God and I in Africa

Supernatural grace oozes through my life when I travel to East Africa. It is so invasive I often wonder if God has provided this grace for my benefit, or, in His infinite mercy, for the benefit of those I meet and serve in South Sudan. In spite of, or perhaps because of, my many faults and struggles, God meets me where I need him most and covers me with His grace.

I am an imperfect person; it amazes me that anyone would allow me to be an ambassador for the church, for Christ or for the American people. If you were to interview people to represent your mission to the nations, my spiritual resume would certainly not get me the job. The list of my character flaws that should disqualify me from this type of work is lengthy, yet somehow God has chosen me.

Patience is a virtue, and I sometimes think I only have a small portion of it. I talk fast, tap my foot while waiting, doodle while on the phone, and watch the clock count down on the microwave. But something happens to me when I step foot on African soil. It’s a transformation that is unmistakable, yet can also be easily missed unless someone knows me well.

The first time I went to South Sudan in 2012, I traveled in with a team of people who were there for a five day experience trip. When the plane arrived to fly them out, I sat with the pilot while they got their bags together. After some time of conversation he asked me how long I’d been in South Sudan. I told him that I had come in with the team he was flying out, so about five days. “Really?” he replied. “You seem like you belong here.” He commented on how I just seemed at home, like I’d lived there for years. Frankly, that’s how I feel when I’m there—at least most of the time.

I had a similar experience this year when I traveled again to East Africa. I had landed in Nairobi and was going through customs. “Do you have anything to declare?” the officer asked. I replied that I did not. He looked at my paperwork, and then he looked at me, “You don’t look like an American.” He said to me. I was surprised, so he explained what he meant. “You dress and act like we do,” he said. I don’t know how he made this assessment in such a short period of time, but I smiled and said that I must be African at heart.

What is it that overcomes me when I travel to East Africa? It’s more than just relaxing and feeling at home. It’s God’s supernatural grace covering me and smoothing over my rough spots.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”  John 14:27

Yes, I feel at peace when I’m in South Sudan, though I doubt it’s the place that causes it. It’s more than likely the fact that I am smack dab in the middle of God’s will—that’s where peace lives. It still takes some getting used to the slower pace of speech and the leisurely stroll of foot travel, but I soon adapt and relax.

In addition to peace, God bathes me with grace. When a westerner travels to a place like South Sudan, under the name of Christian, they are looked at with an expectation that they will look, act and speak like Jesus (or the people’s idea of Jesus). My prayer is always that my behavior will not set the mission movement within the people group back too far. God seems to honor this by removing some of my deepest character defects—at least for a time. And as I learn to live in His grace, those defects seem to slough off and are replaced with new character traits.

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6

I am so grateful that the Lord straightens my path. I’m not sure if He is protecting me from myself, or simply making sure I don’t mess up His plan for those I serve.

As I prepare to move to South Sudan full-time, I pray that God will keep smearing on His grace and peace. I know He is equipping me, and I know He is caring for me. How could I doubt His love and provision after all I’ve experienced? If He can wrap me in His grace for a month overseas, He will certainly continue to guide and direct my path when I move there. It may not look the same. It may not feel the same. But there is no doubt in my mind that He will be there with me, every step of the way.

You can learn more about the Janzen Journey in South Sudan by visiting: http://www.JanzensinSouthSudan.org

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Categories: Rambling | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

It’s a Great Day to Learn Something

It’s a winter wonderland in West Michigan and a great day to watch some educational Webinars.

Today is the last day of the FREE Fundraising Summit and your last chance to get the access to today’s sessions for free. You can register here. Once you register you have 24 hour free access to today’s sessions.

If you are like me and didn’t get to see all you wanted or you want to watching a session again, you can buy all 38 webinars, including PowerPoints, transcripts and audio recording for around $170 ($200 CAD). That is less than $5 per 45 minute session. That price is only good through today. Tomorrow the price goes up.  Topics of the sessions include Events, Planned Giving, Major Gifts, Capital Campaigns, Annual Campaigns, Donor Retention, Mail, Social Media and lots more!  If you want to buy the sessions, go here.

Time to brew another cup of coffee and learn something new about fundraising.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags:

Enough!

How much is enough?

I suppose the biggest factor in determining how much is enough is what you are talking about: ice cream, torture, love, wealth, peace, homework, grace. Here’s the dictionary definition for you.

enough (ɪˈnʌf)

— determiner
1. a. sufficient to answer a need, demand, supposition, or requirement; adequate: enough cake
b. ( as pronoun ): enough is now known
2. that’s enough! that will do: used to put an end to an action, speech, performance, etc

— adv
3. so as to be adequate or sufficient; as much as necessary: you have worked hard enough
4. ( not used with a negative ) very or quite; rather: she was pleased enough to see me
5. (intensifier): oddly enough ; surprisingly enough
6. just adequately; tolerably: he did it well enough

Sometimes you know you’ve had enough when you want no more, but other times enough is a little harder to measure.

Why isn’t knowing what’s right enough to cause us to make the right decision? Usually it’s because we let our emotions override what we know. We struggle with our own selfish desires and thoughts and we try to fill emotional holes with what we want instead of  what we need or doing what we know is right. Sooner or later what we know just doesn’t matter anymore and we run full-steam ahead doing what we want and disregarding what is right.

Sooner or later we experience enough of the consequences of our behavior (or someone else’s) that we yell, “Enough is enough!”

enough

If knowing what is right isn’t enough to help us make the right decision, then what is?

Well, that’s different for everyone. For me it was fear. Fear of what would happen if I continued down the path I was traveling. I was absolutely terrified of more severe consequences and that was enough to make me stop and consider my options.

Have you had enough?

Tell me about it below. Your story will never be shared without your permission.

 

Categories: Rambling, Uncategorized, Writing | Leave a comment

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