Showing Up and Laying it Down

We have an amazing team heading to Zeway on Friday.  I say that because each of them is uniquely equipped and passionate for what we’re going to do as we visit orphaned kids and widows.  Six of the 8 team members are going for the first time.  We asked Joel and Kristina Vandiver to share some thoughts on why they are following God’s call to Ethiopia.


JKVandiverBoth of our mothers have died. Joel’s mom died when he was 17 of ovarian cancer. My mom died of a prescription drug overdose when I was 22. It follows that we both have a big space in our hearts for the motherless.

If you listen to Joel give his testimony, he will mention his mother’s death. He’ll also mention David, the youth intern, who came day after day after day to sit with him in his grief. David didn’t say anything, he didn’t do anything, he didn’t bring anything, he just showed up.

If you hear me give my testimony, I will also tell you of my mother’s death. And, I’ll tell you about  Callie, my best friend, sitting next to me as I cried. I’ll tell you that she let me give voice to my anger over the loss. She said nothing, did nothing, brought nothing. She just showed up.

The Good News is that God showed up. In the flesh. The good news still is that He continues to show up. On the good days. On the bad days. On the in-between days. He is a show-up kind of God.

When we visit the orphans of Zeway, we will show up. There will be nothing that we can do, nothing that we can say, nothing that we can bring to undo the losses they’ve experienced. But, we can listen to them tell their stories. We can sit with them. We can enter into their anger over the injustice of their situation. We can hold their hands and cry with them. We can, by our mere presence, tell them that they are worth showing up for.

It’s our prayer that our presence will reveal Christ’s presence. For the kiddos who know Christ, may it be a powerful reminder that He has not left them, nor forgotten them. For the kiddos who do not yet know this incarnational God of ours, may it give them a glimpse of the One who shows up for them every day.

Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles so that we may be able to comfort those experiencing any trouble with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.           2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (NET)


Zeway Trip 2011 052 You’ve heard it all before.  “I’m going to Africa to see how much I have here in the States.”  For me this true, but it runs deeper than that.  I don’t just want to see how much stuff I live with that I think I can’t live without, but I want to see what’s in my heart that I think I deserve, but don’t.  I want to be rid of the latter without neglecting the former.

It’s simple and it’s complicated.  It’s self-entitlement.  What is that, you ask?  Well, it’s saying, “I’m entitled to this or that because I am such and such.”  Yeah, that’s right, I have the right…I must have what I have because of some innate qualities within myself, aside from anyone or anything else.  I look back over my life with astonishment at what I thought I deserved.  This all came to a head in college when I thought I deserved to be a leader.  And, it’s precisely when you think you deserve to be a leader that you lose the right to be one.  Yes, this lesson is easy for me to see now that 10 years have passed.  But, what is in me now that is as obvious to God, but that I don’t see?  What lessons do I still have to learn?012

“For by the grace given me I say to every one of you:  Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.”  Romans 12:3

One right, though, remains clear:  “the right to remain silent.”  I keep this one close by, not because of the law, but because “Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue.” -Proverbs 17:28

Do I have the right?  Sure, I have the right — to lay down my life and deny myself“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” — Matthew 15:24    A quick search on the antonyms of entitlement bring me to:  disqualification, ineligibility, prohibition, refusal, withholding.  Yes!  That’s it!

“But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.  What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.  I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness that is my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ – the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.  I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.”  Philippians 3:7-11

Did you hear that?  Rubbish.  I want all the things I hold dear that I shouldn’t to be counted as rubbish.  That’s a reason to go.

“Do not love the world or anything in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”  1 John 2:15

What is the true antidote to self-entitlement?   Gratitude.  Thanksgiving.  Sacrifice.

Zeway Trip 2011 010


  1. So grateful to be going with you both!

  2. Julie Kouri says:

    Beautiful. What an amazing team God has put together. I can’t wait to hear it all after the trip.

  3. Sandy Burton says:

    I love this, guys. I agree with Julie. This is an amazing team. God always has great plans, He has great plans for all of you!!!

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