glad you both decided to continue living at home for now. I get to postpone having an empty nest and instead I can still enjoy having our family together.”
“Absolutely!” exclaimed Ernest. “The same for me! If and when either or both of you decide to get married and move out, we’ll deal with the empty nest then. In the meantime I’ll enjoy this too.”
Ben shared, “We have such a nice family. I thank God for it often. And I thank you Dad and Mom for wanting Amelia and me to continue living here even though we could be supporting ourselves in apartments.”
“I agree,” stated Amelia, “and since all you will let us pay is for our food, we can give more to God’s work through the church, and put the rest in savings for the time if and when we get married.”
Ernest declared, “We’re glad you both agreed to our suggestion.”
Karen Spencer and William Beckett had similar jobs of teaching foster children, who weren’t in the church school, on Mercy Valley Ranch and on Mercy Valley Farm about the Bible. The way they taught the Bible Study and Story groups helped the families to do at least part of what it says in Deuteronomy 6:4-7. Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. These words, which I command you this day, shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. When the children were at home the families had other ways and times of teaching them.
Karen and William sent a few e-mails back and forth and decided it would be good to use verses from Matthew and the other Gospels to teach the girls and boys more about Jesus and the way he desires for people to live.
Karen started one of her lessons by saying, “Jesus has been called the best teacher of all time. He was able to make things easy to understand and he taught with authority as it says in Mathew 7:29. He taught about many different subjects. Since all you girls now believe in Jesus, it would be an especially good idea for you to learn how Jesus wants people to live. Please write down all the references we use today, because you’ll need them for your homework.”
They all nodded, and she continued, “Please find Matthew 5:13-16, and follow along as I read it. You are the salt of the earth, but if the salt has lost its savor how can it be useful. It is good for nothing, but to be thrown out … You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick so it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”
Sara mentioned, “I’ve tasted the last bit of salt in the bottom of a salt shaker, and it doesn’t have much flavor left. We usually throw it in the trash and start over with fresh salt, so I can see what he meant about the salt.”
One of the other girls nodded, “I agree, and I can’t imagine anyone putting a candle under anything! It could start a fire!”
“That’s for sure!” Kim concurred. “I like the idea of a city on a hill. At night with all the lights on, it would be like a Christmas tree decorated with all clear lights.”
June added, “Yes, and it could easily help a night traveler know he was going the right direction.”
Another girl stated, “I’m glad we don’t have to use candles. Electricity works so much better, but I get the point of these verses. We believers are suppose to be salt and light to our worlds.”
“All of you are right,” agreed Karen. “Now look in the center references and see if you can find a verse or more to go along with any of these.” She gave them time.
Candy suggested, “Parts of Philippians 2:14-16a might be good. I’ll read them. Do all things without murmurings and disputing, so that you will be blameless and harmless, the children of God without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, as you shine as lights in the world, holding out the word of life.”
A girl giggled, “Good job, Candy, the center reference for your verse 15 goes right back to the Matthew verses.” The rest of them nodded.
Then Kim said, “I found a verse about salt in Mark 9:50. It says, Salt is good, but if it has lost it saltiness, how will it season? Have salt in yourselves and have peace with each other. I’m not sure if it means having salt in us will cause peace or maybe the other way around, or both.”
“I’m not sure either, Kim,” replied Karen, “but it’s a good verse.”
June remarked, “I just looked up Luke 14:34,35 and it’s much the same as the Matthew verses. The center references for them go back to the others we’ve already read.”
“Good job, girls,” Karen commended. “Now you know how to use the center references in your Bible. Let’s see if there’s anything different in the concordance. Try looking up salt first.”
Candy declared, “I don’t think those are very helpful for this study. The ones in the Old Testament don’t go with it and the others are the ones we already read, except for the one in James, which is about salt water.”
A girl agreed, “True, but on my way to find ‘salt’ I noticed ‘seasoned’ in Colossians 4:6, and looked it up. It says, Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer everyone.”
“It’s a good verse,” Candy responded, “I wonder why it was not included in the verses for ‘salt’?”
Karen admitted, “I wonder the same thing. Now let’s look up light as a noun and see if we can find anything helpful.”
One girl said, “I like the first part of Psalm 27:1, The LORD is my light and my salvation. But it doesn’t really go with this study.”
“You’re right,” Karen tacked on, “but I like that verse also.”
Sara suggested, “Psalm 37:5,6a says, Commit your way to the LORD, trust in him and he shall bring it to pass. And he shall bring forth your righteousness as the light… Maybe our righteousness from Jesus could be the light we are shining.”
“I like your idea,” commented Kim. “Also, John 3:19-21 is very interesting, because it says, this is the condemnation, that light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he who does truth comes to the light, so his deeds may be made manifest, to show they are formed in God.”
Karen concurred, “Both of those scriptures make good points. Also, I just looked up John 8:12, where Jesus says, ‘I am the light of the world. He who follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.’ I think he wants us to give the same light to our worlds or the places where we live and have influence.”
The girls nodded in agreement.
“Wow!” exclaimed Candy. “I just read Ephesians 5:8-17 and it’s long but has a lot to say about light and dark and the right way to live. I’ll read just the first verse. For you were in darkness, but now you are light in the Lord, so walk as children of light.”
Karen nodded emphatically, “For sure, Candy. Everybody else please read the rest of the verses to yourselves at home. And your homework is to study these and all the verses we’ve read today, again at home and think about what was said here today. Write at least one paragraph about what these scriptures mean for believers. At our next meeting, bring it and be ready to share it with a girl not in your family. Then loan it to me because I’d like to read all of them.”
The girls worked hard on their paragraphs and Karen liked them all. She commended them for a job well done when she gave the papers back after she had finished reading them.
Karen continued teaching girls on the ranch using verses from the four gospels and cross references to other books in the Bible. She also introduced the idea of using the colored pencils she had given them to highlight parts of their Bibles using a color code, like for God use purple for royalty, for Jesus use red for the blood he shed, and so forth.
Luke 24:47, Jesus said, “repentance and remission of sins
should be preached in my name among all nations…”
One weekend when Riley was home he reread part of the little booklet he had gotten from the church that was helping him with his ministry. It was called, “Travel Evangelism for Business Workers.” The list included sales people, pilots, flight attendants, tour guides, army, navy, air force, and marine chaplains, truck drivers, geologists, and teachers who teach English in foreign countries, plus many others.
He flipped to the section for sales people and read the ideas for ways to evangelize while he was traveling. Then he typed them into his laptop computer. Later, by printing very small, he was able to fit some of them on a business sized card to keep in his billfold. It would be easy to pull it out and be reminded about things he could be doing when he wasn’t busy with his job.
When he finished doing those things, he went to join his parents and they all went to visit his sister, Fiona, and her family. He was glad for every chance he got to see Matt, his sister, and his nephews. Of course they were all very glad to see him also.
After the pastor of church #1 encouraged the congregations to keep ministering in the ways they were already doing, and to add at least one idea from the list, Ruth wrote lyrics for a song. After many revisions and weeks of trying to get it right, she gave a copy to Ted Blake at Mercy Valley Ranch and he wrote music in four part harmony to go with the lyrics.
“We’ll Gladly Serve God”
We’ll gladly serve God in Sunshine or storm,
Telling the story of his gracious love.
Whether it’s snowy, or it’s nice and warm,
We’ll show them the way to Heaven above.
Thomas said, “We don’t know where you’re going,
so how in the world can we know the way?”
Jesus said to all of them, “You are knowing,
since I’m the way, you know just what to say.”
Psalm 100 says to serve the LORD with gladness.
Sometimes we serve together by singing,
and it’s best if we do it with oneness,
any time of day: morning, noon, or evening.
Together we’ll ask the Lord of the harvest,
To send forth laborers into the field.
And we know he will answer our request,
Because he wants the souls harvest will yield!
Adding new service is priority.
Our united vision is to impact more,
So we’ll use every opportunity,
Gladly serving the God we adore.
Ruth explained, “Verse 2 goes with John 14:5,6, and the fourth verse goes with Matthew 9:37,38, where Jesus said to his disciples, the harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray that the Lord of the harvest will send forth laborers into his harvest.”
One Saturday when Ruth was visiting Esther and her family, Ted invited them all to come to his house to listen to a song. To the accompaniment of his guitar, he, Julie, and the quadruplets sang Ruth’s song lyrics using the melody he had written. They got a standing ovation and a request for an encore.
Then Nathan commented, “This is good enough to be sung as one of the songs during a church service.”
“Indeed it is!” Esther declared, “After Pastor Don and his family rides horses with your family today, Ted, you could sing it for them and see what he thinks.”
Everyone looked expectantly at Ruth and Ted. Ruth was blushing in embarrassment, but nodded, and Ted gave a thumbs up. So they did it, and Don agreed. They made a recording he could take along with a copy of the music Ted had written to go with it to the pastor of church #1 so he could listen to it and decide.
He also liked it and consequently in a few weeks, all the people in the congregations of all twenty-four churches had sung the song and treasured the copy of the words each family, couple, or single was given, since it wasn’t a song in the hymnal. Ruth was totally amazed but also very thankful that God had helped her write the lyrics for this song.
Tomo and Ami found a nice used travel van that would sleep four people, if two of them were small children, by using the dinette area. He mentioned, “Since just the two of us will usually go in this van, we’ll be able to keep the dinette set up for eating, relaxing, and studying the Bible.”
“Certainly,” Ami agreed, “it’s just the right size for the two of us, and it’s easy to drive and park. I like the roomy bed in the back.”
Tomo continued, “Yes, and I’m glad we talked to Vern, Lora and Mindy Jones about their motorhome and got some ideas from them. Their motorhome is larger than I would like to drive, but it’s just right for them. The booklet from our church about travel evangelism has many good ideas and travel hints.”
Very soon they had the motorhome set up with bedding, clothes, plastic dishes, cups, silverware, sharp knives, can opener, cooking pans, utensils, paper towels, napkins, food, other essentials, plus hymnals, a boombox, a folding table, small folding chairs, and a sign to put up at their campsite. They also packed extra Bibles and a book of answers to common questions people could ask so they could refer to it on the spot if they got stuck. Then they studied maps and planned their route to include scenery on the way there and back. Next they called Afta and family to find out the best time for a visit. Finally they were on their way!
Ami mentioned, “I’m glad we agreed to stop along the way when there are safe places to pull off the highway so we can take pictures of the scenery as we go.”
“Same here,” Tomo concurred. “It was also a good idea to give only an approximate arrival date so we don’t have to feel pressured.”
Since they were traveling east of the mountains, there would be very few national forest type campgrounds along the way. So their first night was spent in a commercial campground in a small city. Ami lamented, “We got here too late to get a hymn singing time set up this evening. Maybe we’ll do better tomorrow.”
“Yes,” agreed Tomo, “I enjoy not driving on the interstates, but the secondary roads take us longer. I also like being able to pull off the road to look around and stretch.”
“Absolutely,” said Ami. “We aren’t in a race, and I enjoy the slower pace. We can plan to stop earlier tomorrow evening.”
They looked at the map and planned to stop at a special insect museum before driving some more to a small city about a hundred miles from there. They had a chance to plant a few gospel seeds as they looked at the displays and visited with another couple nearby. Then they reached the small city and found a nice commercial campground a little ways on the other side of the city.
Ami stated, “This was a fun day. I really enjoyed the butterflies and moths in the museum. Now supper is over and we have permission to set up a meeting at our campsite.”
“Yes it was fun!” agreed Tomo. “I’ll set up the sign and folding table and chairs while you bring the boombox, SD cards, and hymnals out here.”
Several people came right away, and a couple more came a little later. They had a time of visiting and getting acquainted before singing. As it turned out, this time they were all from a church in another city and welcomed the chance to share in praises to God.
At the end of the time, they helped put away the table and chairs and thanked Tomo and Ami for the good idea of a way to tell the Good News to others as they traveled. They’d buy the equipment needed and do the same thing for the rest of their trip. Tomo showed and explained the travel evangelism booklet to the people, then he gave it to one couple so they could share it with the others and use the ideas.
Ami commented, “We’ll get another booklet when we get home.” When the people left, Tomo and Ami thanked God for the unexpected results of their first hymn singing time in a campground.
The next day they arrived in the city where Afta and his family lived. After finding a park, they fixed and ate supper to make it easier for their first evening of visiting. When all was cleaned up and put away, Tomo looked up their address on the computer map on his laptop and was able to drive there easily.
Afta ran outside to greet them, “Welcome! It’s so wonderful to see you in person here at our home! Come right in … have you eaten supper yet? We just finished, but could get the leftovers out for you.”
Tomo hugged him and then answered, “Yes, we already ate supper and we’re looking forward to an evening of visiting with you and your family! You look great!”
Afta laughed, “Thanks, that means you look great too, since we’re still identical twins! Ami, you look wonderful too! I’m so glad you both were able to come here and see us.”
Hana joined them in the living room, and when the rest of the greetings and hugs were completed, Denji came in and it all started over again. Finally they were seated and enjoyed visiting and learning about the details of each other’s lives and their churches.
The next morning while Denji was at school, they talked some more. Afta began, “I always felt like our parents gave me a demeaning name. It always reminded me that I was the younger one, and therefore I was not as good. That’s the reason I didn’t want to stay in Pine City after high school.”
Tomo nodded, “I understand.”
Afta continued, “They made it clear that I would not inherit the family business.”
“I didn’t know that. But they’re still alive and well,” inserted Tomo, “and you and I don’t need to inherit anything from them anyway.”
Afta exclaimed, “Exactly, and the most wonderful part is that when we were all there at Christmas time, they apologized to me after they became believers and I forgave them.”
Tomo stated. “How amazing! I’m so glad they did! This reminds me a little of Esau and Jacob in Genesis 25-28. But our story isn’t as bad as theirs was and has a much better ending.”
“That’s for sure!” emphasized Afta. “You and I have always been friends, but our parents caused a rift and separation in our lives, and I regret the wasted years of closeness we could have had otherwise.”
Tomo replied, “I agree, but at least we’ve had more time on the phone and we’re here visiting now, and it’s such a pleasure.”
“Indeed it is,” agreed Afta, “and I’m thankful for that. I also felt better because I had forgiven them. I just wanted you to know how I have felt.”
“Thank you, Afta. It does clear up the mystery for me.” Then Tomo got up and gave his twin a hug. Later he mentioned, “Hana, we’d like to get to see your sister and her family while we’re here. It’s been so many years that we need to get acquainted all over again.”
“I’ll call her right now,” Hana responded, “and see when they can come over.” She found out they’d be free that evening after supper, so she invited them over for an evening of visiting.
They had an interesting time of getting to know each other. Tomo and Ami found out many things about Kosuke and Sakura, including that they both had moved home again after becoming discontent with the life in the other big city. They seemed very nice and polite. Everyone enjoyed the fellowship of believers. It was a nice evening.
Two mornings later as Tomo and Ami were getting ready to leave so they could drive back home, Afta surprised them! “Hana and I have been discussing and trying to decide for months about a better place to live than this noisy, big city. We’re tired of the long cold winters and would really like to move.”
Hana continued, “My parents and my sister and her family feel the same way, and we’ve searched many possibilities. We always made the excuse about our jobs, but we finally realized that they are the kind of jobs that can move with us.”
Tomo asked, “Do you mean …?”
“Exactly!” responded Afta. “Just since you came to visit us, Hana and I have decided on Pine City. Then we won’t have any more wasted years. I think we’ll be able to convince the rest of the family to choose it also, and each of us will move as soon as we can get our houses sold.”
Tomo exclaimed, “Oh, WOW! I’m so happy to hear about your decision and we’ll pray that you can convince them also.” Then he gave his twin a bear hug.
Ami hugged Hana and said, “We’ll also pray that your houses sell quickly, and we’ll look forward to you moving to Pine City soon!”
“Thank you for this great visit,” declared Tomo, “and this news is the icing on the cake. It isn’t nearly as hard to leave now that we know you will soon be living in Pine City!”
Afta responded, “You’re welcome. Thank you for coming! We’re glad you like our news. Drive carefully, and we’ll see you as soon as we can get packed and moved.”
Ami invited, “You three are welcome to stay with us while you look for a house or apartment to live in, since our office has a couch that makes into a bed, and Denji can room with Yoshi.”
Hana replied, “Thank you. We’ll take you up on that. It will make the move so much easier. We’ll be looking at housing availability on the web while we are still here.”
They all hugged again and sang “God Be With You ‘Til We Meet Again.” Then they left with smiles instead of tears.
On the farm William began one of the Bible study times for the boys by asking, “How do you react when someone hits you?”
Pedro answered, “I hit him right back, I don’t want to be called a sissy!”
“No,” agreed Luis, “but then you both just continue hitting until both of you have bloody noses or black eyes or both, or you end up in the principal’s office in double trouble.”
Pedro nodded, “Yeah, you’re right. I’d be better off to be a sissy.”
William smiled and nodded. “Please find Matthew 5:38,39, and follow along as I read it. Jesus said, You have heard that it has been said, an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth, but I say to you, do not resist evil, if someone hits you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. Think about it carefully. In my opinion, it would take more courage to turn the other cheek than to hit back.”
Jose shared, “For me, it would be easier to turn and run away. I can’t imagine offering my other cheek to him. He’d probably really hit it hard.”
“He might,” concurred William, “but on the other hand, it might surprise him and diffuse his anger. I’ve never had the unwelcome opportunity to try it. Put a bookmark in this Matthew chapter and find Romans 12:19-21 and read it aloud with me. Dearly beloved, don’t avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath, for it is written, vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the LORD. Therefore if your enemy is hungry, feed him, if he is thirsty, give him a drink, for in so doing you shall heap coals of fire on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
A boy stated, “This would be even harder for me to do! But I guess Jesus never said that living for him would be easy.”
“Precisely!” exclaimed William. “My center reference goes to Proverbs 25:21,22 and they say almost the same thing. Now let’s go back to Matthew 5 and please read verses 43-46 to yourselves.”
Hugo declared, “It just gets harder! I’m supposed to love my enemies and do good to them and pray for them so I can be a child of my Father in heaven.”
“Good summary of those verses, Hugo,” complimented William. “The verses we’ve read so far make very good goals for us. Now let’s look at Matthew 7:12 and read it together. Therefore, whatever you would like others to do to you, do it to them, for this is the law and the prophets.”
Another boy mentioned, “Luke 6:31 says almost the same thing.”
“Yes it does,” William concurred. “As we end this lesson today, listen to Psalm 103:8,10. The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abundant in mercy. He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. He definitely treats us the way he desires for us to treat others.”
The parents of one family in the church is helping their four children who had gone to the church school. They wanted to have a lemonade stand this summer.
Dad said, “Saturdays from about 10 AM to 3 PM would be a good time to have a lemonade stand.”
“Why?” asked the younger boy.
Mom answered, “If you remember the times we’ve gone to garage and yard sales, it’s often on a Saturday. Between those times it is usually pretty hot, and lemonade would taste really good about then.”
He said, “For sure! It’s going to be hot for us, too. Could we set up an umbrella so we could have some shade?’
“What a good idea!” replied Mom. “Yes, we’ll help you do it.”
“Thank you, Mom. But five hours is a long time,” his older brother mentioned.
Dad explained, “That’s the beauty of having all four of you be involved. You can work in pairs for about an hour and a quarter each and then trade off, and you can eat lunch in shifts.”
“Good,” the boy responded, “we won’t get as tired that way.”
“Should we use real lemons or just get a mix.?” the younger sister inquired.
Little brother exclaimed, “Real lemons would take too much work!”
“You’re right,” she agreed, “and they’d cost more too. Besides, we also need to buy paper cups and a bag of ice cubes since our ice maker doesn’t work.”
“How much should we charge?” he asked next.
Dad replied, “We’ll need to figure out how much all those things cost and divide the number of cups into that amount and then add any profit you’d like to make.”
Big sister mentioned, “Since this is going to be a ministry we only need to charge enough to pay our expenses.”
“Correct,” agreed Mom. “and you’ll be ready with tracts, which are little pamphlets that tell the Good News, to give if people want them, You can answer questions and witness when its appropriate. You all know how to follow the leading of Jesus’ Spirit who lives in you.” They all nodded.
Dad suggested, “If you get stuck on a question or need help of any kind just push the intercom button on the phone you take with you from the house. We’ll hear it ring and one of us will come right out to help you.”
Big brother realized, “We’ll need to buy tracts at the Bible book store and add their cost to our expenses to figure out the price of each glass we sell.”
“This is more complicated than it sounded at first,” said big sister, “but it will be worth it if anyone will accept Jesus as their Savior.”
Mom added, “This is very true! And we need to remember we might not ever know the results of this project, but we will be planting seeds. Some people need a lot of exposure to the Good News before they’re converted.”
“Yes,” she replied, “but I still think it’s a good idea.”
Dad tacked on, “It’s even better than going to yard sales and buying more things we don’t need to have!”
“Absolutely!” declared Mom. “When you get good enough at running the lemonade stand, Dad and I could consider having a yard sale at the same time. We picked up a booklet from the church about that idea also.”
Big brother quipped, “Neat, then we’ll get them with two double barreled shotguns. The people either of us miss will be covered by the others!”
They all had fun laughing at this funny sense of humor. When they got settled down, Dad remarked, “In that case, we better partner with another couple so one couple can oversee the yard sale while their partners are ministering, so we won’t miss anybody. This would also provide a couple to come help out at the lemonade stand if you need one. Plus everyone can take a break if needed.”
Big sister said, “This all sounds like a very good idea. Little Sis and my closets are overflowing with clothes that don’t fit. Our bookshelves have games we quit playing, and books we won’t read again, and I hate to imagine what our brothers’ room looks like.”
“You’re exactly right!” her brothers responded in unison.
Tomo and Ami drove on the interstate and made it home in just two days because they had such interesting news to share with Aneko and Yoshi. They drove late in the evening and skipped the hymn singing idea on the way home.
Aneko exclaimed, “Hey! You guys are home sooner than we expected you! We just got home from the restaurant, and you pulled in right behind us! Welcome home!”
“Is everything alright?” asked Yoshi. “It hasn’t been two weeks.”
“Yes, we’re fine.” Tomo answered. “We’re just so excited to tell you our news and didn’t want to use the phone, so we just hurried home instead.”
Ami remarked, “You might not believe this. We’ve had a hard time believing it ourselves even though we heard it with our own ears!”
“Please come sit down and tell us all about it,” Aneko requested.
When everyone was comfortable, Tomo and Ami recounted their trip and visiting time. “We were impressed with your cousins. They were both very polite and friendly. Their names are Kosuke and Sakura, charming names for delightful people, Kosuke’s name means rising sun, and Sakura’s means cherry blossom,” added Ami.
Tomo continued, “Then just as we were ready to get into the van yesterday and start home, Afta and Hana surprised us by saying that they’ve decided to sell their home there and move to Pine City!”
Ami admitted, “I invited them to stay with us while they look for a place to live and said Denji could room with you, Yoshi.”
He nodded his acceptance.
“Oh my!” declared Aneko. “The way they talked the last time they were here it sounded like they’d never consider moving.”
Tomo explained why and went on to say, “And that’s not all. Hana’s parents and sister and her family want to move also. Hana is going to try and convince them to choose Pine City too.”
“So it looks like you might get a chance to evaluate your cousins for yourselves,” finished Ami.
Tomo suggested, “Let’s pray about all of this and then go to bed. We can discuss it some more in the morning.”
After everyone added a sentence or two to the prayer time, they went to bed. In the morning there was not really much more to discuss about the news, because it was all still up in the air, but Tomo and Ami did tell about the driving part of the trip, their first and only ministry time, and how well the van had worked for them.
Oscar and Vera were still enjoying the wonder of being able to attend church services together after all the years of running the dude ranch when they had to go separately on different days, so one of them could always be at the ranch.
They walked in and sat near the center front with their family of four foster girls. They sat with two girls between them and one on each end, so they could be helped with the hymnal or Bible if needed. The girls had become much better at finding things on their own, but they also enjoyed being able to sit near one of their foster parents, since this family had bonded so well. Each Sunday they sat in a different arrangement so they would all have a turn in each place. They all felt like they were really a special part of the family.
For this service Nan and Liz were in the middle, Emma sat next to Oscar, and Stella was beside Vera.
Before service started Emma quietly said to Oscar, “Dad, John 3:16 is one of the verses I memorized and it goes with the first song.”
He nodded and mentioned, “It’s a very good verse. I know it too.”
“Look, Nan,” whispered Liz, “The second song has two Bible verses listed after it.”
Nan whispered back, “Yeah, I don’t think I’ve ever seen that happen before.”
In the meantime Stella observed in a quiet voice, “Mom, the third song has an interesting title. I’ve heard you say those words before about something that would probably happen. I’ll try to notice how those words fit in a song when we sing it later.
“Good idea, Stella,” replied Vera also in a quiet voice. “I don’t know if I’ve ever heard that song before. It will be interesting to find out what it’s like.”
The songs this week were “For God So Loved the World,” which goes with John 3:16, “When We See Christ,” Psalm 71:22,23 and Hebrews 12:1,2a, and “Sooner or Later,” John 14:3.
Pastor Don began the teaching time by having everyone who’d memorized John 3:16 say it out loud together, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
Then Don continued, “The song we sang that goes with this verse is very short, but it has a great message about how God’s Son died on Calvary to set us free from sin, and that someday Jesus will come back to earth. We’ll get to see his matchless glory and realize completely how wonderful his love is. If there’s anyone here who doesn’t know for sure that you are saved and ready for Jesus to return, please come talk to me so I can answer any questions.”
Next he instructed, “Find Psalm 71:22, 23 and follow along as I read it. I will praise you with the psaltery. I will praise your truth O my God, to you will I sing with the harp, O you Holy One of Israel. My lips and my soul shall greatly rejoice when I sing to you, because you have redeemed me. You may have noticed the word ‘harp’ in the last verse of the second song we sang, and it’s the only part of the song that really goes with this Bible verse. Maybe this song is the place many people got the idea that all people will do in heaven is play harps. I never agreed with that idea but the whole idea of praising God for redeeming us fits well here.”
Pastor Don had asked a man with a big booming voice to be ready to stand up and read the next verses. He called on the man who stood and read loudly, “Hebrews 12:1,2a says, Therefore seeing we are surrounded by a large cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily harasses us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.”
“Thank you,” stated Don, “the verses are so much more meaningful the way you read them to us. They might be good ones to memorize and then sing the chorus of this song to remind us to keep running the race when things seem hard like some of the verses say in the song. When we get to see Jesus in heaven, it will be worth all the hard times.”
People in the congregation nodded and Don went on, “When I was growing up, I’d go visit my grandparents and they had an old record player. I often heard them play the song, ‘Sooner or Later,’ written by Lulu Koch with music by Wilbur Nelson. He sang it on his program, The Morning Chapel Hour, which was on the radio for many years. there’s actually a YouTube video with one of their record albums, but I’m not sure the song is on it. Anyway, this song brings back a lot of precious memories of those times. I was so glad when I found this song in our hymnal.”
He had the people look up and read John 14:3 aloud, Jesus said, If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to myself, so that you may also be where I am.
Don explained, “This is a verse and song, which for believers, gives wonderful promises and things to look forward to when God calls them home, sooner or later, in his own timing and way. Maybe it will be through being absent from the body and being present with the Lord, see 2 Corinthians 5:8. Or maybe it will be as it says in 1 Thessalonians 4:16,17 if we are still alive when Jesus returns, we’ll be caught up to meet the Lord in the air. No matter which way it happens, it will be perfect! Again, if you’re not sure you are ready, please come talk to me.”
In closing they sang the song “Sooner or Later” again with an even better understanding and longing than the first time.
This spring Greg and Oralie Iverson had a surprise for their foster boys on the farm when they got home from school one Friday.
As usual Oralie reminded, “Please put your things in your rooms and change your clothes.”
Greg added, “Hurry today, so we can have some extra playtime, but remember to hang up your clothes.”
They were all good boys and did as they were told, but they caught an undertone of excitement in their parents and wondered what might happen. So they hurried as fast as they could.
Oralie explained, “We have a surprise for you in the backyard, but you need to use self control and stay quiet so you don’t scare it.”
They all nodded solemnly and promised to be quiet. Their curiosity was growing.
“Also,” continued Greg, when you get out there, please sit down on the ground in a semi-circle like when we play some of our games.”
Max was having the hardest time being quiet and patient, since he was the youngest of the boys and loved surprises. But he clenched his fists and tightened his lips to keep in any sounds.
Finally Oralie opened the door and they filed out and down the steps so they could sit as Dad had instructed.
As soon as they were seated they saw it, and each of them covered his mouth to keep in the shouts of joy that wanted so badly to get out. It was a bundle of golden colored fur that came bounding over the grass toward them. But then it stopped so quickly that it did a somersault and ended up sitting a few feet away from them to study this collection of small humans.
Greg walked quietly over and picked him up and he started to wag his tail and tried to lick Greg’s face. “This puppy is just now old enough to leave his mother and find a new home. He’s a golden retriever and collie mix. His mother is a collie and by accident she got out one day and met a golden retriever. The result was a litter of puppies which were not planned.”
Oralie went on, “Your dad and I know her owners, and when they told us about these puppies we asked if we could buy one, knowing how much you boys would like to have a dog here on the farm. They promised us the pick of the litter, so we went today to bring him home. You can talk quietly now.”
Hands came down from their mouths and big smiles covered their faces. Cory expressed what they all felt, “Thank you very much, Dad and Mom. This is the very best surprise!”
“His color is so pretty,” Kevin stated, “it’s just like honey.”
Jack commented, “His nose looks more like a collie’s than a retriever’s nose.”
Levi asked, “Does he have a name already, or do we get to name him?
Max observed,“He looks so happy, I’m sure he will be a jolly good friend to all of us. If we get to name him, I’d like to call him Jolly, because it rhymes with collie and he’s so happy, he makes me feel happy too.”
The other four boys smiled at Max and nodded their agreement, and Mom and Dad did too, so that was how Jolly got his name.
Greg set the puppy down on the ground and he went to smell and get acquainted with the five boys who took turns petting and letting Jolly climb over their legs and into their laps. He was a great addition to this big family and each of them took his turn in taking care of him and cleaning up the yard.
Greg and Oralie spent some time every day while the boys were at school, training the puppy when he was old enough to learn, then they taught the boys how to continue each thing he was taught, so he became a well-behaved pet and friend who gave them all his love and attention.
Beth Davis, the principal of Grace ‘n’ Faith Church Christian School had a Jewish friend. They’ve been partnering in memorizing Old Testament Scriptures for over a month. It was an idea Beth got from the list the church handed out to them. Each partner would look up the scripture and follow along to see if it was correctly quoted.
Beth suggested, “Today, let’s check each other on some more verses in the Psalms. You be first this time.”
“Okay,” she responded, “I really like Psalm 4:8, I will lie down in peace and sleep, for only you LORD make me dwell in safety. Psalm 4:8. I use this verse many times when I can’t fall right to sleep.”
Beth replied, “What a good idea. I’ll try it. You said it perfectly and remembered to say the reference before and after. Sometimes I forget to do it. It’s my turn, Psalm 13:5, O LORD I have trusted in your mercy. My heart shall rejoice in your salvation Psalm 13:5.”
“Good job,” said her friend. “why do you like this one?”
Beth answered, “Because I know the LORD is full of mercy and he made a way for us to have his salvation.”
“Oh,” she acknowledged. “Now I’ll say Psalm 18:1-3, I will love you, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock, and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my strength in whom I will trust, my buckler and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower. I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised, so shall I be saved from my enemies. Psalm 18:1-3. I like it because David sang it when the LORD delivered him from all his enemies, especially Saul.
Beth exclaimed, “You did a very good job on such a long list of the wonderful things the LORD is to people who trust in him!
Her friend mentioned, “I’ve heard that God works everything together for good.”
“Indeed, Beth commented, “That’s part of one of my favorite verses.”
“Oh I didn’t know that was in the Scriptures,” she stated.
Beth responded, “Yes, there’s a lot of wisdom in the Scriptures of the New Testament also. That verse is in Romans 8:28, which says, And we know that all things work together for good to them who love God and are called according to his purpose, Romans 8:28.”
“Well,” she admitted, “the LORD certainly did that for David, even though it took years before it happened.”
“Positively,” and Beth continued, “I try to remember that fact and not get discouraged when things take longer than I’d like them to take. Oh dear! Our time is already up for today. I’ll look forward to continuing in the Psalms next week. Thanks for coming today!”
She said. “You're welcome. See you next week at my apartment.”
Before his twin brother and family sold their home and came to stay with them while they looked for a place to live, Tomo and Ami went for another motorhome ministry time to the west this time to see national parks where they might be able to minister in Japanese to people visiting from Japan or to anyone else in English. They chose to go to Bryce Canyon National Park because it has many pull-offs with overlooks where they could view and photograph the scenery and have the chance to visit with other people there also.
When they looked carefully at the map to decide on their route Tomo suggested, “Since we are going to drive so far, we may as well see the other parks that are relatively close to Bryce.”
He showed Ami the map and she agreed, “Yes, we can see Capitol Reef National Park first then Bryce and last we can go to Zion. If we plan our route carefully, we might find some national forest campgrounds along the way, and maybe could get reservations in the national park campgrounds.”
“Right, Dear,” he concurred, “and on the way home we can just go at our own pace and camp wherever we are at the end of the day.”
They planned deliberately for each day of driving to the parks and where to camp, and even decided to take an interstate part of the way. The first evening they arrived at a national forest campground in time to set up their site for a time of singing and answering questions. It went well, and some people had good questions that were answered by Tomo and Ami. Those people left with a tract about the gospel to read.
The next day they drove on Interstate 70 through the Colorado mountains and Utah, taking every scenic pull-off so they could enjoy and photograph the most beautiful section of interstate in the country. Even with all those stops, they made it to their reserved site in Capitol Reef National Park Campground in time to set up their campsite for ministry time. They’d be here for two nights, so the people who came the first night returned the next evening bringing their friends. After explaining the Good News and answering questions, they had the joy of praying with those people to accept Jesus as their Savior.
Before the second meeting, during the day, they had driven to all the scenic areas in the park marveling at the variety and beauty everywhere. They’d have plenty of photos to show when they got home. They especially liked all the rock colors and formations along the Scenic Drive. Later the same day they visited the Historic Gifford Farmhouse Museum and Store where they took pictures of the old- fashioned way of living and bought a little cup of homemade ice cream. It was delicious and fun to eat it outside at one of the picnic tables. Then they saw the one-room school house and it was special because they got to go inside and really see things up-close.
The next day they drove on Highway 12 south to Boulder and then on into Escalante. It’s one of the most spectacular scenic byways in Utah, and it continues all the way to Bryce, going through Red Canyon on the way, so they saw lots of magnificent scenery.
Tomo remarked, “Even though we took every pull-off so we could sight see and take more pictures we still got to our reserved Bryce campsite in time to have supper and get set up for the singing and question time. So far this has been a fabulous trip!”
“Indeed it has been!” exclaimed Ami. “I didn’t know there was so much varied and colorful scenery in the United States. We are privileged to get to see so much of it on this trip.”
Tomo added, “Yes and furthermore, we were able to give answers to the questions the people asked tonight. Father in Heaven, please give them the desire to return tomorrow evening and give us the right words to say to them.”
“Yes,” Ami continued, “and also please help us to connect with people who need to hear about you at the viewpoints tomorrow during the day. Draw people to yourself and use us however you want to use us.”
The next evening Tomo declared, “It’s like God orchestrated our day for us today.”
“Indeed,” Ami nodded, “The man at the visitor center gave us a very helpful hint to drive all the way to the other end taking the two pull-offs on our side of the road, and then come back taking all the ones on the other side so we didn’t have to cross traffic each time.”
He concurred, “Without a doubt, it was much safer that way. Then we ended up following or being followed by a rental car full of tourists from Japan. If they left first, we’d pull into the next pull-off behind them. If we left first they’d pull in behind us.”
“It was perfect,” agreed Ami. “Since we met them at Rainbow Point near the end of the scenic drive, and we both stopped at four others, we had enough time for small talk and getting acquainted, before we felt led to tell them the Good News at Sunrise Point back near the start of the scenic drive.”
Tomo admitted, “It felt good to speak in Japanese to them and between ourselves all day today, plus being able to read to them out of our Japanese Bibles.”
“I enjoyed it also,” Ami went on, “plus it was good to wait until the last pull-off so they weren’t in a hurry to leave for the next one.”
Tomo prayed, “Thank you Lord, for being in charge of our day, and for using us to tell them the Good News.”
Ami added, “And we thank you that all six of them accepted Jesus, and I’m glad one of them already knew of a good church that has small groups for new believers, so they can get connected when they go back to their homes.”
It was raining after supper that evening, so there was no hymn singing time. Instead they studied the map and tour book to be ready for Zion National Park tomorrow and the next day. Then when they were certain Aneko and Yoshi would be home from working at the restaurant, they called them and shared the highlights of their trip so far. Everyone rejoiced about the ones who’d been saved.
The next day they continued west on Highway 12 to 89 and then south to Highway 9 and west into Zion seeing more delightful scenery along the way. Happily their van was small enough that they could go through the amazing, long tunnel without an extra charge for an oversized vehicle, which has to have an escort sent with it while the oncoming traffic is halted until they get through the tunnel.
The visitor center was still open when they arrived, so they went in and got all their questions answered about the shuttle that goes on the road up Zion Canyon. They decided to take the shuttle to Weeping Rock and then hike up to Middle Emerald Pool, take pictures along the way and be ready to talk to anybody who was open to listen.
After the visitor center they went to their reserved campsite in the campground and walked around for half an hour like they usually did to get some exercise after all the driving. Then it was time for supper and they got set up for a time of singing hymns. They were thrilled to see the couple from their first night in Bryce, plus they brought the people who had camped next to them. Both couples had more questions to get answered and then they and Tomo and Ami planned to hike to Middle Emerald Pool together the next day.
They all got seats together on the shuttle and continued asking questions, which were happily answered by Tomo and Ami. The hike was easy and delightful. There had been enough rain that the waterfalls were running larger than usual. The red rocks and cliffs made a wonderful contrast to the hanging gardens, green ferns, plants and trees.
After supper the two couples came back for more singing and more answers to questions. Soon both couples had enough information and were ready to ask Jesus to be their Savior. Ami found out they knew of good churches in their cities and would attend them and get into small groups. They all had a wonderful time rejoicing and then planned to go the following day as a caravan on Interstate 15 and take the side trip into Kolob Canyons, which is still in Zion National Park.
The next day, taking every pull-off they all got more photos of fantastic red rock scenery. It was even more fun now that they all were believers and could share the unity of belonging to the forever family of God.
After the side trip, they continued north to Highway 14 and then 143 to Cedar Breaks National Monument, which was a lot like Bryce on a smaller scale and a higher elevation. When finished there, they continued 143 northeast. It was another delightful scenic byway, after which all of them camped at a commercial campground in the town of Panquitch.
From there the following day, the caravan drove north through a valley with some more extraordinary scenery to an interesting feature called Big Rock Candy Mountain, just south of Sevier, Utah. After marveling at one more piece of God’s great creativity and variety, the friends parted ways to either continue their sightseeing or to head back home. Tomo and Ami decided Interstate 70 was just as pretty going east as it had been as they had gone west so many days ago now, that they had lost count. They got home to Pine City just after Yoshi and Aneko got home from work at the restaurant, but they waited until the next morning to tell them about the rest of their trip.
On the playground, a fourth grade boy said, “Cory, yesterday my brother, who’s in fifth grade, told me to watch out for those kids from the church school, but you guys are, well, just good friends. I’d like to hear what you’d like to say and decide for myself. I think he just likes to criticize and find fault, and I don’t want to be like that.”
Cory responded, “Thanks for the compliment. We’re glad to be friends with you. We’ll be happy to tell you. At the church school we learned the truth about the Bible. It teaches so many good things about how to live. But the most important of those things for us and all people is about God’s Son, Jesus.
Cory’s partner continued, “Yes, you see, he’s important because all the people on the earth have sinned, including Cory, me, and you.
“How do we sin?” the boy asked. “The three of us haven’t killed anyone or taken things from a store without paying.”
He answered, “Those are very bad things, but to sin means more than just breaking the ten commandments listed in the Bible. Sins are also things like lying, cheating on tests, not obeying our parents, saying mean things, being selfish or proud, plus a lot more.”
“I get the idea,” said the boy, “but so what?”
Cory explained, “The Bible says that the end payment for sins is death, but not just our bodies dying someday, but afterward would be eternal separation from God and heaven.”
“Why?” he questioned.
Cory’s partner replied, “Because God is holy, and he won’t allow sinful people to be in his presence. But he made a way for people to be made clean from all their sins so they can live for eternity in heaven with God.”
Just then the bell rang to end recess, so they agreed to talk some more next recess. When they met at lunch recess, his next question was, “What did God do?”
Cory’s partner answered, “To answer your question, I’ll say a verse that you might have heard before. John 3:16, For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting or eternal life.”
“Yep, I’ve heard that before,” and the boy nodded.
Cory added, “Here’s a summary of the next two verses. God didn’t send his Son, Jesus, to condemn the world, but to save it. Whoever believes in God’s Son is not condemned, but those who do not believe are condemned.”
The boy inquired, “So how does a person believe in God’s Son?”
Cory’s partner replied, “It’s more than just saying he exists. The reason God sent Jesus was to pay for the sins of every person who would acknowledge what Jesus did when HE, who had never sinned even once, died on the cross instead of each sinful person having to die for his own sins. See right here in this little New Testament it says in 2 Corinthians 5:21, God made Jesus, who knew no sin, to be sin for us so we could be made the righteousness of God in Jesus.”
He showed the verse to the boy, who nodded.
Cory agreed, “Yes, a person needs to pray and acknowledge or admit that Jesus died for him and then accept it as payment for his own sins. When a person believes in what Jesus did for him, he usually says he is sorry for his sins, confesses them, and asks for forgiveness and for God’s help to live for Jesus. Believing in Jesus includes all those things.”
The bell rang and they ran to line up, saying they’d finish during the last recess. It gave the boy a chance to contemplate what had been said, although he didn’t listen very well in class the rest of that day.
At last recess, the boy stated, “I think I understand what you have said, and I know the Bible is supposed to be true, but I need to know why these important facts aren’t taught here in school!”
Cory explained, “It’s because some bad people passed some laws forbidding that the Bible be taught or read in schools. Someday those people will have to pay the penalty of that terrible sin and all the others they did, if they never repented, confessed, asked for forgiveness and believed in Jesus.”
“Well,” the boy admitted, “I don’t want to ever have to pay for my sins, so can I pray right now?” When both of his friends nodded and smiled, the boy prayed using his own words and included everything he had been told that day. When he finished, he looked surprised and happy. “I’m clean and peaceful inside, and I don’t fear what comes after my body dies, because I know what Jesus did for me.”
His two friends rejoiced with him and one of them gave him a little booklet about what he had done and what to do next. Then they invited him to go to church with them on Sunday.
Cory promised, “We’ll meet you in the church entryway and you can sit with us.”
The boy was there Sunday, along with his family, including his older brother. Cory had gotten a quick note to Pastor Don alerting him of unbelievers in the service, so a teaching about the gospel was included in the teaching time. The rest of the boy’s family accepted Jesus and they all went up to meet the pastor, with the boy’s two friends to introduce them. What a happy day!
Beth Davis was at her friend’s home and they were listening to each other say memory verses again. Her friend said, “I’ll start with Psalm 19:1, The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows his handiwork, Psalm 19:1. I like it because it’s another verse that proves to me that God is the creator, not evolution.”
“Positively!” exclaimed Beth. “I like it for the same reason. Here’s Psalm 19:14, May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer, Psalm 19:14. This verse reminds me to be careful what I think and what I say.”
The woman said, I’m working on Psalm 23 until I get good enough
to say all six verses. So next I’ll say Psalm 27:14, Wait on the LORD. Be of good courage and he shall strengthen your heart. Wait, I say, on the LORD, Psalm 27:14. This verse helps me to be patient.”
“Yes, it’s a good one,” agreed Beth. “I also like verse one in the same Psalm, The LORD is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life, of whom shall I be afraid? Psalm 27:1. I think the answer is understood to not fear anyone.”
They spent the rest of their time this day, visiting and getting to know more about each other. It helped them to become even better friends.
One evening during suppertime Mary commented, “I’m glad Kindergarten and 1st grade get to have recess at the same time.”
“Why is that, Honey?” Anita asked as she smiled at her sweet daughter.
Mary explained, “Because I get to play with my brother and my friends Hope and Joy and some of my classroom friends.”
Timmy continued, “I like it also, Mary, and many times my friend Max, who lives on the farm, and all four of the quadruplets, who live on the ranch, join in our fun times.”
“Yeah, that’s nice too. And after eating lunch,” Mary went on, “the parent volunteer for the day gets our class together to play a group game, and it’s fun too.”
Anita agreed, “Yes, and you’re learning good skills like different ways to move your bodies, like bending, twisting, stretching, turning, balancing on one foot, hopping, skipping, and pretending to walk a tightrope.”
“It sounds like a lot of fun,” quipped Don, “I wish I could come and join you some days, but they don’t give me recesses at the Local Grocery where I work.”
Timmy laughed, “Nope, poor Daddy, grownups don’t get to have recesses.”
Don laughed with him and Mary remembered, “We get to do a lot of fun things after supper and on weekends with you, Daddy.”
“Yes we sure do!” he exclaimed, “and I really enjoy it!”
Timmy asked, “Daddy, could we pray as a family that Joy will get to be in my class next year, so it will be more fair to her?”
“Of course, Son,” he answered, “as long as we add if it’s God’s will. Would you like to start?”
Timmy nodded and began, “Father in heaven, if it would be your will, please have the school leaders put Joy in the same classroom as I will be in next year, thank you in advance.”
“Yes, Father,” Don continued, “I agree with Timmy. It would be nice for her to have the same enjoyment as Hope has had this year.”
Mary added, “I agree, I’d like for Joy to enjoy being in Timmy's class. Please. Thank you.”
Anita closed the prayer time, “I agree too. Thank you, Father, for the privilege of asking you for things we desire. May your will be done. We pray in Jesus name.” Then they all said Amen.
Special Baptismal services were scheduled for all the Grace ‘n’ Faith Churches in Pine City. They would be held on evenings during the week in the church sanctuary. From two to four churches could meet on the same evening depending on how many new believers each one had to baptize.
New believers groups had been started for these believers to teach them how to live for Jesus. The first meeting helped them get acquainted with the Bible and the hymnal. They could also ask questions and get answers about the little booklet they had been given. The second meeting was about water baptism and why it was important. They had read Romans 6:4-6, we are buried with him by baptism into death, so that just as Christ was raised up from the dead by the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we are like him in his death, then we shall also be raised like his resurrection. We know that our old man is crucified with him … so we no longer serve sin.
Cory, his partner, and their families attended the one where their friend and his family were being baptized. They wanted to show support and rejoice with them.
Matt and Fiona attended the same one for the same reason, because the young man and his friends from the disk golf section of the park were there being baptized.
The congregation sang two songs that were good testimonies of what Jesus had done for each believer. The first one was “Now I Belong to Jesus,” and the second was, “My Redeemer.”
Each new believer walked down the steps into the warm water and over to where the pastor of their church waited for them. Each one had a little time for a short testimony before the pastor said, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”
Then he would immerse the person in the water, bring him or her back up, and give help back over to the steps.
The fifth grade brother of Cory’s friend gave a longer testimony than most. “Last year, I stayed far away from those kids from the church school, because I had heard they were just full of baloney. I even warned my younger brother about them. But they made friends with him and he asked them to tell him what they wanted to tell. When he understood it was all the truth, he accepted Jesus as his Savior, told us about it, and talked the rest of us into going to the church. When we heard it from the pastor we also believed. I’m so glad my brother wasn’t as closed off as I had been.”
The young man from the park said, “I’m truly glad Matt came to the park that day and took the time to tell me how to get rid of the guilt of my sin and know I’ll go to heaven. Now I desire to live for Jesus and tell others about him also.” Then his friends gave similar testimonies.
Next a man stepped into the water and gave his testimony. “I need to tell you people my story so all of you will know why they didn’t put me in prison with the rest of the gang you heard about on the news. I stole a big suitcase from a police woman because it contained information the gang needed. She chased and caught me and I put the suit case down. She could smell my imminent death because of the disease I had, and told me she’d pray for my healing if I would promise not to run away again. So I promised. As she was praying for me an accomplice from the gang shot her in the back. But her vest stopped the bullet and she whirled around and told him to drop the gun or she’d have to ruin the hand holding it. He dropped it and then the others in the police unit came and took him and the rest of the gang to jail. She turned back to me and finished her prayer, and I was healed. Then she explained the Good News to me and I repented and asked Jesus to forgive and save me. I’m very grateful for the mercy she showed to me in Jesus name. She paid my bail and found me a home and job. Now I’m free from my disease and my sinful past and I’ll live for Jesus the rest of my life!”
When all the new believers had been baptized, one of the pastors gave a short sermon which included the Good News and a prayer for those who desired to accept Jesus as their Savior to pray with him. Since many people had invited their unbelieving friends to come with them to the service, some of them did accept Jesus and went up front to receive the little booklet that would tell them more about what they had done, and how to live for Jesus. They could fill out the little card inside it, and take it to the pastor of the church they would attend next Sunday.
Vern, Lora and Mindy went on their first RV ministry trip to Rocky Mountain National Park during the Fourth of July week when the schools were on vacation. They had reserved a space in the Moraine Park Campground for five days, beginning Sunday.
They arrived in the early afternoon, got settled and then talked to the campground host couple. They found out that the ranger would be giving a talk in the amphitheater most of the evenings that week. So they got permission to set up a time of hymn singing at their campsite before suppertime so they and the other people could eat afterward, and also go to the ranger talks if they wanted to go.
This evening four people came to their campsite for the singing and question time. Vern thought it was pretty good considering they had just arrived and had time to set out the chairs and be ready. It was a family with two girls in their early teens. They asked a lot of questions and Mindy did a great job answering them. Vern answered the man’s questions, and Lora answered the woman’s, who took a gospel tract with her and promised to read it and come back the next evening.
Since Vern, Lora, and Mindy enjoyed horseback riding, and they were so close to Moraine Park Stables, they decided it would be a fun outing to go with a tour group to see a part of the park where just the horses usually go. This would give them all a chance to adjust to the higher elevation at the park before going on hikes.
When they got back from their ride, Mindy observed,”It was a different ride, but fun. Different because we went so slow. We didn’t even have to use what we know about posting the trot, because they just walked. We didn’t even have to guide the horses. They just followed one behind the other. But that made it possible for us to observe the scenery and even take pictures with the camera. Then the was ride more fun. I’m glad I asked for permission, and they said yes.”
“You’re right,” agreed her dad, Vern, “it was nothing like our rides with Candy and her family at Mercy Valley Ranch. I missed brushing the horse, saddling and bridling it and getting acquainted with it before the ride.”
“Yeah,” added Mindy, “and it was hard for me to just dismount and walk away from the horse with only a pat for thank you, and know that the horse had to just stand there with its tack on waiting for the next rider and the next, for the rest of the day, every day.”
Lora went on to say, “This will make me appreciate our weekend rides with the Hopkins family even more. We’ve learned so much there, and the ranch horses are each so special and are well cared for every time they’re ridden.”
The same family came back to the hymn singing time, bringing another family with them. They had all read the tract and had some good questions.
On Tuesday, Vern and family drove their RV from the campground to Bear Lake parking lot. It was full of course, but they were just sightseeing this day. On the way back they stopped at Sprague Lake, and did find a place to park, so they walked on the easy trail all the way around the lake, stopping often to gaze at the scenery and take turns with the camera for lots of pictures.
Lora exclaimed, “Look at the ducks with their ducklings swimming in a line! I enjoy seeing the wildlife in it’s natural habitat.”
“Yes,” agreed Vern, “and people have obeyed the sign to not feed them, so they aren’t coming over to us to beg.”
Mindy agreed and added, “I like seeing all the wildflowers that are in bloom here, and the mountains are in view just across the lake.”
“Right, Mindy,” concurred Lora, “if the breeze wasn’t blowing, they’d probably make a good reflection in the water. Plus, I like this trail for our first hike at this elevation. So far it’s been very level.”
Vern nodded, “Indeed, it’s just right. Oh look, there’s a Steller’s Jay hopping on the ground.”
Lora added, “I like his dark blue color with a black head and tail and gray breast and his saucy crest that is usually standing up.”
“I do also,” said Mindy, “and now he has flown up into the tree and is looking at us.”
Pretty soon they saw several Magpies, a Clark's Nutcracker, and a Gray Jay. There were also chipmunks and ground squirrels running here and there along the trail.
As they looked down from the trail in one place, Mindy exclaimed, “Look at the roots of that tree! Many of them are above the ground and one is even twisted around a rock next to it. The other rocks around there are black and have light colored stripes. Then there’s one that is a light rusty brown and it looks like a bed with a messed up pillow on it.”
“Yes, this is an interesting scene,” Lora agreed. “I’ll take several pictures from different angles and include some close-ups also.”
On the way back to the campground they stopped at a visitor center with a viewpoint of the mountains in Moraine Valley. They spent some time looking at the mountains and the plaques that had photographs of the mountains with lines going up to their names. Vern took pictures of the plaques and then the mountains.
That evening, the two families returned to sing and ask more questions. Near the end, Lora asked them, “Is there any reason any of you can think of to keep you from asking this wonderful Jesus to forgive your sins and give you his promise of eternal life with him?”
It was quiet for a few moments and then most of them shook their heads. But the oldest boy in the second family got up and stomped angrily to the back of the group where he turned around and retorted, “Yeah, my reason is that I don’t want to change the way I’m living!” Then he ran back to his camp site. His mother started to go after him, but his dad restrained her saying, “Leave him be for now, and let’s take care of this important matter for ourselves first.”
She nodded and sat down again.
Vern encouraged, “We can all pray together for him when you finish.” Then he led them orally in the following prayer. “God in heaven, I admit that I’m a sinner … I know I can do nothing to save myself. … I confess my sins to you. Silently list the ones you can think of right now. … Please forgive me. … Thank you that Jesus was the perfect sacrifice, … because he paid for my sins by dying on the cross, … and being raised from the dead. … I believe in you, Jesus, and ask you to be my Savior. … Please help me live the way you want me to live. … Thank you, Jesus.”
After rejoicing together and thanking and praising God they prayed in agreement for the rebellious teenage boy.
Then Vern suggested, “It might be best to just ignore his outburst and live your new lives in a way that will convince him just by watching you. He knows the way to Jesus now and we can all trust God to keep drawing him to Jesus.”
Lora asked them about churches in their cities and found out that both couples knew about a good one they could attend. She also gave each family a card with their names and phone number, so they could call if they desired.
After that meeting and supper there was still enough time and daylight left to drive in their RV along the eastern edge of the national park along highway #7 until they found a good pull-off with a view of Long’s Peak and Mount Meeker. They stayed until sunset, took turns taking pictures and ended up with many good photos.
Lora pointed out, “The sun went down very close to where we see those two peaks.”
Mindy looked and added, “Yes, there’s a bright yellow area right over Mount Meeker, with other yellow and orange stripes.”
Vern agreed with them and went on, “And then I like the little bit of light blue before the rest of the sky turned many shades of peach and yellow. The clouds are very interesting this evening.”
Wednesday they drove over Trail Ridge Road and back again. It is the highest continuous paved road in the United States and it has spectacular views all the way over and back. By the time they came back it was warm enough to hike on a trail that goes part way into the tundra. Today it wasn’t even very windy, so they went all the way to the end of the trail and stood at the viewpoint to survey the tundra beyond them.
“Wow!” exclaimed Mindy quietly, “there’s a pair of Ptarmigans over there on the right! The male is still winter white, and the female is on her nest so well camouflaged that I could hardly see her!”
Vern congratulated her, “You’re very observant. I would have missed them.”
“Thank you, Dad,” and then she continued, “I remember hearing a Nature Corner story about them in third grade.”
Lora requested, “Please tell us what you can remember, Mindy.”
“Okay,” she replied, “the story was mostly about how and when the birds change colors. As the daylight hours lessen, their eyes send a message to their brains and the brain tells the feather ‘factories’ to stop making brown feathers. Instead they make white ones as the brown ones fall out. It happens gradually, but by the time the ground is all covered with snow, both birds have turned white.”
A bystander who was listening said, “I never knew that before.” The other people standing near him nodded in agreement.
Mindy smiled at them and continued, “In the spring it happens the opposite way for the female, but the male keeps his white feathers for some more weeks for a very special reason.”
“Why?” asked one of the teenagers, “It seems like it would be safer for him if he also turned brown again.”
Mindy replied, “Yes, it would be safer for him, but not for his mate and the eggs she sits on. God meant for him to stay white and be a decoy to lure the fox or some other predator away from her and her nest. She is very hard for them to see, but he shows up like a white handkerchief out there on the tundra, so they follow him thinking he’d make an easy lunch.”
“Do they catch him?” asked one of the younger children who was worried as he listened to this fascinating story.
Mindy answered, “Usually not, because God made him so he could fly away quickly if the fox gets too close. When the female no longer needs his help, his feathers change to brown again also.”
The mother of the family who was listening expressed their thanks, “We thank you for telling this very intriguing story, right here where we could see the birds as you told about them. We learned a lot of interesting facts today.”
“You’re all very welcome,” responded Mindy. “Do you know the God who created these unique birds?”
The man cleared his throat and looked down, but the mother answered honestly, “We don’t know him very well, and I’ve often wondered if we should make an effort to get to know him better.”
Mindy remarked, “My dad, mom, and I can tell you a lot of things about him if you have time to listen. There are some benches over there where we could all sit for a while.”
They nodded and moved in that direction. When they were all seated, the Jones family took turns telling this other family the Good News about the Great Creator of the earth and everything on it. They answered all their questions as they went along, and pretty soon the whole family had accepted Jesus as their Savior.
Then Vern asked, “Do you know of a good church that teaches the Bible and would have a small group of new believers you could join so you could all learn how to live your new lives?”
The man answered, “No, our city is relatively small, and we’ve been to all the churches in it. Never did we hear what you taught us today.”
“If you will give us your name, address and phone number, we will tell the pastor of our church about you. As soon as possible they’ll send a pastor who has been trained how to help new believers. A group of people will come with him to get a church and small group started for you and your family. In the mean time while you wait, you can keep in touch with us. Here is a card with our names, address and phone number. Feel free to call us whenever you have a question. We’ll try to help you.”
He responded, “Thank you all so much. This has been the most wonderful thing that has ever happened to us!”
Lora replied, “It has been our pleasure! We are camped in the Moraine Park Campground and would like to invite you to join us and a couple other families for a time of singing hymns and you can ask any other questions you might have by then.” She gave the time and space number and they smiled saying they’d be there!
All three families came, except the teenager. It was as nice as a small group for new believers and all the families got many of their questions answered. They all planned to come again the next evening also. Then they looked at the national park guide and chose a hike all of them could go on together. They chose to ride the shuttle bus to Bear Lake, walk around the lake, and then continue to Nymph Lake and Dream Lake. They’d all bring a sack lunch, a canteen of water, and a day pack with an extra jacket in case it got chilly up there at that higher elevation.
The teenager joined the group the next day, and nobody bothered him about his decision. Instead, they acted friendly and just prayed for him silently off and on during the hike, which was full of extraordinary scenery and a chance to see more wildflowers and birds and other animals.
Before supper they came back for another ‘small group’ meeting. Vern closed the meeting saying, “We need to leave in the morning to go back home to our jobs and school, but we are so glad we’ve made such good friends and have new brothers and sisters in God’s forever family!”
Lora added, “Please call us if you’d like to visit or have any questions to ask. Let us know how you’re doing.”
They all agreed with Vern and Lora and parted with good wishes.
When the Jones family got home, they looked at all their pictures and Mindy suggested, “Maybe we could get this picture of the sunset over the mountains enlarged and framed. It would be beautiful to look at and it could remind us to pray for that teenager who was so upset.”
Vern nodded. “What a good idea, Mindy. We’ll have a nice keepsake of our trip, and a good reminder to pray for him and others who need our Savior before Jesus returns.”
In less than two months they got a phone call from that family with the good news that their son was now a believer.
The parents on the farm and ranch were diligent in teaching their children about the Bible and Jesus and how to live for him as believers. It was an extra blessing that all of them were believers by now, because it helped them to understand natural consequences and reality discipline when they were necessary, which wasn’t very often. The children enjoyed the times of talking about the Bible and the daily devotions. And of course they had plenty of chances to ask questions and share what was happening in their lives.
Many times one or two of the girls in a family on the ranch would ask a friend to come after school for supper and a horseback ride.
Since Mercy Valley Ranch was in such a delightful location, just arriving there was momentous, as Ruth often said, “I look forward to coming around the last corner where the whole valley just opens up in all of it’s beauty.”
Another visitor had said, “This is the loveliest valley, with that pretty stream and lovely lake, plus the view of those mountains all covered with snow is spectacular.”
At one time Oscar had mentioned, “This valley is even pretty in the winter. We haven't had as much snow this winter except on the mountains. They are extra spectacular with the new white snow on them. I enjoy seeing the different kinds of clouds in the sky above them also.”
And Vera had added, “All these houses were built with good views of the mountains and the valley. When I need a rest, I enjoy sitting and just savoring our outstanding view.”
Oscar had continued, “Yes, and look, the horses are running in the pasture. These horses never have to be cooped up in a corral, but are always free to walk, run, or graze in one pasture or another.
Of course the invited friends always enjoyed the horses. Once in a while when the weather was right, the family would take them on a hike to see Lavender Falls. They’d exclaim about the way the water jumps over the first ledge into a little pool and then cascades over rocks for a little way before leaping into the bottom pool. They liked the way lavender colored rocks added so much to the beauty of the area. They were always amazed at how the water makes them shine and be a darker lavender. They even noticed the fact that the dry rocks are just as pretty in their own way. No matter what they did with the family, the friends would get to see how the family worked and played together and how well they got along.
Several times the parents would come and ask questions after their child told them about it. This was a good opportunity to answer their questions and tell them how Jesus had helped them. When it was appropriate they’d tell them the Good News and sometimes the parents would accept Jesus, or at least start coming to church with their children so they could learn more. Many would accept him after attending for a while.
Riley had just gotten home from a day of work. “I need to be ready to travel tomorrow. I’m glad they arrange all the flights for me. But it would be nice to have a little more notice.”
“Yes it would,” agreed Glenda, “but you’ve already learned how to keep your things packed and ready to leave the next day. At least they don’t tell you when you arrive at work and expect you to go right then.”
Riley nodded, “You’re right, Mom. I need to remember to not complain, because it doesn’t help me feel any better and might also discourage my listener.”
“Don’t be too hard on yourself,” she cautioned, “you’re learning a lot with this job, and nobody ever said it would be easy.”
He responded, “Thanks, Mom. What can I do to help you with your After School Group today?”
Glenda answered, “I think the older boys would like to shoot some baskets with the basketball using the hoop in the driveway.”
“Great idea,” stated Riley, “I’ll go right now and move my car out of the way so I’ll be ready when they arrive.”
She smiled, “Thank you, Riley. I really enjoy having you live here when you’re not traveling. The boys like it when you join them.”
“I’m glad,” said Riley, “I like living here also, and it’s good for me to be able to share in your ministry. I can tell it’s going to take time before they’ll be willing to listen to us tell about Jesus.”
“Right,” Glenda concurred, “these children didn’t volunteer to come here for a Bible Study. It’s actually more like a shortened time at a day care. But they’ll get better. We'll just need to be patient.”
Colossians 3:23,24, And whatever you do, do it heartily as to the Lord, and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you shall receive the reward of the inheritance, for you serve the Lord Christ.
Shortly after Tomo and Ami had returned from their RV trip, Afta, Hana, and Denji arrived to stay with the Suehiros while they looked for a house or apartment. It didn’t take them very long, and just as soon as they had moved into a nice place, Hana’s sister and family arrived and stayed with them. It was very crowded, so since they each had twin beds in their bedrooms, Yoshi asked Kosuke to come room with him, and Aneko had Sakura come room with her.
The new cousins, not blood relatives, started working in the restaurant with their roommates and it helped them all to get acquainted. Aneko trained Sakura and Yoshi trained Kosuke until both were doing well at those jobs. Then they switched job places to learn the other jobs, and the two of them decided they liked the new jobs better.
By this time Kosuke and Sakura’s parents had found a place to live, so they moved to live with their parents again. But they continued to come work at the restaurant. They had also joined the three member ministry team with Aneko, Yoshi and Tony on Saturday afternoons and made it a five member ministry team. Tony had been in their small group and had been going with Aneko and Yoshi as a three member ministry group before the cousins had moved to Pine City. Tony was pleased he could get to know them and do things with them.
After the cousins went to live with their parents, Aneko asked during breakfast one morning,, “Yoshi, how is it going to have Sakura working with you on the gardening, bookkeeping and business part of the restaurant?”
He shared, “She learned very quickly, and likes it as much as I do. She’s fun to work with and does a very thorough job. She told me cooking was fun too, but she was worried about eating too much and gaining weight. She likes the exercise she gets by doing the gardening and business math was her easiest subject in high school.”
“I’m glad!” exclaimed Aneko. “She did very well with the cooking and I could see she enjoyed tasting things now and then. Kosuke is doing a good job learning how to cook. He says it’s much better than trying to get all those numbers to cooperate.”
They all laughed and Ami commented, “They’re both very nice young people and were very helpful with household chores while they were rooming with you two.”
Tomo agreed, “Indeed, I'm very impressed with both of them.
“I am also,” concurred Aneko, “but I’m glad to be back to just the four of us in our home again.”
“Same here,” Yoshi tacked on. “Besides, now that we are living separately again, it will be much easier to ask Sakura to go on a date with me sometime. It would be really awkward if she continued living here with us.”
“Good for you, Yoshi!” commended Aneko. “I think she would be especially well suited to you.”
“Thank you dear sister,” Yoshi responded. “Have you had any thoughts about whether Kosuke would be suited to you?”
Aneko replied, “I’ve thought a lot about him. He’s a very nice person, and I look forward to getting to know him better. But I get the feeling he isn’t truly happy about working here in this restaurant. He’s trying hard, and it’s good work, but something is not completely right. Maybe someday he will be able to tell me why, and what he wants to do about it. I don’t feel free to ask him at this point.”
“Brilliant deduction, my dear daughter,” complimented Tomo. “You understand the male psyche very well, and it will be best to let him tell you if and when he’s ready.
“Thanks, Dad, I’m glad to know I’m doing it right,” said Aneko.
On a cool Wednesday morning, the adults on Mercy Valley Ranch who didn’t have jobs in the city got together to go horseback riding while the children were in school. The men chose horses with the normal gait of trotting so those horses would get some exercise, but the women chose their favorite horses with the smooth single foot or running walk gait.
The horses in the pasture came running to meet them and then stood still when these eight people came into the pasture. The people walked up to the horse of their choice in the pasture, talking to it and then patting, rubbing or stroking it. Then they put on a halter and lead rope, led the horse to the tack room, tied it to a loop or rail, and groomed it. Next they checked each foot and cleaned out any mud, dirt, or rocks, before putting the saddle and bridle on the horse.
As they worked, they visited. Nathan asked, “Oscar, do you think we people at the ranch need to add another ministry from the list to the one we already have of raising four foster girls?”
Esther added, “Nathan and I haven’t even found time to do the two by two ministries we did before the girls came.”
“I understand that problem,” Vera agreed, “Oscar and I seldom were able to do it when this was a dude ranch and can’t now either.”
Karen observed, “I think God would want us to give our attention to teaching the girls about the Bible and Jesus like we’ve been doing and to keep praying that those on the farm who haven't yet accepted Jesus will soon.”
Ted concurred, “Yes, this is our most important ministry now, and when God is ready, he will lead us to another one we can add, in which our girls can also participate. We can get ideas from the list which was handed out at church.”
Unice mentioned, “Since I’m the only single person on the ranch, I don’t have a partner for ministry, but my ministry is to be available to each person on this ranch in whatever way I can help them.”
Oscar stated, “I think you all settled that issue very well, and I didn’t even have to answer Nathan’s question. But I’ll address the point Unice made and something else she didn’t mention. Since she lives in her own little cabin / office and is our full time veterinarian and family nurse practitioner, she’s on call for emergencies 24 hours a day and seven days a week.”
“Oh my!” Esther exclaimed. “I never even thought about how that must be for you, Unice. We all have our spouse who can cover for us when we need it, but you don’t have anyone! You always do your job so well, and I’ve never heard a word of complaint.”
Unice responded, “I have no need to complain. I love my jobs and it’s my privilege to serve people who are doing such a valuable ministry to these girls.”
“But,” inserted Oscar, “Vera and I have been planning to ask you if we could hire a part time practical nurse, who could give you a few hours off every day to go shopping, visiting, find a three member group for ministry you could join and make it into four members, if you’d like, or anything else you might like to do.”
The eighth person spoke up just then, “I’m a licensed practical nurse and it never occurred to me to offer to help you sometimes, Unice, because you always have everything under control, but I’d be glad to give you a few hours off when our girls aren't home.”
“This is excellent!” Vera emphasized. “You and Unice and Oscar and I will get together this afternoon and figure out the best way to make this work. Right now these horses are getting antsy to be on their way, so let’s get going!”
Everybody chuckled and they all mounted the horses.
Nathan and Ted rode Bronze and Topaz the tall quarter horses. Oscar rode Dappled, a pretty dapple gray quarter horse. Vera rode her favorite horse, Coco, and Esther chose Dark Coco. Both of these are Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horses. Karen and Unice rode Blaze and Star, the palomino Tennessee Walking Horses, and the eighth person rode Queen, also a Tennessee Walking Horse.
When everyone was ready, they started up the road at an easy walk for about five minutes to get the horses warmed up. Then they went faster along the road until they reached the gate leading to public lands where they had permission to ride. Ted did the honors of opening the gate and closing it again after the rest went through. His horse, Topaz, followed Ted’s promptings as they maneuvered to open and close the gate without Ted having to dismount and remount.
Today the group went up the trail farthest to the right. It had some rough spots, so they all went slowly so the horses could choose the best footing. Later they came to a smooth area where they could all canter for a while. It was exhilarating to go so fast and feel one with the horse. But when they slowed down again, it was easier to see and enjoy the scenery along the way.
On the way back along the loop trail to the gate they walked their horses so they would be properly cooled down when they reached the tack room. Then every rider unsaddled and unbridled the horse he or she had ridden, replaced the halter and tied the lead rope, to a rail or a loop so the horse could be brushed again to get off the dried sweat. The feet were checked and cleaned again before the horses were taken back to the pasture, given thanks for a nice ride and were stroked before the halter was removed and they were free to go graze, roll, run, get a drink, rest, or whatever else they wanted to do in their lush green pasture. They had a terrific home on this ranch.
Amelia and Ben continued to be in one or the other of the church’s small groups for young people. Each year they requested to be in the same small group together since they were siblings and wanted to be supportive of each other.
One evening as they were on their way to a meeting Amelia mentioned, “Ben, I like having you drive me to the small group meetings at night. It’s much more friendly and safer too.”
“I like doing it this way also,” he agreed. “Since I’m not looking for a wife yet, I enjoy having your company. I’m glad we get along so well.”
“So am I!” she exclaimed. “I heard too many girls complaining about their siblings while I was in high school. I like being in the same four member ministry team as you are also. I’m not ready to start looking for a husband yet, and so far I haven’t met any young men in our small groups who would interest me.”
Ben responded, “Yes, I can tell we still feel the same as we did when we discussed this topic while you were a senior in high school, and it’s fine. We don’t need to be in a hurry.”
“Right,” she agreed, “I want to feel like I’m more grown up and ready to handle the responsibilities included in that project.”
The teaching at their meeting surprised them because it was on a similar topic.
The young men went into another room and read and discussed the following verses.
Colossians 3:19, Husbands, love your wives, and do not be bitter against them.
Ephesians 5:25,28,29,33a, Husbands love your wives even as Christ also loved the church and gave himself for it. … So men ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no man hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it even as the Lord does the church. … Every one of you should love his wife as he does himself.
Titus 2:2, Exhort young men to be sober minded.
The young ladies stayed where they were and did the same with these verses.
Colossians 3:18, Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as it is fit in the Lord.
Ephesians 5:22, is almost identical to the one above. Verse 23 adds, For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church. And verse 33b says, the wife should reverence her husband.
Titus 2:4,5 … teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, pure, keeping at home, obeying their own husbands.
After the discussions, the facilitators stressed, “It would be a good idea for you to read these verses periodically and pray about them, especially if you desire to be married.”
Yoshi came into the kitchen later in the morning after their breakfast conversation and asked, “Aneko, would you be willing to go with Sakura and me on double dates with Kosuke if he agrees. I want my dates with her to stay virtuous and I think it will be best if we have another couple to keep us accountable.”
“Yes, Yoshi,” answered Aneko, “I remember the Bible says in 1 Thessalonians 5:22 to abstain form all appearance of evil. I’ll be glad to do it, if you are sure it’s satisfactory with both Sakura and Kosuke.”
“Thank you, Aneko.” Then he added, “I'm glad I have such a nice sister. I’ll talk to each of them separately today and let you know what I learn.”
Later the same day Yoshi found Aneko alone and informed her, “Both of them agreed that double dates would be an excellent idea, so our first date will be at 10 AM this coming Sunday morning at the botanical garden here in Pine City. I’ll be driving this time.
Aneko responded, “It sounds like a quiet, peaceful time in a lovely setting. I’m sure I’ll enjoy it.”
“I’m sure I’ll enjoy it also!” stated Yoshi, smiling at his sister. “And before we go, I plan to read and pray about those verses we studied in our last small group about husbands.”
Aneko agreed, “I like your idea, Yoshi, and I’ll plan to do the same thing this evening with the verses about wives.”
The afternoon of the adult horseback ride on the ranch, Oscar and Vera met with Unice and the other woman.
Unice explained, “I’m really not worried about how busy I am here on the ranch. It doesn’t bother me at all.”
Oscar stated, “We’re glad, but we don’t want you to get tired out from overwork or take the chance that you might quit working here.”
“Right, Unice,” Vera agreed, “you’re the best FNP and vet we have ever had here on the ranch, and it might be good to have a plan in motion if you ever need to be gone for a little while or get swamped by a bunch of girls coming down with chickenpox.”
“Your point is well taken,” Unice agreed, “I can see it would be a smart idea to be prepared. But I’d like to pay our part time nurse out of my salary, since it’s hours I wouldn’t be working, and I wouldn't feel right about keeping money I didn’t earn.
Oscar observed, “I can understand why you’d feel that way, Unice. How would it work if you pay half her wages and we pay the other half to take care of the times both of you might be working at the same time?”
“Well, okay,” she conceded. “This will take some getting used to for me, but maybe it will be good for me. And I remember in Ecclesiastes 4:9 it says, Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor.”
Then they discussed how many hours a week would be needed, and how much the other woman would like to make per hour. Then she and Unice went to the doctor’s office to work out some more of the details.
Unice began, “Here’s a key to this office in case you need to bring someone here or come in to get the black doctor’s bag for a house call while I’m gone.”
“Thank you, Unice,” she said. “I’ll keep everything in here and in the black bag just as I found it and leave you a list of items I used so you can replace them.”
Unice was relieved. “Perfect, I’ll appreciate it. What hours would work the best for you to cover for me while your girls are in school?”
“Let me think,” she said, “I was going to say any time after they leave until they get home. But it takes me almost half an hour to clean up after breakfast, even after the girls help. Then I need another half hour to make myself and the house presentable, and plan what to make for supper. All our girls are in middle school so they go and come on the early bus. So it would be best if I could have an hour before they return on the early bus.”
Unice acknowledged, “I can see what you mean, and I’m glad you shared those details with me. I’d like to talk to Vera now and see if she’d like to do some shopping with me, so I’ll get back to you later with a better idea of which hours will work better for me.”
“Good,” she agreed, “then I’ll go back to my house and you can come there when you’re ready.”
Unice ran over to the big house and knocked.
Vera answered the door and invited, “Come right in, Unice. Do you have time for a cup of tea and a little visit?”
“Yes,” she stated, “I’ll take time, so we can do some planning for this new idea you and Oscar had.”
Vera commented, “I’m sorry if you feel like we railroaded you into something you’d rather not do.”
“No,” Unice admitted, “I know you have my best interests in your hearts and I appreciate the way you care! It might just take me some time to get used to the idea, since I’ve been living the other way for so many years.”
“Well,” shared Vera, “I wish we had thought of this sooner, but better late than never.”
Unice noted, “Don’t worry, Vera. As I said before, it has not been a problem for me. Right now I’m trying to decide on some hours I could take off. One idea is to go grocery shopping with you like we did for the few weeks before the parents and other children arrived on the ranch.”
“I remember,” Vera continued, “we took turns driving on Tuesday mornings and it really worked well.”
Unice added, “Indeed it did, and since we both mentioned a two by two ministry, maybe we could add it to our shopping times. I have so little to buy for myself, we could use just one cart, stay together, and I’ll put my things in one section of the cart so we can pay separately. We can visit and pray for people and stay alert for any opportunities to share the Good News.”
“It’s a brilliant plan!” exclaimed Vera. “In addition we could add an hour to our shopping time to include another store.”
“Definitely,” Unice went on to say, “and on nice days we could go for a walk in a park or in the botanical garden and maybe find someone to minister to there.”
“I like those ideas too,” expressed Vera, “and if we run overtime, one of us can call your helper and tell her we’ll be late.”
“Good,” Unice continued, “then I’ll tell her the time we used to leave for Tuesday plus one hour.”
Vera inquired, “What about the other four days of the week?”
“Well,” replied Unice, “I’d like part of one day for personal care like hair washing and to call my foster parents and be able to visit without the worry of an emergency call. The other hours I could use to get started writing the book my foster mother suggested when she visited here last time.”
Vera commended, “Your plans sound ideal. I think this will add some time for ministry, and make your busy life a little easier.
“I’m beginning to like the idea,” shared Unice, “and I do think it will be good for me. Plus, I already get to do more horseback riding since I’ve been going with the families. When this was still a dude ranch I only felt like I could ride occasionally in the outside ring or in the big building. Tell Oscar thank you for me. I’ll go now and figure out my other hours off, so I can inform my helper.”
The plans worked out very well for Unice and the other woman.
It was a splendid, cool Sunday morning for the four young peoples’ first double date. Each one looked forward to it for their own reasons, and dressed casually with comfortable walking shoes, and wide brimmed hats to keep the sun off their faces. After walking and observing the flowers in the botanical garden for about an hour, they found two benches far enough apart for separate conversations but still in view of each other.
Sakura stressed, “Today is a perfect day to visit a garden. I especially like to look at the variety of flowers our creator made, now that I believe in Jesus and not evolution.”
“Exactly,” Yoshi agreed, “life took on a whole new meaning when I accepted Jesus. Before that I was just parroting what I had learned in school without even thinking.”
“My feelings exactly,” she agreed, “I'm so glad my brother kept trying to get my parents and me to listen and think about what he told us he had learned in the seminary he attended in the other city where he and I tried to live for those lonely years.
Yoshi nodded. “Sometimes it takes some of us longer. My parents had tried to tell Aneko and me many times about Jesus, but we didn’t want to listen while we were living in another city trying to figure out what life was all about. It was lonely for me there.”
“What happened for you?” she asked.
He responded, “Aneko moved back to Pine City, got a job working for my parents in their restaurant, went to church with them and accepted Jesus. I was so lonely that I also went back to Pine City to look for a job. It was the same weekend that Uncle Afta and Aunt Hana were there with my cousin, Denji, who had been in a car accident and lost his sight. But Jesus healed him when my parents prayed for him. After he told me his story, I had Dad and Mom help me to pray and I accepted Jesus right then. I’m extremely grateful to God. When did you accept him?”
She replied, “Shortly after Denji and his parents came home from your house, Kosuke and I came home for a visit and heard about Denji's miracle. My parents and I finally understood what Kosuke had been trying to tell us, so we all believed then too.”
“Well then,” declared Yoshi, “Besides the fact that you and I are about the same age physically, we are also close to the same age spiritually, and I heard that your family went to the same church and small groups as my uncle and his family did.”
“Indeed,” she concurred. “and we learned a lot there just like we’ve continued to do here in the church and small group you attend.”
Meanwhile, as they were talking, so were Kosuke and Aneko. Soon he mentioned, “I was hoping I’d have some time to talk alone with you. My parents really want to have my sister and me marry believing Japanese young people. Their city had very few, so when they heard about you and Yoshi from Afta and Hana, they were thrilled. If they could have, they would have arranged our marriages on the spot, but Sakura and I had begged them to never put us through that.”
“I don’t blame either of you!” exclaimed Aneko. “Yoshi and I had a conversation not too long ago with our parents. They told us they had never liked that tradition and both of us were greatly relieved.”
He continued, “I've been praying for God to show me his will about singleness or marriage.”
She nodded.“I have been also.”
He went on, “At this time I have the two options, and I’m trying to stay open to either way God leads me.”
“I feel the same way you do about this,” Aneko agreed.
He nodded and continued, “We’ve already talked as we cooked, about how and when we came to accept Jesus, and I’m grateful we are both true believers.”
“Without a doubt,” she concurred, “it’s the only way to go!”
Then he admitted, “I think I’m leaning more toward staying single so I can be a chaplain in the armed forces, but my parents don’t know my thoughts about this. In order to honor them and their wishes, I agreed to come here with them and see if God would lead me to marry you. I’m open to do God’s will either way, but I want you to know in advance where I’m coming from.”
Aneko swallowed her surprise and expressed, “I appreciate your honesty, and the fact that you told me now. I’ll guard my heart and we’ll both continue to pray for only God’s will to be done as we spend time during these double dates getting to know each other better and as we’re on the lookout for God’s leading.”
Kosuke concluded, “Precisely, and if you’re willing to continue these double dates until all four of us have decided about our relationships, I’d be very grateful. I’d like to help them stay accountable as they get to know each other, but I don’t want them to know that I’m on the fence.”
“I think I understand,” Aneko said. “They might feel like they don’t want to impose on us to keep going with them. So we won’t tell them or our parents. And since we really are trying to get to know each other better and discern God’s will for us, we won’t be lying. Besides, we really don’t know which way he will lead. It’s too soon.”
Kosuke smiled at her and stressed, “You expressed yourself very well, and I agree. Now, since we desire to keep our emotions out of this right now, let’s limit our touching to offering my elbow to escort you places, my hand to help you up hard places when we hike, and handshakes when we say thank you, goodbye, or whatever else we say at the end of the dates.”
“I like your plan, Kosuke.” she responded. I just noticed my brother checking to see if we were about done talking, so if we are, shall we go look at some more of these delightful flowers?”
“Yes, indeed!” he exclaimed. “And let’s enjoy all these dates, now that this serious matter has been discussed.”
They did see the rest of the garden, and each was glad to find out how much the other appreciated the creator’s handiwork.
It was a gorgeous Sunday morning. Mindy and her parents had gotten up early to be at the ranch to go riding with Candy, her foster sisters, and her foster parents Ian and Yolanda Hopkins before it got too warm out to be as enjoyable.
On the way to the pasture Candy suggested, “Let’s pick matching horses today, but not ones that trot.”
“OK,” agreed Mindy, “as I remember, the palominos and the chestnut colored horses are ones with the comfortable gaits and both pairs look almost like twins.”
“Right,” said Candy, “Boots and Socks might be a little small for us, though. Blaze and Star are a little taller than we're used to, but I’d like to try them today.”
“Well,” Mindy surmised, “maybe it will be good for us to stretch our abilities, so I’m all for it.”
When they walked up to Blaze and Star, they weren’t so sure. Mindy asked, “How will we be able to reach their backs so we can brush them?”
Candy had a brainstorm, “We can tie them to the platform and do like the little girls do with their horses.”
“Good idea!” Mindy concurred as she confidently went up to Blaze talking to him and rubbing the places she could reach.
Both horses lowered their head so the girls could reach to put on their halters and attach the lead ropes. Their parents had been watching, but decided the girls would be able to handle this experiment.
Candy and Mindy did very well, although at first they felt a little embarrassed about using the little kids platform. It would have been very difficult for them without it and they even mounted and later dismounted there.
As they rode side by side on the taller horses, they were pretty pleased with themselves, and Candy declared, “We did it! They don’t seem as tall now that we’re on them.”
“You’re right, Candy,” responded Mindy, “I wasn’t sure at first, but your idea to use the platform worked very well.”
Candy went on, “Sometimes it’s scary to try new things, but it’s a good feeling when they work out so nicely. Next time let’s have June join us and one of us can ride Queen, because she is close to the same height as the palominos.”
“Good idea,” Mindy agreed and then mentioned, “Remind me to tell you about the horseback ride we went on during our last trip, so you and the rest of your family can hear about it at the same time, and Mom and Dad can add whatever they want to say.”
“Sure,” replied Candy, “I’d like to hear about it. Let’s go faster now since they’ve had time to warm up.”
The rest of the ride, grooming, and taking the horses back to the pasture were all perfect and so enjoyable. Mindy was even glad to clean up the tack afterward.
As they were visiting in the house later Candy found a good time to request, “Mindy, would you and your parents tell us about the horseback ride you took on your last trip?”
“Certainly,” Mindy responded, “we were in Rocky Mountain National Park camping in a campground right next to a riding stable, so we decided to see part of the park on horseback with a group on a tour so we wouldn’t have a chance of getting lost.”
Candy commented, “That was a good idea. It wouldn't be any fun to get lost.”
“No it wouldn’t,” Lora continued, “When we got there all the horses were saddled and bridled and were tied up waiting for the next group of people.”
Sara asked, “You mean they don’t keep them in a pasture between rides?”
“Right,” and Vern went on, “so we didn’t have a chance to get acquainted with them first, groom, saddle and bridle them. We just mounted them and were ready to go.”
Kim remarked, “Well, I guess it made it easier for the stable, since most people probably don’t know how to do it.”
“True,” then Mindy added, “I thought we’d need to use what we learned here about posting the trot, but we never went faster than a walk. Besides, even though they told us the horses were neck reined, there was no need to guide them.”
“Exactly,” Vern tacked on, “Each horse just followed along behind the one in front of it. I watched Mindy, who had asked for permission to take pictures. She dropped her reins, which were tied together so people couldn’t lose one, and used both hands to steady the camera, so we got some good pictures of where we went.”
June stated, “I don’t think it would seem much like a horseback ride, if all you did was sit there.”
“You’re absolutely correct,” Lora concluded. “After the ride, we didn’t get to groom and thank the horses. They just had to stand there saddled up for the next rider and the next for the rest of the day. We definitely prefer and appreciate our rides with you people here on this ranch.”
Yolanda exclaimed, “Thank you so much for telling us about your ride! Just hearing about your experience helps me be even more grateful for these wonderful horses and the rules this ranch has for their care and riding.”
“Yes,” agreed Ian, “if we ever feel like it seems to take a lot of work and time to go riding, we’ll remember your story and be thankful instead. If these horses could realize how well they’re cared for here on this ranch, I’ll bet they’d be grateful also.”
Beth Davis and her Jewish friend were at Beth’s apartment this week. Her friend began, “Psalm 29:4 is apart of this Psalm which tells a lot about the voice of the LORD. It says, The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is full of majesty, Psalm 29:4.”
“Yes,” agreed Beth, “it goes well with Psalm 33:6,8, 9, By the word of the LORD were the heavens made, and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth. Let all the earth fear the LORD. Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him, for he spoke and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast, Psalm 33:6,8,9. What amazing power there is in his voice!”
Her friend said, “For sure. Next I’ll say Psalm 32:7, You are my hiding place. You shall preserve me from trouble. You shall surround me with songs of deliverance… Psalm 32:7.”
“What a wonderful promise for us,” stated Beth. “Now look at verses one and two in the same Psalm while I quote from the New Testament book of Romans 4:6-8. Even David described the blessedness of the man unto whom God imputes righteousness without works, saying, blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the LORD will not impute sin. Romans 4:4-6.”
“Oh my,” she exclaimed, “it’s almost the same as in Psalm 32:1,2!”
Beth nodded. “Most of the New Testament was written by Jewish people. They believed in the LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and they knew the Scripture in the Jewish Bible. Many of them quoted portions of it when they were writing.”
“This is interesting information,” she admitted. “We were told by the rabbi to never read that book. I wonder why. Well, here’s my next verse, Psalm 33:12, Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, and the people he has chosen for his inheritance, Psalm 33:12. I like this verse because I’m one of God’s chosen people.”
“I’m so glad for you!” exclaimed Beth. “You Jewish people are indeed blessed. My next verse is Psalm 34:1, I will bless the LORD at all times. His praise shall continually be in my mouth, Psalm 34:1. This verse helps me to think before I speak.
“It’s a good one,” she concurred. “My next verse is Psalm 34:8, O taste and see that the LORD is good. Blessed is the man who trusts in him, Psalm 34:8. This verse means both of us are blessed.”
Beth declared, “Exactly! So we can do what verse 3 says, O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together, Psalm 34:3. This psalm has many things in it that the LORD had done for David, and he praised God.
Beth and her friend spent some time thanking and praising the LORD for things he had done for them, before it was time for her friend to go to her home.
Those four children were doing well with the lemonade stand ministry and they had been able to tell a few people why they were selling lemonade for such low prices, and several people had taken a tract with them. The children were happy to be planting seeds.
During the next week, they helped their parents get ready for a yard sale for the next Saturday to be held at the same time as their stand was open.
Mom informed them, “We found a couple who’d like to join us in this ministry. This week they will bring some of their things with them to sell at this yard sale.”
Dad added, “Next time we’ll take the lemonade stand and some of our things to sell at their yard sale.”
“Wow!” exclaimed big brother, “it will be a lot of stuff to move!”
“You're right,” he agreed, “but it will give us all an opportunity to talk to different people since it’s on the other side of the city.”
Little sister stated, “It’s a very good idea.”
“Yes it is,” then Mom explained, “and we put prices on things, adding ten percent so we can come down. People like to see if they can get things for less than the posted prices.”
“Right,” Dad concurred, “and if someone buys a lot of things and is willing to pay the posted prices for all of them we could give them a ten percent discount.”
Big sister tacked on, “It would be a nice way to reward them for not haggling over the prices.”
Saturday was a sunny day and it was already very warm by 10 AM. Everybody was ready and excited to try the added yard sale ministry and nobody complained about the heat.
About 11:30 AM a man and his wife who had bought lemonade each of last times the stand had been open, picked up a tract, looked at it and put it down. Then they bought a glass apiece and went up to see what was at the yard sale. They bought a lot of things at the yard sale and didn’t try to bargain for lower prices, so the dad added all of them up, told them the price, but said, “Since you bought so much and didn’t try to get me to come down on the prices, I’ll subtract 10% from the total.”
“Well!” the man exclaimed, “that’s a new one! I’ve never had it happen before. Thank you. Your kids are even selling lemonade for such low prices, they can’t make much on it. You people aren’t money hungry like a lot of folks, so I’ll even take one of these tracts and read it.”
Mom stressed, “Please do, and if you have any questions, we’ll be here until 3 PM today if you’d like to come ask us.”
The woman smiled, nodded, and the couple left. Next a big burly man bought a glass of lemonade after frowning at the assortment of tracts with the sign saying, “Take one for free, if you want to read it.” He drank quickly and left to see the yard sale. After trying to get half price on several things, he disgustedly went to pay the 10% less the man had agreed to lower the price.
He paid it and as he was leaving he noticed more tracts and another sign. He frowned again and spat out, “What’s going on here? Are you all in cahoots, trying to convert people?”
Mom calmly replied, “Yes, my family and this couple are all on the same team with Jesus. He has told us how important it is to tell all the people we can, about the Good News that HE paid the penalty for their sins and that he will forgive and save them if they will just believe in him and confess their sins, and ask him to be their Savior.”
He almost growled, “How can you believe that old fashioned Sunday School stuff?
“Well, Sir,” she answered, “this little brochure has my answer if you’d like to read it with an open mind. Then please come back here when you finish and tell me what you think about it. We’ll be open here until 3 PM.” She held it out to him with a smile.
He took her challenge and left with the tract and his purchase.
Meanwhile the two brothers had been talking to a couple kids who were out riding bikes and stopped to buy some lemonade.
One of them said, “This is really good stuff, and we can even afford to buy it. Are these pretty papers really free?”
“Yes,” answered little brother, “if you will read it, you can have one for free. When you finish, you can come back here and ask us any questions you have about it. We’ll be here until 3 PM.”
None of those people came back before 3 PM that day, but the family was not discouraged. They knew they were planting seeds and needed to be patient. Maybe some would sprout and grow, even if they never found out about it. So they continued their ministry throughout the summer and fall, answering questions, giving away more tracts and did get to rejoice when that first couple returned in the fall and prayed with them for salvation. Now they’re attending church and a new believers’ group!
Other families in Pine City had tracts available for people to take at their garage/yard sales, and were ready to answer questions. In this way, many people in the city were exposed to the Good News in the same manner during the spring, summer, and fall.
The foster mothers on the ranch found some time they could meet together as a group and share ideas.
“I remember,” began Vera, “that before the girls were assigned to our families we had a meeting where we talked about changing the word ‘chores’ to ‘tasks’ and trying to find ways to make the housework fun. Since they’ve have been here for many months now, I’m wondering how everyone is doing and if some of you have any new ideas.”
One mom shared, “Our girls like the idea of not having chores. For them tasks are much better.”
“Same here,” Karen went on, “and especially since all the girls are believers now, the verses for serving our family with love are more meaningful for them, like Galatians 5:13b, Serve one another with love. And Ephesians 6:7 says, Do service willingly as to the Lord, not as to man.”
Another mother added, “Yes, and it helps us to say we choose, or get to do our tasks instead of saying we have to do them.”
“Precisely!” Esther agreed. “Plus now that all of them know how to do each task and we share with each other the best ways we can do them well and quickly, we make it more fun by writing the tasks on slips of folded paper. We put them in a hat and each person draws out one. Then they act it out and the others have to guess what it is, before we go and do them. If they get the same task two times in a row they can put it back and draw out another if desired.”
A different mother commented, “Your idea sounds like fun. Sometimes we use task time to practice saying the verses we're memorizing with lots of expression.”
“I like your idea,” then Julie continued, “At our house, we often turn on some music, like kids’ praise songs or the music the church plays for the singing time at church and do our tasks while we listen to the music and even sing along with it.”
“Good idea,” said Yolanda, “and even though we know we can’t expect to be thanked every time, we do try to remember to thank each other and say ‘you’re welcome’ or ‘my pleasure,’ because it’s good manners and it’s a good feeling for all.”
A different mom emphasized, “I agree and I really liked what Vera said at the other meeting about our tasks being our privilege to make our homes pleasant, healthy, and comfortable places to live. So we remind ourselves about it often.”
“Thank you,” Vera responded. “and at our house when our tasks are completed quickly and well, we take turns choosing a fun activity to do together, like Esther mentioned at the other meeting. The girls often choose to listen to a Nature Corner story, or I’ll read a chapter to them of a story from our library. They especially like the Christy Miller and Sierra Jensen series by Robin Jones Gunn. I enjoy reading books from those series to them because the books teach so many things about living the Christian life.”
Tomo and Ami planned another RV travel ministry trip, leaving the four cousins to run the restaurant while they were gone.
Aneko assured them, “Yoshi and Kosuke are going to work together in the garden getting the area for garden weddings set up, so Sakura will be working with me in the kitchen while you two are gone on your next trip.”
Tomo commended them, “You four young people are doing a great job of keeping your courtships free of too much emotion. I’m pleased with all of you.”
“I am also!” exclaimed Ami. “We won’t worry at all while we’re gone, and you can inform us how things are progressing when we get back from this trip. I think the garden is a perfect place to have weddings, and the receptions can be right here in the restaurant.”
Yoshi remarked, “Maybe Sakura and I will be the first ones to use it, although I realize it’s too early to know if we’re compatible.”
“Well,” stated Tomo, “you all learn new things about each other every day, since you spend so much time working together and going on double dates.”
“This is very true.” Then Aneko asked, “Where are you going this time on your trip?”
Tomo responded, “We heard that mid summer is a good time to go to Glacier National Park, since the snow should be melted.”
“And,” continued Ami, “since the Tetons and Yellowstone are pretty much on the way, we’ll plan to stop there also. The only problem is that it’s such a popular time to go, all the national park campgrounds are already filled up. Since we’ll have to play it by ear and camp wherever a place is available, we don’t know if there will be very many ministry times.”
Aneko stressed, “God can work that part out. We sure enjoyed all your pictures from your last trip. Be sure and take more on this trip. It’s almost as good to see your pictures and hear you talk about the spectacular scenery as if I would go myself!”
“Maybe someday you will get to go,” suggested Tomo.
Aneko smiled at him and nodded. But for some reason, she doubted it. Then they all got ready to go to work at the restaurant.
Maria Gomez looked forward to the weekends she got to spend visiting and helping at Mercy Valley Ranch, She stayed in the extra bedroom in Esther’s home those weekends, by alternating with Esther’s sister, Ruth. She was glad she could help with Esther and Nathan’s four second grade foster girls as well as visit and help her best friend and former college roommate, Julie Blake, her husband, Ted, with their four first grade foster girls. All the girls were doing very well in every area and had made so much progress since they had been assigned to these two homes.
“Good morning, Maria. It’s so nice to see you and you get to stay for the weekend.” Then Esther suggested, “Let’s take the long jump rope and you and I can turn it while the girls take turn’s jumping.
“Good idea,” said Maria. “It’s good to see you too. I found another jump rope rhyme I can teach them this morning.”
The girls came running to greet her, and then all of them headed outside. The driveway made an excellent place to jump rope when no cars were parked there. The girls liked the new rhyme and when they got tired of jumping, everyone found a place to sit in the shade so they could visit.
Maria asked, “Can you tell me something new or fun that you learned or did in school?”
Holly answered, “We learned a new song called ‘Sing Unto the LORD a New Song.’ It’s really short, and the title has about half of all the words in the song, but it was fun to sing. We’ll sing it for you.”
They did, and Esther joined them. Maria clapped at the end.
Willow, who was Holly’s twin sister shared, “I always have fun when we sing songs at school. They have fun words and tunes.”
Lucia mentioned, “Plus, we’re always learning how to read new words so we can read longer stories. I’ll read you a story later today.”
“Good,” Maria responded, “I’ll look forward to hearing it.”
Val shared, “Besides those things, it’s always fun to listen to the Nature Corner stories about plants or animals, or parts of our bodies.”
Maria said, “Thank you for telling me all those neat things. I’m glad you all get to go to our good church school.”
“I’m very glad too,” Esther agreed, “and I enjoy volunteering in each of your classrooms, because I get to learn the songs also so we can sing them at home.”
Val looked at her mom’s watch and declared, “It’s almost time for our Saturday horseback ride. Shall we go change clothes?”
Lucia noticed, “I see that Auntie Maria is ready except for her helmet.”
“Right!” Maria replied, “I came prepared today so I wouldn’t have to change so soon after I got here.”
Willow asked, “Which horse are you going to ride today?”
“I think I’ll get very brave and ride Patches. He’s so pretty, but he’s also a lot taller than Coffee or Tea, the ones I usually choose.”
“Good for you, Maria,” complimented Esther. “Sometimes it’s good for us to try new things or ways of doing things.”
Val commented, “I’ll have to look way up at you when I’m on Honey, ‘cause she’s the smallest horse on this ranch. But I like her so much and I’m glad I’m still small enough that I can keep riding her. Mama told me she thinks I’ve gotten a little taller.”
“I agree with her,” Maria concurred. “This good clean air, and nutritious food and the exercise you get are helping you to grow.”
Willow remarked, “The rest of us are growing too, but we were already bigger than Val. She told us she’s shorter than the rest of us are, just like her name is shorter.”
After that comment, they all got up and ran into the house and to their rooms to change clothes so they’d be ready for their ride.
Maria was waiting for them by the front door with her helmet on, trying to hide her nervousness about riding a horse that was two hands taller than her usual choices. Then she remembered back to her first ride over a year ago and how Vera had helped her get over her fear of horses, so she smiled and knew she’d do just fine.
Soon Esther's four girls joined Maria at the front door, and they all wondered what was taking Mama so long. When she appeared from her room, everyone doubled over with laughter. She and Papa (Nathan) were dressed up as hobos wearing the oldest most ragged clothes they could find, except for their riding boots and helmets.
Maria exclaimed, “Thanks for the good laugh! Now let’s go see what the horses think about your attire.”
The horses didn’t even seem to notice the funny costumes. Nathan chose King, and Esther picked Queen, which made their ragged clothes even funnier compared to the elegant black horses and their names.
Maria walked up to Patches, the brown and white pinto and he seemed even bigger now that she was beside him, but she wouldn’t back down now in front of all those girls! This was going to be good for her, and she would make herself go through with it. Patches sensed her size and nervousness, so he kindly put his head down so she could easily reach it to put on his halter and attach the lead rope. She was on her way!
Willow and Holly chose their usual small sized, twin looking horses, Boots and Socks. They were both a pretty chestnut color with white socks or boots to help tell them apart. Lucia would ride Rusty this time. She liked his reddish brown color and small size. And of course Val chose Honey, the color of honey with a brown mane and tail, and still just the right size for her.
They all enjoyed getting their horses ready to ride, and soon the family and Auntie were on their way. Today they explored both sides of Mercy Stream and enjoyed having the horses splash back and forth across from one side of the stream to the other. Then they had a short canter up to the gate and walked sedately back and forth on the road while the horses dried off and cooled down.
Maria was secretly pleased with herself when she took off Patches’ halter back in the pasture after thanking him and giving him lots of strokes. She had done very well on this tall horse and would probably choose him again sometime.
After lunch, Maria went to spend the afternoon with Julie and Ted Blake and their quadruplets, Lily, Violet, Iris, and Rose. They aren't identical so they just look like normal sisters.
After their usual greetings, Violet exclaimed, “Auntie Maria, we saw you on Patches! He’s so tall you looked like you could reach up and touch the clouds!”
“He is very tall!” Maria agreed. “At first I wasn’t relaxed enough that I could reach up at all. I had to concentrate on how to ride him, since it was my first time on such a tall horse. But just like all the other wonderful horses on this ranch, he’s so gentle and well trained that I didn’t stay nervous very long.”
Rose asked, “Which horse will you ride with us tomorrow?”
“Well,” she answered after thinking a minute, “if I can talk your mommy and daddy into riding Queen and King, I’ll ride Princess so the three of can be on black horses of different sizes, and I’ll be on a horse that’s closer to the horse sizes you girls will be riding, so you won’t have so far to look up when you want to talk to me. It was pretty hard for Val to look way up at me from Honey.”
Lily commented, “It’s a good idea, Auntie Maria. I’m glad you get to come visit us every other week.”
“I am also,” said Maria nodding. “I enjoy doing things with this family.”
Iris asked, “What are we going to do this afternoon?”
She answered looking at Ted and Julie, “If it’s okay with your daddy and mommy, we could take the long rope outside and we’ll turn it for you to jump while I teach you a new rhyme I learned. Then I’d like to read you all a book I checked out at the library.”
Iris looked hopefully at Daddy and Mommy who smiled and nodded, so they all went outside to play with the jump rope.
Beth was at her friend’s home today for their time of Scripture memory verses. She was now memorizing only verses from the New Testament that referred to Psalms that were about Jesus so her friend could become familiar with them.
Beth explained, “Last week I told you that some of the writers of the New Testament quoted some of the things in the Jewish Bible. So I looked up some more of those and decided to memorize them if they are also in the Psalms.” She had her friend look up Psalm 40:6-8, but quoted Hebrews 10:6,7, In burnt offerings and sacrifices you have no pleasure. Then I said, Look, I come, it is written of me in the book, I delight to do your will, O my God, Hebrews 10:6,7.
Her friend acknowledged, “It is very similar. It’s like it’s been condensed. My verse is Psalm 41:13, Blessed be the LORD God of Israel from everlasting, and to everlasting. Amen and Amen, Psalm 41:13. This is a good verse for praising God.”
“Yes, I like it,” Beth agreed. “Now find Psalm 2:7b and listen to Hebrews 1:5b, You are my Son, this day I have begotten you, Hebrews 1:5b.”
The woman commented, “That part is word for word. My next verse is Psalm 46:1, God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble, Psalm 46:1. This one is a precious promise.”
“It is for sure!” Beth exclaimed. “Look at Psalm 110:1 while I say Mark 12:35b,36, The scribes say that Christ is the Son of David. David himself said by the Holy Spirit, the LORD said to my Lord, You sit here on my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool, Mark 12:35b,36. The one talking here, quoted the verse from Psalm 110:1.”
“Yes,” her friend concurred, “the part he quoted is word for word again. The next verses I learned are Psalm 48:1,2, Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised in the city of our God, in the mountain of his holiness. Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is mount Zion, … the city of the great King, Psalm 48:1,2. I can vouch for it’s beauty, because I’ve been there.”
“How wonderful for you!” declared Beth. “My next verse goes with Psalm 118:22,23. I’ll say Matthew 21:42b, The stone which the builders rejected, the same has become the head of the corner. This is the LORD’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes, Matthew 21:42b. This verse only has one word different in the quote, but rejected means the same as refused.”
Her friend nodded. “Yes it does. My next verse goes with some of the ones you did last time we met. Psalm 50:23, Whoever offers praise glorifies me, and to him who orders his conversation rightly I will show the salvation of God, Psalm 50:23. Let’s take some time again to praise God before you need to go back to your home.”
So they did and it was a great way to end their time together.
On this double date, Aneko and Kosuke, and Yoshi and Sakura went to shop at a farmers’ market. As they shopped, they discussed the butterfly pavilion they had visited on their last double date. It had been a favorite outing for each one of them and they were so glad they had been able to go see the butterflies and flowers. Each one had good memories of the colors, shapes, variety, and abundance of this collection of things from God’s creation.
Today after shopping in the farmers’ market until their feet got tired, they went and had a picnic in the park, eating just some of the foods they had bought at the farmers’ market after the ladies had washed them in the park restroom. It turned out to be a very fun meal. They took the rest of their purchases to their homes to use in meals there.
While they ate at separate tables in the park, they had time for more discussions. Aneko asked, “Kosuke, how do you like being a member of the five member ministry team?”
“I like it a lot!” he exclaimed. “I'm especially glad you three original members gave Sakura and me one of those ‘can do’ books and a crash course about how the teams work. I’ve learned a lot already about letting the Holy Spirit guide us and work through us with his gifts. Tony is a very nice young man and is so dedicated to serving Jesus. I’m glad he told us about his other ministry for the children in the parks.”
Aneko mentioned, “I am also. Yoshi and I got to go watch them one afternoon, and they both do a superior job of reading or telling Bible stories to the children in Spanish and English. Tony’s English has improved a lot in the last year or so.”
He responded, “It’s very good for him to practice in English. I'm glad both your parents and our parents taught all four of us both English and Japanese as we were growing up, so we don’t have an accent and are fluent in both languages. It might come in handy someday.”
“Yes, it might,” she agreed. “What did you think about the teaching time last Sunday?”
He replied, “I enjoy every service here as much as I did the ones I attended in seminary, and with my parents in the other city. I’m glad there are churches where God’s word is taught and hymns are sung.”
“Absolutely!” she emphasized, “I tried a number of churches in the city I had moved to after trade school, but none of them came close to being as good as this one.”
As they were discussing these and other topics, Sakura questioned Yoshi, “What was the other city like where you went to live for a while?”
He replied, “It was just another big, noisy, unfriendly city. I often wondered why I had ever thought it was a good idea to move there.”
“So,” she checked, “I assume you wouldn’t consider moving back there from what you just said.”
“Right,” and he continued, “The move was good in one important way. It made me appreciate Pine City more than before. What do you think of Pine City?”
Sakura stated, “I like it very much. The mountains in the distance are spectacular, and they renew my spirits every time I look at them. I like it better than the cities I grew up in or moved to, so it’s a place I could probably enjoy living in for the rest of my life.”
“I’m glad you feel this way,” Yoshi remarked, “because I feel the same way. What other things do you like about it?”
“The church here is excellent,” she answered, “and I like the small group we're in also. Tony is a very nice young man. I’m glad he wanted to stay in the ministry group when we joined you and Aneko.”
“I’m glad also,” agreed Yoshi, “he’s become a very good friend.
Do your parents like it here in Pine City?”
She responded, “Yes, they both said similar things just yesterday.”
He added, “I’m pretty sure my parents feel the same way, since they have such a successful restaurant here. It’s getting pretty warm here since the shade has moved off our table. Let’s go see if Kosuke and Aneko are ready to leave.”
Oscar and Vera were walking by Mercy Stream at the Ranch with their four foster girls, Emma, Nan, Stella, and Liz. It was a windy day and the new green leaves were flapping. Even the branches were banging against each other.
Stella mentioned, “This must be how the trees clap their hands, like it says in that one song we sang the other day.”
“Right,” agreed Liz, “and the mountains are singing together for joy with their new white mantle from our last spring snow.”
“They are totally beautiful,” stated Oscar as he took some pictures with the family camera.
“I really like living here,” shared Nan. “There’s always something pretty to see or interesting things happening.”
Emma added, “I do too. We have a very nice family.
“Yes we do!” Vera exclaimed. “And we really like having all of you live here with us! It’s nice to be able to share things like this with a family.”
“It sure is, and even though it’s windy,” Liz noticed, “it’s not cold. It’s fun to see how the wind blows the tree branches around.”
“Yes,” agreed Emma, “and look at the hay in the pastures. The wind makes it look like waves are going across it.”
Nan surmised, “I imagine that looks a lot like the ocean would with the wind blowing on it.”
“I’ve never seen the ocean,” Stella stated, “but I did see the wind blowing to make waves on a lake one time. It did look a lot like the grass in the pasture does now, except for the color, of course.”
Oscar remarked, “Jesus talked about the wind in John 3:8, the wind blows where it wants and you hear the sound of it, but can’t tell from where it comes and where it goes. It is the same for everyone who is born of the Spirit. We can’t see the Spirit, but we can see the results in a person’s life when a person believes in Jesus and the Holy Spirit comes to live inside and change the person.”
“Yes,” Vera concurred, “I can see the good changes he has made in each of you girls’ lives since you believed in Jesus.”
The girls were all happy to hear those good words.
Glenda and Betty both arrived to visit with Fiona and her two little boys on a Tuesday morning. They usually came on separate days, but this week, it worked better for them to come together. While the boys were both napping, the three ladies had time to visit.
Fiona declared, “I’m glad you only have your after school programs in the afternoons, leaving the mornings for housework and sometimes helping or visiting with me and your grandchildren. How are both of you doing with your after school projects?”
Glenda answered, “I think we’re both glad we did the Wednesday Bible Study and Bible Story Groups for a while before we started the other project, because it takes some of the same type of planning.”
“Right,” agreed Betty, “now we have to plan for more activities for more hours each day, and for five days in a row. Plus it’s for mixed age groups. I don’t know how those teachers in the one room schools were able to teach eight grade levels all day and keep them all busy learning what they were supposed to learn.”
Fiona concurred, “I don’t either. Many of those teachers were young girls who had just finished the eighth grade themselves and took over for a teacher who left to get married. I guess the girls had learned how to teach by watching the teachers they had.”
“I’m sure that helped them,” agreed Glenda. “I think my after school group is doing very well. They seem happy while they’re there and are usually well behaved. Once in a while one might bring a friend with them for the afternoon and it works out well.
Betty concurred, “Yes it does. I’m glad the booklets have so many good ideas in them for things to have the children do. I’m sure I’d have a problem coming up with ideas on my own.”
“Definitely,” declared Glenda. “This church has great ideas and materials to help with projects like this.”
When Johnny and Patrick woke up, their grandmothers helped get them changed and then played with Johnny while Fiona nursed Patrick.
Tomo and Ami were in the middle of their RV trip to Grand Teton, Yellowstone, and Glacier National Parks. The first part of the trip went very well, and they were amazed at the diversity of the scenery in the Tetons and especially in Yellowstone. However, it was very crowded and hard to find room in the pull-offs to park so they could get out and view the scenery. Sometimes Ami resorted to taking pictures out the window as Tomo drove.
Every once in a while, they did find a place to park, and even got to start several conversations with the other tourists. A couple of them took the offered tract and even thanked them. The commercial campgrounds they stayed in wouldn’t allow a meeting at their campsite, so that part was disappointing. Nevertheless, they decided it was all part of the experience, and they’d let God direct their ministry times.
As they journeyed north to Glacier they had a lot of time to talk together in the van, because it’s a long way. At first they reviewed their experience in the two parks they had just visited.
Ami began, “I was totally amazed that the Teton mountains had no foothills. They just start up from the valley floor and go steeply up, making them look even taller than they would otherwise.”
“Agreed!” Tomo exclaimed. “They’re so majestic, but so steep and rugged looking that I’d never consider hiking in them.”
“I wouldn’t either!” Ami emphasized. “I enjoyed seeing the buffalo wandering across the road to the other side. Both sides looked lush and green to me, but maybe they were on their way to find water.”
Tomo agreed, “That was fun, but when many of them decided to wander slowly down the highway in Yellowstone at the front of a long line of vehicles, I wasn’t very happy with them.”
“I wasn’t either,” Ami admitted. “I was glad we were able to find a parking place so we could go see Old Faithful erupt. I’ve seen pictures of it before, but in real life, it was awesome!”
“It surely was!” he concurred. “It went up so high that the people watching in front of where we were, were dwarfed by it. I'm hoping we will get to find more parking places on the way back through there as we go home, so we can see some more of the thermal features and waterfalls.”
“Absolutely!” she emphasized. “Now would you please tell me more about your tea room idea?”
“Certainly,” he said, “I was thinking that since Aneko and Yoshi can run the restaurant without us even being there for weeks at a time, we could change our jobs to morning hours and have a tea room in the restaurant until just before lunch. If we keep it very simple with just serve-yourself tea and have a box with a slit in the top to pay for the tea, you and I could be available to chat, visit, answer questions, and so forth.”
She responded excitedly, “I like this idea! We could put out tracts on the tables so they’d have something to read as they sip their tea and it might spark some questions.”
“Exactly,” Tomo continued, “this idea was on the list the church handed out, only they called it a coffee shop. We can ask at church when we get home if there’s a booklet with more ideas of how to make it work.”
She brought them back to reality by saying, “Yes, but we need to ask Aneko and Yoshi what they think about it so we can be a family in unity about all the things we do.”
“You're right, my dear wife!” Then he tacked on, “Plus it will all depend on whether they get married and stay to work in the restaurant. If one of them moves away, we’d need to continue working as we have been.”
She agreed and patted his leg. Then they rode in thoughtful silence. After thinking for a while she mentioned, “In that case, we had better not even mention this idea yet, because we don’t want to influence either of their thinking!”
Tomo responded, “Absolutely! Knowing Aneko as we do, she’d probably stay to work in the restaurant no matter what, in order to make it possible for us to pursue our idea. So we’ll just keep quiet and pray about it.”
They continued to enjoy the scenery on the way to, and in Glacier National Park. Since the park campground was full they found a nice commercial campground they could come back to each evening and have meetings at their campsite. Then they went to the visitor center to get more information about where they could drive, and what hikes they could take.
They found out that their RV van was too long to drive on the Going-to-the-Sun Road, so they bought tickets to go the next day in one of the famous Glacier Park Red Buses. They chose one with an open top so they could stand up and take pictures as they went. One of their favorite scenes was a tall bare mountain above a snow field and a steep valley with several waterfalls below it.
There were many waterfalls coming down the other mountain sides along the road. In one place when the bus was very near the weeping wall, the people in the open top buses got ‘rained’ on a couple times.
The next day they hiked to Running Eagle Falls. Ami observed, “This falls is so unique. The book says that earlier in the spring the upper falls covers up the lower one, and later in the summer, only the lower one has water. Right now we can see parts of both of them. The lower one comes out under a natural stone bridge while the upper one falls over the ledge above it. This is such a beautiful setting here with the trees, rocks, and stream.”
“Yes,” he said, “and look at all the colorful stones in the stream. The water makes them show up their colors, but on the banks where it’s dry the stones are very drab.”
“I like the ones in the stream better, the red ones and the yellow ones are really special” she agreed. “The wildflowers along the trail are colorful and varied also.”
Tomo compared, “Yes, they were especially plentiful on the way to Baring Falls which was pretty, but not as unique. It was well worth the one and a half mile round-trip hike though, along that nice, spectacular trail beside St Mary’s Lake.”
The following day they drove to some of the other lakes and ended at Red Rock Lake and Falls. It was about a three and a half mile round-trip to hike to the falls. They could see the falls across the lake and got some pictures that way, but they were glad they could go around the lake to get much better pictures and views up close.
Each evening at their campsite one or two different couples joined them for singing and questions. They had some interesting conversations and several of the couples took the tract that was offered to them. It was nice to know they were planting seeds, and they prayed for God to water them and make them grow.
When they got back to Yellowstone, Ami said, “It’s good we could find parking so we could go see more of the thermal features.”
“Yes,” Tomo concurred, “even though the sulfur smelled terrible along the boardwalk.”
Another area had hot pools of water and small geysers along the way. It didn’t smell as badly. Pretty soon they could look across the way and see Old Faithful erupting from this viewpoint.
Later they found parking for the short walk to the Tower Falls overlook. From its viewpoint they looked down on some natural pointed formations, like towers. A free fall of the water in a small stream over a ledge went way down and out of sight, below. It was extraordinary.
Then they got to see Lower Yellowstone Falls and its canyon. The river is huge and the water roars over the cliff into the canyon. The colors and formations on the canyon walls are amazing. They both thanked God for the privilege of seeing some more of his spectacular creation.
At this point they decided they were saturated with all they had seen, so it was time to head for home.
After they arrived home, they spent several evenings showing pictures and telling Aneko and Yoshi about their favorite places, and asking questions about how the double dates had gone, and how the work had gone at the restaurant.
Philippians 2:2,3, … Be like-minded, be loving, be in one accord, and
of one mind. Let nothing be done through discord or boastfulness.
The Mercy Valley Ranch and Farm kids who rode the school bus sometimes asked friends on the bus to spend time with their family. When their parents picked them up, they often stayed to talk.
One day some mothers were sharing memories of their girls inviting unsaved friends and families to the ranch. These memories illustrate some of the ways the families had been diligent in teaching their children how to live like the Bible says to live.
Vera recalled, “Our girls take turns asking their friends and their families to come for a meal and to go for a horseback ride. These families all get to see our Christian family in action.”
The others nodded and Vera continued, “I remember one time a friend asked as soon as the meal was over, ‘Can we go see the horses now?’ And Stella answered frankly, ‘Not until I help with the dishes.’ The girl looked a little shocked, but she got right in there and helped also. Later we all went horseback riding.”
Karen mentioned, “One family stayed at our house for devotions after supper. They liked the little book called ‘Keys for Kids,’ we get from the ministry with that same name. So we gave them one we had already used and showed them where the book has information in it about how they could get more books for their family.”
Yolanda added, “Good idea, we use ‘Unlocked’ with our teenagers and we get it from Keys for Kids also. Candy politely told some visiting parents how to order it from their website. Our girls are always polite, and obey right away. They say ‘Yes, Dad or Mom.’ One friend mentioned, to June, ‘Your room is so clean! Does your mom clean it for you?’ June replied, ‘No it’s my job. I learned that when it’s messy, I can’t find the things I need in time.’ She had learned her lesson very well the day she missed out on a horseback ride and had to spend the time cleaning her side of the room. That problem never happened again! Now she can tell her friends who visit why she keeps her room so clean.”
At recess, which the kindergarten and first grades have together, Joy, Hope, Max, Timmy, Mary, and the quadruplets were telling about some the songs they liked to sing at church and at the church school.
“On Sunday,” Lily mentioned, “we sang a song called Bringing In the Sheaves. All the way through the song I thought it was saying sheets instead of sheaves. I was glad when we got home and I could ask Mommy about the song.”
Rose added, “I was too. She explained what sheaves were and the song made a lot more sense.”
“Right,” continued Iris, “she even showed us some pictures of what sheaves were.”
Max shared, “I learned about sheaves last fall when my family talked about how the old fashioned farmers put the grain stalks in bundles tied together.”
“Yes,” Violet tacked on, “that picture helped us understand the song much better than the picture of bed sheets in our minds.”
Timmy agreed, “For sure, and I like the way my teacher explains the words in the hymns we sing in the classroom. Like for the song, ‘Standing On the Promises,’ one boy said it sounded like we were standing with our feet on the Bible. But she explained, it means to rely on or trust. Then it made more sense.”
“Yeah,” said Hope, “my teacher helped our class to understand the word ‘fairest’ in the song ‘Fairest Lord Jesus.’ She said it didn’t mean he had light colored hair and skin.”
Joy finished, “And it didn’t just mean that he played fair, but he is always fair and just. It also means that he was beautiful, since the song was written a long time ago when that is what the word ‘fairest’ meant. I like the verse about fair meadows and woodlands, because I agree that both of them are beautiful.”
Mary stated, “They are, and I like singing at home and it’s fun to learn what the words mean in the songs.”
Yoshi and Aneko and their cousins next double date wasn’t really a date since they went to Kosuke and Sakura’s home to play 20 questions about things each person liked to do to have fun. They included both sets of parents for this game so they could all get better acquainted with each other.
The evening was full of fun and laughter, and after each person had their turn of being the person to answer yes or no, everyone had learned a lot about the others.
This gave the parents a chance to watch how the four young people interacted with each other. Each parent speculated silently about how things might turn out for the couples. Both sets of parents were favorably impressed and had high hopes for the future.
This week they were at Beth’s apartment. Her friend said, “I’m going to say all of Psalm 23 today first thing, and then you can do all your verses afterward. Psalm 23, the LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul, he leads me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yes, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me. Your rod and your staff comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies, you anoint my head with oil, my cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever, Psalm 23.”
“What a beautiful Psalm,” stated Beth, “and you quoted it perfectly. Then Beth explained, “Today I’ll do verses that go with other Jewish Bible books. Genesis 18:18b goes with Acts 3:25b, where God said to Abraham, In your seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, Acts 3:25b. Deuteronomy 18:15 goes with Acts 3:22, For Moses truly said to the fathers, God shall raise up to you a prophet like me. You shall hear him in all the things he shall say to you, Acts 3:22. Micah 5:2 goes with Matthew 2:6, And You Bethlehem, in the land of Judah are not the least among the princes of Judah, for out of you shall come a Governor that shall rule my people Israel, Matthew 2:6. Isaiah 7:14b goes with Matthew 1:23b, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which means God with us, Matthew 1:23b. Parts of Isaiah 35:5 go with parts of Matthew 11:5, The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up and the people have the gospel preached to them, Matthew 11:5. Beth explained all of these Jewish Bible verses are talking about the Jewish Messiah who was to come to Israel in their future.”
Her friend remarked, “Right, and I’ve often wondered about when he will come. Those are interesting quotes from various books in the Jewish Bible. Thank you for sharing them with me today. I’ll see you next time at my home.”
Riley shared, “I like being able to come home to the home where I grew up, instead of to an empty apartment at the end of a business trip. I’m glad we planned for me to do it this way.”
Patrick agreed, “We are too! Since you travel so much as a salesman for the company you work for, you’d have very little time in a rented apartment.”
“For sure,” and Riley continued, “I’m giving some of the money I’m saving this way, to Grace ‘n’ Faith Church to help fund their school of evangelism because it’s such an important part of their ministry.”
Glenda remarked, “What a good idea! we’re so pleased with what you’re doing, Riley. Can you tell us some of the things you did on this last trip?”
“Sure,” he replied, “It was like what I usually do on a business trip. I often spend an extra day or two there if it’s a weekend to see whatever scenic wonders might be close to the city. I like to strike up a conversation with other sightseers about the Great Creator and how to have a relationship with him.”
She mentioned, “God’s creation is a good lead in for that kind of conversation.”
“Yes it is,” and he went on, “this time I went to a museum in the city and found some ways to talk with others about Jesus there. Of course I always have a captive audience sitting beside me as I’m on the airplane going to and from home. I like to get them talking about themselves and try to find a way to bring God into the conversation.”
“Can you give us an example?” Glenda inquired.
Riley said, “Sure I can. Do you remember the song we like to listen to about the one-way ticket to a place we’ll be going?”
“Yes,” she replied, “it’s a fun song to listen to and sing along.”
Riley nodded, “I say something like ‘Someday I’ll be going to a fabulous place, and I won’t have to worry about packing, paying for the flight, waiting in long lines, or rushing to be on time. I’ll be riding first class, not cramped up in seats as small as these. And the only thing I had to get was a one-way ticket to go there, because I certainly will not be coming back!’ By that time they’re very curious, and ask me to explain. So I explain and go right into presenting the Good News and how they can get their one-way ticket.”
“What a great idea!” Patrick exclaimed, “What if you have to work on business things on your computer while you’re flying?”
Riley responded, “It happens that way once in a while, but I’m willing to interrupt my work if someone wants to visit. Sometimes a person will see my little travel Bible in my open briefcase and feels free to mention it or ask a question. Then I save what I’ve done on the computer, shut it down and talk with them. I can usually finish my work in the hotel room or after I get home here. Even my company will agree that sharing Jesus with someone is more important than the work I might be doing right then.”
“I’m glad you found such a good company and were able to get a job there,” Glenda commented.
Riley nodded. “Yes, I thank God for it every day.”
Renting bikes was Yoshi’s next idea for a date, so he asked, “Sakura, do you like to ride bikes?”
“Yes,” she answered, “if the hills aren’t too steep.”
Yoshi continued, “I was thinking we could rent bikes and ride to a park on the other side of the city. Then while we rest we could discuss important issues so we could know if we will be compatible.”
“I like your idea,” Sakura replied. “Then we can get some more exercise on the way back to the bike shop.”
Yoshi agreed, “Indeed we can. I’ll ask Kosuke and Aneko if they think this is a good idea and if so, we can all decide what day and time would work best for it.”
They liked it and all of them decided that the next day in the morning would work well since it wouldn’t be as hot. So they rented bikes and helmets and were on their way. Since there were no steep hills along the route, the ride was enjoyable for all of them. They found benches in the shade where they could talk as couples.
Kosuke asked, “Aneko, how often do you like to go to church?”
She answered, “I like to go once a week, and the same for small groups. What do you like?”
“I like to do the same,” he said, smiling. “I like to give ten percent of my income to God’s work. How much money do you like to give?”
Aneko responded, “I’ve heard that ten percent is what the law prescribed, but I like to give twenty. Would we be able to resolve this difference?”
He replied, “As long as we would have enough to live on and save some for future needs or retirement, I’d be glad to give that much more to help spread the Good News.”
“This would be a good solution,” she stated. “what’s your opinion about having a budget?”
Kosuke stressed, “If it’s one we can agree about together and stick to it, I think it would be a helpful idea.” When she nodded, he questioned, “What place should God have in a person’s life?”
Aneko exclaimed, “Considering all he has done for me, I’ll do my best to give him first place!”
“I like your answer and your emphasis,” he stated. “I fully agree!”
In the meantime, on the other bench Sakura asked, “Yoshi, what kind of movies do you go to, or watch on TV?”
He answered, “Since I’m a believer now, I’m very careful to only watch clean, wholesome things that I wouldn’t be embarrassed to have Jesus watch with me since he lives in me by his Spirit. I’ve asked him to clear my mind and erase the other things I watched before becoming a believer.”
“I agree wholeheartedly!” she exclaimed. “I asked him to do the same thing for me. I feel the same way about jokes and teasing.”
“Same here,” he went on, “plus they should never tear other people down. Teasing and too many jokes are mean. They get a laugh at another person’s expense. Next topic, I’m glad we already agreed about having no premarital sex. If you get married, would you like to have a family, and if so how many children would you like to have, and do you want to have them naturally or would you rather adopt them or have foster children?”
Sakura laughed. “That is a nice long question with many parts. Let’s see if I can remember all of them long enough to answer it. If I get married, I would like to have a family. I think I’d like to have them naturally rather than to adopt or have foster children. And I’d like to have at least two. Since your dad is a twin I would hope for twins. I think they would be fun and interesting. Now it’s your turn to answer the same question.”
“It’s easy for me,” Yoshi declared, “I agree with everything you said just now.”
Both couples continued talking and agreeing about all the issues they could think of and decided they were indeed compatible. So they assimilated everything they had found out about each other as they rode the bikes back to the bike shop.
On the farm, William and Anna Beckett, and their foster boys, Evan, Sam, Carlos, and Gary were remembering back to their first communion.
Anna commented, “I liked the way the facilitator explained communion, when you boys joined our small group for the first time you got to have it.
“I did also,” agreed William, “And he included how it relates to the Passover in the Old Testament. Someone once said that without the Old Testament happenings and prophecies, there could not be a New Testament.”
“Yes,” said Evan, “since we had studied Exodus as a family we were familiar with the concepts.”
Carlos mentioned, “At the time it seemed rather strange to me.”
“Yeah,” stated Sam, “killing a perfect little lamb and putting its blood on the doorposts seemed mean and messy.”
Gary observed, “But now that we know how it relates to what Jesus did for us, it makes so much more sense.”
Anna declared, “It sure does, but I’m glad we don’t have to continue doing that part of the meal.”
“I felt sorry for the poor little lamb!” exclaimed Evan, “But it was so much worse for Jesus. He had to die a slow and painful death for us! I’m so glad he was willing to do that.”
Everyone else agreed, and Sam tacked on, “I think the unleavened bread and grape juice are good to use as reminders of what Jesus did for us.”
“Exactly,” concurred Carlos, “and I especially liked how well Philippians 2:5-9 went with remembering what he did. I’ll read it. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus who, being in the form of God, did not think he had to grasp being equal with God, but made himself of no reputation and took on himself the form of a servant and was made in the likeness of men. And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even the death on the cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and given him the name which is above every name.”
“Precisely,” and then Gary emphasized, “I really like the next two verses also. I’ll read them, At the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
“Without a doubt,” William noted, “Those are some of my favorite verses also.”
Roy and Sherry Foster and their twins, Hope and Joy, were at the park with Greg and Oralie Iverson, their son Cory, and four foster boys, Max, Levi, Jack, and Kevin. The parents liked to visit while the children played on the equipment or practiced throwing and catching balls.
Roy was thinking, “I wonder how it would be to invite Don and Anita Ross so their children could join in the fun with the twins and get to know the other boys.?”
Greg agreed, “It would probably be good for all the children to make some new friends. I know that Max and Timmy are already friends, but the other boys would like him also.”
Oralie mentioned, “Plus it would also give our boys a chance to be extra careful with a girl as small as Mary is.”
Sherry inquired, “So, how would it be, if I call right now and see if they would have time today to come join us here?”
“It would be fun and spontaneous!” Roy laughed. “Go ahead.”
She did and they came right away. As soon as Joy and Hope saw their other friends they ran over to greet them. Their friends took them over to introduce them to the rest of the group. Don and Anita had a nice time visiting with the two couples while all the adults kept an eye on the children who all got along just fine.
These three families continued meeting at the park as often as the weather and time permitted.
Yoshi, Aneko, and their cousins went to an orchard to pick apples. Sakura and Yoshi had fun helping each other pick and very carefully pack the apples so they wouldn’t get bruised. They were able to talk about many subjects as they worked together.
Kosuke and Aneko had fun playing catch with the apples. They were so good at it that they didn’t drop or bruise a single one. They had to admit though, that their sister and brother had picked many more than they had. Both couples had enjoyed their time together in the orchard.
When they weren’t going on dates, the couples were working together in the restaurant. Ami was usually in the kitchen with Aneko and Kosuke, and Tomo worked with Yoshi and Sakura. This also helped the couples to keep their courtships pure.
Tomo and Ami were able to observe how well they got along together. Ami couldn't perceive the same thing Aneko had said about Kosuke not being truly happy about working in the restaurant. Or maybe he was happier here now than he was before. She would just have to wait and see.
It was a very intense time for all of them as they got to know each other on an almost daily basis. Working together can be a good way to help people understand and know each other.
Beth was at her friend’s home, this time and asked her, “Would you say all your verses first so I can do mine afterward like we did last time?”
“Sure,” she answered, “I’ll be glad to because mine need to stay together anyway. It’s all of Psalm 100, Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all you lands. Serve the LORD with gladness, come before his presence with singing. Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us and not we ourselves. We are his people and the sheep of his pasture. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving and into his courts with praise. Be thankful unto him, and bless his name. For the LORD is good. His mercy is everlasting and his truth endures to all generations, Psalm 100.”
“Thank you,” said Beth. “It was word perfect and I liked your good expression. Now I’ll give you time to look up the references in your Bible before I quote mine. My first verse goes with Psalm 41:9, it’s Matthew 26:23, He who dips his hand with me in the dish, the same shall betray me, Matthew 26:23. Next find Psalm 27:12b. It goes with Mark 14:56, Many gave false witness against him, but their witness did not agree together, Mark 14:56. There are several that go with Psalm 22. I’ll just say my reference and which verse it goes with in Psalm 22. Verse 7 goes with Matthew 27:39,43, Those who passed by reviled him, wagging their heads, he trusted in God, let him deliver him now, Matthew 27:39,43. Verse 18 goes with Matthew 27:35, they parted his garments, casting lots so it would be fulfilled as was spoken by the prophet, They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots, Matthew 27:35. Verse 1a goes with Matthew 27:46c, My God, My God, why have you forsaken me? Matthew 27:46c. Part of verse 16 goes with John 19:37b, They shall look on him whom they pierced, John 19:37b. Psalm 34:20 goes with John 19:36, These things were done, that the scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of him shall not be broken, John 19:36.”
Her friend expressed, “Those are all very sad quotes. I especially remember reading the ones in Psalm 22 and have always wondered who David was talking about.”
This was the opening Beth had hoped for, “I agree, they are very sad quotes and I’m glad David didn’t have to go through it himself. He actually was prophesying about things the Messiah would go through when the following things happened, as it says in Acts 13:27-33,38,39, which I’ll read to you, the people and leaders in Jerusalem didn’t know him, the Messiah, or the words of the prophets which are read every sabbath day. They fulfilled them in condemning him, and though they found no cause of death in him, still they desired that Pilate would have him killed. And when they had fulfilled all that was written about him, they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a tomb.”
Beth’s friend exclaimed, “How terrible! So many horrid things happened in the Jewish Bible. But if the New Testament is also true and part of the Scriptures, then it’s the worst of all. The Messiah came to Israel and instead of recognizing him, they killed him!”
“Yes it is terrible,” Beth concurred, “but it didn’t end there. The verses I was reading go on to say, But God raised him from the dead and he was seen for many days by those who had come with him from Galilee to Jerusalem. They are his witnesses to the people. … God has fulfilled the promise he made … by raising Jesus from the dead, as it is written in the second psalm, You are my Son, this day I have begotten you… Know therefore that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is preached to you, and by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses.”
She asked, “You mean there’s still hope for Israel?”
“Absolutely!” replied Beth. “Listen to some more verses. These are in Acts 3:13-15,17-19. The God of Abraham and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his Son Jesus, whom you delivered up and denied him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let him go. But you denied the Holy One and the Just, … and killed the Prince of life, whom God has raised from the dead, whereof we are witnesses. And now, brothers, I know that through ignorance you did it, as your rulers also did. But those things which God showed before, by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, God has so fulfilled. Repent therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, and times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the LORD. And verse 4 in chapter 4 says, many of those who heard the word believed, and the number of the men was about five thousand.”
“Oh, Beth,” her friend shared, “I’m just about overwhelmed by all this information. For three weeks now you’ve been saying quotes from the Jewish Bible to me out of the New Testament which you said were mostly written by Jewish people. The rabbis don’t want us to know about these things for some reason. But I think we should know! It’s like they’re making the same terrible mistake as the leaders and people did in Jerusalem when they had Jesus killed! But I don’t have to make that mistake, now that I know the truth. Can I repent right now?”
“Yes!” emphasized Beth, “you can pray just like we did the week when we praised God.”
So she prayed, “O LORD, the God of our fathers, I'm so very sorry for what my people did to your Son Jesus, the Messiah when you sent him to them so long ago, and I’m sorry for all the years I have not believed about him because the leaders didn’t want me to know. Now that I do know, I repent and ask you to forgive me and convert me, so my sins may be blotted out. Please justify me from all the things for which I could not be justified from by the law of Moses. Thank you very much, and now please help me learn how to live with this new knowledge and belief. Help me to know how to tell my family so they can believe too. Amen.”
Beth added, “Thank you Jesus, for helping my friend to learn and believe about you, the true Messiah, and because she now believes, we are more than just friends. We are sisters in God’s forever family. I agree with her prayer for her family. I pray in Jesus name, Amen.”
“Thank you, Beth,” her friend said, “I really appreciate the fact that you cared enough about me to learn all those verses so you could show me the truth about the Messiah. I know we're way past our usual visiting time, but would you have time to stay for lunch and answer some of my questions?”
Beth responded, “You’re very welcome, it was my pleasure and I’m so glad you believe the truth now. Yes, I have time and I’d like to stay for lunch and answer your questions. Thank you for the invitation.”
After a delicious light lunch and answering many questions, Beth gave her one of the little booklets and went over some of it with her, explaining the card.
“Would you like to go with me to church tomorrow? We have several Jewish people in our congregation who have a small group you could attend. They might be able to help you with some suggestions about how to talk to your family.”
She agreed, went to church, and joined that group, so she was well on her way to learning how to live as a Jewish believer. She and Beth continued memorizing and checking each other on verses that would especially help them live as Jesus desired for them to live.
Next they added another Jewish friend to their scripture memory time and worked with her until she became a believer also. Now they had a group of three to help win the next one. Then they divided into two pairs and each pair worked with another Jewish person. It did take a lot of time, but it was worth it.
The first lady used Beth’s scriptures in the old and new testaments to convince her family, one at a time about Jesus being the Messiah. After a long time, most of them accepted him also.
The four cousins went on a hike up a pretty steep, rough trail where the men helped the ladies over rough places and up some steep parts. Aneko and Sakura were very grateful for the help and always thanked the men. They enjoyed being treated with such gentle care.
Yoshi noticed Sakura blushing a couple times and wondered if she was feeling the same excited feeling he felt when their hands touched. He realized he was quickly coming to love this young woman, and again he was glad they weren’t blood relatives, because if they were, they could not even consider getting married.
Kosuke noticed that he liked the feel of Aneko’s small soft hand in his, every time he helped her over a rough place. Her smile as she thanked him for his help was charming.
When they all reached the top of the mountain, they were rewarded with a splendid view of Pine City below them and more mountains behind them. As they rested, they decided the view was definitely worth the climb. Aneko was glad she had brought the family camera along. She took a lot of pictures, and showed them to her parents that evening as she and Yoshi told about their date.
The same week, they also went for their weekly five member team ministry with Tony. They were in one of the city parks on this Saturday evening. The ladies were walking together with the three men behind them.
They spent much of the time praying for the people in the park. The rest of the time, they visited with each other. It gave the men some time together and the women the same. It was a profitable time for all of them even though they didn’t get to help or witness to somebody that week.
The second and third grades at the church school had recesses together. One day on the playground, Levi in second grade ran to get Kevin and Jack, in third grade, to come meet some of his second grade friends, who lived at the ranch, Val, Lucia, and the twins Holly and Willow.
He introduced them and then the boys showed them some of the ball skills Cory had taught them on the farm. After playing for a while, Lucia asked, “Do you boys like to ride horses when you come to the ranch every other Saturday?”
“Indeed we do!” declared Kevin. “In fact it’s our favorite thing to do at the ranch.”
Jack mentioned, “Kevin and I usually ride Boots and Socks.
Willow exclaimed, “Holly and I ride them also, because they look alike and Holly and I do too!”
Kevin said, “I wonder if those two horses are twins also.”
Levi remarked, “Maybe they are! We should ask someone about that. Rusty is still a good size for me to ride. My little brother Max, who’s in first grade, likes to ride Honey, the smallest horse on the ranch.”
Val shared, “Since my size is so small, I like to ride Honey also. I’m glad the ranch has horses of so many different sizes so people can choose just the right size for them.
Lucia continued, “I’m glad too, I like the size of both Brownie and Rusty. I usually choose Rusty because of his pretty reddish brown color.”
Holly asked, “Have you boys gotten to go through the gate at the end of the ranch and ride on the public land?”
Kevin answered, “Yep, it is one of our favorite places to ride.”
Levi suggested, “Now let’s play with the balls some more before the bell rings.”
They all enjoyed their time of playing and talking together, so they joined each other occasionally at recess times.
Connie came to see Fiona one morning before going to work. After their normal greetings, Connie informed her, “Amelia has set up a lending library and a coffee chat room in the employee lunchroom at The Garden Shop. And of course she continues to work in the shop nurturing plants and overseeing the business end of the shop. She still lives at home and gives some of the extra money she saves on rent to evangelistic ministries. We’re so proud of her!
“And I think you should be!” exclaimed Fiona. “Not many girls just out of trade school could pull that off!
Connie nodded. “She’s full of energy and ideas and seems happy and fulfilled.”
“I’m so glad to hear this!” after a pause, Fiona asked, “Do you remember the day you came here to ask me about the little cafe where Matt and I had supper on our honeymoon?”
“Of course!” answered Connie, “Ernest and I went there and thoroughly enjoyed it.”
Fiona continued, “Great! I had asked you to read a document on my computer to see if it would be good enough for you to take to the girls. You liked it and did take it to them.”
“I remember that too,” she responded. “They liked it and sent you a thank you note.”
Fiona went on, “Yes, and I continue to correspond with some of them by email. Do you think Amelia would be interested in having some copies of that document in her library to give away?”
“If you’ll make a copy to send with me, I’ll ask her. Then if she likes the idea, you and she can discuss it the next time she comes with Ben on a Saturday morning to visit you and Matt.”
Fiona stated, “It’s a great idea, thank you, Connie.”
So when Amelia came the next Saturday they talked and decided that along with books in the lending library, they could have printouts to give on various topics. Amelia asked Fiona to come once a week bringing Johnny and Patrick and a playpen, so she could make copies of articles and visit with the people who come in to look at books and talk. Fiona was glad to have a ministry outside her home.
Kosuke informed Yoshi, “I’d like to plan a double date where we can do something Aneko would especially enjoy. Do you have any ideas?”
“Yes,” he answered, “she enjoys going to used book stores to find antique or out of print treasures, especially classic literature. But she doesn’t like to do it alone. I’ve gone with her several times and even found some books I liked.”
Kosuke said, “Thank you, Yoshi. I don’t know if Sakura will like it, but she’s always ready to do something new and different. Shall we plan to do it for our next double date?”
“By all means,” he replied. “I just remembered, Aneko likes to show and talk about what she finds, as she is deciding whether to buy something, so you’ll need to stay nearby.”
Kosuke shared, “I’m glad to know about that, so I can help make this enjoyable for her.”
“Now,” inquired Yoshi, “Would you please tell me something Sakura enjoys so we could do it as a double date?”
“Of course,” he responded. “Sakura likes to ride in a canoe and enjoy the scenery if she doesn’t have to row.”
Yoshi smiled and nodded. “It sounds like a good idea if you’ll teach me how to row a canoe first. I’ve never even been in one, and I’d hate to tip us over!”
“Right,” Kosuke agreed, “a cold dip in the lake would definitely end the fun for all of us, even if we are in separate canoes. We’ll make time for me to teach you and then we can go. I think Aneko will enjoy a canoe ride also.”
“I think so too,” concurred Yoshi. “She likes nature and scenery.”
Kosuke was a very good teacher and Yoshi learned quickly. The four cousins went on each of those planned double dates and both were outstanding successes. The ladies were especially impressed that the men had cared enough to find out something they would enjoy by asking their brothers.
One Saturday Nathan went to visit with his best friend, Felix, and his four boys on the farm, and Sunny came to the ranch to visit her best friend, Esther, and her four girls, so they could all continue to nurture their friendships. As Esther had informed Nathan, the two ladies took the four girls to Pine City so all six of them could enjoy the flowers in the botanical garden. It gave the ladies a chance to visit and it was fun to listen to the chatter of the girls as they admired the flowers.
“Oh, look!” Lucia exclaimed. “There are flowers of every color in the rainbow in this garden!”
Holly agreed, “Yes, and I really like those purple ones over there.”
They all walked quickly to see them and Val commented, “I like these very much also, and the yellow ones right next to them are so bright and cheery.”
“I agree,” and then Willow suggested, “Let’s see if we can find the four flowers that go with the names of the quadruplets who live next door to us.”
“OK,” replied Val, “each group of flowers has a name to tell us what they are, and if we can’t read it, Mama can help us.”
“Right,” Holly went on, “here’s a group of lilies so we found Lily’s flowers. They’re really pretty.”
Lucia stated, “Yep, I like those. Right next to them are some more purple flowers and I know these are irises so they go with the girl named Iris.”
“For sure,” and Willow remarked, “I think these are one of my favorite flowers. Look way over there, I think I see a whole area full of roses. So we have found the flowers that go with Rose.”
“Ah,” observed Val, “See this little group of flowers in the shade of this tree? The sign says these are violets, so these go with Violet.”
Then Holly mentioned, “We found all of them, and I was just thinking. We are kind of like the quadruplets, because they’re all the same age as each other, and we girls are the same age as each other, except we are a year older than they are.”
“True,” and Val went on, “plus we’re all sisters in this family.”
Willow realized, “Two of us are identical and none of them are, so that’s one way we're different. But it’s fun to all be the same age and in the same grade at school like they are.”
“I think so too,” and Lucia declared, “and I think the quadruplets are really special because they are also sisters in the family they came from, and they all have the same birthday! They’re nice and I like them.”
The others agreed and they continued to walk along looking at more of the flowers and commenting on them.
Ben was on the job as part of Matt’s crew. This time they were remodeling an older house a young couple had just bought.
Matt told his crew, “They want us to have it ready for them to move all their things into, just before their wedding, so we need to be finished with the inside by then.”
“Wow” one of the men exclaimed, “we’ll have to really work fast and hope we don’t find some hard problems to fix!”
“Right,” Matt agreed, “While they’re gone on their honeymoon we can finish up the outside of the house.”
Ben remarked, “It sounds like a good plan. I’m willing to work overtime if needed.”
The other men nodded in agreement.
Matt acknowledged, “Thank you all for consenting to work overtime. You are a great crew of men. The couple is willing and happy to pay extra if that’s what it takes to have it ready in time.”
Shortly after their Fourth of July trip to Rocky Mountain National Park, Vern, Lora, and Mindy discussed where to go and made plans for traveling during the week of Labor Day.
Vern asked, “Where could we go that would be cool and beautiful?”
“Maybe,” suggested Lora, “some place in the higher mountains where at least some of the aspen leaves will be turning gold.”
Mindy inquired, “Do you remember the beaver pond we went to see when the three of us were doing fun things before your wedding? I’d like to see it again, and go to that meadow to see and identify some fall wildflowers.
“Yes,” answered Vern, “I remember, and I’d also like to go there again. Our new digital camera takes quiet pictures and even works well in low light levels, so we might get some good pictures of the beavers and other animals.”
Lora stated, “I’d like to go there again too. Could we take a car trip up there this coming Sunday morning, scout the area and see if there’s a forest service campground in the vicinity? If so, we could pick a spot to reserve for that week.”
“Super idea!” Vern exclaimed. “And what do you think about buying a big screen tent to leave set up during the days we're at our campsite?”
“Wonderful!” declared Mindy. “The mosquitoes were a bother when we were at Rocky Mountain National Park.”
Lora said, “Yes, and we could do our evening ministry time inside it if there aren’t too many people.”
“Positively,” agreed Vern, “plus we could even eat in it sometimes without the flies and bees pestering us.”
So they went the next Sunday and after some searching, found a campground. They talked to the host couple who said it would be fine to have meetings at their campsite. They even said they’d look forward to attending a meeting. So they reserved a camping site that was overlooking the very stream coming out of the beaver pond.
Later they bought a large screen tent, set it up in the backyard and put the chairs and little table inside to see if it would hold any more. They bought that many, plus a few more just in case they ever had a bigger crowd. While they were at the discount store, Lora bought a small sketch book and a few drawing pencils and a good eraser.
They even bought enough more used hymnals from the church to go with each pair of new chairs. They spent some time with their own hymnal, planning the songs they’d use for the first evening ministry time. They decided to sing “I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say” first, then “Room at the Cross for You” and last, “Let Jesus Come into Your Heart.” These three songs have verses that introduce unbelievers to the Good News and invite them to accept Jesus. They might also help some people find questions to ask.
They could play it by ear for the next meetings, unless all new people came each time, in which case they could use the same three songs. If the same people came, they could choose songs they’d like to sing.
So they were ready to leave early on the Saturday before Labor Day with all their new purchases, and got their campsite set up for that evenings’ ministry time before they went to the meadow to look at and identify fall wildflowers.
In the evening they had a nice sized group for the ministry time, including the camp hosts. They used the songs they had planned. There were a few questions and then Vern invited them and any they’d like to bring with them to a meeting the next morning, which was Sunday, at 10 AM.
The next morning they had a Sunday church service using a laptop computer and large monitor to play a video of the pastor of Grace ‘n’ Faith church #1 leading hymns from the hymnal with the church music team on an SD card. Then he did his teaching time and it included a gospel message and invitation.
Several people prayed with the pastor and told Vern, Lora and Mindy after the meeting. Of course there was much rejoicing and they were given little booklets and were invited to church the next Sunday if they lived in Pine City. People from other cities said they would attend a good church when they got back home.
Early Monday morning, Vern, Lora and Mindy, warmly dressed for the early fall mountain weather, were waiting at the beaver pond, hoping to see as much activity as they had a couple years before. In fact, they got to see more, because the pond had gotten bigger and there was a new beaver lodge with another beaver family.
Since they had brought binoculars and their camera had a good telephoto zoom lens, two people at a time could see a beaver up the opposite hillside cutting down a small aspen tree, and another dragging one to the pond. The golden leaves were fluttering in the breeze adding to the show. Two mothers and their kits were swimming in the pond.
The camera and binoculars were passed around so each of them got a turn with both. As they waited quietly, several deer came to get drinks from the pond, a mother raccoon came with her babies, also called kits, which were about half grown now. They had already learned how to catch their breakfasts.
That evening after singing and question time the Jones family described their morning outing and explained to any who desired to go see for themselves how to get there and where to hide and to be sure to be very quiet and stand still.
Tuesday the family went driving even higher up in the mountains to see more colors. The aspen trees were in various stages. Many were still green, some were gold and a few were a reddish orange. The mountain oak shrubs were also a reddish color now. They were well pleased with all the splendid colors they saw.
At lunchtime they happened to be in the mountain town where Matt and Fiona had been for their honeymoon, so they stopped and had lunch in the interesting cafe they had heard about. It was every bit as fun as they had been told, to watch these girls hurry to give the best service possible to all the patrons. Plus the food was great.
In the afternoon that day, they walked all the way around a pretty mountain lake, admiring the late wildflowers and early autumn colors. Then they went back to their campsite and fixed a supper they could eat in the screen room before setting it up for another meeting.
The same people attended, so they got to choose the songs they wanted to sing, and since they were all believers now, it was like a small group meeting. They had a time of praising God for the things they had seen that day and the things they were learning about being new believers. Then they had a conversational prayer time at the end of the meeting. Most of these people were leaving the next morning so there might be some new ones to take their place at the next meeting.
The next three days were spent in much the same way and it was so nice to not have to drive hundreds of miles each day to a new place to camp. It was restful to be in the same campground every evening with the screen tent set up, ready to be used.
There were new people at their next meetings, and the few others who were still there helped answer some of their questions and gave their testimonies, which helped the new ones make their decisions more easily. This week had been very profitable and enjoyable!
Karen’s former coworker at Subs Are Great, phoned to visit one morning before going to work. Karen turned on her speaker so she could continue folding her clean, dry laundry.
“Hi, how are you doing?” Karen asked. “It’s been a while since we got to visit on the phone.”
She answered, “My situation hasn’t changed, but I'm still doing well, like I told you the last time I called. How are you?”
Karen replied, “My family and I are doing very well. I really like having this big family of four girls and so does Jeff. Is anything new going on for you?”
“Yes,” she responded, “I have a new project to work on in my discretionary time. I’ve started writing a novel.”
“Oh wow!” exclaimed Karen, “this sounds like a big project! Can you tell me more about it?”
She replied, “Well, I just started it about a month ago, and I don’t really know how to go about doing it. But I started by writing the beginning of the story in a notebook first and then typed it into the word processor on my laptop computer. After a short time, I realized that was a waste of time, so now I think about what to say and type it as I go.”
“What a good idea,” said Karen. “It sounds like you’ve already learned a valuable lesson.”
“Yes,” she continued, “and it gives me good things to think about. It’s becoming something I enjoy doing.”
Karen mentioned, “Since you said it’s a novel, that means it’s fiction. What will it be about?
“It will be a Christian romance,” she answered. “I want it to be historical, but I’ll need to do a lot of research so it will be accurate.”
Karen commented, “It sounds interesting. The web could probably help you with the research. Have you decided what historical time period you will choose?”
“Not exactly,” she admitted, “but I have lots of choices in the horse and buggy days of our own country. This will be part of the fun.”
Karen exclaimed, “I’m so glad you found something you can have fun doing! Keep it up and let me know about your progress. I’ll certainly want to read your novel when you finish it!”
Fiona took Johnny and Patrick with her to The Garden Shop once a week, bringing their playpen, toys and a big diaper bag. Fiona’s dad, and Connie, or Amelia would come out and help her bring everything into the coffee chat room and then load them for her afterwards. Matt told her to leave the playpen and diaper bag in the vehicle and he would bring them in when he got home. She felt very well cared for and appreciated it a lot.
She could only stay part of the morning, since the boys needed to be home for their naps and lunch, and usually she would take time to nurse Patrick if he got hungry and fussy. But she had time to make the copies Amelia wanted and to talk to the people who came into the coffee chat room.
Those people enjoyed watching Johnny and Patrick playing for a while and then chatted with Fiona. She was happy to see some of the customers who had shopped there when she was still working. She remembered them and many remembered her and told her how their plants were still flourishing, or asked her questions about them that she was glad to be able to answer.
Fiona was able to turn many of the conversations to focus on God and the Good News. She enjoyed being back at The Garden Shop even though it was for just a short time, and only once a week. But she wouldn't trade her life now for the job she had enjoyed there. Being a wife to Matt and mother to these children was her joy now.
Fiona’s dad, or Connie, or Amelia would often come in and visit if there were no other people there talking to Fiona. They were the only ones who were privileged enough to get to pick up and love the boys while they talked to Fiona.
During this five member team ministry time, the three men led the way, and the two ladies followed. As they prayed for the people in the park, the men noticed a group of men in their daily army work uniforms. They were playing a game of touch football, and it looked like the teams were rather small. So the three men went to ask if they could join in the game. Of course the group was glad to have them join, the more the merrier.
Aneko and Sakura sat on a bench to watch and visit as the men played until all of them were tired and sat down on the grass to rest. The three men asked them questions. “How long have you been in the army?” “Are you here on leave?” “Where’s your post located?” “How long will you be here?” “When will you find out about your next orders?” “If you ever have to go into battle, are you prepared to die?”
The army men answered the questions, but the last one generated a number of comments from the group of men. “Ah, that’ll never happen.” “I don’t like to think about it.” “Well, my family has already purchased burial plots for us.” “I doubt that there will be any battles while I’m in the army.”
Tony mentioned, “Well, since most people will die sooner or later, I think it’s a good idea to prepare for it now. Where would your spirit be tomorrow if you died today?”
Some of them were visibly squirming, wanting to get up and leave this discussion. It was certainly not what they wanted to think about at this time, if ever. The ladies started praying for them.
But one courageous fellow said, “I know mine would be in heaven with Jesus so I don’t have to worry. It will be even better there than it is here, even though this is a nice place.”
“Bah humbug!” exclaimed another, “nobody can know if they’ll go to heaven when they die!”
Kosuke decided to end the argument before it got out of hand. In an authoritative voice he declared, “The Bible itself tells us we can know, and the Bible has been shown beyond doubt to be true. My two friends and I will read some verses to you out of the Bible. First I’ll read John 3:16-18a, which you may have heard before. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved. He who believes on the Son is not condemned, but he who does not believe is condemned already…”
Yoshi said, “A little further in the same chapter, verse 36 says, He who believes on the Son has everlasting life, and he who does not believe shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” He explained, “Everlasting life means life in heaven forever, rather than being eternally lost in the other terrible place.”
Tony clarified, “It says in Romans 6:22,23, that people who believe in Jesus, the Son of God, have been made free from sin and have become servants to God. The fruit of that is holiness and in the end everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Yoshi tacked on another proof verse, “The first part of 1 John 5:13 states, I have written these things to you who believe on the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life...”
Kosuke went on to say, “When Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, their disobedience resulted in all people being sinners. Listen to Romans 5:19-21. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound, so as sin has reined unto death, even so grace reigned through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.”
One man asked, “Does that mean everybody will go to heaven when they die?”
“No, it doesn’t,” answered Tony. “What it does mean is that God provided a way for sinners to be saved and know they would spend eternity with God, instead of in the other place. The way he provided was by sending his only Son to live a perfect life, die on the cross and be raised again and go back to heaven. But it is not automatic. Each person has to do his part.”
Another man questioned, “What is that part?”
Yoshi replied, “A man in Acts 16:30 asked, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? Verse 31 has the answer, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved.”
Kosuke stressed, “To believe on Jesus includes acknowledging all he came to earth to do, like Tony explained, and that you have sinned and are truly sorry enough to repent or turn and go the other way. You can’t just say you believe and go ahead and keep sinning. Not that believers are perfect, but we ask Jesus to help us live for him and every time we sin, we confess it and he forgives us, like it says in 1 John 1:9.”
Tony added, “Now that you’ve heard all this information, you have a choice to make. Will you choose to believe in Jesus or decide to keep going your own way, which only leads to the other place?”
After giving them a chance to think, Kosuke asked, “How many of you will choose right now to believe in Jesus to be your Savior?”
All but one or two raised their hands.
“Wonderful!” he exclaimed. “I’ll lead you in a prayer and you can say each part after I do.”
The prayer was much like the others in this story. When they finished, the men were amazed at how much peace and joy they had. Now they knew they were prepared to die whenever it might happen. The three men rejoiced with them and stayed for a time longer to answer more questions and give each new believer a little booklet with a card to fill out.
Yoshi invited, “We’d like for you to come to church with us tomorrow. We’ll meet you in the entryway, and you can sit with us. After the service you can give the card to our pastor and he will call your post and see if a special small group could be set up for you there to learn more about how to follow Jesus.” Then he told them the address of the church and what time to be there. And they all nodded.
On the farm, Hugo, Jose, Pedro and Luis were out on the playing field with their Dad, Felix, and some of the other farm boys who were close to their ages, and their dads and some of their moms.
After choosing teams with somewhat matched abilities they were going to have a game of touch football. Since Felix was the coach for both teams, another dad was the referee, and the rest of the parents were the audience.
Sunny was glad to have some time on her own in the house. First she grabbed the opportunity to practice the piano for some extra time, and then she got busy with some reorganizing tasks she had been putting off for lack of a good, uninterrupted block of time.
Felix began the game by reviewing all the rules, especially reminding them, “This is only touch, not tackle football. We don’t want anyone getting hurt.”
The boys playfully saluted and said, “Yes, Sir!”
“Very good,” Felix smiled and continued, “We’ll use a regular football. I’ll coach both teams with the objective of helping each team win, with no partiality.”
The referee stated, “The same goes for me. I know the rules, and I’ll be watching for rules being broken and a penalty will result.”
“Team one,” called Felix, “Come over here and we’ll determine our plan for the beginning of the game.”
When they understood it he urged, “Now go out there and do you best and have fun!”
All the boys played hard and fair. Only a few penalties were given. It was a close game and all the boys were good sports knowing how to win and how to lose graciously.
Felix complimented them, “Good job, boys. All of you did very well today.”
They answered in various ways, being sure to thank him and the referee for their help today.
Sunny had time to practice the piano and finish her tasks, so she felt good about the afternoon also.
Kosuke and Aneko talked during their next date about how God was leading each of them while Yoshi and Sakura played some video games. It was a nice quiet place to sit and talk as they watched.
Aneko observed, “It looks like those two are enjoying themselves. I’ve never enjoyed video games myself.”
“I haven’t either,” Kosuke agreed, “but I did play them once in a while with Sakura since she likes them so much.”
Aneko commented, “That was nice of you. I think Sakura and Yoshi will be a good match, and I don’t think it will be long before he asks her the big question.”
“I think you must be correct,” he said and then he sighed deeply and shared, “Aneko, this is very hard for me. I tried to keep my emotions out of our double dates, but I’m torn. I know we're compatible and we think alike in so many things, so you’d make me a perfect wife, and be exactly what my parents desire for me. But after our last ministry time in the park, I was reminded about what I trained for all those years in the seminary. Now I know I still feel strongly that it is Jesus will for me to go alone to serve him as a chaplain in the armed forces, like I told you on our first date.”
Aneko made fists in her lap so she wouldn’t reach over and put a hand on his arm in sympathy, and he would take it wrongly.
Then she admitted, “I like you a lot, Kosuke, and it would be easy to let myself love you. I think you’d be a great husband for me under different circumstances. If I were a giddy teenager, I’d beg you to stay, but as a Christian woman, I could never do it. I have felt all along that you didn’t enjoy working in the restaurant. Besides, I’d never ask you to stay and go against God’s will. You’d be miserable and so would I.”
Kosuke did reach to undo her fists and held one hand as he continued, “The life of an armed forces chaplain is no place for a wife, so I would never ask a woman to go with me, especially not you! You’re too special.”
She smiled at him and responded, “I appreciate you saying those things and I thank you. But listen carefully to me. Please go and be free. I’ve enjoyed these dates, and getting to know you, but I want you to be free to do Jesus’ will. Let’s have no regrets, only good memories. You can be sure I’ll pray for Jesus to help you serve him.”
Kosuke tried to smile. “Thank you, Aneko. You are a genuine Christian woman. … If only …
She put a finger to her lips to hush him. “Remember, no regrets. You honored your parents and have taken care of your sister by going on all these double dates, and we’ll continue until they’re engaged and we can tell them our decisions. She’ll be happily married to my brother and be very well cared for!
He squeezed her hand and laid it back in her lap.
She smiled again and explained, “Since you told me when we started these dates, where you were coming from, I have been very careful to guard my heart, and I’m not surprised by your decision. Plus, now that you’ve told me your decision, I feel like Jesus desires for me to stay single and to continue living at home with my parents. Not many women have as close a relationship with their parents as I have with mine and Yoshi and now Sakura. We’ll make a great team at the restaurant. You can be free to go serve Jesus wherever he wants you to be, and you can know that I’ll be content here in Pine City.”
He nodded and she went on, “I imagine your life there will be much harder than mine will be here.”
Kosuke was finally able to speak again, “But I’ll be doing it for my Lord and Master, Jesus, and not for my parents or for you. That will make all the difference. My plan to keep my emotions out of these dates backfired on me. I couldn’t do it. I think it was a test to see if I would do God’s will and not my own. So, now that I’ve passed the test, I will gladly serve God and I’ll keep all the good memories of you and these double dates, like you mentioned.”
“Good for you!” Aneko commended, “If you’ll send emails to Sakura and Yoshi, they can keep me informed about how I can pray for you and your ministry. This is just the right note to end on for this discussion. Here come our siblings, so let’s keep smiling.”
“I’ll do it for sure,” replied Kosuke. “God bless you, Aneko.”
She smiled and returned the same blessing.
The girls on the ranch had continued gathering wildflowers in the summer and fall along with different colored leaves from the trees on the ranch.
One day it was raining, so the girls were inside working on their scrapbooks. Karen joined them with hers.
Hanna commented, “The flowers under this encyclopedia should be dry enough to put them into our scrapbooks. The date we put here says it’s been four weeks.”
“Well, I don’t know,” Ellie faltered, “I think I’ll leave mine for another week. After my other fiasco, I’d rather be extra careful. Oh, here I have another one that has been five weeks.”
Hanna reconsidered, “OK, I’ll look for a different one too. Here it is and I agree that it’s better to be safe than sorry, because those flowers probably aren’t blooming any longer this year.”
Christy, Lisa, and Karen also found some that had been drying for five weeks and they all very carefully removed the books and gently lifted the newsprint off the flowers.
Lisa exclaimed, “Wow, they’re almost as pretty now as the day we picked them! Especially since this kind isn’t blooming now.”
“Definitely,” agreed Christy, “I'm so glad we asked Vera if we could collect wildflowers for a scrapbook, and she decided we and our mothers also could each make one instead of just one per family.”
“Same here!” the others emphasized. Then they made sure to get the right flower on the correct page which was ready because they had written all the information to go with the flower name on the page right after they had collected the flowers.
Another day when they were outside gathering fall leaves for their notebooks Liz asked, “Stella, do you remember when you told me about the river birch tree a couple days after I came to this ranch?”
“Yep,” she replied, “I remember. We had just had a race to it and we had a tie. Then I told you everything I could remember about the tree at that time from what Mom had told me.”
Liz went on, “Plus, I’ve learned so much more, since we’ve been doing this wildflower and tree leaf project. We collected some of this tree’s green leaves in the summer, and now the leaves are yellow but they still have the same oval shape with saw type edges.”
“Right,” agreed Stella, “I like them both ways, and I’ve learned a bunch more right along with you. God was so good to put us here in this wonderful place where we met Jesus and have learned so much about him also.”
“Absolutely!” Liz exclaimed, “sometimes it all seems too good to be true, when I think about my past life, but then I look at my right hand and wrist and I know it’s true! Then I thank Jesus all over again for healing it and saving me!”
Stella added, “I think it’s good for us to tell Jesus how thankful we are for all he has done for us, and I’m sure he must like it too.”
“I agree,” said Liz, “let’s collect the leaves we need from this tree and go back toward the group.”
On the way they gathered leaves from each of the other trees, just as the other girls were doing, and their minds were full of thanks to Jesus for all the things he had done for them.
One evening after supper, Glenda mentioned, “Patrick and Riley, I saw an interesting little drama at the Local Grocery this morning while I was waiting in line to check out my groceries.”
“Please tell us about it,” requested Patrick. Riley nodded too.
So she described it, “A man in a hurry laid a big ham on the counter with its special order form and told the clerk he forgot something and would be right back. Just at that moment the clerk was told to go on break and another one took over for her.”
Riley mentioned, “This is getting interesting.”
“Yes,” continued Glenda, “because the next lady in line had already put her things on the counter also, and the clerk not knowing about the man with the ham, rang up the ham and all of her things at the same time. The lady didn’t realize it until the total came up and surprised her, so she told the clerk that the ham was not hers, but was for a man who put it there so he could go get one more thing.”
Patrick guessed, “In the meantime, I’ll bet the line is getting longer and people are getting impatient.”
“Exactly,” she nodded. “The clerk had no idea what to do about it. She must have been new. So the lady just put her credit card in the slot saying, ‘Just tell the man that the lady behind him paid for his ham and hopes he will enjoy it. This way we can finish this transaction and get the other people checked out quicker.’ She took the special order form and wrote on it that she had paid for his ham and did not want to be repaid, and that Jesus loves you. Read John 3:16. Call my phone number, which she also wrote, if you have any questions about Jesus. I know what she wrote, because I was next in line and got to see it.”
Patrick exclaimed, “This is an amazing story!”
“There’s more,” Glenda informed them. “The man next to me in line stated, ‘That lady’s crazy. I’d never pay that much for another person’s great big ham. Those things are expensive!’
“I think I agree with him,” stated Riley.
Glenda went on, “But since I knew what she had written I explained to the man and the others who had agreed with him, that the lady wanted to show and tell the man that Jesus loves him. She also wanted to show love to the people in line by not making all of them wait while the clerk figured out how to solve the problem.”
Riley admitted, “It was actually very nice of her to do that.”
“Yes it was,” Glenda concurred. “The lady told the clerk to be sure the man got the ham without having to pay for it and to tell him to read what she wrote on the paper. I told her I’d stay and tell him.”
Patrick deduced, “So now you were involved in the drama and had to stay until the man was checked out by the clerk.”
“Right,” she agreed, “but it was okay with me since I wasn’t in a big hurry this morning. After being checked out, a couple other curious women and a man stayed in the area to watch. When the man got back he had to go to the end of the line of course, but he could see that his ham was still on the counter.”
Riley surmised, “But he was in a hurry, so he was probably feeling impatient.”
“I’m sure he was,” Glenda said, “but I saw him take a deep breath and try to relax. It wasn’t very long before it was his turn and he was totally surprised to find out what the lady had done.”
Patrick asked, “What did he do?”
She answered, “He paid his little charge, picked it up along with his ham and almost shouted, ‘Where is she? I need to talk to her.’ but one of the women told him she had already left. At that point I stepped forward and asked him if he had read what she wrote on the paper. He nodded, but read it again, and shook his head, completely dumbfounded.”
Riley questioned, “Then what? It can’t end that way!”
“Assuredly not!” Glenda exclaimed. “I couldn't let a golden opportunity like this slip away, so now that I had all their attention, I explained again why the woman had done this and then told them the Good News about Jesus. Nobody else was in line now, so the clerk was listening also. Then I asked if there were any questions. There were a few so I answered them and invited them to accept this amazing Jesus as their Savior. I led them in a prayer, and answered some more questions, gave each one of them a little booklet with a card, and invited all of them to come to church next Sunday. I said I’d wait for them at the entryway of the church. They thanked me and said they’d see me on Sunday. The man with the ham said he’d call the nice lady and thank her.”
“Praise the Lord!” exclaimed Patrick. “Isn’t it awesome what God can do through people who are willing to serve him?”
Glenda prayed, “Yes, I thank you very much Lord for the lady who paid for the man’s ham to show him Jesus love, and for working through me to bring those people into your family!”
Riley concluded, “And I thank you for my mother’s willingness to wait and see that the man was properly charged, and then tell those people about Jesus. Thank you that you drew all of them to yourself. Now please help them to live for you.”
Yoshi and Sakura and Kosuke and Aneko spent their next double date in Pine City’s gorgeous enclosed rose garden where roses bloomed all year long, no matter what the weather was outside. The climate inside was always the perfect temperature for perpetual roses.
They had walked in pairs through the whole garden, being sure to sit now and then on the strategically placed benches, so they could admire the roses near them. They enjoyed talking about their beauty, colors, sizes, and abundance. And at every opportunity they praised the great, creator of the roses.
They had chosen to go during the morning on Wednesday so very few other people were in the garden. Aneko had brought the camera and took pictures often.
Near the end of this date while they were resting on a bench, Yoshi felt nervous, but decided to take the plunge. “Sakura, we’ve only known each other for a few months, but we’ve been on many dates, we’ve worked together at the restaurant and on the five member ministry team. It’s like we’ve known each other for years.”
“I agree,” Sakura smiled. “We probably have shared more personal information with each other than some couples who’ve been dating for years.”
Yoshi agreed and then inquired, “Can you think of any more issues you want to discuss?”
“No,” she replied, “not that I can think of. We’ve talked and agreed about a bunch already.”
Yoshi stated, “I can’t think of anything we haven’t covered, either, except my most important question of all.”
He took her hand in his for the first time except for on that hike. “Sakura, I love you. Do you think you could love and marry me even though I only have a job in my parent’s restaurant? I know I don’t have, and may not ever have a lot of wealth to offer you, but I know I will always love and take good care of you. I make enough money at the restaurant to be able to do that.”
“Yes, Yoshi,” she responded, “I already love you, and I would be overjoyed to marry you and spend the rest of my life loving you.”
He smiled his happiest smile, squeezed her hand gently and placed it back in her lap. “Right now, I’m the happiest man in the world to know I already have your love and you will marry me. Thank you, Sakura! I don't have an engagement ring this morning, because I’d like you to help choose it and our wedding rings.”
“Oh, good,” she said with relief. “I couldn't call our rings an issue to discuss, because it would have been presumptuous of me before you proposed. But I’m glad you had not bought one already. I have an idea for our rings.”
Yoshi smiled again and said, “I’d like to hear about it.”
She explained, “I don't want an engagement ring, just a wedding band. I’d like to have them be very simple and identical. I envision narrow gold bands with a pretty design engraved on them, and with one small gem of our choice embedded in the top. They won’t get in the way of our work at the restaurant, or work around home, or hurt our babies when we’re playing with them or changing their diapers or giving them baths.”
“The rings sound unique,” he declared, “and charming and splendid just like you are, dear Sakura. As soon as we're finished here in this delightful garden, we can go and buy or order just what you described.”
They joined hands for the first time and almost skipped like children as they went to tell Kosuke and Aneko, who were seated on a bench not too far from where they had been. They found a bench they could carry and placed it facing them.
Then they informed their siblings, about their decision. Aneko and Kosuke were ecstatic. After rejoicing with them, Kosuke explained to them, “I told Aneko about my parents’ desire for me to get married, and about my desire to do God’s will on our first double date. Sakura, you know that I took four years of evangelism training in a seminary when I was living in the other big city. After our last ministry time in the park with those army men I am convinced again that Jesus desires for me to join the army to serve as a chaplain. It’s not a good place to take a wife since I might have to be in dangerous situations, so I need to remain single.”
Then Aneko shared with Yoshi and Sakura, “I think Jesus desires for me to stay single and to continue living at home with my parents so we can work together as a team at the restaurant.”
“Wow!” exclaimed Sakura, “I had no clue! I would have guessed that you two were pretty close to becoming engaged yourselves.”
Yoshi agreed, “Same here, but I know it is best to do what you know to be God’s will instead.”
Then the four of them went to the store and Yoshi and Sakura found the kind of wedding rings she desired. Yoshi bought and paid for them right then and they all went to tell her parents.
After that, Kosuke and Aneko shared their decisions with his parents and her parents. They understood and accepted.
Shortly afterward, Kosuke joined the army and went to serve his Lord as a chaplain.
Aneko continued to go with Yoshi and Sakura on their dates because they both asked her to join in their fun and add her thoughts to their discussions and continue to keep them accountable.
Julie liked to use Kippy on the ranch with the quadruplets especially when Maria was there to join in the fun. Maria was getting lots of practice working with young girls and enjoyed what she was doing.
As she came in the door one day she heard, “Hurry Auntie Maria, come over here and join us for Kippy time,” invited Rose.
“Oh good!” stated Maria, “I was afraid I might be too late.”
Julie said in her Kippy voice, “Hi Auntie Maria. I’m glad you made it here in time! We all like to have you join us.”
“Thank you. I like Kippy time,” she replied. “You have such a happy smile that I smile every time I look at you or even think about you when I’m at home.”
Kippy responded, “Thank you, too. What did you do last week?”
“I worked at the CPA office and went to lunch with some of my co-workers and talked to them about Jesus, plus I went to church and small group, did some grocery shopping, did laundry, cleaned house and looked forward to spending the weekend here on the ranch.”
“Wow!” exclaimed Kippy, “you did a lot! Iris, were you as busy as your Auntie Maria?”
She answered, “I think so, but not doing what she did. She did grownup things and I did little girl things.”
“Like what?” asked Kippy.
In a very grownup way Iris replied, “My sisters and I do many of the same things so I’ll answer for all of us. We did our morning tasks, went to school and learned a lot, played with our friends at recess, came home and did more tasks and practiced the piano after our horseback rides, helped get supper, and cleaned up afterward. Then we did our homework, played outside, listened to devotions and went to bed. Oh, and we went to church and small group also, last week.”
“Oh, my!” declared Kippy, “you and your sisters were very busy last week. I think I must have been asleep most of that time.”
Lily empathized, “It’s okay, Kippy, we know you need much more sleep than we do, so we can just tell you about the things we do.”
“Thank you, Lily,” said Kippy, “it’s nice to be understood.”
Maria added, “I didn’t realize how busy you four girls are either, since I only get to see you for a while every other weekend. You are all very busy being first graders, learning more about the Bible and Jesus and helping at home, besides learning how to play the piano. Those are all good things to do. I’m sure your mommy is very pleased with what you do.”
Kippy turned to look at Mommy who was smiling and nodding.
Violet added, “Mommy is just as busy as we are, because she teaches third grade while we’re in first grade, and she’s always with us the rest of the time. Then after we go to bed she’s busy doing even more things. Thank you Mommy for all the things you do!”
Julie smiled one of her happiest smiles and stated, “It’s my pleasure and you’re very welcome!”
Kippy clapped and jumped up and down. “What a wonderful family this is! And now I’m getting sleepy. See you next time.”
1 John 1:7a, If we walk in the light as God is in the light,
we have fellowship with one another…
The Suehiros discussed their new tea room idea during a lull one afternoon at the restaurant with Yoshi, Sakura, and Aneko. Tomo explained, “Ami and I were thinking about an idea we had. We were thinking that since you three will be able to handle the restaurant by yourselves, we could change our jobs to have a morning tea room here in the restaurant.”
Ami continued, “We could start conversations with people, get them talking about spiritual matters and answer their questions.”
Tomo inserted, “Of course we’d wait until after the wedding and honeymoon, but we’d like you three to think about this idea and tell us your honest opinions about it.”
“Don’t answer right now,” stressed Ami, “but think about it, pray about it, and talk together about it. When you’re ready, we’d like to hear what you think.”
The three young people nodded and they all went back to work.
Mindy, Ben, and Amelia were in the nursery of the Anderson home visiting while the girls got the little boys up from their naps. Ben liked to watch, but didn’t offer to help. He’d rather hold them when they had dry diapers and were dressed.
Amelia commented, “This is good practice for me, if I ever have any children of my own.”
“Without a doubt,” agreed Ben. “It’s like on the job training, and Mindy is a good teacher, since she’s done it so often in her life.”
Mindy concurred, “Yes, when I was helping Anita with her day care children, I got lots of practice with her two little ones and the others she was taking care of at the same time.”
Amelia wondered, “How did she ever keep up with so many at the same time?”
“Good question!” Mindy exclaimed, “I never asked her, but I did notice she was very tired some afternoons when I got there after school.”
Ben remarked, “Well, you do an excellent job with these boys and it’s easy to see that they love you.”
“Thank you, Ben,” responded Mindy. “I love them too and I’d much rather spend my after school hours and Saturday mornings here than running with the high school crowd.”
Amelia agreed, “I never fit in with the bunch at school either, and I’m just as glad, because too many of them get into trouble of one kind or another.”
“Very true!” declared Ben. “I feel the same way as both of you do, and I think we're better off this way.”
“Amen!” exclaimed Matt and Fiona who had been listening to the last part of this conversation and had come to join them.
Fiona suggested, “Let’s all go into the living room and visit some more while I nurse Patrick.”
While they were visiting, Johnny enjoyed all the attention he got as he went from person to person and they played roll the ball or picked him up for a cuddle.
Nathan and Esther's four girls were together on the playground at school. Esther was watching them during first recess. Today it was just the four of them playing with a ball, bouncing it gently to the person across from them and catching it when it bounced back.
Holly said, “That was a good one, Val, it came right to me and was easy to catch.”
“Thanks, Holly,” Val replied, “yours are all good, and I’m glad to hear mine are getting better.”
In a couple minutes Willow suggested, “Lucia, let’s both try to bounce the ball a little higher.”
“Good idea, Willow,” agreed Lucia, “I think it would make the ball easier to catch if we do.”
About half way through the recess, they changed partners and with practice all of them were doing better by the time the bell rang.
Esther remembered the day before when her four and the other four girls from the ranch were taking turns trying to learn how to turn the long jump rope so the others could jump. It was hard for them and Esther had to make herself not go and help them. By leaving them alone they all got better at it after two recesses of trying.
A few days before, she had noticed that the four girls were each in a different group of girls and each group was playing a different game. She was glad to see they had made friends with other girls too instead of relying on their own home group.
As she watched all the children at recesses, she was amazed at the way the children got along with each other. There were seldom any fights and there were no cliques like she remembered when she was in second grade and on up in the public school. It was another benefit of this Christian church school. Again she thanked Jesus for her girls being able to attend such a good school.
Ruth mentioned during lunch one Friday, “Maria, I’ve decided to read the Bible all the way through again. It’s been a while since I’ve done it and I’ve always found it helpful to get a review of the greater picture.”
Maria admitted.“I've tried doing it a couple times and I got discouraged because I couldn’t keep up with the printed schedule in order to get it finished in a year.”
Ruth declared, “This is why I’m going to start now instead of on January first. I won’t even try to follow that schedule. It has you reading some from both the Old and New Testaments every day so it defeats my purpose.”
“What is your purpose?” asked Maria.
Ruth explained, “I want to read it like a book that tells a story. Therefore I bought a chronological Bible which has the events in the order they happened rather than the way a normal Bible is arranged. I used it the last time I read all the way through the Bible and it made a lot more logical sense. Besides, the whole Bible is important as it says in Romans 15:4, whatever was written in the past was written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scripture might have hope.”
“I really like your idea!” Maria exclaimed. “Consequently, I’ll plan to go after work today to the Bible Book store and buy one of those chronological Bibles in my preferred translation. Then I’ll get started reading the Bible all the way through this evening. That old schedule won’t get the best of me this time. Thanks, Ruth, for the good idea! How’s everything else going for you?”
“You’re very welcome,” Ruth responded, “everything is great. I have so much to be thankful for and so many things to do. I wonder how some people can say they get bored.”
“Same here,” agreed Maria, “I have such a nice time at Mercy Valley Ranch every time I get to go there. Sometimes I can’t believe how privileged I am that Esther keeps asking me to come stay with them for alternating weekends. I sure am glad she does!”
“Ditto for me!” exclaimed Ruth. She sang “God is Good All the Time.” And Maria joined right in.
Aneko went with Yoshi and Sakura on another date. Near the end, they had a conversation about Tomo and Ami’s idea.
Sakura asked, “What do you two think about your parents’ idea?”
Aneko answered, “We talked about it on the way over to pick you up, and we think it could work very well.”
“I have one concern,” admitted Sakura. “How will it work when or if I have a baby or two and want to stay at home with them?”
Yoshi put her worry to rest, “Before you and Kosuke started working at the restaurant, Aneko and I ran the restaurant easily while they were gone to visit Afta and family and on an RV ministry trip, by hiring a part time waitress. I think we can do the same thing after our baby or babies are born and you can stay home to care for them.”
“Indeed we can,” Aneko agreed, “it would be terrible to put it or them into day care just so you could continue working at the restaurant with us.”
Sakura sighed with relief, “Thank you both for understanding and assuring me. I’ve always thought it would be best for me to be a mother who stays at home to take care of our children. Therefore, now I also like your parents’ idea.”
Aneko concluded, “Consequently this afternoon we can tell them what we think about the idea. I do think I’ll ask if they will still be able to go on RV ministry trips if they have a tea room.”
“I wondered about that also,” Yoshi commented, “they’ve had several good times of ministry on their trips, but it doesn’t happen as often as the tea room would.”
Sakura suggested, “Maybe they can figure out a way to do both.”
“It would be good if they could,” Yoshi agreed, “we could suggest it as an idea for them to consider.”
On the way back from taking Sakura to her home, Yoshi shared, “I’m ever so glad you didn’t marry and move far away with Kosuke. He will have a hard and lonely life, and it’s not a good place to take a wife, especially you. It was thoughtful of him to tell you beforehand so you weren't totally brokenhearted by his decision.”
“I agree completely!” Aneko shared. “Since he did warn me, I had guarded my heart, so I was ready for his decision. I’m truly content with the way this ended. Our dates were fun and we got to know each other and would have been compatible, but I knew he was not happy to be here, when he knew the Lord wanted him to be some other place. I’m glad he chose the better way.”
“Yeah,” Yoshi agreed, “he told me how hard it was. I felt sorry for him, but Jesus will help him get through it.”
That afternoon, the three young people told Tomo and Ami what they had decided about the tea room idea.
“Thank you all for your support,” responded Tomo, “we’ll get started setting up the group meeting room in the restaurant as a tea room. It can still be used for group meals, because the tea area won’t take up much room.”
“Right,” agreed Ami, “it will be a perfect room to use since it’s close to the entrance. Also we’ll start thinking about a way we could do both the tea room and RV trips with ministry times.”
Tomo added, “We should be able to have the tea room ready to go when Yoshi and Sakura get back from their honeymoon.”
As they were shopping after school one day Lucia asked, “Mama, could we each please have a mechanical pencil?”
“Oh, yes!” agreed Holly, “It would be so nice to have one that would stay sharp.”
Val added, “Yeah, ours get blunt so quickly and the handwriting doesn’t look the same or as nice as when the pencil is sharp.”
“Right,” Willow tacked on, “I’d like to have one too.”
Mama answered, “Yes, I’ll buy some and give each of you one when we get home.”
They chorused, “Thank you, Mama.”
Esther bought a package of pencils with four different colors on the barrels. She let the girls pick one color to be their own, so there would be no way to argue over whose pencil was whose.
She explained, “If you lose yours, the consequence is, you’ll have to use the old fashioned kind that needs to be sharpened.”
They all thanked her again and chose a color. They took extra good care of the new pencils and enjoyed writing with them at home. Esther told some of the other mothers on the ranch her idea and they did the same thing for their girls.
On Mercy Valley Farm, Felix and Sunny’s boys staged a debate for the other boys on the farm. Even though all four of them were now believers, two of them debated for evolution and the other two for Biblical creation. Felix was the Master of Ceremonies.
Felix: Gentlemen, welcome to this very important debate! At this table are Luis and Hugo who will be debating that evolution is true. Pedro and Jose will be debating that creation by God is true. Luis will speak first.”
Luis: I read all the things I could find about Darwin and his theory of evolution, and it made a lot of sense to me. It’s a very useful way to explain how the world and living things came into being. I like it because this way, I don’t have to believe in a god.
Hugo: Evolution has been taught as a fact in the public school for years and I’ve never heard anyone deny it could be true. I like it because I don’t have to be accountable to anyone for things I do.
Luis: Yeah, it’s a lot more fun to live this way and not have to worry about sinning and going to that bad place because of sins.
Hugo: Yep, that’s a very scary thought! I’d rather not think about it, and just go on having fun for the rest of my life.
Luis: I read one article that says humans have many genes in common with the chimpanzee.
Hugo: Well, maybe that’s why some people act so much like monkeys.
The audience laughed uproariously for a while.
Felix: Thank you Hugo and Luis. Now we’ll hear what Carlos and Jose have to say about Biblical creation.
Carlos: First we’ll explain why we believe the Bible is true and then Jose and I will read verses from it that prove Almighty God created the universe and all that is in it. First, the Bible has more copies of ancient manuscripts than any other classical text.
Jose: Second, archaeologists have made many discoveries that prove that the Bible is accurate.
Carlos: Third, much of the Bible was written by eye witnesses who were persecuted and even killed because they would not change what they had said.
Jose: Fourth there are many other historical people who wrote things about what happened in Bible times, and they agree with what the Bible says.
Carlos: Fifth, many different people wrote the books of the Bible, but they all consistently told how God planned for salvation to be provided by the Messiah.
Jose: Sixth, hundreds of prophecies in the Old Testament were fulfilled by Jesus in his birth, life, death, and resurrection.
Carlos: Seventh, multitudes of people have had, and continue to have their lives changed by believing the Bible and accepting Jesus as their Savior from sin.
Jose: So now we’ll read verses about creation like Genesis 1:1, In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
Carlos: The rest of Genesis chapter one tells us the creation included light, day, night, dry land, seas, plants yielding seeds that grow into more of the same plants, the sun, moon, and stars, living creatures, each after its own kind, in the seas and on the land, including humans.
Luis: But that chapter says it only took six days for God to create all those things. How do you explain the timeline of millions of years and the dates that tell how old the rock layers are in places like the Grand Canyon?
Carlos: God worked fast, so it was no problem for him. He just spoke the word and it was done. Listen to Jose.
Jose: Evolution had no power or wisdom to make the universe happen, just time and chance, but God did have that power, as it says in Psalm 33:6-9, By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth. He gathers the waters of the sea together, … Let all the earth fear the LORD. Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him, for he spoke and it was done, he commanded and it stood fast.
Carlos: Colossians 1:16,17, By the Son of God all things were created that are in heaven and in earth, visible and invisible, … all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and he maintains all things.
Hugo: What about the fossils and how they are dated?
Carlos: Fossils were formed during the world wide flood of Noah’s time when the living things were drowned and buried in rock layers all over the earth. The fossils of species show they are the same now as they were then, with no evolutionary changes.
Jose: Psalm 8:1,3,4a, O LORD, our LORD, how excellent is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars which you have ordained, what is man that you are mindful of him?
Carlos: Isaiah 42:5,8, Thus says God, the LORD, he that created the heavens and stretched them out, he that spread forth the earth and that which comes out of it, he that gives breath to the people upon it, I am the LORD, that is my name, and my glory I will not give to another…
Jose: Proverbs 3:19,20, The LORD by wisdom has founded the earth, by understanding he has established the heavens. By his knowledge the depths are broken up, and the clouds drop down the dew.
Carlos: Psalm 146:5,6, Happy is the person who has God for his help, whose hope is in the LORD his God who made heaven and earth, the sea and all that is in it, who keeps truth for ever.
Jose: Romans 1:20, The invisible things of God like his eternal power and divine nature are clearly seen in the creation, being understood by the things that were made, so men are without excuse.
Carlos: Therefore people who believe evolution can’t use it to excuse their behavior, because God exists whether they believe he does or not, and they will be held accountable.
Then Carlos and Jose each read essays they had written about how animals and plants all reproduce after their own kind,
At the end Jose and Carlos said Psalm 95:6-8a in unison, O come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the LORD our maker. For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. Today if you will hear his voice, don’t harden your heart…
Hugo and Luis nodded their heads and admitted that the creation team had proved Biblical creation to them. Then they all quoted Exodus 20:11, which says, For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day… Next, they sang together in four part harmony the hymn “I Sing the Mighty Power of God,” which tells about God creating the mountains, seas, and skies with the sun and moon and stars. Then he made plants for food, the animals and humans. Everything he created shows his great power and glory.
Felix: Thank you gentlemen for this good debate. There’s no doubt in my mind that Biblical creation is true, and therefore each person here has a choice to make. He went on to explain the Good News and led those who chose to accept Jesus in the following prayer with time for them to repeat after him: “Father in heaven, I admit that I’m a sinner, … and that I can do nothing to save myself. … I confess my sins to you. … Silently name the ones you can think of right now. … Please forgive me. … Thank you that Jesus was the perfect sacrifice. … He paid for my sins by dying on the cross, … and being raised from the dead. … I believe in you, Jesus, and ask you to be my Savior. … Please help me live the way you want me to live. … Thank you, Jesus.”
Several of the boys prayed with Felix and there was great rejoicing. Felix, Sunny and their foster boys used this same debate as a ministry idea for their family. They went to Pine City parks on warm days and gathered a crowd. On cold winter days or hot summer days they would go to the inside walking mall. They even got permission to perform it in nursing homes in the city and in the city’s senor center. They lost count of the number of people who accepted Jesus as a result, but always had enough little booklets and cards to give to the people. Then they’d invite them to church and meet them in the entry way, so they could sit together and then introduce them to Pastor Don, so they could give him their cards and become members of small groups for new believers. So God was adding to his church daily those who were being saved, as it says in Acts 2:47b.
Another date with just three cousins was such fun, but they all silently missed Kosuke and wished he could have joined them. He would have enjoyed a ride in the hot air balloon too.
Aneko was a little apprehensive when they arrived and saw the monster sized balloon lying on the ground before it got filled with hot air. “Are we really going to trust our lives in this little basket to that balloon and the pilot?”
Yoshi calmed her down, “Precisely, because I did a lot of research before planning this date and then talked extensively to this pilot. He knows what he’s doing, the weather is perfect, and you’ll enjoy it, just wait and see.”
“Okay,” she acquiesced, swallowing her fears and pasting a smile on her face.
Sakura put a hand on Aneko’s shoulder and confessed, “I'm the one who came up with this idea, but I’m a little frightened myself. I’ve heard so much about how fun it is that I wanted to try it. I hope we will all like this.”
“Well,” stated Aneko, “it’s not something I would ever try by myself, so it’s now or never. Let’s go for it.”
Just then the balloon rose up from the ground to float above the basket. Now it really looked awesome, and the torch reminded Aneko of the fire breathing dragons in some of the books she had looked at when she was growing up.
In a few more minutes, they were motioned over to the basket where there were steps for them to climb. The pilot demonstrated how to climb the steps sit on the edge of the basket and jump down inside. Yoshi went next and then helped the ladies jump down.
Now they were very close to the dragon’s breath and noise, so talking was not an option. They all took a firm grasp on the edge of the basked to brace for the takeoff. It wasn’t so bad, and soon they were leaving the ground behind them and seeing things get smaller as they moved higher. What an odd feeling!
Every now and then the dragon was turned off. Then it was so quiet! Then they could talk and exclaim about the ride and the view.
“Look!,” Yoshi emphasized, “the football field looks like it has toy players on it. Everything is in miniature from up here so high.”
“Agreed,” Sakura said, “except for the mountains. They look even bigger as we get closer to them. This is amazing!”
“Without a doubt,” Aneko admitted, “this is an experience I’ll never forget. It’s delightful up here when it’s so quiet. And to think that I was wishing I could figure out a way to back out and send you two up by yourselves. I’m very glad I didn’t.”
Then Sakura asked the pilot, “Do you know who made those spectacular mountains?”
“Yes I do,” he replied. “He is the God who made everything in the universe. He is the Lord Jesus Christ, my Savior from my sins. Do you know him?”
“Positively!” she responded, “all three of us do, and we're so glad you know him also!” This made the ride even more special for them.
Kevin and Jack often discussed with their family things that happened at the church school.
One day in October, when the younger boys weren’t close enough to hear, Jack mentioned, “We found out today that third graders get to keep the Bible they’ve been using since second grade and take it with them.”
“Oh yes,” Cory stated, “I didn’t tell you last year when they told me, because they want it to be a surprise for others in the family.”
Kevin declared, “It sure was a good surprise!”
The next day, again when Levi and Max were elsewhere, Jack shared, “Today we started learning about how to be Jesus’ missionaries in fourth grade next year.”
Kevin continued, “Yes, and Mrs. Blake had another surprise for us. She told us that the church school was giving a pocket New Testament to each of us to take with us to public school and to other places for the rest of our lives.”
“Right,” agreed Jack, “it has a list of verses we can use to share the Good News.”
Kevin went on, “Plus it has a diagram showing how Jesus is the bridge to God.
Cory remarked, “Exactly, the one they gave me sure has been a great help this year as my partner and I have been sharing the Good News about Jesus with our classmates. Then if I get overly nervous, and forget what to say, I can just take it out of my pocket and use it.”
Greg emphasized, “I’m so glad you boys have been able to be in the church school the past two years. You have a solid foundation to go out and win others to Jesus.
“Yes, it’s been very good for us,” Kevin agreed, “and it’s been extra good for both of us to be together in Mrs. Blake’s class. She is such a good teacher, just like Cory told us.”
Oralie noted, “When I requested that for you two boys, they agreed since you aren't brothers by birth. I know from watching you in classes, that both of you are very well behaved. I’m very thankful.”
One Monday at lunch Ruth asked, “Maria, how are you doing with your plan to read the Bible all the way through?”
“I really am enjoying it.” Maria answered. “Now that the pressure is off I can concentrate on the stories. The other day I remembered two verses in 2 Timothy 3:16,17, which give another good reason to read the whole Bible. They say, All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, so that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. If I remember those verses as I read, I can look for some of those things.”
Ruth wrote the reference on her napkin and stated, “I plan to copy those verses on the bookmark I use to keep my place in the Bible. Then I can read them just before I do my reading for the day.”
“I like your idea,” Maria remarked, “having it right there on the bookmark will make it easier to see the things to look for in the scripture I’m reading right then.” Then she changed the subject, “How are your parents doing on the farm with their foster boys?”
Ruth replied, “It’s a lot of hard work for both of them, but they enjoy it. The other day Mom mentioned that she thinks the boys help them feel younger. Since my parents are busy all the time, they have no chance to feel bored.”
Maria supposed, “I would imagine it would be harder to start with the older boys rather than the way Esther and Nathan did by starting with girls who were all six years old.”
“I agree,” said Ruth, “the girls accepted Jesus much sooner and more easily than those boys did. The girls are already seven and the way time flies, they’ll soon be eight. It’s fun for me to be able to watch the progress of both the girls and the boys. It is a big adventure for both families.”
The farm and ranch families do ministries as families when their children are saved and ready to minister. Usually Ian and Yolanda Hopkins and their four foster girls, Candy, June, Sara, and Kim go grocery shopping once a week before they return to the ranch after school and work. Ian and two of the girls take one half of the shopping list and a cart while Yolanda and the other two girls find the things on the other half of the list with their cart.
As they shop they pray for the people in the isles and many times they will have a chance help a person in an electric shopping cart reach an item above them. Or they can get a conversation going with a fellow shopper or a worker while they are choosing fresh produce for their meals that week. If their conversation becomes long, they move their carts out of the way of the other shoppers.
One rainy afternoon Sara mentioned to everyone within hearing, “This bunch of red beets with their tops still on are proof to me that only an intelligent creator could design them.”
A woman bystander asked, “What do you mean?”
Sara replied, “Well look at the little roots still attached to the beet. They gathered water for the plant while it was still in the ground. The beet itself stored food for the plant. This beautiful green part made the food that was stored. Only a very wise designer could have figured out all of that.”
Ian agreed, “For sure! It couldn't have just happened.”
The woman mentioned, “And besides, both parts are edible and very tasty.”
“Yes they are,” then Sara suggested, “Lets move over here out of the way. Then she asked, “Did you know that God created all the plants on the third day of creation?”
“I agree,” Kim said. “Genesis 1:11-13 tells about it. God was so wise that he knew the plants all needed to be made before creating the animals and humans who would need them for food on the sixth day of creation.”
Ian stressed, “Those facts prove to me that the Creator cares about his creation because he took care of those details.”
“This is interesting,” said the woman, “but how does it affect me and all the other people in the world?”
Kim replied, “Listen to Colossians 1:15-17. God’s Son is the image of the invisible God … All things were created by him and for him, and he is before all things, and he holds all things together. I think this means that without God’s Son, Jesus, continuing to keep everything working, this world could not exist.”
“Oh,” the lady realized, “I had never even thought about it.”
Sara continued, “But God didn’t just take care of his creation, he loved the people he had created so much, that when Adam and Eve disobeyed him in Genesis chapter 3, he made a way that they and all their offspring could be forgiven.”
The woman asked, “How did he do it?”
Kim answered, “Look here in my little New Testament. In 1 John 4:9,10 it says, This is how God showed his love to the world. He sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his son to be the payment for our sins.”
Sara continued, “You see, Jesus the Creator came and died on the Cross to pay sin’s penalty of death, for all people for all time. God the Father accepted Jesus’ death as payment and raised him from the dead. He’s in heaven where he continues to hold all things together and he is also praying for you and others to believe in him and ask him to be their Savior.”
Kim asked, “Would you like to believe in Jesus and ask him to be your Savior right now? You can do it right here.”
She replied, “You teenage girls are so happy and confident in what you believe. I wish I could feel the same way.”
Sara encouraged, “You can! Just do what we’ve said and Jesus will do the rest.”
“Will you help me?” asked the woman.
“Kim answered, “Of course! Just repeat after me.” Then she led the woman in a prayer like others in this book.
“Wow!” she exclaimed, “Jesus did it. He forgave me and I know he is my Savior now, so I have a joy and peace I’ve never felt before!”
They rejoiced with her, gave her a little booklet, explaining what was in it and about the card. Then they invited her to church and she said she would see them there. She went on her way, and the three others finished their half of the shopping, met up with the other there and they all went to pay for the groceries, rejoicing.
Aneko, Yoshi, Sakura, and Tony went as a four person team to minister in the park. Pretty soon, they came upon a crowd of people relaxing after a big picnic so they asked if they could sing a song for them. Everyone nodded, so the four of them sang “I Read the Back of the Book” and we win!
The first verse basically says that the Bible tells about the end of the world, and it certainly gets nearer each day. But for the singers, it is no concern because they know they win, since they read the back of the book.
The second verse is about people wanting to win, but because they’re sinners they can’t win. The only way to win, is to be born again and let Jesus’ blood take care of the sin. Then they can also sing the chorus about having no worry.
After the four of them finished singing the song the people all called for an encore, so they sang it again. Then the people started asking questions, which were gladly answered. The gospel was explained clearly by the four members taking turns reading verses from their Bibles.
When Yoshi gave the invitation, many of the people prayed the prayer he led. They stayed after the others had left to ask more questions that were all answered, and then the four members gave out little booklets. Aneko explained about them and the little card.
Sakura asked them all to come to church the next day, and Tony told them they’d be waiting to greet them in the entryway of the church, giving its address and the time. The people smiled and said they’d be there.
Nathan and Esther had taken Lucia, Val, and the twins, Holly and Willow, on a walk at the ranch to see the fall leaves earlier in the fall. Today they went walking again.
“All the leaves are gone now!” exclaimed Willow. “I thought they were so pretty on our last walk.”
“I agree,” then Esther proposed, “Let’s see if we can find some ways the trees are pretty even without their leaves.”
Nathan and Esther were quiet so the girls would have a chance to look and think.
Val looked up through the branches and noticed, “I can see the pretty blue sky through the branches since there are no leaves in the way. The branches and twigs make a pretty pattern.”
“Oh yeah,” Willow agreed, “I can see it too, and when I look at the ground under the tree the branches and twigs make the same pretty pattern as a shadow on the ground.”
“Hey, this is neat,” exclaimed Holly, “I see what both of you mean! Plus I was noticing that the trees still have their same shapes. It was the branches and twigs that made the shape for the leaves to dress them.”
Lucia laughed, “It sounds like they’re all at the doctor’s office having a check-up. Without their leaves he can see if anything needs fixing.” They all laughed with her, then she finished, “Without their leaves during the winter the branches and twigs will be able to hold the frost and make a winter wonderland like they did last year.”
“Exactly,” then Holly mentioned, “I just thought of another pretty thing about the trees without their leaves. Their leaves made a pretty yellow carpet before they turned brown.”
“Yes,” Val agreed, “and now the leaves are making a home for some insects and will make food for the tree to grow next spring.”
Lucia prayed, “Father in heaven, thank you for making trees, and for all we're able to learn about them.”
“Yes,” added Esther, “thank you for the ability to find beauty in different ways and times.”
Nathan concluded, “Plus I thank you great Creator for the variety you made and we can see even just in these trees.”
After a date when she had not gone with them Aneko questioned, “Yoshi, how are you and Sakura’s wedding plans, coming?”
“We’re all set,” he responded. “We already have a date set for the second weekend in November, and have asked Pastor Don if he would do the ceremony for us this Saturday at 10:30 AM here in our newly remodeled garden area.”
“You two work quickly,” declared Aneko. “Is Sakura sure she just wants a small wedding and so soon? The garden doesn’t have room for very many people.”
“Of course,” he replied, “this small wedding and the date were her idea and I totally agree, because neither of us is getting any younger. Plus, we’ve found a nice house to buy near here.”
Aneko smiled and nodded at her dear younger brother.
Yoshi shared, “Mom and Dad are thrilled, even though only one of us is going to get married. They’re hoping we’ll have a boy to carry on the Suehiro name and also at least one set of twins.”
“What does Sakura think about their ideas?” asked Aneko.
He replied, “She’s glad, because she’d like to get a family started soon, since she’s already 24, and I’m glad, because I’d like the same thing. I desire for her to stay home with the children and not have to work outside the home, and she’d like it that way also.”
“I’m so glad you two have such unity!” exclaimed Aneko. “Yours will be a wonderful marriage. Mom and Dad have accepted the fact that I feel I should stay single and keep working in the restaurant. You, Sakura, and I can handle it on our own by taking turns waiting on people like we have been, now that they’ve decided to change their jobs to a morning tea room here in the restaurant where they can start conversations with people, get them talking about spiritual matters and answer their questions.”
“Absolutely!” Yoshi agreed. “I think it’s a perfect idea for them to do as a ministry. Sakura told me she’ll work here at the restaurant until just before the first child is born, and then she’ll help with bookkeeping at home if we get too busy for me to do it at the restaurant, so I can help you with the cooking.”
Aneko sighed with relief, “That should work well. We can hire a part time waiter or waitress for the busy hours for lunch and supper. This all sounds like a great plan. After your whirlwind courtship, it’s nice to slow down.”
“Positively!” concurred Yoshi.
Many moms in Pine City used an idea from the church list of doing day care for families in their church or their neighborhoods who want to keep their little ones out of public preschools and have them learn Bible stories and songs and ways to get along with others. The church provides notebooks with daily plans for them to use.
Day care moms who lived close enough to a nursing home to walk, often get written permission from their parents to take the children to cheer up the residents. The moms carried their little boombox with an SD card so the children could sing some of the songs they were learning. It really helped to cheer up the older people.
Some moms teamed with another mom or older woman with no kids at home to do day care, which is like a preschool when they use the church curriculum in those notebooks. They could rotate houses or just use the mom’s house who has kids.
With two adults they could care for more children than one mom could alone and they could divide the money earned. It would lessen the work each would have alone and give them a chance to take a little break when necessary during the day. This way the kids would never be left alone. They could team teach or each teach her own area of expertise.
When the non-church going mothers saw the difference these day care people made in the lives of their children, they started attending church and most of them accepted Jesus in a short time. Their next step was to plan and work out a way to put their child into the church school for kindergarten through third grade. As a result, the church numbers and class sizes began to grow from this idea.
Jeff, Karen and their girls were cleaning up some of the flower garden areas. Hanna commented, “The flower gardens aren't as pretty now as they were during the spring and summer.”
“Yeah,” Lisa agreed, “I liked to see the flowers blooming and the plants green.”
Jeff concurred, “I did also, but since we live in a part of the world where we can’t have flowers all year long, I guess we’ll have to accept the late fall and winter browns.”
“For me,” Christi mentioned, “The browns help me appreciate the colors even more when they come back.
Ellie remarked, “I see what you mean. It’s a good way to consider this time of year. I can accept it better this way.”
“Good thinking, girls,” Karen commended. “Plus, this time of year gives us a chance to clean up the garden areas and decide which flowers we’d like to plant next spring, or which new bulbs to plant now for some beautiful flowers in the spring.”
After working together for an hour, the garden areas looked much better than when they started.
Then after supper they studied some verses in Philippians.
Jeff instructed, “listen while I read chapter 2, verses 2b,3,14,15a, … be like-minded, have love, be of one accord, … don’t do things with strife or pride, but be humble, … Do all things without murmuring or disputing, so you may be blameless and harmless, the children of God, without rebuke, … so you can shine as lights in the world. How might these verses go with what we did this afternoon in the garden?”
The girls thought for a while, then Lisa observed, “being like-minded, loving, humble and in unity could be like the pretty flowers we mentioned.”
Hanna remarked, “Strife, pride, murmuring, and disputing could be like the weeds and dead plants we cleaned out of the garden.”
“When we got rid of them,” Ellie went on, “the area was ready for us to plant the bulbs Mom brought.”
Christi laughingly stated, “And in the spring those bulbs will shine like lights in our world.”
They all had fun laughing with her and then she clarified, “Actually, those bulbs will grow into more beautiful flowers to help light up our lives, since we all like flowers so much.”
“You are so right,” Karen agreed, “and that was a fun analogy.”
Jeff tacked on, “I liked it too. Now how can we use these verses to improve the way we live our lives?”
Lisa said, “We can do all the things that are like pretty flowers.
“Right,” continued Hanna, “and we can get rid of all the weeds and dead plants.”
Ellie added, “Then, the gardens of our heart can be ready for new flower seeds and bulbs to be planted.”
“Then,” concluded Christy, “we will be blameless and harmless children of God who can shine like lights in the world.”
Karen commended them, “Excellent job girls. We had a fun time of working and learning together today.”
Yoshi and Sakura’s wedding was everything she had ever dreamed of for her wedding, and her groom was even better than her dreams. Aneko was her maid of honor, and Tony was Yoshi’s best man. Her dad escorted her down the isle to where Yoshi was waiting. It was a small wedding, since the size of the garden limited the number of guests who could be seated.
All four of them and Sakura and Yoshi’s parents dressed in traditional Japanese kimonos in many colors with beautiful flowers, peacocks, or other birds for the women, and mountains and sea waves for the men. They were able to find inexpensive ones they could wear over and over again as they waited on people in the restaurant. Yoshi bought one for Tony to borrow since his could be used for a part time waiter in the future. Tony knew he would have no use for it after the wedding. Therefore there would be one for the part time waiter. Sakura’s mom donated hers after the wedding so a part time waitress would have one to wear.
Together, the three cousins had decorated the Japanese arbor with flowers they bought from The Garden Shop, since no flowers were blooming in the garden in November. The bride and groom would walk through this beautiful arbor after the pastor proclaimed them man and wife,
Pastor Don had been asked to include the Good News and a prayer to lead those who wanted to accept Jesus before the actual ceremony. He was happy to do it and thought it was a super idea since so many of the bride’s friends and friends of her family had come from the other city to attend her wedding. Several of them did accept Jesus! That was the icing on the cake for the newly married couple!
Instead of having a traditional Japanese wedding cake with all its sugary sweetness, for the reception, Tomo, Ami, and Aneko made yummy, nutritious finger foods like they had served to the very first church small group they had hosted at their home. This kept the reception more inexpensive and provided healthier food for their guests.
Before eating, Yoshi and Sakura gave speeches thanking their parents for all the things they had done for them as they grew up. Sakura especially thanked hers for moving to Pine City so she could meet and get to know Yoshi.
There was no bridal shower for Sakura since she knew so few people in Pine City. When the invitations were made, they included directions for gifts. The traditional Japanese gift for a wedding is cash. The people could put cash in an envelope and decorate the envelope being sure to put their names on it and their wishes for God’s blessings on the couple. This way Yoshi and Sakura could write thank-you notes when they returned from their honeymoon. They would use the money to buy whatever else they needed for their new life in their house. Yoshi had included that information in his speech at the reception.
After Timmy and Mary were asleep, Don stated, “This wedding I performed today was the biggest surprise I’ve had in a long time! I had no clues, since the young people just kept sitting with their parents until Yoshi and Sakura asked me to officiate their wedding.”
Anita remarked, “You have the best place in the church to observe things like this. From where I sit in the back row with the children, in case one needs to be taken out for some reason, all I can see is the backs of people’s heads.”
“Yes I do,” he agreed, “but this time it didn’t help, and nobody in either family said anything either. When they came to talk to me, the couple did give me a good summary of their courtship, so I think they were well prepared for marriage.”
“Very good,” she commented, “it was a delightful wedding there in the restaurant garden area. I could see they had done a lot of work changing things around to make a special place for weddings there, and I would imagine that many couples will have their weddings there in the future.”
“Definitely,” Don concurred, “when word gets out about how pretty it is, they won’t need any other advertisement.”
“For sure,” and she went on, “I liked the traditional Japanese kimonos they wore. The material was absolutely beautiful.”
Don nodded. “Indeed, and I also liked the food at the reception. I noticed that it was the same finger food they shared at the very first small group they hosted at their home.”
“Oh yes,” Anita declared, “and it was just as delicious both times. Timmy and Mary sure enjoyed it too.”
Don added, “November seemed to me a strange month for a wedding, but they explained they’d like to start a family soon since they’re both 24 already.”
“Well then,” she observed, “it was a good time for their wedding.”
Riley was leaving for Ireland on Monday on a business trip for his company. He exclaimed, “I’m so excited! I get to go to the land of my great great grandparents!”
Patrick stated “We’re excited for you too. Be sure and take lots of pictures.”
“Indeed I will!” Riley went on, “Since I’ll be there through Friday, I’ll be able to sight see all day Saturday and on Sunday morning before I fly home. I think I’ll rent a car.”
Glenda asked, “Do you think you’ll like driving on the wrong side of the road?”
“Oh, I forgot about that detail,” he answered. “Maybe I’d be better off to use the local buses. Do either of you know about places you’d like me to visit near Dublin, since that’s where the company is sending me this time?”
Patrick suggested, “Let’s look up the area on the web and get some ideas.”
“Yes,” said Riley, “this map shows lots of things to choose from in and around Dublin. It might be good to start with the National Museum of Ireland.”
“Without a doubt,” Glenda agreed, “it could give you some good historical information.”
Patrick mentioned, “Maybe you’ll be able to visit and tour a castle in the area.”
“That would be great,” replied Riley. “If I spend some time today reading about places on the web, I could compile a list and then visit a tour agency after work one day and see what they could set up for me to make the best use of my time.”
When he arrived in Dublin on Monday, it was already pretty late because of the time change. Since Dublin was a big city he spent the next four days visiting two companies each day to see if they’d be interested in buying things his company had to offer. He was able to make some good sales.
He had compiled a long list of sights to see and places to go and put stars by the best ones. On Wednesday evening he stopped at a tourist office and they helped him set up a tour for Saturday including most of the places he had starred. They did advise him to fly home Sunday morning so he wouldn’t get in so late in the evening and be tired at work the next day. He agreed and made that change with the airport. Then he managed to see a couple places on the way back to his hotel the next two evenings. One of those included a walk along a cliff with views of the ocean and Dublin.
He was tired when he arrived home Sunday in the afternoon and was glad he had taken their advice and was more rested up by the time he went to work on Monday. Then by Tuesday after supper he was ready to share his trip pictures and ministry times with his dad and mom. They were fascinated.
Ernest, Connie, Ben and Amelia and their small groups had begun a weekly meeting on Sundays at a cool or warm enough time of the day to pray for our nation. Before starting, they’d put up a sign that welcomed anyone to join them.
They would gather by the flag in a city park and begin by singing a song like “America the Beautiful,” “God Bless America,” “O God, Our Help in Ages Past,” or another song someone would choose.
After that they’d take turns reading from the Bible, verses such as the following.
1 Timothy 2:1-4, Paul exhorted that first of all supplications, prayers, intercessions and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and for all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who would have all men be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
Another person reminded them that Jesus said in Matthew 18:20, where two or three are gathered together in my name I am there with them.
One would state that God said this to Israel, but believers can pray it for their nation, 2 Chronicles 7:14, If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.
Then someone would pray Psalm 72:12,18a,19, that our leaders would deliver the needy,… the poor, … and those who have no helper.
Then they added praise, Blessed be the LORD God … who alone does wondrous things, and blessed be his glorious name for ever, and let the whole earth be filled with his glory…
A person would pray Psalm 67:1-3, God be merciful to us, and bless us, and make his face to shine on us. May your way be known on the earth, and your salvation among all nations. May the people praise you, O God, may all the people praise you.
Then they would take turns praying short prayers for the president, vice president, cabinet members, representatives and senators, judges, armed services, state and local leaders, for Israel, and any current events or issues.
At the end they always used Psalm 122:6,7, We Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. They shall prosper that love you. Peace be within your walls, and prosperity within your buildings.
Yoshi and Sakura’s honeymoon was really unique and special for them. Two days before the wedding, they were given lessons on how to live for a week or two in the RV van that Tomo and Ami had bought. During slow times at the restaurant they had all helped to cook enough food for much of the trip.
Aneko suggested, “Let’s wrap this food up in meal sized packages and freeze all of it the big freezer of the restaurant kitchen.”
Tomo added, “Then on the evening before the wedding, we will put them all in the refrigerator and it’s freezer in the van to be ready for you to leave right after the noon wedding reception.”
“On the trip,” Ami instructed, “you can take out enough for a meal and let it thaw before warming it up on the stove or in the microwave if you’re in a campground with electricity.”
Sakura responded, “Thank you so much! This will save us a lot of time, and we probably won’t even need to go shopping.”
“Yes, I thank you very much also!” exclaimed Yoshi. “Plus we thank you for the use of the RV van! It makes it possible for us to go on a fabulous honeymoon without having to spend so much money.”
They had spent several mornings with the help of Tomo and Ami planning where to go, what to see, and what route to take.
Also the evening of the day before the wedding the parents of the bride and groom separately instructed their grown children about all the things they would need to know in order to make their wedding night an enjoyable experience as they began their lives together.
After the wedding reception, Yoshi and Sakura drove from the restaurant to Interstate 25 and traveled south. After several hours of driving, they stayed in a commercial campground, where they ate a light supper. Then they enjoyed an exciting evening as a newly married couple. Both of them were thankful they had saved this experience only for marriage.
The next day they drove south on some secondary highways until they got to White Sands National Monument in New Mexico. After driving on a couple of the roads to see the white sand dunes, they continued on Interstate 10 to Benson, Arizona and found another commercial campground by suppertime.
Yoshi commented, “I really like having our own accommodations and we don’t even have to go out for supper.”
“I agree!” Sakura nodded and smiled, “And therefore, we have time to experiment with some more of the ideas both our parents gave us separately. It will help us decide and discuss which ones we like or don’t like. I’m glad we both took notes on what they said.”
Yoshi also nodded. “For sure! Mom stressed to me that we need to be open and honest with each other and only do what our spouse also enjoys whenever we make love.”
Sakura added, “Exactly, and this trip is a great way for us to be alone with each other and get to know about this important part of our lives, without having to hurry. Shall we go to our own private bedroom now my love?”
“Yes,” stated Yoshi, “I’m very ready for another evening with you, my darling!”
In the morning it wasn’t very far to Saguaro National Park. Their main interest in this park was the huge saguaro cactus growing there in abundance. They drove into the park and to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. It’s a huge museum, combined with a botanical garden, zoo, aquarium, and art gallery. They were glad for the chance to walk on the two miles of paths enjoying the flora and fauna in their natural settings. It was their first experience with cactus, and they stayed far away from those stickers. After that lovely walk, they drove back out of the park the way they had come.
Then they made their way back to Interstate 10 and drove north east to Interstate 8, which goes through Sonoran Desert National Monument also in Arizona. Here they saw more saguaro cactus and other desert plants. They turned north and followed the western edge of the monument as they enjoyed more views on the way to Interstate 10 again. This way they were able to avoid the busy Phoenix area and head west toward California.
That evening they made it to Joshua Tree National Park in California where they had reservations in the campground and it would allow meetings at their camp site. It was warm enough this far south of Pine City, so, like last night, they didn’t have to use the furnace in the van.
They arrived early enough to go to the visitor center and get all the information they needed about where to drive to see the sights and which hikes would be the best for them to take.
They found out that rock climbing was very popular in this park, but they shook their heads and Yoshi said, “There will be no rock climbing for this couple. We want to keep our bodies safe for our new life together.”
“Right!” agreed Sakura. “We just got married and we’re on our honeymoon.”
The volunteer at the desk exclaimed, “Congratulations! May God bless your lives together.”
“Thank you,” Yoshi responded, “It sounds like you must know him also, and I’m glad.”
He said, “Definitely. It’s nice to meet fellow believers.”
Since the Skull Rock Nature Trail was close to the campground, and they needed some exercise, they left the van in its camping spot and hiked the 1.7 mile loop trail. The Joshua trees for which the park is named were fascinating and not at all like any other trees. This is not surprising since they’re not really trees at all. They’re a member of the genus Yucca and are really the largest yuccas in the world.
The rocks were also totally different than any they had ever seen anywhere. They had been eroded into many different shapes and came in numerous sizes. There were some rock climbers in the area so they got to watch and understood just how dangerous that sport could be.
After a delicious supper of foods they brought with them, and another terrific evening exploring their married freedom from the restraints they had while they dated, they went to sleep early, so they could get up early and sight see, hike and get back in time to be ready for their first RV ministry time.
After breakfast they drove to the parking area for the short 0.3 mile loop Cholla Cactus Garden Nature Trail. There was not a blade of grass in sight, and there were no trees on the low mountains. It was a completely unique ecosystem, one they had never even heard of before.
Next they hiked the 1.3 mile Barker Dam Nature Trail. It was another easy loop and it was good to see the water in the lake and some vegetation growing around it. They got to see some birds flying around and small animals getting drinks out of the lake. They weren’t lucky enough to get to see any big horn sheep, though. The dam was named for C. O. Barker who with other cattlemen had constructed it to store water for their cattle. Maybe back then there had been much more grass to feed the cattle.
Next, they drove to the Lost Palms Oasis and Yoshi observed, “It was not even visible until we got close to it.”
“Right,” agreed Sakura, “I'm amazed by so many palm trees in the middle of this very rocky, hilly desert.”
Yoshi continued, “Yes, it’s a beautiful area, let’s eat lunch in the shade of these palm trees.”
Next they went to the trailhead for a two mile walk on the Split Rock Loop Trail, which went up and down and over some rocks and around a lot of strange looking rocks. If you had a good imagination you could see animal shapes or cartoon like creatures in some of the formations. It was a pleasant, quiet trail and it quickly led away from any traffic noise. Plus they were glad they got to see several bighorn sheep on this walk.
After that walk, they returned to their camp site to fix and eat supper and get ready for their first ministry time. But when they started to set up the chairs outside, the wind started blowing and there was lots of dust, so they put the chairs away and went inside out of the dust storm. They were disappointed about not having a meeting. But they didn’t stay that way for long. Instead, they turned on the music for the songs they would have sung and listened as they studied the map to plan the next part of their trip. The extra time was also put to good use as they explored some more ways they could help each other enjoy their personal times together.
The next morning they left Joshua Tree National Park after making use of the RV dump, and drove to Lake Havasu just over the border into Arizona again.
As they were driving north from there back to Interstate 40, Yoshi mentioned, “I had heard so much about how the London Bridge was moved here from London, stone by stone and reassembled at Lake Havasu. I’m glad we got to see it.”
“I am also,” Sakura agreed. “The lake is very pretty too.”
Yoshi went on, “Absolutely, and all those lighthouse replicas were very interesting to see and photograph.”
“I liked those also,” said Sakura. “I’m glad we didn’t go to all the shops in the city though.”
“Same here!” Yoshi exclaimed. “There sure were a lot of resorts and hotels, and I’m glad we don’t need to stay at one.”
Sakura emphasized, “Indeed, this van is much nicer for us! And now we're on our way to see The Grand Canyon. I’m sure it won’t be as commercialized.”
It took most of the day, but by each one eating lunch while the other drove, they arrived at the south rim of the Grand Canyon with plenty of daylight to see and photograph all the viewpoints.
Sakura remarked as they left the area, “Grand Canyon National Park is just as astounding as we had heard it was.”
“Undeniably, my dear,” Yoshi concurred, “the size is immense, in depth and width and length! Not to mention that we only saw a small part of it.”
She agreed, “True, but it was enough for me. The afternoon and early evening light was perfect today. I think we were able to get a lot of good pictures.”
He responded, “Certainly, and it was fun taking turns with the camera. What did you think about all those people riding mules up that winding pathway?”
“Incredible!” she exclaimed. “I hear mules are more surefooted than horses, but I still think I’d be afraid to trust my life to any animal on that narrow trail!”
“Same here”, he replied then after thinking he suggested. “If we do the same for supper as we did for lunch, we could make it to Flagstaff and find a commercial campground with electricity for the night, since it is at such a high elevation it will probably be cold, and we’ll need the furnace.”
“It’s a great idea, Honey,” she responded, “taking turns eating and driving worked well for lunch today.”
They reached a nice campground in time to get set up and warm, and went to bed and to sleep early after just a quick cuddle so they could get an early start the next morning to drive down Oak Creek Canyon to the little city of Sedona and the amazingly beautiful area around it.
They ate a hurried breakfast in the morning and got an early start. The canyon has a winding road so they took it slowly and enjoyed the fact that there were still many trees with fall colors since fall comes later that far south. The whole canyon has spectacular views at every turn. At the upper elevations the cliffs are mostly light colored and there are many evergreen trees. As it goes down in elevation these give way to red cliffs and more deciduous trees. They took every pull-off to enjoy and photograph the scenery and decided that Oak Creek Canyon is indeed delightful.
When they reached the valley, they also drove through each forest service campground along the way hoping to find an empty site, but they were all full. This was one of the busy tourist times of the year. Near the end of the canyon they did find a campground with one unoccupied site that had no reservation for this night and the next. They quickly grabbed it up and thanked the Lord, since they desired to spend a couple days exploring the area around Sedona since the red rocks of the Sedona area are unsurpassed!
Their first day was busy and in the evening they talked about what they had done and what they had seen. Yoshi remembered, “First we hiked to see Vultee Arch. It was spectacular with gorgeous scenery all along the way.”
“For sure,” Sakura said, “and I’m glad we didn’t try to get all the way up to it. Scrambling over rocks is not my idea of fun.”
“Nor mine either,” he agreed. “After that we walked up a road to a sink hole and then on another road which led to The Submarine, a huge red rock formation that really resembles a submarine with a green juniper and pinon pine "ocean" all around it.”
“It was really fun,” Sakura continued, “We were even able to climb up the gentle slope on one end of it and walk around on it. It truly was huge! The scenery all around and along the trail is so breathtaking and magnificent!”
He commented, “I’m glad we were able to bring the family camera along, because there are no words good enough to explain what it looks like here.”
“You’re so right,” she went on, “it’s like being in a different world, compared to the other things we’ve seen this last week. It’s so unique and greener, even though it’s autumn here.”
He declared, “And it is much more attractive and pleasing than any of the other places we’ve seen so far on this trip. To me it’s a delightful and amazing area.”
“Positively!” she emphasized. “All the evergreen vegetation goes so well with the red rocks, formations, and cliffs.”
He nodded emphatically, “Plus, when you add the autumn colors, it’s even more spectacular.”
She tacked on, “Exactly, plus the sunset was glorious at the Chapel of the Holy Cross. The rock colors got even more intense, and the way they built the chapel just fits in with the surrounding scenery.”
“Right,” then he concluded, “it was the best ending to a lovely day of seeing the sights and hiking, to be able to go into the chapel and praise our great creator there before we saw the sunset, even though it did make us too late to have a meeting.”
The next day was an interesting day. The hike at the end of Soldier's Pass Road to another sink hole was very nice. Then they drove to Red Rock Crossing and could see why it was so special. The stream and vegetation added to its beauty. Later they learned it is the most photographed scene in the area, and is the icon for Sedona.
The hike up the West Fork of Oak Creek was the high point of this day. They went as far as they could without having to wade and get their feet wet. Autumn colors were abundant in this area and they could tell the scenery would be very much like pictures they had seen of hikes up the Virgin River in Zion National Park.
They sat for a while on the rocks beside the stream and marveled at the colorful high cliffs on both sides of it. Not very far from where they sat they could see where the stream had undercut the rocks leaving them in a crescent shape like the Subway in Zion. Since the trail was at the upper end of the valley, there were rock cliffs and formations in both the whitish and reddish colors.
They got back to the campground in time to have another delicious supper and get set up for a ministry time. A few people came, and it was fun to sing and talk and answer questions. Some of them took the tracts they were offered, and promised to read them.
After and lovely evening in the van and a good night’s sleep, they left early and drove to the Petrified Forest National Park and the Painted Desert also in Arizona.
Later as they were traveling into New Mexico, Yoshi reminisced, “I liked driving in the Petrified Forest National Park and stopping at the view points for the Painted Desert area and the Petrified Forest area. The colors were fantastic.”
“Yes,” Sakura concurred, “and since the gusty wind kept trying to blow our hats away, it was easier to stay in the van. The sun was just right for taking pictures out the windows as we went around the loop.”
He stated, “Indeed, and both visitor centers were interesting. I also liked the huge petrified wood store we went in that had tons and tons of petrified wood and other gem stones and crystals.”
“So did I,” she said, “they had tables made of polished petrified wood that were gorgeous, but also outrageously expensive! The polished petrified wood is beautiful. I’m glad we bought a small piece for a keepsake.”
Yoshi added, “Same here, since we’d have no place to put one of those big tables in our house anyway. The museum section with more polished petrified wood, gemstones, and crystals was very interesting.”
“Definitely,” Sakura went on to say, “plus, the whole place was clean and tastefully displayed. They even had a waterfall and fishpond, made with all petrified wood, except for the water. They had the most beautiful “picture” sand stone slabs and there was lots of polished agate too. I got to thinking that since natural things on earth are this beautiful, just think how gorgeous Heaven will be!”
“Positively!” he exclaimed. “I look forward to living there for eternity, and we won’t even need a travel van!”
After that busy day, they made it to Bluewater Lake State Park northwest of Grants, New Mexico in time for supper and another ministry time. More people came to this one, and after a good question and answer session, several of them prayed to accept Jesus. The newly wed couple was thrilled!
After checking the weather on their laptop and looking at the map they decided they could probably make it home to Pine City the next day. There was snow in the forecast in a day or two and they thought it would be best to be home before then.
But they had one more area to visit on the way. They went to see La Ventana Natural Bridge, which is a very beautiful buff colored natural rock span in El Malpais National Monument. It's about 20 miles one way to get there from the interstate. The buff colored cliffs and formations on the left as you’re going in, and lava from volcanoes on the right make the drive worthwhile. It was extremely interesting!
After seeing it, they had an uneventful drive home by staying on the interstates until they got to Pine City. They even got home in time to unload their things and the rest of the food from the van into their house, launder the bedding and towels and clean the inside of the van. Then they took it back to the Suehiro home and told them a little about their fabulous trip and honeymoon, before going back to their new home. They had learned so much about this beautiful nation and about each other. It resulted in them loving each other all the more.
During recess, some of the church school kids shared what they had been learning about the Bible.
Today Mary, who was in kindergarten this year, joined her first grade friends, Hope, Joy, and her brother, Timmy, who were talking. She asked, “What did you learn about the Bible today?”
Timmy let Hope answer, since they were in the same classroom this year. She told Mary, “Today our lesson was about how to find Jesus words in our Bibles.”
Yes,” Joy went on, “It’s really easy, because the Bibles we use in our classrooms all have his words printed in red instead of black.”
Mary asked, “Why do they do that?”
Timmy explained, “They want to make them easier to find because all the things Jesus said are very important.”
“Oh, I see,” Mary said. “We don’t get to hold and look at real Bibles yet in kindergarten because our fingers aren’t smart enough to know how to turn the pages carefully and not tear them.”
Hope remarked, “What a nice way to say it. I remember my teacher saying it that way last year. It wasn’t meant to make us feel bad. It was just the truth.”
“Right,” agreed Joy, “our fingers just needed to learn and be able to turn those very thin Bible pages even at the beginning of first grade. It’s pretty hard to do.”
Timmy added, “Yes, it’s only been during the last month that we were able to start looking up things in the Bible. What did you learn about the Bible today, Mary.”
She answered, “We learned that the Bible is like a whole library. It has 66 different books in it!”
“Yeah,” stated Hope, “it’s a lot of books. Some are long and some are really short.”
Mary continued, “We also learned each one tells about a different part of the whole story of the Bible. Or they tell it in a different way, and that each book is important.”
“I remember that lesson,” said Joy, “it was a good one.” Just then the bell rang and they waved at each other and ran to get in line.
Romans 12:2, Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what is the good, acceptable, and perfect will of God.
In November, Maria called Anita, “I had a dream last night about being happily married to a wonderful man. It made no sense to me at all, because I thought my singleness was settled. Please pray with me that God will either erase it’s memory or make its meaning very plain to me soon.”
“Amazing!” exclaimed Anita. “Of course I’ll pray with you! I do know that sometimes God leads his children by dreams, so we definitely shouldn’t discount it.”
Maria conceded, “No, I guess not, but I don’t like being up in the air about something I thought was settled.”
“Do you remember,” asked Anita, “what you told us when you called that Saturday afternoon when you got home from lunch at the Becketts?
“I can’t remember exactly,” admitted Maria.
Anita reminded her, “You told us about your commitment to remain single if God willed, so you could give your full attention to serving Jesus.”
“I do remember now,” stated Maria, “and I hear and understand your emphasis on if God willed.”
Anita explained, “I’m only suggesting that you stay open to God’s leading. Maybe he desired to have you be single for the last period of time, and now he could be preparing you for a different season in your life.”
“I do see what you mean.” Then Maria prayed, “Forgive me, Father, for wanting instant answers and settled issues. Please help me to be open to whatever your perfect will is for me.”
Anita continued, “Thank you, Father, that you heard all we discussed and you know the answer. Help us wait patiently for you to make your will clear! May I share this news with Don?”
“Please do!” Maria exclaimed. “The more people we have praying about this the better!”
In a couple days Maria called Anita again and asked, “You don’t think that wonderful man could be Jason, do you? I’ve never been comfortable around him and I don’t see how he could be wonderful!”
“I can tell this has you upset,” Anita sympathized, “and I can’t say I blame you. Your past dealings with him have not been pleasant.”
Maria admitted, “No they haven’t and that’s why this is such a scary thought to me right now.”
“I understand,” said Anita, “but I’ve found that if I agree with God to do his will, whichever way it goes, I have less stress.
Maria paused to think. “So, I would need to agree with God to either stay single or marry a wonderful man, whoever he is, and trust God’s will to be the best way for me, even though I’m more comfortable with being single right now, and I’m scared about who the man might be.”
“Yes,” agreed Anita, “we might compare this to Jesus praying in the garden for the bitter cup to be taken away in Matthew 26:39. But he said, ‘Not as I will, but as you will.’ I know this is not even close to how troubled he was in the garden, but it might help you if you could relinquish your desires and fears and ask God to do his will.”
Maria concurred, “Your are absolutely right, Anita. Thank you for getting me back on track. Father in heaven, please forgive me again. I now give you my fears and desires and ask you to do your will for me, and please make your will very clear to me.”
“Yes, Father,” concluded Anita, “please do, and we know it would take a miracle, but you could even change Jason into the kind of man who would make a wonderful husband for Maria. May your will be done in this situation, not ours.”
That evening after Timmy and Mary were asleep, Anita shared, “Do you remember what I told you a couple days ago about Maria and her dream? We prayed about it then. Today she called again and I could tell she was upset because of worrying that the ‘wonderful man’ could possibly be Jason. Of course I don’t blame her after her past dealings with him. Maybe he has changed big time by now. Who knows? Anyway we prayed some more and then she felt better, but maybe we could pray for her some more now.”
“Sure, Honey,” he replied, “she’s a very special friend of ours and we’ll pray for the very best man for her if God does plan for her to get married.”
On a cold, windy day, Cory’s family from the farm went to visit a science museum in Pine City where there’s a room about the human body and the way it works. For several days before they went, the boys practiced some Bible verses they could quote if they had the opportunity to witness while they were there. They were looking at a display about how the eye works. Several other families were looking at it also. They all watched the short video about how the eyes function.
At the end of the video, Kevin, who is in Julie Blake’s third grade classroom this year said, “Thank you God for my eyes. In Psalm 139:14 it says, I will praise you, O LORD, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Your works are marvelous. I know that right well.”
Then the rest of the kids took turns telling facts from the Nature Corner stories they had heard at home about the human eye and the way it works, proving that only a master designer could have made something so intricate, and make it keep working.
Greg asked the group that was listening, “How many of you know this great creator personally?”
The people looked down at their feet wishing they could be anywhere else, except here, having to answer this question.
Oralie told them, “It’s really very easy to get to know him. I’m sure most of you have heard about him before. He is the Almighty God who created the world and everything in it, as it says in Acts 17:24a.
Jack, who is also in Julie Blake’s third grade class continued, “John 1:1 and 3 say, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. All things were made by him, and without him there was nothing made that was made.”
Levi, now in second grade went on, “Verses 10-12 say, He was in the world and the world was made by him, but it did not know him. He came to his own, but they did not receive him. But as many as received him, to them he gave the power to become the sons of God, if they believe on his name.”
Max, in first grade added, “The first part of verse 15 says, “The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. And verses 17 and 18 say his name is Jesus, the Son of God, and that he showed us what his father was like.”
Cory who was now in fourth grade in the public school, and had been trained in evangelism when he was in third grade at the church school, told them the Good News about Jesus and explained to them how they could have a personal relationship with God the Father through his Son, Jesus, much like some of the others in this book did.
Then Greg inquired, “Now how many of you would like to do this?”
Now they all looked at him and nodded, so he led them in a prayer like others in this book. After rejoicing and thanking God, he gave each family a booklet and explained the card and invited all of them to come to church Sunday.
Oralie gave the address and time to be there. They all smiled, said they’d be there, thanked the family for sharing the gospel with them, and everyone moved on to the next display.
The next weekend, Maria was visiting Esther at the ranch but didn’t tell her anything about her strange dream.
Even so, Esther told her about a recent conversation she had had with Ruth. “I’m so glad I didn’t give up on those strange dates when I was going out with two men at once almost two years ago. There were many points when it seemed like an impossibility to choose the best husband for me between the two of them. Staying single seemed so much easier, but if I had given up, I would have missed out on my marriage to the very best husband for me, our girls, and our home here at the ranch. Many of my dreams have come true.”
“I’m so happy for you, Esther,” exclaimed Maria. “Your perseverance paid you in rich dividends.” Then to change the subject she asked, “What can I do today to help you with your girls?”
Esther answered, “Since it’s so nice out right now, let’s take them over to the swings and push them until they’re going so high that they squeal with pleasure.”
“Yes, let’s do!” agreed Maria. “I like to see and hear them enjoying themselves.”
Later the same day, Maria went and helped Julie with the quadruplets. While they were watching the girls make mud pies in the backyard, Maria told Julie about her strange dream and what she and Anita had talked about.
Of course Julie empathized, “I can imagine how you felt when you thought about Jason, but I’m glad you were able to give God your fears and desires and then ask for his will to be done. A song just came to my mind. It’s called ‘Travel On’ and the words say something about Jesus being on your side, so he will guide you. Your fears will be gone and you will go on ‘til your journey is over and you’re home in heaven. I’ll have Ted sing it for you when he comes in for lunch. I think it’s really pretty.”
“Thank you, Julie,” said Maria. “I’m not nearly as fearful now, since I prayed with Anita. Plus I think it’s time for me to grow up and not be so easily upset about things as I have been in the past. Maybe I let the situation with Jason make me too easily worried. I’ll keep you posted.”
“Good,” declared Julie, “because I’m very curious now and also because I care so much about you, my dear friend!”
Just before lunch, Ted sang the song beautifully, and it was very meaningful for Maria. She thanked him profusely and looked the song up on the web when she got home. But she couldn’t find it. So the next time she went to the ranch, she took her recorder and had him sing it again so she could record and listen to it again at home.
The week before Thanksgiving, Karen asked her Bible Study Groups, “How many of you are still doing your Thankful Notebooks?” All hands were raised! “Good, let’s bring them next week and be ready to share a verse with some form of the word ‘thank,’ with the others in our group.”
The next week Karen started the lesson by playing the song sung by Jim Reeves, called “We Thank Thee.” She brought it up on YouTube on her laptop. The girls really enjoyed hearing it.
Then Karen shared a verse from her notebook, “I like this verse because it talks of peace and thankfulness. Colossians 3:15, Let the peace of God rule in your hearts since you were called to have peace, and be thankful.”
June was next, “I like this command in 1 Chronicles 16:34, O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his mercy endures for ever.”
Then Kim read “1 Chronicles 29:13, Now therefore, our God, we thank you and praise your glorious name.”
“I like 2 Corinthians 2:14,” continued Sara, “Thanks be to God, who always causes us to triumph in Christ, and makes the fragrance of his knowledge be shown by us in every place.”
Candy shared, “This is Psalm 75;1, Unto you O God, do we give thanks … for your name is near as your wondrous works declare.”
Stella stated, “I like Psalm 100:4, Enter into the LORD’s gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise. Be thankful to him and bless his name.”
Emma said, “This one is very short because only the first part of Psalm 50:14 works. Offer to God Thanksgiving.”
Liz read, “1 Corinthians 1:4, I thank my God always on your behalf for the grace of God which is given to your by Jesus Christ.”
Nan chose 2 Corinthians 9:11, “You are being enriched in everything to all abundance, and it causes thanksgiving to God.”
Lisa stated, “I especially like Philippians 4:6, “Don't worry, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.”
Hanna continued with, “Colossians 2:7, Be rooted and built up in Jesus and established in the faith as you have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.”
Ellie went on, “Psalm 95:2, Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms.”
Christi finished, “I liked hearing all those verses. I’ll read part of Psalm 119:62, I will give thanks to you O LORD because of your righteous judgments.”
“I liked all the verses also,” Stella agreed and then she requested, “Would you please play the song, ‘We Thank Thee’ again? I really like the words and the tune and his voice are both great.”
Karen looked to the other girls questioningly, and they all nodded, smiled, and did a thumbs up.
“Of course,” responded Karen, “I like it very much also.”
Stella and the rest of the girls thanked Karen before leaving.
One time during their three member team ministry later in November, Ruth, Maria, and Pam ran into Jason and his two partners in the inside walking mall, where they all sat on some benches and talked for a while.
Jason told the group, “Maria is the woman who explained to me the only way to get to heaven.”
She responded, “I'm glad he listened, and God brought him to salvation.”
The topic changed, and after a little more visiting, both groups went on with their ministry times.
The next week it happened again. This time Jason had asked Ruth to set it up for him. The group sat at a table. Before Maria knew what was going on, the other four left to go get something, and Maria found herself alone with Jason looking at her from the other side of the table. She sent up an emergency prayer for help to not be afraid and to respond well and that God’s will would be done.
Jason began, “I asked Ruth to fix a way so I could speak to you alone. I think Jesus wants me to tell you some things.”
“Okay,” said Maria, and gave him her full attention.
He continued, “First, I thank you so much for telling me the right way to get to heaven. I’m eternally grateful.”
“You’re welcome,” she responded. “I’m so glad it helped you to search until you found the answers you needed, and then you accepted Jesus as the way to be sure of going to heaven.”
“It definitely did help me!” he exclaimed. “Second, I want you to know that you are the only woman I have ever loved, and I’ll probably never love another one.”
Maria swallowed and tried to school her features, as she silently told God again, “Your will be done.”
Jason quickly went on, “But having said this, I also want you to know that I realized I could never be the husband you need and deserve to have. I hope I was not the cause of you remaining single and I really hope you will someday be happily married to a wonderful man.”
Maria noticed that what he had said right then was just like her dream! She let out the breath she’d been holding, looked at the sincerity in Jason's eyes, and smiled. “Jason, I feel honored and complimented by your love, even though I was not able to return it. And I thank you for the generosity of your hope for me.”
“You’re very welcome!” he emphasized. “I know I probably would have made you miserable if we had gotten married, so I’m glad you stood firm both times when I wanted to ask you to be my wife.’
Maria expressed, “I was sorry then, and I still am sorry that I had to hurt your feelings in the process, though.”
“Don’t be sorry. I understand now,” he replied, “and I know it was for the best.”
She nodded and Jason went on, “If it hadn’t happened the first time, I wouldn’t have ever realized my erroneous thinking and I would have been lost eternally. The second time caused me to realize I’d never understand women well enough to honor them and be a good husband.”
“Oh,” Maria responded, “I can understand what you mean, and I don’t think you were the cause of me deciding to remain single. I told Jesus I would remain single if he so willed, so I could serve him better. If Jesus leads me the other way in the future, I’ve told him I’ll follow wherever he leads. So far, being single has been a good decision, because Ruth and I have been able to witness to our co-workers, as I’m sure Ruth has told you. She’s told me about your ministry with your parents foster boys on the farm.”
He mentioned, “They’re good boys, and it’s wonderful that all of them are also now in God’s family.
“Yes it surely is,” Maria agreed. “I know the main reason for the ranch and the farm is to teach the foster children about Jesus, and pray that he will save them.
“Indeed it is,” he said, “and I’m glad it’s working so well. I have great respect for you, Maria, and the way you live for Jesus.”
She inclined her head. “Thank you for another compliment, Jason, and I thank you for obeying Jesus prompting to tell me these things. He has used what you said to relieve my stress and free me from my regrets about hurting your feelings.”
“Good,” he concluded, “I feel better now also.”
Maria added, “I’ve heard it said, ‘Never say never.’ I’m learning that I need to be more open to what God can do, and do what he asks me to do.”
“I wonder what that might mean for me,” he mused, not really expecting an answer.
But Maria responded, “Sometimes God surprises his children. Maybe he has a princess for you sometime in the future, one you could treat like a queen as your wife, and she’d like it…”
Jason prayed then, “Lord, if you do have one, I will be open.” Then he gave a signal that Ruth saw and the others came back to the table. After a little more visiting, the teams split up to go on with their ministries.
The next day at work, Ruth stopped in Maria’s office and said, “I hope you aren't angry with me for setting up a way Jason could speak with you alone. I would only do it after he had told me it would not be to ask you again if he could court you. He called me last night and said it went very well.”
“No, I’m not angry, instead, I thank you. It did go very well,” agreed Maria. “He was sincere and careful and I needed to hear what Jesus wanted him to say. I’ll tell you more about it during lunch.”
Ruth stated, “Great, I’d like to hear your side of it.”
While they walked up and down the stairs in the office building before eating, Maria told Ruth a good summary of the conversation yesterday and how it had helped her.
The next day Maria called Anita. “Hi, I have some very good news to share with you. Do you have a few minutes?”
“Certainly,” answered Anita, “I love to hear good news!”
So Maria gave her a longer summary of her last two meetings with Jason emphasizing the most important parts. Then she concluded, “At this point, I feel like the situation with Jason has good closure. I no longer need to regret having hurt his feelings, and he understands why it had to happen that way. We both felt better at the end. Plus Jesus graciously let me know that ‘the man’ will not be Jason.”
Anita exclaimed, “This is incredibly good news! I’m extremely glad for you, Maria.”
She responded, “Thank you, Anita. Now I’m feeling excited about the dream I had. My desire for a husband has returned, and I really like the part of my dream about him being a wonderful man.”
“For sure!” agreed Anita. “Please keep telling me your news. I like romances. We’ll keep praying for you.”
Maria replied, “I will and thank you again. Is there anything I can pray about for you and your family?”
“Not right now,” Anita answered, “but thanks for asking.”
“You’re welcome.” Then Maria said, “I’ll talk to you later.”
After that conversation Maria called Julie and shared the same information with her with the same good results.
Sunny was working in her kitchen on the farm while she listened to one of their four boys practice the piano. Each one told her when he started his turn, so she would know who was playing.
“Hugo,” she called from the kitchen, “I heard two wrong notes in the last line you played. Look at it carefully and try that line again.”
“Okay, Mom.” he replied and did as she said.
She told him, “Much better, now play it all from the beginning again, being sure to get the right notes this time.”
Hugo responded, “Thank you, Mom, I’ll do better this time.”
Sunny could hear that it was much better this time and since she was finished in the kitchen, she dried her hands and went to sit and listen as he finished.
“Good job, Hugo,” she commended him. I like to listen to each one of you play while I’m working.”
Again he said “Thank you,” and then asked, “How did you know I hit two wrong notes?”
“Because,” she answered, “I did the same thing this morning as I was practicing that piece.” They both laughed together.
He wanted to know, “Do you enjoy practicing the piano?”
“Yes I do,” she replied, “when you boys started taking lessons and I went to watch and listen so I’d know how you should practice, I learned a lot and thought I’d like to learn how to play also. But I knew I didn’t have time to go to the big house to take lessons and practice.”
He questioned, “So now you do have time?”
Sunny nodded, “Yes, when your Grandpa and Grandma Mendoza bought this piano for our family, it made much more time for me, since I could listen to you practice as I do housework. Plus your dad offered to do one of my chores for me so I could practice during the time it would take. Besides, I don’t need to take lessons, since I have learned right along with you boys. So I enjoy practicing and learning and I'm very thankful to God for working everything out so I could learn to play the piano also.”
“Thank you, Mom,” said Hugo sincerely, “for explaining to me. Sometimes I’d rather be outside playing, but I will be more thankful for practice time and I’ll thank God for the opportunity to learn how to play the piano now that I know how much it means to you.”
Riley and his parents were visiting the Anderson home and Matt stated, “It sure is nice that all three of you could be here today.”
“For sure,” Riley replied, “I like my job, but they keep me busy traveling even more often than I thought they would.”
Fiona suggested, “Maybe someday you’ll be able to write a book about all your travels.”
“I hope you will,” Matt declared, “I’d like to read it since you don’t get to come here very often and tell us about it.”
Riley responded, “I’ll think about doing it, if I ever have enough time. Where are the boys? It’s been too long since I got to see my nephews!”
Fiona answered, “They’ll be waking up very soon from their afternoon naps, and they’ll be glad to see you.”
Her dad, Patrick, stated, “I’m glad I get to see you and them on the morning you bring them to The Garden Shop. I feel very privileged to get to hold and love them sometimes for a little while when you are there.”
She smiled and explained, “You’re privileged because they’re used to you and like you. They don’t do as well with the people who are strangers to them.”
Glenda inquired, “How are they doing now when you leave them at the church nursery?”
She answered, “They’re getting better, especially when someone is in there who has been there before. Plus if Johnny doesn’t cry then Patrick doesn’t either.”
Matt added, “It helped that you had taken your turns in the nursery for several weeks before you tried leaving them there without you staying.”
“Yes, that was a good idea.” then Riley asked, “How is your job going, Matt? I haven’t gotten to ask you lately,”
Matt replied, “I still like it a lot, especially when both crews are working together on a project and I get to work with Walt. Also, I’m glad we aren’t doing the two shortened shifts a day any more. I like the regular work hours better, even though it was my idea in the first place.”
“It worked very well though, “Fiona tacked on, “when both crews were working here to finish up this house before our wedding, and when all the crews were working on the new church and school that year.”
He nodded and acknowledged, “Yes, Honey, it did! And I’m still so thankful for our lovely home being finished so soon and all the things they paid for to furnish our house.”
Just then Glenda noted, “I just heard Johnny’s wake up noises. May I come and help you?”
“Of course,” said Fiona, “thanks for the offer. Then you can bring Johnny out here to see his uncle and Grandpa while I nurse Patrick.”
Larry and Jane Kelsey called their friends, Ted and Julie, on Thursday evening as they usually did from the southern city where they had moved with a group of people to plant a church.
Larry asked, “How are things going for you and your big family there on Mercy Valley Ranch?”
“Very well,” Ted responded. “We like it here more and more all the time, and our girls continue to make good progress in school and as a family. Besides, they’re growing as believers.”
Jane mentioned, “I knew you two would do a good job with that project, and I’m so glad those quadruplets get to have such good parents and live on that gorgeous ranch. Do they still like to ride the horses?”
“Without a doubt!” Julie emphasized. “It remains one of our family’s favorite activities. In April they taught their father how to prepare and ride a horse. Plus, they still like taking piano lessons and practice faithfully every day. Ted and I do also. Now please tell us about how your church is doing.”
Jane responded, “Well just in the last couple weeks, our new church has been growing very fast. The members have each added to their lives at least one new ministry from that list of ideas, and God is adding to his church daily the ones who are being saved, just like it says in Acts 2:47b.”
“Yes,” added Larry, “Now we don’t have to keep saying like we used to so often that we have slow, steady growth. We were thankful for that growth, but this is phenomenal!”
“Excellent!” Ted exclaimed and then asked, “Where are you meeting now?”
“It’s still warm out,” Larry replied, “so we’re able to meet in the park, but it will soon be too chilly, so we're busy looking for a church with a large sanctuary we could rent for a service on Saturday or Sunday and still have room to grow.”
Julie stated, “It sounds good. We will pray that you find just the right one soon, one with a baptismal you can also use for all the new believers God is adding to your church.”
Jane continued, “Thank you. Also, the day care mothers have developed a Christian school for the kindergarten through third grade children. It’s for families who went from Pine City for the church plant and some of the new believers. Of course they’re using the church school curriculum. There’s room for more children in each of the four day care homes for new students if other new believers have some children who are those age levels and they desire a Christian education for them.”
“Terrific!” declared Julie. “Of course you already know I think this curriculum is excellent. It’s the very best way to train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it, as it says in Proverbs 22:6.”
“For sure,” then Larry prompted, “Honey, tell them about your Wednesday group.”
“Okay,” replied Jane. “I've changed my Wednesday Bible Study Group into an After School Place. Since I only had high school boys in the group and since Larry is home in the afternoons, he helps with activities the boys really enjoy. I still tell them one or two Bible stories every week, or do things like you told me William does on the farm for the boys there. It’s working out very well.”
Ted remarked, “You two have definitely helped the new church there a lot. I’m glad you followed God’s leading and were willing to sell your house in Pine City and move with the group to plant the new church there.”
“Right you are!” Larry agreed. “Things always work best when people are in the middle of God’s will.”
They closed their phone call after a time of conversational prayer.
The first week in December Tony called Ted, “I've been promoted to the daytime management position at the Fiesta Restaurante with a big raise in salary, working from 7:30 to 5:00 so the owners can semi-retire and just work from 5 PM to 9 PM. The raise covers the cost of a small van they said I’ll need for my new position. I need to take a crash course on driving, get my license, and learn about vehicle care. Would you have time to help me?”
“Of course!” exclaimed Ted. “It will be my pleasure. We’ll use my car after you get your learners permit and you’ll learn how to drive in no time. I’ll help you look for a good used van too.”
“Thank you, Ted,” said Tony. “I’m glad you’re such a good friend and you quickly understood and offered your help.”
Tony learned how to drive quickly and they found a good used van right away that had seats that would fold down allowing him to carry the things needed for the restaurant, but would also work well with passengers.
The next week, Tony’s storytelling partner informed him he’d be moving to another city in a month where he would have to find another partner. Tony would be left without a ministry. So he called Pastor Don.
“Hi, Pastor, this is Tony. Do you have time to listen and then tell me what you think?’
“Positively,” answered Don. “What’s going on?”
Tony shared, “Interesting things have happened in my life in the last couple weeks. I was promoted to the daytime management position at my job, with a generous raise that will cover the cost of a small van I’ll need for my new position. Ted Blake is teaching me how to drive and helped me find a used van.”
Don commented, “So your lifestyle is changing on a large scale, from evening hours to daytime and from walking, bicycle, and bus transportation to owning your own vehicle!
“Exactly,” Tony went on, “and on top of those things, my partner in ministry will be moving to another city in about a month, so I’ll be left without a ministry. Then from somewhere, out of the blue, my desire to be married came back very strongly. I thought I was suppose to remain single.”
Don admitted, “It does sound very confusing for you.”
“It is,” concurred Tony, “but now I do have a career that can support a wife and family and still be able to give over 10% to the Lord’s work. So what do you think?”
Don explained, “I think you could consider yourself as being very blessed by Jesus. Possibly he only wanted you to be single for the past period of time, so you could serve him with your partner in ministry that long and while you learned to be such a good manager and were promoted. Now you can let Jesus lead you to the very best wife he has for you since you can support a family now.”
Tony admitted, “Those thoughts will take some getting used to and a big change in the way I’ve been living since the time I’ve been out on my own. Will you share this with Anita and both of you pray for me that I’ll be able to see and do God’s perfect will?”
“Definitely,” Don replied, “we’ll be glad to pray. Father in heaven, you have just heard all Tony told me, and we agree together right now asking you to make your leading very clear for him as he goes through all the changes in his life now and in the future. If it is now your will for him to get married, then please send him the best wife.”
“Yes, LORD,” continued Tony, “You know I only want to do your perfect will in every part of my life, so I thank you in advance for your leading, and now that all the details are in your hands, I can be free of anxiety and trust you to lead me so I’ll have no doubts.”
Don closed, “I agree and thank you also. We pray in Jesus precious name. Amen. Tony, please keep me posted.”
“I’ll be sure to call you when I know more,” stated Tony. “Thank you so much for your time and your prayers!”
Later that day Don and Anita were watching Timmy and Mary play in the backyard. He shared, “Tony called me earlier today and asked me to share what he had said with you, so we could both pray together for him.”
When Don had finished telling her, she let out a little gasp. “You don’t suppose …?”
He almost shook his head, but responded, “Let’s not suppose anything … yet, anyway.
“But it’s so fun!” she declared and giggled.
He grinned. “I admit, it sure is fun, and I wondered the same thing, so I guess it’s okay for us to suppose, as long as we don’t say anything to either of them!”
“Absolutely!” she agreed “We’ll stay out of God’s business and enjoy watching as we pray for them.”
“Exactly!” he exclaimed and then prayed, ‘Father, thank you for making us pastors of your flock here. It definitely has it’s fun moments. Please guide these two young people to each other if that is your will, and if not, then lead them to the correct ones instead.”
Anita stated, “Amen. Your prayer said it all, Dear.”
The second Saturday in December, Joy described to her family, Roy, Sherry and Hope, “I had a horrible dream last night. You know how I’ve been bothered by the fact that Hope got to be in Timmy’s classroom all year, because I wanted to be there too.”
Her family nodded, so she continued, “In the dream I had planned for months to get to spend a day with him in his classroom. Finally Hope and I both were coming down with a cold or the flu and needed to stay home from school, but I didn’t tell Mama about me. This was my chance, and I was determined to take it. I put freckles on my right cheek with our play makeup.”
Hope put a hand over her mouth and looked down, but Joy went on, “Mama and Hope let me out at the school, and I lined up at the end of their line so I’d know which desk to sit in, but Timmy and another kid were also absent and there were three empty desks, so I just went and sat in one. So far my luck held out because it was Hope’s desk.” Joy paused for a while.
Daddy prompted, “What happened next?”
Joy shared, “By that time in the dream I was feeling very guilty, because I realized I was telling lies to so many people. Besides, it hadn’t done any good, because Timmy wasn’t even at school that day! I didn’t even know the names of the other kids in his class and I was so scared they’d find out I was just a big liar and hate me. It was awful.”
Mama nodded, “It sure would be! I’m glad this was only a dream.”
“But it seemed so real!” Joy admitted. “I managed to fake it until just before the first recess, but by then I was so scared and guilty and my nose was running and I felt hot and nauseated. So when the others went out to play I just put my head down on the desk and cried.”
Hope put her arms around her sister in sympathy, and Joy thanked her, and then told the rest. “When the teacher came to the desk, I told her the truth and she took me to the nurse’s office, where I spent the rest of the day being sick after I wrote apology letters to both teachers, my mama and daddy, and sister. At least Timmy never found out about it.”
Now Joy finally broke down and cried. It had been hard to tell about this horrid dream. Hope was crying with her by now, so Mama and Daddy had to comfort both of them.
Mama stressed, “Joy, thank you for telling us about your dream. Since it was only a dream, you’ve done nothing wrong, and don’t need to feel guilty about it.”
“Exactly,” agreed Daddy, “but it will be good to take this dream as a warning to never try deceitfulness to get what you want.”
“For sure, Daddy,” said Joy. “Instead I’ll pray that some year I’ll get to be in Timmy’s class all year for real.”
Mama prayed, “Yes, Father in Heaven, we agree with Joy’s prayer according to your will and timing, and thank you for the vivid lesson the dream taught us about truthfulness.”
Felix and Sunny asked their foster boys to tell what they learned in William’s group this week. The boys got their notebooks and used them as reference.
Luis answered, “We had a very interesting lesson this week about
The Sermon on the Mount. William began by reading the Beatitudes found in Matthew 5:3-12.”
Hugo continued, “Then he reviewed the lessons he had done earlier about salt and light and about not taking revenge, but to love our enemies in verses 13-16, 38-40, and 43-47.”
Jose commented, “He doesn’t go verse by verse, but chooses ones that are most useful to us right now. Like he summarized verses 1-4 of chapter 6 like this. Don’t give donations in order to be seen by others, but do them in secret so your Father in heaven will see and reward you,”
Sunny stated, “I like that summary. William makes it easier to understand.”
Luis added, “Yeah he does. He used a cross reference to Matthew 16:27b where Jesus said, his Father would reward every man according to his works.
Pedro went on, “He said we can use the Lord’s prayer in verses 9-13 as a pattern for our prayers, and not just say it from memory all the time. He also stressed that it is important to forgive others.”
Jose backtracked, “I just noticed in my notes, at the beginning of the lesson, William said ‘The words of Jesus are very important, and that’s why our church always buys red letter editions of the Bible with all of Jesus’ words printed in red so they’re easily found.’ I’m glad the church gave each of us boys on the farm, a Bible we get to keep from the church’s used Bibles. The boys who are in the church school have Bibles given to them in second grade.”
“Indeed,” Felix agreed, “it was very generous of them, and you boys are making good use of them.”
Sunny inserted, “In John 14:26b Jesus said that the Holy Spirit will teach you all things and help you remember whatever I have said to you. That would include all his words in red in your New Testament. But we have to read them before he can remind us of them.”
“I agree,” then Hugo concluded, “Our homework is to look up words or synonyms for some of the words in the Beatitudes and find other verses to go with them. He gave the example that poor in spirit is about the same as humble, which also means lowly. I found Proverbs 3:34b, God gives grace to the lowly.”
Pedro suggested, “Let’s do the rest of our homework right now.”
“Yes, let’s do,” agreed Jose. “We can use the concordance in our Bibles to find a good verse to go with a word from the Beatitudes, but if not we can find a synonym on the web and look for it.”
They did that and told each other what they had found.
Hugo shared, “I looked up a verse to go with comforted and found Psalm 119:76a, Let your merciful kindness be for my comfort.”
Luis said, “Meek has a lot of synonyms like patient, forbearing, gentle, humble, and so forth, but I found a verse using ‘meek’ in Psalm 25:9, God will guide the meek in judgment and teach them his way.”
Pedro continued, “For those who hunger for righteousness, I think Psalm 63:1a and 5 might work. O God you are my God. I will seek you early. My soul thirsts for you. My flesh longs for you… My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness, and my mouth shall praise you with joyful lips.”
Jose remembered, “We already had a lesson on mercy so I skipped it and did pure in heart. Psalm 24:3-5 says, Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD? Who shall stand in his holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive the blessing from the LORD, and righteousness from the God of his salvation. I think this is a wonderful promise!”
“It sure is! Very good job, boys,” commended Felix. “Now that you have finished your homework, shall we go find some other boys to join us in a game of soccer, since it’s not too cold?”
They cheered, put their Bibles and notebooks away, and went outside with him.
Jason likes to start conversations with the person who is next to him at the rec center as they are on exercise bikes and then get him talking about spiritual matters.
One Monday evening Jason asked the man next to him, “How did your day go for you today?”
“It was awful,” the man stated, “I can’t remember when I’ve ever had such a bad day.”
Jason questioned, “What happened?”
He answered, “I couldn't find the things I needed to take with me to my job, so I was late to work and without things I needed. They docked my pay, of course, and I’ll have bad remarks on my annual review because I wasn’t able to complete part of my work.”
“Oh,” sympathized Jason, “that would be awful.”
The man continued, “I had to skip lunch since I didn’t have time to make one and I have such a short lunch hour I couldn't go out to eat. It probably didn’t hurt me, because I could stand to lose some weight, but it added to my stress.”
“I’m sure it did,” acknowledged Jason.
The man went on, “Then on the way home the police pulled me over because one tail light on my car wasn’t working. My billfold was one of the things I couldn't find this morning, so I couldn't show him my drivers license. He said he could give me a ticket for driving
without a license, but he was merciful, followed me home and gave me time to go inside, find it, and show it to him. Then he told me to get the light fixed as soon as I could. I was definitely relieved.”
“For sure,” then Jason mentioned, “it was very nice of the policeman to be merciful. The God I serve is also merciful. If I got what I deserved for all the sins I’ve committed, I would have no hope, but he sent his only Son, Jesus, into the world to live a perfect life and then be the sacrifice needed to pay for all my sins and the sins of all the other people in the world. When I realized that I needed to have that payment to take care of my sins, I confessed them, asked for forgiveness and accepted Jesus to be my Savior. Have you asked Jesus to be your Savior?”
The man stopped his exercise bike and almost got off to leave, but he reconsidered and started peddling again.
He admitted, “You are the fourth person to ask me the same question within the last week.”
“Wow,” declared Jason, “I’m glad so many people are interested in your eternal welfare. God loves you and has sent these people to you to give you several chances to think about this issue. But if you keep saying ‘no’ by walking away or ignoring or brushing it off, he will eventually stop and let you go the way you want to go, on your own. Do you have any questions, or would you like to talk about what is holding you back about the question I asked you?”
“Yeah,” he answered, “I have loads of questions, but I don’t think anyone would want to take the time to answer all of them.”
“I want to answer them!” exclaimed Jason. “If you will meet me here on alternate nights to exercise, I’ll be glad to spend the time we exercise to answer your questions.”
The man smiled for the first time all evening, looked at his watch, and said, “Okay, I usually peddle for half an hour, so I’ll be here on Wednesday at the same time we started today.”
Jason replied, “Good, I’ll see you then.
The man came faithfully for many sessions and Jason was able to answer all his questions and more fully explain the Good News to the man who finally accepted Jesus as his Savior, praise the Lord.
Amelia and Ben were helping their parents put up the Christmas tree after supper one evening.
Connie observed, “It seems a little strange for us to put up an artificial tree, when we’re selling potted trees at The Garden Shop.”
“True,” Ernest responded, “but we have almost too many trees in our yard already, and that’s why we’ve been using this tree for years.”
Ben stated, “I like this tree. It brings back a lot of memories. Plus, it’s still in very good condition.”
“I like it also,” agreed Amelia. “the only thing I miss is the fresh smell of evergreen, so I bought one of our beautiful garlands made with fir tree sprigs. Where shall we put it?”
Connie suggested, “How about on the mantle of the fire place where we can see it and it can spread its fragrance all over this room?”
“Perfect,” stated Ernest, “I admit I’ve missed that aroma at other Christmas times, so I’m glad you bought one, Amelia.”
“Indeed,” Ben declared, “this will be a hundred times better than the can of pine spray we bought one year!” The others nodded.
Amelia and Connie put the fir garland on the mantle and enjoyed its looks and odor. When they got back to the men and the tree, they could see it was all put together and was lit up with its preinstalled colored LED lights.
Amelia remarked, “It looks so pretty, even with only the lights and they make it more fun to put on the rest of the decorations.”
“I agree,” and as Connie opened the two big clear plastic storage bins she observed, “We probably have enough decorations for three trees in these boxes!”
“Terrific,” applauded Ernest, “we can use some of them to decorate the fir garland so it won’t feel left out of the fun.”
“Exactly,” and then Ben proposed, “Maybe if or when Amelia and or I get married we can take a few of these decorations with us to our new homes and enjoy the memories they’ll bring.”
“Brilliant idea!” exclaimed Connie. “Please remind us when the time comes for either of you.”
Ernest questioned, “Do either of you have something to tell us?”
They both laughed and shook their heads.
Ben explained, “I still need to get established in my career before I can even start looking.”
“And I,” Amelia shared, “just don’t feel ready yet.”
Connie smiled and stressed, “There’s no hurry for either of you. You know you’re welcome to stay here as long as you like.”
Ernest nodded and their two children thanked them and gave them hugs.
The next nice day in December, Hope suggested, “Let’s play a funny game Joy and I made up today. If you’re in the same classroom this year as somebody else in this group, go stand by that person or those people.”
They did what she said to do and then Timmy asked, “What do we do next?”
She instructed, “Look at each one and say, “I’m glad we were in the same classroom this year. I liked it.”
Next Joy said loudly, “This year is almost over and in January we all move up one grade and will probably be with different people.”
“So,” Hope stated, “Everybody join hands in a big circle and say together, ‘Let’s get together again during recesses if we can next year.’ Some of us might not be able to next year.”
Joy directed, “Each one should bring a new friend and introduce everyone. Now let’s sing that song about meeting new friends and keeping the old ones.”
They all sang vigorously and swung their hands back and forth.
At the end of the song Hope told them, “Now drop hands and look at the back of the person on your right and all of us start walking on the count of three. One, two, three!”
The circle moved smoothly to the right until Joy had them stop, face the center of the circle, look up, and say loudly, “Hurrah for friends!”
Then the bell rang and they all ran to get in the right lines.
As they ate lunch on a Friday Maria mentioned, “I decided to take a few days off from my plan to read through the Bible and concentrate on the story of Christmas.”
“Amazing!” stated Ruth, “because I’m doing the same thing! I haven’t reached the Old Testament prophecies about Jesus birth yet, but I have noticed that Matthew refers to some of them.”
“For example?” Maria asked.
Ruth responded, “Like after the angel told Joseph to not fear, but take Mary for his wife, Matthew 1:22,23 say, Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled what was spoken of the Lord by the prophet saying, ‘Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.’ I’m sure the scripture helped to relieve his fear.”
“Without a doubt,” Maria agreed, “and I remember later in chapter two when the wise men came to find the new king, Herod demanded the chief priests and scribes to tell him where Christ would be born. They answered in verses 5 and 6, In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet, You, Bethlehem in the land of Judah are not the least among the princes of Judah, for out of you shall come a Governor who shall rule my people Israel.”
Ruth remarked, “Right, both sets of verses are good ones. The prophecies were fulfilled and help make the story more believable.”
“Exactly,” Maria went on, “and it reminds me of 2 Peter 1:20,21, Know this first, no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy did not come in old times by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. Therefore what they said was truth.”
“Positively,” agreed Ruth, “and those verses go well with the story in Acts 18:24-28, where Aquila and Priscilla taught Apollos the way of God more perfectly and then in verse 28, he convinced the Jews mightily in public showing by the scriptures that Jesus was Christ, or the Messiah.”
Maria looked at her watch and observed, “Our lunchtime went so fast today, but we’ve had a very good Bible study along with it.”
During the latter part of December, Karen and William used many of these verses in discussions with their Bible Study groups on Mercy Valley Ranch and Farm.
Vern, Lora, and Mindy took an RV trip to Guadalupe Mountains National Park in Texas and Carlsbad National Park in New Mexico during the school vacation at the end of December and beginning of January. Some of their friends who had been there before, shared with them what they thought would be the best order to see things in the area that were worth seeing.
So they had made reservations at some of the campgrounds ahead of time and hoped to find a dispersed camping site in another place.