My heart has been in a confusing place recently. I have been sure that God is calling us to continue to pursue South Sudan and returning (when we are able to), but have not felt content in the "in-between" period. My heart is unsteady and discontent. I believe fully that rejoicing will come and we will have more answers eventually, but the waiting is killing me. I'm tired of not having answers to questions about the future, I'm exhausted by the unknowns and the chronic uncertainty and I continue to be worried for our friends in Mundri.
God reminded me this week about what it looks like to wait well in hope through a story in Exodus 15. Prior in Exodus, Moses and Aaron plead with Pharaoh to let the Israelites go and worship God. After many, many plagues and destruction, Pharaoh finally allows the Israelites to go saying, "Hurry and leave the country. For otherwise, we will all die" (this came after the plague on the first born children and the Egyptians thought if Pharaoh didn't allow the Israelites go, everyone would be killed). About 600,000 men (plus women and children) left with their livestock and headed to Succoth.
When I picture the exodus of these hundreds of thousands of people, I imagine mass chaos in the beginning. I picture everyone scrambling to grab whatever they can carry with them and hurrying to get out of Egypt as quickly as possible. There was no time for dilly dallying.
God appeared to the Israelites as a pillar of cloud during the day and at pillar of fire during the night so that they would know where to go and so they could travel by day and night. Pharaoh ended up changing his mind about allowing the Israelites to go after he realized how difficult it would be to lose their services. He sent his army to find the Israelites and bring them back to Egypt. God rescues the Israelites from the Egyptians by allowing Moses to part the Red Sea so the Israelites could pass safely and the Egyptians were eventually swallowed by the sea.
Throughout this exchange, Moses said one of my favorite lines in the Bible. "Do no be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still." Ex. 14:13-14
After God delivered the Israelites from the Egyptians we learn about a beautiful woman named Miriam. Exodus 15:19-20 says, "When Pharaoh's horses, chariots and horsemen went into the sea, the Lord brought the waters of the sea back over them, but the Israelites walked through the sea on dry ground. Then Miriam the prophetess, Aaron's sister, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women followed her, with tambourines and dancing."
Miriam's anticipation of rejoicing is absolutely beautiful to me! As someone who recently had to flee a place with little notice, I know that you only have with you the things you decide to pack while you are scrambling to leave hastily. Miriam didn't just find a tambourine when it was time to celebrate, she had packed it with her in anticipation of being able to praise the Lord for rescuing them from the Egyptians. What faith! She knew there would be a time when rejoicing would come, even when leaving in the midst of tragedy, distress and oppression.
As Will and I continue to be in a place of unknowns and unanswered questions about the future, I want to be someone who anticipates times of rejoicing and prayers being answered. I want to always have my metaphorical tambourine packed in my backpack in hope of what is to come. I don't know how He is going to make a way for us to return to Mundri yet or protect our friends while they are still in the bush, but I am waiting in hope and trusting that the day will come when our friends in Mundri are safe and we are able to be with them once again. And on that day, my tambourine will be out and in use- praising the Lord who can part the Red Sea and make a way where there seems to be no way. In the meantime, I will chose to rejoice in the one who hears my prayers, all-the-while anticipating in hope that those prayers will be answered soon.
Monday, October 19, 2015
Today is my (Theresa's) birthday. We are currently on vacation in Ft. Myers with Will's parents. We are thoroughly enjoying some much needed R&R. I am feeling quite reflective today and thought it would be a good time for a blog post. As we are laying on the beach, this scene feels worlds away from everywhere we have been this year. The whole year feels like a blur- to the point when I have to look back at pictures to see if it all really did happen within the past 12 months. Below are my random reflections of this past year and pictures of snip bits of the happenings. While looking through the pictures, I'm reminded that pictures often remind us of the good, happy times and we often need our memories to fill in the gaps for us of the reality life events.
The 27th year of my life was an eventful one. It consisted of adjusting to new cultures, learning new languages (or hearing new languages and butchering attempts to replicate the sounds I heard). We made a lot of new friendships and laughed more than we cried. There were real seasons of sadness and loss, and times of overwhelming disappointment. We were blessed with new friendships that have gone deep in short periods of time. We have dealt with many goodbyes and felt the heartache of being far away from loved ones during joyful and sorrowful times. We have laughed until we cried with friends in three different east Africa countries and on two continents. We experiences new joys such as walking with giraffes and seeing lions within touching distance. I laughed at sweet Kindergarten jokes and sang/ danced my way through many Kindergarten days. We have prayed, worried and cried for our friends in Mundri who have suffered much difficulty this year. We have been overwhelmed by the generosity of many friends (old and new) who offered their homes, food, prayers and listening ears during our time of displacement. We have learned to navigate new cities and learned how to be culturally appropriate in multiple new places. We welcomed a new niece into the family (from afar) and held her in person months after her birth. We've celebrated new engagements and mourned many losses with friends. In all of it, we've seen God's grace over and over again in the good, bad and ugly of the year. We've learned more than ever about His sovereignty and unconditional love- even in the midst of tragedy. And for all of it in this 27th year, I am grateful.
|Will and I dressed up for Anna's "Gods and Goddesses" birthday party in Mundri last October|
|Sweet kids that made my day in Mundri one day when I desperately needed to hear laughter from children|
|My Moru language helper, Mary and I at her shop in the Mundri market last October|
|Our Mundri South Sudan team on Thanksgiving|
|Will and Shawn gave Heather and I a "date room" on the compound in Mundri so we would have a place to "go to" for date nights each week|
|Our South Sudan Team on Christmas|
|Ralie and I with her daughter, Rebecca at our house in Mundri in December|
|Learning to make lenya at Ralie's house|
|Meeting Esther (Reed's Compassion International daughter) and her family for the first time last January|
|Our team on a break in Uganda in January|
|Exploring a shop that was located IN the Nile River|
|We endured many HOT days in Mundri!|
|Overlooking the Rift Valley where we spent 4 months this year|
|On safari in the Massai Mara|
|We went snorkeling in the Indian Ocean during a Serge East Africa Retreat|
|Visiting with Bishop Bismark and Paul in Kijabe, Kenya|
|My sweet Kindergarten class at RVA showing off their goofy sides|
|Angie and I at Crescent Island in Kenya|
|Just chilling with our new giraffe friend|
|Meeting with with Vivian on route to Arua, Uganda. She was at a refugee camp after leavine Mundri due to the fighting in May|
|Our new friend, Mama Penina. She helps lead the Moru church in Arua, Uganda|
Sunday, October 4, 2015
These were the words Bishop Bismark said as we drove from the airstrip to our compound on August 26th. Justin, Shawn, and I (Will) were in Mundri for just a couple days to bring relief funds, encourage our friends, and better secure our compound.
The full statement was, “Prepare your psychology for the remnants of war.”
As we crested a small hill we could see what he meant. Three burnt trucks sat on the side of the road…remnants of war.
Since then, Theresa and I have wrestled through the impacts of war upon our friends. There was more fighting in Mundri a couple weeks ago and last night we learned our friends, after just returning home from hiding in the bush due to the recent fighting, are once again back in the bush due to more fighting.
No shelter. No food. No clean water. No medicine. Rain. Malaria. Same things we’ve written each time this happens.
We run out of words.
We fight to maintain hope.
And we continue to pursue what God has called us to.
In the midst of the uncertainty and instability God has been clear since we’ve been back in the USA. We are to continue to pursue life and ministry in Mundri.
This is the place where I want to tell you our great plan that will guarantee success…but I don’t have one.
I’ve realized recently that God is more concerned with my obedience than my success. I’m not saying He doesn’t want me to be successful. I am saying my willingness to be obedient, in the midst of uncertainty and a lack of understanding, is far more important than having a guarantee of success.
Paul seems to be a great example of this. I doubt he ever got on a boat or entered a new city thinking, “Success will be this ship wrecking.”, or, “Success will only happen after I’ve been arrested.” All Paul did was continue to say yes when God asked him to do something. He let God define success by being open to the guidance of the Spirit and looking for opportunities to sacrificially love others.
This is our aim. To continue to say yes when God asks us to do something.
So, we’ve said yes.
Yes, we will work to recruit a team to join us in the work in South Sudan.
Yes, we will work to prepare ourselves to be team leaders.
Yes, we will hope, pray and plead that peace will come in Mundri and South Sudan.
No guarantee for success.
No perfect plan.
But, yes, we will follow God into the unknown, dangerous, and desperate places.