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Whatever you do, Don’t run!

“Why are you frightened?” He asked, “Why are your hearts filled with doubt?”

Luke 24:38

 

If a Grizzly bear is standing in front of you, don’t run. When a lion stares you down from behind the tall grass in the Sahara, don’t run. In the chance of a moose sighting, don’t run. In every survival guide whether it be from North America, the Tundra or Africa, when something big is standing in front of you the advice is always the same, Don’t run. Similarly what happens when the bear turns into a fiery furnace, the moose into the wall of Jericho and the Lion into a city or situation that we don’t want to step foot into? Why would you go against the odds? In most cases running seems like the better option, but time and time again God has shown me that  when He calls us to something he has already gone before us and prepared the way.

Presently I feel like I am standing frozen while a lion stares me down. That place where everything seems to move forward while I stand still. My heart is beating so fast that sometimes I can’t hear myself think. Every part of me wants to run, especially to a time where this is either before me or behind me and in some ways I just want to be over with it.  But in the midst of this place this verse from Luke continues to challenge me. “Why are you frightened? Why is your heart filled with doubt?” Then my conversation with God continues as he asks “What about me? Have I not brought you to this place? Have I not gone before you and behind you and prepared this way? Am I not leading you to the place that I have called you?”

Why am I frightened? Maybe it’s because I doubt in the dark what God has confirmed in the light. With some recent decisions both my husband and I have had a peace in our hearts concerning everything that we currently face. We both know that we cannot run from what stands before us. We can’t allow ourselves to be discouraged. Our focus remains on the one that has proven himself over and over again in our lives. He is faithful.

“Who can match You, God

Forever, never changed

You remain the same

Mighty, faithful One

Heaven’s Majesty

Throughout eternity

 

You will be faithful, faithful

We declare what You have done

Throughout history

You’ve shown Yourself

Faithful, faithful

In Your name there is power to save

‘Cause You are faithful” ( Faithful by Sean Keith)

 

He is faithful. He can’t be matched. He is the author and finisher of our faith and I have to continue to trust that He has my husband taken care of. He has my son too. He is who He says he is an i am not the first one to step foot into this place with him. Whatever i do,  I can’t run.

“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward” Martin Luther King Jr

“And whether the land they dwell in is good or bad, and whether the cities they dwell in are camps or strongholds and whether the land is rich or poor, and whether there are trees in it or not, be of good courage and bring some fruit of the land.” Numbers 13:20

I know that it has been a while, my sincerest apologies. As I write this, I am currently somewhere off the coast of Africa sailing away from Guinea and toward the Canary Islands. It is only when we started sailing that I was hit with the realization that rest IS important. There are countless scriptures that call us to rest and honestly it is not something that I have done well over these last couple of months. I now find myself spiritually, emotionally and physically exhausted!

 In all honesty Guinea was not the easiest of places with its frequent demonstrations and political unrest, BUT is a place that I will always hold dear to my heart.  It was also a place where God brought me to my knees when I wanted to run or hide but instead I was reminded to pray and thank him. God did miraculous things and He changed my perspective of it even as I sailed away. My heart didn’t see the things that previously repulsed me it saw the hearts of those that I had the privilege of living life with. I remembered Mica, a sweet Muslim man, and the ways that he loved on James and me whenever we came into his restaurant. I saw Joseph and Rachel, a couple that we met from the very beginning, and how they helped us prepare for our wedding and how they lived every moment with joy and passion for the Lord. I saw Brother John and sister Grace and their sweet daughters that changed the world with their hugs and smiles. I saw light breakthrough in a place where at first glance I saw only darkness.  It is the place where I made my vows to my husband; it is the place where I formed lasting friendships that saddens my heart to think that I had to sail away from them. It is the place where I became more than a grasshopper (see previous post) and it is a place where I moved further into where God is calling me. It is here that I relinquished the struggle to prove myself competent and embraced God’s competence.

In my weariness, I am reminded of Elijah. After running from Queen Jezebel‘s threat on his life, Elijah offered up his prayer to the heavens and all he received was silence. He was threatened by this silence and thought that God had abandoned him. He was weary of heart, but God still made provision for him and provided him with physical sustenance to help him through. Just like those that had gone before him, he made a forty day journey to Mt. Horeb which ironically was the same place that God met Moses. All the days that seemed desolate and silent, God was still there leading, guiding and providing strength for all that He had prepared for Elijah.

I love the question that was asked on that mountain…”what are you doing here Elijah?” I have asked myself that so many times. Elijah’s response was “I’ve been working my heart out for God, the God-of-the-Angel-Armies.”  Then he was told to stand at attention on the mountain and God would pass by. God who controls the wind and fire, and who created the heavens in the Earth did not appear to Elijah through any of these things, He appeared in a gentle whisper that comforted the weary traveler. Elijah knew of God’s great love and concern for him. He was able to pour out all that he had within him before God and he was comforted because there on that mountain, God did not give him a message for the masses but he gave him a personal message that reminded Elijah of God’s faithfulness and sovereignty.

Even though I am worn out, I see how God continues to prepare me for the journey ahead that I cannot see. Marsha Crockett in her book dancing in the Desert writes

                ”Sometimes, following seasons of fruitfulness, we find ourselves inexplicably in a desert, burned out by the burst of activity. As I entered this dry and unproductive place, I should have contented myself to lean back into the much needed stillness descending upon me., to let it seep in and restore my soul. But I am not a patient rester. I cry like a child, “Can I get up now? I’m not tired, I don’t want to rest.” I can relate to Elijah hiding in the cave. The whirlwinds, the fire and earthquakes in life do not surprise me. But when God comes in stillness and whispers his love, I sometimes want to cover my head, unsure of what to make of his tender presence and his call to come and rest.

 

I am nearing the end of a ‘season’ and even though the season was difficult, I am bringing fruit from the land. As mentioned in Numbers 13:20 “and whether the land is rich or poor, and whether there are trees in it or not, be of good courage and bring some fruit of the land.” My time with Mercy Ships is almost complete (Unless God sends us back) but I thank you for all of your prayers and support as I have learned how to harvest in this field.

Gateway Summer 2012

“Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.” Jeremiah 6:16

The scene is familiar, rocky roads and paths that break through Africa’s vegetation. Africa is known for its unbalanced car rides that host its occupants and then send them away with a few bumps and bruises on their heads. The path winds and bends and at each break the journeyer is left with a decision. Left or right, straight, narrow or winding, each one triggers the curiosity that keeps the feet moving in their direction. The paths are sometimes hidden but their presence is known. Whenever I am driving along, I have watched many people emerge from these paths some with solemn faces and others overflowing with Joy. It has made me wonder what lies beyond the path. What lies beyond the bend that leaves it’s traveler with their story of joy or sorrow marked on their face? Every path is different, but each one tells a story.

There was a time that I had this ambition to travel down every road, just to see what was at its end. I wanted to be a map maker and discover what was unknown to the majority and to find those places that I could call my own. I envied the adventurers and I wanted to see what their eyes saw. I wanted to uncover the mystery of each place and brave new lands.
As I got older, reality sunk in and I began to fear the path and the unknown, the uncertainty of where my feet would lead me got harder as I realized even more what lay ahead. It remained harder still when I started driving. Being directionally challenged made finding different roads easier but desiring to see what lay ahead less attainable. I found myself “lost’ on many occasions. Was I really lost? After all I was discovering the unknown right? I was on an adventure. There was definitely a difference between when I wanted to be on the path and when I just wanted to find my way home. Now it has hit me. There is a difference in the course when God is leading us down and when I force my own way through.

Africa has it’s mysteries and the longer that I stay here it’s paths are leading me home. I don’t feel lost here. I don’t feel like I want to turn around because my feet keep moving me to discover what lies beyond the bend. There is more than just my feet moving me in this direction and the reason for that is that my courtship with this land began longer than I can remember. God called me to this place and on December 15, 2012 I married into this land. Daily, I am learning more about this place and I am beginning to understand it through my husband’s heart. The mysteries of Africa are becoming great treasures and they are new every morning.

Talk about paths and finding their direction. I would have never imagined that God had all of this in store for me when I first put my feet on this path. I was expecting a cat and God gave me a lion. I was looking for an adventure but God gave me my heart song. It has been quite the change between being single and now finding myself as a wife. A new generation will begin with us. A new chapter is being opened and there is an outpouring of blessing. “Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” Isaiah 43:19

Before I was born, God knew I would be here. It is the ancient path that he already mapped out for me. I continue to cut the branches of this ancient path, and there is rest for my soul.

“Without saying a word, the man watched her closely to learn whether or not the Lord had made his journey successful.” Genesis 24:21

Over the last 2 years, I have learned a lot about prayer. I have learned about surrender and I have learned that God has so much planned for us. In this time, I have also learned about waiting on the Lord as we bring our hearts before him. God knows, God cares and His love is amazing. He is not just the designer of love, He is love.

When I first came to Mercy Ships, I carried a lot of baggage here with me. I am not talking about the physical baggage but the emotional baggage that only God knows the full weight of. The transition was difficult but through it all, I knew that this is where God called me.

There was one night that I remember so vividly. I discovered a long time ago that I remember days in my life and I think about them annually. On such a day I was remembering the broken promises from a year ago and broke down before the Lord and brought before him questions about Michael, David’s wife. I asked what was it like to know a man after God’s own heart? What was it like to know him as a friend and a confidant? Did he lead you with strong hands? Did He comfort you with his strength?

After pouring my heart out the Lord reassured me and reminded me “you have love imprinted on your heart. You have gained a new understanding of the depth of my love and you have experienced a love that is temporary. You yearn to go deeper. In questioning Michael and what was it like to love a man after God’s own heart, don’t look at the shadows in the mountains as Men. Don’t look for what is not there. You are in her place. You are seeking after my love you are seeking after my son. You are seeking after the man after my own heart. Beloved, see the mountain and not just the shadows.” My heart remembers Lord. “Let it remember but you have already come down from the mountain. Here I am. My love is your love, fill your cup with it and pour it out. Go love again. I have equipped you beloved; you are prepared for what I have called you for. I have hired you for this place, called you by name and taken care of all the details. Look ahead and don’t be blinded by my light. Don’t look behind you anymore. Don’t punish yourself with guilt. It is mine to carry, your burden is light.

Ten days later, there was an open house for the academy. Since the Academy is normally off limits to the crew we have one night a year where we invite the crew to see the academy and take part in some “educational” activities. That night, I met the man I am now engaged to. Despite my hesitation to listen to my call to “go love again” He pursued me in a quiet and gentle way. He reminded me of when Isaac sent his servant to find Rebekah. He sat quietly and waited to see if God had prospered his journey. He didn’t rush into it, he prayed about it as God worked on me.

I have always related to Rebekah’s story because in that moment, Rebekah was challenged with the decision that was before her. In choosing Isaac, she would leave the home and family that she knew, and then she would travel across the miles on camelback to a new place. When her family called her they asked “will you go with this man?” Her response, with her heart settled and at peace was “I will go.” Rebekah was certain of God’s sovereign direction and that is what encouraged her decision and through that, it revealed her trust in the Lord.

All that to say, I am engaged! He and I are planning our wedding for the 15th of December here in Guinea. I prayed that the next guy that I was with would be able to see my heart. He, a man from Nigeria, a man that is compassionate and seeks to serve the Lord, is that man. When I threw that fleece out and told God that if he is the one for me to let him see my heart. Within days he was talking to me and said “Rebekah I see your heart, I know who you are.” God has opened his heart to see mine and we both have a burden for Africa. For longer than I can remember this has remained in my heart. This is part of me, this is what I am called to. Unfortunately, this means that I am truly leaving my father’s land and stepping into this place that God has called me. Though I am not traveling by camel, the miles are falling behind me. Yes, on some days the distance seems unbearable but God’s strength is my strength and I am learning the depths of His call on my life.

“We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.” Number 13:33

“There are giants in the land.” Wow, The fear, the trepidation, the overall doubt in confidence, that’s enough to discourage anyone from further entering into a land, even if God called them. It’s almost like the opening scene in A Bug’s Life where all the ants are walking in a line and suddenly a leaf falls from the tree breaking up the line and stopping an ant in his tracts. He immediately starts to panic and thinks that he is lost. Even though he can see over the leaf, he chooses to see the obstacle. Even though he is with his comrades, he hesitates and becomes paralyzed by what is in front of him. How often do we become paralyzed by what is in front of us? We see the obstacle, we see the giants and instantaneously we step away from what we are called to.

Twelve people were called to scout out the Promised Land. 10 of these spies, with fear in their hearts, came back and reported about the “giants” in the land. Only 2 came back and encouraged their people to see that the land WAS indeed good. Yes, they saw the giants but chose not to dwell on them. Their focus and perspective were on the things of the Lord and on His promises.

I must confess, arriving in Guinea has been like arriving in a land of giants. In all honesty, I realized that I was among the 10 and I saw myself as a grasshopper, too small to take on something so big. My perception has been clouded lately and all I can see is the giants, the things that are too big for me to take on. Then God reminds me of Caleb and Joshua and how they were so confident in God’s call that they were ready to overcome anything. They trusted in the God who went before them and prepared the way.

I don’t want to wander in the desert for forty years when God’s promises are before me. I don’t want to be looking up and become distracted by the giants. I want to look up and see that God is working to change my perspective and look to higher ground. I don’t want to be paralyzed in a grasshopper state of mind but I want to move forward into what God has called me. I am not a grasshopper.

“Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.  At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison—  that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” Colossians 4:2-6

     There’s something stirring in the air and as I breath it in I am reminded that I am back in Africa. We are now in the port of Guinea, which is a first for the Africa Mercy. Mercy Ships was here years ago but this time, I find myself among the pioneers.  I now know what it is like to come into a new land and not know where to go. It is only day three in this new country and already I am beginning to understand the first encounter and first impressions that are made and how easy it is to set the mood for those yet to come.

    Yesterday, I will admit, my heart was so hardened to this place. I stepped off the gangway and my stomach churned at the repulsive sights and smells. My eyes could only see the threat of these people. Darkness reigns here and already I was projecting all of my fears into the next 10 months. We have been warned about the different levels of caution that we need to have regarding this place. (I won’t go into detail about them because I don’t want any of you to worry about them.) I found myself complaining about everything including the unpreventable rain season that works like clockwork in this place. These people were outsiders to me and I started helping with the walls that were going to keep them out.

    Honestly, that is not a good start to how I am approaching this place. This place that God is at work in, this place that is filled with people whom God loves and died for Muslim or not. God set aside this season, why am I handing Him my resume and telling him what I will and will not do? He is the one who wrote the job description and He knows what is in store and also what is expected of me. I am here in this place called into this city and directed to wait for Him to give me a job in this place.

    I love how God works though because as I was struggling with these things in my heart, I was brought to this verse in Colossians. “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.  At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison—  that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak. Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” It was also neat because after I read this verse I found my brother writing about the same thing. In his bog entry he wrote about Daniel and the struggles that he had as he entered into a culture that was different than his and learned how to be who he was called to be while still reflecting a Christ like attitude.This hit home though “He doesn’t run. He doesn’t hide. He doesn’t get angry and attempt to fight. He goes home and prays – giving thanks to God just as he always did.’

    I pray to love the way that God loves me and to have my heart broken for what breaks His. And that is where He has brought me to that exact place.  I can’t run from this place (literally) I can’t hide and I can’t get angry and attempt to fight. I need to be in prayer about what the Lord has in store for this place, He brought me here and I have to give thanks to him just like I always have

    The wind wiped the sun with its kiss and the silent tears fell like the rain. Africa and the dry ground welcomes the moisture, for it has been silently waiting for the wind’s kiss. The sun has been comforted for it shines so brightly on a place that is thought to be a “dark Continent”. In the darkness light has broken through and I welcome the new threads that are being highlighted in this story. Even in the familiar place the outpouring of love is new. Love in a new land, a new language and a new way.

   I once asked my third Graders to give me their definition of love. One of their responses was “Love is loving somebody more than they love you.” These words have stayed in my mind and seeped into my heart. Especially during the course of these last two weeks, living in Pai Katanga has uncovered a new depth to this thought. The reality of this truth is written in His story. Christ died so that we might live. Love is loving somebody more than they love you. Love is being welcomed into a remote village during rain season and experiencing the wind’s kiss. Love is standing back and watching as God fills a place and it returns that gesture with arms held high as it sings the songs of mercy that they have found because they realize that they are nothing without Christ. I am continuing to realize that I too am nothing without Christ. This is His work and his people and he comforts them in amazing ways.

    Pai Katanga is located about 5 1/2 hours north of Accra, Ghana. We went there to help build a school as part of our field service before returning to the ship. Now the journey doesn’t come without the typical set backs of an “African Adventure.” The roads left their bruises, the mosquitoes camped out for their favorite restaurants and apparently they don’t like to leave even if they are asked kindly. They even bring their new friends, the bloodsucking flies. 18 Woman learned how to share one bathroom with one shower and one toilet .The men got rained on pretty much every evening. We also learned how to survive a couple nights in a hostile where the electricity is questionable and the critters are not outside of our imagination. ROUS’? They do exist. It’s and adventure just going through the dinner line and believe me, fish IS hidden in there somewhere. Heck, I even had a nice little visit to the clinic to get a happy shot that countered a reaction that I had to those inhumane flies. This is Africa after all and these things are just a staple, a necessity in the “real” experience.

    All these things aside, there were many lessons covered in the obvious. A consistent one was that God already has this covered.These people, this land is His. As Katie Davis so eloquently put it ” I can enter into someone’s pain and sit with them and know. This is Jesus. Not that he apologizes for the hard and the hurt, bu that he enters in, HE comes with us to the hard places and so I continue to enter.” (Pg 23 Kiss For Katie) There was a lot that happened through this field service and it’s beautiful to step back and see that God has it all covered. God has been in this place long before we even heard it’s name.

    At first it was a bit of a struggle, But I had the privilege of teaching in the school that we were working in. At first, I was on the team that was supposed to do VBS (Go figure, they put the teachers on this team) but then I ended up partnering with the three other teachers on our team and actually ended up teaching subjects to the primary four students. When we got there we were under the impression that we would be going from class to class teaching them about God’s love and how much they were cared for. That quickly changed when the headmaster wasn’t ready for us, He didn’t know that we were coming. He told us that the Primary four classroom didn’t have a teacher. At first is was a little frustrating because the students didn’t understand our english and we kept getting blank stares when we would try to explain something. On top of that we would have other students from different classes coming into our class and asking us to teach them their subjects. Communication was definitely lost through a couple of channels. It was so stressful! Then, at the end of the day, one of our students was used to remind me
 of why we are there. All day he was sitting on a desk that was pretty much falling apart to the extent that the floor had become his chair. It broke my heart to see him struggle with his chair and trying to learn at the same time. I asked one of our leaders if there were any materials to fix the desk. When that student walked in and saw his desk being fixed the smile was worth all the frustration of the day. In that smile, thank you was said with out words. A new sense of self worth was instilled. Is said “this means the world to me” And in that moment, God whispered and reminded me “this is the ministry.”

    Something so simple so commonplace God was still working through. Love is loving somebody more than they love you. Love is loving with God’s love and stepping back to let Him work. Love is watching the rain fall and seeing how God fills a place with His joy. Love is standing in the gap for 23 students and seeing God work through them. Love is being taught through the people that you are working with.     

“Heaven is not here, it’s There. If we were given all we wanted here, our hearts would settle for this world rather than the next. God is forever luring us up and away from this one, wooing us to Himself and His still invisible Kingdom, where we will certainly find what we so keenly long for. ” … Elisabeth Elliot in Keep a Quiet Heart

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