Mission-heart lag

Kr3a

When people hear that we’re coming home from a mission trip to Guyana, their response is always the same, “So there’s no time change. That’s great! No jet lag!”

I wish that were true.

It would be far easier to feel the physical effects of jet lag versus the emotional, mental and spiritual effects of mission-heart lag.

This year in particular, I packed my bags with a quivering lip. My hands loaded luggage ready to go. My feet refused to move, longing to stay.

Three airplane rides home were heavy, weighted with quiet moments staring at the floor, out the window at the clouds, or lost in the darkness of my eye mask, trying to block out the world.

Logic says that it should get easier to go on mission trips. I’ve been blessed to be a part of several all over the world. But my heart disagrees. Sure, I’m much more able to handle the sights and smells from a traveler’s perspective, but the stories and circumstances behind those sights and smells haunt me long after the last load of laundry has been washed and put away.

The long-term effects of corrupt politics, poverty, a lack of resources and all forms of abuse grip my heart and won’t let go. Over the years and across continents, I’ve served the perpetrator and the victim; the ill and disabled; those voiceless and powerless; the hard-hearted; the tender and a kaleidoscope of backgrounds, ethnicities, colors, personalities and religions.  So why don’t I just tick the “do good” summer box and move on?

Because these are real people and our real God loves them. They are valuable and matter as much as anyone else in the world and it makes my heart ache to know that there is so much still to do in places where the world has turned a blind eye.  The hurt continues. Abuse continues. Poverty continues. Helpless and hopelessness continue long after luggage has been claimed and the pause button on our lives lifts as we re-enter what we know as normal.

Time change or not, there is definitely a mission-heart lag, as so there should be. If not, the trip was merely an adventure.

Coming home, there are things about here I can’t stand. But there are things about there I can’t stomach.  When I’m here, I want to be there. When I’m there, I know I need to here. With every mission, my heart splits farther in two.

Air-conditioning is wonderful. A hot shower is marvelous. My own pillow and puppy, they’re the best. But so is listening to exotic tree frogs serenade us in the evening on the porch of a home in the middle of a foreign country. Nothing compares to looking into the eyes of a soul who is amazed we went all the way there for them, and then to realize that this God we speak of did so much more by sending His Son for them.

Kr2Our home this evening is still as jazz plays faintly in the background. Everywhere I look there is travel clutter. The exhaustion from a twenty-two hour venture home has numbed the urgency to make all of the mess go away. So to forget it all I schlepped to the grocery store to fill an empty fridge. I found myself drawn to the aisle with some of the ethnic foods we just enjoyed there. I will look for guava in everything for a long time. I’ll make roti bread and cook-up rice with chicken to remember the flavors of mission. But it’s not the same as being there.

I think about those who denied accepting Christ when asked; precious babies sleeping on mamas’ shoulders; the reluctant, mischievous teens in the back row; the mothers (of a different religion) who looked on with both gratefulness that we came, and skepticism toward our motives; and those who were just passing by and stopped in to see what all the hullabaloo was about as we sang with the kids, washed their feet and gave them new shoes.

I can tell you countless awesome stories of those who asked Jesus to be their Savior; men and women, boys and girls who asked for prayer for their families and themselves; and those who traveled a long way just to be a part of the celebration. I thank God and rejoice over each one. But, for those whose story doesn’t include Christ, they are why I continue to go.

Leaving the grocery store this afternoon, the bagger began chatting with me. She asked how my day was going. I responded with a soft, “Fine, thanks,” hoping she’d leave it at that. Then she asked, “So what are your plans for the rest of the day?” Her question was like a tiny hole punctured in a balloon as I felt the last bit of energy deflate. I mustered up a smile and response, “I don’t have any plans. We just got back in town and I’m really tired.”

(Could that be the end of conversation for now, please?)

“Oh yeah, from where?”

(sigh) “Guyana.”

“Cool. Were you there for vacation?”

Wait for it….

“No, it was a mission trip.”

Any other day I’d be ecstatic to talk about all things mission. Today, I just needed milk, dinner and tissues to wipe the tears from my eyes. My response was the Pandora’s box for a delightful, but draining conversation. She was so sweet. It was me who crawled to the car playing all the social cards in my hand.

There’s a lot to unpack and put away strewn about the house, but there is much more to unpack in my heart. The problem is I don’t know where to put it all. The demands of daily life and international mission life have little overlap in this season, sans the insane, and very thankful, amount of fundraising we have to do to afford going. A few pictures on the wall and some local, handmade trinkets on a shelf help to be something my heart can focus on as I move through the day. All of our personal effects still smell like Guyana, just like they smelled of burnt wood when we returned from Africa. The same is true for smells unique to the other countries which now have pieces of our hearts.

At the end of the day, this mission was just a shift, if you will. Helping and encouraging those working in the mission field full-time. We took a shift to go and be salt and light to them and those they serve.

I gave it my all, but feel like it fell far short of what is needed. Jet lag is something that can be slept off. Mission-heart lag can’t be shaken off, nor should it be. I hope and pray the pains of mission never go away, lest I forget the needs and fall into a pleasure coma of the society in which I live.

I am haunted and humbled by what I’ve experienced. Come quickly, Lord. Until then, I’ll keep going wherever You lead.

Why I love the body of Christ – miraculous transformation!

Before I begin, I want to explain my recent silence.  There are so many things going on in the world right now, serious issues, that I’ve felt like anything I write is trivial in comparison.  Nothing parallels life and death, and thus I almost started believing that anything other than those issues were not as important.

Well, that is true – to a point.  Many of us do not live in life or death situations every day of our lives.  But, we do live with peaks and valleys, good times and suffering, gain and loss, sickness and health, and all of the array of emotions that accompany such times of life.  There are seasons and purposes to everything under heaven (Ecclesiastes) and this blog’s purpose is to walk through these seasons, hopefully offering encouragement to others who paths may look different, but share some of the same feelings about our journeys.  So with that, I have found a revived excitement about writing.  One person cannot solve the world’s problems, but if this blog brings a smile, offers a perspective, or lightens the load of our fellow sojourners, then God will continue to work His message through this one, simple blog that has traversed 25+ countries across the world.

What better way to prove this than with my friend.  Lately, I’ve been overwhelmed with a new found love for my church.  I’m not talking about only where my membership resides, but Christ’s church that spans from the book of Acts to all over the world today.  We will camp on this for a few days.  Why?  Because the church has taken many hits over time.  It’s not perfect by any stretch, but God has ignited in my heart a renewing of the joy of being part of His church.  With that, there’s someone I’d like you to meet.

I met this friend a while ago.  For a long time, I didn’t know his story of how he became a Christian or found our church.  I only knew I was glad this man’s life intersected ours.  He makes good points in discussion.  He is tender, humble and very funny.  He has a huge, bright smile and likes to laugh.  He is considerate, helpful and smart.  He never misses a Sunday (unless work schedules conflict) and worships with his whole being.  He loves God with all his heart; loves his church; and loves people.  I recall a recent Sunday when he stood at the door, greeting people as they came in the building.  He smiled and said kind words to me.  He ushered the offering plate on our row with a servant’s heart.  Sounds like a great guy, huh?

Did I also mention that he used to be (until he asked Christ into his heart) a drug dealer?  He had every dealer’s name in the city on his speed dial, and used to use “physical intimidation” to get money due him.  He wasn’t a nice guy.

Ya know what?  I can’t see it.  What I see when I look at him (as does everyone at our church who knows his story), is a transformed man.  Extreme Makeover has nothing on this guy.  This man is teachable, gentle and kind.  I liken him to a teddy bear.

My husband and I talked fondly about him just yesterday, and we just sit in amazement over the new life this friend has in Christ.  The bondage of old sin is broken, and he is new.

Is his life perfect?  Nope.  Is anyone’s?

Does his old lifestyle still have consequences?  Sure.  Anyone’s does.

If accepting Christ as Savior meant a free ride with a perfect life, being Christian would be a lot more popular!  One thing it does mean is that we are free to live the abundant life Jesus spoke of in John 10:10.

There are many people in the Bible who underwent the same transformation on their own personal level.  Take Paul.  He was Saul, a perfect Pharisee.  He relentlessly persecuted the church without discrimination against men, women, old and young.  He was present, and approved, Stephen’s stoning – which was the first martyrdom for Christ (Acts 7:54-60; Acts 8:1).

But, then he encountered Christ.  He was changed.  Transformed.  New. (Acts 9:319)

Were Christians wary of Paul?  Oh yes!  When he came to Damascus, they knew he was coming for them.  After all, he made that message very clear (Acts 9:1-2).  But along the way, the love of Christ broke through some very tough skin and a hardened heart.  Paul went on to become the most impactful missionary in history for the cause of Christ.  If God could reach Saul, now Paul, how capable is He of giving any of us a new start?

Regardless of our past, God offers a new future.  He replaces shame with dignity; heals scars; replaces despair with hope; and sets our feet on a new path made exclusively for us.  No one is beyond saving.  Christ died for one and all.  He is the only God who sacrificed Himself for people so we, who accept Him, don’t ever have to experience the eternal penalty for our sins.

My friend experienced God’s love in such an irresistible way that he forsook his entire lifestyle and livelihood to follow Christ.  He asked for forgiveness and turned from his ways.  He surrendered his finances to God and asked Him to give him a job he can be proud of.  He seeks God.  Becoming a Christian didn’t satisfy his appetite.  He wants more.  He wants to know more about God and draw closer to Him.  That is change!

If I weren’t a part of the body of Christ, I never would have met this man that I look forward to seeing on Sundays.  His story never would have challenged my heart to embrace miraculous change for anyone who earnestly wants it.

If I weren’t part of the body of Christ, I never would have realized how similar my friend and I are.  I may not have his story as my own, but we both share a need for God’s love, forgiveness, and grace.  We both rest in the peace that only Christ can bring.  We both want to run our races strong for Christ – no matter the cost.  We are both sinners who found a life of hope and joy in God who is trustworthy and faithful.

We are equally loved by God who created us.  My friend’s story reaffirms a favorite quote by Dr. Bruce Frank, You can run from God, but you can’t outrun God.  

Whether I see my friend at church, or look in the mirror, I am reminded of Lamentations 3:22-23, Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.  I am thankful to be a part of the body of Christ.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come. Corinthians 5:17

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But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect…

1 Corinthians 15:10

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Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. Romans 8:1-2

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To Him who loves us and has set us free from our sins by His blood, and made us a kingdom, priests to His God and Father—the glory and dominion are His forever and ever. Amen. Revelation 1:5

I Have to Tell You What Happened!

Okay, remember my post Really? written before taking our mission trip to Ukraine?  I read back through it today, and feel compelled to tell you the sequel to the saga.  If you haven’t read that post, I encourage you to or today’s post may not make much sense.

It’s been a month, and here we are teetering on the cliffhanger…what happened when I spoke to the ladies?  This is absolutely not about me, rather it’s about what God did.  This was a ladies-only event, but He bucked the system and showed up!   I am so glad He did.

It was time to face my Goliath in the privacy of just God, me and the issue at hand only hours before the event.  In an arm-wrestling battle with this giant that I’ve never won against, this time God grabbed my hand and slammed that monster’s knuckles to the table.  I was the winner, hands-down (pardon the pun).

What was different about this time, versus the thousands of other times I walked away from the table in defeat?  It’s so simple it’s complicated.  It’s so complicated it’s simple.  Ready?  I listened.

That’s it!  That’s all I did.

Listened to who?  God.

Who was I listening to before?  The world, the enemy and myself.

We are creatures of habit.  Habits produce patterns.  Patterns affect our way of thinking.  The way we think affects our beliefs – positively or negatively.  For 25 years, everything about me was negative in this area.  Reading back over the post Really?, I see a person so sick and tired of being defeated in an area of her life, that she would rather admit final defeat and taboo it from her life than allow herself to be vulnerable to what God had to say about it.

I had beat myself up so badly with negative thoughts and behavior, and allowed the enemy to do the same, that I became hypersensitive to the touch of my heart and couldn’t even fathom letting the hand of God heal me.   Self-hate set in.  A longtime battle that left me utterly exhausted.  This is not the same as self pity.  With self-hate comes a level of despising that is hard to describe into words.  However, the enemy found lots of words to speak in my ear to keep the hate spinning like a top in my head.

Because of God’s perfect will and timing, He chose this year to be the final, epic battle over me.  Why?  I don’t know.

He knows us best and knew it was time. I have been so humiliated for so long about this pattern of self-hate in my life, that my own embarrassment was easy harassment for the enemy.

It’s as though God stepped down from heaven, met me right where I was – in a dorm room in Ukraine – alone with only my Bible, and said to me, Just give me a chance.  You’ve been dooped for so long by so many people, including yourself, you’ve forgotten who you really are; who I made you to be; and most importantly, you’ve forgotten how I see you.  You see yourself as hopeless. I see you as helpless.  You see yourself as defeated.  I see you as wounded.  You see yourself as beyond the point of help.  I see you on the brink of a new beginning.  One thing we can both agree on is that you cannot do this alone.  But, can you trust Me that we can do this together?

That was the moment.  If a soundtrack had been running in tandem to the movie of my life, a simple heartbeat on the drum would have pounded.  It was a physical moment of spiritual decision.  I sat on the edge of the bed next to my closed Bible, and felt God literally wait on me for a  response.

I looked around the quiet room, fidgeted with my hands and shuffled my feet.  On the outside I was silent.  On the inside, I watched a flashback of all my years from the time my issue began.  I heard all of the hurtful words people have said to me about this over the years.  I saw their faces and felt the sting of pain as if it were the first time all over again.  I heard everything the enemy every told me about myself and I felt myself beginning to fold.

My chest was heavy and it was heard to breathe.  Palms sweating, the back of my neck prickly, and my heart beating fast, I was in a war over who to side with.  This was God’s work, but He required one thing from me.  An answer.

How did I get to that answer?  The ONLY thing that persuaded me to side with Him that day was this question God prompted within my heart…Who has God been to you, Kristi?  Over all of these years, who has He proven Himself to be to you?

When I began to recall His sovereignty, His power, His grace, His mercy, His love, His faithfulness, His tenderness, His discipline, His consistency, and His miraculous presence in every moment of my life, the tall, thick walls around my heart (which stay heavily guarded by the way), began to fracture.  A 25-year old wound is very sensitive.  It’s never stopped bleeding the pain of my issue.  I had built such heavy defenses around it that I didn’t even realize I had shut God out until that day I told my friend I didn’t want His redemption in this area of my life.  My plan was just to privately, secretly nurse this wound until I died.

I sat on the edge of the bed in a quandary.  Do I trust God, who has been completely faithful and loving my entire life, even through the darkest of times, or do I continue in a self-destructive pattern that I know is harming me inside and out?

Could I take that first step and say to God, Alright.  You can have a go at my heart.  I trust You.  Or, do I tell my mission teammates I cannot speak to the ladies and retreat further into myself than I ever had before – this time with the strong possibility of never following my bread crumb trail back to the surface.

Sometimes, when we are at our weakest, our darkest, and in our deepest pain, all God is asking of us is to trust Him.  We get tangled up thinking we have to do something courageous or smart or skillful.  We live in a world that tells us we are only what we can produce.  Well, when we cannot produce anything beneficial, then who are we?  Nothing.  And I had felt like that for 25 years.

God knows this.  In Psalm 103:13-14, David understood.  He said, As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.

Even if our pit is one we dug ourselves, God will still search for us and reach down His hand to pull us out.  Will we take it?

Part of the difficulty I faced in that moment was realizing that a new pattern would be established.  Great, but I didn’t know how to do that.  I didn’t have the strength to push back this giant.  Again, trust.  Perhaps God will help me? I thought to myself.  After all, He promised to help Moses lead the exodus out of Egypt.  He promised to fight for the Israelites time and again from Joshua at Jericho to Nehemiah rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem to Mary & Joseph, Paul & Silas, Peter and so on.

Why would God help?  Isn’t He as frustrated about this as I am?  Hasn’t His patience run out?

2 Chronicles 16:9 – For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him… 

So God is actually searching for His children who lost their way be it in one area or many.  He searched for me and found me in a room alone in Ukraine.  He traversed the world and caught up to me.  I can almost see it.  Just as I am deciding whether or not to cancel the ladies event, a knock on the door.  I’m not expecting anyone.  Who could it be? I wonder to myself.  I stand up and slowly walk to the door.

Who is it? I ask.

It’s Me, comes a reply from the other side.  I gasp!  There is only One who sounds like that.  He is my Groom.  My Savior.  I turn the key and pull down on the handle.

What are you doing here? I ask in wonder.  Jesus’ face lights up when He sees me.  I just stand there, jaw agape in awe that He is actually here, on my doorstep in Ukraine.

May I come in? He asks with a broad smile, slightly out of breath from running up the 3 flights of stairs.

Oh, I’m sorry.  Yes!  Come in!  

Thanks, He replies.  I’m glad I caught up to you.

Why?

Because you are about to make a really big decision, and I want to be part of it if you’ll let Me.

But, why is this so important to You?

You are important to Me.

Why?

Because I love you.

But, I keep failing in this area.  How is that lovable?

You are lovable.  God the Father made you, and He made you lovely.

But, I’ve failed so many times before.  I have no confidence in myself with this anymore.

That’s okay.  Put your confidence in Me.

But, I am tired, Jesus.  I don’t want to, can’t, fight this anymore.

He takes my hands in His and sits down with me.  He looks at me with eyes that make time stop, heartbeats still, and breath shallow.  His love permeates the room.  I cannot hear anything else, see anything else, feel anything else, but his warm, tender, and gentle hands holding mine.

I love you with an everlasting love.  Don’t you see, it’s not about what you can or cannot do.  It’s not about who anyone, including yourself, has told you who you are.  Isn’t not about your track record.  It’s about who you are in Me.  I complete you.  When you asked me into your heart, I made you whole.  I make you strong.  I heal your hurts.  I am your breath.  I am life living in you.  You have, for so long, lived in defeat.  But, like every other time in your life when you leaned on Me, will you do it this time?  I’ve got your best interest at heart.  Our Father is always working for the good of those who love Him.  You are tired of listening to everyone else, including yourself, tell you who you are not.  Will you listen to Me tell you who you are?

A lump swells in my throat.  Tears stream down my face and my nose begins to run.  Eyes sting from salty tears, my bottom lip quivers at the thought of perhaps listening to my Savior, my best friend, my groom.

I furrow my brow in deep decision.  This is not easy.  Every ounce of self-hate has risen to the surface.  Every hurtful word is screaming at me.  The enemy is beside himself that Jesus has locked him out of the room.  I hear him furiously pounding on the door.

Christ leans and whispers so close I feel His breath.  His hands holding mine.  Will you listen to Me tell you who you are?

My head drops, and through stinging tears and a runny nose, I ever-so-slightly nod and utter beneath my sobbing, Yes.

He leans toward me even more, resting His forehead on mine, noses almost touching, and through tears of His own, He smiles and says, You are…My beloved.

I fall into His arms.  It is enough.  It is more than enough.  I breathed in those two words and they entered my body.  They shot straight to my heart, my spirit, and began their healing work.  Like a physician’s hands performing delicate surgery, those two words healed my heart from the inside out.

Did that encounter physically happen?  Yes and no.  No, Jesus did not come in tangible human form, but He did come by way of the Bible.  As I sat on the edge of the bed, I came to an answer.

Yes.  I would listen.  Yes.  I would open myself up, become vulnerable, and listen to what He had to say.  He led me to Scripture after Scripture telling me who I am to Him and in Him.  It was one of the most precious hours of my entire life.  With every verse, scars disappeared from my heart.  The voice of Truth eradicated the lies that have plagued me for over two decades.

No other god would, or could, do this.

I stood that night, before beautiful women and shared.  I shared from the depth of my soul words He had for them…and for me.  Their tears were my tears.  Their Truth was my Truth.

I returned from Ukraine a different person.  God asked me to leave all the hurt and pain with Him, and I did.  I left the self-hate, too.  I physically felt the weight of this lift from me.  Physically.  Crazy, huh?  I feel a peace from the inside out.  Peace that is not of this world.  My good moments before were only that – moments.  This is 24/7.  He healed me.  I am at peace with Him and with myself.  His words of who I am are the only sound I hear in this issue that no longer has a hold on me. I am free.

I am whole.  I am at rest.  I am victorious.  Because of Christ’s victory over death, we who follow Him are invited to have victory in our lives.  Our entire lives – every area.

I am eternally grateful He didn’t leave me in the pit in which I was trapped.  I am so humbled He sought me and deemed my problem worthy of His time and effort.  He did a mighty work in me and all He asked of me was to let Him do it.  I didn’t have to prove anything, be of eloquent speech or show my own strength.  I simply chose to trust Him.

God is on our side.  He is a good God.  He is faithful.  God is love.  Jesus, indeed You are the Prince of Peace.  Thank You.  I love You.

A Must See!

Last night, one of my best friends sent me an email with a link to a time sensitive premier of a movie coming out.  She told me I HAD to stop and watch it as it was going off-air within the night.  What began as a typical evening in our home was totally derailed and we were completely captivated by this movie!

It had us totally speechless the entire time – past midnight.  I went to bed thinking about it and woke up thinking about it.  It’s a documentary.  It’s real, raw and utterly astounding.  At one point, my entire family shouted out in shock.  I won’t give ANY spoilers, but trust me, you have to watch this.  It will change your life forever.

Okay, the the title is “Father of Lights” by Darren Wilson.  They held the premier in CA – which is what we watched.  It comes out October 16th.  We are absolutely going to buy this.

I still get chills when I think about several parts in it.  Honestly, I’ve never seen anything like it.

I hope my teaser has peeked your interest.  We had so much trouble getting it to play last night (Bruce thinks their server was hammered by heavy traffic due to the free premier) as we tried it on our laptop , iPad, tv, you name it.  At one point, I was so frustrated I said, “Why did I ever look at my email?  This was going to be an early night!”  Oh am so glad her email came to me.  I am so glad we dropped everything and watched it in its entirety.

October seems like a long ways off.  When it comes out, watch it, then post here what your thoughts are.  I can’t WAIT to talk about this movie because life is indeed stranger than fiction.  Oh my.  Still thinking about it today…

Have I driven you crazy yet? 🙂  You just have to see it!

Click here for the link!

Kristi

Flash Mob Mission Theory

Sing to him a new song; play skillfully, and shout for joy. ~ Psalm 33:3

Since my family began taking mission trips last summer, many people have asked us all kinds of questions.  One question I have asked myself over and over is, “How do I describe what it feels like to go on a mission trip?”  There are simply so many feelings and thoughts, I don’t know where to begin or end.

Expressions used in every day genres such as: too beautiful for words, or words can’t describe, or I’m at a loss for words – come to mind to describe going on mission.  However, people patiently wait for an answer they can keep.  Something they can wrap their heads around to either be more informed, or perhaps, encouraged.

This morning, I had the delightful surprise of an email sent to me by my mother-in-law.  I often don’t have time to read forwarded emails, but this one caught my eye.  It is a YouTube link (the link is at the bottom of this post).  As I watched it, tears streamed down my face, and I didn’t know why.  Emotion swelled up in my heart and I didn’t understand.  I’ve seen many flash mobs and am always amazed at their creativity.  It would be so much fun to be a part of one some day.  I’ve seen many styles and themes and have enjoyed them all.

Oh, but this one was different.

This one caught my heart and I couldn’t figure it out.  Then, the Lord showed me the reason for my tears.  This particular flash mob describes how I feel about going on mission, though the flash mob itself has nothing to do with it.

Allow me to set the scene.  People, all over the world, are going about their daily lives. Without any hullabaloo, grand entrance or proud proclamation, a single person steps forward and does something out of the ordinary.  They begin to do what they do and people begin to watch.  One by one, people emerge from the crowd, from around the corner, from inconspicuous places, and join.  What appears to be completely spontaneous is far from it.

But, they look just like everyone else standing around!  They are.

Why do they do it?  They are called to and love what they do.

It is the same with missions.  Ordinary people come together, each with a different set of strengths and weaknesses, gifts and talents, and together they serve united with one voice to the world – Christ’s.  Individually, they cannot play all instruments in the symphony.  They have been given a specific set of tasks, and they do them with all their heart.  Unlike the flash mob below, short-term missionaries are not professional missionaries.  Rather, God equips them for the task for such a time as this.

Consider the sequence of events in this overture: they pray over the opportunity; begin all necessary paperwork, shots, etc.; meet regularly to discuss the overall plan as well as individual tasks each person will have; they continue to meet for months, all along gathering supplies and traveling sundries; they pack and hug family members and friends goodbye; they are off.  Oftentimes, traveling with people they have never known before this journey began.

They arrive in a land which may be foreign in landscape, language or culture.  They are the minority.  Settled into their temporary home, they continue to meet and go over details, supply lists, and prayer requests.

The time comes to serve.  As I watched our team in Ukraine recently, indeed, a flash mob began.  What looked like a motley crew of disjointed ages and seasons of life, we came together in perfect tune to make a joyful noise for the Lord.  We were a band of unlikely people, coming from various backgrounds and unknown futures, but when God, the Master Conductor, tapped His baton, all of our attention and eyes focused on Him.  We set aside our lives, schedules and agendas and took our place in His company to play for Him as best we can.

After a two-day flight and a long bus ride; after security and customs and baggage claim and a good night’s sleep; after attending Ukraine’s Sunday church service and meeting many new precious faces – in an instant, right after breakfast, on a sunny, warm Monday nestled comfortably on the calendar, we broke off into our musical suites – soccer, basketball, Bible, arts & crafts, volleyball and music.  We were not travelers.  We were on mission – with a purpose.  We weren’t there to put on a show.  We weren’t there for applause.  We weren’t there for recognition or reward.  Like a flash mob, versus the limelight of a well-publicized event, we were there simply because we were called to be, and wanted to be, to hopefully please God our Father and be a blessing to those around us.

We wanted to bring spontaneous joy.  We wanted to break out of the ordinary and let the extraordinary hand of God brings smiles, hope and strength to beautiful hearts.  I remained wide-eyed throughout the week, over what felt only to be somewhat organized beforehand, was really something God had a well-thought out plan for.  As the Master Conductor, He directed every moment, every step, every word – to stay in perfect pitch with His plan and for His purpose.  Whether in loud allegro moments of organized chaos, or in soft adagio moments of prayer and friendship, the tempo of our mission’s symphony stayed in unison for His glory.

We were imperfect people banding together for perfect purposes – to draw others into His symphony of love so that they might find their instrument, their God-given gift, and play it for Him in chorus with us.

A short-term mission trip is an amazing wonder of which to be a part.  Like watching a flash mob, and the faces of those participating shine with joy and enthusiasm, so we also felt the anticipation build from the inside out.  One major difference between a flash mob and missions is that we encourage others watching to jump in and join us.  Children, teens and adults played in harmony with us for a week of blessing.  We got dirty playing soccer, got sweaty playing basketball, got creative making earrings and crafts, and had way too much fun dancing.  Who was blessed more? Dare I say I went hoping to be a blessing, but was blessed beyond measure.  Our new friends’ voices filled the gaps in our choir.  We weren’t just a team united, we were one body united – no matter the language or cultural barriers.  We were one.  It is, in fact, how eternity will be for those in God’s cantata.

The flash mob below carries a tune for missions that I am unable to express with words.  Like music of the heart, going on mission touches the goer as much as the receiver.  One is never the same when it is over.  Memories roll around in my mind like a melody I can’t stop humming.  People there have changed my heart here, and God used them to write scores of new music for my life to dance to.  Missions has a secret that nothing else in the world can offer.  No amount of money, fame, or fortune can compare to a new reason to dance, a new song to sing, and new friends with which to enjoy it.  There is no greater feeling than to accept new brothers and sisters in Christ, from all over the world, into my life…forever.

There is nothing more satisfying than dancing in step to the rhythm of God’s heartbeat – which is His love for the world.  It is exactly why, for as long as He allows, we will continue to go.  To sing.  To dance.  To work. To play.  To laugh. To cry. To cheer. To love.  Christ is the reason, His salvation the melody, and the people we welcome in our family, both on the team and at our destination, motivate and inspire us as the harmony of their friendship hums in tandem with ours to the music God is playing around the world.  Stop and listen.  Do you hear it?

Click here to let this particular flash mob play the music my heart feels about missions.

Psalm 139…Amish-Country Style

Psalm 139 has been my life Scripture.  While in Ukraine, I relied heavily on God’s message in this Psalm for courage and strength.  For instance, I don’t mind flying, but it’s not on my list of favorites by far.  When I fly, I always recite verses 9-10, and it helps me remember who is in control of the plane and the journey.  Or, when I walked 32 flights of stairs to visit with some precious Ukrainian people in their apartment because the building’s elevator was iffy, I heard verses 2-3 roll around in my mind.  God continues to speak to me through this collection of verses, so thought I would share this post again and hope it speaks to you, too! 🙂

This passage has shared mountain-top highs with me and pulled my soul out of the pit.  It is a joy to offer a visual perspective of David’s incredible, tender heart seen through the eyes of the Amish country.

Psalm 139: 1-18, 23-24

Oh LORD, you have searched me and you know me.

You know when I sit

and when I rise;

you perceive my thoughts from afar.

You discern my going out

and my lying down;

you are familiar with all my ways.

Before a word is on my tongue

you know it completely, O LORD.

You hem me in – behind and before;

you have laid your hand upon me.  Such knowledge is too wonderful for me to attain.

Where can I go from your Spirit?  Where can I flee from your presence?

If I go up to the heavens you are there;

if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.

If I rise on the wings of the dawn,

if I settle on the far side of the sea,

even there your hand will guide me,

your right hand will hold me fast.

If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,”

even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.

For you created my inmost being;

you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;

your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

My frame was not hidden from you

when I was made in the secret place.

When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body.

All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!  How vast is the sum of them!

Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand.

When I awake, I am still with you.

Search me, O God, and know my heart;

Test me and know my anxious thoughts.

See if there is any offensive way in me,

and lead me in the way everlasting.

Psalm 139…Amish-Country Style

When I visited the Amish country, I had no idea I would ever write a blog.  I feel humbled and privileged that God had in mind to put some of my photos from this trip to Scripture and post them here.  Life really is a journey, and with Him it is never boring.

Psalm 139 has been my life Scripture.  This passage has shared mountain-top highs with me and pulled my soul out of the pit.  It is a joy to offer a visual perspective of David’s incredible, tender heart in a unique way. I hope it speaks to you, too.

Psalm 139: 1-18, 23-24

Oh LORD, you have searched me and you know me.

You know when I sit

and when I rise;

you perceive my thoughts from afar.

You discern my going out

and my lying down;

you are familiar with all my ways.

Before a word is on my tongue

you know it completely, O LORD.

You hem me in – behind and before;

you have laid your hand upon me.  Such knowledge is too wonderful for me to attain.

Where can I go from your Spirit?  Where can I flee from your presence?

If I go up to the heavens you are there;

if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.

If I rise on the wings of the dawn,

if I settle on the far side of the sea,

even there your hand will guide me,

your right hand will hold me fast.

If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,”

even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.

For you created my inmost being;

you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;

your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

My frame was not hidden from you

when I was made in the secret place.

When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body.

All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!  How vast is the sum of them!

Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand.

When I awake, I am still with you.

Search me, O God, and know my heart;

Test me and know my anxious thoughts.

See if there is any offensive way in me,

and lead me in the way everlasting.