On Monday I woke up and I felt so amazingly good. All of the sickness of the last four days was completely gone and I was able to eat this day. I was so full of thanksgiving to God. I put on my headphones and iPod and went out into a field and I literally danced for at least a half hour unto the Lord. I sang and I danced in the early morning dawn and had a view of the surrounding hillsides where the land is still green and dotted with small huts and early morning cookfires, whisps of smoke climbing into the early morning sky. I was filled with such joy to be alive and to be in a place of perfect peace and wonder. Oh the freedom of dancing unashamed before the Lord in an open field, surrounded by maize corn and potatoes and teak trees and palm trees and the rich earthy smell which we were created from before the very breath of God awakened our souls to life abundantly.
Later, as I walked back from town, there were three boys up ahead of me, just walking along and talking. I watched them as they walked, their clothes ragged and dirty, feet bare as the sun shone down in its intensity. These boys were happy and had not a care in the world. They were carrying sticks and their handmade cars, made of castoff tin and old rubber flip flops shaped into wheels. They were laughing and so engrossed in the joy of boyhood in a place where they are free to run the trails of the bush and climb mango trees and dive into small ponds and lie in the afternoon shade and watch the clouds drift lazily by in the hot Sudan sky. They are not poor. They are rich in life, knowing the pleasures of the innocence of boyhood and all that God has created for them. Makes me smile.
The spirit of thanksgiving has come upon me this week. I am so thankful for my 4” foam mattress and my bughut to sleep in at night where I lay my head in peace every single night; clothes on my body and a few extra; not living in a tent but having a real room; a computer and internet access (50 yrs ago missionaries had none); the grace given to me by God that should all things fail here I can always go home; perfect health; teaching me Your ways God; the sun on my face; simple food each day to nourish me; clean water (in a bottle); water period; my bamboo and grass outdoor shower and cool evening showers there; batteries for my flashlight; flashlights; Starbucks instant coffee; hugs from kids; the smile in my heart; a plastic chair to sit on; clothes line for my clothes; malaria pills; seeing the Southern Cross in the predawn sky each morning to remind me of His love for all mankind; CocaCola; the boys who carry my water up the hill for me; the support and love of my family and friends, both here in Sudan and in America and other parts of the world! Wow, I have so much to be thankful for!
My weeks have settled into a pattern now. On Monday and Tuesday afternoons I am teaching the Bible School. On Wednesday afternoon we prep for outreach with prayer and worship as a team. Then on Thursday afternoons we go to the hospital. This is where I lead the teams. We have two other teams who go to the police training camp, when they allow us, and another goes to the prison on Saturday mornings. My teams at the hospital are so zealous that they have asked to stay longer each week and so we do. I love their zeal for the sick and dying, to see them come to the saving grace of Jesus Christ and to see them rise up and walk, delivered from the hands of disease and pestilence. Each week brings new miracles, the biggest one being new lives in the kingdom of God.
God has been whispering into my ear about His grace. It is so wonderful. We witness to many Muslims here and they are coming to the knowledge that their religion is all about trying to please their God, about the law of doing the rituals of making themselves clean physically to be allowed to go before their God five times a day. Before they are allowed into their mosques they have to wash their feet and hands, snort water up their noise and expel it, clean their ears and swish water in their mouths so many times. All this to make themselves clean enough to go into a building to bow to a God whom they can’t even feel or hear from. It’s all about doing everything right and in the correct quantity.
We tell them that Jesus says come the way you are. Come with your dirty feet and hands and hearts. Come and I will make you clean. Let me do this for you. It’s called grace. Even in ministry, we sometimes feel that we have to be doing certain things or we have to be doing something in order to please God or “get us” in right standing with Him.
I have worked with some extreme Martha’s and some extreme Mary’s here on the mission field. God says to be a little of both. But in all that we do, we have to always realize that it is His grace that helps us to stay in His rest. Even when we are praying and interceding, if we have to “work ourselves up” then it isn’t about grace anymore. If we have to strive to enter in, then it isn’t about grace anymore. Everything God does is about grace.
When I pray for people, I just enter in to the rest FIRST, then I flow from His grace. I don’t worry about if that person will manifest their healing. I don’t worry that a person might reject Christ. I don’t worry about matching testimony stories when we return. I don’t even worry about having any to tell. I just know that I went where God said to go and He is happy with me. There is sometimes a sense of competition on any mission field. Who will have the biggest miracle, the craziest story, the most amazing deliverance. I used to go out into the mission field and work until I was exhausted, giving all that I had, so that I could feel like I gave my best to bring God glory.
Here in the place where I have matured to, I walk in the providence of God’s amazing grace. It was His grace that saved a wretch like me long ago. I didn’t do anything to earn it. He just gave….. I can’t earn healings or miracles or testimonies. I go and He gives. Oh the amazing grace of God is the biggest and best gift He ever gave. He gave Jesus, full of grace and glory, for us to be hidden in. If we just hide IN Christ, His grace overflows into all that we are. I love His grace. It is all sufficient for me. I need no more, just His grace. I would rather do nothing but adore Him than to strive to implore Him.
And so I encourage all that have been weary in this dry and thirsty land, partake of His wonderful warm grace. Drink from His cup of grace and be at peace. Walk down the gentle road of His grace and find comfort. Lie by the stream of His grace and find rest. Just let His grace rest on you and you will be filled again with His everlasting peace.
Friday night I led the Friday Night Furnace Prayer as usual. We start at 8:00 p.m. and pray all the way until midnight. The Lord gives me the scripture to focus on during the week and then we pray for our families, our nations, our churches, ourselves. I always end with John 17 where Jesus prays that we would be one, as He and the Father are one, so that the world will know that He was sent by His Father. If we aren’t in unity as the church, who will believe that Jesus came? Who will want to be His follower if the representation of the church shows a house divided? And so we earnestly pray for unity all across the world, one in Christ Jesus.
The youth always come to this event each Friday night. This time the smaller children, middle school age, came and worshipped with the banners and sang and prayed and there was such a spirit of joy and celebration in that place. We have no electricity and so we hang kerosene lanterns in the rafters and we can barely see each other. It is the coolest place to ask for the fire of God to come. We end with celebration and singing and then we blow out the lanterns, roll up the grass mats, close the doors and start our journey home. We always look forward to the next week as we are walking along the trail in the moonlight, heading back to our compound after midnight, the stars exploding in all their brilliance. No one can sleep because we are so excited.
Saturday I took our 14 older girls, teenagers, and we walked the hour to town, to partake of a perfect lunch. I took them to our “nicest” hotel and we sat inside at cute round tables with tablecloths. We ordered mango juice and then had fried chicken and French fries and coleslaw with cold CocaCola. Then we finished it off with a cold bottle of water. Anything cold here is a cause for celebration. There was a TV on and so they were just engrossed in that too. They did not want to leave because the atmosphere was so wonderful and relaxing. Can you imagine having lunch for the first time with no screaming and fighting children around? Being served and not having to serve? Having mango juice and CocaCola, at the same meal? Small things like this are such an amazing treat here. It cost me plenty but it was so worth it to see the joy on their faces.
On our return trip we stopped and bought ten stalks of sugar cane for the other children. Kids came running as we entered camp. They didn’t expect any today as the day was already growing late and then here we come, a vision out of the sun scorched dust, 15 beautiful young women (yep I was one of them hehe) coming up out of the desert carrying sweet sugar cane! These small things that warm our hearts. Be Thou my vision precious Savior. Be Thou, Thy love, my vision. Your precious love, my vision……
This morning I awoke from a dream where I was preparing for “my” wedding feast. I was calling the caterers and wine merchants and making reservations for the banquet hall. I never saw a husband in my dream or felt like I was engaged to one but I knew it was my wedding. I only had two days to make ready and I wasn’t even the least bit stressed. I knew it would all come together. Even on the phone, the caterer was telling me that it was such short notice. I told him I knew and that it was okay. We would make it in time, no worry. By the way, I did order BBQ for the food. I thought that was funny because I never would have in real life! Then I awoke from the dream and it was 5:00 a.m., my normal wake up time. And so, as I was walking to the latrine, thinking on these things, I saw a shooting star go across the northern sky, from left to right.
I then felt like I heard the Lord say to me, “Prepare yourselves, prepare the banquet table, your Groom is coming soon. In the heavens you will see the signs. Look up and see that My coming is soon. Make ready!” I was so excited and full of hope and expectation in that moment. I just knew that our Groom is coming soon. Prepare the feast, order the wine, make ready! He is coming! He really, really is! My pastor always says this and I really believe it. Then later, another missionary said that she had almost the same dream a month ago. I wonder how many others have had this type of dream? Hmmmmm……