How I try to protect God, and how He tells me not to {Lessons from Uganda}

When I met the woman on the plane who said that she runs an NGO in Uganda with a “more holistic” focus on helping women, I shrank. When I was in the crowd with 50 long-term missionaries, with so little experience of my own and in awe of what they were doing, I wilted.

I’m just not sure how much good many short-term missions can do. Sure, we go for ourselves, we go to be changed. But it has to be more than that, or we’re just doing poverty/sad story tourism.

Uganda kids

Image by Beth Schafers

It was more. I believe in Mercy for Mamas, and I saw the positive work we’re doing to support existing ministry.

But every step along the agenda, I stood back, observing, questioning, analyzing, unpacking. Skeptical. Needing proof. Wanting answers and certainty and assurance.

And then God put a beautiful friend in my life who said to me, more than once, give it space. Let it be. See what happens. You can’t see the whole story.

So when I wasn’t sure about something we were doing, when I couldn’t quantify the sustainability of a certain activity for an afternoon, when all my alarm bells were ringing,  God still didn’t need me to defend him.

He needed me to trust him.

God doesn’t need me to test everything out, make sure it meets his approval, to stand back and not get involved because it might not be perfect. He calls me to jump in anyway. He gives me freedom to use my brain but reminds me not to forget my heart. He asks me to follow him even if I can’t see the whole story.

He reminds me that even in the messiest situations and in the worst examples of American gospel-pounding missions, he can still work. That he doesn’t need me to protect him. He doesn’t need me to be certain, and he doesn’t even need me to approve. He will work anyway.

It’s just one of his best and most beautiful qualities. That no matter how ridiculous it looks to me, no matter how little I can understand and how much I rage at him for something that’s been done or left undone, he finds the shard of truth, the scrap of beauty, and he says that’s mine.

And then he redeems it, one tiny, gorgeous shard at a time.

Which, when you think about it, is exactly what he’s doing in my little heart, too.


Linking with Emily.

  • Victoria

    Oh that tourism line. You’re speaking to my jaded, worried I’m not in things enough for God, self. The Lord places us and uses us beyond our scope of insight and sphere of influence. Not because He needs to, either. I’m reminded of 1 Thessalonians 5:21, “test everything, hold fast to what is good” and how we can always know that holding fast to God is gonna be good, no matter how small or large it appears in our view.

  • http://juliebrocknet jules

    More and more the movement in moments has become giant around these here parts and it reminds me to grab hold and pay attention…he is moving, yo. And your shard matters – it moves us.

  • Alizabeth Rasmussen

    Beautifully said. God needs us to trust Him, which sometimes leads us into messy situations in which we are then called to trust Him even more. That’s the thing about faith…there’s always room to go deeper.

    Thank you for your words!

  • Brandee Shafer

    I think the key is to go when and where He whispers to us to go. Sometimes, lately, it seems like people don’t believe He speaks, anymore, also that waiting for His nudge is a way to get out of going. But that has not been my experience, and I have felt empowered when I have responded to His callings. I do believe we can do more harm than good when we choose to do and go outside of His leading.

  • Tracy

    Appreciate this post. Actually really liked your lines about “I’m just not sure how much good many short-term missions can do. Sure, we go for ourselves, we go to be changed. But it has to be more than that, or we’re just doing poverty/sad story tourism” since I’ve wondered that myself (and you’ve said it so well and so succinctly). As I read your post I’m reminded of Philippians 1:15-18 when Paul talks about how he doesn’t need to be concerned about the motives of others but rejoices when the gospel is preached. I think we all have mixed motives all the time simply cuz it’s part of the human condition. I’m grateful that God’s above all that and chooses to use us any way.