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Wreckage and Restoration

While I try not to smother people with Africa and Jesus and too much of this or too much of that, my heart is just threatening to burst with each of these things. With Africa, with Jesus, with too many wars and too many children without a pair of shoes on their feet. I can’t beat around the bush or paint it pretty anymore. 

I thought, and somewhat hoped that I’d spend my couple weeks in Africa and that would be it, I’d get my fix and move on. But the Lord began breaking my heart for Africa more than I anticipated. 

Not just an, “Oh, I feel bad. Glad I have a roof over my head, but I’ve got too much on my plate right now.” kind of hurt.

He wrecked me. Pouring into me, He turned my world completely upside down, and suddenly I wanted to walk barefoot and skip a meal and do my laundry in buckets in my backyard. To me, it didn’t seem like there was any other way. I wanted to be covered in dirt like them, to run and jump and tickle, hoping they’d forget the reality of what they were living in. And that’s what we did together, the children and I. We wallowed in dirt, we tossed a bag full of rocks back and forth, we chased each other. That to me was the realization that, “Wow, I really am a child of God.” 

At night it got freezing. You think of Africa, and you think of the Sahara and a hot sun. Well, I do anyway. No place in South Africa has heat, not the poorest nor the richest. I froze, chilled to the bone, in layers upon layers of clothing, while hundreds of thousands of people froze in a ripped t-shirt and shorts, outside. And yet there were moments where I selfishly thought, why am I here? No heat, little to no hot water, ect. I really started to second guess myself, and quickly found myself wondering what I had gotten myself into. Sara, you are crazy. Why would you love a place like this so much? 2 Corinthians 5:13 says, “If it seems we are crazy, it is to bring glory to God.” And while I struggle for an answer for myself, that’s the only one I need. It didn’t take long for Him to reveal that baby wipe baths and too-early-alarms are a small price to pay, and I better just get comfortable with being uncomfortable. 

I was leaving a woman’s shack to hurry back to the bus due to lack of time when these three young girls met us in the street. They wanted to hear the Good News, and I thank the Lord they found us in that busy place. Each one was eager to hear about the Gospel, and asked us to share. Wouldn’t you know, by the grace of God, there were three of us. One for each girl. I pulled one of them aside, and we sat down where we were at. I had 10 minutes. I could feel the doubt in me creeping up, I thought for sure I’d lose this one to time. God I thought. I struggle to share the Gospel in an hour, how on earth can I do it in ten minutes? 

I did it in seven, and another soul found Jesus. My, what the Holy Spirit can do. To add to the celebration, so did two more. I can’t wait to see my sisters in Heaven, AIDS free, when the Kingdom calls us.

Let me tell you about Ibo, because too often we forget that we serve a God of miracles. Ibo is a three year old in Diepsloot. He suffered from a birth defect caused by fetal alcohol syndrome, leaving his eyes seeing in opposite directions. Through the power of prayer, The Lord healed this young boy, leaving him giggling and running in circles as he saw straight for the very first time. Praising God that Ibo is just ONE of many healings. Such a big miracle in such a small boy. 

Ibo, with once crossed eyes, found healing in the Father.

Ibo, with once crossed eyes, found healing in the Father.

I didn’t get my fix. I’m crazy, but it’s for the Lord. Miracles still happen. The lost are found. An extra hand to hold only makes for a greater walk. Love is greater. Mercy never ceases. There’s wreckage, and there’s restoration. These things I have learned, and these things I will carry with me until my last day.

 

My life for the Gospel.

 

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Onlooking kids as we gathered at Impact Africa’s school, Impact Kids.

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One for One. When you purchase a pair of TOMS, TOMS gives a pair to a child in need.

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Kids wait for us by the bus, hoping to hold a hand as we pass through.

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Kids wait for us by the bus, hoping to hold a hand as we pass through.

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These are the shacks that people either lived in and/or worked out of.

 

 

 

 

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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!