“But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.”
Luke 2:19 ESV
Thousands of gallons of water plummet incessantly from the heights of the Cascade Waterfall, and we’re swimming deep in the coves that catch it. Can you hear the rush of water? Can you feel the cold chill of the breeze on a wet body? We had traveled to Vanuatu, an island nation in the South Pacific Ocean, to share the gospel with a precious community of people. With a day off before we began, we adventured to Cascade with hours to simply play. We danced in the water, swam in hidden caves, and climbed the current-carved walls of Yahweh’s majesty. I could barely breathe, let alone speak. So I paused. And I treasured.
LIFE HAPPENS SO QUICKLY. WE’RE PRONE TO FOCUS ON WHAT WAS, OR HOPE FOR WHAT WILL BE. IF WE’RE NOT CAREFUL, WE CAN PASS DAYS & WEEKS & YEARS AND NEVER LIVE IN THE NOW.
Mary knew the art of living in the now. Believing in the promise and surrendering to the King put her in the perfect position to ponder, to take in, to store up.
The art of living in the now is learning to treasure the simplest of conversations and the most meaningful of days. Like climbing in the playground of a waterfall carved by His hand, or treasuring the smell of pumpkin pie in a room full of the ones you love. During this advent season, as we celebrate the coming of the King, take time to treasure the moments. Remember the pitter-patter sound of little feet, and the high-pitched giggles of pig-tailed girls. Savor the bite of every cookie, and indulge in late night conversations over card games. Pause. Treasure. Love. In doing so, you welcome the beauty of now.
[ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN PALM BEACH ATLANTIC UNIVERSITY’S 2013
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.
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.”