I Threw my Hands in the air, took a powerful stance and proceeded to demand from Heaven, “I just want a SIGN!!! I want something to cling to when it gets hard and I want to quit and go home. Then I can look to that sign and stand on Your Word that You asked me to staff.”
When I graduated from Christ for the Nations Bible Institute (CFNI) with a Missions Degree, I had been faced with a choice: “Where do I go for 3 months of my life to walk out what I just learned?” I am not sure what dean, founder, or CFNI staff person decided that all Missions Majors must go to a “Field School” in order to graduate… But it was a great idea. The only problem was that I missed the day they described each field school option. So the only thing I had to base my decision on was a paper with a few sentences that described the LARGE selection of places (because at this point in my walk, asking Jesus was only for “life and death” situations. I mean the Big Guy was way too busy back then…). I quickly eliminated everywhere that wasn’t Africa, because Africa is where all the “REAL MISSIONARIES” go (Jesus has since forgiven my ignorance and pride….). That narrowed it down to a few choices. I didn’t know the founders of Iris Global, based in Pemba, Mozambique, but the three sentences sound pretty cool. So I signed the future of my missionary education over to Iris Harvest School without much knowledge of what exactly I was getting into.
After all the CFNI graduation ordeals had passed, I landed in the red dirt of Pemba with my superhero cape snuggly fastened around my neck. I was ready for the great “bush bush” experience. It wasn’t long before the Holy Spirit stood on the tail of said cape and caught me off guard. I quickly found out that this was less about reaching the multitudes and a lot more about reaching the one Jesus sets right in front of you. It had nothing to do with singlehandedly ending hunger, but realizing that these sweet mamas know more about being fed by their Papa than I did. I was more the definition of an orphan than the amazing, smiling faces of the children who may just be growing up without earthly parents. Africa did not need Ashley Ruffin; Ashley Ruffin needed Africa!
There was no stone left unturned in my heart over those three months. There still aren’t many days that go by that something Jesus taught me in that red dirt doesn’t echo in my life. In fact, it was 3 years ago that I began to cry out to Jesus for a sign - that He would make it plain if He wanted me to go back to the most beautiful and fruitful season of my life, but as a staff member this time. You see, Mozambique, in all of its epic greatness as the most refining fire there is, is STILL A FIRE. Fire burns, and it’s hot, but I knew that if Jesus asked me, I would do it. It was then that I saw, up in the sky for all the world to see…. This ACTUAL Billboard: : : : : : : : : : : (Because I feel like just one colon thing is not enough!) Obedience is huge for me, so with this even huger sign in the sky, I quickly set about making plans to return to Pemba. Some of those plans led me to the city of Abilene, Texas. I was there for an Iris Leaders’ HeartSync training, never intending to make a habit of visiting Abilene. While there, I met the base directors of Iris Abilene and they informed me that they too were going to have a school and they needed some people to Staff. Could it be true? Could I staff here in Texas and not be on the metaphorical “hook” that is staffing in Africa?!
The more I walk this adventure with Jesus, the more I see this as a journey with many paths, tunnels, and winding roads - so even if you know the destination you will not always know the route. Staffing in the Iris Global School in Abilene, Texas, led me to Jackson, Mississippi, where I learned how to love God with all my heart, soul and strength and learned what it really means to love your neighbor as yourself. After two years of loving and learning in Jackson, Jesus asked me if I would do so in my Jerusalem: Texas. This led me back to Abilene, of all places! Since February of this year, I have been living in a ministry house called The Palm House. Every day is new and different; we love on children with our after-school program, love our neighbors through relationship, and we share food through a food distribution program. Most importantly, we are here to love on people. When I landed here in Abilene, I got the sense that this was my home base, but that Jesus would send me out on “Special Missions.” As an army brat, this struck home to me. What struck even deeper was when He begun confirming and reminding me about the Billboard. That, I reminded Him, was for Texas. He quickly reminded me that He is the navigator of this journey and He asked me to trust Him to lead. Sooooo, I believe this is the longest update in the history of updates, but I say all this to say, I may not always get it right, but I am going to follow my Jesus wherever He sends me. Logically, it doesn’t always have to make sense, but I know that for every step in which I have trusted Him, I have reaped a harvest of blessing. So the next step in my epic journey with Jesus is to staff the Iris Harvest School this fall, in Mozambique!
The story is told of a man who walked across a tightrope, high above the ground, while pushing a wheelbarrow. When he got to the other side, he found that a man had been watching him. The tightrope walker looked at the man and asked him if he thought that he could do this amazing feat a second time. The onlooker, still amazed at what he had just witnessed, said "Sure, I believe you can." The tightrope walker quickly replied, "Why don't you hop in the wheelbarrow then while I push you across?"
I've heard this story twice now, in the last few weeks from two completely different sources. One, a doctor, the second while reading a book. I figured seeing this story twice in such a short period of time was either God speaking to me or an amazing coincidence, so I thought I would share it with you.
Faith. We Christians talk about it a lot. You ask any Christian what faith is, and they'll probably raise their voice, get a little excited and start quoting, "faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen..." That sounds good, but what does that really mean?
Yeah, we can quote the Scripture, and feel good about ourselves while we do it....but do we have tightrope kind of faith? I mean, hop into a wheelbarrow, 1000 feet in the air, being pushed by someone else kind of faith? Do we have the kind of faith that gives up control or at least the illusion of control of our own lives and trusts the Tightrope Walker?
We serve a God Who walked on water, turned water into wine, made the lame to walk, the blind to see...a God who brought dead people to life.
Do I have faith? Yeah, I think so. For sure, the kind that goes to church and can give you a nice definition of what faith is. Do I have jump in the wheelbarrow, being pushed by a tightrope walker kind of faith? I don't know...but I think I want that kind of faith. I'm not sure though...it sounds kind of scary.