Saturday, July 25, 2015

The War

Ever since I was a little kid I've loved hearing war stories and  learning the strategy behind war. Over the course of this summer it has finally clicked within my brain as to why I have always been fixated on war and learning battle strategies. I was built and designed to fight in a war. This war is not a war between countries and it can not be fought with guns and military power. 

The battle that I fight in is a battle between the good and evil of Heaven and Hell. I am a soldier of Christ. I may feel outnumbered and outgunned by the enemy, but I do not rely on strength that is my own. I rely on the God of angel armies. He not only commands my life, but the lives of my co laborers and warriors in God's mighty army. We have many previous soldiers to learn from like Abraham, Jacob, Joshua, David, Paul, and many others throughout more modern history. 

A comforting factor in fighting in this battle is knowing that I do not fight alone in my generation. I know many in my generation, Generation X, that are taking up the cross of Christ to fight in this battle against darkness. Along with war and strategy, I also like math, so when I see the X in Generation X I see our legion of  warriors as the unknown. X in math is always unknown, just as our age of warriors is bringing an unknown strength, number, and reliance on the Lord into the next wave of battle. 

We are also a generation much like Joshua. We stand looking at a land filled with giants telling the people that the Lord will deliver our enemies unto or hands. We are unafraid of what lies ahead. We want to fight for the cause of the Lord. We are an entire generation of Joshua's ready to go wherever the Lord leads us. We are Generation X. We are the unknown. The best part of it all is that although we may be fighting a battle the war has already been  won, and we are fighting on the winning side. 

Pray that after this trip myself and the others serving this summer will serve the Lord without reservation and hesitation.
Pray that we will go in with full confidence in the Lord and share the gospel wherever light is needed.

"I consider my life worth nothing to me if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me, the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace."  Acts 20:24

Ulot Journal Entries: Jake

Jake and two of the kids from Bible Study
One thing that really touched me his summer happened the day before we left one of the barangays we were in. This one lady started crying and said, "Thank you for showing me the way to God." It really made me thankful to God that He has allowed us to be part of what He's doing to spread His Word around the world.

~ Jake


Knocks Gone Unanswered

Only 4 days left of living in Nashville! I can distinctly remember moving in to the apartment complex thinking "Eight weeks is forever and it's going to be sooooo long." Now that the end is approaching and I can speak for myself as well as the rest of my team when I say that this has been the fastest 52 days of our lives. As I reflect on all God has done through AND in me, I am awestruck. He has allowed me to meet people of all ages, colors, and languages from all over the world. However I can't help but wonder if I had missed out on any divine appointments.

From the first week in the apartment complex, children have knocked on our door asking us to come play. These knocks led to relationships built with the kids as well as their parents. The knocks led to countless meals and laughter. They have led to hours playing soccer (mostly for MaryRuth because she is a soccer phenomenon). All these opportunities have been incredible, but what about the times we were not there? Who knocked desperately when there was no one there to answer? What if we HAD been there to answer?

These wonderings have led me to appreciate the fact that our God ALWAYS answers when we knock on Heaven's door. "Knock and it will be opened to you." He answers whether we simply need to visit or are in dire need of His sweet love and encouragement. I am going to miss the precious sound of children knocking, calling me out of laziness (we have a very comfortable couch) and into their little worlds. I am grateful for a God who does not ignore our pounding on His door.

Please pray that God will bring people into the apartment complex who will answer
knocks and continue loving the children.
Pray that they will begin to knock on God's door.


Reflections

A conversation, a calling, a compass…

At this point in the summer, we all have a different outlook on our futures because of how God has worked over the past couple of months. Whether it has been a conversation with the children, a weary elderly woman, each other, or God himself, He has pointed us in directions we never expected to go.

We have all understood the call to missions and the tug it has on our hearts. We have seen brokenness, heartache, and hopelessness in our friends. We desperately long to reach out to those in need in order to show them the love of Christ in hopes that, in His sovereignty, He would draw them closer and closer to the knowledge and acceptance of His saving grace. 

We have all heard, understood, and embraced the gospel. During our team time the other morning, we read an article by Claude Hickman that says when choosing which path to take in life, “we don’t need a map, but a compass. The needle of a compass always points the same direction no matter which way you may turn it. Based off of that, a person can judge which direction would be the best to take. Our compass must be gospel centered because when our decisions are made with Christ pointing the way, no matter how many crossroads we come to, we will have a sure guide to go by.”

So as the summer ends, I think back over my time here in Louisville. Since I had recognized God’s call for me to the mission field I have had a lot of conversations with Him as well as mentors, about where and how. “Give me a heart to love and eyes to see people the way you see them,” I would pray.

He has answered those prayers, and for a long time my heart has been overseas among unreached people groups. However, both times I decided to spend my summer doing missions, I have ended up in Kentucky. Why? Because God had a lot to show me. Through both experiences He has slowly broken my heart and opened my eyes to the reality that it is not my job to save people. That’s His job and He is the only one who can do it. A motto for me this summer has been, “It’s my job to sow, and it’s God’s to grow.” Yes, my heart is overseas, but the reality is, I may not get there anytime soon. Trying to swallow that reality was one of the most difficult things I have ever had to do. I did not want to accept the fact that the mission field God may have for me right now is here in America. When I finally understood what God was trying to teach me, a whole world of fear and uncertainty opened up. I was frustrated and reluctant to accept God’s plans for my life because they weren’t my plans. I didn’t have every little detail laid out in front of me like a map, rather a direction to go and a guide to follow. And if I am using the compass correctly, I can clearly see it.

In that moment I was reminded of my favorite psalm that says:

Find rest, O my Soul, in God alone,
My hope comes from him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation;
            He is my fortress, I will not be shaken.
My salvation and my honor depend on God;
     He is my mighty rock, my refuge.
Trust in him at all times, O people;
  Pour out your hearts to him,
   For God is our refuge.

-Psalm 62:5-8


When I’m overwhelmed God reminds me of this psalm to keep me focused on Him and remember that He alone is my strength. With Him I will never be shaken, so no matter what may come my way, I can stand knowing He is not only my protector, but the foundation upon which I make my stand against the enemy and my hiding place when I become weary. It’s everything I need to follow His plan for my life and rest in His sovereignty.

-Ashley

Oras Journal Entries: Zack

The power of prayer has shocked me and opened my eyes to how great God is and how much He loves to hear from us. Before leaving America, I asked a church to pray for the people here but also to pray that on the flight I wouldn't get sick like previous times. It was a selfish request but God answered that and comforted me through the flight. This was only the beginning of many answered prayers. Every day God answered our prayers. One thing that I prayed every day for in particular was that He would lead us to those He had set up for us to speak to and that our eyes would be open to those people. God has answered that prayer over & over.

Every single time and every single person we shared with felt God sent. He hears us and is great to us!

~ Zack


Friday, July 24, 2015

Ulot Journal Entries: Jacob

Team leader Jacob and his teammates 
All summer, God has been teaching me to completely rely on Him in every situation! July 24th is one of the nights when He really showed me this. Our team had run out of water and had to send our containers via boat downriver into town to be re-filled, but because of a power outage in town, we weren't able to get our containers back. We weren't able to wash dishes or anything, so that night for dinner we had to eat soup with our hands. Right before dinner a very nasty storm came in with gusty winds. The house we were staying in started shaking and there were leaks all over the bamboo thatched roof. We also lost power and had to eat by candle light. So we were all huddled around the table, eating our soup with our hands while only using candle light, all while the house was shaking and leaking!

Normally I would've been so stressed and upset about this but the Lord reassured me that He was with us.

Though He might not get us out of the storm, He will always get us through it! 

And that's just what He did! He really showed me that my strength was from Him and that He is my sustainer! He gave me so much joy in that moment and that ended up being one of my favorite nights of the summer!

~ Jacob


Light in the Darkness

WOW WOW WOW WOW!!!!!!!! We are in our last week of one of the most amazing summers of our lives! It has truly been an amazing experience and we have been so blessed throughout this whole summer.

We visited a cave the other day, and it was such a surreal experience, God's beauty is so evident in everything we see. It felt so symbolic as we were in this cave and there is a beam of light that shines through at the end of the cave, and my team and I just sat there and stared as we realize how blessed we are that God has brought us out of the darkness. God has opened up so many opportunities for us to be able to share, and we hope that these people here in Thailand look to leave darkness and go into the kingdom of the Son!

"For He has has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us
into the kingdom of the Son he loves."      -Colossians 1:13


Please pray that:
  • More look to leave the darkness and go to the Son
  • We continue to be bold and strive to follow God's will
  • All of the Nehemiah Teams around the world, to be looking to God in everything and that they be a light in the darkness
-Jonathan
 
 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Happy Birthday Josh!

This past Friday, July 17th, our very own Joshua P. celebrated his 20th birthday. We knew it couldn't be easy to be so far away from family and friends on a day like this so we planned a bit of a surprise. We woke up early to decorate with the various party favors we were able to scrounge up and then surprised the birthday boy when he woke up! Enjoy a few pictures of the occasion.


Mango Float Birthday Cake
 (Probably the best dessert ever invented)
Jess and her national partner
The Crew and the Birthday Day Boy
 Happy Birthday Josh! May you have many many more.

~ God Bless ~

Oras Journal Entries: Dylan

Dylan, Mighty Jungle Adventurer
This summer God took and broke me in so many ways. One thing that God has taught me is to be obedient to His calling. The most interesting thing that happened this summer was how God used me even though my heart wasn't fully in it. I was going into week two of ministry, my team leader had returned home and my grandmother had just passed away. Needless to say, I did not want to go out and minister. However God still really used us that week. We were able to baptize 11 people, including the captain of the village. It was amazing and really encouraging to see that happen. God will use us no matter the situation. God has changed me in so many ways.

Thank you Jesus for breaking me this summer. Jesus you are my mighty warrior.

~ Dylan
#thebadguysLOSEthegoodguysWIN


Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Ulot Journal Entries: Emmy

Emmy and one of our national partners
This summer has been an amazing experience. God has stretched me in so many ways and taught me so much during these two months. At times it has been tough, but God would always pull me through. He has given me a new found confidence in myself. He has shown me that I too can be a leader and that I'm worthy to preach His name.

This trip has also shown me how important it is that we preach God's name and the Gospel to as many people as we can. Two experiences this summer have shown me this. The first was in Sitouma. We had been discipling these believers for about three weeks and it was one of our last Bible studies. We started saying our goodbyes to the people there and one of the ladies told us how grateful she was for us but then asked us, "If the Gospel has been around for so long, why are you just now telling us?" This really tugged at our hearts. It truly showed me how Christians have become so comfortable in their lives and don't see the urgency of going and telling others about the Gospel.

The second experience happened in onn of our most recent barangays. We had been having Bible studies with several of the people. One of the ladies was Ate L & we'd had several studies with her. You could tell she was very thirsty for God's word. On our last day we were saying goodbye to the people and praying for them and when we got to her house she told us how grateful she was for us and that "Because of you I now know the way of Jesus." It was amazing to see how God used us in this lady's life and how she came to know Him.

All the praise, glory, and honor goes to Jesus Christ for all the amazing, emotional, crazy, and fun experiences that happened this summer.

~ Emmy

Oras Journal Entries: Taylor

Taylor and her Oras family
This is a story about failure and faithfulness. My failure and God's faithfulness. It was our last day in Rizal, a village with a  large, fenced-in compound for a local cult. They worship a man named Rizal, a Filipino national hero. That particular morning Ate Dee and I went out to talk to people about the Gospel and invite them to Bible study. We stopped at a little store to talk to about five women. I shared my testimony and asked about their relationship with Jesus, and one woman spoke up. She said we could believe what we believed, but she was Rizalian; she said, "Rizal is my god." I was dumbstruck and shocked, and I'm ashamed to say that I walked away from them having said nothing to challenge her false beliefs with the truth of Christ.
I left that village feeling disheartened and like I had failed. But God... (isn't that one of the most encouraging phrases?) just kept showing me that He hadn't given up on me. He used my little sister to tell me not to beat myself up about it, but to learn from it, that He's still got plans to use me for the rest of the summer. He used my little sister (yes Tori, He used you) and several others to restore me like He restored Peter after his denial.

It's crazy to me how He never gives up on us no matter how much we fail; He's always teaching us and guiding us with gentleness and love.

~ Taylor


Last week with Thai Dorm girls

We are entering our last week in Thailand! Please pray for us as we try to share God's love to all our students and our dorm girls! God is in control!
 

"I take joy in doing your will, my God, for your instructions are
written on my heart." ~ Psalm 40:8

-Liz

From Religious to Follower


As we sit on the floor of Miram's home, I try to soak it all in.  I love every minute of this: drinking tea, pulling apart pita with my hands, eating the Arabic dishes (with our hands, of course), and talking with our Yemeni friends.  We came to teach English, but, today, we are pausing our schedule in order to eat breakfast together.  

I feel the Lord tugging at my heart, telling me to not let this moment go to waste.  I take a deep breath and plunge in.  I ask, "So, why do you celebrate Ramadan?"  My sweet friends begin to explain to me about fasting and our conversation evolves to an explanation of the Five Pillars of Islam.  Miram and her daughters tell me that, especially during Ramadan, they pray, fast, and give money to poor people so that Allah will have mercy on them and let them into jannah (heaven).  Again, I take a deep breath, and ask, "Oh, so if you died right now you would go to jannah?"  My heart breaks as they give a shy smile and shrug their shoulders, saying, "Enshallah (God willing), but we don't know.  We can't know.  Only God knows."

I want to hug them and cry out, "But you can know! Isa Al Masih came to us so that you can know that you can have a relationship with God, that He loves you, and that You can spend forever with Him!"  I think about when I was very young, how I spent hours and hours of my life trying to say the "right" words "enough" times, in hopes that at least one time it would "count" and God would accept me.  When I think about how I tried to pray the correct way, in the correct position, saying the correct words in hopes that I would earn God's favor, I realize how much I empathize with my sweet friends.

I pray that, as Jesus transformed me from a religious person to a true follower of Him, He would also transform the hearts of these friends from trying to do enough of the right things to trusting in Jesus.   

Last week in Zim

Hey everyone!!! With one week left in Zim, things are going very well! This week has been very emotional because we are doing things and going places for the last time.
 

But God continues to bless us with amazing opportunities! In total, (so far) 54 kids have gotten saved this summer!!!!! PRAISE THE LORD!   Thank you all for your prayers and love!

-Alex

Care package

Over the weekend I received a care package in the mail from my college Bible study group back home. Opening it with the guys in my group home gave the same sensations as Christmas morning. The first to come out were the large bags of Trolli Sour Brite Crawlers & Sour Patch Kids. To some, the candy was the Sour Patch Kids were the sourest things they've had (Korean sour candy is really tame). They had a lot of fun popping them in their mouth and puckering their face. The Sour Brite Crawlers were a treat that they all enjoyed because they're much better than the Korean variety and they have a nice tangy sweetness to them
that you don't get in regular Korean candy. Those were gone quick. 

The guys freaked out upon seeing the cheese crackers (the ones with the red plastic stick to spread the artificial cheese whiz on the crackers). They're a tough find around here and in Korea cheese in snacks is always sweetened to a point where it looses its cheese flavor so it's hard to find anything that actually tastes like cheese. Under the crackers were lots of cans of spam which around here is a delicacy. Foreign spam can run up to $8 a can when in the states it's not too hard to find it for a little over or under $1.

And finally there was the nicotine gum. Earlier in the trip one of my guys told me he had thought about quitting for a while, but it's so hard and nicotine gum is very expensive. The main reason I asked for the care package was for this nicotine gum that my college group willfully pitched in for. I think it came as a shock to my student when he had realized the option to stop an addiction that had followed him since the age of 10 sat right there in a short little box. I explained to him that it's not much cheaper in the states, but my college group back home really cared for him and they really want to help in any way they can. He paused reading the box in silence and the only thing he could utter was "...really?" We opened the box together and I read him the instructions in plainer English. I needed to know if he was serious or not. I prayed over him right then and there. Please pray for my friend as he seeks to break his addiction.

-Jeffrey

Monday, July 20, 2015

Paths

So beautiful
This week, our team and the other dorm team had the opportunity to go up on the mountain to a village.  It was an experience I won't soon forget.  Even though we were only there for a little while, God showed me many things.

On the way up the mountain, it was around a 4 hour drive to the village.  For about 2 hours, we drove a winding paved road.  It was relatively smooth, but very curvy and quite a few of us were nauseous from the constant movement.  As we drove higher and higher, the clouds got closer and closer and many times, we could only see about 10 feet in front of the car.  Then at a little over halfway to the village, I truly understood what our dorm dad meant when he said that we needed to take the trucks that "could make it up the mountain".  All of the sudden the paved path was gone and in its place was mud and rocks and sometimes maybe two strips of cement where the tires could go.  The hills were so steep, they were almost vertical.  I'm not quite sure how we even made it up some of the hills.  Climbing one steep hill we would see a steep path down, then a sharp turn and another very steep hill.  It was the bumpiest ride I have ever been on - even bumpier than those old wooden roller coasters at amusement parks.  But, just in the ride up the mountain, God showed me some things.

"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.  And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere-in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."  Acts 1:8
The ends of the earth are not easy to reach - we're not always going to feel comfortable. Sometimes we may get sick on the way and be very nauseous as many of us where on the car ride up the mountain, but those people on the ends of the earth need to hear.  They are just as important.  God wants all to be saved - sometimes, we have to sacrifice our temporary comforts so that more may hear of the sweet name of Jesus and the gospel message.

"The Lord says, 'I will guide you along the best pathway for your life.  I will advise you and watch over you.'"  Psalm 32:8

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.  Seek His will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.  Don't be impressed with your own wisdom.  Instead, fear the Lord and turn away from evil."  Proverbs 3:5-7

Just as we traveled on the bumpy road up the mountain, we also each travel a path as we journey through this life.  Sometimes, it may be smooth (as the paved road was), other times, the path we're on may get pretty rough (as the path up the mountain was with only the mud and rocks).  Even though the path changed, it was still the same person driving us up the mountain.  In the same way, even though our path in life may be smooth sometimes and in the blink of an eye become so bumpy it seems out of control - we need to remember, the same God is still leading us on our path.  He is with us in the good and bad times.  He is faithful and will guide us and see us through.  What a comfort.  What a wonderful, loving God we serve.

So I will leave you all with this - take comfort in knowing God has you in the palm of His Hands and He will guide you and He will not let you fall - take comfort and....

"Don't be dejected or sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!"  Nehemiah 8:10b
Hiking up the mountain (after we drove, we had to hike to where we were staying)
Cooking dinner
Twins!
Please pray for us as we begin to say goodbye and wrap up our time here.  Thanking our Father for the wonderful blessing this trip has been - I wouldn't have wanted to spend my summer any other way.

- Alyssa

Where Brokenness and Joy Collide


This past week has been kind of surreal in a way. It is an interesting thing when brokenness and true joy collide. Even the skies have been dark a lot, making it all the more beautiful when the sun shines through.

This week, we have felt brokenness in a number of ways:

Death. Whether it has been death of a loved one, friend, or family member, our team this summer has felt the brokenness that death brings especially this week. Brokenness for ones left behind. The sting of death can be bitter but strangely sweet when it is a brother who is now dancing at the feet of the one his soul loves. This is where brokenness and joy have a strange collision.

Sickness. Lanie and I visited our friend Amanda again yesterday. We try to visit her at least once a week, if not more. This time we brought her some groceries, as is custom in her culture. Once again, she had had a hard day with her very sick and frail mother the day before. Our Father is sweet in his timing. Our very presence in her home blesses her and teaches us so much. However, deep brokenness is felt. She lacks the hope in Truth that we have. She is exhausted. Our heart grows to lover her more and more every time we are with her, but it is also more  broken for her each time.  This is where brokenness and joy collide. 

Lost. A third way we have really felt brokenness this week is through the burden for our friends that are lost and looking for Truth. We long so badly for our friends to share with us in our hope. The fact that they do not causes our hearts to feel deep brokenness. However, we rejoice in the hope we do have and our constant, faithful Father. This is where brokenness and joy collide.

I am challenged by the reflections of Milton Vincent:

Like nothing else could ever do, the gospel instills in me a heart for the downcast, the poverty-stricken, and those in need of physical mercies, especially when such persons are of the household of faith.

When I see persons who are materially poor, I instantly feel a kinship with them, for they are physically what I was spiritually when my heart was closed to Christ...


The gospel reminds me daily of the spiritual poverty into which I was born and also of the staggering generosity of Christ towards me. Such reminders instill in me both a felt connection to the poor and a desire to show them the same generosity that has been lavished on me. When ministering to the poor with these motivations, I not only preach the gospel to them through word and deed, but I reenact the gospel to my own benefit as well."

Please continue to pray for us as we finish up our time here. We will feel brokenness in leaving these dear ones we have come to know.

-Hannah

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Criminals, Maybe... but it was worth it.

So, there we are at a crossroad.  What do we do?  Our caravan had been stopped by the local police to investigate what was causing a great commotion in the area.  One of the girls in our car did not bring her passport, so we did the logical thing.  We fled slowly and quietly while the police left to take a few individuals to the station.  This was only the first day.

Rest assured, we were doing nothing illegal.  Because the religion here is so engrained in the culture and the country, the priest of the local church or a local villager can call the police and report something suspicious. Passing out a New Testament is not illegal, so if you are taken into custody, you will be let go.  Most often, this is used as a scare tactic to get you to stop what you are doing.  It did not work!

This past week, The summer intern team got the opportunity to join in with almost 350 people from 6 different continents and over a dozen countries to give out over 122,000 New Testaments.  Yes, that is correct,  122,000 New Testaments in six days.  This project was called Kathespiti, which means every home. This project has been going on for 9 years and the goal for this project is to eventually, hopefully by 2019, to have a New Testament in every home in country.  The Father definitely provided in many ways this week.  Both M and Myself  (D) have been feeling ill with head and chest colds that hit at the beginning of the week.  The Father provided strength to be able to participate in the project,  but he also provided the other volunteers strength as we finished the project as needed. 

Each day, we started around 8 AM with breakfast, we then packed the car down with New Testaments, and headed to our villages or cities. We would distribute for until we finished our assigned regions, then head back to camp.  We had dinner and worship every evening which was such and encouragement for everyone.  After a long hot day of physically and spiritually exhausting work, coming to the Father in worship was a needed time.  The Father filled us up every evening, so we could again go out and empty ourselves day after day.

This summer has truly been a recurring story of how our Father is global and His heart for the nations.  He is using the nations to reach the nations, it is such a beautiful story.  This week was an amazing pouring out of the Father's awesome power.  As we were going out, we were dispatched to a city with a lot of apartment buildings.  We asked the Father for access to the buildings so we could deliver the gifts to every home.  We would pull up to the building, push on the door, and it would open or we would call a resident and they would let us in.  In the entirety of that day, there were only 4 buildings we could not enter. Our Father was providing.

We have two teams joining us that we will be helping around the city and joining them in work this coming week.  It will be busy, but great.  It is hard to believe the only have 11 days left. 
Pray that we:
Will feel better
Finish Strong
Not let the Evil One discourage us from our last week of Service


Na Sai' Kala (May you be well)
-D&M