a one way ticket on an eastbound plane.

Ap4ociDCIAAhPvMOne year ago today, I held these tickets in my hand as I waited to board the flights that would take me to my new home.  These tickets were for one direction only.  As we say here in Africa, there would be no “going and coming”.  There would be only going…and staying.

One year ago today, I left all that I knew behind.  A way of life that was easy by comparison.  Family who loved me despite my flaws.  Friends who would share life with me over Tex-Mex and cups of coffee.  Nieces and nephews who would grow up while I was a world away.

One year ago today, I left a world in which I was fully competent.  I could drive with ease and it was relaxing.  Look at a menu and know exactly what I would order and what I would receive.  Speak and be completely understood.  Worship in my own language.josue

One year ago today, I entered the unknown and a way of life that is far more difficult.  But I have been blessed by a family here who encourages me on a daily basis.  Friends who I can share life with over rice and sauce and cups of bissap.  Little nieces and nephews who sit in my lap to drive my truck and entertain me during language lessons.

One year ago today, I was thrown into a context were I was completely incompetent.  But now I can drive like an African (watch out!), order food and get basically what I ordered, and be semi-understood in conversations around town.  And I am learning how to worship in the heart language of the people I’ve been called to serve.

Three hundred and sixty-five days later, I’m amazed at the difference a year makes.  I’m amazed at all I’ve learned.  I’m amazed at the friends He’s blessed me with.  I’m humbled as I continue learning to live life in this context and speak a language that is not my own.  And I’m grateful to call this crazy place home.  The Lord provides in incredible ways.

This next year promises to be chock-full of changes, new responsibilities, and more opportunities to share Jesus with those who’ve never heard.  And I step into this second year anticipating the Lord to do great things.

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the wall and his faithfulness.

I am in the beginning of my sixth month of living in Africa.  It seems like I have lived here forever.  But at the same time, I could swear it was just yesterday that I was packing up my remaining belongings, carefully weighing each bag to make sure it was 50lbs on the nose, and hugging family and friends good-bye for a while.

Six months.  That’s crazy.

It has been a roller coaster.  There have been countless ups and downs.  Days when I wouldn’t dream of living anywhere else.  And days when I am sure I would have taken the first ticket out of here.   But this place is home.  And I love it.

I have gotten used to the ebb and flow of everyday life here.  The crazy has become the normal.  And it is exhausting.  Language study has become monotonous, and there are days when I think that I will never be able to communicate with my people.  Running any sort of errand in town turns into an all day affair.  And driving anywhere is enough to fry even the most down-to-earth person’s nerves!  The culture stress is setting in.  I’ve hit “the wall”.

The wall creeps up on you…at least it did on me.  All the little things add up.  You find yourself saying “I’m so stinkin’ tired.  And for no reason at all!”  But there is a reason.  There are numerous little reasons.

Just the other day I was texting a dear friend, telling her my frustrations.  There was a list.  One of the big ones was church.  Going to church is work.  It isn’t a refreshing time (yet).  I spend three hours sitting and listening to two languages I barely understand.  Needless to say, my attitude stunk this past Sunday.  I did not want to go.  My roommate was sick, so I had to go alone.  I cannot tell you how tempted I was to stay in bed.  But, I went.

I should have known before I walked out the door that the Father was up to something.  When I arrived, I took my seat with all the women.  After a few moments, I noticed we would be sharing in the Lord’s Supper.  As they began to pass the bread and the cup, my heart began to change.  In that moment, I stood with my Burkinabé brothers and sisters…celebrating what Jesus Christ had done for us.  As we sang a familiar hymn (they in French/Jula, me in English/Spanish), the frustrations melted away.  There was unity at the Table.  The Body of Christ had gathered and in spite of language barriers, we worshiped.  And I was reminded (once again), that it isn’t about me and my preferences.

I might not have been able to understand the sermon.   And I’m not even 100% sure I knew what passage he was preaching from.  But it didn’t matter.  I walked back to my truck encouraged and thankful.  He is faithful.

Have I conquered the wall?  I’m getting there.  Will life here still wear me out?  I have no doubt.  But my God is faithful.  And he has promised me rest.

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30

we are the Body.

I haven’t been to a church in two months.

For the last nine weeks, I have been a part of a small group.  During training we were divided up by affinity groups and we met almost daily to dig deeper into the Word.  It was an incredible time of growth and learning, as we lived life-on-life with each other.  We met as a group for the last time this past Thursday.  Needless to say, I was somewhat uneasy about jumping back into “big church” my first day back home.  To go from 10 people in a very intimate setting to several hundred in a large building is somewhat overwhelming.

My uneasiness was completely unwarranted, however.  As I walked through the doors this morning, I was greeted by friends who: wanted an update on my life, told me how they had been keeping up with my newsletters, and had been lifting me up during this time of transition. What a huge encouragement.  As if that wasn’t enough, I got to speak in Spanish!  I had the opportunity to talk to José Henríquez, one of the 33 miners trapped for 69 days in Chile.  What an incredible testimony he has to share.  Our God is faithful!  He and his wife, Blanca, will be going to Africa later in the year, so it was neat to be able to share with them (in Spanish!) a little about where I’m headed.

As the service began, I found myself fighting off tears.  This was the last time I’d stand and worship with my church family for a while.  I tried to take it all in.  Looking around, I saw faces that have walked with me as the Lord has revealed His plans for me, encouraged me during the rough times, challenged me in my walk, and made me laugh until my sides hurt…and I was overwhelmed with thankfulness.  At the end, as we were singing “Jesus Paid It All”, a friend next to me tapped my shoulder and asked if he could pray for me.  So, we walked off to the side and knelt down to pray.  My “M” pastor soon knelt at my other side.  There are no words to describe the feeling when friends have surrounded you and are lifting you up before the Father.  In that moment, my heart was full.

Today was a sweet time of worship with the local Body.  I praise the Father for STBC and all that He is doing through them.  And I look forward to partnering with them over the next several years, as the Lord uses His people to reach the unreached of West Africa.

Shiloh Terrace Baptist Church, thank you for loving me.  And thank you for your prayers, encouragement and support as I go out.  Thank you for investing in me.  My cup runneth over.

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

 Hebrews 10:24-25

 

the simple life.

I miss it.  The other day I watched a short video a friend had put together.  It was  of her ministry over the last three years.  There is no way to watch those and not be reminded of my own time overseas.  When thinking back over my two years in the Amazon, one word that comes to mind is simple.

Things were so simple.  Granted, digging your own bathroom; butchering some unknown ROUS for dinner; learning to bathe/do laundry/fetch water from a poop-colored river and other jungle related activities may not seem like simple tasks, but they played a part in a simpler way of life.  And that is the life I find myself missing tonight.

While in Perú, my stress level probably hovered around zero.  The things that worry people here in the US did not seem to phase me or my friends in San Pablo.  And the longer I lived with them, the more this style of living rubbed off on me.  We woke up with the sun, lived life with the people and then went to bed with the sun.  Our days revolved around conversations with people…with friends…with family.  We listened to life stories.  And boy, were the stories amazing.  Depending on who we were talking to, we more than likely couldn’t even understand the bulk of the story…but that never mattered.  We were living life with them and that was enough.  No one was ever too busy.  Life was simple.  Things held value, but people mattered more.

(Did life get hard?  Of course.  There were days we didn’t have food.  And days we didn’t want to be stuck in the middle of nowhere for 3 months.  And days we didn’t even like each other.  Simplicity isn’t without some difficulty.  Simple gets messy.  But, at the end of the day you realized what was important.  There wasn’t this web of complexities to rummage through.  And that was nice.)

Life back in the States doesn’t seem to be quite as simple.  It could be, but we put such demands on ourselves that anything short of utterly complex seems foreign.  People expect certain things.  There’s the “Ladder of Success” to climb.  You need to be in the right crowds, rubbing shoulders with the right people, so you can land a position in the right job.  SO. MANY. EXPECTATIONS.

When I stepped off the plane, I knew I wasn’t in Kansas anymore!  Everything was moving at the speed of light.  Conversations were quick and surface level.  A million questions came my way about future plans and job possibilities.  People asked about my time in the jungle, but only were interested if it was the 60 second version.   It seemed no one took the time to sit and share stories.  My head spun.  I wanted to go home.  I didn’t know how to live life here, anymore.

But here I stand, two years later and have to confess that I’ve been sucked into the busyness that once seemed so strange to me.  There are days my stress level rises way above zero and I get caught up in the rat race.  It’s then that I’m reminded to slow down.

Everyone is constantly on-the-go.  While it keeps life interesting…does it come at a cost?  Are we missing out on something?  When did work become more important than friendship?  And when did programs take the place of real community?

Sometimes the fast-paced life is easiest.  There is little involvement in the lives of our friends and family.  It is neat and kept in check.  But it lacks authenticity.  My jungle friends taught me a lot.  You can’t live life alone.  You’ve got to stop and let people in.  It’s not always comfortable.  It requires a level of vulnerability.  And it gets messy.  But it is worth it.

I don’t want to rush through life only seeing goals met and bottom lines achieved.  I want to see people.  I want to pour into those that cross my path.  And I want to be someone that will stop, in the midst of the crazy, and listen.

Things will seem a little simpler when you have someone to share the load with.