Sometimes Missions Is Hard

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FB can be so deceiving.  Good thing my Twitter is pretty unfiltered.

My sweet new friend Georgia took some awesome glamour shots for my Christmas card the other day. I posted one as my profile picture and got over 200 likes (that’s a lot for me, so if that is your normal average… just stop reading. I’m not worthy.). Everything in that picture seems perfect (GA is an amazing photographer, btw). But, for those of you who know me, I’m a dang hot mess about 20/7… the four other hours, Jesus-by His mercy and grace-is sustaining me.

Y’all.  This week… I don’t know WHAT happened, and it’s only the 2nd day. It got cold. It snowed more than I’ve ever wanted. I got depressed. I cried by myself in Panera for an hour… Which, I cry every 6 days on average (counting crying at movies and crying from laughing so hard at YouTube videos), so it shouldn’t have caught me off guard, but it TOTALLY did.

What the heck happened?

Being a missionary is hard; that’s what happened.

When I submitted my life to Jesus in 2007 and told him I would follow Him anywhere, I imagined that place to be Africa. And praise the Lord, He allowed that dream to come true for two years. And then when I told Him I’d continue to full-time partake in the Great Commission, I imagined myself in the mountains of North Carolina for a few years and then the hot, HOT desert… of the Middle East. Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined myself in Detroit, Michigan where our low for Monday night will be -2 degrees Fahrenheit. Time to count the cost.

When I submitted my life to Jesus and told Him I would follow Him, I assumed that meant marriage at some point in time. Welp. I’m almost 30. All my friends are working on baby #2 and I still don’t know how to flirt. Cool, Jesus. I saw this hidden hurt come up when my roommate Hannah moved to Indy, oddly. I remember crying at church (again, every 6 days, totally normal) and asking God, “Don’t you have anything good for me? Will you ever give me someone to just do life with for longer than a one-year season?” Time to count the cost again. 

When I submitted my life to Jesus and told Him I would follow Him, I assumed that meant manna from Heaven type provisions where I’m never under my support goal and I have 0% anxiety about His provision. Well. Ha. We won’t unpack this one too much, but every missionary you’ve ever met has doubted God’s provision at one point in time. I’m no exception. Time to count the cost again.

So, is it worth it?

Is living where I never expected, in a climate that seriously, y’all. I just have no words. The cold I can handle. WHERE THE HECK DOES THE SUN GO?… Is it a sacrifice I’m willing to make so that the gospel can change lives and be spread among the earth so that God can get the most glory? Yes.

Is this calling worth it when… you’re the weirdest staff member ever and you walk into staff meetings with a sun lamp so you can trick your brain out of seasonal depression (and you spend your “fun” money budget on a Pink Himalayan Salt Rock that’s supposed to lift your mood by changing Ions in the air…) so that the gospel can change lives and be spread among the earth so that God can get the most glory? Yes.

Is it worth it when you’re still single and you love love, and you daydream all the time about who you’ll fall in love with, and then your students who are 10 years younger than you get engaged and you’re a bridesmaid for the 9th time… Is it worth it to sacrifice that knowing God has greater plans, so that the gospel can change lives and be spread among the earth so that God can get the most glory? Yes.

Is it worth it to live sacrificially, and trust God that He is who He says He is and the He will provide everything I need to continue walking with Him, serving Him and glorifying Him? This is probably the most important one, will I trust Him to meet all my needs emotionally, physically, financially, and spiritually so that the gospel can change lives and be spread among the earth so that God can get the most glory? I will try everyday. 

I have to spend seasons counting the high-cost of following Jesus. If I’m not counting the cost, I’d question how closely I was walking with Jesus and how submitted to His will I am. And when trials come (which the Bible promises they will), I would be tempted to give it all up. All the cost, the weather, the new culture, the singleness, the living by faith, all of it is worth it because Christ is worth it.

Without Jesus, I would not know hope. Even though it feels like it comes in waves, along with peace, I do know that I serve and am LOVED by a God who fulfills His promises to me. And they are good promises. I know anything I give up this side of Heaven for the expansion of the Kingdom of God is worth it. He is worth it. Even when my heart is too dang icy to feel it, He is worth it.

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Missionary Prayer Cards

I love design and I love the fact that I get to use this passion in a couple different facets of my job as a Career Missionary with Cru. Prayer letters, prayer cards, outreach materials, etc. YUM. It’s slightly therapeutic for me to mix and match patterns, colors, overlays, new fonts (Thanks Maggie) and see what works and what doesn’t!

Here’s what I’ve been playing around with for my prayer cards. I haven’t decided if I’m going to put magnets on the back so that people can put these on their fridge or not, but… I probably will. I want to create something for people to put in their Bibles as well to remember to be praying for our ministry. But right now, I got the hook up with a friend who is printing these for me at cost, so I don’t want to do too much. You know. I’ll only be able to afford so many Starbucks gift cards for payment.

Prayer Card 1:

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Prayer Card 2:

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I’m still tweaking these of course. And, yes I’ll have my real phone number in these. I’d rather the interwebs didn’t have access to that. 😉 Sorry guys.

And I got to play around a little after realizing I didn’t need to create a back to these if there was going to be a magnet for a back. 😉

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THAT IS ALL.

To A New Creation.

Great-Is-Thy-Faithfulness

One of the things that I love about the Lord is His faithfulness. He is so steadfast in His pursuit of us; He never waivers. This is an indescribably hard character trait to fully grasp since even in our most dire efforts, we can only copy His faithfulness. Our best efforts at reproducing this quality resemble a parrot mimicking his master. While with His help we can reflect His faithfulness, His faithfulness is always more steadfast, more pure, and more full than ours. Daily, I’m left wondering how He is so faithful. But He is. Always.

I have had several conversations over the past week that made me think, “Lord, you are so good and so faithful to me.” I want to share a little bit about one of those conversations, and how I am seeing His faithfulness at every stage of life.

To A New Creation

I chatted the other day with an ex-boyfriend [I know, first mistake right?] that I dated way before I became a Christian. He was asking a lot of really great questions about faith, life, and the different lifestyle I live now that I’m a follower of Christ. He made some kind of comment, that I believe was genuine, and to the tune of, “I just can’t see a free-spirit like you ever being caged to something like Christianity.” As I tried to explain the freedom that’s only offered in Christ, it hit me. The way that I used to live (getting plastered every night, doing occasional drugs, and other things we won’t address here) was his view of self-liberation. And it made me so sad.

I started praying through our conversation and just got so overwhelmed with the fact that even at those moments or utter rebellion, God saw me and was merciful enough to withhold so many consequences that my actions merited. As uncomfortable as this conversation was in some ways, the Lord was allowing me to remember where my future, hopes and dreams were before meeting Him. I was enslaved to sin. I was an addict of finding people’s approval to the extent of being walked all over in so many ways. I was not only caged, but I was dead.  There’s only so long that “lifestyle” could have gone on before something happened.

I am so incredibly thankful that the something that happened was that the Lord stepped in and redeemed my life. As I sat there reflecting on a conversation that would generally make a lot of people frustrated, I just wept out of thankfulness!  It could not have been orchestrated any better. I just marvel at the work of the Lord in composing all the round about ways that I would come to know Him. He was faithful to me before I even knew Him. He is faithful to me today to answer my prayers in such sweet ways that draw me closer to Him.

I am thankful for my mom urging me to go to UTC. I am thankful for Andy W. and Doug B. who introduced me to Paul and Jason. I’m thankful for Megan H. who dragged me to the Cru Bible studies the first few times. And I am eternally grateful to my spiritual father, Paul, for laying down his rights and making Christ known to college students.

Y’all this is the reminder that I need, daily. Christ not only changes lives, He is the author of life. That life we thought we had before was counterfeit, a sad replicate, to what Christ offers. There’s true freedom, joy so deep, genuine acceptance and everlasting hope found in Jesus. That’s the message I am excited to bring to college students stateside.

He is faithful and true. His love endures forever.

The God of the Nations

So, count the cost brothers and sisters. This is not an invitation to an easy life. For 2000 years, thousands and thousands of missionaries, the unnamed-no biographies written about them, just unnamed people of whom the world is not worthy, have counted the cost and put their lives at risk and reached the lost with the only message of salvation. -John Piper

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I was talking to a new friend last night about my heart for evangelism, internationals and for missions. She looked at me and said, “You’re heart is there. Go for it.” So simple if I hadn’t just sat through a service that spoke to my heart about letting go of everything and allowing the Lord to lead my life.

You see, I’ve been bouncing around America getting to see some amazing people, but also hoping that the Lord would just open a door to go back on the mission field to the unreached. If that’s in a church in America focusing on women’s discipleship and evangelism, or training students in the UK, or working at a Refugee center, I’m ready. I have been frantically searching online for missions organizations that work with Muslims/Arabs, considered applying for jobs in Seattle and the UK, and I even talked with a Missions team in Popenguine, Senegal. I have been so ready to be doing something for the kingdom that involves internationals. And that’s where the Lord checked my heart.

Mary, surrender it all to me. You can’t manipulate yourself into my will. Trust that I’ll lead you. “Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other to keep you from doing the things you want to… the fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…”

I feel like this has been a sweet reminder that when I’m being anxious, that is a work of the flesh. It opposes peace. Peace comes from having trust in a trustworthy God. Anxiousness comes from trying to find rest in what I can do, what job I can find, who I can network with. He is trustworthy. I can follow Him and know that He will lead me in His calling for my life. I can have joy knowing that He is faithful not only to me, but to the nations that don’t yet know Him. He is working; He doesn’t need us but He sure does delight in using us.

I wrestled with the Lord a little bit last night thinking, “Okay God, is this burden I have for the nations normal? I feel like a freak. Is this me that made this up? Is this idolatry towards global missions in my heart? Is this your vision that you casted for me that I get to be a part of?”

This morning I shared a little bit about what God did in Senegal this past year at a church in Cleveland, Tennessee. [Y’all, bless my heart. Public speaking without having 3 cups of coffee is so not my thing.] I shared two verses that have been giving me hope. Here’s one of those verses from Revelation 21 about the New Heaven and the New Earth.

And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. 23 And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. 24 By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, 25 and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. 26 They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations.

They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations.. meaning Heaven isn’t full of people who look and sound like me. It isn’t going to be full of people who speak English. There will be people there who have never heard of Starbucks. There will be people who have seen and experienced very different things on this Earth than westerners. The nations will be represented in Heaven because God created each and every one of them and loves them. There is hope for the unreached, the lost, the hard hearted, the church goer who has played the good Christian role their whole lives without truly having life-altering faith in Christ. There is hope for each and every one. And all of us will be there because Christ died for our sins. We have faith in Him because someone shared the great news with us. Faith comes through hearing. I want challenge you with this, “The Gospel is only good news if it gets there in time.” -Carl F.H. Henry. Are we praying, supporting or going? Are we a part of this? Is the gospel good news to us? Do we know what the gospel is? Is this just our mindset on global missions or do we even apply it to the lost in our area?

One of the sweet things the Lord has reminded me of this morning was that it doesn’t matter where we are physically. The lost are everywhere. And one of the sweet things He showed me was that I live in a country full of internationals. The two bus boys at a restaurant I ate at were from Tanzania and Nigeria. As I was walking out of the restaurant, I hear in a very distinctly Irish accent, “So, have you ever preached in Northern Ireland?” I whipped my head around so fast that I wasn’t quite sure that my body could catch up and exclaimed, “Whaaaaaaaat!?”

Three nations represented in little ol’ Cleveland within 3 minutes. Seriously, the Lord confirmed that He does want me to have a heart for the nations. He wants me praying for the Muslims at the Mosques in Senegal. He wants me supporting people going to the hard to reach nations. But He also has me here for a season too. There are so many different nationalities here that I can’t ignore the need here just because I want to go. I am “going” it just looks different than the Irish countryside I’d hoped for. 😉

The Lord was so sweet this morning to remind me that missions here matters. He just happened to use two bus boys and a group of Irish believers to catch my attention.

January Newsletter

Hi friends and family!

I’ve been having a little difficulty emailing out my prayer letters because the documents are too large. So, I figured that for some I would post them here on my blog. 🙂 Obviously, there are some I can’t post on here and would gladly email you the content and maybe do a picture post? I don’t know. I’ll figure it out. 😉 So, here is January’s.

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Dear Future STINTers,

Many of you who might be reading this blog might not even be considering doing a Short-Term Internship (STINT) with the organization I work for. Even if you aren’t, please bear with me and read this post. I think we could all use a little encouragement in setting a fire in our hearts for evangelism and also lighting a fire under our feet to move us into action in going forth to all nations with the hope of our Lord.

This past week we had our annual mid-year conference in Nerja, Spain. Let me just show you a picture of the scenery so that you can get a glimpse of how refreshing this past week was:

Malaga, Spain

Nice, huh?

At this conference, over 200 STINTers from all over the world gathered to debrief hard things, be encouraged by staff, encourage other teams by what God is doing within their ministry, and come into Christian community. I was so encouraged to hear about amazing things God is doing in countries I had never even heard of before STINT. How faithful is He?! This week I was encouraged by many other teams that are working in locations like ours, that God is beginning a movement in Senegal. That’s what we are there for: to develop a fully student led evangelistic ministry on our college campus.

What God has been doing in Senegal: We’ve seen weekly evangelism with students initiating and sharing the gospel, many for the first time. One of our students, Israel, has a new nickname: Soul Winner. Literally every time he shares the gospel, someone gets saved. Our student meetings (much like Thursday nights for you UTC/Lee people) is almost 100% student led. Last week, one of our students, Kante, led the message on humility! And Israel and Stanislass led worship. Amazing things are happening in this country that is known for being super hard to the gospel. 95% of the people in my country do not know Christ. They do not have forgiveness of sins. They do not have assurance of salvation or hope. But, God is faithful. We’re beginning to see steps towards a movement of around 10 students taking the gospel out to a campus of 65,000. Slowly but surely! or in Wolof, Ndanka danka moy jappo golly ci ney (Little by little we will catch the monkey in the forest). I mean totally applicable in your context, right….

Really, what I’m wanting to say is that we are praying for you.

Whoever you are, wherever you are, you are being prayed for by hundreds of STINTers and international staff from all over the world. There are people in the regional offices who are praying for you. There are people who don’t know Christ in countries I can’t even name who are crying out to God for people to share with them who Jesus is. You are being prayed for.

The last session at our conference was taught by a man who had lived in an unnamed country for 12 years. He had this to say (paraphrase of course):

Building a movement in a foreign land takes blood, sweat, tears, energy, and sacrifice. If you don’t believe me, look at Jesus’ ministry. Right now there are 8,000 unreached people groups. Unreached doesn’t mean your neighbor who has never been to church. Unreached is where people do not have access to hearing about God for whatever reason (living conditions, government control, etc). People who will not have access to information about Christ unless people are sent.

Here’s the great news: movements are launching in places where there have never been Christian movements before. Think Senegal. God uses college students in most of the significant movements worldwide. Revivals that lead to missions starts a lot of the time with college students. I think you guys are the most daring. Way to go! You are unique. There’s only 1 out of every 50,000 college students that would STINT. I wish there were more, but as of right now, that’s it.

And the last thing he mentioned:

“We need you. If you don’t do it, who will? There aren’t 1000s of people lining up to do this… We want to invite you into that, but the Lord has to lead you.”

I love that so much. Again, I wish that there were 1000s of people lining up to follow Christ to the end of the world, to share the gospel, to build up believers, and to send them out with the same mission. That isn’t the case. But I don’t believe it’s due to people being selfish. I think it’s because no one has ever presented the opportunity to go to the nations. Maybe you’ve never been encouraged to pursue that. Maybe you wouldn’t know how to. Please, talk to me about STINT. If you’re in college and there are Cru staff at your campus, talk to them about possibilities of STINTing.

I want to let you know that I am not perfect. I am not holier than anyone else because I’m a STINTer. I’ve been redeemed with the same blood you have. When God looks at you, He sees the same Christ that He sees in me. There’s no difference. So, if you’re thinking, “I’m not good enough…” or whatever those phrases in your head are, you’re right. You’re not good enough. But Christ is. And good news, Christ is in you. He’s the only one who can change hearts and bring His lost home. He wants to use you to do that.

So, here’s a few questions I would love for you to process through:

  • Where am I in regards to my relationship with Christ? Am I living daily by the Spirit? Am I experiencing His grace daily? Am I spending time reading His word and allowing Him to guide me in my daily life?
  • Am I willing to lay all things down at the feet of Jesus and follow Him wherever he leads (even if that’s to Omaha)? If not, what are those things? This can be hopes, dreams, hurts, etc. If I had a nickel for every time the Lord convicted me of this one….
  • What are some of my giftings that the Lord has specifically given me to further His kingdom? What are things I really enjoy doing? Is there anything that you notice that the Lord has given you that is specifically unique in regards to relationships with people outside of the church (i.e.: ability to make friends with strangers on a train)? If you don’t know, ask a friend!
  • And the last question, in ten years what would you like to be able to say you’ve accomplished in your life?

Again and again, like this man said, I want the Lord’s plans for your life. I don’t want you to feel pressured to serve internationally overseas if that’s not where the Lord is leading you. I want you to follow Him faithfully wherever that is. If it’s to Starbucks every morning, a daycare, to India, wherever! I want to follow Him and I want you to also. I do want to let you know that I had to be challenged to go on STINT otherwise I never would have considered it. So, I want to let you know I’m challenging you to go to the nations because I am so thankful someone challenged me.

My heart is for you to walk in obedience and sometimes that obedience is staying until He says go. So, just know that we (people scattered all over the world) are praying for you. You who are reading this, I’m praying right now that the Lord would give you clarity on what is next for you. I love you and let me know how else I can be praying or if you have any other questions.

Mary.Smith@uscm.org

Have you the news?

In Senegal when you’re asking about someone’s family you ask, “Have you the news of ___?” We  frequently hear from our precious friends here, “Have you the news of Whitney, Rachel, Paige or Michelle?” And we know they are asking how they are, what they’re up to, and if they send their greetings. 😉 If anyone asks you in America if you have the news of Mary, here’s what you can say:

The old, broken A/C unit in my bedroom has come back from the evil snares of hell and is blissfully kissing my sweat-soaked skin with a cold breeze. Have I died and gone to heaven? Sorry, I just fell into a joy driven daydream about my A/C unit. That’s awkward… We have air conditioning in one room and we’ve already established boundaries to it. Considering the high cost of electricity, we don’t want running it to be the norm. We don’t wanna become too luxurious here. But tonight’s our first night with it so you better believe I’m busting out my comforter and pretending like it’s really fall (Side note: It’s been in the mid to upper 80s every morning with a heat index of over 105, pretty much daily. Sweating is a new hobby. Eat that, water retention!).

There may have been tears of joy.

Okay, news number 2:

I’ve decided that I am the world’s worst about daily disciplines-whether that’s spiritual, being intentional in relationships, taking malaria medicine/bringing it to Senegal at all, working out.. Wait, did working out just come out of my mouth? Yes. I am now an active member of the “Let’s Get Fit” club. Okay, so that club doesn’t really exist that I know of, but all the girls on my STINT team love exercising in the morning. I am now working on developing a workout schedule for every day of the week to help become more disciplined. So, if you follow me on Pinterest and you see 329,487 posts about fitness, don’t be alarmed. I’m just trying to find workouts I like, will actually do, and ones that are creative and fun.

News Number 3:

Katie and I are quite excited about next weekend. Why you ask? We were asked to lead a seminar at a women’s retreat for missionary women throughout Dakar, Senegal, the Gambia, and outlaying countries. And what’s our topic? Fashion.

I think we’re wanting to address it in a way that isn’t, “Hey ladies, come fit into this box because that’s what the world says is cool.” That’s just not my thing. As Tullian T. says it in his book Unfashionable, Christians don’t do the world’s styles as good as the world does. We’re made to be different. Embrace who God has made you. If you’re a J.Crew girl, get on your sail boat and rock it. If you’re a I-wear-so-many-layers-that-sometimes-make-I-look-like-a-hobo, look like a homeless man for the glory of the Lord (#ilovethelayeredlookalittletoomuch…).

So, that should be interesting. We’re planning that this week. I’m excited to see what we come up with. I’ll let you know how that goes.

With all that said, I’m now going to go into our bedroom that we’ve all newly nicknamed Narnia. It’s like we’ve stepped through the wardrobe into the wintery lands of Narnia! Until next time.

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=crFQpOCDfEc%5D