As I sit here on my bed, getting ready to write a post for you about something very important to me, hoping that I may find words, intent on somehow explaining for you the transformation that God has brought to our family, I already know…. I know that I will fail, no words of mine, no sentence I have ever written comes close to painting for you the pictures of this journey, its struggles, its joys… All of it beyond what I can capture on a page, each part a telling of our God who is bigger than all this world, and a plan that is beyond our reach.

Yet this story His, the redemption and love are a kind that only He could author, and so I must try to find words, I must do what I can.

My hope is that you would feel through my brush strokes here the true thankfulness I have for His love and direction.  He could have left me where I was….  He should have….

On the bed next to me Jessie is asleep, exhausted from a long days work, and still feeling the weakening effects of a sickness that has been passed around from person to person in our family for the past two weeks. The power is out as has become normal around our home in the evenings, our room is illuminated only by the glow of my computer screen, the quiet sounds of a lone generator from the one home on our block who can afford to own one rumbles through the walls and windows and mixes with bursts of excited shouts and the occasional blast of fireworks.

It is Ethiopian New Year’s Eve tonight and what would normally be a quiet Sunday evening outside our home is instead a bustling celebration, everyone it seems has come out to prepare for the countdown that will take place in a few hours, the entire country getting ready to ring in 2004 with anticipation of things to come.

Out the window I can see on nearly every street including ours, neighbors have gathered in song around tall bonfires and the resulting smoke is accumulating into plumes and hanging low over the tin roofs and criss-crossed power lines. The significance of this part of the celebration is unknown to me, I can only assume that like most other things in this place there is some meaning behind the bonfires.  The truth is, very little of what is happening on the street below me do I understand. I watch as a group of children pass by our house singing a song I cannot make out even a single word to, in the neighbors yard a freshly killed sheep carcass hangs by its back legs from a tree branch and a man carves pieces of meat from the bones.

I stand at the edge of the balcony and watch it all pass by me, and I think of how truly curious this all is, this is a place that is both home, and yet not at all.

This peculiar place is where we live, where we make our lives, where we are raising our kids, it is not where we came from, it is not anything like the life we planned for ourselves.

I am thankful to be here, but still aware of the epic irony that is our life, and the bigness that is our God.  If you would have asked me 5 years ago where I would be today, my reply would be nothing like the scene that spreads out before me, not at all.

We were the senders, the ones who stayed behind and supported others, we were not the ones who went… That part was for other people.  People who were more, capable, people with bigger faith than ours.

Our role was to stay back and make money. And besides business was good, we were comfortable. How could we go anywhere?

But as I sit here, in this bed, listening to the sounds outside on the street, sounds that would have once been so foreign, so uncomfortable, I realize that God has done something in me, he has transformed me entirely, worked on me from the inside.

In this moment of epiphany, as I contemplate in my mind the things that He has done inside my heart, the changes that he has planned and orchestrated.  I realize something powerful.

I asked for this. 

Before all of this happened, before I turned into the guy who is willing to sell everything and move his family to Ethiopia, back when I was someone else, I asked God for this change.

“Change me!”  I had cried out to him as deep searing pain enveloped my life.

My brother had just committed suicide, the pain of his lifestyle had overcome him on a particularly dark night and took him from this place, forever. My best friend had just died, his liver failed, a rare disease taking him from his wife and daughters, forever.  My business had just failed, the success and the recognition that I once enjoyed, taken, gone.

And in the middle of that pain, in the darkness of that season, I cried out to him, right there in all that failure and disappointment, I gave it up and screamed for him like a wounded child calling out for help.

“Change me!  Do what you must, but do not stop working on me until I am wholly and completely yours”  

He never forgot that prayer.

This world it fails, but God persists, he calls from the gate at the start of the narrow road and begs us to come on a journey with him.

From this strange and foreign land I write to you today, and tell you of a journey that I asked for but did not understand. I am thankful that God answered, and is continually changing me from the inside, and enabling me to say…

I am a rescued-man

A thankful-man

A forgiven-man

A changed-man.

A sold-out-for-him-man

 

Levi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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