Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Steady my heart.

August 20, 2012

            Today is the day! I am currently on our Delta flight from Memphis to Amsterdam! The ride is supposed to last over 7.5 hours and then we’ll land in Amsterdam and run to our next flight from Amsterdam to Lusaka Zambia. The only thing is that the flight leaves one hour after we land, so our group is going to have to haul tail feathers to our next gate! The upside is that we won’t have a layover, but the downer is that since the in-between flights is so short, we probably won’t have our luggage tonight. But that’s alright! God is still God! We will stay the night in Lusaka and get up Wednesday and ride a bus for about 7 hours south to Kalomo, our final destination! It’s pretty wild that we left Monday afternoon and won’t be getting to the Mission station until Wednesday evening!
            Today was one of anxiety and sluggishness to an extent if you can believe it. We woke up, had breakfast, cleaned up the house at HUT, sang some to practice for our first day on Wednesday, and then pretty much just sat around until 2:00. Some people were getting really antsy and nervous since we were having so much time to sit with our thoughts. We were told today that Zambia’s main generator’s source of electricity is extremely unreliable and basically broken for the time being. We’ve been told that we may experience black outs for a while. Which isn’t the BEST of news to hear, but it’s not really the no-electricity I’m bummed about. It’s more of the safety issue. But after a while we were all ready to stop passing time and start the journey of getting there already.
At this moment the things I am most anxious about are:

  1)   How I am going to deal with being back on American soil in November. Typical me, right? I’m worried about getting back when I haven’t even left. I just know that his trip is going to be something that the Lord has strategically planned for me and has already gone before us to prepare hearts, but I can’t bear the thought of getting home after experiencing all God has planned, and feeling angry and bitter towards the people I love most at home. I don’t want to be frustrated and unpleasant to be around. I know the change in my perspective is a good thing and may spur others on to do something and make a change, but I don’t want to become someone others no longer want to be around because I’m so frustrated at the little things. I don’t know, it may be silly or not make a bit of sense, but it’s something that’s occupied my thoughts more than once.
  2)   The expected things that someone would usually be anxious about: snakes, spiders, illness, heartbreak. It’s a constant battle reminding myself to trust. Free fall into the safety of His hand. Rest in the covering of His wings as He does the flying. Trust, Holly. You trust your father here. God can promise even greater protection than my dad here. God knows me more than I know myself. He watched me as I was growing in my Mamma’s belly, and He is watching me today as I am 35,000 above ground in this plane. I am His and He is mine.

Keep me on this journey, sweet Jesus. Keep me from veering to the left or right by focusing on my anxieties. Remind me that You are what I am not and that it is OK if I can not do something. You work best in weak people. Refresh my spirit Lord and remind me when I have forgotten that THIS is what I’ve been wanting to do! I’m doing what I’ve always wanted. How can I shy away from the call now that it’s here? Prepare my heart. Humble me. Make me a learner. I pray for my Tonga tutor that I have not met yet. I pray for the babies of the Havens that we haven’t met yet. Prepare us. Teach us to love with abandon. And if Satan finds a way into that place and takes the life of a child, I pray You use it for good. Whoever’s baby it is, may that be a time we all rely on Your goodness, remember Your promises, and praise You with thankful hands outstretched because You are God and You are good. May we let you be big. Thank you for the beautiful story of the gospel. Here I am my sweet Savior. USE ME.

Church, CiTonga, and Christ's image.

August 19, 2012

Today has been packed, but wonderful.

            We started the day with church. Many of last year’s HIZers were there and I got to see Kelly again before we leave tomorrow! We sang a lot, which was beautiful as always, and Dr. Huffard spoke about how our journey and our calling changes throughout time. It is the same calling, but it changes ways in which it is revealed in our lives. He said although we may think our hearts are set on something, it will change down the road as our journey continues. After that we sang some more, except in CiTonga, and it just made me smile to hear us all sing together as one, knowing we all share this heart for Zambia.
            After singing we all ate together, and many of last year’s girls talked to us new girls at the table just about fears and what to expect. It was nice to hear them talk about all of their memories and share little useful tips. After that we said our goodbyes and had class with Dr. Huffard. He talked about the image of God and how we are in His image simply by having the ability to display characteristics like He has. It is hard for me to explain or put it the way Dr. Huffard put it, but he used Exodus 34:6-7 which says, 
“And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, ‘The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.’”

            He used this verse to show the characteristics God chose to display to Moses. And each characteristic He spoke about Himself are all things we are able to do as well. Things like forgiveness, justice, love, mercy. The way he put it made sense and I really enjoyed it!
            We then headed over to Camp Takodah to jump around and swim. I was just what I needed after 2 days of classes. Just hanging out with our team, not in a heavy or serious context, really made me feel better about it all. Our group is still being so amazing and positive.
            We came back and had dinner, and after dinner I talked with Brette and Kaitlin Plachy about everything up until now. Our fears, what we want to get out of all of this, doubts that we have for our future. It was so cool hearing how we all share similar pains and fears. We prayed together and it was so refreshing. What a blessing it is to have a group of people so serious about their faith like I am.
            We all came back together and had a time of singing and sharing of promise passages form the Bible. Promise passages are excerpts from Scripture where God either makes a promise to someone, or He tells what He is going to do. It was so comforting listening to everyone’s thoughts and all the verses. It really made me realize that I have nothing to worry about. Next we all started watching a movie which ended up being kind of strange so I just came upstairs and rearranged packing and got everything together. I am SO tired and just mentally exhausted from all of the processing. I can’t believe the day is here!
Oh God, grant us peace and serenity over the next few days as our team adjusts and copes with what is going on. We need Your conformation that we are in Your will and we need Your Spirit to guide us into situations we need to experience. Be with my mind and steady my heart. Thank you for everything. Thank you. Here I am, Oh God. Use me.

E1, E2, or E3?

August 18, 2012

            Another successful day! Today was full of classes and lectures. Our classes were mostly about mission anthropology and worldviews. And they were pretty interesting to me! Jeremy talked for a while, and then his father, Shawn Daggett, came and taught the class about culture shock. Something we talked about with Mr. Daggett really stuck out to me. He was talking about the 3 different types of missionaries. You have your E1s, E2s, and E3s. E1 missionaries are people who reach others that have a similar language as theirs, but have a different worldview. An example would be an American reaching another American that is lost. An E2 missionary is someone who reaches others with a different language, but similar worldview. This would be someone from America going to France to encourage and teach people there. And then there are E3s. E3 missionaries are people who reach others having a different language and worldview. This would be what most people think of when they hear missionary. But anyway, the thing that stuck out to me was when Mr. Daggett said, “If you find yourself adjusting easily to E2 or E3 culture shock, do you think that perhaps that is how you were meant to serve the Kingdom of God?”
It stuck out to me because I’ve been thinking and hoping that this trip would tell me if an E3 or E2 missionary is what I would be best at, but I haven’t really figured out how I would know when I find that answer! And that was so true! Maybe the way I handle this culture shock will be what lets me know the answer to that.
            But in all, every class was wonderful today and so thought provoking. It really caused me to think deeply and realize that there is an underlying psychological issue within the world, affecting the worldview of us all. It really opened my eyes to just how much people are searching for the truth. People just want to make sense of the world and figure out why things happen, so they think of reasons and superstitions and explanations for it. They just don’t know it’s Christ that they’re looking for. We need truth. We need it.
            We ended the night with s’mores and half of the group watching The Lion King and a few of us playing Risk. It was so much fun. Can I just say that I love our group? I don’t think that I’ve said that yet ;)

Oh God, save us from this world. Save us from ourselves and the mess we’ve made. Give HIZ 2012 the words You would speak and the touch You would give. Give us boldness in Your Spirit and the peace of Your Son. Never stop loving us. We need You. I love you my God and my Lord. Here I am. Use me. 

Reunited and it feels SO good!

August 17, 2012

            Day one is complete and my heart is overflowing. I mean, it is literally pouring over the brim with joy. The day started out sluggish and honestly downcast. My mom hugged me goodbye early this morning before my dad and I set out for Searcy. I told her goodbye with eyes full of tears, knowing this would be the last time I hugged her for the last time for 3 months! Talk about surreal. My dad and I left and the ride seemed to go by so fast. We just hung out and talked about the workings of God and how will we know if what we are doing is in His will. If we take action and do what WE think God would want us to do, is it wisdom by not staying idle and just waiting, letting opportunities pass by because we haven’t received an “answer? Or is our go ahead attitude really a lack of faith? Oh the mysteries of Christianity.
            We got to Harding and I saw some friends, went and said goodbye to Lindsey, and then went to the GAC parking lot to meet up with our group and say goodbye to more friends and my dad. Kelly, Kaitlyn, and Cierra walked up and as soon as I saw them tears started streaming! I just love those girls’ hearts so much. We hugged and hugged and then prayed together before I had to say goodbye to my dad. It was such a wild mix of emotions. I was sad to leave, but happy to see everyone again. Excited to go, but nervous to leave. I said bye to my dad and just being wrapped in his arms made me cry and cry knowing it was my final goodbye before leaving. I love him so much. Our whole group, parents and friends alike, got in a huge circle and we all prayed and then we left. The moment our bus pulled away all the doubt and nervousness vanished and it was all excitement. It was the weirdest feeling in the world having all the uncertainty of the past week just disappear! Maybe it was because I knew there was no going back, so being excited is the only thing left to be! We drove to the Fouts’ house (The Fouts are an older couple that cooked for us at HUT and are cooking for us this weekend while we’re here again). They are such sweet and generous people. We got there and their backyard was the coolest thing! It was a man-made lake with a rope swing, tubed slide, huge 25-foot dock, and zip line. It was sweet. I ended up jumping off the dock. That thing had to have been 25 feet at LEAST. It was so scary up there looking down, but while I was at the top the only thing on my mind was how similar this situation is to the whole Zambia trip! The drop is so tall, but I’m standing on the edge and there’s no turning back. I have to. So the only thing left for me to do is count to 3 and go. So I did. And once I hit the water, I’m so glad I did. It’s like this trip in that I wish I didn’t have to leave, but I just have to run. And once I jump, I’ll be glad I did.
            So we left there after a little over an hour and rode to HUT, rolled our luggage inside, and met to have an Intro. to our Mission Anthropology class. Then we had dinner, which was DELISH, and Jeremy (our leader), his grandmother made cookies for us! After that we had a “Welcome party” and played a bunch of silly games together. Then we took and break and met back together to talk about the ways we saw God move in our lives this summer and to sing. This group is such a blessing. I have laughed more in this one day than I do in probably two weeks combined. We all just love being together. All of us. We love each other and are beginning this adventure and I cannot think of any other group of people I would rather spend this semester of growth, separation, and love with than with them. The thing that makes it so unique is that every person brings such a unique piece of something to the table. Our group is not our group without one person. Everyone contributes something, and that’s what makes it so unique! We already have this bond and the semester hasn’t even begun. It’s like this huge stitched quilt, and God has specifically picked out each square and stitched us all together for this moment. Each piece, individually crafted with its own colors and experiences. All sewn together to create this big picture meant to function as a whole. I’m starting to really and truly experience the feeling of how the body of Christ is meant to work.

Oh God I praise you for Your omniscience. For knowing each of us and putting our group together. I pray for the purity of our hearts that we each truly live to glorify Your name and Your name alone. Humble us to the condition of this world and give us a bold confidence in speaking Your truth. May we be meek like Jesus Christ and be heard so that seeds can be planted. I pray for the heart of my Tonga tutor. Prepare us both for our connection this semester and may we both be teachers to each other as well as learners. I pray for the life of my baby I will be holding in only a few days. Cover him or her with the protection of Your hand. Guard their mind and heart as they walk their path on this side of eternity. Here I am Lord, use me.

Friday, August 10, 2012

The pause.

I’m all buckled in.
I’ve had to have checked the seat belt three times at least.
All of my friends are in the seats beside, in front, and behind me but it feels like I’m the only one on this thing. The girl working the control board comes over the speakers. “Please keep your arms and legs inside the car until the ride has come to a complete stop.” My palms start sweating and my stomach already feels queasy. I know the ride can only last a maximum of a minute and a half, but to me, that’s 90 seconds too long. The brakes squeal as they release, and there’s no turning back now that we’re starting our climb up the first hill. Nervous chatter fills the seats, but all I can hear are my own thoughts. My own doubts. The belt keeps clicking as we continue our ascent. I try to look ahead toward the track to see what’s about to happen, how much higher we have to go, which loop is first, so that I can prepare myself. But I can’t see a thing. The only thing I can see is the ground and just how high I actually am getting. The people are becoming smaller and smaller as my heartbeat is getting stronger and stronger and my grip keeps getting tighter and tighter. I chuckle under my breath. “Why do I do this to myself?” It seems so silly. “Knowing my luck, this would be the one time that something goes wrong on this thing.” Even the knowledge that millions upon millions of people have gone before me, and even more than that will go after me, I still can’t help but brace myself for the worst. And then we come to that dreaded halt. Where I know it’s about to start. But it hasn’t yet. We’re all sitting there, my friends and I, and in that two in a half second pause at the top of that first peak before it plummets and nosedives and twists and soars and plunges and spirals, I know there’s no getting off this thing. Heart pounding, mind sprinting, skin sweating, the wheels start turning. And then, as we begin the downhill coast, speed picking up, my hands release its sweaty death grip from the metal handles and I remember why I do this.

7 days.

One week is what separates me from the biggest adventure of my life up to this point.

168 hours until my life changes completely and forever.

These 7 days that stand between me and August 17 are my two and a half second pause. That short amount of time where I think of any and every thing that could possibly go wrong. I could lose my luggage completely. I could hate being there. Terribly. I could get malaria. I could misjudge what I’ve signed up for and end up doing very poorly in my classes. The child that I am responsible for for three months not only could, but realistically may die.

But life and rides have something in common.

In those loops that always make my stomach ache and my head get a tension migraine, when I’m wishing this contraption would just hurry up and get to the end of the track so that I can get off, I realize this ride isn’t going to speed up for me. And in that moment when I’m on my back, hands as straight as they can go, shrieks of pure exhilaration echoing in unison with everyone else, wishing this flight would last forever, I realize this ride isn’t going to slow down for me.

I know there will be moments in the 14 weeks I’m gone when I wish I could get on a plane and get home. When all I want is to talk to my mom and hug my dad. When the only thing that will make me feel better is a Moose Tracks milkshake and snuggling with a blanket and my dog. I know there will be moments of pure bliss when I wish that this semester could just last forever. When I’m looking into sad eyes on faces of pure joy, finding my calling. When our team is singing and dancing to the beat of African songs, experiencing the kind of love for one another that God had intended for us to have towards each other all along from the beginning. When that baby of mine smiles when they see that our van has pulled up and reaches up to be held as we walk through the door.

I know I’m not the first to go through this experience or these feelings, and I’m certainly not the last. But it doesn’t keep the thoughts from scrolling like the credits of a movie on TV that are just trying to hurry up and get off the screen. I can’t even process them they come and go so quickly. But despite the worry and the doubt, I’m not getting off of this ride. Yes, I COULD lose my luggage. Yes, I COULD hate it. I highly doubt that I will, but I know I will have my moments. I COULD get malaria. I COULD do extremely poorly on assignments and tests. I COULD find myself with hands empty of a child by the end of November.
I could.

But I can’t rob this experience by spending this short pause that I have before the journey starts, thinking of the coulds.

I know these 3 and a half months will be full of moments.
Lots of peaks that I can’t see over. I won’t always know whether it’s a blessing that’s coming or a tragedy that’s barreling down the tracks.

All I know is that I’ve got three and a half months that aren't going to speed up nor slow down for me.

Three and a half months is what I have to embrace each experience. Reach out and touch faces. Grab hands and interlace fingers. Rock babies and sing with African Christians at a near shout to the same God that we mumble praises to here in the States. Three and a half months to discern if a long term lifestyle like this is my mission. Three and a half months to soak in every syllable, every touch, every second spent in God’s will. Soaking up every instant, of happiness and heartbreak, until this particular ride comes to a stop.

So I have to take advantage starting now in these 7 days.
I will seek peace starting now and I will seek peace this semester.
I will find moments to laugh this week as I pack and I KNOW I will laugh plenty this fall.
I will love the people around me now and I will relentlessly love the people of Africa.

Hands held as high as they can go, completely surrendered of control, thoughts of what could happen becoming replaced with the stimulating thrill of the moment, letting JEHOVAH-SHAMMAH, the Lord who is present, EL ROI, the Strong One who sees, EL-SHADDAI, God Almighty, remind me why I do this.