Esiteri and the Red Earth

A few updates:

We made it safely to Bamako!

We started language classes. I am amazed at how far God has taken me. Growing up, I could barely open my mouth because of fear to talk to a stranger in my own language. Now, I am going out on a limb speaking to people, risking failure, in a language completely foreign to me.

Our hosts have a small television, and the Africa Cup (soccer precursor to the World Cup) is a big deal. Let’s just say that when the Mali team scored, I swear that I heard the whole city erupt in cheering.

We have been given our new names to make pronunciation for the Malians easier. My new name is Esther, except when they say it, it sounds like “Estare,” and they spell it like “Esiteri.” I like it quite a bit. I think I may try to study the book of Esther while I am here.

Thank you so much for your prayers! We have been very blessed so far, and the team is bonding well.

I really enjoy this way of life. Though the simple things take more effort, I feel more at peace and happier.  My emotions go up and down like a roller coaster. I suppose this is normal. To ease my aching heart, I try to be glad in having memories of family and friends to hold on to when I cannot hold on to the people themselves.

I am sure we have made plenty of cultural mistakes even in these first few days, but they are gracious with us. In a way, they have adopted us into their family while we are here. They have even given us the honor of introducing ourselves with their last names.

We went to the post office today to mail letters. It took about two or three taxis and almost two hours to complete the task. Unfortunately, it looks as though we will not make that trip too often. I wish this were not so, but such difficulties come with the territory. I will still try to write, but so much rests in uncertainty. It also looks like Skype won’t happen until the end of February most likely.

The days pass by unannounced. There are no warnings, dramatic conclusions, or credits scrolling past on a screen accompanied by some fitting theme music (though, from time to time, Valerie does play soundtracks from various films.) We are here. And though I knew it would be true, it has not hit me until now that we are here to live. This is life for us now. This is the norm.

We wake up, or at least we try to wake up at 7 or 7:30 in the morning. By this time, the Malians have most likely been awake for about two hours. While I lay in bed, I am awoken by the sound of the morning call to prayer, a rooster’s crow, or the sound of the women doing their chores.

Breakfast is generally at 8 am. Before this, one of the women will usually ask if we want to take a shower. If we answer affirmatively, they go about the work of heating water and filling our buckets. We take the bucket into a shower room and splash ourselves to our heart’s content. This room has no roof and the drain goes out through the wall.

After breakfast, we usually have class to learn Bambara. Ton ton Sako is a wonderful teacher. He says that we are learning quickly. Class is about three hours long. Then we have lunch. All the food is so good.

In the afternoon, we rest and have tea. Depending on the day, we will do different things, like go to the market or play with the children.

Stress comes without warning. It can be a culmination of things – language is one of those things. I find comfort in knowing that God knows and understands my language. He also knows and understands the Malians. I pray that when we fail, He could bring understanding to both of us.

We are all missing our loved ones, but God is faithful still. Personalities sometimes clash, but we are not in the business of giving up on being at peace with each other.

Thank you for your prayers!

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To the HEART… again

Me and my team of six are making our way to Mali, with a three week training at the HEART Institute.

Yes, this is where I studied and lived for the past four months. It’s like coming home for me. The air is a little bit colder. I feel slightly older, bolder. Ask me why? I’ll shrug my shoulder.

Okay, I’m done for now. I’m out of clever rhymes. But really, I have high hopes for my Mali team. We’ve been getting along well and shared many a hearty laugh. Keep us in your prayers! Pray for continued and increased unity among us, for love and peace to abound. 

My expectations for Mali:

I expect to be thoroughly challenged, to meet my inadequacy, look it in the face, full of fear, hope, and courage, to see my God show Himself to be completely able to handle all that Africa can throw at me. 

Two more weeks at HEART and we sprout wings and fly. Layover in Paris, then Mali!

Update!

I am currently at the HEART Institute in Lake Wales, Florida! We are about half-way through the semester and God has already been stretching me and causing me to grow.
The first night here, I became well-acquainted with cockroaches, palmetto bugs, lizards, and frogs.
I’ve enjoyed early morning chores when we get to watch the sunrise as we feed animals and build fences and such.
The stars at night have drawn my eyes to the heavens, and reminded me of how big our God is and yet He still came to creatures as small as us.
I am in community with 19 other students, and we’ve had to face confrontation and come out stronger for it. I am so thankful for all the beautiful people here and excited to have about 1 month and a half to get to know them better and see glimpses of my Savior through them.
We all went to Belize and learned so very much. I still have to process it, so more updates on that later.
I am slowly but surely getting ready for Mali!! A very large amount of funds still need to be raised! Please pray for God’s providence in that. Pray that He moves His people to give generously!
If you want to give (any amount is appreciated greatly,) let me know and I will give you details on how you can do that.
Also pray for God to prepare our hearts for all that He has in store for me and my team! Pray that we work together well and build each other up! Thank you!
❤ Love and blessings

What to do with loneliness

I recently read Elisabeth Elliot’s Passion & Purity, and I really want to hold on to the advice given in here.

“What to do with Loneliness” – Elisabeth Elliot

Be still and know that He is God. When you are lonely, too much stillness is exactly the thing that seems to be laying waste to your soul. Use that stillness to quiet your heart before God. Get to know Him. If He is God, He is still in charge.

Remember that you are not alone. It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” Jesus promised His disciples, “I am with you always.” (Matt 28:20) Never mind if you cannot feel His presence. He is there, never for one moment forgetting you.

Give thanks. In times of my greatest loneliness, I have been lifted up by the promise of 2 Corinthians 4:17,18, “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.” This is something to thank God for. This loneliness itself, which seems like a weight, will be far outweighed by
glory.

Refuse self-pity. Refuse it absolutely. It is a deadly thing with power to destroy you. Turn your thoughts to Christ who has already carried your griefs and sorrows.

Accept your loneliness. It is one stage, and only one stage, on a journey that brings you to God. It will not always last.

Offer up your loneliness to God, as the little boy offered to Jesus his five loaves and two fishes. God can transform it for the good of others.

Do something for somebody else. No matter who or where you are, there is something you can do, somebody who needs you. Pray that you may be an instrument of God’s peace, that where there is loneliness you may bring joy.

Here I go!

So I am planning on going to Mali, West Africa in January 2012! I sent out my support letter a couple weeks ago, and my first deadline is coming up. I am supposed to have raised over 3,000 by now & I really don’t know what has come in so far. All I know is that 8 or 10 people have already given. Keep sending in your checks to made out to Grace University with “Edge Scholarship: Stephanie” in the memo line! You can send them to Grace University,  PO Box 3725, Omaha, NE 68103. Or you can give online at http://www.graceuniversity.edu and click on “Give to Grace” in the left-hand side bar.

Keep your prayers coming too! God knows better than anyone what we need. Pray that God moves in the hearts of people to give generously. I know that God has proven to me time and time again how much of a blessing it is to be generous! All we have belongs to God anyway!

By the way, this is a team effort, and in this adventure we will be sharing all the benefits and deficits. Therefore,  pray also that those who are hearing of our need from my other team members will respond faithfully and give generously as well.

More than money,  pray that God prepares our hearts for what lies ahead of us. I have been reading in Elisabeth Elliot’s Passion & Purity. In there she says, “If all struggles and suffering were eliminated, the spirit would no more reach maturity than would the child. The Heavenly Father wants to see us grow up.”

With that in mind, I would ask that you pray not that this journey be easy, but that through the struggles we face, we would grow and be matured in spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Pray also that we would continually offer up to God our worries, fears, anxieties, and uncertainties.

For me, this has been a test in trusting God. My momma taught me this children’s song, and I sing it to myself even now as a gentle reminder –

“One step more.
One step more.
Give me faith for one step more.
One step more.
One step more.
Faith for one step more.”

Philippians 4:4-7 “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand: do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Ransom

Isaiah 51:11 (English Standard Version)

11And the ransomed of the LORD shall return
and come to Zion with singing;
everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
they shall obtain gladness and joy,
and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

ran·som

–noun

1.

the redemption of a prisoner, slave, or kidnapped person, of captured goods, etc., for a price.
2.

the sum or price paid or demanded.
3.

a means of deliverance or rescue from punishment for sin, esp. the payment of a redemptive fine.
–verb (used with object)

4.

to redeem from captivity, bondage, detention, etc., by paying a demanded price.
5.

to release or restore on receipt of a ransom.
6.

to deliver or redeem from punishment for sin.