Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take. Proverbs 3:6
It’s so funny how, when we are going through something that is hard, we usually seem to "know" what should happen to fix the problem. So we often pray for specific things to happen because we think we know what is best. When the truth is that we really have no clue. Only God really knows what works into His bigger plan. I think sometimes He will give us exactly what we pray for just so that, when it doesn’t work out how we thought, we can come back and ask for His guidance. But more often than not - when it doesn’t work out - we just get mad and say God isn’t listening. When the truth is that we never really asked God for His will to be carried out in the first place. We need to ask for His will, even if it means that we will be uncomfortable or that our plans take a longer, harder road.
God has already seen everyday of our lives and knows what needs to happen, long before we can even think to ask Him.
So when I look back over the last five years in this ministry, and the many prayers I have said, I am actually grateful that God has not answered them all. From here I can see how His plan has been so much better than I could have ever imagined. Don’t get me wrong, there are still parts that I don’t understand or like. Women that I love and pray for that I may never see again. Some have died, others are missing and I may never know what happened to them. But I know that my God is a magnificent God and He has a bigger plan. I trust in that plan - even when tears are falling down my face and I want to scream “where are you in this mess??” I trust Him, through the pain and through the fear, even when I have to grit my teeth do it.
If nothing else, this trip has taught me that God is working everything together for the good of those who love Him. The pieces of the puzzle have started to come together for this ministry and I am so grateful to be able to see progress when it seemed like there would never be any. I am grateful to see that His plan is slowly unfolding.
Trusting in God's plan doesn't mean that it will be comfortable, easy, or pretty............
but it will be Perfect!
And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them. Romans 8:28
There are times when I feel completely confident, totally in my element, and ready for anything. Then there are times when I don’t. Sometimes I feel lost, inadequate and completely unworthy to be used by God in this ministry.
This is one of those times.
I have so many regrets.
I have made so many mistakes.
There have been times I have wondered if He is even here. I have questioned who He really is. As this ministry stalled, I tried to move it forward on my own. Thinking for a moment, I was somehow the power behind it.
Ha, such a ridiculously human thought!
He is God!
He will do it how He wants, when He wants and with whomever He wants. I was just standing in the way, making a mess, while thinking I was leading the way. So I took a break to refocus my attention on the almighty God that is the true power. To remember who He really is.
I made a mess. But I know God can make beauty from ashes, and He already has. The new adventure we are starting on is already more promising and already more fruitful. I am so excited to be preparing to go back to Rwanda with a new team, to work with a new church. God has used a very dear friend and coworker of mine to start a new relationship with an amazing woman, named Mama Joy. She is dedicated to helping the hurting women in her town. Ironically enough, it is in the very same town where God called me to this mission 5 years ago. Now I get to go back with a fresh perspective and a healthy view of our awesome God!
After years of trying to start a job training program, we finally get to see it happen! The women get to learn to sew and find a new life through the local church. I am in awe of what God is doing! And I am grateful for this opportunity to see His plan in action!
As I sit on the plane going home, I am thinking about the fact that we live in a deeply fallen world and because of that we should always expect to encounter hardship in our lives. We should never think that we can do anything on our own, which is probably why God puts impossible situations in our paths. Depending on God is the only way through our world’s messiness. If we try to evade the awareness of our own inadequacy we will miss the chance to see God in all His glory and power.
This trip has been very trying and overwhelmingly tough, with impossible mindsets, heartbroken women lashing out with hurtful words, questionable expectations, unrelenting poverty issues. I am feeling crushed and I’m questioning how anything we did this trip will make a positive impact on the lives of the women in the Gukura program. But what I do know is that God is in control and I am trusting Him. Trusting Him to make something good out of nothing. Trusting Him to come in and gloriously change these circumstances for these women. Jesus came to earth to join us in our pain and anguish, join us in our hopelessness and fear, to give us a way out through Him. Immanuel (God with us) means he is here, with us, with them. Always.
I have a love for these women that I can't explain and seeing them light up when I just hold their hand, look into their eyes or just hug them is a feeling I could never begin to describe. To see someone who thought they didn’t matter to anyone, realize they actually matter to God, is incredible. I am thankful for God, entering into the suffering of His people, giving lasting hope and peace. Leaving here breaks my heart, but I’m leaving these women in God’s hands. Knowing He understands and hurts for them, even more than I do, makes it a little easier.
Today we had the opportunity to visit the International Justice Mission (IJM) office in Kigali, Rwanda. We got to learn about what they are doing to help victims of child sexual assault. The subject matter is hard and most people don’t want to talk about it, let alone do anything about it. IJM addresses these issues and fights for the girls that are victimized. They see it through from assault to graduating from trauma counseling for the girls, and from arrest to prosecution
and incarceration for the perpetrators. In Rwanda these issues happen all too often and are not talked about to anyone, which makes it easier for people to get away with it and do it again. The girls feel “used” and “no good” and are especially vulnerable to being re-victimized and forced into prostitution. These are the girls we see in our Gukura program, the ones that never told and never got the help they so desperately needed.
The women in our program are working so hard to better themselves but have a hard time believing they deserve it or that they will ever get out of their situation. This is true for so many girls and women across the world in many other countries, even in our own country. We need more people willing to fight for the injustice in this world. It’s so easy to look at something and think it is cruel and vicious. It’s a lot harder to stand up and do something about it. But people do, everyday! I want to share with people the injustices I have seen and pray others will stand up to help fight them. I want to live in a world that doesn’t just stand by and watch as people suffer. I want to live in a world where people will at least look at the world around them, even if it is just in your home town, and find a way to make a difference for someone. I want to live in a world where people care about one another. If we choose not to look, it is our own selfish desire to pretend we live in a perfect world.
I am grateful that God gave us the chance to meet an entire group of people willing to stand up for others at IJM. It only makes it easier knowing other people are trying to help. I can only pray that what we are trying to do here in Rwanda makes even just a little impact for the girls who no one would stand up for. I pray for the girls in our program and I pray for the leaders of the program in Rwanda. I know that this road will be long and hard but it will be worth it in the end.
“Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” Psalm 51:12
The last few days we have been doing Savings Group training. We were there to help facilitate the training, love the women and encourage them to help themselves. We were not the ones actually doing the training itself so we had a little more time to observe the group and see the responses.
I am struggling with the learned helplessness that is so apparent amongst this group of women. Their lives have been so horrible for so long that they seem like they have lost all hope for a better life. They have been told over and over that they are nothing, they are worthless and they will always be. They want a different life so badly but they expect us to hand it to them because they don’t believe enough in themselves to even try to make a change. This is a frustrating battle and it’s completely overwhelming!
How do you change this mindset? This problem seems almost impossible to do anything about. It makes it really hard to move forward and keep trying. All I can do is pray for hope and healing for these women. Isaiah 40:31 says “But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not be faint.” I know God is the only one who can change their minds and give them the strength and stamina to work hard and keep trying. God is the only one who can make them feel valuable again. I am so sad for them but after all they have been through to survive I wholeheartedly believe in their ability to change their circumstances. God will deliver them if they choose to lean on Him, not on us, or their own abilities.
I am proud of them for coming to all 3 days of training, because it was long. There were hard concepts to grasp and when you don’t even know how you will pay your rent or even feed your children that night, it is hard to learn about saving money. God will bless them for their willingness to try. God only asks us to try. Just to listen to Him, try and then trust Him. A teachable, willing spirit is a fundamental part of who we should strive to be. If we go through life without trying or without listening to God we will forever be who we are now. I want to continue to grow and transform into who He says I should be, not just who this world says I am.
“If the world hates you, keep in mind that they hated me first.” John 15:18
Today was spur of the moment evangelism day. We went to a meeting and at the end of the meeting we were asked if we could come to participate in the door-to-door evangelism that was already planned with the church members for the afternoon. We all looked at each other and I just said, “of course!”
We travelled by public bus to the area near the church and we were then split into 3 groups, one Muzungu, white person, in each group. Each team was supposed to go to 2 houses and tell the people about Jesus. This is not an easy task. It is hard, it is intimidating, and it is scary. A lot of things go through your mind. What do I say? What if I say the wrong thing? What if I look stupid? What if they tell me no? What if they hate me?
I think that most people struggle with telling others about Jesus. But if you stop to think about it, Jesus was laughed at, persecuted and hated too. He was even killed by hypocrites who thought He was wrong. We worry about looking stupid but if we truly believe in Jesus, how can we not share His love and peace with others? How could we let people go through life hurting and lost when we have a way to help them, to share our faith with them? So what if they laugh? So what if they say no? So what if we are persecuted? Jesus told us to go and tell all nations. He also said that if they hate you, just remember they hated me first.
In our evangelism day we were able to pray over a paralyzed baby, pand we got to see 9 people give their lives to Christ. When I was asked to lead 2 people in the prayer to accept Christ, I felt inadequate and unable to do it. But God gave me the words and it was such a blessing to hold their hands and be with them at the very moment their lives were changed forever. What a blessing! What a gift!
What if I had not gone?
Then I wouldn’t have had this moment with these 2 people and I wouldn’t have this memory. God blessed us today, just because we were willing to do as He asked. What if we always did just as He asked? What would our world look like then?
God gives us exactly what we need when we need it. Today we got to go back to the same church as yesterday, Deliverance Church, for Sunday service. This church is mostly made up of women who have been freed from a life of prostitution because most of the others have left. It was so amazing to see a choir of all women, all survivors, all who were singing praise to God for saving them, for loving them
and for washing them clean. Being there dancing with them was such a blessing. This ministry is full of frustration, disappointment, heartbreak and tears. The special moments are few and these moments make it all worth it. The joy and gratefulness was so apparent with them, I just wish I could bottle up that feeling and take it home with me, so I can feel that again when I feel like giving up. Because there are times when I feel like giving up. There are times that I wrestle with God on why He called me to do this. Why halfway across the planet? Why is it so difficult? Why does He allow His people to suffer?
My heart aches for these women every single day. I struggle with my feelings of being inadequate and ineffective. But I can’t unsee the things I have seen. I can’t unlove these women. I can’t just go back to my life the way it was before. I can’t walk away and tell God that it’s too hard or that I am unwilling to go where He has called me. I can only pray for strength and pray that He continues to give me little moments like today in church, when I felt His power and the
joy of His people. I am grateful for this day and for God giving me exactly what I needed to keep moving forward after a couple of really hard days. For now my tears are dry and I soak up this day, knowing the next hard one is just around the corner. And when God knows I need more encouragement, He will give me just that.
Today was a kind of a rough day, I have to say. We got to meet the group of 30 women who have been saved and have decided that they were going to make a better life for themselves. This was so great to see! They started a savings group where they all put money in each week and any of them can borrow from the pot to help with living expenses, buying items to sell at the market, starting a small business, etc. This helps them work together to make a change for themselves.
When the women stood up to share their stories of how the group was going and where they were so far, they also shared about what the money was used for and how it was paid back. They shared about how great it was to have a church that cared about them and also how they were nervous about how they would survive because it still was very hard. They also shared about how I had hurt them by helping
just one woman while she was sick a few months back, and she was still drinking and involved in prostitution and didn't deserve it.
I was kind of shocked! I had no idea they even knew about that. What could I even say?
I had made a mistake. I did the American thing and threw some money at a problem hoping it would be fixed. I didn’t think about the effects it would have on the others.
So I stood there, thinking. Do I try to defend my actions? Do I tell them why I did what I did? Do I explain that she was dying and I panicked? Do I not address it at all? What do I do?
I decided it was best to own up to my mistake. Not to defend my actions, just to admit my humanness. Just to apologize. Not to apologize for caring but to ask forgiveness for not thinking of the whole group when I made my decision. I promised to work directly with their pastor to find the best solution for their specific needs. Since giving money to one didn’t work, then giving even more to a group wouldn’t work either. Through prayer we would find an answer.
God taught me a lesson today. He taught me that it is not me who helps, but Him. He doesn’t need our money, but it should be offered freely. He doesn’t need us to do His work, but we should be more than willing to do it. These women were changing because of what He was doing in them, not because of anything I had or had not done. I am only a vessel that He can use if He chooses. Our God is a God of miracles, and I trust in Him to find a way out for these women.