Monday, April 22, 2013

new, different, transforming = change

consistent - maybe not, blogging's my way to complain - appears so. I definitely have not been able to or put much of an effort into keeping up with blogging, it's only in time like these that I have a desire to articulate what's going on because I don't know any other way how. So, maybe brokenness is what someone else needs to see right now, or maybe this will just be writing therapy for me - either way I consider blogs as a blessing.
So, I'm in the middle of another set of changes and shocking - I hate it. It never ceases to amaze me that even though I know change is to be expected, I am never prepared for it to come. I think this may be an accurate reflection of where I am in my relationship with the Lord, but never-the-less, grief has stricken me once again and the Lord is still faithful. In these times that demonstrate how small my faith truly is, I am overwhelmed at how the Holy Spirit picks me up and holds me. I pray for pain to be taken away, for strength, for things to just stay the same and expect God to grant me these. In reality, I think His promise to us more clearly indicates His willingness to walk alongside us and carry us when we are too broken to do so ourselves -even when I walk through the dark valley of death, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and staff protect me and comfort me - Psalm 23:4. What a beautiful promise this is! I was upset in the fact that Jesus wouldn't just remove these feelings or replace them with the peace that transcends all understanding, and overflowing joy and other promises we may feel entitled to as Christians. But this peace and joy, love and all other characteristics of Christ's followers do not replace pain, grief, and sorrow. Instead there is something deeper, an eternal hope and promise that paradise is not far away. I am amazed over and over again at how comfortable I can get in my own life when things are going how I would have them be (perfect world scenario), but when brokenness comes again (as it always does) God has space to do the work He wants to do in all stages of life. In brokenness and pain I am receptive to His work and plan for me because I feel a loss of hope and comfort, which encourages for a pursuit to make Him my rock and salvation. A fickle heart in me is overcome by a passionate Spirit of Him, and I can say again "Abba, Father, here am I, send me".
I have been blessed with love from all directions and pray to not get comfortable with this love, but seek for the author of love to lavish me with His unconditional and unending love. I do not disregard the honesty and necessity of human love, but it can easily become a replacement for me in it's way of seeming for real and tangible. I, for the first time in a long time, would be comfortable with being away from paradise for a little while to experience the ways of the world, an odd and daunting experience. My pursuit for harmony continues again and I am so thankful that I am never left in my own mess all alone.

After feeling truly ashamed of writing this, after catastrophic events occurred to our neighbors in Boston and knowing that I am not alone in the change I am experiencing, I read through an old blog that another indicated was an encouragement to them. And what an encouragement it was! Reading through my struggles only 6 months ago and the struggles I had then remind me of Gods incredible faithfulness. No, I wasn't able to hold my academic career with a complete open hand, but my fingers are slowly loosening in their grip. This past semester I trusted God to show up through spreading my time to things other than my post-secondary career and what a blessing it was! I was able to spend time with family, friends, and my girls with a genuine heart to be where I was and not have my mind divided between where I was and where I felt I should be. I didn't work too often during the academic year and trusted that finances and marks would show up, if I was in the center of His will. They did! My little faith can be shattered again by His faithfulness! I still struggle to find identity beyond the letters behind my name and the "success" I achieve in my life, but I have found an unusual quote that has helped me recognize times when my priorities need to be worked out - or the fact that you're so obsessed with your future that you completely forget about everyone you're supposed to give a s**t about - Post Grad. A movie that isn't focussed on spirituality hits really hits the target for me in that they recognize it's the everybody, not the everything, that we're supposed to give a s**t about. It was revealed to me when I studied at YWAM that our ultimate purpose here on earth is to restore our relationship with Christ, each other, and help others restore their relationship with Christ. Never once does being popular, intelligent, or successful come as a prerequisite to following or being used by the Lord. I was reminded again last Sunday about the insignificance of the what's in our life's so much as our character. We worry about being at the right school/job, dating the right person, living in the right place and so many other things, but if we are living to serve Christ He is always using us and gently directing us. There may not always be one path that we need to take in order to be fulfilling Christ's plan, but continuing to walk in His will can give us peace that where we are is okay. Not always an easy reality, I understand that, but I think there is wisdom in not always needing the "right" in situations.
Love you all xo

Week Seven - Outreach

The last week. I seriously felt like I blinked and already it was time to come home. I miss some things about America/Canada for sure, but I have let Thailand into my heart a little bit too, so knowing that I will never again see some of the people I met, makes leaving extra hard. But I'll start from the beginning of what happened this amazing week and work up to the leaving part.

After we got back from the village, we were able to have a weekend to relax and hang out at Lawns house, with a pool, couches and other awesome luxuries. We also got to eat pizza and then an intense, huge, american, awesome breakfast the next morning! My stomach did some major yoga since it's not used to american food, especially cheese, anymore, but it seriously did not stop any of us from indulging in the food that we had missed a lot. I even got to help cook the breakfast as a "test" to see how good of a cook I was. Luckily, I was not the only one in there or else food that we were all incredibly excited for, would have been not so appealing to anyone. So we ate a lovely breakfast and just took time to relax by the pool with our newly created family until we got to head out for a little bit of shopping. The cool thing about a shopping trip in Thailand is that even if you only have a little truck, all of your friends can go with you! Riding in the bed of a truck down the freeway is a little bit nervous, but when it's just little roads it made a bit of an adventure for us and dodging bugs was another exciting little tid-bit to the ride. It was a fun filled day that lead to an exciting night also. Lawn had a BBQ at his house for us and the teachers and students that went to the village the previous week. Well when a group of high school boys and girls get together, looking nice and having a pool readily available, trouble gets stirring. Boys were boys and wrestled with each other until they fell in, but unfortunately I was the first, "lucky" girl to get chucked in the pool. I have to say I did put up a pretty decent opposition to my Muay Thai opponent, but I did lose and I was not the last to enter the dark, wet abyss. The rest of the night was one of relaxation and sleep, a little different than the previous week had looked, so it was beautiful and well enjoyed by all of us.

The next day we spent a lot of time sitting, but it was pretty amazing to experience some of the "touristy" attractions in Thailand. We spent a lot of time in a van driving to get to get to ride elephants! Unfortunately on the way one of our vans got into a small accident causing the 2 hour ride to turn into four. We did make it to the elephants though and it was pretty awesome sitting on these massive animals. I was able to ride with my friend Rebekah and our elephant had a little baby attached to her by a "leash". Super cute and when the other elephants would poop, the little baby would try to dodge the poop and walk around it, it was entertaining to watch. Our driving was pretty funny also since a significant portion of the time that we were on the elephant he was texting and on the phone. For the first time in my life I would be on the team that says texting and driving is a bad idea. I wasn't sure how confident I was that he would be able to control this large mammal if he was fully attentive never mind half un focussed, but the elephant was well behaved and we even rode her without having the guide on at all. It was a pretty awesome moment in asia and I am definitely okay that it is extremely documented by my photograph maniac friend Bethany Penner. That was the night that we found out that we weren't in fact building huts in a village out of elephant poop for debrief, but instead going to an island resort called Koh Samet!! I'm pretty sure it was one of the best moments in my life after being tired from the week before.

So we headed to Bangkok for the night and then off to Koh Samet as a nice relaxing few days as a team.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Beauty in Failure

I have never been so deflated in post-secondary as I am today. I entered this year with a different attitude than what is characteristic of me. I was convinced I was just tired from never really taking a break from school and work, but I am reminded of people who do this all of the time and continue to succeed. I have felt weak, incompetent, not smart, lazy and unmotivated but still expected to excell in what I was doing. Well that is not the case. I now have a letter grade to what I knew in my mind,  I am coasting along. A with this now solidified reality, I have realized something beautiful in it.
My dream has been to become a medical doctor. Since my first biology class in high school I knew this was what I wanted and attending YWAM just solified this idea for me. I prayed that my motives would be right in wanting to be a physician, that I would have a skill to offer God's people along with the hope of Him. I was going to finish medical school, get pretty decent marks so that I would have at least some scholarship to cover the astronomical cost and after graduation my loans would be paid off quickly and I would head off into the world to serve the less fortunate with my new skill. The thing is, this is for me! I want to travel, I want to be credited for helping people and be able to tell people that I am DR. Karly Nikkel (or whatever it may be when I get to that point). I want it more than I remember wanting anything else, but I wanted it to come easy. I tell people "anything worth having requires work" but I don't want that. I want it only to require as much work as I am able to provide to get 90%, 95%, 100%, not more. So, you can imagine why I might really be sent out of anything I have ever been comfortable with when I feel that I have truly failed.
Not to say that I have accepted this sort of performance or plan on continuing my habits but I was revealed something through this slightly. My worth does not come from my success. Whether in the name of Jesus or in the name of Karly, I am no more valued by Him because I have the letters MD behind my name. I am no less usefull to Him because I am not what I have always aspired to be. In the midst of this failure is when I am realizing that I need to hold what has been given to me with an open hand to Him and trust that He is in control of my life and my future if I let Him be! My efforts are draining and waning but His never end. He relentlessly pursues us, His children and He doesn't care whether or not we have letters behind our name only that we are willing to give it all up for Him. Wow my faith is small - that I think that I am the one who makes these sort of things happen anyway. Yes our mind is powerful and can get us to many places but it also ends. The most brilliant people get Alzheimers, where their mind is TAKEN away from them - no matter what sort of academic pursuit, motivation or "setting your mind to it" could have stopped the hands of death from absorbing their mind.
What sort of reality have I created that I am more broken from a barely passing mark than from seeing a man living on the streets, because of the snare of addiction? At what point did I think that I was serving the Lord by being "perfect" instead of being loving? I prayed over and over again that He would allow me to just trust Him with my future without making me squirm with discomfort, but how can we trust in something that is already there? What would make me turn to Him when things are going right just as they are, with Him in the box I like to keep Him in. I'm not saying that God has intervened and caused a poor result, but I believe that He is using it to rattle my mind.
And how arrogant am I to think that with my personal shortcomings, that God can not still use me where I always thought I was called to. He is awesome and might in His power, the only sovereign one and that is an incredible reality to me! I guess it's important to be reminded of these things instead of getting bitter.
I feel ridiculous writing this, but I felt called to do it so I hope that there is someone out there who can be positively affected by this. To know that YOU are valuable and loved even if you don't perform how you feel you should. I imagine, if you are antything like me, you have incredible control over all areas of your life to ensure that you have done all the right things. Well it cannot last without Jesus. He is the one who sustains us and He wants to!! That's the incredible part of our relationship wtih Him is that if you surrender, He wants to help you have a radical life that is full of Him! So much more than what we could ever imagine or hope for ourselves.

Monday, September 3, 2012

A Different Sort of Revelation

May 12, 2011 - Thank you so much to everyone who read my blog while I was journeying through my DTS. I appreciated the support that people cared about what I was doing and it made me feel so much more effective in ministry that I could process and share what God was doing in my life as it was happening. I find that I am a writing processer, meaning that for me to work things out in my head I need to write them down. Friends of mine do that verbally and I envy that characteristic, but God has allowed some pretty cool stuff to flow from my finger tips so I won't complain with what He has given me either.

Blogs from now on will be about what life at home is like for me. Obviously they won't be consitent or have any real meaning as to the time that they come, but I write when I feel prompted and when I'm ready to let God pour my soul onto a page - so here is what I've been working through for the last little while.

Most of you know the my friend Katilin Boyda, and of you who don't, she is an amazing girl that has been a friend to me since junior high and loves the Lord with everything. Just last week, on May 5, she lost her battle with cancer and went to meet the Lord, at age 17. There is absolutely no question as to if her relationship with the Lord was one that would allow her to spend eternity with Him, and I guess just out of selfishness it makes me sad that she didn't get to experience the little things that this world has to offer. But she experienced so much in the short life that she lived! Her maturity and advancement in most social realms allowed her relationship with Jesus and with most people to be much more advanced than the average high school student.

September 2, 2012 - That is where I left off my blogging about Kaitlin and life last year. My journal was able to blow up for a while after that but once again I found myself slipping into a life that didn't have time for God or appreciation of the people that He has chosen as His children. It has been almost two years since I started my journey with YWAM and although I feel that I was a child of God before my time spent there, I have never had a more tangible feeling of the Holy Spirit as I did when I was able to be completely focused on my relationship with Him. What a gift! A school that is dedicated completely to growing disciples of the Lord - when so many people in the world are dying to serve Him we are attending institutions dedicated to making us stronger in our relationship with Him and our battle with the enemies of this world. And yet I find myself to falter and detach myself from the one "person" who relentlessly pursues my soul. I don't feel that I am no longer a follower of Christ, but I am amazed to see how I have much I have regressed in my faith and dependence on Jesus Christ. I was reminded of this blog today and have felt called again to use my fingertips to articulate my spiritual journey. I imagine that most people who consistently read this will never read it again, but if nothing else I have been given a gift to be able to make sense of what the Lord is doing in and around me - as much as we are able to put words to the working of God. I also feel blessed to be reminded of Kaitlin's journey with the Lord as I often am. So here I start again - with a new school year ahead. One that I find hard to juggle with anything other than studying, but I have now made a commitment, potentially an extremely influential one. Thank you Lord for choosing me.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Weeks Five and Six - Outreach

Well I would generally separate the two weeks, but these ones have a lot to do with each other and the same contact, so it makes sense that I would write about them together. Our contacts name is Lawn and he is the only non Christian contact that we will have all outreach – but he knows what it means to love and has the heart of a servant. He was extremely hesitant to invite a YWAM group because of the way that the church has burnt so many people, but it didn't take long at all and we were very close and there was no barrier created by belief at all. It's amazing though because this is that way that it should be. There is such a divide between Christians and our Christ – if there wasn't, belief barrier would not exist. The only thing that was really difficult though is that we were not able to openly discuss the reason that we were here in Thailand. We were told that we needed to earn the right to tell people about the Jesus who has saved us – which is how it is in the real world, but it is a hard adjustment after the discussion focal point being Christ quite often. This is preparation to how living really is and that relationship is so much more important than a “quick fix” but I never let myself remember how hard it is to walk in the world but not of it. Home preparation is tough but I am excited to be able to walk in “real life” with God and not trying to do it all on my own again.

So these two weeks were spent a lot with a school group where Lawn is an English teacher. For the weekend that we arrived we went to an English camp with a group of about 200 students to interact, play games and have them immersed in conversational English. The kids are brilliant but the school is one with a lot of money so we weren't received as well as other schools had received us. It took a little while for us to get warmed up to each other, but stops along the way to the place we were staying got a few of us aquainted before full immersion. We arrived a few hours after departure to a RESORT!!! This is a free trip for kids who are in advanced English and it was at a resort with a spray pool, dining hall and hot showers! Ah – I didn't think that would ever be a luxury I would receive here in Thailand, but it was amazing and the resort/real beds and rooms that only had four people at most in them, were a wonderful change from sleeping on the classroom floor the night before. The first night there we had a little trip on a floating house thing to a little beach area in groups of students, us and teachers all intermingled. The group that I was in ended up having a girl almost drown, but God was with us and she was completely fine just scared. It was a crazy way to start off, but we all had had a long day and slept fine knowing she was okay and that we got to sleep in beds! The next few days were full of activities and just hang out time where I got to know a couple girls really well and many of the students are very good at English so conversation wasn't strained like it has been in the other locations. I was in charge of a game about ASEAN with another girl on my team and a few teachers and have now become the most knowledgable person ever on southeast asian unions and the history of the countries involved ha. It was a lot of fun though and the last night we were able to present our dramas and dances and the kids had prepared performances to share with us and their classmates. It was one of the most depressing things to see how many boys struggle with gender identity disorders and that that it has become the focal point of many of the kids humour. There were songs, dances and dramas and most every one had something to do with a boy being a girl or homosexuality – it is extremely accepted here and teachers and all were being entertained by what was happening in the stage. If the issue was something that I hadn't known was so prominent I'm sure that I would also find humor in it, but that is what makes is so sad. There is just an apathy that is spread through the nation that it is okay for these boys to be unhappy with themselves and lack identity in their specially created selfs. There is a spirit of desperation that comes along with that lack of identity but we are and were able to intercede for them and the other performances that were a bit uncomfortable as well - I have realized the culture is shifting and sexuality is being embraced much more than we had realized. Welcome to western influence though – high school is one of the most sexually charged places here and there, I guess I just chose to ignore it at the other schools we had visited because I was much more satisfied with being able to share the message our dramas had to offer. The performances led to a dance party and so many kids were afraid to just step out and be goofy, but the ones that would dance with us we were able to really get closer with and have an awesome time together. The next day we did have to leave though and no matter how little time you spend with a group, it's still hard. When the kids saw us at the school again many brought us gifts and one girl that I didn't even realize I had made any impact on had bought me a beautiful bracelet in a silk bag. Many other students were bringing us stuff and asking to keep in contact with us etc. So I didn't realize that we meant anything to these kids – but God moves! I don't know why I doubt the attractiveness of Him in me, but He was attractive to them also and we were bale to make a small impact in their lives – YAY!

Next we were out to the jungle. I didn't think that we'd actually be able to head out and do what you think of when you think of missionaries – but we went out in the backs of pick ups, tents in hand, ready to build bathrooms, garden, cook, clean and do whatever else we were able to do to help. It was an hour + on the highway and then to the jungle “road”. Two hours of bumps, turns and intense dust where car sickness was part of our collective consciousness and banging into the sides of the trucks became comfortable, but the scenery was beautiful. There were mountains to the border of Burma and plant life beyond where our eyes would take us. A river flowed in the midst of all of this and the mystery of animal life lurked constantly – but we had been warned already that snakes and scorpions would not be a rarity to our new home. I spent most of the ride on my leaders lap, holding back the sickness in my belly but when we arrived we were ready for the heat and lack of hygeine we were about to experience. It was actually amazing to sleep in little tents with two other people and having the choice between showering in a bucket or a river. My physical body might not love it, but mentally I think I could've definitely spent more than ten days out there in the jungle, as long as I had people around me. We were welcomed nearly instantly by a scorpion sting to a fellow YWAMer and in the hut area that we had designated to be a meeting place a snake dangling from the ceiling. The one thing that I cannot handle welcomed us and I didn't do so well with it's appearance, but God was with me and I knew that I was where I was supposed to be – so I walked in a bit of fear, but it did not stop me from being where I needed to be. The enemy also came at me with this fear over and over, causing my nights to not be as full of sleep as would have been best, but through the tiredness we worked and served and God brought us so much joy through that. We were able to clean ourselves off after the dusty truck bed ride as well after our little meeting, but there was no water out for bucket showers and people were a little anxed to hit the river after seeing our new creature friends. But we all decided it was worth it and river showers ended up being one of the highlights of my days everyday. After long, hot days, it felt so nice to hit the cool, running water and enjoy the purity of it with the people that we have grown to love a lot. The Thai team that was with us became close to hearts very quickly also. With getting close to the Promma students, we also got very close to Lawn and his son Rak who came to the village with us. By the end of the week he had decided that Jake and I were his newly adopted kids and then I turned into "daughter-in-law to be" by the second last day. His heart is seriously so full of love and it was awesome to be able to spend time with him and look at what a life of full service looks like.  We were all there for two months, he's been 8 years and it doesn't seem to me that his village work and teaching is going to be moving back to America. It was just crazy how one week with someone can make you so inspired and be friends. Once again, God is cool and living for Jesus makes all things a little different. 

So the days were extremely full and ranged largely in activities. We would usually have breakfast at 7:30 am and if you were on the cooking crew, you were expected to be there at 5:30 am to make sure that the food was ready in time for everyone to get to work. Also there is a lovely, incredibly steep 15 minute hill walk that we took to get to the village from the area that we were camping at. I loved that it required us to get in physical activity, but early in the morning or directly after work time, it was not my favorite walk in the world. So since I was team one, we were one of the teams that got to wake up nice and early twice, luckily the rest of the day was quite relaxed and we were able to sleep after breakfast while everyone else started their work duties. So that is what my first day looked like and since I was coming down with a cold and getting used to the area, it was nice to be able to hang out with my team and shower in the heat of the day while the work projects were still going. My team was a little over half Thai students from the school we had been at and a teacher and then two YWAMers and myself. My team was seriously awesome and I felt like God has blessed me big time there because I wasn't in as much need of encouragement to keep my attitude up because the people around me kept me cheerful. That second night [first day] we were able to just relax and get to bed early also, which was great and since I wasn't into packing a sleeping mat with me, I hit the ground hard with my two tent mates, nice and cozy. There wasn't a lot of breathing room so each night was one of... bonding, with each other and all of our belongings. Sleep was never abundant in my case and each night my cold got a little worse, but God blessed me with strength each day and healing came the more that I put effort in. It was pretty amazing that my stamina had nothing to do with me at all, and even though we weren't able to spend as much time with God as we had been at other locations, He was so present in our physical bodies and the choices that we made to serve. Each of the next days looked quite similar to each other with working on projects such as filling sand bags for cement making and filling in ground, breaking up plots of land with hoes, planting new life or laying brick on a brand new washroom, beautiful service. I loved being able to use my physical body to serve God and each day was rewarding in the fact that there was obvious progress being made. With 23 of us and 27 others, each work project had it's share of people and I have never seen people work as hard as a few of the Thai boys that were from the school and Lawn's son. It was great to see how they could serve without a motive, just to help people and being able to do it in the name of Jesus was the most amazing thing, but realizing that I am not making some big sacrifice was necessary and awesome. I personally really enjoyed laying brick and Erika and I were made partners on a wall, so finding a rhythm was necessary to get things done. We found one quickly and I have never seen so many bricks get used up by a team of people so fast [the whole washroom team, not just the two of us]. A few of us stayed a little later than usual working time and used every single brick and finished most every wall. One day and the empty cement pad with toilets and squatties, turned into something that could be used in privacy! It seriously seems so ridiculous to have this much joy over toilets, but after contributing time and work into it, I could not be more happy talking about an area to pee. I must say though, safety inspectors might not have loved the work that we did so much, but it looked a lot better than some of the toilets/squatties that I have been using. There was also this beaming pride that came from me when I saw that after breaking up a plot of land in the garden, I had two fairly decent sized blisters that had now been filled with dirt. I'm going to be honest in saying I haven't contributed so much to farm work since I have been able to find ways out of helping, but I am actually encouraged now to use my newly toughened hands. Dad don't get excited, callouses do go away and I'm not sure I'm going to want to break them in again ha. So the days were full of that and the only villagers we saw much of were Jamon, the facilitator of all of our work projects, Da, a boy who loved to come help us after school, and a few little boys who always tried to get food during meal time or when we would get ourselves snacks. After though, the boys were able to play soccer with the boys, girls aren't allowed to play soccer, and a lot of us would watch or play volleyball or just take some down time with each other and Jesus before the night started. After dinner was our time to hang out with the villagers, which meant watching movies. It was often just the kids, a few families and the military men who were based there for a while. Honestly, it was nice to be able to just have a comfortable time with the villagers since most definitely didn't speak English or fluent Thai since they have their own language. Getting some of the kids to warm up to us was really enjoyable also, since “farangs” are a little more scary when they are not seen everyday. I didn't play with too many kids, but a few of them really just needed love and we gave it to them whenever we could. The first day we met a couple kids who as their only toys had empty pop bottles and took the lids off, made a tower and then put them back on. They weren't so into playing but we just sat with them and they definitely warmed up to us more and more the longer we stayed. One night before dinner and the movie, two little boys who grew to really enjoy our team were playing with me in the back of Lawns truck and were giggling so hard everytime I tickeled them. One boy had a sore that had obviously been taking too long to heal, open when he hit his knee against the truck. So I cleaned it up a bit for him and got the blood off of it, replacing it with polysporin. Well he LOVED that he could spread it around all on his own, so we spent the next 15 minutes together, sitting on my lap and staring at the newly cleaned cut he had had for far too long. The problem was that he was so covered in dirt, I can't imagine that any sores were able to heal properly, but he was consistently all smiles. It was amazing to me to see how tough every single child was. Walking barefoot was a non issue, wrestling each other, laying on the hard grass and even falling asleep in the chill of the night, on the unforgiving grass just so that they could be there to watch a movie with us. It was sad to see each one with the same outfit everyday and never clean. This was more for the younger than the older, because all of the older kids that I met when I was able to teach a bit at the school, were much more well kept and actually were checked each morning to make sure that their fingernails were clean. The younger kids that I saw though were thoroughly covered, and after trying to clean one little boy who never wore pants off with wet wipes, the realization that the dirt is ingrained and would be acquired again as soon as I let him go. There wee tons of stories like this for all of us and I'm sure that when I'm done writing this I am going to wish I wrote countless more, but that is the idea of what we saw every day there. What I have seen in magazines and TV shows is nothing to seeing it first hand and this village was much more privileged than many more the earth hosts. Deep in the heart of the jungle is more reachable than other places of the world – but I am so thankful that I was able to see even a not so extreme case of what poverty looks like. So that was a bit of what spending time with the kids in the village was like. We were able to watch some of the women use looms to weave intense designs and fabrics – cool to see and these women are seriously talented. We also watched some of the men play in real competition to the military team and they were amazing! Men would be playing without any shoes on and taking hits that I couldn't with full on shin pads. These people are built tough, which makes sense with the kids built like nails.

After the movies there was only a limited amount of truck space to drive back to the camp site, so most of us were left with walking the 1km steep hill in the dark. The nights that we forgot headlamps and had to depend on cell phones and candles weren't awesome, but even with the high tech head lamp or flashlight, the walk was still a little scary. Each side of the dirt path was forested area and a few homes, so what was contained within the trees, was always mystery. Besides the rare noise that we didn't recognize, this walk usually created an adventure instead of trauma. It was also a nice walk to do alone during the day to spend some time with God. I was able to do this one full time and even though I was scared of some of the things that I heard, God asked me to commit to spending that time with Him, so I did. It was one of the most rewarding prayer times I've had! Rejuvenation came like what would come from an hour and the walk itself only seemed like a minute. I love how He rewards His servants when they are faithful - God is so evident in all of life it's insane! 

The last day at the village was tough par usual since we had to leave our new friends, but we go to give each kid in school a new toy or two and make their day a little bit. The harder part actually was arriving back to Promma and having to say goodbye to our new working buddies. We were able to see most of them again though which got harder and harder each time. We had made some real friends with them and Jamon, so our prayers are going to be full of people that we would love to be able to celebrate with in eternity. I am so thankful that we were able to have such a different experience at each location and God was always with us in new and perfect ways. This location was where I had the largest home sickness spell from being physically sick, but God was always there rejuvinating me and making my attitude right when I couldn't alone. He kept me safe from ever seeing a snake again and each time I encountered something new, I was overcome with fascination verses fear. We only had one night of worship out there and it was in the dark, under the snake home hut, but God was so present and peace dwelled, not fear. God is always good in all things and in all places – I am constantly remineded of how amazing the God that I serve is and that I am beyond blessed being His child.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Week Four - Outreach

Wow - I have so much new passion to listen to Gods call for my life after this experience. I have 95 little Thai girl shaped holes in my heart and I want to be able to hang out with all of them for another year of my life, but the little time that I got to spend with them was worth how hard it was to leave them. We each had a little group of girls that we were designated to meet with, but most of the time we all just hung out as a group of over a hundred people who were loving Jesus and each other.

Every day during the day time while the girls were at school, we went to different schools around the area to show the dramas that we had learned back in Colorado as well as teach English. We were able to give our testimonies and explain who Jesus is and such with the dances and dramas as ice breakers and it made it a lot easier for us to get into the primarily Buddhist schools, since we were offering to help the students with their English. It was cool to be able to talk with them and play with them when we didn't have an organized event to be involved in and even though we had a major language barrier, joy was universal. When we were at the primary and secondary schools we perfected "stella, ella ola" and musical chairs - but the high schools allowed for a little more. The second day we went to a school on child appreciation day. It was really cool because we just joined them in their celebration and it reminded me a lot of the last day of school when you get to be part of organized events and win prizes. There were tons of relays and silly games for the kids to play and we were asked to organize games and of course be involved with them. Well the one that I got to be part of was, you tied a eggplant by a string around your waste and let it hang in between your legs. You then had to give this eggplant momentum to hit a table tennis ball across a little section of a soccer field. HA! We were so brutal and looked absolutely ridiculous!! We did win some cool snacks though and the kids were always willing and a little hurt if we didn't take some of the snacks that they had. We were never in short supply of a variety of snacks and drinks when we were in a group of kids and it was amazing to just see how the whole culture is one of generosity. It's so crazy to me, but I love it! So that was awesome to be able to just have fun with them and they really started to love us at every school quite quickly.
Apparently being white and north american gets you some major status here beause every school that we went to we were surrounded with people to love on us and some were a little more crazy than others. There are two boys on our team that were absolutely gawked everywhere we went. When they would introduce themselves in front of the school, all of the girls, no matter what age (literally teachers included) would scream and take out their phones and cameras to take pictures. After we were done dramas, they would crowd around and ask for autographs from all of us and some of us had a line of people waiting to take pictures. I was called Taylor Swift, Barbie, Jessica Simpson, Angelina Jolie (SALT) and every other blonde, famous person every where we went. At one school girls came up to us and got us to sign their school uniforms - I honestly didn't even know what to do, it was so insane. Also I was names Miss.Universe and my friend from Mexico Mr.Thai - so we aqcuired many new identities after each shcool adventure. But I have a lot of new facebook friends which is really cool and each one of them was so beautiful. It's just crazy to see how big of a deal visitors are to a school and how we were always treated with such respect, fed well, greeted with such warmth and always felt that we were very special. This was even more amazing because the message that we had to share was life! and by being something exciting for the day made everyone more eager to be around us and come to the assemblies and such that we were leading. It was really cool to be able to take the message of Jesus and especially His love to a whole body of students. There won't be too many times when I'll be able to be part of something like this and our team was very in tuned with the Holy Spirit and His leading - making the time seem "successful" if that word can even be used when it comes to being Jesus' hands and feet.

Teaching English is a lot harder than you'd think it would be and for most of the time we just worked on pronunciation with the kids since they already new the legisitics of a lot. These people are so much more dedicated and well rounded than back home because it is expected. It's crazy how fast they catch on to speaking english, games or anything if they just push beyond the embarassment enough to try and not run away from us or the challenge. It's a whole new world over here. On that idea I realized I forgot to talk about how many public places don't have western toilets and instead squatti potties. Even if there is an american toilet though, toilet paper doesn't flush though so if you do get to wipe, you have to throw it in the garbage. BUT most places don't offer toilet paper so if you would like to wipe you have to bring it in yourself or some more "high class" places have a spray nozel to clean yourself off with. It really is a different culture ha. Also finding ants in your honey for breakfast is an extremely normal experience, so cleanliness is really not my biggest concern as of now - I fit in great!

Now about the girls at the Home of Blessing. Well first, the pastors daughter, named Nikki, was our translator at all of the schools and one of the sweetest people I have ever met. She is only 20 years old and has dedicated a huge part of her life to loving these girls and helping her parents facilitate english speaking teams that want to come in to help out. She is a lot of fun also and we became really good friends spending most of our time there together. I will talk about her more as we go though. We were able to have some awesome worship times with the girls and be part of bible stufy with the min the mornings also. It was brutal to wake up at 5:15 am, but hearing them sing their Thai worship songs was so worth it and at such a young age they can spend 10 minutes, easily, praying for each other, their families and whatever else God is putting on their hearts. They each have to lead bible study for their groups on saturdays and some of them are 8 years old. I am 18 and can't even lead a bible study hardly and 8 year olds are taking scriputre and expanding on it for fresh revelation to the rest of the group of 10 or so girls. It is so amazing and the discipline and intensity they have in being Christians is amazing and I wish thatr I could be as dedicated to my relationship with Christ, but I am fickle. He is teaching me not to live in condemnation there though, that it's okay that I struggle sometimes but just to take Him with me. And though I wasn't able to spend as much personal time with God, I was always immersed in His Spirit. Each day I wouldn't realize how much of His strength I was tapping into until I would journal and realize all of the amazing things that had happened that wouldn't normally happen to me. I am starting to recognize Him in everything which is how it's supposed to be, but I was never able to do that before. The supernatural realm is so real and involved in everything and there is nothing that works beyond it's forces! I love that He is showing me that now.

If the schools were a big deal, enormous would be the best way to describe hanging out with the girls. They honestly had the love of Christ in them so hard core it was crazy and it was spilling out all over to each other and especially us. Every time that we had free time at all and were with them they would buy so many snacks and give us half or more. These girls all come from families who don't have enough money to support them, but the small amount that they had, they were more than willing to share with us with so much joy! There aren't a lot of words that would describe these girls, but they are completely filled with Jesus and are moving in their schools and such a support system to each other. The older ones take care of the younger, and the younger the younger still - since the pastor and his family is unable to be with all 95 at once - it ios seriously amazing and driven completely by love!
We were able to hang out with them in the settings of bible study, worship times and just playing games, but the last night was more amazing than the rest. We were able to teach them some of our dramas and dances so that they could use them when they go into the surrounding villages to share the good news. Our hard work resulted in a BBQ of American food for the girls and a dance party! They loved it. It's not often that they get to be out of structured time and just be silly withthe people that they love - but being part of it with them was so awesome. It allowed all of us to just let go and be silly also, which unfortunately/fortunately bonded us more, making the goodbye even worse. After the dancing, silly time, we all said a little goodbye and appreciation for how they changed our lives and they wanted to do the same. We got into our little groups and each of the older girls in the group brought us a gift. I seriously wanted to cry because they have hardly enough money for anything for themeselves, but they go and buy each of us a gift to remember them by. They even remembered our favorite colors for bracelets - the small gift that we were able to give them a few nights earlier, paled into comparison to what we recieved. But the cool thing is it wasn't about gifts, after we were all done wearing and/or admiring the physical representation of what we recieved, we just stood with each other and hugged. Singing songs of the appreciation of meeting before heaven and being inspired to go into the world and be Jesus' hands and feet. It was an extremely hard night, but the tears that we saw there were multiplied in huge supply when the actual departure happened the next day. Fortunately I got to have a sleepover with Nikkie that night to get some of our goodbye out before we had to do everyone at once. So the next day was packing and cleaning day - but since it was saturday only a few girls were at school. This was really hard not being able to be with them but a little easier too beacause we knew we had to leave. When it was time that we were actually loading up, the girls got into the last hug line we would ever see and everyone was able to hold each other for a brief goodbye, for most of us until heaven. But I made it through everyone and was going to load the big truck and then our lovely girl Lidia runs up from school. Wow that girl is going to change the world and is gifted in seriously every area that I know of, but her tears were the catalyst to mine. I truly loved her as a sister and friend in God. I was able to encourage her of the impact she is going to be on the world and the kingdom of God, but I don't think that her humble heart will ever have her realize how great she is - probably the reason why she is so incredibly effective. Saying goodbye to Nikkie at the bus station was another not awesome experience, but we get to meet again and I am certain of that which makes the goodbyes so much easier. The dance party that we had in Home of Blessing is nothing compared to the joyful dance that is going to happen when we are with the author of joy as the perfect body and bride!

Week Three - Outreach

I can understand why people think that outreach just passes them by, things are going ridiculously fast and I'm not sure what "making the most of your outreach" looks like, but I'm giving it a personal spin. I think it is supposed to look different for everyone and from what I can see, our team has been doing a pretty good job of "digging deep" and I would say that I am the majority who is doing their best to take it all in. God is making Himself present in new ways every time that I find myself giving it my all and the more that I depend on Him and ask Him for help, I find that my joy is exponentially more obvious and contagious as when I decide to work out of myself. Though it is a matter of depending on God, I find that everyday and in every situation I need to choose it. God and I are partners in living out the works He has for me and these people, not a dictatorship.
Tuesday was our last day at SHE and it was really sad having to say goodbye to all of the girls that we had made friends with Monday evening. I was able to talk to all of the girls that I am the closest with and even invite a few to SHE with broken communication but obvious concern and love. I even gave a few of the girls silly bands and it looked so funny with their high heels and little dresses, but I loved that it seemed like such a restoration of innocence. That night we were also ablet to have a few of our worship leaders (YWAM Denver and Auckland) play at a bar on Soi Sea Dragon! It was amazing to hear worship music in the midst of all of the club beats playing and people ten feet over taking shots and treating each other as objects. The owner of the bar said that he doesn't know what it is about the people who come to play worship, but the whole place has a peace over it so he has continued to invite them back. God is showing up all over the place! It was so enouraging to be there and just being so aware that this is still Gods territory and He has already defeated the enemy! There is absolutely no evil that can outshine the goodness of our God and that was so awesome to say the least. Every night that we were down there, we obviously had to depend on the Holy Spirit for directions and promptings, but the almost physical tangibilty of His presence made that night more joyful than any other even though we had to say goodbye. The realiztion that this is probably my only chance to ever meet these people set in once again and I was able to come to the point where fear of man took a back seat to the work that God had for me and I didn't care if people thought I was crazy or bold. I was so confident that God would not have me go out and make His name be tainted, so as long as I felt the prompting of God, I went for it! Sometimes it was more bold than others, but either way the personal edification of obedience was enough to make the possible insecurity worth it. God is so faithful! At times I am so worried about me that I forget that and then the next day I don't even understand how I could forget that. So God is doing a lot of work in me still and I love it.
The next day we went up to one of the highest mountains overlooking Phuket, where "Big Buddha" is. This is a 45 meter high idol that almost the whole city can see. It was crazy to go up there and see elephants and other huge trees on the drive, but these things looked like specks compared to the marble god watching the city, forest and ocean. The view was beautiful but hard to see because whatever we were able to see from this high point, could also see at least the head, and empty eyes, of Buddha. We were able to go and pray over the place and remind the ground and peices of marble that our God is, and I think I already wrote about this so i'm going to move on.
We didn't have much time after that, cleaning, eating and packing to do much so we said goodbye to Mark, Sharon their family, YWAM Auckland team and the girls at SHE and headed out to the far north of Thailand. Farewell super sucks, but I was excited to sleep for a solid 12 hours on the bus to Bangkok, so it made it a little easier. So yes, we spent 12 hours on a bus that was quite cramped and small, where I got very little sleep, but we made it to Bangkok in one piece and I was able to get close with some team members that I had not yet spent a ton of time with. Odd to think that since we are all together 24/7 practically, but it is easy to distance yourself from some and cling to others if you choose to - so all that said I enjoyed getting closer to my friends even though I was dead tired for the day. We had about 8 hours in Bangkok and then back onto a bus up to Chang Kham, about 10 hours, in the nicest bus I have ever been in my life! The snacks were coming faster than I could eat them and we got a dinner, tons of leg room, pillows and practically down comforters and the ride/sleep was sweet. We arrived to Chang Kham and then to our next ministry location at 5:30 am-ish where there were 95 girls awake and cleaning the area that we were coming into. This location is a home where girls can come if their parents don't have enough money to support them and sen them to school and such. Most of these girls if not here, would have ended up in the sex industry either now as a child, or when they were the age of 18. This pastor and his wife take as many girls as they are able to take at a time and offer them a place to live, learn and most of all hear about Jesus their saviour. It is an amazing establishment and the small portion of their testimony that I have heard inspires me to be an ambassador of God only. So the girls wake up at 5:00 am to do bible study, then cleaning and preparing breakfast. After that they head to school and come back to play, prepare dinner and do chores and I'm not sure how the schedule works in between dinner and 8:00 pm, but at 8 they have an hour and a half time slot to study, all of them. I have never seen a group of kids who are so well behaved and willing to do whatever it is that they are asked/assigned, I want to take them all home with me! I don't think one kid I know could last a day being so well held together as these young ladies are. 
So we were warned that this would be the case, but we hit the ground running as soon as we got here on Thursday. We went into the house of the head pastor where we had the most amazing breakfast I think I have ever seen. The spread was phenomenal and after cornflakes and cream every morning our team felt as though we were in heaven! The crazy thing is, is that this wasn't just a welcome day awesome meal time experience, every meal has been one of the best things I've ever tasted! Friday we even got a mennonite style breakfast with a Thai twist to it! There is a very large chance that I will be gaining weight at this location. As soon as we finished breakfast we headed to our first school where we got to try out our dramas, skits and dances and see if any of us are made to be english teachers. Let me tell you, teaching english to kindergarten students is most definitely not my gift. The dramas went alright, but I honestly busted hard core at attempting to teach these 5 year olds anything but head, shoulders, knees and toes. My team mates and I came out with a light heart, but the realization our presence was about all that we could offer in that classroom. That the teacher struggled a lot with english only made the time a little harder, but the cool thing was that we were able to play games with the kids with absolutely no problem. It's awesome to see how fun is so cross cultural and at the primary and early seconardy school age, we all enjoy much of the same things. So games went well and we got to bring a little more joy to the country of Thailand that day which was totally worth feeling like a fool trying to teach english. 
When we got back to our location we were able to meet the girls at the home and they greeted us as we were leaving our dinner house standing all in rows of 9 or so holding beautiful red roses. As we each introduced ourselves they greeted us back with a bow and Sawadee kah and were attentive through all 23 names, ages and home name. They all came up to give us roses and I got 7! I have never had 7 roses in my whole entire life!!! I felt like the most special person on the planet and after they did a sign language dance for us that was beautiful and shouldn't be possible to be memorized by 8 year olds. This culture is one of perfection and intricacy, they proved this over and over throughout the time we have been here already. I honestly don't know how to describe the way that they looked and sounded besides completely angelic - to the point where I am going to choose Kai a wife here ha ha, [Just kidding Mom, he's got 20 more years or so]. In the midst of the beauty if their unison, God was putting on my heart just how valuable each and every one of them is and how they are such a part of His perfect plan. We were told earlier that sometimes girls have to go home early to help their families and other times just when they are completely school, but in both cases they have seen their entire village choose Christ becuase of the testimony of the girl who went home. Entire villages! At 8-18 years old I don't think I would even talk to all of the people in my village, never mind trying to get them to turn from a god they are comfortable with to the one that I have found to be true, but these girls are! This made me so inspired to just listen to God's plan like this man had so that I could change the world for Him! 95 + girls at a time for the last 18 years, heaven has been exponentially increase by this family stepping out in obedience to God's call to care for children. The citizens that we so often ignore or degrade with terms like "when they are ready" or "when their generation rises up", it has risen! If we could all have the faith and love like they do, we could be brining whole communities to truth also. After this intense moment with God, He also gave me the dawning that at least some of these girls if not here, would be getting their bodies sold and raped at that very moment. Bangkok is second to only Atlanta for sex trafficking the ENTIRE WORLD and they are near the top for child sex trafficking. If they weren't already being abused as a child by the time that they were old enough to choose, obligation would send them down to the area I had just been in to make enough money to send back home to their families. God's pursuit on their lives is so obvious and incredible! I had about the most intense 3 adn a half minutes, or one song of my life - but passion was stirring in my and I once again gave my whole life up to God to do as He chooses with it. So I fell in love with them instantly which is saying a lot since I don't have a natural ability to appreciate children - God is working once again. Though they were all amazing, there was one girl that caught my eye/heart right away and she really resembled someone that had been part of my life in the past. I wasn't sure if that was why she was on my heart or if God was putting her there, so I prayed that I would be able to get to know her more in the short 10 days we were here. Each of us were able to be with a group of girls, that is already made as a team to meet for bible studies, prayer and accountability from what I understand, and be sort of week "leaders". Well they definitely take care of each other so they are leading us. My prayer partner and I got a group of girls ages 8-18 and all extrememly beautiful and fun! That girl who was immediately on my heart is in it! God is speaking to me already - YAY! We spent half an hour briefly getting to know each other and playing games and it felt like it was 10 mintues. I just wanted to be able to spend more time with these girls and love them.
The next day looked similar and one of us each day is sharing our testimony at 5:30 - I actually volunteered for next friday! So I pray that God blesses me with energy and words to say because i don't have a ton of faith in myself at this point.

I'm going to write about the whole experience in the next blog though so there is a more complete view of what is going on at Home of Blessing and the schools that we will be going to. Thank you, I love you and am excited to share the sweet stuff in person with you :)

Keep praying for our team please! Complacency would be a good thing to pray against if possible - thanks