PASD (Post-Africa Stress Disorder)

Ever since returning, I’ve been restless at best, downright miserable at worst. I’ve been feeling this tug on my heart, like I’m homesick as I sit in the safety and comfort of my own room. Things that previously interested me seem unimportant and boring. The streets are empty. No one gives me thumbs up as I walk by, not that I’ve done much walking anyway. Everybody shows a shocking amount of skin. Kids look healthy and well-fed. I can talk to people without the fear that I’m viciously murdering their language by mispronouncing “nda” for the forty-sixth time, which is a strange thing to feel homesick about, but I do.

Simply put, I’m missing Africa, or at least what Africa represented. I had a job in Africa, and it was a fairly straightforward one: teach the kids. That was the one thing. That was all I had. When I woke up in the morning, that was my job. Yet in the return process that job number went up. Now, I’m a big sister who does school, practices music, finishes Confirmation homework, memorizes lines for the two plays I’m in, cleans the kitchen, renews library books, etc. All deeply enjoyable things, and I can’t complain about their difficulty because there is none. It’s a wonderful life to be sure.

But it’s not for me. If there’s one thing that Africa has helped me realize, it is that living my life out in the United States is not what God has planned for my life.

What frustrates me is that dropping your life isn’t as easy as it sounds. I’ve already ruled out pulling a Sherlock and faking my death or hiding myself in a suitcase en route to Malawi. Unfortunately, that’d be more likely to get me arrested than start me off on a mission. And, per usual, there’s that pesky Satan, who every darn time you attempt to launch yourself into action decides to be like the blankets in that one Calvin and Hobbes strip.

“You want to leave your comfy life? NICE TRY, SUCKER.”

Popping out of peace, financial security, and cheap pleasure is the path less traveled for a reason: getting on it (and staying on it) isn’t particularly easy. I know for a fact that I will struggle with it for the rest of my life, seeing as I haven’t even gotten on it yet. How does one go about something like this?

My first response is to look at the technical details. The immense cost of traveling, the organizations I would want to affiliate with, finding where my assistance would be most needed, what I can even do in situations I’m unfamiliar with, yadda yadda yadda. But my second response is to look in the Bible and ask God for what he wants me to do. The technicalities are a small fraction of a far bigger picture.

I worry and cry and beat myself over the head with questions and accusations and fear fervently wishing for the things that could be and stressing myself out over what to do, and all the while I’m forgetting that there’s a God by my side and a Bible in my hands that can answer everything.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33

I have overcome the world.

Why am I stressing about a battle when the war has been won from the start? Why does my heart tremble in fear of my enemies when they have already been defeated? Why does the world frighten me when my God has overcome it?

Normally at the end of these posts I like to give some kind of closing sentence. A conclusion. An end to the rambling madness that happened above. But you can’t do that when the story isn’t finished. I still don’t know what I’m going to do. God isn’t finished with me and he won’t be until I’m dead. Hopefully one day I’ll be able to make a part two of this post. Something celebratory, even if it’s the minuscule victory of spending my Saturday morning helping people rather than sleeping in.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11

Prayer would be much appreciated.

As the End Draws Near…

Before I left for Africa, we were at the dentist and my mom was confessing to the receptionist (who had gone on a short-term mission trip to Ethiopia) her fears about reverse culture-shock and being disgusted with her own country upon her return. The receptionist simply replied, “Oh, don’t worry. You’ll get over it.”

And that is my biggest fear as our time in Malawi draws to a close. They’ve informed us that we might feel superior to people we call friends because of the trip and feel disconnected from the population, or that we will find ourselves pondering impossibly difficult questions that there are no easy answers to. Of course, those warnings are constantly present in my mind. But what firmly frightens me is that I will forget too soon that there are people living in malnutrition and poverty every day. That most of the children have no idea what to do with a crayon or any writing utensil whatsoever. That they are so hungry they will all but kill each other for a bag of 50-calorie corn puffs. That I will soon no longer remember that I stood there at a church packed to bursting with little bodies as they sang “I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy, down in my heart. WHERE?” at the top of their lungs with the biggest, whitest smiles I have ever seen.

God help me if I forget.

The entire time I’ve been here, I’ve had this strong feeling that this will not be the last time I am in Africa, and certainly not the last time I do a short-term mission.

But next time, I want to bring a few of you with me.

Every time I told someone that I was going on a mission trip, this was returned with an exclamation of surprise followed by a comment on my age. Why? Because people under the age of fourteen do not go on mission trips. That is not the norm. People tend to view your age of serving outside of your community (and unfortunately, even within it) to be between the ages of 25 and 56. If you’re under or over, it’s a Christmas miracle.

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you…but only if you’re between the ages of 25 and 56.”

Yeah, I don’t think that’s right. Let me fix that.

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” – Matthew 28:19-20

There we go.

God never has and never will put an age restriction on your actions to glorify him. I’ve talked about this before, but now I feel it with a pressing urgency. As teens, we often think that our life doesn’t begin until after we’ve graduated college, and you get into the all-too-safe cycle of “School – Marriage – Have kids – Retire – Die”. That’s not necessarily a bad cycle. But it is safe and comfortable.

God doesn’t call us to be safe and comfortable.

 “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” – Matthew 10:16

God calls us to be adventurous. To get off of our couch and do something other than spending our free hours texting and on Twitter. He might be calling you to Africa, or to Thailand, or Iraq, or Sweden, or just in your own community where there are so many opportunities that might have escaped your line of vision. Nothing about being a Christian is safe, as recent events clearly show. They’re being beheaded in Iraq, heavily persecuted in Egypt, and tortured in China. And that could give us fear. Except we have God’s word to comfort us and to strengthen us.

For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God. He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day. – 2 Timothy 1:6-12

Where is death’s victory? Where is hell’s sting? It was destroyed the day our Lord and Savior came back from the dead and gave us the gift of eternal life.

Our God is a God of power and love, and dang it, he’s the God of teenagers too.

 

Click Away

Has anyone else noticed that Facebook is slowly taking over all the websites on the entire Internet? Everywhere you go, whether you’re looking for a zucchini bread recipe or videos on how to perform open-heart surgery at home, you will find a little Facebook icon somewhere on the page. “Sign in with Facebook!” “Do you want to share your top score on ‘Life Waster 3000’ on Facebook?” “Invite Facebook friends?” The World Wide Web is saturated with Facebook. You can’t run away from it! It’s like the McDonalds of online media: Everywhere you turn, there it is.

Now imagine that for a whole week you cannot see anything about Facebook in your daily Internet explorations. No icons, no share buttons, and especially not visiting the Facebook website itself. This would be ridiculously difficult in this modern age! If you were to continue the online intake you currently have, there is a 99% chance that you are going to see something about Facebook. It’s unavoidable unless you take the greatest, most meticulous care in what websites you visit and how you act.

I’ve used Facebook as an illustration for the impurity that exists on the Internet. It is so easy to take a wrong turn and drop smack in the middle of something you never wanted to see. And if you go looking for it on purpose, it is assured that you will find it. And what with the inventions of incognito mode and the “delete history” button, no one has to know, right?

Being a Christian in the world we live in is full of temptations all on its own, but the Internet has opened up so many more opportunities for sin right inside of our homes. This is something to be aware of. Amazing things can be done through this unbelievable gift that God has given us. We can connect with people who are on the other side of the world. We can make Christian resources easily available to the general public by putting it up on a website. It is a tool to be taken advantage of.

Yet it is dangerous. We have become very comfortable with its existence and I believe that some of the rules we young people used to be held to before they could even touch the keys of the keyboard have been dismissed and faded. Keeping clear eyes, pure hearts, and retaining the ability to shut the computer down and walk away is a skill that needs to be called back. As children of God we cannot throw away grace for fleeting seconds of pleasure that a laptop can give us because it is simply not worth an eternity in hell.

So next time? Click away.

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” – Philippians 4:8 NIVUK

 

Those Young Whippersnappers!

My nine-year-old brother has a rather jaded impression of what teenagers are. In his mind, they are lazy bums who text and Snapchat their friends every waking moment with a disinterested expression on their face for 99% of the average 24-hour day. They have an appalling taste in music and in the end their overall appearance is of nothing. No appeal, no work output, nothing.

Unfortunately I think there are many that would agree with him. Many who were teenagers often forget the unsteady feeling of that age and those who have yet to achieve the “terrible teens” either bow down in blind hero worship or, like my brother, are completely disgusted of the entire concept.

My goal is to change that. Yes, it’s an awkward phase. Yes, the majority of teens are still discovering what the the world around them is and means. Yes, rarely ever do these halfway humans know what they’re doing. Am I still going for this? Definitely.

The Bible clearly showcases that such a thing can happen. A little girl in 2 Kings 5:2-3 essentially saves a guy named Naaman from the horrors of leprosy. David was a young shepherd boy when he slayed the crap out of Goliath. Jesus was merely twelve years old when He completely blew the minds of the learned teachers in the temple. It’s not impossible.

When it comes to God, there is no “not old enough”. As He has stated again and again, He doesn’t just use people who feel ready or the ones who are well adjusted to their bodies and characters. There is no discrimination in who can spread the love of God. My mom read a book recently about a nineteen-year-old woman who went to Uganda and taught kindergarten there to 100-something kids and ended up adopting thirteen orphans as a single unmarried girl. If that isn’t a prime example of how little effect age has on the way God can use you in your life I don’t know what is. Age is not and never will be a factor.

A phrase that I have heard many times in various different ways is “That’s astonishing for your age”. I want to strike that from everyone’s vocabulary. Make those acts of showing Christ so commonplace in today’s teenagers that it becomes a cultural norm. The term “teenager” has come to mean someone who doesn’t do anything extraordinary. That shouldn’t be. We are the representatives of the Lord of the Universe. Whether we be thirteen or thirty, it’s time we do Him justice.

Youth aren’t the future of the church. We’re the present.

“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” – 1 Timothy 4:12 NIV

 

Easter Skit – Act Three

Act Two: https://booknutsy.wordpress.com/2014/04/10/easter-skit-act-two/

[PLEASE NOTE that this is a group project and I can in no way take full credit for its creation – this was the product of great brainstorming sessions between Elizabeth Schroeder, Katie and Sarah Turner, Greta and Kaitlin Solofra, Christian Casey, and myself, and was therefore written by all of us combined.]

*

[The disciples are sitting around the table with mostly empty plates in front of them, having just finished their meal. OD is patting his belly contentedly.]

OD: Awww, I am stuffed. [Notices that Peter still has some food on his plate.] Oooh! Hey, you gonna eat that?

Peter: Nah, go ahead. I’m saving room for dessert.

OD: Like pie! I wonder if they have pie…

[Waiter pops up. This time there is less shock and more irritation at the waiter.]

Waiter: Did someone say dessert? I’ve got the menus right here! There are nooooo calories in looking! [Hands out dessert menus and then exits.]

OD: So…Pete and Johnny, are you reconsidering your tall tale now that you have some food in your bellies?

John: I don’t know what you’re talking about.

OD: You know, that JC’s body was missing and all that.

Peter: We know what we saw. The stone in front of the tomb was rolled away and when we went inside, the body was missing.

John: Even his burial linens were folded, which we can agree isn’t the habit of most tomb robbers. If you are so full of unbelief, go see it for yourself.

OD: With all these Romans around? Not a chance! [Makes a throat-slitting motion.]

James: Did you really see the tomb empty and our Lord gone?

John: Would I lie about this?

[John’s question hangs in the air for quite some time until someone enters the room. Without looking at who it is, Peter speaks.]

Peter: We’re not ready for dessert, okay…? [Turns around to see Jesus and Peter’s mouth drops open in shock. The other disciples do the same with various different reactions of shock. The tension is palpable as they all struggle to find the words. Each disciple slowly gets out of his respective chair and goes to Jesus.]

OD: Are you a ghost? Are we in the middle of The Walking Dead?

John: Lord? Is it truly you?

Jesus: Peace be with you.

[Recognizing the voice, they rush forward to hug Jesus. The disciples are filled with joy, smiling. OD waits longer than the others though, poking Jesus in the side and inspecting the holes in his hands before he is confident that Jesus is real.]

Jesus: As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you! The Holy Spirit be with you.

[Happy (OD is even dancing a little bit) the disciples leave, asking questions and just celebrating in general. Disciples and Jesus exit. A few moments after they leave, the waiter pops up and sees the empty table. With a wail, she sinks to the floor.]

Waiter: But what about dessert?!

*

And that’s it! For clarification, OD stands for “Other Disciple” because the poor lad doesn’t have a name. I’m playing John and I can’t wait!

The skit will be performed Easter Sunday at Crosswalk Church.

Easter Skit – Act Two

Act One: https://booknutsy.wordpress.com/2014/04/06/easter-skit-part-one/

[PLEASE NOTE that this is a group project and I can in no way take full credit for its creation – this was the product of great brainstorming sessions between Elizabeth Schroeder, Katie and Sarah Turner, Greta and Kaitlin Solofra, Christian Casey, and myself, and was therefore written by all of us combined.]

*

[The disciples are sitting around a table at a restaurant, fidgeting and nervous. Every sound sets them on edge. A waiter pops out of nowhere, shocking them all and causing a general uproar.]

Waiter: Hi, welcome to The Locked Room. My name is Martha. I’ll be serving you this evening. Mary was supposed to be helping me tonight, but it looks like it’s just me…again. [Hands out menus.] I’ll give you a few minutes to look over the menus.

[Waiter exits.]

James: It’s not possible.

John: I can’t believe his body’s gone.

Peter: You know they’re coming after us next.

[Silence.]

OD: I’m thinking the chicken.

John: How can you think of food at a time like this? When Jesus’s body is missing and we don’t know where he’s been taken?

[Brooding silence.]

James: We saw him heal lepers, cast demons out of people…he even brought Lazarus back from the dead – so why didn’t he save himself – now, when it really matters?

Peter: He skipped away from people who wanted to kill him before. What makes this time any different?

John: I feel like there are clues we’re missing somewhere.

James: Yeah, let’s back up. What do you guys remember from that night in the garden?

Peter: He was in bad shape, I’ve never seen him like that before.

John: He told us to watch and pray.

James: I don’t know about you, but I fell asleep like right after he left.

Peter: I don’t know about you, but I feel like crap that I couldn’t do the one thing he asked me to.

OD: I don’t know about you, but I feel like waffles!

Peter: Really not the time, dude.

OD: Well, I know for sure that I don’t want anything flesh colored after seeing you cut that dude’s ear off when the police came to arrest Jesus.

[Waiter pops out again, surprising the entire group.]

Waiter: Who wants to hear the specials?!

[The disciples stare at her in disbelief and shake their heads. Waiter realizes that she’s interrupted something and backs out of the room, giving two thumbs up and mouthing “Okay, okay, gotcha.” A short silence follows her exit.]

James: Wait, hold up, you actually cut his ear off? I couldn’t see above those thugs.

OD: Oh yeah! And then Jesus just popped it right back on his head and went with them without a fight! Including that traitor, Judas.

Peter: What a jerk.

John: I know. I can’t believe he would sell us out – sell Jesus out – like that. We’re his friends!

Peter: Insanity, that’s what it is. I don’t know why he did it. I mean, WE had a good reason for running away. Those guys were huge! We were outnumbered. Like…what could we have even…it was…we… [begins stuttering in his attempt to justify their actions] What could we have done anyways?

[Anger/indignation fades away to be replaced with a moment of reflection on if they would’ve betrayed Jesus if the price was right. Peter coughs to break the silence.]

Peter: Speaking of insanity…do you know what I heard about that trial for Jesus?

James: What about it?

Peter: It was an absolute joke. They brought in liars with these accusations that were so off the mark they may as well have been saying that Jesus was a flying unicorn. And the crowd asked for freaking BARABBAS instead of Jesus. Who likes Barabbas? Nobody, that’s who. In my opinion, totally. Rigged.

John: But he didn’t even respond.

OD: What do you mean he didn’t respond?

John: He didn’t respond to their accusations or name calling. Just…stood there. And then they…they beat him for saying nothing.

OD: Is that when they put the thing on him? [OD mimes a crown of thorns]

[John nods.]

[All murmur in sympathy.]

OD: Ouch.

James: Was anyone there when it actually happened?

[Short silence, then John raises his hand in that half-hearted, barely-above-the-head way.]

John: I was.

James: What was it like?

[Short silence as John gathers himself together.]

John: We all know he could’ve come off that cross any time he wanted to, right? We’ve seen how powerful he is. If I didn’t know any better, I would think that he was holding himself there.

OD: That makes no sense.

John: Listen, listen. When he was up there, and there were people shouting curses at him, he said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.” Who says that when they’re on their death bed? And, on top of that, he refused any of the alcohol that would numb the pain. Those aren’t the actions of a normal man. He held himself there.

James: But why?

Peter: Have none of you been listening for these past couple of years? He kept talking about his mission on earth. Maybe this was his mission.

OD: His mission…was to die.

John: You weren’t there, you didn’t hear what he said. There was this moment when he was in so much pain, and he cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” He sounded like he had just taken the whole world on his shoulders. And then… [cuts off]

OD: Then…?

John: Then – and I’ll never forget this – he said, “It is finished.” And it was over.

[Dead silence at this statement – it basically hit them like a bag full of bricks. Waiter enters.]

Waiter: So, are we ready to order?

[Set darkens. End of act.]

*

Act Three: https://booknutsy.wordpress.com/2014/04/11/easter-skit-act-three/

Easter Skit – Act One

My youth group at church is doing a skit this Easter that we are writing entirely by ourselves. As I think it is the best Easter skit script ever written (although my bias knows no bounds), I wanted to post it here. Enjoy!

[PLEASE NOTE that this is a group project and I can in no way take full credit for its creation – this was the product of a great brainstorming session between Elizabeth Schroeder, Katie and Sarah Turner, and myself, and was therefore written by all of us combined.]

*

[Text messages between God the Father and Jesus Christ appear on the screen back and forth in true text formation.]

Father: Ping

Jesus: Hey.

Father: Wanna talk?

Jesus: You got timber?

Father: ???

Jesus: Grrr…autocorrect. Got TIME?

Father: All the time in the world.

Father: 😉

Jesus: You know that plan we discussed?

Father: For decorating the mansions?

Jesus: Uh, no…before that.

Father: Ohhhhh, that plan. The one you’re almost done with.

Father: Having second thoughts?

Jesus: Is there any other way?

Jesus: Everything is possible for you.

[Texts come quicker and more frantically.]

Jesus: Please take this cup from me.

Jesus: Father?

[pause]

Jesus: Dad?

Father: You know the answer, don’t you? There is no Plan B. You know that you are the only way.

Jesus: Not my will but yours be done.

Father: I’m so proud of you.

Jesus: I love you too. Gotta go.

[Screen fizzles and turns to static bearing the words CONNECTION LOST.]

*

Act Two: https://booknutsy.wordpress.com/2014/04/10/easter-skit-act-two/