One of the most significant decisions we make as believers, over and over, is choosing to live surrendered to the Lordship of Christ. As we yield our wills and walk in step with the Spirit, we experience freedom and intimacy with God. Woven throughout the pages of Open Hands, Willing Heart – a new book by my friend Vivian Mabuni – I found stories of encouragement, hope, and the challenge to live like Caleb and Joshua, as believers who follow God fully. It’s a grace to welcome my friend and sister Vivian to the farm’s front porch today…
“Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1:8-9 ESV)
During high school my younger sister, Claire, developed an inexplicable burden to pray for the country of Albania.
Thanks to a countries-of-the-world shower curtain and Claire’s scribbles and circles with a Sharpie pen, I learned that this small country of 2.3 million is nestled next to Greece in southeast Europe. In 1967 the dictator of the country declared Albania “the world’s first atheist state.”
Claire began to pray earnest, God-sized prayers in and out of the shower. She prayed for doors to open to the gospel. She prayed for the remote villages inaccessible to outsiders. She prayed Albania would one day send Christian missionaries to the Muslim world.
From a human perspective these prayers made no sense, as the country remained locked to the outside world, seemingly impenetrable.
Finally, five years after Claire began praying, the communist regime fell, and in 1992 an opportunity opened up for my sister to take part in the first Cru (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ) summer mission to Albania.
Claire applied, raised financial support, got all the necessary immunizations, and with high expectations set out for the country she had circled with a Sharpie and bathed in faith-filled prayer.
She had the worst summer of her life.
The instability of the government led to an economic crisis, which resulted in food shortages. Several nights Claire went to bed hungry, not knowing what food would be accessible the following day. Illness, swarms of attacking insects, verbal abuse from the Albanian nationals, and all sorts of chaos surrounded my sister throughout the summer.
An Albanian national, Alma, served as a translator while the team worked in the capital city of Tiranë.
The team decided to split and cover more ground the second half of their time in the country. Claire, already stretched from the trials she experienced, hoped she would be assigned to the team going to beaches in the nicer northern part of the country, as she had formed a good connection with those team members.
Instead, the leadership placed her on the team headed south. Alma would go with Claire and the southern team as they traveled to Vlorë, a spiritually hardened, Muslim-majority part of Albania for the remainder of the summer.
As they headed south, so did Claire’s emotions.
The mission ended with little to show for all the effort and prayer and expense for the southern team.
The spiritual ground was rock hard, and the Albanian nationals didn’t appear to be interested in learning about God.
The team in the north, however, experienced tremendous openness to the gospel. Claire returned to the US dejected, depressed, and carrying parasites in her intestines.
Obeying Without Seeing
Sometimes God asks us to take steps of faith and trust Him without knowing how our words, actions, and decisions might affect others.
Seven years after Claire’s miserable summer, Alma, the Albanian translator, was introduced as the first Albanian national staff member at a Cru staff conference.
When asked how she began a relationship with Jesus, Alma shared in front of five thousand staff members about the summer of 1992 and how Claire had led her to place her trust in Christ.
All those years had gone by without Claire having any idea of the outcome of her service.
Alma and Claire got together at the conference to catch up, and Claire marveled as Alma disclosed all God had done from the point of her surrender to Jesus.
A surrender that came from a conversation with Claire.
Alma became a spiritual leader in Albania and discipled nearly one hundred women. Albanian nationals joined her staff, and teams showed the Jesus film in obscure mountain villages.
Albania started sending missionaries to the Muslim world, just as Claire had prayed, first to neighboring Turkey and then beyond. God had turned the officially atheistic country into one in which 96 percent of the people had opportunities to hear the gospel!
Many of us can become disheartened when we don’t see evidence of our actions making a difference in the world.
As we try our best to serve God and others, we may do so without being praised, or even noticed, for our efforts.
We pray, we have spiritual conversations, we show up week after week at the food bank or Sunday school, we drive carpool, bring meals to neighbors, host the youth group, pay for someone’s drink in the drive-through, tutor, write blog posts, sit in meetings, balance ledgers, mop floors, plan events, design websites, style hair, teach calculus, run corporations or nonprofits, meet with clients suffering unspeakable trauma.
The list goes on and on, but our good deeds may go unsung.
For some this might not be a big struggle, but for those who are wired to value acknowledgment for their contributions or who thrive on words of affirmation, this state of invisibility may be particularly difficult.
Most of us won’t get to hear the end of our story of impact this side of heaven.
More often than not, we won’t be privy to how our decisions to show up, share our resources, teach the Scriptures, and share our faith result in changed lives.
That the Lord would allow Claire to hear firsthand about the answers to her shower-curtain prayers is a gift of grace.
Our jobs, despite not always knowing how the story will end, is to surrender.
To lay down our plans for His and to say, “Jesus, I trust you with my prayers, my dreams, my life. Make them yours.”
We have no control over the outcome of our surrendered lives.
What we do control is whether we will choose to live for ourselves or for God, because when we open our hearts, we see a beautiful transformation comes when we live with our hearts and lives yielded to the King.
Vivian Mabuni is a national speaker and writer with a passion to influence college campuses, families, churches, communities, and the world by sharing the hope and life found through knowing God. Her first book,Warrior in Pink, details how she found a deeper intimacy with God in her journey through cancer as a young mother of three.
Her new book, Open Hands, Willing Heart: Discover the Joy of Saying Yes to God, provides an authentic look at what it means to willingly risk saying yes to whatever God asks — and highlights a practical path to the deeper joy of a yielded life. With thirty years of ministry experience on staff with Cru, Vivian loves teaching about the Bible and highlighting its practical application to ministry and life. She’s discovered that open-handed living starts with an intentional posture of the heart. Through surrender to His will, we draw closer to God in a way that makes our day-to-day lives more purposeful, powerful, and pleasing to Him.
With Vivian’s warm encouragement in Open Hands, Willing Heart, you’ll learn how to step out in courageous trust as you invite God to give and take—and move and work—in your life as He sees fit. Along the way you’ll discover true joy and serenity that will carry you through every circumstance.
[ Our humble thanks to Waterbrook for their partnership in today’s devotion ]