Posted in Faith, Fear, Missions, Perspective, Reputation

Feeling A Bit Sheepish

Today I’m about to get real with you about fear. What makes me afraid to step out? Why do I recoil when facing my giants? Why is it so easy for me to be afraid? I’m afraid of what might happen. I’ve been down this road many times and what might happen frightens me.

Today I received an email stating our medical insurance premium was due by May 1st. Living overseas in Africa, we have a basic emergency plan; we don’t have a lot of other coverage as we’ve been priced out of the “meatier” policies. When the notice came through, I told my husband, “Uh, our insurance is due the 1st of May and it’s gone up.” A lively conversation ensued as our policy is paid bi-yearly and the price had gone up by about $300.00. Do we renew? How do we renew? What about travel insurance later this year in the USA? And so on.

I might have overreacted (insert sheepish grin) as I remembered in years past when we have had to use our medical insurance and the huge impact it had on our finances not to mention the stress of one of us being unwell. I couldn’t imagine what repercussions we might face if we didn’t renew or find something else for our family.

Truth be told, while we have faced giants, big, scary ones in times past, we are here today. Somehow we made it. God brought us through, He took care of our needs; His record is good and I’m counting on Him to stay true to his Word. I know He will take care of all of our needs and this includes our bills like medical insurance.

Isaiah 41:10 NKJ Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”

Maybe, like me, you just need to remember the times God has been there for you before and how He has made a way when it looked like there was no way. He has helped us, and He will help us again!

“If I cannot hear ‘The sound of rain’ long before the rain falls, and then go out to some hilltop of the Spirit, as near to my God as I can and have faith to wait there with my face between my knees, though six times or sixty times I am told ‘There is nothing,’ till at last there arises a little cloud out of the sea, then I know nothing of Calvary love.”                   Amy Carmichael

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Amy Carmichael was a missionary to Japan and India for 55 years and founded the Donavur Fellowship. Her life story is one worth reading. She was also a prolific author and poet. For more quotes by Amy Carmichael, click here.

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 Jealousy, Loss, Perspective, Questions, Unexplained, Waiting

The Green-Eyed Monster

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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 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, Courage, Destiny, Faith, Finishing, God's call, The Call of God

Making the Mile

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What was I thinking? Who was I to join the junior high track team? At the time I was 12 years old and had never run a mile; I had never even thought of running a half mile.  Yet there I was, in the hot Florida afternoon sun running around a sandy football field wiping the sweat from my face to keep it from stinging my eyes. Day after day I pursued the goal of finishing a mile and day after day I failed.

I was the one who started multiple projects that I never finished. There are tens, possibly hundreds, of half-finished crafts floating around in the USA of things I had started but never completed. Cross stitch, rug hooking, paint by numbers, and more were projects I started with good intentions but after realizing the effort required to finish, I laid them to the side. I wanted amazing results with little effort or patience.

What was different about making the mile? I am not sure what the impetus was to get me to make that mile but whatever it was I had determined that running the mile wasn’t going to evade me. Evade me it did for some time but the day finally did come that I crossed the mile marker. While I never managed to become an Olympic runner or even place in a race at a track meet (that’s another story for another day), running the mile, to me, was equivalent to wearing a gold medal.

Numbers 13:20 NASB “How is the land? Is it fat or lean? Are there trees in it or not? Make an effort then to get some of the fruit…”

Moses had gone through quite a bit by the time Numbers 13 was written, to get Israel out of Egypt into the Promised Land. He had seen the people through plagues, the Red Sea, and had food and water miraculously provided for millions in a wilderness. It is as if he had been hand feeding them for years; I imagine he was ready for the people to begin bearing some of the burdens themselves.

When the people arrived to the border, spies were sent to check out the new land the nation was to possess and Moses said, “Make an effort…” In essence, he was telling those he was sending to try, work at it, and see what information they could bring back. He knew they would possibly face dangerous inhabitants or wild animals along the way and they would have to be courageous and sweat a little to complete the task. We know how the story pans out for all the spies, save two Joshua and Caleb, who went were against taking the land even though God had promised it to them reported that the land, while good, was overrun with giants – there would be no way to take it.

Were they used to having life handed to them on a silver platter? Had all the miracles spoiled them? Was their faith so shallow that they couldn’t see the God Who parted the Red Sea for them was the same God Who would wage and win the war for the land He had promised them?

They weren’t willing to put the effort in to what God had promised them and that is not how faith works. Faith to do the will of God requires effort on our part. Faith isn’t a 1-2-3 get-rich-quick scheme; faith is a way of life (Rom. 1:17) that gets us to where we need to go with what needs to go there with us.

Today many of us might be quick to criticize Israel’s doubt at this juncture, but if we were to look at ourselves honestly we would realize that we have often been guilty of the same. How many times has God delivered us? Helped us? Encouraged us? Provided for us? Why is this giant we are facing now so very different? If He delivered us before, surely, He will do it again.

We are required to put a little “sweat equity” into this walk of faith. Sometimes this journey is harrowing, fraught with impossibilities – but that’s where God comes in. He is ready to heal, provide, deliver, and open doors when we are ready to move forward with Him.

It’s time to make that mile, it’s time to sweat.

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