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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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For Justice & Equity

Some days my prayers are quiet whispers, while other days my prayers are silent and merely directed thoughts. Here lately, my prayers have been shouts of plea for justice and equity. I find myself in good company as I reflect on Jesus praying in the garden of Gethsemane.

“He was in anguish and prayed even more earnestly. His sweat became like drops of blood falling on the ground.” Luke 22:44

I pray for 200+ Nigerian girls that are unaccounted for, going night after night without a momma to tuck them in. I pray for the families of 118 people who lost their lives in the Jos explosions, the 30 killed in Borno, the 20 killed by a gunmen, the 10 killed by Boko Haram’s attackers. I pray for the one carrying dirty water for miles with jigger infested feet. I pray for Margaret, who was mutilated by the LRA. I pray for young Monesha, who is found in the brothels of the Red Light District. 

As the Lord reveals more and more of His plans for me, I rely on Him to teach me contentment in my waiting. I know I’m being sent, but not today. While I can’t be in Africa or Thailand at this very moment, I’m reminded that my Father walks among every nation doing far more than I ever could. Although I’m not yet physically in the lands set out for me, my prayers are there, and that’s all that’s needed when we have a God as mighty as ours at work. My peace is found in that.


 

Lord, I thank You for Your sacrifice, for the life You gave up in order to give life to each of us. I pray that this generation becomes a generation of world changers, only finding their strength in You. Lead us with Your strong hands down the path that You have paved for us. Anoint us with Your Holy Spirit, and equip us with the means to deliver the Gospel to every nation, and to every person, young and old. Teach us not only to raise up workers for this plentiful harvest, but to advance the Kingdom for Your glory in all that we do. Let our love look like Yours, Father. Thank You for your gracious plans. In Your Name we pray, Amen.

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Passports, TOMS and all things delightful

With 113 days left until I embark on my mission trip to South Africa, I’m here to update you on all the delights that consume my day. In the midst of every due date and lost paper, I’m still finding myself lost in God’s peace and patient heart. This journey has been documented in such beautiful words and pleasing-to-the-ear phrases, but I assure you, I’ve spent many nights awake in the wee hours of the morning, in hopes of gaining back composure lost. I’m reminded, what feels like too often, that there’s money to raise, shots to get, papers to fill out, people to call, and flights to book. Mail gets lost and calls go unanswered, while deadlines come far quicker than I can mark another X on the calendar. Papers don’t print and my To-Do list seems to grow faster than my list of things accomplished. 

Today, I’m thankful and my heart is swelling up with a new kind of gratitude. I’m thankful for those lost papers and flights to book. I’m thankful for the dwindling calendar and a printer that won’t do it’s job when I need it to most. The lost papers can be replaced, the flights to book only mean I’m one step closer to my precious, coffee colored friends in Africa, whom I find myself longing for every hour of the day. The things that throw a wrench in my day the most only remind me that we have a God whose yoke is easy and whose burden is light. Philippians 4:6 is God telling me, “My child, do not be anxious about anything, present to Me your troubles.” Yet I still find myself coming up with an excuse as to how something won’t get done, or how a required task will go unnoticed until it’s too late. And then my ever faithful Father steps in once again, and speaks truth into the doubt-filled void I’ve tried to fight with my own strength too many times to count. 2 Corinthians 12:9, “But the Lord said, ‘My grace is all you need. Only when you are weak can everything be done completely by My power.‘ So I will gladly boast about my weaknesses. Then Christ’s power can stay in me.” My heart sings that last line, “So I will gladly boast about my weaknesses. Then Christ’s power can stay in me.” Yes Lord, be my strength.

My heart feels a new kind of anguish as I lay in bed every single night. I mean my heart literally aches as I sit knee-deep in books on poverty-stricken people that the world has deemed unworthy. I look into my overcrowded refrigerator and my stomach churns as I think of physically starving African children 8,000 miles out of my reach. I’ve grown to recognize that maybe, just maybe, I need those desperate people more than they need me. My knees find their place on the floor at my bed-side, and restless I pray. I pray for Geetha, a 19 year old Dalit, who lives on the streets of India with memories of abuse and the sex industry she was once sold into. So hard, I pray. I lift up the many little boys in northern Africa who are taught to kill or who face death themselves. This is the kind of hurt that feels good. This is the kind of hurt that reminds me Jesus resides in my heart, and that the anguish He allows me to feel is being used to fuel the fire He has set inside me. The fire is raging, raging in such a life-altering way that while I pray for rest from this pain, I crave more. I crave more fuel on the fire, I crave more compelling statistics, I crave more Jesus. I’m thankful that rest has been given to me through Psalm 68:5, “A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.” How restoring it is that my prayers do work in the place of where my physical presence cannot be because of God’s goodness. 

Meanwhile, my heart finds so much joy in my freshly pressed passport and worn out TOMS. There’s an odd excitement in knowing that my passport will soon be filled with stamps from the countries God is sending me to. What are now my white-soled TOMS will return to the states red from the rich African soil, and old clothes will find new owners in the bare-skinned kiddos that God will find fit to bless me with. My Bible will come back home with me with heavily marked up pages to prove the great Source of my renewed soul. And I sure can’t wait. 

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The Gospel Of Grace

Sometimes it feels like the minute the word “grace” comes up, people put their defenses up. People steer clear of those “Grace Preachers”. Many think that “grace and the law have to be balanced”. Another controversial topic is the topic of reigning in life, kind of tying in with grace. Satan puts obstacles around the gospel of grace, aware that when we receive grace, we begin to reign in life. The Bible says the devil comes to steal, kill, and destroy. The Devil wants to see you at the lowest of lows, broke and broken. He doesn’t want to see us enjoying life. He doesn’t want us reigning. He strategizes how to prevent us from receiving grace and righteousness, a gift from God. Satan uses controversies as a way to surround God’s truth. Pastor Joseph Prince says, “You can always tell how powerful a truth is by the number of controversies the devil surrounds it with.” 

Jesus died on the cross, and crushed Satan. Satan has no power anymore, Satan has only lies. Same goes for the world we live in. The world doesn’t have the truth, but instead it’s filled with pretty lies on how to live life fed to us by the devil. As believers, we have the truth. But sometimes we distribute the truth in a casual fiction way. This truth is something to shout about. Glory to God for all the love He shows. Be bold, believers. Jesus is the one truth, He is the one way, and He is the only thing capable of setting us free. Present people with the real, pure truth. What good is a watered down Gospel?

When God began restoring the truth of prosperity, guards were put up once again, calling it heresy. Churches back off of prosperity teachings because they’re so controversial. Does it not matter that the Bible declared that Jesus became poor on the cross so that we might be prosperous? 

You take your sick child to a doctor. You try to get the best education for your child. So on and so forth. Don’t you do these things out of love for your child? So that they can be blessed, healthy, and live a prosperous life? Do you think that your heavenly Father would want any less for you? God blesses you not because you are good, but because He is good. We have His undeserved favor, given to us not because of our works, but because of His grace. If we were given grace based on our actions, it would no longer be undeserved favor, but it would instead be based on the system of the law. Deserved favor. There is the the old covenant of law, and a new covenant of grace. Law is deserved favor – When we obey the commandments perfectly, we’ll be blessed. GRACE is undeserved favor – Jesus obeyed God perfectly, and we’ll be blessed by believing in Him. Which covenant are you under? God made a new covenant, a covenant of grace, and for a good reason.

The Lord wants us receiving the abundance of grace, to have the abundance of grace is to have the abundance of Jesus! 

John 1:17 – For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.

Grace came as a person! Jesus is grace, and grace is Jesus. The Word declares that if we know the truth, the truth will set us free. Grace is the truth that will set us free, not the law. If the devil can keep you under the law, he can keep you defeated. 

There is no “Prosperity Gospel”. There is one gospel, and that is the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

Thank you for reading, be blessed.

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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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Listening More To The Gospel Of Jesus

One of the things we’re taught so often is that we have to search our heart for sin before worshiping the Lord. Each time we do so, we bring up all of this shame and end up feeling too unworthy of worshiping such an awesome God. The more we search ourselves, the more sin we find, and we feel too condemned to even think we’re qualified for His holy presence.  Instead of being conscious of the love of our Savior, we become more and more self-conscious. We become more conscious of our sins, uncleanness, guilt and unworthiness. But before we search, we’re raising our hands and all ready to bring glory to God. We’re ready to praise Him like there’s no tomorrow. The more we see the sin in our lives, the more we hang our hands and bow down our heads with disappointment. How do we have the courage to enter His courts with praise? Don’t get me wrong, sin is wrong, and we shouldn’t purposely abuse God’s grace by sinning because we know we’re forgiven. I think it’s important not to be too sin conscious at the same time. The idea that you have to be “right” to come before God or worship Christ is man’s tradition. In Luke chapter 7, a woman comes to Jesus with an alabaster flask of fragrant oil, falls at His feet, and praises Him. With her tears she cleansed His feet and wiped them with her hair before she anointed Him with oil. The Bible clearly records that the woman was a sinner, but doesn’t say anything about her searching her heart or confessing her sins before worshipping Jesus. She worshipped Him just as she was and Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

I’m thinking the devil has tried to rob us of this tremendous truth to keep it from us. Whatever your need is, come to your Savior Jesus Christ. He’s your healer, your provider, your peace, your forgiveness. He is your “I AM”. He is your “I AM” in whatever situation life is throwing at you. Worship Him as you are, and He will meet you at your point of need. You don’t have to worry about your sins because you’re worshipping your forgiver. You don’t have to worry about the sickness or illness you’re facing because you’re worshipping your healer. Do you know anyone who cleans themselves before they take a bath? There’s so many people who stray from coming to Jesus, and avoid Him because they feel they have to straighten out their lives first. Jesus is the bath that makes us clean. 

The way out of this feeling of being sin conscious is hearing more on the finished work of Jesus and the forgiveness for our sins. As we listen to Christ exalting teachings we’re more conscious of the forgiveness rather than our sins. Again, not saying it’s okay to abuse that forgiveness. As soon as we stop carrying sin-consciousness and condemnation in our minds and hearts, we’ll be over taken by the pureness of God’s Word. 

God knows we need to be reminded of forgiveness and be reassured of it, so the Bible makes it clear. It’s discussed in Psalms 103 when the “benefits” from the Lord are listed. He starts with “who forgives all your iniquities” before moving on to, “who heals all your diseases”. We see a reflection of this when Jesus meets the man sick with palsy in Luke. 

I do not deny sin must be punished, but all your sins have already been punished on the body of Jesus. He’s the perfect sin offering, and we who have received His forgiveness shouldn’t be sin conscious. Read Psalm 103 and realize that forgiveness is yours. Healing is yours. Redemption from destruction is yours. Hallelujah! Believe that your sin debt has been settled and walk in blessings. “Grace isn’t a teaching, or a doctrine, but a person named Jesus Christ.” 

 

Most of this was written after reading Destined To Reign by Joseph Prince. A lot of this is his wording, so I don’t claim it as mine at all. Awesome book that discusses grace and the finished work of Christ. Bible based and life changing.