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Monday, 29 March 2010

Looking forward to Easter week and our one year anniversary

Palm Sunday was celebrated yesterday. Palm Sunday refers back to when Jesus rode his donkey into Jerusalem and the people laid palm branches before and along his path. Jesus was coming to celebrate Passover but to also indicate Gods plan for Him to become the unblemished sacrifice for the Passover of that day and all Passovers to come by his death on the cross and resurrection only a few days later.

Many people don't know what Passover is or what it means or why people celebrate it. Passover was first celebrated when Moses went to Pharoah in Egypt and under Gods direction demanded that Pharoah let the Jewish people go from their slavery there. The last plague that God sent on the people of Egypt and on Pharoah to accomplish this was that their first borns would be killed unless the people be freed. Pharoah of course denied their leaving and so the plague was sent. No first born was to be spared including Jewish first born children unless the blood of a spring lamb was put on the doorposts of their houses which would cause the angel of death to pass them by.

Now Easter is upon us and this week holds special significance for Christians but as one non-christian pointed out on Facebook this morning, christians should celebrate Easter year-round if we are true believers and not just go to church on this one day out of the year. God calls us to relationship with Him and that is a daily relationship - more personal than your marriage or your best friendships, more knowing than the bond between mother and father and child or between siblings. Can you have a relationship with Christ without being involved in a church? No - Jesus is coming back for His church as a friend of ours preached yesterday. There is no separation between being a Christian and going to church. I'm not trying to substitute the law for grace or to say that legalism enters into the equation but church is critical for our growth as believers.

We are also not just to "go" but to a "part-of" the church. We aren't going to be entertained. We are going to learn and to serve and to fellowship and to challenge and be challenged. We are going to worship and to praise and to strategize and to evangelize the lost. Church is so much more than a weekly Sunday routine - it is the culmination of your weekly relationship with Christ and with others.

I am thankful for my church. God brought Alan and me together although we were separated by 4000 miles of ocean, guided us to a church of less than 50 people, encouraged us to become an active part of the church leadership, hosting our own housegroup and attending another and helping with varoius work days or other events. The changes God has brought about in the church even just since we've been there (and nothing to do with us) have been amazing. To see God work in the lives of the youth is especially rewarding. To see them come to know Jesus in an on-fire, exciting way just thrills Alan and me.

What life there is there but there is still so much work to be done. So much. So many lost in the Birkenhead, Wirral area. Why am I sitting on my butt writing this when there are so many lost out there? I've got to get to work - we all need to get to work. Hours then days then weeks pass and all we are left with are excuses of how busy we were, how afraid we were of being rejected. How paralized we become when Satan convinces us that what we do won't make any difference.

God is good. God is faithful. God is watching over his church this week and He's calling for all men to come to know Him. Time is short - how evident that is when we click on the TV or look at our computers and compare the events that happen each day with what the Bible describes as the end times.

Alan and I celebrate our anniversary on Easter this year. What a wonderful day that will be as we go to Germany to see if that is where the Lord may be calling us into service. The German people are a great people but they are also a stubborn and rebellious people - a people that have turned their backs on the one true God and accepted lies as truth. I love Germans but only with the power of the Holy Spirit will they come to know the Lord. May God watch over us this week as we travel there and hopefully meet many brothers and sisters in Christ as well as many that need the Lord and celebrate this wonderful first year of marriage. I love you Jesus, my savior and friend, my redeemer, comforter and ultimate sacrifice and I love you Alan Rathbone - my husband and soulmate.

Monday, 22 March 2010

The love that God has grown

Today I made plans for Alans and my one year anniversary which is to fall on Easter this year. We have decided we want to drive to Germany as we both have such a love for the country and hope maybe to end up in ministry there one day. I think I've decided on Aachen. It looks like a romantic little town right over the border from Belgium. The first night we'll stay in Calais as we don't get into France off the ferry until around 9:30 with the time change. I'm surprised it's so expensive to take the ferry - nearly £132. That's crazy! :P That's like four hotel nights or more at a Formula One hotel. Alan introduced me to the Formula One hotel chain and I guess they are sort'of like our Motel 1's (we'll keep the light on for ya! haha) - very cheap but good for those of us that are currently out of work and heading to the mission field one day! :))

I find that every day in the last year I have fallen more and more in love with this man that God opened the heavens and dropped into my lap. That's not to say we haven't had our adjustments to make as we get used to being married, me being in a new country, new job, church, etc. but God has been so faithful to see us through those adjustments and we know our future is secure in His hands as well.

Now as we focus on the future we are seeking Gods will and we're excited about where He will lead. For the past couple of weeks we've been talking to representatives from Pioneers and it looks like an organization that may be one we'd consider joining full-time in the months and years ahead. We know we want to be in ministry together and we both have a love for Europe and Europeans so right now we're leaning toward either starting our own team in Germany or joining an existing Pioneers team in Vienna, Austria. Either way, we're not worried. God will guide our steps.

This weekend was good as we enjoyed Alans preaching on Lifting up your heads to the coming King. Alans parents and Linda joined us for church and then Richard joined in for lunch after church. Linda said she had never in her life been to a church like ours and I don't doubt that's true. She grew up in a very conservative Catholic church but probably hasn't been to church in 20 years I would guess. I simply don't understand how people can live their entire lives without the Lord. My life would be wasted without the Lord. I know that without doubt.

Little by little I'm adjusting to England, to Moreton, to the new culture. I love our church, our street, our neighbors and friends here. While I used to be good at just picking up and charging into the next great thing, it would be hard to leave those we've met here and grown to love over the last year. Well enough said about that until more plans are made. No reason to get the cart before the horse as they say back home! :)

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

God is so faithful - 6 wonderful answers to prayer..

I've hesitated about posting everything going on with me at work until I was confident about how the Lord wanted us to proceed but now that I know we are going to fight I want to put everything here so that God can be given all the glory for the prayers He's already answered and the ones we know He'll answer in the future. This was a facebook message to a group of christian friends back home that have been wonderfully supportive praying and encouraging me. We are at perfect peace and God is so good!

February 16th

Hi all,
Alan and I would appreciate your prayers about my work situation. As most of you know this has not been the easiest job I've ever had. :) In the last eight months I've mentored, trained and loved on over thirty homeless girls aged 16+ here in Wales - each with such different but all equally horrific backgrounds. I've seen everything from prostitution to drug usage, self harming to domestic and family abuse. Most lack a good education, have no family support, suffer from tragically low self esteems and almost all don't know the Lord.

God has afforded me so many opportunities to love on the girls, to get bibles for them, to lead one into a relationship with Him and to encourage all of them onto a better path for their futures. Some girls are very responsive, some are not at all and some look like they are headed down a better path only to turn back to the world and their old life with devastating consequences.

One girl in particular that I was making so many headways with last fall left us only to return a couple of weeks ago. When she returned it was as if none of the things we had worked on or encouraged in her remained. She was back doing the same things that caused her so much heartache before we knew her which leads me to my request for prayer.

Last Friday I spoke to this girl and told her she was on the wrong path, that she was throwing her life away and that I would not help her to do it. She is incredibly bright, wants to go to college to become a nurse, get custody of her 2 year old daughter and get a place of her own. Unfortunately she is risking all of this with her current choices.

Instead of accepting my criticism and the truth in the words I spoke she has chosen to lash out at me and has filed a complaint against me with my company. While I have not seen the complaint it is apparently bad enough to warrant me being suspended. The suspension notice also said there had been allegations of possible physical assault and the company has said as a result they have "lost faith in my integrity" (keep in mind the investigation into these allegations has not started but apparently in their eyes I'm already guilty).

Those that love and know me have said that what I'm going through has been orchestrated by the evil one who hates the ministry I have with the girls and while I know this is true, the hurt and sadness I feel for this girl in particular has compelled me to write to you to ask you to pray.

Please pray for me - that above all things Gods' will and purpose will be done in this situation. Pray for Alan - who in his loving and wonderful husband way wants to protect me at all costs and see me vindicated. But especially I ask that you will pray for this precious girl who is so lost. Please pray that only truth will be spoken and that God will be given all the glory for whatever He is going to do in and through this situation and in her life.

This may be God telling me it's time to leave the organization but before I do I would like to see the truth come out and my "integrity" restored and above all else, see this girl come to know the Lord as her personal savior. If we all pray together I believe God in His mercy and grace will act. I am so thankful for all of you and covet your prayers.

Mary Rathbone

February 20th

Hello everyone - just an update that my organization is calling for a disciplinary hearing on Tuesday at noon (7am eastern time) where they are alleging gross misconduct due to physical attack and objectionable behavior because I encouraged the girl in question not to have an abortion due to regret she may feel later in life. This could and probably will lead to immediate dismisal without notice.

On Friday when I was notified of the hearing I finally had the opportunity to read the complaint and the supposed physical attack was when I was leaving the room I walked over to where the girl who filed the complaint was laying on the bed, picked up her bible which was on the floor by her head and laid it on her chest and said "the only thing I can suggest is you read this, it will help you."

She now alleges I threw the bible at her stomach knowing she was pregnant. This allegation in addition to being unfair and untrue makes me both angry and incredibly sad but because of the seriousness of the allegations Alan and I have decided to hire a solicitor so that he can help drive to a resolution where my name and integrity remain in tact. I would ask you all to pray that we will have wisdom, strength and forgiveness in our hearts for all those that are coming against us and that we will find a solicitor that is a christian and someone that can help us.

This last week we have prayed a ton, cried a ton, stayed in Gods word and have been surrounded by belivers that love us and are praying for us. God is good and trustworthy and faithful at all times and yea though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death we will fear no evil for He is with us.

Thank you for your continued prayers,
Mary & Alan

February 24th

God is good.

Hello everyone,
Just wanted to update you on the latest. Today I was dismissed from Save the Family for my conduct. Two of the statements made were, "it is not appropriate for you to offer your opinion or advice about abortion" for when I told the girl in question that having an abortion was a decision she could regret for the rest of her life and "I am disappointed that you have attempted to impose your religious beliefs on to a resident." said by the CEO when I told the girl in question to read her bible that I thought it could help her.

Alan and I have had problems with the "christianity" ascribed to by this organization since we started and I think God just had enough and wants us out. Thank you all for your prayers and please continue to pray that God will direct our paths for what's next.

Much love,
Mary & Alan

March 16th

Praise God! After a LOT of prayer we have seen God work in amazing ways but there is still a lot of prayer needed.

The latest update on my work situation..

Before I left to come home to Georgia I contacted a lawyer about whether we had a case against Save the Family for dismissing me. The man I spoke to and his wife are very well known solicitors in England and knew Alan through his church so I thought it couldn't hurt to ring them and explain my situation and share with them the contents of the suspension notice, investigation, hearing and dismissal.

After hearing my story the solicitor said I did in fact have a very good case against the company (praise number 1)and that I should move forward with appealing to the Board of Trustees and going to a tribunal if necessary but he said he was not the type of lawyer I needed and that he would put in some calls for me to find me the lawyer I would want to represent me. He said the legal fees for something like this are tremendous and asked if I had legal coverage in my contents and insurance policy. I told him I didn't know but I would check.

Well I called my insurance company and surprisingly enough to both Alan and me we did have coverage (praise number 2) but it only covered the tribunal stage and not the appeal. Anyway, we decided to wait to see who this solicitor found and talk to them and see if they agreed we had a case before proceeding. We have no money to speak of but were trusting the Lord for His guidance and funds if He wanted us to move forward.

A call came in shortly thereafter from a solicitor in London from Christian Concern for our Nation. Here is some information about them:
Christian Concern for our Nation (CCFON) is an organisation that exists to serve the Church by providing information to enable Christians to stand up publicly against a tide of unchristian legal and political changes in the United Kingdom. It brings together focused, policy and media expertise and strategic intervention in order to secure favourable legal and political outcomes in areas of concern. In addition, the organisation acts as a rallying point for those concerned with these issues and a place where individual members of the public and organisations will be able to seek assistance and advice.
The solicitor I spoke with instructed me on how to request an appeal hearing with the board of directors at Save the Family and said we would also request that he be allowed to attend with me. He told me to ask them for time to prepare for the appeal hearing once I returned which I did. In the meantime I was to send him all the paperwork that I had been sent, the complaint letter, suspension notice, dismissal, etc so he could look it over. I got all of that in the mail the night before Alan and I left to come to Georgia.
Yesterday we got back and I had a letter from Save the Family which I opened after a much needed nap from not sleeping for the 21 hours it took us to get back here (gotta love American airlines!). Anyway, the letter said that the appeal hearing was to be on Tuesday the 16th (yes today!) at 9am. So much for any notice or time to prepare.

Well Alan and I ran around for about 5 minutes panicking and then realized - HEY, this does not surprise God! He knew they would not give me time to prepare and that we would not read the letter until five minutes before Save the Family was to close and that we wouldn't be able to get through to them in time, etc. etc. So we stopped, prayed and decided that we would not attend the appeal and instead send an email requesting that it be postponed til we had time to prepare which I did at 11:30 last night. I also asked whether my solicitor could attend with me.

This morning I got email back from the CEO's personal assistant that they would reschedule for me and to let them know when I could do it (praise numbe 3). Then later this afternoon I talked to Mr. Kon from the Christian Concern for our Nation legal centre and he said after reading over everything that I had a very good case against the company (praise number 4) and asked me if they did in fact proclaim that they were a "christian" organization. I said yes and he said, "well that makes your case a lot stronger that the punishment was completely disproportionate to the offense" (praise number 5). I then told Mr. Kon that we hadn't discussed fees and that I had an insurance policy that would hopefully help pay for tribunal stage but didn't know how much it would cost for him to defend me at the appeal hearing and he said that they were FAITH based and that all of their work would be done PRO BONO (praise number 6). Well, I almost cried because my dad had said that it may not be worth fighting if it was going to cost thousands to have lawyers defend me and Alan and I had considered just letting my name be tarnished and wiping the dust off our feet so to speak but with this, we knew God was in it and wanted us to continue moving forward.

Right now I am working on getting Mr. Kon everything that shows that Save the Family is a christian organization so that the things I said to the girl in question would not be considered dismissable offenses. On Save the Family's website it states:
Save The Family is Christian Charity that provides a last chance lifeline for families who find themselves in this crisis situation. We exist to keep whole homeless families together, and help them to rebuild their lives.

It says this and yet today they suspended another christian who has been targeted before for his beliefs and the girl that I led to the Lord that has defended me throughout the investigation was mysteriously kicked out of Sunraye yesterday (the house where I used to work) by the organizations management. She was told she had 10 minutes to leave and that they could do nothing more to help her. She didn't even have time to get her clothes or bible.

Please pray for her, for our fellow christian staff member suspended today and for us as we move forward that God will continue to receive all the glory for everything that happens and that HIS will be done.

In Christ and for Him alone,
Mary & Alan

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Great vacation so far... only 4 days left

Alan, dad and I are in the den watching Space Cowboys right now. It's pretty good but honestly I'm more into playing tetris while we watch. :)

Today was a good day. Alan and dad went to the Tuesday morning book club at Panero Bread in Athens and mom and I went to the health club to do a stretching class. I was just going to workout but mom convinced me to check it out and it was a really good class actually. It was also harder than I thought it would be. I don't stretch nearly enough when I workout.

After working out mom dropped me off at home and she went to the church for prayer time. Mel and the kids then came to get me here and we went to Gyro Wrap in downtown Athens for lunch and to see Old Dogs at the dollar theater. It was average - funny at parts but only an average story line I thought. When we got home mom had accidentally locked me out so I read a bit on the porch and then walked to downtown Watkinsville to do a little window shopping. I got Charlotte a cute Georgia Bulldogs denim jacket. Christine and mom and Charlotte were back at the house when I got home and so we hung out for a bit before I made fajitas and quesadillas for the family for dinner. Everyone seemed to enjoy them.

Yesterday Alan and I went out to breakfast with Eric and Ellen Peters who serve as full-time missionaries with Pioneers. They are off to Tunisia, Africa on Wednesday to speak at a seminar and then off to Thailand for some work with Pioneers before starting their home assignments. We had a good talk with them about what's been happening with me at work and what the Lord has in store for us next. They really encouraged us. Who knows - maybe Alan and I will end up with Pioneers somewhere. We'll keep praying and see where the Lord leads.

A few more days left of vacation only. Alan and dad went fishing today on Lake Oconee. Alan caught one but they weren't really biting too much I guess. I don't know whether they'll go fishing again this week up at Hartwell or not. We spent several, several hours cleaning it, waxing it, etc yesterday. It looked like a new boat when we were finished.

Well the movie just finished and we're off to bed. More later.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Home Sweet Home in Georgia

In Georgia we find ourselves surrounded by the love of friends and family, a great church and an awesome on fire set of believers. We arrived last Sunday after a one night stint in Chicago so Alan could see the city. I was glad we stopped over as I hadn't been back that I can remember since graduating from college at Wheaton.

We stayed at the Millenium Knickerbocker right across from the Drake Hotel and off Michigan Avenue. Our plane got in early and we decided instead of cabbing it for $45.00 each way that we'd take the CTA (Chicago Transit Authority) train system. Well, we walked and walked and walked and finally made it to the train where a nice gentleman assisted us in buying the right train ticket. I knew we needed to get into the loop but was unsure which stop would get us the closest to the hotel so we just got off at Washington and got a cab from there. Luckily that was the right stop for us so the cab was less than $10.00. All in total we spent $14.50 each way for a savings of nearly $60.00 round trip - yah! :)

The hotel was nice but our room wasn't ready when we checked in so we had a drink at the bar and then got a nice little corner junior suite that was beautiful and Alan took a nap while I unpacked and got the internet hooked up so I could phone mom and dad. That night we decided to go for a walk down to Lake Michigan and then go up to the John Hancock 96th floor lounge so Alan could see the city.

Well, it was FREEZING outside but it wasn't as freezing as it could have been I guess. The lake had several feet of snow on it in places by the shore and we passed a poor homeless man who was struggling to keep warm in the tunnel. Sad. :(

The John Hancock building was fun. It didn't take too long to get a table with a view of the lights of the city and we ordered a couple of drinks (coffee for Alan and I had a margarita - $12.50!! YIKES!). Anyway, Alan thought the whole building was fixing to collapse I guess because it was swaying with the wind. I told him it was quite normal and I think he relaxed when he realized no one else seemed to be bothered by it.

Next we were off to Gino's East around the corner for some deep dish Chicago stuffed pizza. The concierge at our hotel had given us a little coupon to get priority seating and a free appetizer and let me tell you, it's great! We bypassed the huge line, went right up to the front and got a table in less than 5 minutes and free garlic breadsticks to boot!! Unfortunately we ordered a medium pizza - BIG mistake and were completely stuffed after only one piece each. We decided to book it out of there and try to find the homeless man we had passed to give him the rest of the hot pizza but Alan started feelin really bad and so we had to rush back to the hotel and although we looked, we could not find the homeless man so nearly $20 of pizza just went to waste - yuk! God telling us not to be gluttons I think.

I guess we ended up going to bed around 8:30 or so and we got a really good nights rest so the next day we were up around 5am and decided to go for a long walk and then out to breakfast. We walked along Lake Shore drive to the Navy Pier and then went to Mary's diner for breakfast. I got a skillet and Alan got an omelette. The service was really good and although it wasn't the cheapest diner I've ever been to, it was really good food.

We left for the airport around 9:00 I guess and decided to walk to the Washinton street station inside the loop dragging our suitcases. When Alan first saw the train he was so glad because we'd been walking nearly a mile but I refused to spend the extra .50c on two transfers and so we had to walk a bit further to make it to Washington station. We laughed about that later about me being so "frugal" lol.

No problems getting from Chicago to Atlanta and mom and dad picked us up there at the airport. The last week we have basically spent entirely with family. I did some shopping, went to get my nails done and out to lunch with Christine on the Monday and on Thursday mom, dad, Alan and me went to the condo for a couple of nights so Alan and dad could go fishing. We went for a hike and got lots of exercise and it was nice. We also pulled the boat out so we could clean it and get the propeller and possibly also the pin hole leak fixed.

Now we're back home on Harden Hill. We went to church this morning, dad made a great lunch for the family and this afternoon Alan and I took a walk to downtown Watkinsville so I could show him a bit around. We even ended up running into an old boyfriend of mine and his dad selling boiled peanuts and pig skins. I'm not sure Alan had ever heard of pig skins nor had he seen them being sold by the side of the road before!

Alan and I sat outside Jittery Joe's and listened to a bit of a daughters of the revolution speech in a park they were dedicating across the street. It was a really nice and relaxing walk just being with my honey - the man I can't wait to spend the rest of my life on this earth with but also the man I get to spend eternity with in Heaven. God is so good and I love being in love! :)