The other day, I started playing the guitar again. I really don´t play the guitar well. And most of the time I don´t do anything to change that.
But four years ago, just before I moved to South Africa, I put a lot of effort into playing better.
Now, just as we are about to move to Japan, I pull the old thing out again.
Maybe it is because of Petra. Petra was a missionary in the Central African Republic where I spend some years of my childhood – and I adored her! In my six-year old´s mind, she was the missionary hero. She had come specifically to teach the children of the Zande people, among whom my parents worked. She taught them songs about Jesus that she translated into Pazande before she could even speak the language properly.
From time to time I would be invited to her house – on my own! She would teach me to tie my shoes or to use a sewing machine. Once, I even went to her for a sleepover. Dinner tasted amazingly different there and she read long stories about Jesus to me before I fell asleep.
Petra had a puppet monkey who lived in an old suitcase, she had a long, flowing, hippy-style dress – and she had a guitar (she also had a boyfriend who wrote her long letters that took weeks to be delivered to our little mission station in the African bush. When she got such a letter – and even more when she hadn´t gotten one for a long time – her eyes would be tellingly red. Back then, of course, I did not understand how anyone could long for more than a guitar as your travel companion.)
The guitar was her helper to tell people about Jesus – and, I can sure tell you, it was a pretty cool helper in my eyes!
Maybe that´s why I feel I need to learn how to play the guitar better in this time… Sometimes you just want something to hold on to as you embark on the journey of telling people about Jesus.
And yet – we actually sense these days, that God wants to strip us from everything we are tempted to hold on to.
Time and time again, people told us in these last weeks that they sense God telling us to not rely on anything that we can do ourselves with regards to seeing His Kingdom come, but to solely rely on Him. When so many people think God is telling them something about you – and it ends up being the same message over and over again – you do listen up.
They are saying: Don´t have trust and confidence in yourselves. Have faith in God (which does make a lot of sense, if you think about it – how could we truly trust in our wavering, weak and weary selves? And yet, we seem to not be thinking about it half of the time and fall into worrying, pseudo-controlling and scheming all too often. We culture-savvily call it “stress”, because stress makes you and the steps ahead of you look really important, grown-up and big. All the while it is a great masquerade for fear.)
The opposite of fear is not a great plan or great courage, but faith in a great God.
“If we desire our faith to be strengthened, we should not shrink from opportunities where our faith may be tried, and therefore, through trial, be strengthened.”
2015 was our “year of faith”.
In 2015 we said the final yes to God´s call to Japan – which also meant a yes to a higher cost of living than we currently have in South Africa. In a breathtaking way that fills us with humble gratitude to our God and His people our income has increased without us asking anyone except for our Father in Heaven.
In 2015 we stood in many lines and waited many hours at government offices. We often lost patience and joy. And yet, all the necessary documents have been issued.
In 2015 we were blessed, loved, prayed for and given to by a German Protestant church that was started around 1554 and a South African Charismatic church that was started about five years ago.
In 2015 we got angry way too often because we got stressed way too often, we lost faith when we listened to a world that screams “impossible” at a lifestyle where God is provider and employer and Father so very practically. We failed to testify of His goodness and joined the crowd´s complaints. We thought of ourselves more than we wanted to and we didn´t give as much as we wanted to.
2015 was a year full of opportunities where our faith may be tried and it was a year in which God truly proved Himself faithful and good.