Posted in Feeding, Missions, Perspective, Provision, Sick, Waiting

The Pots Were Too Small

I feel like everyone’s grandmother. Whenever someone comes over, the standard question I ask is, “Have you eaten?” I don’t know why I have this seemingly inborn need to know if someone is alright, if they are hungry, if I can do something. My mother was the same, she went to great lengths to make sure everyone had something to eat. I think she must have had this tendency passed on to her from her mother, my grandmother. I remember at our family gatherings, as a small child sitting around the table, my grandmother fussed over everyone, making sure everyone had what they needed.

Now this mantle has fallen on me and try as I might, I am unable to shake it.

Often when we say we “need” something, we really don’t need it; we may be more comfortable with it, but it really isn’t a need. My husband (the ultimate non-shopper) says, “You can’t wear more than 1 pair of shoes at a time.” To date, I’ve not been able to win that argument (please message me if you have something I can use when I’m out shoe shopping with him next time).

In the past 31 years, I’ve been blessed to see hundreds, thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of hungry people fed here in Africa and I’ve not yet tired of handing out plates of food to those beautiful extended hands. When someone is truly hungry, that plate of food speaks more of the love of God to them than thousands of hours of the best preaching on planet earth.

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Feeding in the hospital, September 2018

Matthew 25:31-40 NLT vs. 35 For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home.”

Today, as we do every month in Bujumbura, Burundi, our church team fed in a local hospital. Here in Africa most hospitals do not feed their patients. Therefore, reaching out and feeding the sick translates into feeling better faster as patients need to eat well to recover properly; poor nutrition equals poor recovery. As happy as I was to go feed, I knew that we wouldn’t be able to feed all of the patients. The pots were too small, we didn’t have enough for everyone and this was not at all to my satisfaction.

While waiting for the food to cook (we feed roughly 100 patients), my eyes caught a glimpse of 2 very large pots that looked familiar. I found out they were cooking pots that I had bought in 1997 when we were feeding 1,500 displaced children daily during a time of unrest in the country.  My heart sank when I learned that the church cleaning team was using them to wash chairs. Soon, however, it was time to go and my mindset changed from what I saw at the church to the task at hand – tending to the sick in hospital.

As we handed out a cooked meal, soap, and sugar, I visited a man, Yakobo, who has been hospitalized for over 2 months after being hit by a car. He was transported from his village to the capital where we live to get help and that help was delayed due to a lack of funds for much-needed surgery to treat multiple fractures in his right arm and both legs. We first met last month just a short while after his accident and when I met him, his situation moved me to tears. I began writing email appeals, spreading his news everywhere in an attempt to find help for this dear soul.  His hospital bill was over $500.00 (expensive for this particular hospital) and neither I nor the church had money to pay for this bill on top of everything else on our plates. While we waited for God to answer our prayers, I sent food to him and his caretaker weekly. I struggled to keep myself positive – how was he going to get the attention he needed?

Just a few days ago, while fighting worry over his situation, I was messaged online by an anonymous local donor who wanted to help. They requested his name and where he was located which I gladly supplied. On Friday when we delivered his food to him we found Yakobo smiling, he had his first of 3 surgeries. I chastised myself for being surprised at this answer to our prayers – God heard and answered in a way we weren’t expecting. Yes, more surgery is needed but we know that God never leaves a project undone.

Yakobo recovering from surgery
Yakobo recovering from surgery after 2 months in hospital. September 2018

More critical needs came to my attention today and together with the team, we did our best to address what we could. It was tempting to feel desperate for all the different situations until we passed by another patient that we had prayed for two months (yes, two months) earlier: a small child who had an advanced case of tuberculosis and malnutrition. Two months ago when we initially prayed for the child, I fought my own feelings about what could be done for her in such a state. Her stomach was distended due to severe malnutrition and she cried constantly as severely malnourished children do. Today, while still in poor condition, she was markedly better and eating. We stopped to give thanks to the Lord for more answered prayers – indeed God would finish what He had started, full healing is on the way.

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Still in frail condition with TB and malnutrition, this one is beginning to make a recovery.

 

As we were finishing, the painful reality of how little it seemed we accomplished that morning hit me. Driving home, the usual chatter going on in the car, I prayed, “Let us do more.” My mind then returned to the big pots at the church and I smiled remembering how many times from 1987 until now God has come through to help us feed the hungry. Where will the money come from? I don’t know – I’m on a “need to know” basis only but there’s one thing I know:

The pots were too small today, but we can fix that.

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Bought in 1997, my big pots are ready to be fired up again.
Posted in Jealousy, Loss, Perspective, Questions, Unexplained, Waiting

The Green-Eyed Monster

green monster

There have been times that I have found myself thinking, “When will it be my turn?” These kinds of thoughts usually find their way into my mind when someone else has had their breakthrough when I think I am deserving of one as well. To be honest, there have been times I thought I deserved it even more than they did. I’m sure no one else has ever felt this way (queue sarcastic eye roll) but the reality is that we’re sorely tempted to compare our situations with what others are facing and weigh their value on our scale of what is fair.

Books have been written, seminars and conferences dedicated to climbing “the ladder of success.” All of us will, at some point, reach for a goal that often has to do with financial, social, or physical success. We want the promotion, the prestige, new house, car, and to be in the best shape of our lives. It feels great when someone recognizes our efforts or blessings and we feel deflated when others seem to be moving towards success while it seems we are lagging behind.

Why do we engage in this internal competition?

We’re quick to quote Scripture and verse for our own need for encouragement, but loathe to shower on others what we crave for ourselves. The green monster of jealousy, yes it sounds horrible but it is what it is, will find its way into our lives as if by stealth and we may go a long while unaware of its dangerous presence in our lives. The only way to counter jealousy is to sow authentic joy into those who have had a breakthrough.

Acts 20:35, “it’s more blessed to give than to receive” quoted frequently in the sense of giving financial gifts, works not only in our lives when we physically offer a gift to someone – it is equally powerful when we rejoice with those who have come through a situation and seen God work for them.

Years ago when our family was young, we experienced a series of 4 miscarriages after having our first child. For nearly 5 years, we had miscarriage after miscarriage; it was a trying time for us. As have many who have struggled with repetitive miscarriages, I found it difficult to rejoice with other young moms-to-be when they announced their pregnancies. Sometimes I would avoid those situations as much as possible so I could lick my wounds. Understandable as my actions were, they weren’t helping me long-term to heal emotionally. There’s something about sowing into others that births joy and healing to our own wounded and disappointed souls.

As difficult as it was for me to be happy for others, I always felt better when I summoned the courage to do so even though my feelings of grief still lingered. In turn, I reaped the strength I needed and was able to grieve and heal from those losses. My turn did come later and now I find myself a mother of 4 and grandmother of 2. I was reminded of the sting of those years recently when, during our move to Burundi from Malawi in late May this year, a vase I had that had been given to me full of flowers when we lost one of our babies, shattered. I had kept the vase with me everywhere I went; in some way it was a connection to those little ones who never saw one sunrise, and when it shattered, I felt the sting. Memories washed over me for a few hours while I unpacked. Whilst I felt the sorrow of the losses, I felt a greater thanksgiving for God bringing me through those dark days and leading me to one of the greatest lessons of my life – rejoicing with those who rejoice.

God is always looking for what is best for us. He never, yes never, assigns anything to us meant to harm us – no matter how hard it might be in the moment, the end result is good, so good. The green-eyed monster is always looking to raise its ugly head in our lives in order to keep us stagnant, stale, in pain, and broken. So what’s the remedy? Sowing into those around us, then we will discover the real life-changing breakthrough that is not like a momentary blessing of a promotion or even having children (for our kids grow up and move away). The breakthrough God is trying to get us to is one that will have lifelong and even eternal impact, we only must summon the courage and look past our own pain to slay the green-eyed monster.

Romans 12:9-15 NIV Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” 

 

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 Waiting

Hopeless!

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It’s hopeless!

How many times have you heard yourself say something is “hopeless”?

Since it has been said that confession is good for the soul, I confess that I’ve fallen into that trap of believing and declaring a situation to be “hopeless.” There have been times in life that I have felt utterly and completely down and out and wanted to throw in the towel.

If you’ve ever dabbled in learning a foreign language you know what I mean. No amount of listening to audio recordings or studying a book can magically plant a new language into your mouth. It takes hard work that, for a time, doesn’t seem to pay off. Day in, day out, week in, week out, month in, month out, it seems no progress has been made in your valiant attempt to learn and understand a new language.

I remember each time I’ve studied a language, there were months of “I don’t get it” before something clicked. The first language we learned in 1987 was Swahili and my “aha moment” took longer to come than with subsequent languages I have learned. I had almost given up at one point when, while I was in the market frantically flipping through the pages in my dictionary in another attempt to find a word for “banana.” I had flipped through my dictionary each time I had gone to the market to find the word for banana. In effect, I had tried to say banana “bunches” of times! (Ok, there’s my attempt at a play on words…) My dictionary was worn, why wouldn’t “banana” come out of my mouth after having studied it, said it, written it, and looked for it in my dictionary so many times?

Tears stung the backs of my eyes in embarrassment as the ladies in the market, who knew me after several months of my visiting them, chuckled at my forgetfulness. Banana, banana, banana… Suddenly, through the tears and chuckles of onlookers a word came to my mind: “ndizi.” My “aha” moment! And the words for “I want” accompanied it! “Nataka!” I said, “Nataka ndizi!” How many times I said it I don’t know. A personal victory!!! I ran home with smiles and lots of ndizi!

When we surrender our lives to God, the good news is that nothing is hopeless nor are we helpless.

Romans 4:18 ESV “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed.”

Living as children of God means living in His hope – and this hope we live in isn’t like the hope we have when trying out a new cake recipe, “I hope this works!”

There are times when things don’t work as we have foreseen; things turn out very differently. However, in the grand scheme of things, God has a plan in mind. What Satan throws our way to destroy us, God turns around and we ultimately have that “aha moment” when we understand more was at stake than learning how to say “banana.”

It may seem to you today that all hope is lost, 2016 was a difficult year and you have little hope that 2017 will be any better. Let me encourage you, all is not lost. Take what little hope you have and grab your Book of meanings, the Bible, and keep on studying it. One day the answer will dawn – and you’ll go running home, arms full of blessings.

“Faith is to believe what you do not yet see; the reward for this faith is to see what you believe.” Augustine

 

Posted in New Year, Waiting

Unfolding

Laundry is on my mind.

Yesterday I had a moment with my laundry and it seems to be a theme for me that is running through today. I did so much laundry yesterday that I ran out of laundry soap and dryer sheets. I was first frustrated that the dryer sheets ran out and then I remembered that I did laundry for 25+ years in Africa many times without the coveted dryer sheet. In fact, it was only in recent years that I would bring dryer sheets back with me in my suitcases whenever we traveled stateside. I loved lining my suitcases with them; it kept the cases smelling fresh.

One of the worst things that can happen after spending hours washing, drying, sorting, folding, and putting laundry away is to drop the basket where all the nicely folded, clean laundry is, and see it fall all over the floor. That’s not the kind of unfolding I appreciate! If I am to unfold my laundry, I want to unfold it when I need it – not prematurely. That makes a mess.

Psalm 106:13-31 NIV vs. 13 “But they (the Israelites) soon forgot what (the Lord) had done and did not wait for His plan to unfold.”

Anything that is opened or forced out into the open prematurely is messy. Like laundry falling all over the floor that needs picking up, refolding and putting away. It gets you behind schedule!

This year, while I’m excited for the new and exciting to unfold, I’m purposing in my heart to wait for His plan to unfold. One of the things I need to do is not forget what He has done in the past. He has “bailed me out” so many times – I trust Him more than anyone else in this world. Since this is the case, I shouldn’t worry too much about His timing. Time and again I’ve proven when I take things into my own hands, it spills on the floor and takes effort to sort and put away.

This year, I don’t want to spill it all over the floor and delay His plan – I want it to come as He has designed it to come.

I will wait.