Categories
Choices Comfort Correction Covid19 Feeding Missions Perspective What Did You Do

I Want In

I’m not an extrovert by any stretch of the imagination. By nature, I know those who know me may find this hard to believe, I prefer to sneak in and out unseen and unheard. It’s more comfortable, I’m happy to let others take the lead and simply follow. I’m happy to fade into the background…unless I see something that I have the power to help change. I hate to see people suffer, especially those who are helpless, and not do anything to help change their circumstances.

I have sometimes wished that this part of me would fade a bit into the background as it has, on occasion, brought me into the limelight, sometimes in very uncomfortable ways. Yet, no matter what I do, if I see someone hurting and I can do something to help, I want in. There have been times that this part of me has driven me to exhaustion. It has also driven me to great and seemingly impossible lengths to raise funds to bring meaningful change to this part of the world that we live in. It has driven me to sleepless nights as I work out in my mind what can be done when no one is doing anything. I want in, I want in.

I’ve also learned that while I am driven to help, it is Jesus who lives in me that is the One who brings help through His people. I’m unable to find solutions for everyone, but I am able to help someone. I should never use the excuse of a problem being too big for me to recline from what I should do for the one or the two that I can help.

The heaviness in my heart, and in the hearts of those working in this way, is simply a reflection of our Father’s heart for this world. It is through us, His servants, that He works and moves. It may be that the heaviness that those of us working for Him feel is also a reflection of how He feels when His people aren’t on the front lines bringing help to the helpless. It may be that part of the heaviness we feel is His own sorrow over our lack of involvement. He has given us everything, why have we at times closed our eyes or turned our backs thinking, “They should know better by now, they should do better by now, they should be better by now, I have my own needs to think of.”

Thank God someone reached out to me when I should have known better. Thank God someone reached out to me when I should have done better. Thank God someone reached out to me when I should have been better.

And still, through us, Jesus is saying, “I want in, I want in.”

As overwhelming as the needs are around us in this upside down world, we serve a God who desperately wants in so He can bring His power into the equation. So much depends on our “wanting in” to the will and plan of God. I’m all in, I want in.

Matthew 25:40 NKJ “And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’”

Categories
Death Faith Grief Loss Missions Unexplained

It Has Come To You

Our November 2019 updates are in click here for details.

Categories
Change Courage Faithfulness Journey Missions Perspective

Things

Click on the link to read our latest news.

Things October 2019

Categories
Faithfulness Journey Missions Perspective Provision Purpose surrender

Out of the Know

I’ve been flying (literally) under the radar these past few weeks. We are traveling; giving reports and connecting with churches, friends and partners of the work in Africa. While it may sound glamorous, all of the traveling, it’s actually quite arduous. We travel in economy everywhere we go (we have been bumped up to business class twice that I can remember in our 33 years of traveling overseas) and do our best to keep costs down. This translates into lots of “making do” and cheaper meals on the go which will often give me lots of fodder for blogging.

There’s always something good that comes out of our inconvenience.

Our current route has already taken us through Belgium, the UK, Florida and now Texas. It’s a real honor to see people who we’ve connected with over the years; some have been supporting us since the year we began this amazing journey in 1987. How have we gotten this far? It’s got to be a God thing because alone we wouldn’t have made it past our first 6 months in Africa.

I’m certainly not the best, or even mediocre, theologian, expository speaker or writer that can give a more precise explanation for the wonders we have experienced. Perhaps if I had the right charisma or gifting that would naturally draw people, that could possibly explain some of what we have seen over the years – but I am hopelessly ordinary. There’s nothing about my personality that would make me stand out in a crowd, that would merit the attention of more than one or two people, those two being my husband and (maybe) one of my children.

I would describe myself as an introvert. Yes, an introvert. For those reading who know me now, you might find yourself chuckling because I can, under the right circumstances, wax loquacious. My verbose tendencies are mostly learned; perhaps I’ve learned the lesson too well. Nevertheless, even with my not-so-newfound long-winded tendencies, I am far and away from those who have become rich and famous through their communication skills.

Indeed, the past 33 years of seeing what we’ve seen can only be explained by the Unexplainable One Himself – it’s been a God thing, and He has been so good in caring for us every single day. As I see it, we’ve been given a task and as long as we have stayed committed, God has graced us to take part in the adventure of a lifetime.

My understanding of how God has brought us this far might run cross-grain to those who have to have an explanation for everything. Together with my learned speaking skills, I have learned to be comfortable with being out of the know, for there are some things that are just too wonderful,” He’s just too good for me to understand.

Job 42:3 NIV “You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not undersand, things too wonderful for me to know.”

While I might overcommunicate from time to time or keep my husband and children waiting for me as I talk with friends, I’ve learned there are just some things I need to keep my mouth shut about because they are just too wonderful. They go above my pay grade – and I’m OK with that.

So we’ll just keep doing what we are doing: planting churches, opening schools and feeding programs, working in local prisons and starting leadership academies and whatever else we’re graced to do knowing that God understands how He will get the job done. We simply have to keep ourselves on point and our eyes fixed to the task at hand because the intricacies of how to get it done are just too wonderful, and He will keep on being good.

Categories
Choices Destiny God's call Missionary Missions Offense Rejection

Balancing Accounts

I wasn’t a very good bank teller.

Early in life as I tried to find my way, I decided to apply for a job as a bank teller. I’m not quite sure what possessed me to think that I would do well as a bank teller. You see, when I was in 5th grade, I had to take extra math classes over the summer break to pass into 6th grade. Nevertheless, I bravely took the plunge and passed the entrance exam and became an official bank teller.

I was assigned to a supervisor who taught me the ins and outs of bank telling. One of the skills I learned was how to balance all transactions at the end of every work day. While I felt initimidated by all of the math I faced daily, I managed to do well and slowly settled into the mundane work of counting and balancing.

One day, after a particularly long day of counting, I went to balance my transactions. The goal was for all transactions to come out evenly which I managed to do by this point on a regular basis. However, on this day I came up $10,000.00 short of the amount that I should have had in the drawer. My heart began to race and I called my supervisor who said, “Don’t worry, these things happen, you will find the error in a day or two as you continue to work.”

Trusting her advice, I went home with my heart in my throat, believing that the next day I would find the error. Unfortunately as the week unfolded, I was unable to pinpoint my mistake, much to the chagrin of my supervisor who called me to her office one afternoon and made it clear that I needed to find the $10,000.00 quickly.

The day after my meeting with my supervisor, I stayed at my desk after my shift was done, determined to fix the problem. Thankfully, after pouring through piles of papers and receipts for what seemed like hours, I found where I had added some figures twice. I shouted, “I found it!” Cheers went up from those around me and then and there I decided bank telling wasn’t for me; I gave my two-week notice a few days later.

While my bank-telling career was short-lived, I wasn’t surprised by the outcome. Deep inside I knew that my life would pan out very differently than what most people would think was normal; I knew the trajectory of my life would shoot me far from my homeland to where I’m now serving, Africa.

I knew who I was.

I was an unlikely candidate for missions work; I didn’t have a ministry pedigree or any kind of background one would expect that would be needed to qualify to work overseas. Those close to me wondered aloud (in as nice a way that they could of course) what special talent did I have that I could use overseas? What did I have to offer that others couldn’t do better?

That call, however, couldn’t be shaken and all these years later, as average as I may be, I’m still answering the call to go (Isaiah 6:8). I’ve found that those answering the call often look less like the obvious choice; we often don’t appear to be the best suited for the job. Certainly there are smarter, stronger, richer, and more popular individuals who could do what I get to do here – but whoever they are never answered the call, so here I am.

Jesus had the opposite problem – He was overqualified for His call. He spent His life in obscurity, comparing to the glory He was accustomed to in heaven, rejected as unqualified by those He came to save. Yet He never took His eye off the prize: you and I.

When it came time for Jesus to balance His transactions for the day, He made no error, His figures were perfect, but those around Him couldn’t believe Him. They simply couldn’t accept someone like Him could be the one they were waiting for.

But He knew Who He was.

In Luke 4:1-21 we find Jesus, who had just begun His ministry in areas outside His home region where people knew Him, standing up and quoting Isaiah’s proclamation of what the work of the Messiah was to be:

Isaiah 61:1-3 MEV  The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor; He has sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn, to preserve those who mourn in Zion, to give to them beauty
for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness,
that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lordthat He might be glorified.”

After reading this passage, Jesus went on to say in Luke 4:21 MEV “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” The people listening became enraged, how could someone they knew, someone they had seen grow up, make such a bold delcaration? They weren’t ready for their preconceived ideas of how the Messiah would come to be challenged; surely He wouldn’t come as the son of a carpenter. The crowd quickly decided to take matters in their own hands:

Luke 4:28-30 MEV All those in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath. They rose up and thrust Him out of the city and led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw Him down headlong. But passing through the midst of them, He went His way.”

The end of the day hadn’t yet come for Jesus, He wasn’t meant to die at that point and He kept on working, He kept on counting.

Finally, after three years of pouring Himself out, Jesus’ time to balance His accounts came. He poured over the receipts, you and I, He agonized over each and every transaction before Him: the poor, the brokenhearted, the captives, the blind and those who mourn. His calling, His anointing, wasn’t meant to do anything but bring those He loved to Himself.

Qualifying for God’s call simply means accepting what we are anointed for: to gather others to the Father by whatever means necessary.

So, who will be next to go?

 

Categories
Choices Excuses Faith Missions Obedience Parenting

Turn Around Here

“Most religious principles don’t liberate us; they confine and enslave us. Most practices and disciplines do more to highlight our futility than they do to empower us for glory.” Chris Tiegreen

Don’t wear this.

Don’t do that.

Don’t say that.

And definitely don’t listen to that.

The list of dos and don’ts in our lives is endless. When our children grow from being an infant to becoming a toddler, we bombard them with “No, no, no!” Almost everything is off limits to them and in true toddler fashion, they will crash through every barrier we try to create. A wise parent, while having to put boundaries in place for safety and growth, will not only construct healthy boundaries for their children, they will also create an atmosphere of understanding why those boundaries exist.

Employers have certain rules in place in the workplace that employees are naturally expected to observe. Be that as it may, it is inevitable that rules will be broken and ultimately some employees will face termination due to their resistance to following the rules. In this scenario it’s not uncommon for complaints to be filed and damages to be sued for – all because rules weren’t followed or broken.

Imagine how God feels when He sees the bigger picture and tries to guide us into what He knows to be best for us, we resist and break His guidelines. As we resist, like toddlers or the erring employee, we talk ourselves into the “rightness” of our decisions despite all of the evidence saying we’ve taken a wrong turn. Because we can’t sue God for damages or lost wages, we instead look for ways to keep proving we are right and our relationship with Him suffers and His once-familiar voice fades into silence.

I was driving in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, a number of years ago looking for a guest house we had heard of and were hoping to look at and use as future accomodations for visitors. I was in a two-door Daihatsu Rugger (looked like some kind of jeep) and had a friend with me in the vehicle, helping me look for the guest house. As we drove down the dual-carriage road, I began to feel discouraged as we were failing to find the place. I heard the phrase, “Turn around here,” in my mind but at the same time I thought “Let me just go a bit farther.” I had already driven this far, I thought I should at least go a little further.

A short while later, I decided it was time to turn around and pulled into a turning lane that separated the dual-carriage road. The moment I had stopped and was waiting to turn around, I heard a screeching sound and looked in my rear-view mirror and caught a glimpse of a large Toyota Land Cruiser headed straight for my side of the vehicle – and I closed my eyes and braced for impact.

The larger vehicle hit me and, from a full stop, propelled my vehicle into the opposite lane. I opened my eyes and checked on my passenger who was thankfully fine, as was I. Shaken, I sat in my seat for a moment knowing that I was going to have to tell Jamie about the accident (this was pre-cell phone days) and then we were going to have to figure out how to pay to fix our vehicle. Yes, we had insurance but that really didn’t (and still doesn’t) mean much in our part of the world. Thankful that there wasn’t traffic or pedestrians that were involved in the accident, I pushed the heavily dented door open and checked on the status of both vehicles. Mine was majorly damaged; the driver’s door was damaged as was the body of the vehicle on the driver’s side. The Land Cruiser that hit me, however, didn’t look as if anything had happened.

In a short while, the police came, spent about a half an hour with the driver of the Land Cruiser in their vehicle, then took my driver’s license, and informed me that I was at fault. Tears stung the back of my eyes as I made arrangements to go to the police station. Some weeks of stress sorting and cleaning up after this whole escapade followed, and I cried many tears of regret for not listening to the voice that said, “Turn around here.”

Since then, I have tried to listen to the voice, to the direction that I heard last because I am not keen on having to clean up when I don’t have to. I came to understand that I don’t really know very much at all as I only see a very small part of what is going on in the world around me.

God’s Word, His ways, are often read like a rule book that we try to adhere to like employees at the work place. Following God this way, not listening and watching through ears and eyes of faith won’t liberate us. In fact, if we simply try to be good and follow the rules, we will eventually break out of those boundaries. What we are missing in our pursuit of God is a deep relationship with Him as when we fall into step with Him, those boundaries no longer bind us. We, instead, eagerly wait for the next step knowing we won’t possibly be able to take it without His guidance.

No, I don’t know better, not at all, and that is just fine with me.

What’s next?

Categories
Church planting Missions

Consequences

This month in our newsletter from Africa & Beyond, we talk about consequences. They aren’t all bad; in fact, some of them are good and those are what we are after. Click here to read more and to watch short video compilation of our 2019 conference in Bujumbura, Burundi.

Also, here’s a shameless plug for Bonfire! Bonfire is an online tshirt printing company that is helping us print tshirts that will be released with our revised book, No Retreat – No Regrets. Check them out by clicking here, they have been great to work with.

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Categories
Faith Fear Kingdom Missions

It’s A Bit Hot

Sharing a short update on the HOT goings-on here in Bujumbura. Click on the link for more.

https://shoutout.wix.com/so/04MeWf0vr

Categories
Courage Destiny Faithfulness God's call Missions

Bullseye

I’ve been spending the past few weeks revising our book, “No Retreat-No Regrets.” It was first published in 2010, but the original publisher went out of business a few years ago. So, knowing that the book needed revising anyway, I have set myself to cleaning up the manuscript and adding a bit more information. The book is our attempt to walk with you through the years of our service here in Africa. It’s quite an emotional journey remembering these times; some of them were easier than others but none of them would have been possible without God’s grace.

A thread I see that has, at least by me, been unintentionally woven through the book is the value of consistency, or faithfulness. In the glorious moments of setting out into a new venture, it’s easy to get caught up in the hype. For us overseas missionaries that hype often comes when we make the choice to enter the field and first get on the field. It’s a trying time in and of itself to get here so upon arrival we are expecting things to flow to a certain extent, to be a bit easier than the process was to get to our destination. Truth be told, things only get increasingly challenging the more we step into the destiny God has for us.

This doesn’t mean we never have great times, no, not at all! It just means we face uphill battles to get the work done. I imagine this happens for many reasons: a battle wages for the souls of men and women, anyone willing to sow their own lives for the sake of others automatically has a “bullseye” painted on his/her back. Another reason would be for God to get the glory for anything that gets done, as it would be easy to sit back and get a bit proud when the work begins to grow.

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Growing any work, at home or abroad, requires one and the same thing: consistency/faithfulness.

Psalm 37:3 NASB “Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.”

The word “cultivate” speaks of a time-consuming process. Crops are not planted and harvested in a day – they take seasons. Some crops can be harvested in a few months and others after a few years. The process takes time, time to tend the field, clear it of weeds and stones, fertilize the ground, and finally plant the seed. In time, the right time, the plants begin to grow – but it’s not harvest time yet.

Cultivation takes time, ask any farmer!

How many times have I missed out on what God was doing because I uprooted my crops before their time because of impatience or boredom? If I am honest with myself, it’s been quite a few! Thankfully, God isn’t limited by my failures and uses them to point me in His direction. I’m now learning to be mindful, concentrate, and cultivate faithfulness in what He has sent me to do – there will come a day when the harvest will have to be brought in and I want to be here to see it.

__________________________________________________

Our book will be out on KDP (Amazon) soon, I’ll be sure to put a link here in the blog. Until then, I’m typing, backspacing, deleting, and retyping.

Categories
Choices Church planting Destiny Dreams God's call Missions Obedience The Call of God

No Fine Print

The notion of living and working overseas can be thrilling – and it is thrilling. There’s nothing like living in a foreign land and seeing God start something from nothing. I’ve seen churches planted, leaders trained, schools established, children fed, many miracles too numerous to recount, and as the years have gone by, I’ve watched my own family grow and change.

When I first stepped off the plane in 1987, I imagined my life would turn out one way: that we would see miracles and our work would take off like the Space Shuttle from Cape Canaveral. While dreaming for an amazing takeoff was what we had hoped for, it wasn’t what we experienced.

No one told me that it would take years to learn languages and culture.

No one told me that it would take years to see 14 churches planted.

No one told me that this call would require me to surrender everything I had.

Little of what I experienced was part of the actual plan I had formulated in my head.

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It seems that this life that we have chosen, that many have chosen before us, never comes with any “fine print” to read. There is no full disclosure, no rigid job description, nor is there any guarantee of what this world would consider to be success. The only promise we have is that God will be with us.

I’ve been reading of the exodus of Israel from Egypt the past few days during my morning devotions and I’ve noticed there’s a common thread woven among those who accept “God assignments.” Moses was originally sent on a mission to deliver God’s people from Egypt, his original assignment was to deliver God’s people from Pharoah’s rule (Acts 7:35). There was nothing in the fine print of the original call that said he would, subsequent to delivering God’s people, have to not only lead them beyond the exodus but into a relationship with God as He gave instructions for the tabernacle and all associated sacrifices and procedures. Moses simply began with what he knew and then the doors of God’s will kept opening before him – and he walked through them one by one.

While he was far from perfect, the one thing that qualified Moses is the same thing that qualifies anyone who dares to say “yes” when God calls: fierce obedience. This kind of obedience moved Moses to leaving life as he knew it behind and into a walk of the unknown. He saw God work miracles, part waters, and speak with Him face-to-face as a friend (Exodus 33:11). He also experienced many trials: leading an unruly people, separation from his wife and children, jealousy, strife, and even attempted takeovers. The only expectation Moses had from God was that God’s presence accompany them – he knew that if God was with him and the people, they would make it to whatever destination God had in mind.

Exodus 33:14,15 NKJV My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest. Then he said to Him, ‘If Your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here.'”

All of us long to see the extreme blessings we read about or hear of, we want to see the dead raised and miraculous provision, but dare we live in the way required to see the seas part? Are we really that radical?