This is one of my songs I have on repeat this morning during my time with the Lord. I love it!
This is one of my songs I have on repeat this morning during my time with the Lord. I love it!
My God, the spring of all my joys
The life of my delight
The glory of my brightest days
and comfort of my nights
In darkest shades if He appear
my dawning is begun
He is my soul’s sweet morning star
and He is my rising sun
Father, my gracious Lord, guardian of my days
Your mercies all my heart records
in songs of grateful praise
Ten thousand, thousand gifts
they find their radiance in this
that Jesus shows His heart is mine
and whispers “I am His”
Savior, true word made flesh,
Thy goodness I’ll pursue
And when I stand on Heaven’s shores,
I’ll sing thy praise a new
Where death is bound by laws fulfilled,
my praises will ring out
And all the saints will join the theme,
Let heaven’s walls resound…
The Lord is faithful.
I have learned so much about God’s uncompromising and constant character the past two weeks. Just to sum up what I’ve learned: God is good regardless of my sin, other people’s sins, and circumstances. God is with me. Bad days do not disprove God’s love for me. God loves to redeem, restore, and make things new.
Those are some pretty good truths to rely on considering the day Katie and I had. Today was really sweet and really sad at the same time. Last week my friend “JaJa’s” grandma passed away. I asked her if there was anything we could do for her. She asked if I would go to the funeral ceremony to “carry the body.” I was a little concerned, but for those of you who know me, you know the love I have for “JaJa”. So Katie and I went this morning to be a support for her and to love her. The Lord really helped me out because I tend to get really nervous/awkward at funerals. I don’t know what questions to ask or what I should say. There was the ever-present language gap between me and most of the family, so I hope they still saw that I was wanting to be there for JaJa. Oh, and I wasn’t asked to carry the body. Phew! Close one.
It was hard because I love “JaJa” and I hate to see her and her family hurting. There, of course, was sadness that came from seeing the distress, devastation, and lack of hope that was there for the family. Family members were sobbing uncontrollably, shaking, and singing songs to Allah begging to let the grandmother into Paradise. The pain that they were feeling-of losing someone they loved so much-was so thick you could touch it. I couldn’t help but feel a little of what they were feeling; I wanted to take that pain from them. For this family that is predominately Muslim, there is no assurance of salvation. There is no promise that after they die, they won’t be in Hell. There is no escaping their sins. All I could think about was this is the way every funeral is going to be like for this family, for their village, and for this country if no one reaches them with the message of salvation through Christ.
And all of that is really challenging for me. I have to battle against my mind and my heart because I want to doubt God and His plans. I think, “Is this what it’s going to be like for “JaJa’s” children? Are they going to be pleading with Allah to let her into Paradise too?” I act as if I have more love for her then the God who formed her has. But then I remember the truths that I’ve been learning. God is good. God cares for “JaJa” and her family. He is with them. He is the only redeemer and the only One who can restore us to Himself. Seeing the devastation of sin, and the eternal effects of it, didn’t cause my heart to become angry at the Lord today. It caused my heart to press into Him and to desire to go out to the people who need Him with the hope that they are all longing for. God desires to bring His lost home.
And so today I was encouraged to be thinking about this eternal home. I am excited to die and be in Heaven. I know that sounds weird and depressing, but we’re promised an eternity with a loving God and no more sin-heartache, tears, anger. We get to worship and sing praises to the God who loves us more than anyone we’ve ever met could. We are in total bliss with brothers and sisters from every tribe, tongue, and nation worshipping the same God. I’ll be speaking Wolof fluently with Jesus. I’ll have the best French accent while singing praise songs to my King! I’ll get to eat Yassa Poulet out of the same plate as Jesus. I’ll get to worship God on the tops of mountains that I couldn’t climb in this body! I’ll get to sing songs with old friends and one’s that I don’t yet know. I’ll rest in His presence, goodness, love and beauty for an eternity.
I was gently reminded that this is not the end. Until I get to the end, I will continue to long for something greater than what the World has to offer. For those who believe in Christ, we’re promised an eternity with Him not based off of anything we could ever do but because He died in our place. I fully believe I am bound for the kingdom, and I would love Senegalese, Americans, Saudi Arabians, Indians, Brazilians and for you to come with me.
Please pray with me for “JaJa’s” family and for the gospel of eternal hope to go forth in this nation.
But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel; “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I give Egypt as your ransom, Cush and Seba in exchange for you. Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you, I give men in return for you, peoples in exchange for your life. Fear not, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east and from the west I will gather you. I will say to the north, Give up, and to the south, Do not withhold; bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.”
I woke up this morning with a hungry heart that was so eager to dive into the word.
This is profound because during the whirlwind of my 345,023 adjustments and readjustments, my almost overbearing love for the word dwindled to a flickering daze. I wish I could say the past six months have been the best months of my life. They haven’t. They’ve been full of heartache, soul searching, identity crisis(s) [do we want to get into the TJ Maxx meltdown story? Nope.], and grieving the losses of many dreams, rights, and comforts.
I really feel like the Lord wanted to speak to me today through Matthew Chapter 1 and my Chris Tiegreen devotional. This morning’s message was on love and obedience and how the two are intricately woven to perfectly reflect the condition of our hearts. Tiegreen said ultimately we cannot love God without obedience and we cannot (for long) obey Him without truly loving Him.
The same theme stuck out to me in Matthew 1:24, “When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife…”
Wow, Joseph’s love, confidence, active trust, and faith in the Lord was huge! Preface: Joseph has this fiancé Mary. She ends up pregnant before their wedding and he is NOT the father [I said that in my head like the Maury show...]. An angel of the Lord came to Mary and told her she’d give birth to the promised savior. So, that’s how she’s pregnant. Joseph, being a righteous and merciful man, wants to quietly break off the engagement to help keep her honor as well as his. But an angel visited him in his dreams and said this is a special child, Mary’s not lying, take her as your wife, this child will save people from their sins.
Okay, can we just be honest for a second? Joseph laid a lot down. We give Mary a ton of credit, especially around Christmas, and I’m not trying to be rude but she didn’t have much choice. Hers was a more passive obedience. Joseph, on the other hand, laid down his honor-which living in this society in Senegal, I’m beginning to understand the weight of that. He laid down his plans and dreams to a normal, honorable life as soon as he woke up. There was no hesitation. He heard the plans of the lord and obeyed. Why? Because He knew and loved the One who asked him to be a part of the eternal King’s plan to redeem the world. As an act of worship, he lovingly laid down his will for one that was greater.
So, how does this relate to me and the past six months of my life? No, the past six months haven’t been the best months of my life. Yes, there has been heartache. Yes, there have been innumerable losses in regards to relationship strains, hopes, dreams, and desires. Yes, there have been meltdowns over the puzzling questions, “Who am I and where do I fit?” But I can say with full confidence, the past six months have been the most challenging, liberating, insightful, and maturing in regards to my walk with the Lord.
I am learning what it looks like to lay aside, time and time again, my will for something greater that more than likely will take sacrifice. I am learning to let go of things I have a tight grip on (ie: past, present and future things) and they them down at His feet. I am learning to trust Him in all things, even when they are painstakingly difficult. I am learning what it means to live a life of grace, love, and truth. I’m learning what it means to persevere and fully depend on the Lord to get me through each day. I’m learning how to abide throughout hurts and disappointments. I’ve learned what it feels like to step back from the Lord and to feel His faithfulness, and steadfast love pursuing me. Those are sweet highs that I wouldn’t have been able to learn without the necessary lows.
I may not have had an encounter with Gabriel in my sleep and give me prophetic messages straight from the God of this universe, but He showed up this morning with a very special message that has stirred my heart with love for Him. It’s not about me and His plans are better.
It’s that time again for a new blog post, but I ran out of new and creative ideas for blogs. I hope you don’t mind I’ve stolen this topic from a fellow missionary (Jenn). I hope you enjoy it!
Dear Dust Storm 2012,
I really, really love the wind you bring to Dakar. The cool spring breeze upon my freshly sunkissed face is marvelous. I can’t explain to people how much I love it when you make my hair dance in the wind.
What I don’t like about you, however, is that when my happiness eludes me and a large smile sweeps across my face, you- in all your glory- hit me in the face with excess dirt. I am getting rather sick of having brushed my pearly whites, only minutes later to feel like I bit the dust while running down a sand dune (Katie).
This just isn’t working out for me. I might see you around, but I really would prefer for you to clean yourself up next time around.
Dear Ladies Outside the Mosque,
I. Love. You. Buganala torop.
I love the fact that we don’t speak each other’s language, yet we get so much joy out of seeing each other. One day, I would love to be able to sit with you and find out about your life. If only I could speak Pular, Wolof, and Serar… un jour mes amies… un jour!
Even though I can see the hardness of African life on every wrinkle on your face, I think you are all so beautiful. You are all so unique and welcoming. You were created for a purpose and you are so incredibly loved by the maker of Heaven and Earth.
Yaangi Ci Sama Xol, Buganala
Dear Americans Who Donate Clothes To Africa,
Please do not send used underwear.
Person Who Sifts Through “Gently” Used Underwear At The Market
As we are preparing to depart for our mid-year conference in Europe, my heart is heavy. We’ve never left Senegal before. We’ve never not seen our friends here. What’s it going to be like when we for certain leave in July?
Yesterday Katie and I met with a sweet friend, DiaDia. We have shared the message of hope and love with her numerous times before. But yesterday was different. I know that I am not guaranteed another day in Senegal let alone this world. The sense of urgency was there to tell DiaDia that Jesus is God, He died for our sins, He is the ultimate sacrifice and we must turn to Him in repentance and receive Him as our Savior and Lord to become children of God. My heart longs to see sweet DiaDia come to know the God of the universe.
My heart broke when she walked away still not having received Jesus as her savior. My heart broke when she cried because we were leaving for two weeks. My heart breaks knowing that in a few short months, I might be saying goodbye to DiaDia forever. I trust God with her, but my heart breaks that she is in bondage of self-works and striving for the acceptance of God when it is so freely given.
I am comforted by God’s immense love for me and all the people He is calling to himself. I am thankful that God has promised me an eternity with Him because of what Jesus did, not anything that I can do.
Please, continue praying for Senegal during this election period. Please be praying the Gospel would go forth and for our sweet friends like DiaDia to come to know the amazing grace He has lavished upon us.
Life is not a bubble.
As much as I try to create a comfort-friendly, safe-zone that happens to be flimsy, translucent and encircles me, life is not a bubble.
We spent New Year’s Eve with German, British, Irish, and two other American missionaries who were all so fabulous in every unique way possible. I loved investing in them, getting to know them and sharing our deep love for the Savior with them. I loved praying in the year, singing worship songs, and aligning our hearts to seek Christ in all things in 2012. But that sweet, little, enjoyable bubble I created didn’t last.
Let me back up a little. Can I be totally honest here? Of course I can. This is my blog. I didn’t want the Europeans to come over on New Year’s Eve. I thought, “Thirteen people? Here? I can’t entertain that many people. What if they have an awful time and hate us?” Anxiety set in. Of course, these thoughts were highly irrational. I usually am able to humble myself and admit this after I’ve had a rare case of irration-ability (yes, I made that word up). Nonetheless, this was not the first time that week that fears, anxieties, and undealt with emotions have had a foothold/stronghold effect on me.
Sometimes here, I have a fear of going outside. Sounds crazy huh? Just wait, it really isn’t that insane. It is easier to stay inside than to see the faces of the women who are living, begging for food and money on our street. It is easier to hide from the hundreds of Talibe boys who grow up without family, who beg on the streets, and who are often sexually abused. It is just easier for your heart not to break for the people here who do not know the name of the One who brings salvation.
[So, insert bubble.] Last week, my bubble was my home. Once that bubble was burst, I recreated it briefly with our new Euro-American city. Now that they have all left Dakar, and we’re back to work, my bubble has burst once again. And this time, it is good. It hurts, but it is so good.
Bubbles don’t work. They are not reality.
My reality is that I serve with a team of eight Christ-followers in a nation where 95% of people do not have hope, where up to 12 students live together in one dorm that is smaller than my kitchen, where friends have been kicked out of their homes for giving their lives to Jesus, where friends do not know where their next meal is going to come from. I am serving God in a place where He is. Despite the circumstances, despite what my anxieties, fears, and failures try to tell me, God is here and He is good.
The reality is that God wants to use me here. I’m realizing that ministry is going to look different in Senegal than I thought it would three months ago. And that’s okay. I am learning that I’m here because God lead me here. He wants to lead me still. Despite my expectations of what everyday “should” look like, I am praying that I would follow faithfully in every moment. I am praying that I would surrender to the Spirit’s prompting even if it doesn’t fit into my schedule. I pray that I would put His will before my will in all things. I pray that I would commit to trusting Him for my security instead of running to things I feel I have control over.
My security and comforts are being gently removed so that the only thing I have left is Christ. And I pray the same for you. I am being beautifully broken in the sweetest way possible. And all I want to know is Christ and Him crucified.
Well, there are so many things to say that I can’t quite think rightly of any which thing to speak of first. That’s the kind of mood I’m in. Enjoy. I have been singing a little ditty in my head for a little over a week now. The song: There Will Be A Day, by Jeremy Camp and Mary Smith. Allow me to divulge…
Senegal is dirty. I don’t mean disgusting and filthy, I really do mean there is a lot of dirt. We’re located right around the same area as the Sahara belt and the ever present drought continues to worsen our crusty condition. Our apartment, no matter how many times a day I sweep, always has a wonderful film covering our white-tile floors (don’t even ask me why anyone would put white tile across an entire apartment here…). Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, my feet have become permanently stained, and no this is not from my meticulously scribed tattoo.
As a part of attempting to keep my bedsheets clean, I either wash my feet before bed (this doesn’t always work that well because the walk from the bathroom to bed re-dirties my feet) or use baby wipes to remove the numerous impurities from my delicate pieds. One night a few weeks ago, I decided to go the baby wipes route. After seven, I repeat SEVEN, baby wipes my feet were still dirty. And what’s worse was those seven wipes were my last.
I defeatedly swiveled into bed and longingly stared at my feet as if they would magically transform into professionally pampered and polished feet. It was then that the lyrics just came to me: “there will be a day with no more dirt, grody feet, dirty sheets, but until that dayyyyy…. la la la. etc.” I know, I know. How did I come up with such brilliant lyrics? Like I said, it just came to me.
So, this blog actually has no pupose except to inform you that for the past week and a half my sheets have been trampled upon by my very own contaminated feet, but there is hope that one day (this week?) I will have clean sheets. And that there will be a day when I will look back and actually miss sweeping our apartment multiple times a day (ha, trust me.. that day has not yet arrived). I’m going to miss looking down at my dirt lines on my feet and thinking, “Man I got so tan today,” only to be reminded that I’m still so white after a good scrubbing (you think I’d learn this one after 3 months…). I’m going to miss the constant reminder that beautiful are the feet of those who bring the good news. I’m going to miss seeing the leftover journeys from the day on the roughened bottom of my feet.
I know we aren’t even half-way through with our internship here, but I really have come to love the little common inconveniences. Not that I delight in them or anything, but I love the feelings of uncomfortability they produce. I love knowing that this world cannot satisfy and that I am a sinner. I love seeing how easily common inconveniences can cause me to fall short because it automatically shows me the vastness of the grace and mercy of our holy and righteous God. I love the growth that comes from being frustrated, feeling defeated and unsure. Don’t get me wrong, I do not love my sin, sinful flesh, and sinful reactions. In fact, I hate those things. But, when I’m weak I am able to see that He is strong. When I’m defeated, I can rest in the truth that He is victorious and has made me victorious. These times of inconveniences are bitter sweet, but when I have an eternal perspective they are just sweet.
They are just sweet.
“I, the preacher of this hour, beg to bear my little witness that the worst days I have ever had have turned out to be my best days, and when God has seemed most cruel to me he has then been most kind. If there is anything in this world for which I would bless him more than for anything else it is for pain and affliction. I am sure that in these things the richest, tenderest love has been manifested towards me. I pray you, dear friends, if you are at this time very low, and greatly distressed, encourage yourselves in the abundant faithfulness of the God who hides himself. Our Father’s wagons rumble most heavily when they are bringing us the richest freight of the bullion of his grace. Love letters from heaven are often sent in black-edged envelopes. The cloud that is black with horror is big with mercy. We may not ask for trouble, but if we were wise we should look upon it as the shadow of an unusually great blessing.
I’ve been thinking about blogging about this incident for a few weeks now, but I haven’t been able to truly process it fully (to be frank, I still haven’t). There is are more layers to this story, but for the sake of your time I’ll try to give a little summary. Please bear with me as this blog might be a little bit scattered and probably long. *Also, feel free to share this blog with people, but please don’t tag me in it on Facebook. This is a highly sensitive post and could be controversial and problematic with my students. So, again, feel free to share it, but please make sure it stays off of my Facebook for the sake of the gospel.
A few weeks ago, Rachel and I went on campus to try to meet new students. We had a pretty good day practicing our Wolof and French and meeting students who were waiting to find our their grades from the summer’s exams. As we were leaving campus, this male student came up to us and acted like he knew us. I thought that he looked familiar and was a friend’s, Oumy’s, boyfriend. So I started talking with him. Not even 45-seconds into the conversation I realized that he was not Oumy’s boyfriend.
This student starts talking to us about why we’re in Senegal. We tell him that we’re working with Campus Pour Christ (by the way, that’s the name for Campus Cru. for Christ in Senegal). And he tells us that he’s seen a bunch of Americans here over the summer and during the past two years. That was actually the most encouraging part of our conversation. He had seen previous missionaries on the campus and our summer project team from earlier this summer. I thought maybe he had been exposed to the gospel. After that “intro” to conversation it went sour.
He began to talk to us about “beach girls” in America. For the sake of my supporters who might be reading this, know he wasn’t trying to say beach. He was talking about prostitutes in the United States but referring to them in a duragatory way. And once I figured out what he was talking about I quickly said their situation was sad. He asked why and I responded with, “Because they don’t know the extent of God’s love for them and that they don’t have to live like that.” He started to talk about prostitution in a glorifying way. My heart started to break/become enraged. One of my hopes and dreams is to help get women who are in bondage to prostitution off the streets and walking with the Lord.
He then brought up the depth of poverty here. Now, I have seen the poverty gap here. We went over this one. Right, God? This student told us that there was nothing wrong with selling sex and selling one’s own body. He continued to tell Rachel and I how he has to prostitute himself in order to have food. The simple question he posed, “Have you eaten your breakfast today?” made me sick to my stomach realizing the amount of food we have in our kitchen could feed this man for a year. He has to give the only thing he has to live. He described this “necessary evil” as something that was good. He claimed, “Since God is the creator of good and bad, whose fault is it when we choose bad? God’s. And if God created evil, is evil even bad?”
This broken man was trying to justify the wrong that had been done to him by ignoring the fact that evil even exists.
I think that moment, for several reasons, was my breaking point. I came home and walked into Michelle’s, Paige’s and Katie’s apartment and just cried. I was frustrated that the guy didn’t understand that God is good and in Him is no darkness. I was frustrated that he crossed a social boundary by talking about that stuff with women, especially because he brought that up in front of sweet, innocent, pure, little Rachel. But most of all, I was angry that he showed me a part of African life that I had been choosing not to see. That conversation opened my eyes to the depth of the hurt that exists here. Sometimes I’m so very disillusioned by the mask that my students wear so well. Sure, life is hard here, but they’re making it. They don’t even think they need God, so why am I here? In this converstation I saw it especially. The lies, the mutilation, the death, and destruction… Satan’s rule and reign is so strong here. Where was my God?
I wrote later in my journal:
“Lord Jesus, how overwhelmed and defeated do I feel in this battle? I cannot see past these battles in front of me to see Your faithfulness and Your heart to redeem these people. I am stuck in combat without the slightest hint that the war has already been won… I am wanting to see the gospel go forth and for people to come to know you, but that isn’t happening. Lord, do you even care for these people?”
To which He replied,
“I have conquered sin through my Son’s death and resurrection. I have already won the war, and even though you don’t feel like it, I’m fighting your battles for you. My timing is perfect, and my ways are not your ways. My love for that man is great, much greater than you can imagine. I do love these people way more than you do. My word never returns void even though you might not see how it permeates the human heart. I am faithful to the least of these and have a redemption plan for all the nations. Do you trust me?”
I am learning that my questions really are a perfect representation of my view of God. What do I believe about His character? Me asking if He loves the Senegalese is basically saying, “Hey God, I don’t trust that Your character is always the same with everyone, and Your word might not be true about your love for every single person.” He loves them more than I can imagine. Everytime I am asking God “why?” on their behalf, He reminds me that although I do love them very much, they are not mine. My Senegalese student’s are His. Do I trust Him with them? Do I trust Him to open the eyes of Miriama, Oumy, DiaDia, Isatou, and Awa’s hearts? Or do I think I am more able?
I’m growing more and more while being here, but it isn’t pain free. There are things I’ve seen, things I’ve experienced and things I’ve heard that grieve the heart of God. I’m learning more and more that when I asked to be His hands and feet, I was given His eyes, ears, and heart.
I am so thankful for this experience to be able to mirror Jesus to 60,000 college students. I’ve been able to see the depth of hurt, pain and evil here. But what I know from experience is way more powerful than any darkness. God is Lord over all. He is author of creation. He is King of kings. He is bigger than our trials.
I am here to testify that my God is good and does good. The God of the universe is orchestrating and weaving events in our daily life for our good. I am here to “have a big, high, right view of God and [have] my life testify to it and my lips proclaim it.”- Ryan Kucera. I am here to show a sick, fallen world the Healer and Redeemer. I am here to tell people that the only thing we have to give to God is our lives and that is where we find true life. I count it as joy to be able to serve Christ in this way, knowing that though there might be heartache, God is worth every, single ounce of it.