Sunday, January 29, 2012

Crazy, CRAZY Love

Update from this week! 

-Dia de Dar- Thursday we had a “Day of Giving” with all of the students on the base. It was touching to see the young missionaries and students come and give out of a pure and joyful heart. The entire week we were asked to pray about what God wanted us to give. It was wild to watch how God spoke to people.... telling one guy to give away his bookbag to a specific student; he did so obediently but not knowing why he was giving that away of all things. When he handed him the backpack, the other boy burst into tears and and explained to everyone that he had been praying for a backpack for 6 months (and this is a requirement of our outreach). My missionary training group is mostly made up of people from 18-28ish. These are kids who raised support for this 6 months of their lives of mission work; or they are people like me who are now depending on donations as a means of life as a missionary. I was so touched to see these people who had so little giving everything they had.... One person who still has not raised all of her support was given a guitar by a boy in our class who she hardly knew; he loved his guitar but gladly gave it away. 
-Saturdays Skateboard Outreach-
The YWAM base has a huge call to reach the unaccepted youth here in Costa Rica. Costa Rican churches still see skateboarding as a really bad thing, that bad kids do, and these children are not accepted in the churches. One of the ministries here at the base is to reach these kids who are not being reached elsewhere... On Saturday, there was a HUGE event. A professional skateboarder came (he is number 5 in the world), the YWAM base provided skateboards and skate ramps, instructors to help teach new tricks, sounds systems.. and held a huge event at the park! HUNDREDS and HUNDREDS of kids came to watch this AWESOME skateboard celebrity skate, and then later share God with them.  

  • The Nature & Character of God- This past week we learned about the character and nature of God... and how this relates to missions. My mind was rocked, misconceptions ripped out, and filled with truths from the bible.  God continues to confirm my call to the Nations through various means. Through INTENSE days literally FILLED with bible classes, we learned about God’s character... how he DEEPLY desires to REASON with US, to answer our questions, to LISTEN TO US and then to  HONOR or change his plans because of our input in the relationship... his WIDE range of INTENSE emotions but that are all based on LOVE (and how strongly what we do impacts him, how he is affected in this relationship).  The things that grieve and burden his heart.... how badly it breaks his heart to see people hurting and suffering (physically, emotionally, spiritually) but how this is related to “free will” and our choice, that Jesus told us to pray for God’s will to be “done on Earth as in heaven” because what is being done now on Earth is obviously NOT his will, how God actually converses with people like a friend, and how our prayer can actually change God’s plans, how God called us to GO and heal the nations... “The Lord looked and was displeased that there was no justice. He saw that there was no one, he was appalled that there was no one to intervene.”-Isaiah 59:15 &16 ... and then we all know that God asks who will go for us and stand in the gap between these hurting people and God. 
My Heart:
  • God has been doing huge things in my heart. Wow. What an awesome, wild relationship! It is so great that God is not only preparing me for my life as a missionary, but also investing so much into making sure his and my relationship is SO STRONG. It’s a dual process that is truly beautiful. It is such an honor to be here serving and learning about our awesome God. I fall more in love with him each day as our relationship grows more and more personal. The more God reveals himself to me, the deeper I go with him. God has been revealing so much of his heart to me this week. The more I know his character and see his emotions/ my effect on his heart; the more I desire to serve him. But, it totally shifts the focus of this desire from obedience to relationship. Like with any relationship (when you are madly in love), you want to do things to make the other person smile, to “bless their heart”. You know what things will bless that person’s heart only after you know that persons heart. My goal is to make God’s heart smile. 
Children Sex Brothels- 
As I sit in class and listen to stories about God’s heart; I hear stories about the thousands of young girls (some as young as 5) sitting in sex brothels around the world. I listen to these stories of these little babies who have numbers hung around their neck, sitting in rows on benches. Men file into these places and choose a number. These children’s whose eyes look so empty and hopeless. One missionary went to one of these brothels... he had recently asked God to let him feel God’s heart. I can only imagine the anger and pain he felt looking at these innocent victims, small children, litle girls like his own. As he was standing in line at the brothel, God said to him “Look in all of their eyes.... it hurts you to see them, but I NEVER get to leave them. I have to stay here ALL of the time and SUFFER constantly for these girls. You get to go back home, but I have to stay.” The missionary looked around and saw one little girl who still had some glimpse of life in her eyes. He went to the man who was running the brothel and asked if he could buy the little girl. The manager told him it was $1.60. The missionary clarified, informing the man that he wanted to buy her to own her. The manager thought for a few minutes, then came back and told the man a price. The missionary called his church and asked if he could buy the little girl and bring her back to the States. The church’s response: “Buy the entire brothel and the one next door. Buy all of the little girls and the building as well.” The missionaries bought the 2 brothers, filled with hundreds of girls. The brothels were transformed into therapy centers. The girls stayed there, found Christ, have been healed emotionally and spiritually... and these girls are now ministering to other girls in prostitution. Wow. 
The huge missionary man who had purchased the brothel then felt a huge voice from God saying, “now I want you to go and reach those men who were running those brothels”. The missionary thought for a week.... and then went and began ministering to these ‘men’ who were 15 years old. These men changed their lives, committed their lives to God, and had a change of heart. 
Someone asked why God doesn’t just stop evil.... but if God had stopped this brothel, it wouldn’t have fixed the problem, the heart issue of evil. These men would have been stopped from this one intense of evil with a little slap on the hand, but would quickly do more evil. God doesn’t fix heart issues with a bandaid. It requires a heart change. 
One of the things we have been focusing on is the huge problems in the world; how Christ must have wept over the 100,000 people who die everyday without having heard His name, how God knows the name of every 2.5 billion people who are waiting to hear the gospel, God is not deaf to the cries of 750 million who go to sleep starving of hunger, the 20 million children who will sleep on the pavements of central american cities tonight... God was grieved over the 40,000 children who died of hunger yesterday,  the 900 million around the world who will sleep in shanties of cardboard or scrap tin tonight. WHY DOESN’T GOD DO SOMETHING ABOUT THESE NEEDS?!?!?!? I believe that he already has. He has given us enough to preach the gospel and meet physical needs as well.... the funds are already there-waiting to be multiplied and given out to feed a hungry world. 
-“God has placed enough resources in the hand of Christians to fully evangelize the billions in the world who have never heard the name of Jesus. Christians annual incomes total approximately two-thirds of the earth’s resources. 
-For the cost of caring for a pet dog or cat for a year, a child in a third world country could be given a christian education. 
-There are 16 million refugees in the world, according to most sources. To feed every one of those refugees, it would only cost the 1.6 billion who call themselves Christians one penny a day. 
*(Loren Cunningham) 
**God has also been making it clear what my role is in his goal to make “his will be done here on earth as it is in heaven” and to go for us... to take God to the hurting world. That’s what they need.... a heart transformation from God alone. Only a heart transformation can stop evil...
A few funny/interesting things:
-We literally eat rice twice a day, every day... SO tired of rice! Tonight, our dinner consisted of rice and lettuce. The entire base claps when we see that there is meat for a meal!
-I am called the mom here amongst my fellow classmates. (A teacher did tell me that it was because I have a loving mother’s heart or service). 
-Since there aren’t televisions and internet is VERY limited, when we are waiting in line for dinner we have to think of someway to entertain ourselves (there were almost 100 people to wait in line with at one point). So, we play “television” and act out different shows that people shout out... the germans here who can’t pronounce “v” call it “telewision”. 
-There are 10 of us living in a room smaller than my bedroom at home... we live in bunkbeds.... which break frequently throughout the night... nothing like a good adrenaline rush
-One of the students that is in my school is a refugee from Samalia... his story is AWESOME! 
-On Friday we had a “deep cleaning day” which involved us cleaning for 5 hours in the afternoon instead of having our usual class. 
-For someone who is extremely active (me), I can actually sit in a classroom the entire day and the professors still like me at the end of the week. I do however have to jump and pounce around during break times! 
-When everyone has their clothes hanging on the clothesline to dry, and the closeline somehow falls... it is so awkward picking up your undies from around the base! 

Monday, January 23, 2012

Loving God, Loving People

This past week has been fabulous and challenging! 
Each day has been PACKED with teaching that has both enlightened, broken, emptied, and then refilled us with truth; and enriched our relationship as well as dependence on God. 
On Sunday, I went with some of the staff here to hand out bread & spend time with the homeless people in a dangerous part of the city. There were men, women, and children lining the side streets... packed down the road like toothpicks in a box. We drove up to one street where the people were all sleeping in their boxes (it was FREEZING outside). We asked one man who was ragged and beat down if he would like some bread and he immediately sprang up from his pallet and ran to the car to receive. As I looked into his eyes, the windows to his soul; I could not even imagine the story that was hidden deep within. This man who has laid all pride away to accept something as cheap and as simple as a piece of bread... what a reality check to me who always worries about accepting donations as a missionary; this man was running to receive something so small... humility. 
At the “old people’s home”, we were able to just love on people. I firmly believe in the dual aspects of the gospel: loving God and loving people. I met the most adorable little man at the nursing home. He told the nurses that he loved me and then took it upon himself to inform everyone at the nursing home that us youth were there , “as missionaries to tell help them, etc. etc.”. They were so very thankful that we were there and we were blessed as well.
Metro Ministries is one of the ministries at the base here in Costa Rica. The group invited me to go with to participate in this ministry last week. It was FABULOUS! The purpose is to raise up children, to instill values and morals in them, to help the most at-rick intercity children chose the right path. These are the neighborhoods where children can easily fall into the drug cartel, gangs, etc. The bible promises that if we raise up a child in the way he should go, he will not stray from that. It is worth it to invest in children. The best way to change a community is to start with the children. (This same ministry is in inner city New York, and ghettos in large/dangerous cities around the world). The children were so receptive and open. They immediately jumped into my arms, thankful to have any kind of attention. These children listened so attentively... they are “the least of these” and they know it. 

Last week a team from Colorado came to teach the DTS. The days begin at 6 with wake up call. We then have breakfast, followed by worship time, then intercessory prayer; then classes until 9 most nights. God did some huge and amazing things in my heart this week. He rocked my world by identifying un-truths that I had guarded in my heart about who God is and who I am in him. He then ripped those out (while I willing gave them away to Him), and replaced them with new, biblical, and WONDERFUL truths. The teachers also prayed over us during the week and gave us words that God had laid on their hearts for each of us. The words that they gave me were very affirming. One of the things that God had spoken to me earlier in the training has been confirmed by multiple people; which is my calling to “The Nations”. 
There is a group of missionaries here at this base who had the opportunity to go to Mexico for training for their ministry called “Casas de Esperanza”, or Home of Hope. This is obviously not a cheap thing to do when you are living off of donations and support; but this training is HUGE for their ministry (one of the ministries that we are able to participate in). After working with home building ministries in Guatemala, I know how important and influential ministries such as this are. As a base, we prayed for them and then took the day to see what God was laying on our hearts. With a base consisting of mostly young people, we were truely hoping in God to provide these funds. Each person gave whatever they felt they should give... and at the end of our prayer time, we calculated home much was donated. (One boy who had no money to donate auctioned his ANCIENT Ipod). The total amount that we raised as a team was exactly $60 over what was needed for their training.... it is so touching to watch God provide through obedience and generosity of His body. 
On Thursday morning, our leaders asked us to meet them outside in the courtyard after breakfast. They had stations set up around the soccer court. They played worship music, and washed each one of our feet. As they washed, they prayed over us. I was so moved by this... I have experienced this before but it has never impacted me in such a huge way. The two leaders that prayed over me cried as they washed my feet, holding them in their hands, and thanking God OVER and OVER for my life. They continued to tell me how they knew that I felt blessed to be here in this training, but that I was actually a blessing for the base. The lady told me that my heart was life Jesus’, willing to go anywhere to serve God... not focusing on the suffering but on the outcome. Immediately after she said this, I burst into tears. I thought of Jesus, washing my feet right before he went to be crucified. How he had thanked God for me and then did the greatest act of humility and service imaginable. How he suffered and died for me, not seeing the pain but the outcome.... 
I am here in training with some of the most wonderful people... it is so beautiful for me to look around the room and see all of these young people ON FIRE for God and PASSIONATE about knowing God and making God known. It is truly breathtaking.... one of the boys in my group is a refugee from Somalia, there are local Costa Ricans, people from Norway, Ireland, Switzerland, 3rd world countries, people who come from countries that have had the gospel for years and others who come from churches scarcely populated with Christians, some of them have parents who paid for their training while others are struggling to even raise a portion of their support. Faith, passion, and devotion are HUGE here. Most of the students in my school call me “Mom”, and for me it is an honor to be serving them and pouring out into them as God continually pours into me. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Who is God for you?

The past few days have already been amazing here with YWAM San Jose. 
I have already learned so much about God, about his calling for me, about human trafficking, about missions.... wow! The group I am with is wonderful... we do have to take some freezing showers, laugh at ourselves as we attempt to communicate about difficult subjects in a foreign language, learn to live in community, eat beans.... AGAIN.... and AGAIN... (after standing in line for 20 minutes to get these beans) haha.... after only 4 days together, we already have some hilarious stories!  
I am living in a little room (smaller than my college dorm room) with 10 girls in bunk beds. The other students in my Discipleship Training School are from countries from all over the world... Ireland, Africa, Romania, Ireland, Canada, Australia, etc. It is beautiful to see God bringing together the nations to adore Him and to serve Him; and then to send us out to reach the nations.... It is nothing short of beautiful.
Our schedules during training will be packed full... beginning each day at 6 and not finishing until 9 at night. We have 30 minute breaks for meals. We are spending the days learning about God and deepening our relationship with him... how can we reach these people who have never heard of this great God we serve and this hope that we have, unless we know him on a really deep and personal level, and have had time to nurture our relationship with him. We learn about Intimacy with God, a Biblical Worldview, Missions, Evangelism, Spiritual Warfare, the life of a disciple... and a few more topics; with one central focus each week. We also have times of intercessory prayer for the Nations, times of worship, and of course times of service. How humbled and thankful I am that I get this opportunity to devote time to God and God ALONE, being with Him and learning about him... before I “Go out to make him Known.” This time is  already such a huge blessing for my life, for my walk, and for my ministry. 
We are reading a wonderful book called “Is that You God” about hearing the voice of God. The author writes about something that is so dear to my heart after serving in Guatemala as a missionary... He recalls looking into the eyes of a ragged little girl, who has another child strapped to her back. The little girl who is filthy and living in abject poverty. This little girl reaches out to him, begging for some money. The author speaks about her eyes. I too know those piercing eyes. The look and the ‘call’ that these eyes give to us that change your life from that point forward. I remember the first eyes like these that I looked into in Guatemala.... eyes that pierce your soul. As the child reaches out her hand, those pleading eyes that say she is begging for more than just a coin, but for something far deeper. A child reaching out for comfort, encouragement, for love, hope for the future, The Gospel. 
Here are some eyes that changed my life:

I personally am so thrilled to have this precious time to talk to and listen to God. I am also so thankful to watch the other young people here with me who are here to know God. Sometimes when I sit with people my age in the States, I feel like they seem to be “enclosed in a giant isolations bubble- laughing, having a good time while the world outside is filled with those crowds with outstretched beggars’ hands.”  (Loren Cunningham). 

Today and a few more times this week, we have the opportunity to have a silent retreat to focus on listening to God speak to us directly. I am so excited about this time I have to hear his voice and for the things he is going to speak into me. I would appreciate your prayers for me, that God would speak loudly and clearly to me; that I would have a yielding spirit; for discernment. Please also pray for the other students here as the DTS. I am one of the oldest girls (most of them are here to find their purpose before they head to college). Lastly, for the children here in San Jose who are victims of human and sex trafficking as I talked a little bit about in my last post. 
Grace and Peace!!! 

Who is God for you? 

Friday, January 6, 2012

Children Trafficking in Costa Rica

The reason God called me to Costa Rica:

From Wikipedia:

"Costa Rica is a destination for child sex tourism, numerous children are victims of commercial sexual exploitation at the hands of tourists. Erika Linares, a lawyer with the Latin American Institute for Health Prevention, a group that works with prostitutes, said: "Sexual tourists look for two things: impunity and anonymity. Costa Rica offers both." Nevertheless, most of the demand for child prostitution comes from local Costa Rican men; it is a home-grown problem.
Child prostitution is widespread. Street Children in the urban areas of San Jose, Limon, and Puntarenas are particularly at risk. Costa Rica is a transit and destination point for children trafficked for purpose of prostitution. Most trafficking victims originate from Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Panama, as well as from Russia, the Philippines, Romania, Eastern Europe. " 

These are the children I will be working with in Costa Rica.... Please pray for them and for the ministry with them. 

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Going Out Again! :)

Hi friends!
I have been home for a little over 2 weeks for Christmas and to change over my luggage! 
My little brother and I on Christmas morning! 

It has been so wonderful to spend time with my precious family (whom I will miss dearly). I wish I could have seen each and every one of you  who are praying for and encouraging me! I had the best of intentions to visit everyone who has donated and who I care about here in GA; but found myself just wanting to be AT home. I have loved just simply being here.... it's impossible to explain! I've missed Georgia! But, I know that I am going exactly where God is calling me, even if that it a difficult place to be. However, there is no better feeling (even when it is mixed with missing home), than knowing that I am in the center of God's will. That is incomparable! My hearts deepest desire is to know God better and then to make him known in whatever means necessary... whether it be loving children, helping those in need, taking care of the lost and forgotten, fighting for justice for the oppressed... who knows?! God is in control, and it is ALL for his glory. We serve and we go no because we are motivated by 'law' (or religion), but because we are motivated by "love". 

"One of the most difficult questions to answer in Christian work is, “What do you expect to do?”You don’t know what you are going to do. The only thing you know is that God knows what He is doing. Continually examine your attitude toward God to see if you are willing to “go out” in every area of your life, trusting in God Have you ever “gone out” in this way? If so, there is no logical answer possible when anyone asks you what you are doing." Oswald Chamber

I appreciate your thoughts and prayers as I head to Costa Rica to go through training with YWAM (Youth With a Mission); my discipleship training school. I will keep you posted on how it is going and what I am up to! Please pray for safety, the people I will encounter and minister to, relationships I will build, financial support, community & unity with the other missionaries, and for a honeymoon with God!