my sister is in Africa, y’all.

It’s February of 2011. I get a two line email from Shaun Groves that basically says, “We’re going to the Philippines. Wanna come?” It said more than that, but that was the basic point. It will take me two weeks to tell him yes.

Shaun and I talk on the phone while I’m still making up my mind, and I will never forget what he says. “There are many reasons why you may have to say no. But please, don’t let fear be one of them.” Fear isn’t the only voice I hear, but it’s the loudest. Still, I say yes anyway. I haven’t regretted it.

It’s February-ish of 2012. My sister gets that same email from that same Shaun Groves. Same fear, different location. She says no. She actually says no way. Not gonna do it. Nope. She calls Shaun Groves and tells him so. Then, she calls me.

She tells me how hard this decision is, because she knows I know. She tells me how uncomfortable she feels, how unsettled. And then she says, Well, I know I’ll feel better about all this once I decide for sure.


I smile, but she can’t see it. “Um, didn’t you already call Shaun and tell him no?”


“So you’ve already decided for sure . . . Haven’t you?”



Sometimes we have to actually make a decision and live with it for a bit before we know if it’s really the decision we want to make. An hour after we hang up, my phone rings again.

Welp, I talked to Shaun Groves. I’m going to Tanzania.

On the phone, she is already a different person.This trip is already changing her. And after 48 hours of travel (that’s a lot of travel), she is there. In Tanzania. On that trip she said no to.

image courtesy of the lovely and talented Keely Scott

The Bible says that perfect love casts out fear. Maybe it goes both ways. Maybe fear casts out love. When I roll around in my fear, it’s really hard for me to love you. In his book, The Anxious Christian (that I finally finished), Rhett Smith was invited to speak at an event that he was scared to say yes to. But he tells himself (and us), “Anxiety is not a valid reason.” Rhett sounds a lot like Shaun Groves. And they both sound a lot like Jesus.

Perfect love casts out fear. But fear is not useless – the fear can actually be used to lead us to uncover what lies beneath. Fear is scary. But so is hope. If we are willing, we can invite love into it.

And so my sister is in Tanzania writing about the ministry of Compassion International along with a team of willing, open-hearted writers. And I’m a messy wreck about the whole thing. Messy. Wreck. Every time I think of them, I start to cry. I did not expect this messy wreck-ness and I’m not sure what to do about it except tell you to read their posts and maybe sponsor some kids. I will be walking around my house in senseless circles and refreshing their blogs every 10 minutes hoping for a post. Please join me in praying for them.

The Compassion Bloggers have written their first posts of the week. I’ve linked to them here. They’ll be writing every day this week. Any support you could give them will mean more than you will ever be able to know.

The Nester


Big is the New Small

Resourceful Mommy

Homeschool Creations

Minivans are Hot

Keely Scott

Shaun Groves

P.S. If you downloaded our dad’s 99 cent book, Scary Hope, and wrote an honest review on Amazon thank you so much! I said I’d announce winners from the pool of reviewers today but it looks like it will be tomorrow. Thanks, friends.


  1. says

    I read your sister’s post earlier this morning and I LOVE her take on hospitality. The photos and stories and beautiful faces have shoved my heart up into my throat. {And she’s not even my sister!}

  2. says

    This past November I traveled to Burkina Faso, West Africa. I had the opportunity to meet my Compassion child. There are no words to describe the joy. I cried when I saw her.

    I, too, was scared to death to go to Africa. When I was a teenager I actually prayed a literal prayer asking God to never send me to Africa. He sent me anyway, and when I knew He was calling me I cried for days before making the decision. My friend told me the same thing Shaun Grove and Rhett Smith told you. And I went.

    A piece of my heart is still there. I cannot think or write about it without tears welling up. And I pray I get to go back one day. God had to send me to Africa to teach me some things. He’ll do whatever it takes, and I am so grateful. The blessing was mine.

    Praying for the team who is there. :-)

  3. says

    oh, i’d be pacing right along side you. how scary. how amazing. how everything. thank you for sharing their stories. i feel a tug on chest that i would like to be used like this someday. thank you for the courage to say yes if the time comes {yet, to be fair, i mmaaaay first declare you know NOTHING about me or my life, so what do you know?… and then, that silence and the “oh” will come :) }

  4. says



    There is something so sweet, so tender, so beautiful about you and Nester; I guess it reminds me of my relationship with my sister….and makes me wish she lived in my online world, too.

    I’m so proud of Nester saying YES; I know her initial reservations. Which makes this a wonderful God thing if ever there was one!


  5. says

    I love these blogger posts. I adore Compassion and pray daily that the Lord would see fit to open the door to allow me to travel to visit one of our 12 kids. Patience is hard when you literally ache to put your arms around a child far away that you love like your own. But these trips bring soothing to my soul (along with a little more ache) to be able to see glimpses and hear the stories.

    I also keep an eye on my Google Reader tab to see if another post has shown up.

    I am praying for hearts to be opened. For steps of faith to be taken. We never know when we first said yes to Precious in Ghana, how it would completely change our lives. I am hoping for many more lives to be changed.

  6. Debra Schramm says

    Last June I had the opportunity to go on a mission trip to China. In the months ahead the Lord brought to my rememberance 2 Timothy 1:7 “For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” I’m so thankful for that scripture. I was at such peace about this trip even though it’s a communist country and what I was going to do was illegal there. The farming village that I was in was the most peaceful place I’ve ever been on the face of the earth. Even the policemen there didn’t carry guns.

    I’m thrilled to say I’m going back this winter.

    Any time fear tries to sneak in on me I remind myself that God isn’t the author of fear and I have the right to a sound mind because I’m a believer!

  7. says

    Right there with ya — refreshing and reading religiously. I just love it that your sister is there. She is such a blessing. :)

  8. says

    I don’t know if you know this, but I work outside the home now for a Christian Mission Center. I spend a lot of my days telling stories, helping dig through old photos to bring past mission trips to life, to share the stories of those that have used God’s grace in ways around the world that have changed lives. Many of the photos I have dug through are from Tanzania and each time I look at them now, I think that this is where your sister is and I think about how her life is changing and she’s changing the lives of so many. She’s doing good work, God’s work, and it’s beautiful. I am happy for her and jealous a little too. My hope in the next year is to go on a trip, too. To take my camera and to help the place I work to bring the story of missions to others and to help other people change lives of those around the world. It’s amazing and I’m so happy for her, and I know it’s big what she’s doing. Scary big, but good big.


  9. Robin Heim says

    You have no idea how much my heart wishes that I and my husband were with your sister and her group right now. Our little CI girl, Noela Nicholaus Paul {8 years old}, is in Tanzania. I’m hoping that someone in the CI group, if they happen to meet her, can give her a BIG, HUGE hug from both of us.

    With love!
    Robin and Ernie Heim

  10. says

    You know I’m hanging on her every word. And your post here is so close to one rolling around in my head these days (I even wrote the title on a piece of paper last week, so it must be official.) :)

  11. says

    Her beautiful face in that picture says it all. She definitely looks like she is glad she called him back. :)

    Praying for her and all of the team. And thankful for the nuggets about fear today. I often let it have too much sway in my heart.


  12. says

    I love this post, Emily. I think one of the ways we know it’s Christ speaking to us is if we’re a little afraid – because part of what He does is lovingly stretch us for His uses, far beyond what we thought or imagined we could do, even with Him behind us. I’m thankful you and now your sister followed the call. I loved her first post on hospitality on Tanzania. With that, and with everything else, it’s not what we lack but what He’s given us that makes all the difference.

  13. says

    I have gone on many missions trips and stayed home and sent loved ones. I always found it harder to be the one that stayed home. I am praying for you as you stay home and pray.

  14. says

    i cannot imagine how you are feeling as the sister if i’m having a hard time. :) her courage is inspiring. i remember thinking the same about you when you went to the Philippines last year. i’m so thankful that both of you said yes.

    sending love your way!

  15. says

    oh how exciting! i totally understand how you brother is in Egypt on an outreach…i cry every time i pray for them! isn’t amazing how it changes us – getting out of our comfort zone, culture, etc?!

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