Life This Week

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My friends Lawrence and Martha Temfwe, who live in Ndola, Zambia, strengthen my faith and encourage me to continue to grow and surrender my life to God. They don’t do it through words, but through their lives, their example. I don’t mean their courageous acts (visiting people suffering with HIV/AIDS, carrying for orphans, building the local church), although those are important too. I am encouraged most by their faith in the small moments – when they pray together in the car before going anywhere, their devotional time at breakfast, the conversation with their boys at dinner, and their deep care about my relationship with and growth in Christ. Any time I falter, I can think of them and get back on track. What a gift it is to look around and find someone who is standing firm in faith, growing in their relationship with God, and filled with the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. Even Paul said to a church in Thessalonica, “[k]nowing that your faith is alive keeps us alive.” (1 Thess 3:8) This week,

I’m thanking God for Lawrence and Martha Temfwe. They have been such a gift to me and they model faith, courage, and love. Their faith is so alive that they keep me more alive.

I’m praying for those who are faltering. I know that there are those around me whose faith is faltering today. I’m praying that God will open my eyes to those people and that I could be their Lawrence and Martha – that I could encourage them and strengthen them through my faith.

Who encourages you in your faith?

Who can you encourage today?

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Life This Week

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I returned from a two-week trip to Zambia, Africa last Thursday. Entry back to life here is always a struggle and this time has been no different. It’s extremely hard to respond to the question, “So, how was your trip?” There is simply no way to answer it in a word or two. Words that come to mind, but are still insufficient: full, hard, alive, heartbreaking, stunning, prayerful. The best words I have found are not mine, but easily could have been, I nearly gasped when I read them:

Westerners arriving in Africa for the first time are always struck by its beauty and size – even the sky seems higher. And they often find themselves suddenly cracked open. They lose inhibitions, feel more alive, more themselves, and they begin to understand why, until then, they have only half lived. In Africa the essentials of existence – light, earth, water, food, birth, family, love, sickness, death – are more immediate, more intense. Visitors suddenly realize what life is for. To risk a huge generalization: amid our wasteful wealth and time-pressed lives we have lost human values that still abound in Africa.

Richard Dowden, Africa: Altered States, Ordinary Miracles, at 1-2.

I have written four or five red exclamation points next to this paragraph, multiple stars, and underlines. Nothing could be more true and it is not just the first time one visits, as Dowden says, it is every time. What I experienced in Zambia was the intensity of the essentials of existence – light, earth, water, food, birth, family, love, sickness, and death. Each is present in every single moment, which is why the moments are too full to take in all at once. It’s almost like you have to turn away, take a breath, and return to the moment. God is in every moment and you know it with certainty.

This week what I desire most is that I don’t slide back into the wasteful wealth and time-pressed life that I left, but that I remember and embrace the essentials of existence, so:

I’m asking God to remind me of the essentials. Light, earth, water, food, birth, family, love, sickness, and death. Life is not life without any one of these.

I’m bathing my life in Scripture. I haven’t reached a full understanding of this yet, but something about recognizing these essentials of existence is critical to living out God’s Word. Interaction with widows and orphans sparks this connection. James wrote, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (James 1:27) These always seemed like separate thoughts: 1) take care of orphans and widows; and 2) keep oneself from being polluted by the world. But, I’m beginning to see they are one thought. Each enables the other. It is no wonder James also wrote: “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” (James 1:22) I am dedicating more time to reflecting on and living Scripture.

What does your week look like?

How could you bathe your life in Scripture?

Broken and Filled

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This week I have been asking myself: Can a heart be broken and filled at the same time? Not broken, then filled. But simultaneously broken, breaking and filled. How can it? Doesn’t whatever is doing the filling seep through the cracks made by the breaking?

I have visited several orphan feeding programs in Zambia this week. And the moments I have spent at each were so full that I can’t seem to recover. Each day I have felt broken apart from all I have seen. Broken apart by the suffering.  Most of these children eat once a day. It is not enough.  But then, I am filled by the life that bursts out of them anyway.  So much life packed into so little space. Not physical space, but space of time. Every moment filled to capacity, nearly exploding. Is it just that it is different and so my eyes struggle to take it in? Is it that suffering expands life somehow, making it fuller, more palpable?

I don’t have many words, and none at all that are profound, so, for now, I am relying on pictures to tell the story for me.

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These women are volunteers for a church that feeds orphans. They are preparing the plates.

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This sweet little girl came for food.

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This rooster walks around one of the churches.

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This little girl came for food.

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The roof blew off this house where a widow with four kids lived.

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This is a small restaurant between Lusaka and Ndola called the Fig Tree. It has a trampoline on its property.

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At this church, there are several dogs who have been dropped off. It is so hot, so they sleep in the shade.

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This is Given. I fell in love with her as soon as I saw her.

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These ladies are making nshima, sausage, and cabbage for the orphans.

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Given wanted to hold hands.

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Time to eat!

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400 church leaders kneeling at the end of the Global Leadership Summit in Ndola thanking God for the privilege of being invited to be a part of building Christ’s gathering — the church.

 

Life This Week

imageThis week I will be in Lusaka and Ndola, Zambia.  I arrived in Africa on Saturday morning.  Unlike my last two trips, I am very homesick already. I am looking forward to my time and it will be good to see dear friends.  But I am really struggling with the desire to go home.  Who knows why it is so strong but I’m praying God uses this time to continue conforming me into the image of Christ. I have been praying nearly constantly for courage and strength. It is quite stunning to be in Africa. I still can’t get over it. God blows my mind. Enough rambling. This week:

I’m praying for courage and strength and health.

I’m praying God will use me in whatever way brings him glory.

I’m thanking God for the opportunities he has given. Who would have ever thought?

I’m praying for my sweet girl back home that she feels loved and secure.

I’m trusting I will encounter God today…and every day.

Life This Week

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My trip to South Africa and Zambia is upon me now. This is my third trip to Africa, yet in some ways it feels like the first. I know more what to expect, but the fears, anxieties, and uncertainties about the travel are no different. The trip is no less significant in its impact on me than it was the first time. God is faithful to grow me on this trip, when I am out of my comfort zone, totally reliant on him and those he places on my path. In quiet moments, my stomach tightens at the thought of relying totally on God. I wish it came more easily, but it is always a struggle. There is only so much letting go I can do in the routine of my life because I know how to manage things. I operate much of the time (knowingly or not) under the illusion that I control my circumstances. On a trip across the world, there is no such illusion, all control, imagined or otherwise, is stripped away. This week, I am in prayer and surrender:

I’m praying. Father, keep me safe. Keep my sweet girl safe and feeling loved while I am gone. Make the skies smooth. Defend my body against sickness and ailments. Guard my heart against fear and anxiety. Show me beautiful things, new things about who you are. Make my time fully glorifying to you. Bring me home safe, filled with your love, aware of your character, and quick to give you thanks and praise.

I’m asking for prayer. Please pray for me, especially in the moments the Holy Spirit brings me to mind. You won’t know why, but I will need you to carry me into God’s presence in that very moment.

I’m relying on God’s promises. In particular, I’m holding onto this one: “Do not be anxious, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7.

I will be writing as much as I can when I am gone because I know I won’t be able to help it, God will show me amazing moments, introduce me to beautiful faces, and place in me a deeper understanding of his love and provision.

What does your week look like?