stories from around the world

A Week in the (Capetonian) Life

On our Facebook Page, we've been sharing what a typical week looks like in ministry here in South Africa.

In case you missed it, here is a re-cap of a week in the life...

MONDAYS are study days.

Jack works in "the office," aka, the Biblical Languages department at Stellenbosch University. There he works on writing his Masters thesis and discusses current research in translation, linguistics, and Hebrew. The topic of his Masters thesis is a functional description of the Hebrew word "now". He hopes that the final product will be useful for Bible translators and commentary writers.

Hebrew Bible
Hebrew Bible

He has made solid friendships with both Christians and atheists, and often finds himself at thecrossroads where academia and ministry meet. Most of the university culture here is very secular and I would definitely call it a “party school.” There are lots of students searching for answers, so there are many opportunities to love well and be ready for meaningful conversation.

He facilitates a group of Christian scholars who meet to discuss how best to be a Christian witness in secular academic settings. The group spends time sharing research, praying for one another, and encouraging one another.

During Micah's naps I write for East Mountain and make (slow but steady) progress leading our website development team.

TUESDAYS are meeting days.

Tuesday mornings we salute the American way of life by frantically rushing around, throwing pacifiers and lunch into the diaper bag, juggling breakfast and coffee, and realizing we are out of breath as we pull out of the driveway.

Staff meetings are held at the East Mountain community house. We discuss current ministry initiatives, get support from leadership on any tricky discipleship challenges, and look ahead to what leadership training workshops are coming up.

EM staff meeting
EM staff meeting

It’s a great time of connecting with staff, who are spread out all over the area as we serve our partner pastors.

After staff meetings, we break into our ministry-specific teams (we call them “tribes”) and work on our current projects.

Right now, my team is focused on leading EM’s summer internship, which is happening now!

We have 6 young people from South Africa, the U.S., the U.K., and Namibia.  During their six weeks with us, we will focus on teaching them practical leadership skills and theological lessons from the book of Ephesians, while giving them opportunities to go deeper in their walk with the Lord and be individually mentored by a member of our community.

Summit Interns 2016
Summit Interns 2016

Jack’s teams is heavily involved in supporting our partner church in Mitchell’s Plain, a low-income area that battles gang activity, drugs, and a lack of economic opportunity.

Micah comes along with us, (sometimes) napping in her car seat as we meet, exploring the back yard, and getting lots of cuddles from our community.

On Tuesday evenings, our small group from church meets. We are so thankful for them. They have loved us well through moving here (and not knowing anyone!), welcoming Micah into the family, surviving colic, busy ministry schedules, and more.

WEDNESDAYS are working days.

Jack goes into “the office” again, where he works on a grammar project for the Ancient Languages department. He converts written lectures into an online learning format, with the goal that students who are behind in their grasp of grammar can catch up as they begin studying Hebrew, Greek, or Latin.

I host a group of young women at our apartment. I facilitate us through an intense community-building and spiritual formation process called “Battle for Hearts.” It has been a challenging but rewarding process, and every week, I’m reminded of the ways I need to grow as a leader.


THURSDAYS are mentorship days.

Jack meets with his men’s Battle for Hearts group and does ministry work for East Mountain, including planning special events, addressing technology needs of the ministry, and meeting with others on staff.

Battle for Men's Hearts group
Battle for Men's Hearts group

I meet with Nancy (name changed to protect her privacy), a mixed-race woman that I mentor. We are going through a really great foundational study together. has provided us with so many free, high-quality tools to use as we teach and mentor others. I’m so thankful for it!

Nancy has a sharp mind and deep desire to grow in her knowledge of the Bible. Her insightful questions keep me on my toes! Meeting with her is one of my favorite parts of the week.

FRIDAYS are community-building days.

After Jack spends a half-day in the office, we go out to the EM community house for the weekly “braai,” a quintessentially South-African gathering that centers around grilling LOTS of meat and relaxing with friends.

We deepen relationships with EM’s ministry partners, board members, staff, former interns, and all kinds of other friends, new and old. It’s at the braais that many of our strategic connections are formed with local pastors.

(c) Peartree Photography
(c) Peartree Photography

SATURDAYS are catch-up and adventure days.

When we are good and get our work for the week done, we adventure around Cape Town or hang out. Often, however, we spend some of the day catching up with ministry work, prepping for the coming week’s meetings, and Jack works on his studies.

SUNDAYS are sabbath and family days.

We have learned the importance of rest and protecting family time! Being in full-time ministry means it’s easy to become over-committed, and before you know it, you are working every day of the week. That’s especially true here in South Africa, where there are more people with more needs than we could ever meet!

We worship in the mornings at Christ Church Stellenbosch. We are thankful to be slowly forming many genuine friendships with South Africans through our church.

My favorite Sunday afternoons are those we take a nap or go hiking, followed by a Face Time call to our families.

Jonkershoek Hike
Jonkershoek Hike

And that is a typical week here in South Africa!

Joy in the Slums

One Sunday morning we found ourselves sitting in plastic lawn chairs inside a one-room church in Mitchell’s Plain, one of the largest slums nearby.

The city we live in, Stellenbosch, pulses with the energy of a college town, an eclectic mix of care-free, party-seeking students and dignified professors. It’s set against the backdrop of stunning mountain views, surrounded by vineyards, and filled with oak-lined streets that boast beautiful European architecture.


But drive a short distance in any direction, and you remember that you are, indeed, in Africa. Flat plains stretch out, dotted with scrubby bushes. Suddenly, the townships pop into view - poor neighborhoods where the vast majority of the population lives.


Ramshackle buildings with flat roofs, built haphazardly, lean against each other for support. Narrow roads crowd with children running, men shooting the breeze, women hanging laundry. Above, a tangled mess of electrical wires and smoke clouds the horizon.

The contrast is so stark, it’s unsettling. Like many things in South Africa, what you see is not necessarily what you get. One of the reasons we love working with East Mountain is that they have ministry partnerships with a multitude of different communities - white, black, coloured (the proper term for an ethnic group here), wealthy, poor, Anglican, Baptist … we have been so thankful that the Lord has placed us on a team of strategic missionaries that have the same vision we do for a unified church. Being part of their work allows us to be involved in many layers of South African society, not only those we would encounter in our own quiet neighborhood.

And so it was that I found myself, the object of curious stares (as if my pale skin & red hair weren’t enough, my watermelon-sized belly really does the trick), opening my Bible along with the tiny (mostly coloured) congregation. What followed was a quiet, passionate sermon on the suffering of God’s people - one of the most encouraging and challenging I’ve heard in a long time.

“As a Christian, if you are not suffering now … well, don’t be surprised when it comes.” He reminded us that the road to following Jesus is not easy, nor should we expect it to be. What struck me was the joyful, confident tone of his voice, even as he spoke of suffering. I saw many heads nodding in agreement.

My heart ached as he made the sermon personal. He acknowledged that he knew people in that room who weren’t sure where the next meal was coming from.

He softly acknowledged the congregation’s grief over the recent death of a young man in their youth group, lost in a drive-by shooting. Mitchell’s Plain is one of the most violent, gang-ridden neighborhoods in the world. I knew this, but such a reality was hard to imagine in this church. It struck me that I was sitting among Christians … that really knew what it was to follow Jesus along the road of suffering.


They didn’t choose Christianity because the culture told them it was right, or just for the sake of their kids, or because of an uneasy feeling that it’s better not to offend an unknown God. Theirs was a genuine faith, tested intensely and tested often. They knew Jesus on a deep level I don’t as a child of privilege, born into a middle-class American family. As the pastor touched on Hebrews 11 and the great Christians of old who suffered joyfully for Christ, I realized I was sitting among modern-day heroes of my faith, unknown and unsung except by Jesus himself.

And I thought of everything the Lord has provided for us in recent months — the outpouring of love and financial support, prayers and encouragement from all of you.


I thought of how smooth our transition here has been; we have been welcomed by the East Mountain community, by professors and students in Jack’s study program, even by the friendly people of Mitchell’s Plain.

The Lord has been very kind to us in recent months.

Yes, it was difficult to quit steady jobs that we both loved, say goodbye to family and friends, and fly into the unknown - especially with a baby on the way.

But oh, how the Lord has been kind to us. Our transition has been so much easier than I was prepared for.

  • Within weeks, God provided a lovely, affordable apartment in a peaceful part of town.
  • Through all of you, God provided the finances for essentials like a bed, a fridge, and a stove. I felt I was living in the lap of luxury the first time I used our washing machine - not something I expected to find at an affordable price here. As I unpacked baby clothes and supplies, I thought of each beloved friend and family member that purchased them for us - this made it all the sweeter.
  • Within weeks, God provided a doctor I feel I can trust, and a doula to help me through labor. He has provided a robustly healthy pregnancy, and within weeks, God willing, there will be a third Messarra adventuring with us around South Africa.

The Lord has been kind to us - especially through all of you. Thank you, a thousand times over.

Pastor Andrew concluded, “The Lord loves us, when things go well for us and when we are not sure how to make it through the day; let us not doubt his love and goodness. Even as he allows us to suffer, he invites us to know him - a joy that no suffering can touch.”

While I know there will be suffering, I also realize that the pastor was right - knowing Jesus, really knowing Jesus, is the sweetest part of this life. Following him as he takes us through journey after journey, be it a journey through a tough job, financial strain, grief, joy, blessing, parenthood, marriage, singleness … Jesus remains with us and makes life worth the living. May we never be distracted from this truth.

My prayer for each of you is that you come to know Jesus as deeply as Christians in Mitchell’s Plain - for such an joy cannot be snatched away.

Would you continue to pray with us?

  • For a positive labor experience and a healthy baby - she is due March 23!
  • For the provision of a car and internet at our apartment.
  • For Jack as he re-develops study habits - it’s been a long time, and having a newborn will only add to the challenge! He is loving translating Deuteronomy & Judges with like-minded nerds.
  • For our continued funding - we are 75% funded! Thank you to everyone that has given!
  • For friends here - it can be a little lonely moving to a new place. Would you pray that God provides us with solid community and rich friendships?

The Journey to Stellenbosch


Goeie dag (literally “good day,”/“hello” in Africaans) from Stellenbosch, South Africa!

Life has been moving at lightning speed for us the couple of weeks! The Lord has been faithful to us in ways both large and small, and we are excited some of that with you. Thank you to all of you that have prayed for us, supported us financially, encouraged us, and followed our journey - you will be amazed to hear how God is already at work here in beautiful South Africa.

Transitioning to missionary life overseas is not unlike the experience of a roller coaster: there is a lot anticipation and dramatic build-up, but even hearing the “clack-clack” of the wheels as the car moves higher, you’re never quite sure what it will be like when you finally tip over the crest and go careening down.

Much like a roller coaster, we have found most of the ride so far to be exhilarating, amazing, and yes, a bit overwhelming.


Our journey began with a layover in Dubai. It was full of exciting sights … and a sobering discovery. In the midst of incredible infrastructure and brazen opulence, it became clear to us that the empire of Dubai has been built on the backs of migrant workers who are essentially slave labor. We had heard of this in the news, and while we had hoped to see the Burj Khalifa or the Palm Islands, it did not occur to us that we might run into this ugly reality first-hand.

Our waiter from Nepal, followed by our Pakistani cab driver, had been well-trained to answer questions about Dubai and show off the country to its best advantage. They were not, however, prepared for our gentle questions about their homeland, their families, and what brought them to Dubai. Sadness and anger tumbled out of their mouths as we listened and mourned with them. It grieved us to hear of families left behind, deplorable working conditions for unfair pay, and little hope of change.

I was reminded of the great pyramids: they testify to the vision and leadership of great pharaohs … but if those stones could speak, they would also tell of other lives, less lauded - the lives of the slaves who built those towering structures, brick by brick. Most of the second flight, I restlessly turned and thought of our friends in Dubai. While their chances of justice in this life are slim, I pray that they would find hope everlasting in Jesus.

I am thankful that we serve a God who sees all, who promises release for the captives, and who invites us, wealthy and poor, free and oppressed alike:

“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost … come to me … listen, that you may live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, according my faithful love promised to David.” (Isaiah 55)

After relatively smooth flights, the miracles continued when we landed in Capetown and were astonished to find that all of our bags made it! Our East Mountain team was incredibly kind to pick us up from the airport, and in short order we were set up in East Mountain’s large and comfortable guest house and retreat center. We have enjoyed getting to know our team - they have been so supportive and helpful to us.

In another answer to prayer, we have found a place to live long-term! While we had settled in for a long wait, the Lord has swiftly provided a place to live and the basic items we will need to move in. We are in a little two-bedroom apartment in a quiet neighborhood, within walking distance of the Stellenbosch University campus. As a mama entering the “nesting” phase, it has been an unexpected blessing to know that we will be settled plenty of time before the baby arrives. Stay tuned for pictures of our new place!

While there is more to tell, we want to extend a huge thank you to each of you that has supported us - we felt such an outpouring of love, especially in the days shortly before leaving and since we’ve arrived. Many of you have given us going away gifts, supported us financially, sent us encouraging words, and prayed for us. In the whirlwind of moving, we haven’t been able to reach out individually to each one of you, but please receive our deep gratitude. We would not be on this incredible journey without you, our faithful community.

Through many recent details, the Lord has made it clear that we are where he wants us to be - we already see so many opportunities to grow the Body of Christ in South Africa. Together, I know we are going to see God work powerfully in his church. Thank you for your generous hearts and for joining us. You are dear to us!

May you find time this week to dwell on the promises of Isaiah 55; whatever challenges you face today, his peace and abundance are yours in Christ!

Sanga's Story


Every day, I have the privilege of working with refugees. After years of applying; waiting; hoping; they arrive to the U.S., full of hope and yet hiding a history of heartbreak behind their wide smiles. Often, I can only guess at the traumas they've endured and the things they've escaped. One thing I do know: the word refugee is synonymous with survivor. All of them have left behind loved ones, the ones that weren't so lucky or weren't so strong.

Sometimes, I get the honor of actually hearing a refugee's story from start to finish; it never fails to leave me in awe. I got such an opportunity recently. The U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, an organization that helps refugees resettle, had their annual conference recently. One of the refugees I work with was honored to be selected to share his life story in front of hundreds of people.

Sanga* and I had already become friends after he attended my Cultural Orientation classes, where I taught him and other Congolese refugees practical lessons such as how to get a driver's license and how to apply for a job. These days, Sanga has a full schedule working full-time in manufacturing and taking steps toward applying for college. While I helped Sanga edit his story for grammar, all of these words are his own.

As he shared his story with me, I often had to blink back tears or hide my shock as he spoke about his life journey, from deep in the forests of the Congo to the heart of Houston...

I am 36 years old and I was born in a small city in the North Eastern part of the Congo.


I ran away from my country in 2005 after the death of my father, who was a district commissioner. My father was working to unite warring tribes; he wanted peace in our district. Because of this, some of the men from his own tribe killed him with a machete.

They were afraid of his betrayal, and so they killed their own brother. Then, they tried to kill my family, and so we had to flee. My family was separated; I fled alone to Kenya. On the way, I had to stay in hiding, because the rebel groups were everywhere - I hid on a train for four days. I was 30 years old, and I had never felt so sad  because I wasn’t sure what I would do.


When I arrived in Kenya, I slept on the streets for 2 days because I didn’t know what to do. After that, I went to a church. They helped me apply to be a refugee. During this time, a pastor took care of me and gave me a place to live. But, I was always afraid in Kenya because I didn’t have any legal rights and I was always afraid that the same people who killed my father would come to kill me. Once in Kenya I was attacked; I thank God I am still alive. After some time in Kenya, I began to teach French at a language school. I first applied for refugee status in 2005.

After waiting 7 years, in 2012, I finally received a letter that the United States had accepted me as a refugee to live in their country. I felt great when I got this letter. I knew there were so many people applying to live in the United States, so I was not sure if it would ever happen. I had been hoping for this for so long that I could not believe it.

When I first arrived in the United States, some things surprised me. For example, I was surprised by how people take care of other people here. I find the American people very caring.

I want to contribute to the American community. I want to help people, especially new refugees. In the Congo and Kenya, I was a medical first aid worker because I like helping people. I would like to do something similar in the United States one day to help the community. I know the feeling of what it is like to flee, the feeling of going through a war, and I feel that experience will help me support new refugees.

In Africa, there was no peace, so I could not learn or finish my studies. I feel like America is my land now. I am happy because I have found peace where I am. The people I have found here represent my family. If I have a problem, I can go to my new friends and talk to them and find a solution.

In my opinion, one of the greatest struggles for the African people is a lack of peace. This will be the most important thing for them – to learn to have peace. Peace allows refugees to work, study, and dream for their future. Without peace in Africa, there can be no hope and no progress. That is why I left. In my case, a lack of peace means I do not even know which of my brothers are still alive.

Even though I have had many difficult times, I am proud to be a called a refugee -- even Jesus Christ was a refugee. When he was born, some people wanted to kill him. His family had to flee, so even Jesus was a refugee like me. He had to leave his land because he was in danger of something happening to him. He was living in a state of fear, like me. I know what it is like to live in this state of fear. Now that I am living in the US, I am comfortable and I do not have fear.

I will always be proud to be called a refugee."

Sanga got to fly to Washington, D.C., to share his story. When I asked if he was nervous, he told me, "Of course I am nervous. But I must do this, because not everyone can speak the stories we know as refugees. Someone must tell the stories for those that did not survive."


His favorite part of the trip was getting to see the White House in person after his speech.

May you be encouraged by Sanga's story, ever more aware of the blessings you have, and be reminded that within all of us, God has given us the spirit of a survivor.

*Sanga's name has been changed to protect his identity.

Thank You Will Never Be Enough


With a sigh of relief, I flopped onto my bed. After a year of ever-changing locations and an endless parade of beds (I lost count around 58…), we are home.Back in the land of the free, and the home of the brave - America, you look good (especially when you are winning gold medals!).

16 Countries. 11 Months. And it’s hard to believe that it’s over.

We are jet-lagged, with our days and nights mixed up, unable to sleep … so we feel about the way parents with a newborn (or a student during finals) feels. We are fuzzy-headed, trying to figure out how we fit in a place that feels so familiar when we are so changed.

We want to share EVERYTHING God showed us this year … if only we could find the words.

So, we ask for your patience with us, and especially your prayers. We promise to share more stories with you; for now, I long for rest.

However, we cannot let another moment pass without saying it. The thing I’ve been thinking all year.The thing I don’t know how to say.

Two words that can’t possibly capture all I feel … when I say … Thank You.

This letter is for you, my friends.

This is the post in which we raise a proverbial glass to celebrate you.

When I think of you, I am grateful - grateful that you make space in your busy day to join us, to think of us.

We know that the Lord never sends us out on our own - he designed his body to work together. Because of you, dear friends and family, we took this amazing journey around the world - seeking the Lord’s presence and his work. And we carried you in our hearts, because …

You were the ones who supported this crazy idea we had - to leave everything we knew to follow Christ. You were the ones that invited us to speak at your churches, who listened as we shared our hearts.

You prayed with us and followed our journey. You were the hands and feet of Jesus to us - providing for our financial needs so that we can say with confidence, in Christ’s body,“we lack no good thing” (Psalm 34:10).

Quite simply, You have shown us Jesus.

Did you know you changed lives this year? Will you hear their Thank You?


Hear Saanvi*(Nepal) say Thank You. Rescued from trafficking and prostitution, a new Christian, we found her in a rehabilitation home. With tears in my eyes, I told her she is beautiful. “No one ever told me God finds me beautiful,” she whispered. “Am I really his daughter?” Her smile when I said YES was like the sun emerging after a long storm.


Hear Chan Yi Bin (Malaysia) say Thank You. I tutored Chan Yi Bin every day in math. Despite his learning disabilities, he makes new progress every day. And the lessons he taught me far surpassed anything I could give him.


Hear Nabil* (India) say Thank You. When we arrived at his hut, he could not stand up straight and could not walk without the aid of home-made crutches. By the time we left a few hours later, he was literally jumping for joy and had thrown the crutches aside. God worked a literal MIRACLE in front of our eyes. When we stepped out in faith, when we asked God for the words to say to this stubborn, prideful man, he gave us verses and thoughts to share. Walls came down in his heart, leading to his acceptance of Jesus, AND his physical healing.


Hear Larisa (Moldova) say Thank You. Mother. Pastor’s Wife. Discipler. In a lonely and cold land, she serves her family and her church … day after day. The locals can be as harsh as the Russian winters in her post-Communist hometown. Yet God is slowly, surely honoring their efforts. God knew EXACTLY when they needed a team full of life to remind them of the hope we have in Christ.


Hear the children (India) say Thank You. We held daily Bible Story hour on the front steps of our “home” in India. They would gather from all across the village and listen, wide-eyed, to stories of a God very different than the Hindu ones they serve. Seeds were sown in dozens of little hearts. (God, would you bring them to fruition!) *some names changed to protect the vulnerable

There are SO many more faces I could show you, stories I could tell. My memory is flooded...

The truth is, these friends of mine … are your friends.Because YOU helped us get there … so we could touch lives, on behalf of the King we all serve. This year, we were stewards -- we thought long and worked hard to manage the resources given to us. We were ambassadors -- representing a much bigger kingdom and the most wonderful King.

The most joyful part? Our journey is not over. We will to keep blogging, and will continue to share stories from our incredible year.

We’re praying about our next steps, and know it will involve more overseas missionary work. Stay in touch, and we’ll keep you updated.

Until then -- hear the words from Jesus echo in your ears, because he says to you, our lifeblood: “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Your thoughts, your prayers, your encouragement, your support -- “it does not return void” (Isaiah 55:11).

A Woman's Worth

Lately, life has shifted gears and moved into fast-forward. We arrived in Thailand about a week ago, and I've already started bar-hopping ... my ministry this month.

I'm serving on a fantastic team of all women this month, while Jack gets some bonding time with the men on our squad - he's doing manual labor and mentoring kids at an orphanage that rescues vulnerable children from the cycle of human trafficking.

We are about an hour away from each other, will only see each other a few days this month, and expect our time apart to challenge and stretch us as we focus on separate ministries and allow our lives to look different for the month.

My ministry this month is very unique, and very new to me. It's also something I'd like to invite you to join in a special way. My passion for this ministry is best expressed by Carly Crookston; an amazing woman, a gifted writer, and one of my new team members. She wrote the peice below that describes what we're doing this month. I'm thrilled to serve alongside her as we reach out to broken women this month ...

broken women in the red-light district...

How much?

How much is she worth?

How much money would you be willing to pay to hang out with your waitress for the night?  Five dollars?  Ten dollars?  More?  Less?

What if she was your best friend?  What if she was your little sister?  What if she was your daughter?  What if she was your wife?

How much then?

Take a walk with me.  We're in Chiang Mai, Thailand.  It's nearly midnight, but you wouldn't know it by the looks of it -- the lights flicker and glow enticingly, the music blares, the streets pulse with all of the people on them.  We walk into a bar, slide into a booth and a young woman comes to take our order.  To call her a young woman might be a little bit generous -- she can't be much older than eighteen.  She's pretty, the way that all of the women here are pretty with their fine bone structure and round cheeks and sweet smiles.  Can you see her?  Who does she look like?

To me, she looks like my best friend Andrea. She looks like my sisters-in-law, Kimberly and Abigail. Could this have been one of them?  What if they hadn't been priviledged enough to be born in America, into homes that sheltered them from the harsh reality of forced prostitution?

If you read this blog, chances are that you know me.  You've probably talked with me or spent time with me at some point… After reading these posts for the past seven months, you surely know what I've been experiencing and learning lately.  So what if it was me?  What if I was the girl “waiting tables” at these bars and I was tired?  What if I was tired of my life, but I had no other options?  Would you help me? 

If you read this blog, chances are that I know you.  And after being blessed by your generosity and support thus far, I know that you would help me.  To many of you, I am your friend, your sister, your daughter -- or at least, I could be.  You wouldn't pass by me when I was desperate.  I know that you wouldn't.

So let's not pass by these women when they are desperate.  Let's not pass by the young girls stuck in these bars.  Let's not walk past them, most of whom are not here by their own design.  Close your eyes and see your little girl, your best friend, your only sister, exploited and alone.  What are you going to do about it?

My team and I are partnering with Lighthouse in Action ministries this month.  We're walking those streets, sitting in those bars, talking with those girls and our goal is to be Jesus.  We're not walking in with Bibles, preaching a message of condemnation or anger.  We're walking in to be girlfriends.  We're trying to get to know these girls, to build relationships.  The program director made it very clear: we're not a SWAT team running in to grab the women.  We're farmers -- we're planting seeds, watering them, and maybe even harvesting a couple if the season is right.

How do we do that specifically?  Our ministry this month centers around two of my favorite things -- praying and dating.  Every day and every night, some part of our team will be in the prayer room, interceding for this country and the women that we meet.  Then we spend two days and two nights a week in bars, getting to know the girls and inviting them out on dates.  We want to take them to lunch, to the movies, to get our nails done -- the regular things girlfriends do with one another.  Ministry this month is deeply relational.  Success is not counted in how many women we personally pull out of the bar scene; it's about the depth and quality of friendships made.

But I need your help.  My team needs your help.  We have to pay to buy ourselves [non-alcoholic] drinks in every bar we go -- even the ones we go in just to pray.  We have to pay to buy the women drinks and the price doubles.  I'm hoping to get to the point where I can offer to pay a girl's bar fee, pay to take her out of there for the night.  Then on any of the dates we have, we're paying for the women.  But all of this requires cash, something that runs pretty short after seven months around the world.  My team and I are trying to raise some money so that we can treat these women.  We want to make some real, quality friendships -- friendships where we aren't trying to get anything out of them, but just showing them the love of Jesus through our lives.

If you would be willing to partner with us on this, you can email me for more information on how to give. Any money that we have left over after the end of the month will be given to this ministry; a prominent bar is closing at the end of April and the director has a vision for a rehabilitation program, where the women can come to learn about Jesus, but also to learn practical job skills.  The four-month program costs about $1,000 dollars per woman, so any money that we do not use “dating” the girls will go directly towards that project.

So there we are, sitting in the booth.  The pretty girl's name is Nam and she's ready to take our order.  What will you have?  Coca-cola?  A cocktail?  Maybe the girl herself?

How much?


He has shown you, O man, what is good.  And what does the Lord require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.  Micah 6:8

A Day in the Life: Rwanda

8:00 am:            Arise (rather groggy and grumpy - I am not friends with evil Morning.) 8:00 - 9:00:       Snack on some Psalms in my little tent - so tasty!

9:00 - 9:45:       Walk the long, dusty road to pastor’s house for breakfast

9:45 - 10:00:     Eat breakfast (same as every day) … hard-boiled egg, a miniature banana, black ginger tea with goat’s milk, and chapati (like a fluffy tortilla).

We were told that right after breakfast, we would leave for a “short” marriage party. It would be a “slight distance” away, and we were not sure how we would get there.

10:00 - 12:00:    Wait at the pastor’s house in confusion … where we discover it is a graduation party, not a marriage party. And that the pastor had already left. And that he is not sure how we will get there. Make small talk with the pastor’s wife (who speaks limited English) -  try to maintain eye contact as she breastfeeds her toddler, completely topless and very nonchalant about it.

Play “20 questions” with our team to kill time.

Sweat trickles down my back - the heat of the day arrives early here.

12:30 - 1:00:       We walk across town to our translators’ moms’ shop, where we will meet our translator, who will get us bus tickets to the graduation party.

1:00 pm:              Arrive at the shop, where mama wants to know where her daughter (our translator) is. We have no idea. Hands on wide hips, she is not happy.

1:00 - 1:40:          Sit on the steps and watch the cars go by. I daydream about macaroni and cheese. A precious and malnourished child wanders by, so my attention is averted to praying for her.

1:40 pm:               Our translator arrives, and after a short argument with her mom, we head to the bus station.

2:15 pm:               When we arrive at the bus station, we discover that the next bus does not leave until 3 pm. (We were told the party ended around 3). So we walk back to to the shop.

2:30 - 3:30:           Wait for a while longer, while many confusing phone calls fly around. A car arrives to pick us up, then speeds away as our translator explains that “it has two flat tires.”

4:00 pm:                We are picked up by a van. Thrilled and relieved, we stretch out on the seats and head off, bumping along back roads.

4:20 pm:                 In confusion, we are driven back to …. the pastor’s house!

Here, we are greeted by the pastor’s family, dressed to a hilt, AND the entire Voice of Trumpet Victory Choir from the pastor’s church, in their singing attire: shiny brown satin two-tone shirts and crisp pants, and long shoes that turn up at the toes.  All 16 of them pile into our van (how I wish Africans used deodorant!), along with their full arsenal of sound equipment … 2 huge box stereos, a sound board, several cables, etc. Some seats have 3 layers of people stacked high on each others’ laps.

In my little corner of the van, I thank Jesus (literally) that I am by a window, where fresh air can blow through, and that my compact size shows its advantage in this situation. My poor 6 ft+ team leader looks so uncomfortable.

4:25 pm:        After driving exactly 10 meters, the van is stopped. In a flurry of loud voices, the entire choir piles out of the van, shuffles around, and then piles back in. This happens twice more in the next half hour. But … we are finally on our way! Note that we are only 6 hours late.

During the van ride, Voice of Trumpet Victory Choir practices their repertoire, although they don't all sing the same song at the same time. It is loud enough that I hear it all through my headphones.

5:25 pm:       Arrive at the graduation party to many stares.

We visit the “bathroom” - a three-sided shack with a hole dug in the ground. The exciting part is that there is a hornet’s nest … in the hole where you are supposed to do your business.

I’m not sure how you’re supposed to do your business without angering the hornets. This is all made more exciting, since in Romania I discovered a serious allergy to flying, stinging insects. In Africa, even a trip to the bathroom is never routine. Somehow, we miraculously survive unscathed.

At the graduation party, we eat two very large dinners … one complete with animal intestines and soured milk sauce. We choke down what we can and try not to let the constant stares bother us.

We’re given a 2-minute warning that someone from our group will give a graduation speech. This should not be surprising, since at the last graduation we attended (in Tanzania), we were given a 1-minute warning that we would be performing a dance in front of hundreds. Yes, we did it, and no, it was not my proudest moment. At this graduation ceremony, however, my teammate Jake saves the day by giving a speech that is well-received. After that the stares are more kindly.

I am fascinated by a speech given by the family patriarch and his allusions to genocide. Their family was Tutsi, in the targeted group during the Rwandan genocide of 1994. His family fled to Uganda and most of them have known life as refugees. In a quiet, dignified voice, he glorifies God that he has allowed them to return to the homeland of their fathers, that he saved them while many others were slaughtered, and that now as his family - and his country - rebuilds, the graduation of his grandson marks progress for his family and hope for all.

Rwandans are a reserved, proud people that do not quickly open their emotions to outsiders - and they rarely talk of the horror in their recent past. To see a rare glimpse of their true feelings was a gift, and I felt honored to be included in such an intimate family gathering.

Little did I know the day was not even close to over yet …

6:45 pm:        Though the “party” portion of the ceremony is only beginning, we all (Voice of Trumpet Victory Choir included) pile back into the van - we are already late for evening church service. We bounce along the rutted, muddy, rocky, mountainous road to the city.

    Along the way, fields of wheat and corn unfold before me like a patchwork quilt - beautiful.     A storm rolls in, shades of steel in thunderous clouds above, brazen sunlight shining through breaks of gray. Clean, rain-soaked breezes wash through the open window and refresh the sweaty stale air inside the van. A great playlist rings in my ears, and I worship. My heart bobs above me, like a balloon on a string. It doesn’t feel like much holds me to the ground. Just when I think I can’t be more caught up in the rapture of the beauty around me, a lightening storm begins.

“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” Psalm 19:1

Despite Genocide, God has smiled upon this land. The story of Rwanda is still unfolding, and I can’t help but sense that he is not done in East Africa yet - a feeling that was confirmed when …

7:30 pm:        We arrive at church, late for service, where everyone is singing a cappella and caught up in worship- undeterred that we have the choir and the sound system with us.

7:30 - 8:45:    Church and preaching/worship with our team.

8:45 pm:        We choke down our third dinner.

9:15 pm:         In the middle of a torrential downpour, all seven of us pile into a small four-door ancient car that in every moment feels like its last. We somehow make it home.

10:00 pm:       Collapse into bed and think, “Is this real life?

Hopeful: 2012

Happy New Year!

Currently in Andhra Pradesh, India, it is 12:50 am on January 1, 2012. God is so faithful.

This New Years' Eve, I feel hopeful.

I'm grateful for all that 2011 brought - building my marriage, working for (the amazing) Living Water, leaving in September for the World Race - a year filled with challenges and joys. I can honestly say I did a lot of living in 2011; not just existing, but being fully alive. For this, I am grateful. For the Jesus who gives life, and gives it abundantly.

Our New Year rang in a unique way. Both Jack and I have some kind of flu thing, so we had a quiet night in. At midnight, I kissed my sweetheart - and took a moment to thank God for all that he is.

Then I stepped onto our 5th-story balcony and looked out over Ongole. Steady rain covered everything in a sheet, but that did not slow down revelers across the city.

Downstairs, I heard the church carrying on their passionate worship service - they repeated "Hallelujah! Hallelujah!" over and over as midnight neared.

Across the street, I watched a group of sopping wet, euphoric teenagers whoop and push each other around jovially as they counted down, exploding into hugs and yells as my watch beeped the hour.

Fireworks burst across the sky, booming and filling the grey-maroon sky with vivid color.

The sound of a high-pitched Hindi song filled the air.

I closed my eyes and felt the cleansing rain ... dripping on my head, my nose, my chin, my wrists. Warm and soothing.

I felt my heart float up in a silent worship song to God.

I did not need champagne or yells or a countdown to ring in the New Year - I just needed worship. A reminder of God's love. And I found it, as my heart swelled with hope.

Because there is more for this city. Greater things are yet to come ...

Because this day, this year, we are one day and one year closer to the return of Jesus - our beloved King who will make all things right.

And until then, I get to use this body and this breath to tell people of my coming King. So they too will know this hope that fills my heart.

In 2012, I have no goal but to enjoy God more - because oh, he is so worthy of my affections.

Dear reader, I am thinking of you. Wherever you find yourself on the Eve of this New Year, know that you are so intensely loved by the God of this universe. No amount of striving is necessary to win his favor - you are already his favorite.

So seize this life he offers you, this abundant and overflowing and hopeful life ... because you only get one chance to live. And you're not really living until you feel the constant, steady rain of his love falling down on your head, your heart ... cleansing, soothing, healing.

This love is there for you ... you just have to step out into the rain, close your eyes, and feel it drip down.