Tuesday, December 23, 2014
As I think back over my year, I have to say with the song writer, “I Wish I Had Given Him More.” That could easily discourage me. But I won’t let it keep me from trying to do more for Him, be kinder to others, and be more faithful in my responsibilities as mother and friend this coming year.
And now, this is the news you’ve been waiting for, if you have been praying for our 16th Annual Ladies’ Christmas Banquet which took place on the evening of November 21. Our dreams went far beyond the “coming true” level. God truly did “exceeding abundantly above all that we” asked or thought.
95 ladies signed our Guest Book, thirty-six for the first time. One of the First Ladies who was saved at age 8 said she had gotten away from the Lord, and rededicated her life during the invitation. In her testimony she said through her tears, “I’m not leaving the way I came in tonight.”
During the meal, I sat at the table of one of the First Ladies who has been attending for about ten years. Each of these special ladies receives a Bible with their name engraved on the front when she attends for the first time. I noticed this lady’s Bible that she received many years ago was lying beside her plate, and was well worn. Thank the Lord that His Word will not return unto Him void.
But I believe the “featured blessing” this year had to have been our very special first-time guests: 11 ladies who occupied the only reserved table, 10 of them policewomen. We handed out countless invitations to women on the police force, and to policemen (for their wives) everywhere we went for several weeks before the Banquet. Besides the policewomen who attended, there were three others ladies who were wives of men on the police force, including the wife of the Chief of Police. Yes, the policewomen filled the description of what you would imagine tough cops to look like. When we called them up on the platform, we heard of hair-raising experiences they had been through. But God and the Holy Spirit tendered their hearts and emotions. I watched them with tears in their eyes, as the little orphans marched out after their presentation. And after an amazing message by Philip entitled “Wars Within Women,” one of those lady cops raised her hand for Salvation. As they left the Banquet each one came up to me and gave me a hug, and most of them with tears in their eyes said they had never been to any event that touched them like that. The 11th lady, police head quarter’s beautiful, feminine secretary, assured me that she had taken down a schedule of our monthly Ladies’ Prayer Breakfasts, and all that could, would attend. Well, your prayers helped to make those dreams come true. Thank you.
On November 15, 1960, the L.H. Ashcraft family (my parents, three little brothers and I) crossed the US border into México as missionaries. It was six years later, after graduating from Teachers’ College in Monterrey that I surrendered to be a missionary. On November 16th, my son in law, Ulises, and Elizabeth and their churches celebrated my 54 years in Mexico with a special Anniversary Thanksgiving service. I was delightfully surprised to see my dear friends, Bro. Dan and Debbie Morris, also missionaries for over thirty years. Ulises invited him to be the guest speaker. Then two days later our church in San Cristóbal had another similar service. How can I be anything but grateful for God’s goodness to me, with people reminding me in such special ways!
I’m writing this the week after Thanksgiving, which always follows the arduous weeks and weeks of Banquet preparations. So my children and I try to get away together for a few days. This year we caravanned 14 hours to the beautiful city of Mérida, Yucatán, and spent three unforgettable days with two missionary families: Bro. Danny and Dodi Ward, and Bro. Jason and Ellen Thomas, incredible hosts to our entourage of 17. Besides the time of sweet fellowship around turkey and all the trimmings, we were invited to attend Resurrection Baptist Church, their “baby” work, which is growing by leaps and bounds. Philip and Ulises preached, and the rest of the family sang. What precious memories we made!
I hope as we go into the Christmas season, we will stop throughout the hectic-ness of our days…maybe while little ones nap, or while grocery shopping, and turn our thoughts to the One who came to earth, Who saved me, and Who made this Thanksgiving report possible. “Thank You, Lord, for You!…and for my friends.”
Monday, November 17, 2014
We have just entered the fall season; and like the seasons of the year, our lives also change seasons. We have seasons of sorrow, and seasons of joy; we experience seasons of draught and seasons of plenty. In whatever season you may find yourself this morning, I pray the Lord will be Near and Dear to you.
Besides the birth of my fortieth grandbaby, Isaac Joel, born on September 5 to Steve and Ruthie Miller, (which was the happiest event of my past two months since I wrote to you,) were the spiritual births I was privileged to witness with the ladies from our Saturday morning soul winning group. We were even able to witness to a group of Muslims while looking for…of all things…Jewish people.
Our ladies have been putting an emphasis on witnessing “to the Jew first.” This inspiration came when I attended an Israel Conference in Ixtapa, August 16 and 17, where my son in law, Ulises Martínez, invited Bro. Samuel Esquivel to speak. His messages challenged us to focus on witnessing to God’s chosen people, and indeed He has blessed our soul winning efforts since we began “looking for Jews.”
One of my favorite times of the week is Friday mornings. Besides getting to spend special time with my son, Tommy, I enjoy speaking on a live broadcast, focused on the lady listeners. We get in his pickup so he can drive me home, and even before he starts the motor sometimes I get phone calls in response to the broadcast I just made. The day after my last broadcast, while waiting for my ride in front of the post office, I gave a tract to a very well dressed lady. She smiled and said, “I’m a Christian. I have Jesus in my heart.” And then she asked, “Are you the lady who preaches on the radio?” She recognized my voice, and I said, “Well, I teach ladies.” What a unique ministry God gave to my son. We will probably never know all the results this side of eternity. I am thankful to have a very small part in the vision God gave my son several years ago. Compassion Radio just celebrated their second year of broadcasting on August 17.
I hope you are praying for our 16th annual Ladies’ Christmas Banquet, which will take place on November 21. It is a blessing to see most of the ladies in our church as they are getting involved in the many projects formed to bring about this special event. Since they are working in teams, it’s exciting to see how creative they are. It’s amazing to discover the many hidden talents in our church…just another aspect of this evangelistic outreach ministry.
I thank you for being a special part of my life and my ministry.
Saturday, August 30, 2014
PRAYER REQUEST LIST FOR OUR 16TH ANNUAL
LADIES’ CHRISTMAS BANQUET
November 21, 2014
1. Wisdom and discernment in all the plans and decisions to be made.
2. Extra strength for the ladies and me as we plan and make preparations.
3. For the wife of our City Mayor to be able to attend, as well as First Ladies of neighboring towns. We refer to ladies who are in positions of prominence as “First Ladies.”
4. For the wives of the former mayors, military wives, wives of men on the police force, and pastors’ wives to be able to attend.
5. For extra finances for the cost of the Banquet.
6. Preparation of the special music, and choice of each song.
7. For our guest speaker, my son, Philip Sloan, as he prepares his message for the evening, and for liberty as he preaches.
8. For the Hotel staff to be reached with the Gospel.
9. That the Lord would prepare the hearts of the ladies who will be attending, and for many to be saved, who will be an influence to others. We have had ladies saved in every banquet for the past thirteen years, including four former First Ladies, three military wives, and two ladies who have prominent positions in our city.
Note: This Banquet is an annual affair, and will be attended by ladies, who for the most part are unsaved, and who either because of religious preferences, or pressures from home, do not attend our Church. The Lord laid these dear ladies on my heart several years ago, and I am as burdened for them as I am for the ladies in my Sunday School Class.
“The Lord is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him.”
If you could follow me around, you would understand why Nahum 1:7 is the verse I have chosen as my life verse. God is Good to me, you would agree. But you would also witness days of trouble and heartache: two inevitable ingredients in everyone’s life. How do people live, then, without the last part of that verse? Well, that’s why I’m here.
Talk about trouble! My children, Ulises y Elizabeth, who live in Ixtapa, were blocked into their little village for ten days, as farmers protested against the government. By the time their request for fertilizer was granted, my children had learned literally to live with very limited food and water, propane gas and money. They trudged up the side of the mountain to go around the road blocks in order to get into town for services. But praise the Lord, when I went for a week’s visit on July 21st, I found the work to have continued to go forward with big plans for the future.
As I do every year, I got to fly to Chicago for the Family Conference in Pastor Elmer Fernández’ church in Bartlett, IN. What an honor it was to have spoken six times to different ladies’ sessions. This was my 8th time to get to be a part of this incredible ministry, and every year I am treated royally. Thank you, Pastor Fernández, and Martha.
Who cares that my connecting flight home was canceled, and I had to look for a hotel in the middle of the night in Mexico City, and schedule another flight home. I found one, there was no earthquake that night, and my arrival was more joyous than if I’d arrived home on schedule.
Life is a sort of bittersweet experience, isn’t it? Home Sweet Home was a bit bitter, when I found out that my son, Tommy, had resigned as pastor of our church during my absence. But he has started another church across town, is going full speed ahead with his radio ministry, which I’m delighted to be a part of every Friday morning; they had a wonderful Vacation Bible School last week; and the Lord has given us a dedicated young man as our new pastor. Please pray for Emilio, whom my husband won to the Lord over fifteen years ago!
At our monthly Prayer Breakfast, on June 25, a young lady was saved. She is a sweetheart, and a blessing to watch, as she grows in grace.
My son, Philip and his wife Liz honored me, by inviting me to speak at their very first Ladies’ Conference in Xalapa, Veracruz, on July 5. Close to sixty ladies attended, and we sat outside under their porch roof/tent, overlooking the breathtaking view of the wooded area where they live.
And in our Vacation Bible School July 14-18, there were twenty precious children who lifted their hands for Salvation…a few of them too little to understand yet, but whose little hearts are tender enough to know they need a Savior. See what I mean about the Lord being so Good?!
And I end by asking you to pray for our Annual Ladies’ Christmas Banquet, which will be held on November 21. Will you share these prayer requests with your friends?
Thank you for being my friend,
Saturday, June 14, 2014
Dear Friends of México,
I have had the most wonderful two months since the last time I wrote to you. Although traveling can be a challenge, and I miss my home more than words can say, I always come off a trip having received so many blessings. I get to meet new friends, share my woman-heart with other ladies who are also facing their own challenges, and it is my privilege to see works that never cease to amaze me. Let me share those with you:
I got to spend the month of April in Chaparral, NM, where my son, Joel and his wife Margaret and their two daughters have a bi-lingual church: two congregations share the same pastor. This in itself keeps them busy, plus other ministries. I was blessed to get to speak nine times to both the English-speaking, and Spanish-speaking ladies. I don’t know who learned more, them or me.
From the desert, I flew to Guadalajara to participate in the Conference of Bro. Bob Murillo and his wife, Joy. Every year when I return, I see growth, not only in attendance, but also spiritually. The children’s home is so unique, but not free of its challenges. There are about 50 children who live in different homes of church families, ranging in ages from pre-schoolers to teenagers. Thank you, Pastor Bob and Joy, for allowing me to speak seven times, and to enjoy all the challenging messages.
I returned a few days before Mother’s Day, and was invited, along with my daughter, Anna, to speak at the Mother-Daughter Banquet in Ixtapa. The next day we taught the ladies’ Sunday school class. Ulises and Elizabeth are now living on the property where the church and children’s home are located. This is another work that inspires my admiration.
The next weekend I traveled to the city of Iguala, to speak in a two-day Ladies’ Conference, with Pastor Iván Sotelo, and his wife, Eunice. They have two very small children, and have also taken in three little brothers who were abandoned. I spoke five times, including the beautiful banquet that concluded the Conference. I came away so impressed with the vision that this young couple have for the Lord! In only four years since he has pastored there, they have a children’s home, a Christian school, a prison ministry and many more. I know God has many wonderful things in store for them.
Mrs. Sloan and Eunice Sotelo
As I was leaving to return home, my ‘phone rang. The voice on the other end of the line was that of my grandson, 7 year old Stewart Knabb. “Stewart, does your Mommie know you’re on the ‘phone?” “Yes, Mimi, she’s right here.” “Oh, then I think I know why you’re calling.” “Mimi, I got saved today, and Daddy is going to baptize me tonight.” Thank you, Jason and Sarah, for training your children to love the Lord.
Jason and Sarah Knabb with their children
Here on the home front, I was happy to see a young lady baptized last Sunday by my son, Tommy. The radio ministry provides me an opportunity to speak to thousands of ladies, I’m told, every Friday morning. I got to be at our monthly ladies’ prayer breakfast for the first time since I left back in February. Thursday evenings at 5:00 will find me teaching ladies in my living room.
I love my home, and my ministry here occupies so much of my time, but as long as I am invited, and as long as the Lord gives me strength, I will continue to say “Yes,” to pastors and their wives, if they think I can be a blessing to their ladies.
You certainly are a blessing to me.
Wednesday, April 30, 2014
Greetings from the desert, where I am enjoying spending special time with my son, Joel, and his wife, Margaret and their two beautiful daughters. I just returned from a week’s visit with my son, David and his wife, Jolene, and their five precious children. I got to meet four month-old Mackenzie for the first time. I appreciate the opportunity my children give me to serve in their ministries. In Santa Clara, California, where David and his family serve in North Valley Baptist Church, it was my honor to be able to get to teach in three of David’s college classes. He also interviewed me for a four-part series on his radio program, Focus on Missions.
I know you will rejoice with me over the Salvation of two of my grandchildren during the month of March: Brianna, David and Jolene’s little girl was saved on March 2; and Benjamin Miller was saved on his Mommy’s birthday, March 20. In his words, “I got born again.” I thank the Lord for my children whose training makes my grandchildren’s hearts tender toward the Holy Spirit.
What an honor it was for me to be able to travel to Toronto, Canada, on February 26, and speak four times in a ladies’ conference for Pastor Roberto and Naomi Armendáriz. They have a thriving work among the Hispanics. I was treated like royalty, and even given a tour of Niagara Falls the day before I left.
From Canada, I flew to Querétaro to attend the 10th Anniversary Conference of the church Steve and Ruthie Miller started. I was present in a few of those first services, held in the garage of their house. What a blessing to see the growth of this work, spiritually as well as in attendance.
Three of the ladies from the church there attended our Ladies’ Banquet last year, and they were so challenged, they spoke to Ruthie about starting the same ministry in their church. So on March 17, about ten ladies and I met for coffee, and I held an orientation meeting for them. Excitement was at an all-time high, on their part as well as on mine, as I shared with them the burden I have for these special ladies. Please pray for Ruthie and her ladies as they will be having their first Ladies’ Banquet in November.
Although I’m unable to be at home for all the ladies’ Bible studies around the corner from my house, Dali continues to faithfully open her home every week to these lost ladies. Flor has been attending faithfully with her sister, who was saved a few months ago. And on February 27, Flor was saved.
Our monthly Ladies’ Prayer Breakfasts continue right on schedule, as the ladies in the church cover my responsibilities in my absence. I am receiving wonderful reports of this ministry, which is for the purpose of praying for “women in authority” or wives of men in authority. We also treat military ladies, and wives of military men to a free breakfast, while they hear the Gospel.
I am blessed to be who I am. I wouldn’t trade places with anyone else on earth.
Wednesday, April 16, 2014
“He came unto his own, and his own received him not.”
They sit in a room being observed by prospective parents. These children can’t see the couple making the decision, but they know they’re being watched. One of them will soon be chosen for adoption. The others will be left out...outside the family.
Not many things in this life make us feel more unloved than the feeling of being left out…left out of activities, circles of friends, special projects. Whether imagined, or real, outside is a lonely place to be.
These feelings can be formed because of several reasons: age, marital status, culture, beliefs, physical appearance, etc.
What is there in your life right now that is excluding you from things you were once a part of? Is it a job, or a relationship? Maybe it’s a dinner or a wedding where you weren’t invited to participate.
Perhaps others classify you with who you are, or who you aren’t.
Ever been rejected by someone you admired and respected?
It can be devastating…being outside!
It can destroy our feelings of self-esteem. It can harm our efforts to reach our full potential.
It could possibly affect our health, our attitude toward others, especially toward those who have left us outside.
Mindy (not her real name) sat watching the power point presentation of her dear friends…pictures taken years ago when they were children. The music was perfect for stirring up feelings and emotions of love.
She was attending their wedding.
But she had been left out…outside the group of friends who formed the bridal party.
She sat there with tears in her eyes, chiding herself for even caring…for feeling sorry for herself. This was a joyous celebration. But her only feeling had been, “I was left out…outside.”
Laura’s special project had just been taken from her, and given to someone else without an explanation. What was once the highlight of her year, and occupied hours and days and months of planning and preparation, had now been given to someone else…taken from her.
Is jealousy at the root of this snatching on the one part, and losing on the other?
I say, “Yes.”
But regardless of feelings, one was inside, and the other was outside.
The friends at the wedding were on the inside; Mindy was on the outside.
It’s the feeling of inadequacy that they battle.
While I’m not an expert on analyzing emotions and feelings, I would like to attempt to help Mindy and Laura, and any other outsiders who might be reading this.
1. While I sympathize with my friends, we must realize that at the root of all negative feelings, whether brought on by real or imagined reasons, is sin. When we compare ourselves to others, we are saying, “I am as good…young…qualified…as you are; and how dare you leave me out!” The devil puts negative thoughts in the minds of my friends. The sooner they realize who is making them feel worthless, the better. Remember, God accepts you just the way you are. Ephesians 1:6 says, “To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.”
2. Sometimes our emotions run wild, and pull our imagination along with it. Could it be that Mindy and Laura are imagining things that aren’t true? The author of confusion (see point 1) is also the great accuser. Revelation 12: 9, 10 calls the Devil or Satan “…the accuser of our brethren…”
3. Since Mindy and Laura are Christians, I must remind them that Romans 8:28 is still in the Bible, and applies not only to those who are suffering losses and hardships, but also to those who feel left out. They should remember that all the things that have been happening to them are working for their good.
4. My friends are self-centered, thinking only of themselves. Life is not all about them. They should take their minds off themselves, and focus on others who are suffering tragedies today. But above all, they should keep their focus on Jesus. Hebrews 12:2 says, “Looking unto Jesus…” It’s when we take our eyes off Him that we sink, like Peter did when he focused on the negative that surrounded him.
5. They should not follow their emotions. Pouting, withdrawal, and vengeance are the natural responses of the outsider. Those are immature characteristics of a child. I Corinthians 13:11 says, “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”
6. Mindy and Laura should realize that God is allowing these trials to come into their lives in order to conform them to His image. Romans 8:29 says, “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his son…” John 15:18 says, “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.” Who more than our Master understands what it’s like to be left outside? Do we forget Him? Are we ashamed of Him? Do we share Him with others like we should? Do we include Him in our plans for each day, for our life?
7. There’s something else my friends should do. In fact, the Bible commands us to do it: Forgive those who have left them outside. This is perhaps the hardest step to take for the outsider. There is a burden lifted when we forgive. Sincere forgiveness frees us from bitterness. Colossians 3:13 admonishes us: “…even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.” Right alongside forgiveness is the advice given us in Matthew 5:44 “pray for them which despitefully use you…” Mindy and Laura, pray for those who have left you outside. There is a healing balm in those two exhortations the Bible gives us. Only then will you be free to serve the Lord, while living on the outside. Don’t let bitterness ruin your life, or your service for the Lord.
How many times have we, by our attitudes shut God out? And yet He loves us still; he doesn’t reject us. The Bible says in Isaiah 53:3, “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”
There was no room in the inn the night of His birth. I wonder how Mary felt to be left outside to have her Baby. The very Son of God was left outside to be born in a stable, among the cattle. “He came unto his own, and his own received him not.” John 1:11
While outside is a lonely place to be, it can be fatal. The well-known story of Noah and the Ark proves that to be true. Only the 8 people who were inside the ark were safe, while those who refused Noah’s 120-year invitation to join them proved to be their death. We can actually choose to live outside the will of God. He has a perfect plan for our lives. The first part of that plan is Salvation…the Salvation of our souls. We are born sinners, and at the root of our negative feelings, such as rejection, is sin. Romans 3:23 tells us that we are all indeed left outside, we’ve “fallen short.” We live in a world of sin. But Jesus died on the cross for our sin, and when we accept Him as our Substitute, and ask Him to forgive us, our sins no longer condemn us. We are free from sin’s condemnation.
Jesus, the Good Shepherd, invites you to come inside the fold. If you reject that invitation, you indeed are outside.
And that could be fatal!