Friday, June 24, 2016

A little prayer walk

Sometimes I have had trouble planning what to do
I was feeling stuck this morning.  Regrettably, this "stuck" and confused kind of feeling has become more frequent.  In fact, as I look back over the last six months, I often have felt confused or unfocused.  Some days I feel as if I am not doing anything useful in ministry.  Two or three times during a meeting I have even just found myself unable to engage with the conversation. "What am I doing here?"

I have often wanted to write to you all to ask you to pray about this.  Somehow each time in trying to write, I would just get stuck.   Sometimes I would even get the blog page open and have the cursor sitting blinking, but I wouldn't know what to write.  What exactly should I ask for prayer for?

[If you don't have time for the full story, you can just jump to the prayer items at the end.]

Thankfully, even though I didn't know how to send this prayer out, God knew my need and was sending help.  You can join me in thanking him for Christy, and her unfailing stream of encouragement when sometimes (okay often) I have brought discouragement home.  Also, thank God for James, who helped me to realize that some of these feelings might be coming from unrealistic expectations of myself.  Thirdly, you can thank God for our amazing director (my boss) Tom.   He helped give me some really practical ideas for how to get away from the things that make me tired (like my computer with its endless e-mails and budget pages) to the things that energize me (like my colleagues in the office).

The path behind our office where I walked today
Today, I was feeling stuck.  We have been trying to meet with some pastors just on the other side of Jos who speak the Izere language.  The New Testament was published in Izere ten years ago (2006).  The year after Christy and I got married (2013), I led a survey to see how people were using the Izere Scriptures.  We learned from that survey that the Izere Scriptures were not being used very much, and explored possible reasons why, such as the fact that many people cannot read in Izere and there are very few people are aware of the audio recording that was done.

But God wasn't done with the Izere language.  Through a couple of unexpected contacts, we are suddenly in touch with people who are interested in Izere Scripture Engagement.  They would like us to come and meet with their pastors and talk about how they can use the Izere language to make their ministry more effective.  However, somehow, each time we have attempted to set a date it hasn't worked out--now for almost three months!

Today I picked up the phone to make a call and see if we could arrange to meet.  But I found myself stuck.  I wanted to call but I just wasn't sure which dates to give.  Should I give earlier dates, since we are eager to finally make this happen?  Should I give dates a month away, in hopes that Linus, our colleague from Ogoja, would be able to come?  I decided to get up, and and just walk around the outside of the office praying.  (I don't mind the exercise either!)
Prayer and joy! (Yes, I really do wear clothes like this!)
I didn't make it around the office even once, just giving the issues to God, when suddenly he gave me great peace!  I started getting ideas for how we should prepare for the meeting.  We should look for printed copies of the Izere Bible and bring some for sale!  We should bring the Audio Scriptures.  We should brainstorm all the possible ways we could help them use Scripture (beyond what we have already done) and bring that list.  We would need a little time to do all that--I knew I needed at least two weeks... I was not just unstuck, God had given me a joy in the work he has given me to do!

Please pray with me that prayer and joy will continue to be a daily part of my ministry!

Pray that Christy and I will be able to send these prayer updates more regularly.

Pray that our printed/email prayer letter will start coming frequently again (every two months is our goal)

Pray for God to give me vision and good expectations of what I should be doing each day in the office, at home, and in our neighborhood.

Answered prayers at retreat

Shortly after our Spiritual retreat in April, I wrote up some answers to prayer.  I delayed posting this until we could get photos.  Although it has been quite a while since Christy wrote some specific prayer requests as we went to our annual spiritual retreat, I thought you may still appreciate joining us in thanking God for specific answers to prayer:

"Please pray for us, that we will truly be refreshed."

Although I (Zach) felt quite tired by the last day of the retreat, it was actually a time of refreshing.  Our retreat has the wonderful design that after the morning sessions of worship and hearing the word from a speaker you are free to skip all other activities.  I did this the first day (even missing one of my favorite sports, Frisbee!)  and just slept and spent time praying about ways I felt I was failing, trusting them to God.  I felt a great burden lifted!

"We need your prayers as a family, that we will withdraw and be with Jesus, so he can tell us how much he loves us."

During the final session, the speaker shared a story.  One day his wife was telling him that there was no food or money for breakfast the next day.  His son who was watching cartoons, turned around and heard everything they said about it.  Even though there was no solution, he still turned back and watched his cartoons as if nothing was wrong.  Why?  Because it was not his responsibility to provide breakfast!  He believed (correctly) that he would wake up the next morning and he would have breakfast to eat, and he didn't need to do anything to make that happen.  I (Zach) felt God telling me through this story that when he tells me not to worry about so many things, that is what he means.  He is going to take care of me!

"Please pray for the Lord to speak to our children, and give Susannah and Kirstin all she needs to share the gospel with these missionary children.  . . . Pray that [the children] will know they are loved by the adults helping and by Jesus."

Perhaps I will only hear in heaven the details of how children heard the gospel at this retreat and knew they were loved by Jesus.  I do know though, that as Christy prepared a special dramatized Bible story-telling each day, she felt God speaking to her through the very stories she was preparing for the children.  The children seemed to really love "Aunty Susannah" and "Aunty Kirstin" and want them to come back next year!

Go Away!

T here were children. Always so many children. Our children are a magnet for other children and so everywhere we go, they follow us giggling...