Wednesday, December 16, 2015

puzzle pieces

Lately I've been pondering the idea of how cross-cultural work is just like any other job. 


I think the ways they are different shine bright. (These are often exaggerations)
- living near family vs. living far away
- paid by a company vs. paid by God through donations
- viewed as unimportant vs. lifted up on a pedestal of eternal value
- a 9am-5pm job vs. 24/7 commitment
- no breaks vs. home assignment every 2-3 years

But the similarities often times go unnoticed. 
When was the last time you or someone you know started a new job? How nervous were you before the interview? Was this something you've always wanted? Did you choose it or did God hand it to you? Did you feel completely unworthy or incapable or fully prepared? Did you know everything the job would entail before you said yes? Were you excited? Did it come with some changes you had to make? Were there any compromises you had to work through? Were there some people who fully supported you and others who told you you were crazy? Did others discourage you in the process?

I have a feeling we would answer these questions very similarly. 

Right now I feel like a puzzle has just been poured out on a table. The completed picture sits on the front of the box tilted for viewing… we know where were headed. But, we haven't started the job yet... all the pieces are yet to be put together. 

As we start working, we try pieces and rarely get ones to fit on our first try. We do find though as pieces start to come together that little corners or pockets begin to show signs of what is to come.

Doing a puzzle is a lot more fun with others. When someone else sits down they often find a few quick pieces because their eyes haven’t been staring at it for as long as you have. Other people give us a unique perspective as we invite them in to work on the puzzle with us.

Putting a puzzle together is a calming thing for me. I love the way it causes me to slow down, focus on one thing, and smile when two pieces fall into place perfectly. The decision to move my faith departure date to at least February didn’t feel like a perfect fit the first time I tried putting the pieces together. But I have a feeling I had been looking at those two pieces for a long time, doubting they would work together.

The best part… there is still a whole puzzle yet to be put together! It’s not something to be solved at one sitting. The process is to be enjoyed over time. A few pieces here and there. People come and sit at the table with you and sometimes silence while working on the puzzle is the most glorious thing. However a party happens when one of those persons finds two pieces that fits and what a joyous occasion to have someone to share it with!

Can I invite you to sit down and work on this puzzle with me? You have to know we won’t finish it in one sitting… that takes all the fun out of it. But having someone to celebrate little accomplishments means the world to me. You’ve got questions? Feel free to break the silence. But know that I haven’t started that job yet, I may not know all the answers and the puzzle is only just beginning to be started.

But I can tell you, the picture at the end; it’s a beautiful one!

Monday, November 30, 2015

Take-a-ways from Colorado

Thanks to 4 weeks at MTI in Colorado I will be going back to East Africa a different person. 

The end.

Oh yes... details.

First. These people.

I loved being loved and getting to love these awesome people. Four weeks living in the same space, sharing every meal together, laughing at jokes only we get, crying and "getting it," and having a common goal of thriving overseas makes you close pretty quick. I'm glad we loved each other well and that saying goodbye was hard. 

So what did we do for 4 weeks? A LOT! The first two weeks were all about starting my own "Language Learning Business". We did mouth drills to practice learning the different sounds that exist in other languages around the world. Let's just say this chart makes some sense now...
A lot of these sounds are in the Mabaan language I will be learning... and this chart doesn't include vowels...and I'm serious when I say these two weeks of learning these sounds and learning the LAPS technique from the creator, Dwight, was so overwhelmingly good. I am really excited to start my own business!

I count it a privilege to have met and got to learn from Dwight and Barbara. Dwight is the brains and heart behind the LAPS technique and helped me to love it. Between their own riveting story of their time in Vietnam to the random commands in the "Jeh" language, that still fill my brain throughout the day, I am getting excited to get to South Sudan and get started with Mabaan!

This was one of the many posters that went up around our training room that related to learning language and trying to communicate cross-culturally. Just apply this in English and you get misunderstanding... take a non-native and native speaker and this message/feedback system becomes a lot more complicated. Therefore one must...
They transitioned us well after two weeks from strong language learning focus to more emphasis on the "Exiting My World to Enter Their World" cross-cultural helps. The idea "frame of reference" was referred to a lot. Taking what we think (in the western world) as normal, natural, right and good and changing that to fit what is considered normal, natural, right and good in their comfort zone was said so many times! This goes so much deeper than how something is said in another language. We had fun role-playing extreme situations to help us understand what it means to visit and be visited by these different cultural norms that are or aren't normal, natural, right and good in our own perceptions. 

How do you greet someone? Do you touch them? Handshake, pat on the shoulder, full hug or fold your hands and bow? Eye contact? 

What about offering someone a cup of tea or a meal? How do you accept it? Can you decline?

How do you behave at another person's house? Are you loud and overly helpful? Do you sit quietly and let people serve you (maybe give them a foot massage??)? Do you just show up or call ahead? How long do you stay?

This is just the beginning of some of the things we discussed at lengths to stretch our cultural senses as we soon will leave our own comfort zones and enter new worlds and new comfort zones. 

We also talked about what we are like under stress, our conflict style, transitioning well, grief and loss, saying good hellos and goodbyes among many others. Something that flowed through almost every session was the idea of yay & yuck ducks.

a pair of ducks... a-par-of-ducks...a paradox. 
It's a beautiful paradox really. 

Now that I'm back from MTI my main focus shifts to getting to 100% of my monthly commitments. There is a lot of excitement (yay duck) wrapped up in it. Seeing who God will choose to be a part, knowing leaving for South Sudan is near, and the joy in packing and preparing to settle on the far side of the sea. But there are also some hard things (yuck ducks) that go with it. Every conversation is about me leaving. Leaving means having to say goodbye to those I love here. Moving overseas means stress and tiredness and I'm sure loneliness at times. Even right now, I feel the paradox of the yays and yucks that surround me. 

But what I love most about these ducks is that they give me words to share what I'm feeling. Being able to recognize that I'm having a yuck duck moment, just had a yuck duck experience or there is a yuck duck in my life that isn't leaving anytime soon is so helpful. These little guys will be traveling with me for sure!

I really can't put into words just how much I've gained from this training. But I do pray as I make this transition and settle on the far side of the sea that God will be glorified, people will come to know Him, disciples will be grown and nurtured and ultimately more people will be with us praising Jesus because of it. 

For those who prayed for me while I was there, thank you!! It was so refreshing, challenging, faith-molding and spiritually strengthening. I am changed because of it and I see it benefiting our team in so many beautiful ways!
Some of my take-a-ways from the 4 weeks forever written on a stone. 
On our last day, each of us stepped into the center and were prayed for. *tears*
Every weekend we did something outdoors-y. At Garden of the Gods (rock formations)... that's Pike's Peak in the background
Two cars caravan-ed up Pikes Peak. Absolutely incredible view!
Megan (who is moving to Kenya!) and I at the Lantern Festival. Think end of Frozen!
At the top of Mt. Herman overlooking Palmer Lake/Monument.
Had a beautiful afternoon with Jesus at Palmer Lake.

Monday, October 5, 2015

The First Wave

I just started reading the book of Ezra and the rebuilding of the temple. As I read each persons name and their family, and the importance that each person counted who came on board to support the work God had called Ezra to, I couldn’t help but stop and start counting each person God has called to support the work God has called me to do in South Sudan.

The whole assembly together was 42,360 people! And that’s just the first wave!

Within my “first wave” are 85 distinct individuals (adults & children!) who believed God has called them to participate financially in the ministry in South Sudan. 200+ others have committed to praying for the ministry.

As important as it was for the writer of Ezra to list each individual family, I think the idea of the “children of Israel…gathered together as one man to Jerusalem” a much more astounding number. They didn’t gather to one man (Ezra) nor as an assembly (many people) but AS one man.

We go out as a team as “one man”. Ezra wasn’t the man to be celebrated for what he did, nor the people celebrated for being willing to support Ezra and travel back to give of their finances and time, it was God who was celebrated, “[they] arose and built the altar of the God of Israel, to offer burnt offerings on it…” in other words, they came together and they worshipped God as one. 

I find verse 6 the one that stuck out to me so boldly out of all the rest, “From the first day of the seventh month they began to offer burnt offerings to the Lord, although the foundation of the temple of the Lord had not been laid.

For those 85 people, they have started to offer their worship to the Lord before I’ve even left! Whether that means beginning their monthly commitments, sharing the amount they will begin when I leave, or giving a one-time gift, these all come before the foundation has started to be laid!

And to those who will participate in the second wave, I look forward to seeing whom God calls… to add to “the one” who goes out to serve the women and children of South Sudan. My faith departure date is in 105 days! These last one hundred and few days will include the second wave of people! Oh may He be worshipped as we come together as one!

“And they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the Lord: ‘For He is good. For His mercy endures forever toward Israel.’” –Ezra 3:11a

And in 105 days may we see the foundation laid (me leaving for South Sudan 100% supported) and respond alike, “Then all the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid.” –Ezra 3:11b

Sunday, May 31, 2015

eyes are upon you

"For we have no power against this great multitude that is coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are upon You." -2 Chronicles 2:12

I have been reading through the Bible starting with Genesis back in January and coming into Kenya back at the beginning of April I hit 1 Chronicles. As I entered South Sudan on May 14th I was a few chapters into 2 Chronicles. It's not a plan, I don't read a certain number of chapters or verses a day, I've just been reading until God speaks to my heart and then I ponder.

On Tuesday May 12th, I read 2 Chronicles chapter 20 and was overwhelmed by the story of King Jehoshaphat, the challenge he was up against, his heart-felt prayer back to God, and then God delivering them not through Jehoshaphat's strengths but God's strength and Jehoshaphat's humility and willingness to submit.

“O Lord God of our fathers, are You not God in heaven, and do You not rule over all the kingdoms of the nations, and in Your hand is there not power and might, so that no one is able to withstand You? Are You not our God, who drove out the inhabitants of this land before Your people Israel, and gave it to the descendants of Abraham Your friend forever? And they dwell in it, and have built You a sanctuary in it for Your name, saying, ‘If disaster comes upon us—sword, judgment, pestilence, or famine—we will stand before this temple and in Your presence (for Your name is in this temple), and cry out to You in our affliction, and You will hear and save.’ And now, here are the people of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir—whom You would not let Israel invade when they came out of the land of Egypt, but they turned from them and did not destroy them— here they are, rewarding us by coming to throw us out of Your possession which You have given us to inherit. O our God, will You not judge them? For we have no power against this great multitude that is coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are upon You.” 
                                                      -2 Chronicles 20:6-12
I pondered the idea of a great multitude surrounding me and what it would feel like to hear, "You will not need to fight in this battle. Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the Lord, who is with you" (2 Chronicles 20:17). I pulled out my computer and turned on this beautiful song by Shane & Shane called Eyes on You and let the words meditate in my heart...

I don't know which way to go
But my eyes are on You
I don't know which way to turn
But my ears are to the ground
You say that I can hear Your voice
So I am listening
All I know is that I believe
It's not with my eyes that I can see
I'm a blind man fighting the world
Swinging back at me
There's a vision now in another eye
You've given sight to a man inside;
Of a blind man fighting the world
Swinging back at me
I still don't know which way to go
But my eyes are on You
I still don't know which way to turn
But my ears are to the ground
As long as You are lifted up
I don't have to understand
The battle is the Lord's
So I'll walk towards You in the dark
Cause I know that in the end we win
So I'm all in
Lead me I'm Yours
There's a vision now in another eye
You've given sight to a man inside;
Of a blind man fighting the world
Swinging back at me

The next morning, I had just finished my quiet time and was preparing beans to put on the coals for tacos that night when I heard we had a meeting. Less than an hour later I found out my 3 week vision trip would be cut 2 weeks short and I would be getting on a plane the following day due to potential issues that could arise in the area. There was no fear, not one bit of frustration and a lot of "God you be glorified and take control of this whole situation". I'm so grateful for an awesome team on the ground in South Sudan where I was who helped me understand what was going, that there was no immediate danger, and this is what it means to work in a country that needs Jesus. 

12 of us left the next day on a small AIM charter plane which made two stops before landing in Nairobi 7 hours later. I got to sit right behind the cockpit and watch him press a bunch of buttons, look down most the time, and watch us fly on autopilot to our next destinations. 

As eventful as those couple days were, I definitely don't want to miss out on sharing about the opportunity to live in Maban County, South Sudan amongst the 135,000 refugees and 23,000 internally displaced peoples for a week and get idea of what ministry could potential look like. I attended a bible study, began preparing for a training on "how to teach children the Bible"-(which I didn't get to teach), crashed a bachelor party and got henna done on my fingertips, did 3 home visits with one of the missionaries out in the camp and met the cutest little 2 year old that came right up, shook my hand and then stood there waiting for me to pick him up, I went to a refugee ran church, and had way too many trips to the SIM health clinic (because of an infected toe). It was a full week and I look forward with great potential for what God could be leading towards.

BUT... I still don't really have any answers. As I wait for a meeting in a little over a week from now, I sit with my Bible open, journal open, heart open and wait on the Lord with my eyes upon Him. I've sat in this waiting place for quite a number of times in the last few years that this feeling of uncertainty is starting to feel normal. I know God has answers, I know He has a plan, and so with confidence I position myself and stand still to see the salvation of the Lord. There are literally thousands of people, a lot of them children, who have never heard the good news of Jesus in the refugee camp. But after all they've been through, they are searching for hope, for peace, and I can't think of any better words than Jesus' to want to say to them,"These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." (John 16:33). 

I will update again when I know some answers as to what God is leading towards and what the next steps will be. I appreciate your prayers specifically for the decisions that need to be made on whether I plan to return to South Sudan for full-time ministry or if God has a different plan for another country. 

Let's keep our eyes on Him!

And a few pictures from my week in the refugee camp:
I flew from Nairobi, Kenya to Juba, South Sudan (1.5 hours) and then Juba to Maban, South Sudan (1.5 hours).
Landing in Maban County at the Doro refugee camp.
The house that I stayed in.
Nuba church (w/in one of the refugee camps)
Henna done at the bachelor party
Us at the bachelor party after getting our henna done with some the Nuba women.
Sweet Nuba kids
A beautiful face.
more kiddos... my heart already loves them.
Such sweet people.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

I'm engaged.

When I left the village back in October 2014, I thought I lost who I was. I had wrapped up my identity not in who I was but in what I was doing. So when that was pulled out from under me, I was lost. Good thing God works for our good.

Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groaning’s which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

There are things that we will never know nor understand. In the midst of a trial, we are so consumed with the humanly worries that we don’t know the words to pray. But in the midst of anything, He knows. He knows exactly where we are, how we feel, and what we need. And I love the truth that we, as believers in Jesus know, that all things work together for good for those who LOVE God and called according to His purpose.

And that’s exactly where I am right now. Through a few bible studies I am doing right now, God has been searching my heart, broken me more, and allowed me to see my weaknesses so that I can walk with Him in His strength. The first week of February a sweet moment happened where I realized (again) this life is not mine. In January 2007 I gave it to Him and therefore as Paul says, “to live is Christ, to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). My life is in His hands. And this excitement, this joy, this communion, as I continue to delight in Him, I’m seeing Him wash away the worldly desires I have as He puts inside me heavenly desires.

Inside, I feel like I’m engaged to the most amazing Man I could ever find. Every chance I get to talk about Him, I feel more full. And the love story, that He wrote to me, the beautiful story of redemption, are the words of Scripture that I can’t seem to get enough of these days.

This is delighting.
This is the ultimate engagement.
Come Lord Jesus come, so we may have our wedding.

Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. 
–Psalm 37:4

But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it. 
–Deuteronomy 30:14

To obey is better than sacrifice… 
-1 Samuel 15:22

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