a much better kingdom

“It’s not about figuring out the mysteries of God, but embracing Him and cherishing Him – even when He doesn’t make perfect sense to us.” 

Francis Chan

Eight years ago, I was living in Georgia with plans to find a job and move to Colorado.  I love Colorado and wanted to move closer to my family and get out of the heat of Georgia.  Six months later I was moving to Burkina Faso, which had definitely not been in my plans.  It is much farther away from my family, gets quite a bit hotter than Georgia and stays hot most of the time.  Moving to Burkina may not have been in my plans, but I am grateful for the opportunity to live and serve here.  I love living here, the people I get to serve with and the ministry I get to be a part of.  Even though this move hadn’t been part of my plans, from the time I started praying about and pursuing the opportunity, I was excited about the new plans God had for me.  However, I don’t always have this same response when life doesn’t work out according to my plans or the way I think it should.  Sometimes I see right away why God is doing the things He is and may even get excited about it; other times it takes a while before I see why He’s doing things the way He is.  Then there are some situations for which I am still waiting to see why God is doing (or did) things the way He is.  However, whether I can see the reasons or not, I always want to have the attitude of, “God interrupt whatever [I am] doing so that [I] can join you in what You’re doing.” (Francis Chan)

Living in Burkina has taught me quite a bit about schedules, programs and life not going the way we plan.  Every year we go to a specific region of Burkina to construct a hangar for a newly planted church amongst an unreached people group.  Last year, on the evening we arrived, we were informed the chief in the village where we were supposed to construct the hangar had changed his mind and he no longer wanted the Christians to have a church structure there.  Plans quickly changed and we constructed a hangar in another nearby village.  As we were preparing to go back to this same area last month, I began to think of how things didn’t go as planned last year and wondered what would happen this trip.  Thankfully, everything went as planned and we were able to leave with another hangar completed for a newly planted church of forty believers.  While there, we were also told the village chief who wouldn’t let us build a hangar for the believers in his village last year, now wants one.  Last year when we were told we couldn’t build a hangar for the believers, I wondered how God would use that situation in the future.  I don’t always view situations like these as opportunities for God to do amazing things to bring Himself glory.  Many times, rather than thinking about how God can use changed or interrupted plans, I get frustrated or question why God is allowing things to happen.

 

 

 

For at least the last six months now, we have been working on details for English classes a team is coming to teach next week.  This week I made a call to confirm all the details and found out the place where we will hold classes has changed, we will now have twice as many students and each class is for one day instead of two.  Three days before the team arrives and now there are many details that need to be reworked and taken care of.  It is a situation where I can get frustrated and start worrying about how everything is going to work out or I can choose to trust God, that He has a plan, that He is in control and that He can work out all the details without my help.

The reality is – plans, schedules, desires, dreams and life don’t always go the way we want or the way we think they should.  It could be something as small as details not going as planned or being sick at an inconvenient time.  Or it could be something more serious like a loved one dying or terrorist attacks and other terrible tragedies that happen around the world.  It is in moments like these when I don’t think life makes sense and I sometimes question what is going on.  Instead, I need to remember life isn’t about my wants, my plans or my little kingdom.  It is about God – His plans, His glory, His kingdom.  I need to remember, “[Jesus] didn’t come to exercise [his] power to make [my] little kingdom work, but to welcome [me], by grace, to a much better kingdom than [I] could ever quest for on [my] own.” (Tripp).  So, I try to constantly remind myself: “Your kingdom come, Your will be done, right here, right now, in my life” and work on trusting Him completely.

The last two and a half years God has been teaching me to trust Him in a whole new way.  I may not always understand why He allows things to happen, chooses to do things the way He does or why He answers prayers as He does.  However, I am learning to trust God more than what I understand, more than what makes sense and more than my plans, feelings, desires, wants and dreams.  I regularly remind myself, “I trust Him.  I trust His heart.  I trust His plan.”  So, when life seems out of control, when I wish life were different, when I don’t understand what God is doing, I need to remember that even in these moments, He is on His throne, He has a plan and He is in control.  I need to choose to celebrate all that He is doing instead of grieving or complaining when things don’t go as planned or I don’t get my way.  I need to meditate on verses like Philippians 2:14 “Do all things without complaining …” and James 1:2-4 “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.  But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”

I am challenged by these words from Paul David Tripp: “So, be careful how you make sense of your life.  What looks like a disaster may in fact be grace.  What looks like the end may be the beginning.  What looks hopeless may be God’s instrument to give you real and lasting hope.  Your Father is committed to taking what seems to be bad and turning it into something that is very, very, very good.”

The song below brings me encouragement when life seems a little out of control.  I love to be reminded that I can go to God with questions and I can wrestle with Him.  And even while I am wrestling with Him, I can choose to trust Him because I know He hears me, He is kind and He cares for me even when I cannot see it.  It is because of this that I can choose to praise Him even when things aren’t going my way or when life doesn’t seem to make sense.

 

Weep With Me (Rend Collective)

 

Weep with me

Lord will You weep with me?

I don’t need answers, all I need

Is to know that You care for me

Hear my plea

Are you even listening?

Lord I will wrestle with Your heart

But I won’t let You go

You know I believe

Help my unbelief

Yet I will praise You

Yet I will sing of Your name

Here in the shadows

Here I will offer my praise

What’s true in the light

Is still true in the dark

You’re good and You’re kind

And You care for this heart

Lord I believe

You weep with me

Part the seas

Lord make a way for me

Here in the midst of my lament

I have faith, yes I still believe

That You love me

Your plans are to prosper me

You’re working everything for good

Even when I cannot see

 

Advertisements

Chasing Perfectionism

“Facing disappointment and failure?  Don’t be surprised – you’re still flawed and your world is still fallen.  For this, there’s grace.”

Paul David Tripp

 

In high school and university, I was the student who would get frustrated with myself if I received a perfect score on an exam, but it had been possible to get an even higher score with extra credit.  I was that kid who would get into arguments with my parents or sisters when I knew they didn’t have all the details exactly right about something.  I’m also that person who may start a sentence a few times before I get my thoughts out because I want to make sure I am getting all the facts straight.  When I was younger, I don’t think I recognized that I was a perfectionist, though my mom said she started to recognize it when I was around ten.  I don’t really know when it started nor when I finally realized it, but anyone who knows me well would tell you I’m a perfectionist.

A few months ago, as I was working through a Bible study the question was asked, “are you chasing after God or perfectionism?”  I immediately stopped and without having to think much about it, knew there are times I allow my perfectionism to work its way into my relationship with God.  It isn’t that I think I can be perfect.  I am very aware of how ugly my heart is and how much I am in need of God’s forgiving, rescuing, transforming and delivering grace every single day.  I also realize that on this earth I will never be perfect, that God doesn’t require perfection and that “[I] don’t have to fear exposure, because [my] struggle of faith has been more than adequately addressed by the grace of the cross of the Lord Jesus.”  (Tripp)

Even though I know these things are true, I still don’t like failing God, making mistakes, hurting others or coming up short, so at times I find myself chasing perfectionism instead of running after God … and that can be exhausting and defeating.  It isn’t that I think it is wrong to strive for holiness.  We are actually commanded do so in 1 Peter 1:15 “But as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct.”  However, I realized that sometimes I am too focused on making the next right decision instead of just running after God and keeping my eyes fixed on Him.

As I processed what it means to really chase after God, I was reminded of Colossians 3:1-2 “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” and Hebrews 12:1-2 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the founder and perfecter of our faith…”  God has used these verses from Hebrews in my life over the last several years, teaching me how I have no control over the race that is put before me, but how I can control the way I choose to run that race.  There may be circumstances or people in my life that impact the course of this race.  Things may happen that make the race enjoyable, exciting, encouraging, fun and make me feel like I am steadily moving in the right direction.  Other times, things may happen that make the race difficult, discouraging, impossible and make me feel like I am running up hill in the sand in 105-degree temperatures (40.5 c for my non-American friends).  However, no matter what race I find in front of me, no matter what difficulties I face or what others are doing to help/hinder me, I get to choose how I run the race.  I can give up, choose to run my own course or allow the hurdles, obstacles and difficulties to help me grow and finish the race a stronger person.  In Philippians Paul says, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own … forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (3:12-14)

The important thing I am learning about running this race is that it is imperative for me to fix my eyes on Christ.  Paul Tripp says, “That which dominates your mediation shapes the way you view yourself, life, and God, and your view of those things shapes the choices you make and the actions you take.”  Too often I find myself focusing on the things I need to be doing (making sure I think before I speak, putting others before myself, always choosing to show love, not responding in frustration, etc.)  instead of fixing my eyes and mind on Christ.  As I have been working through this, God has shown me that I need to be chasing after Him instead of obsessing about the next right reactions, words or decisions.  Hebrews 12:2 tells us that God is the perfecter of our faith.  This means that as I chase after God, allowing Him to change my heart, He will guide my reactions, words and decisions.  Not only that, but He will also give me the grace needed to be the person He has called me to be.  Even as I think about the challenge of doing this, I am reminded of the encouragement we receive in Philippians 1:6 “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”  I also love and am encouraged by these words from Tim Keller, “The great basis of Christian assurance is not how much our hearts are set on God, but how unshakably His heart is set on us.”  It is freeing to know that even when I get distracted and take my eyes off Christ or start running in the wrong direction, He never quits loving me, forgiving me or pursuing me.

So, on those days when I am feeling beaten up and defeated as a result of focusing too much on what I can and cannot do, I need to remember these words from Paul Tripp: “We tend to live with the anxiety and drivenness that come when we believe that all we have is this moment.  Here’s the real-life, street-level issue: if you don’t keep the eyes of your heart focused on the paradise that is to come, you will try to turn this poor fallen world into the paradise it will never be … If your God’s child, paradise has been guaranteed for you, but it will not be right here, right now.  All the things that disappoint you now are to remind you that this is not all there is and to cause you to long for the paradise that is to come.”

Ten Thousand Little Moments

Recently, while talking with a good friend I was asked if I ever just stop and say to myself, “this is my life”.  The quick answer was, “Yes, all the time”, but the longer I thought about it, the more I realized there is more to it than just saying, “this is my life”.  So, what is it that makes me stop and recognize that what is happening in these moments isn’t normal?

Sometimes it happens because I see something bizarre like a camel riding in the back of a taxi moto.  It could be when something happens that I think is ridiculous, like children playing in the middle of the road or the insane driving.  Or, it could be when I’m out driving on crazy roads, passing buses loaded with so much stuff they are twice their original size, seeing people riding on top of trucks or seeing some other random thing.  In these moments I need to stop and appreciate the differences in locations, cultures, expectations and realities of life.

 

 

Then there are times when it is crazy hot outside, the power or water is cut for hours, the fridge quits working again, there is another leak or something else breaks.  It is with great frustration in these moments that I mumble “this is my life” and then quickly, or maybe not so quickly, remember that I have so much to be thankful for.  It is in these moments I stop and strive to focus on all those things I am blessed with instead of the negative things that are happening.

Often when life happens or difficult situations arise, I not so joyfully say, “this is my life”.  These moments sometimes happen when I see social media updates of my family celebrating a birthday or holiday together, my sisters take another sisters’ trip or my family experiences a crisis and I am too far away to do anything to help.  I always miss my family, but there are definitely occasions when those feelings are more intense.  It’s at these times when I am thinking “this is my life” that I work on accepting the sacrifices my family and I make as I serve in Burkina (which I love, by the way).  I am encouraged by what Paul Tripp says regarding my life – “Your life is not good because it is easy or predictable, but because the I AM has invaded your existence by his grace.”  So, it is in tough moments like these that I need to stop and remember Habakkuk 3:18 “Yet, I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.”

It isn’t only the bizarre, different or difficult moments that lead me to say, “this is my life”, but also the wonderful moments.  Those moments when I am in the bush and I look up at the incredible stars or see a beautiful sunset.  Those moments when I take time to recognize that God allows me to be part of the amazing work He is doing in Burkina.  Often, it is when I am in the bush that I look around and think to myself, “this is my life”.  It happens when God defies my expectation as He did on our last bush trip.  As we showed up in one village, the people were saying we wouldn’t find any water because other groups had already been there and left 9 dry holes when they were done.  We drilled and drilled with dust blowing everywhere and people coming and going, noticing that there was nothing different happening this time than all the other times.  We were approaching 300 feet, which is the deepest we drill, and still hadn’t seen any water.  I was mentally preparing myself for us to have to pull up 300 feet worth of rods and start all over again.  However, on this trip the FIA guys (drilling org we partner with) brought an extra 10 rods (100 feet) and so we drilled to just over 400 feet.  It was amazing to see God provide a source of water for these people when it seemed many had given up hope. The people were so excited they filled containers for over 4 hours straight, only stopping when we turned the generator off so we could go to bed.  It is in moments like these that I can’t believe “this is my life” and I need to be better at taking time to praise God not only for defying my expectations, but for allowing me to be part of the incredible work He is doing here.  It is in these moments I need to stop and say, “We give thanks to You, O God; we give thanks!  For Your wondrous works declare that Your name is near.” (Psalm 75:1).

 

As I was thinking about all these different types of situations, I realized there is more to these moments than just thinking, “this is my life”.  I need to take these moments and allow God to work in my life, changing my heart to be more like Him.  Paul Tripp says, “God’s work in you is a process, not an event.  It progresses not in three or four huge moments, but in ten thousand little moments of change … The little moments of life are profoundly important precisely because they are the little moments that we live in and that form us … so, we wake up each day committed to live in the small moments of our daily lives with open eyes and humble, expectant hearts.”

Even as I was thinking about and processing all these moments and what I could learn from them, God was working in my heart and reminded me that this really isn’t my life.  I am here to serve Him and glorify Him with my life … my life belongs to Him.  “I have been crucified with ChristIt is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.  And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20). Jesus loved me so much that He gave His life for me, so, I will strive to live my life by these words from A.W. Tozer:

“If God gives you a few more years, remember, it is not yours.  Your time must honor God, your activity must honor God, and everything you do must honor God.”

 

 

Counting Every Blessing

 

 

So often I get distracted by my wants and needs and by the things that aren’t going the way I want. I find myself complaining about things like hot weather, bad water pressure and a generator that doesn’t work the way it should. I get weighed down with all the heartaches, difficulties and disappointments of life and then I read things like this:

 

“If you have placed yourself in the center of your world; if you have reduced your active field of concern down to the small confines of your wants, your needs, and your feelings … you will have constant reason to complain”.  Paul David Tripp

 

Reading this was a reminder that I need to look beyond myself and the little world I like to live in. It reminds me that I need to open my eyes to the rest of the world that’s out there. It reminds me that I need to be more intentional in giving thanks for all God has blessed me with. There are so many blessings I don’t even think about that I should be giving thanks for every day – things like: health, education and the ability to see, hear, touch, taste and feel. Things like clean water and the message of the gospel.

God often uses circumstances and others to teach/remind me of valuable life lessons. Recently I went on a 12-day bush trip, and spending this time outside my little world, once again, opened my eyes to many things God has blessed me with. On this trip, we drilled wells in 9 villages and though every village was different, every village had the same basic needs – clean water and to hear the message of the gospel.

I cannot begin to grasp what it is like to not have access to clean water or to walk miles to get what water I can. Several different nights on this trip I was brought a bucket of murky water for my bath. I’m used to this, so at first it was no big deal for me. However, when I let myself think outside my little world, I realized how blessed I am to be able to turn on any one of five faucets in my house and have clean water any time I want. I don’t have to use murky water, I don’t have to walk miles to get water and I don’t have to worry about getting sick from drinking water I can easily filter. This was a definite reminder that I should be giving thanks for blessings like clean water more often.

As we drove into one village, we passed a school just as classes were letting out and crowds of children followed us to the church property where we were going to drill and set up camp. Being surrounded by crowds watching everything you do (including watching you fall asleep) can get old at times, but as I sat in this village watching these children I thought about how most of them are being raised believing lies and never hearing the truth of the gospel. In that moment, God reminded me how blessed I am to have grown up learning about Him and the message of the gospel. Most of the people in the villages we visit have not had the same opportunity.   I don’t always understand why I have had this opportunity and others haven’t, but I do know that I should be giving Him thanks every day because I have heard the message of His gospel over and over from the day I was born.

We drilled 9 wells in 9 different villages in 9 days of drilling. I have been on many well-drilling trips and I have never seen this happen. I know it is a gift from God and want to take time to celebrate that. I want to celebrate that there are now 9 villages that have clean drinking water and there are now 9 wells that will hopefully provide the pastors with many opportunities to share the message of Living Water. At the same time, I want to take time to celebrate all the many blessings in my life. In those days when I am walking through difficult times, when my heart it breaking, when I don’t understand why God is doing the things He is doing, when things aren’t working out the way I want them to or when something as simple as a generator that won’t work properly starts to get me discouraged I want to make the choice to count my every blessing.

After returning from the bush, I heard a new song that confirmed everything God has been teaching me. I have listened to it over and over and want to share the words, as they express my thoughts exactly.

 

I was blind, now I’m seeing in colour

I was dead, now I’m living forever

I had failed, but You were my Redeemer

I’ve been blessed beyond all measure

 

I was lost, now I’m found by the Father

I’ve been changed from a ruin to treasure

I’ve been given a hope and a future

I’ve been blessed beyond all measure

I am counting every blessing, counting every blessing

Letting go and trusting when I cannot see

I am counting every blessing, counting every blessing

Surely every season You are good to me

You were there in the valley of shadows

You were there in the depth of my sorrows

You’re my strength, my hope for tomorrow

I’ve been blessed beyond all measure

I am counting every blessing, counting every blessing

Letting go and trusting when I cannot see

I am counting every blessing, counting every blessing

Surely every season You are good to me

Surely Your goodness pursues me

Surely Your heart is still for me

I will remember Your mercies all my days

Through every storm and gale

I am counting every blessing, counting every blessing

Letting go and trusting when I cannot see

I am counting every blessing, counting every blessing

Surely every season You are good to me

 

Counting Every Blessing

Rend Collective

 

Confessions of a Missionary

On occasion, I refer to myself as the “world’s worst missionary”.  What I really mean when I say this is that I am human and mess up like any other person. I struggle with people pleasing & jealousy, get mad and respond in my frustration, sometimes talk negatively about others, am selfish, don’t always want to help others and the list could go on.  On my most recent bush trip to drill wells, I found myself having one of these “world’s worst missionary” moments.

We had finished drilling the first well of the week and were making plans to return to a village about 20 minutes away to install the pump for a well that was drilled by a previous team.  Once that was done, we were going to head to the next village and set up to drill another well.  However, some leaders from a nearby village stopped in and asked if we would be able to come check out their well (that another organization drilled) because it was no longer working.  My response was one of frustration and irritation.  You see, everywhere we go (whether drilling wells, building hangars or something else) people come and ask for help.  And the truth is, sometimes it gets old and frustrating because it seems people always want something from you.  Thankfully, not everyone had the same response as me.  The FIA guys (our well drilling partners) agreed to go check things out and see what we could do.  So, after we installed the pump for the one village, we made our way to the village with the broken pump.

Before I go on, let me give you a little history about this area.  A couple weeks before, the FIA team had been in the village nearby where we had just installed the pump.  The Muslims there were not happy the team was there, were ridiculing the Christians and were not open to them using water from their pump to help with the drilling process. The team was there working on that well 5 days before they had success.  Fast forward a couple weeks and we were at a village down the road where God had given us an opportunity to show His love to this group of Muslims by repairing their well.   We were there for 2 or 3 hours while a crowd gathered and watched as the team worked to repair the well.  Some of us were able to pray for these people while the pump was being repaired and before we left we all gathered together and prayed that God would use this situation to reveal Himself to these people and open their eyes to the truth of His gospel.

It was dark by the time we finished and so we stayed in the village where we had just drilled the well for another night.  The next morning the same leaders came to thank the team for repairing their well and to see what it was going to cost them.  At this time some of the missionaries were able to explain that we did this for them because of the love of Jesus Christ.  They were able to speak words of truth that we are praying will lead to life change in that village.

Later that morning, we left for the next village and were able to complete 2 more wells this week and another 2 the following week.  So, even though God changed our original plans, He still helped us complete 5 good wells in 2 weeks.

After the incident with the broken pump, I had some reflecting to do in regards to the attitude of my heart.  It was not a good feeling to realize the pump wouldn’t be fixed and the truth of the gospel would not have been shared if I had been the one making the choice about whether to go check the pump out or not.

During this week, I was reminded of the verse in Galatians that says, “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”  The reality is that we cannot help everyone in a country where we are surrounded by need everywhere we go, but this was a good reminder that often God brings people to us who have needs and I need to see these situations as opportunities to do good and not just as an interruption to our plans.

When God Shows Up

 

KamandenaAlmost a year ago, after a well drilling trip, I wrote a blog about thanking God when there is no water and how He taught me that He could use dry holes to bring Him glory.   The same can be true in our own lives. It is often in the difficult times that God shows up in amazing ways and teaches us more about ourselves and our relationship with Him. Recently, during some really hard times, I went through the process of learning to trust God in a whole new way. There were days I didn’t know what to think or what I should do, but I knew that God was in control and that I needed to trust Him. I read a quote that said, “Where is the heart that is fully Mine – the one that will trust Me and not waver no matter the threat?”. This became something I prayed about and claimed for myself on a daily and more often an hourly basis. It wasn’t a fun season in my life, but I grew closer to God and learned how to trust Him like I never had before.

So, I was in the middle of this trying time, learning to trust God and grow from the “dry” times in my life while trying to look at the difficult circumstances in my life as an opportunity to become more like Christ. During this time, I returned to Burkina and headed out for a two-week well trip. Over the course of these two weeks, we drilled ten good wells in nine different villages (picture above is from one of the wells). This was a record…it had never been done before!! I say that not to brag, because I can promise you I had nothing to do with it. I only tell you this to show how amazing and how big our God is. God taught me something during these two weeks. He taught me that yes, we need to give thanks for dry holes or difficult seasons in our lives and we need to look at those times as opportunities to grow & learn to depend on Him. But, he also taught me that sometimes He likes to show up in big ways to show us that He is good, that He is awesome and that He still does amazing things. He taught me that He doesn’t just bring dry holes into our lives, but that He brings great blessings into our lives. He taught me that though there are difficult seasons, He will still show up in huge ways to remind me that He is God and He is good.

Giving Thanks When There is no Water

There is nothing quite as discouraging on a well trip than packing up and leaving a village after drilling two dry holes, with a promise to be back next season to try again. After spending several days drilling in the heat, trying to give a village clean water all you want is to leave them with a well. When you end up with no well, it is discouraging, frustrating and leaves you with lots of questions.

I memorized the verse about giving thanks in all things many years ago, but sometimes it is hard to understand why we should give thanks in certain situations. What is there to be thankful for when you drill two dry holes and leave a village without clean water? Wouldn’t it be better for the village and bring God more glory if we hit water every time we drilled?

God opened my eyes to something on a recent well trip. The first village we went to was visited in January when a pervious team drilled two dry holes. When we showed up a couple weeks ago the local people started talking about us “white people”. They talked about how we (the previous team) showed up and prayed for God to bring water, but then also took time to pray and thank God even when we didn’t find water. Not only that, but now we were back. This people group is one of the strongest Muslim groups in Burkina and they were heard saying, “These people have a better way to Paradise” and they have also been asking the pastor in that area questions about this better way to Paradise.   It seems God is receiving more glory because two dry holes were drilled before we found water on the third attempt than He would have received if we hit water the first time we drilled.

The third village we drilled in had three previous dry holes. When the couple we were working with from our local church showed up, the village chief came and asked about sacrificing animals to the spirits so we could find water. They told him that we were not going to sacrifice any animals, to which he said was the reason no water was found the first three attempts. The couple proceeded to tell him again that we were not going to sacrifice animals and that if God wanted us to find water, we would. At this point, I must admit that as I prayed for water, I was also praying for God to help my unbelief. I know pretty much nothing about how to go about finding the best location to drill for water, but I trust the guys we work with and I knew from what they were saying that it was very unlikely we would find water in this area.   However, we prayed and asked God to give us water…and He did! Later that same day, we once again hit water. God made it very clear to us that He is the one who gave us that water. And, once again, I was shown that God received and will continue to receive more glory because it took 4 attempts to get water than if they had found water on the first try. I cannot wait to hear about what God does in this village because of this miracle well.

I tell you these two stories to say I now completely understand why I should give thanks for dry holes. It may be frustrating and not make any since at the time, but God has used and will continue to use dry holes to bring Himself glory.

Last week I went out to help drill in another village. When we arrived, I learned that there had already been two attempts at drilling a well. As I prayed we would find water, I also prayed that God would do whatever would bring Him the most glory, whatever would magnify Him the most, whatever would promote Him and make Him big. Initially, we found water, but it ended up not being enough for a well. We attempted a fourth hole in this village and again found no water. Though this is very frustrating and discouraging, I am trusting that God knows what He is doing and that He will ultimately use these dry holes to bring Him glory.

This has been a good reminder for me that even when we don’t understand what God is doing or why He chooses to do things the way He does, that I should always choose to give thanks. I may not understand what is going on, but God has reasons for why He chooses to do things the way He does and I need to trust Him.

God is still God and God is still good

This is what I know: God is still God and God is still good.

I don’t always understand why God chooses to do what He does or why things happen the way they do.   I felt this way when my brother-in-law passed away and I feel this way again today as a good friend and ministry partner was killed in the terrorist attacks here in Burkina. Mike loved the Burkinabé as much as any one person could. He was an amazing husband and an amazing father to not only his children, but to all the children at the orphanage he ran with his wife. AND more than anything, Mike loved God with all of his heart. He was doing amazing things in this country for widows, orphans & many others and I don’t understand why God would choose to take Him now. I can’t make any sense of it, BUT I know that God is still God and that He is still good…if only I could convince my heart of this tonight.

This is what I know: God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, of love and of self-discipline.

With all that has happened in the last 24 hours I have started to battle with fear. I don’t want to allow fear to enter my heart. I know that God is in control and that He has our days numbered. I know that I could return to the States and though I may feel safer, it doesn’t mean that I would be protected from hard times or even death any more than I am protected here. I have to put my trust in God’s plans. I know all of this…now I just need to convince my heart to believe it as I face each new day.

This is what I know: We are told to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.

After these attacks and the death of Mike, this is very difficult for me to accept. I know it is what I am supposed to do and somehow I have to convince my heart of this.

This is what I know: The Lord gives and takes away, but I should choose to say, “blessed be the name of the Lord”.

God really used this verse in my life when my brother-in-law passed away. I remember processing this and coming to terms with what it meant for me at that time. Today my heart is aching for Mike’s wife, 4 children and the rest of his family.  Mike was doing so much for this country and the Burkinabé.  He had so  many dreams of how God could use him to accomplish great things for the glory of God.  I think of this, of all the other people who lost lives, of their families and the Burkinabé and though I have so many unanswered questions, I can say once again with an aching heart, “The Lord gives and takes away, but I will choose to say, ‘Blessed be the name of the Lord’”.

and if the world hates me …

 

“But when believers live in the power of the Spirit, the evidence in their lives is supernatural.  The church cannot help but be different, and the world cannot help but notice.”  This is one of my favorite quotes from Francis Chan’s book Forgotten God. For years I have prayed that I would live my life in such a way that other people would notice something different. I do this not because I want to be noticed, but because I want people to see something different and desire the same thing in their own life. I want them to desire to know Christ and live their life for Him. I want to live a life so full of God’s love and power that other people cannot help but notice. In doing this I have worked to live a life of conviction, to be honest, to stand up for what I believe, to work hard, to serve others, to accept anyone God brings into my life and to love others no matter who they are, what they look like, what they believe or what they have done. I certainly haven’t done this perfectly and I’ve made many mistakes over the years, but I still try to live in such a way that others see Christ in my life…and my desire is that they will not only see something different, but will see something they want.

Over the last couple years I have realized that even if people do “notice” that my life is different, it doesn’t mean they will like what they see. It could mean they notice I am different and judge me for it, maybe even hate me because of the way I choose to live my life. This is hard for me to accept because I want people to feel loved, special and important because of the way I choose to live my life. However, I have been reminded that the Bible doesn’t say, “If you work hard, if you be honest, if you stand up for what you believe, if you love others, if you [fill in the blank], the world will love you or the world will understand God’s love”. The Bible says, “Does the world hate you? Remember that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you like one of its own. But you do not belong to the world. I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” (John 15:18-19) “My brothers and sisters, don’t be surprised if the world hates you.” (1 John 3:13)

I still believe this quote from Chan’s book is true and my desire is still that others would see something different in my life, something they want. However, I now view this quote a little differently. Even though my desire is that people would notice something different and change because of it, I have to accept that instead, people may hate me because of it.

When 2 Worlds Collide

One of my favorite ministries here in Ouagadougou, is the handicap ministry. This is a ministry that was started by a local pastor to reach out to the handicap population. We consider this group of people an unreached people here in Burkina because they are basically discarded by society and most people want nothing to do with them. Over the last year, it has been so exciting to see how much God has been doing with this ministry. In addition to the many handicap bikes that have been given away, a restaurant was started so that the handicap people would have a place to go and eat (they are not allowed in restaurants).  Not only that, but this provides jobs for some of the people in the handicap association. Recently, this restaurant has really grown and others in the community have even become excited about what is going on and have contributed to helping it grow. The handicap association will also be starting a farm in Sector 30 in the next couple months, which will give even more people jobs.

Today we went to Sector 30, where the handicap ministry is, to distribute a couple of handicap bikes. There were many people from the handicap association and widow’s ministry there for a meeting in regards to the new farm. As exciting as all of this is I was even more exited when I realized that the grandmother of the Compassion child I sponsor is part of this group.

(here is a photo of one of the guys who received a bike at the distribution)

IMG_1117

While at the bike distribution, my Compassion child came up to me… Let me interrupt my story here and just say that it brings me joy whenever I happen to be at Sector 30 and I randomly get to see my Compassion child. How many people get to experience something like this?????  In this picture, Amed has a much different facial expression than the pics from the first time we met almost 7 years ago.

IMG_1135

OK, so as we were talking he told me his grandmother was there and I asked him to take me to her so I could greet her. There she was sitting with the group of widows waiting for the meeting. It brings me such joy to realize that she will have a job to help provide for her family.

IMG_1134

After greeting Amed’s grandmother I snuck over to the car with Amed to give him some snacks even though I tell every team member to not even think about handing anything out in Sector 30 (yes, I broke my own rule).  That is when he introduced me to his little brother, Samadou.  Of course, this meant I also shared some snacks with this adorable little guy.

IMG_1140

 

Amed was about this size when I first met him.  Just for fun, here is a picture of Amed back then …

amed

I just love how two ministries that I am involved with in one way or another collided on this day.  It brought me great joy!