The summer of 2019 has proven to be unforgettable, filled with a 34-hour bus rides across Zambia, Botswana, and South Africa, countless outreach visits in a community that I’ve grown to love, in a culture practically opposite my own, loving and ministering to people whom I hardly speak the same language, spending the first few months of my marriage in close community with people from all over the world, with people I have just met, as well as learning how to be a husband while being present in the School of Justice and Mission. Needless to say, the summer has been jam-packed full of adventures. All of which God has been using to mold, chisel away, and shape me into a better child of God.
Not only is it challenging being a newly-wed, but it is also a challenge living in an unfamiliar environment surrounded by other strong leaders. It has seemed that almost every activity we did thrust me out of my comfort zone into a world of unfamiliarity. Before coming to Africa I was comfortable, in a position where I could do things my own way and on my own strength. I had become complacent in aspects of the ministry that I lead in the U.S. The School of Justice and Mission has filled me with a new found zeal for the things of God, and I am beyond excited to go back home and breath new life into the ministry, further challenging myself to do things I never thought possible. I feal far more equipped to fight for justice in my community back home. God has blessed me with a position of leadership in my church in the States, and I am excited to share with the rest of the Encounter staff about all that I have learned throughout my time at the School.
Throughout the school, there seemed to be challenge after challenge after challenge. God has a habit of continuing to bring up aspects of myself that I thought I had surrendered in the past. Showing me that I had not truly let go of those things and that there is more surrender needing to take place in my heart. Not only was He cutting away the branches that were not bearing fruit in my life, but God also took the time to prune the branches that are bearing fruit, as John 15:1-2 says, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” Pruning is not a painless act, you are literally are cutting away parts of the plant to make the plant healthier. Do you think that a plant undergoing pruning is happy when his branches are cut off? No! It hurts when parts of you are sawed off and taken away. But that is the beauty of God: Him being the loving Father that He is, knows that the pain will not last, and the tree will bear much, much more fruit having undergone pruning. This has been my life in Zambia. Day in and day out God has been pruning me, refining me and creating me to be a better representation of His image.
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