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A Prayer Still Unfolding

  • 2001 28 Jun
A Prayer Still Unfolding
Salvation Army USA - After doctors told (then) Lieutenant Carole Abella of their concern that her five–foot–tall frame might not allow her to carry her quadruplets past 24 weeks of pregnancy, she and her husband Daniel prayed fervently as she took to bed. As reported in The War Cry of May 11, 1991, the quads were born at 32 weeks in fine health. “We continually prayed that Daniel, David, Sarah and Naomi would bring honor and glory to God,” the couple said during that interview. Now, 10 years and thousands of diapers and doctor and dentist appointments later, and after moving to a new appointment and dealing with the demands of officership while nurturing four children, Captain Carole Abella explains how she has dealt with the realities of family life. She shares with War Cry readers how that early prayer has continued to unfold.

You have prayed that your children would bring glory to the Lord. How have you seen God answer your prayers?

As I look back, I realize that it was an incredible act of mercy and grace that God allowed all of them to live. They were eight weeks premature—that in itself can lead to developmental and medical problems. God has been so gracious to us. The children have been extremely healthy, and now we can see them growing in Christ. They have given their lives to Him.

They are also learning about Christ. I see that carried out in the way they treat other people. They are extremely compassionate and many times will take into consideration someone who is left out, for instance. They will go the extra mile to include that person. That was my prayer—that God would be honored through their lives—and this it how I see it happening.

They have a desire to serve Him. I pray every night that they will be faithful to the Lord in all that they do.

In what other settings have you seen them demonstrate compassion?

At the corps as well as at school. Sometimes the children will come home and relate stories of how they have been mistreated. You see their compassion then: remembering how God would want us to treat others; understanding that people oftentimes are being mean because they have problems themselves.

We ask ourselves what we as parents can do to help them through these times. And we try to stand back and watch—even in situations where I have wanted to go and intervene, they have said, “No, Mom. I will take care of it.” It is rewarding to see them pray for the person they are having difficulty with.

How do you keep your family’s spiritual life vital?

The children were three when they gave their lives to Christ. I had been taking them to a Bible study for a year. One of the notes sent home said it was a good time to ask them, “Would you like to give your heart to Jesus?” And they did. I see evidence of that now.

Since they were little, we have held daily family devotions. One of the blessings I enjoy is when my husband prays for each one of us before we leave for the day. That is a blessing to me as a woman, that my husband prays for us. He doesn’t just name us all and say, “Bless them.” He prays for each one.

We also keep the children involved in the corps. Right now, they are attending a Christian school and that has been a blessing as well.

Daniel does the things that he needs to do at the corps, but most nights we have dinner together. I think a lot of families are not doing that. If he has to work at the corps, we may meet there to eat. On Wednesdays we have a meal program at the corps and have dinner with kids from the community.

We volunteer as a family together. We help out at school every week. We work together as a family. When we have to deal with questions and conflicts involving personal will, we talk about doing what you do unto the Lord, not for man [Col. 3:23]. We have used that verse a lot. We have to do our best because we want to honor God not just in our play but in our work. Not everything is going to come easy, but some things are worth working for and investing in.

What devotional tools do you use?

When they were little, we had a book with devotions for young children. Using a single Bible verse and objects in our home, we would teach them a little lesson. We also enjoy Our Daily Bread and so that is what we are using now.

Often we just use practical stuff—we consider the things we know they are going through and we read the Scripture that applies. We also encourage them to have their own devotions.

The children are at a great age. I am really starting to see them mature and make some decisions for themselves. I want them to decide for themselves what they believe about God. I know they have given their hearts to Christ, but as they get older they need to sort out the particulars. It is exciting to watch them doing some of that.

How do you balance corps life with motherhood?

I do what I can. I remember that my work at the corps is a ministry that God has given to me, but that my children come first. I stay at the corps as long as I can. I take work home to do at night while the kids are sleeping. But I personally believe that women officers have been given an incredible gift to be able for the most part to make our own schedule. I always pick up my children from school. I think it is important for me to be there when they have questions or want to tell me about the exciting things that happened that day. So I adjust my schedule to be with them.

In the summer we spend more time together. First Timothy 3:5 asks, If we don’t care for our own family, if we lose them, how can we be doing ministry? We try to do family things before Daddy goes to the office. We know our time with the children is short and we need to invest in them for eternity. What happens to them for eternity is more important than whether a household task gets done.

They also love to read. They have all started to read the C.S. Lewis novels. I started reading to them when they were babies. I would lay them on the floor next to each other and hold the book above their heads and read to them.

Do you see cultural trends influencing your children?

When the children entered kindergarten, we were concerned because the local school system operated on a year–round schedule. At that time, we were divisional youth secretaries. The children would have to return to school while we were still at camp. So we placed them in a private school. I have a strong conviction about being a family unit and not allowing circumstances to pull us apart. I looked for and prayed about a school that would consider lower tuition in exchange for ministerial service. Through talking to people and God’s grace we were able to find such a place. Today many people pray for us, and there are a few who have invested in the children’s lives financially. So we see how God has brought people into their lives to bring about what He wants for them.

I am extremely strict about what I allow them to watch on television. I think so much of what is on television and in movies shapes their lives—just because of the lies society sometimes teaches our children. We want them to be grounded in God’s word, so when they are older, they can make decisions for themselves. The children are 11 years old now. We can’t protect them from everything. That is why we must prepare them for when they become teenagers and adults.

What lies do you see being perpetrated in our culture?

That there is no absolute truth—that message is very much out there now. And that anything that you want to do is okay, as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else. That is just not so. Everything has a consequence. You may not always see that consequence readily; you may not think that your sin has an effect, but it does. The Bible says: Be sure your sin will find you out [Num. 32:23]. Our society says, If it feels good and you want to do it and it is not affecting anyone else, it is okay. That is not the truth.

How do you deal with the children’s different personalities?

If you were to spend an hour with them, you would easily see their differences. They have disagreements. They have had to learn to get along and support each other even when they may not like what the other person is doing. We spend a lot of time talking when we feel that perhaps one person in the family is not being treated right. We give everyone an opportunity to state why they feel how they are feeling. Then we talk about what we can do to make it better.
Sometimes they have to write me a note, such as, “I agree that I am not going to do this to my sister.” They are learning to face the issues that they have with one another and with other people.

I also tell them that our learning to submit to one another is a way to learn to submit to God.

This is your third appointment since having children. How do you handle the transitions?

Karen Eden, one of the corps’ soldiers, teaches them martial arts at the corps. She is a lovely Christian woman. She has an incredible love for the Lord and a desire to help young people to serve Him and find out what it means to be right with God. Their junior soldier teacher is a young woman in the corps who is investing in their lives as well. Another friend of mine watches the kids when we are at officers’ councils.

They are also taking piano, and will be able to play along with our worship band. They are involved in junior soldiers. And during the year, we take them with the League of Mercy to an area rest home.

That is about all we can handle. I still keep in contact with a couple other moms. One friend says that the struggle for her is just incredible. Sometimes her kids don’t get to bed until 10:00 at night. That is too much for me. You have to set limits. The children each do something athletic, and they have the music, which I feel is important for their self–esteem.

I have been praying for years that God would use the children and put His hand on their lives, and I believe He has placed people in our lives to help with that. I have some friends to help me when I need sitters. If I can’t pick the kids up from school, our neighbors—a lovely Christian couple who are retired—will pick them up and care for them. I believe God has placed these good people around us.

Their teacher at school has taught them many things about the Lord. He taught them what it means to fast. Fasting is prayer. They had a day they were collecting blankets for the Christians in Sudan. And so he invited all the children in the class just that one day to fast and pray with him during the lunch hour. He sent home a note and explained to the parents what he was doing and why. I encouraged my children to participate, but it’s their choice.

How do you maintain closeness in your marriage?

Daniel and I pray together. I think that is so important. We have been married for 18 years. It has not always been easy. Taking the time to realize that we can’t always have our own way is important for both of us.

And when things are hard you can’t just give up. We agreed when we got married that divorce was not an option for us. The Bible says God hates divorce [Mal. 2:16]. You see the effects on the children years later when they try to maintain relationships of their own and have difficulty.

I know it is not what people want to hear, but the pattern of our society right now is, “Well, if it doesn’t work for you, don’t do it.” So often when marriage gets difficult, the easy thing to do is to say, “I don’t have to put up with this, I am not going to put up with this.” It becomes a self thing, rather than saying, “I am in this for the long run. This is a vow I made to God, a vow I made to myself, a vow I made to my spouse, and I need to make this work. And I am going to do my best to make it work.”

When we have disagreements, I pray and ask God to help me to see my role as a helpmate. Remember that when God created Adam and Eve He made the woman as the helpmate. I consider what I can do to help my husband to succeed in his ministry and as a father. God has given me an incredible ministry in the corps. But my first ministry is to my husband and my children.

Reprinted with permission. Unauthorized duplication prohibited.