Sunday, October 18, 2009

The past few days have been a quiet time with the Lord. A time to reflect on all I have seen and experienced thus far. A time to be so deeply thankful for having lived a blessed life in Kentucky. A time to ask myself and challenge myself to count the cost of what lies ahead. Am I truly ready? Am I willing to do the hard things God asks of me? I find that while in my heart I may never feel truly ready; I feel more than willing. I find myself in Peter's shoes, so curious and willing to get out of the boat and then finding I have and becoming scared. I don't know what was going through Peter's head that famous moment that drove him to climb out but I know in my mind I was and am driven by a vision. A vision that desires to be Jesus with skin on, a holy anger to fight for those that cannot fight. In the past few weeks, I have met strangers and heard their powerful stories of redemption. With each face and each story, I see the love of Jesus and I am compelled to keep running after the vision.

Here is one account of how I came across a few strangers with powerful stories.

"I was in prison and you visited me" Matt 25:36

The most powerful lesson of God's redemption I have ever personally witnessed was when I had the privilege to attend a woman's bible study in the prison of Costa Rica last week. My friend leads an English bible study every week, where five different nations are represented. All of these women have been saved and with smiles on their faces are serving out the rest of their sentences with deep joy. My heart was so moved by the testimony I saw that day to the point it is hard for me to even explain. Central American prisons are rough places and it was a wild experience for me to go that day. However, in the midst of the chaos of visitors everywhere, shouting and some of the scariest women I have personally ever come in to contact with, there was light. I smiled to myself at just how mighty God displays His Kingdom!

I came home the next day to my apartment so deeply challenged in my faith. I had been battling fear and doubt since returning from the border. Fear that I would fail the children there, fear that it was all so overwhelming and difficult. So many "what ifs" floating around in my head. Yet God, rich in patience and mercy displayed before me, the power of salvation. Women who were once hardened criminals became soft, virtuous and God-fearing. Then I am once again reminded that nothing it too hard for the Lord. Nothing.

In my renewed passion, I prayed and wept for the hurting children who haunt my dreams and yet most I have still to meet. I prayed so passionately for the project of the fiesta at the border and continued favor. I will go again at the end of this month to solidify plans. Please, if you are reading this, pray with me.

It is my prayer also that after you read the following passage I came across, you too will lay your heart before God and challenge yourself to say, "Am I willing to do the hard things God asks of me"? Are you someone God will find as He looks on the earth for the fully committed? Will you live a life that dares to be different? Will you too get out of the boat?

"What is, therefore, our task today? Shall I answer: “Faith, hope, and love”? that sounds beautiful. But I would say – courage. No, even that is not challenging enough to be the whole truth. Our task today is recklessness. For what we Christians lack is not psychology or literature… we lack a holy rage – the recklessness which comes from the knowledge of God and humanity. The ability to rage when justice lies prostrate on the streets, and when the lie rages across the face of the earth … a holy anger about the things that are wrong in the world. To rage against the ravaging of God’s earth, and the destruction of God’s world. To rage when little children must die of hunger, when the tables of the rich are sagging with food. To rage at the senseless killing of so many, and against the madness of militaries. To rage at the lie that calls the treat of death and the strategy of destruction peace. To rage against complacency. To restlessly seek that recklessness that will challenge and seek to change human history until it conforms to the norms of the Kingdom of God. And remember the signs of the Christian Church have been the Lion, the Lamb, the Dove, and the Fish … but never the chameleon." Pastor Kaj Munk (martyr)

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Mountains Melt Like Wax When the Lord is Near....

I woke up this past Thursday morning still reeling at the last two days in La Cruz and thought, "This is my life." I felt somewhat overwhelmed and intimidated at all that lay in front of me now. The Lord reminded me of Psalms 97 and how mountains melt like wax before Him. I smiled to myself, that's right after all, I saw government officials hearts melt like wax. Susannah and I headed out Tuesday morning on the 4am bus to La Cruz, Guanacaste. It was the roughest bus ride, packed out to standing room only, thankfully we had seats together. There was very little space for our legs, let alone our backpacks. The bus was not direct, so we knew we were in for a long, rough ride. However, our hearts were so full of God and anticipation as to what possibilities were in store for us, we just laughed.

We spent the ride praying and sharing what each of us had felt the day before in prayer. We read scripture to encourage us and keep us focused. We arrived into the humble and friendly little town of La Cruz and my friend Jackie was there to pick us up. We then hit the ground at what felt like lighting speed to meet with the pastor and help where needed. The pastor didn't need us yet so we decided to go with Jackie to the border and she would show us around and we could see where the kids are and what a typical day at the border is like. The Costa Rica/Nicaraguan border was not a new experience for me but it was for Susannah. I enjoyed watching her eyes widen in shock/surprise at the chaos because I know I had that exact same expression in July when I traveled across!

Jackie had many connections and we followed her around trying our best to keep up. First stop was a friend of hers who happens to be the head of all of immigration for Costa Rica. She introduced us to this kind lady and explained why she was showing us around. The lady raised her eyebrows, told us we were very brave girls. She then proceeded to give us information and tips. We thanked her and as we were turning to leave, she stopped us and gave her phone number. She said that no one ever cared to work with the children at the border in the way we did and that if we ever needed anything or ran into trouble to call her; we had her full support. We were surprised and very grateful. This was just the tip of favor that was ahead of us that day.

It just so happen that on this particular morning, everyone who was anyone was there at the border. By the end of the day we had met the Chief of Police, the House Minister, the head of Customs and the head of the community who was also a doctor. Each one had the same reaction and response as the lady over immigration. All saying thank you for wanting to help, no one ever wants to work with these kids, it is dangerous but they would give us police protection and full rights to roam the border and work with the children. Jackie looked at us at one point and said, "Girls, this is amazing, these people are never available to talk!" she also said it was amazing we had such support from them and favor.

Next stop, walk across the border and talk with Nicaragua. We marched right across and were waved on because we had been with such important people, they did not need to see our passports. I was barely able to take this all in and all Susannah and I could do was laugh in amazement at our day thus far! We were able to get the same responses from them and their advice and information.

We were asked by the House Minister and also by the head of Customs to attend a meeting the following morning where all the important country officials would be gathering to discuss issues on the borders of Costa Rica. Susannah and I agreed but were a little freaked out and overwhelmed. However neither of us were backing down. We returned to the church in La Cruz where fourteen pastors in the surrounding regions of Nicaragua and Costa Rica were meeting. We told them all we had learned and the permission granted us. You can imagine their excitement and amazement.

We gathered that evening with members from the the church in La Cruz and planned a Fiesta for the children at the border. We would feed them and just befriend them and have the church youth do a drama. To join us in helping to feed would be the church in Rivas, Nicaragua. We will have games and my personal favorite, a pinata!

The next morning Susannah and I were asked to speak at the meeting to share our hearts. We told them we honestly had no experience and did not feel we knew more then they did but we had a heart and burden for these children who are exploited and who sell their services at such young ages. The hearts of the officials were moved and we were granted permission from both countries to hold the fiesta inside the borders between both nations!

So on December 5, our project "Amor en Acción" ( Love in Action) will outreach to the children at the border. Everyone we have told has been shocked we were granted such favor and opportunities. I am not anymore because God says, "The LORD reigns, let the earth be glad; let the distant shores rejoice. Clouds and thick darkness surround him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne. Fire goes before him and consumes his foes on every side. His lightning lights up the world; the earth sees and trembles. The mountains melt like wax before the LORD, before the Lord of all the earth. The heavens proclaim his righteousness,and all the peoples see his glory."

Monday, October 5, 2009

"The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much." James 5:16

I was going to wait to post anything until after I returned from Guanacaste.  However, so many of you have been praying over these past few days that I wanted you to know that after three days of mini hurdles and obstacles in the path, today breakthrough finally came.  We were succcesful in reaching the pastor in La Cruz to let him know we were coming.  He was excited and asked us to help tomorrow morning to feed the local community he is outreaching to.  A friend graciously opened her home to us so we don't have to stay in a hotel!  Where God leads, He always provides.

I set out right after I heard the news to purchase our bus tickets.  Three hours, seven wrong bus stations, 100 wrong turns, in the rain(more like a monsoon!) later, I finally found the right station only to be turned away because they only sale the tickets thirty minutes prior to departure.  I was so wet and soggy and frustrated that I just stood in the pouring rain not even caring because at this point, what was a little more water!!  My umbrella could no longer offer protection.  To add to the chaos, my friend who was picking me up at the station, could not get to me because a car stopped in the middle of the road, which blocked a bus.  The bus driver began to blare his horn, the station office began to use a megaphone to shout at the driver to move, all this commotion set off all the nearby car alarms.  I stood there getting soaked by the minute just laughing and the more I pondered the past few hours the harder I laughed.  The bible says,"A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones."  Well all the calamities and frustrating situations were not going to crush my spirit.

In order to help the pastor feed people, we must get there very early.  So Susannah and I will head out on the first bus which departs at 4:00 am!  Thank you, thank you, thank you for all your prayers!!
God is so good.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Can it really be three months ago that I sold almost everything, quit my job and moved to Costa Rica simply because God moved on my heart to do so.  I wanted to be obedient but I was baffled that God chose here to launch me out into the mission field.  For the past two years all I had talked about was the middle east and I even trained this summer with an organization that goes into places like Pakistan.  I studied Islam and the persecuted church and areas where persecution was very prevalent.  I was determined to find and go to any and all areas where no one is allowed or wanted.  Strange I know but for those closest to me, they will tell you, that was and still is my heart. 

Like most girls, I grew up with stories such as Cinderella but I also grew up with stories like David and Goliath, Moses parting the Red Sea and missionaries such as Jim Eliott.  At a young age I was ruined for this world.  Many of us aspire to make a difference, our culture speaks of reaching for the stars, becoming anything you want as long as you believe in yourself.  We flock to the theaters to see good triump evil, rags rise to riches and success defy defeat.  Why?  Because the one who designed us, who spoke us into existence, in whose nature we were created; defined those heroic tales.  God triumphed evil with His son Jesus and everyday He triumphs when you step out and be His hands and feet.  Everyday success defies defeat when you allow Him to shine through your weaknesses so He can shame foolishness.  For every counterfeit there is a genuine.  The bible is not fiction or fantasy.  It is God telling stories through the lives of everyday men and women who allowed God to use them.  The day I made Jesus Lord of my life, that became my culture.  My heart began to beat with thoughts of how big God was, how all things are possible and hurt and broken the world really was.  I knew I too wanted to let God take the pen and write His story, His version, His way.

As I look back on my life the past three years and up to this point, I see that everything God did and every where He placed me was training for my life on the field.  I used to talk about how someday I would go and then one day, my "someday" came.   Every test, every trial, every mountain top and valley has taught me something and pushed me to grow in God.

While I don't believe I am to be in Costa Rica for twenty years, I do believe I am here for a time and for training.  In my childlike faith, I wanted (and honestly still do) to just pick a spot in the middle of the world, set up a home and then just house, feed and love every single orphaned, abandoned, hungry child on the globe.  God is big enough to do so and I refuse to limit Him otherwise, however that is not what He has in mind for me right now.  So, I told Him okay and when He sent me here, I told him I would just take all the little ones in Central America!  Do you think I am kidding?  If you know me, then you know I am not!  So it is not surprising that it did not take me long to discover an unreached, untouched area that was full of hungry, abandoned children.  I sat listening to a pastor share all he had discovered in this town and how desperate in need these children were, my heart broke.  I have heard stories similar and people asking for help.  Trust me when I say, there is need EVERYWHERE.  This time though was different, this time I felt God tug at my heart.  Although I told the pastor I would pray and would not commit to anything.  Deep down I knew I would be back.

I came home and prayed.  It was not long before I knew that I knew I was to go back and see how I could help and where.  I also knew then that I was not going home.  I called my mom one night on skype crying from what all I had learned of these children and crying because I knew I would not be moving home in December.  She cried with me but we were both smiling through our tears because we knew this was God.

Just a few weeks later my friend and now partner, Susannah, came to me and said after much prayer she wanted to join me and help.  Both our hearts are tugged and moved and both our hearts know this is God calling us.  This area is four hours away by bus.  Plans are in the works for us to travel there next week and see what answers we can find and where to start.  Please everyone pray for our saftey and for favor.  I promise to update everyone as soon as we come back.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The more I pray for the children in Cartago and the more I pray for the children in Guanacaste, the more I know I am to stay.  The children in Guanacaste are alone, no one works with them.  They are forgotten.  They are contaminated by diseases.  They are mentally unstable.  They are God's heart, He knows everyone of their names.  They are the ones I want.  They are the ones I think about and I have never met them.  They are why I won't throw in the the towel.  Why I refuse to give up.

  I had originally committed to stay on just to December.  God had other ideas.  I do not know how long I will be here, possibly just through next year.  I do know that my heart won't let me leave.

Last month was full of adventures and was extremely busy.  Many people to meet, many territories to travel to, many lessons to plan and many sleepless nights.  So, I am tired.  I took this week off.

It is just a season.  I often repeat this to myself.   Please pray that I would not grow weary. I love my life and I am so blessed.  However there are moments to myself of sitting there and of thinking and in times where there is a lot of sitting and thinking the enemy reminds me of what I miss. I miss my mom. If you know her, then you understand.  I miss my Dad and his constant encouragement.  I miss my sisters and the times my whole family gets together and it is loud and crazy! I miss Cornerstone Church, being spiritually fed every week and having constant community and fellowship.  I miss my friends.  I miss going to the gym.  I miss living in a busy but fun house with my amazing roomies despite its chaotic moments.   All of those thoughts and people I miss, can cause me to feel alone here.  

I know I am right where I am supposed to be, where I was meant to be.  I know this is God's heart for me right now and I know I am never alone.  He holds me and takes care of me.  He is faithful.  I know it is just the season.  Thank you for all of you who pray.  Many ask how they can be specifically praying.  This is one area.