Friday, December 13, 2019

Two Women, Centuries Apart, With Parallel Journeys


I have written and spoken about Naomi whose story is recorded in the book of Ruth in the Old Testament, many times. There are so many lessons we can learn from her life. The stories of these women were given to us by God to instruct and help us when our lives face difficulties too.  Today I want to again look at some of the occurrences in the life of Naomi and then introduce you to an incredible widow who lives in India and trace the journeys of each as they traveled the long, hard road to wholeness and productivity after suffering the overwhelming grief of widowhood, coupled with cultural constraints on them and prejudice and mistreatment toward them...First, let me refresh your memory of Naomi. She, along with her husband and two sons, went to Moab from Bethlehem in Judah because Judah was experiencing a severe famine and the economic picture looked brighter in the land of Moab. Things were fine for a while; food was aplenty for them, the two boys grew to adulthood and married and life looked good. Then, Naomi’s husband died and a few years later so did both of her sons. Naomi was cast into an abyss of great grief and despair. She was now a widow with no means of support in a foreign country with no family members that could do anything for her. She heard that things were better in the land of Judah and she made the decision to make the seventy-mile trip back through some very rough and dangerous terrain. Only one of her widowed daughters-in-law made the trip with her.
Whether they walked or rode on an animal of conveyance, they doubtless endured hot dusty days, cold nights, and would have been easy prey for robbers who hid along the roadways. Still, God protected them and they arrived safely to Naomi’s hometown. Yet circumstances didn’t immediately improve for her. Widows without benefit of an adult son automatically became a member of the lowest rung of society in those days. She was an aging woman with a foreign daughter-in-law with small prospect for any change in her economic condition. Sure, she was now again among her own people, understood the culture and spoke the language, but she was a broken, poverty-stricken, bitter old woman with no hope in sight. What was she to do?

Before I finish Naomi’s story, let me introduce you to a woman by the name of Vimala from the nation of India. Vimala lived the life of a wife and mother until, at the age of 47, she became a widow. She was thrown out of her home by her in-laws who blamed
her for their son’s death. Her daughter reluctantly agreed to give her shelter, but this didn’t include food or the necessary medications she needed for her diabetes. In exchange, Vimala had to help support her disabled daughter as well as her two grandchildren. It was at this juncture in her widowhood that she found herself in much the same situation as Naomi. She was uneducated and had no marketable work skills. What was she to do? In her lonely, terrified state of mind, she contemplated suicide as her only way out and these thoughts haunted her day in, day out.

Let’s revisit Naomi’s story. When she arrived back at her hometown the Scriptures describe her homecoming like this: When they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them, and the women exclaimed, “Can this be Naomi?” “Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them. “Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. …The Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.” (Ruth 1:19b-21a) God is sovereign over all of life, but it is never His intent to make us bitter; He is always at work to make us better, more like Him. Soon Naomi’s bitterness was replaced with hope, and God began to orchestrate changes in her life, first through her daughter-in-law, Ruth, and then through Boaz, a close relative of her deceased husband. After a series of God-orchestrated events, Ruth and Boaz married and economic security was restored to Naomi. Ultimately, joy and fullness reigned in her heart again through the birth of her grandson, Obed, who became an ancestor to Jesus our Messiah. (Please read the biblical account of how all of this came about or listen to Naomi’s Journey to Destiny  from 8/5/2016 or read the blog Lessons in Grieving from Naomi from 8/21/2018 at this website.)

Vimala, too, was consumed with despair and saw suicide as her only way out. But, God had other plans. God has placed in India a ministry called the Kerusomen Gospel
Ministries who, among other things, helps the widows with kindness and love. Anju, a member of this ministry, was filled with compassion for Vimala who was an outcast for no other reason than being a widow. Sadly, that is the fate of thousands of India’s widows. Most of them are disowned and live in deplorable conditions. They are shunned by a society steeped in superstition that believes they are bad luck.  It is understandable that Vimala saw suicide as a way out. Her only way to survive would be to beg or turn to prostitution. But, just as God didn’t cause Naomi’s bitterness, neither was He responsible for Vimala’s hopelessness. And God used Kerusomen’s The Well partners to replace thoughts of suicide with hope for her.  They now give Vimala a monthly stipend of $15.00 for food and furnish her medical aid. This guarantees that her daughter will not abandon her.  Local Indian Churches partner with members ofThe Well.  They visit Vimala regularly and this brings comfort and joy to her.
(To learn more, go to 

Here we have the story of two widows, separated by centuries of time, but united through the compassion of our loving heavenly Father. You, too, are somewhere on your own journey from the grief and despair of widowhood to wholeness and productivity.

  It doesn’t matter what culture you may live in or how difficult it is for you to navigate the steps on your particular journey, there are no coincidences with God. With Him as your heavenly Father, you can rely on His promise in Jeremiah 29:11 that says, "For I know the plans I have for you,says, declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

A new year looms for you as it does for each for us. Keep your eye upon the goal and don't allow Satan to thward those good plans God has for you. He attempted to do so for Naomi as well as Vimala, but God intervened in both of their lives. His compassion for you is just as great. Commit your life into His care and keeping, and trust Him to bring you safely through the dark times you may be experiencing.

 My prayer for each of you is that 2020 will see you making great progress forward on your journey to wholeness. If you have not committed your life to Jesus, God's Son, I implore you to do so. He wants to make something beautiful of your life too and demonstrate His great and eternal love for you.    

Message by Shari Hervold

From all of us at "Friends Needing Friends" International Ministry, pray that God will favor you as you continue to serve Him.

Music by Steve Amerson...."Where Else Would a Child be Born"

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

God Has a Better Plan for You

For the past several weeks the blog has focused on the prophet Elijah and how he felt totally forlorn, alone and fearful for his life that had been threatened by the wicked Queen Jezebel, so much so that...
He hid in a cave and prayed for death. Of course, we also saw how God didn’t leave him there, but rather encouraged him, gave him an assistant and sent him back into the business to which God had called him.

As I write this blog, here in the United States the winter’s two biggest holidays are just around the corner: Thanksgiving and Christmas. While these are festive occasions centered around one’s family and traditions, I’m aware that it can be an especially painful time for widows whose life has been rearranged and for whom holidays often point to their loss. Loneliness and self-pity setin and instead of joining in the festivities, some widows would rather withdraw and refrain from either receiving or giving joy.  They tend to forget that God is still just as close to them, is still caring for them, and has a plan in mind for them. That reminds me of another story in the life of the prophet Elijah. 

This story is recorded in I Kings 17:1-14. God had spoken to Elijah telling him that a drougt would overtake the land of Israel, lasting for a few years.  Obviously, this famine affected Elijah too, but God spoke to Elijah telling him to go to a certain place where there was a small brook that would supply him water and while there God sent ravens to feed him daily. He most likely fared better than the average citizen in Israel. If God could supernaturally send ravens to deposit food twice daily for Elijah, he could just as easily have kept the brook from drying up, but He didn’t. And sometime later that's exactly what happened. The brook became just a dusty little channel devoid of the life-giving liquid. Do you sometimes feel that your supply of emotional and spiritual energy is depleted, especially as holidays approach? You may find yourself dreading the holidays, knowing that nothing will be as it once was when your spouse was at your side, and now all the family traditions are just a memory.

The “brook of your soul” is all dried up and you simply feel bereft of enough energy to face it all. I have good news for you, but first let me tell you what happened to Elijah.

God told Elijah to go to a town that wasn’t even in Israel and there he would find a widow, along with her small son, who would suppy him with food. When Elijah arrived in Zarephath, he found the woman and her child with just enough flour and oil left to make one meeal for them and their plan was to lie down and wait for death-the agonizing death of starvation.  Elijah immediately tells her to make a loaf of bread for him. And the woman did as she was told, kneading the flour into a precious life-saving dough, not just this one time, but every morning for the duration of the famine, because God miraculously kept the supply going just as Elijah had told her He would. Did I mention that the Scripture states that God had prepared a widow in Zarephath? God was working even before Elijah or the widow knew it. God hasn’t changed. He has prepared work for you to do and is also working on the exact thing or person He is preparing for you to serve.

And that brings me to another part of this story that I want you to know about. At some point the young son became ill and died. Of course she was heartbroken and appealed to Elijah. Elijah prayed and her son was restored to life. Just as God wouldn’t allow Elijah to die, neither will he allow you.

 Did you note what God did?

 He sent Elijah to a totally different region, to a foreign country and to a woman who, along with her son, would also have died. God’s plan for you just might be to do something different, something He has prepared just for you. God often calls us to do something different even in the midst of our pain that allow us to focus on something or someone other than our own situation. In fact, being a pain reliever for someone else is the best way to relieve your own pain.

Think of the ways in which Elijah most likely served this widow and her son. He was able to mentor a lad without a father, perhaps do chores around the house that were a true help to this widow, provide companionship and adult conversation for her, and, perhaps most importantly, he was there to pray to God to restore this widow’s son to her. In other words, God was supplying his physical needs while also keeping him busy pouring into the lives of two other of God’s children. Did you also notice that it wasn’t his usual work of being a prophet? No, this was a different calling for Elijah, but it was God’s plan and a better plan that either Elijah or the widow could have dreamed.

Ladies, opportunities abound for you to be involved.

America is full of organizations that assist others and welcome volunteers in that effort; churches are also great resources for reaching out to others, even if it isn’t your own. However, if you’re not physically able to work in a soup kitchen or help at a community food bank, or aren’t financially able to give to a needy family, you can begin in your own family. Instead of having your family show you extra love and concern this year, don’t dwell on the one you’ve lost, but rather concentrate on those you still have.

Think of new and different ideas to make them happy. It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money either. Begin to write your memories down for your grandchildren, sharing how you met and fell in love with their grandfather, telling them what their parent was like as a child, filling in with details of your own childhood. Once you get started, it might amaze you at the memories that come rushing back. Pass them on and delight the heart of your child or grandchild.

 As Christians we’re called to serve. Ask God to open up opportunities for you to do so this holiday season. I guarantee that you will find yourself basking in the joy of Christ’s birth, his gift of a new birth for you, and the areas of service that you can enjoy as His child this Christmas season because His plan is always better. (For further reading on this topic, go to the right and click on Pray, Plan, Prepare, Oct. 2018.)

For those of you reading this who have not asked Christ to be your Savior, won’t you do so now? Just acknowledge that you are a sinner and that you accept Christ’s death and resurrection as truth and invite him into your life. That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved, (Roman 10:9). 
Message by Shari Hervold

"He Will Carry You" sung by Lynda Randle

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Of Whom Shall I Fear?

Most of you will recall the story (I Kings 18) in the Old Testament where the prophet Elijah challenged the gods of Israel. The 450 prophets of the god Baal were to pray to him and Elijah was to pray to Jehovah God to send fire to burn up a sacrifice. All day the prophets prayed to their god with no results. Then Elijah prayed to Jehovah God and fire fell and burned up the sacrifice, not stopping until the wood, the stones, the soil, and even the water were burned up by the fire of the one true God. The people were amazed and worshipped Jehovah as the one true God;

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Fruitfulness Through Suffering

In the 41st chapter of the book of Genesis, we read the following:
 Before the years of famine came, two sons were born to Joseph by Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest of On. 51 Joseph named his firstborn Manasseh[e] and said, “It is because God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.” 52 The second son he named Ephraim[f] and said, “It is because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.”
For any of you who aren’t familiar with the story of Joseph, let me just summarize it for you..

Friday, April 26, 2019

Hope without Action is Wishful Thinking

             Someone much wiser than I stated recently that hope is an action verb. In reality, hope can be used as a noun or a verb. But most often I think we see it used as a verb as in, “I hope you’re calling with good news.” No action is required here on the part of the one doing the hoping; it’s just wishful thinking...

Friday, April 12, 2019

Robes Made By Dorcas

Acts 9:36-42

Dorcus, a word which means “Gazelle”, was sometimes called Tabitha. She was a very kind person who spent her time caring for the widows of Joppa. The story takes place in the time of the early church right after Saul’s conversion.

Tabitha, it is not known whether she was a widow or not, could have been the leader or overseer of the local widows or she may have been a dear friend who cared for them. What is clear is that she did many good things for others. We are going to study what happened in Joppa when Tabitha took ill and died.  This is where the story gets exciting...

Friday, March 8, 2019

Mary Sits while Martha "Steams!"

When we read Scripture, it isn’t always prudent to read it as something that happened last week or even last decade. Sometimes the reason we miss the greater meaning of a passage is because we lack a proper setting for understanding it. So, with that in mind, let me give you just a brief background of 1st century Judea and its treatment of women. The rabbis of Jesus’ day had little use for women. Did you know that...

Saturday, February 2, 2019

An Eternal Love Story

  February is “love month,” the month in which Americans celebrate Valentine’s Day. Do you remember as a little girl in school hoping that you would be the recipient of many valentines to bring home to show your mother? You thought that the more you received was proof of your esteem among your classmates. Perhaps that was so or perhaps not. But, getting a valentine, or some other token of affection, on February 14th is always a good thing and, as widows...