Tea Time, Pt. 2

If you haven’t yet, I suggest you read Part 1 before proceeding… I’ll wait…

Okay.  So Robbie and I had an experience in Sandland in 2010 that seriously altered our lives.  We met an unreached people group in the desert, fell in love, and came back to the states to work hard and return to them.  We were pumped.  The plan was to study Arabic in Egypt for 2 years, then return to these precious people.

And then the poop hit the fan.  The government in Sandland expelled all of our friends and partners, and we discovered that the door to the country was slammed in our faces.  We were shocked, heartbroken, and confused.

“Lord, did we not hear from you”?  “What do we do now”?  “What about that magical tea time”?

As Robbie and I sat in our apartment in Egypt, these were some of the many questions we offered up to the Lord.  We waited, and we prayed.  We also kept studying Arabic and ended up staying in Egypt for 3 years, working with some amazing people and learning even more how to abide in Jesus.

Almost exactly a year ago, Robbie and I, along with two other couples, went on an exploratory trip to Bordertown.  We were interested in the possibility of moving there, but we also desperately wanted to know where exactly the Lord would want us.  As soon as the plane touched the ground, I was excited.  I kept thinking, “this could be it!  This could be my home!”.  I can’t explain exactly why, but I just loved it there.  And then the miracles started happening…

  1. We met with an amazing person who sat us down to tell us how much the city needed proclaimers.
  2. We met with another couple with small kids who showed us, through word and action, that it was possible to flourish there as a family.
  3. We were approached by a person who worked at a local school and invited to attend her lecture the following day, and through this person we were able to make several connections that we were able to follow up with.  This same person told us more about an unreached people group in the area, and how very difficult it was to make deep connections with them.
  4. The NEXT DAY we received a phone call from the son of a local tribal chief from this same people group, inviting us to tea and a meal at his local camel farm.  Whaaaaat?  Exactly.

So here I was, halfway through our weeklong trip in Bordertown, riding up a mountain in our rental SUV going to have tea with this family who represented an unreached people group.  As we stepped out of the cars we were warmly greeted and introduced to “grandma and grandpa”, two super cute old people who sat on a mat together in the sun.  Next the ladies were ushered up the steps to greet and hang out with the local ladies, as the men were then taken on a grand tour of the farm.

The ladies gave us beautiful local clothes to wear, and giggled as we immediately put them on and made over how gorgeous they were.  Then we all settled down to snacks, soda, and lots of chatting.  Even though our dialect was different, we were still able to talk and enjoy one another’s company.  The men came back at one point with a bowl full of fresh, hot camel milk for us all to try, so we tried it.  And yes, it was disgusting.

Afterward, the ladies made us tea and we sat together, laughing and enjoying breeze as the sun began to set.  And suddenly, the scene became so familiar. 

I was holding my small cup of tea, looking out over the landscape, and I felt a deep confirmation that this would be home.  Moreso, I felt the Lord whisper in my heart that He gave us that experience in 2010 in Sandland- to prepare us for now.  The opportunity wasn’t wasted.  He knew where he wanted us from the start, and He has used every step in our journey to lead us to exactly where He wants us to be.  So hopefully, this summer we will be able to say that Borderland is our new home.  I seriously can’t wait.

Have you ever wondered what in the world the Lord is doing in your life?  Are you walking through something now that just does not make any sense?  If so, keep trusting.  He knows exactly what He’s doing.

 

Prov. 3

 

Life-Changing Tea Time, Pt. 1

Although most of my coffee/tea breaks are refreshing and relaxing, most have not been life-altering.  However, I can definitively point to two very unique times where sitting down to tea has actually changed the course of my life.

The first time was in Sandland, only a few months into our time there.  We had gone with a large group of friends to a port city to do a bit of scuba diving during Spring Break, and on the way back home, while I was least expecting it, the Lord started a new chapter in our life.  I can remember that day starting off not great- we had spent the night in a dingy hotel on dusty beds that didn’t have real mattresses, a coworker had said something that had hurt my feelings, and I hadn’t gone to the bathroom on a real working toilet in over a week.  I was ready to go home!

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Our group loaded up in various trucks and cars, and started the long journey back to our city via a dusty dirt road that looked like it led to the middle of nowhere.  I remember as we bounced along seeing flashes of people in the distance, and occasionally a cluster of huts or tents would appear on the horizon.  I remember thinking, “who in the world would live out in the middle of nowhere?”.

beja
Two souls in the distance

The only times our convoy stopped were when someone needed to use the restroom, which created a problem because there were no gas stations, buildings, or really anything to give anyone an iota of privacy.  A spare bush was a spectacular find on occasion, but overall it was a hard day for privacy, especially for the few among us who had eaten a bad meal the night before.  I remember having a full Nalgene of water with me, but choosing only to sip on it i order to stay just dehydrated enough that I wouldn’t have to squat in the sand.  The further our day went on, the more one girl struggled with stomach issues, so I ended up just giving her my water bottle and my extra roll of toilet paper.  (This was the beginning of a great friendship!)

Enough about bathrooms…

When the sun was starting to set, the lead car in our convoy jerked off the dirt road, and started racing across the desert.  At first, those of us behind them just assumed it was another bathroom stop and kept our distance- but soon enough we realized that the lead car was bouncing and bumping out to the middle of no where- right up to a nomad’s tent.  Robbie pulled out his camera and used his zoom to snap this blurry shot of what happened next: Our boss had invited himself, along with a group of 20 people, to have tea with this nomadic family.

Rashaida

We all drove up, and discovered that only the ladies of the family were home, so only the ladies from our group were invited inside the tent.  As I left the car and walked toward tea, a coworker tossed me a bag of grapefruits to give to our hostess in thanks.  I remember taking the bag to the tent, taking off my shoes, and stepping into a different world.  I presented the bag of fruit to who I assumed was the “lady of the house”, because she had the oldest eyes.  Eyes and hands- that’s all I could see from our several hosts whose faces and bodies were shrouded in black.  There were probably four or five different hostesses, but they ducked in and out of the tent so much that I never got a solid count.  They showed us their treasures- gold and perfumes, and we showed them ours- cameras and snacks.  I remember that they made it very clear they didn’t want us to take their pictures by comically throwing scarves over their faces if someone accidentally pointed one in their direction.  It was good fun.

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And as I sat there, admiring their beautiful bead handiwork and the simplicity of their lives, I felt the Lord say “This is what I have for you”.

Meanwhile, the men from the family had returned home to greet Robbie and the rest of the guys from our group.  They were led to the other part of the tent and hosted by the men.  In this shared and yet very segregated space, Robbie began to hear the same message from the Lord.  This was it.  This was for us.

As we departed into the setting sun, the last moment I shared with our hostess was full of her generosity and hospitality- as she doused us all in her perfume.  Up the skirt, down the shirt, under my armpits, she sprayed and sprayed and sprayed.  Her sweet- smelling fragrance lingered for days, and my prayer is that our time with her was a sweet-smelling fragrance as well.

Where we’re going

When we arrived in Egypt in October 2012, the plan was to study Arabic for two years, then go back to Northern Sandland to work among a beautiful unreached people group there.  Sadly, a month after we arrived in Egypt we discovered that the government in Northern Sandland had flexed their muscles, expelled everyone like us from the country, and effectively posted a “Do Not Come Back” sign at the door.  A few friends of ours tested the waters a bit by trying to get back in, and spent some time in jail for their trouble.

Meanwhile, many friends of ours who were expelled came north to Cairo, and some stayed and worked on our team.  Although it was nice to see old friends, the circumstances were very discouraging.  Robbie and I had spent the last year and a half telling people we were returning to Sandland, and now we didn’t know what to say, so we waited, and prayed, and the Lord directed us to Borderland*.

Borderland can be found in the Arabian Peninsula, and is a truly beautiful country full of desperately lost people.  For a while we had heard that there were absolutely no local believers in Borderland, but lately we’ve heard rumors that there may be up to 13.

One of the largest cities in Borderland is Bordertown*, which is where we will call home.  Bordertown is strategic, in that it is almost actually sitting on a border between two very different countries- one at peace, the other in chaos.  Surrounding Bordertown are up to 4 unreached people groups, tucked away in the mountains and waiting for the Good News.

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Bordertown is also a popular vacation destination for others from the Gulf because of its remarkably mild summers.  This means that four months out of the year, the city is almost overrun by people from some of the hardest to reach countries in the world.  What an opportunity!

Will you please pray for our future home?  Will you also please pray for us, that the Lord would prepare all four of us in every way possible for this next season of our lives?  We would be so grateful.

**We are choosing not to use real names for places for security reasons.  If you really want to know the actual places, please send me a private message and I’d be happy to fill you in.  : )

Where we’ve been

This may be old news to some, but before I dive into the stories from our lives, I thought it might be nice to start with a recap of where we’ve been, and what we’ve been up to.

Robbie and I got married in 2008, and while the ink was still drying on our marriage license we got busy (ha!) filling out applications to work overseas.  It was a long process with lots of twists and turns, but finally we received approval to work in Northern Sandland*.  It took us 6 months to raise our support, and on the evening of Dec. 31, 2009 we made our way to Africa.  On paper it sounds cool to have celebrated a new year on board an international flight, but in reality we were so tired we slept through New Years in every time zone we flew over.  Our first test of living overseas happened in the airport in a neighboring country, when an airport employee tried to overcharge us $50 for entry visas.  We managed to avoid being scammed that time, but not every time.  : )

The goal was to serve in a team there for one year, with the option of extending for a second year.  We both worked in an International school, studied Arabic, and volunteered at an English center in the evenings.  When someone asks me how our time in Sandland was, my go-to line is “It was the best, hardest, most wonderful and horrible year of my life.”  More on that later…  After one year we headed back to the states because by that point I was 6 months pregnant with Elijah, and giving birth there didn’t sound fun.

So we came back to the US, Elijah Job was born in Memphis, TN, and we geared up for Adventure, Round 2.

After spending 18 months raising funds and figuring out how to be normal people again, we set out for Cairo, Egypt for language school.  Although our plan was initially to spend 2 years in Cairo, then move back to Sandland, we ended up spending our entire term there.  While we were in Cairo, our main job was to learn Arabic, learn how to share Truth with Arabs, and learn to abide in Jesus.  We were a part of an incredible team of people, and God did amazing things in our lives there.  I will forever love Egypt, Egyptians, and that team.  Also during that time, we welcomed Leila Rue into our lives.  Having Elijah and Leila along for the journey with us is such a huge responsibility, and also such a joy.

So now we’re stateside, gearing up for what’s next.  More on that in the next post.

**We are choosing not to use real names for places for security reasons. If you really want to know the actual places, please send me a private message and I’d be happy to fill you in. : )

What’s in a name?

I chose the name Arabian Sparrow because of my love for the Psalms, and the beautiful imagery it communicates to us about the heart of God.  Psalm 84 is one of my favorites for many reasons, but I especially like verses 3-4.

“Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God.  Blessed are those who dwell in your house, ever singing you praise!”

For someone like me who lives a semi-nomadic lifestyle- never owning a home, traveling a ton, living most of my life outside of my home culture- I crave a “nest”. My heart is forever searching for peace and security, and although I sometimes can’t find those things in my circumstances, I can always find them in Jesus.  I love that the verse even specifies that the nest isn’t just for the sparrow, but for her family.  I tuck this little verse in my heart and carry it with me, so that wherever I am, I am reminded that as long as I’m with Him, I’m home.

What a loving King I have the honor to serve.  I do indeed feel blessed to dwell in His house.