He completes good work

On the fifth day of program, I witnessed before my very eyes the Lords hand at work. When I helped to craft the Mamelodi Initiative (MI) Community Engagement curriculum, I had a vision. In my perfect world, students would work or projects related to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and engage the community to reach these goals. I had no idea how this would take shape, so when my South African co-teachers suggested we take the kids on a field trip to the Mamelodi Old Age Home just down the street, I figured I had to settle for what was doable.

But actually, we couldn’t have taken the kids to a better place.

Leading up to the field trip, I introduced the students to the concept of sustainability and gave basic outlines to SDGs.  Groups split into five main goals: zero hunger, life on land, good health and well being, clean water and sanitation, and quality education. I hoped that first, The Old Age Home would get back to me and second, that there would be relevant jobs for the kids to do. Sure enough…

For zero hunger, students broke off to cut up fruit and clean the kitchen for the Old Age Home. And get this, no fingers were chopped off!

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MI students cutting cantaloupe for residents.

For life on land, a group went out to collect trash around the property. Though one of the kids, Patrick, complained about this job he confessed later, smiling, that he enjoyed the field trip. Plus, he showed up to program the next day!

 

For good health and well-being, the students gave residents haircuts and cut their nails. I was so impressed by how the co-teachers and students jumped right in, put on masks and gloves, and got to work. Just look at how cute these 10thgrade barbers are!

For clean water and sanitation, a group cleaned some of the common spaces at the home. Though not so glamorous, students and co-teachers worked hard and left the home with spotless windows and floors.

For quality education, a few students and I went around to residents and offered to read to them. The only book I had on hand was my Bible, which I let my students borrow. Watching these kids spend time with the elderly melted my heart. Students got to absorb wisdom from a previous generation and the residents were kept company, listened to, and hopefully encouraged.

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MI students Andy (back) and Hlogi (front) connecting with two residents.

I spent time with two ladies, Edna and Mita. Since I had given away my Bible, I whipped out my Bible app and what happened next brought the whole event, coordinating, months of thinking and planning, everything, into a moment of clarity. I started to read Philippians 1 and Mita, who is missing most of her teeth started to repeat every couple of works I read. I slowed down. We got into a pattern of reading and repeating. And finally, we made it to Philippians 1: 6, “for he who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.” Indeed, He completed this good work and I’m still in awe.

Over twenty permissions slips in, no one got hit by a car crossing the street, all children accounted for, and the South African co-teachers rose up to lead the kids into their SDG groups. Amazing.  Praise God!

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Be transformed by the renewing of your mind

It’s hard to believe that already four days of the Mamelodi Initiative Summer Jam are over! I have a class of 10thgraders, who are all wonderful in different ways.

The first day of class I introduced my students to the concept of Asset-Based Community Development, which is essentially seeing what a community does have rather than focusing on what is lacking. This means utilizing the strengths of a community and determining the skillsets, resources, and passions of community members. So, on the third day of class I had my students do just that.

I divided the students into groups that each of my co-teachers could lead and tasked the groups with drawing the outline of one person at a time. On then inside the body outline, the students were asked to write the qualities and interests of that person. And on the outside of the body outline, the students were asked to write the resources and supports around them.

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Prince in front of his asset map

Some students, like Lucky and Prince, were able to write outside their outline things like leadership roles in organizations and their support teams. Others, like Kagiso and Mahlatse, just listed their favorite rappers all over the page. Honestly, as a teacher, I was just so happy that all the kids were engaged in some way and pleasantly surprised that the logistics got smoothed out.

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Mahlatse and Kagiso in front of their asset map, rapper edition

One group actually ended up doing this activity communally. What I thought would be a very individualistic activity with some group encouragement, they turned into something much cooler. Community transformation sparked by engagement is only possible with a communal mentality and that’s exactly what these kids showcased. So with three posters, fours kids, crossed out names rewritten, and a mix of different marker colors, Bontle, Scelo, Hlogi, and Modiegi get an A+ from me.

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Team Mamelodi: (left to right) Hlogi, Bontle, Modiegi, and Scelo

I’m so glad that my students could be reminded through this project that they are fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of God (Psalm 139:14;Genesis 1:27). Indeed, assets to the community of Mamelodi!

 

With love from South Africa

I made it to South Africa! After 3 layovers, passing through 3 continents, and a few new friendships along the way, I have arrived. Isn’t it funny how, when you get a new place, you start really thinking about the last one?

I am so full of gratitude for the people God placed into my life during the past five months I spent in Denver. Thank you to every person who was excited for this trip and offered an encouraging word.

A few specific shout outs:

Wellspring global missions small group

This group of people taught me so much. Being around a group of people living life missionally right where God has placed them has inspired me more than I can say or write. Every person in this group sought the Lords will for their life and understood the call to missions: brining the gospel to every nation. We talked about what it means to share with people at work, how pursuing missions really looks, and the impacts that a misisonal life can have on relationships. These people fed me with physical food but also rich wisdom and knowledge. They asked me questions, offered advise, showed me what it was to live like Christ, and prayed for this mission. Thank you to the Merrills, Pollocks, Moores, Janet, and Jamie!

Denver Seminary Culture and Mission class

I wasn’t expecting to take a Seminary class when I moved back to Denver, but boy, am I glad that the Lord put this into place! My classmates were BRILLIANT, insightful, kind, and open. I am so excited for what the Lord will do in each of their ministries. This class transformed the way I thought about missions. We read the Bible missionally, going through key passages and seeing how God calls us to gather and scatter. I started to see flaws in the individualistic American church and how that affects my own views, desires, and motivations. I tend to go off on my own, come up with my own plans, and attempt to build my own little kingdom. I used to think about church mainly as a place where I could be fed, but now I see that God designed church for so much more. He gave us community to live out missionally. He calls us to meet together so that we can be sent out. Gather and scatter. Stay tuned for more on that later.

I also enjoyed meeting and often bumping into Tyler who lead my send off prayer, thank you for all the encouragement! Finally, being at Denver Seminary allowed me to spend many lunches with Christiana who has been such a dear friend for so many years, what a blessing to share so many meals with you!

Summit Church

I actually found Summit in two ways. The first was through the recommendation of an International Mission Board representative and the second was through a job posting at Denver Seminary.  Eventually, I made it to Summit and wow, I am so impressed with this community! The first service I went to I was invited to dinner afterward. Immediately, me, a newcomer, was invited into intentional community. I learned about the members of the church who were involved in prison ministry and foster care—two very difficult fields. The church hosted conversations about racial reconciliation, a topic I’d never heard in a sermon in Colorado before. This community understands the gospel and lives it out. I’m so grateful to have crossed paths with the Highlands small group, Brian, Jason, Stephanie, Kayleigh, and Kerry.

FRCAN

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My first hike around Palmer Lake with FRCAN.

I just knew that there had to be a group of Christian hikers in Denver so I did a quick facebook search and sure enough, there is! I highly recommend it to anyone reading this. Spending time in nature with a group of believers is really wonderful and filled my soul while I was in Denver. Special thanks to Jonathan for organizing all the fun adventures!

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FRCAN trip up Jones Pass.

Wellspring Church

This is my Dad’s church and it’s a great church! Bob made me feel so welcome every time I walked through the door with a big hug and Pastor Billy’s sermons were so spot on. I’m grateful for all that wellspring has taught me over the years and the way that they display Christ to their neighbors and care for the poor and sick. I’m also so grateful that I met Kristine through Wellspring! We met up for coffee and in just a few hours I learned SO much from her. She is a gem and I am so excited for God has in store.

Smithies

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Allegra and I enjoying a Swedish dinner at the Kvarnen.

I’m grateful for Rachel who invited me over for dinner in Denver and let me take care of Jasmine. I only watched Jasmine for a few days but I seriously think she is the best dog. Rachel makes a 10/10 chicken dinner. I’m also grateful for Allegra who hosted me in Stockholm! I was a perfect stranger, apart from the fact that we are both Smithies, and Allegra took me in for a night, fed me, showed me around. Just wow, she is amazing and the kind of host I aspire to be!

Colorado Secretary of State office

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Julia and I at the Young Catholic Professionals Christmas party in RiNo.

Thank you to Julia, who listened to me ramble on and on about waste management in South Africa! You are a dear friend and a I’m so glad out desks were within shouting distance. Of course, Suzanne, thank you for being an inspiration and mentor to me for so many years. Lynn always gave me interesting work to do and key blogging experience to support my new blog venture! Being a Policy Fellow taught me a great deal about the law and gave me the time I needed to makes steps toward future goals.

Of course to my family and friends, thank you for loving and supporting me.

All of these people and groups have prepared me for the work I am about to do for the next four months. They have given me the courage to rise, step out, and seek Him.

Please pray with me, that on this mission “I will praise You, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing to You among the nations. For Your mercy reaches unto the heavens, and Your truth unto the clouds. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; Let Your glory be above the earth (Psalm 57:9-11).” Please pray that the Lord would prepare the hearts of the children I will teach to be open to the gospel. Please also pray as I prepare to train my fellow volunteers on the Commune Engagement curriculum, that the Lord would give me the words to say, activities to do, and a humble heart toward wherever He would take  the training and course in general.

Reflections on Acts, fast forward one year

Last year, I wrote a blog for the Smith Center for Religious and Spiritual Life about the UMass Cru fall retreat. For some reason, it was never published. Nevertheless, one year later, I’m learning about the missionaries in Acts again as I take the class “Mission and Culture” at Denver Seminary.

More than ever, I feel called to missions and challenged to pursue it in the same way Jesus did. In “A Light to the Nations,” Michael Goheen describes mission as both centripetal and centrifugal.

“The Old Testament had envisioned a centripetal movement from the periphery (nations) to the center (Jerusalem). Jesus’s words in Acts 1:8 outline the (centrifugal) path from the center to the periphery, from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth (131).”

What’s interesting about Goheen’s argument is that he asserts the Jesus creates the shift the Old Treatment centripetal movement to the centrifugal movement. He is the firstborn of the new Kingdom, the pioneer, the inaugurator. His death is the end of the old and his resurrection is the beginning of the new. We are now transformed by the Holy Spirit to go out to the nations and bring the light of God with us. This is how it was for Paul and Barnabas being sent out from the church of Antioch and so it is today.

Here’s the blog:

Over 100 students from the 5 colleges and surrounding area gathered at Camp Spofford in New Hampshire for UMass Cru’s annual Fall Retreat this past weekend October 13th-15th.  Students represented a number of community colleges, Plymouth State, Smith, and of course, UMass.

The focus of the weekend was to provide students with time to fellowship with one another and spend time growing in their walk with God on their own, as the group reflected on the sermons given by the speaker for the retreat, Pat McLeod.

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Cru Boston Director Pat McLeod giving a message to UMass Cru

Though his roots are in Montana, McLeod now leads the Cru movement in Boston and serves as Chaplin at Harvard. He has been serving in the Northeast for a number of years, encouraging students to follow Christ and proclaim the message of the gospel.

McLeod gave a series of four sermons all on the book of Acts. He began the series by focusing on who the main characters are in the book of Acts, focusing on the life of the Apostle Peter. McLeod outlined four impactful moments of Peter’s life and character development. The first was when Peter, a self-conscious sinner met Jesus. McLeod pointed the group to Luke 5:4-11 where Peter admits that he is a sinner while fishing and Jesus famously responds “From now on you will be catching people!” after which Peter left everything and followed Jesus, becoming a disciple. The second was when Peter, a self-reliant Christina fails Jesus. McLeod then read Matthew 26:31-35, where Peter tells Jesus “even if everyone runs away because of You, I will never run away!” to which Jesus responded “I assure you, tonight, before the rooster crows you will deny me three times!” McLeod made the point that Peter was self-reliant, and eventually he did deny Jesus in Matthew 26:69-75, despite his genuine intentions in this verse. The third was when Peter, a surrendered Christian meets Jesus again after his resurrection. The group looked at John 21:4-6 where the resurrected Jesus meets Peter, fishing once again. Jumping ahead to Acts 1:8, when Jesus says “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be my witness in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” McLeod then concludes, the main character in the book of Acts is actually the Holy Spirit. McLeod referenced Acts 4:5-10 where Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit stands up to Jewish leadership to spread the message of Jesus Christ.

McLeod continued the series with this foundation of the power of the Holy Spirit, encouraging students to live with courageous determination, overcome reluctance and fear, and trust in God so that His power may be released in our hearts.

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Camp Stafford, NH

Activities for the weekend included black light volleyball, ultimate Frisbee, canoeing, group yoga, and free time to relax. During free time, students also had the option of attending seminars on the topics of conflict resolution, praying for missions, and a panel on relationships.

Walking in the Water

For the past year, I’ve really felt like I’ve been stuck in a pit. It’s been confusing and dark at times. The worst part about the pit is that you can kind of see that there is light and a better place above, but you’re stuck. The walls are high. Kind of like this wall that was behind a London hostel I stayed in last January.

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The Highbury Centre in London, England

If I cold just climb out of the pit on my own, believe me, I would. One of the truths in life, though, is that we humans tend to dig deep, deep pits. The weight of sin is so large that we don’t even realize that we are in a pit half the time, much less have the wherewithal to get out. And that’s why we need Jesus. He came down to earth and created a way out. He died on the cross so we don’t have to live in the pit anymore. He is the way, the truth, and the light. Jesus said, “ I am the good shepherd. I know my sheep, and they know me (John 10;14).” He leads us to green pastures, to a life of purpose, to salvation.

 

Living in a pit is an interesting phenomenon, though. For some, it almost feels comfortable because it’s familiar. It actually takes a great deal of trust to get out of the pit. You have to trust that Jesus really knows His way and that wherever He is leading will be better than the cold, dark, familiar, and seemingly comfortable pit. That’s a big deal!

 

Plato’s Republic talks about a pit of sorts in the allegory of the cave. The people live in a cave, devoid of light and greenery. One person managed to get out of the cave and see the life above, but he’s faced with a dilemma of whether or not to go back into the cave because he knows that he will be killed once he does. The people in the cave are so “comfortable” they are willing to kill the very man that could lead them to true life! This points to the story of the gospel and the struggle of our human hearts.

 

We look for comfort in tangible things right in front of us, but miss out on the bigger picture. We often miss out on life outside of this dark cave and in the light because following someone, Jesus specifically, out of this pit requires trust in the things unseen. It requires hope in something better, a perspective beyond life in the pit.

 

That something better is described in Isaiah 62, the restoration of Zion.

 

“You will be a glorious crown in the Lord’s hand,

and a royal diadem in the palm of your God.

You will no longer be called Deserted,

And your land will not be called Desolate;

Instead, you will be called My Delight is in Her,”

 

Our God will not desert us on the journey. He has called me to such a time as this.

Out of the pit “we walk by faith, not by sight (2 Corinthians 5: 7),” as Paul writes.

The really beautiful thing is, when we trust in God, we believe the gospel, we have been transformed. Paul continues, “therefore, if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation; old things have passes away, and look, new things have come (2 Corinthians 5:17).” I am convinced that trust is the key to growing in relationship to God and renewing our hearts in Him. That is, to “draw near to Him, wait on Him, bind yourself to Him” for “those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength;

 

They shall mount up with wings like eagles,

They shall run and not be weary,

They shall walk and not faint (Isaiah 40: 28-31).”

I thought about this verse last summer when I was in Greece.

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Acropolis, ancient greek ruins in Athens, Greece

I sat under a tree in Athens and reflected on the legend of Icarus. The Greek myth is the story of an expert crafts man Deadalus who makes wings out of wax and feathers for himself and his son, Icarus, to escape from Crete. Icarus’s father tells him to follow a path not too close to the sea or the sun but of course, in the elixir of flight, Icarus fly’s into the sun, the wax on his wings melt, and he crashes into the ocean. Here is the big lesson for me– I can’t make my own wings and expect to fly. Relying on my own inventions without God will make me crash into the ocean every time.

 

Trusting the Lord is a radical act of faith and the only way to walk is with him. Being a Christian is not a calculation or philosophical theory, it is an everyday lived experience of bold, life changing trust. I agree with John Steward Mills, “there are many truths of which the full meaning cannot be realized, until personal experience has brought it home.”

 

Trusting God is kind of like swimming in this river–exhilarating and difficult, and also the only path through the confusing forest.

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Smith College, Mill River

So yes, some things in life are confusing, but the character of God, that is crystal clear. C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity, “but God has no history. He is too completely and utterly real to have one.” Indeed, when Moses asked God what to call him he replied, “I AM WHO I AM (Exodus 3:14).” He is constant, sovereign, my rock and my good Father. I can take heart, for He has overcome the world.

Forever Green

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In Tompkins Square Park

there is one beautiful, lonely evergreen

that I noticed

In fact, the only one that I noticed

in a city where so much seems to go unnoticed.

 

Sleepy subways stations

Ear buds in,

Bodies moving

 

He notices me though

He see’s me like I see this evergreen

Placed here,

Green and growing,

Perfectly and uniquely made.

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For “are not two sparrows sold for a penny?

Yet not one of them will fall to the ground

apart from the will of your Father.

And even the very hairs on your head are all numbered.

So do not be afraid;

you are worth more than many sparrows (Matthew 10:29-31).”

I am Second in Lesvos and Everywhere Else

This is a message that I’ve heard many times in church. One that I’m sure you’ve heard before. I’m learning it again, so I’m going to write about it.

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I went to Lesvos, Greece (pictured above) last week and volunteered in a refugee camp. I’ve been in Geneva, surrounded by NGOs talking about the refugee crisis, writing papers about humanitarianism, and I was itching to break free from the picturesque life of eating expensive macrons and running through manicured parks. Many refugees cross the Mediterranean from Turkey to seek asylum in Lesvos and continue on to resettle in western Europe. I believe God put refugees on my heart and that he called me to Lesvos to bring the light of Christ into the suffering of those who have lost their families, fled war and are seeking refuge. For He is “a father of the fatherless, a defender of widows (Psalm 68:5).”

So I showed up and got to work. The first day I volunteered, I helped with food distribution. We would bring a certain amount of food to each room, and I learned quickly that some of the refugees weren’t eating all their food. Immediately, I was outraged! I thought we were wasting resources and that there must be a better way to do this. Of course I thought I knew best because I had just written a paper about how to do this right and listened to talks at the UN where they told me about how they knew how to do it right. I thought why don’t we just have the refugees come pick up their food so we don’t have to see it go to waste?

Just a few days later, I came crashing down from my ivory tower. For some of the other areas of camp, this was the method of food distribution. And in fact, this method doesn’t work perfectly. People cut the line, fights start, people through rocks, and chaos descends.

It became clear to me that these people don’t need me to write a paper about how to run a refugee camp or think about all the things I would change about the camp after my first day of work. They don’t need me to make policy recommendations. They don’t need me to exalt myself in the midst of their suffering. Indeed, they don’t need me at all. They need Jesus. And that’s why I came.

“for the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again (2 Corinthians 5:14-15).”

In humble thanksgiving for the price that Jesus paid on the cross, I greeted the refugees into their section of camp as the security guard with a smile. It took all that I had to love the refugees. All my energy, focus, and heart. This was the call. Not to come in and try to do the job that only Christ can do, but to be an ambassador for Christ. To let His strength come through in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). For all the “solutions” that I, a broken sinner can come up with, there is nothing that compares to the love of Jesus Christ. It is His sacrifice on the cross that saves.

Jesus’ declaration in John 14:6 applies to refugees and also to me.

“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

The only solution to this broken world filled with broken people, stumbling around using broken systems is Jesus. I’ve learned this lesson in my personal life too. Sometimes, okay, all the time, I think about my needs and my desires in relationships. I limit relationships to the horizontal of this world at a huge loss.

As Jesus said, “peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid (John 14:27).”

For in Christ, there is true freedom to love and to serve. I have no peace when I think in the horizontal of this world. There is only disappointment and a troubled, afraid heart. Living in the vertical, relating to others in the vertical, radical, and powerful way of Jesus Christ is what we are made to do.

“He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matthew 10:39)

Only in humble surrender can we find true life. Too often I seek to glorify myself. I want to build my own little kingdom and surround myself with people who will serve me. I walk into a refugee camp and exalt myself as the solution to the world’s problems instead of coming along side the suffering of the refugees and loving them in this time of difficulty. I explain to people in my life all they ways they should change to better serve me instead of appreciating them for who God made them to be and allowing God to use their differences to actually teach me.

God has called me to so much more than maintaining my little kingdom. He has not called me to seek my own glory but to “put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering (Colossians 3:12).” Praise God and all Glory be unto His name!

A Hot Minute in Moscow

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(Mrs. Wallingford, Shirley, Me)

Let me tell you about the most wonderful woman I met in Moscow. Before heading to Geneva and after I left Saint Petersburg, I stopped by Moscow for a couple of days. I has originally planned to stay in a hostel during my time in Moscow but at the request of my thoughtful and wise boyfriend, stayed with a missionary family just outside of downtown Moscow. Boy, am I glad I didn’t stay in that hostel!

So anyway, I’m in Moscow, staying with the Wallingfords, and in comes a woman named Shirley, also staying with the Wallingfords. Shirley and her late husband Bud were some of the first missionaries to come to the Soviet Union and then Russia after the Iron Curtain fell. She joined Campus Crusade for Christ (Cru) in the very early days and knew Bill and Vonnette Bright well, the founders of Cru. I had the privilege of spending a whole day with her and listened to the stories of her life.

Shirley told me about how she became a Christian, her discernment process in becoming a missionary, how she met her husband and knew that he was the man God had prepared for her to marry, and story after story of how God has used her in the mission field! What makes Shirley’s life so intriguing to listen to is that all her stories are centered on Christ. She has lead a life of complete surrender and seen the fruit of laboring for the Lord. Shirley has followed Paul’s advice, “whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all for the Glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).” Judy invited God in, let Him take control, and saw the fruit of following His commandment to “go therefore and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19).”

I’ve been struggling with discerning my calling for the future. I have a few ideas of jobs that might interest me, but I don’t feel a strong conviction toward a particular trade or place. This has troubled me for some time. In fact, I think last month was the most anxious I’ve been about the topic of “the future” in a while, maybe ever. As I near graduation next year, the questions of what I will do next year hit me more frequently and with greater force. I’ve felt like a shmuck just shrugging my shoulders and answering “I don’t know” to the question of what I’ll do next year so I’ve defaulted to picking the most recent train of thought on the subject as a way out of sharing where my heart is really at. No more of that. God can use where I am right now for His glory.

So here are a few lies from the world that I bought into and would like to call out:

  1. I need to pick a career that will give me financial security

If there is anything I have learned in college, it is that God will provide exactly what we need when we need it. He is a good father and that is the ultimate security- knowing that He is loves me and died on the cross for my sins. How could I, even for a second, doubt that he would provide financially when it is He who gives me life? I asked Judy about her thoughts on retirement and she looked at me as if to say “why would anyone do that?” She’s 100% right. If you know that Jesus is the Lord, and have devoted all that you do to make that truth known, why would you ever retire? Why would you ever stop sharing the love of Christ with others? The world says to work for a while till you’ve saved enough and don’t’ have to, but Jesus says “abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bare fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me (John 15:4).” Why would you ever want to stop bearing fruit? I could search after money and financial security, and I have, but it would all be for not. For Jesus commanded “do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life (John 6:27).”

  1. I should have a 5 year plan

What good are my plans? It is a loss to spend time planning and thinking about what I want to do rather than surrendering my life like Judy, “for we walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7)!” God knows me better than I know myself, for he formed my inward parts and covered me in my mother’s womb (Psalm 139: 13). What a loss it would be to settle for my own plans! My Dad once asked me, “Do you want to be part of Lizzie-sized plans or God-sized plans?” I’d choose the latter. The wildest things I could imagine do not compare to the glory that He brings, “such knowledge is too wonderful for me (Psalm 139:6).”

  1. I need to do something that will give me clout

I look not to the world for affirmation but to Him and Him alone. He tells me “do not fear therefore; you are more valuable than many sparrows (Matthew 10:31).” This is not to say that I am some perfect human. In fact, quite the opposite is true. I am broken and so very weak. Yet as I decrease, He increases! I find that what the world thinks of me is worthless because His grace is sufficient and His strength is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).”

  1. Now is the time to be selfish

This is advice I got when I was choosing colleges and there is absolutely nothing in the Bible to support it. We are called to have a servants mindset, “just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28).” There is a never a time to be selfish, only opportunity to deny yourself and take up your cross to follow Him (Matthew 6:24).

  1. I can fix the world

At Smith, I hear motivated women call out injustice and commit their lives to fighting for a better tomorrow. While this is a noble cause, their crusade cannot last because God is not at the center. By my own strength I can do little, but He can transform the world. For “He is before all things, and in Him all things consist (Colossians 1:17).” The message of Christ can bring the healing that this world so desperately needs, “for God did not send His son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved (John 3:17).”

So I approach this coming semester without any idea of what might happen but such excitement for what God has in store. I trust that He will use this time for His glory and surrender my life so that He may use it to bless others. There is a reason that I am on this earth and not with Him in heaven. I am placed here and filled with the truth. Let His kingdom reign!

Take it in Stride

img_6928I love to plan, make lists, and dream about the future. When I am at school, I plan out every minuteof the day, even when I sleep! Planning gives me a (false) sense of control that I cling to in everyday life. This perhaps the largest hindrance on my faith and one of the central reasons I’ve decided to trek 500miles across Spain.

Though I still try to plan here by reading my guide book, everyday on the Camino is different and filled with suprises. The only item on a pilgrim’s schedule is to walk,and the past few days I haven’t even been doing that! Chelsea has tendinitis in her foot so we have taken time to rest and recover. Yesterday, we spent the day in Castrojeriz which has a population of just 500 people. As you can imagine, there wasn’t much to do. I had no choice but to sit down and relax, something I have a very hard time doing. I like accomplishing and looking forward, not sitting still.

I often pray for God to soften my heart and draw me near to Him, but I don’t practice the disciplines that will allow for my prayer to be answered. I fill my life with distractions and drown out the “small still voice (1 Kings 19:12)” of God. I’d rather drive around traffic and go a much longer distance than wait through it.

I think this all boils down to my hearts unwillingness to trust. I have been told many times that God has a wonderful plan for my life and I have even quoted Jeremiah 29:11 to tell others of this wonderful news. Intellectually, I know that God is in control, but my heart resists this truth, looking for ways to find comfort in worldly productivity that can never satisfy.  Proverbs 3:5 is not just a platitude to cure the woes of daily life, it’s a challenge to boldly follow Jesus and trust Him with everything you have. To follow Christ is to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding (Proverbs 3:5).” To trust God as the Lord of your life, is to “acknowledge Him in all your ways” so that the fruit of a Christ lead life can been seen as, “He shall direct your paths (Proverbs 3:6).” Trusting in the Lord means giving up control, to “not be wise in your own eyes;” but to “fear the Lord and depart from evil (Proverbs 3:7). In all of this, God’s glory will be revealed and “It will be the health of your flesh and the strength to your bones (Proverbs 3:8).”

As I walk the Camino, I trust the Lord to give me the strength in every step, bring me to Santiago, and to use my life to expand His kingdom. I don’t know what tomorrow will bring and I never will. In every new person I meet I see His image and experience His love. In every gorgeous sunrise I marvel in His majesty. In every quiet moment I hear His voice.

Breaking my Heart for What Breaks His

The first spiritual conversation I had at the Mamelodi Initiative was with one of my co-teachers the second week of program. They asked me about deliverance and why God doesn’t answer certain prayers and I thought I had a good answer. From what I could tell, we had relatively similar backgrounds. I explained to my co-teacher how I sometimes pray for God to give me a good grade on a exam and He answers that prayer with a no. Its frustrating, but upon reflection I always seen the value and goodness in how things turned out. Sometimes the Lord has lessons to teach us from failed exams, broken hearts, and even trauma. I’ve experienced all these things and in them I have also experienced Gods unfailing love. I left the conversation feeling closer to my co-teacher and modestly satisfied.

 

Later that week, I had another spiritual conversation with one of my students. One of the journal topics asked for the students response to John 3:16. Unlike the rest of the class, this student challenged the verse. She raised some questions about why the church talks so much about Jesus and not as much about God. The trinity was something I didn’t fully understand for quite some time, so I jumped at the opportunity to respond to her. Non-unique to almost all my responses to my student’s journals, I wrote at the end of the response that I would love to talk more in person with her about this. On Thursday, this student approached me during lunch and asked me to grab her one more sandwich. There were plenty of extra so I grabbed her one and then she asked if I wanted to talk about her journal. I was overjoyed; this meant she actually read my response! I told her YES, but asked if we could talk the next day so that I could prep and bring my bible.

 

I spent the night looking up verses supporting and explaining the Trinity. One of the Cru staff who is currently in seminary even let me use some of their software to learn more about the Trinity from a myriad of perspectives within the church. Eventually, I figured that this student wouldn’t be terribly interested in an extensive history of theological debate of the Trinity within the church, so I stuck with John 14:23-26. The time came for this student and I to meet and I approached her before she was about to leave. Right off the bat she asked about deliverance, just like my co-teacher. We were standing up in the midst of students and co-teachers shuffling around, so I ushered her over to a quieter area outside. I didn’t have my bible and she wasn’t even asking about the Trinity so I just decided to see where the conversation would go. Unlike my conversation with my co-teacher, I struggled to find similarities in this student and I’s background. She opened up to me about her family’s struggle to find a home and admitted that she goes to bed hungry sometimes. She asked me why God doesn’t answer her prayers for her family to move out of the room they rent and into a home or why God allows her to go to bed hungry. My mind was spinning, utterly at a loss for words. I’ve never experienced real hunger and I’ve never asked God to provide my family with a home. I felt an overwhelming lack of qualification. My heart broke in ways I have never experienced and even just writing this is making my heart sink again.

 

This student hugged me and said that God spoke to her through me, but all I could feel was useless. When I got in the car to head back to Kilnterton guilt set in which then turned into righteous anger. I have a lot of trouble answering the question of why God allows for suffering in the context of disease or hunger. I can understand the tragedy I have experienced in life because I can see clear choices that were made by individuals. With larger, systemic issues of sin, the choices of individuals become less and less clear. I can’t point this student to a specific person or choice to explain why she goes to bed hungry. I don’t know why God answered her prayers with a no and I was silly to speculate why God answered my co-teachers’ prayers the way He has. This is the mystery of God and something we must accept in faith.

 

Though I will forever be a loss for words at the question of deliverance, I have experienced a glimpse of what it’s like to truly love like Christ loved us. I learned that loving someone else doesn’t mean just smiling in their direction or sending them an encouraging note; it’s so much more. Loving someone else is sacrificing the blissful ignorance of living in a world where you only see your own problems to take on another persons burdens. Loving someone else is listening to the things they usually try to avoid talking about. Loving someone else is painful and hard. The ultimate act of love, the crucifixion, is the height of physical pain and represents just a fraction of the burden Jesus took on to forgive us of our sins. It should have been no surprise to me that when I pray for God to soften my heart to love like He does, I pray for exposure to more of this worlds sin and suffering.

I think that through all of this, God is calling for me to “listen carefully, doing justice for the fatherless and the oppressed so that men of the earth may terrify them no more (Psalm 10:18).” We live in a broken world where no one can escape the sting of sin; “for all have sinned and  fall short of the Glory of God (Romans 3:23).” The sin we all experience points us towards a new earth where “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, no crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away (Revelations 21: 4).” Sin is temporary and so is this life but that is not to say we should sit around waiting to die. God has called us all to a higher purpose with higher dreams of justice.