Be Strong and Courageous

Last Wednesday, Robert came home telling me there were two deaths in the village where the school we work with is located, and he would like to join a group of men driving up there for the funeral this weekend. He would be gone for 3-4 days up in the desert where he may not have any cell service. I agreed he should go of course, but the thought made me a bit nervous.

I’m no stranger to him traveling for days or weeks at a time while I stay home with the kids. But this is the first time I’ve had to experience it while in a country where I don’t drive or speak the language. To say I was a bit nervous is an understatement. I was anxious to the point of needing a Xanax. Not only anxious for him driving up into the desert, but also for myself and the kids staying here alone. I would have to call a taxi if we needed to go anywhere, but I don’t speak French. I would have to go buy bread at the corner store, but I don’t speak French. My anxieties were getting the best of me.

Then Thursday night, the night before he was to leave, I sat down on my yoga mat, pulled out my Holy Listening book, and opened it where I last left off. The title for the day was “BOLD.”

Coincidence? I think not. I believe God was sending me a message.

The yoga pose was Warrior and the scripture reference was Deuteronomy 31:6. This verse makes me smile. I memorized this verse when I was in 7th grade. I made up a little song to help me remember it. I have sung this song to myself many, many times over the years when I’ve needed strength.

Again, a coincidence? No! This was God speaking to me in a powerful way.

There I was, warrior-ing on my yoga mat, in a mess of tears, singing Deuteronomy 31:6 to myself in the quiet of my bedroom. A bold faith washed over me. God’s peace and assurance engulfed me. I knew in that moment that I was not alone and that I would conquer this weekend while Robert was away. (Spoiler: the kids and I are having a great weekend!)

I’ve stayed on this prayer and pose for a few days now, not ready to move on to the next. Boldness is something I struggle to find. This may be shocking for a lot of my friends and family to hear, but it’s the truth.

I’ve had to be bold and warrior through a lot of hard situations in my life, and I’ve struggled to stay strong. I like to think of myself as being strong, but I am truly a weak woman. Any strength I find to warrior through my life is found in Jesus. It’s his Spirit and his word that pulls me through. The grace and love and forgiveness he gives me when all I do is struggle, is what keeps my faith in him.

I’ve had people ask me before how I know God is real. My answer is always “it’s in the ways he responds to my faith.” When I reach out to him, he shows up. It’s not always right when I want it or in the way I expect it, but he never fails.

Just like this weekend – I was scared and anxious, but God showed up with peace and strength, and I’ve been completely calm all weekend. The kids and I have had a great time, I’ve handled a couple of meltdowns without having one myself, the house is clean, and I’ve actually been serving up healthy meals. All miracles!

I must throw some shout outs to Shiloh’s teacher who reminded our taxi guy that she needed to be picked up Saturday for her youth group meeting and to my neighbors who helped me get bread. Thank you, God, for putting a great missionary community here to help me out…just another way of him showing up in my life!

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The love of rhythm and routine

What a week this has been! School was out, so the kids and I were home all week. I still don’t know the area well enough to make a bunch of plans, and I’m not sure yet if it’s appropriate for the kids and I to head to a corner shop or an import store and browse. We don’t speak French so I do know that would be a problem.

The compound we live on has a small library, playground, trampoline, and a kids’ soccer game every Wednesday afternoon, so there is plenty to do right here. But we are on this compound all the time, which is great for me since I would be happy being a hermit, but it’s not so great for my outgoing family. We’re used to doing special things when we are on break, so there was some disappointment.

Robert came down sick with a kidney stone, so it was best that we didn’t have any plans. He has passed a kidney stone once before, so when the pain started he knew the drill. He drank a bunch of water, took some pain meds, and kept a vomit bucket close by. But two days later, he became dehydrated and felt miserable. Thankfully, a missionary doctor is staying in the apartment above us. She gave him 2 liters of IV fluids and monitored his progress. By the 4th bag of IV, he began feeling like himself again. He’s had little pain since then, and is doing much better. Praise God!

Side note – it was shocking and amazing that the doctor had everything she needed on hand. She used my yarn to tie the IV bag to our bed and I “assisted” her in getting it all ready. When the time came, we sat outside on the dusty walkway in front of our apartment while she removed the IV. Hashtag missionary life. Ha! I’m so thankful we didn’t have to make a trip the hospital. If you know a missionary doctor, you should send them an extra donation for Christmas this year. If you don’t any, I know two here in Chad that are amazing…I can give you their names. 😉

The sickness stint on top of not having anything to do sent us all into a funk. We had moments of feeling blue, snapping at each other in anger, and just feeling bored and useless. It took a lot of patience and grace to get us through last week. I’m thankful for the all games and DVDs we brought with us; they were very helpful!

Tomorrow is a new day and school and work resume. Woohoo! We will get back into our normal rhythm and fill our days with books, work, and friends. Thank God for routine!

It’s crazy, but I can remember a time not that long ago when I hated routine. I felt tied down, boxed in. My free-spirit wanted spontaneity, no deadlines, freedom to choose whatever I wanted. While I’m still very much a free spirit and like a little spontaneity, I’ve learned to appreciate certain boxes and deadlines, which makes me feel like I’ve finally grown up. I’m about to turn 38, so I guess it’s about time. Ha!

Thank you to everyone who is praying for us! We feel encouraged and strengthened by your prayers.

 

After getting the IV

Dr. Ruth checking on things


The kids enjoy playing in the rain when it comes.

Two weeks in Chad

We left the USA two weeks ago. Since then, we’ve unpacked our apartment, enrolled the kids in school, and started working. Those are just the big things. The little everyday things we’ve had to adjust to have been the hardest. Jet lag was tough, but by the end of week 1, it was over. Remembering to brush our teeth, drink, and cook with filtered water hasn’t been too hard, but it does help that one of our kitchen faucets provides filtered water. I think the hardest adjustments for me have been living without air conditioning, the frequent power outages, and the bugs.

Indulge me while I complain a little:

The heat and humidity is suffocating some days. I sweat all the time. By afternoon, I’m sweating as much as I do when I work out. My hair and dress get drenched. I tell myself that the sweat makes my skin look like it’s glowing…trying to find a silver lining. Ha! I’m so thankful that we have plenty of fans. Even when they’re just circulating hot air, it’s better than no circulation at all.

N’Djamena has frequent power outages. That means that we not only lose our lights, we also lose our fans. Not good! Thankfully, our compound has a generator that comes on little bit after the power dies. That bit of time when the fans stop is miserable, especially when it happens in the middle of the night. We have had a couple of times when the generator didn’t work. One night we slept with ice packs and wet washcloths until the power came back on. We’re finding creative ways to stay cool.

The bugs. Oh, the bugs. There are these little gnats that can fit through the netting of our mosquito nets, and they bite. I made some bug repellent spray for our sheets and net last night. I think it helped. Praise God! Once dry season arrives in November, we’ve heard that the bugs and the humidity begin to go away. I can’t wait!

Ok. Complaining is over. Let’s move on to the good stuff:

I love my job! Teaching this little Kindergarten class is so much fun. The kids are wonderful – I think they all are being on their best behavior because I’m new. Ha! We have fun reading and playing and working together.

I love our house helper. It’s a common practice here in Africa for expats to create jobs for locals. We hired a young woman to hand wash our clothes, shop at the city market, and cook our lunch during the week. Lunch is the biggest meal of the day here, and with all of us working or attending school from 7:30am-12:30pm, it’s nice to come home to lunch already prepared. I don’t speak French, so communicating is difficult. Having our house helper shop and do the bargaining at the market is so helpful. We get to practice our French with her and she practices her English. I’m looking forward to getting to know her better.

Last week, we attended a prayer meeting with all the missionaries who are working with the Daza and Teda people. I feel so honored to be a part of this amazing group. Chad is a poor and hard place to live, but there is a large group of missionary families who have committed their lives to helping make Chad better through literacy and education, clean water, medical care, and of course, the love of Jesus. I love that we get to be here and assist them. They are truly making a difference in so many lives!

I’ve come to realize that for every hard thing we must endure here in Chad, there is a good thing happening to keep us going.

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Waiting for the school taxi.

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First day of school

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Dress shopping at the market.

 

 

 

A prayer

I’m feeling the waves, the wind, the sea all around me – the fundraising, the packing, the moving, the emotions. I’m losing my focus on Jesus and focusing instead on the storm.

Lord Jesus, you are sovereign. You have called us to Chad. You have provided the way. But somehow in the midst of all my preparation, my mind has lost sight of that.

I feel like Peter when he walked on water and then began to sink. I was cruising along on the waves with you, and then I looked at the storm around me and became scared.

Take my hand, Lord. Lift me up. Give me strength. Reignite your calling in me.

A New Purpose

This quote from Rebekah Lyons “Freefall to Fly” hits me right between the eyes:

“…we walk the streets of our cities with appointments and responsibilities but lack a sense that God intended purpose for our days.”

I knew my purpose and destiny in life was in missions/humanitarian work since I was 15 years old. God confirmed that calling multiple times throughout high school and college. Because of that desire and pull on my life, I traveled quite a bit. I signed up for every mission trip I could. I raised support from family, friends, and churches. I remember living in Sweden for 3 months after college and knowing that my purpose in life was to leave the US and show God’s love around the world.

Even when Robert and I got married, we talked about traveling together and raising our family overseas. We satisfied this desire for a while through Robert’s travels with TEAM. I even accompanied him on a trip to Guatemala once. Then God called us to Chad.

We visited Chad for one month in 2014 and fell in love with the people and the mission. After that trip, we knew we were supposed to go back at some point. Our whole family was excited to plan a year-long excursion as missionaries in Chad. We began praying about when and how.

God had a slight detour for us though. He opened doors for both us to start new jobs here in Chicagoland. This seemed to take us away from missionary life. We walked through those doors and did well. We put the kids in a great school, got a cat and a dog, began to fix up our old home and develop deep friendships. We were becoming settled and comfortable and not really thinking much about life as missionaries.

Then God brought along a Facebook post that changed everything.

I saw that TEAM was looking for a teacher for a homeschool kindergarten class in Chad. I immediately emailed Robert saying, “I can do this.” The wheels started turning. We sent emails, Facetimed friends in Chad, and prayed continually about this opportunity. Every door we knocked on opened. It was like God was flashing a neon sign saying, “Now is the time for the Johnsons to return to Chad!”

So here we are in the middle of packing up our home, raising a budget, and planning on leaving in September for a mission that calls us to fulfill the purpose for our days. The plan right now is to go for a year, but I know if God opens the door for us to stay longer, we will walk through it. We’re nervous but excited to see what this next step in our faith will bring.

You can connect with us and hear more about what we will be doing in Chad at www.wearethejohnsons.com. You can contribute to our mission by clicking here.