Cassandra became a close friend and journeying with her, like the biographies I had read of missionaries past, I am reminded that God is just as part of the journey as the destination. Because God is actually interested in a relationship with us, one that develops through time, challenges, questions, vulnerability, faith, community and continued communication. Lets take a look at some of the things Cassandra learned along her way.
In 2006 Cassandra left Pemba, Mozambique in a bit of shock that things had not opened up for her in the DRC and returned back to Saskatoon, Canada. If you have never been to the Canadian Prairies, lets just say the winters are challenging. -30 c, at times without the wind chill factor. Being away from Africa made the Canadian winter even harder for Cassandra.
In her words, 'Everything (dreams of Africa) looked like nothing'. Her friends started deserting her because they thought she was crazy (because of her dreams), she was lonely, her health was bad, and she didn't have a job. In the end she started doubting if it was ever going to happen. But then one night in conversation with God, she heard him say, "Stop crying. Lets start dreaming… who can out dream the other one?!"
In the midst of what she calls 'her desert season', God asked her to dream against the odds. So she would go on walks with God for hours, dreaming about Africa, "I would dream of walking into war zones seeing dead people, and telling them to get up, and then they all would get up. Telling Rebels to, 'drop your gun'." This became the game called "Dream Bigger". She would suggest something and then God in return would trump it. It does sound a little bit 'out there', but she did not have many friends, so no one told her otherwise.
One time during their walks, God beckoned her to start dreaming for other nations as well. And to her surprise people started calling her and offering her jobs in other nations that she was not qualified for (Egypt for example). She inquired God about it, and felt He said 'you can take this opportunity but my best for you right now is Saskatoon'. She was beginning to learn the power in dreaming, hearing and listening to God's voice.
Cassandra says 'dreaming with God' enables us to break through the ceilings (limitations) that we or other people place on ourselves (and enter into the possibilities of God). "I was able to dream to stop a conflict, of going into war zones and meeting soldiers. Now I am able to go into war zones, pray and prophesy over war loads and it be normal. Dreaming takes off this roof of the impossible and postures your heart for Heaven. It breaks off impossibilities. If you can see it, you can have it".
She also calls this the discipline of pursuing 'heaven's perspective'. Often she and her pastor friends in Africa find themselves in situations where its 'depressing and hopeless', where there seems to be nothing they can do in the natural (Congo is presently one of the most hostile environments in the world).
It was in her desert season in Saskatoon, in the midst of loneliness and lack of friends, her relationship with God confirmed her identity that equipped her for the great need in the Congo. Living out of this faith and core identity as God's Beloved, rooted in peace and joy, her and the Congo Pastor's now walk into situations that are hopeless, call upon God and see it shift the area they go in.
Am I Dreaming with God?
In my recent time of transition (I have decided to go back to uni to get an secondary education degree), I started re-asking some of the big questions. Not only just 'what is God calling me to do', but even 'what am I made for'. Of course I am made for relationship with God, but what are the unique gifts, callings, favour, and area of influence I've seen already in my life and should continue to pursue? What are the arena's of influence He is inviting me into? What are the dreams that I am not even daring to entertain? And should I start taking those seriously even if I can imagine how they could happen? You cannot have friends like Surpresa and Cassandra and not ask questions like this. Am I viewing things with heaven's perspective?
I love that Israel's name means 'one who wrestles with God and man and has overcome'. I'd say that Cassandra is one who has wrestled with God and man and has overcome (with God's help of course). The story of Jacob who becomes Israel brings me much comfort in my growth of understanding both my relationship with God and vocation. I am not alone in struggling to enter into heaven's perspective. The funny thing is the struggle often ends up being the joy of the journey because its where we meet God. And its what equips us for the things to come. Isn't it amazing that God already had Congo in his heart, and would invite that 8 year old child to see where her passion meets the world's greatest need?
Andrea Earl is a Canadian resident of NZ. Her first Diploma was through NZ's Capernwray Bible School, followed by a BA at Providence College whilst working with Winnipeg's marginalized poor. After she moved to Toronto to work with Street Youth (featuring the arts), she furthered her education through St Stephen's Master's of Min. After working in Mozambique with Iris Ministries, she returned to NZ and enjoys surf, food, community, and discovering God.
Andrea Earl's previous articles may be viewed www.pressserviceinternational.org/andrea-earl.html