Knowing Vs Believing

I will be vulnerable and honestly say this past month has been hard for me. Our ministry here in Nepal has been spirit led, the team has continually grown, and we have had the privilege to see God moving in Nepal. In spite of all of this, this past month has still been a struggle. This is the first time where I’ve been in a country that is so closed to the idea Christianity. Last year I led a team to Haiti. Even in that nation, where Voodoo is so deeply entrenched in the culture, the Haitians were at least open to what we had to share. Here in Nepal, so very few will take to heart the message of Jesus we desperately want to share with them.

Seeing this day after day has really brought me down. I KNEW deep down that we had been planting seeds daily and I tried convincing myself that the truth of God was moving within each person that we spoke to. However, I still found myself being discouraged.

“You can only gain a big heart by allowing Jesus to break your little one.”

After two weeks of ministry, I came to the realization that I still didn’t have a heart for the Nepali people. During our DTS lecture phase one of our speakers, Jackie Pullinger, told us – “You can only gain a big heart by allowing Jesus to break your little one.”

I realized that I  had been so caught up in my discouragement that I hadn’t been willing to allow God to break my heart for the Nepali people.

It was incredible to see and feel the change within me after this revelation. I began to see every situation differently. I began to see the hurt and brokenness and desire for more within each person.  It no longer mattered if I thought they were even listening, or if they cared, or if they were only there because they had nothing better to do, or because they wanted to argue with us. I was excited after ministry, whether we saw results or not. I not only KNOW that God is working in Nepal, but now I BELIEVE with all my heart that God is working within each and every person that hears the truth of God that we’re here to share.

It’s taken me a month longer then it should have to bring myself to this place, but I’ve finally allowed God to break my little heart and I no longer have to convince myself that God is moving. Now I BELIEVE with all my heart he is.

6 Things I WON’T Miss About My Short Term Mission Trip

Editors Note: Please be sure to read this blog post through to the end. We promise it will make more sense that way. 

Our time in Thailand is rapidly coming to a close.  I’ve been thinking a lot about the things I’ve been able to experience during our two month trip.  There have been many new sights, smells, sounds, and tastes since we first stepped off the plane in Bangkok.  There are so many things that I’ve learned here that it is hard to recount all of them.  But I can definitely think of some things that I WON’T miss about my journey here.

Note:  It appears to me that there is a new fad on the Internet where people create obscure lists that reveal ‘secrets’ (but usually not actual worthwhile information) about our generation.  I’ve seen titles like “14 Things You Didn’t Know About [insert movie here]” or “8 Things Every 20-Something Should Do Before [insert arbitrary date]…  Number 3 is Insane!” on a daily basis on Facebook.  So, since I’m so up to date with the latest fads and trends of my generation I have decided to make my own ‘list blog’.

So here it goes.  6 Things I WON’T Miss About My Short Term Mission Trip:

1. Asking God what He would have me do each day.

Since coming to Chiang Mai, our day looks like this.  Eat breakfast at 9 am, have a quiet time, meet at 10:15, and get started with ministry around 11.  During our quiet time, we can do whatever we want.  Usually people read the Bible, journal, listen to music, play guitar, or even sleep (yes, sometimes sleep, and that’s ok).  This time is given for us to seek God and ask Him which ministry He would want for us to do.  Sometimes, this is challenging, because we may want to do something, but God may want us to do something different that day.  This has been challenging for someone like me, because I tend to like to have a schedule and prepare myself for the day in advanced.  So as I head into a corporate job back in Texas, I won’t miss this.

2. Asking God for His heart in every situation.

Since coming on this trip, I have seen and experienced things that have confused or even angered me.  Some of these things include: ‘Christian’ Schools where they don’t teach the gospel (or severely twist it for their own agenda), getting different answers from different monks about Buddhism depending on the day or the monk you happen to be talking to, and witnessing 70 year old men out at the bars trying to buy girls that are young enough to be their granddaughters.  In many of these instances, my emotions begin to try to get the best of me, but I’ve constantly had to give them to God.  I’ve had to ask God the hard questions like, “God, where are you in this situation?!” or “God, how can this be redeemed?!” while metaphorically shaking my fist at Him.  And the crazy thing is, He’s never left me wondering.  Whether it’s like a small drop of rain or a roaring flood, His goodness has endured and been revealed even in the toughest situations.  Definitely won’t miss this.

3. Being intentional about every relationship I’ve made, whether I’m going to see that person again or not.

I have met so many people here, seeing many new faces every single day.  Whether it’s a 5 year old kid at an English camp we are holding, a 50 year old man in the red light district, or a 22 year old monk in a temple, God has reminded me to be intentional in every relationship.  Many times I’ve thought, “I can take today off, it’s not like I’m ever going to see these people again,” and God has brought someone in my path that has had a profound impact on me.  The thing I’ve learned is that it doesn’t matter if I’m ever going to talk to that person again or not.  I am God’s chosen instrument (and if you’re a believer, so are you!) to reveal His light to the darkness of this world, so I am always reflecting a part of God’s character to everyone I meet.  Whether it’s a smile as I’m walking past a stranger to remind them God loves them, or I’m acting like a fool and inadvertently revealing God’s grace for His children, it all matters.  Every relationship matters?  Won’t miss this.

4. Going to God first when something is bothering or frustrating me.

Back at home, many of the friends I hang out with are pretty identical to me.  My ‘community’ consists of guys that come from similar backgrounds or are in similar stages of life as I am.  But I haven’t had that here in Thailand, or even since coming to DTS back in April.  I’ve been surrounded by people that are in some ways extremely different than me.  This has forced me to rely on God when I’ve grown frustrated in a situation or ‘need to vent’.  Back home, I always have guys to go to that understand my point of view because they usually agree with me.  Here, I haven’t had the same type of close connection with the guys that I’m used to, so I’ve had to go to God and God alone.  It seems really simple, but this practice of going straight to God when I get angry, frustrated, lonely, sad, mad, or anything else has been profound in my relationship with Him.  I won’t miss this as I head back home to my friends.

5. Resting in God and not thinking I always have to be doing something.

Our western culture tends to celebrate people described as ‘driven’ or ‘motivated’.  Being described this way is not inherently a bad thing.  The problem is, these words are sometimes used to mask words like ‘pushy’ or ‘ego-centric’ which give a more accurate description of many people in our culture.  I have fallen into the trap of always having to have something to do.  I think that the way I show that I’m devoted to God is by continuously pushing myself to the limit and ‘sacrificing’ all of my other desires ‘for His Kingdom’.  Here, I’ve had time to rest.  I’ve had time to think about the ways God loves me, for who I am and what He’s done for me, not for what I’ve done/am doing.  This is definitely something that I won’t miss.

6. Being pushed out of my comfort zone and loving people I wouldn’t normally gravitate towards.

God loves everyone, more than we can describe or imagine.  Because of this, He has called us to love everyone, even if it’s uncomfortable.  I have met many people here that I would never even approach in my daily life back in America.  Some of these people have very different lifestyles than what I’m used to and view life in a completely different way than me.  But I believe God has brought me to them to push me to love them the way He loves them.  And let me tell you, sometimes it’s been a huge challenge.  But God’s love goes deeper than sexual orientations, lifestyle choices, political stances, and nationalities.  This is something that He has taught me throughout this journey, and I won’t miss it at all.

I won’t miss any of these things, because with God’s help, these things will become a part of my everyday life with Christ.

Here’s the kicker to all of the things on this list.  The reason why I won’t miss any of these things is because these are all things that I should be doing in my daily walk with Christ, whether I’m on a mission trip or back at home, or anywhere.  Relying on God in all situations?  Yep.  Being intentional with every relationship, no matter how big or small?  You betcha.  Loving people different than me, even when it’s uncomfortable?  Of course.  I won’t miss any of these things, because with God’s help, these things will become a part of my everyday life with Christ.

Thanks for reading!  God has blessed us so stinking much!  Prayers for our travels and our return to America would be greatly appreciated!  Also, that I can find an apartment and a roommate in Houston before I start my job 2 weeks after DTS is over!

Teach Me to Love

It been a long three weeks, but I have really loved Thailand. A lot has gone on, from spending time with some people in prison to hanging out in a remote village on the border of Myanmar to teaching English to so many students of different ages. Even with all that going on, I haven’t had any big, huge life changing moments. Alas, this past week has been busy, and it has awakened a new realization. My team has been pretty close from the very begining. It came as an almost rude surprise to be experiencing some discord within our group. The fact that we fell into something that every team goes through made me the most mad. I thought we’d be the one team to hold it together. But a couple trips to the hospital, a mysterious rash, and a few emotional breaks down later… we are only human. Throughout it all I’ve had a song stuck in my head. Here’s what I learned: Senior year of high school my dear Spanish teacher, Señora Oeste, came across this simple but profound song

“Enseñame a amar,
enseñame a ser como tú,
dame tú corazon”

Which translates to:

“Teach me to love,
teach me to be like You,
give me Your heart”

Having that mindset can change everything. My sweet sister Katie led team time tonight and she basically said if we DON’T TRY to have God’s heart for these people then we will fail at why we even came here. Maybe its cliché, but love goes a long way. Love is the answer. Love is bigger. cue elephant love medley Life live with all the love you can give, you might surprise yourself.

Planting Seeds and Trusting God

God totally blew my mind the other day.  Here’s the story.

One of the temples in Chiang Mai does something called Monk Chat.  Basically, a tourist can sit down with a monk and ask questions about Buddhism and what it’s like to be a monk. We use this as a ministry opportunity.  It’s a cool setting to learn about Buddhism and to show God’s love to the monks.

I met a monk there named Vijay who is actually from India.  He travelled to this particular temple in Thailand to learn English because it has a great English program for the monks.  He was 24 years old, and had only been an official monk for about a year, but he had been a novice (attending a Buddhist high school in preparation of becoming a monk) since he was 14.  He spoke perfect English, so he and I were able to communicate easily.

I asked Vijay many questions about what it meant to be a monk, who Buddha was, and what his teachings were all about.  He was very happy to tell me all that he knew (he was very educated), and he even took out his journal with his class notes that went through the history of Buddhism.

While we were speaking, I was actively praying and asking God what I should say next and I was praying that it would be His words coming through me, not my own.  After about an hour of listening to him and asking him questions, God gave me an open door.

*Let me preface the rest of the story with this: As some of you know, I am not a Biblical scholar.  I am also by no means an apologist.  I haven’t even read the entire Bible yet (Deuteronomy, Leviticus, Lamentations… pretty much any book over 3 syllables intimidates me).  I tell you this so you can see how God used this conversation for His glory, even in spite of me.*

In Vijay’s journal, he had dates written down for events, like ‘500 BC’ and ‘250 AD’.  So I asked him if he know what ‘BC’ and ‘AD’ meant.  He knew that they referred to Jesus.  He said that Jesus was a good teacher, and he was tortured and killed, but as he was being killed he called out to God, “Forgive them”, and after 3 days he was resurrected (he actually said ‘reincarnated’ and I had to correct them).

Ok, so he knew about Jesus.  From here I just developed some very basic (remember my Biblical credentials… not many) arguments for my faith.  If you’re really into apologetics, you probably could’ve gotten way more into this, but I’m not.  I asked him who he thought Jesus was talking to on the cross (when he said “Forgive them”) since Buddhists don’t believe in God. I brought up the fact that Vijay said Jesus was a ‘good teacher’.  If anyone is familiar with CS Lewis, you probably already know his argument against this type of statement.  If you have no clue what I’m talking about it, I can briefly explain it below.

*Basically, Jesus never said he was a ‘good teacher’.  He said he was the Son of God.  In order to imply that He was simply a ‘good teacher’, you are saying He was lying about being the Son of God.  If He was lying about being the Son of God, then He wasn’t a ‘good teacher’ because He would be a liar.  So basically you have to believe Him that He is actually who He says He is, the Son of God, or you have to believe He’s a deranged crazy man who can’t be trusted because of the lunacy of what He proclaims about Himself.  Lewis argues that there is no in between, and he presents this argument (way better than I am) in Mere Christianity, which if you haven’t read, you should.*

The awesome thing about this discussion was that Vijay was totally tracking with me.  Him and I each presented our points and discussed the differences between them.  Through all of this, I got to hit on the basic message of the gospel many times.  Before I left, I thanked him for the talk and he was beaming.  He said, “No, thank you.  People always come and all they do is ask me questions and listen, this is the first time someone has actually taught me something.”  We made plans to talk again.  Super cool.

The next day, we go back to the temple and he isn’t around.  So I began chatting with another monk who didn’t know very much English at all.  After about an hour, Vijay showed up.  We pretty much hopped right back into the discussion we were having the day before.

We began presenting arguments again (Note: when I say ‘argument’ it actually wasn’t an argument at all; it was an awesome conversation where we were both presenting evidence for our beliefs) and as we talked, people began to gather around.  I don’t know exactly how many people were listening, but there were 7 at our table (Vijay and another monk, and 5 tourists, including myself) and a few people at surrounding tables listening in as well.  I kept asking God what to say next, and it was awesome because Vijay kept leading me into chances to explain the gospel.  Vijay and I had been talking about specific scenarios, without anyone else chiming in for probably 20 minutes, when something awesome happened.

One of the other tourists at the table, a Dutch guy about my age, turned to me and said, “It sounds like if you saw a little girl on the side of the road who had no way of helping herself, you would stop to help her so that you can go to heaven.”  I got to explain to him that actually, I already know I’m going to heaven.  Jesus already covered my sins, so I don’t have to worry about earning favor with Him.  The reason I would stop to help her is because of the love that God already has for me, not so I could earn his love.  He understood.  Then he asked the monk a similar question and the conversation continued.

It was getting late, so I jotted down my name and email address for the Dutch guy and another girl who seemed interested at the table and Grayson, my former DTS roommate, and I took off.  Leaving the temple, we were both pretty amazed that God created such a great opportunity for the gospel to be openly shared during the conversation, and for how many people were there to hear it.  As we went through the temple gates, I ran to the 7-11 across the street to get a bottle of water.  When I came out, I saw the Dutch guy standing there talking to Grayson.  He had apparently followed us out of the temple.

When I approached them he said, “Hey man, I was hoping you could explain to me more about what you were saying.  I know some Christians back home who say that they are pretty sure that they won’t go to Heaven because of some of the awful things they have done.  But it sounds like you know that you’re going to Heaven.”  I’ve only been a ‘missionary’ for a handful of weeks, but I’m pretty sure this is an evangelist’s jackpot.

So right there on the temple grounds, right outside the main gate, I got to go through the gospel with him.  I even got to use my Bible (which may sound weird, but many times it’s hard to have an opportunity to pull out your Bible because people get so turned off by it).  He had already heard about Jesus and God the Father while I was talking to Vijay, so I took him to Ephesians 1:13-14 and explained to him how, because I have the Holy Spirit living in me (the deposit that guarantees our inheritance), I know I’m going to heaven.

He ended up walking with us for about 15 minutes, in the opposite direction of where he was supposed to go, in order to ask us more questions about Christianity and about God.  It was so cool.  When he finally left, Grayson and I were pumped.  We praised God, high-fived, and smiled from ear to ear the rest of the way home.  It was insane how God had orchestrated the whole thing.

That Dutch guy didn’t come to know Christ that day, but he was obviously seeking and very open to hear about Him.  Statistics say that it takes the average Christian about 6 times of hearing the gospel before they accept Jesus (for me, it took 20 years and countless times).  How crazy would it be for that guy, if maybe 10 years down the road he prays for his salvation, and looks back and realizes that the first time he heard the gospel was inside a Buddhist temple, in Thailand, from an American ‘missionary’, who happened to be there at the same time as him.

That’s how awesome God is.  He is everywhere and He can reach people anywhere.  He is on a relentless pursuit of His children.  It doesn’t matter if you’re in a Buddhist temple, a bar, a strip club, at work, or the back row at church, God can reach you.  Jesus said in John 6:41, “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”

One thing I’ve learned about evangelism is that most of it is planting seeds and trusting God to make them grow.  What an honor it was to be able to plant the seed in that guy’s life.

The Gospel Brings Hope

So wat di, khap! (hello in Thai)

We’ve been in Thailand for about a week now. It seems crazy because it feels much longer than that.

In America, there’s a saying that says ‘there’s a church on every street corner’. Imagine that, but instead of churches it’s Buddhist temples, and I would say that there are even more of them here. In fact, there is a saying in Thai that says ‘to be Thai is to be Buddhist’. Pretty much everywhere we go we are surrounded by statues of Buddha adorned in fresh flowers. This country is about 96% Buddhist, with between .5%-2% of the population being Christian depending on who you ask. Very different than America.

With these facts in mind, I began preparing a teaching for one of our ministry days. Our contacts here in Ratchaburi started a ministry where they brought the gospel to a prison nearby. The ministry has grown and there are about 120 male and 40 female Christians that they know of in the prison. They’ve even run a couple of Discipleship Training Schools inside the prison with inmates as students. Our involvement with the ministry was to go in and provide some worship songs, a testimony, a dance, and a teaching.

There were probably 40 inmates in the worship area with us, with many more walking around outside who stopped to watch what we were doing.  They did a few worship songs in Thai and our translator, Pi Noi, gave a brief teaching. Then it was our turn.

I was in charge of the teaching. It was supposed to be about 20 minutes (about 40 when you account for the translation) and I could talk about whatever I wanted. When preparing, I really felt God saying that I needed to focus on the truth of the gospel. I felt that in a culture that was surrounded by a lot of spiritual oppression and fear, I needed to remind the believers in the prison of what they received when they accepted God in their hearts. The main point of my message was that there are many lies from the enemy and the world that constantly bombard us, but the truth of the gospel is what gives us hope as believers.

After I concluded my teaching, we began praying for the inmates. I prayed for a handful of men in English. I trusted that even if they couldn’t understand my words, the Holy Spirit would be communicating to them. As I was praying for a couple of guys, our translator called me over and said that there was a group of men who wanted to accept Christ as their Savior. (I didn’t even know there were men there who weren’t believers. I thought all of the men there had already accepted Christ. I wondered why God wanted me to focus so much on the basic message of the gospel. Here’s why!) He began to explain to them what it meant to accept Christ into their lives. In a Buddhist culture heavily influenced by Hinduism, it’s important that new believers know that Christ is the only way for them to be saved, not just another god in their ‘religion rolodex’. The translator allowed me to lead them in praying for their salvation. I had to fight back tears the entire time. I would pray, the translator would translate, and they would repeat it. It was one of the most amazing things I have ever experienced. I don’t know the exact number because I wasn’t keeping count, but we think there were about 12 men in the group that accepted Christ today.

I can’t describe the feelings of reverence, joy, and honor that I feel after being able to witness those men accept Christ. I got to be an instrument of God’s love today, and I was blessed with being able to lead people in praying the most important prayer of their entire lives. It was so incredibly awesome. God is so good!

I can’t even imagine what else God has in store for our team while we are here. Please keep our team in your prayers as we are still adjusting to the culture here. Also, please pray for more energy as we are working the fields for God’s kingdom. Whether we are planting the seed, fertilizing it, or reaping the harvest, we are truly blessed to be here with the sole mission of doing God’s work.

Thanks for all of the support and praise God for the awesome things He’s doing!

What’s The Point?

I couldn’t understand what she was saying, but I could feel the pain in her heart.  Her mouth showed signs of drug abuse, with stained and missing teeth.  As my friend from YWAM Cheb asked her a question in Czech I picked out and understood one word of her answer.

Pět.

Five.

It was the number of my room on the eighth floor of the “Blue Tower” where we were saying in Cheb, Czech Republic. I had to know the number so I could get the key to my room.  It was the only number I knew in the Czech language at that time.

I knew what she was referring to by this one word.

She had five children.

I looked at her dark brown eyes and the glittery pink eye-shadow painted on her lids.  The pink sparkles gave some sort of facade of innocence and joy.

What a lie.

She was standing on the street waiting for a customer to buy her.  Buy her body, buy her time, buy her value.  She looked for a lost soul to try and buy what cannot be bought because she had five mouths to feed and humanity had put a price on the priceless.  So she gave that price what she had.  There was a lie fed to her that it was all she had to offer.

I wanted to hate everyone who had ever hurt her; her pimp, her customers; whoever it may be.  But God had gotten to me before the hatred.  He placed His heart in my heart about two months before.  He had given me compassion for every man who was trapped in the emptiness of searching for love and lust with currency.  I wanted to help them too.  Though it was harder to find, my compassion and heart for the traffickers and the buyers was just as deep as for the victims of this horrific crime humanity commits against itself.  Because in truth, everyone involved is a victim.

There wasn’t much I could get translated to her because my Czech contact spoke very limited English.  I could not think of a thing to say to her, she was the first prostitute I had ever spoken to.

What could I give her?  How could I change her world?

I am powerless.

I gave her a hug. I smiled at her.  I tried to convey with my eyes what could not be said with words; language barrier or not.  I wanted her to know that there was a Love that was better than life.  I desired her to understand there was a Hope and a future that did not consist of the hell she had been living in.

About a month later I was standing on the street talking with two teenage Czech girls.  They were out for a smoke on their break from school.  One of my team members, our translator and I had been speaking with them for awhile.  We had presented ourselves as students from America and Canada with a survey for them.  They were willing, but not interested.  That is, until we went deeper.

We talked about the possibility of heaven and hell.

I asked if there was a definite answer if they would want to know.  One girl jumped on it with an enthusiastic ‘Ano! (Yes!)’.  The other was more hesitant.

I took the first girl’s answer and headed into a series of questions.

I asked the girls – through my translator – how they would feel if someone had died for them, and in that death this person had paid for all the bad things they had done and insured for them that they would get to heaven.

They both said they would feel bad about it.

I asked them if it was an act of love if they could accept it more easily.

They said it would be easier, but still, no one should do that for them.

I asked them if they could be with this person after they died, would they want to be.

They both gave a definite ‘yes’.

I couldn’t help smiling as they said yes to Jesus before they even knew it.  Their souls were crying out for a love this good.

I then said, “What if I could tell you that someone did do this for you?”

I watched as the translation into their language reached their ears.  They’re eyes were wide and searching.  They wanted to know; was I speaking the truth?

I saw the beauty and life in the words I spoke.  I realized that the love I was presenting to these young girls was a love that by common phrase would be call “too good to be true”, except it is true.

I have been a Christian my whole life, but I’m not sure I realized how desperately people want what I believe in, until that moment.

I noticed I had a burning passion to say yes to this wonderful Savior that loved me – it was all I had ever wanted – even though I had said yes a long time ago.  I felt like I had convinced myself to believe in Jesus, even though I already believed.

I have always been worried about pushing Jesus on people.  So many people will tune you out the moment you mention Jesus, because they think of a religion soaked in rules without freedom.  But as I presented Jesus to the people of Czech Republic and let the truth of His grace, love and all that He is display itself, I realized I didn’t have to try and make being a follower of Jesus look attractive.  It already was.  Human error is what makes Christianity look so uninviting.  Jesus bought us for freedom. We are free.

I once heard someone say that trying to defend God is like trying to defend a lion; all you have to do is open the cage door and stand aside.   It’s true.  When we stop trying to shove God in a box that fits into our limited understanding people see the unending majesty of our King.

What’s the point?

In the moments that I stood on the streets in the city of Cheb telling souls about Jesus, my Savior, and His love, I saw that what I had been trying so hard to be right and perfect – the whole imagine of being a ‘good Christian’ – was not only not the point, but also not what I wanted.   It was simpler.  It was more beautiful than works.  It was grace. It was love.  It was what I wanted.

So as I stood before prostitutes and others who were searching, I could offer them a hope.  I could hand them what had been handed to me; free salvation.  I knew that I could completely stand behind what I was telling them, because I didn’t have a check list for them to fill out once they knew the Truth.

I didn’t care if – or want, honestly – the prostitute to become a ‘good Christian’ or the girls on the street to feel like they had to go to confessionals and services to fill out a Christian ‘to do’ list.

I want them to be free. I want them to know true, pure love. I want them to know Jesus.

That is it.

That is the point.

Bringing Hope to the Darkest Places

While watching mopeds zip by on one of Chiang Rai’s busiest streets, I wait to meet Kelli at a café. Kelli is the founder of Ezekiel Rain, a ministry committed to bringing restoration to children rescued from sex trafficking. Kelli walks through the door, we order coffee, and before getting into the details of her ministry’s construction project, she begins telling her story. Kelli, a wife and mother in her mid-thirties, started Ezekiel Rain with her husband and another couple four years prior. They moved from the midwest, leaving behind prestigious business careers, to establish this ministry in the northern mountains of Thailand. It seemed like a random career change until Kelli explained further.

When Kelli was in her twenties, she and her husband vacationed in Thailand.What they saw was unexpected and made a lasting impact in their lives. In the early 2000s, the sex trade in Thailand was thriving and blatant. Kelli recounts a day when she was sitting in a café much like the one we were meeting in now. She saw two young girls at a table sitting opposite older gentlemen. While the men read their newspapers, the girls stared intently at Kelli, and tears began streaming down their faces. Kelli recalls how everything in her wanted to grab the girls and take them away. Rescue them. At that moment, there was little she could do beyond crying and praying. Ten years later, her family has moved to Thailand, established Ezekiel Rain, and I am meeting with them to discuss expanding their ministry.

I tell you this story because I think back on it often, and I am moved. I cannot think about Kelli’s story and not be touched and inspired. God is showing me that He is bringing hope to some of the darkest places. Through my work, I am blessed to be a small part of re-establishing this hope. God is using Kelli and her organization to do marvelous things – like give new life to children. What is even more miraculous is that it doesn’t end with Kelli. There are so many people doing marvelous things everywhere you look – from the shady corners of Thailand to America’s suburbs. I am inspired by each of them and honored to work alongside a handful.

Hidden with Christ

January 3rd,

I woke up early on a Friday morning and took a train from Michigan to Montana. The train ride lasted over forty hours which gave me plenty of time to question what the heck I was doing. I quit a job I had held for too long, sold a vehicle I loved, and would soon be signing over the house I purchased a year prior to my brother. I didn’t tell anybody at the time but I had been struggling with depression for a while. At that time I had no desire to live but still somehow found myself on the train that day.

“For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” Colossians 3:3

Lecture phase was a time for healing. It was also a time of rediscovering the truths I once held onto so tightly. I had forgotten my identity but our Father is patient. It took time for the shame to wash away but soon enough I began to live again in the joy and peace that can only be found in Christ. His perfect loves amazes me. It doesn’t matter how far you have strayed his love for you is the same. People all around the world are looking for a love like this. They are searching but are coming up short. There is nothing on earth that will satisfy their hunger and thirst the way our Savior can.

People in Costa Rica wanted to hear about Jesus. They were hungry for him. We had very diverse ministry opportunities during our two month stay; Bible distribution, feeding the homeless, serving in nursing homes, working with children and single moms, a radio broadcast, service projects, park/street/beach evangelism, and more. It was an outreach packed with opportunities to love on people and be Christ-like examples to them.

One of my favorite moments came during a day of Bible distribution. Going from house to house I began to feel discouraged. That particular day it felt like what we were doing wasn’t making any real impact. So what changed? Eventually we reached a house and it was my turn to knock and hand out the bible. When the homeowner answered the door I told her what we were doing and asked if I could pray for her. She immediately broke down in tears. She was a mother and a wife but her husband wasn’t always around for her and their children. As she was sharing God gave me some words to encourage her. At the end of our ministry time that day our translator revealed to us that she had been praying for God to speak to her minutes before we came to her door.

Moments like that made it worth coming to Costa Rica for. A reminder that God can use you as long as you are willing to be used and that His love for His children is greater than we can ever imagine.

The Yellow Rose

During DTS lecture phase, our team went to Spokane, Washington, for a week of ‘mini-outreach’. This was to get our team prepared to work and live together in Thailand  on outreach and for us to get a chance to serve in some cool ministries. We spent the first part of the week working with an organization called Youth For Christ and the second part of the week evangelizing and working with an organization helping refugees. It was an awesome and exhausting week!

One really cool thing happened within the first 24 hours we were there, before we had even gotten started doing ‘actual ministry’. The first night, we had a time of intercession and we asked God what His heart was for the week. The picture I got was of a yellow rose that was hanging upside down. It was dried out, brown, and brittle, yet still beautiful. I kept asking God what that could mean and saying, “Is that really you, God?” (ha, ywam joke) but I wasn’t getting much clarity. Finally, after everyone had shared and we prayed for a few more minutes, I felt like maybe God was saying the rose represented an older lady, who had served in ministry for many years, but felt dried up and poured out because of her many years of service. I got a vague picture of an old, very wrinkly woman that God wanted me to pray for and to encourage.

The next morning, about 12 hours later, we had some time to journal or read or do whatever we needed, so I went upstairs in the church we were staying at to be alone. I remember I was asking God to please make something that we put on the board the day earlier from intercession a reality. The skeptic inside of me was saying, “God, were you really giving us all random pictures yesterday, or was that just our imaginations?” After praying for a few minutes, some double doors opened from the parking lot and a person walked in. The person that walked in was a very old, very wrinkly (I’m not saying this to be rude, I’m saying this to be descriptive because it’s true) lady. She was wearing a yellow sweater. My adrenaline actually started pumping because I was thinking that she could be my yellow rose.

I went over to talk to her and found out she ran a program at the church called Meals on Wheels (a national program that provides meals for the elderly who may not be able to get proper meals on their own) and had been doing it for 10 years. She briefly mentioned how tiring the job was and how it was pretty demanding. This lady was probably over 75, cooked and served lunch for the elderly 5 days a week, and then mentioned that she had worked for almost her entire career in non-profit ministries. Combining these facts with her yellow sweater and wrinkles, I was jumping for joy inside because I knew I had found my yellow rose!

After a couple of minutes, I nervously told her about the picture God had given me the day before and I asked her if I could pray for her. She said that was fine and I prayed for spiritual encouragement for her and a couple of other things and that was it. It wasn’t some crazy supernatural experience where we began levitating or speaking in tongues or anything like that. It was just a simple conversation and a simple prayer, but God totally came through.

I fall into the trap, and I don’t think I’m alone, of being extremely skeptical and doubtful of God. What I’ve been realizing lately is that my doubts look like the question, “You really want to use me, God? You know all of the things I’ve done and all of the things I struggle with, surely you don’t want to use this ragamuffin,” (I just read The Ragamuffin Gospel so I had to find a place to throw that word in there). The truth is, when we start believing questions like this or thinking that we are ‘too far gone’ for God to use, we are basically telling God that He messed up and that His redemptive plan for all of mankind may work for everyone else, but not for us.

You don’t have to look very far in the Bible to find some pretty flawed characters. Moses had trouble speaking, Solomon worshipped the other gods of his many wives, David slept with his neighbors wife then had him killed, Jonah was extremely reluctant, Matthew was a tax collector, Paul murdered Christians, and the list goes on and on. In fact, there’s only one person in the entire Bible who didn’t have any flaws (spoiler alert: it’s Jesus).

From the very beginning, God set aside man from the rest of His creation. I think it speaks great volumes to the amount of love God has for us that even after sin entered the world, and after we continue to sin every day, He still chooses to use us as His chosen instruments to bring His name to the world (you see this all throughout the Old Testament as God uses prophets, and then most notably in the Great Commission from Jesus in Matthew 28:18-20). I sometimes think, “Since we screwed it up in the beginning, why didn’t God just create something new to have relationship with?” or, “Why didn’t God use angels instead of humans to redeem mankind after the fall?”. I don’t necessarily know the answer to these questions, but how awesome is it that the Creator of the universe chooses to use us, as broken and beat up as we are, to proclaim His name, even though most of the time we defame it? That type of love is crazy. But that’s how awesome our God is.

God has an incredible plan for each of our lives. When we accept Christ as our Savior, He declares us worthy of His name. Immediately upon salvation, we are adopted as sons and daughters. I encourage you to not live in doubt and skepticism like I have for most of my life. If God is big enough and personal enough to use someone like Paul to become the greatest missionary to ever live, He is big enough and personal enough to use you and me as well.

I believe there are tons of ‘yellow roses’ out there that we miss every day. I think more and more of them will be revealed to us as we continue to walk with God and trust Him in all of our ways.

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