Testimony Time

I have been back in Botswana almost two months now and God has seriously been on the move. The last couple months have been such an amazing time of readjusting to life and ministry here, pressing deeper into prayer, and seeing God show up. Here are just a couple testimonies about how faithful God has been:

One of the weekly happenings in YFC Gaborone is a prayer meeting called Inferno. For years it has taken place at a school called Interlink, and though it’s not specifically geared toward the students there, we always invite them to join us. Many times in the past, few if any students have stayed around to pray and worship the Lord with the YFC Gabs volunteers. This year however, we prayed that God would work in the hearts of the students, open doors, and allow us to really reach them in ways we haven’t before. The first Inferno meeting of the year started as it has in the past: we came and most of the students sitting in the hall left. This time, however, some of them wandered back in to see where the music was coming from. At the end of our time there, Ember and I gave them little booklets explaining how to know God personally and invited them to come back the following week with any questions/comments they might have.

The next week, the night before we went to Interlink, I prayed that God would be at work, that He’d draw the students there into His presence, and that through us the gospel might do a serious work in their hearts. More than anything, I prayed that they would come back to Inferno! The next day we walked into the hall and were met by twenty

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The first in a series of eighteen follow up Bibles studies 

students, eagerly waiting for Inferno to begin! It was amazing to see their desire to worship and pray with us. We gave them follow up Bible studies to complete in their own time as a way to further share with them the Word of God and encourage them to start exploring faith more deeply. It was so cool to see their interest, and to see that they genuinely wanted to learn! This last week many of the students brought back the follow up Bible studies and asked for the next one in the series!

It is so evident that God is at work at Interlink and in the lives of the students who have been coming to Inferno. What an encouragement it is too, especially since for so long we’ve prayed that more students would come and be impacted by our weekly meeting.

On a personal level, I’ve seen God really answer prayer in regards to my heart for hospital ministry. Every Thursday we go visit patients at one of the hospitals in Gaborone, and for the longest (even since I came in 2016) I have had a hard time with it. It has always been a source of tension for me, which is weird given the fact that I want to be a nurse one day. It seems like hospital ministry should be right up my alley. For some reason though I’ve struggled with feeling so awkward and like I have nothing to bring to the table.

Last Thursday morning I brought these feelings before the Lord and asked Him to work on my heart. I know hospital ministry can be amazing and that it’s important, that Jesus Himself put value on visiting the sick (Matthew 25), so I asked Him to help me be engaged and to truly be a breath of fresh air to the people we visited. I prayed for freedom and for love to flow out of me.

Man did God answer that prayer! It was as if even just walking into Marina my heart shifted and I saw the patients we were visiting as normal people. I was able to talk to them and ask them questions, to smile and laugh and pray with them with a freedom and sincerity that I never had before. We were able to have long conversations with people we’d met before, to really just interact with them openly and speak more deeply than we’d gotten to before. In it all God allowed me to have an open heart and for that I am so so grateful.

These are just a few of the many ways I have seen God working in the last few months. In general this has been a time of learning again how practical prayer is, how impactful it is, how truly Prayer Changes Things.

Condemnation and Conviction

There is a difference between conviction and condemnation. Both let me know I’ve screwed up. Both can, at times, push me to change. But one is based in fear, the other in love.

Condemnation tells me I am broken, that I have fallen short of Perfection. I am hopeless. I must become better. Strive for excellence, earn acceptance. Conviction tells me I am broken. I have fallen short of Perfection. I am hopeless- but not without hope.

Conviction say I cannot become better- I am being made new. Strive for excellence, receive Grace. Conviction reminds me that I am but a branch, withered and weak apart from the Vine. And abiding leads to life and the bearing of fruit. Conviction says I have and will fall short- but Perfection has met me in the gap. The chasm was not too wide for the King of Glory to reach across and declare that I am His.

Conviction cries out Abba. Father.

The truth is it is often easier to walk in condemnation. Condemnation allows me to settle into shame, guilt, self pity. It asks me why bother? You are worthless and hopeless, so why try? Why strive for a standard you will never meet? Condemnation is comfortable. I can somewhat satisfy the Christian section of my conscience- I know I’ve done wrong, I feel guilty: check! But then what? Nothing but another turn in the cycle.

Sin -> shame -> settle.

And it goes on.

There is now therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ.

Not only has Christ freed us from literal condemnation before God, He’s also liberated us from settling for feelings of condemnation. If I believe Christ is in me, that He has indeed bought my redemption with His blood, I cannot be condemned. I also cannot fall for the lie and self righteous mindset of condemnation.

Instead I pray for conviction. That God would reveal my sin to me in ways that call me closer to Him and mold me into His image. That He’d help me not to settle for condemnation but instead allow Him to transform me through conviction, grace, and all the many other means only He has for working.

Making Moves

In just under a week I’ll be stepping off a plane in Botswana. It’s crazy to think that after such a long time waiting and preparing the time for me to return to Bots has finally come. Working full time in missions has been a dream since I was sixteen and it is so incredible to think that dream is coming true.

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Enjoying a last hoorah with some of my favorite ladies.

As I’ve reflected over the last several months of support raising and preparing to leave, especially this last week I have been reminded that it’s truly a joy and an honor to be involved in God’s work in the world. Sometimes I can’t get over how wild it is that God would want to use us at all. It’d much easier if He just did it all Himself, yet in His goodness He gives us roles to play in this great plan of His. And how sweet it is that His plan for me involves going back to the land I love to serve with a ministry I am so passionate about.
The last few weeks have been such a unique time of great anticipation mixed with the sadness of saying good bye. I realized recently that I’ve come to really love Maryland and the friendships I have here. It’s been sweet to think about how God has brought such an awesome group of people into my life and me into theirs. It makes leaving a lot harder than I ever thought it would be, but at the same time sweeter in knowing that I have some amazing people in my corner.
More than anything though, I just cannot wait to be back in Botswana. Even as I prepare myself for the change in climate and culture, I can’t hold back a smile, knowing that soon I’ll be back. Back in Bots, with people I love in the space I know I’m called to be in.

In the Waiting

What does it mean to wait on the Lord?

This is a question I’ve thought a lot about over the years, especially in the months since I started full time support raising. People like to tell me that it’s all about trusting in God’s timing- that waiting is simply a matter of having faith. To a certain extent, I’ve seen that to be true. If I do not trust that God will open doors and make a way then I will not wait for Him to do so. I can’t wait for what I don’t believe will take place.

At the same time, this season of support raising has shown me that waiting also requires conscious choices and intentional actions. It is about both having faith and being faithful to what God is calling me to do. It’s true that without God working in people’s hearts and opening doors for me to share my story with others, nothing would happen. However, it’s also true that if I fail to step through those doors and embrace the opportunities God gives me to act, I’ve waited in vain.

It’s been a joy to dig deeper into the relationship between these two aspects of waiting. To see and begin to understand that God is in the waiting. He’s in the moments of stillness and silence, and He’s also at work in the moments of stepping out in faith, when I take risks solely because I’m confident He’s with me. In a lot of ways it’s freeing to know that everything I do is in His hands. I can trust even when it’s hard to see any progress being made, or to press on through days of discouragement that I wait for One with perfect timing and a perfect plan.

“Take courage, my heart. Stay steadfast, my soul. He’s in the waiting”

Kristene DeMarco

 

 

Learning to Pray

 

Over the past few months, God has really been teaching me the significance and power of prayer. It has been a super full time of ministry and we’ve gotten to do a lot to pour into the community around us as well as reach out to more rural places. Through it all, God has challenged me to pray, to bring everything I do before Him and put it all in His hands. It’s been amazing seeing the way God has worked through my prayers, not only responding and showing up, but also in changing my heart along the way.

This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.

1 John 5:14

Someone once told me that the true purpose of prayer isn’t to merely share our thoughts and requests with God, but to align our hearts with His. Prayer allows us to connect with our Creator, our Savior and not only speak to Him, but to hear Him as He speaks to us. Often I tend to speak speak speak to God, failing to take time to hear Him respond. Lately, though, I’ve tried to take more time before and after I speak to God to just let Him speak to me, and I ask Him to even lead me in prayer, so that I might be sure that I pray according to His will and not my own. In all of this, God has taken me deeper into His heart, and opened my eyes more to the things He values, the way He wants to work in our lives and through our prayers. It’s been amazing, letting God lead me in prayer, and the more I look to Him, the more He fills me with boldness and faith.

Maybe the coolest part of all this has been that the more time I’ve spent in prayer, the more God has shown me the ways He is answering. We recently went on an outreach to some cattle posts in our region. The night before we set out, the team gathered together to lift up the whole trip, to submit everything into God’s hands, and to see what He would have us do. We went into the outreach so sure that God was going to work, trusting Him to lead us to the people He wanted to reach, and He really did. Almost everyone we met was open to hearing the gospel and letting God into their lives. It was amazing seeing God work in their lives and open their hearts to His great love. Throughout our time there, we remained faithful in prayer for the people we had met and those we were going to, just really asking God to be at work. We were looking to Him, and He was showing us how He was working and moving in us and through us.

It’s been such an amazing couple of months, God has done some exceptional things in Youth for Christ and through the various ministries we have here. For me, I’ve learned a lot about the power of rooting all my ministry in Christ, really seeking Him in prayer before anything else. As I’ve learned to do this, I’ve seen God work in my heart and in my ministry, leading me in leading Kids Clubs and prayer meetings with a sense of empowerment and boldness in faith.

Prayer does not fit us for greater work, prayer is the greater work.

~Oswald Chambers

Back in Botswana

After spending three months with family and friends in the States, I have finally made it back to Botswana. Being back home was really good, getting to spend time with all my family and friends, but it was also pretty tough. A lot of times it felt as if I can caught in between two lives, the life I have in Bots and the life I had before I left. I wasn’t really sure where I fit anymore. It’s been about three weeks since I arrived and I am so so happy to be back. God has helped me to fit so nicely back into life and ministry here, and I feel like I’m right where I’m meant to be. I can already see Him at work, opening new doors in ministry as well as just reminding me why He has me here. Over the past few weeks God has opened my eyes to needs in my own neighborhood, and really renewed my passion for the gospel and seeing lives impacted by His great love.

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Catching up with some kids

Coming back to Botswana was really like coming home. God has blessed me with some incredible friends here, and allowed me to be a part of the great work He’s doing here. It’s been amazing reconnecting with everyone here and getting back into the rhythm of ministry. I’m excited to see what He has in store for the next few months, and I’m just grateful that I’ll get to be a part of it all.

How He Loves Us

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails

1 Corinthians 13:4-8

This is one of the most famous, most quoted passages of scripture ever. Often, I actually avoid it because it’s become such a Christian cliché. But recently God has been teaching me the truth that is in these verse, the weight of His enormous, unfailing love for us. He’s opened my eyes up to the people around me, and allowed me to feel some of His great love for them and for me.

A few months ago, I was sitting in a car with some of my closest friends here in Bots. It was a long drive and I was thinking about how often when I speak I feel like no one hears me. This is something I’ve struggled with for a long time, just the feeling of being unheard and unknown. As I sat in the car, thinking all this through and wondering what I could say to the people with me, God reminded me that everyone needs to be heard. That isolation and loneliness or the feeling of being unknown is something that many of us experience. We all have times in our lives when we want to be heard, we want people to be aware of who we are and what we’re going through. Though we were made to be in community with one another, we’re made to carry each other’s burdens, many times we miss out on doing so because we’re caught up in ourselves. We get so entangled in our own issues, and seeking attention and love that we forget the people around us, we forget that we all need to be heard. Philippians 2 talks about how we shouldn’t merely look after our own interests, we shouldn’t be concerned with only our issues, but also with the interests and concerns of our brothers. Love does not seek its own.

I was thinking all this through the other day, praying that God would teach me to love people with Christ’s kind of love. I was reflecting on the ways I’ve fallen so short of 1 Corinthians 13, so short of the amazing love that God has for us. So often, I’m just concerned with myself, wanting to receive love more than I want to give it. In that moment, God showed me how His love is so incredibly unlike human love. He loves us perfectly, without a trace of the sin and selfishness that taints the love we show each other. His love is pure, strong, complete. He’s never distracted or annoyed when we run to Him, He’s never disengaged. God is aware of us, He’s aware of how we’re feeling and thinking, and His love meets us there. We don’t have to put on a show for Him, we don’t have to speak in deep ways or appear to have everything figured out. In Him, we can be ourselves, unashamed of our goofiness, our fear, our insecurities. His love is secure and constant, it doesn’t waver. It’s free and it frees us. His is a life changing love.

Your love’s not fractured, it’s not a troubled mind

It isn’t anxious, it’s not the restless kind

Your love’s not passive, it’s never disengaged

It’s always present, it hangs on every word you say

Love keeps its promises, it keeps its word

It honors what’s sacred cause its vows are good

Your love’s not broken, it’s not insecure

Your love’s not selfish

Your love is pure

~Steffany Gretzinger–Pieces

We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren

1 John 3:16

Story Time!

The past few months have been an incredible time of ministry and seeing God work in extraordinary and unexpected ways. I’ve been learning a lot about trusting God, saying yes even when it seems crazy, and believing that God will work in the ways He says He will. God has been showing up in some cool ways recently, and I thought I’d share a few stories.

Youth for Christ has an after school ministry for kids in primary schools in Mochudi called Kids Clubs, and I get to help at the one that is held every Monday at the daycare center I work at. Since the beginning of my time here, I’ve been praying that God would help me relate to these kids, regardless of language or anything else, I want these kids to know how loved they are. It was really a process, at first most of the kids were shy and wouldn’t talk to me much. I didn’t really know how to step into their world and encourage them to open up, so I just prayed. I prayed a lot, that God would do

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Some of the Kids Club regulars 

something to open the door for me to get to know the Kids Club kids and show them His great love for them. The Lord has seriously answered that prayer, and every week it seems the kids open up more and more. It is so thrilling seeing the way their faces light up when they come into the daycare yard and see us waiting under the tree.God is really letting His light shine and it’s so awesome being a part of His work in these kids’ lives. I love Kids Club, because it gives kids a space to just play and be kids, while also teaching them more about who God really is. One of the local staff members, Kamogelo, usually gives a Bible lesson in Setswana so the kids can really understand what is being taught, so a lot of what I do is just play with the kids, give piggy back rides, let them play with my hair, referee foot races. It’s exhausting and wonderful and one of my favorite times of the week.

Another aspect of weekly ministry is visiting and praying with people in the hospital in Gaborone. Hospital ministry can be really tough but really rewarding. We mostly visit people in the Spinalis ward (people with spinal cord injuries) and the children’s ward. Recently, we had a Dutch team come volunteer with us, and they brought a lot of child friendly gifts that we gave to patients in the children’s ward. It was so great to hand out little bracelets and balloons and see how happy it made the kids, and as a result, their parents and relatives. A lot of the ministry we do in children’s ward is really for parents/family members who are struggling with having a kid in the hospital. We met this one woman, whose child had a problem with her brain, but the doctors couldn’t figure out what was going wrong. Right when we first started talking to the mother, I could see how drained she was, how hopeless she must have been feeling. I just asked her simple questions and got to know her a little bit, and then asked if she’d like us to pray for her daughter. She looked up at me with tears already in her eyes and said she really needed prayer.

As we were praying for the woman and her daughter, I just felt so much compassion for them. I prayed that God would bring healing as well as hope and comfort. All I wanted to do in that moment was hug that lady until she didn’t feel alone anymore, I could tell she was really hurting. When we finished praying for her and her daughter, the woman thanked us and just cried. We stood there with her for a few more moments, not wanting to leave her. I’ve never been so touched by meeting someone in the hospital, it was an amazing moment that God allowed us to share with a hurting mother and her sick daughter.

God has also worked in  cool ways during our out reaches to the cattle posts near Mochudi. Cattle posts are rural places where people keep their livestock. Our most recent trip to the cattle post was mostly about following up with people we’d met the time before, seeing how they’re doing, and encouraging them in their new faith. We did get to meet a few new people, and God really blessed the conversations we had with them. Going into the

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Some of our team with the men we met at the borehole

outreach, my prayer was that God would prepare the way, that He’d lead us to people who were hungry for Him, and that’s exactly what He did. The first two people we met were sitting together at the borehole, and we got to talk to them about their backgrounds and beliefs. It was really cool because one of them told us he’d been wanting to know more about God but had no way of doing so. We got to share the gospel with them and they received Christ. It was cool meeting them and seeing how excited they were to have come to know the King of kings.

The other new person we met had just started working at the cattle post a few days before we came. He was from Zimbabwe, and couldn’t speak English very well, but could understand Setswana so we could still communicate with him. It was my turn to share the gospel, so I asked the guy if he’d been to church or ever heard about Jesus. He said he had but that he didn’t know much. Before I began really sharing with him, I asked if he ever wondered why Jesus had to die for us, and he said that’s the very question he’s been asking himself for weeks! I was really blown away by God in that moment, and how He’d so clearly been working in this guy’s heart and preparing him to hear the gospel. It was so great getting to share with him, and he too said he wanted to start following Christ. God really showed up during that trip, both in the conversations we had with new people, and during the time we spent with people we’d met last time. A lot of the people who accepted Christ last time were doing well, one had even quit drinking,which is awesome. It’s cool getting to see how God is growing in people there and starting to really transform lives.

God has really been on the move lately, and it’s been incredible getting to be a part of it all. Some days I am still so surprised that this is the life I’m living, and so thankful that I get to live it.

Let Us Pray

A few years ago I heard a talk about human trafficking in Maryland. The woman who was speaking talked a lot about the sex industry and how often people don’t realize how many people are impacted and affected. Something she said that I’ll never forget, was that many time people ask her how they can best protect their daughters from traffickers, how they can keep their girls safe. Her answer: pray. Pray for boys to be taught that women aren’t objects, that men would set an example for their sons that doesn’t involved watching porn and all the rest. Pray for the pimps and all the other people who work to make the industry possible. She said the best way to stop trafficking, especially sex trafficking is to take away the market. If there’s no demand, there will be no need for a “supply.”

A few months ago, as Facebook filled up with stories of Brock Turner, that lady’s words came back to mind. When I first heard of the whole Brock Turner situation I was really furious and pretty disgusted. But as I sat there thinking about it and even telling God how mad I was, I got filled with compassion. Here’s a young guy with a pretty bright future, high hopes, and now for the rest of his life he will be known only as the Stanford rapist. Everywhere he goes people will see his face and know exactly the kind of awful things he’s capable of. The whole thing kind of broke my heart. I’m not saying I approve of his decision or his reaction to getting caught, but I am saying that if the whole world knew what kind of sins I’ve committed, I’d feel terrible and alone and pretty hopeless. So I prayed for Brock Turner, that he would know that God is not unforgiving, and He’s not distant. Our God is a God of redemption, and that applies even to the people society deems most worthy of our scorn and hatred.

Today, I was thinking about ISIS and looking at a chart of all the attacks and bombings accredited to them this year. It’s an extensive list. Like Brock Turner and all the human traffickers, ISIS is in serious need of prayer. I think about what ISIS is and what’s happened, and I just think about how in need they are of the gospel, of the saving grace that’s found in Christ. So today I’m just thinking, as the church, we need to pray. We need to pray for our broken world, and all the people living in it. As much as seeing the news and reading about all the atrocities going on around us can make us feel angry or upset or whatever else, it should also make us feel compassion. If it weren’t for the grace of God, who knows what kind of trouble we could be causing as well.

But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you

Matthew 5:44

As easy as it is for us to get angry, Jesus calls us to pray. It is simple, but it is powerful. And while many people in the world look at ISIS and others with hatred and disdain, we are called to love them, and to pray for them. Imagine how God can work when His church comes together to lift up the very ones the world wants to tear down. As Paul says in Romans 1:16 the gospel

is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes

even people we think are awful and evil and beyond hope. Even people we cannot imagine changing. God is mighty and powerful to save even the people we think are the worst in the world. Let’s join Him and fight the good fight in prayer for this world, and all the people in it.

Reconnecting

The past month or so has been absolutely filled with ministry. A team from YfC got to go on an outreach to a more rural area of Botswana, there was a missions conference, another outreach at the bus station in Gaborone, and lots of other stuff in between. It was an incredible time of trusting God to work in amazing ways, and seeing Him show up. As I was experiencing all this awesome stuff and getting deeper into ministry, it seemed like somehow I was getting further from God. Often, I fall into the mindset that doing things for God is the same as spending time with Him, connecting with Him, but this month showed me how untrue that really is.

I found myself in the middle of some amazing moments, seeing God work in our outreaches as well as in the usual day-to-day school ministry I’m involved in, but it was like I wasn’t really a part of any of it. I got the feeling of being on cruise control, when you can just take your foot off the gas and cruise, not really paying much attention to where you’re going or what’s going on around you. For a few weeks I tried to get back in the game, to somehow find my way back to feeling close to God and being engaged in the work I was doing. Nothing really happened. I kept wanting to reconnect to my life and to God, but I just couldn’t.

Through it all, God really showed me what it’s like to be desperate for Him, to long for Him again. I prayed that He would help me to stop going through the motions, to stop doing things just for the sake of doing them, and to show me the way back to Him. This past Sunday, God really answered that prayer. I came to the pre-service prayer meeting the worship team always has feeling so empty and just prayed that God would fill me up like never before. The sermon that morning was all about empty faith,and how so often Christians fall into just going through the motions. It was so perfect, and through it God showed me that the way to reconnect to Him isn’t to try harder or do more activities, it’s just to ask. Ask Him to draw me close to Him again and remind me of who He really is.

This week has really been amazing, just getting back to the root of my relationship with God and remembering what it really means to walk with Him. God has such an incredible way of working in everything we go through, the high times and the dry times, and I’m so grateful for that. There’s a lot of comfort in knowing that nothing ever happens for nothing, that truly God is at work in every part of our lives. In spending time feeling apart from God and disconnected from ministry, I learned to appreciate God’s presence and His work in and through my life more than I ever have.