everything but the kitchen sink

I have started this blog so many times that I have lost count. I have so many words but for once, I don’t know how to convey them at all. So instead, I’ll just show off my friend Seung’s AMAZING video of our DTS so you can see for yourself a bit about who we are and what God is doing and then I’ll share a few fun and interesting things from the past couple of weeks!

First…check out this amazing video featuring students from our DTS!!

There a few highlights and news items that I want to briefly share to keep you up to speed with life here in South Africa:

  • Outreach: I found out that I will be going to MALAWI AND MOZAMBIQUE at the beginning of April with an absolutely incredible team of 8 other people (6 other students and 2 staff). There are 5 other outreach teams that will be sent to 10 other nations. We are from the nations and we are going out to the nations! So, so exciting!!
  • Travel: Our entire DTS (37 students + 23 staff) is heading out at 3am this coming Saturday to the YWAM Base in Drakensberg, South Africa for the Nations2Nations Conference. This is going to be a really BIG week of lectures, daily outreach, and collaboration with other YWAMers from various Bases and nations. We have an 18 hour drive each way, so please be in prayer for safe travel and a really fruitful week of ministry and revelation next week.
  • Weekend shenanigans: This past weekend, I got to go ice skating with some of my roommates and some other friends. Some of them had never been ice skating before. It was a really good time of bonding and (quite literally) leaning on each other. It made me miss rollerblading and also really made me miss all of my little TJC hockey buddies. 😉 Saturday, I walked with some friends to a town about an hour away (by foot) and we hitched a ride on the back of a truck around the mountain and back to Muizenberg on the way back. No one really has a car here and Nceba, one of our leaders, flagged down a super nice Xhosa driver (Nceba is Xhosa) who was more than happy to take 8 of us back to our town. So much fun (but don’t try this at home, kids). 😉 On Sunday afternoon, I took the train into Cape Town with a friend to visit Hillsong Cape Town. It was a great message and we had a pretty exciting adventure which included taking a train and sitting near a demon-possessed woman, taking a South African taxi – which holds about 20 people quite tightly – and getting pulled over only to find our driver didn’t have a license (but it’s South Africa, so he let us keep driving), then hitching a ride back on a University shuttle and catching the very last train back to Muizenberg. Not to mention we had some pretty stellar conversations about God!
  • Spiritual Warfare: This week our topic has been spiritual warfare. It has been crazy intense but really good. God has been breaking down walls, building up my faith, teaching me more about the Holy Spirit, and opening me up to so much more of Him in the past few weeks and all of that has been really key in preparing me for this week. Let me just simply say…there is some real warfare going on. And America is so very blind to it. I grieved for our church, the Church, and our country this week. I think there is so much that we are missing and I think there are so many battles we are losing because we don’t know how to see the attack and then pray into the issue in response. I am praying for some serious spiritual breakthrough for our churches, communities, and homes back in the states. May we see with spiritual eyes – no longer physical eyes only!
  • No More Facebook: Not to worry – I didn’t delete you, I just deleted myself. 🙂 God had been convicting me about some things in my heart and how they tie into Facebook for a couple of weeks and last week I finally obeyed, and man…some breakthrough came. I’m not saying breakthrough came because I kissed FB goodbye (at least for a season) but I definitely believe that God honors obedience and that disobedience can really hinder things that God wants to do in and through us – even if it seems like an odd or random act of obedience.

There is so much more happening here but as I’m sure you can only imagine, it is incredibly hard to communicate everything. I am a slow processor and am still processing SO, SO much.

One big thing, though, is that I really believe that God has something for me here in South Africa long-term. I am saying that now to ask you to pray with me for wisdom and discernment as God reveals the details of what that will look like in the days, weeks, and months ahead. I will definitely keep you up to date as more details unfold, but I just wanted to invite you to partner in prayer with me now as I continue to seek His heart to discover what that means and how I can be obedient to the calling I feel like He has placed on my life. 

Also, I do not want you to think that I am inaccessible because I no longer have Facebook. I really, really want to stay in touch with you! I check my email at least a few times a week – often more – and try to reply to emails a couple of times a week when I get some time (and when our fickle internet works). Please, please, please don’t hesitate to ask me questions, send me prayer requests or whatever you want to do. I would LOVE to hear from you!! My email address is gallaghorical (at) gmail (dot) com.

I’m so, so, so thankful for all of you who are supporting me in prayer, through finances, and through encouragement. I can’t even begin to describe how necessary to my day to day life your prayers and encouragement are. And your financial support makes the ministry we are doing possible. God is teaching me so much about His Father’s heart through your gifts, so thank you so very much for blessing me in that way.

I pray that God continues to open your eyes and hearts to more of His love, mercy, and kindness. He is far more powerful than we imagine, far kinder than we dare to hope, far more gracious than we deserve, and far more worthy than we acknowledge.

May you see Him at work in your lives this week, precious friends! He loves you SO much!!

Blessings,

-s

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different way to get in touch (no more FB)

Hey friends!

God has been really convicting me about something for a little over a week and today it was really confirmed that I need to get rid of my Facebook account until further notice. I know it doesn’t totally make sense because it is a great way to stay in touch, but God has been really working on my heart with some things about identity, affirmation, and not building my own kingdom but really submitting to His, so I really feel like it is something He is calling me to lay down right now so I can fully surrender to Him and take that step of obedience. (Longest run-on sentence ever? I think yes.)

That said, I really would like to continue to stay in touch so I will be checking my email and would love to hear from you and communicate that way. I will also put pictures and updates on my blog here, so feel free to click “subscribe” at the bottom of this page so you can get a notification when I put up a new post, if you are interested. Once again, I’m not trying to isolate myself more – it is just something I really feel God is calling me to lay down right now because I think it has become an idol, which can really get in the way of what God is doing.

Thanks so much for your understanding and for continuing to be such a big part of my life! I would love to hear what God is doing in your lives and would be more than happy to answer any questions you guys may have. Please feel free to email me at gallaghorical at gmail dot com at any point. I’d love to hear from you!

Much love!

-s

a town called george

This weekend I had the blessing and privilege of road tripping with 8 other friends – 7 boys and 2 of us girls (that would be 3 Americans, 1 Canadian, 1 English roomie, 1 Swiss-German, and 3 South African guys) – 5 hours away, to George, South Africa. Reuben was heading home so we took 2 cars and some of us were able to go home with him and stay with his family. It was a blast of a road trip and was a really refreshing time of laughing, resting, seeing some more of this beautiful country, and just taking a break from all of the emotional and mental energy that went into processing last week.

Last week was amazing but was also really hard for me. Our theme was the Holy Spirit and man – God was moving in some powerful ways. But my analytical mind was going crazy because there is so much about God that can’t be put into words or totally understood. By Friday afternoon, my brain was fried. I feel like God was saying, “Relax. I never intended for you to be so stressed about all you are taking in. I know what you can handle. And this weekend, I just want you to get away and enjoy my beauty.” So I did. And this post is going to be far less words and far more pictures. So…enjoy!!

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The views on the drive were absolutely stunning! This country is insanely beautiful.

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my american brothers!

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amazing cliffs in George.
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We cruised around in an 8-person kombi (South African word for van). So legit!

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Mossel Bay

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my favorite shot from the beach we stopped at on Friday night. amazing!

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Mossel Bay…ahh-mazing.
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We were the only ones with cameras so we rarely got in a picture together…glad we finally did!!

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the battle of letting go

We are in the middle of our fourth week of DTS here in Muizenberg and our lectures are on “The Cost of Discipleship” this week. Last week, the topic was Grace, preceded by “The Father Heart of God” and before that, “The Character and Nature of God.” I have to admit, it has been pretty intense. My notes are so messy and disorganized and have lots of stars, exclamation marks, and then some prayers of desperation written out on the side. We are being fed so much information about who God is and what it looks like and while a lot of information is familiar, many Scripture passages and teachings about who God REALLY is and what a life of discipleship is really about are totally rocking my world.

So many of my views are being challenged and God is asking me to let go of a lot of preconceived notions about Him. Grace week – while amazing – was super hard for me. One thing God really convicted me about was legalism and a spirit of striving. I tend to think that I embrace the grace of God really well and I don’t think of myself as very legalistic because I’m not a huge fan of rules. However, when I really examine my life, I see how much I try to control my faith and how much “doing” inhabits my life rather than abiding. We are called to abide in Christ…not get caught up in tasks all of the time. I’m realizing that a lot of things I do – from routine and disciplined Bible reading to small groups to serving in church to saying “yes” to volunteer activities – aren’t necessarily out of obedience to God or a heartfelt desire to serve Him because I love Him but are, at times, an effort to work my way into better favor with Him.

Pretty crazy, huh?

I know there are many times when these activities do stem from a very deep love for God and a gratitude for all that He has done, but sometimes my nature of self-sufficiency, independence and a spirit of striving just leave me feeling drained and far from God. I’ve been convicted to really check my heart and receive the grace that God so freely gives. Salvation isn’t about what I can do for God – it’s about acknowledging that God has literally redeemed me from death and in turn, receiving His precious, costly, and free gift. For freedom we have been set free. I was once a slave – dead in sin, with an impossible debt to pay – and He not only bought me out of bondage but He has also adopted me into His family. My response, then, should be one of service and adoration because I’m so awed by Him and grateful for such a precious gift, not because I feel obligated to check off some things off of a “good Christian” to-do list.

It’s tough to have your perspective shattered. But it is really good. Because when God breaks down all of our theories, philosophies, and ideas, He can build us up again and breathe truth and life and grace and mercy where before there was only self-condemnation, self-righteousness, self-sufficiency, and plain old selfishness. My prayer is that He will replace my heart of stone with a heart of flesh and continue to mold me into the person He dreamed me up to be. I have so much growing yet to do, but He is gentle and patient with me and is teaching me so much and blessing me in so many ways. I pray that He breaks down my walls and breaks through all my defenses so I may experience Him in completely new ways unlike ever before. He is meeting me in BIG ways! I am thankful for the struggle because I know there is great freedom waiting on the other side.

There is so much more happening, but I have accepted the fact that I will not be able to communicate the majority of it. That said, if you have any specific questions, please feel free to shoot me an email at any point: gallaghorical (at) gmail (dot) com.

Since I shared a bit about how much these lectures (and that’s not even all of the DTS experience…definitely being stretched by a variety of people/interactions/experiences) are stretching me, I might as well share the summary of thoughts inspired by today’s talk:

Self-importance robs us of Gospel effectiveness. We are called to know God and make Him known to the ends of the earth. When our entire existence on earth is all about our desires, our preferences, our dreams, and our hopes, then we submit ourselves to our own lordship rather than the lordship of Jesus Christ. 

This is blatant idolatry. This is offensive to God and not only robs Him of His glory, but also denies us the satisfaction of being found in Christ. We miss out on living the adventure God designed for us when we settle, instead, for a safe life committed to worldly success and self-preservation. 

This lifestyle is not only contrary to the life we are called to as Christians, but also reflects an inaccurate view of the Living God whom we claim to serve. It’s time to stop feeding the puny god of our imaginations and beg for an encounter with the Living God and see how He wrecks and transforms our lackluster lives.

May we hunger and thirst for MORE, my friends! More of God – the real, Living God as opposed to the God of our imaginations – and less of ourselves. There is so much more about Him that we have yet to learn and experience. He desires to be known by us!

In Jeremiah 29, we are promised that we will find Him if we seek Him with all of our hearts. Oh friends – may we not waste another minute striving through life without the fullness of His presence. For in His presence, there is fullness of joy!

depths and heights and the Father’s love

Where to begin? Life here is full, beautiful, and challenging. I am being stretched in so many ways and God is filling me in so many ways. There are so many beautiful people here, so many wonderful teachers, and so much need in this area of the world. I haven’t been able to work up the energy or coherence to write details, but tonight I want to share a lot of the BIG stuff that has been happening in the past few weeks.
Today I went out with my local outreach group to two schools where we played with the kids and shared the Gospel. I probably shouldn’t even use the word “school” because that probably gives the picture of a nice facility with windows and air conditioning and structure…but nope. That is not what this was. We went to the schools to hang out with the kids in an after care program. The first school was just a giant room with a bunch of chairs, a chalkboard, and concrete floors. There is no air conditioning here so it was very hot and the kids were all super squirrely, but we were able to yell out the songs and message before heading outside to teach them “Duck, Duck, Goose” (yep…they had never heard of it before). I was glad, though, that they all knew the lyrics to “Jesus Loves Me” and “If You’re Happy and You Know It.” 🙂 The school was gated with a rusty old gate that is in front of every house because it is located in a pretty rough part of town.
The second school was a bunch of rooms accessible from the outside, all inside like a little compound area. Around the school was a wall with barbed wire at the top like a prison. Here in South Africa, there is either wire, spikes, or broken glass (or a combination on all of those) at every home and facility to keep people out. (We have wire and spikes on our wall at the YWAM Base.) Many of the kids didn’t have shoes and some of the littlest kids didn’t even have pants. We taught them and went through some of the songs and then played games. We have to plan all of our kid sessions each week, so if any of you guys have ideas for games or teachings for the kids, feel free to let me know!
We started off this day with some amazing worship. Every morning we have breakfast at 7:00am, quiet time from 7:30-8:30, then either worship, devotions, or intercession from 8:30-10am. Then after that, we have class from 10:30am-1:00pm, lunch at 1:00pm and then work duties or outreach (and some free time) followed by dinner at 6:00pm and then another teaching at 7:30pm. So it is pretty busy and there is a lot to process, which takes a lot of emotional energy. I’m not sure how to explain it, but everything going on is so rejuvenating and draining all at once. Though I’m typically a night owl back home, everyone here thinks I’m a morning person because I get up at 6:15 every day and usually disappear by 10 or 11 at night so I can get some rest. These days are so full and I’m realizing the importance of taking time away with God more and more and resting in Him so I can be ready for each new day.
God has been doing SO much in my heart and in the hearts and lives of all of the others in our DTS. There are so many phenomenal people here from all over the world. God is definitely stretching me physically, mentally, emotionally and most definitely spiritually. Last week was really significant in terms of dealing with some stuff from my past. There are a lot of areas where I feel like God has brought complete healing but last week, He made me aware of some other things He wants to walk me through and it is a hard obedience because it means walking through some dark memories, but I know God’s light will weaken the darkness. I probably will not share many details because a lot of the processing is so deeply personal, but I definitely would appreciate prayer as God continues to bring light, life, freedom and healing to deep places of my heart.
He is also really changing my worldview in a lot of ways. It is really powerful to be living, learning, and ministering with people literally from all over the world. The image of God is reflected so beautifully in all of my brothers and sisters here. He truly is the God of the nations and His sovereignty stretches much farther than I have ever imagined! Life is very, very different here. I know I haven’t posted many pictures yet and the ones I have posted have been of mountains and beaches (because it just takes my breath away…how great is our God??) but I can count on one hand the times I’ve been to the beach and mountains. Because it isn’t safe to walk alone and because our schedules are so busy, I haven’t been exploring much. And the areas that I really want to take pictures of (such as the townships/shanty towns, the people walking all over the place and all of the trash and shacks and everything) are not safe areas so I have to be really careful about having a camera there. All that to say, though the mountains and beaches paint a pretty picture, there is a lot of poverty here and a lot of danger and a lot of fear. It is unlike any place I have experienced before.
I used to think America was the rule and Africa and other places were the exceptions to the rule, but now I really believe America is the exception. I feel like I have lived in a bubble all of my life and I am just now seeing how the rest of the world lives. Sure, not every country has as much political, social, and economic strife as parts of Africa, but the spirit of fear and the dangers present here are very real in many other parts of the world. And the unity America experiences (I know that might sounds like a joke but comparatively, our country is very unified) is definitely not something other nations experience all across the board. Many nations in Africa do not have any centralized government and so the people (mostly in Central Africa) do not have anyone to protect them from violence or help them meet basic needs for survival. Africa is a HUGE continent and South Africa is considered one of the more developed nations, so it breaks my heart that I have been ignorant of the suffering of so many other people all over the world for the majority of my life.
It also breaks my heart that I have hoarded my faith in my safe American churches over the years and have been comfortable to settle for Sunday morning Christianity, much of the time. I’m beginning to believe that convenient faith is no faith at all. If I have been set free, and if I truly value the precious gift of salvation God has blessed me with – completely undeserved – then why am I not bursting at the seams to tell people so they, too, can be free? As believers, we have the gift of life on this earth as an opportunity to grow in the knowledge and grace of our Lord and share the testimony of His love with others. I fear that in America, we often spend our entire lives trying to create our own kingdoms of comfort on earth and miss the greater purpose of relating to God, walking with God, and leading others to God. I think we’re on the right track – we have a longing for something better than the broken world we live in. But eternity promises a beautiful Kingdom which will put all of our earthly kingdoms to shame.
Even though it has been a challenge to adjust to the way of life here in terms of always being cautious and realizing the potential danger at any moment, that adjustment has also shown me that we were created for a different Home – a heavenly dwelling – and that we are meant to long for a Kingdom here on earth. We aren’t meant to spend our entire lives climbing up the ladder of success and building the safest, most comfortable existence possible. At least not if we claim to be imitators of Christ. Jesus had a pretty radical, dangerous, and risky life of ministry. Now that I’m realizing that more as a reality rather than just a theory I read in a book, I have to figure out how that knowledge changes me. It definitely is changing me. And I know it will inform my decisions leading up to June regarding what I will do when my DTS is over.
All of this excites me, though. I know that God’s ways are so much higher than mine and though there are difficulties and things that are uncomfortable, I know that once He has opened my eyes, there is no turning back to the way things used to be. Again, I don’t know what that will look like after DTS, but I know that my perspective is definitely changing on a lot of things that have always been “the norm” for me.
Are you beginning to see why I haven’t written yet? 😉 There are SO many thoughts going on in my head and God is stirring up so much and I haven’t had the emotional energy to process all of it completely nor the time to write it all down and share it. But here it is…in raw form. And my goodness, my friends, in the midst of all of these life-changing encounters and realizations, God is also blessing me and transforming my heart with His unfathomable love and mercy and grace in such a personal way. I know my Father is a personal God, but sometimes I lose sight of that as I study about Him and forget to relate to Him. Thankfully He has not given up on me and He continues to pursue me and demonstrate His unfathomable love for me. What a gift!
On another note, I have read a lot of heavy news on FB about things going on in the lives of many of you. My heart aches for the pain and confusion some of you might be experiencing. I do know that our God is not a God of confusion, though. My prayer is that He will bring clarity to your circumstances and most of all, that He will show Himself so clearly to you and will encompass you in His fervent love and care for you. May you earnestly seek Him – for He will be found when we seek Him with all of our hearts. He wants to be found. He is not hiding. And He will pursue you because that is His nature.
As always, please feel free to email me at any point. I love hearing from you and if I don’t reply for a while, it is nothing personal. It probably has to do with our really busy schedule or the spotty internet or the fact that when I do sit down and write, it turns into a short novel. 😉
I love you all and am so grateful for you. Thanks for journeying with me and supporting me through your prayers, words of encouragement, and finances. God is SO faithful. And I know that what He has begun to stir in these few weeks is just the tip of the iceberg for all that is to come.
Rejoicing in His perfect love and the blessed assurance of true freedom, tonight!
-s

keepin’ it real

These guys were playing at the waterfront in Cape Town. More details about that adventure into the city are to come, but I figured I could at least give you a teaser photo. :)

These guys were playing at the waterfront in Cape Town. More details about that adventure into the city are to come, but I figured I could at least give you a teaser photo. 🙂

I had the best intentions of writing a really detailed post about the week with you all, but I’m so drained and it’s getting close to midnight here, so that post will have to wait for a little later in the week. But I promise…a detailed post is coming. This week has been a bit emotionally intense, so I’m still processing everything. 🙂 I did, however, want to share some of what God has been teaching me this week so here are the lyrics to a song I’m working on that has been inspired by all that has happened this week:

Poverty of Spirit

there are words i could write
but words hardly can define all we feel, what is real, what is right
there are things i could say
but many things get in the way of letting go, releasing holds, breaking chains

poverty of the spirit might just be the kind of meek the Master preached
and the earth will be inherited by these
loss becoming gain must mean a greater part remains when we’re stripped of ourselves
for we know freedom will reign

many thoughts cross my mind
yet escape at the same time as the heart bends, lets healing in, hungers for life
there is more than what we’ve known
and we won’t get there when we’re grown unless we mend from the sin we’ve sown

anguishing in grief might just be the key to relief
mercy and comfort await those who truly seek
a blameless heart, devoid of shame, may lead to release from all pain
we’re promised heirs to a throne of Grace

seek and you will find
but seek will all your mind, will all your heart, will all your soul, all your strength
our timid approach to Love denies us blessings from above
hunger and thirst for righteousness and you shall be satisfied

beyond doubt, beyond fear, Love is near
healing shame, stealing pain, Love is here.

ps Your prayers are SO needed and so felt. If you have any questions about things to pray about or questions about Africa in general that I have failed to answer as of yet, please feel free to shoot me a message by emailing me at: gallaghorical @ gmail dot com.

Love you all!

-s

Settling into South Africa

I’ve been in Africa for over a week and it has been quite full and a bit overwhelming, to be honest. Don’t get me wrong – it is an incredible experience and I completely see God at work. But it isn’t easy. In our DTS, we have 37 students from over 13 different countries. Added to that is a stellar staff of 23 from even more countries. And then you have the rest of the base – which is lively and always bustling with activity. It is incredible to see all of the nations represented in one room and under one roof. But it is also challenging. My worldview is being stretched in SO many ways…and we are only a week into the 6 months.

Last week we all told our life stories. I love hearing other people’s stories – stories are a huge passion of mine. But listening to 60 life stories can be pretty emotionally draining, and every day last week was a struggle for me because I was so tired – but each day was also very rewarding. We are such an amazing and diverse group. I love this group SO much. My mind has been completely blown by all of our different backgrounds. Some of us have seen loved ones die due to disease, some of us have had to take care of little brothers and sisters and become “mom” even as a kid, some of us have a history of drug and alcohol abuse, some of us have a history of serious crime, some of us grew up in a Christian home but have struggled to reconcile tradition and head knowledge with a transformed heart and receptive spirit. Some of us are perfectionists, some of us have struggled with sexual addictions, some of us come from divorced families, some of us have been kicked out of our homes and have had to start all over, and some of us have grown up in shanty towns and shacks while others of us have grown up in houses our families owned.

I say “us” because now our stories are all intertwined. And while our pasts have shaped us, they do not define us. While we all have different backgrounds, all of us have been called by God, saved by grace, and desire to encounter His radical love more and more and share the beautiful story of redemption with others. These life stories really struck my heart deeply.

As my team members were so open about their pasts and things God rescued them from, I found myself super convicted for the unforgiveness in my heart about some different issues and also felt convicted to be more open and let things in my past that I’m not proud of become part of my story and ultimately, God’s story of love, redemption, grace and mercy.

Mostly, it was really hard for me to imagine that while I grew up in a very safe place in America, many of my brothers and sisters grew up in really dangerous areas and had really, really hard lives. I am most amazed, though, that God has written each of our stories, walks with each of us through our stories, and has intersected all of our stories at this place in Muizenberg, South Africa, for such a time as this. I am so expectant. God has done great things in our lives individually already and I am certain that He has many great things for us yet in store.

Right now, we have either worship, intercession, devotions, or another group activity (these activities are on a rotating basis each day of the week) after our quiet time (which is right after breakfast) and then we have class for a few hours, with a different theme and guest speaker each week. After that, we have lunch and then we all head off to our work duties and then have more group meetings every night (such as a Bible teaching on Mondays and small groups on Tuesdays), with the exception of Friday. Next week, we begin our local outreaches, which will take place one afternoon each week. So in other words, our schedule is pretty busy. We have some free time but it really just depends on how long our work duties take.

I have committed to 8 hours of work a week with AfriCom, the communications department for all of the YWAM bases in Africa (this counts as my work duty). This is a HUGE answer to prayer! I have been communicating with Pete, AfriCom’s team leader, since June or July and found this base for DTS through finding AfriCom. This is the department that I might be staying on with, so I am beginning work with them now to see if we feel like it is a good fit. I am already pretty excited about it and have enjoyed my time in the office so far. I will tell you more about this soon, as I will be beginning some projects and getting a better feel for it this week.

This weekend, I was able to go hiking with some friends. It was really great to get outside and explore a bit. I was inside at the Base most of the time last week and really felt the need to get outside. It isn’t safe to walk anywhere alone here, so if I ever need to go to the store or just walk down the road, I always need to find a group to walk with. Poverty is a huge problem here and since all white people are assumed to have money (and we definitely do by comparison), there are a lot of muggings that happen in this area. Therefore, we are wise and do not walk alone and rarely – if ever – walk out at night (and always in a group).

Honestly, the safety issue here was a big struggle last week but I’m sure I’ll get used to it. When I put myself in the shoes of those who steal cameras and phones and other things, it makes sense. If my family was starving or homeless and people were walking around flaunting super expensive equipment that they could probably afford to replace, I would probably feel like a great injustice was happening and I’m sure the temptation to steal would be great. Sure, maybe we will have to sacrifice convenience for safety, but I’m sure these people have made more sacrifices than I might ever know. 

I think being here is making me look at America in a couple of different ways. I have been really skeptical about our government and how much control government seems to be having, in an increasing measure, in the US. But being in Africa, I am seeing the other side. I’m hearing stories about violence and complete devastation in African countries where there is no centralized government and I’m realizing that we are so fortunate in America. Sure, some of the things happening right now are scary to me. But friends, we are so blessed. We have no idea. No idea. Again, my worldview is really being rocked. America is not the majority. We live in a really safe, comfortable, sheltered place compared to many other parts of the world. Our laws are generally upheld – actions have consequences. There are provisions for people who can’t afford medical attention and we have programs to feed people who can’t afford food. Sure, I’m a skeptic about some of our welfare systems, but we are taken care of well. I never realized that until I got here, but it makes me all the more appreciative of my home in America and all the more heartbroken that I have been blind for so long to the devastation, fear, and violence plaguing so many other nations, specifically African nations. May we intercede for them and ask God for understanding and guidance in our prayers for those who are suffering beyond what we can imagine. 

One big thing I’m realizing is that because we have so many of our needs met in America or because we can work our way up the corporate ladder to make money to provide and meet our own needs, we often don’t actually “need” God. Oh we need Him. So very much. We’re starving for Him and we don’t even realize it. But we often make it day by day without feeling the need for Him. So our longings for eternity might be dulled – drowned out in the noise of our busy American lifestyles. But I’m discovering that in other parts of the world, where the government can’t be depended on and the people can’t trust each other on the streets, the prison of this world is very recognizable. And earth is not a kingdom to be built up – like the empire that I fear we have tried to make of our America – but a place of brokenness and pain that longs and groans for eternity with our Maker. I know I have so much more to learn, but my mind and heart are being stretched so, so much.

I know I’ve shared a lot, but I just want to share one more snapshot of one of the neatest spiritual things that happened in the first week. As we were telling our life stories, one of our leaders, Nceba, said he felt like there was a lot of hurt and brokenness from fathers or men in all of our lives. He asked if all of the guys would go around to the girls and speak truth to them and bless them and ask for forgiveness for the sins of their fathers and other men. Friends…I was bawling. The whole time. God has done a HUGE work of grace in my life in the past few years, but there are some deeply rooted pains, fears, and hurts, some old and some new, all involving men. I didn’t realize the extent until I was crying so much.

Three guys (at least) came up to me and not only did they embrace me, speak truth to me directly as a daughter of Christ, and pray for me – they asked for forgiveness for all of the times I have been hurt by men. Can you believe that? I was amazed. I have never, ever had such an incredible loving encounter with my brothers in Christ. And do you know what they did in that moment? They did what Jesus did for us – when He interceded and took responsibility for sins He did not commit. These guys – my brothers in Christ – were willing to be the faces of those who wounded me and they asked for forgiveness and prayed that God might restore my heart and provide for me a husband who will value me as Christ does. I was amazed and cried for another hour at least. Again, God has been healing and working but He is doing even more work and used these brothers in Christ in a powerful way that night.

These kinds of experiences are not isolated. We have had some powerful times of worship together, some powerful prayer times, and some great prophecies as well (don’t freak out…that word will probably come up again…it basically just means sharing something God has revealed). And everyone is so open about their journey with God, which I love. I have had some great conversations with team members and am pumped about what God is doing.

I’m sure that this will become the new normal soon. It already feels pretty comfortable, but I definitely miss being at home with people who know me well. I miss my Journey family loads and loads, as well. But I want you ALL to know that I am thinking about you and am SO grateful for your hand in this ministry. I will continue to keep you updated, as time allows. Please pray for sweet sleep and a full night’s rest so I may be mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually prepared each day. We are taking in a lot of information and it is sometimes tiring, but again, so rewarding and amazing. Soon I will post more about the content of our classes so far. Please also pray for continued health and also for wisdom and discernment as decision points come up during this DTS.

I love you all a ton and miss you a bunch! I would love to stay in touch and hear about your lives as well, so please feel free to shoot me an email any time.

Blessings, sweet friends.

Grateful beyond measure for each of you.

-s