Shipwrecks and Quitting


“I quit!”

Why is it so easy to even give thought to those words? I’ve threatened to quit many, many times over in my mind, but thankfully, I have rarely given voice to those thoughts. 

After some life experience, I’ve learned it’s better to be able to say, “I’ve finished the job,” or “I’ve done all that I can do,” rather than say “I quit.” The thought of giving up on an assignment before it’s completion has kept me going, perhaps even longer at times, than I should have. There are few things that stunt ones growth more than giving up or quitting before a season or assignment is done. Quitting a process before it’s completion has a way of affecting all areas of our lives. Once we give ourselves permission to give up before it’s time, it becomes easy to give ourselves permission to give up on other areas when we feel discouraged.

There’s a stark difference between quitting and finishing an assignment. What appears complete to you may not appear complete to others as they only see what’s on the surface. This is why it’s important not to judge others by what appears to be true for we don’t know the work that God is doing beneath the surface of someone’s life. 

There are some things that we pursue in life that aren’t worth our time or energy because they weren’t God’s idea in the first place. These types of activities will deplete us of our energy and ability to give attention to our God-given destinies. Those are the things we must quit if we want to “live the dream” that God has dreamt for us.

Paul, in the book of Acts, is seen pursuing God’s assignment on his life after his life changed on the road to Damascus. He quit his life’s ambition of being a Pharisee and took up his call to bring the Gospel to the nations. He had invested years of study to be a Pharisee and after meeting Jesus, he was never the same. He is never seen looking back to “what might have been” had he lived his own dream.

As a Pharisee, Paul would have had a higher profile among his own people the Jews. He would have had respect, honor, enough food and clothing, and a home. I’m quite certain he would have had a more physically comfortable life as a Pharisee considering that as a Christian he was stoned, beaten, shipwrecked, snake bitten, imprisoned, misunderstood, rejected, and certainly sleep deprived among other things. 

In his lifetime, Paul had one goal: to spread the Gospel among the nations. There were times it appears that he quit, such as leaving Lystra in Acts 14 after he was stoned and left for dead. There are other times when Paul is seen staying in the heat of persecution and others when he left. What is certain is that he never left fearfully or out of desperation, sometimes he left when he was released by God and other times the Spirit prevented from going to places he had planned to go to. 

Acts 16:6-10 NKJ “Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia. After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them. So passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’ Now after he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them.”

Was it a good idea for Paul and his colleagues to try to go to Asia? Apparently they thought it was a good idea as they were obviously intending to go until the Holy Spirit forbade them from going. 

I have a vivid memory of a lesson on following the Holy Spirit that has never left me and I’m conscious of it until this day. I was driving in Dar Es Salaam one day looking for a lodge to house some guests who were coming to visit us. I was on a dual carriage road and heard in my heart, “Turn right, get off this road.” But I wanted to find this lodge and thought, “Just a bit farther, and then I’ll turn around.” When I finally couldn’t find the lodge, I pulled into the turning lane and waited to turn. Within seconds of my stopping in the turning lane, I heard a screeching of tires behind me and I looked in the rear view mirror in just enough time to see a large Toyota Land Cruiser headed right towards me on the drivers side. There was nothing I could do but say, “Jesus!” My little Daihatsu Rugger was not more than a tin can compared to the Land Cruiser, and the impact tossed me and my car into to the other side of the road. Thankfully I was unhurt (nor was my passenger) and the Land Cruiser was untouched – but my car suffered greatly. The door on the driver’s side was crushed but I could drive slowly home after the necessary accident forms were filled out. A long process, and an expensive one, ensued. Lesson learned? Listening and obeying will save lots of heartache!

Finishing a difficult task isn’t always easy, it’s equally difficult to detach from something we’re emotionally invested in. Emotions, like people, are fickle and not to be relied on – the only sure Guide is the One Whose thoughts are for our good. God’s ideas and plans for us are more than good, they are perfect. In the meanwhile, hang on, there’s more to the race than shipwrecks and quitting – were chasing the checkered flag. We’re in this to win!

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What Was That All About?

Together with my husband and daughter Andreya in Arusha, Tanzania.


In early 2000, we moved to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania from Bujumbura, Burundi where we had planted our first church. We had handed our church in Bujumbura over to a son in the faith and were excited to see a new church born. The process of planting a church from scratch is daunting enough but we had seen God’s favor in Burundi and were sure that we would see another wildly successful church born. We had seen it before! God was on our side! What could possibly go wrong?

Plenty.

In Burundi we struggled to get government permission to open the church and, after 9 months of waiting and struggle, we received news that our file had been approved. A few short months later, we held our first service. The church stood strong through times of serious civil unrest and war. Today, our first church has planted 4 additional churches since our departure. All of the difficulty we faced fades into nothing knowing the work has moved forward.

However, we had a totally different experience in Tanzania. From the moment we arrived, it seemed the odds were definitely not in our favor. We had applied for approval to start the work and despite having all indications we were approved, we spun in circles from day to day for a year and a half trying to get our certificate of registration. It became very expensive as we had to purchase visas for our 5 member family monthly at a cost of $400 per passport. In the end, after spending nearly all we had, we moved on to Lusaka, Zambia and registered the work there in a matter of weeks.

Yet, the “Tanzania effect” followed me for quite some time. 

Everyone has moments in life when hopes and dreams not only don’t come true, but it seems they are shattered into millions of pieces so small that there’s no way to put them back together. For me, Tanzania was my first experience with such a disappointment. 

I had supposed that I knew how things worked since I had seen it happen before; in Tanzania I faced the harsh reality that each step we take has its own set of rules attached to it. My mind battled with the questions of, “How could we have been so wrong?” and “How could we have made such a mistake?”

For years afterwards, I avoided the subject of Tanzania. The work continued and other difficult moments ensued, but none that hurt as deeply as Tanzania. With the years passing, my attitude changed from “How could we have been so wrong?” to “What was that all about?”

Periodically, as it goes here in Africa, we would get news of those we had ministered to during our short stay in Tanzania. One brother’s news in particular helped me see things differently. This man had told us years ago that he wanted to reach his tribe, the Maasai, who are notoriously difficult to reach. “Out of the blue” as it were we received news he had actually gone back to his people and was a pastor of a church.

A smile crosses my face, now nearly 17 years later, as I realize what never was meant to be for us, happened in the life of another. What we sowed into him has carried on and that is amazing. When we say, “One soul is all that matters.” God will test us on our word, not because He needs to find out for he knows our hearts, but to show us what is in the depths of our hearts.

It took years, but I was finally able to come to a place of peace and left the unknown and unanswered questions about that time to God. I have had more “Tanzania effect” moments in the years since we left, and they have hurt me as well, but none effected me as deeply as my season in Tanzania. 

Then, earlier this year, we received an email from some connections in Arusha, Tanzania, inviting my husband to speak at a conference. Two days ago I stepped onto a plane and made the long journey to Arusha from our home in Blantyre, Malawi, with my husband and daughter. I’ve not been back to Tanzania since 2001, and I wondered what “effect” this journey would have on me.

The conference begins this morning and as I look out my window and wonder what this week holds, I know one thing: God is faithful. He loves us so much that He puts us exactly where we need to be at any given moment. Had our journey in Tanzania taken more or less time, everything we have seen in its wake could have turned out differently. Would the churches have been born that we’ve seen born? Would our adopted daughter in Malawi have come into our lives? I can’t bear to think of that! I thank Tanzania for pushing me forward, so much has come to pass in the years since.

Romans 8:28 NLT “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”

Take a breath, the pain will pass, and one day you’ll find yourself on the other side of that experience. The reasons you endured what you’ve endured may not be understood in this lifetime, but that really doesn’t matter. They will work to get you to where you need to go.

Supposing Could Cost You

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“Watch out and be careful!”

It’s the mantra of mothers everywhere – be careful. I always thought that I wouldn’t be as cautious with my children as they grew and I gained more experience. However, I’ve found the opposite to be true; the more experience I have, the more I am aware of what can go wrong. It’s amazing my daughter, who is now 9, is as patient with me as she is as I catch myself (all too often) lecturing her on safety and what “could” happen if every precaution is not taken.

Cue the rolling of the eyes: Mom is taking her lecture position!

This holds true not only with my children but life in general. With the passing of each year, I struggle to hold on to the courage I had in years past. Like everyone else, experience has taught me that life can be harsh and it’s only logical to learn from past experience and “play it safe.”

Playing life safely is good when it comes to rules of safety in the kitchen and driving but when it comes to matters of faith – the only way to play it safe is to be willing to risk it all and that risk can cost us everything. The sad fact is that for the most part, there are few believers today with the courage to swim against the current of what is “safe.”

In the past weeks I’ve been reading about Moses’ life story – his was a life lived, from the beginning, by taking risks. His mother first took a risk by hiding him (Exodus 2:2) when Pharaoh of Egypt ordered that baby boys be killed (Exodus 1:15-22). As the baby grew, his mother took another risk by putting him in a kind of basket in a river where Pharaoh’s daughter found him and rescued him (Exodus 2:3-10). What gave that mother the courage to do what she did goes beyond natural courage – and that heritage followed Moses for the rest of his life, but not without challenge.

Moses was raised in the lap of luxury; yet it would appear that he knew he was not a real Egyptian for it says of him in Exodus 2:11 NKJ Now it came to pass in those days, when Moses was grown, that he went out to his brethren and looked at their burdens…” At that moment, Moses took his first risk:

Exodus 2:11b-14a NKJ “And he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his brethren. So he looked this way and that way, and when he saw no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. And when he went out the second day, behold, two Hebrew men were fighting, and he said to the one who did the wrong, ‘Why are you striking your companion?’ Then he said, ‘Who made you a prince and a judge over us? Do you intend to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?’”

Moses took a risk, and supposed his brethren would understand he was one of them but that, unfortunately, wasn’t the case.

Acts 7:23-25 NKJ “Now when he was forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren, the children of Israel. And seeing one of them suffer wrong, he defended and avenged him who was oppressed, and struck down the Egyptian. For he supposed that his brethren would have understood that God would deliver them by his hand, but they did not understand.”

After this incident, Moses fled and was gone from Egypt for 40 years. He lived his lifetime knowing that he was called to deliver Israel from Egypt, but after the incident with the Egyptian, he chose a safer path. His own brothers didn’t recognize the call on his life; supposing cost Moses a lot of his time.

I wonder if he thought he needed their approval to deliver them?

I wonder, what would history’s account have been had Moses stayed in Egypt, rather than fleeing, at that time? Would the Exodus of Israel from Egypt have happened sooner? Would there even have been 10 plagues in Egypt? Would there have been more? Less?

In spite of everything, God brought Moses full circle and used him, as he had supposed all those years earlier, to deliver Israel out of Pharaoh’s bondage.

More often than not, those closest to us will not recognize the call on our lives, especially if that call has a radical faith attached to it. If you read the entire account of Moses’ life, those he was called to deliver regularly rejected him; yet he persevered. Was his 40 years in Midian before his return to deliver Israel a period of time he regretted? Was he avoiding another 40 years of regret? Of possibly wondering what could have been?

Safety comes first in the kitchen, with driving, and sports – however playing it safe when we live for God is never the best option. We may, in the moment, have more friends, bigger homes, and even more money but destiny is still calling while we are playing it safe. History’s books are being written every day; what will its account be of us when our days are done?

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Graduations,Universities, Weddings, and Altars

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I’ve cried out in prayer, like many of you have, “God, I’ll do anything, go anywhere, and give up whatever You ask, for Your will! Everything I have is Yours!” Only to find that everything encompasses everything and that offering of everything I have is much more complicated than praying that prayer sounded at first.

My promise rang out in my mind when God took me up on my offer. I realized when my offering was being accepted that I might not have really meant what I said. Shame filled my heart as I realized my promises to sacrifice everything to my Lord perhaps weren’t as sincere as I thought; I labeled myself the supreme hypocrite until I understood that an offering isn’t meant to be easy. Sacrifices are meant to hurt, just ask the animals offered on the altars in the Old Testament. I don’t think that once the sheep meant for the sacrifice approached the place of slaughter that they happily ran to have their throats slit. In fact, I can almost picture them pulling and crying out for help. No, sacrifices are not easily given; lives are not offered on the altar without a struggle.

Some of the most difficult sacrifices we make in life are those that pull us away from loved ones. That sacrifice not only touches the lives of those going, but also touches the lives of those who stay behind. The journey of those staying behind has a pain all its own and can only be soothed in the same way it is soothed in the lives of those going: by laying our lives, our wills, on the altar of sacrifice. Jesus said, “Pray the Lord of the harvest to send laborers” into the harvest (see Luke 10:2). In praying those prayers, it rarely crosses our minds that God might actually take one of our own into His field. Then, when our loved ones answer the call, we resist their leaving us, forgetting that we had prayed (unknowingly perhaps) for them to go.

God the Father understands that pain, you see He never asks something of His children that He Himself hasn’t done before us. God’s Son answered the call of Who will go?” when He came to the earth. God, until that point, had never been separated from His Son, but let Him go fulfill His destiny. In sowing His Son, God reaped a multitude of lost children in us. Now we carry on with that destiny, our own life experiences mirroring His, taking us to every corner of the world with this Good News.

As our families grow and our children graduate, move on to university, get married, move to other states, and even other nations, the altar of sacrifice comes center stage once again and that lamb doesn’t want to stay put. The familiar sting of sacrifice will automatically cause us to pull back; as if out of reflex, to avoid the inevitable hurt that we will feel. I know that pain all too well but have found resisting God’s will to bring more pain than accepting it.

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Resisting the changes God brings to our lives, whether loved ones leaving for the foreign mission field or when our children graduate high school and move away, only results in bitterness thinking over what “could have been.” 

What could have been if we don’t obey God? What would those consequences be? The loss of destiny, the loss of what could have been had we obeyed God or not resisted the obedience of our loved ones to God’s call? Why do we resist so much when the call doesn’t flow with what we thought was “normal” for families? Allowing, instead of resisting, those changes to take place means you’ve graduated in more ways than one.

Here’s a secret, answering God’s call won’t be easy, it will definitely be the road less traveled. However, traveling that road will certainly make all the difference.”

Recently, our family has been reading biographies on missionaries of times past. Just this morning we finished reading about George Müller who was a missionary to the orphans of England in the 1800s and founded the Ashley Down orphanage in Bristol, England. He was a father to over 10,000 orphans over the course of his lifetime and was known for his reliance on prayer and faith in God to meet his and the orphans’ needs. The road he traveled wasn’t what his family, especially his father, expected – his sacrifice cost him greatly and often tasted bitter. It seemed he had nothing, but in the end, as it goes with “All Things God” his life was richer than anyone could ever have imagined.

We won’t see the difference unless we are willing to drink that cup, whether it be sweet or bitter, that has made its way into our hands. That’s the pattern Jesus set for us and I’ve decided not to fight the call. I’m putting my sword down and drinking the cup, it’s what’s best for me.

John 18:11 TLB “But Jesus said to Peter, ‘Put your sword away. Shall I not drink from the cup the Father has given me?’”

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Chicken Tikka…What?

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If there’s a place where I feel intimidated, it’s in the spice aisle of the grocery store. In the USA, the spice aisle at the local supermarket is arranged in such a way that is not as intimidating as you find here in Africa. Stateside, spices are sealed and arranged in nice boxes and jars, in alphabetical order on the shelves. There isn’t any difference in the fragrance of the spice aisle to the fragrance found in the potato chip aisle.

Here in Africa, it’s a bit different if you want to buy spices. There’s a large Indian/Asian community in most, if not all, large cities and very often in this community you will find stores where only spices are sold. The spices that are offered for sale in these places aren’t sold in nicely packaged boxes or bottles; they are sold in bulk out of large containers that vary in size. These places are relatively easy to find for their fragrance can be caught 100s of meters away – a sweet, mix of exotic aromas that is difficult to describe and it catches your imagination.

Growing up and living in the States, I had no idea that there was a whole world of spice waiting for me to discover it. Besides using salt and pepper in food, oregano was as exotic as my understanding went in the world of spices. My first exposure to seasonings other than the three that I knew was in 1987, when we first made our move to Africa. We spent some months in Kenya studying Swahili where there is a sizeable Indian community and it was there that I had my first taste of Indian food. I had no idea there was such a variety of flavors in the world. My boring salt and pepper palate gave way to amazing flavors whose names were as exciting as their flavors: masala, curry (both yellow and red), coriander, cardamom, and many others. These spices, I learned, not only were mixed with meat and vegetable dishes but also were added to deserts and beverages. Indian chai in Africa is a delicacy that I’ve never tasted adequately duplicated anywhere else in the world. It’s made over an open fire with loose tea leaves, cardamom, milk, sugar, and sometimes other flavors. Often, it is served with chapatis (a flat bread resembling tortillas) or mandasi (like doughnuts but not very sweet). There’s nothing quite like a cup of African chai on a rainy evening in Africa.

I’m still not very good with using spices in my kitchen, but I try. Spices help otherwise bland and overused recipes turn into something fabulous – if you can figure out how to use and combine them correctly. A relatively new favorite dish of mine is called, “chicken tikka masala.” It is chicken cooked in a creamy reddish sauce with a variety of spices. It can be made mild or hot and is best eaten with rice and naans (an Indian bread). I have attempted to make this dish once; it was so memorable that when my husband reads this post he will wonder when that time was! The point is that I’m ever so slowly trying to introduce new dishes into my boring repertoire of meals.

As I reached for a few new spices on my shelf this past week, in another not-so-famous attempt at a new recipe, I wondered why so many people in this world have yet to experience the wonder of the “flavor” of God? Have we, the church, become so bland that the world has lost interest in the menu we have to offer? Is this because we have not ourselves experienced the rich flavors of what He has to offer? Have we just settled for a meal void of flavor?

Seasoning can be sweet, salty, sour, spicy, hot, and even pungent – some of those don’t really appeal to me. I prefer sweet to sour, salty to hot; if given the choice, I will resist those flavors or seasonings that aren’t to my liking. In like manner, some of the experiences God seasons us with aren’t pleasant but they produce something that not only matures us but also draws others to Him through His work in us.

We can’t offer what we ourselves do not have; we can’t wonder why the world is not interested in what we are preaching because at some point, we have lost our interest, our passion, for God. When we first met the Lord, it was a new and exciting time – we wanted to know everything about God and for everyone to know about what had happened to change us. The years passed and that excitement then waxed and waned with various experiences. Life happened and with those layers of life came waves that dimmed our flavor, we became bland.

2 Chronicles 17:13 “He stored numerous supplies in Judah’s towns and stationed an army of seasoned troops at Jerusalem.”

Only seasoned troops serve in strategic positions and that is who I want to be – a seasoned servant, not a bland shadow of who I’m meant to be. Seasoned troops are seasoned on purpose, they don’t shy away from their commander nor do they resist their assignments. They allow themselves to be placed where their skills and experience can be most effective – where their aroma can reach into the smallest of crevices in their cities and draw the least likely to the feet of Jesus.

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