Thursday, February 11, 2021

 

“You are that Man” – a Missions Story

By Dan Van Veen with Debbie Pratt

Daddy, Preparing for his sermon in Kumasi, Ghana

Preaching in the Same church he preached in 60 years ago

Praying over young men and staff of Bible School 

Daddy preaching in Kumasi, Ghana in  1960 

60 years ago, when daddy was 30 years old

With Missionary Dale Brown at the Accra Airport 1960

Daddy preaching in the revival in Kumasi, Ghana 1960

With the pastor of the church in Kumasi, Ghana 

For three years, H. H. Davis had detailed dreams — more like visions — of himself preaching inside of a church filled with people. But for an aspiring minister with a young family pastoring in Antlers, Oklahoma, it wasn’t a church he had any reason to dream about. All he knew was the church was in Ghana — a temple with distinct white pillars and decorations on the interior and the church was filled with Africans eager to hear the gospel.

“I would wake my wife up in the middle of the night, because I was preaching to the people,” Davis recalls with a laugh.

In his vision, a thin, sickly looking white man he didn’t recognize, greeted Davis upon his arrival. In one of his final visions, God informed Davis that the man needed him to come to Ghana in August — it was April. It was also 1960 and Davis had never traveled much and certainly had never flown . . ., but what was about to take place then and what transpired nearly 60 years later in 2020, is a story worth sharing.

“All of our lives, we have heard the stories of the miraculous journey my father took to Ghana, West Africa,” says Debbie (Davis) Pratt, who is an associate pastor with her husband, Gary, at Lawton (Oklahoma) First Assembly. “All through my mother and daddy’s ministry, they have had a love for the people of Africa. They have built 29 churches over the years in various parts of the continent of Africa.”

GHANA

Back in 1960, Davis did not have the money to go to Ghana, he also needed to get approval through the Assemblies of God, as well as a passport and the paperwork needed to enter the country. Yet as it was an undeniable call of God, the funds, the approval, the passport, and the paperwork (which he received just prior to boarding the plane to Ghana out of New York) were all provided. And as directed, he arrived in August.

Davis flew into Accra, the capital of Ghana and then on into Kumasi, which is roughly 250 miles north of the capital. His friend, missionary Dale Brown, met him at the airport in Kumasi. But this wasn’t the Dale Brown he remembered. Brown had contracted hepatitis in June and had lost 60 or 70 pounds and was very sick. That’s when Davis realized Brown was the man in his dreams/visions and why his arrival in August was so important.

Brown drove Davis to visit the church in Kumasi, what is now known as Lighthouse Assembly of God. Brown was to speak there that Sunday, but now was too ill to do so. Davis’ arrival was perfect timing. But when he entered the church for the first time, Davis fell to his knees and began to weep — the white pillars, the d├ęcor . . . exactly how the interior of the church had appeared in his visions!

It was only to be a single service, but as Davis spoke through an interpreter the first Sunday, the Holy Spirit showed up in a powerful way.

“The glory of God came down in such a way, that a revival broke out that lasted for two weeks,” Davis says. “I learned later 145 people were saved and 80 were filled with the Holy Spirit.”

Following the first night, three young men asked to speak to Davis. Their names were Yakow, Nacanchee, and Frimpong. They explained that for the last three years they had been praying for revival. They told Davis that each of them had a vision, telling them that when the time for revival comes, this is the man I will send.

“We did not know you until you walked up on the platform,” one of the young men said. “You are that man God showed us would come.”

MIRACLES ABOUND

When asked if miracles took place, Davis just laughs. There were so many miracles that they lost count of them all. The miracles, however, drew in people out of curiosity and quite likely to receive healing for themselves.

There were two healings that Davis vividly remembers. “One night, I see this man sprinting around the outside of the church, praising God — it was Dale Brown, God had healed him!” Davis says. “From that time on he never exhibited any signs of hepatitis — his health had been fully restored”

Another evening a man came and the pastor granted him the opportunity to share his healing testimony. The man explained to the crowd that the night before they were instructed to stretch out their arms if they desired healing. The problem was, the man was born without a fully functional arm — the flesh was there, but the bones were not.

“He said, ‘I stretched my good arm out and lifted my shoulder for the other arm to receive healing,’” Davis recalls the man saying, “‘and then my arm just began to fill out and became exactly like the other . . . and tonight I have brought 27 people from my neighborhood that know that was the way I was born and they know that I’m speaking the truth.’”

Following the revival, Davis stayed six more weeks in Ghana, preaching in villages in the evenings and helping the now healthy Brown work on his home during the day.

One day, the men traveled to Chereponi in northeast Ghana, near the border of Togo, to visit a tribal chief on the pretense of seeing the tribe’s altar, known as one of the largest in the region. The wise chief, however, asked why they had really come so far — opening the door. Through an interpreter, they shared about Nyame (God), His sacrifice, authority, and the plan of salvation with the chief — not knowing if any of it was making sense to him.

If the words weren’t making total sense in the chief’s head, the Spirit was certainly working on his heart, for as the men concluded, the chief got off his rock, placed his face in his hands, and said that he wanted to make peace with God – accepting Christ that day.

The men then learned that the chief’s youngest wife had been stricken with undulant fever.

“We went to pray for her, with the witch doctor and medicine man right behind us,” Davis says. “She was leaning up against a hut, under a shaded arbor they had built for her to protect her from the sun. When I touched her forehead, it was so hot, it was almost like fire.”

They anointed the woman with oil, prayed, and God answered — healing the woman in front of the witch doctor and medicine man.

“The two of them, their eyes just bugged out and they started talking real fast and jumping around, amazed!” Davis says.

The chief then shared a vision he had with Davis and Brown — that Davis would come back to Ghana, but it would be long after he (the chief) was dead.

Although many other works of the Spirit took place over the eight weeks, Davis ultimately had to return to the United States and his church in Antlers. Over the next 60 years of ministry, he maintained a heart of compassion for Africa, planting many churches in several African countries, but for some reason it never worked out for him to return to the land of his visions and God’s many miracles — Ghana.

. . . until his 90th birthday arrived in September 2019.

MINISTRY: FULL CIRCLE

On his 90th birthday, Davis’ three daughters and son surprised him — they were going to give him a trip back to Ghana and the three girls were coming along. The chief’s decades’ old prophetic words were about to be fulfilled!

“I remember saying to God, ‘I need to know that this trip is something that you want us to do, not just something we want to make happen — he is 90 years old, you know,’” Debbie says. “The words immediately came to my mind, ‘Go forth in Jesus’ name.’ So, that’s when we began to make plans to go to Ghana.”

Missionary Bill Moore was secured as their host, and Deatra, Fara, and Debbie worked feverishly to raise funds, get passports, get approvals — much like their father had done on his original trip to Ghana. “Rickey couldn’t go because his wife has been ill,” Debbie explains, “but he was with us in spirit.”

When they arrived in Accra in January, the Office of the Ghana General Superintendent sent an SUV to pick them up. As they began to enter the vehicle, the sisters noticed the driver was playing a song from the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir — their favorite music.

“It wasn’t until we began to exit the airport, that I realized what the song was — I began to weep,” Debbie says. “The song playing was, ‘Go Forth in Jesus’ Name!’ It was the very words God has given me months ago — God confirmed himself to our family that indeed this trip was ordained.”

“We went back to visit the people at the church in Kumasi — they went out of their way to make us welcome, giving us gifts and showering us with blessings,” H. H. Davis says, gratitude clearly evident in his voice. “There were even people there who still remembered the revival back in 1960, and others who remember how their parents talked about how God’s Spirit moved and so many were healed during that revival.”

Davis chuckles at one gentleman’s memory of a woman, possessed by demons, who leapt over the altar and jumped on Davis, wrapping her legs around his waist and pulling his hair while hissing like a snake in his face.

“We cast the demons out of her,” Davis says. “The gentleman told me that the woman joined the church choir the next week!”

At 90 years old, Davis completed a ministry circle long in coming, but with a full and grateful heart.

 

 GO FORTH IN JESUS' NAME

A Life Fulfilled.  A Full Circle Journey




I was five years old when Daddy returned home from his first missionary trip to Africa. It was 1960.  I remember him opening his big, brown, hard-sided Samsonite suitcase  and the fragrance that engulfed the room.  It was a fragrance that I would never forget, a memory embedded deep within my senses. 

All of our lives, we have heard the stories of the miraculous journey my father took to Ghana, West Africa.  All through my mother and daddy’s ministry, they have had a love for the people of Africa. They have built over 30 churches over the years in various parts of the continent of Africa.  They have travelled to many countries in Africa; however, Daddy had never had the opportunity to return to Ghana, the place where God began his journey of missionary evangelism. 

Fast forward to September 2019. My siblings and I hosted a celebration of our daddy’s 90th birthday.  At the celebration, I shared that Daddy had always wanted to return to Ghana, and that it was our desire to take him back. He was elated at the possibility of returning to Ghana.  Even at the celebration, people began to write checks for his trip.  Several days after the celebration I was praying, and I remember saying to God, “I need to know that this trip is something that you want us to do, not just something we want to make happen.”  The words immediately came to my mind, “Go forth in Jesus’ name”. So, we began to make plans to go to Ghana.  To take our daddy back to where his Missionary work began would be a “FULL CIRCLE JOURNEY”.   

There were so many miraculous events that took place during the planning of our trip.  There were obstacles to overcome, but not once did we doubt that we were to continue the FULL CIRCLE JOURNEY. 

Some of the obstacles had to do with getting all of our schedules worked out so that my older sister, Deatra, and my younger sister, Fara, would be able to go.  Deatra had never taken a mission’s trip before.  She had always stayed home and taken care of the home front for Mom and Dad.  Fara had gone to Kenya with Daddy in 2010.  My husband, Gary, and I have been on several mission’s trips and have been to Africa with Daddy, both to Kenya and Rwanda. Our brother, Rickey, was not able to make the trip with us; however, he was with us in spirit.

 Finally, we were able to secure our Missionary Sponsor, Bill Moore, and a date that would work for everyone.  We left on January 9, 2020.   From September, 2019, to December 2019, we had to raise all of our funds, get our shots, get our passports in order, and our Visas secured.  There were a lot of anxious moments, timelines that were concerning us, and details that had to be tweaked, but all along we held on to what God impressed on my heart… “Go Forth in Jesus’ name.”

When we arrived in Accra, Ghana, we were welcomed by the office of the General Superintendent of Ghana.   He had sent his driver Asante, to pick us up at the airport and take us to the Guest Housing of the General Council of the Assemblies of God of Ghana.  As we began to get into the SUV, my younger sister, Fara, exclaimed “Oh my goodness, Debbie!  It’s the BROOKLYN TABERNACLE CHOIR.”  Sure enough, the driver was playing the BROOKLYN TABERNACLE MUSIC!  Anyone that knows us, knows how their music has impacted our lives and how my sisters and I travelled to NEW YORK with the expressed purpose of hearing the BROOKLYN TABERNACLE CHOIR in person.    It wasn’t until we began to exit the airport, that I realized what the song was….I began to weep.  The song playing was “GO FORTH IN JESUS’ NAME”.   Only God could have confirmed Himself to our family, that indeed this trip was ordained for such a time as this.  We knew that God had brought our daddy to the FULL CIRCLE JOURNEY for purpose.  


 

CHERISHED FRIENDSHIPS…BEING GIRLFRIEND STRONG

When you don’t know what to say, when you don’t know what to do, the Ministry of Presence is the only thing your friend might need.  As I sat across the table from my girlfriend, I saw the pain she was feeling in every tear that dropped onto the table. She was in one of the darkest, most difficult seasons of her life. Her tears flowed freely. I didn’t have the answers. I didn’t know the answers to her questions of “Why?”, but I could be PRESENT.  I didn’t know what to say; I didn’t know what to do, but I did know that I loved her and cared about the pain she was feeling. 

As I reflect on friendships that I have been blessed with over the years, I am overcome with gratefulness. I realize that in the midst of difficult seasons of my life and their lives, we have drawn the needed strength from each other to press on and to press through. There have been times that I had to be comfortable with sitting in the agony of silent suffering.     Words are not always the comfort that someone needs.  Just your presence is enough to give them strength to face another day.  

The word I would like to use for such friendships in my life is cherished. Cherished means to protect and care for someone lovingly, to hold something dear, to keep a hope or ambition in one’s mind.  To cherish a friend is to have mutual love for one another and wish each other well.

To cherish a friend is to love her well, even when, and especially when, she is hurting. I truly believe that I would not have made it through some very dark times in my life if it had not been for cherished friendships and the support of my family. 

A cherished friendship makes choices to enter the pain of a friend for the entire journey, not just the season

A cherished friendship allows her own life and agendas to be altered as a result of a friend’s struggle. 

A cherished friendship does not become overly offended when you are not able to return a phone call, text, or email.  A cherished friend will be faithful without judging or needing anything in return. She realizes that the struggle you are going through can be life altering.  A cherished friend will realize that the same expectations for the friendship might need to change to include components of deep care and compassion.   

A cherished friendship listens and doesn’t try to “fix it”.  A cherished friend will still say for the hundredth time, “I’m here for you; I’m not going anywhere”.  

A cherished friendship doesn’t try to negate or equate her past pain with your present pain with statements like, “I know exactly how you feel because…”  Instead a cherished friend could say, “I remember feeling (angry, lost, or helpless) when I endured a crisis in my life. How is it for you?

A cherished friend cries with you and is strong for you. She will be your partner in pain, not always offering advice, but offering a tissue when you just need to do the “ugly cry”.

A cherished friend will defend you. She will share your struggle and not judge you.  A cherished friend will be honest with you. Having a cherished friend can help in the transformation of who you become through your struggle.

I am very GRATEFUL for the cherished friendships that God has given me in this journey of life.  

We are BETTER TOGETHER…GIRLFRIEND STRONG!

Living and Loving Life Grateful,

Debbie

 A LOVE STORY - We're Still Having Fun 



I remember so well celebrating our 25th Anniversary. It was truly a milestone in our marriage. Incredible…YES!  Fast forward a few years, and on July 31, 2018, we celebrated our daughter Cindy and her husband Jason’s 25th Anniversary. WOW!! How could that actually be happening? We just celebrated our 25th just a few years ago, but in reality it had been 17 years. 

Reflecting over our 42 years of marriage, we have seen God’s faithfulness. Gary has been privileged to officiate at all three of our children’s weddings, and God has allowed us to see the beauty of each one of their marriages bloom and blossom over the years.  

Our daughter Shanda and her husband Adolfo have been married 20 years. Our son Matthew and his wife Lisa have been married 12 years. The Pratt family has enjoyed 99 combined years of marriage that has produced our 3 adult children plus their spouses and our 6 GRANDS!   Have all our marriages been perfect?  FAR FROM IT.  We have all had our ups and downs, but we continue to exercise LOVE AND RESPECT for one another. 

Our story is not necessarily how I would encourage anyone to find their mate. In fact, I’ve always told our children, “THIS IS NOT HOW YOU GO ABOUT MEETING SOMEONE!”  With that being said, Gary and I met on an interstate highway because of CB radio.  I call it “old school internet.” For those of you too young to know what a CB radio is, I will explain.  The CB (Citizens Band) radio was very popular back in the mid to late 1970’s. The use of CB radios in 1970’s films such as Smokey and the Bandit (1977), Breaker, Breaker (1977), and Convoy (1978) established CB radio as a nationwide craze in the United States.  When the CB craze was at its peak, many people invented their own nicknames known as “handles”. Gary’s “handle” was “Thunderbird”, and mine wasthe Brown-Eyed Blonde.  The CB radio usage especially gained popularity with travelers.  With the U.S. government-imposed, nationwide 55 mph speed limit, and fuel shortages and rationing, the CB radio was used, especially by truckers to locate service stations with better supplies, to notify other drivers of speed traps, and to organize convoys.  Also, CB’s allowed people to get to know one another in a quasi-anonymous manner…similar to internet chat rooms.  So, here’s our story:

Gary was on his way home from spending the weekend with his mom and dad in Sallisaw, Oklahoma. He had taken his three year old daughter to live with his parents temporarily as he finished out his teaching contract in Texas. He had endured a divorce and found himself a single dad trying to navigate caring for his 3 year old daughter, teaching full time, and coaching after school.    He realized he would need help, so he took his daughter to live with his parents with the understanding that he would drive from Texas to Oklahoma every weekend. 

On this particular day in January, he had just left his parents’ home, heartbroken and in tears, trying to come to terms with returning home without his daughter. As he approached the interstate, he glanced over and saw a “long legged blonde” (those are his words, not MINE) get out of a 1974 Blue Maverick (hands down, the ugliest car I ever owned). His attention was “apparently” distracted for a moment. Several miles down the road, though he felt like his heart would break from the sorrow of leaving his daughter behind, he picked up his CB Radio when he heard a young man asking for directions to Dallas. Since he was headed that direction, he thought that it would break the silence and help keep him company on his way home. So, as he engaged in conversation with the young man on the CB, he found out that there was another car following the young man. The two of them decided they would stop at a TRUCK STOP in McAlister, Oklahoma, for gas. As they had hoped for, the car following the young man, stopped also. (That car was ME). I did not have a CB Radio; however, I had decided to travel behind this car that did have a CB radio! (I hope you are following me…it’s not as “sordid” as it seems…I was just simply trying to stay under the radar of the highway patrol, also.) At any rate, Gary realized I was that “long legged blonde” he had seen before. So, although I thought I was being totally inconspicuous, Gary approached my car. I rolled the window down just enough to hear him. He said, “The guy you are following and I noticed you have been following us for some time now, and we want to know if you would like to join us for a Dr. Pepper (yes he has ALWAYS liked Dr. Pepper) or coffee and pie”, and I said, “YES”… and that began our wonderful journey.  

Both Gary and I were NOT running away from God, but neither of us were running to Him either.  Gary had been devastated by a divorce and disappointed with a church that did not embrace him through his difficulty, and Debbie…well, I was just single and having fun. I had no intentions of getting serious with anyone, let alone getting involved with someone that had been married and had a child. However, from the day I rolled down my window to accept an invitation to have coffee and pie, I knew there was something different about GARY PRATT, and I wanted to get to know him. 

To say that our marriage has been perfect would be far from the truth. To say that our marriage has been EVENTFUL would be more accurate. You see, along the way, we have discovered so many things about life because we have experienced the raw, the good, the bad, the ugly, and have still found pure joy, fulfillment, and contentment when God is given the opportunity to take what the enemy meant for bad and let Him use it for His glory. That is truly our story in a nutshell. For everything we have been through, we have determined that God, in his love and mercy for us, would be glorified as we continue to live out this EVENTFUL life of love and marriage.

Recently, I had dinner with some girlfriends.  We played a game that involved answering some fun questions.  My question was:  Who makes you laugh the most and why?  My answer was immediately, GARY PRATT!    I think I can honestly say that he has made me laugh almost every day of our life together.  Even now, when I am struggling with my eye sight, not being able to drive because of a condition I have in my corneas, he finds a way to make me laugh.    I said, “Gary, I’m so sorry you have to drive me everywhere,” and he said, “Honey, don’t worry about it; I have job security. I’ll be your seeing eye husband!” 

I read recently in a devotion by Oswald Chambers the following:  “If I can stay calm, faithful, and unconfused while in the middle of the turmoil of life, the goal of the purpose of God is being accomplished in me.  God is not working toward a particular finish – His purpose is the process itself.” I think this applies to marriage as well.    Even in the middle of turmoil and crisis of life, if both partners will stay calm, faithful, and unconfused about their commitment to one another, God’s purpose will be accomplished. 

 Today, Gary and I don’t let a sunset pass us by. We take long road trips, and laugh at ourselves and with each other, spend time on the deck, take long walks together, and we never take the love we have fostered for the past 42 years for granted. 

We celebrate the marriages of our children and the blessings they have given us in our precious GRANDS.  We are trusting for many more EVENTFUL years and if you know Gary, you know that we are going to continue to have FUN!! 

TANGIBLE and SPIRITUAL MINISTRY to MILITARY FAMILIES

 





Tangible and Spiritual Ministry to Military Families

AUGUST 26, 2019

by

Darla Knoth, with Debbie Pratt

United States soldiers are defenders of our freedom. Along with their families, they are called upon to exercise strength and endurance both on the home front and on the battlefield. 

If your church is honored to be located near a military installation, you have an incredible privilege to come alongside, partner with, and be a blessing to military families—in not only a tangible and physical way, but most certainly a spiritual way. 

Each congregation should assess the needs within their own community and ask questions. Lawton First Assembly, Lawton, Oklahoma, had just assessed a need for financial training, and gone through the Freedom Initiative of Financial Peace University by Dave Ramsey. Gary and Debbie Pratt are associate pastors at the church, pastored by Don Barnes.

Debbie, who also serves as Women’s Ministries pastor, explains, “We knew we wanted to do something significant financially for our military families and looked for a project that was bigger than we were. We weren’t sure what that project would be.”

The Pratts met with Brenda Spencer Ragland, director of Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) at nearby Fort Sill Army post, and asked: “What is your greatest need right now for military families?”

Ragland hesitated for a moment, then said, “Our need right now is really big. Every year, I try to raise enough money to provide food vouchers for enlisted soldiers and their families for Thanksgiving and Christmas. They can use the food vouchers at the commissary and purchase their holiday meals.” 

The Pratts asked how much the vouchers were. When Ragland responded, the Pratts said, “Let us do that for Thanksgiving. We will provide 400 vouchers at $40 each.” Ragland was shocked.

When the Pratts took that goal to their congregation, they were overwhelmed by the response. The congregation grabbed onto the vision and responded, “We can do even more!”

In order to create a visual for the project’s progress, the church’s creative team came up with a map of the United States, divided into three different regions, then placed the maps in various areas of the atrium. For each $40 voucher purchase, individuals were given a United States flag to place on the map wherever they chose.

“It was so incredible to see how parents and grandparents were bringing their children to place a flag representing their donation to a military family for their holiday meal. We had a huge celebration Sunday where we presented a check to the MWR to cover not only Thanksgiving meals, but Christmas meals as well. Our congregation went exceedingly above what we ever thought they would do!,” Pratt observed.

Ragland sent this written response:

A primary goal [of MWR] . . . was to strengthen the mutually reinforcing bonds between the local community where our military families reside, the Army, and the family. The goal was never more strongly underscored than the partnership with Lawton First Assembly. You took on the goal of supporting the holiday food voucher program, so all military families had an adequate meal for Thanksgiving and Christmas. The church secured more than $40,000 in total donations for this remarkable, prayerful blessing. We were able to provide coupons and support to more than 800 families—the largest in Army history for a food voucher program at an Army installation. The impact on lives is simply boundless, as those that witnessed this incredible generosity were as blessed and moved as those who received the vouchers.”

Pratt said, “By asking questions and involving the MWR, we were able to be a part of something far bigger than we were alone. Truly, we are better together.”

Additionally, a church body needs to be aware of and recognize the stress of adverse conditions in a family when a soldier is deployed. The needs of that family on the home front changes. Just being sensitive and checking in on them from time to time makes a huge difference, Pratt observes.  “Several years ago, we realized the need within our church and community to provide for marriage counseling. In our city, the divorce rate was one of the highest in the nation.”

After investigating many options, the Pratts found a marriage coaching system to offer to the families. “As we coach them with some life skills that will enhance their marriage, they will be better equipped to navigate the struggle and realize how much better they can be with the help of our Lord Jesus at the center of their marriage.” 

With the realization that many military marriages have extreme stress through deployment, as well as the reintegration of the family when they return, the Pratts sought out couples in the congregation that had weathered that adversity, understood the military family life and could relate to the military family’s specific needs. Pratt says, “We now have several couples that are certified marriage specialists who also have a military background. This has been a tremendous blessing to our congregation as well as to our community.”

All of the services, from pre-marital counseling through marriage and family coaching, are offered free of charge through the generous and faithful stewardship of the Lawton First Assembly congregation.

Pratt continues, “Our compassion ministry at LFA provides a food pantry and a clothing closet for needs that arise. Our pantry affords families the opportunity to choose the groceries that would best suit their family needs. In other words, they are able to shop for what they need.”

The clothing closet is comprised of brand-new clothing donated by the congregation of LFA. Pratt explains, “We believe that the people we assist deserve new clothing.” The church also provides a car care annually for single moms, widows, and wives whose spouses are deployed. Additionally, if they have emergency needs with their cars, mechanics offer their assistance.

Lawton First Assembly realizes that sometimes the military family just simply needs a “hand up”—not a “hand out.” Many are separated not only from their soldier, but from their biological families. “They need encouragement from their faith family,” Pratt concludes.

The Pratts’ son Major Matthew Pratt is deployed. Debbie Pratt shares, “He has a precious wife, Lisa, and two beautiful daughters, Leighton, 6 years, and Anistyn, 3 years. One of the things they have discussed over their years of military service is the desire to be included and received into a church family quickly.”

Many times, Matthew and Lisa move to a new location for only a brief period of time. They want to be involved in a church body as long as they are there, even though it may be not be long. Inclusion is huge for a military family. 

“At Lawton First Assembly, we try to recognize the powerful and diverse gifts that our soldiers and their families bring to our church and get them involved in the church family as quickly as possible,” Pratt adds. “Many are here without any families nearby, so we embrace them.”  

The Pratts encourage any church looking to walk alongside military families to simply ask questions of those families:

  • What is your greatest need?
  • What are your struggles right now?
  • How can we minister to you?

 

Hebrews 12:1, NLT, says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.”

Pratt says, “This Scripture has always been meaningful to us personally. The chapter just prior, Chapter 11, recounts those who had gone before them, those who had run their race and had kept the faith. One definition for endurance is: the power to withstand great pain or hardship. The ability or strength to continue despite fatigue, stress, adversity or adverse conditions.”

Each family, each circumstance is unique. Pratt notes, however, the one thing each military family needs is that cloud of witnesses that will surround them with encouragement despite their fatigue, stress, or adverse conditions. 

 


The Pratts’ son, Major Matthew Pratt, is currently deployed in Asia. Debbie Pratt shares, “He has a precious wife, Lisa, and two beautiful daughters, Leighton, 6 years, and Anistyn, 3 years.” Matt is a 2006 graduate of West Point Military Academy, West Point, NY. The family is stationed at Fort Hood, Texas.

What do you see as the biggest need when ministering to military families?

Maj. Pratt: The assumption that they have it all together and that they will ask for whatever need they may have.  

Sometimes doing without asking shows a lot, and sometimes just asking on a personal level what their needs are is helpful.

What are some of the struggles of military families? 

Maj. Pratt: Instability is probably the largest struggle. Military families move every two to three years. Some move once a year for multiple years in a row. That much change makes it incredibly challenging on a number of fronts. Spouses have to quit jobs and find new ones or leave existing support networks and build new ones at the new duty location. Children have to say goodbye to friends and start school in a whole new environment with unfamiliar faces and places. Furthermore, the service member has to in-process, learn a new unit, learn a new job within that unit, and ensure they are connected to a whole new network of things at the new post. It is a challenging thing to process so much change so frequently. 

What helps the most when ministering to military families? 

Maj. Pratt: The speed with which a church connects to military families is of utmost importance. Because of the above challenges, a church can be sure it doesn’t have that family for very long. When ministering to a military family, be sure to connect quickly and get them plugged in to the church body. Be empathetic towards their situation but be cautious not to come off as “knowing exactly how they feel.” Leverage the power of the family (if they have family). Despite so much change in the military, the only thing that remains constant is the family with which they move. Leverage that and minister to the family.

Is there anything else you observe about ministering to military families?

Maj. Pratt: Don’t talk to military families using military language. They hear enough of that day to day.

And finally, I also think there is a false assumption that the family is plugged in and taken care of by the unit they’re a part of. That isn’t always the case. Not every unit (and not every leader) is created equally. There are wide variances in the level of effort units put forth to connect meaningfully to their service members and their families. The church can help tremendously to fill in those gaps.


Monday, June 4, 2018

EVEN IF....


It was a Monday afternoon, and I had my car radio blaring, as I often do, especially when a song I like is playing. Just as I arrived at my doctor’s appointment the song, EVEN IF, by Mercy Me was playing. I sat in the parking lot for just a moment and finished listening to it before going in to my appointment.

I was called back for my appointment and began the normal imaging process. The young woman and I engaged in conversation, and when she finished, she told me I could have a seat in a room across the hall. Shortly she came back in and said, “Mrs. Pratt, do you have time to wait for a little while? We may need additional imaging.” In that instant…fear gripped me. My mind began to race, and then I remembered what was playing on my radio just before I walked through the doors. So I googled the lyrics and began to read them.



They say sometimes you win some
Sometimes you lose some
And right now, right now I'm losing bad
I've stood on this stage night after night
Reminding the broken it'll be alright
But right now, oh right now I just can't
It's easy to sing
When there's nothing to bring me down
But what will I say
When I'm held to the flame
Like I am right now
I know you're able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don't
My hope is You alone
They say it only takes a little faith
To move a mountain
Well good thing
A little faith is all I have, right now
But God, when You choose
To leave mountains unmovable
Oh give me the strength to be able to sing
It is well with my soul
I know You're able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don't
My hope is You alone
I know the sorrow, and I know the hurt
Would all go away if You'd just say the word
But even if You don't
My hope is You alone
You've been faithful, You've been good
All of my days
Jesus, I will cling to You
Come what may
‘Cause I know You're able
I know You can
I know You're able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don't
My hope is You alone
I know the sorrow, I know the hurt
Would all go away if You'd just say the word
But even if You don't
My hope is You alone
It is well with my soul
It is well, it is well with my soul

Songwriters: Bart Marshall Millard / Benjamin Glover / Crystal Lewis / David Arthur Garcia / Tim Timmons

and then I wrote this email to my husband, Gary.

“Gary, I had to share ALL of the words of this song with you...because as I sit here in this waiting room anticipating test results that are suspicious...all kinds of thoughts and concerns are flooding my mind and my emotions!   Waiting is always the most difficult.    They have ordered further tests and want me to wait to consult with the radiologist....I’m concerned…I’m nervous.  This song is the last thing I heard before coming into this appointment.   So, as I sit here waiting, I’m TRUSTING...BELIEVING...Even If!   It Is Well With My Soul!”  

After further tests and consultations, I walked away from the appointment with relief that everything was going to be okay.

I share this with you because along this journey of life, there are moments when our peace is challenged.  I encourage you to TRUST in the One that is able and the One that can…Jesus.    When you do, you will find it will be well with your soul.

If this is the first time to read my blog, you may not know that I am a seven year cancer survivor, and I am GRATEFUL for every day.    I actually began blogging, because I lost my ability to communicate verbally,  while on the cancer journey.   Writing became my means of sharing the TRUSTING Journey.   

It has been a while since I posted to my blog, but I have continued to write and share through our magazine, GLIFE.     This was an article I shared in the Spring Edition of 2017.   I LOVE producing the magazine.  Every article shares FAITH, HOPE, AND TRUST. 

 If you would like to read GLIFE, go to our church website at,


Living and Loving Life!   GRATEFUL
Debbie 

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

LEGACY



As we move along our daily paths of life, it is easy to get so caught up in the daily grind that we lose sight of Life’s Bigger Picture.  With the distractions, struggles, and just everyday living, we can easily lose focus of what our life is really all about.   

In my profession I attend a lot of funerals.    So often at these services, we hear neighbors, friends, and relatives stand and give a eulogy to their loved ones.  They share about how the individual impacted their lives.  Often they share about how loving, patient, kind, and maybe what a great cook they were, or how the doors of their home and their hearts were always open.  When these attributes are shared, they are sharing this individual’s legacy – how this individual impacted and touched their lives. 

I have given much thought about the life of my precious mom who went to her heavenly home on June 27, 2012. After much pondering and reflecting, I have come to realize that my mom’s legacy isn’t in what she left behind, but WHO she left behind.  I see my mom’s legacy lived out every time I am with my siblings, or every time I am among people who knew and loved her.
She lived her legacy.   

I have jotted down a few things that I believe will help us keep our focus and give more meaning to our lives as we live out our legacy and have a happier and more fulfilled life.

1)       Having money is nice, but it’s not EVERYTHING!    I like nice things as much as the next person, but very clearly, we cannot take our money or our “things” with us.  My mom and dad lived very modestly.  Growing up, we did not go without anything we needed, but they were very careful with how they spent money.  They were very careful stewards of the resources they were given.   Mother never had expensive jewelry or expensive clothing, but what she did have, tucked away in her personal items were love notes that our precious daddy had given her over the years. Her treasures weren’t in things money could buy…her treasures were in the meaningful relationships she made over the years with her family and friends

Recently my daddy wrote another poem to my mom and with his permission, I am sharing it with you. 
I LOVED
Kip, you never lost the girl inside, for this I will always take pride.

Your eyes and smile will always be the treasurers of you that meant so much to me.

I miss you in my life and will love you always as my wife.

We had so much love, happiness and joy with our three girls and one boy.
You gave me these four children in love.
I could only give to you that from above, my loyalty to our vows and true love.

I loved you then and I love you still.
I loved the girl inside and I always will.

H. H. Davis
March 3, 2016

It is within our power for each one of us to give of our time and resources to do something for others that will make a difference in their lives.  It isn’t ALL about us…in the end, did we make a difference in someone’s life?

2) Follow your passion.    Over the years I have met people who are stuck in doing things that they have no passion for…things that they really have no interest in.   As a child, I had the privilege of having a front row seat in watching my mom and dad follow their passion and it led them all over the world as they shared the gospel and the passion they had for lost souls.  Is it any wonder that in June of 2014, my dad and I with a team from Lawton First Assembly went to Kenya, Africa, to build a church in honor and in memory of Reba Inez Davis?    My mom didn’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out the call that God had placed on her life.  She had the courage to follow her heart, and as a result, she was instrumental in leading her mother, daddy, her siblings, and countless others to Jesus as her legacy lives on. 

3) Learn to appreciate QUIET. I can’t count the number of times that I would call Mom and say, “Hi, Mom, what are you doing?” and her reply would be, “I’m just sitting here being quiet today.”  I knew exactly what that meant, and I could see her with my mind’s eye, sitting in her chair with her Bible open and a hanky in her hand.  As I have reflected on this, I realize that many times I have lost the ability to be quiet.  It is the daily clamor, I believe, that drowns out so much of our own inner voice that is crying out for some QUIET!  By just taking time to be silent each day, by taking time in the morning for a daily devotion and time in the word of God, by taking an after-dinner walk, or just having some much needed porch time, which is my favorite, we will discover what’s important in our lives.    By quieting our hearts and settling our spirits, we can start to make a difference in our lives and in the lives of others also. 

4) Be KIND. This sounds so simplistic, but do we practice it? Treating people with the respect that each person is due is part of what you will leave behind. You can be strict, you can be firm, you can be a visionary, but never ever treat others with disrespect because at the end of the day, when you’re gone—that’s what people will remember.  I have to say, I do remember this about my mother.  She was strict, and she was firm…but she was VERY REAL!  She did not treat people with disrespect and would go out of her way to help anyone.

5) Believe in something greater than yourself.   It is very important to realize that we are part of a greater purpose.  My mom demonstrated that in so many ways through her years as a pastor’s wife.  We are all linked together in this web of life. By realizing that, we can reach beyond ourselves and offer a “hand up” to those we come in contact with.   At the end of the day that is our legacy.