I’ve got so much joy right now. Why? Honestly, I’m not quite sure. I’m currently sitting outdoors at a random camp in the middle of nowhere Moldova. We get served mysterious unnamed food, we pee in a small three-inch holes in the ground, and the showers are cold. Some people might find this to be miserable; yet I’ve honestly never felt this much joy in my life.
My squadmates look at me funny because sometimes I just bust out laughing. Usually when they tell jokes I laugh, because it’s ha ha funny. But this kind of joy, the joy I get from God, bubbles up inside of me and I just have to let it out. It’s a joy that emerges from within the depths of my soul, the kind that shakes you to the core, the kind that another person can’t help but join in.
Honestly, when I think about what has happened in this place the past two nights, I can’t help but smile. At this camp, there is no phone and no Internet. There is nowhere to go. We’re here for five straight days – and our official debriefing time is only two hours long. So what do we do all day? Our to-do list consists of two tasks: getting to know one another and worshipping Jesus. It might sound simple, but it’s an age-old agenda – Jesus himself said that the greatest commandment is to love God and to love one another. Really, what else is there? So I’ve had the chance to wake up early and walk up on the hill with my friend Emily to worship as the sun rose to bring in the day. I’ve had amazing conversations with brothers and sisters sitting in hammocks, eating meals, and snuggling in the bunk beds. I’ve been inspired to write a poem for fun, which I haven’t done since middle school. And I’ve found a newfound love for worshipping God through dance – one night someone put a set of flags in my hand and I found myself leaping across the moonlit field, feet flailing and arms flying but marvelously worshipping my God, my savior.
It all began our first night of worship when Diane got up on the chair and declared freedom over the things she was going through in her life:
That opened the door for dozens of us to go up, acknowledge struggles, and declare that God has given us victory. Deon, our squad’s papa, taught us how the enemy wants us to believe that our identity is linked to our performance. But past failures or triumphs do not make up our identity – rather, our identity is in our destiny. God wants to see ourselves not from what we lack, but what has been imparted to us.
Yesterday during our team time, we all brought our deepest struggles and put them on the table. And when you bring something that has been hidden in darkness into the light, there is a freedom that emerges, a lightness in your heart. 2 Corinthians 4:2,6 says “We have renounced secret and shameful ways… For God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” I feel a breakthrough – a greater vulnerability among Team Doulos now than ever before. The AIM staff has also appointed Katy as our new team leader – I’m excited to see how God will work in us during this season of our team.
When I look back and see everything that God did during debrief, I am amazed…The first morning of debrief, I spent some time in prayer and felt that God was speaking to me out of Isaiah 43: “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.” I wasn’t sure what that meant, but about an hour later Cassie handed me a note of encouragement, saying that she was praying for me and saw a stream in a desert land. That afternoon, in the middle of our run, Lauren stopped us to point out a small green plant emerging of the cracked desert landscape. I feel that all of these are prophetic symbols of the life that is springing forth in and among our squad.
When I think about the past three days, I can’t help but dance and sing and shout for joy. There is nothing better than this, nothing better than the joy of being set free, free like the birds in the sky or the moon shining forth in the jet black night. I’m so proud of my brothers and sisters here – God is truly doing a great work. There’s something about God setting people free that just makes me want to shout and cry and laugh all at the same time. God is changing lives. This is what I came for. This is the Race.
You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to you and not be silent (Psalm 30:11)
I haven’t written a poem for fun since middle school, but I was so inspired by what God was doing at debrief that words just came out of me as I was journaling one afternoon, which turned into a spoken word poem…
Yes, in the presence of God there is fullness of joy. Honestly, who wouldn’t happy hanging out in the picturesque Moldovan vineyard with plump juicy grapes? :-)