Thursday, June 30, 2011

Meet the Team: Team Korea

My name is Jordan, I’m 21 years old and from Jackson, Tennessee.  I graduated this past May from Jackson State Community College with an Associates Degree in General Studies.

Hello, my name is Joshua, I am 20 years old and I am from Philadelphia, Mississippi.  I recently graduated from East Central Community College in May, and now will attend Mississippi State University in the fall.  I plan on getting my Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Engineering, and then if it is God’s call, I will attend Seminary after that.

My name is Rachel. I am a 23-year-old student at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. I am a Social Work major. I’m looking forward to this humbling experience that God has for us.

Hello. My name is Jennifer. I am one of the team leaders for Korea.  I am 21 years old and from Houston, TX. I am a senior at Houston Baptist University majoring in Psychology and Christianity. This is my first cross-cultural trip. I’m excited to spread the Gospel and make God’s name famous.

My name is Andrea. I am 19-year-old and I am originally from Collinsville, MS. I attend Meridian Community College. My hope is that God can use my spiritual gift of compassion to better relate the Gospel to the hurting.

My name is Emily and I’m a senior, Musical Theatre major at Anderson University. I’m originally from St. Matthews, South Carolina. I’m excited about what God is going to do this summer in Korea.

My name is Jessica.  I just graduated from Copiah Lincoln Community College and will attend the University of Southern Mississippi in the fall.  God first gave me an interest and burden for refugees through a video I saw while helping with “team kids” at my church.  I am excited to experience what God has planned for this summer. 

My name is Samuel. I am 21 years old and a senior at Liberty University studying Intercultural Studies. I plan on doing missions after I graduate. I am excited about serving this summer and what God will do through us this summer.

My name is Matt and I just graduated from Brighton High School, TN, and I’m planning on attending Union University in Jackson, TN. I plan on majoring in Christian Ministries and Missions, and I believe that God is calling me to do full-time ministry overseas. I can’t wait to see what God is going to do through our team this summer!

My name is Lyndsey. I’m from Tar Heel, North Carolina and I am a Religion major at Appalachian State University. This summer I’ll be leading a team to Seoul, South Korea to teach English and build relationships in order to share the Gospel. This will be my second summer in Korea and I am ridiculously excited and I whole-heartedly believe God is going to do amazing things!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Pray for the Angels

New Faith Family provides several services and ministry opportunities for the community.  Between feeding programs, a children’s home, prayer walks, and worship services, you would wonder how any of the workers could find the time to invest themselves in any other services.  Josie at New Faith Family has done that to say the least.  Her ministry for abused girls, Josie’s Angels, has a stirring story and the promise of hope for its members.  Her explanation of the organization’s beginnings and her plans for its future made for a story that I couldn’t keep to myself.
Josie Long - founder of Josie's Angels
Josie:  The first year I was in the Philippines and working with New Faith Family, a few local girls just attacked me with love and attachment.  Unfortunately, I pushed them away for the most part and distanced my heart from them. 
The more I was around the girls the following year, the more God began to break my heart for them. I began to embrace them and learn their stories. Most of the girls with me now are ages 8 – 15, two are 17.  I realized that how I had treated them and related to them previously was wrong, and I wanted to really begin investing in these girls.

The group initially consisted of nine girls that I began to disciple, but that number quickly grew to twenty-three.  We met for bible study three times a week.  As I got to know the girls better, I decided to visit their homes.  That’s when my eyes were really opened to their needs.  Being in some of the girls’ homes honestly made me spiritually uncomfortable.  Later hearing some of their some of their stories of abuse explained these feelings.  I began to think more about their situations and realized how much time they spent hanging around our buildings.  It clicked that our times together were their escape from the horrors of home.  I knew a bible study three times a week was not enough for these girls – God could help me do more.
The saddest part of these girls’ life is that it is a cycle.  In the community where they live, most girls don’t complete more than an elementary education.  They are usually pregnant by thirteen or fourteen, and they spend their lives raising their children, doing whatever they can to get by. Then the process repeats with their children.  Unlike American children, these girls are not taught to dream.  They live exactly how their parents lived, and their children will too.  I knew I had to focus on keeping them in school if they were to have any hope of escaping their own circumstances.  
I wanted to keep these girls out of their homes and keep them in school, but I was faced with a dilemma:  where would they stay and how do I get them there?  I found some condos they could stay in, but I had to be creative in getting them away from their families.  I visited all of the homes of the girls with a mission in mind.  I would assess their situations (finances and abusers) for myself, and I would begin to build relationships and trust with their families.  I held a three-day conference for their families:  days one and two were group meetings; day three consisted of meetings with each of the families individually.  I stressed the benefits of allowing their daughters to come with me to the families.  I told them about school opportunities for their child and also the increased safety I could provide by protecting them from some of the negative influences in the community, such as drug dealers.  One factor I had to include was that the families would still get to see the girls.  The girls who were allowed to come must go home Saturday afternoons and return on Sunday – for now.

Once the girls were under my care, or supervision rather, I had to find a way to fund their stay at the condos and tuition for their schooling.  I spoke at conferences, put information online, and raised as much awareness as I could to gather support.  My experience as a nanny for some MLB baseball players also gave me some excellent connections to generous donations.  One great thing about the MLB that helped is that whatever their players donate to non-profit organizations, they match.  I also made t-shirts to raise funds, and each t-shirt sold pays for a week of school for one of the girls.  Enough funds have been raised that I was able to renovate a house for the Angels to live in instead of the condos.  Because 33 of the 54 current Angels came from abusive homes, I wanted to create a place where they could live permanently, not even going back on Saturday nights.  Unfortunately, having a 24-hour residence means I now have to involve my organization with the government, but it is worth the hassle to ensure the safety of these girls.  Some of the girls are daughters of friends or staff, and they just attend the bible studies and fellowship times with the other girls. I am happy to say that 27 of the Angels now have sponsors for the home or their school.

The girls amaze me and encourage me.  One of the most uplifting things to see is the older girls beginning to disciple the younger ones.  They are like a family now, and I couldn’t imagine being in this place without them.
Shelby:  Josie’s Angels is a major part of New Faith Family.  The girls are here often, and one of the opportunities to serve here is to help paint the house that the Angels will soon move in to.  I have spent time with them, built relationships, and love what Josie has accomplished with them.  The most eye-opening and heartbreaking experience I had with them came during a worship service we held with them.  There was a question and answer time that we held for the girls after the service.  Most of the questions asked were typical teenage girl questions about relationships but one question shot through me – straight to the heart.
Question: “What do you feel if you have good family?”
This was the question of a 13-year-old girl.  This is the question that broke my heart. She’s thirteen years old and has no idea what it feels like to have a family. It hit me like a ton of bricks. Some of you are probably thinking well, hello Shelby, you’re just now figuring this out and you have had the heart for the orphans for how long now? I know it sounds like I should have known this, and while I did- I believe I just fully grasped it this past Saturday morning with Josie’s Angels.  Just like the children at the orphanage, these girls captured my heart immediately. To be so hurt, they love so much. Every moment I get to spend with them they open my eyes to so much, and while I'm the one that is supposed to be there for them, they have already taught me more than I could ever hope to teach them. They have taught me that life is not about what happens to you, but who you cling to during those difficult times. My goal is to assure them that no matter what happens in life, that they can always count on Christ to be right there to catch them and hold them in His arms and comfort them in a way that only He can.
Heather in the arms of an Angel

It's raining, it's pouring...

As I sit in the room listening to my teammate teach English I get chills. Not because it is chilly (which it actually is) but because I am realizing how big the world is and yet how our hopes and fears are the same.
In our province there has been a lot of flooding. Roads are washed out and right now travel in and to some places is not possible. This morning we got news that one of the churches in Nan is flooded as is Lotus (the main biggest store within several hours of here). It poured for over 36 hours straight and now it is falling in spurts.  While the farmers are glad to see the rain (after a week of no rain) the rest of the people are distressed. The forecast now is showing scattered storms for the rest of the week.

Rain or shine my teammate and I will be traveling up to a hill tribe this weekend. Please ask the Father to keep our roads safe and to keep us safe during our travels. Please pray that the rain would subside for a time so that the roads can get fixed and so that everyone can have safe roads to travel on. Last Saturday we traveled up to visit two villages and meet the girls parents. Some of the roads were already partially washed out and there were signs that there could easily be more damage. This weekend we will be camping out in the village. We will have no electricity, no bathroom, and we aren't sure exactly what we will be eating! lol. But we are excited. Although we will never really be Thai we are learning.

We were told on Friday that in order to be a REAL THAI woman there was a very difficult job that we would have to do. (My house father reminds me so much of my real dad which has been a blessing!) When our house father sat us down outside he brought us a bag, a big bowl, a small bowl, and two wicker plate type things. Our job? We had to sift the rice to get the seeds and bugs out. It wasn't a hard job, but it wasn't the easiest thing to do either!!

Also last Saturday we had another experience that confirmed that we were really becoming more and more Thai. We were heading to a village. (We hadn't known we were going so we had no camera, no water, no backpack, and most importantly no toilet paper!!!!) My teammate and I both had to go to the restroom!!! When we stopped we asked our house father (In THAI!!!) if there was a bathroom, he pointed to a building. We walked over and then "decided" which was the girls bathroom. We walked up and behold, it was a squaty potty!! We had to use the restroom and so we went for it. It was pitch black, a squaty potty, and we had no toilet paper. When we cam out someone handed us hand sanitizer and we were very proud of ourselves!!

Then Saturday night and Sunday morning we walked to the local church!!! In the rain!!! Today we will ride a motorbike back to the house from the school. Needless to say we are sooo proud of ourselves and how easily we have adapted to the new way of life. There are a few things that I miss, but it seems that as soon as I think of them God provides. I was missing chocolate and my house mom made brownies for breakfast, I was missing ice and my house father surprised me with a frozen coffee, I was missing American English and last night we found another "Ferong" from the great USA!!! It was so nice to hear a familiar voice even though my teammate and I had never met him before.

Please ask the Father to bless this region of Thailand. It is the rainy season here, but this type of steady rain for so long is not good. Please ask the Father to look after my teammate and me as we travel this weekend into the village. (I am not 100% sure when we are leaving but I think we are leaving at some point on Wednesday and coming back on Friday). Please continue to ask the Father to bless our hands, feet, and mouths as we teach in the schools and form relationships with the students and teachers. Especially for our Person of Peace! She is so open to listening to what we have to say. And is open to our friendship!


Hate to See Her Go, But Love to Watch Her Leave

I have met so many children in the three team visits I have made so far.  Each one has his own unique story and needs, and when you meet any of them, you want to be whatever they need.  You hope that one day they can know the comfort and joy that comes with having a loving family, but while you hold them in your arms or when you see what kind of life some of people have outside of the orphanage, you are glad they are safe within the walls of the children’s home.  While some of the kids have contact with their parents and are in more of a foster care situation at the orphanage, others are up for adoption.  I worry that the older ones won’t be adopted because of their age and because the adoption process can take so long.  No matter their stories or ages though, you only want the best for them, and you hope they end up in a loving Christian home.
For a few of the children I have met, the miracle of adoption will taken place or has taken place since I’ve been here.  It’s been amazing to see God open the hearts of people for these orphans and radically change the lives of these children.  Because I move around to the teams so much, I haven’t had as much time to fully attach to a child and feel the bittersweet feeling of saying goodbye to one of them.  Kaitlyn at New Faith Family has experienced it though, and she wanted to share her story.
Kaitlyn:  I knew coming into this amazing journey that one of the babies in the nursery was in the long process of being adopted and could quite possibly be taken home with her new parents while we were here. After meeting sweet little Colene and instantly falling in love with her, her being taken home was the last thing on my mind until the day it happened. Colene went home with her new PARENTS! It was like nothing I had ever experienced before. It was such a God thing to see that miracle take place for those new parents. Seeing tears stream down the new father’s face after watching his new precious angel play, and seeing the new mother with quite possibly the biggest smile I have ever seen, made my heart overflow with joy for all three of them. While I was so excited for Colene and her parents, I looked around at the other 10 children. Tears immediately starting streaming down my face, and my heart broke for them. I know they are only babies, but looking at their faces made me think they knew what was going on. What killed me to even think about was if they were thinking the same thing I was: Will they ever have this day like Colene is having...will they ever be adopted? I pray that I was wrong, and they did not understand. But an even stronger prayer of mine is that they all will have that day like Colene had, and their precious new parents will be taking them home!

What prevents me from being baptized??

On one of our many daily trips to the market, we stumbled upon Tony. He was causing a scene and we soon found out that this was the norm. As we talked to many of the civilians they informed us that Tony was the town-drunk and that he would fish all week and then come back to the market with his catch and use that money solely on alcohol. This broke our hearts and immediately we sparked a conversation up with Tony. It was amazing that our translators could not comprehend anything he was saying because his speech was so slurred, but as soon as we asked to pray for him Tony got on his knees for prayer.  

After this we continued to find Tony in the market in this state for the next week and we prayed for him and his condition. After one of these days we followed him home and found out where he lived. It was very humbling to see his living conditions and that night we prayed that we would get a chance to share the Gospel with him when he was coherent and could actually talk. We got this opportunity the next morning. 

It was unreal to see how the Lord had been working in his life. We stayed at his house for a little over two hours just sharing the Word and our testimonies. With every minute Tony became more and more open with us and he shared how he wanted to be freed from the vices of his alcoholism. You could see the Spirit moving in his life as at the end he accepted and believed the Gospel and repented of his sins. Tony’s life has been an inspiration to us all and more importantly has showed us the power of the Holy Spirit. 

We just ask that you lift Tony up in your prayers because it is a still a struggle for him but to just see his conviction about his situation and to see him crying out to God for help because he realizes that God is his only answer out of his addiction. We just envision Tony going from the town-drunk and getting mocked to proclaiming the Gospel all around the market and everyone seeing the power of Christ through his life. We have fallen in love with Tony and hope and pray that his life with continue to transform as well as ours through his influence on us all for the glory of Christ.

God answered our prayers today. We went back for Bible study and when we got there Tony was no where to be found.  Out of nowhere he came running, just dying to hear God’s Word. He had been at the beach so we just told him we would just do the study down by the ocean. The study began with Matthew 8, fishers of men, and we finished it with Acts 8 with Phillip and the Ethiopian talking about baptism.  As in Acts 8, Tony basically asked, "What prevents me from getting baptized now?" We were all amazed to see his responsiveness and how instead of just being a fisherman, he finally understood that he was now a ‘fisher of men’. We baptized Tony twenty yards from where we had our Bible study. His life is just a testament of the power and glory of the Holy Spirit and how only through Christ our lives can be resurrected. We just ask again that you continue to pray for his growth and his walk with Christ.

Tony's Baptism


A huge prayer of mine for this summer is brokenness. God has been answering this prayer in many ways, one specifically being through the feedings. I went on two feedings and was really saddened over the poverty I saw, but it wasn't until the third time I went that my heart truly broke. 

In this particular squatter village, the Lord opened up a door for me to talk with a woman living there. The conversation started off very casual but quickly became very personal. She began to weep and tell me how hard it is to live in the squatter village. That is when I saw past the fake smiles and "I am fine. How are you?" facade. These people are hurting. But what hit me the most was this - maybe these people won't ever leave the slums. Maybe they will never be healthy. Maybe their physical hunger will never be satisfied. But no matter what, they can have hope, peace, and joy in Christ. His love and faithfulness never fails. He died for them and longs for them to believe and to find satisfaction in Him! 

So this is my new prayer, that God will etch the picture of poverty, hunger, and illness into my mind forever, so that I may be completely broken-hearted for the injustice of this world-but also so that I may rejoice as Christ being spread to the nations will bring beauty from the broken.


Not by Bread Alone

Imagination and reality are usually very different from each other.  This fact doesn’t just apply to reality and fantasy.  When I knew I would be coming to the Philippines, I knew I would see heartbreaking things and extreme poverty.  I imagined small shacks, right next to one another, filled with hungry Filipino people in destitute conditions.  Well my imagination was poor preparation for what I would see as we went to feeding programs with the New Faith Family team. 
We carried huge tubs of a chicken, rice, and vegetable soup-like mixture to the squatter areas right next to the children’s home.  Seeing some of the children race up to meet us with sores on their body, little to no teeth, tattered or no clothing, and carrying whatever they could find that could hold food (gas jugs with the top cut off, cracked cups, etc,) simply shocked me.  In my imagination I saw desperate hungry faces, but I didn’t think about the most basic things I take for granted: clothing, general health, even dishes. 
People with medical backgrounds who go to the feedings help the sick

I wasn’t prepared for the filth I would see either.  We had to keep and eye out for what we would step in and where we would sit.  Some of the people wore stained and tattered clothes and dirt covered their hands and feet.  It wasn’t because of ignorance or by choice that they live like this.  The level of poverty in areas like that is astounding.  Better conditions are simply not available to them.  And one of the saddest things about the whole situation is that they are not unaware that a better life is not unattainable for others.  In the horizon you can see the skyscrapers of metro Manila.  They know there is another side to life, and they can see it in the distance, but they feel they could never obtain it.  While being in orphanages this summer has opened my eyes to how grateful I should be, seeing the children outside the protective gates of the children’s home took my gratitude a step further.  Those in the squatter areas who are believers have powerful faith too because they know what it is like to depend on God to provide the most basic of things.
They can see the unobtainable in the distance
The kids were very friendly and grateful for us coming.  Each of the team members seemed to have found their niche as we served in the feedings.  Shelby went straight for the children and was playing hopscotch within minutes. 

Heather saw the hurt in a woman who brought her child to the feeding, and she comforted her and prayed with her. 

Kaitlyn floated between serving food and meeting the people.

Jenny, the Nanny Team Supervisor, sat with a group of kids and fellowshiped with them.

I hid behind my camera at first, but I haven’t met a Filipino yet who doesn’t like getting his picture taken, so the camera is a good icebreaker – especially with kids.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

My Sudanese Summer: Compass

"It's not the chase that I love, it's me following you."
The lyrics of this song have been stuck in my head all week. I think in part because it reminds me of riding down the road in Matthew's Honda singing the lyrics at the top of our lungs with him, Hope, and Jared. Or maybe it's the fact that all that's played on the radio here is Bob Marley and BBC news. 

But I think this week in particular it helps remind me how much of a journey it really is following God. This week was unique although we didn't necessarily see the excitement we saw last week with the witchdoctors and everything.  We had a solid week of ministry in the village. Once again we went with the intent of teaching church leaders, but once again they managed to not show up. So we decided that continuing are creative ministries with ultimate Frisbee, one on one disciplining, and village stories would be the best bet. I feel that within our team we each have skills unique to ourselves that make our ministry a true team effort. I truly do thank God every night for the team he has blessed me to be apart of, I feel like if we were missing one member we would be an incomplete body. Learning from each other, learning from ourselves how to be more effective in our ministries and that is at times frustrating, but nothing hard is ever easy. 

This week was sad to play our last game of ultimate frisbee with our kids in the village. When we first started it was like watching an animal die, watching the kids play. Now honestly several are better than us. It was great to see how far they had came, and great to know that every series played they heard the word of God. We presented them a Frisbee of their own, allowed them to sign ours and bid them farewell. I said last, because it looks to be my last week in Dinkaland for a while.

Like I said a few blogs ago, due to unforeseen circumstances, we were not allowed into the cattle camps and now consequently not even a lot of parts of the village, neutralizing our ministry. As I am sad to part from familiar faces of the the area I have grown close to over the last two years, I can't help but remember the adventure it has been getting here and now ponder on the road ahead. I'm excited while yet clueless, so I ask for you to pray for this... a compass. Not a physical one, because we have a good idea where we are going, Kajo Kaji is the name of the city, about ten minutes from Uganda, but still in the glorious south. But, our spiritual compass. As we journey to this place I can't emphasize the need for the Holy Spirit in our ministry, without Him we are simply wasting our times. As we are anxious, nervous, confused, and excited it will be easy to be knocked off our course, but we have a task that we can't afford to miss. We have been told their is a great opportunity to reach the unreached there and we will soon take the long dusty ride there. God has taken us far to get here, and I simply can't wait to see where this journey leads.

"However, as it is written, What no eye has seen,  what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived, the things God has prepared for those who love him—these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit." -1 Corinthians 2:9-10

My Sudanese Summer: Rain

Culp looked at us and said jokingly, “Well, you guys better be ready for a power encounter.” Rather we were or not... we certainly got one.

This week was not exactly what we had planned; first we thought we would travel to the village, set up camp and teach church leaders, and whosoever would listen. Turns out that never happened.  The leaders were just simply too busy with everything going on in the area and rightfully so. But, the first day we managed to accumulate a group due to the fact we were something new to look at, and we managed to teach several groups of about  30-40 adults during each session. We evangelized, sharing creation to Christ and sharing biblical stories that showed God’s power. But, perhaps our most creative ministry God led us to this week involved a little red disc, yes ultimate Frisbee. The same game that appeals college “bros” all across the nation, still for some reason appealed to 6 foot dinka cattle keepers. We played game after game, after game, and during our halftime it allowed us to share stories as well evangelize. About 40 different young men this week put their AK-47’s down for about an hour to be kids again ultimately allowing us to share the gospel to them.

But, by far the most miraculous thing that occurred this week started when I took a walk to the woods and found what looked to be a dead chicken tied to a post. After talking to Peter, our translator, I found out this wasn’t simply a chicken someone was taking for a walk and forgot about him... it was a sacrifice. Pretty soon the witch doctor, soldiers, and elders gathered around the chicken, singing chants for rain. Peter was mingling with them casually when the group decided it would be a good idea to introduce these men to God. As we left the tent we decided to share the prophets of Baal story with the crowd. This time Culp asked us if we were ready for a power encounter. So we went in head first. 

We shared the story not mentioning anything about the chicken on the ground who begin to look so lively.  They replied to us,  "We are uneducated men who have no clue how to reach God, please pray for us to have a heavy rain, instead of the just lightning and thunder, like we just had for the last two days."  So we walked them through creation to Christ showing how Jesus was our last sacrifice and He was more powerful than any demon or ancestor spirit, as well as explaining how necessary it is to have a relationship with Christ who is jealous for all your worship and sure to grant all your needs. They said,  "Your prayers along with our sacrifice may make it rain so please pray for us."  That’s when I believe I said my boldest, most irrational, spirit filled words I ever spoken. I said "Remove your sacrifice because if we pray to God we are to pray with our whole hearts and faith in him. Let the chicken go, we will pray, and watch what our God can do." And they actually did it! They cut the chicken free! 

(Later the chicken went to the Baptist church and said to the congregation, "If anyone has been set free by the grace of God it’s me!") But seriously... I was simply amazed. We prayed for rain, told the people good-bye for the day, and waited. 

By this time clouds were forming, but that meant nothing, it had done nothing but thunder and lightning for two days, certainly not a promise of rain. I didn’t really even know how to pray in this moment. I knew Elijah had prayed swiftly and confidently, and then he was finished. I also knew of others who fasted and prayed for days to see God move, so I simply laid on my cot and just talked to God. You want to have a time of reflection where you look at your life and everything you believe. I suggest you tell an animist to watch what your God can do. I wish I could say I’m this great man of faith I thought often, but then that sounded a lot like this situation depended a lot on me. I wish I could say I didn’t have doubts, but I can’t lie. I thought to myself God don’t leave us looking foolish ruining your name. Then I thought even if it doesn’t rain, His will is still perfect and He knows what He is doing, but this would be one tough situation.

I think our supper was the quietest since we have been here in Sudan and so was the rest of the evening. Around 9:45 after sitting in a light drizzle, not the heavy rain they asked for, Joel and I  watched the lightening and sang hymns. After a while we decided to call it a night and head to our tent. I laid my head on my cot, had one last prayer and was off to sleep.

But, of course you know the story could never end there. At 10:14 the levies finally broke. We jumped out of the tent in our boxers and celebrated by dancing, screaming, singing, and praying... all in the rain. We had to look like mad men, but at that moment who cared. It rained and stormed so much that night our tent became drenched with puddles, so much so we had to all cram in one tent. As I laid there, soaking wet on the uncomfortable floor of the muddy tent, I looked at Joel and said, “There is no movie that could ever come up with this script huh?” We were in simple awe of a moment etched in our hearts forever.

I wish I could say that the next day people came, idols were burnt, people repented, and souls were saved. I wish I could really, but you must understand the strangle hold satan has over this land. The next day the same people were making sacrifices again, even after agreeing God brought the rain. Yes, I was angry... yes, I was frustrated.  I mean, what more of a sign do these people need? But that night as I laid in my tent I thought of the many times I ignored God and refused to accept His love before I came to Him... yet He had mercy on me. 

After praying for a while I was reminded once again of Hebrews 10:39, and how we are of those who don’t shrink back. If It would be so easy to get on a plane to a foreign land, share Jesus and everyone accept him immediately, everyone would do it. Realistically it is so hard, tiring, and sometimes frustrating, but we are not the people who shy away from these things and we live by faith. At the end of this week I can’t help but recognize the miracle, not the outcome I desired, but God’s will is perfect and I can say without a doubt he is showing me, my team, and Southern Sudan all His glory.

My Sudanese Summer: Plans

I had plans, but Africa happened.

This is a popular phrase I've heard since the first time I came to Sudan. And this year's journey has already proven itself to be no different. Due to situations beyond our control our venture to cattle camp has been put on hold, for now. We are now changing gears to leave out Thursday to help train church leaders in a neighboring village. We have been told there are only two churches in the village and the pastors are in dire need of discipleship. As much as we desire to be in cattle camp, we know God's path has proven better than ours time after time.

Sudan has not changed too much since last year, the sights of the country are still as startling as ever. On the day we went to Rumbek to get supplies I couldn't help be haunted by the images I think I trained myself to forget. Images like ten kids lining the shop you are in just to beg for an amount less than a dollar. I know the kids have been trained in tactics to manipulate you into giving money, but that excuse never seems to settle my stomach. As well the cripple by the restaurant whose feet dragged the ground and used flip-flops on his hands to get around, who was delighted to see our monetary gift. Not to mention the sights of trash for miles in mud puddles everywhere lining the town as a background. Then the baby we had seen in Akot who had fallen in a fire with his legs covered in open burn wounds, sights like this never get easy. 

But, for me and my team it has not exactly been the most adventurous of days lately. Spending time at the hospital cramming for teaching the church leaders , we have found many things to keep our excitement alive. Things like becoming very skilled at singing Beyonce's Halo, eating tea and madzi, and laughing at kids calling us "kawadga" which means "white man." Children helping you identify your race never gets old. We look forward to camping out in this near by town for the next few days to teach the church leaders while continuing on this journey. A journey in which we can never plan, but as well I'm sure one we could never dream.

John 16:12-13   "I have much more to say to you, more than you can bare, but when He, the Holy Spirit comes, He will guide you in all truth. He will not speak on his own, He will speak only what He hears, and He will tell you what is yet to come."

Monday, June 27, 2011

A miracle.

I hear her sweet squeaky voice, she is quietly singing one of her favorite songs. I praise God the sound. At only six years old she has already experienced so much hurt in her life. As a small child her parents separated, causing her mom to become mentally unstable. She even tried killing her own children not just once but three times.
When this little girl first arrived at the orphanage, she was afraid of everyone. She would not talk. And she would cry every night. She was only 5 years old, and already scared of life.
When my team first arrived, she was too scared to come near us. And she did not show any affection towards any of us. After a few days she warmed up and began talking. It is difficult for her pronounce words as she has a cleft palette. I think this is another reason why she is so shy, in a country where being the same is valued, she stands out as being different.
The other day she surprised me by crawling up into my lap and speaking to me in Bisayan, so I began to teach her English words. I also began asking her questions as I did so her face began to light up. Suddenly she was full of words to say!
Three nights ago, everyone was getting ready for bed and she put her arms around me and squeezed so tightly that I could feel her little heart beating. Then, she leaned over and gave me a kiss on my cheek and said, "I love you." in the sweetest voice, I think I have ever heard.
People kept telling me that I would come here and that the people would steal my heart- it's true. Being here has helped me to see the hurting world through God's eyes. This little girl is still alive, not just be chance but by the grace of God. She is here to be loved on and taught that she was created by God, that salvation is hers to have.
Her adorable squeaky voice, tiny arms, and her sweet crooked little smile has won me over and in just one week I have experienced one of God's many miracles!


1 Corinthians 3: 11-15
11For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13 each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

The Habitat team has been working real hard since they started on the two houses two weeks ago. The work site is within walking distance of the small house they stay in. Which is great because by the time they're are finished each day. They are ready for a shower and a nap.

They are roughly around 1/3 of the way done with both houses and hope to finish both houses, and began working on new ones before they leave.

Jai the teams Translator

This is an excerpt from Dan Black the team leader's personal blog. To help show how tough their work is:

"The work has been constant and challenging, for we build without many luxuries. The bricks we have helped make weigh 40 pounds each, and it takes nearly 800 bricks to build one house - we are building two side by side. The semi-flat bed truck of cement bags we unloaded were 80 pounds each, and the bags of rocks and sand we carry on our back weigh from 100-130 pounds. Half the time we are able to use a medium size concrete mixer, but the rest of the time, we mix by hand. Cutting 1/4 inch rebar and bending to make supports for the house has also been one of our many activities. Moving piles of rocks and sand can wear us out under the sun, but at last, the foundation is fixed."
 (To read the full story Click Here)

They have also been taking some time to share the love of God with the people in the neighborhood. They have had some great experiences in the area, as well as so more difficult ones.  The Philippines has a very strong Catholic influence. So it is difficult to explain to them how we are not saved by our works, but by sacrifice of God's son Jesus Christ.

They have also begun, as of Sunday, joining the local Baptist church in sharing the gospel with some of the communities close to the church. It went great for the first Sunday. We had many that wanted more Bible studies, and others even come to accept Christ as their Lord and Savior!

Please continue to pray for the team as they work in the hot sun and as they continue to share the gospel to the people in this area. Pray that the people will understand that it is not their works that will get them to heaven, but they love of God and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for their sins.

the best ride in a dump truck ever!

Friday we started off our day at 4:30 A.M. We were headed to plant trees in the mountains.

Since Habitat did not own a vehicle large enough to fit the whole team and others, while being strong enough to make it up the mountain.  The team got to ride in the back of the Habitats Dump truck.

wind-blowin look

and again..
We got to see some beautiful sights on the way while, trying to not get bucked out of the back.

When we got to the point where we had to get out and hike. We realized we were not the only ones there.  After so far up, we saw a sign that said Arbor Day and finally understood why the mountain was so crowded. 

When we started the actual hike we continued to be stopped all the way to where we were planting. Everyone wanted a picture of/with the Americans. 

After many pictures, tumbles, trips, etc. we finally made it to our planting spot. After a quick placement and a filling of dirt, back down the road we went and of course more pictures.

Our next stop was the beach, and after a hard weeks work the team deserved it. The beach was not what the guys expected. They imagined white sand, beautiful waves and a crowd of people enjoying the fun. Instead we got a nice basketball court, some dark colored sand, a small crowd, no waves, and a videoke machine. We still had a great time relaxing at the beach.

"Today was nothing short of crazy: From planting trees on arbor day, being the center of countless Filipino pictures, riding in the back of a dump truck many miles, playing basketball with our fellow workers and chilling at the beach. We were immersed in the culture today. But in the midst of every activity, we were continually surrounded by the glory of God. Ecclesiastes 12:1 begins with "Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth..." In Every activity, from beach to bags of sand, may we remember our Creator in the days of our youth. May we remember our true and only purpose."  - Dan Black