Thursday, January 29, 2015

A Day in the Life.

For a laugh, I thought I'd give you a picture of the way this week's shaped up.
You just never know how things are going to go here. Sometimes it's amazingly smooth. Other times you have to be the most flexible person on earth.....
Monday: 6 hrs going into one of the townships to mediate some issues.
Tuesday: I wanted to do laundry, answer some PLAY email and finish the first PLAY newsletter. I put laundry into the tub to soak. I tried to email but the internet connection kept going out. I worked on the newsletter but our power was out and my laptop battery died. A huge storm hits and I can't hang the clothes out to dry.
Wednesday: It's still raining. The clothes are still in the tub.
Still no internet due to rain. So I finish the newsletter.
Thursday: I wake up and the sun is out, so I figure I can finally hang clothes to dry. I get that email done. I decide to wash some sheets. I bring them outside to dry. I then drop them in mud while trying to unravel the wet ball of cloth. So I wash the sheets again. I bring them outside to dry. And again, they end up in the mud. So I wash the danged sheets a 3rd time (mind you-this is all by hand in a tub), and I bring them out to hang. You guessed it. I drop them again. (Hey-unraveling wet sheets alone when you're so short is not an easy task!) I then gather sheets, give up, throwing them into the tub. I walk away trying not to curse. I then try to email the newsletter to Lisa. But the internet goes out becaaaaaaause..........a huge thunderstorm begins and it's downpouring on the wet clothes I just hung out to dry. Welcome to Africa, folks!
(By the way, I've been waiting 6 hrs for the storm to end & internet to return so I could post this.) Grin.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Believing again.

I've written and re-written this post more times than I can count now. Every time I try to put my jumble of emotions into eloquent enough wording, I just start getting overwhelmed and frustrated and cry. I want to say it all crisp and clean and precise and organised. The thing is, it's hard to do that when you aren't any of those things on the inside at the moment. So I won't say it all nice and pressed. I will say this through the tears that are already flowing.

 I have this continual health problem. It's been off and on for several years. And when it's "on" it's debilitating. I mean, it absolutely takes over and dictates life. It's extremely inconvenient. The pain in excruciating. And everything in my body is affected by it.
After countless doctor appointments and the debt it's caused, after no help from any of them, after getting on medicine before I left for SA, I am finding it to be worse than it's been in years. I gave up last week. I found myself curled up in a ball sobbing with pain and the defeat of no answers and feeling so alone. Lost. Not knowing what in the world I can or should do about it. I began trying to calculate what I can do when I return home. How to come up with the money to get tests run. Pay for procedures that may need to happen, etc... and entertain the thoughts of worst-case scenarios. A hysterectomy now and no opportunity to have my own children someday. What a downer post, huh? Don't worry. This is about to look up. Keep reading.......

Several years ago I began a journey that radically changed my life. I began a Bible Study called Believing God. And it reached down into the marrow of my bones and became part of my DNA. Yesterday I began reading the actual book that it's based one. I hadn't read it before. In the book, there are some extremely good points about believing God for something big for a while but then becoming weary and giving up on, well, Him after a while. (I hate to say that but that's really what we're doing.) Resigning ourselves to misery and the hopeless thought that whatever miracle we need isn't important and going to happen. Which is so harmful because God delights in performing miracles for those who believe Him and continue to ask with expectancy.
Beth also made another good point. Perhaps He's just dying to use our situation to activate in a brand new way amongst a body of believers. We never know the many reasons for something taking place. There are so many possibilities. I know for a FACT that I do and will understand the weariness of chronic problems now and can encourage others with it. I also know that down the road, I will minister to others out of a season that is really testing and trying me in many ways. But I wonder.......could there be even more to this? Dare I let a spark of hope begin? What if.....hang with me, now, what if God has allowed all of this for years so that I will speak about it. So that others watch me go through it. So that when He DOES heal me, it's apparent to all in my life that He does indeed still perform the impossible miracles every single day? What if? He reminded me this morning that I am sitting here stressing about paying for tests and procedures when the one who literally formed my very body lives within me. And knew while He was creating me that this season would happen to this body. I spend all of my time thinking about what I need to do. How to get control of the situation. Maybe the best thing I can do is absolutely give up control and do NOTHING. Maybe, just maybe, He wants me to talk about it more. Be more vulnerable. More open. Maybe He wants everybody to ban together and expectantly ask God with belief and expectation for healing. Maybe the very hands that formed me want to be the ones to heal this. Maybe.

Am I opposed to doctors? If I was I wouldn't be in debt from them!
Would I rather see Him heal me NOW than going through tests in months when I get home? Duh. But more than that, I would love to see Him perform a straight-up miracle. Because I preach so much about big faith and believing God Is who He says He is and can do what He says He can do. But I lay on my bed and sob in hopelessness over my own body. It's time I begin practicing what I preach in my own life. It's time I return to Believing God. Will you join me? Will you pray for me-with only expectations that He can do what He says He can do? That He wants to heal me? And will you in turn let me pray with you? What miracles do you need? What have you become weary and given up on? What seems impossible? Let's Believe God again together.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

The Unmentioned.

I’ve been thinking about something for quite some time now but have struggled to put in down into physical words. Without good explanation it can become a sticky subject. For years I’ve also feared that wherever I am and whatever I am doing when I write this will be looked at as the subject of what I want to say. The truth is that it’s a theory and observation accumulated over several years. It doesn’t involve any one person and is a mix of all the places, ministries, people, and churches I’ve worked with and for. It’s pieces of a puzzle gathered a bit from here and a bit from there to create a picture that I believe I can finally label. I want to talk about it now, but I want to make sure everyone knows I am not thinking and speaking of any particular person here. (For instance, the missionary I currently live with has nothing to do with much of what I’m about to say. Please know that!) 

Missionaries. Pastors. Laymen in ministry. We all know them. We are all connected to them. We ARE them. With my travels and adventures working for various churches, pastors, missionaries, and leaders in ministry, I have seen a thread that runs deep through most of the situations I’ve been in. It’s hard to explain to people who haven’t exactly been where I have. But it’s important to understand….

Isolation. Lack of proper accountability. Unintentional neglect because they’re out of sight. The assumption that because they’re in some form of ministry they are healthy, honest, ethical, strong, and don’t need our listening ear, shoulder to collapse on, or the chance to be a mess and fall apart sometimes. When you’re knee-deep in ministry, you carry the burden of whatever heavy issue you work in on your shoulders and after years that gets heavy. I have seen missionaries who are tired, worn by years of living in cultures that aren’t theirs, over-burdened with the issues they wade through. Even jaded. Feeling that they’ve given up having anything at all in the world and all the work has barely made a dent and does anybody at home really understand? I’ve seen good intentions turn into something unethical over time. And other missionaries who truly feel they can’t say or do anything about it. Which builds up on the inside until they aren’t healthy any longer. Or they DO speak up and get extremely hurt and burned because of it. Feeling betrayed by loved ones and completely on their own in this world. 

I’ve seen leaders become angry and short-fused to those they minister to. Patience thinned over time. Very worn out. Years of rest and care overdue. Needing rest and counselling but not even aware of it and unable to bring themselves to voice their struggles. After all, aren’t they supposed to be the amazing examples of the great commission? The world-changers? The wise ones who pour their experience and knowledge into the younger generation? Are we even able to look at them as simply our brothers and sisters who love Jesus and who’ve worked too hard and are worn and simply needing reprieve? Do we ever stop to think that when we write them or when they’re visiting, maybe they’d like to simply be a human with their friends? Not sharing all about how much they’re doing? They’re tired. They want a break from whatever “it” is. (If I'm wrong in this tell me why when trying to contact Elisabeth Elliot, you will see a website that states she isn’t taking messages because she is old, tired, and doesn’t want anything but to rest and be left to peace.) 

I have seen many pastors and teachers. Genuine. Passionate. Longing to see their “students” on fire with Jesus and zealous to be world-changers. Seeing the potential in them and envisioning the amazing things they could do. But after years of watching their flocks sit in the mud of the same pits and self-focussed issues they become exhausted. Frustrated that their people aren’t making the progress they could. I’ve watched as these teachers are looked at as super-human. Treated as some form of celebrity. People hanging on their words as if they have all the answers to having an extraordinary, brilliantly bright life. It makes them feel they can’t be honest if they’re having a bad day, month, or year. Feeling they always have to have it all together. And just wanting to be left alone and allowed to crumble into a heap or be with friends and family. Not interrupted. Not stalked. I’ve personally watched Miss Beth lose it and cry in front of 30,000 women. Desperation for understanding in her eyes. An exhaustion over the mobs of followers who care more about her attention than learning and growing. And her sweet southern drawl, voice cracking with emotion:
“Seriously. I am NOTHING special. I’m just madly in love with Jesus and I want that for you. He is EVERYTHING. DO YOU GET THAT?!?!” 

For example: Here I am. Living on support for 15 months. No job. No titles. Not technically anything. Except a 32 year old woman who has been radically redeemed from a hundred pits and is in love with her Jesus. I have had many adventures and am blessed to experience and know many people and ministries. I often do feel the pressure of the “leader” I am looked at as. The need to be spiritual and wise and put together and an example. And I don’t mind that most of the time. It keeps me accountable and keeps me on my face before the Lord. But I do often leave things unsaid. Afraid of not controlling the way people respond to or view me if I speak up. I don’t often talk about the deep pain that being single is for me. The way it exhausts me. The feeling that I have to totally take care of myself and figure things out on my own. The debt I’ve accumulated from medical problems I don’t often discuss. The way that each time I hit a new season in life I have to make a big decision about where and what I’m doing without help. Without anyone else to go and do WITH. The way I just want a family of my own and at the end of the day I have no home of my own to return to (Because even when I work, one income can’t afford it!) and nobody to discuss the day or my thoughts with. I don’t have a place to put my things, to call mine. A corner of solitude that is my own little spot or world. That’s why I love Disneyland so much. It’s familiar. Home. Comfort. Happiness. Joy. A Haven. A place I can be me fully. A place I can always come back to and know every inch of like the oldest of friends. Everything a home should be and is. Disneyland is that.

Yes, I have my Jesus. And I am continually learning Him as my husband. I get to know and depend on Him in ways no married friend experiences. And for that I’m thankful. But it’s still painful. I’m here in Africa. I love it, I do. It’s the most beautiful season. One I will remember for the rest of my life as incredible. But it’s also isolating. And then what? I’m more than broke. I don’t know where to go or what to do from here. I feel inadequate for much. I have no degree. I don’t know that many people even know my deepest talents and desires. I can’t plan on working at a coffee shop forever, nor do I want to: I have huge dreams that blow any of that normal junk out of the water.  But I would like to return home after this. I feel I need my church. I’ve been way too cut off from them. But everybody has their own lives and families. Where do I fit now? What shall I do? How to afford it?  Will anyone listen to the dreams I DO have? Will it matter that I’m there?

These are not uncommon things for many of the people I adore to be dealing with as well. Do you see the issues that even the most amazing people in ministry might struggle with? The point of all of this is to say that we are the Body. And I believe it can be the most beautiful thing on the face of this earth. But it’s not going to naturally function as it should. Taking care of each other takes thought. Work. Sacrifice. Asking the Holy Spirit for wisdom and insight into what we can do for others. And the continual willingness to step out and respond to His promptings. Even if it’s inconvenient. We all have something to offer those who are in the thick of the mud. And what we have to offer is unique. 
Don’t assume somebody else is reaching out to your friends in ministry. 
Often nobody is. They need YOU.
You are important and what you have to bring to the table matters to them. 

Let’s each ask the Lord how we can bless our friends on the “fields”. 
And let’s all be a part of something incredible. 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

PLAY 101

It's often hard to describe what goes on half-way across the world in a way people can grasp. Especially if your ministry is in it's grass-roots beginning stages. But I want my friends to know more than "She's helping with some kids thing." So here's my attempt to explain PLAY as best I can...
What Lisa does is run Christian leadership outdoor adventure camps for Jr. highers. Here it is quite normal for the more wealthy kids to go to a camp out in the wilderness that contain things like high ropes courses, ab-sailing, wall-climbing, and military-style obstacle courses. But Lisa offers these camps for free to the kids who wouldn't be able to afford something like that otherwise. Each child is nominated by their teacher as a potential leader in their school who should experience some leadership training. The camp is designed to train up leaders, teach a break in the segregation and racial issues that plague South Africa, give tools for facing common difficulties here like rape statistics, and present hope and Jesus to these students. Camp takes place 4x a year on school holidays. Each camp has students from several different schools. The curriculum is derived from The Purpose Driven Life and everything all flows together quite nicely. It's hard to understand all of this without seeing it. But after being at camp this last week I get it. It's beautiful. And very effective. They do physically challenging things all day as a team that push them beyond their comfort zones and teach them to be a leader while they hear talks about how that fits spiritually. Out of the 54 kids that came to camp last week, 43 chose to follow Jesus and were baptised! A lot of these kids just haven't been loved on enough or told Jesus cares about them personally and when it's put in a game and lesson written for their age and cultural challenges, it clicks and it's amazing to watch. The impact and difference a week like this makes in these student's lives is absolutely mind-blowing. And each person who supports Lisa or me is a part of Jesus radically making a difference right here. I wish every one of you could come on out and PLAY with us!!!!