I mentioned a while back that God is calling us to Africa. It all started after I returned from Ecuador last October. I want to share with you how God has been confirming His call recently.
Let's start with Sunday May 22.
After church, I was talking with my sister Nicole while our children played on the playground. I asked her if she was having lunch with Mom. They didn't have any plans yet so she called Mom. We all decided to meet at Golden Corral.
When we got to the restaurant & were seated, Faith said to me, "Mom, look at that man's shirt." I turned around to see what she was talking about. There was a man sitting at a table behind us wearing this shirt...
I said, "Do you think he will let me take a picture of his shirt?"
So, I grabbed my camera and headed over to ask him. (I almost took my camera out of my purse that morning & left it at home. But I had a very strong feeling I would regret that decision later - only God!)
There were 6 people sitting at the man's table all engaged in conversation until I interrupted them. I told the man that God was calling my family to Africa, and I wondered if he would let me take a picture of his shirt. He looked at me and laughed. Then he said, "We need to talk!"
Everyone at that table was a missionary with ties to Africa!!! Lee, the man with the Africa shirt on, and his family are currently living in Ghana (West Africa.) He is the director of HCJB Global in Sub-Saharan Africa. You may have heard HCJB Global - "Beyond the Call" on Christian Radio.
Also at the table: Lee's father-in-law & mother-in-law (missionaries); Lee's sister; and Lee's parents (missionaries with SIM) Lee's parents went to Africa on mission when Lee's sister was only 9 months old!!! I was quite overwhelmed so in awe as you can imagine but if I remember correctly, I think Lee's parents stayed in Africa 30+ years!!! *Lee's wife and 2 children were not with him. They were in Africa.
We exchanged names, e-mails, etc. Then, before I left, Lee's mom took off her necklace and gave it to me saying, "This is from Kenya and now you have a little piece of Kenya with you until you can get there!"
I was overcome with emotion then and I'm overcome with emotion now as I type this! Overwhelming!
Apparently, I talked with Lee and his family for awhile. Quite awhile. Let's just say by the time I left their table, the rest of my family was already eating dessert!
After we got home, I was processing everything that happened, and God reminded me of something. Lee is based in Ghana. I had just finished reading a Christian fiction book that out of the blue mentioned that a minor character in the book had a family member in Ghana.
Oh yeah, I had also just gone to see Thelma Wells at my mom's church with my mom and my sister.
At the end of her teaching, Thelma talked about the importance of helping others and showed a video clip of herself in Ghana with World Vision!!!
God speaks in so many ways - big and small!
On Wednesday, I went to my chiropractor. His office has an open floor plan and everyone is pretty much all together. The lady in front of me was almost finished getting her adjustment when I heard her say to Dr. Frank, "I got all of my shots for Tanzania yesterday."
I immediately jumped into the conversation because Tanzania is in Africa! The lady's name is Sandra, and she's going to Africa for 2 weeks on June 21 to work with a missionary. A few years ago, she went to Zimbabwe. She said she has had a heart for Africa since she was 17!
Please pray for Sandra and her team. They will be teaching music to children and local leaders, as well as meeting other needs.
Then, Dr. Frank said, "Did you see that gentleman that just left? He is a Lutheran pastor, and he's been to Uganda recently! And the youth pastor at Northside Baptist and his young family have been called to Africa too!"
I scheduled my next appointment with Dr. Frank when Sandra should be there too - after her trip. I asked her to bring pictures.
After I left the chiropractor's office, I was heading to work when I saw this sign for the first time...
That would be Africa in the middle and that's why it caught my eye! I will be checking to see what this ministry is all about.
On Thursday after the bird pooh incident, I checked the mail on my way to Wal-Mart and found a package
from Lee's mom - the same sweet lady who gave me her necklace from Kenya. Look at what she sent me
I cried when I opened it! So very, very thoughtful!
Lee is now back in Ghana and we have been exchanging e-mails. He is willing to help my husband and I make contacts in Africa. Overwhelming!
On Friday morning as soon as I got in the car, a Compassion International radio segment came on. It was a question from a young girl in Uganda. She asked why she only had one parent. Wes Stafford, the founder of Compassion International, answered by saying that she actually does have 2 parents because God is her father, her Heavenly Father.
Shortly after that, Go M.A.D. (Go Make A Difference) had a radio segment about working with prisoners/guards in Rwanda.
Then, the Steven Curtis Chapman song "Yours" came on the radio. I've heard this song numerous times and was very familiar with the part that says, "Every child in Africa is Yours." But, God opened my ears this time and had me pay close attention to all of the words. That's when I heard this
"I walk the dirt roads of Uganda
I see the scars that war has left behind
Hope like the sun is fading
They're waiting for a cure no one can find
And I hear children's voices singing
Of a God who heals and rescues and restores
And I'm reminded
That every child in Africa is Yours"
Later that night on 20/20, there was a segment about people using camels to transport medicine in battery-operated refrigerators to people in remote areas of north Kenya.
And this is just a sample of how God continues to confirm our call to Africa! Things like this happen daily. I cannot make this stuff up!!!
Oh I was just about to end this post, but now I feel compelled to share a few more things with you regarding Africa.
When Sandra at my chiroprator's office said she had been to Zimbabwe a few years ago, I could picture that country in Africa because I had just heard an incredible story about a lady from that country on Oprah.
*Disclaimer: Let me just say that in the 25 years Oprah has been on TV, I could count on one hand how many times I've watched her show. But, since we only have local channels now and Oprah was going off the air, I honestly was intrigued to watch some of her last shows after seeing them advertised over & over & over again. This particular show was about Oprah's most memorable guest.
This lady was from Zimbabwe and wanted to go to school like her brother. She got her chance for a brief period of time until she was married at the age of 11. Her husband would not let her continue. But, her dream was to get an education in the US. She overcame some very difficult challenges to achieve her dream. Now she has started a school for girls in Zimbabwe.
This lady's story even had Oprah quoting Scripture from Psalm 61:2-3:
"...lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
For you have been my refuge,
a strong tower against the foe. "
My son Tanner is in the chorus at his school, and they recently performed their spring concert. For their last song, they teamed up with the high school chorus to sing "Bonse Aba" - a song from Africa! (The song is about becoming children of God!)
Sorry! I have tried several times to upload the video but can't get it to work. I'll try again later.
Here is a picture of Tanner & his shadow after the concert. He did a great job!
This next picture is from Uptown, the children's ministry at my church. We were singing during large group worship time one Sunday morning. Check out the words when Africa is on the screen! "I want to be Your hands, I want to be Your feet"
The next line says, "I'll go where You send me; Go where You send me."
And check out that rainbow!!! It was an extra surprise from my Amazing God reminding me of His presence. I didn't see the rainbow until I uploaded the picture on my computer. It wasn't on the screen. It occurred when I took the picture:) Only God!
No, we can't deny God's call to Africa. We are trusting Him to work out all of the details in His perfect timing and to lead us each step of the way - His way.
What about YOU?
Is there something or someone God keeps bringing to your mind or putting in your path?
Not only did God use the bird incident this morning to give me a visual reminder of my sin, but He also used it to rearrange my schedule. A DIVINE INTERRUPTION!
My plans were to go run errands as soon as I left Cindy’s house at 8:30 a.m. I’ve been working a lot this week & this morning was my only window of opportunity for errands. But, I was delayed after having to come home & wash my van (and blog.)
I’ve been searching for some things at Wal-Mart for over a week now. Unfortunately, the Tega Cay & Rock Hill locations didn’t have the correct size. Today, I felt a strong nudge to go to the Wal-Mart on Exit 1 off I-485. So, I sacrificed some other errands and went there after my morning delay.
At Wal-Mart, I met a very sweet lady who was working at the dressing rooms & answering the phone. She was a great help to me. When I came out of the dressing room, she had put her head down on the counter. When I checked on her, she told me she was not feeling well at all. She looked like she didn’t feel good either. We talked for a while, and she shared some very stressful things that were happening in her life now. Then she got a phone call.
I left so she could tend to the call. A few minutes later, she came looking for me to say thank you for talking with her. She gave me a hug,. Then, I asked her if I could pray for her. She agreed, and I started praying right there in the middle of the aisle in Ladies Apparel. Afterwards, she said, “God sent you to me today!”
Yes ma’am He sure did! He even used bird pooh to do it too!
Two weeks ago, we had a youth & family worship service at our church. These services are some of my favorite. They are informal but very focused on the Lord. I feel a sense of freedom to worship God the way my soul longs to worship Him in these services.
God used the words from our youth minister Matt to REALLY convict me. Matt talked about the prayer "Lord, break my heart for what breaks Yours." He said when we pray that prayer, so many times we see the brokeness in people and circumstances surrounding us like poverty, orphans, addiction, etc. But, Matt asked us to think about OUR OWN SIN and its impact on God!
MY sin breaks God's heart!!!
Does it break MY heart too??!!! Ouch again!
Our sin is serious. Very serious to God.
So many times, we rationalize our sin. We justify it. We compare it to the sins of others to minimize it. We ignore it. We deny it. We live with it. We let it weigh us down. We let it identify us. We let it condemn us. We let it control us.
But what we need to do is CONFESS IT and SEEK GOD'S FORGIVENESS.
We read 2 Samuel 11 about David's sin with Bathsheba and then Psalm 51 regarding David's cry of forgiveness and repentence to God.
For the director of music. A psalm of David. When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.
1 Have mercy on me, O God,
according to Your unfailing love;
according to Your great compassion
blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.
3 For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me. 4Against You, You only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in Your sight,
so that You are proved right when You speak
and justified when You judge. 5 Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me. 6 Surely You desire truth in the inner parts;
You teachme wisdom in the inmost place.
7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. 8 Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones You have crushed rejoice. 9 Hide Your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquity.
10 Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me. 11 Do not cast me from Your presence
or take Your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of Your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
13 Then I will teach transgressors Your ways,
and sinners will turn back to You. 14 Save me from bloodguilt, O God,
the God who saves me,
and my tongue will sing of Your righteousness. 15 O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare Your praise. 16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
You do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. 17The sacrifices of God area broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart,
O God, You will not despise.
God wants us to be broken over our own sins. Broken to the point of repentence and freedom from them. Matt reminded us that Jesus did not die to forgive us of our sins only at salvation, but He shed His blood for every sin we will commit in our entire lives.
We are to walk through life FORGIVEN!
Romans 8:1-2 says, "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.
During the past 2 weeks, I have heard A LOT of teaching on Christian radio about unconfessed sin and forgiveness as well. It is so important that we confess our specific sins to God every single day. We do not want our sin to damage our relationship with Him so it's best to deal with it IMMEDIATELY and CONSTANTLY.
God, with His great sense of humor, gave me a reminder of this vital lesson this morning.....
A few days ago, my son Tanner washed my van. It was squeaky clean. Then this morning after walking with my friend Cindy, a flock of geese flew over and did this...
Look closely at the windshield - it is COVERED in bird pooh!
Well, I had a couple of choices. I could ignore it and look through the clear spots to see to drive.
I could turn on my wind shield wipers and create a blurry mess. Or, I could stop everything I was doing, put away my "To Do" list and deal with the pooh.
Now, my van is clean again - for the moment - until another bird flies by!
God wants us to do the same thing. HE WANTS US TO STOP WHATEVER WE ARE DOING AND DEAL WITH THE POOH IN OUR LIVES! RIGHT NOW!
Confessing our sins to God right before we take communion a couple of times a year is NOT enough. Not for the kind of personal relationship He wants to have with us.
Our sin breaks God's heart, and it should break ours too. And our brokeness should lead us to action - to confession and repentence and forgiveness and restoration and freedom - DAILY.
This was the leadership team for our church Women's Retreat last September. God worked in us and through us (and sometimes we thought He might kill us! LOL! Not literally. Just our pride, our expectations, and our plans!)
But the spiritual fruit produced from that retreat has been way beyond anything we could have ever imagined! GOD IS SO AMAZING!
8 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways My ways,”
declares the LORD. 9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are My ways higher than your ways
and My thoughts than your thoughts. 10 As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, 11 so is My word that goes out from My mouth:
It will not return to Me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. 12 You will go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
will clap their hands. 13 Instead of the thornbush will grow the pine tree,
and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.
This will be for the LORD’s renown,
for an everlasting sign,
which will not be destroyed.”
RED - Our sin separates us from God, and we all sin - every single one of us. So, God sent His Son Jesus Christ to shed His blood on the cross to cover our sins. To make a way for us to have a personal relationship with Him.
"When they hurled their insults at Him, He (Jesus) did not retaliate; when He suffered, He made no threats. Instead, He entrusted Himself to Him (God) who judges justly. He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by His wounds you have been healed." 1 Peter 2:23-24
WHITE - Because of Jesus' sacrifice, we have an opportunity for a new life. Our sins are forgiven. We are washed clean - purified by His blood. We are made whole. All we have to do is ask Jesus to come into our life and He will!
"If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved." Romans 10:9
“Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. Isaiah 1:18
"...wash me, and I will be whiter than snow." Psalm 51:7
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" 2 Corinthians 5:17
PURPLE - When we accept Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior, we are adopted into God's family. We become royalty. We become sons and daughters of the King.
"How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!" 1 John 3:1
"For all who are led by the Spirit of God are childrenof God. So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when He adopted you as His own children. Now we call Him, “Abba, Father." For His Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. And since we are His children, we are His heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share His glory, we must also share His suffering." Romans 8:14-17
My (extended) family takes vacations together every year. It's a tradition that started before I was born and it continues today.
Usually we rent a house with a pool at the beach. This year, we decided not to wait until the summer. For the first time since the grand kids (my kids & my siblings' kids) started school, everyone had the same spring break. With everything our family has been through in the past 6 months, my mom decided to plan a beach trip now.
Since the weather this time of year is unpredictable, we did not rent a house. Instead we rented 2 units at a large hotel with indoor pools and a water park because the grand kids love to swim. This of course meant all of us couldn't stay in the same unit. We had to split up. And we had to share the pool area with lots of other people.
On Thursday (the 6th day of our vacation), I spent a lot of time reading in the pool area. As I looked up to lay eyeballs on the kids I was responsible for, another string bikini (worn by an older lady) came into view. YUCK! I complained to God again about the indecency surrounding me. Surrounding MY KIDS! "God, I can't take this anymore! Next year, we need to go back to staying in a house with a private pool."
I supported my position by reminding Him of some of the other things we saw during the week too like...
*Saturday night, everyone except my husband & I went out to eat at a restaurant that is usually really fun for kids. (My kids rode to the beach with my mom (Nana) because Shawn had to work & we were going to get there later than everyone else.) Apparently this restaurant is not a place for kids on Saturday night. A bachelorette party showed up and things got out of control. There was dancing on tables & flashing. Just what I want my kids to see, especially my 14 year old son - NOT! When we stay at a house, we usually cook dinner instead of eating out.
*At the pool area, lots & lots of young girls (middle schoolers) wearing skimpy bathing suits and tiny shorts -trying to catch the eye of teenage boys. And parents allowing their daughters to dress this way.
*Grown women of ALL ages, shapes and sizes wearing bikinis that barely covered themselves. Some things were just meant to be PRIVATE!!! My poor 11 year old niece kept saying, "There is another sight to keep me up at night!!!"
*Older children being told repeatedly by the pool staff not to hang on the basketball goal and to stay in the water while shooting the ball. They would comply until the staff person was out of sight & then they went back to breaking the rules. They treated authority like it was something to be skirted instead of obeyed. They just wanted to do what they felt like doing, regardless of the rules. Defiance at its subtlest. The younger kids of course copied the older kids.
*A lady sitting next to me outside by the pool received some bad news about a job she wanted - it was given to someone else. She started using words I haven't heard in a looong time. She was cussing up a storm. And she was loud. By the grace of God, my children did not hear her. She was livid (and sober.) She blamed everyone from the president of the United States to the person who did the hiring. Her husband had to leave. He could not take it anymore. She blamed him too for telling her the bad news, even though she asked him what he had found out after he spoke to someone on the phone about the job.
*Parents drinking (alcohol) & drinking & drinking some more while their children played in the pool.
By Thursday, it was more than I could handle. I wanted to climb inside my Christian bubble and float away. I wanted to rescue my children from the worldly exposure. I wanted to put blinders on my nieces and nephew - and my husband! I wanted to ask people, "if Jesus was sitting beside you, would you dress that way? Talk that way? Act that way?
But then God reminded me of the prayer I've been praying for over a year now..."Lord, break my heart for the things that break Your heart."
My anger turned to sadness. My heart softened. Tears started flowing. Then my heart began to break. Into pieces. Lots of pieces.
It broke for the women at the bachelorette party who were out of control and filling their emptiness with alcohol and outrageous behavior instead of the love of our Savior.
For the young girls and women of all ages who were longing to be noticed & considered beautiful. Even to the point of compromising themselves for the attention. Not realizing that God made them to be the apple of His eye. That their bodies were created to be the temple for His Holy Spirit. That while society puts so much stock in physical appearance, God looks at the heart. And that the King is enthralled with their beauty.
For the children who struggled with authority - finding it difficult to deny their own selfish desires to obey the rules. They have no clue what kind of impact this behavior can have on their lives as they grow older. They have absolutely no idea that this pattern can make it more difficult for them to hear God and obey Him. Nor were they even thinking about the influence they had over the younger kids who were watching them and imitating them.
For the lady who was irate and feeling hopeless about her job situation. For all of the disappointments in her life that had brought her to such an angry place. For the personal rejection she felt even though this may turn out to be an opportunity for something else - bigger and better. And for the depth of her pain that would trigger such a public tirade. Her hope was in a new job instead of in the living hope of Jesus Christ who has amazing plans for her. (Jeremiah 29:11)
For the parents needing to relax but seeking an escape and choosing alcohol as their means. They either do not know or have decided to deny that Jesus came & died for them, to give them life - abundant life. Jesus will also give them rest - rest for their soul. Ohhh and for their children who are learning by their example and the generational strongholds that could result. I have a lump in my throat just typing this.
I am not sitting in judgement. I am humbled in brokenness as God continues to answer my prayer. He is removing the scales from my eyes to help me see reality - to be touched by it instead of isolated from it.
Once God opens my eyes (and yours) to the reality of this world, we can't pretend it doesn't exist.
If and when we allow our knowledge of reality to make the journey from our heads to our hearts, then we will begin to act and DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!
Our comfort or isolation is not the answer. Being equipped and ready for action is. Jesus said it Himself in John 17 in His prayer to His Heavenly Father for His disciples...
"I have given them Your word. And the world hates them
because they do not belong to the world,
just as I do not belong to the world.
I’m not asking You to take them out of the world,
but to keep them safe from the evil one.
They do not belong to this world any more than I do.
Make them holy by Your truth; teach them Your word, which is truth.
Just as You sent me into the world,
I am sending them into the world.
And I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them
so they can be made holy by Your truth."
And to think that I would have missed all of this if we would've stayed by ourselves in a house with a private pool. I would have missed God. I would have missed His answer to my prayer.
Are you willing to leave your Christian comfort zone and minister to those who are lost and hurting around you?
If so, ask God to show you someone with a specific need and then use you to meet that need. He will. He is just waiting for you to make yourself available to Him.
Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field." Matthew 9:37-38