Tag Archives: missions

A Trail of Tears in Puerto Rico


I have been on the island of Puerto Rico for two and half weeks.  It is now almost 50 days after hurricane Maria.  I am with a team of people distributing water filters from the resulting collaboration of two organizations: Happy Sonship and Impact Nations.  During my time here I have witnessed the tears of men and women on several different occasions. Let me tell you about a few of them here.

The first incident of overwhelming expression was at a house our team could not fathom people living there but indeed the owners of this destroyed home were staying just next door.  When we first saw this house it was obvious the roof had been removed because the sunlight shown clearly into the rooms that could be seen through the windows.  You could also clearly see the clothes still hung in the closet from the street.


The multi-generational family had gathered and was sitting on the roofless front porch together.  The matriarch of the family sat centered amongst them and I watched the scene unfold as I was seated in the back of our rented van.  It was someone else’s turn this stop to explain in Spanish how the filter worked and leave it as a gift to the family and if they didn’t mind, to pray for them.

My team did what we had done so often and in addition got a tour of the remains of the home.  After everything was completed one of our staff felt led to donate some additional funds as a gift to this family.  The matriarch was seated again at this time with her family around her and our work was done and our van slowly began to pull away in to the narrow street and as we did, the seated woman lost her composure and broke down into sobs covering her face as her grandchildren all leapt up with arms of comfort around her as she freely cried.

This was my first encounter with tears here.

The second was my own.  We were in an area where the water had flooded a valley and entire homes with all their content had been destroyed.  No one could be residing here and indeed they weren’t but we found them with family a little further up the road.  A young woman painted the insides of a vacant immaculate home leaving us curious.  We stopped.

Two families were within, the family purchasing the home who did not have theirs destroyed and their siblings family and their kids who did have their home destroyed but were helping their siblings prepare to move into their new house.

I had a conversation standing directly across from a woman who looks very similar to me in age and composure.  She was looking the direction of her old home downhill on the road and she said with a look of remaining disbelief, “I lost everything, my clothes, my bed, my kitchen, my pictures, my car,… everything.”  I found a lump in my throat as I beheld her face reliving the reality of her current situation.

We proceeded to give both family’s filters and I was the one who felt led to give a little something extra to both these family’s thanks to the happy sonship’s generosity.  I explained to the sister who was painting that she was our first sign of hope we had seen.  Someone preparing a home, making things new, moving forward.  And to the other who had lost everything, I couldn’t make it through my sentence.  That a little money could never replace what she had lost but that my heartfelt for what she was going through.  At least that’s what I meant to say.  My tears were contagious and we quickly transitioned into praying for the family before making our departure.

That was the second of four.

The last two experiences of tears I will share with you here were both from men.  My husband and I were invited to share a bit of our story of how we met and being missionaries to a gathering of young students at a private Christian school on the island.  Their entire building had been destroyed and a church had let them take over their entire facility to ensure the education year was not lost.

My husband and I were taking turns back and forth sharing our sides of our story leading up to when we would meet each other in Mexico.  As my husband relived the experience of taking the risk of pursuing me and what God had told him during that time and how faithful God had been in this area of his life he could not contain it anymore and to the sighs of every teenage girl in the audience his tears fell as his words were hindered.  A second attempt was made to continue.  No success.  More audience sighs and a united silence as my husband stood before these people basking in the goodness of God and not contain his emotions.  We cried with him.  And the storytelling continued.


Lastly, we visited a man who had lost nothing during hurricane Maria.  He and his wife are in their seventies and have been pastoring faithfully in a little community for over thirty years.  In this remote corner of the island in this large busy world, this man plays guitar and sings before the lord.  He writes his own songs and they often have to do with Jesus.  He was sharing some of these songs for us and playing them on his guitar.

His second song was about Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane willingly choosing to suffer upon the cross for our sakes when the notes coming off of the guitar strings continued to float into the air but the words could not make it out of his mouth.  “Pardon me, pardon me,” his voice cracked out in Spanish while he closed his eyes trying to contain the emotion within.  His precious song resumed again and there we were with him, his heart laid bare before us.


There have been many more tears I have witnessed since being here on this island but here I have shared with you just four.  May all of us find the courage to live with our hearts laid bare and care enough about those around us to find others where their words get choked up and share with them in the silence that follows.

We are not all so different from one another.  Let us live with the awareness to still care.  To love others sometimes involves pain, but do not be afraid to open up again rather than shut down to avoid it.  We sometimes try to offer people answers and fix their problems but sometimes there aren’t answers or solutions to be offered and our presence is all we have to give; to sit with them in their pain or loss and offer our love.

Before Joel and I left to come to Puerto Rico on this trip I wrote that our hearts would be broken.  When our hearts get broken, it simply makes room for them to grow bigger.  Do not fear heartbreak.  Do not live life numb.  Don’t give up hope for tomorrow. God is worthy of our trust in today.

Thank you so much for the prayers and financial support that has made our trip to Puerto Rico possible.  We have felt the power of the Holy Spirit, felt the overwhelming compassion of the Father towards this island, and felt the nearness of Jesus to the people who are suffering here.  We continue to look to Him for our direction and leading.  Thank you and God Bless.

Advertisements

Frolicking with God in the Middle East

Joel and I have written ‘off the grid’ about our adventures in the Middle East for three months followed by spending the holidays in Puerto Rico and now we’re writing again to announce “We’re heading back!”

Middle-East

GOING BACK        That’s right, in the midst of our goodbyes with a plan to return in our hearts, the Lord orchestrated an open door for us.  While spending our last day in the old city of Jerusalem on Thanksgiving, God had a date prepared for us with one of the most prevalent Christian influences in Iraq.  20141127_122857Unplanned, we spent our morning with a man known as the Vicar of Baghdad or Canon Andrew White.  After exchanging hearts, he extended an invitation to join him in his efforts towards peace and reconciliation in the Middle East.  In tandem with this effort is relief towards the poor, the displaced, and the suffering.  Andrew started an organization called Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East that focuses on providing food and medical care, while also meeting with leaders on all side of the divides that are alive in the Middle East, aimed at restoring the essence humanity in their midst; the compassion that enables peace.

Dome_of_Rock,_Temple_Mount,_JerusalemJoel and I are possibly going to be involved in Israel, Jordan, and Kurdistan region in Iraq but we will see what God has planned for us as the time nears and as we arrive back on the ground there.  All we know is that God is inviting us in the overflow of his heart towards a very hurt and defensive region that he loves so much.  His glory and his image covers the land, and everyone is invited to participate in the heaven that Christ embodies toward all of humanity.  God is not waiting for human dispute to end before continuing in his celebration of who he is and what he’s done; we get to participate in his rejoicing.  God is not worried, intimidated, or uncertain of the path towards peace.  His love is mature and patient without end towards a people who are hurting and have experienced much pain.  Freedom is free and available to all.  Hopefully we will get to be a part of highlighting the way to that peace.

20141021_155734OUR PLANS NOW      Joel and I have another three months in America before our return.  We will be traveling across the country in our sporty Montero with stops in Ohio, Paducah, Cairo, Missouri, and more, on our way to northern California for two months.  We have a return trip scheduled towards May through Oregon, Minnesota, and back to South Carolina.  We look forward to seeing friends and family, meeting new faces, and seeing some of God’s beautiful creation along the way.

OPPORTUNITIES     We’re inviting you to come with and join us along the way!  So many people have been so encouraging, supportive, and have believed in us!  Our hearts are forever entwined with yours as you’ve sowed into our adventures with God, and this glorious journey continues!  I’ve attached some more information to our happy giving page of how you can sow into God’s plans for our lives in this season if you like.  One way we always need is prayer!  Thank you so much for responding to the spirits leading in basking our journey in prayer.  We couldn’t do this without the Christ in you and we love having your blessing and strength along for the ride.  Prayer matters and changes reality, isn’t our partnership with God awesome!?

John-Crowder1Here’s another opportunity we’re going to post on our announcement:  Do you want to come join us for a week?  A mutual friend of ours John Crowder is hosting a trip to come and help the Syrian refugees and minister to the church and the lost in that place.  Never worry about finances.  Ever.  Only say yes to the desires God births within your heart and he will make a way.  I only say this because when its him doing it, its worked for me every time he’s sent me.  We’d love to have you.  We’re going to be ministering in a town that Joel and I have visited and we’re super excited to partner with the church there as well.  It will be the adventure of a life time to be a part of what God is doing on the ground in the Middle East.  The deadline to sign up is March 1st.  Here’s the link… see you there.

10914773_10204854093448055_4632759467239081769_o10904563_10204853944044320_8913068849583065652_o10887448_10204854098688186_6459295241453753402_o10900119_10204854057447155_6302287287757499325_o

 

 

20141021_16043220141021_155321

With love and blessings always from us to you, thank you!

 

Relationship

Ya know how sometimes you listen to wisdom and it benefits you, and then there are other times when you don’t and you end up going down a mutli-year journey of not listening to wisdom only to find out that that truth is still true but now its burned into your heart through experience, and hopefully you won’t be too dense to forget it too quickly anytime soon?  This is a story of one of those.

 

Image

I think sometimes the most vulnerable times in my mind are sometimes when I spend time with the Lord.  Looking back I think over the course of some years I grew calloused in my personal interaction with the holy spirit in hopes to avoid some pit of confusion or condemnation, both of course concerning religious thoughts even, for example, theological uncertainty amidst opposing schools of thought in my mind such as, personal doubt based on insecurities in my performance before God, or contrarily my arrogance in entirely ignoring my spiritual performance before God believing only on that of his son not opening up myself for dialogue about it to protect myself from the afore mentioned accusations, along with the lack of spiritual aperture to be able to keep it all afoot in my mind, casting blame towards myself in that if I was really spiritual and tight with God I wouldn’t be having any of these intellectual roundabouts.

 

Unfortunately the affect of this disclarity and self-accusation was an almost removed protection in my prayer times with the Lord.  I came to take great comfort in the work of Christ and the declaration of his goodness over all of humanity because that gave peace to my soul and confidence before God.  I know this might sound peculiar and odd to some but it was almost as if I was positioning myself in comfort with a theological viewpoint rather than in God himself.

 

I took safety in my relating to someone else’s conceptual soundness of God’s nature and that worked for me for a time.  But as time passed I could feel unrest in the heart of me and I would think it’s because I’ve forgotten the truth:  the truth about who God is, the truth about who I am, and I would once again almost methodically remind myself of these truths to bring comfort.  While this is good, for me, it was still lacking.  It was as if I had lost relationship with God and positioned myself hiding behind the concept of his goodness for protection, which worked…but didn’t.  I was still missing out on the reason I was created.  Let me continue.

 

As time passed I grew in the freedom of these truths I was learning, both in identity and experience but my one on one relational interaction with the Lord had somehow faded.  I was no longer surviving on a tough mission field wrestling against principalities–because he called me to rest from that–and afterwards I guess there was recovering time to be had in my relationship with the Lord after what I had made our interaction out to be and the pendulum swung the opposite way.  If God wasn’t breaking strongholds and releasing strong prophetic acts in the earth and ministering powerful words through me to people and I needed a break from all that, what was left of he and I?  On the other side of that, if I’m at complete rest and nothing depends on me because he’s all sovereign and powerful and in control and I can completely rest in him in retirement what purpose remains left in the exchange?  To what purposes have I reduced our intimacy to?

 

And so with this ominous void of recreational communication in our relationship, the doubt about ‘us’ would come around all the while I knew with certainty my unshakeable position that Christ had obtained for me.  It was almost as if I always knew we were legally married but had lost intimacy of our enjoyment of one another as people and the shared experience of this life together, except as silent shipmates or something.  Don’t get me wrong, the gratefulness was always there, the wisdom was sometimes there, the comfort was there, but face time was still missing.  As I continue to live this life, more and more I’m discovering God relentless and unconditional goodness despite my end of participation in this relationship.

 

And so in this season in my relationship with him, his abounding goodness continued in full force.  It continued to confirm to my mind who he was, but it was almost as if there was a lack of connection of the heart.  And in this, life continues.  Can anybody relate to this?  I know I’ve heard at least one person say to me, ‘I remember what it felt like when I was experiencing the Lord more back then…what happened?’

 

Another contributing factor to this felt internal distance was pride on my part, even though I could see it was there.  Where the directions you keep looking lie to you and make you feel like you well off with God.  I already knew I knew nothing, I already comprehend my comparative nothingness in light of everything that it generous and extravagant being God himself.  I at least I thought I was well off enough in that line of thought. 

 

Image

Turns out God doesn’t care if I know right answers, even though he taught us them.  God doesn’t care if we think we know right answers when we obviously haven’t even barely begun to know anything really.  Although God continually relates to me as my teacher, and the disciples never graduated from being disciples, he doesn’t care that about my accumulated experiences with him.  He doesn’t care if I’m still being faithful and loving people well and whether I’m using the giftings he’s trained me to use.  All of this means nothing to him. 

 

He continues to be good, he continues to be faithful, he continues to show up on my behalf, but there’s so much more that what I’ve made it.  There so much less that matters when it comes to his heart than we seemingly radical believing empowered christains have made it out to be.

 

Relationships are just humility and dependency.  Independence–which is a reactionary weakness of mine that finds it way into my relationship with God is a false form of protection and comfort.  Thankfully he’s ballsy enough in our relationship to shake that for me.  Because our experience has taught us such, so often we try so hard for so long to do things on our own; even when it comes to our relationship with God, our interaction with him, and our expectations of ourselves as well as of him.  Sometimes this creates some aspects of a relationship with God that has become sterile, formal, ritualistic, or stale, even in the midst of powerful corporate experiences.

 

Interacting with God is not about work.  Let me say that one more time.  Interacting with God is not about work.  Relationship is just being yourself with someone.  Giving them enough credit to be honest with them without any pretense or predisposed concept of who they really are without giving them a chance to show you or tell you who they are.  God is really good at interacting with us as adults even when we’re acting like children.

 

Image

 

Humility involves recognition of need.  I think its one thing in your mind when you know that you could absolutely do nothing without God and then its another thing when humility is walked out in the way in which you dialogue with the Lord himself.  Spending time with him, being vulnerable, listening, communicating need, asking questions, being teachable, discussing the painful stuff and actually listening rather than reacting out of emotion–all these things flow naturally out of humility before God.

 

After my brief years of doing life with God I think I’ve come to appreciate a hearty dose of perseverance and steadfastness and resolve in protecting connectivity with the Lord regardless of anything; not letting discouragement or accusation or confusion or distraction keep me from coming and being with him.  He has always been and will always be for me.  Always.

 

Let’s move fears out of the equation.  Your relationship with God is not looming and threatening to end resulting in eternal destruction.  He’s not going to reject you.  He is good and will continue to be good.  There’s no whirlwind of justifications, excuses, memories or enemies.  But the wonderful part I’ve discovered about our existence in this journey of mine is that I was created to experience love.

 

Image

 

I was not created to know of it, I was not created to experience it at one time, I was not create for a one time event of salvation, I am created with a need to experience the ongoing relationship with a living God that expresses love for me and towards me in an active and ever present way and reality.  Nothing less will do in this life.  It’s okay to need to be loved.  He wants to spend time with me.  He wants it.  I still have things to be taught, I still have things to learn.  But even the purpose of learning is not about obtaining the answer, which is good, its about the experience of exchange.  For in the giving, is the receiving of love.

 

The most vital thing you can give someone your in relationship with is your attention.  Withholding it simply not doing relationship.  Relationships require time and space for them to happen.

 

I get to participate in union.  I get to choose it.  At one point God referred to Psalm 81:9 with me, ” You must never have a foreign God; you must not bow down before a false God.”  I asked him to clarify his point to me at the time and he said that’s when you ‘run to someone or somewhere else for comfort other than me.’   He’s so good at being our everything, he wants us to experience nothing disappointingly less than himself.

 

And so, his mercy’s are new every morning.  This was one of my journey’s that took too long to be reminded of but have found solace in his relentless pursuit of reminding me of what he and I are all about.  He’s loves loving me and it’s not some concept in order to form a workable theology around.  He enjoys relationship with me and his best for me is my daily face to face experience of that with himself.  It’s what I’ve been made for, its what I’ve been saved for, and it’s the joy of my waking reality.  My only strength is found in him.  Peace.

 

Image

 

Brave Dreaming…Brave Living

Quill-Paper-and-Wax

Joel:   We have the privilege of dreaming together with God. Now Religion has told us that we must sacrifice our dreams, to offer them up on the altar, die to them in order to “please” God. When in reality He was the one who placed those dreams inside of us in the first place. This lie of giving up your dreams has left many depressed and not really living their lives to the fullest but merely surviving. We encourage you to dare to dream those dreams again. I see many leaving jobs that they have been working in for many years because they thought they had to and opening up their own businesses and or going to school again to go after those things they have longed for. I see a people who will no longer dread getting up in the morning to go to their boring job but jumping out of bed with joy and a great expectation of what that day will look like.

Heather:   After working as a missionary giving “my all” to God, my career choice took an unexpected turn of events.  While living in the midst of illiteracy, a culture of addiction, lack of adequately involved parenting, and general violence, while doing a lot of “good work” Papa said, “Quit belittling the gift I’ve given you.”  In my hierarchy of perceived self-sacrifice I was “laying down everything” to do what I perceived to be God’s will.  Until he had a conversation with me.  I was invited by an individual to start painting.  It seemed like the world was ending in the midst of my decision on this one point.  I was picturing with God and I saw him through the eyes of a scared little daughter.  I was tightly holding a box of 64 crayons (well used and appreciated in my childhood–mine even had the sharpener built into the back) and Daddy reached out his hand to following his leading.  He was opening a door for me into the front of a building and was leading my hand to follow him and come inside.  I said yes.

I’m not sure if I would have had the faith to step out into starting my own business trusting God’s leading if I hadn’t already done that on the mission field for eight years without having “produced” anything.  But God made it undeniably clear that he desired my creativity and that somehow was important to him, well beyond my understanding.  I was even slightly offended by my lack of understanding on how this was at all practical or effective in any regards to the kingdom of God but I decided he knew what he was doing.

To this day, two and half years later, I paint.  I still don’t understand it, I still have never received training (I don’t have any concept of doing things wrong or right), I still don’t know why what I do is special, and I still often wonder how I should be doing things differently but in the meantime, I paint.  I don’t paint led by money, I paint led by inspiration; sometimes those to combine nicely, other times, I am left to wonder and trust at the fruit.  I find I am often challenged by the Holy Spirit–every project actually–always has something new I’ve never done before involved in it.  To be honest, that’s what keeps thing challenging and intriguing and inside when I’m going to approach a project.  I have to figure out the execution and that’s the part I enjoy of creation, the newness that I’ve never experienced before.  I guess it’s kind of like singing a new song to the Lord.  That’s a little of my story as an artist, a child, and a wonderer.