Sunday, December 28, 2008

25th Wedding Anniversary Getaway

Jeni and I are at a luxurious island resort in Malaysia called Pangkor Laut. Our wedding anniversary is January 4th, but we're celebrating early because that's when rooms were available here. It's a five-star resort on a small private island. "One island, one resort," they say. Beautiful setting. Superb service. Ideal for marking our 25th year together, and for making memories that will last a lifetime -- all in a four-day, three night getaway.

Last night I surprised Jeni with a romantic dinner by candlelight on a private pavillion, our own personal server, a troupe of three singing musicians and, with dessert and a dozen roses, a diamond ring delivered by the server. It 'replaces' the original engagement ring when I couldn't afford much. Jeni was completely surprised, elated, and tearful. Yes! It was a success.

Tomorrow it's back to KL, back to work, and back to routines, but these few days and nights have been wonderful; and we are so grateful! Grateful also for 25 years of partnership in marriage, parenting, and ministry.

Here is a Facebook photo album of our time away. Abby has requested a picture of the ring. It's coming soon, Abby. :-)
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Thursday, November 13, 2008


Some readers have followed my Facebook updates about the need for a miracle in Mosul. I'm giving a bit more of the details here.

Many of us prayed, and God answered with a great result! This week in Mosul, Iraq, our friend, Manhal, who visited us here in July, was released by his captors unharmed. There was a reduced amount of ransom paid by a friend and a family member. I got word Wednesday night from an Iraqi friend in KL that Manhal was home safe.

Then an hour later, I got a text message from Manhal. I called him right away and we talked almost 30 minutes. He was so grateful for our concern and prayers. His wife had showed him my text messages on her phone -- messages that told her of our prayer support for both of them and that included some Scriptures to encourage her.

Here's what I learned of the kidnapping... While in a taxi about two weeks ago, Manhal was stopped by a group of seven men carrying Kalishnikov guns and ordered to get out and come with them. They kept him for 12 days, giving him one glass of water per day, and minimal food. When contacted, his father refused to pay anything for his release. In the second week of Manhal's captivity, his wife despaired of ever seeing him alive again, due in part to the high amount of ransom demanded. I also received an email from the terrorists with two photos attached of Manhal kneeling and blindfolded between two of the masked abductors. One held a gun to his head, the other held a knife. The one-line message predicted his death "in a few days". No demands were mentioned. Then, I later discovered, a friend of his and a brother-in-law each sold their cars and put the money together to pay a reduced amount of ransom. The kidnappers released Manhal the next day.

Please continue to pray that Manhal, his wife, and their children make it safely to a new place outside of Mosul in Kurdistan. He will need a job. It will be interesting to see what God will provide.

Thanks so much to all who prayed. Praise God for giving our brother a new lease on life!

If you'd like a few photos so you can see whom you're praying for, let me know and I can send them to you by email.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Fireproof, the Movie Trailer

FIREPROOF, from the creators of FACING THE GIANTS, is about the failing-but-rescued marriage of a fire-fighter (Kirk Cameron) and his wife. It opens September 26 in theaters across America. My favorite line: "Never leave your partner behind."

Many readers will know that these two films were created by Sherwood Pictures, the movie-making ministry of Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Georgia, USA. The first movie they made is called FLYWHEEL. You can find clips from all three movies on

In Malaysia we look forward to the eventual distribution of FIREPROOF on DVD as we're not likely to get the movie in theaters. (AMAZING GRACE, the story of English Christian abolitionist William Wilburforce, did have a short run.)

FIREPROOF will be a good ministry tool for marriage enrichment, just as FACING THE GIANTS was faith-inspiring.

Here's the trailer for FIREPROOF...

Friday, July 25, 2008

Home from Annual Home-Leave

Jeni and I returned yesterday from our annual trip "home" to see family and friends. Now we're back "home" in KL. Funny how most of us have more than one place we call home. Actually Jeni and I have three places for that designation: here where we live and work in KL; and the two places where our parents reside -- the Tampa Bay area, and "the farm" in Brooks County, GA. To me, though, home is where you can sleep in your own bed. Ahh. It's especially nice after a 24-hour journey by jet.

Sarah stayed back a while longer to be with her close friend, Corinne, in Nashville, TN. And about seven hours ago in Tampa, she passed the driving exam for her full driving license, accompanied by Grandma Liz and Abby. Yay, Sarah! Now when she turns 17 on Aug. 2nd, she'll be legal to drive by herself here in Malaysia. She's been doing that with us this past year on her learner's permit. She's a good careful driver.

Meanwhile ... Abby has enough credit hours to be a junior next month when she starts back at Southeastern University in Lakeland, FL. She's getting more into her major now -- English and Intercultural Studies (that's for teaching English as a second language).

After our visit in Nashville to Belmont University, Sarah has put it at the top of her list of colleges to apply to. [Yes, I know I ended that sentence with a preposition, and I'm not going to change it just to conform to the arbitrary rule that proscribes it. :-) ] Sarah wants to major in music education with possible minors in Spanish, history, or vocal performance. (I may not have those minor subjects exactly right; but, her ideas for minors may have changed by the time she reads this, so either way, I'll change the post accordingly.)

Just before we flew back, our friend and new church member, Andrienne Wong, passed away of lymphatic cancer. Her funeral was Wednesday morning, but we arrived about midnight that night. The wake was Tuesday night, and I'm told that our Associate Pastor, Chris Sekar, did a beautiful job with his remarks. Our prayers and condolences go out to her parents, Robert and Khuan; to her young sons; and to the whole extended family. In her short time as a Christian (seven months), Andrienne grew by leaps and bounds, and she found peace and joy in her walk with Jesus. We pray for His peace and comforting presence with the family now.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Douglas Wright Mitchell, 1934-2008

I got the call from Jeni at about 10:30 during a Tuesday morning staff meeting at the church office. My mobile phone vibrated on my hip, and when I saw it was her calling, I thought, "This must be important" because she's normally teaching school at this time, and she knows I'm in staff meeting. I excused myself to take the call. "Daddy just killed himself," she said through tears. It was a shock to us and to all who knew Douglas. He took his own life at about 9:00 pm behind the farm house where he lived with Peggy, his wife of over fifty years. It was Monday night there, April 7.

For the last two or three years, Douglas had struggled quietly with depression. Doctors said the cause was a chemical imbalance. We don’t really know why or how he struggled so. Douglas was a man of few words and did not share many of his innermost thoughts.

Jeni, Sarah, and I flew home for the funeral. Abby picked us up at the airport in Tampa and we drove north to the farm near Quitman, Georgia. I had the privilege of leading the simple graveside service at Okapilco Baptist Church in Brooks County. Douglas had been pastor of this little country church twice. Many if not most of the members are related to him. It was his first church to pastor as a young man, and his last church after a long career of bivocational, small church pastoring in Georgia and Florida. The current pastor, Brother Bob, opened with Scripture and prayer. Grandson Jake read the obituary. I did the eulogy. Friends, family members, and members of Douglas's former churches shared funny stories and memories of a life lived serving others. Sarah led out in song, and Jeni and I joined her in "Amazing Grace, My Chains Are Gone."
Douglas was a family man, a church man, a man of the land, and a man of few words. He baptized all three of his daughters and officiated at each of their weddings. He hunted, fished, farmed, and gave away the vegetables. He served five churches in his career as a Southern Baptist pastor. And he was a good shepherd. He visited his flock, cared for the sick, preached the Word, comforted the bereaved, witnessed to the lost, and led his churches to support missions. He was a life-long learner. He was making plans for new Bible studies and a new series of sermons -- even right up to the day he died. Douglas's favorite verse of Scripture was, By grace are you saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast. (Eph. 2:8-9)

Jeni's call to missions service came as a result of the many missions conferences in the churches of her childhood. I'm grateful to God and to Douglas that Jeni heard the stories of those many missionaries and eventually went to seminary for missionary training -- because that's where we met, fell in love, and sensed God's call to serve Him together (Southwestern Baptist Seminary in Fort Worth).

Douglas is being missed greatly by those who knew him and loved him. And some people are struggling with guilt that they didn't pay closer attention, or say something, or do something to prevent his final act of desperation. But I believe, from his vantage point now, he would say, “Don’t worry; don’t feel guilty. Just keep on loving others, and loving God.”

To Peggy, Vickie, Nancy, Jeni, and all the relatives: I pray regularly that the Lord will keep giving comfort and peace for the grieving process. May the good memories, funny stories, and the anticipation of a heavenly reunion lift our spirits.

Thank you, Douglas, for being a fine example of a good pastor.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Tenth Alpha Course

Tonight at The Bridge, we started our tenth Alpha Course since April 2004. The meal was delicious, and the talk was on "Who Is Jesus?" My small discussion group was one of three and made up of a full conference table of Malaysians (3), Filipinos (3), an Aussie, a Nigerian, and me. (Actually, I'm just there as a helper or coach to the Malaysian and Filipino co-leaders.) There are several on the course who are seekers, some Catholics who have been "lapsed" for some time, and as usual, some new converts through Alpha who are now helping on the course. I can see that we have opportunities for God to work some healing miracles. There are two cases of cancer in our midst, and some other health issues. No doubt, there will be needs for inner healing as well, and there are needs for growth toward spiritual maturity.

At the Intro Dinner last week, I met a Yemeni man whose father was a Sunni and his mother a Shiite. He described himself as a "free-thinker" who believes in God but not in any particular religion. ("They're all just different ways to 'market' God," he said.) I hope and pray he comes back. He's a PhD student in computational linguistics -- just the kind of guy that Alpha is good for. :-) We'd appreciate prayers for him and for all of us as we seek to bear lasting fruit using the Alpha Course for evangelism and discipleship.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

More Song and Dance, ABBA Part 2

“Thank You for the Music” and “Dancing Queen” for your listening and viewing pleasure – particularly for you grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. :-)

More Song and Dance, ABBA Part 1

Does anyone of my generation remember and still like ABBA, the Swedish pop/dance group of the 70s? Here's Sarah's choir and dance group performing "Mamma Mia" and "Take a Chance on Me".

High School Song and Dance

Sarah and friends doing Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy last night ...

Sarah Nelson Sings "The Light in the Piazza"

From the Broadway musical of the same name, 2005-2006 -- a difficult song to sing!

Monday, January 07, 2008

Holiday Happenings, New Year Blessing

It's been a busy holiday time for the Nelsons and The Bridge. After our Christmas Day service at church, Jeni, Sarah, and I took off for a few days of vacation to Langkawi, an island off the northwestern coast of Malaysia near Thailand. Meanwhile, Abby has been using her school break to meet up with family in Florida and old friends in Columbia, SC and Dallas, TX (where she saw her first pro basketball game: Dallas Mavericks vs. Atlanta Hawks--she's a Mavs fan).

We had a wonderful gathering with the church on New Year's Eve. We sang praises and gave testimonies; and we watched an inspirational film, Facing the Giants, a movie professionally made and distributed by a Baptist church in Albany, Georgia, USA. Written, directed, and acted by church members, the film is inspiring. And the story behind the making of the film is equally inspirational. On a side note, the comment from many of our church members was, "They all talk like Jeni!" And we explained, "Well, that's the area of the US where she comes from." :-)

Jeni and Sarah started back to school today, so we're back to our weekly routines. We've committed to each other to add a new habit to our schedules. We plan to exercise together on MWF from 4:30 to 5:30 at the high school. We hope to be able to use the weight room and track. (The pool, unfortunately for us, will be in use by the swim team.) But it'll be good to do something like this together as a family. Of the three of us, I need it most.

I have also started a new system for personal organization. Over the holidays, I read the popular book Getting Things Done by David Allen. I've been needing and wanting to get better organized with both my personal and professional life. It's a work in progress, but now I have a loose-leaf binder with several tabs to organize my calendar, to do list, projects list, agenda and minutes from meetings, reading and reference material, etc. The key concept to this system is to get things out of your head and captured in a trustworthy system with specific action steps. Naturally, note-making, lists, and filing are important features of the system. Perhaps in six months, I'll give an update on my progress. Or better, I'll ask Jeni to report here for me. :-)

Yesterday in church I spoke on "Changing, Growing Together in 2008". It is my deep desire and prayer that this year we all will grow closer in intimacy with Jesus, in community with fellow believers, and in influence with "pre-believers" (non-Christians now who will, in the afterlife, confess that Jesus is Lord, but then it will be too late!)

May His grace, guidance, provision, and peace be yours in abundance in 2008.