This guest blog was written by Rick Tucker of University Covenant Church
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. (James 1:22)
My first trip out of the country was an all-expense paid trip to Afghanistan courtesy of taxpayers and the U.S. Army. While I was there, I spent a lot of time reading the Bible and going to study groups led by Army Chaplains. I remember one series very well. We studied the book of James. The chaplain started the series off by explaining to us soldiers that he saw the book of James as "the gospel in boot leather." That made sense to us. We all knew a lot of politicians and pundits who talked about supporting troops and saving the Afghan people from oppression by the Taliban but we were the ones there, "in our boot leather", taking risks and trying to make it happen.
A couple months ago I was able to experience the "gospel in boot leather” when my short term mission team was hosted by Tommy and Mandi Bottoms at New Life Homes (NLH) in Swaziland.
|Tommy, Mandi, and guest blogger, Rick Tucker.|
The book of James can be controversial because it spends so much time talking about deeds rather than simply relying on the faith that Paul described in Romans. But, when we visited Tommy and Mandi, I came to a richer understanding of what James described. James wrote, "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in the their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." (James 1:27) While visiting NLH, I felt as if I had walked into the manifestation of James 1:27.
|Evaluating goats for parasites.|
|Installing a new mini-greenhouse in the nursery.|
If you're reading this, you probably already know about NLH so I'm not going to describe it to you here except to say that it is A LOT more than what you imagine it to be. The NLH staff have a tremendous responsibility. It caused stress for me to just contemplate it, and they do it every day – it’s their life. They are running a commercial farm, a primary school, a children's home, a ministry and a variety of other things all at once. Any of those things is a challenge but they do them all.
|Teaching at the on-site primary school.|
The kids at NLH are a blessing. Each has special gifts from God that we were able to unwrap a little and see during our visit. I thank God that Tommy, Mandi, Peter and Mary Jean Kopp and Tiersa Chaffin have sacrificed the comforts of home in the U.S. to minister to these children in rural Africa. Hearing the children's stories broke my heart and I can't imagine what could have happened to them without NLH. Their gentle spirits touched my heart in a way I did not expect and as I sit with my four children, at home, I thank God for creating and calling such dedicated people to care for 42 children at NLH.
|Spending quality time with kids.|
It's not just the children that depend on NLH. People from throughout the community have jobs and training because of the opportunities provided by the farm. I met people who had previously worked on the farm and now ran their own farms where they successfully support their families. People ranging from community members to government officials could not stop heaping praise on NLH. Nobody could do all that they do without relying on God and receiving His blessing and they do it with grace and humility. What they do at NLH, their "deeds", demonstrates a deep faith in God. It encouraged my faith to see their actions and still motivates me when I reflect on it.
|The short term team, long term team, children, and house mothers.|
Please keep all the NLH missionaries in your prayers. They need it. God called them to a big job that makes a huge difference and they have willingly answered that call. Please pray for God's daily guidance of the farm so that they can continue to support the children. Please pray for the generosity, of people who hear about NLH, to support the financial needs that are not being met by the farm's output. Most of all, pray for the people of NLH, the missionaries, the children and the employees to feel God's love and encouragement as they go through their daily lives, that seem routine to them but are so extraordinary to me. My visit to NLH was a life changing and faith growing experience. I pray to someday have the kind of faith that produces such sweet fruit (and vegetables... and honey... and eggs... and poultry... and pork... and beef) as I saw during my short visit.
Thank you NLH for answering God's call. You are special people.
Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:9)