As you may know, this past week was women's camp for believing Persians; praise God for His faithfulness for providing a successful and fun week! The lessons focused on things all women struggle with, but was incredibly relevant to their situations as refugees, things like jealousy, worry, discontentment, bitterness, and feeling unloved by God. The speaker talked through some of the "I AM" statements of Jesus, speaking life and truth into the hearts of these new believers.
When I was first told about the camp, I was told I would be there to serve and observe in the behind-the-scenes. Knowing my flesh, when I would pray for the camp, I would also pray for humility, an ability to serve to the glory of the Lord. I remember praying, "Lord, even if I am cleaning toilets all week, make me a servant, humble my heart, please." My friends, be careful with those "even if's" because when service teams were announced on the staff day, the first name to be called for the bathroom cleaning crew was mine.
He didn't just answer my "what if" prayer, He went so much further. Throughout the week, I was given opportunity after opportunity to hear the hard stories of these women and to pray over them. The Spirit put prayers of thankfulness and joy on my lips, and with some, I was prompted to pray for deep heart healing and peace beyond understanding. I know the Most High hears and fulfills those prayers with full love and compassion. I was given the a chance to share for a couple minutes before the lesson about how I spend time with the Lord in devotion. Blown away to be asked to do so, I praised God for a small chance to give encouragement from a microphone. Able to proclaim His goodness I talked about how I pray on the armor of God in intentional ways each day (i,e asking for the breastplate of righteousness to guard my heart against becoming easily offended or praying for the shield of faith so I will not lose sight of who the Lord is and who He created me to be when I am filled with doubt and insecurity).
I must admit, on the first day while cleaning, I cried. (Are we surprised?) I was not crying because I was disappointed or sad, but because I was so overwhelmed with the goodness of the Lord. He had been so faithful to me, to allow me to attend a summer camp for the exact people group I have longed to minister to. He has been so faithful to put me at the feet of missionaries who took the time to talk with me and teach me about ministry and faith. He heard my prayer about wanting to be more humble, about wanting to be less like flesh-Sarah and more like my Lord, Jesus. "If the gift I get to bring to the throne of grace is a clean 'throne' for women who may not have access to one, so be it, Lord," I joked at God, thankful for His favor on me.
When I got back to Athens last night, I checked the messages from my close friends back home (who, by the way, have been so wonderful and supportive), and several of them mentioned reading Hosea, some in the same friend group and another saying that's just what they've been reading lately. Naturally, being the good middle-ages-mystic-wanna-be that I am, I took that as a sign to read Hosea. Thankfully, after a full week of camp, today was given to me as a Sabbath. After journaling and internally processing the week and how the faithfulness of the Lord was shown evidently, I read Hosea, which has a similar message: God's love is faithful. Tears welled up in my eyes (surprise, I'm crying again) as I read of the tender love of the Father towards His children. Here's a slice from Hosea 2:14-15, 23
“Therefore, behold, I will allure her,
and bring her into the wilderness,
and speak tenderly to her.
And there I will give her her vineyards
and make the Valley of Trouble a door of hope.
And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth,
as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt.
And I will have mercy on No Mercy,
and I will say to Not My People,‘You are my people’;
and he shall say, ‘You are my God.’”
This is exactly what was created this past week, an alluring to the coast of mainland Greece for mothers and wives and daughters to get away from the hard lives they have and hear the tender Truth of Jesus's love. In the most literal sense, but also allegorically in a spiritual sense, these women have been through the Valley of Trouble, and yet, our steadfast and redeeming Lord of Lords has turned it into a door of hope.
On the last night, we had a dance party. Persian worship music was blared in the courtyard of the camp grounds and the American and Romanian missionaries and short term teams were (patiently) taught to dance like a Persian, gracefully and joyfully before the Lord. I could almost imagine that we were the women dancing along with Miriam the prophetess as we proclaimed, "Sing to the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously!" (It didn't feel quite that spiritual when the Americans taught them how to do the Cupid Shuffle, but you get the idea.)
The camp site, Porto Astro, is only accessible by boat for campers and rocky goat trail for staff. But for the already-well-loved interns, we were allowed to kayak to the cars to take us home to Athens, opting out of the hike out of the campsite. After seeing the Lord work in the lives the these Persian women, giving them freedom and joy, I had the privilege of paddling myself across a bay in the Mediterranean. As a side note, I feel this should be a rite of passage for any missionary. I made it safely to the other side, no shipwrecks for me (take that, Paul). I will be hiking that goat trail this next week for family camp! Please be interceding on behalf of that camp, asking the Spirit to prick the hearts of those who attend and for the glory of the Lord to be in that place.
I am honored to have gotten to attend women's camp, the first of its kind. I've been told of the growing number of Persian women in the church of Greece. I ask, dear readers, to keep praying for them! That they are empowered by the love of Jesus, that they are filled with peace. Pray that the Lord will raise up leaders among them, older women to teach the younger.
This upcoming week is going to be a busy one, please continue to keep me and my team of interns (my sunburned self & 7 lady co-interns are shown below!) in your prayers as well. If you want to send me some love and encouraging words, don't be shy!