I apologize that there will be NO Happy Holiday cards from Melody this year!!! Much too busy to manage that. (Maybe next year!) But as I sit here at my desk enjoying a quiet evening, my heart overflows with thanksgiving for how God has blessed this past year. Truly this year has held so many special memories and milestones. Some highlights for me include:
- Seeing so many miracles and answers to prayer - more then ever before!
- Taking ARME International to England and Bali for the first time
- Speaking in Germany and visiting Martin Luther's landmarks of faith
- Spending a month working with the General Conference and seeing more answers to prayer!
- Traveling cross-country with Raluca to and from ARME events
- Seeing the foundation of my own cabin started and NOW (as of 2 days ago) finally enjoying it in completion! (I'm ready for visitors!!!!!)
- Getting to visit the Welsh Revival landmarks in Wales, U.K.
- Experiencing God's sustaining strength during All-night prayer meetings
- Seeing my own community being revived through the power of united prayer!
- Enjoying another trip to Hawaii for ARME XIII!
- Learning afresh the power of God's Word in my life personally, like never before!
I could go on and on, but those are a few things that come to mind. God has been so good and this year has been soooo RICH and so amazing!
I just returned 3 days ago from our 13th ARME Bible Camp which was on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. This camp was smaller than usual, but the power of the Holy Spirit was evident on every hand, from the miracles of how people came, to the transformations that we saw in the hearts of so many, to the powerful Holy-Spirit filled messages, to the testimonies that were shared during family night, and even to what He did in our own lives personally. I don't have any pictures from our ARME photographer yet, but I will share a few personal photos.
While I have to say that I would NOT want to spend my whole life on an island (and I much prefer hiking in the mountains over walking on the beach any day), I know that it's a treat if you get to visit even one of the "tropical paradises" that God created for us this side of Heaven.
Well, I've had this privilege three times now: The first time in 1993 on a high school outing, then last year with our first ARME Hawaii, and now this year. This year was a complete miracle how everything came together because, for me (even though I'm the director of Programming for ARME and I absolutely must be in attendance), I simply did not have the funds to afford the trip. (All our staff pay their own registration/lodging/and food in addition to airfare - and this is tough when you do so many camps a year!) But God provided for me in a very special way for ALL the expenses of this camp. Secondly, I was exhausted from all my fall travels and speaking, and I really felt the need of a time of refreshment. But I had no idea how I could afford to stay even an extra two days in Hawaii. But God worked everything out again. He provided a place to stay with my ARME girls a whole weekend beforehand, and someone donated a "time share" for us to stay in (at a five star resort) afterwards for several days. Amazing!!!! We felt like Queens!!!
Besides just needing a place to stay (which God provided so beautifully….see pictures above!) I was praying for a special spiritual blessing on this trip! As I work behind the scenes with ARME and do so much hurrying and scurrying keeping the program going, I often feel left behind in the blessings that everyone else is getting at camp. I'm sure many ministry leaders feel this way! (That's what happened last year when we brought ARME to Hawaii, and I was afraid it would be the same this time.) But God did not leave me destitute. This time I had such a blessed time with God…from early morning times of prayer out on the beach, looking up at the stars, to watching the morning sunrise as I read from God's Word (see picture below), to the beautiful all-night prayer that He strengthened me to be part of.
Each ARME, one of the biggest highlights for everyone is the all-night prayer meeting. It's something that simply cannot be described in words. You just have to attend it to understand. (Picture below.)
While we do United Prayer some of the time, much of the night (during all-night prayer) we spend surrounding each other in prayer over specific needs. Some of my teammates have asked for special prayer in the past, but I've always been too proud to do so myself. About five ARME camps ago… (that would be Pine Springs Ranch in Southern California this past January), I felt convicted that I needed special prayer regarding a certain area in my life. But I was too proud to get up and share. So one camp after another has continued to pass, and Melody (ever strong and stoic, and feeling like she needed to be praying for others rather than being prayed for) refused to acknowledge her need. Finally this camp, I'd had enough. Enough with pride, enough with being stoical… I just got up and asked. It was such a relief when I allowed myself to fall on the Rock and be broken. Such peace encompassed my whole soul. I felt already like God was answering my prayers!! And the amazing thing was, after I shared, many more came forward to share as well…admitting that they too needed to be broken. So I was reminded once again, what a blessing it is for everyone (not just ourselves) when we are willing to be vulnerable and share.
There is one part of the Oahu island where one young woman (who had dreams of Heaven) said she felt most resembled her dreams of anything she'd ever seen. This picture below is that part. The whole valley is lush, but the water is simply amazing. On Sabbath, before ARME started, our girls group climbed to the top of the one of the overlooks and had a beautiful time of prayer.
Last year when I was here on Oahu, I conquered another fear of mine - "Heights and being alone!" I climbed this sharp pointed mounted that you see here pictured below. And I not only succeeded (it was very steep and I even needed to use ropes at times as I could have literally fallen off the mountain trail) but I did it ALONE…with no family and no friends to cheer me on!! So when I saw this special mountain, even from a distance, it brought back special memories.
Then of course, there are all those little special gifts that God brings all along the way. Here is a picture of a "rock crab" that I just happened to step on. I picked it up, thinking maybe it was a shell, and almost freaked out when it started moving and I realized it had legs. So amazing!
Here are some island cardinals. I thought they were wood-peckers, but they are actually cardinals! Aren't they beautiful?? Any demonstration of God's handiwork!!
Below is our private resort beach and pools that we got to enjoy for a couple days after camp. Being a go-getter and what some would deem a "work-a-holic" I find it hard sometimes to just relax and be refreshed. But God reminded me on this trip that it is ok, and not just "ok"…but GOOD…to come apart and rest awhile! What a blessing. I needed this break and this sunshine!!
Of course the food was absolutely scrumptious! It would be no problem to do "Daniel's Fast" in Hawaii. Plenty of luscious fruit and healthy veggies. We enjoyed this immensely! The plate below is one delicious lunch from our pre-camp girls retreat. Next you catch a glimpse of some of our gang at the BEST THAI restaurant in the whole world!!!!! (If I had money, I'd travel to Hawaii just for this tasty meal…which has not yet arrived on the table below!) And the last picture is our final meal together before our team parted ways to return to the mainland.
So this isn't exactly a Holiday Merry Christmas letter, but this is a post reflecting on the goodness of my Lord and all the ways He's blessed me this past year! And I look forward to what He has in store in this coming year!