Thursday, March 22, 2007

Goin' on Safari



Love a good book?

I just made a new blog where I posted the first chapters from each of my books. You can read them here.

I also have included a link on this blog for easy access. I have several more books coming out this year, so be sure and stop by and check out the latest first chapters! Hopefully, they will tempt you to want to read more!



Monday, March 19, 2007

Praises from Zimbabwe

I've shared many heartbreaking stories about life in Africa. The children of Zimbabwe live very difficult lives, especially those who are selected for AOM's orphan ministry in Bulawayo. Because of the multiple heartaches and trials these children suffer, we especially rejoice when they do well. Here's an uplifting report from Janelle about some of the sucesses in our orphan program.

"This year, we have seen a number of our children succeed in exceptional ways. Four have passed well in their advanced high school studies. Nqobizitha studied Chemistry, Physics and Math, and has been accepted to study engineering at a local university. Njabulo is now teaching temporarily at Mzilikazi High School, the very school where he completed his A levels. Kholwani came out with the highest points and is applying to different universities. Jennifer brought us great joy as the first of our children to earn her university degree. She has now started a new job with the Standard Newspaper in Harare.

All of these children have been in our Themba ministry for many years. We are very proud of them, as well as the other children who successfully completed this past school year."

In a country literally falling apart, praise God for the good things happening in the lives of these young people.




Imagine six 10 year olds, a planned movie night. . .and no electricity. Those, in my mind at least, are words for panic. Friday night was Gabriel’s birthday party, a slumber party with a few of his best friends. They spent the afternoon playing on the computer and swimming. Once it started getting dark, I began getting ready for our BBQ that we’d planned before the movie marathon.

That’s when the power went out.

To be honest, power outages aren’t unusual here. In fact, we have a number scheduled for the coming two months. That I can handle. But no power with a houseful of boys who’ve been looking forward to movie night for week? I started trying to come up with alternatives. I had a package of marshmallows. We could make a bonfire and roast them in our back yard. That would eat up a total of--let’s see--fifteen minutes. They could play hide and seek in the dark. That would take another thirty minutes bringing us up to. . .uh. . .8:15.

I’m happy to say, that after forty-five minutes or so, the power did come one. Shew! What a blessing that was. And the boys went on to have a great time. It’s also a blessing for us to get to know some of Gabriel’s friends. They’re a great group of kids and we enjoyed being around them.



Friday, March 16, 2007

And the winner is. . .

Congratulations to Margo who won a copy of Trish Perry’s To Good to Be True! Look for more contests to win great Christian fiction in the coming months.

We’ve got a very busy weekend planned. Gabriel is celebrating his 10th birthday with five of his friends for a sleep over. They will be swimming, eating, watching movies and. . .eating. Tomorrow one of my friends who’s in the Peace Corp will be spending the night with us, and on Sunday Allen and Janelle will join us for a family celebration of Gabriel’s birthday.

In between all of this, we will be painting and finishing all the last minute things to get our house ready to sell. We would really appreciate your prayers that we can quickly sell our house in South Africa so our move to Tzaneen won’t be dragged out. Please pray as well that we can sell our house in Texas soon as well. We really need a miracle!



Thursday, March 15, 2007

Zimbabwe Video

For more information on our Zimbabwe churches, go to African Outreach Ministries



Wednesday, March 14, 2007


It didn’t take me long to figure out that being a missionary is stressful. A different country, different language, and different ways of thinking are just the beginning. There’s miscommunication, frustrations in getting almost anything done, and the constant burden of seeing so much pain and suffering around us.

It’s often a challenge for us personally as well. For example, it’s hard to see Gabriel’s struggling to learn Afrikaans. Hard to not be able to let our kids grow up around grandparents, cousins, and friends. Hard to find the spiritual renewal we crave.

Here’s the thing though. Even if we’d stayed in America, our lives wouldn’t be stress free. Most of you can attest to that. It seems that many of my closest friends are experiencing heavy degrees of stress and spiritual attack in their lives right now. Unexpected loss of a parent, cancer, job loss, financial stress, and the list goes on and on. Living in this world, no matter where we are, is stressful.

I’ve been reading through the gospels and have been struck at how much stress Jesus had to be under as he went up to Jerusalem before he died. Most of us get stressed over what “might” happen. Jesus knew he was going to die and that his death was going to be horrible. In spite of this, I was struck by how compassionate he was to the people. He longed to gather them to him. He healed them, taught them the truth, and longed for them to follow him.

When I’m stressed, I tend to want to curl up in a ball and sleep. My body shuts down and depression sets in. Jesus said in John 12 that his heart was troubled regarding his impending death. But he still managed to glorify the father with his obedience.

Take comfort in the words of a loving Savior. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentler and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:28-29

Be blessed today,


Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Time with DiAnn Mills

I’m so excited to have DiAnn Mills visit my blog today. DiAnn played a special role in my life as my first mentor and helped me to see my first words in print in our novella collection To Catch A Thief. DiAnn's latest book, Lightning and Lace hits bookshelves this month! And trust me, it's a story you won't want to miss!

DiAnn also has a great heart for Africa. She visited Sudan last year to do research for her upcoming novel due out later this year, When the Nile Runs Red. This is a sequel to her international suspense When the Lion Roars. DiAnn also wrote the non-fiction Lost Boy No More, the incredible true story of Abraham Nhial from Sudan.

LISA: How old were you when you began writing?

DIANN: Actually I was in the second grade. I wrote poetry and stories. Then I remember filling up a Big Chief pad with my first book - a western. I don’t remember what happened in the story except the hero always rode off into the west at the end of each chapter. I imagine it resembled Wagon Train, since that was my favorite TV show at the time. My goodness, I hope some of your readers know that classic!

LISA: What is your most important aspect of writing?

DIANN: Without a doubt, it is characterization. I’m a character-driven writer, and that means my goal is to write real “people” who react and respond to the events and happenings in their lives according to their traits. When you consider how long we have lived to develop our character, then you have an idea the formidable job a writer has in developing credible, colorful, and compelling characters. Characterization drives plot. Stop for a moment to consider your favorite books or movies. The plot may have intricate twists and turns, but it’s the characters who become unforgettable.

LISA: Do you have a favorite genre?

DIANN: That’s like asking a mother which child is her favorite! I enjoy writing historicals because of the romance of an older era. The obstacles that stood in the way of these people bred courage and strength into their lives. Their problems weren’t any different than the ones we face today, but how they solved them (character) presents an intriguing writing project for me.

I enjoy writing a contemporary because it is who we are today. Our lives are fast-paced and stressful. We are courted by TV, movies, magazines, and newspapers. Every headline, every magazine article, every viewed program spark ideas of how a character could handle a problem. I thrive on suspense and the challenges of a protagonist who lives his/her life from a Christian point of view.

I’ve never tackled sci-fi, fantasy, children, or speculative. But who knows?

LISA: What part of the writing process is your favorite?

DIANN: I don’t think I have a favorite because the process all builds to a finished project: a novel that inspires and entertains.

I’ve already stated how I feel about characterization. Plotting is an extension of characterization. The actual breakout of words on paper and seeing the story come to life thrills me. Editing to make my novel the best. Marketing and networking is an opportunity to promote the story God has given me and to make new friends.

LISA: What part of the writing process is your least favorite?

DIANN: The scary part. When the book is released. I think of it like a mom who sends her precious child to the first day of school. She wants the child to behave and have everyone love him/her, but what if the child comes home with a note that says the child was naughty?

LISA: What do you feel is the key or keys to continuous publication?

DIANN: I’d say it is a mixture of things. Striving to always make the next project better than the previous. Bathing the project with prayer. Listening for the voice of God. And, for me, mentoring new writers. I love to help someone achieve their writing goals.

LISA: And for that I thank you! I hear you and other writers use the word “passion” when you speak about writing. What does that mean to you?

DIANN: Passion in writing involves a number of aspects. At least it does for me. Passion for writing is like telling a pastor to preach his best sermon, a singer to sing his favorite song, a dancer to reenact the finest performance, or an artist to transfer a dream onto canvas. Many times a writer has this type of feeling or a passion for a topic or story idea. The writer can not, not write it.

LISA: How do you feel about critique partners?

DIANN: Mine are fantastic. I like another set of eyes to read my work critically. I want to know if it works and what doesn’t. Are the characters real? Is the plot believable? Does the dialogue seem to lift off the page? And have I added the right amount of sensory perception.

LISA: Where did you get your inspiration for The Texas Legacy Series?

DIANN: For years I had this idea about a lady outlaw who decides that she’s had enough and leaves the gang. Along the way, she finds the Lord, but the guilt and shame of her past plague her journey. That was Leather and Lace. In the writing of the first book, I realized the hero had a brother and sister. Each one had a story that begged to be told. Lanterns and Lace is about the younger brother, a doctor who adopts an infant from a dying prostitute. Lightning and Lace is about the sister who is forced to face life as a widow and runs head-on into a man who is attempting to live down a troubled past.

LISA: What tips can you give for new writers?


1. Write everyday.
2. Establish a time and stick to it.
3. Read your genre and out of your genre.
4. Attend writing conferences
5. Be diligent to the craft.
6. What you learn, pass on to someone else
7. Be teachable – both mentally and spiritually

LISA: Thank you so much DiAnn for sharing a bit of your life with us! Be sure and check out DiAnn’s website for all of her books.

And don’t forget to leave a comment on Trish Perry’s interview for a chance to win a free copy of her latest book! I'll draw the winner on Friday!



Friday, March 09, 2007

Interview with Trish Perry. . .and a chance for a free book!

I’m so excited for the opportunity to chat with Trish Perry. Trish is an award-winning novelist of the chick lit books, The Guy I’m Not Dating (Harvest House 2006) and Too Good to Be True (Harvest House 2007), as well as a long list of shorter pieces. Enjoy the interview and if you leave a comment, I’ll enter you in a drawing for a free copy of Too Good to Be True!

LISA: Trish, what was your initial reaction in finding out you sold your first book? In other words, tell us about. . .THE CALL.

TRISH: Lisa, I still don’t believe it. Was it real or was it Memorex?

Well, maybe I’m not still in shock to that extent. It has been awhile, after all. But the feeling was absolutely bizarre, and I’ll never forget it. My agent was keeping me up to date with the goings-on of Harvest House’s publication committee, but it seemed like the PubCo decision date kept coming and going with no report. I was stressing, a feeling with which other new authors might be able to identify . . .

One morning I knew I just had to hand the anxiety over to God or I’d be unable to function. The resulting peace I felt was palpable, and I was on the phone with a girlfriend, talking about that peace, when my agent’s email chimed on my computer (obviously, I was tying up the phone line). The email said Harvest House needed to ask me a couple of questions before they sent me the contract!

My girlfriend and I gasped and squealed like teenagers before prom night, then I called my agent. I still laugh when I think of how calmly she told me Harvest House wanted to give me a two-book contract if I didn’t mind [insert just about anything here—were they kidding? Of course I’d do it, whatever it was!]. Actually, their requests were minor and very manageable, and I’m still praising God every day for this blessing. I equate it to stepping on a different planet, not knowing what to expect and being thrilled by this kind of unknown.

LISA: Tell us some of the background behind the idea for your story and a blurb about the story itself.

TRISH: While I worked on a more serious novel, humor-novel thoughts kept popping into my head. When I wasn’t in my serious-novel frame of mind, I started playing with ideas for a romantic comedy. The book I developed was the one which just released, Too Good to Be True. (I actually wrote my first release, The Guy I’m Not Dating, afterwards.)

My heroine, Ren’s, overall personality came at me quickly, as did the opening line of the book, which suggested a controlling mother in the mix. Then I heard a news story involving adoption, which got the wheels turning. One of the things I truly love about writing fiction is how one detail can spawn so many other necessary facets of a character’s personality, background, or future. Those flowing details and ideas are like gifts, and we don’t have them all the way through our writing. Sometimes it’s like picking pockets, trying to find the next words, the next step, the appropriate character reaction or dialogue.

The blurb on the book:

Rennie Young is finding out that love and life often unfold in surprising ways.

Your average fairy-tale princess awakens to the kiss of her handsome prince . . . not to his holding her wrist and counting her heartbeats. But that’s exactly how Rennie meets Truman Sayers, an attractive man who comes to her assistance after she faints in the boys’ department at Wal-Mart.

He releases her wrist and looks into her eyes. “Your pulse is racing.”

Yes, indeed.

Tru Sayers, a compassionate labor-and-delivery nurse, seems like a gift from God. But remembrances of love gone bad and a still-mending heart cause Ren to question whether she can trust this path and God.

This clever, romantic, and thoughtful novel demonstrates that, with God’s guidance, a happy life is definitely possible after heartbreak—even when it seems too good to be true.

LISA: I find in my own writing that I often grow alongside my characters, especially spiritually. Is there a character who you relate to and who made an input on your life?

TRISH: One of the things Ren has to do in this story is take a chance in trusting God and trusting in love again. She was so hurt by a husband who deserted her and divorced her, she feels hesitant to date anyone else. When she steps back into the dating world with the fabulous Tru Sayers, she panics at the first sign of conflict. She has to learn to trust that God has her best interests at heart, if she can just listen for His guidance. Some of those feelings and lessons parallel those I experienced when I was a young divorced mom considering serious romantic relationships. But the book isn’t autobiographical in any sense.

LISA: What is the number one thing you’ve learned from your writing journey?

TRISH: To never take this blessing for granted or let it consume me. When I’m in my right mind as a believer—and sometimes I have to work to get there—I know I will continue to publish as long as the Lord wants me to. If I ever stop, it will be because He wants me to do something else. I find comfort in that.

LISA: Any future plans for your writing you’d like to share? Any specific dreams you’d like to accomplish in the area of writing?

TRISH: My editor and I have tossed a few ideas in the air recently (nothing that’s actually landed on paper yet). A possible third book for this current series. A completely different chick lit series. A series tied to a central theme, as Sue Grafton did with her Alphabet Mystery Series: A is for Alibi; B is for Burglar; etc. (but chick lit—I don’t know how people do mystery!)

With regard to dreams, I’m hoping that eventually I can do the kind of thing Liz Curtis Higgs does, speaking to groups who read her books, bringing inspiration to them as writers, readers, believers, women. She’s gone beyond reaching out with her novels alone. Clearly that’s what God called her to do. I don’t know if He’ll call me that way, but I hope to be willing (and not a total scaredy cat) if He ever does.

LISA: Because I know there are many aspiring writers out there, can you share any tidbits of wisdom on getting published, especially from someone who has just broken in?

TRISH: As Christian authors we need to write the stories the Lord puts on our hearts. We need to pray specifically about our writing and then shut up and listen to Him. But we also need to be aware of market trends. One reason my first novel (the serious one I mentioned) is not yet published is because it addresses spiritual warfare. At the American Christian Fiction Writers conference in Dallas this past September, Chip McGregor asked the editor/agent panel if any of the houses were looking for spiritual warfare fiction. Not a single CBA rep was interested. Maybe the timing will be better in the future; maybe not. But you can bet I won’t be writing any more spiritual warfare novels anytime soon. I know the Lord put that first novel on my heart. But He may have done so simply to help me learn my craft.

So my tidbits of wisdom are these:
• Write the stories He gives you.
• Be practical about what’s selling—this is a business.
• Understand that some of the stories He gives you are just for you.

LISA: Any writer’s resources you could recommend?

TRISH: All fiction writers should join the American Christian Fiction Writers, in my opinion. The group is supportive, godly, informative, enriching. No matter where you are in your writing journey, you’ll benefit from joining the group.

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, by Renni Browne and Dave King, is a must-have for novelists. The first time I read it, I used a highlighter. Now, before embarking on another novel, I go through it again, reading the parts I highlighted (and usually more than that). I always find mistakes I made in previous works—some things we have to learn over and over again.

If you enjoy writing humor, a fun book to read is How to Write Funny, edited by John B. Kachuba. The book is a compilation of essays by humor writers. Every time I read it, contributors’ comments spark my own humorous ideas. Very inspirational stuff (inspirational in the secular sense—these folks ain’t Christian, okay?)

There are many other fantastic writing craft books—too many to list—but I’d also encourage all aspiring novelists to read the kind of books they want to write. Allow successful authors to draw you into the proper mood; it will do wonders for your imagination. And I’d love to hear from readers and writers at my web site

Come visit!

LISA: Thanks so much for stopping by, Trish!

Remember to leave a comment for the chance to win a free book. I'll hold the drawing next Friday (March 16th).

Coming soon. . .an interview with best-selling author DiAnn Mills who recently returned from a life-changing trip to Sudan.



Thursday, March 08, 2007

Faces of the Children Video

In the future I'd like to share video clips as well as other photos in this format. I'd love to hear what you think. Is the downloading fast enough? Were you able to view the video without any problems? Let me know.



Monday, March 05, 2007

Things aren’t always what they seem. . .

After moving here, it didn’t take us long to realize that things were—understandably--different in South Africa from what we were used to in the States. Still, we quickly learned where to find the best fresh milk, the brand of juice we liked and even what spaghetti sauce tasted the best. There are some things, though, that I never learned. Last week we invited a family over for tea and in preparation of their visit, I made a cake. Gingerbread to be exact. And to make it even better, I took the trouble to make a custard to pour on top.

For some reason, our guests failed to show up, and as you can imagine, it didn’t take long for the kids to start asking when they could eat the cake. Why not, I told them, and promptly served up cake for everyone.

There was only one problem. The cake was horrid! How is it possible for a person to ruin cake of all things? I mean this is dessert. A bunch of sugar and white flour. Needless to say, none of us could eat the cake. Yes, it was that bad.

I mentioned this to Janelle the next day, and she proceeded to laugh out loud once I told her what kind of cake I’d made. Apparently, molasses has to be halved and mixed with syrup, because here is it too strong. Well, I’ll say. No wonder no one could eat the cake.

We all got a good laugh, but I’m afraid that’s the last time I’ll be making gingerbread for a very long time!

Have a great day!


Saturday, March 03, 2007

What language do you speak?

If you lived in Italy, you would more than likely need to learn Italian to survive. If you lived in France, French. But what about if you lived in a country where there were eleven official languages? Like South Africa. And that doesn’t include another dozen unofficial languages.

Our life, lately, seems to be consumed with dealing with “other” languages. Bible studies are often translated with a number of different languages spoken by the members. Recently, we had a class where four spoke English as a second language. Two of the women couldn’t communicate with each other, nor could we communicate with half of them. They came from four different countries and backgrounds, so as you can see, it can get a bit complicated.

Add to that, Scott and Allen are in the process of learning Portuguese. While English gets you by to an extent in Zambia and Zimbabwe, there are few English speakers in Mozambique.

Scott and Allen in Portuguese language class.

We aren’t the only ones affected by language. Our children have been studying Afrikaans school on a small scale, but now that Gabriel is in fourth grade, it’s become a much more important part of the curriculum. He’s facing dictations, memorizing pieces, reading, and tests. The problem comes in when the school they attend is English and doesn’t allow them to speak Afrikaans except for in Afrikaans classes. This is to help those learning English as a second language, but what about our kids who don’t speak Afrikaans? Add to that, English is spoken most places, so unless you speak Afrikaans at home, the learning becomes a challenge to say the least.

Last week, Gabriel brought home a poem he had to memorize. We called up a friend who went over the poem with him then recorded it onto my phone. For the rest of the evening, Scott and Gabriel practiced the poem until Gabriel was able to say it. We’re planning to hire a tutor soon who will help Gabriel prepare for some major tests coming up at the end of the year that he needs to pass.

Scott and Gabriel practicing his poem with my phone

So, what language do you speak? Visit a country like South Africa and you will find people who speak multiple languages. One of the Christians we work with, who also acts as a translator for us at times, speaks about eight. It’s pretty humbling to me at times!

If you’re intested in learning more about languages in South Africa, check out this link: South African Languages



Friday, March 02, 2007

Orphan Question

Ronie posted a great question regarding our work with the orphans: Does AOM partner with anyone to do adoptions? Or is the focus more to keep the children there and provide medical and educational needs?

African culture has always held to very strong families. If a parent died, or left a child an orphan, the extended family would take the child in. Things are changing, though, with the rampant onslaught of AIDS that is ripping families apart and leaving heavy burdens on those left behind. It’s not uncommon for a grandmother to raise five, six, even seven of her orphaned grandchildren. This in itself is making it harder for families to take care of their own.

In spite of these factors, we are still committed in keeping the children we work with in the homes of the extended family, or in homes of church members when necessary, and ensuring that these families have the necessary medical, educational, and spiritual help they need.

Go to ImageShack® to Create your own Slideshow

Coming next. . .What language do you speak?