Easter Greetings from Roberta

 

Capetown, S.Africa.  The elephant made         of beads.=If you’ve never been,put it on your bucket list – it’s AMAZING!

Capetown, S.Africa. The elephant made of beads.=If you’ve never been,put it on your bucket list – it’s AMAZING!

Dear Friends and Family of Roberta in Malawi,

It is Easter Sunday, 2014. I am house-sitting for friends, luxuriating in the exquisite beauty of Bach’s Mass in B Minor, and pondering God’s great blessings as I celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ this day. In a parallel way, I too have been brought back from the dead-end life I lived for so many wasted years. A shallow, selfish life – foolishly, blindly thinking I was the master of my destiny, and cutoff from the Source of true and abundant Life. Like a two-year old, full of arrogance, I was convinced I didn’t need or want God and I could “do it my own self!” Through many painful lessons, mostly of my own making, God has brought me to a place of humility and recognition that without Him, I am nothing, and can do nothing that will matter in With Him, I can do all things in His Strength – in LOVE – the only thing that has any lasting merit or significance in this life. “And they will know we are Christians by our LOVE – not our judgment, opinions, doctrines, self-righteous, finger-pointing dogmas – but by the unconditional LOVE of Jesus expressed in Word and Deed. I still have a long way to go. I still falter and fail, but “I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” Today I remember, and thank God from whence I have come and his grace to me. God said it when He sent his Son to earth to show us. The Beatles said it centuries later, to those of my generation – All you need is Love.

Forgive my long silence these past months. So much of what I do at work involves writing and editing, that I seem to be out of words when it comes to my own, personal writing. You will discover that I have more than made up for several newsletters-worth in this one!

I am alive and well, and loving what is now more than 2 ½ years in my Malawian home, serving the most vulnerable through the integrated programs of World Relief, teaching them to combat the spirit of poverty -to live purposeful, Spirit-filled, hopeful lives – lives of 180 degree transformations. I have seen lives changed in ways that could only have come from a loving God who makes all things new. Now those lives are in turn, blessing others as they have been blessed!

In and through my time here, I have experienced unspeakably sorrowful events, like the father carrying his 8 yr. old son who flagged us down on our way back from the field. The father had reached the “main” road after carrying the boy over 3 miles. We dropped them off at the hospital another 3 miles further. Fifteen min. later, the boy was dead. I was shattered.

I have also experienced joy of incomparable dimensions as I witnessed the death to life experience of a 35 year old mother who had AIDS and would have died but for the loving kindness of Christian neighbors who took it upon themselves to love on her and her family after the husband died of AIDS and she was also exhibiting the same symptoms. After being tested positive for the killer virus, she joined the support group who taught her to live POSITIVELY despite her status, and she now serves other women, encouraging them to be tested and to access life-saving meds. She owns her own produce business, supports her immediate and extended families, and teaches her sisters how to keep bees so they can do the same. Her smile and gratitude are enviably unbounded and infectious. These events, multiplied countless times over the weeks and months are now the essence of my everyday life, repeated over and over. I still don’t have a handle on how to handle these disparate emotions, but I do know that in each case, God has a plan far beyond my intellectual comprehension, and is that which lies in the area of FAITH, not sight.

Since August I have “adopted” a young woman and her baby daughter, now 17 months old – Matilda and Jasmine who were homeless and hopelessly on the streets after Matilda’s cousin threatened to kill her baby out of jealousy. God, literally and unmistakably put her in my path, and said “This one.” She and I have become very close, and Jasmine now calls me Gogo (Malawian Grandma). I am so privileged to see them both grow and blossom with a few dollars and lots of love. Please pray for them as I get ready to leave for the US on May 20th for 7 months while I take my furlough. It will be difficult for us to say goodbye, but am trusting that the same Father who brought us together will sustain them in my absence.

I had originally planned my departure for June 21st, but recently found out that the colon cancer, for which my Dad had 2 surgeries in Nov. and Dec. 2012, has now resurfaced on his liver. To all appearances, he feels and looks good at almost 90. He, and us kids, has agreed to minimal intervention that he might live out his days enjoying himself and his family for as long as God permits. We have plans to attend my eldest nephew, Sebastian’s graduation from pilot training from Vance Air Force Base in early July, followed by a week’ family vacation in our beloved Colorado near Estes Park. Then in early July, my dear Uncle and Aunt have arranged for a Nagel Family Reunion/multiple Birthday celebrations at a lovely house on the beach in Hilton Head, SC – Uncle Don recently turned 80, Aunt Joyce will be 80 July 26th , a day later I will turn 60 and Dad will be 90 in late Sept.!!! We have much to celebrate and are so thankful for all these years together. Please pray for wisdom for medical decisions and precious times as family-for healing and the peace to accept with grace, that which God deems best.

In conclusion, I will make every effort to see each one of you on my trip to the US. I plan to return to Malawi for another, as yet, undetermined period, as it is now very much my “home.” You can always contact me at rnagel@wr.org .

Below are a smattering of recent photos. Pictures DO paint a thousand words.

You are all so dear to me and I can never tell you or thank you enough for being a part of my life. Please write and let me know how to specifically pray for you.

He is RISEN Indeed!

 Much love,

Roberta

Young girls taking a break from carrying firewood on their heads.

Young girls taking a break from carrying firewood on their heads.

Refugee woman making basket from sisal plant.

Refugee woman making basket from sisal plant.

My friend Lazaro with his Mom and Dad. Hopefully he will be going to the US later this year have several plastic surgeries.

My friend Lazaro with his Mom and Dad. Hopefully he will be going to the US later this year have several plastic surgeries.

 Jasmine and Gogo

Jasmine and Gogo.

muddy road

 

2014 Justice Conference Speaker Videos Now Available.

Did you miss The Justice Conference 2014 in L.A.?

Did you attend and can’t wait to share the speaker videos with your friends?

Good news!

All 2014 speaker videos are now available to watch free on our website! Be sure to check out videos from past conferences, as well, and learn about justice from some of the world’s foremost thinkers, theologians, and leaders in the biblical justice movement.

http://www.thejusticeconference.com/videos2014.html

ReDiscovering Lent-April 17

April_1717 April – Matthew Soerens, Church Partnership Team

John 21

In their last post-meal conversation, Peter pledged his unwavering loyalty to the Lord. A few hours later, he had denied three times that he even knew Jesus. In John 21, Jesus has been resurrected and He asks Peter three times: “Do you love me?”

Three times, Peter insists that he does and, three times, Jesus replies, “Feed my lambs… Take care of my sheep… Feed my sheep.”

The triplicate nature of Jesus’ question may be a reference back to Peter’s three denials, but I also wonder if Jesus repeated and rephrased his instructions to challenge Peter to think broadly about what His words meant. If you love me, He tells Peter, you’ll also love, care for, and feed my sheep. “My sheep,” from the one who identifies Himself as the Good Shepherd (John 10:11), clearly refers to His followers but what do “feed” and “take care of” mean?

For Peter, whose name Jesus bestowed upon him because he was to be the rock upon which Jesus’ church was built (Matthew 16:18), this care and feeding certainly implied spiritual nurturing. He could show his love for Jesus by providing discipleship and pastoral (shepherd-like) care to God’s fledgling church.

But the repetition and rephrasing might also suggest that Jesus’ charge to Peter was broader and more holistic. Maybe He actually meant that Peter would need to feed some people—because not all of God’s people had enough to eat. Indeed, Peter and the other disciples later appointed deacons to ensure that the vulnerable widows among them—of all ethnic backgrounds—had enough to eat (Acts 6:1-7). “Taking care” of Jesus’ flock might have meant equipping Jesus’ followers to feed themselves, ensuring economic opportunity. It might have meant speaking out against unjust systems that limited God’s people from flourishing.

Such feeding and caring for Jesus’ sheep would be costly. Jesus made clear that Peter would, ultimately, give his life in the process of feeding and caring for Jesus’ flock but he beckons him just the same: “Follow me!”

Millennia later, Jesus’ flock is more scattered and more diverse than ever before: there are still Christ-followers in Jerusalem and the Middle East, but tens of millions more in Africa, Asia, Latin America, Europe, and North America. Still, I believe Christ’s call to us this Lent is the same costly invitation he made to Peter: “If you love me, feed and care for my sheep.”