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, “You 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.”  (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 – safety 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 – the 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 José!” 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 – confirmation!  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 – we 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!

-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