When God Gives You More Than You Can Handle

This may come as a surprise to most of you, but… I love grocery shopping.

Well, actually wait.  Let me rephrase that.  I love food.

In all seriousness though, I love getting to stroll through the aisles of Publix while basking in the vastness of flavored ice creams, dinosaur chicken nuggets, and super unhealthy breakfast cereals.  I love the smells of freshly baked breads and birthday cakes in the bakery section, and I love the beautiful sights of the rainbow colored fruits in the produce area.

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But most of all, I love trying to carry all of my grocery bags from my car to my flat in one trip – even if it means sacrificing a groin muscle or a pinky finger in the process.  I know it’s silly – but I do it every single time, and every single time I am left with bruises on my thighs and painful red indent marks across my forearms.  Some would say, carrying all of those grocery bags in one trip is more than I can handle… but I say… try me.

Continue reading “When God Gives You More Than You Can Handle”

Being You-er Than You

2 + 2 equals  4… but so does 3 + 1…

Just because someone may do things a little bit differently than you, doesn’t mean they are doing it wrong.  This has taken me years to understand, and I think I’m just beginning to scratch the surface of what this truth actually means.

I used to want to fit in for such a long time.  Before I became a Christian, I would buy the right clothes from the right stores, wear the right hairstyles, and pierce the right body parts.  I’d listen to all the top hits on Y100.7, speak the American slang, and dive deep into the popular teen magazines.  I did whatever it took to blend in with the cool kids and be “one of them.”

Funny thing is… when I became a Christian, that didn’t stop.  I still was desperate to fit in.  I exchanged my “American slang” for “Christianese,” and I swapped out my Brittany Spears CD’s for Bethel Worship Music.  I still tried to wear the right clothes – you know, nothing to “skimpy” but also nothing to “amish,” and I even tried to wear a purity ring.  (Which lasted a whole five seconds, by the way.)  My first few years of going to a new church and trying to figure out how to be a “good normal Christian” was incredibly intimidating.  I still didn’t feel like I fit in even after I received my salvation card—not to mention, I was super unhappy because I wasn’t free to be myself. Continue reading “Being You-er Than You”

Junk in the Trunk: A Missionary’s Misconception

So I just read an awesome blog entitled, Things I Would Not Say to a New Missionary, and let me just tell you that the post was so wonderfully accurate.  I laughed so hard because I knew exactly what this lady was talking about.  Her post inspired me to get real about a few “missionary misconceptions” that I’ve struggled with in my own life.  As I have said so many times before, I am not a “cookie-cutter Christian,” nor am I a “cookie-cutter missionary.”  I don’t ever want to fit into a stereotypical Christianese box – it limits God and it limits me.  So, I realized that it might be time to demolish a few stereotypes and send some encouragement your way.

First things first, I need all of you to know that after one year of being a missionary… I still have no idea what the heck I am doing.  No, you think I’m joking, but I’m so serious.  This is a very important fact because before I became a missionary, I thought that I needed to have my perfect, holy, and blameless life together before I could go out into the world to serve God and others.  I was so wrong.  When I read back through God’s Word, I quickly discovered that not a single person God chose to use for His glory had their lives in order.  In fact, most of them screwed up before, during, and after they were called and sent out to serve and love God.

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1:27-29 that, “God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful.  God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important.  As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God.”

Is Sam foolish? Check. (Just ask my parents, I make dumb decisions all the time.)

Is Sam weak? Check.  (Especially when it comes to keeping my thought life clean.)

Is Sam unable to boast about how fantastically holy and perfect she is? Quadruple Check. (I am constantly in repentance mode like every five seconds.)

Well, now that we’ve established that…  I hope you feel more qualified to do big things for God because as I’ve discovered over the course of these past few years – my “success” as a missionary is not dependent on my abilities to maintain a perfect track record or get an entire country saved.  (Because honestly, sometimes I can’t even muster up the energy to take a shower or do my own laundry.)  My “success” is entirely dependent on God’s ability and His desire to use a broken vessel like me.  God only requires me to be available and to be willing to move my feet (and to perhaps open my mouth when the time is right).  If His light can shine brightly through my cracks and flaws, then I’m a happy camper.

I’ve had so many people tell me that I am an inspiration to them, and I think that’s a very beautiful thing.  But I really want to stress that I am no different than anyone else.  I am not more holy, more perfect, or more qualified.  Fun fact: Even while I was in South Africa, I sinned.  I know, I know, whip out the holy water and get your pointer finger of shame and judgment ready…

Just kidding about the holy water, but I wasn’t kidding about my sin.  I have never done this “missionary” thing before.  I am learning every single day what it looks like and feels like and sounds like to be a follower of Jesus.  I love Him with my whole entire heart, and I need Him desperately every single day, but that doesn’t mean that my life will be a perfect one.  However, it does mean that it will have to be a dependent one.  That was a huge and humbling lesson that God needed to teach me while I was in South Africa last year.

The standards that I had for myself were “Jesus Standards of Perfection.”  Which, incase you didn’t know… are unreachable standards.  I didn’t cut myself any slack and I really struggled with my own guilt and unforgiveness because I was so fearful of letting everyone down: God, my family, my church, my friends, and anyone else that knew about my journey.  I had to learn that God loved me before I even knew who He was.  He called me to go and love the girls who were (and still are) fighting against the same struggles that I’ve had to fight against, because they need to know what it feels like to be loved and forgiven – just like I needed to know what it feels like to be loved and forgiven.

I have a bad habit of making some of my sins appear worse than others on my “God Scale of Wrath.” I seriously need to throw that thing away, because it’s totally unbiblical and unbalanced.  For example, I’ll pray for a long time about my lustful thinking and how I need to stop cursing in front of my little brother when I drive in Miami’s ridiculous traffic, but I won’t spend much time praying about my pride or my jealousy towards another girl.  In God’s eyes, it all separates me from Him and it’s all equally wrong.  So when I feel like a failure for one “seemingly big” sin in my life, God looks down at me with compassion and says, “Sam, crazy girl, if you think that’s bad, wait until I show you the rest of the junk that’s hiding in your heart.  There’s stuff deep down in there that you don’t even know about yet.”  YOH.  Ouch.  But it’s a holy and purifying ouch, so I dig it.  Because just after the rebuke, comes God’s reminder that I shouldn’t feel shame or guilt or resentment – but instead, I need to remember that He has already nailed all of my sins to the cross.  They are dealt with, it is finished.  He already knew about all of the mistakes I was going to make, and He sent me and called me to be a warrior in His army anyways.  His patience and love and grace know no bounds.  If I am willing to bring Him all of my “junk” and lay it down at His feet, then He will always be willing to deal with it for me.  Without condemnation. Without hate.  Without disdain.

In fact, I think God gave me this job of serving His people because of all of my junk.  I had to walk through some crappy and embarrassing and hurtful things in my life, and those things have given me a heart that is so full of compassion and love and understanding.  When I see someone else struggling through what I experienced, I can look them in the eyes and genuinely sympathize because I’ve been there.  That’s a gift.  Because of my junk-filled past, I get to share a hope-filled future with the people I meet all over the world.  All a missionary really is – is a person who loves Jesus that decides to walk out of their front door and into the world with faith instead of being bound up in fear.  It’s that simple.  I may be living the Christian life in South Africa, but that doesn’t make being a missionary in your backyard any less significant.  All lives matter, everyone deserves the opportunity to receive love and hope through our actions and our words.  Compassion is contagious. (It’s scientifically proven. Don’t worry, I checked.)

So this blog is just a little reminder that we are all equally imperfect, but we are also all equally valuable and useful to God (in the little things and in the big things).  The purpose and the power remain with Him, but the choice to step up and walk in faith remains with us.  So don’t fear failure, instead, have faith.  And if (and when) you make mistakes, run back to God and let Him cover you in His grace.

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Most Definitely Quite Possibly

I can’t keep track of the number of times I’ve heard (or said) the phrase “God opens and closes doors,” but last night the Lord challenged me with a question that rattled my brain a bit:

Why do I limit Him to the confines of a house?

I have kept God in a metaphorical “one bedroom flat” my entire life.  The flat has two doors and one small window incase of emergencies, and it has limited His power and His ability to work in my life for years.  But, last night while I was lying in bed having a minor panic attack about how my money is running out and how my plans for the future keep getting screwed up, God told me to burn the metaphorical flat down.

So, I did.  I set a fire to my expectations, my fears, my worries, and my 5 year plan.  I set a fire to people pleasing, to following the crowd, and to stereotyping Christianity.  I set a fire to who I thought God was and to who I used to be.  Now, I stand out in the open – vulnerable to the world – ready to be used and lead by my Awesome Dad. There’s no turning back now.

It’s a really scary place to be, but when I look back through the bible at all of the other crazy people who decided to follow God in reckless abandonment, I am comforted by the fact that I’m not alone.  Abraham almost had to kill his only son after God promised him decedents that would number the stars, Gideon had to fight a battle against over 100,000 men with only 300 soldiers, and Paul was thrown in prison and beat up because of His hope in Jesus.  If they can move forward in faith, so can I.

I moved here 8 months ago, and within this past year God has turned my entire world upside down.  I came to coach soccer and impact the lives of little kids, but He had something much greater in mind.  I’ve worked with the training4changeS after school futsal program to keep kids off the streets and to equip them with life skills and a safe place to play and grow. I’ve partnered with STOP human trafficking South Africa to teach kids about love and purity along with the dangers of sex trafficking and prostitution. I’ve spent time in Drakenstein Prison building relationships, sharing the Word, and playing soccer with the boys from Ambassadors Football. Not to mention, I’ve been given the amazing privilege of playing the sport I love for a team that has become my second family.

Whew. Ok. Fast forward to today.

Well, a lot of things have changed.  Firstly, I am no longer coaching, and to be honest, I never saw that coming.  However, as more stepping stones are being lit up on my path, I’ve realized that the road looks a bit different than I thought it would.  But, it’s a road that is better than anything I could have imagined, and God knows the desires of my heart better than I do, so my only responsibilities are to be willing and available.

I am investing more and more of my time working with the youth, especially girls.  God keeps putting me in situations where He uses me to speak and teach about the things I struggle with most, and it is absolutely insane.  Purity is a huge area of weakness for me, yet He has me working and speaking at girls conferences and churches and schools about sex and love and lust.  Every time I speak, I know that He’s really the One doing the talking, and every time I feel accused and judged by the enemy for not being “good enough,” “pure enough,” or “holy enough,” I am reminded that Jesus loved me even in my darkest times.  His power is made perfect in my weakness, and His grace shines brightest in the darkest places of my heart.  And that’s enough to make me fall on my knees in worship.

I am going to be spending much more time working alongside STOP human trafficking who’s aim is to save girls who are being sold, abused, and used for sex.  I have been given the opportunity to write STOP’s blog posts and to speak in front of the hundreds of kids we reach out to when we present the Valuable to Jesus and the Traffic Proof Prevention programs to them.  Also, (and this is a HUGE also) I have been asked to join the STOP team on a week long trip to Uganda next March to help train up the army staff and their wives in human trafficking prevention.  We are also going to do an outreach to a refugee camp in the North of Uganda, and I may even get to teach the girls soccer!

To help equip me for this adventure, I am hoping to attend an International Human Trafficking Conference for Africa in October in Simon’s Town, SA.  It’s a three day long conference that will teach us about Illegal Migration, Human Smuggling, and Trafficking.  I am pretty pumped up about the opportunity!

The more steps I take forward while holding the Lord’s hand, the darker and riskier it gets.  But, the beautiful thing is that the tighter I grip my Fathers hand, the softer my heart gets.  I am led into places where most people would never dare venture, but I am comforted by the fact that I don’t go there alone.

Alright, now this is where one of my biggest steps of faith comes in.  I need your help.  As you guys know, I am here in South Africa on 100% donations.  I cant work because I am on a charity visa, so I need to be supported by my friends, family, and anyone else with a giving heart.  I am planning on coming back to South Africa in January to finish what God has started, so here are practical ways you can help:

  1. The International Human Trafficking Conference in October is 125$ for me to attend.  This will really equip me to fight human trafficking in a more efficient way.
  2. I don’t know exactly how much the Uganda trip will cost, but I do know that I will need to pay for food, accommodation, and travel. The estimation is about 10,000R. which is about $800.  I am totally trusting God with this one because it is going to be a dangerous trip, but the Lord promises to be my Protector and Provider so I’m going to walk by faith here!
  3. I plan on staying in South Africa for at least another year, so my monthly budget is about $2500 to cover rent, petrol, food, electricity/water, healthy insurance, phone bills, and ministry expenses/tithes.  Thank the LORD for the amazing exchange rate (10R = 1$).  I owe Him big time for that, haha!
  4. There is a girl here in South Africa who is a good friend of mine. She has a heart for God and for serving the girls as a football coach in South Africa.  She is an overcomer, but her dad lost his job, her brothers and sisters are addicted to drugs, she has a daughter who she can barely afford to keep in school, and she is trying to move out of her home because of the dangerous environment surrounding her with drugs/alcohol and violence.  I would love to be able to help sponsor her monthly because I know that she has so much potential to change lives, so if any of you feel the Lord nudging your heart to specifically support her, please let me know!

To donate: 

Visit   http://ssmfi.org/missionary/samantha-stokesberry/

Or send a check payable to Shepherd’s Staff by mail to: 

Shepherd’s Staff Mission Facilitators 

6739 Academy Road NE, Suite 320 Albuquerque, 

NM 87109

(Put my account number #6020 in the memo section)

I never would have made it here if it wasn’t for you all.  I wouldn’t have had the courage to step out of my comfort zone and move across the world if it wasn’t for the constant love and support that I have received from my family and friends.  I am so grateful for the army of loved ones I have standing with me.  I want you to be blessed by what God has been doing, because without your financial support, none of it would have been possible.  I know that things are about to get hectic, so please keep me and the ministries (especially the STOP team) in prayer!  Even if you don’t have the means to support financially, prayer support is something that I will need even more!

I’ll end this letter with these honest words…

The plans I have for my life will most definitely quite possibly come to fruition, but even though I can’t and won’t put my faith in my own plans, I can and will put my faith in a God Who’s love will never fail, Who’s plans are for me to prosper, and Who’s never going to leave my side.

My Heavenly Dad gave me these verses to hold onto in tough and nerve-wracking situations, and I want share them with you.  Hopefully they will encourage you as much as they have encouraged me:

“I have called you back from the ends of the earth, saying, ‘You are my servant.’ For I have chosen you and will not throw you away. Don’t be afraid, because I’m with you; don’t be anxious, because I am your God. I keep on strengthening you; I’m truly helping you. I’m surely upholding you with my victorious right hand.” 

-Isaiah 41:9-10

Love you all.

Sam