Friday, August 8, 2014

Sip and Share

Kajo Keji, South Sudan
Over the next couple of weeks I intend to share with you what my gracious Lord shared with me while Lincoln and I journeyed to the place that forever dwells in my thoughts and affections – South Sudan, Africa. Maybe I can also convince my formally educated in creative writing husband to gift us as well in between my efforts of writing down simply what I think that somehow manages to be somewhat digestible. We (my husband and I) have been back home a week now, and I still can’t seem to put all that’s stirring in my heart and swirling in my mind down into words. I suppose I have choice in when they come. I lean more towards not. They interrupt - the thoughts. They don’t want to fade, nor do I want them to. I give in. Here it is- an attempt to bring life to each letter on this page by way of my grace saturated experiences to my eager fingertips, to your eyes; words you see, hear, and if God sees fit, feel.  Even if these words of mine allow you just a mere peek into the sweet taste of glory my King has served me, you must be a divinely invited guest. So, sit. Sip. Enjoy. You are welcome.

Monday, March 24, 2014

...and the journey continues with 2!


We are overjoyed to share with you some of the ways God has been abundantly gracious to us lately! As you may well know, we were married November 16, 2013, enjoyed a beautiful honeymoon in Belize, and are relishing our time as newlyweds. We are so thankful for the underserved gift of marriage and are striving to do marriage well in light of the Gospel!
You are also likely to be familiar with and may have even supported me (Jessica) in the journey the Lord has led me on in both Uganda and South Sudan over the past 7 years or so. Well, to both our excitement, God has opened a door for that journey to continue now as a married couple! We simply cannot put into words how thrilled we are in light of this! It has been three years since I returned from South Sudan and will be Lincoln’s first journey to Africa!
I have been biting at the bit to go back, and prepared to do so as I was on staff with Empower Sudan for 8 months, raising support to this effort. God graciously persisted in telling me to pray and wait as I worked hard to reach my support-raising goal. He then threw a curve ball and asked me to trust Him in resigning from my staff position just in time to get married.  Not knowing what the future held, I faithfully obeyed, albeit with a heavy heart.
Fast-forward 5 months and here we are with plane tickets purchased and a journey awaiting us!! We will be traveling to South Sudan on July 20th, 2014 and returning on July 31st. We will be traveling with two other gentlemen, one being a dear friend of former co-worker of mine at Empower Sudan.
The heartbeat of Empower Sudan is to carry the Good News that Jesus Christ has come to set the world free from sin and condemnation forever to the 20 million South Sudanese and Sudanese who have never heard His name.  The mission is to find, develop, train, disciple and “empowerSudanese and South Sudanese to make disciples (followers) of Jesus Christ. Lincoln and I consider it a privilege to join in this effort.
We will first fly to Nimule, South Sudan where the first two days of our trip will be spent equipping and training pastors. Lincoln and I will then take a short flight on our own down to Kajo Keji, South Sudan. Kajo Keji is where I lived for 4 months, my second home. There we will have the opportunity to visit a number of the same villages where I established and facilitated discipleship groups.  We intend to encourage, challenge, and facilitate groups where the Gospel is shared and believers are discipled.  Our prayer is that my physical return (with the gift of my husband!) will serve to confirm to these beautiful people they are not forgotten. Moreover, they are deeply loved and prized…not just by us, but also by our Heavenly Father!
By the grace of God, through the support of people like you, our trip and all the expenses are completely covered from the 8 months of support raising I did while on staff with Empower Sudan! Our heart is to fully honor the intent of the donors, and we are thrilled to have this opportunity to do so! In addition to any trip expenses, however, we are praying for and trust the Lord will also provide an additional $3,000 to help offset the income lost from not seeing any counseling clients for 2 weeks. In light of this specific need, any support given will not be tax deductible.
We are forever grateful for your support in prayer and ask also to please pray and consider if you are to graciously make a financial investment in this work.  We would be honored and greatly appreciative of your financial support.

Checks can be written out to us personally and mailed to:
Lincoln & Jessica Wiseman
1328 Ridgecrest Dr.
Midlothian, TX  76065

If you are unable to help us financially, please know we completely understand and would be just as grateful for your support in prayer!


 Lincoln & Jessica

“And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.”

-1 Thessalonians 5:14

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Into the Unknown

Thursday June 23rd, 2011

It’s here. My four months are over and I can’t seem to believe it. Not so subtle reminders are everywhere. My bags are packed, someone else is living in my room, a phone call was made to check on a departing flight, and so far I have cried more than I haven’t cried.

I trend to retreat into myself when it comes time for goodbye’s and because of my full awareness of this fact I told myself I was going to be intentional to fully live in the goodbyes of today. I didn’t want to miss out on the beautiful pain that goes along with saying goodbye to my loves. It, too…the pain…is such a gift. I’ve come to learn that one of the measuring sticks of giving my heart away is the pain that comes when I leave it behind. How much less joy would I encounter if I was too afraid to feel the pain?

I woke up and just laid there under my mosquito net. Who knows when I will open my eyes again to see the blanket of white covering over me? I wanted to drink it in as tears fell down my cheek. My feet touched the floor and I got ready just like every other day, only it didn’t feel like any other day. There was an added joy of satisfaction mingled with a daunting ball of emotion stuck in my throat.

I heard the horn outside. Oh, no! I HAD to say goodbye to the kiddos. Mercy, Wani, and Mike have been my three little amigos. Then were about to head off to school and I ran out there and asked Kaya to stop so I could say goodbye. Oh, my heart could barely stand it. I hugged my sweet babies and kissed their cheeks. I’m not sure they really knew that when they got home I’d be gone. Every fiber of my being knew fully well. Lord, please comfort them when they realize their gelatot buddy is gone. Thank you for gifting them with Rebecca. You have provided and I can’t thank you enough for that.

The team and I ate breakfast together and I couldn’t help but smile as I ate the grease soaked chapatti and yummy eggs just as I had so many times before in the past 4 months. In mere hours my diet will drastically change.

Calls were made to check on our MAF flight and we simply hung around the compound enjoying each other’s company and double checking we had everything packed and ready. Pictures were taken, sweet words were exchanged, and we were getting ready to head out. Then, we were told our flight was coming in later than we thought. Yes, I am still in South Sudan, and yes being late is perfectly on time. I am reminded at how much the Lord has worked on me as I am able to laugh and enjoy that truth for what it is. Even more so, I thanked the Lord for giving me more time. More time. Others may have been disappointed and I was resting in more time.

We decided to head up to the Seed Effect office with our extra time so some could use the Internet and we could possibly walk around Wudu market one last time. Praise You, Father. I was so thankful yet so fearful, too. I might break down. Actually, there was a good chance. I thought I had said all of my goodbye’s yesterday. I have to remind myself again of the beauty in the pain.

We ended up hanging out at the office for just a bit and then we all walked over to Wudu market. Scovia joined us, which simply blessed my heart. I could never express to her with my words the God send she was (is), so one last walk along the dirt road, hand in hand, will do…my sweet Sudanese sister given specifically to me for my time in Sudan. We walked around, I got to say goodbye one last time to a few of the Seed Effect Clients, and we headed back to the Seed effect office. Again, I found my eyes trying to permanently impress my sights into my mind, my nose memorizing the familiar smells, and my ears fine tuning to the specific sounds of this land.

Once getting back I saw Thomas walking up. Lord, thank you for the gift of Thomas. I was afraid I may not see him again. With each minute drawing nearer to my departure my tears were that much closer. I was able to have such a sweet conversation with Thomas, thanking him for selflessly serving me each and every time, serving his people, and ultimately serving Jesus. I managed to get out my heart’s longing to see him flourishing in the Lord, trusting Jesus in every way, in all things, at all times. Thomas was such a dear friend to me and simply made me laugh every time I was around him. In a place where so many things can go misunderstood, our language of laughter was medicine to my soul. We laughed often and we laughed hard. It hurts just thinking about how much I will miss his sweet smile and sarcastic nature.

Since we had some more time, the team and I ended up heading back over to Kaya’s for lunch. Boy was this entertaining. Apparently my dear friend Ami had put on a new nausea patch on in preparation for the flight. She also had taken some Dramamine orally in addition to this…and had not eaten. Are you picturing it? She was loopy. She was beyond loopy. She was entertaining to say the least.

Once lunch was over we all loaded up and headed towards the air strip to wait on the MAF flight. It began raining and all of my emotions flooded over me. As if I wasn’t fully aware of all the turmoil going on inside of me, my body was shouting it loud and clear in the form of a stomach ache. It’s amazing how our bodies speak to us in this way.

When we pulled up I was so excited to see the UN vehicle parked on the side of the road. My Pakistani friend was doing his duty on the air strip—intentionally to see us off. I was so thankful to get a chance to say goodbye to him one last time. Kaya soon drove up as well with Scovia. As everyone chit chatted about this or that I found myself feeling as if I were in a dream. Is this real? Am I about to leave what feels like home right now for the only home I knew prior to coming here? Of course the questions of, “What if I never see these people again?” and “Will I ever be back?” float in my mind and I’m doing everything I can to praise Jesus. I praise you Lord for allowing me to be here. Thank you for sharing this part of You with me. I am honored. I am humbled. I am so very grateful. I have been given a tremendous responsibility that will now forever be with me. I cherish it. I will honor You with it. Oh, Lord allow me to continue to see everything from your eyes, trusting you each step of the way.

I’m snapped back into reality with the familiar sound of my name coming from the lips of Kaya. “Jesseeca, are you going to cry?” I grin at him, knowing he knows the answer to his question. “Without a doubt.” I smile as tears well up.

My heart sinks as I hear the sound of the small plane engine flying above. It’s go time. Everyone scurries off the bus and we head across the road as the plane touches down. It was a frenzy. We’ are quickly informed that we have no time to waste. There was a storm coming in and if we didn’t get off the group in 5 minutes more or less we would have to wait it out which could mean a flight leaving tomorrow. Everything was happening so fast. Inside it was as if I was trying to grasp at air. I couldn’t quite get a hold. It was all going through my fingers.

I hugged Scovia. I shook my Pakistani friend’s hand, thanking him for his friendship and letting him know I will faithfully pray for him. The pilot yells at us to hurry. I walked up to Kaya, tears steadily falling from my eyes and couldn’t have managed to get anything out even if I had time. I wrapped my arms around him and hugged that sweet man as I have hugged my Daddy so many times. This was it.

I walked onto that little propeller plane, sat down, and buckled in. I watched all that entailed my 4 month journey get smaller and smaller as we flew into the clouds.

I was coming home, but it wasn’t the same me that left. I am changed. If ever I knew my journey wasn’t finished, it was now. So, just as I flew into Sudan with the unknown before me I was flying out of Sudan with the unknown beckoning my name yet again.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

He Knew the Reward was Better

Wednesday June 22nd, 2011

I was graced with the opportunity to spend some quality time on the church compound and at the Seed Effect offices today. I was hoping this would be the case since it was quite literally my last chance. I know myself well enough to know that quality time is one of the ways that I function, so being in no rush, feeling no pressure, and simply ‘being around’ today was simply what I needed. Plus, I knew it would be an extremely emotional day for me and sometimes it’s best to allow myself to process all that is going on in this way.
So, this morning I headed up to the Seed Effect offices and was able to spend some really sweet time with Scovia. She, as did everyone else, had to get some work done so I made sure to not get in the way. Looking back, I’m grateful it was simply a normal day like every other day in that sense. I was able to kind of sit back and observe. I was watching and soaking in all that God allowed me to be a part of for the past 4 months. How truly blessed am I!
I ended up heading over to the Water Harvest Compound to see what Norma and the rest of the crew were up to over there. I found them, also, hard at work. I wasn’t sure if I’d get the chance to see them again so I made sure to thank Norma for everything; for being such a source of life to me. Goodness, the huge ball in my throat was getting harder and harder to swallow. Norma began expressing her love for me and crying and the levy was let loose. I just love her so much. It’s as if the 4 months were flying through my head and it was someone else’s memories I was watching. In front of me was this beautiful example of a Christ exalting, sacrifice anything for the sake of the Gospel woman, and she was MY friend. She was shedding tears on my behalf out of sheer excitement for what the Lord has in store for my future and in my sweet relationship with Him. How did I get here? How is it I have been given so many good, good gifts? I cried expressing my complete lack of knowledge as to what the future holds. I have no idea, yet know He does. I know it with every fiber of my being. She cried with me. She knows even better than I do what that is like. Her own life is marked by walking completely by faith and not by sight…never having known she would be now living and serving in the capacity she is in South Sudan. It was yet another beautiful reminder from my God that as much as I felt today that Norma “gets” me, He KNOWS me in full. Oh, what a comforting Truth. Norma and I went back to her tukol and talked more and she prayed for and over me. It was so special and one of those times I will carry with me, constantly reminding me of His goodness.

I said my goodbyes to Barbara and then went in the office to say goodbye to Grant. Grant truly is one of those guys that loves people just so well. He has been a tremendous friend to me, challenging me when I needed to be challenged. Because the Lord uses him so very much I’m sure he isn’t even aware of many of the times God used him to challenge me. I’m so thankful for his friendship during these past 4 months. It’s so hard making these friendships knowing the reality that they simply won’t be the same once leaving. The bitter comes with the sweet. The sweet makes the bitter bearable.
I headed back over to the Seed Effect office for lunch. It’s amazing how the mundane becomes amazingly special when it’s come down to the end. By this time my tears couldn’t hide themselves anymore. My mind’s eye was clicking the camera trying to take in EVERYTHING. How do I imprint it all into my heart, never to forget? It’s already been done. It’s as if it’s woven into the very fiber of my being. Even more so, it’s as if the longer I live the more Jesus allows me to see what has already been created in me for Him. It’s just a matter of me awakening to it. It’s a beautifully odd thing at times. Lunch was had and I couldn’t help but smile knowing how different lunch would be for me so very soon.
After lunch I headed over to where Stephanie stays and was so happy to find that she would have some time to spend with me. Sweet Stephanie. Oh, how I wish I could have spent so much more time with her. Just when I feel like I’m getting to know her more it’s time to go. We headed over to the Water Harvest Compound and sat out on Norma’s porch and just talked and talked. It was one of those live giving, soul moving conversations with a sister. What a gift being able to share life with others is. What a privilege! After a couple hours we prayed for each other and back over to the Seed Effect office I went.


It was just about closing time. I don’t want this to end, Father. How do I do this? How do I say goodbye? Oh, Jesus, these people are my friends…my family. My heart wanted to burst. Scovia asked me to come into the office. I could see she was on the verge of tears. The Seed Effect staff gathered all around me and began sharing their heart to me one by one. I was a bawling mess…a bawling mess of humble pie. Tears were shared all around. All I could do was stand there and take it all its entirety. I then choked something out to them in return trying to find words that did any amount of justice. Then they asked to pray for and over me. Blessings upon blessings.

I walked out of the Seed Effect office and then the gate, walking down the dirt road towards the church. Oh, Father thank you for knowing what my heart can handle even if I don’t. This feeling of sheer sadness of leaving yet excited for going home is almost too much to bear. Thank you. Thank you for knowing.
How did you do it? How did you walk on this earth with those you love so much and leave via the means of death?? You knew what was to come. You knew the need…my need. You knew the reward was far greater than the feelings of leaving. Oh, Jesus please help me to choose to see as you see.
I had about 15 minutes to sit outside the church by myself and soak it all in. Then, the rest of the team arrived as those in the Bible school were going to have an I Am Second group that night they wanted us to observe. And, Dima had a time of sharing and communion planned to see us off from their entire church. I couldn’t have planned a better way for me to close off my time there. I was able to sit there at watch church leaders and those that are actively pursuing a Bible degree to just the same DO a discipleship group. Not only that, but they were passionate about it. They got it. Hallelujah, they got it!! I sat there overwhelmed with so much joy and was reminded that my time there was finished.

They invited my team up to take communion first as their guests and then the rest followed. All of the men sang beautifully, a Capella, and I sat there feeling the power of Spirit moving. Communion wrapped up and Dima asked if a couple of people wanted to come to the front to share anything. I knew I couldn’t. I wouldn’t be able to get 2 words out before choking up and bawling. Literally, I couldn’t. So, Jenn and Michael went up and did a great job of expressing how they felt about their time there and all the Lord accomplished. And then,….Dima turned his attention to me. How did I think he would not??  He so graciously shared his appreciation for my willingness to come to them, etc. and then asked me to say something. And, as I knew would happen, I got about 2 words in and lost it. I needed them to hear what God wanted to say via me, though so I got myself together and expressed to them the immense privilege it has been to be so welcomed and invited into their life. I know it’s not something to take light. I challenged them to continue in the ways of the Lord and to put forth the effort to seek Jesus in all things, at all times. I expressed how simply watching them live a life honoring our King despite their immense suffering is not only honorable but beautifully convicting.
So, after that full day I was pretty much an emotional zombie. I tend to get quiet and become an observer when having to say goodbye’s because I’m afraid I’ll miss something. So, here I am, my last full day in Kajo Keji coming to an end. Oh, what a sweet day it has been. I kind of want to stay a little bit in denial of the fact that I leave tomorrow. That being said, heading across the ocean is just as close and despite my grief of leaving I have a seed of excitement for what’s on the other side of the ocean.

Lord, let thy will be done and not mine. It’s all a gift and for that I am beyond thankful.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Begging and Pleading

Tuesday June 21st, 2011

I was excited to head out to Longira village with Andrew and Sarah. I had heard of such amazing things throughout the week from those that had been coming out here. Last minute I found out that Thomas had decided to come as well. I was so happy to hear so knowing it meant I’d have some time with my dear friend that I hadn’t planned on having! I love Jesus for his sweet blessings. The drive out there was…fun. The truck was packed full of people (as usual) and became more packed along the way as we’d add a few here and there. Once arriving at the church spot we all piled out and realized there wasn’t anyone there yet. They were told we’d be back and to come there at that time. The plan was to go out to those who hadn’t been reached already that week and then come back together once getting the world out for discipleship time. So, as all true Africans do, we waited. :) No one showed up for a couple hours. It was such a great time with those who came along to translate. We were able to just talk and enjoy each other’s company.

The decision was finally made that the few of us there would all split up into small groups and go out hut to hut sharing the Gospel and inviting people to the afternoon discipleship time . With me were Thomas and Alfred. Everyone we were supposed to follow up with was not home. Eventually, we stopped at the home of the guy who was deaf and mute.

We were informed that he hadn’t always been deaf and mute. He had gotten really sick a few years ago and almost died. After all was said and done, he survived, but ended up being deaf and mute. The young man’s father continued sharing that they had taken him to church hoping their prayers for healing would help and that they continue to pray for healing often.

I cannot adequately express how burdened my heart was for this young man. While his mouth said nothing, His eyes said a thousand words.

I asked if we could pray for him. I was determined. I was going to beg and plead the Lord for healing on his behalf. Begging and pleading is what I did. I know Jesus is in no way confined by a mute mouth or deaf ears and that He is more than powerful enough to speak clearly to this man so that He would make Himself known, but I wanted him to be healed. I wanted Jesus to be made known and this man’s healing to be one of those ways.

Thomas and I both prayed. I looked at the man and asked him if he could hear me. Nothing. I asked him if he could try and speak. Nothing.

I wasn’t done. He wasn’t done. I sat there, my knees resting on that orange dirt, my hands resting on this young man’s shoulders and I looked to Thomas and knew without saying a word he understood I wanted to keep praying. I just felt that I wasn’t to stop praying. So, we continued.

I told the Lord that I knew his goodness was in no way defied by physical healing. But, I still wanted that for this man. I told Jesus that I know that in asking it doesn’t always mean it’s what will be done. But, I still wanted that for this man. I told God that I knew He could magnify Himself in any way He so choose to do so. But, I wanted it to be by healing this man.

Thomas prayed. He prayed so fervently and with a conviction that humbled me.


For a third time, we prayed and begged and pleaded.
It was not His will that day to heal that young man. I confessed to Jesus my desires of healing, but also proclaimed that I wanted His will above mine….regardless of what that meant.
I walked away from that man and that home that day overwhelmed to tears. My heart was broken for that man…for his family…for his community. Jesus broke me to the core asking me if I truly trusted that man’s state with Him. Did I trust that Jesus could heal even if He didn’t choose to? Did I trust that His will is far greater than mine? Did I trust that He is good even if circumstances that He allows simply are not?

We and spent so much time there that it was time to head back to the tree where the church was for discipleship. I was happy to find that a good number of people had gathered and were ready for teaching. They sang hymns in KuKu and a message was preached/discussed. Then was time for baby dedications! It was so sweet to see Andrew dedicate twins and their older sibling.
It was all so surreal and beautiful.

It was a bitter sweet drive home that day. I knew it was my last time out in a village. I tried to take it all in as we drove on the bumpy road.

Memories flooded me.

Faces flashed in my head.

Conversations echoed in my ears.

I trust you, Jesus.

The time is now.

Monday June 20th, 2011

So, it was decided I’d join Steve at the Bible School on Monday afternoon. He was set to teach on discipleship to the students and I was very interested in sitting in and observing. I not only wanted to observe Steve’s way of teaching, but also their responses. First thing that morning, Ami and I were dropped off at the church compound and I showed her around so she was able to take pictures of this and that. I realized as I was doing so just how much pride I took in showing her around. This place really had become home. Before we knew it, it was lunch time so Ami, Steve, and I headed over to the Seed Effect office to eat lunch with everyone there as I had done just about every single day since being in South Sudan. After lunch we headed over to the Bible School classroom.

I sat there and watched as Steve reviewed and taught on discipleship to all of the students. I was encouraged. A lot of the things I had processed through myself while being there..the things that work, those that don’ successes and failures…a lot of that was brought into his teaching. I slowly began to feel like I was watching live in slow motion as the Lord began to prick the ears of my heart…

“Nothing you do for me is in vain.”

“The work you have done for me is of far greater worth than you even realize”

“Remember, my timing is perfect.”

I had the enormous realization that all I had been working towards was right there in front of me.

It was overwhelming.





I had many conversations throughout the 4 months about just how to get discipleship out there in a larger realm- a larger, more effective way. I just knew the Bible students were the key, but for one reason or another it just hadn’t happened.

Now, I watched and listened as the students grasped it all. They got it. Not only did they get it, they were excited about it! I had to keep myself from getting overly emotional as I sat there on the side of the room observing. Yet again, He spoke…

“Soon, your time will be done here, but not the work I am doing. It will continue.”

“As much as you love these people, I love them more. “

“I will make myself known.”

Although unplanned, Steve was asked to come back the next day. They wanted to practice facilitating the discipleship groups and come back the next day to share and confirm they understood in knowledge and application.

The time was now.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Joyful 27th!

Sunday June 19th consisted of me going to my church for the last time. Ami came for a short time to take some pictures and then the rest of the team headed out to their church plant locations. If I had to be honest, I was happy to attend my church for the last time as I had for the majority of the 4 months…my church body and me. Please don’t get me wrong—I would have loved to have any of the team members there with me, but there was just something special about my last time being “normal”. I didn’t want a big deal made out of me leaving, and I was grateful it was a simple announcement that I would be going and they prayed for me.

Sweet simplicity.

I walked across the road back to the compound after church with a heavy heart of gratitude. The compound was so very it usually was on Sunday afternoons, since the team was out still. I sat there on the step outside my room just reflecting. This was real. 4 months had actually already gone by. It felt good to just sit and allow all of the memories weigh on me.

I thought I might try and take a nap, lied down, and heard voices. Half of the team got back so I went and visited with them for a bit. It wasn’t until around 5 or so that everyone else got back to the compound. They had a VERY long day. Apparently they had church, which lasted longer than usual and then hiked out to do baptisms. You could tell they were wiped. It was beautiful to hear their stories of salvation and baptism.

Everyone just kind of hung around the compound and then around 730 or so the land cruiser pulled up and out came Grant, Norma, Barbara, Stephanie, and Saqib!!

I smile as I type this…Jenn had arranged for a surprise birthday party for me!!! My birthday was a few days away but she wanted me to be able to celebrate it with those I love in Africa before I left. I know, she’s amazing. She is constantly blowing me away with her thoughtfulness. The truth is, I had a feeling something was up when Norma called my phone earlier that afternoon asking for Jenn and then did her best to play it off. Haha. Well, it was all clear when Grant walked over and yelled HAPPY BIRTHDAY!! before Jenn could even try and get it all together as they drove up! Haha. Those things make it just that much better!!

So, that evening I celebrated my 27th birthday with my dear friends over rice and beans. They had even gotten me gifts!! Yet again, I couldn’t help but step back and remind myself that this was indeed my life. Blessings upon blessings.

Oh, I can’t forget the actual surprise!! The team managed to bring over 2 boxes of angel food cake!!! Jenn knew it was my favorite type of cake…AND Norma and Barbara spent the time cooking it AND making a pineapple sauce to go over it!!! I was beside myself. It was so yummy and my African friends got to try Angel food cake for the first time!

The best gift of all though was stepping back and watching what was before me. I had so many of my close friends from all over the world fellowshipping and simply enjoying the company of everything. Never in my life would I dream that 2 of my best friends would be WITH me at the end of my 4 month journey in South Sudan. Not only that, but that they would be able to love on Norma—one of their dear friends, too! I got to share my Pakistani friend with them and them with him. It was the best gift a girl could receive.

I sat down that evening next to my Pakistani friend and thanked him for coming. I wanted him to know just how much I treasured his friendship and the many, many conversations we had. Above all, I wanted him to know the extent of love Jesus has for him. That’s when he looked at me and said, “Jessica, I look around and I see all of your friends and how they love you and the joy you have…I want that…I want that joy.” The Lord had allowed for such a relationship to form that I was able to say gently yet with the utmost conviction that they joy he seems comes from Jesus alone and that he, too, could have this joy. I told him, not for the first time, that what he sees goes so far beyond circumstances and that its root is in the understanding that while undeserving, Jesus died for me. That Jesus has provided a life for me that I could never get for myself. He respectfully listened as he always had, his eyes gleaming with the awe of this hope I have. He shook his head, understanding that I told him these things out of my love for him yet not fully being able to grasp them. He smiled and thanked me for sharing my heart with him and being such a good friend.

The night began to come to an end as everyone was saying their goodbyes. My Pakistani friend came up to me and held up a 10,000 shilling bill in front of our faces. He then explained that in his culture when dear friends are parting for whatever reason they have a tradition they do. He then ripped the bill in half. He went on to explain that one half was his and as he put the other half in my hand, said it was mine. He said that they say whenever the next time they meet, whether on this earth or not, they will tape the two halves back together and get a meal of coffee together to catch up. He then said, “Dear friend, I wills see you again, and we will catch up.” Everything in me wanted to break down into tears, but the sheer honor of what just unfolded in front of my eyes kept me together enough to thank him, give him the firm handshake he was always so faithful to do, and wish him well. It’s now, as I type this, I find myself overwhelmed with emotion. True beauty touches the soul in a way that can’t be explained.

I begged and pleaded the Lord that night, and have many times since then, that if it isn’t on this earth that I see him next, that it will be in Heaven as we are proclaiming the majesty of our King Jesus….together.

Wait...and watch.

Wow. I am sincerely so sorry. As you can see, it has been months and months since I said I would post about my last few days in South Sudan. The past 6 months have been ….well, interesting for me. Nevertheless, here are the posts I wrote about my last week there. …very late, but still just as true!

Saturday June 18th, 2011 was a day I was looking forward to. I had come to thoroughly enjoy my Leikor ladies. While I most definitely did not want to have to say goodbye, I was hopeful that this group might actually continue once I was gone.

I was especially excited that Ami was getting to go with me. Not only would she be able to document this group through pictures, but she would also get to see in intimate view of what God had been allowing me to be a part of for 4 months…the sweet faces, the hesitant hearts, the gut wrenching stories, and the bounties of grace upon grace.

We arrived and hardly anyone was around. It was made very clear to everyone that this would be my last week. They, in fact made it known to everyone because they wanted to make sure to be able to say goodbye. So, it wasn’t out of the ordinary to sit around and visit for a while in hopes that people would gather. As we had been doing the past few weeks in their new market, we were invited and given seats under Alia’s tarp. I asked who was going to be leading this week, as it was also made very clear that since I was leaving it would be their responsibility to carry on with someone facilitating and encouraging others to share. They had been doing a great job of this the past few weeks. Of course, one of the Abuba’s was the ring leader and the majority of the time she was the one that would step up and take the lead.

Then came the discouragement. I confess, I was really discouraged. Every single person there was animate about not being the facilitator. They did not want to do it. They kept telling me I needed to do it since it was my last time and I did my best to again explain that since it was my last time I would be blessed to see that someone else was willing to do it. They were terrified and it broke my heart. It was so hard not to feel like a failure in the moment. My goal was to leave them feeling confident and excited about facilitating these discipleship groups on their own and in a way that worked best for them and here I was sitting in front of this group who had flat out made up their mind they were not going to do it.
I prayed. I sat there and I prayed, asking the Lord what He wanted to happen. Of course, I could simply begin facilitating the group, but the last thing I wanted to do was enable them…not this group. They had come a pretty long way and I just wanted what was best for them even if they didn’t know what that looked like.

Wait. Just be patient.

Ami looked at me and didn’t have to say a word. I knew what she was asking and wondering…the exact same things I was! So, I whispered to here that we just needed to wait a bit longer…wait them out as I had tears welling up in my eyes. The reality of leaving and disappointment yet so much hope for what I know could simply be amazing was on the verge of exploding via tears. It’s amazing how sometimes we just need to be allowed the opportunity to feel uncomfortable just long enough to actually do something.

Insert: life lesson #359542320

We literally just sat there for a good while. And then….Abuba Tabita spoke up. She explained we needed to get started so everyone needed to listen. She began facilitating the group. I just sat there with a smile on my face. I offered a little guidance for the flow of the questions and discussions and such. Ami was also asked for her input which I knew was just a matter of time. Guests don’t get away without addressing the whole group and “sharing just a little bit”.  It was beautiful and heartfelt.
What I began to watch in front of me then left me speechless and overwhelmed with joy. All of a sudden I realized it’s as if I was invisible…precisely what I wanted. One of the ladies that had been there pretty much all 4 months (whose tarp we were sitting under!) but never really gave her input yet was the most outspoken and boisterous personality began to share. Sweet, beautiful Alia. Abuba Tabita began to challenge her and encourage her and it was an interaction between the two of them where I saw the wisdom of this older woman covering over the fear and hesitancy of this broken younger woman. Alia confessed she was not a believer and began to literally pour out all of the pain and wounds and questions she’s had trapped inside for years.

I was watching before me active discipleship.

I could just feel the weight of God asking me why I have so little faith when He has ALWAYS shown up. It may look vastly different than I plan it out in my head, but He has ALWAYS shown up.

Oh, Lord. How I am reminded that I always need you. Your blessings are too many to count.

Tears streamed down my face as I sat there listening to Abuba Tabita proclaim the Gospel to Alia…as she pleaded with her to see her need of a Savior…as she encouraged her to let go of all the things that are lies from Satan…and as she soothed her wounds with the salve of a loving ear willing to listen to her skepticism. Alia stated she didn’t want to be a believer.

Many others sat listening. They were no less supposed to hear everything. Abuba Tabita wrapped up the discussion and asked me if I wanted to say final words. I knew this time was coming and oh, how difficult it was. I shared my love for them and did my best to get the words out to encourage them with the love of Christ. And then, Tabita said she had something she wanted to say…and so did Alia…and so did about 5 others.

Even now, my heart is just so overwhelmed thinking about the words spoken. By God’s grace, He allowed me to hear of the change He brought to these women via this discipleship group…via me. Have you ever been so humbled with gratitude you think your heart might simply burst? I almost couldn’t stand it. God knew it was time for my heart to be wrapped up in the love and blessings of these women, and of Himself, to prepare me for the journey home. It’s what I needed. I was amazed at the outpouring of thanks and testimonies of change from women that literally spoke a handful of words the entire time I was there!!! He accomplished change in them that had they not been led to share with me I would have never known. I couldn’t fathom the degree of impact that was made and Jesus knew that my heart, so prone to question and lack faith, needed to have a physical reminder of His power.

Ami watched it all. My sweet friend who knows my heart without me having to say a word watched the battle within me as I sat there among these women. I was just so excited that she could be there. If anything, it just confirmed that any and all accomplished these past 4 months was simply of Jesus and Jesus alone. Plus, she got to see the enormous blessing I was privileged to live in day in and day out. She got to see the struggle, too.
To think…if I hadn’t waited and given into my discouragement all that would have been missed.

Ami and I walked down the orange dirt road back to the compound with no words yet saying everything...

***Update*** I was given an update from Scovia that Alia surrendered her life to the Lord just a few weeks after I returned home!! And, the Leikor market group is still meeting every Saturday afternoon to study and discuss Scripture and the change it is to have in their life!!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Honored Guest

So, we arrived in Kiri and we were pretty noticeable upon arriving.  I mean, the fact that we showed up in the land cruiser with 5 more people than normal, 3 of which were whites, pretty much settled that.  Considering they were used to Thomas and I casually pulling up on the motorbike it made sense that all eyes would be on us. 

Prior to going out to Kiri I had in mind that I would wash Abuba Poresi and Yaba’s feet.  I hadn’t the slightest idea how it would all come about or what it would look like, but just knew God had something there for me to do being it was my last time and I would be saying my goodbyes.  While we were driving out there I then began to wonder if washing their feet would be feasible, although I had no idea what not washing their feel would entail. 

We got out of the vehicle and I walked around and greeted a few people, introducing them to the rest.  Then, I led everyone towards Abuba’s home, hoping to find her there.  As I did each week, I walked up to her tukols and began yelling out, “Abuuuuuba. It’s Jeska.”  My sweet friend came out and I heard the heartwarming sound of, “Ahh, Jess-ee-ca!”  Words can’t express to you they joy I was privileged to experience each Friday as Abuba Poresi greeted me with more sincerity than most people ever know. 

Abuba grabbed her Bible and we all headed back out to the open market area.  I asked Abuba if she knew where Yaba was and after asking a couple of other people I was told he was sleeping up against the tree just nearby.   So, I walked over and saw him there-sprawled out, his head resting on the tree root, out to the world.  I stood there for a split second just looking at Yaba, God’s beautiful creation. Oh, how privileged I was to have him in my life.  That lasted a split second before one of the ladies yelled out, “YABA!!”  There’s nothing like being woken up by your name being screamed out! Haha He opened his eyes, staring straight at me as I was standing over him, and a smirk came across his face as he said, “Mama.” Sometimes I found myself literally wanting to grab Yaba and cradle him in my arms, speaking in a way that he would understand, expressing the depth and width and height of the love Christ has for him.  This was one of those moments. We did our usual sing song of him asking for money, me responding, him asking again, me smiling at him knowing that I could tell him anything and know that Jesus had allowed a bond to form that regardless, he knew I loved him.  

I turned around to see that a crowd had started to gather.  It wasn’t long either before the all too familiar man who I blogged about a little while back made an appearance.  Remember the man that was yelling at me telling me I was a thief and a liar? The one that Thomas stepped in and made the decision that I was no longer going to interact with? Yep. He was back with the same story.  I must admit, it was interesting to watch the rest of the gangs’ reaction to this man.  To me, it had become “normal”.  To others, somewhat concerning.  The men in the market place stepped in like last time and made sure this man kept his distance and wasn’t of any harm to anyone.   

Yaba began asking me for Mugatti like he always does, and every other week I would have simply walked with him over to the 2 ladies who sell it, but I realized that I literally had no Ugandan shillings.  I felt awful.  How could I not remember that I would need a mere 300 shillings to buy Yaba his mugatti for the last time?? Just then, Ami asked me if he would be happy with cookies.  Would he be happy with cookies?? Ha. Happy is a grave understatement.  She had a small package of cookies in her camera bag.  She almost didn’t bring them.  They were her last ones.  Thank you, sweet Jesus. Yaba’s face lit up simply at the sound of the crinkling wrapper. J So, with his cookies in one hand and what was left of my bottle of water in the other, Yaba was perfectly content.

I began to think that I was going to say my goodbyes’ to Yaba and Abuba, and off we’d go.  For some reason I found myself a little flustered.  I was stuffing down all of the emotions of leaving along with a bit of disappointment that I just didn’t have a peace about washing their feet.  So, I went to Abuba and explained that we would be leaving shortly and she asked that I speak to everyone first, simply letting them know I was going back home and encouraging them to know I will be praying for them. 

That’s when I looked up.

Under the tree were about 30 people neatly seated, waiting.  Then, I looked to my left and Abuba was walking over with 5 blue, plastic chairs.  I knew we’d be there for a while longer. J Abuba set up the chairs in a row facing the people under the tree. 

That’s when it hit me that everyone had been watching us interact with Yaba.  They saw it all.  Some were laughing.  Others were simply watching with emotionless faces. I was quickly reminded what “this” was all about.  “This” is what the Lord had for today.  “This” was about to be a very frank teaching to those gathered under the tree.  In that moment I realized what it was all about-it was so clear.

I gathered those with me and we made our way over to the plastic chairs, mentioning that we would all introduce ourselves.  I grabbed Yaba and asked him to sit right next to me on my left. Y’all, what I saw next is one of those moments that I will never forget and one that brought me more joy than I can express.  Yaba walked over to the chair, stood there and looked up at all of the people facing us, watching.  He had a cookie in his left hand and a water bottle in his right.  He looked over at me.  He sat down in the green plastic chair with his chest in the air and the biggest smirk on his face.  He was an honored guest and he knew it.  He was so confident.  It oozed off of him.  It was hilarious.  He sat there and looked around as if to say, “That’s right, look at me, I’m special, prized, and I love it!” I do believe it was more than simply being prized by me, folks. I really do.  Everything in my spirit felt like he “got it.” Abuba then came over and she sat on my right.  The rest of the team sat in the other chairs.

They didn’t get it, but it was me. Don’t you see? I was the guest.  I was the one who felt completely honored to be sitting between those two beautiful people.  I was the one so overjoyed at the privilege.   

We went one by one introducing ourselves and then the Lord gave me the words.  I thanked everyone for welcoming me into their lives.  I expressed what the Lord had sent me to do and encouraged them to walk in what they learned. Then, I turned to my precious friend, Yaba, who was still sitting beside me eating his cookie and drinking his water with such pride. 

I asked the crowd who had noticed that I had befriended Yaba.  Practically everyone raised their hand.  I then asked them who knew why I had befriended Yaba.  It was silent.  So, I asked them to share their guesses as to why I would want to become friends with Yaba.  A young man blurted out that I became friends with Yaba because maybe I wanted to take him home with me to America.  Everyone immediately started laughing.  I smiled and said, “Well thank you for guessing, but no, that’s most definitely not it!”  A woman raised her hand and said that I became friends with Yaba so I could earn status in Heaven.  Most nodded their head as to agree that was a better reason than the first.  With a heavy heart I thanked her also for guessing, but that I wasn’t Yaba’s friend to receive anything back in return, and most definitely not a better status in Heaven.  Then, an older woman raised her hand and said quietly, “You are friends with Yaba because that’s what you are supposed to do for God.”

She got it.

I stated that yes that is exactly right.  I began explaining to the group the character of Christ.  I shared with them what Christ calls us to be and to do as born again believers.  I was so very frank with them that Jesus doesn’t call us to just love those that are just like us, or are convenient, or are easy to love even, but everyone, including those like Yaba. I shared with the group their actions towards Yaba and even towards me because of befriending him. Things such as coming up to me and asking me why he was sitting by me on the bench (rather than on the dirt as usual), running him off so he didn’t bother us, talking about him as if he weren’t a person, etc.  I expressed that God sent me to love Yaba to be an example of His love and what it looks like lived out.  Through my tears I looked to Yaba as he sat there listening, and drew attention to the fact that he was my honored guest, always.  We, as children of God, are seated with Him in the heavenly realms!  We are precious and loved, and are to treat others as such! I challenged them to not miss out on the beauty of Christ by mistaking it for nothing. 

When all was said and done, I shared the Gospel. 

Abuba then took it upon herself to stand up and share.  If it was even possible, I feel even more in love with that beautiful old woman! She was on fire and boy did she have something to say to everyone! She reiterated what I talked about and then told them that they needed Jesus! She paced back and forth, back and forth, every now and then looking back at me with a smile on her face.  It was simply beautiful.

She closed us in prayer, and I knew God had accomplished what He desired through me in Kiri. My heart was at peace.

Then, Yaba points forward and says, “My Dad.” I looked and asked him what he said because I wasn’t sure why he was saying “My Dad.”  So, he repeated again and pointed.  The man he was pointing at started walking towards us.  Are you ready for this?!! The man sitting front and center of the group in front of us was Yaba’s father!!!  I had no idea! I had just shared my heart about Yaba, what Christ accomplished, etc., etc. and his dad was right there listening! I just love Jesus for how He worked that out, because if I had known maybe I wouldn’t have been as bold. You see, from what I had been told, Yaba’s parents are the landlords of the village.  This simply means they are over it and decisions made regarding to the village.  I was also told that they are Muslim. Him being there was no accident.

So, this really tall beautiful African man walks up and introduces himself to me as Yaba’s father.  Yaba then tells his dad to sit down next to him and then tells me he wants a picture of them together.  I couldn’t help but laugh as Yaba was directing everyone around.  Then, as they were getting ready to have their picture taken by Ami, I almost lost it.  Yaba had some cookie/drool on his face (the norm) and his dad leaned over and took his shirt and wiped Yaba’s face so gently so he would be “ready” for the picture.  Gentleness. Compassion.  Love.  My heart was so full. 

I don’t have any idea why I had never met Yaba’s dad before now.  I don’t know where he was.  I don’t know the exact dynamic of their family.  But, I do know that God had his dad front and center this day for a reason.  I do know that Yaba wanted a picture with his dad and was so very proud to have it taken with him.     

The time came to actually say goodbye.  My heart was so full but at the same time felt like it was being ripped apart.  I hugged Abuba and told her just how much I love and adore her and encouraged her to stay strong and continue seeking Christ, relying on His strength and power.  Seeing this sweet woman sad liked to kill me. Then, it was Yaba’s turn.  I went to him and told him how much I love him and as usual he wanted to shake my hand.  But, this time, he didn’t want to let go.  Everything about it was just so sweet.  I flashed back to the very first time I met Yaba and how he grabbed my hand and held it so tight it almost hurt, not letting go as he asked me for money…and here I was today saying my goodbyes as he had the same grip on me, not wanting to let go because he knew I was leaving for good.   

I got my hand out of his and made myself turn away and walk to the vehicle.  I could help but praise the Lord as we drove off, knowing He accomplished far more than I could ever know, humbled that He allowed me to be a part of His wondrous plan.