Monday, January 19, 2009

Monday Manna: Anywhere But Africa

While contemplating what I should write about this evening, I came across a meme originated by Joanne at An Open Book. Immediately I knew I had my topic, even though the meme is called "Monday Manna" and Monday will be over in a few short hours. The meme concerns this verse found in Isaiah 6:8:

“Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ and I said, “Here am I. Send me.”

As I mentioned in an earlier blog, I’ve been reading My Utmost For His Highest, and Oswald Chambers dealt with Isaiah 6:8 on January 14. This quote from his thoughts stayed with me. “Whether or not I hear God’s call depends upon the state of my ears; and what I hear depends upon my disposition.”

One of my favorite recollections of church as a child was the annual mission conference. Two or three missionaries would come to our church during this time to share stories and present information about their ministry and the country to which they had been sent.

I listened intently to their stories, which sometimes had us laughing at a cultural or language boo-boo. I recall one missionary sharing his confusion over the snickers that spread through an Asian crowd as he began to speak of the Sermon on the Mount. Later he learned that he had been referring to it as “the sermon on the noodles.”

Stories of demon possession and witch doctors kept me transfixed, but terrified. Still other stories made me squirm…killing snakes with machetes, eating strange foods so as not to risk offending anyone, the lack of good hygiene and bathroom facilities.

I remember Isaiah 6:8 often being quoted in the context of missions as a challenge to go and share the gospel in foreign lands. Although I loved meeting the missionaries and listening to their stories, my childish heart secretly hoped that God would never direct that question toward me, especially not in regards to some creepy place with snakes and witch doctors. Eventually I amended my thoughts to, “okay, if I am supposed to be a missionary, I’ll go anywhere but Africa.” I rationalized that God surely wouldn’t want to send me to place for which I had a natural aversion.

I was somewhat more mature at the age of twenty when I married John, and by that time I had begun thinking seriously about spending some time as a missionary. I remember discussing it with my new husband. He was a pilot and thought being a missionary bush pilot sounded interesting, but within a few months we discovered I was pregnant and we realized we couldn’t afford to prepare for missions and raise a family, too.

My husband and I have supported missionaries on our own, and one of our sons has journeyed to several countries for short-term ministry. We love and appreciate so many things about the Bible teaching church we attend -the church in which we’ve raised our family and grown in our relationships with the Lord and other believers. But it isn’t a church that emphasizes foreign missions. In recent years, however, the subject of missions has been nagging at my heart, and I have felt compelled to read several missionary biographies. God began speaking, and I listened.

A few years ago we began corresponding with a pastor from Zambia. As we’ve learned more about that country and the many orphaned children his church ministers to through their school, my heart has been stirred with love and compassion; something I found ironic, considering my feelings toward Africa in my younger days. We have been invited to visit Zambia, but it is a risky country to visit, and our safety cannot be reasonably assured.

A couple of months ago I received an invitation from Heart of God International Ministries to join them on a short-term mission trip to Uganda in June. The people and their plight, including many orphaned children, are so similar to those of Zambia, and my heart was immediately stirred once again. This time I was fairly certain it was God’s voice I heard. As a result I sent off my application last Friday, and now I’m waiting to see how the rest of the story unfolds. I’m excited, and a little terrified, too.

This has been a very personal note relating to Isaiah 6:8. I realize the message of this verse goes far beyond the scope of missions, but the state of my ears is such that I’ve heard God’s call, and my disposition is such that I believe He wants me to go to Uganda. I hope by sharing this you will be encouraged to attend to the state of your own ears and your own disposition. Your message from the Father will no doubt be worded specifically for you; and, as in my experience, it may very well be contrary to what you had in mind for yourself.

Another reason I am sharing this is to ask you to pray for me as I prepare for my trip to Uganda; that God would make me useful in this ministry, and then make my experience useful in my life –all for His honor and glory.

Click on the title of this post to visit Joanne's page at An Open Book.


  1. Wow, Sharlyn..this is an awesome post and an exciting testimony! It's so neat to read how the Lord works in each of our lives and every case, he expands us and grows us. I look forward to reading of your experiences when you return and will keep you in my prayers as you prepare for your trip.

  2. PS, I'd like to add your blog to my Blog List...if that's OK with you!

  3. This is excellent, Sharlyn - and YES, you did it right. It's pretty hard not to for this one, as long as you link up right :). I look forward to heading back and checking this out when I have a bit of time. I'm also adding you to my blog list :)

  4. Wonderful testimony, Sharlyn! I'm looking forward to the trip, to see what God has in store for all of us. Five months from today we should be on our way! :) I love the way God has continued to speak to you through the years. He is consistent in His calling and preparation. He never changes His mind and those He calls, He equips which is where our faith is tried. If we go in our own strength, we are destined to fail. However, if we go in God's strength, in His anointing, in response to His call, we will have fulfilled His purpose for His glory. And, that's what it's all about. The children in Uganda need those like you who have a heart of obedience and willingness to be used. I'm thrilled to have you as part of the team! :)

  5. SO cool, Sharlyn! Missions is so incredibly important and I'm so excited to hear you might be going to Uganda. I'll be praying!

  6. I will definitely keep you in my prayers. Thank you for sharing your testimony.

  7. This is awesome! What an amazing God! I'm glad you are listening and taking these huge steps of faith. I'm sure He will bless you, though His blessings often come in packages that look different from what we expect! I look forward to hearing more about it.

  8. What a neat story. I remember (I think actually from a missions conference), someone once saying, never tell God "anything but. . ." because that is where he'll end up using you. :) I don't think that's always the case, but God does like to stretch us and bring us to places where he needs to be our sufficiency.

    Zambia (and Zimbabwe) are also on my heart. A friend of mine started a non-profit ministry that works with local churches in Africa to help orphans. He just recently got back from a trip to both countries and both the joy and the pain he witnessed there is mind boggling. You might want to hop over and visit their website sometime and read his blog about his journey.

  9. Praying for you Sharlyn!

    I also ask for your prayers in return, as a pastor and his wife have contacted my husband and I from Liberia (west Africa) about coming to visit them. We are praying about it.

    Your post here touched my heart too, as did Oswald Chamber's devotional of the 14th. I am on my third year through that devotional!



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