Thursday, July 14, 2005

It Is What It Is...

In the Johannesburg airport with my friends. We're leaving Africa in less than an hour. We will leave part of our hearts, minds, souls, spirits here... "Get out of bed, Jerusalem! Wake up. Put your face in the sunlight. God's bright glory has risen for you. The whole earth is wrapped in darkness, all people sunk in deep darkness. But God rises on you, His sunrise glory breaks over you. Nations will come to your light, kings to your sunburst brightness. Look up! Look around! Watch as they gather, watch as they approach you..." (Is. 60:1-7/The Message)... We're returning home. We're returning with stories, with smiles, with joy, with some sadness (we don't want to really leave). But more importantly, I'm convinced we're returning to tell our village: ""Come see a Man who knew all about the things I did, who knows me inside and out. Do you think this could be the Messiah?" ..."Many of the Samaritans from that village committed themselves to Him because of the woman's witness: 'He knew all about the things I did. He knows me inside and out! ... They said to the woman: 'We're no longer taking this on your say-so. We've heard it for ourselves and know it for sure. He's the Savior of the world!'" (John 4:28-42/The Message) ... The Samaritan woman came to the well for water, but left with so much more -- Living Water, water which can only come from Jesus, from His Spirit... I'm leaving Africa with Jesus and stories of how He led, how He provided, how He sustained, how He smiled, how He revealed, how He summoned, how He convicted, how He proved, how He touched, how He healed, how He purged, how He works, how He doesn't work... Oh, there's so much more... so much more. Pathetically, there's more to tell but there's only so much I am able to write at this moment. I don't think there's anything I can type right now. I'll need some time to think, pray, and most of all listen...

The airport is busy, noisy, distracting. They're calling my flight in just a few minutes. I'll be on a plane for the next 18 hours. I'll be with my friends, and I'll be carried by the strength which can only come from Jesus and His Spirit and a God who interrupts and takes me to Africa. I've been gone six weeks. I'm ready to come home and discover more of Him. I'm not ready to leave my Africa friends, but I must return to my village and tell them all about Jesus... The Jesus who is really real. The Jesus who empowers. The Jesus who conquers. The Jesus who listens. The Jesus who speaks. The Jesus who knows me.

God interrupts with great purpose. His Spirit is more than powerful. Jesus is not just my Savior, He's my Lord Master and Savior.

He alone... He alone... He alone...

Lovin' you -- me

Monday, July 11, 2005

Just a Moment, Nothing More

We're here in Hermanus, and I only have a few seconds to write something, so here goes: It's Monday, and we'll be leaving this place on Thursday... four days. The enemy is prowling, scratching his claws into my heart, trying to deflect my soul, doing his best to injure me and leave me a cripple. I see him, smell him, and I don't like it. I am doing my best to shut him down with the strength and determination which can only come from the words of Jesus. Please pray for all of us. Please ask the Lord God to rebuke Satan's attacks. Please demand the Lord go before us, beside us, behind us, beneath us, on top of us these last few days... Please... Please.... We are His, and the enemy hates that. I'm okay with that truth. We are His....
Lovin' you --

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

There Are No Tostitos In South Africa

True... No Tostitos in South Africa... No salsa, either. An odd discovery, but one which I made the other night as I was waiting for my friends to return from the clinic. It was around 11 p.m., and I had just been woken up by Craig Leach, banging on my door and shouting my name over and over again -- "Adella! Adella! Adella! We're taking Katie and Diana to the clinic. We've had a wreck!..." They had wrecked the Defender. I didn't know it was possible to wreck a Defender, but evidently, it is. The road had been washed out by the heavy rains. Everyone but me, Kristen, and Bryan were in the car. Katie and Craig were riding on top, Diana was in the front w/Will, who was driving. The Defender met the crater in the road, smushed onto its left-hand side, sending Diana's head into the windshield (which cracked the glass), and launching Katie end-over-end onto the hood of the car, and finally into the road, directly in front of the left tire. Diana became immediately nauseous (concussion?), and Katie had numbness and tingling in her feet (compressed vertabrae?). They loaded up in the combi (mini-van), and headed to Hermanaus where the closest doctor could be found. Bryan, Kristen, and I stayed back, where we prayed, then prayed some more. We continued praying -- just talking to God over and over again. We called on the God who is sovereign, the God who hears the cries of His children, the God who delivers, the God who heals, the God who has power, the God who restores, the God who holds, the God who protects, the God who leads His own through mysteries like injured friends who are headed to the hospital in a country 7,000 miles from home... I confess I was mad. Not mad at God, just mad that something like this happened -- mad because my friends were hurt, mad at myself for not being in the car headed to the clinic, mad because I was tired and sick, and couldn't climb in the car with them. I'm glad I have a God who lets me be angry, doesn't turn away from my anger, listens to my rages, and says: "tell Me more." He heard me, He heard Bryan, He heard Kristen. He heard the prayers of those friends who accompanied Katie and Diana to the clinic. He heard the prayers of the friends at Cedar Springs, back in Knoxville. He heard it all... Their x-rays came back clean, and they were released with a dosage of muscle relaxers -- no concussions, no compressed vertabrae -- and they returned back to the farm around 2 a.m. God heals, restores, listens, and so much more...

So, there are no Tostitos in South Africa. I'm okay with that... my friends are safe, healthy, and happy. We'll get the Tostitos when we get back to America.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Nothing Will Ever Be The Same

Our time in Africa is not an "experience." It's not a "mission trip." If it were set up to be an "experience," then I would have canceled the airplane tickets. If it were a "mission trip," then I might have shot myself... I don't have much toleration for either term... "Experience" would mean just that -- a one-time deal, a chance at "experiencing" something not within the realm of my life. "Mission trip" -- an over-used, flacid, flat, weak, passive, conventional Christian term used to fluff up a Christian resume... Sorry, I have no room for them in my vocabulary, especially when I see my friends covered with dirt and grime, covered with small children, covered with strength which can only come from Jesus, covered in power which falls down when the Holy Spirit comes. "Experience" and "mission trip" don't work and won't work when the Spirit comes.

So, I'm surrounded by Spirit-filled and Spirit-led friends who have easily been absorbed into Africa. Some of them will leave tomorrow. I don't want them to go, and they don't want to leave. They'll get on a plane and return to America, and I'm praying they will enter homelife the same way they entered Africa: without any preconceived notions, and with the confirmation of God's leading from His Word. They've changed... all of us have changed. We are fierce, passionate, and unwilling to compromise anymore for the conventions of comfortable American-branded Christianity. We are followers of Jesus, we are filled with the Spirit, we are empowered by The Word, and we see and seek God.

I'm fairly certain I might sound pretentious, self-righteous, spiritually-bloated... If so, deal with it. I'm living in the truth of Acts 1:8 -- "when the Spirit comes, He will come with power; then you'll be My witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the world..." The Spirit has come upon me and upon my friends, and He has come with power, and we are His witnesses at the literal, not just figurative, end of the world. I'm so glad.

We have wrestled with God and prevailed... (I hope we continue to relentlessly wrestle with Him.) When that happens, we're maimed and we get a new name. We also get to see God face-to-face, ask Him who He really is, and walk into the unknown in joy. Pretentious? No way. Self-righteous? Hardly. Spiritually-bloated? You've got to be kidding. We are simply in the shadow of a bloody, rough-sawn cross and in the doorway of an empty tomb. We believe the words of Jesus and we're ready to not just die, but LIVE for them and for Him...

It's really real. God is stinkin' unbelievable.

He has sent us out so that we can be sent back "in." "In" to the weak, dead, vapid, lifeless realm of packaged American Christianity, where Jesus has been homogenized, pasturized, freeze-dried, packaged, and emasculated... I'm fairly certain "in" will mean we will be met with rejection, intolerance, confusion, fear, silence. I don't know how any of us will handle those responses, and I don't know how any of us will re-enter the world of cellphones, TV's, cars, drive-thru windows, cheap gas, throw-away-food, but we must return... We will leave chunks of our hearts, our souls in Africa, and I'm thankful to return incomplete, unfinished, undone. We have no answers; we only know that we're tired of living how we lived before we lived in Africa this summer.

We will return. . .

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Cough Medicine, Z-packs, and sleep....

Stubborn + Obstinate + Willful = Stupid. Okay... so I don't like medicines, but after three days of not sleeping because the rasping in my lungs kept me awake, I decided to use take a couple of teaspoons of Sarah Maskarinec's cough syrup. It worked, and I slept. The next morning, I decided to begin one of the Z-packs my doctor gave me before I left for Africa. I'm an idiot. I thought I was only supposed to use it if I had a sore throat, so it's been sitting on the shelf while I coughed my head off and struggled to breath... Turns out the Z-pack has really helped me feel a ton better.... Thanks for praying; obviously someone out there has been asking the Lord to increase my brain capacity...

Today is Day 2 of the Stanford Day Camp. Yesterday was hard and long (we began @8:45, and didn't leave until 4 p.m.), but still very good -- over 120 kids showed up! Today has been much, much better. Megan Amburn got the schedule organized, Craig Leach turned into Captain America and led all the kids through relay games on the play field, Katie Moore led songs, most everyone else (Sarah Maskarinec, Anna Giles, Ashley Hill, Chase Lyle, Matt Johnson, Kristen Webster, Diana Bundy) was involved in one of the fiercest games of "Duck-Duck-Goose" I've ever witnessed. Bryan Hill and Will Johnson spun little boys around and around and around and around. It was a good day.... The camp is being led by Henry Gibson, a lay minister in Stanford, who simply wants us to tell the children about Jesus. We're happy to oblige.

I've lost track of time, and it's hard to relate the date I see on a calendar with what I am used to understanding a particular month and date to look like. The computer screen says June 28, which has meant hot, humid, warm, sticky summer days. Yet, I sit here with an "Under Armour" T-shirt, a Patagonia fleece jacket, and a North Face down vest on. It's winter in South Africa. It's been cold, wet, rainy, sunny, windy, clear, but always beautiful.

I'm surrounded by stark evidences of God's creative power: the landscapes and vistas here are bold and big; the people are gracious, fun, beautiful; my friends make prove God's redeeming power is not just real, but really real....

When we pulled into the school yard this morning, the kids were waiting for us! They screamed! They waved! They stormed the bus! (Now we know what it's like to be a rock star! Bebo, we feel your pain!) Hugs were for everyone. Each of us had little friends waiting for us who clutched, grabbed, and gripped onto whatever piece of clothing or flesh they could touch. I saw each one of my friends mobbed by at least six little ones as they left the van. Bryan Hill sat on a wall and was covered with little boys -- ages 3 to 6 -- who were content to just sit and be held in some ways by his big arms. Anna Giles tried to figure out how to walk with her arms holding onto a group of about seven teen-aged girls. Kristen Webster couldn't move, so she simply stood in one place while her mob of what looked like eight-year olds squirmed closer and closer to her. Matt Johnson had to chase down an ornery seven-year old who was determined to steal one of his shoes... Those are just a few of the images which wallpaper my mind at this moment.

I stood with Will Johnson early in the day, and as we talked about "camp stuff," this small boy just came up and quietly held onto Will's leg. He didn't clamor for Will's attention, didn't ask to be lifted up or twirled around, didn't demand a "sweet," didn't say anything. He just stood. And softly held Will's leg. Will looked down at him, continued speaking with me, but lightly stroked the boy's head. I smiled, reached down, and also touched this small boy's wavy black hair. The smile was a reaction to two things: the simplicity of the moment and the reality of Jesus' words -- "whatever you do to the very least, you have done to Me." We simply provided a small bit of comfort to a small child. He is one of the very least of the least of camp at Stanford. He doesn't have any friends who want to play with him, he doesn't reach out to the other children. He's beautiful, quiet, has a face full of dimples, but doesn't seem to have an older brother/sister/friend/cousin around. I really don't know how he gets to camp, but he's been here two days in a row. He doesn't speak English. He's probably four or five-years old. He just wanted to hold onto a leg, so he did. He got a touch, a caress, a smile, a prayer. He brought us Jesus. We were blessed.

Again -- God proves to us that we aren' t here to prove anything, to do anything, to accomplish anything, to serve anyone, to bless anyone. We're here simply to realize God's strength, beauty, boldness, power, stature in the undemanding presence of a small boy with black, wavy hair.

He is the real One.


Saturday, June 25, 2005

The Latest From Africa

It's day two for the Kayamandi friends to be at Wortlegat. It's good, it was a seamless introduction between us. God is like silk here. His touch is soft and comforting, luxurious. We're tired, but He is the smile we wear. His Spirit is drenching me, and I'm very thankful. Some of us are still pretty sick -- colds, coughs, sore throats, congestion, head aches, etc... None of us are needing serious medication or care. We'll just be glad to not have to rely on Kleenex throughout the day... Please keep praying Spirit-prayers....
He alone --

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

June 21, 2005 Internet Surfing from Hermanus...

Friends -- we had time to come into town today, so I quickly escaped to an internet cafe so I could sit, write, ponder, and think out loud with a keyboard. We're tired. Most of us are sick with either a cold, flu, or some kind of yuck that makes us cough. Please pray for healing and for bodies, lungs, nasal passages, throats to be healed. We're in a bit of a down period for now, which makes it an "okay" time to be sick. The camp at Wortlegat w/our friends from Kayamandi won't begin until Friday, so we've enjoyed these past couple of days of nothingness. Yesterday, we (some of us, that is) went cage diving w/great white sharks in a piece of water off the coast of Gansbaai known as "shark alley." It runs between an island covered with fur seals (aka "shark bait"), so our presence with buckets of chum was viewed as an open invitation for the sharks to come pay us a visit as we dangled overboard in our tin cage.... We had a great time -- especially when one savage beast decided to floss his teeth on the top of the cage... crazy stuff that is typical in shark alley.

We begin the hard work of planning and preparing for the Stanford Camp tomorrow and Thursday. (Thankfully, the weekend @Wortlegat is pretty much already planned. Our main purpose there will be to show up, serve, serve some more...) But for Stanford, we are really under a lot of pressure. Please pray for Will Johnson, who has spent a great deal of time working with a local guy by the name of Henry Gibson in planning this day camp. Nothing like this has ever been done before, so we are literally breaking new ground. It will be a pressure-packed learning experience for us -- most of the campers know English, but only as a second language, and Henry is depending on us (as in me and Will) to bring Bible lessons to them each day. We also must plan out each day's activities and fill the days with games and events which will challenge and encourage our Stanford friends. Please just pray... then pray some more...

God is rich and good and full and righteous. His ways are not my ways. He is before me and behind me and beside me, but He is oh so elusive and mysterious. Will I be okay if He's silent? (Job 34:29,30), or will I insist that He provide not only proof of His presence but also provide clear, concise, focused directions?

I'm in way over my head. I've never done anything like this before -- most of my traveling has been done either alone, or with a small group. I've never been responsible for a group like this before, never had people so excrutiatingly dependent upon me. (And, I'm not just talking about the ones traveling with me. I'm also talking about the parents, family members, friends, who are at home, but also relying on me... YIKES!)

Thankfully, I have been given great relief from the Lord God, from His Word, from His promises, and from His Spirit. He is all over me -- I've said this before: His Spirit is so heavy upon me that I have trouble breathing. I hope it gets harder and harder for me to breath with each and every moment of each and everyday.

I am thankful for the ways you are praying for me because I feel so tremendously sustained. He's using your prayers to pull me through the moments. He's using your prayers to give me His peace. He's using your prayers to give me His strength. He's using your prayers to give me understanding in the midst of the unknown which comes when He blinds me. I'm traveling fairly blind right now, but the blindness gives me great freedom, great peace, a bunch of calmness, a load of assurance, and a ton of incredible strength. (Ps. 92:10 - "But You've made me as strong as a charging bison.." The Message.) That's pretty incredible when you realize I'm not one to give up control, I've always been one to want to know everything before it happens... Right now, I don't know anything, and that's so beautifully okay. We are traveling together in mystery, freedom, stillness, and power.

God is good. Jesus is real. The Spirit lights.
Please keep praying... then pray some more...
Lovin' you -- Adella