I woke up late that morning. “7:29 a.m.” gleamed at me on my phone screen and the snooze timer counted down the seconds until the next time it would attempt to wake me. That current season of life had been so busy. I was staffing my first Discipleship Training School with my husband, and it had been some of the most intense and exciting months we’ve had in ministry together yet. Still there’s a cost, and sleep was one price I was okay with losing some of. We had spent the past three months living in close community with thirteen students, young and old, from all of the world. Sharing meals together, having heart to heart connections with, receiving healing from long lasted wounds, growing in the Lord together, ministering on the streets together, and everything in between. They became instant family.
We were two weeks away from going on outreach, which would consist of two months of evangelism and ministry. Outreach is the whole point of the Discipleship Training School. My husband and I had spent the entire school planning and connecting with the local contacts we would work with during our outreach: praying with our team, casting vision, setting up housing, meals, budgeting the expenses, etc. All we had left to do was pack our bags. We were ready, and excited to go, as was the rest of our team.
We had pressed into the Lord as a school and seen wonders and miracles as the Holy Spirit moved in and through us. It was incredible how willing all of the students were to receive all that God had for them during the school, and even more incredible how quickly God showed up in a powerful way. Our second week of school several were baptized in the Holy Spirit and many received the fire of God. Everyone in the room that day night and into the next day was encountering God in either laughter, laying out on the floor, weeping, sitting still, or a mixture of the sum. God manifested a small bit of His glory to us and it was wonderful. This fast beginning launched us into a radical several months of seeking God and finding Him in all of His splendor.
The night before this morning, we had an evening meeting updating the students on the COVID-19 situation. Currently we would have to stay one meter apart from one another, and eating in the cafeteria would look a bit different as the kitchen staff would have to change the ways they distributed food. Three of our students were missing because they were in a ‘quarantine’ of sorts from a stomach bug. The base leadership was requesting anyone that had any hint of illness to stay in their rooms. After the announcements we prayed for the nations and for our school during this crisis time as the virus spread. We took communion together and then began spontaneously singing out worship and praise to the Lord acapella. “Fearless forerunners carrying the fire and fragrance of God” That was the banner the Lord gave us staff for the school. And that was exactly who we were. I could see it before my eyes as we sang out in one accord together. It was beautiful. As the hours went on many left and many stayed to continue spurting out heart cries to the Lord in song, exalting Jesus over this global crisis. I didn’t know then that would be our last time worshipping together as a school.
So after the intense night I didn’t get as much sleep as I would’ve normally, but it was worth it. I quickly turned off my alarm that morning and was excited for the day ahead. Because of the mandatory national closure for all schools in the nation we were living as missionaries in, my kids’ kindergarten school had already been shut down the day before. So I didn’t have to get them ready for school that morning, and quickly ate some toast, poured a cup of tea and rushed out to class. I led the typical Friday’s Bible reading morning; still working through the book of Acts. The staff that normally led this morning was in quarantine for a sore throat. The base wasn’t taking any chances. The speaker for the week’s teaching on ‘relationships’ came in after our Bible reading session, and we began our final day of teaching on the subject. There was an uneasy feeling in the room, at least I could feel it. Something was off, and it didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that one out. The world was in a panic over this virus spreading globally, and we were on the edge of everything tipping over as the balance became one-side too heavy here.
During the last session of teaching that day, us staff present on the school’s team were notified that the base leadership was calling a mandatory meeting for all people on the base to attend after lunch. Our school leader informed myself and my fellow staff (also close friend) that the leadership was shutting down our school. My heart sunk in my chest. Everything from then on felt like slow motion. We all stood in the room two meters a part and listened to our base leader update us on the national proclamations for this virus, and how our base would take action on it. The nation we were in had become level 3 on the global health advisory and everything was about to change. Serving food had to stop, meeting in groups had to stop, isolation in our homes would be our priority and amongst a long list of other changes, the main one that took our breath away was this: everyone that could leave had to leave, effective immediately. Basically if you didn’t have your own unit, your own home with a kitchen and bathroom, then you had to move off of the base for an unknown amount of time. This meant all of our students and also a good deal of international/domestic staff.
What. Seriously? Our students cried, we cried. Everyone was shocked. In one hour, our entire lifestyle was flipped upside down. Many began buying tickets for flights home and planning to leave. I didn’t have many words to say. The students and our staff were heartbroken. The future was uncertain and we weren’t gauranteed that we would all get to be together again. We had three weeks left of school, and that was all put on hold. The outreach we spent months planning was cancelled. We weren’t sure (and still aren’t) when nations will begin opening up their boarders again. And so we had to send students back to their homes without getting any sort of preparation, reverse-culture shock training, or debriefing in order to return back to their homes. Our dreams and hopes for finishing this season seemed to be ripped out from under us and crushed in front of our eyes.
We had a rushed, thrown together dinner that Friday night where we all said our, ‘goodbye’s’. A dinner in which many were too stunned to even eat. People cried while they sat at a table quickly decorated for the fast departure party. We gave spontaneous speeches, cried bitter tears, hugged, and tried to encourage one another in the only hope that remained, hope in Christ. But it wasn’t anywhere near closure. It was sudden and it hurt our hearts. It hurt mine. Over two to three days, most people left. It was quite traumatic to have your entire daily schedule, group of people you do life with, weekly ministry times of worship and prayer, and close community living completely shatter in a matter of one day.
Helpless is a good term for how I felt. Of course I prayed, and my heart still praised the Lord despite it all. Yet the way everything ended so suddenly, it hurt my heart. I had so much faith that God would get us through this crisis time, and it didn’t turn out the way I envisioned it. But over this week and a half since that day, God has spoken so much to me. Trust and hope.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”Romans 15:13 NIV
I had to wrestle with the Lord in why things didn’t turn out as planned.
Why didn’t people do this instead of that? Why didn’t we seek you more or try other options? Why are people so afraid?
So many why’s, and still there was just one heart that Holy Spirit seemed to be the most concerned about…
I was frantically looking for solutions, frantically praying for Him to pick up the pieces that had just been scattered all over the world by COVID-19. All the while joy and peace began to fade as my trust in God became the real issue for me here. I wanted Him to bring things back to they way they were, and yet everyone around me was proclaiming that was impossible. I was so set on proving them all wrong that my trust actually became misplaced. I trusted that our leadership would keep the school running, and when that didn’t happen for many reasons I was in despair. I trusted that we would do whatever it took to get all of our students and staff back together again as soon as we were able. Again that wasn’t able to happen either. My trust was in people.
My trust was in the results of my labor looking a certain way.
All the while God wanted to fill up my pleading heart. With hope. A hope that resulted in joy and peace that would overflow hope to other people.
I was trying to save the world, and He was wanting to steady me.
God’s agenda was a little different than mine…maybe because He already did all of the saving. Thankfully there’s grace for me and I can joyfully repent which just looks like me turning to Jesus, confessing my sin and asking Him to change the way I think. Throughout this global COVID-19 crisis, my daily routine has been shaken. My living conditions have shaken. My friendships and family have been shaken. My plans for the next month have been shaken. Even my trust has been shaken. And out of all that has crumbled in the shaking, what cannot be shaken has remained. That is the kingdom of God inside me. The kingdom that wants to be released out. So this is me letting it shine. And my declarations of truth will be shouted out louder than the chaos
I am God’s daughter carrying His authority and power by the blood of Jesus and the Holy Spirit upon me.
I am a co-heir with Christ, seated in the heavenly places with Him.
I am rooted and established in the love of God.
I am no longer a slave to fear, but I am a child of the living God.
I am a disciple of Christ, called to be His witness to the nations, and signs and wonders will accompany this call.
I am strong and courageous and will not be afraid or dismayed for the Lord, my God is with me wherever I go.
I have hope, joy and peace in Christ.
I am a city on a hill that can not be hidden.
My family and I are dwelling in the shelter of the Almighty and abiding in the shadow of His wings.
I am not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God unto salvation for everyone that believes.
I have received a kingdom that cannot be shaken.
As for the school, the vision remains the same. We are fearless forerunners carrying the fire and fragrance of God. This our time to walk that out. Myself included. The future might be uncertain for some, but it’s not for me. I know my God has a plan and a purpose for my life that nothing can hinder. Though my heart and my flesh may fail, God is the strength of my heart and my portion f o r e v e r. The wind and the waves will come, but through it all there is so much more to be thankful for. Because Jesus is alive, and He is faithful.
Here are some questions I have for you today. Grab a pen and take a moment to process.
-Where were you the day this virus changed the regular flow of your life? —-What were some of the consequences of the changes that had to be made (i .e. social distancing, lack of usual supplies, school/work shutdown)?
-Where does your trust lie right now?
-What are your “I am” truth statements?
-What are ten things you can thank God for today?