Unseen Footprints

Your way was through the sea, your path through the great waters; yet your footprints were unseen. (Psalm 77 v19) ESV.

Rev. Andrew Murray penned: ‘Take time.  Give God time to reveal Himself to you.  Give yourself time to be silent and quiet before Him, waiting to receive through the Spirit the assurance of His presence with you, His power working in you.  Take time to read His Word as in His presence; that from it you many know what He asks of you and what He promises you.  Let the Word create around you, create within you, a holy heavenly light in which your soul will be refreshed and strengthened for the work of daily life’. 

In my own limited understanding, I am filled with an unquenched thirst for answers.  My unending quest for ‘a miracle’ continues this month in this unfathomed, unending sea of pain; those tossed by wind-driven waves of terminal illness; rough seas of unwanted pregnancies.  Human hearts filled with weakness and loss searching for love but more importantly, acceptance. COVID-19 continues its cruel journey; my case studies filled with soul searching needs, yet all containing similar characteristics – they keep searching for a miracle. The solace and simplicity of village life has been replaced with unwelcomed circumstances; youthful days are fading fast, years are wasting away, still they question ‘why me?’  Their lives are battered and shattered.  I long they could meet the One who will walk their time-worn shore, who can offer them the promise of a new morning, a new beginning. This is the ultimate miracle they need.

Looking back, we all lived in differing styles of dwellings, qualifying them as ‘residences’, a ‘home’, a place filled with love.  Many young teenagers in Suceava have no home, they are without identity, roots, family, in fact the open space is ‘home’, they are outcasts, rejected and alone.  CRINA (18) three months pregnant, she has a little girl of fifteen months and is overwhelmed with fear as she cries ‘I have no money for another baby’.  GEORGINA (17), Gabi in her wisdom took Georgina to hospital where results confirmed she was pregnant.  Georgina already has a baby girl of nine months; she has no home and shares one room in the small village home of her husband’s family.  Her mind is in turmoil.  SONIA (28) with two daughters aged fourteen and eight; Sonia is pregnant and fears this pregnancy owing to many health issues.  Sonia has already known the pain of two miscarriages.  Her fear is very real and very personal.  MARTA (16) pregnant, also with many health issues.  Marta is mentally retarded and lives in a derelict container in extremely poor conditions with a male partner. Intolerable shivers consume me as I study the despair and hopeless images of young mothers with little ones who are hungry, who are born into indigent poverty. My prayer as found in Joel 3: 16 is that: ‘The Lord will be the place of repair of His people’ In the words of Paul, ‘Love suffers long and is kind …’ May our kindness be evident in our prayers; may these young girls grasp the preciousness of the gift of life.  Gabi and her small team of two are stretched to the limit, the blackness of the COVID storm has brought utter devastation especially to the Roma communities. Unemployment leads to lack of food, hygiene, many are forced to live wherever they find refuge.   It is impossible to help everyone; but to receive an image of a little one ‘smiling’ would be an answer to prayer.  

The school bell rings in the village schoolhouse.  The teams of all our three foundations worked to full capacity ensuring poor families received ‘backpacks’ to enable their children to attend school.  Thank you to those whose attention to detail in supplying a backpack filled with stationery made this miracle happen.

I have been sharing the story of ANA and her four little girls.  One room, kitchen and bathroom have been secured for this precious little family. We were able to send £3,000 in total to enable the work of Ichobed to continue for another year.   This included £500 to cover the legal costs for the necessary documentation and are asking the Lord to supply the funds to enable the purchase of this shelter for five very special ladies.  It was a blessing to hear ANA say: ‘God made this miracle happen for me’.  And he did.

September Flower, also known as ‘Morning Glory’, symbolises love, faith, wisdom.   BROTHER MARIN, Suceava, lost his wife to cancer two years ago, leaving him to rear six children.  His story reminds me of Job.  Shortly after the death of his wife, his youngest child died from ‘frostbite’; the state removed the remaining five children from his care.  God was in control as four of the children were fostered by born again Christian families residing in the local village.  The oldest boy was placed in an institution but now after reaching the age of eighteen he has returned to his father, where they live together in a newly built house.  Men from local villages erected a new home for Marin and also try to assist with basic food provision; he has one bed, one chair and one table.   The glory of his mornings are precious.

A few days ago, I was struggling and I mean ‘struggling’.  In the night watch I would waken with the thought ‘Shirley, what really matters?’  The problem, me being me, I feel the hurt, the broken heart, therefore, I continually struggle.  I become frustrated that there is no medical explanation or relief for countless numbers of ‘real people’. I long to impact lives that need love and to realise this life is a preparation for eternity.   My friend, Pastor David McFarland must have known my heart and sent me a beautiful poem written by Frances Ridley Havergal, ‘Enough’.  As I read the first verse, I wept:

‘I am so weak, dear Lord, I cannot stand
One moment without Thee!
But oh, the tenderness of Thine enfolding!
And oh, the faithfulness of Thine upholding!
And oh, the strength of Thy right hand!
That strength is enough for me!’

The Lord knew I would need all my resources as I listened to Monika share with me:

‘Sister Shirley, you remember the ‘GUI’ family we visited?’  A precious family consisting of a father, mother and two adorable little boys.  The mother died after a prolonged battle with cancer.  The father and his sons entered our Feeding Programme in Casa Grace.  Apart from basic necessities of food and financial assistance, Neli and Marie encouraged the little boys inviting them to our Summer Camp. Those were happy days for the boys.  The father had to work many hours even though he suffered from a very low immune system.   A few days ago, I received news the father had died suddenly.  Two precious little ones orphaned at such an early age.  David and Dragos were very attached to their father. Contact has been made with their grandmother who is willing to care for her grandsons but she will need support.  In recent conversations with Monika I am assured funeral costs were covered.  As for David and Dragos, their little hearts are broken; exposed to such a grievous load.  The grandmother has reached a desert, no source of income and two grandsons exposed to such grief, who need her love and support.  No one should have to struggle to find food, clothing.  Could we together turn the tide, blow a wind of change to two hurting tender little hearts?

We have many social cases within our programme in Casa Grace. Some walk miles knowing they will be received by a loving team who share from a fathomless abyss of God’s bounty.  A few days ago, a distraught mother whose daughter has a mental delay, whose husband has had to have his leg amputated are all living in one room.  Their monthly income is £77 in state sickness benefit.  ‘Please can you help me, I need food?’  Fear is real.  In the words of John Buchan ‘The thing I feared most mortally was being afraid’.  Help us remove their fear.

As I think of the Vocational Training Room in Casa Grace, the words of Psalm 23: 2 come to mind: ‘He leadeth me beside the waters of quietness’.  Many come to learn but many love the ‘quietness’ of spirit. Dana has supervised many ladies this semester, although it was a somewhat different Graduation which took place this week owing to the rigid restrictions still in place in Oradea.  The art of sewing is another tool of reaching and touching lives, ladies from village areas make a two-hour journey, others three hours, to share the joy of learning a new skill from the excellence displayed by Dana, Berta and Stefan who train but, more importantly, who share the gospel over a welcome ‘cuppa’.  A lady within days of giving birth to twins graduated with honours and was witnessed to by staff and students.  We pray this personal witness will produce seeds of ripe fruit.  Young girls from University, College, Grammar School expressed their interest in the art of tailoring/sewing and proudly modelled their dress, skirt or blouse made for the final examination.   One of the young girls is a daughter of the family of thirteen whose father died last summer.  She will be busy making dresses for all her siblings.  She plans to proceed to distinction level.  Well Done Students.

The restless waves of an unfathomed sea continue to roar, apart from the destruction in the economy in context of the pandemic. The staff of Emanuel Hospice are overwhelmed as the volume of cases are becoming increasingly difficult to control or monitor.  MARIANE (64) is suffering from liver cancer with pulmonary metastasis. This is a very problematic case as she is also suffering from psychological and spiritual issues.  She is unable to find peace and questions actions of her younger days.  Dr. Beni and other pastors have visited her, telling her of the forgiveness of God and my friend Adriana who is a blessing to the patients, assures her of the love of God.  She remains distressed, stirred by the fear of dying.  Her two daughters are exhausted as Mariana is unable to sleep as her anxious thoughts exaggerate her pain level.  Pray peace will enter this tortured mind.

BROTHER NICOLAE is deteriorating. Mirela, his daughter is having a difficult time in taking care of her parents as she herself suffers from obsessive phobic disorder and is feeling highly challenged just now.   Her mother suffers from schizophrenia and is obsessed with morbid thoughts leading to hypertension. 

My elderly patients are fearful of the virus, Adriana is in constant contact by telephone and assures me my friend Catalina, dear Magdelina and Brother Emeric remain stable.  I miss my chats around the small table in the centre of a bare kitchen floor, when one apple fallen from a tree was washed and placed into my hand before leaving.  Little means so much.

JACOB (8) diagnosed with tetra paralysis and epilepsy.  A normal little boy until the age of two.  Recently his condition became worse and he is now in palliative care.  Pray for this family, since his mother is unable to rest as Jacob is awake almost the entire night.  They are part of our Emanuel Hospice Feeding Programme; but more importantly we offer emotional and spiritual support. 

Another family on our Feeding Programme, a lady of sixty-four recently diagnosed with cancer is now entering the terminal phase and receives care from her loving husband and daughter.  They are finding the process very difficult; how does one say a final ‘goodbye’ to a loving wife and mother who will not pass this way again?   ‘Lord, as the days pass, and oh how quickly they do pass, may we all leave a lasting fragrance of Thy presence on the path we have trod’.

I come face to face with an infinite variety of paths, paths totally unfamiliar to me, paths totally unexpected and at times I am overwhelmed as I study the changing tides of a rough sea for precious people who are perplexed, whose strength is spent. Can I share with you? I have been challenged personally these days as I question ‘why’?  But as I question, I am gaining a deeper discipline in my service. Had I no stormy seas I may remain my own weak self and if the Lord needs to take me further out in the depths of despair, I must face the pain knowing that God’s path may be least where I would expect it to be.  The skies are filled with heavy rain this morning. In my mind I am walking the mud roads to the villages I love.  I am so grateful to my faithful supporters who through their monthly ‘gifts of love’ fill the empty cups of those who come asking for help, the terminally ill families struggling with medical bills and food supplies. I cannot ignore this path or bury the feelings within. We need to lift the weight from drooping shoulders, those suffering from the bitterness of life whose circumstances speak of broken and trampled lives.  Together we can work to show the love and compassion of a loving Heavenly Father.  From my heart I say ‘Thank You’. Without you it would be impossible for me to send one tiny violet of encouragement.  Don’t let the opportunity for blessing pass.

Shirley, September 30, 2020

42B Bernice Road, Newtownabbey, Co. Antrim. BT36 4QZ


by France Ridley Havergal

“I am so weak, dear Lord, I cannot stand
One moment without Thee!
But oh, the tenderness of Thine enfolding!
And oh, the faithfulness of Thine upholding!
And oh, the strength of Thy right hand!
That strength is enough for me!”

“I am so needy, Lord, and yet I know
All fulness dwells in Thee;
And hour by hour that never-failing treasure
Supplies and fills, in overflowing measure,
My least and greatest need; and so
Thy grace is enough for me!”

“It is so sweet to trust Thy Word alone:
I do not ask to see
The unveiling of Thy purpose, or the shining
Of future light on mysteries untwining:
Thy promise-roll is all my own,
Thy Word is enough for me!”

“The human heart asks love; but now I know
That my heart hath from Thee,
All real, and full, and marvellous affection,
So near, so human; yet divine perfection
Thrills gloriously the mighty glow!
Thy love is enough for me!”

“There were strange soul-depths, restless, vast, and broad,
Unfathomed as the sea;
An infinite craving for some infinite stilling;
But now thy perfect love is perfect filling!
Lord Jesus Christ, my Lord, my God,
Thou, Thou art enough for me!”