Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream. Then our mouths were filled with laughter, and our tongues with shouts of joy; then they said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.” The Lord has done great things for us; we are glad. Restore our fortunes, O LORD, like the streams in the Negeb! Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy! He who goes out weeping, bearing seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.” – Psalm 126
One night, several years ago now, I stood in front of my peers at a BCM event and declared to them a tiny piece of my story, more than I had ever shared before. Actually, anything would have been considered “more” because this was the very first time I had opened up about my story. That night we were asked to wear a white T-shirt, covered by a black T-shirt. Both had block letters on either the front or the back. The black shirt declared the word “Trapped” on the back as I stood facing the band at the front of the room. Quivering, I shook out my notes several times just to keep the words un-blurred. After we had each shared, a song was played by the band and as they came to the lyrics listed above that are taken straight from Scripture, we pulled the black shirts over our heads and turned around to reveal BRIGHT RED letters on the front of our shirts, which declared who we actually were to all as witnesses. Mine said “FREEDOM.”
That night began a journey. A Kingdom journey. One of discovery. One of 2 steps forward and often, 1 step back. A journey to uncover the hidden wounds of the past and definitely a journey to seek healing and redemption for all that was.
Now we speed forward . . .
In Moldova, going into month 3, God told me He wanted to give me a new name because at one point in time, I had related to the sowing of tears represented in Psalm 126 but that now, as an overcomer, I had a new name to walk in. Similar to the saints of old, when something big happens in a person’s life, we should move forward in the new work in them and claim their victory right along with them! I asked Him what this new name was, assuming it was to replace “Lauren.” Naturally, I was ready to give it up , even if it meant being called Bertha! Haha! There was so much excitement in the idea of walking out the victory of a new life with a new name! Then He was silent . . .
My friend, Ashley, asked me if I thought I was to go back to being called Lauren (Instead of my newer nickname, “LO”). “I don’t know? Could be,” I said. Her reasoning was great and played into the redemption of the past. I prayed further into this as the months progressed but eventually gave up on receiving a new name. It didn’t seem to come and I was like, “Oh well, I have the new life. I don’t need a new name. I guess I kind of like my current one anyway, ha!”
Then He told me my new name . . .
“You shall no longer be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate, but you shall be called Hephzibah “My delight is in her” and your land Beulah “Married.”
Little did she know that God would speak through this word to confirm the next chapter of my story . . . again, a coming post titled “beLOVED.”
As she shared with the team what God had given her for me, she read Isaiah 62 and closed with these words, “LO, I just feel that God is declaring your past closed and your future open. That what happened in your past is redeemed and that He now plans to use you as Beloved to bring His Kingdom to earth in a new way, with you walking in a new name.” (Something like that! Ha!)
On a rooftop in Penang, Malaysia on day 2 of this month, God repeatedly spoke the words “Build up” to me and I was so confused by them that I remember shouting it into the night sky and adding, “…What in the world does that mean???!” When this verse was read aloud in Team Time a few weeks later, the very same words leapt from the pages and into not only my ears but also my heart!
He always shines light on the next step. Have you noticed that? I didn’t know what name He wanted to give me until I was ready for one. Likewise, He spoke the words “Build up” over my future and gave me only a snippet of clarity into what that means. Will he again come through in the future with further light shone onto the practicality of this personal call? Yes!! Yes, He will! He’s so faithful! Don’t you see?? He gave me a new name at the exact point in time that I needed it. I will be going home soon and I pray that like my new name, God will reveal all that “build up” entails but for now . . . I’m walking as His beLOVED. and it’s an honor.
What makes sense to a child, is the fact that when they open their Crayola box, their crayons are all separated by color. The child rolls his pudgy little finger over the tips of all of these segregated artistic instruments, and as their creativity towards their coming masterpiece grows, so does the needs to stay in the lines, color appropriate images certain colors, and complete the picture of an isolated rainbow of discovery.
If made to clean up the mess they’ve made, each child has one thing in mind. Get the crayons in the box as quickly as possible. Their mothers, however, have a different aim in mind and so they help their child accomplish the laborious task of separating the array of molded wax into very specific segments. Individual color boxes. There they remain until the next attempt to be Rembrandt takes over the child’s ever changing will . . . then the colors will be blended over paper again and strewn around the room in an artistic frenzy.
I am reminded of a baby-sitting position I held for a short time as an early teen. I arrived at the house as the parents were headed hurriedly out the door and I was instructed to let the baby, only maybe 2 or 3 at the time, to color for as long as she wanted. I moved into the room with the kids to find the sweet angel looking dazed and confused at the paper she was attempting to make shapes on . . . there were no lines, no parameters just a blank canvas for her mind. I remember asking her older brothers where the coloring books were because this picture in front of me looked a little sad and daunting, in all of its’ blank space. They responded ever so casually, “Mom doesn’t allow us to use coloring books because she says that the lines limit the creativity of our minds and shape our future in a way that will make our minds continue to feel boxed in and not at liberty to be our full potential.” Did I mention he was 7?
Although I will most likely allow any future kids I might have to indeed color on a lined book, I do understand more than ever the need to let children be free thinkers in many regards. Not in any cliche’ labeled versions of that term but in the way that God intended. I will be their mother, not the Holy Spirit, and although God’s Spirit may call me to place safe parameters around the hearts and minds of the children He entrusts me with, I never want to limit their thinking to my points of view. If they are to believe in anything or anyone, I want it to be because of the life-change they wish to experience and the love they want to embrace. I want to support them as they grow, yes, and even as they mess up. I believe in God. I believe that He loves to clean up messes. Often, my messiest days are the very days that I turn to Him with the most surrender and belief in Who He is and what He can accomplish in and through me. I think I’ll let my kids come to that revelation with only encouragement from me.
Anyway, you may be wondering what in the world this has to do with my Race???? Well, speaking of the world . . .
I have seen over 10 countries thus far of people manipulating ideals and even people themselves to believe what they (whomever “they” might be: Political/Religious/Educational authorities?) desire them to believe or even be subject to. Points of view, beliefs, ideals, instead of positive life-change, love, and acceptance. I’m honestly sick of it. I know I will never be able to get away from it though. Wow, depressing right? Nope! It’s just a call to live different. I thought that America was in rough shape with its’ shady politicians and scandals on Capital Hill but my limited time abroad has brought about a comparatively objective point of view of my own, the world, in all of its’ beauty, is a sketchy place! Yikes, wish I could say differently but the honest truth is that anywhere you travel around the world, there will be crooks, negativity, and manipulation of what’s right.
This is why I choose to stand on what I believe, not as a platform of Religion but as a strong foundation to my activist form of unconditional love. I want to love the world the way that my Father in heaven, Creator of both heaven AND earth does. I get mad. Yes. I don’t appreciate the hypocrisy of the Christian church. No. I hate being singled out AROUND THE WORLD simply because of my light colored skin. Yes. I can’t stand the discrimination I feel daily in many of the countries I have visited because I am a woman with my forearms showing and my ankles unveiled. I don’t like that at all. But God . . . did not create me to live as a person of hate but of love. I’ll get to the details of that love in a coming blog post but for now just know that it is not my hope to live frustrated with the world in my future. But instead, to be a light in any dark place.
All of this started to grow into a blog post in my heart because of the prejudice we face every day this month in Malaysia. There are 3 groups of people here and even when we are teaching English (Technically a non-religious activity because of the fundamental Islamic location we live in), we are told before each class, “You have 3 of this ethnicity, 2 of this ethnicity, and 4 of this ethnicity in your next class.” For what reason? Well, mainly because they won’t sit together. They won’t talk with one-another. They definitely won’t go to get a bubble-tea together after class. So we, as their teachers trying to help them with a common goal to learn English, have to know how to adjust our behavior to include them all in the learning process. It all works out in the end.
The other reason my heart beats so loudly on this topic this month (Okay, more than normal!), comes from a place of distaste on my tongue for the gruesome stairs, gross gestures, and even more demeaning clicks and kisses from the mouths of the men standing on the side of every. single. sidewalk. The team I am with this month has really had to pray into this matter. Our safety, yes, and mainly our forgiveness and again, unconditional love, for these ignorant men. They are unaware or uncaring, as of now, what detriment they can cause by their intentional and yet careless behavior. What makes this okay? The idea that 1 crayon is better than another. The idea that the box of crayons is supposed to be separated by color or some other distinction, gender in this case.
What I love and cling to each day I am here is the truth that Jesus loves each of us, and not just in spite of our differences, but because of them. My Father created me light skinned and female and He loves me as I am. Then again, He created those same men I mentioned and He sees their heart. Do I have to roll over to the idiosyncrasies of this fallen world? Not at all but I can choose to live with a love that makes us the same in worth instead of different because of race, gender, and/or birth place.
God’s working on my heart, as you can tell. Softening it towards the broken of His world, all the while willing it to be stronger in the area of justice. What a balancing act it can be if held to task only by me. So, I’ve given my heart to Him again. He’s going to work out all the details. Today though, He gave me the imagery of the lesson He has asked me to pass on to you, my sweet blog readers . . . He loves you where you are, as you are, and He wants you to give away that same love and acceptance towards anyone you connect with (Or wish you hadn’t!).
We may have been taught as children to designate spaces for each different crayon to dwell but may we grow from that unnecessary segregation into a people group who cares enough to tear down the walls of our man-made boxes and set free those who have been trapped by such divisive ideas around the world.
I vote for new Crayola box, filled with the diversity we see in the colors of the world. Equal and free.
When a Racer is in the process of writing a blog but is not ready to publish it yet, they save the post as “under development” and it stays archived for further construction. Sometimes it’s because we are not finished writing it and sometimes it’s almost finished but we are waiting for the outcome of the story to emerge before releasing it publicly.
And sometimes Jesus tells us to wait because it’s just not quite the right time to let it go.
If you notice, each Racer has a different style of writing for their Race and also their audience back home simply appreciates a differently captured version of this journey. Some people tell stories and others, facts. I lean towards just sharing my heart, wherever it’s at each month, in hopes that it will connect with my readers in a impacting and personal way. I feel that when this ends, I will explain what the World Race was all about but for now, my thoughts are just continually layed out on a dish for you to either stick a fork in or not! Ha!
This time I want to share with you what God did in my heart yesterday, a random day on my Race. When I finish, I believe you will see the correlation between my blog posts and me, both for sure “under development.” For weeks I have simply been pushing forward. I became Squad Leader and dove ino this role head first. Love it. Worked through the loneliness that not having a “team” can bring and remained Spirit led as I traversed each new day of 1on1’s and daily planning. Meanwhile, my heart denied its’ longings for adventure, negated receiving feedback, and ran from a future that God was laying out all too clearly before me. I have always had a “radical” heart, willing most days to follow God to the ends of the earth and satisfied to go it alone, despite sacrifice. That way of living is what I’ve seemingly been groomed for and my expectations in that have been ridiculously high. “normal living” has been out of the question . . . And then yesterday happened.
Excuse me when I say that a certain something “hit the fan” and I came to the halting reality that Jesus has been speaking clearly about His nearing post Race plans and they are anything but “wild” in my way of thinking. It was time He and I had a chat so He took me on a walk through a few beautiful back ally-ways of the Chiang Mai residential district. Having just crushed a few feelings of friends who got in the way of my screeching emotions, my pot of hot temper boiled over and I found myself getting purposefully “lost” in this great city. Right about the time I grinned at my desertion of God’s intentions for me, I glanced upwards and past the high walls that were seemingly protecting me from my unwanted and safe life ahead. There it was, high above the rest and yelling at me as strong towers seem to do, the Imperial Hotel, a landmark only 1 kelo from my house. I was not lost at all. Actually, I had been led in the safest direction possible.
As I began to get mad at the irony of it all, God spoke directly to my stubborn heart as He filled me suddenly with both His peace and joy. He said, “Lauren. You can run away from my plan but it doesn’t mean I have left you or given up. Like that building, I’ve been here the whole time with you and I always will be.” He continued to speak and as I walked closer and closer to the approaching image of a building, I began to sink further and further into His refuge and love. He is the only constant I will ever know.
That day didn’t end there but He continued to share with me The depth and blessing of His plans for me, along with his deep delight in who He has made me to be. As He spoke, my satisfaction in both of these grew too and my enthusiasm blossomed to radiant. The term “radical” for me means “deeply uncomfortable.” This feeling is anything but misery but instead a life that seems safe and sound and is but that also ignites my heart and personality for its’ magnificent purpose, to walk as “Lauren” wherever i am and in whatever I’m doing, aware that it is not only enough in his kingdom work but valuable in a way that Jesus and I may only ever understand.
There once was a little girl who grew up too fast . . .
My story could begin like this but instead, God saw fit for my story to be revealed a different way, in living large as a child, to being trapped as a teen, and even in letting go of what was as an adult. God has continued to move me forward and as He has, my pride has been punched in the face more than once along the way.
Last Friday, that looked like a trip to the hospital, following a “could have been horrible” motorbike crash in a remote village in Thailand.
Although medicated for the pain, with my left leg wrapped like a mummy and propped up in lazy man style, I have been given much needed time to think through my life as a whole and especially into what might have left me feeling so helpless as I do this weekend.
It really all began with expectation.
This word, expectation, is a dreaded word in the AIM/World Race culture. You are warned of its’ effect early on at Training Camp and then over and over again throughout the months gone by every Racer who might speak truth into your life along the way. Of course, they are speaking more specifically about the Race and the ways in which we enter a country with thoughts about how the month might turn out. It hardly ever ends the way you expected it when beginning on day 1. From food, to hosts, to the reception of the locals, and any other part of daily missionary life, we all have become accustomed to the phrase, “Watch those expectations,” or, “Since when has any of this gone as expected?” The words are always met with rolled eyes but receieving hearts. Yes, none of it has for the good and sometimes the bad of it. You really do have to be fluid on this journey.
Well, my life was filled with expectations as a child. I am not writing to cast blame either, just facts. Here are a few of my childhood expectations for my life and myself:
1. Olympic Gymnast
2. Professional Dancer
3. Professional Musician & Singer
4. Grow up with perfect family unit
5. Full-time minister
6. Graduate with a Masters at a young age
7. Marry at 18 (Black American – to help with racial segragation!)
8. Double wedding with my childhood best-friend
9. Interior Designer
10. Stage make-up artist
11. Have 6 children
12. Travel the world
13. Write a book
As you can see, I had pretty high hopes for my life. Then Reality sets in. My life certainly is not over and some of these things have happened, are happening, or could still happen. All the same, some of them were expectations that God did not see fit to fulfill in my life because his plans for me were, are, and will be better than I could ever think or imagine.
It’s funny to me that back in the day, I believed in myself enough to call out those dreams as doable. In a way, I desire to go back to that God given confidence. And that’s a goal. On the other hand, because His plans are bigger, better, and brighter in His kingdom, a lot of his plans for me are not nearly as flashy as my own for myself. Nor do they need to be. I have always believed that I could do anything. And at the risk of soundy cheesy, I will still share my thought about this now. God can do whatever he wants in me and now, that’s the satisfaction I want to find for my life. A life of love. A life of joy. A life of peace. A life of purpose.
There have been 3 moments on the Race where i made a choice to be a little bit daring, to take a bit of risk. I always have someone reminding me that my loved ones at home would like to see my face again and I of course do keep that in mind. At the same time, I long for adventure, I long to experience the risk of trying. Even if it means ending up bruised and my pride a little broken because of it. So i ask the Lord, as I lay around for days on end trying to heal my heart and body from the fall, where is the balance between expectations of my own that need not be met and a desire to test limits for the purpose of accomplishing more than the ordinary? This weekend, I found the boundary line for one of those but I am still seeking the answer for the rest.
As I came crashing down, so did my thoughts about what I could accomplish on my own. Why? I’m really not sure, they seem to be somewhat unrelated! But God used this. He’s molding my heart to be soft to his touch and lenient from the presence of His loving hand. He wants me to remember that I am a child in his eyes, blameless and pure. But He also reminds me that I have warrior status and can claim the empowerment of His Spirit each day. What a welcomed tale of courage I am offered to tell with my days. Now to trust Him for the balance in me.
Here I go again 🙂
Lastly, there’s one more piece to this pride skidding thought process . . . the way I treat others. Deon, one of our Squad Parents on the Race, spoke to us at the last debrief about Scriptures’ command to love others “as you love yourself.” He emphasized it so much that He even gave us the visual of wrapping our arms around ourselves in a significant move of self endearment. He is so wise. God keeps using he and our Squad Mama, Rynette, in so many ways this year. He said something profound and I must repeat it here . . .
“Do you love God? Yes, yes you do? Hm. do you love your neighbor? Yes, yes you do? Do you love yourself? Ah. Now there’s the question. The Bible clearly says that you can’t love God without loving your neighbor AND yourself.”
Yes, you are right, Deon. Very right. Have I been loving others, myself, and God all in the way that I should? Have I given grace to others as it has been poured out on me. Have I declared myself right more times than necessary, just so that I don’t remain feeling wrong? All of this and more have streamed through my thoughts as I remember the rocks being cleared from my wrecked knee and shoulder a few short days ago.
I’ve always loved people but have I loved them in a way that keeps human expectations at bay and God’s purposes alive and built up in them? This is my aim. To walk with God because He’s that personal and says that I can. To love my fellow man because Jesus did it and showed us how. To live life to the fullest, all the while realizing that it’s in Christ’s strength alone that we are equipped to do so vibrantly.
Wrecking that bike and my heart wasn’t the worst thing in the world, I really will be fine, but it has brought to light a few areas of my heart that God wants to take hold of. And I’m okay with that.
“Here You go, God, my life and heart are Yours.”
The dust is rustled upwards as the sun beats down on parched lips. The children are playing some sort of ball game with bare toes and many American boys. 1 or 2 lone American females attempt to play along, sidestepping the cultural norm to be separate from the boys at all times. We are still trying to adapt to the expectations placed on the female gender around the world. Cries for attention are heard around the lot by those who can do just that, hear. The children are deaf and without the cry, the hearing people will not know they are needed for the pass, the dribble, the nearing goal. Victory is close and the cries and yelps are louder now. He misses. The boys all quiet down again and I am left with my thoughts for my coming blog. This blog. The one about the deaf children that I’ve been prepared my whole life to meet.
Sign Language was my foreign language in Highschool and I trained for over a year to be an interpreter for the deaf and hard of hearing. I even learned from a man that was nearly completely deaf. However, that is not the road I walked down until I traveled around the world for my 8th month on the World Race, where I landed among a powerful people group, the deaf children of the Maharashtra Fellowship for the Deaf. 130 deaf children, gathered together to receive an education, acceptance, and the hope that Jesus’ love can give them as they are.
That’s what I love about Jesus, He doesn’t see them as especially needy humans. We are all needy humans and that’s a fact. Jesus just loves these children. As they are, He calls out to them, just as He does you and I, to receive the gift of His love and to encounter Him every day. They are the forgotten, lacking, and literally the “outcast” of this world and yet, here I find Jesus, in the midst of these children, seeking their hearts and asking them (like you and I) to trust Him for their next move.
These precious, often blue eyed, blessings, are little signs of heaven . . . .yes, pun intended.
He is visibly drawing them into the blatant reality that they are valuable . . . equally as valuable, to Him as anyone else on this earth and they are in return responding with vibrant lives that go beyond words. They speak with their hands and they love with their hearts at just as quick of pace. Learning to do and to exist in a hearing world, these children find refuge in the faces of Americans/foreigners who have come to love on them in any way we can. “Loving” looks like education, sports training, Bible lessons and very active devotionals, chatting, singing with our hands, and attempting to remember every child’s sign name and our own!
Everything we did this month, as American missionaries, was not easy, simple, or even always understood but it was worth it. I would like to clarify now as to who this ministry was really for. . . us. The children, these blessed children . . . they were absolutely signs of heaven. From their devoted hearts to pray to their loving inclusion of all who crossed their path. The way that they reached out to us was a testimony of Who Jesus really is and what He can look like on an every day level. I mean don’t get me wrong, they were children so they scratched each other, got mad, and even cheated in a game or two but ultimately, the peace in their hearts shined brighter than any of the darkness of their past or the clouded uncertainty of their future. They WILL have a tough life. They WILL not be respected in their own land and by their own people but I pray that their affirmation WILL be found in the God Who created them and sees them perfect as they are.
I struggled with the thought of healing while I was at MFD. Doesn’t God want to heal these children of their deafness in the same way I’ve witnessed Him doing with other infirmities around the world this year? Why should I feel as if praying for their healing was lessoning the value of who they are now, when in other areas of the world, I have indeed done just that at Jesus’ call? Because they are in many ways, better off than I. No question in that. They are not distracted by the sounds of the world. They can focus. And they do. They are not lacking! These hard of hearing and deaf children are WANTING for more of God and more for their every day and so they live to THEIR FULLEST as we seek to rescue them from something that is actually meant to rescue us. The knowledge that we do not need anything but to be in the presence of the Lord daily and to walk out His kingdom now on earth! Love everyone. Speak truth. Serve. These things are of utmost importance. Scripture speaks of the flowers of the earth fading and says that the Word is the only thing that remains. We know also from the Bible that Jesus is said to BE the Word. He is with these children, they have claimed Him as their own and they are hungry to live for Him. And so they groan for Him in an act of worship so meaningful that grown men and women do weep.
As I leave India, I am struck by the lesson that Christ taught me through these awe filled children. Heaven is coming. But heaven can be lived out here and now by being the very signs of heaven that God has called us to be. We are the card that Jesus wants to hand out as an invitation to His eternal home. We will not one day understand the fullness of God’s love but can experience it right now wherever we are. We are not lacking. But I know that I am wanting. I am in want for all God has for me and I desire to serve Him, His strength made perfect in my weakness of the flesh. May I be a sign of heaven as I saw the children be at MFD. Speaking to them was difficult at times but always brought joy because of the commitment in communication. I was forced to be fully present and paying attention for every minute of the conversation and I really think God wants to have the same loyalty in communication between He and me! I’m so thankful to apply my month in India with the beautiful deaf children to my life in general.
“God, thank You for sending me to little signs of heaven. May I continue to be the calling card to Your presence and Your kingdom home.”
PS To watch the music video that Bryan Matthews and I made this month, click below!
(Pictures by Ashley Mueller and Ryan Otto)
5 months strong. 5 months weak. 5 months more dependent on Jesus. Team Ignition has faught the good fight of faith time and time again and now I write a tribute to the 6 people I have called family and partners in crime (Literally at times! Remember? 1 week illegal in Mozambique!). 6 radical folks of character with a natural disgust for pretending people, especially followers of God, that banded together through thick and thin for the 5 best/worst months of our lives. None of us would probably say they were the best 5 months of our lives and none of us could possibly say they were the worst but when combined . . . yes, I believe we would all agree. Expectations out the window, we LOVED. each other and faught for one another with a commitment in the progression of our God given gifts and callings to the point where we are now. Exhausted. Ha! We are tired folks. The Race is not over, nope! 3 months following our current one in India to go but we know in advance that we WILL be split up and separated onto male/female teams for month 9 and with this Race’s history of team change, anything could happen from there! So here I go, a love letter, as accurate of a description as I can give, and hopefully a tribute of sorts to the team that literally ‘started” movements of God all over the world with me this year:
Daniel Whited: What a brother in the faith and in this ridiculous world we call home. He is solid and yet comforting. He is wonderful and doesn’t even know how so. He is humble and yet knows a LOT about many things. He researches but goes with the flow. And for 1 month of my Team Ignition’s existence, he made our little family of warriors for the kingdom complete. Daniel was forced (following a difficult fight for his health) to return back to the US for medical treatment. Daniel and I went from teammates on Team Aletheia to Team Leader (Me) and my “safe place.” When Daniel was leaving the jungles of Kenya and leaving our team behind for the rest of the month of remote village ministry, he looked at me and said, “Don’t cry, okay?” I took his words to heart and sucked up my tears for my brother who didn’t want to leave but had to. He was gone for 1 minute, maybe, and the tears began to fall. 4 months strong, our friendship was deep and so private tears were shed and the comforting efforts of my girls brought me to this realization . . . Daniel, a man of high convictions and deep spirited love for God and His people, would always be in my life. Daniel, wherever you are reading this today, know that you have another sister to add to your own and my life is better because we traveled the world together in 2012 for 4 months of crazy missionary living. Those ties can’t be broken J
Diane LaCour: This girl. She scared me to death when her first encounter with her new team was to cry her eyes out and seem totally rejecting of the idea of being a part of this new group that was said to be “Ready to go” on this mission for God and His love to the world. She seemed ready to “go back” and I was at a loss for about 12 hours as to how to boost her confidence in what would be. No need for me to step in though. She came to our first lunch the next day with a fresh start all over her face! She was indeed “ready to go” and was the main instigator to all of our hearts in seeking the Father of Lights for what He had in store for the 6 of us. Diane . . . she’s a little fire storm and catching her in a moment of worship or a word from the Lord, is to be set on fire by God for the things that are His! The best and closest moments to God on this entire Race have been “ignited” by Diane and her powerhouse mentality about the way God works and how we can jump in and be a part. If someone could represent fire and water at the same time, I would say it’s Diane. She is the firestorm and the title wave of God and she washes through with force when she is free in God’s Spirit. I’ve seen her overcome the wiles of satan and I’ve seen her soar on the wings of faith. Her humor has lifted me up and her clever ways have sent me often over the edge in laughter! She loves children in a way that I try not to envy and their response to her is comforting that if there was just one more person on earth that truly loves the children like Jesus did when He walked the earth, it’s Diane. She took over for me in the area of finance in month 7 and showed a completely new side to what God has gifted her in. She serves now, 2 months in, with a mind for what is just, right, and practical. Three areas that I can greatly appreciate in her every day. She is beautiful and sometimes I feel like I can’t imagine life without her. God is going to change a nation through her and it will be the simple act of walking in the faith she experienced with pennies on ceilings that allows her to be the one to do that. God sees her faith and is daily drawing it out of her . . . she will only fight as long as her spirit can cling. I think that will be forever.
Tyler Lee: Ty is my wildcard team member. He joined us on our 2nd month as a team and has proven invaluable ever since. I love what he brings to the team AND to my life personally. We have close close mutual friends and now are the same, woven together by the fabric of God’s love and plans to form a unique bond of silent knowledge of each other and smiles that say 10,000 words. Our gifting being similar and our ministry minds being much the same, makes us a duo to be contended with and I say that with much priviledge and joy! Ty has struggled these 8 months (1 month back in the US, also for medical care). He has struggled as any human in physical discomfort, and often pain, would. He has walked in faith and literally rested in faith some days as well. He has been vulnerable in his need for us, his team . . .his faith fighters . . . and then he has led. I believe every member of the team, including me, has seen Ty as a strong contender for God’s kingdom on our team, leading us into battle sometimes by example and sometimes by words. His gifting are broad and his spirit leading exotic. He loves Jesus and fights to see himself in the light of Christ. He will. One day, Tyler Lee will lead men in the way that God has called them . . .courage and abandonment, settled by complete and unabashedly brilliant love.
Charlie Nance: There. Charlie is there. Let me explain. Charlie’s a tester, a questioner of all good things. He knows what he believes or he’s figuring it out by each passing day. This is where you will find him. There. You will find him there and present because he has chosen to be. In his belief of the day, he will embrace it and be dependable in a way that everyone else wants to be but just can’t accomplish quite as well. There have been many days that I have felt the need to pray for God’s character of stability that I see every day in Charlie for myself, especially in the way that I lead. This is a man of God. He was not born into faith but acquired it by testing the Spirit of God and coming up with the fact that God is real, truth is available, and that a life without Him is useless and boring! His spirit of adventure is contagious and the way he preaches, LORD! It’s so good! Examples galore and incredible practical for your every day follower of Christ! His friendships are sure and his enemies few. Charlie’s love for children has grown on the Race and his ability to connect to our squad with names AND faces, has shown a deep love for self-improvement and God’s relational character being acquired. I will certainly miss Charlie. He became my “safe place” and he didn’t even know it. Charlie, be yourself no matter what. God has a good thing going in you.
Ashley Francis: Man, that’s my girl now. She is feisty, fun, enchanting, and my greatest iron in the last 5 months. Ashley was a gift from God, an answered prayer, and He has used her in my life to shape my character alongside the shaping of hers. She doesn’t know a stranger and creativity seeps from her pours. She loves past loss and she pushes past pain to be a conqueror in all. Her musical ability is beyond understanding and her care for the every day people is inspiring to all who know her. She is contagious and she’s not giving up. What you expect is absolutely what you get in the very best sense of that thought! She doesn’t let you down and she wants everything and everyone to be people who love to please the Lord. Half-you know what is not in her vocabulary and she gives all she has when God ingnites her heart for the things that are His in kingdom work. Life is a marathon not a sprint and so each day has adventures, even if it’s only conversational in nature. She loves to sleep but makes good use of each day. I promise that there is not a child in Africa that did not get a high five from this life-giving girl. Jesus loves her and you can tell. She has been given a spirit of truth that radiates when she speaks out. When she starts living each day as if God has given her a microphone for His voice, that is when walls all over people’s hearts will come tumbling down. He will use her and the work will be big. Get ready world. Get ready. Set. Go.
Bryan Matthews: This kid will one day know how much he has meant to me these last 5 months, I hope. I love risk. I do. God gave me a heart for the risky children and Bryan is your typical son of God that loves life, freedom, and the out of the box experience in every day. If a day is boring, Bryan is ready to move. He is only ADD in the sense that he wants what God has right now for him . . .and right now for him . . .and right now too. He wants closeness with God and to be a soldier for Him with such passionate desire that every person in a room with him can feel the shift in his spirit from ready to past ready in about 2.5 seconds! His musical ability is the perfect example of God’s love in motion. His voice, guitar notes, and even radical growl with the pressure of the note is on are 3 examples of what I love about Bryan. He is vulnerable, loving, and strong. He fights for the broken, for the lost, and for all that have no one to fight for them. We saw many travesties in our time together. I always have known that what I feel about someone down and out, is also what Bryan feels for them too. We are together, devastated and broken for what also devastates and breaks the heart of our Father God. He is a revolutionist and he has the power of influence to be a game changer for the youth of our American nation. I see it. I see him sitting on a stage in front of thousands of youth, declaring to them God’s promises through basic words, real life stories, and music that will blow their traditional brains out. He wonders about why he can’t get this life right and that’s where my heart cries, “Have patience because as God is chiseling off the rough edges of your actions, He is building in you the most passionate heart that has ever been rescued from orthodoxy.” Stay loud, Bryan. Let your walk be to the beat of God’s heart. Commune with your Father. He loves you so much.
Team Ignition: A group of creative, worshipers who drastically love God and want His best in their lives. Stubborn people who feel really blessed to be called out this year. We want His character for all the days and we desire the change in the world to begin in us. We gave what we could and loved more than we knew we would. Our worlds expanded and our hearts were crushed with every broken life made new. Messy is a word to describe our hearts at any given moment but catapulted in faith is the result of this work and unified is another that brought change wherever we went. We did ignite. We held up to our prophetic name, no doubt! God received the glory as we roughed it in the jungle, as we traversed “trash mountain,” and as we crashed with the waves of the open seas of torn up spiritualism. Nepal brought comfort like a river and India brought a few signs of heaven. Altogether we were Team Ignition and lighting the way was what we did . . . not because we were naturally proficient but because we were called, went, and walked out the best that God had for us or learned that we couldn’t do it like He can. Sometimes He lets us go and sometimes He says stop and look at yourself and your motives. Either way, we learned. We were molded by mud. God was alive in and around us and He never left us alone, even for a single second, as we became what we were sent for. Ignition. First wave. Setting the tone.
“Thank you Jesus for your work in us, through us, and around us for the last 5 months of our lives in this world of Yours! We love you and we know that you LOVED. us enough to see fit to send us as we are in effort to help us become what this world needs. Your love. Your children on fire for You.”
I’m so incredibly proud of my Team Ignition. I’m so proud of all of you. Thank you for letting me “lead” you in all the ways that you have and for trusting me in the role that AIM gave me last year. You’re all so beautiful and an incredible example of God’s diverse character. He loves authenticity. Never change, my friends. You are His hands and feet and He WILL bless you with the fruit of your labor’s harvest. Settle in His love and test His Word to recognize His voice by His Spirit in you. He is with you. Thanks for being with me every day. You have seen my weaknesses plain as day more than some ever will. You are the picture of grace, no doubt. Our time together may be ending but my love for and belief in you never will. My prayers are with you and I am here. Thanks for being 6 of the most unlikely best friends that I have ever had. Jesus revealed himself to me through you every day for 5 months and now I know that He is fiercer, more powerful, more truthful, and drastically larger than I have ever known. Thank you.
Lauren Anne Clement!<><+ (Team Leader of Team Ignition)
PS Ashley Francis and I are still in need of funding! Please donate as quickly as you can if you are called to do so. Our FINAL deadline to be fully funded is March 1st. We both feel called to stay on this Race. You can donate by clicking on the tab to the left of this post (Under my picture!) or by clicking on Ashley’s link to the left and scroll down. You may be wondering why I would mention her need when I have a great one of my own?? I have been advocating for my team for 5 months straight, I’m not about to quit now! We both are called and I know there are people called to give out there also! Thank you all and God bless you where you are on your Kingdom Journey!
My Nepalese family wants to see Jesus. They are anxiously awaiting His return, alongside a river of lost dreams cast down before idols. Hopeless idols. Carved images. Evil spirits set inside of earthly inanimate objects. Sadness seeps into the homes of the hillside as they lay their tired heads down to sleep once more, wondering why they have been born to die here in this beautiful, yet grace desolate place.
These new friends of mine, they reek of joy. They spread cheer with each smile across their face. They are different. Their presence is life altering to those they pass across the swinging metal bridge. Faces downcast, turn up to experience even a moment of a passing Jesus. Suddenly caught in a storm of riveting love they respond, “Jamuhsee,” even though they do not claim to believe. They might now. The passing time is short . . . but impacting and they begin to wonder about the difference. . . the joy. Hope. “What is this?” they say.
A rectangle of worship goes on and on in prayer. Depression, sickness, hardship, celebrations, and even death are lifted up as subjects in unified prayer to God, Who like His children in Nepal, smiles down sweetly. He is there.
They seek Him with words, tamborines, and bowed hearts and He comes so near. They ask of Him, even beg (Although they need not do so) and Christ Himself in the form of His Spirit, becomes living and active in their midst. He is mighty to save. I love these people for the fervency of their prayers. They give up not, come what may and instead they pray . . . and pray again.
Atop a mountain, high enough to make my team stumble and suck breaths of albuterol into tired American lungs, their lives more of my Cliff-side people . . . family of God, so alive and free! Instead of lingering above the riverbed, these loved ones are set upon a mountaintop, a city on a hill, if you will, and the beckoning grace they greet and love you with will sweep you up with the dust of the valley below because their countenance shines THAT bright.
Because of these fruitful scattered few, the foothills of the Himalayans are undoubtedly being reached person by person with the great love of Christ. What amazes me beyond measure is the dedication of the Christians to their faith in order to traverse these Hindi enveloped mountains with the Gospel of God’s great sacrifice and risen eternal life.
I feel the chill of the mountain as I rub my feet together over and over again under my Polar Pod sleeping bag. I can’t GET warm in effort to STAY warm and that’s the moment I long for again in all of its misery. To be here, cold, sick, and slightly ineffective in my assumptions, among these radicals. I wouldn’t change my current existence for anything. Anything. I’ve learned so much hanging from this world as I am, suspended above the rocks b below, where the Hindi bathed children play.
Until they know the Truth.
The truth that God loves them, values them, that He is alive (unlike the gods they are forced to follow), I will press on as an ambassador of light. I can do nothing on my own but as the living, breathing representation of my Creator, I am an image bearer and thrilled to represent Him, alongside such brothers and sisters of the faith.
When I look at the soles of the mountain Christians’ feet and notice the cracking of their dry and calloused tread, I am greatly touched by their dedication to walk . . .hike . . .through mountains to fellowship with other believers and to deliver the greatest news of all. Truly, their feet are beautiful.
As the singing continues, I hear her cry out over and over again. Grandma, under all of her wrinkles, smudged mud, and mountain scent, is the epitome of a saint of the Lord. She cries again, breaking into my assessment of her. The cry is not mournful or a shriek of joy . . . it’s the sound of a lost lover. One that longs to embrace the other again. My heart begins to ache as her Nepali words are repeated. Then my little friend next to me leans over and translates for me, “She is saying, “Come, Jesus, come.”
I was right . . . it was the call of the bride who was left behind by her groom for a great mission . . . and now she cries out in longing for Him. It all makes sense. Life, in this moment, makes perfect sense. We are strangers here. Grandma is not meant for this fallen world . . . and as a part of this same marriage union, neither am I. I began to cry out with her in the same desperately excited tone . . . “Come, Jesus, come!”
My Mozambique adventure began with half a month of travel to get there. This journey, much like the movie “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles,” included multiple means of transportation in effort to reach our intended destination. We began by bus, transferred by mini bus, crossed the Malawi waters by fisherman’s boat, road in the pick up truck bed until it died, pushed the pick up even further, and lastly arrived in Lichinga, Mozambique mid December and by way of a semi flat bed (The all together best part of the trip).
To say the least, God taught me a lot about what being a traveling missionary means, when your location days equals 13 and your transport 21 from site to site. He spoke to me in the angel like help he sent along the way, in the scenery in which we dwelt here and there, and even in the midst of my 3 dreadful hours at sea, where I upchucked the best fillet of fish dinner I just about have ever had which only added to the familiar scent upon the water. Yuck.
I said 3 but let me clarify, 2 hours and 40 minutes of dreadful living. Praise: the first 20 minutes among the swells were truly epic and the experience of a lifetime . . .the other long, long, long minutes? Well. This blog is titled “red and GREEN” for a reason. I have sailed/paddled boats, swam in the gulf, and thrilled my senses on a million roller-coasters in my lifetime but nothing, absolutely nothing, prepared me for the sickness that racked my body, mind, and even spirit for those 2 hours and 40 minutes across the waves between borders.
There was a moment, I laughed as I told my team later, that I literally made my peace with my life to that point. I believed it to have been full and complete unto God to date. Haha! I thought in my wrecked state, “God, you know I love you more than anything. I have lived a full life. I’m ready to go. I could just slip further than I am already hanging over the boat and float to heaven from here.” Hahhahahah! As morbid as it sounds, I can’t help but laugh now. I had heaved all I thought I could heave and had already disappointed myself with my lack of resolve to press forward. I could go not another minute as green as I was . . .and yet forward we rocked.
The border crossing, in and of itself, was absolutely ridiculous and included bribery, marriage proposals, and many, many prayers. At one point, a friend of mine (And a squad leader) walked over to a few of my team, reclining uncomfortably, practically scorched in the back of the awaiting flat bed and said, “Well, they are going to make us go back to Malawi.” (Aka, back over the high seas!). My team looked at her and their responses were, “Can I go to the bathroom first?” and, “Will we get our bribed money back before we go?”
. . . just goes to show how we can adjust when the pressures on and you have lived through the largest swells a fisherman’s boat should ever sea, I mean see. Ha.
I was so proud of my team’s attitude in that moment even though she was indeed joking about being sent back. We would all have to endure a week and a half as illegal immigrants in a foreign land until immigration could handle the situation of our obscure crossing and legalize our documents for further inhabitation. In the end, it meant traveling another 8 hours, 1 week later to another border to be stamped properly. Immigration is currently sending in weapon packing folk to recover the money that we should have never had to give for us to pass into the country to begin with (Update: This mission was completed successfully and the money was returned to us in full. Bless God!). What is done in the dark, will be brought to light? I think so.You don’t mess around with 7 missionaries of God, called to your country. God will have His way and I guarantee that it’s filled with justice . . .and mercy.
Oh, mercy. God has been raining it down on me. For real! His mercy has been prevalent in my heart and in the way that our Mozambique ministry has cared for it. I have been refreshed in my few days spent in this place. Glorious rest. After all that travel (Not to mention the travel to come! We’re looking at 3 days on a bus this weekend), God has truly met us at IRIS Ministries of Lichinga. It’s Christmas time and although I miss literally EVERYTHING about this season at home in the States, I feel that I have been given the best gift of all. A taste of True Religion.
I live in “The Village of Joy.”
Living on the grounds with us, are 5 orphaned girls. They are truly the SWEETEST little things you could ever imagine. Every day I am blessed by their presence. That’s it, their very presence. Wow. The care they show towards the things of our heavenly Father is remarkable and their leading in our life, even as children, is undeniable! As I taught a Christmas drama to the youth of one of the local churches this week, one of these sweet little girls played the part of the Holy Spirit in it. She flitted and danced around, just as I had shown her, only with all of the grace that only one of these precious angels of joy could. Ranging in age from little to littlest, haha, these angels swing their beaded weaves back and forth as they jump rope to high heaven with broken string and sing joyful melodies picked up at church or by guests such as ourselves. Their favorite melodic line learned from my team, “You are all that I need. You are all that I need.” Truly, this is honesty in song.
Prayer has become a way of life recently and I hope forever to claim it as such. I used to pray when the need arose or when my heart was particularly lifted in praise. After having lived with my newly known brothers and sisters at IRIS, prayer has further become my conversation with my best Friend, perfect papa, awe filled God, plus of course the King of the universe. nbd. The amazing part to me is that He is always available, never leaves, and never grows weary of my heavenly beckon. He is the best and I have NOTHING greater to do with my time than talk with Him. See what He’s up to around me and ask to be a part of it. This is something I can take with me, you know? It’s a new part of my changed life that can bring more trust in God for the future and more peace for today. Trust and peace. Two things that God is calling out in me day by day. Two things that I’ve requested to remain in me forever.
“Be, don’t do. Rest, don’t strive. Abide in my love because it’s there . . . period. Trust in me as your perfect Papa. Be yourself. “Lauren” is the only and best identity that I have called you to. Your giftings are from Me and therefore are powerful to set others free. Serve. Speak life. Cherish EVERY moment. Speak. Forgive. Let go. Heal. Dance. Sing. Choose Joy.”
These are a few of the life-changing lessons that God has spoken over me. I’m here and yet moving forward . . . listening intently to every word. So. I. Go.
“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” James 1:27
“He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.” – Mark 4:39 (If Jesus can calm the sea, He can calm the storm in me!)