WORDS OF ADVICE by Anya Huckabay (age 18)
When sorrows fade and trumpets blast, Your hopes and dreams alive at last! “The day has come,” you finally say, “When all my tears are washed away!” But can you hear the guns of war Knocking, thumping at your door? Miles and hours still to count, The age-old battle, yet to surmount, Of life and love and fears in one. The end result is yet to come. But worry not, for one above, Can see your dreams of health and love. Though trials will come and words will fly, And you will come by passersby, Don’t lose hope, the day is long! Keep pushing, pressing, trudging on! In time your step will lead you home. Take heed in careful guidance shown, Keep faith with those you know and love, Seek the one who sits above, Stay true to words of new and old, And let go of change you cannot mold. Remember, seek and you shall find. Rest in His hands, dreams long untold, And write your story with pens of gold.
E-mail your poems, stories, or works of art with a Christian message to be considered for our Expressions feature. Or send testimonies for My Story (750 words or less). Send to: firstname.lastname@example.org DON’T FORGET to include your birth date, address, and e-mail address so we can contact you.
Editor: Dana Wilkerson Graphic Design: Liz Malwitz Design Project Editors: Lindsey Holder, Melissa Wuske Senior Editor: Jim Eichenberger Stock Image Selection: Dorcas Design All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved. ENCOUNTER™—The Magazine, ENCOUNTER™ Curriculum. Do not photocopy or reproduce. COVER PHOTO: ISTOCK/IBRAKOVIC/THINKSTOCK.COM ADDITIONAL ART ELEMENTS: COTTAGEARTS.NET
eaves falling from trees. Falling, falling, falling, as I watch from my window. There is something soothing about watching them fall. Mostly they drift and float, slow and easy, as if they’re in no hurry, as if they have all the time in the world to get where they are going. I breathe easy watching them glide to the ground. Other times the wind rattles tree branches like bones that knock against one another, like knuckles on wooden doors, or someone trying to get inside a locked door. My breath quickens, and leaves tumble all in a rush to reach the earth. Leaves and more leaves, all jumbled together, orange, yellow, red. Some falling so late that they land all brown and dry, crumbling into bits as they collapse to the ground, and I feel tight inside, as if I will crumble too.
No One Notices I feel that way a lot lately—as if I will crumble into pieces, scraps, bits, and dry dust. It’s as if I can’t stand one more problem, one more crisis, making one more fake smile when someone asks, “Hi, Crystal, how you doing?” What would happen if I answer honestly? “Not good,” I could say. Or, “Terrible. I’m doing terrible. How about you?” But nobody wants to know how I actually feel. Nobody cares. Mom’s all busy trying to keep her job with all the downsizing and stuff like that.
ENCOUNTER // 10.12.14
Dad’s too busy leaving Mom, leaving me, leaving his old life behind— he calls it “finding himself.” Yeah, right. I can’t find him either. He never has been around much, and yeah, that hurts. And my brother, Jack, who used to listen when I talked—really listen—well, he’s off to college now, swamped with assignments and learning new stuff and being a different person from what he used to be. And my friends—well, they’re the same as always. They haven’t changed, but I have. My life feels way too heavy for me now. I feel like a million leaves have fallen on me, and I’m buried underneath them, and I can’t get out, and they‘re in my nose and mouth, and I can hardly breathe, and nobody knows I’m gone. Nobody notices.
The One Who Sees Me Well, maybe one person notices. Maybe. I mean He’s always been there before. Whenever I need Him, He’s there. But lately, I wonder. Is He there for me? Is He too busy to notice I’m falling, like the leaves, falling and falling, and I’m scared nobody cares? Falling, falling. Before she fell apart over Dad and finances and her job, Mom used to tell me that God would never fail me, never forget me, never get too busy to listen when I called out to Him. Looks like Mom’s forgotten all that. She used to say God promised to care for us, love us, and watch over us. We read the Bible together and prayed and even sang sometimes. Mom and God and me— we were a team.
Now Mom’s got other things to do, and it’s just God and me. I guess. If He’s there. If He’s listening. If He still cares.
He’s Still There So, I sit and watch the leaves falling, and tears fall down my face, and I pray. “God?” I say. “Are you here? Are you listening? Do you still care about me? I feel so alone and scared, and my whole life is falling apart. Now what, God? Now what?” And I get really quiet and hold my breath and wait for Him. In the silence I hear Him. Deep inside me I hear Him. His voice—it’s the same as always—strong and gentle and real. He’s here and He cares. He loves me. I feel comfort rising up in me. I feel peace, and that doesn’t make any sense, sort of. There’s no peace in my life, but He gives me peace anyway. I sit and watch. Leaves falling. Soft and gentle, leaves fall, and I feel quiet and peaceful and loved. The broken pieces of my life fall away from me, fall like leaves tumbling to the ground, and I say aloud, “Thank you, God, for being here when I need you most. Thank you for listening and caring and loving me. Thank you for reminding me I will never be alone. Thank You, God.” In a way nothing has changed. My life is still a smoldering pile of wreckage, and nobody knows how bad I feel, and nothing is any better. But deep inside me I know I’m not alone—not now, not ever—and that makes all the difference. E
PARTY, PARTY, PARTY
If neither of those ideas would work for you, here’s another: How about having a party at your church for the kids living in the neighborhood? You could decorate the recreation room or basement with streamers and other fall decor, have a refreshments
alloween is almost here and—admit it!—part of you really misses dressing up in those crazy costumes, putting on weird masks, and going for the candy. Good news! You can still do it! But I’m too old! you’re thinking. That’s for little kids! Wrong! All you have to do is change your focus!
BRINGING FUN TO LESS-THAN-FUN PLACES
Halloween and kids go together, but there are some kids who won’t be dressing up and going out this year. Not just won’t. Can’t. I’m talking about kids in the hospital who are waiting for surgery or recovering from it, too sick to be at home, or undergoing a lengthy treatment for a serious condition. But they’re still kids, and they would love a visit from you and your costumed friends! Try to picture the surprise and delight in their eyes when you suddenly appear at the door of their rooms, saying, “Trick or treat!” Only you’ll be giving the treats, not getting them. If your city has a children’s hospital, there are a lot of kids in the hospital. Even a regular hospital will have more than you think at any given time, even on special days like Halloween. So if you have a large group, break it into several smaller ones. That way you can see a lot more kids in the same length of time. A goofy magic act or comedy routine or singing will be the perfect treat for these kids—anything to make them feel better. If candy isn’t appropriate due to the condition of the young patient, how about giving balloons or a small toy or even stuffed animals? Use your imagination. Don’t just show up at the hospital and expect to be greeted with open arms by the staff. You need to do a little preparation first. Start by contacting the public relations department, explaining exactly what you want to do. Avoid scary costumes. The idea is to entertain, not to terrify. You don’t want some nurse dialing 911! Another Halloween possibility would be visiting a home for senior citizens or a convalescent center. Most of the residents are elderly, but many of them would welcome a visit from some youthful trick-or-treaters on Halloween night. And the majority would enjoy getting a piece of candy or something simple and sweet. As before, check with the person in charge before your visit and check each person’s dietary needs before giving out sugary treats. Keep the time spent with each resident fairly brief and don’t go too late—many of these people have early bedtimes. 4
table, and games for the kids to play, like bobbing for apples or a ring toss using pumpkins with stems as the targets. You can keep it simple and still have a fun, safe place for the kids on Halloween night. More and more parents are leery about sending their children out trick or treating, so spending Halloween night at the church might be a really popular alternative. How do you get the kids to show up? You can deliver flyers door to door, or you can make a big poster and set it up in front of the church several days before Halloween. Or do both! Naturally you’ll want to invite all the kids who come to attend Sunday school and church the next Sunday, and see if you can come up with a creative way to share the gospel message at the party. If your church prefers not to promote Halloween, consider turning your backyard into a Fall Fun Zone—with your parents’ permission, that is! Think about it! You get to dress up and wear a mask and at the same time be a positive influence in your community. Sounds like all treat and no trick to me! E Do you have any other ideas for how to give Halloween away? Share your ideas on the ENCOUNTER—The Magazine Facebook page.
BUCKET LISTS, BAD DAYS, AND DOING BATTLE BY TEKOA MILLER
1 Peter 2:21-23 Sometimes you just have a bad day. That’s what I thought to myself when I was on my knees, scrubbing the floor of my store’s dressing room. As a manager, I prefer to be in my office—not on the floor. But Jesus’ method of leadership isn’t about being a conqueror, but a servant. How can you follow Jesus’ example?
John 12:23-26 When we were kids, my siblings and I would sometimes play “backwards day”: a day when up was down, yes was no, and you did your best to wear your pants in reverse (just try that one!). Jesus is known for backwards statements—like giving up your life to keep it. How is Jesus’ example of being a living sacrifice different from other religions’ views?
Matthew 12:1-8 I think I’ve been in church every Sunday since I was born. (OK, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration.) I’ve got the routine down: when to sit, when to stand, when to shake hands. Although church is important, Jesus wanted us to realize that we find Him through a relationship, not through rituals. What rituals do you sometimes see as more important than a relationship?
Micah 6:6-8 Let’s be honest: there are a lot of religions in this world and most of them have a lot of rules. Christianity is different—it’s more focused on who we are and how we live than following a bunch of rules. Micah gives us three important verbs: act, love, and walk. How do you think those verbs should change the way you live?
ENCOUNTER // 10.12.14
John 4:21 I have several things on my bucket list: run a half marathon, go whitewater rafting, and visit Israel to name a few. It’s neat to want to see the land of the Bible in person, but it’s important to know that Israel (or any other place) isn’t magic or holier than any other part of the world. Why do you think Jesus made a point of telling this to the Samaritan woman?
Psalm 22:27-29 We celebrated Missions Sunday at my church and decorated the sanctuary with flags representing the countries of origin of our church members: Brazil, Israel, South Sudan, Honduras, Mexico, India, Russia, Egypt, and Azerbaijan (yes, it is a real country!). I looked around and realized how diverse we are! The Bible tells us that God isn’t limited by our ethnicity or geography. How can you love believers who might be different from you?
Colossians 2:8 I admire soldiers greatly—they’re always ready to defend their country, no matter the cost. Paul calls us to a soldier’s mind-set: to be on guard and make sure we aren’t taken captive by other teachings—like those of Islam. Sometimes it’s popular to accept other religions or even downplay how wrong they are. Pray and ask God what He wants you to do to stand by the principles of Christ.
ere’s something they may not teach you in church: Muslims are beautiful people. Is that a statement about their religion? No. Is that a statement affirming Mohammed’s creeds? Nope. Is that a statement that’s true 100% of the time? Not hardly. But Muslims are beautiful people. Which Muslims? Well, I’m sure we could talk about Indonesian Muslims, African Muslims, European Muslims and the like, but let’s be honest, since there’s not that much room in this article. Let’s focus here on the Muslims I know and love: Arabic Muslims.
Beautiful People First off, Arab does not equal Muslim. There were (and
still are) Arab Christians and Arab Jews (among a vast array of people), as indicated by Acts 2:5-11 when the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost: “Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: ‘Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; 6
residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!’” So at Pentecost, the wonders of God were heard spoken in Arabic among a dozen other tongues. Also, Arabs are children of Abraham through Ishmael and children of humanity through Adam. But, like I said, not all Arabs are Muslims. There are also atheistic Arabs and regular-old pagan Arabs—basically every kind of belief that you can find in New York City, you can find in the Arab world. And all people in New York City and of the Arab world are beautiful—trust me, I’ve seen it. The beauty of people is a good way to think of the world, really. Ephesians 6:12 says, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Our war is never against people. Never, ever. If a Christian tells you that we need to fight a war against people, tell them to go read the book of Ephesians. People need the salvation of Jesus Christ, not a fistfight or a shouting match or, especially, a bomb. In the words
of Abe Lincoln, “I destroy my enemies when I make them my friends.” That includes Arabic Muslims. So remember: 1. Arabs are beautiful, because they are people—specifically people connected to Pentecost and Father Abraham. 2. Not all Arabs are Muslims. 3. The Muslim people that are Arabs are beautiful just like the Muslim people who aren’t Arabs and the Arabic people who aren’t Muslims. 4. Our war is never against people, but against Satan and his servants, works, and effects. 5. Therefore our war is never against Muslims, Arab or otherwise.
Difficult Love This story illustrates some of my experience interacting
with Arab Muslims as Christ would. I had been teaching English to Arabic Muslims in Dearborn, Michigan, for weeks. Dearborn has the largest concentration of Arabic Muslims outside of the Middle East—primarily Lebanese, Iraqi, and Yemeni people. The men I taught were not old men. Back home, they were doctors, lawyers, poets, and business owners. Due to war, poverty, or other unrest, they had been driven from the neighborhoods where they grew up and had come to another land (America) whose language (English) they didn’t speak. They weren’t stupid or uneducated. They were just temporarily ignorant of a language I happen to speak. So every word gave them life and a chance to express and build a life from the wisdom and knowledge they already have. One of these friends of mine, Faisel, asked me, “Why are you doing this English for us? Indeed, you are a missionary, yes?” “Yes,” I said. “I am here to tell people about Jesus.” Faisel is Egyptian. “You know what they would do to you in my country if you said this thing? If you would be the missionary?” “Yes, I know. But I would still teach.” “OK,” he said, “just so you know . . .” Here’s the sticky part: Faisel’s a beautiful person, a wonderful man that could serve Jesus’ kingdom well. He’s also my friend. But he was threatening me because, in general, Islam teaches the kind of Old Testament, eye-for-an-eye justice that would kill someone simply for teaching another religion. Now I don’t believe that following Jesus is more than a religion—at least in the way that most people think about religion. Following Jesus is something that washes over every single area of my life and my opinions and my actions and my relationships. Following Jesus even changes my national loyalties. While my passport says I am an American, my country is really not of this world. ENCOUNTER // 10.12.14
My country is the kingdom of Jesus. My citizenship is in Heaven (Philippians 3:20), and that citizenship isn’t something that just affects me while I’m in Heaven; that citizenship affects everything I do in another country, Egypt or America. I don’t have dual citizenship—that phrase never shows up in Scripture. I am simply a citizen of the kingdom of Jesus, living as a resident alien in America. Just like Faisel, in fact.
Christ’s Love for People So when Faisel threatened me, his friend, with what they would do to me in Egypt, how would Jesus respond? He said things like:
• “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). • “Do not repay anyone evil for evil . . . but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12: 17, 21). • “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles” (Matthew 5:38-41). • “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:10). • “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5). • “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they’re doing” (Luke 23:34). • “But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:15). • “If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?” (Matthew 5:46, 47). I could go on, but my point is this: If I treat Faisel like Faisel treats me, I’m simply acting like a Muslim. But if I forgive him in that moment and love him— my enemy, my neighbor in Dearborn, my neighbor in America, my global neighbor, my friend, my brother in Abraham (through Ishmael), my brother in humanity (through Adam), and my future brother in Christ—then I am like Jesus. So what did I do when Faisel threatened me? I forgave him in my mind and heart, invited him out for coffee and pastries, and then asked, “What other English words do you need to know?” Forgiveness to a broken man, coffee with a lonely man, and English to a businessman who’s from another world all have something deep in common: They all give life. E 7
old my hand, Tammy.” When I was a teenager, my boyfriend Danny always remembered to hold my hand at night, since I had night blindness. Other people forgot, but he never did, and I appreciated that. I was born with Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP), a progressive eye disease that robs your vision over time. So I grew up with poor eyesight—having to sit in front of the class to see the chalkboard, wearing thick glasses to read books, and having a limited social life at night because I couldn’t see at night or drive at night. I adjusted over the years to the incremental loss of vision because I had to. It was just my nature to be positive and make the best of a situation. My hobbies were writing short stories and sketching pictures. My best friend’s family took me to church with them, and that’s how my faith grew strong as a little girl. I carried my Bible around my grandparents’ farm and took it to the barn to read to my dog. I imagined that I was in Jesus’ family and wanted to do the things He did: talk to people and help them. At 16, I knew I wanted to be a social worker, and with financial assistance from my local Office for the Blind, I became one. In a way it felt like doing Jesus’ work. It was something I felt called to do. Born to do. That’s why it was such a blow when I lost my career at age 40 due to RP. I was now legally blind. I lost my driver’s license too, along with some self-confidence and independence.
Me? Write? After a few weeks of feeling down, I realized I was the only one who—with God’s help of course—could do anything about my situation. I had a 14-year-old son to raise alone (his dad, Danny, had died in a car accident four years earlier), and I needed some extra money. Danny wasn’t there to hold my hand anymore. In a way I felt like David facing Goliath. What would I do now? What did God want for me? Could He still use me? I prayed, “Lord, give me wisdom, strength, and ability.” My thoughts turned to my hobbies. I’d always felt that God had blessed me with a talent for writing, but could I actually make a profession of it? There was only one way to find out. I took my college degrees, knowledge, and experience, and put them into parenting, self-help, and social issues articles. My local newspaper printed them, and this was how my freelance writing career began. With help from accessibility features on my computer, I’ve been writing ever since.
Finger Paint? My other hobby, art, was a passion of mine and a Godgiven talent, and I was ready to give it up completely in April of 2013 because I could no longer see details well enough to sketch portraits, not even on my 47-inch computer monitor.
God was the one who’d given me this gift, and it was His right to have it back if that’s what He wanted. As much as I would miss it, I would just have to find a way to accept it and adjust to the loss, like I’d done before. With His help, I’d learned to live a positive life of constant adjustment. But a Facebook friend’s suggestion wouldn’t leave me alone, even though it sounded impossible to me: try finger painting: you can do it intuitively. Finger paint? I was a sketcher. To paint with my fingertips seemed childish. To continue art in any form when I can barely see felt like another giant I had to face. But I worked up the nerve to do it. After buying some bottles of acrylic paint and an art pad, I indeed relied on my intuition, imagination, and memory to create pictures I recalled from my childhood growing up on my grandparents’ farm. “You should show them in art galleries,” one of my friends suggested. “Are you serious?” I responded. But then I realized it was a way God
could use me. I could use my gift to show the world that the blind and visually impaired can create fine art, and it was a way to help others, something I’d never even tried to do with my art before. I’ve taught finger painting to a group of children at a community outreach program and was invited to talk to local art teachers about ways to teach art to blind and visually impaired students. My art is heading in a brand new direction—helping others—and I’ve had to slay a couple of giants along the way; but I realize none of it would be possible without the Lord’s help. E