Tag Archives: jungle missionary

Unmasking the Need

In the spring of 2013, I was running my usual route on a cool jungle morning. Unspoiled mountain views surrounded me — their beauty a constant source of awe.  That day however, my thoughts couldn’t appreciate the scenery because of the chaos in my mind. Thoughts of worry, doubt, and fear fought for dominance in my heart. Each emotion finding its root in the new path God had recently asked me to walk.

After two and half years of missionary life in the jungle, God was calling me to leave.  I had no clue why. Life in the jungle had been a struggle at first, but now I loved it and couldn’t imagine leaving it behind. I wanted to stay. I didn’t want a new calling.

But it was here, and I ran that day hoping that God would somehow change his mind and let me stay. My headphones pumped worship music in my ears. I needed some peace; I needed confirmation. The music shifted from Chris Tomlin’s lilt to Lecrae’s dominant voice. He rapped a portion of scripture I hadn’t thought of in a while:

Then He said to me,
Prophesy to these bones and say to them,
Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord!
This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones,
I will make breath enter you,
And you will come alive.
So I prophesied as I was commanded.
As I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound,
And the bones came together, bone to bone.
And I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them,
And skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.
Then He said to me,
Prophesy to the breath,
Prophesy, son of man, and say to it,
Come from the four winds of breath and breathe.

As Lecrae spoke these words, I heard God clearly say, “I’m calling you to be an Ezekiel. I’m asking you to breath life into those who are dead. The mountains of central Appalachia are your Valley of Dry Bones.”

Tears flooded my cheeks as I finished my run. I went straight home and looked up God’s moment with Ezekiel (Chapter 37: 1-14). I was overwhelmed by the obvious connection to God’s new direction for us and these verses.

God first points out the absurdity of bones living again – a thought that crossed my mind, too. The people of central Appalachia are steeped in generations of “death” like drug addiction, poverty, dysfunction, and extreme hopelessness. How can I change any of that? It seems nearly as impossible as dry bones coming together again.

Then God asks Ezekiel to prophecy – to speak words of life, to encourage, to offer hope. He does and the bones begin to move and reconnect. God again asks Ezekiel to speak, and he does. Muscles and flesh start forming over the bones.

At this point, there are bodies who’ve gone from dry bones to bodily forms. Yet, there is still no life in them. God tells Ezekiel to call the four winds to come a fill the bodies with breath – with life. Those four winds come from the North, East, South and West. Again, I reminded God of my limited abilities. He pointed out that the four winds represented the people He would send from all over the nation to help Keith and I in this ministry. I don’t know who they are or where they live, but I know that will come alongside us to watch an army of teens sold out to Christ rise up from a pile of dry bones.

And just like Ezekiel, I stood in awe of what God had promised. I relinquished my need to stay in the comfort of my current life. I opened my hands and let go of the expectations I had, and I said, “Here I am God. Send me.”

I rarely speak about the nitty gritty of my family’s missions journey. Most writings about this part of life is masked. But today I can’t mask where I am; I cannot pretend my heart doesn’t ache to do the work God has asked me to do. Almost two years have passed since that morning run, and we are still working to get there. Still working for the chance to meet the teens that need hope. We can’t even begin to minister until our budget is fully funded. My heart hurts today for the kids that need us there today – not six months from now. My heart longs to speak life to the middle school girl who’s trapped in sexual abuse or drug addiction. If only there was someone there now to tell her of the hope of Christ, so her dry bones can live again.

Friends, I want to be that voice! I want to be there today! The word of God says that you have not because you ask not, so today I’m asking. We need people from the “four winds” to partner with us financially, prayerfully, and even physically. Today, I’m only asking that you do one thing. Take a minute and pray about what God might have you do to help us reach the valley of dry bones.

This song by Lauren Daigle has become my heart’s cry. Everyday I stand on the promise that God will make that valley an army for Him, and He will use us to do it. If you have a second, take a moment to listen to the words and prayerfully consider if you can partner with us to reach the teens of Central Appalachia. We would love for you to join us!

‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: O my people, I will open your graves of exile and cause you to rise again. Then I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13 When this happens, O my people, you will know that I am the Lord. 14 I will put my Spirit in you, and you will live again and return home to your own land. Then you will know that I, the Lord, have spoken, and I have done what I said. Yes, the Lord has spoken!’”

–Ezekiel 37:12-14

 

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aide-memoire

Alicia's tattoonoun – an aid to the memory

I have a tattoo.

Now for many of you that statement doesn’t seem like a big deal. However, others, probably those brought up in church, are thinking “how scandalous!”

In current society, “getting tatted” seems to be the popular thing to do. I can assure you that getting my tattoo had nothing to do with being cool, trendy, or rebellious but everything to do with God.

Now some of you are really shouting “blasphemy!”  Hold on and let me explain.

In my mid-thirties, I spent two years mired deep in depression. Some days I was in such a dark place, I wanted to get in my car and drive. Where?  Anywhere as long as it was away from my life. Why? I had no idea. My life was fine: I had a loving husband, two healthy kids, a successful career, a thriving ministry, and plenty of friends. All I knew was that on the inside I was hurting in a way that I couldn’t even voice to those closest to me.

Then God stepped in and allowed two painful encounters to occur: one sent me deeper into my depression, the other forced me to seek help.

And so in the summer of 2009, I found myself spending one morning a week in the office of a Christian counselor. Week after week, I left a little more of my internal struggles and pain in the office of that counselor. Finally, after 3 months, my joy returned, and the depression had lifted. I can’t explain the freedom I felt because my “real self” had chosen to reappear.

While searching for light in the midst of my darkness, God began to call me to a new life– a life of missions. He wasn’t scared of my depression, and in fact, kept calling me to the missions life right in the middle of it all.

Accepting a life of missions meant I would have to give up everything I had ever known: family, friends, my language, my church, my career, and my culture. Yet little by little as the clouds began to lift, I could hear God calling and feel His love which beckoned me to say yes to all that He had for me.

The autumn rolled in and I officially accepted God’s call to missions– which means I looked at my husband and said “Okay, I’ll go.”  I agreed to move to Ecuador and give my life to missions with nothing but a heart-knowing that it was God speaking.  I hadn’t heard an audible voice from heaven. No wise saint spoke a prophetic word to me about this giant leap of faith. No fleeces had been set out. It was a just simple faith-filled yes to a life-altering request.

I felt that this change in my life was such a huge landmark, I wanted to remember it somehow. I wanted to have a reminder of how God pulled me out of the darkness of depression and gave me a beyond-my-wildest-dreams calling. I never wanted to forget  the warmth that joy brings to a depressed soul when the winter finally surrenders. For me, the way to remember was to get a tattoo.

So after A YEAR of thinking and praying about the idea, I did it.

Know what? It has served its specific purpose in my life.  Each day, I catch a glimpse of the black ink on the inside of my wrist, and I remember. I remember joy. I remember freedom. Most of all, I remember the Lord of my Life and His plans for me.

Isaiah 49:6  in The Message says,   “I’d never forget you—never. Look, I’ve written your names on the backs of my hands.”  God has my name engraved on his palm, just as I have a His marker on my wrist.  He will not forget me; He cannot erase me.

I don’t want to forget Him, either. I don’t want what He’s done in my life to be erased ever. I need a reminder that keeps His work in me and His love for me constantly in my mind.

So, I have a tattoo.