In her book, Confronting Christianity, Rebecca McLaughlin takes on the task of addressing 12 difficult cultural questions that many around us, including those inside the church, are asking. She does not shy away from the hard questions but instead responds to them in a biblically centric, intellectually thoughtful, and compassionate way. I found this book extremely helpful, and I am confident that many others will as well. In this short review I want to offer three reasons why you should consider reading this book and two ways that you could use it this year to engage with our prayer and action goals.
First, you should consider reading this book for your own edification. As I was reading, I was so challenged and encouraged by the thorough treatment of each topic. Her thoughts are not reductionist or dismissive. She validates the impulse of each thought and then carefully addresses the flaws that exist in each argument and presents the answers that the gospel provides. I was particularly helped by her chapters addressing the denigration of women and homophobia. My love for Christ abounded as I saw his love for his image bearers and his desire for our good. You too will find many causes to be stretched and grown in these chapters.
Secondly, you should consider reading this book to stir compassion in your hearts towards those who do not yet know Christ. I find that many Christians harbor more contempt than compassion for sinners…especially those who do not outwardly conform to a worldview that only Christ can truly enliven. We are quick to forget that our worldview is a gift and our obedience to the gospel is empowered by the work of the Holy Spirit and not by personal wisdom. This book helps us see “those other people” with compassionate hearts. This was especially true for me when Rebecca shared her own story in the chapter addressing homosexuality. When I see a person I respect wrestle with the Scripture in the way that she does it reminds me of the cost of discipleship. Obedience at the heart level is not easy and we are all prone to create narratives and worldviews that support our desires. Reading this book will help us love those who are wrestling as well as those who are in bondage to other worldviews, for the sake of their desires, in a more compassionate way.
Third, and lastly, you should consider reading this book to help you engage your “neighbor” in a more compelling way, prepared to bring the hope of the gospel as you engage with them over their felt needs and values. Often, we don’t engage because we don’t feel prepared. This usually fleshes out in two ways. The first is total disengagement. We want to bring the gospel to others, but we don’t know how to address their felt needs and worldview. The second is to say our beliefs louder and stronger from a distance (social media anyone?). We want people to know the truth but we are afraid to engage them face-to-face, so we launch truths from a distance. No matter where on that spectrum you fall, this book is helpful! It gives you tools for engagement and also reminds you that you do not have to know everything to start a conversation with someone who thinks differently than you. More importantly, it stirs your affections for Christ and for sinners in a way that makes you want to engage where you may not have previously held that desire.
Now that you are completely convinced that you should read Confronting Christianity, let me offer two suggestions on how you can use it to engage with our prayer and action goals for the year. First, you can use this book to Equip you for the work of the gospel. Gather a small group of women, a few couples or someone you are discipling and read this book together. Be prepared to share about how the content is challenging you and receive help in growing in your ability to love the non-believers in your life better. This would also be a great resource to use to Engage in our community! Do you have some skeptical, thoughtful, curious friends who would be interested in reading this book with you? Ask them to grab coffee once a month for the next year and cover 1-2 chapters. Who knows how the LORD will use those conversations in the lives of those people!
This is a thoughtful, engaging and sound resource that I highly recommend for anyone who wants to engage the cultural beliefs in a compassionate and helpful way…and even if you don’t want to do that, it is likely that the Holy Spirit could use this book to change your mind!
Women’s ministry hosted the most delightful autumn Firepit evening. The weather was crisp which made the fire all the more delightful. The steaming crockpots of chili, soft cornbread and good cookies made everything welcoming. There were three speakers, who each told stories of their experiences engaging with Buddhist friends and family. Their stories of their personal encounters with truth - head truth and heart truth, were engaging.
As I headed home, I felt a strange sadness about all that I had heard. I turned off the car radio and drove in silence, kind of asking the Lord why I was feeling sad after such a refreshing evening. The thing was, each of the women, in very different ways, had shared an encounter with the Lord that was visceral, and tangible. One of the women shared how she had a time in her life when she was seeking God to show her that her faith had truly moved from cognitive understanding to her heart. She had gone to sit by a quiet dirty pond she had frequented because she knew no one would bother her there because no one liked that pond. She stayed there for hours until the moment came when God showed up and she knew in her heart that her belief was not just mental assent. So she got up and went home.
Another woman shared how she was awakened in the morning with a dream of an ugly evil face – right in her face. She described how it wasn’t so much the frightening face, but the utter darkness and blackness behind the face that overwhelmed her. The depth of blackness and the abyss behind the darkness was so deep. She spoke with intensity about the expansive dark.
The last story was about a conversation the speaker had with a friend who was seeking to know God. He was a bird watcher who was bragging about the multitude of varieties in the area. He did lament that even though there were owls in the area, he had only ever seen one a long time ago. The speaker said that she whispered a plea to God and then told her friend that she would pray to her God and ask for an owl to show up. She did just that, out loud, with her friend. They rounded a corner in the park where they were walking and there sat two owls on a wall!! Not one, but two. Oh my, God did show off a bit.
So why did this all end up making me sad as I drove home? Was it spiritual envy? Did I need something special like that from God?
And then just as clearly as you please, I heard my heavenly Father say to me, "And if I don't show up with special encounters, am I enough? Is knowing me enough?"
The rest of the way home, I told Him that dirty ponds, deep darkness and two owls was plenty!
I would give this book an unequivocal thumbs up as a thoughtful balanced look at the subject of social justice. Thaddeus Williams, while a white male, himself, is a close friend of John Perkins, a black leader, with whom he has discussed and worked through so many of the ideas in this book. That kind of Christian cooperation and community makes what is written more authentic and honest.
Williams begins by stating that “the gospel is the foundation for social justice.” Social justice, like any other value can be approached from a Christian or a secular world view. When Williams tackles the hot topics of racism, sexuality, socialism, abortion, critical theory and identity politics, he argues that while social justice is not the gospel, it is not optional for Christians. Williams also affirms that the starting place for doing justice must be worship.
But what kind of social justice?
For the believer, justice is not just for justice’s sake, it is for redemption, reconciliation, and restoration. Like love – it’s an action verb. “DO JUSTICE.”
From the outset, Williams defines social justice in two categories – Social Justice A and Social Justice B. These categories help throughout the rest of the book. When Antifa and the American Nazi Party both consider themselves to be seeking social justice, we can agree that this is not what we’re seeking! So what are we seeking and what are the boundaries?
Williams organizes this book with 12 questions under four categories:
Not one of us is ever going to say, “I’m anti-justice.” So what divides us?
Williams believes that social justice is both biblically required and socially necessary. But he also believes it’s “threatened by an unhealthy imitation that’s biblically false and socially destructive. The former he calls “Social Justice A” (as in “awesome”) and the latter “Social Justice B” (as in “bad”). “
Perhaps Williams’s greatest contribution is to remind us that justice is vertical as well as horizontal – it is practiced in worship and in community.
Social Justice A sees human identity as fundamentally either fallen in Adam or redeemed in Christ. Because we’re saved by grace alone, we have no room for self-righteous boasting over any other person, regardless of race, class, or gender. Because our fellow men are made in God’s image, it’s a heinous sin to wrong or oppress any of them. This is why practitioners of Social Justice A have historically rescued babies from trash heaps, hidden Jews from Nazis, and abolished slavery and widow-burning—because “God does not suggest, he commands that we do justice.”
Social Justice B, however, is what many people think of first. It leans to the left in the academy and the arts, political activism and the Black Lives Matter movement. It’s a philosophy Williams thinks is dangerous both for the church and society.
It’s not that Social Justice B contains no truth, but that it represents a different worldview. God is often marginal or absent. Rather than understanding human beings fundamentally as either sinners in Adam or saints in Christ, it tends to classify people as either oppressed or oppressors (44), often allowing the oppressed to demonize their opponents and avoid self-examination.
Scripture recognizes that oppression exists, and strongly condemns it. The problem with Social Justice B is that it tends to both unduly expand and oversimplify the definition of oppression. Specifically, it oversimplifies oppression by grouping people into the oppressor/oppressed category based on identity groups like race. A more thoughtful perspective would be to recognize it’s possible for the same person to be both oppressed and oppressor.
Williams continues not only to admonish us to start with God and worship, but he also reminds us that we are all in the Imago Dei. “Size, shade, sex or status,” –all in the image of God. If we either exalt these things above God, or seek to destroy them, we are making idols out of them. “Idolatry then, is the first injustice and the carcinogenic source of every other injustice.” (pg.22).
Does our vision of social justice make an idol out of our social beliefs and ideologies? Williams looks at the things we make as our idols in our discussion of social justice.
“The comparison with When Helping Hurts is a good place to conclude. Like Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert, Thaddeus Williams loves the oppressed and wants to help them. He appreciates the good intentions of many Christians trying to fulfill the biblical mandate to do justice. But that is precisely why, like Corbett and Fikkert, he feels compelled to oppose so much of what flies under the banner of social justice. He’s convinced that not only will it not help the oppressed, but it will consume limited time and resources that could have been spent alleviating oppression. “Is it possible that the Social Justice B story can have an unintended dream-crushing effect on the very communities it seeks to uplift? So first, let’s do no harm; the only thing worse than hurting the oppressed is doing so in the name of Jesus. Let’s work smart at doing justice as well as working hard. Let us be quick to hear, slow to speak, and cultivate a love that hopes all things. And in all our justice, let us “start with God.” Because as Dr. Perkins observes, “If we don’t start with him first, whatever we’re seeking, it ain’t justice” (xv).
This brief, readable and to-the-point book answers the questions that those who are wrestling with “deconstruction” most often cite. Before You Lose Your Faith may, however, prove far more helpful to those who are engaging with those who are wrestling with their faith. In ten short chapters on how the Bible and the Church respond or have responded to the issues in this book, the believing reader takes away far more than talking points to combat the untruths that draw someone away from the faith. Rather, this book provides the truths about Christianity which combat secular untruths about the faith. Including chapters on everything from LGBTQ+ questions (Sex: Telling a Better Story) to the issues brought up through Googling answers to your struggles with Christianity (Internet: Deconstructing Faith Online) and from science as worldview (Science: Why Scientism Can’t Explain Morality or Reality) to the idea some have that biblical Christianity is only for the uneducated (Anti-Intellectualism: We Must Ask Hard Questions), along with chapters on racism in the church, tough questions about Hell and still other stumbling block issues, this book makes for relevant reading.
As I read, there were times I was challenged to look at an issue from a different perspective from one I hold. At other points, I felt spurred on to engage with winsomeness and love those who hold contrary viewpoints from my own. Particularly encouraging to my own soul were the authors’ reminders to dig deeply into the 2000-year history of the Church and to take my own doubts back to a God who, by His Holy Spirit, is ready and able to answer my questions through His Word.
Since living in this world as a Christian comes with challenges and hardships, the contributors (each chapter is written by a different author) address some of the unspoken doubts and fears, as well as the lies of the surrounding culture, we all must deal with if we’re to live honestly and fruitfully in this fallen world. Whether you turn to this book as a ready resource, as preparation for honest conversation with deconstructing friends or simply to shore up your own faith, you won’t be disappointed.
I absolutely loved reading Secular Creed by Rebecca McLaughlin! She writes in an easy to read style without compromising the significance or depth of her research. Secular Creed dives into five contemporary claims (Black Lives Matter, Love is Love, The Gay-Rights Movement is the New Civil-Rights Movement, Women’s Rights are Human Rights, and Transgender Women are Women) and unpacks each of their meaning, their history, their heart/significance for our culture, and the biblical truth that speaks to each of these claims. I appreciate that she did not necessarily give prescriptive “this is how believers should respond when someone says ‘love is love’…” but rather she reminds believers that God is love and all humans are made in his image. She allows (and hopes) the truth of scripture will root us in His love and determine our responses to these claims in a way that is honoring to God and to his image bearers.
This is a book I would recommend to anyone who is hoping to learn and understand more about these five claims and their impact on the world around us, regardless whether they are in these types of conversations or not. This book is a helpful research tool to understanding our neighbors and communities at large and its thought-provoking content can help us engage in these conversations in an educated and biblical manner. Even if someone is not in a space where these conversations are happening actively and passionately, this book is a quick read to better understand and be equipped for the possibility of those conversations.
I personally am not close with anyone who has made any of these claims to me, or at least not close enough to really engage and wrestle with them through them; but I felt like this book was so helpful for me in that! Since I am not in those spaces currently, I don’t have anyone to bring forth an opposing viewpoint or challenge a biblical assertion (i.e. where does the Bible say that, etc.). Yet, McLaughlin’s research helped me see the support that people use to back these claims. And while she continues to point to various logical holes in their claims and the biblical truth that refutes or undermines their argument, she does so in a way that helps the reader grow in compassion rather than confusion and frustration for those who stand whole-heartedly by these claims.
When I was in 5th grade, I tripped over a low-hanging chain link fence – about six inches off the ground – and fell in front of the entire playground. It was an embarrassing moment, but instead of acknowledging the moment and moving on, I felt shamed. Other equally minor moments of shaming have amplified and reinforced that moment on the playground, but until recently, I’ve never been able to tell anyone about those, admittedly, incredibly minor incidents.
There are many other incidents and situations from my adult life that have been far more shameful and some for which I should be ashamed! But I was able to talk about them. I had to talk about them, or I would have died inside. The Lord, who came to cover my guilt and shame, worked to make sure I knew that the big stuff that resulted in guilt and shame was covered. But I never brought Him the little stuff that had built up from childhood. And the thing about shame is, that the longer we take to share our story, the tighter shame’s grip has on our hearts and with each passing day, the feeling of shame only grows and becomes bigger and scarier to reveal, no matter how ridiculous that might seem to others.
Shame is different from guilt. Guilt uses courtroom imagery before the Judge while shame comes upon us in the public square. When I am guilty, only the eyes of the Judge who declares me innocent matters; but when I’ve been shamed, it feels like everyone knows it. In our guilt we are legally liable and need salvation, forgiveness, and cleansing; in our shame, we need forgiveness and cleansing, but we also need to be included and invited back into the community. Guilt names our sin and begs forgiveness; shame, rather, becomes our very identity and needs to be renamed.
A perfect example of this comes from Hosea. When two of Hosea’s children are born, the Lord tells him to name his daughter “No Mercy” and to name His son “Not My People.” He names them as outcasts, disobedient and disinherited lawbreakers, representing the flagrant apostasy of Israel. But God does not leave it there. He calls them back through the promise to rename them “Children of the Living God” (1:10), You are my people and You have received mercy (2:1). Shame needs to be renamed.
The truth is that the Lord covered both my guilt and my shame many years ago. I no longer walk as one naked and exposed to the mocking crowd, but instead have a robe of righteousness, a robe of priestly garments, and carry the name of Beloved Daughter. Learning to walk in that reality, however, has been a process. Yet God delights to uncover what we have hidden, and not for the purpose of humiliation, but for the purpose of redemption. Our part in the process is to share the stories of shame and guilt, so that we can also share the stories of God’s healing. The Lord calls us not only to walk in the His Light (John 8:12). but to be lights of the world ourselves (Matt 5:14).
I hope you can trust the One who knows all your stories, the painful ones as well as the joy-filled ones, enough to share with another believer those things which have caused you to hide. There’s freedom in speaking the stories because in so doing we drain the power of the lies the devil has held over us and learn to walk in the freedom Christ died to give us.
*(this blog was written as the devotion for the Women’s Ministry field trip to the Gloucester Daffodil Festival)
Daffodils and daffodil festivals remind me of Williams Wordsworth’s poem:
I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.
“The true, the beautiful and the good.” Historical Christian tradition affirm that these values are inseparable for the believer. Beauty is the splendor of truth. Or as one scholar has said,
“The Glory of the Lord, therefore, is the super eminently luminous beauty of divinity beyond all experience and all descriptions, all categories, a beauty before which all earthly splendors, marvelous as they are, pale into insignificance.”
These are things we do not think about a lot in our normal Christian experiences. Often we believe we are seeking truth – black and white truth. But it is in our nature to seek to reflect the image of God in us that from the moments of creation, has filled this world with truth, wrapped in beauty. Black and white truths burst into glorious color when Jesus, the radiance of the Father touches our lives.
Today a small town is celebrating the beauty of one small yellow flower. A whole day of festival activities because we have found something beautiful and some of us, see that as an opportunity to worship a God of truth.
Daffodil flowers are born from bulbs. Unlike seeds, bulbs are plants that actually live under the ground but are visible above the ground when their leaves grow up through the surface of the soil. Whereas seeds are only the final stage of a plant's reproduction, bulbs are the entire life cycle of a plant from beginning to end. So, what we see above the ground are just the visual leaves of the plant that is whole and complete under the earth, a seed, the final stage of a plant’s reproduction cycle. These brilliant yellow flowers have been waiting in darkness, yet fully alive, for many cold winter months.
The scripture has many beautiful and true references to the creativity of our God who loves to put his visual creation together with his words of truth. A few reminders are:
Isaiah 55:10- excerpts:
As the rain comes down from heaven and waters the earth, making seeds sprout and give seeds to the sower... so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth. It shall not return to me empty but will accomplish that for which I sent it.
Think about the lilies of the field. They don’t toil or spin, but even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like even one of these.
1 Corinthians 3:7:
It isn’t the gardener or the waterer, but only God gives the growth.
Song of Solomon 2:12:
When the flowers appear on the earth. The time of singing has come.
The desert will rejoice and blossom like the crocus. It shall blossom abundantly and rejoice with joy and singing.
May God use something as ordinary as daffodils as a reminder for Him to lavish your hearts with truth and beauty.
Abide…surrender…joy…it’s amazing to experience how the Lord uses trials to draw us closer to Him and walk boldly in faith. I recently had such an experience when I experienced a health crisis. While at work in late October, I was suddenly hit with excruciating abdominal pain and nausea. My symptoms worsened and a rare, life-threatening obstruction was discovered -- I needed to have emergency surgery. As a nurse in the surgical department, I suddenly found myself a patient in our department. As I waited to speak with the surgical team, I reflected on seeing the Lord’s hand on everything that led up that point and was reminded of the His faithfulness in the past. I knew He would continue to be faithful. I went into the operating room with His courage and was reminded of Joshua 1:9 hanging in our family room: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid, do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” I woke up after surgery and was comforted by seeing my co-workers’ and Jason’s faces. I was then admitted to the hospital to recover.
As an active person recovering from major surgery being connected to lines and tubes and needing assistance to do the smallest things was difficult. I wanted to drink water, eat food, use the restroom without help, sleep soundly, and my surgical incision to heal overnight! Faced with the uncertainty of my health and separation from my family in the loneliness of my hospital room, I cried out to the Lord to be filled with His peace. I prayed to be filled with His strength to face the challenging road to recovery. The Lord heard my cry and met me in the day-time busyness and late-night stillness of my hospital room. I experienced beautiful quiet and still moments as the Lord filled me with His peace. He reminded me of the scripture I had prayed as theme verses for the upcoming year on my birthday, a week ago. My fears, loneliness, and doubts were replaced by the rest and peace found in abiding in Him.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you find rest for your souls.
For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
and John 14:27: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
He called me to surrender it all to Him and to keep my focus on Him, not on myself. I continued to trust in His goodness, love, and faithfulness. He wasn’t a distant Savior but understood what I was experiencing as He carried me through. His promises were the lifeboat I clung onto in the ocean of uncertainty I found myself. In my humility and weakness, He filled me with His strength. His grace was sufficient for me!
“But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in the weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.
For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
2 Corinthians 12:9-10 NIV
With the Lord’s strength, I was able to eat, walk longer distances, rest, and recover. I was so grateful for the small things and able to experience joy in the midst of my trial. I knew no matter the outcome, His love and my salvation would remain. I found joy in His grace and presence!
The Lord was also working in my husband and children’s lives, and He used fellow believers, friends, and co-workers to show us His love, comfort, and support. After 4.5 days I was discharged and filled with joy to be healthy enough to go home to my family. We were also grateful to have my mom’s help, who flew immediately from California to be with us. My recovery didn’t end when I left the hospital, He continues to refine and equip me to do His will (it is a continuous story!). I am reminded that the hope and joy found in His peace, grace, and presence transcends the trials we experience. I am thankful that I can hold onto His promises that He will never leave us nor forsake us, a reason to rejoice always! I pray that His power and glory is evident when I share my experience with others, and through the continuous work He calls me to do.
“When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire, you will be not be burned;
The flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the Lord, your God,
the Holy one of Israel, your Savior.”
Isaiah 43:2-3 NIV
“In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.
These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith-of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire-may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”
1 Peter 1:6-7 NIV
Same old kinda day. Dropped of my grandson, Conner, at school for another day of middle school. The usual chatter on the way, about movies and YouTubers and music. Then all of a sudden, we’re at the school and he tumbles out with his backpack that is almost his size.
“Remember Jesus loves you today,” I call as he closes the car door. And quickly I’m on my way back home. It’s a country road to the school and back, with horses and cows and various crops that have been shaved off the earth since the harvests. Quiet.
Then, just like that, I turn left on Route 17 south and everything is fast and busy in a four-lane kind of way. At that moment the morning sun was just in that spot where I was completely blinded by its radiance. I was jolted into utter blindness. What if there is a car going slowly in front of me. Panic.
92 million miles away, there was a powerful ball of energy that was blinding me right here on 17 South. Apparently, the light left its source 8 minutes ago, and here it was! I glanced down at the line on my left, outside the driver’s side window so I could get my bearings. Rats! I had those dark blinky blotches in my eyes so could hardly make out the lines. Of course, my sunglasses were somewhere in the bottom of my purse, and I was not about to search for them with one hand, when I was already sun blinded. I did take driver’s ed.
In a reflex action I reached up and pulled down my hopeless little unused visor over the steering wheel on my tiny car, not expecting much help. Suddenly, that little postage stamp of a visor fixed everything. The light which had travelled 92 million miles was blocked out by that visor. I could see the road! I had my vision and equilibrium back. Whew.
I know you know where I’m going with this – so let’s just do it.
How many times in the course of my day, when the glory of 93 million miles of love, sacrifice and amazing grace blasts into my everyday life, do I just flip down my visor of impatience, distrust, doubt and laziness and block out the whole thing? Something goes wrong and I flip down that visor. My feelings are hurt, and I let that tiny square darken everything. I lose my sense of direction and blame the light.
It wasn’t until I got home and saw on my calendar that today is Epiphany, that I just had to chuckle. I think I just got Epiphanied! You’ll see on most calendars that Epiphany is celebrated January 6. There are many church traditions around this, but it literally means “reveal” and celebrates the arrival of the Maji, who had been following the star from afar to see Emmanuel; God with us. When light breaks through, like the star, we have an epiphany. And sometimes that light can be blinding.
So, how did you end up here?
That’s the most natural question I get after telling people I’m originally from Illinois. And, no, I’m not in the military; nor did I go to school here. The short answer is simple: the Lord – He brought me here. The long answer is the same, but the details reveal His consistent faithfulness and provision in my life.
I usually start this story at age 22, but the story really begins at age 15, where the key question I was asking myself was “what’s the purpose of life?” The Lord started revealing pieces of that question to me on my first mission trip. After that, I wanted to know the Lord more and grow in sharing Him with others. I felt like this was my purpose in life. Eventually, I went to college and studied missions. When it came time for an internship, I stumbled upon an organization called Global Frontier Missions (GFM) – a missionary training organization based out of Clarkston, GA, a small town outside of Atlanta with about 10,000 refugees.
My time at GFM felt like a missions buffet! Monday afternoon I’d be in a Nepali home, Tuesday afternoon in an Iraqi home, Wednesday afternoon in a Burmese home, Thursday in an Afghan home, and Friday in an Ethiopian home. It was awesome! I love different cultures, and this town is filled with them! But, in the midst of this diversity, the Lord specifically broke my heart for one particular people. When I say “broke my heart,” I mean that out of all of the people I was interacting with, there was one group in particular that brought me to tears when thinking about their lack of the gospel. Therefore, as I finished the internship and entered my senior year of college, I began praying that the Lord would allow me to live among these people after college and share the gospel with them.
After graduating college, I wasn’t sure what to do, so I went back to GFM for a second summer internship. During the last week, we hosted a short-term team from a church in Virginia called Peninsula Community Chapel. Perhaps, you’ve heard of them. To be honest, I wasn’t too excited about this team coming, because it was the last week of the internship, meaning it would be the last time I’d see the international friends I’d made. I knew this team was a group of high school students, so I was a little worried about getting some punk kid that would be culturally insensitive and not eat the food placed in front of them. I distinctly remember signing up for one of my ministry partners for the week, and as I was writing her name down, I said, “I don’t know who this Chelsea girl is, but she better be good!” I wonder if the Lord chuckled at that comment.
It turns out, I had a great week with that Chelsea girl, and I even tried to convince her to move to Nashville with me. She graciously declined, the week ended, and we parted ways saying, “well, I guess I’ll see you in heaven!”
College is over. Now what?
Meanwhile, I moved back home and continued to pray for the Lord to make a way for me to live among the people He placed on my heart. And, thankfully, He started putting a team together in Chicago! Two of my friends from college had a similar vision, so we started making our plans to head to Chicago. We even had a “vision” trip together. We got connected to a local ministry, found temporary housing, and started applying for jobs. In February of 2016, this Chelsea girl reached out to me somewhat out of the blue.
“You should come intern at our church this summer,” she said.
“Oh that sounds awesome, but I kind of have these other plans,” I told her, and began filling her in on how God was putting all the pieces in place for me to move to Chicago.
“That’s awesome!” Chelsea replied. “Since going to Clarkston, I’ve gotten involved with the refugee ministry at my church and now I really want to move into a refugee apartment complex.”
“Wow! I’m excited for you! I’ll be praying the Lord sends you a roommate!” I responded as we finished up our conversation. Perhaps, the Lord chuckled at that comment, as well.
A few weeks after that conversation, my plans to move to Chicago quickly unraveled. One of my potential roommates ended up not being able to move, our temporary housing fell through, and after applying to about 20 (literally) different jobs, I had no job offers. Everything was changing so quickly, but at the same time I was planning a trip with two of my friends to the Outer Banks, because we’re from the Midwest, so we don’t know that you don’t plan a trip to the Outer Banks in March.
However, it proved to be one of the best trips of my life. I told my two friends about this Chelsea girl, and that I was maybe planning to ask her if it would be okay if I just move to Virginia and we try to live together in a refugee apartment complex. This plan sounded ridiculous, even to me, so I asked them to spy on Chelsea for me to let me know if I had gone off the deep end. Shockingly, after making a quick stop in the 757 on our way to the OBX, both of my friends affirmed my plan. “It is crazy,” they said, “but I think it could work!”
The next day I sent a message to Chelsea.
“So, is your church still looking for summer interns?”
“Yes. Oh my gosh! Do you want to apply?”
“Well, what would you think about me just moving to Virginia and the two of us moving into a refugee apartment complex?”
“What?!?! Are you serious? This would be an answer to prayer! If you’re in, I’m in!”
And just like that, within a month, all of my plans to move to Chicago had crumbled, and I had a roommate, housing, and a job set for me to move to Virginia in June 2016. The Lord clearly put all of the pieces of the puzzle together, and I stood back in pure, joyful amazement at the ridiculous details that I knew I could not have dreamed up on my own.
Side Note: Parents’ Support
Throughout this whole process one of the greatest gifts from the Lord was my parents’ support. They encouraged my first mission trip, and consistently showed support, even when I began processing that I felt like the Lord was leading me to a people that aren’t known to be the most peaceful. It was a true blessing that allowed me to honestly process with my mom. She continually pointed me back to the Lord, trusted that He was the best guide for my life, and that I was seeking to follow Him. My parents never pressured me to question the path I believed He was laying out for me. This meant I got to share the joys and struggles of the process, and my parents got to mourn and rejoice alongside me.
When I got home after my trip to the Outer Banks, I shared all of the details with my mom and said, “Mom, I think I’m moving to Virginia!”
"I just knew something like this was going to fall into place, and the Lord would guide all the pieces,” she graciously replied.
She could have been fearful – that would have been reasonable – but she chose to trust the Lord with my life. And that, has been one of the biggest blessings.
Thankfully, the process of picking an apartment complex to move into was easy; actually moving in was not. But the Lord was faithful to remove obstacles and we found ourselves in Regency Square. In fact, just as we moved in, so did a whole group of people from the people group I loved. It felt like the Lord had literally just picked all of us up and moved us into this same area together at the same time!
The whole first year, Chelsea and I were so excited and easily just laughed off the bug problems, plumbing problems, heating problems, etc. We were just excited that the plan worked – we were really living right next door to a ton of refugees.
After about a month I came home from work one day in November, and I smelled something. I walked into the kitchen and Chelsea promptly opened the oven door and showed me the pumpkin pies she was baking.
“How do you know if they’re done?” she asked.
“I don’t know. I don’t really like pumpkin pie”
“Yeah, neither do I.”
“Ummm…,” I started to say with a confused look, “you do know that the likelihood of us getting served whatever we take to someone is very high, right?”
Well, thankfully, we didn’t get the pies served to us, but I also don’t think we ever got invited into that house again, so maybe our new friend didn’t like the pies either. No hard feelings though; we were happy for the trial-and-error process of our relationship building to begin!
There was a lady in Regency named Nor. One day I saw her taking her trash out, and I felt like the Lord was telling me to go talk to her. I wasn’t feeling especially social that day, and just didn’t want to, so I started bargaining with God and eventually said, “Fine, I’ll go out and prayer walk one lap around our half of the complex. If I see her, I’ll talk to her. If not, I won’t.” Nor wasn’t out, but that’s when I met Diana, who became my closest, and only consistent refugee friend while at Regency.
Eventually, Diana and I started meeting weekly. I told her I’d teach her English if she taught me Arabic. That was a little bit of a joke because what developed was much sweeter than language lessons. Eventually, we would talk about real things. I remember the day we grieved together as she told me about a friend of hers back home who committed suicide, and I remember her talking about how much pain and anger her sister had because her husband was taking a second wife. “The husband loves each consecutive wife more,” she explained to me. This was a great time to talk about how Jesus tells husbands to take only one wife and to love them like they love their own bodies. Also, Jesus loves us so much that He gave His life for His followers and husbands are supposed to love their wives like that. She liked the words and character of Jesus. These conversations gave me incredible joy; they were the reason we were there.
Eventually, the first year drew to an end, and a lot of the newness wore off. Many of our friends started moving out of Regency as their contract drew to an end, including Diana. Also, I was having a pretty tough time. I had inconsistent employment for the first three years I lived here, and that resulted in me being consistently discouraged and poor. I was not doing a whole lot, because many activities cost money, and many people spend their days at work, so I ended up isolating myself. I learned quickly that isolation is a breeding ground for sin.
I dove headfirst into sin and got wrapped up in things I never imagined would be a struggle for me. After two years of this, nothing was changing for the better. Therefore, I decided circumstances needed to change. I either needed to move away and start over, or it was simply time to move out of Regency. Chelsea and I decided to try a new location and invite another person into our lives. We began praying for a third roommate.
Thankfully, a few months before we started praying, the Lord moved a physical therapist from Texas here for a 9-month work contract. Rachel was someone who we had begun spending a lot of time with, at first because she was the new girl, who lived all the way in Williamsburg, and we thought she needed more friends. But, as we spent time with her, we learned that she was trustworthy and full of grace – a good friend to have.
I distinctly remember discussing a hot issue within the global Church, and she simply said, “Our sin should never shock us. We should never be shocked by others’ sins.” As someone who was struggling with the shame of my own sin, these words were a balm to my soul, and this friend made me feel safe and reminded me of the grace of my Redeemer.
Eventually, we asked Rachel to move into a house with us, and we shared with her in detail how life had been going for the past couple of years. We wanted her to know what sort of battles she would be joining. Again, she responded with grace and shared some of her own battles, as well. With that, the house hunt began.
Moving onto Selden Road began a season of restoration for me. I am in a new living environment, with faithful, God-loving roommates who know the details of my story and will lovingly point me back to Christ. The Lord gave me steady employment. Additionally, the desire to share the gospel with internationals never left, and the Lord has recently been creating a new way to do that.
The last two years have been a season of turning back to the Lord and learning to seek Him first. One main thing the Lord has impressed upon me in this season is a new sense of relief in His grace and forgiveness that covers all of my sins – past, present, and future. He paid for everything when I accepted Him as a 10-year-old. The day I accepted Christ, I didn’t fully know what Jesus was forgiving, but He did. He took all of my sin and shame – 10-year-old Abby sin and shame, 25-year-old Abby sin and shame, 70-year-old Abby sin and shame – and He gave me His righteousness, and there is nothing I can do to lessen that. He has redeemed me and called me righteous, even though I will continue to struggle with sin in this life. Praise God for His faithful grace and mercy!
So, that is how I got here – by following the seemingly ridiculous leading of our faithful God who puts together all the details. He writes a much better story than I could ever imagine.
Here you can read perspectives on life, ministry and God's Word from a variety of PCC's female leaders.