An organic movement of people drawn to see the weak and vulnerable with God's eyes, and respond by faith with practical love.

Friday, August 9, 2013

A Belated Update

Well I've been back from Serbia for a week and a half, which is hard to believe. Obviously I did a terrible job of  posting updates while I was away!

No way I can post about the entire trip in just one post, but I'll start by sharing some pictures and tell about the visits to the institution.

I arrived in Novi Sad Friday July 19th, worn out, but hopeful. I'm so thankful for the time I had to prepare mentally for the week ahead, as well as to form and deepen relationships. On the following Tuesday I visited the mental institution.

I like to think of myself as an expressive person, a communicator, but I struggle to put these experiences into words. Srdjan, one of the administrators, picked me up. It was so good to see him again. He told me all about plans they have for improving the living space for immobile patients. They are moving forward with good things!

Beautiful Ana greeted me at the institution. It was an emotional experience being back, seeing the people, talking about progress.

I have such hope for the future of the institution with the fresh ideas and dedication of people like Srdjan and Ana. I felt like a friend, welcomed in to dream with them. What a gift.

I'm aware of my smallness. Of my limited resources. But I'm thankful that for some reason God has allowed my story to be woven into the story of these precious people. The gift I have to offer is faith. Faith that God sees and cares. I'm praying for favor for the residents and staff. For success of their plans. I trust God will draw near and be real to them and the result will be hope.

I visited Cedo (pronounced Chado). That was also emotional. I had thought at one point adoption might be in the future but that's just not the reality. He has a family. They visit but are too poor to care for him at home. I have lots of praying and thinking to do about his situation.

After visiting the sweet people on the top floor I went to the workshops to see the beautiful handcrafts of the residents. Pure delight ensued as they displayed their work with pride and I left with armloads of wonderful treasures!

The time was good but raised lots of questions. What does integration look like? How would a sponsorship program work? Can the residents lives at the institution be improved? Can their crafts be marketed in a way that provides income and raises awareness of the value of people with disabilities? What is my role?

Each time I visit I come away with more questions than answers. But I'm really okay with that. I want to be a part of the conversation. Dogma is something I'm learning to shy away from. A rigid set of standards or rules is difficult to apply to a group of unique individuals. The harder work is engaging in conversation and relationship.

On Friday I had another opportunity to engage, an opportunity I'm deeply grateful for. On the day I spoke at the conference Ana was able to join us to talk about the institution. Then a group of us rode over to the institution for a visit.

The welcome was enthusiastic, the interaction warm. I was so proud of the group of people with me and the way they displayed the compassion of Jesus' heart to others!

There is still so much to say about my trip, so much to process. My expectations were exceeded and I'm hopeful about what's to come.

Thank you for praying, for going before me and behind me in intercession. God is doing a good work and aren't we so glad to be a part of it!

Friday, July 19, 2013

On My Way

I'm sitting in Zurich, Switzerland at the moment, which feels a little weird, especially by myself. I'm tired but excited. Already made a new friend. God provided a great traveling companion on my 8 hour flight. I'm feeling very thankful for the way he has already encouraged me.

I don't know exactly what to expect from this trip. I'm praying to be available, flexible, faithful.

You know friends I couldn't do this without you! No way. I need those prayers and encouragements you offer for me. They encourage me when it's hard to tell tearful children goodbye. They help me hold up that shield of faith and fend off fear.

I'm trusting God will work powerfully through your prayers in the days ahead.

Will you pray that I will listen to God's voice and not let my agenda, fear, or desires get in the way.

Pray that I will always walk in confident humility and love.

Will you pray for relationships that have begun to grow and new ones to be established.

Most of all won't you pray with me for a mighty flood of God's salvation in this beautiful city that brings life.

I'll try to keep you up to date here on the blog as I travel!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Ready, Set, Go!

Summer is in full swing and I'm counting down the days until I travel to Novi Sad, Serbia! I hope to have a friend, Heather Guy, travel with me this year. We leave July 19th!

While I'm in Novi Sad I will join my friends Gordana Radeka and Vesna Radeka in presenting a seminar at the SOZO worship festival. The seminar, Hearts of Compassion, will give us the opportunity to talk about the social issues of abortion, domestic abuse and human trafficking, and care for the disabled community. We believe offering mercy to the vulnerable makes us all stronger.

We will also interact with the staff of Dom Veternik mental institution. Our goal is to build relationships and encourage them in their work. It's so important that they know they are cared for and not forgotten.

I hope that as we build these relationships with the church community and staff that we will all be able to work together in addressing the problems facing people with disability. That they will receive the support they need and our hearts will grow in love and compassion for all of humanity.

My heart is confident and joyful that God has allowed me to travel this journey, but it isn't easy. Our little family is in transition as we wait to close on a new house and move. Due to delayed paperwork there's a very real possibility that we will move and I will almost immediately leave for Serbia. That's just a bit stressful on this mama!

Your prayers as we prepare to travel are so appreciated!

  • Will you pray with us that God will provide the money for both Heather and myself to travel. My trip is mostly funded but Heather still has a ways to go. Also we would like to take financial gifts to bless Christian ministries while we are there. 
  • Pray that God would prepare our hearts and the hearts of those we encounter, that Jesus will be glorified and people will see his love in us! 
  • Pray for wisdom, confidence, and courage as we step out in faith. Serbia is very far, and it takes every once of dependence on Jesus for me to step so far outside of my comfort zone. 

If you are interested in helping us with travel expenses you can send a check made out to Beck Gambill or use the PayPal button on this page. You are also welcome to send a gift to help Gordana in her ministry to abused women or to Vesna as she reaches out to women in crisis pregnancies or recovering from abortion. You can donate for their ministries through PayPal or with a check as well, just note who you would like it used for.

Thank you for lifting up my arms in prayer and encouragement and for believe with me that God is faithful!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Resting on God's Reputation

I feel like I spend part of the time bluffing my way through my story, and the other part blazing with God's goodness. Do you ever feel that way, or is it just me?

We all have dreams. If you don't, dig way down deep, sit still for a minute of your frantic day and let them resurface. My dream is to do something that matters, that makes a lasting impact. I probably wouldn't have picked Serbia on my own, not that I don't like Serbia I just didn't know where it was! But God has a way of taking our dreams and putting them in turbo drive.

What's the likelihood that I'll succeed in raising awareness about the needs of disabled people, living without sufficient support and care in a mental institution? Or bigger still that I'll raise awareness and inspire involvement from you? From a logical perspective it's pretty low. But thankfully I'm resting on something bigger than myself. God's reputation.

It's said of him that he's, "a father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families, he leads out the prisoners with singing... Psalm 68:5-6

Not me, I'm not capable of that kind of goodness on my own. I don't have enough power, or grace, or resources to be able to help the fatherless or lonely at all. But God does. So on the days I'm aware of my puny weakness I bluff and bluster, hoping I won't fall miserably on my face. And on the days my eyes shift from my frailty and look full-faced at the brilliance of God's wealth of kindness that's when my heart sings and I dare to believe.

On those days of faith I imagine that you and your friends will see what I see. That you'll look through a fuzzy photograph and be compelled to see a person of value and vulnerability. A person who tugs at your better nature. Who prompts your desire to defend and pray, who draws out your willingness to support and shoulder burdens.

I wish I had a clearer picture of these three friends!

If you would like to join me in a bold belief that God is the father of these little ones, who no longer have present earthly fathers, I would love your participation.

  • If you live in or near Alabama I am available to speak to your church about loving vulnerable people, and/or partnering with Mercy's Refuge. You can contact me about that opportunity. 
  • You can pray; that I will have courage, for God to bless us with resources beyond what we can fathom, for the people of Serbia to know God as their father, for good connections and conversation during my trip this July, for disabled children and adults at Dom Veternik to receive all the support and care they need. 
  • And of course you are always welcome to donate finances and services.

Together we can make a difference! Relying on God's promise to care for the fatherless, I am confident that he will be with us!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Mercy of Sponsorship

Ever since coming back from Serbia last October I've been praying about the best way to respond to the needs I found in Dom Veternik mental institution. There have been ideas, and whispers of ideas, but one has stood out above the rest. The most challenging one. Sponsorship.

This is a dream being birthed, it will grow and take shape over time. Here is what I envision at this point. A family will chose to invest in the life of a child or adult who lives without a family in an institutionalized setting. The family receives a brief bio and picture of this new friend; begins praying for their needs; sends notes, small gifts, and a donation to help improve the resident's care. Both are blessed!

The needs of the residents of Dom Veternik vary. There are young men and women who are ready to transition from the institution to a support home in the city where they can continue their education or work. The problem is funding. There are residents waiting for this opportunity but a lack of funding keeps them institutionalized.

A support home for Dom Veternik residents
There are also children and adults that will never be able to live without complete care. However, the amount of care they receive now is insufficient because of low staffing and financing. Their quality of life is poor, they are waiting in cribs.
A young adult resident on the immobile floor

In many ways they are treasures hidden in silence, until we choose to see them and invest. 

The idea of sponsorship daunts me because the amount of people needed to make it successful is large. Going out on a limb feels risky, and at times lonely, but big risks are where we reap big rewards. I know it is only by the leading and providing of God that an international sponsorship program can happen. I'm stepping out in faith and walking in that direction.

Those are the bare bones of the idea, but what about the heart? The reason I believe sponsorship is important is that it links our lives together. The weak and vulnerable are gifts to us, when we exercise our heart muscles of compassion we become better people. In turn, as we care for the vulnerable and take an interest in their needs, they benefit. It's a win win.

Adoption is thought of as bringing a child into your home to raise as your own. I love adoption and believe it's important, but I believe there is more to adoption than we imagine. What if adoption is taking up the cause of another person, what if it means working to defend them, sacrificing for their good when others won't. Many of the residents of Dom Veternik mental institution aren't available for adoption, but that doesn't mean they don't need families to love them. 

I invite you to join our team as we move forward to see with eyes of compassion, to love like Jesus, and to embrace the weakest. We need your prayers and your encouragement. If you are interested in helping get the sponsorship program off the ground I would love to hear from you! And of course you are always welcome to donate by using the Paypal Donate button at the top of the page.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Moving In Step With Mercy

I have to confess that sometimes fear wraps it's icy tentacles around my heart and tries to choke out hope. I've done an odd dance between the two for the last few months. At one moment believing that I'm a crazy dreamer, destined to fail and the next believing it's God who has called me and makes me strong to walk in step with mercy.

I'm okay with the ups and downs, they keep my heart close to Jesus. As I wrestle with the questions and risks I ask myself why. Why go to Serbia? Last night Christine Caine reminded me why, I go because light searches out darkness.

I will never, can never, forget an institution full of people without family. The staff certainly cares for them, but how can three women caring for 50 immobile people take the time to be a mother, it's impossible. Both the residents and the staff need others to help shoulder the burden they bear.

It's more than that though. Serbia is a country searching of herself. With a long, rich history in the Balkans modern day Serbia is trying to find her place in the world. Unfortunately not so many years ago the price of war took it's toll on the region. Fracturing relationships with neighboring countries, debilitating the economy, etching unseen scars across hearts. It was a time that opened the door for vulnerable people to suffer more than others, taking it's toll on the unborn, disabled, poor, and women.

But Serbia is shaking off the past and reaching for the future. What will she find waiting for her there? My prayer is she will find mercy. Mercy to wash away the stains of the past, mercy to usher in hope for her future, the mercy of adoption into God's family. I'm praying for an awakening. I believe across the Balkans it's beginning to happen.

God is whispering to each country by name. Stirring hearts. It's what I pray for, it's what I believe. I pray for the church there, on the ground, to boldly hold out Jesus.

I'm excited this July to be a witness to this movement of mercy, and even to join my small voice in calling out for the church to be brave in offering mercy to the very weakest of their community. My friend Heather Guy will be traveling with me. I'm anticipating an amazing trip together.

If you want to be a part of spreading the message of God's mercy to the people of Serbia will you join with me in prayer for our trip?

  • Pray that we will be light when we visit the mental institution, witnessing to God's love for each precious life.
  • Pray that God will give me a message of truth that encourages the hearts of Balkan Christians to live in gutsy faith as I speak at SOZO worship festival.
  • Pray that God would give me more opportunities to speak about being a partner in mercy, here at home and in the Balkans.
  • Pray too that God would establish relationships while I'm there with people who will help carry out the vision of Mercy's Refuge to provide support and love to the vulnerable of Serbia.

We couldn't do this without you, travel across the world and back in search of people to love. Thank you for being a partner in mercy with us!

If you are within driving distance of southern Alabama and would like me to speak to your church or organization about Mercy's Refuge, or God's call to his followers to embrace all life, please contact me. Or if you would like to partner financially with Mercy's Refuge you can donate using the Paypal option at the top of the page.

I'm looking forward to sharing stories of God's provision and love as we walk in his mercy this summer! Do you have your own story of walking with mercy to broken people? I'd love to hear it!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Relationship Is Where It's At

This is what I know about Serbia. God loves her. He's called me to love her too. Relationship is the best way to make a difference. That's all I've got.

It may seem like an overly simple way to go about making a difference but that's how I'm going to roll!

There is no doubt that God has called my heart to lean in close and watch what he's doing in Serbia. No doubt he has initiated relationships I couldn't even fathom.

I'm not an organizer or administrator. I've tried to organize a response to the needs of the institutionalized in Serbia but honestly it's just been spinning wheels. So I'm going back to what I know. Relating.

As God tunes my heart more to his and teaches me to walk in step with him he makes the path clear. This July I've been invited to be a part of a team that just excites me to no end. I'm joining up with SOZO worship festival to be a part of loving Serbia and equipping the church to worship God through action.

I will travel with a team from the US to meet up with a group of people from around the world coming together in worship. Along with that we will reach out to the staff of Dom Veternik and hopefully city officials to show our respect and appreciation.

One of my personal goals for this trip, that I would love for you to join me in prayer for, is to find a local Christian to become a part of the vision of Mercy's Refuge. It would be so helpful to have someone in Serbia to work on that end to build relationships and take care of practical details. I'm praying that God would clearly orchestrate our meeting this summer.

Which brings me to another dream. More relationship, on a larger scale! I would love to pair families in America and Serbia with a child or adult in the mental institution. My dream is to provide the sponsor family with a picture and basic information of a resident. They would then send letters, small gifts, and a small donation to help provide for that resident's needs, and most importantly pray for them.

I don't know of a better way to improve someone's life, and for us to be more like Jesus, than to engage in relationship. Of course there is no doubt that this dream has all kinds of challenges to overcome and details to be worked out. But think of the possibilities. Taking someone who for years has been virtually invisible and then to bring them into a family as it were, to be loved, cared for, prayed over, and valued. Investment, even from a distance is worthwhile and I believe a great change agent.

What do you think? Would you be willing to be a part of that type of relationship building?