Mission trip, refugees

Refugees + their stories

I carry their stories with me every day. Their eyes, full of so much heartache, are forever a part of my memory.

For their safety, I cannot post photos of them to help you see the human beings behind these stories. I have to keep details vague. I can’t tell you their names or the countries they fled from or even why they fled, because I want to take very seriously the reality that I could put their lives in danger by sharing too much. But I have to tell their stories as best I can. Stories like:

The man who invited us into his room and picked up his Bible, kissed it, and said, “This is the love of my life.”

The three women–an older mother and her two middle-aged daughters–who were alone in this new country. I felt prompted by the Holy Spirit to tell them they are not forgotten, and that they are special and loved. One of them rose from her seat on the floor (as they had given me, my teammate and our translator their futon to sit on) grabbed my face and kissed my cheeks over and over.

The man who first came up to me because he noticed me struggling to have a conversation with some women who didn’t speak English. After translating for awhile, he began to share his story with me, which led to me sharing mine and why I came on the trip: “To hear your stories so I can tell people back home, and to let you know that I love and care about you and so does Jesus.” He responded by asking,  “Do you have a Bible in my language I can have?” The next day, I was able to give him one. Our conversation that day ended with “I’m going to read this whole Bible because I want to know who Jesus is.”

The man who had been repeatedly tortured before becoming a refugee, though you’d never know because he had one of the sweetest spirits I have ever seen. He doesn’t like to talk about the night terrors he suffers from regularly.

The family, ranging from children to a grandmother, who escaped by crawling under gunfire.

The man who admitted he knew Jesus was the answer to the emptiness in his life, yet struggled and asked for prayer because he knew his family would disown him if he chose to trust in Christ.

The young girls who had seen horrifying acts of violence, but yelled “CINDERELLA!” when they saw the Disney princesses blanket I brought to the park.

The man who cried as he shared his story, repeating over and over “My God now forgives” when he talked about how he turned from Islam and accepted Christ. The next day, he asked for permission to hug me after hugging my male teammate. It was one of the most genuine hugs I’ve ever experienced, followed by him saying something in his native tongue. I asked our translator what he said. “He says, ‘I love you, my sister.'”

These are just some of the people I was privileged to meet during my time in Germany. There are many more, and their stories inspire me every day to pray for them, to advocate for them, to love them the way Jesus loves them and other refugees.

These are the stories of real human beings, each one special and unique and in need of the hope only Jesus can give.

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Mission trip, refugees, Soul-bearing

Praying for Refugees (How You Can Get Involved)

Know that the Lord our God loves the refugees and His Spirit is moving among them. I pray that their stories will capture your heart like they did mine because then you’ll be moved to do something, too. If you do nothing else, pray that they will find Jesus, pray they will be reunited with their families, pray that they will find purpose and meaning in their lives. We as a country, and we as the Church, have largely forgotten them. 

Before we left Germany after a week of meeting, listening to, and loving refugees, we were challenged by our group leaders to sit down with the teammates we had been serving with all week and come up with a summary/challenge to all those we’d talk with back home. The above statement is what my team wrote together.

“If you do nothing else, pray.”

That challenge has been a common refrain of mine for the past few weeks since returning from Germany. I’ve been blessed with many wonderful opportunities to share stories from my trip, and something God has really put on my heart to emphasize is the power of prayer. We were praying constantly during our time in Germany…and I saw God at work, directly answering prayers.

The Bible tells us to “pray continually” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Scripture also mentions calling to Him and “‘I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know'” (Jeremiah 33:3). A refugee I met, who escaped his home country because of religious persecution, cited his favorite verse as “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7). We are commanded as followers of Jesus to pray for all things, and I truly feel personally convicted that we should be praying for refugees, fervently.

Nearly 60 million people are forcibly displaced in the world right now (source: World Relief website http://www.worldrelief.org/refugee-crisis). Sixty million. That’s 60 million people who have been ripped away from the life they knew. Sixty million people who have experienced great — sometimes even tragic — personal loss. Sixty million people who have no idea what their future holds. Sixty million people who need us to advocate on their behalf, starting with prayer.

Whether you’re a stay-at-home mom, a person who works an 8-to-5, a pastor, a student, or someone in between, praying for the refugees is something we can all be doing. I’m challenging myself right alongside you. Beyond the needs in our own lives and those around us, my hope and prayer is that we will be crying out to Him on the refugee’s behalf.

Pray that the refugees will find the hope and peace that can only be found in Him, as many I met were searching in the midst of such personal turbulence. Pray that their families will be reunited, as many I met were separated from parents, wives, and children. Pray that they will be able to find jobs, whether they return to their homeland or are eventually granted permission to work in the country they’re resettled to. Pray for the children, some of whom have seen horrendous acts of violence and have experienced trauma I still can’t fathom. Pray for the parents, who have the same hopes and dreams for their children as many of you reading this do for yours. Please pray.

Pray that your heart will be open to helping however the Lord leads, even if it is just praying continually for these people. Pray, if you’re struggling with how you should react to this refugee crisis, that God will show you the unconditional love He has for these people. Pray for me, that I will continue to seek Him for how else I can serve and love refugees in the here and now. Please pray.

If you’re the type of person who enjoys physical reminders, here’s a prayer guide put together by World Relief with specific ways you can be praying for refugees: We Welcome Refugees Prayer Guide.

If you’d like to read more personal stories from refugees (or those persecuted in the midst of violence) and gain a deeper understanding of how to pray for those affected, I highly, highly recommend two books I’m in the midst of currently: Seeking Refuge: On the Shores of the Global Refugee Crisis by Stephan Bauman, Matthew Soerens and Dr. Issam Smeir (I have it on audio AND in print if anyone wants to borrow either!) and They Say We Are Infidels by Mindy Belz.

In closing, I leave you with this quote from a refugee one of our teams met during our time in Germany.

“I cried because you prayed in the name of Jesus.”

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Mission trip, Soul-bearing

On Fear + Refugees

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Let’s talk about fear.

Fear is all around us these days. Wars. Shootings. Bombings. An upcoming presidential election. I could go on and on, but I know it’ll stress you out as much as it does me.

When I felt God’s calling to sign up for a mission trip to share the love of Jesus with refugees, I was confident. My heart felt so overwhelmingly burdened for these people that I knew I had to do SOMETHING.

But with every bit of passion and joy I had in signing up, I was also battling something else.

Fear.

I had no idea what to expect. How would I/we be received? Would we be met with hostility? Violence? Something else? We were going to Germany to hear their stories, to show love and compassion, but also to share the love of Jesus. Would we be met with something stronger than ordinary rejection?

The day I flew out to Germany, I learned of the Munich shooting just hours before my flight. Details were sketchy at that point, but my stomach was in knots as I flirted with a decision: Do I get on that plane and go in faith…or do I stay home?

I knew I had to go. Beyond wanting to live a life with no regrets or “what ifs,” I knew, more importantly, that God had placed the love for and passion for the refugees in me. It was no accident, and living in fear and staying home in my bed for a week certainly wouldn’t remove it. The Bible talks about how perfect love casts out fear, so I decided to lean into my First Love and follow Him.

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” – 2 Timothy 1:7

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A few days later, there I was. In Germany. Bawling. We were in the middle of a morning meeting as we prepared to go to the refugee centers for the first time, just reviewing last-minute information and praying together, and I had my head in my hands, sobbing. I had woken up that morning to news of another attack overnight near Munich. I was scared. So freakin’ scared.

My head was cycling through worst case scenarios. Though a teammate had said something super profound and very true to me at breakfast when I briefly mentioned my stress (“I figure, if I’m going to die, what better way to go than on a mission trip telling people about Jesus?”), though I was reading and praying through Philippians 1 all morning (“I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”), I was struggling. I was afraid.

Another level of anxiety came from the fact that I was specifically concerned about what my interactions with the male refugees would be like. I’m not naive — I know many of their home countries definitely have misguided, and oftentimes downright wrong, views about women. I didn’t know what to expect, at all.

Teammates put their hands on me and started to pray, silently. I sat there and begged God to take all the fear from me. I asked Him why I was so afraid. I know my eternity is secure in Him. I know He alone knows the number of my days, but I was holding so tightly to my dreams and hopes for the future. I realized the possibility of surrendering my own desires was driving my fear. The fear of losing what I want. The fear of the unknown.

I had to give it all over to Him. I know it’ll be an ongoing process of surrender for the rest of my life. But for that day, that trip, I was able to just place it all in His hands and surrender.

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God not only protected me during my time with the refugees, He truly opened my eyes to love and care for these dear people. Most of the refugees I met were men, the vast majority of whom are searching for more, for the love and security only Christ can give. I saw with my very own eyes how God is moving, taking a great tragedy to open so many eyes, cause so many hearts to search, and bring so many to Him.

I feel it’s important to share that I never felt dismissed or ignored when talking to any of the refugees. I never once felt threatened, endangered, looked down upon, or discounted by any of the men I met. They were all kind, courteous, and open when I engaged with them, oftentimes going out of their way to make me feel comfortable. They let me leave my shoes on when it’s customary to take shoes off before entering their homes. They offered us their beds to sit on while they sat on the floor. My teammate and I were, during one visit, asked what we wanted to drink; twenty minutes later one of our hosts returned with drinks and cookies he ran TO THE STORE to buy for us, using some of his precious weekly allowance of Euros to feed us.

I’m not attempting to make a blanket statement about all refugees, but I want you to know what my personal experience was, because it was completely different from what I expected from media coverage. Completely. Different.

God opened my eyes and stripped away so many fears and prejudices I had. I was humbled and honored to meet such incredible people. My life is better and my heart is more open having met them. Admittedly, I’m still learning. But I pray I’m able to speak up on their behalf and share my experience as much as possible.

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My prayer is that my personal experience will make a difference, perhaps change or soften hearts, like mine was. All I know is that I feel an obligation to share what I saw, felt and experienced. I know my thoughts and experience may make some uncomfortable. My hope is that I am speaking truth in love.

At the end of the day, please know that these refugees — most of whom are, yes, Muslim — are people the Lord loves just as much as He loves me and you. They are made in the image of God, just like you are. Please know that these are real people with real families and real losses. Please care. Please pray for them. Please.

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Costa Rica, Dedication, Mission trip

Lucrecia’s story

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Me with Lucrecia (in the red shirt), her son (in the yellow shirt), her daughter-in-law (holding the baby) and Paty, my wonderful translator/amiga

Last week I encountered one of the most God-filled, humbling, incredible experiences of my life. Lest I forget any of the details as time goes on, I had to write it all down now.

This is the story of Lucrecia.

To start at the very beginning, I woke up around 3:30 a.m. Wednesday, and couldn’t fall back asleep for awhile. I know whenever it takes awhile to sleep, especially on mission trips, that it’s a sign that God wants me to pray. So I started praying — praying for my teammates, for the people we’d encounter later that day — and suddenly I knew I needed to pray for someone I’d encounter that day, someone who was suffering from some deep heartache. I knew it was God’s voice inside of me. I kept picturing a face with tears streaming down it. To some this may sound like some crazy talk, but I knew distinctly it was the voice of God talking to me, so I started praying for this unknown, weeping person.

Wednesday morning “officially” rolled around eventually and we headed out to the church my sub-team was based out of for the week. In the morning I had a previously scheduled Bible study at the home of a woman who had accepted Christ as her Savior the day before. Around lunch time, I thought about my 3:30 a.m. experience and wondered a bit about it, almost wondering if I had made the whole thing up. I hadn’t told anyone about it yet.

After lunch we talked to Pastor José Luis and all came to the agreement that we would go to visit homes down on a stretch of road we had not yet visited. So Paty (my wonderful, dear translator/sister now), Manuel (the local church member I was teamed up with all week) and I went to visit a home that was two homes down from the church.

Manuel called out “Upe!” (the traditional greeting in Costa Rica they call out from a gate or fence since almost all Costa Rican houses are protected by a gate and/or fence, so marching up to a door and knocking is rarely an option), and we were eventually greeted by a young man, probably in his late teens or early 20s. He invited us into the back of their family home, which was a tin-covered area with a dirt floor, a wood-burning stove and a very beat-up couch. There were some boots caked in mud in a corner; a few bags of rice sat by the stove. There was little besides that. He invited us to sit down and called for his wife, who was finishing laundry in a small shack a few yards away, with their young baby on her hip.

Eventually we started talking to the young man, but before long Lucrecia came out. She politely greeted us and sat down. Manuel introduced all of us. She started to share her story almost immediately and soon after the tears started to flow. She was talking so fast and crying so much that when I looked to Paty for translation and guidance, she wisely said, “I’ll catch you up later.” So we listened (I just prayed the entire time since tears are tears in any language) to Lucrecia tell her story. I later found out it was a story full of hardship, illnesses that had plagued one of her sons in particular, and the death of her husband 6 months ago. She had lived a very difficult, painful life.

During a pause, Paty turned to me and said, “Tell your story.” So I looked into Lucrecia’s sorrowful eyes and told her my story — how I grew up in the church setting and was knew a lot about Jesus at a young age; how I could see and tell there was a difference in the way my parents lived and a sense of peace and joy that was different from the way many other adults seemed to be. I explained to her how I heard someone talk about heaven one day, about how it was a perfect place free of sin and sadness, so I went home and asked my mom how I could go there. I shared how my mom had explained to me that we’re all sinners, even as young kids because we disobey and lie and steal, and sin separates us from God and His perfection and holiness. Because of that, God sent His only Son, Jesus, to earth to live a perfect, blameless life, take our sins on the cross and forgive them. He was buried but rose again after three days, which means we don’t have to fear death or the grave anymore. He has conquered it all. My mom asked if I understood, and I remember saying “yes.” I was only 6 or 7 years old, but I vividly remember realizing I needed forgiveness, just like everyone else. So my mom helped me pray and ask Jesus to forgive me of my sins, that I believed He died for me and rose again, and that I wanted Him to be my Savior. And now I have peace; I have peace that no matter what happens in this life, because my eternity is secure in Him. I don’t lose sleep at night or fear death because I know my name is written in the Book of Life.

After I finished telling my story, Manuel shared with Lucrecia a little card that e3 uses for evangelism because it perfectly shows the story of Jesus and how we all have a choice to make: accept His free gift of salvation or turn away and reject it.

By this time, two more sons of Lucrecia’s had joined us and heard what we were sharing. Lucrecia said she wanted to pray, and the rest of the family members echoed her statement. Paty lead them in a prayer asking Jesus to be the Lord of their lives, and it was honestly one of the most beautiful moments I had ever been a part of.

After the “amen,” I noticed Lucrecia was crying again, just releasing everything she had been holding for so long. I went over and hugged her, and she grabbed me back. It was an embrace unlike anything else I’ve ever felt before. I could tell that this was a release of years and years of fear and frustration and sadness. She held onto me and sobbed into my shoulder for awhile and I held her back while Paty prayed over us. It was a glorious, cleansing moment.

Once we let go of each other, she went and hugged each of her children, holding onto the son with the health issues for the longest. Most of them were emotional, too, and I realized we were watching a family be transformed before our eyes.

Eventually we told them about the Bible study that would be happening in a few hours at the church two doors down, along with a reading glasses clinic. We said goodbye and headed back to the church.

I was overwhelmed. THAT was who I had been praying for at 3:30 a.m. God had been moving long before we had ever showed up.

The evening rolled around and the Bible study started. I was playing outside with some of the kids who had accompanied their parents when one of my teammates came and said, “Molly, I think your lady is here.” I ran into the church, and there she was, with a smile on her face.

After a quick wave to her, I started running the eyeglass clinic with another teammate (which, by the way, the eyeglass clinic is a pretty incredible thing to be a part of — the look on some of the people’s faces when they realize they can read their watch or their Bible again, sometimes for the first time in years, is absolutely humbling.). We were winding down when Lucrecia came in. We were figuring out the best pair of glasses for her when she started talking to Patti, my North American teammate/now sister and friend, who also happens to be bilingual.

Patti started translating what Lucrecia was telling her, and I was astonished. Lucrecia said she had woken up that morning and had been crying out to God. Then, when she was taking a nap in the early afternoon, she said she had awoken by what felt like a hand touching her side and a voice said, “Somebody is here to see you. Get up.” And that was when she came out and find myself, Paty and Manuel in the back part of her home.

I still can’t think about or type that part up without being absolutely overwhelmed, speechless and awestruck by God’s goodness. He works far beyond what we can comprehend or understand, but He allowed me, graciously, to be a part of a truly transforming, God-filled moment in Lucrecia’s home.

The photo at the top of this entry is from the Thursday night celebration service, where all six churches that our sub-teams partnered with for the week arranged for buses to bring people from the area who wanted to attend. I just about lost it when I saw Lucrecia, her son and daughter-in-law sitting in the service. Afterwards we shared another wonderful hug and exchanged words. I told her I’d never forgot them and would be praying for them.

My heart’s cry, and one I would appreciate you joining me in, is that Lucrecia and her family continue to follow Him. That they get involved in the church that is very close to their home, attend Bible studies, lean on other believers during their difficult days, etc. Please be praying for all of them.

Ephesians 3:20-21 – “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

Below: Lucrecia practicing with Pastor José Luis, when we went back the following day, how to share the evangelism card with others. 

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Costa Rica, Mission trip

I left my heart in Costa Rica, again (and maybe you should, too)

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Today is Monday. Monday is always the hardest day to realize you’re here, in America, and not in Costa Rica. Because a week ago today, we were all jumping off our giant bus whenever they yelled out, “Team 2! This is your stop!” A week ago today is when we began working in the community, with members from the local churches, to reach out, visit homes, and share the Good News of Jesus’ love and salvation. And a week ago today is when we all officially started to leave pieces of our hearts in Katira and Upala, Costa Rica.

I had already left a huge part of my heart in Katira last year, and God graciously, graciously allowed me to go back this year and give even more of it away. I saw it in the eyes of my fellow North American team members, too — they would never be the same. They were experiencing what I experienced last year: the slow realization that you’re never going to be completely comfortable again, and it’s OK and wonderful because you can’t imagine not feeling this way, as hard as it is some days.

When I signed up for my mission trip to Costa Rica last year, I had NO IDEA what God was going to do. I had no idea I would show up and be more humbled by my time with the translators and the people than I could have ever imagined. I could have never anticipated how God ended up moving, powerfully, to bring souls in the community to Him. I knew the second they dropped me off at the airport last year that He was calling me back. I’m so thankful for that call, so humbled.

He’s given me a passion, a love, a desire to reach the people of Costa Rica, and now I can’t imagine my life without that call. I love the Ticos, I love them so much. I love that God has called me to partner with them and minister to them.

On the way to Costa Rica this time I started reading a book called Kisses from Katie, an incredible book about an American girl who lives in Uganda, caring for the people and sharing Jesus, as well as being the adoptive mother of 14 girls there. I underlined this quote because it rings so true:

“It may take place in a foreign land or it may take place in your backyard, but I believe that we were each created to change the world for someone. To serve someone. To love someone the way Christ first loved us, to spread His light. This is the dream, and it is possible.”

If we’ve put our faith in Jesus, we’re called to go and make disciples (Matthew 28:16-20), called to be the hands and feet to people around us, no matter what. So if you live in America, you’re called to do that to the people around you; if you live in Costa Rica, you’re called to do that there, too. This is something I pray I am better and am bold at doing now. But some of us are called to get out of our comfort zone even more, to go to a new country, to trust that He has a bigger plan for us than we have for ourselves.

Because here’s the thing: I don’t want to keep doing this alone. Of course, yes, there’s the selfish part of me that wants more people to come so I don’t feel so isolated once I’m back home, but there’s much more than that. I want people — loved ones, friends — to embrace and follow a call God may be putting on their lives. To give up their comfort zones, to give up a week of vacation, to follow Him into the unknown. This trip had people as young as 14 and as old as young-at-heart, with different stories, different backgrounds, different medical struggles…AND GOD USED ALL OF THEM.

If you’ve felt that tugging while reading my posts, my Facebook statuses, please don’t ignore it! I’m here to answer questions and put you in touch with the right people, too. That is my prayer, what God put on my heart at the end of this past trip. This isn’t about Molly-goes-on-a-trip-once-a-year-yay-for-her! This is about all of us. What is God calling us to do? I don’t want to go back alone next year; I want to be there to support and see others follow the Great Commission.

There will be more stories I’ll share from Costa Rica in the coming days, but this is what God wants to share first. Feel free to reach out to me anytime!

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Mission trip, Soul-bearing

Pura vida con Cristo

I’ve been trying to think of how to start this blog post for about a day now. Should I start off with a story? A photo? My biggest takeaway from the trip? It’s almost impossible to boil down my experience in Costa Rica to a single memory, moment or photo.

But I should probably back up to the beginning first.

When people were asking me “Are you so excited?!” in the weeks leading up to the trip, I would usually smile and say “Yeah!” But inside, I honestly didn’t know. I was constantly fluctuating between being really excited and being scared. I didn’t know what to expect, obviously, and the fact that my last mission trip had been nine years ago was really weighing on me, too. A lot in life changes between the ages of 17 and 26, and I honestly had doubts about how 26-year-old me would respond to all that a week on a mission trip brings. I was really struggling with just giving all of those fears over to God.

I was praying the entire way to Costa Rica “God, just please take this fear away and replace it with Your joy.” And boy, did He ever answer that prayer.

I experienced joy, in the purest, truest, beautiful form over the past week of my life. I was humbled that God chose to use me and honored to see how He worked through other people. I’ve never been around a group of people, both Americans and Costa Ricans, who showed such love without any boundaries or hesitations. Just honest, God-filled love.

A verse that I feel sums up the events of the week well would be 1 Corinthians 2:9: “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him.”

If you had told me a week and a half ago that I would experience God the way I did in Costa Rica–see Him actually start to heal broken hearts before my very eyes, to see Him move in people’s lives, to see Him bring over 140 people to His saving grace–I would’ve believed it because He can do anything, but experiencing it in person is something I’ll never be able to fully express in words.

One thing I definitely was not expecting heading into the trip was the personal impact the translators and the local church members would have in my life. The very first day, within an hour or two of officially getting to meet and know them, my translator, Stip, and local church member, Yeudy, shared their testimonies with me. Their hearts for God were so evident throughout the week, and then as I learned more about different translators and different church members and their personal stories, I became just overwhelmed by His goodness. We all came from such different backgrounds, struggles, and pain that God has worked through to bring us all to this point in our lives. Together for a week. I will always, always be thankful to God for bringing all of those people in my life. They encouraged me and taught me more about faith, love and His grace.

There are more stories I could tell…and I probably will at some point. There’s just a lot of emotions I’m still shifting through. But for now, this is what I wanted to share. God used me, God used the people around, but it was not about us. It was all to His glory.

I experienced grace like an avalanche in Costa Rica. A beautiful, unexpected, life-changing avalanche. I’ll never be the same.

I feel like God has more for me in Costa Rica. That I’m not done there quite yet. I don’t know exactly what that means yet, so I would appreciate your prayers in that manner. But I feel like there are more people to reach there and that He wants me to be a part of it.

To all of you who prayed for me and our team, thank you. Your prayers and support made the difference. To all of you I was privileged to meet in Upala, I love you all as my brothers and sisters in Christ. Let’s all never forget what God showed us in Costa Rica. Ever. Because He is so good.

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explanation, Mission trip, Soul-bearing

Being brave (Costa Rica, here I come!)

I wouldn’t be the person I am today had it not been for mission trips. More importantly, I wouldn’t be the Christian I am today had it not been for mission trips.

So it’s with great excitement that I say: I’ll be heading out on a week-long trip in July 2014. (!!!)

To give you a brief history of my experience on mission trips thus far in life, I went to the Dominican Republic in 2004 and Peru in 2005, both times with members from my church youth group.

My trip to the Dominican Republic was absolutely life-changing in so many ways. I have an entire journal full of everything God taught me/revealed to me/showed me during that trip. Most importantly, it was during that trip that I rededicated my life to the Lord. I had prayed and asked Jesus to be my Lord and Savior when I was 5, but I had been basically living the typical “good Sunday School kid” life up to that point, just kind of going through the motions without really pursuing a meaningful relationship with Him.

But God completely broke my heart (in the good way) during that trip. When I was least expecting it. He humbled me and showed me through a series of amazing events during the trip that it is NOT about me; it’s about Him. So I gave my life fully, 100 percent back to Him then. I’ve never looked back or been the same since.

I’ve previously mentioned part of my experience in Peru on this blog. God used the Peru trip to fully take me out of my comfort zone, more than I had been even before or in the DR. I was also heading into my senior year of high school that year, and during the trip God gave me so much peace about my future and He had a plan for me, even if I was struggling to trust Him with it.

Some photos from Peru (still searching for my DR photos!): The first one is with one of the local boys from the Peruvian church we partnered with (I still remember his ever-present eagerness to help and his name: Gustavo) and my sister (loved that we got to share such an experience together), the second is from some construction work we did at the church.

Peruvian church banquet

That brings us to present. I haven’t been on a trip since 2005. Eight years.

The funny thing is that, for several years now, I’ve constantly cycled between desperately wanting to go on another trip (but knowing I didn’t have the vacation time yet at my job) and being completely terrified (and thankful that said lack of vacation time was holding me back).

God really started tugging on my heart a few months ago to start praying about going a trip. I began the cycle again between YAY! and “nope, maybe I should wait another year or so…”

A total God-thing then happened when I became Facebook friends with a gal who works for e3 Partners Ministry. You may have also heard of them through their “I Am Second” ministry. The two of us have yet to meet in person (we share many mutual friends where I used to live in Texas), but I started noticing her Facebook posts about trips. I knew God was leading me to ask her more.

Long story short, I started praying more, focusing on whether God wanted me to go on a trip with her. I had complete and total peace about it, which is extremely rare for me, being the anxious person I generally am. I started off praying between Costa Rica (where she’s heading this next year) and Peru (also with e3 but being lead by a person from my old church in Brownsville). My heart wanted Peru–I was familiar with it, I loved the people there, I wanted to see more of that beautiful country.

But it was never meant to be Peru. I had zero peace about that, and every time I started to pray about it, it was always Costa Rica.

A lot of the details are still being worked out, but here’s a general idea of the trip I’ll be going on (from the e3 website):

We are returning to San Ramon to continue the church planting work that we began in 2012. We will be using sports ministry to do outreach to the kids, and community health education in certain areas. Everyone will be involved in the home-to-home evangelism and the I Am Second discipleship that will be our main focus as we work with our local church partners to continue to spread the gospel, to disciple new believers and to plant new churches. Part of the team will also be working with the church plants from last year to continue their development and to make sure the replication process will lead to a new generation of church plants.
While you are in Costa Rica:
Each day you will partner with local believers to share the gospel in the community in exciting and creative ways. You will be helping either to start a brand new church, or strengthen an existing one. One day will be set aside for touring, shopping and free time.
Cost $2400 from Denver, CO contingent on airfare
$200 non-refundable deposit due with application
$1100 due 4/13/2014
$1100 due 6/12/2014
Cost includes leadership training, transportation, hotel, meals, transfers, evangelistic materials and follow up materials and funds.

The one reason I’m particularly excited about going with e3 is because of their emphasis on partnering with churches and church planting during the trip. During the last two trips I was on, we did partner with local churches during our time there, but I’m fairly certain that the Peruvian church members were far more prepared to continue the ministry when we left than the DR church. I really want to be a part of something that goes far beyond just a bunch of Americans showing up for a week and then “see ya” and life goes back to the same old there. This is about expanding God’s kingdom continually.

Yes, I’ll have to raise about $2,400 to go on the trip. But I’m not freaking out about it. I’ve seen in the past how God moved and brought things together for my other two trips. Whether it was people generously straight up writing checks or asking me to weed their garden in exchange for a donation, God provided. I plan to submit my application by December 13, and I’ll need $200 to do so. If this is His will (and I have peace that it is), God will provide. I’ll also need to get my passport renewed (it expired since I last used it)–I have faith that God will provide the funds for that, too.

So many amazing things have been happening in my life recently in regards to God opening my heart to things, giving me the courage to ask for forgiveness, answering prayers, etc. I feel like He’s moving me into a new season of life. I don’t know what it is yet, but I firmly believe Costa Rica is a part of it.

All that to say, thanks for reading all of this. If you could be praying for me mentally, physically and spiritually as I continue to follow God in this, I would so greatly appreciate it. If you feel like God is calling you to donate in some way, shape or form, I would be humbled.

No matter what, this is the verse I’m clinging to: Isaiah 6:8- Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

This verse used to scare me so much. Even after my other two trips. But not anymore. Where He leads me, I will follow.

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