Thursday, March 26, 2009

Gotta love the short term team...

There are some people who say short term teams are useless... especially high school short term teams. I LOVE THEM! And not just because it's how I got into missions 13 years ago, but also because of examples like this...
There is a short term team here of 7 high school kids and about 6 adults. Yesterday they helped out with the English ministry at the cafe. They were split up into groups with the Ecuadorians and asked to share their testimony. I was not in one of these groups but heard about how awesome it was from one of my volunteers. Her name is Melissa. Melissa is amazing. She is my little god-send who has been helping out every day for almost a month and is seeking. After the group time, she came up to me and raved about how wonderful her group was because of a guy name Jace. She said to me, "He understands my story. He's been there. He was telling me about God and how God understands." Both Jace and Melissa have had to grow up quicker than normal due to divorced parents and non-supportive fathers.
For the past four weeks, I have gotten to see Melissa grow closer to coming to know the Lord. It all started with Nicole asking her to help out as a volunteer at El Sendero and walking with her through the process of becoming one. Then I got to see Steven, a fellow short termer invest into her life and see her begin to ask questions. Then Susi, one of our employees invited her to church and Carolynn invited her to youth group. And now Jace met her where she is with her family situation. She felt understood and cared for because of this kid's story. I love how the Lord does not use ONE person to bring someone to himself... he uses a whole host of people. I can't wait to tell you that the last piece of the puzzle has been put into place. Until then, keep praying that the Lord would draw Melissa to himself!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

What happens when you can't breathe...

The moment of sheer panic hits and all of the sudden it feels like air won’t enter your lungs quite as easily. You tell yourself and everyone around that you’re fine, but your mind is going 100 miles a minute trying to figure out how to fix the situation. Your mouth says, “It’ll be fine. I’ll just trust God.” But as your mind reels, it screams, “You’re SCREWED!!!”
Yeah this is what happened to me a couple weeks ago. I knew that my friend Helene was leaving for Germany and that my friend Carolynn would be leaving for Australia the first part of April, but then I found out that Colin was going to be out all of April for surgery. And a few days later I realized that John would be out of the country for 3 weeks in the month of April. ‘Huh.’ I thought to myself. ‘This isn’t good. All my consistent help in El Sendero is going to be gone starting April 1st.’ The real hyperventilation came when Paul, one of my most trusted and faithful volunteers told me that his schedule was changing from being able to be at the coffee shop almost every evening to 2 nights a week… and in several months he’s not going to be able to help out during the week at all.
You know in your heart that God can provide but your heads looks at the facts. I am so grateful that God likes to do the impossible.
So its not that any of the above has changed… not one single bit. But the Lord has done something else, brought other people. In walks Melissa. Melissa is a 17 year old teenager learning English. She is in between high school and college and just wants to practice her English. She’s got a lot of time on her hands, so for the past 2 weeks has come in every evening. Not only is she a huge blessing, but has been asking questions and willing to discuss things of the Lord!
But it doesn’t stop there… a girl from Canada has quickly and randomly decided to come and help out in the English ministry and coffee shop starting mid-April. On top of all of that, the Lord is providing more volunteers than we know what to do with. And not just people who come once and never come again… people who want to be apart of our team and our family.
In the moments I can’t breathe, I have to remind myself of Psalm 13:5-6 “BUT (when all else is going to crap) I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, for he HAS BEEN GOOD TO ME!!!” (emphasis mine).

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

No pants... no problem.

An older sister with her little brother in tow, crying as usual and all she wants to do is get home. She doesn’t have time for his antics and charades. It’s not until a man calls out to her that she relizes the reason for the boy’s tears. He is unable to walk any faster due to his pants wrapped around his ankles. I couldn’t help but laugh.
But this wasn’t the only kid that caught my attention this week. When I went to church on Sunday I wasn’t greeted by a finely dressed woman, instead I was greeted by the hand of a little 6-year old girl, “Benvenidos!” (welcome!). I don’t care who you are, that will put a smile on your face. And as I was sitting through worship I noticed another little girl getting ready to go off to Sunday school. Before she skipped off, she looked up to her mother and asked for an offering. Her mom gave her eleven cents and said, “That’s a lot of money” and shoed her off to Sunday school…
The simplicity of a child. Their biggest problem: no pants. Their greatest joy: greeting on Sunday morning. And their biggest offering: eleven cents, because its all they have. Some days I do wish I could go back to that age and see life for the simple things. Instead of complaining about the things I cannot change, rejoicing in how the Lord has blessed me. Instead of looking at what I do not have, giving thanks for the people God has put in my life. I want to stop looking at life through the eyes of impossibilities and look at life through the eyes of a child: God can do ANYTHING!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

It's about that time to tell my story...

Yesterday sitting in the cafe I got to meet this really cool girl, Sarah from the States, working with OMS doing a video about the ministry opportunities in Ecuador. As she shared her story with me about how God brought her to the place of doing missions (something she SWORE she would NEVER do), I thought about my own story.
I love my story because its mine. It's bizarre and I have done a lot of things that I told God that I would NEVER do. If you haven't heard my story, I think its about time that you hear it. (If you have, feel free to get a refresher or skip this blog... up to you :)).
My parents have been youth pastors since before I was born, so i think I was born being a 17 year old, or at least hanging around them. I became a Christian sitting on the toilet when I was 5 years old (long story... if you wanna know, you gotta ask) and I think the first person I ever shared Jesus with was a little girl on a beach in California when I was 6. That started a love for sharing Jesus with people (spurred on by my mother and her passion for sharing the gospel).
As I got a bit older, church became "the thing you do." I was the last one at church every Sunday because I had no choice. When I was 15 years old I went to visit my non-christian cousin. As we sat on the beach in New Jersey, we talked about life, love and eventually about God, she told me, "You don't have to do this." And I said, "Do what?" She responded with words that cut me to my core, "This Christian thing. It's your parents' religion, not yours."
From that moment on I realized it was time to make a choice, was this going to be my parents' religion or my relationship? I chose the later and began going on mission trips, investing into my friends and really living for Jesus. I think I was 17 when I first decided that I was going to be a missionary. My dad's intern, Kelly was a big drawing factor in all of this. She had given up the comfy life in Colorado to travel to the Philippines and be a missionary. 'This is what I want to do.' I thought.
As you will hear many times in my story, God had a different plan, but I was too stubborn to recognize it. So I thought at 18 I was going to head off to the Philippines, but then I thought better of it and decided to go to Moody Bible Institute to study missions. Everyone told me I was a shoe-in and as usual God had other plans. I ended up in Lagrange, Wyoming (population 350)at Frontier School of the Bible (population 100). A place I swore I would NEVER end up.
I was still dead set on doing missions and completely ANTI-youth. But as usual, God had different plans and I started working with a youth group in Chugwater, Wyo (population 200... or so). God used those kids to break my heart for youth and see that no matter how much I fight it, THAT was where I was supposed to be.
After that, I had the opportunity to go to Dallas and help out some good friends, Oscar and Jen with their youth at Prince of Peace. God continually reinforced my desire and I changed my major to youth ministry.
Through many tears, I gave over my hearts desire to do missions to the Lord. But thank God that his plans aren't mine because through the next 4 years I got the chance to take those kids to several different countries and expose them to missions. So I thought that was it... push my youth towards missions.
Again, that wasn't God's plan. Through a series of events, I was getting out of youth ministry and had no idea where to go next, so I made the logical choice and got a job at Starbucks. During this time the Lord worked in me through a type of cafe ministry... hang out and talk to people about Jesus. I LOVED it.
So I thought why not just make a job out of this?? I searched and searched but didn't find anything that fit what I wanted to do, so I gave up. I remember sitting in my friend's living room saying, "I don't think God has a plan for my life. I think he's just going to kill me and be done with it." (Yes, I can be a bit dramatic). Through tears I handed my dreams (again) to the Lord.
Not a week later my dad calls me and tells me that he found a ministry on the SIM website that I might be interested in. I thought to myself, 'Yeah right it won't be what I want.' But I agreed to look into it. In the job description it said, "Looking for someone with a heart for evangelism (check), experience with youth (check); we are a coffee shop outreach to university students (check check!!)." So last year I ended up here in Loja Ecuador working with University students and just loving people to Jesus.
Since then my job description has changed a bit and I am currently the manager of El Sendero. I never would have guessed God would have brought me to this place... not in a million years. But here I am, in the center of his will. And to be honest, I can't wait to see what's next. You know why? Because God's plans are not my plans and for that I am truly thankful!!!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Sucked in...

As most of you know things around El Sendero look a bit different than they did last year. Walking into the coffee shop last year, you would have seen about 4 or 5 foreigners from 3 different countries helping out all the time. Now you will see 1, maybe 2 foreigners (one being me!) and the rest Ecuadorian. Here’s the fun part: most all of them are volunteers with outside jobs, school and lives, but they choose to come in and help us out. Some want to practice English, other want to hear more about why we’re here, but the majority are there because they like being with us!
Melissa is a new volunteer that just started today and she commented that it looks like everyone has a lot of fun and that they get along well. As I looked around I realized that this café has brought people who normally would not know each other together under one roof. In the mix we have our faithful two: Diego and Paul, who I am forever indebted to for their faithfulness to the café and to the ministry. Then we have a friend that we met in salsa class (Jose Pablo) added to a random guy (Paolo) who just came in by himself for a coffee and ended up becoming part of one of the local churches. Then throw in a couple high school girls, Ximena, I started a conversation with over 6 months ago and just comes in regularly to chat along with Melissa who got hooked up with us through the English ministry. Look at this! Look at what God is doing.
Some days I look at the café or the ministry and get frustrated at what we aren’t doing or what we could do better. But what I forget to do is praise God for what he IS doing and the people he IS bringing to us. So now we just keep praying that the Lord continually draws all these people closer to himself!