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Be still, and know that I am God…

Psalm 46:10

I spent the early years of my life growing up on a cattle ranch in the tiny farming community of Coughran, TX (looks like Cough-ran, sounds like Core-uhn), just outside of Pleasanton. I loved it. My grandfather thought we should experience true farm life and ensured that we had cattle, horses, chickens, pigs, ducks and goats to entertain us.

Of all the fun things life on a farm/ranch offered, one of my favorite pastimes was swimming in the tank on the property. Now, If you are picturing some idyllic pond, with lilly pads floating on crystal clear water and fire flies circling above , you would be dead wrong. I’m talking a murky, muddy, cow-slobber-filled stock tank complete with catfish, also provided by my grandfather. I can remember wading into it and, as the mossy bottom of the tank reached up and wound itself between my toes, thinking, I must be the luckiest kid in the world…a carpeted pool reserved just for me.

During one of these trips to the tank with my dad and sister (somehow, Mom always managed to stay on shore) we all jumped in and, since I was wearing a life jacket, I leaned back, closed my eyes and started to float into deeper water. It was great fun…until it wasn’t. At some point, I realized I couldn’t right myself. Maybe the life jacket was designed to keep the wearer on his or her back. Perhaps I was just a puny kid who lacked the core strength to pull myself out of the water once my feet could no longer touch the tank carpet. Feeling completely out of control, I lay there, no longer relaxed. Have you ever seen a cat go rigid when it realizes it’s being carried toward water? That was me. I lay there panicked  in the mossy, murky, cow-slobbery water with my eyes squeezed tight because I didn’t want to see how far I’d floated from the shore. I imagined that I was all the way out in the middle, in water too deep for me to stand in and too far from my family for them to hear me if I cried out to them.

So I didn’t. I tried to fix it myself by grunting and groaning and whimpering, all the while keeping my eyes squeezed firmly shut.

And then I heard my Dad’s voice.

“Amy, open your eyes.”

So I did. I was perhaps 10 feet from shore and my Dad was standing over me with this half grinning, sort of confused look on his face that, looking back,  I would guess could be interpreted as follows:

What’s wrong?

Why are you fretting?

Don’t you know I’m right here?

And, even if I wasn’t, don’t you know that you could never get so far from me that I couldn’t get to you?

This memory came to mind as I was thinking about my reaction to that itty-bitty idea that presented itself to me while sitting in church in December.

Wanna go?

Because my initial knee-jerk reaction was…

Nope.

If I’m being completely honest, it might’ve even been…

Aw, hell no.

When the service was over that day I jumped up and told Lee I was going to buy some items from the trunk show True Vinyard Ministries was hosting in the church welcome center.

That’ll show you, stupid itty-bitty idea that’s scaring me to death, I thought. So I bought some lovely free trade items, happily accepted a brochure with additional information about TVM and left feeling smugly confident that my purchases would take care of that oh-so-tiny seed which had been planted gently in my heart.

Over the next few weeks, I baked and purchased and planned visits for the upcoming Christmas holiday. And every so often, during the baking…or after the purchasing…or in the midst of the planning, the brochure from TVM would turn up and I would find myself reading a snippet of information that would tug at my heart. This was immediately followed by a frustrated, sometimes angry thought.

In 1994 one million Rwandans were killed in 100 days.

I can’t go there.

During this time an estimated half a million women were victims of a concerted rape campaign.

I am not qualified.

In a country of 10 million people, 34% of Rwandan households are headed by women.

My family will think I’m crazy.

Today 600,000 widows remain in Rwanda.

Why are you doing this to me?

Coming to the decision to go on this mission trip has already taught me an interesting fact about myself; I am a big ‘ol control freak. Huge. I’m not even kidding. If I’m going to do something it has to be: 1) my idea, 2) something I am either good at or think I can become good at and 3) something I can do myself without burdening others.

This mission trip flies in the face of every one of those rules and has taught me what my reactions are to an idea planted in my heart that is not my own: 1) panic, 2) denial and 3)anger.

Crazy, huh? To get the feeling that God is giving you a nudge and to respond with anger? With the eyes of your heart squeezed stubbornly shut?

I imagine God watching me as I denied, ignored and attempted to control the struggle in my heart over the Christmas break in much the same way my Dad watched me that day in the tank. I wonder if He was thinking the same thing:

Amy, open your eyes.

Why are you fretting?

Don’t you know I’m right here?

Don’t you know you could never get so far from me that I couldn’t get to you?

I have heard it said  (usually within the context of a conversation about mission work) that if you’ve never felt yourself spiritually compelled to go to China/Africa/South America/foreign land of your choice, it means it’s not your time to go, and I can now say I believe this to be true. In the past I have heard people talk of international mission work and thought, without guilt or hesitation, That’s wonderful, but not for me. And it wasn’t…until it was.

I am still struggling with letting go of trying to control the details of this trip. I have started getting some of the basic work out of the way. My passport application has been sent in and I started the vaccination process this week.

shots

Five shots down. (Is that not the most pitiful smile ever?)

My goal moving forward is to work on letting go of control in regard to this trip, to take care of the things I can take care of and, when I find myself struggling with the whens, whys and hows, to remind myself to open my eyes, stop fretting and know He is right here.

But He is also in Rwanda…

Be still…

Go…

I lift up my eyes to the hills~ where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth. Psalm 121:1-2

Go… Such a little, itty bitty word, isn’t it? Short….sweet…benign….”Go see why the dog is barking.”……”Go get me a sandwich.”….or, occasionally, for the benefit of my children’s character and my sanity…”Go to your room!”. Regardless, it always has the same meaning.

Move.

From one place to another.

For me, I don’t think this itty bitty word has ever had as much meaning as it did on the day in December when I sat in church and listened to Diana Wiley talk about True Vinyard Ministries (TVM), an organization dedicated to empowering African women in Rwanda by hiring local women, providing them with meaningful work, paying fair wages so that they may educate their children…and offering hope. And as I sat there listening to Diana speak, I had what I’ll call a moment. A moment where I felt that itty bitty word.

Go…

A little back story here. I have never thought of myself as a super “churchy” person. I’m not a hands in the air kinda gal. The idea of evangelizing to others makes me want to break out in hives. And those moments other people talk about where God called them to do this or the Lord told them to do that? It’s never happened to me. Not once. I’ve never heard a voice in my head telling me to go left instead of right on the way home. I’ve never prayed and received an audible answer. I’m not saying these things don’t happen…they just don’t happen to me. And they didn’t happen that day in church. There was no angelic of chorus of voices. No glorious trumpet call followed by a booming voice. There was no voice at all. Instead, it was a small, gentle, almost imperceptible and certainly easily ignorable…what? Nudging? Maybe. Stirring? Possibly. Just the itty-bittiest of feelings that said…

Wanna go?

I think the presentation of this nudging in the form of a question is important. There are many times when the direction in which God wants our lives to go is easily discernible (Feed and clothe the children today? Yes. Rob a bank? No.), when He makes clear to us that we should do this rather than that. But I believe there are also times when He approaches us more gently and says, “I want the best for you. I want this for you.”  We are then in a place where we can decide if we are going to jump in or walk away. Gotta love free will.

I will post more later about the emotional roller coaster that followed as I wrestled with this itty bitty word but, long story short, I decided to jump. I will be traveling with TVM to Africa in July of this year to serve the women of Rwanda as they break the cycle of poverty (more details to come later!). The ups and downs of coming to the decision to join this ministry team inspired the title of this blog, as did the scripture from Psalms. Rwanda is often referred to as The Land of a Thousand Hills, due to it’s undulating terrain. Coming to the decision to take this leap of faith has been filled with ups and downs, lots of praying and a few tears. I have to give credit for the idea of starting this blog to Lee, who suggested I try blogging for the first time. I figured…what the heck….I’m going to Africa for goodness sake. Blogging will be a cake walk.

I hope to use this blog as a place to share my experience as I prepare for this trip over the next few months, and my experience in Africa once we get there. I also hope to bring awareness of TVM (and the phenomenal work they are doing to restore dignity to and empower the women of Rwanda) to people who may not have heard of them or who are looking for a charity to support.

I look forward to sharing this experience with you.

Going is always easier when you’re with friends.