Friday, July 18, 2014

The Lord's Presence

“It may be that the LORD will be with me, and I shall be able to drive them out as the LORD said” (Joshua 14:12b).

This morning, as I read Joshua 14 (about the dividing of the land among the tribes) this verse leapt out at me. I think I’ve either heard a talk on it, or I’ve noticed this when I’ve read the chapter before.

The context is that Caleb is making a request of Joshua. Moses had promised Caleb a particular mountain, because he was one of only two spies who were faithful to God when the 12 spies were sent out from Kadesh Barnea. And now, 45 years later, the time had finally come when Caleb could receive that inheritance.

Caleb was 85 years old. He had spent the first 35+ years of his life as a slave in Egypt. He, with all the other Israelites, had seen God’s power and glory there and at Mount Sinai. He had walked in the Promised Land and seen its bounty. He took God at His word and trusted that God could overcome the Canaanites. But because the people did not, Caleb joined them in their wilderness wanderings for 40 years, until everyone of his generation except for himself and Joshua had died.

And now that they were finally in the land and had, in two major sweeps of conquest, cleared out most of the Canaanites—now it was finally time for Caleb to settle down and enjoy retirement, right?

That’s not what he had in mind.

Instead, he intentionally asked for an area where the people had not yet been driven out:

“As yet I am as strong this day as on the day that Moses sent me; just as my strength was then, so now is my strength for war, both for going out and for coming in. Now therefore, give me this mountain of which the LORD spoke in that day; for you heard in that day how the Anakim were there, and that the cities were great and fortified. It may be that the LORD will be with me, and I shall be able to drive them out as the LORD said” (Joshua 14:11-12).

Even at 85 years of age, Caleb still wanted to carry out the mission which his brethren had rejected 45 years before.

God said that Caleb was His servant, that he had a different spirit in him, and that he had followed God fully. Therefore Caleb would receive an inheritance while the others never set foot in the land (Numbers 14:24).

Reading this today, I couldn’t help but think about my own life. Since the coming of Christ to save and the Holy Spirit’s indwelling, I don’t have to wonder if God is with me. I know He is. But it still takes the same sort of trust and confidence, the same willingness to step out and face challenges that Caleb had.

I want to have a different spirit in me. I want to follow the Lord fully. And this morning, God used this passage to call me back to that, to remind me to be satisfied in Him rather than running away to my own attempts at living this life.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Why Uganda?

{In case you haven’t heard, last month I officially accepted an offer from New Hope Uganda to come serve in the role of assistant sponsorship coordinator at Kasana, Uganda. I plan to return the second week of September. Like other foreign staff, I am responsible for providing my own support.}

A couple weeks ago, after I had sent out a letter to my Uganda updates mailing list about my upcoming return plans, I got a call from a friend & trusted adviser. We chatted for a while, and then she asked me about how God has called me to this particular opportunity, and how He has confirmed that calling.

I didn’t really know what to tell her.

I had waited an entire month from the day I had been offered the position to respond “yes!” even though I knew I wanted to say yes from the moment, sitting in my hut, when I was invited back. I waited, saying I would pray about it. Wanting to be sure. Hoping for a sign.

But if I’m being honest with myself and you, I didn’t really spend dedicated time praying about it, and I hesitated because of fear and distrust. If this is really what God wants me to do, then He’ll make it obvious and plain, right?

The Sunday morning before I responded back to New Hope, as I sat in church, I felt God saying that the choice was up to me. He had set before me an open door, what more did I want? Last fall I had three doors I wanted to go through, and all three ended up closing. Now I wanted to return to Uganda, and God had used His people to open that door. It was my choice to walk through it. I sent my acceptance email.

A couple days after having said “yes!” I found myself second guessing. Thinking about other times over the years when I have set my hand at something, only to have it fall through or not turn out as I wished. And I felt God calling me again to trust Him—even if for some reason I didn’t end up back in Uganda, as I expected to. Rejecting the rising fear, I prayed to Him—choosing to trust whatever He had planned.

After my friend’s inquiry a few days later, I pondered how I would answer the question. I knew I had fallen in love with Uganda and the people I met at Kasana during the first five months of the year. I knew I yearned to go back and be reunited with these friends, to continue growing in relationship with them. But what calling did I have from God?

As I drove around Dallas, running errands, I asked Him—if He wouldn’t mind—for confirmation of what I instinctively felt…of what felt like the obvious “yes” answer to the opportunity.

Waiting at a Half Price Books moments later for a quote on some textbooks I was trying to sell, I perused the newly-discovered clearance section. Looking on the “nature” shelf, my eye fell on a thin booklet. Curious, I pulled it out and read the title: “Black Eagle.” Flipping it open, I saw a map of the western coast of Africa: Ghana and the surrounding countries. A glance at the first page showed that whoever had shelved this book hadn’t paid much attention—it appeared at first glance to be a book of African parables/legends.

Turning forward from the back of the booklet, I read a passage that nearly gave me goose bumps:
“Consider going to Ghana as a missionary when you have completed your education. Ask God to guide you in making your decisions about your future….the American young person considers his own life and God’s will for him…”

It may seem a small thing, especially considering that my plans are toward Uganda, not Ghana. But deep in my heart, I knew. It wasn’t an accident that I had come across the clearance section after using the restroom. It wasn’t an accident that this booklet about the history of Christian missions in Ghana was mistakenly shelved with the books about birds. It wasn’t an accident that it caught my eye, that I turned to that particular page. It was the confirmation God sent in His grace and mercy for even my questioning heart.

And as I have thought about it all in the days since, I can see so many other pointers…so many other heart nudges by which God has led me to this point, even when I didn’t plan for this path a year ago.
  • Reading Kisses from Katie in January 2012 – as I wrote in my diary, reading the book about this young lady who moved to Uganda to volunteer made me “want to jump on the next plane to some underprivileged place & start pouring my life into those kids.”
  • Listening to missionaries from Africa share at my church during my last semester of college – finding my heart strangely stirred and even being brought to tears at the thought.
  • God shutting the doors I wanted open last summer and early fall – I was so very frustrated, but I felt Him asking me to give up my hunger to get a “good job” and live for the American version of “success.”
  • God opening the door I wouldn’t have seen: to go to Uganda for five months in a short-term volunteer capacity.
  • Getting to meet so many wonderful, encouraging people. God placing them—and the Ugandan kids in the Worcester family—into such a special part of my heart.
  • Support from friends back home – and people telling me that somehow, by God’s grace, what I write from there speaks to them too.
  • Just a couple days ago, getting an email from a friend I met at Kasana, offering encouragement in my choice to go back.
There have been other moments as well. And though my life the past year has so often felt like a roller coaster, with unexpected twists and turns…I know that God is the one leading and guiding. And so I seek to take one step at a time on this path He has given me, that all the glory may go to Him.

{If you would like to receive more information about my upcoming work with New Hope Uganda, or if you felt led to join me as a prayer or financial partner, please contact me! If you do not have my email address or phone number, you can leave a comment here or Facebook message me.}

{See also this Facebook note about how God has led me to missions}