The Prodigal God

The Prodical God
The Prodigal Son is probably the most well-known parable in the Bible. Incredibly, it is also almost universally misunderstood. Let us read the parable first before looking a little deeper. “…Jesus continued: ‘There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.

Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. “

“He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death!
I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against Heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against Heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.”

”Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’ The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him.

But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends.  But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ “ Luke 15:11-32

Most readings of this parable have concentrated on the flight and return of the younger brother – the ‘Prodigal Son.’ That misses the real message of the story, however, because there are two brothers, each of whom represents a different way to be alienated from God, and a different way to seek acceptance into the Kingdom of Heaven. It is crucial to notice the historical setting that the author provides for Jesus’s teaching. In the first two verses of the chapter, Luke recounts that there were two groups of people who had come to listen to Jesus.

First there were the “tax collectors and sinners.” These men and women correspond to the younger brother. They observed neither the moral laws of the Bible nor the rules for ceremonial purity followed by religious Jews.

They engaged in “wild living.” Like the younger brother, they “left home” by leaving the traditional morality of their families and of respectable society.
The second group of listeners were the “Pharisees and the teachers of the Law,” who were represented by the elder brother. They held to the traditional morality of their upbringing. They studied and obeyed the Scripture.

They worshipped faithfully and prayed constantly. With great economy Luke shows how different each group’s response was to Jesus. The progressive tense of the Greek verb translated “were gathering” conveys that the attraction of younger brothers to Jesus was an ongoing pattern in his ministry. They continually flocked to him. This phenomenon puzzled and angered the moral and the religious. Luke summarises their complaint: “This man welcomes sinners and (even) eats with them.”

To sit down and eat with someone in the ancient Near East was a token of acceptance. “How dare Jesus reach out to sinners like that?” they were saying. “These people never come to our services! Why would they be drawn to Jesus’s teaching? He couldn’t be declaring the truth to them, as we do. He must be just telling them what they want to hear!”

So to whom is Jesus’s teaching in this parable directed? It is to the second group, the Scribes and Pharisees. It is in response to their attitude that Jesus begins to tell the parable. The parable of the two sons takes an extended look at the soul of the elder brother, and climaxes with a powerful plea for him to change his heart.

Throughout the centuries, when this text is taught in church or religious education programmes, the almost exclusive focus has been on how the father freely receives his penitent younger son. The first time I heard the parable, I imagined Jesus’s original listeners’ eyes welling with tears as they heard how God will always love and welcome them, no matter what they’ve done.

We sentimentalise this parable if we do that. The targets of this story are not ‘wayward sinners’ but religious people who do everything the Bible requires. Jesus is pleading not so much with immoral outsiders as with moral insiders. He wants to show them their blindness, narrowness, and self-righteousness, and how these things are destroying both their own souls and the lives of the people around them. It is a mistake, then, to think that Jesus tells his story primarily to assure younger brothers of his unconditional love.

No, the original listeners were not melted into tears by this story but rather they were thunderstruck, offended, and infuriated. Jesus’s purpose is not to warm our hearts but to shatter our categories. Through this parable Jesus challenges what nearly everyone has ever thought about God, sin, and Salvation.

His story reveals the destructive self-centredness of the younger brother, but it is also condemns the elder brother’s moralistic life in the strongest terms.
Jesus is saying that both the irreligious and the religious are spiritually lost, both life-paths are dead ends, and that every thought the human race has had about how to connect to God has been wrong.

Both older brothers and younger brothers are with us today, in the same society and often in the very same family. Frequently the oldest sibling in a family is the parent-pleaser, the responsible one who obeys the parental standards. The younger sibling tends to be the rebel, a free spirit who prefers the company and admiration of peers. The first child grows up, takes a conventional job, and settles down near Mom and Dad, while the younger sibling goes off to live in the hip-shabby countries of New York and London.

These natural, temperamental differences have been accentuated in more recent times. In the early Nineteenth Century industrialisation gave rise to a new middle class – the bourgeois – which sought legitimacy through an ethic of hard work and moral rectitude. In response to perceived bourgeois hypocrisy and rigidity, communities of bohemians arose. Bohemians stress freedom from convention and personal autonomy.

To some degree the so-called culture wars are playing out these same conflicting temperaments and impulses in modern society. More and more people today consider themselves non-religious or even anti-religious. They believe moral issues are highly complex and are suspicious of any individuals or institutions that claim moral authority over the lives of others. Despite (or perhaps because of) the rise of this secular spirit there has also been considerable growth in conservative, orthodox religious movements. Alarmed by what they perceive as an onslaught of moral relativism, many have organised to ‘take back the culture,’ and take as dim a view of ‘younger brothers’ as the Pharisees did.

So whose side is Jesus on? He is on the side of neither the irreligious nor the religious, but he singles out religious moralism as a particularly deadly spiritual condition. It is hard for us to realise this today, but when Christianity first arose in the world it was not called a religion. It was the non-religion. Imagine the neighbours of early Christians asking them about their faith. “Where’s your temple?” they’d ask.

The Christians would reply that they didn’t have a temple. “But how could that be? Where do your priests labour?” The Christians would have replied that they didn’t have priests. “But … but,” the neighbours would have sputtered, “where are the sacrifices made to please your gods?” The Christians would have responded that they did not make sacrifices anymore. Jesus himself was the temple to end all temples, the priest to end all priests, and the sacrifice to end all sacrifices.

No one had ever heard anything like this. So the Romans called them ‘atheists,’ because what the Christians were saying about spiritual reality was unique and could not be classified with the other religions of the world. This parable explains why they were absolutely right to call them ‘atheists’.

The irony of this should not be lost on us, standing as we do in the midst of the modern culture wars. To most people in our society, Christianity is religion and moralism. The only alternative to it (besides some other world religion) is pluralistic secularism. But from the beginning it was not so. Christianity was recognised as something else entirely. The crucial point here is that, in general, religiously observant people were offended by Jesus, but those estranged from religious and moral observance were intrigued and attracted to him. We see this throughout the New Testament accounts of Jesus’s life.

In every case where Jesus meets a religious person and a sexual outcast (as in Luke 7) or a religious person and a racial outcast (as in John 3-4) or a religious person and a political outcast (as in Luke 19), the outcast is the one who connects with Jesus and the elder-brother type does not. Jesus says to the respectable religious leaders “the tax collectors and the prostitutes enter the Kingdom before you” Matt 21:31.

Jesus’ teaching consistently attracted the irreligious while offending the Bible-believing, religious people of this day. However, generally, our churches today do not have this effect. The kind of outsiders Jesus attracted are not attracted to contemporary churches, even our most avant-garde ones. We tend to draw conservative, buttoned-down, moralistic people.

The licentious and liberated or the broken and marginal avoid church. That can only mean one thing. If the preaching of our ministers and the practise of our parishioners do not have the same effect on people that Jesus had, then we must not be declaring the same message that Jesus did.I f our churches aren’t appealing to younger brothers, they must be more full of elder brothers than we’d like to think.

The Different Types of Angelic Beings

The Different Types of Angelic Beings
Following on from our article in the previous issue regarding Angels and important facts we need to know about them, the Bible reveals that there are three different types of angelic beings:

Angels and Archangels,
Seraphims, and

Arch means ‘Chief’, therefore ‘Archangels’ are ‘chief angels’. The Bible only makes mention of two archangels:
a) Michael:
He is the warrior angel and leads the angels of God in war (Rev 12:7-9; Dan 10:13). The Bible also says that he will return with the Lord Jesus for us (1 Thess 4:16).
He stands in God’s presence and is the messenger who comes forward with God’s special plans and purposes (Luke 1:19; 26; Dan 8:16). He announced the births of both John the Baptist and Jesus.

The main purpose of Seraphims is to proclaim the holiness of God. Seraphim have six wings – two for worship, two for flying and two with which they cover their feet.

They are referred to in the following Scriptures: “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings; with two he covered his face, with two covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one cried to another and said: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory’!” Isa 6:1-3

“Before the throne there was a sea of glass, like crystal. And in the midst of the throne, and around the throne, were four living creatures full of eyes in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second living creature like a calf, the third living creature had a face like a man, and the fourth living creature was like a flying eagle.

The four creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within. And they do not rest day or night, saying: ‘Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come’! ” Rev 4:6-8

These are the first angels spoken of in the Bible and were responsible for guard duty in Eden and before the throne (Gen 3:24; Psalm 99:1).

Some have the misguided notion that angels don’t have anything to do but to ride on clouds and play golden harps. The conclusion drawn from this is that Heaven is a dull and boring place. But nothing could be further from the truth! Angels worship God and angels work on earth.

Angels aren’t without anything to do. There is a great deal that is required of them and much for which they are responsible. One of the chief duties (privileges) of the angels is to worship God (Isa 6:3). Angels are the most content creatures in the universe. They love Heaven and the worship of God. They are joyful and excited (Heb 12:22).

The term ‘angel’ in both Hebrew and Greek means ‘messenger’ or ‘one who is sent’. Angels are God’s servants directing His affairs.“Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in Heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in Heaven.” Matt 18:10

This Scripture clearly suggests that angels are attentive for the purpose of action. The angels are always eager to hear and fulfil God’s orders. They stand close to Him so that they can respond immediately. There must be a great deal to do in the management of the universe but God’s servants are up to the tasks.

Remember that not every angel that occupied a position in the sky is friendly. Some are hostile. There are good angels (loyal to Christ) and fallen angels (evil followers of satan – demons).

“Then he said to me, “Do not fear, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand, and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard; and I have come because of your words. But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days; and behold Michael, one of the chief princes.” Dan 10:12-13

Here we see that the angels are engaged in war. We also see the intriguing work of angels with our prayers. We may sometimes be tempted to believe that God has not heard our prayers or is slow in answering them. This is not the situation at all, as we see with Daniel. The delay Daniel experienced wasn’t due to any problem in his praying. Nor was God’s ear closed to his request. Rather, the sole delay was demonic.

NOTE: We must remember that there is a war going on! Angels are not being destroyed but are being hindered in their work. We should follow Daniel’s example in prayer and not despair. Ephesians 6 says that we are able to put on the full armour of God and go to war in prayer.

In the book of Revelation we read of a future war in Heaven when Michael and his angels will fight the devil and his angels. The outcome of this battle will be the total cleansing of the skies (Rev 12:7-17). All the evil angels will be cast to the earth and then later bound in the abyss (Rev 20; Is 24:21-22). The greatest war of the skies will occur.

Not a single angel of God will be harmed and not one evil angel will escape. It will be the most thorough conflict ever experienced in the angelic world. For the moment, however, we must remember that not everything in the sky is peaceful. The angelic battles will continue until Jesus comes again. Satan is determined to undermine God’s operation, but he will fail. We are on the winning side. Therefore, it is an incorrect assumption to think that the angels are only singing in a Heavenly choir. They are fighters. Under Jesus’ leadership they are in constant combat for the expansion of God’s Kingdom on earth.

Mighty Mens’s Conference 2010

Mighty Mens’s Conference 2010
This is indeed our last Mighty Men’s Event. The reason for this is because the Lord revealed to me that 7 is the number of completion; the Lord made Heaven and earth in six days and on the seventh day He rested and said, ‘It’s complete and it’s good.’

Men are meeting all over the nation and there is a tremendous revival going on in the nation through the men of our land and we believe that God has completed this part of the work at Shalom. Every year I pray for direction and I believe this year the Lord said it must focus on: ‘watchman of the house.’ (From Ezekiel 3:17-19). God has called the men to be the watchmen over their house, their businesses, their farms, their provinces and ultimately the nation.
We are expecting 400 000 men from SA and the world. We encourage all men to register asap on our

The gates of the farms will open on the Monday at 4pm to alleviate any congestion. The official meetings will start on Friday night and continue on Saturday morning, Saturday night and Sunday morning so that the men can fellowship around the campfires. I will be speaking and the same worship team that lead the praise and worship last year will be leading it this year with Joe Niemand as our solo singer. We will have camp commandants like we did last year, one man being in charge of approximately 30 000 men. There will be showers, toilets and campsites available on site.

There will be coms for cell phones like last year. We are not anticipating any congestion at all. Most of the men bring their own food. All the campsites are numbered and a lot of that is done on the internet.

Last year, I did not collapse from exhaustion  as widely reported. I had two heart attacks from which God miraculously healed me. I do not anticipate collapsing this year and the precautions I take are the same every year and everywhere I speak. I’ll be spending lots of time waiting on the Lord for strength and for the message.

It will be different because it is the last one and the biggest one. We have never been so excited. This will be the biggest Christian event that has taken place in South Africa!

We hope that the men will take more responsibility in their homes, in their businesses, on their farms, in society and in the government, especially in the area of moral standing and also protecting their families and leading from the front. 

This year alone we are having another MMC in Perth, Australia and we are expecting up to 14 000 men to attend from the 26th – 28th of February. We are going to Ireland from the 9th  – 13th of June, and to London. We anticipate Men’s conferences all over the nation in different areas and different provinces where I’ll go as the speaker.

 I’ll continue to preach on television 8 times a week and am still writing books, and of course, available for whatever the Lord wants to do in my life. I’m definitely not retiring! There is no such thing in the Bible and I’m not at all feeling that way inclined. In fact I am just coming to the prime of my life. I’ve passed the baton on not because I can’t carry it but because I’ve got a bigger one to pick up. 

The mighty Men’s 2010 conference is from 16-18 April in kzn

Don’t miss out!
Book your place now!!!
Call 031 417 1695 or see

TO REGISTER SEE or or 086 1000 291.

‘House Churches’: Helpful or Harmful to the Body of Christ?

‘House Churches’: Helpful or Harmful to the Body of Christ?
‘According to David, there is a strong Biblical case for meeting in homes. We asked a few pertinent questions.

In Jerusalem they met in homes and Paul started most, if not all, of his churches in the homes of members. There are also practical reasons including a greater intimacy, a family atmosphere, stronger discipleship and the low cost of starting a new church.

There is nothing special about the house as a meeting place. We actually do not talk about house churches much – we call them simple churches because they are simple to start and replicate. We have seen churches start in homes, in businesses, public parks, under trees, in schools and even on busses. Church can meet wherever a group of people want to worship and obey Christ.

There are many reactionary house churches out there. Some people, angry with their pastors, have formed groups that meet in homes. But not every church that meets in a house is the same, as not every church that meets in a church building is the same. It’s all about foundations. If a church is established on criticism and bitterness, it will not last long.

Paul is clear that church planters have a responsibility to build on the foundation of Christ (1Cor 3:11). I have no interest in being reactionary. Many of my friends are pastors of congregational churches and sincere followers of Christ. I love them and serve them wherever I can.

Some of them are beginning to partner with us to plant ’Simple Churches’ amongst people who would never attend their congregational churches. Simple church is able to reach those people because it goes to them instead of waiting for them to come to us.

Every natural family is part of an extended family. The same is true for spiritual families. Networking is very important for a simple church. Isolated churches of any kind are unhealthy. We build networks of leaders who meet regularly.

We also have a variety of ways to cross-pollinate with one another, including celebrations, teaching meetings, gatherings for men or women, birthday parties, special outings, etc.

We train every member in our churches to make disciples of those who do not know Christ. This results in new followers of Christ, which often results in new churches. When new churches are started, people are free to leave or remain with their original groups. In the last six months we saw over 75 new churches start in South Africa with an attendance of between 10-40 people. Some grow larger.

These are only the churches that we are tracking – there are others in other movements. The new churches started mostly with unchurched people. We also do not control or dictate the size of the churches. When planting new churches is the goal, they never grow too large because they are continually sending out members.

This is not a simple church problem, but a wider one affecting the whole Body of Christ. The best defence against false doctrine is for every believer to be firmly grounded in the Word of God. In our churches, we read the Word every week, discuss it and encourage obedience to it. Our leadership is empowering, not controlling. This atmosphere makes it very difficult for anyone to impose false teachings on the groups.

Simple churches do not have pastors in the sense of the congregational church model. Rather, networks of churches develop shared leadership teams of elders and deacons as well as the gifts found in Ephesians 4:11-16.

This leadership serves the churches by encouraging and mentoring. Think of a sports coach. He does not play the game, but coaches the team to play the game. Simple churches are teams of players, not spectators. Everyone is involved in minstry.

History has taught us that we cannot control people. When we try, they simply get frustrated, leave and start a new church down the road! True leadership is through example and inspiration.

Leaders are servants. When people deviate from the truth, leaders also need to rebuke and discipline. In a relational setting, this correction is much more successful and easily received. True accountability can only be achieved inside strong, healthy relationships.

The Bible. I know this sounds overly simplistic, but we literally follow the Word of God as closely as possible. Every discipleship group and every church reads the Bible every week and encourages obedience to the Word. Obedience is more important than knowledge. Obedience to the Word is taught, modelled and practised.

People hold one another accountable for growing in obedience to the Word and to Christ. When we fail, which we often do, we pray for and encourage one another. There is a lot of Grace, a lot of acceptance and a lot of laughter.

All church visions ultimately come back to the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20. We simply stick to this as our vision and mission statement. What greater mission can we have than the one that Jesus gave us? Jesus tells us to go, to make disciples, to baptise and to teach obedience.

The Simple churches that we see starting up around the nation do this more effectively than the congregational churches that I used to lead before.

Our overheads for doing church are very low. Often our teachers, elders and mentors are unpaid, ordinary people. We teach and encourage people to give to the poor, especially to Christian ministries that serve the poor. Every week the groups serve needs amongst one another and sometimes this includes financial giving.
We strongly encourage giving towards church planting. We also encourage honouring elders and teachers financially, according to 1Timothy 5:17 and Galatians 6:6. This does not always mean paying a salary.

Simple churches do not usually align with denominations. Some are completely independent, which is not healthy. Others are aligned to existing congregational churches. The ones we start are mostly connected in networks that align with a church planting team.

Church Planting teams have coaches and mentors. Once a network of churches matures and develops its own leadership, the church planting team will withdraw and act in a mentoring capacity.

We don’t grow churches by adding people. We rather plant new churches. Too much of our Western Christianity is about trying to grow churches by taking members from other churches. We don’t target Christians. If a Christian wants to join us, he or she immediately gets promoted to church planter.

We will assist this person to start a new church by coaching and mentoring the process. We are always on the lookout for workers. Every one of our members prays daily for workers to go into the harvest fields and make disciples of the unchurched (Luke 10:2).

When we started out planting simple churches from normal congregational life, we thought it would be an easy transition. We discovered the words of Jesus in John 12:24 to be true, “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it can bear no fruit.” We had to die to a lot of Western church culture and personal ambition before we saw the beginnings of a church planting movement. It was not easy.

So if a church and its leadership are prepared to let go of these things, they will be able to see church planting movements birthed. We are partnering with some congregational churches that have a desire to see their communities turn to Christ.

Tammy Trent: Light in my Darkness

Tammy Trent: Light in my Darkness
Recording artist, author and speaker Tammy Trent, lost her husband eight years ago in a tragic accident. But the power of praise pulled her out of despair.
“…He smiled and waved, sank beneath the surface and was gone….” Tammy will forever remember the last moment she saw her husband alive. Young, athletic and strikingly handsome, Trent Lenderink loved water sports and was making a routine free dive – a short dive without an oxygen tank – in the crystal blue waters of a lagoon on Jamaica’s sparkling coastline.

After just celebrating their 11th wedding anniversary, the couple was on a much-needed getaway. Part vacation and part mission trip, just asking God, “What is your desire for our lives right now?  Where do we go from here?”
When Trent didn’t return to the surface after almost 15 minutes, Tammy frantically began to look for him. As more minutes ticked by, she became increasingly panicked, fearing that something was very wrong.

At nightfall, after three hours of unsuccessful searching, Tammy made tearful calls to the couple’s family back in the United States to ask them to pray and to beg them to be with her if her worst fears were confirmed.
Shortly after the search resumed the next morning, divers found Trent’s lifeless body, and Tammy suddenly found herself alone, facing an immeasurable loss.

In tragic irony – all of her family members received the news of Trent’s death on their cell phones while they sat in jetliners grounded in Chicago, St. Louis and Los Angeles. They all also learned, almost simultaneously, that the entire country had just experienced a terrifying tragedy. It was the morning of September 11, 2001.

Taking her stage name from Trent’s first name, Tammy Trent had led a successful career in Christian music since 1995. Ever upbeat, she delivered joyful pop-styled songs to which she often danced on stage, with Trent always watching as her manager and sound technician.

In the summer of 2001, the Lenderinks were prayerfully seeking where God would lead them next. The thought of having to make that decision on her own never crossed Tammy’s mind. “My plan changed in a moment’s time and I never saw it coming,” she admits. “But as hard as it is to say some days, I know God’s plan has never changed for my life.”

Though the pain of losing her husband may take a lifetime to heal, Tammy has not let the tragedy destroy her.
Instead, she has chosen to embrace the difficult path God has set before her, believing He is beside her every step of the way, teaching her of His love for her and being her strength when Tammy’s own strength fails.

At times God has wrapped His arms around her, she says, through the hug of a kind stranger, or He has spoken hope to her broken heart through the words of family and friends.

Today, Tammy’s miraculous story inspires thousands of women. She travels with Women of Faith ministries, speaking and singing at churches and conferences around the world. By sharing about her experience and God’s love through her ordeal, she has brought hope to untold numbers of people who face loss and devastation in their own lives.

Reaching a point at which she could breathe deeply of life once again took time, however. In the dark days, weeks and months after Trent’s death, Tammy realised she needed to focus on allowing God to rebuild her shattered heart.

“I knew I needed a year away from everything. I asked God for that,” she says. “I felt strongly about the fact that we, Jesus and I, needed a year together – no music, no speaking, no platforms – just to put my life back together again.”

Tammy had to make a determined effort to take the year off. Offers for album contracts, speaking engagements and interview appearances were flooding in. Apart from one emotional TV interview in 2002, Tammy waited before stepping forward to tell her story. During that period, she says, God taught her that He would never leave her or forsake her, that she could always rely on Him for every need. 

“Being raised in a Christian home my whole life… I took so much for granted,” Tammy says. “I never really had a desperate moment where I had to absolutely depend on God. I was the kind of person that depended on other people more – and Trent was one of those people. I depended on him so much. He was my comforter; he was my rescuer. He’d save me.”

Today she no longer wears her wedding ring, but rather a beautiful eternity ring as a source of  protection, as a ‘spiritual covering’, Tammy says it’s important for people to see that God, not a man, has rescued her. “God continues to heal and provide for my life” she says, “and it’s important for me to look in the mirror and say, ‘Tammy, you are strong.  You are brave.  You are courageous because of what the Lord continues to do in your life.’ You cannot live without Jesus.  Continue to rely on Him alone!”

Tammy first experienced God’s provision in the hours just after she lost Trent. Because of the flight lockdown in the wake of the September 11 attacks, none of her family had been able to reach her in Jamaica, except her father-in-law, who remained stranded with her on the island. Though he graciously handled all of the difficult legal arrangements that accompany a death and was a shoulder to cry on, Tammy still longed for her mother, sister or best friend to hold her close.  Mostly, the touch of her mom.

Collapsed and alone in the bathroom of her hotel room, exhausted from weeping, Tammy cried out to God for someone simply to hold her.  “God, do you see this girl?  Is Heaven real?  Is this real? I know all the right answers. I’ve been telling people my whole life to trust God when nothing makes sense, but here I am all alone and I feel hopeless. God, can you just send someone to hold me. I miss my mom.  Could you just send me an angel that would hold me. I’m not asking for hundreds, but just one angel that would hold me.”

At that moment, she heard a voice in her heart say, “Get up and move.” Forcing herself to her feet and clinging to the wall for support, she stumbled into the next room. A Jamaican hotel maid was standing there. Seeing Tammy, she exclaimed: “I’ve been trying to get to you! I could hear you crying and I’ve been trying to get to you.  Could I just come in and hold you?”

The two women wept in each other’s arms.  The ‘angel’, neatly dressed in a Hilton housekeeping outfit, prayed passionately over her.  “I knew at that moment that it was the Holy Spirit and He was taking care of me,” Tammy says. “That ‘angel’ was sent to me as a gift from God in that moment, just to remind me that I wasn’t alone, that God was very real. He did see ‘this’ girl.  I believe that is the moment my healing began.”

God continued to send people into Tammy’s life who brought comfort, strength and compassion. She returned home, and her mother and sister stayed with her almost constantly.

Others, including former acquaintances and caring strangers, reached out to her with encouragement and hope. Most important to Tammy was the sense of God’s peace that pervaded her house. She felt it even in the absence of her husband’s love and laughter.

“I can remember walking into this home the first time we were handed the keys, Trent and I, and we prayed that people would feel the love and peace of God,” she recalls from her living room. Today the room looks different than it did eight years ago. But there are still a few pictures from the couple’s wedding and vacation photos – even the last shot Tammy snapped of Trent, moments before he entered the water for his final dive – adorn the walls.

Tammy has found much joy and healing in the friendships she has built with other women, many from her ministry work. These relationships also are an answer to Trent’s own prayer for his wife before he died – that she be surrounded with women who could help her grow in faith.

Tammy confesses she would trade everything to have Trent back, but she has given herself permission to live again. She doesn’t try to explain why the tragedy happened.  Instead she has decided to honour the life she and Trent shared, and to honour  God who is putting her life back together again. That decision is a vital part of what she shares from the stage.  “It’s still hard to call myself a widow,” Tammy admits. “I’ve accepted it, I’m not in denial, but some of those words are tough for me.”

She is able to show people there is joy on the other side of tragedy, that despite her loss she is still on the journey of life. She often tells people: “I’ve been where you’re at… I understand…but we have to keep showing up.  We have to get up every day and choose life, hope and peace. The choices we make with our lives today will affect everything. It’s not easy, I know, but we have to keep trusting.”

Tammy is careful to add that choosing to embrace life again after losing a loved one is not the same as a decision to forget that person. She loves talking about Trent at conferences or with friends and family every chance she has. She’s also written a few of books. A devotional titled ‘Beyond the Sorrow’ and a book about her story titled ‘Learning to Breathe Again’. It traces their romance and marriage, the black days after Trent’s death and her new journey.

“Life and death are going to happen,” she says. “It’s all temporary, and we are just passing through. What really matters at the end of the day is how our life’s example is played out this side of Heaven. That’s why it’s so critical that we realise how fragile life is, and we are reminded to speak life into those we love. Trent spoke life into my spirit every day.  He loved well.” Tammy often receives e-mails from people whom her story has touched. Despite the volume, she responds to every one.

“I read those e-mails and I just weep because I know what they’re going  through,” she admits. “The one gift I can offer them is the hope that I have truly found in Christ on my own journey. Prayer is a powerful thing, so in those moments I find myself standing in the gap for them in prayer, when they feel so hopeless.”   

Today Tammy’s message remains clear.  “Whatever your challenge, you will get through it. Triumphantly. There are rainy days, but there also are sunny ones. Both have their own distinct purposes. You and I may have walked through crushing circumstances, but God’s plans for us are good.” 

“Even though I’ve known great depths of heartache, I’ve known even greater depths of God’s love and sustaining power. I do miss the life I once knew, the chapters that are forever closed.  But as I turn the pages of my new life, I see God continuing to write a beautiful love story. And I don’t want to miss a thing!”.