So You’re Going To Africa

Yes, yes I am. I am going to Africa in a few short days and I’m not sure it will ever feel real. As I sit on my flight back to Indiana, relishing the first few moments I have had to process and dream about this trip, I gracefully recall all the reasons I don’t want to go. Reason #1: the actual “going” on the trip…as in on an airplane. My international experience consists of a family trip to Canada. My longest flight clocks in at a mere six hours, Chicago to Anchorage, where my only means of survival was pretending I could sleep. When discussing our upcoming flight to Zambia I ask my teammates to kindly not speak of the hours I will spend on a plane but rather drag me on and hold my hand when I go stir crazy. Sounds like a reasonable concern. Reason #2: my team [how awful does that sound?]. I grew up in a family with seven children so while I feel somewhat prepared to live with fifteen other students for three months in a country I’ve never lived in before likeeeee I’d rather not. I am sure at least one of them will annoy me with their chewing when we eat [I just know my family is rolling their eyes]. So here are the solutions I have thought hard and long about. Solution to concern #1: I HAVE NONE. Except maybe the hand holding. Or you could lure me on the plane by baiting me with cake donuts. Either option will probably work….but I would obviously prefer the donuts–no frosting or sprinkles please. Solution #2: [I am actually going to be serious now so just prepare your heart and mind] As I am sitting on my plane, typing out these words, expressing my ridiculous concerns with my Father I realize he cares. He has already seen it all and he is going before. Then he spoke the most precious words and said, “Your native kin.” Then [to no surprise of anyone who knows me] I cried. On the freaking plane wedged between a man rotating between reading and sleeping every five minutes and a woman who, without vocalization, insists on chewing her gum louder than a jack hammer in my ear. My native kin. He spoke it over my team of students, teachers and resident directors. He spoke it over my native kinsmen I have yet to meet in a country I know so little of but know will capture parts of my heart I didn’t know existed. He even spoke it over this man who can’t decide if he can sleep and this incessant gum chewer. And then I say, “I am going to Africa.” And I am made aware that I am deep in darkness about what lies ahead. I am, however, expectant. I am expectant of what the future holds for me and my newly found native kin.

So now what? Now it’s your turn because you too are a part of this kinship and probably I need you. My team needs you. Today sixteen students move back on to a campus that won’t know us for three months. Tomorrow we continue our classwork [which I may or may not have done between flights in lieu of the due date being my day of travel] as well as our training and prep for this unnatural experience. In my previous oh-so-long-ago post about this trip I mentioned one of my favorite hymns, Little Is Much When God Is In It. One of my favorite verses says, “Are you laid a side from service? Body worn from toil and care. You can still be in the battle in the sacred places of prayer.” [I literally can’t write those words without singing them — in my head of course…I am on an airplane.] While I am sure many of you are able-bodied, you are not going to suffer through this exceedingly long flight I am called to endure [yes I recognize that statement is dripping in drama…just call me The Queen]. I would ask that you, even now, pray for us and for our excited, nervous, and [yes, even my] dramatic hearts. You are so valued. Thank you for being a part of my native kin.
B

 
P to the S: if you’re praying for us, let me know that you are in the comments. It’s encouraging when we can actually see evidence of our kinsmen fighting for us in the sacred place.

I Hear You

She sits at the window

Waiting 

For dreams to become reality

For longings to be fulfilled

She sits at the window

Waiting

The above poem is entitled Kitty after my family’s pet cat who, due to our lack of decisiveness, is called a variety of things [none of which resemble a proper name, i.e. Kitty, Mang0, and Muffin–our late cat’s name]. I am not fond of felines and am reminded of this every morning I go to make a cup of coffee. Kitty follows me in to the kitchen and incessantly meows at the foot of the pantry door, where she knows her treats reside. She then trails behind as I walk back to my room to read. Her expectation is that I willingly open my porch door, fulfilling her lifelong dream of fenced-in freedom. The reality is that I will open a window and Kitty will wishfully watch the wonders of the outside world go on without her.

After a few peaceful moments, Kitty gets bored. She will hop from her perch to where I sit and, once again, begin her never ending sonnet of sorrow. I, like any childless-cat-parent, repeat over and over “I hear you,” hoping to console her deep-kitty anguish. This routine occurs on the daily and I imagine it will never come to an end.

This morning was different though. As I sat reading, praying and sorting through my thoughts I came to the realization that to God I might sound like my cat sometimes. I say the same things to him over and over. I experience the same feelings over and over. It would be easy to imagine those expressions of wonder and wandering hitting the ceiling and fall to the floor. In that moment I heard him say the words I am often found saying to my cat, “I hear you.”

I was reminded of Romans 8:26 which reads, “In the same was the Spirit [comes to us and] helps us in our weakness. We do not know what prayer to offer or how to offer it as we should,  but the Spirit Himself [knows our need and at the right time] intercedes on our behalf with signs and groanings too deep for words” (AMP). For the second time I have picked up Corey Russel’s book entitled Prayer: Why Our Words to God Matter. In it he writes, “This confidence is not a brazen boldness, but rather a quiet knowing that we belong and that what we are asking for will not be denied because the desire to ask did not begin with us.”

If the words are there–if the longing or desire or dream or wish or whatever it is– if it is there I dare you to speak it. Breath life in to hopes originating beyond the heart you’re holding. And if the words aren’t there? If the words aren’t there lean in to the silence. Consent to wandering with the one crafting the way.

My friend, choose to speak. And when you speak, speak in confidence knowing he is saying, “I hear you.”

But I Actually Hate Swimming

If you know me, or even if you don’t, you should know that I hate swimming. Before this summer I could count the number of times I had gone swimming in the past ten years on one hand. Then I signed up for a triathlon and…well…the no swimming thing had to change. So I swam…and I swam…and swam. And I hated it. The day of my triathlon I swam [and by “swam” I mean almost died] for 750 meters in a 52 degree lake in the middle of southeast Alaska.

I haven’t swam a day since. And I am lovin’ it.

Then I was in  worship service and the Lord gave me a picture of me in scuba gear in the middle of the ocean. I don’t know if you know this, but the ocean is a lot bigger than a lake, deeper too. And I said, “But Lord, I actually hate swimming.”

I don’t think I actually knew the Lord had in store when he gave me the picture of me swimming in the ocean. But low and behold: Africa. Africa is what he had in store.

In August of 2016 I will be one of a team of 16 nursing students traveling through Indiana Wesleyan to  Zambia, Africa where we will be studying, attending clinicals and participating in ministry for three months. Zambia in a way, is an ocean. It is vast. It has depth. It harbors unknowns.

When I received the invitation to be a part of this team the Lord made it clear to me that the greatest support our team needed was in the form of prayer. As I was invited to be a part of this team, I want to invite you to be on my team, standing in my corner. My desire is to have a group of people who are consistently praying for our team, even now in the preparatory phase of our trip.

My favorite hymn is Little Is Much When God Is In It  and I always picture my Aunt Freddy playing her guitar and leading our church in worship. One of the verses reads, “Are you laid a side from service? Body worn from toil and care. You can still be in the battle, in the sacred place of prayer.” While we may not be laid aside from service, I truly believe the most sacred element of building the Kingdom of the Lord is through prayer. The power of prayer is something I am aware I do not fully understand but believe will be revealed to me more and more throughout this experience.

There are also financial obligations associated with this experience. Each team member has the responsibility of raising $3,000 and I would ask that you prayerfully consider supporting me in this endeavor. Checks can be made to Indiana Wesleyan University with “Zambia” in the memo line. Financial support, in the form of cash or check, may be mailed to:

Bethany Cummins

Indiana Wesleyan University

532 Student Center

Marion, IN 46953

This is not only a unique traveling and educational opportunity but a unique opportunity for me to experience the heart of the Father the Zambians carry. The support you give, in any form, is essential to the mission of this discovery and I thank each of you.

B

***To the best of my ability, I will be updating this blog throughout the experience. If you would like to receive updates via email, click the “follow” button my blog’s homepage.

Sit at The Table

Thanksgiving [noun]:

  1. the expression of gratitude, especially to God.
  2. [in North America] an annual national holiday marked by religious observances and a traditional meal including turkey. The holiday commemorates a harvest festival celebrated by the Pilgrims in 1621, and is held in the US on the fourth Thursday in November.
  3. Bethany’s favorite holiday. 

Thanksgiving, the day of the year when friends and family come together to fellowship and be reminded of the Lord’s faithfulness. Thanksgiving dinner, the time when friends and family contribute to a feast, each dish hand-crafted.

My family Thanksgiving consists of a multitude–grandparents, parents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, and the extra loved ones [our family friends]. Most years my father makes the mashed potatoes because, well, no one makes mashed potatoes like my father. I have missed those mashed potatoes for the past three years, since coming to school. But I love Thanksgiving because everyone contributes, everyone brings their piece of the meal.

This year I celebrated Thanksgiving early with my home group. We each signed up to bring our unique, hand-crafted dish. I am not passionate about cooking and if I did cook, no one would want to eat it [which is a problem when you are celebrating a holiday that revolves around food]. So naturally I came up with the wisest solution: bring drinks and ice. I would say I am winning.

Thanksgiving: everyone brings something, everyone contributes. But I was thinking: what happens when I have nothing to bring, when I feel as if I have nothing good to give. And I felt the Lord saying, “Bethany, you’re still invited to my table.” I recognized that the Lord is the one who sets the table, the only thing required of me is to show up. In those moments when I choose to sit, he is ready to fulfill my every need, unconcerned with emptiness residing in my being.

My prayer for you today is Romans 15:13, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

So here is to sitting at His Table empty, and to being filled.

B

The Power Of Losing 

Before I turned 21 if you had asked me what the worst possible thing was that could ever happen in the whole entirety of my life I would have said: losing. I hate to lose. In fact I am often found in conversation with my family members saying, “I always win.” Losing. It’s awful. Nobody likes it. If you do, are you even human?

A year ago today was one of the hardest days. I was alone. I was broken. I was completely wrecked. I had lost and I had lost a lot. But throughout this past year I have learned the power of losing. A year ago, in my brokenness, the Lord spoke over me. A year ago I wrote these words:

In a sea of words procured for others,

You ascribed to me “restored” — not a position but a path.

I recognize that restoration only occurs after something is done being broken.

But Daddy…when will I be done?

Losing shows you a lot. I was probably the worst me during year twenty, that was made pretty plain. Losing showed me who really knew me and who really cared. Losing showed me what I truly cared about, it showed me that I had lost my ability to dream. And I learned maybe we weren’t made to win. Maybe we learn deeper lessons when we lose. Losing isn’t bad. It’s just change and change isn’t bad either. But I question, what does it look like to lose well?

Restoration is a process, not a position. When we recognize the level of faithfulness the Father carries, no loss appears unbearable. The Lord has always been faithful and he isn’t going to start being unfaithful with you.

So here’s to learning how to lose gracefully,

B

Today We Remember

Today

We remember

We stop

We pause

We breathe

And remember

We.

Are.

Alive.

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. For some this day contains stories of redemption and overcoming. If that is you, I celebrate with you. I rejoice for the story being lived and I would encourage you to tell your story. Let people in on your celebration. For others it reminds them of hurt, and loss, maybe even holes found in their hearts of loved ones lost. If that’s you, know that I am stopping. I am pausing. You are not alone in remembering the people you have held close. Your loved one [whether brother, father, or friend] made an impact on this world and as a friend once said to me, “It might not make the hurt any less painful, but it sure does make it worth it.” You can be a teller of the stories that aren’t your own. You can be a piece in bringing restoration. But the telling can come tomorrow. For today, we choose to remember.

So here is to remembering and seeing what tomorrow has in store.

B

***To Write Love On Her Arms (TWLOHA) has a goal of raising $75,000, all of which will go to treatment and recovery. If you would like to find out how you can be involved go here.