What are you “waiting” for?
Have you ever had to wait so long for something that you thought you might just as well give up? Unfortunately, I have to admit that I am notorious for grumbling during times of waiting. I’d prefer to tell you that I meditate and often sit quietly turning my heart toward God, but that’s all too often unlikely. The saddest part is that I’m only 33 years old and the longest I’ve had to wait for anything is maybe a few years. I empathize with the Israelites who wandered in the desert for 40 years before being delivered into the Promised Land. It’s no wonder that they forgot about God, turned to false idols, complained incessantly, and looked back to the luxuries they had in Egypt. What was God teaching them during those 40 years? In my recent and tangible experience of waiting, sensing God was busy dealing with lives much more deserving than my own, not a day went by when my heart did not wrestle with the unrevealed plans that I had no answers for. I doubted God, became discontented with life, and though a child of God, my life reflected that of a disgruntled child.
God led the Israelites to the Promised Land, even alongside their complaints, and he provided authorities in charge of them to remind them of what God had done. When they forgot to worship, or worshipped false gods, they were redirected to repent and worship the one, true God that had delivered them from slavery. The LORD has held my hand, heard my cries, wiped my tears, forgiven my complaints, and listened to my doubts. During these bleak moments, my worship of God has remained. Perhaps it’s less of a beautiful embrace and more of a desperate clinging to my Father, but it is an absolute knowing that I believe in and ache for the LORD. I recently read Eugene Peterson’s book, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, and in it he talks about the relationship between our soul, our mind, and our actions. He challenges the person who, on any given day does not “feel” like worshipping God, to use an action such as raising your hands to the LORD to bring your soul into a spirit of worship. Over this last year there have been many times when I did not want to go to church, I did not want to sing to the LORD, I did not want to hear his Word, but in an act of desperation I have clung to the LORD through actions of worship.
A note on our recent history:
The LORD is holy and righteous, abounding in love and mercy to those who remain steadfast in their faith. Our family has been through joy and suffering as we have waited for discernment from God. We have been graciously supported during training and while finishing up seminary. Bryan finished (with honors) with a Masters in Religion and Culture and Rebe finished (also with honors) with a Masters in Educational Ministries. We praise God for his leading, his care, his upholding our family through these years of study.
My go-to prayer over the last year has been “Help me Jesus, help us Jesus.” I do believe we have felt every emotion possible during a season when a number of our family members have passed on. While we have wrestled with God through the pain, the whole of scripture cries out that through suffering we will be refined in Christ.
For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. Hebrews 2:10
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
Jesus Christ and the reality of his suffering, his blood, his death and his resurrection is our only comfort, our only hope.
The LORD has made a way for us to arrive back in Africa at the beginning of April. We have joined a team of missionaries going to Madagascar to minister among the Sakalava people, an indigenous group who has not yet come to know the transforming power of the Gospel. We will be placed on a small island called Nosy Be (120 sq. mile island), which means we will not be on the large island of Madagascar but on a smaller island of a larger island. The Sakalava people tend herds and flocks, they are a sea-faring people, fishermen, and are an animistic society. Everything is tied to their lineage, their past and their worship of God is tied to vows they have made to their ancestors. Their spiritual medium is their ancestors. Every single action or occurrence during their day has power tied to ancestors and they operate out of a ‘blessing’ and ‘curse’ mentality that has roots bound to the past.
There is a Sakalava woman named Rosina who will be on our team and teaching us language and Sakalava culture. She was converted in her youth when she had the opportunity to be ministered to by other Christians. Later, she got her Masters in Linguistics while in England and has been in ministry for 28 years. She is now returning to her village and leading the team that we are joining. We believe she is a ‘jewel’ and is a valuable catalyst to learning and assimilating into this rural community.
The goal during the years we will spend among the Sakalava people will be to learn their language, join in what they do from day-to-day, offer dignity to their culture and look for ways in which we can build bridges to the Gospel. It is not our job to impose our Western culture upon them, but to see the beauty in how God has created them, and in that relationship, share with them the Gospel in a way that upholds dignity to Sakalava culture. Our hope, with God’s blessing, is that we will see the seeds of a church planted in the community by the time of our next furlough.
You can watch a video about both the Sakalava and a similar tribe named the Antakarana (which live on another island farther out in the Indian Ocean) here. This video is well done: http://vimeo.com/36957457
May the LORD continue to bless you with his grace and peace during this Advent season,