Sunday, November 24, 2013

Family Trip to Salone

  It has been an amazing and busy week. I was so blessed to have my sister Stephanie and her husband Ben come and visit me for ten days here in Sierra Leone. This has been the first visit for me from friends and family back home. I know that it was a huge sacrifice for them, yet I pray that it was a time of learning for them and a time of seeing the needs and work here in Sierra Leone.

A lot of our time was traveling between Makeni and Freetown, and the time seemed to speed by faster than light. We had time to laugh, catch up on life back home and experience the work taking place in Sierra Leone. For many, pictures and words can never fully communicate what it is like living and working here. That is why I am so thankful that their visit here will be a catalyst to help me communicate fully the joys and challenges of working on the mission field to you all.

One of the highlights of our week was spending a Sunday with Pastor Emmanuel and his family in the Deep Eye Water area. Pastor Emmanuel is my first Sierra Leonean instructor for Tree of Life and has since begun a new church as a result of his sharing the Truth with his students. The Sunday we spent with them was inspiring as we sat in their house church packed out with 28 people. It was their 6th service.  I am thankful for how God is blessing Pastor and his family for his faithfulness, integrity and perseverance as we partner together.

We also were able to visit the Binkolo Growth Centre led by Ismail Bangura. My family was able to see were our next new Tree of Life class will begin in December there and to hear about our potential partnership with the centre to process moringa and make it available to populations at risk for malnutrition and for possible exportation.

We also had some fun time together at the beautiful Tokeh Beach. I could not let my family fly thousands of miles without letting them enjoy the beauty of the beaches here in Sierra Leone. It was a relaxing and long overdue opportunity to just ‘chill’.

I also want to say thank you to the individuals and churches who gathered needed items for me and the work here. Also, I want to say thanks for the fun items as well. I may be subject to a Skittle overdose! ;-) You all will never know what the little things mean here and how much they are treasured.
I will be writing more soon as I prepare for the new class in the coming weeks. Please continue to pray for more leaders to arise. Pray for the new church Pastor Emmanuel is leading and for his family. Pray for our team as many are traveling and as change is on the horizon. I love you all. LG+LP

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Honest Faith

This season of my life I am learning about suffering. I confess in the past, the suffering I experienced in life consisted of things such as a flat tire, hoping my depleted checking account would cover my bills, or a transient sickness would knock me out of pocket for a few days. Please do not misunderstand me. I am not trying to diminish or minimize various types of suffering, yet even in those situations, it has occurred to me that my past sufferings seem small in comparison to the war that rages around me now. I realize the blessing of having lived in a country blessed with abundant resources, access to a family of faith and the peace of mind knowing that safety and security is a priority. That stands in direct contrast to my current world where suffering and persecution is on a much larger scale minus the safety nets I took for granted. The truth is, we cannot empathize with the hungry unless we are hungry. We can’t understand a martyr’s allegiance in the face of death until we ourselves face a persecuting mob. In other words, we can easily rattle off scripture, but can never truly understand how that will flesh out until our own lives and faith are in the midst of those same circumstances.

As a believer, I have discovered that faith is a radical thing. In a culture of faith and freedom of religion, it is easier to exercise it and proclaim it. We often forget that the tests of our faith reveal the depth of our faith. We learn the right verses to quote, the correct blessings to pronounce and the cliché responses that are expected in the world of Christian culture. I have been humbled to examine my own religious culture and to examine if what falls out of my mouth is what truly is felt in my heart. This may be the last thing you expect a missionary to write, yet I would be a hypocrite to recite expected religious liturgy without acknowledging the truth about all believers…we are human and flawed.

I often think about John the Baptist and doubting Thomas on their quest of solidifying their faith. We may think of Christians who ask “Why” to be heretical. And God forbid if we question God and admit that we do not understand His ways or thoughts. Through this time of my life, I have come to relish the honesty of those who hurt, do not understand and who ask those questions. It is not a guarantee that God, in His sovereignty, will in fact give us all the answers, yet there is something beautiful about people being honest with themselves, other hurting believers and ultimately with God.

My faith started with the question “Why?”. Growing up in a Christian family, I learned the proper responses and church culture required of me. I thank God for Christian parents that exposed me to the Truth of the Word, yet we all know that faith is a personal journey and not an inherited way of life. It wasn’t until I was a teenager that I started asking, “Why do I believe what I believe?” I had to strip away much of my learned behavior and begin the solitary journey to discover Jesus for myself. This was a milestone for me.

Now is the season of testing. It is the time in the caves alongside David fleeing from Saul’s spear. It is a time when faith seems to slip, questions come, and yet silence. James reminds us that we should ‘rejoice in our sufferings because it yields perseverance’. This is when the providence and faithfulness of God’s hand reaches down in the midst of my ignorance and utter exhaustion to fulfill that promise.It is the time in-between that is the battle.

What would our family of faith look like if we were honest about our questions and doubts? How much more could we relate to those within the faith and those struggling outside the faith? How much encouragement and solace would it bring to us and others knowing that we are walking the craggy, narrow road together and not possessing all the answers? I write this today to remind us all to be honest, to remain steadfast in prayer, trust God and to never allow ourselves to be calloused to the sufferings of others and their battle to endure it.

I love you all! LG+LP