We were in Zambia, eating pizza as word kept coming in about how the Corona Virus was affecting everything around us. I was helping Jean restructure our plans for teaching, and he was sharing new pieces of his story with me about his time in Zambia when he nudged me to look at Jessica and Eliza. In the middle of an outdoor restaurant, there they sat, holding hands, tears flowing, life altering conversations happening. The world was falling apart, but they had the insight to see the more important thing for them in that moment.
I know Jess. I have watched her pour into countless lives over the years. Eliza was no different. We had met them only a few days prior. We are completely different cultures. We haven't experienced many similarities in this life at all...except we love Jesus and have surrendered our lives to follow Him. That bond overcomes literally any other difference. Jean and I smiled knowingly at each other. This moment was ordained, an appointment the Lord made for Jess to be able to speak life into a powerful warrior. Tears were not a sign of weakness, but a broken heart tender to the Lord. Both of these women are gifted and strong. Both need encouragement and a safe place to talk out big dreams, big decisions, big feelings.
I snapped a picture of their hands, not as a photo op, not as a 'look the Americans showed up and saved the day', but as a reminder to myself that sometimes God uses an insane amount of resources to speak a simple word into one of his baby's heart. He loves us so much! He has done insane things to show me His love over the years. In that moment, I saw His light shine on Eliza and I saw Him pour out affirmation after affirmation of His love and His plan over her and her ministry.
He has this level of passion for each of us. Here's the thing...What if we had let fear of what became a world wide pandemic keep us from going? What if Jess had been more focused on making sure our team was super safe and had a million plans in place, and hadn't noticed the human in front of her? His love for Eliza wouldn't have changed one bit, His calling wouldn't have either. The difference is that Jess would have missed her purpose that night. I wonder how many people in the world right now are going about their lives desperately waiting for the person God has made an appointment with to show up? I wonder if we have gotten so caught up in the wrong noise that we have missed those nudges? His whisper is gentle and quiet. He expects us to be good listeners.
Our nation is in chaos. The noise is so loud. I am seeing church leaders--especially the women speak very loudly about how we are called to love. I am so thankful for their leadership! However, I keep wondering, why did it have to come to this? Where along the way did we miss our calling? When did we miss His nudges to build relationships? Why is the church still the most segregated space on Sunday? What opportunities along the way did we miss? What would happen if we would repent and beg Him to give us another chance? He is really good at giving surrendered hearts second chances.
Since this moment happened in Africa, I sat and reflected on how far we had all come. When we went on our first trip in 2009, it was polite and awkward. We did ministry together, but at meals, we sat together as Americans, the Africans sat at the other end of the table and spoke in Kinyarwandan . We missed the mark in a lot of ways that trip. I know this because 11 years later, we laugh a whole lot about it. Jean has now told us how horrible some of the things we did went on his end. That is one of my life goals: to do the things that lead to that kind of authenticity. The kind you have to earn. Jean has been my pastor and mentor in so many ways, but a significant one is when he pushes me to take relationships deeper. He models it and he calls me on it if I'm missing a moment.
One thing I have learned is that it's ok if it starts out awkward. It's ok if you screw some things up. What's not ok is to let that keep you from showing up and trying. It doesn't happen overnight, but the relationships I have with people who weren't the obvious, easy choice are some of my most special. I have decided to put myself out there and do my part to take relationships deeper. Even if I get it wrong, at least I chose to love enough to try. It's humbling and it's exciting. It's awkward, and it's thrilling. It's the tension of doing a new thing. Cultural difference don't have to be scary. They can be fun and interesting. They can open your eyes and blow your mind. They can break your heart. The key is to start out of love, not guilt or some agenda. Do I love the human enough to go there? Don't think about groups, that can get super overwhelming. Think about the human that's in your path. Start each morning praying for wisdom about what God has in store for the day, then go be brave!
You can order this ORIGINAL painting here