As I sit down at my computer again my face heats up and my stomach tightens in a way where I know the time has come again to open up the rusty gates of my heart and mind to write about what the Father is doing in my life and in the part of the world I am currently living in.
This feeling is really distinct to me. When I get this feeling there are immediately memories that flood back. Visual pictures that represent other places where I have felt this exact overwhelming feeling. In Swaziland Africa I sat slumped at a tiny desk in a tiny room with a massive fan blowing directly into my face as I hoped and prayed that I wouldn’t actually melt onto my keyboard from the heat. I remember sitting on a twin size bed in Nashville, Tennessee listening to tons of different languages outside of my window in the refugee community I used to call home. I remember this feeling in a close-by Middle Eastern country where I could never really manage to put my feelings into words, partially because I did not totally know precisely what I was feeling.
So much has changed since I was that young girl sitting in a room in Swaziland Africa. Today, I am married to the best teammate, husband, and friend I could have ever asked God for. I am almost finished with college, which is almost equally as huge of a miracle, and I am living in a faraway country, one I never imagined visiting much less living in.
While many things have definitely changed, many things still remain the same. I still can feel my heart beating in my ears when I sit down to write about this journey. I still am overwhelmed by God’s willingness to use a broken child of His like me. I am still watching the same heavenly Father miraculously change hearts in some of the hardest places I have ever been. I am still just a kid sitting at a keyboard bawling my eyes out at the goodness of the loving Creator of the universe.
A few years ago I made a promise to myself that I would never become a “Facebook Politician”. I never wanted to use my platform as an international worker to air my political opinions over the internet. I personally have around a bizzilion opinions about politics and the current state of just about every nation on the planet, but I do not believe that many of these opinions help further the gospel in any way or are even encouraging or God honoring. So even as an opinionated millennial I made a choice at the beginning of my journey overseas to refrain as much as humanly possible from opinions that have very little to do with bringing the Gospel to the ends of the earth.
At the beginning of this journey this promise I made to myself was not a difficult one to keep. I was living in a hut and then an apartment in Africa just drinking in God’s goodness in the African sun. During this season the Father was teaching me and molding me in a way I had never been molded and shaped before spiritually. Most of this journey was completely encouraged by others, believers and nonbelievers alike. Moving to Africa to love AIDS orphans is not generally critique-able (other than people thinking my parents are insane for letting their 18-year-old move to Africa alone, hah!)
When I moved back to America and moved into the refugee community in Nashville “refugee” was not a buzz word. The war in Syria and the name ISIS were barely seen on the news or the internet. And the political climate was much different than it is today.
When I moved to Nashville I thought I would spend two years there, get a little training, start online college, and then pack my bags and move back to a more unreached area in Africa. I thought I would never get married. Never have children. And never look back.
I had barely lived in Nashville for six months before I knew God had given me a man to marry and had begun to change my heart to a completely different people group, language, and place in the world. At the time I had no idea that God was changing my soon-to-be-husband’s heart towards the very same thing.
To make a long, emotional, and ridiculous love story short, we started dating, got engaged, and got married all within the same year. God had given us both the teammates we would need for the next season of our lives.
As God was shifting our hearts towards the Middle East, the Syrian war really started to get bad. ISIS was in the news almost every day. Many of the friends we had made in Nashville could only sit and watch the TV as their home country was torn apart. Most of their families had to relocate. Sometimes our friends wouldn’t even know where their relatives were while they were in transit looking for a peaceful place to land.
To us it felt like God was teaching us and allowing us to fall in love with a people group while their entire worlds fell apart. While we grew increasingly disturbed by what was unfolding in the Middle East, our passion to reach these people with the gospel grew. While we watched videos of men in orange jumpsuits, and masked men with swords, we grew more and more uncomfortable in America and more determined that the Father was filling our hearts with a love that made no sense towards a people we were just getting to know.
There were some days where I was angry with our new burden for these people we barely knew and we did not understand. I remember my family and fiancé huddled around a TV together a few nights before our wedding. I remember us all watching the news as Paris was attacked in the name of Islam by extremists. I remember praying that the attackers weren’t refugees. And I remember news casters eventually reporting that they suspected at least one of them to be one.
That night I was genuinely confused, frustrated, heartbroken, and more motivated than I remember ever feeling before. I was irritated with God that He allowed us to fall in love with the Middle East just as it was falling apart. I was mad that these evil attacks were consistently carried out, and I knew that for every explosion that made western news, there were a ton of other explosions in the Middle East that also killed innocent people that didn’t.
This was around the same time I knew that in order to refrain from putting my political opinions on the internet, I would probably have to stop sharing this part of our journey. As we were making choices to love these people it felt like much of America was becoming increasingly frightened and was trying to keep them out. This was probably also around the same time that I realized that what is best for America and what is Biblical is not always the same thing.
My heart began to hurt in a new way for believers around us. While many people were excited to send me off to Africa as an 18-year-old with no plans other than to love orphans, people were far more hesitant when I, as a married 21-year-old, packed our bags and told people we were moving to the Middle East to love refugees. People nodded in reassurance when I left to Africa, People raised their eyebrows and asked questions like “are you sure” when we left to go to the Middle East.
I want to take a second and pause and say that most of our families were supportive of our move even if all of them did not necessarily understand it. I also want to mention that our sending church in America was not only supportive of us going, but it would be next to impossible for us to have even gotten here without them. God used our sending church in an incredible way that probably needs to just be written about in another blog.
While we were surrounded by many that encouraged us, there were many who did not. Our hearts hurt for the Middle East and for the American Church.
It was about a year between the day we got married and the day we got on a plane and moved to the Middle East. The year in between was full of a ton of questions, training, and prayer. For years we had said “to live is Christ and to die is gain”, but truthfully I struggled with fear in the days leading up to our move, and sometimes still do. I buried myself in the book of Joshua and reminded myself daily to be “strong and courageous” and I still remind myself almost daily. I remember having nightmares of bombings occurring in our new home while my husband and I were not together. I had to leave my fear at the cross in the days leading up to our move and have continued to fight to do so every day since.
I guess this is partially why I am writing this to begin with. My refrain from writing began with my trying not to spam the world with another “Facebook Politician” but I think that somewhere in all of that I have neglected to tell others about what God has done and is still doing in my life and in the lives of people in the Middle East.
Jesus is revealing Himself to people who have never heard about Him in some of the darkest places imaginable. And while living in this region is hard, Jesus is worth it. Jesus is worth getting threatened by terrorist organizations. Jesus is worth learning a hard language. Jesus is worth leaving what is familiar. Jesus is worth missing birthdays and deaths in our home country. Jesus loves the people here as much as He loves the people in America. Jesus died for the sins of the people here just as much as he died for everyone else’s sins. JESUS IS WORTH DYING FOR. And many people here are hearing about His sacrifice and love for them for the very first time.
If this makes me another “Facebook Politician” then I guess I am okay with it. But I cannot sit back any longer and not tell the unbelievable news of what God is doing here regardless of what is on the news channels here or in the USA.
Jesus loves the Middle East. He loves Arabs. He died for them. And many of them do not know Him yet.
Please please please pray for the Middle East.
Jesus the Messiah is the only way this region will ever truly know real peace.
As for us, we are loving calling this beautiful and challenging place home. We are trying to drink in all of what the Father is doing here and we still cannot believe He is even allowing us to be a small part of it.
To The Ends of The Earth