A beggar who has found food

“I’m just a beggar telling another beggar where to get food.” Greg Lowery 

Recently in a Russian Vocational Training Center I was asked by Sergey, an older orphan and new friend, the question,

What makes a Christian all that different from me? I’m a nice person, smart, and just doing life… what makes you or them so different? 

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To be honest I’m not sure all that went into that conversation- the Holy Spirit is an amazing gift given to us Believers. The Holy Spirit answered what his spirit was crying out for and I ask you to pray for Sergey even now. As I had my time with the Lord the next day and a journal handy, I asked Jesus the same question– what makes me different?

What makes me different than any other “good” person?

Truly the answer is…only Jesus. Our sin creates a distance between our Creator. A confusion of purpose, sometimes a lack of hope, other times a false pride in ourselves are some of the symptoms of this brokenness between God and me/you. Jesus says I am the way the truth and the life: no man comes to the Father (Creator) but through me. The only hope for us was for someone to pay the price God had already put into play before the first sin. Payment for sin is death. When I choose to go against God’s compass of right and wrong (He’s the Creator, He makes the rules) then a payment has to be paid. So one who never broke the rules … Paid the price for me. Jesus not only died but he died as the criminal I am when I sin. When I discovered this, I thought How can I not accept his gift? If you declare with your mouth Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart Christ died and rose again (this truth makes Him God not man)- you will be saved. Romans 10:9

Saved from what? Saved from a life without your Creator. The difference is simply this: I live for something greater than myself. I have a purpose and good plan designed by my Creator Himself and the distance my sin created between myself and God is no longer there. One day I’ll see Him face to face but in the mean time , His Spirit upon my acceptance of His payment, came to live this life with me. I’m not alone anymore trying to figure out my next step, how to make it through this next problem, or even know what is right or wrong. He is there.
The best part of the story- it’s free for you as well.

Day 1 of Africa 2015

” But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed but to those who have faith and are saved.” Hebrews 10:31

The plane landed in Zambia and from the window I saw miles and miles of tall dead grass mixed with tall trees that had a little green on the top. It was not quite hot season but the effects of being closer to the equator were not hard to see.  Red dirt ran miles and miles with dust storms showing little pockets of the stronger winds seen in August and September. The pilot greeted us on the intercom and we were told to exit the plane. We were in the middle of the run way it seemed and several tourist stopped to take pictures of the small airport. I on the other hand was worried because I never could find a pen to fill out the immigration form. The stewardesses when I asked to borrow one let me know there wasn’t one on the plane. Could it be that pens are even scarce to find here? Finally I found a pen and made my way through the line to buy my visa, get my luggage and move on through. The doors opened and “Papa Wes” was there hand in hand with a beautiful African beauty. Her name is Cynthia– next I met a woman named Elizabeth- I decided since my best friend’s name in the states is Elizabeth that indeed we were made to be friends. She seemed okay with that as well. Next was a young man names Francis. With a handsome smile lanky body and IPad in his hand. My first thought was– I’m going to be fine here…they brought me the preteens 😉 ( For those of you who do not know, preteens hold a special place in my heart)
In Elizabeth’s arms was one of the newest members of New Day Orphanage…with her stoic look, chubby cheeks, hands and legs– Baby Emma had my heart from the start.We jumped in the truck and headed out for a couple hour drive to New Day. Along the road I noticed we were few and far between any other vehicles on the road, but there were so many people walking along the red dirt. Scattered among the grass were round huts with grass roofs, women with big bags or baskets on their heads and many with babies tucked securely in the cloth around their backs. Little boys played with big sticks, old tires or trash among the grass.

The journey became mile after mile with eventually the road changing to a red dirt road. The tires spun several times as we missed dips in the road, drove around cows, and spotted more of those huts mixed with buildings built with red bricks, or sticks and mud.

The final turn led us to a gate and after opening the gate we drove a little more on a red road. Up ahead I saw a circular area made from concrete with an opening all around to see out, completed with a grass roof. Many heads turned our way and it didn’t take long to see them begin to move toward the truck. I could hear Papa Wes! Papa Wes! and knew we must be here. The children were covered in red dirt with snot hanging from many noses, but their clapping and singing is what caught my attention. They were singing a song of welcome to me and lined up to give me a handshake… the handshake felt much like a secret handshake– remind me to show you when I come home.

From the beginning, I could see the twinkle in the eldest ladies eyes, nervousness from the children, and a strength from a country I would call my home for the next three and a half months.

These people remind me “They do not belong to a people who shrink back… but to those who have faith and are saved.”

God protect, bless and multiply the work of the Christians at New Day – for His glory.

Fellow servant  and follower of the Lord Jesus Christ,

Shannon Pannell

Falling in Love with Jesus Changes Things

“By day the Lord directs His love, at night his song is with me- a prayer to the God of my life.” Psalm 42:8

The flight to London was filled with the normal movie watching, trying to catch some sleep, airplane food and managing my luggage. The Hispanic lady beside me was chatting to her children in Spanish and I couldn’t help but think of my dad. His love for the hispanic people and devotion to God’s calling in his life led him to learn a language at 53 years old. I wondered if one of these countries I’m heading to this year would produce such a yearning inside of me. Then her children turned around to talk to her and lo and behold they were speaking English and not only English but Kings English– it was so wild, I couldn’t help but start a conversation. How does a hispanic family have that kind of accent? She laughed and explained she was from Mexico but she fell in love with an Englishman so her family now lives in England. I quickly asked the local , where are all the stops I should go when I landed. I had a 8 hour layover and wondered what all I could do. She sweetly walked me through each spot, how to get on the tube, and even how much to expect everything to cost. I enjoyed sitting by her very much. The conversation turned to what I was headed to doing. As I explained the story, her eyes were alight and I knew I had met another Believer. She was so proud of me she said and then here it comes… “I’m so excited for you, I wish I could have done something like that. I wish I could now, I want to give more.”
This seems to be what I hear from many middle age Believers and to be honest, it saddens me. We all have seasons in life and as a mother of three, probably not a good idea to leave everything but then again, what would it hurt? As I quieted my soul, I asked the Holy spirit where He wanted this conversation to go… He lead it to the place where I told her, the more you fall in love with Jesus, the easier it is to follow Him anywhere. I know this sounds rote for the minister but seriously, this is the story unfolding in my life. Not to many years ago, I didn’t even know if I could trust Him, let alone love Him. Through His grace, other Believer’s love and ability to listen, a disciplined time in His Word- my love of Him grew into an unimaginable force. Loving the Lord always comes with a cost… mostly it’s time and a desire for more than this life has to over- but the reward far out weighs the cost. He walks with us, guiding us in the steps of this life in a way that I would say is never boring– if your life has hit a “boring” state, I dare you to tell Him this and wait in His Word.
If you wonder where to start, start with His “this life” story. Read the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John) asking the Lord to show you, who this Jesus is. Don’t just read the words but look for spotlights on who He really is. How can you fall in love with someone you barely know?

Back to my new hispanic friend, I sweetly told her much like I just told you- I took it a step farther and explained what the Word recently showed me of my Jesus. He sought out the broken, the rejected, the lied too and revealed Himself to them first. I love that about Jesus… He loves and on this earth loved people other’s looked past. I can follow someone like that. I marvel at His love for all but I love how He loves. “We love because He first loves us.” I John 4:19
We both had tears in our eyes and I think it was because when we looked deeper than just another Bible story, we can’t help but fall in love with the One who died for us.

Falling in love with Jesus changes things.

Shannon

Right Now?

“Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” Proverbs 19:21

Ever had one of those conversations with the Lord in which you say…. Really? Right now?  I recently had one of those moments. My life was finally feeling ya know “put together”. After a season of no control, sickness, heart ache, and having to push to breathe each moment, life took a turn and seasons changed. The air felt lighter all around, the sun was shining most days and life had this peaceful current. Now, not everything was perfect and drama is all around no matter what the season it seems, but as I drove home on a long country road more often than not my hand was out the window and a smile was on my face. The horses were having new little ones that were skipping about; the flowers were blooming and grace… magnificent grace… was the word pulsing through my brain rhythms.  So, why oh why did I ask God to keep whispering?      There you saw how the Lord your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place.” Deuteronomy 1:31

Every time He whispers, life changes. He is always asking for more… more love, more of my life, more of my time, more… always more. I know why I ask… His adventures always lead to places of completeness. He knows me, He loves me, and He holds a future better than I can imagine.    “Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than we can think or imagine.” Ephesians 3:20

I can’t imagine a life without His whispers. His whispers led me to this season of joy and peace… His whispers are how I make it through the droughts or the fire…. His whispers are worth it and more.

So when He whispered a plan to live out James 1:27  Pure and faultless religion is this to visit the orphans, take care of the widows and not be polluted by this world.…. my heart hurt a little but sped up even more. Really? Right now?

He knows me. He knows my love for orphans because He is the one who placed it there. He knows my love of travel and He knows I long to learn more of this heartbeat of His. He knows my fears of seeing and knowing too much, of a “American” life ruined by the visual picture that I can touch and feel of someone unwanted, uncared for, and broken. He knows this will change my life forever.“Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.” Psalm 23:4-5 

Seven countries in a year? Seven orphanages with precious children who I know God will use to change my life. Seven life changing adventures with two purposes: be His hands and feet and above all…learn.