Sticky Rice in a Bowl

While spending the night in a remote village in Southeast Asia, my teammate, James, slept underneath the family’s spirit house. In the dark of night, James heard the rustling of a rat. A few seconds later something struck him right on the forehead. With half open eyes, he saw a small bowl sitting upright with a tiny ball of sticky rice settled in the well. A very similar item to the one he had seen inside the spirit house earlier that evening. Heeding the warning to never touch the spirit house, he gingerly laid the bowl beside his bed and went back to sleep.

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Inside each bamboo hut hangs a wooden box where they appease the spirits with offerings and place their request

In the morning, we laughed about the image of a tiny bowl tumbling from the house and about what the family would think James had done to their spirits, but in the stillness of the long car ride out of the village my heart began to break for all the false hope that the tiny bowl held. To us it was a small bowl in a wooden box, but to them that bowl held their safety, their health and their hope. Everyday they feed the spirits seeking favor and having faith for their provision, when in reality they are feeding rats.

 The Lord asked the Israelites through the prophet Haggai…

“This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: Look at what’s happening to you! You have planted much but harvest little. You eat but are not satisfied. You drink but are still thirsty. You put on clothes but cannot keep warm. Your wages disappear as though you were putting them in pockets filled with holes! Now go up into the hills, bring down timber, and rebuild my house. Then I will take pleasure in it and be honored says the Lord. You hoped for rich harvest, but they were poor and when you brought your harvest home, I blew it away. Why? Because my house lies in ruins, while all of you are busy building your fine homes” Haggai 1:5-9

We may think small wooden houses on the wall are silly and tribal, but we are just as guilty of feeding rats. Like the Israelites and the mountain people of Southeast Asia we store up treasure, put our hope in earthly earnings and lay our good deeds on a balance of karma. With our 10-year plans and our voracious pursuit of safety and long life, we forget that with a word God can create and with a breath He can destroy. He is a gracious King, Jehovah Jireh, our provider, the King of kings and the Giver of life, but when we build our sturdy homes, our bank accounts, our retirement funds and our registry of good deeds instead of the Lord’s dwelling place, all of our diligence and hopes went into the belly of rats.

So I ask myself what am I sacrificing before rats…and how can I build up the Lord’s temple inside my heart instead?

 

On The Cusp

The cusp…where two tangents or ornamental arcs meet…a point that marks the beginning of change. I sit here on the cusp between preparation and execution. I felt as though the preparation resembled laying bricks to make a smooth path for the journey ahead, but now it feels a little more like we’ve been packing black powder and I am about to be shot out of a cannon like a circus performer. With my calendar wily spread before me, I realize that the next three months will look a little like this… family/best friend visit – Botswana – coordinate a wedding – Thanksgiving – train SE Asia team – promote a new trip – roadtrip with the roomies – Christmas – SouthEast Asia – home.

Here are the phases of my grand performance…
Phase 1 – Ignition
The weight of my calendar began to cloud my heavenly vision. Somewhere between finding a place to sleep in Botswana and arranging ministry in SouthEast Asia, I lost sight of the goal, the mission, and the people. This past weekend was a whirlwind of training and ropes coursing, but the Lord used it to ignite my withering wick.
The SouthEast Asia team learned to share the gospel! Everyone on the team can clearly and effectively share the Lord’s heart with the people we meet! Praise the Lord. We then had a day of ropes where the students learned to work together on the course and on the mission field. That night we wrapped up with a ethnic meal and cultural training. My sweet friend, Rachel, came out and answered our millions of questions leaving us informed and eager to meet these beautiful people!
The next day was followed up with more ropes coursing with the deaf outreach team. The team came together to overcome language barriers between the deaf and hearing cultures. We were able to reevaluate how our team could effectively communicate and care for one another.
After three full days of training, mastering the dreaded ropes course wall and getting the team down from the zipline, I barely had a voice and could hardly lift my arms above my head, but my heart was refreshed. My students reminded me of the things logistics had shoved aside! They turned my head back towards the Lord’s glory and the incredible opportunities we have to share that Love with unreached people.

Phase 2 – Blast Off
This weekend will be full of so much love. My mom, my aunt and my best friend are all coming in to visit. I can hardly wait. I am so thankful to the Lord for my incredible friends, family and supporters.. On Sunday our Botswana deaf team will follow the biblical pattern for being sent out with a commissioning. This is a time to humble ourselves before the church and seek prayer for the journey. It is also a time to unify with the church to remind us all that this a unified mission not an independent team. I eagerly await soaking up every moment of love and fun this weekend will hold. Monday morning at 4:30 AM this cannonball sets sail with a gusto behind my wings. If you would like to receive our trip updates email theabicopeland@gmail.com

Phase 3 – Flight
This is the part I have been longing for since I returned home last January. (Not the physical flight…I generally try to sleep through most of that.) The flight, the journey into the hearts and lives of thousands of people who have never had the opportunity to call on Christ precious name, brings my soul overwhelming joy. As I look at the course before me, I eagerly anticipate all that the Lord will do. His heart is bursting for these Deaf and SE Asians to KNOW Him! I cannot wait to write you all again of the miraculous works of our Father!
For now I will leave you with some sweet encouragement shared with me…The other day as I whined to my brother about my busy schedule. He gently encouraged me saying ‪”stay sane, I think what you do is worth everything‬ and I can’t wait to see you, love you” Today as I checked out at Walmart the cash register man asked if I worked today and I thought for a moment. Yes, today I will send emails, write this update, finalize last minute details and have a staff meeting, but really today I will live life. I will live for the opportunity to encourage and love on people. And this “work” is worth all that I can give and so much more. I challenge you to work live in this same way!


I have been trusting and loving my great big brother since we were wee little tots.