Thoughts on the cost

Last week the girls and I were doing our morning prayers and intercession when Talai prayed, “Dear heavenly Father, when we go to Uganda, please protect me, and please help me to endure if I become an orphan. No matter what, help me never to deny You, but always follow You faithfully.”

Hadassah prayed a similar prayer ending with “Jesus please help me to follow you no matter what and if I have to go to an orphanage, let it be one where they treat the children nicely.”

Whoa! Right? What kind of nine-year-old or six-year-old prays that in complete johnny-automatic-girl-praying-800pxsincerity? So came my moment to respond and I sat silent for a while contemplating what to say. Should I assure them that God would not allow Sal or I to die or that they would never be orphans? As a mother wanting to quench their fears that was my temptation, but I couldn’t honestly give them any assurances and I would not have them disillusioned with God because I put false promises in His mouth that He did not keep. How would you respond?

 

I fear some will misunderstand what I am about to say. I love my children more than life, and I mean that in the most sincere way possible. I have sacrificed a career, much of my education and more to stay at home and spend time with them, watch them grow and give them an exquisite education. This was completely contrary to my plans before becoming a mother, but I count it all a joy now and would not have it any other way. However, my love for them is ashes compared to the extravagant love their heavenly Father has for them. For this reason, the best and most loving thing I can do for them is to be obedient to God and trust Him with their lives.

That said, please be gracious as you read my response if I do not communicate as clearly as I should.

Firstly in response, I hugged all three of my precious darlings because even though Mila did not voice such fears I’m sure she wrestles with her own. I told them that God has a plan for each of our lives, for theirs and my own. If we are walking in His will nothing and no one can kill us until we have completed God’s intended plan. Just as God protected David while King Saul hunted him through the wilderness and how He protected Jesus when those of His own town tried to throw Him off of a cliff, so too will God protect us while we still have His orders to carry out on earth, orders that probably include being around to raise them.

However, that didn’t mean that God would not allow them to be orphaned. I told them that I did not think that Sal or I’s deaths were a part of God’s plan any time soon. God has promised much to us that we have yet to see manifested and given us much instruction that we’ve yet to accomplish. But we all need to be ready to give everything, even our lives for God’s Kingdom if it so requires. However, the Bible teaches that the angels who watch over children are ever before the face of God, and I assured the girls that, no matter what, God would watch over and protect them. I also told them they shouldn’t ever end up in an orphanage because they would live with family or friends should anything ever happen to Sal and I. And finally I encouraged and fortified them to never forsake Jesus for any reason. As long as we hold fast to Christ, we will see each other again.

reverse silloutte crossI know this response may sound radical to the Westerner, including many Western Christians. However, I recently heard Michael Ramsden speak on this topic and he said something that merits repeating; As Western Christians, we live in a time that is unique. The peace and prosperity that the Western church enjoys is peculiar not only historically, but also globally in our present world. The normality for Christians, that which has been typical since the day Jesus died, is a life of suffering and/or persecution, but even so, a life of joy and peace, of generosity and beauty.

Hebrews 11 gives us a goose-bump raising account of our Christian legacy:

And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword;whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again.” (v. 32-35a)

How much would we love to see these kinds of miracles in our churches and in our lives? How many of us have inquired of God why these things tarry? Perhaps the key can be found in the very next words:

“There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment.  They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins,destitute, persecuted and mistreated— the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.” (v.35b-38)

This part of our Christian legacy continues today as many endure such conditions for the sake of Christ. If you don’t believe that, you should go on a mission trip.

I see a lot of the Western world’s desire for comfort and security within the heart of the Western church and even within my own heart. Yet how much of the security that we enjoy is an illusion? One has only to turn on the television to hear of wars and rumors of wars, of division and schemings. Ramsden also said that the type of persecution that we see in places like the 10/40 window is “only ever one generation away.” I truly believe that.

But even were peace not so fragile, what would I be should I not follow the call of God on my life? No one wants to be Jonah. No one wants to believe themselves a coward, and that is definitely not how God created us to be. But how do we overcome fear when called to a place where the odds are stacked dangerously against us?knightingoldenarmor-2400px

The beautiful simplicity of the trust and faith my daughters have in their heavenly Father was deeply convicting for me. It was unbridled by the the reins of doubt and burdens of past experience that so many of us grown-ups haul around with us. It is no wonder that Jesus taught that we must become as children to enter the Kingdom of God!

I recently had a pastor ask me bluntly, “So what is the cost (of following God’s call)?” It was difficult for me to give an answer. Anything Sal or I have “given up” thus far seems quite unimportant and superficial and hardly meriting the title “cost.” Anything that may arise in the future remains hypothetical. So I suppose the costs we’re counting as we say “yes” to God are largely control, security and pride. To be willing to be utterly out-of-control of of our situation even when physical danger may be present, to be willing to face danger head-on without the security of a safety net and pride in that we may not always have the answers or solutions, and of course to look like complete fools in the eyes of the world.

Yet by God’s grace, we shall say “yes,” agreeing to whatever costs and willing to trust Him with everything. Hopefully we may in some way prove ourselves worthy of our amazing daughters who could school us on graciously surrendering to God’s will and perhaps take one step closer to being worthy dwelling places of Christ Jesus.

Thank you for taking the time to read this article, and may God bountifully bless you and yours.

YWAM: Our Family

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courtesy freedigitalphotos.net

This Fall when we arrive in Uganda, Africa, we will be received by the staff of Youth With a Mission (YWAM) Arua. We have been in contact off and on with these guys for about four years now, since we first believed God was calling us to Uganda. We have enjoyed getting to know them and learning of all they do. Their examples of courage and humble obedience to the call of God delights our hearts and it will be an honor to work alongside them and learn from them.

Interpersonal relationships within YWAM are a peculiar and special thing. Jesus taught us that Christianity is a brotherhood, that we are all family. Theoretically I know this, but it is a principle truly manifest amongst YWAMers. For example, if a ragged travel-worn stranger showed up at my front door and said, “Hello, I am a Christian. I was told you are a Christian also. May I stay here for a few days and rest from my travels?” I would likely invite them in, but my hospitality would not be so great as it is, for example, when my sisters come to visit nor would I likely trust them alone in my home. Please understand, I’m not saying

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courtesy freedigitalphotos.net

that is the Biblical response, I’m simply saying that in my flesh this is what I would do and I suspect most of those reading this article would react similarly.

However, if the same stranger said, “Hello, I am a YWAMer. I heard you guys are a YWAM family. I’m just passing through and a bit hungry and tired. Would you mind if I crashed here for a bit?” I would be genuinely excited to invite them in with open arms, open fridge and open trust. White, Black, Brown, Yellow, African, Indian, Russian, male, female, old, young it simply wouldn’t matter. This is the heart of YWAM.

Before you challenge that statement, or claim it unique to myself, I would share that we did this exact thing many times during our trip through Central and South America. Inevitably we would run out of food, gas and money and be unable to travel any further. At these times (and others as well) we headed to the nearest YWAM base, knocked on their front door and said something along the lines of, “Hello, we are YWAMers. We are from the USA and on our way to Argentina but we need a place to stay until God grants us provisions to continue on our journey. We have no idea how long that may take, but could we please stay here until then?”

Through the many countries we traversed they always welcomed us in with open arms and hearts. They would feed us, show us around the town, give us gifts, pray with us and bless us tremendously. They even let our dogs sleep in our rooms with us, which is culturally unacceptable in most of these countries.

IMG_20160505_163722Once in Columbia we called ahead of time and asked to stay at the base. We were told that although they would love to host us, they were packed to over capacity. With several visiting teams they had people sleeping on floors and outside in tents and simply had no space. After spending a week in a Columbian hostel while waiting to receive our van (we had shipped it from Panama), we picked it up and realized that we were too broke to continue. So, we prayerfully decided to show up at the YWAM base anyway where we asked if we could sleep in our van in their driveway. Again we were invited in with open arms. There truly was no space within the base but a few YWAM girls who lived down the road and were headed out of town gave us the keys to their apartment and told us we could stay there. And as always, they fed us too.

The following day a young woman we had not yet met walked up and introduced herself. “Hello, My name is Evenly,” she said. “There is a Bible school I’ve wanted to attend in Uruguay for a long time, but I’ve never had the resources to go. However, two days ago God told me that He was sending me there soon and to pack my bags. So, I packed my bags, prayed that God would provide a way and have been waiting for a miracle. I believe you may be the answer to that prayer. Could I ride with you as far as Corrientes? From there I can take a bus”

For Sal and I, there really was no question. She absolutely could come. We responded, “Of course you can come! After all, we are family. However,” we continued, “you must understand that we can’t guarantee a comfortable or safe place to sleep. We don’t know how long it will take us to get there and if we run out of money again we may be stuck on route until God provides finances to continue. We cannot guarantee you’ll arrive before the school starts. We can be loud at times and, just to warn you, when it gets hot our dogs drool a lot.  That said, if you believe this is your transport to God’s calling and are willing to trust Him in that, we would love to have you.”

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This picture is a little blurry but you get the idea

And just like that our traveling family went from five members to six. Well, actually as soon as we left town she announced that she had a friend on route who also wanted to take the Bible school in Uruguay. So, by sunset our traveling family had reached seven members. At one point we were up to nine for a string of our journey, but I’ll save that story for another time. Our family keeps in contact with Evenly to this day and we consider her a dear friend.

Back to my previous thought, however, this Fall we will be received by YWAM Arua, Uganda where we have made a two-year commitment to serve at (but with the intention of remaining in Uganda much longer) . Their work in Arua and the West Nile region is amazing. The daily risks they face by ministering in troubled and war-torn areas reflects a healthy and profound faith. Their vision is to “be a bridge of God’s healing to the nations” and they focus primarily on Uganda, South Sudan, DR Congo and the Central African Republic (CAR). We are so excited to be joining them in all they do, and would encourage anyone reading this article to check them out. Below are links to help you do so.

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Click above to go to YWAM Arua’s webpage

ywam aruaClick above to go to YWAM Arua’s Facebook page

 

 

Above is an informational video about YWAM Arua that they made a few years ago.

As always, may God bountifully bless you and yours. Please keep us in your prayers as we move forward in preparations for Arua, Uganda. Thank you, and God bless.