Into the Wild.

 

 

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The first time I visited Mwanza I was in a car accident. Phil and I were ‘just good friends’ and we were with the loveliest team – from Stourbridge, San Rafael and Coventry…

We entered the Serengeti with the roof up; Phil and I cozy on the front seat, team cameras ready, wind blowing in our hair.

Our guide decided we would like to see the ostriches. A whole herd of the odd looking birds with their skinny legs, big body and black feathers, those wings might not do much but those legs can run – not my favorite.

As our guide took off the path, and accelerated faster… the thrill quickly turned to threat as the jeep hit an area of water and we began to aquaplane.

Slow motion gliding ensued until the driver with no control let go, as did the truck – we spun and rolled – sending us in different directions.

I will spare the gory details but the scene was a mess – I lay motionless on the ground, with a potential broken back, a friend trapped under the vehicle, another broken collarbone. Detail spared.

Help was scarce – the first help came in the form of a man on a bike – then a packet of twenty cigarettes – perfect timing for us who had given up smoking to start again.

Help was eventually found in the form of a dump truck where we were loaded up, with me on the roof of the flipped truck as my stretcher. We were admitted to a nearby hospital where Phil took X-rays, a friend was operated on and the Masai nursed us on a maternity ward. We were thankful to be transported out of the area the next day by MAF (love you forever MAF) after the village had cleared an unused airstrip for us.

Fast-forward 18 years.

I woke on Wednesday at 4.30am to torrential rain. A storm of storms – lightening illuminating the whole house – thunder shaking the foundations – rain, rain, rain. It lasted for hours.

What’s more, it was our day off…and the team were excited to see the Serengeti!

My worst kind of traveling weather. Ugh.

As the morning progressed and our guide was late picking us up (TIA)

I began to feel more and more anxious about the trip, memories were flooding, images, fear, anxiety.

I began to pace up and down the living room.

‘Breathe Michelle Breathe.’

‘Jesus – me and you – we can do this.’

Cheryl sat reading her bible ‘read something to me’ I asked. As the word began to sink in – the presence of God arrived in freedom and healing. The trauma attached to the accident still evident and needing a freedom only God can bring. The team gathered. I had not orchestrated this moment, but God clearly had.

My bible was open to Isaiah 43.

‘Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you. I’ve called your name. You’re mine. When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you…’

You’re mine

When our life is entrusted to the ultimate healer… it means healing is constant and a process.

I have personally seen God’s healing in many ways – sometimes through personal prayer and reading God’s word – many times through counselling and therapy – and often through the Spirit of God orchestrating ‘a moment’ – and the beauty of those moments all woven together.

The enemy of our souls likes nothing more than to keep us bound in trauma, past experiences and old habits.

The lover of our soul changes that.

How He loves us!

So, in my new found freedom. I honestly felt immediately different – if only it were always like that eh?

I sat fearless in the front of the jeep for a new Safari experience.

Where we saw everything we wanted to see.

Where we were first at the scene for the best.

I told Stephen our guide – you need to know we will see a rainbow today and I spoke to him of God’s promise over our lives and what that means. Of course we did – and this rainbow was over us and ahead of us for miles.

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We woke early and opted for a 6am adventure…

‘Oh and Stephen. You need to know that today we will see the lion, not just any lion – but a male adult’.

He smiled.

‘There are no guarantees’ he said.

I smiled.

We were first on the scene for breakfast time in the wild, females and cubs feasting – jackals scurrying and scavenging hyenas laughing.

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We sat for a long time in awe at the scene – just feet away, nature in its glory.

Then… as promised.

Silence descended upon the scene. As did redemption.

As the King had the last laugh.

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Thank you for joining me on my musings from Mwanza!

Be blessed,

Love, Michelle

See below for more Serengeti pics…

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‘There is Love in our home now’

 

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It’s Saturday, 10am and 65 ladies slowly arrive.

They are dressed in their brightest and boldest, dresses and scarves flow, some even bridesmaid-esque.

The guests arrive by foot, ferry and dula dula.

There’s a feeling of celebration is in the air.

It’s time for our women’s seminar!

New notepads and expectancy are in hand … not forgetting the introduction of the ‘door prize’.

The first sessions explored what it means to live in intimacy with God and the life we are promised in doing so.

The team shared during the afternoon session – we had spoken of intimacy, so naturally spoke of the fruit produced and how that might look in our own lives.

Testimonies flowed. As did tears. Women are women.

One of my favorite parts of the day was the lunch we provided for these lovelies.

Served by the men. Yes the men.

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One lady commented how the food was like that served at a wedding.

A wonderful prophetic sign.

“He has taken me to the banquet hall, and his banner over me is love.” Song of Solomon 2:4

God had clearly ordained this time for these women – to be spoiled and cared for – for feasting and fun.

We declared the goodness of God and the banner of love waved high.

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As the day went on, we heard stories and we became friends I was reminded of my other favourite feast – of Psalm 23.

‘You spread out a table before me, provisions in the midst of attack from my enemies, You care for all my needs, anointing my head with soothing, fragrant oil, filling my cup again and again with Your grace’

God promises a feast set in the midst of a battlefield. Undaunted by evil or troubles. A feast prepared for these women in the midst of their enemies.

Their enemies?

Many the same as mine and yours. Many not.

Marriage problems, making ends meet, concerns for future, health issues.

There was much darkness to overcome, vivid nightmares to battle and the influence of witch doctors to flee.

These women saw a reprieve from their battles, as we declared the goodness of God enabling them to see the banner of love waving more once.

In addition to great food –  we feasted on the provision of promise, the sustenance of comfort – rest – peace – friendship – hugs – hope for another day…

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Psalm 23 speaks of the word ‘table’, you spread out a table – meaning to grow long, reach, spread and stretch forth. My prayer for these women as we sat together was that the provision and sustenance would go far beyond what we could see.

On our final morning a Living Waters watchman came to tell us that his wife had been at the seminar and had met Jesus.

His words were enough ‘there is love in our home now’…

Yes!

I just read this prayer today… for my sisters in Africa and for you wherever you are.

Join me in praying?

Lord, look…

Marriage & kids & relationships & people are ridiculously hard…. and they can make our hearts grow hard & our legs go soft & bottom line: we have no idea how to keep going on.

And You hearten us, Your Word breathing fresh hope into our bones:

“Be brave. Be strong. Don’t give up….

Become wise; point your life in the right direction…

You’re so steady & determined in your faith despite all the hard times that have come down on you…” 


That’s all Lord.

Make the bruised, brave.

Make the wounded, wise. 


Make the daunted, determined.

In the name of the only One who loved us to death & back to the real & forever life… In Jesus’ name,

Amen.

More soon,

Love, Michelle

 

 

The Least of These.

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Hi friends,

I am currently writing a few musings from my recent trip to Africa. Here’s the third.

When I first visited the Maskini 18 years ago it was in the city of Mwanza. This community would sleep by the water at night under makeshift then beg by day. As Mwanza developed over the years, their presence became a hindrance, until one day government intervened – they went to the city and forced the whole community into government vehicles and relocated them into a rural area miles from the city. Emotions of many were intense as this people group were uprooted without choice.

Shortly after, the river rose flooding the area where the Maskini once lived, they too would have been drowned if they hadn’t been moved.

Mysteries.

We travelled to the Maskini – the poorest, this community of generations where the eldest had suffered from leprosy, having lost limbs, fingers and toes, worn fabric wrapped around bodies.

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We arrived laden with donations of clothes we had collected from home and our Hope Centre at Willow Park. We also took huge bags of bulk food to distribute.

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But first, we gathered the community in their hall.

Without sound systems and speakers, mics and perfect acoustics we experienced the most beautiful worship, I am sure heaven joined in with the harmonies from a place of poverty and brokenness.

Beautiful.

Agricola asked me to share a thought. I looked at the few notes I had written and realized much of my Western creativity needed to go. What remained was raw truth.

I realized when all of my poetic quotes were removed our common language was the truth of scripture.

These people didn’t need clever words but encouragement that they were loved. Encouragement that we all belong to the same family, that God himself had adopted us, from the ends of the earth – the rich and poor. Encouragement that being adopted meant we could know an unconditional love often beyond our comprehension, yet somehow, their worship appeared to comprehend this love…

We had the privilege of praying for our new family, these outcast lives absent from touch were offered hands and hugs.

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We enjoyed giving clothes to the children, replacing rags with our own kids clothes. Replacing babies bare skin with love.

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Nouwen writes. ‘This is our great challenge and consolation.  Jesus comes to us in the poor, the sick, the dying, the prisoners, the lonely, the disabled, and the rejected.  There we meet him, and there the door to God’s house is opened for us’

We were created to touch. Yet so often, leprosy, whether actual or the leprosy of today, in all of its forms, prevents us reaching out and physically touching another person.

Let us change that, let’s keep the door to God’s house wide open.

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More tomorrow!

Love, Michelle x

‘When did we find You hungry and give You food? When did we find You thirsty and slake Your thirst? 38 When did we find You a stranger and welcome You in, or find You naked and clothe You? When did we find You sick and nurse You to health? When did we visit You when You were in prison? I tell you this: whenever you saw a brother or sister hungry or cold, whatever you did to the least of these, so you did to Me’ Matthew 25

 

Out of Africa

Hi Friends!

For the past 2 weeks I led a team of women from our home church in Kelowna, BC to Living Waters, Mwanza, Tanzania. The journey of 4 planes over 40 hours was certainly a time for our team of 8 to bond. A quick stop at Kilimanjaro, Emily and I pushing 8 suitcases outside of Naritobi airport, unexpected tourist Visas and Ebola screening added to the experience.

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We were volunteering with Living Waters, a charity Phil and I have been involved with for many years. I was excited to return to Mwanza and join in with all that God is doing through the ministry.

In terms of staying in touch with YOU my prayer-ers and cheerleaders, my plan was to blog throughout the trip – this didn’t happen.

So! Having been at home for a few of days and beginning to find a time zone that is beginning to resemble my own, I will share a daily musing from my African experience for the next few days.

Join me as I process? Starting now… 2pm PST. 10pm GMT. 1am East Africa.

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Sunrise in Mwanza

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Graduation. Celebration. 

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One of the first events we were involved at Living Waters was the graduation of 26 students from the Living Waters Elementary School. DSC04040

Some moving onto Secondary education. Some not. We look forward to the day when the Living Waters Secondary School exists!

I was asked to share a few thoughts at the graduation.

I love this verse printed on the Living Waters School uniform from Jeremiah 29:11 ‘For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.’

Truth. Yes. But sometimes I struggle with putting verses ‘out there’ without being a part of the application.

God uses us imperfect ones to fulfill His word and as much as I love Jeremiah 29:11 – I believe this verse needs action. Ours.

Before Living Waters Education Centre was in existence – before the building was built and teachers were employed and classrooms were full – local children would gather at Carolyn’s home.

The children who did not go to school. Those who were not receiving an education.

Living Waters staff would pull out a blackboard, lean it up against the wall and teach this handful of locals.

Back to the graduation – the first thing that came to mind as I shared with these young people and their family is the power of vision.

Carolyn pursued her God given dream and vision of a school despite setbacks and opposition. Despite it appearing to be beyond what could naturally be achieved.

In front of me sat 26 children who believed they have a hope and a future, experiencing first hand James 2:17 which speaks of faith being useless without actions.

Following the graduation, we sat with these teens in their royal blue graduation outfits drinking bottles of Fanta and asked them ‘What do you want to be’?

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We asked ‘Where? Here in Mwanza’?

Presuming they would want to escape to a ‘better life’ with their qualifications.

‘We want help the poor and the orphans – not in Mwanza’ one said ‘But with the poorest….like Somalia, where it’s desperate’.

Living Waters has not only offered an academic education but also the gift of discipleship and teaching children to recognize their God given calling too.

‘Works demonstrate what is alive on the inside. Outwardly manifesting an inward faith’

God sees the hearts of these young ones and I’m sure He is pleased.

Let us learn from them.

More tomorrow!

Love. Michelle x

An African Adventure.

As you know we have been in the UK for the last few weeks. The final 10 days of our trip saw Phil, Emily and Jessica embark on an African adventure.

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Our long-standing relationship with Living Waters in Mwanza, Tanzania drew us back again to minister and work with our good friend Carolyn Philpott.

Phil sent prayer updates while they were away so I thought it’d be good to summarize them and add some of their pictures.

Today has been a busy day. I started the day praying high on a hill, gazing across Lake Victoria, as fishermen returned from a night on their tiny boats. Small lights across the water that look like a city afloat. Mud huts litter the hill and the smell of charcoal cooked breakfasts linger in the air.

 The faithful old Land Rover took us through dusty roads as we drove along the lakeshore. Lines of women carrying water, balanced beautifully, children holding hands walking to school, the dust lingering long.

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We proceeded deeper into the bush in search of a small hidden mud hamlet and a green valley that we hope will become a garden to feed the school children and orphans.

Food and education are two beautiful gifts we can offer.

     We stood on a rock hill and looked across this green land. The visit ended with chatting to the local chief. Jessica and Emily were surrounded by lots of children, who clearly had no school. They introduced them to digital photos and the wonder of the mini iPad.

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There was no church in the area, we prayed and dreamed of bearing other fruit for eternity.

Driving back I noticed spots I had preached at over ten years ago, small country schools, shady trees and the odd church building with no windows.

We arrived back at the village to a packed hall of 100 youth and adults. I was expected to preach for an hour and a half. I completed my task with passion then answered biblical questions for another hour. Emily and Jess will never complain about my sermons at Willow again!

  Friday was a day of the spoken word, We enjoyed a school assembly. Emily and Jessica answering questions about Canada, school and snow.

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I preached for four hours throughout the day in four meetings. Scorching heat powered through the tin roof, I drove through the heat with the truth of God’s. I have to confess that the smallest faded into a blissful sleep.

Many responded to the teaching. The teaching went deeper as we followed the trail of thought. We welcomed a whisper of wind, a refreshing gift from Lake Victoria. The questions became sharper from the teachers. My final hour dealt with marriage, contraception and the attitude of the Tanzanian man towards their wives. A biblical view of same sex marriage, the western church, the second coming, judgmental churches and back sliders. I really felt we trekked into cultural attitudes and offered clear biblical reflection.

  On Saturday morning, Emily and Jessica lead a morning of crafts, with children from the orphanage. Colorful beads, ribbons and cotton were in abundance as all the children proudly wore their new treasures around the village.

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I will post the second half of their trip tomorrow.

The Africa, England and the Canada time zones have created confusion in our minds and bodies this week.

The Canada time zone is getting closer everyday…

For now…Goodnight.

Love, Michelle xo

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