Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Caregiver Chronicles: The Four-Week Anniversary


Sam Wiley one Christmas morning a few years ago. 

Yesterday was the four-week anniversary of Sam moving to my house. As you may know, if you've been reading this blog for a while, Sam is my 87-year-old neighbor who's health is failing. He's on hospice now and isn't able to live alone anymore. 

You can read about his move here: When the Time to Move Finally Comes

I love that picture of Sam (above). He was still strong and active and enjoying life. His wife was still living, and he still laughed a lot. He still took his wife out to eat almost every week. He still joked with his coffee-drinking-buddies at the local store almost every day.

Life has changed, and he's not sure it's for the better. His parents, siblings, wife and most of his friends have left this earth for eternity. 

He misses the days of breaking horses, riding the tractor, fishing in the lake, and catching two fish with one cast. When he tells those stories, the things he loved come back to life again.

We're not just reviewing the past, however. We're looking toward the future. Earlier this week, Sam said something that took me by surprise. "I guess you know I'll be better off dead." For a moment, I thought he was depressed, but he wasn't. He was looking toward heaven. 

We paused for a few minutes and pondered all that's to come. Sam loves gospel music and, in heaven, there'll be the best music possible. Sam loves gardening, growing vegetables, and growing azaleas. In heaven, there'll be trees along the river of life with a different fruit every month. He misses his family and friends. In heaven, he'll have a happy reunion with the people he loves the most.

The funny and poignant stories I've written make it may sound like it's been a lovely four weeks. It has been a wonderful time, but it hasn't been easy. Someone asked me yesterday, "How do you do this?" 

My answer, "God called me to it. I'm just doing unto as I want to be done unto."

Sam's had sleepless nights after napping through the day, grief as his body continues to weaken, fear when he's confused, loneliness when he has fewer visitors than he hoped. 

I've had all those emotions along with him, plus a sense of isolation when I can't leave him alone and there's no one to sit with him a few hours, sore muscles from lifting a man a foot taller than I, uncertainty when hard decisions must be made and Sam can't help make them, grief that my way of life since 1989 has changed forever. 

There will never be another Sam. He always told me there would be, and I believed him because I wanted him to be right. I know now that Sam was wrong. 

Sam has the heart of a gentleman and the humility of a servant. He took delight in teaching me new skills. I learned to set a trotline, shoot a gun, and plant a garden from Sam. He took just as much delight in doing the dirty jobs he considered beneath a lady. He protected me, sometimes more than I wanted.

Until he had a subdural hematoma in 2004, I had never taken out my own garbage. I'd never mowed my own grass. Never driven the tractor. Never built a barbed wire fence. I'd rarely been to the feed store for myself and never unloaded hundreds of pounds of feed at a time.

After he had surgery, I had a crash-course in Sam-work. I'm a better woman for it, but I still miss the days when Sam served with such quiet joy.

It would be easy to miss the blessings of the past few weeks in the midst of everything that's been going on, but we're savoring those, too.

The body of Christ has surrounded us with care and assistance and the kind of food Sam loves. Our new hospice provider's staff has loved us, been patient with us, and made us feel both safe and optimistic. We have all the equipment we need, from bedside table to comfy recliner to electric hospital bed, and a good bit more. 


We have peace, hope, love. 

Not all our tears have been sad tears. We've had some happy tears, too. We rejoice when he can stand alone, change his clothes without assistance, eat a full meal. We're excited when he knows where he is and why. 

We still celebrate our victories.

You've journeyed with us, and we're grateful. You've encouraged us, given us hands-on assistance, and prayed us through. We couldn't have made it this far without you, and we're both eternally grateful. 

We have a ways to go, so I'm hoping you'll be patient as I write (far too often) about our trials and victories. I hope you'll read alternate topics when this part of my journey is too painful to write about. I hoping you'll celebrate with us and, when times are hard, I hope you'll weep with us.

Most of all, I'm hoping you'll keep us in your prayers. 

"Bear one another's burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ." Galatians 6:2 ESV
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Please like and share to extend our digital reach. 

In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: When Andy the Pig Smelled Like a Pig

If you feel led to partner with this ministry (US, Middle East, the digital world), here's the link to give your tax-deductible donations: Global Outreach Acct 4841 

Or you can mail your check or money order to: Global Outreach/ PO Box 1, Tupelo MS 38802. Be sure to put Account 4841 in the "for" line.
#Sam 

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

When Andy The Pig Smelled Like a Pig




"That pig's gonna stink," people told me before Andy arrived.

"Yeah, but I'll only have him four to six weeks while he grows." How bad can it be? I thought. 

I was a little over half-way to the barn when an unpleasant odor wafted my way. It grew stronger with every step. By the time I reached the back stall on the left, the stench was nearly overpowering.

Andy smelled like a pig. Literally.

That's because Andy was a pig. 

As long as I cleaned Andy's stall every day and distributed the waste outside the barn, I kept the odor down. This particular day, however, I'd skipped the scooping for a few days.

Hiding the evidence of Andy's pigness didn't change the facts. Andy was a pig. He smelled like what he was. The longer he was in the barn, the more my barn smelled like Andy, too.

The Apostle Paul said that, like Andy, Christians have an aroma, too, and it's not always pleasant. 

"For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death; to the other from life to life..." 2 Corinthians 2:15,16 nasb

To people who don't know Christ, we Christians emit an "aroma" like rotting corpses. 

Ponder that for a moment.

Of course, we don't literally smell like a corpse, but to many people, Christians aren't as attractive as we might hope. 

There's one person who stands out in my mind in my pre-Jesus days. He was ardently evangelical with his stack of Four Spiritual Law booklets, determined to get me to "pray the prayer." 

I wouldn't.

I'd been raised in church. I knew a written prayer wouldn't save you. I knew there should be something more than a bunch of words in a booklet, but because the words were all he presented to me, I thought it was all he had. The only fragrance I could detect in his life was the aroma from death to death.

I know better now. I wish that guy with the booklet had told me about a relationship with Jesus. I've often wondered why he didn't. Maybe he didn't know, either. Over the years, I've prayed Booklet Man would find out about Jesus, too.  

Yes. There's a place for tracts, booklets, and evangelical tools, but the first century church didn't spread around the world because of words on scrolls and parchments. The church spread because one person told another person how Jesus had changed his life, and he/she backed it up by the love they demonstrated.

An aroma of death isn't pleasant. I believe we dissipate it, in a powerful way, by the love we share. Remember the woman with the alabaster vial? Her gift of extravagant love still emits an aroma of life, more than two thousands years later. 

That's the kind of aroma I want to leave behind, too - the lovely fragrance of extravagant love. 

Do those outside the church see us love each other, and them, in remarkable ways? Is love the fruit of the spirit we most exhibit?  

Is there enough of an aroma of Christ in my life for others to detect? Is love an easily recognizable fruit of the Spirit in me?

If not, we have some work to do, and it begins with an ever-deepening relationship with Jesus.

Today, let's celebrate our Savior and invite others to know Him, too.

"By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." John 13:35
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Please like and share to extend our digital reach. 

In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: Thoughts on the Sun, the Moon, and Totality

If you feel led to partner with this ministry (US, Middle East, the digital world), here's the link to give your tax-deductible donations: Global Outreach Acct 4841 

Or you can mail your check or money order to: Global Outreach/ PO Box 1, Tupelo MS 38802. Be sure to put Account 4841 in the "for" line
#Jesus



Monday, August 21, 2017

Thoughts on The Sun, The Moon, and Totality


The fascination with the solar eclipse has surprised me. I'm especially surprised by the stampede to get eclipse glasses, but I have to admit that I did include a pair on my grocery order last week. The box store was already out. 

After I saw a pair of what is passing for "protective eyewear," I thought it was just as well. I love seeing, and can't imagine trusting my eyes to cardboard and plastic. I'm not "watching" today's celestial event.

Please bear the preciousness of vision in mind when you go outside to watch the eclipse. 

I know the eclipse is big news, but I've had my hands full with Sam lately. I haven't spent much time with news outlets. This weekend, I saw an advertisement about "America's Eclipse," and laughed. Really, we don't "own" the eclipse and we can do nothing to control it or direct it. It may pass across our nation, but it's God's sun and God's moon, and it's His eclipse. He's is charge of directing it.

We'd do well to get our possessive pronouns correct. Just saying.

I have to confess I'm a little nervous about the eclipse. I've seen an eclipse before, but the eclipse that keeps coming to mind is the one that happened when Jesus was on the cross. 

One of the criminals mocked Jesus, ""Aren't you the Christ? Save yourself and us." The other one said, "Aren't you afraid of God? This man is innocent. Remember me, Jesus, when you come into your kingdom." And Jesus said, "Today, you'll be with me in Paradise."

Their conversation took place around noon that dreadful Friday, and "darkness fell across the whole land." It stayed dark for three hours, "the sun being obscured." Those words describe a total eclipse of the sun, just like what we're expecting today. (Luke 39-45)

It was an entirely new kind of totality. 

Sin was paid for in totality. 

Redemption was purchased in totality.

Death was conquered in totality.

God's love was demonstrated in totality.

When we focus on totality, we'd do well to let the sign of the sun and the moon point us to the totality of our Lord Jesus Christ. His love. His power. His mercy. His grace.

Today, God will direct another total eclipse of the sun. His powerful act will be visible across our nation. Whether you watch it or not, remember this: The total eclipse is, like all of nature, a sign that points straight to God. 

We'd do well to fall on our knees before Him in honor and worship of the one who holds the sun, moon, and stars in His loving hands. 

The sun and the moon will demonstrate the totality of God for all to see today. When we look up, let's focus our eyes on Him.

"The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands." Psalm 19:1
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Please like and share to extend our digital reach. 

In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: Guest Blogger Greg Pharr: When the Answer to Your Prayer is Waiting by the Side of the Road 

If you feel led to partner with this ministry (US, Middle East, the digital world), here's the link to give your tax-deductible donations: Global Outreach Acct 4841 

Or you can mail your check or money order to: Global Outreach/ PO Box 1, Tupelo MS 38802. Be sure to put Account 4841 in the "for" line


Sunday, August 20, 2017

Guest Blogger Greg Pharr: When the Answer to Your Prayer is Waiting By the Side of the Road


Jeremiah 33:3 – “Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.

We had gone to Haleyville, Al. late one afternoon to look at a car that was for sale. It was dark as we headed back to Belmont on a rural country road.   As I dimmed the headlights, they went completely dark.  

My uncle Gene and our friend Willie and I pulled off the side of the road and soon discovered the problem. The dimmer switch had gone bad.  

No headlights!   

I made a statement that, if we just had a short piece of wire, I could bypass the dimmer switch and get home.  Uncle Gene prayed and asked God to provide us with what we needed to fix the headlight.  

As he shined our small flashlight on the ground in front of him, there was the exact size wire we needed.   The ends were already peeled off and didn’t need to be cut, making our repair job quicker. Soon, we were on our way home.

The Lord delights in answering our prayers.  Franklin Graham said “Prayer is the most powerful resource we have in this life….it unleashes the spiritual dynamite that obliterates darkness and despair.”  

God cares about a wire to fix a headlight, He cares about our smallest and greatest needs, and He cares about the needs of the pilgrims.  With God all things are possible.   

Prayer ---Lord, help us pray with power.   Help us desire that sweet intimacy with You.   Help us crawl up in Your lap, put our ear to Your chest so we can hear what is on Your heart for us to pray about today.  Lord, we thank You that with you all things are possible.
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Guest Blogger Greg Pharr and his wife live in Belmont MS.
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Please like and share to extend our digital reach. 

In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: Caregiver Chronicles: Choosing Familiar and Rejecting Change

If you feel led to partner with this ministry (US, Middle East, the digital world), here's the link to give your tax-deductible donations: Global Outreach Acct 4841 

Or you can mail your check or money order to: Global Outreach/ PO Box 1, Tupelo MS 38802. Be sure to put Account 4841 in the "for" line

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Caregiver Chronicles: Choosing Familiar and Rejecting Change



Sam and I had a big day yesterday. Helen Singh, one of our missionaries in India, is here for a few weeks. She'd offered to cook a traditional Indian curry for our Home Office staff. She's an impressive woman and I wanted a chance to spend a little time with her, so I planned to go.

The only problem was no sitter for Sam. Since God hadn't sent someone to help, I decided to take Sam with me. He loves going and he loves being around people, so I thought it would be the perfect outing. 

It was. Sorta.

Helen warned us the curry was spicy, so Sam said, "Don't you put much on my plate. I'm not eating spicy food." Helen was right. (It was spicy but delicious.) Sam was right, too. He ate one bite.

"How about some chocolate cake, Sam?" He loves chocolate cake, so I felt sure he'd eat it. I gave him a big piece. It turns out he loves Jamie's chocolate cake. Not all chocolate cake. (Jamie is Sam's now-deceased wife.) 

I was truly surprised when he said, "I'll just eat when we get back home." What he really wanted was pureed roast, mashed potatoes, peas, and Ensure. 

Sam said he wanted to try something new but, when confronted with new, what he actually wanted was something familiar.

If we're honest, most of us, when encountering something new that's not entirely comfortable, will want to rush back to the familiar. All too often, that's exactly what we do.

The problem with chasing the familiar instead of embracing the adventure comes when the adventure is God-sent. 

Whether it's a new job, a new home, a new routine, or a new baby in the family, change is unsettling. Sometimes, it's downright hard. If we equate familiar with easy, it's no wonder we want to reject hard to get the easy again.

When Jesus called us to follow Him, He didn't say one word about easy. Or about familiar. What He said was, in this world we'll have trouble, but He's already overcome all the trouble we'll ever have, so hang on, take heart, and keep going. (That's the Leanna paraphrase)

Someone asked me my requirements as a speaker recently and I gave him this answer. "My only requirement is certainty that God's called me to it." If we know the "new" we've encountered is God's will, we can be sure He'll go with us through it and bring us out on the other side. Even if that "new" is hard, we can also be sure it'll be worth it in the end.

We have the opportunity to do the same old things in the same old way and get the same old results. We can stay stuck in the familiar or invite God to give us a new adventure of faith. Which will we choose? Same old same old or something new?

I choose the adventure of God and love this ever-changing life He's given me.

Sam and I learned a month ago that life can change in an instant. One minute he was in his home of 60 years and the next he was living with me in the "big house." One minute I lived alone and the next I was caring for an elderly hospice patient in my home. 

The change was new and different and hard. It was also God-ordained and He's right in the middle of it with us. He's carrying us through and we both agree on one thing. It's worth it.

What God-adventure has He placed in your path? Why not embrace it and allow God to do something new in you and through you. It might not be comfortable, but it'll be worth it.

"These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world." John 16:33 nasb
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#discipleslife
Please like and share to extend our digital reach. 

In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: The Sale Tops and the Power of Leftover Grain

If you feel led to partner with this ministry (US, Middle East, the digital world), here's the link to give your tax-deductible donations: Global Outreach Acct 4841 

Or you can mail your check or money order to: Global Outreach/ PO Box 1, Tupelo MS 38802. Be sure to put Account 4841 in the "for" line
#disciplelife 




Friday, August 18, 2017

The Sale Tops and the Power of Leftover Grain


The picture (above) might not be the actual field in which Ruth gathered the leftover wheat, but I think it is. It looked different thousands of years ago, of course, but it was just a plain field in which cut wheat lay on the ground. 

If we'd been there, we wouldn't have realized it was a miracle-birthing-ground, but it was. 

I'm still studying Ruth, and the image of that field is strong in my mind. When Ruth left their little home one morning, Naomi was an angry, bitter woman. That would not have inspired me to pick up a lot of barley nor to save my lunch for Mrs. Grumpy, but Ruth was a better woman than I.

She went into the field and asked for the privilege of poverty to gather the leftover grain. Ruth spent the day gathering barley. She was dressed in typical Middle Eastern attire, which covers pretty much everything, no matter what your religion. Talk about hot! When lunch came, even though she was surely tired and hungry, she ate part of her meal and saved the rest for Mrs. Grumpy. 

At the end of the day, she returned to their home. I'd have dreaded the trip every step of the way, but Ruth was cheerful when she arrived back to Naomi. "Look at what I gleaned today!" She was full of joy and praise. 

Naomi looked at the leftover lunch and the leftover barley (because it was the grain the hired gleaners had left behind) and something changed in her. She took heart again and began speaking blessings on Boaz instead of cursing God. 

The remarkable change in Naomi's attitude, born of leftover barley, surprised me so, when I read Ruth not long ago, I whispered a little prayer. "Lord, help me understand the power of leftover grain."

I quickly forgot my prayer, but God did not.

A few weeks later a friend of mine was selling some clothes on social media for $5 apiece. I needed a few tops with sleeves below the elbow and high necklines to wear on my upcoming trip to the Middle East. I'd discussed the matter with the Lord and stressed that I couldn't afford the price of new clothes. These were the exact style I needed and the perfect price, so I mailed my check and made my order.

When I pulled the tops out of the mailer, I was shocked. They were just like new. I'd ordered them because of the sleeves and the neckline, but I didn't consider the fabric. Soft. Stretchy.

Those "leftover" tops were as comfortable as anything in my closet, so I decided not to wait until my trip to wear them. I slipped on my new top and marveled at how comfy it was. 

"Leftover grain," the Still Small Voice whispered. I couldn't help but laugh. 

It wasn't the price, the neckline, nor the comfort that encouraged me. It was the clear answer to my prayer that exceeded what I'd asked. Those three tops have quickly become my favorite because they're my "gleaned barley," sent straight from God.

Naomi was filled with hope when she saw the grain in Ruth's bundle because it was an unmistakable answer to her prayers for provision and a reminder that she was not forgotten. She was not alone. Her God knew and cared. 

That's what those $5 tops said to me. My God can, and will, provide. He knows my need, and He cares.

I was filled with joy over God's provision, but I could have easily missed that joy if I'd demanded a different kind of provision. What if I'd demanded new clothes or name-brand clothes? What if I'd accepted only a certain color? 

An unwillingness to accept anything other than one specific type of blessing (or price) can rob us of the joy in God's gifts, and that's a terrible shame.

Today, let's ask our Lord to teach us the power of leftover grain. Ask Him to give us a willingness to accept whatever He sends our way and the joyfulness of heart to rejoice with His provision. 

"God can do anything, you know - far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us. Glory to God in the church! Glory to God in the Messiah, in Jesus! Glory down all the generations! Glory through all millennia! Oh, yes!" Ephesians 3:20 The Message
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#discipleslife
Please like and share to extend our digital reach. 

In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: When Pondering Leads to Challenging the Body of Christ 

If you feel led to partner with this ministry (US, Middle East, the digital world), here's the link to give your tax-deductible donations: Global Outreach Acct 4841 

Or you can mail your check or money order to: Global Outreach/ PO Box 1, Tupelo MS 38802. Be sure to put Account 4841 in the "for" line
#bodyofChrist


Thursday, August 17, 2017

Caregiver Chronicles: When Pondering Leads to Challenging the Body of Christ


I haven't always understood the body of Christ. My understanding has been a slow dawning of enlightenment that started some years ago. As people have ministered to me since I've been taking care of Sam, I've seen in action what was once just a concept. It's literally incredible.

If we're a disciple of Jesus, a "little Christ" kind of believer, we're a part of the "body of Christ." 

You and me. Together.

One of the things for which Jesus prayed in the Garden before His crucifixion was for unity. Oneness. He was praying for the body of Christ to actually function as He intended.

When we become a disciple, we become a part of the body of Christ. I'm not taking about the First Corner Church of Tupelo or the Holy Church of Texas. We're part of the bride of Christ, the worldwide church, regardless of denomination. 

We're related as brothers and sisters in Christ, but we're also one giant body that's supposed to function together. 

It's a mind-blowing concept: all believers, all around the world, working together as one. United in purpose. No division. Everyone having the same care for everyone else. We're not to love only our unbelieving neighbor as ourself. We're to treat all Christians everywhere as we want to be treated.

Ponder that for a moment and consider how it would change things if we functioned as Christ intended. What if the world looked on us and saw us doing what Jesus said we'd do?

It would be earth shattering. World changing.

Paul wrote stunning words. "If one member suffers, all suffer. If one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it." 

If one member suffers, all suffer. 

What happens then? If one member is suffering and that causes me to suffer, I should want relief for us both, and take action. That's the idea here. I might not personally be able to take the action for someone in the heart of Africa, but there are ALWAYS things I can do.

1) Pray.
2) Encourage with emails and snail mail.
3) Reach out to my connections who might be able to help.
4) Give if money is needed.
5) Go if you have the resources to be the hands and feet of Christ. If you can't go, help someone who can.
6) Pray without ceasing.

If you've been following this blog, you know how the body of Christ has ministered to me. It's amazing, isn't it? The body of Christ has done what the body of Christ is intended to do. They've borne burdens. Carried the load. Encouraged. Helped. Been present.

So, body of Christ, now that we've seen it in action and understand how it looks, it's time for us to participate in the same manner. 

Sound scary? Like way too much work? It's not.

If everyone in the body of Christ actually did their small part, we'd be a stunning organism of amazing effectiveness and unity and love. The world would be astonished and want what we have, because we'd have the kind of community the world has rarely seen. 

They'd want Jesus.

How do I know? Because that's what Jesus prayed and what He said. He made a plan He knew would work IF we did what He said to do.

Do you like the way that sounds? It's not my plan. This is Jesus' plan.

How do we do it? Simple. Today, let's ask our Lord to show us one thing we can do to help someone in the body of Christ who's suffering. (We'll probably talk about rejoicing with someone who's rejoicing later.) Once we've recognized the need and something we can do, let's do it. 

Take the first step, even if what you do is simply schedule a time to help, even if it's for no more than an hour. The knowledge that help is coming may be the biggest encouragement some people have all week long. 

Do it.

Then, when you're done, do it again. Make caring for the body of Christ a lifestyle, and recruit other members to help you. Before you know it, the world will stand in awe at the love flowing in and through you. 

I believe Christ faced the cross that grim night, envisioned how we would treat one another, and took heart at the picture of His love we would paint for the world. It's not just a good thing to do, it's what we're called to do. 

Love one another with word and deed.

What does that look like for a caregiver who can't leave her house? Today, in the midst of taking care of Sam, I'm baking a gluten-free cake for someone. I've edited a journal article for a professor in the Middle East. I've prayed, encouraged, connected, prayed some more. I've listened to people who're going through tough times, prayed big for them, prayed with them. I've written notes and emails. Grieved with those who've grieved. Rejoiced with those who rejoiced.

Has outreach stopped because I'm temporarily homebound? Of course not. If I can reach out to the body of Christ, you can, too.

What one thing can you do today? Body of Christ, let's act like who (and Whose) we are!

"...so that there be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it." 1 Corinthians 12:25-26 
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Please like and share to extend our digital reach. 

In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: Caregiver Chronicles: The Gift of a Day Out

If this is your first time to read about the Sam adventures and the Caregiver Chronicles, you might want to read this post to see how it started: When the Time to Move Finally Comes

If you feel led to partner with this ministry (US, Middle East, the digital world), here's the link to give your tax-deductible donations: Global Outreach Acct 4841 

Or you can mail your check or money order to: Global Outreach/ PO Box 1, Tupelo MS 38802. Be sure to put Account 4841 in the "for" line
#bodyofChrist