Judy’s Blog

Birds & stars . . . not one is forgotten!

  • November 1, 2016
I’ve been considering this for several months, ever since taking photos of the Milky Way in August:
See all these stars: He calls them all by name; not one of them is missing. (See Isaiah 40:26.)
Observe these little birds: not one of them is forgotten by your Father in Heaven. (See Luke 12:6.)
Billions upon billions of stars, all named, not one missing. Millions upon millions of birds, and not one can fall without the Father knowing it. The God of the infinite is also the God of the infinitesimal. 
What does this mean for us who know Him? If you’re my friend & co-worker Magguie, you know He’s aware of your missing foot and your efforts to learn to walk with a prosthesis. He knows you’ve just had malaria and is the One that helped you recover. He’s aware that you just lost your husband and how much it hurts, even though he had a second wife and had not provided for you or your two daughters. All big things, all in one person’s life. The Father knows and cares.  If you are Elisabeth working at our mission Guest House for many years, He knows you suddenly lost your husband in a motorcycle accident. He is there to comfort you and get you through impossible days. A huge event in one person’s life . . . our friend with whom we mourn. The Father is aware.  What about the termites chowing down on the kitchen cabinets at our house? I can almost hear them munching from my office . . . Is He aware of such a small thing? Absolutely! He cares about anything that concerns His children. (The termites got sprayed this morning. Not a huge deal, but you get my point, I think!)
Whatever it is in your life or mine, no matter how big or small the detail, He knows, cares, and does not forget us, ever.
I’ve talked with Magguie by phone several times; she sounds good. She says she has sore muscles from learning to walk with the prosthesis. All of the funds have been promised to meet the financial need. Thank the Lord!! Please do keep her in your prayers as she does her therapy. Pray for her and her kids in the very sudden loss of her husband/their dad.
On another subject, please be in prayer for our literacy ministry here in Togo. We can never overstate the importance of being able to read the Word! Currently there is no one to develop this ministry. We are asking the Lord for either a missionary who is on the field already or for a new missionary to take on this important ministry.

The Order of Things

  • September 6, 2016
          As a photographer living on a hospital compound in Africa, I have many opportunities to photograph a variety of subjects. I have a preference for nature photography because it constantly reminds me of the nearness of the Lord God, who has made creatures with such incredible beauty and detail. Last week while I was up in Mango at our new hospital, I had a few days to wander around and think and pray and take pictures. I concentrated mainly on birds, because there was a great variety there, given the rainy season and lush, green foliage. One morning, the thought came to me about “the order” of things. As we all know, of first importance is people, because they need to be saved. At the hospital, they need physical healing so they can come to know the Creator and THEN they are free to enjoy all He has made. I enjoy nature so much because I know the Creator. I’m immeasurably grateful for salvation in Jesus—not only because I have eternal life because of Him, but also because knowing Him gives me clear understanding that nature provides a connection to Him as the Creator of all things. The beauty around me can be fully enjoyed because I know Him personally.
          Knowing Jesus leads my heart to praise and thanksgiving, because He alone is worthy to be praised. Today I am grateful to Him for two specific things. One is that He protected my sister as she was in quite a serious car accident last Sunday. The car is totaled and she is quite sore, but she is doing well. The Lord sent some dear eye witnesses to help her and pray with her at the scene. Secondly, I’m praising Him that Magguie has had a good consultation about a prosthetic foot. I don’t have all the details yet, but I am praying this will work well for her!
          Photo composites can be a bit busy, but I’m including this one to show the sheer variety of the birdlife I saw in Mango, Togo last week! 
Mango Birds xga

Infinite God and a pair of glasses

  • August 8, 2016
We’ve had a visiting team of college students and graduates here in Togo for a week—all photographers! It’s been really great working with them as they participated in a workshop to learn to make photo & video presentations that missionaries can use on furlough—projects that tell actual stories of people we work with out here. It was a successful week, and it was very good to see the potential for full time missionary work in that group of students, which was a major goal of the workshop—to expose them to missions and show them that there is indeed a place for media arts on the mission field.
So last night I was out taking pictures of this amazingly clear night sky—unusual during the rainy season, and some of the students joined me as I was photographing the Milky Way. I’ve wanted to try to get images like this for some time. It was literally amazing! I was outside until midnight and pretty wound up for some time after, thinking of the import of all of those billions and billions of stars out there, and the fact that God knows every one of them by name! To think there are only  few billion people on earth—it’s not a big thing for our infinite God to know our names, our needs, how many hairs are on our heads . . . .
This morning I got up and could not find my glasses—my good ones that I use for both distance and reading. I looked everywhere I had been last evening and was asking the Lord to remind me where I had left them. He prompted me to check the grassy area where I had been taking pictures, where I had walked all around in the dark, and where the students had walked around with their cameras and tripods . . . and sure enough, there lay my glasses on the grass, dew-covered but undamaged. My heart is so thankful that the God of those billions of stars cares about the details of our lives, and that He protected my glasses from being crushed under someone’s foot!
I’m hoping you will be encouraged as you are reminded that His infiniteness not only extends beyond the very reaches of a limitless universe, but also down to the very smallest detail of our lives.  What is man, that He thinks of us?? (See Psalm 8:3 & 4.)
Stars composite xga

I love camp!

  • July 19, 2016
Of all the amazing aspects of Bible Camp in Togo this year, such as:
~Being reunited with staff from the early years of camp;
~Meeting new staff who are the children of our older workers;
~Seeing the son of our first director participating in the ministry;
~Watching dozens of kids singing, playing great games, listening to the Word of God;
~Admiring the creativity of those who planned out this year’s camp;
~Witnessing everything working smoothly over six days with two large groups of kids and teens;
~Enjoying the demonstration of how to make sugar cookies, including baking them in a wooden cabinet with a charcoal grill inside it;
~Videoing my little friend Sharon practicing sharing the Wordless Book story with a friend . . .
It is THIS moment that rises to the top:
I had gone to camp to observe and greet friends, pray, and take photos and video clips. I spent the night in a small apartment on the grounds. At six thirty the next morning, I was preparing to go outside to think and pray and take photos as I do almost daily. As I approached the door to go out, I heard low voices right outside on the step. I carefully peered out the window, and I saw a counselor, Bible in hand, alongside a camper. She was asking the camper if she had ever asked Jesus to be her Savior. I heard another pair of quiet voices out the other window. Another counselor and camper, talking about the Gospel. Moses came to mind as God spoke to him from the burning bush, and I literally thought, “Surely this is holy ground. I should take my shoes off!” I was so moved as I stood in that sacred spot, hearing the Gospel being shared with two campers.
Thank the Lord for HIS work here in Togo, and for resurrecting the camp ministry from the still-burning embers of earlier days!  I love camp!
Camp Composite 2016xga

Flambouyant Trees Command Attention

  • April 28, 2016

Last night’s rain made for some great macro & water drop images, one of which is seen here as a detail of a Flambouyant blossom.

showers xga

Here in West Africa, these trees are currently the outstanding landscape feature. Even the most hardened “non- flower-noticer” stops in his tracks when he sees these explosive red-covered trees. The FTD Florists use the slogan “Say it with Flowers.” I believe our Creator is “saying it” loud and clear with these trees . . . He gave us color and beauty, even after The Fall in the Garden of Eden . . . because He loves us. One of these lovely trees graces the yard where I live, pictured here. I’m thankful to be able to enjoy such beauty so close by!

flame tree houseflame tree

Sunbirds, Light, and Prayer!

  • April 18, 2016
The male sunbirds of West Africa are amazing in the morning sunlight! In the shadows, they appear mostly black, but in the sun, their iridescent colors are stunningly beautiful. I’m thinking there’s a parallel here to challenge us. As we walk in the light of God’s Son, what is revealed to a watching world? Is it a beautiful spirit of kindness, or a dullness that does not attract? 2 Corinthians 5:9 says we should make it our aim to be pleasing to the Lord. If we do so, when His light reveals our “true colors”, it will be a good thing.
Today I have one specific item to ask you to bring before the Lord. First, thank you so very much for your prayers and giving for Magguie’s house! The plywood ceilings and the cement floor are almost far enough along to make it livable. Please pray that she will be able to move in by the end of next week. I’m asking for prayer for this because these final details are dragging on a bit. The Lord is able to put it all together so she is in her own place before paying May rent at the old place. When she’s all moved in, I’ll send a photo of the new place. Again, thank you for caring and for praying.
Have a good week, and may we reflect the Lord’s goodness to a watching world.
Sunbirds small 2016

Shining under dark clouds

  • March 25, 2016
This weekend is the most glorious & victorious of all celebrations! Yet it is a dark time for some, including our friends and colleagues from the North of Togo. This coming Saturday, March 26,there will be a memorial service in Michigan celebrating the life of our missionary brother, Todd DeKryger,  who left us for Heaven on January 26 after a brief illness. Todd’s Homegoing has touched us and no doubt countless other individuals very deeply.
I call the day before Easter Black Saturday, because I am unable to imagine the darkness and despair of the friends and family of our Lord Jesus after He died. Many of them were unable to grasp the significance of His promise that He would rise again. So Saturday had to have been exceedingly heavy and difficult for them. I’m thinking this very Saturday will be difficult in that kind of way for many. Yet Sunday is coming, and not just any Sunday—but Resurrection Sunday, the celebration of Jesus having conquered death by rising again after sacrificing His life for my sin and the sins of all the world, thereby bringing us the certainty of eternal life.
On a rare occasion, we get to see the morning sun peek out from beneath dark clouds before or after a storm. My prayer today is that from beneath dark clouds of loss and despair, the awesome victory of death’s defeat will shine forth as never before in the hearts of our dear ones. Thank you for praying along with us for them.  “Death is swallowed up in victory!” (1 Corinthians 15:54)  We must take courage in “the hope set before us:  Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast”, and that anchor is our certainty of life in Heaven, together, forever. (See Hebrews 6:13-19).
Have a blessed Easter!
Risen Sunrise xga

So thankful for new literature!

  • January 27, 2016

Pictured below is our CRC and Print Shop staff, amidst the many boxes of hymnals, French New Testaments, and French Gospel tracts that arrived a few days ago by sea container! We are all so thankful to you who provided $8,600 to pay for the 10,000 New Testaments and 450,000 tracts!! May the Lord bless you always for your prayers for our print/distribution ministry, and for your giving to help us keep going! Many thanks to the folks in Michigan who helped prepare all of these cartons (688) for shipping. 

CRC Ps thanks

Incredible . . . New Year’s Eve!

  • January 26, 2016

New Year’s Eve in Togo . . . For those of you following Magguie’s story, here’s a bit more.

I cannot begin to describe the joy of being in the Lord’s House last night, celebrating with Togolese brothers and sisters the end of the old year with its blessings and challenges, and the beginning of the New Year! The highlight was Magguie’s testimony in the front of the church. She and her daughter sang a song together, and Magguie requested the congregation sing Xle Wo Yayra (Count your Blessings), which they belted out with great gusto! Magguie stood up at the front of the church, leaning on her crutches and waving her arm in praise to the Lord as she sang for Him. I have some video clips . . . I’d love to include one here but our internet is a bit slow for that (understatement of 2016). But I’ll include a picture.

How can I help but be super-challenged, watching and listening to Magguie praise the Lord, counting her blessings, reading Lamentations 2:22-25 to us at church, when her foot is gone?? My heart still does a funny flip thing every time I see her and it registers in my mind that there is this blank space where her foot used to be. The Lord is awesome. He’s the only One who is truly awesome. Magguie has her ups and downs. This path is extremely difficult, to put it mildly. But she continues to refocus, bringing her thoughts back to God’s goodness in sparing her life. She knows there are multiple purposes for suffering and the Lord is already using her to encourage others around her.

Thank you so much—those who have asked about how to help us get Magguie’s house built so she can move out of her rental situation. I don’t yet know how much the Lord has provided through you, but I’ll keep you posted. Please keep praying for the Lord’s provision in a timely manner. (read: Please hurry, Heavenly Father, if it is Your will to do so!) Please pray for His will and timing regarding a prosthesis, and also for healing of an infection in her upper arm (insulin injection related).

On another subject, I’ll be in touch soon about the literature that just arrived on the container, as some of you were involved in giving and praying for this. For the moment, though, I’m thanking the Lord for this New Year, and am praying for Him to be consistently lifted up as you and I navigate our lives for His glory where we are.

magguie church

Building a House!

  • December 8, 2015

My dear friend and co-worker, Magguie, has worked as a translator in our literature center here in Togo for 18 years. In 2002, she discovered she was diabetic. The disease is taking a toll on her, and 12 days ago, she had to have her right foot amputated. We are all saddened by this but adjusting to the new situation. Magguie herself is continuing, through roller-coaster emotions, to focus on the Lord and His blessings in her life. She is a single mom (her husband abandoned her and her two daughters and has taken a wife elsewhere) and faces the challenges connected with this situation. Currently she rents a house, but started a number of weeks ago to build  on a piece of land she owns about 2.5 miles from her work place, which is our literature center here at the Bible Baptist Hospital in Tsiko, Togo. I’m thinking the house construction is now urgent, so I am trying to help her find the funds ($10,000 to $12,000) to complete what she has begun. If you are reading this blog post and want to help contribute towards this house, please email me at judybowen92@gmail.com and I’ll send you information on where to send a check. Please be in prayer for Magguie, as learning to live without a foot is a monumental challenge and not for the faint of heart!! She is a godly woman; prayer sustains her.

This is one of my favorite pictures of Magguie with her signature smile, which I took a couple of years ago as she was teaching teen girls at a local church.

Magguie teaching email