By: Lisa Newland
Missionary serving in Tanzania
When I was a girl the dread of my heart (and I imagine still the dread of most Christian teen gals) is that God would call me to be a missionary in Africa - single. I even avoided praying about it. I figured if being a missionary was in His plans (and heaven forbid, single!) then HE would have to broach the topic.
Well, here I am, 34 yrs old. You guessed it… single missionary in Africa. I imagine God saw the humor in this much earlier than I did; probably when I was still a “tween” trying to avoid the topic of discussion. What I love to recall though is just how God brought me to this place and how God daily sustains me.
A few lessons I was taught as a teenager: God is all good, all the time. If you believe this, you’ll be willing to surrender all control of your life over to Him. And: You don’t have to be afraid of His will for your life. He’ll never call you to do something you can’t stand. Guaranteed… He purposely designed you for whatever His will is for you. Guaranteed… you’ll love it! Now, knowing that I’m right smack dab where God wants me to be… single missionary, in Africa… I can say whole-heartedly… “I AGREE!”
But let me go back... Growing up I was the shy girl who hid behind her mama’s skirts, too afraid to talk to grown ups. I had two hilarious brothers so I didn’t have to talk much anyway. When asked in youth group, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” My reply, “A wife and mother.” I truly had no other ambitions. No careers sounded appealing. I wasn’t even sure I wanted to go to college. Bottom line: I don’t fit the stereotypical strong and independent single woman.
Even more reason for God to call me where I am, I guess. Is not His strength made perfect in our weakness? The part I most love about being here, in the center of God’s will, is that I’m growing, constantly being stretched in my faith, constantly being challenged to trust and love Him more. When I started down this journey of being a single missionary, a dear friend and fellow single missionary, said to me, “Don’t forget, Lisa, God takes care of His girls. He’ll never leave us, and I think He especially looks out for us singles because we don’t have a husband to help keep us in line!” I've been in Africa three years now and can boast confidently, God DOES take care of His girls!
This Saturday I traveled out to a village (45 min away) to lead girls youth group. The clouds looked rather foreboding but Happiness, the pastor’s wife, and I forged ahead. When we turned off the paved road, we saw that rain had already dumped bucket-loads. The sky was clearing up nicely the closer we got, but the road was a muddy mess. We slipped and slid along. Some puddles were so deep I was worried for my brakes and almost turned back. This past month I’ve been teaching in preschool Bible class that “Bwana ndiye msaada wangu, sitaogopa.” The Lord is my help, I will not be afraid. The lesson on Jesus calming the storm and Jesus’ rebuke to Peter, “Oh, you of little faith,” really touched my heart. I want to LEARN this lesson. I don’t want to continually need to be rebuked by my Lord. So, before the big puddles I quoted out loud, “Bwana ndiye msaada wangu, sitaogopa.” And before the especially messy, muddy sections of road (that if I slip, how will I ever get out, Lord?), “Bwana ndiye msaada wangu, sitaogopa.” We ended up having a great time with the girls, made it home that night safe and sound with nothing more than a filthy car. God takes care of His girls!
A few years ago I was driving behind a big truck, full of glass soda bottles. The truck drove up and down off a large speed bump (more of a 4 ft wide, 1 ft high walkway across the road). Just as the truck was starting its ascent I had a thought, “You know, it might be safer if I don’t follow quite so close to such a big truck, who knows what could happen.” I put on the brakes to get some distance and just then the truck bounced off the speed bump. The back door flew open and two crates of soda bottles shattered on top of the speed bump. If I hadn’t slowed down those crates would have gone right through my windshield! The Holy Spirit whispered in my ear just in time. God takes care of His girls.
Here in Mwanza, the Lord has surrounded me with a good network of “wazungu” (white people) friends. He’s given me a great house to rent in a very safe compound. He’s provided a great vehicle at a very reasonable price. I’m doing what I absolutely love, teaching kids. I have many Tanzanian friends at the various village churches I work in. The other day I told the Lord, “You know if all my extended family would just move here to Mwanza my life would be perfect!” OK, sorry… sometimes I can be a bit too sappily (is that a word?) optimistic. I get it from my Grandma. Life isn’t always perfect. There’s days I fight discouragement and despair. Days I long to escape and have no place to go. Days I wish I could just crawl in bed and start over. And even in those days. Days that I don’t feel His presence, I know that God takes care of His girls.
I know I have much still to learn. I’m a recipient of God’s DAILY grace, and it is because of His grace that I KNOW God will take care of me, no matter where He leads.
How about you? Avoiding certain topics in your prayer time? Afraid of what God might call you to do? Guaranteed… He purposely designed you for whatever His will is for you. Guaranteed… you’ll love it! Stop avoiding! Plunge in! Just wait and see how God will take care of you!