Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Bottling Up Joy (in goals reached)

I searched through all of our pictures to find one that I thought exhibited the most joy. This is what I found.
Look at those faces. That is what happiness looks like! I am having one of those days where we reached a big goal in support raising and I want to bottle up my feelings of joy and of trusting in the Lord provision, because I know I will need to remember those feelings in the future. 

World Harvest gave us a goal of being at 40% of our monthly support by the end of January. Here we are on January 21st at 41% of our monthly support!! What a blessing! What a joy that people want to be a part of the work being done in South Sudan and have partnered with us in this process! We are blown away by the generosity of those around us! 

The beautiful part about this picture is that these beautiful children (from Nigeria) are joyful because they get to receive. They got to be present while something was given to them. That is how I feel today. I feel joy in receiving. Yes, there is a lot of work that goes into support raising. It takes a lot of time and a lot of moments of trudging through what seems awkward and uncomfortable. In the end, though, it means getting to receive the money and resources that are needing to go and serve and learn from the beautiful people in South Sudan. It means being able to take what was given to us and use it wisely so that ministry and service and love can be given to the community around us in Mundri. 

So today I am bottling up the joy that comes along with reaching our support goal and praising the Lord for His incredible blessing and provision. I am sending out a loud and resounding, "THANK YOU" to everyone who has helped us get to this point. And, I am continuing on with what it takes to get the next 59% to be able to put our feet on the soil where we will minister and do the work that God has put on our hearts to do. 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Now and the Not Yet

Will and I were talking the other day about the unrest in South Sudan. We were trying to process what is going on there with our life here. Will used the phrase, "it is hard to live in the now and the not yet".

Yes! That is exactly it. We have found ourselves in transition again. In a place of needing to be present where we are, while still preparing for what is to come.

Here is a glimpse into our "now":

Currently, we are snowed in and sitting on the couch watching a documentary on the Lost Boys of Sudan with our housemate, Sarah- thus adding to the confusion of where we actually are :). When we are not snowed in, I am a Title I teacher and Will is working at a fraternity on IU's campus.

We are living in Bloomington, IN. This is my first official year of teaching full-time. I work at two schools each day- a primary school and an intermediate school that are located right next to each other. I help remediate students in reading and math and work primarily with first and third graders. Will is cleaning at the fraternity house. He is about to start a certificate in sustainable community development online. We are also in the midst of raising support to be able to go to South Sudan (which sometimes feels like another full time job) and working on an 8 month Bible Study course called, "Sonship".

The "not yet" is life as missionaries in Mundri, South Sudan. As I briefly mentioned in my last post, there is currently unrest in South Sudan. We are left reading news articles and updates from other staff members and praying... a lot.

I guess what I am learning in all of this is that the present is all that we can count on right now. I can be sure of what we have today, but I have no idea what tomorrow will actually end up bringing.

"Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." -Matthew 6:34

All that I know today is that God is good and he has sustained us. All I know is I need to pray for the people of South Sudan today. I need to stand with them in prayer and hope for them that peace will reign- even if they have lost sight of that hope themselves.

Here is what I need prayer for today. Today I need renewed strength for support raising. I need God's encouragement that the support will come in and He is putting together a team of supporters that will help meet our financial needs for our time in South Sudan and who will also cover us with prayer while we are there. Today I need hope that whenever we go back to work, Will and I will have the energy to keep up with our schedule and accomplish what needs to be completed. Today I need to know that God is with the people of South Sudan and He sees what they are going through and He is in control of the situation.

I pray that you, also, will feel peace in the "now" of your life and hope for the "not yet".

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Why We Go

As many of you may have heard, there is currently violence in South Sudan. I am not going to go into the details (mainly because I don't understand the intricacies of the situation well enough to explain it to others), but for more information, go here.

As people have heard about the violence, the first question we have been hearing is, "will you still go?". This question is either spoken or embedded in the tone of other questions asked. I understand why it is asked. If I were talking to someone who was about to move to a country and all I know about it is that they had 22 years of civil war and they are currently dealing with more unrest, I would most likely ask the same question.

We are still planning on going as long as World Harvest says it is okay. We fully trust the ministry's decisions and know they will make the call based on wisdom and a lot of prayer. Just to clarify, the unrest that has been going on is not in Mundri (located in the Western Equatoria State)
where we will be living. The area we are going to has not seen any of the violence and unrest. We are grateful for this.

To answer the question of why we would want to go back to Africa, back to potentially another unstable location, let me tell you a recent story of what has been going on in our lives.

Meet Felicia. We met Felicia James in Jos, Nigeria in 2010. She was one of the first 10 students we accepted into the Education Center I (Theresa) taught at for two years. Felicia was a joy. She was full of life and grace and was always willing to help those around her. She was the oldest girl of 5 children and did a lot of take care of the family. Her father died in a car accident in 2007 and her mother was left to provide for 5 children on her own. During our two years in Nigeria, Felicia and I became very close. She was a student, but also a friend. She loved to dance and to help the other students learn to read. She was very bright and usually the child I would chose to model a skill for others.

Three weeks ago, Will and I received several calls from Nigeria on a Thursday afternoon. We received the horrible news that Felicia was hit by a car and died.

"Why?" "Why her?!" is all that I could think for the rest of the afternoon. We spent several days mourning together and checking in on our friends in Nigeria via phone calls. The news was so painful and almost unmanageable to understand- especially from so far away. In a moment of clarity, however, Will said, "Isn't it incredible  we have people we love so much across the world that when something this tragic happens, they call us right away and we are able to mourn with them. It's like we have another family on the other side of the ocean". He was right. As painful and horrible as it was (and still is) to mourn such a horrible loss, it is amazing we feel so connected to people so far away. During the course of getting the news, one of our good friends in Nigeria said to us, "You know you are a part of our family here. You are mourning with us just as we are".

This is why we go. We go because the people in South Sudan are real people. They are people who experience great joy and deep, deep sorrow. They are people who go through seasons of plenty and seasons of great need. They are people, just like us, who long to be loved and to love. We go because we want to have yet another family we feel connected to in another part of the world. Not because we are in need of more family (we have incredible families right at our fingertips here and it will be extremely painful to leave), but because God calls us to love. I believe God delights in the fact that we can mourn with people halfway around the globe. I believe He loves to see His children connect and grow together and cross over cultural differences in the name of love.

We go, first and foremost because God said to go. He said to go before we knew there might be conflict, but He said to go. If He says differently, we will be obedient to that. But for now, we will go because we are following after Love. Love takes you places that might not always be safe. But Love (God) also takes you to incredible places with incredible people that will leave you changed forever- just as Felicia has done in my life.

Please partner with us in prayer for South Sudan. Pray for the people. Pray for peace. Pray for Love to reign in the heart of the leaders who are making decisions for the country and for the heart of those effected by those decisions. Pray for love to win and God to reign in South Sudan.

"And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them." 1 John 4:16