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!
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!
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!
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!
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!
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
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!