My Story: Prayer like Oxygen

I hadn’t been following Jesus that long when I wheeled my bags onto a West Africa-bound jetliner. For seven months, I lived with an unreached people group. Together with other global workers, we were teaming up to create an oral Bible.

Suddenly, I tumbled into a world where prayer no longer seemed like a “good” thing to do. It felt a little more like…oxygen.

When someone came to my hut, I asked God for the words to speak to be able to communicate. When someone asked me for money, I prayed for God’s wisdom how to respond. When a stranger asked me to marry him, I prayed for grace. I prayed for the strength to make it through the simmering 140 degree heat of a bone-dry Sahara afternoon.

Jesus in the Sand

One day, my teammates and I headed to a different more remote village we had only been to once. We had marked the coordinates on our GPS; there were no roads, no street signs, no directions. Leaving early to ensure our return before dark, we drove awhile in deep desert sand.

I can’t pinpoint for you the exact moment we realized we were lost. The best solution seemed to be following our tracks back where we came from. That worked well…until our jeep murmured to a stop. Climbing out to assess the situation, we found both back tires were half-buried in sand. Being the snow-experienced American girls we were, we cupped our hands and curled our feet, hauling sand with every available appendage. Try again: key to ignition.

It buried deeper.

I mentioned I can’t tell you the point we knew we were lost. But I do know that at that point, we started to pray. Wisdom, Lord. Please. And please. Send help. 

We were in the middle of nowhere; walking was not a good option. We hadn’t seen a person or a village for hours.

Please. One small cell signal, Father. Let us get a phone call out. 

A good hour passed when we saw a group of people walking in the horizon. Jesus, please let them be friendly and helpful.

On Second-Guessing Answers

As they approached, our hearts fell. There were five to six boys, maybe seven or eight years old.

Oh, Father. Why would you send us young boys who probably just want a ride?

Through charades we explained the problem and began digging again. The boys immediately got down and were stopping us from digging. They started pushing the sand back under the tires. For a few moments it was a tug-of-war with us, them, and the sand: They truly wanted us to pack the sand under the tires! Whatever you say…

We worked together for what seemed like forever. Then the boys motioned us to get in the truck. The young boys all got at the back to push.

We prayed from inside the truck: Jesus protect them. And please, help us get out.

We burst out of the buried sand to our screams and shouts and hand clapping and praising Jesus. We didn’t stop, but waved and shouted out the window to the boys who were almost gone by then.

Strange. They appeared out of nowhere and disappeared almost as fast.

The Air We Breathe

Were they God’s seven-year old angels? Maybe. Truth is, in the United States, it feels like we can get by day-to-day without praying (which I don’t suggest by any means!).

But when nothing around you is familiar and you don’t understand, language, culture, how to dress or even eat (it’s a lot like being three years old again)–you suddenly realize that you need God’s power through prayer hundreds of moments everyday. Before West Africa, I knew the importance of prayer. But I’d never really experienced its power.

What if God is as vital as the air we breathe?

Did God answer our prayers, powerfully and wonderfully and in a totally unexpected way? Absolutely! Even eight years later, I cherish that moment, like a small stone I can rub my fingers over. In the faces of those boys, I remember my encounter with the face of God–and the unmistakable power of calling on him.

How Ready Am I? Self-Assessment for Global Work, Part IV: Cross-cultural Experiences

As a kid, I always thought the book of Jonah was about Jonah not obeying.

Duh. God said go to Nineveh. That’s why you were, y’know. Pickled in a fish.

I confess it wasn’t till as an adult, teaching a junior high Sunday school class, that I realized how much Jonah is about God’s heart for the nations—and what I saw as Israel’s snooty elitism.

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How Ready Am I? FREE Self-Assessment for Global Workers, Part III: Relationships

When I moved overseas, my capacity shrank. See, the Africa slice of my pie was simply…ginormous.

Everything took about three extra steps. Need to brush your teeth? You might not want to use water from the tap. You’ll need to fill your water filter or boil it; if your water’s off for the day, you’ll need to haul it in from outside.

As this blogger posted on Go. Serve. Love a few weeks ago, surviving can feel like 90% of your life. It chomps into your availability for, say, work or ministry. My husband felt like he was only able to accomplish about 50% of what he’d normally be able to accomplish in his job.

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How Ready Am I? A Self-Assessment for Global Work, Part I

When I was 23, an editor position opened up at the publishing house where I was working. In the vein of having integrity, I approached my boss with my interest in the position.

“You don’t have the chops for that job,” he told me point-blank.

His blithe directness, to be frank, chapped my hide. But looking back now, there’s no doubt in my mind he was right. I’m not sure if I have the chops for that particular job now. Yet it did make me take a look at the job itself and gradually appreciate just how off my self-assessment was–as well as my understanding of the job itself. And honestly, I buckled down to eventually be the kind of person who could qualify for a job like that.

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Your Last-Minute Medical Missions Equipment Checklist

The lists when you’re headed overseas? Pretty much interminable–all the stuff from “take passport photo” to “can I get bedsheets??” Maybe you’re the kind whose life right now feels divided into a few overwhelming spreadsheets. Maybe your “to bring” sheet includes bug repellent, shot records, mosquito nets, scrubs, shoes for the shower.

Ready for a checklist for your medical equipment? We’ve talked with DRE Medical’s Amanda Cannady, who serves as Director of their Global Outreach Division. DRE Medical is owned in part by a former missionary and has supplied global medical equipment for the last 35 years. 

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Medical Missions: Ordering Your Equipment

So you’re heading overseas in a medical capacity–as if the overseas part wasn’t enough, right? Hopefully you’ve got an experienced organization behind you. But you might feel thrown in the deep end a bit as you get things off the ground.

We’ve talked with DRE Medical’s Amanda Cannady, who serves as Director of their Global Outreach Division. DRE Medical is owned in part by a former missionary and has supplied global medical equipment for the last 35 years.

She’s got great ideas as you equip your trip.

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#BestoftheBestFriday: Free UPG Prayer Guide; 8 “Ifs” to Reexamine; No One Mentioned That; Peru, the World Cup, and Global Work

free prayer guide for the 31 largest unreached people groups

The William Carey Library has compiled this free daily prayer guide for the largest unreached people groups in the world. Download it here–and consider this free printable infographic for unreached people groups while you’re at it! 

Eight “Ifs” I Don’t Believe So Much Anymore

Craig Thompson challenges “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well”, “If it’s important to you, then it’s important to God” and other phrases he’s put in perspective in his time on the field. Great words here.

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Hearing a Heartbeat

AsiaThat morning, snowflakes were seesawing down on my hair–and there I was wearing sandals. I kissed my family goodbye and loaded myself and an overstuffed hiking backpack into a friend’s Prius.

And so began my two-week trip to Asia (via plane, not Prius). After about seven years of not really being together, spread out all over the world, my sisters and I were converging in Asia to celebrate a big birthday of my youngest sister’s. She works with migrants, and she and her husband are treading through the adoption process. I get a kick out of bragging on the two of them because their work is long, slow, hard, terribly important, and literally stuffed with blood, sweat, and tears.

So I sat in Beijing, waiting on a flight. I think it was a combination of the jet lag (for me, tired = emotional) and (get this) the church announcements that brought tears to my eyes on the skybridge. I should explain that last one: In my job of presenting the video announcements every week, I find someone (or Google how) to dismiss the kids to children’s church in a different language every week (sounds weird, but it works)–and offer ways to pray for that people group (from sites like Operation World and The Joshua Project). Around Chinese New Year a couple of months ago, my friend Nary said goodbye in Mandarin, and we bowed together.

That announcement was how I knew 1 out of every 8 people in the world are Chinese–and that the number of Chinese Christians has now surpassed that of the Communist party. Perhaps because Randy Alcorn’s Safely Home transported me into the world of Chinese persecution of Christians–and this novel enlightened me on some of Christianity’s thriving before Communism–my heart leaps at the thought of China coming alive.

Yet it still breaks for China. There were a billion people sitting around me, separated only by plate glass. And how many of them have ever heard they can be satisfied in their souls? How many have known that mind-blowing love, or a hope they could never explain in words?

The Closer We Get

Henry Martyn once said that the closer we get to God, the more intensely missionary we become. Of course in one way it’s like discovering a cure for the cancer everyone has and the fountain of youth all at once. So you get all excited and it sloshes out.

But as God lures me deeper in, drawing me to his great chest, I can’t help but hear that heartbeat of his for the nations, too. When I walk into Beijing, I see some form of “people who don’t know their right from their left. And should I not love that great city?” (Jonah 4:11).

It’s this colorful, jangly thread through his words to us that keeps popping up: from making Abraham a blessing to all nations (Gen. 22:18), to his heart for the foreigner in all the Mosaic law (Deuteronomy 10:19 et al), through Isaiah and Psalms. It weaves through nearly every book of the Bible, all the way to the “end” of this side of the story, where people in every shade that his pastels churned out are there. They’re adoring him in every language (Rev. 7:9), like Mandarin and an Arkansas twang, and their souls are finally satisfied. (That’s something cool this brother-in-law of mine does: creating the same music that can be sung in different languages! But I digress.)

The Group Effort

Honestly, I am still getting over the fact that I’m essentially a “goer” who needs to stay right now. But if I can’t go, I see I’ve got to send well. This “go and make disciples of all nations” thing is a group effort, and no one really gets a pass, y’know?

This year, God has restated over and over again that my heart can be broken for the things that break His–wherever I’m at. Can I see them with his eyes? Can I keep myself from making an us/them distinction, whether it’s the guy washing my dishes at the Chinese restaurant, or the immigrants at the border? Isn’t our profound need for Jesus the great equalizer?

If you will, pray with me, friends: to have his eyes. And his heart.

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Home Again: Telling Your Story

By Chelsea Charles

You’ve just returned on home assignment. And the first thing someone asks is, “How was it?” (Or my personal favorite: “How was Africa?” “How was the Middle East?” etc. Hmm. I haven’t asked…all of them.)

Do I unleash the fire hose with my one hour spiel?

 Do I shrivel up? “Um. Y’know. It was good.”

You want to be positive. Relevant. Authentic. And you want your (currently oblivious) listener encouraged, i.e. not bowled over…without perpetuating global work myths: Every cockroach was so worth it! I shared my faith every day 46 times! Who needs sleep? Not me.

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