Deane's Blog

Cold and Hungry

Deane Watters7 Comments

Note: Last week my husband and I (and three others) returned from 13 days in Mozambique, Africa, on a mission to bring food, blankets, and encouragement to the people still suffering after a devastating cyclone in March. For the next few weeks, I plan to share with you some of my memories from that trip. As you read my reflections, I hope you find them to be interesting and informative. Perhaps God will show you a bit more about how He works through His people in this amazing but complex world.

On March 14, 2019, Tropical Cyclone Idai hit Mozambique with a deadly fury. The people were warned of the coming storm but many scoffed at the idea until the winds started and the devastation began. Trees swayed and uprooted while tin roofs detached and became massive projectiles as dangerous as the storm itself. People living in mud houses found their walls melting and everything inside violently being whisked away. Every person feared for his/her life. They screamed out prayers, begging for relief. After the first surge, all became quiet so they thought it was over. But soon the next stage began, more intense and deadly than the first. They all thought they were going to die.

We knew about this cyclone. It played a monumental part in our decision to travel there. Leaders told us that the people were still hungry and cold. Their babies still needed blankets. Many were still waiting, living in camps hoping that homes could be built for them. Hunger was still crouching at many doors.

Reaching out, we asked people in our churches, along with family and friends, to help us gather money to buy bags of rice and blankets to be distributed by us, directly into the hands of those in need. We couldn’t feed them all but we could offer a bit of relief to the people of the church and the mission of Children’s Relief International, who is doing dynamic work in that area. People were generous! The thought of these already very poor people still in need after four months, moved many of us to share from our abundance. We raised $16,000 and could only thank God for stirring people to be generous toward those who have so little and have gone through so much.

Early in our visit, our team leader gathered a group of workers (Activistas) to let them tell their personal cyclone stories. These dear people work with Project Life, in the mission with Children’s Relief International. They gather regularly to study the Bible, pray and sing out their praises and then walk into the villages. They visit the homes of the 130 moms with new babies, making sure the babies are thriving, to pray over them, and to get help if it is needed. Over 370 widows with AIDS who live in the villages are also faithfully visited, ministered to, cared for and prayed over by these faithful workers. Prayer permeates this work. And these prayers are always accompanied by energetic dancing, clapping and praising.

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At our little gathering the stories began:

Everyone suffered, they said. No one was safe. All feared for their lives. All cried out.

“Our house was destroyed,” Laurinha told us.

Maria spoke quietly, “No one got through this cyclone with nothing to complain about.”

Manuel gently reflected, “When you are with God you don’t only win. You lose also. Everyone was wondering, “How am I going to survive?” We started singing God is great. He protected our lives. If it wasn’t for Him we’d all be dead. We are thanking God we are still alive.”

Confidently Elisa commented, “Only God takes care of us. There is no one else.” Only her roof was destroyed and she praised God for that.

Adelina whispered, “The Lord is my Shepherd. He takes care of us. I thank God I am alive and I got a new house.”

Joalina emphasized that everything is in God’s hand. “What is impossible for us is possible for God. He protected us.”

Our team was amazed. Each of these godly faithful workers started their stories with some form of “I thank God because…” So much faith. So much love and praise for the God who sees, knows and loves His people.

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After listening to the stories we celebrated God’s goodness with prayer, praise, cookies and bottles of pop! We gave these lovely people crosses made by Bob from our church. Each woman was gifted with a piece of donated jewelry and the men received ties donated by a neighbor of mine. We finished up by personally handing each of them a quilt made by the women at First Lutheran church here in Cedar Rapids.

What an afternoon.

Cyclones hit. Death is feared. Hunger sets in. But God is bigger than all that. He allowed these people an afternoon to voice their stories and receive a few gifts. It didn’t change anything but a bit of joy was felt and a huge amount of praise and thanksgiving resounded.

1 Corinthians 16:14 Let all you do be done in love.

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God Is With Us: Here And In Mozambique

Deane Watters7 Comments
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Psalm 42:2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?

Sometimes we think that to meet God we need to go to a place where he is. That might be a church or while we quietly sit with our eyes closed. But yesterday I stood at the side of an Iowa road looking out toward a country cornfield. I was taking pictures and listening to conversation when it came to me that I could look and listen for God right there. I could let go of my own thoughts and actually be more aware and welcoming to him in the moment in which I was standing. I quieted myself and welcomed him to my thoughts. A bird chirped. The sun warmed my shoulders and I swatted at a nasty fly biting my leg. Breathing in, I scrunched up my nose, realizing that the dust from the road hadn’t quite settled. As I took in green fields of newly forming corn, clouds in a gentle blue sky and ditches filled with grasses swaying in the breeze I warmed at the idea that God was right there with me, enjoying my attentiveness to him.

I breathed a simple prayer. “Thank you, Father God. Thank you for being here. Thank you for loving me.”

I felt seen. I wasn’t asking for anything. A gentle remembering was nothing big but a quiet yes to his desire to be sought and known.

In two weeks Brian and I are traveling, for the third time, to Mozambique, Africa. Our mission is similar to our past trips only this time the people are in more dire circumstances. In mid-March a powerful cyclone hit dead center on the mission project in Dondo, the city where Children’s Relief International has focused its work. Many people were left with nothing: no home, no food, no clothing, no money. Our latest report was that people are cold and hungry. How are we to meet people who have suffered so? What can we say to them?

I think that when we stand peering into the beautiful brown eyes of sick, cold, and hungry people, I know I can pray in the very same way I prayed at the side of that Iowa cornfield. Stopping for a moment, I can invite the Holy Spirit to help me live that moment more fully by thanking him for being with us and for being in that desperately needy place. Perhaps I would feel the same hot sun on my arms and breathe in the similar dusty air. Hearing tropical birds or the voices of children playing everywhere would probably make me look up only to see crude mud huts with gaunt barefooted people standing and watching us as we walk through. I could whisper a prayer recognizing the desperation they must feel and remember that he is right there with them and us. He’s not off somewhere attending to more important things. He is listening. He is feeling the desperation we all feel when people suffer. He, himself, has suffered greatly.

Lord, listen to Your children praying,
Lord, send Your spirit in this place;
Lord, listen to Your children praying,
Send us love, send us pow'r, send us grace!

And I would add, Send us food, send us blankets, send us an assurance that you are with us.

And that is what we are going to do. We have gathered thousands of dollars with which to buy bags of rice and blankets to feed and comfort hundreds of weary people.

I imagine there will be moments in those two weeks when I will not want to be fully present in the moment. Rushing through and getting to the end of the day might be easier than witnessing and entering into the suffering of some of God’s precious people. But I’m going to do my best to stay attentive, to not numb out, to feel every moment. Because it is then and there I will enter into the suffering of Jesus, by actually feeling his agony for these beautiful people.

Would you pray with me that God would use our team to bring a sliver of encouragement and a boatload of truth to the Mozambicans we encounter? Pray that we will do as our team verse says: Let all you do be done in love. (1 Corinthians 16:14)

  • love - when Brian preaches on Sunday mornings

  • love - when I talk to women’s groups

  • love - when our team leader pours out her heart about the beauty of Psalm 139 and God’s love and care about every detail of every life

  • love - when one by one we lift a bag of rice and place it in the arms of a hungry man, woman or child

  • love - when we sit and hold the hands of widows who have lost husbands to AIDS and who themselves suffer as a result - we need God with us.

  • love - we will need tongues that bring the fires of the hope of the gospel and the encouragement of the Holy Spirit along with our rice and blankets.

At any given moment we can turn our minds and hearts toward God, the one who has compassion as a mother for her children, who stands as a shepherd guarding his sheep, as a Father who runs to welcome all who come home and as a Savior who weeps over lost cities. He promises relief and a place where there will no longer be any suffering, peace that is unbelievable, and hope that keeps us all stepping into the moments of our days with faith, hope and much courage.

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The Richest of Food

FaithDeane WattersComment

On this gray rainy morning I read in Luke that at daybreak, Jesus went out to a solitary, secluded location, perhaps in the nearby desert. I picture him sitting outside somewhere just a ways out from the town and all the people he loved, the ones he came to serve. He was in the midst of an exhausting but powerful ministry and it must have felt overwhelming at times. But he knew himself and he knew what kept him going. Time away from his work talking and being with His Father seemed to be an important part of Jesus’ ministry.

Just the night before, he had attended to all those who had been brought to him who were sick. He laid his hands on them and they were healed. With great compassion he had rebuked demons and commanded with authority that they be silent. He must have spent every ounce of strength that night. But the next morning, early, he found a quiet place to replenish his soul.

I can feel an overwhelming exhaustion at times. Not necessarily from being out in ministry like Jesus, but just from living. From listening and talking and writing and doing the work I’m called to do.

But this morning I come to my quiet place, groggily listening for the birds who are greeting the day and noticing that a gentle breeze is sifting through the emerging leaves in the tree tops outside my window. The raindrops are splashing on my little deck offering their quiet plopping, doing what they do, nourishing and replenishing the land.

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I am here in my quiet place feeding my soul, by remembering the hope I carry and by welcoming in my Father God. This gift of faith sits in my chest and I cherish it, longing for it to grow, to matter, to comfort and reassure me when the internal battle gets loud and threatens to overpower the growing seed of faith deep inside.

The loudness of the world can squash the deeper things that matter. It makes a way for numbness and fear. But coming to this quiet place I am reminded, once again (will I ever be free of the need?) that my Father sees and knows all, is with me, and wants me to be me. My weariness is born of my continual need to be reminded and assured. So every day I come and feed on the richest of food, the kind that nourishes my soul. In Psalm 63 David says, that in the midst of remembering and praising God, he will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods. Worship fills up the empty places that threaten to starve us and render us as passive, broken, or unusable vessels.

But there is this quiet place that draws us and allows us to come empty, worried, and unsure, to open the door on a full-flavored feast ( do you smell a roast beef baking?) a place to sing in the shadow of His wing and a strong right hand to hold us warmly to himself. Here. Today. Now.

If you are one who longs to “eat and be satisfied,” I encourage you to pick up your Bible, turn to Psalm 63, Romans 8, Ephesians 1, or the book of John and begin your feast. Write down a few words that seem to call out to you. Let them simmer for a bit. Prepare to be satisfied!

be rooted in the moment of now

Deane Watters7 Comments
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My husband and I have lived in our present house for 25 years. During that time my husband has planted and grown some memorable flowers in our garden and along the back fence. He has done wonders with lovely day lilies and evening primroses, gentle wild geraniums, multicolored zinnias and the huge purple clematis blossoms that climb up the white trellis lining the walkway from our garage to the back porch. But in those 25 years I have never once picked a bouquet of peonies. I mean, they have been there but the bushes are small and the blooms open quietly in early June and before I know it they are drooping their heavy floppy heads and I’ve basically just forgotten or ignored them.

Maybe I disregarded them all these years because they are small bushes and have never even come close to the bushes I remember on the farm where I lived with my family during my elementary school years. The house was old and unpainted but, in contrast, every June the gigantic peony bushes, probably 4 or 5 of them would burst into bloom and become a beacon of outrageous beauty all along the front of the house…the first thing you’d see as you drove up the lane. Their image has stayed in my memory for these many years.

But the peonies here have not been quite as spectacular. They’ve been small but, to give them a bit of credit, they have bloomed! Sometimes only one lone flower has popped up and out but before I know it, she finds herself bent over, her lovely head touching her toes, covered in dirt. And I missed her.

On Instagram @mamawatters encourages us to “be rooted in the moment of now.” And it makes me wonder what I am missing today because I’m sending my roots everywhere distracted by many things like Martha getting ready in the kitchen while Mary sits at Jesus’ feet. Mary had no worries about food or preparations. She was rooted in the moment and drinking in the tangible, heavy, presence of Jesus.

I’m sure Martha was listening from the kitchen, as she boiled the couscous, gathered up olives and chopped tomatoes. As she wiped up the table you can be sure she heard snippets of Jesus’s words. But her irritation and distraction kept her from taking them in, savoring them, or letting them go deep. She missed much because she was too busy to make the moment matter and fully find the treasures it had for her. I don’t know about you, but I can relate.

Not noticing or being too busy to pay attention to my peony’s meager offering, is small stuff compared to not sitting at Jesus’ feet. But is it really? What other ways has Jesus been present that I have let pass because I had to get supper on the table? What surprises have I not recognized as meant for me?

Stopping to take in even a sip of the beauty he has given, is like sitting at his feet and breathing in his wisdom for this moment . It’s like hearing his voice and opening the door. It’s like settling by quiet waters, knowing he is near.

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For some reason, in this peony season, I stopped. I noticed those sweet bushes in the back yard and I ran out with my knife and captured a few for our breakfast table. Every day I have been feasting on them, finding joy in their simple presence and embracing them as one (of many) tangible ways God has expressed his love for me.

May we all be rooted in the moment of now and not miss the unique ways God reveals himself in the beauty he has planted all around us. Whether it be that butterfly floating around a flower, the blue sky with puffy white clouds, or a shy little goldfinch perched nearby with it’s little golden eye on us… or even the bright pink peonies leaning from a tiny bush in the back yard.

Do you think we can keep our eyes open today and come upon something that shouts “notice me! I’m your little surprise from God!”

I loved those huge purply red blossoms with ants crawling everywhere all over the bushes in my old farm yard. I imagine that we picked many bouquets every year from all the bushes and brought them in and feasted on their scrumptious messy beauty. That would have been a way to send down those roots of the moment, recognize them as gifts, and savor them just a bit longer.