Sunday, April 04, 2021

Easter: the scars of His suffering...

Christ is Risen!

He is risen indeed! 

As I celebrate Easter, I am reminded of the extreme sacrifice Jesus made for me, visualizing the pain and suffering He endured on the cross, in order to restore the relationship between man and God. 

John 20:19-20

“On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.”

Jesus appears to His disciples, showing them His hands and His side. His scars. Evidence of the brutalities He suffered. The resurrected and restored Jesus bears the scars of His suffering. He suffered for my sake. His deepest pain became the greatest gift of love to me, to you, to us. I rejoice in His triumphant resurrection and the hope I have of a life spent with Him.

I am forever grateful. 

Christ is risen. 

He is risen indeed.

Happy Easter! May His love be made real to you today. He is our Hope and our Strength. 

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Ebola cases confirmed in neighbouring Guinea...

Breaking news: Ebola cases confirmed in neighbouring Guinea for the first time since 2016.


My heart sank last night when I read that there was a likely resurgence of Ebola in Guinea. Samples had been sent to Conakry for confirmation and today the Ministry of Health in Guinea confirmed the Ebola cases. There have been 7 cases in the south-east of the country, of which 3 died, and all were linked to the burial of a nurse who died late January. 


Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Ivory Coast will need to plan carefully, act quickly and work together effectively. Let's get this right! I know that we are better prepared now than we were in 2014 but there's still a lot of work to be done. 


For Sierra Leone, this means taking immediate action to prevent entry of the Ebola virus into the country. Our Health Emergency Response System was activated to level II, focusing on enhanced surveillance, active case finding and robust community engagement to build trust. At the same time, we have to continue our fight against COVID19. 


Thankfully, at the end of the previous West African Ebola outbreak a vaccine was developed, which brings hope. Although some vaccine is stockpiled in Switzerland, production of the vaccine will need to increase to meet demand, which is challenging when COVID19 vaccines are being ramped up globally.



Saturday, January 23, 2021

2 years since flying...


Today marks 2 years since I last flew out of Sierra Leone! It’s my longest stint in Freetown yet. I had 2 trips planned in 2020 - both were cancelled due to the COVID19 pandemic & closure of the airport. I know this is the way life is for many of us right now. I miss family & friends overseas & I could do with purchasing certain items that aren’t as available here, however, on the plus side - Sierra Leone really does feel like home, it’s full of beauty, I have amazing friends here & well, there’s Italian gelato.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Worship 2021...

Worship is a spiritual discipline that draws me closer to God, reminding me of His goodness and faithfulness. It helps fix my eyes on Jesus, rather than on the many things that distract me from Him. I’m sharing my worship 2021 playlist. It’s a collection of songs that encourage & inspire me, stirring up hope, peace & joy. I hope you enjoy these songs too. If the highlighted link doesn't work, you can search on Spotify: playlist: worship 2021 by sandralako

Here's the list of song titles, with corresponding artist & album.

1. What A Beautiful Name – Hillsong Worship (What A Beautiful Name)
2. This I Believe (The Creed) (Live) – Hillsong Worship (No Other Name – Deluxe Edition)
3. O Praise The Name (Anastasis) (Live) – Hillsong Worship (Open Heaven/River Wild)
4. Oceans (Where Feet May Fail) – Hillsong UNITED (Zion – Deluxe Edition)
5. Who You Say I Am (Live) – Hillsong Worship (There is More – Live)
6. Broken Vessels (Amazing Grace) – Hillsong Worship (No Other Name – Deluxe Edition)
7. So Will I (100 Billion X) – Hillsong UNITED (Wonder)
8. Victor’s Crown (Live) – Darlene Zschech (Revealing Jesus)
9. The Passion – Hillsong Worship (There is More – Studio Session)
10. Guardian – Ben Cantelon (Everything in Colour)
11. Behold Our God – Sovereign Grace Music (Risen)
12. River of Life (Radio Version) – Emmaus Rd Worship (River of Live)
13. Lion and the Lamb – Bethel Music (Have it all – Live)
14. Highlands (Song of Ascent) – Hillsong UNITED (People – Live)
15. The Blessing (Live) – Elevation Worship (Graves Into Gardens – Live) 
16. Together (feat. Russel Dickerson) – Chris Tomlin (Chris Tomlin & Friends)
17. Who You Are To Me (feat. Lady A) – Chris Tomlin (Chris Tomlin & Friends)
18. Joyful, Joyful – Casting Crowns (Until The Whole World Hears)
19. It is Well (Live) – Bethel Music (You Make Me Brave – Live)
20. Cornerstone (Live) – Hillsong Worship (Cornerstone – Live)
21. Beautiful Things – Gungor (Beautiful Things)
22. Your Presence Is A Promise (Live) – Mack Brock (Your Presence Is A Promise – Live)
23. God You Are My God – Vertical Worship (Vertical Worship)
24. Breakthrough (Live) – Red Rocks Worship (spark – Live) 
25. Oh the Cross (Live) – UPPERROOM (Land of the Living – Live) 
26. First Love (Live) – Kari Jobe (First Love – Live) 
27. There’s Nothing That Our God Can’t Do (Live) – Passion, Kristian Stanfill
28. Follow You Anywhere (Live) – Passion (Follow You Anywhere – Live) 
29. Awake My Soul (Studio) – Hillsong Worship (Awake)
30. King Of Kings – Hillsong Worship (King of Kings)
31. The Way (New Horizon) – Pat Barrett
32. You’re Beautiful – The Worship Initiative, Shane & Shane
33. Yes And Amen – Chris Tomlin
34. In Christ Alone (Live) – Passion, Kristian Stanfill
35. Living Hope – Bethel Music, Bethany Wohrle
36. WayMaker – Michael W. Smith, Vanessa Campagna, Madelyn Berry
37. Holy Ghost - Bri Babineaux and Alton Eugene, Maverick City (Vol. 3 Part 1)

Friday, January 01, 2021

It's 2021...


2020 - what a year! Completing my Master in Public Health with a distinction was definitely a highlight, as was time with friends (often at a beach plus a few adventures upcountry to Bumbuna and Gold Forest). Although there were many beautiful moments, #COVID19 marked this year, bringing with it uncertainty, more PPE requirements, quarantine & travel restrictions (no travel at all in 2020!). The words that resonate with the ups & downs of 2020 are grief, loss, uncertainty, dependence (on God), growth, joy, friendship & gratitude. Through the ups and downs, in the mountains and the valleys, God was there. It wasn't an easy year, but I am stronger because of it.

I’m looking forward to an amazing year ahead. May 2021 be full of hope, goodness, love & joy for us all. And may we beat #COVID19 together!

Happy New Year! Welcome 2021.

Sunday, December 27, 2020

The path of grief…

“Life’s beauty is inseparable from its fragility. No one makes it through life without experiencing grief. It is the heart wrenching flipside of all that makes life worth living. Love. Love is of course a source of joy and meaning, a universal binding of humanity. But living with an open heart also means loss.” (Susan David – Moving forward with grief)


To love is to take a risk. 


When we let people into our lives, whether as a friend, a boyfriend/girlfriend or a life partner, there is a risk of losing them. We live in an uncertain and fallen world and although we hope it will not happen to us, circumstances or choices could separate us from the person or people we deeply care for. Death. Divorce. Distance. Breakup. We are not immune to it. 


So, is love worth the risk? Maxime Lagace said: “To love is risky. Not to love is foolish.” I would agree that love is worth the risk. After all, God designed us as relational beings.  However, there is a risk that a relationship will end, whether suddenly or gradually, leading to loss, which sends you down the path of grief.  


“Grief, I’ve learned, is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give, but cannot.” (Jamie Anderson)


Grief is not an experience that we have but an experience we become. It affects our thoughts, emotions and physical being. It’s unpredictable. It is raw. It is complex. It is real. It is changing constantly. Grief can overcome us at any moment. Morning. Afternoon. Evening. Night. It comes with an array of emotions. Sadness. Anger. Fear. Depression. Acceptance. Numbness. Avoidance. Longing. Denial. Frustration. Disappointment. Meaning.


When you step foot onto the path of grief you have to acknowledge that you are grieving, know that it is okay not to be okay and realize that your journey is going to take as long as it takes.  This is the first step. 


Once you have the headspace, you can start to process the grief. Talk to people. Cry. Write down your feelings. Pray. You are beginning to move forward with the experience of grief. This will take time. There is no magic bullet. You can’t rush the process. There is no fast forward button. But it seems like there's a rewind button. You might find yourself experiencing certain emotions over and over again. You might feel as if you’re not as far down the path as you would have hoped to be. That’s okay. You will get there. Remember: it takes as long as it takes. Be kind to yourself.


Eventually, somewhere along the path, you will gain new insights and perspective. Grief is one of life’s great teachers. The loss you experienced will become a part of your life story. You will likely still experience feelings of loss but you will be able to move forward in life, with the grief. It may feel like you're going back and forth between hurt, happiness and healing. That's okay. 

“You are allowed to be hurting, happy, and healing at the same time.” (Female Collective)


Susan David shared the following “promise of grief” in a podcast:  “If you are here with me, you will one day forget me. You will turn the corner and see the light. An upturned smile. A flash of something that sends you the promise that joy is possible once again. But for now, be here.”

There is hope. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. The situation may not turn out the way you wish it would but there is a new chapter being written. Trust that it will be good. This is where my faith carries me through. The last 4 months have been difficult. They are not what I would have chosen. However, I know without a doubt that God wants the best for me and that He has great things in store for me. I just don't know what they are. His ways are not my ways, and His thoughts are not my thoughts, but He is good. I need to trust Him. And on this path of grief, I have learned that "the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard my heart and my mind" (Philippians 4) and that I am to "rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for me in Christ Jesus" (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)


If you are on the path of grief, remember: it takes as long as it takes. Stop. Smile. Breathe. Pray. Keep your head high. Be kind to yourself. Trust. Life is beautiful. Even on the path of grief there is so much to be grateful for. Pursue the things in life that bring you joy. Joy and grief really can exist next to each other! 


Friday, December 25, 2020

Emmanuel, God with us…


“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1: 14)


The fifth candle is the Christ candle. Today we celebrate the birth of Jesus, our Saviour, who came as a baby, wrapped in cloth, lying in a manger. We celebrate the hope, peace, love and joy that Christ brings into the world. He is the light in the darkness.




Although your Christmas celebrations may look different this year due to the COVID19 pandemic, the significance of today is not lost.  I want to share a prayer written by Pete Greig:


“May the love of God the Father bring unexpected comfort to your home today, connecting hearts that are apart, and reconfiguring family this Christmas. May the hope of God the Son, born into dark disruption and deep uncertainty, ignite a little light in your home today, surprising you with joy this Christmas. May the peace of God the Holy Spirit console your soul today, filling your heart and your home with the serenity of his presence this Christmas. 


And so let us return to that first Christmas to find a fearful mother as she brings her baby into such a dark place and time in history. It is not what she wanted. See the uncertainty etched in the man’s features, worried and unable to properly provide, feeling clumsy, unsure of his own role and involvement. It is not what he wanted. Consider their sense of isolation at a time of such vulnerability, far away from loved-ones and home. It is not what they wanted. Imagine the frustration they feel, forced to be here now, against their will, at this most intimate moment by the relentless demands of a distant government. It is not what they wanted. 


This year of all years, perhaps we may celebrate with new understanding the Christmas no one wanted. The fragility of life in the shadow of death, the hope of healing in a dangerous environment, the love ephemeral yet eternal, born to a tiny, vulnerable, isolated, disorientated, disappointed, fearful, fragile family, which is Immanuel, God with us (when others can’t be with us), a Light that shines in the darkness, a defiant hope in spite of everything, Jesus Christ the Lord.”


“The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1: 5)


As you celebrate today, whether alone or with loved ones, remember that Christ dwells among us. In the midst of these trying times, He is present. Always. Emmanuel, God with us. He is the light that overcomes darkness. May the hope, peace, joy and love of God be ever so real to you this Christmas.


Emmanuel: God with us.

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Advent: choose love...


For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)


The fourth candle is the light of love. Jesus coming to earth, as a baby in a manger and the Saviour of the world, is God’s greatest gift of love to us. This is God’s redeeming love, which brings forgiveness, restoration and reconciliation. What a gift! A gift that lasts forever. The utter magnitude of His love for me is unfathomable and beyond amazing. 




Love is more than a feeling. Love requires action. Love requires taking risks. To love is not always easy. It involves a choice and it is often a choice we need to make over and over again. Let’s face it: some people are easy to love, others not so much. Yet Jesus asks us to love everyone! 


Jesus replied:‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:33-39) Jesus teaches us to love God with our whole being. He also teaches us to love each other. Family. Friends. Neighbours. Enemies. Strangers. The hungry. The prisoners. The thirsty. To love our neighbours as ourselves. 


What does love look like? One of my favourite passages on love is found in 1 Corinthians. We are given such a beautiful image of what love should look like. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8a)


What an incredible picture of love. Who doesn’t want to be loved like that? God’s love for us IS that perfect! And although our love for others will never be this perfect, we can ask God to help us love others, aspiring this wholesome love. 


How can we show love to others? Jesus shares what love as an act of service looks like in Matthew 25. Feed the hungry. Provide shelter to the homeless. Give those who are thirsty a drink. Clothe the naked. Visit the prisoners. Meet with the sick. There are many ways we can show love to those around us. Love in action. However, this passage is one that has continuously challenged me. We are commanded, not just advised, to help those in need or we will face eternal consequences. Jesus’ message is straightforward but putting this into practice all the time is not an easy task, especially when faced with people in need every single day. I have a lot to learn when it comes to loving others. 


This advent, reflect on God’s incredible love for you, love God with your whole being and love those around you as best as you can. Love is essential. Especially in this difficult season, in the midst of the COVID19 pandemic, be mindful of people who may be lonely or in need. Share some love with those around you this advent season.


Choose love.


O Come Emmanuel.

~ Act Justly. Love Mercy. Walk Humbly. micah 6:8 ~