Glory in Inadequacy

I have recently moved to Omaha, Nebraska to be a 2-year missions resident at a large church here. Transition is never fun, and in my experience change is usually scary. I didn’t want to leave my small community back home in Minnesota. I didn’t want to leave my parents and my 4 younger siblings. I didn’t want to leave my wonderful circle of friends and move to a strange city. I didn’t want to have to move in with a family I had never met. But I knew these were all things that just had to happen.

During my first few days here, I began to realize that maybe this wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Maybe it would be a wonderful experience and maybe I would actually enjoy myself instead of just doing it because I “felt called to do it.” My host family turned out to be incredible, the church I will be working at is exceptional, and the city of Omaha might actually be not as awful as I thought it would be. But nevertheless, when I think about stepping into ministry here, I feel completely and utterly inadequate. I suddenly feel like I know nothing– what makes me qualified to minister here? I don’t know what I’m doing!  (Part of my stress may come from my tendency to expect myself to know how to do a job before I’ve even been taught, which, I know, is ridiculous).

During Sunday service, the pastor used Ephesians 3:20-21 in his sermon. The next day, that verse popped up on YouVersion as the verse of the day. The next day, at our church staff meeting, we watched a video sermon in which the pastor used that same passage. That evening, at a church service at another church in Omaha, I was thinking about how weird it was that this verse keeps showing up. I said to God, “if this is a word for me, make it pop up one more time.” The pastor closed the service using that same passage again.

Take a minute to read the passage in Ephesians that I have included here:

A Prayer for the Ephesians

14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family[a] in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

 

The truth is, I don’t know what I’m doing. But his power is made perfect in my weakness and he is capable of more than I can ask or imagine. All I can do is give myself to him fully. All praise and honor to him.

“I praise Him because of who He is…”

As I wrote about before, this last week was Missions Fest at Crown and it was awesome.  Tuesday night, everyone who was involved in making it happen was up late, setting up the globetrekking rooms and making sure every last minute detail was in order.  During this time, we covered missions fest in prayer and worshipped together as a group which was awesome.  But that night, around midnight, I started to feel exhausted in every sense of the word.  I honestly don’t remember the last time in my life I felt that way, so it was very strange and out of the ordinary. I felt especially emotionally exhausted, with the recent issues of life seemingly catching up with me.  So I went to bed.  I woke up the next day feeling slightly better as we engaged in the first day of globetrekking. I was in the reflection room and spent all day listening to students’ testimonies about their experiences and praying with people, but I felt like I was in an unshakable fog. It was such a strange feeling; I felt overwhelmed, confused, and did not really know what to do.

After chapel that night, I went with a group of friends to a worship night at North Central University in Minneapolis from 10-12. It was a late night but it was so very worth it! When Praise Gathering began, I decided I would cast aside my distractions completely and fall into Him. I asked God for a true breakthrough that night because I desperately needed it.  I sat in my chair worshipping, continually asking God to break through every barrier, every area of despair. And I felt his Holy Spirit tell me to go to the altar. But immediately, my mind said no. “I’ve never been here before, I don’t know how things usually work,” “What if that’s weird here?” (which was a crazy thing to wonder, if you’ve ever been to North Central…) So I did not go. As I sat there and continually asked God to work in me, I distinctly felt him say to me “You ask me for a breakthrough, but when I tell you to move your feet, you won’t.” At that point, I could no longer deny to myself that it had been God speaking to me, telling me to move my feet and go up front. So I did.

As I sat at the front, on my knees, it seemed as if I was immersed in the music, oblivious to everything that was going on around me, oblivious to what was happening in other areas of my life at the time. As I worshipped, God began to simplify himself. He is infinitely complex, but yet simplifies himself so that we may even begin to grasp who he is. He reminded me that he is good, he is faithful, he is majestic, he is loving, and he is powerful…. And that is why I praise him. When I am confused and struggling, I praise him because of who he is. As he showed me these things, my heart overflowed with praise and it was an experience I will not soon forget. I headed back to my seat at the end, and as I did, I felt as if a thousand pound weight had been lifted off of me– my heart felt light but full.

Run for the One: MissionsFest 2016

So this last week was missions fest at Crown College– a week dedicated to raising awareness of global issues and reminding people of the church’s calling in this world.  Although this week is typically awesome, it also is a huge source of stress for those who are involved in pulling everything together.  The last couple weeks, I have felt very unprepared, but it was encouraging to see it all eventually come together perfectly.

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Our theme this year was Run for the One, and our speaker did a great job of bringing the Word and speaking truth into our lives during all the different chapel sessions.  There were also seminars students could attend.IMG_3645

One of the bigger aspects of missions fest is globetrekking– we take a whole hallway of classrooms and transform them into different scenarios from around the world.  Students then go through the rooms, and many times transformation takes place through this.  Globetrekking had 5 rooms this year.  Room 1: an airport in which students interact with actors playing characters with various backgrounds.  The theme question for this room is “Where does your mission begin?” Room 2: a Syrian refugee camp in Germany, depicting the very real stories of people in a position in which they feel completely helpless and powerless.  Room 3: a red-light district in Amsterdam, where prostitution is legal and a booming industry.  How do you show the girls love while still letting them know what they are doing is wrong.  What can I say to show them that they are truly valued?! Room 4: a hospital room where a man is dying at a young age, questioning why this is happening to him.  This scene demonstrated the difficulty of knowing what to say, the difficulty of conveying the gospel in such a situation.  The final room was the Reflection room– the room I was working in.  Each team came into our room for reflection and debrief.  We asked 2 questions:

  1. What impacted you the most?
  2. How does that change the way we want to live?

At first, I was confused why I ended up in this room, because it did not seem to utilize my strengths.  But I got to spend 2 days listening to students reflect on their experiences and share the truth that God had been speaking into their lives.  I got to see the change that has taken place in the lives of Crown students, and hearing about their change has created change in my life.  So it was clearly not an accident that I ended up in that room for 2 days.

IMG_3648I heard students repeatedly talk about the importance of remembering that each person you walk by is valued, has a story, and has hurt.  I heard them talk about their hurt in realizing that these situations are reality for millions of people all over the world.  They talked about the importance of constant intentionality, the importance of just being with people, how to be prepared and be bold, how to live a life that is fearless for Christ, the importance of wisdom and discernment in knowing how to handle things, what to do, and what to say.  I heard them ask “how do we proclaim Christ from love rather than judgment and condemnation?” I heard them talk about the importance of being equipped and knowing Scripture. I heard students voice the realization that people see the world so much differently than each other.  I saw students bothered by their lack of words and lack of knowledge of what to do in hard situations.  This prompted many discussions about the importance of following the promptings of the Holy Spirit all the time. Ultimately, our discussions came down to on frequently asked question: “Do I truly believe what I say I believe, and if I do, why is it so hard to share it with people?” I saw hearts changed this week, and in that, my own heart was changed.

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Minneapolis Adventures

Today, I went on a tour of the Phillips neighborhood in Minneapolis.  The group that I went with included students going on mission trips with Crown, students in a class called Urban Ministries, and members of Crown’s Global Impact Team.  We did our tour through City Vision, an urban ministry in this area (http://cityvisiontc.org/). We went to different area businesses and got a glimpse of the thousands of different subcultures that exist within one area.

We went to a Nordic marketplace called Ingebretsens, a Hispanic bakery/mall called Mercado Central, a Somali “mall,” where we tried some tea, made a stop at an Asian food market, and then finished off with lunch at the Midtown Global Market.

The city is beautiful and the city is fascinating.  It’s complex and diverse and intriguing.  There are many great things that come from the presence of so many cultures, but it also presents many challenges to all who are involved in the city, definitely including ministries.  How do you reach a community that involves so many smaller communities?  How do you reach an area in which 100 languages are spoken?

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A peek at the Somali mall

Area statistics:

Minneapolis is 3rd city in the nation for human trafficking

Area has largest urban Native American population, 1% of which go to a church

38% of people live below poverty line

During 1990’s, nicknamed “murder-apolis” because there were more murders here per capita than in New York City.

Religious diversity in area: 41 witch covens, 26 mosques, 12 buddhist groups, 4 Hindu groups, 4 homosexual churches, 19 other cult groups

Highest Somali concentration in US

This area has also been a lot of great ministry opportunities that have come in this area as well– the first Somali Christian church in the US is here, and there are countless churches that conduct services in countless languages.

 

I have been feeling lately that after graduation, I should work in an inner city setting.  I haven’t had a lot of experience in this area, but I have continually fallen more and more in love with this urban context each time I come here.  Everyone and everything is intriguing and different.  I have a lot of motivation now to explore the cities more, to try all the different ethnic restaurants I haven’t gotten to yet, and to pursue ministry opportunities within the city after graduation. I still think I’ll go overseas someday, but at this point it feels like a city setting is in my future.  Today felt like a confirmation of that calling.

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Seth and I after our visit to the Electric Fetus

 

 

Surrender of the Will

It’s amazing to me how easy it is to think that I have control over my life– to think that I have the ability to control what happens in the future.  But what I’ve found to be so amazing is that I think that my future plans are the best, when in reality that is far from the truth.  It’s ironic how giving up my plans leads to better things. It’s cliche, I know. But remember there is a reason why things are cliche– they’re applicable.

It’s easy to say you trust God with your future.  It’s easy to say you know that his plans are higher than yours.  It’s easy to say you are seeking his leading.  But it’s entirely another thing to actually live that out.  What do these seemingly abstract things look like when they are lived out and fully applied to my life?

While this is an area in which God has been working in my life, I definitely do not have it figured out.  But I have learned that surrendering your will means giving up the idea that you actually have control of your life.  Many people say you have to surrender control to God, but did I ever really have that control in the first place?  No, I just believed that I had control.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD.  “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”  -Isaiah 55:8

We cannot fathom what God knows or even begin to understand how he thinks.  Why is it so easy for me to think that what I want right now is best for me?  Why do I think that what I want right now fits in to what God has for me?  As a person who really likes control, it is very difficult to let the events of life play out, trusting Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love him and have been called according to his purpose.”

I overcomplicate my life. I stress when things don’t go according to “plan” when in reality, whose plans were they?  They were mine.  God has given us his Holy Spirit to guide us when we walk in him.  So it is important to be sensitive to the Spirit, to seek his guidance and walk in his ways, but also not to stress about things.  I’m not trying to say if you just sit back and don’t do anything, things will work out.  Following the Spirits leading and therefore pursuing what God has for you requires action and diligence.  Surrendering your will does not mean falling into complacency– in fact, it requires the opposite.  It requires waking up each morning and seeking first his kingdom.  It requires taking the opportunities that God has for you, and in doing so, knowing that whatever happens has been predetermined by Him and is truly for your good. It means not worrying when things don’t work out the way you thought they would.  It means knowing that what WILL happen instead is infinitely better because those plans are from Him who is always good.

But man, trusting is so dang difficult. I need his help to trust his plans. His ways are higher than mine, he loves me and works for my good.

12.12.15

Less than two days ago I was laying on a beach in Guatemalan, and right now I’m sitting on a plane somewhere over the ocean as we head for Houston. Tonight I will be walking out into the snow. It’s weird and it’s like a dream. But I’ve had a good last few days in Guatemala.

This week, our International Studies professor from Crown came to do our debrief. We had meetings throughout the week to process what has happened and what to expect when we get back. It was emotional and exciting and sad and definitely helpful.

Tuesday was our last day at ministry sites. Sarah and I worked with Rebecca for the last time. We packed Christmas baskets for all the families with sponsored kids. I got to say final goodbyes to many people in the community, which was hard but good.

One of our debrief sessions was all about what has happened in the news since we have been gone. It’s amazing how out of the loop you are after four months…. Another thing that’s weird to think about is that I won’t know the songs on the radio when I get home! Strange.

Wednesday night was our banquet. All the staff and students were present as we got to spend one last evening all together.

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Sarah and I with our site leader Rebecca
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Fall Semester team 2015- Crown and Global
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With my roommate for the semester, Brooke

Thursday, we went to a beach on the Pacific coast. It was about a 2 hour drive and felt like we had entered into a different world. The place where we lived was very mountainous and actually pretty cold. Near the coast, it was HOT and humid and flat—a very different feel. The sand was black and the waves were insanely strong. I also realized, a little too late, that the sun there is very, very intense. I got a pretty nice sunburn—you should see my back, it looks AWEFUL. But it was a perfectly sunny day and very relaxing. Towards the end of the day, we were getting ready to leave when a man walked by on the beach with 4 horses. My teammate commented that she wanted to ride, and another girl and I decided the same thing. The 3 of us paid the 25 Quetzales (like $3) and got to ride horses on a beach in Guatemala at sunset—an awesome experience. Sometimes impulsiveness is fun. But dang, my back HURTSSSSSS.

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The next day we went to Antigua for the last time. I sat in a coffee shop and did homework and let nostalgia take over. I really love Antigua—it is such an interesting place! And it was sad to see people and observe what was going on around me, knowing I will miss it. After Antigua, we had one last special dinner with our host families. Brooke, my roommate, and I got home and hung out with our host family as we prepared dinner. We had meat, potatoes, and guacamole. After dinner, they gave us gifts and we gave them gifts. My host mom then shared her testimony with us. This family has been such a blessing to me. I am SO grateful that they were willing to share their life with me. I have many wonderful memories of the time we spent together and I really love them.

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Cerro de la Cruz– Antigua

After dinner, both the Crown and Global teams met for a time of prayer and to say some goodbyes. There were lots of tears shed as we prayed over each other. I am so grateful to God for giving me the opportunity to know these people. I am so grateful for this whole experience—for each and every part. I am thankful for the growth that took place, the lessons learned, and relationships formed. I’m grateful I got to wake up and see mountains. I’m so very thankful for these last 4 months. It’s amazing how each person has come to mean so much to me in what felt like such a short time. The global bridge team will be returning in January to spend spring semester here as well. I wish them the best, I thank them for everything, and I will be praying for them all throughout their next semester here.

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Going to bed was so weird. First of all, when we arrived I actually never thought December 12th, departure day, would ever arrive. But laying in bed thinking “this is the last time I sleep here” and “tomorrow night I’ll be in my bed in Minnesota” it felt like I was dreaming. The two places feel worlds apart.  But today is December 12 and the captain just announced we are descending into Houston.

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Brooke and I with our host family:  Julio, Rebeca, Roberto, and Ester

My New Hobby: Picnicking

A couple days ago, my teammate and I went on a picnic with some friends.  We went to an abandoned half-built building on the mountain on which we live.  We each brought something, making it a potluck picnic.  We played tag, took pictures, ate food, and of course played soccer.

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Best guacamole makers ever

 

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It was an absolutely wonderful time.