Tuesday, June 12, 2012
The past couple of months have been a HUGE whirlwind, and a journey of faith!
Ever since coming back from Sri Lanka in 2006, I've felt that prompting that I would eventually go back. I've even made a couple of attempts to go back and God closed the doors on them. He did prompt me that while I patiently waited, I needed to be involved in my local mission field. So that's what I've done.
At the end of April, I found myself walking into a meeting about Sri Lanka at our church. I went in, prepared to hear the ways our church could partner with our Sri Lankan friends. I went in, prepared to see what role I would play in supporting the people who would go to the island. But not even 5 minutes into the presentation, I got the "GO CODE". I heard, "It's time!". It honestly caught me off guard. And what floored me even more were those around me who knew God would say it was time to go back.
I found myself walking up to the National Missions director and saying, "I think I'm supposed to go." Then I went on to explain why.
The past couple of months have been spent figuring out fundraising opportunities to raise the funds for our team of three to travel this summer and having dialogue with all the members of our team so that we can been getting to know each other.
There has also been A LOT of dialogue with my family. It's been a huge teaching experience for us...to teach our kids that when God tells someone it's time, then they need to step out faithfully and go. There have also been many discussions about the possibility of them eventually going, and if we would be okay with that happening.figuring out fundraising opportunities to raise the funds for our team of three to travel this summer.
We are raising our kids with the belief that we are all missionaries and every day that we step out our front door, we are stepping onto our mission field. We want our family to value community and being involved in theirs. We have raised them to know that anyone is capable of going overseas and God doesn't have a particular mold when calling someone!
So, none of the dialogue happening at our home surprises me...
Monday, March 26, 2007
We woke up for breakfast Saturday morning and packed up to be able to leave following breakfast (by 8am). Mr. Cinder and I walked around and took some more pictures of our new found surroundings...knowing that we wouldn't be back to this seaside location before we left. It was nice to drink in what we were blessed to be experiencing as a couple. It continually felt a like a 'dream' throughout the time we were there...didn't possibly seem like it could actually be happening and that we were some of the players in it.
As it drew closer to breakfast, we quickly took advantage of the access to a telephone and made a call home to my sister. Because of the time difference, it was actually Friday evening...my parents and our kids had just arrived at my sister's house. So where we thought we would give her an update, we were blessed to hear everyone's voice that morning. Up to that point I hadn't had a chance to miss anyone very much, but after that call it hit really hard. The reality of being completely around the world from my kids came down upon me. As we sat down to have a morning devotion and prayer before breakfast, I struggled to choke back tears and keep composed. It was one of few very difficult times for me on this beautiful journey.
We enjoyed our first Sri Lankan breakfast...fresh fruit that was out of this world (especially when you are Saskatchewan bred), toast and jam, eggs and MILK TEA...oh how I would come to love that form of tea!
While we waited for our driver, a bunch of the team ventured out walking again. A few Tuk-Tuk drivers along the way asked if we were interested in a ride, but we said that we were waiting for our driver to arrive. One very friendly Tuk-Tuk driver came right up to the hotel and tried to persuade us to go for a ride. He talked with us and told us a lot about Negombo and what happens there on the weekends. It's a very family orientated time...according to him, the beaches would be flooded with people in a few hours, as they enjoyed some relaxation, sun and time together...and probably a little shopping and sight-seeing as well. The driver tried extremely hard to get our business if we happened to get back to Negombo before we left. He was a very good sport...He let us use his Tuk-Tuk to take a couple pictures! He possessed a smile, was eager and proud to talk about his country and wanted to know more about our country. It was a great experience and we talked at ease with him.
We experienced our first two roadside checkpoints on the way to the airport. Being that the airport is a high-risk target, security is extremely tight as you draw closer to it. What seemed a little scary at first, actually became second nature after the first few were under your belt. The van door was opened and we had to be prepared to show our passports. But we were blessed with an awesome driver...both times Matthew said that we were tourists from Canada and talked with them a little more and then they let us through...hassle free!
When we got to the airport, it was not just a simple task of showing up to claim our baggage and then go back to the hotel for supper and sleep. We had to present our passports, fill out a form and wait to be granted permission to have a one hour security pass to enter the airport, so we could make our way to claim the luggage. Once we had passes, we proceeded through countless security checkpoints, some where we just had to show our passports and security cards, but also some where we had to walk through a metal detector and be patted down - one even checked through the contents of any purses!
Once we arrived at Lost Luggage claims, we had to get a form, take it to customs and have it signed and then proceeded back to Lost Luggage. They then took us to a place to get our luggage - there was quiet praise being lifted up for the fact that all the luggage was there! Then we had to take it back to security so they could break the seals they had put on it and then we examined it to make sure everything was there. After this, we had to return to customs and have a form filled out and then signed. That form granted us financial means of retribution for the trouble caused - we received this both in the morning and evening. Then we were allowed to leave and go back to Negombo for supper.
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
As we flew into Colombo, any fears or nerves I had previously had dissipated. The excitement grew in my heart and Rick's as well and we no longer could sleep, but watched in anticipation, for the Indian Ocean and the small country that three of our friends had told us so much about! It was a cloudy day, but we continued to plaster ourselves to the window and also to the on-flight viewing TV - a very intriguing device on Sri Lankan airlines, which allows you to watch a frontward or downward view of the plane as you take-off, during flight and also at landing. Then all of a sudden, the clouds lifted and the Indian Ocean and the shoreline of India came into complete view. Nothing and no one can prepare you for this experience and what it feels like. The Indian Ocean was such a beautiful sight - so clear and such a beautiful colour of blue. Then came the time to begin our descent to the Sri Lankan Airport. All of a sudden we were flying over Sri Lanka - we were at the place God spoke and showed us we would be. I have never seen so many palm trees...there were forests of them! We then landed at the airport and once at our gate, proceeded out of the plane, inside the airport and started towards customs, after we joined the rest of the team.
We got to customs, showed our passports and cards and went through quickly. We then rushed to baggage claim to retrieve our luggage, especially our carry-ons, which had a lot of electronics in them. After about half an hour, we were somewhat dismayed and relieved in both senses of the word. The team luggage which was supposedly transferred automatically in London, had been and arrived safely. Our luggage which had been retrieved at London and rechecked, along with our carry-on luggage, was nowhere to be found. When we first asked about it, the people in Sri Lanka spoke with London and they said that there was no record of our luggage in London, so it must have been on the plane.
Thank goodness we had Dan with us, as if not, I'm sure we still would not be in Sri Lanka! Dan wouldn't leave the lost baggage area until they gave him a reference number and file for his missing luggage, gave the next times for arriving flights from London and gave him a phone number where he could contact them, so that we could know when the next plane came in and get down to the airport ASAP to claim the luggage. He also proceeded to make sure that each member of our team was helped immediately. This process took almost 4 hours - so we arrived in Colombo at 7:30 but didn't actually leave the airport until after 11am. We drove to Negombo, to stay at a hotel where previous teams had stayed. Having had friends stay there, we had seen pictures and heard stories of it!
We arrived at lunchtime after being in planes and airports for approximately 40 hours for MR. Cinder and I. Dan took immediate control of making sure the team was taken care of. They seated us and gave us each a 1L bottle of water and a glass of freshly squeezed fruit juice. Then they got our rooms ready and began preparing lunch. We went to our rooms and rested for an hour and then came down and had our first Sri Lankan meal on Sri Lankan soil. Then we went out to purchase toiletries and some type of clothing, so that we would have something to change into, once we showered.
You definitely come face-to-face with Sri Lanka and differences in culture right at the airport. Porters are immediately there to take your bags, hoping for a tip in return. But is you tip one person, then you would have more around you, also asking for help. I have trouble with this, as I don't like to not help someone or be forceful with them, especially as a visitor in their country. Before lunch, I went for a walk on the beach - the sand is beautiful and the beaches literally go forever, as Sri Lanka is the country which is completely surrounded by beaches. It was a cool experience to be by the ocean and see the pull of the waves, especially with it being so rough and wavy. Once back to the hotel for lunch, I immediately had a lady trying to peddle a variety of items, despite mwasn'tying I wasn't interested. We also had another one later on as well. We found didn't if you didn't make eye contact with them, you were usually left alone. Our next experience with this was while shopping for clothes.
The sales people sometimes come across as not wanting to take no for an answer, but for many of them, it's their livelihood for their families. I understood their persistance and respected it as well. In many cases the jewelry and leather work is something they make themselves. They are proud of their workmanship and would love dearly for you to own a piece of it and essentially, their country.
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
Thursday, August 10 (Day 2)
This is the first time since London that I’ve actually been able to sit down and write down my thoughts.
London was an experience which you can never quite forget…and yet I wouldn’t trade anything which has happened up to this point. When we flew into London, we were told that we would not be allowed to depart our plane due to a security breach. The pilot went on to tell us that no planes were leaving Heathrow airport and no more planes were being allowed in. Our plane, in fact, had been the last plane to leave Toronto Pearson airport to London.
As things progressed, we eventually found out that a potential terrorist act against the United States, based in London, had been found out and stopped before anything happened. London officials had arrested approximately 21 people in connection with this. As a result of this, security at Heathrow airport was heightened to its highest level. This meant that every person entering the airport had to go through customs which required more time and therefore, this meant that a lot of planes, including ours, were parked on the tarmac until other planes were finally deboarded and spots opened up for new planes to come in.
In the end, we spent 2 ½ hours on our plane waiting – our crew was fantastic and did a superb job of keeping everyone at ease, despite everything going on. We finally deboarded our plane about 15 minutes before our connecting flight to Colombo was scheduled to board. We figured that we would have plenty of time, assuming that if all the incoming planes had been delayed due to security measures, that all the outgoing planes would be as well. We proceeded through customs, picked up our luggage and at that point, found out that some of our team’s luggage had been “lost”, so we had to go and inquire about this. It was said that their luggage had actually been transferred directly to the plane, which is the normal measures when flying transcontinental flights. Apparently, halfway through the unloading of our plane, the order to have all luggage transferred to the airport was lifted and things went back to the normal procedures. Dan and Ben said it was the most confusing time they’d ever had in Heathrow, as we ended up going through a completely different process and schedule of events then what would normal have occurred.
We literally ran to catch a train, which would take us to our Terminal – we got to the platform with 3 minutes to spare before the train’s departure. The train we took was very similar to a subway and brought us to our Terminal within 5 minutes. There were so many people in the Terminal and airport in general. The whole time I found myself whispering “breath” prayers that the team would be able to stay together and not be separated. Praise God, as He allowed us all to keep very level heads, were able to keep the team members in eye distance and therefore we didn’t get separated once.
We arrived at the Terminal only to hear that our plane was announcing it’s final boarding call before take-off. We found someone at information, who was able to direct us to the Sri Lankan Airlines desk, which was located at the other end of the Terminal. When we
Arrived at Sri Lankan Airlines, we were told that their office in London had been closed for about 3 months and that another airline, which was right back beside the information desk, was now taking charge of Sri Lankan Airline’s flights. So we then ran back to the other airline and once there, another lady proceeded to try and send us back to Sri Lankan Airlines. Sheryl Murray talked to another information person and then asked Dan Sheffield to come and explain the situation.
The only explanation for what happened next is because God’s hand was so firmly upon us…this truly drove home the point to why you so desperately need a team of prayer warriors behind you! The lady believed Dan’s story of events, which he said, had taken place and went to the airline to talk to them. It took a lot of convincing, but they radioed the pilot and found out that they were indeed missing 42 passengers who were scheduled to be on the plane. They halted the plane’s departure and proceed to rush as many of us through as possible. Because of heightened security, we were required to check our entire carry-on luggage and the only thing we could have on our possession was our wallet and our passport. You were permitted to take necessary medication on board, but because of all the chaos, we completely forgot about our malaria meds and they went under the plane. This also meant we had to check a variety of electronic devices which were being carried by the team – a laptop, cell phone, tripod, digital cameras, MP3 players.
Once our entire luggage was checked, we then had to go through a very rigorous security check – you had to remove the usual stuff (all jewellery, money, watches, belts, etc.), but we were also required to remove our shoes (that’s a lovely smell after they’ve been on your feet for almost 24 hours!) and have them X-rayed. Then we were very thoroughly patted down and frisked, from head-to-toe – this was a first in terms of the thoroughness and was a little bit uncomfortable in terms of personal space! Once cleared, we had to gather our things and run clear across the Terminal to get to our gate. We did make it on the plane, but very narrowly – only 18 of the missing 42 passengers actually left for Colombo at the designated time. The rest were left to wait in Heathrow airport for the next plane, which left approximately 6 hours later.
You could definitely tell you were on Sri Lankan Airlines and a trans-continental flight. Our stewardesses were dressed in saris and you actually received a menu to choose a meal vs. receiving a meal in a box. Our meals came on these beautiful lilac trays, complete with appetizer, rolls, main course, dessert, water and tea in an actual teacup. They had an amazing selection of movies, music and games to choose from, so as to occupy your time when you weren’t sleeping – it was especially handy, being that we weren’t allowed to bring books, paper or pens on board the plane. So began our 10 hour flight from London to Colombo. I fell asleep with it sunny outside and woke up to complete and total darkness – we had went through some time zones as I slept. It was a long and tiring ride in many senses. As the time changes, your body is tired and you want to sleep, but in the same sense, your body is trying to wake up, as it’s daytime where you came from, even though it’s nighttime where you are flying – very confusing to type and to experience!
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
So began the God journey at 5:15am when a taxi pulled up to take us to the airport. Off we went, not knowing what to expect...I experienced something very different for the first time since I prayed through the decision to go to Sri Lanka...I was a bundle of nerves. I think a lot of things probably brought it on...we had left our kids a few days ago and it was already the longest we had been apart from them (so I was missing them), my mom had only been out of the hospital for a little over a week and it's hard to leave someone after they've went through all they did and then there was the whole aspect of meeting up with a portion of our team in a few hours. For me being introverted, that would be hard, putting myself out there, despite the fact I knew they would be awesome people to have this experience with!
When we arrived at the airport, we got into line and gave ourselves plenty of time to get our tickets and also to get up to where we would go through the "security check". We were met at the airport by Pastor Amigo, Mrs. Jolly, Mrs. Padwan and Tallman. Being the time of the day and how I was feeling inside, it was great to be met by some of our church family, but also nice to have it be a small group. The time for our departure came fast...Mrs. Jolly asked if she could pray with us...so our little group knelt down on the airport floor and prayed us off (we couldn't have fathomed at that point, how much those prayers and the ones lifted up after we were gone, would sustain us through the next few days). We then gave out hugs, said goodbye and made our way to the boarding gate and sat down on the first of many "steel birds" we would see on the trip.
The first couple legs of the trip were pretty uneventful...as we got closer to Toronto, the planes got bigger, but other than that, these legs of the trip were simply used as a time to catch some sleep. When we arrived in Toronto, we had quite a few hours to kill...Mr. Cinder talked about renting a car and going out and about, but because I wasn't really feeling well at all by this point, and we knew we would be sitting for a very long time once we got back on the "steel bird", we elected to stay at the airport and walk a lot of miles. We ended up eventually going and getting some supper at a little restaurant where they make pizzas and cooked 6-8 or them at a time in this huge pizza oven, right in front of you as you waited. After eating and talking a little more about life in general, we thought we should go and at least think about finding where we needed to be to check our luggage.
When we arrived at the counter to check our luggage, we ran into some unexpected problems. The lady looked at us and asked if we had our visas to enter Sri Lanka (news to us that we would need a visa). That was an interesting conversation and a great lesson in humility at many levels. After having three friends go before you and a bunch from the team who have went repeatedly, you have this knowledge in your head that they would have told you if you needed a visa to get into the "little teardrop of the East". But in the same sense, you know she's only doing her job and you need to not look at her in a bad light or feel personally thumped yet again! As things progressed, she began to hesitate about whether or not she should even issue us boarding passes to go on the next leg of the trip. I have to admit that even though I put on a straight face, my blood was beginning to flow, my heart was beginning to pound and I found myself whispering "breath" prayers to God, in terms of me keeping my cool and also that this issue would be resolved. At this point, we truly felt He hadn't brought us this far to have things halted in their tracks! After reading more information about the visas, she did decide to allow us to have our boarding passes. It looked like if we did need visas, we could get them issued at the airport when we arrived...we did then sit there in a very crowded airport and receive a stern lecture about being completely prepared for all aspects of the trip, as depending on where we were traveling, we wouldn't have been able to leave without our visas in hand. After all this though, she all of a sudden became very cordial and said she was going to switch our seats on the plane, so that Mr. Cinder would have extra and ample leg room for the 6 hour plus flight. We thanked her very graciously, checked our bags through and made our way to the customs/security area.
This security check began the first of many "patdowns" - due to the thoroughness, I was glad they had a woman for any ladies who walked through the gate. I'm not usually bothered by such things, but let's face it...Mr. Cinder's the only one who gets to be that up close and personal (until you fly during a foiled terrorist plot that is)!
Once through security/customs, we made our way down towards the gates and shopping area. We had some time to kill, so we alternated between walking, shopping, resting and reading/listening to music. I found a huge Tim's and felt the incessant need to stand in line and get one last Ice Cap before making the overseas journey...continuing to fuel that bad cold coffee habit. It was really, really good and so was the blueberry fritter that went along with it (Pastor Jolly's story about the Sri Lankan donuts flashed in my mind as I was in line...I then felt a need to savor the taste of a sweet Canadian donut before I left).
(This was on the third floor and went from the floor to the ceiling. There was a pump which forced enough water to make all these glass squares fly around and when the water was pumped in, you saw nothing due to the force it came in.)
Pretty soon we saw a group of people come into the gate area, and from pictures of some of them see on Pastor Jolly's blog, we knew these were our teammates for the next 14 days. We came over, introduced ourselves and began to get acquainted. We continued to go for short walks and look around. Our plane ended up being a little delayed, but eventually the boarding call came and we lined up to show our tickets and passports. Up to this point, things had weren't pretty uneventful and considering the past couple of weeks, I was really glad for it and therefore was drinking it all in. We made our way down a small maze of ramps to the gate door and came to the quick realization that it was locked. (Little did we know, this would be the first of many glitches and roadblocks throughout the remainder of the trip). People tried to get the flight attendants' attention, but it was to no avail and then came the final boarding call over the hallway loudspeaker, which made everyone burst out into laughter. Finally a security person came, apologizing profusely and unlocked the door for us to continue on towards the plane.
Once on board, we settled ourselves in for the overnight trip over the Atlantic Ocean. Then the plane started up with a roar and there immediately was a really bad smell in the plane. Then the pilot came on and said the words you really don't want to hear when you are beginning a journey over a huge body of water..."We are sorry to inform you that there will be a short delay, as one of the engines is not functioning properly, so maintenance crews are on their way to look at the problem and fix it." Mr. Cinder and I looked at each other and began to laugh uncontrollably...having felt "spiritually attacked" on more than one occasion throughout the last little while, our in-house joke became, "If only they didn't have us traveling on the plane, maybe the trip would go smoother!" After about 10 minutes, the pilot came on and informed us that the engine had been fixed and we were cleared for take-off. Before we knew it, we were up in the air and on our way overseas, bringing us one step closer to the "little teardrop of the East".
Saturday, August 05, 2006
As we stood during the communion service, we read in unison about serving together in the world. Pastor Jolly stopped the service at this point and called our team up to the front. He then talked about our trip and let everyone know when we would all be leaving. Then people were invited to come up to the front to lay hands on us and pray for us as we were sent out on our mission.
I don't know what I thought this experience would be like, but it was beyond anything I could have ever experienced! The four of us knelt at the front of the church, in front of the communion table and the cross, while people surrounded us, laid hands on us and prayed over our team for the next 20 minutes. It was an experience which rocked me from the deepest part of my soul. It made this experience become a little more of a reality...it meant the beginning of this mission...it showed to me the undying and faithful support that my family has and will always have at this fellowship which is now affectionately known as "home".
As I sit and type this, Pastor Jolly and Padawan are currently en route to Sri Lanka...they left very early yesterday morning. The Cinders are now only 4 sleeps away from boarding that same early morning flight to begin the journey. There are all the typical last minute preparations going on...in terms of everything we need to be taking, making sure everything is together teaching-wise, making sure all things are taken care on the home front and with our kids. The excitement is growing in a way I can't even express and really, before we know it, this dream will be a reality and a very precious memory for us all!
"Every time you cross my mind, I break out in exclamations of thanks to God. Each exclamation is a trigger to prayer. I find myself praying for you with a glad heart. I am so pleased that you have continued on in this with us, believing and proclaiming God's Message, from the day you heard it right up to the present. "
Monday, July 31, 2006
"I know what I'm doing. I have it all planned out - plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for. "When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I'll listen. "When you come looking for me, you'll find me. "Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I'll make sure you won't be disappointed."
Pastor Habs said he and Mrs. Habs would be praying alongside us as we began to again prayerfully consider it. Right around the time this email was sent, I also started attending a missions seminar put on by Pastor Jolly. I basically went to it, because I wanted to have a better understanding about missions and I guess you could say I wanted to hear someone's point of view who was closer to our age. I couldn't have even began to envision where it would end up leading us.
Mr. Cinder and I began discussing Sri Lanka and also weighing whether it was just that God wanted us to go missional or if it was specifically to be Sri Lanka. More than once it was asked, "Why not Mexico...at least then you are still on the same continent...not so far from home...in far less danger?" After a lot of prayerful consideration, the response we heard from God was this, "What's the sense of deciding to go missional if you aren't going to go where I am prompting you to go?" Really, there's no disputing any conversation from God and He truly made a very valid point. If you are going to step out in true and complete trusting faith, then you have to lay everything aside and allow Him to completely do the leading, no matter what the path it might take you down and despite everything which might come with going down that path! In retrospect, it's a whole lot easier to write that line than it is to truly live that out. Throughout the decision process for this trip, we really had to deal with a lot of our apprehensions or fears, a lot of "what-if" questions, giving over of the reigns of control and the ultimate realization that God knows what's best for us and He also knows what we are capable of, even when we can't see it!
So, after a couple of weeks of pretty intense prayer and discussion and a lot of awesome information coming in from the missions seminar, the prompting continued to come stronger. The eventual bump to the next level came with a very simple question from Pastor Jolly..."Is the spirit of God talking to you?" You know, it seems like a pretty relatively simple question to answer, but the only response I had to it was..."I honestly don't know if it's God speaking or simply me prompting what I would long to see take place." At the time I wrote that reply, I still truly didn't know for sure if it was me or God prompting the vivid visions of teaching Sri Lankan children and basically just coming alongside people to offer them fellowship and friendship.
After another week of sleepless nights due to intense prayer, with a fairly simple request..."We need clarification...help make the roads meet and help to make the roadblocks disappear if it's truly a calling from You and not from self." He works in the most amazing ways and within very little time, He help to make all the roadblocks essentially go away...if there wasn't certainty before this, there was definitely 100% certainty following it. While there had been a lot of negativity in the winter when we examined the possibility, God had now paved the road in such a way that people around us were excited about thepossibilityy of going missional and brought support to us in a huge way. Where we thought there would be difficulties finding someone to look after our kids for the duration of the trip, it was quite the opposite. Family truly stepped up and said they would help to care for our kids, in order to make it possible for this trip to take place. Our kids now get to go on a little mini vacation of their very own...one week here and one week there and they are pumped to have this happen! People immediately in the fall began saying that they would be there to help us through prayer support, financial support and whatever other ways we needed.
I have to say that the winter and spring of 2006 have been extremely interesting and SO exciting. It truly feels like we are living in a dream right now! You know deep down inside it's reality and happening...I honestly can't bring it into words. I'm counting sleeps (I don't honestly know I've counted sleeps for anything in my adult life...WELL...okay, with the exception of the anticipation of becoming Mr. Cinder's forever sidekick 10 years ago), being awaken at night, partly because of the vivid dreams beginning to go through my mind (some would say this is the effect of the malaria meds...but really, who truly knows) and simply just because I'm prompted to be in reflection or prayer.
Time and especially summer has honestly flown by in the blink of an eye...it's seems like only yesterday and not 13 months ago, that we were making the final decision to leave what was familiar and take that leap of faith yet again. Only a few short months ago, we received the go ahead to be on this trip...now we've blinked and Mr. Cinder and I are only 9 sleeps away...Pastor Jolly and Padawan are only 4 sleeps away!
Well, this is where I'm going to end the prologue and now begin to pour out this God-venture...I'm going to close with this two very poignant passages of scripture, which God brings me to on almost a weekly basis...I think as a true reminder of who He is and also in terms of how much His hand is truly on us and this journey...
"God is striding ahead of you. He's right there with you. He won't let you down; he won't leave you. Don't be intimidated. Don't worry."
I find it so very interesting as to how God speaks and calls people in such vastly different and very personal ways. How He truly knows what we are made of, even though we sometimes don't have the foggiest clue...and He then calls us on it and uses it as a means to stretch us to brand new levels and just bring us to a place beyond our wildest dreams.
This journey all started almost two years ago, when our friend, who also happened to be our pastor and my boss, announced at bible study that He had been asked to go on a teaching mission to Sri Lanka. I remember saying, "You're going where?" and trying to locate on a map where this little country even was. I also remember very clearly the tsunami and the devastating effects which it had on so many people and countries, including Sri Lanka. We wondered what it would hold for this pioneer voyage and in the end, God had His hand on all things and the trip went on as planned. When our friend got back, we talked at great lengths about his trip and what he done. We talked about the people, their culture, the country and the plans for more trips in the future.
As these conversations went on last winter, my heart was prompted in quiet and gentle, yet very apparent manner. Sri Lanka was strong in my mind and on my heart. Mr. Cinder and I began to discuss the possibility of us embarking on a mission such as this one. So many issues seemed to stand in the way...our kids, our jobs, our ministries, the financial aspect, the danger aspect, etc. Many around us said it just wasn't a reasonable choice to make...wasn't a sound or very smart decision to make. After careful consideration and a lot of prayer, we ended up dismissing the possibility of Sri Lanka...it just seemed unreachable, too risky without any strong support and therefore became a distant dream.
A few months later, God provided opportunity for employment which seemed more secure and a much better working environment for Mr. Cinder. After prayerful consideration, the job was accepted and then began the agonizing task of selling a home, uprooting our family, leaving the comfort of our church family where we were connected and all the friendships we had worked so hard to forge...then purchasing a new home, finding a new church home and beginning the hard task of trying to fit in, find your place, make new friends and simply make a new life.
Mr. Cinder started his job in the new city and the kids and I stayed behind to wait for the house to sell. The month we were apart proved interesting for me. You see, I was angry with God and my husband for making me leave everything I knew, move and start to build my life over again. The most important point for our family throughout our move, was that we would follow God's leading to find a church for our family to worship in right away. Once we knew where we would go to church, we began to receive their e-bulletin, so that we would know what was happening in the church and would begin to feel some connection, even though we were still in another city. I remembering opening up the first e-bulletin and reading a letter from the Associate Pastor, telling about his upcoming missions trip...the second team to go to Sri Lanka. I remember sitting in unbelief at my computer as I read the letter. I heard a still small voice which said, "You may not be at the church yet, but this will be one of your pastors. You know what comes with this trip to Sri Lanka and you will stand in the gap and support this mission through prayer." I found myself praying for the team's protection...spiritual, physical and health. Praying that God would have His hand upon the mission.
The day finally came for our moving truck to make it's way to our new home. We were met by a friendly group of people from what was to become our new church family...we'd only attended one service there, yet they came to help us, to welcome us and to simply extend Christian love, fellowship and eventual friendship. To this day, it's truly overwhelming...their generosity and kindness. We had absolutely no idea the plans that God would eventually have in store for us. As the unpacking of the truck came to a finish, I heard a conversation between some of the men and Pastor Jolly, talking about his recent trip to Sri Lanka and the upcoming presentation he was going to have, to talk about his trip and also give a visual through the pictures he had taken. I decided that I was going to go to this presentation, as I wanted so badly to see where our friend, Pastor Habs had gone that winter. That had to have been one of the most scary experiences I have ever endured. I honestly hid behind the sanctuary doors of the church, because I was scared so stiff, that I couldn't make my feet move, one in front of the other. I did eventually make my way in and the people were so inviting and gracious! It was such an amazing experience...to see pictures and recognize them, because of Pastor Habs stories from his trip. The Sri Lankan children in the pictures captured my heart! When the presentation was done, I went home and really didn't think much more on it at that time.
Anyone close to us knows it was a very difficult transition, especially for me. I hit some very low points in life throughout the fall, but the amazing thing was, that despite the anger I felt about the move and the low points I hit, it was one of the most powerful moments in my life, my marriage, my family! As I struggled with the day-to-day tasks of unpacking and essentially trying to survive, God began to speak to me in a clear and gentle voice.
I said to God, "Look at me...I'm not a missionary, at least not one which leaves the country."
He said, "You said there were so many reasons why you couldn't even begin to consider it. They're gone now...you are free to now consider it again. Think about it, pray about it, talk with Mr. Cinder about it and when you are ready, we'll discuss it."
I just thought it was crazy to even be considering something which we had already dismissed, despite the fact He truly had taken away all the apparent obstacles which we seemed to face the first time. I remember emailing Pastor Habs for advice...I don't know if I thought he would agree that it was a crazy idea...I think I knew deep down inside what he would say and maybe that's why God led me to send that email! His advice was simple...God called us to be good stewards, but didn't always call us to be safe. Making faith steps also sends a very positive message to your kids about trusting God. Sri Lanka can be a dangerous place at times, but so can our cities. Keep praying and asking for God's guidance!
Well, it's late and this is where I'm going to end for tonight...I'll continue on with this lengthy prologue over the next few days and then once back from the trip, hopefully will begin a journal of the many life-changing memories!