Thursday, December 24, 2009

December 2009 Prayer Letter and Essay "If You Could Come Back"

I am writing this letter between Thanksgiving and Christmas. And I can be nothing but thankful for God’s manifold blessings, in my ministry, in the lives of my children, and upon me personally. As far as I know, I enjoy excellent health, my eight children and their spouses love and serve the Lord. In the past year God has given me two new grandsons, and spared the life of my daughter, Ruthie, from being kidnapped.

And I have been honored to have had thirty-seven people saved in my ladies’ ministries, and Vacation Bible School.

Our Ladies’ Christmas Banquet this year was outstanding: Pastor Omar Torres did an excellent job, as he preached to the seventy-five ladies in attendance. When he gave the invitation, five were saved…two of those were former First Ladies of our town. Thank you for the part you had in this ministry so dear to my heart. We are already making plans for next year’s Banquet, which will take place November 19, 2010.

ISABEL, First Lady who was saved the night of the banquet

ME WITH MERCEDES, the other First Lady who was saved the night of the banquet


At least for me, one of the most touching features on the program was the participation of twenty-one orphans from a nearby town. A pastor and his beautiful wife, and three precious children are in charge of the care of these delinquent little street irchens, and I watched the wives of mayors wipe tears from their eyes as the pastor told stories behind some of these children’s lives. Hearts were so stirred, that the Lord has moved my son, Philip, who is the pastor here, to present to our church the challenge of starting a children’s home. Will you pray for this very, very needy ministry?

For many people, like my children and me, who have lost loved ones to death, this time of the year holds a twinge of sadness. This year’s banquet theme was “Not of this World.” To you who have lost a loved one this year, or who hold dear precious memories of years gone by, I dedicate this little essay which I wrote and read at our Banquet. My prayer is that it will stir up in each of us an urgency, and a desire to do more for the Lord next year than we did in the past.

I wish you a Blessed Christmas, and a New Year filled with God’s richest blessings.

Billie Sloan
Nahum 1:7

“If You Could Come Back”
Written and read at our 2009 Ladies’ Christmas Banquet
by Billie Sloan

In a few days my children and I will be commemorating the fifth anniversary of the day my husband went to Heaven. Not long ago, one of my daughters dreamed about her Dad. She dreamed that he came back to earth, and spent the day with us. I don’t put any importance on dreams, but when she told me about hers, tears came into my eyes, because I still miss him very much.

A few days later, I started thinking about her dream, and I asked myself: “What would my husband do if he could come back to earth for one day? What would he think of me, and of the changes that have taken place in my life? Would he be pleased with the activities I’ve added to my routine, with the way I spend my money?

If he could come back, I believe I knew my husband well enough, that I’m sure he’d take me by the hand and perhaps he would take me for a walk down the streets of our town, and he’d show me the little abandoned children, the little barefoot girls with tangled hair, and he’d say, “Look at the things that are not of this world. And may everything you do, every penny you spend, all your travels have an influence on the things that are not of this world. Those are the souls of these children, and their eternal destiny.”

Perhaps my husband would continue, “I have walked on streets of gold. I’ve seen the face of Jesus. And only when you can see things as I see them, are you going to be able to distinguish between the eternal, and the earthly. The things of this world will pass away, but the most precious thing in this world is the eternal destiny of those who surround you. Shop for dresses and for cars. Put your legal matters in order. Enjoy life, but if all those things you buy, all your legal transactions do not influence the eternal destiny of your friends, your grandchildren, and the street children, it’s all in vain…all of this world.

And I believe he’d look into my eyes when he said, “The only thing I could take with me to Heaven were the souls of the people I won to Christ. Every door I knocked, every Bible I gave away, every message I preached was time invested in eternity. That’s the only thing that matters.”

If God has taken from you the most precious treasure of your life, a son, a daughter, your father, your mother, your husband, I’m sure if they could come back to earth, they’d tell you, “Put your eyes on things that are not of this world. Spend more time with people than with your hobbies. Spend more hours with your children than on your job. And may all you do lead people to the feet of Jesus. Oh! And make sure you’re prepared to see your Creator face to face when you die, and that you’ll walk on streets of gold.”

That’s what our loved ones would tell us if they could come back.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Banquets, Brides, and Bubble Baths

(Written less than a week before the November 20th banquet)...

I wish with all my heart you could be here during this time. Even as I sit here, I am watching my daughter in law cut out her dress for the gala evening, our 11th Annual Ladies’ Christmas Banquet, which will take place, Lord willing, in less than a week. A lady in the church, who is a dressmaker, delivered mine to me last night, and as always, refused the money I offered her for all her hours and hours of work.

Right now, my daughter is in town with her nephew, and little girl, and my dressmaker, shopping for material and evening finery, giving out last minute invitations, and picking out gifts for the two little girls of our guest speaker.

Yes, this has all the feelings and emotions of a wedding, a wedding we hold here every year, the week before Thanksgiving. I almost feel like a bride, and I have a church and house full of attendants. And since we do this every single year, everyone basically knows what to expect, and how I will react to certain things.

I’m doing something different this year: I’m going to pamper myself. I usually work myself silly until about an hour before the banquet, and walk in feeling a bit anxious. But this year, I have reserved myself a room for the night before at the hotel where the banquet will be held. I don’t really know how this will help my disposition, but I have the illusion of somehow staying “separated” from the world, and arriving at the banquet all smiles, not having upset one single person, or without their having annoyed me.

But I’m wondering, “Does it really work that way?” I’ve wondered, ever since I was a young girl, it people who can’t speak somehow have a closer walk with the Lord. Many sins, and I’ll confess that probably most of mine, are committed with the tongue, through the words I say. Rarely do I ever go to bed at night, with the peace that I haven’t said something I shouldn’t have said…unless I’ve spent a rare day alone, and “stay away from the computer, Sloan, or you’re bound to write something that would have come out of your mouth, if that person had been in your presence.”

Anyway, aside from the spiritual aspect of my spending the last 24 hours alone before the banquet, there is the “pampering” aspect of this extravaganza. As I was combing my hair a few mornings ago, I noticed a lovely bottle of something I received in a “fruit” basket on one of my recent speaking trips. I receive these thoughtful gifts when I’m invited to speak to ladies’ groups. They’re usually setting on the table in my hotel room, and besides the flavored water, granola bars, and M&M’s, sometimes there will be a box of stationery, lovely handkerchiefs (I carry one every time I go up to speak), and once I even received a beautiful watch, which I still wear. Recently I received a whole set of goodies from Bath and Body. I don’t know what I’ve been waiting for to enjoy them, but I noticed one of them said, “Passion…Bubble Bath,” and I thought, “Why not?” Now aside from the fact that bathtubs are non-existent in México, unless you build your own home, I decided to add this, and the accompanying bottles on my list of “Things to Take to the Hotel.” I’m not sure what I’ll do with it, but it should look nice setting on the dressing table.

This morning, I thought, “Isn’t there a verse in the Bible that says something about our being in the world but not of the world?” While I believe my motives are pretty good excuses for simply wanting to pamper myself on this special occasion, I believe the Lord expects us to be able to remain sweet and calm, even though we’re in the middle of a storm, whether it be sudden disaster, or simply having to cope with other people.

“Lord, thank you for this special treat away from the cares and pressures of the world. But help me to always be sweet and kind, and understanding, even when things go wrong.”