December 15, 2015
These past few weeks, i was frantically trying to rally more prayers to bombard heaven on behalf of the Y people. We were in the last stretch of the Bible lessons and hoping, praying and expecting the Y to turn to God.
All this seems good and right, doesn't it? But deep down inside i had no peace.
We say so easily "It is the Lord who does the saving, i only need to be obedient" but when sacrifice and hardships are involved there is something in us that wants us to see something in return! We want to see fruit for our labour. We want to know and experience that all was not in vain! All the lonely years of being the outsiders no matter what we did or did not do. All the years of giving things up like friends, family, a career, etc makes us want to know it was all worth it. For that is how the world works - hard work is rewarded and if you are not rewarded sufficiently then you look for a better place.
Not so easy in missions though. Many times we see no fruit for years, if ever! We trudge on staying obedient but somewhere there is that hope that a nice earthly kind of reward was waiting....that was me this morning.
I was begging the Lord to turn the people to Him on this next to last lesson. I was begging that many would come and hear the real reason why Jesus lived and died and rose again! He came to set them free! I wanted them so desperately to accept this truth but sadly when i looked into my heart the real reason was that i needed to see results to make it all better inside of me. Yes, i love the people too and I really want them to join God's family and be saved for salvation's sake and to God's glory for sure! But somewhere there mixed in the midst of it was a very selfish desire to be rewarded, to feel that it was all worth it.
It was one of those prayer times when you are happily on your own track and then suddenly you get this sinking feeling when the Truth kicks in. I knew my motives this morning (and probably over the last few weeks) were so, so wrong! How can something so seemingly all about others become such a self-centred thing? I was shocked! How could i seek reward out of all this? How could i think that God had to make it "worth my while" ? The devil was hijacking the whole thing and i was happily handing over the reigns! Believing the lies that I deserve this!
Ashamed i hung my head and asked for forgiveness. Forgiveness that I was seeking my own reward out of this. Praying for God mercy and grace for me. And receiving it! It was time to get back into the real game, resisting the temptation that used this self pity to make it all about me and giving it all back to God declaring Him Sovereign.
Jesus Is worth it. He does not need to make it worthwhile for me. He is the Only one worthy to receive praise and honour and glory. Because of His ultimate sacrifice that he made for all men He is worthy and my small life lived out here in the sticks is just a small way of how i can say thank You. My Struggles, my hardships fall away before His throne because He has already given me everything i need!
“And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.” Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they were saying: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!””
Revelation 5:9-12 NIV
Bella, Thankful that i serve a Gracious and Loving God.
December 12, 2015
2004 was a topsy turvy year. We thought we had life all planned out. We were moving to another country but not too far. A bit out of our comfort zone but not too much, a chunk of adventure that was safe to face. But God changed our hearts to step out even further and the best thing was, that we were excited about this new direction our life was taking!
Fast forward 11 years and you can imagine our excitement when we eventually presented the Gospel message for the first time in our village! After years of preperation, learning languages, building a house, getting to know the people we were at the place of the dream God placed in our hearts! And that with a build up over a year of lessons beginning in Genesis, tracing God's redemptive story from the Garden of Eden to the crucifiction of Jesus and then on to His glorious resurrection!
All very wonderful and exciting stuff! You would think we would be over the moon! And in a way we were but....
We were battling so many things in the midst of all this amazingness. Sudden strange illnesses, huge storms with wind and hail right before the last Bible lesson, sudden onset of malaria in 3 of our workers, severe colds, dizziness, sick children, foot fungi, our well running dry, disappointment in others, funerals in the village, houses and teaching shelter being destroyed by extreme weather, etc, etc...and that was only in the last 7 days!
It is dark days indeed! And somehow, because i thought it would be all wonderful and happy days it felt much, much worse than it already was. Ferdinant Deist wrote "it is not real life that disappoints you (or God) but your expectations of life that does (or my expectations of what God was supposed to do)."
Somehow i had this idea in my head - not consciously thought out, but there nevertheless - that it would all be lovely and good and smooth. That we would all be healthy and have enough food and money, that there would be no funerals to go to, that the rains would stay away on a Tuesday, etc, etc! I could add quite a lot more to this list of MY own expectations!
Meantime, back in the village a huge battle was being fought and it didn't quite line up with what i had in mind....and Not Surprising ..... huge disappointment set in! The Lord was not only testing the village people on the Truth that they just heard but He was also testing me to see what was in my heart! Would i keep believing that He is Almighty? Even though we had that huge storm right before the teaching? He did not change but because of my expectations it seemed like He did. The spiritual battle was fierce and we were in the middle of it all....would we still keep our eyes on the Never Changing Living God? Or would we fold and declare this is a god forsaken land with no hope, pack our bags and leave with heads hung low?
Jeremiah 55.... "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, declares the LORD. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts. As the rain and snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is My Word that goes out from My mouth, it will not return to Me empty, but will accomplish what i desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it."
God wanted me to keep on trusting Him no matter what. And that is hard, really, really hard. In a perfect world, aka heaven, all the people would have accepted Jesus as their Saviour and bowed before the King of Kings. But this is earth and man has a free will. God loves these people with a burning love but each one needs to decide wether or not they will choose Him. Keep on choosing Him even if things get hard. Even if He does not act out my list of expectations. I needed to keep choosing to believe!!
In Romans 8 Paul wrote "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?" Notice the WHO? But then, curiously, he goes on to list THINGS: trouble, hardship, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, sword, facing death, considred as sheep to be slaughtered. Phew! The enemy wants us to stop loving God by using all these things to turn against our Lord. Our faith will be tested! My faith IS being tested!
The qoute from Romans starts with the question "Who can seperate us from God's love?", but ends with a "NO!" and then gos on to say "In All these things we are More than conquerors through Him who loved us!" More than conquerors! "For i am convinced that neither death, not life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all crations (including my own fabricated expectations!) will be able to seperate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
It is called Faith in God no matter what. Not blind faith, but faith in an unchanging God. Ferdinand Deist also said that Faith is not based on the certainty of how i think God should act, but on the certainty that He Is there. Faith in God full stop.
So as I sit here with my painful toes, still no water, sick kids, my husband that just came back from the funeral, etc, etc i.e. nothing has changed but actually everything has changed! God is here, He loves me and the people around me, He cares and Nothing...not a thing can seperate me from that love!
And i kneel in thankfulness, more than a conqueror through Jesus who loves us!
Bella, learning to trust more day by day...
December 10, 2015
The last couple of weeks the Bible teaching out here has been building up to the death and resurrection of Jesus! All very exciting to be bringing the Gospel message here for the first time. But with that came many challenges, the enemy really trying to discourage us in many ways. This morning after a big storm blew away our little meeting place shelter and a few other things, i was really feeling down....but i read these verses in Isaiah: "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name, you are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour."
Do you notice the When? It is NOT If....but when. That means that we will go through these things but that the Lord promises He will be with us!
Still i felt discouraged and while sitting with my head a bit a low at my desk the Holy Spirit reminded of another verse in Habakkuk.....and there lay the key. Here is my version of Habakkuk 3:17-19
Though i am covered in flea bites and have ringworm on my foot
Though the well has run dry and we have buckets everywhere for washing and flushing,
Though the Bible teaching shelter was blown away completely
And the kids have been sick all week
Yet i will be Joyful in God my Saviour.
The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
He makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
He enables me to go on the heights (or to just go on and face another day!)
I will be joyful in God my Saviour. In another Bible version it says i will greatly rejoice in God my Saviour!
Worshipping God, greatly rejoicing in Who He is was what was lacking! And so i put on a worship song and did just that!
Bella, looking UP!
December 06, 2015
Yesterday one of our workers became ill very suddenly. He had a bad case of malaria. I gave him some medicine and then we prayed for him. We have not prayed for any sick people up front yet, but things are changing. Next week is the last lesson of the Gospel and now he understands so much more about God, about putting all our trust in Him. We have spoken about Jesus' power to heal and we were asking Him now to heal. All very exciting.
He was so sick he barely made it home. Silently i continued to pray for him. I begged God to spare his life so that he could hear the last bit of the story. That Jesus died for all his sins, that he does not have to do anything! So why was i so surprised when our worker came back a bit later and told us he was totally fine? He said Jesus healed him!! At first i rejoiced with him! I have seen God save many peoples lives out here with me only giving tea or changing the bandages every two days, or once not even having another chance to change the bandages on severe burns and then to see total healing without even a scar! And those being burn wounds on a hand! Amazing for sure! God is powerful and Can heal! But then doubt set in...why did i have this tight knot in my stomach? Why did I want to tell him just keep drinking the malaria medicine, just in case? (I didn't, but everything medical in me was shouting to do so!) me, the Big Doubter. Why Was i in such a state?
The Difference was of course, that all those other times i only asked God in secret. Now it was all in the open. What if God didn't come through? What if by some small miracle the medicine made a huge difference but later tonight he would be back to square one? God's honour was, according the me, on the line here! It felt like i had to remind Him His name was on stake here! I was so afraid that this man's faith would be snuffed out without even been given a chance.....i was worrying that God's reputation was on the line and He wasn't aware of it. As if little old doubter-in-medical-miracles would know better than the Creator of the universe and every person who ever lived! Jip, that was me.
I looked frantically to my dear husband, who was not worried even a centimeter! He just calmly said that that is God's business and he believes God knows what He is doing. Oh, how i sometimes wish i had his personality! I guess i would have been Thomas if i had been one of the 12!
I had to learn to let God be God. I know this sounds quite terrible to see it so black on white but don't we all somewhere along the line think we know better than God? And all our worry is only because we don't trust completely. So, i had to let go and keep myself from running after him shouting at the top of my lungs to just in case keep drinking the medicine...wow, now that would have ruined it all for sure! What was i thinking?
But God in His mercy kept me from ruining it all and i slowly closed the door and Gladly placed him back in The Father's loving Hands. More than Capable Hands.
Bella, relieved that i don't have to run this show!
December 01, 2015
Since becoming missionaries life has not been one easy paved way. Not surprisingly, since we are agents of the Light and the darkness will do everything to keep the Light from shining.
This on the one hand, on the other I think we kind of expect an easy life! We have God on our side! We are in direct contact with the Maker of the Universe! But, this is not how it works. And we might have set ourselves up for huge disappointments because our expectations are all wrong. Not that God is not trustworthy or dependable, it is more that we want to trust God, tell Him exactly what and how to do it and then if it doesn’t happen our way we are disappointed….yes, the reality of being an agent of the Light is that life will be hard. Harder than we sometimes want to imagine! We choose a nice comfortable place to hover….a place where everything goes according to our plans, and that means mostly not living in so-called defeat! But that is not life at all....
Living in an unreached (or least reached) village surely adds to that stress….many times we have said through God’s grace “Come Hell or High water by the Grace of God, we will continue!” Not necessarily always jumping like young goats, more likely plodding on, but nevertheless moving forward. God has a mission and we are part of it! He is the One who keeps us here, gives us courage.
At times we have had to admit defeat and leave for a short time. Like recently, I had to take our boys back to our malaria free home country. I felt like a failure – complete and utter. It looked like the enemy won, because here we were …..leaving. After a week my husband went back to continue the Bible lessons…we stayed behind for them to recover sufficiently. They were happy and enjoyed good food, electricity, shops, swimming in the sea, etc…and me, well I felt really, really guilty.
Guilt, the thing our culture runs on. What was God thinking about me? Hysterical mother? Quitter? Softy? I felt so bad for not going back sooner….. in a way thinking I was a failure in God’s sight. Sigh. I was judging God’s love and care for me on what I did, or in this case, did not do. Doing nothing=failure=no loving Father.
One morning I came upon this verse, which by the way, I suppose I have read at least a 100 times. Jesus was speaking to His disciples after He sent them out to tell of the Good News….they were tired and weary and this is what He told them… “Come with Me to a quiet place and get some rest.” Mark 6:31
Jesus knows I am not a super person. He knows I get tired and scared and need rest. He knows me. I was in a quiet place because He brought me there, to rest. His love and care did not depend on my performance. He still loved me and the Y people. He has it all in hand. I need not worry that I have failed Him. He knows my heart and He saw I needed rest. Rest away from the direct attacks. Although the subtle attacks in my own culture also took me by surprise! Another story altogether! So I decided to take Jesus up on His Words and to go with Him to a place of quiet and rest.
And now we are back here again. Ready and rested.
Bella, resting in that.
November 15, 2015
I was sitting on the beach enjoying the beautiful waves, golden sand and my 3 boys swimming in the sea. Minding my own business. Along came a mother with a very young child. You could see the little one just mastered the art of walking. The little one toddled up to the waves and it washed over her. I thought the mom would panic and rush to her aid,but no, she laughed and reached down lazily pulling the drenched child from the water by one arm. The spluttering child just managed to catch her breath before the next wave hit her!
I was quite shocked. The two of them continued to stand in the waves with each wave crashing down on the baby, each time she was totally drenched and then being dragged back up by the mother. At one time she actually held the small one's hand but in such a manner that she was now washed off her feet and then dragged back through and up the receding wave....not helping at all. And to top it all the mom was laughing at her dumb child in a very mocking way....
And it made me think of life and hardships and how i see God's involvement in my life...
At first i thought when i looked at this mother and child that that is how God is with me. I was feeling that life was a bit like waves near drowning me and me barely getting time to come up for air! with He is there and He is holding my hand but the waves are crashing down on me. I am being dragged back up for air again and again. But it is really not pleasant. It is tiring and terrifying! Just like the little baby girl on the beach, i am unsure of what is going to happen next! Will the wave drag me away form the Grip? Will the Hand holding me dislocate my shoulder? Will i get a warm and dry towel somewhere or is it Grin and Bear it for the rest of my life?
But then i looked back to my 3 boys laughing and enjoying the huge waves! Jumping in and out, boogy boards making them fly through the perfect surf! And i felt God, the Ultimate Father (and Mother) say. NO!! I am not like the mother you see there.
"Look at your boys...they are having the time of their lives in those waves because of how you as parents made them love the water, made them used to the sea in a non-terrifying way. In a loving way. You sit on the beach and keep an eye on them ready to rescue them if they need you. Close by. But it took years to reach this point. I am not the type of Father to throw you in the deep end and stand there laughing at your inadequacies! I help you, train you, teach you in a loving and kind way.
I want you to succeed and above all i want you to love and trust Me more and more."
I relaxed my tense hands and looked at my laughing children. No Fear there, just fun! And i relaxed in the Loving arms of my Father, no fear there.
Bella, replacing lies with Truth.
September 23, 2015
It took one more crisis to open my eyes.
Yip, it was just one more day in an unending string of disasters and crises. These past few weeks were quite rough! And sadly when the going got tough, this tough did not get going.
We were tired and needed a break but then we had a disastrous break, topped with my husband getting malaria (see previous post for the more humorous side). We came back even more tired and discouraged.
Unfortunately it didn’t stop there. It just went from bad to worse as the days wore on.
Just to give a bit of context of where we are at – sharing about the life and ministry of Jesus in our weekly Bible teachings in this small rural village. Most hearing this for the very first time! So the battle is on.
My malaria hosting husband decided to go on with the lesson. So we put a bed in the study and he and his language helper worked hard on the lesson. In between lying down and sitting up he did it! The lesson itself was on the Birth of Jesus! The real Christmas story – with the shepherds, Herod the bad, the killing of all the little boys and all. The coming of the Deliverer was not a quite event as we depict it on our Christmas cards! It was a battle ground!
On the day of the lesson while playing with a kitten just before school, our one very allergic-to-bees-son was stung by …yip, you guessed it a red bee. Now in the past when he was stung he had quite the reaction. So much so that we carry an Epipen with us at all times. At first I was not sure it was a bee but as I went to fetch some vinegar to take out the sting I took some anti-histamine with me as well just in case. In my mind thinking that I won’t need to walk back to the house for it later if he needs it. (I was thinking it might have been a stinging fly) While taking it out I heard the Lord clearly say Give it to him now.
Back in the school room I now see it was a bee so I gave him the meds as well as the vinegar and some ice. All the things I would normally do and he would still swell up in any case….we prayed, I even posted it on fb. It was just one more thing and I was totally stressing out (inside of me) by this time, trying hard not to freak everyone else out. Kind of just going through the motions.
But nothing happened. Well, apart from the fact that my son was a bit in shock from the whole A bee Actually stung me. He did not swell up at all. He barely has a mark today. No itching, nothing. And I can assure you we have been through this once before and it was BAD. Especially living where we live it is quite dangerous.
The weird thing was I just kind of took it in my stride. Only this morning I saw it for what it was. A dear praying friend had written that when she saw my post she immediately began praying. She distinctly saw an army of angels around us!
The reason I am writing all this down is that over the past couple of weeks circumstances were really getting me down. It felt like God was far away. Not strong enough. Not helping. In fact the more things happened the more I thought that there is no-one for us. Even yesterday after the lesson when one guy got up and shared at first some truths but then went on a tangent of total nonsense saying Jesus was wrong to not take off his shoes when he prayed and blah, blah, blah. I was so cross that he kind of stole the show of the real story! That he, so to speak, cut Jesus down. I wondered why God allowed this! Where was He? (I will definitely NOT win the prize for the best missionary ever!! Haha!!) In any case, I was going downhill and fast. Feeling so defeated and dejected, downcast and discouraged. It took a bee sting for me to “see”.
I was looking down at all the things that went wrong or didn’t work out how I thought they should have. Like the disciples in the boat when a huge storm was raging and these experienced fishermen were afraid while Jesus was sleeping! They looked at the huge waves and not at peaceful, sleeping and not worried Jesus! So I was too. The waves scared me by this time. But with a word Jesus quieted the wind and sea. And with an email msg He made me see that He was here, right beside me!
An army was surrounding me and my family. God’s Army!! God was trying to get through to me but I missed them all. Yesterday just before the lesson Chris Tomlin’s song “God of angel armies – Whom shall I fear?” was playing over and over in my mind. It took a bee sting to open my eyes. To gain balance again. To know God has us in the palm of His hand and He will not let go. Even if it feels like it in a million or more ways. He is faithful, trustworthy and He never lies. He said that He will never, ever leave us or forsake us. He said He will be with us to the end of the earth. And so He is. With us. Emmanuel. God with us. I am not afraid anymore.
Rom 8:28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
Bella, clinging to the Rock of all ages.
September 12, 2015
We had 5 days to take a break. Only 5 as we have Bible teaching on Tuesdays and this Monday we would have 4 afternoons filled with our online school. So 5 days only!
We happily packed the car and off we went! Visibility low because of all the veld fires but Morale high.
We live in the middle of nowhere, with a road going nowhere and no-one really traveling on it. The irony is when we go on “holiday” we also go to a place far from anything or anybody. A cottage in the mountains with the only close shops 60km away, granted there is a hotel where you could eat something but it comes with quite the Price tag.
In any case, here we are! We unpack and then the caretaker nonchalant informs us the fridge is not working. ?? While I am contemplating if I should just cook all the meat we brought now, the power went off. Okayyyy. But not a problem, we all keep ourselves busy – one with a binoculars, I went off to sleep as I was still fighting a bad case of the flu, some on the iPhones, etc. Morale still high.
The power comes back on and my dear husband fixes the fridge!! Hurrah!! We all settle down to enjoy ourselves. The sun sets over a nice view even though it is very hazy with all the smoke. We light a cosy fire and when it got too dark tried to put on the light. Nothing. But not a problem, morale is still high and husband and boys fix the light!
The rest of the evening is quite uneventful until shower time. Shower head needs unplugging, shower outlet need unplugging. And to top it off a howling wind rages through the small bathroom. After the first boy is through the showers and I see how bad he is shivering we stuff an old pillow in the “window” to make it less of a wind tunnel and more of a hot shower area. We have a good laugh.
Phew, all in bed now! Of course the mattresses are about 5mm thick! But not a problem - we stuff old blankets in the worst of the hollows and try and sleep.
Next day the caretaker was supposed to wash the dishes but he doesn’t show, so dear husband washes them all. When we were about to hit the showers again – no surprise there – this time no hot water! A pipe had burst. Not a problem, we all just get into bed. But now dear husband is quite sick and gets no sleep….the plot thickens!
Next morning he fixes the pipe and voila! we have hot water again. By now everyone is a bit on edge but we manage to sort through it and morale is still there somewhere above the ground.
The day continues quite on track except that my dear husband has now taken two naps and it is only 3pm – not him at all and Very Worrying….but not a problem – I get out my medical kit and test him for malaria. Positive – which, in this case, is very negative. Not a problem - I get out the malaria meds and start him right on it.
As he tries to get himself more comfortable in the stuffed-with-blankets-bed and leans back on the so-called “head-rest” – the whole thing with attached bedside tables flip back as if it was a Lazy-boy (but without the comfort of course.) Not a problem - he gets a few old books (probably that have not been read in about 50 years) and stuff them between the wall and the “head-rest”, all comfy now with very limited flipping. Although by this time I feel like flipping a bit!
But morale is still hanging in there and I cook supper – but first I pray that the power will stay on!! And then we all pile onto the bed and some chairs and watch a movie and eat our food – every now and then flipping the bed side tables and all on them a bit! Hey, at least the bed is kind of level on the floor unlike the chair in the room with only 3 legs of same length, so that is something to be thankful for!
I guess the moral of the story is that God gives ideas and plans and helps us cope with laughter but also lets us cry and comforts us – we need to make the best of life in keeping our eyes on Him. We can choose to throw a tantrum, to demand service (but seriously, demanding anything in Africa?? A waste of time and energy!!) From our perspective this was a total disaster of a break, but if we have learned to keep our eyes on Him in all of this then it was worth it. And in any case a bad holiday really feels like forever!! Haha so our break felt like a 10 day one and not the 5 pathetic days that it was.
So one day left before we head back in our (un)airconditioned car. We should do more of this holidaying – it builds character.
Bella, ready to go home.