Fear, in its purest form, occurs when my trust in my Father is being overshadowed by lies of this world. When circumstances begin to careen out of control, when uncertainties seem to be the only certainty, satan weaves his greatest of lies. He works to falter my trust in God. I’ve learned time and time again, when fear is encountered, God proves Himself again and again to be ever so faithful, increasing my trust in Him. This in turn also increases my threshold of when fear materializes in my life.
words + photographs TAMMY STEARNS
A certain smell permeates the city dump, a place of lawlessness in Nicaragua. The smoke-stenched air feeds the description of the area as being “hell on earth.” People of all ages – young and small – dig through the trash for anything of worth. Food, clothing, recyclables are all quickly sifted through before the remaining trash is set on fire to burn down and reveal any metal left behind.
It’s a place of survival.
It’s a place where, in the first six months of moving to the country, my family and I were required to have armed guards just to enter the area.
It is a place God called us to.
My first introduction into the city dump was part of a two-truck, convoy-scouting trip looking for potential areas to do ministry. As we weaved our way through piles of trash, a small boy riding in our vehicle continually warned us, “It’s dangerous here. They will rob you on the way back.”
Fear crept over me even before we saw the five men lined up across the road with machetes and knives. By God’s grace, we were stopped but allowed to pass through, unscathed. This was to be the beginning place of some of God’s greatest work.
Many times as I would pass through the entrance, I would feel fear in the air. Yet, I would sense the presence of my Father ever so greater. He reminded me Whose I was and Who had sent me on the mission. Today, this area is the building site of perhaps one of our most amazing projects: It is home to Center of Hope, a place of safety and refuge for more than 220 children and their mothers.
God reminded me: Wherever He has sent me, He will sustain me.
Less than a year into our ministry, our daughter, Taellor, and I were preparing for an event, and we needed to pick up a few more supplies. Evening was drawing closer; light was turning to dusk, quickly fading into darkness. I knew it would be close, but I thought we could quickly go into the store, purchase exactly what we needed and arrive home before danger would set in. I was wrong.
I didn’t see them at first, but I felt the electricity in the air as everyone shifted their gazes to the men who had just stormed the store. As one man came around the store counter towards the clerk by the cash register, the others kept watch. It was then I saw the gun.
I quickly reached behind me, pulling Taellor close and told her not to leave my side. As I spoke, my eyes locked with the gunman’s; time seemed to stand still. Fervently, I prayed silently, “God, give me wisdom here.” I knew the next few moments would be critical.
As quickly as they had run into the store, they left, taking nothing with them. I don’t know what the man saw when our eyes locked, but I know he saw something bigger than myself. God reminded me: Wherever He has sent me, He will sustain me.
It’s more than likely cancer.
Five words so very difficult to hear but especially difficult to hear in relation to oneself.
The sound is breathtaking.
My mother and father had recently passed due to cancer. My history with those recovering isn’t all that encouraging. I felt ever so alone, even though I knew those who loved me from around the world surrounded me with prayer.
The day before I was to leave to return to the U.S. for treatment, I sat on a bench feeling ever so lost. My mind filled with thoughts, from “How do we get through this?” to “Will this be my last day in Nicaragua?” to “Will I live to return?”
As tears formed in my eyes, my husband, Travis, looked at me straight in the face and reminded me Whose I was. He reminded me fear had no place in this journey for we serve a God who is not a God of fear but a God of Hope. A hope ever so certain.
Throughout my cancer journey, I learned to take one step at a time, never letting my thoughts get ahead of the portion of the journey we were in. I was reminded each of my days is numbered, written in His Book. My number of days here on this earth are determined by Him and Him alone, and I trust in His sovereignty. After three months of moving forward into surgery and recovery, I was able to return healthy to the land in which He had called me.
The message was the same: What satan wanted to use for bad, God continues to redeem for good.
I took a deep breath knowing a few moments later, I would be facing an audience filled with hurt, anger and sorrow. In a few moments, I would be called to give, perhaps, the greatest message I’ve ever had the privilege to share; yet, the emotions were ever so raw.
We had just buried our daughter, a teenager, in the mission field.
I was about to address our friends and family in the U.S. on U.S. soil. “God,” I silently prayed. “Take this cup. I’ve shared so easily of Your goodness and Your faithfulness with those in which we were called to serve in Nicaragua. This is different. This is harder. How do I comfort them?” My legs were shaking as I made my way up to the stage. Quietness came over the room.
“My Words,” God impressed upon my heart. “My message; not yours. Nothing has changed. It isn’t your job to comfort them. It is Mine. It isn’t your job to bring Hope to them. It is mine. You are simply called to be obedient.”
Slowly, the tension of fear began to dissipate as God reminded me once again He is ever so faithful. The message was the same: What satan wanted to use for bad, God continues to redeem for good. It wasn’t a tragedy, Taellor’s death. Instead, it was simply our daughter finishing her number of days here on this earth.
I have learned circumstances will come my way fertilizing soil for fear to take root. However, I have learned my God is greater.
He has covered me time and time again in uncertainty and danger.
He has never once forsaken me. TS