Today’s a big day at Sweet Sleep. Or was it yesterday? Or the day before? Well, it could have easily been the day before that. But wait, there was also the day before that or the day before the day before that.
The truth is that each day of the last week marks an important milestone in my own life, and now in the life of a ministry we call Sweet Sleep. Seven years ago today I had just returned home from my first mission trip to Moldova and received our first donation for a bed. I didn’t know what to expect before I left home for the tiny little country I knew nothing about. I don’t usually tell people this, but I almost didn’t go on that trip. My life was so busy then and my commitments at home were demanding and I thought it might be better if I canceled the trip. I’ll spare you the story, but clearly I didn’t get in God’s way.
Going on that mission trip meant leaving my comfort zones–and I have a lot of zones I like comfort in. I don’t eat anything weird. That includes most vegetables, fruits not easily found at the grocery store and anything that wasn’t previously a clucking or mooing. I don’t do bugs. Or reptiles. In fact, if it’s smaller than a sunglass case, people around me are probably going to need earplugs and ice for their bruises. Most importantly, I don’t fly. Flying terrifies me—even now. Remember the show “Fear Factor”? I can tell you that my personal Fear Factor would be a plane full of bugs and doctors. If you’ve ever flown with me you know I don’t unbuckle, regardless of how many hours we have until we reach our destination. God has given me a bladder of steel.
My first trip to Moldova was full of sensory overloads. Everywhere I looked I saw something that needed to be cared for…glass instead of grass and children with bare feet. Everywhere I sat children wanted to play with my hair or sit in my lap or hold my hand or my arm. They just wanted to feel my loving touch. They wanted to be hugged. They wanted you to smile at them. And, after you shared your love with them they would laugh. Their little voices would practically sing out to each other in joy…and in Romanian. I wasn’t sure what they were saying, but their faces told the stories even when my ears couldn’t comprehend what their words were.
I’ve said before that I think my sense of smell called me into ministry. You see, my group for the week was a cabin full of boys ranging from 9-16. Each time our groups were supposed to have Bible study or prayer time or down time all of my friend’s groups would sit under a tree or on a hillside. Not my group. My boys wanted to go back to their dark musty cabin. They wanted me to sit on their bed while they sat next to me, as close as possible. They wanted to me to be in their home because then it would be filled with happy memories instead of just broken metal beds with filthy urine stained mattresses.
God changed my life forever that week, as we know. And over the last seven years I’ve had the enormous blessing to watch God change the lives of countless others. Naturally that’s been in the lives of the children and caregivers we serve, but also in the lives of team members who’ve said “Yes” to God. I’ve been blessed to watch team members come into new relationships with Christ, get baptized in frozen lakes and pools and minister in endless ways alongside fellow believers in distant lands. My world has been blown wide open by hearing Moldovans, Haitians and Ugandans sing songs of praise and worship to God in their own language, while I sang the same song in mine, and suddenly realize just how big our God is that He can understand each of His children all over the world. I’ve watched as team members eventually become adoptive parents. I’ve watched as my peers found direction for their lives in their time of serving the “least of these.” And before every trip I have prayed for those who God would call out to go and for how He would use their life to change another. And I’ve prayed for how their own life would be changed as well.
Know that if you’re reading this, you are the one I’m praying for now. Sure, you have a lot of questions about life and about what it would mean to go on a mission trip. I have a lot of answers. Jesus has even more. Say “Yes” to the opportunity He’s given you to serve and watch Him reveal the answers, and Himself, to you.
It’s been two years since I’ve been to Moldova. That’s hard to imagine, but God has taken Sweet Sleep to other countries and my time has been needed there. I’m so looking forward to returning to this sweet place this October. I’m personally inviting you to join me on this adventure. Come and see for yourself what it feels like to wrap your hands around the face of a child and realize you’re looking into the eyes of Jesus. Come and see what love in the form of beds looks, feels and smells like. Whatever you do, just come. The children are waiting.
Happy Birthday, Sweet Sleep. And, Jesus, thank you for the rich blessings you’ve filled my life with over the last seven years of ministry and for my friends who have walked this journey with me.
Love to you,