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beauty from ashes

Can God Really Bring Beauty From Ashes?

I woke up in an ambulance speeding down a road while a person I didn’t know was asking me “who is the current president?”  Even though it was 1997 I answered “Carter”.  My doctors told me that I had sustained a closed head brain injury.  As my memory of events returned to me I remembered stopping in traffic and then feeling the massive jolt of the dump truck that slammed into the back of my pickup.  Everything else that happened between that time and the time I woke up with the EMT’s was gone for good.

My balance was off and my  head hurt with persistent ringing in my ears.  My mind seemed fuzzy all the time and I was given to emotional outbursts.  I would remember things in spurts and it was difficult to function as I used to do.  My companies failed and I was forced to sell all I had just to meet daily expenses.  The morning I watched two men repossess my motor home I wept.   The low point for me was the day I could not afford Christmas presents for my two young children.

God said, “change attorneys”.

Originally I contracted with an attorney to handle my case but he told me he did not think I had much of a chance to recover anything from the trucking company whose driver had injured me.  Discouraged, and deeply in debt, I prayed and asked God what to do.  The Holy Spirit spoke to me and told me to drop him and seek another lawyer.   My new lawyer, who specialized in brain injuries, said I had a case.

It took three full years for me to start to feel normal again.  During that time I visited many doctors who told me that I would most likely never fully recover.  These same doctors said that I would also need to take the medications they prescribed for the rest of my life.

Finally, after what seemed to me to be an eternity, my lawsuit finally reached a settlement.  I was able to pay back the enormous amount of money that my parents had loaned me throughout those years.  I settled my other personal debts and my outstanding business obligations. God was bringing  beauty from ashes in my life.

Moving on and moving in

I was able to move out of my 29 ft travel trailer into a real house.  I remember moving into our new home during Christmas and the only thing we had unpacked was our Christmas ornaments to hang on the large Christmas tree that reached almost to the top of our vaulted ceiling.  Christmas presents, wrapped in brightly colored paper flowed from under our tree out onto the floor of our new home.  Tears came to my eyes in thanksgiving to God for allowing me to see my children happy once again on Christmas day.

As I was purchasing my home I received an invitation to accompany a minister to Africa.  He wanted me to videotape his mission trip.  As part of my rehabilitation, I had been trained in video and multimedia production and he wanted me to document his efforts for the gospel in East Africa.  I prayed and asked the Holy Spirit what he wanted me to do and He said that I should go.  So by faith, I found myself standing in Nairobi, Kenya not much more than four years after I woke up that fateful day in the ambulance.

Who are all these children?

Everywhere I went with the minister we would always be surrounded by children who seemingly came from nowhere.  One of the indigenous ministers told me that these were orphans.  Most often, these street kids were dressed in rags that I would not have even used in my shop, yet these small, malnourished kids would smile and laugh as I would joke and play games with them.  I remember walking in a small town seeing two young girls in tattered dresses standing on a huge pile of garbage picking through it and my heart broke within me.  It was simply too much to take in and I was finding it hard to cope.

The last of my meds

During that time the medicine I was taking began to run out.  I panicked because I knew from past experience that I could not handle stress very well.  I called my wife in America and asked her to rush some more meds to me.  Unfortunately, African postal service being what it is, the meds were lost and never arrived.  I was faced with a difficult choice, cut my trip short or trust God and go off the meds that my doctors said I needed to take for the rest of my life.

Genuinely afraid of what would happen, I prayed and asked God what I should do.  The Holy Spirit answered that I should stay and trust Him. I decided to believe God and just deal with any side effects that I would experience.  I am glad I listened to God for I felt no side effects, I had no emotional problems, and since that time I have not taken any of that sort of medication because I have not needed them.  Had I not trusted God I might still be chained to them to this day.

Build a orphanage

While visiting a village chief near Lake Victoria he said to me, “white men are very generous, however, what they give is all eaten up in cities and none ever reaches my people.”  As I pondered what the old man said, the Holy Spirit spoke saying, “I want you to build small orphanages.”  It was as if a light went on in my head and suddenly I knew why I was in Africa and what my calling was to be.   We made plans to start building local orphanages in the villages that were less well served than the cities.

I felt to build our first orphanage outside of Kisumu near a pastor’s house.  As a friend from Germany and I were sitting in the pastor’s house talking about this project, the pastor said that he would trade the property to the right of his home if I would buy another piece of property that was on the opposite side of his home.

All that God wants, is all that you have

We met the next day with the man who wished to sell the piece of land.  He quoted a price to me and it was much more than I had on hand.  The Holy Spirit spoke to me and told me to give him all that I had.  So I dug through all of my pockets and pulled shillings and coins from everywhere but I only had about half the price of the property.  Realizing that I would be flat broke, I gave what money I had to the man who was selling the property.  As I did this, my friend from Germany was suddenly overcome with emotion and pulled out a big roll of shillings, paying the rest.  Praise God!

Wow, that’s a lot of mud!

We started building the orphanage out of sticks and poles that were lashed together with reeds and nailed together with iron nails.  We did everything by faith and worked as long as we had money.  Every time we ran out of funds more seemed to come from somewhere.

While building the orphanage the pastor came to me one day and told me that this was a fulfillment of a prophecy given by a woman from Thailand two years before I arrived.  She stood in the exact place we were building and said that she saw an orphanage there in a vision she had before visiting Africa.  This was very exciting to know that we were definitely in God’s will.

Unexpected help

The day that we started mudding the walls I thought I was in for a long and very hard job.  Like the children of Egypt, we would mix earth and water together tramping it with our feet until it became slimy mud.  I would take big handfuls and press it into the cracks and crevices of our small building.  All of a sudden, I noticed people coming around me.  Men, women, young and old, were coming and they all started helping me to mix and apply the mud.  Eventually, God sent approximately 50 people to help us and what would take many weeks, we finished in only two days.

Delivered of meds

Throughout all this time I did not feel bad or ever miss taking my medication.  My health continued to improve and today I know that by deciding to trust God rather than the doctors, He healed me.  I began to preach and teach the word to those who came to visit me.  Eventually, that led to establishing many churches in the lake region of East Africa.  Finishing the orphanage, we asked each church to send one orphan to live there.  My own story of beauty from ashes started being a story of beauty from ashes for others too.

We started with 9 orphans and added more as God has led us.  For many years now, we have given them a home and a family atmosphere to live in.  The churches send food and clothing to their orphans and help support them with school fees.  I make up the difference with the donations that we receive from America.  This has not only been a blessing to the children but a huge unifying factor in our churches.

I’ve felt the rain from heaven

God has moved in spectacular ways in Africa and I have been privileged to experience them.  We have seen people healed, Spirit-filled, and saved by the grace and power of His Holy Spirit.  For instance,  if you wish to be healed from AIDS, humble yourself and confess your sins publicly.  God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.  One young woman, who was confirmed HIV positive by three previous tests, repented publicly.  Miraculously, by God’s grace and power, she is still alive and well 12 years later.  Truly, she is a beauty from ashes story too.  All in all, though there have been great difficulties and sometimes extreme hardships, I thank God.   My Father allowed me to serve Him when everything in my life seemed lost.

Beauty from ashes

My testimony is that even when things look bad, God can still bring beauty out of ashes if we will humble ourselves and trust His voice.  I never thought I would have a chance to do the things I have experienced, but I’ve found out that God truly can bring beauty from ashes.