Your loving kindness, O LORD, extends to the heavens, Your faithfulness reaches to the skies.
stretch: v. \ˈstrech\ 1. to lengthen or extend (the body or limbs) to the full length 2. to cause to extend or reach from one point to another 3. to reach out or extend (the arm or hand) 4. to amplify or enlarge beyond natural or proper limits.
Stretching has never been one of my favorite things to do. I enjoy physical activity – hiking, going to the gym and, up until I turned 40 and my body thought I’d turned 80 and decided to gift me with bursitis in my heel (who knew bursitis was an actual thing?), road running. But stretching has never really been in my wheelhouse. I know it’s good for the body but, for me, it has always been a challenge because:
- It’s hard – By definition, stretching means to push something beyond its’ natural limits and, let me tell you, any time I participate in yoga I am reminded of my natural limits and left feeling sore in places on my body I didn’t even know existed.
- It requires discipline – Proper stretching requires focus…something I often lack. I am easily distracted…by the everyday chaos of life, work responsibilities, shiny objects…and in order to stretch correctly you really have to be in tune with yourself. You have to find your limit in the stretch, breath and then carefully extend, ever so slightly, beyond that limit. Which leads to …
- It can hurt – pushing yourself beyond your perceived limits stretches your insides and leaves them, well, sore. I once woke up after a yoga session convinced I should be in traction. Seriously, the parts of my body that weren’t sore were stiff and I could barely get into a sitting position without groaning.
Luckily, there are benefits to stretching…I mean, if there weren’t why in the world would we put ourselves through it? We do it because:
- It makes us stronger – Eventually, the soreness fades and we find that what was beyond our limits before is now within the limits of what we can comfortably do.
- It makes us more disciplined – By pushing our bodies, we obtain greater control over ourselves.
- It generates confidence – As we see our bodies do things they couldn’t do before, we develop confidence that they can do even more. Stretching gives us hope.
At some point during the preparation for this mission trip I realized that this time in my life has been a loooong spiritual stretching session. It has been difficult turning over control of the details to God and trusting that, if He wants me in Rwanda, He will make a way. Resting in that trust has forced me to become disciplined….at least in terms of saying “Turn it over to Him, Amy…..stop worrying, Amy….quit looking at shiny things and focus, Amy….He’s got you….let go…stretch” over, and over…and over again. Oh, and let me tell you, spiritual doubt causes a very real physical pain that can become so distracting when I start to focus on leaving my family, when I watch news reports about conflict in Africa…
…when I let fear creep in.
But, as the days roll on and the time to go draws closer (we have an official departure date of July 2nd), I have found myself pushing through my perceived limits, little by little. This is due in no small part to the support of my True Vineyard team. We meet on a bi-weekly basis and it is so helpful to know others share my same worries and are pushing through their own limitations. Stretching with friends is a beautiful thing.
I continue to be blown away by the outpouring of support our team has received from our church family. They have organized mind-blowingly huge fundraisers. Folks have donated hours and hours…and hours….of their time to support this cause. There have also been smaller campaigns that have stretched me “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”-style.
Which brings me to these two young ladies.
I’d like you to meet Francesca and Leila. Seriously, are these not a couple of cuties? Not only do they have beautiful outsides, tucked away inside are a couple of sweet, loving souls and two big ‘ol hearts for Jesus.
A few weeks ago, I was selling team t-shirts in the church welcome center along with other TVM team members when these two ran up, breathless. Francesca proudly pressed a handful of wadded up bills into my hands and announced, “We raised money for your mission trip!!!”. I stood there, looking back and forth between the cash in my hand and two sets of beautiful brown eyes, doing my very best not to burst into tears as their mother explained where the money had come from.
When Leila and Francesca heard about our mission trip, they decided to kick off their own fundraising campaign. The girls made and sold loom bracelets and gave every last penny to our mission trip. To date, they have raised about $150.
They even created a promotional video and a campaign slogan – “Stretching the Love of Christ All the Way to Rwanda, Africa!”
There are times when stretching happens slowly. We work through the discomfort gradually, over time, and find ourselves stronger than we were before…eventually.
But there’s another kind of stretch…the kind I call the “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”-type. Where all of a sudden God puts something so lovely, so true…something that is such a perfect representation of His perfect love right in front of you…that it simply takes your breath away. Your spirit sings, your heart grows two sizes and suddenly you are left with all of this extra love space. That’s what happened to me that Sunday in the welcome center, looking at those two beautiful, love-filled faces, and it was one of the sweetest spiritual aches I’ve ever experienced.
I heard the director of True Vineyard say that people sometimes ask if she would rather have $5000 to put to the TVM cause rather than have it support a missionary. To their surprise, her answer is no. She said money can not provide the hope that is instilled in the Rwandan widows when they meet missionaries face-to-face, when they learn about how hard each missionary works to get to them, and when they are told that, behind each missionary, there are about one hundred people who have donated, worked and sacrificed in order to get those missionaries to them.
In the end, this mission trip is not about me.
It’s not about the team of twenty men and women traveling to Rwanda in July.
It’s not about money.
This trip is about God’s people helping God’s people.
It’s about hope.
It’s about stretching the love of Christ…all the way to Rwanda, Africa.