I didn’t want to go; that much was clear. I was told by a friend of mine as I had just stepped off a stage after celebrating the life of a mutual friend who had recently passed, about Azmera and how she thought I should join her in going to Poland to encourage women who were serving there. “Sounds wonderful, but I’m just too busy this year” and off I went thinking that I had put a stop to that nonsense! Charlene had asked if we could meet so that she could tell me about Azmera, but thankfully it seemed that our schedules would not allow that to happen. A week or so later at church I was standing at the door with my husband Gary and here comes Charlene and her new friend, Christina, a radiant woman with a beautiful vision of loving and encouraging those who serve in the Name of Jesus around the world, the founder of Azmera. It seemed that Charlene had spoken to Christina about me and she was so looking forward to me learning more about Azmera. So begrudgingly I set up a time to meet with Charlene. In the meantime Jesus was working overtime on me. I mentioned to Gary about Charlene, Christina and Azmera and how I just couldn’t go to Poland because we were so busy this year traveling for weddings, memorial services, and family events and so on. Gary looked at me like a dog with his head cocked sideways trying to figure out what it was that he was hearing. “What!!” I asked. “I just don’t get why you won’t even consider it”, he responded. Didn’t he just hear me…we are too busy!! Sometimes it takes skywriting for me to finally get what Jesus is trying to tell me. And so He did…through a devotional written about how sometimes we are being led to do something we have no interest in but the possibility exists that God is interested in us doing it! Really Jesus, you are funny. There began the task of His changing my mind and heart. I’m so grateful that He is a God of 2nd, 3rd and 100th chances!
On October 17th I boarded a plane to Europe with my friend and ministry partner, still wondering what the heck I could offer women serving in Eastern Europe and beyond. Shaking in my feet (I do life barefoot most of the time) I walked into our first volunteer meeting staring at 14 other women, two of whom I knew well, two who I barely knew. The rest were complete strangers…for about a day or so. These women are now planted in my heart and mind with eternal roots. They wrapped their arms around my insecurities and weirdness and brought me in. We shared our stories, our love for Jesus, our prayers, our fears and our desire to love and encourage the women who would be joining us for the retreat in 2 ½ days. Our days were filled with sweet worship, devotions, prayer, planning and preparation in our attempt to be Jesus with skin on for these beautiful Daughters of the King.
And on Saturday afternoon “they” began arriving. The ones we had prayed for, shed tears for, prepared for, the names on paper that would soon become friends. They were traveling by planes, trains and automobiles! Some arrived in a large group, some in twos and threes and some extremely courageous women came alone. We greeted them with smiles, gift bags, schedules and hugs. Some were apprehensive, some were excited and some were just ready to get away from the hardships that go along with ministry. They had some time to get to their rooms, maybe nap, maybe go exploring, and maybe just wonder, like me, “What the heck am I doing here?”!
A short while later, we gathered in the meeting room and each went to their assigned table where for the most part they knew no one. After a quick welcome by Christina and some beautiful worship, we kept our hands busy with a craft (gulp!) and began to get to know each other. Some connected quickly, others not so much. But Jesus was already at work knitting our hearts together. In less than 60 hours Jesus’ work took shape in our hearts, and our lives became intertwined in ways that none of us would ever have believed. “…For I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told.” Habakkuk 1:5b And work He did. He worked through scripture drenched teachings, holy worship filled with different languages that sounded like angels singing, tears filled with grief, longing, frustration and relief. He molded with laughter and story, kindness and encouragement. He was in the midst of the sweetest and most desperate prayers! His hands created intimacy in pedicures, massages, and sweet scented spritzers made by the women to energize or relax. In all of that, He did what He does best…He, our King Jesus, drew each of us closer to Him and into the hearts of each other. And somehow, as only He can do; each of us left looking a bit more like Him.