Saturday, May 14, 2022

Honoring a Mother Whose Life Examplified Christ

(Mama) Eunice Brown)
It’s the month of May and in America it’s the month in which we set aside a day to honor our
mothers. So, this month I decided to honor my own mother, a woman about whom I’ve spoken on a number of occasions, but never on this site.

 It’s difficult to cull through one’s memories and choose just one or two memories to share. I’ve chosen one that reflects my mother’s devotion to and trust in God in spite of deep grief and heartache.

 I was in middle school which had just closed for the summer recess a few weeks earlier. On this particular morning my younger sisters and I, along with our brother Philip who had just turned six the previous month, decided to stroll down our country road to a little bridge not far from our house. There Philip decided to amuse himself by picking up twigs and throwing them over the side of the bridge into the water, then darting to the other side to watch them wash through. About five minutes into his childish play, we heard a car approaching, a rare occurrence for this time of day. Phil had just started to retrace his steps when the speeding car struck him, catching his head in the headlight. Several yards from the initial impact the teen driver stopped, the jolt of which dislodged Phil’s head from the headlight and threw his badly traumatized and unconscious body to the side of the road. My sisters ran home to get our mother and I ran to a neighbor’s house to call for an ambulance. Within a few minutes I observed as she hovered over the broken body of her baby boy praying. At the hospital, a veteran reporter from a neighboring city reported that she was the calmest women under the circumstances he had ever observed.

 Later that afternoon she returned from her vigil at the local hospital to check on her children and refresh herself. Mother went into her bedroom and I could hear her praying. My mother’s prayers were a daily occurrence, but because I longed for physical proximity to her, I sat on the hallway steps outside of the master bedroom. Her prayer went something like this, 

“Lord, you gave Phil to us and we gave him back to you. We’d like to keep him a little longer, but if you want to take him home, I surrender him to you.” 

That was it, very calm, very matter-of-fact and not overly emotional. It was just a simple prayer of relinquishment to a loving Heavenly Father in whom she had complete trust and faith. In less than 24 hours, Phil was dead. I never once heard my mother question God as her faith was as absolute in the face of tragedy as it was when one of her children was receiving an award. Her faith was rewarded and her eight surviving children all served God, several in full time ministry, in part to the unswerving faith they observed in their mother, as well as their father.

 My mother outlived my Dad, her sweetheart and companion, by 15 years so she was acquainted with widowhood. She filled her days with prayer and ministry to others. Well into her eighties she taught a Bible class to young couples at her church and they adored her. She regularly visited and ministered Christ’s love to residents of a nursing home, many of whom were younger than she, a fact she found amusing as she would recall her day to one of her children saying, “I went to the Old Folks Home.”

 Mother died the way she lived, quietly without earthly fanfare, while sleeping. She gave two deep sighs and was in the presence of Jesus, her Lord and Savior. Thank you “Mama” for demonstrating a

The Eunice Brown Home 
for Children

faith that didn’t buckle when tried in the crucibles of life. To honor our mother, we surviving children 
established a children’s home, The Eunice Brown Home for Children, in Ukraine, in cooperation with a strong Christian community there with whom our oldest brother ministered. Mother didn’t know it, but she’s going to be having children until Christ returns. Her tombstone, which she shares with our Dad, says it all, “For me to live is Christ, to die is gain.” 

 Ladies, if you don’t know Jesus Christ as your Savior, I implore you to take that step of asking Him into your life so that you too can say as the Apostle Paul first stated, “For me to live is Christ, to die is gain.” 

That is the best Mother’s Day gift you can give yourself and your children. Happy Mother’s Day to each of you. 

Message by Shari Hervold (left) 
and (Mama)  Eunice Brown (Right)


This video is "I Will Serve Thee" by the Maranatha! Singers. 
 I don't own any rights for this song. It's for entertainment and worship purpose only.





Saturday, April 16, 2022

You Were Called for Just This Time

Happy first full month of Spring with new life bursting out all around us! It is also the month in
which we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Christ Jesus. It’s truly a wonderful time of the year.

I am reminded of the story in the Old Testament that relays a time when the Jewish nation was targeted for death and destruction. Queen Esther, wife of the Persian king, a very powerful empire at that time in history, played a pivotal role in saving the nation, preserving it for God’s purposes. Esther’s cousin had learned of a plot to annihilate the Jews and he asked Esther to go plead the cause of her people to the King. This presented a big problem for Esther as the King hadn’t requested an audience with her in over a month. If an individual went into the presence of the king uninvited and he didn’t raise his scepter, death would result. There were no exceptions, so Esther knew the stakes. History tells us that her husband was a man with an uncontrolled temper, quick to get

fiercely angry. She was a powerless pawn in his hands, wearing beautiful clothes, eating the best of foods and living in a castle, but not much better off than a slave. And her cousin had asked her to plead for her people to this man. She wasn’t just making up an excuse when she expressed her concern about approaching the King to Mordecai, her cousin. When she seemed to vacillate, her cousin reminded her that perhaps this was the very reason she was the queen in the first place. After fasting and prayer, she went into the King’s court, he raised his scepter, giving her an audience and ultimately the Jews were saved. (The entire story is in the book of Esther. It’s an exciting read.)                                                                                          

You have experienced moments in your life that have left you feeling much like Esther did upon receiving this news. She certainly wasn’t eager to go to the King uninvited, yet she was heartsick at the news she had just received and recognized that it was not information she could just tuck away in her memory bank and hope for the best. The death of your spouse was such a moment. Your life was forever changed. We call these moments “defining moments” in our lives where we are irrevocably changed. Did you know that God’s plan for your life didn’t change when your husband died, and you were forced to accept “widow” as a title? Your whole life had been a preparation for that moment, just as Esther’s life as an orphan living as a minority in a foreign country had prepared her for the difficult times she would face as a queen. You, too, might feel inadequate, unworthy, or even incapable of making a difference, thinking of yourself as “just a widow.” But let me remind you that you and your life are important to God. He has uniquely prepared you to do what only you can do to bring honor to His name. The places that we find ourselves in this life are not about us, but rather about Him and the bigger plans He has for our lives. Not bigger in the sense of

importance as the world sees things, but important to God. Did you notice the first thing that Esther did after making her decision to go to the King? She asked others to fast and pray for her and she did the same. Seeking God and his guidance and protection in our lives is valuable whether we’re facing a life-or-death situation or not. Keep your eyes fixed on the Lord and He will not fail you nor leave you to struggle on your own.                                                                                                                   

Now that you are walking life solo, you have the ability to do things you might not have been able to before. Think of the talents and abilities you have, perhaps the extra time you have, the neighborhood in which you live, your family members, especially those precious grandchildren, and ask God to direct your life as to how you can best impact those in your sphere for His kingdom. That’s what God is so good at, turning those painful times and situations in our lives around for a greater purpose than we ever thought possible.

I think of you ladies who are attending a Friends Needing Friends chapter, whether in New Jersey or Florida. Through your attendance you are able to offer camaraderie and support to other widows. In addition, you bring your creativity and talents through various means to the meetings. Some help out with the technology and others with photography. Just your presence speaks of your willingness to get past your own needs and be with other women, who like you, have turned a defining moment in your lives into a blessing to others. God is as interested in you as He was with those Jews thousands of years ago. He hasn’t left you to muddle through widowhood alone and promises to be with you every moment. God promised never to leave you or forsake you. (Hebrews 13:5)

Message by Shari Hervold

                                                 Music by Wayne Watson 


Saturday, March 19, 2022

Kicking Depression to the Curb in 2022


 I want to talk to you today about a subject that many don’t want to either talk about or even listen to others talk about. That subject is depression. Did you know that one in ten adults in the United States struggles with depression and it’s common in older people. Feeling sad or “low” is just one symptom of depression.  

There’s a story in the Bible about a well-known prophet, Elijah, who was battling depression. Let me summarize his story found in I Kings 19:1-31.  After the victory on the mountain where Elijah and the prophets of Baal had a contest to see whose God would hear them and burn up a pile of wood on an altar, the Lord God of Elijah heard his prayer, burned up the water-soaked wood, the sacrifice, the stones, the dirt, and even the water in the trench. The Baal worshippers got no response from their god and their prophets were put to death.

Upon hearing this, Queen Jezebel sent word to Elijah that within a day’s time he would be as
dead as her prophets. Elijah ran in fear for his life to Beersheba, where he left his servant, and then ran another day’s journey into the desert. There he collapsed under a broom tree and prayed for death saying, “I’m ready to join my ancestors in the grave,” and fell into an exhausted sleep. At this point an angel awakened him and told him to get up and eat. God had provided bread and water for him and he consumed them both and fell asleep again. Again, an angel appeared to him and told him to eat some more as God had some work for him to do.

So, what can we learn from Elijah’s story?
  • When you wear yourself out, you’re vulnerable to depression. Elijah had just experienced a major victory, but he’s worn out. It was an all-day event. What does he do? He takes off and runs to Jezreel which is 25 miles away. Then he hears that Jezebel has a death warrant out for him and he panics and runs to Beersheba which is another 100 miles, drops off his servant and runs another day’s journey into the desert. There he falls, exhausted under a broom bush just praying for death. God did not criticize Elijah, he didn’t lecture him, he certainly didn’t tell him to just “snap out of it.” No, he had him eat and sleep and then do it again until he was thoroughly rested and refreshed.
Some of you most likely could benefit from a regular sleep and eating schedule. Some of you refuse help from children, grandchildren, or friends who are only too happy to take some of your workload on themselves. Others of you could afford to hire some help with cleaning or yard work, but you’ve made it a badge of honor to do it yourself. Some of you haven’t developed good eating habits since you’ve become widowed. You may not even realize that a root cause of your poor eating habits is mild depression. You just slough it off as hating to eat alone, but most likely, it goes deeper than that. My aunt, who was a single woman, carefully put her place setting out before serving herself a meal. Just because she was alone didn’t deter her from making a nutritious meal and serving it as though she were in the company of others. Don’t neglect your health by poor eating habits.
  • When you’re depressed, you tend to shut people out. Elijah dropped his sidekick off and continued on alone. Make sure that you don’t shut people out. Your friends and family are there to help you. They love you and the worst thing you could do is isolate yourself from others. God made us to be in community. Don’t give in to thoughts such as, “I can handle this alone,” or “I just don’t feel like being around people anymore,” or “No one would understand my feelings anyway.” And don’t pretend everything is okay, when inside you’re “caving in.”

The pandemic has touched the lives of all us to some degree and many of us have lost close friends and/or family members to it. Special days tends to be a “downer” for widows and other pressures of life are always on the verge of closing in on us. There’s more than enough as we age to threaten our mental health so we have to be on the alert and be wise in how we respond.

 Are you getting enough exercise? Exercise benefits us in many ways such as protecting against heart disease and diabetes, improving sleep, and lowering blood pressure according to Dr. Ronan Factora, M.D. Dr. Craig Miller reminds us that exercise supports nerve cell growth which helps relieve depression. So, make sure you’re getting enough exercise, rest, and proper nutrition.

As you look forward to the remainder of this year, remember that physical health is important to mental health and practice good habits to enjoy this year in the grace and peace of our precious Savior, Jesus Christ. Even though Elijah prayed for death, God let him know that he still had work for him to do. The same applies to you. Your worth is not devalued because you are getting older, are widowed or for any other reason. You are a valuable and much-loved daughter of God. Live 2022 in expectation of what God has planned for you.

Message by Shari Hervold

                                           God Will Make A Way by Don Moen


Thursday, March 10, 2022

Consider the "What ifs?"


 A few years ago I did a devotional on this site entitled What If? I want us to revisit this question today because life is full of “What if’s” and we have all played mind games where this is the central question:

"What if I hadn’t married my husband?”                                        “What if I hadn’t had children?”

   What if I had taken that other job?”   -  “What if he had gone to the doctor sooner?”

I want us today to apply some “what if’s” to the stories of two individuals in the Bible and consider how different their lives could have been. The first individual that comes to mind is Abraham, whom we know as the father of the Jewish nation as well as all true Christ believers, (Romans 4:11). His story begins in the eleventh chapter of Genesis. We learn that Abraham, (known as Abram until God changed his name), was told by God to leave his birth family and country and go to a place that God would show him. He was also told that he would be the leader of a great nation and that all the families of the earth would be blessed because of him. Genesis 12:4 says this, “So Abram departed as the Lord had spoken to him. . .”  But what if he hadn’t departed. He was childless, with no hope for children through his wife, he had no idea where God was sending him, and he was leaving everyone and everything familiar to him. What if he had decided the risk was too great to trust God for the seemingly impossible. Would a Jewish nation have ever been established? Would Abraham and Sarah have ever had a son? Would God have just abandoned His idea of establishing a Jewish nation?

The next individual is introduced to us in the second chapter of Joshua. Let me summarize her story. Her name is Rahab, often referred to as Rahab the harlot, and she gave lodging to two Israelites who were spying out the land in which she lived and they planned to occupy. Word reached the King about the whereabouts of these two men and he sent word to Rahab to bring the men out. But she defied the King’s order and hid the men instead. Before she helped Joshua’s men escape, she extracted a promise from them that she and her family would not be killed when the Israelites destroyed their city. 

What if she hadn’t defied the King’s order and these men had been killed? Would this have put enough fear in the Israelites to just abandon their attempts to enter the land God promised them? What if the king had Rahab killed for hiding the men? What if the scarlet cord that she hung out to identify her apartment fell to the ground and was no longer visible and she and her family were killed?

            Now, I want us to look at the story of a modern day example of a “What if?” story. In 1988 Dotti Ackerman was newly widowed, living in New Jersey and had been challenged by her pastor to start a ministry to widows when she shared with him her loneliness and feelings of despair at the thought of rearing a teen-age son on her own. So she stepped out in faith and began having meetings in the back room of a local diner. In 2012 when she found herself again a widow, she was the director of a large ministry, meeting in a local country club crossing denominational lines, with half being Roman Catholic. Because her now grown son was living in Florida and wanted Dotti closer to him and her grandchildren, Dotti felt that God wanted her to make the major move to Florida. Her pastor, the same above-mentioned pastor,
questioned her decision to move. Why would she leave success to have to start over in an unknown community, with no local church to back her, and knowing no one? Why indeed. Her wise pastor wanted her to ask these questions and make her decision based on God’s leading. Dotti felt that God was leading her and she made the move to Florida, with her Pastor’s blessing.

            Dotti encountered difficulty finding a pastor who would allow her to use his church building, she had to navigate the road of communication to get the message out about the ministry, she had to do many things on her own for which she had previously received help from her church, and she had no financial backing. But, she persevered and today the Florida chapter of Friends Needing Friends is celebrating its 10th birthday.

            You are capable of asking the “What if?” questions yourself. But, I’ll start you out:
  • What if Dotti decided it was too difficult to move from the only area in which she’d ever lived?
  • What if, when arriving in Florida, she just decided her ministry days were over and retired?
  • What if discouragement got the best of her and she decided it just wasn’t worth the trouble?
HAPPY 10th ANNIVERSARY to the Florida chapter of Friends Needing Friends. It is a joy to see your radiant faces each month. You are a vibrant testimony of faithfulness to God’s calling. Thank you, Dotti, for following the call of God on your life.

Ladies, taking that first step is going to be the hardest part of the process in fulfilling God’s mission for your life. I encourage you to take that first step in anticipation of what God can do for and through you. Don’t live your life, only to come to the end asking yourself what if questions:
  • “What if I had shared Christ with my neighbor?”
  • “What if I had encouraged my grandchildren to attend church?”
  • “What if I had chosen to forgive that difficult relative?
  • “What if I had . . .?”
            May God shower you with his grace and mercy in the coming year.
Message by Shari Hervold

           From the desk of Dotti Ackerman
           Founder & Director of  F.N.F. Widow Ministry, Est. 1988
           A special video was put together as a reminder of some of our monthly program over the past 10 years. God has truly bless this  FNF widow ministry.  -   Just click and enjoy! 

Wow! 10 - 7 - or 5 years ago - have we changed! (For the good - Amen!)