Posted in Courage, Cross, Endurance, Faith, Perspective, Regret, Resurrection

Unlikely Candidates

When I held my firstborn for the first time, I was overwhelmed. I was afraid to lift him for fear of doing something wrong but after the nurse deposited him in my room she was gone and he began to cry. What else to do? I lifted him into my arms and began to learn how to comfort a crying baby, it had to be done.

Things changed quickly that day; before having children I really didn’t know what it meant to take charge and do what was needed at any given moment. When diapers needed changing, baths needed taking, and crying needed soothing, I was there and did what I had to do. In the years that followed I had 3 more children and each time the ability to do what had to be done was there. It didn’t matter how messy or how late I had to stay up, I just did it because it had to be done.

All these years later as my youngest is now 11 and has outgrown many of those younger-years issues, I am still amazed at what I was able to do, for in reality I am far from brave or strong.

I wonder about Simon of Cyrene who was compelled to carry the cross for Jesus. He was a family man, a father of 2 young sons (Mark 15:21) on a journey but was caught in the middle of the mess in Jerusalem at the crucifixion of Jesus.

Luke 23:26 NASB “When they led Him away, they seized a man, Simon of Cyrene, coming in from the country, and placed on him the cross to carry behind Jesus.”

Under the circumstances, Simon did what he had to do. I imagine in retrospect, when he learned of the resurrection of Jesus, his feelings of being chosen to carry the cross were much different than they were when he had the cross placed on him in the first place. Like many of us when we face the unexpected, he may have thought it unfair that he had to bear the burden, he was only on a trip, this wasn’t part of the plan!

Relationships, jobs, volunteering, ministry, and just about everything we do in life will be full of unexpected, unfair, and seemingly impossible complications that will arise and need tending to. Many times, at this juncture, unlike Simon of Cyrene who had no choice but to take the cross as he was forced to, we choose to back away from the challenge because it wasn’t part of the original plan. How much have we deprived ourselves from? Could it be possible that we were chosen in that difficult situation to carry something for Jesus?

After Jesus was crucified, His body needed to be buried. I doubt anyone made plans for it as his 12 disciples abandoned Him. There remained a task that needed to be done and the most unlikely of candidates chose to muster his courage: Joseph of Arimathea. The Bible says in John 19:38, 39 that he was a disciple “in secret” for fear of the Jews. We always equate secrecy with weakness. This apparently wasn’t so in this Joseph’s case for at the moment when someone was needed, he did what had to be done.

Imagine if Jesus’ body hadn’t been buried in a tomb. In that time when someone was crucified in this situation, unless there was someone willing to bury the body, the dead were thrown onto garbage heaps outside the city where wild animals swiftly disposed of them. If this would have happened to Jesus, there would’ve been no empty tomb to testify of His resurrection, but Joseph of Arimathea did what needed to be done and in the scripture this “secret disciple” is called “righteous.”

Luke 28:50,51 NASB “…Joseph of Arimathea…a good and righteous man…who was waiting for the Kingdom of God.”

I wonder if the key to gathering the courage to do what we need to do at any given moment is found in the character of Joseph: being someone who is waiting for the Kingdom of God. I imagine Joseph followed the ministry of Christ and being a learned man knew the Scripture. As his heart was right in waiting for the Kingdom, he understood to some degree that Jesus was special and part of the plan of the Kingdom he was anxiously waiting for.

Whatever you’re facing today, you can do it, you have the strength in you to get the job done as you focus on God and putting His Kingdom first. You may not understand what is happening but God is with you to complete the task. At the end of the day you’ll be able to look back without regret knowing you did what you had to do. You carried the cross.

1 Samuel 10:7b NLT “…do what must be done, for God is with you.”

Posted in Despair, Destiny, Endurance, Faith, Family, God's call, Missions, Perspective, Rewards, Sacrifice, Thanksgiving, The Call of God

Always

I’m happy.

The fact that I can say that despite all of things that need attention around me makes my head spin. I have so many frying pans in the fire that I’m running out of firewood! Spreading myself thin has taken on a new meaning in the past few years. By no means is this a complaint – I wouldn’t live a life other than the one I am now living – but if I’m not careful I can quickly slip into feeling overwhelmed, sad, and helpless wondering about what I left behind in the wake of answering the call that lies before me.

I tried a few times in my lifetime to fit into the normal mold of what a Christian mother/wife/leader (whatever I am) is supposed to look like. The popular Bible studies and books meant to “better” my life all lined my bookshelves; they didn’t just line my bookshelves, I read them all and I learned, oh did I learn, that I am an enigma among my peers. This has caused me great frustration over the years; I would find myself wondering (and sometimes still do find myself wondering) what was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I be just like everyone else and be satisfied with what normal people are satisfied with?

I’ve long dreamt of a home of our own to settle down in. My husband and I have tried a couple of times to “settle down” and do what we thought was expected/needed from us. I lived in a house in the USA for just over 2 years that I loved. I thought this was to be the place where my grandchildren would visit me and I would finally be able to “nest.” I kept it well; I loved it so – but the tug for what waited for me on the other side of the horizon called my name every morning and evening.  I planted a garden and a hedge and it was beautiful but there came a time when a choice had to be made and we drove away from that home for the last time. We once again said goodbye and boarded a plane, looking for the place that kept calling our names from the other side of the world.

I’ve dreamt of being a normal mother and grandmother. Well, I know I’d never be normal in the classic sense of the word, but I have dreamt of being accessible, nearby, to see my grown children have children and watch their families grow. I pictured myself wearing bright red lipstick, driving with my grandchildren to buy toys and ice cream and feeling their little arms around my neck and telling them how much I love them. Seeing them through Snapchat, Instagram, and Facetime does little to soothe the ache that fills my chest whenever their names are uttered. Then, they resume living and I hear our names called from far and I have to answer.

On a far less serious note, I’ve dreamt of having a dishwasher, a SUPERMARKET with lunch meat, hairspray, shampoo, soap, and Ziplock bags, and a nice salon where I can get my hair done – ice cream would be amazing too.

In the distance, however, a people calls our names and where they are, I can’t find any of these things but what I do find in doing God’s will brings me deep joy that I can’t explain.

I suppose today’s blog is my Thanksgiving blog and I have so much for which to be thankful – and at the same time I find myself wishing that the traditional Thanksgiving turkey would be on our table tomorrow. I wish for the day to be surrounded by all those who are far, to hear a loud football game playing on TV for my husband, to pray a Thanksgiving prayer and tell each one how much I love them.

But a traditional Thanksgiving is not in the cards for us this year. We don’t have a turkey, no stuffing, no eggnog, no gravy, and no football game (although I’m quite sure my youngest son will find a way to send his dad a link to view the game). What is in the cards for our Thanksgiving is a day with those who are here with us. We will have, of all things, homemade enchiladas with salad and a cake for dessert. With those family members and friends we have here we will give thanks, thanks for all we have and for the opportunity to answer the call. Yes, I thank God for the opportunity to say yes, to obey Him, to grow enough in courage and faith to answer when He called.

The call took away so much of what we would consider “dear:” family, friends, culture, language, finance, and more. Things that you don’t think you would miss like toothpaste and your preferred brands of shampoo suddenly become a big deal when every day you are reminded of all that you have left to answer Heaven’s charge.

While all of this could sound bleak to one who’s never answered their call, those of us who have heard our names calling us from lands afar, “count it all joy.” (James 1:2-4)

Psalm 119:2 LB “Happy are all who search for God and always do His will.”

 

 

Posted in Church planting, Destiny, Dreams, Endurance, Goals, Missions, Travel, What Did You Do

What Did You Do Today?

Today I went to the bank.

Is that all you did? Couldn’t you just deposit your money from your bank app on your phone, go by the ATM and withdraw whatever cash you need? Couldn’t you just have done an online bill pay or money transfer? What is it that you do out there in Africa, waste your time?

I’m a missionary in Africa (currently Burundi) and have been serving in missions since 1987. I’m supposed to “produce”results (at least this is the unspoken rule), tangible results, that I can then write in glowing reports to justify my service overseas. Living in an exotic location such as ours does have its amazing perks: we have wonderful coffee every day for pennies (no drive-thru here), we see/hear hippos regularly because we live near Lake Tanganyika, and we get to enjoy the rich culture of the people we serve. The scenery is breathtaking, the food we eat, I cook everything from scratch, is good for us (not sure how good it tastes but…that’s another blog…), and the simplicity of life away from the distractions we find in the West allows us to focus on the work we’ve been sent to do.

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Often, I’m asked something like the following: “When are you going to _________?”Those asking such questions are referring to whatever outreach/project we’ve discussed in a newsletter or other form of communication. We might have discussed it months or even years ago – but nothing has happened and why not?

The answer to this question is seen in something as simple as going to the bank. While life has changed here, dramatically, since we first arrived in 1987, the time that is consumed to get something done has not. Having access to cash from our accounts in our home countries is not as simple as it is back home. Years ago, to get money, we would have to write checks and if the bank cashing the check wasn’t willing to give value to our checks right away, we would have to wait to get the money until the check cleared our account in the USA. That process took 6 weeks and even longer; thankfully, we usually found favor with the bank and they would cash them for us almost immediately. The other obstacle we found back in those days was not only having access to the money but making sure that before we wrote a check that there would be enough money in the account to cover any check we had to write. We didn’t have internet, cell phones, or email in those days. In fact, if you had access to a fax machine back then you were considered to be living on the cutting edge.

Today, thankfully with the advent of cell phones and internet service here, we are able to see what is in our accounts, provided the internet server isn’t down or the power isn’t off. Once we have been able to see what we have in our account, we can electronically wire funds to our account here. Thankfully we already went through the process of opening an account which is material for another blog. *Note to self: please read past blogs to get reminders of all those subjects I’ve said that are worthy of their own blog.*

Once we have sent the wire, providing the codes given to us by the banks are correct, money should appear in our accounts relatively quickly, as in a day or two. Once we get news that the funds have arrived, we can go down to the bank, write a check and withdraw the dollars from our account, go and change the dollars into local currency. Often, however, that simple process doesn’t work as intended. There are delays of the bank’s network being down and unable to process our transaction so we have to return in the afternoon or the next day (turning the 1-day process into a 2-day process). There are also delays of work hours. The banks in the country follow strange working hours and there are no ATMs that we can use to withdraw money during off hours.

The other issue we face, the gorilla in the room, is funding. Fund raising is difficult and often void of result – therefore projects get done at a slower pace than we hope. Because we trust God for all of it, we know He will provide in His timing and we rest in that fact. To travel back to our countries of origin to raise support itself costs money in plane tickets, hotels, food, and other necessary costs that coincide with that kind of trip. Not only are the costs of travel an issue but the work itself we leave behind must be considered as well – who will care for things in our absence? Especially in the situation we find ourselves in now where the church we have come to serve and its outreaches are in need of much attention; better leave the thoughts of travel to the side for a bit.

It can tempt me to bow my head in discouragement but where would that lead? What would that solve? Those beautiful souls we are here for are worth every bit of frustration and delay.

So today, if you’re wondering what I did, I went to the bank.

1 Corinthians 7:7-11 NKJ But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed— 10 always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. 11 For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.”

 

 

Posted in Change, Church planting, Courage, Endurance, Faith, Holy Spirit, Missions, Patience, Perspective, Serving, Unexplained, Unknown

So It Is

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There are so many lessons to learn when a big change takes place in life. Most of the time I can, with relative accuracy, predict what the 2 main lessons in such a change will be (since I’ve gone through this multiple times): faith and patience. Faith to trust God when the next step is ambiguous at best and patience to walk down a path that might make me take more time than I had hoped to reach my destination.

I mistakenly thought I would bounce back from a move like this one we have just taken (from Malawi to Burundi) quickly; perhaps I was a bit presumptuous in thinking so. It was easy for me to think, “I’ve seen it all.” when really I haven’t touched the tip of the iceberg in life experience. Yes, I’ve worked overseas since 1987, yes I have moved multiple times across countries and continents, and yes of course I have experienced quite a bit – but I’ve not experienced enough to say I know it all.

The past weeks have reminded me that not all changes we make in life are equal. There are many factors that can figure into our reactions during changes in our lives, I won’t even try to list them there are so many, it can be mind-boggling as we try to make adjustments along the way. Thankfully, there is one constant truth that I cling to every time we have had to make changes (big or small) and that is God, my Father, loves me and always does what’s best for me. If I can manage to keep that truth in focus, everything else eventually falls into place.

It seems, as I look back on the past few months, that God is always teaching me the same lesson in a different way: trust Him and His process. If I resist the process long enough, God will simply bring me around again to another set of circumstances to teach me the same lesson again. Better to learn it the first time!

I used to be under the impression that our lives are meant to be lived for God so we can do something for Him; kind of a merit-based faith! Don’t mistake me here, I believe we give all we have back to God: our time, energy, talents, and possessions. However, we don’t give it all to get His approval or His blessings, Jesus already did the work for us so we don’t have to strive any longer. We have been given God’s approval in Him – we are blessed! Anything I might do in my lifetime for God is simply an expression of love that I have for Him and that lets me off the hook of seeking after merit!

Since God is after the best for me, not what He can get from me as I have thought in times past, it would seem the best course of action would be to trust His processes over my own. Those processes don’t make sense to my mind most of the time, but my heart somehow understands what God’s Spirit is leading me to do.

John 3:8 NIV “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

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Living this way, by the Spirit, can be quite intimidating in the sense that most of the time those around us are likely to misunderstand what we are doing. In fact, it might even seem a bit “flighty” to those around us. It might appear to those observing us that we don’t know which direction we are taking, and in this life of the Spirit so it is. We don’t really know where we are going. All we know for certain is that God is good and He takes us to the places where we need to go in order for Him to work in us and through us. This life is a big puzzle that God majestically puts together from start to finish – we just don’t know where those pieces fit much of the time until we look back and can say, “Now I see.” 

We’re after a goal that only God knows how we can attain, so as He leads may we follow – even to the consternation of those around us. So it is, we often won’t be understood or embraced, but if we dare to let God’s Spirit blow through us, nothing can hold us back from seeing the pieces fall into place.

 

Posted in Change, Choices, Church planting, Destiny, Endurance, Father, Missions, Obedience, Purpose, Travel

Again

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I couldn’t find scissors to help me open the tightly sealed box. I tried, in vain, to force it open with my hands as sweat began to run down the sides of my face. “Why did I pack this so well?” Finally, I found a kitchen knife and began slicing the packing tape open around the edges of the cardboard; the unpacking of our lives had begun. Again.

The boxes I was unpacking had gone overland from Malawi, where we had moved from, to Burundi. They were brought to us by two of our Malawian pastors who had taken on the assignment of bringing these boxes by bus. It was a 4-day ordeal just one-way for them to undertake but they passed through all the borders practically without incident to Burundi. As we said our goodbyes the same day that they had arrived, it was as if a movie of all of the work that had been done in Malawi over the years was played as a movie in my mind. The churches that had been planted, the children that had been fed, the leaders that had been trained, all passed before me as I looked into the faces of these dear ones who were about to leave. I couldn’t hold back the tears as I remembered what we had been allowed to take part in – and then it was time for them to go.

Then we were left alone to start again.

The box was dusty, but intact, and as I started the process of unloading everything the magnitude of what we had done (again) struck me. Time after time I have found myself in this same situation of starting over and trusting God for the next step. However, knowing we have done this many times before doesn’t make any new step I take easier. In fact, I have learned with each new step comes new challenges and without faith, I could easily be scared out of it! What has kept me going, this time as in every time before, is knowing we had heard His Word spoken to us to go to Burundi and He wasn’t about to let go of us.

Isaiah 8:11 ERB “The Lord spoke to me, like a firm grasp of the hand.”

This move has been a challenge (they all are in their own way) but we have seen God walk with us daily and address everything that has come our way from acquiring resident visas to finding a house to finding the best market in town. Without hearing His voice and knowing His hand is tightly holding onto ours, we would never have been able to see Him at work over all these years.

I’m so glad we chose to listen, I’m so glad He’s holding our hands.

 

 

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 Choices, Courage, Endurance, Faith, God's call, Missions

The Harshest of Teachers

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I’m all for preparation.

We need to prepare ingredients to bake a cake.

We need to prepare for the first day of school by purchasing school supplies.

We need to prepare for life by choosing a career path.

Preparation is simply part and parcel of life and a wise person does his/her best to prepare for life as it happens. However, there are some things we can’t prepare enough for.

No one is prepared to face the death of a loved one. Even if plans have been laid out for years and the person who has passed away is well advance in years and had a full life, the emotions that are stirred up when facing death are unexpectedly intense and surprising to even the strongest among us.

No one is ever adequately prepared for marriage. While I highly recommend marriage counseling and a thorough “vetting” of a relationship prior to marriage, the emotional and financial responsibilities that come with marriage can only be fully faced when married.

No one is ever adequately prepared to have children. It is wisdom to save money and do what you can to prepare for having children – but once the children come, it becomes painfully obvious that no amount of preparation really prepares one for parenthood.

When the call came for us to work overseas, I wasn’t prepared for what was waiting for me in lands unknown. The harshest of teachers, experience, was (and is) my mentor. First experiences are unforgiving, unkind, and unfeeling. What I felt when I first landed in Africa with my then 18 month old son on my lap, could not have been prepared for; I could only experience it in the moment and I had to decide in that moment how to react.

After landing and settling into our home, nothing prepared me for the loneliness I would feel as the only young mother among the few missionaries serving with us. I had to live it, I had to experience it, and I had to learn how to navigate the waters of solitude. In our Western culture, we place a high priority on having a circle of friends to lean on and support us in seasons of difficulty. That was taken away from me in a moment of time and I had no choice but to learn how to survive (and eventually thrive).

These experiences, and many more, have come at a high price. My entire thought and faith process had to change when I faced the unexpected. Initially, I was tempted to become bitter and point my finger heavenwards and say (with great indignation), “I obeyed the call! I did what You wanted and now this?” Honestly, I went through a period when I did exactly that; I expected God to roll out the red carpet for me. I expected that all would be prepared. Wasn’t God grateful for my obedience? What I didn’t understand then is that God wasn’t impressed by my answering the call. As much as I praised myself for daring to move far from family and friends, God wasn’t asking something of me that He had not asked of His own Son.

In this “line of work” there is little we can do to prepare for the unseen as what is unseen here is far beyond what we can imagine. Someone coined the phrase, “where truth is stranger than fiction” when trying to describe the challenges we face on the continent of Africa.

How can we prepare for a sudden devaluation of the currency? One day in 2011, we lost $500.00 due to a sudden and unannounced devaluation of local currency.

How can we prepare for an unexpected lack of cement in the stores when we’re in the middle of building?

How can we prepare for all forms of communication with the outside world being cut during a coup-d-état?

Through all of these years and experiences (many of them painful) there is one lesson that I can’t put a price on. This lesson has cost me my entire life to learn but I would gladly pay it again as this lesson has kept me time and again through the harshest of seasons. I have learned that I have a Father Who keeps His eye on me and not only understands but also walks with me through the most difficult moments. He has taught me that I’m never alone, never without His care, and that He is always pleased with me. He has walked with me through the fire as well as on top of the mountain – and He has always made sure there was enough to care for me and my own.

So, in some way, I’m more prepared than many for what “might” happen and I’m not afraid. I’m still answering the call, still facing the unknown, and all I can say is, “What’s next Dad?”

Luke 22:35 ESV “And He said to them, ‘When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything?’ They said, ‘Nothing.’…”

Posted in Distractions, Endurance, God's call, Honor, Missions, New Year, Perspective, Rewards

Unseen? Maybe. Insignificant? Never.

As we’re coming to the end of January and our season of fasting closes, we stand face-to-face with 2018 and the work that lies ahead. Today, Jamie (aka my husband/sweetheart) reminds us how to keep our focus on serving God throughout 2018 without looking for recognition. When the work is hard and the day is long, we often wish someone would say, “Good job.” Most of the time, the day-to-day sacrifices we make go unnoticed by those around us and this can lead to discouragement. However, there is Someone Who notices everything.

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John 12:26(b) NKJV “If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor.” 

Our service to the Lord Jesus Christ guarantees us honor, not the honor of men, but the honor of God the Father.  Of course, when God honors us, often it comes in the form of “favor with men.”  Luke 2:52 NKJV “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.”  However, whether we’re ever recognized and acknowledged by people or not, it really doesn’t matter, what matters the most is God’s recognition and acknowledgement of us.

Our service to Jesus is expressed in many different ways.  We can’t even give a cup of water to a disciple and it not be recognized and rewarded, even something as “little and insignificant” as this in the eyes of the world, is seen as service to Jesus!  Matthew 10:42 NKJV “And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward.”

So we should take courage today in whatever service and ministry we’re involved in for the sake of God’s Kingdom; our names may never appear in Charisma Magazine, we may never be invited to speak on TBN (Christian TV), we may never even receive recognition by other churches, but as long as what we’re doing is as unto the Lord (Colossians 3:23 NKJV “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men.”), our Father in Heaven is taking note and one day, one way or another, He will honor us.

Also, this truth will encourage us to “not grow weary while doing good” (Galatians 6:9).  When we realize it’s Jesus we’re serving, no matter how menial the task may seem, we’ll not give up because we know one day, one way or another, God will make sure we’re honored.  And if it’s God who’s making sure we’re honored, we’ll truly be honored!

I believe this word will be a blessing and encouragement to you, not only now, but also in the days ahead, as you serve God in your area of the world.  

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?

Posted in Church planting, Endurance, Faith, Faithfulness, Fasting, God's call, Kingdom, Ministry, Rejection

What About Lystra?

Stepping off the plane for the first time in Burundi, I seriously wondered what we had gotten ourselves into. I stood with my husband and children on the airport tarmac after our plane landed. It was warm, the sun was hot, and there was no one waiting for us. There was no air conditioning in the airport terminal, I remember being thankful for the breeze that blew through the baggage collection area. With my left hand, I held tightly to my 5 year old son’s little hand and balanced my 1 1/2 year old daughter on my right hip. We were all tired of living out of suitcases; we had spent nearly a year in France studying French prior to our arrival that day in Burundi. From France, we flew to Nairobi, Kenya and, after a short time, made our way to Burundi where the adventure of our lifetime was about to begin.

Time and again I’ve relived that same scenario; going somewhere where I’ve not been before to start a church from nothing. Where would we start? We never knew until we got there. Who would work with us? We would find them. When would we leave? When the time was right.

It took us 9 years of hard work to see the church grow to a place of maturity where we were able to leave to go plant a new church in a new nation and start the whole process all over again. Now, 18 years and a number of churches later, I have learned a few things about stepping out in faith into the unknown – and I’m still learning! In our affirmation-driven society where many in Christian circles have rarely seen the raw faith that’s required to face the world head-on for the cause of the Kingdom, they find they are ill-prepared for the reality that awaits them when they do step out. Often, they fall victim to discouragement, even despair, when the enemy meets them head-on (believe me when I say that he will seek you out the moment you say “yes” to the Kingdom’s call).

In Acts 14, we read the account of Paul ministering on a journey that had taken him through several cities. In one of the cities, Lystra, a man was healed (Acts 14:10) and the crowds went nearly crazy over the great miracle they had seen: a man who was born crippled, was healed and walked. It was amazing! Paul and his partner, Barnabas, could hardly restrain the people from making sacrifices to them, calling them gods. One would think that this great miracle would open great opportunities to the city; however, that was not what happened. Shortly after this miraculous occurrence, the same people who Paul ministered to were “stirred up” (Acts 14:19) to stone Paul. He was left for dead but, in another miracle, got up and went on to another city called Derbe where many received the Gospel and a large number of disciples were made. Later on, Paul returned to Lystra and other cities where he had preached, encouraging believers along his way.

In reading this account, I was taken by the fact that first Paul was almost worshipped as a god and then he was stoned by the same ones who wanted to worship him the day before. The emotions he felt must have been extreme. In studying Paul’s life, I’ve noticed he was someone who didn’t require a lot of maintenance; he worked to support himself by making tents and never is he seen in the scriptures asking for expensive gifts. His main focus was the Kingdom’s advance in the earth and he wouldn’t let himself get sidetracked by the peripheral things of this life.

Nevertheless, Paul was human and I am sure at this time, and many others, he must have felt conflicted, even tempted to be depressed over the rejection – but he doesn’t even make mention of any anguish over this ordeal in the scriptures. He was simply concerned to build the Kingdom, grow the churches he planted, and be faithful to his call. Affirmation would come later in abundance simply by hearing the words, “well done.” However, until that time, he fought the fight of faith and kept his faith.

Our service to people isn’t based on their merits or their appreciation of our call to serve God. I’ve found that if I can keep this front and center in my own life, I’m not easily disappointed. However, the moment I let my focus on the Kingdom fade, that’s the moment I fall into discouragement. Whether there are people to meet me at the airport or not, I’m moving forward. Whether someone thanks me or not, my eyes are fixed on the prize. Whether what I do looks successful or not, I’m already a success in my Father’s eyes, for His approval already rests on me.

“Wherever God rules over the human heart as King, there is the Kingdom of God established.” Paul W. Harrison