Category Archives: Uncategorized

Wow. I was a mess.

In light of the upcoming Summer Olympic season, I was interviewed about my could-have-been claim to fame with a brief weightlifting career. I’m 5′ 3″ and currently a rounded 130lbs. I used to compete at 127.6lbs (a lot more muscle than present day). This was circa 2008. And my body was a mere means to my identity.

Essentially, I went from a nobody to a 2012 Olympic hopeful, on to a somebody. I say ‘somebody’ because how I determine my value has radically changed since. I was just another kid fumbling through college trying new stupid, destructive identities on for size and then entered notoriety because I’m physically strong. I was really strong. When that didn’t pan out I was left empty, void of identity and very, very lonely. I was surrounded by people who love me but felt like I had let them down by not making it to London 2012.

Now, by the grace of God, I am what I am (1 Corinthians 15:10). I am a somebody. I am His somebody (2 Corinthians 5:17). Aspire to what you will but if your identity isn’t in Christ, I know how miserable you are. Just like training for the gold, you’re going to have a bit of training to do to grow into your promised identity through faith in Jesus Christ. However, as my very wise friend used to tell her science students, “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got.” I was a mess but I’m not anymore. God has polished this stone into something of value.

Do you want a gold medal?  There’s only one way – a commitment.

Do you want to be happy?  There’s only one way – a commitment to Christ.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”  John 14:6

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Fire Work

 

 

dark and bright orange fire on black with reflection

For God is an all-consuming fire..

Being on fire for God means being a light for others in darkness. It means providing warmth for those who are cold and unclothed with righteousness. It means being a source of power, a catalyst for change, transformation, forward movement that barrels through any obstacle that crosses the path laid out before us which is clad in iron.

Jesus went into a building dedicated to the religion of the Jews. *He picked up a copy of the scroll of the prophet Isaiah and read it to the hearers:

*”The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

As “Believers” we are the current testimony that Christ loves everyone. Yes, everyone. Don’t tell others what you believe but show them. His Word is light in dark places. It sheds *light on how we are to move forward. His truths make sense of our purpose and being.

The warmth that comes from the heart of God who first loved us provides sight to people suffering blindness to what is causing them issues. *God’s people perish for a lack of knowledge of Him. We are clothed in righteousness through faith in our Savior, not through our actions. We first address the *heart and the actions follow suit. Where love is, warmth is. His love is inviting and comforting. It leads to a lifestyle of freedom.

People debate and tear each other apart with words about who Jesus Christ our Savior is. Let irreverant babble stay where it belongs – among those who enjoy it. If it makes your skin crawl, rest assured *the kingdom of God does not exist in talk but in power. The proof is in the pudding. Nobody needs to sell Christianity. Any religion in which you see long-lasting change from the inside-out, where peace, love and joy or any desirable, life-giving fruit is, follow it. I am so confident Jesus is the only one who truly satisfies on a soul level because that’s how His love works, in the power of change. It gives fulfillment endlessly which He designed us uniquely to receive.  Where fire burns, that which it touched does not remain unaffected. *Fire causes change. Holy fire refines and brings beauty.

When we walk in His *plan for us, there is certainty. Maybe not in the *flesh, but we have peace. You see it in action when an obstacle crosses your path. Met face-to-face with a wild buffalo, my confidence would completely disappear. I’d be toast. Being aboard the mighty, fire-powered locomotive that is Jesus Christ, well, that buffalo would be obliterated if it crossed my God-ordained tracks. Having His powerful love behind us does not mean problems cease, it means they are no contest for our victory.

He loves you with a powerful love. So much so, He wrote a book of love letters to you – the Bible.

 

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Love notes from this message:

*Isaiah 61:1-2
*Luke 4:16-21
*Psalm 119:105
*Hosea 4:6
*Matthew 23:26
*1 Corinthians 4:20
*Hebrews 12:28-29
*Jeremiah 29:11
*Romans 8:6

Running On ‘E’

I missed my flight somewhat on purpose but mostly because I am a gypsy with some adrenaline issues. A mishap with GPS, kind rental car agents and a “high volume” wait time on the phone with the airline dictated a change in plans. Avis hooked me up at 9:30pm and I headed home. Alternating energy drinks, water and sunflower seeds was a successful system for driving alert. Praise God for safe travel and gas station goodies. I had just enough time to change for work and get clocked in. No sleep for 39 hours. My new personal record. While I was awake following the drive, I felt like I could go for days without sleep. After getting some much needed rest the decay began. Fortunately, I was able to catch up on much needed sleep but the fatigue is lingering days later.

The disturbing element of this story is not the risk taken but my mindset. I am running on empty calories, temporary stimulation and minimum requirements for my health spiritually, too. While Denver was not my normal methodology for travel, it shows my willingness to operate on last-stitch efforts. I have been neglecting time in the Word of God and consequently my desire for it has, in turn, neglected me. I get frustrated with God when he does not immediately answer my prayers how I see fit and I find boldness to share the Gospel when it fits into my schedule.

I find solace knowing God forgives and has already paid the price for all sins so I have no need to beat myself up over complacency. BUT regret comes not from errors but failing to learn from them. Growing in my faith after leaving a 10-month spiritual retreat should not skip a beat though it takes on a different form now. The reason I went to Denver was to witness my friend’s Baptism. When we were kids I gave her the fire and brimstone message of death and destruction if she did not repent from her wicked ways. For some reason she continued to be my friend and still got saved (despite me). May God hit the mute-button on all our misguided well-intended witnessing. She and her husband shared their testimonies of grace in the presence of many who needed to hear about it. Not only because they need to be “saved” but because the means to being saved is grace through faith. Not achievement. I had it all wrong for 20-some-odd years but by grace I know that my sins are forgiven and grace may abound to all who believe and call on the name of Jesus. Beyond that, we simply take grace and add to it our time in the Word, prayer and fellowship knowing that failing to do so is simply going to open the door to fatigue. The problems of the world will grow to insurmountable mountains while God waits patiently for us to ask for help with the tiny pebble in front of us. God does not expect us to become Bible scholars overnight. Nor does he expect us all to go to Africa to preach to people who have never heard the gospel.

More likely, the next stop on your drive will be occupied by many familiar faces who have no hope. Be rested up in the Lord, well fed on His Words and satisfied by the Living Water so you can think clearly enough to do something in that moment. What good is a car without fuel? What good is our body without sleep? What good is the message of grace through faith if we do not know the Words of our Father? Fortunately, God’s power supersedes our input but at some point we have to remove the gas cap.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.. – Ephesians 2:8

For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.. – Romans 10:10

Listen to Shane and Cassi Roberts’ amazing testimonies: 

Cassi & I - Denver, CO

Adjustment Bureau

Culture shock. Whatever that is.

Sure we threw the term around in Cameroon before I came home but I seriously underestimated the effect 10 months in another culture would have on my sanity.

Sanity. Whatever that is.

In the airport an elementary age gal who I assumed to be Cameroonian turned to ask how long it took to get my hair braided in a clear American accent. I was shocked and thrilled to speak without having to modify my speech though I could hear her parents speaking Cameroonian French. They are “bush-fallers” or Cameroonians who get to leave the country, start a life elsewhere (likely Western-based) and come back on the holidays.

As I worked through airports in Paris, Atlanta and Kansas City I started to see white faces and it was strange. I had not seen lots of white people in one place at a time for 10 months. The more I heard American English the more I got excited to listen and talk with ease! I was stunned to find the ease was no longer there. I now had to reformulate sentences yet again in the calendar year so people could understand me. Instead of ‘schedule’ I learned to say ‘program’, ‘trousers’ instead of ‘pants’ which means underwear in Cameroon, handshakes now replace hugs and the European kiss if any physical greeting at all with Ebola on people’s minds. Suddenly I am in a place where no refuge is found in a cultural comfort zone. Nobody could have warned me about the bizarre impact being gone would have on functioning normally in my home culture.

Walking into the room at my parents’ house where I stored all my stuff felt like jumping off a cruise-liner mid voyage. I could not comprehend how I owned so much stuff! Not just me but closets in everyone’s houses were packed! The furniture is so plush and comfortable! The roads are so… smooth. The grocery store is so… full. I was warned to gradually ease myself into everything. Well I went to T.J. Maxx, a Mexican restaurant and the grocery store the same day I got off the plane. The grocery store was the last straw. As I stood in the produce aisle I lost it. Tears started flowing because it hit me that I would not be sharing a grapefruit with Jake for evening snack. I would not be waking up to fresh banana smoothies with the kids. I would not be sharing peanuts with the Children’s Home kids. Time would dictate a new routine of special moments with different special people here in Southwest Iowa. Home is good but I had to mourn the change in a way. The grocery store was too much. So was everything that first day home.

Guilt started to overtake me like it did when we first returned from out brief visit in 2013. We are so blessed with choices of stuff. Everything is so convenient here. Lights turn on when you flip the switch. We bathe in drinkable water! We throw away excess food! How do we stand ourselves? Well, God told me I could feel guilty or I could live in thankfulness for his blessed provision. So I did just that. I praise God when I turn on the sink, go through fast food drive-thru windows and lay down in my comfy bed. We are blessed for no good reason but blessed nonetheless. Praise God from whom ALL blessings flow!

I took my fake hair out after a week. Meranda at the Children’s Home did it so well it could have stayed weeks more but I was tired of answering questions about my cool hair. I want someone to ask me what God has done in my life! I want to tell everyone how I saw God become more than a history lesson or a band-aid for my problems. I wanted to dance at church, sing at the top of my lungs like a fool and hug everyone! But just as I had to adapt to the expressive nature of Cameroonian church services, I had to now adjust to the reserved quietness of my home church. It was so good to be home but I felt like a flower (one of the big, vibrant tropical ones) that had to be severed from the plant, laid out to dry so it could be neatly kept for archive viewing. My friends and family from my church in Bamenda came across my mind one at a time, how I wanted to hug and dance with them. I was hardly present mentally the first Sunday. After, it got better.

What happened was, after a spiritual retreat in Cameroon where God took me to the next level in faith, I came home and not much had changed yet everything had. I learned in a few short days that if I was not completely prepared to stand against the wiles of the devil with old habits that Satan would show up to remind me of my Achilles. What changed in me after 10 months was worthless if I put myself in situations that were guaranteed failures. The only difference between a true God-believing Christian and a non-believers is choices we make. Saved people are capable of just as much as unsaved people if they aren’t fixed on Christ. I was saved before I left of course but since being away from everything I learned to avoid I almost fell headfirst into where I was long before I came to Cameroon. We may go ahead one step in our faith during a mission trip but one step backward can be like 1000 if you do not guard yourself and stay fixed on God’s perfect will for life afterward. I felt like Peter for a moment in a life and death situation, I looked away for a moment and felt the water coming up to my neck but I simply lifted my eyes to Christ again, where they were fixed the past 10 months and my feet were firmly back under me.

Spiritual highs and lows are inevitable but in no way do I seek highs. I have always longed for continuity, dependability, something that would remain through the victories and failures of my life. My faith was on a high for 10 months so in order for that not to be fleeting I have to fight, challenge myself and tenaciously seek after the Lord to keep going higher. I was so overwhelmed by the stimulation of how beautiful our country is and the ease of life here that I saw how easy it is to slip quietly into distraction with the world. I am taking a stand that from here on, I am in this world and not of it. My eyes are fixed on Christ. I will not cater to the lust of my flesh, even if it is seemingly harmless. I will be thankful for life. I will love others more than myself and seek always to tell people about the power of Christ which is available to all of us by faith.

Am I ready to go back? Sure. But nobody needs to know Christ died for our sins and is alive today for our abundant life for eternity like Americans. We are so distracted that Christians will be hard pressed to entice non-believers. Faith comes from hearing and hearing the word of God. Not only do we need to stop listening to crap and start listening to God’s word, we need to be retaining it so we can speak it to others! I can simply hold on to words from the Bible and speak them in faith to create more faith in those around me. How simple is that?! Americans make Christianity so hard! We think there is an attendance rubric we must adhere to in order to be a successful Christian! Church is not a building. Church in not only on Sundays. THE CHURCH IS THE BELIEVERS! What am I doing as part of the church to help the rest of the church? I am memorizing Scripture so it replaces idle words I concoct on my own. I do not want to be the me before Cameroon or the me before I was saved. Every day I want to be more like Christ so others may find solace in Him.

The Greasy French Fry

With all these parting events I have come to appreciate the value of a formal greeting and farewell. This is revolutionary because I had mastered a maneuver called the “Greasy French Fry” where one quietly slips out the back unnoticed from social gatherings. The term originated in Shenandoah, Iowa and friends passed it on to me as it was a perfect title for my lack of explanation for my departure. Think of the lone greasy French fry in the bottom of the bag that somehow slipped out when you were busy with the rest of the meal. [Pause for McDonald’s daydream…] I’m not sure what I was always in a hurry to leave for but I may be retiring the habit upon returning home.

As I planned a sly disappearing act for leaving Cameroon I was sternly advised against doing so by a good friend. The Cameroonian culture dictates formal introduction, recognition and farewells for guests in any setting. Accolades and grandiose recognition directed at me makes me want to hide in a closet. There was no hope of avoiding it though. Nobody is letting me leave without honoring the time we had together. Now, I am grateful for it.

After enduring several moments of the spotlight and incredibly kind words, I started to see the value in it all. It is terribly uncomfortable but it gives value to the conversations and experiences shared with people I assumed were only special to me. To know people esteem me and appreciate our time together as much I did is validating. I like to be behind the scenes. I do not want people to know what I’m up to but when someone recognizes my effort I feel like a million bucks!

Every time you walk into a room here, you greet everyone present with a handshake or gesture of acknowledgement. At first this bugged me out because I frankly do not enjoy people touching me. Now I feel invisible if someone passes me by. Something we lack or excuse too quickly in American culture is the scurry of showing up late and leaving early. Let people know you appreciate their presence or invitation! When I leave events I will no longer pull the Greasy French Fry. I will simply tell the host I appreciate  their effort and ask they excuse my leaving but I am aware old habits die hard.

The reality of it all is back to my friend refusing I should go without saying goodbye for now. If I had left, people culturally would have been insulted and I would be a thief. To come, receive so much in experiences, conversations and gifts without leaving my comfort zone to thank and be thanked would have simply been theft; leaving without paying. The time I have remaining is the time I came here for the first visit – only days. Yet in a few days the experiences were indescribable. Multiply that times about 30 and you can imagine how much more difficult it is for me to explain what I now appreciate about Cameroon. All I can say is this, every prayer of concern I had about being here God answered. God blessed me with experiences and lessons I needed then and in the future. The Schilinski family, my church family here and at home, the Children’s Home and other ministry businesses, missionaries in Cameroon and people I met along the way have been instrumental in the refining process I walked into unknowingly. I knew God had a purpose for me here but I see that it was more to be trained to return home a more fruitful believer.

Another good friend was afraid I would change after coming here. I thought he was silly to think I was that impressionable but he was right. I have changed but from my perspective, the one of what goes on in my head, a LOT needed to change. God has made me more thankful, more loving, wiser, more considerate of others, more generous, more patient and more relaxed. He also showed me some truths about who I am that will not change because I am fearfully and wonderfully made: I am a fighter, I cannot accept mediocrity, I like doing my hair, makeup and tall shoes, I talk a lot and do not know a stranger. Those things at some point gave me guilt or desire for change but God gave me freedom in accepting that he made me this way for His specific reasons.

1 Corinthians 15:10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 

There is so much I cannot wait to share with those who want to know more but of course so much I could never describe well enough to be worth telling. Thank you for following me along this journey God brought me on. I hope you have been blessed. Many of you have blessed me with feedback, support and prayers. Thank you so much! If you have considered a mission trip or visit to see another culture I recommend the capable hospitality of Jake and Holly Schilinski here in Bamenda, Cameroon. Visit their website http://www.winournations.com or contact me for more information.

Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas, the time we celebrate a second chance at life abundantly. Be blessed and see you Stateside soon!

An African wear parting gift from Daughters of the Son!

An African wear parting gift from Daughters of the Son!

"Daughters of the Son - We Are One!", our church women's group!

“Daughters of the Son – We Are One!”, our church women’s group!

Final church dinner of all my favorite Cameroonian dishes!

Final church dinner of all my favorite Cameroonian dishes!

Triumph Singers, the singing group I helped with took me out for a farewell dinner!

Triumph Singers, the singing group I helped with took me out for a farewell dinner!

My hostess in Douala, Ghislain and new friend Ingrid who came to see me off!

My hostess in Douala, Ghislain and new friend Ingrid who came to see me off!

Last outing with the Children's Home older girls. We had a Bible study and ate!

Last outing with the Children’s Home older girls. We had a Bible study and ate!

Ebola – Africa Is Not a Country

“…If your [bottom] has been in Africa in let’s say the past 6 months, DO NOT COME TO THE US. Keep your stupid “I’m helping the World” self over there. We don’t need your [stuff]. If you think you need to go overseas to help others, you’ve got your head lodged so far up… Stay here and help AMERICANS…”

After seeing this post which was liked by many of my friends, I was livid even though it wasn’t directed at me. The ignorance is appalling. Africa is not a country, it is a continent made up of countries. Like Europe. Would you cancel a vacation to Italy because of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict? Neither would I. Thus why I came to Cameroon despite unrest in the continent. Sure there have been concerns close to home in Bamenda such as Boko Haram. However, if I was on U.S. soil which I will be by the end of the month Lord-willing, I will refrain from traveling to Ferguson, Missouri. There is no place on earth safe from struggle, suffering or dissension. To live under the impression you are safe from harm in any one place is merely an illusion that helps you sleep at night.

When Ebola hit the news recently there was pandemonium among Cameroonians. They were afraid to eat anything, shake hands, breath near a stranger, etc. Knowing little about the disease I referred to the CDC website for prevention measures:

  • Practice careful hygiene. For example, wash your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer and avoid contact with blood and body fluids.
  • Do not handle items that may have come in contact with an infected person’s blood or body fluids (such as clothes, bedding, needles, and medical equipment).
  • Avoid funeral or burial rituals that require handling the body of someone who has died from Ebola. (http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/prevention/index.html)

From these few points I felt safe. I practice good hygiene and I do not handle blood. Simple really. Being blessed with resources to have this basic information I shared with others so they could relax as well. By the grace of God, Ebola has not entered Cameroon. What is interesting is I am a quick 1,883 mile drive to Ebola where Page County Iowa residents are about 80 miles to Nebraska Medical Center where Ebola cases have been treated. I am proud a facility so close to home was technologically prepared and capable to handle such a disease.  The Midwest never ceases to make me proud.

From: Monrovia, Liberia To: Bamenda, Cameroon

Nearest major city with Ebola, Monrovia, Liberia to Bamenda Cameroon – 1,883 Miles

From: Omaha, NE, USA To: Clarinda, IA, USA

Omaha, NE to Clarinda, IA – 80.1 Miles

The opening comment used to represent my own uninformed beliefs about the world. Even two years ago I might have said something like that. I do not expect everyone to support my choice to come to Cameroon for 10 months nor do I think I am special because I did so. Same Bethann, different continent. I will not get into the missions debate. Overseas missions is not for everyone. Frankly, I am ready to come home. BUT planet Earth is a sphere meaning the connection to other humans is infinite. Humans were created to glorify God. We were all created in God’s image. Technology affords us to travel with ease. So why do I have to sit at home and only help those around me when I can easily help someone on the other side of the globe? What is the difference between 15 minutes in a car or 15 hours on a plane? People are people. We all need food, water, oxygen and most of all, humans are desperately religious. We all seek fulfillment in some way. I believe Christ is the answer and I have cousins in Cameroon. God provided for me to travel here. When I am home, I do the same!

For Christians, missions is a requirement. It is required we not keep our hope, our faith, our joy in Christ a secret. When you fall in love it is nearly impossible to contain your giddiness. Why should it be different for the One who will love us for eternity?! My life has changed. The cause and means of change is Christ and life is worth living now. I want everyone who hurts, struggles to see the purpose of it all and desires to know their heartbeat was not by chance to understand what I understand. I do not care what continent I do that on because there is only one Heaven and one Hell. They remain despite anyone’s belief. I choose life. I choose people. I choose Christ.

For you with so many assertions, opinions and stances of your own – choose what you choose for yourself. But remember, someday you may be on the need side of missions. I hope you choose to live in such a way that someone would choose to help you even if it wasn’t convenient. God sent his Son to die for your sins knowing you may or may not accept him. It wasn’t convenient but he loved you so much he did it anyway. Because I am thankful He did it for me, I will try to do the same no matter where I go.

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The Renaissance Continues

I am a little freaked out that I came to Cameroon thinking I was getting married after returning but it went out the window. No tragedy, life just changes. God saves us from ourselves when we ask him to. Now I come home in less than five weeks to start over at age 27. That thought makes me want to throw up but what else can I do beside take one day at a time? I am a woman of extremes. I like to conquer the impossible. That makes a clean slate wildly unpredictable. I have to admit, it is a little exciting!

So one day at a time. Let me start with recalling my request to God for a musical renaissance in my life; to regain touch with a large part of my life that was collecting dust in the filing cabinets of my mind. First he did so with the chance to teach music at Faith Bible College. Then numerous singing gigs with church groups. A mandolin found itself in my unskilled grip which is now accustomed to basic chords. The grand finale being Helping Hands Children’s Christmas Concert on December 20. My time remaining here is dwindling quickly making practice time harder to come by with the kids’ busy school schedules but it is going to be a smashing success! The concert is to bless those in the community who help HHCH throughout the year in various ways: donating food, time or funds.

Saturday I worked on “We Three Kings” with three 10-13 year old boys. They are doing great so far! There was confusion on the exact words of the song so they temporarily sang nonsense. We pulled ourselves together after giggling at Kingsley’s “Myrrh is mine, its better perfume. Breathes of life of gadring gloom. Snowing, seizing, bleeding, dying; stale in the stone-cold tomb”. If you are unfamiliar with the carol, it is way off. Then at one point someone bumped the keyboard sending it into a disco boogie frenzy. Perfect segway for an impromptu dance party. They don’t try to be funny but they crack me up! I tried to rein them in but was met with an “Auntie we need a break from singing! Let us dance!” How do you argue with that?! You don’t. You video it.

Today I went to teach our older boys “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”. Getting teenagers to do anything with enthusiasm is like pulling teeth but after they got the song down I suggested adding simple choreography. They stared blankly at me while I offered my suggestions. To my surprise, it was not the idea of dancing and singing that disturbed them. It was my dancing and singing that disturbed them. They told me they would have it choreographed in a week! All the kids will be doing at least three songs as a whole or in small groups. Aside from the concert we will visit other orphanages and neighborhoods to bless people with the Christmas songs!

To all of you smirking because you know God’s humor in this, yes I am making a conscious effort to encourage the singing of Christmas songs. Yes, of course, God would put my musical renaissance to work in Christmas songs. And yes, I love it! Pretty amazing to think our kids are thrilled to learn these songs so they can bless other orphans. [Sidenote: If you ask them they are NOT orphans. They have parents! They just happen to have eight of them from all over the world. Seriously, they get fired up if you call them that. I got an earful on the subject recently because a church announced them as orphans and they were not happy.]

This may seem concise but in a season of Thanksgiving I have so much to be thankful for I don’t know where to begin. The testimonies of the past year are countless. I cannot even wrap my mind around it all. God is so good. Right now I must focus on soaking up my last few weeks here. Prayers are appreciated for focus and time management! Wishing all of you a blessed and super yummy Thanksgiving with family and friends.