Ten Things I’m Thankful For

On a recent trip to Sierra Leone, I had the privilege of meeting an eighty-five year old retired professor who actually received part of his university education in Western Canada. It is not often that you get to sit in the presence of a godly man who exudes passion and displays God’s love, as we did the day we had lunch in his home.

During our dinner table conversations, he shared with us that one of the things that keeps his passion alive is his final prayer of the day before he retires for the night. He always takes time to review his day, talk to God, and thank Him for ten blessings of the day that has just passed.

So today, on this Canadian Thanksgiving weekend, I want to take time to make a list of ten things I am thankful for.

1) I am thankful for my wife, Marie-José, and the fact that our mutual love for each other grows with each passing day. Thanks for your love, the laughs, and the lasting memories we are making together.

2) I am thankful for our wonderful children, Stephanie, Jonathan, and his wife Julia, who love God with a passion, and have relentless work ethics in their respective careers.

3) I am thankful for a spiritual heritage that has been passed down for three generations and now MJ and I are able to carry it through to our own children.

4) I am thankful for a brother and his wife who have always been there for me. Keith and Linda, the untimely loss of Mom and Dad has only brought us that much closer over the years.

5) I am thankful for in-laws who love me as if I was one of their own. Maman and Papa, you are incredible people who have shown me familial love as if I was a son.

6) I am thankful for friends who are more like family. True friends are rare to find and MJ and I are blessed with some of the choicest!

7) I am thankful for a lifetime of ministry. I can’t think of anything that I would want to do more  than what God called me to as a sixteen year old teenager.

8) I am thankful for the privilege that MJ and I have to live on African soil. Thank you to everyone who makes us feel so welcome at our home away from home.

9) I am thankful for a full life that has allowed me to do more than I ever dreamed could be accomplished in a lifetime. There are no words!

10) I am thankful that I know my Redeemer and the fact that He loves me in spite of my imperfections.

Why don’t you take time before the Thanksgiving Weekend is over to make your own top ten list of things you are thankful for.

Until next time…

Don

Special Monday Musings – Tuesday Edition

Today marks the last day in Monrovia, Liberia before our team, consisting of myself, Bill Pipke, and Bonifes Adoyo (the Bishop emeritus of Christ Is the Answer Ministries – Kenya) move on to Freetown, Sierra Leone.

Throughout our two weeks in East and West Africa, we have watched God orchestrate unique experiences, opportunities, and appointments. Last night was no exception.

We had one thousand CLI manuals printed here in Liberia. In the process of the printing I arranged for our Sierra Leone National Chair person (pictured between Bill and I) to come to Monrovia and carry the CLI manuals back to Freetown. As the story goes, he was only able to come yesterday, at the time we happened to be here in Monrovia. Desmond travelled over fourteen hours and arrived at 7 p.m. last night. As I stood outside of the print shop waiting for his arrival, suddenly, as if out of no where and in the darkness of the night, Desmond appeared and said “hi Don”. He proceeded to tell me that he had to leave his vehicle at the Sierra Leone border and travel two hours by taxi to Monrovia.

Asking him how he would get back to the border with the manuals, he said he would have to take another taxi. It so happens that our driver who accompanied me to the print shop owns his own taxi. He agreed to take Desmond and the 360 kgs of manuals back to the border last night. After having a light supper, Desmond and Augustine squeezed themselves into a small Toyota with 900 manuals and returned to the border where Desmond would sleep at a guest house on the Liberia/Sierra Leone border so that he could get an early start back to Freetown this morning. Picture a plane at the end of a runway as it begins to ascend to the sky, and you will have a glimpse of what the small Toyota looked like as they left for the border last night.

Our driver came to my room this morning to give me a report. He and Desmond arrived at the Sierra Leone border last night about 11:30 p.m. The customs officer agreed to store the manuals in his office, where they would be safe until morning. Augustine, arrived back in Monrovia at 3 o’clock this morning, and Desmond is on his way back to Freetown with 900 CLI manuals. I am overwhelmed by the commitment that our people have to get the integrity message proclaimed here in Africa. They are always willing to go the extra mile and then some. 

A dear friend wrote me on FaceBook this morning with this promise from Psalm 126: “The one who goes out weeping, carrying a bag of seeds, will surely return with a joyful song.”

Desmond is on his way back to Freetown, Sierra Leone with a rather big bag of integrity seed. Please pray with us that as we begin our Summit in Freetown on Friday called “Conquering the Big Five of Corruption”, there will be a joyful song of integrity that will arise from the Summit and be heard across Sierra Leone.

Thanks for your prayers!

Don, Bill and Bonifes

Equipping and Empowering the Vulnerable

Yesterday, my heart pounded with pride as I watched Marie-José live out her passion for the vulnerable.

Chintenge Creations second sewing school, started in the Mamelodi township, was featured at the Mamelodi International Assemblies of God Church, where the school is housed.

Most of the ladies (and a couple of gentlemen) that you see in these pictures have little to nothing compared to those of us who read this blog. Some of them live in extreme poverty. Five months ago, the thought of touching a sewing machine, instilled fear, today, the outfits that they are wearing were created by the works of their hands.

I watched in amazement and listened intently as MJ shared her passion and enthusiasm with the two thousand plus people who attended that service. The congregation applauded when they heard how these ladies will graduate in November with the necessary tailoring skills and small business knowledge  to start their own sewing enterprises, providing them with the ability to support their families!

 MJ, thank you for having a true understanding of what missions is about. Your passion is contagious, your love for those you pour into week after week is genuine, and your ability to see a dream become a reality is inspiring. I am proud to call you my wife and best friend.

On another note, I would appreciate your prayers for MJ and myself. This coming Wednesday, I will meet Bill Pipke in Nairobi, Kenya and we will embark on a three week, four country tour of East and West Africa. Please pray for MJ’s protection during my absence and pray for fruitful ministry during my travels.

The following schedule will help you to know when to pray and what to pray for.

September 6 – CLI meeting with the Anti-Corruption Committee of Kenya

September 7 to 8 – CLI strategy meetings with our Kenya National Chairperson and his committee 

September 10 to 13 – Introduction of CLI to Assemblies of God leadership in Accra, Ghana

September 14 to 15 – CLI Introductory Summit in Monrovia, Liberia

September 21 to 22 – Transformation Sierra Leone/CLI Big Five of Corruption Summit

Our quarterly newsletter will come to your mailbox in the month of October. At that time, we will introduce to you Rick and Janice Sui who are going to spend two months building relationships and establishing ESL with the Chinese at our Bridge Cultural Centre. They are a precious couple that God has brought across our path.

Thank you for your ongoing prayer support. We experience their effects on a regular basis.

Continued blessings!

Don and Marie-José (MJ)

Standing on “Balcony Moment” Promises

I recently heard about an elderly lady here in South Africa who daily writes a promise from the Bible on a piece of paper and puts it in her shoe. She literally stands upon the promise. Anytime someone asks her what promise she is standing on today, she takes her shoe off and reads the promise on the paper.

When I heard the story, I was reminded of the promises God has given MJ and me over the ten years of our missions journey. I remember sitting on the balcony of our home in Montreal the day after we had farewelled the church we had pastored for thirteen years. In my devotions, I read Psalm 90:17. It is a verse that MJ and I carry with us to this very day, not in our shoe but our heart. Continue Reading

Dawning of a New Day in Africa

Over the last few months, there has been a significant change in the political landscape across Africa. Military takeovers, forced resignations, leaders stepping aside, and elections have brought a cautious optimism toward positive change.

The most recent change took place here in South Africa last week. To the shock of many, an unprecedented and historic transition took place. Within nineteen hours, the President of this country resigned, and Cyril Ramaphosa was sworn in as the new President of the Republic of South Africa. Twenty-four hours later, President Ramaphosa delivered his maiden State of the Nation Address (SONA).

The following excerpts from his speech are worthy of review by those of us who choose to guard our hearts through integrity.

“In just over 150 days from now, the people of the world will unite in celebrating the 100th anniversary of the birth of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela…Guided by his example, we will use this year to reinforce our commitment to ethical behavior and ethical leadership…We should put all the negativity that has dogged our country behind us because a new dawn is upon us…We are determined to build a society defined by decency and integrity that does not tolerate the plunder of public resources…We will change the way that boards are appointed so that only people with expertise, experience, and integrity serve in these vital positions…This is the year in which we will turn the tide of corruption in our public institutions…We call on all public servants to become agents for change.”

President Cyril Ramaphosa will be held accountable for his words as are we. That being the case, imagine with me what can happen in any nation who declares its allegiance to integrity because it abstains from the allurement of corruption. Think of the healing that is available to a country whose leaders and citizens put the needs of others ahead of their agendas and self-gratification. I am reminded of the words found in Proverbs 29:4, “By justice, a king gives a country stability, but one who is greedy for bribes tears it down.” During his SONA speech, President Ramaphosa said these impactful words: “Every time someone receives a bribe, there is someone prepared to pay it.”

I remind you that Commissioning a Lifestyle of Integrity (CLI) moves beyond anti-corruption programs; it is a pro-integrity lifestyle. We have a chance to join with others in every sphere of society to serve with expertise, experience, and integrity. The opportunity to become agents of change awaits those who are prepared to turn the tide of corruption.

It may very well be the dawn of a new day in Africa. A changing of the guard accompanied by a new mindset can be the beginning of a movement of integrity that has the potential to sweep across this vast Continent!

May we unite to bring restoration of integrity and revitalization of hope for a preferred future.

Until next time…

Don

Sixty Years of Marriage

It is not every day that I have the privilege of writing about a couple who has just celebrated sixty years of marriage.

Three weeks ago, MJ and I booked two weeks of vacation, boarded a plane in South Africa bound for the United States, and surprised her parents on the eve of their sixtieth wedding anniversary. Shock at our surprise visit turned to tears and hugs of joy as the reunion took place.

Three days later, the rest of MJ’s siblings and their spouses arrived and round two of the surprise shifted to second gear. I can still hear the sound of joyous laughter, remember the tears shed from grateful hearts, and the repetitive words of my father-in-law saying: “I don’t believe it, I don’t believe it!”

For the next five days, we celebrated the lives of a couple who have learned the power of togetherness. On numerous occasions, our table conversations would turn to questions about the keys to enduring sixty years of marriage. Most times, the responses given would end in tears not only by the ones responding but also by the ones asking the questions.

One of the things repeated on more than one occasion was the difference that Jesus made in their marriage, family, and home. Maman was the first to come to a personal relationship with Christ. Papa and the siblings noted the peace that Jesus brought to her life. Over the period of one year, everyone accepted Jesus as Lord of their lives. Papa was the last to surrender his heart, and today he has no shame in talking to friends and family about the difference Jesus makes in a life.

On a personal note, I have known my in-laws more years than I knew my parents. At the age of twenty, I lost my parents in a tragic car accident. I have known Papa and Maman Gravel for thirty-eight years, almost twice as long as I knew my parents when they walked this earth.

In a recent email, I said this to them: “Personally, I want to thank you for how you have accepted me into the family…I have been privileged to know you longer than I knew my parents. Thank you for your love, support, encouragement, and patience with me. I regret that neither you nor Marie-José ever got to know my parents, but I guarantee that they would have loved you both and loved your daughter whom I have had the privilege of being married to for over thirty-five years.”

So Papa and Maman, thank you for your example of a marriage that has Jesus at the center. Thank you for producing incredible children, one of whom I had the privilege of marrying. Thank you for your love, support and prayers for all your children, their spouses and your grandchildren. Thank you for the joy you bring to all of us. Thank you for being you!!

Until next time…

Don

God’s Plan for Your Life

God’s plan for your life is not accidental nor are His plans meant to hurt you. Instead, they are meant to give you hope and a future

In Genesis 24, Abraham sent his chief servant back to his homeland to find a wife for his son Issac. As Abraham’s servant approached a well outside the town of Nahor, he said: “O Lord, God of my master Abraham, give me success today, and show kindness to my master Abraham…May it be that when I say to a girl, ‘Please let down your jar that I may drink and she says, ‘Drink, and I’ll water your camels too’ – let her be the one you have chosen for your servant Issac.”

Before he had finished praying, Rebekah came out with her jar on her shoulder.

1) God’s plan for you is not vague; it is specific!

Notice how the servant prayed specifically, and God answered explicitly. What you might think is another routine day of going to the well, may be the very day that God reveals his specific plan for your future.

2) Be faithful in the daily routines of your life, because you never know how one day can change your life.

Rebekah went the extra mile, she not only gave the servant something to drink, but she also watered his camels too. It has been suggested that one camel can drink the equivalent of 200 pounds of water after one week’s journey. Abraham’s servant had ten camels. That means that Rebekah would have drawn 2,000 pounds of water!

Always go the extra mile with people – show kindness, go over and above what you are asked to do. At your place of work, don’t accept the bare minimum, go the extra mile.

3) You never know who is watching your life.

Without saying a word, Abraham’s servant watched Rebekah closely to learn whether or not the Lord had made his journey successful. What are people learning about God when they watch your life – is your God lazy, or does He go the extra mile?

4) Do not delay God’s plan for your life – when He reveals it, walk in obedience.

Rebekah’s brother and mother tried to delay the servant for ten days. They asked Rebekah if she wanted to leave immediately to which she responded: “I will go.”

Rebecca was faithful to her daily routine, not knowing what God was planning for her future. You never know how God is working behind the scenes in your life, orchestrating your future.

Trusting God’s plan for your life gives you hope for a preferred future.

Jeremiah 29:11
“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.”

Until next time…

Don

Live In Such A Way

Last week, my cell phone provider here in South Africa sent out this mass SMS (text): “Need help with your New Year’s resolution to quit smoking? Dial *136*3# and get daily Quit Smoke tips FREE for the first two weeks.”

I had to chuckle when I saw the word FREE in bold letters, followed by “for the first two weeks.” It is a reminder that nothing in life comes free, there are always strings attached.

How many reading this blog today have already managed to break their New Year’s resolution? Have you ever considered the fact that the breaking of your personal resolution may cause someone who is watching your life to stumble? Continue Reading

Discussions With God

Recently, I read these words in my morning devotions.

“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us – whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of him.” (1 John 5:14-15).

My wife’s Life Application Study Bible describes these verses as a discussion with God, not demanding what we want, but discussing with him what his will is for our particular situation.

Yesterday we went for our “ralk” (run and walk). At the halfway point, we usually stop and take a look at the beautiful hills that surround Pretoria where we live. We were treated to a memory making moment as three zebras were grazing in front of us. It was as if God gave us this occasion to stop, take in the landscape that he had painted with his brush and enjoy the wildlife that he had created uniquely with black and white stripes. Continue Reading

Zimbabwe Arise

I am sitting in the Robert Mugabe International Airport, Harare, attempting to put into a blog the unprecedented, historic events of this past week.

It started this past Wednesday. Our team was heading to the gate at the OR Tambo Airport, Johannesburg, when I received a WhatsApp stating that a military intervention had just taken place in Zimbabwe. Upon our arrival at the airport in Harare, we were greeted by a host of army soldiers. The city, normally bustling with people and roads jammed with traffic, was eerily quiet. As we drove through the city, our host said that Zimbabwe had never experienced anything like this since its independence in 1980. Continue Reading


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