Posted in Choices, Church planting, Dreams, Missions, Obedience, Offering, Thankful, Vision

Living the Dream

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Maybe this comes with age and experience, of which I am now a possessor of a bit of both. How much age and experience? I won’t divulge exactly how much but certainly enough to get me into trouble, of which I have had a fair share.

As I write this, a new season has dawned on us and I find myself for the first time in longer than I can remember feeling anticipation for the days that lie ahead. Anyone who has worked for any length of time in a specific field deals more with the discipline of reaching for a dream than the joy of attaining it. I believe that the discipline of reaching towards something is simply faith made real. Faith is not only something that dwells in our hearts, faith is something that we do, it is what we live by – it’s what gives us our very breath (see Rom. 1:17).

Moving from that discipline of faith to actually enjoying what we are working for by faith before we see it’s fulfillment is where we will find longevity in whatever it is God has called us to do. Those moments when we see with our physical eyes the fulfillment of what God has promised us have, at least in my own life, taken time to come to pass. If we wait to rejoice until we have seen with our eyes what has been promised to us, seasons of drought could very well push us to give up on the dream.

Have you ever come to the place where you’re thinking of giving up on your dream? I have and it isn’t at all pleasant. I have found myself in those places most often when I’ve been disappointed that things didn’t turn out the way I thought they would.

Had I known it would turn out this way…

I wasn’t expecting this much resistance…

 No one understands or cares about what I had to give up …

 Slowly but surely, the temptation to give up, fueled by my own self-pity, takes a seat in the forefront of my thoughts until a crossroad is reached and I must decide if the dream is worth it or not. Will I fan the flames of despair in my dry desert or will I fan the flames of God’s gift, His dream, to me? The former is, at the onset, much easier to do but in the end leads only to more regret.

What would have happened if I hadn’t given up?

What would have happened if I had chosen to stay?

What would have happened if I had given the dream one more chance?

After a bit of time and experience, again I won’t admit to how much of either, I’ve learned that it’s not enough to simply tolerate reaching for the dream. The dream has to be cherished, guarded, and enjoyed! Hidden in the discipline of obedience one finds the deepest joy that life has to offer: a satisfaction that goes beyond the simple emotion of happiness when a goal is reached.

The dreams we carry have been entrusted to us by God and we have not only the responsibility but the honor of reaching for their fulfillment. Their success or failure doesn’t depend on our abilities but on His ability in us.

2 Corinthians 4:7 NKJ  “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.”

The dream isn’t given for our own glory or acclaim; it’s for His glory and acclaim and He is well able to make it come true. Whether or not any of us are recognized on this earth for what we have done for the Kingdom is irrelevant – we’re reaching for the prize that has heaven as our home and what more could we ask for?

The dream is also a treasure that God has chosen to entrust us with; whatever your treasure is, cherish it! Fan the flames of your dream (2 Tim. 1:6) and see your passion for the treasure that it represents grow; don’t allow the work of the dream and the disappointments you face along the way to blur its figure into a mere shadow of what it once was.

I’ve been guilty of giving up, feeling sorry for myself, and wanting to give up on the dream – more times than I care to remember! Each time I’ve thrown in my towel and called it a day, the dream calls me back for I know there’s nothing else for me to do but live the dream.

“It is never too late to be what you might have been.” George Eliot

 

 

Posted in Change, Choices, Church planting, Control, Courage, Excuses, Faith, God's Voice, Goodbye, Journey, Kingdom, Missions, Obedience

Controlling the Chaos

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Today is Saturday, the 28th of April 2018. We have a little more than 3 weeks until we move to Bujumbura, Burundi from where we are now, Blantyre, Malawi. Books are randomly scattered all over the floor here in the office, we don’t have many chairs left to sit on, and I’m wondering how can I control the chaos! I need boxes, packing tape, a few more suitcases, and energy! Oh, how I need energy!

I find myself in the usual unusual territory of trusting God for each and every step. It’s a path I am supposed to be accustomed to but each and every time we embark on this journey of faith I have to relearn the steps of faith, for each lesson brings with it its own set of lessons. Every journey in faith is new, every journey of faith is meant to make us grow.

Growth is something I want, but the process that brings growth is what I don’t want. I want instant mashed potatoes growth; the kind that happens when I add some water and “poof,” I have grown! But that’s not the kind of growth that God brings – He brings the kind of growth that requires us to give Him control of everything; to have faith in His process and not our own.

We sing songs saying, “God take control” but the moment He tries to take over, we recoil. In our arsenal of excuses we have many Christian-esque sounding phrases that make our excuses sound spiritual:

“Oh, that’s not wisdom.” Yet we are told in Scripture that the way to wisdom is through foolishness:

1 Corinthians 3:18,19 NKJ  “Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, ‘He catches the wise in their own craftiness;’” 

“I prayed and don’t feel right.” If we were to be led by feelings, we would change course several times a day, it’s faith that we live by, not feelings:

Romans 1:17 NKJ For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith.’”

“Giving everything away to bring the Gospel elsewhere, well, God doesn’t want me to be poor.” When will we understand that we, believers, are the richest people in the world? Wealth in the Kingdom is not measured by the things we possess but by the One Who possesses us:

Romans 11:33 NKJOh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!”

How will God get the job done if we don’t start with the plans, funds, and popular support that our ambitions require? What I have learned is that God’s plans won’t unfold as I would have planned, nor will He fund them in the way that I would think, and they certainly won’t be popular even among some of those closest to me.

For some reason that escapes me, God wants me involved in the unfolding of His great plan. This alone causes me to wonder about His all-encompassing love, wisdom, and power. Why would He, the Creator, want anyone, let alone me, when He has the ability to get everything done without any help? But He’s chosen to involve Himself in our very small lives because He loves us without measure. Shouldn’t I, then, accept what is assigned to me in the face of this amazing love? Since I am unable to grasp His understanding of it all, I choose today to sit in the passenger seat and go when and where He decides. His driving record is spotless and His reservoir of supply has no limit – I can’t argue with that now, can I?

 

 

Posted in Change, Church planting, Courage, Destiny, Dreams, Endurance, Faith, Harvest, Inconvenience, Missions, Vision

A Foreign Feeling

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This is likely to be a very different entry today. We are going through a change as we are headed towards Bujumbura, Burundi in the coming weeks. This move is different in that it will be the first time we are returning to live in a region where we have planted a church before. We’re going to take the lead pastor role in the first church we planted as our pastor presently on the ground is going to venture out and plant a new church in Kinshasa, DRC. At the same time, we are branching out into Mozambique; it’s all very exciting. The thought of branching into new regions, planting new churches, and even returning to pastor our first church – these all have me on my knees.

In 1991, after serving in the DRC (back then it was Zaire) for 4 years, we moved to plant a church in Bujumbura. We spent 9 crazy years there planting, plowing, praying, and digging a church out of the ground from scratch. They were rough years, but I consider them to be some of the most important and formative years of my life. Without them I wouldn’t be here today doing what I am doing. We were so desperate to fill the hunger in our hearts to plant a church that we went to amazing lengths to get the job done. There wasn’t much we didn’t face: financial challenges, health challenges, civil war, pressure to leave from outside sources, it was a total labor of faith and through it all – our God was faithful.

During those years, while we did experience an abundance of hardships, we also experienced great peace and comfort. It was a supernatural time when we knew God was in control and wasn’t giving us a job that was beyond His ability in us to handle.  We felt like we were living in the book of Acts when the church grew and had peace despite the persecution it had gone through (Acts 9).

Nevertheless, when God released us to launch out again and plant more churches, I never looked back and yearned to return. Together with my husband, we pressed ahead and moved on with the challenge to dream of new lands where we planted new churches and repeated the process over several times. I watched churches grow from nothing and national leaders take their place; I also watched my own family grow and one-by-one leave the nest. (Side note: Thankfully, I have one more at home who keeps me young and stirs the pot every once in a while to keep life interesting.)

It therefore was a foreign feeling to me when it became clear that our next assignment was going to bring us back to Burundi. I had become so used to being the one who would go scratch something out of the ground that even considering a return made my head spin. As the dust in my mind and spirit settled and I prayed into the idea, my heart began to expand in a new way. The same burden and fire that first sent us there in 1991 began to burn fresh in my heart and I now find myself aching to return, aching to reach for what this new era in our lives is to bring.

This past week we’ve had a house sale, letting go once again of household items and paring things down to a minimum. I initially dreaded this part of the process as it can be an exhausting time; I had found things here in Malawi that I hoped not to replace for a long period of time, if ever. Yet, now as I watch the shelves, chairs, and fans leave my home I’m surprisingly unaffected emotionally. I do wish I could have held onto my coffee pot for an extra week or two but the coffee press (French press to my American readers) is getting the job done for my morning brew.

I am now impatient to see the dream of 1,000 churches planted on the continent and somehow this huge move that involves not only our family but several others is a key to the dream coming true. Whereas before it was only a dream, a hope for the future, I can now actually envision 1,000 churches. It may be that this move is more about changing my perception of the vision and not God’s, for His remains the same. He already sees things that don’t exist and declares that they do – I now need to do the same.

Romans 4:17 NKJ “God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did;”

There are pieces in the puzzle that God is putting into place that I, at my ground level, cannot see – but He can. The challenge now is for me to lift my eyes and look forward and above instead of down at the ground as I’ve been used to for so long. Church planting requires a lot of “dirty work” meaning everything that needs doing the church planter does. Most of the time we have planted churches, we have had little to no help. We arrive at the border or airport with no one to meet us, no one to help us get started. Our focus for the first few years is always, understandably, on the ground God put under our feet to plow it, plant it, and bring in harvest.

I’m looking forward and above to focus on the bigger picture now – it’s a new day, a new moment to seize, and a whole continent to win.

I can see it now.

Posted in Change, Church planting, Courage, Missions, Obedience

Inconvenient Paths

Today’s entry is a forward of our monthly newsletter for Africa & Beyond. We have so much news to tell and so little time to tell it! I hope you enjoy. Please click the YouTube link below the entry for a short/not-so-short update on our news. Blessings, Lea

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Luke 1:78,79 TPT “The splendor light of heaven’s glorious sunrise is about to break upon us in holy visitation, all because the merciful heart of our God is so very tender. The word from heaven will come to us with dazzling light to shine upon those
who live in darkness, near death’s dark shadow. And he will illuminate the path that leads to the way of peace.”

Life is hard, but God’s heart for us is “very tender.” If we can have the faith to trust His tender heart for us, we can do anything He requires of us. Most of the time the directions He gives are things that will pull us away from what is comfortable or convenient. The amazing thing about God’s “inconvenient paths” is that they always lead us to peaceful destinations – even though our minds cannot grasp what He is doing in the moment.

Expansion

Mozambique, a land with a turbulent history that borders Malawi, is the newest country on our radar for church planting. Currently, we have a small group of believers who are waiting for temporary permission to meet while we wait for final permission to operate as a church which could take up to a year. While we wait, please keep our requests for temporary and final permission in your prayers. Once we have even temporary permission, we will be able to begin meeting.

Kinshasa, DRC is the capital city of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Currently, we have 3 churches in the eastern part of the DRC. Our sights have been set to plant a church in Kinshasa this year. This is particularly exciting for us as we have prayed to plant a church in Kinshasa for many years, we simply had no idea who was destined to lead a church so far away. Last year, our Senior Pastors Emmanuel and Jackie Nkunku in Bujumbura approached us saying they both felt led to return to Kinshasa, their home city, and plant a church. Until now, all of our churches have been planted in the Central/Eastern regions of the continent – it’s time to go west!

Growing Pains and Inconvenience

Obviously growing into new cities and nations is accompanied by some growing pains.  We have spent the past year praying and strategizing with our local leaders and close partners overseas on how to best to

not only get Pastors Emmanuel and Jackie from Bujumbura, Burundi to Kinshasa, DRC, but also to make sure the leadership in Bujumbura main church is secured. We were personally taken by surprise as we prayed through this issue when it became apparent to all who have helped guide us through this process that we were to be the ones to lead the main Bujumbura church. As you may/may not know, this church is the first church we planted in 1992; returning to pastor it was not something we had in mind. However, we are sure that this is the right thing to do – we are under a mandate from God to get to Burundi by June this year.

Logistically, the work here in Blantyre, Malawi where we have been since 2016, is doing amazingly well. God blessed us with a quality couple, Pastors Chimwemwe and Mary Chihana, who are not novices and are anointed to lead this local church. Our plans for Blantyre remain the same: construction of facilities as God brings the funds in as well as opening a school in 2019. Mary has been studying the Montessori program and will be the lead teacher, she takes her final exams this month and will graduate in July this year as a qualified teacher. This Sunday, April 15th, we will be laying hands on this precious couple and commissioning them into the ministry of pastoring this church.

The pastors planting in Kinshasa will be moving in/around September; with our arrival in the country in June, there will be time to transition between their and our leadership. What remains for all of this to take place is for all of the necessary parts to move in unison: 2 households are moving (ours and the current pastors in Burundi),  the Chihanas to pastor the church in Blantyre, and in Lilongwe, our main pastors, Wilson and Yamikani Mvinya, will become the national overseers for the nation of Malawi and Mozambique. The financial burden is great, but God’s provision is greater – what God orders, He pays for. Thank you for standing with us in faith for everything to come together in this amazing and sudden season of expansion and growth.

Truly, a little one is becoming 1,000,

Pastor Jamie, Lea and Andreya

 

Posted in Choices, Church planting, Dreams, God's call, Vision, Waiting

A Welcome In My Heart

Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

I would like to be known as someone who has given others the benefit of the doubt; to be someone who gives others the grace that I so deeply crave. Instead of being someone who doubts that incredible things can be done, I hope to be a cheerleader for others whose dreams are as crazy as mine.

The world is full of stories of those who have risen from incredibly difficult circumstances and gone on to do great things. The world is also full of those who would diminish the out-of-the-box plans of dreamers. How many dreamers have had their aspirations snuffed out by what’s reasonable, what’s expected, and what’s deemed feasible by those around them?

Matthew 12:20 NLT“He will not crush the weakest reed or put out a flickering candle…”

When our hopes lie in the approval of those around us, we are certainly setting ourselves up for disappointment. Much has been said and written about the negative impact that society’s expectations places on us; I cannot hope to add more to what’s already been said by those whose qualifications far exceed my own.

Despite my own limitations, I am sure of one thing: while I cannot control the opinions or reactions of others, I can control my own.

As parents, my husband and I have tried to instill in our children a faith to believe for the unbelievable. Over the years, we have read books like Heaven’s Heroes by David Shibley and some of the series of Christian Heroes Then and Now by Janet and Geoff Benge to open our children’s hearts to believe that if God used ordinary people in the past, He can use them in their lifetimes to do amazing things. We believe that there are enough “naysayers” in life; we want to be their cheerleaders.

This doesn’t mean that their, or our, lives have been a cakewalk. On the contrary, I have often felt like that weakest reed and flickering candle in the scripture from Matthew above. The amazing thing about God is that He is cheering for us to reach beyond our wildest hopes and dreams.

In 2001 my husband came home from a conference in the USA (I remained behind in Africa with our children) and boldly announced to me that God had spoken to his heart that we were to plant 1,000 churches. I’d like to say that I latched onto that word and fell into complete step with him in that declaration. I did know enough to say, “Well, if that’s what God said, then, I’m OK with that.” In saying so, there was no enthusiasm to be found in my voice or demeanor. Instead, my mind was swimming with questions:

We only have one church we have planted, how can we plant 999 more?

Where will the money come from?

Where will the leaders come from?

And so on.

I found myself in the category of those naysayers not with open disagreement, but in thinking “How can we possibly?” when God clearly wanted me to remember that He makes the impossible possible.

Things went from bad to worse before we saw our next church planted. We were unable to plant a new church in the city we had set our sights on and left dejected. Two churches seemed impossible, let alone 1,000 – and it indeed was impossible. Until my eyes were opened in the next city we moved to where our church was approved in a matter of weeks and we quickly found ourselves surrounded by a new congregation.

Could it be that God had plans for us?

One day during family devotions, as we read from Heaven’s Heroes I listened as my husband read of David Livingstone’s trek across Africa. He faced lions, death, lack, and naysayers but he persisted because he saw something no one else did: God never fails and he was sure that God would not send him on a fruitless mission.

Hebrews 11:13 NLT “All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it from a distance and welcomed it.”

My heart had closed itself to hope, and as long as my hope was lost, there was no room for faith in my heart to receive it. The vision needed a welcome in my heart and this only came when I closed down my own doubt and decided it would be better to receive the promise in faith – even if that meant I were to die before its fulfillment.

We are still 900+ churches away from 1,000 naturally speaking, but my heart has already welcomed each of them. How it will get done is the adventure I’m waiting to live. As we work and wait, we keep climbing, keep reaching, and keep opening our hearts in welcome for the vision.

In 2020 we hope to reach for those 1,000 churches and climb an impossible mountain, Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. It is 19,300+ feet high and as I look at my own inability physically and financially to even think of it, I see the climb for 1,000 speaks to me more than anyone else. I’m welcoming the vision and will climb for it, 1,000 here we come!

Isaiah 60:22 NLT “The smallest family will become a thousand people, and the tiniest group will become a mighty nation. At the right time, I, the Lord, will make it happen.”

Posted in Anniversary, Choices, Church planting, Distractions, Goodbye, Journey

Settling

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Two years ago this month, I found myself standing in the Blantyre, Malawi airport, with my husband and daughter waiting for our luggage. It was hot and sweat poured from my husband’s forehead as he lifted our bags, all 13 of them, one by one onto luggage carts. Once we passed through customs, we walked towards the exit through the downward sloping surface that lead to the exit. I knew we were headed for complications as the cart picked up pace and we struggled to slow it down. It didn’t take much, just a small bump on the surface of the walkway, for the suitcases to be sent cascading down in front of us.

This was my welcome to Blantyre!

We are church planters, you see, and the “job description” (for a lack of better words) requires us to move once we have established a church and prepared the pastor sufficiently to take the riegns from us.

By nature, I’m not one who has a need to collect things. I imagine God prepared me long before I knew I would be a church planter. Moving to Blantyre required me to, as many moves before had, to pare down my belongings to an odd mixture of suitcases and foot lockers and duffle bag or two. Mixed among the necessary items such as my extra contact lenses, 4 plastic plates, a small set of cutlery, and shoes, was a jumble of a few non-necessary as well as necessary items: pictures of our family, a few keepsakes from other nations where we had served, and important documents (marriage license, diplomas and degrees, our youngest daughter’s adoption decree, etc.). As I unpacked all of the necessary and unnecessary things, I felt tears roll down my cheeks as I felt the familiar sting of having to leave one place and start all over again.

Hebrews 13:14 ESV“For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.”

As we live life, it’s easy to get distracted by our surroundings and need to conform to the “norms” of society around us that we work so hard to attain. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with settling into a place, as long as the place you have settled into doesn’t cause you to settle for less – less than what God has planned for you.

What are we looking for? Where are we going? With all of the effort we put into settling into life and making ourselves as comfortable as we can, is it possible that we have forgotten that this life isn’t the end of it all?

I live in Blantyre, Malawi today. I’m sure the day will come that God will send me to another city and I will once again have to go through the uncomfortable process of lifting up the stakes of my “tent” and move on. As uncomfortable as the process has been and surely will be, there is not a city on this earth where I will finally rest as I will when I enter that Heavenly City and really put my roots down.

Micah 2:10 ESV“Arise and depart, for, this, is not the place of rest.”

Posted in Beginnings, Church planting, Missions, Thankful, The Call of God

The Tent

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The tent in Blantyre, Malawi

This morning I woke to the sound of wind and rain. Immediately my mind went to our church site and I thought, “The tent…”

When we moved to our church’s property in December 2016, we pitched our tent and carried on meeting and growing the congregation. How the property itself came to us was a miracle; it was one of those situations that, up until that time, a miracle of that magnitude was something we had only heard of happening to others. The piece we had our eye on was ideal; located on one of the main entry roads leading into the city. When we found out the asking price we simply looked up and said, “Dad? What about it?” Within a couple of weeks, we were able to make our counter offer and close the deal shortly thereafter. After having spent 30+ years in Africa, preaching , working in local communities, and planting churches, we were amazed that in less than a year from the planting of our church in Blantyre, Malawi, we had a piece of amazing property that was fully paid for. This process in itself has usually taken years to accomplish in other places we have served; we knew God was up to something and are still pinching ourselves as we witness His amazing hand at work.

Prior to owning our own land, we rented property from a local school that was willing (for a price of course) to let us set up the tent and meet as a church. It was therefore a great relief to begin the process of settling into our own place. If we had to spend money, we were glad it wasn’t to be spent on rent but on developing our own property, which was totally undeveloped at the time. We hired a large grater, leveled the land as much as our finances allowed us as hiring a sufficiently powerful grater needed for the job we had was no cheap undertaking. Once the land was sufficiently leveled, we set up the tent. There was no (still is no) running water or electricity; we had to come up with creative ways to build without a reliable source of water or power. We learned it was possible to haul large amounts of water from a local stream as well as bring a generator on site to run musical equipment during church services on the weekend.

As we are going on our second year on site, we have a nearly-complete security wall fence around the property and if you look hard enough, you might “see” the main building and surrounding educational/office complexes that will go up in the future. Standing proudly in the middle of the mud, rocks, piles of bricks, and drainage ditches is our tent. In this tent we’ve held meeting after meeting, week after week, and it has been a great adventure seeing people come week after week and meet Jesus.

Yet, tents are not meant to be permanent structures. During the rains in Malawi, our tent has come down a few times due to violent rain and wind. Repair has always been expensive and challenging: expensive as the materials needed are not cheap and challenging as the man who has a sewing machine that is able to sew the tent lives far away and requires us to collect him and his sewing machine whenever we need a repair. All of this doesn’t take into account the fact that not only do we have to go through a lot just to get him on site to sew, but also, we have to arrange for power to run his sewing machine –  out comes the generator.

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When the tent’s come down, we’ve prayed in the sun.

So, when I heard the rain and the wind this morning, Sunday, I prayed, “Lord, the tent.” It’s all I could think of to pray as He already knew the situation. Later on, as we left the house and were in the car driving to the property, I saw a large sign along the roadside that had blown over in the wind as well as some sheet metal blown off a construction site. I kept whispering quietly, “Jesus, the tent.” As we drove up, it was still standing tall without a single tear and we all breathed a sigh of relief and started the service.

It was cold today and windy; we have no walls and are at the mercy of the weather. The sand blew in my eyes and the damp wind made me shiver. Jamie (my husband) preached a message on gratitude and I closed my eyes for a moment, thinking of all I had to be grateful for just that morning: we woke up well, the car got us to church (sometimes I wonder about that car!), and the tent was still standing. Behind me sat a teenager who wore shorts and a T-shirt and I watched his teeth chatter as he huddled next to his friend. Yet he smiled when I looked at him. My eyes looked over our people and I thanked God for them – they’re in a “no frills” church with uplifted hands. These, our people, I thank God for them, they are really coming because they want to come.

In days to come, when God blesses (for He always blesses) and buildings begin to go up on site, I will remember these precious ones who were brave enough to come and meet in a tent. Somehow, I think I prefer these days; there are no bells or whistles to distract us. It’s simply the people, loving Jesus and us watching a church be born.

I’m grateful.

Posted in Choices, Church planting, Fasting, Missions, Rest

Go To Sleep

“Don’t worry!”

Easier said than done, if truth be told, especially when the unexpected happens.

A few Sundays ago, Jamie (my husband) preached a message at church challenging us to rest, to trust God, in spite of what’s going on. The phrase he used to describe how we should rest that stuck out most in my mind was, “Go to sleep.” I couldn’t help but smile when, unexpectedly, I heard the tune of a familiar lullaby playing over the speaker as he was closing the message and praying for people, “Go to sleep, Go to sleep, la, la, la, la, la, la, la…” As a pastors wife, we actually don’t want out people falling asleep in church; however, the tune was a good fit for the moment and to keep the congregation awake, he had us all stand up.

Oh the things that happen in church!

It’s impossible to predict what might happen from one service to the next, especially in a brand-new church plant where no one is the “churched” type. In earlier church plants, I would often approach our services with a sense of dread over what might happen, what would inevitably happen, at some point. I now wish I had learned the lesson of going to sleep a little sooner!

I’d begin Sunday with the “What if” thoughts:

What if the sound system squeaks or squeaks?.

What if the rats climb on the balcony railing again?

What if drunk, stumbling and passing out drunk, people disrupt service?

What if people thought the worst of us?

Would that my heart had rested earlier! Peace isn’t a situation, peace is a posture of heart. The answers to a squealing system, rats climbing, or drunks stumbling would come and life would go on. Some people would like us, others wouldn’t, and there was nothing I could do to change anyone’s opinion – and I have learned to rest and be myself. The churches we have been blessed to plant have all started the same way, with little decorum, opening the doors (or tent flaps sometimes) to any and all who might enter. As you might have supposed, the congregation rarely begins with the wealthy, it’s the poor who come, looking for a place to be welcomed.

Welcome them we do and as the years go by, we begin to see changes take place: God blesses them with jobs, families, homes, and businesses. The miracles that happen take place over time and the messy beginning turns into a beautiful church full of people that are all at various stages of growth in the Lord that is seen on their faces, heard in their speech, and experienced in their day-to-day lives. I came to realize, the messy “What ifs” fade away as God chips away and works in the lives of His people.

John 14:27 NKJV “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

Don’t worry what things might look like or what might go wrong or what others will think. We worry more over the peace of others than we do for ourselves. Scriptures teach us to guard, or keep, our hearts (Prov. 4:23) because what comes out of our hearts determine the course of our lives. It’s time to put a “Do not Disturb” sign over our hearts and watch over what we allow in. The words, “Let no your heart be troubled,” ring as loud and clear today as they did when Jesus first uttered them; don’t worry, rest! Remember that appearances are only that: appearances. Rest is found not in worrying over impressions, it’s found in allowing God to work and sort all of the messiness in our lives in His way, in His time.

Posted in Church planting, Endurance, Faith, Fasting, God's call, Motives

A Special Reason

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Our work in Africa has required us to file many official documents for the purpose of registering the work legally in the countries we are serving. Each country has it’s own specific procedures in place for those wanting to pursue registration; we have gone through this process successfully in several countries on the continent of Africa (Burundi, DRC, Zambia, and Malawi) and have had to study each nation’s process before making application. In 2005 when we first filed for registration of the work in Malawi, we submitted our application at an office called the “Registrar of Societies.” From there, the file entered the system  and we waited for its approval, which took less than 6 months. At the time of our filing, there was no congregation, no building, no outreach – all we had was faith to sustain us. Now, nearly 12 years later, we have 5 churches in Malawi alone not to mention the other community outreaches that are ongoing.

Today, as I ponder what God has done over the years in this country alone, I struggle to find words to describe what’s going on in my heart. What made God choose us? We are an extremely ordinary couple with nothing extraordinary that would “qualify” us for something like we have seen take place over the years.

It may be that being extremely ordinary we found our journey to the extraordinary.

1 Chronicles 14:2a TLB “David now realized why the Lord had made him king and why he had made his kingdom so great…”

David who was King of Israel at the time that this scripture is referring to, came from an ordinary family. He was, perhaps, the most ordinary in the family as he was a shepherd. His work was to care for the family’s livestock. When the time came for a new king to be chosen for the nation (see 1 Sam. 16:1-13) David was out in the fields watching over the flocks for his father (vs. 12). No one expected someone so painfully ordinary to be considered for the extraordinary job of leading the nation. Yet, it was David, the ordinary one, who was chosen over all his brothers.

In choosing David over anyone else, God demonstrated that what He sees as qualifications required to serve Him far outweigh anything found in this world’s definition of success: a job with a large salary and benefits, a large bank account, land, education, presitge, honor in society, to name a few. God saw something in David that none of this world’s experiences could provide: someone whose eyes were open to others.

1 Chronicles 14:2b TLB “…it was for a speacial reason – to give joy to God’s people!”

David’s interest throughout most of his reign as King of Israel was focused on leading God’s people well; his interests came behind those of the people he was ruling. Whenever he veered from this, he experienced chaos. Thankfully, he learned this lesson quickly and the nation grew strong and prospered under his rule.

The moment any of us think outside of the realm of ourselves, we will quickly find the extraordinary taking place in our lives. This doesn’t mean we will live lives without test and trial. On the contrary, I have often felt as if we have bounced from trial to trial with not much time to breathe between the opposition that comes for the souls of men and women. What I have seen in the trial is miracle after miracle – miracles of provision, protection, and peace.

Jesus Himself chose to be born to an ordinary earthly family and had an ordinary profession as a carpenter and rose to see the extraordinary happen. With no formal training, He served His generation faithfully and lowered Himself so that others might experience joy. The result of His sacrifice for others carries on to our generation and now the challenge to us is: can we live for that same special reason, the joy of others?