Forgive Us Our Trespasses

Field day was the best day of the year. We got out of class to play outdoors. One of my favorite activities was tug of war since it made me feel a lot stronger than I was. Honestly, my arms are zero percent muscle.

One year, we got into place and started out with power. The knot of the rope was steadily budging to our side when I fell, and my leg got caught under it. My ankle experienced the wrath of the great war between the two teams shifting the rope each way. Just as the opposing team broke into victorious cries, they let go, and the rope furiously ran across my skin towards their outburst of triumph.

Jesus teaches us to start our prayers by remembering we belong to God’s family—the family that God has rescued and is gathering together from all nations.

I yelled out and looked up at my team in defeat. As I lifted myself from the grass, my friend asked if I was okay to which I answered with a negative. Immediately, he called the nurse over, and she came running. I was confused, so I told them I was fine and explained that my concern was for our loss . . . not my ankle.

The pain was the least of my worries until I saw the look of disbelief on their faces. To assure them, I grabbed my ankle and looked at it. I winced in pain and saw deep white tissue exposed. The rope hadn’t caused blood, but a blistering white battle wound. I frantically started crying and screaming for help.

Sometimes we don’t feel hurt until we get the courage to look at our wounds. Occasionally, this delayed sense of hurt can reference physical pain, but most often it’s the truth speaking into emotional or spiritual pain. When we courageously acknowledge our hurt, we’re forced to ask for help, which is why forgiveness carries weight.

Please continue to read my full article: Forgive Us Our Trespasses

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An Interview with Joey Shaw

“When we are at the end of our wits with suffering, or when we feel entirely useless in shame, depression, and insecurity, or when we fight the hoards of Satan’s army in temptation, let us be comforted that the Spirit intercedes for us in the theater of our hearts, and Christ intercedes for us in the theater of Heaven.” — Joey Shaw, All Authority: How the Authority of Christ Upholds the Great Commission

CHELSEA VAUGHN: Being a mission pastor, you have to be strategic, yet in your book you don’t hide your dependence on the Holy Spirit. When did you begin to see the connection between dependence and strategy?

Joey Shaw: At the intersection between strategy in human decision making and dependence on the supernatural God is the person of the Holy Spirit. In my view, dependence on the Holy Spirit empowers careful planning and effective execution of a strategy. Some people think that dependence on the Holy Spirit somehow works against, side steps, or intervenes on strategic thinking.

Please continue to read my full interview: An Interview with Joey Shaw, Author of All Authority

Today you will be with me in Paradise

One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” – Luke 23:39-43

On the cross, Jesus reveals a huge truth when he invites the criminal hanging next to him into Paradise.“And [the thief] said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ And [Jesus] said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise’” (v. 43). This man didn’t know religious jargon, but his confession is raw and authentic. He speaks in defense of Jesus, saying that he is innocent of the punishment he and the other criminal deserve. Yet, Jesus still hangs in the same place they do. This confession is a beautiful presentation of the gospel. Spoken by a man unworthy of the inheritance of Christ. His offense had to be among the worst if his punishment was death on a cross. The severe contrast of the two criminals is nothing but a posture of heart and the grace of God. Their reputation, infliction, and condemnation is the same, but Christ changed one man’s eternity.

Have you ever prayed for terrorists? Do you know drug addicts? Have you watched cyclic homelessness? What about pimps and prostitutes? A subtle lie has infected evangelicalism. It’s that someone can be too far gone to be saved.

Continue to read full article: Today you will be with me in Paradise

Reading Scripture For Rest

As a writer, it’s not uncommon to be reading Scripture and automatically thinking of how I can use it in an article. Lately, I’ve noticed the severe danger in always being a teacher and abandoning the role of student. God has graciously appointed people to teach his Word and share the truth of his gospel. Teaching the Word is an honorable call, but detrimental to our spiritual relationship when it overwhelms our own personal devotion.

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness. – 2 Timothy 3:16

We are called to be salt and light, carrying and increasing the desire for Jesus everywhere we go. The teaching of God’s Word is a precious gift. We get to unpack and explain the depth of meaning and purpose behind words inspired by God. Scripture is undoubtedly used for teaching, reproof, correction, and righteousness. My fear is that our teachers, preachers, and gospel writers will tirelessly use God’s Word as a tool and forget to use God’s Word for personal rest and refuge. In fact, people who proclaim and expound the Word often need most what they offer.

Please continue to read the full article: Reading Scripture For Rest

Praying as a Ministry

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Today, while I get ready in Dallas for church, I reminisce on last Sunday morning when our team attended church in Cymbili, Rwanda.

I could almost feel the dirt covered ground shake as we approached the small concrete building. Praise and worship burst through the walkway, and I smiled as I laid eyes on babies, toddlers, adults, and elderly Africans dancing and singing. I was filled with emotion by the joyful spirit flowing through every person. There was no fear, no withdrawn, no judgement in this place; only pure surrender to worship the Almighty.

The service was three hours long, and so beautiful, but that’s actually not what my story is about. I’ll speed up to after church, when we had the pleasure of visiting the pastor and his wife and family in their home. They have 4 children, all of which were so kind and loving to one another. There were several notable things to the time we had with them, but the most powerful moment came when we got ready to leave. While still sitting in their small living room, our incredible trip leader (Linda) asked if we could pray over their family. So we did-we laid hands on the 6 of them with the group of 6 we had + our translator + another ALARM staff member.

Our prayers touched their family, and one of the ladies kindly noted, “you serve this community so much, thank you for letting us serve you with prayer”. To which tears filled the pastor’s eyes and a smile spread across his face. When translated, he said that he would remember our prayer forever. I hope that is true, but what I’m sure of, is that God remembers every prayer.

I loved that precious moment, his family, and our church experience- but home flood into my mind after our prayer. See, I have the great privilege of leading prayer on an amazing team of young adults in Dallas (Initiative). We don’t only pray over young people, but we pray over the Church. Moments like I had in Africa, truly do happen for us in Dallas. We have the abundant GIFT of loving and praying for diverse churches, people, and ministries.

I tell you this for a reason. The moment with the pastor’s family made me cry because it reminded me of why I felt called to go on this trip to Africa. I remember saying, “I think the way ALARM serves Africa will help me better serve Dallas.” The Holy Spirit inspired that thought, because it remains true. After this experience,

I know how to pray for my community better

I want to love and acknowledge the people in my community

and I want to intentionally remind pastors (especially my own) of how his family and ministry bless others.

This small act of praying for this pastor meant the world to him. Harmony, an event that initiative hosts does this as well. What I have learned is that it is rare for pastors to be filled back up, even more, it is rare for their families to feel ministered and listened to. I urge you to give back. Generously give love, encouragement, and prayer back to the people who serve in and out of the church walls.

 

My Journey to the Orphanage

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Goma, Congo.

The minute I stepped across the border from Rwanda to Congo, I could sense our experience wouldn’t be as bright and colorful. Our first day was packed full of stuff. I knew we were visiting an orphanage, but I had no idea that it would be nearly 2 hours down the bumpiest unpaved road I’d ever seen. I get very motion sick, so just keeping my head up was exhausting. Dust blurred my vision, and congested my lungs. Worse, was the devastating poverty we saw as we transitioned from the city to the country side. Ash covers the ground from a volcanic eruption in 2002, and dirt clouds the air. The living conditions are among the worst imaginable. Tin shacks looked like wealth in comparison to what we saw. I couldn’t process, I just knew I needed to take a seat and catch my breath before we entered the shelter. I wanted to be prepared to love on the orphans with a full heart.

As we passed by an old wooden makeshift gate, my eyes focused on two rows of kids singing and dancing. Loud shouts and large gestures of praise greeted our vehicle as we exited. Then, an old Nokia camera phone met my face and remained there for a while before I realized I was being filmed. After driving through the most dramatically devasting conditions, I was anything but prepared for singing and dancing. And most definitely not a personal video recording.

We were shown to some nice plastic chairs as the guests of honor, and I noticed the kids had some distressed wooden benches to sit on. There was little to nothing in the surrounding premises…I didn’t understand how this could serve as a shelter. I couldn’t catch my breath, and I was wrecked and overwhelmed. My mind told me to put on a face and act joyously, but nothing in me could pretend or hide what I was feeling.

I continued in this state of shock up until I got to connect with some of the children. The boys you see in the photo above immediately joked with me, asked my name, and held my hands. It brought me back down to reality. These interactions softened the initial blow, and stirred compassion and love within me. I shared in the laughter and joy of life with these boys. I got to tell them they were loved, by me but so much greater, by Jesus.

When we left this place, I felt so sad to say goodbye. Knowing I couldn’t ensure safety, love, or care for these kids. I was essentially helpless. And as I looked around and saw the spread of the land, again I felt lost. Hope seemed so foreign.

 

Wednesday, I approached a dear new Rwandan friend and ALARM staff member, Benjamin. I asked him why God would ever allow His people to perish. I cried and told him that my heart breaks over the suffering. He smiled and said, “Chelsea, God cares for and loves His children in the particular way that they need. Dallas, Asia, Africa, anywhere. The people you met in Congo can know the same God you do, it’s not your job to protect them. It’s only your job to love them. Your privilege is not shameful, it’s a gift that you can use and praise Him with.”

The following day I read,

“But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is a as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but He is patient towards you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”
2 Peter 3:8-9

Hope is not contingent on favor. Hope does not increase with privilege. Hope is simply trusting that God’s promises will be fulfilled.

I know my love and care touched these kids, I believe that because I was so burdened for them. God let me feel a small weight of His own heart. He doesn’t wish for these orphans to perish, their conditions break his heart. But eternal life is the prize. That’s what will save them forever. That’s what will provide lasting hope. That’s the most glorious adoption. I am changed because of what I saw, felt, and learned. I am deeply thankful, more dependent, and truly humbled.

“And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” John 17:3

 

A Story About Glad Submission

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The sweet mother of this baby has endured suffering beyond what I could even imagine. When she finally became pregnant after multiple miscarriages, she began to have complications with her pregnancy. The doctors told her that her baby wasn’t going to survive the delivery and she may even lose her own life. She was afraid of what they told her but she prayed that God would hear her, and save both lives.

He did. She praised God and was abundantly thankful for a healthy baby girl. But when she returned home from the village hospital, her neighbors saw that she had given birth to a girl and immediately condemned her. Her heart broke over the guilt and shame heaped onto her. Her joy had been cast away by the patronizing criticism of her neighbors.

She couldn’t handle the devastation and questioned why God would allow such hurt. She felt abandoned. Her prayers were ones of lament and anguish. She had no plans to forgive these people, and they definitely were not asking for reconciliation.

A couple weeks later she came to the local conference hosted by ALARM at Cymbili Coffee Plantation. This conference happened to be the one that my team from Dallas, Texas was leading. Here we taught on John 17. The mysteries of belonging to God and being unified as brothers and sisters under the Father by the grace of Jesus and empowerment of the Holy Spirit.

As our team has come from different backgrounds, cultures, denominations, and generations- we have experienced the working of Unity first hand. Here, in Rwanda, we got to share the joy and Truth of the gospel, and it’s fathomable power  to breach all gaps in humanity. We broke into small groups and this sweet mom was (from the story above) was in my group. We shared hurts, praises, and even places of unforgiveness. This is when she shared her story and brought a burden to my heart and water to my eyes. All of this communicated through a Rwandan translator- we hugged and prayed and believed in God’s word.

At the close of the day, she stood up to express thanks and proclaim God’s glorious work. She shared that she felt free from the hatred that captured her heart, and chose to forgive her neighbors. She said she wouldn’t have been open to God’s call to forgive without the inspiration of our time together. She ended, and I ran to embrace her. Later, I looked at her in the eyes and said, “your baby is a gift from God”- without a translator. She looked at me, pointed to her baby, smiled, and said “gift”!

They are both a gift to me. What a joy to share the work of the Lord. The gospel has the power to steady our Spirit, even against our own will. It creates Unity among people who believe, and fosters love where hearts are open. I encourage you, wherever you are, to search your own heart in this subject. Who are you in your community?

This is just one story from our first conference, and I could share so many more. Thank you for everyone praying, God has been exceedingly generous in His power and favor.

Sights and Senses

It has been a bit since my last update, I apologize. Spending time in Rwanda has surprised me in some ways, and not in others. I am absolutely shocked with how stunningly LUSH this country is! There is vibrant green that beautifully sweeps the landscape. The green creates a rich awareness to colorful flowers, buzzing insects, and quirky trees. This leaving little room to see the city confines behind. It’s truly a sight to see. Though the lush is a surprise, the city reminds me of a unique-yet-familiar feel; that of many other places and cultures I’ve been immersed in. The life I’ve lived, being a third-culture- kid, is flooding as sweet nostalgia. 

Below are some photos from what we have seen:

   
    

 
Our time is going quickly! Today we learned a lot about Rwanda, and specifically visited a memorial for the genocide. It was historically horrific, but so fascinating to learn about how this has effected the people and place of Rwanda- in some bad and good ways. It instilled in us necessary insight, since our small groups and conference is focused on Unity from John 17. What a beautifully
powerful (and weighty) opportunity God has given us to minister to these women! Today, we also met with our ALARM (African Leadership and Reconciliation Ministry) African-base staff. It was so special to meet them and just feel connected and unified because of the mutual heart for leadership and reconciliation. They were so kind and shared about themselves, their families, and their passion for Africa. 

Tomorrow we will head to the coffee plantation, which I am most excited for! We will get to train some of the workers on ethical business, and servant leadership. They worked tirelessly to support their families. My enthusiasm is peaked for this topic, because these women have been so innovative and enduring. Okay… and I have great enthusiasm because I’m a nerd and want to know the process of creating my favorite drink. (:
Off to bed for now, can’t wait to catch you all up on what’s next!

   
 

long layover

Four movies, three airports, and very little sleep later. We have arrived at our mid-point.

We made it to Dubai, and our “layover” is two days. What a treat, huh? This place is unbelievable, and we couldn’t possibly see everything. Until our team travels to our destination, we will explore the city and we’ll venture on an evening desert tour.

This is what I woke up to, just a normal shot of an exquisite city:

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And the following throughout our day:

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Water Taxi across the city 

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Local Market

To Africa; My Heart’s Journey

Tomorrow I embark on my long anticipated journey to Africa. To be completely honest, it hasn’t been the easiest preparation. My expectations may have been frivolous, simply because I hoped that I would be taken care of by my own standards. My financial goal was met this morning, my suitcase has yet to be zipped close, and my heart and mind are still being readied. Realistically, life never meets my standards. Truthfully, I shouldn’t set standards in the first place. I have come to the conclusion that our minds are most at peace when we are most dependent on God. 
“So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death, but letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace.”
-Romans 8:6
My mind will be at peace as I journey across this beautiful Globe. This is because I won’t reflect on how I can best prepare. I will strive to be free from my expectations, agenda, and control. Instead, I will choose to pray that God would stir my affections for Him and for His people. In this prayer, all fear is vanquished. If my love for Him is so great, so deep, so encompassing- then I believe that all other requests are answered. Not by my expectations or standard, but by my glad submission to His perfect will.
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.”
-1 John 4:18
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Tomorrow I head to Dubai, and we plan to stay there for a short time before making the complete trip to Rwanda, Africa. From Rwanda, we will travel to D.R.C. and then back to another part of Rwanda. We will lead conferences, minister to women in small groups, and spend time with women working on small businesses from micro loans. This is what I know, but there will be so much more to be discovered. Funny, isn’t that exactly what God has already begun showing me!?
I love Romans 15:5-6, and it encompasses my heart for this trip. Here are some ways you can be praying.
  • That God would go before me in peace and Truth. Reminding me that it is only His presence that can prepare my heart. And that He would!
  • That I would endure well; depending on Him for my energy, strength, and perseverance.
  • That our team would be unified together and with Christ in perfect love and Harmony.
  • That the Africans we come in contact with would see the countenance of Christ, and all glory and honor would rightfully belong to Him alone.

Here’s to adventure, discovery, and dependence!

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(and a pretty, instagram-type photo because I don’t have any others.)