I just finished Philippians. I’ve been taking it one chapter a week, asking God “What does this look like for my team? What lessons are for me in this?” Ask and you shall receive, He said, and I’ve seen the lessons popping out at me ever since. For your sake I will keep it to a minimum, just highlighting a few from each chapter, but I’d like to encourage you to take this on for yourself. Pick a book and ask Him to speak about it, about what was going on when it was written, and what it means for you today. So here we go!

Chapter 1: “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”  Phil.1:6 

This was a big one for me, as I look towards leading this team (with my beautiful Anna, of course). First of all- God is the one who began the good work among the Philippians, not Paul. Even though Paul was doing the “dirty work” of discipleship, God is the one who begins it, and therefore: He is faithful to complete it. God isn’t someone who does things halfway. If we only learn a lesson halfway, it’s because we didn’t push through to the other side, not because God deserted us in the process.

Another major point I took from this verse is something that I gleamed from my own outreach to Papua New Guinea in 2011. Paul was separated from the Philippians, he isn’t able to be with the people who bring him great joy because of his suffering for Christ. That means that he was shepherding them for a time and then had to leave before he saw their transformation completed. What does that mean for me? For our team? Well #1 it means that the students, as well as me, will be learning lessons that may not be fully understood while we are together. The learning process will continue after the outreach, and I may not be around to see it. Will I be ok with that? And for us as a team, we will see issues that we won’t like. We’ll see corrupt orphanages, street children, a devalued nation and it will break us. There’s no way we’ll be able to “fix” it all in 11 short weeks. Will we be strong enough to walk away, after pouring out our hearts, even if we don’t see the change?

Chapter 2: “Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.” Phil 2:2

Unity is something our team is striving for, yet isn’t something that can be forced. Unity comes when we are honest with each other, when we repent together, when we lay down our desires and hopes for this trip, and we come together and ask God for His heart, His vision, and His plans for us. Unity comes when we work together to pursue God, because all good things come from Him. Paul is pleased when the people work together, pursuing love together, being Christ-like together. Our team will have a lot going on, but we will be together, and that is one of the most important things.

“Though He (Jesus)  was God, He didn’t think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, He gave up His divine privileges; He took the humble position of a slave.” vs. 6&7

This one hit me. Big black letters are scribbled in my journal, simply saying “Sam, lower yourself.” I am here to serve- serve Him, serve my team, and serve Togo. Sometimes I catch myself thinking I deserve a special acknowledgement, I mean “I always serve…” but that’s my job. Do you congratulate your washing machine when it washes your clothes? No- because that’s it’s job. My job is to serve, and if Jesus Christ, our LORD, could lower Himself to a person who couldn’t even control His own bladder (an infant), I need to lower myself. I need to serve my team, and treat them with love and respect and admiration. Samantha Nicole- get over yourself.

Chapter 3“I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised Him from the dead. I want to suffer with Him, sharing in His death, so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!” Phil. 3:10-11

I want to know the mighty power!! Yes Lord! Pick me! I want to see miracles, I want to see you raise the dead. I want, I want, I want. But do I want the suffering that goes with it? I’m reminded here to be wise with my prayers- I want to see miracles, but I never finish the verse. Am I as eager to suffer as I am to see His glory? This was definitely one that I had to double check with my spirit, because to be frank, I’m a selfish person. What do you think about this?

Chapter 4: “Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have.” Phil. 4:11

This one especially makes me stop and think, mainly because I don’t think much about this verse until my “rights” have been exposed as “privileges.” Will I be ok in 3 weeks when I don’t have internet in the palm of my hand, when I can’t text my mum real quick, or send her a photo of those sweet babies immediately after I take it? Will I be ok when I have to sleep under a mosquito net, or when all we have to eat is starch and water? Will I be content when I have to hand wash my clothes and limit my shower times? What about when my team gets on my nerves, or we’re short on cash, or our transportation is uncomfortable and my head hurts? Will I be content?

Will I be content when “all I have” is Christ? When all the comforts of this life are stripped, and what’s left is my mess of a heart and what little knowledge I have of Him? Will I be content? Would you?

It’s my prayer that by the end of this school, by the time we land back here in Kona on September 14th, that I will have learned even just a sliver of this, to be content no matter what. Whether I have mum’s home cooking, my single bed, no shower, shelter from the rain, my family, my team or no one at all- I hope to be content. Pray with me?

With Strength that’s not my own, Sam


Too many topics to put in a title….

When thinking about the title of this post, my mind went blank. How do I string it all together, yet again? If I was filled with determination, I would put this off until I thought of the perfect title, but instead, I’ll just go on ahead and continue writing instead. I have a lot of different, unconnected thoughts rolling round in this head of mine, as seems to be quite common lately. I’ll get through as much as I think you can handle, and save the rest for another time. So, here we go again.

-I am almost 100% positive I’m heading back to work with YWAM. Although the PhotogenX course seems fantastic, I’ve been getting different reoccurring signals from God about my program choice. At this point, I’m being lead to YWAM Kona for the School of Photography I which, although very different from the PhotogenX, still screams God’s glory and gives me a direct way to utilise the skills He has given me. This school runs in January, which for this year is too soon, seeing as I have commitments here that I need to see through and maintain my word to, so I plan to head out in January 2012. For those of you who don’t know, YWAM is a volunteer missions organisation that gives people everywhere an opportunity to learn, grow, and serve Him in all aspects of life. Seeing as it’s a volunteer organisation, everyone who serves with them is required to raise their own support, my most favourite thing to do! (imply heavy sarcasm  here)

Through the next year I have a lot of work ahead of me as far as support goes. My details are not set in stone at this time, and so I won’t begin support raising immediately, but it is on the horizon. The beautiful thing about YWAM is that it’s a tax-deductalbe non-profit, so it offers a wonderful benefit in that regard. If you have any suggestions for me as far as fundraising goes, I would be more than happy to hear them! Coming from a heritage where you work for anything you desire, asking for donations to do something you feel God is calling you into is definitely like swimming upstream. I do see room for growth in humility though in my own life in this area, and have already come to realize that this is just a new way I can involve others in my journey.

-Over the past few weeks, and now come to think of it, this whole year, God has been teaching me a lot about prayer, about sitting down, stopping my normal thought process, and talking to Him. Even better, being silent and listening to Him. Through my journey, I’ve learned more about this heart God has given me, and the drive for prayer that exists within me. A good friend of mine constantly built me up in encouragement, repeatedly calling me a “prayer warrior”. I’ve developed this love for prayer, for those moments of pure honesty with my Father, where I unload the fragile contents of my heart and entrust them to His hands. And somehow, I was delusional and thought everyone felt the same way. I would walk into situations thinking, “wow, we should just pray about this right now”, and when I vocalized that thought, I was shot some very strange looks. For a while I was a bit frustrated, or shocked, at the responses I was getting. To me, praying seemed like the only logical thing to do in a crisis situation. If you’re under attack, whether emotionally, physically, financially, etc, you bring it to the One who can and will handle all of your troubles, right? Not so.

Somehow, somewhere along the way, we lost touch. We started thinking that God was too big, too important, too busy to even consider listening to our little problems. And since God is too busy, we shouldn’t bother Him. We only need to tell Him how good He is, how we trust that He has everything under control. We inform Him of our trust, but then hold back how hurt we are, and how we don’t understand what He’s “doing”. For some reason, we decided what was important to God. Talking to God became like talking to our great-aunt twice removed. You give as little information about yourself as possible, and don’t really expect any advice relevant to your life, let alone some comfort or some real love.

I don’t know about you, but I cling to the words Paul writes in Philippians 4v6-7 where he says:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, in prayer and petition, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”

Or what about Ephesians 6v18:

“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.”

There’s something to be said about those first few words in Ephesians, “and pray IN the Spirit”. When we pray by the Spirit, we’re out of control. I’m not saying your body is doing things you don’t want it to, I’m saying your mouth is forming words that aren’t your own. In those moments when you’re praying for people you haven’t thought of in months, that’s the Spirit. When all of the sudden you find yourself praying direct, specific prayers for something not on your prayer list, that’s the Spirit. The Holy Spirit prompts us to pray, to press further into the heart of God, and I think that’s a beautiful job. The other day I was driving, and God stopped me in the middle of my “God, please be with so-and-so” and yelled “Pray.Specific.Prayers” If you’re going to talk to God, make it count. Be honest, tell Him when you’re upset and hurting, because He already knows. There’s no point in pretending for Him, He knows your heart and wants all of it.

Talk. Talk and listen. I suppose I should say it the other way around. Listen. Listen and talk. Zeno of Citium, a 3rd century B.C. Greek philosopher, once wrote, “We have been given two ears and one mouth so that we may listen more and talk less.” I think there’s a lot to learn from that. So now it’s my turn to stop talking. Thank you for reading today.

With Strength that is not my own, Sam