Friday, September 9, 2011

all who are thirsty.

Two weeks in Tanzania changed my life.


Because two weeks in Tanzania broke my heart for lost people.

I grew up being taught (taught very well, in fact) to have a heart for the lost. And I did--I thought.

I sold cookies to raise money for the Lottie Moon Christmas offering just as well as the next GA...ok...better ;) I knew it was good to tell people about Jesus. I celebrated when people came to know Him.

But I didn't need them to know God.
It didn't make me physically hurt to hear someone tell Him no.

But all that's changed.

My daddy and I came home from our two-week stint in Dar es Salaam exactly one month ago. There's a reason I haven't posted anything about the trip until now. I wanted to be sure that what I was experiencing wasn't just a high. I didn't want to get on here, blog from my measly little soapbox, and then have digital, eternal proof that I hadn't meant what I said. That I wasn't serious. That I was just as selfish as before, if not more.

Disclaimer--I did experience a spiritual high. You can't walk away from close to 3,000 salvations in two weeks and not be a little Jesus-drunk. To say the least. And I am still selfish. Let's just clear that up, in case you were confused ;)

But the heart shift is still here. The change stuck. The veil came off--and stayed off. I didn't pick it back up and hide behind it. It's still on a dirt road in Kisiwani. Figuratively, of course.

So, now.....*grin* I can tell you.

Tuesday morning, a little over a month ago, it was my first day to be left at my assigned church by myself. Alone. In Africa.

I was excited and anxious to see what the day would bring. I had spent the past few months begging the Lord to prepare hearts. I prayed that when people heard His name--just His name--that they would know He was the One they needed. He was what they'd been searching for.

My interpreter, Emmanuel, a church member named Ottoman ( the thing you put your feet on.), and I set out for the day. We walked a couple miles to a different part of the village. Ottoman guaranteed me, in broken, slow, beautiful English that there would be people there ready to hear the Gospel. The first 5 or 6 people we spoke to, told us no. Flat out no. They pointed us in the direction of people who might listen, but they themselves just wouldn't have it.

I was discouraged. I was sure this day would be a bust. All that anticipation for nothing. I was trying to talk myself out of my full-on pity party, when we turned a corner and headed down a long, empty, dirt street. I looked up and scared my poor interpreter with how quickly I gasped.

A year ago, I read the book Thirsty by Amy Nappa, an in depth look at Jesus' encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well. When I was packing for the trip, I saw this book on my shelf and decided (for reasons I, of course, didn't realize then) to take it with me. I read it a bit on the plane. I read it the first few nights to decompress before I went to sleep. I read it and remembered how desperately the woman needed Jesus, how He met her where she needed Him most. She was thirsty.

I looked up that Tuesday morning and saw, right in front of me, in the middle of the street, five women gathering water at the well.

It took everything in me not to cry.
Alright, so I cried. But just a little.

We approached and I told them the story of Jesus speaking to the woman. I told them that He knew everything about her. I told them that He gave her the only thing she really needed.

As they listened, more people gathered. Our little group of five turned into fifty. The white girl who likes to stay quiet stuck right there in the middle.

I asked if they believed in God. The older woman who spoke for all of them said that yes, they believe in God.
I asked if they believed that Jesus is God's Son. She answered no.

We went back and forth on that for a while. I mean, a while. She gave me her "logic", I gave her Scripture. She argued and I pleaded. In a final attempt, I asked, "So none of you believe? None of you believe that Jesus is God's Son?"

She shook her head to say no, but four hands shot up around the circle. I pointed to a woman standing near me and asked, "You believe that Jesus is God's Son?!" Before she could even respond, the older woman--bless her heart--started babbling at me. Emmanuel explained that she was telling me again that she did not believe. In that moment, I had, graciously I hope, had enough. With every bit of fight I had in me, I looked right at her and said, "I know you do not believe. You told me that, and I will pray that you will believe--because unless you do, you can never receive His forgiveness. You can never be with God. But this woman believes, and I am talking to her. I am finished talking to you."

I could have fought with her and fought with her, but there was a choice in that moment. I could fight, or I could walk away from her and be a part of the work God was doing in those four young women. You may not like it, but I went with the latter.

I pray for that woman. Every day I pray for her. My heart literally aches that she stood face to face with the hope she needed and the security she lacked and still chose to say no. She is the Lord's and His truth has been planted in her.

Whether she likes it or not....*wink. He will not give up on her.

There were dozens and dozens like her. They just would not say yes to the Lord.
They were dying of thirst...and refused to drink.

And far more than I imagined, it physically hurt me to leave them.
I ache for them to know the God I know.
I need them to love the Lord I love.
I want them to find joy and delight in knowing they are His. 

Many of you prayed for those two weeks in Tanzania, and I'm so thankful that you did. Your prayers were felt and realized constantly, but--dare I ask it? Please keep praying. Pray that the Lord will not let them forget the Truth they have heard. Pray that they will, at some point, see Jesus for the reality of what He is:

The only One who can quench their thirst.


Regan said...

I got goosebumps when you told me that story in person and I have goosebumps reading it now. So thankful for your brokenness and your obedience in those moments and now.

Colleen said...

Sweet girl, I love you so.

I came home from the trip to Rwanda with a similarly changed heart. That was almost two years ago. I still pray for Murama, Rwanda. I pray that the churches there will continue the work of proclaiming the Name. I pray for Patience and Valentine and Irene. I pray for the orphans of the genocide to know that He is a father to the fatherless. I pray for the men who killed so many to know His forgiveness.

You will forever be different for the fields are white for the harvest. You have seen it with your own eyes. You have been to the field and know that some of the lost want to be found. You know some of the lost choose to be so. But, you will never again worry about personal rejection upon sharing Christ. You will share Christ in desperate hope that the one you are sharing with will tear into the gift of salvation with wreckless abandon.

Your sister is nuts about you. I love you so.

Debbie Frost Widner said...

Oh Hannah, Your story touched my heart so deeply. You are such a devoted follower of Christ. I know your parents are so proud of you. But you know, you many never know if they actually come to Christ however, you do know that you planted that seed--just the size of a mustard seed--and that is all you can do. You know, I have had experiences where individuals have come up to me and said, Mrs. Widner, or Debbie, I remember what you said to me that day about Christ, Jesus, God in your life, and how I turned away and laughed, well, I have come to Christ and now I know exactly what you were talking about. He is an awesome God, and how I survived before coming to Him, I will never know. Now I know I will dwell in Heaven forever and not in Hell like you tried to tell me I would unless I change, and accept Him as my Lord and Savior." Many of these were years, or months later--so you never know when an individual will come to Christ, all we do know is that we sowed the seed and the rest is up to them. Keep your chin up as you have done well my child. I love you. Debbie