Foreward by Jerry Eickhoff
For 26 years HOI has been answering God’s call to strengthen communities in Latin America through long-term partnerships. The profound long term impact on the lives of the people we serve has been well documented. The long term impact, however, on the North Americans who serve as the catalytic agents of change is not as well known.
No two mission trips are ever the same; neither are the ways we encounter and hear from God. Sometimes God calls us to work, to get our hands dirty, to sweat, and to “make things happen”. Other times He calls us to listen, to be still, or to simply “be” in partnership with families, communities, and each other in the places where He has been working long in advance of our arrival. One of the great lessons we’ve learned is that in every instance God has beat us to the scene.
The touching story of Anne Ostholthoff and her family speaks to God’s urging to “be still and know that He is God”. We know for a fact that God can communicate with us on our trips in ways that penetrate the fog of our hectic everyday lives here. In that environment we don’t miss the message.
Please take a few minutes in quiet solitude to place yourself at the Ranch inside the gathering room adorned with Anne’s “Patchwork Painting” of life in Olancho, accented with whimsical cats and birds, and absorb what she shares from her heart. Please be in partnership and prayer with Bob, Joe, and Anne, and all that are with them on this difficult journey. We are thankful that her trips to Honduras were a part of her communion with God. Her words add an air of reverence to the environment she helped create at Rancho el Paraiso, our base in Honduras. “Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:11
BEING STILL AND KNOW
by Anne Ostholhoff
God has been communicating with me in an amazing way since 2013 when He asked me to begin walking through a dark valley. (NOTE: Some of you know, others don’t, that my husband was contracted with cancer in 2013 and is living now to keep the tumors in his lungs from growing so we can have lots more time together. Additionally, this past November, his cancer moved to his brain requiring surgery). I’m compelled to finally document this experience with God as His amazingly personal outpouring of love to me is something I must share. Many have asked “how are you able to deal with this?” and I can truthfully say it is only because God is so obvious with His love and nearness right now – and in moments you’ll learn about in this story of how He steps up the messaging, fresh and surprisingly abrupt with yet another moment where He says “I’m here and I’m loving you no matter where you are.” The story proves that God is real, this story is woven over 20 years in amazing coincidence that can’t be coincidence. So here you go – this is a story of how God loves us all, and weaves His loving ways into our lives… at least my story of this reality.
THE STORY BEGINS BUT NO ONE KNOWS
It was 1994 and I was with a team of artist friends who joined me on a mission trip to the Honduras Outreach’s ranch in San Esteban, Honduras. Our task was to hand-deliver the large mural created by elementary school students with me in Chicago saying “Hola! Nos Gusto Mucho Honduras!” (Hello, we love you Honduras!) – to the town mayor… which we did in a small ceremony. We then were to work with the students in a series of 4‑5 schools to create individual drawings titled “What it’s like where I live” that we would take back to the students in the Cabrini Green neighborhood where I worked. These were in exchange for the drawings we delivered from the kids in Chicago that were created to the same theme. It was an “art exchange”. We shared photos of the kids in Chicago with those in the schools in Honduras and vice versa. It was lovely, and deeply moving to watch both groups of students’ eyes open as they shared an experience with children their same age from so far away and from such different circumstances – thatched roof huts vs. concrete public high-rise housing.
As part of our time at the ranch, my friend Jennifer and I also decided to see if there was an interest in our adding some artistic touches to the facility and perhaps paint a few things on the blank walls. We were given the freedom to paint whatever we liked – so I took the little foyer and painted all the walls a bright blue and in the center with a simple border painted a verse of scripture in Spanish; I then also painted a large grid “Patchwork Painting” on a wall and engaged some of the ranch hands and farmers, cooks and staff to paint their image of “How I Know God Loves Me” into their own unique square space. Jennifer painted little realistic sketch like paintings of animals all over the place…birds on top of window sills, a cat near the floor behind a door, surprises all around. We finished the trip and left for home with great memories, and mission accomplished with the schools.
A NEW STORY BEGINS
In 2014, our family signed up for a mission trip through our church (North Point Ministries) and planned to join the team going to Haiti. However, a few weeks into the planning, we were asked if we would shift to the team going to Honduras as they needed another few families. We agreed. It was after a few weeks into this trip’s planning that we realized we would be going to the exact place I’d been years earlier – now called HOI, instead of Honduras Outreach, but it was the exact same organization (now expanded into other countries) and the name abbreviated. I met members of the exact same ministry team, we visited the exact same village and stayed at the same ranch facility! I could not believe that my husband and son were now returning with me to the very same place and experience some of the same things I did 20 years earlier!
The thread of the story of my heart being touched by God in an amazingly personal way starts here.
Before we left, we had two bits of unfortunate news: the first, that the cancer we thought was gone from Bob’s throat was actually back, this time in his lungs. When we would return to the US, he would have to have surgery and we’d start a new journey of treatments. The second, was that we would have 4 weeks in which to find a new home and move as the house we tried to buy went to another couple willing to pay a premium for serious construction issues we discovered during the inspection.
- Joe, and family
From left to right: Bob, Anne, and their son Joe
We arrived at HOI’s ranch in Honduras and I surveyed the facility with Bob and Joe. While there was much change and new additions for more space, there were still the very same rooms with our artworks — the scripture I’d painted on the wall, the large grid painting, the smaller animal illustrations were all in tact! Then, at the initial prayer meeting with the ranch staff in the simple courtyard, three men came up to me, took my hand and guided me to the room with the large painting. There they pointed to their artworks and helped me see, despite the language boundary, their own individual artworks – and then they pointed to me, through teary eyes and with smiling, weathered faces said they remembered – 20 years ago – painting with me! Bob and Joe were amazed and needless to say, I was overcome. God was here touching my heart for sure. But it gets even more obvious!
Each morning when at home I awaken early (4 am typically) for a conversation with God involving journaling and reading scripture, listening to Him prompt my heart and reading various other devotionals by Boyd Bailey, Ken Boa and Nancy DeMoss. Here on this trip, I’d planned to do the same and arranged for a borrowed key, that would allow me to sit in a rocker in the same room as the large artwork using my phone for a flashlight in the pre-‐‑dawn darkness. The first morning, as I wept to God about all we were now facing, I was directed to this Scripture “Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations; I will be exalted in the earth” Psalm 46:10. This calmed me, spoke truth I could not deny and helped me hugely.
The days passed and we were busy with trips to small villages, helping children to engage in artistic, fun experiences as our team worked with their teachers in the schools, and various construction projects — helping the townspeople build new additions to their homes, outdoor latrines and assist with other projects. We returned exhausted to the ranch but filled with the satisfaction of knowing we were helping to make a big difference. On one of these days, I walked through the hallway I’d painted and stood to notice the Scripture I’d painted in Spanish. For the first time this trip I noticed the verse was – yes – Psalm 46:10. I fell to my knees, cried openly and prayed such gratitude to God for talking to me so amazingly personally. Having me paint, by my own hand, 20 years ago in this far part of the world, the very Scripture He’d given to me a few days earlier to help me right now.
THE STORY BUILDS ON AND ON
So, we returned from the mission trip, found a temporary home in time, and began working through the challenges of Bob’s cancer. God continued as well to use this verse to speak to me at moments when I needed His encouragement most.
The first such experience was when I visited my friend Julie at her home in Serenbe. I had a reaction to her sincere question “How are you Anne?” that included tears – and of gratitude for our friendship, and in my moments of pouring out my heart I shared this story with her. She smiled and after we’d finished lunch, guided me to a path in the woods to walk down a path and sit on a bench and see what was on the ground in front of me. I did and saw “Be Still and Know”. Needless to say I was deeply moved by God’s hand once again – holding mine at a moment when I needed it most.
In late November, within a two day span I lost my job, learned that my step-brother committed murder and suicide, and that Bob would have to have brain surgery as the cancer had shown up there now too. Many friends rallied around me and one asked me to her home for prayer (as did others too!), but in this case Camilla also ended up hearing this story, smiled and took me into her daughter’s room where just a few months prior she had purchased a plaque — large and beautifully painted on wood that read “Be Still and Know that I am God”.
In January, I was enjoying time with my friend Katie in her home for a conversation and prayer as well. We spoke then of our kids and how we longed for the wisdom to help them help themselves best in this society of media heavy bombardments. We shared concerns and agreed to pray for each other. As I left, I spied a small plaque in her window to the left of the door in the foyer with the same Psalm 46:10 scripture verse. I caught my breath, told her I’d share this story this way, got in my car and cried out in gratitude that God there again, was so very close to me, showing up when I needed encouragement.
In February, I was asked to shift dates at Whitefield School’s Middle School Bible Study class “Stone Works” where I was to share a 10-minute message about “perseverance.” Tyrone Johnson, the teacher, was starting a lesson on the difference between survival and endurance. It was amazing how my thoughts “dove-tailed” into his message, clearly revealing the shift in schedule was God ordained. In fact, the connection we made was this: survival is tackling fearful situations alone; endurance is inviting God to stand with you as you tackle a fearful situation together. Coach Johnson blessed me with his thoughts and in closing said these words: “We need to be still and know that God is in control, and listen to what God says to us to help us endure life’s hardships and challenges”.
Finally, every morning I place on my bed a small pillow that my friend Terri gave to me over 8 years ago now that says “Be”. Amazing isn’t it?
So – I know God is for real, I know He holds me close and have proof in many other stories just like this one, of how He has woven threads through my life to demonstrate He’s been with me all along, and can show that to us if we are still.
I know He is God… and I share this remarkable story so that He is exalted.