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™‚

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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!

(Why I Haven’t Posted)

We’ve had rather a lot going on–these pictures are just a wee bit of what has happened since I last posted. I really will post more about the trip, but until then… here’s a taste of the craziness.

Traditional New Year’s eve party…

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(the fruit pizza is always a big deal)

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Church at HisRanch (like Central America, except in English and the people don’t get into the singing here like they do there.)

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Pastor Mark preaching

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Work… enjoying a gift from Elisa and Rachel.

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Learning Spanish! The English/Spanish Bible is super helpful.

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Cleaning Pregnancy Solutions with these crazy gals. (3 of my sisters, plus Ada and Althea who visited from PA for a week. We had a great time with them… you girls can come back any time!!!)

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Awkward beach foot picture

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Lovely girls

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Weird girls… πŸ˜‰

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They look like models in this picture… not normally something I appreciate but in their case it was accidental so I don’t mind.

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Meanwhile us older girls aren’t as photogenic, but hey–we can jump.

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The Seagull Army. (I scared them off with my journal. Take that.)

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Just because fire looks cool.

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Pancake party!!

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New game we learned called “signs”. Quite fun and very odd.

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Hospitality Sunday! We had the Ruths over plus two Clarkes and two Wimers. (which is a lot of people.)

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Rebekah turned and gave me the darlingest grin. πŸ˜€

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Bright Lights! We talked about our trip to CA and taught them some of the games we played, along with “He decidido seguir a Cristo” (I have decided to follow Jesus). They are now more ready for the trip than we were. πŸ˜€

IMG_3773And then it was another “photoshoot”. haha.

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We went to Orlando for our cousin Victoria’s birthday party… we did floating lanterns. If you haven’t done them, you should. It was epic.

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Esther being darling as usual.

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Dr. Parker spoke at church!! He does such a fantastic job. Looking forward to him preaching again this Sunday!

Good bye 2013, Hello 2014

Well, here we are on the last day of 2013. It seemed to go by very quickly… it was a good year. Much less drastic than 2012, for me, but still very full of learning and doing and stretching. I made it out of the country on a mission trip, which was something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. Bright Lights grew quite a bit in size and I was more focused on it than I’ve been in the past. I was able to help Pregnancy Solutions get their new location ready to open. I got guitar lessons and can play a few songs now. I survived several potentially life threatening situations. I grew in my walk with God and made it through some rough spots. I met lots of great people and read some good books. I surrendered stillΒ  more to God.

I’m really curious about this upcoming year. For some reason I’ve always felt like it would be a momentous one… I’m wondering if that was just a feeling or if something really is going to happen. There are a lot of possibilities and opportunities this year, a lot of things I’m praying about and considering. So it should be interesting.

And… I need to go because we are going to have a new year’s eve party in a few hours and it’s going to be lots of fun. πŸ˜€

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.

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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™‚

What Now?

Otherwise known as, “What is God’s plan for my life?” Or, “What in the world, this is NOT how I thought it would go!! What am I gonna dooo?? (AIO reference)”

So… recently my dad told me there’s a new thing now. It’s a “quarter century crisis” or a “quarter life crisis” or something along those lines. Something about freaking out when you’re in your mid-twenties. And I grinned a bit, but said that I can understand that. Of course I’m not at a quarter century yet and won’t be for a year and a half ish (eek), but still–I get it.

And I’m not the only one. The more I talk to and observeΒ  people, especially young ladies, the more I realize how common this is. Things don’t really go how we thought they would, especially when we were younger and thought that of course we’d be married (or in some sort of ministry or career) by 18 or so.

We’re 20 something, not married, not really “settled” in any sort of career or ministry yet… wondering what it all means and what we’re supposed to do.

Of course I don’t have it figured out yet… but I do have a few thoughts forming.

The first is that dreams must die: must be surrendered to God. This doesn’t mean that we can’t dream, or that dreams are bad. Far from it. I think dreaming and dreams are wonderful things. But like everything else, if they are not given to God, they can take a wrong position in our hearts–and they can end up being quite harmful, whether fulfilled or not.

God has dreams for us, too. And as one of the Bright Lights girls said last week (when giving a testimony about giving up a life-long dream), God’s dreams are way more amazing than ours. So as we surrender our dreams, it makes room for His. Which may or may not include our dreams (only better).

The second is that… our lives here will never be as picture-perfect as we’d like. Life just is rough and confusing sometimes; well, most all the time. And often the most important things, the things that really make a difference, are rather boring and hard and not very noticeable. We may never even realize, if we don’t look hard, what God is doing during these in-between stages. We may not realize that He is using us powerfully, here, when we least “feel” or expect it.

Third, we need to be patient. With God, with ourselves, with… life. We need to rest in God, knowing that He will work it out as we trust and obey and love Him. He does have a plan and a purpose for us. We’ve got to reconcile ourselves to the fact that we don’t have everything figured out, and THAT IS OKAY, because God does. Sure, some people do (or seem to), but often, very often, God totally turns those plans on their head. (I know what that’s like.) So… just enjoy the ride. People will think you’re crazy, but oh well.

Fourth, YOU ARE ALIVE. Really. I promise. Right now, in your confused, in-between state, you are still a person. So LIVE. Pray. Be grateful. Love the people you’re with. Praise God where you’re at. Look for ways to serve, no matter how small. Remember that even if you are not “Doing anything Important” you can still be developing character that will last. God often does His deepest work behind the scenes, in the quiet times of our lives.

Fifth, (why is it spelled that way? It’s so awkward. Anyways.) don’t just sit around. Waiting on God doesn’t mean waiting like sitting around, it means waiting like trusting and working faithfully right where you are. God will bring along opportunities to serve, to try new things, to travel, to meet people. Take them!! If they don’t work out, well, now you know one more thing that isn’t right for you. But you’ll still learn something; you’ll still grow. And maybe the next thing that comes along will be the one you’ve been looking for. So just keep looking, keep trying new things. Remember that each experience helps to shape you into the person God wants you to be.

I probably could come up with more things, but I think I’ll just stop there. What is God teaching you during this stage of your life? What opportunities have you had recently that you might not have if your life had gone “as planned”? What are you grateful for right now, in this place?

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™‚

The Rock Tumbler

So I’ve been struggling inwardly with various things–some of them really deep. (prayers appreciated!)

Last night I finally prayed the way I needed to… and during that prayer, something came to mind that helped some things make more sense to me. Whether or not God showed it to me, I’ll leave you to decide. But it helped me out quite a bit, and I thought it might help some of you. πŸ™‚

I first thought of a jewel or a gemstone… and then rather abruptly saw the process that went into making it all smooth.

First there was the more drastic part of sanding/cutting away parts, making it roughly into the right shape.

But then there’s the tumbling part; the part where there’s lots of little grains of sand, and lots of tumbling, and lots of annoying noise, and you can’t see what’s happening, and it takes SO LONG. (at least the little dinky one we had once did.)

And I’ve been feeling that lately.

I don’t see what God is doing. Sometimes I think I haven’t got anywhere at all, at least not on the inside.

There are many little “grains of sand” that annoy me and bother me and distract me.

I’ve definitely been feeling quite tumbled about, especially in my mind. It’s hard to know which way is up sometimes.

There’s been a lot of noise, inwardly and outwardly, and it doesn’t seem to be doing any good. All it seems to do is confuse me.

It seems like I’ve been in this place for a while, a long while, and I don’t know when it will end and I wish it would just hurry up.

And… having that image in my mind of the rock tumbler makes it all make a little more sense. God IS working, even though I can’t really see it and it just feels annoying and confusing. I’m realizing that I am not really used to this part yet. I was braced fairly well and mostly trusted God for the first round; the really hard stuff. But now this endless tumbling about with tiny grains of sand… ugh. Not nice.

But now I can understand, a little more, of what God is doing. And I am learning to be patient with Him as He allows me to go through this time in the Rock Tumbler. He knows what He’s doing, and He knows the outcome. I just need to submit to His work.