Saturday, July 26, 2014

It's More Fun in the Philippines

Hey friends! Here in Cebu City now and left all my friends and kiddos of Tudella. Sad to leave them. Made so many friends, literally everyone knows my name in the community. So much fun making friends and sharing the Gospel and it's sad leaving them all. Only a few days left before I'm back in the U.S. Hope that I can come back soon. Too many sad faces when we left the school of students of 6th-9th graders who want you to never forget them. I've posed for a thousand photos the students made us take with them for "remembrance." Lol "it's more fun in the Philippines." Definitely gonna miss these people.


Where Christ was not known

Thanks to our national partner, Cecil... a final update & some pictures from the Philippine Island Castaway team.

Puerto Princessa, Palawan
Got to share testimonies and words of encouragement and challenge to some Bible students yesterday. Were able to hang out with Filipino NT members and shop some. Rested today, fellowship later, speak at a church on Sunday... then Monday, off to Manila for this all guy awesome team! 

I am a fan of these Castaways and your prayers kept them going the whole summer. Pray for a strong debrief and that indeed a redeployment... no longer as summer missionaries but as World Christians,  living with a compass in their hands... always heading to all nations wherever and however that maybe!

Dili jud basta basta!

As we were traveling back to "bigger" island to get on a ferry, soaked due to quite strong waves the whole ride, I thought of the words of the apostle Paul in Romans 15:20...    
"It has always been my ambition to preach the Gospel where Christ was not known."

Distance and difficulty will never hinder us from going to all... for the sake of The Call--- His Call. 


Happy Birthday Austin!

5 ways to pray!

1. SAFE TRAVELS. Teams are heading back home soon- please pray for safe travels and for opportunities to share with their travel mates.

2. A STRONG FINISH. Please pray for the teams as they near the end of their time on the field that they will finish strong, never losing sight of the end goal.

3. FAITHFUL TO TELL. Please pray that the NT participants go home and faithfully share about what God has done through them and their team. Pray that they can encourage churches and mobilize youth to go for the next year.

4. CONTINUE ON! Pray that the new believers continue on in their faith and are discipled. Pray that their faith grows and continues to spread throughout the community.

5. CHECK UP. Please pray that people are willing and able to go and visit the areas that hosted teams. Pray that they can be encouraged in their faith by the visit.

I Will Praise You in This Storm

We are unable to blog last week because of a four-day brown out (power outage) due to Typhoon Glenda. Both teams were as safe as could be at a sturdy, two-story house. The area where both teams were was not hit as hard as other parts in the Philippines, so please pray for those who were heavily affected by Typhoon Glenda.

The first week after our last post was very intense physically, emotionally and spiritually. Our first team encountered some real spiritual warfare. Nightmares, demons, and restless nights were really wearing on them physically. Our second team began encountering more injuries and sicknesses than they had all summer and was missing home very badly and desperately needed some time off. Of course, God provided exactly what we needed!!

The typhoon was a giant blessing for our group. Both teams were able to spend time together worshiping the Lord and pouring into each other. Before returning to our locations, the father of one of our team members was able to share with his daughter that God had revealed to him that the storm had literally blown away all of the forces of opposition that they had been facing. And when they returned, they confirmed that that was true! Purihin ang Panginoon! Praise the Lord! Our second team was able to get the peace that came with the refuge that the Lord provided for them and that the break they needed just in time.

The area surrounding the home we stayed the morning after Typhoon Glenda passed.

This last week has been a great one for both teams as we have have been blessed enough to see the results of God's work in our locations. Bible studies have been very effective and people are responding well. Our first team is also expecting to baptize two people before they leave.The most important part is that they want to continue having Bible study and keep leading others after we leave!

Prayer Requests:
- those heavily affected by Typhoon Glenda
- that the people of our last location continue to grow in the Lord
- that the people in our current location continue to respond and grow in the Lord as well
- opportunities to share the Gospel with as many people as possible during these next few days
- physical, emotional, and spiritual endurance which is much needed
- safety as we travel home
- emotional and spiritual preparation for the struggles we know we will face when we return home

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Lessons from Esther

One of my teammates showed us a song this morning, and it's kind've become the theme song for the remaining nine days we have in Thailand. It's called "Take Back" by Will Reagan and the United Pursuit. Here's a link to the song if you wanna listen: takeback. Some of the lyrics are this:

"For how could He who did not spare His own son not freely give us victory against the darkest of nights? We're gonna take back all the enemy has stolen!
We're gonna plunder the pits of hell-and it's in the blood of the One who's worthy."

I couldn't find a better way to put into words of what this summer has consisted of and what our prayer as a team is that these last nine days will be. This land is heavily under the control of the god of this age. But praise the Lord his hold is not permanent and can be (and will be!) taken away by our mighty Savior! 

God has been using the story of Esther to rock my world this summer. I've begun to realize that as a daughter adopted by God, I have the same stance as Esther did before the king. 
Esther decided to go before the king to tell him her request to save her people, which was a HUGE deal in that time if you had not been personally summoned by the king. There were only two options: 1) the king accepts you and extends his golden scepter to you so that you may approach him, or 2) you die. Esther didn't know how she would be received, but she went anyways. As she entered his throne room, he welcomed her gladly, he extended the golden scepter to her, and she approached him and touched the tip of it! Even more, he says to her "What is it, Queen Esther? Whatever you want, even to half the kingdom, it will be given to you!" [esther 5:3] Indeed, she gave him her request, and answered it fully with a joyful heart. 

Wow. We have that position before the King of Kings! He extends His scepter of grace to us, and says "Whatever you ask, it will be given to you!" And He is true to keep that promise. 

Our team has claimed that promise boldly. We have asked for specific things, and He has given us exactly what we've asked for. We've prayed boldly that God would give us the power and the opportunity to take back what the Enemy has stolen. And He has been SO faithful. If we ask for God to give us the power to fulfill His will, which is to draw every man and woman unto Himself, He will not say no. He will never deny His children who are seeking to fulfill His desires! 

Sadly, this summer we have not seen any come to repentance. Yet. But, we still have 9 days here, and we will not shut up sharing the Gospel until our plane lifts off the ground. Nine days doesn't sound like much time to take back this land the Enemy has stolen, but Jesus raised Himself and conquered death in only 3, so I figure He doesn't see 9 as much of a challenge.

Please join us in prayer as we finish up our time here in Thailand. We are striving to spend every second we have left here to be spreading the Gospel or to be laboring in prayer for the people we have shared with/people we want to share with. Ask the Father to please grant our pleas to see the Thai people and the women we work with come to Christ.  
Pray for many more opportunities to share Truth with these people, and that the 33 people who have already heard the Gospel already may come to follow Christ! 
Pray that God will sustain me and reignite my flame to share the Gospel daily, even though rejection sometimes makes me want to remain silent. I know in my heart of hearts that God is not finished with these people yet, and that they will be drawn unto Himself. The Enemy has stolen what is not his, but sadly for him we're here to take it back for the One who is worthy. 

Waiting expectantly,

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

I want to know more!

​"I want to know more! What you told me last time made me feel good inside!" As Nang spoke, the excitement poured out of her face. She had been grinning from ear to ear from the time she saw us coming from across the street. We sat down to get pedicures, and she and three other women sat down with us. She repeated again and again how she wanted to know more, and one of the other ladies joined in, saying she had met some Christians and learned a little but she wanted to know more. Their faces shone with eagerness.

My teammate started sharing her testimony, and they all watched her so fixedly. Customers and other distractions made it a little difficult, but we were able to share none the less. 

The next afternoon we went back and shared again with Nang. We asked her about what she remembered from the first time we shared with her. She immediately told us how much she remembered from the story of creation to Christ but said she was confused about the story of the father with two sons. This time with a translator, we told about the prodigal son. She related before we even pointed out the application! She asked about sin and when sin is unintentional. She told us she wants to be able to forgive freely instead of holding grudges. 

We went back to share with her more one morning, going through scriptures with her. Our translator would read and show her in the Thai Bible, and then we would ask her the meaning of what we just read. Time and again, she told us exactly what the scripture meant. She understands that we are all sinners. She knows who Jesus is and that his death paid the price for our sin when he died on the cross. The only thing she is stuck on is grace. She does not understand that we do not "do good works for Jesus" to be saved. Her whole life she has been told she has to earn merit at the temple to make up for the bad she's done or try to earn better karma. She sees good works as the way to be saved, and she knows Christians do good things. She is struggling to understand salvation based on faith, not works.

When she was asking us about this, Ephesians 2:8-9 came to mind. We shared this scripture with her, and after we read it, she told us she wants a Bible: a Thai-English Bible. She wants to read and study the Bible! We are going to bring her one tomorrow and keep pouring into her. She is so close-if only she could see that our good works are as filthy rags before a perfect and holy God, but that when he looks at us he sees Jesus--not because we are perfect like Jesus or do enough good to look like him, but because Jesus took on our sins on the cross so we could be freely given salvation.

Please pray for Nang. She is so interested, so passionate about learning about Jesus and the Bible. She wants to understand, and the Holy Spirit is working in her heart. Please pray that the veil of Buddhism and works-based salvation will be removed and that she can see grace as a gift from God. Pray for the Spirit to speak to her as she reads the scriptures for herself. Pray for her to see love in us, and pray for it to be God speaking through us when we share with her. 

Nine more days to share. Nine days to pour out Christ's love in the bars and massage parlors and amongst the lostness. Nine days to see how The Lord will answer our prayers. Nine more days, expecting to see God move in awesome ways!


P.S. Talk about how awesome our God is, the day after Nang asked us for a Bible, we taught an English class with some short term volunteers. As they were leaving, one of the girls look at me and said, "By the way, would ya'll need any Thai bibles? I have some that a friend sent me to give away but we're leaving tomorrow." How incredibly sovereign is our Father in heaven!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Meet Angkhana

Four years ago, Christ pursued this beautiful lady and wrecked her life for Him. Her testimony is incredible. She grew up Buddhist, like the majority of Thai people. After losing her business, her husband and her parents all within a year- she had hit her lowest. But Jesus changed her heart and gave her a new life. Her hope is now in Him, not in the circumstances of life. Since then, she has started her own ministry out of her home. She lives right in the middle of the red light district, with an open door for girls to come and seek refuge. She cooks with them, plays with them, mentors them, and is a listening ear. Though she lives on very little, she is the most generous person I have ever met. She spends all her extra money to buy baking supplies in order to cook with the kids. She also has an incredible passion for ministering to Burmese refugees. She often makes long journeys to take cookies and cupcakes to them and to share about Christ's amazing love. Her light shines all the more brightly in this darkness.

My team and I have had the privilege of getting to know this incredible woman and teaching a class twice a week with the kids in this area. We have been able to teach English and Bible stories to these children. I have loved every minute of it.


Monday, July 21, 2014

Jesus, Bring the Rain

Last week, I got to experience my first taste of monsoon season. I was in a local coffee shop in my neighborhood about a ten minute walk from my apartment; when I heard what sounded like rain. I was washing my hands and thought surely it is not raining, and the Pizza Hut upstairs must be flooded. Nope it was rain, and it was pouring down. Being the smart person I am, I thought this was the most logical time to walk home. As I was walking home, I ended up becoming soaking wet, and was laughing at how dumb I was to walk in what seemed to be Noah's flood. Later as I was recounting this experience in my journal the Mercy Me song "Jesus Bring the Rain" was in my head. As I was writing, I was singing the chorus from the song over and over. I feel as if Jesus opened my eyes to what the song's chorus meant. That the rain is coming to bring life into dead things and wash away what was once unclean. The next day, after the flood, one of my students Andrew told me that he was searching for God and wanted to love Him like others do. The Holy Spirit lead me to share a piece of my testimony with Andrew. It has now been a week since I have shared with Andrew, and he is so close to discovering Christ. Please be in prayer for Andrew, and that he will find Christ. Also, please be in prayer that the Refugee team will be intentional in sharing Christ with the students in the last few weeks. This verse has been in my mind since walking home in the rain: "If a man is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him." John 7:37-38   JESUS BRING THE RAIN!


The Victory

As we walked down the street filled with karaoke clubs and bars, I struggled to smile as I followed three precious young girls to a vacant parking lot.

Because as we were walking from their homes to go play badminton, the club owners were turning on their lights. The bar tenders were setting out alcohol. The pimps were outside waiting for customers. The girls that work the clubs were putting on their makeup.

As we walked I felt the darkness: the depth of the sin sickness, penetrating even into these girl’s childhoods.

And I see what the enemy has stolen. Children’s innocence. Women's dignity.

Little girl's dreams of one day wearing white and walking down the aisle to marry their prince charming, become dreams of the foreign man that just bought them for the night coming back and being their boyfriend and caring for their children. Their customers become their only hope of redemption from this lifestyle.

And its so obvious.

We pass by with these young girls, going to just spend time with them. Giving them attention and love that they rarely, if ever, receive from home. The same parking lot that we play in will soon become the same lot that the van loads of foreign men will park in. They won't stay long, only long enough for a drink and to pick a girl, then they load up the vans with them and return to their hotels.

This sight is the norm for these young girls. Though they are so young, they know. How can they not? The backyard they should be able to play in without a care is instead the enemy's playground. He's stolen it, corrupting everything good.

But He didn't stop there. He's stealing their childhood friends. Girls their same age. Other little girls who should be out there with us, playing and giggling, instead are putting on their makeup and high heels- being dressed to pass as much older than their age, though they are only 13.

As we hit the birdie back and forth, this is the reality.

This is their reality.

But God isn't done yet. He hasn't forgotten them. He hasn't turned His face.

He knows. He sees. He is El Roi. 

And He is pursuing them.

Though we only have 9 days left here in Thailand- we are expecting God to do big things. We are desperate for God to save the people we have invested in. We are begging the Lord to break the chains and to set these girl's free from bondage, not only physically but spiritually. I have faith that He can and will do far more abundantly than we could ever ask or imagine.

This morning my team listened to a song that perfect culminates what this summer has been for us.

You can listen here: Take Back, United Pursuit

"I know God has not forgotten
All that's lost and broken
So, come and see the turning of the times
Come and see His sons and daughters rise
For how could He who did not spare His own son
Not freely give us victory 
Against the darkest of nights

We're gonna take back
All the enemy has stolen

We're gonna plunder the pits of hell"

That's exactly what we're doing- plundering the pits of hell. Going into the darkest of nights and trusting that He has already won the victory. 

For His glory, 

Update from Island Castaway

Update from Little Island location:
We were able to baptize 7 young people yesterday (Friday) and 4 have committed to be baptized before we leave. We had over 20 young people attend Bible study last night despite the heavy rains. Sunday was our last time to share at the local chapel. We will continue training some of the young people so they can be better prepared to lead the whole group after we leave.

Due to recent weather systems passing through, the waters are still rough and boats aren't traveling yet. Please pray that these will calm enough for us to begin our travel back to our departure city. Travel is limited due to the remote location. If we are unable to travel Monday we will need to look for other options to return to Manila.

Wednesday, July 23:  Thanks for your prayers... due to various delays & weather situations... the team was able to leave Little Island and begin their travel back to Puerto Princessa.

Hide & Seek: Last few days

With a little over a week left in country, we've been preparing goodbye parties with all of the friends we've made over the last two months. It's a bittersweet feeling for us as we wind down here. We met with L last week and believe that he is a genuine brother. This week we will be focusing on getting him invovled with other brothers and sisters who can continue to help him grow. 

Our girls have been continually meeting with their group of three local girls: Summer, Autumn, and Wind (dubbed "the season girls"). The girls have been really interested in the Story and even initiate conversation about it, asking our girls to share more with them. Summer shows the most enthusiasm but is afraid to make any decisions because of her family. We will be introducing her to a local sister who has suffered from familial persecution. 

We've met with John, and he is continuing to read through the book that bears his name. We haven't had a chance to meet with Morning again. 

PTL that of us are finally recovering from various illnesses. Please ask the Father that His will be done this last week as we leave. Ask that the Spirit will continue to move in the lives of these even after we are gone.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Once a Toposa, always a Toposa!

Bushman Challenge team with 3 days left in the bush. 

Pray for them as they finish strong!


This past week has been one of encouragement. Island healthcare, Mercy Midwives, and Rural Healthcare teams were able to join together for a few days to fellowship and see the sights of this beautiful country. This gave us the chance to rest and regenerate so we can finish our trips strong. It was an encouragement to be with each other and discuss the struggles & joys that we’ve experienced this summer. It was great. However, what we came back to afterwards was even more encouraging!

While we were gone, the ladies we had been ministering to held our usual Bible study... but with even more ladies! At our first Bible study back they told us all about what they had learned. They had studied the story of Jesus calming the storm – what a perfect topic to study with Typhoon Glenda making its’ way through the Philippines. They asked to copy the songs we sing in house church so they can learn it themselves. During this Bible study our good friend joined us so he can continue with them after we leave. We studied Jesus calling His disciples and what it is to be a Fisher of Men. I remember the first time we opened the Bible with these ladies… it was like pulling nails to get them to converse about it! But now it is so wonderful to hear everyone talking and talking about what we study.  We only have one more week with these beautiful people. It breaks our hearts to think about it. However, knowing that they will be able to continue without us gives us great joy!

Please pray this last week will be one of teaching them and trusting... and that they will continue in their faith after we’re gone.

I want to know what Jesus did!

The past few weeks I decided to sit outside during my quiet time and pray for the people of Nashville, specifically Muslims throughout Ramadan. As I was praying, each day I began to notice a curiosity in two of the young Kurdish girls who I have grown close to. I knew the Lord was stirring in their hearts as questions about prayer, fasting, and Christians in general began to come up more often. 
Underneath a tree outside my apartment, I began to pray. That sweet nine year old girl, we'll call her TJ, wandered up and asked if I would read her my bible. I asked her what she wanted to know and her reply was, Miss Ashley, I just want to know what Jesus did.  

I told her several stories that day about Jesus feeding 5,000, calming the storm, and then I began to tell her about the crucifixion and resurrection. She listened intently to the stories and told me, "In my country, I had never heard of Jesus, but because of you and your friends I am learning!" 
I heard a woman begin calling to TJ and turned to see her mom quickly approaching. I was fully prepared for her mother to be upset with me, but instead I recieved a smile as TJ started to translate for her mother. After a brief conversation, I asked TJ to tell her mom that I love all five of her daughters and her mom looked at me with tear-filled eyes and said,
I love you.

I only have two weeks left and I am aware that TJ may not accept Christ before we leave. However, I have been encouraged by seeing her curiosity and her mother's love. I pray that the seed that was planted would continue to grow so that she may find God and know him personally. I also pray that we as Christians would continue to help TJ and curious people just like her come to know the love that God offers to us all!