From Fear to Freedom

I’ve been learning a hard but wildly important lesson about trust lately.

In the weeks since we’ve been back from Ethiopia, I’ve been struggling with a mounting sense of fear. This fear has manifested itself in a number of different ways depending on the day – fear over fundraising, fear that I’m a terrible writer, fear of what people think of me because of this or that, fear that I’m not “good enough” to serve in this new position with Sports Friends, and fear that I’m alone because nobody understands the things I’m feeling.

The logical part of my brain acknowledges that this fear is not from God. There are hundreds of scriptures which command us not to be afraid. And yet, my heart is having a hard time catching up with my head and fully believing that I have nothing to be afraid of.

What I’m starting to realize is that this thing I’m struggling with is not really a fear issue at its core. When I dig a little deeper, I find that the real issue is trust. Oh sure, I might say I fully trust God. That sounds nice and churchy, doesn’t it? But real trust in God would produce freedom and peace and joy, not fear. Something is not right here and I know it.

I have been praying some pretty desperate prayers lately. The ones I’ve written down are choppy and disorganized and include a lot of repetition, particularly of the words “please” and “help.” The ones coming straight from my heart sound equally as distressed, and it’s obvious that I’m losing control.

PSALM 69:1-3

Save me, O God!
    The water is up to my neck;
I am sinking in deep mud,
    and there is no solid ground;
I am out in deep water,
    and the waves are about to drown me.
I am worn out from calling for help,
    and my throat is aching.
I have strained my eyes,
    looking for your help.

Like the Psalmist, I know I am in some deep water.

My plans aren’t unfolding exactly how I wanted them to. I can’t control this season of my life and it’s unraveling me. My unmet expectations are slapping me hard, wave after wave.  As surely as this writer felt, I feel like I could drown in the defeat of it all. Because I realize I have no control, I’m operating in panic mode, letting fear driving my actions as I fight to stay above the surface.

It’s in this place, with the water up to my neck, that I have finally realized the only option I have left – to let go and trust. No amount of my own effort to control this season is going to get me to solid ground. I’ve kicked and I’ve flailed and I’m entirely exhausted. It’s time to give it up.

PSALM 69:13-15

But as for me, I will pray to you, Lord;
    answer me, God, at a time you choose.
Answer me because of your great love,
    because you keep your promise to save.
Save me from sinking in the mud;
    keep me safe from my enemies,
    safe from the deep water.
Don’t let the flood come over me;
    don’t let me drown in the depths
    or sink into the grave. 

This is such a hard prayer for me to pray – answer me, God, at a time you choose. It’s so unnatural for me to close my eyes, open my arms, and give up control like this, but I truly have no other choice. He’s brought me to a place where utter dependence is my only option because the way I’ve been doing things just isn’t working.

And yet, paradoxically, relinquishing control in this way feels sacred instead of scary.

The moment I throw my arms open in surrender, some of that fear that I’ve been unintentionally holding onto so tightly escapes. With my arms open wide, I’ve created space for God’s great love to emerge. I’ve created space for Him to show me how He keeps His promises.

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Volcano Pacaya, Guatemala

It won’t be a one-time choice, this surrender. Again and again I will need to choose trust over the need to control, especially when the waters seem choppy and I feel unsure.

I know God will never force me to trust Him. It’s just not who He is and that’s certainly not the kind of relationship He’s after. Sometimes it takes breaking us to get our attention and beckon us back.

PSALM 69:30

I will praise God with a song;
    I will proclaim his greatness by giving him thanks.

Thank you, God, again and again for caring enough not to give up on me.

Is there anything you need to trust God with these days?

Camp Langano: A Top 10 List with Pictures

We’re back!!

To say that we had a great time in Ethiopia is a HUGE understatement. I know it’s going to take me awhile to fully process all the events of the trip (and all of my 900+ pictures, haha!). In the meantime I wanted to post a sampling of photos from our time at camp.  So, without further ado…

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TOP 10 THINGS WE LOVED ABOUT CAMP LANGANO (In no particular order!)

10. Beautiful African Scenery

The scenery in Ethiopia is absolutely breathtaking. I apologize, but even the most professionally-taken photos (which mine are not) can’t do it justice. One of my favorite parts of the trip was the drive from Addis to camp. The further we got into the country the more giddy I became. I was giggling like a little kid, my neck craned out of the bus window with my camera glued to my face. I kept saying to TJ, “Oh my gosh, look! This is REAL Africa! WE ARE IN AFRICA!” Yep, we were definitely in Africa. And the views were everything I dreamed they would be!

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9. Cultural Experiences

We had a lot of fun experiencing the many cultural differences in Ethiopia. From trying to speak Amharic to eating the local cuisine, I can definitely say we gave everything the ole’ college try! The meal you see below is called Injera. Injera is the national dish in Ethiopia and it’s unlike anything I’ve ever eaten before. The tortilla-looking part is made from a grain called teff, and it is SOUR with the consistency of a thin pancake. The stew on top is made from a chickpea or lentil mixture blended with spices, and sometimes the plate included a cabbage, potato, and carrot salad as well. The injera is used as the utensil, scooping and soaking up everything else. When I heard Injera was going to be sour, I thought to myself, “Oh, no problem. I like sourdough bread, so this will be fine!” Um, it was not AT ALL like sourdough bread. I really liked the stew and the salad, but I have to admit that by mid-week I had forgone the injera for rolls of bread instead. Injera was served for breakfast and lunch, and it was normally pasta or rice for dinner.

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8. Swimming in Lake Langano

Swimming in the lake was a highlight for sure! The kids LOVED swimming and it was so entertaining to watch them splash around! Many of them had never swam before. The first day we swam in the lake the water was FREEZING. The other times it was like bathwater. I’m not sure what caused the difference. The views at the lake were spectacular!

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7. Team-building Activities and Games

The team-building games and activities organized by the staff were great! The kids definitely bonded by working through the challenges presented in each situation. The ropes course was a major highlight. There were several stations designed to push the kids to work together and trust each other. My personal favorite was the rope swing! The camp staff really capitalized on the teachable moments that naturally arose from frustration or team breakdown. The activities were both fun and intentional for team growth.

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6. Worship time with the Summer Staff

We sang, worshiped, shared, and prayed with the summer staff in the morning before camp began and in the evening after the campers returned to their cabins. I know I will have more to share on this later, so for now I’ll just say that it was one of the most meaningful parts of camp for me.

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5. Soccer Games

The campers were divided onto 8 teams once they arrived at camp. Throughout the week there was a round-robin tournament going on between the teams, concluding with a championship game held on the last full day of camp. TJ’s team was in the final, so it was especially fun cheering for his players. The championship was a blast! The teams were very evenly matched, making for an exciting game. I was especially impressed by how supportive all of the kids who weren’t playing were for those on the field.

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4. New Friendships

The best part of camp was all the new friendships we made. The group we were with from Browncroft Church was AMAZING. We are so grateful that they adopted us as two of their own! The summer staff and missionaries living in Langano are all unbelievably kind people, and I especially enjoyed getting to know some of my new Sports Friends co-workers who live in Ethiopia. Besides the friendships we made, watching the kids grow in friendship with each other over the course of the week was sweet as well!

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3. Dancing, Singing, and Cheering

Camp Langano was LOUD! The week was filled with dancing, singing, and cheering. Needless to say, I fit right in! Haha!

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2. The LOVE of the Staff and Kids

The people of Ethiopia are incredibly loving. My little heart could barely hold all the love I felt for the people we met! You couldn’t go anywhere without someone’s arm around your neck or hand intertwined with yours. The enormous love the staff had for the kids was inspiring and displayed such a tangible picture of God’s love for us.

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1. NON-STOP FUN

For someone like me who loves kids, sports, and being ridiculously silly, camp was a dream come true! It was pure fun from sunrise to sunset. I know the kids had a life-changing week, and it was a privilege to share the experience with them!

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Off to Ethiopia!

Tomorrow night we leave for Africa!

Needless to say, we are very excited. I wanted to post a great video of Camp Langano before we head out in case anyone is interested to see where we will be going. We will fly into Addis Ababa, the capital, and stay there for a couple of days before making the 4-hour bus trip out to camp. While in Addis, we’ve been told we will get to see some local Sports Friends programming, visit an orphanage, and go to international church on Sunday before heading out to camp. We also visited an orphanage in Guatemala, so this will be the second international orphanage we’ve been to this summer. I’m really looking forward to this unexpected part of our trip and will be interested to compare the two.

If you’d like to be praying for us while we’re gone, here are some prayer requests:

-Pray that we are able to share God’s love with the kids at camp despite language barriers. This is the first trip TJ and I have been on where neither of us speaks the language and we’re a tad bit nervous about it.

-Pray that all the kids at camp have a truly life-changing experience and either form or build upon a lasting relationship with Christ.

-Pray for safe, peaceful travel for TJ and me. I am a little anxious about the long flights (Charlotte -> Chicago -> Frankfurt -> Addis). Also, please pray that we would both be able to get some real sleep during some portion of the plane rides. And if you want to get really crazy, pray for a window seat for me!

-Pray for health for us and our team (a Sports Friends church partner group from New York) throughout the trip.

-Pray that we would build some lasting relationships with our team members and with the Sports Friends staff in Ethiopia. Pray that our visit would be an encouragement to the Ethiopian staff.

-Pray that our hearts are open and ready for whatever God has for us or wants to teach us during this trip.

Thanks, y’all! I can’t wait to share pictures and stories when we return!

Welcome!

Hello, there! 🙂

Welcome to Sullivan Story! If you’ve clicked over here, you likely already know that this is a blog dedicated to telling the story of my husband’s and my adventure with an organization called Sports Friends. If you’ve come to this site randomly or through a friend, you can read about who we are by clicking the “About the Author” page on the top menu bar.

To learn more about who Sports Friends is and to read the story of why I’ve decided to join them in full-time ministry, please click the pages on the top menu bar entitled “Who are SIM and Sports Friends?” and “Why Sports Friends?”.

If you’re interested in learning more about how you can join and support TJ and me in this adventure, please visit the “Support Raising” page on the top menu bar.

Thanks for stopping by!