Just Be You

Disney movies are powerful. Yes, they can have negative effects at times, but if you look close enough you can find many hidden gems about relationships, individuality, strength and much more. I recently saw two Disney movies. The stories are on opposite ends of the Disney spectrum, but both spoke to me in the same manner about the same thing.

What is that thing? It is the power that comes when you are yourself and no one else. Individuality.

Back in December, I took my 4-year-old niece to see “Moana.” I like to think I have simple taste when it comes to movies, and most of the time I like watching kids’ movies more than a movie for my age group. As I sat in the small theatre in Texas, Moana’s story scrolled across the screen and pulled me in. I felt as if I was in Polynesia. As Moana struggled to find her own way and figure out what she was willing to risk in order to ensure her people’s survival, I realized I am a bit like her. She is brave and adventurous. She wants to make her family proud, but she feels torn between them and what she truly wants to do. She looked at her island dying around her and the food running out, she looked inside herself and heard the call to go find a way to help her island. (Yes, this is where the mysticism and magic components of almost all Disney stories come into play, but the gist of the movie remains the same.) She decides to set off, but she encounters the opinions and instructions and cultural standards and every other obstacle that could have come her way. Yet at the end of the day, she had to stay true to what she felt in her heart was right. She had to go and take a risk, a chance at success. Otherwise she would always be looking back, wondering what would have happened if she had listened to what she knew and believed to be true rather than what everyone wanted for her. (I will shamelessly admit I teared up quite a few times when I was watching this movie; it is somewhat emotional.) She was herself no matter the cost.

This past Sunday I saw another Disney movie, this time with my roommate. “Beauty and the Beast” is one of those classic Disney movies I had not watched when I was a child, and people always seemed genuinely shocked when I would divulge that little detail. (I did not grow up as a Disney kid, sue me. There are many other classic Disney movies I still have not seen, and I am not ashamed.) However, “Beauty and the Beast” is somewhat special because although I do not quite favor the old cartoon, I did love the stage version. When I was a sophomore in college, my best friend and I got dressed up and drove to Hollywood to see “Beauty and the Beast” live on stage, and it was amazing. So obviously I wanted to watch it in theatres since it was made into a live-action film. As soon as I saw the trailer however many months ago I added the movie to my list; I wanted to see it. And then it came out (no pun intended) that the film would have scenes depicting a homosexual lifestyle. Well, I decided to see it anyway; I am glad I did. Belle is portrayed as a fiercely loyal and loving woman, one who would much rather venture out into the world than settle down the way everyone thought she should. She desires more for herself than what everyone in her village was pursuing. She loves her father and sacrifices herself so he can be free in his old age. She is intelligent and loves to read. Even though she is living with the Beast, she never lets his horrible moods and cruel actions determine how she is going to feel or what she is going to do. She is also greatly misunderstood by the people who do not bother to look deeper into who she really is. But she never lets their opinions or criticisms stop her from being herself and doing what is right.

As I sat in this huge theatre on Sunday, watching Belle’s story play out on the equally huge screen, it struck me: People are drawn to Disney movies because almost every story line has a moment where the main character realizes they cannot do anything unless they are true to who they are. You can say these princesses were self-aware (the fancy term people use when they are amazed at how well you can evaluate yourself and your own life). Translated to the Christian life: You cannot do anything if you are not true to the person God created you to be.

Translating this into the present moment, why was I driven to write about this particular topic? Because it is important to know who you are as a person. I am not simply talking about knowing what you like and do not like (movies, music, values, hobbies, jobs, interests, political views and on and on and on). No, I am talking about the reasons behind each of those things. Okay, you like this genre of music and not another; why? You have this political view; why? What are the reasons, the deep reasons, you hold things in your heart? If you have a strong opinion about something, what is the reason?

Without knowing who you are, life is difficult. Without knowing the person Christ created you to be, you wander through jobs, relationships, churches looking for something or someone that is going to give you a purpose, make you feel fulfilled, make you feel on top of the world. And when you cannot find those things, you too easily move on without truly engaging.

Knowing who you are gives you wisdom. I could (and probably will) write an entire post just about wisdom in the future, but right now I will try to keep it basic.

Wisdom is security, wisdom is strength, wisdom is determination, wisdom is faith, wisdom is time. Operating with wisdom at the forefront of your thoughts and words and actions yields nothing but godly results. Wisdom can decide how a situation plays out, how your life plays out.

But what is wisdom’s opposite? Foolishness. I will give you some examples: when foolishness says to act harshly toward your friend who forgot to call you back and forgot about your plans, wisdom says to give them a chance to explain and forgive them; when foolishness says to give up when something gets difficult, wisdom says there is something bigger going on and control needs to be given to God alone; when foolishness says to make a spur-of-the-moment decision, wisdom says take your time.

In my last post, “Lasting Friendship,” I talked about selflessness, how all lasting friendships consist of two selfless people committed to looking out for the other person more than themselves. A huge amount of selflessness, though, can be attributed to knowing who you are and having the courage to simply be yourself. Moana and Belle both had joy in their lives because they knew at the end of the day they did what most people would never have the courage to do: They stayed true to who they knew they were.

Too often in this world we find reasons to compromise. We compromise on our ethics, values, beliefs, opinions, feelings because we encounter people and situations who tell us that what we believe, what we are pursuing, what we want, what we are praying for is not worth it. We take jobs we do not truly desire, we maintain friendships and relationships that only grate on our nerves, we decide to stay home when we do not have anyone to do anything with when really all we want is to be out. Knowing who we are gives us wisdom, which in turn gives us an expanded tool belt when working on lasting friendships. Knowing yourself also lends much self-respect and helps you respect others better. When you respect yourself, others will respect you.

There is something powerful and enchanting about someone who lives their life while staying true to who they are. (Maybe the magic in Disney movies is not anything mystical, rather the way they inspire viewers to simply be themselves.) They exhibit strength and determination different from the world around them. They have peace. They have hope for things everyone else fails to understand. They are the steady people who will walk with you through your storms. They are the people you want beside you.

I am not usually one who encourages people to be like Disney princesses, but be inspired by Moana and Belle. Let their characteristics and knowledge of who they are encourage you to do the same. And remember: The ones who truly love you simply want you to be yourself.

My East Asian Journey

I am finally back in the States! It was such an awesome journey to East Asia and I wanted to take some time to tell you a couple of stories. There are so many I could tell, but I’m going to stick with the ones that impacted me the most.

 
Going to East Asia was like going home again. When I went to Japan last year I fell in love with Asia and going back just gave me tons of experience to fall back on when things got tough. Seeing all of the familiar sights and experiencing a similar culture was amazing. The city we stayed in was beautiful although very different from Japan. We spent a few days in the city getting adjusted before the real work in the village would begin. Our primary task for being in this rural village was prayer. We would be going to the houses and farms of many different villagers to help our fieldworker establish his business. The business will someday soon provide our fieldworker with unlimited access to the village and more opportunities to share the love of Jesus. Since almost all of the farmers in the Village in the Sky have walnut trees, we went around to a few different farms and tagged their trees with metal tags and attached GPS coordinates to them in order to usher in new ways of producing high-quality walnuts. While a big group of our team of 10 went to the farms to tag trees, there was a smaller media team that would talk to the farmers and take pictures. I had the opportunity to lead the media team, and our purpose was to produce media packages that would serve to populate our fieldworker’s business website with information. It was such a cool opportunity and an incredible way to get to know the people! But even more than that, it was something God used to open my eyes, giving more ways to pray for people who have never had ANYONE pray for them before.

 
Two stories stand out more than the rest so I will tell those…

 
Going into this trip I had one very specific request: that God would break His silence and talk to me, give me some kind of direction. I was hopeful and confident He would answer. I did the same thing when I went to Japan last year and He delivered in the clearest way. Well after about a week in East Asia I got tired of waiting. After praying and praying for everything and everyone I saw, God was still silent. I didn’t understand it. But my team’s leader came to me and reminded me that God will speak when we earnestly seek Him. She recommended I take some time the next morning to wholeheartedly petition God and read Proverbs 1-8. So that’s what I did. I was completely expecting for the anxiety over His silence to go away, I was desperately hoping He would break His silence. But I realized I didn’t have to hear His voice right then and there with my Bible open on my lap. I just needed to be willing to listen and look for Him in the things going on around me. So I didn’t feel great and restored after I read Proverbs and prayed for a while, but I did have the reminder that God speaks through His word so I kept thinking about all of the verses I read. All of this happened on Saturday morning.

 
By the time Monday rolled around, we were back in the village after spending the weekend in the city—with running water and regular bathrooms! When we got back to the village, our fieldworker had a meeting with us. He reminded us of just how powerful prayer really is. Think about it this way: In the United States, where we have everything we need—family, friends, jobs, church, etc.—we don’t spend all that much time asking for THE IMPOSSIBLE to happen. But in the village, and in all of East Asia, they don’t have the one thing that matters most—a relationship with Jesus. Our fieldworker then informed us that the uncle of the man whose house we were staying in was demon possessed, bed-ridden and near the end of his life. He has no way of hearing the Gospel shared with him, but he still needs people praying for him, believing that God will miraculously save him.

 
After we found out about this man, we broke away from the group and we each went off to find a place of solitude to pray for a little while. The village was over 6,000 feet in the air and mountains were surrounding us. If things were quiet enough you could actually hear the wind coming down the mountain and going through the canyon. Up high on that mountain, by myself, God reminded me of something. Here’s a little background: when I was a young teenager, my favorite thing to do in the world was stand on my parents’ balcony to watch the sunset. It was always the most peaceful thing and you would think that I always took advantage of the peace and quiet to pray. That was rarely the case. I always viewed the balcony as a place I could go to just breathe and reflect on who God is; I never focused on talking to Him, we simply watched the sunset together. As I got older, I lost the ability to stay silent while sitting with God.

 
Sitting up on the mountain, completely alone with nothing but the wind blowing around me, reminded me that God never leaves. SERIOUSLY! God never once left me even when He was silent! I just forgot what it was like to make an effort to look for Him. He made it so easy, though. His Spirit was everywhere I looked—the wind, the beautiful mountains, the blue sky, the clouds that blocked the sun, the sunrise and sunset. It was a reminder that sustained me for the rest of the trip.

 
The other story I want to tell you is one of heartbreak for other people. One thing I’ve learned in the last year is that traveling overseas to share the love of Jesus and immersing yourself in someone else’s culture makes you realize how broken the world is, how needy everyone is for the love of Jesus. But when you realize the amount of roadblocks the enemy puts up to keep people in darkness, it breaks your heart. Suddenly even the most innocent children are guilty in the eyes of God. I thought that after I got back from Japan last year that my heart couldn’t possibly break anymore for lost people than it already had. But it broke more in East Asia.

 
During our first week in the village, we got to walk up the hill to visit the school. It was a boarding school that housed hundreds of students. It was a huge blessing to play with them and learn from them! To see the smiles on their faces despite what we perceived to be really tough living conditions was an uplifting experience because they honestly had no clue what was going on in the bigger world outside of their village. How crazy to think! We each had groups of children that would flock around us, wanting to get closer to the people who looked nothing like them. Some of the guys on my team came away with ripped and stretched shirts because the younger boys were literally hanging on them and playing! But later the next day we all realized something: these children don’t know who Jesus is. In the eyes of God, anyone who doesn’t believe in Him is guilty and needs forgiveness. These children have no way of knowing Jesus because no one can share His love in their language! But this is where the power of prayer comes in. We all prayed over the school and the children multiple times, and some even went ahead and shared the story of creation with a group of children even though the children had NO IDEA what was being said! We had no choice but to act on faith and put all of our confidence in God to answer the impossible prayers we were laying before Him—prayers that the children would be saved! For the rest of the trip, even when we were sad at realizing just how dark the land around us was, we prayed with confidence!

 
Every time we get outside of ourselves and outside of our comfort zones, God opens eyes. The biggest thing that happened to me is that I learned how to ask for the IMPOSSIBLE and BELIEVE that God would DELIVER. It takes faith to step off of a plane in an unknown land and commit to pray for a people who can’t even communicate—their language is only oral! But when we step out and put all of our faith in Him, God never lets us down! And the biggest reminder of this can come on a simple gust of wind traveling through a vast canyon!

 
God is so faithful, even when we continually mess things up for ourselves and others. The greatest gift is His forgiveness and God reminded me of this so many times by reminding me that I was once a sinner yet He still listens to me when I call out to Him! Never has He ever turned His back on me! I went into East Asia with a prayer: to receive direction and hear His voice. I came away with the knowledge that He has always been there even in silence, and I already have the direction for my next steps! Thank you so much for taking the time to read this! I pray you will be encouraged and know that your gift of support was used in a big way in my life! THANK YOU!

Warfare Is Real

Hello friends, family and supporters! Just wanted to take a few minutes to update all of you on what has been going on with my training and my upcoming trip!

I never thought a school would be used in such a big way. If I had chosen to go to some other school, I know for a fact God would not have placed all of the people and all of the opportunities in my path the way he has so far. Because of my school, I have the chance to learn, grow and meet other people in both similar and vastly different places in their walks compared to me. I know for a fact that I would not be where I am right now—on the cusp of graduation and getting clearer promptings than ever before—if I were not going to school where I do.

I have written before about what my team and I experience on a week-by-week basis, and you know I have been going on and on about time and how I feel as though I have none left this semester. Let me further explain this…

Last week, we learned more about spiritual warfare. What it is, where it comes from, why it comes and what we can do to fight it. There was a designated speaker for the topic and he pointed out a few great things that are so astonishingly simple concepts. But so often with spiritual warfare, as with everything else that has a simple root, we blow everything up and make ourselves believe there is something more to it. There is not. Spiritual warfare is the simplest thing.

Who has power and dominion on this earth, to do what he wishes and pleases to those who do not trust in Dad? The enemy. He has a vast kingdom of darkness on this earth and he just lies in wait for those who are brave enough to go up against it to try to rescue the ones who are trapped inside. But he is a clever, strategic and cunning enemy. He sees our approach, he sees our strategies and knows how to plow us into the ground and send us running back to where we came from. And that is EXACTLY what he wants, that is his victory. Seeing us retreat like scared children instead of engaging him in battle ever again. His aim is to get us to give up, leave and never come back…ever.

This is spiritual warfare.

It is the act of going against the enemy and his kingdom of darkness so God’s kingdom of light can reign. Anytime we go up against the darkness, the darkness can and WILL push back. But it is nothing to fear. We have armor, we have deliverance and the battle has already been won. That’s great news!

But I would be hard pressed if I did not speak for just a few minutes about what this message said to me.

This path is rough, it is not easy by any measure of the word. Sometimes it feels like I am alone, or it feels like my team is alone. Sometimes I feel like I have done nothing but ask for direction lately, but I get frustrated when I have to look for more or go after a more realistic destination. It is exhausting to always step out on faith and relinquish complete control. But it is the only way to live in complete peace. It does not make sense to the outside world, to surrender control and somehow get peace in return. But think of it this way. How often in our busy lives do we want to throw our hands up and give all of our responsibilities and tasks to someone else? How often do we, do I, think that if we can have just one day where we do not have to do anything then life will be grand? I think these things all the time. It is the same with faith, except the only difference is that I can justify surrendering and no one will look at me like I am crazy or delusional for stepping away. Rather I will have peace because I am no longer in control. It is like taking a Sunday drive with God at the wheel. He has my back, he has our back. He will not let us down.

Even though spiritual warfare is real, and we so often want to blame it on people, we have to remember that simple people are never to blame for the darkness in this world. The enemy is to blame, and he is the one we aim to defeat. And not with our strength, but our father’s strength.

I have no doubt we will encounter a few struggles, a few trials when our time comes in just a few short weeks. But what is important to remember is that it will happen and the battle has already been fought and won. We will never be led into a battle that was lost.

Each of my teammates is struggling with something right now. Some of the struggles are physical, something going on with their health. Other struggles are centered on family or relationships, and they are struggling to navigate through some difficult times. With everything going on with my team, I am asking you to pray for us. Pray our health stands up, pray our finances will be taken care of, pray our team grows closer to one another and pray we are prepared for whatever might come our way. We know that regardless of what is ahead, we are not shaken rather we stand with resolve to do the very things that will challenge us the most.

An update on finances: I am struggling. This year is much different from last year, and it has been a struggle to get to this point. I have complete peace and faith that everything will work out, but I am asking all of you to pray and consider becoming a financial partner of mine. Please pray about it. You honestly never to know to what extent you will be blessed for your faithfulness and obedience.

Thank you all for reading! I will have more updates as training continues!

Time Flies

Wow! Yesterday, one more week fell off the countdown until our plane leaves. I just want to pause for a second to share how significant that is.

Last year, time sometimes felt like it was standing still. With each training session, my team and I broke down more barriers with each other and we all grew closer, and we learned more about the country to which we were traveling. With each Monday that passed, we did something different that moved us out of our comfort zones just a little bit more. Sometimes it was seeking one of the other girls out to have lunch and other times it was learning to be silent in training and listen to what the others had to say.

Also, fundraising was not nearly as difficult last year as it has been this year. I am not sure what is holding the process back, but I know it will all work out.

But the common theme was this: we had time. Time was always present. When we had concerns about raising our funds, we had time on our side. When it seemed like we had nothing but things holding us back, we had time to work through everything.

This year, it is scary how quick this trip is approaching. Here at school, we are approaching spring break which means we are more than halfway through the semester already. WHAT?! This is the last college semester of my life and it is literally flying before my eyes. Seconds and minutes tick by and there is no concern on the part of the watch on my wrist that every time the fast-moving hand goes around signifies that I have less and less time right now. I am pushing so fast toward my goal of graduation and going that I sometimes have way too much going on in my head.

But the consuming thoughts I have are quickly put to rest when I walk into training and see my team. The relationships that are forming and the information we have to learn every week is the most peaceful reality check in my life. It is as if Dad is saying, “Hey, pay attention to what I have to tell you, and everything will be just fine.” I cannot even explain what a blessed relief it is to be around the people I get to go with knowing we are all in similar situations.

Now, onto the update! Like I said earlier, we only have 9 WEEKS until our plane leaves. Such little time and so much to get done before then. But even in the midst of crazy schedules, learning to story, learning about other cultures and learning more about my teammates, I have complete faith that we are all on this path for a big reason. For the right reason. We will NOT be led where we have no purpose. Dad would never do that to us.

Please continue to keep me and my team in your thoughts and prayers. There are so many challenges we are going to be faced with between now and then, and we want to be on our toes with everything. Also, please prayerfully consider—deeply consider it, think about it at least once every day when it comes up—donating to my funds and helping me get to my next financial goal. Anything would be greatly appreciated.

Continued Need for Support

It’s Thursday, and I finally had an opportunity today to sit down and update you all!
This week is actually midterm week at school, and I had one of my midterms this morning. I had a plan to write an update on Tuesday but I got sidetracked with a few other pressing tasks. So here I am, about to go to class for the last time today and I thought I’d take a few minutes to write some stuff down. So here goes…

 
It struck me just a few days ago that we seriously only have 10 WEEKS until we depart! That’s scary, nerve-wracking and exciting all at the same time! With our departure date getting closer, it’s reminding me of where I was at this time last year. Since I didn’t leave until mid-June last summer, I had tons of time to wait and think about the journey ahead. This year, it’s a whole different ball game. I am afraid, I am a little apprehensive, I am a little intimidated to go to a place that is the virtual opposite of where I was before. But even though I have these feelings, I have even bigger assurance that EVERYTHING is going to work out. It is a total blessing to be able to say that, and mean it with every fiber of my being.

 
My team and I, in training on Monday, worked on storying a little more. If at all possible, my mind is blown even more now than it was the first time I had ever heard about storying. It is such a basic concept, and such an easy way to share with people. It is a form of communication, bridging so many different gaps between cultures and people groups, and it is a challenge to memorize stories to tell. But it is a challenge I know my team is ready to take on.

 
In team time that night, my awesome leader took a slight detour from what team-time normally looks like and decided to share with us the reason why we are going in the first place. The reason is simple, and it is the commandment we all have placed on our lives. We are placed here for one reason, and that is to share love with every single person in the world. And not just any love, the one and only true love, the one and only everlasting love. The only love that has the power to save. It is exciting and challenging call we have chosen to accept, and we came away remembering the choice we made to resolve and commit to the call and to each other.

 
Our team is growing closer, but we all still need prayer. As our semesters go on, schedules are getting busier, exhaustion is setting in, and time to sleep is intermittent at best. But even as we are tired going to class, through training, to work and back home, we rest assured that the power of prayer is strong and prominent. Love is real, and support is powerful, and I would like to ask on the behalf of my team that you keep praying and keep us in your thoughts.

 
This was a short update, but I plan on updating next time with a video. Writing down everything I am learning is helpful, but I think everything would be a little bit better if I shared verbally why I go and what it means to me to have your support.

 
Thank you, and blessings!

More ISP Training

It blows me away how fast time has been going by this semester! I start every day of my life with a specific list of tasks I need to get done, and usually I come to the realization that there are simply not enough hours in the day to get everything done…unfortunately. And I think everyone realizes this at some point during their lives. It hits us like a ton of bricks when we realize that being an adult takes hard work and good time management skills if you want to accomplish things. I have realized this, and I have also realized something else: I should have listened to my parents when they told me to just enjoy being a kid. Life was literally the greatest when I was a kid. Days could go by before I got up and actually did something of value instead of watching T.V. all day.

BUT I have rambled long enough. I simply wanted to make a point that it is a busy life when you are a senior in college and going through training while still being involved in a ton of other things! It is hard work and days are always packed with long to-do lists, and I would not have it any other way!

Now to the fun stuff: Updating all of you!

For me and a small group of people who have experience in the program, our training revolves around storying. For those who do not know what storying is, it is a method used to communicate stories to people who speak different languages or are from different backgrounds and cultures. Storying is sometimes the only way to convey a story if the written form is not yet available in their language.

It is a powerful concept, and one I am very unfamiliar with since I only learned about it one year ago. However, learning to story and learning to do it effectively is challenging and makes me–as well as everyone else–realize just how much we rely on the written forms of the stories we love so much instead of knowing them from memory. Memory is a powerful thing when we utilize it for a greater purpose.

Storying is both convicting and edifying, both encouraging and a harsh reality check. It takes so much time to study a few passages and memorize THE CONCEPTS even if we cannot recall every word exactly as it is written. It is also risky because we never want to convey something to in an untrue way because the whole point of the story can easily be misconstrued–especially when being communicated across cultural barriers.

Even though it takes time and practice, storying has shown me that it is just one more reason to work on memorization rather than just reading on a regular basis. Because of this, I have decided to put more emphasis on memorization…and even though it is difficult (as I have already said, my days tend to get away from me) it still feels awesome when I memorize! My goal is to memorize quite a bit before May.

As for my team, we are growing closer with every week of training. We are all so different from one another–as we have now learned from taking the Myers-Briggs personality assessment–but at the same time we have ways we are similar. One reason I love building relationships with people is because it gives me an excuse to know things about them. Knowing someone’s personality type can tell me so much about them and it gives me a reason to know them on deeper levels, levels that cannot be revealed by a personality assessment.

When on a team in the program, one thing required of us if that we have one-on-ones with every person on the team. Going somewhere together not with the entire team gives us each a chance to open up to one another.

Something I have come to realize in the last year is that TRUST is so valuable in building relationships. When I was younger I always thought trust was this high and lofty concept that would come without any work…boy, was I wrong! Trust takes WORK! And a LOT of it! But the beautiful thing about trust is that when you give it to others, nine times out of 10 it will be given back to you. You have to be able to discern if a budding relationship is important enough for you to decide if you are going to trust someone enough to take that relationship a little deeper.

How do you decide t trust someone? You share a piece of your heart with them–something important to you, something you value, something about your faith you have struggled with for a long time. You put it out there. And I have come to realize that when both parties are open, trust comes easily when they are willing to put themselves out there.

Trust is a lesson I learned last year, and even though this year is a world of difference compared to 12 months ago, I have thoroughly enjoyed learning to trust my new team. I value each of them, and love each of them, and I am looking forward to deepening our friendships over the next few months.

Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers as we continue to train and continue to grow closer. Please pray that we gain the right supporters and people come alongside us and lift us up. We are in need of help, and we know you are all praying. Please continue!

We Conquered ITW…and We’re Awesome

As the final days of my last year in college tick by, I find it a little bit more difficult to sit down, quiet my busy mind and write these updates. One of the only things keeping me going is the fact that I can use my updates to keep all of you—my support team and prayer warriors—in the loop. In this update, I am going to cover an entire week which consists of a lot of stuff my team and I went through. Here goes…

 
During the last weekend of January, all teams had to participate in Intensive Training Weekend (ITW). It being my second year that I have gone through this training weekend, I was unsure of what I would learn and what I would feel. Last year was the most amazing experience and it carried me through the majority of the spring semester. It got me excited for my trip, brought me closer to my team and even showed me more about myself, things I had never truly noticed before. That being said, I was not sure I wanted a similar experience this year. Being a veteran, I knew I would be experiencing things most of the people on my team had never gone through. I was more excited for them than I was for myself.

Regardless of my expectations, I was still put through challenges. I had a hard time understanding why this year was so much different from the last so it took me a long time to get into the swing of things. But it all ended up working out.

 
The one thing I am most thankful for this year is my team. We are all so different and we bring so many different things to the table, but we are still able to embrace both the strengths and weaknesses of each person and work together. I am being challenged in so many areas simply because I tend to be quieter and reserved, and my team is collectively the exact opposite of quiet and reserved. But I have learned to appreciate the opportunities I have to step outside of my comfort zone. I will never be able to learn and grow if I do not take a chance and go somewhere I can be challenged.

So we survived ITW…the next day, we spent four hours as a team. We watched a documentary and came up with ideas for fundraisers and such, and our awesome leader cooked us dinner.
I was so easily going through the motions of team time and training that I failed to realize just how much I was being worked out. Little did I know that my entire week, in very subtle ways, was going to be used to bring so many things into perspective and encourage me.

After team time last Monday, I spent the week struggling to find some quiet time for myself. Eventually the weekend arrived and it was exactly what I needed to put things in perspective. On Friday night, a couple of friends and I went to the Grand Canyon. We drove all night JUST to watch the sun rise over one of the seven natural wonders of the world?! It was amazing, and such a simple way to be reminded of the most amazing love there is. We returned to campus later on Saturday, and the next morning I had the chance to speak at my church. It was a simple act of obedience, and I was blessed by it. I did the exact same thing last year and got no response from anyone. But this year, it was the exact opposite, proof that He listens to our hearts.

Today, Feb. 9, was yet another day of training. But this time was different for me and three of my teammates. Why? Because we learned how to story. Storying depends solely on memorization. If you cannot remember the bulk of a story and accurately repeat it, there is a good chance nothing will happen. But if you can memorize and orally share with others the stories of why we believe, it can be a powerful tool.

Later, during our team time, I resolved to spend more time working on storying and training my brain to retain what I need to know. How can I share more, and how can I be more confident in that?

That is all for this week. I apologize that this has not been the quickest turnover rate for my updates; being a senior is difficult enough, but add my schedule and the level of difficulty increases by a factor of 10. It gets difficult and challenging, but I know Who is going to bring me through! Please continue to pray for my team and I!

God bless!

ISP Training, Waiting for ITW

It seems this year is going to be ten times busier than last year. Being a senior takes up so much of my time, but I’m determined to keep up with these updates. With that, keep reading:

We had training again this week. Being in training a second makes it seem as though it is going so much faster than it did the first time. Everything is flying by and sometimes all I want is a chance to slow everything down and truly savor it.

This Monday consisted of preparation for Intensive Training Weekend (ITW). ITW is a simulation which places every ISP participant in real-life situations so the Office of Mobilization can observe how teams will respond under different types of stress. Depending on the way a team decides to respond, ITW can either bring us all closer together or create some serious doubts about what we are doing.

I remember everything I experienced during ITW last year. It seemed each of my teammates and I had at least one thing during the weekend that challenged us in a big way. Some of the simulations and exercises exposed strengths in some as they revealed weaknesses in others. But every exercise served a purpose and brought us closer together as a team. To this day, when I walk around certain parts of campus all I can think about is ITW and what we did during on that particular piece of land.

Leading up to this year’s ITW—which in no way will resemble last year—I have been having some intense flashbacks. The most vivid memories are being conjured up in my mind and it blows my mind that I can still feel the stress and tension from every single simulation. Every single feeling and emotion I had during last year was so real, and just writing about it right now is causing me to remember everything that challenged me.

Not only we were each challenged as individuals, but we were also challenged as a team. ITW was a turning point in our dynamic. It made our relationships with one another real and caused them to go even deeper than we could have imagined. ITW truly did give us everything we would need to survive on the field. My team and I went into Japan as a team and we came out as sisters.

I know I will always have strong relationships with each of them!

This year, my team is so different from last year. In all honesty, I have been struggling not to compare my new team to my old team. I know I should not be doing it, but the relationships are always so fresh and always growing. I continually pray about this. Some days it is easy to overcome it and other times it is a big struggle. But I know this is an area where I am going to be stretched and challenged so I am looking forward to that.

ITW is always an experience, and it is always different year-by-year which keeps all of the participants on our toes.

But here is the reason I am most grateful for ITW and why I am looking forward to this weekend:

It brings you closer to God and closer to your team in the process.

I am looking forward to everything God has in store over the weekend! Please continue to keep my team and I in your prayers. Like I said, ITW can either make or break a team. Being broken is not necessarily a bad thing; brokenness sometimes yields the most beauty, and we want to see beauty come from the work we do. But our team desires to grow closer and deeper relationships, and being tested will help us do that. Please pray we respond to the stressful situations with determination and an open heart. Please pray we come away stronger…and RESOLVED.

Also keep in prayer our fundraising goals. Every day brings us a little closer to our departure date which means our financial deadline is closer as well. Please pray if you are meant to help us get to our goals financially, and please know your prayers are ten times more valuable to us. Please be a part of our support team regardless of the type of support you bring.

Thank you and God bless!

Link

New Journey in Life

If you followed my ventures last spring, you know I had the opportunity to travel to Japan for three weeks with an awesome group of women. When I came back, I knew my heart and my worldview had changed and grown in so many unique ways. I decided in September that I would take another opportunity and apply to go on another journey.

This May, I will embark to a new country in East Asia. I am excited for this opportunity and I cannot wait to see the ways God works. I have learned so much about Him in the last year, and I know for certain He will never leave us or lead us to believe we are all alone in this world. He will not let us dwell on the bad, He will move us to the good and the miraculous. God is always in control, I have confidence in this.

With all of that being said, please pray for me and my team. A lot of my teammates have never participated in a service project, and we have so much to learn in just a few short months. But God is leading us and will not let us go on our own. After all, He does not call the equipped, He equips the called. He has called each of us to GO, and we are answering that precious and heavy call. Please pray for us.

If you would like to be a supporter, a member of my support team, and offer prayer and/or financial support, please go to the following link:

http://www.gofundme.com/ISPeastasia

Thank you for your support! I pray you are blessed to be a blessing!

God bless!

ISP Training Week 12-15

Well, this last month of school has really been crazy. Training has been great as always, but obviously I have not been able to update as regularly as I want to about my team’s progress. So without further ado, I am going to recap training from weeks 12 to 15. I will also be recapping the special moments my team and I have had.

I hope you all enjoy reading about it all!

Week 12 of training was all about health and safety. For each country that our ISP teams are going to, there are strict security measures that must be adhered to. Since I am going to Japan, the security measures are not too bad. In fact, Japan is one the safest countries for an American to travel to right now. That offers a little bit of comfort to my parents :). But for teams going to other parts in the 10/40 Window, security is a real issue.

Every single issue from water safety to sticking together in a group was covered in training that day. Packing was next on the list of things to talk about. After we discussed packing, we were excused to our usual team-time activities.

During team-time this week, we spent time going through our devotion in Eph. 5:22-33. Since these are the verses about wives being submissive to husbands and husbands being submissive to wives, it was a little bit difficult to relate to each of our lives, considering none of us is married yet! But, it was still a good night to spend with my team.

Throughout the next week, I began struggling with a few things in my personal life. Things got a little bit more difficult since my schedule changed in a few different ways, and I was feeling distant from God. I could not understand why, after spending the entire semester so close to Him and so sure of His presence, I suddenly felt so far away from Him. Things got progressively more frustrating for me until the next week.

During week 13 training, Nik Ripken, author and missionary, spoke in chapel. The story he told in chapel was amazing. He shared that he and his wife had always planned to be fieldworkers in Africa, and they went from one country to the next as each country slowly began to break down. Eventually they ended up settling in Somalia. Nik said he was in denial, he believed there was absolutely no way God could use them in a country that was so torn.

But he was reminded of God’s sovereignty and the crazy way He works sometimes when he met up with a friend of his who gave him a small note card with five names written on it. Before a civil war came and tore the country apart, Christian communities were together, but after they were torn apart and scattered across the desert. The people represented by the names written on this note card were some of those scattered. They had not been heard from in years. No one even knew if they were still alive. But Nik’s friend gave this card to him and asked that he would pray for them. Nik said that he did not understand why he should have to pray for people who are not even confirmed alive or dead. But he prayed.

One day he found himself in a market place, and he was confronted by a few young man. They asked him, “Are you the man we have been waiting for?”

The story went on, and these young men repeatedly asked Nik the same question. These men turned out to be the men Nik had been praying for, the names that were written on this note card. God had a specific plan for Nik to be in that country and be praying for those men. And those men were praying that God would send someone to them to reunite them and their communities. They were all praying for each other in some way, and prayer is the only reason they were all able to recognize each other when the appointed time came.

The story alone blew my mind. But something else that blew my mind even more was the questions he asked us all:

“Are you willing to go where He wants you to go? Are you willing to let others see you?”

Later that night, Nik spoke again during training, giving a little bit more background to the story he had told during chapel. The only thing I found myself thinking the entire time is that I want to go to Japan with a heart that is genuinely open to the people. Not just a heart that is focused on prayer or devotions or worship, but a heart that is truly open to the people I am going to come in contact with and build relationships with. I want to know that no matter where God leads me, all I have to do is be obedient. I want God to use me. And more than that, I want to be used. I want to be open to it. I want o be prepared for it.

But then Kristin White got up and explained that the story Nik told is the exact reason why our theme in ISP this year is STAND, drawn from Ephesians 6:10-20. She said God was leading the MOB team to establish a theme that would teach us all to stand on, stand up, and stand fast on the word of God so we may stand in the evil days. But she also wanted us to realize that ministry begins and ends with prayer.

The power of prayer is real, and can be trusted. No prayer is too big or too small for God, and He hears every single utterance that comes forth from our hearts.

We carried this assurance with us as my team embarked on a small scavenger hunt that led us to take the quiz about the 5 Love Languages. We each took our quiz, discovering what our love languages were. Then we all sat down for team time, and read from Eph. 6:1-9. There was so much in these verses and my team and I spent almost 30 minutes dissecting it and talking it over.

This last week of training was another good session. Early on in training, we all learned how to give our personal testimonies in two minutes. Last Monday was a review on how to do it quickly, efficiently and in a way that excludes using Christianese. It is always a challenge to not use words that you are so used to (like “sin,” “Son of God,” “forgiveness,” “sacrifice” and others) and we were all tested on it. But in addition to giving our own personal stories, we each had to give other stories (some we had to make up off the top of our heads!). It was a challenge to do this.

But the whole point was learning how to use the experiences we will have on our trips to mobilize our friends and family to answer the call to love the nations as God wants us to.

They mentioned that we will have new ways of looking at things that our friends and family will not understand because they did not have the same experience as us while in-country. We have to remember that we need to take things slow when we come home, and not let bitterness or resentment build in our hearts because they do not see things the same way we see them. It will be difficult for me to do this because I want other people to have hearts for the nations, and to realize that is the heart God has. He has a heart for the nations because He is a God of the nations. He has a heart for America, China, Japan, England, and every other country in the world. He wants us to have hearts for those nations, and the people who comprise those nations.

It is one of the only commandments that we have, that we would love others and serve others, and that means going to every single place we can to share the good news of Jesus Christ!

It is an awesome call, and I am honored to have had my eyes opened to it and I am answering it!

In team time, we also got to talk about what our love languages are, and how we can best serve each other while going through the fire in Japan. We each got to talk about our fears, and the things we believe will cause us some stress while in-country and how we can best serve each other during those challenging times.

It is hard to believe that our rigorous training has come to an end. Every single thing I have learned has equipped me to serve in Japan. But it has also equipped me to serve right here in America, at my church, within my circle of family and friends, and at my school. Faith in Jesus and what He did for me by dying on the cross, and faith in the Father for promising to send His Son and never going back on those promises, is something that I must not only live out in my daily life, but also something I desire to share with the world. ISP training has given me more confidence in Who I believe in and why I believe it. I pray and hope that everything I have learned will help me to convey those two things, and also help me bring people to Jesus.

I cannot wait to go to Japan!

I hope you all enjoyed this last update about training!

Thank you and God bless!

Grace 🙂