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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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In every nook and cranny

Trying to find those “just right” words to sum up my struggles and my not-so-great days. The words that reassure you that you aren’t the only one fighting the good fight, but don’t paint me as a down-in-the-dumps, joyless being. Don’t let the words in past posts fool you into thinking I have my life together; I don’t, nor have I come close to leading a well-put, orderly way of life. My hair is split at the ends, my floor needs swept, shoes are falling, disarrayed, out of my closet. I forget to answer voicemails, books are never fully read, my bed is rarely made, and I’m living a messy, messy life. But when I say messy, I’m not referring to the dust on my furniture, or the growing to-do list.

My struggles and my not-so-great days remind me that I’m nothing short of needy. Needy for a refilled cup; more Jesus. Needy for Truth; more Jesus. Needy for love, and for a push in the right direction; more Jesus. Here I sit, yet again, writing about what my missionary heart is at odds with. I have big plans, and hopes that are high enough for the both of us. Big dreams, but a bigger God.

You see, I’ve grown up in the average state of Indiana, in an average home, in a below average town. A so called “world changer” isn’t something expected to come from your every day, average. I think “world changer” and I picture a Harvard graduate with inspiring quotes painted on their walls, and a recycle bin filled to the brim. I think of someone who only eats organic food and walks from place to place, rather than burning fossil fuels by driving a car.

But changing the world and changing the world for one person are two different things. And through scripture and movies and music and books, God has set a desire in my heart to do the latter, understanding that as I carry out His will, little by little the world as a whole will be changed.

I want to be the world changer in a sun hat with sunscreen covering the brim of my nose, hauling water from a newly built well miles away. I want to hand wash clothes, find my way by candle light, and feed growing children. I want to smuggle Bibles underground where thirsting people wait to be quenched by the Living Water. I want to wash feet and hold hands. I want to enter war zones and defend innocent people with no leaders. I want to share the good news, in every nook and cranny of this earth.

I’m reminded by someone new everyday that being a missionary or a relief worker doesn’t pay, that it’s not practical. I can’t afford it, I have to have a plan, I have to think about my safety. Oh my does it pay. It pays in joy and it pays in lasting relationships. And does God call us to practicality? Or does He call us to love and to give and to serve with every ounce of what we have to offer? I can afford it, knowing that God will be quick to meet my needs as I meet the needs of someone else. I don’t have to have a plan when Jeremiah tells me God has a plan for me. The way my heart is weighted down by the burdens of others I’ve yet to meet, gives me all the assurance I need that this is His very plan for me, that I go and speak of His love all over. If I made my own plans rather than following the ones God has laid before me, who knows where I would be. Thankfully, God’s plans never seem to be affected much by my own. Safety is a touchy subject for me. Of all the things I wish people grasped, it’s that safety is never guaranteed anywhere, whether you’re in your backyard or the slums of India. Just because one place is riskier than another, the people inhabiting them all share the same needs. Each individual needs Jesus just as much as the next person, and as Romans 10:15 says, “Who will go unless they are sent?” He is sending me, please know that. Shots can ring out, doors can be knocked down, but my God will stay the same. If I were to die sharing the Gospel, I’d thank the Lord that of all the ways I could go, He blessed me with the opportunity to go serving.

No, a little dust here and there isn’t what makes my life messy. People near and dear, who I want to understand the pulling at my heart before anyone else, don’t. Satan crowding out God’s voice, growing statistics, distant lands only being pictures in my mind, not stamps on my passport. These things make my life messy, these things are what remind me that I too, am needy. By the grace of God, I’m not needy for things of this world anymore, but rather I’m needy for change in this world. I need people to understand that God isn’t ushering me into this life of discipleship only to leave me hanging. My heart has been shaped by God in a mold foreign to most. My “average” life isn’t all that average after all, but that’s the kind of change Jesus brings.

“The pain you feel in your heart over the desires God has put in you, (them being yet unfulfilled) is your gift from Him, because it causes you to wrestle with Him for the fulfillment of those desires.” – Corey Russel

I leave for Africa in 66 days, and I’m still in need of $750. If you’d like to partner with me by donating, you can donate at http://www.globalexpeditions.com/donate using my ID 2700920. I need prayer just as much as I need the funds, please consider praying for me over the next couple months as God prepares my heart. Let me know if you choose to do either, I’d like to keep you updated on things through pictures and mail. Thank you!

 

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Love rendition

So easily I forget the freedom that lies right in front of me. So easily I fight to unlock the shackles I bear, overlooking the key that Jesus has freely given to me. I say “freely”, but that freedom was bought at such a high price. I forget that the water He gives quenches every thirst. I forget that His ear is bent to hear me. My faith shakes, and my heart breaks, and every day, from dawn to dusk, my God stands faithful and waiting. On the bright side of brokenness, lies Jesus.

I wish I could say my Bible was worn at the seams. I wish I could say I don’t continuously hit the snooze button, making excuses to sleep through my morning quiet time with the Lord. My head doesn’t bow in prayer as often as it should, and my hands hang at my sides while they should be lifted in praise. I let myself get swallowed up by the world, kind of like Jonah getting swallowed by the whale, only on much drier terms.

Most days my heart cries for order.

Recently I found myself stuck in a rut. A deep rut, similar to a pot hole after an ice storm. I got lost in the comparison game, only to come out as the loser. Days were long, and nights longer. The pot hole became a sink hole. As I spent a couple days restlessly battling the chaos within me, I gave in and handed my greed over to God. I said, “Father, I’m exhausted. I’m selfish and jealous for so many things.” And I was. I had a calloused heart for a good week, trying to make jealousy a prettier trait than it is. Despite my efforts, there just wasn’t any justifying my feelings. I ran to Jesus, and called His Name. I remembered the freedom in front of me. I remembered that chains are broken and shackles fall to our feet when we call upon our gentle Father. With these realizations, God plucked me out of the rut, and paved over the pot hole. With closed eyes and folded hands, I called on Him, only minutes before How He Loves came on my Pandora station. The first line, “He is jealous for me,” echoed in my ears, resonating with a new meaning. I had heard this song before, too many times to count, but this time I heard Jesus, not David Crowder. “I am jealous for you,” He whispered, “I long for you.” Oh, amazing grace, how sweet the sound.

He is jealous for me. The Maker of everything in sight, the One who hung the stars and carved the mountains, is jealous for me. I am cherished and I am pursued by a Love that outdoes all the rest. I am enveloped in His grace, sealed tight like a love letter sent to free a debtor. I imagine God peeling and sticking a stamp to the corner of a grace-filled envelope, before putting the flag up on the mailbox. Heaven’s mailroom must be filled to the brim with envelopes of the same sort. Although I’d like to picture it that way, grace is stamped with Christ’s blood, something far more precious. 

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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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Warm Heart

I’m weary and restless, stirring at the thought of the world’s bony children and bare feet. Somehow, these things warm my heart. Those who have nothing are dressed with smiles and filled with joy, finding contentment in another day to live. They rejoice and give thanks, always finding something to delight in. I see them and I’m reminded of, “You turned my wailing into dancing; You removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to You and not be silent. Oh Lord my God, I will give You thanks forever.” Psalm 30:11-12 

I’m itching to share good news, to hold the coffee colored hands of an African child and tell them how wanted and valued and special they are. I want to skin my knees playing with those little boisterous beings, and then collapse on cool ground to soak in God’s goodness. I want to spend my hours drawing water, laughing as I drench myself trying to carry it back. Oh yes, these things warm my heart. 

“When have you ever read a story of God’s great work that made a lot of sense, a story that didn’t seem a little over the top, a little impossible? Not often. Radical, extraordinary love just doesn’t make sense in a fallen world; that doesn’t mean it can’t happen. But it is the very nature of God.” – Katie Davis

I feel this unexplainable urge, this push and prod, to move to Africa and do these things. To share good news and to hold hands. To play with children and soak in God’s goodness. Serving, laughing and loving. Somehow I know that God, who resides in this heart of mine, is the source of it all. This growing love I feel towards people I’ve yet to meet is surely God ushering me into a life of discipleship. “Go,” He whispers. And go I will, running fast and free to Him, to Africa, to a life on the other side of the sea. “In the end, love doesn’t just keep thinking about it or keep planning for it. Simply put: love does.” – Bob Goff