Gleaning a Lesson from Difficulty

When we returned from France we were uncertain about what lay ahead. Phillip was adamant that we would go back to language school by the summer. I did not share in his zeal. In fact, going back to France was the very last thing I wanted to do.

It was a difficult journey in France. I’m not going to sugar coat anything. I had a hard time. I was depressed. Like, legit depressed. It was something I had never experienced before and it was something I hope to never go through again.

I know a lot of it was culture shock and a lot of it was pregnancy hormones. But it was also more than that. I’ve experienced culture shock before and I’ve experienced pregnancy hormones before. Neither amounted to the level of depression that I felt while in France. I cried. A lot. And not just over boxed milk!

I didn’t understand it then and I don’t understand it now. Was I just not strong enough? Did I not pray enough? What was I doing wrong? Maybe I wasn’t giving everything to God. Maybe I just wasn’t spiritual enough to be a missionary?

In any case, when we realized that we were still falling short in the financial area month after month and that we were actually in debt to the school, I can’t say that I was upset that we might have to leave the field. I thought going home was the answer. I thought that leaving France and being back around family and friends would change everything.

We prayed for the money to come in so that we might stay and continue language learning. And the money did come in! We received the exact amount to pay off the school and buy plane tickets home. Not a penny more!

So we packed up our things, said goodbye to our new friends and made our way back to the States. And while things did change for me, it wasn’t in the way that I had expected. The depression just sort of melted away. I can’t explain it. It was suddenly like I was my old self again. Perhaps it was more to do with culture shock than I had thought? But over the course of a few months, I began to see that what I thought I was missing out on back home really wasn’t there. The strange thing about moving away and coming back is you realize that everyone else keeps on living their lives. Yes, it’s true! Their lives don’t just stop because you leave. While I obviously know that people continue living in my absence, it was a real eye opener.

I don’t know…I think sometimes God uses little things like that to show us that all we really need is Him. If we hadn’t come back, I would have still believed that being back home would make everything better. That the community we had was what I really needed. But the truth is that while the community and family we have here is amazing and great and all that, it’s not everything. It’s actually not what I had even hoped it would be upon our return. And that realization struck me like a ton of bricks. But in a good way. Because now I feel like I can leave again and it will be okay. I will be okay and my family will be okay.

That’s not to say that I don’t need the people around me. I do need them. I desperately need them. But I don’t need them in the way that I thought I did. And I don’t need them like I need God.

I know that the whole France situation wasn’t just God proving to me that all I need is Him. I know that there is more to it than a mere lesson for me. God works in all kinds of ways for various reasons. But one of the many many lessons I have gleaned from this whole experience is that. A hard lesson, to be sure. But it was one I urgently needed to learn.

I am ready now, truly ready, to give my life to what God has called us to do. I was fighting it for a long time- whining about leaving friends and family, grumbling about doing this so far away from home, complaining to God that I needed a support system. After all, I was dealing with 3 small kids. Of COURSE I need a support system! But God’s right. All I need is Him. He will provide everything.

And this great big lesson came at just the right time, because of thisunexpected path that God is leading us on!

Posted on July 19, 2015 and filed under coming home, missions.

An Unexpected Path

You should have seen us when we returned from France early. Maybe you did. But what you probably didn’t see was the raw emotion we were feeling and expressing to one another. Phillip and I were in a weird place. For one thing, we weren’t in agreement on what our plans for the future were.

Phillip wanted to jump right back in and start support raising. He wanted to get back to France and finish what we started. He was eager and adamant.

I just wanted to recoup from the whirl-wind of packing up and making another international move. I just wanted to take a break and rest my 9 month pregnant body. I didn’t want to think about anything ministry related until after this baby was born. I was worn out, depleted, frustrated and confused.

After miss Eliza made her dramatic debut into our lives, I was very thankful that we were back home. Having dealt with major depression while in France, I feel certain that the situation surrounding her birth would not have been good for me, emotionally.

Once the baby came though, it was time to figure some things out. While still not really on the same page, Phillip and I were sincere in our trust in the Lord. So we determined that we would just pray about it. Wherever God led us, whatever He had in store for us, that is what we would pursue.

We contemplated different scenarios, one of which was to start our own ministry here and do overseas missions later on down the road. We prayed through all of these ideas and then talked with some folks at Pioneer Bible Translators. We told them our thoughts, our struggles and that we really were just uncertain. So lost. We felt so lost. I think they could see that our spirits were in distress and that were just at a loss of what to do next. We told them what kind of ministry we were interested in, the things we felt called to do, what we felt like God had gifted us in. They talked with us through all of this, prayed with us and said that together we would figure out what to do.

One of the suggestions was that Phillip and I move to the DFW area (where PBT is located) and get plugged in somewhere doing something. Nothing specific. Just come and find something. In this way, we would still be connected with PBT and still be involved in ministry while we figured out what to do next. I liked that idea. I really love Texas, so the thought of moving back was very appealing.

What we didn’t like was the unknown. And what would we tell supporters? “Hey guys…uh, we’re going to move and we’re not really sure what we’re going to be doing or for how long, but could you keep sending us your hard earned money? I’m sure eventually we’ll figure it all out and it will totally be worth it!”

Maybe. But when it comes to people who are sacrificing their own income to support people and work that they believe in, I really want to show them that we are serious about missions and ministry and that we are trying our darndest to follow the Lord’s leading.

The very next day we got an email from someone with PBT exclaiming that he had an amazing opportunity he wanted to share with us.

He said he was talking with a mission’s director at a local church and sharing stories about various missionaries (without naming names). He told the man our story and immediately the missions director asked “Are you talking about Phillip and Sarah Kemp?!”

It turns out that this mission’s director is the man that married us 5 years ago! He was our professor at Lincoln Christian University, he did our premarital counseling and he was always that person that gave tough love. He told it like it was, but in a kind way (though I’m sure he would say he wasn’t kind). Not only did he know who we were, but he had an amazing opportunity for us. A chance to do the type of ministry we would have done in West Africa (though slightly different in some ways), but in the States and right now.

So we flew to Texas to talk more about the ministry and plan things out, all the while praying praying praying that if this is what God wanted us to do He would make it so obvious. So very clear to the BOTH of us. It was a great trip! Hospitality galore! And talking about this new ministry to refugees and immigrants really got us excited. Like…on fire excited! So excited that we wanted to just go home and pack everything up and move right away! Okay…the impulsive desire to just do it right away was all me. Phil was more clear headed about the whole thing. But still…excited!!!

And while we won’t have all of the information about specifics until we get there and start talking with key people, we do know that we will be working with refugees and immigrants coming into the DFW area. It is an amazing opportunity to work with some of the least reached and Bible-less people groups right here in our own country. We will get to work alongside families that are just entering America, people that are probably feeling a bit of culture shock, are overwhelmed, maybe scared and definitely vulnerable.

The interesting thing is that Phillip and I know what that feels like. While we didn’t move to France from a war torn country, or escaping religious persecution, we did move to another country not knowing the language or the culture or how to do simple things. We can empathize to a degree.

We are just so excited and ready to begin this brand new chapter in our lives and in our ministry. Certainly we never expected to be back in Texas, and definitely not at the time we would otherwise have been heading to West Africa. It’s weird to think back on this last year and see how God has brought us full circle. This time last year we were preparing to leave Texas and head overseas. Now we are preparing to move back to Texas and begin a ministry there.

This path is definitely different and not what we had planned for, but our trajectory has not changed.  We still have our eyes set on going to West Africa.  This new opportunity, although entirely unexpected, has the potential to give us far more tools to be successful in Africa than we could have ever imagined gaining.

It’s been a really weird, adventurous, exciting, and confusing journey. But we know that God is leading us. We know that He is in control and He’s paved the way. So we’ll venture down this unexpected path knowing full well that it won’t be at all what we expect!

Posted on June 3, 2015 and filed under missions, coming home.

The Calm in the Storm

People always talk about the “calm before the storm”. Not necessarily in relation to the weather. More like their lives. Everything is all fine and dandy, going smoothly, working out just right. It’s inevitable that a storm is up ahead, right? Something terrible is brewing just around the corner. At least that’s the way it seems a lot of the time.

I guess, in any given life, there are bound to be periods of calm and periods of chaos. It just comes with the territory of being human and living on this earth.

I am currently experiencing one of those so called “storms”. Things have suddenly taken an unexpected turn. The plans we once had, the direction we were headed mere days ago can suddenly be seen in the rear view mirror, instead of looming up ahead.

We are currently in France, studying the language so we can be effective ministers of the Gospel in West Africa. Or, at least that’s what we were doing last week.

This week we are heading back to the States.

Chaos. A Storm.

I just took the Littles to the nursery. Their second to last day going there. The house is in utter disarray. Things are half-packed, piling up. The floor is covered in snacks and food that the kids have dropped on the floor and then trampled as they played. Suitcases are laying about, ready to be filled up. Clothes are needing to be washed- just one more time in France. The house needs to be cleaned, the rest of our belongings need to be packed, loose ends need to be tied up here and plans need to be made for there. It is utter chaos. There is a storm a brewin!

And yet…here I sit, writing a blog and drinking my coffee while everything around me goes undone.

I feel calm.

Two days left to get everything accomplished. Typically when I think about a deadline so close with so much still to do, panic sets in. I scurry around doing a thousand different things because I’m so bombarded with everything that I just can’t settle on what exactly needs to be done first.

But right now, in this moment, calm. I feel calm. I feel peace. God’s peace.

I will admit though, that these last few weeks I have felt anything but calm. Fear gripped me. I cried a lot. I pleaded with the Lord. I felt somewhat abandoned. I begged God for answers, for understanding, for help.

The words that I continued to hear over and over again where “wait and see”. 

Wait and see?! What kind of an answer is that?! That’s not what I’m looking for. Don’t you get that I’m tired of waiting? I just want answers! I want to know what’s going on. I want to understand all of this.

Wait and see.

I’m discovering that God knows best. God’s timing is best. It doesn’t always seem that way. In fact, sometimes it seems the complete opposite. We question, “Are you sure you’ve got this God?” We give Him our input, our thoughts, our opinions, even our demands. We accuse. We argue. We fight Him all along the way.

But God just wants us to wait and see. He’s got it all figured out. His plans are bigger than our plans. His ways are better than our ways. It doesn’t make sense. And you know what, I’m starting to see that it doesn’t have to. It doesn’t have to make any kind of sense to me. I would like it to. But more often than not, it just doesn’t work out that way. And I need to be okay with that. Because the truth of the matter is that God has never let me down. Not once!

Wait and see. That’s what He’s telling me in this moment. As I sit in the middle of the storm and feeling nothing but calm.

This morning my coffee cup reads “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take. Proverbs 3:5-6”.

Ironic? No, I do not believe so. It’s God’s way of showing that He really does care, that I don’t need to be in control and know everything. I can sit in His peace while the world around me goes dark in the storm.

Just wait and see what happens next.

Posted on December 4, 2014 .