by Mommy Emily

It’s afternoon and I’m on my phone, scrolling through messages from across the waters — photos of people who now hold my heart.

And I long to take you all with me.

I long to carry you into this world, into the villages and wide-split smiles that make up the family that is The Lulu Tree. I long for you to hear the jajjas cry their whooping “Hallelujahs” in the open-sky churches as we sit in plastic chairs and hear a message about the goodness of Jesus. I long for you to eat rice and matoke (boiled bananas) and ground nut sauce and to touch the heads of village children who will stroke your white skin in return.

I long to take you to feel the African sun on your head and see the stark line between lush vegetation and impoverished people and the dance they perform together across a land soaked in their ancestors’ blood.

But I can’t.

And I say this with much brokenness and sorrow.

Because first of all, God has called us, as a ministry, to be different. To not do mission trips. To not spend resources on anything that could be construed as personal or self-rewarding but to invest every dollar and every prayer selflessly into people most of us will never in fact meet, simply because we believe in them. And so, we love radically.

We love without getting anything in return.

The only trips we do are those for accountability — once a year, members of our team and I will visit each country to confirm funds are indeed being spent the way they were intended, and to pray in the same room as our dearly beloved brothers and sisters.

But otherwise we volunteer our time in the margins of our day for the sake of seeing these communities rise up out of the ashes through God’s strength, for His glory alone.

We have had teams go in the past and, unfortunately, do a lot of damage, strengthening our resolve to protect our Lulu families and to help them keep their eyes on their Heavenly Father as the Supplier of their needs. The last thing we want is for the presence of westerners to distract them from the One who loves them more than we ever could.

We also don’t allow personal emails, letters or cards to pass between westerners and our Lulu family in Africa, because too often things we innocently put in our messages can unintentionally underscore how different our worlds are. And this gap, this difference, can become a pit of jealousy or discontent into which our precious families fall.

That said, we do desire for you to be able to minister directly to our Lulu family, and so the Lord has given us the idea of a Prayer Wall — that is, a place on our website where you can leave a prayer or Bible verse for either a country or a team or a particular person, and once a month we will share those comments with our National Directors in each country so they can pass on the messages.

We hope you will utilize this Wall, for it will truly bless our families to know they are being prayed for.

And please hear our hearts when we say how sorry we are that things need to be this way — but we are truly trying to do things differently in a broken-down world. So much harm has been done to developing countries in a desperate, well-meaning attempt to help.

The beautiful news is that, through our prayers, we come alongside them in the most powerful and affirming way possible, as we all gather on the level ground at the foot of the cross and celebrate His beautiful redemption for every tribe, tongue, and nation. We hope you’ll join us there.

by Joanne Viola, The Lulu Tree Treasurer

When you follow The Lulu Tree for years, since the beginning of its formation, a mystery takes place in your spirit. The people, the faces, the growth all become personal as the mystery of an attachment begins to root deeply in your heart.

A sense of family begins to develop and with that, a longing to meet these brothers and sisters in the Lord starts nudging within us.

But are we all to go? This is the question I found myself asking the Lord in recent weeks. In His faithfulness, He began to give an answer through an email which delivered the story of William Carey and Andrew Fuller. Let me share:

In the late 18th century, Carey, a shoemaker turned small-town preacher, began to preach that it is the duty of all Christians to reach other nations and cultures with the Gospel. This was a radical perspective not shared by his fellow Baptists at the time.  Nevertheless, Carey began to influence others and in 1792 the Baptist Missionary Society was formed.

The next year, William Carey was commissioned to go to India.  Upon agreeing to travel to India, Carey made an important remark to his good friend and president of the Baptist Missionary Society, Andrew Fuller.

“I will go down,” Carey said, “if you will hold the rope.”

Andrew Fuller spent the next 21 years of his life “holding the rope” for Carey and other missionaries.  He wrote letters, raised funds, and sent encouragement to those serving on the front lines.  There is no doubt Fuller’s work was every bit as essential as the work of Carey in reaching the lost.  If Fuller did not stay home and hold the rope, Carey could not do the work abroad.

(from an email sent to me)

There are those who will surely be called to go. But there are those of us who will be called to stay. We will be called to sacrifice going and to love from afar.

We’re called to hold the rope. To be here praying faithfully, giving generously and in so doing, God does the work through those who go. It may even be a painful sacrifice to stay behind.

Whether God calls us to go or to hold the rope, we are to be obedient to the call.

Recently God confirmed His call for me to “hold the rope”. I have begged Him to let me go “just one time” but His response has been, “Sacrifice and love without seeing. Hold the rope.”

May we all come to know our parts are each needed and equally vital. There is a joy which comes from obedience and being in the place God has purposed.

Sacrifice does not come easy. It is painful. Our Lord surely suffered in obedience as He went to the Cross for each of our lives. May we be willing to do the same.

“Yes, you will be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous. And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will thank God.” (2 Cor. 9:11, NLT).

May we all seek God to confirm our roles and surrender completely to His will. Then may we watch Him do a marvelous work of drawing His people to Himself.

Will you be willing to join us in “holding the rope”?

For more questions about our international trip policy, please email

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