Life in the Bush!

Hello family and friends! We are sitting on the porch of our second tiny wooden cabin in Nelspruit, enjoying the cool of the afternoon at the base here. It is quiet and calm, since half of our school is on weekend outreach this weekend. John and I went last weekend, and it was incredible.

Our base is on the outskirts of Nelspruit in the “bush,” and it is gorgeous. We can see the mountains and the city from camp, and have seen zebra and wildebeast from our front porch! Just trotting by the electric fence marking the boundary of the base, which runs right by our cabin. Today we explored a bit outside the first gate, and rested on a huge rock cliff overlooking two lakes. We saw 2 more wildebeast, bush-bucks, a large bright-blue lizard, and a big monkey!

We wanted to share a little bit about our weekend outreach last weekend. Two color groups went together to a very small town about an hour away. We had 3 services throughout the weekend in a tent, and invited as many people as we could. The Iris Bible School pastors also attended – they are local men who are getting trained up in the Spirit and Truth to pastor churches here. We stayed in smaller groups in locals’ homes – on beds, on couches, and on floors. It was amazing to be invited in and welcomed so warmly, and to really see life in the town.

On Saturday afternoon, we went in groups of 4 with an interpreter to walk around the town and meet and pray with people. This was in incredible experience, and I am humbled and honored that I got to be a part. We just walked and prayed, greeted with Jesus’ love, met people, and asked if they would like prayer for anything. So simple, so intentional, and so powerful. God uses our yieldedness matched with our weakness and total dependence on Him. He loves it!!

The first home we approached was that of a single mother, two of her children, and her grandchild whom she takes care of as her own child. Her grandchild, Valencia, has a disability which affects her brain and has locked up/crippled her left arm and her legs from the knees down. She is about 7 or 8, only speaks in jibberish, walks on her knees, and is completely full of joy. Her mother warmly invited us in and was willing to have us pray over Valencia. I held that precious, wiggly one and we invited God into the home. We prayed blessings over the home, and each member of the family. When we asked the Holy Spirit for discernment of how to pray, we followed God’s instructions and cast out demonic strongholds over Valencia, and asked Jesus to fill those places. Though Valencia didn’t walk that day, we know there was victory. Her mother brought her to the service that evening, and let me dance with Valencia and allow her to have fun bouncing and dancing along the front of the tent. It was beautiful. Jesus, continue revealing yourself, your love, and your power to that family! We claim them for you!

We visited several other homes along the way. One particular home we passed by, as 3 men were yelling sarcastically at us in broken english, “Have you come to preach to us? Please come!” They were very clearly drunk. Four women sat close by, not talking, looking numb. Our interpreters said we should pass by as the men were drunk. As we asked God what to do, He told us to go to them, and our interpreter agreed. John ministered to the drunk men, while Karen (UK), myself, and one of the interpreters chatted with the women. Ministry is so simple – it’s loving people with Jesus’ love. Looking people in the eyes, asking them their name, smiling, and serving them in humility. As we chatting and laughed, we asked if we could pray for anything with them. Only one said yes. She said she needed “strong prayer.” When we asked what for, she said, “life.” We introduced her and 2 of the other women to Jesus, and our interpreter (who is maybe 16 or 17, and is a man after God’s heart!) got to lead them in a sweet prayer of salvation in their native tongue. We blessed them and prayed for further revelation of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit! Yay God!!

There was so much more, and so much that God is doing in us. Teaching and worship has been wonderful, and we have been so thankful for a weekend of rest. One week and a couple days until we all migrate to Pemba for the last leg of our journey!

Praying for you all as we think of you. We are so thankful for your love and support!

Love,
Sam and John

A testimony of freedom!

Hi everyone! Sam here. God told me to share one of my testimonies from last week’s healing and deliverance time. It’s a bit lengthy, but it’s gold from Jesus and I have to give Him glory! I hope it encourages one of you!

Jesus is deliverer! That was such a normal part of His ministry, and He wants it to be a normal part of ours.

2 1/2 years ago, I had a traumatic event which affected my everyday life from that point on. I talked to some people about what I was dealing with, and we prayed, but I still dealt with the issue. It was choking out life, and I felt like I was losing my calling, that I was no longer equipped. It was so debilitating that I was embarrassed to talk about it, and no matter the conversation, no matter the well-meaning prayers, it was still oppressing my life.

On our way back from our honeymoon, John and I encountered a very surprising, severe bout of turbulence in the airplane. I have never been afraid of flying – in fact, I’ve always quite enjoyed it! It sounds so silly typed out, but what happened in those moments, when I was looking in the eyes of my new husband, thinking I was about to lose him and my own life, haunted me. I was upset at God that He let that happen on our honeymoon. I experienced post-traumatic stress, nightmares about airplane crashes and dying, uncontrollable imaginations about death scenarios while driving or just out and about or lying in my bed at night. It’s one of those issues that seemed so big and shameful that I didn’t want to tell anyone. I also had this extreme ungodly belief that if I exposed my issue, that I would risk for others to “catch” my fear or I would give it more power. Those few I did tell prayed and offered their best godly consult, but I still dealt with this traumatic fear and oppression. It was a cycle I couldn’t escape. I couldn’t “pray through it” or push through it or muster up enough spiritual mojo to combat it until it was gone.

The worst part is that I felt like my calling couldn’t be mine anymore. I convinced myself that maybe I could just stay where I was forever and get by in life so I could be safe and sound, even though I knew that’s not what John signed up for as my husband. Everything I thought I had heard God say about my life – loving different cultures, being a “border-crosser”, singing nations to their freedom – seemed childish and ludicrous to my mind. But in my heart, I knew that I wouldn’t be satisfied with my made-up “safe” life. God doesn’t want us to just get by in life! He doesn’t intend that we just “push through” our issues while He sits on the sidelines scoring our gameplays. Jesus died so we could have life abundantly!! And He wants to heal us intimately, not distantly!

As we prepared for Harvest School by reading and watching through the Restoring the Foundations material, I started to get excited that Jesus really did want me to be healed of my fear! And let me just say – He made it SO clear that we were supposed to attend HS this fall that I had to be obedient, even obedient to the point of taking 4 airplanes to get here. It was a battle, an exhausting battle in my mind every minute of every hour of those 19 hours of being up in the air, but He gave me such grace and assurance. He comforted me and assured me that my healing was coming. He cared about my fear and had grace for my struggling! Thank you Jesus! It’s easier to say no but it’s SAFER TO SAY YES when Jesus tells you to do something!

As the week of healing unfolded, Jesus and I recovered some important legal ground which the enemy had in my life. I had never heard of “legal ground” before, but the enemy CAN have it even in the life of a believer – not to
“possess” but to “oppress.” The enemy comes to steal, kill, and destroy, and he uses whatever open doors he can to oppress God’s people, to deflect them from their call and debilitate their lives.

Restoring the Foundations is a Biblical Healing & Deliverance ministry which uses an integrated approach to appropriate the blood of Jesus and receive freedom! They focus on 4 main problem areas: Sins of the Fathers and resulting curses, Ungodly Beliefs, Soul/Spirit hurts, and Demonic Oppression. We split it up between 2 days, 2 problem areas for each day. Here’s my brief story for each!

We closed ancestral doors of fear and idolatry and cut off those curses in Jesus’ name. This legal transaction was easy and so powerful, and took away legal ground from the enemy in my life. God and I replaced ancestral sins with new ancestral blessings – that my descendants would have a permanent place of belonging in the Kingdom of God, freedom, peace, joy, abundant life. Then, Jesus revealed some ungodly beliefs that I had been agreeing with in my head and heart. What we focus on before God is an idol, and it’s also what we have faith for. Yipes. My fear was an idol before God and agreeing with those fears was having faith for what I was fearing. I was so humbled and convicted, and God was faithful and just to forgive me, AND He gave me new Godly beliefs based on His perfect Word to agree with! I want to share them!

I am God’s child! He loves me and will never abandon me. I will always put my trust in God, and He will keep me safe and protect me because I am His beloved daughter!” (Jeremiah 29:11, Ps. 23, Ps. 4, Prov. 3:5-6, Ps. 139: 7-12, Ps. 16:8-11)

I am a jewel of great price to Jesus, precious and irreplaceable. I am not designed to be hidden away, but enjoyed by God and others. He designed me to have a unique purpose. I choose to unlock the box and no longer hide in fear, but come out and shine! (Prov. 3, Isaiah 61, Zechariah 9: 16-17, Ps. 139, Matt. 5:14, Col. 3, Matthew 13:44-46)

THEN – this was one of the sweetest parts to me – Jesus came into specific hurts in my life and healed those painful moments. There is a difference between forgiveness and healing. We asked the Holy Spirit to reveal a specific memory Jesus wanted to heal. We invited Jesus into the memory, and He redeemed them. It was SO POWERFUL! Jesus was active in those memories and revealed some awesome things. Like in my childhood home, Jesus was sitting at the piano playing a song. I asked him what the song was, and He said He made music before the foundations of the earth, and these songs were just for me. He was always there with me. In another memory, He was giving me blueprints and what I thought I was doing on my own, He had actually given me the blueprints for – I just didn’t know it. It was an extremely personal experience but I just wanted to share a bit about that to say – Jesus cares about hurts we think are insignificant, are justified, or maybe we think are already “dealt with.” He is thorough in His love ūüôā

THEN – It came to deliverance day. And I was so aware that this struggle with fear was a real struggle with demonic oppression in my life. The enemy was trying to kill, steal, and destroy, and he came in all the ways he could to stand his ground. But since we had obliterated the only legal ground the oppressors could stand on, now I could clean house in Jesus’ name and with His authority and my authority as a believer. Can I just say how empowering this was?! So we cast out those demons of fear – fear of flying, fear of death, torment, dread – and they had to obey! It was a beautiful experience, so full of grace and peace and Jesus, and FREEDOM! I immediately felt a release of pressure in my mind and off my chest. Since then, Jesus has been redeeming the call He has purposed for my life. Like the steady rush of blood to a place that has been numbed, He has begun to bring heat and life and excitement into my identity and my calling. I look to the future and smile at the things to come!

THANK YOU JESUS for your finished work on the cross and for healing and delivering us so that we could be filled with more of you!

Week One is done (& we may be recovering for a while!)

We are sitting under the meal shelter at Iris Footprints in Johannesburg, the wind whipping us with the last bits of South African winter. Everyone is bundled and talking together into the night. New friends and new ground recovered after a week of significant, powerful healing and deliverance. Week 1 is done, and I think everyone is ready to have a Sabbath day tomorrow! We are emotionally spent in the best way!

John and I made our way to the base last Friday, with a few days of settling in and meeting new students as they came in shifts. The Footprints base here is an active Children’s home, and they have never before hosted a Harvest School. With very little notice, they have hosted 250 students for these first 2 weeks of school, which I’m sure was not at all easy – just think 3 meals a day for 14 days in an outdoor semi-kitchen, and the bathrooms to cater to us all!

Just to accurately paint the scene here – Imagine a large, sloping hill covered in mowed down brush and red/black dust and dirt, and then imagine about 150 tents scattered in bunches, a dozen or so portojohns, 2 horses roaming around freely, a few large worship tents to one side, a handful of tiny, new wooden cabins and a large tin shelter on the other side – that is our home for this leg of Harvest School! John and I are in one of the small cabins, which is segmented into 2 private rooms (one room per couple) just large enough for a bed and our bags. We are super thankful for a mattress and a tiny plot of space to call our second home!

There are 14 other married couples in our family, which is called “House of Love.” They are amazing. It is crazy to go from feeling a bit isolated in your life decisions (ie: we’re packing up our stuff and selling our car and quitting our jobs and moving to Africa and God’s gotta show us what to do!) to being surrounded by Godly couples who have just gone through the same process, the same emotions, the same thoughts. They have faced the same hard steps of faith, the same uprooting from homes, jobs, and families, and are here in confidence that God has something for them. There is a couple that has been married over 20 years, and a couple who got married just a few weeks ago! We are honored to be in such sweet company. We have especially made close friends & partners in the gospel from The Netherlands!

This first week has exceeded all of our expectations! It’s kind of funny the notion that, because it’s a missions training school, we must be doing lots of missions! Although we have several opportunities to serve the community around us and go on outreach, Iris has spent the entire first week leading us through our own inner healing and deliverance! They had minister/trainers come all the way from (drumroll please) North Carolina(!!!) from a ministry called Restoring the Foundations. They not only trained us up with the truth of and tools for Biblical healing and deliverance for others and ourselves, but actually took us through those steps for our own healing and deliverance all week!

I think that as believers, we can put such a stigma on needing any further healing and deliverance after salvation – if you do, you’ve got something “really wrong.” What a lie from the enemy to keep us in a place of shame, and ultimately deflecting us from our destiny and the life abundantly he really does have for us. It was completely from the Lord that he took time to take all of us through some needed healing from the many hurts of life and deliverance from real oppression – tending gingerly and powerfully to this group of ministers and missionaries as a necessary part of the process of training before going out.

There were many countless testimonies of freedom and healing just from this week – including our own. He gently and meticulously began unwinding places which had been stuffed or coiled deep in our hearts, minds, and spirits. Out of this freedom and healing, we are set up to give away the love of Jesus more freely and powerfully. He wants His sheep to be wholly well, not just “getting along fine.” Thank you Jesus!

It has been super cold here during the nights (40’s) so we’ve developed a routine of bundling as many layers of clothes as possible, then wrapping in blankets, then getting in our sleeping bags! Then it gets very hot during the day, so our clothes are getting a good workout!

Our hearts are full and free. He is awakening hunger. We have formed many great friendships already! We miss all our friends and family back home but feel so blessed to be here, now! He is restoring passions of our hearts and giving us new passions. We are so excited for the next 9 weeks!

Our ministry group for to visit a slum village close by yesterday afternoon, and the kids and men loved John, while I got to spend some sweet time with the mamas.

We have one more week at the Jburg base, then head to Nelspruit for 3 weeks. We are expectant for more!!

(This blogpost brought to you by a Saturday off and wifi in a coffee shop at a nearby mall!)

We are praying for our friends and families back home, that he is tending to you deeply in His love!

Love,
Sam & John

Go Through

I’m writing on a train on the way to Genova – quick stop of a few stops on our way to Portofino for the night. John just looked over to me and smiled, “Well, we are definitely living up to our name of wayfarers!”

To be honest, when I came up with that name, I was sitting on the couch looking at a TOMS magazine with some inspiring, trendy photos of a guy on a cliff with some great shoes, and the word “Vagabond” written across the page. I thought that was a fitting idea, an accurate representation of the feeling of this particular venture we would at that time be going on in a matter of days. So I looked at the thesaurus and Wayfarers it was.

I believe God works even in the most unceremious of events.

Right now we are curving and hugging the coastline of Italy, fresh out of France. There are cliffs scattered with pastel stone villas plunging headlong into the bright, blue-green water of the Mediterranean. This is my first time seeing the Mediterranean, and it is stunning. I can’t help but think of Jesus. We swam in it yesterday, a much-needed scramble to the nearest beach and a desperate, wild dive in. Clearest water, extra bouyant, stone bottom, sailboats and yachts and that familiar feeling of a tiny harbor town.

The days go by quickly and sleep has seemed like a blink between days full of extremes. Extreme stress and frustration, quickly followed by the realization that anger or full-on breakdown won’t do a thing for the situation, followed by complete admittance of weakness. My song has been, “I have nothing but weakness!” It turns from a frustrated angry cry to a yelp of victory!

A few quick reasons for the whole frustration/anger/weakness thing – public transportation in a foreign country, the heavy weight of bags and not ever really knowing where you are, the knowledge of the next day where there will be more trains and buses and walking and figuring out stopovers. This is the unglamorous side of travel. It is also the really real, good side. The side that makes seeing lots of the world possible. It’s the part of travel that makes you stronger, that makes you trust more, that makes you realize, again and again, that you are not in control.

Here is a quote @natclo (of the band Joseph) recently posted from her friend @juliejean – a very honest, fitting insight into the reality of travel that i took great comfort in and gave a resounding, fist-pumped “YES!” to:

“Here is the thing about traveling. No one is really good at it. It’s all a ruse. People look good at it, and maybe, with practice, they can become good at feeling like a freshman all the time. My belief is that everyone is scared to be in a new place, and the people who are good travelers are the ones who push through the fear and eventually learn to adapt and grow from the rush of figuring something out against the odds of foreign spaces and faces.”

“People come back different when they go to a new place, not because they saw cool buildings or ate good food, but because they were faced with the insecurity, terror, and unpredictability and they rose to the occasion. That’s why I’m drawn to traveling. It makes you brave. And anyone who isn’t a little scared is lying.”

And every day there are these extremes of happiness, joy, wonder, taking in magnitutde, history, beauty. We have seen quiet downs of the English countryside, where the land goes warm-gray and completely peaceful and quiet at 8pm and wakes up with a hot cup of tea and proper breakfast. We got a breathtaking aerial view of Paris and the Eiffel Tower standing its dignified, regal ground, causing the admiration of millions each year. We played light-up frisbee in front of it, while it sparkled in the dim, mild night. The weather has been incredible – 70’s, not a drop of rain. We have had our fill of fresh baguettes and cheese and chocolate croissants (these are the lands of bread and cheese!) We stood, mouth agape and laughing as we finally made it to a tiny provencial village in France where limestone mountain faces cradle in a stunning, clearest clear river which majestically surges up straight out of the bellies of the earth. Castles, towers, footpaths, ancient works of art, and God’s most desired treasure – the people of the earth.

(To Heather on the plane, if you are reading this, I think you are amazing. I know God put us on the plane together to be his voice of comfort to each other. Your life is the fragrant aroma of Jesus, and he is so pleased with you! He is overjoyed with your obedience.
To our Aussie friends, Glenn & Carolin from Fontaine, thank you for your warm smiles. John and I walked away feeling so comforted by your smiles and your conversation. So happy to have shared a few moments with you. We bless you in Jesus name!
To Giorgio on the train, thank you for looking out for us, for your thoughtful conversation, and hosting us to a quick and delicious focaccia pizza in Genova. We bless you and thank you. Please let us know next time you are in the states!!)

So each day has been filled, whiplashing from extreme to extreme, and we make our way closer to Africa, seeing lands along the way, resting our heads in lovely, strange places. For a girl like me – who loves taking a slow pace, a savorer, a romantic – these days are hard phsyically and emotionally. Draining, and then so filling. Drained and filled and drained and filled. I know He is preparing us for that empty-vessel life He longs for us all to have.

It all only makes me more hungry for Jesus, His love, His healing, his Heaven, which encompasses these most mysterious and awe-inspiring parts of this earth – sanctified, complete, whole – and then some.

We are trying to complete some of our pre-Harvest School reading and training along the way, which has been pretty challenging but not impossible. We may or may not have fallen asleep during a few videos but I know God’s truths are paving an important path to prepare us for life and school. We are both looking forward to sitting still in our little cabin home in Johannesburg with our schoolmates and teachers for a while, to making new friends and working alongside others.

In the words of our other Aussie friend who swam and chatted with us in Villefranche sur Mer yesterday (she looked like Olivia Newton-John), “Feel the fear and do it anyway!”

At every crossroads where there has been fear and a temptation for a way out or way around, God has whispered, “Go through.”

At the end of every dark tunnel is blinding light.
At the end of every long, frightening night is the break of dawn.
Birthing pangs seem impossible except for the joy that is set before you – a new, breathing, pulsing life.

-Sam

Tilling up the soil, breaking the dirt.

John’s last day of work is today. ¬†As I look around our apartment, and things lay in disarray, I recognize again how this¬†job has allowed us so many of our sweet comforts in this home. ¬†It has been God’s grace for us in this time. ¬†Money to pay our rent, always plenty of food on our table, thrifted, yard-saled, and hand-me-down furniture. ¬†Well-loved, and well-lived in.

Our peaceful homeScreen Shot 2014-08-28 at 9.58.32 AM

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John is such a hard worker. ¬†Give him any task and he won’t just do it, he will figure out the best way to do it. ¬†It’s a little strange to me that we are already here, at the end of this road. ¬†Is it already time for such a real step? ¬†Quitting jobs? ¬†Deep breaths and reminders that it takes dying to really live, and that these seeds that seem so big right now, seem big because we are only seeing in part. ¬†They are so small, so worth sowing! ¬†We know that even the smallest of seeds renders the largest and strongest of trees. (Luke 17:6)

We are making headway around here logistically, and I have to constantly remind myself that I have enough time. ¬†At the start of each day, God reminds me, “Samantha –¬†a gentle reminder that you have enough time. ¬†Enjoy it!” ¬† Immediately the gears stop churning churning churning away, my heart relaxes a little, and I can enjoy the “getting done” instead of just charging through. ¬†I can really savor these precious moments of life here. ¬†Choosing Presence over progress is a key I am touching the fringes of,¬†but haven’t fully learned to live in yet.

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Last week I started snapping pictures of items in our home to sell. ¬†Many craigslist posts later, we have seen God’s¬†favor to be able to sell several¬†things and use that money straight away for tuition. ¬†Our home doesn’t look the same, and I wasn’t quite prepared for my sentimental response. ¬†Bare places on walls and boxes accumulating in the guest room. ¬†I have never had trouble packing, moving, changing. ¬†But this time it’s a little different. ¬†This is the first home I’ve built with someone else, my husband. ¬†Each little trinket around here has a memory attached. ¬†We thrifted and yard-saled for months after we got married to be able to build our home without breaking our budget, and those memories are so sweet. ¬†Saturday mornings rolling out of bed together and riding around to see what we could discover. ¬†Rallying for a must-have item that I understood and John didn’t : )

 This process, this journey before the journey, is like tilling up the soil, breaking the dirt.  We are making a mess of things for something better, breaking things up for the seeds we are sowing.

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I think about the disciples and how they were literally in the middle of their life as they knew it. ¬†Their day job, their livelihood, their families. ¬†And Jesus came around and said, “Come with me! ¬†I will make you fishers of men.” ¬†And they immediately dropped what they were in the middle of and followed him. ¬†(Matthew 4) ¬†How completely counter to our culture! ¬†To be inconvenienced equates to losing out… on something. ¬†Money? Time? Comfort? Control? What about what you’d gain?

Or the rich man who asked Jesus, “How can I inherit eternal life?” ¬†He knew all the laws already. ¬†“And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, ‚ÄúYou lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.‚ÄĚ ¬†(Mark 10) ¬†The man walked away disheartened. ¬†He had a lifetime of wealth accumulated. ¬†His hard work, his father’s hard work before him, an inheritance, an entire estate. ¬†Can you imagine? ¬†Sell it all?? And to the poor?

Keeping your eyes on what you’re giving up, even if what you’re giving up is good, can prevent you from gaining a treasure so true and so real and so ultimate that it never rusts, it never accumulates dust, it can never be destroyed. ¬†I want that treasure. ¬†I want treasure in Heaven, realer than real. ¬†Better than my home here. ¬†Better than my temporary comfort.

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Sunset over the Durham Bulls game last weekend.

The stuff Jesus asks us to do is the easiest and the hardest. ¬†It’s the smallest seeds, and our whole life. ¬†It’s right here and right now. ¬†The Kingdom of God is at hand. ¬†And we are all invited to drop what we’re in the middle of and follow Him. ¬†It doesn’t have to look like packing up your home and getting on a plane. ¬†It can look like having your time revolve around your God, not the other way around. ¬†Stopping for people. ¬†Yes, even here. ¬†Even out and about. ¬†Having open hands instead of road rage and a tight fist of getting to the next place you’re going. ¬†Looking in eyes, being brave to look full-on¬†at need here and saying “Christ is here in me to meet those needs with Himself.” ¬†We get to be light bearers, and that is fun!! ¬†And worth whatever we have to lay down.

Celebrating Jess' bday at the Durham Bulls game.

Celebrating sister’s bday at the Durham Bulls game last weekend.

We are at 2.5 WEEKS until we leave!!  Sell a car, pack our bags, pack up our home.  Goodbyes to give and time to enjoy.  Hallelujah, God has answered so many of our specific prayers!  We have a storage unit and all our things are booked!

We are still praying for more financial provision, wisdom in decision-making, and clarity of heart and mind.  We are praying for our families, and safety for us as we travel Рsafety over us and our bags!  We pray that we will be changed forever, unable to be the same.  We pray that the places we go, the people we meet, will smell the sweet fragrance of our Jesus on us, and will be changed.  So many thoughts.  So many prayers.

This weekend, as it turns out, Heidi and Rolland Baker (the founders of Iris Global Рthe ministry we are going through) are going to be here in Raleigh for the Compelled by Love Conference!  Randy Clark will also be joining.  How cool is that?  I know God has something in store for us this weekend!

-Sam

Getting Ready

We knew that 2014 was going to hold something special for us. ¬†We kept getting a feeling that it would be a time for “the go” – to step away from day jobs, step out of our comfort zone, and go after the deep dreams of our hearts from God. ¬†From January to April, we spent quality¬†time in prayer and discussion, researching¬†organizations around the world with whom we could work. ¬†God put in us a fire for nations and cultures! ¬†

June 2014

I have to give this testimony, because it gives such glory to our God. ¬†We considered several organizations, and after a few weeks of praying, we felt there was one we should pray specifically about. ¬†“God, is it Harvest School, and is it this October?” ¬†God loves specific prayer. ¬†I think sometimes we are afraid to pray specifically because it requires faith to expect a specific answer. ¬†There is no disappointment in our God. ¬†John and I set apart one day to pray, fast, and really listen. ¬†We set certain times of the day to read His Word and listen to Him, all the while asking. ¬†

I don’t know about you, but I feel like any time I’ve asked such specific prayers, His answers come, but not in the way I¬†imagine. ¬†While I may be looking for the big, booming God-voice to say, “Yes! Harvest School this October!” or “NO way Jos√©!” it is usually still, soft, and quiet. ¬†A pulling of the heart, a gentle, but strong, assurance. ¬†John was at work, and I was at home, and all day we listened and wrote down His words and promises. ¬†That night, we sat together, opened our journals, and started reading what God had said to us. ¬†(Side note – I am so thankful that through Jesus’ blood and defeat over death, the veil was torn so we can have intimacy with God! ¬†He loves to speak to us!) ¬†John started reading the first sentence he wrote, and I think I laughed and cried in one big messy jumble. ¬†What God had spoken first to John, He had spoken to me. ¬†Our first lines we wrote on that day read exactly the same, “You were made for such a time as this.” (Esther 4:14)

Our journals - confirmation!

Our journals Рconfirmation!  We were made for such a time as this!

What?? ¬†Thank you Lord!¬† Through and through, what we heard from our Father spoke in similar chords and crescendos for us both, and for us as individuals. ¬†We came away feeling the same – God was smiling on our going. ¬†He was consecrating us, commissioning us, and encouraging us. ¬†Such a time as this? ¬†These times are trying. ¬†They are groaning for Jesus to come back. ¬†Reports of what is happening around the world solicit a reaction of staying put, staying “safe.” But even more so, He is sending out Harvesters¬†NOW¬†to reap what is ripe and ready NOW – to reap that which they have not sewn! ¬†We will see many souls ushered into the family of Yahweh God! ¬†He told us to not give way to fear!

From April to June, we¬†eagerly awaited¬†for applications to become available for Harvest School. ¬†With school starting the first of October, and the potential for us having to arrive much earlier (because John applied as staff – he has attended the school before), 4 months seemed tight. ¬†“We should hear back soon!” I thought. ¬†4 months is not much time to prepare to stop life here and start life internationally!

Waiting for the response / at the beach

Waiting for the response / at the beach / July 2014

Waiting for a response / at home

Waiting for a response / at home / July 2014

Ray Family - 4th of July

Ray Family – 4th of July (photo courtesy of Jess Ray!)

Weeks passed by. ¬†All of June, all of July. ¬†We weren’t sure whether to start telling more friends and family about applying, because we weren’t sure if we would be accepted. ¬†I continued¬†declining clients¬†for any dates after September. ¬†John had to wait to put his notice in at work. ¬†Week after week, email refresh after email refresh (I’m pretty sure my eyes looked like two giant “Refresh” buttons!)¬†we were¬†starting to feel like God was closing the¬†door for Harvest School. ¬†After a while of hoping He wouldn’t, we started hoping for anything! ¬†Any response, any direction. ¬†It was somewhat of an isolating time, but¬†God taught me the importance of two things: ¬†thankfulness (acknowledging¬†what He is¬†doing) and remembrance/testimony (acknowledging what He has¬†done) so that you can be assured that He will do!

Finally, as we began another week of waiting, on a Monday morning, John and I got up together and prayed.  He went off to work and I checked our email.  We were accepted, and both as students!  This is especially a blessing, because though John would have loved being on staff, we can now look forward to going through the school together, instead of having different roles and responsibilities.  We took the day to pray, and gave our response Рwe still want to go!!  Ready, set, BLASTOFF!!

Onward & Upward!

Onward & Upward!

Mountain of Support Letters

Mountain of Support Letters

Since then, it’s been a hilarious and frustrating and really good time of preparing. ¬†The logistics are seeming to spawn in an everlasting list, but I just keep praying over each detail. ¬†I need Papa God to take care of so much for us! ¬† It’s been amazing to connect with other students already – we are NOT walking this alone! ¬†The Lord has unique plans for this school. ¬†Instead of spending all 3 months in Mozambique, we are spending 6 weeks in South Africa, and 1 month at The Village of Joy in Mozambique. ¬†We have been commissioned as “The School of the Pioneers” and we gladly accept. ¬†The plans have had to change, and God is orchestrating something beautiful.

Beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains

Beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains

Blue Ridge Mountains

Blue Ridge Mountains

Last week, we spent time with the Ray family in the mountains of North Carolina for some quality time before packing our home and leaving. ¬†I am so thankful for family that is not only by blood, but also by Jesus’ blood! ¬†We rested, watched movies, took small bits of time to work through some logistics with Will¬†(booking things, visas, et al) and on the last night, our family prepared such a special time for John and me. ¬†They spoke into us, affirmed our calling, encouraged us with Scripture and Words from God, and commissioned us. ¬†The mountain breeze floated gently, like a whisper of God’s voice and presence, and the crickets sang in tune. ¬†I am so thankful for that time. ¬†

Will had this picture of John and I as two sticks of dynamite that God was lighting.  When we BOOM-ed, all darkness fled!  So what did we do to seal that?  Well- we shot off fireworks, of course!  John did one and I did one.  I also screamed.  Sometimes the most frightening things in life are also the most rewarding.  We are being lit.  Yes Lord!

http://instagram.com/p/rlU8dykrkl/

-Sam

Asking & Listening

January 1st, 2014 rolled around and I could see the excited fire in John’s eyes blaze up again. ¬†This is¬†a familiar site to me, and so we proceeded to lay out all of our thoughts¬†once more¬†about our future. ¬†What does God have for us? ¬†What is He saying? ¬†We want more of Him, deeper depths, rivers of life, a life of fullest surrender! ¬†It has been a constant dance of asking, listening, receiving, waiting, living life, asking, staying, digging deeper, listening, dip, twirl, jump – all together in three strands.

Since before we got married, we knew we were after an abandoned life with God. ¬†It’s the reason we could get married, and we knew that He had given us both promises and visions of missions and ministry. ¬†We could see us doing it together, in partnership – what a gift! ¬†I see the two years since our marriage began as an incubator, a hiding in God’s hands, a preparation. ¬†A place to be surrounded by family and sweet church as we built up our marriage, needing lots of grace. ¬†A call to dig deeper for fullest life in Jesus here and now, and a promise of a life deeper still. ¬†To believe for the now and for the “to come,” which for us, looks different than the now.

Us in Umstead Park, New Years Day 2014

Us in Umstead Park, New Years Day 2014

I have had to sort through a lot of thoughts on missions, “sending,” “going,” and what I really believe about it in the past few years. ¬†I’ve known since 10th grade that the Father was calling me to “full-time ministry” – it was one of the first times I felt the Holy Spirit tangibly and undoubtedly – but what would that look like? ¬†Pieces would come to light over time, like my love with other cultures and how they each hold a special place in God’s heart, a special place of who God is (learning God is not American, nor primarily English-speaking).

As I have mulled over all of this, and as we have discussed with each other what this pulling in our hearts is, and what it is going to really look like in fruition, I have come to know a few things for sure. ¬†I know that Father God has called us¬†to a life of full-time ministry, and it was His purpose to bring us together to be laid-down lovers for Him as one. ¬†We are stronger as a cord of three (Ecc. 4:12) ¬†We both see other cultures (many) and are holding our hands open for God to give us the who, what, where, and when, when the time is right. ¬†We see different seasons with different people groups. ¬†We love people of other cultures, and want to minister well cross-culturally. ¬†We want to be trained up to do so with power and pure love, for Jesus’ glory, for sons and daughters to come home.

I have also been convinced¬†that missions is a position of the heart. ¬†It is not exclusively a call overseas. ¬†I do not believe Jesus meant for “regular life” and “missions” to be two separate spheres occasionally overlapping like a Venn Diagram. ¬†Missions is when we love Jesus so much and accept His love for us so simply, that we cannot help but see each beating heart around us as desperately needing¬†of His love, too. ¬†We get to spread it, share it, smile it, give it, live it. ¬†We get to be conduits of pure love! ¬†Serving and sacrificing your time and efforts does not feel so costly when we get to be a part of what He’s already doing.

It does not come in a leaflet tract, a salvation bracelet, or Christian Books, though those are great¬†tools when partnered with the Holy Spirit’s moving! ¬†It comes when you emerge from the one-track mind of getting through your own day, and look an actual¬†person in the eyes. ¬†Being willing to be moved. ¬†Being willing to be inconvenienced. ¬†It is not limited to a geographical location, nor a 2-week mission trip. ¬†If you believe in Jesus, you are on the mission trip called Life!

 

Wayfaring at Raven Rock State Park, summer 2014

Wayfaring at Raven Rock State Park, summer 2014

John has a gifting of evangelism, faith, and zeal, and a particular love for the Islamic world.  I have a gifting of evangelism, receiving prophecy through dreams and visions (Acts 2:17), and discernment, and a particular love for the middle-east and eastern Europe.  We know the Father loves to give good gifts for our joy and for His glory!  Both of us can see ourselves among many different cultures, on a nomadic ministry journey like Paul to encourage local believers, spread the Gospel in word and deed, and to be reapers of the harvest that is ready (Matt. 9:37-38).

I know that I see John and I getting lower still, pushing deeper still, getting hungrier still.  We want to lose our life so we can find it fully in Him (Matt. 10:39).  We want to leave our fishing boats, our nets, and follow Him around.  We want to sacrifice it ALL to do His work every day, to stop for the one, and believe for the multitudes!

So once 2014 came around, we did the whole¬†“what does this year look like for us?”¬†followed by a healthy side dish¬†of “I can’t do normal anymore!” and a dash of “IS THIS THE YEAR GOD SENDS US??” ¬†(Ok – maybe it was mostly¬†the latter!) ¬† We started praying more fervently about our call, asking for vision, for confirmation, and for direction. ¬†We started looking for opportunities and praying over each one.

In May, after much prayer, we felt confident that we should apply to¬†Harvest School,¬†¬†which is a missionary training school through Iris Global. ¬†John attended the school in 2010, prior to our relationship’s beginning. ¬†He has since had a love for Iris, their core values, and how they approach missions. ¬†It’s beautiful. ¬†Iris hosts 2 schools each year at their mission base in Pemba, Mozambique, with as many as 300 students from around the world. ¬†The school is just one part of the base, which also includes a baby house, a kids home, and a Pastor Training School for locals to be built up into leaders and sent out into the region to spread the Gospel, start churches, and further meet needs. ¬†As students, we’ll be surrounded by¬†all of these ministries and will be able to serve through them as well.

The story of the application process (from June to, well, just last week) deserves its own post and set of thoughts that I think are worth sharing.  But what we are so excited to announce now is that we have been accepted to the school, and are gearing up our life to head to Mozambique for a time of intentional training, asking, and listening.  This will be a place where we can share our journey, gearing up for Harvest School and beyond.

Thank you Jesus for your abundant love and extravagant plan for us!

-Sam