Saturday, June 20, 2015

Serving Among the Messy...(heading back to East Africa)

Today marks a little over 2 weeks until I hit the skies again for another African adventure.  I'm in the phase where I wonder if all that needs to get accomplished will get done before my flight leaves, so obviously procrastination is the best method at this point! ;-)  I have a research paper for my summer class that needs to be completed before I's due the day I return.  I need to collect supplies and anything else my little heart desires and get everything organized and packed before I leave for our yearly family beach trip in just over a week.  I need to organize with friends who's bringing me where, when I'm dropping the dog off, where my car will be, and the like.  I need booster vaccinations (that's scheduled for tomorrow morning...don't stress Mom!).  I also could use to study for my class final, which I'm taking a little early (while at the beach) to protect against the unpredictable internet access of Africa!  All of this must get done while somehow working overtime and trying to stick to this diet and exercise plan I've been committed to!  Basically it's a lot...

But, none of that is why I'm writing.  Although, if you're interested in donating baby supplies for me to bring with me...head over to Facebook for details...

It was a few weeks ago in church that I feel like God revealed to me why I feel so at home in Africa.  We are studying through the book of Acts and have gotten to Acts 11.  The start of this chapter (1-18) recounts the story of the apostles questioning Peter on why he was associating with Gentiles (non-Jewish men).  In this story, we see that God did not mean salvation only for those of Jewish decent, he was bringing "repentance that leads to life" (verse 18) to all people, even those the Jews of the time would have considered unclean by the law.  We learn several things in this story, but the truth that resonated most with me was:
We can't stand in God's way!  We must learn to get comfortable with the messiness of lost people, those who don't seem worthy of our time or love, or even of God's saving.  Because, Jesus came to save ALL peoples!

Here are a few questions that were posed that Sunday:
~ What level of lostness are you comfortable with?
~ How messy is too messy for you?
~ Who is not worth serving?

The point...God is calling me (and you) to get comfortable with the lostness of messy people I don't consider worth serving.

What I realized was, in Africa...among the messiness and is easier for me to see God at work, to choose to serve His people, and to get comfortable with messy.  Maybe because there was no other option, maybe because God gave out grace in abundance, or maybe because a part of me was formed to serve there...what I do know is that Christians aren't called to live separate lives, we are called to live in and among the mess.

While Jesus was on Earth everything unclean he touched became clean...and he remained clean as well.  This is the opposite of the law, which said when clean touches unclean, it becomes unclean.  Think about the leppers, those dead, and even the woman who touched his garments...each became clean (healed).  Jesus also consistently associated with the lost and lowly...he lived in the mess.

For some reason, for me it is easier to push myself in this area overseas.  In my own backyard, I find it easy to remain outside of the mess and forget who I'm called to serve.  We find a comfort zone and settle into it.  But, for me, despite my LOVE for Africa and it's people, I'm still pushed outside my comfort zone while walking the streets there...and find indescribable joy in serving from that place.

When asked what I was most excited about for this adventure?  I said, "Just being back on African soil!"  I don't have a spelled out roll this time around, but I do know my heart is alive when I'm dirty, sweaty, and surrounded by children who are being raised in poverty to know a God who cares about each hair on their head and will be their provider in more tangible ways than you and I will ever know.  My hope is that I wake each morning and ask God to direct my steps, to give me the words to say, and the love to share.  May I be a conduit of God's love in a small way by choosing to live outside my comfort zone, among the mess!
And may that translate into my life when I return...

East Africa here I come!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Back in Africa: Mozambique

A country almost 2 times the size of California.  It is in southeast Africa right above South Africa as I tell so many people when I get the blank stare.  Portuguese speaking.  A place plagued by civil war until 1992.  Was once the poorest country in the world, now 14th.  AIDS, tuberculosis, malnutrition, malaria, and so many other diseases are a part of daily life.  Life is hard and death is normal.

My home for 2 years.  A place that will always have a part of my heart.  A people I did my best to love and grew to appreciate.  Babies and children I have personal relationships with who are growing up without a family.  The place that taught me to be a nurse and a mother.  Teenagers who are pursuing Jesus while raising the children around them.  Women and men who sacrifice time with their own families to love, discipline, and parent orphans.  A people who seek the Lord at every turn and trust Him for their most basic needs.  Joyful worship through trials.  Dark skin and gorgeous white smiles.  Sweaty days with sand ground in your feet.  Diapers, hugs, fevers, nap time, assessments, toys, smiles, diseases, kisses, drool, medicine, joy, love, Jesus.

Mozambique will always be more than a country of poverty to me.  It was my home, and it has a piece of me.  My time there formed my thoughts and my heart.

God made us to form relationships.  He gave Adam, Eve.  We are not meant to go through life alone.  And when I lived in Mozambique I did just that, formed lasting relationships.

As we drove up from the airport, I was distracted by conversation in the car and taking in all the changes on the roads and at the center where I lived.  I really had no idea what seeing everyone again would be like...  Then we rounded the corner to the playground and I looked up.  I recognized every face I saw.  Not just recognized, I knew every face I saw.  I knew their names, I knew their personalities, I knew how they acted when they're sick.  God hand picked the perfect group of children to come running up to the car, yelling my name, Mana Meghann (in only the way my Mozambican kiddos can).  I hugged them all, called them by name, and asked how they were.  It was just like coming home to family after being gone for a long time.  It was comfortable.  We knew each other.  And I was blessed.

The next 5 days filled me up.  I ran around and played with the little boys and girls (now 4-6 years old)...who lived in the Baby House when I was their nurse.  I blew bubbles and sang with these sweet little ones.  I sat in the sand with the babies and cuddled.  I joyfully had conversations with so many workers who filled my day to day life before.  I took a trip to the hospital to see a sweet girl we all care dearly for who was extremely sick.  I went to church and even made it through greetings in front of the congregation in Portuguese!  I dropped by the clinic daily to check in on the nurses I once led.  I hugged Aurora's neck many times a day (the Baby House nurse I worked with side by side), encouraging her that her work is important and doesn't go unnoticed.  I played games and ate meals with missionaries who were my family.  I got cooking lessons from one of the youth.  I talked for hours with those I love.  I walked to the local market to buy my veggies.  I ventured into the community to visit one of my friends who no longer works for the ministry.  I laid down each night full and tired.

I'm so thankful for the time I had.  It was a blessing.  I never expected to see so many of my babies, growing, healthy, and developing.  When I left Mozambique 2 years ago, I had no idea when or if I'd be back.  And I certainly did not know which children would still be there or how they would be doing.  But, overwhelmingly they are thriving.  They are eating full meals, sleeping in warm beds, going to school, and receiving medical care.  Things that are not reality for so many in Mozambique.  But, most importantly they are being raised to know their heavenly Father's love.  The worship and joy through circumstance will always leave me speechless and in love with my Father.

In 1 Corinthians 3, Paul talks about planting seed.  "I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.  So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.  He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor.  For we are God's fellow workers.  You are God's field, God's building."  The whole time I spent being blessed by my relationships in Mozambique and forming new ones, the same truth rang true.  In my time as a nurse there, some days I planted and some days I watered.  "But God gave the growth."  And what a huge blessing it was to get to see the harvest of God's growth.

Before I left, I wrote,  "Countless times I've seen a sweet child and wondered about all my kiddos over in are they?  where are they?  what are they doing?  is someone loving them?  is someone caring for them?"  God answered these questions with a resounding, "Trust Me."  My sweet children are thriving because He is caring for them.  They are safe because He loves them more than I could dream of.

So I left full.  I left hopeful.  I left joyful.

I left in love with my Father because He first loved me.


Monday, June 24, 2013

Back to Africa it is...

Hello All...
Wow, it's been a long time since I sat down to write a blog post.  Forever it feels like.  There have been countless nights at work...caring for patients at the hospital.  Countless learning moments...where God rocked my world in a tiny second and showed me who He is or who I am in Him.  Countless times I've seen a sweet child and wondered about all my kiddos over in are they?  where are they?  what are they doing?  is someone loving them?  is someone caring for them?  Countless times I've asked...what was it all for?  why did you send me?  what did I learn?  how did I change?  Countless moments of pure fun and joy with family and new and old friends alike.  It's been two years.  TWO YEARS.  I have lived in the States for two years this week.  And I'm returning to Africa next week...(just for two weeks...for all those who's hearts just hit the ground)
Here's how it all began...
I've been hearing about a family (Will and Kelly Rodes...and their son Liam) from my church in South Carolina for a long while now.  They felt called to the mission field and ended up leaving their jobs and everything and everyone familiar and following God's call (sound familiar???).  Anyway, they ended up going to the mission school run by Iris Ministries (yes that's who I served with in Moz).  So, people keep telling me about them.  Do I know them?  Nope, I've never met them.  But LOTS of people ask me, and proceed to tell me their story.  Every time I'd excitedly say...that's so great!  I can't wait to see what they learn from all the kiddos and people in Moz and where God ends up placing them!  Next thing I knew, I was hearing that they were headed for Kenya to open a children's home.  And that their first step was to take in 20 babies, birth to 2 years.  At this point I made the comment to a friend at work, we should go help!  I'm sure they could use some nurses to get things up and running!  It was one of those times you jokingly say something, but God quickly tugs at year heart will go.
I left it at that.
Next thing I know, I'm reading this article written by a Clemson guy, Edward Phillips.  It's all about this family.  Really??  It was on my facebook news feed.  Truth.  The whole time I'm reading, I'm trying to figure out how I know this guy.  Why are we "friends"?  After I finish reading, I did a little detective work/stalking.  Yes, we went to Clemson for a bit of time together.  We even went to the same church (the same church the Rodes went to).  We both volunteered in the student ministry, Fuse.  Maybe that's it?  Maybe I met him in the mix of hundreds of volunteers?  At this moment my hearts says...just e-mail him.  What can it hurt?  Tell him you're on board with the vision of this children's home...which is called Kimbilio and willing to help out in any way you can.  So I did just that!
I get an e-mail back within 30 minutes...Edward knows exactly why we're "friends".  He tells me he heard about my work in Moz through a friend (a nurse who had heard me speak at Clemson when I came home the first time).  He had friended me on facebook and sent me a message explaining about Kimbilio and asking me to be involved.  Yep...I remember that message and there it is in my inbox...unanswered.  Oops.  No, seriously, I remember the message but I received it just as I was leaving Moz to move to the States.  At that point I could barely function in my own life not to mention help out with a new project.  I had nothing to give.  And in His sovereignty, power, and grace, God knew just that.
In this e-mail Edward tells me about a trip they are taking in the summer...a vision trip for Kimbilio.  I got a little excited as I read that he would love to extend an invite to me if I'm interested.  But, I also knew that I had already asked for time off work in the summer and was told no.  And I had 6 weddings of good friends coming up...let's be honest...a trip to Kenya was not in my budget or calendar.  I wrote back explaining this but telling him to send me the dates and I'd see what was possible.  Then I see the dates...July 4-16.
My heart sank...
...that wasn't going to work.  That was the week I'd already asked off work and was told no way.  But I pull out my calendar anyway.  (Yes, I still have an old school that I color code to keep my life in order.  I carry my iphone everywhere...thanks America...but I cannot and will not put my life schedule in it.  I just can't give up the physical and visual calendar I love so dearly.  Ok...enough on that rant...back to the story...).  July 4th is a Thursday I discover.  I'm a nurse who works 3 12 hour shifts a week...I don't need that week off.  I'll work Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and leave for Kenya Thursday!  I wouldn't let my heart get excited...I still just knew it wasn't going to work out.  But I called work...and in a series of phone calls that took most of the supervisor said...the week after the 4th...3 shifts off...YEP WE CAN DO THAT!!!!!!!  My heart almost jumped out of my chest as I wrote Edward back to tell him...yes, I could go!!!  I also asked him if I was going to go was there a way I could fly to Moz before I returned to the States.  He came back with a yes, and I committed to go!

So the plan is...I fly out July in Nairobi, Kenya on July 5th.  I'm serving with a team of 13 through Choose to Invest for a week.  We are helping with a Rejoice Children's Camp...who's vision is discipleship in the next generation!  And then we're doing whatever we can to help with Kimbilio.  We are also helping in another children's home that's already up and running...where I'm sure I'll get my hands dirty in some type of nursing work!
What am I excited about?
I'm excited to finally meet people I've been hearing about for quite some time...Edward and the Rodes! I'm excited to be on African soil again, around a people I love, in a place I knew as home for two years.  I'm excited to offer up all the experiences, knowledge, and love I gained in Moz to a group who's just jumping off the ledge to see where God takes them.  I'm excited to start relationships that I hope to continue...I'd love nothing more than to partner with Choose to Invest/Kimbilio as this vision becomes a reality.  I'm excited to be obedient once again to the call God has placed on me...we are blessed in obedience...that I know.  And I'm excited to love and be loved...this team, these people, the children...LOVE is God's language for all of his children.
I will admit I have butterflies about this whole thing too.  I wonder if I have processed enough or anything when it comes to my time in Moz.  Am I ready to jump back in?  Do I have anything to give? Am I jaded by all I've seen?  Will I be able to wipe that clean and offer up the wisdom I gained from experiences instead of the hurt I walked away with?
But here's what I know...God has the answers to these questions before I even thought of them.  And He said go.  So, I'm going.  When my heart bends away from God, I tend to get lost in worldly questions.  I have to speak God's truth into these questions.  That's what I know.
So, Kenya for a week...then I'm flying to Moz...YES THAT'S RIGHT...I'M FLYING TO MOZ!  I get there the afternoon of July 12th and I fly out July 17th.  5 days to sit in the sand with babies crawling all over me.  5 days to hug the necks of my kiddos who have grown so big.  5 days to sit and talk with the ladies I worked with for 2 years.  5 days for dinner and game nights with the missionaries I did life with.  Are 5 days enough...NO!  But I am going to make every moment last.  I seriously cannot wait.  I fully expect God to break my heart and heal it all in one.  I expect to be overwhelmed and feel out of place, but feel full and at home...all at the same time.

God said go and I'm going.  God told me my word for 2013 was renovation.  Renovation: the act of improving by renewing and restoring.  I know this adventure is a part of this renovation process.  Renovation of a house is not means gutting the insides, tearing down the old, making hard decisions, developing a vision of the final product and fighting for that vision every step of the way.  Renovation is a process.  And heading back to Africa is a part of that process...
Please join me in praying for my heart, my team, all those we meet, all we are lead to do, safe travels, and renovation!
I'm sure there will be lots of stories and pictures to share when I return...stay tuned!

"Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and our shield.  For our heart is glad in him, because we trust his hold name.  Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you."
~Psalms 33: 20-22

Sunday, November 20, 2011


One year ago today I was climbing on a plane to fly across the world to come visit family and friends, to take a break from my life in Africa and spend the holidays in America.  That was one year ago.
Today I returned from a mountain trip with over 20 people, most of whom I met in the last 3 months.
What a stark difference.

I am astounded that I have been living in the States for 5 months this week.  Seriously.  Its hard to comprehend. There are days it feels completely normal to be living in an apartment, working a hospital nursing job here in the States.  But, there are also days it feel utterly foreign as if I'm living someone else's life.  I'm still at a point where I long for things to feel normal...but I also have fear-filled moments on the days when I realize I have not thought about my "African life" throughout the day.  I fear that my memories will fade.  I fear that I will forget all God allowed me to experience.  I still struggle with how I've changed.  I know I have changed.  But I still cannot begin to articulate how.
I have however figured out two facts of life that will ring true forever...
#1- Life goes on.  Somehow without our permission and without our goes on.  It doesn't matter what we're going through or how we are coping with it...the world will continue.  It doesn't matter if you feel like you're in a hole and would much father cover the top and remain there...the world around you will keep moving.  People will fall in love.  Friends will come and go.  People will get sick and maybe even die.  Jobs will be lost and found.  The world will continue...the question is, will you stand still or choose to move alongside those you love.
#2- God is never-changing.  I have just experienced my first fall in three years.  I have seriously loved every minute of it.  The first day with a chill in the air.  The first leaf with a hint of yellow or red.  The fallen leaves covering my car each morning.  The children dressed in their Halloween costumes coming door to door.  Pumpkins on every door step.  I have loved it.  But more importantly, during this season God has spoken to me.  Just as sure as we are that seasons will come and go...that next year this time the leaves with be falling off the trees again...just as sure as we know after these next months of cold weather...the warmth of spring will return...just as sure as we are that after night comes, the sun will rise again...God is just that sure.  He is that solid.  His character will never change.  He will always be loving.  He will always be sufficient.  He will always be enough.
I am thankful to have learned these two truths and be able to come out overly blessed.  I am in a season of transition.  One that no one around me can truly understand.  One I have extreme trouble facing needless to say articulating to others.  But God in His faithfulness and sufficiency has brought me to this point and will continue to propel me forward.  There have certainly been days I have chosen to hide in my hole, put the cover on top, and let the world spin around me.  But most of the time I have grabbed hold of our never-changing God and gone along for the ride.  And in that God has blessed me beyond my wildest dreams.  A door was open for me to take a nursing job in Greenville, SC.  The work is hard and I still have tons to learn, but I'm daily blessed by those around me and love the opportunity to care for patients in their most vulnerable moments.  I live in an adorable apartment in a great neighborhood only 3 minutes from work.  And I have found a wonderful community of people to live life with.  They challenge me to seek the Lord in everything I do.  They challenge me to serve those around me with a love some days I'm not sure I have.  We quickly have become a family...challenging each other when need be...picking each other up when one falls...loving each other the best we know how...and having tons of fun along the way.

So I am thankful.  I am astounded how quickly the time has gone.  But I am thankful my season of transition is well on its way.  I still struggle with the stress that work throws at me.  But I am thankful God has blessed me with this opportunity to learn and grow.  I have trouble believing tomorrow I won't wake up to the sweet hugs, grimy fingers, and gorgeous faces of my babies in Mozamibque.  But I have been overly blessed with a community of friends to live life alongside here in Greenville.
So in all of this...I remain thankful to my God who loves me.
Happy Thanksgiving week!