Sunday, August 22, 2010

Our Video

Just a brief glimpse into the time we spend with Open Arms! Enjoy!

EVC Mission Trip, Medellin, Colombia

Bringing it Back Home

There are two questions people are asking me about Colombia: How was it? and "How do you think you'll apply your trip to your real life?"

How was it?
As Ecclesiastes 3:4-6 says, there was a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away. 

The team experienced so much joy with each other and with the boys and girls we were working with. In spite of a major communication barrier, we had very few problems communicating with the children and sharing love and laughter with them. We definitely had plenty of times to laugh.

But we also had time to mourn for the children and the circumstances. While we were there, two girls ran away from the group home and returned to the street life. And one boy was asked to leave the farm because he continued to violate the no-drugs policy. We watched as the boy left with nothing but a backpack and some bus money.
Most of us went hoping to serve God and show his love. And though I can't speak for everyone, I came back with so much more than I could possibly have given. I didn't realize it at the time but God sent me there so he could bring me home.

Now what?

When I was there, I didn't feel stressed out at all. I was completely fine with whatever happened or didn't happen and I wasn't concerned about impressing anyone, or making a name for myself, or trying to 'get ahead' of anything or anyone. And I think the reason is because when I was there, God was my boss. The only thing I had to do was love people...or as the Christians say, "Love on people." 

After going back to work last week, I started to think about the stress in my life and the expectations I have of myself and I thought, "What if God was my boss everyday? What if the only thing that was expected of me everyday was to love people?" I find a significant peace in thinking about this because I don't think they are hypothetical questions. I truly believe that's the way God wants us to live our lives!

It's easy to love people when there are no other demands on your time, resources, and energy. It's a lot harder to do when you're thinking about where the next paycheck is coming from, or if you're "good enough" in the eyes of your employer, or your friends and family, or how you measure up to the neighbors. 

I think we all have a tendency to put expectations and limitations on ourselves that God is not requiring of us.  The only thing He demands is that we love Him and each other. It took a trip to Colombia to realize this so here's how I plan to keep that trip alive: I've made a commitment to start approaching tasks and interactions with the two questions: "Does what I'm doing represent me loving God with all my heart?" And, "Is what I'm doing an indication of loving my neighbor as myself?"

I don't know what this means for everyday life -- cleaning the house, walking the dog, making dinner, etc -- but I do know that where I have a chance to make a choice about how I approach something, I will be keeping those two things in mind.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Back from Colombia!

We're baaaack!

One week ago today, I was doubled over and vomiting in the front seat of a 12-passenger van. That's how my trip to Colombia came to an end. I don't know whether it was food poisoning, or a virus, or something else completely but I do know that I was sick, sick, sick. It was truly a miracle brought about through prayer that I made it on the plane on Wednesday morning.

Thank you to all the prayer warriors out there! By the time we actually landed in Columbus, I was feeling better -- still not 100 percent, but better.

I aim to spend some time this weekend writing a better update but I did want to let you all know that the team really saw God working in Medellin and that we're all back safely.

Thank you for your support.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Seeing God work -- My story

Dear God: Asking questions and getting answers 
Preparing to go on this trip has really opened my eyes to how and where God works. I was skeptical about writing and distributing a support letter. I had all these doubts running through my head. Why would people want to support me? Isn't it going to be awkward essentially asking people for money? Wouldn't I have to come out of my "Christian closet" -- into the public eye if I was going to ask for donations?

Well, over the course of the past two months, all those doubts disappeared and all my questions were answered -- it's only been through prayer and reflection that I see this now but I think it's so important that I want to share my conversations with God.

Dear God: Why would people support me?
'Silly child. They aren't supporting you. They are supporting me.'

Dear God: Isn't it going to be awkward asking people for money?
'I will give you the words and the means to write the letter. And I will show you who to give the letter to. Trust me on this one.'

Dear God: I'm scared to come out of my Christian closet, especially at work.
'I didn't say this was going to be easy. You will know what to say and when to say it. You will know what to share and when to share it. Listen for me and I will be your guide.'

It's all so clear now
When I wrote my support letter and distributed it, I  didn't know that it would generate so many opportunities to talk about God and my faith. I didn't know that I would be sharing my Christian mission trip with people at work. And, it was a lot easier than I ever thought it could be.

"Thank you" doesn't seem to say enough to those of you who have contributed money, clothing, shoes, sports equipment, and prayer. I lay no claim to knowing how God works -- but I do know that He provides.  When all is said and done, 90% of the costs associated with this mission were donated and countless clothes, shoes and sporting goods! The picture to the right shows the donations from my friends at Limited Logistics Services. The leadership team there is generously shipping all 12 of these boxes!

I will not do great things in Colombia: God will
It's been an emotional day, thinking about all of you and how blessed I am that you support this work.  These contributions allow me to go and work on behalf of God, through Christ.  I want you to know that words can't describe how grateful I am. Thank you all for believing in this work. Thank you for believing that God can work through me.  

I am leaving in 36 hours: praise be to God for this opportunity.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Countdown Begins: 9 Days to Colombia

I want to begin this post with a gigantic THANK YOU to everyone who has supported this trip financially, with donations, with prayer, or in some cases, with all three. I have an amazing sense of calm about this trip.

People have asked me how I'm preparing for this trip. There are really two ways.
  1. Reading the Bible
  2. Prayerful meditation
One of the women I am traveling with, Nicole, turned me on to a bible study called Experiencing God by Henry and Richard Blackaby. It's a self-guided (or group study) of your personal relationship with the Lord. The heart of the study is about developing an intimate relationship with God. Through my reading and meditation, I've gained insight into what it means to listen to God, to be a servant, and to live a God-centered life.

Our pastor recently asked us to submit a mini-bio about ourselves. One of the questions in the bio was "What do you hope God will do through you?"  I don't "hope" God will do something through me. I know He will and that's because I know, without a doubt, God called me to go to Colombia.

The Blackaby study has helped me see where God has been working in my life and it's encouraged me to see this whole trip as experiencing God. 

People ask me "Well, what are you going to be doing down there." I never know how to answer that question. John 15:5 says "Apart from me, you can do nothing." I would be foolish to think that anything that happens down there is because of me. In fact, I'm being cautious of having any expectation about what we are going to "do." Rather, I am preparing to see God at work and to listen for Him to speak to me.

What, exactly, God will do through me, is up to Him. "Understanding what God is about to do where I am is more important that telling God what I want to do for Him." (Blackaby, 38).  

Monday, July 12, 2010

Three more weeks and $100 to go

The mission team met last night for some food and fun. We also did a bit of packing.

One of the things we've decided to offer the girls at Open Arms is a 'spa day.' We've been fortunate to receive donations from family, friends and workplaces and have stuff to do manicures, pedicures, and facials. We also have make-up bags and purses for the girls (courtesy of Limited Brands).  We got all that stuff into a couple of suitcases and suddenly the trip was very real!

Another thing we'd like to do for the girls is host a baby shower. We're going to spend the next 3 weeks trying to collect baby items: blankets, pacifiers, baby nail clippers, bibs, rattles, etc.  We need at least 12 of each as there are that many 'expecting' moms with OAF right now.

For the boys, we're taking an entire set of soccer uniforms donated by one of the local schools. We're really excited about that donation. We're not sure what else to take for the boys. Someone recommended shoes, and another person said they'd be thrilled with sunglasses. Any ideas?

The last thing we know we want to take with us are school supplies: crayons, scissors, glue sticks, folders, pencils, pens, etc. We'd like to donate those to the Children's Church.

We have a team meeting this Wednesday and all our money is due at that time. I'm within $100 of my goal. The total cost of the trip is $1601 and through some very generous giving, I'm almost there. If you're considering a donation, now's the time! 

Monday, July 5, 2010

"Oh -- and I'm going on a misson trip"

It's that time of year when people ask "Any plans for this summer? Traveling at all?"  For the most part, this trip has been something that's existed in another reality -- so much so that it's not the first thing I think of when someone asks the question about my summer plans. I'll usually start with, "No, just small weekends here and there, " and then it will hit me. "Oh yeah - and I'm going to Colombia on a mission trip." People probably think I'm being nonchalant about it on purpose but I promise you, I'm not.

I have to keep reminding myself that this trip is on the horizon and every time it crosses my mind, so do the words, "Holy crap."

What in the world am I doing? This seemed like such a good idea a few months ago and now the reality is sinking in. If I start to think about it too much, little whimpers escape my chest. I. Am. Getting. Nervous.

I'm not nervous in the sense that I think Colombia is a dangerous place...though many people are eager to tell me to be careful (The last State Department travel advisory was issued in March). No, my nervousness comes from knowing that in less than a month, I'm going to be face to face with the children at Open Arms Foundation and I'm not sure what I can offer them.