Friday, September 25, 2020

Interruptions Part 2


After thinking about ministry and interruptions being the "real stuff of ministry" (See Interruptions part 1), I considered what my every day in Nigeria looked like before I returned to the United States.  I pictured with awe, like a slideshow before my mind's eye, the startling truth of how God has been revealing this truth to me over the years. 

Here are some of those slides for you: 

Interruptions slide 1: 

I'm behind the camera.

See a group of young men, gathered under a tin roof eating ramen noodles with eggs prepared by one of their friends with layered flats of eggs, loaves of white bread, and boxes of different kinds of ready to cook noodles (we call it Indomie).  See the three white ladies with a little toe-headed girl who have arrived to eat.  The oldest of the three white ladies asks the guy next to her what his language is.  Upon hearing it, she quickly glances through the list of audio Bible's on her husband's phone, which she's borrowing because her own stopped working.  She's a bit clumsy, but when she finds the language, she presses play and the young man looks at her stunned as his language speaks God's words to him. He takes the phone from her and listens before passing it on to the other guys around the Indomie shed.  They smile, humming in pleased agreement before passing it on.  When it gets back to me, the older white woman in this case, the young man asks if he can get it.  With his help, I figure out how to use the app and send him as much as will fit on his phone.  He excitedly tells me he'll give it to the others. I have yet to follow up to give him the rest.  May God be planting his seeds in this young man's heart. 


Interruptions slide 2: 

Children going home after Bible study.

I finally have a moment to think about the Bible lesson for the evening's children's Bible study when the intercom phone rings and our guard, Daniel, on the other end tells me there are 5 children there to see me.  I ask for their names before telling him to let them in.  In less time than it takes me to wrap a skirt over my shorts, I have happy greetings at my door.  I welcome my little friends in, cut them a watermelon, and ask them what they learned in school.  They ask if they can go play. They race to the swings, but one lingers to tell me how they are not understanding social studies in school, and could I help them.  We look at her homework outside on the picnic tables while her friends squeal and giggle on the swings. They all pile in the car 2 hours later and we head to Bible study together...I've looked over the lesson, and gathered my materials hastily on my way out. 


Interruptions slide 3: 

The lady I usually buy vegetables from.


I have finally arrived at the market with Mariama at my side and Lydia on my back.  Aunty Victoria (my friend and helper) walks alongside me.  She has taught me the importance of greeting everyone and not just getting down to business.  She has also taught me to speak in Hausa, how to bargain gently (not like we did in Cameroon), and how to hide frustration, remaining joyful throughout my market experience.  Everyone greets me by name "Sannu Mama Mariama!" and I reply.  They ask: "How's the family?  How did you sleep? How's work? How's the cold?" I smile and reply.  This happens approximately 30-50 times every time I go to the market.  I think it's what Jesus would do...only he'd know each of their names, stories, life history, and maladies. So, I have a long way to go, but at least I have minor interruptions!  That counts, right?

Interruption slide 4: 

I am heading home from a 7am teacher's training, and I hear a child screaming. I step in.  Things change for that child.

Interruptions slide 5: 

Aunty Mary Jane being cheeky.

We just sat down to dinner, and my dear friend Mary Jane and her sister arrive.  Yeah (Their presence always lifts our hearts)! We all sit down again to eat together.  We talk about highlights of the day.  We share frustrations.  We all laugh and cry a bit.  We do family devotions.  We walk them out, talking about important life "stuff"

Our "family"

Interruption slide 6: 

Mariama's special daddy-daughter date hair.


I'm zippy around the house, getting ready for guests arriving that evening. Mariama says, "Mommy, can you play with me?" Mariama has just received paper dolls from her Aunties in the United States.  We sit down on the floor of her room and enter into a different world together.  A world that is controllable, joyful, elegant, and everything beautiful that we want it to be where we can ride horses and eat blueberries in a picnic next to a glistening lake. We feel full and free together. 

 Interruption slide 7: 

We are driving in the United States, and we see a girl walking along the road.  It is starting to rain.  "She looks cold and sad," I say so to Mariama.  She says, "Mommy, we are going to pick that girl up, right? We have to help her." I turn the car around, and offer her a jacket that fits perfectly (someone happened to give me a bag of clothes that day).  We give her a ride, find out she's an addict, pray for her as a family.  Never hear from her again, but I learned that my daughter knows what we do when we see someone who is hurting. 

The real stuff of ministry, the spontaneous, out-of-my-plan stuff happens daily and I pray I don't despise but welcome them!


Sunday, September 13, 2020

Interruptions Part 1

 Today we talked with my mentor in Scripture engagement in Dallas, Wayne Dye, via zoom.  He and his wife Sally have greatly influenced my life and ministry.  Stories of God working in Nigeria that I've told many times on zoom calls and in person since we've come back to the United States last December felt new as Wayne and Sally resonated and teared up at the thrill and joy of people rejoicing in the Words of life with us.  

I feel so far away from those stories these last few months.  Sometimes it's hard to believe those stories  were my life, and God is still calling hearts to himself and growing the seeds that have been planted by so many through the years in Nigeria.   

I have started school activities with my two older girls.  With the twins on my back, in my arms, or on the floor finding strange bits to stuff into their drooling mouths and Mariama and Lydia engaging at their own levels with various activities, I feel every moment consumes all of my energy.  I do sometimes wonder if God has given me the joy of twins to help me see my weaknesses, and learn to depend on his strength! 


I realized why sometimes motherhood has taken me by surprise as I shared with Wayne and Sally. When you prepare to train a group of people, you study the manual, perfect your presentation...and see the words or ideas impacting the participants.  It is thrilling!  We know we're bringing something that is wanted and needed, and it is received with such joy! 

Raising children is not like that!  It's totally unpredictable.  Now, very few trainings in Nigeria ever go how I planned, so there is THAT.  BUT, while an explanation of why we don't run through huge mud puddles on the way to church made perfect sense to child one, it sends child two into a tizzy, running straight for said puddle only to fall with a splash, initiating shrill shrieks of despair! 

As I expressed how unqualified I feel in this task, remembering that this is a season we are learning through, Wayne said, "Sometimes we think the interruptions disrupt ministry, when the interruptions ARE ministry." He encouraged me by pointing out that the most memorable moments in Jesus ministry were unplanned.  Ah, may I be like Jesus in this beautiful wonder...He allowed the interruptions of ministry to reveal God's character, inviting his world into relationship with the Father who makes the most of every person and every opportunity.  To use the unexpected moments as Jesus did, and reveal the Father who is never too busy to listen, engage, divulge, bend, hold, and heal.  May I consider this season a time for spontaneous ministry opportunities, welcoming the interruptions with grace and wisdom.   

Monday, August 3, 2020


Me and Lydia, McCormick's Creek 2020

I needed to go for a walk, to breath, even if it was the muggy Indiana summer air. I stopped to gaze at a dragonfly. It felt as though it was the first time I'd ever gazed upon one. We looked at each other long enough for my breath to slow and mind to clear, caught in that moment, fixed in time. As the dragonfly took flight, in the quiet that had settled over my heart as I gazed on this perfect creation--bulgy eyes inches from my own, incandescent blue lips reflecting the light--I was able to hear the gurgling stream behind me. I heard the swell of the cicadas, the many different birdsongs in the trees all around, and the words, ‘Il est toujours soeur le trone’ (He is still on the throne) that swept over my heart as I gazed up at the dancing leaves of the tree tunnel over this rural Indiana road. Those words that were spoken in greeting to those working in the kitchen by my Cameroonian mother, Maman Gado when she swept into the communal kitchen of the office compound in Cameroon.

Maman and Papa Gado with Mariama 2017

The defeated enemy wants to destroy the confidence we have in our God who sits on the throne. He’s not like Yertle the Turtle in Dr. Seuss' book who was “king of all he could see” on his stone throne over the Salamasond pond, but the King who sees every dragonfly and every heart in every land hungering for him! He sees the sacrifices we each make to bring his love closer to the hurting, longing to join him in his redemptive work. I believe he rejoices in our heart work, as small as it seems, with the never-ending labor of planting, watering, weeding, fertilizing this vast harvest that HE is growing (1 Cor.3:6) for his glory! He says, “don’t grow weary!” (Gal. 6:9) “I am making all things new!" (Rev.21:5)

He also invites me and you to listen as he "delights over you with singing" (Zeph 3:17). I imagined the dragonfly seeing my face over and over with it's thousands of lenses in his tiny compound eyes. What information was he processing about my frazzled hair and tired eyes? I imagined God seeing me over and over, and the unchangable truth that runs through his mind every time my face appears before him is delight and joy because of Jesus! What an impossibly beautiful thought! My flawed being, living out my life like a vapor in the wind, is treasured by the Creator and when he sees me over and over he never gets tired of me! He never wishes I was any different in the fabric of my being than the beautiful one he created. This is so incomprehensible to me for I get tired of myself daily! He is making all things new, including me, but not to destroy and recreate a different person altogether, but to renew in relationship with him. Why would he want that? Why do I matter so much to him? The Psalmist asked the same thing in Psalm 8, and then says, "you created him...and crowned him with glory and honour." This doesn't explain extravagant love, it just adds to the wonder and mystery of the heart of God, the King of the dragonfly, and the King of my heart who becons me to his throne gazing into the eyes of a dragonfly under rustling Indiana archways.
Mariama New York 2018

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

A daddy retreat

I (Zach) often feel refreshed when I am in the woods.  Sometimes it is a walk, sometimes a run, and sometimes a run with my two precious babies!  Nature, anywhere, has become a place of refreshment and prayer.

Today (Tuesday), I am heading off for a two night get away by myself.  It is a gift from Christy and some friends, an idea I never would have thought of, but I am thankful for it.  I plan to run, kayak, sleep, read, and pray.  Would you pray that God would use this time as he pleases?

When I come back, I will return the exciting work of preparing to return to Nigeria.  I will share stories with you all of what God has been doing there.  But can you join me in the "pause" to ask God what he wants us to be praying for?

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Sleeping On the Job

Right now I am sitting on my sofa in a dimly lit living room with two babies sleeping on the nursing pillow.  I could get rich on the number of adorable pictures I have of these two in funny positions, falling asleep on the job. It is their ONLY job.  Eat, be satisfied, grow!

The other day, as I expressed into their mouths, the milk dribbling down their slack jaws, I thought, "God doesn't force feed us, does he?  If we don't want anymore, does he keep trying to get us to eat?"  I was looking for an excuse to just stop and go to bed probably.

Then it hit me, "No, he doesn't force anything, but even if we are "sleeping on the job" when we are supposed to be craving nourishment from him, alert and ready to enjoy all the good things he gives, he doesn't stop making his abundant life available.  When we get lazy, God still gives us all we need, longing for us to thrive!"

That's grace.  I'm listening to Desiring God by John Piper, and he quotes CS Lewis from his book "Weight of Glory,"

Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased. (25–26)

I'm so thankful God continues to offer abundant life and sweet fellowship with himself to us.  Now it is to pray that we are not too easily pleased, but have an insatiable hunger for more of him! 

Thursday, April 30, 2020

It Takes Two

I like the number 7.  I like the sideways mountain, and long slant coming down.  I like that it's odd. I've always found higher levels of math frustrating, and therefore numbers have brought me a lot of angst, unlike my husband who gets great thrills out of a well-made graph or a page full of statistics to wade through.  In our family, the number seven has arrived by twos. To someone who doesn't do numbers that well, four times two, making seven, sounds just right.  Let me explain what "It takes two" means.

It took two...I met Zach in Dallas in 2010, and we were both working in West Africa.  Happy as can be to serve and love and live but when we decided to get married in 2012, it took two to establish a home where many neighborhood children were welcomed and loved.  Where single guy friends of Zach's could bring their future spouses to talk about relationships, where two becoming one could shine God's light in Nigeria.

It took two...Mariama was born in 2015 in Jos, Nigeria.  Three weeks later, Daso came to live with us. She was nine at the time. It took the two of them to stretch my heart in many directions, giving me a capacity to love that I never knew.  Daso introduced me to the world of primary schools and a new insight into Nigerian children and their needs.  I stumbled through ushering her through adolescence, and demonstrating what Godly womanhood could look like.  Mariama introduced me to a community that embraced my children and humbled me through continual advice and constructive criticism. This sweet duo showed me how families are built, how discipleship starts at home as I discovered their spiritual needs were similar though at different levels of complexity.

It took two...Lydia joined us in 2017.  Mariama and Lydia were the two babies who had entered our family through my womb, and they are so different!  It took two to show me what I already knew; God masterfully knits each creation uniquely. Giving one child a powerful, husky voice, bubbling laughter, and contented zeal, and another an explosive imagination, slender limbs, and articulate vocabulary.  It takes the two of them daily to draw out creativity and laughter, bringing me to tears of frustration and mountains of rejoicing in a single stride.

It takes two...Acacia and Olivia, surprising me with their arrival two months early, the every-three-hour feeds, they bombard me with need, sound, smiles, cuddles...I am surrounded.  Without my life erupting with babies and diapers, I wouldn't have experienced the intense times with God while they were in the NICU.  I would have missed out on the community that has gathered around us to care.  I would still be struggling more desperately with the idea that God's love is linked to my ability to serve him.  But I have been emptied two by two, and then filled back up.  A continuous refreshing cycle of losing myself and relief in finding a renovated me in the tides of this life rolling over my heart.

Me + Zach,
Daso + Mariama
Mariama + Lydia
Acacia + Olivia   = 7 individuals who have joined to become family, each giving from the wealth that is in them to enrich the others. Now that's my kind of math!

Fuzz and A Name Change

I wash Olivia's little hands, so silky soft, creamy pink in my hand, reaching to remove the fuzz that gets absorbed into her little creases.  I have always found it fascinating how infants have these perfectly formed hands and feet, full of potential, yet they are gathering fuzz, lint, the occasional hair. For lack of use, they fuzz up! 
Do you ever wonder if you're the kind of follower of Jesus who gathers lint in your hands and feet?  I did yesterday while I bathed my wiggling girls.  Here we are, empowered by the Almighty with the same power that rose Jesus from the dead, to extend our hands to go with our feet to those that need love and light, peace and hope, but maybe we are gathering fuzz.  We are fully functional souls, many of us having experienced the nurture and love of our Father for many years, yet still infants in our lack of use.  I do not want to gather fuzz any longer.

"Lydia, come here please!" I called to my vivacious 2 year old.
"I'm not Lydia, I'm Uncle Josh!"  She exclaimed.
"Okay, Uncle Josh, come here and get dressed."
"Okay, Mommy!" she replied.
I'm always surprised that someone who can so confidently claim the identity of another does not change at all in her character, her relationship with others or her actions.  She remains the same jumping, jolly little person, while trying to convince me she's my older brother (who is also quite jolly).  This continues throughout the day, and it makes me wonder if I'm a bit like Lydia.
I have taken on a new identity in Christ.  I'm a new creation, and yet, is there a change in me that is more than a name change? I do hope that with the name "Follower of Christ,"  that his character, the way he asks me to relate to others, and his actions permeate how I live my life.

So often we ask you to pray with us about something, but I have the joy of sitting while nursing babies many hours in my day.  I have time to pray for you, and I'd like to do that.  Please let me know how you're doing using your hands and feet to ward off the spiritual fuzz and impact your world and what your identity change looks like in this season.  This will encourage my heart, but also help me to pray for you. If you're struggling to think of how you are having impact or clearly showing your life in Christ, I will be happy to pray for you or listen!

Interruptions Part 2

  After thinking about ministry and interruptions being the "real stuff of ministry" ( See Interruptions part 1 ), I considered wh...