The many journeys of us Merediths with Cleft kids, fostering and adoption, the army, books and whatever else comes our way.
Tuesday, October 14, 2014
Thoughts on Africa, Missions and Ministry
I've been to Taiwan, India twice, El Salvador and now Africa.
And Africa felt different than all the others. Was it being a little more seasoned? Maybe. But I think it was more than that.
For more than ten years, Kyle and I have been praying about or pursuing going overseas. For ten years, this subject has jumped around from the front burner to the back burner and every place in between. We couldn't understand why, when the church and the word talk about how the workers are few and no one is willing to go....that when we ARE willing to go, we kept getting sidelined and blockaded. It became our perverbial wall of Jericho, we just kept circling. Sometimes it was life, with having a cleft kid, it limits how far we could go or often we needed to come back for surgeries. Sometimes it was people, saying no. Sometimes is was timing or tragedy.
I grew up in a southern baptist atmosphere that allowed me to make the assumption and conclusion that somehow the people that go over are greater spiritually than those who only go short term but often and those who are called to stay. And this mindset perpetuated our longing to go over with God.
And then something happened. It doesn't matter what and it doesn't matter why but it happened so that we would realize that it wasn't so much that we weren't being allowed to go, it was that we weren't willing to stay. Ouch. But...truth.
So this became our bold prayer:
Ok, Lord. Here's how we see it, correct us if we're wrong. We are willing. You either need to send us over, give us the resources to send others over or give us ministry/mission here.
He defiantly hasn't let us win the lottery or anything (not that we play...). And so far, he hasn't given us the go ahead to go over. But what he has done is lead us to a church who does missions well. So we both signed up to go to Africa this year.
Then within a few months I found myself as the new Director of Women's ministries at Grace Point Church. He answered our prayers with ministry and missions. He is showing us that being on missions isn't just about "over", it's here. It's where ever your find yourself. In whatever arenas your in. My mantra for the past two year has been about being a herald; someone who tells good stories and brings good news and proclaims it wherever they go. This applies to being on mission.
Being a herald of the gospel, just like being a "missionary", ....for goodness sake, being a Christian, is about a lifestyle. And to be honest, though "life" is not as grueling as it is in third world countries, life in America is hard. There are 10,000 more distractions, subtle and passive aggressive persecutions, the enemies ploys of busyness and spread too thin (plus a host of other things). Sometimes its harder to live counter culture in your own culture than it is to adapt to another nations cutlure.
But this is what made Africa different for me, I wasn't secretly pining away to move overseas. I wasn't bitter about all the ways we'd been sidelined and blockaded in the past. I wasn't questioning what God was up to. I was settled in my heart that for now, we're here. So while I was there, I felt comfortable sitting on villagers porches telling stories, walking to the "wayfar" with my translator, sleeping under the stars and daily exhausting myself for the sake of Jesus' name. But I was also comfortable with the fact that I knew why I was there and I knew where home was. Embrace where you are, find out what he has planned for you by being present.
I wasn't distracted by ME, the trip was solely about the gospel. And the gospel came easy in our conversations, much easier than it does in the states. But that was my challenge that I can home with. What would it look like if we talked this easily about the God who made us, loves us and died for us?
My new job is part time, but I want to embrace it with my whole heart. I want it to be about the gospel, not just theme parties (but don't get me wrong...I love a good theme party). I want to my years of leader training and bible training and life experience put to God's use.
The Lord also began to show us that he had handed us a ministry when he chose us to Jaxon's parents. And then again with lil miss. He hand picked our arenas and gave us good stories to tell. And who better to adopt a cleft kid, than cleft parents? God has already equipped us to be on mission here.
Though I don't want to chase the American dream and I don't buy into "God bless America", he gave me a cleft kid in the place where I can get the best care, hope and love for him at ACH. He gave me a heart to write in a place where I can self publish my books and put them out to the world. He gave me a heart for adoption in a place that offers grants, scholarships and fundraising communities that will help us be able to adopt another cleft kid without going into debt. He gave me a heart for expressions of worship through art in a place that values art, music and theater. He gave me heart for culture and diversity in a place that is the melting pot of Arkansas.
None of this is accidental. None of this is coincidence. It's all by His design. He is the Author and perfecter of our faith. He maps out our days and years and gives us our portion and boundary lines for our dwelling places. If we'll only get out of our own way and get on board...
5 Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure. 6 The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance. 7 I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me.