Thursday, December 27, 2012

Stories: Untold and Yet to Come

I love a good story.  Maybe that's why I am a blogger.  Blogging is a form of storytelling.  Now I know that from the look of things on this blog (my personal musings) I don't appear to be either a blogger or a storyteller. Obviously without consistent posts or even monthly updates, it seems a bit ridiculous to consider myself a blogger but, I am gonna break the rules and call myself one anyway.  See, what oftentimes happens in my life is that I want to share about a unique/funny/personal experience, but then time passes and the idea, the story, doesn't get told.  That's pretty true of life in general.  Great stories often get overlooked.  Not just in my life, but in the lives of many other individuals. 

For instance, if you followed my journey to Africa and back this summer you would notice that I stopped blogging after the first half of my trip.  There were/are 5 more days worth of stories that I never told in this space.  Stories of encouragement, new spiritual life, salvation and my own personal spiritual growth.  Stories with names and faces.  Stories that, though I hold them dear in my heart, I would love to share them with you.  But, life happened, I didn't carve out time to make it happen and so the stories remain untold to this point.

The reality of stories though is that they are always being written.  My niece Deborah is quite the prolific writer.  She wrote over 100,000 words for NaNoWriMo in November and is still writing and creating more stories.  Creativity abounds in her mind and she is letting her fingers do the talking.

And then there is my sister.  She is traveling to Moldova (is that even a country? yep!) to learn and tell the stories of girls and young women who have been victims of sex trafficking.  These terribly difficult and dark stories need to be told in hopes that the stories yet to come can be stories of freedom, of redemption, of hope.  

Stories matter. Yours. Mine. All people. Everywhere.  Personally, I am still learning to quiet my life enough to hear other people's stories.  So often the noise and preoccupation with my own story distracts me from truly listening to another.  That's a part of my story that God is working on with me and in me. 

But the truth I love most about stories is that there is One who always knows them. Yours. Mine. All people. Everywhere.  He knows intimately.  He loves fiercely.  He saves thoroughly.  He is our Creator and He is the Master Storyteller. 

He doesn't need to read my blog.  I don't even have to write it down for Him to know.  But, for all my stories, those that remain untold and those yet to come, I desire that it be His pen with which He writes.  That it be His story that is written in and through my life.  I don't want the title of chief editor.  I don't want my name on the cover.  All I want is His story.  To hear it. To taste it. To live it.  His story. His eternal and glorious story. May He be the author and perfecter of my story and life.  May I live to tell of His story to those around me.

 I love to tell the story 
 of unseen things above, 
 of Jesus and his glory, 
 of Jesus and his love.  
 I love to tell the story, 
 because I know 'tis true; 
 it satisfies my longings 
 as nothing else can do.  

 I love to tell the story, 
 'twill be my theme in glory, 
 to tell the old, old story 
 of Jesus and his love.

 I love to tell the story; 
 'tis pleasant to repeat 
 what seems, each time I tell it, 
 more wonderfully sweet.  
 I love to tell the story, 
 for some have never heard 
 the message of salvation 
 from God's own holy Word.  

 I love to tell the story, 
 for those who know it best 
 seem hungering and thirsting 
 to hear it like the rest.  
 And when, in scenes of glory, 
 I sing the new, new song, 
 'twill be the old, old story 
 that I have loved so long.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

African Safari

Of my previous 3 trips to the continent of Africa I have never traveled to a part that had any wildlife one would usually consider traditionally African.  However, this trip to Kenya in East Africa provided me with the opportunity to go on a Safari at the Nairobi National Park.  I was one of several team members who decided to take this great opportunity to go on safari and let me tell you, it was so cool.  We got to see a wide variety of African animals and we had such a good time.  There are lots of stories I could tell about the day but I know that it's the pictures you really care about.

Funny story about our approach to the lions.  Someone was video taping the lions and apparently my "flight" mode must have kicked in.  I have been told I was mildly freaking out about how close we were getting to the lions.  Can't wait to see/hear that for myself.

God is great and mighty and seeing His creative handiwork was such a magnificent experience. 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Victorious Joy Children's Home

I have never been to an international orphanage before this trip so knowing that we would be visiting with children for a day during this trip was of great excitement to me.  This day was a mixture of a whole lot of emotions.  Incredible joy mixed with incredible sorrow.  Seeing the bright, happy joyful faces of the kids was incredible.  Knowing that they are loved within the walls of their home was reassuring.  But, they would never know family in the sense that I do, nor would they ever even have that opportunity.  Children at this home can never be adopted.

Part of the difficulty of the day was that we didn't really "do" anything.  We sat and talked, painted nails, sang songs, smiled, played games and just tried to love on everyone there as best as we could in the short amount of time we had.  Our team had raised funds to put in a bathroom/bathing area for the orphanage.  While that might sound like a lot it really was just a cement slab with some drainage in it.  It is hard to imagine how that is better than what they had but believe me when I say that it is. 

We spent some time in the streets surrounding the orphanage as well. We played games, painted nails, taught them songs.  I taught the kids several different camp songs and the favorite was Ha la la la la.  The kids laughed and played and it was great. Except when it was hard.  When a single mother approaches you and asks for money, when you can't even begin to understand how the size of the school could accommodate the number of children in attendance, when you feel like there is nothing you have to's tough. 

God grew a lot of hearts on our team that day.  It was short, we all felt inadequate and many of us didn't see that we made any difference whatsoever.  It is in moments like these that I must remember that God see all and knows all.  So, little Chantalle is not without a loving father, Bryan does have a future mapped out by His Creator, Mama Rose and Mary depend on the supernatural love of their Savior Jesus Christ to help them pour out everyday into the lives of the children they live with and teach.  

Words cannot adequately express the pictures my mind and heart took that day nor can I understand how anything our team did that day could make a lasting impact. Then again, I don't have to.  I serve a great God who is able to do abundantly more than any of us could ask or imagine.  I don't have to understand everything or have all the answers. I don't have to take on the responsibility to do it all.  I just need to trust the One who engraves every one of His children in the palm of His hand to watch out for them. 

Blessed Lord, I pray for the children and teachers at Victorious Joy Children's home.  I pray that You would minister to them and bless them in ways that I could never understand.  You have a future and a hope for each of those kids and I pray that Your love would surround and protect each of them as they grow up.  Strengthen the women who run the home and give them the wisdom to love with Your love.  I pray dear Jesus that You would intercede on their behalf.  Amen.

Mama Rose and Chantalle

Chic-Fil-A cows we gave away

The boys room

Giving away silly bands

Finger painting - I brought home quite a beautiful collection if you ever want to see them

Courtney and Scola

If you can't tell, this little cutie had quite the larger than life personality.  The youngest child at the orpahnage but such a great spirit.  She definitely stole a few hearts during our visit. Enjoy watching her with a soccer ball.

Friday, August 31, 2012

God's Story

One of the things I have learned and grown to love over the last few years is how God is writing His story across generations, nations and cultures in the lives of people.  I mentioned yesterday about how I fell in love with so many of the people I met on my trip.  During the retreat we were each part of a discussion group.  We ate together, we prayed together and we discussed what we were learning during our time together.  Being a relational person I loved all this togetherness.  Sharing the pictures of my family at home, trying to learn some Swahili, finding out about their families, friends, schooling and ministry.  I was touched deeply by the people in my group.

Ann, me, Dorthy, Chrissy, Leah, Ochieng (Fredrick)

God used the people in my group (and so many other leaders I met) to encourage me, challenge me and strengthen my faith.  This retreat was not attended by the faint of heart, it was attended by people who are serious about their faith, about their ministry and about their nation coming to know Christ as Lord.  Each person I encountered was open, honest and vulnerable about what God means to them and what He is doing in their lives.  There were no false pretenses, no emotional guards, no surface niceties.  I have never experienced the depth of connection and vulnerability in such a short time as I did with these people.  It truly was an amazing experience and I am blessed to have been a part of it.

We enjoyed moments of fun, relaxation, reflection, challenge, praise, worship encouragement and unity.  During one worship time we took time to reflect on who God is.  We spent a period of time just saying out loud "God Is...." Worshiping, honoring and glorifying God together.  We ended that time of worship by singing 10.000 Reasons (Matt Redman).

 "Bless the Lord, O my soul
O my soul
Worship His holy name
Sing like never before
O my soul
I'll worship Your holy name"

We also learned to praise and worship African style.  Of course I had to bring some of that home and share it with you.

The last part of the retreat was for each person in attendance to trace their hand on a piece of paper and write down their prayer requests.  After writing down the requests we took time to walk around and pray over every persons requests.  I was able to place my hand on the hand of my Kenyan brothers and sisters and pray to God on their behalf.  And they did the same for me!  Let me just tell you I was blown away by the passion, the vulnerability, the depth and the fervor that happened that day.  It was a truly sacred time.  I felt the heartbeat for the country of Kenya, the passion for their families and friends and their ministry mindset for the students they work with.

There were so many great moments on the retreat, moments God ordained for each person who was present and many that will go unspoken. The take home for me (and possibly you) is that God is working in people's lives. He is willing to write His story of redemption on every heart that is open to Him.  When we take time to understand someone else's story and when we take time to share our story with others, then we can see life transformation happen.  Transformation starts with me; with my face to face relationship with my Savior and with my willingness to be in face to face relationships with others.  I am blessed to have learned and been a part of so many other people's stories and pray that all of us would engage in life together.  It is both the beauty and the mess that makes a story complete.  Let us not forget to share with one another.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Spirtual Retreat

After club on Friday night (Aug. 10th if you are tracking with me) we walked to James' house then went to a restaurant to eat dinner. We ate the buffet they offered and had our first taste of the most common Kenyan dish - ugali.  It is a thick, polenta-style cornmeal porridge.  We enjoyed eating outside just after a huge rainstorm. One thing I have failed to mention so far is that the weather in Kenya at this time of year is much colder than I was expecting. I sure was glad to have packed a jacket.  I even borrowed a polar fleece from another girl on the trip. After eating we headed back to the hotel to get a good night's rest.

We needed to be up and ready by 8am but I found myself up around 5:30am.  I just couldn't sleep even though my body really needed it.  I stayed in bed and prayed for awhile then headed out to eat breakfast in the hotel restaurant.  I looked over the scripture and notes that I was going to share at the leadership retreat later that day and prayed that God would use me to encourage these men and women who work so hard for the advancement of the gospel among Kenyan high school students. To say that I was feeling inadequate to the task is over simplifying it.  I am passionate about God's Word, I love to teach but I was a bit overwhelmed by this.  I knew I had to trust in and rely on God completely and really, is there anything I do in life that this shouldn't be the the case!?! Lesson learned God.  Lesson learned.

We traveled many broken down and bumpy roads to the retreat center that would be our home for the next day and a half and got right to work when we arrived.  We decorated the meeting/eating area and tried to make the atmosphere of the camp one of excitement, refreshment and rejuvenation for those who would attend.  Soon after we got the camp set up YL leaders started to arrive.  Some of our team members taught the leaders how to play four square and just about everyone got in on at least 1 good game.  So fun to enjoy laughing together and bonding over a simple game.  We got to see the larger than life personalities of some of these leaders and really just fell in love with the people we met.  

Where all the meals and many small group discussions happened.

Large group area

Bed for the night,

James (on looking) Ernest, Matt, Courtney and Zach

Zach teaching the leaders some games they could use in club

Little Sally Walker and Jackie Chan anyone?

The format of the retreat was about the same for each session. 1. Games (both American and African) 2. Worship and Praise (American team then African leaders) 3. Teaching. 4. Group discussion 5. Break

Really though, it didn't feel to me like there were American leaders and African leaders.  For me it felt like we were all just worshipers of God who love Jesus and want others to know about Him.  I am still amazed at the depth and maturity of the leaders we met.  They came to the retreat ready to learn, grow and apply what they heard to their lives.  Tomorrow I will share more about the spiritual journey on the retreat and how amazed I am at God's story being written on the lives of so many of my Kenyan brothers and sisters.