God’s Perfect Peace

God’s perfect use of timing and testimonies is something I’ll never be able to comprehend, and I’m alright with that. Prior to my DTS lecture phase, God was working on removing shame from a certain part of my testimony. Part of my testimony that I kept a secret, until this past summer (2013), when I told some of my close friends. God is still working on that now, with me taking this step and putting it out there, where family, friends, and other people will see.

For years I had called myself a Christian, but lived a life opposite of such. Along with calling myself a Christian, I smoked a hefty amount of weed. I didn’t tell anyone about it, because I knew it was wrong, but was totally content with living the double life and didn’t want to hear all the criticisms. It got to the point where I would go to church high, or leave church early to smoke. It was a constant in my life and something that I could control. Something that was there to bring me peace, when nothing else in my life did. I assumed that everyone in my high school either hated me or had preconceived beliefs about me. It wasn’t a place where I could find peace. Having split parents wasn’t a place where I could go to find peace. The only place I could find peace was when I was alone and had a piece in my hand.

For a long time, even though I had quit smoking and had changed to living a God-centered lifestyle, I was still ashamed of my actions. God brought me through a season of showing me that, yes it was wrong, and no that wasn’t what He intended for me, but God still loved me and still wanted to use me for His kingdom.

I didn’t know why God wanted to remove the shame and have me be comfortable with sharing this portion of my testimony….

until I met Jorge. 

The other day, we went to downtown Heredia, Costa Rica to do some street evangelism. We spent the first half of the morning walking around in small groups to just see what God had for us and the people of Costa Rica. We later met up at the park to share some testimonies and for the girls to perform their dance. After the dance, we continued to talk to the people in the park. Thinking my day was done, I nonchalantly walked over to the trash can to throw something away.

There was a group of homeless men sitting there that I had seen earlier so I just said my embarrassingly, american-accented “hola”. One man turned to me and asked in english where I was from. I told him the United States. He kindly pulled me away from the other men and started downloading his life to me. How he had lived in Chicago, New York, and Miami for parts of his life. He told me about all of the drugs he did and all of the sad, hard times he has had. He then told me he has smoked weed for 30 years. And out of all the drugs he’s done, that’s the only one he can’t quit. I asked if I could pray for God to rid him of his addictions and he said “please”. So I did. When I got to praying against the addiction to weed, I asked God what it was. “Why does Jorge, need marijuana?” All of the sudden, I was filled with this anxiety that I had known all too well. I asked Jorge if he smokes to get peace. He started to tear up. “Yes,” he said. I then told him my testimony involving weed. I told him that I have so much more peace with God, then I ever could have had with weed. God brings peace, not weed. I asked him if he wanted the same peace that I had. He instantly said “Yes!” I told him that God wants to give him that peace, and that it is going to change his entire life. That he will be able to spend eternity in peace. I then told him, that if he does this, there’s no looking back, he’s going to have to get rid of his drugs and fully commit to this new life with Jesus. His next response was not something I expected to hear when I first walked over to that trash can, “I’m ready, I want the God peace.”

I then had the privilege of praying a new brother into the kingdom. Jorge will be spending eternity in peace. A full, complete, and true peace. A peace we can’t find in anything else on this earth.

A peace that only our One, True, Heavenly Father can give us. God’s Perfect Peace.

The Love Of A Father

At 30,000 feet my head finally felt clear. This was an abnormal feeling for my introverted self. I was surrounded by people, closely squeezed in on a Boeing 747, and yet I felt at peace. Looking through the little glass window brought a smile to my face. I inhaled and exhaled slowly and fully. As I thought back over the last few months, and dreamed of what was to come, I was in awe. I never would have thought that my life would be like this. I had never really known what exactly I wanted to do with myself, but this definitely exceeded my expectations.

I was flying high above the puffy white clouds and headed to Mexico. I had never left the country before. Goodness, I had never even left the West Coast before. But here I was, on a two month journey across the border. The unknown was present and daunting.

Up to this point my life had been a mess of broken emotions and frustrations. I grew up in a Christian home and knew God and all the rules of do’s and don’t’s that come with it. But I didn’t KNOW Him. I constantly struggled with not being good enough. I believed I was a failure, and I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong. Compared to everyone else, my list of mistakes seemed much shorter. I had never been drunk, didn’t touch any sort of drug, didn’t mess around with guys, obeyed my parents, and yet I still wasn’t satisfied. I still didn’t feel like I was good enough. I still sat on my bedroom floor and cried for hours. I still didn’t feel God near to me. I never doubted that He was out there, but I believed I had to earn it for Him to be near to me. I just couldn’t do it.

This pattern of life hung onto me as I began DTS. I knew I was weak; I knew I was insecure. I was frustrated and desperate for answers. I knew there had to be more to my relationship with God. There had to be, right? I was on the edge of revelation, either good or bad. Looking back I can see that what happened in those five months truly changed my life  for the better.

About halfway through our lecture phase it came to the point where I finally had to make a choice. I had wrestled with God and the truth He spoke about my identity for too long . I wrestled with the idea that I didn’t have to earn God’s love. People would praise me and I would brush it off, unwilling to believe I had worth. And then one day, it clicked. I realized that I could either continue this life that I was living, and believe my own truth, or I could say enough and begin walking in God’s truth. It sounds so simple and easy, but when you live your life a certain way for twenty years, it makes it hard to break the habit. On that day I chose to no longer believe the lies that had surrounded me for so long. I decided to close my ears off to the lies that had been whispered into me for so many years; lies of condemnation, shame, and lies about never being good enough. I took a stand and chose to believe what God had spoken to me, that I am His beloved child ­ wanted and desired because of who I am, not because of what I do.

My life will never be the same.

Our two months in Mexico wrecked me even more. This trip was nothing like I thought it would be, but nonetheless God did an incredible work. My wounds from my past were still fresh, my heart still tender, but God held me close and didn’t let me go. For the first time in my life I understood that God is my Father; He is my daddy and I am His little girl. I didn’t have to work for it, I didn’t have to earn it or convince Him to give His love to me. It had been there the whole time, waiting for me to accept it. On that ordinary day I said no to the lies and burdens I had carried for so long and took hold of the love that God was giving me. I didn’t realize then just how much that decision would change my life.

Don’t get me wrong, this journey hasn’t ended yet. Every day I still have to remind myself of this truth and the decision I made. I still don’t understand everything, and I still have many struggles. But when I remind myself of everything that happened in DTS I remember that I am a different woman because of it. I remember that I have to choose HIM. Every day He says, “You are my beloved child.” When the world tries to take me under, I can rest in the secure embrace of my father. His freedom, healing and love wash over me in ways I’ve never experienced before. It’s been a hard, tough journey, but it’s been the best one I’ve ever been on.

Originality and Failure

The thought of creating always brings a sense of trepidation. Even as I type this short prose on my laptop, I am filled with consternation. Why do I have any fear over writing a short article? Perhaps the source of unease is from eating that day-old sandwich too quickly which now, an hour later, is distracting me. Or maybe there are just too many brilliant thoughts inundating my mind. More likely, it is that all-too-familiar fear of failure. As many have already discovered, failure should not prevent anyone from moving forward. In fact, when an endeavor results in what seems like failure, it ought to be embraced as being part of the process to create or become something original.

When he was given a solid block of marble, Michelangelo could have considered the risk that he might fail, saying while shrinking back, “It really is a perfect piece of stone anyway.” Instead, though he knew that one wrong move could ruin the statue-in-process, he moved forward with the confidence that he could see the statue within the stone and created works such as his David sculpture. As perfect as this masterpiece appears at first glance, however, it becomes evident that the body parts of the statue are disproportionate—for instance, the right hand is larger than the left. This was a technique Michelangelo intentionally used to give the figure a dynamic look, making it unique just as the physical features of each individual truly are.

I have long understood the idea that imperfection and failure do not disqualify me from being a good musician, speaker, leader, or human being. Albeit this fear has continually kept me from doing, well, just about anything—and all the while, the choice is mine whether to give in to fear or to live in victory. I was again faced with this choice when I went on a two-month trip to the Dominican Republic and Haiti with with a team of 20 other people last December. This presented a number of challenges: safety, unity, and uncertainty of what the conditions would be like in La Hispaniola Island, to name a few. Reality, it seems, often goes beyond even one’s most vivid imagination, and I learned that firsthand when the circumstances of our outreach turned out much worse than I anticipated.

We had arrived fully prepared to teach english, run health classes, and hold events in different parks, most of these events fell through due to issues beyond our control. Problems with our team’s physical health began within the first week. My hand blew up like an inflated latex glove when I was stung by a bee. The sting was incurred while clearing away foliage at the YWAM base where our team was staying in Azua, DR. Another teammate was the recipient of several such bee stings. Thankfully, her reaction was not as severe as mine. In the middle of our “open air” events in the park, the electricity would spontaneously cut out and we could not attract a large crowd. Such challenges are easy enough to endure, but the worst was yet to come. About one month into the trip, the team travelled to Haiti. Within days, virtually the whole team was overtaken by vomiting and diarrhea. These setbacks made it extremely difficult to be effectively involved in the work projects and revival meetings we were scheduled to help with. Complicating matters even further was the sad reality that hospitals in Haiti are poorly-equipped to handle malignant illness.

Everything we had planned turned out to be either completely different than what we expected or fell apart entirely. I instinctively wondered, “Was all of this a complete waste of time?” Much of what we came to do, we simply did not do. The remainder of our time in Haiti was cut short due to illness. Yet at the same time, the trip was immensely successful. The way the team met each other’s needs and encouraged one another in the midst of sickness was a living example of the Church in action not only to ourselves but to those around us. As soon as a team member recovered, he or she was back in action immediately. When technical problems arose, as they frequently did, everyone quickly adapted and kept the focus on caring for the people we were there to minister to. In that way, our work there was incredibly engineered, as only God can do. Through word and deed, the life-giving message Jesus offers was spread either through organized functions or individual connections.

Originality is often accompanied by failure. As C.S. Lewis writes, perfection is not the first step, for “Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas, if you simply try to tell the truth…you will…become original without ever having noticed it… Give up yourself, and you will find your real self.” God did not wait for us to adjust our behavior to save us (see Romans 5:8). To walk in the freedom He promises, we must give up trying to make ourselves into something original and let God take over the endeavor no matter how messy it appears. We do not have the whole picture, but we must trust that God does. “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5, ESV). This is not some quaint platitude, this is the cost of becoming the true original you were made to be.

Light To The Darkness

As I sit and look back on my outreach, I realize that I will never be able to wrap my mind around how much grace and mercy God showed me during that time. I will never fully realize how blessed I am and how much of a privilege it was to go to Taiwan and be able to reach out and touch the broken. Going to Taiwan to talk about God was a privilege. The fact that I was on an adventure half-way around the world was a blessing in and of itself.

Throughout our whole outreach, there wasn’t a day that went by where we weren’t surrounded by people that have never even heard of the name of Jesus. They have grown up in Buddhism and have known nothing else but Buddhism. In the past I would look at that fact in such a hopeless way. I used to see the world as a broken object, something that could never be fixed. I saw all the injustice in the world and I would say to myself, ‘Where is God in any of this? How could he let whole generations die without letting them hear of his name?’ But throughout outreach my outlook on all of that shifted. Instead of looking at the world’s brokenness in a condescending way, I started to look at all this hurt and unawareness as an opportunity. You don’t look at people the same way. You don’t look at someone and think, ‘That person is so lost’, but you look at them and all you can think about is how to approach that person about God. You get this overwhelming urge to plant a seed and I truly believe that it’s God’s encouragement to us when we feel that way about someone. He doesn’t want us to just be friendly and kind but to take that next step and tell them how much their heavenly father loves them.

One example of this longing to share the gospel occurred when we performed a skit in front of some Taiwanese students. Before we performed the skit, one of us would ask the kids how many of them had ever heard of the Bible before. Usually only about 10 kids would raise their hands. If I was still my old self, my heart would have sank. But when my new self saw those few hands go up, I would get excited because every kid in that room would be soon able to raise their hand. Every time we performed that skit, hundreds of seeds were being planted and it was so encouraging to have kids come up to us and ask more about this Jesus person. Telling them about God and watching their faces become more curious is one of the most fulfilling things I saw on outreach.

Before outreach I was very skeptical about being in missions but now, I don’t want to do anything else with my life. If I can travel the world to reach out to the broken and bring light to the darkness for the rest of my life, I will be the most content person in the world. I will be that light to those kids around the world, to those people that have grown up without the truth of Jesus, and to those that are hurt and are seeking something bigger than themselves. We are all children of God and I want to live out my life in a way that points to Jesus.

When I was on outreach, and even now that I’m home, there were many times where I felt overwhelmed or completely out of energy, but now whenever I feel that way, I just look back to this verse and I am encouraged. I hope that it can be an encouragement to you as well.

James 1:2-6, 12
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. Let steadfastness finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and have no doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind…..Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.”

The Goal: Pursuing a Life of Love

Thinking back on my time in DTS and on outreach, I’ve concluded that I’ve never felt more love from a group of strangers than I did from the little children in the Haitian village we went to on outreach. They are so ready to receive love and that love then pours out of their generous hearts back to those who are loving on them.

I realized this is how it is with God. When we allow His love to wash over us every day, we become filled and ready to pour that love back to Him which means pouring it out on those He loves–anyone and everyone around us. Along these lines, one of my leaders preached a sermon towards the beginning of my time on outreach that is still impacting me to this day. I’ve spent a good portion of my life asking for more faith. I’ve pursued faith, radical faith, continually. Now although faith is a great thing and I do believe God has given me a gift of Faith, I was suddenly challenged and humbled as I listened to my leader preach a simple yet profound message in a very tiny and crowded church in Azua, Dominican Republic.

Why have I spent so much time asking God for more faith and so much less time asking God for more love? I’ve heard and read 1 Corinthians 13 more times than I can possibly remember. 1 Corinthians 13. The “LOVE” chapter. You know, the one that says if you don’t have love you have nothing? The chapter that says there is nothing greater than love? You know…”Love is patient, love is kind, etc….” This is not a new passage to most Christians and it certainly was not new to me. But all of a sudden, it hit me in a new way when I compared it to my pursuit of Faith. “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” [1 Corinthians 13:1-3]

Wait, say what??
If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom ALL mysteries and ALL knowledge…ALL KNOWLEDGE!! That means I would know EVERYTHING there is to know! And if I have a FAITH that can move MOUNTAINS…isn’t that the greatest faith we can imagine?? But even if I have all of that and do not LOVE, I am nothing. NOTHING!!

If this really is true, then shouldn’t our prayers every single day be more like…
…”Lord, I need more of your love.”
…”Jesus, teach me how to love better.”
…”Father, I want to be consumed with your love.”

I realized that I do not want to be someone that is characterized by people as just someone of great Faith.
I want to be known as someone of great Love–someone who embodies the love of Christ.
I want to be remembered not as Hannah Pickens, a Woman of Faith.
I want to be remembered as a woman who gave away her life on behalf of other people.
I want to be so consumed with love that people would look at me and my life and as a result would experience the radical love of Jesus.

So from this point forward, my prayer is no longer just to have more faith, though yes faith is necessary. But my new prayer is something like this: “Jesus, I want to let You love me more so that I can love like You have loved. I want to fulfill Your greatest commandments not as a duty, but as a way of life. Let me experience Your love in a greater capacity every day so that I cannot help but pour out that love to the people around me.”

Why did God call me to Mexico?

When DTS began, I was doubting God.

I questioned His existence. I tried analyzing and putting Him into a box. And even though He was performing signs, wonders and miracles in front of my eyes, I refused to acknowledge that His presence was real in my life.

I was scared. I was sure that a King so mighty would never love someone like me. I began DTS as a girl whose heart was so weaved into brokenness that I was convinced my story could not be redeemed. I wondered why He would call me to be His disciple. A girl who refused to proclaim His name.

I walked into outreach still carrying many of those lies with me.

Outreach was difficult, but God is a gentleman. He knew that I needed time to trust that He genuinely wanted us to have an intimate relationship. That His plan for me was far greater than the title of “human.” That I am to be a disciple, a friend, His daughter.

Days passed by quickly during the first few weeks of outreach in Mexico, and my relationship with God still felt weak. I knew that I wasn’t leaning into Him as much as I should. Or as much as I wanted to. My prayers were still desperate pleas for God to show up. I felt unworthy, and I wanted Him to wreck me with a sense of value. To wash over me in great waves of grace and love and restoration. I doubted His existence, but I still was passionate about rising up a new generation of disciples that would love His broken people. That would love people who were scared, and lonely, and seeking Him, no matter what baggage of hurt they hauled everywhere with them. Men and women who had been told that their stories and testimonies were too heavy to be shared. Not pure enough to be brought out of darkness and into light. That their gifts would never be adequate to serve the Most High in the world. People like me.

A few weeks in, I was struggling with questions like: “Where are You, God?” and “Why did You call me to Mexico?”… Why did God call me to Mexico?

I began to pray that He would reveal Himself to me in very specific ways. He was so faithful to those prayers. All of the sudden, it was like a click of a light switch, and He was there. When my heart was empty, He would pour His love into me. On days that I was grieving over moments from my past, God would place someone in my path to show me where He had been. He began to teach me that my past pain can be turned into a ministry opportunity, an empathy that will help heal others. That I can be a wounded healer by sharing vulnerably about where I once was, and with a boldness declare where He now has me.

Mexico is a nation full of broken hearts and people content with living a life that doesn’t satisfy the callings God has placed in them. My presence in Mexico was not necessary for God to work in His people of that nation. He wanted me there so He could work on my own heart.

God is faithful, present and listening. He called me to Mexico to show me those characteristics. He hears my cries, is faithful even when my doubts overpower my belief, and is present by constantly showing me that He wants to heal my heart.

When DTS began, I was doubting God.

I left Mexico confident that I am loved and desired by a God who knows all of me, and still calls me to be His disciple.

Destroy Despair with Joy

Walking into the children’s hospital on the coast city of Guayaquil, Ecuador I thought we had everything planned. We would set up our speakers, do our planned dances, preach the gospel, and pray for the people who came. So when no one showed to watch us dance I began to become discouraged, it was my “job” to make sure we had ministry for our team. I didn’t anticipate the better ministry God had prepared. After waiting for a half an hour after our planned starting time, our contact came up to me with the news that it was visiting hours so most likely no one would show up to watch us perform. So we began to pack up, but I didn’t feel like our time was finished at the hospital.

Just before leaving, a hospital attendant came up to us and asked if we would like to pray for the children who had terminal cancer. What an opportunity! I gathered our team and asked how they felt about praying for these precious children. The decision was unanimous; we would take this opportunity the Lord brought before us. Apprehensive and full of compassion, we entered the small portion of the hospital designated for the terminally ill. We placed the given masks over our faces and half the team entered into this sacred place. I told our team before we went in to listen to what God was saying and be prepared for anything. As we let the Father’s heart consume us we couldn’t help but do what we do best, worship. We began to dance in worship over these beloved ones. Tears began to stream down the faces of the children and parents as hope flooded the room. After we began to pray healing and restoration over all five patients in the room, hope was released. One of the children and his parents gave their hearts to God that day.

After our time of prayer and worship I felt God telling us to destroy despair by bringing joy. So we began to make jokes and in no time colored rubber bands were flying around the room and so was laughter. I left that day not only amazed at how good God is at planning but also in awe of how He used a small team of dancers to bring hope to a very hopeless place. This is just one of the many things God did through our small precious team. God is so faithful!! And he longs to partner with us. Take advantage of the opportunities God places before you to be His hope in hopeless places.

Trust God in the Good and the Bad

Today marked our last day of ministry here in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. As I looked back and though about the past 2 months I felt God asking me what I learned, after thinking for a moment I responded with “Well God, what did you want me to learn?”

SO… What is it that God wanted me to learn over these past two months in Haiti and the Dominican Republic? I mean, I know that God sent us here as a team to bring Hope, Discipleship, and Restoration to these two countries. and I know that as a leader I was here to walk along the students and help them reach personal/team goals and grow into men/women of God. But what is it that God had for me here and how did he want me to grow and learn?

Could it be that he wanted me to come to the realization that despite my age I can be the leader that he tells me I am? Could it be that he wanted me to learn that his plan is better then mine? Could it be that he wanted to remind me that he is always in control? Could it be that he wanted me to learn that walking out in obedience is the best example of walking out effective ministry? YES… I fully believe that these are all things he wanted me to learn, but I also believe that the number one thing that he wanted me to learn was to simply trust in him.

Simple enough right? Yes… But… I can promise you that it gets a whole lot harder to trust in him when all the pre-planned ministry that was set up falls through in the first week of outreach; or when Co-leaders and students are extremely sick and you have to make the decision to leave Haiti (despite being where God has so clearly called you) to head back to the DR early for everyone’s safety and heath… Oh yes, trust me, it is one thing to tell God that you trust in him, but it is a whole lot harder to still trust in him when everything is falling apart.

That being said, over the past 2 months I have had so many chances to trust him in the good and the bad. To trust him when everything is going great and when everything is falling apart. To trust that what we are doing here will have a lasting effect. To trust him that my mess ups won’t effect what the students receive from outreach. To trust him with my future plans. To trust him with finances. To trust him with problems back home. Or simply put, to trust him with everything in every situation despite the outcome.

Was it easy?


Was it worth it?


Three Stories for Christmas

We danced the dance.
We preached The Message.
200 stood to pray.
And one was smiling on Christmas Day.

It always surprises me. Maybe it shouldn’t. How everything seems to work out perfectly in the end. Such was the case of the “Three Stories Skit,” a drama created from scratch by our DTS outreach team about two weeks before we left for Thailand. It started as a simple idea from one of our students: What if we told more than just the Christmas story? What if we told three? A three-fold story that goes back to the Garden of Eden, then forward to the Christmas story, and finally finishing with the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. And before long our little idea had morphed into a simple yet wonderfully choreographed production, complete with script, storyboard, music, and props–even a little blue-eyed baby doll, suspiciously doubling as Jesus. We all knew our parts. We all felt a special peace that this skit was something special. We all boarded the plane to Asia.

A few weeks later, I’m sitting inside a cozy little cafe halfway around the world. The cafe smells of coffee and chocolate chip cookies, and its yellow walls are warm and inviting like the tropical weather outside. “I’m dreaming of a White Christmas” is playing from the stereo but somehow I know it’s not in the cards for us this year. Across the table from me is a Brazilian missionary and his wife. He’s a retired soccer player, she plays tennis. I’m not sure if she’s a professional or not. Gosh, I love Brazilians. They’re sitting here with me at the cafe so we can meet each other and plan out a Christmas Day program for next week. I don’t know any details yet, except there’s a high school with several hundred students that would like us to come and share about Christmas. Of course, as good YWAMers, we can’t help but tell them the full story. Stopping at the end of the Christmas story is like pausing a good movie partway through and never finishing it. “So, I will do the preaching,” he begins, “and maybe you can sing some songs, or do a drama or something fun–whatever you like.” I really like this guy, he’s strong, he’s gentle yet also direct, and he speaks with an accent that’s smooth and intriguing like Liz’s boyfriend at the end of Eat, Pray, Love. I listen, intrigued, as he continues. “The thing is, I don’t just want to preach about the birth of Jesus–first, I want to go back and…” Somehow, I know what he’s going to say next, and my heart begins to fill with so much joy at the way God works. “I want to go back and talk about Adam and Eve and The Fall, and then I’ll tell them the story of Christmas, then l want to tell them the good news about Jesus and maybe have an altar call. And I was thinking maybe you can do something to highlight that message. So, what do you think you and your team would like to do?” I can’t hide my grin any longer, “I have something to tell you,” I begin. I can’t wait to tell him about the skit we brought with us all the way from Montana. The skit with the same three matching stories. “But first, I want you to know that God’s been planning this day for a while now.”

We woke up early, even for Christmas Day. We loaded up into the backs of two Songthaews, our thai-style taxis, and we drive an hour and a half through the misty jungle and rice paddies of Northern Thailand to a little town with a high school that had a few hundred students who want to hear about the story of Christmas. We sing them some Christmas songs, we teach them our favorite dance moves, and we perform our Three Stories Skit. When the skit is over we perform it a second time, but this time we do it without any music while our handsome Brazilian explains all three scenes to them, one by one. First, he explains the story of Adam and Eve and The Fall, and our need for a Rescuer. Then Christmas, God’s gift of a special child to rescue the world. And then the rest of the story, the life and death and life-again of Jesus. When he’s finished, he asks the crowd of students and teachers “How many of you believe this story could be true?” Every student raises their hand. “How many of you would like to pray to Jesus, and receive this kind of love for your life?” Every student stands to their feet. Not one is left sitting on the floor. He leads them in a simple prayer asking Jesus to invade their hearts with his love. Everyone prays. Even the teacher nearest to me bows his head and prays along with the rest of the giant room. As I watch the focused intensity on his face as he whispers the words with eyes closed, I wonder just what God is up to on this Christmas morning. I wonder what he will do in the hearts and lives of all these people that he loves. And I realize that this is why I came to Thailand. And this is better than everything I might’ve given up to come here. This is the reason we keep telling the Christmas story. This is the reason we tell the other two. It’s because they’re all part of the same grand story, the greatest story of all time.

Earlier, when I was sitting crouched at the front of the auditorium, an actor in a play with three scenes and one big story, with Mary at my side and a little baby in her arms, a thought came to me as I listened to my new Brazilian friend telling this story to the two hundred strangers sitting in front of me…tales of a beautiful man and woman and a forbidden fruit, and rich wise kings from distant lands and a baby king in a poor stable, and a man who gave up everything to show the world the vast power and greatness of his love. And through each twist of the story: a God in love. A God with a plan. A plan to rescue his people and show them how much he loves them. “Wow,” I thought, as I held my actor’s pose and stared into the eyes of that blue-eyed baby doll, “I really love this story!” A soft smile rested easily on that baby’s face. I checked back later, and that doll is still smiling. And I think the real baby Jesus is a lot like that baby doll, he’s smiling today, too. With 200 more people in on your story, wouldn’t you?

[If you haven’t heard the full story in a while, or ever…then read the first three chapters of Genesis, the second chapter of Luke, and all of John. Three scenes from the greatness love story the world has ever known.]