Christopher’s 3rd Year

I met Christopher in December 2014, when I visited Malawi with Michael Weiss, Mission Director of Disciplers International.  While there, I saw the great need for leadership in a country with tremendous potential, but few opportunities due to extreme poverty.  Christopher impressed me as a young man with a vision to better himself, his family, his city and his nation, but no means to get the education needed to make that vision a reality.  Thanks to the contributions of people with the means to help make Christopher’s dream come true, he is now in his third year of college, and looking forward to graduation next year.  Recently, Christopher and some fellow students took an offsite practicum to gain useful skills in his degree field of Business Administration.  He also had some fun on the trip.  Here’s his story….

My name is Christopher Praise Nankhonya.  I am the brother of Mervis Readson, and am writing from Malawi in Africa.  I would like to thank God for what he is doing to enable me to pursue my studies at Exploits University in Blantyre.  I am now in my 3rd year, first semester, and having a good experience studying Business Administration toward a Bachelor’s Degree.

I would like to extend my thanks to donors who are paying for my tuition, as well as those who are also contributing toward the education of my other family members here in Malawi.  Last semester I had an opportunity to take a trip to Lionde, where I saw what other organizations are doing in their administration work.  My experience on this trip provided me with practical skills that I will use after I graduate.  My vision is to have my own business, and employ people, who will support their families.

I recently took a trip for one week to Monk Bay at Venice Beach.  The chancellor of our school made an agreement with the students of other schools, and with directors and managers of companies.  They arranged this trip to share their ideas and knowledge.  For example, business owners were explaining how to open a company, the rules that must be followed when opening a company, how to come up with capital, and how much capital is required to open a company.  They also taught us how to come up with a plan, how to arrange the planning process, and how to come up with procedures in that plan.  We learned how to motivate employees, and to know that every employee has his or her own needs.  The directors and managers encouraged us to work hard and get good grades, so that we can be successful in a company or organization.

We also had time for fun on this trip, which was great!  School is difficult and requires a lot of attention and hard work, but our chancellor knows that students need to relax, so they found a good place to have some fun.  We swam in the late, played netball, and enjoyed a wonderful time playing football.  It was a fantastic experience in every way.  Thanks so much to all donors for your support and help in making this trip possible.  Only God can pay you back.  I thank God for having you as a part of my family.  May God bless you more and more and more again!

Submitted by Christopher Praise Nankhonya

Reproduce & Multiply

In June 2015 Disciplers International posted a story entitled, CONGO CONNECTION, featuring “Brother Flavien” from Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).  I had just finished taking Flavien through the 8-Step Discipling Process.  It was a tremendous experience for me, and an enlightening experience for Flavien, who said this after completing The Process: “When I was saved I became a new creature in Christ, but after going through the 8-Step Discipleship Process I became a renewed creature by practicing the 5 Spiritual Disciplines.  My desire is to reproduce the 8-Step Process by discipling faithful men throughout the DR Congo, who will disciple others.  I am also using the steps in my sermons.”  Since then, Flavien has translated the 8-Steps into French, along with other discipleship materials.  He has also been actively involved in reproducing this ministry in more ways than one…

In Genesis, God told Adam to do three things: (1) subdue the earth; (2) rule the earth; (3) fill the earth.  Jesus amplifies #3 when He sends 12 apostles to spiritually reproduce and multiply men and women, who will “go and make disciples of all nations,” according to His Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20).  Flavien is doing both (Reproduce & Multiply) in his part of the DRC.  With his natural family in view, last week Jimmy-James became Flavien and Naomi’s second child (brother to his sister, Maria), so we rejoice with them in the gift of new life God has given, and we are grateful for the opportunity God has given Disciplers International to help support this family in the birth of their son.

Meanwhile, Flavien continues to reproduce and multiply followers of Jesus, his ever-increasing spiritual family.  I meet with Flavien every week for two hours via Skype to coach him in his own walk with Jesus and oversight of 18 disciples in Goma, DRC.  Five months ago, Flavien invited willing Christians to read the Gospel of John (one chapter each week, and the chapter of the week at least once a day).  Since he started, 18 men have gone through their first reading of John’s Gospel.  These faithful men are now going through that gospel a second time with Matthew 28:18-20 in mind, and writing down every command that Jesus gives as they go.

Jesus defines eternal life as knowing Father and Son (John 17:3), so this time, these men are getting to know Father and Son better, while putting into practice all that Jesus wants them to do.  During their journey, I will share how Flavien and his fellow disciples are getting to know both the Father and the Son better, and how their faithfulness to His commands is transforming their lives and impacting the lives of others.

Submitted by Michael Weiss

Down Memory Lane

Whether you’re going down memory lane for the very first time, as in the case of my sister and her daughters, or for the umpteenth time, as in the case of my wife, memories are precious.  After living in Germany for six years, Europe has become our favorite destination and, in many ways, a home-away-from-home for us.  Our Hospitality Haus in Heidelberg, Germany, became a home-away-from-home for military service members, who spent a lot of time at “The Haus” and exploring other European countries with us.  Although we left Germany in 2005, Dawn and I return to Europe almost every year, just the two of us, until two weeks ago when Dawn went without me, but not solo.  In celebration of a new decade of life (I won’t say which one!), Dawn and my sister, along with Beth’s two daughters, Katie and Meggie, decided to take a trip to Europe together.  Since her traveling companions had never been there before, Dawn planned a trip to some of our favorite places in Germany, France, Belgium and Holland.  What follows are some of the highlights taken from notes Dawn jotted down on her flight home.  If you want to learn more about the charming towns they visited, click the hyperlinks while going down their memory lane….

Day 1: Heidelberg (“I left my heart in Heidelberg”) and Schwetzingen (home from ’02-‘05).  First stop was Gino’s on the Hauptstrasse for the best Doner Kebabs in the world.  After shopping on the strasse, we explored the castle before checking into the Hotel Alder, and then crossing the street to walk the beautiful Schwetzingen Gardens, and then enjoy a hearty dinner at the Brauhaus – Delicious!

Day 2-3: Drove to Strasbourg for lunch at Petit Francais and a walking / window shopping tour of the city, then down the Alsace Wine Road to Riquewihr, a romantic walled city that is the epitome of charm.  Visits to local towns like Ribeauville and Colmar enhanced the charm factor, and being there in peak wine season was a plus!

Day 4-5: A long, but scenic drive to Ghent, Belgium, via Luxembourg.  Ghent is a fabulous city with so much to see and do.  Although we couldn’t do it all, we did a lot, including a day trip to Bruges by train and a boat trip through the canals.

Day 6-7: A relatively short drive to Haarlem, Netherlands, which is lovely city to walk and shop and shop and walk.  So much history to experience in Haarlem, and so much charm!  We took a day trip by train to Amsterdam, where we visited the Rijks Museum and toured the Heineken Brewery.

Day 8: A night in the college town of Utrecht, a city of countless canals and bicycles!

Day 9: Just a night in Cochem, Germany, on the Mosel River.  Not sufficient time to bike the Mosel, but just enough to hike through a maze of vineyards to the enchanting castle, taste some fine wine at Pieter Koll Winery and take a nice, long stroll along the bank of the Mosel.

Day 10: Our last night was in Mainz, where we walked the Altstadt (Old City), visited the Gutenberg Museum and enjoyed dinner at Heiligeist (Holy Ghost) Restaurant.  As they say, “It was all good!”

Submitted by Bart Physioc

If you build it, He will come

The movie, “Field of Dreams,” opens with a farmer from Iowa talking about his father, who had been a devoted baseball fan.  While walking through his cornfield one evening, the farmer hears a voice whisper, “If you build it, he will come.”  After hearing the voice say the same thing over and over, he finally sees a vision of a baseball diamond in his field.  If you don’t know the rest of the story, watch the movie.  What follows is a somewhat similar story.  Although the time, place and purpose are different, the sense of call and faith in action that follows are much the same.  In this case, the faithful might be hearing God say, “If you built it, He will come.”

In December of 2014 I visited Patrick and Mervis Readson in Malawi.  Michael Weiss, Mission Director for Disciplers International, was with me and, although he had been discipling Patrick via Skype for about two years, this was Michael’s first time in country, too.  Our hearts were moved by the faith and commitment of this godly couple, who were not only pastoring a growing church, but raising two children of their own, and also accommodating several extended family members in their tiny rental property.  Malawi is a very poor country, so the Readson’s were doing this on their own with almost no income.  Michael and I sensed God leading us to invest in their future by providing the training and resources necessary to reach their God-given potential and to realize their own “field of dreams.”  The result has been Operation Education and Operation Employment.  In the midst of the operations Michael and I put in place, Patrick and Mervis continued to dream of having suitable property to build a church / community center and a primary school.

Mervis is a very sharp and resourceful woman.  Besides managing the Readson household, Mervis also serves as Madam Director for DI Malawi and takes a lead role in the church she and Patrick started several years ago.  Their vision to have a joint facility for worship services and community activities is complemented by her vision to manage a primary school for children from poor households.  Without any outside assistance, Mervis and Patrick have been able to secure a loan from a community bank in Malawi at 0% interest, with the first payment not due for five years.  The bank is providing this great deal, because it wants to see the community develop for the better.  Right after securing the loan, Mervis and Patrick purchased the property they had been dreaming about for some time.  Then, using free labor in the form of church members, they constructed the walls of the primary structure, which will serve as a church/community center for multiple purposes.  The bricks were formed and fired by hand on site, and now the structure is ready for a roof.  With loan money (about $5000) already expended in the property and brick construction, Mervis now seeks additional financial support in the form of grant money to get the roof on before the rainy season.  A little bit goes a long way in Malawi, so if you want to be part of this “field of dreams,” please let me know, and I will respond.

Submitted by Bart Physioc

Footprints in the Sand – Revisited

Before Darlene left the house on June 9th, just two days after their 37th wedding anniversary, Michael spoke grace and favor over her in the name of the Lord.  As they walked to Darlene’s Jeep they laughed, kissed and said they loved each other.  Darlene then drove off to an appointment, and Michael returned to his “quiet place” in the backyard.  Suddenly, their lives changed…

Moments after turning left out of their neighborhood, Darlene collided with a man driving a pick-up truck.  Time stood still as Darlene’s Jeep violently crumbled around her and spun around one and a half times.  In that same moment, Michael’s quiet time ended with the awful sound of vehicles crashing into each other.  His first thought was, “Wow, that is a bad accident;” then, it occurred to him, “THAT WAS DARLENE!!”

After running through the house and racing down the street, Michael saw Darlene in shock and encased in her crumbled Jeep.  As she regained consciousness, Darlene saw Michael running toward her.  An eye witness, Sally, called 911 and encouraged Michael not to move his wife.  A neighbor, John, encouraged the same as he stood with Michael, supporting him as he remained by his broken, dazed and confused bride.  A friend, Pete, was also there quietly praying, like Sally and John, and calling other friends asking them to spread the word to pray for both drivers.  Traffic was halted by the local Sherriff, EMT’s cared for both drivers and firemen cut Darlene from her Jeep.  The driver of the truck was taken by ambulance to a local hospital as Darlene was flown there by a “Nightingale” helicopter.  Both Darlene and Michael are confident that their Heavenly Father never left their side for a moment, and both are comforted knowing that He is carrying them in His strong, caring arms.

Looking back on the terrible events of that day, Darlene and Michael see three sets of footprints as they laughed, kissed and assured each of their love in their front yard.  Minutes later they see only one set, pressed deeper into their sandy path.  As they journeyed through the accident, two Emergency Room visits, four surgeries, time spent in the Intensive Care Unit, the Trauma Ward, a major infection, more than two weeks in acute rehab and many weeks of Physical and Occupational Therapy at a Skilled Nursing Facility, they see Jesus carrying them.  His are the arms of family, friends, sheriff’s, EMT’s, firemen, pilots, nursing care partners, nurses, social workers, therapists, doctors and so many others.

Two months after the accident, with Darlene now walking 230 feet without stopping, they see four sets of foot prints, along with the impressions of her walker, belonging to Jesus, Darlene, Michael and Jane (her Physical Therapist).  Just like those who are helping Darlene use her arms and learn to walk again, Jesus holds them close as He helps them walk beside Him again, so they can provide others with the same comfort they have received from Him (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).

Submitted by Michael Weiss

Getting There….

In the process of Patrick Readson “Getting There” (he just started his second to last semester of college), the African country of Malawi is also “Getting There” (the future of a country is in the potential of its people).  Through the donations of those partnering with the mission work of Disciplers International (DI), God’s impact on Malawi is unfolding in amazing ways.  With Mervis (Patrick’s wife) doing a tremendous job as “Madam Director” of DI Malawi, seven members of the Readson household getting quality educations (three in college) and small businesses starting up through Operation Employment, the future for both the Readsons and Malawi is exciting and bright.  What follows is a letter I recently received from Patrick.  It’s all about “Getting There….”

My name is Patrick.  I’m a fourth-year student at Blantyre International University.  Last semester I had a meaningful time on a trip to Mzuzu in connection with my dissertation research.  My purpose for the trip was to see why so many projects are failing in Malawi, because of funding problems.  Projects fail when people don’t get paid.  Without money for funding, nothing gets done, and people don’t put their hearts into the work.

As a student working on a bachelor degree in Community Development, I want to learn more about what the communities of Malawi are going through, and determine the best strategies to use to develop those communities.  The class trips I’ve taken have helped me see the main causes of poverty in Malawi and why projects are failing to be implemented.  It pains me when I hear that Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world, yet rich in resources.  We are simply failing to use what we have.  What we need is knowledge and training to effectively use our resources and develop our nation.

After I graduate next year, I want to work with communities to find the best ways we can improve our country.  My prayer is to have the capital that enables me to provide training for Malawians to own and operate small businesses.  Many need motivation and empowerment to develop skills in fields such as tailoring, designing, construction, fabrication, carpentry and joinery.  Technical skills require technical skill training.  As a future community developer, I envision having my own centers where people will get the training they need to be successful.

I want to thank everyone who is making my education possible.  May the Lord God richly bless you!  Right now I am studying a community called, Chilaweni, and want to see why they are still remaining poor.  I appreciate the Kern’s, who are paying for my education, as well as Bart, Dawn, Darlene and Michael.  You are behind my success.  Big Up Guys!

Love and Prayers,
Patrick Readson

D-DAY Revisited

My grandsons, Simon and Oliver, are big-time military history buffs, especially WWII history.  So, when their mother decided to spend the better part of this summer with her three kids in Europe, I thought it would be a great opportunity to interrupt their trip with a separate trip – i.e. me taking Simon and Oliver to the Normandy coast for a few days to revisit D-Day 73 years later!  Some context first…  My Navy son-in-law, Will, currently stationed in Coronado, CA, goes to the Pentagon for his next assignment, but not until October (Dawn and I are thrilled, because Will, Carly and our three grand-kids will be living in our vicinity soon!).  Although Will’s move is months away, Carly decided to “move” early by taking Simon, Oliver and Penelope on a seven-week European adventure from Ireland to Wales to England to France to Belgium, and then back to England before moving into the house they will rent in Arlington, VA.  With D-Day in view, Dawn and I planned a French Connection by booking an apartment in Paris.  Arriving a day early, we made the most of the moment by seeing as much of Paris as we could before Carly and the kids arrived.  As they say in France, it was Magnifique!  The morning after they arrived, Simon, Oliver and I headed up to Normandy for our first stop in at the War Memorial Museum in Caen, France.  The 2.5 hour trip took us 5.5 hours, but that’s another story.  This story is all about D-Day Revisited…

The Normandy region of France is enchanting, with one tiny farming town followed by another, all constructed with stones collected from hard land now cultivated.  When we pulled into our stone-walled farm B&B, the castle-like home, which had been in the family four generations, was Magnifique!  Oh, the stories that house could tell of events from the 20th century.  After unloading, we immediately drove to Omaha Beach (a few minutes away) to a restaurant situated by the stunning memorial dedicated to over 10,000 American soldiers, who gave their lives there – June 6, 1944 – on a broad sandy shore.  After 73 years, the American flags flying everywhere show that the French in Normandy are still grateful for the gift of victory given by a foreign country.  For three days we experienced all we could by revisiting D-Day at places like Pointe-du-Hoc (where Army Rangers scaled cliffs), Ste. Mare Eglise (where the 101st Airborne “jumped” into combat), Utah Beach (the museum is a must see), the German and American Cemeteries (both quite moving in their own ways), Arromanches (where Port Winston was constructed in days to bring hundreds of thousands of men and machinery to the European continent), Juno Beach (where the Canadians sacrificed many men for success), etc…  A highlight for Simon was discovering a monument on a rural road to his hero, Captain Dick Winters, of the 101st Airborne, made famous in the miniseries, Band of Brothers.  D-Day revisited was a most-memorial experience I will never forget.  I think Simon and Oliver feel the same, which makes it extra special for me.

After returning to Paris to share stories of our “boy” adventures in Normandy, we were met with stories of “girl” adventures in Paris.  Most notable was the Musee des Arts Decoratifs.  Dawn and Carly said it was the best museum experience ever, with the most amazing display of fashion dresses.  They went on to say that I would have hated it, which is probably accurate.  What I loved was spending the next two days with all six of us in Paris, strolling down Champs-de-Elysees, marveling at the Eiffel Tower, climbing the Arch-de-Triomphe, exploring the artisan community of Montmartre and dining at outdoor cafes along the way.  All was Magnifique!  But best of all was being together as family.

Submitted by Bart Physioc

Chicken MANSION

If you’re looking for a Chicken Coop, you can find everything from the “basic” bare-bones model (chicken wire supported by four wooden posts) to “deluxe” models (nice wooden structure for chickens to roost and nest).  All my wife and I wanted to do was to provide an enclosure for the chickens we gave as a Christmas gift to the Readson family in Malwai several years ago.  When we heard that the chickens had not only multiplied in number, but had to live in their house at night for protection (read all about it –  A Chicken Story), Dawn and I knew we had to do more.  So, I talked to Mervis Readson (aka Madam Director for Disciplers International in Malawi) about our desire to have a simple chicken coop constructed, and she then followed up by talking to her landlord.  Not long thereafter, Mervis informed me that he was willing to build the “coop,” but to his specifications, which would cost the equivalent of $2000.  Bear in mind that Malawi is a third world country, where few dollars go a long way, so I was stunned when I heard his price.  Not to be overcome by this obstacle, Mervis persuaded her landlord to deduct the full amount from the rent on a monthly basis over the course of two years.  Since Disciplers International is covering housing costs for the Readsons while we educate them through Operation Education, all I needed to do was come up with the $2000 up front.  Splitting the cost with my brother-in-law, who was excited about this enterprise, we funded the venture.  Crops growing on the building site delayed construction for a couple of months, but immediately after harvest, the chicken coop project, which was now a chicken house project, got underway.  It was just finished, and as you can see, the house is more like a mansion for feathered friends!  Here’s what happens next…

If you’ve seen the movie, Field of Dreams, then you recall that famous quote – “If you build it, they will come!”  That’s my hope with the Chicken Mansion.  You see, as the project grew in magnitude, so did the opportunity for turning a simple plan to enclose a dozen chickens into a somewhat sophisticated entrepreneurial enterprise.  Mervis, who is becoming quite the business woman through Operation Employment, now has a greater opportunity to provide more training and jobs for unemployed women.  She is supervising three women working through microloans we’ve provided, and has identified many others in need of work and ready for training.  Almost immediately after I asked Mervis to come up with a plan to make the Chicken Mansion profitable, she wrote back with an itemized list and budget to properly manage and care for 300 chickens – Wow!  Her plan is to sell eggs and meat, while raising chicks to repopulate the large flock as necessary.  Mervis was raised in a village where her family grew some crops and kept a few goats and chickens, so she has some background, but this is definitely a new experience.  Dawn, who has raised chickens before, will help Mervis from afar.  We’re excited, Mervis is eager, and everyone is hopeful.  Stay tuned for more to come on this endeavor, as Disciplers International continues to find ways to fulfill our motto: Serving Christ by Serving Others.

Submitted by Bart Physioc

Meet George – My Mentor

George is one of those special people you meet in life, and never forget.  He is wise, experienced and accomplished, yet one of the most humble and unassuming individuals I ever met.  George is pushing 85, but is as engaged and excited about life as a young man in his 20s.  Although he pastored for almost four decades, growing a small home group into a very large congregation, George is a learner, who conveys a childlike faith and a love for God and others that makes one want to have he has.  He says that I mentor him, but that’s just because George is quick to listen and learn from anyone.  His humility humbles me.  The fact is, George is my mentor, and this is why….

In June 2016 I plunged into the C.S. Lewis Institute (CSLI) Fellows Program, a rigorous year-long discipleship training experience that focuses on the integration of heart and mind in a small group context.  The program includes monthly themes, reading and writing assignments, lectures, group discussions and more, but all with one purpose – to become more like Jesus.  At the close of our kick-off retreat, new Fellows, like myself at the time, were given the opportunity to select a mentor from those available.  George was not there, so I didn’t pick him as a possibility.  The CSLI Annapolis Director knew me well enough by that time to say, “I have the perfect mentor for you.  His name is George.”  When we finally met, and in the months that followed, it was clear that Jim made the right choice for me.  Throughout my entire career in vocational ministry, which dates back to 1980, George is my first “official” mentor.  For one who has focused attention on mentoring others through the discipleship training process I designed, it was a unique experience for me to have my own mentor.  I like the experience, but mostly because I like George!

Besides meeting with a mentor, all Fellows also meet monthly in small groups to connect personally and discuss what they learned from the preceding month.  As with any group, whether it “clicks” or not is determined by those involved.  Thankfully, as with George, my small group clicked.  Although different in many ways, Kevin, Lloyd, Jim and I found common ground in Christ immediately, and have learned so much from one another.  Kevin is a pastor with a heart for people recovering from addictions; Lloyd just retired at 70 something from work as a prison guard; Jim is a mechanical engineering professor at the Naval Academy.  So, as you can see, we are a real mixed bag of backgrounds and life experiences.  But we all love the Lord, and all desire to grow deeper in our faith and serve Him more effectively.  When we meet, it’s amazing how fast we can go from serious discussions about spiritual matters to uncontrolled laughter about something silly.  I love it, and I love them.  Although we have now finished the program, we will keep meeting together.

This last photo is a group shot of almost all the Fellows and several mentors on graduation day.  The CSLI Annapolis Fellows Program has been a terrific experience for me, and has opened the door for continual growth in my faith through authors and speakers, but especially through those I have met on the way.  Knowing and serving God is a lifelong spiritual journey that happens best in a community of brothers and sisters in Christ, who are Loving, Learning and Leading together!

Submitted by Bart Physioc

Roots & Branches

Memorial Day weekend, Darlene and I were blessed to attend a “Lord Family Reunion,” in New Iberia, Louisiana.  Darlene’s father, Chaplain (Colonel) Retired Bill Lord, was raised in New Iberia, and in celebration of his 60th wedding anniversary to mom (Bettye) and their 82nd birthdays.  Bill wanted the family, now scattered around the globe, to have an opportunity to develop and renew relationships with one another.  Family came from Louisiana, Texas, Colorado, North Carolina, Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee, Florida and Holland.  Some we had not seen in 25 years or more; some we never met before.  It’s quite an extraordinary thing to be in the midst of the diverse histories and binding traditions of four living generations.

New Iberia’s best-known attractions are Avery Island, where McIlhenny Tabasco Sauce is made, as well as Shadows on the Teche, the antebellum mansion of the Week’s family, now on the National Register of Historic Sites.  While touring Shadows, Darlene and her parents had a conversation with a grounds keeper that was quite illustrative.  They were admiring the beautiful live oak trees whose sprawling canopies have given shade to the grounds for more than 200 years, and marveling that they have survived so many tornados, hurricanes and floods.  The grounds keeper told them that live oak tree’s tap root only supports the tree for about three years, then the lateral roots take preeminence.  These lateral roots spread wider than the branches of the tree.  So, the broader the branches, the wider the root system has to be to support the branch’s growth.   He also said the roots “reach out” in search of roots from other nearby oak trees so they can mingle together.  It’s this interlacing of root systems that allows the live oak tree to withstand the harshest of nature’s storms.

What an appropriate picture that paints!  The roots provide strength so branches can grow, and be able to withstand storms.   We were there to connect the branches of William Thomas Lord, Jr’s family tree.  W.T. Lord had eight children, one of whom was Darlene’s grandfather; our granddaughter, Abby, who is the fifth generation of W.T.’s, was also in attendance.  A line that has seen wars, disease, hunger, and experienced great joy, prosperity and success.  The branches of this tree are wide, and its roots continue to endure for new generations.  This is also a wonderful illustration for the family we have in the Body of Christ, especially, those serving in the military.  We are often far away from our familial root system, but we gain stability and are encouraged to grow when we connect with our brother’s and sister’s in Christ.  We can withstand the harshest challenges of military life because of that interconnectedness, and we can support one another because we share the same foundation.   This reminds me of the Colossians 2:6-7 – Therefore, as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.

The live oak tree’s root system is not as deep as some other tree’s, but doesn’t need to be, because its strength comes in the breadth and connectivity of its roots.  The tree’s foundation is supported by its relationship to and with the trees within its purlieu.  I wonder if W.T. could have imagined that his lineage would include doctors, lawyers, farmers, teachers, artists, oil workers, ship captains, soldiers, entrepreneurs and these four newest editions to the Weiss family tree.  I marvel at the “great cloud of witnesses” from this family that are rejoicing in heaven today, and am grateful to be part of an earthly family whose roots endure, and whose branches are strong,  And, with Paul, I will continue to bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant [us all], according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in [our] hearts through faith; and that [we], being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that [we] may be filled up to all the fullness of God (Eph. 3:14-19).

Submitted by Darlene and Michael Weiss