dancing with disease

yo from America. yes, i’m officially a blogger- it’s a habit I want to continue.  As I type this morning here are the words that are dancing across my heart — “He allowed me to see, when I danced with HIV, and held hands with Aids, prayed beside typhoid, and watched malaria get saved.” ….this is a line from the poem “African Heartbeat” that I’ve been writing since being back from Nigeria.  The poem will pop up on here so soon, as it is almost finished, but for now that is the line that keeps it going.  There is way too much emotion for my small vocabulary to hold when it comes to describing what its like being back in the states for the last week.  Nothing looks the same to me.  Everything is drastically different than the way I left it, not because it has changed, but because the Lord is changing what I see in it. When I take a drink of water without having to think about where it came from, when I leave a cut open without worrying what it will be exposed to, when I hop in my car and run an errand, when I hear “i love you”  from the incredible people that the Lord has placed in my life–none of these things will ever be the same for me. I pray. I do not wish to go back to to the day where those are simply everyday things that I feel entitled to simply because I was born on American soil…the Lord is the giver of every good gift…I don’t deserve a single thing…it is all by His grace…and He is the One worthy of praise….I can still feel Ugo’s little hand in mine, I can still hear the kids laughing as I attempt Nigerian dance moves, I can taste Nutri-C on a really hot day, and I can feel the heat of being packed in a van with about triple its size limit.  I pray I never forget.  Yesterday I was so sure that part of my pancake was shaped like Africa, and I knew it would just be a day where I really was missing the kiddos.  As it was.  In Church we sang through Mighty to Save and I couldn’t help but get really choked up when we sang “shine Your light and let the whole world see.”  Thankful that He truly is God of the nations, and that He is at work all over the globe- not limited by time, space, or distance…I am officially two days from kamp! ahhhhhh- and will be blogging all summer to keep my prayer team updated and just because it’s one thing that really makes my heart beat fast- to write as I feel- to watch through words as the Lord continues to teach me more about Himself and His people.  I’m so thankful beyond words for your constant encouragement and prayers.  they are blessings far beyond measure, and I praise Jesus for every one of them.  thanks for reading, please continue to as I head to do life in the woods of Golden, Mo with the most precious kids on the planet that dwell in the inner cities all over our country.  Will post a poem and some pics soon.  Today when you take a cold drink of water, dig deeply into the Bible, hug tightly someone you adore, walk to a cabinet full of food, feel the clothes on your back, and have sweet time with Jesus–take just a second to remember the blessing that it is, and take a minute to pray for those all over this globe that are in desperate need today.  He hears us. it’s Truth.  Psalm 65:2 starts with “O you who hear prayer….” beautiful..so thankful that He hears us….will write soon……in His grace from the good ole sunflower state.

yo from Londo!

yeah, it’s London, but Londo rhymed with yo so I thought we’d go with it!  Currently sitting in the London airport- it’s early in the morning, it’s gorgeous, and there is tea and pastry all around me 🙂  It feels really really weird to be back around this type of culture- Africa has forever left it s mark on me, I think my heart could potentially have a different beat.  If I close my eyes for more than two seconds pictures of the kids dance through my mind, and there is the sweetest ache in the middle of my chest.  I’ll never get over them, I’ll never stop being in awe of what the Lord did and is doing in that place.  It scared me today as I transitioned back into culture that is easier for me, more “normal,” for me.  There are a gillion shops in the London airport, and one that happens to be packed with headbands!  Yep, if you know me- i can’t get enough of the things for some reason. So simple.  However, as I walked into the store I was overwhelmed with the desire to want/want/want.  One thing the Lord really dealt with me on in Africa was just really showing me the heart of the temptations that I often face on a daily basis – the ones I am sometimes not even willing to look at.  One of the coolest parts of being in Africa was that I didn’t long for “stuff” the way I do in America.  I didn’t really think about money, about spending, about TOMS/headbands/cute summer stuff/ Nikes for kamp–none of that really crossed my mind- and yeah you could go with the well Stef why would you be really wanting when there wasn’t any of that there to want- however, it was also a simple change in eye sight.  When Jesus is our absolute focal point, when we wake up and lay down and breathe all day knowing that we are in  desperate of Jesus- that He is my want, my portion, my hope, my joy, peace, my everything.  Africa daily so overwhelmed me that I knew there was no point of letting my feet hit the floor if I was not going to fully rely on Him.  As I head back to America, as in will be there in like eh 12 hours will be in Dallas!- I pray my heart and my mind stay in this place of ok Jesus- all you- all day- all night- all you.  And yes- it’s always this way- however, I love those really sweet opportunities that the Lord gives us every single day to press into Him, to trust Him, to lay it all at His feet, and just whisper have your way Lord- to pray Your will be done.  He’s so so so faithful! It’s evident at home in good ole’ Kansas, it was so evident this year in Branson, these past few weeks in Africa, in London now – with this international spot flooded with His people, and it will be so evident in sweet Dallas.  It’s evident everywhere. He is made known.  gonna run for now- just wanted to blog a bit and throw out some pics!  So many more to come- 433 to be exact!  Will continue to update from the states, and poetry will be flyin out soon. y’all are awesome. thanks so much for reading.  please keep praying over the Starlings, A place of hope, and Nigeria as a whole.  Those kiddos are so faithful to be in prayer every night for those praying for and supporting them- hope we can be the same for them.  He is good & so faithful.  Will keep the bloggin up from Texas! better put my african soil covered shoes up, and get out the boots.. yeee haw y’all. In His Grace!

Continually..

This will truly be one of many many blogs that will come in these next few weeks, and I’m sure far beyond that.  I haven’t been able to blog for the last couple days and there is way too much goodness and heartbreak to pack into this one.  The rest of my blogs I will be writing from America!  I am sitting in Lagos now, and will hop on a flight to London tonight, and Dallas tomorrow- meaning tomorrow afternoon my feet will officially hit American soil. Can I just tell you God is so so good.  My eyes fill with tears, and my heart has the sweetest ache already as I reflect on what the Lord has been showing me about Himself and His people in the last 17 days…I’ll start with just a quick run down of the last couple days- man they were sweet.  Friday we went to the river and just spent the afternoon swimming.  We rode there in the A place of Hope van which I think is like a 12 person van- yes, we rode there with 36 people in in- an hour both ways- 10 of those people being adults.  It was so fun, and so different than everything I am used to.  The kids were piled in but we had an absolute blast.  The kids love learning how to swim, and were just so joyful as we tossed them around in the water.  I heard more laughs that day than probs in my life- pray that that sound is somehow forever with me.  sweet sweet sounds.  After our river adventure we headed back to A place of Hope, and just spent the rest of the day together- eating cinnamon rolls, coloring pictures, reading books. just a really simple beautiful day in the bush…Yesterday was a really sweet day of just soaking up everything the Lord has been showing me in the bush, and through those precious people.  We went to the market so that I would be able to bring a few Nigerian goodies back – well all that would fit in my mega packed bag anyway.  yes, those of you that know me well know that I am the absolute queen of overpacking! For real, I could set records!  After a typical trip to the market (which I love) we headed to take a good friend of the Starling family home.  We were traveling like normal on one of the side roads of the village and then we turned down an even smaller road to get to where His home was- and in this moment every tough wall my heart had built in the last two weeks shattered.  As we turned we spotted a little boy, couldn’t have been older than 10, wearing only a little t-shirt.  He was albino, and had open sores all over his skin.  He as completely alone and was just wondering around picking up rocks, attempting to eat them, and then throwing them.  Because there is no mental health system in place in Nigeria people like this precious little boy are often labeled “mad people” and just left as animals to roam the streets and fend for themselves.  The image of this little boy is forever burned into my memory, forever on my heart.  I was at first just really thrown off, I wanted to get out, get him, take him back , clean him up, and just tell him over and over and over that the Lord made him and He was loved.  The entirety of me aches not knowing if that little boy has ever heard in his life “I love you”  As we pulled away my lip was probably pierced as my teeth pushed through the pressure the tears that I was fighting.  I know the Lord sees that little boy, and that is where I will rest.  I long to be faithful to pray for him daily, and just trust that the Lord truly does have him.  Bev set such as solid example for me as we talked through it last night and yesterday- just in that we’re gonna continue to be faithful exactly where the Lord has – whether Nigeria or America- with every little thing He entrusts to us- relationships and all- faithful- and we will continue to pray for that little boy and know that God truly is Sovereign and in control.  I pray that little boy knows hands of love one day, that someone will rock Him, hold him, and whisper His worth to Him, even if he doesn’t understand- that he will hear over and over and over again You are loved, You were created by the Most High God, and you are a blessing.  As I type this tears pour out of my eyes, and I can no longer hold in the heartache I feel in Africa.  I know we see this place on commericals, on our televisions, and all over Christian t-shirts, but for real this place is hurting, and we have got to continue on with His call.  The Gospel has got to forth, in ALL nations, and we have got to love with His love, following in His footsteps.  Seeking His glory, not that of men….I kept telling Bev I wanted a  name to pray for Him by a name and today as I sat at the Enugu airport the Lord sweetly led me back to one of my favorite passages- Isaiah 61- as His word poured out- Beautiful headress instead of ashes- my heart went straight back to that little boy in the bush- so everyday from here on out- from now until I am old and gray- I will pray for Isaiah- and if the Lord ever allows (which I pray He does many more times) me to set foot on that beautiful Nigerian soil, I will ask to go back to that spot, and this time hold the hand of the little boy that today may seem forgotten although he.  If he woke up this morning, outside and alone, and is now wondering around in the same spot in which we saw him. Alone-eating rock- one thing remains- we serve the God who sees- and that little boy, the one I’ll call Isaiah- he is not forgotten, and he is seen, by the One of made the universe, who made us His own. By HIM, most High, this little boy is seen. I rejoice in that and I weep at the goodness and the grace of our God and Savior, who leads us by His Spirit to see both the broken and the beautiful- and the combination of the two.  There is so much more to write about- from making tortillas, to saying see you soon to the kiddos ( talk about some heart ache), to leaving Bev at the airport today (whoa buddy) – there is just a ton more to write about, and I cannot wait to continue blogging as I return to the states.  Thank you so much for reading, for praying, and for the massive encouragement.  Know that is such a blessing- for real- oh my word- i am overwhelmed by the amount of support.  Praise Jesus, and thanks so much for your faithfulness to Him, and for extending His love to me.  Please continue reading, and above that continue praying. In the days to come I’ll be posting tons of pictures 🙂 (get excited- the kids are stinkin’ adorable) and poetry that is really just an out pour of all the Lord is teaching me through Nigeria.  So encouraged by Psalm 71 today- “Be to me a rock of refuge, to which I may CONTINUALLY come; You have given the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress,” (71:3) …so good. His Word, truly His, this trip has been such a constant reminder that we are to breathe it….dig dig dig today!…gonna go and maybe help cut some fried okra- as I wait with good friends of the Starlings in a flat in downtown Lagos- and then will head back to the airport in a few hours! Yay London, and sweet apple bottom jeans yay Dallas!! Cannot wait to tackle Abbs as she picks me up at the airport, and just sit down and listen to hear Africa stories, and share the ones the Lord has given me.  As I fly back I am so excited to see my family and my incredible friends, my amazing parents, and the girls that are truly sisters to me- and at the same time my heart aches everytime I picture Ugo smiling up at me with his ornery smile, or the kids yelling my name as I snap their pictures.  These memories will forever be so sweet to me.  and I cannot wait to return to that soil, hopefully with Anna Joy, to really dig deep round 2 in Nigeria!  So so thankful. Rejoice in who He is today, He is so worthy !  Will blog more from my London layover and then continually from the states!  Grace, Grace, and Grace from Africa!

like a machine!

this blog will be a really fast one and then I will write much more later tonight. It’s the middle of the day here- 4:30 ish and just hopped off the back of a “machine” aka motorcycle after traveling to the local market with ThankGod (one of the guys who works at a place of Hope and is part of the Starling fam)  I hadn’t been to this local market yet so they asked if I wanted to tag along.  I’m in African adventure mode so of course I said I’d love to, hopped on the back of the bike and we went.  Now here is the thing riding a motorcycle in the bush is a little different then riding in America.  My parents have been motorcycle lovers forever and so I have grown up knowing all the ins and outs of what should happen on a bike.  Lets just say dad would have a cow if he saw the way people ride here.  There are not traffic lanes so you weave in and out the whole time, the roads aren’t paved often so you are also dodging potholes, and the only defensive driving technique you have is the horn.  The whole time I ride these things part of me is thinking “ahhhhhhh” and the other part of me is loving every second.  All the guys are awesome drivers, it just isn’t anything I am used to. As we sped through traffic today and I was just talking with the Lord, it hit me in the heart that this is so much of the time what my life feels like.  I have the option of really clinging to Jesus and trusting His lead, or just not getting on the bike all together because I fear everything that could go wrong, and am not willing to lay down what I think is my opportunity to drive.  I dug in Psalm 57 this morning and I absolutely cling to 57:2- we truly do get to call out to God Most High- and He will fulfill HIS purpose for us.  Not sure what you are up to today- but I do know that this is Truth, whether you are in the bush, at work, with your family, or on vacation. NO matter what we serve a God who will fulfill HIS purpose for us.  SO comforted and excited about that.  This was just a huge encouragement to my heart- pray it is one  to yours, too! I will write more later.  Only a couple more days in the bush- so soaking up every second. Your prayers are heard, and I am continually encouraged by all the support! Thanks so much for extending His love!  Bush bloggin be back up tonight!  In His grace- from de bush! Ride that Machine today- He is the only worthy driver- and He will fulfill His purpose!

washed white

today I officially learned how to wash my clothes in the bush.  This morning started like most mornings in Africa for me which consists of Bible, and a solid bowl of Choco Balls and Peak Milk.  After diggin in the Word I was feeling pretty ambitious so I had the goal of getting the boys up and around and then washing clothes in the bush.  Now any of you that know me well are probably laughing because you know that washing clothes is not really a gift that I have.  However, I was determined to get my two buckets and learn how to wash my clothes bush style.  I got a lot of laughs, as I attempted to scrub, clean, ring, and rinse all of the clothes I want for just these next few days in Africa, and then my trip back to America Sunday/Monday.  After about an hour all my clothes were successfully on the line, and ready to spend the day drying in the African sun.  I know one thing after this, I will not take for granted the washing machine and the dryer when I return.  It was really fun though, and just constantly cool to see another way of life on the other side of the world.  I’m so thankful that no matter where we live, what we look like, and what life is like we are in desperate need of Jesus as our Savior.  This shatters every cultural barrier and impacts ever society.  We need Jesus. flat out. straight up. there is no way around this. It is Truth. I see this more and more in Africa every single day, and in America, too! …After we finished with washing clothes, I played a little soccer, and read with the older boys.  The days are starting to feel a little more routine here, but still completely out of the norm for me. Learning so much, challenged and changed by so much.  After the day progressed I had the sweet opportunity to take eleven of the smaller kids with me to this huge open field, with a huge hill they call mountain.  It is absolutely gorgeous, and just so cool to see the Lord’s creation.  You cannot stand in this place and deny His power and His beauty in His artistry.  The hills roll on and on and on, ahh just wait for pictures to come its beautiful…every tactic I was ever taught in classroom management fails here- not because it’s not solid teaching- but because everything operates so differently here.  A majority of the time I don’t feel tough enough to be here.  So thankful that God’s power is perfected in my weakness.  As the eleven kids ran around like crazy on the hills, eating cashew fruit, sliding in dirt, throwing rocks at each other, and just being kids I couldn’t help- in the midst of feeling zero control at all- being overwhelmed by God’s ultimate sovereignty and His grace with me.  Africa is nothing like what I expected. Sometimes because of the overwhelmed-ness of it, my heart continues to resort back to this wall- like ok Stef don’t feel- because if you break you will stay there continually- constantly.  Because poverty is everywhere I look, illness is all around, people are hurting and broken all over the place.  However I am reminded today that this does not change God’s character, and this does not change who we are in Him and what He calls us to be.  One of my favorite songs in the world is called “Overcomers” and today I listened to it multiple times, meditating on the Truth that in Christ we truly do overcome.  Regardless of all, Jesus wins. so so sweet.  I listened to it while I folded Ugo & Terry’s little bitty clothes, and something inside of that moment just struck me.  I call those moments here “wake up” moments.  It’s like a lot of the day my heart will go on auto pilot to just try to remain as steady as possible.  However, as I folded their little bitty clothes and looked out at the bush out my window, I can’t help but be totally lost in how big God is, and how massive His love is for us. unmeasurable for sure…from the adventure on the walk to the field we returned to Chase finding the biggest lizard I’ve ever seen in my life. Don’t worry pictures will come.  It was massive, and the boys were so excited to “chop” it- which means eat in ebo.  As I am writing this blog I heard squeels from downstairs as they divided up who got what pieces to eat of the huge lizard.  Life in the bush- so different!  For dinner I stuck with rice and orange nutri-c, no lizard for me.  I thought I could do without that one on this African adventure- but if extended the opportunity again I’d probably try it.  I think I’m going to head to bed, I actually get tired around the right times now, which is funny since I head back to America in three days.  While my heart misses home, family & best friends a ton, I know I will ache leaving here in a way I never have.  I just really don’t want to forget what the Lord is teaching me here.  I don’t want to go back and speak of the massive impact it had on me to be in a third world country, and to see people living with absolutely nothing- yet living in a way that looks like the impact never actually took effect.  Tomorrow should be a normal day in the bush, and then Friday we will take a big trip to the river. The kids are stoked!  Excited to swim in an African river- and don’t worry mom & dad I will not drink it!  Saturday will also probs be a solid day in the bush with maybe a trip out and about to get good ole African items to bring back to the fam.  I will continue to update daily- so for sure through the next four or so days- and then I want to continue blogging as I get home, and  jump into the kamp season that is quickly approaching.  Keep praying for these precious 23 kiddos, A place of Hope, the Starlings, and Nigeria as a whole.  I am so serious when I say I have never seen a place so wrapped up in using Jesus to get somewhere, but not really clinging to Jesus (who we know He is through Scripture)–you can see His face on semi trucks, on businesses and His Name is often used kind of like just a genies.  It’s so hard to watch, but I know the Lord is at work here, and I know that He is able to accomplish all of His will! All of the time! Forever.  The people really are precious, and it’s so cool to know that we belong to Him.  Thanks so much for reading, for writing, for praying, and for the massive loads of encouragement.  Again, I cannot begin to tell you how much it means- it truly blesses my everyday, and I thank the Lord so so much for it.  Cannot wait to share stories with you as I get back in a few days, and just testify to how our God truly is God of the Nations–It’s not just a kids song that He is holding the whole world in His hands. He really is! –will write again soon–encouraged by this today — Psalm 53:2–check it yo! Love & Grace from de Bush!  Bt dub as I washed filthy clothes today I am reminded of the desperate state of sin we were in, and just how white He has washed us, by His grace!  Pray that you rejoice today in Jesus being more than sufficient to cover all of our sins and stains.  We are washed white in Him, and get to live in that daily! so so good no matter where in the world you are!  Be bloggin tomorrow!

ALL i am is YOURS

Just finished being “support” while bamboo was cut in the bush, and de-ticking the new puppy that is the newest member to A place of Hope. yes, just a typical morning in the bush!  Banana Bread just finished baking so this blog might be kind of quick, as my belly is very hungry, and the smell is incredible!  So can I just say- God is so good.  Today I walked with the boys to cut bamboo in the bush- of course, I don’t really know what I am doing and they know that, so a lot of the time consisted of me walking around finding random things in the bush to investigate.  I happened to carry my ipod with me when I went, and listened to some jams for really the first time since I’ve been in Africa.  Anyone who knows me well knows that music is one of things that makes my heart beat fast, not the music itself, but the lyrics that fill it.  My first go to was a song by Forever Jones called- He wants it all- really beautiful that whether I am in the smack dab middle of the bush in Nigeria or in the middle of America, I serve a God who wants it all. He is beyond worthy of all, and He desires all of us.  From there I’ll Stand came on = and that was the one that really shook me up.  Over and over I heard the words “All, I am is YOURS!”  “All I am is Yours”  — This was the Truth that I needed to hear today.  In Nigeria people often stop and stare at me–not because I am anything special but because I am an American girl, I am white, I dress differently, the list could go on and on all day.  BUT at the end of the day I don’t want to be recognized for anything but HIS.  I am HIS.  We are HIS.  We are not our own we have been bought with a price. The highest price. and HE only is worthy. ….there is so much dark here that I often get overwhelmed thinking about it.  I fight with an injustice that I have no control over.  However, when I was hanging out with Jesus the other day reading my Bible at the table, I read the verse that says “For with you is the fountain of life; in Your light we see light. Psalm 36:9.  This one really really got me because it makes so much sense that it is in Him, it is in His light, that we see light. And apart from Him there is not light.  He is our Light, and we are the light of the world. Man, we gotta live this.  We are followers of Jesus, this is nothing to slack in.  My heart is so convicted here- as I see the desperate need for real faith to be lived out and demonstrated daily.  Ahhh. I could go all day, but the generator just went out and so its dark, and I am craving banana bread!  Yesterday I went to a free medical clinic- OH MY WORD- and visited the hospital — all I have to say for now on that is WOW.  People are super sick, and so desperate, thankful that He alone is our hope.  Clinging to that Hope. To Him!  Thanks so much for the prayers and encouragement.  I fly out of here on Sunday, and will get back to Dallas on Monday! So excited to see people, and yet so sad to leave this place! Will continue updating. The African rain just started falling, ahh, He is so good!  LOVE LOVE LOVE from the bush. Will update soon!

He is my HOPE

This blog will probs be a quick one since it’s the middle of the day here and life be hoppin on the compound.  We have just returned from Church and have had a great Sunday lunch.  Bt dub we get to Church in a van with a gillion people and get to ride back on a machine (aka motorcycle) it is legit my favorite rides to Church ever.  Church was really fun today with  the kiddos. Anything I have ever learned in any classroom management class does not work at all in Africa.  Discipline here is so different, and for sure not my specialty.  Lets just say that the Lord is teaching me a ton in every area.  We talked today about Elijah and how our God is where true power comes from–> Truth! Cool to watch the kids interact, learn Truth, and love the flannel board.  For lunch we had a pretty American meal so no interesting African food tries today, but I will let you know because I am sure there will be one before the day is over.  I wore one of Abbs’ African skirts today and got some compliments and how African I was looking 🙂  I think I might throw it off with my Puma socks, Toms, t-shirt, and cardigan, but the skirt carried me for sure. So thanks to Abbs, I didn’t look like a total outsider.  I mean the skin color for sure kind of makes me stand out, but the skirt does wonders. I love the people here.  They make me feel super welcome pretty much all of the time, and just have something about them that is unlike any people group I’ve ever known.  I really like the Ebo culture, and am just learning a ton about how people live differently all over the world….Yesterday was super simple, I read with the older kids, took the longest nap of my life (think I’m exhausted) and got to help out in the kitchen a little.. I know shocking! Everyone is still alive and kicking though, praise the Lord!  I woke up in the middle of the night to Ugo and Terry (the little boys that sleep in my room) fighting over space on their mats, and was having crazy dreams- therefore, I don’t think I had any idea where I was or what was happening- so what instructions I gave them, I am not sure of!  However, it all turned out ok, and they are back to friends this morning.  I officially fly back to America a week from today, and will get into Dallas on the 9th.  With only a week to go the beat of my heart is to really press in, and dig into all the Lord is showing me and teaching me in Africa.  My heart is getting tired, and often just aches, but I know that He who is in me is greater, and He is for sure moving in this place.  Thanks so much for all your continual prayers, they mean more than I could ever begin to describe to you with words.  so thankful the Lord hears us!  Encouraged by this…”We wait in hope for the LORD; He is our help and our shield.  In Him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in His Holy name, May your unfailing love rest upon us, O Lord, even as we put our hope in you.  Psalm 33:20-22!  Thanks so much for reading. I will update again soon!  All my love from the bush!