Wednesday, May 29, 2013

On Waiting

Sometime late last fall, I gave up hope of any more warm weather, admitted the inevitable, and begrudgingly packed up the shorts and t-shirts and pulled out the suitcase that held my winter clothes. I was perplexed when I pulled out only a few sweaters. I dug through some more suitcases, checked some boxes under the bed. Where were the rest of my winter clothes? 

Suddenly, I remembered. Last spring, as we were shifting things around in our house--one roommate was getting married and leaving, I was moving into her old bedroom upstairs, and two new roommates were moving in--I had given most of my warmer clothes away. I wasn’t going to need them anymore because I would be in Kenya before winter came, anyway. (I consoled myself with the thought that, because I had kept mostly black/gray sweaters, at least my clothing would reflect my feelings about the cold weather.)

[Seriously, where would you rather go for a hike? In this freezing, colorless park or…

Castlewood Park, across the street from my old house in Lexington, my first winter back in the U.S.

In this gorgeous land full of warmth and sunshine? Is there really any question?]
Near Sharkertown, KY

And yet here we are, another winter come and gone, and warm weather is here…and so am I.

As most of you are aware, I have been in the process of raising money for almost two years. In April 2011, I was accepted into the Missionary Discipleship program with World Gospel Mission. That summer, I sent out my first newsletter.

My goal was to teach one more year at LCA and work on finding ministry partners and be in Kenya by fall 2012. 

In September 2011, I attended a seminar at WGM’s headquarters in which they told us that raising the funds and working with ministry partners was a full-time job. It wasn’t just about Sundays and Wednesday nights. Being a missionary is full-time--it doesn’t matter if you are here in the U.S. or on the field.

I remember thinking, “Well, I know that is true. . .but I already have a full-time job.” In fact, in addition to teaching full-time, I ran an after-school art club several days a week and planned and taught a Wednesday night kid’s class at a church downtown. 

I knew I needed to be talking to people, contacting churches, but when? When I came home dead-tired at 8 pm after an 11 hour work day? Or the day I got home early and really needed to work on the examples for art club the next day? Do I tell my cousin that I can’t help her with wedding stuff so I can call ministry partners? Or skip the chance to go out to dinner with friends I will miss terribly so I can catch up on emails? 

The result? I made very little progress. But I turned in my resignation to LCA, determined that, come summer, I would make up for lost time and be ready to head to Kenya by fall 2012. I had every week booked. Kids camps, camp meetings, churches. And I had a wonderful time, meeting new friends, traveling to some really lovely places, and sharing my heart about Tenwek Hospital and the MKs I love so much.  In the end, I wasn’t that much closer to my goal. 

So at the end of the summer, I let the school know I would be available to sub when I was in town, which, in the fall, wasn’t much. I spent most of September in Oregon, sharing with churches and groups out there. October was spent with a beautiful friend who was dying of cancer. After Mari’s death, I spent some time back home in Rome, GA in November. . .and then the holidays came. (Does anyone ever know where the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas go?)

And here we are again, at the end of another school year. I am almost half way to my goal. Has it been a long road? Yes. Am I tired of talking to people about money? Yes? Do I just want to be in Kenya? Absolutely. But the truth is, if God still has me here, there must be a reason. 

About a year ago, in a sermon, I heard a quote from pastor and writer Mark Batterson: “"God wants you to get where God wants you to go more than you want to get where God wants you to go." I have thought about having that tattooed on my right arm. (Just kidding, Mom!) It has solved a great deal of anxiety over the past months. Because if I am praying, searching, and trying my best to obey what God is telling me, it must be that the place God wants me to go, for time being, is a little brick house in Wilmore, KY. 

I am called to the Tenwek MK School. And I still hope, pray, and trust, that God will open the right doors and hearts so I can be there in the fall. (Is God opening your heart to be a part of this ministry? Follow this link to partner with me financially.) 

But until then, I can be content here, knowing that just because I have a calling to Kenya doesn’t mean I can’t have a purpose here in the U.S., too. My ministry isn’t confined to a little schoolroom in rural Africa. 

It’s right here, right now.

Is God preparing your heart for something. . .but you are still waiting for it?
Send me an email or leave a comment. I'd love to pray for you! 

Monday, May 13, 2013

Small talk, Small Worlds, and Mysterious Ways

“So, what do you do?” 

It’s the basic small talk question in any group and most of the time, I dread it. I am often hesitant to tell people I have just met that I am a missionary because you can never be sure what kind of reaction you will get. 

However, the question is usually inevitable and, and as a missionary, it seems particularly sinful to lie about being a missionary. 

So my standard response goes something like this: “I’ve been art teaching at Lexington Christian for the past four years, but this school year, I am working there part-time as a sub [albeit this part is mildly misleading; I am there almost every day] because I am preparing to move back to Kenya, where I used to teach.” 

The questions and comments after this vary a bit, but most ask what I teach in Kenya, how long I was there, if it’s safe, etc. etc. Often people will mention other missionaries they know and often ask if I know them. 

(Once upon a time, I was tempted to laugh at this assumption that missionaries around the world all knew each other by name, until a gentleman I greatly respect asked if I knew some missionaries he had known decades ago who served in Indonesia--on the other side of the world from Kenya--and, as it turns out, I DID know them. Their daughter and her family were my upstairs neighbors in Kenya and their grandsons some of my favorite students. Since then, I’ve quit rolling my eyes.)

However, I think I cringe when telling people I am a missionary because I dislike what is all too often a sudden sense of awe and admiration. 

“Africa?! Wow!”

“That’s incredible! Isn’t it dangerous?”

“I could never do that!”

The truth is, any admiration for me is hardly deserved. 

I serve a great big God who has an amazing and mysterious plan far greater than anything I can begin to understand. And He lets me--little, flawed, absent-minded, stubborn, prideful, all-too-often impatient and critical me-- be a part of it. That’s all. And what’s more, I don’t do it alone. I couldn’t. Missionaries can be missionaries because people back home are part of the team. You guys are our prayer warriors, our encouragers, and our financial supporters. We are missionaries because you are, too. 

And for that, I am overwhelmingly humbled and grateful. Thank you.

(This post was something I have been thinking about for a while, but I read this article last week entitled "Quiet Heroes" and it got the wheels in my head turning a little more about people in ministry. Thought I would share. )

I realize this picture has little to do with the blog post, but I've always liked it and 
decided this post needed a picture. Isn't her smile beautiful?