Make Me a Peaceful Acorn (Elisabeth Elliot)

How many of you have been LOVING the Elisabeth Elliot quotes on facebook lately?  I’ve been so blessed by her words of wisdom that have come from many years walking with and serving our Savior.  She endured many unexpected and painful detours in her faith journey.  She experienced loss and grief that I hope never to taste.  Her faithful example as a servant of Christ brings tears to my eyes.  As I read her quotes and her books, it’s as if I’m talking to her, unburdening my missionary heart to a wise, understanding soul.  There are so many of her quotes that ring like answers to questions I’ve been unable to form.  The beauty of her words bring the I’ve-been-there comfort that can only comes from a fellow missionary who has had to walk certain paths of sacrifice that are part of following His voice.  Elisabeth has a way of putting my heart mumbles on paper.

That being said…allow me to share some Elisabeth quotes (in italics) throughout this blog to help explain where I’m at on my personal faith journey 🙂

I feel like ever since we began our ministry with Ethnos360 (New Tribes Mission) it’s been one season of waiting after another.  I don’t do waiting well.  Allow me to briefly recap the last 10 years of our ministry while Elisabeth Elliot sprinkles her 2 cents in along the way.  Her advice is worth much more than 2 cents!

I remember one specific instance when I woke up in the middle of the night with an abscess tooth.  Micah was 2 weeks old.  We were supposed to head to Missouri and begin our missions training the following month.  We were ready to leave the 40 hour work week behind and step out in faith!  How could we go now when the dental surgery just cost us $1,000?  We waited and prayed and told God we could wait if that was His will. God provided and opened the door.  Move 2 spaces forward.  

After completing our stateside training we applied for our visas to study French in Paris, France.  This was the next step before arriving in French speaking West Africa!  We are supported monthly by churches, families, and individuals.  The interviewer asked us, “What happens when someone doesn’t give one month?”  The truth spilled out and we logically responded, “We trust God to provide what we need, when we need it.” He scoffed and then without one thought, he denied our visas.  This happened TWICE.  We may be a little hardheaded 😉  Move backwards 4 spaces.  

“We are always held in the love of God. We are never wholly at the mercy of other people – they are only “second causes,” and no matter how many second or third or fiftieth causes seem to be in control of what happens to us, it is God who is in charge, He who holds the keys, He who casts the lot finally into the lap. Trusting Him, then, requires that I leave some things to be decided by others. I must learn to relinquish the control I might wield over somebody else if the decision properly belongs to him. I must resist my urge to manipulate him, needle and prod and pester until he capitulates. I must trust God in him, trust God to do for both of us better than I know.” 

― Elisabeth Elliot, Passion and Purity: Learning to Bring Your Love Life Under Christ’s Control

So, not wanting to wait around spinning our wheels, we applied at Word of Life (Parole de Vie) in Quebec and were accepted.  We had two weeks to get up there and get settled in before classes started.  God answered and pushed along in our journey!   Move forward 2 spaces.

In 2008 we finally arrived in Guinea! Just short of two years on the field, a coup d’état prevented us from returning to Guinea where we thought we’d spend the rest of our ministry lives reaching an unreached people group with the Gospel.  Now we’d have to head to Dakar, Senegal and start new relationships and attend a new church.  We’d have to send our oldest son to a new local school (to learn French) and start an interim ministry while we “waited” for a village assignment.  What are you doing Lord?  Why have us go to Guinea in the first place if You knew we’d only end up in Senegal?  Switch hands with the player beside you.

“He is always doing something–the very best thing, the thing we ourselves would certainly choose if we knew the end from the beginning. He is at work to bring us to our full glory.” 

― Elizabeth Elliot

After serving for a year and a half in Senegal, we took on the temporary assignment of doing a broad survey of people groups in 6 different countries in West Africa.  This took about 4 months.  It was a wild ride, but the experience we gained has proven invaluable over the years.  During this survey period we found “our” people!  The B* people!  Leadership gave us permission to pursue them.  We had a path!  “Our” path.  We had a purpose!  Full steam ahead…right?  Wrong!   First we needed to live a year in town getting to know the local churches and pastors. Ok Lord. Even though we don’t want to wait, we trust You have a purpose for our stint in town.  Lose a turn.  Stay put.

“It is God to whom and with whom we travel, and while He is the end of our journey, He is also at every stopping place.” 

― Elisabeth Elliot

We went in pouting but were extremely blessed to have gotten to know the folks God put in our path.  We found our African Papa that year in town.  THANK YOU LORD!  We found our Jula language helper that year too.  He and his family ended up following us out to the our neighbor village and we helped them open up the first bookstore there!  THANK YOU LORD!  He kept giving us opportunities to practice thankfulness.

“Thanksgiving is a spiritual exercise, necessary to the building of a healthy soul. It takes us out of the stuffiness of ourselves into the fresh breeze and sunlight of the will of God.” 

― Elisabeth Elliot, Keep a Quiet Heart

We learned that the town folks looked down upon our B* people.  We realized that there was no one working with the B* people in their heart language and that no one had any intention of translating the Bible in their language.  We felt an urgency like never before!

“God’s command ‘Go ye, and preach the gospel to every creature’ was the categorical imperative. The question of personal safety was wholly irrelevant.” 

― Elisabeth Elliot

We had no idea where this path would lead.  At this point, peace reigned in the country.  Our personal safety was never a question.  Security issues were not weighing heavy on our hearts.  We never imagined how quickly things would deteriorate.

Towards the end of our year in town we began surveying the B* people.  After mapping out their villages, we asked God to guide us to the place He’d have us build our house.  He did. Building was NOT easy, but He provided every step of the way.  In 10 months, we were done!  Then I found out I was pregnant.  Surprise!!  We lived in our house a total of 8 days then came back to the states for Joanna’s birth.  Lose another turn.  (But gain a sweet baby girl!)

“We never know what God has up His sleeve. You never know what might happen; you only know what you have to do now.” 

― Elisabeth Elliot

After 10 months stateside, after visiting most of our churches, after working up to saying goodbyes yet again…our return to the B* people was tabled for another 6 months.  As you’ve read in a previous blog, we weren’t too keen on the idea of delaying our return, but the reasons were compelling.  We felt like we could use the extra time to try and raise more financial support while we kept an eye on the security situation in Burkina Faso.  It was heart wrenching to call folks back in Burkina Faso and tell them that our ministry among the B* people would have to be put on hold again.  Move backwards 2 steps.

“How long Lord must I wait?  Nevermind child, trust me.” 

― Elisabeth Elliot, Passion and Purity: Learning to Bring Your Love Life Under Christ’s Control

This year, in June, we FINALLY returned to Burkina Faso!  We had some challenges getting there after our field conference in Senegal (blog) but after God provided a temporary house for us…we dove right into getting our house ready in the village.  Daniel worked hard on making sure our house was up to security protocol standards and we cultivated relationships in town with the the local church in the meantime.  Then the WEEK we were supposed to move back in, the plug was pulled and our ministry with the B* people was tabled yet again.  Why are you saying NO again, Lord??  Do not pass go.  Do not collect $200.  Go directly to jail.

“Some of God’s greatest mercies are in his refusals. He says no in order that He may, in some way we cannot imagine, say yes.” 

― Elisabeth Elliot

Now I don’t mean to infer that this year and half of ministry we’ve been asked to pursue in Brazil is by any means “jail time”.  It just feels like something that was forced upon us.  Like we were back into a corner and made to choose a plan B.  This is a ministry we didn’t pursue.  Due to time constraints we prayed and agonized over this decision for 2 weeks before deciding on this as our interim ministry.  We’ve been praying for the B* people for years…before we even knew their name.  We were on the road 4 months surveying many different ethnic groups, but we kept coming back to the B* people.  Then God kept opening doors until we were ready to live alongside them.  How do we move on from that kind of relationship…even for a year and a half?  We won’t physically be in jail, but it feels like our vision, our dreams, and our plans will be.

“Lord, where there are interruption, it seems that the disposal of the time I had planned so well have slipped out of my hands. Help me then to remember that it has not slipped out of Yours. In Your hands, these unexpected things will be fashioned into an unexpectedly beautiful design” 

― Elisabeth Elliot, Discipline: The Glad Surrender

Thanks for the reminder Elisabeth.  Despite how it might feel at times, my life is not a Monopoly game.  It’s not an Uno game left to my intellect with a splash of chance.  God is not throwing the dice and deciding which direction I should move or how many steps I should take.  This game of “Life” doesn’t rely on a spinner to determine my path.  My life and ministry is guided by the Hand of the Author of LIFE Himself! (Can I get an AMEN?!)

My mind can’t help but jump ahead at times to the what-ifs.  What if we never get back to the B* people.  How will they hear?  Will they ever read God’s Word in their own language?  If we don’t go back back, what will we do?  What a waste of time and effort, of language learning and relationship building, of finances and planning.

“When ours are interrupted, his are not. His plans are proceeding exactly as scheduled, moving us always (including those minutes or hours or years which seem most useless or wasted or unendurable).” 

― Elisabeth Elliot, Passion and Purity: Learning to Bring Your Love Life Under Christ’s Control

Breathe.  One day at a time.  He is still on His throne. I need Your peace.

“It is today for which we are responsible. God still owns tomorrow.” 

― Elisabeth Elliot

“Today is mine. Tomorrow is none of my business. If I peer anxiously into the fog of the future, I will strain my spiritual eyes so that I will not see clearly what is required of me now.” 

― Elisabeth Elliot, Keep a Quiet Heart

Ok, Elisabeth.  I get it.  I hear ya loud and clear.  You’ve walked this same road and you’ve asked my questions.  Surely you’ve heard the same responses from a loving Father whose character never changes.

“But, in the words of a Portuguese proverb, “God writes straight with crooked lines”, and He is far more interested in getting us where He wants us to be than we are in getting there. He does not discuss things with us. He leads us faithfully and plainly as we trust Him and simply do the next thing.” 

― Elisabeth Elliot, Secure in the Everlasting Arms

“Do The Next Thing..” 

― Elisabeth Elliot

Our NEXT THING is flying to Brazil on January 15th (Micah flies back to Kenya for school this coming Friday. Yay for him!  Boo for me!)…may we echo Elisabeth’s prayers as we ask for:

PEACE as we start down a new path on our faith journey

FIRM CONVICTION that You are at work among the B* people in this pause

DIRECTION as we explore this new territory as Coordinators for West Africa in Latin America

PURPOSE as we take on roles (yet to be determined) at our mission training center in Brazil, rubbing shoulders with bright-eyed students ready to tackle the task You place before them

JOY in this interim ministry as we seek to be present on this current path while leaving a piece of our hearts in Burkina Faso

WISDOM in how to support 2 boys in Portuguese school, 1 son in the MK boarding school in Kenya, and JoJo who appears to have the spunk of the Energizer Bunny

REST for us that can only come from a closer walk with Him

“Teach me to treat all that comes to me with peace of soul and with firm conviction that Your will governs all.” 

― Elizabeth Elliot

“Nothing that comes to me is void of divine purpose. In seeking to see the whole with God’s eyes, we can find the peace which human events so often destroy.” 

― Elisabeth Elliott

“Think of the self that God has given as an acorn. It is a marvelous little thing, a perfect shape, perfectly designed for its purpose, perfectly functional. Think of the grand glory of an oak tree. God’s intention when He made the acorn was the oak tree. His intention for us is ‘… the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.’ Many deaths must go into our reaching that measure, many letting-goes. When you look at the oak tree, you don’t feel that the loss’ of the acorn is a very great loss. The more you perceive God’s purpose in your life, the less terrible the losses seem.” 

― Elisabeth Elliot

Lord, help this oak tree to grow a few more branches in Brazil for Your glory.

Love,

Your Former Acorn