El Salvador: 180 Redemption

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 I came into El Salvador exhausted and burnt out, but still determined to keep going. In 2 Corinthians 4:1 Paul reminds the Corinthians that “having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart.”

I knew this and wanted to be fully present in this country, but I was completely unaware of how much I would be changed by the ministry and situation we encountered in El Salvador.

We worked with an organization called Project RED in San Salvador. They are an organization stands for Reintegration, Education, and Development which they apply to families that come through their program.  In El Salvador there is so much gang violence and drug trafficking that has caused unbelievable poverty in their country. They are the second most dangerous country in the world and has created an air of fear over their people. Many families are living in such poor conditions that they can’t support themselves or their children so many children are abandoned or placed in orphanages.There is currently a law in El Salvador that, in short, forces orphans to be placed back in homes of living family members no matter what conditions, just so that the government can say they have less orphans than they really do. What project RED does is brings in families into their programs and helps them, emotionally, and physically, and financially adjust back into life as families. They are the first organization to do something like this here and God has done amazing things through them and in the life of the families.

This week God showed me his power and redemption. Even though there is so much darkness in their country, God is moving in incredible ways. It may not be instant progress, but slowly these families and kids who have experienced any thing from sexual abuse, drug abuse, and immense poverty, have turned around and through the Lord they have found a new hope and new futures. Isaiah 40:31 says “they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles.”

This is such a needed reminder to me this week and in life in general. It is so easy to get caught up in life and lose hope. To think that things will always be how they are, but God can literally change any situation. I got to spend time with kids this week who believed their parents hated them or that they wouldn’t have enough food to get through the week or that they had to join a gang just to survive, but God renewed their strength. He redeemed their stories and gave them knew life. Now these kids and these families know that the Lord is their strength and anything is possible through Him and they are proof that God can take any situation and do a complete 180.

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Some of the team painting the inside of one of the families houses that Project RED built them

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Slovenia: By His Wounds We Are Healed

This Week about half way through I had prepared myself to write this blog about perseverance. Persevere persevere persevere. But a couple days in God turned that thought right on its head…. pretty literally. Let me explain.

When I arrived in Slovenia I was just overcoming being sick through our travel days from Uganda and during that time I was more than ready to get back on my feet healthy and motivated. We arrived in Idrija in Slovenia and it was beautiful. Slovenia is hands down the most beautiful place I have ever been. We were only in Idrija for a couple of days and our goal was street evangeliazing. Slovenia has Catholic Churches all over, but the idea of Jesus is completely lost. If people are “Christian” it is only a cultural thing and the churches are only used for weddings and funerals. Basically all of the believers in the whole country of Slovenia know each other. So this country is in desperate need of the gospel. Some of the missionaries have been here for over 10 years and had seen very little fruit from their efforts until very recently, but they keep doing the Lord’s work. You see why perseverance was on my mind. The long term missionaries here are fighters.
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Well it rained almost every day we were in Idrija, clearing out the streets and chances to share the Gospel. Yet we faught, we went on prayer walks around the city, sang worship in the churches and the coffee shops and stayed positive.

After a few days we headed to our next city in Slovenia, Bovec. Bovec is even more beautiful. You are in a valley that is surrounded by the Alps. Yes, it is breathtaking. Here in Bovec our team split in two. Half would spend each morning walking though and giving out devotionals and literature throughout the city of Bovec. The other half biked through the mountains to do the same for the surrounding villages. I was on the biking team. This is the hardest thing I have ever done. These arent tiny hills, they are mountains, and my tiny legs were not quite prepared. But I was so excited for this task.

The first day I literally thought I was going to die. Or at least black out on the bike. Persevere, persevere, persevere. Just one more hill. Just one more peddle. Just one more. And I did it. I made it. I can do all things through Him who gives me strength. The day ends and I think, just 3 more days. I can definitely do that.

I wake up the next morning. Persevere. I am ready. Jesus and I hop on the bike ready to share His story with new villages in Slovenia. I make it up this time with more ease and more confidence. We leave to head home and I know I am almost done. Just one more push. The best feeling is the down hills. I begin to soar down the mountain and I can feel the cold air and its amazing. This is what I live for. Faster and faster. Then I see the turn. Not just a turn but a full u-turn kind of turn. I didn’t even have time to think. I break, and crash.

Dang it.

I sit in the middle of the road in a bit of shock and then just begin to cry. Joe, the leader of the ministry comes to my aid. He asks me if I think I can ride back home. Persevere. persevere. He looks at me and sees that there is no way that is about to happen. I am pretty beaten up and can barely walk. They bring up a car and take me home. And that is that. No more biking for me. No more walking or playing or anything.

I kept my head up because I wanted to heal and get back out there. That is why God brought me to this place right?? So I can help? Well, like I said, God turned all my plans on their head, or in my case flat on their face. I began to question why this would happen, I was so determined to finish it to the end. And God brought me to 1 Peter 3:17 that says, “For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will than for doing evil”… That is exactly the case here. This accident isnt accidental. If I suffer for doing God’s will, that is never in vain. I was doing exactly what he wanted me to and if that was for two days instead of four then so be it.

As I sat and watched everyone finish out the week I looked at my wounds  feeling defeated and ready to get back on my feet. Then He reminded me of 1 Peter 2:24 “By His wounds you have been healed”
It is not my wounds that matter. God has already healed everything through His wounds which are about infinity times more intense. He carries all of our burdens because He died on that cross for us. 
And then I realized what God is teaching me. He is reminding me that while we must be persistant… we must also rest. “On the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested” He rested. If God needs to rest, how much more is that true for us. Naturally living in New York this is something I have forgotten about. This past year has been one of the hardest years of my life. I have experienced some very emotionally trying times and my way of handling them is to keep pushing forward and not worrying about how I am begininng to fade. God asks me to slow down and I push Him away because who has time for that? Sometimes you have to break to realized how cracked you were to begin with. That is what God did to me here in Slovenia. He stopped me in my tracks and told me to slow down.

God stopped me in my tracks because He knew I wouldn’t do it on my own… maybe not just in what I was doing on this mission, but it my life back home as well. Sometimes we need to remember that we can do all things through HIM who gives us strength. And we need to let HIM heal our wounds. Emotionally and physically. I can at least say for myself that I am broken. But through Christ I am healed.

Staying positive about my new leg holes!

Staying positive about my new leg holes!

 

Uganda: You Are Welcome, Mzungu

“Mzungu! Mzungu!” Shouted the children as they ran behind our car on the red dirt road. “How are you, mzungu??”

You first question is probably “what is a mzungu?” It is what they call… A white person. That’s me. Paler than a blank piece of paper. But here it isn’t a bad thing. It isn’t a slur or something rude, it’s just what we are. In fact, in Uganda we are very welcomed. Everyone is.

Whenever you first meet some one or enter their home or space they say “you are most welcome”. At first this is very awkward because where we come from when someone says that unprompted, it is to hint at the expected “thank you” that you didn’t give them. But here it is because they want you to know that you really are welcome. You are welcome into their lives.
That is Uganda.

This week my team and I have spent our time at Lulwanda Children’s Home in Mbale, Uganda. It is a primary school and orphanage for children, most of which lost one or more parents to AIDS. We mostly did service projects around the school like painting or putting in new misquote nets, but we did get to interact with the missionaries, staff, and kids in the process.
Here they love and welcome you like you have been best friends for years. The kids are a bit more shy, understandably, but every person we met would introduce themselves to all 11 of us with big hugs.
In Uganda it is more important that you say hi to everyone and ask them about their day rather than get any work done. Because nothing is accomplished if relationships aren’t in the forefront.

My main job in the week was being a scraper. I literally scraped letters off of a giant metal container. For a week. Best part was that I was wedged in between a fence and the container the whole time. But in reality if you know me at all this is such a great job for me because I love to pick and tear at things anyway. But the best part is while the hot sun was shining down on me as I was wedged in my space, people I had never seen would walk by with their containers on their head, goats in hand, or babies on their back just to say hello. Just to tell me I was doing a great job (even if they didn’t know what I was doing) and to ask me how my day had been.

My heart felt genuinely changed by their kindness. On Saturday, Catherine, the woman who had been making us food, invited all of us to her church with her the next day not knowing anyone us at all. Her bold kindness really struck me deep down. She didn’t know us. She didn’t know what we believed or who we were, but she wanted us to be with her the next day at her church. What if we were all this bold with our words and liberal with our kindness? Imagine the lives we could touch with just a few words. She was hired to cook for us, yet she had welcomed us into her life. We can do the same and show so many people the love of Christ just like she had that day.

Everyday I felt completely at home in Uganda. I felt welcomed no matter how much I stood out as a Mzungu. This is what God does for us. He made us each individually unique and yet we are all His children. When we are able to make someone feel welcomed we are showing them the love of God. We are reminding them that whatever they are doing or wherever they come from, they are seen.

“As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him… welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God” -Romans 14:1; 15:7

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India: Selfless Servitude

I am currently on a bus leaving India. My team has spent the last week at an orphanage in Kota where we have gotten a chance to play, love, and share the gospel with 600 kids. The first day we showed up at the orphanage I had no idea what to expect. The second the kids saw us on the grounds they all came running straight at us yelling “AUNTIE AUNTIE!! UNCLE! UNCLE!” as about 10 kids jumped on me hugging me and holding my hand trying to get close to me. “Hello Auntie!! Come Auntie Come!” They pulled me into the girls dorm and the rest of the girls swarmed me with love. I couldn’t believe it. They have never seen me in my whole life and it had been a total of 2 minutes and I felt more loved in that moment than I have in my whole life. 

Over the  week that I was there I got to know these kids better and better and I realized they had more to give and teach me than I ever could. At first I struggled with names because trying to memorize 600 names I can barely pronounce is no easy feat. The girls I got closest to were the girls in Room 5, or as they call it “5 room”.  Neilmala, Suanna, Supna, Angeli, Rajol, Sunita, Mary, Sundia, Joy, Rupa, and many more. There are probably about 15 girls per room with maybe about 3-5 beds in each room. But each day as I entered they all swarmed me with hugs and made sure I had a place to sit on one of the very few beds. That right there is the theme of this message. Servitude. I have never seen anything like it.

In Luke 6:35 Jesus says to love, do good, share, and expect nothing in return. I think a lot of times I glorify myself by doing something “selflessly” for people just to pat myself on the back later. and even when I don’t expect anything from people, I expect things from God. Sometimes I expect my life to be great if I do good things. But he constantly tells us that the people who suffer now for Him, will be greatly rewarded when we are with Him. The only reward should be and is Jesus, not some ideal life. These kids know that. The moment I walked through the door, they loved me, no questions asked. They knew I would only be there for a week and that didnt stop them from loving me. That didn’t stop them from asking all about my family and my life. They knew there was nothing I could give to them, no way I could better their situation, and they loved me anyway. They expected nothing in return. They inststed that I let them paint my nails and do my hair, just because they wanted me to feel nice. When it was hot, (so all the time) they would insist on fanning me with their homemade woven fans. When I would take it from them and begin to fan them, they would cry out “No Auntie, No! Let me fan you!”. I was in the room with the girls while they did chores and I got up to help a girl fold some blankets and they all shouted “No auntie! You sit!” but because I am bigger it was pretty easy to override their request. I folded the blankets and after the whole room got up ran to me hugging me saying “Oh thank you auntie! Thank you!” If we are true humble servants who expect nothing, God will serve us too. He is bigger than us all and will override our shame and weakness. And the response of a true servant is to run to him in thanks and praise. These kids are true servants. These kids are a picture of the gospel.

But more importantly than they way they loved and served me, is the way they love and serve God. These kids literally have nothing, no parents or possessions, no air conditioning, comfy places to sleep or big fancy meals, but they whole heartedly love Jesus. They have prayer time two times everyday and they sing out in praise not just quietly, but screaming and holding nothing back. They love the Lord. They expect nothing from him, yet they love him anyway. Many want to grow up to be pastors even though they could be persecuted for it. They expect nothing, yet they follow him anyway. If we had nothing, would we be the same?

Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom.
Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.”

I want to be more like these children.


Hangin’ in Hong Kong

Nihao!

My team has been in Hong Kong for a week so far and this time here has been incredible! God has also been working on my heart so much already. He has showed me the incredible power in prayer and I have been absolutely humbled by how much He has proved to me that I desperately need Him to lean on. In my time here my team has been bringing bibles from Hong Kong into China. China is in desperate need of bibles and with the Christian population growing exponentially every day in the country and only a small percentage of the bibles that are produced in China actually going to the Chinese population, the situation is actually getting worse. We were able to watch a video of some Chinese nationals receiving bibles just like ones we have been bringing over and it broke me. They all ran for the bibles weeping over them. They would rub their faces against the cover and yell out in praise. It made me realize how much we take advantage of the fact that most of us have abundant and constant access to God’s word. These people cherish it so much, crying at the sight of it, where I have four bibles in different translations just sitting on my shelf at home. Not only are there not enough bibles in China, they are very hard to come by because it is illegal for bookstores to sell them. So I am honored that God has given me and my team the opportunity to do something to make a change.

This week has been difficult at times because we never really see the fruit of what we are doing, and the days are hard. We make about 2 trips a day crossing the border carrying one bag of bibles across each trip. In the first two days we were here, my team brought 40 cases across totaling an estimate of over 1,600 bibles across. That is 1,600 more people that have access to God. By the end of the week we managed to bring across 9,000 bibles with the help of another group in just five days! John 1:1 says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God“. By giving people the Word, we are giving them a chance to know God. It is amazing to think that there are so many people who are desperate to know more about Jesus and they can’t. There are so many places that don’t even have the bible translated into their language. So as you continue to pray for me on this trip, I also ask you continue to pray that m0re people will feel the calling on their hearts to continue to volunteer with this ministry and other like it so that people all around the world can read and know what Jesus did for them on the cross.

On this trip, prayer has been my only stable comfort. When I am afraid, I turn to Him. When I feel excited for getting the bibles through, I give Him the praise. The Lord has showed me the importance of constantly being in conversation with Him. Before each trip I asked Him for favor while crossing the border and that He would place the bibles in the hands that He wanted them in. Each time, God reminded me that He is sovereign and that if we were stopped by the customs, it was for a reason. Maybe the hands of the customs officers is exactly where He wanted those bibles.

This week I was stopped once at the border by some of the customs officials. As they pulled me aside my body shot into instant fear. The customs officer I dealt with spoke hardly any English and never looked at me or spoke to me except to ask me for my passport. I had heard of others going through this and getting a chance to share the gospel or the name of Jesus with them, but that was clearly not in the cards for me today. I frustratedly asked God why I had been stopped and I remembered that I am just His hands and feet. I am not going to save or change anyone, He is. I began to pray for the customs officials and others who were stuck in the same situation I was in. I prayed that they saw all the bibles that had been taken and wondered with curiosity why anyone would want to bring so many of them into China. Prayer makes any situation worth the while. It makes any terrifying situation, calm. And it makes any happy situation glorifying to God. He wants to calm us, and he wants to celebrate with us. When we are in constant conversation with the Lord it becomes easier to listen and understand exactly what He has to say to us.

So I ask you to pray for me in the coming weeks. To pray for what we are doing and for the people we meet along the way. Also continually praise God for all that He has already done on this trip and all that He will be doing because it is incredible!

-Kathryn

In the Beginning…

Tomorrow! 
I can’t even believe how time has flown by. In the last few weeks I have had two graduation ceremonies, a photo show, and I have moved my whole life back to Texas. Every moment has been filled with constant people, activities, and things to do. Yet here I am sitting wrapped in my blanket, quiet and still, looking down at the suitcase and back pack that I am about to haul around the world with me. Its the first moment I have been able to stop and just feel the excitement of whats about to happen. I thank God for providing for this trip and for allowing everything to come together as He did. 
The last four years have been crazy ones. New York city swallowed me up and spit me out, yet I stand in the presence of my Savior still. He has been so good. I am nervous as I take these next steps in my life, but I think this trip is a perfect image of what I want my life to be. As college ends we are supposed to be thrusted into the “real world” whatever that means. Well I think instead I want to go out into the world not as a symbol of becoming an adult, but start being an adult by following Jesus. Doing what He has called for me makes me feel more alive than any diploma or career ever could!
At my church we sing, “I have decided to follow Jesus. The cross before me, the world behind me.” I don’t imagine this trip as seeing the world, I see this trip as following the cross. 

For those who don’t know all the details, I leave tomorrow for training in San Antonio, then on Monday we leave for Hong Kong, then to India, Uganda, Slovenia, and El Salvador. About 10 days in each country doing different services to be the hands and feet of Jesus. Please continue to follow along my journey as I update this blog along the way! I can’t wait to share all my stories with all of you! 

I know that as the next few days pass and I meet my team, my life will already begin to change. I hope to make a difference in this world and God is guiding me one step at a time and I am so excited to be a part of his plan for this world. I want to thank everyone who has made this trip possible for me and for all of my teammates as we embark on this incredible global journey. 

-Kathryn 

Global Journey Here I Come

I am so excited to be going on this trip! Right now it is a hectic process making sure everything is ready and set up so that I can leave this summer, but what a humbling process and such an amazing chance to just lean on the Lord!

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” -Jeremiah 17: 7-8