"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." -Galatians 2:20

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Back in Chi Town

So here I am, back in Chicago attempting to finish my last year as an undergrad at Moody Bible Institute.  Though excited for the new year, I feel like I wasn’t really quite ready for it.  I am still processing my summer and taking the next step towards…oh ya, I don’t know. Haha.

It’s kind of funny in a way, how for almost 7 years I have had a direction in my life, a goal, a calling from God to go to Amsterdam.  But while in Amsterdam I kept asking God “what is next?” and He kept saying “I want you to focus on now and let me worry about later because I am a better planner than you, believe it or not” :)  So I did, and soaked in every moment there.  At the end of it all I guess I figured God would make it clear to me whether or not I would go back, but He hasn’t.  What He has shown me is that He wants me to obey Him in every moment; whether He asks me to pursue a 7 year goal, or a 7 minute conversation. (By the way, if I knew I was going to have to wait 7 years, I don’t know if I would have done it! – I think God knew that).

     Being in Amsterdam and working with the different ministries and meeting all the different people there, God also showed me that I was supposed to be there not last year, or the year before that, but specifically this summer in 2011, for many different reasons.  In the really long amount of time that I had been waiting for the Lord to tell me when to go, He was preparing me with many different life experiences and things that changed and grew me into the person I am – the person He wanted to use this summer.  It really is an incredible thing to see the hand of God in retrospect and understand how “in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)  Every day this summer, I was able to see how something I had experienced or learned in the past was directly connected to where I was and what I was doing. (SO COOL)  At the end of this summer I saw that God incredibly blessed me for obeying Him in going there, but that His vision for my life is bigger than I can see, and He wants me to just continue obeying Him, even when I cannot see what He sees.

Now in Chicago for the past couple of weeks I have been asking God the same question…and I keep getting the same answer.  So I am focusing on the now, and I know that God will continue showing me little by little how the pieces of my past and the next steps I take will fit together somehow in the beautiful mosaic of my life that God has planned already.
Chicago + Moody + Friends = LOVE 

Amor en Mexico

After a great time in Amsterdam, my next stop for the summer was Mexicoooo!  Koral Donnelly – one of my really good friend’s and roommate from Moody got married on July 31st and I was truly honored to be a part of it…
Went from Amsterdam to London, Heathrow where I spent the night being moved around from one “waiting lounge” to another and getting no more than possibly 1 hour’s sleep total in the airport.  I felt awful in the morning, ate some breakfast and finally got on a plane from Heathrow to Dallas.  In Dallas my connecting flight to Phoenix was so close that I was literally sprinting through the airport and barely made it to the connecting flight to Phoenix…only to be seated behind the most annoying child that was whining/crying and pounding on the back of my chair…

I was either in an airport or an airplane for around 48 hours and then crashed at a friends house in Phoenix, and we drove a couple hours down to Mexico.  I definitely felt like death, but driving through Mexico felt like home :)

It was a small wedding, maybe 30 of Koral and Jake’s friends, all stayed in a gorgeous mansion that they rented for the weekend in Las Conchas, Mexico.  It was great hanging out with everybody, doing the Macarena at a restaurant, enjoying the beach, and even sleeping outside because it got so hot in the house because the power kept going out so we had no air conditioning (haha).  But the best part was getting to be a part of a wedding that is just so completely put together by God.  The morning of the ceremony all of us met together and worshipped in song and prayer over Jake and Koral and I definitely cried at the ceremony.  What a beautiful act of worship it is to be married, and to witness that is such a wonderful thing and a great way to end the summer.

After that, I drove back to Phoenix with friends, and then flew back to California…I feel like I spent a third of my summer on an airplane or in an airport.  Spent two weeks with the fam in Cali, and then I had to head back to Chicago for school. NUTS, I know.  This summer was awesome – but crazy.  THANK YOU SO MUCH for all your support over the past couple months, I REALLLYYY appreciate it.  Please continue to pray for me though, because I could definitely use it. ....Pictures below are of Caleb's birthday celebration, which included a pinata and sparklers from the Netherlands - priceless.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Leaving the Land of Tulips

I spent my last Saturday hanging out with Hendrieka, one of my friends here, in another city here in Holland called Haarlem, which is only about 15 minutes away by train, visiting the house of Corrie Ten Boom.  If you don’t already know, Corrie and the rest of the Ten Boom family were Dutch Christians who helped many Jews escape the Nazis during WWII, using their house as a hiding place for them as well.  After surviving the holocaust, Corrie became a public speaker and traveled the world telling her story.  She wrote an autobiography that also became a movie called “The Hiding Place.”  Look it up, read it—awesome story.

THE hiding place - entrance through Corrie's linen closet

the family bible

Going to this house was probably one of the coolest things I have done here in Holland.  The story and history of the Ten Boom family is an incredible testimony of God’s faithfulness that is not only neat to learn about, but really inspiring, and a perfect way to spend my last weekend here in Holland.

For my last two weeks at the Lighthouse, 2 volunteers showed up – 2 guys from Florida.  Sam and Jimmy are in college and just decided that they wanted to come and volunteer with the Lighthouse for 2 weeks this summer, so they got a lot of things done in the building such as painting, waxing floors, etc.  They also helped out with the homeless ministry, which was really opportune actually since in the last week we lost one of our men that helps out with the homeless ministry because his wife just had a baby, so he is busy helping her out.  What was kind of funny for me was the fact that hanging out with these 2 guys was almost weird for me at first, because I had gotten so used to being with people who weren’t American and all the sudden this odd phenomenon phased me: these people are just like me. Haha.  It’s really interesting how much you have in common when you come from the same country, and you don’t really think about it until you are in a situation of displacement.

My last week here I think I was in denial that I actually had to leave.  Cramming in last minute time with everybody to have meals, and “goodbye BBQ’s” was crazy but I loved every moment of spending time with all my friends here.  This place definitely felt like another home to me and I was sad to leave it.  God has shown me so many beautiful aspects of Himself through the time spent here in Amsterdam this summer and the people that I have met.  I am so blessed to have been able to do everything that I did here…the only thing I didn’t get was wooden shoes…oh well. haha

Goodbye Amsterdam, maybe I’ll be back soon…

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

A Glimpse of Genesis

Going out to the women in the windows for the last time was really great actually.  The last week in particular, the women were just really open and wanted to talk for forever.  Something happened though, that last Wednesday walking around in the Red Light District that I believe was divine intervention on giving me a new perspective of something going on there:  As I was walking with Rebecca, a man started walking beside me and looked me up and down and said “I like this one, how much is this one? Is she for sale?”  Disgusted, I looked at him with distain as my blood temperature went up to boiling in about 2 seconds.  Thank the Lord we go in teams, because at the moment Rebecca stepped in between us and spoke very directly saying “she was already bought at the highest price by the one who paid for our sins by dying on the cross – Jesus Christ.  Repent from your sins and turn away from them, and He is faithful to forgive!”  She went on and tried to talk to the man, but he walked away at that point.
I was so angry. It wasn’t just the fact that he said those things to me personally, but it made me angry to hear that man speaking to any woman in the disgusting, disrespectful way that he did, demeaning the very worth of a woman.  At that moment in time, my first instinct was to not only chew him out verbally, but somehow physically do damage to his face as well…maybe not the best idea.
Coming back after ministry, the team has time in prayer again to close the day.  But as I sat before the Lord in silence, my heart was uneasy.  I couldn’t get past the fact that I knew I could not say in all honesty that I loved those men, in fact, I hated them.  The Lord spoke to me with a verse, saying “They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.” –Eph 4:18.  At the moment I realized that I was angry and bitter towards them.  How could anyone love or forgive someone who treats another human being that way; stripping them of their very dignity, speaking to them as if they were nothing but a piece of trash to be used and thrown away again?  But God reminded me…”I do,” he said.  “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.  Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” 
Being here in the Red Light District, in some ways, has been a picture of the extreme end of the possible depravity of man and the “twistedness” of our thinking.  In Genesis 3 God says to Eve that “Your desire will be for your husband and he will rule over you.”  The word ‘desire’ here though, means “to dominate”, pointing to a parallelism in this verse that is showing the inherent depravity and drive men and women will have to dominate/rule over each other.  On one side of the red lit window, I see the man strong-arming the door open as he reaches in and grabs the prostitutes arm…but on the other side I see the woman using her body and little flirtatious movements to manipulate the men walking past.  On both sides I see so clearly a picture of the brokenness of our human nature, being once created for union with Christ, but now seeking to find that in the sexual exploitation of others. 
That day, something changed in me, and God showed me with new eyes what it is to not only look at the women, but also the men in the Red Light District with compassion.  I pray for the brokenness caused by sin to be restored in these men and women through union with Christ.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Shock of Culture

Just got back from a weekend trip to the countryside of Holland yesterday.  The Gomez family (Melissa-director of lighthouse and very soon expecting baby #2, Moses-her husband, and their son Pascal) and Bongi (Lighthouse staff team member) and I all took the train and arrived in Heidebeek at the YWAM base there on Thursday evening in the pouring rain.  Thankfully the Gomez’ were staying in someone’s house that was not using it this weekend so Bongi and I got to sleep on their couch and not try to figure out our tent situation when everything was soaking outside.

The next morning, we started bright and early for the volunteers orientation/morning worship to get the weekend of the GO Festival ready.  The Go Festival is the gathering of several different teams made up of youth ages about 15-23 and their team leaders who are all preparing to go on outreach trips sharing the gospel in different countries.  This year’s GO teams from Heidebeek were sent out to Rwanda, Ukraine, India, Peru, Israel, Brazil and Namibia.  So they all gather for the GO Festival before they leave, and they will all come back together for a closing weekend after they come back in 2 weeks. (the different colored shirts in the picture are the different teams--volunteers were in the dark blue shirts)

I felt like I was working at summer camp again, but for the first time in 3 ½ weeks, since I’ve been here in Holland, I actually felt like I was in a different country.  Everyone just spoke Dutch.  Thankfully some of the staff were kind enough to try to translate most things for Bongi and I to understand, but Bongi already understands a lot of Dutch since she’s been here for a while and she is in fact engaged to a Dutch guy.  I however, know one work in Dutch, and that is “kaas,” the word for cheese.  In Amsterdam, it is not a problem; everyone speaks in English to you if they know that is what you speak.  Here it was different.  I was constantly surrounded by a language and culture that I have no previous experience with.

For the first time here, I experienced culture shock.  For those of you unfamiliar with the term, culture shock is defined as the feelings of confusion and anxiety experienced by somebody suddenly encountering an unfamiliar cultural environment.  I went from learning a little bit about the culture, to being thrown in the middle of a giant tent filled with at least 40 Dutch girls in sleeping bags… a whole new way to do camping.

Although the camping aspect of it did not bother me, my poor friend Bongi who came with me from Amsterdam had never been camping in her life!  (I don’t think she realized we were going to be sleeping on the ground until I pointed out her “bed”)  I kept having flashbacks of my Dad taking me camping as a kid, and got a kick out of the fact that I can still remember him saying “you’ll be fine, take it like a man.” Naturally, that’s what I told Bongi to reassure her.

I got to know some really nice people and learned more Dutch in this one weekend than I have in the past 3 weeks in Amsterdam.  One of the days I got to hang out with a couple of girls from the team going to Peru and we decided that I could teach them some Spanish and they could teach me some Dutch.  Again, God continues to surprise me in showing me how He can use every experience in my life for His glory. 

Saturday night was the Dance Against Injustice event.  An event to bring awareness to sex trafficking and some ministries that fight against it.  Melissa, Bongi and I stood behind the Lighthouse booth while Moses DJ’d.  Sadly it poured rain so the event, which was supposed to be “beach” themed turned out to be a little soggy.  But it was fun anyway, there was food, dancing, stories told about women who have been trafficked, interpretive dance, and graffiti art.

Took the train home on Monday and the weather is back to cloudy and pouring rain, so I definitely got soaked coming back from the station (story of my life).  Ironically enough, I know that on the days I decide to wear glasses instead of contacts, it will inevitably rain…why is that? 

I was back early enough to make it for the homeless ministry yesterday night though…This week I would like to tell you about a woman named Biata.  She is from Poland originally, though she has been here in Amsterdam for about 10 years now.  I don’t know a whole lot about her family situation or her past, but as of the last year she has been with her boyfriend here.  Biata is 6 months pregnant with her boyfriend’s child and though she has been able to stay in one place for awhile now, she has to leave within the next week and try to find new housing.  The problem is, she wants to be in a place with her boyfriend, but most shelters will not take them both.  The government has paid for her to be taken care of by the hospital, and she goes in for her regular check up tomorrow.  I ask that you pray for Biata and her baby.  Her boyfriend is trying to get work right now, as has some, to provide for her and the baby, but something like a miracle needs to happen for this baby to be healthy, seeing her condition.

More updates to come :)  Only a week and a half left here in Amsterdam and of course, I am not ready to leave…

P.S. No, I did not attempt to go cow tipping in this country...yet