When Yahweh Makes Me Coffee

One of the unrivaled joys of my life is the way that Yahweh makes me coffee.

You see, my Maker has crafted me to simply love a hot cup of joe. My addiction to the bean first started while serving on mission in Brazil. I can still smell the rich blend and see the liquid, black as the starless night, pouring from the pot to fill my mug in the morning. I didn’t drink coffee before that… it’s a life I try not to remember. 😊

Since that trip in 2009, I have grown to deeply love the way that coffee brings people together. Over coffee I have reconciled friendships, grown giddy with unexpected affection, written papers, read theology, watched movies, talked about Jesus, and shared stories. With laughter and tears, with new friends and old, in the morning, afternoon, and evening.

While in Malta last year, on one of my hardest days to date, my students invited me to her room at the refugee camp. She made me coffee and we talked about Jesus. It was a sweet way that Yahweh unexpectedly gave me that which I love most. {You can read more about that day here!}

Now in Fiji, I was struggling again, as I did in Vanuatu, with the way some of the methods we were teaching were playing out in the community. I confessed my frustration to my King, and my longing to see methods played out appropriately and effectively – something I had yet to see.

My prayers were expressed in conversation with Adina, my beautiful fellow intern from Romania. As we set out in the afternoon for our intentional gospel sharing time, we told each other of our struggles thus far. I said how much I wanted to see a relationship built with a family. She said how badly she wanted to see someone respond emotionally- not for the sake of tears, but because Jesus genuinely moved in their heart. We wanted to meet someone whose day would legitimately be better because we talked with them. Not an inconvenient nuisance, or burdened interruption, but a true blessing. Unimportantly, I mentioned that I was hungry. And off we went.

Totally by God’s leading, we ended up on a street and at the first home we passed, we saw a boy in the driveway. We told him we were helping with a church down the road and wanted to get to know some people in the area. He eagerly invited us inside where we met his brothers and grandmother, Kalo. We learned that Sam’s family had just returned to Fiji after living in the States for two years (which explains his incredible English!). We quickly discovered that Kalo is a strong believer, and she shared her beautiful testimony with us. We learned about her life and family, and she told us specific things that she needed prayer for.

When we finished praying, we opened our eyes to see Kalo weeping. She was so moved by our time together and so encouraged by our faith in Yahweh. She wiped her eyes and asked if we would stay for afternoon tea. She sliced bread and brought out butter and peanut butter.

We built a relationship. We saw true emotion and gratefulness… even in tears! She fed us. Every longing in our hearts was met in a stunning way.

Adina and I sat smiling across the table. It was easy to see Yahweh’s hand at work and hear His gentle whisper. Though it was tea instead of coffee, it was my King. Knowing what I love, seeing what I need, and stirring them together like the milk and sugar in my mug.

xoxo

23.

Sitting in a cottage in Fiji, I’m astounded at the way that Yahweh has sweetly spoken over my heart throughout the past year. A year full of challenge, lessons, and uncertainty, I have grown more in year 22 than in most. As I begin 23, I find myself thankful that 22 is ending, and anxious to see what is yet to come.

I desperately want to live a life that glorifies Jesus Christ and draws the nations to Him. I want to know Yahweh more and love people better. I want to live passionately and impact the people around me. I want to make the most of the opportunities that I have to talk about Jesus, love the unloved, and laugh until my stomach hurts.

I don’t ever want to stop learning. I want to be better every year than I was the year before. And I want people to be better, and to know Jesus more, because they’ve known me.

Yet for every immeasurable goal, I want to set some that are measurable.

So, here’s to 23!

23 Goals for my 23rd Year

Writing:

1. Blog consistently & honestly.

2. Rewrite Roots curriculum.

3. Write bible study on memory…

Ministry:

4. …and lead a group of women through it.

5. Lead a small group of freshman girls.

6. Disciple 3 younger girls.

7. Support a missionary family with love and finances.

Walk with Jesus:

8. Memorize the book of Ephesians.

9. Spend weekly time in disciplined prayer (for the nations & the ones I love).

10. Reread through the Bible & journal as I go.

11. Intentionally pursue friendship with those who don’t know Jesus.

12. Lead 5 people to Christ.

Academic:

13. Maintain above a 3.5 GPA in grad school.

14. Study the Greek and translate Ephesians.

15. Take advantage of the resources available to help me learn – literature & people.

Abstract:

16. Run a 10k.

17. Cross-stitch pattern for Mummy to quilt. :)

18. Go snorkeling.

19. Smoke a cigar with my brothers.

20. Travel overseas.

21. Read at least one challenging book per month.

22. Read Harry Potter series.

23. Make a budget & maintain it.

Nabila Village & Climbing The Sleeping Giant

This past weekend we had the delightful privilege of living in a village among the beautiful Fijian people. The Nabila Village welcomed us not just with smiles and empty schedules, but by donating mattresses, opening their homes for us to use their toilets (the church doesn’t have any), and cooking the best food.

Let’s back up: the church is a humble, one room building that sits near the edge of the road in a village that borders the mangroves and beach. The land is not owned by the church (or even the pastor) but rather, it was donated by one of the families. When we arrived on Friday afternoon by bus, we walked into the church and found nearly 30 mattresses neatly lined and filling up the entire church. This can only mean one thing: team sleepover! We found both humor and adventure in the lack of privacy that came from sharing a room with married couples & singles, guys & gals, ten different cultures spanning forty years of age. It was so fun.

We had the afternoon to explore, so a small group of us found a few locals to lead us up to the top of a mountain. After over an hour of hiking through the most beautiful wheat field, we reached the top where we found a small building. We climbed on the roof and discovered that we could literally see everything. Islands in the far distance, mountains the opposite way, Nabila Village, and everything in between. The sky was teeming with the most perfect clouds and a delicious breeze cooled us off. We watched the start of the sunset before we had to begin our descent to make it home for dinner! Culturally, it is inappropriate for women to show their knees, so we had to hike in our long skirts… which, if I may say, is likely the most inconvenient thing I have ever done.

Friday night we had a service for youth from several churches. Several came from hours away just to hang out and worship with us. Our intern leader asked if I would be willing to recite a couple chapters from Philippians during the service, as several team members would be sharing a testimony. This was the first time I’ve shared something from memory overseas, and doing so challenged me incredibly. My instinct was to say no for fear of language barriers, nerves, and disbelief. It was sweet to acknowledge and remember that the Word of God is true for every person in every culture. It is living and active and the freedom that I have found in my mind because of the Word that is hidden there is not an American privilege.

I was so humbled by that opportunity, and was blown away at how many people shared with me that they were impacted. Not just members of my team, but Fijian youth. To think that fear almost kept me from being an encouragement and challenge to them is simply embarrassing. To think that I make things so much about me is equally so.

I was captured by the unassuming, simple life of the Nabila Village. From growing their own crops to raising the chickens and pigs that supply their food, village life is pure and organic. It is not uncommon for one to live in the same village for their entire life. They marry and raise families just around the corner. They break every morning and afternoon for tea and treats. They eat together, worship together, and grow together in every way. It was wildly unlike anything I’m used to, and yet everything I crave in community. To know, love, and live is such a blessing and my western culture misses the depth of people more often than I’m willing to admit.

I was laying on the beach during our free time on Saturday when I heard the oinking and squealing of a pig grow from a soft to loud like the siren of an emergency vehicle on the street. Next thing I know, sweet little Fijian boys are making their way onto the beach with a wheel barrow holding a pig, tied at the feet. Not far behind was a great crowd of onlookers and I quickly connected the pieces.

Lunch.

I jumped up from my towel and wandered over with the crowd. I’ll spare you the details, and will only say how fascinating of an experience this was for me! I have never known my food while it was alive. I’m certainly an eater of meat, but observing the process changes things! I think that now, having seen the process, I have a legitimate chance at survival should I ever find myself stranded on an island. We ate the poor little guy in the feast they served us after church on Sunday.

Monday was our first day off since we’ve been here, and we were delighted at the chance to explore the beautiful land we currently call home. Garrett, a fellow American intern, did some research and found a fantastic adventure for us to embark on! So, bright and early on Monday morning, Garrett, Sabrina, Olivia, Adina (from Romania), Nathan (from Australia) and I took a taxi into town, exchanged money, and caught the bus to Wailoko!

We arrived at Sabeto Springs and were greeted by wonderfully friendly Fijians. Two men with a machete led us up the mountain, called The Sleeping Giant, as there was no existing path from where we started. We hiked for almost two hours through lemon grass (which we took a handful of to make tea when we got home!) until we reached the top. Encountering barbed wire, incredible amounts of burrs, mud, and critters, we arrived at the bottom quite dirty.

Our guide led us over to the mud pool where we covered ourselves with the mud and took silly pictures. As instructed, we spread the mud was EVERYWHERE – making our hair thick, matted, and disgusting. After the sun dried it on our skin, we climbed into the pool and washed it off. This mud pool is essentially a natural pool filled from the ground with volcanic mud and hot water. In one corner we could feel the heat of the water coming from underground – pretty amazing.

After the mud, he we went to the hot springs – another pool of natural hot water flowing from beneath the earth. It comes up at over 140 degrees Fahrenheit and is filtered to a separate pool at just over 100 degrees. We climbed into this natural hot tub and rested until they led us to the bora for the massage. On our way home, we got off at the bus stop by McDonalds for ice cream cones and french fries. It was a truly delightful day of adventures and laughter spent with new friends and old. Today we were back in the training room preparing for the clinic we will lead next week. Church leaders from all around Fiji will be joining us in Lautoka to learn how to share the gospel, and train others to do the same. I was asked to teach the session on discipleship and to share a devotion with the group one morning. What a privilege! I can’t explain how refreshing the last several weeks have been for my heart, mind, and soul. This family we have created continues to surprise and encourage me through conversations, worship, laughter, and prayer. We are blessed.

xoxo

Mangrove trees on the beach in Nabila Village

Mangrove trees on the beach in Nabila Village

Pig Roast!

Pig Roast!

from the top of the mountain

from the top of the mountain

 

Volcanic Mud Pool

Volcanic Mud Pool

Hot springs... aka: homemade hot tub

Hot springs… aka: homemade hot tub

Massage hut!

Massage hut!

Beneath the Ni-Van Sky

Our week in Vanuatu was a full one. I often found myself staring up into the expanse above and wondering how I found myself here. The stars in this place are unlike any other, and a lot happened beneath them this week.

Frustration. Tears. Joy. Laughter. Coconuts. Ice cream.

Unexpected friends. Passionate hearts. Beautiful people.

Softly put, it was a hard week. I struggled to find peace and questioned the effectiveness of the “street evangelism” methods that we were learning and teaching. I came back the first day in tears at the lack of connection and assertiveness with which my native field worker approached the situation. “This can’t be the best way,” was my only thought.

Day two brought incredible spiritual warfare, a schism in team unity, and disagreement with authority. “Lord, what do You have us here for?” We had only been in Vanuatu for three days, but it felt like weeks. Days were dragging and my heart was hurting.

In quite a timely manner, our internet connection was lost and we were completely cut off from the world outside our team. Initially irritated, and wishing I had a way to connect and lament through cyber space to loved ones back home, I was moved to my knees.

Yahweh alone can heal. He can make sense of confusion, frustration, and hurt. He speaks softly over my restless heart and reminds me that He is good. That He knows. That He sees and covers over our imperfections with His blood. That He is full of grace.

So much grace.

Albeit a hard one, joy was sprinkled throughout the week in the form of sneaky adventures, waterfall exploration, dancing in the rain, and Independence Day celebrations that nearly got the cops called. We met up in Vanuatu with a team of students from a youth group in Australia and grew to love them more than words could accurately say. You would be hard pressed to find a group of students more humble, silly, and passionate about Jesus than the students from Figtree Anglican Church in Wollongong, Australia.

Even amidst frustration, Jesus was sweet to put me around young women who were willing to let me into their lives. To hear about their boyfriends, seek answers from Scripture, and cover everything in prayer with them was no doubt the highlight of my week. I’m comforted at how well Yahweh knows my heart. I was challenged by their questions, encouraged by their willingness to learn, and heart broken when they left.

We were supposed to leave Vanuatu on Saturday, July 6th. We arrived at the airport, checked in, and went through security. We were sitting at the gate when Langdon, the internship leader, announced that our flight had been delayed and we needed to leave the gate and go outside. This wasn’t just a wait-a-few-more-hours kind of delay. This was a you-probably-won’t-leave-Vanuatu-tonight kind of delay.

After a bit of waiting, we were informed that we would be taken to a resort with a food voucher of about $50 (5,000 Vatu). With an unexpected day of rest at the Holiday Inn, we were free to read in hammocks, order desert at the bar, or put to use the volleyball courts, paddle boards, catamarans and more!

On the sailboat, watching a glorious sunset, I was reflecting on the week with a fellow intern. Sharing our frustrations and joys from the week, I mentioned that I was still trying to find the right balance between using the method we have learned and valuing deeply to connect on a personal level with the people we meet. We settled with the truth that Yahweh works in wild ways and can still accomplish His purpose. Acknowledging also that we are in a culture of spiritual people, much different from the western worlds we both come from, and they are simply more open to conversations about God.

When we returned our life jackets and collected the things we stored at the little hut, we struck up a conversation with the hotel employee. His name is Robert and he was super open to converse with Nathan and I. Through conversation, we learned that someone shared the gospel with him last summer using the program we are here learning and teaching. He told us how thankful he is for the man who shared and went on to share with us about his current walk with the Lord. He knocked coconuts out of a tree for us, cut them open with a machete, and we sipped the pure milk as we answered his questions regarding current struggles in his life.

Nathan and I were able to encourage, share Scripture, and pray with Robert and another believing employee- John. As my new Australian friend, Matt, said in response to the story, “Can life get any better than sipping on coconuts with brothers in Christ in Vanuatu?”

No, I’m quite certain it cannot. When we were supposed to be back in Fiji resting, Yahweh was ministering to us and through us to young men we would have never met at a resort we would have never visited.

The Lord showed me wondrously in that conversation that He is bigger than methods, doubts, and frustrations. If our plane was cancelled for no other purpose than for me to see His glory, and for us to encourage Robert and John, I am content. I’m learning to find a balance in everything as I lay my heart before Yahweh’s throne.

I’m incredibly grateful for the team I am here with and the friends I am making. To struggle, pray, and grow together is one of life’s sweetest gifts.

Pray that we will remain focused on the depth of the gospel. Pray that we will refrain from reducing it to a prayer and counting salvations based upon how many appease us at the end of a conversation. Pray that Yahweh would win souls and lead us into conversations that spread His fame in the South Pacific. Pray that we will be open to growth, eager to learn, and full of grace with one another.

“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name.

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits,

who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases,

who redeems your life from the pit,

who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,

who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”

Psalm 103:1-5

xoxo

{John, Nathan, myself, Robert} Our sweet brothers from the Holiday Inn Resort.

{John, Nathan, myself, Robert}
Our sweet brothers from the Holiday Inn Resort!