Trip Video!

Since I’m probably never going to get around posting about all the stuff that happened on the trip, here’s the video I made to show at our church. It gives a pretty thorough over view of what we did. πŸ™‚

Oh I Need Thee

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(This picture doesn’t really have anything to do with this blog post, but I like the memory so I put it on here. This was a house visit… we found out that this family goes to La Esperanza church. They’ve been Christians for about 3 years. She was telling us some hard stuff in their life from actions they made before they were Christians, and we were encouraging her.)

I’m finding that it’s rather difficult to write or talk about the trip. It’s the sort of thing with such deep and far reaching impact that words just don’t really… cut it. I’m still trying to figure out exactly how it impacted me, and where I’m to go from here. And yet, I sometimes find myself slipping back into being Americanized again…

One of the things that stood out to me upon returning was the fact that I didn’t see my need of God here the way I did there…

I started out the trip having been awake for 20 something hours straight, and for the rest of the trip I only got about 5-6 hours of sleep per night (on fairly thin mattresses on the floor with various other complications like lights, talking, warm weather, and scorpions.) And I’m the sort of person that gets tired easily and needs 7-9 hours. Not only that, but I was sick the whole trip–the first week I had a cold from home, and the second week I had some minor stomach trouble which made me more tired and weak. On top of all that, there was the meeting of many, many new people–on the team and during ministry to the local people. And then there was the spiritual aspect. And the being much more active than normal combined with the much higher elevation than Florida. And so on and so forth.

The first morning I was there, I remember thinking, I am going to need time with God in the mornings more than I need sleep if I’m going to be effective. So I got up earlier than I had to every morning and spent time praying, reading the Bible, and thinking.

When I got back to the US, I thought, I NEED SLEEP. Which, I did. But I forgot than I still needed God more than I needed sleep. I forgot that spending time with Him first thing was what kept me going on the trip. And so those first few days at home were quite hard.

December 20th, 2013

“Well, we are back in the states. It’s even harder and more overwhelming than I imagined… when we got to the Atlanta airport last night, I saw a stupid story about Duck Dynasty on TV and a headline about Obama, plus tons of lights and people and motion and words, and I felt sick. I seriously wanted to go back. Gracie and I joked that we’d go back once we’d had our warm showers, haha.

In the airport we all sang “O Holy Night” (first verse) one last time… that was cool. Most people thought we were crazy; a few videoed it and a few joined in. A couple people clapped at the end. It was weird, though… I mean, in C.A., people look at you funny, but it America it’s like they are mad at you for simply being happy and having fun together.”

~~

December 21st, 2013

“I am still having a really hard time adjusting. I feel so out of place and I don’t know what to do. I’m getting annoyed really easily and everything just seems so overwhelming, even the trip. . . I feel so different but not in a good way.

I need to remember to trust God for here and that He has work for me in the US too.

It’s so hard going on stuff like this because then you don’t feel at home anywhere… I guess it is to help us remember that heaven is our home.”

~~

December 22nd, 2013

I realized something this morning–in CA it was abundantly clear that I needed God. I was tired; I was sick; I was in a strange place; I was doing things for Him that were out of my comfort zone; and so forth.

Do I need Him less here? No. But it is far easier to ignore the need here. It’s much easier to just do normal things that don’t require His supernatural strength.

This is why morning devos are easier to skip here. There–I knew I needed it and got up early to make sure I had 30 min. to an hour.

Here–I haven’t really done it yet, though I’ve still done a bit.

So… today it begins. I need Him; almost more, here. Here, the demons are far less obvious. Watchfulness is so important.”

I’d like to say that after that I’ve never missed morning devotions… but that’s not true. I still struggle with it, but I am making progress.

I’ve also been settling into my role in ministry here in America again–there is plenty to do if you look and are willing.

AND… I have another opportunity to go to Central America in about 6 weeks. πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ This is a shorter trip (one week) with a difference focus and much smaller team. I am looking forward to seeing what God does!

On Guard

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One of the highlights of the trip ended up being our guards. Whenever people from the US see or hear about them, they usually get rather alarmed and think of how dangerous it must have been for us to have needed guards. Well, yes. But we saw a lot more. We saw the governor taking care of us.–she is a friend of the ministry (in spite of being communist, go figure), and when she heard about the attack on SOS in Nigeria, she said, “not on my watch” and sent us four guards.

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I must admit, at first it was rather startling to see guys with M16s hanging around. Not exactly something I’m used to. We were all a bit uneasy about it, since we had no idea what sort of men they were. But we also saw an opportunity: to share the gospel and to love them. So we were very nice to them–thanking them, giving them plenty of good food (And snacks. Their pockets were full of snacks by the end, haha.), praying for them, talking to them about life and Christ, getting them to join in on our fun, taking them with us when we ministered in the villages (partly for our safety, but I think it really was more for their benefit.) and so on.

Oh, and we also saw an opportunity to take pictures with them. πŸ˜› This was the last day… on the left is Jose A. and on the right is Sgt. Jose. (we had three Joses)

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And I’ll put this one in here just because it’s a great picture.

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On the last morning, Shelly and Paul had a really good opportunity to talk to the guards and have a Bible study with them. Several of us had been talking to them all week, but that morning was very special. I went over closer to pray, and ended up joining the group… I pulled over a chair for Sgt. Jose and myself. I mainly just listened and prayed. I was really excited, not only because of what was happening, but also because I actually understood most of it even though it was nearly entirely in Spanish. It was a very neat experience. The best part was that several of them indicated that they were ready to accept Christ. I am not sure exactly what happened with them, but they are certainly very close and there is at least one of them that I believe got it. We have been in touch with him via facebook and there is some evidence of life change. Please be in prayer for them.

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During our group devotion time, we had been talking a lot about being watchful and on guard in our prayers… I thought it was a nice idea, but wasn’t exactly sure what it meant in real life–Until the the night before we left, when I sensed something wrong spiritually. Three times in a row I either heard or heard of someone being criticized. I prayed some, but then as I was sitting and thinking about it, I saw one of the guards over on the side, watching. And I realized that it’s just like their job, only they are looking for physical trouble and we are looking for spiritual trouble. Most of the time it seems like everything’s fine–until it’s not. And if you aren’t watching, you won’t see it until it is too late.

In the experience that I had that night, had I not been paying attention, I would not have realized that it was a spiritual attack, and I would have been swept right into it. In fact I almost was, which was part of what raised my suspicions that something was actually wrong spiritually.

After I realized that about being on guard, I went and talked to a lady on the team that I had become close to, and we prayed together. It turned out she had been criticized as well. Shortly after we prayed, I was talked to. If I hadn’t been praying and seeing the trouble, I likely would have responded differently and it could’ve become a real issue. Instead we ended up all praying against that spirit of criticism together, and we were more united instead of less so. It was not a very nice experience on the whole, but I learned a lot.

Since coming back to the US, I realized how few of us are on guard spiritually here. I know my guard went way down when I got here. If it wasn’t for my experience there, it might have stayed down. However, I was watching, and I saw what was happening… the more I think about it, the more disturbed become.

Something is wrong, really wrong, here in the US. We don’t even realize that there IS a battle half the time… It seems to me that the enemy has quite the deception going on here. There, people know there’s a real spiritual battle. Here, we’re “too smart” to believe in all that. Oh, our prideful, intelligent ignorance. How blind we are! And how much power we have given to the enemy. There is so much evil here that we just don’t see because we aren’t looking. We aren’t on guard. And so the enemy infiltrates with little to no resistance… and too often, by the time someone sounds the alarm, it is too late and much damage is done. We are not even defending ourselves in prayer and in the word… much less actually attacking and doing damage to our enemy.

I am pleading with God that He will open the eyes of the US church… that she will stop being deceived by her riches and see what is happening. There is so much we are missing… both of the very real spiritual battle and of the riches of Christ. It deeply saddens me… how much more must it sadden our dear Savior. We have become like those who…

…have healed the hurt of the daughter of My people slightly,
Saying, β€˜Peace, peace!’
When there is no peace.
12Β Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination?
No! They were not at all ashamed,
Nor did they know how to blush.
Therefore they shall fall among those who fall;
In the time of their punishment
They shall be cast down,” says the Lord.

Jeremiah 8

Let us fall on our faces before God and ask for His forgiveness and healing. Let us watch and pray.

And… it Already Happened.

SOS group

The trip was amazing in so many ways… I will be blogging about it for a long time, most likely. But there are a few things I want to talk about right now, and they’re thoughts that came after the trip. So… here it goes.

Coming back home was way harder than I expected. I didn’t want to leave… and then when we got to the Atlanta airport and there were two TVs on one wall with a stupid story about Duck Dynasty and a newspaper article with “Obama” in it, and there were so many people who weren’t happy and weren’t speaking Spanish, and there was SO MUCH STUFF and it was so bright and there were so many words and… I just wanted to go back. It didn’t help that more and more team mates were leaving at each part of the trip, starting the day before.

I was happy to see my family, but even home felt odd and unfamiliar. I’m afraid I wasn’t very mature in working through it… nor was I focusing on others.

Sunday morning, though, I went outside to pray and think and read my Bible… and I realized something.

When I was in Central America, there wasn’t the slightest wondering whether or not I needed God’s help. I was tired and sick; I was in a strange place; I was with loads of new people; I was doing things I’d never done before; I was very obviously involved in God’s work… and so forth. I knew right from the start that I had better spend time early in the morning praying and reading the Bible or it just wouldn’t work. And I did. And God gave me strength and words and blessing. It was hard; but He was there.

Back home I wasn’t spending time with Him first thing. Somehow I thought I didn’t need Him anymore; not consciously, of course–not in so many words–but that’s what I was saying. And that’s a huge part of the danger here. There, we were well aware of the dangers, both physically and spiritually. We were alert; on guard in our prayers.

Here, you don’t see the battle sharply. It’s still there; in some ways even worse than in Central America. But in America we can afford to cover it up. There, when you don’t know if you’re going to have food for the next day, and your life is in danger from many other directions, it’s pretty hard to pretend. Life and death is a real and constant struggle. But here… we can actually seem to get along okay without God. We can distract ourselves from our soul struggle. We can bury it. Of course it doesn’t quite work, but we still try. And to some extent we don’t see it anymore; we don’t have to face it straight on.

There, you look into these beautiful faces and you see a person without God, without hope, and your heart aches for them to know, to see. You so badly want them to get it–you want them to come to Christ. And you pray and you cry and you hike and you keep on even though you’re sick and don’t really have the strength. Because how else will they hear?

Here, you hurry along quietly in your busy busy day (why must we always be so busy? What’s so wrong with just being alive, talking and BEING?), mostly ignoring others. They are just as lost as those dear ones there; but yet, somehow, it is easier to ignore. They can figure it out; someone else will tell them. They already have enough information, they already have their own beliefs.

There, you speak words of encouragement and blessing to your brothers and sisters in Christ… you realize vividly how tough the battle is for them. You ask how they are, and really listen. You do whatever you can for them with what little time you have, and you wish you could do more. You give hugs. You pray. You love them. And you can’t even speak their language.

Here, we’re often “too busy” (with what, pray tell??) even for that. We don’t usually take the time to really know how people are doing; we don’t love enough to help even though it hurts and it’s messy. We know the language; we live close by. And yet somehow we don’t see how hard the battle is here, for them. Perhaps because they aren’t sitting in a mud hut and telling you about how hard life is as one of the only Christian families in the area. But that doesn’t mean that things are okay.

It’s tragic, really.

And I pray it ends with us. Let’s not be too busy for people, saved or unsaved. Let’s take time to listen, to really care. To pray. To help.

So This is Happening!

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Our room has been taken over by suitcases…

Yeah, we’re taking all that… plus 3 backpacks and another carry-on suitcase, if we can persuade Josiah he needs it. πŸ˜‰ Not sure how carrying all those will go, but I suppose we will figure out a way… We aren’t quite finished packing, so we’ll be working on that tonight and tomorrow and the next day. We are leaving early Thursday morning (leaving home at 4am and leaving the airport at 7:30).

All the big suitcases will be empty or very nearly so on our way back… most of our personal stuff will be in the carry-ons. The five big suitcases are full of clothes and bags with gifts for the children. We have a very generous church family. πŸ™‚

Well, I have lots more pictures from the last few weeks, but I don’t know if I will get them up before the trip, and I don’t know if I’ll be able to blog during the trip. Oh well. I shall return for sure after the trip, but it may take a while since Christmas is right afterwards, plus company and all sorts of other things.

Please be praying for us! Pray that we will be bold for the sake of the gospel, that we will be filled with Christ’s love, that God will help with language barriers and translators and all that, that we will stay well/accept illness gracefully, that the team will be unified and a good witness, and whatever else comes to mind. Thank you!! πŸ™‚

17 Days!

Til we leave for Central America, that is. Crazy! I don’t think I really believe it yet. I probably won’t till after we are on the airplane, and even then I probably won’t. Oh well.

All the legal and money stuff is done now, which is awesome. Now we just need to keep learning Spanish, stop eating sugar (for the last two weeks, in hopes of staying healthier and maybe getting less bug bites.), pack, and hopefully get more donations (both monetary and actual stuff) for the people down there.

I don’t really feel ready, particularly spiritually. I’ve been struggling with unbelief/doubt. By struggling I mean that I have not just been giving in to these thoughts– I’ve been fighting against them in various ways. But it’s… not nice. I would appreciate prayer.

I am realizing that God is preparing me, though, even through the doubts themselves, and that as I submit to Him, He will prepare me in the way He knows is best. So I am resting in that.

Besides trip preparation, we have a lot going on.. my mom left for Missouri yesterday and won’t be back till next Sunday, plus we have something going on every day this week. (we definitely have no reason to say we are bored!)

Bright Lights is tonight (we bumped it to the third week this one time because last week we just returned from camping.).

It is about being fully dedicated to God–a pretty huge topic/decision. Not something I want to present or ask lightly. If you do it–or rather ask God to–He will, and it will be hard. Glorious, but hard. It will be worth it all in the end, but we must be prepared to stick it out, to stay in the fight. Even when it doesn’t make sense and there are so many doubts and difficulties. If you see this tonight (Monday the 18th) , please pray for us. πŸ™‚

Trip Timeline (So Far)

August 25th 2013– “Wonderly and Co.” (Paul Wonderly of SOS fame and two friends) visited our church. Paul told us about the upcoming trips. (Also they ate tacos at our house.)

Wonderly and Co

August 26th 2013–Our dad suggested we go on the December trip to Central America. We started looking it up and considering it seriously.

August 20 something–we started filling out our applications.

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September 6th–Josiah and I applied for our passports

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September 16th–We had all sent in our applications and were accepted.

Also September 16th–we got our passports!!

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September 18th– Hannah and I earned $200 each by staining grout

October 1st–we had our first donation of $10 from a little girl who goes to Bright Lights. πŸ™‚

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October 9th–We found out we needed $950 basically ASAP and then $500 ish two weeks after that.

October 11th–I scraped together my money and had $650

October 12th–My dad gave me $200, so I only needed $100. I asked God to provide it at church.

October 13th–Before church even started, one of my friends at church handed each of us a check. For $150 each.

Also October 13th–We did a slide presentation at church about our trip.

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And ALSO on October 13th–We found out that someone from church had donated $2,000!!! Which means… that our trip is now FULLY FUNDED!! πŸ˜€ That, folks, is God in action.

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(I took this picture last night, but turns out today is Columbus day. Which means the mail isn’t running. πŸ˜› So it goes out tomorrow instead. But still!!)

It’s been quite the adventure already! Looking forward to watching as God continues to work. πŸ™‚

P.S. If you want to donate still, feel free. We still have a few more expenses to cover and we are also still collecting money for SOS Ministries.

Central America

I’ve always wanted to go on at least one short term mission trip. (Probably all those missionary stories we read as a family… Plus the fact that both my parents went on one. My dad to Indonesia, and my mom to Honduras. They both talk about them regularly, and they obviously affected them–and not only them, but us as well.)

Especially after my trip last year. I ended it with the attitude of, God, wherever you want me to go, that’s where I’ll go. Whatever you want me to do, that’s what I’ll do.

I was hoping to go on one next year–I filled out my passport application information and was planning to get it by the end of the year.

And then, suddenly, there was this opportunity. And my father was the one who suggested we go. And I had no reservations, no wondering if this is what we should do or not. I just knew. So we looked it up, printed out the forms, and started filling them out.

So, yesterday I sent in my application for going to Central America for two weeks in December. And within an hour, I got an email back saying I was accepted. I wasn’t expecting it to be that fast, haha.

Just 9 days after hearing about this trip, and I’m already accepted. (Now my brother and sister just need to hurry up and get accepted too!) I’m applying for my passport on Friday with my brother. It seems like it’s moving very quickly… and yet, it also seems like I’ve been planning this for a long time. Or, at least, God has.

People often say that their short term mission trip changed their life. What I haven’t heard before is that just thinking about the trip before you go changes your life.

This has definitely been true for me…

To be honest, the idea rather terrifies me. I have no idea what to expect, really, except that it will be hot (And I do. not. like. heat.), and that the people and culture will be different from what I am used to. Oh yes, and there are lots of insects (not that I really mind insects, just… diseases. Also cockroaches.)

It sounds really uncomfortable. Heat, bug bites, people who don’t speak my language, dirt, long days, sickness, the unknown, sharing my testimony (especially with a translator!)…

And I realize just how far I have to go.

Why am I thinking of that? Why am I not thinking of souls who need Christ, or ones who know Christ and need encouragement? Why am I not thinking of the chance to glorify God?

I do think of it, sometimes. But it’s a conscious effort. I can tell already that I’m not going to be a model missionary-for-two-weeks. I haven’t even gone and I’m already humbled.

I am memorizing James 2… My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality.Β For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes, and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him, β€œYou sit here in a good place,” and say to the poor man, β€œYou stand there,” or, β€œSit here at my footstool,” have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?

Even before I knew about this trip, I was thinking about this a lot–how dare we hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality?? It’s not ours! And He has particularly singled out the poor people!!

But now–thinking of going to people who are poor on a level I’ve never seen before–(suddenly I feel rich) I wonder how I will react. I think of the homeless people who were in front of our church when we came for Bright Lights–sure, I wasn’t mean, but I didn’t even say hi. I smiled, sort of. I wished they would go away. I reprimanded myself (or maybe that was the Holy Spirit.) and remembered that these are folks Jesus died for, and they need love and care just like me. But I didn’t do much about it, besides changing the way I was thinking.

Then there are the neighbors across the street–I don’t even know their names, much less the state of their souls. I don’t know who lives there and who is just visiting. Doesn’t seem very caring of me. Which is because it isn’t.

That’s just a few of the uncomfortable thoughts and humbling things I’ve learned about myself in this weekish of thinking about this trip. There’s still three months left–and then the actual trip.

I already knew I needed God; already knew I had a lot of room to grow… but now I see a whole new level.

Which is exciting. And a little scary. Which more or less describes life with God.

P.S. Should I start a blog for this trip or should I do it all here?