When I first heard about Azmera - it seemed too good to be true. It was just the kind of ministry I had wanted to be a part of for as long as I could remember. To sit at the feet of women who were on the field and wash their feet (and paint their toenails) would be a dream come true for me. I had, however, already settled in to the lie that God was done with me in ministry. I had had my turn being the intrepid traveler for Jesus while in college and now it was time to send my own children out into the world for their adventures. Over coffee one evening, my 21 year old daughter schooled me in how God really works. She gave me money for my passport and told me in no uncertain terms that I was to fill out the application for Azmera the next day. Three months later and a bundle of miracles and provision - I boarded a plane for Kenya, East Africa for the KENYA Azmera Haven Retreat.
So today - two month's home - I'm sitting here staring at the screen trying to put into words what it was like to a volunteer with Azmera. I'm not sure I can do it justice. After three and a half days with the Azmera Team in prayer and preparation, I could have gone home a changed woman - different than when I boarded the plane in Houston, TX. Then "they" came - the attendees. The reason I had traveled all that way - over 8,000 miles. We had prayed for these women for months and now, here they were - real women with faces and stories. I met them and saw the weight of life and ministry carried in roller bags and backpacks and on shoulders. There were smiles of anticipation and excitement - but, I believe, a bit of fear and trepidation as well. This was uncharted territory for many of them. I don't believe any of them knew what to expect. I'm not sure I did.
I wanted to hear their stories and hug the stress away. I wanted to do pedicures and pray over their beautiful feet. I wanted to worship with them and cry with them. And that we did! We heard stories of loss and grief that broke my heart, stories of loneliness and solitude that left me bare, stories of triumph and praise that brought me to the very throne of grace. It was all I could do to take it all in. When these women worshipped it was from a place of complete abandon. I could see the grief and exhaustion fall right off of them as they surrendered themselves in song. I know (because they told me so) many of them left Mombassa full of gratitude and ready to step back in to ministry full force. I believe there was much laying down and healing at this retreat. I know it was true in my own life. The circumstances back "home" hadn't changed - but we had. We all felt renewed and reinvigorated for what ever God was calling us to. New friendships were formed and connections made that will reap eternal benefits. There were even old friendships re-kindled. Talk about surprised by joy!!!
There were tears! Ugly tears. Tears of grief not yet felt. Tears of cleansing and relief. And it was beautiful!
There was also much laughter! Full on belly laughs - the kind that make your face and stomach hurt from the force of it. And it was beautiful!
There were painted toenails and massages and sunburns and jewelry made - and even swimming lessons! And it was beautiful!
And there was worship! Worship from the depths of hearts completely surrendered to the Father. And it, too, was beautiful!
I am grateful God called me out of my self imposed retirement. I'm so grateful that He never believed the lie I had settled into.
He is so good!