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africa

Faith

Enough

May 22, 2014

On May 22nd, 2013, Mark and I left for our African adventure. We hopped that plane having no idea what was in store for us. The flight felt like the upward slope of a roller coaster when you’re moving higher by the minute, hearing the ticking of the track as your car approaches that final climax. Your heart is racing, breathing is suspended, and anticipation is mounting. You have no idea what is on the other side, but now there’s no turning back. So you wait with gripped hands. And, at the first feeling of downward momentum, you let out a good scream.

Our summer was a wave of emotions, with highs so great I will never forget the smells, sounds, and words of those moments, and lows so stretching I still cringe thinking about certain days.

Through it all, I walked away with some deep encounters with God. One of those moments came on graduation morning as we closed out our Pemba, Mozambique season.

Graduation day was a big deal in Pemba (especially the chicken and rice that followed) so no visitor, village mama, student, or Mozambican pastor was staying away from joining in the festivities. It was Sunday morning and all 1,000 of us were dancing our hearts out to African worship that included bright lights, loud speakers, and songs that switched from Portuguese to English within a beat of the drums.

No one was safe from the dancing chaos. Chairs were pushed back, Bibles and shoes strewn everywhere. It was a party – just as African worship is known to be in my experience.

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While my body was keeping in (relative) motion with the masses, my head was processing through some disappointments and unmet expectations from the summer. Specifically, I wondered why God had been so silent in a summer where I expected him to be  so intensely active.

I came in expecting crazy and supernatural moves of God everyday. But my summer wasn’t really like that. It was incredible and restful and full of Him, but it was quiet. And sometimes quiet can be disappointing when we are expecting loud and raucous.

In the middle of the worship chaos, I got to the end of turning my thoughts over in my head and gave a final exhale. It wasn’t conscious nor did it come joined with any words, but its meaning was clear: whatever was (not), it was well with me. In hindsight, I believe my exhale created space for the breath of His whisper.

Because in the same air, I heard Him say, “It was always about if I am enough.”

Sometimes faith can easily become about experiences, words, encounters, and feelings that we mistakenly start feeding off of those for fuel. But those aren’t food for us. He is. So sometimes, the stripping may come in the package of unmet expectations and disappointments to take us back to the simple truth of God as enough.

When we live believing God as enough, our spinning emotions, lives, and reactions can settle, allowing us to step into rest and ease.  Enough stops us from wasting energy on the things we cannot change, and starts us stewarding energy towards things that matter (like our relationships, health, or the Kingdom). We become stewards to life’s disappointments and setbacks, no longer victims to their effects.

Enough is the birthing ground for pregnant dreams. When we stop spinning and start stewarding, and when we stop running to noise and embrace quiet – life forms within us. It is hidden and unseen at first. But it is grounded in a truth unshaken by the world’s reaction or critique.

My season in Africa was about if He was enough in the quiet and the hidden, when all felt silent, distant, and withheld.

My instinct is to fight for the quickest way through the quiet, looking for the first sign promising an exit. But the quiet is where growth springs and revelation is cultivated. It’s where the deep stuff of faith gets settled into us. Though our instinct may be to rush our way through the quiet, wisdom and discernment will tell us not to wish too quickly for its passage.

Because in the quiet we settle into His enough.

Leadership

What I Learned About Hunger

September 10, 2013

Two weeks ago, I had an unexpected moment of real culture shock flying home to America. I was somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean when I began watching a news report about obesity in America. The minute I heard the stories and statistics, I promise you, my mouth dropped. Because if there is one thing you rarely find in Africa, it is people overeating to the point that they’re tipping scales into the 500’s.

In fact, if there is one kind of person you can be sure to meet in the bush of Africa, it is the hungry.

In Pemba, where Mark and I were for the summer, there were moments that the requests for sips of water or food from our bags were overwhelming. But the truth is: so many are hungry. And thirsty. So we spent time daily doing what we are created to do – we offered water and food, and met needs among the poor just as Jesus taught us to do.

All summer long, I made friends and sat with them and learned their stories. And I kept thinking, hunger looks like something.

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Hunger is an interesting word we throw around in our church communities. We sing songs and study scriptures and pray words about the hunger we feel and the hopeful promise we carry that we will be filled.

I often find that the physical teaches us about what something looks like in the spiritual. And so all summer long my eyes were open for God to teach me through the hungry what it means to hunger in spirit. And here’s what I learned it looks like…

Hunger looks like Rosa, a mama I watched stand in the food line for hours waiting her chance to eat a bowl piled full of rice and beans. The wait was long – hours long – but to Rosa, it was worth it. I watched Rosa finally get her food, sit on a bench, and gobble it down in moments. And then I watched her get back in line and start waiting all over again, all because she was still hungry. Rosa taught me that hunger often looks like choosing to wait – and wait again – in order to receive the filling. 

Hunger also looks like the kids in the bush running over to me with their pieces of cooked rat. They wanted to share with everyone they could find because to them, having something means sharing it. They didn’t see the rat as some grotesque food like we may view it. They had eyes to see food, provision, filling. And they were so excited for it. They taught me that hunger looks like remaining grateful for what I have in my hands as the provision for my need.

I learned that same weekend that hunger often looks a lot like a licked-clean tuna can. I watched a young boy hold this same tin can for hours, surveying and licking clean every ounce of food within it. Why? Because hunger looks like prizing each crumb and tiny piece of food.

Honestly, I could tell you countless stories about what hunger looks like because my eyes saw it everywhere I went.

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Ever since this summer, I have asked myself how hungry I really am apart from the songs and words and declarations I proclaim.

Am I hungry enough to choose to walk out the waiting season of today because of the promised filling ahead? Am I hungry enough to be grateful for what I have in my hand, not judging it as too-little or not-enough or where-is-more? Am I hungry enough to prize each crumb I am given, celebrating and being thankful for what I have, not begrudging what I don’t?

What I know to be true is that hunger isn’t some theoretical idea in the physical or the spiritual. It’s real. And it looks likes something.

Among the hungry, you will never find crumbs lingering on the ground, being marked as unwanted or second-rate. And you will never find a feast more celebrated than one set before the eyes of the hungry. Those decidedly satisfied and uninterested in feasting may very well come to the table unimpressed, uninterested, and even underwhelmed. But the hungry – they will show up with one intention – to feast and be filled.

Within the Kingdom, it will always be the most hungry who will be the most filled. All we are to do is become and stay hungry for the food at His table that has been set before us today. Provision is not meant to be scrutinized, picked apart, or begrudgingly partaken. It is to be celebrated and feasted upon in wild thankfulness.

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Wherever you are today and whatever you are navigating, don’t forget to hunger for Him. Because out of those guttural cries deep within us, which roar in moments of hunger, come some of the most breathtaking surges of strength and grace. Hunger is the ground where exchanges are made between Heaven and earth, creating and protecting the space that allows for His hand at work in our today. When we hunger, Heaven responds and fills that deep longing within us…only to stir up more hunger.

May we stay so desperately hungry for God that our hearts belt out those songs of gratefulness again over all that is within our hands, over our present wait that promises the filling, and over our prized provision before us today.

Faith

Our Weekend in the Dust

July 22, 2013

You may not know this about me, but I seriously love the bush of Africa.

At times, I tell Mark I could live there for months and years – possibly for most of life. I can’t fully explain it, but something comes alive in me out where there is endless dust and beautiful space for God’s love to simply flow.

When we made the final decision to come to Mozambique this summer, I could not wait for the chance to get out into the bush and see what it would hold. And just two weeks ago the time came, when our camion of tents, food, and people was loaded up and headed off.

We whipped around sharp turns, waved to bewildered children who rarely see pale skin, bumped so high from massive potholes that our butts were bruised, and were completely covered by dust from the journey.

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Those bush days are mostly a blur for me when it comes to specifics of each moment. We ran until the wee hours of the early morning when Mark and I would crash onto our $5 pool floats in our snug 2-person tent to be woken up just hours later by throngs of village children who couldn’t get enough of their pale-skinned visitors. We made friends, visited homes, hosted meetings, and sought to stay instep and beat with His rhythm.

And what He did was seriously breathtaking.

That weekend so many came to know Jesus and give their lives to Him. Person after person we prayed for was healed before our eyes, with their faces radiating this rich and raw wonder that they had just been touched. Pain fled from necks, backs, knees, legs and the like. And blind eyes were opened to the point that the man called to the “white girl in the red shirt” who stood in the room before him.

Freedom came in such tangible ways. We watched as those long entangled with witch doctor rituals rid their families and homes of all medallions, even in the face of threats that death would come on their loved ones if they did so.

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One woman we visited was writhing in pain when we showed up at her door. Her stomach and back were filled with infection and sharp, unrelenting pain to the point that she could barely speak. After meeting her and her husband, we prayed asking Jesus to touch her. And right there, on her straw daybed, she was healed. Minutes later she was up walking as she hadn’t done for so very long. When we left, with 5 pounds of peanuts in hand as a thank you token, she was smiling ear to ear in peaceful relief.

She was in need. We prayed. And God, as only He can, healed her. It is the beautiful simplicity of the Kingdom.

The second night, Mark preached and we watched the village witch doctor’s wife, along with many others, receive Jesus. Afterwards we held a prayer, or “fire tunnel,” for the entire village to walk through. They were all asked to place their hand on the place they needed prayer and we would pray simple words of healing as they passed. What happened next was incredible.

Person after person was touched, receiving what they needed as they walked through. By halfway down the tunnel, most were no longer limping or pointing to their wounded area. Instead, they were walking, dancing, laughing, and rejoicing – because they were in need and Jesus healed them.

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There are so many things I found in the dust that weekend, and one of the most beautiful treasures was my revived expectation of His movement. Stepping into the bush, I found myself walking with this rested anticipation that God would certainly move wherever I was. I didn’t need to be concerned with if He would do something, but with what He wanted to do.

Our task is to stay so near to His heart to discern what He is doing, not operating from assumption, but out of moment-by-moment intimacy. All He asks is for us to stay close and listen in. And from this place comes the question you and I get to ask each day: “So what are you doing now?”

The rightful place from which miracles flow is the place of intimacy, knowing that He will move because of who He is; it is never from a posture of begging or demanding Him to do something. When we walk in identity, our demands diminish because our expectation of Him moving builds in each moment.

Our bush weekend was marked by finding myself so rested in as His that I carried this joyful expectation of Him moving, touching, healing, breathing, beckoning, reconciling, and encountering. And…He did.

Life

We’re headed to Africa.

April 16, 2013

Find me in the dust.

It was February 25, 2012 that I first heard those words spoken. I was in the midst of an old-time theater worshiping with some wildly dancing, passionately seeking family at a worship CD release night. Amidst the noise and stirring in the atmosphere, the quiet voice spoke those words straight to my heart. It was one of those moments when the chaos silences and only the One is heard – as a whisper reaching levels of impact and vibration far greater than the crowd around.

Find me in the dust, He said.

At the time, I was standing next to the man who was capturing my heart, though no sign or words of promise had yet been spoken. I had no idea (or maybe a slight inkling) that a short three weeks later, this would happen and a future would begin to merge and arise for us.

Over the last year, we walked through some expected and very unexpected moments. I transitioned from the ministry I loved to enter a quiet season of rest. Our wedding was planned and the day was magically perfect with the deepest sense of His presence and the overwhelming outpouring of love from friends and family. We moved to quiet Buford, into a cozy apartment numbered 331. Mark transitioned out of his job and into a completely different realm of work and pace, with a seemingly long moment of tension in the middle between the first being released and the second not quickly manifesting. Unexpected health concerns left me sitting in some crazy rooms with the only friend who could keep me laughing. We’ve had some disappointments, a few scares, major breakthroughs, and real testimonies. And through it all, those words have remained above and upon us.

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The last few months are marked by lots of transition, and through its road, we are finding our way into some unexpected, exciting open doors. The process between the dream and its reality in this was a long one [for another blog], filled with incredibly beautiful moments and deeply complex ones. But through it all, peace fell and we are so excited to say…

We’re hopping a plane to Africa.

For 2 months, Mark and I are heading over to Pemba, Mozambique for the summer to be part of the Iris Ministry’s “Harvest School.” We’ll learn under the leadership and within the classroom, head out to the bush for extended outreach, and love on the hundreds of children who call this mission base home. And we’ll be together, in the dust, loving Him.

We see it as a season of investing into our marriage and the foundation of our family ahead. It’s a short bout away, but a precious one to us. There’s a lot of risk involved and a lot of uncertains when we find our way home in August, but we’re settled. We don’t claim to carry all the answers for the whys and whats and hows, but we hear the voice, the words, and the peace that speaks beyond risky circumstances to say there is something more than meets the eye upon the coming few months.

We are expectant, hopeful, anxious, and ready for all that will be birthed, dreamed, experienced, poured out, and received.

The need to launch out there is both great – and quick. And yet, if I have come to understand anything of the Lord this year, it is that He is one of ABUNDANCE.

By April 25th, in just 9 days, we need to raise $5600 for both of us to attend the school ($2800/person to cover 9 weeks of lodging and food).

By April 30th, in just 2 weeks, we need to raise our airfare tickets of $5400 ($2700/person) for us both to travel to Pemba.

Our total need is $11,000 in the next 2 weeks. It’s big and quick – but God is in this. We are peacefully certain.

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Being visual, I see this as 110 “steps,” each at $100, upward to the final goal. If 110 people donated $100, we’d be set. More realistically, if a few decided to cover 5 or 10 steps of this journey, we would find our way to the goal all the quicker.

Our hope is for people who say “yes” and “amen” to what God is doing this summer and in our marriage to consider donating this very week. It’s as simple as clicking here.

This journey has lots to do with serving this summer – and it has more to do with our marriage. And it is really has to do with what He is going to do and how we long to join in.

We’re heading to the dust of Africa, confident and hopeful for a fresh outpouring of our lives upon that beloved ground, a renewed indwelling of His presence deep to our cores, and holy moments upon holy ground where we taste and see His manifest goodness abound.

 

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To donate online, visit the Kingdom Inc. website here: http://simplykingdom.org/caroline-schandel/

Or to mail in a check, make it out to “Kingdom Inc.” with “Caroline Schandel” in the memo line.  Mail to: Kingdom Inc., PO Box 98438, Atlanta, GA 30359.

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