Thursday, August 11, 2011

Stopping for the One - what does it look like?

I’ve had a day where I’ve come to tears a few times every time I think about the women that I work with. It’s not because I’m worried about their life situations, but because God is so filling me with love for them as I get to know them that it overwhelms me. Their life situations are worthy of tears, but I’m thankful that I know the truth about that; That is that I’m allowed to be joyful though the world would say I need to be in despair. I’m thankful for the kind of tears that God brings me and these that He is bringing.

The last month has been hard for me. Let me be transparent; I have had many difficulties. They have been very good difficulties, but difficult nonetheless. About a month ago, dissension started in the unity of our ministry team. They weren’t and aren’t large – with Iris’s personality, it’s hard to stay in a place of disunity for very long. We all so desire to move forward with the Holy Spirit, and I love working with people that put Him first and actually try to line up Biblically in decisions. Most of the issues, turns out, were things in me that I didn’t know were there. This time has been an amazing way of pointing out more of my “junk” to get rid of. It’s been overwhelming at times, but I’m so thankful for it now. God has repeatedly been telling me that He is beautifying me to be His bride, and I can see that this has been a weeding and pruning time for me.

Other issues have been that my wallet was stolen, and I’ve been without money for three weeks because the credit card I had from my father (thank you Jesus that I happened to have it – I don’t own one and I only had that for my flight confirmations) wasn’t working. I think I’ve also just been realizing so much about how to live life, that it’s been overwhelming for me.

I hope everyone I love realizes that being here in a revival zone, in an amazing environment, following God’s call on my life isn’t enough on its own to make me close to Him. I’ve realized I can’t rely on that to create intimacy with God. Yes, sacrificing most of what I’m used to and giving up rights to “my life” really affects me in an amazing way, but I’m seeing in so many areas of my life what it takes to be consistent in putting Him first. It’s not always easy. Right now I’ve decided to fast for this week - I really want to be hungrier for God, and I really want to know Him better. So I’m making decisions that better position me for that…or trying! I’ve been alone this week, no roommate and no Harvest schoolers. That school ended last week and all have left for homes or outreaches. Nathalia, my co-worker is also gone. The only friends that I have right now are my Mozambican friends – which is amazing because I love having time for only them. But Im alone in the evenings working on designs for jewelry making and I keep giving in and eating things! This is me being transparent. J But there is Grace and Im getting up today deciding to fast for another week (except for on Friday afternoon and Saturday morning as Ive been invited to a friend’s house from the kitchen and on Saturday am cooking breakfast for some of the amazing boys from the orphanage/no-longer-orphans.)

One thing I think is amazing is that I’m being forced into a position in which it doesn’t matter to me at all whether anyone knows what I’m doing for the glory of it or affirmation or what it does to my identity. God has so been working on identity for me while I’ve been here, which I think is the first thing to deal with when doing full-time ministry. I think when you’re consistently walking in the destiny called you to and living out the practical aspects of it, like prepping jewelry designs, you realize what it looks like to truly decide to follow Him and sacrifice and that joy that comes from other people thinking you’re special or amazing for following God simply doesn’t make doing any of it worth it. The only thing that makes doing the very hard stuff, the amazing stuff, the boring stuff worth it for me is the way God is using my life to draw beautiful people closer to Him and showing me how He sees His children – it’s all about Him. It can’t be anything else. I’m so thankful to be realizing this. As I’m so very close to being completely alone with God, and Mozambicans, I see that it’s amazing to have the affirmation of others stripped away and only live off of God’s and their affirmation. (My friends here are incredibly affirming, though which is amazing. But I can’t live from that place either.)

I’ve been thinking a lot about what this means: “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Philippians 2:3. Also what “stopping for the one” looks like. I’ve been learning this very much in this department. There are 280 women in the program that I find myself needing to stop for frequently. How does it work, you ask? I ask the same thing all of the time; I don’t know how to do it. I don’t know how to do anything out of my own strength here. So what does it look like for me at this point: it looks like not getting frustrated or being rude when it’s hard for me to walk more than a few feet without getting many many requests for money, food, or hearing stories about deaths in the family and problems with houses, that may or may not be true. It’s me stopping to talk to them, being kind and smiling and seeing if any of these things are emergencies, if they are I do something about it – if not I tell them to come talk to us on Tuesdays at 11 when we have our requests day. It’s me swallowing my pride and explaining (which I did yesterday) why I’m not a “bad friend” for not giving them exactly what they ask for in that I am able to say no and still love them. Explaining that I am not their savior and that Mercy Ministries has to be responsible to try and help emergencies before needs like a pot to cook in that could actually wait until the next week. It’s me deciding that I will honor my promise to visit my friends that live a very long walk into the village on my only day off from work , Saturday, (other than Sunday, my sabath) even though I’m very tired. It’s choosing to spend money on my friends here instead of on myself, and sharing my food with them.

The best example that I have at this point of how stopping for the one is actually so important and SO worth it is this: last Tuesday I was very very busy and was getting sick. My throat was hurting terribly and I was sneezing and coughing. I had class in the morning and sang too much which made my throat hurt worse, but I had told the girl, Julieta, whose mother died in our class about a month ago that I would visit after class. I knew I wouldn’t have a lot of time, because we had to sell jewelry that afternoon, and I was supposed to get a Sozo with Kristene and Eileen from Grace center and Grace chapel. I seriously considered just giving her some food and a gift and saying that I didn’t have time and that I felt sick. But I knew that I knew inside that I needed to STOP for her, and take the time to do this thing that I didn’t have time for in the natural. As we were beginning to walk I found out that she lives in Imbonderio, which is about a 40 minute walk ha! The sun was hot, I only had a little bit of water with me, and my throat was hurting so badly. But I knew I had to go.

As we were walking I slowly started to remember why I knew I needed to do it. I started remembering the way this area is so much bigger than I think it is and that there’s so much of the culture and way of life that I haven’t experienced yet. I was walking through a new area that I hadn’t been to before and it was beautiful – there were many hills and the huts were strewn about them. Once I got to her house, I found out that she wasn’t actually living with her grandmother as I thought she was – she (13) and her brother (9) live alone in a small house that looks like the tool shed of another house that shares the same fenced in yard. Her grandmother apparently lives about 10 minutes walking distance away. But Julieta and her brother are basically being fed and taken care of by the house that they share the yard with; there are four girls and a married couple that lives there and they are amazing. The leader of the bunch is named Anifa, and she has a baby named Nelson (who peed on me, Gracas a deus (by the Grace of God haha). I had spoken with Julieta many times about her mother dying, and somehow I didn’t get the information right about her living situation. It’s hard sometimes to understand the way someone’s life is – this is why you visit them in their houses. This is why you take time for them. Oh my goodness, I wouldn’t have known otherwise. So, I decided to buy her groceries. I got enough for probably two to three weeks for her, hallelujah. It’s not usually a good idea to do that very often here, but I knew it was right for me to do in this situation. I’m talking with our team, as well, trying to decide what to do from this point for her. It seems that it might be better for her to be with this family than with her grandma, but I’m not sure.

I can't believe how obvious it is that visiting this girl's house changed so many things in the way I understand her and am able to help her. Giving her my time, and sacrificing my comfort to walk to her house was all I needed to do to bring some change. I want to say also that that night, I noticed that my throat wasn’t hurting anymore. That was truly a miracle. The next day, she and her grandma brought me a papaya from their trees, since they don’t have a lot of money to buy a present for me. That papaya was so precious to me.

Please try to stop for someone today. And pray that I will have the strength to remember to stop here as well.

love you all so much

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