Last Sunday night, my little sister played her “Riverdance” CD for me and showed off some of her Irish dancing moves. Caught up in the irresistible rhythm of the Celtic music, I joined in the fun, quickly realizing that I had no idea what I was doing. Long long ago, all three of us girls had learned to Irish dance for an Irish dancing contest at our Nana and Papa’s Christmas with the extended family. Evi and I had kept going with it, but not possessing the natural coordination Evi has, I moved on to other things.
So as we jumped and stomped around the living room, much to Brian’s merriment, Evi decided to slide into the splits, not the normal kind, with the legs out to the side, but with one leg straight out in front and one behind. She was just standing, and then in one smooth motion, she dropped with her legs like that. Not to be outdone, I attempted to do the same. The only problem was that Evi execises every day, takes dance lessons, and is actually flexible, while the most exercise I’ve gotten in a while is running from class to class in the fridgid air. I suddenly remembered all of these things as I landed with my knees bent at a crazy angle and my hamstrings screaming in protest. The next day, walking up and down stairs was excruciating, sitting was painful, but not as bad as getting up out of the chair. Even walking hurt. My hip joints ached, the inside of my knees ached, my hamstrings sent stabbings of pain to my brain to remind me of my stupidity the day before. Muscles I didn’t even know existed were aching!
That morning, as I settled myself into the generously padded rocking chair in the living room with my Bible to read, Edward started giggling from where he sat across the room from me on the couch. I noticed the book I’d given him for Christmas, and I assured myself he was laughing to himself at something he read, not at me. Just then he marked his place and got up to put it away.
“Do you like that book Edward?” I asked.
“Yeah,” He grinned shyly.
“Well, why aren’t you reading more?”
“I only read two chapters a day.” He explained.
“Oh,” I could picture him reading all day, and mom making the two chapters a day rule. A thought struck me, “Have you done your devotions today?”
“Yeah, I noticed your daily schedule typed up over your bed, and it says ‘Devos’ right after getting up.”
“Oh, well I don’t do that anymore.” He stated.
I asked him to name a friend of his, and he named a kid he knew from cub scouts, Nick. I asked him to imagine that he and Nick were friends, but he never talked to him. Nick would try to talk to him, but he would just ignore him.
“How could you still be friends if you didn’t talk to each other?”
He thought for a minute. “I don’t know.”
“Well, you couldn’t probably. It’s the same way with Jesus. In order to be friends and actually get to know him, you have to talk to him and listen to him every day. When we pray, we talk to him, and when we read the Bible, we listen to him.”
“Oh!” I could tell this was clicking for him. “I was reading John, I don’t remember where I was, so I think I’ll start over at the beginning.” After about two minutes, he closed his Bible and zipped the cover shut with an air of finality.
“Did you pray yet?” I probed.
“No,” his brow furrowed. “I don’t know what to pray about.”
“Well, you can pray about anything. You could ask him to help you become better friends,” I suggested.
He flopped back on the couch and stuck his fingers in his eyes. “Dear God helpmetobegoodandhelpmetobebetterfriendsamen.” With that, he sat up smiling, and put his Bible away.
It’s a start, I told myself.
Both of these incidents reminded me of 1 Timothy 4:7-8:
“But reject profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise yourself toward godliness. For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.
Godliness is exercise! I hurt myself when I tried to do the splits, because my muscles weren’t stretched enough. Right now, reading his Bible and praying are kind of painful for Edward, because he’s not used to it. As this verse says, there’s only a temporary benefit to being in physical shape, but the benefits of living a godly life are eternal. It takes work to live in a holy way; refusing the temptations for the following, “sexual immorality, impurity, debauchery, idolatry…hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissentions, factions, and envy, drunkness…and the like” (Gal. 5:19-21) But as we painfully stretch ourselves towards godliness, it will get less and less difficult, and we’ll see more and more fruit in our lives; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control (Gal. 5:22-23).
In my devotions last semester, I started reading through the gospels with the intent of taking another look at who Jesus was and what he did. That was awesome, however, after reading Matthew, I felt like reading another gospel was too much of a repeat, since they all tell basically the same stories. I started looking for something else, and decided to read through Paul’s epistles. Having read Romans last summer, I started in 1Corinthians. Over the last semester and this summer, I’ve read from there through Hebrews (since technically there’s a chance Paul wrote it!). Next in line was the book of James, but since I’d read it first semester, I decided to look for something new. But what? I’d already covered the gospels and epistles, and though it’s not necessary, Revelations would be great to read with a study guide of some sort, which I don’t have here on project.
I don’t know about you, but I really don’t read a lot of the Old Testament, besides Psalms and Proverbs. We’re not under the law anymore, right? So what’s the point? I thought to myself, every book in the Bible is there for a reason. It’s been years since I read any of the minor prophets; probably not since before high school, when I read the Bible in a year. Hence, I’ve begun a journey into the Old Testament, starting with the book of Lamentations.
Lamentations? You might be thinking, isn’t that a depressing book about God’s judgment and wrath being poured out on Israel for their sins? That’s what I thought when I started reading it. I honestly wondered how I’d be able to glean anything from the doleful descriptions of the condition of God’s people during their captivity. But every day, God has revealed such amazing things to me!
First of all, I’ve been so convicted of the severity of sin. God is a Holy God! We know this, but sometimes we forget that it means that he HATES sin. Sometimes I think I can get away with sin. I tell myself that it’s just a little pride, a little lust, a little unforgiveness, a little impatience, nothing too big. I forget that for these ” little” sins, God has a fearful wrath!
How deserted lies the city,
once so full of people!
How like a widow is she,
who once was great among the nations!
She who was queen among the provinces
has now become a slave.
2 Bitterly she weeps at night,
tears are upon her cheeks.
Among all her lovers
there is none to comfort her.
All her friends have betrayed her;
they have become her enemies.
3 After affliction and harsh labor,
Judah has gone into exile.
She dwells among the nations;
she finds no resting place.
All who pursue her have overtaken her
in the midst of her distress.
4 The roads to Zion mourn,
for no one comes to her appointed feasts.
All her gateways are desolate,
her priests groan,
her maidens grieve,
and she is in bitter anguish.
I’ve been so convicted of my own sin this week, and just how vile, how repulsive it is to a perfect God! It’s also such a slap in the face. I know Christ personally, I’ve been adopted into the family of God, and yet I chose to harbor sin in my heart, knowing that it’s against my Father’s will, and that because of it Christ died.
This was really discouraging to me at first! I realized how much I truly need God’s mercy. Sometimes I think, “God may forgive me, but I can’t forgive myself.” This week, I’ve realized how this mindset is such a rejection of the gospel. It’s not by works that I am saved, it’s nothing I have done! So ultimately, it doesn’t matter if I forgive myself or not, but saying that I can’t is really not accepting God’s forgiveness. And rejecting that is rejecting the gospel, and trying to be right with God on my own terms. As I was processing this, God gave me this verse in chapter 2:
19 Arise, cry out in the night,
as the watches of the night begin;
pour out your heart like water
in the presence of the Lord.
Lift up your hands to him(…)
I need to pour out my whole heart to God, confessing and repenting my sin. Then I need to have faith that he hears and will forgive.
This verse really spoke to me in another way also. I’ve been so burdened for Iowa State University, Cyclone Bible Fellowship, and all the lost people at school. I want to see a revival in the way we reach people and the way we love each other. However, the thought of going back, out of this nice spiritual greenhouse, was terrifying! Then I realized, God isn’t just here in North Myrtle Beach! He’s going with all of us back to our campuses! And only he can bring revival and change hearts; I just have to be obedient to do all he calls me too. So after reading this verse, I poured out my heart for campus and CBF, and turned it all over to him. I’ve also been burdened for two friends of mine from high school that I’m still in contact with. I’ve been praying for God to work in their hearts and bring them back to him for a long time, but I renewed my comitment to praying for them and poured out my heart for them, and placed them in God’s hands.
Today I read chapter 3, and was completely blown away! After the intense description of the suffering experienced as a result of sin, it transitions to this:
19 I remember my affliction and my wandering,
the bitterness and the gall.
20 I well remember them,
and my soul is downcast within me.
21 Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:
22 Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
24 I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”
25 The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him;
26 it is good to wait quietly
for the salvation of the LORD.
Then skipping a couple verses:
31 For men are not cast off
by the Lord forever.
32 Though he brings grief, he will show compassion,
so great is his unfailing love.
33 For he does not willingly bring affliction
or grief to the children of men.
Wow! How encouraging is that! It’s so true, even though I do wander and pay the consequences for it, I have hope! The Lord is compassionate and merciful to me, and doesn’t give me what I deserve – death! He has new compassion for me, and new forgiveness to cover my failures every day! He is my portion, all I need to be fully satisfied forever! Even in suffering, he is good!
37 Who can speak and have it happen
if the Lord has not decreed it?
38 Is it not from the mouth of the Most High
that both calamities and good things come?
39 Why should any living man complain
when punished for his sins?
40 Let us examine our ways and test them,
and let us return to the LORD.
41 Let us lift up our hearts and our hands
to God in heaven, (…)
Instead of turning from God when experiencing suffering, we need to respond by examining ourselves, and turning towards him, not only raising our hands in confession, but also in praise. We know that we can trust him when we are being disciplined, because he “is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him.”
My prayer for you is that you are placing your hope in him, even when experiencing his discipline. I pray that as you do, you will experience his great love and compassion every day! I pray that you are earnestly seeking him, because when you do, he’ll reveal amazing things to you from places you’d never expect it!
The other day, our impact group decided to run over to the grocery store together, and being resourceful, one of the guys thought he’d try to ride one of the project bikes. The bike looked fine as far as we noticed. However, only a few moments after he started pedaling, the bike chain came completely off of the bike. It just fell off. It looked like it was in fine condition, when really the problem had been there for a while. Now, what can you do with a broken bike? Not much. You can’t ride it anymore. It’s unusable. Instead of carrying someone, it has to be carried.
The point of that illustration is just to say that these last two weeks, I’ve felt just like that bicycle.
Last week was the first week of leading the Bible study and discipleship with the girls and the first week of working at Wal-mart. I honestly didn’t think I felt terribly anxious about it. Crunched for time, yes, but I thought I was keeping my stress under control. Then I started experiencing the same abdominal pain and discomfort that I had my senior year of high school when I experienced problems with anxiety. It continued to escalate throughout the week, making every day a struggle.
My job is also entirely physical work; lifting crates containing four gallons of milk, boxes of juice, etc. from stacks higher than my head. With the cramped conditions in the freezer, twisting and straining is a given. I was exhausted after only two days.
On top of the physical misery, I felt completely emotionally drained. I knew, intellectually, that I was just a messenger, that my responsibility was to convey truth and encouragement, and only God could use it in their hearts. At the same time, I felt guilty for being exhausted every day after work when I had to do discipleship. I often felt like I wasn’t doing enough. Discipleship lasts for an hour, and sharing is usually another half hour. There were several days when I could only do discipleship, and encourage them to go sharing another time, or I felt so ill that I had to cut discipleship time shorter than it would normally be.
I also felt frustrated. When I would get to call Brian at night, I was always tired, and so was he, which led to a lot of misunderstandings. After I confronted one of my girls about something during discipleship and she took it badly, and I wanted to be there for friends back home going through tough times, I felt like emotionally I had nothing left to give.
I was stretched, and then I broke. And that was the best thing that could have happened to me. I realized how self-sufficient I was trying to be. I realized how I was trying to look like a “good discipler” by pretending I had it all together, and that I could do it all. I realized that I still need the gospel! Here I am telling it to others, but I needed to realize it’s implications for my own life.
One, I don’t have it all together; I’m human and therefore, sinful. Trying to appear otherwise was pride on my part, and thus, sin.
Two, I can’t do it on my own. Just like I couldn’t save myself, I can’t live the Christian life through my own strength. I don’t have enough wisdom, enough love, and enough compassion to give all of my Bible Study girls.
But, just as it’s only through Christ that we come to God, it’s also only through Christ that I can lead them. I MUST depend on Him for all that I need, and leave the results in his hands. I am just the vessel for his wisdom, love, and compassion to flow through to the girls. I feel like I don’t even have the strength to get up in the morning and endure another day of work, much less go sharing, do discipleship, and the other project activities on top of that. It has to be all Christ. Like the bicycle, I need to be carried.
I think once I realized this, nothing really changed, but it just became better. It was and is still a struggle to find physical strength to get through every day, but I know that Christ is my strength, and I just need to keep leaning on him and having the faith that he will provide for me. It’s hard on me emotionally still, but in my emptiness, Christ can fill me with his love and peace. In my brokeness, I’ve found that God can use me in ways that he couldn’t before. It sounds weird, but I really do find joy in it! The pain and difficulties are still there, but the pressure isn’t. It’s been humbling, and I know now like I never did before just how much I NEED Christ, and the gospel. It’s so ironic, I’ve been reading through Hebrews in my devotions, and when I read Hebrews 12:5-12, it didn’t even connect with me until now. “Endure hardship as discipline: God is treating you as sons.”
Sunrise on my last day of Summer Project
It hasn’t all been rough though! Discipleship has been awesome. All of the girls are so teachable, even though they might not be receptive at first, the truth of God’s word changes hearts. It’s amazing to see! I’m so excited for every discipleship session and every Bible study. I learn so much from preparing the lesson, and then I learn even more when discussing it with the girls. They bring such unique perspectives and insights that I never would have seen on my own. Such surprising things happen too; I’ll say something and then wonder, “Where did that come from?” And it’s always much better than I could have come up with on my own. The Holy Spirit is definitely at work!
We’ve seen phenomenal results from sharing these last few weeks too! God is at work among the vacationers and the few high schoolers still here. People are motivated to continue evangelizing even though staff is gone.
We saw an amazing answer to prayer last week when one of our project leaders had to leave because her mother was undergoing surgery. They didn’t think she’d survive, so she had to leave project for the rest of the summer to say goodbye to her mom and be with her family. God answered our prayers, and her mom came through the surgery just fine! As a result of her leaving, new leaders have been chosen to fill her spot, and the spot left by the person who filled her spot. Kali, my roommate, was chosen to fill the spot as one of the leaders of the outreach team!
Me and Kali with Cracker Jacks
Please be in prayer for us as we make this transition in leadership as a project, and for Stephanie and her family. Please pray for our physical health here too, because fevers are going around, and one of the girls next door has pneumonia. We Bible study leaders are really feeling the strain of trying to fit in work with all of our responsibilities, so pray for us that we can manage our time well.
As always, I would love to hear back from you all! (I almost typed y’all…just shows how the southern accent is starting to affect me!) It’s so encouraging to me to hear your feed back and updates on how things are back home in Iowa. Thanks for your prayers! They make such a difference!
9 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Cor. 12:9
“Agape” may be a familiar word to you. I knew that it meant “love,” but I didn’t know that it was one of three words for love used in the Bible. One word is for a romantic, passionate love, one is for a brotherly love, but Agape is for love that isn’t an emotion or necessarily a feeling, but a choice. We as a project, but especially we as a Bible Study, deeply experienced this kind of love this week.
Our Bible Study Leader
Sunday night’s message was about God’s Agape love for us. It’s amazing to think that God doesn’t love us because of who we are, but in spite of who we are. “He doesn’t love us for our accomplishments, but in spite of our failures. He doesn’t love us because we have it all together, but he loves us in spite of our brokeness.” Those were the phrases that really stuck with me, along with the statement that God’s love has nothing to do with us, how deserving or undeserving we are, but it has everything to do with his character.
On Monday night, my apartment threw a surprise Bacheloreatte party for our discipler, which was neat because it happened to be the anniversary of when she and her fiance started dating. We all dressed up and took her to a very nice restaurant, had a candlelit dinner and took a ton of pictures, before heading to the beach.
More Photo Shoot
Dinner took a lot longer than expected, so the person we were going to have take pictures for us wasn’t available, but two teenage girls on the beach agreed to take them for us. The sun was setting, and the ocean was incredibly beautiful. It was so perfect. Kim told us that she never felt so special in all her life, and we still had more planned! We brought her back to our apartment, where we’d decorated the tables with sea shells, rose petals, and candles, and we set out the chocolate fudge strawberry torte we’d made, got everything ready, and led her in with her eyes closed. Her face was priceless!
After dessert, we each gave her a gift, and since it way too late to start Bible study, I just summarized what it was going to be over, and we discussed it for awhile. At the end of the night, we prayed for each other and for Kim. It was pretty emotional; we’re all going to miss Kim a lot!
Tuesday night is outreach night, but this week we did something a little different. Since we don’t have enough car space for our whole impact group, we usually go sharing on the beach or on mainstreet, but our campus director arranged for us to help out at the church’s homeless dinner instead. The church has a free meal, showers, and clothing give away every Tuesday night.
I was so impressed by the attitudes of the people who ran it. It wasn’t a duty to them. One lady said it was her favorite night of the week, and it was evident that all of them genuinely loved these people. One man who helped out must have been in his 80’s, but he cheerfully did whatever small tasks he could.
I helped serve the food, and I was surprised by the homeless people themselves. I think I always had this stereotype in the back of my head that they were lazy, greedy, free-loaders who just needed to get a job. But when we’d offer them food, instead of hoarding it and demanding seconds and thirds, they’d only ask for “Just a little.” They all had stories to tell; some of them had once been business owners, but because of financial struggles and addictions, they are where they are now. One lady had a 14 month old baby, and was pregnant, and she lived in the woods. I can’t even imagine that. In this heat, and sparadic weather, being pregnant, and living in a tent, getting showers once a week, not knowing where your next meal was coming from. It makes so many of the things we complain about seem pretty insignificant. I was pretty convicted about the way I viewed homeless people; I definitly wasn’t seeing Christ in them.
Loving My Bible Study
Thursday afternoon I met with Kim for our final discipleship time. We went through each of the girls in the Bible study and she asked me what things I noticed in them that could be worked on in discipleship, and it was very interesting to see that we both noticed exactly the same things! She shared her vision plan for me for the next five weeks, which listed things she saw as strenghts that I had, and areas of growth that I can work on for the next five weeks. They were exactly what I wanted to work on too; scripture memorization, leading with authority and confidence, and not worrying. She also suggested that I share my testimony with the entire project, a very scary prospect for me, but one I know I should do, and also that I make plans for what my ministry will look like this fall. I strongly desire to lead a Bible study, because I know that especially after doing it this summer, I’m not going to want to stop! I also want to find people to disciple next fall, to build into people’s lives on a one on one basis.
Then Thursday night our project had an Agape dinner before the weekly service. We didn’t really know what to expect when we were told to wear comfortable clothes and bring blankets and pillows. When we arrived at the gym, a section in front of the stage had been roped off by Christmas lights, and inside that each impact group spread their blankets and pillows and sat on them.
Some of us were wondering if it was going to be like the international dinner, but they then explained that it was going to be a little like the feeding of the 5 thousand; they’d pass trays of food to different groups, and then each group would take what they need and pass the tray to a different group, until everyone had everything. It was really fun! There was plenty of food for everyone too.
We had a time of worship there, and somehow sitting on the floor with the dim lighting, and acoustic guitar music, it just made it so easy to focus entirely on praising God. That all lasted about two hours, and then we went into the sanctuary for the service. All the chairs had been moved, so we all sat in groups again on the floor. Our project director challenged us to not turn back now that we were halfway through, to love each other and resolve any conflicts, to be all here, and not to stop spreading the gospel. We discussed with our Bible studies where we would rate ourselves in each area, and we all said that we wanted to do better in evangelism, because I think we’ve all kind of slacked off somewhat over the last couple weeks. It was so neat to hear the girls say they were challenged on things that I was planning to talk to them about in discipleship! God is so at work in them.
After that discussion time, we were all handed candles, the kind almost every church has for their candlelight service. The lights were turned off, and the only candles lit were those belonging to our project directors. They both spoke briefly about their confidence in our new leaders, but our responsibility as a project to grow spiritually and share the gospel. Then they lit the candles of our new student project directors, who lit the candles of people near them, and so on until everyone’s candle was lit. During that time, all of the staff had made their way to the back of the church. After everyone’s candles were lit, our project director gave us a last reminder to shine brightly and said, “The project is now yours.” At that moment, all the staff blew out their candles, and turned and walked out the doors of the church. I think we all felt mingled emotions, I felt sadness and fear, as it hit me that they really were leaving.
Our new directors instructed us to blow out our candles and move all the blankets and pillows to the side, and after we’d done that, they explained that as leaders, we were called to serve as Jesus did. As a practical demonstration of that, they asked all the Bible Study leaders to come to the front, and after they washed our feet, it was our turn to wash the feet of our disciples.
Ok, I thought, this won’t be so bad, because whenever I’ve seen it done before, all they did was dip the person’s foot in the water and dry it off, and that’s considered washing them. That’s not how they did it. They used a washcloth, and actually washed them, not hurrying through it, but taking their time and doing it well, and with JOY. Afterwards, they hugged us and prayed over us before we went back to our disciples. Well, after that I threw out the dipping and drying off idea.
It was probably the most amazing experience I’ve ever had, it really was. As I washed off their feet, I felt such an overwhelming love for each one of them, that all I can say is that it came from God. It wasn’t anything I could make myself do. Yes, I could make myself wash their feet, but I know that I could never love them like that on my own. As I hugged and prayed with each of them, I was so overwhelmed with the desire to see each of them grow in specific areas, and so overwhelmed with thanks for each of them, I could hardly hold back the tears. When I finished praying with the last girl, one of the other girls spoke up; “Guys, let’s pray for Emily too!” They all circled around and laid a hand on me, and one by one they each prayed for me. I cried then! I’m getting choked up just writing about it now!
Each of us experienced God’s love in an intensely personal way that night. I am still in awe of just how much God loves each of my girls. I’m in awe of how much He loves me, to give me this opportunity to love them, and to give them a love for me!
“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Rom. 8:37-39
So I’ve been meaning to tell you about the international dinner we, the prayer and world vision team, put together a couple weeks ago, and the impact it had on me.
Our plan was to have several stations, one for each of our international partnerships; Australia, France, Latin America, East Asia, 4J (code name, to protect the believers there), Ghana, as well as one station for America, and then the Hidden People. Students were designated to each station , and each station was decorated along the theme of the country, with some glaring differences.
Latin America only had chips and soda to eat, which symbolized their empty, unsatisfying religion.
Ghana was given baby food, representing that there were numerous believers there who lacked spiritual maturity.
4J was given a box of stale popcorn, tightly taped shut, to symbolize the difficulty for them to access religion, and even then, it’s old and dead.
Australia and France were given real food; chicken, baked potatoes, etc, but it was all cold.
In East Asia, the students were crammed into a small place enclosed by roped off chairs, with barely enough room to sit down, and they weren’t allowed to talk except in whispers, with only rice to eat.
America, on the other hand, had a lavishly decorated table, with more food than they could possibly ever eat, with staff to wait on them hand and foot.
The hidden people were put upstairs in the church, in a small attic, with only water.
The goal was for the Americans to realize that they had the good food, and they could share it with people in the other countries. After a person was given solid food to eat, they could then leave their country and share solid food with others. Hopefully, someone would notice that people were missing, and go looking for the Hidden people. When they were found, they’d have to get past the guards, and teach the people how to eat before giving them solid food.
All of us who were on the prayer and world vision team had to be Hidden People because we knew what was going on. Several random people were also designated as Hidden People with us. We were led to the attic, and told that we could not talk at all. About 30 of us were crammed into the tiny attic. We were so tightly packed in that we had to take turns stretching out our legs. It had been 105 degrees the last two days, and the air conditioner was un-plugged. When someone was about to plug it in, our staff guard told her, “Don’t even think about it.”
I was aware of what the conditions were going to be, but I was really unprepared for how miserable it actually was. All of the students were simply told that it was an international dinner, which conjured up images of a buffet of concoctions from around the world which could be sampled at ones discretion. This was not at all what they were expecting. Water, crammed conditions, and intolerable heat. The staff told them that everyone else was in the gym eating, and probably didn’t even notice we were gone. We decided to try to make as much noise as possible in case they were looking for us. We clapped, we stomped, we pounded on the walls, we drummed on water bottles, and we whistled.
I started whistling “Amazing Grace.” It’s classic, familiar strains brought a sense of peace and hope into the desperation of the situation. We’d been waiting for almost two hours, and no one had found us yet. The tune caught on, and soon almost all of us were whistling “Amazing Grace.” That’s when it struck me: yes, we are trapped in a very hot, uncomfortable room for a few hours. But we have hope! We know eventually we’ll be found or they’ll let us out. We can pray, we can sing hymns, and we have something bigger than ourselves to draw strength from. But what about real Hidden People groups? They’re trapped for a lifetime, actually, an eternity, without hope! They don’t have the grace that we’re singing about. Is anyone even looking for them?
After two hours, some people found us, but only one girl could get past the guards, and she didn’t bring any food. At that point, the staff called the rapture, so the game was over. We all went to the gym, where we were given pizza. Then began the debriefing time, where the game was fully explained, and one staff and one student from each station could share their experience.
It was so interesting to hear how different people responded. Of the Americans, one guy realized immediately what was going on. He’s a quiet, shy person, but he wouldn’t sit down and eat until he found out how he could get to the other countries, and he didn’t stop sharing the entire game. Another guy who was an American ate an entire chicken by himself. The Latin Americans were overlooked, just because it looked like they were having a good time, and because they were so close to America, which is exactly what happens in reality in missions. The French were offered warm food, but they rejected it. They were distracted by the activities at their own table and never noticed what was going on in the rest of the gym. The Australians were much the same way, but a few of them caught on to what was happening and shared food. Very few people noticed that others were missing, but didn’t take initiative to look for them.
One by one, students stood up and shared how they never even thought of Hidden People groups before, or missions, and especially not going themselves, but after their experience, they were going to start prayerfully considering it. When a few nights later we had an information session for each of our partnerships, almost the whole project came.
I personally had forgotten my plan of going on a stateside missions trip this year, and going overseas next year. I’d gotten too caught up in school, Brian, and my plans. Through this experience, God reminded me of how much I had desired to go to France or Africa next summer. I’ve started researching summer projects, and there are two 6 week long ones to France, and several 1 week long trips. In Africa, there’s a project in Ghana for two weeks, and one in Kenya for three. Right now, I’m just praying about all of them. I know that if it is God’s will for me to go, He’ll allow for all the scheduling around summer classes, having a job, and other events to work out. I just need to trust him and be willing to make sacrifices if that’s what it takes.
I guess I didn’t tell you, but my troubles at work didn’t get any better. With permission from the leaders, I respectfully quit. I took Kali and a formal letter of resignation with me. Frank seemed pleased, and couldn’t help but add in parting comments about letting customers pick cheese. His wife cried. I felt really, really bad for her.
I applied to Walmart last Saturday, and after three days of going back and forth, trying to get in touch with the right person, computer difficulties, and one road block after another, I am finally hired at Walmart! I’m actually really excited to work there, all the personnel that I met, which was quite a few, were very friendly. I’ll be working in Dairy and Frozen Foods, along with two other guys from Campus Crusade! I was just hired today, and so now I’m waiting for the results of my drug test, and then I’ll have a two day orientation before starting work, probably sometime next week. I’ve already bought some navy blue shirts! From Walmart, go figure.
It was a long and frustration process. I had to keep going back day after day, walking 20 minutes each way in the scorching heat and oppressive humidity. I feel like I’ve practically lived there this week, I’ve spent so much time there perusing the isles while waiting. God has been good; encouragement always came in some unexpected form. One day an elderly couple gave me a ride home on the back of their golf cart. This morning, when I went in at the time my interview was supposed to be, a lady power-walking struck up a conversation with me as she passed me, just asking me if I was headed to work. When I replied that I was actually headed to an interview at Walmart, she said all I’d have to do was flash “that bright smile,” but she’d say a prayer for me! That was so unexpected, and so encouraging.
Thank you to all who have been in prayer for me! Where God guides, He provides, and through your prayers, He has shown us all once again that He is in control!
I would really appreciate your prayers regarding my job. The last two weeks have been extremely difficult.
It started with my boss making uncalled for harsh comments and criticisms, and even though I sought to respond by just going the extra mile to minister, the situation just got worse. I tried to stay out of his way as much as possible, but he would get very angry over very small things that I did that were different from the way he would do something, or if I even suggested a different way of doing it. I talked to his wife, and she agreed that his behavior toward me was uncalled for, and she would talk to him about it.
It was better for a day, but then the next time I went in to work, in front of all the customers, he flew into a rage over the fact that I said that it was very confusing when he allowed the customers to switch between cheeses, repeatedly reminding me that he was the owner of the business, and I was just the employee. The next morning, he again confronted me about the incident yesterday, belligerently asking me if I tried to tell my former employers how to run their businesses, and why I felt like I could tell him what to do. He went on a rant for quite some time, while I just listened, retaining my composure, and agreeing with him and apologizing for offending him. I also told him that I understood that he was under a lot of pressure running the business, and that he was doing very well at it.
After that, I thought we were good to go, but I still took care to stay out of his way. But later on, I made an innocent mistake, and when I tried to correct it, he interfered, telling the customer to ask for him to do it next time, because I didn’t know how and wasn’t good at it. In front of me! I was shocked. He then proceeded to show me how to do it “right,” and I watched without saying a word while he did everything differently from how they taught me originally. As I expected, it didn’t work for him either, and embarrassed by his failure, he proceeded to verbally attack me even more harshly than before, also in front of the customer. He then told me that I would have to come in later in the day and only work when his wife was there, which I totally agreed with, except that it makes for much longer days for me, and one hour less of work per week.
When I went into work today, Frank informed me that I wasn’t allowed to use the cash register anymore. Then I told his wife I wanted to talk to her once she got a chance, and she must have told Frank that because then a little later Frank came and said, “Hey, you can talk to her all you want, but I’m the owner of this business, and I’m the one that hired you, right?” Then he went on to say; “and you know, there’s plenty of other places out there you could work. So if you’re not happy here, there’s plenty of other places you could work. But you won’t make it in the restaurant business! You’re so slow. I have to wait while you make the bagels. You move like molasses!” Which is almost funny, if it weren’t so ridiculous, because it’s not like I can make the toaster toast any faster, you know? “And just so you know, I’m cutting your hours back from 11 to 2.”
So I talked to his wife, and she said that she’ll talk to Frank, again. She said too that she doesn’t want me to have to work in a hostile environment. So she’ll try to come in when I do, and since 11-2 isn’t even close to the 30 hours we’re supposed to get, my hours will be 10-2, which is a little closer, but still not good. I mentioned the possibility of having Frank take a break for a few hours while I’m there, and she said she’d talk to him about it.
That’s the latest on the situation, besides that I’m not working for the rest of this week. I’ll go back on Monday however. So we’ll see how it goes.
I discussed the situation with my discipler, parents, and campus director, and they all agreed that because of the hostile environment, if working with her doesn’t help, I can find a new job. Of course, that opens up a lot of uncertainties and fears for me, since it wasn’t easy to find a job at all, and this late in the summer, the chances are much slimmer. So, please pray! Pray that God will change my employer’s heart, and that I’ll continue to respond in a God honoring way, while choosing the best course of action. Thank you so much!
Saturday nights are project social nights, which includes a catered meal and an activity for our impact groups. The Slaying the Giant Saturday activity was a city wide scavenger hunt. Each impact group received a packet containing gospel booklets, surveys, some money, and a long list of items that we could do to earn various amounts of points. Also, to reach our goals for the week, they included initiating conversations and gospel presentations for bonus points. Our first hurdle was finding transportation, because we only had one car for 14 people. After much disorganization and confusion, one of the project directors, who was actually my discipler last school year, agreed to go with us and let us use her car. Our Bible study leaders were there also, but they weren’t allowed to give us any help. As we stood in a huddle, figuring out the car situation, I was handed the packet and list of things to do for points, simply because no one else would take it. I tried to pass it off to two older guys in our group who had led us before, but for some reason, they refused to shoulder the responsibility. As the youngest person in our impact group, and admittedly one of the most reserved, a knot tightened in my stomach.
One of our stops
After maybe the first two places on the list, I saw that this wasn’t going to be easy. Some people were resentful that I was taking charge, which made everything so hard. It was tiring to repeat myself over and over, explaining where we were going and why. I felt a huge strain from just knowing that people weren’t happy about it, and knowing that what I was doing was for the best of the group and there was nothing that I could do differently. When I tried to delegate tasks, I got no response. Finally, people started splitting off of the group to go initiate conversations, and that was fine with me. But we still had one more location that I’d made clear that we were going to, and as we were on the way one of the guys asked,
“So can we just go sharing now?”
And the staff person who was along for the ride said, “Yeah, go ahead, lead the group!”
I spoke up right away, “Didn’t we agree to go to the Pavilion (a restaurant) first?”
Silence. Fine, I decided. I’m done with this. We got to the beach, and I handed surveys and gospel booklets to everyone, made sure they were set to go, and then after the last student was out of sight, I snapped. I dropped the packet on the sand and doubled over sobbing. “I HATE leading people!” I gasped out between sobs to my discipler and the staff lady. They handled it well: hugged me, told me they were proud of me, and that I’d really done a great job, and I eventually got under control. It was a huge relief to be done with it, it’d been so stressful and so out of my comfort zone.
Best hotdogs ever, btw
But the night wasn’t over, because we still had sharing to do! I went with both of my disciplers, and the first group of girls we talked to, I just mostly listened, since I was still feeling shook up. The next group we approached however, I initiated the conversation and went through the survey, and then my disciplers had me go through the gospel with both of the girls too. I was so nervous, just because they were my leaders, and I didn’t want to say something wrong, which was a very silly thing to be thinking really. It went very well, despite my nervousness, and both girls were very glad we’d talked to them, even though they said they’d prayed a prayer before at some point in their lives.
The night still wasn’t over quite yet, because I still had to gather up all the statistics from all the groups who shared, and add up all the points. The strain returned, however briefly. I felt like some people still weren’t happy with me, but it very well could have been more imagined than actual. So finally, after two hours, the ordeal was finally over. I called my boyfriend Brian, and tried to tell him about it, but I broke down sobbing unconsolably for a while. It took a long time for me to get the whole story out.
Basically, I think it was just difficult for me because I’m used to being a follower, and I really like to please people and keep everyone happy, but in this situation, someone had to do something, and not everyone was going to agree. So, as my discipler Kim told me, I did what I had to do, I finished the task, and I did it well. And while it was incredibly difficult for me, I realized that I could lead people, a large group of people, in the face of resentment, and do it well. So even though leading in that situation isn’t a strong point for me, I feel like I have more confidence in that area.
In discipleship, we discussed to some length spiritual gifts. My top result after taking the spiritual gift test was discernment. Tying for second were mercy, faith, and sheparding. All of them work together really well I think. Mercy is pretty self explanatory, it means that I can empathize with others and desire to allieve suffering, while faith is the ability to believe in results when they’re not evident, and shepherding is investing in people for long periods of time to help them grow. So, the mercy helps me to shepherd well, the faith helps me to believe that there will be results even though they may not be evident for long periods of time. I scored pretty low on leadership, but, like I said, even though I know that isn’t a spiritual gift for me or something that comes naturally, I know that I can do it, when I need to.
I mention this, because every year on this summer project, the staff all leave after the 5th week, and we students lead the rest of the project for the remaining 5 weeks. That means that students lead the teams, like the prayer and vision team, community team, and weekly meeting team, and students lead each of the Bible studies and do discipleship with the girls in their appartment, and students actually become the project directors. It’s the staff’s responsibility to pick the new student leaders, and since this is week 4, they’ve already begun the selection process.
When Kim told me she wanted to talk to me about something after the weekly meeting Sunday night, I honestly wondered if I’d done something wrong. We’d just had our international dinner, which I will tell more of in another blog, and I wondered if maybe I’d dropped the ball somehow in the planning for it and was in trouble. I was utterly thrilled when instead she asked me to be the Bible study leader after the staff leave! I was hoping so much that I could be, I felt such a desire to lead a Bible study after discussing leadership in discipleship with Kim the week before and after our women’s time last Thursday night. I feel like I’ve been so blessed with numerous experiences and had so many people pour into my life, that I really want to do the same for others. I’m so excited to begin my Bible study leader responsibilities, starting next week!
Please pray for me! That most of all, I’ll be humble and teachable as I teach others, and also that I can truly love each of the girls in my Bible study and be an encouragement and catalyst for them.
God is AMAZING! During Slaying the Giants week, we all set goals for evangelism; how many conversations we wanted to initiate, how many gospel presentations we would do, and one extra “giant” that we wanted to slay. On Saturday afternoon, I went out sharing with a friend of mine on project by the name of Dan. We talked to quite a few people, and at first Dan did the initiating and going through the gospel, but since I only had one more person to go through the gospel with to reach my goal, we started looking for some girls that I could initiate and share the gospel with. Within minutes, dark clouds swept over the sky, blocking out the sun. One of the sudden downpours that never cease to amaze me by their sheer randomness was on it’s way. People began packing up and leaving, and we weren’t finding anyone. Thunder rolled, and I glanced up at the sky. It looked like it would start raining any minute.
“Lord, don’t let it rain until Emily shares the gospel with one more girl!” Dan prayed. We kept on walking. There was an exodus of people heading back to their hotels, and no groups of girls anywhere.
Thunder rumbled again, and discouraged, I told Dan, “I don’t think we’re going to find anyone Dan, and it’s going to rain any minute. “
“If you pray with faith, God will answer!” He then prayed, “Lord, thank you for holding back the rain until Emily can share with one more girl!”
Could God really do that? I wondered. Yes, He could, but would he? I took a deep breath and prayed silently, “God, please hold back the rain, and give me one more opportunity to share the gospel. I believe you can if you want to.” I remembered the passage in Mark that I’d read recently for Bible study. “I do believe, help my unbelief!” I looked up the beach, and there, sitting absorbed in a magazine, oblivious to the threatening clouds overhead, sat one college-age girl. “Dan! Look over there!” I could hardly contain my excitement.
“Go for it!” Dan really didn’t seem too surprised.
We introduced ourselves, and explained that we were with Campus Crusade for Christ and were doing surveys on the beach. “I do not speak much English,” she replied with a thick accent. “Could you say that again?” Oh man, I thought, how can we share the gospel with someone who doesn’t speak English? Then again, God, you led us to her, help her to understand! Slowly, we worked through the survey questions, discovering that her name was Carol, and that she was an exchange student from Brazil. In response to the last question, “On a scale from one to ten, rate your desire to know God,” she answered a ten. As I pulled out the gospel booklet, the dark clouds above us rumbled threats of an imminent downpour. I looked at Dan, silently begging him to pray. He smiled back, totally undisturbed. I don’t know how we got through the booklet exactly; I can’t explain how she was able to understand it in English when her native language was Portuguese; all I know is that we went through the entire gospel with Carol, and SHE UNDERSTOOD. At that point, she wasn’t ready to make a decision, but we exchanged phone numbers and invited her to church the next morning and our weekly meeting on Thursday. As Dan and I were walking away, a few raindrops hit the sand around us. When I arrived at the apartment and shut the door behind me, the skies opened, and the rain poured down.
Talk about incredible! We prayed in faith, and even though mine was weak, God heard and answered! But the story doesn’t stop there! That night I called Carol to see if she wanted to come to church with us, but she said it was too early in the morning for her, but she would call me Thursday and maybe come to the weekly meeting. I was skeptical. I assumed that was the last time I’d hear from Carol, and just prayed that God would use our conversation on the beach and the booklet we’d given her to continue to work in her heart.
Thursday afternoon, I was astounded to receive a text message from Carol! Unfortunately, she had to work on Thursday night, nannying the children of her host mom. But, she still wanted to get together again. One day I was in the office, and on the rack of booklets, I found some that looked like Spanish, but I found out they were actually Portuguese!
On Friday, I was exhausted after a long and difficult day at work, so I texted her and asked if she’d be available Saturday or Sunday afternoon to go get ice cream. She responded that she had to leave early Saturday morning, and this was her last day of vacation here. I felt completely drained, but I prayed that God would just give me the courage and the energy to meet with her that day, and it worked out for both of us to meet an hour later. We went to the donut shop where I work and ordered ice cream, and since I’d asked her to bring pictures of Brazil, she brought her laptop and showed me pictures of her family and friends in Sao Paulo and Rio de Geniero on her laptop, and I showed her pictures of my family and friends from Iowa from my digital camera. Her pictures were WAY more interesting! At least, they were to me, but she really enjoyed the pictures of my last family vacation to South Dakota. We talked almost three hours, and then she remembered that she had to be back at her hotel for dinner at six. I was able to give her the Portuguese booklet and take a picture with her before we parted ways.
So, continue to pray for Carol! Pray that God continues to work in her life, and then uses her to reach her family and friends at home in Brazil, her school in Pennsylvania, and in Australia, where she hopes to study in the future.
Well, there’s much more I could write about, but I think I’ll save it for another blog!
Thanks for your prayers!