The following is a testimony of God’s work during our missions trip to Johannesburg, South Africa, to work with Door of Hope, a baby home for abandoned infants in the Jo-berg area.
It was our first week in Johannesburg. My day was a long list of crazy, eye opening experiences. I had been pit up on for the 10th time that morning, and our supply of spit-up rags was growing thin. After constantly wiping carrot-baby-food out of my hair, I decided to rock the orange highlights. I forgot to clean up the diaper changing area and thus faced the wrath of the supervisor in charge (which was more like a gentle reminder, but the morning shifts of that first week felt intense).
I had been worried about my fellow volunteers who had caught the flu and spent the day bent over a toilet. I knew they would much rather be bouncing precious babies around to the tune of “head and shoulders, knees and toes.” I had also been worried about my own incompetency in baby care that week; I was so intimidated by each new task and new person to meet among the full-time staff, other volunteers, and leadership team for Door of Hope.
I don’t know how I got through it, but eventually my shift ended. It was evening. It was also our first week to join the weekly Bible study in the apartment downstairs. After a emotionally and physically taxing day, the Bible study was a welcome oasis of fellowship and focused connection with God. We read through the book of Philippians as a group, each taking turns reading 10 or so verses. We all had different versions of the Bible, some even different languages, but it was the same Word that spoke to our hearts.
The Holy Spirit taught each of us individually, and all of us together as we studied the words of Paul to the people of Philippi, encouraging them (and us) to not lose heart. God would not stop the work He began in us or through us; we must stand firm, united together and humbly considering others before our own circumstances or wants. We were commissioned to pursue each day’s task without complaining; and to rejoice, for the Lord is good! We grew as the words pierced our souls on “counting all things loss” in comparison to knowing Christ and participating in His death, that we might have life and bring that life to others.
My thoughts had been pretty negative, and my attitude was bogged down from the chaos I felt during the day. To be fair, I cuddled and played with 13 gorgeous kids between the ages of 4 months and a year, and it filled my heart with such gladness. But my thoughts would still spiral into the rough or humbling parts of the day. I am so glad God doesn’t let us stay there…
“Finally brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything is worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” Philippians 4:8
My mind had been dwelling on everything that went wrong that day; how incompetent I felt; all the irritation I was experiencing from new foods, new relationships, a bowed bed, the time change… Not to mention the anxiety I felt knowing I would spend 3 weeks away from my husband who was leaving in 2 days.
But God didn’t leave me there, in my stormy pit of crazy.
The Holy Spirit used the words of Philippians to dramatically switch my thoughts toward the goodness of God. I couldn’t stop thinking about the greatness of His love for the people of the world, from the struggling Christian like myself, to the guileless orphans we were caring for. I was in awe of the God who would pluck each child out of a chaotic and sinful world and plant them in a home where God’s love and hope and joy can be felt so tangibly. I realized I was so blessed that this lovely, honorable, and worthy-of-praise God would choose me to be a part of His ministry of “justice for the orphan” (Deuteronomy 10:18). Part of me still wanted to dwell on the negative, feel sorry for myself, and make a big deal out of all the crappy things that happened; but the greater part of me, influenced by the Spirit of truth, claimed my thoughts for what was right and excellent about the day… God!
I praise the Holy Spirit for intervening in my negative thought patterns, because I wouldn’t have been mentally or spiritually available to be blessed by what happened next.
We began to pray. Our prayers went out to God for the salvation of the babies, for health, for safety, patience, healing mentally and spiritually; we praised God for His works and His very Being. We were silent and allowed the Spirit of God to teach us what to pray for. In the middle of it all, one of the volunteers spoke up and said we desperately needed to go pray for one of the babies who had been sick for the past week… the same week I had been focused on all the negative and frustrating parts of our trip.
A few of us agreed to go into the isolation room (for sick babies) and pray for her. As we read scripture over her and prayed for God’s miraculous healing, we all noticed the effects of her dehydration. Her eyes appeared to be sunken and her face was pale. She was low on energy and didn’t move much or babble on as we would come to know this little girl for. But one thing she did was reach out and grab the finger of the young lady who suggested the need to pray. And she smiled.
Again, I could have dwelt on the negative circumstance of that little girl, and how genuinely scared we were for her health. But God had done a work of renewing of my mind just 10 minutes ago, and I knew God had something lovely, honorable, and pure to dwell on here.
The next morning, the night-shift supervisor explained to us how she was worried for the little baby in the night; but by morning, she was retaining liquids and eating again. The next day she was out of the isolation room and playing with the other babies. She soon learned how to blow kisses and was freely flirting with everyone in the room.
Moral of the Story:
I learned a valuable lesson that night, for missions and every day life (if you can find a difference between the two). I learned to look at each day through the lens of Philippians 4:8. I learned to find something pure, a situation that showed honorable character, a righteous act, something lovely, a truth of God, a good thing that happened, something excellent, and something to praise to God for. I realized I needed to look for those pieces and let them captivate my thoughts. By focusing on the Phil4-8’s of the day, I find I am mentally available to be a part of the Lords work, and to receive the true blessing that comes with it.
So here is my list for today:
- True: God is greater than I give Him credit
- Honorable: My husband getting up and going to work every morning
- Just/right: The book, “Forgotten God,” for reminding the church of the Holy Spirit and our neglect to worship, acknowledge, and seek Him in our life.
- Pure: The lyrics of the hymn, “Because He Lives” playing on my spotify account right now.
- Lovely: The sunshine
- Commendable: My sister’s commitment to serve a week at a camp in Alaska. In the midst of some very frustrating circumstances, including a lot of sickness plaguing her body, she chose to dwell on the truth of Philippians 1:6, that God would continue to complete the good work He started in her; in her own words, “I am in awe of my Lord and completely falling more in Love with Him.”
- Excellent: having a mother who cares deeply about her family
- Praise-worthy: God’s giving me breath, fingers to type, and the availability of technology to share of His glory.
My dear friend and sister, I pray you will be able to find your own Phil4-8’s for the day. I am praying for you.
Always in HIS hands,