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Community that builds you up

One of the things that has shaped this trip for me is the family dynamics among the church and the workers here on the ground. From the very beginning, this place started to feel like home. A big part of that is the acceptance and love which are pullers building these communities tougher. This is something the soul searches for; Our hearts long for a place our spirit can find rest and we are safe to grow and change into the likeness of Christ. I am so thankful to have the honor of seeing the way this community walks out their lives together. The ways the Lord has imparted wisdom through these men and women has marked my walk with Him forever.

Often times in ministry, we can get caught up in the day to day meetings, administration, and mundane routines to the point where we are just simply going through the motions. It is all to easy to forget our own need to commune with like minded believers and the man Christ Jesus Himself. In these moments, we must direct our gaze to the Father from whom every family derives its name and connect with the family the Lord has set us in. Burn out is one of the most preventable epidemics in the church today. The remedy is found in the fiery eyes of Jesus and the people who He has set in our paths.

God in his wisdom places us in community for the building up and edification of the body.  Iron sharpens iron; people sharpen people. Jesus is the kind leader who takes us on a journey through relationships to teach us about Himself and how to bear His image rightly. This changes how we relate to one another as sons and how we approach Him as the Father. He uses others to prune so that we can grow without the distractions that so easily get in the way. He clears the way so we may draw near, freed from the shame that once held us fully embraced in the presence of our Beloved Bridegroom.

My experience here has been a whirlwind of shifted paradigms, growth, and  hearing God’s still small voice through the word and believers around me.

In short, I’ve seen the need as believers to be planted in a community that is built on the foundation of love, soaked in incense, running after holiness, doing life together, challenging one another and always pointing one another other to Christ.

-Esther Peyton, Placement Team

The Lord’s Faithfulness Never Ceases

 

From the moment of our arrival we have seen time and time again demonstrations of the Lord’s faithfulness. I will never forget the first week that we were here, going to church Sunday evening and seeing so many familiar faces. One of those faces came up to me after the service and re-introduced herself, we had met a few months before at a prayer event that they have here every year and there I had prayed for her. She had been married for many years, but had never been able to have children, she then pointed down to her stomach to reveal a baby bump, she was three months pregnant, that was the exact amount of months since I had seen her last and had prayed for her to have children. There are many more testimonies that can accompany that one from this trip alone. The Lord is moving in this region and is revealing His faithfulness to those that call upon His name.

 

The very fact that the local church has only been around for 10 years and has grown dramatically during those years is amazing. In one generation this region has gone from having no evangelical church expression to now having multiple churches in the same area is a sign and a wonder in and of itself.
Every person here has a story that is filled with tales that can be made into movies and written into books. From having to flee their native country in the middle of the night, literally dodging bullets while running away, to having their own families give them death threats because of their choice to follow Christ. But through it all the Lord has been ever present keeping and preserving a people who are willing to sacrifice everything for His sake. And as they keep making the daily choice of saying yes, no matter what the circumstance there is a hope and confidence that the Lord’s faithfulness indeed never ceases.

 

-Leah Grace, MAPS Leader

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Embracing the Cost

The realization hit like a ton of bricks. I was sitting in a field with a young Muslim girl who I had recently befriended when the Muslim call to prayer went off. She started asking me questions about my faith, and asked if I was Muslim. I told her I was not muslim and tried to explain that I prayed to Isa (Jesus). She then started to say something I didn’t understand. She tried again, and I still was lost as to what she was saying. Finally in a moment of frustration with her broken English, and my lack of Arabic altogether, she grabbed my phone and typed something into google translate. I looked at the English translation, “You call for me.” I stared in bewilderment, silently praying that the Holy Spirit would intervene and grant understanding in communication. What was she trying to ask me that google thinks is you call for me? She once again grabbed my phone and wrote a different sentence in Arabic, but the English translation still made no sense and just said something about call. Finally it dawned on me! “Pray!” I exclaimed and her whole face broke into an excited smile. “You want me to pray for you!” She eagerly nodded and scooted closer to me. So I prayed for her, painfully aware of the fact that she couldn’t understand most of my English. Soon after we parted ways for the time being, but the encounter continued to stir on my heart.

 

The issue was not that she was a hardened Muslim who was not open to the gospel. It was not that she was unreachable. The issue was I couldn’t even share the gospel in her own language. The only reason I could share anything is because she took the time to try to learn my language. But my heart is burdened because this is not the example I see from Christ. He freely gave up the comforts of His throne in heaven to come down to earth, to take on flesh and learn to live as a man like us. So can I not do the same for her? Can I not give up the comforts of America and my own language to learn her language? Can I not give up what parts of my own culture would make for an unnecessary stumbling block for her to receive the gospel? And learn to embrace her language, culture and way of thought (with the exception of what is sinful) that I might come to her as Christ Himself came to all humanity? I want to be able to share the gospel with my friend in her own language. I want to remove every hindrance possible for her to experience the love that God has for her and come to receive the gospel of Jesus Christ.

 

The thing is, I have always struggled to learn languages. I have tried several languages in the past, and never could seem to learn. Learning any language feels like an insurmountable time commitment and difficulty for me, let alone one so formidable as Arabic is. I love the comforts of expressing my thoughts, ideas and feelings in a language I have full mastery of. Learning Arabic means embracing the struggle of learning to communicate in a way that’s not initially comfortable for myself.

 

Yet here I find an invitation to sacrifice for the cause of Christ. Here I find an invitation to lay down personal comforts and, in such a small way compared to Christ, pick up my cross and follow Him.

 

I’ve prayed for a download of Arabic. I have prayed the the Lord would supernaturally allow me to speak fluent Arabic. But as of yet, though I continue to pray  believing, He hasn’t. But I’m reminded of David in the Bible when he said, “No, but I will surely buy it from you for a price, for I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God which cost me nothing.” 2 Samuel 24:24. So if this is a sacrifice I can make for my Lord, then let it cost me something.

 

-Hannah Davis, MAPS Student

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Let Incense Arise

 

Some of my favorite and most precious times on this trip so far have been in the Prayer Room. Every prayer meeting the presence of the Lord fills the room, and God begins to move. There’s just something about a room full of local believers, and refugees, coming together as one worshipping the Lord in a nation where so many terrible things are happening. Seeing the way believers give it their all in worship has changed my perspective on what it means to worship the Lord. They are each filled with so much hunger and the love they have for God is so radiant in their worship. It’s always so crazy to me to think about how in the midst of all the terrible and horrifying things that these ones have been through that they can worship with everything they have. Yet when I wake up on the wrong side of bed one morning or am just having a bad day and I go to the prayer room all I can think about is wanting to be in my room with my phone watching a show on netflix. It’s hard to push through and worship the Lord with my all in those moments, while they seem to take those things as fuel for their worship!

I feel like believers here have a perspective on worship that I need to learn from. This is what I have learned about the way they worship: worship is surrendering everything we have at His feet, declaring that God is far greater than the brokenness of this nation, far greater than anything we have been through or seen and far greater than the brokenness in our lives. Worship is declaring that He is everything we need/will ever need, it’s declaring that He is so so worthy and great and greatly to be praised, and that there is so much power in our worship. To the believers here these things are not just things that they know but these are things that they truly believe.

When we come together to worship as one body declaring who He is,  God begins to fill us with hunger and He begins to move in the room. I have seen this so much in the prayer meetings here, as we begin to sing a sweet presence fills the room, hunger begins to rise, and God starts encountering people! After one of our prayer sets, I got to talk with a 16 year old teenage boy who got saved a couple weeks ago during a prayer meeting that my team and I were leading. He was telling me how he had spent 2 years asking Muhammed that if he was real, to reveal himself to him and he never did. He told me that when he was in the prayer room he said, “I don’t know what to believe, but Jesus I love You,” and as he said that he saw a light and that Jesus came and laid His hand on his shoulder! From that day he knew that Jesus is real and he gave his life to Him that day! God is so moved by our worship and there is so much power that comes when we worship that we don’t even know about.

Joanna Flores, MAPS Student

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Horses and Chariots

The natural tendency for man, whether in their own country or in a country that is not their own, is to put their trust in that which they can see, into that which we can control – our own “horses and chariots” (Ps.20:7).   How different it is to put your trust in the God that we know but cannot always see.  To hold our hands in surrender and to let go of the driving seat.

 

Our hope isn’t in how well we can accomplish things, or a new government or a new earthly king, but our ultimate Hope is in Jesus Christ and in Him taking his Place, his Stand in this nation.  No matter how much we will it, or desire it or try our hardest to see someone come to the truth, the reality is, Only by His Spirit will people’s hearts be softened to hear the good news and to truly enact change in this place.  We are dependent upon Him in every way.  In every second of every day we need His truth ringing in our ears and in our hearts.

 

One of my favorite verses is Psalms 22:3-5, “Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel.  In you our fathers trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them.  To you they cried and were rescued; in you they trusted and were not put to shame.”

 

To trust in the Lord is not foolishness, to depend on his goodness is not wistful thinking. Our Hope is in Christ, and Christ alone.  It cannot ever be on our own ability or our own desire.

 

Rather We are dependent on Him, we are dependent on His Spirit to Move, on His Spirit to Awaken People’s Hearts and Minds to the Glory of Christ.  As we trust, we will be delivered.  As we cry, we will be rescued, and as we trust we will not be put to shame.

 

He is our Strongest Horse, He is our Strongest Chariot.

 

Faith Kinzer, MAPS Student