broken wall

tonight the bush is hoppin.  Someone down the road is having a party, could be a wedding not sure, anyways that simply means Nigerian music is loudly flowing through the bush, and a large moth seems to want to help me write this blog.  It’s a late night, since it’s Friday the kids got to stay up and watch movies, and it was just really chill.  I love just being in a room with all of them in it.  It’s what I have prayed about and dreamed about for so long.  God really does do more than we could ever ask or imagine, by HIS power at work within us.  I would have never in a million years imagined it would be this sweet to be with them, some of my favorite moments ever are happening here.  I kind of made myself a deal, I think subconsciously without really realizing it, and it was this–> I am normally a kid who will shed a few tears here and there, anything that really has depth dealing with Jesus and/or people can make me tear up or often cry, I knew after a gillion conversations with Anna though, and seeing pictures that I would have to wear a thicker skin while in Nigeria or I would be in tears the whole time.  This I would like to think was my Africa wall.  There have been moments where the wall had to come up quickly such as, meeting the kids for the first time.  For the most part though i’ve been way less emotional than normal. I think part of that really is that I am in Africa, and I see so much broken all day that I wouldn’t stop crying if I ever started, and I think the second part of that is that it hurts in a way that I have never really felt before and so there is almost this “i’m not sure how to handle this feeling.”  Today though that wall came crashing down.  Bev (mom of one of my best friends, and is the wife/ mom of the family I am staying with here) has been taking care of this incredibly sweet older woman named Lucy from the village.  I got to hear her incredible story before I came, so so cool, she is super sick and just became a believer a little while ago, meaning super recent.  When I got in the bus to go to Church last sunday I saw her and honestly was just really excited remembering how the Lord had led her to Himself. Today Bev did a visit to her home though and I got to tag-along.  I’ll paint you the best visual I can with words- which are always my art tool of choice.  She lives in this tiny little shack where very little light comes in.  A couple of calendars hang on the wall, and the wooden window remains shut.  She spends pretty much all day long in her bed, and she lit up when we walked in today.  She reached out her hands for Bev, and just thanked us for coming. She apologized to me for not having anything to give me, and simply asked me how my mom was.  She is weak from her illnesses, and just super tired from everyday life.  My African wall broke at this though- Lucy knows Jesus. She has called on Him in His character, Savior & Lord.  In the midst of this tiny African hut, with little light, a list of severe disease there was hope.  Yes, real tangible hope.  Lucy is fighting this battle for her life everyday, but Lucy has hope in her Savior, and hope in the life that is to come where there will be no more pain. I pictured Lucy today running around, and just dancing in being free from all of it.  There was nothing to extend today to Lucy expect Jesus.  He is our hope.  As Bev prayed for her tears silently ran down my face.  The Lord delights in this woman, in her childlike faith, in her sincere longing to be with Him. She belongs to the Most High.  The Lord heard the prayer from that hut today, and He hears and sees Lucy everyday.  He is so near to us. So close. and there is hope in the midst of the most desperate moments.  Lucy sweetly begged us to stay with her, and we told her we would be back soon, and we will.  When Lucy told me today she had nothing to offer me–> I want to go back and tell her that she offered me hope.  the Lord used her as such a sweet reminder that He is sovereign in all. that we are heard. that we are His. and that NOTHING can separate us from that love.  WE came back to the compound and I just went and laid on my bed.  I didn’t feel like talking, or playing, I just needed a minute to cry, and to tell God thanks for everything that He is.  In the short moments with Lucy today many layers of selfishness were stripped off of my heart, and by His grace my African wall collapsed….today was also filled with trying a few new African foods, I cannot pronounce the names of any of them, and one was off a plant.  Not sure what it was I just stuck it in my mouth and rolled with the punches.  I liked all of it, but am sticking to my choco balls and peak milk 🙂  that will forever be my go to in Nigeria.  So thankful for this place, and for this sweet time here. Tomorrow marks about a week until I head back to the states and I pray I am not forgetting all that He is teaching me here.  My flight back to Lagos, London, and Dallas will be filled with journal after journal of all that He is showing me.  Abbs will pick me up from the airport and probably get ear fulls of all the incredible things God is doing in this place.  And my incredible parents and best friends will probs have to be patient with me for hours as I unload about this country and these people. There was also more today than I know how to process yet, and is still rubbing weird on my heart. I’m sure the stories will come in time but not yet.  So for the story list: the children praying at Christ Church, our visit to the university (UNN), seeing the plague of prostitution, washing hands of something that never comes off (children), and dressing like a girl 🙂  Also- baby Joy used foam from an ironing board today to become a princess, absolutely adorable.  thanks so much for reading. I will continue updating.  The prayers and encouragement are appreciated far beyond what you can fathom.  Cannot wait to see y’all back in the states. Hung out in Psalm 28 & 29 today and it is true the LORD is the strength of His people! Gonna go climb under my mosquito net.  Buckets of love from the bush!

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market mayhem

Good Evening from the bush.  it’s been another incredible day in africa, and once again i am just flat thankful for the goodness of our God.  today was one of my favorite days of this trip up to this point due to this little orange ball that has always had a solid place in my heart known as basketball.  I knew that there was a basketball in the trunks that flew over with me from the states, and today was the day we got it out. they loved it, cheered for it, and were so excited that it finally made it s way out of the trunk and was aired up.  We dribbled and passed and shot all along the compound. It was so so fun, and ahhh just woke my heart my heart up in a whole new way.  God is so good all the time.  After basketball we got to go the market round 2.  There is so much culture in that place in blows my mind.  I literally could just sit in that place and people watch all day long.  the good news of the market today is that I found the African foods that i love..yes, most of you probably won’t believe this but it’s true.  there is a cereal called choco balls, and this awesome milk product called cowbell.  it’s pretty much powdered milk in a can that you mix with water and sugar.  this will probably be a ton of my diet until I return to the states, it is so so good.  if you mix it with the drink i love here called nutri-c, i am set!  another cool experience today was riding on public transport- holy buckets- there were so many people in such a small space it was incredible.  there is no personal space bubbles in Nigeria, your space is also everyone else’s.  It cracks me up, and i don’t really mind being close to people so hey the more the merrier!  today was pretty simple as a whole, but that is what i really love about being here.  i didn’t get out my planner to see what i was doing, i rarely looked at my watch, and my cell phone was only filled with encouragement and continued prayer.  it’s different here, but I appreciate so much about both here and home.  It’s so cool to see the Lord be so present and active in both places.  He is God of the nations, and He does live.  There is such a need here for sound doctrine, and a true teaching of Scripture.  It makes my heart beat fast, and is a constant reminder to me that we have to got to be diligent to daily be in His Word. so thankful that He promises to engrave it on our hearts.  while I write this in complete dark- yes when the sun goes down in Nigeria, and the generator goes off, it is all dark- anyways while writing in the dark I am just so reminded of how desperate we are for Light. We need Him flat out, whether you are the blind man I saw wandering around in the market today, or whether you are the wealthiest person ever in the heart of the U.S. you are in desperate need of Jesus everyday.  I am in desperate need of Jesus everyday, and John 15 continually rings out in my mind that I am nothing apart from Him. literally nothing.  Thankful that He is all I can extend to these people in Africa.  Jesus. His Love. the Truth. the Gospel in Full. Lived out.  daily. He is faithful and sufficient in all.  so worthy of all glory, honor, and praise.  Ahhh. ok gonna go try to sleep I think. it’s been a full day in the bush, and while my body clock is still on american time, I don’t mind laying in my bed, with two of the most precious kids ever sleeping on my floor, hearing the noises of the bush, just thanking God for all that He is, who He calls us to be, and the sweet opportunities He gives us all the time.  He really is so so good.  Been diggin in 1 Timothy 6 and am so continually challenged there.  Check it out. so good.  This is where my heart is today….\’\the aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.  1 timothy 1:5.  that is my prayer.  to have that aim and charge.  all by His grace, and prayerfully for His glory.  thanks so much for reading, for praying, and for being huge encouragements.  i have a little over a week left in the bush, and then i will head back to the states, so going to make the most of every opportunity, and really press into all He is teaching me here.  today just stop and look at the people around you, where you, and the opportunities there. love a little deeper, ask a few more questions, listen a little longer, hug a little tighter, and laugh more.  dig and dig in that truth, wear out those knees in prayer, and reflect on that fact that God absolutely delights in you and made you in His own image.  that will never get old, that will always be what makes my heart beat fast.  and He will always be the only one who opens doors like this, for us to see Him all over the world, in all sorts of kinds of His people, in the most wealthy and the most impoverished places, in the market and in the wal-mart, in the bush and in the city, my heart rejoices for He is here.  today my heart began to take the labels off of Nigeria- the Lord is continuing to remove scales from my eyes- to see past the shattered, and to see that He is here! so so thankful.  Will update soon.  love love from the bush! 

heart check

Everyday here is a constant opportunity tohttps://steftaylorhedoesmore.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post-new.php check my heart, to take my mind and heart before the Lord and really ask Him to reveal the things that need to be transformed and renewed into the likeness of His ways.  I tried to update the blog last night, but due to the diving termites I was not able to.  Yesterday was so fun filled with lots of soccer, a beautiful African sunset, and some of the most precious kids on the planet, I am convinced.  My reactions are driving me crazy, because my heart and mind are often doing two different things. My heart goes into straight love mode, I know that has to be only Jesus because nothing in my flesh is good on my own, and my mind kicks into what I will call “American” mode.  My mind gets anxious fast, nervous fast, and just fears really what has been unknown to me because of the way (which is a HUGE blessing) I have grown up in and live in the U.S.  I know when people travel to third worlds they always come back saying- I will never take this or that for granted again- I can tell you that is one of the many cries of my heart right now.  Lord, thank you thank you thank you.  Not just for things that are material, but for real relationship with Him, for incredible people who love me and stick with me in life, His active word, and just ahhh this list could go on for days. As I write this I can hear the sounds of the bush, Nigerian radios, motor bikes riding by, and of course the voices and laughs of really precious children.  Soccer balls beating off the walls of the compound, drums of the radio, and kids being kids.  It amazes me how different things can be, while really similar at the same time.  I wonder what it will be like to go back to the U.S. in just like tenish days and not hear these things when my head hits the pillow at night.  I know I will miss it, and the moments where I long for simple things that I don’t even need, my heart reminds me these opportunities are once in a lifetime, are a glimpse of Heaven, and is truly one of the biggest blessings and gifts I have ever known.  By His grace…For lunch today I tried yam and beans- it was pretty good, kind of like potatoes and beans in the U.S. Don’t worry I lasted like a bite and then it was accompanied by a granola bar and peanut butter.  As much as I am trying to stretch here, I am realizing how often I limit myself, but these is silly boundaries I create to protect myself.  That is a really long subject that I could talk about for days, but for now I’ll just stick with we serve a HUGE God, the Creator of the World, The LORD who lives and who reigns, redeems, saves, and rescues.  He does constantly more than I can begin to fathom or dream of, and I never want to dream small, or live so safe that I miss out on something incredible that He has for me.  This hit my heart on the middle of a make-shift soccer field last night watching the African sunset and getting whopped up on by a bunch of kiddos.  I realized I for sure am getting older, and that they are absolute studs.  Um- there is so much and I wish I could fit every story in here but that literally would take all day and well it is almost time for Wednesday night Bible Study.  Know that your prayers mean more than you could ever begin to fathom, there are literally moments where it is like I can feel them.  So good that peace only comes in knowing Him, and that it trumps every circumstance.  I could not view the poverty or brokenness here without the view and vision of Christ, there is absolutely no way, it is by His grace alone that we are called and get to love and extend the full Gospel through it.  This place really is beautiful and so are these people.  A place of Hope is true to its name, it really is A place of Hope.  This kids are so full of joy, and so excited just to do life everyday.  From doing the wash, to singing praises at night there is a joy here that I haven’t seen much in life, but I absolutely love it.  Thanks so much for reading, I will keep the updates coming.  Pray that you are diggin in that word today, and thanking Him for His absolute sovereignty and grace in our lives.  Jesus lives & saves.  We should be so excited today, and forever.  Thanks for continually loving me so well. It means so so much, even when I am on the other side of the world.  Will update again soon.  Much Love from the Bush!  In His Grace. Stef

clinging tightly.

Holla from Nigeria!   just gonna do a quick run down before I head to bed.  Constantly blown away by what the Lord is doing in this place, and with these people.  Beautiful.  The word I continually go back to here.  The last couple days have consisted of hanging out with some of the most beautiful kids on the planet, an incredible family, and just watching God’s creation be God’s wonderful creation.  Yesterday we climbed a huge hill that overlooked villages, and the bush was absolutely breath taking.  I got to climb a mango tree, and eat right off of it. Today we ventured to the market, WOW, and I got to attend a traditional Nigerian wedding ceremony which meant eating garden egg with a peanut butter pepper sauce and drinking Malt.  One Word: HOT! My mouth almost exploded I think.  It was really fun, and just cool to see the culture here.  It blows my mind to see the diversity and yet the unity, so thankful that in Christ we are one body- regardless of all- we remain one. Yesterday for sure was one of my favorite Easter celebrations ever. We went to Church with a stuffed full van, got to hear all about Jesus rising and conquering sin & death, danced during singing, and rode home from church in a dress on the back of a motorbike ( i think we need this in America!) It was so cool because there was no fluff. The main thing was the main thing, that being CHRIST.  One man walked 3 hours just to attend the service. For real 3 hours. That’s so awesome. He ‘s super old and he walked with his small bag 3 hours to hear God’s word go forth.  So thankful for that example.  I also got proposed to, don’t worry, I said no and he already has a wife. But He was the sweetest old man, and had one of the best smiles I have ever seen.  I’m going to head to bed soon, two of the most special kiddos on the planet are asleep on the floor, and I am constantly reminded of God’s faithfulness and sovereignty when I see them.  I wish I knew a better way to communicate that to them that the Lord is truly using them to change my life.  Speaking of communication, got a Nigerian cell phone today :), and am learning a lot about the Ebo language.  I am horrible at it, but it keeps people laughing which is good.  Also in Stef Taylor form- to the wedding today I wore a sweet African Skirt that Abbs let me borrow with Nike crew socks, and TOMS. yes some things never change, even in third world countries.  Thanks so much for reading, I will keep updating, and pictures will be coming soon.  Today I am just again reminded of His grace in our lives, His provision, and His faithfulness.  If you want to read more about A place of Hope please check out their website at http://www.urmyhope.org.  Cannot wait to write more soon.  HE is so good & faithful!

Opened Eyes

Yo from Nigeria! I literally could probably start writing now

and not stop writing until we head to the airport again.  I’m in absolute awe already. Cannot begin to describe with the words in my vocabulary this place.  The people are beautiful, the landscape is beautiful, the city is broken, and my favorite part God is here.  Not that this is a shocking revelation, from Truth we know that it is true, but y’all how beautiful to spend the last day on planes to get to the other side of the world, and show up and get to see, feel, taste, touch the move of God just as powerful here as it is in America.  When my heart gets super anxious, as I lay here and can’t sleep, as I stare at a culture that no part of me understands, these words are my comfort–He is here.  He never leaves.  Literally is willing to dwell inside of me. Guiding, Leading, and Comforting me every single step of the way.  Real talk- my heart is waking up and breaking all at the same time.  My prayer continually for the last five hours or so has been Lord don’t ever let me forget what You are showing me here.  Y’all we are so so so blessed.  It’s unreal.  Not just with material things, yes, those, too though.  But man with families, with His love, with an understanding that our God is relational and passionate about us as His own people for His own glory & for our good.  I have been in Africa for under seven hours and I already want to sit down and write a thousand thank yous, first to Jesus, and then to my incredible parents, family, best friends.  Just saying hey I absolutely love you, and everything the Lord continually teaches me and challenges me with through you.  In a couple of weeks when I get back, please prepare for the biggest hugs of our friendship. Although I am up writing this because I can’t sleep because I am so nervous and scared, I am resting in God being everything He says He is, His active word, His nearness, and am rejoicing in this opportunity to be shaken up, woken up, broken, and just real about the incredible blessing it is to know Jesus as Savior, Lord, and friend– the the beautiful honor it is to share that with others.  Since my feet have hit African soil, my eyes stay on the verge of tears, for a gillion reasons…here is one God- in HIs absolute grace and mercy extended to me through Jesus on the Cross the incredible opportunity of being reconciled back to Himself, of being in true relationship with Him.  By His Spirit, He got my attention through everything.  Through my idols (basketball, relationships, etc.), through my hardness of heart, through my brokenness, through my sin, through my shame, through my hurt, through my materialism & worldly gain & contentment, He got through to me.  Even when I thought the key word was my and me, He restored it with HE!   He pursued me, and swept me off of my feet.  Jesus on the Cross conquered my sin, debt, and death–and now we get to celebrate being reconciled back to relationship with Abba. That is real.  That is truth.  Here is what makes my eyes swell with tears, that message, the FULL gospel message, conquers just as much on poverty stricken African soil as it does on entitled American soil.  He pursues His people, and He wins.  Nothing can stop His love. ever.  I pray that in these next two weeks I am just overwhelmed by that love, and that He uses me as HIs vessel to simply pour it out on HIs people here.  In a few hours I will get on a plane to a village, and then get out to meet and hug kids that have covered my walls for the last ten months.  Our God truly is greater.  He does more.. And I am so thankful tonight that it is all about Him.  I pray that no matter what we’re doing today, whether we are in a third world country, or you are sitting at home with your family, or maybe at your desk at work you are absolutely captivated by the love of Jesus, by the Gospel, by the fact that tomorrow we celebrate, and everyday we get to celebrate the RISEN, REIGNING, LIVING SAVIOR!  Y’all we get to carry His Name everywhere we go, for HIS glory, and by His grace, and in His joy! I pray that as we do that today and everyday we never forget the incredible blessing and honor that it is.  Love that family well today, work unto Jesus today, rejoice in Who He is, and who has called you to be!  I will write more from the Starling home tomorrow! yayay!! Thanks so much for the continual prayer- I truly feel so lifted up and encouraged in this process.  Cannot wait to share with you a gillion stories in a couple of weeks when I get back to the states, in the mean time I will blog on! Bt dub Story reminder #1- Customs- it’s a good one, and for the first time in my life I was so thankful that my parents had me watch all those McGruff drug dog videos as a kid- I used to practicing saying no with the videos and today I got to put it into practice! He is good y’all so so good! In His Sweet Grace with firmly planted ready feet on this African Soil! Psalm 56:3 – so thankful for this Truth- and John 15:5. Come on! lets go!

We are Heard

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
(Ephesians 3:20-21 ESV)

Yo! This verse, has always been my favorite, but as I sit in London a 
couple of hours away from boarding my plane to Lagos, Nigeria I am blown 
away by how true it really is.  When I was sixteen I started really 
praying about getting overseas, with a simple desire to just love
 on kids with Jesus love!  Today I get that opportunity! God is so 
so faithful, and is constantly blowing me away with His sovereignty and 
faithfulness.  The goal is to blog everyday I am in Africa about all the incredible things
 He shows me in and through His people there, and just as I continue to seek Him daily. 
 He's already taught me a ton through this trip and my feet are yet to hit African soil. 
 The Lord mega blessed me with getting to spend the day before this trip with Abbs and the 
Walker clan in Dallas- it was so refreshing to continue to hear just a glimpse of their 
African stories that still light them up today. Abbs' heart still beats so fast for this place,
and for what the Lord is doing here, can't wait to see what they talk about.
so thankful for incredible friendships centered on Him.  I'm crazy humbled in just watching
 the Lord open so many doors and provide in so many ways I could have never fathomed. 
 While my stomach is still pretty nervous, and my heart is probably beating a little faster 
than normal, I could not be more excited to have this opportunity.  About a year ago
 one of my best friends, Anna Joy!, headed from kamp to good ole' Texas, and then on to be
 with her family (the Starlings) in Nigeria.  My request was simple, the Lord just really 
begin stirring it up in my heart, so I just asked Anna if I could pray with her 
intentionally while she was in Africa.  She is a champ and emailed me almost everyday 
to update me on the kids in the orphanage, her family, and just all that the Lord was 
doing in Africa.  I had a blast praying with her, and we still get to go back to those 
emails and are just in awe of God's sovereignty.  He hears us. He really does.  It's truth, 
and He has made it so tangible for us.  From there, I fell head over heels for a bunch of 
kiddos I've never met, and just began really developing a heart for Anna's family and the 
work the Lord was doing through them in Nigeria.  To make a long story short, 
Ephesians 3:20-21, in about 24 hours I will be hugging those kids that stole my heart 
via email in the woods of Golden, Missouri at a little place called KAA. 
 I've been dreaming for months about what it will be like to hug each of them, 
listen to their hearts, and talk with them about the GOD of the nations! I cannot wait 
to update this daily, and put my heart into type, as the Lord continues to reveal more 
and more throughout this African journey.  Thanks so much for reading this, and for 
praying with me y'all.  I have been rocked the last few months just watching God use 
all of you to constantly encourage my heart in this process.  My prayer is simple- 
that Jesus is absolutely exalted, that His Word goes forth, that the Gospel goes
 out continually, and that He would simply use my hands, feet, heart (aka all of me) to
 love on His people in Nigeria.  For now I'm going to run off and get ready to board 
a plane to Africa! He is good, He hears us, and He truly does more than we could ever 
ask or imagine by HIS power at work within us.  Hope you are dreaming today.  He is 
beyond worth it. Thankful this isn't about us, but all about Him!  will update soon! In 
His Grace. Stef!  bt dub- Psalm 28:6-9- check it. Carried me through a 9 hour plane ride 
to London.  I love love love when we just get to trust Him, although my heart feels weak,
 and I feel like a little kid - like first day of Kindergartenish- my heart rests in 
knowing He really is right here, dwelling within me, and He stated the Truth He is never
 going to leave.  Beautiful. Love Love!