Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Tuesday, October 26

10:00am rolls around and I leave my morning class feeling groggy and wondering where I can get a caffeine fix. I’m told you can get a cup of coffee for a dollar in the San Jacinto building. “It’s crappy coffee,” they say, “but it’ll wake you up.” They’re right. Nonetheless, my caffeine craving is satisfied and I settle down to get some work done.
11:00 comes and my stomach starts to speak to me. Breakfast seems like ancient history. Nine dollars in my pocket, I head over to Subway to grab some lunch. A woman is sitting on the sidewalk by the door. As I approach, she looks up at me and asks if I can help her get something to eat. I recognize her. I’ve encountered her there before and passed her by. Today I almost do the same. I wonder if she recognizes me or if I’m simply another face blurred among the hundreds who ignore her each day. In my heart I am convicted and I offer to buy a foot-long and split it with her.
As we wait in line I learn that her name is Amy. She is pregnant and at the moment she is also homeless. She stays in a church that opens their doors to the homeless a certain number of hours each day.
We get our meal, I give Amy my change, and we part. As I walk back to HCC I want to cry.
I will finish my meal and go through the rest of my day at peace because I know that tonight I will eat again with my housemates. Amy will finish her meal and hope that someone else will find enough generosity in their heart to provide her with another. I can complain about a crappy cup of coffee or my lunch being interrupted by a fire drill because I don’t have to worry about finding a safe place to sleep or getting back on my feet so that when my baby is born I can provide for him. I go home knowing I won’t be kicked out when the doors are closed.
I wonder how Amy got to where she is. I wonder who the father is and how he can live with himself knowing he’s left Amy and their child to fend for themselves on Houston’s streets. I wonder if he even knows he has a child…
Today Amy is grateful because she was acknowledged and valued. Tomorrow she will hope and pray for someone to stop, to listen, to try to understand.
Lord, bless Amy tonight.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Houston - Year 2

It is absolutely crazy to me to think that I've been living in Houston for over a year now. Houston is not a place I ever would have expected to end up. In fact, it isn't a place that ever crossed my mind. I never though about Houston. I knew it existed. That's about it.

I have to admit that I don't love Houston in and of itself. It doesn't have what I really desire or expect from a big city. It's too spread out. It's hot and humid. The public transportation is not exactly convenient. Downtown Houston lacks vivacity and activity. But when I moved to Houston for Mission Year I fell in love with the people I met, with our neighborhood, with the opportunities that we had to serve God, with the redemption stories I witnessed.

Houston is growing on me, and that scares me. The vision of Mission Year is a vision that I love and cling to, a vision of transforming communities from the inside out, of spreading the love of Jesus by living like Jesus. Mission Year has planted a seed in my heart, a seed that is slowly growing into a strong desire to put down roots, to dig deeply into an inner city community and to stick it out through times of suffering and times of celebration. I only planned to stay in Houston for a year, but I'm still here. I think I'm afraid that God will ask me to stay beyond this year, that He will ask me to put down roots in Houston. I find myself thinking, Let me move one more time and then I'll stay. Then I'll commit to a community. Then I'll remain. But not here...don't ask me to stay here.

I don't know if this is where God will ask me to stay. I don't know what He has in mind for my future. But I do know that this is where I'm meant to be this year. I have a genuine peace about that and I'm excited to see what is in store for myself, my team, and the other Mission Year teams.

This year there are three Mission Year teams in Houston. They've been here for about a week now and so much has happened already. The year has had an incredible beginning.

My house this year is in the First Ward in the northwest part of Houston (the opposite side of Houston from where I lived last year). We live in a yellow house on the corner of Spring St and Holly St, right next to the intersection of I-45 and 10. Our neighborhood is one that is undergoing a period of change. Many of the old homes are being torn down and replaced with modern condos. Money is moving in and families who live on lower income are being forced out. It is a neighborhood marked by separation between social classes. Our hope this year is to be a bridge, to connect people from the different classes to each other so that they become real to each other.

Please keep us, our neighbors, and our neighborhood in your prayers. God is working in beautiful and exciting ways.


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

they could not steal our love

Closing retreat was wonderful. The time spent as a team reflecting, encouraging, and enjoying each other was essential. The time spent with all the teams from the 9 different cities was uplifting and unifying. It was a beautiful time of closure.

We returned to Houston on the 29th to find that our AC was broken. Oh well. We were too exhausted to care at that point. The following day we completed our packing and cleaned the house. We boxed up all of our belongings and moved them into the front room. That night we stayed at various friends' houses or at hotels so we wouldn't have to endure another night in the heat of our house. 

We got to the house the next morning to find everything trashed. Our house had been broken into. On our last night. The irony of the situation was incredible. Throughout the year I had prepared myself for something like this to take place. Time and time again, I was pleasantly surprised. The house was empty for 3 weeks over Christmas break and nothing happened. It was empty again for a week over spring break and nothing happened.  Everything was fine while we were gone for retreat.

But -

Our last night. Things were stolen, and the house we had spent so much time cleaning up was a chaotic mess. It wasn't my favourite way of saying goodbye to the neighborhood. 

In a way, however, it was oddly freeing. After all, the things they stole were only things. 

They could not steal our friendships.
They could not steal our memories.
They could not steal the lessons we learned.
They could not steal our laughter.
They could not steal our tears.
They could not steal our celebrations.
They could not steal our love.

Goodbye, Eastwood. 

Monday, July 19, 2010

Endings and Beginnings

This is our last week. It's official - Mission Year is ending.

This weekend it really started to sink in. We're moving out of our house, leaving each other, saying goodbyes and going our separate ways. On Saturday we began to pack. Our walls are bare and lifeless, our shelves are empty, and our shared lives are being separated into cardboard boxes. Memories are flooding back of our first days together - sleeping on the living and dining room floors because we had no beds or air conditioning, using mattresses as couches until we had couches donated to us, bonding in garage apartments and the long road trips to and from Atlanta. Soon we'll be heading that way again for our closing retreat...

Before beginning our Sunday School lessons yesterday the kids sang a song for us and the Children's Ministry leaders gave us a fruit basket and thanked us. Our Pastor called us up to the front at the end of the service to pray for us and bless us as we begin our new journeys. It was our last Sunday at Ecclesia as a Mission Year team.

Yesterday I was struck by the incredible beauty of my community. I sat in service with the kids from Generation One before they went to Sunday School. The kids beside me played with my hands and asked me how long until they could leave. As we sang I could hear the pure voices of the kids behind me. I couldn't help breaking into the biggest smile in the history of my life and shedding a few tears as well. When they eventually filed out for Sunday School the empty seats in my row were filled by a loving and inspiring family from my church who have taken in so many children, children with special needs and who desperately need their love. The seat to my right was filled by Michael, a dear friend I met through Simple Feast.

Our Pastor gave us a great reminder through a quote by Martin Luther King Jr. : "...many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny and their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom." I thought about that in the context of my life and relationships this year. My freedom, joy, fate, well-being is inextricably bound to that of the refugee who struggles with English and with single-handedly providing for her children, the man sitting beside me who is trying to get back on his feet, the young mother at the end of our street whose husband will soon be leaving for OTC in Alaska...

We are all so completely connected and so desperately in need of each other.

Mission Year is ending, but a new journey is beginning. And I still have so very much to learn...

Thank you, Lord, for leading me on this journey. 
Thank you for the path that stretches ahead of me.


Monday, June 7, 2010


"Imagine the city the way God wants it to be. No more poverty. No more injustice. Every person matters. Now imagine a handful of young people moving into a house in the city, working to make this a reality.
People who learn from their neighbors, listen to their needs, and pray with them over and over. People who work hard to love others the way Jesus loves. People who stay long enough to become true friends.
Imagine that house becoming a safe place in the neighborhood where people see the gospel lived out, alive and available to all.
Imagine each individual devoting each day to God, then going out to do what God says. Partnering with social service agencies and local churches who are working towards the same goal. Offering compassion and working for justice.
Can you see what happens? That household makes a difference in the neighborhood, and the neighborhood makes a difference in return. The living gospel transforms everything it touches. The Kingdom of God advances.
Now, finally, imagine all of that a thousand times over..." (www.missionyear.org)

This is the vision of Mission Year. I feel tears threatening to escape my eyes every time I read that. How beautiful it is to dream these dreams, to imagine creative ways to advance the Kingdom of God. How beautiful it is to believe that when Jesus prayed for God's will to be done on earth as it is in Heaven, He meant that - the Kingdom of Heaven on earth. How beautiful it is to live in the light of Redemption and of Grace and to know that one day all of creation will be restored!

I just wanted to share with you that vision, and I pray that it touches you heart the way it constantly touches mine.

Regarding my previous post: no one had to return home! Mission Year is still struggling, however, and still needs to raise more money in order to get by and to continue operating beyond this year.

Lord, let Your Kingdom come and Your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.

Monday, May 3, 2010


Money. How I wish we didn't need it - but it's unfortunately a necessary part of our lives.

Before beginning Mission Year I read a book about the life and ministry of George Mueller, a German missionary who had a heart for orphans and an incredible faith in God. As I read about how he relied on God to provide for him, praying in faith and receiving exactly what he needed, I was awed and humbled. After much prayer and discussion with my parents, I decided that I wanted my funds for Mission Year to be raised that way - through faithful prayer. For me it was an exercise in faith. I informed people about my plans to serve God in inner city Houston and also about the fact that I would be living off support, but I never asked for money. Instead I prayed that as I shared with people about my experiences and my heart for the work I'm involved in, God would move in people's hearts and urge them to give.

As I began this journey, my Dad blessed me with a verse from Genesis: "So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide. And to this day it is said, On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided." (Genesis 22:14). Jehovahjireh ~ The Lord Will Provide. Throughout these past months, I have had periods of complete confidence, when I would be consistently hearing from people who wished to support me, and periods of doubt, when my support level would not change for weeks and months at a time. But I continued to pray and to trust in the Lord. Indeed the Lord did provide, and I have now raised more than the amount I need! Thanks to all of you who supported me financially and to those who continuously support me through prayer!

This journey has not ended.

Recently we were informed that Mission Year is in a bad state financially. Although we knew this from the beginning, we never knew how desperate the situation was. Mission Year has never wanted people to decide against participating in the program for financial reasons. They have always asked team members to raise $12,000 but have never turned people away if they could not raise that much. In the past this has worked out as some members have raised more than $12,000 while others have raised less. Oftentimes between team members, the support would level out, but if it didn't, Mission Year had a surplus they could dip into in order to subsidize the funds of those who didn't raise enough. Due to the recent economic recession, however, Mission Year no longer has that surplus available and now have a significant deficit.

This year a large number of team members across the country are at a critically low support level. These team members are being asked to raise $1,500 within the next two weeks. If they are not able to do so, they will have to return home as Mission Year is not in a position where they are able to support them.

Obviously, no one wants this to happen.

When we were informed of this news, I was surprised to find that rather than being filled with dread, I was filled with excitement. I am confident that we will be able to raise this money and that we will see God move in incredible ways through this struggle.

Mission Year teams are coming together now to help our teammates raise their support and stay in their cities. Already we've seen beauty come from this. First and foremost, it is a beautiful thing that through this struggle we are being drawn closer together as we join together as a community to raise money to support Mission Year and our teammates. I have seen God provide for me this year and I have a peace and assurance that He will provide for us in this seemingly dire situation.


As we've made this need known to our friends here in Houston, so many of them have already stepped up to help us and surround us with support. Our supervisor at Ecclesia has given my teammate Bonnie permission to devote her time at Ecclesia next week solely to fundraising. She also told us that she has a bunch of old furniture and other items that she will donate to us to sell in a garage sale. Yesterday a group of children from Generation One, an after school tutoring program that four of us volunteer at, set up a lemonade stand on the patio outside of Ecclesia. They raised over $300 and are donating half of their profits to our team.
One immediate result of the financial state of our organisation is that our food budget for this month has been cut in half. Already we've seen God provide for us as a couple from Steven's church came by on Saturday with practical donations to our ministry - including a large amount of food! God's timing is crazy like that. Our neighbors also continue to be generous in cooking meals for us as they have been all year.
Following Spring Break our city directors had us start working a few Astros games to raise money for Mission Year. Aramark, the company that runs the concessions, has an agreement with non-profit organisations where a group can work a concession stand and receive a portion of the profits. We were trained and certified to do this before we knew about Mission Year's finances. God's timing again is incredible. This week we will be working games each night, bringing in a significant amount of the funds we need to raise.

We continue to serve in faith that God will keep our team, and all Mission Year teams across the country, together through our fundraising efforts and the support of our friends and family.

Thank you again!


Monday, April 19, 2010

the need for sleep, emptiness, and the smell of flowers always

This week has been a long one, filled with long days. I'd like to sleep forever, please.

Many months back, Bonnie decided it would be awesome to start a Bible/book study based on the book "Not For Sale" by David Batstone. We finally got it started a few weeks ago and have been meeting on Tuesday nights to discuss what we've read. God has been breaking my heart for these atrocities that I've known about for so long but from which I kept my distance for so long. It's easy to become depressed and hopeless, but our Lord is full of grace and beautiful promises. Please read Isaiah 58. I would write it all in this post, but I'm afraid the abundance of words might scare people away from reading the rest of my thoughts. :P
So Tuesdays are long, but they're wonderful.

God is asking me to give things up. I want to. I want so badly to trust Him completely, to allow Him to fully be Lord over my life, my future, my dreams, my heart...everything. But it seems that any time I give something up to Him, I immediately start searching for something else to hold onto in its place. I'm in need of emptiness. Only in my emptiness, my fragility, my vulnerability am I able to allow God to fill me. It is then that I catch a glimpse of vision and purpose. When I try to figure out my own life, to decide on a future path, I end up feeling like my life has no direction...

"Then I thought, 'To this I will appeal: the years of the right hand of the Most High.' I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember Your miracles of long ago. I will meditate on all Your works and consider all Your mighty deeds." ~ Psalm 77:10-12

The Lord is faithful.

I love the song "Young at Heart". And the smell of April flowers in Houston.

It rained yesterday, so we had Simple Feast under the bridge. It brought back memories of rainy Simple Feasts in late August and September - back when all of this was so new. I love those memories. They remind me of how far God has brought me and how faithful He's been.

Monday, April 5, 2010

i guess it's about time

Time for an update!

So. The new building that Ecclesia was going to buy fell through. I'm confused by this. It seemed SO perfect. It was in our neighborhood, about 25 minutes walking from our house. The location is in the second ward, close to both the third and fifth wards, providing countless opportunities to minister to the poor and marginalized. I just KNEW it was the building God wanted Ecclesia to have. I guess I was wrong. Because we're not getting it. I'm struggling with this...

We had a lovely two weeks of Spring when we returned from break. Now it's beginning to feel like summer (to me anyway, but I'm not a native Houstonian). It was nice while it lasted. I'm bracing myself for the coming heat and humidity.

Yesterday we celebrated Easter with a service held at Miller Outdoor Theater. There were THOUSANDS of people there. Rich, poor, young, old, all different races. It was a small glimpse into the Kingdom of God. Afterwards we feasted. Thousands of hot dogs and hamburgers were grilled and people brought food from their homes as well. We feasted together, celebrating the Risen King. When the service began the sky was overcast. By the time it ended, the sun had broken through. What beautiful symbolism. It was a beautiful day!

I love God. He is so faithful. I was reminded recently of how He brought me to this place, how He called me and led me and spoke to me. It was a beautiful reminder.

These are some things I've been hearing from Him lately:

"Faith never knows where it is being led, but it knows and loves the One who is leading." ~ Oswald Chambers

"Let the morning bring me word of Your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in You. Show me the way I should go, for to You I lift up my soul." ~ Psalm 143:8 (this is my prayer)

"'Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus and to take Him at His word; just to rest upon His promise, and to know, "Thus saith the Lord." Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him! How I've proved Him o'er and o'er! Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus! O for grace to trust Him more!" ~ Louisa Stead

Faith. Trust. Waiting on the Lord. This is what I'm learning. This is what I'm striving for.


Monday, March 8, 2010

sacred moments

Every now and then I take a step back and just soak in the moment. Our lives are filled with sacred moments, moments of beauty, moments bursting with God's grace and redemption, moments that we often miss...

We've started taking the kids from Generation One (the after school program we volunteer with twice a week) to a community garden every other Friday. The first week we went the kids planted tomatoes in pots they had painted the previous week. Many of them had never seen a tomato plant before, the only tomatoes they had seen were in the grocery store. So when they were given their baby plant to put into their soil, many of them asked, "Where's the tomato?"
The next time we went their tomato plants had grown. This time they had the opportunity to water the plants and put worms into the dirt. After they had gotten over their fears of touching the worms, they kept going back for more and more. I couldn't hold back my smiles and laughs as I watched them gasp and crinkle their noses and poke the worms and hold them up over their friends' heads.

Our times at the community garden are times when everything feels right. Those are moments when I step back and am amazed at God's beauty. It's an incredible experience to watch those kids learn about how things grow - the different elements that work together to create these living parts of God's world. The garden is a place of redemptive beauty in the midst of the run-down buildings and littered streets of the Third Ward.

For a while now we've been taking a volleyball and net with us to Simple Feast on Sundays. Yesterday I jumped in and played with some of the other Ecclesians and guys at the park. I had no idea a casual game of volleyball could bring tears to my eyes. It was a time of laughter, unity, joy, and fun in the middle of a park filled with stories of betrayal, loneliness, addiction, separation, and struggle.

God's presence in the ordinary - things like volleyball and tomatoes - makes them sacred and beautiful tools of redemption.


P.S. The story from my last post got into the Houston Free Press!!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Life of a Houston Artist…

Don Collins awoke the morning of Tuesday February 9th as he always does. He shook himself from his sleepy state and got ready for the day. After preparing for the day in his normal morning ritual he started out for his favorite coffee shop. Don does not drive; he walks. Don arrived at Taft St Coffee, the coffee shop that serves as both his studio and muse, and began to converse with his friends and those he does not know. Don draws people, places and things as they appear to him. After Don had finished at Taft St. he headed out for his next destination, a destination he would not reach.
As Don was crossing the road he heard the sound of an oncoming car so he instinctively sped up his pace to cross the street before becoming the next Houstonian to be the victim of a vehicular accident. After reaching the opposite curb Don heard the same car slam on its brakes and as he turned he saw that it was a Houston Police Department cruiser. By the time Don had turned around the passenger side officer was already out of the car walking toward him. Don is not a stranger to the H.P.D. and he knew what was coming. What followed was a horrible display of profiling by the HPD officers.
The first officer asked Don why he was walking so fast and requested to see his identification. The officer proceeded to ask Don who he was and tell him that he had never seen him in “their” neighborhood before. The next question was a forceful request to search Don’s backpack for his “crack pipe”; Don does not smoke crack. Upon searching his pack, much to the chagrin of Don’s personal rights, they discovered a bag of Crayola colored pencils (let me remind you Don is an Artist) and the officers proceeded to ask Don if he was a “pedophile”. The fact that the possession of colored pencils is enough for the police to think that someone is a pedophile is absurd, but also that they would ask such an audacious question to Don based off of the contents of his bag is overwhelmingly upsetting. Also during this absurd police investigation a mid-twenties African American man happened to be walking by and he received a harsh greeting and rude questioning as to his destination and reason for being where he was.
Upon searching through their records they found that Don had a few outstanding tickets and decided to take him in to process him through the system. The first holding cell that Don was placed in was a twenty-man cell that had about forty or fifty men in it. After several hours Don was moved to a smaller cell with three other men, one of whom was suffering from some mental ailments and had been in the cell for longer then he should have been in that situation. Don continually requested to talk with a superior officer (which is something that one of his cell-mates had for the previous two days) and was repeatedly told to talk to the next shift-captain, of which he saw about three come and go. Don finally went before a judge to deal with his delinquent tickets and copped a plea so that the frustrating madness would come to a more concise end. His tickets were written off after he spent some more time in his cell and was subsequently released.
As previously stated, Don is not a stranger to the HPD. In fact, they harass Don quite often. On top of being a wonderful artist, very friendly conversationalist and traveling philosopher, Don is also homeless. It is an upsetting fact that just because Don has the appearance of a homeless man and was walking faster than some police officer decided that he should have been, he was the subject of situational profiling and the harassment that comes with it. No man, whether he goes home to a multi-million dollar house or a pad made from cardboard and thrift-store blankets, should be subjected to such inhumane treatment. Don had not done anyone direct or even indirect harm in that situation and aside from his appearance and supposed unfamiliar presence in the neighborhood the officers had no feasible reason to “pull him over”.
This situation was upsetting to Don, but even more upsetting to those who care about him. Don is a kind and generous man to everyone both friend and stranger alike. Over the Christmas season Don sold cards based off of his paintings at Taft St Coffee and donated all the proceeds to the church that he has been attending so that they could dig fresh water wells over-seas. He is an accomplished artist, and a brilliant intellectual, nothing about him says dangerous, harmful, or even scary. This situation brings into questioning the methods by which our HPD officers are deciding who is and is not criminal. I can only hope that this situation will bring an inquiry into the police department and their practices of profiling.
This story was written by one of my teammates, Isaac about the injustices that have affected our dear friend Don. Isaac's intention was that people would see that these things happened to a beloved friend rather than just some homeless guy.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Valentine's Prayer

I could count the ways I love You far too quickly. It takes much more time to count the ways I should love You but can't, want to love You but don't, dream of loving You but something is always in the way. I am always in the way.

If my love were pure I would love You in patience, waiting for Your timing, being slow to anger, and actually thinking before I act. I would love You in kindness, speaking truth and encouragement into the lives of others, and loving in my actions even more so than words. I would love You in humility, in placing others above and before myself. I would love You in hoping and protecting and persevering and trusting and always seeing the good and beautiful. I would put to death the self that envies, boasts, is arrogant and rude, and seeks the best for me alone.

The ways I love are minimal, the ways I should and wish to love abound.

Teach me how to love.

Monday, February 1, 2010

thoughts from the last week of january...

Warning: this post will most likely be filled with thoughts that are not well connected with each other.

One of my greatest struggles so far this Mission Year has been dealing with the fact that my life this year differs in many ways from the expectations I had. It's ironic, because I thought I didn't have many expectations - I didn't know what to expect. But they were there. I thought we would be living, working, and attending church all in the same neighborhood. I thought I would choose my service site. I thought I would be living with, at most, 5 others.
Instead, I live in one neighborhood and work and go to church in another (some of my teammates live in one neighborhood, work in another, and go to church in yet another). Service sites had already been picked out before we came to Houston and we were placed there. I live with 9 others.
I've been realising this year how stubborn I am. When things don't meet my expectations, I try to make them (but don't worry, I love my teammates - I haven't tried to get rid of any of them). Perhaps in some ways my dissatisfaction with certain aspects is valid, but this is where I am, and this is how things are, and God works all things for good.
My city director used a puzzle analogy with me. She talked about how each piece in a puzzle is different, but equally important. Some pieces are filled with colours and objects and excitement - and some are plain. Each piece alone is nothing, but together they make a beautiful picture. If any one piece is missing, there will be a gap, whether it be a plain piece or a colourful piece. The puzzle needs them all.
So instead of trying to hammer pieces in where they don't fit, or add in pieces from another puzzle, I need to accept and appreciate each piece for what it is and what it brings to the overall picture.


On Tuesday Anton came from LaGrange and did a training with us. He was talking about immigration, but his point was applicable to all forms of oppression. He used the passage from Exodus about Moses and the burning bush. "The Lord said, 'I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them...'" (Exodus 3:7-8)
Anton focused on how God said that He 1) saw 2) heard 3) knew the suffering of His people and then rescued them.
1) See - see the injustice, the suffering. See the people waiting in line all day, bundling up against the biting winds, for a loaf of bread and some onions.
2) Hear - hear the cries of the oppressed. Hear the refugee mother's frustration at not speaking English and struggling to provide for her 5 children.
3) Know - be there with them. Walk beside them. Be in solidarity with them and their suffering.


The Mission Year board was here on Friday. They came to our house for breakfast. We thought they would be arriving at 9:30, but it turned out to be 9:00. So when they came they found us in our living room doing our morning devotions - many of us still in our pajamas. It was classic. Pretty much like an ad for Mission Year. :D
So we rushed to get dressed and tidy up. Andy made pancakes for breakfast and we talked with the board members about our experiences so far. I was really thankful for the opportunity because it drove us to look at the big picture of our Mission Year to this point, describing the beauty, redemption, and ways we see God working. It was kind of a refocusing for me, a chance to bring things into perspective. We shared struggles as well, and what we've been learning and how we've been growing. It allowed me to see how things fit together, how each piece of this year is so important - like the puzzle.


Love to all,

Monday, January 25, 2010

...my burden is light...

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." ~ Jesus (Matthew 11:28-30)

This verse has been coming up a lot for me lately. I guess I really need to hear it. I've been feeling very burdened lately, but God has been reminding me that I don't need to.

Last week when I went to the refugee family's home, I asked the mother about food stamps. She told me she's getting them again and then she took me by the hand and led me to her pantry and then to her refrigerator, showing me the food that she has. I guess she could see how worried I was and wanted to reassure me. She has enough. God provides her with her daily bread.
Then there was the rainbow. In the middle of my "English lesson" with her, the sun was shining through the window in such a way as to project a rainbow onto the wall. It was a beautiful moment as all of us - myself, my teammates, the mother and her children - all stopped what we were doing to look at the colors. God's promise. God's presence. God is so good.

So we do what we can, and remember that we're only human. God is great, and compassionate, and loving, and almighty.

He's got things covered. ;)

Monday, January 18, 2010

...on realising i can't be God...

Every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon myself and one or two of my teammates go to the home of a refugee family. On Thursdays we take them some food that we get from helping a local church with a feeding ministry. A couple of weeks ago when we went we only had with us a few bananas, some potatoes, and a loaf of bread. When we gave it to them the mother said that she was so thankful because she was very hungry and they had no food left in the house. They literally had nothing besides what we brought to them. I almost cried right then in their living room. We brought them to our house for dinner that night and afterwards gave them all our leftovers. The next week we again took them food. I glanced in their refrigerator as they were putting it away and saw that all they had was a gallon of milk and a few onions.

My heart breaks for them.

The mother told me she has no more food stamps. I thought certainly I must have misunderstood her. Maybe she meant she was out of money for the month? But it was the beginning of January. It couldn't be that her family doesn't qualify for food stamps. In the past she had had to sell her food stamps in order to have money to pay her rent. But she has a job now and shouldn't have to do that. I mentioned this to some of my teammates and one of them did some research on the food stamp system in Houston. He found that it is terrible. I don't completely understand it but I know that it is not adequate to provide for everyone who needs it. People end up falling through the cracks while others understand and abuse the system. It isn't right. It's an injustice. And it makes me angry. This mother and her five children go hungry while others abuse the system and end up having more than they need.

I want to fix it. I want to make it right. Unfortunately, I cannot be God.

Fortunately, God is bigger than I am. God's love is deeper than I can fathom. God's grace flows freely. God holds us in the palm of His hand. God provides for His children.

I once read that ministry is often more about the one ministering than those to whom they are ministering. I've come to believe this is true. I think that Mission Year is more about God changing and transforming me than it is about me doing good things and serving others. Let me explain. God does not need me. If I had not taken food to the refugee family that Thursday, I am confident that God would have provided them with the food they needed in some other way. God cares about them more than I do. God did not need me to do Mission Year, I needed to do Mission Year. I needed to be in this place where I can allow God to change my perspective, to soften my heart, to smooth some of my rough areas, to transform me more into the person He created me to be, to draw me closer to Him.

Everything always comes down to our relationship with God and others. What He wants is for us to love Him and to allow Him to love us, to understand that He accepts us and to accept ourselves. What we do is the overflow of our relationship with Him.

Does any of this make sense? Maybe not. God doesn't make sense. I don't understand Him or His ways. That is why I can worship Him and that is why I am deeply in love with Him and want to go deeper and deeper.

Please keep the family I mentioned in your prayers. They are constantly on my mind and on my heart.

Monday, January 11, 2010

"God, I don't know"

We've been back for a week. And I feel....I don't know.
My prayer life lately has mostly consisted of "God, I don't know." The beautiful thing is that that's ok. One of the greatest treasures I've collected from my Mission Year so far is a deeper, more real relationship with God that does not depend upon spiritual highs. It's an honest relationship that doesn't go downhill when I feel drained or uncertain or simply unhappy. My prayer/communion with God does not have to be some crazy mystical experience. In this relationship I can express whatever I need to express. I can give Him my tears, thoughts, feelings, lack of words, sighs, groans, frustrations, and utter confusion.
"...the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express." (Romans 8:26). I am so thankful for this.

My heart is broken. I want to be able to fix things. I want to make things right, to make things better. I want my friend to be able to speak English, to be able to get a job that will allow her to provide for her children, I want to know that she has food in her house...

I don't understand how I feel. Perhaps I'm beginning to understand the depth of God's compassion for people. Perhaps this is a glimpse into His heart...Whatever it is, it doesn't feel wrong to feel this way.