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Well spent days in Africa

The road less traveled took me to the sewage-lined streets of Diepsloot, South Africa. There I learned that loving is the new black, and that a lion lives in the heart of every brave person. Rats ran the same streets the bare-foot children did, and disease was rampant, occupying the body of virtually everyone we met. But, come to find out, these people had nothing but grace and big welcome smiles to offer us strangers. It was there, among the hungry-for-love Africans, that I found more joy than ever before.

Nearly 280,000 people live within the 1.5 to 2 mile radius we ministered in. Of these 280,000, my group of 10 planted 301 seeds, sharing the Gospel with 301 people. The angels rejoiced as a whopping 153 of them committed their lives to Jesus.

Our hand’s became the Lord’s hands as a crippled woman walked and a blind woman saw again. Our whispers became shouts as we prayed not just for all, but for each.

I sat in the dirt with countless women, each one sharing in the same struggles. Not just one or two, but all of them lived in shacks the size of a garden shed or smaller. The shacks were built from wood, scrap metal and cardboard, pieced together like a puzzle. Electricity was a mighty scarce thing. Instead, open fires took the place of stoves, and there was no such thing as a hot shower. Dishes and laundry were done in buckets with water so cold it literally stung your fingers. This is what these people called home. This is how they lived survived.

But the women, oh the strong women of Africa. There was nothing more humbling than being seated at the feet of a woman bearing the hardships one bears in Diepsloot. Holding her hand and trusting that maybe for a second she felt all the hope she’d been robbed of. Sitting together, soaked in sweat-mixed tears, audibly crying out to the Lord. And as we cried, scripture says He bent down, leaning in to hear us. I write with Precious and Privilege and Agnus in mind. Nancy, Chio, Jo Ann, Gladys, Winnie, each one paving the way to greatness.

Africa is the swing of a hand caught by another, much smaller than yours. A baby in one arm, a child on the back, one on your shoulders, two pulling on your shirt, a few on your legs — you just never knew what kind of a balancing act you were walking into.

Here’s the thing – I’ve never been gifted with kids. So here I am, swamped with an innumerable amount of children, stiffly patting them on the back, trying my hardest to show them the love they are just so deprived of. Their noses dripped and their open sores were only growing. Most had ringworm, if not something worse. In that moment my heart softened as I thought of God’s love for us. Each of us, dirty and tarnished, are beyond loved by the Lord. And although we’re all “infected” by our own kind of ringworm, He still yearns for us, quick to pick us up with His grace.

I can’t express the state my heart was in. It was truly broken in a way that taught me my heart had never actually experienced heart break. But in the same hours, I sincerely fell in love too many times to count. I went with the intentions to change the hearts of the Africans, when in reality, I was the one that left with a heart change.

“It’s hard to reconcile the challenges they face, with the joy I see in them. The images spilling out of my television showed only misery, and I was fooled. I bought into the lie that circumstances define happiness in places that despair should thrive. I find adults dancing and singing. Children playing soccer with a ball of tied trash. Relationships and faith provide joy. My new reality… my joy should have no regard for my circumstances. I want what I have learned to trickle down from my head into my heart. I no longer want to need the ‘next thing’ to have joy. Africa does need our efforts and partnership, but for me, I need Africa more than Africa needs me.

So here I am, back at home, but I’m not so sure that home is a place that’ll ever be the same again.

 

 

 

 

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Bittersweet and Ever-Changing

I believe there’s a time in everyone’s life where we get caught up in this tangled mess of confusion, and each strand of hurt or affliction or burden gets wound together all at once. I believe we all come to a point where we feel life and living are too much to bare, and all this urgency we have inside to make things right within ourselves becomes just as heavy of a load as all the other matters we’re facing. Our thoughts become jumbled and we see things more as a fog. We have to squint to see through the obscurities in our way. We have to try extra hard to see things the way they were before. Doubt corrupts our mind, tainting our views on ourselves and what we’re capable of. We can’t tell right from wrong, or what’s the end or only the beginning of a memoir. This seemingly never ending brawl within us finally gets us where it should: on our knees in surrender. This fight is good, in the way that childbirth is good, and grief is good, and defeat is good. It hurts, and it’s tough, but joy comes in the morning. (For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.) Psalm 30:5  The desperation welling up inside is longing for a hope that will ease the suffering we face in this moment, this moment of vulnerability. And in that moment, we abandon our struggles at the altar, or the bathroom floor, or wherever we put a halt to life and break down. We cry out to the ceiling, knowing what lies far beyond it. We pray for all the heavy burden to be lifted off our weak shoulders, because when compared to our Maker, we’re just these minuscule beings with little understanding of the world. Our loving King comes to our rescue just as He said He would, lifting off the weight of this world. And my friends, if you’ve not yet been caught up in a tangled mess of confusion, where each strand of hurt or affliction or burden gets wound together all at once, don’t think for a minute that God won’t be there to deliver you. When you feel life and living is too much to bare, and all the urgency you have to make things right within yourself becomes just as heavy of a load as all the other matters you’re facing, break through the dark night and dance your way into the joyful morning. Don’t try and do it on your own, but rather call on your gracious Father in Heaven. Remember the life that you find hard to live hasn’t run it’s full course yet, and God has much more planned for you. Call on God to be the light that guides you through the fog of chaos. Call on God for truth to cast aside any doubts. Appreciate growing in the bitter you face, and all the while be overwhelmed by the sweetness of His love. We need some “bittersweet” in our life to grow. Sweet is great, and I think we’d all agree we want more of the sweet than we do the bitter, but bittersweet is courageous. The bittersweet in life is ultimately beautiful and valiant and bewildering. When put together it’s something much more deep and life-altering. And although we all reach these heavy-ladened times, we’re blessed with a divine God to carry us out.

Thank you, and God bless each of you.

-Sara

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Heaven or Hell

As I listened to Give Me Your Eyes by Brandon Heath earlier, it really hit me that literally every person on this earth is going somewhere after this life. I’ve always known this, but it really smacked me in the face today. Every person I’ve ever come across, my mom, my dad, my friends, my friend’s mom and dad, my doctor, my teachers, the crossing guards, everyone you see on t.v., ect. Many of those celebrities have it all, but if they don’t have Christ, what do they really have? They have all these worldly things, but nothing waiting for them after this life other than a pit of fire. We think we have the rest of our lives to go out and witness, but we aren’t even promised a tomorrow. We hear that so much, but if you think about it, and really let that sink in, you realize we don’t have much time at all. 7 billion people, all going to Heaven or Hell. We have to reach them as soon as we get an opportunity to, because they aren’t promised a tomorrow either. It’s time to get out of our comfortable shells and go out of our comfort zone to lead someone to Jesus. Nothing in this life will matter if it isn’t about loving God and the people He has made. Not now, or ever.  It’s pretty awesome to know theres a Kingdom waiting for us all. It’s even greater to know theres a God waiting to welcome us, and pour out His love as we enter. We don’t want people to miss out on that, it’s hard to wrap my mind around people burning in Hell for an eternity because someone didn’t make sure they heard the gospel. If someone doesn’t choose Jesus, then we pray for them. That is our duty, we’re called for this. We must be His hands and feet. We have to love, we have to give, we have to witness. I pray today that we can each lead our communities, our states, our countries, our world, to Christ. That we can all convince people of His love and mercy. I pray that people realize the power of the cross, and choose to accept Jesus as their savior.

 

Thank you, God bless you. Be a witness.

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Mercy & Kindness

It is good to be merciful and generous. Psalm 112:5

I wanted to share the story of Thomas Weller to start us off. This man, 16 at the time, plowed into a snow bank during a blizzard. This blizzard left him alone and helplessly stuck. He waited, unhurt, for someone to come along. Eventually, after waiting by himself, a man finally came by in a tow truck and Thomas was able to make it home. He thought to himself, there wasn’t any other traffic tonight, that man probably saved my life.

Today, at the age of 61, Thomas, who is known as “San Diego Highway Man”, scans roads for people stranded or stuck. After 45 years, he’s had over 6,000 roadside assists. He’ll fill up your empty tank, cool your radiator, or even change your flat tire. What’s even cooler, is he accepts no pay, and only asks that you do some kind of kindness to someone else in distress.

Jesus talked to a crowd on a mountainside and told them, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” This truth is evident in Thomas Weller’s life.

In Luke 6:36 Jesus says, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” To be Christ like, we need to show mercy. Titus 3:5 tells us, “God saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.”

Mercy can change someone’s life from defeat and darkness to hope and light. The pattern of revenge, anger, terror, ect. can be broken. Love can destroy hatred.

Someone named Ridley once decided to sit by an “outcast” at school everyday at lunch, despite the looks from others. Days went by, he started talking more, came out of his shell, and the boy told Ridley that he had decided not to commit suicide after because he was thankful to have a friend. Now the two of them enjoy Bible study together every week. Do you see how far a little act of kindness can go?

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The Truth Behind Following Jesus

So again, before I start, a lot of what I base my posts on are inspired by sections of my God Girl Bible 2011 by Hungry Planet. Great Bible, I recommend it for my lady readers. 

Anyway, today I want to write about following Jesus, a lot of what is discussed in Matthew.

The gist of Matthew: The book of Matthew was of course written by Matthew, a tax collector and disciple of Jesus around AD 55 to 80. He was located in either Palestine or Syria, and he wrote to Jewish Christians. Matthew was one of the men traveling with Jesus. He really got to know Jesus and all He was about. In this book, Matthew writes mainly to express that Jesus was the real Messiah that had been predicted.

A lot of what Jesus said seems radical, and somewhat offensive to us. “Deny yourself and take up the cross.” We often think to stand up for ourselves, so these words made no sense to our natural minds. Jesus wanted us to forget the self-protecting, self-promoting, ect. In Matthew 6:24 he asks people to consider themselves significant only insofar as they serve the master.

Before Jesus, people sacrificed animals in order to clear them of the wrong they had done. But now we have a permanent sacrifice: the blood from the lamb they call Jesus. When Jesus taught he told the people that anger is just as bad as murder, and lust is the same as adultery. Our human nature is of course to sin, but Jesus took it all, so that we aren’t condemned to Hell. Giving your heart to Christ means life is no longer your own, but has been given to Him. Focus not on yourself, but the God you live for.Image