Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Ms. Bertha

Something about her front porch took me across the ocean to an African slum. Just like that, I was in Sierra Leone again, walking through Kroo Bay, looking into people’s tin and tarp patched homes, stopping to pray with a few.

As Kyle and I walked by this Atlanta home, I was struck by the random collection of items I saw around her porch – an old stroller, a couch whose insides were spilling out, a broken mirror. It drew me in.

We made it two steps past her house when we heard a loud, “Hey! … HEY! … HEY!!” We turned around to find a beautiful older woman coming off of her porch walking toward us. As we said “hello” and gave her hugs, she told us she had just gotten out of the hospital, and showed us her arm that was bruised from the elbow down.

The 61 year old woman explained to us that her arm was broken in a fight. And although it was 2:30 in the afternoon, she confessed that she was drunk. “That’s how I make the pain go away,” she added.

We told her we knew Someone who could make her pain go away. She seemed familiar with this Healer that we spoke of, and eagerly took our hands and held them tightly as we prayed healing over her.

I gently placed my hand on her bruised arm as I prayed. She later told us that as soon as I placed my hand on her arm, she felt the pain move down her arm and out of her body completely.

Jesus took her pain away. “By His wounds, we are healed.”

About 30 minutes later, we were walking back by her house, and we saw her on her porch, using both of her arms to shake out a blanket. We yelled out her name from across the street, and she blew us kisses as we passed by.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Joy in the Journey

Upon returning to the States back in September, I fully expected to be returning to Sierra Leone sometime at the beginning of this year.

Every time someone asked me if and when I was going back to Sierra Leone, I would get this uneasy feeling in my gut as I gave my response, “The plan is to go back in January.” After a couple months of telling people this, I started paying attention to that little feeling that came along with those words, and decided to pray with a couple of my mentors about it.

After a lot of prayer, I’ve decided that there’s no need to rush this thing. After ministering alone in a foreign country for three and a half months, I’ve concluded that I don’t want to be on the mission field by myself again. I think getting the right team together before going back is well worth the wait. And I’m willing to wait however long it takes in order to be with the right people.

And if I am going to be completely honest, I feel like the vision in my heart to see children become who they were created to be could happen anywhere, not just Sierra Leone. There are children all over the world that need the tender love and care, and good discipleship that I desire to offer. I do want to return to Sierra Leone at some point, but I am open to go other places before returning to Sierra Leone if the opportunity were to present itself.

For a while, I was asking the Lord, “Where do I go?” and “When do I go?” But these aren’t necessarily the right questions for me to be asking right now. I now am asking, “Who are the ones with whom I get to do life? Who are the people that want to go to the front lines of this spiritual battle with me? Who are the ones with whom I love to worship and pray?”

Kingdom Family is so valuable. Right now, I’ve got a pretty good community in Atlanta, and I don’t think it’s worth giving up. I don’t know a whole lot about what’s next, but I do think I’ll be here a little longer as long as my community is here.

As hard as it was at first for me to be still and to come to grips with the fact that I wasn’t going back overseas for a while, I’ve really come to a place where I crave the Lord more than I ever have. His presence is life to me. I long to be with Him, and to worship Him. 

I think it was God’s plan all along for me to have a season of just being with Him, so that everything I do flows out of my adoration for Him. And I have complete peace about where I’m at, and my heart is so very thankful.

Recently, I have been nannying during the week for two sweet girls, and on Sundays, I’ve been helping get a children’s ministry started at my church, Lifegate International. And I’m learning the value of living one day at a time, moment by moment, enjoying this journey with the Lord. 

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Adventures of a Car-less Nomad

I sold my car as I was leaving for Africa. One of my best friends bought it. As I was riding in it with her the other day, there might have been a little bit of a weird factor, but the funny thing is, I haven’t really missed it.

When I had a car, the Lord took great care of me. And since not having a car, He’s taken great care of me. I don’t have as much independence now, but I was never promised independence. What I have been promised time and time again is the provision and presence of my Papa.

To Him, I am more valuable than the sparrows, and more beautiful than the lilies of the field. He holds all the wealth of Heaven, and loves to do immeasurably more than this daughter might ask or even imagine. Of course He will take care of me. It is His great delight.

To many, I may look like a homeless hippie without a car. But it feels like quite the opposite (minus the hippie part). It’s almost as if I have more than I've ever had before.

Instead of having one place I call home, I am welcome in many, and I've gotten the privilege of staying in 5 lovely homes over the past month. And in the process, I've almost mastered the gift of packing an overnight bag ... almost.

And this whole not having a car thing has actually given me a more beautiful picture of what true community looks like – the kind of fellowship written about in Acts 2 where all the believers shared everything they had, and no one was in need.

I could go on and on about how friends and family have gone out of their way to pick me up to take me places, of the food we share together (smoothies are our new specialty), the laughs and dance moves that go down, and how we usually end up praying and worshiping together. 

This is more than sharing our physical things with each other. This is life, and we are going through it together.

One of my first nights back at my old apartment in Atlanta, I came in exhausted – mainly emotionally and spiritually. One of my roommates, after listening to me share about the things weighing on my heart, grabbed her guitar, sat on the end  of my bed, and just played it for me, as I laid there and let the tears come.

The whole time I was thinking, “Is this real?” Yes. Of course it’s real that she would support me when I’m going through it. She is my sister, my family. That’s what family does.

Now don’t get me wrong – I’m not trying to paint a cheesy picture of what God’s family is supposed to look like. I've had plenty of hard and challenging conversations with these same people over the past few years. I've been annoyed with them, and they've been annoyed with me.

But in it all, forgiveness, grace, and honor have been themes. And I've discovered that life is too hard independent of these people. Now that I've tasted true Kingdom family (check out the Greek words, “koinonia” and “oikos”), I don’t want it any other way.  I've never valued my community more than I do now.

And (for now, at least) I praise God for the gift of being a car-less nomad.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Romans 4:16-17

As I near the end of my time in Sierra Leone, I find myself thinking about all the Lord has shown me, all the things I’ve learned, and what dreams have been awakened in me over the past few months.

I thought I was coming here for one reason: The Children’s Redemption Orphanage Home. My idea was that I would be spending all of my time there, preparing myself to move in with those little guys.

As it turns out, God is much more creative than I am. I really shouldn’t be surprised. His plans and purposes for my life are coming about in ways that I never really imagined. (See Isaiah 55:9).

In addition to ministering to the staff and children at the orphanage, I’ve also gotten to work with pastors, churches, schools, slums, and other organizations.

In everything I’ve done, the common theme has been healing and freedom. Over and over again, I’ve seen the Lord set people free from their bondage, and in the process, they become freer to live in the truth of who they are in Jesus.

I’m learning that living in my calling to be a mother to the nations doesn’t just mean to physically be a mother to orphans. For Abraham, being a father to many nations means that he is the father of all who believe.

As a 26 year old single woman, I’ve “mothered” people of all ages into greater belief in Jesus.

And as time goes on, I’m sure my mothering role will look just as original and creative as it has the past few months, with the freedom and healing Jesus has to offer being common themes in every step of the journey.

Here’s what the Lord has confirmed and reconfirmed about what my purpose in this journey will look like as I come back as a missionary at the beginning of next year: 

-  To bring freedom and set people free
-  To show these people what a mother’s love is
-  To make their city beautiful
-  To be a part of a forgiveness revolution
-  To lay a strong foundation in a village named Brigitte
-  To walk in and embrace humility
-  To teach inner healing
-  To shut the mouths of the witches in the name of Jesus
-  To birth a ministry
-  To be David, and slay the giant
-  To teach the girls what beauty is
-  To go through “trash” to find treasures
-  To be a beautiful and joyful warrior princess
-  To minister to Muslims
-  To be like glue, holding things together
-  To be like a honey anointing, seeping into this land
-  To lead people in the love and presence of the Lord
-  To be a soil-changer
-  To bring the fire of the Holy Spirit wherever I go
-  To trust Papa
-  To love Jesus

Dang! That’s all I can say as I read through this list. God is really up to something. And it thrills my heart to be a part of it.

There’s no doubt that my time back in the States will be key in seeing this all come about. I plan on going to conferences, and I look forward to getting more experience with inner healing prayer during my time back home this fall.

And Oh! How excited I am to be back during my favorite season of the year. Perfect weather, pumpkin spice, beautiful trees, and Auburn football, of course.

With only a week left in Sierra Leone, Georgia has been on my mind, as well as my sweet home Alabama. I will hopefully get to spend equal amounts of time in both places. Let me know if you would like to meet up for coffee … preferably something with pumpkin spice in it. :) I would love to hear what things God is doing in your hearts, as well.

See you guys in September!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


I was delighted when a ministry I’ve been volunteering with asked me to come along as a prayer minister to their “camp” with fifty 12-14 year olds who live in the nation’s largest slum. While at camp last week, I listened to these kids share about nightmares, witches, curses, and abuse. One of the stories is as follows:

My suspicions started when he showed me his drawing book on the first day of camp. As this middle school-aged kid was drawing a picture of a large, strange-looking woman, I asked him what it was.

“A witch.” was his reply.

He then proudly showed me the dragon he had drawn, and I silently wondered what he had experienced to make him want to draw these things.

The next night as people were sharing their testimonies, he tried to share his own, but all that came out were loud sobs.

So he tried again the next day. This time, his audience learned that his mother was killed in an accident on the way to his father’s funeral. Thus began his life on the streets in a culture full of witchcraft.

As it turns out, his source of food was his step-mother, who was a witch.

One thing I’ve learned over the past few years is that what is in a person’s heart will surely come out in one way or another (Matt. 12:33-35). The way this kid expressed what was in the depths of his heart was through drawing.

And showing us his drawings was his cry for help. So help, we did.

“Who is powerful enough to enter the house of a strong man like Satan and plunder his goods? Only someone even stronger – someone who could tie him up and then plunder his goods.” – Jesus (Matt. 12:29)

As camp came to an end, we cast the dragon out of him in the name of Jesus. And he invited Jesus to come 
and take the high position the dragon had once held in his heart as Master.

This freedom-delivering God is the same one as in days of old. He is unchanging. He is alive. And He loves that kid.

“I also pray you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe Him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated Him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. Now He is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else – not only in this world but also in the world to come. God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made Him head over all things for the benefit of the church. And the Church is His body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with Himself.” (Eph. 1:19-23)

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

More than Fine

The room was complete with balloons and streamers. The popcorn had been popped. And the cake was ready. It was a big day for the kids at the orphanage.

Not only were they launching their very own Good News Family Club (similar to a VBS) for the kids in their neighborhood, it was also the day to celebrate the kids who have July birthdays.

The latter was an even bigger deal because it was the first time the three birthday boys had ever had a birthday celebration.

The boys took turns getting to share their testimonies in front of all of their neighborhood friends during the Good News Family Club. The youngest, who was turning 9, went first. His story about living on the streets after his parents died sounded much like the 12 and 15 year old’s stories.

The oldest was the last one to share. He began crying as he told his audience about how his “daddy,” the Director of the orphanage, came and found him on the streets, and took him into the orphanage home. In shame, he hid his face from the many who were telling him not to cry. The leaders did their best to make a smooth transition, and the boys went to sit down.

That’s when the 12 year old lost it. He walked to the back of the room in tears. Going against the flow of those telling him to stop crying, I sat on the ground with my arm around him, and let him cry.

These kids have lived on the streets of the 4th poorest country in the world, and their culture is telling them to be ashamed of their tears. Many people here, in fact, have ignored their tears in hopes that their pain will somehow disappear.

As a result, it feels like there are a bunch of robots walking around Sierra Leone telling everyone how “fine” they are. Even as I sat and listened to several of the kids tell me their heart-wrenching stories, they would look at me with a straight face after I asked them how it made them feel, and simply say, “fine.”

I want them to know that there’s so much more than fine.

As I prayed and prophesied over them individually, something in them shifted from being fine to being something of worth. God sees them. He knows their names and their destinies. He celebrates them with more than just balloons and cake.

A few months ago, I remember being completely undone during worship, weeping over all of the world’s orphans who have no idea how good their Father is. While singing about the Lord’s faithfulness in never once leaving us on our own, I cried out for them to experience the faithfulness of their Father.

These children, little by little, are tasting and seeing that the Lord truly is good. They are pushing past fine and into the realms of God’s faithfulness.

“I AM … filled with unfailing love and faithfulness.” – Exodus 34:6

The orphanage's cook, caregiver, and two of its teens prepared the popcorn  over the coal pot.
This is what happened after I said, "Who's excited about the Good News Family Club??"                  

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Beautiful Things

She was just a little girl when it happened. It was a day like any other when her uncle came to her family’s home in Freetown, and gave his heart-wrenching report.

The rebels had come.

From his hiding place in his home, he watched them brutally murder his entire family. He somehow escaped his village, and found refuge in the home of his extended family.

The war in Sierra Leone (1991-2002) birthed pain, destruction, and poverty in the lives of each of the country’s citizens.

Her family was no different than any other. Her father was forced to leave them in search for work, but found little to provide for his family throughout the years of the war. The joy and unity they once shared as a family somehow disappeared as they struggled to survive.

And no one dared to mention the pain that was bottled up somewhere deep inside their hearts.

Two weeks ago, she let it out. With a straight face, and eyes focused away from my own, this woman I’ve come to love shared with me about “that day.”

My response to her was simply, “Let’s ask Jesus what He has to say to you about this memory.”

After praying, she replied with a straight face, “He said He was with me.”

"Ok, let’s ask Him to reveal to you where He was exactly.”

She closed her eyes as she mentally went back in time, and placed herself in the room where her uncle walked in with the bad news. And with all the boldness in her heart, she asked Jesus to reveal Himself.

A smile formed on her face as she said, “He was praying for me.”

Oh, how sweet our Jesus is. He was praying for her!

It didn’t change what happened. However, the presence of Jesus created beauty even in the most painful places of her heart.

For too long, she (like many other Sierra Leoneans) has lived with the belief that the war was God’s will. Believing this made it seem holier – or humble, even – to accept and live with all the pain the war created in her heart.

Why do believers believe that God steals, kills and destroys? Isn’t that what Jesus said about our enemy?

Death was never God’s intention. From the beginning, life has always been His plan. The enemy is the one who came into the beauty of the Garden, and whispered the lies that led to death. But the story doesn’t stop there. Jesus beat death, remember? It is finished.

Life wins.

It wasn’t long before she was forgiving the rebels, and repenting of believing that God was the culprit of all her pain. Now she is walking in the belief that every good and perfect gift comes from God.

She then started noticing all the life around her. Corn. Greens. Potatoes. Mango trees. All around her, life was coming up from the same ground where innocent blood was shed ten years prior. God has turned the very things meant for evil into good. 

One of the songs that I’ve played and re-played since being here is called, “Beautiful Things,” by Gungor. I've declared its words over this nation, and I will continue to fight to see them come true.

All this pain
I wonder if I’ll ever find my way
I wonder if my life could really change at all

All this earth
Could all that is lost ever be found
Could a garden come up from this ground at all

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

All around
Hope is springing up from this old ground
Out of chaos, life is being found in You

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

You make me new
You are making me new