This afternoon we cleared the tables out of the training room and gathered in a big circle. The staff brought in a bunch of rocks, some fist-sized, some grapefruit sized, some flat, some round. They must have been out in the sun, because when we picked them up, they were warm. I found a flat oval one that fit in my palm. The weight and warmth felt good in my hands, solid and comforting.
We were invited to use a Sharpie pen and write words, thoughts, phrases, sharing what God has taught us during our time at SPLICE. One of the leaders, David, read the story in Joshua 4 of the Israelites crossing the Jordan, and God’s instruction to take stones from the center of the river and set up them up as a memorial to what God had done. It was fitting to take stones which had been brought from the area surrounding MTI and use them as a memorial to God’s work here.
Each family or single came to the center and shared, setting the stones down together there. Rock next to rock, story after story. The pile grew, and the tissues were passed. It was beautiful to hear, over and over again, how exhausted, broken people who came to be trained for our task, also encountered Christ in new and sometimes surprising ways.
As He had done in stopping the Jordan, the work of God in our lives these weeks has been powerful and significant – and something only He could have accomplished!
My stone had two short phrases: Remain in Me and Remember who you are in Me. As I shared with the group, I came to SPLICE nearly three weeks ago spiritually dry, more anemic than I had realized. Through my time here, I have finally allowed the invitation to Remain, to Abide in the True Vine, to pierce my weary heart.
I came to MTI thinking I’d be learning a lot of practical things about surviving and thriving on the mission field. What I didn’t realize was how much more I needed to learn. There’s no question I have received amazing and very nuts-and-bolts instruction on conflict styles, handling stress, the transition bridge and on and on. It was all great stuff, and I know I’ll be looking back on the Yuck Duck and Yay Duck many times in the next months!
But, for me, (and I think for most of my fellow SPLICE-ers!) it was so much more than that. Instead of just having our heads equipped, our hearts have been changed. On the first day or so, Robin said that SPLICE was like heart surgery. At the time, I was too tired out, too guarded, to really register those words. The last thing I needed was my heart carved up. It was barely beating, and I was laboring just to keep going.
How thankful I am that God knew exactly where my heart was, and where He would be taking me! Sitting in the same rooms, eating meals with the same folks, walking out in the same beautiful vistas, I feel like I’ve journeyed far miles. As I traveled, God truly did cut me to the core. Not the hacking, sloppy, damaging cuts of our Enemy, but the loving cuts of a Master Gardener. Cuts meant to strengthen and heal, not destroy.
Tonight I am sad to be leaving, but also ready for the next steps. I’ve still got lots of struggles ahead, but I have raised my Ebenezer. An Ebenezer, the Stone of Help. After the Philistines were routed, Samuel raised an Ebenezer, declaring that God had helped them ‘thus far’. And, God’s hand continued against the Philistines keeping them from attacking again in Samuel’s lifetime. (I Samuel 7:11-13)
Today, we marked our Ebenezers, our Stones of Help. Together we helped each other commemorate and memorialize that our God is with us. That He has helped us thus far. We also declared that He will be with us as we go out from this place.
For me, MTI itself has been an Ebenezer. Here I was reminded of who I am in Jesus. Here I was reminded to Remain in Him. Here, through His loving work, I had the heart surgery I needed. Here I saw, through the stories and testimonies of those with me, the faithfulness of our great God. God has helped me thus far, and I know He will continue to move in and through me. You know, I think I may actually be ready to go now!