Jeff is a delightful story teller. A master really. I’ve always admired it. He told me stories from the time I met him and I was as taken by them as the crowds who love his stories now.
But those stories aren’t what convinced me.
It was that moment when I said all those things. Things I hadn’t spoken in years because I was trying so hard to ‘overcome’ all my ‘seriousness’. But with him I said them.
And he was leaning in. Not pulling back.
I loved him. Right then.
I know God made that so.
All the Unlikely would swirl through and around us, but it was that moment (how could we have known?) that gives me chills even now.
I am so very grateful for this story, our story, that we live (and tell) together.
He was born in a hospital to two parents who loved Jesus.
He would grow up the adorable third boy, afraid of nothing.
He would climb his first mountain at age 5 (Mt Hood) and live out a majority of his childhood hours and days outside. He would climb, delve, discover, create and dare over the beautiful forested acreage he grew up surrounded by.
Somewhere along the way he fell in love with Jesus. Not just an obligatory confession of faith, but an actual, “Jesus knows ME!” experience. It happened at a baseball field and involved a dramatic home-run. He was forever changed. Forever known.
He was well acquainted with limits. Because he loved to get right up in their face and push through them.
He dreamed BIG dreams. He would never quit.
He would learn to seek the Lord where he played. In the forest. Among all the adventure and freedom. He talked to God about whatever. Everything and nothing. Feeling full confidence that he was heard and adored.
He would hurt. And fall. And continue to pull toward the lingering, pervasive calling of His savior and Friend.
He would always have something to say. A story to tell.
He would never cease leading. But would be saved in the Following.
She was born in a hospital to two parents who loved Jesus.
She would grow up the first born of two girls. She was cautious and afraid of everything.
Inside was her favorite place. Her sanctuary. She disliked the heat and wind of Outside. She had an aversion to bugs and the way dying grass crunched under her feet. She preferred playing with dolls in the sanctity of her own space or reading books for hours on end.
She liked to know what to expect. She liked a plan.
She would follow every rule laid in front of her with obedience and persistence. She understood fully the concepts of ‘right and wrong’.
She would never know life without Jesus. He was always there. And following after him was the right thing to do. She was told this, so she obeyed.
She addressed Him as she addressed life—through the rules. Seeking to do what He would want her to do. She would read, and study and abide by the regulations and expectations laid out for her by her parents, her family and her church community.
She would come to know her Christ as trusted Faithful friend. And she would fall more in love with Him as she realized how his gracious presence remained.
She loved to listen. She paid attention with broad awareness to the people in her world.
She would Follow obedient but would find freedom in the quiet leading she was called to.
They were Unlikely in so many ways. Raised thousands of miles from each other, with completely different histories and communities and memories and friends.
Like dynamite they would explode intense at the counter balance of their strengths. Their early moments together were chock full of intrigue and interest as they discovered another one so completely different from themselves. They would admire. And be inspired.
Africa was decided, long before they ever set eyes on each other. And over many long conversations and very many prayers, they turned their gaze together toward a faraway continent and a way bigger than them dream.
But they gazed from very different windows.
The disparate qualities of their home cultures threatened and taught them. But they would not have a name for it. They just saw everything from a vastly spaced chasm—roles, rules, church, men and women. Life.
There was a constant pull in their conversations and in their decision-making and in their plans.
Unlikely was the street named for them. Where they would live. What they would be called. How they would be critiqued.
From where they would be judged.
They would realize in time, that this Unlikely was not just what pulled them away from each other. But, in fact, was the force that inevitably anchored them close.
It wasn’t their own promise that made it so. (though this did matter)
It was His promise.
For with God nothing is ever impossible and no word from God shall be without power or impossible of fulfillment. Luke 1:37 (Amplified Bible)
In a country called Uganda, they became Us.
And more than any other hospitality Uganda would offer, this would be one of the most sacred treasures. One of the sweetest fruits.
In that third culture-- different from hers; different from his—they started from scratch. Together.
And in that wrenching, glorious transforming Uganda became their Home.
It was mercy that brought them there. Sweet mercy.
And for far more than the Initial Proclaiming they had in mind.
Their strongest commonality was the Story of Christ. And they moved to Uganda SURE that this was their purpose. To tell His Story.
And they did. (They do.)
But they would learn, as they spoke His Truths, that the most astounding power in His Story is how it redeems your own.
For this reason [[d]seeing the greatness of this plan by which you are built together in Christ], I bow my knees before the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,For Whom every family in heaven and on earth is named...Ephesians 3:14-15
And His Redemption radiates brightest in every Unlikely place.
Now to Him Who, by... the [action of His] power that is at work within us, is able to [carry out His purpose and] do superabundantly, far over and above all that we [dare] ask or think [infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, hopes, or dreams]—Eph 3:20
Their very union required His power.
May He grant you out of the rich treasury of His glory to be strengthened and reinforced with mighty power in the inner man by the [Holy] Spirit [Himself indwelling your innermost being and personality].Eph 3:16
His Love would do what they could not.
May Christ through your faith [actually] dwell (settle down, abide, make His permanent home) in your hearts! May you be rooted deep in love and founded securely on love,
That you may have the power and be strong to apprehend and grasp with all the saints [God’s devoted people, the experience of that love] what is the breadth and length and height and depth [of it];
[That you may really come] to know [practically, [e]through experience for yourselves] the love of Christ... Eph 3:17-19
And it would be complete.
And I am convinced and sure of this very thing, that He Who began a good work in you will continue until the day of Jesus Christ [right up to the time of His return], developing [that good work] and perfecting and bringing it to full completion in you. Philippians 1:6
They, the Unlikely Ones, would be the Declaration.
Our God is Able.
(scriptures taken from the Amplified Bible)