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

Monday, June 18, 2012

A Day in the Life of Maribeth

Last week, I got to spend a couple days in Brigitte, and one day in the village where the orphanage is currently located, which is about thirty minutes down the road from Brigitte, where I was staying.

However, “thirty minutes down the road” is a little different than what you might be thinking. It’s not as easy as hopping in the car, and arriving at your destination thirty minutes later.

Here, you walk along the road until a motorcycle taxi is available. After travelling by motorcycle to one village junction, you find a taxi to cram into with at least 5 other people (you pay by the seat, so people squish in order to reduce individual cost). The taxi (which may or may not break down along the way) drops everyone off at another particular junction, and then you find one more motorcycle taxi to take you to your final destination.

And there you have it. A thirty minute trip to the orphanage.  

And that’s how I got to start my day … without coffee.

Physically, there’s not much about this place that makes me want to kick back and make myself at home. It’s hot. It’s loud. It’s busy. And, to say the least, getting anywhere is usually a bit inconvenient. I find myself in need of a break pretty regularly.

Spiritually, however, this place is RIPE. It makes it a little more fun to be in such a physically draining place when I get to partner with the Lord in all He is doing here.

While in the village where the current orphanage is located, I got to meet with the headmaster of the school where the kids attend. He wants me to do a training for his teachers.

At first I thought, “I don’t know if I have what it takes to do a training.” But after observing their classes, looking at a few of their (few) materials, I decided that it would be a shame if I didn’t share with them what I’ve had the privilege of learning through my degree at Auburn and through some teaching experience. And now it looks like I’ll be doing a training for a couple of different schools in the area within the next few weeks. The schools here will be the first to tell you that they are in need of a lot.

After meeting with the headmaster, I walked to the orphanage with Frank, the Director. On the way, we met his neighbor who had a broken leg. She hasn’t been able to do much except sit on the front porch with it propped up for 2 whole months.

So I prayed for her. She still felt pain after I prayed, so I prayed again. This time, she said as soon as I placed my hand on her knee, she felt something pop. After the prayer, she said it felt better.

I then told her family that since they were believers, they held within them the same power that raised Jesus from the dead (Eph. 1:19-20), and that they can continue to lay hands on her and pray for her full recovery.

Now, she’s walking on it. Praise Jesus. By His wounds, we are healed.

Later that day, I got to do some inner healing prayer with two of the adults who help out at the orphanage. I got to watch the Lord bring healing to broken places in their hearts, so now they will be ministering to these children out of a place of freedom in their hearts, where there once was unforgiveness, shame, and bondage.

It’s so beautiful to see freedom released.

As the kids got home from school that day, it was play time. What a joy! I got to read to them Max Lucado’s “You Are Special,” and then I taught them the cupid shuffle.

Two of my favorite things: Reading to kids and Dancing.

I felt alive. With all the wonderful things that had happened that day, I had pretty much forgotten about all the inconveniences of my “thirty minute trip” to the orphanage that morning.

But by that time, it was time for my “thirty minute trip” back to where I was staying.

Oh Lord, help me.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Look and be Amazed

During my first couple of weeks here in Sierra Leone, the Lord has gently leaned in and said to me, “Look and be amazed.”

All I have to do is look, really. He is doing something that many would not even believe if they heard it. But I’ve seen it, and it truly is amazing.

I have had the privilege of spending my first few days here with a wonderful team of people I go to church with in Atlanta, including my “papa” in the faith, and 2 girls I’m friends with. The team left to go back home on Monday, but while they were here last week, we had a conference at the church in Brigitte.

Brigitte is the village that the orphanage is being built in, and where I’ll eventually move to. There are about 1,500 people living in Brigitte, and most are a part of a tribe of people called “Timne.” Most of the Timne people, both Christian and Muslim, have dabbled in witchcraft. Some more than others. One of the pastors here said that about 99% of the Timne tribe have demonic attachments.

These are the people the Lord has called me to love.

The good news is that a foundation of freedom and healing has been laid in Brigitte already. This past week, we partnered with the Lord in setting people free of demonic attachments, physical illnesses, sinful habits, and patterns that only led to death.

One woman brought her daughter to us every day for prayer. Her daughter was 2 years old, and looked like a newborn. She had very little strength or ability to move, and had never even crawled before. So we prayed every day for the Lord to release His healing power over this child. By the end of the week, she was crawling.

Her proud mother went back and told her neighbors about what the Lord had done for her daughter. She was just one of many who spread the news of the Lord’s goodness and healing power to her community. 

These neighbors made their way into church for the very first time, and wanted us to pray for them, too. They wanted God to heal them like He had healed their neighbors. They not only received the healing touch of God, but they also received Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

When the Good News of Jesus enters into a community, people are attracted to it, and find themselves wanting to be around the people who carry the presence of the Lord.

One of my favorite moments of the trip so far was when a woman brought her children to us so that we could pray for God to bless them. I prayed for each of them individually, blessing each of them with a specific verse that I felt the Lord speaking over them.

When I finished praying for the 4 children, I turned around, and saw about 10 more kids who had come to receive a blessing. So I continued asking the Lord for a specific verse to pray over each child. After blessing 15-20 kids, it was time for me to go, but I still had about 10 more kids to go. They just kept coming. In blessing the children, I got a small taste of what my purpose is in being here.

I got another taste one day while we were stopped at a gas station. I was sitting in the back seat, thinking about how tired I was (just being honest). Before I knew it, a man had come over and stuck his baby through the open window right in front of me. It was as if the man had come over to my window expecting me to pray for his child.

So, of course, I placed my hand on the baby, and prayed blessings on her spirit to know the Lord. The man seemed pleased, and walked away with his baby. As we left the station, he waved goodbye with a big smile on his face.

Even as I’m writing, I’m thinking, “Was that even real?” That’s when I’m sure that it was totally the Lord.

I guess when the Lord said, “Look and be amazed,” He really meant it.

“Look at the nations and watch – and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.” – Habakkuk 1:5

Sunday, May 13, 2012


I had a dream the other night where I was at the airport frantically filling out papers, trying to get everything ready before my plane was supposed to leave. I felt so scattered and hurried, and then Jesus and the Holy Spirit came on the scene, and informed me that Jesus was coming with me. He didn’t have everything together yet, either, so the Holy Spirit was helping us get everything worked out.

What if I told you that my dream is coming true?

Last week, I was emailing with our missionary contact in Sierra Leone, asking him a few of the many questions I have about living in Africa. He was asking me questions, too, and wanted to know when I was planning on moving back over there. Then he said, “Please don’t say in the fall. Elections are in November, and it’s not safe to be here then.” He told me that he takes his family back to the States every time the elections happen, because it can get pretty dangerous when/if riots break out.

When he told me this, it threw me off a little bit as I started thinking about the timing of it all. It doesn’t make sense for me to make a 3 week trip beginning next week, come back here, then go back to Sierra Leone, and then come back again when the elections happen, and then go back again after the elections are over. (Whew!)

What DOES make sense is for me to go over there, stay until the elections, come back home for the Holidays, then go back over to Sierra Leone for good.

So that’s what I’m going to do. I’m moving to Sierra Leone on Wednesday.

And that’s why I feel like my dream is coming true. I feel pretty scattered right now, as I’m trying to get everything done before I leave. But the good news is that Jesus is coming with me, and Holy Spirit is helping us get everything together before we leave.

The presence of the Lord is always Good News.

I plan on living with our missionary contact and his family for the next 4 months as I adjust to life in Africa, learn the language (Creole), get to know the people, and get settled in my role there. I will then come home in September, before everything gets messy in Sierra Leone, and then go back for good in January-ish.

They should be laying the foundation of the orphanage in the next few weeks, and it should be completed by the end of the year. When I move back to Sierra Leone in January, I’ll plan to live in the orphanage, and raise the children who live there.

Even though this is so sudden, and I feel a little scattered, I KNOW that it’s right. I'm excited about coming into the calling on my life to be a mother to the nations ... starting next week!

Right now, I have enough funds to get me started over the next few weeks. But I’m going to need all the support I can get as I begin life in Sierra Leone. If you’re interested in supporting me financially as I live in Sierra Leone, here’s how:

You can write a check to “Lifegate International,” and put “Maribeth Ward – Africa” in the memo line, and send it to:

Lifegate International
1860 Ridgedale Dr.
Snellville, GA 30078

Or you can go to, and use their paypal account to make a donation. If you donate online, be sure to email to let them know that you want your donation to go to me, because there’s not a place to specify where you want the donation to go on the website.

Your donations will all go to me directly, and they will be tax deductible.

Please please please be praying for me as I make this big transition. And pray for my family as they adjust to the idea of me living so far away. And pray that the Good News of Jesus permeates the country of Sierra Leone.

I praise God for each of you. Be blessed.

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Other Side

Does the Bible ever become so real to you that you can actually feel yourself in one of the stories? Recently, I’ve been feeling as if I’m one of the disciples who went fishing all night long and didn’t catch a thing. I can feel their weariness, their disappointment, and their desire to keep trying just in case they might catch something.

For the past few months, I’ve been wondering when I would have some tangible fruit to show for my labor. I’ve been making plans to start a children’s home here in Atlanta, and like the disciples, I’ve been coming up with nothing in my net – no home and no kids.

So I decided to stop striving to make something happen, and see what the Lord would do. So I began fasting from some things and praying during the lent season, and I was ready for the Lord to do anything.

One day after I began my fast, I was babysitting for a good friend of mine who has 6 kids. As we were talking about children’s homes and all of my dreams, she said,

“Maribeth, if you start raising kids here in the States, you’re going to get stuck here. And you don’t need to get stuck here. Your heart is so rare that you need to be with the worst of the worst. The kids here have a foster care system and an education system helping them out. There are kids in the world who don’t have anything. That’s where you need to be.”

She’s right. I’ve never wanted to get stuck here. In fact, I’ve known for quite some time that I was called to the nations. I’ve just gotten really comfortable doing ministry here in Atlanta with kids who I already know that are dealing with the same junk (sexual abuse, neglect, violence, etc.) as any other kid around the world.

In that moment, as I was talking to my friend, I felt as if Jesus had shown up on the scene, telling me to cast my net on the other side (of the world).

This came as no surprise to me, seeing as how the entire time I was praying about starting a children’s home here, I was also asking the Lord about the nations – Sierra Leone, in particular, which is on the west coast of Africa.

Last May, I went on a trip to Sierra Leone with a group led by my “papa” in the faith, who has a ministry called Lifegate International ( When I came back, I knew that I knew that I was supposed to move there and work with the kids in one of the villages named Brigette.

I had thought that I would get a home started here, pass it off to the right people, and then go to Sierra Leone when the time was right. But apparently the time is right already. When I heard that they are building an orphanage in Brigette, I had a “duh” moment, where I felt confirmation about moving there.

So I’m taking a short vision trip next month to Sierra Leone to get a few things in order before moving there. I plan to leave on May 17, and scout it out for the next three weeks, so that I will be able to share with friends and family, and anyone who may want to support me about what life would look like for me there.

I’ve been saving up a few donations that people have randomly given me here and there, and so I am starting off my Africa scouting adventure with $800. That means I only need $2000 more to make this initial trip happen. Let me know ( if you want to be a part of this financially – I plan to buy my plane ticket in one week (April 23).

So here I am, casting my net on the other side of the boat, so eager to see what kind of catch I’ll get. Praise the Lord, who establishes my steps, lights my path, and makes it straight.