Monday, August 13, 2007

Call to Action

1:34 AM
I believe in callings and I believe in purposes. This I believe is mine.

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,

2 to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,

3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the LORD
for the display of his splendor.

4 They will rebuild the ancient ruins
and restore the places long devastated;
they will renew the ruined cities
that have been devastated for generations.

5 Aliens will shepherd your flocks;
foreigners will work your fields and vineyards.

6 And you will be called priests of the LORD,
you will be named ministers of our God.
You will feed on the wealth of nations,
and in their riches you will boast.

7 Instead of their shame
my people will receive a double portion,
and instead of disgrace
they will rejoice in their inheritance;
and so they will inherit a double portion in their land,
and everlasting joy will be theirs.

8 "For I, the LORD, love justice;
I hate robbery and iniquity.
In my faithfulness I will reward them
and make an everlasting covenant with them.

9 Their descendants will be known among the nations
and their offspring among the peoples.
All who see them will acknowledge
that they are a people the LORD has blessed."

10 I delight greatly in the LORD;
my soul rejoices in my God.
For he has clothed me with garments of salvation
and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

11 For as the soil makes the sprout come up
and a garden causes seeds to grow,
so the Sovereign LORD will make righteousness and praise
spring up before all nations.

~Isaiah 61


Monday, August 6, 2007

Home Sweet Georgia

12:04 AM

Well, I am back on the other side of the globe now. It was quite an ordeal getting here too! 17 hours of plane travel, plus more for layovers and ground travel, I have never been so excited to see my bed ever! It's weird though, being alone in an empty apartment after living with constant people for 9 weeks. The saddest has been when I started unpacking and found things I bought in New Zealand and wanted to share with someone, but no one was there to share it with. I'm definitely looking forward to moving back to FL and reconnecting with friends there.

Backing up, our final days in New Zealand were jam packed. We spent the last week at a beach house in Whiritoa, which is on the Pacific Ocean coast, for our debrief. During debrief we talked about the trip, how we felt about it and what God showed us this summer. It was a good chance to process all of our experiences and emotions about reentering a "normal" life. And when we weren't doing that, we were relaxing in a super nice house (it even had carpet!!). We also took time praying over each other and commissioning one another into life back home. It was a great bonding experience.

We got back to Auckland on Thursday night and had a great dinner prepared for us by our Iranian friend, Melina. Her food was quite yummy! It was sad to say goodbye to her. She really connected to us as a team, and we had a great time pouring into her and speaking truth over her. She and her husband are Muslim, and have been only been living in New Zealand for three years and have found themselves surrounded by a Christian community. It will be exciting to see what God does in their lives.

We flew out of Auckland at 6:00pm Friday night after a large farewell from most of the Mangere Baptist church family. They have been so supportive of our ministry and so invested in our lives that I feel like I've left lifelong friends there.

Unfortunately, I've been sick since about Thursday, and it made international travel even less exciting. But we finally landed in Atlanta at 9:00pm on Friday (gotta love those time zones!) We all went our separate ways from there, Rebecca and Jessie home with their parents, Julianna we had left in LA (not accidentally!), Michelle, Julie, and Autumn to the hotel debrief, and myself tagging along looking for a ride back to Gainesville, which thankfully, I got.

So now begins a new phase in my life - post New Zealand. I am heavily burdened by the things God revealed to me there, but I am struggling with complacency in everyday American life. I felt God call me into His heart of compassion and love the brokenhearted (Isaiah 61), but I'm scared. I heard Him challenge me about finding success in Him and not in the world, but my head won't let me. I have realized why He asks us to live in simplicity and was eager to do it, but now I look around at all my stuff and I don't want to part with it. I am hoping that this is just initial "culture shock" and God will continue to impress these things on my life, because He is that good to me. But I'll keep ya posted.

Thanks for making this journey with me. I am so grateful for your prayers and support. I am humbled to have even gone. It was truly a once in a lifetime experience! I'll be adding more pics so check them out!


Friday, August 3, 2007

Homeward Bound

2:04 AM
Tomorrow is the day! We fly out of Auckland at 6pm on Friday and I arrive in Atlanta, GA at 9:05pm on Friday! The magic of time zones... :) I can't believe this trip is over already! In many ways it seems like I just got here. But I am also eager to get back to the States and move home to FL to see family and friends. I am exploding with stories of what God has taught me and what I've learned on this trip. I can't wait to share them with you when I have the time to type them all!! Stay tuned for pictures and videos from the trip, I'm sure you will enjoy them! See ya stateside!!


Wednesday, July 18, 2007

To Auckland, With Love

7:03 PM

This is a trip report that Julie and I wrote for the AIM website.

We had another exciting ministry experience in Auckland today. Julie, Jessie, Joy and Rebecca traveled by train into the busyness to take the city by love. We began our journey by looking for our homeless friends, Paul and Vickie, but they were nowhere to be found. Instead of being disappointed, we looked for other opportunities to spread the love. We walked up to the University of Auckland campus and chose a well-traveled piece of sidewalk to chalk Bible verses on for all to see. This allowed us a chance to talk to passerby's about what we were writing and why we were there. We had several people stop and look, some with smiles, others with judgment, and a few with questions. One really cool thing was the Christians that stopped by and thanked us for our encouragement. After chalking for awhile, Joy made a sign that said "Free Prayer" and stood smiling waiting for people to respond. Ironically, someone did want prayer! A guy named Mana walked up and eagerly requested to be prayed for. What a cool opportunity! Rebecca proceeded to make a "Free Hugs" sign and was bombarded with people aching to be loved. We took this enthusiasm down to Victoria Park Market, a touristy shopping area (a good 20 minute walk!), and were a little disappointed by the lack of people. As we were leaving, we were stopped by a Frenchman named Greg who saw the "Free Hugs" sign. He eagerly hugged each of us and we got to chat with him for awhile. So perhaps the walk was worth it! We ended our time back on Queen Street, the busiest street in Auckland, by wrapping our arms around lonely people once again. What is so unique about this kind of ministry is that we may never know the impact we are having. But God does.


Sunday, July 15, 2007

Prayer of the Homeless

4:02 PM

I was hungry and you formed a humanitarian group to discuss my hunger.

I was imprisoned and you crept off quietly to your chapel and prayed for my release.

I was naked and in your mind you debated the morality of my appearance.

I was sick and you knelt and thanked God for your health.

I was homeless and you preached to me the spiritual shelter of the love of God.

I was lonely and you left me alone to pray.

You appear so holy, so close to God, but I am still very hungry and very lonely and cold.

--This poem was written by a homeless woman who went to a priest for help and got only a promise for prayer, but no material help.


Thursday, July 12, 2007

A Week PACT-ed Full of Fun!

2:01 PM
Our week at PACT (Papatoetoe Adolescent Christian Trust has been a blast! PACT) is a Christian organization that puts together fun-filled for kids ages 8 -12 during the school holidays. AIM teams have been helping out with PACT for quite awhile. This holiday, our team was given the opportunity to plan all the God Moments for the week. We decided to use the theme "Unique" for the week in an effort to teach the kids how we are each unique to God. Every day we told them different ways we were unique and encouraged them to think of ways they were unique too! Monday we talked about being Uniquely Formed and told them the story of Adam and Eve. The highlight of Monday was dressing in crazy clothes to show off our uniqueness and I wore my lime green pajama pants! Tuesday we talked about being Uniquely Loved and told them the story of Jesus loving and forgiving the woman caught in sin. We also introduced a review game show, in which I got to fulfill my lifelong dream of becoming a game show host! Wednesday we talked about being Uniquely Chosen and did a skit for the story David and Goliath. We then did the same skit over and over again as a western, musical, really fast, really slow, kung-fu action movie, and ghetto. The kids loved it! Thursday we talked about being Uniquely Directed and told them the story of Jesus and just how Jesus was directed by God here on earth, we too are directed. These God Moments have been great and have opened up doors with the kids for relationships. One little boy, Jordan, made me a card that thanked us for the Bible stories and how he really enjoyed them. He hasn't left my side. Rebecca has been sowing into this little guy, Shaun, who is practically begging to know Jesus. (Link to update). We each have stories about kids whose lives we have touched and those who have touched ours. It was really an awesome week just to be open and available to what God will do through ping pong and video games, bowling and rock climbing. We may never see the result of the seeds we have sown, but we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God showed up and used us this week.


Thursday, July 5, 2007

YFC Whangarei

2:01 AM

Day 1 - Today began our holiday camp with Youth For Christ. We had about 7 kids show up, which means there was more leaders than kids, but hey, it works! We had some really cool opportunities to get to know them one on one and start some fun conversations. I spent most of the day talking to this girl Laura, who is 13, and came to know Christ at a previous YFC camp with my leader Michelle. This girl can talk your ear off and may be able to quote movies better than I can, but we had a good time. Scottie took us up to some sand dunes north of Whangarei so we could spend the afternoon sand duning. All sand duning really is is sledding on sand. It was actually a lot of fun. The view from the top of the dunes was breathtaking, and we had some great moments with the kids to soak it all in. I have some great pictures and even a video I will try to get up of me and Rebecca sliding and then busting at the bottom. It's awesome! Enjoy!

Day 2 -Today Scottie took us to the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen. The coast of New Zealand is absolutely breathtaking. He started out taking us and our favorite middle schoolers to a harbor that some really good dive spots are at. Then he had us pick up an object along the shore that represented God or how we relate to God. It was really neat to hear the kids who may or may not know God relate to Him. It opened the door for some conversations later. We then drove over to Whale Bay Beach, which was even more incredible than I could have imagined! We climbed up a large rock for a bird's eye view of the beaches. Then we walked over to Mermaid Cove, which was part of Whale's Bay that had these crazy black rocks for sand. Then we hiked through mud and mountains over to the other side of Whale's Bay where we had lunch and played some beach games. The water was way too cold to swim in, but the weather was absolutely perfect for a day lounging around the beach! Check out these pics!

Day 3 - The third and final day of our YFC Holiday Program was by far the most popular. We had about 20 kids show up! We drove down to SnowPlanet, which is an indoor snowboarding and skiing arena. It was about a 2 hour drive, so once again, we got to know these kids so much more. SnowPlanet was pretty sweet, and even though I didn't ski or snowboard, it was a lot of fun to watch. The kids had a really great time too. After finishing in the freezing temperatures, we headed over to the hot pools. The Hot Pools were basically a water park with warm water. Once again, the kids had a blast! Pretty much what I learned through this crazy week of middle school youth camp was that God works in the little things as much as He works in the big things. He doesn't need a fancy youth program to draw kids to Himself. He can take 7 kids and some leaders and do something amazing. I would like to think that these kids will remember us after this week. Laura gave me her email address and I would love to keep in touch with her and continue to pour into her life. So now we look ahead to finishing here in Whangarei with some manual labor around the office, and back to Auckland on Saturday! Enjoy the pics!


Wednesday, July 4, 2007

What Did You Say?

5:56 PM

So, I've been living here in New Zealand for a month now, and I've really started to pick up on the vocabulary differences here. Sometimes it's at my embarrassment, and other times it's just plain funny. Here are a few that have stood out…

In America we say…. In New Zealand we say…

Pavement Tarmac

Swimsuit Togs

Cookies Biscuit

Highway/Interstate Motorway

Garbage Rubbish

Cotton Candy Candy Floss

Rain Boots Gum Boots

Dessert Pudding

Trunk Boot

Elevator Lift

Flip Flops Jandals

Tank Top Singlet

Lollipops Lollies

Hot Dogs American Hot Dogs

Pixie Sticks Sherbert

Yield (as a street sign) Give Way

Carry Out Take Away

Convenience Store Dairy

Hard Core/Really into something Hard out

Napkin Serviette Pacifier Dummy

Diapers Nappies

Coolers (for food or drinks) Chilly Bins

So there's a quick word glimpse into my life here in the New Zealand. It's really fun!


Sunday, July 1, 2007

Whangarei Falls

1:55 AM
Today we did a bit of sightseeing with Scottie, the guy who runs YFC up here. He wanted to take us out and show us the highlights of this beautiful city. He took us down to the marina, and then up into the mountains to Whangarei Falls. It was super cool!


Friday, June 29, 2007

Piha Beach

10:54 PM
For our off day on Thursday, we drove over to Piha Beach which is on the coast of the Tasman Sea. It was one of the most renown surfing beaches in New Zealand, as well as one of the most deadliest. Because it being winter and all we didn't get in the water, but we did take tons of fun photos and climb up Lion Rock (somehow that huge rock looks like a lion laying down!!). But it was super fun and we had a great time. We are now in Whangarhei getting ready for a Youth For Christ camp that starts next week. Enjoy the pics!!


Make Your Own Kind of Ministry

9:20 PM
Sometimes ministry happens when you plan and organize, but sometimes the best ministry happens when you don't expect it. That's what happened today. Rebecca and I were sent into Auckland on the train to do ministry. Armed with a few extra dollars and sidewalk, we prepared to take the city by love.

Our first stop was lunch. As we walked the busy streets and approached a McDonald's, we saw a man outside, sitting on the street, holding a sign proclaiming his hunger. We looked at each other and knew we had found our ministry. We bought our lunches as well as an extra meal for the man. Then we walked outside and asked him if he had yet. He said no, so we gave him the lunch and asked if we could join him. His face lit up when he said yes, of course. We figured a lot of people passed by and dropped some coins, or some snacks, but how many actually stopped to talk. So we did. His name was Paul, and he had been living on the streets of Auckland for a few years now. After a few unfortunate incidents involving robbery and abandonment, he was left with few options but a life on the streets. He said it wasn't too bad until the police made him move. Despite his condition, Paul was pretty upbeat, asking tons of questions about us, what we thought of New Zealand and what we were doing. It was a great opportunity to share what we've been doing these last few weeks. As we were talking, Paul's friend Vickie came up. She has been living on the streets for 18+ years after a beating left her mentally challenged and alone. It was obvious that Vickie and Paul had formed their own kind of homeless community. It showed us how everyone craves community. We were later joined by their friend Steve, who used to live on the streets, but now has a home, but is still sympathetic to the homeless. He was quite friendly also. So here we sat, 3 homeless Kiwis and 2 Americans just talking about life. Who could plan this kind of ministry??

After leaving our street friends, we decided to visit the University of Auckland. We found a spot outside of their campus bookstore and began "chalking" truth and promises of God's love. We tried to make it as bright and cheery as possible, and we ended up covering up a pretty big area. No one really approached us as we were doing it, although I did notice some strange looks from passer-bys. But we believe that even if a tiny seed was planted through those messages, then it was worth it.

So at the end of the day, it was pretty awesome to see God's hand all over our day. He had orchestrated ministry and meetings we never could have planned. We hope to go back in the city and see Paul, Vickie or Steve, as they regularly hang out around the McDonald's. I'm loving this kind of ministry!


Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Knock, Knock, Knockin'

8:53 PM
This week we began our relational ministry. Two of us (Julianna and Autumn) went to a woman's shelter to build relationships with the women and children that live there as well as cleaning. The other four of us set out around Mangere to knock on doors and offer prayer and practical help to people. OK, I have to admit, the thought of knocking on someone's door for any reason freaks me out, and when it's God-related, it's even scarier. And I'm not in a third world country where I can knock on someone's door and say God's name and they get saved. New Zealand is a different place. But nonetheless, I set out with Julie to meet some people and share some love. I'm sad to say I have no exciting story, just the pleasant rejections, the doors shut in our faces, and the laughter and smirking. However, Michelle and Nani (an intern with Mangere Baptist) had a really cool story about a door they knocked on. I'll just say it involved a shady teenage boy and a knife. Don't worry Mom, I'm safe! Read about it here in Michelle's trip update. Not to be frustrated by the day, we made chocolate chip cookies for the friendly houses and our painters that night. Dropping those off was quite fun, one little old lady said that we made her day. Then Julie and I spent another hour knocking on doors with little response again. Dean (the pastor of Mangere Baptist)'s wife, Jackie gave us some encouragement though. She reminded us that although we may not see the fruit or know what we've watered, that we are still doing God's work. At least now they know that there is a church out there that is active and caring for people. So maybe we did do something big today. But maybe we didn't. All I know is that today I walked in what the Lord had for me, and that's all I can do.


Creativity Unleashed

1:52 AM

Psalm 148

1-5 Hallelujah! Praise God from heaven,
praise him from the mountaintops;
Praise him, all you his angels,
praise him, all you his warriors,
Praise him, sun and moon,
praise him, you morning stars;
Praise him, high heaven,
praise him, heavenly rain clouds;
Praise, oh let them praise the name of God
he spoke the word, and there they were!

6 He set them in place
from all time to eternity;
He gave his orders,
and that's it!

7-12 Praise God from earth,
you sea dragons, you fathomless ocean deeps;
Fire and hail, snow and ice,
hurricanes obeying his orders;
Mountains and all hills,
apple orchards and cedar forests;
Wild beasts and herds of cattle,
snakes, and birds in flight;
Earth's kings and all races,
leaders and important people,
Robust men and women in their prime,
and yes, graybeards and little children.

13-14 Let them praise the name of God
it's the only Name worth praising.
His radiance exceeds anything in earth and sky;
he's built a monument—his very own people!

Praise from all who love God!
Israel's children, intimate friends of God.


Monday, June 25, 2007

Out and About

1:52 PM

Over the last several days, we've had quite a lot going on. Friday was our first "off" day and we went into downtown Auckland. It was such a cool city!! While most of our team got tattooed or pierced, I spent the day exploring. I found this really awesome park, Albert Park, up by Auckland University, that had fountains and sculptures and flowers, and it was so pretty! When a sudden downpour hit, I was able to hide in a gazebo there too! After the park, I went through a couple of art galleries of local and international artists. I found a really cute used bookstore and spent awhile browsing through there as well. I got some internet time at an internet café, and I enjoyed some coffee at a café on the harbor. I window shopped and just walked the streets, checking out the interesting city life and taking tons of pictures!! Auckland is currently preparing for the New Zealand International Film Festival that is in July. I picked up a booklet, and was so excited to find out that someone in the UK made a documentary about the font, Helvetica. OK, maybe that's only exciting to me, but I really want to try and get into the city and see it. We met back together for dinner at MexiCali and enjoyed some yummy burritos that reminded us of home.

Saturday morning we did our DRIMES that we learned at training camp in the town center of Mangere. It was our first time performing them live and it went really well. I even got to speak and explain one afterwards! Some people showed interest, but nothing really groundbreaking happened. It just provided another chance to get out in the community, and show our faces, and engage people in conversation. After driming, we ate our first New Zealand fish and chips meal. Because of its English influence here, NZ has quite a lot of fish and chips places. Wasn't too bad! Saturday night we had a movie night at the Papatoetoe Youth For Christ building with Michelle's American friend. We watched "Sneakers" and ate popcorn and it felt like home.

Sunday morning we visited FaithCity Church, where Michelle had visited last year. It was a church alive in the Spirit, and even more so as they were coming off a weekend retreat of healing and restoration. It was exciting to see God work in ways I'm not used to or haven't seen before. Sunday afternoon, Michelle took me to the Auckland Botanical Gardens (because its like 5 minutes from our house) while everyone else was out getting coffee. The gardens are so pretty, and I wish I had more time to see them all, but it was beautiful. I have just been overwhelmed with the plant life here in general. All of it is so colorful and so magical looking. Weird description, I know, but it's true.

This island has definitely captured my heart. I am looking forward to our new ministries this week and our upcoming travels. God Bless!


Monday, June 18, 2007

Home Life

7:40 PM

"Life is either a daring adventure or nothing." - Helen Keller

We have been so blessed to staying in a home this summer. It has 5 bedrooms (although we only sleep in three), one bathroom (or "toilet" here in New Zealand), a kitchen, and a sunroom that is full of windows (which keeps our house either hot or cold, depending on the hour!). Sadly, there is no central heating, but Mangere Baptist Church has let us use some space heaters, which mainly helps in drying our clothes. We have a washer, but no dryer. The carpet has been torn up, so its wood floors (with some nails) throughout the house, which doesn't help in keep it warm! The house is across the street from Iosis, which is a community social service center. We will be able to volunteer with them soon. We don't have a ton of down time, but when we do, it's been fun to sit in the sunroom and chat, or curl up in our bunks and read. I've been reading a ton since I've gotten here, finishing Ted Dekker's Blink , and am almost finished with Shane Claiborne's Irresistible Revolution and Francine Rivers' Lineage of Grace. So that has been exciting. We have divided up the chores and regular household life. We have cooking partners and rotate cooking responsibilities. It'll be a challenge, cooking on a budget and just cooking for 7 people in general. But fun! The food here is pretty great, similar to America, just smaller portions, and not as sweet. So I'm glad I have been enjoying everything so far. We also split all the chores, and I am "blessed" to be cleaning the bathroom weekly (cheers!). Our house is also surrounded by some beautiful plant life, including a poinsettia tree and a poisonous lily! So that's a glimpse into my living conditions. Definitely not able to complain, God has blessed with a great place to live!


Mangere Baptist

4:50 PM
Not I - not anyone else, can travel that road for you. You must travel it for yourself." - Walt Whitman

Our first ministry opportunity has been partnering with Mangere Baptist Church. The church is pastured by Dean Clarkson, who has an amazing vision and passion for this community. Mangere is a lower-income, poverty-stricken, interracial community. The city has 110 churches, worshipping gods from across the world. Most Christian churches tend to be legalistic and rules-based, and the vision that Dean has for Mangere Baptist is one of grace and freedom in Christ. With such a small church body, the physical demands to the church's building cannot be met. This is where we come in. We have the opportunity to paint, and clean, and strip wallpaper, and garden, and so much more for this new body of Christ. It's really exciting. We will be attending church with them on Sunday nights, which is followed by a fellowship dinner. Thursday nights they have a prayer/small group night at Dean and his wife, Jackie's home which we also are attending. It has been incredible to realize that halfway across the world, we can worship and serve the same God that I was worshipping and serving back in America. It has taught me the vastness of the Body of Christ. I am reminded that God is not defined by a building, or a city, or a country. He truly does love the whole world, and I get to minister to another part of this world.

Dean took us up to Mangere Mountain, which overlooks the city, and led us in a time of prayer for the community last week. It was quite a view and an accurate picture of how small we are in the grand scheme of things. But it was a defining moment in our trip.

We have already begun to minister to people that we meet. The painters who are working at Mangere have made comments about how they can't believe a group of people our age would come here and do this for no money. A Muslim woman who lives in flats that the church owns said she recognized what we were doing as what Jesus did. And we've gone into the prominent town market and have begun intentional conversations with people that we meet. It's a new and scary thing for me, this relational evangelism. But I am excited to know, that when we leave we're able to connect them other men and women of God who will continue investing in their lives.

Please keep in prayer Mangere Baptist, Dean, Jackie, and their beautiful girls Libby Jane and Leah, the community of Mangere, and the work we do.


Monday, June 11, 2007

Up Up and Away

1:50 PM

Don't go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail" - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Well, training camp has come to a close and we are all preparing to head out to our countries of ministry this afternoon. This week has been so tough, but so rewarding. There are 6 other amazing young women on my team (and I say young because I'm the oldest…freak out!): Rebecca, Autumn, Jessie, Julianna, Julie, and our fearless leader, Michelle. It is so obvious how God has crafted our team. We all bring such passion and strength to the table. It will be a privilege to minister with these girls this summer. There are 5 other teams going out today too: ..:South Africa, Swaziland, India, Peru, and Kenya. All 90 of us have been experiencing this training camp together. Let me give you an idea of what a typical day at training camp looks like…

Prayer meetings begin at 7am, which for some reason means all the girls in my cabin have to get up at 5:45am to get ready (I don't understand that one!). AIM built these sweet cabins that at least 30 girls can sleep in (and there's a smaller one for the boys further down), so needless to say, it's been a treat not to be camping, although sleeping on wooden planks is never comfortable! After prayer, we would have a seminar in which someone would impart wisdom or practical knowledge about our countries, or just how to experience God more. From there, we would learn DRIMES, which are dramas/mimes. They are all set to music to help with overcoming the language barrier. They have a really powerful messages ranging in everything from depression, to deception, to suicide. I got pretty into them and scratched up my leg kinda bad. Oh well. All the meals they prepared for us were just plain amazing and I forgot I was eating camp food! Our afternoons were either more drime practice or team builders. As much as I understand the point of team builders, I truly despise the activity itself. Thankfully, our team is pretty great and the activities were bearable. After dinner, we would have an evening service of worship and teaching. These teams were intense and moving. The Holy Spirit was all over this place. We'd end around 11:30pm and start all over again the next day. From Monday to Thursday, each team had to carry a large wooden cross. It was a team builder/ministry experience. It was heavy…. J Thursday afternoon we got to go into the community and do ministry in an interracial apartment complex. It was fun to do our drimes and songs in front of people and talk to the kids. Friday morning, we got to experience the No Hope Tent (an event I've been part of before). It's an intense experience that walks us through the hopeless lifestyle of the people we will encounter in our country. The experience really brought our team together and pushed us to trust each other more. Friday night, we had a commissioning service. The AIM leadership commissioned our leaders and our leaders turned around and commissioned us. It was a very cool experience.

As we prepare to leave today, we are excited to get there and begin our ministry this summer. Our flight leaves Atlanta at 5:30pm and we arrive in New Zealand at 5:00am Monday ( New Zealand time!). Please keep us in prayer as we travel. Also, pray for unity on our team. And lastly, pray for the hearts of the New Zealanders we will meet. Thanks!


Monday, April 30, 2007

Follow Me To New Zealand

7:15 PM
To my regular blog readers,

I write to you with great excitement. A once in a lifetime opportunity has presented itself, and I am experiencing God's hand all over it. I have the chance to minister in New Zealand for the summer as a servant leader on an Adventures In Missions Real Life Trip. It is a 9week trip (June 9th - August 9th), which is longer than any other mission trip I've been on, but I'm excited about the chance to be involved in a ministry with some investment. Our team will include 6 other young women (ages 18 - 22), which will be great for team bonding and unity.

Auckland, which has the most prostitutes in the entire country. What an opportunity to show God's love to those who have been robbed of true love. Since 2003, prostitution and brothel-keeping have been legal, which has caused the amount of under age prostitutes to rise dramatically. Other ministry opportunities will include I am most excited about the ministry opportunities. We will be ministering in the "red-light" district of partnering with local churches to reach the youth of the city, and ministering to the homeless of the inner city.

I am beyond excited for this trip!! Thankfully, I will be able to use my support that I've been raising as staff to cover this trip. However, it is not enough, so I will continue to pray that God will provide the finances to make this trip a reality.


Art of Losing Myself

1:45 AM

Every time I hear this song, God's presence completely overwhelms me.

"From The Inside Out" lyrics - by Hillsong (2006, Mighty to Save)

A thousand times I've failed
Still your mercy remains
Should I stumble again
Still I'm caught in your grace

Your light will shine when all else fades
Never ending
Your glory goes beyond all fame

Your will above all else
My purpose remains
The art of losing myself
In bringing you praise

In my heart, in my soul
I give you control
Consume me from the inside out
Let justice and praise
Become my embrace
To love you from the inside out

Your light will shine when all else fades
Never ending
Your glory goes beyond all fame
And the cry of my heart
Is to bring you praise
From the inside out of my soul
Lord my soul cries out


Friday, March 30, 2007

A Travelogue of Dangerous Moviegoing

1:44 AM
f you've ever held a 5 minute conversation with me, you know I love movies. Drama, comedy, romance, action, documentary….they're all great! And growing up in a Christian environment, I was taught that movies were worldly and movies were bad. So I was always confused. There were some truly great movies out there. But they didn't talk about God. And usually ones that did talk about God were cheesy. Was I supposed to love those anyway? It seemed like somebody was ripping God off, giving him the crappy seconds of our artistic, story-telling talent. I thought for so long, Am I alone? Can I be the only Christian who enjoys good movies? Is something wrong with my walk with God? This past month I realized that overwhelming, no, I am not alone. I just finished reading Jeffrey Overstreet's book Through A Scanner Darkly: Looking Closer at Beauty, Truth, and Evil in the Movies. Not only was it a great book, I also felt he had somehow gotten inside of my head for awhile, and wrote about what I loved, thought or feared.

I knew as soon as I read the opening quote by Frederick Buechner I was going to love this book. "The world speaks of the holy in the only language it knows, which is a worldly language." WOW! And then, Overstreet challenged me in the first chapter with "Art needs time to settle in our minds and hearts so that the process of contemplation, discussion and ongoing exploration can open up possibilities that never occurred to us in the theater". There are several times that I've watched a movie and couldn't even give an opinion until after I had mulled it over, thought through its plot, its characters, and its themes.

Overstreet devotes the first section of the book to how we watch movies, and recognizing what movies had a significant impact on our lives. "It's possible we will glimpse the glow of glory, truth that cannot be reduced to a simple paraphrase glimmering through a screen darkly." We all watch movies for different reasons…to be entertained, to be educated, to escape, or even to live vicariously (trust me, every time I watch Center Stage, I live vicariously!) But occasionally we get more than we bargained for, and more than we expected. We get a glimpse into a reality we didn't realize about ourselves or mankind or God, and it's powerful.

Overstreet had a great analogy on watching film. It's a little long, but so worth it! He calls it a "feast of movies". He equates movie watching habits to eating habits, something we all are familiar with. There is the child movie watcher, grabbing whatever passes by with no thought to harm, only to have someone reach out and take it from him until he's ready. Things that were tough are digest are replaced with easy, manageable portions. Then there's the reactionary diner. This type of viewer labels everything by just sampling. If one bite is too spicy, the entire dish is ruined. This viewer writes off an entire film because the opening burst of violence. Then you have the casual diner. This viewer is aware of reviews and previews, and in attempt to satisfy new hungers, he goes after what he wants when he wants it. This often leads to the road of the glutton. Consume, consume, consume. Quantity not quality. A literal walking Blockbuster. If living in this space too long, it can lead to becoming an addict, and no addiction is ever healthy. Viewers also suffer from cinematic allergies, by avoiding films of certain subjects. When 9/11 movies started coming in, several people debated whether it was too soon to release a film dramatizing it or not. Being a rape victim may steer you away from a storyline of sexual assault. Viewers that are seduced by nudity, clothing, product placement, or materialism live here. Overstreet relates this to food quite well. "If your friend has a peanut allergy, don't serve him a peanut butter sandwich. At the same time, don't protest the stores that sell peanut butter….The goal should be growth and strength, not mere safety." By watching movies in fear, you risk becoming phobic. It's easy to look at the ungodliness in movies and be afraid it will corrupt us as Christians. But as the Word states "Solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to know good from evil" (Hebrews 15:4) and "Everything is permissible to me - but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible for me - but I will not be mastered by anything." (I Corinthians 6:12) Learning how to listen to your conscience and develop your artistic discernment will allow you view without fear, and move into the healthy stage of movie watching, the nutritionist. Like being able to eat a balanced diet, it's just as much a necessity to watch movies with a balanced diet. In learning the difference between "Sofia Coppola's sauces, the exquisite wines of Eric Rohmer and the finer points of Martin Scoreses's pasta", comes true enjoyment and true health. "If dining at the table of movies becomes my primary focus, I am forgetting the purpose of the meal. It is served to give me strength so that I can return to my life stronger, healthier, and closer to being whole."

The book continues on with this intensity of movies and the heart of God that became such a spiritual experience for me. Overstreet recommends title after title, director after director, all the while spurring me on to my hidden dream of becoming a film critic one day! Perhaps one of my favorite thoughts in this book is this "I have a strange compulsion to sit down between Christian culture and secular culture, trying to help them understand each other - and, ultimately, God - better through a shared experience of art." And in that moment I got it. It resonated in my soul in a way I could never articulate and I am forever grateful to have found this book.

For more on Jeffrey Overstreet, see his blog: Looking Closer


Friday, January 5, 2007

Life is a Highway

1:44 AM

You know how some songs are just great driving songs? You roll your windows down, crank it up and sing like no one’s listening. That’s what Tom Cochrane’s early-90’s hit “Life is a Highway” is for me. My best friend Kim even dedicated the song to me on her bridesmaids CD. It’s a fun, happy-clappy tune about riding down the highway of life, enjoying the ride. As I prepare my move tomorrow (*gulp*) that song echoes in my head (and my ipod). Along with the excitement of starting a new job, a new ministry, and a new me….a nagging fear follows. What if I’m not good enough? What if I don’t fit in at AIM? What if I made a bad decision? What if my boyfriend and I can’t handle a long distance relationship? What if I can’t raise anymore support? These questions and more are deafening, and at times drown out the still, small voice I know to be my Savior’s.

“My grace is enough; it's all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9 (The Message)

So, as this new adventure begins, I swallow my fears and keep my eyes on Him. Please be in prayer for traveling safety this weekend as Steve and I drive up Friday morning. Next blog…..I’ll be in Georgia!

Jesus said, "Mark my words, no one who sacrifices house, brothers, sisters, mother, father, children, land—whatever—because of me and the Message will lose out. They'll get it all back, but multiplied many times in homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and land—but also in troubles. And then the bonus of eternal life! This is once again the Great Reversal: Many who are first will end up last, and the last first." – Mark 10:28 - 30