Does Change Ever Get Easier?

As I drove around in my very new neighborhood, I recognized a few things. I was a minority ethnically. As I shared with people about where we’d come from, they couldn’t warn me enough about the change in weather we’d experience between Orlando and Chicago. (Many of our neighbors in Florida had called us ‘crazy’ for making such a change.) And I desperately missed ‘normal’.

I know this blog is about living overseas and I’ve lived that life, making a couple of those transitions. It was hard, so hard. And it is hitting tough places again as I come to this place of a thousand mile domestic transition to somewhere I have never lived. The reality is that our surrender to change costs us, and in many ways, it doesn’t get easier no matter where we are. Although, I am not learning a new language and completely new culture, in some ways, this change is harder. My kids are older and hurting in ways they didn’t when they were little. I am not as young or resilient as I was before. The sense of adventure is less, and the hard times of the past can haunt.

But, I am here, showing up afresh in the midst of great upheaval. Because no matter where we are in our lives, we can experience the solidarity of our common humanity and the nature of change. We can reach out and remember we are not alone in feeling how we feel. And together, we can remember the truth that we are deeply, truly, fully loved in all of the ups and downs of tumultuous times.

The following are some of the most basic truths to remember in the midst of change. They are not earth-shattering principles. However, maybe, just maybe if we remember them together we will make that collective jump in a stuck elevator. We can, this time, see the doors open as we all walk into a new world.

  1. Changes come and go but God never changes: As I am right in the middle of fresh change, this means more than ever. Not only am I navigating a major transition, my father–a rock to me–is gravely ill. I am also knee-deep in edits for a coming book. Often these days I struggle for that anchor. And I am led right back to the God who is the same, yesterday, today and forever. There is nothing better for the storm-tossed waters of change, than this anchor, this hope in an unchanging God.
  2. Grace must be abundant: If I were given the chance to re-do my overseas transitions, I would add lots and lots of grace. I realize in a certain sense I have been given another chance to walk a major life overhaul and I know that I know that I know I need grace like the air I breathe. Grace for me, my husband, my precious children. Grace for new colleagues, friends and neighbors who will surely disappoint me in their inability to completely meet my needs. Grace to meet each day and receive its new, sunrise-laden mercies.
  3. Kindness is the great equalizer: Amid other cultures whether in the U.S. or abroad, nothing replaces the simple kindnesses we can give to others. Patience with the logistics of living a new life and the attendant at the window who is helping us complete this never-ending task. A smile for a stranger of another race no matter how awkward it feels. A helping hand for a new neighbor even if we hoped they would be the first to reach out. The kindness of God is ever leading a broken world to repentance, a turning back to his goodness which heals.
  4. Humility is an ever-present guide: Whether we are entering another culture of have been present in our current one for many, many years, we are called to be lifelong learners. There is no substitute for humility. There is no joy-killer more potent than complaint about the way things are different in a new country, city or workplace. God has a plan to make us like himself. This buffing out, uncovering the glory, far outshines the seeming glow of perfection in our most competent, comfortable ways of doing life. And most poignantly, he is ever close to the meek and lowly of heart. We are called to learn his rhythm, his way of navigating the constant change. He knows transition like no other ever has for he experienced it all in his journey from heaven to earth and among the earth.
  5. Learn how to be yourself again: This one can be so hard for me. Right now I feel very, very white in my current context. And I can overthink all of my actions towards those of other ethnicities. I become someone stifled, and completely other. I am experiencing this in a humbling way in a great new friendship. In keeping with all of the above, I must trust an unchanging God who gives abundant grace and calls me to kindness and humility. But, the results of each interaction, and the depth of each relationship, are God’s to hold and not mine. The best I can do is live out my unique personality for his glory. In whichever situation I am in, living out the Gospel as his special beloved child, will make a beautiful way for me to simply be myself.

I hope you don’t hear me saying this is easy, without pain or somehow formulaic. Rather, I hope you hear that you are not alone in your struggles with transition. It is a part of our legacy this side of Eden. A fallen world is not a welcome place to go through many of the changes we experience. But, a good God is ever with us, upholding us and this whole vast universe. In all of the shifting ways of this life, he is calling us home to his unchanging heart for us and his plan to hold us and hold us forever.

With you in the journey,

Abigail

Sometimes It’s OK to Not Fit In

It was a balmy Fall day in Budapest, Hungary. Cars whizzed by my kitchen window, up and down the hill in the neighborhood known as Gazdagret. My youngest son, nearly two, napped in the early afternoon.

My phone rang. It was my oldest son’s iskola teacher, Aniko. She told me that they were getting ready to go to their, regular, jégkorcsolyázás, or ice skating, class and my son did not have his necessary winter clothes. My heart skipped a beat as I thought of the fleece-lined pants, coat, hat and gloves sitting in our entry way.

All I could think about was how brave my son had been since starting Hungarian primary school in early September. He spent long days completely immersed in Hungarian while having the courage to try new foods at lunch, play foci, or soccer, after school, learn cursive writing, and do his homework with his teachers after class.

He had been so so brave and now, so must I be brave.

I had no time to change, do make-up or hair. They were leaving. I had to get to his school at the top of the hill and I had to get there now.

I grabbed his ice skating clothes and left our flat, carefully locking the door. Thankfully, my youngest had about two more hours of his nap and couldn’t yet climb out of the crib if he did awake. At the rate I planned to truck up the hill, I’d be gone only a short amount of time.

“Truck up the hill” is a good way to describe what ensued. My husband had our car so driving wasn’t an option. There was a bus that went up the hill, but it wouldn’t come soon enough. I looked at my fluorescent t-shirt, khaki shorts and flip flops and realized I just needed to go for it.

I crossed the street and found the inner walkway which went almost directly to my son’s school. I began to run on this warmish, yet still, fall day. I ran by pedestrians with dark colors, dressed as ‘normal’ people dress in Budapest on fall days, with their coats and scarves.

I ran and I ran. I ignored the looks at my bizarre attire and wild running ways. I had to get my son what he needed, and by golly, I would!

Finally, completely out of breath, I made it to the school. I ran to the entrance, spoke something in broken Hungarian to the security guard and reached the receptionist. Thankfully, his classroom was close. But when I got there, they were gone. Gone! Noooo!

I frantically asked where they were, finding out they were in the bus outside. So I hurriedly began to run again, locating the huge passenger bus leaving the parking lot. Leaving the parking lot!

Having lost all sense at this point, I started to run straight toward the moving bus, waving my arms up and down, up and down like rapid windshield wipers. Thankfully, I got the driver’s attention. I came to the door of the bus and saw my son’s teacher coming down the steps. I handed her the priceless flimsy grocery bag full of clothes and remembered to step aside as the bus continued its intended exit of the parking lot.

The ensuing sigh of relief was both real and comical and inspiring? Yes, that’s exactly how I felt. Inspired. I had just done twenty things or more I had been timid to do before, in my life in Budapest. I’d stuck out like a fluorescent chirping canary all up the streets of Gazadgret and in Csikihegy Iskola. And I’d done it without a second thought, because my son needed me.

I don’t need to tell anyone who has lived overseas, how hard it can be. I, especially, struggled to fit in, or at least appear competent, as a mother. But, on this day, fitting in was the least of my thoughts. My son needed something, and that something was me. He needed me to be brave for him, and, for once, it was the most natural thing to be.

So, I am offering you that same bravery today. You can do this life you are called to. You can be comfortable in your own skin and live the kind of way that uniquely meets the needs of another. You can be like Jesus, and not fit into the crowd, because you are infinitely loved and there is a whole, wide, broken world in need of that same love.

Why Is Following God So Messy?

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I will never forget the moment I pulled away from the hotel entrance. I had just met new friends of my husband, and now they were mine. Kat* looked so frail, bone-thin, with dark circles under her eyes. Ron* had a champion smile on his face as he secured their belongings in the back of my gold van. They had been able to afford a hotel for a few days, but now it was back to the streets. So we were keeping their duffle bags of things.

My heart sank, hot and heavy, with the weight of their situation. My husband had met them outside of our local library, a couple committed fiercely to each other. Kat’s seizure disorder, hypertension, multiple sclerosis and other health concerns, made it impossible for Ron to leave her alone. Thus, he had given up working. Their veteran’s and disability benefits only took them so far.

It felt heartbreaking and wrong as I left the hotel, amid a torrential downpour. It felt heartbreaking and wrong as I left them to find shelter. I asked myself, ‘how can I go back to my large house with its guest bedroom and leave them on the streets?’

So, I decided that I wouldn’t.

I told my husband how I felt. He knew my heart, but still, it was such a big undertaking to bring in virtual strangers to our house with three young children. (Kat and Ron had raised five children, and loved kids. We never believed they would hurt one of our children.)

We didn’t know what to do.

But when Kat was on the verge of another seizure, which could be lethal as a homeless person, we did what, in that moment, we could not not do. We invited them into our home.

What followed was a major lack of boundaries and nearly a year of sheltering Kat and Ron. It was one of the hardest seasons of our lives, yet it was keeping them off the streets. That had to mean something, right?

It wasn’t only hard because of the inconvenience. It was hard because of others’ responses. They didn’t understand us and questioned what we were doing. In their protectiveness of us, they often thought the worst of Kat and Ron. It was hard, so hard to hear these concerns and still try to do the right thing.

I don’t fault our friends and family for loving us, how could I? But, the desire to care for ‘the poor’ is a good, God-given desire, isn’t it?

So how could obedience to God’s heart bring so much strain and struggle. I thought it would bring joy. And, at first, it did. It did, also, in moments along the way. But, the joy was often overshadowed by worry, doubt and a strong sense of being out of control.

As we sheltered Kat and Ron, I often felt the words of Isaiah 58:7 course through my mind. ‘Bring the homeless, poor into your house…’ as part of acceptable guidelines for a holy ‘fast’ and the kind of worship God wants. And again, I absolutely believe that to be true.

However, after almost a year, we finally had to give a very clear date when they needed to leave our home. It was hard, so hard, because they hadn’t found anywhere else to live. But, we knew we had done what we could.

So again, the questions. ‘How could a year of having them in our home, make seemingly so little difference in their situation?’ And yes, in guilt, I would ask too. ‘How could we let them back onto the streets?’

Yet, there was a measure of peace, because it was okay, and important, to let them go, surrendering them fully to God. My husband and I would often remind ourselves that what we did in caring for them, we ultimately did for the Lord. And we had to trust Him for the results of that caring.

At times I wondered if I operated out of guilt of not doing more when we lived in Hungary. Homeless people lined the parks and downtown streets and it all became so overwhelming. And I felt it. That callousness, of needing to not do anything because each of their stories, their needs, could easily pull me in, in tangled-up, caring-too-much ways.

In the end, I was so humbled in the journey with Kat and Ron. And I have so little to say, but that it is so very messy. Not only caring for the poor or homeless, but knowing how to truly be obedient and follow Jesus in hard places. The only true sin in the journey is to let ourselves become callous and closed to the needs of others. (And, I want to be clear that much spiritual wisdom and discernment is needed in any steps we take.)

My sweet husband helps me so much in this. He is often reaching out, not to every person in need, but to the ones put especially on his heart. Since Kat and Ron, we learned it is too much for our family to house those in need long-term. But, he is often approaching someone in need to ask if he can get them a meal. Just recently, he took a homeless friend to get warmer clothes for the cooler nights coming.

In the end, though the journey with Kat and Ron was really hard, God brought so much life from it. He grew our family, making Kat and Ron a part of it. I will never forget their all-day cooking, on the Thanksgiving Day they were with us. They made a feast for us.

Eventually, they found an apartment, and we were all thrilled. We helped them with the move, gave them some furniture and did what family would do.

But more, we have come to feel for them what family should feel–a deep, abiding, indestructible love.

I don’t know what needs are around you, but I want to encourage you beyond the callousness which can so subtly creep in. If you desire to do something close to God’s heart, no matter the journey, you will find just that, His heart.

*Names changed to protect identity.

How to Overcome Shame: The Potency of Story

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 “And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.” Revelations 12:11 (ESV)

There are many ways to die of shame. But, there are even more ways to live without it. It’s my heart to help you choose life today.

A little over five years ago I nearly, truly died in a Hungarian mental ward. I was as weak as I’d ever been in my forty years of life. Although technically a wife and mother, I was not able to fulfill either of these treasured callings.

As I managed side effects of medicines for my newly diagnosed bipolar disorder, I heard God say, ‘I want you to share your story. The one you are living now.’

I was absolutely terrified. How could I be so vulnerable about this life with mental illness which seemed so shameful? In His kindness, God made sure I knew I had all of the time I needed. But he didn’t change His mind about what He wanted from me.

He wanted me to die to the secret, inward shame, so that, I could truly live. Because I was completely perfect in His eyes, through Jesus, I could find the courage to die to what others thought of me. With the telling of my story, God was redeeming the unbelievable levels of pain I had endured.

Not only was there no shame in the telling, as I remained completely perfect in His eyes, but I also gained a golden resilience which made me more and more ready to speak life and light into the darkness of shame itself.

Now, five years later, I recently signed a book contract to write my story, my journey with mental illness. Tens of thousands of words of my story bound and made for anyone to purchase. At times, I am still border-line or full-blown terrified, but when I feel afraid, I just keep writing, keep telling.

I love this verse in Psalm 34:5 (ESV):

“Those who look to Him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.”

The shame the Enemy wanted to use to keep me in fear, crumbling in the corner of life, barely hanging on, has been defeated through looking to the God of my story. Thus, I declare to the darkness that it cannot have me!

Shame goes back as far as that first fallen choice. Therefore, as God sets about to redeem this broken world, shame is one of the last enemies to be fought. If we, the people of God, can deal with our hidden shame by the honest, vulnerable telling of our stories, then this enemy doesn’t stand a chance.

We utterly overcome through the blood of the Lamb, that perfect one who stands in every gaping whole of our shame, both personal and collective, resolutely declaring, ‘No more!’ He holds us tenderly at any point when we are weary from the fight, and through that love, we find the strength to keep overcoming.

Friend, I don’t know where my words find you today. Are you dying of that awful cloaking shame, standing in the corner, broken, in the space of your life? Are a million seeming failures towering before you, leaving you cowering?

I offer you life, free of shame, through the God who treasures you and loves you beyond all description. No matter what place in the world you are, His love is right there along with His abiding presence. He has come to give you life and wants to bring all of your struggles into his healing light.

I know your struggles could be so deep, you see no way to fix them. I know there are things which could, at least for now, take you out of ministry as a missionary. And yes, that shame, it may be speaking the most perverse lies to you constantly, declaring itself king of your story.

But, He is ever greater. He is the light of the world, covering this whole planet with indestructible light, ‘upholding the universe by the word of His power.’ He is searching for you, wherever you are, to give you true life–the overcoming life.

Trust in Him in fresh ways today. He wants to take the full truth of your story and change the world through it, as he heals your shame. Let him, my friend, let Him.

You don’t have to put your story out there for the whole world to read and dissect. But, if you want the overcoming life, you need to find that one safe person and become vulnerable with them. There is barely a pain greater than the one of silent shame. Ask me how I know.

You are made for so much more.

And I am coming to you, from a rare dreary day in Florida, as someone who has both hidden in shame and overcome it through the telling of my story.

There is only one true choice. Choose the shame-free life today. I am cheering you on.

Don’t Lose Heart

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These are days of upheaval, vulnerability for ourselves and those we love all over the world, repatriating or extended leaves. It can be difficult to feel God’s love in action for ourselves and those who we see who need it most.

These are days of a wondering begging to be voiced, ‘Where are you, God?’ Or “Do you really intimately care about this world?”

As I was reading Zechariah 8, one of those hopeful, desire-of-your-heart visions the prophets of the Bible sometimes get to share, it seemed like fresh rain on dry and weary land. It offered me great hope.

And I knew this message was for you, my expat friend, who loves people and places so much, it pulses with every beat of your heart. Who doesn’t know where your ‘safe place’ is right now. Who longs for days of healing and restoration this world over.

(all quotes are from the Message paraphrase of the Bible, unless noted otherwise)

Zechariah 8: 1-2

“A Message from GOD-of-the-Angel-Armies:

I am zealous for Zion–I care! I am angry about Zion–I’m involved!” (emphasis mine)

Sometimes, especially amid global crisis and a world rife with tension, it can be easy to believe God isn’t intimate with the affairs of the people and places we love. Yet, He, the GOD-of-Angel-Armies, the strong one, is saying that He is. It is our imperative to anchor deeper and deeper into this and not forget.

Zechariah 8:3

A Message from GOD-of-the-Angel-Armies:

“I’ve come back to Zion, I’ve moved back to Jerusalem. Jerusalem’s New names will be Truth City, and Mountain of GOD-of-the-Angel-Armies.”

Wherever we are, we are Zion and God is coming back to us. We are being raised up in Truth as the Mountain of our God. He is building His Kingdom and the gates of Hell itself will not prevail against her!

Zechariah 8:6

A Message from GOD-of-the-Angel-Armies:

“Do the problems of returning and rebuilding by just a few survivors seem too much? But is anything too much for me? Not if I have my say.”

This speaks to a central lie with which the Enemy taunts those God would use. Are we too few? Can God really move in powerful ways when we feel alone? Here, He is staking His words on who He is, not who we are or the circumstances we are in. And friends, this stands true when you are far physically from a place and people you love and are left to fight as an intercessor. Nothing can thwart His ultimate will for His people.

Zechariah 8: 9-12

A Message from GOD-of-the-Angel-Armies

“Get a grip on things. Hold tight. you who are listening to what I say through the preaching of the prophets…We’ve come through a hard time…But things have changed.

Sowing and harvesting will resume,

Vines will grow grapes,

Gardens will flourish,

Dew and rain will make everything green.

Don’t lose heart. This is what I hear again and again for YOU today. God’s church remains in the world and while She does, there is a mission to accomplish. And, GOD-of-the-Angel-Armies has put all of Himself into it.

I think of another chapter 8:

“If God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing Himself to the worst by sending His own Son, is there anything else He wouldn’t gladly and freely do for us?” Romans 8:32

These are days which are testing us, our own hope in our own lives. How much more do they test our hope for the people and places we love?

Yet, GOD-of-the-Angel-Armies.

Again and again He speaks after disaster will come times of renewal, gathering, fulfillment of promise. And One Day, dare I say ‘soon, so soon’ will come the ultimate gathering of all of God’s people through all time and history, from every kindred, tongue, tribe and nation. It is not ‘if’ but ‘when’.

Until the day we are face to face, when either we are called home or meet the Lord upon His return, beloved of GOD-of-the-Angel-Armies, don’t lose heart.

The Tempest of Shifting Identities

Spiritual identity means we are not what we do or what people say about us. And we are not what we have. We are the beloved daughters and sons of God.’ ~Henri Nouwen

My first cross-cultural experience was not overseas, but rather when I spent the summer in inner-city Kensington, Philadelphia. With a 90 percent Latino and African-American population combined, I was easily noticeable with my blonde hair and fair complexion. As I walked the streets, only in daylight, the burnt out cars and chain link fences seemed an infinite distance from the dairy farm where I lived as a child.

Yet my desire was strong to connect with the people, and especially the children, with whom I worked. I took on a ‘gregarious fun girl’ persona that summer. Although I left far too quickly, my insular identity of a white girl from the country forever shifted as my heart melded to the plight of urban youth.

Now, 26 years later, that restless identity from a summer of immersion in another culture still remains. I want to be known, accepted, trusted by all races, especially the children. I want them to almost instinctively know I am for them. This identity came on quickly and fiercely, and determined to stay.

Freshly changed by that summer, I went to Barcelona, Spain for a study abroad program. Still working through my first major shift of cultural thinking, I didn’t know what to do with the gorgeous architecture, and rich Spanish and Catalan heritage which many people dream to see and experience. I hiked the hills of the city and marveled at the compelling vista. Then I would pray for the precious children who had changed me forever. I’d feel the angst of the ‘here’ and ‘there’, as the world of my summer and fall seemed infinitely distant from one another.

Yet, I let Barcelona change me too. It was much harder to find a place in the hearts of those around me with their material, metropolitan lives. But, I did. And with it, as I returned home, I found myself in the tempest of yet another identity shift.

Each opportunity I had in the subsequent years, whether Mexico, Honduras, or a small, predominantly Dutch town in Massachusetts, whirled my various experiential identities a little more. There was no stopping it. Either I remained separate from the people, which was never a possibility for me, or I fully, deeply identified with them. Halfway was not an option.

If you’ve spent any significant time in another culture, you know it is impossible to maintain this level of identification. It is a quick recipe for burnout. Not to mention, the identity we are intended to have, is something that must go beyond all of the cultures and callings of the world, to the very heart of God.

The term ‘identity’ is used so often and in many different contexts that it can lose its meaning. But the overarching truth is we all have many layers of identity, or facets of who we are, which form over time. They are personal, cultural, and missional, just to name a few. Our journey is to learn how to walk out our identity with integrity, landing ultimately in the only place, or way of being, we are made to fit forever.

What I have shared of my own identity-shifting is from my single years. For me, these years screamed loudly, ‘You must save them all! Who else do you have to pour into? Give it all to them!’

Then, my Mom died and some of my heart went forever to Heaven. I had prayed earnestly for her healing. Now, I didn’t know who I could save. I felt withered of spirit. And yes, it was another tempest of changing identities.

Just one year after my mama died, I got married. Two years after this, my husband and I went to Hungary for a year internship. It was a beautiful year, but it was also confusing. I loved the Hungarian students we worked with, but not like those first kids in Philadelphia. And, now I was a wife, a newlywed. What on earth was my identity?

It is telling how I remember saying often at the end of our internship, as we pursued long-term staff with Cru: ‘Before God, I cannot let my husband get off this path!’ It was the passionate loyalty of a wife speaking, but it also showed how lost I was to my own calling. All I could acknowledge was his.

And this was a type of identity wilderness–the swirling about of all I had thought to be and now none of it fit. I wandered in this desert for many years. I became a Mom and was able to engage less and less in ministry. There was grace for this, as home is so very important. Yet, I had stopped seeking a robust identity–a soulful purpose for which I was made to live. I could have told you all of the right answers about my identity being in Christ, the importance of my role as a wife and mother, but the tempest raged.

When we moved overseas long-term, I was three months pregnant with our third child. I knew, even though we were going back to Hungary, it would be like we’d never been before. The skills I needed to be a successful mom were far different from those needed to reach high school students. There were victories, for sure, but, there was also much fumbling and gasping for air. My already nearly non-existent identity–or confidence and sense of self– whipped around me with much insecurity and striving grasping for it.

I couldn’t have predicted what would come next. I went crazy three years into our time. I spent two weeks in the mental ward of a Hungarian hospital. My lack of true identity, my burnt out heart, and a hereditary strain of mental illness all caught up with me.

As I have fought hard to put the pieces of myself back together, I am learning my true identity all over again. But somehow, now, it is in a much deeper way. I don’t want to discount my life before my mental breakdown, it is a large and significant part of my forever story. But, this time, after the diagnosis of bipolar disorder, I am finding a whole new way of being, one I never really had before.

It’s an identity anchored fully in the love of God. 

It’s easier for me to surrender plans and dreams because I have found the embrace of God, the one thing I can’t live without, on the other side of losing nearly everything. So, it’s easier to come to that place where only God can hold me. It’s easier to gut out the insides, with their junky false identity pieces that remain, because of their stark contrast to the unconditional acceptance of God. And as I rest in God, it’s easier to feel the freedom to keep exploring the things God may have for me to do and be in this life.

So, I offer this encouragement. If you have struggled with the tempest of shifting identities, you are not alone. As you are stretched and looking for things to hold onto, hear my testimony.

At the beginning of all things is God, at the end of all things is God, in the midst of all things is God.

Crawl into his Abba Daddy lap, receive the embrace of the Son and let the Spirit envelop you. No matter how many swirling, hovering identities you have had in your life, this is the only true forever one. Find this place often and become truly identified, known, as the beloved of God.

How to Care Well for MK’s {An Interview With an Expert}

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Picture taken from the MK2MK website, Summer Missions page

I think of Donna Kushner as a hero. She is a champion of MK’s and TCK’S, their stories, journeys and life struggles. She was so moved by the need to care for MK’s better, she pioneered a ministry called MK2MK (Missionary Kid to Missionary Kid) under the umbrella of Cru, officially forming in 2000. Since then, she has touched the lives of thousands of MK’s making them feel seen, known and truly loved.

Donna was so kind to take the time to answer a few questions about her work as well as give insight into MK’s and their families. She is available to answer any question you might have about caring for MK’s. She would also be an outstanding mentor if you would like to begin a ministry like hers for your missions or ex-pat organization. Just comment here or e-mail her at donna.kushner@cru.org.

Could you tell us a little about yourself, your family and where you have served as a missionary?

I grew up in California and came to Christ as a freshman in high school, when a friend in PE class invited me to a Bible study for teenagers. I had never heard the gospel and was ripe fruit, having just experienced the painful divorce of my parents. This was in the Jesus people era, and we were passionate about sharing the gospel. So missions was a natural outflow of my early Christian experience.

My first mission trip was the summer after I graduated from high school, I went to Italy with Operation Mobilization which, back in the day, was rugged with a strong focus on prayer. It was there that God called me into full-time ministry. My husband and I later served in the Middle East and France working with Arab students for ten years. When we returned from overseas, we joined a team focused on training missionaries. I developed a program to train the kids/teenagers as well as sessions for parents about raising children cross-culturally. MK2MK grew out of that program. 

What is the purpose of MK2MK?

The core of all that MK2MK does is based on the idea that MK’s understand each other’s experiences. Therefore, they are able to connect and minister to each other in unique ways.  We want to empower young adult MK’s to come alongside younger MK’s in discipleship, as well as help them navigate the challenges of identity, transition and grief. 

Why did you begin the ministry of MK2MK?

When we returned from overseas, our oldest daughter was 13. At that point, Cru did not have any resources to help teenagers navigate this huge transition. It was a challenging time for her, as well as for us as parents. A year after our return, we were invited to organize a four day debrief for teenagers whose families were returning. We saw a need and said yes. At that time I would say the landscape of MK care was like a desert. My husband and I were given the opportunity to change that and knew God was calling us to do it. 

Would you briefly describe this ministry?

MK2MK is a ministry of Cru that focuses on providing, what we call, a ‘flow of care’ for MKs from the point when their parents decide to move overseas until they have completed their transition back to the US (or wherever their passport country is). This includes cross-cultural training (we have a team that runs children and teen programs at the venues where staff are trained), field visits, discipleship, conferences for kids and teens on the field, debrief conferences and mission trips.

MK2MK is able to achieve this flow of care, because our methodology of training college-aged MK’s through a summer internship program provides a strong volunteer base that is able to assist the long-term MK2MK team with the ministry. MK2MK serves not only Cru MK’s but also MK’s from many other organizations through our month-long mission trips. (learn more here: https://mk2mk.org/summerinternship)

What are the most important things you have learned about missionary kids over the years?

Missionary Kids are some of my absolute favorite people!  They have challenges that are unique to their life experiences and they have benefits as well. Sometimes these experiences have drawn them to Jesus and other times they have pushed them away. My heart has always been to be a person who will advocate for them and give them the opportunity to use their voice especially when that voice is being muted or ignored. I have found that when an MK has the opportunity to experience the community of Third Culture Kids it is usually transformational for them. It helps them integrate the parts of their world and provides a sense of belonging that is so important for us as human beings. 

What are the most important things you have learned about missionary families over the years?

Every family is unique, and most every missionary parent is doing the best they know how to raise their children. Missionary families have the same challenges as other families. Pretty much everything you see outside the missionary community you will also find within the missionary family context–except it may be more hidden because there is so much pressure living in the ‘fishbowl’. Working on having a healthy marriage and inviting your kids into the ministry you are doing are the most essential things for missionary parents to be thinking about. 

If you could sit down with every MK, what would you most want to tell them?

You ultimately own your MK experience. You can resent it or embrace it. God is crazy about you for who you ARE not for what you do. He understands every part of your MK experience, including the pressures you feel and the doubts you may wrestle with. He is OK with you bringing those to Him. In fact, He welcomes it. There are people, like the staff of MK2MK, who care deeply about you and desire to welcome you into MK community.  

If you could sit down with every parent of an MK, what would you most want to tell them?

Your child/teen needs time with you that is 100% focused, so put the phone down (as far away as possible, at the other end of the house!), put the work down and give them your time and attention. The ministry will always be there, but they are only with you for such a short time. I have had so many teens tell me that they wish their parents would put their phone down. They might not tell you this but they all feel it. Children are resilient but just like a rubber band, they CAN break. Be prayerful about how much you expect and how resilient you expect them to be. Your child’s story is their story. Just like you, as a parent, needed to find your own way, so they need to find theirs. They will make their own choices and some may be painful for you. But it is their story not yours. 

If anyone would want to start a ministry like MK2MK within their mission, how would you advise them?

First, I would say GO FOR IT! There are incredible needs and opportunities to minister to MK’s. if you want help feel free to e-mail me (donna.kushner@cru.org). As far as how to start, I think it is important to connect with leaders within your organization AND connect with parents and teenagers.  Engage leaders who have children and teenagers as they will likely have a felt need for ministry to their kids. Find a mentor from an organization that you respect. I reached out to David Pollock, author of Third Culture Kids. Get time with them to learn what they did. Read as much as you can and become an expert on MK’s and missionary family care. 

Is there anything else you would like to share with the ALO community?

Our children are 100% of the future. In my opinion, it is the responsibility of every ministry to ensure that they have a robust MK care ministry. We can gain the whole world, but if we lose our kids it is all for nothing. 

Thank you Donna, for sharing your heart and passion. As Donna said, please don’t hesitate to reach out to her with any questions and/or the desire to develop MK/TCK and missionary family care in your sphere of influence!

The Exvangelical Movement and Why I Will Always Love the Church

I didn’t even know about the exvangelical movement until about a week ago, when I read about this former pastor’s leaving of the faith. I have now read enough to have some context for the term exvangelical. I have enough compassion to want to hear every story of every person who has entered into it. And I have enough history with evangelicalism to leave it for good.

When I was a little girl of ten, someone I loved and respected very much, told me I should think about whether or not I ought to be praying out loud during our weekly prayer meetings, since I was a girl. It hurt so badly and felt so confusing. But my Dad, a prayer warrior who loved his little girl, told me to not listen to this–I needed to pray. And I needed to love the Church.

And I have. Even when I sought a job as a youth director at the church where I was a youth intern and was told I couldn’t fill the position because I was a woman. I kept praying and kept loving the Church.

When, in genuine love and concern, many of my conservative friends and family thought it was wrong for me to pursue a Master of Divinity as a woman, I understood where they were coming from, forgave and kept loving the Church.

In recent years, I have experienced marginalization, even mistreatment, and much misunderstanding as someone who is diagnosed with the mental illness, bipolar disorder.

Why? For all that is good and right, would I keep loving the Church?

Because it is the Church with a capital ‘C’. It’s the distinction I make, from church with a lowercase ‘c’. The church is the one which has acted so imperfectly it’s hard to find Jesus in it. But the Church is the one I will always love. She calls forth the undying love of the Great Bridegroom as He names her Bride. This Church is the One Jesus laid down His life for, and the One He promises to claim for His very own at the end of all things.

This Church cannot ever be confused with the all-too-often societal, political and misguided world of evangelicalism. Yet much that is beautiful and true of the coming Bride is found within the faithful hearts of evangelicals, and the lovers of Jesus worldwide.

I truly find it sad many exvangelicals have fully detached themselves not only from evangelicalism but the faith itself. It is my weeping heart desire that, till all is said and done, many final chapters of Homecoming to the arms of Jesus will be written.

Knowing that many are leaving evangelicalism marked by deep pain, how can I keep loving the Church? Because She is God’s covenant people. You see, evangelicalism is not the Church and the Church is not evangelicalism. Like Israel of old, evangelicalism is a whore who runs after false gods. Power. Materialism. Superiority. But there is a blueprint even for this. The Bridegroom betroths her to Himself forever, naming her His Bride, the one He owns and will perfect even at the height of her chasing after the idols, the Baals.

As a part of the Church, I am also a spiritual whore. I have loved many other things, often above God. I have craved power, prestige, position. I have wanted to be served rather than to serve. I have denied the heart of my Savior, my Bridegroom, who freely gave His own spotless life for His Bride. Yet, He promises to forever bring me Home and all who are His own, the Church.

This is where I find those who leave the Church, and too the faith, lose their way. It is a meta-narrative, a grand story, of which we are all a part. History repeats itself and we are either the true worshiper or the idolater. We can become the very thing we promised to never be if we forget where we’ve been and where we’re going.

We’ve all been there. I cannot imagine even one person who has grown up in a church not being wounded deeply by it. I can’t imagine someone who hasn’t been pierced by a loved one who believed differently and held up the Bible, full or righteousness, to prove it. And not for one teeny, tiny moment do I want to imply that there is someone who hasn’t been truly beaten up where they should have been loved, cared for and protected.

Yet, the Church.

I don’t know what has come first for exvangelicals. Is it the wounding, trauma and subsequent disillusionment, or a rejection of the person and truth of Jesus? I want to know, so if you are reading this, please tell me.

It’s so hard for me to believe that the rejection of Jesus comes first. I think the tainting of the church that is full of evangelicalism precedes all other things. Then, there is simply sifting fingers through a lot of sandy ‘truths’, ‘values’, ‘positions’ and yes, people, and wondering what possibly can be kept?

I don’t have a lot of answers, but I do have one. Jesus is Faithful and True. He is the rider on the white horse coming for His very own Church, His Bride, soon. He promises this on the basis of his life, death and resurrection–completing the fullness of redemption for this whole fallen world. I can no sooner reject this than reject everything he says and everything the Bible says about Him.

I proudly stake my all on this truth–He is coming for his very own and so very soon. It is the worst time in history to give up on His Church, when all is coming together–the fulfillment of all things.

So take my hand. Let’s join together and love His Church. Let’s recognize we are His Bride and be the ones awake, the ones making ourselves ready. Let’s stay strong amid all of the complexities, the issues, the evangelical imperfect construct, and never, ever stop loving.

 

An Open Letter to My Younger Missionary Mom Self

Dear One,

I want to reach my arms across time and gently caress your shoulders. I’ll lift your head to look in my eyes and say, ‘these shoulders were not meant to carry the weight of the world.’ The hands of the God who treasures you were. You feel responsible for everything and everyone. You feel the pressure to feed and clothe and keep smiles on all your people. And yes, it seems it’s up to you to keep them all alive. You want to be the perfect wife—supporting your husband in every way, while somehow finding time to enter the ministry. At any moment, if you let go of all you do as the barometer, the anchor, of the home, you are sure it will fall apart. But, dear one, the aching heart of God is longing for you to let go, because He has something beautiful for you. He has JOY for you. Yet you cannot receive that joy when you are carrying so much else. So, come weary one and take the easy yoke and light burden Jesus is offering with those wide-open arms.

It’s hard to believe, but nothing you do is insignificant. In those months right after you arrive, when you are trying to acclimate, learn the language, become re-acquainted with public transportation, settle in AND you are pregnant, you are incredibly significant. And a few months later, when the baby comes, and you can’t do much of anything but take care of this little life, you are so significant. You don’t need to be worrying about learning the language, driving, discipling, or cooking. You just need to be with your baby and your other children, and yes, your hubby too. Let your family cocoon for a while. I promise you will gain the strength needed to tackle anything that comes—one thing at a time. Your every breath is truly significant. So take some deep ones and enjoy the simple things.

I know. You are a missionary in another culture, so you want to immerse fully. This is important. But it’s okay to lean on the Ex-pat community. Dig deep into life-giving relationships there. Pray and ask the Lord for just what you need as you acclimate to life. He will show you. Trust yourself. If it’s in you to learn the language, you will. Don’t worry that relationships with English speakers will keep you from this. They are likely on the same journey, and you can encourage one another. Just be free to find the relationships you need. You are building for a lifetime, not a year or two where you try to cram in all your learning. So, give yourself tons of grace as you take it all one step at a time.

Gather morsels of wisdom wherever you can. Learn from everyone about everything in life. Interview them. Keep a journal of notes so you don’t forget. Sometimes people don’t remember what it’s like to be new. Don’t let this discourage you. Seek out a mentor and, when you find one, don’t let her go. If at first you struggle to find someone, know that many have been there. Pray and don’t lose heart. She will be found and has much to teach you. She’s got big things for you, like when she wanted to quit and how she worked through this. And she knows little things too–like how when you travel you can never have enough of those flimsy grocery store bags which you never want unless you are on the road. Your life is about the big and the little things. And God has made you to learn from others.

You are the quintessential seed-planter. You are sowing unto a great harvest, one day. That day may not be until Heaven, so don’t grow weary in doing well. As you build relationships with nationals, enjoy the smiles of the flower lady while you learn how to understand ‘your children are adorable.’ And you can reply, ‘thank you so much.’ When you ask the butcher ‘how is your family?’ after you have mastered ‘one pound of ground beef, please,’ this is seed-planting. Then you ride the bus as a family and you befriend the student who gave up her seat for your kids–this is a significant thing. And your kids? Every moment holds the weight of glory. Each time you sit down on the hardwood floor to play Legos or Polly Pockets is the thing which cannot be taken away from you. And the bedtime stories? Priceless. The tiny prayers and the tender holds all form an embrace of security which will grow your children strong.

It can be so hard to connect with the Lord. Life is full and there’s so much to do and learn. But you must find a favorite spot to get away and be with God. Look for a café, or park bench, or fountain, or walking path. Schedule time to go and be away with Jesus. It can all get so confusing. You’ve worked so hard to get to your overseas home. So, of course, you need to do the missionary work of settling in, and developing ministry through church and home. But the full truth is God is more concerned with you, your heart, than anything you will ever do for Him. He has led you halfway around the world to bring you Home. Home to His heart. The God of the Universe is full-on pursuing you. So, don’t let the overwhelming busyness and awkwardness of your missionary life distract you from what’s most important. Please dear one, I don’t say this to condemn you, but to invite you to the luxurious gift of time in His presence. I promise you won’t regret it.

Let go of your fears. God has you in His hands. He is the author of your story and the stories of everyone in your family. You can send your mind into an anxiety-laced swirl thinking about what could happen. Just say ‘no’ to this. You may do it a thousand times a day, but the answer is always the same. Come what may, you will be an overcomer. And dear one, please know, if your great fear of not being able to make it, and for some reason having to return home, comes true, it is ok. Yes, it is ok. Because your life is a golden thread of redemption. There is nothing which could happen that He won’t make completely new and cause to shine brighter and brighter until the full light of day. This is the God He is and the One you want your life to glorify, no matter what.

In the end I want to pour out my heart to you, because you are simply amazing. You have no idea how exquisitely beautiful, truly capable, utterly courageous and fully powerful you are. You doubt yourself, your worth, so much. It breaks my heart and God’s heart. Receive the love which gave up all its heavenly grandeur to become low and so bring you high to where He now reigns. He has placed His life in you. You shine forth His beauty and it is glorious. You are glorious, a wonder who has laid down her life to follow Him. He sees every bit of who you are and declares it gorgeous. You are precious in His eyes and honored and He loves you. He longs to wrap you in the tenderest of embraces. Let Him, dear one.

All my love,

Your Older Self

Does Any of It Belong to Us?

Antigua Guatemala

“The moment that you think something you do belongs to you, you lose the way.” – Rigoberta Menchu

It was when I was in my senior Latin American Culture class, as I read ‘I Rigoberta’, that I discovered this quote. Since my copy of the book was in Spanish, I looked for the exact same spot in an English translation so I could share it, in the same essence, with others.

It was as if I had found the holy grail—a way to navigate my own journey.

Since that senior level class, 23 years have passed. I have had roughly seven jobs in teaching and Christian ministry. I have spent four and a half years living in and studying another culture. I have moved 12 times and spent time all in-between in transition. I said goodbye to my Mama. I said hello to hundreds of new friends.

Like a weathered, leather-bound classic, this quote has stayed with me. I printed and laminated it for my Spanish students because I wanted them to remember. I shared it on my own blog a few years ago because the world needs to know. And I write about it now, to you, because its something that will preserve you if you lean into it.

To lean into these words is to guard our hearts from the seductive ways of possession. It provides accountability when we all-too-easily fall into the trap that things we do (or make or have) belong to us. It is a safeguard to a wilderness of our own making, where we wander, lost and out of touch with God and others.

Am I overstating things here?

I don’t think so. What happens when we lose our job? A child is sick or rebels? The church or ministry is not growing? The bitter fruit of our faulty understanding shows we have lost the way. We get angry. We become depressed. We get lost—numbing our minds and bodies and hearts to the pain.

It’s the oldest trap of all. Laced through all of our stories set in this fallen world. Didn’t Eve somehow believe that the tree, the choice, belonged to her? In an instant she lost the way. This is the inheritance of humanity and something we all must come to see.

But what if we learn to ‘keep the way’?

It was almost exactly four years ago when I had an extreme episode of hyper-mania (a symptom of bipolar disorder). I lay in that communist-style hospital, my basic dignity, ministry and home stripped away. In unspeakably hard ways, I was learning that none of it truly belonged to me. And too, that all of it, belongs to God.

So, as I walked the next days, I began to sense it was the Lord’s desire that I share my journey with bipolar disorder, openly, for all the world to read. I was terrified. I already felt so vulnerable. How could I do this?

Because not even this very personal journey truly belongs to me. If I open myself up to share my story, I create a space for the Spirit to work through my life. If I let go of the label being stuck on me, or my weakness being how people define me, then I can walk through a door called Redemption. I can see how courage inspires courage. I can find others who want this posture to define their story too. Together, we become something all together new, all together God’s.

I love more than this quote. I love, admire and respect Rigoberta Menchu’s life and story.

After her family had been killed in horrific ways, in exile, she narrated ‘I Rigoberta’ to Elizabeth Burgos. She could easily have held the anger and pain to herself, but she didn’t. She shared her story because it wasn’t ultimately hers alone. It belonged to the people of Guatemala, and to all of humanity.

But in the end, it is how this quote speaks to One Life extraordinarily. When the Son of God laid down all of His heavenly grandeur—the worship, the riches, the glory, the perfect relationship with the Father—He said it didn’t belong to Him. But it did! He had every right to claim it all. But he didn’t. He never, for one moment, lost the way. And in so doing, He made a way for us all.

Does Forgiveness Seem Impossible?

“Forgiveness is the name of love practiced among people who love poorly. The hard truth is that all people love poorly. We need to forgive and be forgiven every day, every hour increasingly. That is the great work of love among the fellowship of the weak that is the human family.”

― Henri J.M. Nouwen

We all know the feeling. The one that lurks around the dark corners of the heart and threatens to choke. It’s obscene, yet like the Great Deceiver masquerades as an Angel of Light. It beckons and says ‘cling to me, to this hard thing in you, for it will make you strong.’ It promises to forge a path to freedom only to encircle with chains. It’s insidious just like the sin which weaves all through us. And the only way to be free of this darkness is to walk this path of forgiveness. But how? It just seems utterly impossible.

When I comb through the pages of my life story I see the ugly places. I see where the hardness rooted deep within. For me it was the mother I loved deeply. Yet I hated how her sadness and unmet expectations bound me to living my life to bring her happiness. It was the friend who broke my heart when he couldn’t give me the love I craved. It was the teammate, the leader, the sister in Christ who seemed to never really ‘see’ me. The slights added up and stuffed the love channels of my heart until I could barely breathe.

How can we truly ever forgive? Especially, I have found, when the other doesn’t ask for forgiveness or believe they ever wronged us. At the end of the day, it’s like a very deep pit which can bury alive. When the hot, hard breaths begin, we cry out for Life.

Have you been there dear friend? Are you there now? How are you responding? Are you shoving it all back down and motoring on in busyness? Are you languishing and nursing the hurt? Are you waiting for the chance to retaliate? Do you really even know what is going on inside? It is my prayer that, through reading this, we will all begin to see where we lack forgiveness and then, how we can forgive.

“To forgive another person from the heart is an act of liberation.” -Henri J.M. Nouwen

It is important to see that forgiveness is ultimately a promise. It is a journey Home. It is a path we learn to walk which leads to the wholeness and the freedom we so deeply crave. The need to forgive and be forgiven is also something which defines our humanity. To be human is to hurt and be hurt. The alienation which is a part of the Fall touches us all and drives us apart from one another and from God. It is learning forgiveness which brings us back together.

And the power to forgive can only come through the Gospel.

Every summer I worked at the English Camp for our ministry in Hungary, I would meditate on Philippians 2:1-11. I knew the Enemy would be hard at work seeking to divide our team as we presented the Gospel to hundreds of students. It was transforming as I worked my way through each part of the passage.

Here are some of the parts which most stayed with me and relate to forgiveness: (passages paraphrased as I remember them)

‘If you have any encouragement in Christ’ (v.1) This whole learning process of becoming small, laying down our rights, looking into our own hearts on the path to unity, happens because of the encouragement of Christ in our lives. It’s a gentle pleading. ‘Will you walk this way because of what Jesus has given you?’ The beauty of this can melt our hearts and put us well on our way.

‘If you have any comfort from love’ (v.1) Has Christ’s love ever comforted us when we messed up or were hurt? We can no more deny this journey of forgiveness than we can His love for us.

Then make my joy complete by having the same love, being of one mind and of one accord.’(v.2) Paul’s joy being complete is a small reflection of God’s joy as we come together in one mind and one accord. So, as we long for God’s joy, we must long for forgiveness which brings reconciliation and unity.

‘Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourself’ (v.3)  Wow, is this ever hard! Yet it’s because of the encouragement and comfort we receive from Christ that we can do this. And too, this verse is calling our hearts to pause and ask ‘where is my selfish ambition or vain conceit’? A lack of forgiveness has an ugly root found in the decaying flesh of who we once were. The person that is dying but is not yet dead. It’s the self that longs for status, approval and to be the center of everything.

‘Let this mind be yours that was in Christ Jesus’ (v.5) Now it’s like that ‘Jesus take the wheel’ moment. “Ok, YOU show me how it’s done, because this is impossible.’

‘Who being the very nature God did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant’ (v.6-7) Wham! It always hits me. This one we look to left all of the glory of eternity, of God, to become nothing. And in his life, every single person hurt him. Whether it was the slighting of unending patronizing or the drama of hammering the nails into his hands and feet upon the cross. And yet, He forgave them all. And so much more, his entire life, death and resurrection was for the forgiveness of all. The unending betrayal of God himself was forgiven as far as the east is from the west.

‘And being found in human likeness, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.’ (v.7b-8) I am always amazed to really stop and think how Jesus had to learn obedience. The perfect life he lived was one of continually submitting his will to the Father’s, of learning to forgive. It is a great encouragement offered to us. As we follow him in the path of forgiveness, he is intimate with all of its details.

Do you see the beauty, friends? Forgiveness is what causes the contours of our hearts to become shaped like Jesus’ very own. It is a groaning, birthing process where new life is formed. Yet it is a dying way too where we let go of what cannot remain. And it is a road we all must follow as we journey Home.

I don’t want to seem like I am glibly speaking these things to you. My own road to forgiveness has been long and arduous. Yet by God’s grace, we can all be closer to perfect forgiveness today, than we were yesterday.

As I finish this post, I feel this urgency to speak it plain and clear. There are wounds, I can see them open and gaping. They are tearing apart families, teams and organizations. Only forgiveness will heal. Only the journey of a thousand miles we must begin with a single step. And it will only come through the supernatural reality of the God who took on flesh, embracing us and leading us to healing, wholeness and Home.

 

 

Can Prayer Really Move Mountains?

Do you answer ‘yes’ to the above question? Or, if you are honest, do you say ‘no’?

We know what God says–to call out to Him always. He says to come before Him alone and with others. He promises again and again to hear and do amazing things in our lives and the world.

Yet, we often miss it. How do we put away the guilt of not praying or believing like we’re ‘supposed’ to? How do we get passed our feelings that when we pray it seems like nothing happens? How do we begin afresh with wonder and faith? How do we take God at His word, at His promise, to hear and answer our prayers and yes, move mountains?

Here are some ways to begin on the journey:

  • Be inspired. Know the stories.

In Hungary, a country where I’ve been blessed to minister, there comes a prayer-inspiring story.

It was shortly after the Iron Curtain came down, when the doors were wide open and the spiritual vacuum vast.

The Cru staff in Hungary were having many, many in-depth, genuine, spiritual conversations. However, they began to be grieved as they were seeing very few people come to Christ. This led the leadership to call for a month of prayer in March of 1991. They pulled out of ministry, three days a week, at one of the most crucial ministry times of the year, to pray.

They saw several benefits after this including a 200% increase in those coming to Christ. They also experienced an awakening in prayer which would become a communal discipline.

In December of 1993 they met for another month of prayer. They prayed all day, confessing sins, their own and the country’s, and pleading with God for breakthrough in their ministry.

The following month, key leaders from the Cru ministry were introduced to a Hungarian minister of health charged with AIDS prevention for all of Hungary. Miracle after miracle happened until, in 1995, a Christian-based AIDS and drug prevention curriculum was launched in the secondary schools of Hungary through a partnership between Cru staff and the Hungarian government.

Since then, in Hungary alone, hundreds of thousands of young people have been exposed to the Gospel and given many moral directives for their lives. Now it is in 75 countries, in some it is called ‘Crossroads’, and only Heaven will show the impact.

All because God heard the prayers of those burdened for their country and host country, as they radically committed to come to Him. To read the whole story from Hungary, follow this link and read pp. 101-182

Have you heard these stories?

When one man, Moses, interceded for the entire Israelite people, and they were not destroyed?

How about Frank Laubauch whose practiced attentiveness to God led him on a journey which included a world-wide literacy campaign?

There are many more stories from a book called ‘Fireseeds’.

  • Be willing to sacrifice.

Every great move of God through prayer has come with sacrifice. Yet, what I have found in ministry and missions, is that, sadly, too often, we are not willing to sacrifice. Sometimes, like in Hungary, God is calling His people to give their work, essentially their ministry identity, to Him, so they can pray.

But the fury of questions holds us back. ‘What about all this ‘work’ I raised support and gave up so much to do?’ ‘Isn’t praying lazy, when I could be ministering here or there?’ ‘Will God even hear? I feel like I have been praying and things seem even worse.’ And there’s a host of other things.

We are held back, too, by the forces of evil. So often, these don’t show themselves as clearly what they are. They are masked in things like busyness, success, desire for self-worth in what we do. Prayer forces us to deal with everything that keeps us from God. It challenges our core belief of who is really in control. So, here, it is the sacrifice, often of our self-reliance, which is needed for us to draw close to God.

Whether rising early, traveling far, staying awake through the watches of the night, being willing to openly confess sin, letting go of the strategies and plans of people, or in many other ways, we are called to sacrifice. And, as with all things, God’s plan is to give us ‘immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine’ as we come to Him.

  • Draw your line in the sand.

In my early to mid-twenties, when I thought I could save the world, I remember making a type of vow. It went like this, ‘Lord, if you took away all of my other gifts and abilities and just let me pray, I would do it with all of my heart and be thankful.’

It was strangely prophetic. In my journey of the past three and a half years, I have seen my identity, and basic sense of competency taken away. Yet, through it all, my prayer life has only gotten stronger. So that many times, whether morning, noon, or in the watches of the night, all I find myself doing is praying.

I don’t share to say ‘hey, look at me…praying!’ But, I do humbly share, the grief and burden of my heart for this broken world is pressing upon me as never before. In many ways, it is because I have come close to death and know the time is short and eternity so close for all of us.

I raise the banner high and yes, draw that line in the sand. Because I believe God can give any one of us the faith to move mountains, to see a whole, wide world come to know Him, simply because we pray and believe.

  • Don’t lose heart.

 If I could look you in the eyes, I would plead with you to ‘not lose heart.’ If God has burdened you to pray, then pray. Even if no one will pray with you, still…pray. It can be lonely. But, truly, there is nothing more beautiful than prayer.

I remember sixteen years ago, after my mom had just died, I was living with my father. His heart was hurting so terribly, but he rose daily to pray. He prayed in the midst of great pain, as he had done each morning for as long as I could remember. Because of this, the constancy of his prayer life has never wavered.

Today, he prays daily for revival. He intercedes for this lost world that God would rend the Heavens and come down. He prays with all the faith of years of believing in God’s goodness. I believe God WILL hear his prayers and what a day that will be!

It’s true. Life hits us hard. It’s tough to keep breathing, sometimes impossible to stand. But we can always fall to our knees. We can always lay prostrate. We can always cry out to God. These are often the most moving supplications to God’s ears. He’s the Abba Father and He longs for our prayers.

It’s easy to let your heart be hardened. It’s easy to get jaded. It’s easy to have unbelief creep in until it’s a molded cast over your spirit. It’s a broken world and depending on where you read this from, so very, very broken.

But still, I say, ‘don’t lose heart.’ It’s your heartbeat on the line and because of that, it’s Heaven’s and Earth’s heartbeat yearning to be sound and whole forever. What if we all come to see that it’s do or die, life or death, faith or unbelief, God’s Spirit at work or silenced? Mountains would be moved, nations healed and the Kingdom of God ushered in.

Do you have a mustard seed of faith, a child-like trust, a spark which can light up this whole wide world? Yes, I believe you, you and you do. Yes, I believe today, right now, is the time to start praying like you mean it, like God and all His promises are real. Together we can lift the weary on eagle’s wings and see the nations come to Him. Together we can turn the tide and raise the banner of hope. Together we can.