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To be a friend where there are few

To be a friend where there are few

 

On my very first day at the House of Prayer, a worker said, “Jesus has very few friends here, so we want to be His friends.” It was just passing phrase in an introductory conversation. One sentence out of a dialogue. But it marked me; pierced my heart. That one phrase set me on a deep and ongoing conversation with the Lord.

 

I walk the busy streets of this city, studying the faces of the many people passing by. I eat the food, and drink tea or coffee. I try to converse with locals and make new friends. As I go about my day, these words, “Jesus has very few friends here,” are constantly beating against my chest. Reverberating in the back of my mind. To be a friend where there are few, what does it mean?

 

I want to be Jesus’s friend here, in this nation, where there are few. To be His friend in the prayer room. Be His friend while walking those same streets day in and day out alongside the multitudes of people. I want to be His friend here, ass I learn the language and interact with locals. But what does it mean to be His friend where there are few?

 

More that just words and songs, which Jesus is infinitely worthy of, I seek intimate friendship with Him. To be like John the Baptist and rejoice when I hear His voice. To be like John the Beloved and be as close as I can to Him. And even like Peter, who despite all his weaknesses and immaturity, was still a whole hearted friend. I just want to be His friend.

 

Looking at the cityscape, I see buildings nestled together against sky and water. Peering out the windows I see people going about their day, oblivious to my watching. I ask again, “What does it mean to be Your friend?”

 

Then, Jesus came and sat down beside me, placing His hand on my back. He smiles across the city, the boats and people in a hurry. And He smiles at me.

 

“I have not brought you here to wear yourself out,” He says. “You are not just laboring for me, but you are laboring with me. Part of the labor is to just enjoy it with me. Delight with me. Have fun with me. Share about me. Toil with me. Drink tea with me. Talk to the people with me. Walk the city streets and pray with me. Hand in hand. I want you to laborer with me, as friends do.”

 

As I walk these streets to and fro, day after day, Jesus walks these streets too, going deep into the city to meet with His beloved. Interceding on their behalf, He sings loudly, rejoicing over them, and speaking words of life. He beckons them to come, come to the Father’s. All without them ever knowing. He carries their burdens, like the men who haul around the big garbage carts through the streets. And He’s there when the call to prayer goes out of the mosques. He’s so near to these ones.  It’s a tragedy that they don’t know Him as they should.

 

What does it mean to be a friend of Jesus where there are few? On my part, to be His friend, I’m still in the process of finding that out. It’s multifaceted. Because there’s a part of me that He wants just for Himself; for me to just be with Him, to hang out as friends do. Jesus desires that sweet fragrance to arise over this region when there are so few who desire His companionship. But there’s another whole side, where I get to tell everyone about my friend, because Jesus is also jealous for friendship here. There are so few friends and He is worthy of them all to know Him as a friend.

 

The men who carry baskets of bread on their head and sell them at all hours of the day, Jesus wants to be there friend too. The woman who stands at a particular cafe, everyday, showing people to their seats, Jesus wants to be her friend to. The men who sing out the call to prayer in the mosques. The refugee women who peddle knicknacks. The students. Jesus wants friends out of this city and nation.

 

This friendship with Jesus changes everything, and I want them all to know that too.

 

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Jesus said yes to ME

Jesus said yes to ME

Every morning, as my roommates and I close the heavy iron door to our apartment, we are greeted by the cool winter air and the silence of an empty street. The clear morning light sweeps over the tops of tightly clustered buildings, and the smell of freshly baked bread fills the air. It won’t be long before the streets are flooded with people and the sounds of the city come to life. As we continue to walk, motorcycles and mopeds buzz past us. Shopkeepers and vendors open their doors, and cafes start to overflow with hungry customers. The call to prayer sounds as we push past a mass of pedestrians and turn into the entrance of an unassuming building. Quickly and quietly, we make our way toward the back and up a dark stairwell. We’re headed to a little prayer room tucked away above the noise.

A year ago I was living under a strong performance mentality, and I was trapped in wrong mindsets that had been lying undercover for years. There was a ceiling, a box, that I couldn’t seem to break past. I wanted to go further, but I didn’t know how. At the same time, because of fear of failure and insecurities, pride was beginning to creep in, and I was beginning to form a way of relying on my own strength to compensate for the feelings of weakness. In the process of growing ever busier, new mindsets were beginning to take shape around already existing dysfunctional ones. I was stuck, and the problem was that I was unable to see that I had a problem. But Jesus saw, and he had every intention to help me.

When the opportunity came to go to the Middle East with MAPS Global, I was all in. I had had the Middle East in my heart for a number of years. I was excited, but little did I realize that the Lord was about to take me through a deconstruction process. Suddenly I was brought face to face with my own shortcomings. The zealous “yes” I thought that I carried, in reality, wasn’t even there. Just like Jesus’ disciple, Peter, who thought he could commit even unto death was challenged, so were the weaknesses in my own heart. It was in this place the Lord began to show me the power of love; the power of His love.

In the book of John and in the Song of Solomon, we see the examples of Peter and the Shulamite woman. Both had history with the Lord, and in both stories there came a point where they were challenged to say yes in a place of weakness and brokenness. Both were fervent lover’s, but both were unable to carry themselves in their own strength. The beauty in each of these stories is that Jesus came to them. After Peter’s denial, Jesus came to him and asked him, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” Peter answered Him, “Lord, you know all things. You know that I love you.” The truth was, Jesus did know. In Song of Solomon 5, the Shulamite lay in her bed. She had become complacent in her pursuit of her beloved, but the King knew

their history of love. He knew she loved him, and so he came and knocked on her door. Her response was to rise and open the door for him.

Jesus knows that even in weakness, when there is nothing to give, love is still willing to say yes. Already knowing our hearts, He comes to us and presents the challenge: “Do you love me?” He knows that we love Him when He asks this, but it’s easy for us to feel disqualified when our performance doesn’t match our expectation. However, we cannot forget Jesus’ reply to Peter’s response. “Feed my sheep.”

The Lord desires for us to partner with him in His kingdom work. He wants to send laborers into the harvest. What’s amazing about this is that He’s not looking for those who will say yes because they feel qualified or feel strong. Weakness does not disqualify you. He’s looking for those that will say yes because they love him. He says, “I’m the one who will finish the work that has been started in you. Do you love me? Because if you do, I’ll help you through your weakness.” We need to remember it’s His strength that is perfected in our weakness.

When I signed up to go to the Middle East, my heart felt dull and weak, but Jesus heard my yes, and He reached out. He qualified me. Now, every morning, as I make my way through the city to the prayer room, tucked away above the noise of the Middle East, I am reminded that I’m here because Jesus said yes to me. I am reminded that I’m here to continue to cultivate a life of intimacy with the One I love, and I am reminded as I look through the window of our little sanctuary over the city, that I’m here because Jesus is saying yes to the Middle East.

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God is a Father

Jesus is His Son and We Are His Children

     

Itʼs a typical Sunday morning; my alarm goes off around 9:30am and I have thirty minutes before church. However, this specific Sunday stands out among the rest as it is my last day in the US for the next three months.

     

Fast forward 13 hours and the adventure begins! Weʼre finally aboard our plane to venture on a 14+ hour flight to the Middle East. Heeding the advice given to me for my first ever transatlantic flight, I stay awake for 12 of the 14 hours in order to sleep upon our arrival Monday evening.

     

By the time weʼve arrived, gone through customs, gathered our luggage, met the local team, loaded up the vans, driven to our “home” for the next three months, ordered and eaten dinner together, and finally unpacked enough items to get through the night, my exhaustion has reached itʼs optimal peak. I strategically grab my ear plugs and eye mask and cozy up for my first night of sleep in the Middle East — that is, until something awakens me.

Through my ear plugs and over my roommateʼs sound machine I hear a muffled voice echoing from outside. I look at my phone, itʼs 5am. Suddenly, I realize what has woken me up. Echoing from the nearby Mosque an Imam projects the sound of the Muslim call to prayer right into our bedrooms.

     

Itʼs been one week since that night and the call to prayer rings five times a day. The Mosque right across the street from our home is, according to the locals, one of the loudest Mosqueʼs in town. However, it is not the abrupt loudness of the call that disturbs me but rather it is knowing what is being proclaimed over and over, day after day.

     

Five times a day, every day, throughout the city (and all of the Middle East) rings the Islamic declaration: “God is not a Father and He has no son.” It is this that disturbs and breaks my heart.

     

As followers of Jesus we know that this is the farthest thing from the truth.

     

Not only is God a Father, but He loved the world so much that He gave up His One and Only Son to die on the cross so that we might have eternal life. Now, we can receive the Spirit of adoption which enables us to cry out to Him “Daddy, Father!” as His sons and daughters and co heirs with Jesus Christ! (John 3:16, 1 John 3:1, Romans 8:15-17)

     

In a city and nation where the spirit of antichrist (according to 1 John 2:22) is so boldly and continually declared, I cannot help but carry a holy yet heavy burden.      

“For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens.” (Ephesians 6:12) We must pray and we must praise.

     

As a singer/songwriter and follower of Jesus Christ, I know that I am commissioned to wage war in the heavens; to write songs, to join and lead others in the House of Prayer and to go out and share the gospel with those who have not yet heard.

     

However, it is not enough to go alone. We must wage war together. Is it not worth it to fly 14 hours, endure jet lag, and be woken up at 5am, so that we may stand by our Arabic brothers and sisters in Christ and share the burden for their nations? Therefore, may we, the church, sing praises to Jesus and declare truth together over cities that have only known of a god who is not a father and a Jesus who did not die for them.

     

Paul said it best when he commissioned the church of Ephesus to “pray at all times in the Spirit with every prayer and request” to “stay alert in this with all perseverance and intercession for all the saints”. Now I commission you. Would you pray for us here. Pray “that the message may be given to us when we open our mouths to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel.” (Eph. 6:18-19)

     

We pray, go, and send because Jesus is worthy. The Gospel is powerful. And the time is in fact urgent.

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Taking Your Secret Place Public

What would it look like if you prayed and interceded for the lost or the unreached for 30 minutes every day in the secret place and then brought that into a house of prayer? How would God move if you spend your free time intentionally engaging and coming into agreement with God’s heart? In Hebrews 7:25 it says this, ‘Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.’

Jesus is always interceding for us. Intercession goes beyond just praying. It’s taking those prayers on yourself. He’s the only one that can since He died on the cross. He took all of that on already. Because Jesus lives in us and us in him, we can come into partnership with what he’s already doing constantly. We may not feel a heart for what we’re praying for, but He will give your heart what burdens His if you continue to press and and pray for it. Let’s continue to partner with it even if we can’t feel it.

If you only spend the time during an intersession set and no other time outside of it. That’s only 30-60 minutes a week praying into salvation for the lost or bringing the gospel to the unreached. That’s only two topics and there are so many other topics we can pour our hearts into that need to be prayed into as well. What if you take extra time during your quiet time in your secret place to pray into this things as well? In Matthew 6:6 is says, ‘But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.’

There is something unique about taking the time and going to where no one can see you, where it’s just God and you, and pouring your heart out for the nations or the lost or how many people are affected by pornography, or abortion. Whatever the topic is there is something that is powerful and God loves when you pray and intercede in your secret place. If we practice and steward praying and interceding in the secret, our time in a house of prayer should look very different if haven’t been doing it in secret.

What comes out of our hear in our alone time probably looks different then when we do it in front of people. What if it didn’t though? What if you were just as raw with God in a house of prayer as you were in the secret place? I think things would visibly shift in the atmosphere around us if we practice this. Our boldness and honest needs to be the same in our prayers no matter where we are. The amount of people around us should not change anything. The fact we have a mic in our hand should not change anything. That difference needs to be smooths out and erased. We can’t let the genuineness and boldness of our prayers be different between the two.

It’s important to be intentional with interceding and praying for what burdens your heart. The more we do this the more we partner with Jesus, which will affect us many areas of our walk in life. This topic is something God is revealing to me I feel. Personally, I know I’m no where close to doing this but I want to steward this more and more. When we steward this intentionally, I believe it will change not just nations, but everything. And if everyone in the room is doing this daily, how could God resist moving?

 

Ryan Hoskins, MAPS Global Student

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The Seeds We Plant

Sometimes God gives us chances to build friendships with locals and share the full gospel; however, sometimes God only gives us brief moments to plant seeds. I want to be faithful with the time God has given me in this nation. I’m learning to be obedient and look to Him for how to respond when it comes to evangelism. Sometimes we are asked to be faithful to do the work of building and maintaining a friendship, and sometimes I feel a stirring from the Holy Spirit to share as much as I can because all I have is this moment. This was one of those occasions where I felt it was my one shot to love this person as much as I possibly could.

A couple weeks ago my team and I went out to play music and do evangelism. We worshipped freely in the open air. We danced and were filled with the joy of the Lord. The dance itself felt like a prophetic declaration that the Joy of the Lord was greater than the oppression, particularly on women, in this country. It didn’t take long for a small crowd to gather around – sometimes joining in the dancing with us. Many people said they were drawn to the joy they saw in us.

During that time I befriended this sweet woman. She wore a hijab and clung to her purse, clearly drawn to us but not totally trusting or sure why we were there. I used all the words I knew in her language to connect with her. It was amazing how much I was able to connect with her and love her even with a huge language barrier. My team member, who spoke the language, prayed for her and shared the gospel but was quickly grabbed to translate for someone else. All that my teammate communicated to me about my new friend was that her husband wanted to divorce and she didn’t want him to leave her.

I felt strongly that this woman just needed to feel loved and seen. She stayed by me the whole time watching the dancing. She clearly wanted to join in but was hesitant. I talked with her all I could. I hugged and grabbed her arm or hand every chance I could. (The culture here is VERY physically affectionate). Eventually, I got her to dance with me! She was all smiles, holding my hand and dancing in circles to “I Am a Child of God.” In that moment she got a taste of the true joy and freedom that we have in Christ! I can only imagine what that meant to her heart coming from a culture where the women are so oppressed. I’m sure we made quite a spectacle laughing and dancing together while she tried to keep her hair covered.

I was heartbroken when we had to leave. She didn’t have a phone or a way to see me again. I kept calling her the words I knew for “my friend” and “my love/my soul” in her language (which is something you call your friends.) When she left we hugged and used all the affectionate goodbyes. As I saw her walking away I yelled one last “goodbye, friend” and she smiled so big!

I don’t know if I’ll ever see her again but I know that planted a seed in her heart and I am praying for her everyday. I am praying that Jesus will encounter her. I am praying that Jesus will draw her away with His love and heal her heart. I’m praying that His will be done in her marriage. I’m praying that God uses whatever happens to lead her to salvation and true joy and freedom in Christ.

 

Katie Prock, MAPS Global Student

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Triumph Through Fasting

I felt the Lord stirring me to fast… I said “God Again?” “Yes again” He said.

As a ‘worker’ trainee on a short three month trip, I have been preparing for this season abroad. I have prayed, studied, meditated, and even fasted. In fact I had fasted right before coming on this trip for an extended time beyond the normal 3-7 day period. In many ways I felt I had prepared enough, done enough to make this trip a success. In my heart I resisted having to do more particularly when it takes away something that is a comfort, like food. And yet I feel my soul weakening here, my spirit growing dull, and the enemy’s voice growing louder. I must have thought before coming here that the enemies attacks would be less than they are or that I am stronger than I actually am in resisting temptation. So here I go preparing for the Lord’s grace to fast, but also preparing for whatever the Lord will do in the process.

Outside of my comfort zone of America, the enemy feels stronger than normal. Because we are humans, no matter how hard we prepare for these kinds of trips there is always something unknown that comes up in our hearts. For example, if we ask the Lord to give us love, patience, and humility, of course, He does. Yet, other areas that are hidden come up, such as anger, fear, or self preservation. The enemy of our souls has been messing with humans so long that he has a 1, 2, 3 step program. Step 1. He will try attacking your surface level weakness areas. Step 2. If he can’t get you there he will go to the deeper, hidden, weak areas and attack. Step 3. He will repeat steps 1 and 2 again and again and again, every time he feels he has you are going week in those areas. Your welcome!

My hope is in the fact that the Lord knows this all to well. Our weakness, temptations, and struggles do not cause Him to change His mind about our calling. In fact He will use the devil, and our weakness; unphased He approaches us and says, “I’m going to use this and make you triumphant.” “But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9. When we call on Jesus He comes to deliver us. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” 1 Peter 5:10.

I am reminded that Jesus Himself after being commissioned to ministry went into the wilderness for 40 days and was tempted by the enemy. Not only was He tempted in the wilderness, in Matthew 4:1 it says the Spirit lead Him to be tempted. John Piper said, “The Spirit of God willed that the Son of God be tested on His way into ministry and He willed that Jesus triumph in this testing through fasting.” Somehow fasting played a big part of the triumph that Jesus had in the wilderness. Perhaps I have seen fasting in the wrong way. Many times I have seen fasting as giving up pleasure of food to get something I want; instead of a way of triumphing through testing.

The Spirit lead Jesus to where He knew the devil would try to tempt Him. Jesus didn’t fast in order to get something out of the Lord, but He humble Himself before His Father. By submitting Himself through giving up the pleasure of food, He was able to triumph over the devil and boldly declaring His full submission to the Father. Jesus showed that He wanted the Father’s will above His own temporary desire. He gave up the temporary in order to serve the purposes of the eternal. Nothing changed in the heart of Jesus when the devil tempted Him. It wasn’t the devil that gave Jesus His resolve to submit to His Father. His fasting was the proof of this submission and when the devil tempted Him He was able to verbally declare the resolve in His own heart. For those of us who do not claim to be fully God, fasting can shows us how we can submit to our Heavenly Father. If we can lay down our flesh in order to submit to the Lord by fasting it also can show us the triumph we can have over our enemy. When the devil tries to show us something desirable we have a deeper understanding that connects us to the truth that the temporary is lesser than the eternal. It’s a journey we Christians are on in understanding how to submit to the Lord. “And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that He might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not.” Deuteronomy 8:2.

And He humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” Deuteronomy 8:3

I have spend the last few weeks meditating on the last part of this verse. “Man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” How profound and unfathomable is this statement. I can taste, see, touch, smell and know that God and his goodness is better than bread. Knowing Him satisfies to the very center of my being. I can forever find new manna which feeds me spiritually.

I love the Lord for showing me what it looks like to triumph through fasting. If I can fast it shows that I am capable of submitting to the Lord and resisting the enemy, and therefore I am capable of doing the will of the Father. When I am satisfied with God all other temptations grow distant and lack their appeal.

Caridad Haller, MAPS Student

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God Does Not Disappoint

Sometimes, things don’t turn out the way we expect. I think for most of us we can actually say they usually don’t turn out the way we expect. Life happens, human hearts are involved and things are constantly changing around us. But in the midst of the tossing to and fro with the uncertainties of life and the moment you snap back from the initial shock of things not going the way we thought, there should always be something we can hold onto. Hope in the midst of the storm. Expectation in the throws of disappointment. The Father is always good, and he is working all things out for our good.

When the initial sting hits us in the place where it seems life is being turned upside down or when we are caught off guard, we don’t always tend to let the first thing come out of our mouth be that God is good. We begin searching for the reason why it is wrong, looking for something or someone to blame for the current state of our life. It’s rare that we can actually let the phrase “it’s going to be okay, because God is in control and He is good” come out of my mouth first. Sure we can sit there later on and know that, but do we really believe it and let that be what helps the impact of what life is currently throwing at us?

God is good. It’s true, I can sit here and recite bible verses and sing worship songs declaring that truth. But when it’s just me sitting in a room alone with pain and sorrow in my heart, can I still say God is good? Or rather, can I say it and truly believe it when my brother has cancer and could have weeks to live, my future is in question because I can’t find an answer I’m looking for, I’m slipping farther and farther into debt and the same lies and accusations of years past are creeping in and taking over? Or when parents are faced with the death of a child? Or in natural disaster when houses, cars, belongings and memories are lost?

Or if we are able to let “God is good” come out of our mouth it’s usually a defensive mechanism to somehow mask the disappointment we are about to face. No where in the Bible did it say don’t get disappointed or don’t grieve. In fact majority of the psalms are songs of grief and lament. A cry out to God to come and fix my current state of being. Yet, we tend to think we have to stop feeling that actual feeling and emotions and be happy and alright. But where’s the growth and beauty in that acting like it’s not there? How can you move forward from that moment and what do you gain but simply “letting it go”?

Saying God is good and He is working all things for our better is not neglecting or disowning the pain and sorrow you are in in that moment, though we tend to think that if we can declare that that we need to be happy and have it all together. Yet, don’t we know that God loves the process? The process where we are met with our brokenness and questions and are able to bring them to Him and lean on Him for the answers instead of searching in books, teachings, people or even ourselves. He’s not looking or expecting us to be met with pain and sorrow and to simple brush it off like it wasn’t there, because we all know that 2, 5, or even 10 years later that’s going to come back to us because we simply shoved it down and acted like it wasn’t a thing. I believe there’s a moment when we are met with all those things that the Father is waiting for us to come running into His arms, not saying everything is good and fine, but telling Him how we are hurt and in pain and how it feels. We read in the bible that Jesus actually wept, before making his way to the cross He actually went to the Father and asked for a way out, feeling the disappointment of His friends not staying up and watching with him or the intense betrayal of one of His own. He went to the cross and He took on the fullness of our pain and sorrow. He knows how it feels, Jesus being fully man actually felt human emotions and pain. So He’s not surprised when we feel those very emotions and actually have a response to them.

But in that moment, when we feel all hope is lost and that it’s gonna take alot to get back from this, He smiles at us, with tears in His eyes, feeling the pain and sorrow, fully knowing all that is happening. In that moment we can fall apart, in His arms. Not relying on ourselves to meager up some hope, but to lean into Him who is our Hope. He is our Hope.

His power is made perfect in our weakness. Not in my strength and what I can bring to the table. But when I let go, run into His arms and choose to trust Him with my heart and my life. Hope does not disappoint. God does not disappoint.

Bethany Tombley, MAPS Global Leader

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The Song Of The Birds

“The flight of the birds invites an entire nation to rise in the heights to meet its Creator through a new song.

The song of the birds awakens our souls; a song that invites us to unite in a melody of adoration and gratitude to the only God who opens the heavens to offer us a new day.

The song that has been inspired by the true God, the song that is not distracted by dark melodies.

The sun is appearing, reflecting only a glimpse of the glory of a great God, while the birds are preparing for a long day because a great fishing is coming. And they with their song have already prepared the perfect atmosphere for the fishermen, who launch their nets with expertise. They are very confident that the Captain has patiently prepared his boat to receive the most varied and gigantic fish.

This friendly harmony between birds, fishermen and the Captain of the boat produces an exquisite confidence.

A security that you will only find when you get on the boat of the One who extends his helping hand. When you look at Him and you recognize that the captain will take you to the right place and to a safe harbor.

It does not matter how strong the coming storm is, if the rudder will always be in the powerful hands of the Captain. And if you fall in very deep waters His net will be ready to rescue you.

During this great day, the birds continue to soar the heights, strengthening those who in the fishing boat are waiting for the movement of the waters. Sometimes the birds point out the place to find fish, other times they are fishing themselves.

At the end of the day, the Captain continues to guide and the fishermen are very grateful to see their nets full.

This is the moment where birds look for trees to rest on; leafy trees which serve as shelter and food. Trees with firm roots and strong branches where they can find rest.

The birds find only a few trees but the Captain shows them in the distance a fertile land with the promise that this fertile land will give them strong trees.

This promise makes the birds take flight and its song fills the atmosphere. The catch of fish is increasing and while it is increasing, thousands of birds appear to join in the song. More fishermen are ready to join into the great catch. The Captain smiles, and looking towards the fertile land, he finds that enough trees have already grown to give shade to the thousands of  birds that have joined us in this journey.”

I wrote this while observing the city I have been living in for placement.

One of the things that touched my heart in my first week in this city was the call to prayer.
The sound of this call transmits hopelessness, it sounds like a lament that oppresses the entire city.

I realized that at the end of the song the birds around began to sing very loudly and I felt like God in His perfect design surrounded this city with waters birds, fish, dogs, cats and all these represent His beautiful creation.
That same creation conveys hope and does not remain silent.

I felt that God in His mercy is building together with all His creation a new song directed towards Him who is the only one worthy of adoration.

When I survey the sea, boats, and fishermen surrounding the city, I imagine Jesus in a boat as captain preparing every detail of a wonderful fishing of souls.

The song of the birds brought to my mind the army of worshipers that God is raising in this nation to manifest His Presence.
The fishermen make me think of every worker willing and ready to spread the good news of salvation. The few trees reminded me of the need for many teachers and pastors who can take care of the worshipers and of course the new souls added by God.
While observing the city, I thought about the privilege of being able to participate in this journey, believing that the perfect government of God is approaching this nation.

Thinking about all this, I believe that though my trip has been long, I have arrived at the place where God has called me to join His eternal purposes in this specific time and hour.
The center of God’s will will always be the best place to be.

And this poetic writing was what flowed from my mind.

 

Ligia Ossa, MAPS Student

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His Fierce Pursuit

I feel so incredibly blessed to be a part of this 90 day placement. To say that I was shocked when I learned that I would be joining the team back in November is an understatement, and I still go through moments where I am, once again, hit with the revelation of “holy crap, I’m in the Middle East.”

My journey leading up to this moment has been pretty crazy in my opinion, and I truly believe that my Christian walk has been sped up more than I think I deserve. It has taken quite awhile for me to make sense of how I could be serving the Lord in an unreached nation right now, when I was denying His very existence only a year and a half ago. But it’s important to remember that God truly does work in mysterious (yet, always good) ways, and in time frames that are hard for us to understand sometimes.

His ways are not our own and if He did work in the ways my mind sometimes does, I can promise you I would still be at home mulling over lies about my lack of qualifications as a Christian, and wallowing in guilt and shame over the years I spent rebelling and denying Him.

It took me awhile before I began to understand why He would send me within such a short amount of time, why He was so willing to use me already, and why He was speaking so clearly to me that this placement is just the beginning of a life of missions. I was believing all kinds of lies, no matter how dumb they sounded, and it wasn’t until I actually made it to the Middle East that I was really able to begin replacing those lies with truths.

It is crazy how much power a lie can have over you if you don’t break agreement with it. For example, if I did not break agreement with the lies that:

  • 1) I am not qualified to go on placement because I haven’t been a Christian long enough (I know that sounds pathetic, but trust me, it can truly tear a person apart)
  • 2) I have so much catching up to do in terms of reading the Bible and knowing more about God, I couldn’t possibly be of any help to the placement team
  • 3) I have sinned too much in the past to be of any use to God

Along with so many others (some I’m still discovering), I would not have been able to persevere and do what it took for me to get here.

Now that I’m on placement, the Lord has been giving me deep revelation of His love for me. It sounds so simple, because it is, but if you miss the simplicity of how steadfast and whole-hearted His love is, you miss the opportunity of knowing what it means to have freedom in Him, discovering your identity as a child of God, living life without self-condemnation, and seeing that everything that ever was and is to come is because of His love for us.

As soon as I was able to even slightly grasp the vastness of God’s love for me, I started to see past the lies that have been hindering me from stepping into my identity and destiny.

It’s so amazing to sit back and reflect on what God has brought me through since the day I gave my life over to Him in 2016, and see that He has been leading me to truth and revelation of His love the whole time. That, although He is using me to serve the church in the Middle East, He is also using this trip to serve my own beliefs about myself and Him. With every new revelation comes a truth replacing a lie that has unknowingly been keeping me from stepping further into my identity as a daughter.

I am so moved by just how much God loves His children, and how I am still barely scratching the surface of what is the breadth, the length, the height, and the depth of His love. I am loved with a love that is so crazy, He allowed me to completely turn away from Him, deny Him, turn others away from Him, and then run back to Him at my lowest point. Not only did He accept me, but He was waiting patiently for me and welcomed me with open arms, ready for me to step into what He’s always had planned for my life.

Throughout my participation in MAPS, the saying, “God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called” has become so real to me. He has made me qualified through my willingness to say “yes” and surrender my heart to Him over and over again. It’s so interesting to me how God can use an assignment He’s placed on your life to not only grow His Kingdom, but make you more whole in the process. My heart is filled with joy at the fact that He is in constant pursuit of my heart and wholeness throughout my walk with Him.

I could cry every day for the rest of my life at the revelation that God loves to use even the most “broken, unfit” people for the good of His Kingdom. How wonderful it is to know that your qualifications in the eyes of the Lord are not based on the years you’ve been a Christian, but on your own willingness to say “yes” and be molded by Him along the way. That there’s no timeline you have to follow with X amount of years as a Christian under your belt or having gone through inner-healing to such-and-such extent or knowing a certain amount about the Bible or being fully developed in at least one spiritual gift. While these are important things, it legit does not matter to Him where you are at with all of it. He loves to teach and bring you through these things along the way, and is in constant pursuit of your heart and wholeness in the midst.

I am seeing so vividly now that it really only takes a surrendered heart and a weak “yes” for God to take your hand and bring you into His will for the generation you’re a part of. He will use you no matter the experience you have as a Christian, and is delighted in what you have to offer every moment. There is never a time where He is disappointed in your lack or weakness. The longer I’m here, the more I see that there’s a lot of strength to be found in having weakness. You find yourself leaning on the Lord more than ever in order to get through and overcome situations, and you come out on the other side of it with so much more wisdom and revelation than you had going in. I love how God works!

Reflecting on where the Lord has led me in such a short amount of time is so crazy, and I don’t think I will ever be able to not get emotional at the reality of how far God’s love and grace stretches no matter how far gone you think you are. The amount of inner-healing the Lord has been walking me through is astounding. If I had not said “yes” to going on this trip, it would have taken me years to gain the revelation I have gained in less than a month of being here.

At the end of it all, it’s not about how much I deserve anything. It’s about the fact that Jesus’ name deserves to be proclaimed and lifted up in the nations, and my saying “yes” is all it takes for Him to use me for the good of His Kingdom. He desires my heart as well as the heart of the nations, and will pursue both in the process of using me.

 

Amber Barnett, MAPS Student

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Strength In Surrendered Weakness

Right from the start of this trip the Holy Spirit has been teaching me about the dynamics of how He works within and through a team. One of the things that has really stuck out to me, is how He often uses an individual’s weakness as a strength in the group. As humans it is easy to realize how our best and our strong points are beneficial to a team, but it takes surrendering to the Spirit to realize how He can work through our weaknesses to strengthen a team. I am learning on this trip that through the work of the Spirit, our greatest weaknesses can become our greatest strengths as we learn to listen to the Spirit’s leading and carry one another in the group.

In Scriptures we are commanded to carry one another’s burdens, and I’ve found that the Spirit is more than willing to help in this process. I am finding that often where He allows one to be weak, He will allow another to be strong in Him. He will equip one with what the other needs in order to keep us dependent on one another and allow us to work in unity with one another. He does this to teach us to build each other up in love. But beyond this, He desires to take the weak and make them strong. He desires to take the very details of our brokenness and turn them into highlights of our redeemed strength.

Our willingness to be weak is often what the Lord uses to teach both us and others to be strong. As I learn the value of weakness I become free to fully love my team for who they are, both in their weaknesses and in their strengths. I become released to speak hope into them as I value their surrender more than I value their performance.

What we overcome through Christ becomes a source of strength. So when we become weak with those who are weak, and therefore learn to overcome with them through the grace of the Holy Spirit, we become strong. When what the individuals have overcome become what the group has overcome, and the what I’ve overcome becomes the what we’ve overcome, then we are strong. As my ceiling becomes their floor, and their floor my ceiling, then so much more becomes in reach. In this way our biggest weaknesses become our biggest strengths in the team, because we learn together to rely on the power of the Spirit working through us and through our team to overcome together. We will learn to invite each other into our struggles by being vulnerable with one another, and therefore we invite each other into the revelation and the testimony that comes through our overcoming. Our willingness to be transparent will give room for our team to be empowered to overcome together.

We will grow as much as we are willing to be given to one another. As a team we are developing our strength as we learn to both overcome in our own individual weaknesses and to serve our team members. We are choosing to be committed to one another and to give our all.

In the end, we will be as strong as our surrender. The areas we are most surrendered will always be the areas of our greatest strength, for He Himself said that His strength is made perfect in weakness. Our power comes not from our own strength but from our surrender. I truly believe that as individuals on the team learn to live surrendered to the Spirit He will begin to work through our weaknesses and even turn them to great strengths within the team.

 

Hannah Davis, MAPS Global Staff