Archive for ‘Uncategorized’

Reflections on Australia

87 Commentsby   |  08.27.11  |  Uncategorized

My reflections on my trip to Brisbane can be found on my regular blog here.

South Africa Update

15 Commentsby   |  08.04.11  |  Uncategorized

Well, our time here in South Africa is just about over. It has been an amazing two months full of adventures and surprises, but always with a purpose. We have had opportunities to learn and minister in ways that we never imagined before we got here. Yesterday we had the opportunity to do sports ministry at a prison. We helped coach their basketball and soccer teams and also got to just talk to them. It was eye opening in many ways. It was cool to find out that many of the guys are already believers and have regular Bible studies in the prison. As with most ministry opportunities, it was as much of a learning experience as it was a teaching opportunity. I am constantly amazed at the work God is doing here in South Africa, and I am honored to have been able to be apart of it if only for a short amount of time.

Oxapampa

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7 Commentsby   |  08.03.11  |  Uncategorized

Today is the 3rd of August, and I will be going home on the 9th, so my time here is just about done. Today I am pretty excited; I will be traveling to Oxapampa, Peru with Justin and Mark. We are going to check on a new member of the church who went to Oxapampa three or four months ago and seeing how he is doing there. I am a little nervous about going because in order to get there we have to go over a mountain, and the last time I was on a mountain I got altitude sickness really bad. Also, the roads are very narrow and we will be going on a double decker bus. While that doesn’t scream safety to me, these drivers have been doing this for a long time and I am sure that they know what they are doing. I am not really sure what we will be doing in Oxapampa, I know that we will be talking with Luis, but other than that, I have no idea.
There will be four new interns arriving on Saturday, so my bed will be gone after today. It is going back to the apartment it came from while I am at Spanish class today. I have really been enjoying the one on one Spanish lessons I have been getting at Ele Latina Spanish school. I feel like I have been learning better because where I struggle we can spend more time than if there were more people in the class. It’s just been good.
Gotta go, my laundry is getting done and I need to get packed for the trip.

Bethel Week 8 – What would be the song we sing to them when they’re in need?

7 Commentsby   |  07.30.11  |  Beijing, China, Uncategorized

It’s Saturday afternoon at Bethel.  Sam walked by at lunch today and reminded me that tomorrow is my last day.  I love how good he is at rubbing things in.  I love that kid. :) I’m trying so hard to process right now.  The last two months (and especially the last week) have been hard and exhausting, but they have also been my greatest joy and some of the most fulfilling times of my entire life.  I’ve taken this song as my theme for the summer:

What would be the song we sing to them when they’re in need?
Would it be an empty Hallelujah to the King?
Turn down the music
Turn down the noise
Turn up your voice oh, God
And let us hear the sound
Of people broken
Willing to love
Give us your heart oh, God
A new song rising up

And I think that’s the best way I can explain it.  This summer I have been surrounded by music.  It has been my gift to these children and their gift to me.  I can see how the songs I have taught them have brought them such joy, helped them to open up, and given me an opportunity to show them that they are loved and that someone (and Someone) cares for them deeply.  I have always known and believed in the power of music.  I have always known that I love music, but this summer I have seen it in a different light.  Music is my life.  There is no doubt about that, and I have often made these words the cry of my heart in the times when life has grown chaotic and busy, unfulfilling and stressful, the times I have wondered what it is I’m doing and why.  This summer has shown me that God heard those cries.  He has turned down the music and the noise and taken me straight to the heart of it all.  He has given me a little bit more of His heart.  He has made me more and more willing to love truly and deeply, even though that love so often brings me to tears.  I’ve sung a lot of songs to those in need this summer, and by God’s grace, it was not an empty hallelujah.  A new song is rising up in me.  I am going home broken as a jar of clay, and yet God has filled my words and my songs.  The things that seemed so important to me are suddenly not.  The reason I sing is now so different.  Everything that I do is an opportunity for God to move.  Everything in my life is about God equipping me to better serve Him.  Every moment prepares me so that God can use me to give gifts to others.  Everything is deeper than it appears, and I am making a choice to see that.  At least, I am right now.

I pray that I will remember that throughout the next school year and for the rest of my life.  I pray that I will remember the faces of these kids.  I pray I’ll remember Qing Lian and Le Dong and Pan Pan and Vincent and Ming Ming and Michael and Fukai and Li Long and Miao Miao and Rongyuan and Rhi Zhiu and Lily and Tracy.   When I have to deal with busy work and write reflections on teacher observations and practice my music and deal with rough voice lessons and face my imperfections, I pray I’ll remember that God uses it all for something more.  I’m a mess.  I’m not perfect, but He works through me in ways I can’t even fully grasp.  God has taught me that this summer.  He orchestrates everything for His glory.  He is forever faithful, forever true, forever good, and forever gracious.

God has broken me and softened my heart this summer.  He has taught me on a deeper level how to love.  He has given everything in my life new meaning, all because of these kids and all those who serve them.  I know what I want my life to be about.  It’s funny because I thought this summer would solidify my calling.  I thought I would go home knowing exactly what God wanted me to do, but in reality, I have no idea.  I know He’s called me to Love and to serve.  I know He’s called me to music and to share that gift with others so that He can work through it. But I don’t know exactly what He’s calling me to do.  I’m okay with that though.  Because it’s not about what I do or what my actual job is; it’s about my heart and Who I’m following and opening myself before Him to be poured out as a drink offering.  It’s about living given over.  It’s about being broken and willing to love, really love, no matter the cost.  It’s about giving the orphan a home and feeding the hungry and being faithful in the mundane tasks and loving little kids and loving adults who are a total mess.  It’s about singing songs to those in need and letting God fill them up with His Spirit of Love and Caring.  And we are all in need.  We all need to see God, every child and every grown man and woman.  We all need to feel God’s love.  We all need to sense and learn His joy.  We all need an embrace and an outlet.  We all need songs to sing.  And as I enjoy my final days with these kids and try and process all that God has done these last two months, before I get on a plane and go back to my “real” life, these words ring in my heart and bring me comfort.  And I hear the voices of the Bethel children singing them, and I know that they are true, and though my eyes are full of tears, my heart is peaceful and full of joy, for God is faithful, and His grace is sufficient for me.  These kids will be okay.  Even as I face the struggles of trying to leave these kids (like Michael who told me he wanted me to stay for a thousand million years and never go back to the States) and readjusting to life back home and trying to figure out what I’m going to do with my life, I know I’ll be okay.

Through many dangers toils and snares
I have already come
‘Twas grace which brought me safe thus far
And grace will lead me home.
   

 

Lima

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10 Commentsby   |  07.29.11  |  Uncategorized

I have really been enjoying my time here in Lima, and I have been slacking in the posting part of the summer. Well I have about 12 days left here and leaving will be sad and joyful at the same time. I have missed my friends in the states so much over the summer, and them asking me all the time when I was coming home did not make it any easier to be here. Having said that, I wouldn’t change this summer for the world. I have had a great time here and have learned a lot of things that I would never have learned in the U.S.
I think one of the biggest things I will take away from here is how to treat new people, or people new to the area. (Be that new to Abilene or Katy, or new to the United States.) I have been greeted with smiles by everyone here, and they have all been gracious to me, inviting me to go eat or see movies or to do a great number of different things.
There is though, one man who I have a tough time being around. I speak to him and he does not listen, I believe he thinks I cannot possibly know what he is trying to express because my Spanish is not as good as his. It is really frustrating when he tells me the same thing over and over after I tell him I understand. I explain it back to him and he says yes, then proceeds to tell me again, and usually it is over trivial stuff. (Something like that he has no spouse, or that he goes to a Pentecostal church.) I don’t say these things to rag on him, but to say that I know how it feels for people to assume you don’t know anything because you are new or foreign. I hope to never treat others poorly because they are not normally around me or don’t speak the same language as me.
I have been going to a Spanish school here for the past few weeks, 5 x’s a week, except this week was only for the first 3 days. The 28th of July is the Peruvian Independence Day, so there was no school Thursday, the 28th. I surely wasn’t complaining about that. It has been really interesting to live here, and observe/help the team that is here. There are Bible studies or times of Prayer just about every day here, and it’s been great to be involved in those, even with the language barrier.
Next week we will be traveling to Oxapampa to see a young man who I believe a year ago was baptized. His grandfather passed away a few months ago and he has not come back after the funeral, and has almost cut off all communication. The team is worried because he told them while in Lima that if he were to go back to Oxapampa that it would most likely lead to a poor life style, and him running with his old friends who didn’t appear to support the new life that he had chosen. I am excited to go and meet him, I’ve heard a lot about him, and I am also excited to see some other parts of Peru.
Sorry about the delay between posts, I’ll try and get another post or two in before I leave talking about some of the other stuff that we have done here.

We plant the seeds, God makes them grow

5 Commentsby   |  07.22.11  |  Cebu, Philippines, Uncategorized

During our time here in Cebu we’ve had a lot of opportunity to work with various groups of kids. One of the groups that we have invested quite a bit of time in is the high school group at our local congregation in Consolacion. Most of these kids have been with us for at least 3 years now and considering the sweet and loving kids that they are, it’s hard not to get attached to such a great group of kids.

Saturdays are typically when we get together with the kids and we usually start off by teaching them a few songs, followed by a short lesson (I say short because these kids have a very short attention span. Let’s keep in mind that high school kids here are typically 12-16 years old), then it’s game time!! Like any other group of kids, they always enjoy the games the most, although you’d be surprised at how much these kids love to sing and learn new songs.  :) Oh, and let’s not forget about the snacks…believe it or not, snacks work as a really good incentive for these kids. I can’t tell you how many times my mom got the kids to behave by threatening to not give them their share if they didn’t pay attention. Works like a charm! ;)

Occasionally we would take the group out on “special outings” as a reward for their perfect attendance for that month. So far we’ve taken them to the mall to see Kung Fu Panda 2, topped off with ice cream from Jollibee (local fast food chain). We also took them to the park for some fun games and hotdogs. We taught them how to “assemble” their own hotdog buns, which was a first for most if not all of them (pretty hard to fathom for the typical american wouldn’t you say?). But let me just say, they sure enjoyed it! Next week we’re looking forward to having them over here at the house for more food, fun, and fellowship! :)

with the Consolacion High School group at the park for their monthly outing

All of these kids have not been brought up in Christian homes. They come from very poor families and some of them don’t exactly have the best role models that they can look up to. Giving them something to look forward to once a week and being a positive influence to them lessens their chances of them getting involved with the wrong crowd and the wrong things. But most importantly, it means a lot to them just to know that someone cares about them. These kids just want to be loved, and what better way to share the love of God with them than to just be there to spend time with them. The kids of today will be the church of tomorrow…we plant the seeds, and we nurture them, but it is God who will make them grow.

God of this city — Post #2

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0 Commentsby   |  07.19.11  |  The Bronx, New York, Uncategorized

Greetings from NY!!

Where to start . . . Well, I am doing well! I must admit – the “glamor” of the city has begun to wear off. While it’s still very beautiful and interesting to me, I have begun to notice just how tough the city is — very!! It’s a tough, individualistic community.

Lawson and I continue to do prayer stations, which is where we set up a table with a paper and let people come write down their prayers; it’s very unconditional. If they want to learn more about what we do, we tell them we are interested in studying the Bible with them and their friends and family. The hope is that the study will take off with their community where they are and eventually develop into a house church, where they lead themselves. We do about four prayer stations a week for 2, 3, or 4 hours at a time. Two are bilingual (our signs and flyers), and two are completely in Spanish. We’re really hoping to move in to the Latino/a community and establish connections for Christ Fellowship Network. If they seem interested, we encourage them to fill out a contact card. Then we call them a day (or more) later to see if they are still interested. Many people are very polite and don’t want to turn us down, so they give us excuses and tell us to call back. Others accept our invitation and make plans to meet with Lawson and I but cancel last minute. We have yet to meet up with someone.

Despite the numerous unsuccessful attempts, prayer station is definitely my favorite thing to do. When people actually come up, I like to wonder why they did. Are they really counting on us to pray for them? Do they not pray but want us to pray? Or do they perhaps not have any one else to turn to? There are some who approach the table and pour their hearts unto the piece of paper, and I don’t mean just simply with words. I see it in their faces. They take long pauses and think deeply about their words, as if their words determined the answer to their prayer. Some, after deep thought, end up writing merely three words, but their face – it says much more than those three words. Others, just want to debate with us, condemn us, or are Christians themselves and want to come over and encourage us.

On Wednesday evenings, we attend one of the house churches that is part of the Christ Fellowship Network. It’s a very nice group of people! We have dinner together and fellowship. Then someone leads praise and then we delve into the word. This summer we’re in Romans. Then, we have communion together and fellowship some more.

Lawson and I have also joined a gym at a local college. We have called our time there “Workoutreach at Gym.” We even got a discount for being roommates! We’re hoping to go there at least four times a week and see if we can somehow reach out within the college-age community. Continue to keep us in your thoughts and prayers please! We will continue to update. Thanks! Oh, and here’s a picture of the BX Interns! :)

Pura Vida

1 Commentby   |  07.16.11  |  Uncategorized

So this is my first blog of the trip. I’m 5 weeks in and a little over 3 weeks to go. I thought coming here I would have a lot more time on my hands than I really do. Going to language school 3 hours a day and having church at least 3 times a week keeps you pretty busy. I have met some amazing people at the language school. Most of them are missionaries and are spending one year learning spanish before diving right in to their mission work. I honestly had no clue why I was coming down here and living here for 9 weeks, other than that I had that desire to discover new places and see new sides of God and serve in whatever way I could. I haven’t been able to just dive right in to a ministry and serve away because there aren’t very many kids at the church I attend and my language is still pretty bad even though I am a lot better now than I was when I arrived. All I pretty much knew was basic vocabulary words like colors, clothing, and foods. Needless to say, this journey has been mostly about deeper self-discovery and trusting God. There have been those moments where I have completely no control whatsoever and have no choice but to rely on the Protector and Provider. And guess what, He pulled through of course. There was a time when I first arrived here and still didn’t know my way around and lost my partner walking home in the pouring rain. 45 minutes later, I found the house and thankfully my host mom heard me and came to open the door because I didn’t have a key.

Suffering.. well I can relate to that a little more. I became sick for 3 of the most painful days of my life. I had an infection and my stomach was really upset. One night I couldn’t sleep and (ok maybe I’m a little dramatic) but I literally thought I was dying. The next morning my host mom took me to a doctor and He gave me some injections and medicines but none of them worked. I realized that all of this sickness and stomach pains started when I realized I had some tension with a few people but didn’t want to confront them about it because I didn’t think it was that big of a deal so I just kept it inside. On the 3rd night of my sickness I decided to confront the person and release the tension I had. So we talked and she was so understanding and I know it brought us closer. Later that night, my symptoms stopped and the next day I was fine other than being so hungry from not eating. I believe God was showing me his urgency of wanting to make me whole, not in a punishing kind of way but in a way that shows His power and He is willing to push me when my eyes turn from his face and my heart loses the burning desire. He loves me that much that he is willing to do whatever it takes to turn my eyes back on Him and make me more like Him.

Anyways, that is just a taste of what is going on down here and I’m sure there is more to come.

Cultural Comparison Project, Part Two

0 Commentsby   |  07.13.11  |  Accra, Ghana, Uncategorized

One of the more curious subjects for observation when traveling cross-culturally is the family unit. Families are integral to our lives and development; they are such a constant that we hardly ever stop to think what makes them “normal.” However, the ever present family unit looks and operates in vastly different ways in different cultures. When comparing the United States and Ghana, factors which contribute to these differences include the view of self, the level of industrialization, and the distribution of authority.

In the spectrum of the view of self, there reigns individualism on one end and collectivism on the other. Individualism is a type of the view of self which is highly independent and does not rely on surrounding persons. Collectivism, on the other hand, is a more communal approach to the view of self in which a person is more defined by who they are surrounded with. On the whole, the United States is a country in which individualism is valued. As a people, Americans value individuality, being unique, and entrepreuneurism. The idea of the American Dream is that everybody has the ability to “go out and make it on your own” and to follow their own idea of happiness. In regards to the family unit, individualism plays a major role. In America, it is custom for the parents to raise children who will one day go to college, get their own job, move out, and live on their own. The American conception of family is nuclear, rather than extended. However, in a community-centered country like Ghana, family as a cohesive whole is more important than the individuals within it. Together the individuals work and support each other, which creates a safety net for them all. Rather than the family catering to the needs of the individual, the individuals cater to the needs of the family. Thus, family units remain together, and there is less branching off and separation than there is in a country like the United States.

The level of industrialization also plays a large part in how family units operate. Ghana is a more agrarian state than America, which is incredibly advanced in technology and industrialization. Because of this, Ghanaian families tend to stay more local. Work is more physically strenuous and the value of manual labor is more appreciated. This agrarian state plays into collectivism because families must work together to support themselves. Children do chores not merely because they have been assigned them, but because they are necessary to the livelihood of the family. In contrast, the amount of technology available to families in the United States pushes them farther along the path of individualism. With the level of efficiency offered in the majority of America, there is less of a need for communal effort. There is more opportunity to be individualized in the United States.

Finally, the distribution of authority also affects how family units are shaped. In an American family unit, authority is fairly evenly distributed between the parents. Both have authority to make decisions, and much value is placed on gender equality in the United States. Additionally, families are often catered to the children, who may not have direct authority, but still have many resources given to them. Ghanaian families tend to be more paternalistic. Most of the authority lies with the father figure to make decisions. The mother is often in charge of the household, but in terms of how the public and culture views the family unit, the man will always have the final say. Also, families are not catered to their kids. Children are expected to contribute to the livelihood of the family, and, though admittedly my population pool may be biased, I have yet to meet a spoiled Ghanaian child.

When comparing the types of family units in the United States and Ghana, it is difficult to say whether one is superior to or better than the other. In truth, both have their strengths and weaknesses: the individualism which is rampant in American families can isolate individuals and weaken community development, while the collectivism of Ghanaian families can hold back individuals who have the opportunity for further education or advancement. To conclude, one system of family is not necessarily better than the other; rather, the two capitalize on different sets values. The value of connectedness, group unity, and working as a part of a whole which are learned in Ghanaian families are values which are just as important as individuality, independnence, and uniqueness that are learned in American families.

Home stretch!

0 Commentsby   |  07.10.11  |  Accra, Ghana, Uncategorized

Our team is now at the Village of Hope in Gomoa-Fettah! It is so good to be back and see the children. We arrived thursday, June 30th, in the evening! After we meet with Fred Asare that evening to let him know we made it safely, I could not wait to see the kids. When I walked into the Linary House I was welcomed with so many hugs and hellos! It is good to be back.

The kids were out of school the next day; friday, saturday, sunday, monday and tuesday for mid-terms! It was nice to be able to spend time with the kids those days. On tuesday, July 5,  we took our travel day, which also happened to be my birthday, to Kakum National Park and Elmina! 

We first went to Kakum National Park we went on the canopy walk! It was amazing, we went across many bridges that made a horseshoe shape. The bridges hung above the trees with boards as wide to walk only with one foot in front of the other!  The scenary was beauitful…

Fifteen minutes away we drove to Cape Coast and Elmina. At Elmina there is a slave castle, we took a historal tour. Our tour guide was animated and told us the history of the castle. What I enjoyed the most about this visit is that we had the opportunity to enter cells called, ‘the room of no return’, and we were able to walk out of the cells alive, when years ago no one would be able to leave alive or free. I felt like I was making histroy.  Our drive home was safe and I was able to spend the evening with the children on my birthday!

During my stay here at the Village of Hope, I try to process everything that is going on, to understand my enviroment the best I can. I have found it difficult to do so for two reasons.  One reason is because our enviroment in Ghana changes frequently, with different visitors and locations. Secondly, I also realized that I am still in the mix of everything and when I get to America I will be able to stand back and look at my time here. I have made several obeservations to keep me going in order to improve opportunities to minister. At times I m overwhelmed at the need here. I look at my self and feel that I have nothing to give because I am not a counselor, nurse or teacher and these are the things the kids need! How can I help? I know this may sound discouraging, but being here has increased my urgancy and excitement to complete my studies at ACU! The harvest is pentiful, but the labors are few, Luke 10:2 !!

I look forward to these next two weeks with expectancy in the Lord’s faithfulness, freedom and love!

Blessings