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Big Dreams Devour Fear

Last week I wrote a blog about a scrawny kid with a big dream—No. An impossible dream—who asked me to help him to make his dream come true. I was scared out of my wits. I mean what middle-aged white woman runs off to the war zones of Sudan and South Sudan to help orphans and trafficked victims she’s never even met, and when she has no money?

Then I remembered a phrase that I have written about quite a bit, “Compassionate Witness;” it means to be there WITH someone when there is nothing you can do FOR that someone. It’s hard work, but sometimes, just being there for someone who is scared, struggling, angry, lost, or broken is enough. So, I agreed to do what I could.

15 years later, young James’ impossible dream—which had become, too—came true. We’d built three separate orphanages, schools, and churches all with a small clinic and provided complete care for more than 2,000 orphans and 300 employees smack dab in the middle of the world’s most violent and large war zones: Sudan and South Sudan.

There are no roads or bridges spanning the two thousand miles over which we had to transport all food and building supplies. It seemed daunting and I felt foolish for even trying but I’d never felt so certain in my life that God was asking me, inviting me, into this life-changing work. But how could we do it?

Honestly, we worked so hard, and true, there were miracles happening around us every day, but we started this multi-million-dollar orphan project with exactly $14,000 in the bank. Just when it would all seem to be too much…working in the 120-degree heat, never having enough to eat or drink, the constant explosions of bombs, the fear of not getting enough money seemed so distant, but people just kept finding us, wanting to visit, wanting to help, wanting to share the story. And our heterogeneous group grew by God’s wind and fire.

God mobilized his people to save these orphans and women who’d been trafficked to the north in this century just like he did the people of Israel thousands of years ago. And, it was a large mass that joined us over time. I couldn’t see what this would be at first…I did not know how to ask anyone for millions of dollars and James didn’t know anyone who had millions of dollars.

I often rush ahead of life and love the mental and emotional experience of working it all out piece by piece. While I wouldn’t recommend you hired an accountant or architect with my temperament, the skill comes in quite handy to keep one calm and work through crisis after crisis in a war zone

And, I must admit, I love the lines and the curves of beautiful architecture—which would never stand if I tried to build it. We all have our two cents to toss in the well.

I suppose I’m circling back full score to some of the blogs I wrote recently about how we can never know joy until we know our purpose in life. As Fredrick Buechner teaches, our vocation is not necessarily our job.

While that can be a beautiful thing, many of us have to get more creative and may work in a factory all week long just so we can afford to volunteer at a local animal shelter because something burns deep within to care for all of God’s creation but perhaps we didn’t have the opportunity to go to vet school, for example. So we keep the lights on with our day job and live out our vocation with every breath, sort of incognito.

Even if you feel called to some sort of service work, there are different stages of our vocational development and so HOW we fulfill that work may change over the years. Perhaps, you were a principal or school teacher when your children were young because it allowed you to have extra time with them, but also offer some serious service work.

But, now, at this stage of your life, it may be time to “climb the mountain” again for one more “vision quest”, seeking the next chapter for our lives—and, thereby, find a joy that nothing else in the world can muster like know and living the dream God has for you!

I’m often asked, “How did you find your vocation? How did you know that was the right direction for you?” and “What can I do to find mine?”

My best advice is to trust that when you fall into the Big Dream of God, he will devour all the fear. As someone I greatly respect told me this week, “But, Kimberly, it’s going to be hard, very hard, work and will take lots of practice.”

I tend to take a few laps around the corral and then find myself either going backward or my butt plopping off into the sand, with my dear Rusty the True watching, feeling, and sharing in it all. By the grace of God, he drops his head, waits for me to assess how many people saw my ungainliness, and climb back on.

Love, your sister along the journey,

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