In His presence…

Not long ago, a missionary here asked me, “What do you really enjoy about your job?” I talked a bit about the teachers and the blessing it is to be a part of their lives. While that response is absolutely true, I think I’d expand my answer if I had the opportunity for a “redo”.

I’ve had the incredible privilege to work in several areas here at Freedom over the years. And with each passing day, the Lord is teaching me that no matter what I’m doing, keeping in step with Him is the most rewarding and precious experience this world has to offer.

By nature, I’m a perfectionist. Taking risks is hard for me. To fail is one of my biggest fears. And yet I’m learning that God, while He wants my best, is ultimately responsible to work out His perfect plan. I’ll give an example of how this recently played out in my life.

This past December, I was sitting in Jason’s office one afternoon, brainstorming some fundraising ideas. We’re behind financially in regards to sponsorship numbers, and we hadn’t met our end-of-the-year goal. Our “Change a Life” program is super important for us. It essentially keeps things running at the school. We’re able to bus in our 410 students because sponsors’ monthly donations cover costs like food, transportation and teachers’ salaries. How in the world were we going to find so.many.new.sponsors for the new year? As we bounced around a few ideas, this campaign push just kind of popped up. We thought a good goal would be to find 60 new child sponsors in these first three months of 2020. It was a solid direction, but instead of running after it, fear of the unknown initially began to creep into my mind. Are there really 60 (!) new people out there, willing to give their time and money to this cause? I started to think about all the ways a campaign like this could fail, and I shied away from the idea of putting together anything at all.

But as time went on, God quietly and consistently whispered to my scared little heart, “Just trust me.” I thought, Ok, Lord! You’re giving me this opportunity to walk with you. Even though I think this goal is terrifying and ambitious, You’re in charge…

Well, here we are. Halfway through the campaign. (The Lord has provided about 20 kiddos with new sponsors! That is amazing!) To be honest, I still wonder if we’ll actually hit our goal. I pray we do. It’d certainly be amazing to see this campaign successfully finished on March 31st, but ultimately I’ve been trying to allow the truth that God is in control to soak down deep in my heart. The Lord is doing a work in my life, and I’m doing my best to simply rest in Him. I really don’t have to worry so much when I choose to abide.

Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.

Psalm 16:11

There is this beautiful balance to be enjoyed in my relationship with Jesus: my humble efforts combined with His perfect plan and powerful provision produce such bliss. Joy to the fullest is found in walking with Jesus – no matter my weaknesses, no matter the circumstances, no matter the outcome.

On Spiderwebs and Perseverance

Over the past 6 years, the Lord’s been teaching me a lesson. Using spiderwebs. A couple weeks ago, I finally stopped to take a picture.

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Before Freedom owned the land where our campus now sits, we traveled to the villages to do school. In batey Lima, we borrowed a small, hot, metal church building where our 30 preschoolers would kneel at wooden pews to learn their alphabet. In 2013, our numbers grew to 90. I worked with our 30 kindergarteners, and Toni taught the 60 preschool babes.

As a mom who had just moved to a foreign country with two young boys, I felt like our days were so very long. Every morning, we’d send missionaries out at dawn in their personal vehicles to prep our “classrooms”. They’d lug heavy benches out of the buildings, and they’d drag in totes full of workbooks, school supplies, laminated letters, chalkboards, and more. They’d screw together makeshift desks to prepare for a morning full of learning.

At the end of each 4-hour day, everything was taken apart. Desks and chairs were stacked and organized. Ropes and number lines were dismantled and packed away. Outhouses were cleaned. Around noon, we’d drop our students off in their villages. Then we’d eat our packed lunches on the back of a safari truck. By mid-afternoon, we were home and cleaned up. With the remaining hours til sunset, houses were cleaned, clothes were washed, and dinners were cooked. Some missionaries homeschooled their own children; others spent time prepping lessons and activities for school. This monotonous routine was our “normal”.

For me to get up at 6 am and head out to the villages on the back of an open-air truck – hanging on to my 3-year-old son so he wouldn’t bounce off the seat – was fairly draining. But even on those early, frigid mornings, God was an ever-present help and strength.

I had lots of time to think on those long truck rides. There were certain parts of the trip that were actually rather pleasant. I loved watching the world wake up. I started to notice certain aspects of the landscape. I knew when the really big bumps were coming on that washed-out, dirt road. I could soon close my eyes and tell you our location on the route based on the sounds, smells, and swerves. With each trip, I’d catch some new feature of my surroundings.

It was always fun riding through one particularly wooded area – it had a jungle feel to it. After being in that shadowy, foresty region for several minutes, the world opened up into a sunny, vast expanse of sugarcane. The fields stretched for miles. In the distance, one could barely make out the grayish, purple mountains.

One dewy morning, I remember looking out across the grassy fields, and I noticed something new. Spiderwebs. Hundreds and hundreds of translucent orbs. They were all around. Every few yards, there was another intricate structure that some tiny, eight-legged creature had spent her entire night working on. I could only imagine the amount of time it took to make those complex, interlacing works of art.

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Interestingly enough, by the time we boarded the truck for the afternoon ride home, the spiderwebs were gone. They no longer glistened in the sunlight, veiled in morning dew. I can only assume that the wind and rain of the day destroyed those fragile, beautiful masterpieces.

I started to compare our long hours to the time those little spiders spent creating their webs. Were we really so different from them, toiling day and night? We sure experienced “windy” times. For me, those days were mostly characterized by feelings of discouragement, exhaustion, and frustration as we worked with rowdy, raucous kids who rarely showed signs of change and growth.

As depressing as all this may sound, there is some beauty to the tale. Each afternoon the spiderwebs were gone. But every morning, they were back! In the night, the spiders had set to work again – spinning, spinning, spinning – until their condensation-covered creations were complete again.

Those spiders and their webs represented something to me. Perseverance. I often woke up thinking, Lord, I don’t know if I can do this again. It’s so early. I’m so tired. These kids don’t want to learnBut then I’d see those webs, and I’d think, Well, Jesus, if those little arachnids can get up to spin their webs, then I can too!

The miraculous thing? I don’t have to spin alone.

Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning!
– Psalm 30:5