Dreams of a Father

Dreams of a Father

Mapinduzi is a young man who works for us. In the past 6 months, he has gotten married and had a son. His son was born while we were stateside and he sent us a picture announcing his birth – the birth of Mapinduzi II, and as I stared at the new soul set before my eyes my heart fluttered and I wondered what he would be. One of the indescribable parts of having children is figuring out what they will be, dreaming of all they can be. They can be anything they set their mind to…right? Can he – Mapinduzi II be anything he sets his mind to?

I struggle with the idea that the world has decided for him. The life-affecting factors of poverty, location, educational attainment of his parents, and societal norms are defining factors that have already spoken on his behalf. The deck is stacked against his favor. He will receive a subpar education, limiting his ability to compete, he will only see what is set before his eyes to the village limits, instead of being mobilized to think and reach farther.

My instinctual reaction is anger fuelled by my desire for retribution and rebellion. Now, my struggle to hope in man-made designs isn’t errant. My fault is tolerating for a moment the idea that there is no hope for Mapinduzi II to fill in that gap. My Father said,  “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

There are thousands of babies born into achievement-limiting conditions just like Mapinduzi II. The mental fortitude, resilience, and stubbornness required to ascend and rise up, dignity intact, is astounding and impressive and possible, and no one gets there by themselves. We as a people, as the body of Christ spurred to action, fill in all the gaps we can with hope – the same as our Father does for us.

Africa, beauty and the beast, one stunning juxtaposition. The beast is the the history, the institutions, and the people that have churned together for years to create the modern-day landscape. The beauty is the people, the impacted and affected who rise up to do the unexpected, unbelievable, and furthest thing imaginable; the people who face tremendous odds and surmount them.

Africa, beauty and the beast – breathtaking, scandalous, mystifying – all in one staggering picture. It’s why you stare at every picture you see of a beautiful African child against the harsh backdrop of an sub-Saharan African country as the magnifying glass of poverty distorts and amplifies.

I asked Mapinduzi does he dream of what his son can be, he replied, “I don’t know. I don’t know what he will be. I don’t know what he can be.” Well Mapinduzi, he can be anything he sets his mind to, let’s prepare him for all the possibilities and it starts with a foundation firmly rooted in faith in our Lord and Savior.

Homecoming

Homecoming

Wow, if feels great to be home! All the sights, sounds, tastes, and feelings are so much more poignant. Absence makes you appreciate the simple things, the inconvenient byproducts of development, the systems and processes, the diversity. This past year, the AP and various news wires in Tanzania made it seem like America was being burned to the ground from the inside out. To my delight, this was not the case as I was greeted with familiar, customer service-extending, smiling faces in the Boston airport.

Growing up, my father always said, “You are lucky to be born here in America.” After running out of the airport into my parents’ arms, my father repeated this aphorism to me yet again and after 31 years of life, 2 of those years living on mission in Tanzania, I am finally able to grasp the wisdom and blessing in it. The land of opportunity, the land of the free, the land of stalwart institutions, the land where women’s rights is such a thing.

I am beyond blessed and thankful for our opportunity to live, serve, and grow the body of Christ in Tanzania. It has changed my life. It has rocked my world.  It taught me how to look at the complete picture and respect it, showing sensitivity to the light and dark hues. I’ve discovered that being thankful for pain or discomfort is such a hard concept to grasp because we live in a world that has convinced us that the pursuit of happiness and comfort is our unalienable right. Even in Tanzania, this is what we want religion to confirm. What people want to hear and what they need to hear are two very different things. I want to hear I’m fundamentally good, fundamentally in control, and fundamentally on the right track. What we need to hear is an accurate diagnosis of our condition – we need to see the complete picture. An instrumental part of that picture is seeing God’s work throughout this world; seeing the Gospel in vivid, intercultural color.

I thought the things I would miss most about the red, white, and blue were all the comforts and conveniences, and while those are very attractive, I missed relationships the most. Facebook gives you this false sense of involvement and “being there” while at the same time making you feel like you’re being left behind! Returning home, I find that the authentic relationships are still there, intact, and most haven’t changed. It turns out I didn’t sacrifice relationships. I enhanced and defined them.

All the first-world things you can do without. Believe me, you can! Because all the somethings we hold on to, the things we imagine are keeping us alive, are the very things that are killing us. I encourage everyone to go – GO see the complete picture of the Gospel, across oceans and borders. And when you get there and have those moments when you feel as if God is killing you, accept that He is. But he’s killing you to make you alive. Behold, says Jesus, the old has passed away. The new has come.

How Romantic?…

How Romantic?…

We have met all sorts of people in Tanzania: bikers passing through on their trek across the globe, couples traveling through every country in Africa in a zebra colored SUV, and many other expatriates here for various reasons. Recently, I met a gregarious fellow from Holland named Martijn. We exchanged stories and then he asked me, “So you and your husband did the whole romantic sounding thing, sold it all and moved to Africa?” And I laughed, replied yes, and then started to tear up.

That does sound romantic doesn’t it? The trouble is – I have never thought to stamp that word on our undertaking. The process wasn’t romantic and Africa isn’t romantic. It just makes for quite an idyllic start of a bold, new chapter.

Can’t deny it though, when we started down this road, I thought I could change the world, and try as I might, I have learned in one whole African year that I am unable to manufacture outcomes the way I thought I could. Live long enough, lose enough, see enough suffering, and this youthful idealism fades; and it dims especially fast when you live in a land that’s foreign and in contrast to your own. It leaves behind the ugly truth that we live in a broken world as broken people.

I’ve heard it said that one of God’s jobs is to destroy the idols in our lives. Unfortunately for us, our main idol is ourselves. And for all the tears, screams, cries, frustrations, despair, and static of this year, I am completely grateful. I’m grateful for the way God has wrecked my idealism and invincibility complex, and replaced it with a realism about the extent of His love and grace, which is much bigger than I had ever imagined. We all need profound events for recalibration. Indeed, the smaller I get, the smaller life makes me, the easier it is to see the grandeur of grace. God is infinitely more PRESENT than I ever thought.

We aren’t backpacking around the world; we’re not safaring through Africa. These “romantic” flings are fun and short-lived. God’s love is unchanging, forever, and life changing for all of us.  In this season of Advent, remember with God it’s a lifelong commitment of romance. You may not like the process at times and every season probably won’t be as pretty as this Holiday season, but the Lord always comes through with the perfect present in hand.

Thank you for Jesus and the gift of salvation through him.

Happily Ever After 

Happily Ever After 

Happily Ever After 

I love romantic comedies! The handsome, perfect guy gets the girl and they live happily ever after… right? Although, “happy” is fleeting and the “ever after” is what we’re actually left with, we still love to fantasize about it and we try to pursue it. We, for the most part, want the family, the job, the house, the car…the “good” life.


 

I want “happily ever after” for the people we minister to here in Tanzania. But the oft-portrayed American version or even an abridged version of our “happily ever after” isn’t possible for 95% of people here. Most men and women in the villages do not have the freedom or luxury to date, to romantically idealize their mate and marry the person they’re madly in love with. Moreover, most young people do not have the privilege of choosing the career they desire. They are relegated to farming, selling goods in the streets, or what ever occupation is available at the time. So as you can probably guess, the house, the car, annual awesome vacation, are pretty farfetched ideas.

I find myself constantly battling my desires to “fix” every thing, bandage the scrapes, and make everything better. Oh, my western insensibilities!  My “happily ever after” doesn’t translate and that’s a good, no, a great thing, because my expectations are earthly and tangible and will always fall short because I’m human. I, subconsciously, unfairly put my burdens of expectations on the people here. 
 
And whenever these moments claw their way into my mind and stand in opposition to my current cultural socializations, I give up. I fall to my knees, close my eyes, outstretch my arms and remember there is only one, ultimate, heavenly measure – my Father in Heaven, who loves me and freed me from these burdens when I accepted his grace and precious gift of renewed, reinvigorated life through His Son. As I delight in Him and re-orient my eyes through His love, I smile upon my neighbors, friends, the all the villagers of Tanzania. 

 

Their “happily every after” and mine is eternity with Christ.

PRAY FOR RAHIM!

This month, we journeyed the mountainside of Morogoro again to love on the albino population of Mkuyuni. We took 20 albino people from this village to see a local dermatologist in Morogoro. Every albino received a skin checkup (AMEN!) and we also heard some disturbing news. Two weeks prior to our visit, a 75-year old albino man who lives in Mkuyuni was attacked in the night and his hand was cut off at the request of a local witch doctor. His name is Rahim and I ask each of you to keep him in your prayers as he learns to live with his disability. We are exploring options to help him and pray that God will lead us in the best course of action.

GO TANZANIA 2017 NEWS LETTER

GO TANZANIA 2017 NEWS LETTER

Download the full news letter here! Testimonies

Don Myer

A Lesson we taught each believer is found in 2 Corinthians 5:20, “We are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God”. We emphasized that very Christian is an Ambassador and every home is an Embassy for the Kingdom of God. On our second day in this home, the 80 year old Christian widow invited 22 of her neighbors and friends to hear the message of God’s love in Jesus Christ. We were able to love on these dear people and share with them the life changing reality offered in Jesus Christ. I was so encouraged in how simple faith in Christ was for the Tanzanians to grasp and live out in their neighborhood. They crowded in this place of worship to hear the gospel and have their needs prayed for in Jesus name!

Dan Nance

This family touched my heart:

Day 1, I came upon the young lady with the white headband and the Babu and Bebe on the ground. I shared the Gospel with them and the grandparents came to Christ. The young lady did not, but she was heavy with fear and sadness. Seems she cannot have children, and in this culture, that is not good for a young married woman. She cried as I laid hands on her and as I prayed for God to heal her and grant her a child. Her mother is the lady with the red hat, and was not there Day 1, but was out working in the fields. After she came home, she came looking for us in the village, because she wanted Jesus….but we had already left!

Day 2, we went back with Chrissy in tow because I wanted her to pray over the young lady. The mom was there and her eyes lit up big time when she saw us. I shared the Gospel and she came to Christ right then and there. I told the young lady that even though she could not have children..yet… that she was beautiful in the eyes of God, that she is worthy and valuable and that He loves her.

Kristine Sinisi

I’m not the type of person to throw myself into an unfamiliar situation especially with people I don’t know.  But I did it.  This Jersey girl joined a bunch of Texans in Africa to share the good news of Jesus Christ with the unreached people of Tanzania.  This was a life changing moment that I’ll never forget.

As we went through the week, I realized that if I want to follow Jesus and love people well, I must do so at the expense of my own comfort.  I embraced the awkward, out of place, not-knowing-what-to say moments by stepping out of my own discomfort and into love.  I saw people instead of their differences, and saw God more than I ever have before.  I feel so alive and I’m thankful that I was able to see this part of the world and love and encourage the people that live there.  I’m more grateful for what God has blessed me with – friends, family, health, to name a few.  Thank you for this opportunity and I’m looking forward to serving with you all again!

Kaitlin Sinisi

For above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8. On our last night in the village, we had a crusade. We set up a stage, blasted music, and danced around. We walked through the market to invite the locals to join us in the celebration. I found myself surrounded by a swarm of beautiful children, fighting to hold my hands. I gave them each one finger, 10 kids on 10 fingers, and I have never felt so much love. It reminded me of Jesus and how much He loves and cares for us. He marvels at us, even though we are broken sinful people. He loves us deeply, more than I can understand, and His greatest act of love (dying on the cross and rising again) covers all our sins. I got to experience a glimpse of the joy and love that awaits for us in Heaven, all through the smiles of little children in Tanzania. I realized how big our God is, how He speaks Swahili, and He loves His children. He loves His children in Tanzania as much as He loves His children in America. God knows no boundaries. We got to share the truth about Jesus Christ to a group of people who had never heard His story. It was indescribable how much light it brought to their eyes. I could see the hope and the desperation for a Savior. Our mission was to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with His children who had never heard, so that they might know and repent and believe. We got to share with them the joy of loving Jesus, through our dancing and singing and teaching. Yesu ni mwema. Jesus is good.

Kristin Talyor

When reflecting on the last 2 weeks in Africa, there are so many things to love, remember, and cherish forever. Sharing the gospel with people who had never heard the name of Jesus. Discipling natives and new believers, showing them how to study the Bible. Sharing testimonies with albino women and realizing our similarities outweigh our differences. The list goes on and on. But if I had to pick 1 moment to be my favorite, one that will keep me going until I can return, it would have to be the way we worshipped together. Dancing our hearts away, singing and shouting in all different languages, all to worship the one true God. It was absolutely beautiful.

Man, isn’t heaven going to be fun?

Matt Reeves

The Tanzanian culture is very welcoming and we experienced this every day. But on one particular day my translators and I came across a group of brick makers. Because work was slow and they were just hanging around, they immediately invited us in. After a couple of games of checkers, all of these guys got to hear the Gospel and decided to accept Christ! Not only did we have a great time (even though I lost every game) but with God we were able to bring the life changing reality of Jesus Christ to these good men!

Chrissy Speranza

At the beginning of the trip, I thought I would have a hard time and would want to leave. Little did I know, I was beyond wrong. We arrive to the compound we were staying and as soon as we walked out many people greeted us with hugs and broken Hellos. We spent the Saturday we arrived and the Sunday after learning Swahili, going to church and visiting markets. Monday through Friday were the days that changed so many people’s lives. During the week, we went to the villages that had never heard the name of Jesus. We had to get Government permission to even be there to tell people about the Son of God. Dan Nance and I were partners and went to these huts together to tell people about the savior. We met with many people during this time but there was one family that impacted me in ways I didn’t know were possible. This woman was very shut off towards us and did not talk to us at all. Dan knew something was wrong so he asked if there was anything we could pray for her about and came to find she cannot have children. Living in a Muslim culture while being a woman who cannot have children is a very big deal. That is one of the soul purposes of women in this culture. We prayed with her and she was still shut off. We continued to visit families, make relationships, and play with the village children but this woman would not open up to us. I became down and sad but knew God was doing amazing things. By the second to last day we were in the villages I took my translator and sat with her while she was cooking. I have never seen anyone laugh so hard in my life. She had finally opened up to us and we had many conversations about small unimportant things and huge life things. I realized in this moment that I needed to be her friend. Someone to be there for her. She needed someone to have fun with. I was so focused on bringing people to Jesus that I stopped thinking about building relationships with these amazing people who deserve a friend more than someone telling them something they have never heard before. God taught me that he is the same in America, Africa, and all over the world. God taught me that his people are his people. God taught me that I love his people and want to teach globally. God taught me a lot this trip but he showed me how faithful he is to his people and how important it is to tell people about his son Jesus.

Elisha Franklin

This was my first mission trip. I was very excited and nervous. When we finally went out in the villages I was concerned that when I shared the gospel no one would understand the message I was trying to convey. Then, I remembered that when Christ is lifted up He will draw all men also Chris always reassured me that I was doing fine and encouraged me to do more on my own. As a result, I became more confident and comfortable in my ability to minister.  I was able to connect, minister, and bring multiple Maasai Women to Christ and one of them was baptized! I saw firsthand that the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few. It was a rewarding experience!

Lily Mowry

On our second full day that we were in Mlandizi, all of the women went with Didi to a village to see what it was like to be a woman in that village. While we were there, a few little kids peaked their head around the corner to look at us where we were sitting. They kept giggling and talking about us so I got up and peaked my head around the corner and they all freaked out because they didn’t expect it. The kids threw me a ball and we ended up throwing the ball around and dancing together. It was so amazing to love on those kids even though they had no idea who I was. When it was time for us to leave, they kept asking if we were coming back tomorrow. Unfortunately, we were not so we said goodbye to each other and they gave us hugs and waved as we were driving away. God’s love was definitely being reflected onto those kids through us.

Chris Chilton

For four days, I shared the Gospel in the simplest way I could. The most absurd thing happened. People responded.

Witnessing more individuals accept Christ as Lord and Savior in a week span than in all my life previous stole my breathe away. Yet             never have I felt more fulfilled. We were able to take part in the Great Commission from Christ to “… make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[b] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19).

However, the village leaders were afraid losing power over people. They instructed the villagers not speak to speak with us. Men and women who had proclaimed Christ the day before hid from view when we returned to their homes.

On the final day, we went to gather those who wished to be baptized. All but one refused. Despite being alone, one woman of the Maasai wished to publicly declare her faith because of the one who was alone for her.

Is P.E.A.C.E Possible?

Is P.E.A.C.E Possible?

Ever heard of the P.E.A.C.E Plan? The P.E.A.C.E Plan is an initiative begun by Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California. P.E.A.C.E is an acronym for the stated methodology for achieving the plan: 1) Promote reconciliation (Plant churches) 2) Equip servant leaders 3) Assist the poor 4) Care for the sick 5) Educate the next generation. The plan is in response to the five “Global Goliaths”: 1) Spiritual Emptiness 2) Egocentric/Corrupt Leadership 3) Extreme Poverty 4)Pandemic Diseases 5) Illiteracy and lack of education.

The “Global Goliaths” separate 1st world from 3rd world. The “Global Goliaths” are present in every third world country in varying degree. Previously, I only read about the difficulties or snatched a glimpse on a short-term trip. Now, I live it; I see it from 360 degrees. I see how it’s crippling the potential of Tanzania and other countries across Africa. It’s heartbreaking, especially for me. People living in mud huts without access to clean water or electricity, preventable and curable malaria taking lives daily, girls with minimal education, raised to think sex is a commodity giving their power away daily, and the rich politicians driving around in brand new Range Rovers. Where do you start? Is P.E.A.C.E even possible?

Finding solutions to these goliaths is not Western socialization. It’s God’s people caring for one another – for the least of those. It’s mobilizing and shifting resources from areas of abundance to places of scarcity. It’s paying attention to global suffering and responding. There are thousands of international charities established around the globe and still people hunger, children die. These “Global Goliaths” are entrenched and ingrained in their societies. Humanitarian aid alone isn’t enough. It will take the coordination and partnership of the public and private sectors and the Church to produce a deep rooted, transgenerational transformation.

This transformation starts with the Gospel. It begins in the heart. Oftentimes, we act as if the way things work is: what the mind chooses, the will works for, and the heart catches up to. The only problem is 95% of the time, our hearts never come around. How it really works: what the heart desires, the will chooses, and the mind justifies. The saving work of Jesus Christ, his life and his death, and our redemption through Him transforms the heart and reorients worldviews. The shackles of sinful patterns are broken and the “Global Goliaths” gain a divine opponent. Then, the plan is possible. Then, P.E.A.C.E is promising.

 

WHICH DOCTOR?

WHICH DOCTOR?
Which doctor are you going to? The witch doctor. Which doctor?…The WITCH doctor. Ohhh, the witch doctor. It took me a couple of turns to fully grasp my neighbor (Joyce) was planning on going to the witch doctor and she was requesting $200 from me to assist her. ($200 is 2-3 month’s wages). With a hint ignorance and a side glance steeped in cultural insensitivity, I chuckled as I replied ‘no’. ‘No, you don’t need a witch doctor’. She needed to go to a real doctor; a contemporary, needle-wielding, antibiotic-dispensing doctor and well… be healed. Then she told me her story of an ongoing illness that, for the past three years, has robbed her of energy as pain racks her body. Unable to work consistently for the past three years, she’d been to three doctors who all told her nothing was wrong with her physically, so then, assuming the ailment was spiritual she attended various prophet healing sessions. After the prophets failed to heal her she went to a witch doctor. The witch doctor informed her bugs were eating her bones.
 
*Let’s pause for a second here…because if you’re a Westerner like me, you hear this diagnosis and you think “how amazingly absurd” just like I did. But when you live in a land for so long ruled by witch doctors and natural healers which is most third-world countries, this is their reality. I passed this information along to my other neighbors and members of our local church, and they all simply nodded in agreement that yes, she had had demons inside her. It made me wonder…Am I that spiritually out of touch? Thanks to all my assurances, insurances, just-in-case extra purchases, am I that many degrees removed that I can’t see the obviously spiritual component of this situation?*
 
The treatment provided by this witch doctor failed to cure her but at least now Joyce knows what the issue is and she wants me to help her find relief by going to a different witch doctor. One problem – as Jesus-loving woman I can’t with clear conscious waste $200 on a witch doctor.
 
I was in the midst of a very unique cross cultural situation. If I wasn’t going to send her to the witch doctor, how was I going to help Joyce? Well first, I prayed about it, and then I consulted our local pastor on how to be culturally sensitive without compromising my world view. Many local Christians, even as they proclaim Christ and would never go to the witch doctor to curse someone, will definitely go to the witch doctor to heal someone.
 
As of now, Joyce has come to church with us, we’ve presented the Gospel and prayed over her. I read her the story of Mark 5:21-34 about the woman who was sick for many years and how the Lord healed her because of her faith and proclaimed, “your faith has healed you”. Now, all we can do is pray… join me in prayer for another soul to truly come to know Christ.
 
Also, we’ve taken her to get another opinion from a reputable doctor because if we can help, we must.

Sorting Beans!

Sorting Beans!

You know how you hate some things so much you block them out of your memory until you’re confronted with the avoidable situation again. I have couple of those like cleaning toilets, shaving, taking Moses to any type of medical/dental check-up…and here in Africa, the simple tedious task of sorting beans!

And the strategy works! I had blocked this out of my memory so well, frolicking in the sea of canned beans of America, that I had completely forgot about the whole ordeal until I went to the market and saw them – bins of beans littered with rocks, twigs, bugs, and dirt. My heart trembled, and I contemplated just substituting them with eggs or protein shakes at the dinner table, but alas I whimpered a little and said “kilo moja” (one kilogram please).

 

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And there I was at home, with Abel at my side, sorting beans with a sour face and terrible disposition, and a “truth” bean pelted me on the forehead. I stopped for a second and the realization hit me, ‘I am, we are all, the beans, and God sorts us. This is what God does!’  Wow. Whoa. Ughhh. Moment of humanity, as I’m just complaining up a storm. This is what the Lord does. God counts beans every day. A limitless array of ugly, filthy, conniving, rough, stubborn, calloused beans; emotional, ungrateful beans and I’m one of them.

Isn’t He amazing? He formed us in our mothers’ wombs, knowing our most intimate parts. He sorts us every day. And He doesn’t grow tired, weary, or complain as all our imperfections show through. He throws out the twigs and rocks, and carefully tends to and cleans all his beautifully imperfect beans. Praise God today in the little things, the undesirable tasks, and small annoyances. Thank God for sorting us out and sacrificing His son Jesus Christ as the complete atonement for our sins. Remember, you and me are worse than we think, and remember also that God’s gift of righteousness to us is greater than we could ever imagine.

Walk 5 Miles in Their Shoes

Walk 5 Miles in Their Shoes
Sunscreen is valuable! Local albino people bused, biked, walked, and took motorcycle taxis up to 20 miles to be educated about their unique skin and receive life-improving sunscreen, lip balm, sunglasses, hats, and long-sleeved shirts. Imagine walking to get something, 5 miles each way, on a hot Texas summer day without any sunscreen. Whatever you’re in search of must be pretty valuable!
lipbalm
So very thankful for the opportunity to bless and love on God’s people. Village by village we continue to educate and empower. Thanks to all who help make this possible. The need is big, and the harvest is plentiful! Help us prepare the harvest and meet the physical and spiritual needs of the albino people of Tanzania!
albinowoman

Can He use me too?

Can He use me too?

I’ve served as an ambassador for Christ in two countries overseas twice in short term trips and once in vocational ministry for a longer period.

I am not a big-shot theologian from some fancy seminary.

I am an ordinary person.

I struggle with temptations like anyone else.

I often become tongue-tied and suffer from a slight social awkwardness (the exact degree may vary based on who you ask).

It’s okay.

I’ve learned to embrace it.

I state my flaws because I do not wish to give the impression that I walked around other countries with a silver tongue, quoting scripture and thumping bystanders with my biblical rhetoric. However, God did use me, a weak individual (2 Cor. 12:9) incapable of right action without Him, to glorify His name by empowering me to share the good news about Jesus among the nations.

And He can use you, too.

I recall a man visiting my church talking about his work with some tribe off in the middle of who-knows-where and me telling God “not for me” when I was sixteen. Six years later, God said, “Yes, for you.” However, my mind and heart had changed to where I wanted to go. Emphatically, I prayed, Lord, send me (Isa. 6:8) daily. But, how did that transition happen?

At an early age, I heard and knew that God loved me. He died for me (John 3:16). He paid for my mistakes so I could be right with Him. He came back from the dead (Rom 10:9) so I would one day rise again, too. I did nothing to earn salvation, but received it as a gift through faith (Eph. 2:8-9. But… these facts, theses immutable truths as I understood them, did not impact my life. Why?

Well, I remained spiritually immature for many years (1 Cor. 3).  As the Pharisees, I did right for the sake of right. When struggling with sin, I ran aimlessly. Not towards Christ, but to functional saviors like video games, food, and running… anything to keep from plunging into the same pitfalls and patterns that would lead to sin. Anything but God. Anything but Christ. Because I could overcome anything on my own sheer force of will. Oh, how wrong was I?

Although in many respect s I had abandoned God, he did not abandon me.  At eighteen, I met several individuals who truly loved the Lord and delighted in Him and His word. They were weird.

And, I wanted to be just like them.

 

In the time that followed, I found something that eluded me until that point, Community. These young men and women implored me to seek God daily through prayer, scripture, accountability, and encouragement.  And I did. And I experienced more growth then ever prior.

Gradually, God worked on my heart and liberated me from my addictions (note the plural tense).  Christ set me free (Gal 5) through His word, His Spirit, and His body (Community). Christ molded me through this process to be more like Him. It was not easy. It was not immediate. It was often painful. And it took time.  Ultimately, God changed my heart to be more like His and redirected my path in life. Though I had plans and ambitions for my future, those changed. Not to say God wrecked my dreams, but that my heart’s desire changed. Just as a friend mentored me (2 Tim 2:2), I wished to disciple others as Jesus commanded all believers to do in the Great Commission (Mat. 28:19).

Jesus radically altered my reality.

God used me to glorify him and make him known among the nations on the far side of the world three times, despite my ordinary struggles, my brokenness, my bitterness, and despite me. And I endeavor to continue to be more like Him and to grow His Kingdom. Even though I often fumble over my own words, I can still have confidence when sharing the good news of Jesus because the creator of the universe commanded me to do so.

Jesus overcame me. He overcame the grave. And he can certainly overcome you. If nothing else, let my testimony provide a defense for his power to heal the broken and to use the ordinary to grow His kingdom by making disciples of all nations.

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Chris Chilton serves as a team member with 1520 Unreached in Austin, TX and as a member of Wells Branch Community Church. Thank you for all your work Chris.