The Roundabout Way

detourI am not a huge fan of roundabouts.  They are chaotic.  No one really knows who has the right of way, so it turns into a free-for-all.  Plus, why would any person choose to go in a circle when all they want to do is go straight?  Direct is always best…right?

I’m reading through Exodus right now.  The Israelites have left Egypt.  The Lord has rescued them out of slavery.  He has shown himself faithful to these people time and again.  The promise made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob has not been forgotten.

They are finally out from under the rule of Pharaoh and begin following Moses as the Lord leads them to the land that has been promised to them.  But, along the way they get grumpy and put out with the circumstances.  They complain because the water is bitter.  They gripe because they are hungry and believe they had it better back in Egypt.

The Lord leads them on the roundabout way through the wilderness.  He “did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near.” (Ex 13:17)  Rather than a quick trip, they get to take the long road home.  Why?  Because the Lord was merciful.  He was compassionate.  He didn’t want them to see war and change their minds and return to Egypt.  The chosen route is, without a doubt, the road less traveled.  No one chooses the roundabout way on purpose.

As I read, I am often quick to jump all over the Israelites and hound them because of their ungratefulness and lack of faith in a God who brought them out of slavery with an incredible display of his power.  It is easy to judge their attitudes and actions from the comfort of my couch, as I read through their story.   So what that they journey 40 years longer than expected!  Why are they complaining?  The Lord never ceased providing for their daily needs.  He was always guiding.  He was perpetually present.  Could they really ask for anything more?!

BOOM.

And it is then that I realize I am no different.

If I take time to sit with this story and wrestle with it…it is not hard to see myself in the actions and attitudes of the Israelites.  How often do I grumble when something doesn’t go as planned?  How often do I question the road the Lord has me on for this season?  How often do I doubt that he will provide the things needed for the position he has called me to?  Me and the Israelites, we’re cut from the same cloth.

There have been countless roundabouts in my life thus far.  Can I retrace my steps exactly?  Nope.  But I can say that my God has journeyed with me every step of the way and continues to do so.  What is clear is his compassion along the way.  He has used the many roundabouts to shape me and to teach me to depend on him exclusively.  

Clearly, the destination isn’t a location.  I’ve learned that the end goal is following a path that leads me deeper and deeper into a relationship with my Creator…no matter how many twists, turns and stops there are along the way.

I’m learning to love the roundabout way because I see his hands all over it.  He is always guiding.  And he is perpetually present.  Could I really ask for anything more?

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.

a quick update

I have been in Africa for almost a month now.  I think I’ll hit that mark next week.  It has been a whirlwind.  Within my first two weeks this was the count: touched down in 7 countries on three different continents, crossed 7 time zones, been in all four hemispheres and spent more time in airplanes than I care to count!  It has been great though.  I honestly can’t complain about anything. 

The first 9 days were spent in my city getting acclimated to life there.  I love it already and feel comfortable calling it home.  After the short intro to the city, I was off to training in Zambia.  Yesterday finished up the first portion of 40/40.  The week was full of learning about African culture and interacting with people from local communities around Lusaka.  A friend and I were partnered with a local Zambian woman, who took us out each day to meet and talk with her neighbors.  To say I learned a little bit would be a huge understatement.  It was so helpful!  Each day was focused on learning something new and with the intention of building relationships with people that would eventually lead to an opportunity to share the Good News with them.  Saturday I was able to share the Creation to Christ story with three women.  Ask that the truth of that story becomes real to them.  The Father did amazing things through our group this week!  Praise Him for the lives that were changed.    

Tomorrow, we make our trek to the bush!  At 6:30am (which is 11:30pm for you CST folks!), our group will board a bus for a 6-8 hr trip.  During the next two weeks we will be learning about life in a more rural setting.  To end the time there, we get to spend a long weekend with a Zambian family.  I’m excited for this next leg of the training.  There will be stories to share, of that I’m sure! 

When I get back to my computer, you’ll definitely be getting a more detailed update with pictures!  So, check back again in about a month. 

Thank you for continuing to lift me up, even though I haven’t been able to communicate much lately.  I am grateful.

friendship & faithfulness

Five years ago, I met Sue and Graham.  Graham and I were headed to Perú as members of the Xtreme Team.  And Sue was headed to the Sandbox.  At the time, I had no idea what dear friends they would become.

During my time on the field, Sue was my “safe person”.  She was the one who got the real story…not that my updates weren’t real, they were just a little fluffier or more focused on the positive!  We struggled together, from opposite sides of the world, to figure out how to walk the road of one called to another country and culture and to do so in a manner worthy of our calling.  The Father challenged me through Sue’s life and words of encouragement.  In the moments where I wanted to give up and throw in the towel, she reminded me why I was in the middle of the jungle…because He called me.  Numerous times the Lord used a phone call or email from this incredible friend to keep me from buying a ticket home.

Graham and I became fast friends…because we had to!  We were thrown into crazy situations as soon as we stepped off the plane.  I had the privilege to hear his heart and story and to see the Lord use him in huge ways among his team and people group.  The encouragement of this brother got me through my 50,000 Xtreme Team trainings.

Since February of 2007, I’ve been able to watch Sue & Graham’s relationship grow.  I got the unique vantage point of seeing it from both sides.  There was a time I transcribed notes from one to the other; countless emails talking things through with Sue and many jungle conversations listening to Graham talk about her, as his eyes lit up and an enormous smile covered his face.  I’ve gotten to see the Lord use them both.  And that alone has been an incredible blessing.

But of all the memories I have of these two, the other night will be one that I’ll never forget.  I stood in their living room holding two of the sweetest little girls in the world.  And in that moment, I was overwhelmed by the faithfulness of our Father.  Not only in the lives of these two friends, but in my own life as well.  What a journey the last five years have been!  Never would I have thought that we’d be sitting in their home, holding their newborn twins and laughing at how different the Father’s plans have been from our own.  There have been mountain tops and there have been valleys.  And our God has been so good and His timing has always been perfect.

Maybe one day we’ll challenge the other to one of those stroller races across the desert that we always joked about having one day.  Just maybe.  Until then, I’ll continue to stand in awe of how the Lord intersects my life with so many amazing people.  I am so undeserving of such faithful friends, who encourage and give with such a joyful spirit.

I truly am blessed.

 

Round Two.

This is my second time through orientation, here at the Farm.  It seems that I’m better prepared this go-around to take in the massive amount of information thrown our way.  The classes are the same and as are some of the presenters, so one could easily make the assumption that it might be pointless to sit through the sessions again.  However, I’ve found that the opposite is true (for the most part!).  The sessions have served as a good refresher on things I’d forgotten since last time.

In the first three weeks, we’ve covered: ch planting, learning how to live healthy overseas, malaria and how much you don’t want it, the worldview of animism, abiding in Him (Jn 15), personal discipleship & how to help new believers grow, and we’ve dug deep into Acts every morning.  It’s just been good.  On top of all the classes, there are some pretty incredible people here to hang out with and learn from.  The Lord has brought us all here from our own crazy corners of the world and given us each a passion to see the nations praise Him.  It’s encouraging.  It’s challenging.  And it’s just what my heart needed.

During the Animism workshop we got to watch a video of an animistic people group hearing the good news for the first time.  Incredible.  There are so many things within current worldviews that provide amazing bridges to the gospel.  While watching the movie, I couldn’t help but think of the verse in Ecclesiastes that says “he has placed eternity in the hearts of men”.  There are bridges, we just have to take the time to learn the culture.  The only good message is not in the delivery, but in the reception!  If you have half an hour you should check it out, if you don’t – at least start the first one.  Here’s Part 1 (the remaining 3 parts are on YouTube):

 

This week was full of information, and I’m still processing through things.  Hopefully I’ll be more on top of blogging now.  Next up on the blog: Scripture Memorization.  The Lord has really used it lately to rock my world.

holy crap*…i’m moving to africa!

(can I say crap in a blog about being appointed as a missionary??)

Today was a big day.

It was the day a group of people, whom I had never met, would vote on whether they felt I should serve long-term overseas. Now, I don’t know about you…but that is kind of nerve-wracking. They were judging based upon what others said about me and what I had to say about myself. Scary.

My consultant told me I would be receiving a call once the decision was made. Well, that makes for a very long day, full of anticipation. Luckily, I was busy helping one of my best friends get ready for her wedding. But that didn’t stop us from jumping every time my phone made a noise. Clearly, my anxiousness had rubbed off on Misty.

About 4:15 my phone rang, I dropped everything I was doing and jumped over the pile of burlap sacks of birdseed (we’re getting ready for a wedding, remember?!). It was Al. He didn’t waste time on small talk (praise God!) and got right down to business. “Amanda, it was a unanimous decision. You’re going to Burkina Faso”. Holy cow. This was happening.

Being home when I got the call would have been great…but I was in the next best place, with my best friend. There is nothing like seeing your best friend run out of the house and then tackle you with a bear hug because she’s so excited. That’s love. I’m so blessed. (Misty, thank you for dropping your wedding preparations for a minute to celebrate with me…it meant the world.)

Still, it is surreal. It has been such a process and now it’s all been confirmed and approved. I’m moving to Africa. Holy moly.

*This is a term of excitement. Not one of disappointment.

another stamp in the passport…

“I am not the same for having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world.”

I read this on a friend’s blog a while back. And as I process my last trip, this continues to come to mind. My life has been radically changed through the trips I have taken to other countries. My heart has been stirred countless times by the things I have seen. And I am immensely grateful for the opportunities I have been given to experience life in another context.

This most recent trip was no different. And while I cannot go into much detail here on the world wide web, I can tell you that I saw and learned a great deal. I saw hopelessness in the eyes of youth, and it broke my heart. I saw determination in the faces of those with extreme disabilities, and it challenged me. And I saw joy and excitement on the face of one young teenager who had lost both of his legs, and his attitude and outlook on life convicted me. These youth taught me more than I could have ever tried to teach them in a lifetime.

I never thought I could grow to love a certain group of people so deeply and in such a short amount of time. They are impressed upon my heart forever. A friend of mine recently wrote about leaving a country she’d been living in.  She put into words exactly what I have been feeling. She said:

As usual, I came to give, work, help, and love and I’m leaving with so many memories, wonderful blessings, special friends, exciting stories and a deeper perspective. I’m also leaving behind another piece of my heart in another precious country, and again, wondering why I do this to myself and when I won’t have any more pieces left to leave behind…but I love it and doubt I’ll stop anytime soon.

To interact with and do life with people in a different context is life changing. It is one of those things that is not easy, but so so worth it. The people I just left have a chunk of my heart. My perspective has once again been broadened. My heart is full. And I cannot wait to go back…no matter the cost.

When border patrol looks at my passport, they see the stamps and visas of the countries I have visited. When I thumb through those pages, I see places that have shaped me and the faces of the people that have poured into my life in spite of the barriers of language and culture.

Those stamps are more than mere ink. They are stories that have shaped my life.