Saturday, September 01, 2012

When a Vision Miscarries

I was working in the gardens when I saw it. A small, broken robin's egg in the grass. Empty because of a healthy hatched chick or empty due to falling from a great height I did not know. But something in me filled with foreboding and my heart whispered “No.” That day my body was beginning to miscarry our baby, one we had learned of joyfully just two days prior. A dream so shiny and new, ended so abruptly.

Last Fall we journeyed to Central America on an exploratory trip with Eastern Mennonite Missions, to prepare for our upcoming missions assignment in La Ceiba, Honduras. We were full of anticipation and meeting with the leaders in Honduras, Belize, and Guatemala filled out the vision to a fullness we lacked before our trip. We were ready to go and be cultural bridges between churches in Central America and churches in North America, for the mutual edification of each.

This vision now has miscarried as well. EMM tries to always send teams to any country they're working in, for accountability, support, and for the simple joy of speaking now and then in your own heart language in hard times. The coworker who was based in La Ceiba who was to be on our team fell into sin and is now no longer with EMM. As we processed this painful revelation, new information about La Ceiba was made known to us which made it a dangerous place spiritually, physically, and mentally to go to alone. Fear was not the motivator in not going, it was heeding the voice of wisdom.

The decision to forestall any new missions ventures in Honduras came from within EMM, and also in discussions with Pastor Randall, Julia Fisher, and our MST. It has been a comfort that all have been in agreement that it is not the Lord's will for us to go to Honduras at this time. It has not eased the pain of letting go of the vision, but clarity makes it easier to accept.

The other day as I was walking in the yard, I came across a beautiful bird's nest. I carefully picked it up, marveling at how intricately it was woven together and coated with mud, made secure. It reminded me of cupped hands, awaiting a blessing, awaiting life. It was built with hope, anticipation of new life, eager, expectant. Tears stung my eyes and my heart whispered “Make me like that, Lord. Expectant, ready to receive”.
As my body and spirit healed after the miscarriage, I felt that stubborn hope that one day I would again be stretched with new life growing. How could I want again, knowing that wanting is such a vulnerable state, prone to pain and disappointment?

Likewise God, when He removed our vision for working in Honduras, gave us the same stubborn hope that we are still sent. We are sent ones, even if we don't know the destination, nor any vision beyond the Great Commission. And, I see now, that it is enough. Our hands and hearts are cupped and ready to receive.

What is clear is this: The Lord Jesus Christ is alive and has conquered sin. He has brought us forgiveness through His blood, He has changed us and set us free. Our calling is to bring this good news to those who do not know nor love Him. To pour ourselves forth for the gospel through the empowering of the Holy Spirit, that His name be known, that His children be restored to Him, and that He might be exceedingly glad, embracing all his prodigal kids.

We cannot run alone. We cannot even know which direction to run in alone. As never before, we truly wish to be sent by you. Not just endorsed, financed, or supported by you. But sent. By. You. To the people, to the place that God places on your hearts.

We invite you to a season of discernment with us. Please walk with us in open hearts before God, asking “Where? To whom? When?” as you go about your week. We're asking you to prayerfully respond via email with anything God lays upon your heart, even if it's nothing more than a word that kept coming to mind as you prayed.

For those who have given to our mission's funds, be assured that all the money is being kept safely by EMM until we are sent. Nothing is lost, nothing is wasted in this time of waiting and listening. Indeed, we entreat you to give as able, an investment made in the stubborn hope which accompanies followers of Christ, that, when He establishes the work of our hands, we will be ready to go.

Your Most Devoted,

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Lament


Aid me as You sanctify me
that I may glad of Your face
even as
my sufferings increase.

I wonder at Your ways
I admit they feel harsh
and burdensome at times.

And yet...

this joy that you spark
in my heart at
things nearly below notice

the red, brilliantly dying leaf on the ground
the rosy flush upon the cheeks of my sleeping child
the sound of rain upon awakening.

These scream to me, to my heart's heart
swelling it within
expanding heart
near to splitting

incapable of holding such.

Do I look away
to avoid the rending?
Or swallow that enormity and feel
the heart adjust
to new size
to new pressure?

How large must Your heart be
to hold us all
to hold all Your moments
to hold all Your sorrows
You carry ours too.

I do not mean to doubt You
though I live facing you often with a
confused and hurt expression
longing for answers that allow
me to see suffering
as loving discipline
as careful sanctification
as necessary healing.

I long to draw breath
to pull it down into the depths of me
and send it back out
fully and smoothly

You see me.

You see this.

You are still good.

Sanctify me
aid me to see.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Life Here

Here we are : ).

Life here.
It's different and well,
I reacted.
Tears, tiredness, loss.

Can I say
how very thankful I am?
The children, each one, has bloomed
in this new place
in new ways.
They find the great delight, though
Mom was numb and sad.

thank you....
for your patience with me
as I learn to live here again....
to engage...
and yet remain this new person
that God shaped in Chile.
I make mistakes.
Forgive me.

We are being caught
in the divine plot
to make us trust
in Him.
Finances run dry.
Needs that way run high.

We are learning.
Books that teach and reach us.
Conflicts which point us to new ways
of seeing.

We are blessed by our church family
and families
and friends.
Eggs arrive every week
in our church mailbox.
Giftcards for gas and food.
Thoughtful words.

Please pray for us.
~spiritual renewal
~for our Missionary Support Team

Thank you.
Sarah :)

Tuesday, March 08, 2011


To My Most Amiable Readers,

Amidst the preparations for the move to the States, I have continually been drawn back to when we first closed up our life in Pennsylvania and headed to Chile, Sophia being two and Edison all of two months old. I wrote my misgivings in my journal, the same which will receive the outpouring of my emotions this go-around.

September 30, 2005

"Are we really doing this? I see that we are. We no longer have a home, everything we own has been packed, stored, or sold. God is so good. The car sold right away. God sent His peace on us as we said goodbyes and wrapped up our life here stateside. But, I'm scared. I sit in Miami airport, ready to fly to Santiago in two hours and I'm sad-afraid-tired-excited-joyful-TIRED. All wrapped up, the result is numbness.

Unshed tears are continually stinging my eyes. Nancy had good advice, to have a good deep cry on the way. I don't know if I will or not, but it feels good to give myself permission to grieve. Grieve the friends and family I've left behind. Grieve the loss of our quiet log cabin and our way of life there. Above all, it's the relationships.

It's so hard.

Are we really doing this? How crazy are we? Our dream is coming true and I'm shy to embrace it, afraid I have dreamed too big for such a small woman. My comfort is this; that God will give me the words, that God is in me, that God has plans for me, that God is in control, that it doesn't all somehow hinge on me, that I am a tool in His hand. And....He loves me. He does."

As I face again the separation from those I love, from my home, from my garden which has been a joy to me, from the constant companion of the Andes, looming blue on the horizon, from the joy of rowing with my friends on the glass-like water of the canal, may you remember me in prayer. Oh, please, for I dearly need it.

Your Most Devoted,

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

New Dreams

To My Most Amiable Readers...

For a long time (says the 31 year-old with a smirk, really? I know anything about time yet?), I've dreamed of seeing the Strait of Magellan, Torres del Paine (those gigantic granite towers that poke out of the earth at alarming rates of ascent), Tierra del Fuego, and Machu Picchu in Peru. With the last few months those dreams have come true, some through using all of our allotted vacation up and going on a fly-by-the-seats-of-our-respective-pants road trip, and the other (Machu Picchu) through taking a group trip after a missionary conference in Lima. These dreams did not disappoint when they came flying at me in all their reality. Indeed not...they made me weep with joy. You see, there's a good deal of Indiana Jones in me. I want to live an adventure, and really, I do get to do just that on a monthly, if not weekly, basis. Dodging ships and sea lions in rowing, interviewing an earthquake victim INSIDE their wildly unstable destroyed home. Holding my clean rowing pants on a gushing knife wound on a stranger's head while scolding the attacker and the crowd forming around us. Adventure.

I thought of that after the freezing cold swim I took this evening in a nearby lake. As I lay on the rocks on the shore, panting and uncontrollably shivering, I realized....I enjoy this. I love feeling so very.....FULLY ALIVE!!!!

Now...I do like to cuddle up in cozy pants with a book and something yummy to eat in a fuzzy blanket while the rain is falling outside...BUT...I feel fully alive elsewhere. Like when I'm flying down a ski slope and there's a good chance that I might wreck spectacularly. That adrenaline rush of driving fast (there was no speed limit on the highways in MT when I got my license...). Even eating something firey hot and breaking into a sweat. ALIVE.

There's a good chance I was made this way for a reason.

We are dreaming a new dream, and it (Lord willing) will be set in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. It's a crazy city; known as the city of "eternal spring", as it is high up in the mountains, so endures less of the equatorial heat than the plains. There is crushing poverty. There is staggering wealth. There aren't enough people in between. We can't use public buses there, as they are routinely robbed by gangs. We will be starting an entirely new type of job. Does anyone smell adventure??

Many churches call EMM, our sending mission, asking if a group from their church can go and help somewhere on the field in practical or spiritual ways. Unfortunately, hosting teams of non-Spanish speaking people is a full time job for on-site missionaries. It basically means that a lot of what the missionary was involved in needs to be set aside to help the visitors help others. Now, Central America, on average, has five major natural disasters EVERY YEAR. Whether it be mudslides, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, tsunamis, etc. A cheap flight away from Central America lies North America, a country full to the brim with enthusiastic, compassionate Christian brothers and sisters who would love to be a help to people in need. What is needed is a couple in place to receive teams in Central America.

Let's preface this ALL in "Lord-willing". Now, our vision is to form a hospitality base where we receive international teams and give them a 2-3 day orientation in working in Latin America (do's, don'ts, and how to kiss greet non-awkwardly, ha!). Then we would send them out to assignments, whether in disaster relief, construction projects for churches, or working with the kids who work in the trash dumps in La Ceiba. Dustin would accompany them sometimes, or one of our coworkers would go (we are praying for a bilingual Honduran!). Sometimes I will go as a photojournalist/translator. There's a lot happening in Central America, as our boss Steve Shank says, "And nobody is writing it down!"

After their trips, the teams would return to the base for debriefing, prayer, and send-off. When not receiving teams, we would be meeting with reps from the Amor Viviente Church and the Honduran Mennonite Church to assess gravest needs, etc. Both churches have affirmed the necessity of this new role.

We are looking at one year of home leave, then trying to head to Tegucigalpa. During our home leave we are looking into Dustin taking classes in water purification, solar panels, and other skills. I'm looking into photo journalism courses and photography classes. We are also praying about work for Dustin so that we will only need half support while home.

Phew! Sounds like an adventure to me!!

Your Most Devoted,

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Long Goodbye

To My Most Amiable Readers...

As most of you know, we are coming to the end of two 3-year terms serving here in Chile. Our come-home date is somewhere in April of 2011. We have much to do in these remaining months, most important being the long goodbyes. Taking time to process the transition with our friends here, making sure they know how much we love them and have appreciated their friendship. Encouraging emerging leaders to fill in any gaps our absence may leave. Distributing our possessions, finding homes for our dogs, and making plans for our upcoming furlough year all occupy our minds.

I would appreciate any insight on how to help our children as they lose their pets, their home, many of their toys, their culture, their second language, and their friends within four months time. I cannot fathom how they might feel. Cover them in prayer, please.

If I sound down, perhaps I am a bit. A stomach bug has left me weak. I have so much to tell you all which is exciting, things about what we're going to be doing next, but that will keep for another post. For now I feel the need for prayer support.

Leaving our life here is difficult for me, and can I admit that I'm scared of living in the States? I can't really explain it. It's like when you're swimming in a cold river, after you've gotten used to the temperature. The warm sand on the shore looks inviting, but you know that if you take a break there, it'll be so much harder to get accustomed to the cold again.

Your Most Devoted,

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

On Chasing Beggars...

To My Most Amiable Readers,

I chase beggars. Nine times out of ten, I do it without shoes on, which explains some of the wear and tear on my socks.

I'm busy kneading a mound of dough while lunch simmers on the stove. The kids are playing, but I sense a fight coming as the air is peppered with "I had it first!" and "NOooooo, I did!". The soup needs stirring, but I want to finish the kneading, someone gets bonked on the head by some other one. Crying. In the midst of this, "Ding Ding Ding DONG!". Our gate bell heralds an arrival. Hastily washing the flour off my hands, turning down the fire under the soup, and scooping up the crying child on my hip, I peer through the curtains to see, again, a beggar.

My first emotional reaction plays across my mind: "I don't have time for this! Go get a frickin' job!" I'm ashamed of it as soon as it comes. It comes from a flustered place of judgment, and I don't like that place much. Then I've got to make a decision. My children gather around me to see what I'll do. Why must I have an audience?!

Almost always I'm in my socks and I step gingerly up to the gate while the person tells me a tale of woe or simply asks for clothing or food. I ask them to wait a moment and disappear back inside, scanning my home and cupboards for items. There is usually something to give and by the time I make it back to the gate (still without shoes on), I have love in my heart to give too. A big smile and a "God bless you" come easily, and as I try to avoid sharp rocks on the way back in my heart smiles. I no longer am judging or questioning whether or not they deserve this or that. I'm just full of love and joy.

And I know this, I know how it plays out. But, sometimes I just fail. And then I have to chase beggars...

Today I was busy making pies to surprise Dustin and lunch, while simultaneously teaching Sophia, when the gate bell sounded out it's tune. It was violently windy and rainy out, and there she was. The round-faced, toothless, cheerful woman who nearly weekly begs here. She started her cheerful litany asking if I had any food or clothing to share. I said simply, "Not today, sorry". "Okay!", she smiled, "But do you have $100 pesos (roughly 25 cents) to share so I can go home on the bus?" I glanced back to my kitchen where I needed to be at that moment and said, "Sorry, I'm right in the middle of making lunch...." She smiled understandingly and moved on. I did not move on. Sure I went and stirred the bubbling sauce on the stove, but I felt awful.

The children watched all of this with their big inquisitive eyes.

Before I knew it, I was sprinting through my house looking for my change purse. I panicked slightly when I raced to the front window and could no longer see her in the cul-de-sac. Opening my front door I called out "Senora!?", thoroughly startling my neighbor walking by. Running out into the wind and rain (in my socks), I called again. There she was, down the street, and I waved her back.

"I have it!" I shouted, and her smile broke wide. Happily she came and took the money saying "Thanks so much, I had no idea how I'd get home!". "God bless you, goodbye!", I said, and was struck by it all; how on earth could I have thought that it was a bother to help her? It's the easiest thing in the world. And of course, I can buy more socks.

I got tired of it all, I guess. Tired of always being asked. Tired of interruptions in an already full day. But when I say "no" to a beggar (granted that he's/she's not completely drunk), I am instantly filled with guilt, which turns to anger at myself and at the beggar. "Why am I mean? Why do you have to come here and make me go through these moral gymnastics? Why don't you go do something useful instead of leeching off of me? I don't want to hear your eternal sob story, I have work to do....etc".

Then, I remember Christ. The multitudes that pressed him, and begged from him, and called out to him. I mean, no one is cutting a hole in my roof and letting beggars down on pallets. People don't chase me from one town to the next. But though Jesus endured such unremitting need on all sides, He did not lose His compassion. I cannot either.

So I'll give, I'll fail and have to chase them back down and then give, or I'll totally fail. It is a decision I must make each time I hear the gate bell.

"But just as you excel in everything-in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us-see that you also excel in the grace of giving".

Your Most Devoted,