Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Press On

This Easter proved to be a somber yet beautiful reminder of the Lord’s ultimate hope and plan that He has put in motion long before our arrival here in Mango. We began with a sunrise service underneath a tree that could only be found in a Robert Frost poem, with branches stretching out exponentially to accommodate any size crowd and yet able to be conquered by any age child as they choose their preferred climbing height. It was the same tree under which we had Todd’s memorial service here. Our community house prayer/bible study groups were able to join together for a service and potluck in the afternoon—a two-hour plan that quickly stretched into four—typical for any gathering planned in most African cultures. In the evening, we gathered once again and were able to worship together, led by a guitar and violin that beautifully led use into communion. It was bitter-sweet to sing about the promise of the resurrection that went before us through Jesus Christ, and the promises that await those who place their trust in the Lord. A powerful promise to sing confidently, while pausing in disbelief that one of our own is experiencing this very promise this Easter, face to face with the the resurrected Christ. 

So thankful that our friend didn’t have to wait one more Easter to have the promise fulfilled in his own walk with Jesus; So much wishing that our friend was here with us. 

I walked outside behind our guest house after the service ended. I still find it difficult to socialize in groups. I stood with the chatter behind me, while gazing at the stars that are so very familiar to me in the Mango night sky. I looked up—not it awe, but in lament, feeling the loss as if it happened yesterday. I noticed the big dipper hanging low over the hospital, placed in the sky as if the contents were being completely emptied out over us. I thought, “it seems like a cup of suffering has been poured out on us in its entirety. What else could be in that cup pouring out over us?” I turned 180 degrees to avoid the sorrowful site. High in the night sky, situated directly over the town was the Southern Cross. It was if the Lord said, “I am bringing this people to myself. What if I can only do that through the cup of suffering that sits over the hospital?” 

My immediate answer was, “No! We are supposed to have the cross over us while the suffering is in the town. That way, we can be a refuge! People come to us to find hope and the message of Christ! Suffering over there, hope and grace over here!”

But in His kindness, I felt the Lord saying to me, “I thought you were called to Christ-like? Didn’t I suffer so that you could come to know me? Didn’t I accept the plan of suffering through the cross in order that you could know me and be known by me? I’m over Mango and the hospital. Are you willing to continue to suffer so that I can do the work in Mango. I AM THE REFUGE, not the hospital.” 

I stood facing that old, inviting tree. Before the hospital was built, on the rare occasions that I could come and visit Mango from the south, we would see a few patients on a bench underneath that tree. I wept for the plans I had envisioned for this place—not because they weren’t noble and hope-filled, but because there are parts of me who still want my plan over His. And I’m left with a question that still needs answering—do I mean it when I say “let they kingdom come, let Thy will be done…” ? 

If any of you have ever read “The Problem of Pain” by C.S. Lewis followed by his later work “A Grief Observed” may understand the difference between theological knowledge and theological experience. It’s easy to write a blog about truth, it’s harder to walk into work each day accepting the situations before you as a perfect work of God’s unwavering plan of Hope. 

But lovingly, God’s Word speaks to all things: 

“For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one things I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.” Philippians 3:8-16 

 I cannot thank each of you enough for lifting this team up in your prayers, for lifting me up. I will be getting some time away to rest, reflect, pray and be ministered to starting this Friday. Please continue to pray as we “strain forward to what lies ahead” as a team and as a hospital family. The Lord’s hand of grace and mercy is still very much at work here and the enemy will not sit idly by. Please battle with us in prayer daily knowing that the battle is actually already won. 

You are loved. 


  1. Kelly,
    Know that you all continue to be in our prayers!!
    Lydia and Fred

  2. Words elude me to try and express how our spirits intertwine with yours in both the mourning, and the resolute belief that God is attaining through Todd's death and the testimony of his life, the eventual resurrection of many souls in and around Mango. But know that many more people than you realize have been mobilized to pray not just for Jen, Will, Grant, Luke, and Drew, but also specifically for you, and your colleagues, as you keep on in this long obedience. Thank you SO much for your updates, they encourage us to keep battling with you as well.

  3. Woody SwartzendruberMarch 30, 2016 at 11:09 AM

    Kelly, we think of you often and pray for you. The grieving process will take time. The lessons to be learned will be ongoing. Please remember that God is for us, who can be against us...even in the times of trouble and sorrow. Please tell all the others hello and that we pray for them too. Woody and Karen Swartzendruber

  4. Thank you for sharing this and bearing your heart for others to learn from. Praying for you Sweet Sister as well as the rest of your team!

  5. Praying that you will continue to be comforted and strengthened as you carry on the work there in Togo! Thanks for sharing your heart!

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