Thursday, March 26, 2015

Joy along the journey

I have been trying to find the words for what had been a mystery to me. In the past few months, even though I know how hard life in the bush of South Sudan is, I have longed with all my heart to go back. I can't understand it! We had a comfortable home, supportive church, and many friends back in the States. Life on the fields is hard. I am daily pushed beyond my limits, forced to live every minute, every day by the Lord's strength alone. So why do I want that over the comfort and stability of our life in South Carolina?!
    I was rereading a book called "The Insanity of God" and suddenly the author, Nik Ripken, made it all become clear to me. The chapter was about Chinese believers and evangelists who had lived under very real threat and danger because of their faith. Ripken explained that, " the believers in China exhibited a constant joyfulness in the midst of harsh circumstances. They never denied or down-played the danger. They never made light of it. They were painfully aware of the reality of their lives. Still, they exhibited an undeniable, irrepressible joy."
    Wow. This is my prayer, with every fiber of my being. I'm definitely not suffering or persecuted like these Chinese believers were. But there are very real risks to going back to live in South Sudan at this time. I have been kind of perplexed that I have NO FEAR, just PEACE. I have asked myself if I'm out of touch of reality, or if I'm just so eager to get back that I'm not thinking about how it really will be. I know it will be hard. I am not denying it or down playing it. But in God's amazing, gracious way, He has given me such joy in these circumstances.
At the end of the chapter Nik Ripken concludes that, " they (Chinese believers) embraced what they considered the adventure of following Jesus. "
    That is my desire: to embrace this adventure.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

We have a Green Light!



March 20, 2015 we got the green light to head back to Melut, South Sudan as a team. Our team is quite small right now - our family of five and Claire Meckler, the amazing teammate we've had since 2012. Though we have the green light, we have quite a lot of planning and preparing to do before we go. Please pray for Claire and our family as we get all our paperwork together (contingency plans, exit plans, etc) and purchase and pack whatever we need for the next 3 months. Right now the plan is to go in until July and re-evaluate the situation when we come back to Kenya,

At first I thought that getting the go ahead to return to South Sudan would mean the end of our waiting period. It definitely opens up our future but I've realized that the Lord desires for us to continue waiting on Him and seeking Him in each day. We are moving forward in faith and great excitement but we know that we will desperately need your prayers. Please do continue lifting us up to Almighty God. Thank you for riding this journey with us.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

God will Prevail


This morning I was reading from Habakkuk. When he looked at the world, he was filled with fear, doubt and worry. But when he turned to God, he was assured God is present and in control.
Habakkuk 2:1 --- "I will climb up to my watchtower and stand at my guardpost. There I will wait to see what the Lord says."

2:3-4 --If it seems slow in coming, wait patiently, for it will surely take place. It will not be delayed. Look at the proud! They trust in themselves and their lives are crooked. But the righteous will live by their faithfulness to God.  (NLT)

To be honest, the struggle I'm having is that I have been waiting on the Lord for a year and a half regarding if we will be able to go back to Melut, our home in South Sudan. I know that is hardly anything compared to what some people wait. But this week I've grown weary of waiting. I'm tired of being in limbo. I have "heard" the Lord say, "Trust Me" and that in itself has not been hard to do, but now I'm tired of waiting and weary of having no direction.

But Habakkuk is so convinced that God has not abandoned His people that he basically says: "If everything is taken away from me, if the awful things I imagine come true, I will rejoice in the Lord anyway." Wow. What do I think of that?

Habakkuk would rejoice because he wholeheartedly trusted the Lord no matter what.
This is more than deciding to tough it out in bad times. Habakkuk decided to choose joy in the God of his salvation. The joy of my salvation gives me the strength to rejoice even when the worst things happen.

Psalm 73:25-26 ---  Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

As I was reading these passages of Scripture this morning, I couldn't help but think, "Yikes, is God preparing me for something? Is he prepping me to hear bad news? Or at least something I don't want to hear?"  I'm not sure what that answer is but the theme has definitely made it's way into my heart.

  1. I will wait patiently.
  2. I will still rejoice - NO MATTER WHAT.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Eli is on his way home today!

Gideon Theological College: Melut, South Sudan

For the past 10 days Eli has been back on South Sudan soil and loving every minute of it. I have been so thankful that he and I have been able to talk/communicate at least once every single day. Eli spent every day sitting with Southern Sudanese friends, hearing what their year was like, and asking what they think about our family returning to Melut. He also explored the college campus with the Operations Manager, our teammate, to see all the work and renovations that need to be done and enjoyed times of fellowship, prayer, and meeting with our small remaining team.

A boat on the Nile River, passing campus
There are quite a few changes on campus due to several non-governmental organizations that are renting GTC buildings while the school is not in session. It will definitely be an adjustment when we return but we are trying to remember that change can be good.

I am counting the hours until my husband walks in our front door. Right now the countdown is 4 hours - as long as he stays on schedule. I will ask him to write one of his famous blog posts to give you all more details of his trip. Thank you so much for praying for him while he's been away. He was healthy the whole time and even managed to survive the temperatures that went above 110 degrees! And thank you for praying for the boys and I. We thrived on routine every day with school in the mornings and getting together with different friends in the afternoons. We are eager to be a family of five again though.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Light in the Dark



This week the Lord has been so near to the boys and I while Eli has been in South Sudan. It has been so precious to pray with the kids about "Papa's" trip, to ask the Lord to open Eli's eyes and ears to see and hear what he needs to, so we can follow where He wants us to go.

Last night our devotions before bed were so fitting to our situation and we had a wonderful discussion and time of prayer as a response. The devotion from Streams in the Desert for Kids was titled, "Fear in the Dark" and it posed a great question about why we sometimes fear the dark. There is nothing harmful about darkness itself, but it is what we imagine could be there that scares us.
"Just like the dark, fear and worry grow in uncertainty. Worrying about the future is like being scared of the dark - we're afraid of things we imagine could happen. That's when we turn on a nightlight. Jesus, the Light of the World, runs into the darkness to show us that there is nothing we need to worry about. "

The boys nodded that this was true and agreed that we don't need to worry about our future, Our oldest, who is 10, articulated that he knew God was going to show us what He wants us to do because he knows how much we've been praying about it. Though the truth was sinking into their young hearts, I felt like it was sinking even deeper into mine and impacting me with its simple Truth and reminders.

So today I'm thankful for the Light. The Light who goes before us and tells us the way to go.
The boys and I are memorizing this verse this week: Proverbs 16:3 --
"Commit to the Lord whatever you do and He will establish your plans."

Monday, March 02, 2015

Surrender



I started a new Bible study during our first weeks back in Africa. It's called "Stronger; Finding Hope in Fragile Places."  I chose it because I have felt that my heart is fragile and life is fragile and the country of South Sudan is a fragile place. Yet I know that in the midst of the fragility, my God is Stronger and my God can accomplish over and above what I could ever dream or imagine.

This morning I want to share about what God is teaching me regarding surrender. This topic seems to keep coming up in recent months. Last Sunday the pastor of the church we attend here in Nairobi, Kenya shared a great sermon about laying down our own agendas and surrendering to whatever the Lord has for us. Again, yesterday morning, many of the songs in worship centered on the theme of surrender. And now this morning, minutes after hugging my husband goodbye and sending him on a plane to South Sudan, the theme in my devotions is: Surrender.

The author of my new Bible Study, Angela Thomas, says, "Receiving God's strength means we choose to surrender to:
- His wisdom
- His timing
- His greater purpose
- His mystery.
We have to trust Him to surrender to Him."

I honestly feel like I have been doing this over the last year as Eli and I have prayed and asked the Lord to show us what is next for us. I do indeed trust in His wisdom, His timing, and His greater purpose. But what is His mystery? I found myself cringing at this word.

 mys·ter·y
noun
  1. 1.
    something that is difficult or impossible to understand or explain.
    "the mysteries of outer space"
    synonyms:puzzleenigmaconundrumriddlesecretproblem, unsolved problem
    "his death remains a mystery"

I am realizing that surrendering to His mystery means that even if I don't know what the details or specifics are, I still surrender. I can't understand His plan yet. But I can still trust Him and surrender completely to Him and whatever He has for us.

I was deeply encouraged by a quote by Jeff Bridges from his book, Trusting God , "Trust is not a passive state of mind. It is a vigorous act of the soul by which we choose to lay hold on the promises of God and cling to them despite the adversity that at times seeks to overwhelm us."


Again from Angela Thomas, "Surrendering means that we trust:

  • God's sovereignty and timing for our lives
  • God's method of giving us what we need
  • God's provision from the fullness of His love
  • God's heart being good and unchanging "
As I type my husband is about to board a plane to Juba, South Sudan. Lord willing, tomorrow he will arrive in Melut, our home that we've been away from for 13 months. As I prayed with him before he left this morning, I couldn't help but think that our plan only a few weeks ago was that our whole family would be flying back into Melut around this time. This isn't what I had in mind but the Lord is tenderly reminding me again to surrender. 

"If we are going to mature as Christ followers, then we must undertake this work of surrender --- learning to give up how we thought it had to be, trusting the Lord God Almighty who gave us breath - so that every obstacle is removed and we are able to receive His promised strength."

I won't lie to you. Everything in me is wishing all five of us were getting on that plane right now. Everything in me wants to move forward with the ideas Eli and I had after months of praying and asking the Lord for guidance. But the Lord is calling me to surrender.

Surrender to His wisdom.
Surrender to His timing.
Surrender to His greater purpose.
Surrender to His mystery.