Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they
descendants of Abraham? So am I. Are they servants of Christ?-- I
speak as if insane-- I more so; in far more labors, in far more
imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of
death. Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three
times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was
shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have
been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from
robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles,
dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea,
dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship,
through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without
food, in cold and exposure. Apart from such external things, there is
the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches. Who is
weak without my being weak? Who is led into sin without my
intense concern? 2 Cor. 11:22-29
The Battlefield...The Missionfield.
As Heidi Baker explains in her book Compelled by Love, the western church cannot comprehend being blessed while also being persecuted. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. In a recent time of persecution, her words were medicine to my soul.
My daily life feels a little something like this passage from 2 Corinthians if I'm very honest. You may not completely see it in your two week visit to Uganda, but there is an edge here that requires the grace and Spirit of the Living God. I am daily desperate for His Presence to sustain me. I often feel like the needs around me tempt my eyes to look away from Him and sometimes I do fail and look the need rather than the Provider. I struggle not to do anything in my own strength because apart from Him we can do nothing. The life I live though is so blessed. There is a blessing for the heart for the soul in living in daily dependence on our Creator, our Maker, our Father. We don't know how we are going to put all these children through school but we trust. We don't know how we are going to care for the mother I've befriended who has 10 children and two malnourished twin babies but we trust. Or the woman with HIV/AIDS who is barely surviving and her son is acting rebellious. Or the children who have experienced things their innocence should not comprehend. Or how to get the kids at school who show up with open wounds because their guardian is beating them up... into a safe loving home because we are busting at the seams. In the middle of that, we often get hit by witchcraft. Though we believe the wall of fire of God's Presence built through prayer around our ministry protects us from such evil things. In the midst of the needs around us, we get hit with persecution. The enemy does not like when children who are possessed, abused, abandoned, orphaned, and neglected are snatched out of His hands and placed in the hands of Almighty God. They are being healed in their hearts and bodies, nourished back to life, running into the salvation of Christ, coming into the beautiful spirit of adoption of the Father, and being filled with the Holy Spirit! They are being loved. Come on. It really doesn't get better than that. :) My joy. Though it is not for free. There is indeed a cost. A cost I have willingly paid and will continue. Muslims have come to my house and threaten to beat me up. I have been betrayed by dear friends more than once. I have clothed and fed and housed children only to have their parent turn on me and tell everyone in the village evil lies about me...including my own children. They have planned to deport me. We get robbed sometimes. I have lost children in many ways. I have been in fear for the safety of my friends and on and on it goes. Praise God I have never actually been beaten up physically but emotionally and spiritually, it's a raging battlefield. My saving grace? The secret place. The place where I can take off my armor and rest. The place where I can receive healing for my heart, my soul. Where His Living Waters flow over my heart and refresh me and revive me.
Still Im thankful for all I've experienced and come through. I have learned a language and a culture. I have fallen in love with a nation and people. I have seen hard hearts of stone become filled with love hearts of flesh. I have seen hundreds of children come to Christ and be transformed. And the cost I am paying is certainly nothing compared to the real persecuted church who are in daily fear for their lives, beaten, who are tortured, rejected by their families, and killed.
If following Jesus isn't costing you something though, you're not following close enough. I think especially in the western church we think God is there to bless us and to make our lives better, easier, richer, fuller. That's true. But the definition of that is upside down in the Kingdom. In fact everything is upside down in the Kingdom compared to the philosophy of this world.
Lose your life that you may find it. Give and you shall receive. Die to live.
We should all ask ourselves which we live by. Are we seeking the world's treasures? Are we seeking the pleasures of this world? Are we after making our own little worlds so perfect and comfortable or in pursuit of the American dream? There is SO MUCH MORE for us than these small lives. When we die to ourselves and our selfish ambitions and needs, we discover a world of beauty in the midst of suffering, peace in the midst of the storm, WILD EXTRAVAGANT AND EXCITING PROVISION haha, in the midst of Africa, rivers in deserts, healing in the middle of HIV!!!!, demons leaving children from their classrooms (uh huh), and SO MUCH MORE! There is always SO MUCH MORE. If we are willing to let go, to give up what he asks us to give up, to go where he asks us to go, to say and do as He leads us. No we are not robots. We are living co creators with the Living King of the Universe, who happens to be our Father!
Die to live, Lose to Gain. Try it and see... But it is not for free. The Kingdom of God...well it is for free...but it will cost us EVERYTHING.
SO I SAY YES LORD. YES LORD. TO ALL YOUR PLANS. TO ALL YOU HAVE. TO ALL YOU ASK ME TO LAY DOWN. TO ALL YOU ASK ME TO PICK UP. HAVE YOUR WAY IN MY HEART AND IN THIS MINISTRY LORD. WE ARE READY TO SEE A NATION COME TO YOU FATHER.
"...That the Lamb may receive the reward for His suffering..."