Archive for January, 2011

His Face

Smells, colors, songs, food… so many different things take us back. With one word we can go back years to a place and time that we may not have remembered otherwise. Sometimes we consider it good, other times… it’s heart wrenching.

Last night I was working on my Vietnamese, which is a struggle at the moment, so I decided to take a break. I picked up a book by Sarah Corson, Co- Founder of SIFAT. The book “Risking Everything” is about Sarah and her families struggle in the jungles of Bolivia. I have been reading it as I prepare for Vietnam. The stories break my heart and at the same time give me incredible courage. We both serve the same God… who is bigger than our small expectations.

I came to a story about their fish project- bringing protein to the village who was slowly dying of malnutrition and disease. For months, the village had been working on this project, digging 4 fish ponds. Sarah’s husband had gone off to bring in the fish, so the ponds had to be done by the time he got back. Sarah and the men found so many problems with the pond and her husband was returning the next day. She had to find men who could come and work overnight to get the project done. She found Abdon in the middle of the night, the man who rounded up the other villagers and worked through the night and next day to complete the tasks set before them. Now this may seem like very little… but this was all happening during the time of the rice harvest. Which is the only food and money these villages have. If you don’t work in the fields you risk losing your harvest for the year. And many of these men including Abdon had already given up a couple of months to help with the fish project. Something made me feel close to this man in a way the other stories hadn’t.

In the book, when Sarah goes to Abdon for help that night, he tells her he is willing to do what it takes to get the job done…  He said… I will come help hermana, and I will continue to help until it is done. And if I lose the harvest… I lose the harvest.

What a selfless sacrifice. And it dawned on me that I knew this man. I recognized his love. And finally in my mind, I could see his face.  This was the man who gave me his water when I ran out in the jungle of Bolivia, as I sat on the ground struggling to walk on, he held my hand.  Who sat with me when I was bitten by the boona and ravaged with fever. He held my hand as I cried and called out for help. Abdon… I remember leaning my head on his shoulder after many heavy days. He smelled like my dad. Oil and dirt lol a good ole working man. And I loved him. The difference between Sarah’s Abdon and mine were about 40 years… I cried. How could I have forgotten him. I couldn’t understand most that he said, but I had never seen so much compassion in someone. Yes, songs and tastes and sunsets bring back experiences and memories, but Love… brings it back and then changes you again. The only transformation that can happen at 12 am on a Monday night. I know that is why Jesus wasn’t just a memory of a nice man and good teacher, but a Savior and transformer. The very embodiment of love.

I want to taste what it is to love like Abdon, like Christ. My prayer is that when people see my face, they remember and feel Jesus.

The only way to prepare (Hosea’s Wife)

I took my students on a retreat this last weekend to the mountains. I was excited not only to be able to share and encourage them but also to be able to get away and spend some time in the word myself. It’s been a difficult time for me trying to balance preparations for Vietnam and also for Honduras and the youth while i’m away. I’ve been going a 100 miles an hour, telling myself that everything will work out and be ok in the end. Which I do believe, but I also know that me being in control is not what will make everything work out.

It was 2:30 am and I was actually very awake at this point, after driving a van full of kids for 8 hours. We were driving all over Pigeon Forge trying to find our cabin, which was difficult because of all of the ice and snow on the roads. We realized we had passed our turn, so I needed to turn the van around. However because of how steep everything was, and the ice, it was hard to find a place to back into. I finally found a small drive to pull into and began backing up. As soon as my wheel touched the snow I knew we were in trouble. We started to slide back towards the ditch so I stopped trying to pull forward. I sat for a moment trying to decide what the next best move would be. But I think that I knew my only option was to get help. I told the students to get out of the van and stand in the driveway, and continued to try and pull forward until I eventually slide all the way into the ditch. Wonderful! But at least we were all safe. I laid my head on the steering wheel to pull myself together. Two thoughts. “Shelby this isn’t how this was suppose to go” and “how embarrassing is this?” Being a woman youth leader has never been easy, so I’ve always tried to prove that I can do things just as well as any boy… lol but then I had to let Daniel (The other chaperone) drive because at that point I was tired and a little on edge.  Long story short, someone finally came by and pulled us out, we all got to the cabin and had an amazing trip. But Monday morning as we were preparing to leave, I walked out onto the porch to look at the mountains one last time. and I heard someone wispering. That voice that can only be heard in the quiet moments of surrender. “My dear, I love you, but you cannot get up the mountain on your own strength. You must relinquish control.” And it hit me that everything that happened on that bus at 2:30 am was exactly what I had been feelings for months and years. In the drivers seat trying so hard to get up the mountain with my kids in the back watching and waiting. But I myself cannot seem to move forward. I only got up the road when I finally let someone else take the wheel and asked for help.

I read this passage to my students this weekend. The story of Hosea who married an adulterous woman. She left him for other lovers and he was very broken and angry in Hosea chapter 2… rightly so. But verse 14- 23 he calls her back to himself. I cannot read this without crying. Because as many times as I have tried to control and find love in other things, I end up realizing that nothing is as satisfying as the love of my Savior.  In the message it reads….

14-15 “And now, here’s what I’m going to do:
   I’m going to start all over again.
I’m taking her back out into the wilderness
   where we had our first date, and I’ll court her.
I’ll give her bouquets of roses.
   I’ll turn Heartbreak Valley into Acres of Hope.
She’ll respond like she did as a young girl,
   those days when she was fresh out of Egypt…

And then I’ll marry you for good—forever!
   I’ll marry you true and proper, in love and tenderness.
Yes, I’ll marry you and neither leave you nor let you go.
   You’ll know me, God, for who I really am.

How can a woman respond to such love except with tears and surrender. That is the only way I can prepare for what’s to come.

What in the world?

I have many people who have asked me lately, why go? And why Vietnam? lol But when I hear it, it makes me laugh. Not because it’s a dumb question, I can understand where they are coming from. But I laugh because ever since I was young it has been my desire to serve internationally. I used to paint pictures of Africa. I would paint purple mountains and red skies because in my heart that is how Africa looked. I would lay on the grass and try to imagine being in those places and I knew one day I would be.  God put a desire in my heart to travel and  for culture, which I think has purpose.

There is so much to be done here in Mississippi, going overseas is not an excuse to run away. And I look forward to years of ministry here in the States.  But there are less who are willing to go, to sit on the plane for 28 hours, who aren’t ready for the shock of different foods and faces. But I long for it…  So why not go?

Never in my life had I had any great desire to go to Asia. But i’ve simply prayed that if God had a purpose for me there, he would open the door and show me what I needed to see. For the last year Asia has constantly entered my mind… and everytime I turn around there is something to point to it. Even our new pastor showed up having adopted two little girls from China… and just looking at their faces did something new in my heart. When I began emailing different agencies I focused in Asia, and the one that really touched my heart was Orphanvoice in Da Nang Vietnam. They had written an article about a woman in her 80’s who was almost blind and was taking full time care of her two handicapped daughters. Now, watching my parents who are in good strength take care of my grandmother was difficult, I could not even imagine this. And it broke my heart. I knew then I wanted to love that woman. And that is how God gave me Vietnam.

7 Weeks to go… i’m nervous but more than excited. Believing God will change this heart for his work and glory.

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