Thursday, August 5, 2010

Consume me like a fire...I just want something beautiful

So after almost 3 weeks of sulking and being angry with God, I have finally finished really processing my summer. It was tough to see what good came out of it because I was so angry about the bad things and about being at home that I completely forgot all the good that went on. So here is my very last blog that talks about what I learned, how it has changed me, and where I am going now.

I had the absolute best summer of my life. If I had the choice to be surrounded by that exact group of people, I would take it hands down. I love each and every one of my teammates with a rare passion. No matter how much we got on each other's nerves, we were family. I learned something different from each person and each lesson I learned was vital to my walk and my growth in Christ. I learned that I'm not weird because I have piercings and tattoos. I learned that I'm not any less of a Christian because I cuss and have an occasional drink. I learned to love myself and the Lord with out fear and with out boundaries. I learned patience and most of all I learned to have all out faith.

Looking back through the videos and pictures reminds me of the lives we changed and how our own lives changed. I get teary eyed because there is something so sacred and so special about the bond that all of us had and I miss that. I felt more at home in Africa than I ever have anywhere or with anyone. For a while i thought that it was just Africa that gave me that feeling but as I look back I think it was a lot more about the people I was with that where I was. The love we generated made the mud huts, the bunk beds, and the tents a home. We were home because we were all together in His name and for His purpose. I found my something beautiful- it was living among my brothers and sisters and sharing our lives together.

Right before I left I wrote about how the Lord had told me that this summer was going to be about faith. I was ready to take it head on, I just expected it to be easy. I thought He meant that I was going to have to rely on Him when I was homesick or trust Him while I was waking up at 6am every morning. I know now that I was completely wrong and in thinking that, I was in sin. I thought that because I had been a "good" servant to the Lord that I was entitled to have everything go according to plan. He rocked my world. To be quite frank, He pissed me off. I was mad at Him for a long time. I was mad because my trip wasn't just hard, it was almost impossible.

I haven't been on speaking terms with God since I got back (and by that I mean I was allowed to speak to and complain to Him, but He was not allowed to say anything in return. Most of you have experienced this fun game with me). This is the second summer where I felt like He had taken everything I loved the most away from me. From boyfriends and friends to Africa and family- He was putting a wrench in all of that and I was not happy about it. So I sulked for about a week, complained to Him a lot, and through all this I was continuously reminded that I am out of college and should probably try and get back into the real world. That was difficult because after I had made the decision to stay in Africa, I had to turn down all of the job opportunities I had back in the states. I did that 3 days before I got sick. So I returned to the US with no hope of a job and having to live in my parents house. A couple of days later, I knew that was not where I needed to be and started exploring my options.

I have never thought of myself as a people pleaser, but after really having to examine myself the past few weeks and I realized that i was trying to make a decision based on what everyone else wanted me to do. A friend asked me last week what I would do if there was absolutely nothing holding me back (meaning parents, money, friends). I couldn't answer him because I was trying to make this decision based on other's happiness, not my own. That scared me. So I sat down and tried to figure that out. I went deep and really asked the Lord what he wanted from me and what I really wanted from me. The Lord wants me to spread His love with every person I come into contact with. I figured it out fairly quickly but the next step was hard. I looked at the people and things in my life currently and had to decide if they were going to help or hurt me. I found a lot of things and people in my life that had to go. All of these things were the things I was so mad about the Lord taking away from me- all I had to do was submit to Him and let those things fade out. That was hard and it still is because, again, some of the things that I had to let go of were things and people that were closest to my heart and I loved them, but they were not adding anything positive to my life and they were not allowing me to get where I needed to go in my walk with Christ.

So this is normal. Everyone gets angry with God and loses a bit of faith and we all have those cliche sayings to share with each other, but honestly those never help. The truth is the only thing that can help us is just to keep going. When things go down the drain, its okay to get mad and feel alone because we all know that it won't be long before the Lord sweeps us of our feet again and laughs with us about how silly we have been.

So where does this leave me? Well it leaves me with 2 of my dearest friends in Jackson, Mississippi. I could not be happier or more delighted in how the Lord worked this summer in shaping my heart for His glory.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Back to the States

Gosh, I don't even know where to start....but I guess saying that I am unexpectedly back in the states. My return is over a month premature and it has been bittersweet. It is so good to be back in my own home in the care of my parents and it is comforting to be in close reach of adequate health care. But I miss Kenya already.

I started feeling ill about 2 weeks ago and the nurse at camp thought it would be best if me and another counselor went to the clinic. We went to the clinic and had some blood test done and it was decided that Jonathan had malaria and I had tonsillitis (even though I don't have tonsils) and the flu. We were both given medicine to treat our symptoms and sent on our way. Jonathan, thanks goodness, was already feeling better the next day and was all better soon after that while I continued to get sicker. At this point we were pretty sure that they had switched the blood tests and I was actually the one with malaria and that was confirmed when I went back to the clinic a few days later.

I was optimistic that we finally knew what was wrong and I had already been sick a week with out being able to eat and was ready to get better. The medicine was supposed to take a few days to start working and get rid of the malaria completely, so when it got to day 2 of the dosage and I was still getting worse, we decided that I needed to go to the emergency room and were expecting that I would be admitted to the hospital then since I had not held anything down in a week. More blood tests were run and the doctor said I simply had a minor UTI. At this point, I was angry and upset because I knew something was wrong and that it was a lot worse than just a UTI.

A day or 2 passed after the ER visit and I was still getting worse, so again we decided to visit a doctor of internal medicine. The first first look he got at me, he knew there was something seriously wrong and it was comforting to know that there was actually a doctor in Africa that not only cared, but wanted to figure out what was wrong. I was immediately admitted to the hospital and again, lots of tests were getting run. Before the tests came back, the doctor did a sonogram and a few other basic tests and had guessed that salmonella and e-coli were the root of all of my problems so he began treated me with a strong antibiotic. Within hours of being treated I was feeling better and the next day I was able to eat and keep it down in over a week.

The tests came back and it was concluded that I did have salmonella a long with another parasite as well as my malaria from the week before that. I was so glad to finally know what was wrong but I also understood that it was going to take a while for me to get back to normal. The doctor wanted to keep me in the hospital for a few more days but since I was feeling better and I knew my parents were very worried, I was released so that I could get back to the states. It was a hard decision to make because I love Kenya and I love the BlueSky staff, but after everything that had happened over the summer on top of the illness, my parents and I thought it was best I came home.

I was booked on the next flight back to the states the next morning at 8am and though I didn't think things could get worse, they began to when we showed up at the airport. When we got there (I was traveling with Purser) we were notified that our plane was delayed over an hour and then it was going to have to travel to Mombasa (an hour out of the way) to fuel up. We would reach Amsterdam 4 hours late and therefor miss our connecting flight to the states. We were optimistic that we would be able to get another flight out that night because of my condition, but when we arrived in Amsterdam, they told us there were no more flight out and we would have to stay the night in Amsterdam. As angry as we were, I was feeling much better and we were going to make the best of it. We ended up at an amazing hotel and had a good time while we were there. We woke up early the next morning to make our flight, and again I expected all the bad stuff was passed, but again, I was wrong.

Our flight was delayed 3 hours. We passed the time by doing some looking around and by the second hour, I started going downhill again. We finally boarded the plane and by the time we took off, I knew it was going to be a rough flight. My malaria was back (once you contract malaria, you have it for life). I was up ever 15 minutes throwing up for the entire 9 hour flight and dealing with the other malaria symptoms (excruciating body aches, fevers, chills). By the end of the flight I was incoherent and had to be wheeled through the hospital.

So now I am home and glad to be under the care of my parents. I am on the way up again but also recognize this isn't something that will go away in a few days. Right now, it is really hard to see what the Lord was thinking and what His plan is with all of this, but I have to trust Him and have faith that everything is for His glory. And if that means spending a week in an African hospital and leaving the place I love the most, I will do it.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Greater things have yet to come, greater things are still to be done in this city

I am in Uganda now and I have never felt so okay with being so selfish. After what has been going on, it feels good to take some time with myself to recharge and praise Jesus with no time constraints and no plans.

I'm sure most everyone has heard, so I'm not going to go through the entire story again, I will give a very short story. A couple of men tried to break into our house in Nairobi. There were a few injuries, everyone is alive. The week that followed the incident was incredibly hard for me. I was hurting for our team and surprisingly, hurting for the men that attacked us. I could not imagine what was so bad in their lives that they were willing to hurt people, especially women, for possessions and all I could do was pray for them. There were so many miracles and blessings that happened that night, just thinking about it gives me chills. Satan attacked us hard, but God's plan was perfect...down to each second, down to who was in the house, down to where we were placed in the house. When I think about it, I can't help but realize one thing....we were saved for a purpose. He spared us on purpose. The Lord had an opportunity to bring some of His children home, but He left us here.

Greater things have yet to come and greater things are still to be done in this city. If we were done, He would have called us home. This inspires me, gives me courage, and solidifies my desire and want to spread the Good News and live for Him. I can only imagine how pissed Satan is right now. He attacked with all of his might, but all it did was throw us off course for a week. It made our love for each other and our love for our Father even stronger.

We spent a few days in Bugoma, a part of Western Kenya. We were supposed to be there over a week, but we needed time to emotionally and physically heal after the attack. Though the few days in Bugoma blessed me and I made lasting relationships, I wish that we could have stayed longer and had more of an impact.

Gahlee I wish ya'll coulda seen me out there haha. We lived in mud huts. We had limited water, which was hard because that is a very new thing for me. I have never feared not having enough water before, but there I had to constantly watch my water use. We woke up at 6am and went to bed at 8pm. There was no electricity, so we just went to bed when we couldn't see anymore and woke up when the light came up. It is so strange to me that millions and millions of people live like that all over the world and I felt so blessed that I got to experience that for even those few days.

Sarah Freeman and I stayed with Pastor Wycliffe, his wife Josephine, and his children Jonah, Derek, Calvin, and Kate. The were so generous to us. They cooked for us each morning and night and let us sleep in their bed. The parents slept with their 4 children in a bed that is smaller than the one I sleep in by myself. They were so amazing and I saw Christ so clearly in them through the way they loved and served us.

This is my last night at the Nile in Uganda and we are headed back to Nairobi tomorrow. Camp starts again on Sunday and my heart is anxious, but excited to meet all of these children because most of them are Hindu. I am very excited to learn more about their religion and also to share with them the unconditional and overwhelming love of Jesus Christ. I have learned so much these past 2 months and have another part to add to my testimony and I am ready to share.

As always, please continue to pray for my team and I. There are always going to be people that do not like what we have to say and that want to stop us or hurt us, but we are here in His name and His will will be done no matter who or what gets in the way. Physical wounds are beginning to heal and the emotional wounds will be much easier to heal after those are gone and we do not have constant reminders of what happened. I actually kind of like the wounds because by seeing them every day, I am constantly reminded that there are still people that need His love. Greater things are yet to come.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Things do you for the Kingdom will never spoil

So we have finished up the first 2 weeks of camp and been in Nairobi and Masai Land for the past 2. It has bee really tough and completely out of my comfort zone and I cannot say that I have enjoyed every part of it, but the things I have learned and the blessings I have received have made it all worth it.

While in Nairobi, we were fortunate enough to be able to work with a missionary family and help them with their ministry. Their main focus is teens in the slums called Eastleigh. I visited Eastleigh for a day and my heart aches for what I saw, but at the same time it jumps for joy. The part that breaks my heart is seeing God's children sleeping on trash, sniffing glue to get high so that they forget how hungry they are, eating rotten food that is months old, and having no way out. The part that fills my heart with joy is talking with these people a seeing how much they love our God. They have a genuine, mature faith that is very rare. I met several men in their 40's that spoke of Jesus as their best friend. I couldn't believe it. These people still believe even after everything they have been through. It was a real heart check for me and humbled me to the core.

After spending a week in Nairobi, we headed out to Mt. Suswa to spend a week in Masai Land. I was extremely anxious. As much as I love different cultures and yearn to spread the Good News, I can't deny the fact that I enjoy the comforts of a shower, a place to sleep, and good food to eat. We slept in a cow pasture, didn't bathe for a week, and ate whatever we could get our hands on. It rocked my world and I feel in love with it. The people we worked with had a completely genuine love for the Lord and intense desire to share it with anyone and everyone. Only 2 people in about 30 miles spoke English, but that didn't stop them from trying to communicate with us. They shared their love with us in their own language, but we still recognized it as the type of love that only comes from a person that knows Jesus. Their worship was not about who could sing the loudest or the best, or who knew the most songs, but it was about praising the Lord and catering to what is pleasing to Him. It was unbelievable.

The Masai people we worked with had just lost almost everything in a drought. The pastor that hosted us lost 100 cows and others lost everything. While we were there to share the love of Jesus, we were also there to help them build a greenhouse. This greenhouse was build to that during the next drought they would have a way to make money and they would have something to keep them going. We put it up (by we I mean the men of course) in a week and the people were so appreciative. We all cried together when we had to leave. We tried saying goodbye in their language and they tried saying goodbye in ours, but at the end it was only tears and hugs that we understood. This was probably one of the best weeks of my life. It changed my heart and showed me that no matter what you have or don't have, you ALWAYS have opportunities to share the Lord's love.

A couple of us were blessed with an amazing opportunity. Another girl and I headed into the Bishop's hope to put some food away and sitting in the room was Pastor. He was from another church a days worth of walking away and he had come just to see us. We said hello and we entered into a conversation that I though would be routinely brief and we would go on our way. It lasted over 2 hours. Pastor shared his culture, we shared ours. He told us all about his amazing church and the things it was doing. For the first time in maybe my entire life, I was brought to tears because of the amount of love that was pouring from him. I didn't see him at all, I saw Jesus. In third world countries it is very rare that people with any type of disabilities are taken care of. They just don't have the money to do it. It is survival of the fittest. But not for Pastor. He took in 4 orphans into his own 1 room home, housed widows, the dumb, and the deaf. And he was asking us how to communicate with them. I couldn't believe that he thought I had an experience ministering to this demographic. He was so concerned for their souls and just wanted them to know Jesus, but he didn't know how to. Well, he thought he didn't know how to, but he was already doing it. We ended up getting into a discussion about what the church's biggest need was and he said it was money for the women to do missions. I was shocked. Money for missions??? Why not money for food or clean water??? Why not a decent house??? I realized it was because the only thing that mattered to them was sharing the Good News and bringing salvation to their brothers and sisters.

This astonished me. And we wanted to help. To make this already long story a bit shorter, the head of the Assembly of God mission team and a couple of our girls are going to set up a business for the Masai women. They make beautiful jewelry but the only way they have to sell it is if someone comes to them. We will be going to them and bringing the jewelry back to the states, putting it online, and setting up a catalog. I am so excited. This is a great thing to keep me busy while I am waiting to return to Kenya in January.

Super long blog, but I have only shared a couple of stories out of the hundreds. I can't wait to share these things in person. It is so hard to explain these things and actually doing the Lord's work justice because it cannot be put into words. I love you all.

Friday, June 11, 2010

I am Free

Gahlee...These past 3 weeks have been so crazy. We are in our second week of camp now and it is so cool to see the differences between these campers and those last week. These kids are so crazy and so fun to relate to. I have never been asked so many questions in my life and I love it. I love being able to use my story as living proof of Christianity. 5 girls accepted Jesus last night and I have never been happier in my life. This is what we came here share the Gospel and pray that it plants a seed in their hearts. We were so blessed to be able to water that seed in a few and I can't even describe waht an amazing experience it was.

We sing a song for worship that is called "I am Free." There is a line that says "I am free to live for You" and it really got me thinking how blessed all of us are to actually be free to worship Christ. We have been brought to a place where it is not against the law to scream His name, it is not against the law to sing to Him, and it is not against the law to share His love. How blesses we really are. I forget that sometimes. All the time actually.

Thanks so much for all of the emails, messages, and phone calls...I miss everyone so much and to know that ya'll are thinkng about me and praying for me really helps put my soul to rest. A lot of the emails I am getting are asking what exactly we are doing with these kids and that made me realize that I totally forgot to talk about that. For the 5 weeks that I am a camp counselor, we are working with kids from all over Kenya and the rest of the world. Some are already Christians, some are Muslim, some are Morman, and some have no idea who Jesus is. Our camp was modeled after the Winshape Camp at Berry. It is a week long camp and during those weeks we have crazy skits, outdoor games, sports, talent shows, scavenger hunts, high ropes courses, rock climbing, hiking, and camping. We do all of this with our cabins that usually consist of about 5 girls or boys and there will be a couple of cabins in each age group. We just want these kids to have fun and learn a bit about Jesus. We have devotions each morning and night and our theme is overcome from John 16:33.

I have really just fallen in love with these kids. They are so awesome and I cannot wait to be able to make life long connections with them :)

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Lean on Me

This past week has been amazing. We have gone rock climbing, done high ropes, gone hiking, and gotten to know each other. I have absolutely pushed my limits. I couldn't convince myself to do the high ropes night swing, but I did do a bit of rock climbing. I maybe climbed 3 feet in the air. Jonathan has a wonderfully funny video of will all enjoy it very much.

We have 2 things for us here. The Lord and each other. There is no TV, rarely Internet, no cell phones, no ac, and no hot water. There are none of the basic comforts that we have in America, but I am loving it. It is so awesome to have the time and opportunity to rely solely on my brothers and sisters and my Father.

Camp started yesterday. I was so excited to meet my kids and we were having worship and a staff meeting when Clayton (a 250 pound man) decided it would be a good idea to tackle me. I don't really remember why he did, but I'm sure I was antagonizing him. Either way, he dislocated my jaw and gave me a concussion. Luckily, I don't remember anything from yesterday. I hear that I sleep all day and would occasionally awake to cry, puke, and yell at people. What a wonderful day. I am feeling much better today, still having some memory issues and a bit woozy, but I am so excited to bond with my campers!

This week has been so great and ya'll have made it better with all the emails and text messages. thanks so much for all of those and please keep them coming, they mean a whole lot to me! For now, I am off to teach my skill...I don't really remember what it is...but I'm sure someone will help keep me in check until my memory comes back! love ya'll!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Home is whenever I am with You

So I have been in Africa for over a week now and I cannot even explain how I am feeling. I feel more at home here than I ever have anywhere else. As many of you know, Africa is where the Lord first called me by name and asked me to follow Him. The only explanation I have for my ease here is that I am, in fact, home.

We have spent this week getting to know out staff and getting ready for the kids to come. They come tomorrow! We spent all day today decoration our cabins and they look great and I am so excited for my Meru girls to arrive!!

The place where we are staying is so secluded, I almost forget that I am in Africa. It is beautiful here. The skies are bluer, the grasses greener, and the sunshine more radiant. The only thing that reminds me where I am is the drive from Lukenya to Nairobi and seeing officers with AK-47s across their chests. It is insane how safe I feel, though.

As a lot of you know, I have had no idea where to go with my life. I have been in consistent prayer about it and until now the only thing I have heard from the Lord was "patience." I now know why He was saying that. I am indeed home. I have spoken with the leadership team a bit and prayed about it and now we are all in consistent prayer and asking the Lord if He wants me to stay. We believe He does. Please be in prayer about this. No final decision has been made and will not be made until August, but the leadership team and I are leaning towards my return for a more permanent stay.

I love all of you and miss everyone so much. I wish more than anything that my family and dear friends could be on this amazing journey with me, you would all love it. I am praying for each and every one of you and please keep my staff and I in your prayers as well.