Thoughts From the Front Lines: The Road of Faithfulness
By Lauren Ankenman
To see God’s faithfulness embodied on this side of heaven is humbling & beautiful…but will stop you right in your tracks. Something about faithfulness shakes me up a bit. The idea of sticking something out for the long-haul rubs right up against everything this world tells us; like sand paper to a beautifully lacquered wooden table. My insatiable desire for a life full of “firsts” (first experiences, new adventures; the idea of starting over), has always seemed to come head-on with the call to be faithful and steadfast. I fight the notion that faithfulness is boring. That faithfulness is plain and unseen. I know what is true, but oh how powerful all the other voices are…
If I am being honest, since the first time I stepped foot in Haiti, I have struggled with finding full peace and full clarity in the idea of coming short-term. I know the beauty and the benefits and the heart’s intent for so many that come to Haiti. And I know lives of those that have come for a short time and have been forever changed by the great story that God is writing for this country. But there has not yet been a time that I have left Haiti and haven’t asked myself, “Lord, did I do more harm than good?”
Did I hurt the little ones by showing care and then leaving so quickly?
Did I confuse them, and did I truly put THEIR needs first?
Did I say something that will leave more of a mess than when I got there?
Did what I do matter?
Did what I do simply… help?
All good questions to ask, as my dear friend Lexie Anderson always tells me. She tells me, it is GOOD to wrestle with and think through these things and be aware! But always and still is, oh-so-very hard.
I am so thankful that my church, Reality LA, prepares its short-term missionaries well. Reality LA’s heart for coming alongside Child Hope is one that bolsters the long-term, and encourages them to stay the course, and continue walking in faithfulness and truth. This, of course, may come in many various shapes and forms. Some trips are to offer refreshment – spiritually, emotionally, and even physically to the long-term missionaries. Other teams aim to take over tasks so the staff can receive a breather. And some are to be a resource for Child Hope in areas that we may have knowledge or expertise in. So much of what shaped this last trip was from the insight and help we received from Child Hope’s directors, Noel and Lori Tugwell, and the rest of the staff.
We wanted to know the best way in which we could be of help and care to them, and they offered so much direction and so much clarity.
Humbling ourselves and asking questions, rather than assuming, (although it may sound simple), is HUGE when coming short-term, and I am thankful that I have had that modeled for me.
Our hearts were shaped by their guidance and we were able to narrow in on our objective and focus: to encourage their leadership and the work they do day-in and day-out, set them up for success for after we are gone, and maintain both a prayerful and servants heart while there.
This December, Reality LA sent a team filled with vivacious personalities, strong skill-sets, and hearts to serve. (Oh and I forgot to mention very messed up and broken and so in need of Jesus). We were asked to put on a Leadership Seminar for the full-time staff members at Child Hope and the children in the orphanage. This sounded fun and exciting, but wow did it seem like a daunting task.
Through much prayer and preparation, God so graciously orchestrated a seminar that not only provided information and tools, but also brought a refreshment and encouragement to each person in the class. We were able to learn from one another, pray for one another, speak life into one another, and share our hearts with one another. It was beautiful and challenging and everything in between. Something I will hold close to my heart for the rest of my life.
I walked away from this trip with very different things than I expected…
I wanted newness and I got familiarity.
I wanted excitement and I got contentment.
I wanted passion and I got sensibility.
I wanted all the things “firsts” bring you. But God had different plans. And I am so glad He disappointed my expectations. Because He showed me so much more. He showed me a tiny glimpse of what it looks like to commit, and that first experiences are all a part of it! It is the “firsts” that bring us in the first place. But what keeps us there? What keeps us there is a choice. And what comes from choosing the same faces? The same life? The same road day in and day out?
A deep contentment.
An unshakable joy.
A depth of character.
For the first time it really set in: those who choose, those who fight & those who remain… they are my heroes. I want the character of the one who chooses and the heart of the one who stays.
To every individual at Child Hope that has chosen the hard road of faithfulness, our team wants to thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Thank you for teaching us more about the abundance of life and the beauty in faithfulness. We got to see it firsthand and are forever grateful for your example.