THE NIGHTMARE BEGINS

The room was spinning. It seemed, all of the air was being sucked out. The walls of our lives suddenly came crashing in around us.

Denial immediately set in. My wife didn’t just now say those words over the phone, did she?

“He’s stolen our money.”

I had to wake up from this terrible nightmare. “Our money” meant the retirement money for which I had worked so hard for so many years. How could it all instantly be vaporized?

We had thoroughly investigated the man before we entrusted him with our retirement money. He was going to help us use it for our ministry in Malawi. His qualifications were excellent. An attorney with an advanced degree in tax, with investment projects and non-profit ministries in Africa, he was very well qualified. No ordinary guy, he had written a book on international tax law and had spoken before the United Nations. His board was comprised of Christian leaders, well-known and respected.

We didn’t just take his word for it, we thoroughly investigated him, drilling down deep on the Internet. Our mentor at the Iris missionary training school conducted at our church actually referred him to us, giving us his contact information.

Now, while we were talking with each other long distance, my wife, Debbie, had googled his name once more and found news articles that had very recently been posted on the web. These articles described allegations of fraud against the man.

My mouth was so dry, I could hardly speak. “Contact the lawyer mentioned in one of those articles”, I requested. Debbie did. The lawyer conducted a search and found out that the man had not set things up for us as promised.

We had a lawsuit filed.

Thinking that his board would force him to give back our money in short order, we had no idea that we were at that moment commencing a five year ordeal. Instead of living in the dirt of Malawi, ministering to the poor, we would be in legal hell for years.

As she lay on her bed, Debbie was agonizing before God. “We were going to serve You in Africa. We were giving everything up to preach the gospel and serve the poor. Why did You let this happen to us?” The answer came instantly.

“This has to be stopped and I’m using you to do it.”

Our church leaders were very sympathetic and supportive of us at first. Then one of them found out that some of the board members of the man were his friends. These board members would contact this leader and through him try to get us to drop the lawsuit.

Our Iris missionary school mentor called me. He angrily asked why I was suing his friend. He pressured me to drop the lawsuit, saying that this is not how missionaries should behave.

One of the passages used by various leaders to discourage us was 1 Corinthians 6. “Christians should not sue” is the usual rendering of the text.

Fraud is very easy to perpetrate in the Church. Christians are instructed to be trusting and to believe the best of others. Forgive and turn the other cheek, we are taught. Often a believer will “forgive” the one who has committed fraud against them and walk away without doing anything about it. This leaves the possibility of many others being victimized as a result because no one spoke up or filed a lawsuit.

In our case, thankfully, some were bold enough to have filed a lawsuit against the man. As mentioned above, because of our discovery of the existence of these lawsuits, we were able to quickly take appropriate action.

Yes, “appropriate action”.

Contrary to the popular understanding of 1 Corinthians 6, this passage refers to suits or grievances about matters of everyday life. Matters involving alleged fraud have no business being tried in the church. That is why God ordained the secular judicial court system. Paul actually calls them “ministers of God” (Romans 13:4). The secular courts were divinely instituted for our protection and deliverance. For a more accurate handling of 1 Corinthians 6 please refer to this brief excellent article written by a Christian scholar.

Turning the other cheek in Matthew 5:38-41 also deals with the arena of matters of everyday life. Shirts, coats, miles, and cheeks are all examples of such. When the level of alleged fraud is reached, turning the other check cannot and must not apply. Society at large is potentially vulnerable. Who is to say that the fraudulent one may not attempt to defraud once more? Others may needlessly have their lives destroyed as a result if the misguided “other cheek” is turned toward the perpetrator.

The aforementioned lesson was learned early in our ordeal. Before all of this began, we had believed that Jesus was going to use us to minister to people in the bush of Malawi. Who would have known that in our quest to get to Africa, we would be divinely swerved into the American judicial system to do His bidding there.

Those years were brutal. No battle is ever without casualties. We were severely damaged in so many ways. It was as if a tornado had ripped through every department of our lives. Years later, as we survey the scene around us, devastation still abounds. The decision to forgive is made in the moment and walked out from there. Healing, restoration, and the picking up of the pieces of one’s shatered world can take a lifetime.

God is faithful. Even if we are never fully restored, the lessons learned in this very expensive “school” of ours are invaluable. In the coming weeks, we will share some of these crucial discoveries. It is our hope that Jesus will be glorified as we share stories about His amazing hand at work…in the most unlikely of places.

Sometimes when things get difficult, we can hear the Holy Spirit, tongue in cheek, say “Get in, sit down, shut up, and hold on”.

Fasten your seat belts and hang in there with us for this really wild ride!

 

 

 

 

 

 

DESCENT INTO HELL

For the past several months, we have been writing our Malawi story.  We have enjoyed being able to share all of its wonderful God moments – things that He did in us, for us, and through us.  We appreciate all of the support from those who have read our stories. It means a lot to us.

Last week, in blogging about the sale of our house, we began to go down the path leading to the devastating loss of everything we had, deep betrayal by those we trusted, and the resulting trauma of the past six years.  Even though we felt like we “descended into hell”, we can say that Jesus was with us even in that “valley of the shadow of death” of our lives. Moreover, He has faithfully brought us out of death’s valley and to the other side into a place where we can heal and move on with our lives. We would never have survived such an ordeal apart from the grace of God.

He taught us a great many things throughout the process.  In the coming weeks, we will be sharing some of the insights and unveilings that He gave us during this dark, hellish period of our lives.

Due to the nature of the events that unfolded following the sale of our house, we have prayerfully considered the Holy Spirit’s direction and are unable to share the specific details of our story moving forward.  We are still in the process of healing and putting our lives back together as we speak.  Having to walk through deep levels of forgiveness, it been an intensely emotional season of our lives.  By God’s grace, we are moving forward.

We appreciate your prayers.

Dan and Debbie Murrill

DITCHING THE AMERICAN DREAM

“We would like to invite you, Dan and Debbie, to come and work with us here in Bangula.”   The words came from the director of the Iris Base, David Morrison, as we sat on the patio at the end of another day of outreach in the bush of Bangula, Malawi. We felt at that moment that all the years of inner city work, and the dreams we had held in our hearts for over 30 years, as well as the work God had done in our lives during the renewal,  were converging into something that only God could have put together for us. We gazed out across the field behind the base wall and knew that we were at that point being offered “the field”.

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.”

Malawi had gotten into our hearts during those short weeks we were there.  We had clearly been called to come, and now we had come and seen.  We loved everything about Malawi and it’s wonderful people from the mommas and children out in the bush to the Morrisons and the other missionaries on the base, along with the Iris children that were cared for there.  Being asked to come and join the team filled our hearts with greater joy than we could have ever imagined.

Days later, we packed our belongings into our suitcases.  We left quite a few of our things on the base, but in reality we left our hearts there on that tiny base in Bangula, Malawi.   As we tearfully made our way home, we purposed in our hearts to return as soon as we could.

Back in America,  we gathered our family around us and got their blessings to proceed with our plans to return to Malawi.   After celebrating Christmas and New Years,  we hit the ground running with our plans.   The first plan was to put our home on the market.   As in times past, we called a realtor in the area and fully expected the house to sell within days.   This was the way it had always worked for us.  We had put homes on the market and sold them within hours.  We even had bidding wars going on in our front yard on one occasion. On another occasion,  people kept knocking on our door saying if the deal fell through to make sure we called them.   We were not expecting to put the house on the market and have it sit….and sit….and sit.

By June, we were a little discouraged.  Our realtor discussed with us the idea of lowering the price of the house by several thousand dollars.   We were a little unsure about doing this because we knew what we needed to get from the house to be able to cover our expenses.   We asked if we could think about it over the weekend.

Later that evening,  Dan was busy in the garage.   Debbie was up in the bedroom talking to God about the whole situation with the house and what to do about it. Suddenly God said to her, “Go over to the church across town, John Paul Jackson is there and he has a word for you.”

Debbie’s first thought was “I don’t do this type of thing.   Besides, it’s 9:00 in the evening and Dan is busy downstairs.  This is crazy!”

God wouldn’t let up.

Debbie went down to the garage and told Dan that  “God says we are to go to the church across town because John Paul Jackson is there and he has a word for us.”   She waited for him to tell her she was crazy,  but instead Dan said, “Okay, come on, let’s go.”

We arrived at the church and walked into the auditorium.  It was completely packed out. The only seats were in the last row.  The offering was winding down as we squeezed our way into the pew.   John Paul Jackson got up and started speaking.

Debbie began to think,  “This message has nothing to do with us, I really don’t know why we are here after all.”  She glanced at Dan and could tell he was thinking the same thing.  Well, we couldn’t leave now so we settled in to listen to his message feeling rather silly.

All of a sudden,  John Paul stopped in the middle of his message and said, “God just told me that there is a couple here who is selling their house so they can go to the nations.  God says sell it for any price, that He will make up the difference.  After I am finished here, come up front because I want to pray for you.”   Then he went right back to his message.

We sat there stunned.  We simply could not believe what had just happened.  We hardly heard the rest of the message.  When John was finished, he said, “We will have a ministry time, but that couple with the house, get up here, I want to pray for you.”  We got out of our seats to go up front,  and in 2000 people, we were the only ones!  “Go figure.”

We went home with joy in our hearts knowing that God was looking down on us and smiling.

The next day,  we called and told our realtor to lower the price of the house. She did just that.

Monday, she sold it.

The buyers were really excited about the house.  In less then a month, we went to closing.  Just before closing, we learned that we were indeed short on funds.  However, our realtor informed us that she had taken care of the difference out of her own funds.

Just like John Paul Jackson predicted, God had made up the difference! How great is our God!

The weekend after we sold the house, we gladly opened our doors Saturday morning and had a “going to Africa sale”.  The neighbors got really excited for us. We sold or gave away just about everything we had.  It was the best day ever!  We were finally rid of everything that would hold us back.  All the things that at one time would have been important to us, were suddenly eclipsed by our desire to be in Malawi.  Nothing about the American Dream mattered anymore.  The house was gone and just about everything in it.

We were free!  We were on our way!

We had come home to sell everything to buy the field.  Little did we know how much that field would cost us.

Next – “The Descent Into Hell”

TRANSFORMED BY LOVE

Around her was an invisible circle of rejection. People treated her like she was an aberration.

Grace had experienced a terrible accident at the age of three. She fell face first into the fire. She survived but with terrible disfigurement to her face.

Rejection extended even to her own family.

When we arrived in Malawi for our mission trip, Cindy Metzger met us at the airport. She was one of the missionaries on the Iris base. Over the three hour bumpy road to Bangula, we got to know her better. She shared with us her passion for Africa…and for Grace.

Cindy had heard of Grace’s existence through a friend. It was actually at a large outreach of thousands of people that Cindy first attempted to find Grace. Sure enough, like a needle in the haystack, there she was. Her first impulse was to wrap her arms around her, holding the little girl.

From that moment, Cindy and her husband, Leroy, made Grace the focus of their love. Theirs is a story of sacrifice, faithfulness, and perseverance. Cindy has given me permission to share that story.

Grace’s house was in deplorable condition. The mud bricks were literally disintegrating. The thatch was coming apart. A giant ant hill had grown up in the middle of the dwelling. In Africa, the ants build not in inches but in meters. At night, ants would crawl over the family members.

Grace’s mother was a widow. It was hard enough for her to find food, much less keep her home repaired. One of the first acts of kindness that the Metzgers did for Grace’s family was to help rebuild their house.

They bought Grace a dress.

Pictures of the moment when she was given the dress show how special she felt. The tangible love of God delivered through the Metzgers was beginning to collide with Grace’s world of rejection.

Over the coming months, Grace began to slowly open like a flower. The hints were subtle but sure. She started to sit straighter instead of slouching. Rather than avoid the camera, she would look directly into it when her picture was taken.

In public, as people would stare at Grace’s disfigurement, Cindy would wrap her arms around her and whisper, “You are so beautiful. God loves you so much!” Graces’ shoulders would straighten slightly indicating a response.

Jesus began to put it on the hearts of the Metzgers to do something practical about Grace’s disfigurement. After contacting doctors and organizations in the U.S., they made the commitment to bring her there for treatment.

Leroy says about those days, “We didn’t have any idea what we were doing, not a clue”. Neither did they realize at the time the cost and sacrifice of their decision to help Grace.

Passports and visas evidenced the miraculous. The very day before their flight, the hospital that had offered to provide treatment told them not to come.

They went anyway.

Once again the miraculous entered the equation. As love drove them to persevere for Grace, doors began to open again after they arrived in the US. Prayers were being answered but not without many set backs, broken promises, and delays.

Finally, the surgeries began to happen. The doctors were able to perform a medical miracle. During a twelve hour procedure, surgeons were able to fashion a lip for Grace out of skin from her arm. They transplanted a tendon to hold up that new lip. A new vein was created to supply blood to the site.

The Metzgers constantly prayed over Grace as she experienced severe pain during her recovery. Finally, all of the sacrificial giving of the Metzgers and their supporters paid off. Grace had a new countenance. Her appearance in the natural was tremendously improved. However, it was her appearance in “the little girl within” that was the most profound. She truly smiled and laughed now. She was confident. Her demeanor was one of someone loved and not rejected. The arms of Jesus demonstrated through the Metzgers had healed not only her face but her heart as well.

They returned to Malawi to joyous celebrations on the Iris base and in Grace’s own village.

Heidi Baker is fond of saying that love “stops for the one”. Looking at the needs of the entire planet, we can easily become overwhelmed. Jesus simply asks us to have eyes for the one. Stop for the one…like Cindy and Leroy Metzger.

This article does their amazing story little justice. Please follow the link for a video account of Grace’s miracle.

(Note – Grace’s name has been changed for the purpose of this article.)
Next – “Ditching the American Dream”

 

 

 

 

GRACE – “Stopping for the one”

Around her was an invisible circle of rejection. People treated her like she was an aberration.

Grace had experienced a terrible accident at the age of three. She fell face first into the fire. She survived but with terrible disfigurement to her face.

Rejection extended even to her own family.

When we arrived in Malawi for our mission trip, Cindy Metzger met us at the airport. She was one of the missionaries on the Iris base. Over the three hour bumpy road to Bangula, we got to know her better. She shared with us her passion for Africa…and for Grace.

Cindy had heard of Grace’s existence through a friend. It was actually at a large outreach of thousands of people that Cindy first attempted to find Grace. Sure enough, like a needle in the haystack, there she was. Her first impulse was to wrap her arms around her, holding the little girl.

From that moment, Cindy and her husband, Leroy, made Grace the focus of their love. Theirs is a story of sacrifice, faithfulness, and perseverance. Cindy has given me permission to share that story.

Grace’s house was in deplorable condition. The mud bricks were literally disintegrating. The thatch was coming apart. A giant ant hill had grown up in the middle of the dwelling. In Africa, the ants build not in inches but in meters. At night, ants would crawl over the family members.

Grace’s mother was a widow. It was hard enough for her to find food, much less keep her home repaired. One of the first acts of kindness that the Metzgers did for Grace’s family was to help rebuild their house.

They bought Grace a dress.

Pictures of the moment when she was given the dress show how special she felt. The tangible love of God delivered through the Metzgers was beginning to collide with Grace’s world of rejection.

Over the coming months, Grace began to slowly open like a flower. The hints were subtle but sure. She started to sit straighter instead of slouching. Rather than avoid the camera, she would look directly into it when her picture was taken.

In public, as people would stare at Grace’s disfigurement, Cindy would wrap her arms around her and whisper, “You are so beautiful. God loves you so much!” Graces’ shoulders would straighten slightly indicating a response.

Jesus began to put it on the hearts of the Metzgers to do something practical about Grace’s disfigurement. After contacting doctors and organizations in the U.S., they made the commitment to bring her there for treatment.

Leroy says about those days, “We didn’t have any idea what we were doing, not a clue”. Neither did they realize at the time the cost and sacrifice of their decision to help Grace.

Passports and visas evidenced the miraculous. The very day before their flight, the hospital that had offered to provide treatment told them not to come.

They went anyway.

Once again the miraculous entered the equation. As love drove them to persevere for Grace, doors began to open again after they arrived in the US. Prayers were being answered but not without many set backs, broken promises, and delays.

Finally, the surgeries began to happen. The doctors were able to perform a medical miracle. During a twelve hour procedure, surgeons were able to fashion a lip for Grace out of skin from her arm. They transplanted a tendon to hold up that new lip. A new vein was created to supply blood to the site.

The Metzgers constantly prayed over Grace as she experienced severe pain during her recovery. Finally, all of the sacrificial giving of the Metzgers and their supporters paid off. Grace had a new countenance. Her appearance in the natural was tremendously improved. However, it was her appearance in “the little girl within” that was the most profound. She truly smiled and laughed now. She was confident. Her demeanor was one of someone loved and not rejected. The arms of Jesus demonstrated through the Metzgers had healed not only her face but her heart as well.

They returned to Malawi to joyous celebrations on the Iris base and in Grace’s own village.

Heidi Baker is fond of saying that love “stops for the one”. Looking at the needs of the entire planet, we can easily become overwhelmed. Jesus simply asks us to have eyes for the one. Stop for the one…like Cindy and Leroy Metzger.

This article does their amazing story little justice. Please follow the link for a video account of Grace’s miracle.

(Note – Grace’s name has been changed for the writing of this article)

Next – “Ditching the American Dream”