Saturday, December 26, 2009

Mission Trip: Ethiopia

Dear Family and Friends,

I am going to Ethiopia!
My heart is full even as I write those words; I am so excited about the story God is letting me be a part of this winter.
Four teammates and I are leaving on February 11th 2010 for Ethiopia. We will be flying into the rural village of Yasow and working with the villagers for one week. The plan is to conduct a sports camp with the local school. There are two tribes who are native to Yasow, and these tribes’ native languages are not written down anywhere. Their religion, their culture, is all a part of an oral tradition. The missionaries who are working with the church in Yasow are teaching the people about Jesus through storytelling. The second week our team will be going to the capital city of Addis Ababa and working at the CMF International (Christian Missionary Fellowship) compound as well as an AIDS orphanage in the city. We will be returning on the 27th.
I am here to ask you for your partnership. I need you to come along beside me as I prepare to leave the country, specifically in prayer. Throughout this entire first part of my journey prayer has been what has guided me. And while God has heard me and blessed my prayers so far, I need you to join in with me. As a team we are going to need great amounts of discernment and courage on this trip; as well as physical and spiritual strength.
Second to my need for your prayerful support, I also need financial support. My individual trip will cost $2500.00, which includes airfare, lodging, and food for two weeks. For those of you who are reading this online, if you choose to support me financially, let me know and I will send you instructions on where and how to send any money. Any donations are tax deductible.
This has been a season in my life of giving up control and letting God write the story of my life for me. He is so much more creative than I am. By partnering with me, you will also play a part in this great story He is writing. Just like a church and a body requires many parts to make it work, so does a missions team.
I have incredible peace about this journey that God has me on today. As this year comes quickly to an end and 2010 approaches, I have only great anticipation about this upcoming trip. I can’t wait to see how God is working in Africa, not to mention how God will work in my own heart.

Grace and peace,

Anna Vaughan

Sunday, December 13, 2009


God speaks to me through donuts.

Or maybe it is that I see God in ordinary things.

Or He waits to be profound when I'm thinking about something else entirely.

But all the same,

God speaks to me through donuts.


I was sitting at my usual Saturday morning bakery, reading John Ortberg's book, "God is closer than you think".

"We may ignore, but we cannot evade, the presence of God. The world is crowded with him. He walks everywhere incognito. And the incognito is not always easy to penetrate. The real labor is to remember to attend." (Nicholi)

People were streaming in and out, families, cyclists, students, and children. I smile, thinking about how breakfast unites people. The lawyer who is a regular just like me walks by, and then here comes the tattooed, thirty-something wearing a zip up hoodie.

I keep reading.

Until a family of three walks in.

Mom, Dad, and a 5 year old son.

They walk up to the counter and buy a dozen donuts. The donuts get packaged in one of those large, flat boxes. Mom heads for the door. Dad grabs the big box and the son follows him.

I watch as, about halfway across the bakery, the son reaches up for the box. "Let me carry it, " he asks his dad, excitedly. He reaches his little arms up and grabs the box and tries to put it under his arm. Sideways.

Dad lets go only momentarily, knowing exactly what is about to happen.

When the box starts to slip from the little boys hands, Dad grabs the box at either end.

Leveling the box of breakfast treats, Dad stands over the son, and together they start walking to the door.

The whole time, Dad is holding the box firmly in his hands. While the son walks underneath the box, his arms stretched up as far as they'll reach, his fingertips pushing on the bottom of the box.

Proudly, they walk out of the bakery together.


God snapped His fingers in my ear.

The whole bakery stood still for a minute as I watched this metaphor walk out the door.

"Once you see God in an ordinary moment at an ordinary place, you never know where He'll show up next. (Ortberg)"

He is carrying the weight.

He is controlling what I cannot handle on my own.

I may stretch and reach, He may even let me help, let me walk along with my fingertips brushing against it...

but in the end, He has it in His hands.


There is a recurrent theme about the lessons He is teaching me in this season.

He is using donuts to speak to me.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


I have already set a few goals for myself for 2010.

One of them was to run a race. Of any length. Just a race.

For so many reasons. But one of them being because I always thought I couldn't.

Ever since I was thirteen, I told myself that I could not run.

I remember standing on a mountain in Kingdom Come and my entire body shaking because I could not get oxygen in. My lungs would not fill with air.

I remember singing as I hiked the Sheltowee, just trying to catch my breath.

These times are overshadowed every single time I run farther than I thought I could.

And now I've reached a point where my obstacles are all in my head.


But I cannot get over them on my own.

I hit my limit and cannot make myself go further.

I dont know how to make myself keep running.

I can't keep running alone.


This is the same point I have reached in my own life.

I need someone to "run" with.

Someone who will make me keep going.

To keep breathing.

To quicken or slow my pace.


This time, I don't mean a husband.

I don't mean a life partner.

I mean a role model.

A mentor, for a lack of a better word.


I have a mother. A wonderful, beautiful one.

I dont need another one of those.

But I need a woman I can look up to.

Someone who has been what I am going through.

And made it out alive.

A woman who can say, "yes, I remember that". Rather than, "oh yes, me too."

Someone I trust.

Someone who will push me to be a godly woman. To write a good story for my life. Who will teach me.


I have been talking with God about this a lot lately.

This desire is one of my greatest right now. Mostly because it stems from a great need.

But searching for a woman like that is one of the most difficult things I've ever done.

But God only knows how much I need this right now.


Just as much as I need someone who knows how to run.

Who can run farther than I can because they have already done it.

So that when I want to quit - so that when I get tired - there is someone there to tell me to keep going.


"Here is everything," I whisper. I feel like by the time I've thrown away the things I don't need there's not much left. But what I hand over is heavy.

He gathers it all up in His arms and smiles at me. "Thank you for doing that. I know it was hard for you." He looks down at the load and shakes His head knowingly. "There's a lot we can do with this. Just you wait..."

He sorted through my stuff. Organized. Rearranged. He took a few things apart. Reassembled things I had broken a long time ago. Brushed off the dust. I heard a lot of loud noises. I felt awkward standing there. Empty handed. My shoulders strangely light without the burden.

He turned back around, with a grin on His face that only hinted at how proud He was.

"Come on, let's take a look," He called to me.

And to my surprise, He handed some of my things back.

"I want to see what you'll do with this," He said.

I barely recognized it. But it was mine. And my mind flooded with ideas and a tinge of fear.

He handed me another.

"Get creative with this one," He laughed. Obviously pleased with this new thing He'd made from my old junk.

Before long, He'd handed most of my stuff back to me.

It fit better in my arms this time. Shiny and new and shaped different. I recognized some of it as my own. But He'd done a brand new thing with other pieces.

But something was missing.

I looked around, a bit frantic.

My most precious thing.

The thing I'd had the hardest time handing over in the first place.

"Where is it?" I asked, panicked.

"It's right here, love. Don't worry..." I saw Him cradling it in His arms.

"Can I have it back too?" I was almost willing to drop the other beautiful things onto the floor just to get a hold of that one thing again.

He shook His head slowly. "You gave everything to me, remember? And this is what you love the most. Which is wonderful... I made you to want this. I made you to love this. But, because you do love it so much, I'm going to take care of it for you. Because I can do that better than you can. Trust me. I know how special it is to you."

(Luke 12:34)

Thursday, December 3, 2009

When We Help Ourselves

ometimes the greatest risk we can take is to sit still.

Sometimes what takes the most courage in our lives is not doing anything at all.

Sometimes the greatest step of faith can be letting God call the shots.


I am in awe of the way our memories work. I am capable of absorbing something, but not processing it, only to have it resurface months and months later to teach me a lesson. As if I have a reservoir where God keeps special things: "this will go here for now, until later when I need it."

Back in July I went to New York City for a few days with Southland on a mission trip. To wrap the weekend up, we went to a service at our sister church Forefront, which meets in the Blender Theater That morning, the minister taught using Genesis 16.

About Abram and Sarai, whom God had promised to bless with a child. But they became impatient, or downright doubtful of God's promise (because Sarai was getting very old). In their impatience Abram and Sarai took matters into their own hands.

What happens when we try and help ourselves along, outside of the will of God, is we get results. Things happen, change, and move. But not according to Plan.

So a child was born.

But not the child God had planned - not the child He had promised.


I remember sitting in New York and listening to the minister talk about how God's plan is better than ours. That we have to be patient for it to come to fruition. That we can, in fact, expedite things with our own actions.

But sometimes, God calls us to wait.

Sometimes, every fiber of our being is telling us to move. Causing anxiety or an irrational sense of urgency. But the Lord is telling us to be still. To hold on just one minute and let Him do what He does.

You see, God would later give Abram and Sarai (or Abraham and Sarah) a son. Just like He had promised. On His own time, in a way that brought Him glory, despite their laughter and serious doubt. Isaac was born. The child He had promised.


I have been praying God would open my eyes to the risks He wants me to take. That He would reveal the first step and give me the courage to take it.

This prayer is why I am going to Ethiopia in February.

Sometimes risks involve action. God-centered, God-driven, God-inspired action. We are required to move, to do, to go.

Sometimes God gives us creative license and He only gives us guidelines. Especially when we have come so far in our faith, our delight truly is in Him. Our hearts really are so close to His they almost cannot be separated.

But nowhere in the His word does our God promise that He will "help those who help themselves".

There is a fine line. As always.

And every day is different.

It requires heightened discernment to tell the difference.

But some days...

The very calling on our life is to sit still.

To hold out our open hands and wait.

This takes more courage than you might know. And this takes more patience than you might have.

This might be the greatest risk of all.

To surrender something in prayer.

And then, with hope...


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Return to the Mountain

My mind has been racing all day long.

It's been a while since I've been overwhelmed with thoughts like this.

Coming at me from all directions, I cannot make sense of any of them.

I got this crazy idea to go back to school today. Which, isn't really a crazy idea. But it was out of the blue. Kind of irrational. So I did some looking around tonight. And lost all my peace. There was my answer. Even as the stress was rising into my armpits, I knew God was telling me what I needed to know.

I had made the right decision a few months ago when I decided to take a break. Earlier, I had heard correctly. Because of the Spirit inside of me, I was able to discern the will of God. Now, my own flesh tried to get in the way of that plan today. But no. I would return to the peace He had provided. Even now, I am letting Him quiet me with His love. There is a reason for all things. I will wait.

Earlier in the year, I was climbing a mountain. Proverbially speaking - I was not in a valley, I was climbing a mountain. Ever getting closer to God. Muscles tired, out of breath. I prayed for reprieve and finally, He sent it. I've been living in this restful period or on this level trail for a few weeks now.

But today, I felt Him whisper. "Time to get up! Time to keep moving! Up, get up!"

So here we go again. Ever climbing. From glory to glory, we are reaching for the Father.

Climbing up a ladder, only to go back down and start over.

I thought I knew a lot about the character of God. Granted, I know more now than I did six months ago. But I have yet to make a dent in the character of God.


My mind races. A lot of prayers sift through my mind during the day. I don't know when He will let me rest again. But every step brings me closer to Him.

Every crazy idea, every tangent, every scenic overlook... a chance to explore His faithfulness and His will for my life.

One foot in front of the other.

Here I go.