2013 Gen. Santos – Elizabeth Hogsten

Dependent on Grace

“… to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.” – Ephesians 1:6

I am still processing everything that happened last week during my trip to General Santos, Philippines. I laughed harder than I ever have in my life. I saw God’s Spirit move through me more powerfully than ever before. I saw people’s lives transformed, hearts healed, and mindsets completely change. But the most important lesson I learned on this trip was how to FULLY rely on God’s grace. Not on my gifts, good intentions, or hard work, but on Him alone.

Going into the trip, I thought I was already relying on God’s grace. Heading to the airport straight after a long day at work, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to minister without His abundant grace. But God soon revealed that He had much more grace in store for me than I had realized.

As the team’s “performance coordinator,” I was in charge of directing our team’s body worship dance. But I found myself stressed out the first day of the trip. I was continually thinking through the dance formation, about who needed individual coaching, and how to inspire my teammates to dance with the right, joyful spirit.

After a stress dream the first afternoon, I told myself everything would be fine. But that night during the first revival service, my fears were realized. Because of technical difficulties, we had to stop in the middle of the dance and start again. Even though it wasn’t my fault and it wasn’t a complete disaster, I felt like a failure. I felt humiliated and resentful that I had been put in this role. As a trained performer (I am a piano major), I was used to demanding perfection––or at least excellence––from myself in every performance. I just couldn’t take the “failure” lightly.

In that moment, I had to really take authority over my thoughts and focus on the powerful ways God was working in the room. (The spirit of worship was thick in that place, and people, even little children, were experiencing deep breakthrough up at the altar). But later, I asked God, “Why did the body worship have to go so badly?” I knew it wasn’t really that big of a deal. Everyone else had quickly forgotten about our dance after all the powerful ways God had moved that night. But it would have been so much easier and more pleasant for ME if the dance had gone smoothly. Was that too much to ask?

That night I asked a teammate to pray for me, and as she did, God made it clear that He wanted me to learn how to show myself grace. I wasn’t sure how to take that. Any lesson seemed easier to learn than that. I could learn how to work harder or be more loving or be more confident or more submissive. All that seemed easier than learning to show myself more grace. But God assured me that He was breaking me down in this area very intentionally in order to bring me breakthrough. Leading up to this trip, I had wanted to see God bring physical healing and inner healing. I had desired to see Him transform others and even myself. But at that moment I realized that I had been missing a key part of the equation. God didn’t just want to use me like a tool. He wanted me to minister out of the right heart. He didn’t just want me to work hard, He wanted me to minister in FREEDOM and JOY.

The second day of the trip was Sunday, and our team of 13 split into three groups to minister at three different churches. Before we split up, Pastor Ching, our very anointed local ministry contact, said he had gotten a word from the Lord for the team: This is a new beginning for you. Tears immediately gathered in my eyes I knew God was speaking to me.

Soon after, my three group-mates and I climbed into a sturdy vehicle to journey up to the mountain village where we were going to minister. Riding through the mountains, my hand hanging out the window, fresh air blowing in my hair, singing along with the worship music, something shifted inside me. I felt carefree; confident in God’s love.

Our little ministry group looked humble on the outside. The team leader and team preacher were in other groups. I could have easily questioned whether the four of us had enough spiritual authority to bless the church to which we were sent. But I didn’t feel anxious at all. I knew we were simply flowing in God’s grace. I felt free to simply minister out of the overflow of what God had blessed me with. And that’s exactly what we did. Our mini-team introduced ourselves, did VBS, shared a testimony, preached a sermon, and did altar ministry. And as the four of us went out to pray for the people who had flooded the altar, it felt like the most natural thing in the see them get touched by the spirit of God. It was truly beautiful.

From there, the rest of the trip flowed naturally. Throughout the many revival services and the Orientation Retreat at Faith Bible Institute, I saw God move in all the ways I had desired and more. I saw a formerly lame and mute boy take his first steps ever without assistance––I wept as I saw the look of bewilderment and fear on his face slowly change to one of delight. I saw many people cry tears of healing up at the altar. I remember one little girl in particular. I knelt down to hug her as she stood there crying into her hands. As I whispered, “Everything is going to be okay,” I began to cry with her.

The team danced many God-glorifying renditions of our body worship dance––most memorably at a village located by a trash dump. I teared up, thinking about what a rare occasion it was for this group to receive a live performance just for them. I got to share my testimony at one of the revival services and was blessed by the spontaneous applause that broke out throughout. We saw the Bible College students, all representing different tribal backgrounds, build relationships with each other for the first time. We saw them get set free from unforgiveness and traumatic memories, rising up in their identity as sons of God. Washing their feet the last day of the trip was one of the most powerful, humbling experiences of my life. They were all weeping, and I wanted to as well, being reminded of how incredible our God is that He kneels down to serve us.

But through it all, I kept coming back to the revelation that God doesn’t want me to strive, but to simply be myself. Instead of focusing on a goal and aiming for that goal, God wants me to look at HIM, receive from Him, and then simply pour out what I have received. God has turned my perspective of ministry, and of life, upside-down. No more striving. No more worrying. No more trying to prove myself. I want to live a life that overflows from His grace and love.

Therefore I want to thank you all so much for praying for this General Santos trip and for sowing in your finances to make it possible. I believe the breakthrough I received is not just for me, but is for the entire church family. Let us all continue to receive more and more of His grace, so we may release more and more of His glory throughout the nations. Thank you!

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