3

Going Home

“Please understand, I now have two homes. When I’m at one, I’m away from the other.” – Missionary David Joannes

The Lord has called me back to Africa, or should I say, “home.”

As I was preparing for my first trip, a mentor urged me to watch a movie called Compelled by Love, a film about a missionary couple and their service among the nations. They moved to Mozambique at the peak of the war, with $30 and a God who saves. The woman, Heidi Baker, touched my heart and left a mark that’s lasted. As I fundraised for my first trip, I remembered her and her seemingly never-ending faith. I remembered the many miracles He allowed, the way He used them, the way they were truly His hands and feet, I remembered every bit. She was the most surrendered, sold out person I had seen. She truly loved the world with her hands, stopping for one person after another. She was always on my heart, and never far from my mind. I prayed, day after day, that God would make me like Heidi, in the way that she was a lot like Jesus.

After returning from Africa in July, I went for a visit to Bethany College of Missions, where I had planned to attend next fall. My heart was set on BCOM in all the ways that it could be. Shortly after arriving, the Lord’s discernment had me back backpedalling. Whether I wanted to admit it or not, I knew He was shutting the door. I struggled to find an answer as to why He’d do such a thing – close a door that I already had my foot in. Just days later, I heard from a friend I had met while in Africa. She told me about Iris Harvest, a school in Mozambique. Iris allows you to serve with them for 3 months, then enabling you to be hired by Iris Global as a long term missionary elsewhere.

“It’s run by a woman named Heidi Baker!” she said.

The Holy Spirit just captured every part of me. Every hair on my body stood on end. Every doubt and every fear fell off in an instant. His “peace that surpasses all else,” entirely over came me. Sobbing and laughing, too much at once, I came to the realization that the Lord is making my crooked paths straight. And friends, I’m on my way to Mozambique.

5

The Cost of Following Jesus – ISIS and America

Islamic terrorists in Iraq are beheading children and burying people alive, and it won’t stop there. They have a message for America: “We’re coming for you.” -CBN News

 

Following the path to Jesus often leads to persecution. Growing up in a culture where freedoms and choices are plentiful, makes that a hard pill to swallow for some. We’re free to gather in worship, we’re free to pray, we’re free to praise and sing to the Heavens all we please. While we very well may be ridiculed, hardly ever are we arrested for our faith.

 

Luke 21:10-19     Nations will go to war against one another, and kingdoms will attack each other. There will be great earthquakes, and in many places, people will starve to death and suffer terrible diseases. All sorts of frightening things will be seen in the sky. Before all of this happens, you will be arrested and punished. You will be tried in your meeting places and put in jail. Because of Me, you will be placed on trial before kings and governors. But this will be your chance to tell about your faith. Don’t worry about what you will say to defend yourselves. I will give you the wisdom to know what to say. None of your enemies will be able to oppose you or to say that you are wrong. You will be betrayed by your own family and friends. Some of you will even be killed. Because of Me, you will be hated by everyone. But don’t worry! You will be saved by being faithful to Me.”

 

I’m continuously watching videos and reading articles about ISIS and the persecution in Qaraqosh and Bartilla. I watch these Islamic terrorists run Christians out of their homes, cut off their limbs, and blow up their bodies. They flee while they can to Erbil, most with nothing more than the clothes on their back. If they don’t convert, they are killed, each one of them, from baby, to mother, to old man. They’re burning churches and cleaning out the belongings of the victims, leaving them with nothing. No ID, no travel documentation, no clothes, no money, nothing. They’re shot, tossed on the ground, and run over with machinery, as their families are made to watch. They’re pleading for the United States and the United Nations to come stand by them.

What am I doing for my faith?

Meanwhile, as thousands upon thousands are dying for their faith, here in America, churches care more about the lighting on the stage. They’re having basketball courts put in, flat screens installed, and pool tables set up. On the other side of the globe, children are being taken, raped and beheaded for their faith, while we worry about raising our hands during Sunday morning worship. We ask ourselves what the person next to us will think if we pray out loud or clap in excitement for the Lord. Frankly, I think we all need a heart check. Yes, persecution in the US is few and far between, but are we ready to fight the good fight?

Jesus made plain the consequences that would come with following Him. He warned us all through Scripture what would take place in the lives of believers. It happened to Peter, John, Paul, James, and countless others. Why it still comes as a surprise to me, is beyond me. Even though it’s anticipated, it’s not any more acceptable. 

Have mercy, Lord, on those who are mistreated. Keep them strong and rescue them from death.

Recently I read a story about a man named Dmetri, who fell head-over-heels in love with Jesus during the communist reign in Russia. He began opening his home to others, giving them a place to come and worship. People swarmed to read the Bible and sing songs that testified their faith. So many people came, the government noticed, and Dmetri was fired from his job. Steadfast, he continued preaching to others that came and gathered. One night, during a church session, officers broke in and took him, just as Luke said would happen in meeting places. They slapped him around and said, “We warned you, and warned you! And I will not warn you again! If you do not stop this nonsense, this is the least that is going to happen to you.” When the officer made his way to the door, a small grandmother put her life out there, and waved a finger in his face. She declared, “You have laid hands on a man of God and you will NOT survive!” Two days later, the officer died of a heart attack. After 150 people showed up at the next meeting, Dmetri was thrown into jail for 17 years. The prisoners and guards couldn’t break him as he continuously sang the same song to Jesus every day. They laughed and cursed, sometimes throwing waste at him. He snuck paper to his cell and wrote Bible verses on them, sticking them to concrete pillars as “praise offerings” to God. For 17 years he was beaten, but never stopped. The guards finally decided to execute him, but as they carried him away, 1500 inmates raised their hands and began singing the same song Dmetri had sung every day for those 17 years. The officers stepped back in horror and questioned him, demanding to know who he really was. He proudly declared, “I am a son of the Living God, and Jesus is his name!” He was then released.

When persecution comes, when your road becomes long, and your hallelujah tired, hold tight to Luke’s Scripture. 

 

This is a chance to tell about your faith. Don’t worry about what you will say to defend yourselves. I will give you the wisdom to know what to say. None of your enemies will be able to oppose you or tell you that you’re wrong.

Tomorrow’s freedom is today’s surrender. Shout loudly. Spend wisely. Read avidly. Live responsibly. Give Lavishly. Travel meaningfully. Think Biblically. Study purposefully. Volunteer. Pray continually. 

 

 

3

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.

 

 

 

 

15

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!

 

13

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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Surely We Can Change

And the problem is this
We were bought with a kiss
But the cheek still turned
Even when it wasn’t hit

And I don’t know
What to do with a love like that
And I don’t know
How to be a love like that

When all the love in the world
Is right here among us
And hatred too
And so we must choose
What our hands will do

Where there is pain
Let there be grace
Where there is suffering
Bring serenity
For those afraid
Help them be brave
Where there is misery
Bring expectancy
And surely we can change
Surely we can change
Something

And the problem it seems
Is with you and me
Not the Love who came
To repair everything

Where there is pain
Let us bring grace
Where there is suffering
Bring serenity
For those afraid
Let us be brave
Where there is misery
Let us bring them relief
And surely we can change
Surely we can change
Oh surely we can change
Something

Oh, the world’s about to change
The whole world’s about to change

– David Crowder Band

My heart is declaring this in Jesus’ Name, the world is about to change. “Where there is pain, let us bring grace. Where there is suffering, bring serenity. For those afraid, let us be brave. Where there is misery, let us bring them relief, and surely we can change. Surely we can change, oh surely we can change something.”

1

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.