A Pastor friend of mine from Africa emailed me last night asking for prayer. With a wife in great pain due to an injured limb, and a daughter struggling with serious illness, he reached out to share more than ever before.
I know a good number of pastors from many countries and the pleas and the needs are often the same. The emails for prayer and assistance come very regularly.
With a faith that never gives up these men and women and their families toil forward doing much with so very little. I am often at a loss for words when I read about their tenacity and vision and dedication. I am often brought to my knees in the hearts and prayers as we speak on the phone. I am simply honored to stand alongside them as I journey to where they are.
As a small example these pastors walk hours to minister to those in outreaching villages, riding bikes to surrounding areas and taking weeks in leaving home to encourage fellow pastors and people in other areas and other countries.
In many, many ways it is a hand-to-mouth existence.
One man’s story of sensing the Lord directing him to Mozambique first bought a map to find out where the country was.
Then, when the time seemed right, and the need to journey pressed upon him he left his wife and children for a few weeks time. He didn’t have enough shillings to take him all the way, but determined that God would provide as he went.
And God did. Journeying to the end of his money this man found connections all set up so to speak, to welcome him, to keep him, and to wish him well on his journey. Friends of friends that he didn’t even know existed.
With food and sleep and a bit of money in his pocket he carried on his way towards Mozambique. Long story short he made it there, and made it home. All on the miraculous provisions of the Lord each and every step of the way.
This is not an uncommon story. In fact, there are a few of my colleagues in Africa that are in this very same situation right this minute. Journeying on faith and prayer and a dependance that rides everything on God showing up.
This morning when my Pastor friend replied to my response he thanked me for praying and simply said, “We are praying for a better life.”
His simple statement has stayed in my heart and mind all day long. Because it resonates my own prayers as well. My own journey is much the same as theirs. Journeying on faith and prayers and barely making it most of the time there is a certain weariness that pervades.
While there is much joy, deep happiness, and profound contentment, the stress of barely paying bills adds up over time. It is why this Pastor had not taken his wife or daughter to the hospital. The bills would be too much, at least beyond what he can pay.
I don’t know what the answer is. I don’t know what we are missing.
I do know that ministry always comes with sacrifice. I suppose it is part of what weeds out those who are up for it and those who are not. They always say, put up a ton of road-blocks and you will find out who really wants to go forward.
It is why the hurdles for those who want to become lawyers, doctors, dentists and such. The bigger the responsibility the hardier the person must be. And no better way to test how hardy and determined a person is but to put barriers to entry.
Ministry has its own unique barriers. It is not for everyone.
When the Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years God provided for them with manna and quail. Just enough for each day. And if they tried to keep it from day to day it would rot. A profound lesson in sufficiency. That enough means that there is enough.
That we must in fact learn to settle into enough. That enough is not about having cupboards full for months on end, enough is not about having all and every duck lined up before we move forward, enough is not about securing our comfort or establishing our rights.
Enough is about having enough for today. How much food can you eat today? How many clothes can you wear today? How many pair of shoes can you wear this day?
Years back during a very rough patch of life I was starving myself so my children might eat. I learned at that time that I didn’t have to have my fridge full to have enough. In fact, all I needed was enough for the next meal. That was it. The meals after that would take care of themselves.
During another rough patch I had a mattress on the floor of a small room and that was the extent of my personal space for 9 months. I learned at that time that comfort comes from my relationship with the Lord, that my closeness with God is comfort enough, and that strength has nothing to do with how much we own or how beautiful our surroundings are.
In fact, I would wager to say that the more things we own, the more beautiful our surroundings, that the weaker we are. If our dependance is on our circumstance or our possessions or our comforts, then know that our fragility becomes pronounced in times of trouble.
At Capturing Courage we receive request after request for financial provision for pastors themselves, for their ministries, for their church buildings, for their orphanages and schools, for their own children’s schooling, for their travel and transportation needs.
At Capturing Courage we say no to all of these requests. Partly because we know we are not equipped or called to fill even a portion of these request. But mostly because we know that none of these things will save us or them. None of these things will make any of us stronger. In fact, sometimes just the opposite.
It will be strength in some ways to be sure, but it will be strength from the outside in, which we all know, isn’t any real strength at all.
Rather, strength from the inside out is true strength. Inside out strength is what sustains us through difficulty. And this is what we are imparting by the grace of God around the world. Simple camaraderie and generous encouragements, just even knowing someone is there, is often all we need, ever.
We only ever need to get through one day at a time.
I may be thousands and thousands of miles away from my pastor friend for whom I prayed today, and yet across the expanse comes the very clear pictures and vision and prophetic knowing to my heart and mind. God directs how to minister even when oceans separate.
With all of its difficulties the life that I and my colleagues around the world are choosing is in fact an incredible privilege. To lose our life means that we are finding it. And it is richer than anything I had ever imagined.