Thursday, July 29, 2010

You Capture: Play

This week we had so much fun playing. I found a nearby playground where the girls could run and climb and stretch their legs, and needless to say, they loved it to no end. As blessings would go, there were friends there as well, so the girls got to play with friends, play in the dirt, and climb. What a great day!

The next day we went to a great little place called Busy Bee where the girls got to do painting and various arts and crafts projects. They played with kitchens and blocks, and glitter and scissors. It was so great to see them being kids again, exploring and creating. Sometimes that is a challenge when we are so out of our element here, but we are managing and this was a great fun day for them!


For more great photos of play, stop by I Should Be Folding Laundry and check out the other You Capture shots! It's always fun! Maybe you could join along as well.

What did you capture this week?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Coming out of her shell

I love being a mother. I adore my girls and have so enjoyed watching them grow up. They inspire me to be a better woman, as I often wonder if the person they see is someone they would like to be like someday. Every now and then, I will hear one of them say, "Mama, I want to be just like you when I grow up." Oh how that melts my heart! But every now and then I will hear one of them say something that is not so nice, with a harsh tone and unkind words, and I will know exactly where she learned to speak like that. I breaks my heart and challenges me to do better. They echo and mimic everything they see and hear, so my mirrors follow me around as an ever-present reminder of my desperate need for Jesus.

I have watched them grow, their precious personalities and heart develop into the people who God is creating, and I absolutely love the process. I love that their personalities are different, so unique to who they are. My first-born is bold and carefree. She lacks virtually any inhibition or fear, though every now and then will demonstrate some restraint. My second-born on the other hand, is very reserved, cautious almost. She is much more of an observer and would prefer to take in a scene in its entirety before deciding to engage in it.

My father jokingly says that my first-born is the who will say here, "Here, hold my beer. I want to try that!" while her younger sister will sit back to watch, seeing if her sister lives or dies from the experience, before she will even point a toe in the direction of action.

Yeah, that pretty much sums it up.
But on this trip here in Africa, my Juju has surprised me thoroughly. I have seen her come out of her shell like never before. I have seen her boldly greet people, shaking their hands and interacting. I have watched her eat anything and everything that has been put in front of her. I have watched her lead children around, teaching the ABC's and drawing shapes in the sand. I have been amazed at her love of people and her eloquence to interact with them. She has truly been stunning!

And now, now she wants to go to school. She asks me everyday, "Mommy, is tomorrow the day that I get to go to school?" This coming from the girl who has cried virtually every time that she is taken to Sunday School class. But now, she says that she is excited to go to school. Praise God, because that crying at drop-off is just heart-wrenching!

You see it would be easy to label the girls as being this or that, but what I have seen is that you can never, ever, put anyone in a box with a label on it, because you just don't know what God is doing. He says in His Word that He is a doing a new thing, and so even that which we may recognize as something we have seen before, may come out to be completely different.

I look at my precious girls, and often wonder about their future. I wonder who they will be, what they will be like, and how God will use them to impact this world. I wonder if they will be leaders of many, teachers of the Word, humble servants of God. I wonder where they will serve and in what capacity.

I pray for their hearts, for the protection of their precious wellsprings of life, that even as it may be broken in this fallen world, it would not be crushed to despair. I pray that they would be set apart, making bold stands in their spheres of influence. And I pray that Jesus would be so real and alive in their lives, that His love just pours out into every one around them.

That is the joy of a mother, to watch her babies come out of their shells and be used for the glory of God.

That is the joy of a mother.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Links of Love

So I have discovered a few new (new to me) blogs that are worth mentioning. I love blogs that are real and honest and vulnerable. Maybe there are some out there who have it all figured out and have all the answers, but I appreciate those who are willing to share the journey along the way rather than just daisies, rainbows, and unicorns all the time. Those are folks from whom I can learn because they are willing to share their failures as well as their victories. So when I came across this blog, Storing Up Treasures, my heart just did a back-flip over her authenticity and true beauty. She is bold and graceful and honest, and I have loved every post I have read. Especially this post, and this post, and this post.

And of course, through one great blog, you are bound to find several others. This one did not disappoint. I found two other blogs: Small Things and Natural Suburbia. They are both full of witty, crafty ideas for mothering, parenting, loving, living, etc. And they are both full of tutorials and beautiful photography.

My pastor's wife just started a blog, and I am over-the-top excited about it, as her honesty and love of Jesus combine in a very gracious and beautiful manner. I have so thoroughly enjoyed getting to know her, and have loved the thoughts that she has put out in the blogosphere. You can find her here, at Living with Moxie. She is truly an amazing woman of God, and I have much to learn from her.

So that's what I've got for today. Maybe tomorrow I can share about this crafty bug that I've got right now. I have an urge to knit something, or crochet and afghan, or sew an apron...or something! More on that later.

Monday, July 26, 2010

My Story: Where it all began...

I grew up in Texas, the Lone Star State. The great big Lone Star State. When you grow up in Texas, there truly is no other state, as there is no need for anything outside the borders of the great cowboy state. They say that everything is bigger in Texas, including trucks, hair, egos, and churches. My days started in a suburb of Dallas where church was a social expectation, as it is with much of the Bible-belt South. You went to church out of fear of the fire and brimstone that was being spewed from the pulpit, or the sweet southern gossip that would tear a person down with an oozing smile, seething, "Bless her heart," in a long Texas draw.

Ah, the way of the South.

In those days, I could turn one-syllable words into 3 or 4 syllables. Just apply a slight whine and varying intonations, and suddenly "Dad" is more like du-aa-ieed. Combine that with some severe puppy dog eyes, and a sweet Southern gal will have one daddy wrapped around her precious little finger. Not that I would ever have done that. It was just an example.

I grew up in a slightly less conventional family, especially for Bible-belt standards, where long-hair and Volkswagens were commonplace, and clean cut was a phrase used for trimming flower stems. I remember for a short time there was even a Harley in the family. That one didn't last too long, but I do recall a ride or two seated quite tightly in my father's lap, a blonde-haired three year old reaching tall for the handles with a proper fear. But also remembering feeling so alive there with my daddy, wind tracing through my wispy, fine hair. If I was laughing or crying, I don't remember, but I remember knowing that I safe there with my daddy behind me. That's how it is meant to be, conventional or not.

I have vague memories of growing up around church for a short while. I even remember being baptized. I must have been about 7 or 8. We lived in Houston by then, having moved from our family roots of Dallas to a suburb of Houston for the sake of jobs. I remember Sunday School as a small child, and can even recall being chosen to be the "pastor" of our small Sunday School class when we were putting together a kid's church. It's funny to think about it now. I had created a sermon and all, ready to give a word. Unfortunately it never happened though, as the Sunday that we were to hold our church service, daylight savings struck without the clocks being properly forewarned. So we showed up an hour late for church. I remember walking into the classroom just as the "substitute" pastor kid was finishing up my message. What heartbreak and disappointment. That's the way it goes sometimes.

Our church days ended fairly shortly after that, not because my job was given to another, but because it turned out that the conventional were not necessarily comfortable with the unconventional being in any place of leadership. I tell you, it's still like that.

My folks were in charge of leading an adult Sunday School class. My dad loved to teach, and used his gifting well, but not everyone wanted to learn from a long-hair. And so they were asked to step down. Was his teaching unbiblical? No. Was he breaking doctrine? No.But he was a distraction to others because he did not conform to their ways. I tell you that they remain like that to this day, and I am so proud of them for that.

That began a slow death of church-life, disheartened and hurting from judgment and deception. I remember several Sundays in a row, I would be the first to wake up in the house. I would run to my folks' room to wake them, saying, "It's Sunday!! Can we go to church? Wake up! Let's go to church!"

And in a slow, groggy voice, one of them would say, "It's too late, sweetie. We missed it today. We'll try again next week."

Though I did not know the reason at the time, after a few Sunday of that repeated, I finally took to heart that our church days as a family were done. For a short time, there was a Sunday School teacher who would pick me up at the house and allow me to tag along with her family, but that didn't last long either.

It wasn't too long at all before the idea of church was little more than a distant memory. Verses that had been memorized, books that had been recited, and songs that were sung and acted out were filed away in the deep recesses of the memory, making way for new lessons in life.

And did those lessons ever come.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

What Freedom Feels Like

Cars speed by on the wrong side of the road. Eyes gaze at the pale woman and her slightly darker children crowded around her, almost clinging to her leg. The language is foreign gibberish that comes out in beautiful rhythm, yet plays no discernible melody in my ears. The culture is painfully foreign, with customs and idiosyncrasies that do not line up with all that has been taught before.

But then again, that which has been taught is not always right.

So it is in this strange land where a battle rages in the heart and in the mind. It is in this land where the earth under my feet has been shaken, where all that is comfortable and familiar is removed and what I have left is my God, and the crushing realization that my faith is not as strong as I would like it to be, and it is not as strong as others might think it is, or judge that it should be.

The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.
Zephaniah 3:17

Like water being poured on a scorching fire, like a blaze being quenched by the sweetness of healing rain, my heart exhales at the sound of those precious words, sweet life-giving, life-restoring words.

My mind is a veritable battlefield these days, everyday, and it seems that I have mostly been losing the battle. Just as the Rock took his gaze from the Redeemer for just a moment to glance at the wind, which was rustling through his hair, breaking his concentration, and the storm that was looming overhead, clouds dark and heavy with the weight of the world on the verge of pouring out, an he began to sink slowly into the pit of his own making, so I too have been sinking into a pit full of doubt, fear, insecurity and self-loathing.

That which has been done will only pull me down if I allow it, if I hand over that power and trade in that dignity for someone else to call the shots. This is my choice to make, to be clothed in strength and dignity.

God is with me, and He is mighty to save.

God is with me. God is with me. God is with me. Even in the midst of a seeming earthquake, even at a time when I have called into question His love and His sovereignty. God is with me, and indeed He is mighty to save.

And just as the Rock cried out to the Teacher for salvation and his fears were quieted with the love of the Almighty, so too will my heart and mind be silenced.


Hush to the lies that bind with chains. Hush to the insults that degrade the soul. Hush to the doubt that cuts me down. Hush to the insecurities that have held me down.

He will quiet me with his love.

In the shadow of the Almighty, sitting on Daddy’s lap, feeling His strong arms shielding and protecting His little girl, there is nothing but his love to think on. The mind is quieted.

With. His. Love.

That is what freedom feels like.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Just Can't Keep Them On

So it is no secret that I have struggled with issues of weight for quite some time. Some of it was due to the growth and expulsion of three little people from this body, fairly close together. Ok very close together. But most of it is due to poor eating habits, lame coping skills, laziness, etc. etc. I have had a tenacious sweet tooth that has plagued me for quite some time, and rather than demonstrating some discipline and overcoming it, I have simply used it as an excuse.

My husband travels quite frequently, and so I am at home with three little people more often than not. Not so fun to cook for three little people, and then clean. And most days, by the time dinner rolls around, I'm beat and don't really want to do anything anyway. Needless to say, fast food and I had become bosom buddies, and my body was paying the price for it.

A few months before we left for Africa, I had finally joined a gym and was loving being able to exercise while my little people were being cared for in a daycare setting right there at the gym. It gave me no excuse to not exercise everyday, except when I was too tired or the kids were melting down or I just couldn't seem to get everyone moving in one direction at the same time. That seemed to happen frequently. But I was able to get myself to the gym several times a week, which felt very good. And then I discovered that a very dear friend was a drill sergeant, um...I mean spin instructor, so that provided even more motivation to be there.

Also just before leaving for Africa, I watched the documentary Food, Inc., which, while being very informative, was also very disturbing. I learned a lot about the food industry that I did not previously know and did not necessarily want to know. I will never be able to look at a McDonald's the same (which is probably a good thing), and have considered changing my diet to a more vegetarian standard, except that my husband is quite the carnivore and would not necessarily be a fan of that change. So then I began to think through ways to support a healthier, more organic diet, without busting the budget. This is typically not an easy task.

But I did discover Bountiful Baskets just before we left and am excited to get back to them when we return. I was also looking for various farmer's markets and ways to make my kitchen and home a healthier environment in general.

And then I came to Africa, where most damage I could do with fast food is a bowl of beans and some chapati from a local restaurant. Virtually every meal we eat is made from scratch, involving beans, rice, lentils (green grams), or various veggies. This is true organic cooking at it's finest.
So, between the illness that I had the first couple of weeks after we arrived in which my tummy rejected most everything that went into it, and the drastic change in diet, mixed in with the manual labor of life here, my waistline has begun to show the effect. And I am liking what I see.

Until the other day, when I pulled out my only pair of khakis that I brought with me here, and in bittersweet love decided that I could no longer wear them. The belt had been taken in a couple of notches until the pants were flowering out of the top like a cinched up potato sack. It was no longer flattering at all.

So I celebrated tonight by having a ice cream sundae at the local Creamy Inn. It was delightful.

I have had to resort to wearing mostly dresses now, as even my skirts have become quite loose on my waist, and they pose a great risk as little people like to pull on the skirt to get mommy's attention. Not a pretty picture when the said skirt is barely hanging on the hips.

I still have occasional tough moments when I just really am craving a chocolate bar or something really rich and naughty, but fortunately for me, I don't have the access to those things here as I would back home. So I am looking to have a few habits broken by the time I go to the states, and thinking of how I can continue in such a healthy lifestyle once I return, because that tends to be the trap.

This is a good start though, so I'll take it and rejoice in what victories I do have.

Hope yall have a blessed Friday and wonderful weekend!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

You Capture: Black & White

Yea! I'm so excited to be able to do "You Capture" once again. The theme for this week is "black and white" so I had fun with some of the pictures that we have been taking over the last couple of months here in Africa.

Bridging the Gap

The Beauty of Culture
This sweet little orphan boy claimed my lap as his own.

But my girls were not having any of that, so they climbed on as well.
Our family by Lake Victoria
We are doing well here in Kenya, missing friends and family, but praising God for what He is doing everyday. If you want to see more Black and White photos, cruise on over to "You Capture" at I Should Be Folding Laundry.

What did you capture this week?

Monday, July 19, 2010

Standing in Awe

When I read about what love is and what it looks like, how to live it out, it is full of actions that have become almost foreign to me. To trust, to hope, to be patient and kind, to overlook offenses and not be easily angered. All of these actions go against every grain of my natural body. Life has taught me otherwise. Life has taught me that these actions are foolishness. Life has taught me that people will walk all over you, take advantage of you, slander your character, all for their own gain. Life has taught me that you have to stand and defend yourself, as no one else will. But these days, God is doing a new thing in my life, and some chains have been cut loose.

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God. -1 Corinthians 1:18

Soften what has become hard. It is time to love again. Open your hands, unclench your fists, release to Me all that you have been clinging to, as it has only hurt you more. Soften what has become hard.

It turns out that I have a defender, I have one who speaks on my behalf. I have one who has lavished His love upon me, in such great magnitude that He even went as far as to crown my head with glory and honor. My head! Yes, even my head.

It seems that I had gotten in the habit of acquiring knowledge, but not experiencing the truth of God in my life. I wondered and fretted about my own apparent lack of growth, and blamed God for abandoning me, turning a deaf ear to my cries, neglecting my broken heart. And then I came across this today:

A man's own folly ruins his life, yet his heart rages against the Lord. -Proverbs 19:3

Hmmm. Yes.

In a very bad habit of anger, bitterness, resentment, my heart ached and burned against the Lord, as if it were His doing. But now it is His undoing that has set my heart free, and I could feel the stone within my chest melt, as my body relaxed and I made a choice to forgive and not react. I made a choice to focus on what God had done for me, and allowed His strength to be present in my weakness. And now this captive is being set free, chains of insecurity, doubt, mistrust, and hurt that have held me in fear and bondage for most of my life are falling away and I am feeling how easy His yoke is. I just can't even tell you the freedom that I am experiencing, even in the midst of turmoil and hurt. And yet, I have a peace which passes all understanding, and I just know that the victory will be His alone, for my good and for His glory.

He is that good, yall!

So these days I am absolutely standing in awe of who He is and He power to work in my life. Somehow it is easy to get into routines and habits, which may enhance knowledge and build up the mind, but neglect the growth and experience of God himself. Yesterday I laughed out loud because of how good He is and the peace that He had put in my heart. I was down-right giddy! And now I am reading His word with fresh eyes, not simply taking the words to heart, but taking the promises to heart and expecting Him to move. This one touched and inspired me:

In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. -Ephesians 3:12

Seriously! We may approach the King of the universe with confidence, and ask Him to do in us what His word says He can (and wants to) do. This has changed everything and I am almost overwhelmed with this love that He has lavished upon us!

What about you? Are you experiencing His power in your life? Are you expecting Him to set you free, or just hoping to make it through your days with fire insurance? We all have stories (which reminds me that I need to start writing mine!) and we all have baggage of some sort. The question is, who is carrying it? I am praying that you would allow Him full access in your life, to move and cut some chains loose!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Being Rooted and Established in Love

Scripture: Ephesians 3:16-19
I pray that out of his glorious riches, he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge - that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

This was Paul's prayer for the Church in Ephesus, together with all the saints. By faith, Christ dwells in our hearts. Just as the Father loves to give and provide for His children,

Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!
out of His riches and wealth, He strengthens His children with power through His spirit. It is by this spirit that our faith may be increased and grown, and the indwelling of Christ may be ever more present. Paul prayed that we would be rooted and established in love, as perfect love drives out all fear and covers a multitude of sins. Perfect love overlooks offenses and demonstrated the grace and mercy of Christ, that same grace and mercy that was shown to us.
For this reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. 2 Peter 1:5-7
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear. 1 John 4:18
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8
As we are truly rooted and established in love, it becomes more than knowledge to us, but transforms our hearts and changes us completely. This sort of love and transformation fills a person, so that she may then love and serve out of her wealth, and trying to give out of her depravity.


Oh mercy, this one has been rattling around on my mind and in my heart all day be rooted and established in be rooted and established in be rooted and established in love, which has then forced me to ask the question of what that looks like.

1 Corinthians 13 lays out what love is...

does not envy
does not boast
is not proud
is not rude
is not self-seeking
is not easily angered
keep no record of wrongs
does not delight in evil
rejoices with the truth
always protects
always trusts
always hopes
always perseveres
Never fails.

Ouch. To be rooted and established in this...there is much work still to be done in my life. What I know is that I cannot do these things by my own might. Believe me. I have tried. It turns out to be a white-knuckle experience which fails in the end, and leaves me frustrated for an apparent lack of growth.

But to be rooted and established in love is to dwell in the fullness of God, resting in all that He has already done, focusing on the price already paid rather than the things going on around me. To be filled to the measure of fullness of God is to have my heart set on Him, and then live out the grace that He has already shown, because I have been shown much grace.

This means letting others off the hook. This means looking past offenses that would otherwise easily anger me. This means practicing the delicate art of letting all things go, remaining in absolute love and peace with Jesus. This means planting myself like a tree, by streams of water, not bending and breaking from the challenges that life may have to offer, but swaying gently and peacefully as the love of Jesus holds me firm.



I confess that I have failed in showing love to others. I confess that I had forgotten how wide and long and high and deep your love for me is, and I was trying to live and serve out my depravity, rather than being filled to the measure of all the fullness of You. I tried to do things by my own might, which is limitless and broken, at best, rather than resting in You, trusting in You, growing in You.

Please, Father, help me to remember. Help me to not forget what you did for me Jesus. I want to be an ambassador of Christ who is well rooted and established in Christ, so that I tell of You well. Please Father, help me to write these words upon my heart, that they may be a constant reminder to me of where my help comes from and that my life is full and satisfied because of You.

Thank you for your grace. Thank you for your patience. Thank you for your mercy. And thank you now for another chance to get it right. Praise you Jesus. I am full.

Your beloved daughter,


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Everyone Has a Story

As I have traveled through this life, I have met some very interesting people along the way. I have talked and discoursed with long-hairs, short-hairs, republicans and democrats, conservatives and liberals, poverty-stricken and filthy-rich. I have talked with people from all over the world, and even lived in some of their cultures. What I have learned from all these interactions is that everyone has a story. Some are tame and mild, others are outrageous and wild. Some stories tell of great tragedy and pain, while others are full of victory triumph. Some have straight and clean paths, while others somehow face every obstacle under the sun. What is so interesting to me, though, is that you just never know what a person's story is from looking at the person alone. That old saying of "don't judge a book by it's cover" is just so true. You just never know what a person has gone through, or is going through, to be where she is today. What I have also learned, though, is that even if you do know a person's story, it may give you an insight into what the picture of the life has looked like, but it does not tell you how the heart has held up in response to it all. That's a different story altogether.

I have become thoroughly convinced through the years that God wants us to tell our stories, because ultimately, they are His stories. It is through these stories of our lives that His character is revealed and we meet Him afresh and anew with experience in our lives. It is also through these stories that we remember what He has done for us, how far He has carried us, how He has healed and changed our own lives.

Have you ever noticed how many names of God there are throughout Scripture? Whenever an event would happen in Scripture, the people involved would name God based on the characteristic that was revealed, based on who He was to them at that point in time. Maybe He is Elohim (the Creator) at one point, and then Qanna (Jealous) at another. Maybe He is El Roi (the God who sees) to the woman who has been cast out, or Jehovah-Jireh (the Lord will Provide) to the woman who is struggling to make ends meet. I have come to realize that Scripture is full of so many different names of God, as there is no one name that is big enough to encompass all that is God, other than to simply acknowledge YHWH in how He called Himself, I AM THAT I AM.

When we tell our stories of God, when we tell the history, or rather His Story, of our lives, we share with others the character of God and the ways that He has revealed Himself to us, that others may know Him and recognize Him as He reveals Himself to them.

And so I will slowly begin to tell my story, mostly for my benefit, so that I may take a look back and remember how far God has brought me. There are many days that I battle with discouragement, wondering if I have grown at all. And so it is through this remembering that I may see the path I have traveled, and see the wonders of the Lord and how His hand has worked. I don't know how long it will take to get it out, but slowly, and patiently, I will lay it all out there. Well, maybe not all...we'll see what it brings.

Feel free to journey with me. It might not all be pretty. Let me rephrase. It is not all pretty. There are parts that are downright ugly. But there is nothing that Jesus touches that He does not turn to beauty, no ashes left behind. And so there is no shame in the path that was taken, only praise that He did not leave me there.

What about you? Have you thought about the story of your journey? How far has God brought you?

Friday, July 9, 2010

Standing Together

In the summer of 2008, I had the incredible opportunity to teach Bridges for Women to a small group of Kenyan ladies in Western Kenya. Bridges for Women is a curriculum put together by a non-profit organization called Scriptures in Use, and we, being Unite 4 Africa, use the curriculum as part of the trainings for church planting movements. It trains women to use their relationships and natural storytelling abilities in telling Bible stories, verbatim. It focuses on addressing the issues that women face on a day-to-day basis, by telling Scriptural stories about women in the Bible. So the course trains women to memorize stories, word for word from the Bible, and become storytellers to those around them, choosing to tell a story that will address the specific need of women.

We have received incredible feedback from the women who were trained 2 years ago, and several of them have gone on to train many other women across Kenya and even into Sudan. Two incredible women from that first batch of ladies are part of the Unite 4 Africa Women's Leadership Team in Kenya. They have been very busy, training groups of ladies in community after community. While we were in the communities of Noosikitok and Molo, I had the incredible opportunity of following up with the ladies who had been trained there. What an awesome time of fellowship and learning!

These ladies shared with us their challenges and struggles, what it means to be a woman in their tribe. They tend to the goats, sheep and chicken, and they tend to the children and maintenance of the home. The women of the Maasai tribe are responsible for actually building the home (hut). They fetch the water, cook the meals, and wash the clothes. And before you start thinking that it sounds like your list of chores as well, they walk a great distance for the water source, wash all clothes by hand at that far away water source, and cook the meals over a wood fire. Very labor intensive work.

Most of the women talked about the lack of support from their husbands or the men in their village to be a part of a church. We had noticed as well, the previous Sunday at the local church, the men were glaringly absent from the service, but the women were there just praising. We were told that their men actually accuse them of committing prostitution at the church, because they only ever see women and children go there, so they have reasoned that the church must be a house of prostitution. Talk about a disheartening view of the church.

But the men of these communities have historically been beaten down and judged by the church, condemned for their traditional tribal practices and looked down upon by missionaries who had gone before. The men truly want nothing to do with the church. So some of the women face great persecution for going to church, facing beatings from their husbands when they return home for not being in the house to take care of things there.

And yet they persist.

We learned that virtually all of the women of these regions are illiterate. They are hoping for more for the upcoming generation, but the threats and challenges to participating in an education system are very real (such as lions in the bush). The women who were trained in this storytelling method are the few among their tribe who are able to read, and now they feel such great empowerment to teach others the stories of Scripture. To see their hearts rejoice over the ability to tell other ladies about the Word of God was so encouraging!

And there were a few ladies in the groups that I met with who are not able to read. For me, their testimony was more powerful than any other, like a new world of hope had been opened up to them and they could not find the strength to contain their overwhelming gratitude. Suddenly they too could learn about Jesus. And not only be fed, but they could write the Word up on their hearts and turn around to feed others. You could see such pride and empowerment in them, like their hearts were just going to swell right out of their chests.

One lady, so stoic and beautiful, said with great poise and dignity, "Before we knew God, He loved us. And then He sent someone to tell us. Now we tell others."

That touched my heart so profoundly. Tears welled up in my eyes. She just nailed it. I mean really, isn't that the case for every single one of us? At some point, we did not know the incredible love and favor of God, but someone came and told us, and then we discovered that He loved us all along. Isn't that Scripture?
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves

We love because he first loved us.
So one by one, the ladies went around the room and shared something of who they are, what challenges they are facing, how the storytelling is impacting (or not) themselves and the community around them. It was so exciting and humbling and overwhelming and grieving, and so many emotions all mixed up in one big beautiful ball of love for my sisters. I sat listening to them, amazed that I had the privilege of calling them sisters. Truly.

After listening to each of the ladies present talk about their experiences after having been taught the storytelling principles, the chairlady of the group turned to me, very matter-of-fact, and said, "Now you have heard our challenges and problems. How will you fix them?"


Didn't see that one coming. Oh Jesus, give me words.

When communities are open and vulnerable to talk about the issues that they face, the reality is that it has taken generations upon generations to get them where they are now. Whether good or challenging. It did not happen overnight, and reparations do not happen overnight. Nothing is instant, no matter how hard we wish it. But there was one thing that I could assure my sisters of, right then and there. We had heard their hearts. We had heard their cries. And so now the burden is no longer solely their to carry. Now we bear the responsibility as well. That's what family does.
Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter.
If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who guards your life know it? Will he not repay each person according to what he has done?
Proverbs 24:11-12
And now you know too.
When we let these ladies know that there were teams of brothers and sisters in the West who were praying for them, who were standing in the gap for them, who were lifting up their names to the King of the Universe, you would have though we just fixed their problems. They were not forgotten, but were being lifted up, cheered on, and encouraged. This was the word of exhortation that they needed to hear that day, giving them strength and courage to carry on. The other problems can be sorted through time as we continue to build relationships, and in fact are being addressed by the leadership council that was formed with Unite 4 Africa. But for now, these ladies were able to go back into battle, knowing that they were not standing alone.
What about you? Will you stand in the gap for them? Will you lift them up as they are working tirelessly to finish the task of being sure everyone has heard the incredible story of Jesus? Will you lift them up as well?
I praise You, Jesus, for what You have done in these ladies. I thank you that I may call them sister. It is I who am blessed for that. May we stand together for Your glory.

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