When Faith’s NOT Picture Perfect

So, I opened this blog up May of 2014 hoping that I could use it while in South Sudan to share a more personal perspective of our life & experiences “on mission”. Well, being as it is now January 30th of 2015 I guess that thought didn’t turn out so well! Lol! Some how between playing mommy, wife, homeschool teacher, executive director, the head of ministry finance, mentor, life coach, laundry attendant, friend, occasional babysitter & children’s ministry worker, and oh ya, missionary, I couldn’t seem to find the time! Imagine that! Sigh… I really bit off more than I could chew in this last adventure. Actually, had you asked me what this last year in South Sudan was going to look like, I would have said it would most likely be very difficult. (but I really had no idea just how difficult) We were believing God for quite a mountain to be moved in our lives just to get the funding we needed to get over to South Sudan, much less all the long term support it takes to be a successful cross-cultural missionary. We chose to go when God made it clear to us that it was time to go. We had worked, fund-raised, served, saved and put our faith on the line. Jesus provided us with what we needed for the immediate time and a modest base of monthly support for the year. So we stepped out in faith and trusted that He would work miracles on our behalf. Well, HE DID! I’m hoping to share some of these stories over the next couple months while we are waiting to get back to our mission field in Juba. But, before I tell you all the fantastic, romantic, heroic and awing things that God did… Back to the beginning of my blog:

I have always been someone who encouraged participation, teamwork and delegation in life and ministry. But it often seems like the Lord places me in situations and circumstances where He asks me to push through the impossible… to make a way… to step into the river BEFORE it parts, etc… I have always been willing to live this way. Jesus has truly done so much for me how can I live for anything else but Him? How can I not live a life that shares & shows His glory for all that is possible through this broken vessel?!! But living by faith is not by any means easy. Faith & trust is simple, but not easy. Not everything works out just like you think it will. Not every task is accomplished to it’s fullest like you have believed. (sometimes you can fault yourself & the failures of others, but sometimes you can’t understand why it doesn’t all work out) Living an active faith and believing for great things means that you believe God even still, and all the more when it doesn’t look like you thought it would.

Our last six months in South Sudan was the most wonderfully, horrifying experience I have ever had. Jason almost died of Malaria, we all got Typhoid fever, us girls were verbally harassed more than once by drunk men in the street and in the markets, we went without clean water at times, got food poisoning twice, endured 2 rain storms that flooded our house, were eaten alive by mosquitoes, in a few near accidents and were targeted by a refugee crime ring. WHAT!?? Yes, this all happened. We always had enough to eat and to share with others, but our support was always on its last string. God brought in just enough and we often felt stretched beyond our financial ability… We didn’t have the means for domestic help (all of life’s chores are tediously done by hand)  & we couldn’t find a teaching volunteer to come serve with us… Stretched beyond our physical abilities too trying to fill 20 roles all at once! And then… Nayana developed type 1 diabetes…

So at this point you’re probably thinking either God didn’t bless what we were doing, or that the devil REALLY had it out for us! Well, you can be the judge on that one… As often as I can, I want to post about what God did for us and through us in the last six months despite our challenges.

Walking into Destiny
Destiny: Invincible necessity; fate; a necessity or fixed order of things, established by divine decree. Aka: walking into God’s perfectly planned, predestined circumstance.

We came to know our South Sudanese friend John in a strange way. In 2013 I went to Israel and through a series of uncommon circumstances, I was connected with a South Sudanese man named Abdallah. The Lord told me that in Israel I would find a doorway to South Sudan. (God had been speaking to our family for a year about a long term work He had for us there) Anyway, I came to know Abdallah and he was indeed our “door” into South Sudan. When we met Abdallah it was like meeting an old friend, not just your every day acquaintance, but the deep-hearted kinda friend. We came to find out that Abdallah was a Christian and that we had much in common. It was Abdallah that introduced us to his uncle John. John was the one who helped get us connected when we arrived to serve as missionaries in a community called Munuki in South Sudan. John attended the church you see above. God had miraculously planted him there years before and he wanted us to attend with him at least once. We prayed about it, obviously… We knew God wanted to connect us with the right people, and we also knew African culture enough to know that if we showed up somewhere too many times, only to move on to what God really had for us, it would cause an offense. And that’s the last thing we wanted to do in our first month! As we prayed, the Lord just confirmed in our hearts (Jason & I both) that this little church was where he would like us to be based out of. We were not exactly sure what that translated to at this point. So, our whole little American family of 5 walked down to the church, entered into the sanctuary and sat next to our friend John in the front row. The service was beautiful and definitely filled with God’s spirit. We noticed one particular woman who was overly excited during worship that morning, but passed it off to the fact that God must have just been working in her heart big time! The message was given by a tall, peaceful man named Abraham. He was the lead pastor; the father of sorts. He preached such a strong, encouraging message. After service we shook hands with about 60 people and Pastor Abraham gave us a warm welcome.  Our whole family left feeling full and very welcomed. Strangely it felt the most like home since we left Idaho.

The next day we received a phone call from the pastor. He had called to tell us  two stories… He told us that back in 2011 one of the pastors had a vision of a white family coming to join the church who would help to strengthen and grow it. He said that he believed this was our family because God had done another miracle to confirm it just this last week. He went on to ask if we had noticed the extremely excited women that morning in the church service. He wanted us to know that she was so excited because she had a vision about us. That morning in prayer she saw of a group of white people coming to join the church, and a man in that group who would come to preach and really bless the church. Pastor Abraham told us that she was so excited to have heard God’s plans that morning and felt blessed enough to see what He was doing for their little church family. She was so excited about it that she stayed for two services and was praising God for speaking to her. Pastor Abraham welcomed us, thanked us coming and told us he was looking forward to getting to know us better. He was looking forward to what God was going to do through our family. He asked Jason to preach the following Sunday.

We didn’t realize until later just how big of a miracle this all was. You see, we didn’t come to South Sudan with a lot of money, nice cars or the needed social power to do much of anything. We were relying on God’s grace and His ability to forge friendships and opportunities to share with others about the love of Jesus. In Juba its all about who you know and it has taken some of our friends 5 years to earn the trust of leaders. Most leaders/pastors are suspicious of anyone coming in, even those “sent by God” for fear of them taking congregants and starting new churches. So, to have the leadership in a sense know we were coming and also be open to what God had placed on our hearts was a miracle!  God does amazing things!!!

Below I will show you a few pictures of where God placed us… In short, God placed us in a church body who had just recently decided to be a Great Commission centered, sending church. They changed their name to Divine Mission (because in their culture, a name is everything and this was the statement of being committed to God’s great mission). Pastor Abraham’s biggest heart ache was that he didn’t see his people living in a way that was honoring to God. He wanted to see his people trained up to follow Jesus wholeheartedly in their everyday lives. In our first month we were blessed to be a part of a service to commission & send off their first two missionaries. We also began training Divine Mission’s leaders on how to be Gateway Group Discipleship Leaders. These discipleship groups where one of the main things God placed on our hearts. So because Gateway Groups focused on facilitating the opportunity for people to become obedient disciples of Jesus, Pastor Abraham was delighted to see us train his leaders. We couldn’t have gotten “dropped of” in any better place, at any better time.

If you haven’t read the awesome testimonies of God’s transforming power in our Juba Gateway Groups some of them are posted on our Facebook (just scroll down a few months worth and you will find them, or check out our past newsletters

Our Gateway Discipleship Group (leaders training)
Week after week we saw both men & women touched and radically changed by these groups. Not just the goosebumps, emotional touch kind of experiences that happen when we gather together as the church… But those real eye opening, habit changing, life altering interactions with the Lord and His people. We actually marveled because of how naturally it happened… people wanted to know God’s word and wanted to see Him active in their lives. Men & women WANTED to change because God’s Spirit motivated them to– there was and IS such a willingness in the people to allow God to grow and change them in a real way.

Another Missionary family like ours… They’re from Nigeria

God knew us, and actually, He gave us hearts that really just want to see His people in Africa become all that He has purposed for them to be. He knew our mission; He gave it to us. He sent us to just the right place, at just the right time, to be a part of what He was already doing in Juba… His work of restoring, equipping & empowering people to be their God-given best. He made a way for us that we couldn’t have made ourselves. It has noting to do with our greatness, our skill, or talent, but rather our willingness to follow Him “unto all the earth”, or just across town. (even when it doesn’t all go like we think it will!)
     More to come… Believe me we have LOTS of pics and stories stashed away!