A few weeks ago I was away on a bike ride for the American Cancer Society and I sent out messages from my daughter, Sarah, which she wrote as she worked throughout the summer with an urban ministry in Memphis, TN. Sarah has a unique ability to write in a way that lets us see the world through her eyes, eyes that view her surroundings through a wonderfully close relationship with God and a consuming faith in Jesus. I, for one, believe the result is beautiful! The four messages I sent out can be found on our web site at:
Sarah is back home and will begin college in a few days. She has written two more messages, from the final two weeks of ministry. Both of these message are included below. I pray they will be a blessing.
I was going to try to categorize this, but it must come as a string of choppy rambling.
Remember my fear of failing to love from last week? Well, I prayed desperately at the beginning of this week that God would pour some of his overwhelming sea of love through my tiny eyedropper self. He taught me through my prized possession, the Jesus Storybook Bible, that the greatest lie this world has ever known, that which whispers to every human heart, is this: God does not love me. He taught me through Luke 14 that he longs to gather up his children as a hen gathers chicks under her wings. I longed to gather my kids up and tell them, “The lie is not true! God loves you forever and always, no matter what!”
On Monday I felt an inconceivable surge of the Holy Spirit pouring out his love on my kids. Where was all this love coming from? How was I possibly able to speak tenderly to Ezekiel, whom I have yelled at so angrily in past weeks? How was I possibly able to take a hundred-pound violent and angry troublemaker, Christopher, and carry him on my back? How was I possibly able to take sentences like “I want to be a princess when I grow up,” and end with, “God, the King, is your Father and relentlessly loves you.” I know it wasn’t me.
However, I found four new ways to fail.
The first came when I started to feel very upset every time sweet little Tion would run up behind me, roar, and hug my legs. I was upset because I knew I would have to say goodbye soon. I was listening to a song with the lyrics, “Anything my heart cannot let go is an idol. Anything my heart gives all its love is an idol.” God said, “Have you turned these precious gifts into idols? Or do you accept them simply as gifts, willing to give them back into my hands?”
Acts 20 is such an excellent example for Christian ministry. As I prepare to leave my kids I seek to model myself after Paul as he left the Ephesians. I particularly want verse 32 to be my attitude towards my kids. “Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.” I wrote, “God, I commit them to your powerfully capable and caring hands. Build up those who know you with your assuring Grace. Pierce with the word those who do not know you. Give them an inheritance and sanctify them.”
My second failure was based on pride. Each week God has attacked a different facet of my pride. This week’s pride came sneakily, in dread that my kids would not be okay after I left. God said, “Do you really think these kids need you? You have nothing to offer them of yourself. You have never had anything to offer them. Do you think they are dependent on you for salvation? Do you think they are dependent on you for love? What a lofty view you have of yourself! Do you even think now that the realization of your own insufficiency is coming from yourself? No! All comes from me! They need me! And I can give myself to them without your help. Only be desperately thankful that I filled up your puny eyedropper and let you drip this summer.”
I say, “I want to see results! Obedience is not enough for me. I want to see 9-year-old Tristen, who is mistreated by her step-dad, who has fought all conversations about Jesus I’ve tried to have with her, come to know You.”
He says, “It is not about you. It is not even about what you get to see me do. It is about me. At the end of all time, I will show you the things I did that you never got to see. And you will say ‘Thou art Power and Love, O Lord.'”
The third was a lack of hope. I can’t decide whether a breaking heart is a good thing. Romans 12:12 says to be joyful in hope. I have been so discouraged. When I see the burn marks on Autistic Lil’ Third’s face, and his swollen, red eyes; when Chunky’s mom hits him right in front of me and says he can’t come to Bible club; when little Hayley shouts at me, “I hate God!”; when I find out Jacqueline’s house is a drug house and she never gets any sleep. I lose hope in the Victory already accomplished. I forget that the Kingdom of God is here, and it doesn’t lose.
Jesus says that the scripture is fulfilled TODAY, the one that says, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners, and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4).
Why are you downcast Oh my Soul?! Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God! (Psalm 42).
And then I see 8-year-old Latravious who gave his life to The Lord last month share the Gospel with another kid who thinks God hates him when he messes up. And Latravious says, “You just say, ‘I love you Jesus, because you died for my sins.'”
Ya, God doesn’t need me.
“But [the dragon] was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down – that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him. Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: ‘Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Messiah'” (Revelation 12).
Final Report – After The Last Week of Ministry
One last virtual Hello to you all,
It appears that reflection and writing is harder when sitting on a cushy couch, enveloped in silence, and devoid of all stink and sweat. Harder than when sitting on concrete next to raging traffic and smelling like fish armpits. The softer the surface, the harder the venture of writing; interesting.
I began to write the first halves of several stories from the last week of Street Reach, but now I think the best conclusion to this swashbuckling summer is to jot a few thoughts in bullet points.
*Before the week began, our boss told us that we would be so drained this week that our minds would try to divert from what matters to power struggles with the incoming team. “This is not the week for that,” he said, “Just LOVE. Love, love, love.”
*It was by far the hardest week for me, physically and emotionally. When every muscle ached and I cried to God to give me rest, he convicted me of how little I am willing to suffer for his sake. I have always begged for an opportunity to suffer for Christ, but as soon as a tiny smidgin of suffering is allotted to me, I beg him to take it away. I read of Paul’s joyful bearing of crosses in Acts, and I was brought ever so low.
*If you have never heard of the Jesus Storybook Bible, it is one the greatest inventions since podcast sermons. It applies every story to God’s love and the Gospel of Jesus; not to mention its fantabulous pictures. Kids dig it because they can actually understand the stories, why they are fascinating, and why they are applicable to life. There is a phrase for God’s love which is used in every story. It is His “Never Stopping, Never Giving up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love.” Beautiful… I used the book a lot these past two weeks, and I ended up giving three copies (only after much investigation, consideration, and prayer as to the specific kids).
*After some good conversations and reading practice, I cautiously gave a Jesus Storybook Bible to James, the ten year-old who gave his life to Jesus a month ago. He took it very seriously, and we continued to practice reading it together.
*As I left, I was very confident that God is passing the neighborhood on to other missionaries. There are kid missionaries on every street. A few twelve year-olds can teach Bible story, giving a powerful sermon about the “crook” next to Jesus on the cross. A ten year-old begged me for grace for her friend throwing a tantrum, saying “God gave me Grace; please give her grace!” And seven year-old Tasheana will take over where I left off with the kids on my route.
*Tasheana loves Jesus! She would tell me the traumas of several of her neighbors who stopped coming to Bible club, saying how she would try to share Jesus’ love with them. She loved to bring the conversation back to Jesus (When kids talked about scary movies, she said, “when I get scared at night I ask Jesus to help me.”) She told me I should give my Spanish Jesus Storybook Bible to a specific hispanic family, and after a little research, it ended up being a great idea. Tasheana was instrumental in the life change of her neighbor, Trysten, whose story is to come.
*God hears my prayers. From healing Emily’s head, to purging Elton’s rebellion, to working great change in Trysten’s life, God answers.
*Trysten is the nine year-old from a beautiful Lakota family of eleven kids. When they moved to my route from South Dakota halfway through the summer, they were nervous about my knocking on their door every day. It brought me so much joy when they started coming to Bible club. Trysten was a closed-off, negative girl. Every day she would complain about the sweat, the walk, or her sisters. She would start to whine and howl when I said I wanted to pray about something. She would slam the door in my face when I asked for a goodbye hug. And she would roll her eyes and say, “Not Jesus again!” when I would talk about Him. I honestly don’t know why she kept coming, but she was in my prayers most often.
On the last week I begged God to do some miracle in her heart the next day, and He did. She asked if she could try to read, “That Jesus Book,” my Storybook Bible. She was an excellent reader. Suddenly she asked, “How will I keep learning about Jesus after you leave?” I looked at her surprisedly and asked, “Since when have you been interested in learning about Jesus, Trysten?” “Uh, uh, I don’t know.” “What have you already learned this summer?” “Hmm, that’s too hard. What have you learned?” That lead to a perfect opportunity to share Gospel truths and aspects of my testimony. She actually asked a few questions, and was particularly interested in what a “relationship” means and why God would want to have one with her.
The next few days other small life changes started appearing. She stopped complaining about the walk and instead wanted to be dropped off last in order to spend more time with us. She offered to carry my backpack. She would spend the walks literally engrossed in the Storybook Bible, walking into trees and poles and such. And she finally hugged me. When talking with Tasheana about what it means to be a missionary, Trysten interjected, “and you can teach people how to pray because God wants to hear you all the time.” I left her with a Storybook Bible and much confidence that God will continue to change her life.
*God continued to drill into my head that THE WORK IS NOT ABOUT ME, and I am so unnecessary. He even pointed out a little language detail to Gaby and I. At Street Reach it is normal for each staffer to take pride in their own Bible club site, and it is normal to call the site “my site” and the kids “my kids.” But Gaby and I had to acknowledge that “our kids” are not really our kids. They are God’s kids. I wrote about this last week, but I was reminded again and again that God’s kids don’t need Sarah Troxel. They need God who cares for them so much more than I do. I had to remind every kid who had a hard time saying goodbye, “Jesus is going to be with you just the same after I leave.” It was to this that Tasheana responded with some of the sweetest words that have ever been spoken to me: “You been Jesus to me, Mih’Sarah, you my Jesus.” And Jesus will continue to manifest himself to his kids through others without me. I am eternally grateful that even one little girl was able to acknowledge that what she experienced was not me, but Jesus loving her through me.
*On Sunday, after goodbyes, mourning, and celebration, we set off one last time to our Bible Club sites. Each site partnership brought a wooden cross created by our boss. Gaby and I wrote our final prayers on our cross, walked in prayer around the site, and staked the cross in the center as the concluding claim for the kingdom of God. It was glorious! Here is my prayer:
“Dear God, my good, good Daddy,
You aren’t just my Daddy. You’re the Daddy of every single kid You brought to the park this summer. Thank You for loving them with Your Never Stopping, Never Giving up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love. Thank You for rescuing them with Your Cross. I now commit them into Your gentle, caring hands. Please make them brave to be lights in dark places. Please give them words to speak of Your Love. Please fill their hearts with love for every person, making them kind and gentle. Please help them follow Jesus and love You more than anything else in the world. I love You Daddy.
Have a Christ Centered Day!
God’s Daily Word Ministries