Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Prayer Letter - February 2012

Does it seem to you like the first month of this year just flew by? I’m constantly reminded of how precious the gift of time is. I want to use every second of my waking hours for the Lord.

The months of December and January have been loaded to the brim with excitement. The auditorium we rented was packed out the nights of the conference December 13-15. Visiting pastors did a magnificent job preaching the Word, and challenging Christians. How thrilling it was to see the unsaved wife of one of our members attending every night. She also attends our ladies’ monthly prayer breakfasts. I have faith that some day she will be saved.

My son, Tommy, is doing a great job taking care of the work while his brother, Philip is in the USA on a short furlough. Even as I write, preparations are being made to have a three-day campaign in a village about an hour from San Cristóbal. Thousands of flyers have been passed out not only in that village, but in neighboring villages as well.

On January 7, I received a happy phone call from my granddaughter, Debbie. “Mimi, I’m saved!” Tommy received the same call, “Uncle Tommy, I’m saved, and I want to get baptized,” and he baptized her the next day.

There were two new ladies present at our ladies’ prayer breakfast January 25, both military wives. Thank you for your prayers for these special ladies.

Bro. Rodolfo and his son, Wilber, the young man who hosts the children’s Saturday Bible club in his home, feel that the Lord would have them start a church in the same neighborhood. The children’s ministry has been a great tool in reaching the parents of these children. Back in December, Wilber and Jessica hosted a Christmas party, and invited the parents of these children. I was delighted to have led two little boys to the Lord that afternoon. Pray for this father-son team as they start this new work.

People are being saved and baptized, and the church is growing. I led a young lady to the Lord on January 8. She was convicted that she should “get her life straightened out,” in her words.

My plans for this year include traveling to speak at ladies’ conferences: the states of Veracruz, Morelos and Querétaro in the country of México; the states of Illinois and California in the USA; and the countries of El Salvador, and Ukraine. Pray for strength, wisdom, and finances as I gladly carry out my mission here on earth.

Your friend,

Billie Sloan    

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Chapter 14 - "Visions"

Tommy (my oldest son) has big, big plans to visit the other little villages one day. One night, as we were traveling back home, he pulled the van over...well, actually he stopped in the middle of the road, because there is no place to pull off the road. From San Cristóbal, you go down, down, down until you reach the bottom of the valley where San Lucas is located. So at a certain point along the way, at night, you can see the lights of village after village, the most incredible sight. I was sitting right behind Tommy, and he said, "Mom, I'm just going to get out and look at this." In the darkness, no one saw my tears, but I could imagine Daddy getting out, or getting off his donkey, and looking out over that vast valley, seeing past the lights, into homes and hearts, and wondering if anyone would ever go and take them the Gospel.

You know that verse that talks about Mary pondering? I think that must be what that means, and she must have felt like I felt that night, pondering and pondering...my mind and my body were so tired, but God gave me a little more strength to feel joy unspeakable. (Excerpt from a letter to my children.)

The dictionary defines “vision” as the act or power of anticipating that which will or may come to be: prophetic vision;

Have you ever had a vision? Don’t go all spooky on me, now. If you know me, you know I’m the most “un-spooky” person you’ve ever met.

This book is about my children and what I learned from living with them for twenty-three years (the length of time I home-mothered: from the time the first one was born, until the last one was married.) Boy, did I learn a lot from them!

But let me tell you a story from my childhood…actually I was a young adult at the time.

I practically grew up on the mission field of Mexico with my three little brothers. This story probably happened when my middle brother, Lanny, was about 15. My parents were out of town, my “little” brother, Tommy had by then left for Bible College, and my “baby” brother, David, was with my parents. One night I was fixing to go to bed. It was very hot…no air conditioner, so I had my windows open. I turned off the light, and as I was opening my curtain to let the cool evening breeze in, I noticed a figure under the beautiful big shade tree in our front yard. We lived out in the country, right on the highway, and evidently a bum, or a drunk had wandered up in our yard, and helped himself to bedding down for the night in a chair, which was leaning up against the tree. I was sure he wasn’t there to harm me, but just to have a safe place to snooze for a few hours. Still, I couldn’t bring myself to lie down and sleep, knowing a strange who-knows-what was in my yard.

So I did what any red blooded girl would do: I went in and woke up my teenage brother. “Come here,” I know I scared the daylights out of him, “there’s a man under the tree in the front yard.”

He was a mighty brave about-15-year-old, and shot out the door, as if just waiting for an adventure. “Be careful,” I warned him, and I can’t remember to save me if he grabbed a weapon. I think a machete would have been the only one available.

I ran back to my window to watch the scene. Looking back, I don’t know what on earth I would have done if the stranger had attacked him. There were no cell phones back then, and we had no house phone. The nearest neighbor was across the highway, and I would have had to run right past the villain to get help.

I watched as slowly and quietly my brave little guardian angel slipped carefully past my bedroom window, out toward the tree. I could hear my heart, and thought it would beat right out my ears!

But to my surprise, when he reached the ax murderer, he grabbed the empty chair, and turned around, and just shook his head at me. What appeared to be a man leaning up against the tree was just an empty chair someone had left earlier while seeking a shade from the hot sun. My vision turned out to be a harmless chair, with eerie shadows cast from the tree, creating the form of a man in my imagination.

My little sleepy headed brother came calmly back into the house, but I praised him for his bravery. He had no idea what he would confront out there in the dark, but he was willing to risk his life for me.

My adventure turned out to be just a vision formed by the illusion of the shadow cast by that old tree, and probably my wild imagination.

That’s a good story, but it’s not the kind of vision I want to tell you about…the visions I had when my children were growing up.

Neither am I talking about the mystic visions people say they have of angels or devils, or of their future husband.

I’m talking about the vision defined above; I guess a “prophetic vision,” although I’m not a prophetess.  There’s a Scripture in the book of Luke in the Bible that has always grabbed my attention ever since I became a mother. It’s a comment about perhaps one of the most famous mothers of all time, Mary, the mother of Jesus.  It’s found in Luke 2:19, and it says, “But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.” I’ve always “envisioned” Mary sitting there in the stable, right after the shepherds had visited her newborn Son. “To ponder” means according to the dictionary, “to weigh in the mind with thoroughness and care. To reflect or consider with thoroughness”

Can you even begin to imagine what Mary was pondering in those quiet moments right after her Baby’s birth? I can remember so vividly sitting up in my hospital bed (eight times, to be exact) and looking into the face of my precious little baby I had just brought into the world, and “pondering, and pondering and pondering: What will he be when he grows up?...has her husband already been born?...will she someday be sitting here, holding her newborn in her arms?...what will those little hands hold someday?...will he be a doctor like his Daddy?...”

I can almost “hear” you nodding your head. You’ve been there, haven’t you, Mom? Dreams…ambitions…visions!

I can close my eyes, and see him standing there. It’s 7:00 in the morning, really too early for a three-year old to be out of the house. But he determined to go with me every morning, Monday through Friday to my little class next to our house. We lived in a little village called Ixtapa back in the 70’s, and my husband had decided it would be good for the little boys in our boys’ home, to have a Bible lesson every morning. We had taken these little boys, mostly street urchins, some their destitute mothers brought to us. Every morning they would march off to the village school. But before they put “book learnin’” into their little heads, I would teach them a short Bible lesson, go over their memory work, and then teach them a song we would be learning for the children’s choir.

My little boy would stand up as tall as his little legs would allow, open his little mouth as wide as he could, and sing with all his heart.

One morning, I had a vision. I don’t know what else to call it. I was playing my accordion and the boys were singing, just like they did every morning. But this morning was different. Suddenly, my little son looked like the choir boy on a Christmas card. And my mind fast-forwarded about twenty years. He was standing before a large congregation singing with all his might in the most beautiful tenor voice I have ever heard.

As quickly as it appeared, it went away, and was completely forgotten…

…until years and years later. He was in Bible College, and he was singing with his brothers and sisters at a Christmas banquet. There he stood, as handsome as any young man I had ever seen. Suddenly, as if the Lord turned back the clock, I was standing in a little Indian village, accordion strapped to me, and I was looking into the little face of a little choir boy.

A vision? A dream? I don’t know. I never shared this story with anyone until now. Not even back in the 70’s with his Daddy. I think I must have doubted my little country boy could ever stand in a nice church in the USA, much less sing at a fancy American college Banquet. Someone thought he was good enough to sing, though. His music teacher thought he had potential…enough to record a CD with him.

Yesterday, I wrote my weekly e-mail to all eight of my children and their spouses, and I told the story I included at the beginning of this chapter. While I was having “visions” of the past, my son was having a “vision” of the future. I hope he will do the same thing with his children.

Look at those pudgy little hands. What do you see? Let your imagination run wild. I did that early morning, when there was absolutely no one else around to envision in my little boy what he could someday become. Looking back, I don’t think even I believed it enough to share that vision with his Daddy. So impossible!


You know what visions do? They build skyscrapers, and they go to the moon, and they swim the English Channel.

The next time you wash your baby’s hair, or trim her nails, or tie another shoestring, “ponder.”

That’s what that college music professor did with my son.

That’s what my pastor, Dr. Jim Vineyard, did with college kids. He envisioned pastors, and writers, and musicians, and missionaries. He envisioned unlikely kids with diplomas marching across the platform on graduation day.

Don’t limit your vision to the now. Visions turn drab rainy days into exciting challenges. If visions can change a pile of dirty laundry into neatly ironed and folded clothes, if that’s what keeps you diligently working and working until it’s all put away, imagine what visions can do to a stay-at-home mom while she’s explaining a Math problem, or giving out Spelling words.

Sometimes we labor at mommy-ing without a vision. I certainly did. Now that I’m a full-grown Mom, I have the joy of looking back, which is the opposite of vision.

I watch him in the pulpit, reading his passage for the Sunday morning service, and I think, “Wow, I taught that preacher to read!”

She’s a mommy now, and I’m amazed at how she can juggle housework, homework, church work, and six children…at the same time sometimes. And I wow her with, “I don’t see how you do it!” Her response? “Mom, you used to do it with eight!”

I never had a vision of my little girl watching me clean beans, give out spelling words at the same time, and dreaming that one day she would be doing the same thing. But she does!

I never listened, and listened and listened and listened to my little son while he stumbled over the words in his reading exercise, and think, “WOW! I’m teaching a preacher to read!” But I was.

I never dreamed while I listened to him recite the Declaration of Independence, that one day he would entertain a Vice Prime Minister. But he does.

If he’s flying a kite, will he someday be flying Air Force One?

Stumbling through her piano lesson? She could be a concert pianist in your vision, in your dream.

Let’s face it, Mom. Your job right now could be downright nightmarish, when you think of your responsibility. How I flubbed it so many times! I would go to bed at night, and visions of criminals, and druggies danced in my head. That “what’s-the-use” feeling of absolutely being a failure.

I wish I had been smart enough to realize who was putting those visions in my head. It certainly wasn’t the Lord. So when you-know-who puts those negative visions in your head, run him off to where he came from.

Do you want to be successful at anything? You can’t without a vision, whether it’s taking off 20 pounds by envisioning yourself in your dream dress, or tackling that closet by envisioning neatly organized shelves. Can’t do it!

Or maybe you can produce “dream kids” without a vision. I know Moms who didn’t half try, and they have marvelous children, who are mature, responsible adults. But wouldn’t it be fun someday, as you hear a wonderful inspiring sermon, or watch your little girl knead bread while listening to your grandchild recite poetry, and watch as that vision you had 20 years ago unfolds into reality?

Nothin’ like it!

And absolutely nothin’ like mothering. I’m still doing it!