Botswana Bound?

“And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.  For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.'”  Mark 8:34-35 [NASB]

Sarah prayed at length over her role on the mission trip to Botswana.  While deciding whether or not to go, she thought and prayed about the possibility of death.  She thoughtfully and prayerfully counted the cost and deemed it worthy.  She told us before she left that no matter the outcome she knew God had called her to it.  My child counted the cost and was willing to lay her life down to share the gospel with the Tswana people because she was confident God was calling her to go.  Our hearts and lives are forever intertwined with the Tswana people through Sarah’s life.  Recognizing this compelled us to direct a portion of the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering collected in Sarah’s name toward Botswana specifically.

Scott, Katelyn, Kristen, Sophie and I are excitedly and fervently praying about the opportunity to go on a short mission trip to Botswana.   At first the idea of going to Botswana as a family was just a thought I mentioned almost in passing to Scott.   After talking and praying about it, though, it progressed from just a thought to a strong interest.  We asked one of our MZBC ministers to pray about the possibility of leading us on a trip there, which he graciously agreed to do.  We committed to continue to pray about it as well, asking God to continue to open doors if this is the direction He is leading or to close them if we are misunderstanding His leading.

While at the IMB we learned some of the greatest opportunities for ministry in Botswana are among children and college aged people.  My passion is college ministry, Scott and I have been serving with our college students for several years now and love them deeply.  Katelyn, Kristen and Sophie have been active serving in children’s and student ministry as well.  Katelyn feels called to minister to children through teaching, and will complete her degree in elementary education in December.   Realizing the greatest ministry opportunities directly align with the passions God had already set in our hearts as a family quickly fanned the flicker of interest into a flame of longing.

We don’t desire to go to simply observe or experience what Sarah would have.  Rather, we long to be the hands and feet of Christ to the people God called our child to be willing to lay her life down for.  We want to hug the Tswana children and tell them how our child loved them enough to be willing to die to share with them the love of the Savior who died and rose again for them.  Scott, as a loving father, wants to share with the fatherless of Botswana the heart of a father who deeply loves his children, and in so doing relate the love of The Father to them.  We want to stand among the Christians of Botswana and encourage them He is worthy of passionate and diligent pursuit.  We want to implore them to be people of the Word, to dig deep in study, to know truth and flush out untruths.   We long to come alongside the Turner family to love and encourage them as they pour out their lives in ministry there.  Greater than all of these longings, though, is our longing to be obedient to God’s leading.  If He is calling us to go, we are so very excited to go.  But if not, we want to be obedient to Him still, and will set aside our longing to go if He so leads.

We are continuing to pray for God to clearly guide us.  We are moving forward in planning and preparation and will trust Him to show us if we are moving in the wrong direction.  We have begun saving for the trip, and the profits from the current t-shirt sale will be held in an account for this purpose.  If God closes the door to our going to Botswana we will donate the funds through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.  Either way we are thankful and confident that God will be honored and Christ will be shared.

“He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal. If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.”  John 12:25-26 [NASB]

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The Sanitizing of Grief

“He will swallow up death for all time, And the Lord GOD will wipe tears away from all faces, And He will remove the reproach of His people from all the earth; For the LORD has spoken.  And it will be said in that day, “Behold, this is our God for whom we have waited that He might save us. This is the LORD for whom we have waited; Let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation.”  Isaiah 25:8-9 [NASB]

I’m not working through the stages of grief.  To be frank, I have grown to resent the phrase “the stages of grief” rather deeply.  Let me say it again, I am not working through the stages of grief.   I am missing my child.  I am learning to live life moment by moment, hour by hour, day by day, week by week and now month by month in the wake of the death of my daughter.  I am learning to live life without my child.  I am learning to press on while no longer hearing her singing, her laughter, or her quirky sense of humor.  I am learning to leave the house in silence instead of hearing her cries of “Wait! Wait!” as she bounds up the steps because she needs to hug me just one more time.  I am learning what it means to cling to the Hope of the resurrection unlike ever before.  I am learning what it truly means to let the Joy of the Lord be my strength.  I am learning and doing a myriad of other things, but I am not “working through the stages of grief. ”

I first learned about the stages of grief in a health occupations class in high school.  As a senior in high school I worked in CCU (the Cardiac Care Unit) and as a result saw many people die.  I remember watching terminally ill patients and their families and trying to identify where they were in the stages of grief.  True to what I had been taught, I observed some who were in denial right up to the very last seconds, some who were filled with rage, others bargaining, many depressed, and now and then even someone who had reached acceptance.  My black and white, perfectionistic personality that loves to categorize things found it very intriguing.  In my immaturity, it was a neat, tidy little outline, another medical process to be observed and analyzed.

Later in college I took a class titled, “Death and Dying.” We looked at how different cultures respond to death, it was there that I was first confronted with the concept of “the sanitizing of death.”  I don’t remember if that was the exact phrase used in our discussions, but it was definitely the thrust of what we discussed.  As you look across cultures in comparison it becomes clear that Western culture strives to hide death as much as possible.   We clean it up, or “sanitize it” to make it more palatable, or to hide it all together.  It’s uncomfortable and awkward to discuss, and its aftermath, grief, is equally uncomfortable and awkward, so we make every effort to neutralize the sting of both.

Sadly, along with death, I fear we are sanitizing grief through standardizing and medicalizing “The Stages of Grief.”  While outlines of the stages of grief may be beneficial in recognizing the gamut of emotions and feelings many walk through as they grieve, I think the manner in which many now apply “the stages of grief” has become a detriment to the bereaved.  The prevalence of referring to bereaved family members as “working through the stages of grief” may well be another way we are sanitizing death.  We shift the focus from the tragic death of their loved one and the details of the legitimate and horrific pain they are experiencing to instead focusing on a standardized process that even in its title lacks the impact of the word death.  It is an impotent encapsulation of the heart shattering reality of the bereaved.  It distances the observer from the full impact of death, because now the bereaved are working through a defined process that has a conclusion.  It’s neat, it’s tidy and it’s much more comfortable to discuss.

Those who are better educated on the stages of grief are quick to tell the bereaved that they may go through the stages in any order, skip some of the stages, and they may go back and forth between stages as well.  The educated will also tell the bereaved there is no set timeline for working through the stages, that everyone does it in their own time and way.  But the implication remains that there is a conclusion, there should be resolution and the bereaved are charged with working toward it.  If we switched our terminology back to what I shared in the first paragraph, though, would there be a conclusion?  What if instead of talking about “working through the stages of grief” we talked about me no longer “missing my child,” or for better clarity yet, you not missing your child?

If your child is gone when do you stop missing them? Think about the last time your child was gone, if it was more than a few days, say a week or even a month, did you miss them more the first day or after many days?  Because my child is physically dead and I can not see her again this side of heaven does that mean that changes for me?  It does not.  I miss her more today than I did the first day.  That deep sorrow I feel as I miss her, that throbbing pain in my heart is “grief.”  There are no stages, processes or procedures that will strip away my longing to see and hold my child, or the grief that results from my inability to see and hold her.  There will be no conclusion or resolution to my grief this side of heaven.  But saying that undoubtedly made someone reading this very uncomfortable.  It sounds hopeless, perhaps someone even had a desire to clean it up a bit, to sanitize it.

Don’t do it, don’t sanitize grief.  Grief hurts and it is raw, but grieving is not bad or wrong, it is not a disorder to be cured, and it is not a list of stages or steps to be completed.  It is simply deep sorrow in response to deep loss.  The presence of grief does not eliminate the possibility of joy and happiness.  Grief and joy exist simultaneously.  I grieve the absence of Sarah, but I have great joy that she is in the presence of our Lord and Savior, and even greater joy that I will one day join her there.  I am able to celebrate the victories and blessings of others while at the same time bearing the pain of her absence in my heart.  The permanence of my grief does not define or enslave me, but it does change me, it molds me.  God, who uses all things for the good of those who love Him, is using my grief as a sanctifying flame to refine and transform me more and more into His image.

In my pondering I have frequently wondered if Satan plays a role in the sanitizing of death.  It makes sense that the very one who comes to steal, kill and destroy would want us to avoid meditating on the weight and ramifications of death.  Death and grief should not be hidden away or sanitized.  Instead they should be harnessed as powerful reminders of the consequence of sin, the fallenness of this world – and the origin of death itself.  Death and grief are reminders of the brevity of this life and we should use them as catalysts to teach ourselves and others “to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).  They also provide profound opportunities “to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15).

I am not working through the stages of grief.  But God is working through my grief to transform me, to equip me and to use me in ways that He has foreordained (Eph. 2:10).  My grief is part of my offering to Him.   Just as I offer up my life to Him, I offer up my grief, knowing  that He who is faithful will use it, too, for His glory and my good.

“Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him For the help of His presence.”  Psalm 42:5 [NASB]

IMG_9361.JPG copyArtwork: Sarah Harmening

Immeasurably More

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”  Ephesians 3:20-21 [NIV]

In the minutes after Scott told Katelyn, Kristen, Sophie and me that Sarah was gone, we all huddled on the floor of that little EMS office suite and cried out to God asking Him to please redeem the unimaginable pain, and allow us to see at least a portion of that redemption.  In those moments we had no idea the depths of pain we would enter in the days, weeks and now months that followed, but shock and numbness gradually subsided to reveal the excruciating reality of the absence of our precious child, and sister to our girls.  From the first moments, though, we knew and clung to the foundational truth of Romans 8:28, that God would redeem the agony because “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” [NASB].

One of the ways that God quickly revealed He was redeeming our pain was through an outpouring of support for the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering in honor of Sarah.  As previously shared, our initial goal was to raise enough funds to support a missionary for one year, a lofty goal of $58,200.00.  However, our gracious and mighty God “who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us,” chose to move in the hearts of our brothers and sisters in Christ to far surpass what we asked of Him.  To be exact, He prompted generous men, women, students and children throughout our community and abroad to donate $32,920.00 more than we asked or imagined, for a total of $91,120.00.

There are no words to adequately express how deeply grateful and blessed our family feels for the generous outpouring.  We recognize each donation was an offering first and foremost to our Lord and Savior, but also that each donation was given with the intent of honoring Sarah and her heart’s longing to share the gospel message and the love of Christ throughout the world, and in Botswana specifically.   Motivated by a desire to make the impact of the donated funds more concrete for Katelyn, Kristen and Sophie, we contacted the International Mission Board leadership to ask if we could deliver the donation to them personally.  In addition we asked if they would share with us how the funds might be used so we could then partner with those ministries in prayer.

October 25, 2017, we spent the entire day with some of our brothers and sisters in Christ who serve with the International Mission Board in Richmond, Virginia.  We were loved so very well and once again blessed immeasurably more than we could ask or imagine.  By the end of the day we felt we have another home in Richmond with our family at the IMB.  They taught us, listened to us, laughed with us and cried with us.  They loved us with the love of Christ.  It ministered to my heart as Sarah’s mom, but as Katelyn’s, Kristen’s and Sophie’s mom, I am forever indebted.  They were the hands and feet of Christ to our family, demonstrating for our girls God’s ongoing tender loving care for us.  God used the time and effort they invested in us to show our girls that He is indeed at work through the midst of the unimaginable pain they face day in and day out, to give them tangible evidence that He is actively redeeming it and using it for good.

We were able to learn about a precious family serving as missionaries in Botswana, Brent and Amanda Turner.  Now that we have their names and some of their prayer needs we are excited to partner with them in prayer.  We were also blessed to Skype with a missionary in South Africa who had previously served in Botswana as well.  He was able to share at length about the ministry and prayer needs for Botswana, as well as some of the prayer needs of his family and their area of ministry.  We learned that the population of Botswana is approximately 2,250,000, of those 1,545,000 are Tswana people.  75% of the population in Botswana is under the age of 29, and fatherlessness is pervasive, both facts present unique ministry needs and opportunities.  After hearing him share we had a strong sense that Matthew 9:37-38 is absolutely true of Botswana, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few”  therefore we, too, are compelled to “pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”

The Global Engagement Team graciously gave us the opportunity to designate a portion of the funds given, almost $30,000, to three Lottie Moon projects in Botswana.  The remaining majority of the funds will go into the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering fund to support missionaries like the Turners in Botswana.

Once again, to all who donated, bought shirts, or supported us in any other way, we are so very, very grateful.  Thank you for your willingness to funnel your donation through the Lottie Moon Offering in Sarah’s name so we can have the opportunity to see God tangibly redeeming Sarah’s absence and our pain.  We hope you will join with us in praying for the three Lottie Moon projects in Botswana, that God will providentially guide the implementation of each, and that each will be effectively used to make an eternal impact in the lives of all who are touched by them.

QuotePhoto courtesy of Matt JonesPrayerChapelPhoto courtesy of Matt JonesSmilingFamilyPhoto courtesy of Matt JonesIMG_1403.HEIC

Deliverance, Memorials & Hope

“So Joshua called the twelve men whom he had appointed from the sons of Israel, one man from each tribe;  and Joshua said to them, “Cross again to the ark of the LORD your God into the middle of the Jordan, and each of you take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Israel.  “Let this be a sign among you, so that when your children ask later, saying, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’  then you shall say to them, ‘Because the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD; when it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off.’ So these stones shall become a memorial to the sons of Israel forever.”  Joshua 4:4-7 [NASB]

Throughout the Word of God we are instructed to tell what He has done.  Memorials and altars were built as reminders of His mighty works and deliverance, each time with the intent that they would prompt the telling of His provision and glory.  The theme of God’s deliverance of His people is throughout His Word.  The Old Testament is the deliverance of His people chosen and set apart for the ushering in of Messiah, and in the New Testament His offer of deliverance to the World through the precious blood of Messiah, Jesus Christ.  Each time one is delivered they are instructed to “tell.”  Testimonies of God’s provision and deliverance consistently give hope to all who hear.

“We will not conceal them from their children, But tell to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, And His strength and His wondrous works that He has done.”  Psalm 78:4 [NASB]

In the midst of God’s deliverance we might be tempted to assume we will never forget what we have witnessed, but with time and tribulation memories can fade, and with the fading of those memories hope can fade as well.  We need memorials.  We need written records of the mighty works of God.  We need to consistently tell the great works He has done, not just so the next generation and the generation after them will know, but also to remind ourselves and serve as an impetus to continually fix our focus on Him.

“Seek the LORD and His strength; Seek His face continually.  Remember His wonderful deeds which He has done, His marvels and the judgments from His mouth”  1 Chronicles 16:11-12 [NASB]

God has been so faithful to provide for us in the valley of the shadow of death.  He is faithfully and mightily redeeming that which the enemy intended for harm, the taking of Sarah’s physical life.  Thanks to the generous donations of many we have a check for $90,000.00 to deliver to the International Mission Board to fund mission work that Sarah was so very excited about and willing to lay her life down for.  We look forward to telling and recording the story of how He uses that money in the days ahead.

“But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, That I may tell of all Your works.”  Psalm 73:28 [NASB]

I long for the telling of our personal story of God’s provision and deliverance of our family in the valley of the shadow of death to bring hope to others.  This written record of our journey is our lasting memorial to Him, not just for the generations to come, but for us as well.  In the days ahead there will continue to be many dark stormy days when hope may seem elusive, but my prayer is this memorial will be a beacon in the night reminding us and others of the certain hope we have in Him.

“When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You in the night watches,  For You have been my help, And in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy.  My soul clings to You; Your right hand upholds me.” Psalm 63:6-8 [NASB]

We savor and cling to each and every account of God redemptively using Sarah’s life and death.  To our family each testimony is like one of the stones Joshua commanded the leaders of the tribes to stack.  Each testimony reminds not just us, but all others who hear it, of God’s faithfulness to provide and redeem all things for the good of His people.  What a blessing it would be to build a memorial tower here of testimonies of how God is using our family’s dark valley for His glory.  If you have been impacted through Sarah’s life and love of Christ will you consider sharing your testimony here to join us in the building of a lasting memorial?

“I shall remember the deeds of the LORD; Surely I will remember Your wonders of old.  I will meditate on all Your work And muse on Your deeds.  Your way, O God, is holy; What god is great like our God?  You are the God who works wonders; You have made known Your strength among the peoples.”  Psalm 77:11-14 [NASB]

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Broken Hallelujah

As the deer pants for streams of water,
    so my soul pants for you, my God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
    When can I go and meet with God?
My tears have been my food
    day and night,
while people say to me all day long,
    “Where is your God?”
These things I remember
    as I pour out my soul:
how I used to go to the house of God
    under the protection of the Mighty One[d]
with shouts of joy and praise
    among the festive throng.

Why, my soul, are you downcast?
    Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
    for I will yet praise him,
    my Savior and my God.

My soul is downcast within me;
    therefore I will remember you
from the land of the Jordan,
    the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar.
Deep calls to deep
    in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers
    have swept over me.

By day the Lord directs his love,
    at night his song is with me—
    a prayer to the God of my life.

I say to God my Rock,
    “Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I go about mourning,
    oppressed by the enemy?”
10 My bones suffer mortal agony
    as my foes taunt me,
saying to me all day long,
    “Where is your God?”

11 Why, my soul, are you downcast?
    Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
    for I will yet praise him,
    my Savior and my God.

 Psalm 42 [NIV]

I’m sitting here with my Bible open before me, its pages wet and wrinkled from a seemingly endless flow of tears.  I hear the ticking of the clock on the wall next to me and it reminds me of the steady passage of time, and yet time seems to stand still for us in so many ways.  One hundred and thirty one days ago Sarah left, that’s almost nineteen weeks without my child.  My heart aches with the same intensity it did that very first day, I miss her desperately.  While we as a family do find joy in each day, my pillow is still wet with tears of longing and pain most nights, if not every night.  I’ve said it many times, but will say again how much I miss the sound of her singing filling our home.  Sarah had a song in her heart that constantly overflowed and brought such joy to our home.  Missing Sarah’s constant singing has prompted me to think a lot about the importance of our songs.

The four month anniversary of her death was two Sundays ago.  It was an exceptionally raw day for Scott, the girls and me.  In our church service that morning as we worshipped we sang a song that had “holy, holy, holy” in it.  In that moment I could clearly see Sarah before the throne of God singing and worshipping with all of her heart, it took my breath away and prompted a flood of tears.  After that we sang of falling down and laying our crowns at the feet of Jesus, and I thought how excited she must have been to do just that, I could envision her face glowing and eyes sparkling with joy as she set her crown before Him.  I celebrate for her, God graciously set a passionate longing for His presence and heaven in her heart and then He fulfilled it.  Her faith has become sight and I am confident she is rejoicing and praising Him with the song of her heart at this very moment.

Both Scott and I long for the day when we, like Sarah, stand before Him singing “holy, holy, holy,” but for now we instead stand here, so very far away, with shattered hearts in our hands.  We cry out with the voice of the Psalmist in Psalm 42, our tears have been our food day and night, our souls are in despair and are poured out within us as breakers and waves have swept over us.  In the midst of the pain He is so faithful, though.  Like the Psalmist we acknowledge that He commands His lovingkindness toward us in so many ways, he pours out grace and mercy upon grace and mercy in His dealings with us.  Each day He has been faithful to put a song in and on our hearts to sustain us and minister to us, as well as to offer praise back to Him.  Sometimes the same song resonates over and over again for a week or even weeks, and sometimes a song for just one day, but each and every day our hearts lift a song to Him.

As I was mediating on Psalm 42, I was struck by verse 8, “and His song will be with me in the night” [NASB].   As I read that I was immediately reminded of Zephaniah 3:17, “The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing” [ESV].  I wonder if this is what the Psalmist had in mind as He was inspired to write of God’s song being with us in the night.  Nighttime is the worst for this shattered heart, in the still of the night I feel the pain with each pulse.  Perhaps in the darkest moments of the night He is singing over me, singing for me, when I am too shattered to lift my voice.   Perhaps the reason I am able to rise in the morning is because He has quieted me with His love in those moments, as He alone can.

Perhaps in the shattering of our hearts He has given us a more beautiful song to sing.  Perhaps the brokenness that our hallelujah flows from makes it even more fragrant to Him.  In the hours I frantically drove to Atlanta on June 8th, I sang “Even If” by MercyMe, over and over again.  In those hours I pleaded with Him to move the mountain and not let Sarah be taken from us, but He did not.  Even so, like the lyrics of that song, and like Sarah wrote in her journal (below), I proclaim again though He did not move the mountain I longed for Him to move, I will praise Him still.  I will trust Him to give me a new song, like the Psalmist, knowing that my Hope is in Him alone, and I will yet praise Him.

After Sarah left we found this recording of her singing “Hallelujah” on her iPod.  She knew it was a secular song, but she loved the fact that even as a secular song it reflected the beauty of people in brokenness singing “Hallelujah,” Praise the Lord.  So today I am singing with her, lifting high my broken heart and broken hallelujah as a fragrant offering to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.


Sarah Harmening singing “Hallelujah”: 

 


Psalm 42:1-5 ❤ – this is a great example of how God won’t always move mountains when we ask him to and through that, we should still praise God

~ Sarah Harmening

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Heart, Soul and Mind

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”  And He said to him, ” ‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.'” Matthew 22:36-37 [NASB]

Walking through this valley I have repeatedly been struck afresh by scripture, each time a subtle yet profoundly deepened understanding that leaves me wanting to shout it from the rooftop.  It has happened again, this time with the passage above.  I’ve read and heard it thousands of times, no doubt, but only now is it really resonating.  We regularly talk of loving God with all our hearts and surrendering our hearts to the Lordship of Christ, but it seems there is very little mention of the role of our minds in our faith.   Likewise, I periodically pray offering my whole life to Christ, all that I am and have, but sadly I realize I’ve not spent much time meditating on what it means to love God with all of my mind. 

I frequently feel there is a chasm between my mind and my heart these days, particularly as I serve in leadership roles at church.  My mind tells me to look past the pain in my heart to focus on those I am called to minister to.  As a result, I regularly smile, laugh and interact casually while at the same time my heart and soul feel crushed within me.  At first I was concerned this was hypocrisy, but prayer and study revealed that was not the case.  Scripture is replete with references regarding the vulnerability of the heart and soul to the afflictions of grief, sorrow, pain and troubles.  While my heart and soul are set on following the Lord, they bear the excruciating sting of indescribable earthly loss.  They long to follow Him but for now they limp in pain, and are sometimes so faint within me that I feel I can not go on.

My mind now takes the lead in my pursuit of Him.  It testifies to my heart and soul of the truths it has spent countless hours meditating on through the years.  It reminds them of the urgency of kingdom work (2 Cor. 6:1-10), it reminds them that we each only have “a little while” to be used (James 4:14).  My mind reminds my heart and soul that God has prepared good works in advance for me to do, and that I don’t want to miss a single one (Eph. 2:10).  As I am reminded of these things, I am compelled to look beyond my own pain to ache for a lost and dying world.  Like Paul in 1 Corinthians 9, my surrendered mind reminds me I must make myself a slave to the gospel.  If my tears and pain can be used for the sake of the gospel I will share them, but when they may impede it, I must discipline them into submission.

I praise God that He captivated my mind years ago with the wonder of His Word.  I praise Him that prior to entering this dark valley many a night watch had been spent meditating on the riches of His truths.  I praise Him for causing me to love Him with my mind through the power of His Word.  Now, through the whispering of the Holy Spirit, those pondered truths once again swirl mightily through my mind enabling me to persevere through the pain in the valley, even when my heart and soul are faint within me.

“My soul cleaves to the dust; Revive me according to Your word. I have told of my ways, and You have answered me; Teach me Your statutes.  Make me understand the way of Your precepts, So I will meditate on Your wonders.  My soul weeps because of grief; Strengthen me according to Your word.  Remove the false way from me, And graciously grant me Your law.  I have chosen the faithful way; I have placed Your ordinances before me.  I cling to Your testimonies; O LORD, do not put me to shame!  I shall run the way of Your commandments, For You will enlarge my heart.”  Psalm 119:25-32 [NASB]

As I long to be obedient to love Him with all of my heart, soul and mind, I am challenged to hunger and thirst relentlessly for His Word.  I recognize how vitally important it is that I love Him with all of my mind.  It is the portal to the heart, it is through the meditations of my mind that my heart gleans truth.  To strengthen my weary heart and soul I must focus my mind all the more on the rich truths of His Word.  In His faithfulness He continues to teach and unfold it before me in such a way that captivates my heart and reminds me of His sure and steadfast Hope that is the anchor for my wounded soul (Heb. 6:19).

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Artwork: Sarah Harmening

Incredible Things

Sarah wrote in her final journal entry that she knew God was going to do “incredible things.”   Indeed we have already seen Him do many incredible things.  A single Facebook post of Sarah’s testimony shared by James Spann was viewed over 1.2 million times and shared 17,688 times.  Her testimony and writings shared on this blog have been viewed over 130,000 times and in 106 countries other than the United States.  A quiet little girl who loved the Lord with all her heart has been used by Him to propel His name and glory literally around the globe.

We are delighted to announce that as of right now through generous donations from family, friends, and strangers alike, as well as fund raising and donations through Chick-Fil-A and GoTeez, $68,719.51 has been raised.  Our original goal was $58,200, the average annual cost of supporting an international missionary in the field.  We are so excited to have passed our goal by over $10,000, yet another incredible thing God has done that we can celebrate!

Our family will travel to Richmond, Virginia, in October to tour the International Mission Board Headquarters.  While there we will attend the IMB chapel service to present the check to David Platt and then meet with the Global Engagement team to talk about using the donated funds to support missionaries or ministry in Botswana or somewhere near there.  Our hope is to be connected with a missionary in or near Botswana to partner with them in ministry as a family for the duration of their ministry there.  Sarah spent her final months praying over Botswana specifically, so we long to invest where her heart was invested, supporting the ministry she felt called to be a part of.

We are so thankful to have the opportunity to see lives directly impacted around the globe for the Kingdom of Christ through Sarah’s life.  Thank you so very much to all who have donated and supported this effort.  We look forward to sharing with you all the results of our meeting at the IMB. If you have not yet donated and would still like to, you may do so by selecting “Lottie Moon fund” in the drop down menu here.

“Praise the LORD! Praise God in His sanctuary; Praise Him in His mighty expanse.  Praise Him for His mighty deeds; Praise Him according to His excellent greatness.  Praise Him with trumpet sound; Praise Him with harp and lyre.  Praise Him with timbrel and dancing; Praise Him with stringed instruments and pipe.  Praise Him with loud cymbals; Praise Him with resounding cymbals.  Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD!”  Psalm 150:1-6 [NASB]

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Sarah at her send off party the night before the accident.

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