Sister, You’re Going to Kenya

Dear Sister, 

I know that “we” don’t do sappy, but I do. I do. I feel. I worry. You’re going to Kenya. With Bible Quizzers, which are your favorite group of people on this planet.  And I’m so excited for you! But I’m oh so very nervous. 

And I know I shouldn’t worry, but I’m a worrier. I worry about anything and everything, and I always jump to the worst case scenarios. But I’m not going to jump this time, because you’ll be fine. 

You’ll be more than fine. You’ll be great, spectacular. 

But just in case, you know, because you’ll be there and not here where I can make sure you’re safe, and because it’ll make me feel better, I’m going to give you some advice (not that you need it, but I need it because I’ve done a missions trip before, and it’s my job to teach you).

So, here’s what I know, what I hope you learn. 

When you wake up one morning and feel like you can’t do this, like you can’t minister to people, and trust me, you will wake up one morning on this trip and feel like it’s all too much, I hope you remember that while leading people to Christ is important–it’s our duty as Christians–sometimes giving people what they need in that exact moment is just as important. If you can lead even one person to Christ, good. If you can give one person what they need in that moment–a listening ear, a friend, food, water, clothes–even better. 

God works in mysterious ways. And sometimes one simple act of kindness is all you need to open the door. 

Your comfort zone is being left an ocean away, but I hope that by the time this trip is done your comfort zone will have expanded to include the ocean. Because the most amazing, life-changing, heart-wrenching moments happen when we step out of our comfort zones and let God do what God does. And I hope God does some amazing things in your life and on this trip.

If you can do this, you can do anything. And you’ve already done so much–overcome so much. I hope you’re proud of that. 
I hope you hold on to every feeling you have, every emotion you feel during this trip. Embrace the fears, the sadnesses, the happiness, the triumphs. Wrap them up. Put them in the pocket of your favorite jeans. Pull them out when you need a reminder of who God is, what He’s capable of. Pull them out when you want to reminisce. When you want to remember the first time you really challenged yourself. 

Because this trip will challenge you in ways I can’t even possibly begin to describe. And I hope it changes you. I hope it leaves you on fire for God, for His kingdom, for spreading the news that we are all one under Him, for showing his love.

When people ask me if I’d do a Missions Trip again, I say yes. And when they ask, why, I respond, “because of the people I’ll meet along the way.”

The people you meet will change you. I hope they have as much of an impact on you as you do on them. I hope the mark they leave on you will last a lifetime. 
Because it’s so easy to forget that we’re not the only ones in the world. You know, you and me, we’re pretty privileged here. So many of our brothers and sisters in Christ are not, even the ones who live here. 

I hope you don’t forget the people you meet, both those who are in Kenya and those who are going with you. I hope you don’t forget they way they challenge you, inspire you. I hope you learn their stories, help them shoulder their burdens. I hope you share your story, too. 

We all have a story. Nobody’s is unimportant. 

I hope you going into this asking yourself, “What can I learn?” Instead of “What can I teach them?”

They will teach you more about yourself than staying here ever could. They will teach you more about God than you ever thought possible–even if they don’t believe in God, God will work through them like He will work through you.

I hope you remember what they teach you. I hope you leave a small part of yourself in Kenya when you leave, so you remember to pray for them when you return. Because it’s so easy to come back and return to everyday life, forgetting everything that just happened, and return to normal.

I hope the life you live when you come back is anything but normal. Not in a bad way, but in a way that inspires you to change the world, to have an impact, to create a mark, to leave the world a little bit more beautiful than it was when you entered. 

And when you come back and begin college, I hope the skills you learned while in Kenya you carry with you while at college. 

There will be people there who challenge you, whose beliefs don’t line up with what you believe (yes, even at Roberts). Listen to them. Learn from them. Expand your worldview. Believe what you believe because it’s what YOU believe, not because it’s what you grew up believing. 

Go into all of these new experiences with an open mind, allow God to work, allow your views to change if that’s what needs to happen.

Don’t let what you believe stop you from seeing other people’s beliefs.

Don’t let what you see stop you from seeing what other people see. There is more than one way to view the world, and each person has only a very limited scope made up of lenses of their experiences and where they live. Sometimes understanding means putting down your scope and picking up someone else’s, trying to see the world through the eyes of someone else. 

I hope your time in Kenya changes the way you see the world, the way you see God, the way you see yourself. 

But most importantly, I hope this trip leaves you energized, hungry for God, eager to change the world. 

I hope you share your stories of your time in Kenya. I hope you hold close the most precious moments. 

When you become weary of the future, I hope this trip serves as a reminder that you can do anything if you let go and you let God do what He does.

 
I hope I can remember the same. 

So, go in peace, go with joy, go with eagerness. Go with the hope of a life-changing encounter with God. 

I’ll be here. We’ll all be here, praying for you the whole way. 

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Enough

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my trip to Guatemala and about how much I miss it. And I realized I haven’t shared this story with anyone yet, so you, readers of this post, will be the first.

There will come a moment when your life makes sense: your past connects to your present connects to your future. And when this happens, it will be like one big ball of “Eureka! So that’s why this happened.” Because it that moment, the Healing Process begins all over again, and it almost doesn’t matter how much pain it caused you. Because in that moment, all that matters is how it’s changing lives in a different country.

It happened to me in Santa Cruz, a little tiny mountain village in the middle of nowhere, Guatemala. It happened to me on the day I shared my Testimony with my teammates and the Spanish speaking Junior Highers. It happened to me after we made Salvation Bracelets with the Elementary schoolers. And it happened to me when a Junior Higher asked me, “Podemos hablar?,” which translates to “Can we talk?” but carries so much more weight.

And I told her: “Por supuesto!” Which means, “Of course,” but there were a million thoughts running through my head at a mile a minute, and I was thinking, “What did I do now? Did I offend her in someway? Oh gosh, I’m really not prepared for this.”

But, I was. And so we did talk, just the two of us. In Spanish. For an hour. And my heart started to break as she thanked me for sharing my story, and it completely shattered as she told me her own. Because sitting across from me, next to the soccer field, was one of the most beautiful people I’ve ever seen, and she’s sitting there telling me how she doesn’t feel like she’s enough. She doesn’t feel like she’s strong enough, brave enough, good enough, and like she doesn’t have faith enough.

And I tell her I understand. Because there are experiences that transcend all barriers. We are not from the same country. We have different cultures, and I’m trying my best to speak her language, but boy, do I understand.

And she begins to cry as she asks me how I do it–how I find the strength to get up every morning. And I sit there wondering the same thing. I look at my wrist, and I see the bracelet with the colored beads I made earlier. And in that moment, I know what I need to do.

And as I rip it off my wrist, and tie it to her’s, I tell her: “Black is for your sins. Red is for the blood of Jesus shed for you. White is for the forgiveness of sins. And blue is for baptism and a relationship with Jesus.” And then I tell her again to make sure she understands.

“Negro es para tus pecados.

Rojo es para la sangre de Jesus.

Blanca es para la compasion.

Y azul es para la relacion con Jesus.

That’s how I find my strength, and now you can have it too.”

And then we prayed a prayer, and she accepted Christ right there, and this time I cried tears of joy, because she had found the joy I found.

And as I said goodbye to her as I prepared to leave the village, I realized moments like these are why my struggles are worth it. Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that love transcends all languages.

And I was reminded of that over and over again as the rest of my trip progressed. I was reminded when we took the orphans out for dinner, and one grabbed my hand and said, “Sientense conmigo.” Sit with me. Sit with me. And I was reminded again when she fell asleep on my lap on the bus ride home, and I had to carry her off the bus and hand her off to someone else. And the way her eyes lit up when she saw me the next day and the next day, reminded me again and again how powerful love is.

When we went to the dump this little girl who didn’t know me from Adam, ran up to me,  and reached her hands up as if she was Adam and I was God. I’m no Savior, but that night I was a hero, because I brought love to give. And when I picked her up, the big smile she wore on her face was enough to make me realize we all want the same thing. We all want to feel loved. We all want to be safe.

And when the people in the dump who live on ‘not enough’ invited us into their homes so they could pray for us, I felt undeserving. Because, yes, I’ve had it rough, but at least I have enough. Right now, in this moment, you don’t. So I should be praying for you. But as they prayed I realized how much faith they had. And I want faith like theirs.

Because there are days when I don’t feel like enough. In those moments, I think back to these memories, and I realize: I have enough love to give. I am enough.

Continue reading: https://alltherestisunwritten.wordpress.com/2013/08/19/set-a-fire/

Set a Fire

*in response to the question: What have you been up to lately?

No mejor lugar para estar.
No mejor lugar para estar.
No mejor lugar para estar.
Que escuchando tu voz
Escuchando tu voz.

Manda un fuego a mi vida
Que no puedo contener y controlar.
Quiero más de Dios.
Quiero más de Dios.

Lately, I’ve spent time in a country whose airport sleeps at 8:00 at night. I’ve spent time in a country with a group of people who’ve laughed with me, cried with me, and have watched me grow. And I don’t know how I’m going to describe to you this feeling I have, what I’ve experienced over the last two weeks, because unless you were there with me, you won’t understand. But, I’m going to try my best, because it’s a good story.

There’s something wonderful about being the outsider in a group, and I didn’t realize what it was until I went on this trip. By being on the outside, I was able to hang out with wonderful children like these (in Santa Cruz and then Guatemala City):
118

076

169

186

Because being on the outside allowed children who were on the outside to be accepted for who they are, to be loved for who they are without judgement.

And it wasn’t just lovin’ on the kids that changed my life, it was being able to share my journey with a group of 20-something other team members that created the most change. Because sometimes working in other peoples’ lives allows God to work in yours. And so he did.

Because one day in the village of Santa Cruz, I shared my Testimony with the Junior Highers. And there’s something powerful about hearing your story repeated back to you in a language you’re not fluent in. There’s something about it that makes it more tangible, more real, and much harder to hear.

And there’s something powerful about sharing some of your poems with a group of 20-something people who you’re just beginning to call your friends. Because being able to trust anybody after what you’ve been through is a big step. There’s something powerful about being able to say, “Hey, I’m not doing ok today. On a scale from 1-10, I’m probably a 2, and I don’t know why. It could be because of this guy I saw back there who looks like someone I’d much rather forget. Or it could be because I’m out of my comfort zone, and I keep having flashbacks. I’d much rather not be this way, but I am, so I hope you can love me anyway.”

And there’s healing power in going to the dump and feeding the hungry, because despite not ever having enough, they are happy and they have so much faith that God will provide, which is more than I can say I have. Because some days, I use up all my faith getting out of bed, and here are these people who have so little, but have enough faith to move mountains.

Speaking of mountains, the way you can climb up on top of the bus in the dump and see the mountains is beautiful. The way the poor live inside the dump, between the mountains is inspiring. Because beauty and brokenness can live alongside each other, and out of brokenness comes beauty. And that’s all I really want for my life: I want to be beautiful despite my brokenness.

And there’s something magical in the beauty of a city seen from the roof of a mall that made me want to climb to the top despite my crippling fear of heights(which is really more of a fear of trying to die). And for the first time in a long time, I didn’t want to jump, which is how I know this trip changed me, because when I told my 20-something new friends this story, they all said, “Praise, God Almighty.”

And indeed, Praise be. Because life is a journey, and I’m not walking it alone. I have more friends than I can count, more memories than I can write about, and more things than I could possibly need.

Because there in Guatemala, the people live on “not enough,” while here we have plenty. And after seeing this, it’s making living here in America less satisfying to me. Because I’m not always thankful for what I have, and there some nights they go to bed hungry. And I’d most likely, definitely go back there again.

No place I’d rather be.
No place I’d rather be.
No place I’d rather be.
Than here in your love.
Here in your love.

Set a fire down in my soul
that I can’t contain, that I can’t control.
I want more of you, God.
I want more of you, God.

I spent the first two days of the trip counting down the days until I could return home, and now that I’m home, I’m not satisfied. There’s a fire within me that I can’t contain, and I can’t control. So now I’m counting down the days until I can return to Guatemala, and since I don’t know when that is, I could be counting for a while. But I will continue to count everyday, because I left a part of my heart there in Guatemala, and it will continue to beat everyday until I return.

So, don’t cry for me, Guatemala. I’ll be back again someday.

Guatema… what?

Wait… what? I’m going to Guatemala in 20 days? (August 5, 2013). Yes, yes I am (In case you didn’t know that little tidbit of information, which if you’re not my friend on Facebook or a follower of mine on Twitter, I’m sure you had no idea).

And I’m kind of freaking out here, quietly and internally of course. But, freaking out nonetheless. Am I freaking out because this is my first time on a plane? Nope, because last summer I flew to Seattle, and I mastered the art of Getting Massive Headaches on the Plane Due to the Change in Air Pressure and Not Having my Head Explode. Am I freaking out because this is my first time leaving the country? Nope, because I’ve been on a canoe trip with my Youth Group to the Canadian Wilderness where Moose and Bears roam in abundance (when I was there, I ran into some wild, stinky teenagers, too. Now those are terrifying).

I’m freaking out because my support group is here, and I will be there. And I’ve never really done this before: I’ve never been on a Missions Trip. I’ve never been to a country where the culture is different from my own. I’ve never been to a country where a different language is spoken even though I speak Spanish, which is helpful, it’s still… different. I’ve never traveled with this group of people before, and even though they are all lovely (but strange) people, I’m worried. I’m worried not that I won’t fit in, because I’m sure I will. I’ve got the strange part down pat.

I’m worried about a lot of things.

Large groups have never been my forte, but that doesn’t really concern me. What concerns me is how I’m going to react when we get to where we’re going. Am I going to become loud and hilarious or quiet and humorous? Am I going to feel all the things, or am I going to shut down, feel nothing, and have my mind take a siesta? Am I going to cry? Probably. Because I’m a crier. I cry watching movies. I cry reading books. I cry when other people cry. I cry when I run over squirrels. I laugh so hard I cry. So yes, I’ll probably cry. At least once…. a day. I’ve embraced that fact.

My life is like one big ball of blah. And my feelings come in waves, which is fine, because I’m at the point in my life when I can tell when the tides will change. But at the same time, they can change without warning. I may be reminded of something. Memories may come flooding back, and that scares me a little. Because in my comfort zone, I know how I will respond when unwanted memories return, but I don’t know how I will respond when I’m in another country. I suspect I’ll be doing a lot of writing.

I’m an English Major, and you may be thinking so what? But let me tell you what that entails. I will freak out when you talk about books. I will speak in metaphors (most likely). I will probably connect things that happen to books I’ve read (or at least try to). If you’re extremely unlucky, I will correct your grammar in my head as you speak (I’m sorry in advance if this happens to you. I try not to, I really do). I will probably, most likely, definitely speak in book quotes. A day may come when I won’t speak in book quotes, but today is not this day!

I play piano, so I will probably at some point make a fool of myself and play an imaginary piano. Just go with it.

I’m clumsy, and I don’t mean like normal clumsy. I mean like full-blown Queen of the Clumsies. I was the one who sprained her ankle Wii Bowling after all. At some point during this 12 day escapade, I will fall on my face after tripping over nothing. It will happen. I guarantee it. And this clumsiness is not conducive to playing sports. Even though I’m competitive enough to believe I can win, my athletic ability (or lack thereof) proves otherwise.

Basically  a million things could go wrong. I could have a mental break down. I could have flash backs to things I don’t want to remember. I could make a total and complete fool of myself in front of all the cool people.

Ergo. I HAVE NO IDEA WHY I’M DOING THIS! I AM DOOMED!

However, I do know that God called me to go on this trip for a reason. So I’m going into this trip hoping it will be fantastic, and I’m trying not to worry about it being horrible. Because it could be. But I’m hoping it will be fantastic. I’m believing it will be amazing. And I trust that God will do great things on this trip. I pray that He will bless it. I pray I will make new friends and strengthen relationships. And I pray that I will come back with a stronger faith, because I am willing to step out of my comfort zone, and God will bless me indeed.