Archives For Short-term mission

Can I Get a Witness?

July 9, 2013 — 3 Comments

Today, I’m excited to welcome my guest writer, Valerie Welsh.  A great mom many of us can relate to in following the strong parental instincts to keep her children safe at all costs.  She agreed to share her inspiring story of overcoming fear and stepping out in faith.

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The scene was sad and getting even sadder by the minute.  Our 17-year-old daughter, Sami, was sitting before us at the dining room table with reasons she should be allowed to join her youth group on their mission trip in just a few short months.

Sami had neatly outlined on paper the ways she had already served the Lord in her own neighborhood, her own peer group and her own country. This was a last-ditch effort on her part. This trip was so important to Sami that my husband Andy and I promised her that we would pray for two weeks about a decision whether or not to let her go. The final decision had been made. The deadline was that day, and she wouldn’t like our answer.

Here Sami was, making the case to serve in Ecuador and giving us evidence of the ways her faith had grown from the time she had given her life to Christ at age 7. I was distracted, thinking that she might make a good lawyer one day and felt both a twinge of pride at her maturity and a touch of shame that I knew our answer would be “no”.

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My husband and I purposely let the date for the informational meeting come and go. Mission trips were for other families, and they were certainly not for teenagers with severe asthma and allergies. Our reasons for not allowing her to go had everything to do with comfort – both hers and ours – and fear, which was a feeling I owned completely.

Sami took our answer with some maturity and lots of tears as she got ready for church that day. Andy and I reassured each other with slightly ashamed half smiles as she sobbed quietly in the back seat on the drive to church. All that mattered to me was that she would be staying right here at home, in my arms and totally safe from all the ways I could see her being ill or uncomfortable in Ecuador and out of my reach.

Sami sat at the end of the row next to her two siblings, head in her hands and praying deeply as the sermon began. We had been attending another church recently, different from the church we had attended for all of her life and in which Sami still remained active in youth group.

As our pastor began the sermon, I could hardly believe my ears! The title of the sermon that day was plastered on the front screen in front of the church:

“CAN I GET A WITNESS?  Acts 1:8 – ‘But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth.’”

He explained how we should be ready witnesses for Christ in the comfort of our own home as well as to the ends of the earth.

Andy and I continued to exchange surprised glances throughout the sermon as Sami continued to pray silently at the end of the row. God’s voice was so clear to me during that sermon. It was convicting and gentle and saying, “Do you have faith enough to trust me to lead My own daughter?”

God changed our minds that very day. I was ashamed that I had called myself a follower of Jesus Christ, and yet couldn’t trust Him to know what was best for His children. I was basing my decisions on fear and comfort and not on His will. My fears had drowned out His voice as I prayed for guidance. I already “knew” the answer to be “no” and had really been praying for my own agenda.

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Sami seemed introspective for days after her return from a successful trip, and she soon sat us both down to tell us her heart. I wasn’t surprised at all as she explained how she felt a calling to become a missionary during her time in Ecuador.

When she asked what I thought of her praying and researching this path for her life, I quieted my heart for just a minute before I answered. Doubts and fears came in again, but they soon were drowned out by the gentle voice of the Lord, reminding me that He would have Sami in the palm of His hand for all of her days.

Every morning while I pray, I remind myself that my three teenagers are all His and always have been. In my mind, I am letting go as a parent just a little more each day as they grow older.

I don’t know if God will lead Sami to the mission field again. I do know that everywhere we look, we can find a mission field in which to serve. It may be in our own homes and not across the globe, but listening for God’s voice is the first step.

I pray that we will have faith enough to hear and to obey, whatever we are called to do.

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©2013 Connie Davis Johnson

 

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It’s 4 days before my daughter and I join 13 other people from our church for a mission trip to Ecuador.  The reality of what we are about to do is finally beginning to sink in.  Although I’ve been to Ecuador before, there are still butterflies.

132077687Will any of us be detained in the airport?  Will we find ourselves in a difficult situation because we don’t know the language or culture?  Will I be able to keep my daughter safe?  Will we get sick from the food?  The worries are sometimes overwhelming.

However, even though we are nervous, we are also excited.  We get to meet new people, attempt to communicate when we don’t speak the language, try new foods, see beautiful landscapes we may only see once in our lives, and spread the love of Christ in the process.

I’m personally excited to share this experience with my daughter.  The last mission trip really changed my perspective on life and I know it will do the same for her.

Affecting me in a deep and profound way were the two home visits we made in Quito, Ecuador.

One was the home of a disabled couple.  We discovered this couple must maneuver a wheelchair and walker up a damaged walk, climb a few stairs, and navigate some tight corners just to reach their front door.  Once inside their 2 room apartment, we found it furnished with only a couple of plastic lawn chairs.  A clothesline was strung across the living area with clothes drying above the concrete floor.  They had very little food in their tiny kitchen with tiny refrigerator.  Apparently any refrigerator is a luxury in Quito so they were blessed by someone who donated it to them.

100_2410The 2nd home we visited belonged to a mom of 5 kids, one who has cerebral palsy.  There was a steep staircase from the street leading down to their apartment.  The 2 room apartment with a concrete floor was sparsely furnished similar to the 1st one.  The other room held two beds that all six shared.

The kitchen, big enough for only 1 person to stand in, had no refrigerator or stove.  The bathroom was outside and was shared with the woman upstairs.  When one of the kids needed to use the bathroom, the mom was forced to lock everyone else in the apartment while she took the one outside to use the facilities.  And to top off everything, the mom had to carry her child and her wheelchair up the steep staircase whenever she needed to leave the house.

The missionary who arranged the tour explained the dad abandoned this family and left them to fend for themselves.  The mom had recently been fired from her job because she was caught stealing food from her work’s kitchen.  The little money she made could not feed her children, so in utter desperation she resorted to stealing the food her children needed.  This explained the meager food in the house. 100_2425and1

I suddenly felt the need to escape this woman’s apartment.  Choking back sobs, I ached to be alone.

The shame I felt was overwhelming.  Just a few days before leaving for the trip, I had complained about our carpet and countertops.  The stress of getting ready for the trip made me snap at the kids and my husband.

The appalling need in front of me was making me come to terms with the overly blessed life I was taking for granted.  Even more distressing was their joy in contrast to mine.  By their standards, I had it all and yet lacked joy.  By my standards, they had nothing but had unmistakable joy.

My longing for more rather than being content with what I had was stealing my joy.  When my family didn’t meet my expectations, they were subjected to anger and frustration.  In comparison to the Ecuadorians, the love for their family superseded all other needs.  Somewhere between the altar, the delivery room, and now, I had allowed that joy to turn to stress.

I came home a different person.  My family comes first (after my relationship with God).  Time with them is protected as much as possible.  All requests for time already spoken for on my calendar receives the same response, “I already have something on the calendar for that time.”  I have found this garners more forgiveness than the unwillingness to sacrifice time with family.  And since I use it regularly, nobody knows when my time is filled with obligations or family.

And when the “I wants” threaten, I turn off Pinterest and pull out photos from these home visits.

I can’t wait to see how God uses the experiences on this upcoming trip to change my daughter.

We may be nervous at the unknowns.  But we are also eager to get there and do what God has asked of us.  To learn the lessons He has for us.  To experience the culture and scenery.  And hopefully make a lasting impact on the people we serve all while God is at work changing us to become more like Christ.  It’s going to be an amazing trip!

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©2013 Connie Davis Johnson

stk33345binI have very little faith.  My default setting is worry.  It would be reasonable to think I would have unshakable faith after recording pages and pages of answers to prayer in my prayer journal.  However I always seem to wonder if God is going to fail me “this time.”

In a recent post, I wrote about God clearly speaking to me at a retreat where I decided I was no longer going to speak.  Playing bible roulette landed me at a passage meant specifically to say “keep at it.”  The retreat was a success and I left the weekend feeling elated.

As I made the long drive home, my euphoria quickly turned to apprehension as I thought of how much money still needed to be raised for mine and my daughter’s upcoming mission trip with a group from our church to Ecuador.  We still had $2640 out of $3200 to raise.

Although support letters were sent, we didn’t have many people to send them to and most had already contributed.  The only other possibility on the horizon was the garage sale we planned in which all proceeds would go toward our mission trip.  But in all reality, I knew a simple garage sale would not bring in all the funds needed.

I prayed half-heartedly and wondered how in the world God could come through.  Two days later, I received a call from the church secretary.  She informed me a check came in for our trip.  It was from a couple we are friends with but haven’t seen in 2 years.  They have 3 young children.  When I inquired how much it was for, she nonchalantly said, $2000.  I was stunned speechless.

I asked her to repeat herself and then immediately began arguing it must be a mistake.  To convince me, the secretary sent a picture of the check to my phone.  It took about 10 minutes for the reality to sink in and then I just melted to the floor.

So many emotions were warring within me.  Deeply moved by our friend’s generosity, I felt shame that I’m not that giving.  I was also feeling serious regret for doubting God.  At the same time, I was incredibly relieved at the weight taken off my shoulders.  All these emotions became so overwhelming I ended up bawling.  And once I started crying I could not stop.  I cried all day long.

Before the week was over, another donation came in bringing our need down to $615.  I no longer doubted the rest of the money would be raised for our trip.

Blessings always follow obedience.

Psalm 24:4-5, “He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully.  He will receive blessing from the Lord and righteousness from the God of his salvation.”

Is there an area where you are fearful God will fail you?  Allow us to encourage you by sharing in the comments below.

Stay tuned when I share the story of our amazing garage sale tomorrow.

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©2013 Connie Davis Johnson