But They Had Families

Moses. Abraham. Noah.


I bet you’ve heard their stories.

Amazing men with incredible faith who did what God told them to do. Who trusted God with their whole hearts and did his works.

One defied a king and delivered his people from bondage with God’s direction. Another left his country and traveled across the map to a land God said would show him. Yet another built a boat in the middle of a desert and trusted God when He said it would rain.

But they had families. And whether or not their families heard God’s voice, whether or not they liked the idea, whether or not they thought it was crazy, they did what they were told.

They obeyed.

They trusted.


“Get out of your country,
From your family
And from your father’s house,
To a land that I will show you.” (Genesis 12:1)

And so Abraham packed up and headed to Canaan (and he didn’t even know where it was, just that he was going to get there eventually). And his wife, his nephew, and a bunch of people from Haran, came with him. ‘Cause he said to. And ’cause God said to.


“Then Moses took his wife and his sons and set them on a donkey, and he returned to the land of Egypt. And Moses took the rod of God in his hand.” (Exodus 4:20)

Moses had a wife and two kids. I mean, can’t you see their happy little family? “Behold, Gershom, get ye on this donkey and let us depart for the kingdom where the Pharaoh will probably want-eth to kill-eth us.”


“Make yourself an ark of gopherwood; make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and outside with pitch.” (Genesis 4:16)

And I can see his sons, “Right, dad. Let’s make a boat… in the desert… and let’s just go ahead and tell everyone it’s gonna rain (whatever that is) and make fools of ourselves because you’re going through a mid-life crisis. Uh-huh.”


I’m not saying I know what it’s like to be a Bible-time teenager with parents going off the deep end.

What I am saying is that I know what it’s like to be modern day teenager with parents saying you’re going on the mission field. Not just that, but,

they don’t know what country,

they don’t know what mission board,

they don’t know the language,

they don’t have any training.

It makes ya feel weird, people. Really, really weird. Kinda like the world is ending, but maybe worse.

You don’t want to believe it. So you don’t.

You don’t want to see the signs God’s providing all along the way saying, Yeah, this is Me. I’m in control of this situation. I know what I’m doing. Just sit back and enjoy the ride.

That’s what He’s saying… but it’s not what you want to hear. So you ignore it. And you continue to doubt.

I told my parents it was crazy.

And it was.

And it is.

It was embarrassing and scary and the best thing that could ever happen to me.


It was the ultimate trust fall. (Which, I admit, didn’t sound like such a good idea in the airplane.)

It’s opened my eyes to a whole new world. It’s helped me grow so much over the past 3 years. It’s shown me what trust is.

That’s not to say I’ve mastered the art of trust. “Trust and Obey” is still not my favorite hymn.

I still doubt sometimes. I also scream and cry and throw temper tantrums.

Sometimes I’m scared. Sometimes I’m angry. And it still seems crazy.

But in my heart, I know it’s what’s right.

I’m not in Egypt. I’m not in Canaan. I’m not on the Ark.

I’m in Ecuador.

And I’m learning to trust.


~Madeline Studebaker

The Gospel Is Only Good News If…

Psalm 91:4

Psalm 91:4

Matthew 25:40

Mattew 25:40

La Cabeza


This all happened last year, while cleaning out the house we were renting in Misahualli.

What my dad found that day left him permanently scarred.




It’s a normal day in the jungle. Birds singing, your father screaming.

(Okay, a little less normal than you’d like to admit.)

What’s wrong with him? Doesn’t he realize your family has a reputation? We can’t expect people to want to attend Bible study when we’re shrieking like we’re possessed!

I slim down the possible causes of his scream based on the endurance and intensity of the… high-pitched vocalization.

1. he found another boa constrictor

2. he’s being attacked by demon monkeys

3. or he’s medicating his poisonous spider bites.




I sneak outside to the backyard where mom and dad are peering into a little wooden box, looking totally freaked out over the contents.

Trying to get a better look inside, I get closer and closer to the mysterious box. But dad spots me.

“Back, back!” he starts yelling. (This is where it seems likely that he ordered me to shield my eyes, but I don’t necessarily remember that part.)

“Mom. What was that thing?” I ask a few minutes later, from the safety of the kitchen.

“Well… A human skull.” she answers.

“You’re kidding me.”


“A human skull? A human skull!” I bellow. Unreal.


“Oh, sorry. Can I see it?”


And there it is. Empty eye sockets staring at me. Missing its mandible. Totally discolored to a mottled brown and yellow -not white like you’d think.

Here’s the best part: bundled in wrapping paper. Happy birthday?


La Cabeza



“Dad! How did you find that… thing?”

“Well, I was going through the stuff in the shed, and I opened the box, and -ugh! -there it was,” he exclaimed. “Staring at me!”

“Who do you think it is… or was, or whatever?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” mom said. “Relative, maybe?”

“Ah, yes, guardian of the house.” I say in my creepiest voice. “What have we done? Disturbed its peace, that’s what we’ve done! Awakened its spirit! Ooooh! Woooo!

“Cut that out!” Dad orders.



So. Don’t ask my dad about the skull.


(We’ve been told its fairly common for skulls and other bones to be left to “guard” houses, so… I was also sort of right. Just saying.)



Blindfolded Rollercoaster


This is not a straight road. This is not a safe road.

This is some crazy roller coaster with no seat belt requirements and no respected speed limits.

I’m about to throw up.


We’re stuck in a cloud… all around is freezing white fog and mist.

I see almost nothing out the window. Probably all the driver sees too.

There’s an “almost” though.

We can see a dirty yellow line down the middle of the road in front of us, like, three feet of it.








But that’s it. That’s all that we can see.

We’re just… believing there’s a little more after that. That there hasn’t been a rock slide or a car accident or we’re about to rocket off the cliff.


This is my life.

I can’t see where I’m going. I can’t tell what’s going on.

But I’m believing He that blindfolded me for a reason.

The truth is, I can only handle so much.

‘Cause when I can’t, Jesus does.


The mountains I’m going to climb, I don’t have to worry about.

He’s taken care of it, and He doesn’t want me to stress over it.

Hence the fog. Hence the blindfold.

Hence the trust I’ve gotta have.


Things are crazy right now.

We’re moving. We’re adding ministries.

We’re continuing down a road we know God has called us to. We just don’t know where exactly this road leads.


I feel blindfolded to what’s going on. But I know there’s a reason.

I can’t see though the fog. But He’s holding my hand.

I’m closing my eyes. I’m not peeking.


But I still see Jesus.

Our ministry is not really ours…

Our ministry is not really ours...

Romans 12:2


Matthew 25:35


It’s a Beautiful Day to Cry


They all demand my full attention. This very second.

They pull and yank and yell and scream and talk and laugh.

And… it’s beautiful. It honestly is.


Children behind me grab fistfuls of my “golden” hair. Twisting it around, braiding it messily and laughing.

Children beside me take my hands and wrap their little fingers around them. Smiling and content, staring up into my face.

Children in front of me hold up the books we brought for them. Touching the pages, showing me the pictures, sounding out the words.


Everyone’s happy.

Everyone’s together.

We’re a community.

My spirit rejoices.


I sit near the ground on a wooden bench between them, ignoring for once all our differences. Today we’re the same.

We sweat, and stink, and we’re dirty.

We smile, and laugh, and we’re happy.


Mira, mira, look at this!” says the girl with the picture books.

Juega, juega, play with us!” say the boys with the soccer ball.

Blanquita eres, you’re so white!” says the little one, giggling, holding my hand.


Today is amazing.

Today is beautiful.

Today should never have to end.


But I get up finally, and head towards the kitchen to see what the women are cooking. I can’t stop smiling as I round the corner of the little school. And then I realize I can stop smiling.

I stop smiling and I start shaking.

Shaking hard, with anger and fury, at the scene unfolding before me.


Covered by the screams of delight, a scream of pain and fear.

Hidden by the distant chatter, a voice bitter and full of rage.

A mother beating her two-year-old child behind the wall, thrashing him with a poisonous, stinging plant. You’ll listen to me next time, she tells her son, continuing to hit him. Oh, you’ll listen…

I can’t stop this. I can’t fix this. All I can do is stand and watch, eyes wide with horror and disbelief. Fear, even.


She looks up as she raises the branch again, and seeing me standing there, watching her. She drops the stem of poison-veined leaves and growls get up! to her son, who lays curled up against the building whimpering. Get up and put your shoes on!

I look in the woman’s face and see hard lines and angry eyes. She glances toward me again, she knows what I saw. What I know. What she’s done. Come! She shouts again. Get up!


Why did she hit so hard?

What did he do so wrong?


I can’t unsee it, I can’t forget it, and I probably never will.


The day has lost its magic and beauty. Every single bit.

Because… it could have been me. I could have been that little boy.

It could have been me. I could have been that mother.


It could have,

But it isn’t.

I could have,

But I’m not.


I can’t tell you why.

I don’t know why God has protected me like He has.

And at the same time, I can’t believe He would allow me to see this.

I’m right here, but sometimes all I can do is watch.

And cry. Go home, lay in my bed, and cry. Cry because I couldn’t do anything. Cry because I didn’t.


This is more than a beautiful country.

It’s pain-filled.





It’s a battle field, do you hear me?

A battle field. There’s a war going on.

Here. Now. And I’m in it.


I’m not fighting against the woman with the switch. I’m not fighting people who taught her to hurt. I’m fighting, to bring them to Jesus. Struggling, to show them the Light. It’s frightening, it’s difficult, it’s draining. But I’m not giving up. Not without a fight.


Cause I believe it’s worth it.

Every minute of it.

Every second.


So I want you to pray for me. I want you to pray right now. Because I’m fighting.

We all are.


~Madeline Studebaker