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Jonah Barrett Williford

1 Chronicles 16:24 (NIV)

“24 Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples.”

I think that everyone wonders at some point why do I have the name I have. Some, like mine, are pretty easy to figure out, I’m named after family members.  For other people it may be tougher to understand exactly what their parents were thinking when they gave them that particular name.

Names in the Bible are a big deal, usually they described the attitude or personality of the person that name was given to. There are multiple times in the Bible when people’s names were changed because their lives/expectations were changing. Abram to Abraham, Simon to Peter, and Saul to Paul. Your name means something.

Having a slightly unusual name myself I’ve always known that I would need to pick my children’s names carefully. I didn’t want them to have the same name as everyone else, but I also didn’t want them having a name that people were constantly misspelling or saying wrong.

I knew when the time came to finally choose a name for any babies that it would be a difficult decision.  However, I was wrong and all the glory goes to God.

It’s not every day that you feel the need to tell a story that is as filled with God as the one I want to share.  It has been very hard for me to put into words this story because it is so important and wonderful and I don’t want to mess it up.

The short version of this story is the simple truth that one day I surrendered control of my life to God and he has been faithful to lead and guide me.

The long version has a few more details and I hope you enjoy reading this testimony of God’s great goodness.

Ever since I can remember I’ve prayed that whenever I had children that I’d have boys. I  can be highly emotional and I knew I didn’t want to deal with the emotions that a girl brings into a family.  * I want to point out that God has proven himself faithful and answered that prayer. *

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When you first get married, people expect for you to have a baby immediately. We knew that that wasn’t for us. In all honesty, there was a time when I didn’t want to have children. There is so much tragedy in our world, there are so many children without mothers, why have one? God worked on my heart, and truly helped me to see that children are a blessing.

There came a day when a switch flipped and I realized that I wanted to have a baby. The secret is that this happened a few years ago. I know that you don’t automatically get pregnant once you decide you want to have a baby, but I really didn’t think it would take that long.

A “tradition” in Josh’s family is that the boys have a J name. I like traditions and so I started thinking about J names, preferably Biblical. Judah was the name I landed on. Judah would be the name of our first born son.

Then last April an unusual event occurred. I was lying in bed thinking about baby names and what would another good name be besides Judah when I heard the name “Jonah.”  My immediate thought was, “No, not Jonah, he ran away.” And in response I heard, “But he saved my people.” Again I thought of a reason why Jonah was not a good name, “But not for a baby, he was upset when the people repented. ” And again I heard the response, “But he saved my people.”

This conversation was a first for me but I was certain of what I had heard and knew that my children’s names would be Judah and Jonah.

But I still felt very strongly that my first son’s name would be Judah or that we would have twin boys.

God continued to prepare me for this pregnancy in September of 2013 when another unusual event occurred. We took the youth to a Shane and Shane concert and they had a time to share about World Vision, a company where you sponsor a child in another country and provide for them.

I had a vision during this time. (I don’t use the word vision lightly, I know it can make people uncomfortable, but there is no other way to describe it.)  I imagined being handed a sponsor card with an African boys picture on it. The boys’ name was Judah. He wasn’t for me to sponsor, but for me to adopt. As I saw this an overwhelming sadness/ internal pain gripped me.  All I could think was “My Judah.”  I don’t know for sure but I believe that he was being born. I know that he is real and that God wants him to be a part of our family. I believe that he is my first born son and even though I don’t know when or how I believe he will someday be a part of our family.

Both of those stories lead up to the fact that they both occurred during a time when I was unsure if I would even be able to have a child of my own. Many times in our lives, things happen and they don’t make sense. These events didn’t make sense. But God had a plan.

In January we found out we were pregnant and I knew that this was my Jonah, but I know that God’s plans can be even stranger than we think and so I wanted to be certain. Today God has proven himself faithful. He proved that he did speak to me. He answered prayers by providing us with a wonderfully healthy boy.

So when I say that names are important I truly believe that they are. I believe that God provided a name and a promise for both of my children. It may be many years before I get to meet Judah, but Jonah will be here in just a few short months and I know and believe that he is destined to save people.

The story of Jonah isn’t the happiest in the Bible. I’ve read it a few times and Jonah was an interesting prophet in that God was determined that he was going to go to Nineveh no matter what.

Jonah cartoon

But when Jonah does go to Nineveh – the worst place on Earth – the people believed him and repented! God chose not to destroy them because they were willing to change their ways.

I pray that our little boy will not be like the biblical Jonah and disagree with the Lord’s plan.  I hope and pray that our Jonah will be a prophet for the Lord and that he will be able to save many people’s lives.

While we were given his first name, we did choose his middle name and it is a name that is very close to our hearts. Barrett was Josh’s younger brothers middle name. He died early in life but he made a big impact on his family and we wanted to remember him in this small way.

Isaiah 55:8-9 (NIV)

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.

I cannot begin to fathom all of the plans God has for our little family, but I believe he has them.  I shared this story today because I believe God deserves the credit for the things he has done in my life in the last few years.

I also wanted it to be a story of encouragement  for those who pray and want answers. I prayed for many years before I got an answer and when I did get an answer it didn’t make sense.  But God is slowly revealing the parts of the plan I need to know about.

I’m not a special person. He will answer your prayers and he will reveal the parts of the plan that you need to know about, just realize it is all in HIS time, not yours.

gail

 
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Posted by on May 10, 2014 in gail

 

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Blessings and Trials

Well it is official. I am a horrible blogger.
Truthfully I haven’t known what to write about. And I didn’t want to write about anything because that wouldn’t be very interesting for anyone who reads this.
Today I want to write about my blessings.
Josh is the biggest blessing God ever given me. He is kind, compassionate, considerate, and even though this separation has been hard, he knows my being in Claude is important. He is so dedicated to the youth in Avoca and I admire him so much for that.
I am so blessed by my family. I am so blessed to be able to spend this time with them. I have gotten to watch my brother play tennis, the babies grow for 4 and 5 pounds to 7 and 8 pounds, and fly kites with Hannah. I’ve been able to go and see my favorite Christian artist Francesca Battistelli with Taylor.  God has blessed me with this special time with my family and I am so grateful.
I am blessed to be strong and healthy.
I am blessed to be able to read my Bible and see wonder and grace in ever verse. Our God is so good. He provides every day.
Sometimes it can be hard to truly trust God and his provision. Every day there are things that happen that make us question or worry. At those moments we may doubt the control that God has. But as the classic song goes,
When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God hath done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your many blessings, see what God hath done!
When we take the time to recognize the blessings God has already given us, it makes the hard issues at hand a little easier to bear. It helps us to remember how he provides over and over and over again.
Today I would like to encourage you to Count Your Blessings – Give Thanks to God in your trials and he will remind you that you are taken care of. Find at least one minute today to stop and thank God. He wants to hear from you.

Blessings to all of You

gail

 
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Posted by on April 10, 2013 in gail

 

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Immanuel “God with Us”

Matthew 1:23
“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).

This is a verse that is very common to see or hear during the Holidays, but this year it has touched me in a very special way.

On December 19th, we welcomed Gary Charles and Kennedy Maelynn into the world under very stressful circumstances. Both babies and my mom were not doing well physically and delivering the babies at 27 weeks was the best option to keep everyone safe. During this time we were supported through prayer. I know that the prayers we received were powerful and full of God’s grace because less than a week later both babies and my mom are doing very well.

As I was driving back to their house on the 19th, I was overwhelmed with true thanksgiving , Eucharisteo in Greek. I knew without a doubt that we had experienced true “Immanuel”, God was with us during that day and the days leading up to the delivery. His presence was there with each nurse and doctor and in the delivery room, and in the NICU with the nurses who are still taking care of these precious babies. We are so blessed that once we believe in Jesus as our Savior and accept him into our lives that the Holy Spirit indwells us and is WITH US!

I hope that as you are celebrating this wonderful Christmas day, that you do not forget the true reason of the Season. That our God took on an earthly body, lived a sinless life, died the death of a criminal and then rose again and now lives in Heaven and is with us whenever we need him. We are so fortunate to have a God who cares so much about us. I pray that you will feel His presence today and every day.

Now to show off my littlest brother and sister. 🙂

Gary and Kennedy

Merry Christmas!

gail

 
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Posted by on December 25, 2012 in gail

 

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Season’s Greetings

Happy Greetings!

Things are finally settling back to normal.

We were able to spend time with both of our families before coming home.

Josh’s mom made this amazing cake that helped fix some of my chocolate cravings. I ended up making it for Thanksgiving because it was so amazing!

And we had a bountiful meal at Mom’s house to celebrate Thanksgiving. (Everyone was more concerned with eating than with pictures, so here is a picture of us enjoying a nice walk after eating.)

Now that we are back home we plan on continuing to blog ever so often just to update what God is doing in our lives. We hope that you will stick around and see how our story unfolds. We are just as excited as you are. 🙂

In Christ’s Love

Gail and Josh

 
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Posted by on November 27, 2012 in gail, Uncategorized

 

The Week Ahead

Well, we have 1 week left here in Africa.  It looks like it will be a busy week.

Already Gail has given a peacemaking seminar to some of the non-English speaking workers on the compound.  Saturday she is scheduled to give a more in-depth seminar to the English speaking workers, mainly teachers and leadership staff.

Also, Tuesday through Thursday we will be doing another teaching time with the school kids.  We will be talking about being imitators of Christ and leaders to those around them.

Josh will be speaking at the Wednesday afternoon chapel and is scheduled to go with Pastor Joseph that morning to te surrounding village to share the gospel and pray for those they encounter.

Please be in prayer for these specific things and also that our last full week here will be fruitful ad that we display a servant heart to all.

For your viewing pleasure; the MONSTER Catfish that Josh caught during our outing with the older boys.  They really enjoy taking pictures so Gail allowed a picture of her to be taken.

Thank you for taking time to be invested in us,

Josh and Gail

 
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Posted by on November 5, 2012 in gail, Josh, Uncategorized

 

Just a Quick Update

We are coming up on our final full week here in Terekeka.

This week has been busy.

Josh has been varnishing wood for a new counter that is being built.  He has a great story about getting attacked by a bat. I think you should just ask him about it because it is too crazy to explain through the blog.

We have also been working with the school and doing a “Practical Learning Activity” with each of the classes.  We taught them about trust and then had them go through an obstacle course blindfolded with their partner and classmates telling them where to go.  They thought it was quite funny! With the older children we took it a step further and had some of them yelling the wrong way while the partner was telling them the right way.  We were then able to connect this to real life and that there will always be things around us telling us how we should act or things we should do but we have to rely on the Bible to make the right decision. We are making plans to do another activity with the students next week, but today we were told that they did not have a rope strong enough for Tug-of-War so we have to come up with another idea.

Today we did a scavenger hunt with the kids at the compound.  They had so much fun and the winning team got to choose their candy first, which is a VERY big deal. Here of some pictures of the teams running around the compound trying to find things.

Thank you for your continued prayers and support. The kids really love songs and tomorrow at church they will sing “Every Move I Make” while Josh plays the guitar.  This is them all hanging around after practice wanting to hear and learn more songs.

Gail & Josh

 
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Posted by on November 3, 2012 in gail, Josh, Uncategorized

 

Details

So we have gotten some emails saying that we have not talked about a few things that everyone would like to know.

We have talked about it being hot, but truly it is VERY hot!  The lows are around 76 degrees at about 3:00 in the morning and a cool day would be a high of 92 degrees. And it feels really nice! Limited hot water is available for us to bathe in but we take cold showers so that we will be cool before we go to bed.  We try to be in bed for about an hour before the generator and our fan goes off so maybe we will not notice the heat as much. It has worked fairly well because we have been sleeping pretty well.

We realized today that we have not had any meat since we came to Africa. Our daily food is porridge or oatmeal in the morning, rice and beans and possibly some kind of vegetable mix for lunch and dinner.  They try to mix it up every day but rice and beans are always there. 🙂 Surprisingly, Josh usually does not each the veggie mix unless it is cold.  But he doesn’t mind the plain rice and beans so it has been fine. I usually have some of the greens because they add more flavor to the dish.

We also wanted to tell you a little about the local people.  The people group that this orphanage works with is the Mundari people.  They are distinguished by the V-shaped markings on their heads. The markings are being discouraged now by the government of South Sudan because it is unsanitary and because it separates them into tribes and the tribes will fight but they are trying to unite everyone under “South Sudan” instead of tribes. There is 1 child here at the compound that has Mundari markings. Below is his picture. His name is Phillip and he is becoming a friend of ours.

Please continue to pray as we go through the next three weeks.  We believe God has brought us here for a purpose and we hope that we will fulfill it.

Thank you for your prayers and support.

Gail and Josh

 
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Posted by on October 23, 2012 in gail, Josh, Uncategorized

 

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