Monday, June 14, 2010

My Life Here :)

Ok Blog World: I am truly and deeply sorry that it has been more than a month since I last updated. I have opened up my blog and sat down to type updates on multiple occasions... only to shut my computer with nothing written down. Why can't I put into words what I am feeling here? How could I ever express my experiences in a short blog post? I am feeling limited by my own vocabulary and language. Words cannot describe how I feel about Jaco and the people that I am with here. No update would do justice to the changes in my heart and life, and I am struggling to communicate the depth of love in my heart for the people I have come to know. But I can try.

I'll run through my life here: Wake up and have breakfast around 7:30 - Cooking eggs or having a bowl of cereal and tea in my cute little apartment, looking outside to the sun shining in through the leaves of our mango tree. The team meets for prayer, worship or planning around 8, and it's off to the river for a 9:00 arrival.

My only mode of transportation here is my beautiful blue beach cruiser bike with a basket. While initially I wasn't looking forward to riding my bike every time I had to go somewhere, I am now really enjoying it. Traveling around town isn't all about the destination anymore - it's an adventure any time I need to run an errand, and the "getting there" process is now half the fun. So far I've almost been hit by cars on countless occasions, watched a man pee on the sidewalk, had to stop and wait for horses to cross the street, have carried a surfboard under my arm, and both ridden on the bike bar or had kids ride on it with me!

As I ride my bike down the street that leads into the river, I get more and more excited. The community feels strangely like home to me, and I almost daily wonder if I could live in a place like it long term. There is a unique feel to it that I cannot describe: women sitting on the porches of their homes, rocking babies and talking, chickens pecking among the rocks, children splashing in the dirty river that runs straight through their neighborhood, puppies romping on the banks of the water, teenagers coming and going on rusty bikes... it is nothing like where I come from and yet I am comfortable. On the outside, it doesn't seem appealing. But a closer look at this neighborhood reveals a sense of community that few are fortunate to know, especially in the individualistic society of America that I was raised in. Back home, I don't know my neighbors well. In the river, neighbors are family and care for each others' children, pets and needs. Relationship is a priority, and no one is ever too busy or private to share with the ones around them. Something about it draws me in and makes me wish I had a shack along the river where I could sit and visit with the people who come through every day, watching children and animals play while enjoying the simple yet invaluable pleasures of family and friendship.

As I am pulled into that community daily, I am greeted by children running full-speed, barefoot, across the rocky banks of the river and straight into my arms. I am greeted with "regalos" - gifts - from the kids we work with. They spend their time drawing me pictures and writing me letters, the younger ones sending flowers colored with love and the older ones letting me know with their words that I am special to them. Even after I've received about 13948 drawings from these kids, each one still makes my heart skip a beat as they hand it to me with sincerity and a loving eagerness that I can only hope to return in full.

Each day is different in the "classroom" - or outdoor shelter with tables and some supplies - that we work in every day. Some days it's flooded and we play in the puddles as we spend time sweeping water out and then sliding around on the slippery floor. Other days many kids have homework and we get right down to business on studying and tutoring. Often we'll read Bible stories together or sing songs to our beautiful God. Sometimes we color and draw for the better part of the day, or have an impromptu art lesson. Other times we play UNO and practice numbers, colors and counting. Math practice, English homework, Hangman, Bible verse studies, worship songs, Duck Duck Goose... it's a whirlwind of interactive learning, love and play that is as special to me as it is to the kids. It's hard to be organized sometimes, and difficult to get kids from 2 to 17 years old to all cooperate with one another. Some days I feel discouraged, asking myself how valuable playing really is. I feel driven and an external pressure to be "productive." Then I am reminded of my own childhood, and how the times that stand out are the ones when I was most loved, valued and cherished. I realize that these kids are not seeking productivity or achievement. They are most hungry for love: unconditional, raw, unceasing love that comes from something bigger than myself and that has the power to transform their life.

So instead of focusing on homework or how well the kids are learning what we are striving to teach them, I am relaxing and focusing on hugging the child that looks sad. I am not as much quizzing them on their multiplication tables, but instead on where their heart is at and what they're going through in their homes and families and lives at the moment. Lessons on character and integrity are currently more important than those on English and science.

As important as the kids' education is, and as excited as I am to see them succeeding in and passionate about school, the real value in our working with these kids is the time we get to spend with them and the fruits in both of our lives that I am seeing out of the relationships we've built!

So on with my day... after our time in the river, we come home and make lunch - that is, if the beach isn't looking too pretty to stop off at and admire on the way home. Or if the laundry doesn't need picked up at the strange laundromat, or if we don't need to bike a crate of eggs home from the grocery. The trip could be 5 minutes or 20 minutes, depending on whether or not I run into someone I know on the street and stop to chat for awhile - which happens nearly every day. Afternoons vary depending on whether or not we give in and let the kids come over for the afternoon to play and talk and enjoy cookies and tea. Sometimes errands need run, families need Skyped or naps demand our attention. Bible studies happen once a week, church is on Friday evenings and Sunday mornings, and an eclectic blend of activities and meetings fill the remaining time here.

There is never a dull moment. There are always things to be done – errands to be run, kids to be played with, food to be shared… ministry here is not confined to our schedules or locations, but has expanded to every aspect of our lives. Just this morning I woke up to my girls at the door, asking for water and a haircut. Shortly after, some of the boys stopped by to hang out and talk, turning our “day off” into a new opportunity to continue sharing Christ through our hospitality and relationships. My life here is not as I expected or anticipated. It is far better.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Day by Day

I only have a few words about my time here... I'm in love with it. I am hot, but happy. I'm muddy but loved. I'm eaten alive by bugs but being fed by God daily. I am in a country that doesn't speak my language, yet I am communicating volumes with those I meet. I am in love with the children we're working with. My heart is simultaneously full and broken for the women in prostitution here. I am learning to love the men on the streets, locals and tourists alike. I am laughing off things that once insulted me, and beginning to see good in things and people I used to hate. I am seeing God change lives and am being changed myself. I am not just happy here... I am full of joy that can only come from God. I feel released of future pressure and am living day by day, asking God how I can love Him and my neighbors with all my heart, strength, soul and mind - every day. And I'm doing just that :)

Thursday, April 22, 2010

On Fire (Literally) For God

The thermometer tipped past 100 today. Each day is hotter than the day before. And on days like this (which has been EVERY day), my brain is hijacked by the heat and can usually only produce one repetitive and unproductive thought: "I'm hot." Literally every other thought in my head is about the heat. A normal thought process would go something like this: "Time for lunch. It's so hot here. What is there to eat? I don't know, but I'm burning up right now. Maybe we should go out for lunch. Although it's far too HOT to walk anywhere. Cook pasta? Nah I'm too hot to eat pasta" - etc, etc... it is inescapable, both physically and mentally. So imagine my dismay tonight when the power went out. I've dealt with power outages for days before, and the lack of light or television have never been much of an issue. But our recent power outages, which have been at most inconvenient times, have been causing Amanda and I much more distress than ever before. No electricity here means no light in a place where we don't have candles or flashlights lying around. No more internet exists. It means no ability to cook meals, and the most epic implication of all is that our air goes out. Our little air conditioner is like a tank of oxygen that our very survival depends upon. Perhaps I'm getting dramatic... but the power also controls our ceiling fan. Without those two little guys working together, our room quickly becomes a steamy oven of frustration and impending death. Whoa, dramatic.

Tonight we came into our apartment after a long day and laid down to rest. We woke up shortly, however, to a blazing hot room and no electricity. Big surprise. But tonight, God had plans I was too human to realize. I think He may have had a hand in our 2-hour-long power outage that left me laying in bed covered in sweat and trying not to move. As I wandered in and out of sleep, I began feeling delirious and wondering how anyone lives in weather like this. At the peak of my frustration and yelling for the electricity to come back on, I resigned myself to the fact that we probably wouldn't get electricity back tonight and to just chill out. That mindset shift caused me to lay down, turn on some worship music, and decide to pray to and worship God even in the sweltering heat and moment of anger that I was experiencing. That simple decision -to be content in my relationship with God no matter the circumstances - resulted in one of the best quiet times and communion with God that I had had in a really long time. Had the electricity been on all night, I probably would have been distracted by Facebook, microwaving tea, Skyping family or just peacefully sleeping the evening away as I had originally intended. The cool thing, though, is that this little power outage - and my overreaction that accompanied it - actually brought me a lot closer to God. He used those crappy few hours to let me commune with Him instead, and worship my God who is more important than a skipped meal, more valuable than a ceiling fan and far more powerful than the heat.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Making a Home in Jaco

WE'RE IN JACO!! Emily's game of life just went from great to incredible. In the past, outreach locations and housing have been... well, interesting to say the least. My missions trip last year with YWAM took me on a 2-month trek through Russia and Eastern Europe. I lived out of a school-sized backpack for that amount of time, and slept on everything from a concrete church basement to a mattress with stains that looked suspiciously like blood. It was rough, but that was my idea of missions on-the-go. And it was fine. My tolerance for "gross" skyrocketed and I even took showers without flip-flops in questionable conditions. I actually don't really recommend that one ever again... Anyway, all that is to say that when I decided to come to Costa Rica, and especially to move to Jaco, I was in no way anticipating nice living conditions during the outreach phase. Turns out the base in San Jose was actually a little rougher than I had anticipated, as there was much construction and we had a few mice making their homes in and around our beds. But those three months are over, and I got the privilege to move to Jaco with my good friend Amanda. I couldn't ask for a better roommate, so that was a good start. But when we arrived at our new home yesterday, I was blown away. I almost cried with happiness. We somehow got blessed with an incredibly cheap, beautiful, perfect, nearly pristine little apartment. Perhaps apartment is an overstatement... it is one room. But there are some counters and cabinets and a sink, plus a refrigerator. That's a complete kitchen in my book. A mattress on the floor and a mattress in the "loft" (which I can't quite stand up in...) comprise our beds, and the bathroom is just beautiful. I am finally able to unpack and live out of something other than my suitcase. We can refrigerate our water. We can have a space to ourselves, a place to be private and rest and rejuvenate between ministry times. Internet is free and fast. The biggest bonus: there is AC in a room that would otherwise be closer to the 98 degrees on the thermostat. These things may not sound like a big deal, but with such low expectations for housing, I am feeling incredibly blessed. I know that this new home of mine will be a haven from the harsh realities just outside its walls. I will not try to escape the town I am in, but I do feel that this place is a kind of a refuge from all that we will be encountering from the moment we step outside our gate until the moment we're back in it. Jaco is a dark place - but I am finding light in little places. And my new home is one of them. Thank you, Jesus.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


Ok, I have been a terrible Blogger. My only semi-excuses are that I was sick for a couple of weeks, and made an epic journey home for 6 days. Now I’m back in San Jose, Costa Rica... moving to Jaco tomorrow, and super excited for this next chapter of my life!

The last two weeks of lecture phase for the Children At Risk School were really amazing. Ro Potter came and shared so much new and exciting information about human trafficking. I learned far more in those 5 days of class than I had learned total about human trafficking in the past. Tons of new information was presented, and I walked away feeling inspired and ready to take action! She was a gifted speaker and her heart for justice was contagious. I think the entire base was fired up by the end of that week. The following week, we had a speaker from Switzerland come and teach about attachment disorder. This disorder is a fairly recent discovery, but affects an alarmingly large number of children. We learned about the vital importance of a strong and trusting bond to form within the first couple years of a child’s life. If at least one strong relationship isn’t formed for a child in those early years, many negative symptoms of attachment disorder will creep up later in life and cause a lot of issues for the child. Documentaries, case studies and personal stories made for an enlightening week on the subject. I feel much more able to attribute certain difficult children’s issues to attachment disorder, piecing together the behaviors I’ve witnessed with what I know about their past. It was an epiphanic week for me!

The end of the school meant no more living with the 8 other wonderful students I did this course with… Although a few of us are heading to Jaco together, I had to say goodbye to valuable friends I’d made during my time in San Jose. Sometimes YWAM’s on-the-go schedule rubs me the wrong way. We form deep and spiritually rooted relationships with those we are around – living, serving, working, and playing together daily. But 3 months later, it’s goodbye and we’re scattered all over the world again! I won’t complain, though. I made some friends for life and am ever grateful for the people I had the privilege to meet during this time. So to my Children At Risk buddies, good luck on the field, guys – I’ll miss you :)

The black and white picture posted below is a drawing I did of a boy, Jesus, that I formed a unique relationship with while I was here. He lives in Santa Ana, the community we visited every Friday and did the programs with. He is 9 years old, and a precious and very special child to me! We played and talked and really loved each other during my time here. It was emotional saying goodbye to the children – especially ones like Jesus that I had grown very close to. It’s hard to say goodbye “forever,” since I can never really guarantee that I will return. If that’s hard on me – an adult who knew that my time in San Jose was for a mere 3 months – then I would imagine it was especially difficult for a child who opened up their heart to someone who is now leaving them. I feel borderline guilty about it. But, technology can be a blessing and I have the little guy’s phone number. Maybe I can continue loving on the kids of Santa Ana regardless of distance!

So home was incredible. It was like a beautiful dream that I woke up from, still sick in my bed on a YWAM Base. I got some kind of flu for my last week of classes, then spend the duration of my time at home at the doctor’s office, giving blood tests, and double checking that I didn’t have malaria or some kind of parasite. Thank God, everything checked out okay and I am finally starting to feel better. But the week was full of laughter and conversation with the people I love most in the world. It was my mom’s birthday that week, but I’m thinking I received the biggest gift. My little nephews seemed to remember who I was pretty well, thanks to hours of Skype peek-a-boo. Again, God bless technology. Saying goodbye to family is hard, but much easier when you know that they love and support you. I am so thankful to have such loving and wonderful people in my life!

Now I’m refreshed and revitalized… ready to get to Jaco and see what God has for us there! I cannot wait to put these last three months into practice and see God moving in miraculous and big ways. Please continue praying for me and my team as we embark on this transition… I will keep you posted!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Only Thing That Counts

I flipped open my Bible to Galatians yesterday, and began reading. I stumbled upon a verse that I had ironically enough already underlined, yet had no recollection of ever seeing before. Galatians 5:6 says, "The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love." It blew my mind. The only thing that counts?

This verse just may summarize my calling and life goal :) Paul doesn't say that the only thing that counts is love. He also doesn't say that faith is all that counts. It is the two working together - faith spurring love to be an action, an expression, of the love God has placed in our hearts. And that love doesn't come from just anywhere. The love that we are to show comes from a strong faith in our own hearts: faith in a God of love. The two, faith and love, are intricately connected and undoubtedly intertwined. Hebrews says that faith is "being sure of what we hope for, and certain of what we do not see." That hope and certainty should be of a loving God and of a world that operates as he originally intended it... so with that faith, we can use our own love to begin to work towards that vision.

Sometimes terms like "faith" and "hope" and "love" seem too abstract for me to put into practice in my own life. I can be initially attracted to such romantic terms, and even strive towards an indistinct end goal of faith or hope or love. But that is why I'm loving God's word more and more every day. As I seek to have Him guide my life every day, I realize that hidden away in His book are pretty tangible and practical applications for faith and hope and love to occur in our own daily lives. Faith is hope and certainty in the God of love who we can't quite see. And that faith will be expressed through love. God himself IS love. If we know God, and know His love, then our faith in Him will only be able to produce an outpouring of love as a result. And that's all that counts.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Working with the "Least of These"

The first half of last week we learned about working with kids with behavioral disorders and how to discipline difficult children. Michelle Grimes, sister to my staff Rachel, is an inner-city elementary school teacher from Kansas. I gained more insight into my own personality and reactions to authority, as well as effective methods of handling kids who cause trouble. I have a much better understanding of why some children act out the way they do, and how to handle them.

The other half of this past week’s learning was tangible and hands-on, out of the classroom and on the field! Wednesday was a workday around base, so I got to wash every dish in YWAM San Jose’s kitchen. Despite my initial aversion to time-consuming and menial tasks, I always find them somewhat humbling and good for my character. Dishes, you can’t defeat me.

Thursday and Friday were spent at a Christian special-needs center that teaches life skills and gives therapy to children with down syndrome, mental retardation, autism and cerebral palsy. Leslie’s teaching the previous week about working with special needs children came to life as I interacted with and saw firsthand the delicacy and value of kids with disabilities.

I had the absolute pleasure of eating, playing with and teaching three precious young boys who all had varying degrees of autism. Two of the three were nonverbal, and the third mostly communicated with laughter and a few indistinguishable Spanish words. However, the beauty of these boys is that they explored and discovered the world in ways that I have never experienced. Pablo learned through taste. He put everything in his mouth and learned through what he tasted. Alexis, the boy that I had a special connection with, related to the world through his sense of smell. He would periodically lean over and sniff me, smell all of his food before he ate it, and habitually make sure his hands smelled the way they did 5 minutes ago. I must have smelled alright to him, because we became fast friends; he never left my side. Omar had a wonderful sense of humor and mostly enjoyed laughing at Alexis and Pablo, which kept the mood light and a smile on everyone’s face.

The highlight of my time with these boys was music therapy. We played instruments with them, which they all thoroughly enjoyed. We stomped to the beat of the music and let them feel the vibrations on their seats. Then they each took turns laying on a giant exercise ball and rolling around to the sounds of relaxing music. It was so amazing to see children immersed in music using their other senses as well. Music class wasn’t just their routine; it was a complete mind and body engagement. Their demeanors totally changed after music class, and it was encouraging seeing something that I am so passionate about used to soothe and comfort children who have such a difficult time functioning in this crazy world of ours.

I didn’t speak very much Spanish with the kids. They couldn’t really communicate back. And yet simple activities like washing our hands or going for a walk made these boys smile and laugh, feel loved, and enjoy life. I had much time to pray and think while working with them, and realized what a treasure they were. They laugh unashamedly. They love without conditions. They act exactly how they feel – no mind games or manipulation are present. They are the very essence of purity and innocence. And yet they are the lowest of the low. If children are the most overlooked, forgotten, abused and degraded in this world, how much more are disabled children? Have we, as Christians and as a society, completely missed it? Did Jesus not make it clear that the least of these are actually the greatest in His Kingdom? It was an honor to wash the faces of these children who couldn’t do it themselves. It was my pleasure to hold their hands and help them with nearly every task they completed throughout the day. They are not the least; they are the greatest. And it was humbling to spend those two days with them, seeing God’s fingerprint on their faces and getting to enjoy them in their own unique beauty and brilliance.

Thursday night, I was in charge of running a children’s program for the foster kids at Casa Viva, the organization we’ve been partnering with here. We had around 20 children and played games, had a Bible lesson, enjoyed worship and drew pictures while their foster parents had a meeting. It was great to catch up and play with all the kids we’ve been working with these last three months. I miss them when I don’t see them for too long, and I think they feel the same way. Friday night we returned to Santa Ana for our second-to-last program there. It’s getting harder and harder to picture my Friday nights without these children whom I have grown to love. I am hoping next week won’t be the last time I ever see them.

Every day I’m getting more excited for outreach in Jaco… please be praying for me and my team as we prepare to move there and start ministry! I know God wants to do big things in the hearts and lives of the people there, but we will need to rely entirely on His direction and strength. J

As some of you may know, I am returning home for one week before we start outreach. I couldn’t be more excited. There is no greater gift than to get to see and spend time with loved ones back home. The very comfort of home is calling my name, so I’ll be answering that call over Easter for six precious days of family, friends, food and rest. I’m thanking God daily for that blessing!

Haitian Missionaries' Advisor Arrested for Trafficking Charges

The story of the Idaho missionaries getting arrested in Haiti for illegally transporting orphans to the Dominican Republic takes a really weird turn as their legal advisor, Jorge Torres-Puello, has been arrested for trafficking and is wanted in multiple countries on a variety of ridiculous charges. He was accused of trafficking, as well as being connected to a large drug and sexual exploitation ring in Latin America. He and his wife have also been rumored to have run a brothel out of their house. Basically, he's pretty deep into criminal activity, and it's very interesting that he is connected to the Idaho church group...
Please pray...
-That proper actions are taken to investigate and punish, if necessary, Torres-Puello for his crimes.
-That other traffickers are discovered and stopped.
-That insight and truth is found in the case of the Idaho missionaries and that they can be dealt with in a just way.
-As always, for the victims of trafficking.


Voice for the Voiceless is an organization seeking to advocate for and give voices to the oppressed and ignored of this world. Based out of South Africa, they use relationship building, counseling, photography and awareness to seek justice and restoration of those in the world without a voice for themselves.


PLAN International is a children's development organization that is working in nearly 50 countries to promote children's rights and eradicate poverty in their lives. They enable and advocate for children around the world in order to transform communities and help them to reach their full potential. They work in a variety of areas - education, health care, community development, emergency relief, AIDS education, etc. - really awesome :)

Monday, March 15, 2010

Where I Belong

Every day I’m learning more… loving God way more… getting more hope and vision for the future… missing home a little more, but also growing in that separation. The time here is hard but good, tiring but fun, a little crazy but totally worthwhile. Sometimes I wonder why I’m living in a strange warehouse with mice and cockroaches when I could be sleeping in a huge bed in my own room. I wonder why I eat rice and beans every day when there are pizza and burgers in Indiana. I wonder why I have to ride a bus downtown to make friends when the people I love most in the world are all back home. I wonder why I am paying money to use the Internet and call home when talking in person to those same people is free. I can’t walk alone at night, drive anywhere or buy toiletries for a reasonable price. These aren’t complaints – just observations I’ve been making lately. I never realize how much comfort and ease there is at home until I’m gone. Little things like US Dollars or the English language or watching news updates about Indianapolis are strangely missed here. And yet I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything. Despite all my whining about paying to be online or not being able to see the Dave Matthews concert this summer (which is a huge deal, by the way J), I am in love with Costa Rica and with ministry and with the people here and with the people I live and serve alongside. It’s not really an issue of happiness, but more of fulfillment and joy. I know that I belong here: on the mission field… and that’s something I feel fortunate to have found so early in life.

That security in knowing I belong on the mission field is encouraging as I figure out my next steps. As more long-term goals and visions are beginning to form, I am seeing more and more a need for further training and education in the areas in which I want to work. In the past, my impatience and eagerness to be on the mission field have pushed university to the back burner, but this past week’s teaching really encouraged me to take a second look at education. Phil, our speaker for part of last week, works with a ministry that is placing orphans in loving and supportive homes so that children can finally receive the care that they deserve and need. He and I spoke about the need for social workers to pioneer foster care in Latin America, and the value in professional education in areas of counseling and psychology. That was exciting for me – those are the areas I’d like to study, and it’s encouraging to know that there is a huge need that those qualifications can fulfill. On that note, I’ve been further investigating university for my near future!

The other part of last week’s class was taught by Leslie Freeman. We enjoyed classes outside, amidst sun and plants and a breeze. Leslie shared with us about working with children with special needs. We discussed different learning and behavioral disorders and how to recognize and accommodate each. Her creative teaching style and passion made for a really meaningful two days. I learned that about 1 in 10 children have a disability, so I will have to be well prepared to encounter and deal with different disabilities when working with kids.

Local outreach on Friday was another awesome time with the Santa Ana kids… I’m becoming more and more attached to all of them, and am really dreading saying goodbye. One of the most incredible observations I’ve made with them is the way older sisters diligently and selflessly care for their younger siblings. In this culture, it seems that the oldest sibling assumes the role of mother for the other kids. There are eleven-year-old girls walking around with babies on their hips, looking more like young woman than the little girls they are. As an older sister myself, I know that I never had that much responsibility with my younger brother. I am amazed at the family commitment and bond that these older sisters seem to share with their brothers and sisters. It’s really been a good lesson to me in family and care and responsibility. I’m sure these older sisters would much prefer to be playing with their friends and just enjoying childhood – and yet they are already at a point in life where they must sacrifice their own desires for the well being of their family. It is simultaneously encouraging and sad for me to see.

Elderly Man Arrested For Striking Children

So this article isn't really a social justice or human rights issue... it's more of just a strange, twisted article about an old man who enjoys hitting children in stores - because they're defenseless and he enjoys getting away with it. Initially, I kind of laughed, to be honest. What kind of crazy old man hangs out at Walmart and hits kids in the head for the fun of it? But the article mentions that he's manic depressive and has mental health issues. It made me think... this one weird old man was caught, but how many other mentally ill and unstable adults are out there abusing kids? There are tons of them. So please just take a second and pray about children who are abused, manipulated, exploited, and hurt by the adults in their lives - whether its their own parents, or a crazy old man in Walmart.

War Child International

War Child is an international organization that seeks to bring about peace and alleviate suffering among communities and nations that are victims of war. Through relief work, the bringing of material aid into war zones, rehabilitating children into their homes post-war, and helping children to heal, War Child International is showing God's love to those whose lives have been turned upside down by war.

SPEAK Network

SPEAK networks youth and students around the world to raise up a generation of young people who are passionate about seeking justice! SPEAK believes in the value of youth campaigning and speaking out on behalf of those who are suffering injustice, and is working to bring about transformation and see God's Kingdom established on Earth. It's really awesome to see an organization with such faith that young people have power to change the world!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Father Heart of God

God’s been revealing Himself to me in tiny yet amazing ways. My daily prayer is to have God show me His love in a new and creative way… and He has been faithful in answering that prayer. Sometimes my heart is captivated by the beauty of God’s creations: the trees, flowers, oceans and sunsets I get to see here. Other times, I know God cares about me by the way He has surrounded me with loving and supportive people in my life. One particular morning during my quiet time, I watched a father help his toddler walk around outside. The baby couldn’t walk on her own, but the father crouched down and held both her hands and whispered in her ear and helped her stumble around the yard. I don’t know this man well, and he probably wondered why I stared at him for so long… but in that moment, I felt God was clearly illustrating His nature as a protective, loving and encouraging Father. I am still a baby who needs God holding me by both my hands as I toddle around this world. I need God whispering His promises in my ears as I try to get my footing and figure out how to do this thing called life. I need to know that even if I start to fall, God has me by the hands and won’t let ever let me fall to the point of being truly hurt. He is my loving protector, encourager and ever-faithful Father.

Monday, March 8, 2010

As I spoke with my Dad over Skype last week, he asked me if I was writing down any record of all the adventures and exciting things that I had been communicating to him every week. I told him I had a blog… his response? “Yeah, but that’s pretty formal…” Ha! I’m not a formal kind of person. I’d prefer for my writing to reflect who I am, and so my hope for this blog is that it would be a more intimate and personal reflection of what God is doing in my life and all the adventures He has taken me on since arriving in Costa Rica 2 months ago. Perhaps my previous entries have been a little more like mini-devotions or philosophical rants or obligatory reports of what’s been going on here. That shouldn’t be the point. I hope that my passion is communicated through these posts… that my heart for missions and the people here would be understood. I also hope to have a record of all the little ways in which God has shown me His beauty, humor and loving nature during this time!

That being said… last week was awesome blossom, extra awesome J A guy named Mati from Samoa works in Brazil with street kids. He’s the YWAM base leader there, and came to hang out with us for the week and share about working with street children. His dedication to serving street children and wisdom in working in tough situations was incredibly inspiring. The police in Brazil are known to be corrupt as well as highly violent and intolerant of street kids. At one point, Mati was arrested on false charges, severely beaten by the police of Brazil, and narrowly escaped being killed by the very authority that were supposed to enforce order and justice. After that experience, many asked him if he would be returning home. But Mati stayed in Brazil and has been there for over 20 years, faithfully serving God by loving, mentoring, housing, educating and serving the street children in Recife, Brazil. His story really affected me. For the most part, it is easy for me to be overseas… in Costa Rica, I feel pretty safe. I know not to walk alone after dark and to always be aware of my surroundings, but I have never had any problems in my time abroad. However… if I had been living and serving a community, and then endured horrendous physical, emotional and verbal abuse at the hands of the local authority, I don’t know how much longer I would stay there. I’m afraid that my fear of man might take over or that I would be so bitter about the injustice I endured to continue on in that place. But Mati’s call to Brazil and confidence in God’s power and overriding justice sustained him and he continued to serve street children of Brazil with love and dedication. That faith is so admirable and inspiring to me.

I’m only going to be living in San Jose for four more weeks… I can’t believe how fast time has flown! I am just now becoming truly familiar and comfortable in this place where I live. I am on a first-name basis with the women across the street who sell an assortment of fried treats and candy… I’ll attribute that to my conversational efforts and relationship skills, not the amount of empanadas and lollipops I’ve bought in the last 2 months J The woman that I met on the bus, Amparito, is becoming more and more of my Costa Rican mother here. With smoothies and cookies, my broken Spanish and a lot of laughs, our relationship is really growing. I wish I could pack her up and bring her home with me! It is such a blessing to have met a stranger on the bus, have her welcome me into her home, and then have her take care of me during my time here. She is hilariously adamant about me learning Spanish, and I don’t mind the help! I’m finally figuring out my way around downtown, and love going there to meet people. I could see myself living in this area for a much longer time, yet I will be moving on in just four weeks. I hope I can get permanently established doing ministry someplace in the near future… short-term relationships and frequent change just aren’t my preference.

Speaking of which… I have to say good-bye to all the children in Santa Ana soon! Every week during the children’s program we run, I develop more and more love and affection for the kids there. We are all learning each others’ names and getting to know each other better. The only sad part is that in just four weeks I will no longer be working with them. I have mixed feelings on coming into the lives of children for such short amounts of time – on the one hand, I am getting good experience working with kids and love meeting new little ones as often as I can. But on the other hand, I don’t know how healthy it is for children to begin forming relationships with mentors and then suddenly have that relationship broken off and discontinued. I’ve loved my time in Santa Ana; I just wish it was lasting longer, and that the kids could have more consistency in the relationships we form with them.

Shooting in Dallas, TX Office Building

A gunman entered an office building in Texas this morning and killed himself after shooting the owners of Smith Financial Group - a father and son. Authorities believe he was targeting these two men. Please be praying for the victims' families, as they lost two loved ones in this tragedy. Pray for the members of the office, who witnessed a horrendous crime and will have to cope with all that they saw and will now have to deal with at work. Keep the gunman's family in your prayers - that they would be able to cope and heal from the loss of their loved one, as well as work out the implications of his actions in their community and relationships with the victims' families. This is a real tragedy, and one that will take a lot of time and prayer to begin to heal from.

The MST Project

I was pretty excited to learn a little about this project going on in the Red Light District of Thailand and some other locations... the MST (Male Sex Tourism) Project aims to minister to the men who visit the Red Light District. They believe that God wants to reach and restore all people, and so they reach out to the men there through conversations about why they're there and touch on topics of faith and such... it seems like a really cool organization that is ministering to the often forgotten side of sex tourism. I pray they reach people and can change the hearts of the men they encounter!

Kiva - Loans that Save Lives

Kiva is an incredibly innovative organization that networks people around the world to unite lenders with entrepreneurs to help alleviate global poverty. The concept is that a lender loans a small investment to an entrepreneur who has the ability and willpower, but lacks the resources or finances to get his business off the ground. As the business generates money, the loan is re-paid, and a relationship is formed - facilitating global support, encouragement and generosity to better the world. REALLY awesome.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Preparing for Outreach...

I was totally inspired by the teaching and training we received this last week! Dave Swan is a British missionary who works with YWAM in South Africa. He and his wife train and help implement new ministries and projects being started around the world. Dave is highly experienced and successful at project planning and at helping groups put into action their dreams and desires. Dave does a good job of asking the hard questions that a lot of people overlook in their zeal of starting a project. With grounded questions, realistic expectations and patient encouragement, Dave helped our class brainstorm and plan our own ministry projects. Four other students and I – those of us who will be doing outreach in Jaco – spent a good part of the week planning a project to carry out during our outreach. Dave then helped us revise our plan over and over again until it seemed plausible. I’ll admit that at times I was frustrated to keep writing and re-writing our proposal, but in the process I actually learned so much about pioneering ministries and how to go about it! The value of a plan in writing was something I really took out of this week. Most new ministries fail within the first two years due to poor planning. Passion alone will not sustain a ministry or organization. God gave us brains for a reason, and I am really learning that He wants us to use those to strategically develop plans for His Kingdom – not just go out and expect to survive on our own zeal and excitement. As someone who is an optimisitc dreamer, Dave’s wisdom really gave me a good basis for ministry planning. The practical tools of writing proposals, gathering resources, communicating a mission statement, creating goals and setting timelines were so great to learn about. I feel that our group is drastically more prepared to arrive in Jaco and begin lasting and sustainable ministry there.

Before I decided to stay in Costa Rica for the next 6 months and do outreach in Jaco, I was pretty sad at the prospect of leaving this country. I am really falling in love with the people, culture, language and land! I’ve found music to be a huge blessing in relationship building and ministry here. I never would have guessed a year ago when I bought my ukulele in the mountains of Hawaii that I would be using it to meet Costa Ricans on the streets later… But God has been showing me that He works in EVERY area of my life, and never to limit Him. So a few of us have been heading downtown about once a week to play music on the streets. The results have been phenomenal. The combination of white skin, English songs and a strange tiny instrument really draws people in and as a result, I have made a lot of new friends! This past week, right as we started playing and singing, a guy came up with a guitar on his back. I asked him to join us, and we played together for over an hour. His name was Sandra, and he was a Nicaraguan immigrant with colorful vocabulary and a passion for alcohol and tobacco. The cool part is that as we played, he ended up joining us in worship! Our brief time together really meant a lot to the both of us. There is just something about playing music with others, let alone worship, that is a special and unique experience… I completely loved every second of sharing that gift with Sandra and the others downtown.

This weekend I traveled to Jaco with some others to begin to investigate the town some more, observe the nightlife and network with local churches and individuals doing ministry down there. It was encouraging to see a church body there passionate and alive for Jesus, but on the flip side was the entirely disgusting and discouraging nightlife that I am moving to Jaco to work in. As I’ve previously mentioned, Jaco is known for its beaches, drugs and sex. The beaches I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying… the drugs I have had to frequently turn down, and the sex I finally caught a glimpse of on Friday night. There are a couple known restaurants and bars in Jaco where prostitution is very heavy, and even a restaurant with a brothel above it. It broke my heart to see large groups of white men flocking the streets of Jaco, intoxicated and moving from bar to bar in search of prostitutes. Outside of one bar, every taxi driver in town was waiting to escort men who leave the bar with a prostitute on their arm. I cannot believe that these men – large groups of men of ALL ages – spend their time and money drinking and buying sex. I also couldn’t help but think that these men probably have wives, children, respectable jobs or even church communities back home. What kind of person comes all the way to Costa Rica to do these things? Do they realize the implications of their actions? Do they have any idea what sort of damage is being done to the girls every time they are bought, used and abused? It’s an emotionally daunting and exhausting situation, and I am praying hard for God’s grace in this future ministry. Please be praying with me for our team’s hearts towards these men who are broken and in need of love themselves. Please pray that the women would find hope and worth and know that they were made in the image of God and that it was never their heavenly Father’s intentions for them to be treated this way. I pray that our team can offer some truth and hope into the lives of the women working in Jaco.


California Teen Missing, Sex Offender Arrested

A 17-year-old California girl, Chelsea King, has gone missing... she was last seen on Thursday but has not yet been found. Her family is hoping to find her alive, yet a sex offender has been arrested on suspicion of rape and murder.

Please pray...

-That Chelsea is found alive and well.

-That Chelsea's family can find peace and comfort during this traumatic time.

-For all children who have gone missing around the world - for their fate, and for their families left behind.

-For the heart and mind of the arrested sex offender, John - that he would be changed and healed and he could find forgiveness for his past.


Invisible Children

Invisible Children is an awesome organization that is using film and media to spread global awareness about Africa's longest-running war in Northern Uganda. Through the support and interest they've raised in the issue, they've been able to build schools, help house, provide relief to and raise awareness for the countless Africans affected by the devastating war. Check out their website to find out more or how you can help...

The Micah Challenge

The Micah Challenge is a campaign started by Christians to hold world governments accountable to their Millennium Development Goal to halve world hunger by 2015. Their goal is to be a voice for those in poverty and hunger, and to spur governments to action on this goal. They believe it's the responsibility of the Church to advocate and seek justice for those who are unable to themselves. It's really cool to see an organization working so closely with the government to hold them accountable for their goals... I'm so happy to see the Church standing up to governments around the world and demanding the action they promised!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Humility in Leadership

I spent this last week learning about the value of servant leadership. Rick Allegretto, head of YWAM Central & South America, joined us and spoke about humility, the importance of service as a Christian, and the role that a servant heart plays in leadership and ministry. His message provoked me to evaluate my own attitude towards service and others, examine my heart and really try to grasp the concept of true humility and servanthood. One of my most favorite traits about Jesus is His great humility and attitude towards others. I may have a hard time worshipping an arrogant or selfish God, but Jesus made Himself the least - and even sacrificed Himself to the point of death - out of love for others. That’s the kind of God I worship and serve. Rick’s teaching was a good reminder of what service is all about. My motivations cannot lie anywhere outside of a heart hungry after God. I cannot serve so that I receive a pat on the back, or praise from man. And being a leader doesn’t mean preferential treatment or special privileges. Leadership requires authority and responsibility and comes with honor, but it is a position of humility that makes a leader successful.

Local outreach was spent with Metro Ministries, running the children’s program in the neighborhood of Santa Ana. I am really beginning to build relationships with the children there. They now run up and greet me when I arrive, remember my name, and don’t hesitate to have conversation. I am quickly falling in love with all of these kids! I feel so fortunate to be a part of what this ministry is doing. Each week, I have the privilege of worshipping Jesus (in Spanish!) with some of the world’s most beautiful children. We play games together, share hugs, learn more about the character of Jesus and grow in relationship. Unfortunately, the kids talk so fast that I can’t understand their Spanish well. The cool part is that we are still just as close as I would be with any English-speaking child. Somehow play, laughter, and hugs surpass words and conquer language barriers. That is the real blessing.

God is continuing to work in my own heart as I am here… He is bringing so many questions to the surface, and challenging me in most areas of my life. I am praying so hard about my future. The only basis for future plans that I want to have is the Bible – what are we supposed to be doing during this short amount of time on Earth? Each man’s life is but a breath – what will mine look like? What words did Jesus leave us with – what does He desire for us to do? My prayers are scattered all over the place. Should I do a language school? Should I just live and serve and love a community with every ounce of my being, showing them who Jesus is through my actions? Should I return to university and get a degree that will be used to seek justice and transform a community? Should I work and save money so that I can sustain myself somewhere long-term? I am at a point in my life where I can fully, 100% hand my life over to God. My only prayer now is that His will be done – I’ll do whatever He wants. So that’s thrilling… the possibilities are endless! I am so excited to embark on this great big adventure with my Great Big God.


English Teacher/Sex Tourist Arrested in Cambodia,0,2659673.story

An American man who couldn't legally teach in the United States, due to a previous sex offense, went to Cambodia to teach English - and take advantage of the child prostitution available in the area. He is accused of sexually abusing multiple children during this time, and is sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Please Pray that...

-God would begin to heal and work in the hearts and minds of child abusers and people traveling abroad to sexually abuse children.

-God would heal and comfort the children who are trafficked, exploited and abused in all countries of the world.

-Organizations that hire teachers would more thoroughly evaluate their volunteers, in order to avoid having potential child predators teaching in inappropriate situations.

-Justice would be achieved for these children, and that more people pursuing child prostitution or abuse would be caught and prosecuted.


Oasis International

Oasis is a Christian Organization working to unify, equip and train the Church to reach out to all parts of the world. They aim to transform communities, work with children and those in poverty, end trafficking and bring God's Kingdom to Earth. Check out their website to see the variety of things they're doing around the world!

Stop Child Trafficking Now

This organization's strategy to combat human trafficking focuses solely on the demand side of the industry - catching and prosecuting child predators and prostitution customers in order to lower the demand, and as a result, help end the supply. Highly skilled operative teams of governmental and law enforcement officials are working together to convict those who are perpetuating the human trafficking industry. I think their approach to this issue is unique and really awesome! There are a lot of organizations working on rescuing and restoring victims, but this group of people are partnering with those efforts to fight a different side of the issue.

Monday, February 15, 2010

God's Extraordinary Simplicities

This week’s teaching was by far one of the toughest for me. The first half of the week was spent with Greg Burch, an American missionary living and serving here in Costa Rica. He shared with us about working with children at risk and how to have effective organizations and ministry within a community. Through case studies and thorough evaluations of different ministries thorughout the world – some successful, and some not – we discussed what attributes and priorities are necessary to have a productive and fruitful ministry when working with kids.

The second half of the week was taught by Brooke Burns, another American missionary who is serving in Costa Rica. Brooke has a huge heart for ending sex trafficking and child prostituion, and shared with our class about the ministry she’s working with and the topic of trafficking. The facts are devastating. The stories broke our hearts, and it was difficult to emotionally handle the intensity of such a terrible topic. I became aware that Costa Rica is called “The Thailand of the West” in reference to the exploding numbers of tourists that come here for vacation and to enjoy legal and available prostitution. Because Costa Rica is such a safe and convenient country for Americans and Europeans to travel to, and considering its beauty and attractions, it has become a top destination for sex tourism. This means that the trafficking of women and children in and out of San Jose and different beach towns around the country is at an alarmingly high number. My heart has been heavily burdened with child sexual exploitation as well as the trafficking of women and children, and so I was both saddened and excited that I was in this place at this time. I was unknowingly called to serve in a country that is suffering from the very need that I have a heart to meet – I felt totally confirmed in my being here.

With all that I learned about sex trafficking in Costa Rica, my prayers were answered – God gave me clear direction about where to spend the next 5 months of my trip after my training in San Jose finishes in April. Jaco, the beach town I have been visiting and acquainting myself with, is a top city for sex trafficking and prostituion. Poverty and drugs are also rampant in that town, and I feel led to do ministry there. I am so excited! There is so much to be done in that town – local youth are everywhere, children are only in school for half of the day and have nowhere else to go afterwards, and there is an abundance of tourists who are in Jaco solely to party and buy prostitutes. The town seems attractive at first, but in reality is a dark place in need of light and hope. I am already meeting and building relationships with the people there, and can’t wait to head back full-time to do ministry. Please be praying for the people and organizations that are already there, and that God will begin to prepare the hearts of those we’ll be meeting and working with!

I spent much of the last couple weeks praying about the people of Costa Rica and what my role is here. Currently, I am swamped with training, homework, readings, and duties – and on top of that, trying to maintain relationships from home, build new ones with the people I’m living with here, and try to have some fun and relaxation. Yet I was continually burdened – if I am a missionary living in Costa Rica, I need to be a missionary all day, every day. Scheduled outreach times or Sunday mornings at different churches are not the only times that I need to be interacting with the locals or reaching out. I was convicted that sometimes I separate my life into two parts: my life, and the life of a missionary. So basically when we go to different organzations or do a children’s program in the slums, I am a missionary. But when I need to run to the store or go to the beach with friends or eat dinner out, I am just Emily – American girl who is too lazy to conjure up Spanish words, a little tired of meeting new people, and pretty wary of strange men on the streets. But in praying, I really felt God telling me that I need to be a light and witness of love to people all the time – whether I’m riding the bus, surfing in the ocean or ordering pizza. So in obedience to that revelation, I began to look for opportunities to build relationships in the simplest of places. The result? I’ve made a bunch of Costa Rican friends and have had the pleasure of visiting them in their homes, sharing meals together and practicing our languages. We’ve exchanged stories, Facebook pages and made plans to spend time together. One woman has adopted me as her honorary daughter and introduced me to her family via Skype. Apparently God wants to open up doors for relationship and love in all sorts of places - like on the streets of San Jose and during a short bus trip. I realized that God wants to work in extraordinarily simple ways, if that paradox makes any sense. Conversations are simple to start, but the relationships that result are so much more.

Local outreach this week was spent running a children’s program with Metro Ministries in Santa Ana, doing the weekly routine of worship, games and fellowship with the neighborhood children. I taught my first Bible lesson on a stage… in Spanish! It was a lot of fun, and I’m grateful for the grace the audience had with my Spanish. During the week, a group of us grabbed our instruments and went to the downtown square in San Jose to play worship music and meet new people. That was such an awesome experience – tons of people came up and wanted to talk, sing with us and find out why the heck a bunch of gringos were making so much noise in their streets. Fortunately, so many young people are eager to learn and practice their English, so conversations are easy and plentiful. I particularly hit it off with a few of the girls we met, and got a chance to hang out with one of them this weekend. It was awesome – I felt right at home as if this were my own country and these were friends of mine from Indiana. I am blessed to feel so welcomed and loved by the people of this country. They feel honored to meet and spend time with me as a foreigner, but the real honor is on my end. I am absolutely in love with the people of Costa Rica J


Costa Rica Elects First Female President

It was so exciting to see Costa Rica elect their first female president, Laura Chinchilla! I'm not very familiar with the politics of Costa Rica, but I did take an interest in the candidates and political position of the nation that I'm living in - especially because of all the hype surrounding the election. Laura won by nearly half the votes, and will be serving for four years. Her campaign is focused around fighting crime - particularly violence and drug trafficking. In light of my recent education, though, I find it ironic that the human trafficking/child prostitution epidemic in Costa Rica wasn't included... Anyway, I am eager to see what direction she leads the country in! I've enjoyed talking with the nationals here and finding out where they stand on the election and why. An added bonus? Her last name is CHINCHILLA! Wow :)

Please pray that:

-President Laura guides her country with wisdom.

-The nation is able to be politically united, regardless of where people stood before the election.

-Her policies are enacted and enforced quickly and without corruption.

-The best interest of the nation's children becomes a focus for the government - stopping crime and trafficking particularly in the lives of the country's youth.


Not For Sale Campaign

Yet another organization fighting human trafficking and modern day slavery! Please check out their movement and find out how you can be involved in ending one of the most devastating things happening in our world today.

Polaris Project

The Polaris Project is ALSO fighting human trafficking! They're one of the largest anti-trafficking organizations in the U.S.A. and Japan... again: learn, educate others and find out what part you could play in the anti-trafficking movement!

Monday, February 8, 2010

From My Head To My Heart


Technology rocked my world this week, as our teachings were via DVD and followed up by a Skype conference call with the speaker, Matt Rawlins. Cross-cultural education and missions have been taken to a new level. I learned and grew in ways I never expected to all by watching the 2-dimensional image of a man I’ve never met teach about the Kingdom of God. Matt is an American who resides and operates out of Singapore, but was teaching in the Children At Risk School in Switzerland… we then watched those teachings in our classroom in Costa Rica! It was a crazy week. Admittedly, it was sometimes difficult to watch a screen for hours on end every day. But fortunately, Matt’s words penetrated my heart and I now have new perspectives on God and my relationship with Him.

The Kingdom of God is a broad subject to cover, but it wasn’t broad revelation that I took from the week. Specific points that Matt made satisfied answers I had as well as gave wisdom in areas I’d been struggling in. A favorite quote from the week, in reference to our relationship with God, was: “The longest journey you’ll have to take is from your head to your heart.” As someone who loves logic and knowledge, sometimes trying to fit the “concept” of God into a rational explanation or image just doesn’t work. I took some comfort in Matt’s phrase – not that I want a long journey between my head and heart, but at least I’m not the only one who struggles with balancing God both intellectually and emotionally. I need to remember that our God is a God of relationship, whose highest desire is simply to love us and have us love Him in return. God isn’t concerned with us understanding Him – in fact, He makes it clear to us that we don’t even need to worry about understanding Him – He’s pretty much too huge and awesome to begin to comprehend. And in the words of my own Dad, “I’m not sure I want to worship a God that I can understand!” That’s part of the intrigue – God is huge, and our wonder in Him will never fade. When I step back and think about it, I prefer an incomprehensibly amazing Lord over one who fits in my rational, logical human framework!

Local Outreach

Last Saturday, our group traveled to Jaco – a beach town a couple hours outside of San Jose where drugs, poverty and prostitution are prominent issues. We acquainted ourselves with a few of the ministries being run there. One woman from California resides in Jaco and has been building relationships within a very poor river community while caring for its children when they are out of school. Her combination of love and commitment has produced a really fruitful ministry in that town. It was so exciting to see the transformation that God, through the use of one woman, was bringing about in Jaco. We were hosted overnight by a ministry that is reaching out to local youth through a skate park and surfing – really cool ways to meet, build relationships with and minister to the young people of Jaco. I had the privilege of meeting some of the guys who come to the skate park, as well as members of the river community. I’ll be praying about whether or not God is leading me to spend a few months doing outreach and partnering with the awesome ministries in Jaco.


Sex Trafficking Rises on Superbowl Weekend, Volunteers Work Against It

One of the biggest sporting events in the world will be drawing in unusually large amounts of people into Miami, Florida this year - which means sex trafficking will be on the rise to accommodate wealthy tourists for a weekend of partying. Volunteers are seizing the opportunity to reach out to the young girls on the street and offer a hand out of prostitution.

Please Pray That...

-God worked through the volunteers to speak truth and hope into the lives of the girls on the streets.

-The girls who were ready to escape prostitution were able to safely contact the help hotline and find a way out of their situation.

-Tourists and travelers on weekends such as the SuperBowl are not unusually tempted to pursue prostitution or other forms of damaging behavior.

-Volunteers and organizations are able to continue fighting sex trafficking around the world, and that awareness is continually raised.

Shared Hope International

Shared Hope International is an incredible Christian organization working to fight sex trafficking around the world. They focus on prevention of trafficking through awareness, the rescuing of women out of prostitution and trafficking situations, and inner restoration through healing and empowerment.

Klaas Kids Foundation

From governmental to community change, the Klaas Kids Foundation is working to raise awareness about and fight crime perpetrated against children in the United States. The foundation was formed in memory of a victim of kidnap and murder. Klaas Kids is working to change legislation and advocate for the safety of children. They are bringing out societal and future generational change that will better serve the children of our nation.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

For His Ways Are Not Our Ways...

I’m writing this blog the day after my 19th birthday… which, I might add, was absolutely, incredibly fabulous. I say this because it made me think: why is it that God continually pours out His blessings and favor on me? Every Monday through Friday I sit and study about suffering around the world. I learn frightening statistics, study hopeless community problems and am taught about child abuse. Then the weekend comes, and I experience God’s goodness in ways I could never have imagined. From the beauty of His nature to the joy of friendship, I experience my Lord’s goodness. From delighting in surfing to having a safe place to rest and plenty of food to eat, every weekend I am in awe of God’s provision and miraculous blessings. But when the weekend ends, and I reflect on my “luck,” I become troubled. Why me? Why favor and blessings and fun and love? Is it okay that I smile and laugh all weekend, while I fully know what is going on around the world? Should I really waste my time playing Frisbee when there are kids who need help that very second? Why do I “need” to eat three times a day, when many don’t eat once in three days? And why is it that I have never truly suffered, when some people can’t escape suffering? These questions won’t leave my heart, and so I am on a quest to learn more of God’s purposes in all of these confusing situations. I am currently reading The Good News About Injustice by Gary Haugen, founder of International Justice Mission, and was able to take some comfort in the wisdom of this passage: “It is a poorly lived life that cannot experience joy, peace, laughter, beauty and mirth despite all the oppression and injustice that mars the goodness of God’s creation.” Right on, Gary.

I am earnestly seeking through prayer and the Word why God does things the way He does… though I’m not fully expecting a good answer, for “His ways are not our ways… as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55). In no way do I expect to exalt myself to the point of understanding God’s crazy ways, but I do want to seek wisdom from Him and understand more of His character and plan. I’m tired of being confused. But one thing I do know: “Delight yourself in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37). I have certainly been able to enjoy God in all His fullness, and as I delight in Him I do see the desires of my heart being given to me. For that I am thankful! I hope that with time, I am able to understand more of God’s plans and purposes in my life, the lives of others, and how they are all supposed to work together for His glory.

This week was a sort of “break” from all of the heavy material we’ve been learning about. Instead of an emphasis on ministering outwards, the focus was directed inward all week, with a concentration on Inner Healing. Christy Scott came and shared with us, and what I took out of this week was that “You can’t give to people what you don’t have.” I learned that I can’t offer street children love if I haven’t directly received love from God myself. I can’t offer hope if hope doesn’t exist in my own life, and I am unable to offer wholeness to a broken child until I am whole in God. Wow. This week blew my mind. I won’t be able to doubt God’s goodness one day, and then turn around tell a child that God is good the next. This week forced me to confront my own walk with God – its strengths AND weaknesses. I was able to highlight the areas lacking in my relationship with Jesus, and begin to work towards mending them. This journey started Monday morning, but didn’t end on Friday at noon – it is one that will take time and work, but I believe it is so vital to working with children at risk. I will need to preach and offer the truth – truth about God that exists across the board, in their life and mine.

I had the privilege of meeting some of the world’s most beautiful children last weekend. Our group hooked up with a Canadian missionary couple who is working in multiple slum communities and networking with local churches to bring the gospel of love to the families of San Jose. This couple from Canada has dedicated their lives to serving and building relationships within these neighborhoods, and their devotion and progress were so encouraging for me to see. We participated in and helped run their weekly Saturday children’s program, which included worship, dancing, games, a short Bible lesson and fellowship. I was able to meet and talk with so many incredible kids, and I delighted in learning their names and about their families and what sorts of things they like to do. It was brief, but I am so grateful for that time.

I am continually amazed at how the hearts of people around the world are so similar – God has instilled within all of us consistent and unfailing desires. I grew up in the United States’ Midwest Suburbia. These children have grown up in the slums of San Jose, Costa Rica. We could not have had more different backgrounds. And yet in each of my conversations with these children, I found out that we both love sports. We both love singing and worshipping God. We all desire love, hugs, smiling, laughter and fun. We want to know that there is a God who loves and cares for us, and who has a plan for our life. We want a family to care for us. We want a future and a hope and opportunities for a free life. We love candy. And balloons. And running and playing. These children are not different from me at all – we’re the exact same. Suffering or not, we all have the same desires and needs. Poverty or riches, deep down we are all yearning for the same thing – peace, joy, love and purpose. And the good news is that God’s beautiful Kingdom is available for everyone– five years old or fifty-five years old, Tico or Gringo, rich or poor - no matter where you come from or where you are going.

Current Event:

Church Group Detained in Haiti for Illegally Transporting Orphans Across the Border

A group of 10 Christians from Idaho, USA were arrested and detained in Haiti for trying to transport orphans from the chaos of Haiti to an orphanage in the Dominican Republic. They claim they were trying to do the "right thing," yet lacked proper documentation for each child. They are being accused of trafficking and are awaiting trial in Port-au-Prince.

Please pray that...

-Relief workers and missionaries do not act irrationally or irresponsibly in the face of overwhelming chaos.

-Children are protected from dangerous situations and from being taken advantage of or exploited during this vulnerable time of transition and disaster.

-Children receive the help they need from legitimate, legal and safe organizations and people.

-The church group being detained is treated fairly, and able to find a way to help that is legal and in the best interest of the children in Haiti.

Youth With A Mission

I keep linking all these organizations that work with children, yet I haven't posted anything about the organization I'm actually with - Youth With A Mission (YWAM). Many of you already know about YWAM through your own experiences, or me sharing with you but I'll tell you anyway :) Started 50 years ago by a couple with a heart to "know God and make Him known" (they YWAM slogan), YWAM is a non-denominational, international Christian missions organization working to train up and propel into action people of ALL ages with a heart to know God and make Him known among the nations. And the name is quite misleading - it's not just for youth, there are people of all ages involved in over 150 countries, all growing and serving the Lord together :) I'd highly recommend getting involved if you're interested...!

PlayPumps International

PlayPumps International is an innovative organization working to help alleviate suffering due to lack of clean water across Africa. Through the brilliant design of a merry-go-round for children to play on, the organization has come up with a way to pump clean water from the ground and into storage simply by allowing children to have fun. For every hour of play on the merry-go-round, 1,400 liters of clean water are pumped into a tank for the community to use! Learn more or donate at the site above. They're doing some amazing stuff.