Tuesday, August 15, 2017

White American

I am an ignorant, white American who knows about as much French as a three-year-old Burkinabe child.

I could spend decades assimilating myself to the culture of Burkina Faso to lessen my ignorance, but no amount of time can fully erase the “FOREIGNER” label from my forehead.  It has its benefits, opening doors of opportunities for conversations and events that would not otherwise be possible.  It also creates a seemingly impenetrable divide between you and the people with whom you are trying to connect.  That divide is founded upon the concept of “us” and “them,” which even the most politically correct beliefs cannot seem to fully wash away.  “We” are coming to minister to “them.”  “We” have the truth that “they” need.  Go ahead and fill in “they” with your stereotype of choice.  Cultural diversity is an incredible gift that adds color and dimension to the earth, but its downfall is division.  And national pride, a socially acceptable title for believing yourself to be supreme.  The Gospel message is one of unity of the church through Christ Jesus, and there is no room for division in the body of Christ.

The first two weeks of my mission trip were spent with a group of Filipino missionaries who had been in Burkina Faso for nearly two decades.  They taught me many wonderful things, but nothing compares to the clear picture of discipleship that they painted for me.  These missionaries didn’t come into the country with grandiose presentations of the Gospel.  They came humbly.  They were led by God to take specific individuals under their wing and form them into nation changers.  Now many years later, I was able to experience the fruit of their labor.  I got to see a young man, who was once a dejected boy that was given a bike and some clothes for school, translate and animate Bible stories to masses of children in their tribal dialect.  Every single one of our translators were young men with similar stories of being taken in and loved by “foreigners.”  Now they, with their local Burkinabe status, are able to live among the people and show that God’s love is not limited by race, nationality, socioeconomic status, or religious background.

When I walked down the streets of Burkina Faso, children pointed at me while chanting “Nesara!”, reminding me of my foreigner status.  In the Philippines, they stared with wide eyes and ran their fingers across my pale skin.  In Romania the kids practiced a bit more Wdiscretion, but it was still clear that I did not belong.  I cannot change how I look or my background.  And I can choose to let that be a weakness, or I can let go of my desire to be the hero of the Gospel and instead invest in future heroes.  I want to go into all the world preaching the Good News, but without discipleship, lasting change is not feasible.  Whether or not I get to stand on a pulpit, I have a responsibility to invest in the people that God has placed in my life.  Believing the best for them, calling out the good and the bad, speaking into who they could be and watching their potential become their character.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

The Simple Gospel

I am fully convinced I have found the most fulfilling action that one can do on this earth, perhaps only topped by the act of knowing and being known by God.  I've seen beautiful places. I've talked to and learned from remarkable people. I've experienced some pretty exciting adventures, but never in my life have I felt the sense of complete joy that comes from sharing the perfect gospel with children.

My French speaking capabilities lie somewhere between embarrassing and almost comprehensible, so when given the opportunity to run a third grade classroom for two hours, my options were pretty limited.  Even when I did have the words necessary to ask the kids questions, I was met with blank stares.  I'm still not sure if it was my pronunciation, word choice, or just the fact that I am a white American and understandable words were not expected to come from my mouth.  However, with the help of a gracious and lively translator named Kader, I was able to communicate with the surprisingly well-behaved classroom.

"Voulez-vous une chant, une histoire, ou un jou?" was the question I learned to use over and over again, asking if the kids would rather a song, story, or game.  I was shocked to discover that more often than not the kids wanted a story.  From Jonah to the Prodigal Son, I had the opportunity alongside my friend Richard to tell story after story from the Bible and use them to teach the kids a little more about who God is.

One story stands out because while telling it I was given the exact message that needed to be spoken.  It was the story of the servant who owed a large sum of money.  In the gospel, Jesus tells how this servant was unable to pay what he owed, but rather than throwing the servant in prison, his master forgave him.  That same day, the servant ran into a colleague that owed him a much lesser sum, but the servant chose to throw him in prison until he was able to pay back the sum.  The master heard about this and was furious!  He threw the unforgiving servant into prison, ashamed that he could not forgive such a small amount when he had been forgiven so much.

I've grown up my entire life knowing that this is a portrayal of why we should forgive others since God has forgiven us an insurmountable debt that we could never pay.  However, while standing before wide-eyed Burkinabae children, the Holy Spirit gave me the words to go directly from this story into the weight of sin and the story of all that Jesus did for them and how much he loves them.

The gospel is simple.  I over-complicate it in my head and think that there is no way to show all that needs to be known about God and Christ's sacrifice in one sitting.  After all, you can't even know all that there is to know in one lifetime.  Yet God's grace can be understood, on some level, by even a young child.  It isn't my job to sugar-coat the gospel into an easy pill to swallow.  I am not called to somehow have every answer to every theological battle.  All I am supposed to do is tell those around me that Jesus died for them.  Now that is something I can do.

Telling Bible Stories in a Village Classroom

Monday, January 30, 2017

Change of Plans

                As many of you know, I was planning to go to Liberia this summer to assist The Last Well in their efforts to bring clean water to the nation of Liberia.  With the coming of the New Year, The Last Well has shifted their focus to fundraising in the United States and will no longer be taking in teams.  As I’m sure you can all imagine, I was initially quite disappointed.  Doing water well ministry has been a dream of mine for years.  However, I am excited to announce that ORU Missions has formulated a new trip for my team to Burkina Faso!  There we will be working with Pastor Danny and his ministry called HOPE BURKINA.  Hiis vision is to plant churches, improve education, and disciple others.  If you would like to learn more about Pastor Danny and the work that he does in Burkina Faso, you can watch the video found at this link:  http://world-outreach.com/people/danny-ruby-bayasen/

                Thank you all so much for your support.  I know this is a big change, but the Lord has used it to bring my team closer together and show us that serving God is a lifestyle not a destination.  My team could definitely use prayer that the Lord will guide us and show us His purpose behind this change in plans.  Pastor Danny has asked for prayer for his family as well as for their ministry’s needs.  I appreciate all of your willingness to partner with me as I do my best to follow God’s calling on my life.  If you would like to donate towards this trip, please follow this link:  http://www.orumissions.com/donate/ .  Thanks to the generous donations that have already poured in from all of you, I am blessed to be able to say I am about $500 away from reaching my goal of $3,600.  However, my team is still in great need of funds.  If you would be interested in meeting and supporting one of the other members on my team, I would be happy to make that connection.  All five of the others on my team are bright, spirit-led, outstanding individuals who I have grown to love immensely.  Please shoot me an email at christisleiman@gmail.com if you would like to continue to receive updates about my trip.

Image result for burkina faso

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Ready... Set...

It's almost time to go.  I can't believe I am leaving for Sacramento in two days.  It feels unreal.  If you had asked me three weeks ago if I was ready, I would have laughed in your face.  Yet somehow, in this crazy mess of classes and commitments, my team has united.  It started at our training retreat where we were pushed beyond what was "comfortable" into what we really needed.  We laughed, cried, and somewhere in the middle of a mountain of emotions a bond was formed.  I can honestly say that each member of this team is an asset and has so much to contribute.  Let me give you a quick introduction:

Becca is the secret weapon of this team.  She is my co-leader and supports me in ways that I didn't know I needed supported.  She has a gifting for words of affirmation and is able to keep me straight when I lose my place.  Basically, working with her is a dream.
Amy may be the youngest on the team, but she is wise beyond her years.  This is our second mission trip together, and she has taught me so much about hearing from the Lord and what it means to be a leader regardless of title.
Andrea has more creativity in one of her beautiful dreads than most people could dream of having.  She never fails to give insight into situations.  She is brilliant in an unconventional way that makes life better.
Angel is so very supportive.  She has a grace and charm that exudes from her being.  She is the kind of person who takes the time to check up on me and is ready to serve in any capacity.
Ava is our official mom.  She can cook like a boss and her catchphrase is "it's totally fine" whenever we are being ridiculous.  She brightens the room with her glowing smile and is both generous and hospitable.
Desiree is a firecracker.  Her ability to hear from the Holy Spirit is mind boggling.  When she laughs, it is literally impossible to not crack a smile.  She is blunt, she is fierce, and she is strong.
Derby is in the most remarkable stage of life where everything about the Lord absolutely amazes her.  She reminds each of us what it means to truly serve God and spend time in His presence.  She is also very sassy and it is adorable.
Emily's spirit is breathtakingly sweet and cannot be fully understood until you take the time to get to know her.  She is our designated runner thanks to the three marathons that she has completed.  She is also our designated smart person.
Erica brings life and maturity to the team through her presence.  Her kind demeanor makes everyone around her feel like they are laying in a bed of flowers and puppies.
Mone't is a force to be reckoned with.  She has experience in the type of women's ministry that we will be doing that is going to be vital in the field.  No matter what is going on, she can be depended on to do what needs to be done.
Tori is able to capture people's attention like nobody's business.  She has a way with words that is pretty baffling.  She also is an absolute doll and a breath of fresh air because of her positive attitude.

On Friday night, my team made a commitment to each other at something we call "Covenant Night."  We do not take this commitment lightly.  Our hearts and minds are being prepared in these last moments for the journey that is ahead.  We crave your prayers as we embark on this endeavor because we know that nothing can be accomplished on this trip except through the Father.  Three main prayer points are:
1.  Unity within the team that will result in a positive environment where growth and healing can thrive.
2.  That we will be a blessing to the women of Mercy Ministries and will serve with all that we have for the short week we get to be there
3.  For safety throughout the trip, especially when traveling.

Thank you for your support.  I cannot wait to update all of you after the trip!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Hello 2016

I honestly feel like it is still 2010.  Not because I want to go back to being 15 years old but more because my mind refuses to acknowledge the haste with which time has moved in recent years.  Now as I look forward to the New Year, I am filled with anticipation.  This is the year that I will become a senior.  This is the year that I will somehow put together a regional mechanical engineering conference.  However, the main source of my anticipation is my upcoming trip to Sacramento, California.

I thought that this was the year that I would take a back seat for missions.  I would help my friends with fundraisers and be a prayer warrior instead of a traveler.  Yet for some reason that didn’t quite sit right with me.  I knew that I needed to leave my summer open this year, but I still had a strong desire to be able to invest in a team as well as reach out to another part of the world.  One trip that I have always admired is the all women trip to Mercy Multiplied.  The women on this team have always come back with incredible stories and clear changes in their hearts and attitudes.  They also have displayed a bond that can only be achieved by a group of all women.  Amazingly, ORU Missions is allowing me to lead this trip that I have longed to be a part of for years now.

This semester is going to be absolutely insane.  With a full class schedule, loads of activities, and now a mission trip that I couldn’t be more eager to embark on, I cannot help but feel a bit nervous about it all.  However, I am blessed in the knowledge that I am following my calling and am doing what brings happiness to my life.

So now dear readers, all I ask is that you pray for a few specific areas.  First and foremost, pray for the women that enter Mercy Multiplied’s multiple locations.  They have each faced incomprehensible battles yet have made the remarkable leap of seeking healing.  Also, please pray for the ladies of my team.  They too have areas in which they need healing and growth.  Pray that they find where they can thrive.  Finally, pray for the Middle East.  My lack of plans to travel there this year has not lessened my heart for its inhabitants nor lessened the need for God’s revelation and His love in this region of the world.

For more information about Mercy Multiplied, you can visit their website.  Here is a link to one of their success stories about a woman named Sophonie:  http://mercymultiplied.com/2015/08/sophonie-2012/

Thank you so much for walking through life with me.  There is one more thing that I hate to be the focus but that I need to mention.  If you would like to donate towards this trip, you can visit missions.oru.edu and put my name (Christi Sleiman) as well as my team (Sacramento Mercy).  Every cent that is over the $1,099 that I need for the trip goes directly to making sure that the 12 other women on my team get to join the journey too.

I hope that each of you enters the New Year with anticipation.  It would bless me so much if you would email me with any prayer requests at christisleiman@gmail.com.  I would love to be a part of your life in that small way.  Thank you all for taking the time to read this.  I will do my best to keep you updated in the days to come.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Put Down the Headphones

     Running and I have such an on and off relationship.  Recently I have loved it, but I fully attributed that to me finally downloading good music and buying decent headphones.  The burning in my lungs and the fatigue of my legs somehow becomes fun while listening to "Hey Jude."

     I didn't run for most of training week because most of the days were exhausting on their own.  However on Thursday my team did not have to meet until 10 A.M.  We were stoked!  Adam and I decided to have an optional time of prayer at 9 for those overachievers who were looking for a challenge.  I was exhausted.  This was the break my body was looking for.  BUT this was training week which meant my spirit had a much louder voice.

     I decided to wake up early.  I put on my running shoes, grabbed my headphones, and headed towards the door.  That was when I remembered that when I finally downloaded good music it had deleted my Kari Jobe album and I was completely devoid of Christian tunes.  "It's not a big deal," I told myself.  But it was.  I was being intentional about not only avoiding social media, secular music, and anything that could be a distraction.  So I said "Hey God, I am trying to challenge myself by running, but I can't do it without headphones.  Is it cool if I listen to this music?"

     He didn't tell me that it "wasn't cool" if I listened to secular music.  Instead, He asked if I would let Him be enough.  Wow.  That was the moment I had to stop making excuses.  God wanted to be my enough.  Well, I'm not a big fan of telling the creator of the universe that He isn't enough, so I put the headphones down.  Instead of jamming to "Say Something", I prayed.  I prayed for each of the members of my team.  It was hard, definitely harder than running with music, but it felt glorious at the same time.

     During the 9 A.M. prayer time my team had, I took a moment to write down what God was telling me about each of my members.  Those simple sentences were later used to speak life and prophecy into the lives of my team.  Some of what was shown to me I was privileged to tell them that day, other parts were saved for commissioning night, and some were never told at all.  That's not the important part.  What was important was that I listened.

     I will always remember Thursday, May 7 as the day that I listened.  I woke up.  I put down the headphones.  I wrote down what God told me.  These were all three very small steps that set up my day to be remarkable.  In these tiny steps of obedience I learned that for each step you take, the Lord takes a mile.  God is omnipotent.  He has the power to do anything, but I believe that He often waits for us to make a move.  What better way is there for us to show faith?  And love?  And then there are those times where it feels like we keep taking more and more steps and yet we see nothing.  I believe that He is still moving.  That is where true faith comes in, the kind of faith that Jesus mentioned in John 20:29.  Faith in that which you cannot see.

     I learned something else that day.  Okay, I learned a lot of lessons that day, but one that I have to tell you.  Every hour spent with God is an hour spent in victory.  To me, God is not invisible.  I see Him in His creation, in little things like sunsets and tall trees.  These wonders are reflections of their Creator.  Man, if those are just reflections, I cannot begin to imagine the mind-blowing beauty of the Lord.  Every second spent serving this indescribable God is not deserved yet freely given.  And the enemy tries to distract and persuade us away from this!  He uses excuses like being too busy or having time later on me all the time, so I bet he uses it on others too.  He really isn't that creative.  Another way that my time of victory is robbed is when my mind and heart are not fully engaged.  It's like I'm having dinner with God but texting someone else the whole time.  Sure I still eat, but the quality and purpose is completely lost.

     Compared to the insane amount of love and sacrifice the Lord pours on us, He does not ask for much.  However, what He does ask for often seems like way too much in the moment.  Or like it's not a big deal so why even bother.  I am making it a personal goal to look for the little steps I can take, the minor moments where I can say "yes" to God so that when the bigger moments come I already know how.  On Thursday, May 7, I put down my headphones.  It was one of the best decisions I've ever made.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Treasures in Trash

     As a kid, I had many aspirations.  I thought maybe I'd be a teacher, psychologist, or maybe even president.  I thought I'd do incredible things like climb mountains and make great speeches.  Never, ever in my life did I see myself picking up trash.

     Trash is gross.  There is no way around that fact.  It stinks and has germs and is ugly.  Yet, on this trip one of my team's favorite things to do was pick up trash.  Why? When we humbled ourselves to perform this job, the Lord chose to reveal Himself to us in entirely new ways.  On my team of 12, I heard stories from around half of them of what God showed them while picking up trash.  I remember being amazed by this.  Sure, I had enjoyed my time praying while cleaning our assigned location, but I wasn't having any extreme revelations.  However, on our last day picking up trash, the Lord spoke.

     There were way too many of us at this location.  At least, that's what I thought until I really got cleaning.  I started just picking up a piece of trash here and there, but then I found my spot.  It was a gap in the ground that had a very nice layering of grossness on it's surface.  I hopped in and got to work, not realizing what I had just gotten myself into.  I was at one 3 by 5 foot spot for over an hour.  Whenever I thought I had made progress, I found another stash to be picked up!  It was actually humorous how much trash there was to be picked up on this one little spot compared to what I was expecting.

     Remember the lady I told you about yesterday?  When we spoke about Isis, she said she tries every day to forgive them, but then hatred boils up again.  She told me that she doesn't even think they are human, that they are actually devils.  For a second, I agreed with her.  How can humans commit such awful sins against humans?  But while picking up trash, God showed me His answer to me.

     Underneath layers and layers of trash, there is still ground.  No matter how much trash is piled upon the ground, that does not change that it is ground.  The ground doesn't get to choose what trash is piled upon it.  That is not to say that the ground doesn't allow weeds to grow too, but trash is literally thrown upon the ground, polluting it, without any say from the ground.  How much grossness has been forced upon many hearts?  Piled until the heart is barely recognizable and a "devil" is left in its place.  Yet God still sees the heart beyond the trash.

     When God showed this to me, I said "but God, I cannot ever fully clean this ground."  It was true.  Even if I picked up every large piece of trash, the ground would still have the shriveled remains of bags that had deteriorated.  Shards of glass would have still been left untouched.  Yet God said "but I can."

     It is not my job to fix the world.  I cannot heal broken hearts or tear down barricades around them.  That will never be my job, and for that I am thankful.  However, it is my job to say yes.  Every day I have to choose to say yes to the Lord and all that He desires from me.  It is a joy to say yes, because even if I cannot melt a frozen heart I can trust that when I follow the Holy Spirit's prompting I can be used to put a stitch on a wound or a chip in a wall.  Saying yes to God is all I am responsible to do.  The rest is in His very capable hands.