#iamRefuge: Rachel

Christ, the Lord, is risen today. Hallelujah!

Jesus said, 'I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.'

Our God brings the dead to life. This morning, as we celebrate Jesus' resounding victory over the grave, we close our #iamRefuge series with the extraordinary testimony of a devastatingly broken dream being marvelously brought back to life by this same God—our risen, living Saviour, Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory!

Happy Easter from all of Refuge!


A Resurrected Dream


15 years.

15 years of praying.

Of longing. Of hoping. Of waiting.

 

15 years is a long time. 


fully surrendered to jesus

As a wide-eyed, faith-filled girl of 18, I fully surrendered my heart and my life to Jesus. I had already been walking with Him since childhood, but here He was, calling me to something bigger. Something, MORE. Beyond my dreams, beyond my plans. I was done living for myself.  I was finished making my plans and telling Him what I thought my life should look like. 

I was ready to follow Him to the farthest corners of the globe. My hope was unshakeable and nothing seemed impossible. I remember standing on a beach, heart soaring and arms lifted high, pouring out my heart to Jesus.

Wherever you send me, I’m ready to go. Whatever you have planned for me, I will do. My life is not my own. I am Yours. You are mine.

I knew He was calling me to another people, another culture, another world than the familiar one I was staring down. Hope was alive and bursting at the seams of my heart.

threshold of possibility

threshold of possibility


waiting for a dream

And then came the wait. The 15 year one. Sometimes waiting doesn’t look or feel like waiting. Sometimes it looks like school and marriage and babies and motherhood and busyness and ministry and exhaustion. Sometimes waiting just looks like life. But when you are waiting for a dream and a calling to come to fruition, a long drawn out season of waiting can feel like an eternity. 

One day, the tide began to change. Life began to tilt and hope began to stir again. The waiting, longing, praying, hoping—it all started to move again—like rusty gears in an old boarded up clock tower. God was beginning to speak and move our hearts across the world.

To Scotland. 

mission field

mission field


the dawning of the dream

In February 2011, we boarded a plane to Glasgow, Scotland, just 6 weeks after I lost my Mom to a brutal, five year battle with cancer. My heart was tender, worn and heavy. I was looking for respite and healing. I needed the walk beside quiet waters that the familiar words of Psalm 23 spoke of. I was weary. Little did I know as I stepped foot on Scottish soil for the first time, that I was finally stepping into home. My HOME. The place I was called to spend my days and pour out my life. I had no idea the door was opening. The door I had been praying for 15 years would swing open had finally been unlocked.

Six months later, on a second trip, God called me to Scotland. Wandering with good friends at the site of castle ruins, God drew me over to a wall that had been eroded through the years. In the midst of the rubble I saw the most breathtaking sight. Where wind and weather had decayed, new life was bursting forth: purple flowers were sprouting through the cracks in the stone. What lay in ruin had become the platform for new life. Life from death. And that’s the moment God chose to speak my calling through the words of Isaiah I had memorised years earlier:


They will REBUILD the ancient ruins;
They will RESTORE the former devastations;
They will RENEW the ruined cities,
the devastations of many generations.
— Isaiah 61:4

God was showing me that He loved Scotland. He desired to bring new life, to bring His salvation to the people of this great nation. At one time, Scotland was majestic in the Kingdom of God. She was sending more missionaries into the world than any other nation. She stood on the Word of God. She brought forth giants of the faith like David Livingstone and John Knox. But in time gone by, she had forsaken the Word, and in so doing, the Church now laid as an ancient ruin. Oh, but God was showing me that He was not finished with this people that He loved. He desired to bring new life from the rubble. And here He was, calling little me to be a part of this great work—the girl who had been praying for 15 years to move to a distant land to tell a people not her own that they were loved and pursued by the God of the universe. The call had come. The day had dawned. The dream was finally coming to pass. 

new life in ancient ruin

new life in ancient ruin


home to a foreign land

Two years later, on May 3, 2013, my husband and I, along with our girls, stepped off a plane in Glasgow, Scotland after 2 full years of praying, vision casting, fundraising and preparation. I was finally home. I was finally seeing the answer to years and years of earnest prayer. I was finally stepping into this great dream and calling. All those years leading up to this day hadn’t been a waste. They had been preparation. The years of waiting had been my apprenticeship—teaching me to be faithful in small and hidden places. I finally understood why the wait was important. The wait had strengthened my wings and prepared me to stretch them. God had faithfully answered those years and years of prayers. However, He, in His sovereignty and kindness, had chosen to answer in His way and in His timing. His ways are higher and better than our ways. There is always purpose in the wait. 

I immediately began to dig into my new work and my new life. We were sent to Glasgow to start a church. We started with six people and we started with prayer. We asked God to build His Church and to bind us into a family. Over the next 3 years I spent my days loving and serving Refuge, our sweet church that had quickly become family. Every day my heart was full of gratitude to God for the life He had given me. I was so full. Every day, I felt so complete—living in the sweet spot of my dream and calling. Life was finally (finally!) what I had envisioned it to be. Life was good, but life was hard. The work of church-planting was a work of blood, sweat and tears. I fought through fire each day to follow Jesus in a culture that had turned her back on faith, on God, and especially on church. I was tired, but my goodness, I was so happy. Life was just plain sweet. 


church planting

church planting


the day the dream died

And then one day, death walked in my front door and stole it all. 

With the uttering of one sentence, my life shattered into a million pieces.

Your husband has been having an affair.

Those words changed everything. My life was now split in half. Before and after. Two halves. One full of dreams. One just full of shattered dreams.

Despair washed over me and I began to drown under her surge. Unfaithfulness, abandonment, rejection, deceit. They waved their ugly banners above me, taunting me with their stark reminders that life would never, ever be the same. 

My dream, my calling was dead. 

Dead.

All life had been drained away. Only an empty shell remained. We boarded a plane back to America and I wept until I was dried out. Grief is a beast. She leaves you with nothing. The wind could have swept me away. As David lamented in Psalm 31, I had become like 'broken pottery'. While I will never know the agony that Jesus faced on the cross, I was nearer to His sorrow than I had ever journeyed. I had been invited into His suffering.

Over the next five months, I stood by my husband. I supported him the best way I knew how, and I resolved, with God as my strength, to not walk away from my husband and our covenant vows. I made the agonising choice to walk forward with him. I didn’t know how I would be able to continue in my marriage, as broken as it was, but I knew that God would be my Help. I could trust Him to carry me through the dark days ahead. 


the crushing of hope

And then came the second shattering of my life. And this time, I was not OK. 

He was done with the marriage. He was leaving. Divorce was what he desired. I remember the words hanging in the air like poison. I couldn’t see straight. I couldn’t feel or hear.

I wanted to die. That’s all I remember. Asking God to just let me die. 

But the sun came up again the next day. And the next day. And the next. And I didn’t die. I remember those first few days, stretching my legs in my new normal and feeling like a tiny child. Slowly, life moved forward. A life I never thought I would have became my normal. But as the days stretched onward, shame and bitterness grew in my heart. A rot began to spread. Hatred, anger, disbelief. They stretched and festered in my heart. I hated my husband. How could he leave when I was willing to fight for our marriage? Death was still there, waging war against my heart. I had become a prisoner. I was buried in ache and pain and bitterness. Shame was my garment and I dressed myself in its filthy garments day after day. 

longing for home

longing for home


out of the darkness

And then one day, God rescued me from myself. A resurrection happened. 

Rachel, are you ready to bless him, and not curse him? Are you ready to forgive and let go? Are you ready to set him free into my hands? My justice is perfect and you can release your grip and trust me. It’s time to forgive.

I will never forget those words that pierced the darkest, deepest place within my heart. God was calling me to forgive. Forgive. I gasped for air. Forgive him, God? It took me a few minutes, but I lifted up my eyes and I surrendered. And then? Well, then the most miraculous thing happened. With the calling, came the equipping. He strengthened me to forgive.

Yes God, I choose to forgive. I choose to let go. I hand him over to you. Set me free from bitterness and hate.


Light

That’s what I remember next. Light and hope and new life burst into view. Shackles fell off my heart. A door unlocked and hope swept in with wings and song. I was free. Really, truly and absolutely free. And then came the whisper;

It’s time to go home.

homeward calling

homeward calling


The resurrection of the dream

God was resurrecting the dream. He was lifting my calling out of the grave. He was folding up the grave clothes. My dreams may have died, but they didn’t stay dead. God brought them forth in new life. The dream is bigger now. The calling has been forged in fire. I have a story. I have a reason. A purpose. I can now look broken, hurting people in the eye and say,

I get it. I’ve been there. You are not alone. Let me carry you to my God who brings dead things to life. Dead dreams to glorious life again.

So here I stand, on the brink of hope, waiting and preparing for my good Father to carry my daughters and me back to our beloved Scotland this summer. He is: 

RESTORING, REBUILDING, RENEWING.

He is opening doors that I believed to be boarded up forever. He is making a way where there was no way. Life from death. Hope from the ash heap. He is calling us back.

He has Restored Home

packed with faith

packed with faith


Where are you today, friend? Has hope died? Has life fallen to ash? Has death come to visit? Oh, press into Jesus. 

He knows. 

He sees. 

He died to carry your death to the grave. 

He rose again to resurrect you to new life. 

Purposeful, abundant, free, glorious life. 


The Lord will surely comfort Zion
and will look with compassion on all her ruins;
He will make her deserts like Eden,
her wastelands like the garden of the Lord.
Joy and gladness will be found in her,
thanksgiving and the sound of singing.
— Isaiah 51:3

If you would like more information on Rachel's plans to return to Glasgow, and in particular, if you'd be willing to contribute financially to help make this dream become reality, then please click on the link here. Please give generously!