Wow, so may things happened while I was in Africa that I am finding it hard to decide which things to write about. Instead of just choosing something, I just have not written anything because of my recent indecisive nature. I realized today that instead of not writing at all, I should just write about as many things as possible.
As I was thinking about Africa today, one thing continued to pop into my head- The Westbrook Family.
The Westbrook family arrived in Pemba about one week after everyone else. I was instantly drawn to this family. They were so unique and beautiful. Jonathan, the father, was one of the strong sort, but not intimidating and scary. It was the same with Cindi, his wife, but she had an extra bit of flare that was released via her beautiful confidence. Their children, Liza and Elliott, were the most precious children I had ever seen.
Very soon after their arrival I asked the Westbrooks for a dinner date. During that time, I heard their testimonies and shared mine as well. I knew, from that point, that God would be using them in my life.
About three and a half weeks into the school, Patricia Bootsma came to teach and impart to us. During that time, she called for students who had struggled with sibling comparison to come forward and receive prayer. In the beginning she was breaking off rejection and shame, but then she called for all mothers and fathers to come forward, as she felt it was a time for us to forgive our parents.
At this point, I felt someone embrace me and begin praying for me. At first I was not sure who it was. When I realized it was Jonathan, everything in me wanted to escape. Why? I knew that God wanted to use Him to do a work in me that I was afraid of.
After a few minutes, Jonathan said to me, “Do you want to forgive your dad?” I was surprised at this because, to my knowledge, no one knew that I had never actually forgiven my dad. You see, I spent many years saying I had forgiven him, because it was the right thing to do, without actually releasing the situation to God and truly forgiving him.
I knew that somehow, by the grace of God, I truly wanted to forgive him this time. I did not want, however, to repeat some silly prayer to forgive him. Those never worked.
“I’m going to lead you in a prayer to forgive your father,” stated Jonathan.
Somehow, I could not say no. I knew that Jonathan’s wisdom was greater than mine in this moment. He led me in a prayer to forgive my dad, and it was so very powerful. Instantly, I knew something was different. I began to question myself. “Could I really have just forgiven my dad, for real? Is it possible that I actually broke through twenty years of bitterness?”
Then Jonathan walked away, and God answered my questions. I literally felt as if I was going to blow away. Everything in me was attempting to anchor myself to the floor. I seriously felt so light that I could not reason with myself that it was not logical to think I would blow away. And that was when I knew- An entire lifetime of bitterness was lifted in an instant, and the weight was gone.
As if this was not enough, God continued to use this family in my life. I watched Jonathan and Cindi love one another with a pure and holy and honoring love- a love I have never seen before. I watched them love their children with such sweetness and joy. I even watched their children pour out to every single person around them.
Near the end of the school, I received a prophetic word that rocked every false belief I have about myself over the past few years. As I was receiving the word, and immediately after, I kept thinking that all I wanted to do was run into Cindi’s arms. I thought about her for about twenty minutes as people were standing around me, praying for me. I was simply to wrecked to look up to see where she was. The very first moment I was able to look up, she was standing across the room, right in front of me, looking in my direction.
The journey across the room to her embrace was seriously like a dramatic scene from a movie. She welcomed me into her arms with such love- a love that comes only from a mother. And for the first time, I felt as if I deserved that love. I cried more in that moment than I think I have ever cried. She spoke truth and beauty over me, something I needed desperately.
I knew that my life was changed because of her that night, but I did not even know all of the details of the work God had done. A few days later I had the chance to sit with Cindi and talk to her about my experience. As I was explaining to her my feelings of deserving the love I felt that night, she said to me, “So, a better way to put that would be that you felt like a daughter.”
Wow. All summer I contended for the Father’s heart- to know my identity as a daughter. I kept wondering if and when I would receive that. Cindi helped me to see that I received something beautiful, and that God was answering my prayer.
Her love and commitment to see me grow was a vital part of the work God did in me. When I ran and put up walls, she chased after me and broke them down. She didn’t let me get away. She saw the potential and ran after it.
That changed my life.
All of this doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of the deep amount of treasure that this family poured into my life. Their children wrecked me. They made my heart leap for joy. They showed me the Kingdom of Heaven through beautiful eyes. They loved me without hesitation.
I am forever grateful for this family.