Honestly, I don't even know where to begin.I haven't blogged in a while, but I've been writing ALOT. Working daily on a book project, my devotional, and lots, and I mean LOTS of journaling.
I'm spending today on the balcony of a coffee shop overlooking the rolling hills of Rwanda. I was here in this exact coffee shop with a team of 18 college students in 2009 on my first mission trip. I know I've told the story before, but one more time doesn't hurt. I was sitting in my friend's dorm room, freshman year of college. She began chatting about her three month trip to Kenya and I made a remark similar to, "I'm glad God will never ask me to do something like that". I loved Jesus and I loved America LOL. The idea of leaving the country, working with kids (yuck), building some house, sleeping on the ground, or all the stereotypes I had in my head of foreign "missions" sounded ridiculously unappealing. I was called to preach and preach in America. Ironically that's a very narrow idea of what constitutes "missions" and also ironically I've done all of the above. That same night God woke me up and told me I'd go to Africa, over the years that call has taken different shapes, forms, and it's become a call to the world. I was here in this coffee shop in March 2014 when our team from DR-Congo came to drop off a friend who was being kicked out of the country. We took the time to have a break from war, a hot shower, and some time taking care of our hearts. It was here that tears came up in my eyes when I reflected and I wrote this blog.
So here I sit again July 2015. This same coffee shop. It's not necessarily the "best" coffee in Kigali (don't get me wrong, it's good), but they bring a nice little short bread cookie, and there's no limit or charge for using the wifi.
My life was so different the last time I was here. It's been 16 months and it's almost hard to remember what I was feeling then. Where I lived, my job, my best friend, my "stage of life", what I thought about, what I was dreaming for, what I had hoped for, what I was planning, in some ways what I believed, my style (I'm currently wearing skinny jeans) even my water bottle and computer are different. Perhaps it wasn't until this exact moment that I truly realized how much has changed for me. Some of that change was desperately needed, some was wanted, some was forced, some was resisted, some was unfair, some was deserved and some was embraced. It really doesn't matter, who, how, where, what, or why, but simply that changes occurred and God showed up. When I left Rwanda the last time I was so confident in so many things, in just a matter of months following I'd pretty much lost all confidence in EVERYTHING. It's funny how that can happen in life. The things that make you feel secure and safe get stripped away and in those moments you find out what you truly believe and who you truly are. You find out if your hope is in Christ or if it's in a person, a gifting, a job, a location, or some other blessing that was never meant to be your rock. Can I honestly say, I found out that at my core I wasn't the person I wanted to be, or the person I thought I was. I was 26 years old and I began to have what I've been told was an "emotional breakdown". I was having very vivid nightmares, anxiety attacks, black outs, outbursts of anger, lots and lots of confusion and panic, insecurity, memory loss, and some very bizarre behaviors (that honestly are slightly comical now). When it "felt" like life was crashing down things came out of my heart that were ugly. I saw things I knew weren't of the Lord, things I knew I didn't want to be. Through trial God is able to rip the rose colored glasses off and show you the Truth. Praise Him, it's the Truth that sets us FREE. After a year of "help", change, healing, and wholeness I've learned a lot about "trauma", about emotional health, about Jesus, about community, about me, I guess about life. So supposedly the "breakdown" wasn't just caused by a rough period of "trauma" in DRC, but rather a couple of years of not taking care of my emotional health. That just got pushed over the edge when I returned home in April. I didn't take time to sort through the events and emotions from an active war zone and I really hadn't ever, which there's plenty to work through. A few weeks back in the country and I could barely function or recognize my own pattern of thinking. So much seemed to "cloud" rational thinking that honestly there's things I said and did that I'll remember occasionally and just be baffled by how powerful the psyche can be. You can feel like a gun is at your head while sitting in a church pew, you can feel abandoned in a crowded room, you can feel angry when your mom forgot to bring home ranch dressing, you can blame someone for hurting you who was trying to love you, you can hear screams when no one is around, you can crawl under your desk at work (which was in a church) and begin to cry because everything just feels too overwhelming. Wow. But Jesus.
And this is where my life matters most now. Jesus took the attack, my failure, my hurt, my confusion. Jesus took my pain. Jesus took my ignorance and others. Jesus took my plans. Jesus took my dreams. Jesus took the misunderstanding from others. Jesus took the mistakes of others. Jesus did what I didn't know how to do, what counselors couldn't do, what pastors couldn't do. Jesus took that big mess and He redeemed it all. He didn't do it how I thought He would. He hasn't "fixed" things the way I thought He would. He hasn't "fixed" others the way I thought He would. Healing was a process not an instantaneous miracle. My life is different, but it's beautiful. It's not what I thought, but I'm thankful. There are greater things ahead than what will ever be left behind. On the other side of this journey, I know Him more, and that's probably the greatest thing that could have happened. Thanks to great friends in Texas and in Redding, to pastors at Bethel, to mentors, to other friends around the world, and simply a family that God placed to surround me and hold up my arms. I chose to embrace and run after healing, to run after my fears, to lay down my pride, so be vulnerable, to identify my flaws and mistakes, to learn, to repent, to change, and to embrace this new season. I found that I needed community, that I was never meant to do this alone. I found that God is truly a redeemer of ALL THINGS. I found that I was stronger than I thought and perhaps even weaker than I thought (what a paradox). I learned things that I will spend the rest of my life teaching others. I changed things that I will spend the rest of my life benefitting from. I was healed of things that will carry me in ministry until I'm old and grey.
So here I go again, back into DRC. The nation that simultaneously ruined my life in the best way and the worst way possible. It showed me the greatest tragedy with the greatest miracles. It brought my greatest joy and ushered in my deepest sorrow and hurt. I wasn't sure what I would feel as I prepared for this moment. Would it "trigger" bits of anxiety, would it remind me of what has been lost, would it overwhelmingly excite me, what would come and what would I feel. I feel ready. I feel prepared. I feel eager. I feel healed. I feel whole. I feel excited. God truly is patient and kind. He really is good. He is a friend. He is a redeemer. He is a Helper. He is a Comforter. He knows exactly what you need, when you need it, how you need it. He's full of mercy and grace. He works ALL things for our good, He leads us VICTORIOUSLY in triumph, He hears our prayers, and He guides our path. So what can I say... "It is well with my soul".
I long to see people healed. I long to see them whole. I long to see them thriving. In DRC, in Africa, in Europe, in America, all across the globe, I just want to go where He sends me and be a faithful servant, child, friend, Bride.
There's a lot more to say from the thoughts of the last couple of weeks, but this is just for this moment, just for this day, and I'll leave it at that. Until next time,
Be Blessed, J. Tate