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 Choices, Courage, Destiny, Faith, Fear, God's call, Kingdom, Perspective, Popularity, Purpose, Resurrection

Things Aren’t What They Seem To Be

Play it safe.

Don’t push too far.

Be careful.

Should we chose to follow all safety precautions on every product we buy or activity we take part in, there are still bound to be unforeseen, unplanned, and unexpected complications that will meet us along the way. We simply can’t avoid trouble, it comes with the territory of life.

I’ve said it many times and still hold to this: the safest place to be is in God’s will. There, I find protection, provision, joy, and comfort. There’s nothing that can reach me there; I’m in His pocket ( 1 Sam. 25:29) as it were, close to His heartbeat. From that place, I hear what stirs His heart and I find the courage to reach for things I never dreamt of before, because things aren’t what they seem to be when you’re in the will of God.

John 14:27 ESV “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

It would appear that Jesus was coaching His disciples to really open their eyes to the possibility of things not being as they would appear when He said, “Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” At the time being described above in John 14, Jesus had entered into Jerusalem and was preparing His followers to understand that in the days to come, events would unfold that would appear to say, “It’s over.”

The crucifixion was on the horizon, Jesus knew it – but He also knew that the Resurrection was soon to follow on the heels of what would appear to be His end. He knew things weren’t going to be at all as they seemed. Jesus also knew everyone would flee and that He would be left alone to face the cross, yet He did it anyway. Why would He suffer and die when all would leave Him? He also knew that after His Resurrection, no one would believe in Him right away. It took quite a bit of work after He rose to convince those who had fled, that He was really alive. If it had been me making the choice at that juncture, those who had fled would not have been in the running for those chosen to be the leaders of the early church. Yet, by grace, Jesus chose to look beyond what the rest of us would call “the obvious” because He knew that nothing in His Kingdom is as it seems. Jesus knew that those who had fled weren’t at all as they appeared. They were born for something more, they were meant to turn the world “upside down.”

Acts 17:6 ESV “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also.”

I see a pattern throughout Scripture where those who dared to live close to the Father’s heartbeat never played it safe. They understood that being led where God took them was the only truly safe place to be – even if that path lead them to a place where it would seem their end was imminent.

Daniel chose the lions.

Paul chose to go to Rome.

Joseph chose to take Mary.

Each one (and many others) could have chosen to follow an easier route, but they didn’t. They knew the worst that could happen would have meant losing their lives, which would only put them in the presence of God; where would the the loss in that have been? They chose His safe place, and as they did, they lived amazing lives of adventure, seeing impossible dreams come true that they didn’t even know they had.

This life and all of its trimmings would have us to believe that living a life of adventure for God is unsafe, unreasonable, and even foolish. For those who don’t know the Father, I can understand those feelings. Still, there’s a thirst in me to see more than a life colored safely in the lines of what seems to be safe places, for in reality nothing is safe apart from God.

My choice is to live far from what seems to be safe; I want to live close to Him and far from things as they seem to be.

“The worship of God is not a rule of safety; it’s an adventure of the spirit.” Alfred North Whitehead

Posted in Faith, Grace, Perspective, Pride

Excluded

No one likes to be excluded, left out, or ignored. We actually go to great lengths to be accepted; everything from clothes to speech and friendships gets filtered through the test of cultural acceptance. This happens gradually, so gradually that we may not even be aware of its importance to us until exclusion stares us in the face and challenges our decisions, accomplishments, and values. Those things that vie for our attention, time, and approval, demand that we bow to the pressure of their “importance.” Without the appearance of certain things in our lives – money, popularity, and security – we risk exclusion from those groups that are esteemed in society.

To get included, it’s amazing the lengths we go to the “sell” ourselves and seem “worthy” of acceptance. I remember there was a time in my life when I was part of a group where each person was expected to refer and have people be referred to them by others in the group for the purpose of growing one another’s businesses. The principle sounded logical and needing new business, I was hopeful that this group would bring help my way. Getting entrance into the group was a process but somehow I managed the hefty fee and was approved. Each week, I had to give a short minutes-long speech that would hopefully convince other members to help me. There was even a trophy that circulated among those few (usually a select few in the group) who gave the best speech. Pictures would be taken and updates would be posted on social media. Defeated, I never won the trophy and after a year, let my membership go. I felt utterly defeated and my speeches on what a good job I could do seemed to be all for naught.

As I reflect on those days, I see how that scenario, although extreme, plays itself out almost daily on those of us who are lured into trying to gain acceptance by noting all of our achievements. Those achievements, which one day are acceptable and the next day useless as society changes, do little to secure our worth.

Romans 3:27a ESV “Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded…”

There is a group, one that I’m profoundly thankful to be part of, that doesn’t require me to make a flowery speech about how good I am at what I do. The speeches given at that group are always of the Founder Who takes all of His qualifications and gives them freely to those who request entrance. No one is ever turned away or denied entrance because of their personal flaws. Were our entrance based on our accomplishments, each application would be marked, “Denied.”

Yet, by grace and mercy, as we are accepted, the only exclusionary clause is boasting of ourselves. That gets left at the door, the pressure to perform is gone, and everyone is in the same category: saved by faith. The only requirement is accepting free entry offered by the Founder.

Ephesians 2:8,9 ESV “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

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

Posted in Beginnings, Choices, Fasting, Kingdom, Missions, New Year, Obedience, Questions

A Captive Audience

We are taught from an early age to “think for ourselves.” Indeed, having the ability to reason a situation through is something best learned early on. My youngest daughter is in 4th grade and she is learning how to think before answering; when she thinks first and processes the work, she generally gets a better grade which makes everyone happy!

Solving math problems definitely requires more brain power for some (like me) more than others. Thankfully, my daughter has learned this skill at a much faster pace than I did. I wasn’t the automatic math genius in school – I spent a great deal of time training my mind to think problems through. Once I finally mastered this skill of reasoning and thought, my grades improved. What I wasn’t prepared for in daily life as an adult when facing life issues was understanding that reasoning life problems through like algebraic equations won’t always produce the correct results.

All of that work to train my thoughts in a certain way had to change.

2 Corinthians 10:5 ESV “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.”

In my mind, as I learned to navigate this path called my walk with God, I often found myself arguing with the issues I faced.

Trusting God for His wisdom when facing civil unrest? My mind told me to run but my heart said stay; there was an internal argument taking place in my mind daily in those days. My old debate class lessons quickly found their way back to the forefront of my mind.

Trusting God for buildings when our tent where we meet keeps blowing over? Where was the money going to come from? Math arguments come in handy here, I’d tell myself hundreds of thousands won’t multiply from zero as zero times anything still equals zero!

Much like the lessons I learned at school, lessons of reasoning, I’ve learned another lesson: mentally working out how to walk with God simply won’t work. Much like you can’t apply algebra to conjugating verbs, earthly reasoning cannot apply in our walk with God.

This year as we begin afresh once again, I’ve set my arguments aside. Arguments of why it can’t be done are now my captive audience as I surrender to the process of solving problems in a much more effective way – in the way of the Kingdom. My feeble attempts at solving don’t amount to much anyway in the face of issues that are obviously far beyond my pay grade: comforting the bereaved, growing new churches, expanding into new countries, and loving those who don’t love me back.

My thoughts are captive. I’m listening. I’m learning.

Posted in Kingdom, Loss

My Kingdom Go

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“May Your Kingdom come, Your will be done,” is part of a prayer we pray almost without giving thought to its meaning. It sounds as if we are heartfelt in our hope for God’s Kingdom to be revealed in the earth; and perhaps there is a part of us that truly does wish for His Kingdom to come. What we miss when praying this way is that there is something that has to be done away with in order for His Kingdom to come – our kingdoms have to go.

There’s a price to be paid to see God’s Kingdom established in our hearts and that is the dismantling of our own kingdoms. Obviously, our kingdoms do not compare to His in majesty but for some reason, we hold onto them fiercely. Our kingdoms are what we have spent our whole lives building; how can we let go when we have invested so much of our time, strength, and money in their pursuit?

The past week and a half we have spent visiting with our families and churches in South Florida and we have enjoyed every moment. Malawi, where we live and serve as missionaries, is far from Florida. Simply having a few days of uninterrupted time with our loved ones, visiting parents, children, and now our grandchildren, is a gift and we have enjoyed our time thoroughly.

At the same time of our visit, a hurricane named Harvey landed in Houston, Texas, destroying businesses, homes, and lives of thousands in its path. The country mobilized and aid has begun to pour into the city that will take months, if not years, to rebuild.

On the heels of Harvey came another stronger, and potentially life-threatening hurricane named Irma (how they come up with these names is a mystery). Initially, the hurricane seemed to be pointed exactly where we are staying with our family: West Palm Beach, Florida. When it was apparent that Irma was on her way, we spent days preparing for the storm and prayed, in earnest, about what we should do: evacuate or not.

The science of predicting exactly where a hurricane will make landfall is not an exact one. We vacillated between leaving and staying for days until we finally felt God had given us a peace to stay. The hurricane took a slightly different path to what was initially reported. While haven’t been hit directly as was initially reported; we’ve had tropical storm force winds and rain. The power is off, candles are lit, and I’m watching the family play games and pass the time until it is safe to go out, survey any damage left by the storm, and carry on.

We can’t do anything about the storm once it has fallen except sit together, enjoy one another’s company, and trust our Father to cover us in the storm. God has, and always will, find a way to break through into our situations to answer our prayers despite our tendency to drift away whenever the crisis lifts.

I wonder if we have exchanged our faith in God for a faith in what we have accomplished. We have idols of our own making sitting in our living rooms: what we have accumulated through all of our hard work. Rather than giving thanks for God’s gifts, we work to gain what we can apart from God and, when they are torn away in some tragedy, we blame Him.

The storm has now passed and while our power is off and we have incurred some damage, it could have been much worse. The kingdoms of our own making are temporary and can end in an instant. Any security we hope to secure on earth is fleeting, at best. Indeed, may His Kingdom come; His incorruptible Kingdom that cannot be blown away by the winds of a hurricane and whose reward is sure in His hands no matter what we may pass through in this life.

May Your Kingdom come.

__________________________

 

Posted in Patience, Rest

Dumpster Diving

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As newly-weds, my husband and I decided to apply for our first credit card. This was when having a credit card wasn’t as commonplace as it is today; my kids would call the process “old school.” Long applications had to be filled out by hand at the bank and it would take some time (compared to today’s process) to get approved and actually receive a credit card. We endured everything that was required of us and the day came when, finally, the card came in the mail.

Like most people I suppose, we had a place on the kitchen counter that grew cluttered with the mail and other miscellaneous “paperage.” That place on the counter slowly began to eat away at my inner peace, as at my core I am my mother’s daughter. She was careful to always keep a clean home and instilled in me that same compulsion: if it’s cluttered it must be cleared.

This compulsion, you might call it haste or impatience, has been the source of irritation to my family. Some, I agree, is justified, and some is not. However, the account of what happened during one of my cleaning moments did result in a great amount of stress and dumpster diving.

Let me explain…

The cards came in the mail and we were aware they had arrived and were in the envelope they came in on the counter. Days passed and I put that information in the back of my mind as I was compelled, as if by the Spirit, to embark on “the great clean” of the century. That day nothing escaped my fury as even the oven received a state-of-the-art scrubbing! Proud of myself, I unloaded the last bag of trash into the dumpster outside (one shared by the community we lived in), and sat down for a cup of coffee. My mother would have even declared the place clean and with that thought, I smiled with a bit of smug self-satisfaction.

Later on the next day, my husband looked to the countertop and noticed the customary pile of post had disappeared.

“Where’s the credit card?” he said with an unmistakable tone of worry.

“It was here on the counter in the envelope.” his voice beginning to quiver.

“I don’t know, didn’t you put them away?” came my honest reply.

Thus began the search of the century that ended with my husband standing up in the dumpster for several minutes going through the trash until he found said credit card, still in its original (albeit stained with coffee) envelope. While this happened over 30 years ago, I have yet to cease being reminded of it.

While I was thankful to have the card in hand, in the fury of our search, we ruined my hours-long cleaning effort and I had to clean up all over again.

I was hasty and I blew it.

Psalm 31:22 TLB “I spoke too hastily when I said, ‘The Lord has deserted me,’ for you listened to my plea and answered me.”

We often become impatient with the circumstances of life, we want answers now! Our impatience clouds our ability to see that God’s given us the credit cards already, and He’s paid the bill. They’re on the counter of life, ready to be used to pay off our debts but we seem to have misplaced them, thrown them away in the dumpster. In our haste, we wonder why God hasn’t come through, why doesn’t He see, doesn’t He care? Right when we are sure He has turned His back on us, in spite of our hastily spoken words, He comes through with an answer – and gently hands us the cards we threw away in our compulsion to get things in order.

Yes, we all blow it and say things we shouldn’t and even begin to wonder about God’s love and care for us. While we may fail, we can be encouraged with the knowledge that God’s love and care never fails, in spite of our baseless doubts. He is always watchful over us in spite of what life may throw our way.

Don’t throw away the credit cards just for a moment of apparent clarity – the clarity we create in our haste only lasts for a moment only to be replaced once again by more clutter as life continues to unfold. However, if you do blow it (as we all do) our Father is more than ready to go dumpster diving and answer you.

Yes, He is just that good.

Posted in Endurance, Obedience

Sometimes You Go Alone

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We’ve all been told, “It’ll get better.” Or, “God will help you through.” Or, my personal favorite, “God never gives you more than you can handle.” My cynical side that I try so very desperately to harness will, when hearing this kind of counsel, internally retort, “Well, it sure feels like I can’t handle it!”

As cynical as I may feel, those answers are true; it does get better, we do make it through, and somehow we handle all that comes our way. The question that begs answering is, “What do we do in the meanwhile as we wait for things to get better?”

I’ve passed through times in my life when I have wondered, like most of us, “Why did this happen and why am I alone? Who will walk with me?” Experiencing those times would be more palatable if we had someone to help shoulder the burden.

Matthew 26:37b NLT “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

Jesus had His moment, one that felt “crushing.” He wanted to have someone walk through that time with Him, and He asked His disciples to “keep watch,” but they failed Him miserably. On two separate occasions during His agony in Gethsemane, He found them asleep (Matthew 26:40,42) even though He had asked them to “stay here and watch with me.”

As the rest of the story goes, Jesus was left totally alone; abandoned by those He had handpicked to lead His church in the future. Those He had healed, raised from the dead, delivered from demonic oppression, were all gone and He walked that road alone. Despite their desertion, He finished His assignment faithfully until the end.

His finishing made me wonder, could it be that the answer to our “crushed spirit” is finishing the assignment He has given us?

Matthew 26:42 NLT “My Father! If this cup cannot be taken away unless I drink it, your will be done.”

Around and around we go in life, facing painful challenges and we go out of our way to avoid the pain, we find shortcuts, to keep us safe. Nobody likes pain; we go to great lengths to avoid it and relieve it. When I gave birth to my children, I welcomed any pain relief offered to me with great joy and if it wasn’t offered to me I begged for it. The problem with relieving pain or taking detours is that sometimes the relief isn’t worth the price paid.

Shortcuts don’t ensure our arrival at our intended destination on time; shortcuts can lead us to nowhere resulting in starting all over again which simply prolongs our process. Instead of avoiding the path and its accompanying pain, it may be better to go through than keep going around in circles only to face the same path ahead of us time after time.

The loneliness in the middle of such a season seems, on the surface, to be meant to harm us and it is often that loneliness that presses us to find a shortcut back to a more comfortable place. Jesus felt and acknowledged that loneliness when He walked through Gethsemane. While it was obvious that the desertion of His disciples was painful for Jesus to experience, He did not use that loneliness as an excuse to abandon His assignment. He knew the only way out of His Spirit being crushed was to go through with his assignment to its completion, to face the desperate moment of death that was facing Him.

John 16:33 CEV I have told you this, so that you might have peace in your hearts because of me. While you are in the world, you will have to suffer. But cheer up! I have defeated the world.”

True peace isn’t the absence of a crushing moment; it is peace in our hearts despite the crush, despite the loneliness. The end of the story for us is not a crushing defeat, but a rousing victory – but to get there, we will sometimes have to go it alone.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Church planting, Destiny, Dreams, Endurance, Faith, Missions

What Was That All About?

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

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

Plenty.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Courage, Faith

Supposing Could Cost You

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“Watch out and be careful!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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