As time passes by here in Sudan, as in the rest of the world, I keep my mind and heart open to the counsel and instruction of the Lord. Even as I struggle at times with persevering in the high calling that the Lord has given me, that of seeking His heart in every matter, His desire is that we grow and go from strength to strength, from faith to faith and from glory to glory. It is impossible to stand still if we are following the Lord daily. It is impossible not to grow in something if we are following the Lord daily.
Being in the mission field one would think that it is a daily life of being and working with those who are of like mind and like faith, all having the same goal and all going in that same direction spiritually. I am learning that no matter how much we would like it to be so, it is not. Although we are of like mind concerning the work at hand, our spirits are not like-minded. It is very hard to stay in the corporate mindset when it comes to your relationship with Jesus when everyone has their own way of meeting God. In the west, we go to church and conferences and revival meetings and everyone gets fired up and excited about the Presence of God and we go where we can find like-minded people. We leave these meetings with a renewed vigor and hunger for the things of the Kingdom of God and even new friendships with people “just like us”.
I am finding that what I learned in Missions 101 in Pemba rings truer everyday. There are no conferences here. There are no churches that worship the way you are used to. There aren’t people to pray with because you can’t speak their language yet. Even your fellow missionaries come from different faiths and so you find yourself bobbing on the ocean looking for the ship you came in on to come and rescue you. And so it is vital and necessary to encourage yourself in the Lord. If you don’t encourage yourself and keep yourself stirred up, you die. You simply die spiritually. I see this with my own eyes in some of the missionaries I know here in Sudan.
When I feel tired and when I feel overwhelmed I have to go to Jesus or I die. I cannot live on Face Book every single night for literally hours finding cyberspace relationship fulfillment. I see this a lot here with the young people (missionaries). If I don’t stay focused on the Who then I will lose the Do. There is no way I could ever think about coming back after my home visit if I didn’t have a strong personal relationship with Jesus.
It is so easy to get caught up in the “work” of the mission and the people of the mission field and get sidetracked concerning the true purpose of the mission. Jesus Christ is the mission. It doesn’t matter what we are called to, or where we are ministering, He is the mission. Every day I minister to people and I work to further the kingdom of God by doing my job here at Samaritan’s Purse with all that is within me. Each week I am preaching somewhere and each day I am praying for people in some capacity. We work six days a week and then on Sundays I go to church and the Children’s center. Even though I begin every morning at least two hours with the Lord, I still find that there are times that I have to take a rest for an entire day and just be filled with Him.
This last week I found it so hard not to despair because I missed my church so much. I missed the fellowship of believer’s that I am blessed with in my home church. I really miss corporate worship and prayer and crying out to God as one body. I cannot find that here in my little corner of Yei, Sudan and I even wondered, how long O God can I really do this with the passion You have called me to do this with? Although the people are lovely and friendly, there is always that feeling of being an outsider. And so I have learned that I really do have to encourage “myself” in the Lord. Jesus was an outsider everywhere He went. He was even treated rudely by the local church and its leaders. What did Jesus do? He always went up on a mountainside or a quiet place and encouraged Himself in the Father.
The only true relationship that lasts is ours alone with God. Our passion for the things that He has called us to do MUST come from sustained relationship with Him and it must be consistent and real. If we cannot encourage ourselves in the Lord, especially here on the mission field, then we die. There is no plan B. You cannot encourage yourself through other people and rely in that. People will eventually let you down. Even Jesus says this. Today is Sunday and I have been in my cabin for hours just strengthening myself in the Lord, just spending time doing nothing but listening to Him and talking to Him through worship, through reading the Word, through being still and KNOWING God.
And I promise you, there is no way that God will leave you empty when you go back out to minister and do the work to which He has called you. True intimacy brings the filling and refreshing Presence of God. Whether you “feel” God or not, He always answers us and fills us back up again. Yes, it is my desire to stay filled by starting each day with Him, but there are days when the work is hard and the day is long and everything you had at the beginning has been sucked dry. But, you know it is a good day when you lay your head down at night and find Peace there, waiting for you, to fill you back up again. David encouraged himself in the Lord. Jesus encouraged Himself in the Father. I encourage myself in the Lord. Everyday, it simply has to be Him that we live for, simply Him and nothing else, for surely there is where we find true life.
I have been thinking a lot about surrender lately. Here in South Sudan, the political climate is getting darker. The people are now literally being held captive by the government in this country because they are not allowed to leave for any reason. They used to have the freedom to go across the border to visit Uganda and Congo. Now, they are not allowed to go anywhere because the government has basically made it a rule that they stay here until the elections in March and they must vote.
Just down the road in Lanya, the Minister of one of the government offices was visiting to encourage the people to vote. He got ambushed and shot at and was airlifted out. People were caught in the gunfire and killed, innocent women and even children. Four hundred people are camped out in the Episcopal Cathedral because they are too afraid to go to their homes because these tyrants are still shooting to further their political agenda.
The LRA is moving north and meeting up with the northern militias’ to put even more fear into the people of the Southern states. You cannot realize how important this bill before the US Congress is concerning sending in the Marines to get Joseph Kony once and for all. We need to topple the head of this giant and end this fear and bloodshed in South Sudan. At least end a part of it.
My pastor friend just came back from up in that area and the LRA are still killing and still kidnapping young men and women. The youth leader of a church in Ibba was kidnapped and there are so many people being displaced because they are in fear of either the northern militias’, the LRA, the SPLA, or the tribal violence that spills over into neighboring villages. And all the while, it is suspected (with evidence) that the northern government is feeding the fires by supplying weapons and ammunition. The people are afraid. The people have left their crops and fields and are now facing a severe food shortage this summer (December-May) because they are too afraid to go back to their villages to tend to their crops. Do they surrender to death at the hands of the enemy or do they surrender to despair?
The Christian organizations and health organizations were told to leave last year and that if we stay, well then we are staying at our own risk. Samaritan’s Purse is this month moving operations right into the heart of all this activity to a place called Aweil and Wau. This is the oil country that the north wants. We are getting ready to build 140 churches in this area in this next year. And so I meditate on surrender. What does it mean to surrender? What does it mean to be held captive? And I think about what I would do if I were this people who are displaced. What would I surrender to?
I would like to submit that one could be taken captive by any number of things. One could be taken captive by an addiction. One could be taken captive by time. One could be taken captive by religion, or another person’s love or money or fear. There is so much in this world that can capture us. But the real question is what are we surrendering to? Surrender is when you are resigning yourself to your captor or when you despair of ever being rescued or when you turn something or someone over to another. And so I wonder what things capture me and what do I surrender myself to? Unless I surrender myself fully to God, then I am wasting my time here.
Here I am Lord your servant is listening. Capture me and cause me to surrender fully unto You all that is within me. When I say I surrender all, I want to mean it. At this point, I haven’t surrendered all. And so I meditate on surrender and continue to work out my salvation until the day of the Lord comes, as do many of us, and that is all that He asks for, to continue on in the faith and not fear, and to continue on in doing what He has called us to do. And I am sure of this one thing. Jesus Christ has to be my peace. I cannot even comprehend it but He really is my Peace. I sleep like a baby at night. I walk to the latrine in the dark of night, not a care in the world because I KNOW that He truly does care for me. Only in Jesus do I put my confidence. To put it anywhere else in Sudan, in this world, is sheer folly.