I’m always blown away by the physical things the Lord uses to remind me of His love and faithfulness.
Let me give you an example. I’m an Ambassador for the fabulous Fair Trade company, Noonday. We partner with twenty-nine artisan businesses in twelve countries around the world. Think Uganda, Haiti, Peru, Vietnam, Ethiopia, Guatemala, and more. Here’s the thing, friends. These crazy amazing men and women live in vulnerable communities; many have dealt with hardships I can’t even begin to imagine. (And I attribute a bad day to running out of hazelnut coffee creamer and phone data or having to use a hand towel to shower after discovering there are ZERO washcloths left in the cabinet because I haven’t tackled laundry in five days.) Why are we passionate about doing life and business with these guys? Because our joined hands and hearts and resources help provide dignified jobs for hundreds of families. We’re talking cherishing and protecting children and empowering and undergirding women. Our partnership – our connection – directly affects thousands of people in communities across the globe.
But here’s the cool thing, y’all. Every single handcrafted piece tells a story. One particular narrative has left a dent in my soul this week. And since I believe sharing is caring, I thought we could spend our time together on a jaunt across the Atlantic. Are you up for a trip to Uganda?
If you’ve never visited an African country, book your flight and get ready. I’ve had the honor of twice traveling to Johannesburg, South Africa. Africa changes you, my friends. The culture, the people, the sights and smells and sounds. Man. I close my eyes, and I’m walking the dusty streets of Soweto again. I’ve never seen sweeter smiles or warmer hearts.
Uganda has now made it to my Must Travel List. More specifically, Kampala. This East African capital city lies to the north of the famous Lake Victoria; it is the heart of Uganda. Although roughly the size of Oregon, this tropical city holds over 35 million people. I could spend the next few moments discussing bananas, soccer, boda-bodas, mud houses, pan fried grasshoppers, or endangered mountain gorillas, but you can discover these cool tidbits just by googling Kampala.
I want to talk about the people. More specifically, three people: Jahlia, Olivia, and Rachel. Olivia is a young mom living in Kampala. A few years ago, her life had reached a desperate, hopeless place. Unable to find a job, she could no longer provide for her daughter, Rachel. Olivia felt the only viable, healthy option left for her little girl was the orphanage, so she readied her heart to lose her child. Can you imagine?
But then something happened. She met Jahlia. This lovely woman and her husband, Daniel, run African Style, a Ugandan Fair Trade business. Jahlia offered Olivia a job and hope, turning Olivia’s desperate decision to give up her precious Rachel into a chorus of “Hallelujah, Jesus!” You should see this mama and her sweet baby girl today. Peace. Freedom. Smiles radiating hope.
Olivia had a giant called Past and Poverty in her land, and her situation appeared utterly hopeless. She felt she had nowhere to turn. Have you ever felt this way? Overwhelmed by unsurmountable obstacles and impossible situations? Are you facing giants? Or is there a battle waging in your soul?
There’s a story of spies and giants in Scripture. You’ll find it in Numbers 13. It’s like a scene right out of Lord of the Rings. Talk about nearly impossible situations! God had delivered the Israelites from the ruthless Egyptians, using Moses to lead them right up to the Promised Land. After lots of crazy amazing miracles, God has the Israelites camp just outside of Canaan. In verse one of chapter thirteen, the Lord tells Moses to send out spies to Canaan, “which I AM GOING TO GIVE to the sons of Israel.” Did you catch the phrase I wanted you to see? Obvious, right? Not to the Israelites. Moses sends the spies, and they return with troubling news.
There are giants in the land. Sure, the land is flowing with milk and honey, and they’ve got great fruit, BUT THERE ARE GIANTS THERE, Moses. Like, REALLY BIG WARRIORS. With great and strong, fortified cities. The people freak out. But then this in verse thirty, “Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, “We should by all means go up and take possession of it, for we will surely overcome it.”
HA. The people won’t have it. They start grumbling and complaining and wailing and blaming Moses and Aaron and God. (Moses and Aaron fall on their faces.) Meanwhile, here comes Joshua and Caleb, two of the spies. They tear their clothing and speak:
The land which we passed through to spy out is an exceedingly good land. If the Lord is pleased with us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us—a land which flows with milk and honey. Only do not rebel against the Lord; and do not fear the people of the land, for they will be our prey. Their protection has been removed from them, and the Lord is with us; do not fear them. Numbers 14:7-9.
Well, the people get mad and want to stone these guys. The Lord wants to smite them; Moses begs for Him to reconsider. The ruling? No man twenty-years-old and upward will see the Promised Land. But guess who does? Caleb and Joshua. And do you know what the Lord says of Caleb? “But My servant Caleb, because he has had a different spirit and has followed Me fully, I will bring into the land which he entered, and his descendants shall take possession of it.” Numbers 14:24
Caleb and Joshua didn’t fall back in fear because they believed. They believed God’s promises; they believed God’s faithfulness; these men trusted and believed in God’s power, and because of this belief, they walked forward in obedience. What’s a giant compared to the Almighty God of the Universe? (I highly encourage you to read these men’s entire story.)
Olivia encountered giants called Past and Poverty and Hopelessness. An orphan and victim of abuse herself, she felt she’d run smack into a wall entitled No Other Option. Olivia believed giving her daughter, Rachel, away would ensure her a safer, healthier life. But then God did His thing and provided a Jesus-follower named Jahlia. Just like He provided for Joshua at the battle of Jericho. Like He provided the ram for Abraham. And the Cross for you and me. Jesus made a way, and changed Olivia’s story, our story, forever.
Oh, my friend, what giants live in your land? Anxiety? Fear? A tough decision? An insecurity? Family struggles? I know I’ve got some. But girls, God is big enough. Do you hear me? He is ENOUGH. And you are NEVER alone because He ALWAYS SHOWS UP. Listen to His words to Joshua, “I will not fail you or forsake you.” Did you get that? And after telling him twice to be strong and courageous, the Lord says this:
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
So grab your copy of Scripture and a quiet corner and trust Him. Listen deep and be obedient. Call your prayer and accountability partner. Me? I’m wearing my Rachel necklace as a reminder of God’s faithfulness, and I’m knee-deep in the Word, soaking up truth and wisdom and learning ever more about this God who loves me. And as for those giants? Well, rise, Princess Warrior. Armor up. And in the words of my dear friend, Kristen, “Swoosh, girlfriend. Swoosh. He’s prepared you for battle. Draw your sword.”