Teacups in the Jungle

Life stories from a missionary mama

Last week a friend of mine gave me a gift. As she handed it to me, she said, “This is in honour of your blog!’ I love gifts, something wrapped up and labeled “For you” is a reason for me to get excited. When I opened the bag and unwrapped the paper, inside was a beautiful teacup. A quaint, whimiscal little teacup, with butterflies on the inside and a funny shaped little saucer. I love it! It now sits on my desk and it is just so lovely to have something new and pretty around. Thank you Jen, I will always think of you when I look at my teacup.

So what is the story behind the title, “Teacups in the Jungle?” I got asked this a few times when I was at home at Christmas. Have I ever even mentioned a teacup in any of my blog posts? I am sure some teacup collector is highly disappointed if they happen to stumble across my blog….basically nothing to do with teacups right?

I do like teacups, always have, since growing up in N.Ireland in a family that used teacups all the time, and not just for special occasions. My grandmother liked nice blue and white ones whereas my mum seemed to have lots of the pink and red floral ones. I have many fond memories of people coming to our house for supper (for non-N.Irish friends this was a meal at about 9pm at night, usually sandwiches, cakes, wee buns and tea) we would sit around the hearth, stories being told, lives being shared and the teacups clinking against the saucers. That was part of my life growing up, a life I loved, felt safe and loved in, a life I was comfortable with and not necesarily wanting to leave. Then God burdened my heart for people who were living in remote, far off places. Places where the Word of God had not yet reached. Places where people where sitting in darkness with no knowledge of their seperation from God and no knowlege of a Saviour who died to pay the price for their sins and satisfy the wrath of a Holy and Righteous God. I knew the wonderful news of Salvation, had heard it many times, I couldn’t imagine not knowing about God. Not being able to read the Bible in my own language. While I was at home drinking cups of tea, there were people who were on the other side of the world living in fear, lost, sitting in darkness, no hope in life and helpless in death. Never ever heard of Jesus.

I was 19 when I set off for Bible School to begin my training to be a missionary with New Tribes Mission. I was terrified. How was I ever going to be able to go to another country, on my own, learn another (maybe 2) languages and have a part in reaching the unreached for Christ? Was I really sure this is what God wanted me to do? I knew lots of other people who surely were much more capable, more qualified, more gifted and much more adventurous than I. God made it clear, He wanted me to go, and more than anything, more than all my fears and feelings of inadequacies I wanted to obey my Lord. I wanted to serve Jesus with all my heart and life, whatever that meant….and gulp….wherever it took me.

15 years later, I sit tonight with insect noises echoing through the jungle. Yes, the jungle. I followed Jesus step by step and He led me to my “uttermost part of the earth”. We have been here in this little village for over 6 years now, sharing the Word of God with precious souls. There is a group of people who were once in darkness and are now our brothers and sisters in Christ, our friends, and also our co labourers in the gospel. It hasn’t always been easy. There have been moments when I have thought Lord I can’t do it….and He has given me strength, grace, courage and peace. He will never leave me nor forsake me.

So why teacups in the jungle?

Because I often feel like a little teacup sitting out here in the middle of this vast, foreign, intimidating jungle. The “jungle” of living in a foreign country, speaking a foreign (and still so difficult) language, trying to learn and adapt to a new culture, eat new food, travel by modes of transport I would rather just read about in a book and lets not forget the zapping heat and humidity. I see myself out here as a fragile, out-of-place, easily chipped, not the most useful and sometimes even looking pretty ridiculous little ‘teacup”.

If anyone was setting off for a trip to the jungle the last thing they would think of packing is a teacup right? A water bottle would be a better choice, or a flask or something practical, sturdy, not so delicate.

And yet, when the moment comes when we are thirsty, really thirsty, haven’t had a drink in forever, dying of thirst…..would we really care what the container looked like? No, because it is all about the water. It is the water that quenches the thirst, it is the water that gives the life, cleanses and washes the wounds. The teacup, the water bottle, the flask, these are just the vessels, and praise the Lord He uses all types of vessles to carry the news of the Living Water. It is not about me, it is all about Him. It is not about what I can’t do, but it is all about what He can do and what He will do.

I love these verses in 2 Corinthians 4 verses 5-7.

For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.

I still often feel out of place in a world where knowing how to harvest a rice field is more important than knowing how arrange a bouquet of flowers. But God has given me a home here and He has given me contentment even in the midst of change and difficulties. He has opened my eyes and my heart to a whole new world and I am forever grateful. I know He has taught my heart so much in the midst of all this stretching. He has taken my fears and given me freedom, and He has taken my sacrifice and graciously shown me that worship is where He wants my heart.

So as I sit tonight with this new little teacup on my desk…. the insect noises in the background, a plastic roof over head and not a teapot in sight….it doesn’t really fit…. and yet I like it sitting there. It makes me smile. The same I hope is true of me, I want my life here to be pleasing to God. I know He could have sent someone else, someone that was more gifted, a better language learner, a better traveler and a more creative mind, but He didn’t, He sent me. It pleased Him to have me sitting out here on an island in the Philippines, struggling my way through some things that way out of my comfort zone. It pleased Him to send me in all my weaknesses so that I may never forget that this life and anything we accomplish is all Him, about Him and for His glory. We have this wonderful light shining in our hearts, we are the clay jars, the fragile containers, the little teacups…..and He is the Living Water, the Treasure. All power is from Him, not from me. I am the vessel, He is the source. Freedom. All glory to God.

So here I am, a little teacup in the jungle, but from my fragile heart I sing;

“Not by might, not by power, but by my Spirit saith the Lord”.

Only ever because of Him,
Philippa.

Some random photos of Izzy and Judah…for the fam. 🙂

Life for baby Judah is pretty good most days. 🙂 

This is the little guy tonight after a cool bath….so happy to finally not be sweating. 

Little Miss Izzy-J is also into tea parties…..naturally. 😉 This was her at the guesthouse having a tea party with “Auntie Becky” last week. Her outfit is a little random……so is life these days. 🙂 

Full of beans……and over her infection again.

We love and miss you all. xx

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