On Hold, Holding On

It’s not easy to raise a half a million dollars in our spare time.

That’s been our goal.

We have been pursuing mission work in Ghana for a year now. In the process, we have spent thousands of dollars, transferred Ken’s credentials back to the Wesleyans, spoken at more than a dozen churches, shared our story with thousands of people, attended two national conferences and three district conferences in two countries, and traveled over 7000 miles to do all of that. We have changed jobs, turned down other jobs, started less than ideal jobs because of their flexibility, and worked very long hours to save up money to continue the partnership process. We’ve spent all of our savings. We’ve done six weeks of training in partnership development, community health evangelism, tropical medicine. Ken has spent countless hours with Rosetta Stone in French. I’ve been approved for a grant to pay my PA school loans while on the field. God has healed my lungs. We have flown to Africa, heard their needs personally, developed a plan to address both spiritual and physical needs, and borne witness to the amazing things that God is doing there. We’ve built a lot of wonderful partnerships. We’ve faced misunderstanding, challenges, and rejection.

While we have made plenty of mistakes along the way, our heart has been clear: When it comes to Ghana, we are 100% willing to go.

We, however, cannot do it alone. A flock of partners has to be willing to join with us with financial and prayer support. Unfortunately, we are at 24% support after an exhausting year. We are spent financially, physically, and emotionally. Our target date of leaving by January 1st is drawing nearer, yet our financial total is not moving.

We are stuck.

We have come up short in the amount of money we need to raise in a timely manner. It seems like God’s answer for us is “not now.” We are humbled and thankful for those of you who have stepped forward to partner with us. We wish we had a thousand more like you. Literally.

It’s not easy to raise a half million dollars in our spare time.

My motto for years has been, “I would rather do something perilous for the sake of love than nothing for the sake of fear.”  I would rather take huge risks for the sake of God’s kingdom and come up short than live a life afraid to try. I want to stand before the throne of God someday and have a track record of 100% obedience, even if I don’t have a track record for 100% success.

After all, God does not call us to “success,” He calls us to obedience.

So, we are humiliated, tearful, and exhausted as we find ourselves needing to put our call to Africa on hold. We still feel drawn to the needs in Africa. They are very real. We still feel drawn to God’s awesome movement in Africa. It is also very real. If we could snap our fingers and make it happen, we would.

But we are not God.

And He is not snapping any fingers right now.

These words of Oswald Chambers resonate with me,

“Certainty is the mark of the commonsense life– gracious uncertainty is the mark of the spiritual life. To be certain of God means that we are uncertain in all our ways, not knowing what tomorrow may bring. This is generally expressed with a sigh of sadness, but it should be an expression of breathless expectation. We are uncertain of the next step, but we are certain of God.”

So with breathless expectation, we wait. We wait for God to show us what our next chapter will be, how to move forward, how to let go, how to hold on.

Our faith in God and the story He is writing in our lives is unshaken.

Why Are We Ghana Go to Ghana?

We have had a whirlwind of a week — I attended a week of training on Community Health Evangelism, then scurried off to Nashville for the Alive Wesleyan Women’s conference, attended a funeral of my former boss, had the chance to share at our former home church in Hermitage, and talk to hundreds of friends in between.

I’ve realized that for some of you who are jumping into our story at this point, you may have missed a few a few details about what God has called us to. So for those of you jumping in at this point, WELCOME!
Here’s what God has asked of us:
We’re moving to Tamale, Ghana, hopefully in mid-2016 to be missionaries for a three year term.
 I will be focusing on the Northern Ghana region, developing a program called Community Health Evangelism (CHE).  CHE focuses on creating sustainable development programs in developing areas. The community itself identifies its needs, and I will train trainers to help the community solve problems like: poor soil, lack of economic opportunities, infant mortality, malnutrition, illiteracy, and preventable diseases. We focus on solutions that can be found in the local community rather than creating dependency on Western resources. Scriptural principles are appropriately incorporated into the curriculum. (For example, when we look at ways to improve soil, we will talk about the parable of the sower and having “good soil” in our hearts.)  Because the community chooses the development projects, the leaders, and the workers, the community quickly achieves sustainability.
Ken will be working with pastors in Northern Ghana and in regions of French speaking Africa, where the Gospel is expanding exponentially, and church infrastructure is needed. There is also a need for pastors to be raised up and trained by a French-fluent church leader, which will be Ken. Ken hopes to facilitate the empowerment of Haitian nationals to become missionaries in French-speaking Africa, which is a new focus of Global Partners: sending missionaries from one mission field to another.
Addie and Palmer will be attending an international school started by Wycliffe translators, and will be educated in four different languages to help them become effective linguists. We are all excited about this, given the experiences God has already allowed in their lives. They are also very interested in helping other children from becoming orphans by helping to provide medical care alongside me.  Addie and Palmer know in their hearts that God has called them back to Africa to bring Jesus’ love and healing.
We hope to leave for language school (either in Canada or in Ivory Coast) in January 2016, but we have to reach full funding before we leave. Because we will be the first Global partners missionaries in Northern Ghana, we have to raise operating expenses in addition to start-up expenses. We have a tall task, but the work of God in Northern Ghana and Western Africa is a tremendous financial opportunity for investment. To achieve our financial goals, we need 70 partners who are willing to contribute $100/month for the next four years. We also need 400 prayer partners who are committed to praying for us at least once per week for the next four years.
We know that God not only calls us, but we know that He has called people across the United States and Canada to Partner with us as well. We’d love for you to pray about what role God might want you to play in what God is doing in Ghana.  If you feel that God is calling you to be a part of what He wants to do in Northern Ghana and French-speaking Africa, click here!

Double Dutch Timing

Tick, tick, tick, tick. The ropes rhythmically drummed against the pavement.
Cinderella, dressed in yelladouble dutch 2

Went upstairs to kiss a fella

Made a mistake

Kissed a snake

How many doctors did it take?

There weren’t many sports that I was good at as a kid.

Okay, there weren’t any.

But I did love to jump rope, especially double dutch jump rope.

Downtown Atkinson Nebraska, as it looks from near where my house was.

Downtown Atkinson Nebraska, as it looks from near where my house was.

Every day of 4th grade recess, you’d find me jumping rope on the sidewalk of Atkinson Elementary school with Trixy, Amy, Trisha, and Janelle. Boys were not allowed. That would just be gross.

In spite of the fact that jumping required coordination, I was actually pretty good at it –after a few hours of practice.

But jumping wasn’t the only difficult part of double dutch jumprope, the ability of the rope turners to swing the rope in a timely manner was critical. If they had poor rhythm, or didn’t come in on time, there was no way for the jumper to jump. Again, because this required coordination, it took practice and effort to achieve.

The hardest part of double dutch jump rope wasn’t the jumping, or the turning. It was getting into the spinning ropes. I had to wait for just the right moment, while the far rope was cresting at the top, to jump into the whirling ropes. Miss it by a fraction of a second, the ropes tangled around my feet, and my turn was over.

Thirty years later, I can still vividly envision the sound of the ropes rhythmically hitting the pavement, the ropes cresting, waiting for the perfect moment to jump.

Becoming a missionary is similar. Knowing when to jump is critical.

Until I was knee-deep in the process, I never knew how much work it took to become a missionary.

We have courses we need to take, both online and in person, immigration issues to address for our three different nationalities, speaking engagements every weekend, preparing to our house for sale, completing Rosetta Stone, deciding what to keep, give away, or take with us, determining where to go to language school and how we’re going to live while doing so, determining an educational plan for our children, and on and on. And then there is the matter of raising $102,000/year in pledges for the next four years, as well as a startup fund (or approximately $440,000 total).

Getting to the mission field is a lot of work, before we can even get there. We had been managing to have Ken work full time on getting us to the mission field (unpaid) by dipping into our savings a bit each month. We pressed hard to get through the application, orientation, vision trip, fundraising training, and initial partnership building as fast as possible. I believe we may have even set a record for getting through the process. We knew we cannot be paid for our work getting to the mission field until we are at 50% funding.

We are at almost 20%.

And our savings just ran out.

We find ourselves staring at the ropes of making it to the mission field.

Ken has gotten a job at Chick-Fil-A, because he cannot take a pastoral position since we travel every weekend.  He has gotten a job because we are not yet at 50% funding. But getting to 50% funding just got immeasurably more difficult because Ken is working full time, and I’m working my usual 80+ hours per week. Neither of us have paid vacation time.

We certainly don’t mind hard work. We rather enjoy working hard. But we cannot get to the mission field without devoting many hours of work each week to get there, and we are out of time, and money.

So we’ve come to the point where we need God to show up in a big way. We are spent. And at the end of ourselves is usually when God shows up.

We are confident that God didn’t just call us to GO to the mission field in Ghana. He has called others to SEND us. God never issues a call without the means to fulfill it.

In the game of missionary double dutch jump rope, we are waiting for our time to jump in. We have committed our lives and possessions for the sake of the Gospel in Ghana. We are looking for some consistent rope swingers who are committed to invest in what God is doing in Ghana as well. Without the commitment and work of both the rope swingers and the jumpers, we’ll never get to the mission field.

Many of you have asked when you should start giving. The answer is simple: Now.

Once we get to 50% funding, Ken will be able to go back to full-time preparation for the mission field.  The need is urgent, both here, and in Ghana.

To get to 50% funding:

We need 30 individuals to promise $100/month; or

We need 10 churches or individuals to promise $300/month

We know that the call on your life is every bit as important as the call on ours. We know you don’t know exactly how you’re going to do it. That’s okay. We know precisely how it feels to depend on God for money we just don’t have.

We all know a God who has the resources.

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen” Ephesians 3:20-21

If you are ready to get in the game, and swing some ropes, click here.

The Radiant Bride

(A guest post by Ken)

Someday, Lord willing, I will walk Addie down the aisle.Jewett (12)

Me.

Her Dad.

What a strange thought. And it came out of nowhere. I was alone and driving in the car.

I don’t know when. Or where. But someday I will take my little girl for one last walk and then her heart will belong to another.

She will be radiant.

Her hair will be perfect. Robin will see to that.

Her dress will be fabulous (and expensive).

But the honor of walking her down the aisle will fall to me… wow! What have I done to deserve this?

Rosa (2)She was born in a far off land to another family who loved her and tried to care for her as best they could. She came to us… wild and afraid. Those early days were long and hard. But love to hold and grew into something unique and beautiful.

On her wedding day, Addie’s eyes will be on a young man at the front of the sanctuary who will be wearing a rented tuxedo and scared to death. And all eyes will be on her. Deservedly so. After all she is… perfect… just as her Heavenly Father intended her to be.  The road to that sanctuary may have been a bumpy one. But on that day, the past will be forgotten and we will simply bathe in the beauty of the present. Together.

Knowing me, I will try to say something profound or memorable, but all that I will be able to say will be “you are so beautiful” or “your mother and I are so proud of you”. But that will be enough.

There will be tears and smiles as we are overwhelmed by emotions too powerful to describe. Our beautiful Congolese angel is flying away.

Any pain, frustration or heart-ache will have faded into distant memory. All that will remain will be a strong, mature and precious woman beaming with the joy of young love.

My daughter has given me a fresh glimpse of what it means to be a Christian.

To be the Church.

The bride of Christ.

The words are not new to me, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. ” Thanks to Addie, this amazing little princess, who faces the challenges of each day with reckless abandon, I now have a better understanding of the Apostle Paul’s meaning.

Someday I will be the Father of the Bride. I will be beaming (and broke). But today I am also part of the Bride of Christ. And while the simple thought of walking my little girl down the aisle to be married bring me to tears, my emotions pale in comparison to how God the Father views the Church, the Bride of Christ.

The Church is far from perfect. Be it is loved and therein lies its true worth.

He has called us.

Redeemed us.

And we are loved.

The wedding day of Jesus and His Bride cost the Father dearly. His one and only Son. But so great was His love for us that He paid the price.

And someday God the Father will march us down the aisle so that we may spend eternity with Christ.

The Danger of Daffodils

Daffodil

The perky heads of yellow have sprung from the ground, signaling the end of winter. A new season has arrived — days are getting longer and warmer. The arctic winds of winter have shifted to bring spring showers, awakening the dead earth back to life. Daffodils are the first sign of that annual renewal of life.

 

For the last 12 years, daffodils have been a danger sign to me. They signaled the coming of spring pollen. Every year, when the tree and flower pollen spikes, my lungs go into lockdown.

 

Every.

 

Single.

 

Year.

 

Ken and I started celebrating Valentine’s day at other times of the year because me getting sick was so predictable. Every year, I’ve been on steroids. Many years, I’ve ended up in the hospital.

 

Daffodils signify danger.

 

So when I saw the first signs of the daffodils of spring, I gasped.

 

And I exhaled.

 

Easily.

 

I chuckled to myself as I am reminded that I have been set free from the chains of asthma. Even the cough I picked up in Africa in 2012 is now gone. I’ve been off of asthma medications for over 6 months now, and when I saw my physician this week he said aloud, “It’s the strangest thing.” I wasn’t just a typical asthmatic, I was the worst kind of asthmatic. I took the monthly injection Xolair in 2013 to the tune of $3500/month, and it didn’t touch my asthma. A day or two without my daily inhaled medicines would send me into gasps of suffocation.

 

When Ken and I prayed for my healing as confirmation that we should move to Africa, it was as if we really didn’t expect God to heal me. Though we were certain God could heal me, we weren’t sure He would.

 

As a medical provider, my entire job is, well, trying to help people God chooses not to heal. I pray for my patients every day as I travel to their homes. I have prayed for long lists of health requests from Sunday school classes, small groups, academic settings, and more.

 

I spend my days immersed in what God is seemingly not doing.

 

I am learning that God’s purposes in illness are not always about the cure. He could have healed my asthma 12 years ago, when I first asked. But He didn’t. He waited 12 frustrating years and over a hundred thousand dollars later. Illness did not merely exist in my life so He could heal me from it, but to teach me through it. I had had to learn to find joy, when I could not breathe well enough to walk across the house to get a glass of water. I learned to embrace the struggle as a part of how God was shaping me. I learned to love God not in spite of my physical ailment, but because He had chosen me to discipline in love through my illness. And I ultimately had to offer it as my only request to God before we moved to Ghana. I have often asked Ken, “If I wouldn’t have had asthma for 12 years, would we know for sure God wanted us to move to Ghana?”

 

While God did heal my lungs, and I am so thankful for the confirmation we needed to know that His plan would be found in Ghana, I am even more thankful for the lessons He taught me on those long days of suffocation.

 

I wear a heavy cloak of burden these days for all of my patients because of the illnesses that they bear. I carry the burden for our prayer partners who are suffering from illness in themselves or their family. But if what is true in my own life is true for others, an absence of healing does not mean an absence of God’s presence and guidance. Perhaps rather than praying only for my patient’s physical healing from illness, I should pray for their spiritual healing through illness.

 

My work in medicine must balance what God is seemingly not doing in the physical realm, with what He is doing in the spiritual realm. And He calls me to be a healer in both.

 

John Piper in What Jesus Demands from the World says, “He did not die to make this life easy for us or prosperous. He died to remove every obstacle to our everlasting joy in making much of him. And he calls us to follow him in his sufferings because this life of joyful suffering for Jesus’ sake (Matt. 5:12) shows that he is more valuable than all the earthly rewards that the world lives for. If you follow Jesus only because he makes life easy now, it will look to the world as though you really love what they love, and Jesus just happens to provide it for you. But if you suffer with Jesus in the pathway of love because he is your supreme treasure, then it will be apparent to the world that your heart is set on a different fortune than theirs. This is why Jesus demands that we deny ourselves and take up our cross and follow him.”

 

Daffodils will now always remind me of delighting in God, whether in danger or disease or deliverance. And this year, I am celebrating what God has taught me, as I embrace the arrival of spring, with every. single. breath.

Why I Don’t Need Diversity in My Life

I do not need diversity in my life to feel better about myself.

  • I need people with dementia in my life, so I can learn to love without any expectation of return tomorrow.
  • I need minorities in my life, to open my eyes to the white privilege I unknowingly enjoy.
  • I need the poor in my life to teach me to value what is eternal more than what is temporal.
  • I need children in my life to help me to laugh, love, and forgive easily.
  • I need LGBT people in my life, to help me comprehend the sting of hateful words like “abomination” in an area of personal pain.
  • I need chronically homeless people in my life, to help me understand how much work it takes to survive homelessness and unemployment.
  • I need Christians from other cultures in my life, to help me distinguish between what is Biblical and what is political.
  • I need people with disabilities in my life to help me see the benefits of a little patience, a little accommodation, and a lot of hard work.
  • I need undocumented immigrants in my life to help me comprehend how unjust laws have created systematic discrimination and abuse.
  • I need Muslims in my life to remind me of the pain of being judged as an individual based on the actions of others.
  • I need patients in my life whom I cannot cure to remind me that I am not the Ultimate Healer.

To dismiss and dislike those whom I do not know is tempting. It is much easier to love and fill my life with those who look like me, think like me, believe like me. I need people from diverse backgrounds in my life to recognize what I am not.

You do too.

The beauty of the gospel is that God demonstrated that He loves us, not because of what is in us, but because of what is in Him. Likewise, I need others in my life who are different than me to learn to love, not because of who they are, but because of who Jesus is.

Revelation 7:9-10 “After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice:

‘Salvation belongs to our God,

who sits on the throne,

and to the Lamb.’”

If the picture of Heaven is diversity, I need more in my life in order to for His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Who do you need in your life?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Making Room for a Miracle

Rose_and_EmmanuelWe were completely caught off guard Monday evening, August 1, 2011. We were expecting to be in the paperwork process of adoption for several more weeks before we could even be eligible for a referral. My heart dropped in my chest as I read the email we were unprepared for — medical information, pictures, demographics of a 3 year old girl and a 4 year old boy. The chubby-cheeked girl was clearly angry in the pictures, and the boy tore at his clothes in grief. It was the moment they were turned in to the orphanage, and they were broken. And we were being asked to adopt them.
In order to demonstrate our intent to adopt, we had 6 weeks to come up with $17,000. With sinking realization, I knew we just didn’t have it. We actually didn’t have any money because we had spent all of our savings to start the adoption process and were living from paycheck to paycheck. We had no way to even get it.

I turned to Ken and said, “Unless it starts raining money from heaven, we are going to have to turn these kids down, raise money, and then accept the next referral that comes our way.”

I am quite certain that God chuckled at my words.

Little did we know, checks had already been written. Contributions had already been sent. Without saying a word to anyone, we had $5000 given to us in the first 24 hours after that email. God was sending rains of generosity through people who were sensitive enough the spirit to give without even being asked. Dozens more followed in the next few weeks, and there are hundreds of people who were able to be a part of making beauty from ashes in the lives of those two broken children.

Jewett (43)
And the kids in those pictures are sitting in the living room of our house in North Carolina watching cartoons.

When we started out the adoption process, we had no idea how we were going to pay for it. The only thing we did know was that God was asking us to, and that we would need to have faith that He would provide as we were obedient.

When we were adopting, if we had asked ourselves, “How much can we afford to spend on adoption?” we never would have adopted. We had to step out in faith, knowing that God would provide what we needed.

Without the need, we never would have seen God provide the miracle. 

Faith promise giving is exactly like that. Faith promise giving is not looking at a budget and asking, “How much can I afford?” but looking at God and asking, “How much do you want me to give?” In fact, if you can afford to give, faith really isn’t involved. Faith steps in and says, “Without you, God, I cannot make this happen. I am trusting you to provide.”

 

Without a need, God has no room perform a miracle.

 

When Ken lived in Lower Sackville, Nova Scotia as a young single pastor, there came a day where he was down to his last $40. He had pledged to sponsor a child through Compassion, and it was either the child that was going to eat, or Ken. No one would have blamed Ken for calling up Compassion and cancelling his sponsorship. He really couldn’t afford it on a part-time pastor’s salary.

But Ken wrote the check to Compassion and trusted God to provide, or to lose some weight in the next week.

As Ken was leading youth group that night, he heard some rustling going on upstairs at the church — they were having a board meeting, he was told. After youth group, Ken went upstairs, and found the members of the church had planned a grocery shower for Ken. There was a whole table of food — cereals, soups, crackers, pasta — more than Ken could eat in a week!

God must have smiled as Ken chose to write the check to Compassion. The blessing was already on its way.

Without the need, he never would have seen God perform the miracle.

I know there are many of my friends who would love to support our work in Ghana. We are so blessed by people who are praying for us and cheering us on. There are some of you who read this blog whom I’ve never met before, who are drawn to what God is calling us to do.

I’d ask you to consider one thing: Don’t ask if you can afford to support God’s work in Ghana. Ask what God wants to provide through you.  Would you consider putting yourself in a position of need, so God can work miracles through you?

Without a need, God cannot perform a miracle.

Is it time for you to make room for a miracle? 

Hungry

Being back in medical practice has been so wonderful in so many ways, and so difficult in others. I love interacting with patients, caring for those who can no longer care for themselves, and bringing God’s love through the practice of medicine. The paperwork is horrific. I spend far more time doing paperwork than I do seeing patients. My decisions for care get overruled on a daily basis by someone behind a desk somewhere who doesn’t hold any kind of medical degree. And my patients suffer the consequences in front of me. I am the one who sits face-to-face with patients, wrestling through their problems with them.
Medicine has always been meant to be practiced in the context of relationship. For centuries, medicine was one of the primary ministries of the church. We still see remnants of this in our Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, and Catholic hospitals. It really wasn’t until less than a century ago that the church turned over the ministry of medicine to be practiced as a business. Insurance companies and the government dictate the way we practice, and I feel we’ve lost an important part of the practice of medicine when we’ve removed the context of ministry. I feel the dissonance on a daily basis.
I think our we often practice our faith without the context of relationship as well. Scripture talks about our relationship with God as something we should crave, not consult.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” Matthew 5:6 NIV

“Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.” Luke 6:21 NIV

The trouble is that hunger is not a very comfortable situation to be in. I’ve often thought about wanting to hunger and thirst after God as something good, something pleasant. But hunger, by its very nature, is painful. There’s a big difference between a desire and hunger. Hunger goes beyond desire to a physical discomfort of craving. A piece of cinnamon and sugar toast sounds good to me right now. One could even say that I DESIRE to have a piece. But am I hungry? No. No hunger pangs. No stomach rumbling. But if I eat the desired cinnamon and sugar toast, I actually shortcut hunger.

Ken Gire speaks on the subject of spiritual hunger in The Reflective Life. “Because hunger hurts, though, we try to take the edge off it in any way we can. One of those ways is with religious activity. And that can include the activity of reading books, listening to tapes, or going to seminars. Through these things, which are often very good things, even nourishing things, we are fed the experiences of others. But they are not our experiences. I can read a psalm about David crying out from a cave in the wilderness, and I should read that psalm, but it is not my psalm. It is not my psalm because it is not my cave, not my wilderness, and not my tears.”

My pain. My cave. My wilderness. These create a true hunger. There’s no easy substitution for hunger.

In a world of self-sufficiency, my faith can be hampered by shortcutting hunger. Do I snack on the spiritual experiences of others, rather than working through and learning from my own? Probably more often than I’d like to think. In the same way that eating at the first desire for food without true hunger creates overweight people, feeding off of the experiences of others without allowing true hunger for God creates overfed Christians.

How do I create true hunger for righteousness rather than snacking on the experiences of others? Many times I find myself in stages of life in which I tangibly feel the need for God’s healing or provision. In my middle-class North American culture, that’s often not the case.

Nowhere in Scripture does it say, “Blessed are the self-sufficient, for they will not annoy God with their requests,” or “Blessed are those who do not need to depend on God, for God does not love His children.”
I think at times we have to carefully and prayerfully create vacuum of need that only God can fill, by stretching ourselves outside of what is spiritually, physically, or financially comfortable. Maybe by moving into a neighborhood that needs a spiritual light. Perhaps by supporting a ministry financially when we’re not sure how God will provide for our needs. Maybe by engaging in spiritual disciplines, like fasting, that remind us of our hunger for God. Perhaps by attempting something that without God’s help would be a sure failure.
Our faith is best practiced in the context of relationship, and in a culture where self-sufficiency is applauded, sometimes I need to be reminded that it is the hungry, not the spiritual snackers, who will be filled.

The Day I Said Yes

campground

The Wesleyan tabernacle as it stands on the campgrounds outside Atkinson, Nebraska today.

The summer sun beat down on the roofs of the Nebraska Wesleyan District campground, with its white-washed structures randomly planted among the cornfields and cow pastures, surrounded by country dirt roads and barbed wire fences. Thousands of dogday cicadas softly hummed their weeee-oooooooo-weeeee-oooooo, welcoming the human intruders to their rural domain. Sand burrs lay hidden in the sandy soil waiting to impale bare feet. Any grass lay trampled by the feet of dozens of children gathered for church camp.

The morning breakfast of pancakes and syrup with a side of canned peaches had been consumed with a side of Tang, and the iron bell clanged its beckoning call to chapel. The air was musty and humid in the cement-floored tabernacle, which stood boarded up against the elements most of the year, until summer camp rolled around. Now it was filled with pre-pubescent mischief and energy, anxious to get on with the activities for that day.

The day I said yes.

Fowler familyI was sitting on the aisle at the end of the wooden pew in the right half of the building, a half a dozen rows back from the front of the platform. The breeze blew in lightly from the screenless windows through my permed towhead hair. My feet squirmed in the sandy dirt on the concrete floor beneath my feet. The pastor was preaching a compelling message, and though my eyes were fixed on his polyester baby blue plaid suit, I could not focus on his words.

Someone else was speaking to me.

“I want you to say yes, no matter what,” the Holy Spirit whispered.

“Yes, to what?”

“I want you to say yes, no matter what.”

The words reminded me of when Moses asked the name of the One who spoke from the burning bush.

“I Am Who I Am.” While obviously a person cannot tell God that is a lousy answer, I’m sure that Moses did a little shaking in his sandalless feet when he realized that was actually the answer God expected Moses to give to Pharoah. The Pharoah with the temper, and a grudge.

If I were in Moses’ bare feet, I would have thought, “Are you trying to get me killed by making me into a smart-mouth, ‘I Am Who I Am’?” Thankfully, Moses chose his words more wisely at that time.

“I want you to say yes to me, no matter what,” the Holy Spirit pressed again as if the wind itself were carrying the words through me.

“Jesus, I already have you in my heart, I don’t know what more you want from me,” I protested.

“For the rest of your life, I want you to say yes to me, no matter what. I have great plans for you, but I need you to always tell me yes.”

By the time the pastor gave the altar call, I was running for the front of the altar to pray with hot tears of conviction streaming down my face. My counselor, Tracy, followed me. I felt awful for her because I was sobbing so hard, all I could say was, “I just want to do what Jesus says.”

That day, I committed my life to Christ in what I now know is called sanctification — the moment when God got all of me. I had already experienced all of God’s forgiveness and love, but it took years before I gave God the right to overrule any of my decisions. That day, I knew that if God made His will clear, I would follow it, no matter what.

I was not saying yes to a project.

I was not saying yes to a profession.

I was not saying yes to a pursuit.

I was saying yes to a Person.

Jesus didn’t want my affection, my talents, or my plans, He wanted my YES.

He wants your YES too.

When I tell people today about God asking us to move to Ghana, I’m always a bit surprised to hear people say, “Oh, Africa? I could NEVER do that!” Saying “never” to God is not an option. For me, the choice was made more than 30 years ago on a sandy concrete floor in the front of a musty tabernacle.

The choice was made the day I said yes.

 

“But Jesus said to him, ‘No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.'” — Luke 9:62 NASB