Tuesday, February 26, 2013

This is JERICHO: (9) Through Her Eyes

The Best Experience
by Aleksandra Shepherd


I have had the best experience that nobody has ever had. 

I have had the best experience that you will wish you had. 

This experience is a Christian experience, but even if you aren't Christian you should still read this. 

This true story will take you on one adventure and that adventure you will never forget. 

This story is a true story, a true story you will love. 

This is an amazing journey you will be taken on.

Once in 2012 my dad had circled around our house 6 times once a day at about 9:00 at night. Then one Friday night our dad told us to come outside. He read us the battle of Jericho from his phone. Then he told us what we were going to do.

He told me to get my recorder and my brother to get his trumpet. He told us that we were having trouble selling our house, so we were going to use the story of the Battle of Jericho. 

But he said, "hopefully our house won't fall down," he said in a laughing voice.

He told my mom to collect 7 pebbles, because he said, " I can't keep track." So we went around the house once and my dad threw a pebble at the window then we went around again. 

This time about halfway around a car pulled up on the driveway and we knew right away who it was. It was our grandparents. My Grandma had a bullhorn in her hand and they joined in. We went around again. And all those times we were in complete silence.

Then we went around a fourth time and a fifth time and a sixth time. Then on the seventh time when we passed through the gate it closed. We thought it was our Grandpa shutting it but he wasn't even close. 

Then at that moment we knew God was right behind us. 

Then we threw that last pebble. And then…

I blew into my recorder, 
Caleb blew into his trumpet,
my grandma blew in her bullhorn,
my dad and mom screamed,
and so did my grandpa,
and my dog started barking.

It was the loudest racket you would ever hear. Our neighborhood is full of old people and then we saw all the lights go on.

Then the next day my mom's cousin called and said that they were looking for a house.

They now live in our old house. Now we live in our grandparent's basement. It is fully furnished and very comfy.

The End. 

And that is my best experience.

Thanks for reading!!  :)

(For the full Jericho series, begin  here.)

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

GUATEMALA 2013: (6) "All I'm Offering is the Truth…

…nothing more."

Do you want to know what it is?

You can feel it when you go to work, when you go to church…

That you are a slave… like everyone else you were born into bondage

Unfortunately, no-one can be told…

you have to see it for yourself.

This is your last chance...

After this there is no turning back.

You take the BLUE pill, the story ends, 
you wake up in your bed and you believe 
whatever you want to believe.

You take the RED pill, you stay in wonderland
and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.


All I'm offering is the truth, nothing more.

I was sitting at my desk when he approached me with a serious look on his face. I feared the worse. He eased my tension as he smiled and then surprised me by pulling up a chair and while placing his feet on my desk, drew in a deep breath and then drawled out, "please step into my office."

He told me of his son who was a college student in search of meaning in life. He asked me if I would be willing to meet with him and talk to him about our calling and mission in life. He hoped that maybe his son could catch a spark of this passion that is worth everything we have.

I felt his deep sincerity and I understood the powerful desire of a father to see his son grow to be a good man. I have seen it reflected in the eyes of my father, and I know it within myself as I watch my own son approach adulthood.

Lately my emotion seems to be just under the surface of my composure and I felt my eyes moisten as I blinked it away and with a smile said, "yes, absolutely."

A few short days later I sat at that same desk as he and his wife approached with their son. 

We sat down after brief introductions, my lame but somehow enduring humor, and small talk. I looked into the eyes of that mother and father that seemed to reach out to me with a pleading for the edification of their son, and I noticed that the young man was scrutinizing my own eyes. I saw in him a desire for understanding… and an interest in me.

I felt like a million search lights were illuminating my body on an empty, black stage with an audience innumerable watching. It was a sobering realization that the words I chose with this young man may indeed have significant consequence with the path of his life. These were the types of moments for which I had prayed. Game on. Showtime.

After some discussion, he told me that he was not a Christian and asked if he would still be welcome. I told him that in the interest of full disclosure, I am a believer. In fact… the reason I am doing what I am doing is because of the power of my belief. I also told him that his personal belief in my faith was not a requirement to go.

I simply am looking for people who are willing to love a child. People who have a desire to reach out and lift up a life. My requirement is people who are willing to give of themselves with no expectation of anything in return to share in the pain of another.

As our eyes locked, I though of The Matrix and I gave him this analogy…

"Do you remember the movie, The Matrix? Well, this is like that. The decision to join us and serve in Guatemala is a real red or blue pill moment. No-one who goes walks away as the same person. It will change you. It will change you forever. What you think you believe, what you think you know about yourself and even about the world-- it will change forever.

This is a red or blue pill type of moment. Belief is not required at this point, but I promise you this-- if you go… everything will change for you. Are you willing to have all your perceptions challenged?

I have replayed this conversation in my head over the past several days and I am blown away by the straight up truth that somehow found its way out of my mouth. Kellie and I did not set out to become missionaries. No. In fact, we had our future planned and we were following that road.

But, stepping into the world of the fatherless, the abandoned, the impoverished, the widowed… and the faithful forever changed our view. We swallowed the RED pill and we are forever lost found in the rabbit hole.

We present you with two pills. How you choose this day will forever decide your future.

Your ears are open but you don’t hear a thing.
    Your eyes are awake but you don’t see a thing.

The people are blockheads!

They stick their fingers in their ears
    so they won’t have to listen;

They screw their eyes shut
    so they won’t have to look,
    so they won’t have to deal with me face-to-face
    and let me heal them.

But you have God-blessed eyes—eyes that see! And God-blessed ears—ears that hear! 

A lot of people, 
prophets and humble believers among them, 
would have given anything 
to see what you are seeing, 
to hear what you are hearing, 
but never had the chance.
Matthew 13:12-17

So… what is it going to be? BLUE or RED?

Monday, February 18, 2013

A Penny For Your Thoughts (A Sunday School Story)

She approached me as we were exiting the sanctuary. I had preached for the past 40 minutes about our calling to Guatemala and how faith compels us to act on belief. She took my hands and asked me if I remembered her. 

Her face was distantly familiar, and deeply comforting. Yes, somehow I knew her. She told me of how she had been my Sunday School teacher in a little converted trailer in Camden, Ohio. I remembered the mobiles hanging from the ceiling, and the Tootsie Rolls given for correct answers.

Several people were talking to me at once and I heard her mention something about giving me a loaf of bread that she had kept in her Sunday School classes for the past 30 years. I wasn't sure what she was talking about, but I smiled as she took my hand and I said, "yes, that would be wonderful." 

She said she knew Kellie's grandma and that she would get it to us. I forgot about the moment and continued to talk about our mission until finally packing up the table and heading out for lunch.

A week later I came home from work and saw sitting on the folding table in our kitchen area a small plastic loaf of bread. It was then that I remembered the conversation about receiving bread from my old Sunday School teacher. 

Like a wave that hits you when you aren't looking and pulls you under… I was momentarily pulled back 30 years to my Sunday School class. I looked at that little Daily Bread piggy bank and I remembered her holding it out to me and the other kids and saying to us, "one day we will give this money to a missionary that will go and help children like you."

I was shocked by the memory and by the incredible significance that it now sat on my table, donated to me, for our mission.

When I was a boy my father gave me a collection of wheat back pennies. He told me not to spend them, that they would be worth something one day. I typically did what my dad said, but one Sunday morning I was scrambling around my room as my mom tried to get me out the door… I didn't have any money for the offering in Sunday School. I desperately wanted those missionaries to get money for those kids!

I glanced at the doorway, sure that my actions were unnoticed, and then I slipped into my coin box and withdrew a single wheat back penny. 

And so now, an adult 30 years later, I pick up the box and smash it open against the table top. Frantically I dig my hands into the pile of coins and I start pushing the around…

… and then I see it. A single wheat back penny. 

My penny. The penny that I stole away to give to the missionaries. 30 years ago. And now it is in my hands once more. 

I am now that missionary!

How is it that God can work in such incredible ways? How is it that He knows that little boy will one day need a reminder… a confirmation that faith is real? 

How can it be that a Sunday School teacher holds onto a loaf of bread…

that contains a penny…

that fulfills a promise…

 made by a little boy decades ago? 

This penny will indeed go to help little children in need.

I am humbled. I am in awe of my God.

For I know the plans I have for you,” 
declares the Lord, 
“plans to prosper you and not to harm you, 
plans to give you hope and a future."

Jeremiah 29:11
New International Version (NIV)

Thursday, February 14, 2013

GUATEMALA 2013: (5) Faith Has a Date and a Used Car!

1998 Chevy Blazer LS
Late this past December I was having a tough day. I had a list of names that I needed to contact about whether or not they would agree to be financial partners to our ministry. I had a pretty good idea of their answer… but I felt strongly that I should give them each one last chance to open up their lives to this miracle mission that is now our story. I had previously spoken to each of them and then sent them each a flyer with the heading, "Faith has a date and a price" in which I outlined our need for funds.

I had prayed for each and every one of them, and even had rehearsed what I would say, telling each of them how they had personally made a positive difference in my life. And so I made the calls… one by one the answer was not what I had hoped. I tried to keep it in perspective. I realize that I have to hear "no" a lot more than I hear "yes" in order to make this vision a reality.

Each person did promise to pray for us daily and I know that really is more important for our success. I was just frustrated that they wouldn't have the opportunity for God to bless their giving. Every time we have taken a chance and stretched our budget on faith… God has rewarded our obedience in a BIG way.

I hung up the phone after hours of conversations with nothing tangible to show for it. I was emotionally drained and it was pity party time for this failed, amateur fundraiser.

I decided to take a look at our account and to begin to tackle the next block of names that I felt God preparing me to call. To my shock, the total was different than I remembered. In fact, like a cheesy actor in a sitcom I even looked away and rubbed my eyes in disbelief. A family very dear to our hearts and mission had made a substantial end of year donation!

I began to weep and give thanks to God. He had honored my obedience and provided His blessings through His people who were willing. I was so thankful that I had been obedient and made those calls. I am convinced that God waited for my obedience before He moved the hearts of those who gave and the money hit our account.

Over a month later I awakened to a Facebook message on my phone from Catalyst Resources International director, Fontaine Greene. A missionary acquaintance of his was leaving Guatemala and had a car to sell. It was in great shape, with solid maintenance records, and at a very fair price. Several families were interested in it, but it seemed if I moved fast I might have dibs.

We have a fundraiser that is planned for April 12th in order to raise funding for a 4WD SUV that we hope to purchase before we leave in June. We hadn't even considered that we might be able to afford a second vehicle. Our ministry could be so much more effective if we did though! I commented that I wished we could buy it this Blazer as a secondary vehicle if we only could afford it.

And then I remembered that day in December and the donation! A few frenzied emails later I had made an agreement to purchase the vehicle that involved multiple people and three agencies! I messaged Fontaine back news that the deal was done and he replied with a simple comment that still has me smiling, 

"Faith has a date and a used car!"

Indeed it does. And faith has wheels! We now have a tangible object waiting for us in Guatemala! May this be a reminder to us to always be obedient to the voice of the Father.

Follow this link to join us for An Evening with the Shepherds, a fundraising dinner & concert event.

To become financial partners with the Shepherds Home for Abandoned Babies click here.

Monday, February 11, 2013

A Happy Chinese New Year

Sterling Mei Shepherd
Chinese New Year 2013
She hasn't been with us for even a year… and yet our life is bound by her forever. This little lady that came to us carried on the wings of hope. We celebrate her this year with good reason.

We all have a journey and we all have a story. Hers goes simply like this: 

a mother who cared enough to choose life and bear her birth, who could not keep her...

who nestled her down like Moses in the reeds to be found... 

an unknown person who notified a policeman...

who took her to the baby orphanage...

who placed her small, underdeveloped body into an incubator that held her for 3 months...

a nurse and staff who cared for her, countless officials and agents that stamped her papers… 

until the day we watched her be carried in to our waiting arms… 

6 years in the making…

creating this past year for us, that is absolute magic.

Do you ever doubt if there is a God? Spend a day in my household. I will show you the stuff of the God. I live daily walking among miracles.

And we expect more.

I bought these on clearance the day after the Bengals lost in the playoffs. I will take them with us to Guatemala because they are a piece of our home. 

Soon these little onesies will cuddle 6 little babies like my Sterling that can-not be cared for by their mothers.  I am not here to condemn or even try to understand the sacrifice of those ladies, I am simply here to hug close those little lives and to hand them over to families that will experience celebrations like I had today.

There is nothing greater than love. There is nothing more powerful than the embrace of family. We can offer a tremendous hope in the face of utter despair.

This is the story of my daughters. This is my story as well. This is in fact the longing of all our hearts.

Happy new year my dearest Sterling Mei. I love you.

Thursday, February 7, 2013


A great deal of my time lately has been spent on creating posters, flyers, and mailers that get out the word on our mission in Guatemala and how others can help us fulfill our dream and calling of a Home for Abandoned Babies.

I realized that I can now add Advertising to my recently expanded resume' of evangelist, block-layer, carpenter, and fundraiser… but I was afraid that MADMAN (a spoof off of AMC's MADMEN about an advertising agency) might just send out the wrong vibe.

I thought this more fitting.
When I share with people about how we have sold our belongings and that we are moving to Central America with no salary or wage and that we will be dependent on the provision of God through the obedience of His people… they often are shocked by the concept.  

Our Initial Mailer: A refrigerator Magnet.
The other night I even found myself in the home of well-meaning people who were trying to convince me to sell energy on the Internet to my friends and relatives as a source of income. I was saddened by the gesture.
Our December Mailer: Pledges at 50%
There is room in our ministry for many to join us. Each person who offers up a prayer or sends to us a dollar is taking part in this great commission… this call to put faith to action. 
Our January Mailer: An overview of our Mission
Each and every one that walks with us does so in obedience to God and will receive blessings from Him in the form of His promises of peace & joy that come from the content of our souls rather than the context of our situations.
Announcing our Fundraising Concert Event
And so… here are a few of the signposts that I have set up along the way for those who are willing to have their eyes opened and their lives changed. I pray that they speak to you.

Our latest challenge was to develop a 5 minute presentation to quickly tell an audience: who we are, what we abandon, what we pursue, why we do it, and how you can join us.

We pour out our hearts to all we encounter. This is true religion.

This is our calling… each and every one of us is part of this greatest of stories.

To join our mission today: