“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to [His] purpose.” Romans 8:28 [NASB]
My finite mind is incapable of conceiving how our infinite God is capable of working the truth of Romans 8:28 out in the lives of all believers simultaneously. And yet scripture proclaims it to be so, so we as a family have confidently rested in the assurance and comfort it provides as a foundational truth of the Christian faith. As a result we have been blessed to see and trace the hand of God in working this truth out in our lives in the midst of deepest pain and brokenness.
God absolutely beyond any shadow of a doubt called Sarah Lauren Harmening to be willing to go to Botswana to proclaim the gospel. She prayerfully considered, counted the cost, specifically considering the possibility of death, and enthusiastically responded “yes” in obedience to Him. Our God, unbound by time, knowing the end from the beginning, knew before He whispered His call to her heart that her obedience would result in her death. Not that He providentially caused her physical death, but that He sovereignly allowed it.
Sarah completed her mission. Sarah was obedient even unto death. I am confident she was greeted with that precious greeting we as believers all long to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” We as a family have never felt a need to complete her mission because we absolutely believe she completed the assignment God had for her. Our understanding of God’s call for her may have been incomplete, but her obedience and faith were not. We rejoice that His plan for the fruitfulness of her life did not end with her departure. Though her life and mission on earth are complete, her witness and testimony live on through His power as He continues to use it to glorify Himself.
A couple of months after Sarah’s departure we began to sense the Holy Spirit prompting us to pray about being willing to go to Botswana as a family. We began fervently praying specifically asking God to confirm in our spirits that it was indeed Him calling us to go and not just an emotional longing on our part. In the following months He continued to knit our hearts to Botswana and confirm it was indeed His call. He repeatedly showed us in profound ways that it was His leading as everything from schedules to funding to church approval fell precisely into place through prayer alone.
Our mission trip to Botswana was June 26th-July 2nd. We hope and pray that God used our time and shared testimonies in Botswana to encourage, challenge and bless others, but I can’t testify to any specifics in that regard because God has not given us that information. I can, however, testify to how God blessed and encouraged our family immensely through our time there. While there He graciously allowed us to trace the movements of His hand, reminding us He is sovereign and He has a plan that far exceeds our understanding, vision, or expectations.
He called Sarah to Botswana knowing that our hearts would be forever knit to the people our child was called to lay her life down for. The graciousness of His handiwork and provision is not lost on us as we realize He providentially and graciously called her and subsequently us to a place where His ongoing work uniquely lined up with the giftedness and passions He had already set in our hearts individually. From the people to the specific ministry opportunities, God could not have called us to a place that better suited us as a family for ministry partnership.
Below are brief overviews of the connections and opportunities that most impacted us. In the coming days I will share in greater detail specific ministry opportunities we saw for partnering in Gaborone.
The Turner Family
Back: Reuben (Nehemiah Team), JJ Yount, Brent Turner, Amanda Turner, Ellie Turner. Middle: Sophie Harmening, Rachel Early, Pam Early, Jesse Yount, Katelyn Harmening, Brayden Turner, Taylor Turner, Karen Harmening. Front: Kristen Harmening, Anna Cunningham, Tracy Cunningham, Jacob (Nehemiah Team), Scott Harmening
We were connected with the Turner family, IMB missionaries in Gaborone, Botswana, through our visit to the IMB last year. We had only exchanged a few emails, but almost instantly upon meeting them in person there was no doubt they are family to us. Their hearts for the Lord, their philosophy of ministry, their approach to teaching and discipling, their passion for rightly dividing the Word of God, their sincere desire to freely allow all to exercise their spiritual gifts as well as talents in ministering to the people of Botswana, all of these and so much more resonated in unison with the beat of our hearts. We are beyond excited to come alongside the Turner family as they faithfully and lovingly endure and persevere in serving where God has called them. We look forward to praying for them and supporting them however God directs and allows.
Moruti [Pastor] Benjamin Kabika
Moruti Kabika, Pastor of Gaborone Baptist Church and Principal of Baptist Convention Seminary, was out of town during our time in Botswana and wasn’t scheduled to arrive back until after our plane departed on July 2nd. Our original departure flight was cancelled, though, so he drove all the way to the airport just to meet us that afternoon as we waited and I am so thankful he did.
Moruti Kabika is one of those precious saints whom you can’t help but see Jesus in. He told us with tears streaming down his face that he was in the parking lot when he got word of the bus accident and Sarah’s death, and he remained in the parking lot two hours before he was able to drive away. He spoke precious words of love and encouragement as we stood crying together in the airport. We deeply love our brother, Moruti Kabika, and look very forward to spending more time with him hopefully in this life, but certainly in the next.
Teaching Sound Doctrine – dangers of Prosperity Gospel
Scott and I have been aware of and have spoken about the dangers of the prosperity gospel for years, but I have been particularly passionate and outspoken about its dangers since Sarah’s death. The Prosperity Gospel is prolifically preached in Gaborone, and is one of the greater threats to sound doctrine there at this time. I clearly see God’s hand in setting this awareness and passion in our hearts and then calling us where it is such a real and present danger.
Scott and I had the opportunity to publicly share our testimony of God’s provision and sustaining grace through suffering. Scott was able to boldly share scripture that confirms the expectation of suffering in the lives of believers and the fact that our hope is not in comfort or well being here, but is instead an eternal hope to be confirmed at the return of Christ.
BCS Baptist Convention Seminary
The Baptist Convention Seminary is what I am most excited about in Gaborone. Anyone who knows me knows I am passionate about theology, not as an academic pursuit but simply in response to our call to be faithful students rightly dividing and applying God’s Word. We had opportunity to hear the hearts of Moruti Kabika, Brent Turner, and Roberto Carmona regarding how God brought them to be involved in the formation of the seminary and their shared vision for it. The hand of God is clearly visible in its orchestration, and the heart of God is clearly visible in its mission and purpose. I am ecstatic to join with them in prayer, raising awareness and any other way God may lead.
When we delivered the funds raised in Sarah’s name to the IMB last year they suggested a sizable portion be allotted for new books for the library at the Baptist Convention Seminary in Gaborone. We were extremely excited to do so as Sarah was not only very serious about theology but was also an avid reader and lover of books. Moruti Kabika told us as we were visiting with him in the airport that the library at Baptist Convention Seminary is going to be called “Sarah’s Library.” We are so thankful God will use the library for the equipping of saints to serve throughout Botswana. We look forward to continuing to support the library however God leads, and returning in the future and meeting students benefiting from the library.
College and Career Ministry
Scott and I have served in college ministry for a number of years now and deeply love this age group. We had opportunity to enjoy a fellowship with some of the college and career group at Gaborone Baptist Church (they are referred to as “Youth” there). We had a wonderful time sharing testimonies, playing games, and worshipping with them. The presence of The University of Botswana in Gaborone provides a rich opportunity for outreach to this specific age group. We would love the opportunity to return one day with some of our college group from MZBC to partner with the youth of Gaborone Baptist Church to do outreach at University of Botswana.
Children’s ministry was bittersweet for me. Sarah loved children and was so excited about loving on the children in Gaborone, so being in the midst of them was particularly challenging emotionally. However, Katelyn, Kristen and Sophie connected most with the children’s ministry. They enjoyed the opportunity to partner with Amanda in running the Awana program the day we were there, as well as getting to pass out this year’s Kits for Kids (school supplies) that were funded for the next three years through the funds given in Sarah’s name. Katelyn, Kristen, and Sophie look most forward to partnering in children’s ministry in the future.
We are so very excited to partner with our new family and friends in Gaborone, and eagerly look forward to seeing all that God will do there as we seek and follow His leading together.