Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Missionary’s Plight…

Dedicated to my dear missionary friends.  

If you’ve ever been on a missions trip or lived overseas, whether short term or long term, you are forever ruined. You now see the world in a whole new perspective. You are now in a special “class” of a select people group. Not to say that this “people group” is better than others, it’s just… different. The true test in identifying this group is observing them when they come back home to the good old western world.  
The following are some common identifiers:

1. “Toilet paper? What’s that?”

2. “That food you left on your plate could feed 5 children in the 3rd world!
In which you may respond, “then ship it to them!”

3. “What do you mean you have to stop at the red light?”

4. “You paid how much for that flat screen TV? You’re definitely going to hell.”

5. Dinner conversation consists of the weird things they’ve had to eat including chicken feet, pig intestines and unfertilized duck eggs.

6. Food poisoning is nothing.

7. Every other sentence begins with, “well when I was in [insert whatever country it was].”

8. They can sleep through any noise, in any position, in any place, including flights where they’re snoozing before the cabin door even shuts.

 9. “What? You don’t carry anti-diarrheals in your purse too?”

10. “It’s all gonna burn anyway!”

Okay, so maybe some of these are a bit extreme (sort of), but I’m allowed to poke fun since I’ve had a few experiences myself. However, usually I leave my comments to an inner monologue rather than making the awkwardness known. Though if one of my missionary friends is in the room, it’s fun to read each others minds and know exactly what they’re thinking.  

But in all seriousness, no matter how long the missionary is home, and they become accustomed to the American lifestyle, they will forever have those random flashback moments. You never know when they might occur. Like walking out of a restaurant and automatically looking for a street kid to give your doggy bag to. Or washing the utensils in your kitchen drawers before using them because roaches probably crawled on them. Or all of a sudden freaking out that you’re driving on the wrong side of the road. Yes, we are forever ruined, but I hold these random moments dear to my heart, no matter how weird it is to others. And of course, my all time favorite is…

“Ah dangit, I flushed the toilet paper again!”

Luckily it’s okay, our pipes can handle it here. 

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Work is not Done

Monday, October 4, 2010 - Sitting in the Mumbai airport, trying to hold back tears. There’s been a lump in my throat the whole day, as I made my rounds, saying my goodbyes to some of the most amazing people I know. I did well. Only cried once.

Often in the midst of seasons in our lives, we never fully comprehend the work that God is doing in us. We get so caught up in the day to day activities, that it’s hard to step back and really look at the big picture. Now that I am at yet another transition in my life, looking back over the past year, the picture has become more clear.

If there is one thing that has become the most clear, it is God’s faithfulness.

God is and has been so faithful to me.

My God is a good God. The places he has taken me to this year, physically, mentally, emotionally… I may never fully comprehend or understand. Some of them have been some of the hardest places I have ever been; faced some of the hardest trials I have ever faced. Yet many of these places have been ones of complete joy and satisfaction.

God took me on a grand adventure this year, and it passed in the blink of an eye. Rescuing victims, seeing justice served, showing mercy, loving people I didn’t want to love, practicing patience, writing stories of real people’s lives, gleaning wisdom from justice warriors, learning to just be, humbling myself before others, seeing people’s eyes opened to injustice, dancing, truly surrendering, giving and receiving grace, communing with the body of Christ, traveling, and laughing at our utter humanness.

When I first arrived to do this work, it was all so surreal. It didn’t seem like reality. Yet a year later, it still doesn’t seem like reality. Did this year really happen? It was a year of sacrifice, yet I still feel so honored that God chose me to do the work. I’m not qualified. I’m an amateur. I have nothing much to offer. But I suppose those are the prerequisites to do the work of God.

The things I learned this year, the relationships I formed, cannot even begin to be measured. My romanticized visions of what I sometimes thought it was like were crushed to the ground. I knew they would be, and I’m glad they were. I fully grasp now the gravity, yet difficulty of rescuing slaves, setting people free, advocating for others and the messiness of it all. I saw it firsthand. I was privileged to write their stories. Each story, an individual, single precious life. Each life, precious to God with a purpose and a calling. A life that may have lived in a remote village, somehow ending up in the depths of a brothel in a large city. Yet a team that cares enough to go into the dark places and rescue that life. The individuals of this team have become my heroes and always will be.

Living in this enormous city opened my eyes even more. To extreme poverty, diseases I never knew of, malnutrition, intense idol worship, demonic spirits, slums, pollution, and the vast disparity between the rich and the poor. It’s not the first time of being exposed to all this, but it’s ironic how each city has different kinds of spiritual bondages unique to that place, yet they all yield the same results, the same problems. The lost are lost, and are in need of saving grace.

The person that I am today, is not the same person that I was a year ago. But unfortunately the process of growth never ends, and there is still work to be done. As I leave this city, I have an undeniable sense that I will be back. It sounds cliché to say “I left a piece of my heart there.” But, I invested my heart there, so it is impossible not to leave a piece. A piece that I need to return to someday. And I will. Who knows the plans of God… they are so much higher than mine, and more than what I could ever imagine. It’s been a journey, and the journey shall continue. There is work to be done, stories to be told, people to be rescued... and I will continue that work. 

“So faithful
So constant
So loving and so true
So powerful in all you do
You fill me
You see me
You know my every move
You love me to sing to you
I know that you are for me
I know that you are for me
I know that you will never
Forsake me in my weaknesses
I know that you have come down
Even if to write upon my heart
To remind me who you are”

“You are for Me” by Kari Jobe

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


I stepped out the door of my apartment and waited for the rickety elevator to make it up to the sixth floor. As the elevator arrives, I open the two doors, for it is not automatic, and it very slowly, shakily makes it's way down to the ground floor. It's raining, so I whip out my umbrella and make my way down the makeshift brick road, trying to dodge the puddles of mud. There are no rickshaws, so I walk until I find one, past the garbage dump. There are a few children squatting by the trash, using it as their bathroom. I pull out my handkerchief to cover my nose. An empty rickshaw comes along and the driver decides he will take me. The ride is not long, it's actually a walkable distance, but since the hot season and the monsoons, rickshaws are the preferred way of getting to the office. 

I arrive at the office, climb up the stairs to the fourth floor and go into my little room where my desk is. I have about five minutes until our daily office prayer and devotions. We all gather in the largest room in our office and everyone makes their prayer requests known as our director writes them on the board. Someone reads a psalm and we present our requests to our Lord. As someone prays, the sound of squealing goats can be heard in the background. Some of us snicker because it's rather funny sometimes. You see, our office is across from a mutton shop, and we always know when it's slaughtering day. It's kind of an ongoing joke at our office, that newcomers don't believe until they hear the goats actually screaming, breathing their last breath. And see all the jaw bones right outside our office. 

Stillness time is next; 30 minutes to just rest in God, spending time with him, before we embark on the craziness of the day. And then the work starts, everyone doing a different job. Sometimes it's slow, sometimes it's exciting, sometimes it's monotonous and sometimes it's rewarding. Sometimes I want to scream, and sometimes I want to laugh. Sometimes I do little tasks all day, and sometimes I get completely engrossed in writing a story. We all have our little offices, but we visit each other throughout the day. The office I share with Jamie and Mervyn has a comfy chair we call the special chair. It is notorious for being the chair people come and sit in and bear their souls to Jamie and I. Frustrations, stress, joy. Many good conversations have come up out of that chair. 

Lunch time arrives and we all gather in our normal little groups to eat together, or catch up on the news online. Then time for a twin brothers run. Twin brothers is the little stall right down the street where we can find diet cokes and all kinds of tasty goodness. We don't know if the two old men with missing teeth are actually brothers, but we are certainly convinced. We love them. We think they love us too. Or at least the business we give them. I will make cookies for them one day soon. 

The afternoon passes by, sometimes fast, sometimes slow. And then it's time to go home. No rickshaws home, it's usually impossible to find one at this time. I walk home on the main road, ignoring the stares from people. Yes, my skin is white, thanks for noticing. I turn onto the little road to my apartment and the kids are all just getting out of school. They have their cute little uniforms on, the girls with two braids in their hair and they all have backpacks often way to big for their small frames. The two little half naked boys that live right outside our complex are tormenting our gatekeeper. Again. They like to run into the parking lot and throw things at him. He runs at them with a stick and they run away laughing. And this process repeats again and again. Home sweet home. Auntie arrives soon, vegetables from the market in hand, and cooks an amazing indian dinner for us. Before some of the other girls left to go back to the US, we all used to eat together, debriefing about our day. The feelings expressed usually span the whole spectrum of the emotional grid. I love this country. I hate this country. 

Not every day is like this, but most are. I wish I could come up with an adventurous, thrilling story to share, but I have none right now. So when they do come up, they are dear to me even more. Seeing girls rescued from horrendous abuse, watching the perpetrators getting convicted, seeing the same girls graduate school and laughing and dancing. Or learning and performing Michael Jackson's "Thriller" for some of our girls at an aftercare home. Now that was fun. And fulfilled the lifelong dream for some of us to learn that dance. What can I say, we dream big. But I hold these events close to my heart. And so many of the little things in my life here have become endearing to me. 

Despite my day to day routine, God has taught me more this year than I feel like he has ever squeezed into one year. Contentment, perseverance, submission, sacrifice, humility, trust, relationships, being selfless, loving other you don't want to love, the list goes on. It's been extremely tough at times. Really tough. And then other times I feel like I'm not sacrificing enough, I should be giving up more. I must have needed these lessons. I know I needed it these lessons. So many ugly things have emerged out of me. Like a thick muck, rising out of a drainage pipe full of sewage. Some of it I took care of, and some of it is still being worked on, only by the grace of God. Oh how we stubbornly hold on to our disgusting waste, and sometimes don't even know it. It's like we walk around with poop splattered on us and have gotten so used to the stench that we don't even realize it. That's what sin is like. Thank God for his incredible mercy, grace and redemption. And the blood that cleanses us of our waste.

What's next? I don't know. Several weeks still remain. I can only hope that they hold a few more adventures in this dear land that I have mysteriously come to love. 

"If by doing some work which the undiscerning consider 'not spiritual work' I can best help others, and I inwardly rebel, thinking it is the spiritual for which I crave, when in truth it is the interesting and exciting, then I know nothing of calvary love." ~Amy Carmichael 

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Eery Peace

We are in the middle of monsoon season here, and though it has been a mild one thus far, when Saturdays roll around, the desire to remain curled up in bed reading a good book while the rain pours down has been overcoming the slight desire to go out and explore the city more. However, this past Saturday, I forced myself to go down to the south part of town and see a few sights I've yet to see. 

The first one I stopped at was one of the houses where Mahatma Gandhi lived for several years. Though a modest little house, I was quite excited to see it. I must admit, other than the basics, I know little of the details of Gandhi's life. But after seeing this once house, now museum, I was intrigued. Knowing how revered Gandhi is around these parts, and for that matter the world, I wanted to dig deeper into this man's life. 

The house is on a street, just like any other in this part of the city, nothing special, though we easily spotted it from the sight of other foreigners standing outside the little house. We walked into the foyer of the old house, greeted by a man at the front desk. No cost to see the place, donations only. The wood floor cracked as we walked in and the walls were covered with black and white photos of Gandhi at different stages of his life. We walked straight down the hallway to the back room, which was converted into a small library with over 50,000 books, many of them related to the life and philosophies of Gandhi. 

We walked up the old staircase as the steps creaked, into a room that told the story of Gandhi's life, giving the main highlights of course. You start at one end of the room and make your way around, following the timeline. As I read, I was still taking it all in, trying to piece together the events of his life, realizing what great things he accomplished. There is no arguing that Gandhi literally changed a nation, and in turn, the world. And I'm sure there are lessons we can learn from his life. However...

As I read more and more of his letters, or quotes, or philosophies he would live his life by, I couldn't help but pity the man. His quotes that were framed on the walls all throughout the house, had an appealingness about them. When you read them, it almost "felt" right, and gave you this eery sense of "peace." But as I stared at these quotes, pondering them in my head, I suddenly realized, "What a screwy worldview!" 

And here is where all the Gandhi fans get offended and stop reading... but hear me out...

I always knew that Gandhi served a different god than I do. I knew he followed a different religion, hinduism to be exact. My obvious difference with him was my belief that there is one God, His name is Jesus, and He is the only way to heaven. However, I wanted to search deeper into this man's worldview.   As I walked through this house, I wondered what it was that drove this man to do these things, these good things? I must say, much of what he actually did, I do not disagree with. His pursuit of peace, equality and doing right unto others are things I believe in as well. His words seemed so right, almost "Christianlike," so where was the breakdown?

It didn't fully click in my head until I came across one of his quotes, framed and hanging in the hallway next to his bedroom. It said:

"True morality consists not in following the beaten track, but in finding out the true path for ourselves, and in fearlessly following it... We must be guided in our policy by our sense of right, not by the lure of winning cheap popularity." 

Therein lies the issue, the underlying theme of much of Gandhi's philosophy. Our "sense of right"? Whose sense of right? Your sense of right? My sense of right? What is right and where does it come from? Gandhi had nothing to base his beliefs on, no foundation. Who was Gandhi to say he was right? What did he base his "rightness" on? He had a selfless philosophy, but if the good he tried to exemplify did not come from himself, in his opinion, then where did it come from? 

I read that at the beginning of his life, Gandhi said, "God is truth," but towards the end of his life he changed it to, "Truth is God." That is a scary belief when you have no absolute truth to rely on and your own version of truth becomes your god. As I walked throughout his entire house, it was evident that Gandhi was always in pursuit or search of this "truth." He lived a simple life, he would fast for weeks, he believed in unity of all religions. The eery sense of peace I described earlier was not peace at all. When our sense of morality and rightness comes out of ourselves, though it may last for awhile, in the end it will always fail. 

I pitied the man because, despite all the great things he did, despite his amazing impact on the world, where is his soul now? I cannot by any means claim to know the condition of one's soul, but I cannot help but wonder... For my Jesus once said, "Small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." Matt 7:14.

These are all thoughts I am still pondering in my head. They especially intrigue me because of Christian friends I have who admire Gandhi greatly, in fact consider him a hero. There is nothing wrong with that. I appreciate what he did in this world as well. My concern lies in the fact of making sure we don't replace a life lived of good works with the saving blood and grace of Jesus Christ. 

"If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing." 1 Corinthians 13:2-3

How can I have this love if I am not connected to the one who is love. Where does my "sense of rightness" come from? Not from within myself, but from the only one who is love and truth... 
Jesus Christ.  

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Sweet Surprises & Sacrifice

After being home in the US for a visit for a couple weeks, I'm back in South Asia, getting back into the swing of things. It was a good trip I have to say, and much needed. I watched my best friend get married, slept in my amazing bed with a comforter in air condition, ate my grandma's puerto rican home cooking, worshipped with my amazing church family, drove my '89 volvo on the RIGHT side of the road... with NO a/c and windows down, went for many long walks on the beach under moonlight, spent time with Jesus, saw a huge sea turtle dig a whole and lay eggs, ate two juicy hamburgers, swam in the sea, breathed in a gorgeous sunrise on the beach, shared meals and coffee with some of the most incredible friends in the world, and loved on my beautiful family. 

Vero Beach Sunrise

And to think I almost didn't go home. It wasn't in the plan when I embarked on this year long journey to South Asia. But to my surprise, God changed that. And he knew exactly what he was doing. He takes me on these amazing journeys and always has sweet little surprises along the way. It's like when I was little, and we bought my dad a briefcase for his birthday. When he came home from work that night, my little sister Christa runs out the door yelling, "Daddy, we got you something! But it's NOT a briefcase! It's not a briefcase!" She couldn't contain her excitement for the surprise we had. I can see God looking at our lives, just absolutely ecstatic about the "surprises" and blessings that he can't wait to give us, and can hardly contain himself. 

I received a lot of encouragement when I was home. So many people spoke into my life. The older I get, the more I realize how important relationships are. And I mean deep relationships. I take them for granted sometimes. I love going home to people that I truly know, people I have invested in and who have invested in me. God is teaching me a lot about relationships. They are also one of the hardest things in the world. You get hurt... and wounded... and sometimes burned. You have to sacrifice and they are messy. That is probably one of the biggest lessons I'm learning here in Asia, surprisingly. Building new relationships is hard, and sometimes I get lazy and don't want to bother with some people who are hard to love. But sometimes one of those sweet "surprises" is in a new relationship, a new friendship God has in store for you. And we miss out if we don't engage and give of ourselves. Love God. Love others. It's what we're called to do. 

my dear best friend's beautiful wedding

My two and a half weeks at home was just the perfect amount of time. I enjoyed every minute of it, but to my surprise, I was ready to come back to Asia. I love my American family and friends. But God has given me a task to do right now, and I need to complete it. I wanted to get back to work and totally engage in the last three months I have here, with IJM. Yes, I needed a time to rest. But the longer I stayed home, the longer I was neglecting the task at hand. God calls us to give up everything. To sacrifice. For me right now, that is my family, church and friends. My dear missionary friend Marybeth gently and passionately reminded me of that just last night (now there's a good friendship; thanks for totally convicting me Marybeth, haha). The amount of sacrifice God requires of us. It scares me. I have a feeling God is just breaking me in. Am I truly sacrificing? God had grace and allowed me to have my "America" fix. What is he going to ask me to give up next? Where will he take me next? Our version of sacrifice is often not his version of sacrifice. The greatest giants of the faith that have gone before us literally sacrificed everything. They gave up their comfort, families, friends, hometowns, wealth, everything. Mother Teresa left her family at 18 years of age and never saw them again. Many lived lives of singleness in order to accomplish more for the kingdom (now that is scary). But to all of them, at the end of their lives, they never regretted it. It was worth it. I want to be that person. Do you? I have a long way to go.

But you know what? Despite the sacrifice we are called to... remember those little "surprises" God has along the way. Those sweet moments when God gently reminds us why we are doing what we are doing. When he sends people into our lives to encourage and uplift us. When he uses us to speak into other people's lives. When we witness the sweet union of two people in marriage. When we see new life come into the world. My last Sunday at home, as I stood in worship at my church, singing and raising my hands, I looked around for a moment and realized what a piece of work the body of Christ is. I thought about my church family here in South Asia, and desperately wished I could merge the two. I wish they could meet each other... brothers and sisters in Christ. God is good. Someday they will. I can't wait for that day when all of us will be worshipping together, literally at the feet of Jesus. It will be worth it... and because of our sacrifice, there will be people worshipping beside us that otherwise would not be there. 


"One can give without loving, but one cannot love without giving." 
~Amy Carmichael

Thursday, June 3, 2010

When will it Rain?

Often the clearest I ever hear God's voice is through music and lyrics. There is just something about putting words to a melody that makes things click in my head... it all comes together. I had my ipod on shuffle this morning during our office stillness time, and a song by Misty Edwards came on that I hadn't heard in awhile (the beauty of shuffle: you find music you forgot you had). 

Waiting for the Rain:

Oh I'm waiting in this desert
Just waiting for the rain
Oh but I won't leave this desert
Until I see the rain

And I'm waiting in the wilderness
Of promises yet fulfilled
Oh but I won't leave this wilderness
Until I see the rain

I'm waiting for the rain
Oh I'm waiting for the rain
I'm just waiting for the rain
Oh I'm waiting for the rain

For I have heard the story told of a prophet who prophesied
Of the rain that would come in the middle of a drought
As a sign of the rain to come

And though years have come and years have gone
We're still waiting for the rain
Oh but I can see the clouds gathering now
Are you ready, are you ready for the rain?

Open up the heavens and let it rain, let it rain, let it rain
Open up the heavens and let it rain, let it rain, let it rain
Open up the heavens and let it rain, let it rain, let it rain
Open up the heavens and let it rain, let it rain
Just let it rain, let it rain
God let it rain, let it rain
Let it rain 

It's not a particularly deep song, but it really struck me. You see, here in South Asia right now we are preparing for the monsoon season. And yes, this will be my first experience with it. I've heard people say it's not so bad and I've heard horror stories. Needless to say, everyone has prepared me in knowing what to expect: it pretty much pours rain everyday apparently for four months straight. And of course with rain, brings flooding. And of course with pot hole filled roads and open sewage, well, you get the picture. 

But it seems to be the topic of conversation every day now. Everyone is asking "when is monsoon going to start?" Everyone is desperate for it to begin so it will cool down a tiny bit. I'm not so anxious. I'd rather deal with the heat than trudging through ankle deep water with who knows what in it every day to work. Everyone is buying their umbrella's. Us Americans here have our rain boots by the door ready to go when we need them. Drivers are starting to cover their rickshaws every night in case the rain starts.

And every day, there seem to be more and more clouds. There's that slight breeze that usually comes right before it rains. It gets a little dark. But nothing happens. It looks like the heavens might finally open up, and the whole city is waiting in anticipation. And then they don't.

And then I hear this song. This song about waiting for the rain. About not leaving the desert until I see the rain. A song about waiting in the wilderness for promises yet fulfilled. And the spiritual parallel was overwhelming to me. Now, I wouldn't say that I am dwelling in the "desert" right now overall, but there are definitely things in my life, our lives, that seem like deserts or wildernesses. There are definitely promises that I am still waiting to see fulfilled. And just when you think the skies are about to open up, they sometimes don't. God pulls back the clouds and says "not yet." We don't understand why. We may never understand why. And I realized something. Just like we are preparing for monsoon season here, we must also prepare for the "rain" in our lives. We must fix our leaky roofs, zip up our boots, grab our umbrellas and be ready for everything God has for us. Because rain isn't always easy. It's fun to listen to and watch when you're under a shelter, but who wants to watch God's rain pour out from a comfortable spot? I want to be immersed in it. I want to trudge through it. I want to dance in it. Sometimes we may need our boots to walk through it. And sometimes we may want to drop the umbrella, take off the boots and just soak it all in. And with the rain comes nourishment. With the rain comes a refreshing cool. 

I often face discouragement in my life; especially with the work I am currently involved in. I can often wonder why God sometimes seems silent on certain matters. Why are there broken relationships in my life that haven't been restored yet? Why do some trafficking victims never see freedom? Why do the bad guys not always get locked up and punished? God why are you silent in revealing certain things to me? The list for both my personal and professional life can go on and on.

And then come those sweet moments when the skies open up, and the rain just gushes forth in sheets. And it doesn't stop. It rains and rains and rains like its never rained before. I feel silly for ever doubting God. I soak up those moments. God puts me through periods of waiting. Periods of preparing. Periods of testing before he opens up the heavens. Because if I'm not prepared, it could be disastrous. 
God's timing is always perfect.

Just recently, several of our offices here in South Asia have seen God pour forth his rain like we've never seen before. After going through extremely long periods of drought, sometimes years of it, these amazing men and women of God have pressed through and saw God's rain. And I cannot help but smile, laugh in fact, because of God's continual faithfulness. 

I don't know how theologically sound that analogy is, but God certainly spoke to me through it. Just when we feel like going back inside, we feel that one drop on our head. We look up, see the clouds form, and watch hundreds of more droplets falling towards us. And those drops turn into sheets, drenching us in His blessings. 

His rain will come. 

It only seems appropriate to remind you of the all time greatest movie ever which happens to also be my favorite: "Singing in the Rain"
Go watch it. Gene Kelly will stun and amaze you.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


Last week I plummeted into the depths of despair. I was warned about this before coming here. I knew it was coming at some point. But normally this part of cultural adjustment happens earlier on in the game, not after 7 months of living in a new country/culture. I thought I had made it through the tough part without having to deal with these feelings. I was wrong. I'm not really sure what spurred it on, but I think it was a mixture of my own depression and pity party, and a deep oppression against my soul. My circumstances didn't change, only my reactions to them. This work is hard. I know that. I knew that before I came. But when you are about to embark on an adventure that you know is hard, it makes it all the more exciting. Once you're in the adventure, and it's hard, it is no longer as exciting. Then your mind begins to head down the slippery slope of despair with feelings of inadequacy, discouragement and wondering what in the world you are doing. That is, if you let it. I did. My work seemed mundane. Fighting injustice isn't just going into brothels and rescuing slaves. That is the climax. There is all the work in between. There is prep and post work that goes on behind the scenes that is not quite as thrilling. Add to that the difficulties of adjusting to this city and culture, on top of feelings of homesickness and loneliness... you can plummet pretty quickly. Again, if you let yourself. If you drop your gaze from Christ. It's crazy how your mind can make things out to be exponentially larger than they are. None of these things are things that cannot be dealt with and worked through. None of them are the end of the world, by any means. In fact, it's more the comforts of American I miss, rather than the necessities. I am by no means suffering here. And I feel like a wimp. I'm selfish. I really am. And I let the enemy stick his foot in the door of my soul... for several days.

I'm not really sure what sparked my gradual ascent out of my self dug pit of despair, but I got out, and started breathing fresh air again. It was God. And maybe a little sense talking from my amazing mother who told me to get over myself. Like mother like daughter. I would have said the same. And coming out of it was oh so glorious. Realizing how deeply good God is and how deeply in need I am of being redeemed is overwhelming. I realized that being here is not just about trying as hard as I can to impact other's lives, but I'm here so that God can draw me closer to his heart, in good times and bad. I'm not just here to help rescue the oppressed, but to be rescued by my Jesus. He continually purges me of things that I often didn't even know were there to be purged. Being in a place of complete vulnerability brings out the yucky things in you that you didn't know existed. And it is good. Painful, but good.

The day I climbed out of this despair I was able to write a story about a recent rescue operation our team conducted. The victim statements I read through were probably some of the hardest ones I've had to read through in awhile. Their stories were absolutely tragic. I cried. But for some reason, I didn't feel the deep sadness I usually feel. I felt an extreme sense of hope. Even though they've been rescued, they still have a long road of healing ahead of them. But there is hope. There is hope only because of Christ. And I also realized what an honor it is, to be putting the words of their stories on paper. It may not be that significant, but it's what God has called me to do for this season. And in the end, I love it.

So when you feel yourself beginning to plummet, don't take the shovel of self-pity and dig yourself deeper into the pit. There is nothing down there for you but mud. Look up. Look up to the beautiful blue sky. There's a world out there that needs you. Yes, some of us stay in the pit longer than others. Sometimes I unfortunately choose to sit and wallow for awhile. But once I look heavenward, I realize how much I was suffocating myself. You can't breath down there, and you begin to choke. Get over yourself. Get over your selfishness and pride. Realize how blessed you are.... and go do what God has called you to do. Because no one else can do the job that you were created to do. There are other people stuck in their own pits of despair. You might be their only lifeline. Let God rescue you, and then go forth and rescue others!

"He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will SOAR on wings like eagles; they will RUN and not grow weary, they will WALK and not be faint." ~Isaiah 40:29-31

Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Nations are up for Grabs

“The nations are up for grabs… and who wants them?
Who wants Laos?
Who wants Cambodia?
Who wants Tunisia?
Who wants Turkey?
Who want Eritrea?
Who wants Algeria?
Who wants India?
Who wants South Africa?
Who wants South America, Peru and Colombia and Brazil and Belize?
Who wants these places?
Who wants China?
Who wants Indonesia?
Who WANTS them?
They’re asking the question ‘who is this man and what does this mean?’

And the nations are up for grabs.
There’s a destiny and a place for you…

If you want it.”


Tonight at connect group, my pastor here in South Asia was telling us about a saying they have here. Summarized in English:

There was a man who was about to jump off a bridge into the river, committing suicide, and it was raining. Someone walking by offered him an umbrella not knowing what he was about to do, but the man declined. Why? Because he knew he was going to die, and staying dry, being comfortable, didn’t matter to him.

Morbid, I know. But you know there’s another famous saying, “Nothing is worth living for, unless it is worth dying for.” (Jim Elliot, missionary and martyr)

What is it that we live for, that is actually worth dying for? And if it is worth dying for, why do we insist on comfort along the way? Why do we often only do/go where God has called us if it is safe and not too terribly uncomfortable? What is your umbrella that you insist on having? If God is the river and we are jumping in wholeheartedly, having an umbrella doesn’t matter. In fact it’s silly… and petty.

There is an ADVENTURE out there for you, for me. And how many times do we miss out? Adventures are messy, dangerous and you sometimes have to do things you don’t necessarily feel like doing. But that is what makes it an adventure.

The nations are up for grabs. Who wants them? What nation will you claim, will you pray for, will you go to? What person will you share God's life and truth with? What girl will you help rescue from a brothel? What boy will you help educate who otherwise would live on the streets? What elderly man will you feed, who otherwise would starve? What crippled woman will you pray for healing for, who has to beg like a dog every day of her life? What struggling single mom will you befriend? What coworker will you reach out to? Who’s story will you share? Who will you speak up for, who otherwise couldn’t speak for themselves?

The nations are up for grabs.

There is a destiny and place for you…

if you want it.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Beauty. Glory. Redemption.

My Easter was spent in Darjeeling and Kolkata. If I were to express the vastness of God's glory that we experienced and His sweet redemption, it would take pages. Here are a few snippets:

Darjeeling is in the Himalayan Mountains. I always loved the ocean more so than the mountains; I grew up near the ocean. Until now, I realize they each display different aspects of God's heart. I have never seen mountains like these before, and we were only at the base. I have never felt such an intense feeling of God's true glory...

Friday, April 2, 2010
I sit here looking at the same mountains of Darjeeling that Mother Teresa looked at way back in 1931. What is it about mountains that so display the majesty of God? Their vastness and beauty I suppose. It's not a wonder that Mother Teresa heard from God in this quaint little city of Darjeeling. These mountains display God's heart in a way I rarely experience. These mountains emulate peace. It's as if they were saying, "I'm here Michelle. I'm here." I feel God's comfort in their vastness. Sitting here I am reminded of the extreme hopelessness and need in the world, but somehow know it's going to be alright. Though these mountains are enormous... though poverty, disease, slavery, abuse, hunger are enormous... "If I have faith as small as a mustard seed, I can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing is impossible for God." ~Matthew 17:20

Saturday, April 3, 2010
My stay in Darjeeling was short but refreshing. I'm sitting in the Badogra airport again after our long, rather bumpy ride back down the mountains. Yesterday was spent wandering down the streets of Darjeeling. What a lovely, quaint little city. We wandered down to Happy Valley, a 260 acre tea plantation, and drank real Darjeeling tea. The rest of our time was spent walking and enjoying the fresh air.  We don't realize how much we suffocate in the big city, until we get out. Weekend retreats are quite necessary to survive our work in the crazy city we live in. The views provided by Darjeeling are absolutely gorgeous. I drank them in. I wanted to drown in it's beauty. Add to it the beautiful brokenness of humanity scattered throughout those mountains and it displays God's glory and holiness ever so much more. I wandered through the oldest church in the town, built in mid 1800's... an old building, slightly dilapidated, but oh so beautiful and still functioning. It was quite peaceful with no one around except a few monkeys. Maybe I'll get married in a church like that someday.

This morning we woke up at 3:30 AM to catch the sunrise at Tiger Hill, over the Himalayas. Our night was rather interesting as we all had large rats in our rooms, and even some in our beds. But all that was quickly forgotten when we were met with the breathtaking view provided by our God just for his children. The hill was crowded with so many people wanting a glimpse of the sunrise. It was quite cold, freezing actually, but the overwhelming sight of beauty shot warmth threw my body. It was very foggy, making it difficult to see all the peaks, nevertheless, the sun slowly found it's way over the mountains revealing several majestic peaks, ones that make me feel miniscule in God's vast creation, yet loved that he would create such divine beauty for me to see. When those snow capped peaks began to reveal themselves, I couldn't help but giggle with joy. This is my God. This is MY God. My sovereign, loving God. And he brought me here, he created me "for such a time as this."

Sunday, April 4, 2010
It is Easter sunday and I am sitting in the courtyard of Mother Teresa's home, the "Mother House." There really are no words to describe the feeling here. Though we did not get to volunteer, we were greeted by a group of nuns gathered around several mentally handicapped children singing and banging their tambourines... praises to God. It took everything in me to not burst into tears as we watched these little ones all dressed up for Easter, some wearing new little shoes that squeaked when they walked. You could tell they weren't used to wearing shoes and were so excited to have them on.... "And this is why Jesus not only died, but rose again... for them."

After visiting the "Mother Home," we attempted to go see her home for the dying, though it was closed to visitors. So instead, we quickly walked through Kalighat temple just down the street. What an incredibly eery place. We were advised previously by some people not to walk through, but I wanted to see it for myself. It was craziness... people screaming and yelling everywhere, trying to sell you things. We had to take our shoes off to walk in, who knows what we stepped through. As you walk through, there are people pushing and shoving. A man was standing on a pedestal, touching people on the head and throwing some sort of powder on them. Around back there were even animal sacrifices. I don't know if it was a good idea to go in, but I wanted to feel it. I wanted to feel what God feels and sees when his children worship idols. I wanted it to break my heart like it breaks his heart. It did. The irony that I saw this on the day that my savior rose from the grave, was quite heart wrenching. I've never fully been able to comprehend idol worship. Now I do.

Finally, that afternoon, we made our way to Mother Teresa's orphanage. The nuns let us in and let us hold and play with the babies. Many of them were mentally handicapped, some were malnourished, and some I'm sure had some sort of illness or disease. I happened to find a girl off to the side, crying. She was probably two or three, rather overweight, and slightly mentally ill. I picked her up and just held her for awhile, calming her nerves and whispering in her ear how beautiful and loved she is. I know she didn't understand, but there is power in words and blessings. I didn't know what happened to her parents or what she had been through, but I prayed that she would be loved and would know the love of Jesus. I finally put her down and found the tiniest baby with the biggest eyes. She was beautiful.  I was able to hold her, whispering in her ear as well, praying blessings over her life. I spent the remainder of our short time there holding this little girl. Those children are so precious. They are closest to the heart of God as one can get I believe.

"If only one little unhappy child is made happy with the love of Jesus, tell me, will it not be worth all of us giving all for that?" ~Mother Teresa

Monday, April 5, 2010
Today we went back to Mother Teresa's home for the dying. It is just around the corner from the Kalighat Temple. How ironic. It's quite the small building actually. There was another group of white people there and it felt kind of awkward "touring" the place. I didn't want the patients to feel like they were on show or in a zoo we were going to see. There was one ward for the men and one ward for the women, that's it. They were all mostly in pretty bad condition, but somehow, someway, there was no sense of hopelessness there. There was actually a sense of peace and hope. These people were dying, but they were being taken care of, they were being loved. People who would otherwise be suffering and dying on the streets. Literally. Alone. Now they would die with dignity. I desperately hoped that they were hearing the truth of the gospel as well. Oh how I hope they do. There were nuns and volunteers seeing to their needs. They would bathe them, feed them, do whatever was needed. It was so simple, nothing elaborate, nothing fancy at all. Just rows of beds. I hope to go back to both this home as well as the orphanage someday to volunteer. What an incredible honor.


How blessed am I to have the experiences that God is giving me? I often feel unworthy and unqualified. I'm learning more from this land than I am contributing. But that's okay. We are God's workmanship, and he is never done working on us, teaching us. Mother Teresa has become one of my heroes. No, I don't claim to know what her biblical theology was, and I'm not saying all her beliefs were true. I know many people look at her life and all the good works she did, thinking that's what gets one into heaven. I know it's not. A relationship does, as long as we remember that. We can learn so much from her life, her selflessness, her commitment, her passionate love. Look at what God can do with a life not lived for ourselves. There are no limits.

"Until you know deep inside that Jesus thirsts for you - you cannot begin to know who he wants to be for you, or who he wants you to be for him." ~Mother Teresa