Thursday, March 20, 2014

Saddling My Camel: Becoming a Sarah

She saddled her camel and jumped on... Wait. Do you saddle a camel?

Ok. She threw a blanket on her camel and jumped on... Well, maybe it was a donkey. Whatever she rode on, the fact of the matter is, she followed Abraham.

Genesis 12:1-5
"Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed. So Abram departed, as the LORD had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him: and Abram was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran. And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother's son, and all their substance that they had gathered, and the souls that they had gotten in Haran; and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan; and into the land of Canaan they came."

But as I look back at the story of Sarai (whose name was changed to Sarah) I am amazed. She didn't know where she was going. All she knew was that her husband was a godly man, and God told her husband, "Go."

I can only imagine what she felt like. Women love security and stability. We love a place to call home. We love knowing where we are headed. She obviously didn't go kicking and screaming. (Would I have?)

As I look back at how God brought us to where we live now, in Southern Asia, I must admit I was not a Sarah, though I really wanted to be.


God called Jason and me into missions back in 1995. We were engaged to be married at the time and were on a missions trip to Saint Thomas with our church. I remember sitting on the beach praying with him about what God wanted us to do for Him, and I remember crying as we both admitted we knew we belonged in foreign missions work. From that point on, we prepared for the work.

After attending Bible college, we continued to pray about where God wanted us to serve, but He would never show us the "where." We had a tender heart toward the 10/40 window and unreached people groups, and prayed the Lord would send us there, but we heard nothing from the Lord. Just total silence on the matter.

We were bombarded by people asking, "Aren't you called to missions? You have your degree now. Why aren't you going somewhere? Maybe you were mistaken." The pressure mounted to go somewhere, but Jason refused to go until God showed the where. We just dug our heels in at our local church and stayed busy serving... waiting.

Years passed. We served in so many different areas of the church. We gained a lot of practical experience that has become so useful on the field. Our marriage grew closer. Our family grew in number. But most importantly, we learned valuable lessons that could have never been learned from a textbook in Bible college.

Through the tragic death of my brother in 2003, God taught us how selfish we were.It was a major blind spot that took something huge to open our eyes and see. We were doing all the right things, but we didn't really love people. It was a painful time, but I have learned to treasure the scars. (Could you imagine us being on the mission field and not loving people?)

As we began truly caring for people, God broke our hearts for the sake of the Gospel. There was one day I was out running errands in the van with my children. I turned on the radio to listen to a sermon. The title was "The Top Five Reasons You Will Not Hand Out a Gospel Tract." As I listened, I knew I was seriously lacking in reaching out to people. I didn't mind witnessing if someone asked me questions or was seeking my counsel, but I sure didn't put any effort into seeking out the lost and sharing the Gospel intentionally. As he continued preaching, I don't remember the first four reasons the preacher listed in that message, but I will never forget the number one reason. "The number one reason you will not hand out a Gospel tract is because you just don't care."

When he said that, it cut deeply into my heart. It was true! I wept! I had to pull the van to the side of the road. The children just stared and kept asking, "Mom, what's wrong?"

That afternoon, Jason came home. As he entered the door, we did our usual review of the day's events, but then I began telling him about the message I heard. I told him of the impact it had on my heart. His eyes filled with tears. At the same time I was listening to the radio, his work place had sent him on an errand. He listened to the same message and had the same response, pulling his vehicle over and weeping.

"I think God wants us to do more than what we are doing for Him."

From that moment on, we began passing out tracts, inviting people over for Bible studies on biblical salvation, and sharing the Gospel any chance we could. And we LOVED it! We had people saved in almost every room in our house. And with that... the burden and hunger for missions returned, blazing greater than ever before.

Soon, our church had its annual missions conference in 2008. We sat and listened to every presentation. Our hearts longed for a land and a people, but we just didn't know where or who. At the end of the conference, on the way home from the last night's service, I asked Jason, "Do you still believe we are called to missions?"

"Of course," he replied.

"Then if He will not tell us where, can we at least go on a short term trip? I cannot live like this. My heart is somewhere out there and I just don't know where."

"We will pray about it, and see what God does."

Two weeks later, some people we knew from years before visited our church. They were now missionaries in Southern Asia to a country we were clueless about. They invited us to come visit. We said we would pray about it... and pray we did! God would not let us dismiss their invitation. So we began preparing for a short term trip.

As time passed on and the date of our trip drew closer, I remember God putting it in my heart that I was not going on the trip. I plugged my fingers deep in the ears of my heart and refused to listen. I was determined that I would go. But a couple of weeks later, Jason brought it up.

"Honey, I need to talk to you about something. I have been praying, and I don't know how to tell you this, but... I really think the Lord wants me to go on this trip alone." My heart broke and tears streamed.

"I know!"

"What do you mean you know?!" he asked.

"The Lord dealt with me about it a couple of weeks ago, but I just didn't want to listen." And with that, we prayed and both agreed he would be going alone.

The next morning after Jason left for work, I got alone with the Lord and poured my heart out to Him. I was just honest. I didn't try to hide behind a cloak of self righteousness. I didn't put on a mask. I just sat on His lap and gushed. I had followed my husband in many things, but this was the biggest challenge I had faced. We are talking almost exactly on the other side of the hemisphere... to a culture almost polar opposite to everything I had known my whole life. Physical dangers, health dangers, hardships... and we have children. Fear.

I know many women who were quite content with, "The Lord has called me to follow my husband." That was enough for them. But as hard as I tried, it wasn't in my heart. There was no use trying to fake it with God. He knew.

"Lord, how am I supposed to know if this is the place if I am not going on this trip? I know I am supposed to be like Sarah following her Abraham, but I am just not there yet. I want to be, but that's a very dark country. It's a closed country. Lord, I just want to hear it from You. Please just show me Your will. I will follow you... even there!" All I needed was one word from Him and I would go anywhere.

With that I opened my Bible to do my devotions. I turned to Acts 17 where Paul visited Athens. As I read, I could not imagine a more perfect picture of this country. Every verse, every description, was like a picture of the people here. And when it I got to the last verse, I knew.

Acts 17:34 "Howbeit certain men clave unto him, and believed: among the which was Dionysius the Areopagite, and a woman named Damaris, and others with them."

There was such peace. Tears of joy flowed down my cheeks. I knew God was calling us to this Southern Asian country. When I read those names, Dionysius and Damaris, it was as if the people of this country became names and faces. I had found my heart on the other side of the world. I jumped up from my devotions, praising God for His goodness and His patience with me.

It was time to exercise, so I plugged in my MP3 player and jumped on the elliptical machine. I played a sermon I had never heard before. The preacher began talking about witnessing to a Hindu woman. And the tears came again. This country has a huge population of Hindu people. I couldn't even finish exercising.

I dried my eyes once again, jumped off the elliptical, and went into the living room. I found the children watching a documentary... um... without permission. *sigh*

"What are you watching?" I asked.

"Some documentary on a country in Southern Asia." Yes, you guessed it. I had to leave the room. My heart was overwhelmed. I didn't even have the heart or mind to correct them for watching TV show without permission. I had asked God for a fleece and got an entire wool blanket factory.

For the next few months, every where I turned there was a sermon Acts 17 or people would talk about their Hindu neighbor or classmate. I refused to tell Jason about anything going on because I didn't want to influence him in any way. I wanted him to hear straight from the Lord just like I did.

He went on the trip, and God showed him His will, too.


Looking back, I would have loved to have been like Sarah, but I am so thankful God met me where I was. I wish I could have had the faith to just trust that God would lead my husband, but how precious it is to me that God didn't scold me. He comforted me. He honored my honesty in where I was spiritually. He didn't have to. I am glad He knows exactly what we need.

Now that we are here, I have caught myself so many times say, "However the Lord leads you, honey. I trust you." Maybe I am becoming a Sarah a little more each day. Maybe I have come to trust that if I really need to know something, God will tell me. And if I don't need to know something, He still has everything in control. I just need to trust that He will lead those who do need to know.

I have no desire to debate if God gives a specific calling to the wife. Maybe some need it. Maybe some don't. I do know we serve a gracious, longsuffering Father who knows we are but dust. I am also thankful that because there is a unity and oneness between my husband and me, we have both grown to treasure how the Lord leads us as a team and as individuals. I have come to greatly trust how the Lord directs my husband as the head of the home.

There is a great pleasure in saddling up our camels... or blanketing them... or whatever it is you do to camels and donkeys... jumping on and following God's leading for the family, even to a land you don't know the name of. Being right where He want us, and KNOWING it is priceless.

by Charity, Southern Asia
Stop in and visit me at Road Schooling... Our Life on the Road of Life.


Debbie said...

This is such a beautiful testimony of God's faithfulness. May He continue to bless you and use you as you bring glory to Him.

Becky; said...

Thank you for sharing! My husband and I are praying now about our next step in the ministry, and I needed this!