When the lights go out

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I want to do all the things. All the very good things there are to do in this world. So I overcommit myself. I don’t say “no.” I say “yes” instead, and spread myself too thin. Then my soul suffers. My work suffers. My sanity suffers. My family life suffers. My spiritual life suffers.

I suffer in silence, thinking I’m all alone. I’m the only one failing at everything. I’m the only one who can’t pull it together. I’m the only one who can’t catch my breath, who can’t catch up on work, who can’t catch up on school, who can’t catch up with friends, who can’t catch up with the God I say I love so very much.

And I, insecure missionary blogger that I am, am afraid to tell people.

To top all that off, the heat in Southeast Asia has been crushing me. The past two months have held record highs here, and we get a lot of power cuts. I echo Ramona Quimby in Ramona the Brave who shouted out “Guts! Guts guts guts!” when she wanted to say bad words. Instead, I yell “Cuts! Cuts cuts cuts!” and very nearly lose my mind.

After one particularly grueling 12-hour all-night power outage, something inside me broke — flat out broke. I lost my hope. I began to question everything. Why are we here? Why can’t we live in America? Why exactly do I serve this God of mine? And where the heck is He when I can barely sleep or even breathe in this heat?

I was struggling under the weight of all the expectations I had for myself: be a good mom, be a good wife, be a good home educator, be a good missionary, be a good team leader’s wife, be a good friend, be a good writer, be a good editor, be a good Christ-follower. And I couldn’t do any of it.

(If there’s one thing that overnight power outage taught me, it’s this: I am not nearly as good a person as I thought I was. Cuts cuts cuts: bad words all around.)

Finally, finally, I asked for prayers. I asked my closest friends and family in the States. I asked my teammates. I asked a few women in my organization. Then I confided my struggles to some other home school moms in my city.

I was met on so many levels by “me too.” I went from being alone to being supported. I went from drowning in my despair of cross-cultural servitude to feeling supernaturally upheld.

The next time the power went out in the middle of the night, I didn’t curse this land or this life or this electrical grid. I didn’t panic. I stayed calm and waited. I sang a worship song (which shocked even myself). I retained my sanity and my faith — something that could only have happened because people were praying for me.

The next day I remember waking up and thinking, seriously? Seriously? Is that really all I had to do? Ask for prayer? Why did I keep my struggles to myself for so long? Why did I think I had to hide? What kind of appearance did I think I needed to keep up anyway? Why did I think I couldn’t ask? Help came fast when I asked.

I spun my hopelessness wheels for too long. But I’ve learned again that I can ask. I can ask for prayer sooner rather than later — and so can you.

So today, if you’re spinning your hopelessness wheels, if you’re afraid to confide in someone or ask for prayer or even for practical help, can I encourage you to ask? Just ask. The God of the universe is here to help. The Body of Christ is here to help. Help is right here waiting, even when the lights go out and we find ourselves in the dark.

All we have to do is ask.

I Believe, Help My Unbelief

In work, ministry, and life we all experience frequent seasons when things don’t work out quite the way we had hoped.

In missions, our internal dialogues consist of “Am I making a difference?” or “Will these things ever change?”

When we are trusting for provision, for a breakthrough in our health, or seeing a life changed, there is very fine line between losing hope or accepting the limitations of the change that will happen, all while still believing in a God who could do the unexpected.

We’ve all heard the stories where people are told to “just have faith”. I personally have seen a friend who was told her father died because of a lack of faith.

Is that the answer? More faith?

This year has brought several of these challenges to our family. Ministry disappointment, divorce of those close to us, and various health related issues.

We found ourselves wrestling with the delicate blend of serving an all-powerful God on a broken and imperfect planet. Sometimes this process results in times of throwing up your hands, wondering what is happening.

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A passage of Scripture has been in the forefront of my thoughts for a few months. It seems to reflect this very tension.

In Mark 9:14-29, Jesus heals a boy with an unclean spirit. In the dialogue which preceded the healing, Jesus asked the boy’s father how long this has been happening? The fathers respond with,

“But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”

Jesus points out the key word in the father’s statement.

“IF”

“And Jesus said to him, “If you can! All things are possible for one who believes.”

How many times in the depths of frustration do we catch ourselves uttering “If?”

We almost feel guilty for this. Of course Jesus can do it. He is God after all.

Yet in our humanity, we utter that two letter statement of doubt, often in fear of getting our hopes up.

“If.”

Not so much if you are capable, but if….

  • You will do this for me, not just others.
  • The provision happens in my bank account, not always my neighbors’.
  • The healing we see working in our communities will find its way into our own homes.

Yes, He can,…but will He break into a broken and fallen world and touch MY situation.

The father in the story utters a phrase which is so profound.

“Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”

I believe…..help my unbelief.

I believe in truth, I believe in principle, I believe in the unchanging character of the one I serve.

But…

Help my unbelief, which comes with emotion, fear, doubt, and weariness

As we turn to the New Year, it is good to do two things.

Acknowledge and be honest about…

  • the fears that our ministry will never achieve all we hope,
  • the doubts that God will answer OUR prayers (not just those of others),
  • the weariness which can border on frustration, tempting us to pack it in and go home

These are areas where we cry out to God to help our unbelief.

At the same time, we need to remind ourselves of what we DO believe.

  • I believe in the unchanging character of a good God.
  • I know God is on my side and working for my benefit.
  • I trust Immanuel, God with us, is not leaving us alone in this journey.

Acknowledge the unbelief and ask for help.

Remind ourselves of the truth which forms our foundation. (Preach it in the mirror!)

Take some time as the year wraps up to reflect and reset. We all need it.

I Believe….Help My Unbelief

 

Photo by Tiago Muraro

When You Have to Wash Seven Times

By Erin Duplechin

I was a city girl dropped suddenly into the jungle. It was 2013, the hardest year of my life. Our family of four had packed up and moved to Papua New Guinea and the transition hadn’t gone smoothly.

In addition to the two little people who depended on me for everything, culture shock had hit me hard. We lived in a house with a dirt floor for five weeks. I washed clothes and bathed in the river and cooked our meals over a fire.

I found myself in a culture that celebrated men and extroverts, of which I am neither. And my husband excelled in language and culture learning, while I was much slower.

The whole year was spent largely focusing on my children, their health, and their adjustment. They faced countless ailments as their bodies tried to ward off new and unfamiliar sicknesses.

Nine months in, we found ourselves in the hospital with our then two year old who had to have surgery in a place where the nurses didn’t wear rubber gloves and the floors were coated in the dust; this undid me.

When 2014 came though, it appeared as though we’d had some breakthrough and my kids seemed to have fully transitioned to life in Papua New Guinea. We were finally hopeful.

But, while my kids were doing well, I came to see that I was not. My energy had largely been focused on caring for my children, and I realized rather quickly that I had failed to take care of myself. Shortly after the new year, I had what I would later learn was a panic attack.

I had been in the middle of a conversation when my breathing suddenly quickened and I struggled to catch my breath. I lay down with silent tears streaming down my cheeks, waiting for my breathing to normalize and the chest pain to subside.

My eyes found my husband while he stroked my head and told me — and my two small children watching — that I was okay, that Mommy was going to be okay.

My body had had enough stress. I was like a bucket of water, full to the brim, and finally a small drop had caused the water to spill over. And it scared me.

I had never struggled with anxiety like this before. It made me feel more vulnerable than ever.

I wondered whether I’d continue to have panic attacks for the rest of my life? Would I need medication? What did these episodes say about me, my mental health, and my spiritual maturity?

Was I the girl that just couldn’t hack missionary life? Would I be one of those missionaries that left the States a spiritual giant, but came back a complete wreck?

Regardless of all these unanswered questions, I knew my body was trying to tell me that it couldn’t be strong anymore; it needed help, it needed to be cared for. And my heart and my soul needed rest too.

But I felt like a failure. I felt like Papua New Guinea had taken so much from me: my children’s safety, my comfort, my identity, and in return had given only malaria and heartache.

And I was in the company of other missionaries who had gone through harder things than I had, and some of them let me know it. I felt so indescribably weak and insufficient. I believed I was a failure and that everybody knew it.

I remember one day reading a dear friend’s text message: “You are being healed.”

“I don’t feel healed,” I responded.

There were days when I felt light and whole and days that were dark with the reality of my humanity, the knowledge that I was damaged and fragmented and that only God could repair the broken places.

She and I dialogued a bit about healing, and she reminded me of this story from II Kings 5:8-14:

“And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, ‘Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored, and you shall be clean.’ But Naaman was angry and went away, saying, ‘Behold, I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call upon the name of the LORD his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper. Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?’ So he turned and went away in a rage. But his servants came near and said to him, ‘My father, it is a great word the prophet has spoken to you; will you not do it? Has he actually said to you, “Wash, and be clean”?’ So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God, and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.”

My western mind is trained to want things fast and easy. How like Naaman I am; how I wish God would wave His hand and boom, Alakazam! — I’m fixed.

But the reality is that, more often than not, healing is slow, measured. It takes effort; you have to make a choice to get into the waters.

And sometimes you have to wash in the waters more than once.

There will be always be another area that needs healing. Always.

Because we are human and frail and because this isn’t our final destination, the road will always meet us with obstacles. People will disappoint us and hurt us. Circumstances will fail to meet our expectations. Our bodies will give out.

I was faced with a decision: go to the waters or stay where I was.

I remember closing my eyes and asking Jesus where He was. The picture immediately came to my mind: He was in the water. Not outside it, not waiting on the edge. No, He was in the water, beckoning me to come and join Him, a smile spread wide across His face.

And then came my revelation: Jesus wasn’t afraid of getting my dirt on Him.

When He heals, He is close and He doesn’t care if the water gets murky. He is the God-Man who wasn’t afraid of spit and a little dirt. He didn’t mind the bleeding woman grabbing his garment. His hands freely and willingly touched lepers. And when the harlot washed his feet He’d said it was beautiful.

He’ll touch you and me too. Because our issues and ailments are no match for His compassion and mercy. For it is His delight to heal, His utter joy to make things right.

So I went to the waters and said yes to the healing, with Jesus by my side. And I continue to go there with Him; I continue to give Him access to the broken places in me.

He’ll stay there with me until it’s finished, until all of me is restored.

Come everyone, come to the waters… Wash and be healed.

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Erin Duplechin is a missionary wife and mama of two living in Papua New Guinea. Before moving overseas, she served as a worship leader and continues singing and writing songs abroad. She writes regularly about God and jungle life at erinduplechin.com

 

Ever Becoming – One Word 365

Ever becoming

We are so grateful to have Alece Ronzino join us again this year. Alece is well-known to many of us in her work to both free and challenge us by inviting us to pick just one word to guide the year. While lengthy resolutions often spell defeat, one word can impact us in ways we can’t imagine. As her website says:

“Forget New Year’s Resolutions. Scrap that long list of goals you won’t remember three weeks from now anyway.

Choose just one word. 

One word you can focus on every day, all year long… One word that sums up who you want to be or how you want to live.”

We invite you to enter the conversation in this piece and connect through the comment section below!

Ever Becoming
by Alece Ronzino

I set out to be brave last year. 

I waffle back and forth in my opinion of how well I actually lived it out. But there are moments when I find it easy to recognize the small acts of personal bravery that marked my journey through 2014.

I opened my heart to possibilities. I allowed myself to enjoy the present without needing to know where things may (or may not) lead. I let my guard down and let others in. I used my words more — like when I wrote about depression and suicide, even when it terrified me. I leaned into relationships and established healthier boundaries. I faced a devastating loss and didn’t fall apart like I once thought I would. I started going to church again.

From the outside looking in, I’m sure my life didn’t look very brave to others. But from the inside looking out, I see it: 2014 demanded courage of me. 

Let’s be honest though. The year didn’t end with me arriving at some grand finish line with an“I am brave” medal hanging around my neck. But I never really expected it to. That wasn’t the point.

The year did, however, end with me feeling more confident that I am becoming brave. And, when I force myself to remember the truth, I know that the process of becoming is far more valuable than the arrival at being

I hear Sara Bareilles in my head: Show me how big your brave is. 

And my brave is bigger this January 1st than it was last January 1st. Shoot, my brave is biggertoday than it was yesterday. And that, friends, is all that matters, isn’t it? It’s the best any of us can do really.

My last brave step of the year was choosing my one word for 2015: Wholehearted. 

I’m determining to live more wholeheartedly. To be all-in. To be fully present. I’m committing to give myself permission (and a nudge) to be truly myself. To stick to my guns. To live, write, and speak with integrity (in the fullest sense of the word — with wholeness and completeness in all parts of me).

I’m purposing to show up this year, in every way.

In each situation, in each decision, and with every single person, I want to show up wholeheartedly. Even when that means facing my fears. Or candidly sharing the vulnerabilities of my heart. Or taking a huge risk. Even when that means flying solo. Or saying no. Or standing my ground when I want to run away.

It’s a good thing I developed some extra bravery. This wholehearted business is daunting.

When I’m falling short and feeling like a big hot mess of a failure, do me a favor. Remind me to extend myself grace, and to focus on the journey rather than the destination.

Never arriving.

Ever becoming. 

Will you join me?

What word do you want to guide you through 2015? 
Join the One Word 365 community »

Follow Alece on Twitter and visit her blog, Grit and Glory.

Missions Field or Land of Opportunity?

One man’s mission field is another’s land of opportunity.

I realized this in a fresh way as I was interacting with some immigrants to South Africa from Malawi.

They were telling me about their home nation, Malawi. The common descriptions were of a lush, green, and beautiful nation which was peaceful.

They left their homeland for South Africa, also a beautiful land. But on the day I was having this conversation, we were bracing ourselves though near gale force winds blowing sand through every opening on buildings. You could hear their longing for home in their voices.

And, they remarked often how they had left safety for crime. These immigrants left home to live in shacks in an impoverished, crime ridden community.

A community which I consider to be a part of my mission field.

Why you ask?

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“There are no jobs in Malawi”

These middle class Malawians left peace and safety to become impoverished foreigners in a land which often projects xenophobia (fear of the foreigners) onto those with different passports.

All this to have a chance to work.

  • They gave up peace and relinquished better houses.
  • They chose to move far from family, often leaving behind spouses and children.

South Africa is my mission field. But to these beautiful people from Malawi, it is a land of opportunity.

One man’s nation in need of “missions” is another’s land of opportunity.

As I got to know these natives of Malawi, I found myself wondering why they chose this life. What drives educated folk to choose a downgrade in lifestyle in hopes of climbing higher in the future?

In my years in South Africa, I’ve met Zimbabwean doctors and Rwandan lawyers cleaning houses and washing cars. Often they fled political turmoil or tyrannical dictators for a crime-ridden, but governmentally stable nation.

I get this. Sad as it is, I can make sense of it.

But leaving a family in a peaceful land is harder for me to grasp.

I came away struck by the power of hope. These people left home in search of a better life.

In my nation, we call that the “American dream.”

I found myself so drawn to the hope these saints carried in their hearts.

In this time of year, Christmas, we speak often of the power of hope. Here was a tangible example of that hope.

I have hope to see transformation in South Africa which motivates me to serve here.

My friends share a similar hope that South Africa will be a land which provides their families a brighter future.

This is a lesson I do not want to forget.

One man’s mission field is another’s land of opportunity.

May God bless South Africa as well as the immigrants and refugees seeking a better life within her borders.

Photo credit: liquidnight via photopin cc

Out of Darkness into Glorious Light

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Every day I ride the subway line into the city of Boston. It’s a short ride, going from Central Square in Cambridge to the busy Park Street stop just off the Boston Commons. At one segment in that short ride we come out from the deep underground of the city and we are above ground overlooking the Charles River, the city of Cambridge on one side, the city of Boston on the other. It is glorious to come out of darkness into the light of the day. It never gets old.

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In the quiet night the girl lies alone. She can hear the breathing of five others in the boarding school dormitory room where she lies. All of her roommates have been asleep for a long time.

They don’t know she is awake. They don’t know that every night she wakes in a panic, a scream just ready to break the silence. That it takes her a moment to calm, to realize she is not being attacked – she is safe with 5 other girls, all of them young teens. She cries out to a far away God, desperate to reclaim the innocence of her faith from before the attack, desperate for some measure of comfort.

The man who violated her is a respected member of the missionary community in the city where her parents work. He is a household name; a frequent household guest.

No one would ever believe her — a 14-year-old teen who is known for her sparkling personality; her love for the dramatic. She physically wards off the panic and the tears by folding her arms tightly across her chest, feeling the warm flannel of her pajamas. It’s in the early hours of dawn when she finally falls back into a dreamless sleep.

In another room and building a little boy has just woken up in tears. He has wet the bed. He cannot let the other know. The other missionary kids are white – and he is not. He is subject to sometimes merciless bullying – and no one stops it.

He curls into a ball. How can he change his sheets so no one will know? He cries out to an absent mom, longing for the comfort that would come from her presence, knowing he will never tell her.

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It’s dark and it’s painful – but abuse of missionary kids is rightly being brought into the light. The loyalty code that makes people hesitant to confront is being replaced by a Godly recognition of sin and the need for confrontation and repentance, the need for justice.

There are some horrific stories – and there are some just plain sad stories, but they can’t heal until they are brought to the light. It’s a warped sense of honor, a twisted allegiance that tells us we need to forgive without confronting and bringing to light that which has wronged or destroyed.

And the thing with light is this: Even a bit can dispel darkness, even a candle illuminates and makes room for us to see more clearly; even a little light can comfort. And God who sees into the silent, sleepy dormitory asks us to speak into the dark, speak truth where lies were planted, offer hope where despair has been rooted, offer comfort in the face of torment.

Because these ones who were hurt have been called out of darkness into His glorious light; a light that dispels darkness and blinds us with its beauty and power. It is glorious to come out of darkness into the light. It never gets old.

Blogger’s note: I wrote this as I do all my posts – with a deep breath and a prayer. The post is not intended to hurt further – rather to offer a word of hope. If you know or suspect that a missionary kid around you is being abused – please in prayer speak up, bring it into the light. We must be people who protect and nurture, who call others into accountability.

Picture Credit: Stefanie Sevim Gardner 2011 Cairo, Egypt

Resources:

  • MK Safety Net – Goal is to be an encouragement and promote healing for current and former MKs (Missionary Kids) and TCKs (Third Culture Kids) and their families who have been hurt or wounded by their experiences of abuse within the missionary environment.
  • Child Safety & Protection – The Alliance Mission is committed to promptly address every reported allegation of child abuse that may arise in association with our work overseas and to provide helpful resources to churches and districts that may deal with such allegations in the United States.
  • International Therapists Directory – provides an increasingly comprehensive online global listing of professional mental health therapists who are familiar with the TCK and international expatriate experiences.
  • Missionary Kids – silent no more on abuse. – An article written in 2011 by the Christian Broadcasting Network
  • Ministry Safe – a site dedicated to sexual abuse awareness and prevention
  • Dear Missionary Parents – While not on abuse, this is an excellent article just published by Michelle Phoenix.

Sink and a Dolphin Will Catch You

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Though pixilated, I can see she is attentive. Her words come through clearly, even if the imaged is delayed. Our weekly Skype sessions have been a lifesaver during a very desperate time in my life. If you would have told me a year ago I would be seeing a counselor I would have rebuked you with all the masked insecurity and spiritualized pride I could muster. Oh, things have changed.

A few months ago I wrote a graphic letter to some friends, pleading for prayer. I told them, “I feel like I am trapped in a drowning car and I can’t get out.” They prayed. The events that led me to agree to weekly counseling happened so quick that I didn’t have a chance to protest. I am now very much pro-counseling.

During our most recent session I shared with my counselor about that plea. That as I have been meeting with her I feel like I am out of the car, but I am still weary, exhausted even, as I am treading water. I explained that some recent occurrences have felt like someone deliberately pushing my head under water for too long. I am gasping, sputtering, and disoriented. But now I have my head above water again, barely, as I have been facing the emotional, practical, and relational realities associated with each difficulty.

I thought she would be in awe of my superb analogy.  

Not fazed she said, “You know, sometimes I tell people they need to stop treading water.”

I balked, “Just quit? And drown?”

She said, “Not necessarily quit. But surrender… to God.”

There was silence as she let that sink in. Sink in – get it? Ha. Seriously though…

She then continued, “There is a difference between quitting and surrendering. Quitting is saying you are through and it is not worth the effort. Surrender is a willful placement of your whole trust in God.”

That felt like the sweetest rebuff I had ever received. If the Christian faith is anything it is trust in God. That is so basic! But it is a truth I need to come back to right now in my life: surrender.

I bit my tongue and didn’t blurt out my cheeky retort, “Why can’t I just walk on the water?”

Our session ended and I was encouraged to do some journaling as a follow up. As I wrote, my thoughts went back to the sarcastic remark I withheld.

Who knows? Maybe that is the solution God has for me. But I can’t know that until I stop treading water and surrender to Him.

Then an image popped into my mind of friends who told me about swimming with the dolphins on their honeymoon. I pictured myself surrendering and my body starting to sink when along came a dolphin to catch me and take me along to safety.

I smiled. Then the floodgates opened! Floodgates – get it? Ha. Seriously though…

At first the ideas trickled in, I was amused.

  • Walk on water
  • Dolphin
  • Helicopter

Then the flow of possibilities rushed over me and I couldn’t write fast enough to keep up!

  • Deep sea driver
  • Submarine
  • Swallowed by a big fish
  • Big wave pushes me to shore
  • Life preserver ring
  • Scuba gear appears
  • People in a boat rescue me
  • The sea splits in two and I walk out on dry land
  • The water is turned to wine and a an army of giants drinks the sea dry
  • He is floating beside me and waiting for me to stop flailing my arms so He can grab me
  • He is the water, like the Dead Sea, and I would float in Him if I would stop trying so hard

My listy brain would like to present these allegorical options to God as ways He can rescue me when I surrender. That is a superficial relationship of dictatorship, which I want no part of. So the final item on the list expresses my heart to God in this process of surrender.

  • NONE OF THE ABOVE … and that’s okay.

God is so much more creative and resourceful than my measly list of ideas. The main idea is: hope. This is a list of hope. As I surrender I have hope in the grace and goodness of God.

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Are you trapped in a drowning car? Are you tired of treading water? Might you need to surrender to God, once again? What would that look like in your life?

Final thought: If you feel you need counseling, even if you think you “should” have it all together, I highly recommend you prayerfully engage in seeking help. Peace.

 – Angie Washington, missionary living in Bolivia, South America

blog: angiewashington.com twitter: @atangie  facebook: atangie

The Shame of AIDS

One of the leading issues in many of the nations we live and work in is HIV/AIDS.

The statistics from South Africa on this issue are shocking.  Conservative estimates place infection rates at 10% of the nation, or over 5 million cases.

You would assume with these facts, the signs of this disease would be everywhere. Only they are not.

The shame of this disease hides it from the public eye, keeping it as a private issue. It is illegal to ask someone their status. The numbers alone make it a reality that many we work with will have this disease, but often we do not know this as a fact. In my eight years in this nation, I have met two which have declared their status or confided in me. A young South African man who grew up in the impoverished townships says he too only knows of two.

By: Anthony Easton
By: Anthony Easton

Two people! Many others hide alone in shame.

That number increased to three recently.

I met Musa Njoko.  She was well-known for her gospel music, but now her fame comes from her Aids activism. She has shared the stage with President Bill Clinton promoting awareness.

As she told her story, several things stood out to me.

Her courage As secretive as this disease is today, when she came out it was an isolation sentence. She dealt with this through her faith in God and her sense of humor.

Musa related the story of swimming at a public pool. As her and her family were enjoying the water, she noticed the pool was quickly emptying for fear of “catching” the disease. She joked, “well family we have the whole pool to ourselves! ”

Her recognition of progress – South Africa has come a long way in HIV treatment. Leaders in the past declared the disease a myth or a creation of the West. They advocated going to traditional healers (witch doctors) or taking vitamin B12. The former head of the AIDS commission willingly had unprotected sex with an infected woman, feeling safe because he showered afterwards. This man is the current president of South Africa! There was even a myth circulating which said the remedy was sleeping with a virgin. This only made things worse.

Today anti retroviral drugs are available for free.

Her faith in the future Musa says South Africa has one of the best prevention programs in the world now. As she still lives in one of the most vulnerable communities, She sees change.

My prayer for South Africa is for a greater openness. Unfortunately, the people who hurt Musa the most were in the church. They called her a slut and a whore. I would love to see more people like Musa, declare their status. But, more than the infected coming out, I would like to see less affliction. The church must change their mindset.

From what we see of Jesus, the HIV positive people are exactly those he would spend time with. They may be similar to the lepers in our midst today whom Jesus loved.

Do we?

What about your nation? How is progress being made on this global epidemic? What is the attitude of the church towards those infected in your country of service?

– Chris Lautsbaugh, Missionary teacher and author with Youth With A Mission, living in S. Africa.
Blog: NoSuperHeroes   Twitter: @lautsbaugh   Facebook: NoSuperHeroes

Terrorists and the Unshakable Kingdom

I have felt quite shattered by the terrorist attack on Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya. Dear friends have been shattered by the bombing of a church in Peshawar, Pakistan. There are shattering events every week around the world but it is always these human-on-human horrors that shake to the core.

Terror is nothing new to the world but it is new to me to obsessively check Facebook and Twitter and email until I know the people I love are safe. It is new to me to have the terror strike a place I have been, a place of which I have photos. It is new to me to receive a letter from the director of my children’s school describing how their community has been affected.

As a friend from Minneapolis who also lives in east Africa, said, “It is coming from both sides.” Because it is likely that at least one of the terrorists is from Minneapolis. My beautiful, beautiful city.

I am so sorry, with tears sorry, that I don’t feel this kind of sorrow or shock when terrible things happen to people you love. I feel compassion and grief and I pray with and for you, but when it pierces personal, there is a different kind of sting. And honestly, I think I would explode if I felt like this after every story of the horrible things people inflict on each other.

Earlier this year Lana Hope (hope!) wrote Triggered by Tragedy at Sandy Hook. She wrote about all the painful, grief-filled things she had seen in Asia. And then she wrote,

I remember thinking, “If my friends are angry that 20 kids died, no wonder I’m such a wreck after three years of this kind of evil.

No wonder I’m such a wreck. No wonder that last night, after Kenyan officials finally announced the standoff was over, I turned off all the lights, lit a candle, lay on the floor, and wept. For all of it.

Candle Wallpaper

There are few words in times like this, only whispers in the dark, candles barely flickering. No one I personally know was injured or killed. I am still spared another whole level of grief. God be with me when I am not spared because I don’t know how a person continues to breathe.

That is what I am praying for those who taste these tragedies unique and devastatingly close. That you will continue to breathe. In and out. That there will be breath for you when you wake and must face another day. In and out. And that you have someone to hold onto, tight. Someone to hold onto you, gentle.

I am reminded of two sustaining truths, one through Lana’s post.

Jesus wept. Jesus knew grief and pain and loss. But his grief was not without hope.

Because he was bringing in, still is bringing in, an unshakable kingdom. I feel shaken. The kingdom is not shaken. I feel shaken but my trembling legs and wavering heart kneel on a firm foundation.

Though the earth and all its people quake, it is I who hold its pillars firm. Psalm 75:3

Maybe today we could share our hope. What are some of your most precious promises? What do you cling to when you feel shaken?

 -Rachel Pieh Jones, slightly weepy development worker, Djibouti

                         Blog: Djibouti Jones, Twitter: @RachelPiehJones, Facebook: Rachel Pieh Jones

*image credit Stefano Brivio via Flickr

Boxing Match. with God.

I feel like we’re in an epic boxing match with God right now.

And he’s the one most definitely winning.

It’s as if we’re stuck living a bad version of Groundhog Day, the cycle of hope and disappointment playing out in a thousand different scenarios.

It goes a bit like this:

  1. We think God is moving in an area or situation. Circumstances shift to underscore this possibility. And, so . . .

  2. We pray. We get excited. We begin to think, “This is it–the realization of the Dream, the purpose for our lives, the plan God’s been orchestrating all along.”

  3. We taste hope and get drunk with it–  in finances or career, ministry, business, or relationship.

  4. The anticipation rises and gloriously carries us for a few days, until

  5. WHAM! Knock-down, drag-out, smack-down. The opportunity wasn’t at all what we thought. The position got given to someone else. Another donor had to drop us, oh, and the air conditioner just broke. The magazine didn’t like my writing. The ministry already has enough help. The business idea didn’t make any money, after all.  A well-meaning soul hands out gut-punching criticism.

And just like that, we deflate. Hope gets the wind knocked out of her, and we find ourselves on the mat, head spinning and nose bloody, wondering what in the world just happened to our dreams.

But, there’s still some fight left in us, we tell ourselves– at the beginning, at least.  There’s still some fight left.

And, so, we regather. We shake our heads and stand back to our feet, positive that that last experience wasn’t really “it,” anyway, and that God needed to make us stronger with that one, in order to give us this next one. 

But, in the sport of boxing, a fighter only has to taste three knockdowns before the match is called a TKO.  A body and a brain can only be pummeled so much, I guess.

Trouble is, it feels like suffering only three would be a vacation– an experience similar to lounging on the beach sipping little drinks with umbrellas.

Because what we are learning about this cycle we find ourselves spinning in

of hope, expectation, disappointment, and discouragement,

is that it can eventually begin to affect an outlook, a personality, a trust, a person’s ability to hope in the first place.

Because, really, how many times can a fighter get back up?

How. many. times?

Apparently, at least one more.

*******************

Fighting anything lately yourself?

Related Posts: on Feeling Hammered {video of my kid battling waves}, on Depression, on Culture Shock/Culture Pain

 

*from the archives of Laura L. Parker, former aid worker in SE Asia