Tuesday, March 25, 2008

One Pure and Holy Passion

On Sunday morning Jason and I went to a sunrise Easter service. It started around 5:30 in the morning and it was outside, so when we got there is was still dark. We joined the crowd and started singing. As my eyes got adjusted to the low light I saw someone who was outside of the group. He was over on the edge of the field singing. Sometimes his hands were in the air, sometimes he was on his knees, and sometimes he was just standing looking into the sky while he was singing. It was obvious that he didn’t think anyone was watching him. In the darkness he was just singing to God.

After I saw him I started thinking about the freedoms that Christ gives us that we take for granted everyday. I have told you before that Satan’s power is real here. People make sacrifices to him. They make promises to him and their lives are controlled by him. They live in deep fear of the power of Satan in their lives.

I have never had to live with fear like that. When I got saved Jesus cleaned my heart, and I started a relationship with Him. I talk to Him and He guides me. He takes away loneliness and hopelessness and shows me the purpose and reason for my life. It’s really a beautiful thing.

The people here have all of that. God comes into their lives and starts a relationship. But it’s also so much more than that. God breaks the power of Satan. He takes away a fear that has always been a part of them.

Most of the time I was trying to be respectful, but sometimes I couldn’t help looking over at the guy on the side. As it started to get a little bit brighter I realized that this guy was one of my friends who works at the Youth Center with us, William.

William grew up in an animist home and his whole extended family participated in sacrifices. He had a lot of problems in his life and at one point he started going to a Catholic church. In the Catholic church here in Bissau the services are short, the people do not read the Bible for themselves, and many of them are completely ignorant about the most basic things of Christianity. William said that he got involved in everything that he could. He was in the choir, he went to a young adult group, he was there every time the doors were open, but he did not find Jesus. Lots of the people in the church came on Sundays and then during the week they were still involved in their sacrifices. When they got sick they still went to the witch doctor and they still lived in fear of the power of Satan.

He left the church for a while and some terrible stuff happened in his life. One day, about three years ago someone told him about Jesus and he said that everything changed. The pieces finally fit together and he understood his life. He walked away from everything and committed his whole life to knowing God and telling other people about Him. Jason and I eat lunch with him and a few other people everyday and sometimes he tells us about conversations that he has been having with Muslim or Animist friends. He shakes his head and says, "They just don’t understand" and then he gets a smile on his face and as he talks about Jesus and what Jesus has done in his life.

On Easter morning the worship that I saw was the product of a life that has been changed completely. William wasn’t thinking about anything but the sacrifice that Jesus made to have a relationship with him and the power that brought Jesus back to life.

As I have been thinking about this over the past two days one of my all-time favorite songs has been playing in my mind: One Pure and Holy Passion. It’s a really simple song, here are the words:

Give me one pure and holy passion
Give me one magnificent obsession
Give me one glorious ambition for my life
To know and follow hard after You

To know and follow hard after you
To grow as your disciple in your truth
This world is empty, pale, and poor
Compared to knowing you, my Lord
Lead me on and I will run after you
Lead me on and I will run after you

Thursday, March 20, 2008

if my friend killed my goat...

It’s possible that most of you have heard the joke about Sunday school where the teacher is describing something small and furry that lives in a tree. She asks the children what it is. One little boy pipes up and says it sounds like a squirrel, but the right answer is always "Jesus". Yeah, I know it’s a bit of a groaner, but I bring it up because I had a similar experience today when I was grading homework.

Jovens Para Cristo (Youth for Christ) is a Christian school, so we do talk about Jesus. We learn verses and read things from the Bible and have discussion about those things. We also learn grammar and practice discussing lots of other things. Yesterday we learned about how to talk about imaginary situations and consequences – ex: If something funny happened I would blog about it.

On the homework I gave the students some imaginary situations and asked them to make a complete sentence with the situation and a possible consequence. One of the situations was "Your friend was taking care of your goat and it died." Most people put answers that I would expect: "If my friend was taking care of my goat and it died I could take the meat and eat it." or "If my friend was taking care of my goat and it died I might never forgive him for what he did." But, one answer was different. It felt just like a typical "Sunday school" answer and it made me laugh a bit, so I thought I would share it with you: "If my friend was taking care of my goat and it died I would give him a grace of the only Lord in the sky to help that he or she gave to my goat while he died." hehe, yup, still makes me laugh.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Keep Emily Cool

So there is something that has been making me laugh every time I think about it and I wanted to run it by you guys. Most of you know my friend Fernando (from Guinea-Bissau, came to the States for 6 months to study English at the University of West Florida recently arrived back). Yesterday after we taught some American idioms to our third level English class (like a chicken with its head cut off, frog in my throat, butterflies in my stomach, etc) I was talking to him about the things that he learned in his English classes in the States. I asked him if they had done any idioms, and he said not exactly but their teachers had taught them some American expressions like: "that’s banging" meaning "that’s cool", and my favorite: "crackalackin’ ".

Have I been out of America so long that crackalackin’ is a real thing that people actualy say? Sometimes I feel like I have lost touch with American pop culture a little bit - I don’t know who the current Idol contestants are and I am not really interested in Brittnay and her baby problems. But have I lost touch this much? Tell me honestly, have you used the word crackalackin’ in the past month??? Do I need to add it to my vocabulary so I can be a crackalackin individual (Was that it? Did I do it right? I need to know... )?

Keep Emily cool - fill me in on the shizzle (Wait, do people still say shizzle? Did people ever say shizzle? I’m getting so confused ).

Monday, March 17, 2008

a Few Things

Right now I am super-excited . One of the ladies who has worked at the youth center forever became a Christian this weekend. People have been sharing the gospel with her for years and she has believed in Jesus for a while, but she didn’t want to give up her sacrifices and ceremonies, so she hadn’t given her heart to God. She has five kids, the oldest of which are teenagers, and her husband died a few years ago.

She was really sick and in the hospital this past week and when she got back she told one of our friends here that she had decided to give her life to Jesus. He talked to her for a while and she seemed really confident about it. She wasn’t back at work today because she is still recovering, but I am going to go visit her soon.

It is not that common for someone her age to become a Christian here because by that point most people are really involved in doing the ceremonies for themselves and for their families and they are responsible for the sacrifices for their children, etc.

I can’t even imagine the freedom after more than 40 years of living in fear of Satan. I also can’t imagine how hard it would be to walk away from your entire way of life. She has been released from the promises and pacts she has made with Satan. She has a God that she can know and who wants to know her. Wow! Ok, so like I said I am super excited.

On a different note, we only have three weeks left here, which is totally unbelievable to me… Seriously, where did the time go this time?

When we leave here we have a layover in Frankfurt, Germany. While we were booking the tickets the agent told us that the price of the ticket didn’t change if the layover was a few hours or a month, so we opted for a longer one so that we could see a little bit of Europe. We have 19 days and we are planning on spending most of the time in Germany with a quick trip to Salzburg, Austria and Prague in the Czech Republic. I am sure we’ll take lots of pictures and Jason might even post a movie or two

Over the past few weeks we have mostly been working. Jason taped some cool new language videos (like the Fula one), but he hasn’t had a chance to edit them yet. We did visit one of our friends, Roberta, on her son’s first birthday so I thought I would share some pictures of that with you.

Here’s me with the birthday boy, Meno. He was in a really good mood and for some reason I made him laugh a lot.

He really liked it when we put our heads together. He would laugh and then squeal and wiggle. I can’t really convey the cuteness in a picture, but trust me, it was adorable.

We have gotten to be friends with our neighbors here, Charlotte, and Salva. This past Friday night we went to a concert with them and we had a good time. Charlotte is from France and she is teaching and supervising teachers at a French school here in Bissau. (She studied English in college and then went to Portugal for a few years and taught there, so she speaks French, Portuguese, English, and now Creole.) Salva is her boyfriend and he is a doctor from Spain. He has spent some time in Portugal, and I’m not really sure where else, but he speaks good English too. At the concert we were joined by another French woman, her Guinean boyfriend, and three people from Spain. It’s so funny to be from all over and have Creole as a common language.

Charlotte and Salva had an oyster baking party today so we stopped over and had a few. Correction, I had a few, Jason ate about 40. They had a huge bag full of them, and they went down to the port to buy them, so they were fresh and pretty cheap. I took a few pictures and I thought I would share them with you guys.

I know this picture is a little blury, but if you look at the right side of this oyster you can clearly see the letters USA... We really have no idea how it got there, but when Charlotte opened it up, there it was. Weird!

This is Charlotte about to start munching some party food.

One of the benefits of living near the ocean – big shrimp. They were pretty good too! You just take off the head with the guts, peel off the shell and legs and pop them in your mouth!

So, that’s about it right now. See you soon.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Wild and Dangerous

You know how sometimes something you read just really connects with you on a deep level? I had that experience today. I picked up a little book called A Boy Who Cried Abba by Brennan Manning. It is a parable so it's not really a long story (I read it in about half an hour), but it was powerful!

The basic plot of the story is that there is a young Mexican boy named Willie Juan whose terrible life is transformed from the inside out by a series of encounters with a medicine man. The medicine that the man has is free and it's not for healing your body primarily, it's for healing your soul. At one point in the story the boy goes to the Cave of Bright Darkness to meet the medicine man (El Shaddai) and before he comes to him a voice calls out his name. Willie Juan answers, and asks who are you? This is the response:

"To most I am known as Danger, Willie Juan. I make my presence known in water, wind, and fire. I am Spirit, without shape, form, or face. Those who seek safety try to summon me like a tame lapdog. They crave security instead of growth. They have no tolerance for mystery, certain that they can know everything knowable. The week-kneed do not love Danger. They are afraid I will call them to become what they are not. They call me Comforter for all the wrong reasons and are surprised when no comfort comes to them."

Wow! Take a minute and read that again…

Right now I am doing a conversation series in the Sunday night English service we have here watching and discussing the movie Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. I remember reading that series of books over and over as a kid and all throughout they talk about Aslan (who represents Jesus) as "not a tame lion". I always loved that and it always scared me. Here in this story the name of the Holy Spirit is Danger and that makes me feel the same way.

I do not serve a safe God. I do not serve a God who wants me to know everything and feel secure and comfortable. I serve a God who can change me, transform me, stretch me, and take me places that I've never dreamed of. A God who has more for me than just surviving life. A God who can heal me on the deepest levels and use me to bring healing to others. He has a path for me – a purpose to fulfill the desires that He has placed in my heart.

Does that sound like the God you know? If it doesn't you're missing out. I think that we should let Him out of the safe box that we have shoved Him in and see what a wild, dangerous, fiercely-loving God wants to do with us…

Friday, March 7, 2008

A Few Thoughts

Well we've got just about a month left and the time is flying. I am excited to go home and see everyone! I am also sad to be leaving. I love my work and I love the people here.

Jason and I have been thinking and praying a lot about the future and sometimes it seems like we're just going in circles. I want to know everything now so that I can get ready for it all. I know that's not how God works, but I've been praying so long that I just want feel some resolution.

Last Sunday night in the English service here we were singing a song called Step by Step. I think most of you have heard it (I will seek You in the morning, and I will learn to walk in Your ways, and step by step You'll lead me, and I will follow You all of my days, etc). When Fernando was introducing the song he had Ruth walk across the stage and he walked behind her stepping exactly where she stepped. He talked about how this song teaches us the way that we should follow God.

When he was talking it kind of hit me that Ruth could've turned right or left and because Fernando was following her he would have turned that way too. It's the same with God I think. Sometimes He shows me where He is going, but sometimes He just asks me to step in His steps. I would like to know if I am going to be turning right so that I can get ready with all of my right turn stuff, but it should be enough for me to know that if I am following God each day He won't leave me. He will stay one step ahead of me, revealing each day. That is what He has promised and that is all I need to know.

So, right now is step-by-step - walking behind God, following the desires He has put into my heart, making plans loosely, fully expecting Him to turn at any minute.

As I have changed my focus from "the future" to right now I have felt a big burden lift off of my shoulders. I was getting so frustrated about not making big decisions that I was not feeling at peace with any of my small decisions. Not any more (at least until God has to teach me again…). Right now I am content with what I know and I am learning to be content with an ever changing picture of my future.