Sunday, December 30, 2007

Africa Expat Wives Club: A morning in Kibera slum (part 1)

As I was reading about the recent elections in Kenya on the web, I came across this ladie's blog. She does a great job of describing life in the Kibera Slums. Her school took Christmas presents to the AIDS Orphanage in the slums. For some of our readers who have been to Kibera with Friends of Mercy, you will appreciate her articles on the slums.

Africa Expat Wives Club: A morning in Kibera slum (part 1)

Africa Expat Wives Club: Visit to Kibera slum (part 2)

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Concorida University, Chicago Set for Kenya Trip to Assist AIDS Widows and Orphans

The planning began last summer when Pastor Sell communicate with Ben Parviz, a student at Concordia University, Chicago. Ben e-mailed me for some info on our Faith & Mercy Expedition, an example of "Lutherans Making A Difference!" Then in Oct (07), I met with Ben, several other students and some staff members of the University who were interested in the mercy trip.

The students and staff of Concordia University - Chicago have done a great job of pulling this mercy event together. They set out to raise funds to attend our Faith & Mercy Expedition last fall already. At this time there are 11 total students and staff who are committed to attending the May trip to Kenya.

Keep coming back to follow us on our journey to learn, to mature spiritually, and to serve those in need.

For more info, check out our web site:

Partnering with LCMS World Relief to bring mercy to the world!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Lutheran Cancer & Hospcie Society Welcomes New Partners - Biblical Charity Institute

Lutheran Cancer & Hospice Society recently began publishing booklets for Christians who are facing a terminal illness. This was made possible by a grant from our new partners, Biblical Charity Intstitute (BCI). BCI funds and partners with Biblical Charities Continuing Education (BCCE) a continuing education program at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis.

Lutheran Cancer & Hospice Society will publish six booklets thanks to BCCE's grant. (Three are currently available here.) It is our goal to fill a gap in Lutheran pastoral resources when it comes to terminal illness and hospice. Pastors, deaconesses, teachers, and other members of the church do a great job of caring for those who suffer from diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer's, AIDS, and others. We hope that this series of booklets will be a tool for all involved in the care of the terminally ill - the spiritual caregiver, the family, and the patient.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Friends of Mercy News! Sign up now!

Friends of Mercy has reorganized its newsletter. Friends of Mercy News! is published once a month. It will keep you in touch with the work we do in Kenya and with Lutheran Cancer & Hospice Society.

Sign up to receive

Friends of Mercy News!

Click on the link above and it will take you to our sign up page. Thanks!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

More Lutheran Churches Supporting AIDS Orphans and Girls in Kenya:

Every time I go Kenya and come home with more pictures and opportunities for Lutherans to make a difference, I'm thankful for the gracious and loving support of LCMS congregations. Since our October Faith & Mercy Expedition with St. John, Rochester, MI, I've been blessed to preach at several congregations who are working hard to support the expression of their faith in acts of mercy.

As soon as I get time, I'm going to add three more congregations who have put Friends of Mercy in their annual budget to support our ministry of mercy. Please consider us for those end of the year gifts as a way to share your blessings with those in need.

When you support Friends of Mercy, your gifts bring Christ and hope to the people of Kenya through the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya. This is why all of "our work is connected to an altar." The picture above is of a teenager and an orphan whose parents died and is suffering from AIDS. I took the picture in the church where the children were gathered to learn bible lessons and sing hymns. (Using CPH visuals!) When local churches in the U.S. support us, their shared blessings go from their altar to the altar of a local church that assists AIDS Orphans and the villages that work to care for the millions of parentless children. Thankfully, this child began his treatment and is gaining weight. But, you can see that he still doesn't feel well. His expression didn't change the entire time we were at the Kawangware orphanage.

Lutherans are making a difference. Your gifts will support these children. Thanks and please keep us in your prayers.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Thanksgiving Break - Do Orphans and Widows Get a Break? (This is NOT a guilt trip.)

Thanksgiving Break! Whew!
Finally, I had a break in traveling. My family and I went to my in-laws in South Whitley, IN (45 minutes SW of Fort Wayne). Yes, we ate too much. Yes, we had a great time. Yes, we are so thankful.

It was a wonderful blessing to spend time with family. My parents died of cancer and so my children have my wife's parents left as grandparents. Since my parents died, I've come to appreciate my in-laws all the more. My father-in-law has had a series of strokes and it has made us all appreciate the many gifts our Lord gives to us, even the gifts of aging and ill loved ones.

Thankful for Illnesses? Suffering? - It's What Christ's Cross is All About

It is through our troubles and tribulations that our brings comfort and forgiveness. It is the way of the Christian life to see suffering and pain with the eyes of faith. The faith our Lord gave to us in our baptism receives the blessings that Jesus earned for us through life, death, and resurrection. The victory belongs to us. Through the struggles of our lives, our Lord permits us to taste of His work. St. Paul wrote in Romans that Jesus made us right and holy with God by faith and we have peace.,

"More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." (Romans 5:3-5)

Our entire lives are buried in Christ. His life becomes our life, even in suffering. These times become opportunities to learn more about Christ's life and suffering. He teaches us to suffer and pray, "Thy will be done." It becomes a time for the family to pull together and express our gratitude and love and share in the mercy of Christ.

Widows and Orphans at the Holidays

Most people who read this blog know that we in the states have so much to be thankful for even beyond family. But our lives do revolve around our families. We don't get to take a break from being male or female, we don't take a break from being a mother or father. In the same way, widows, widowers, and orphans don't take time off from their hurt, loneliness, and struggle to keep moving forward.

We Love God by Loving Others

During these times of the holidays as we give thanks for so many blessings the Lord gives to us, it becomes a time to give thanks to God and love Him. The way Christians love God is by loving others. St. Matthew's gospel teaches us,"'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'" (Matthew 25:40)

Neither does God ever take a break from being God. "Thanks be to God." He never stops forgiving us, looking out for us, and loving us. Our baptism doesn't take days off either. His grace flows continuously.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Lutherans are Making a Difference for AIDS Orphans in Kenya

Our Faith & Mercy Expedition in October with most of the Kibera Slums in the background.

Pastor Dennis Meeker and Wife, Deaconess Lorna Meeker Walk the Walk

Pastor Dennis Meeker's first call is to Springs of Life Lutheran Church in Kibera, Kenya. This isn't the typical call right out of the seminary. His wife, Deaconess Lorna, is awaiting her call to a deaconess position.

Springs of Life is in the Kibera Slums (left) of Kenya. An estimated 1 million plus people (some estimate the population as high as 1.8 million) live in the slums (recent pics here). It is the largest slum on the continent of Africa. It is about 2.5 sq. km. or 630 acres.It is estimated that 1/5 of the 2.2 million Kenyans living with HIV live in Kibera.

Pastor Meeker and his wife work closely with the people who live in Kibera. In October
, Springs of Life held a medical clinic at the church that saw over 800 people in 5 days. As Pastor and some of his members took us through the slums, Pastor met up with these two women (right) and began witnessing to them and offering assistance with the one girl who was near the due date of her baby. He invited them to confirmation classes and church. After we returned to the states, he reported that the ladies attended church and the Saturday confirmation classes.

Dcns. Lorna works with the women and young girls by counseling them about HIV\AIDS. She also helps young mothers and visits them in their homes and assists with getting them medical help. For example, Dcns. Lorna visited the young pregnant girl when she went to the hospital to give birth. Both Pastor and Dcns. followed up with this girl. The sad news was that only hours after birth, her child died. They are working together to minister to this girl and her family in this time of sorrow with the hope and comfort of Christ's mercy and hope in the resurrection.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Making a Difference in the Lives of AIDS Orphans and Young Girls

St. John (Rochester, MI) and Friends of Mercy plan on making a difference in the lives of young girls from the Massai tribe and AIDS Orphans in partnership with LCMS World Relief and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya (ELCK).

These photos shows how Lutherans are making a difference. In the foreground (above) is the old orphanage in which 9 orphans lived. Some of these children only knew of this mud-dung hut as they lived there their entire lives. The buildings in the background are the similar to the new buildings that we will fund in other locations.

Below, you can see the contrast between the two facilities. When we fund an "orphanage" we provide a place to sleep, an all purpose building with a kitchen, and lavatory facilities. Furthermore, not only does the local church provide for the children living at the compound, but they also care for the many orphans from the village and surrounding area where single parents and family members care for orphans in their homes.

(left) Elizabeth Nelson (1st grade teacher) stands at the door of the old orphanage started by a Lutheran pastor. The mud-dung walls slowly deteriorate annually from rain. The home owner patches these homes every year.

(right) Elder, Kirk Radford, is taking pictures. The building on his immediate right is the sleeping quarters for the boys. The building in the background is the all purpose building with a kitchen. Between the buildings, the black object is the rain-catching system for water consumption.

(left) The interior of the old orphanage where 9 children lived. There are two very small rooms.

(above) This is the interior of the sleeping facility with mosquito nets.

(right) Pastor Karl Galik and 1st grade teacher Elizabeth inside the all purpose building where the children eat and participate in other programs.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Faith & Mercy Expendition to Help AIDS Orphans and FGM among Massai

Faith & Mercy Expedition - St. John, Rochester, MI Lead Team

I'm on my way home from Kenya after a successful and life changing Faith & Mercy Expedition. A lead team from St. John, Rochester, MI (See their Africa blog here.)

did a great job of updating their blog while they were in Kenya. Pictured above from left to right, are the St. John team, Mr. Kirk Radford, Mrs. Elizabeth Nelson, and Pr. Karl Galik. After Pr. Galik, Pr. Dennis Meeker [Springs of Life, Kibera, pastor] and Chairman Immanuel are pictured in the church. The team wanted to learn how they can help the ELCK (Evangelical Lutheran church in Kenya) with the millions of hungry and dying orphans as the result of the HIV\AIDS epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa.

It was a wonderful week as we experienced time and time again the constant suffering of the children and families in Kenya. "Thanks be to God," as Bishop O'bare said, as we witnessed the work of the ELCK.

There is much more to come as I continue to catch up from our trip. We will have many photos of the on-going work.

At the right and below are orphans from Kowengare and the Othoro orphanages. The expressionless look on the faces of AIDS Orphans who are not on ARVS (antiretroviral), the medicines which help the children get better and live with the HIV virus, often have this hopeless and emotionless look. The blank stare reflects how bad the children feel. No matter what I did, and I can get quite silly, the child's expression never changed.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Lutheran Cancer & Hospice Society Publishes First Booklet by John Pless

Luther on the Care for the Sick and Dying

It was an exciting week for us here at Friends of Mercy. We received our first shipment of Professor Pless' booklet, Luther on the Care for the Sick and Dying.
His booklet brings to light Luther's writings on sickness and death. It is an opportunity to read Luther as the compassionate pastor that he was.
This booklet is the first in a series of booklets on facing cancer, terminal illnesses, and even hospice. Every year, Lutheran Cancer & Hospice Society will publish six booklets to help pastors and parishioners deal with cancer, other terminal illnesses, and hospice.
Hospice, It Doesn't Mean Giving Up
My booklet is also available, Hospice, It Doesn't Mean Giving Up. You can receive the booklets by sending an e-mail to Or, you can go to Friends of Mercy and click on the picture cover at the top of the home page under, "What's New."
The proceeds from the booklets support the ministry of Lutheran Cancer & Hospice Society

Kenya by Friday - So, What Time is it There?

I leave this Thursday for Nairobi, Kenya. It will take about 23 hours to get to Nairobi, the capital of Kenya. Many people ask about the time changes from St. Louis to Nairobi. Nairobi is 8 hours ahead of Central time. Here is a clock that will always tell you what time it is in Nairobi. I'll also place it near the top of the sidebar on the right.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Trip to Kenya to Visit Orphanages - St. John, Rochester MI

Faith & Mercy Expedition Set for Oct. 16-26

In a couple of weeks, Pastor Sell will lead a Faith & Mercy Expedition with members of St. John Lutheran Church, Rochester MI. Pastor Karl Galik, Elizabeth Nelson, and Kirk Radford will spend a week in Kenya for the purpose of building a relationship with the Kenyans and to offer the love of our Lord through acts of mercy. St. John wants to help with an orphanage to support the work of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya (ELCK) with their ministry to AIDS Orphans.

Please keep us all in your prayers as we travel to Kenya. You will also be able to follow our travels online. Pastor Galik will check in regularly and we expect to be able to upload pictures while we are traveling the Kenyan countryside. You can check in here or at St. John's blogspot.

While in Kenya, we will visit the land for the Entito Rescue Center, the Massai Mara, Kibera Slums, several orphanages, and pastors and leaders of the ELCK.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Zion, Laramie Wyoming Responds to AIDS Orphan Needs in Africa

The wide open space of Laramie was the most recent trip for Friends of Mercy. Pastor Kumm, the senior pastor of Zion Lutheran Church, and the members of Zion graciously welcomed me last Sunday (Oct. 23). I flew into Denver and elder, Bill Schrage, picked me up at the airport and we began our 2.5 hour trip to Laramie. It sure was fun to be out west again. At about 7200 feet above sea level, the air was cool and dry.

Zion has a few members whose vocation was in foriegn service. Bill Schrage was a dimplomat and lived in various places around the wolrd. Others lived in Africa for a time for business. They have experienced the cultural realities of working and ministry in a third world country.

Thank you Pastor Kumm and members of Zion for your Christian hospitality.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Members of Zion, Beecher, IL Respond in Love to AIDS Orphans and Girls Fleeing FGM

Proclaiming the Word of the Lord at Zion, Beecher, IL - Pastor's Rock and Moldenhauer Celebrate the Lord's Supper

The text was from St. Luke's Gospel, 15th chapter. "This man receives sinners and eats with them." Thanks be to God Jesus eats with sinners! It was a great text to speak about the "one, holy, Christian, and apostolic church" throughout the world and heaven. It is this unified body of Christ, into which our Lord called us in baptism. That baptismal call from our Lord is mercy and forgiveness and our resurrection unto the new life in Christ. Therefore, our Lord calls us to love and eat with sinners. To bring the gospel to them in our daily vocations\calls is the baptized life of love. To do to the best of our ability what God has given us to do as a mother or father; son or daughter.

What was interesting about this visit was the fact that my sainted mother's maiden name was "Moldenhauer." I thought that "this" Pastor Moldenhauer was the son of my cousin, Pastor Paul Moldenhauer in Walled Lake, MI. He wasn't! What a surprise that was to me. I obviously lost track of my family and their graduations. Sorry Pr. Paul Moldenhauer!

The saints of Zion were touched by the word of God and the role the sacramental life plays in the lives of our work among AIDS Orphans and young girls in the Maasai Tribe. What a blessing it was to witness another great relationship between pastors and the people of God.

After bringing in extra chairs to the bible study\presentation, the people of God responded lovingly to the plight of the AIDS Orphans and the young girls who are "cut." Sometimes there is simply not enough time to provide as much information as I'd like.

Finally, my visit to Zion ended with a filling brunch with a group of ladies and a retired grade school teacher. Yes, I ate too much, but couldn't get enough of the company of these faithful Lutherans. I thanked the retired teacher for his dedication and service. I'm a Lutheran pastor because of my faithful Lutheran teachers!

Thanks Pastors Rock and Moldenhauer for the opportunity to serve our Lord in your congregation. Please keep us in your prayers and I look forward to our next visit.

Next week - Wyoming!

Zion, Beecher IL - FGM - AIDS Orphans and LWML

LWML Fall Rally - September 15th

Faithful Lutheran Women Supportive of Kenyan AIDS Orphans

Every chance I get, I speak to the ladies of LWML and other women's groups. These ladies are wonderful examples of Christ's love in action. The gifts they offered to support the work of Friends of Mercy was amazing.

We met at St. Paul's in Kankakee, IL. They were wonderful hosts, the food was great, and the fellowship in the Word was a blessing to all. Pastor Ron Rock (Zion, Beecher IL), the pastoral counselor of the zone has wonderful relationship with these saints of our Lord.

THANK YOU LADIES! Please keep us in your prayers.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Mercy and Ministry for AIDS Orphans & Girls in Kenya at Immanuel, Carrollton, MO

This past Sunday (9-10), I was invited to speak at Immanuel, Carrollton, MO for their mission festival. Carrollton was about 3 1\2 hours from St. Louis. It was a beautiful drive through the countryside.

Pastor Swyres and his wife Kelle were gracious hosts on Saturday evening. We engaged in some great theological discussions, laughs about our children, and enjoyed some great bourbon and cigars on his back porch beneath the star filled September sky.

Sunday morning, as always, was a blessed event as our Lord called us to His holy table to enjoy the benefits of eternity in His body and blood and the proclamation of the gospel! I'm sure the preacher preached too long, though.

I was able to present on the work of FoM during the bible study and review how a theology of mercy is a theology of Christ's body.

The members of Immanuel were loving and caring. Pastor Swyers has served Immanuel for 11 years! Both he and the congregation are blessed in this wonderful relationship between God's people and their pastor. What a joy it is to fellowship in the midst of such a group of saints. Country congregations always seem to have such an appreciation for what counts.

Thanks Immanuel for your wonderful support of our mercy work and for being another example of "Lutherans making a difference!"

Hospice - Comfort from Christ's Cross at the Loss of a Child

... Continued

Christian Peace in the Midst of Christian Suffering - It Isn't a Feeling

As I was leaving, I had the opportunity to speak again with the grandparents. It was an opportunity to speak the gospel of comfort and hope in the gift of baptism.

On my way to my care, the father came out to talk again. This was another opportunity where he, too, was able to grasp the comfort of forgiveness and mercy in the midst of his emotional roller-coaster ride. The comfort of the gospel, especially in a crisis like this, where we can not make heads or tails out of "why?" that we trust what God promised. The father was struggling with hatred, anger, frustration and then back to, as he said, "God has a plan and has promised that this will work for a reason, even if I can't see it yet."

I let him know that God's grace and forgiveness is greater than our emotional rides of ups and downs. Even when our emotions are filled with doubt, anger, hatred and other emotions, Christ still paid for our sins. He still forgives us. He is still gracious to us.

Our Lord is patient, understanding, and He perseveres in His faithfulness to us. As humans, there are times that we just have to be human and understand that Christ and His Word will endure. This is the peace that Jesus gives to the Christian at the very same time that we go through our crises in life. It isn't a feeling. It isn't that we will not suffer. It is that we have the victory in the end. Our God is all suffering with us.

"These things I have spoken to you that in me you might have peace. In the world you shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have 6the world." Jesus John 16:33

Monday, August 13, 2007

Where is God? Hospice Is Not Giving Up; Even Against Cancer (continued from Aug 5)

Hospice Doesn't Mean Giving Up

Again, I acknowledged the terrible emotional ride that dad was going through. There is nothing worse than parents who are facing the "unnatural" or "unjust" act of burying their child. There is no good reason why an 8 year old boy has to die from cancer.

This is the hardest time to pray, "thy will be done." Dad told me that he was trying so hard to figure out the reason why David had to suffer as he has over the past two years. He was looking at everything that was going on to see what God's purpose was, what good was going to come out of this tragedy.

I didn't say anything for about 8 seconds. I wanted to be sure he wanted me to say something. He looked at me, expecting a comment, I said, "For one thing, David, even in his youth, is teaching us to suffer as he faces death. There isn't much comfort there, but, he will always be an inspiration to you and your family the next time you face something terrible..."

He interrupted me, in quivering voice with tears welling up in his eyes, he proudly said, "Oh my God, I can't believe what he has faced in the last couple of years," then he turned to look at David lying in a fetal position in bed, and continued, "the needles, the treatments, the hair loss, the pain, the stares from people, and on and on... what a trooper! I can face anything that comes my way and it'll be easier than what he has suffered."

I waited a few moments and then said, "Another amazing thing that comes out of such terrible suffering is how families begin to heal troubled relationships. When facing something like this, it puts life in perspective and people realize what is really important."

David's father replied, "You know, that's already happened..." then, he went on to explain how his wife and her sister have mended their relationship because they were fighting over some family matters.

Where is God? Why?

Then, I took the opportunity to explain how God works through His creation. Where is God? How is He caring for David and His family? God works through the gifts He gave to David.

  • Mom and Dad are doing the work of the Lord by caring for their child.
  • God is there through "Hockey Mom," who is helping to organize their lives and the help other friends are offering the family.
  • God is working in the driver who dropped off medical supplies.
  • God is working through the makers of the car the driver used to drive an 90 minutes west of St. Louis to deliver the pain relieving drugs.
  • God is working through those who are wanting to care for the spiritual needs of David's family.
  • God is working through scientists, doctors, nurses, social workers, hospitals, the people who keep the hospital clean, the engineers, brick masons, etc., who worked to make it possible for David to be diagnosed, treated, cared for, and ease his pain.

The list goes on and on. I explained these things to dad and he began to understand, but, his emotional pain was too great to grasp it as comfort. This is very understandable.

God works through means, through His creation, not only for our physical needs but also for our spiritual needs. The truth is, we are both physical and spiritual at the same time. God cares for both at the same time. He loves and cares for David in His suffering. As a matter of fact, God Himself, His entire revelation of love is understood by us on earth only through His sacrifice, suffering, and death. The message of Christ is not one of everything is good, perfect, and always goes our way. Rather, the message of Christ is to grasp our eternal lives by faith and He strengthens us so that we might endure the suffering of this life. However, He suffered for us, in our stead, and gives us strength, mercy, and comfort in the midst of our suffering and even death.

In the end, God suffered, God died, God rose from the dead for us. In David's baptism, he received forgiveness, mercy, and died in Christ and rose from the dead.

David began to cry out again for his dad, so I excused myself and told dad that I was going to be going and get out of their way. I offered whatever help they might need. As I left...

(to be continued...)

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Why? Where is God (contiuned from Aug 1)

(8 Year old boy with Cancer... Continued)

I waited at the edges again, getting out of the way of the parental "emergency pain team." David's mom was devastated. As moms do so well, she pressed forward, trying to read the label, finally submitting to some help from a friend to figure out dosage. How long ago was the last dosage... the doctor said something about more frequently - but she couldn't remember, the crying on the monitor was deafening, even thought it wasn't loud by decibel count.

Finally, mom and Hockey-mom had the relief potion prepared. Dad came to the kitchen, retrieved the small water-bottle style container (like you would use at the ice rink) and hustled it back to David. David's dad stayed in the back room. I took the opportunity to help grandma and Hockey-mom understand how great the hospice team is at controlling pain, especially break-through pain (pain in between the long term medicine that "breaks through").

Mom was too angry and her emotions were emaciated, starved to the point where she throws a look of, "Don't even try to comfort me." I stood once again at the edges of the family discussions. I decided it was time to go back and talk to David, if possible, but more importantly, David's father. The Lord worked things out wonderfully. I hovered at the door way of the bedroom. David, as expected, was pale, very thin, and whimpering in pain, but not as badly as he was before. Thank God for His gifts of medicine. It is often at times like this when the question is posed,"Where is God?" "Why?"

David's father sat on the bed along side his son. He was trying to comfort David. The medicine was beginning to work. Relief was making its way through Davids cancer riddled body. His dad looked at me with a puzzled expression that was filled with hurt and hopelessness. His son was settling down already and finally stopped crying was falling asleep. Dad got up from the bed and came to the hallway and said, "I just don't understand."

He continued, "I was raised to believe that everything happens for a reason and I still do believe it. But I just can't understand why my son has to go through this."

(to be continued)

He comes to us through means, the gifts of creation through doctors, pharmacists, etc., to care for pain.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

8 Year Old Boy with Cancer on Hospice: An Example Why Hospice is Not Giving Up



I received the phone call from a fellow hockey fan, I refer to her as "Hockey-mom." Hockey-mom tearfully said , "They're signing up for hospice. I think they need someone to help them understand that they are not giving up on their son. They also need some 'outside' the family spiritual help, but they're too hurt and angry to deal with it. Can you meet me at..."


For the last couple of weeks, I've been keeping track of young boy's life, a hockey player, who is struggling with cancer. I watched from the side lines over the last two years as David (not his real name) and his family went through the roller-coaster ride of fighting a cancerous demon desperate to eat away his body. The treatments went on and on, trying this and trying that.

I gladly attended fund-raiser hockey games with the St. Louis Blues "old-timers" to help with the cost of medical treatment. I could remember when he was still vibrant and, well, a 6 year old wound up boy. His teammates were always asking about him. His friends and family constantly tried to assist, but, what can you really do when a 6 yr. old boy has cancer?

His coached kept me informed of what was going on with David. A year ago, he he asked me if I would get involved as a friend, a lover of hockey, and someone who is Christian with hospice experience. Of course I would. Pastor's live for these opportunities to serve the Lord through the suffering.

The family decided this past Sunday that there would be no more transfusions, no more "treatment."

The Trip Westward into the Countryside

I jumped into my air-conditionless van on a hot and sweaty July Monday night and drove out an hour west of St. Louis. I met Hockey-mom at a gas station so she could guide me to their home. We drove another 20 minutes along isolated country roads, up and down hills, finally turning down a dirt and stone road.

Hockey-mom took me inside the house and the four beautiful Labrador Retrievers greeted me at the door. We walked through the door and I watched aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents and friends. They wandered about, trying to be useful in various degrees of hurt, anger, hatred, tears, and dazed moments of confusion. At first, I couldn't figure out who was mom and dad and the older sister of David. So, I waited, observed, and prayed as I figured that someone would begin to wonder who this chubby stranger was standing at the edges of the downcast action.

Finally, as I later learned who she was, the aunt of David said "Hi." Ah, there was my "in" to start talking. So I began to introduce myself to people.

"Hi, I'm Mark Sell, I'm a friend of Hockey-mom and I've been following David's heroic struggle for the last couple of years. I told his coach (my neighbor and we attend the same church) that I'd be glad to help anyway I can." I explained to them my hospice background. Suddenly their eyes opened a bit wider and the quizzical expressions spread across their faces.

Just that morning, they decided to sign up for hospice. They were experiencing the common emotions facing a loved one who agrees to their family member's sign up to hospice. The guilt and anger about "giving up" was in the air, along with a bitterness toward hospice. As if they were thinking, "Those so and so people who will walk my son to his grave. How can we do such a thing? I don't want to give up!"

To shorten the story about the 2 hours I was at their home, here is a summary. I ended up having in-depth conversations about hospice and Christ with David's grandparents, an aunt and uncle, and friends of the family.


Then, as I was talking to David's mother, suddenly the baby monitor thundered and with a lightning strike effect with crying, moaning, and whimpering that lead up to David's cry, "Daaaaad!"

David was in his parents bedroom and everyone was by and around the kitchen. Once the painful sounds of the 8 year old boy pierced the soft toned discussions of the home, his dad jumped up and ran back to the bedroom. David's mom hustled over to the cupboard, grabbed the painkiller, and began mixing the potion that would relieve David of the "break-through" pain. The family stopped chewing their pizza. Everyone was tense as they sat back and watched (while trying not to stare) the "emergency pain team" go to work.

Of course, like everyone in hearing distance of the monitor, my heart was viciously ripped out of my chest and I couldn't stop thinking about my son and daughter. I couldn't bear hearing David's suffering so audibly ringing in every one's ears. AND, I'M NOT DAVID'S DAD!! I wanted to take his place. It is just against everything we experience that parents should bury their 8 year old.

After years of sitting, listening, and ministering to people suffering with many diseases and terminal illnesses, there is nothing like the suffering of a child and then to watch his parents emotionally destroyed by what they are hearing.

Suffering is the heart and soul of true Christianity. It is God Himself, who took on human nature, became a man to obey, suffer, and die. "Surely, He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows." With so much hurt, emotion, confusion, and questions, this is what Christ brings to the moment. Christ brings the comfort and security of truth. We don't know the future, but the future is ours by faith in Christ. It is with this message in mind that I made my way back to the where David was with his dad.


(to be continued...)

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Pastor Sell's Blog will Really be a Blog Now.

It's exciting to see Friends of Mercy continue to move forward. Our new and improved web site will have so much more information than before. We will be able to update it regularly. That means that this blog will really function more like a blog than an announcement or advertisement blog.

I will be able to provide more information here about my travels and some of the work we currently are getting done.

So, it will be worth your time to check back regularly. By the way, it is here that I'll write a daily diary from our upcoming trip to Kenya in October. As soon as our new web site is live at


I'll take the time to reorganize this blog.

Look around our field test web site

New Field Test Site Here,

just remember it isn't live yet at our normal address above.


Pr. Mark Sell

Sunday, July 22, 2007

August 1st -- Friends of Mercy to Launch New Web Site to Help AIDS Orphans and Battle FGM

By August 1st, Friends of Mercy's new web site will provide more information to help AIDS Orphans and girls fleeing female genital mutilation. This link:

Friends of Mercy - New Web Site - Field Test

gives you a peek into our new web site in the midst of construction. It is functional right now, but is not in its final form, thus it is not found at

The new web site will not only offer mountains of more information, but will also provide opportunities for visitors to the site to download brochures, forms, documents, papers, power point presentations, and much more.

Other information will also be available about our organization. Learn about the members of our board of directors, our other projects to serve Christ's saints facing terminal illnesses and minister to those who choose to participate in hospice programs.

Pray for wisdom as you might consider sharing your blessings with the children of Kenya who are in need and most of whom have no parents.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Friends of Mercy at LWML Convention in South Dakota

We had a great time in Sioux Falls, SD last week (June 20-24) with the ladies of LWML. During my years in pastoral ministry the ladies of LWML were always there to serve. They are servants of the Lord who tirelessly serve where ever the church needs them. The ladies do everything from organize and host funeral dinners to rummage sales for missions. They volunteer to visit, help with shut-ins, work with altar guilds, attend voters meetings, etc.

The work they get done for the Lord doesn't end at their local congregation. It continues in to the community, the district, the synod, and the world. In their 32nd biennial convention, the ladies committed themselves to raise a $1.7 million for mission work throughout the world. Here are a few of their projects,

- private portable medical clinics in Sudan, East Africa ($70,000)

- send a female human care missionary to Africa ($100,000)

- expand mission work in Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Sudan, and Ethiopia ($104,500)

Keep the the ladies of LWML in your prayers and support them whenever possible. Click here for more news on the LWML Convention.

We'll see you next at the LCMS convention in Houston, TX. Look for our booth and stop in, say "Hi." and learn how you can AIDS Orphans and young girls fleeing FGM.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Friends of Mercy's Photos in Kenya with Orphans and Massai Tribe

I finally had the opportunity to organize the 400 plus pictures that we took while in Kenya.

I was honored to serve the people of God in preaching the Gospel in their cathedral at the headquarters of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya.

From Friends of Me...

This was the "international" service. It attracts many missionaries from Nairobi and visitors.

Immediately after the Nairobi service, we drove to Living Waters Lutehran Church in the Kibera Slums. We only had 10 minutes to get there. It was a very fast drive.

The poverty of the Kibera Slums is overwhelming. The social workers with whom we spoke, who run clinics in the slums, said the slums continue to grow rapidly because of the constant influx of refugees from surrounding countries in chaos.

Please take a look at our photo albums here.