Monday, October 21, 2013

wherever He calls me ...

Photos Creds: Johanna Love
I recently had a conversation with a friend about our current jobs. We both had graduated from college a few years ago, and both have struggled with where God has taken us since. You see, in college, we both had this fantasy of becoming missionaries; whether it was in Latin America, Africa, or wherever, we had this ideal life of where we would be once we left our alma mater. Sadly enough, reality slapped both of us really hard in the faces, and we had to find jobs that would help pay for our endless amount of school loans, gas money, and food on the table.

For so long, I struggled with this ideal lifestyle, of becoming a missionary overseas and really living out the Gospel there, that I ignored what He was doing in my life presently. I use to tell people, “Oh ya, He’s just preparing me right now during this season. And then I’ll live overseas in His own timing.” But over the years, I began to wonder, “Is my plan even His plan?”

Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails. (Proverbs 19: 21)

Have I been caught up with my own devised reality that I’ve sadly neglected the reality that God has set before me? Yes. And I feel we all tend to do this as well. I believe God instills in each of us a set of passions and desires that come from Him; and although they are all good, we tend to get lost in them rather than be fully present in what God is working in our lives currently.

For me, I struggled with this. Still struggle with this. Not being fully content of where I am, and always searching for escape from my reality to achieve a faux reality in which everything is what it should be. At least, what I think is what it should be. And because of this tension between the two realities that cannot coexist with each other, I’m constantly caught in limbo. That feeling where your heart is beating uncontrollably fast and your mind is filled with limitless thoughts that you convince yourself that you just might explode; yep, this happens quite too often for me.

As cheesy and cliché as it may sound, I am a missionary … now; and whether I’m in Costa Mesa or overseas, I continue to be a missionary … that never ceases. Every day is an opportunity; and if I don’t take that opportunity, it is wasted. I mean, if I can’t even live out the Gospel here at a place I call my home, how do I expect to do the same in a different country?

I have the opportunity to minister to my coworkers, the people I see more often than my friends. And to be honest, I tend to turn my back on them and treat them as just people I don’t need to spend my time with. I’d convince myself that “they’re just my coworkers.”  Over the past few years, I’ve had the most amazing, most honest, and difficult conversations with my coworkers, all of which I had the opportunity to share my heart and sharing God’s word. A coworker, now friend, shared with me how her and her husband prayed for the first time together and God revealed Himself to them for the first time.

When I had the opportunity to lead a team to Mozambique this past summer, my coworkers donated their money and art supplies because they wanted to help but never had an opportunity to do so before. We talk about miracles as if they only happened in the Bible or when we hear stories from people coming back from their mission trips. But these are the miracles I was able to witness because I chose to follow God’s heart, and His heart lead me to these people over the years.

Maybe it’s time for each us to do the same … to start listening and seeing what God is doing in our lives.

And who knows? Maybe becoming an overseas missionary is still in the works. Or maybe I’m called to be a missionary here, my home. Wherever He calls me to, I will follow Him.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

set free

Confession: I can be a very judgmental person. My human nature is to seek justice only through my own eyes. I’ve become so comfortable in knowing that and, for the most part, I’ve allowed my actions dictate that poor attitude. But in the end, it’s God’s will be done, not ours. And we must live out the life He calls us too — whether we want to or not.

We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual , sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate to do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing.  (Romans 7: 14–15)

Although our human nature tells us to think this way, our true self, the self that God intends us to become, desires to be closer to God, to grow intimately with Him, and to seek out the desires of His heart. Easier said than done, don’t you think? But it’s the nature of the situation when we’re called to be the light of this word. To be a light we are called to live differently among our peers, not as a division of us being better than anyone else, but to call out our brothers and sisters out of darkness and into a life worth living. Because of the Holy Spirit, we receive/experience such beautiful love and grace from God. And we are also called to show the same love and grace that we received from Him to others.

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh by according to the Spirit. (Romans 8: 1–4)

We are free in Christ … it doesn’t get any better than that! We need to be realistic about ourselves before we understand God; this was perfectly said by guest speaker Kathleen Doyle. To know the true heart of God, we must look at ourselves. We must focus inwardly in order to understand and perform outwardly. God knows we are broken, so He comes after us; it is how God deals with our lost nature. And though we are imperfect, we must welcome Him in our lives with open arms as He has done with us.

The Holy Spirit searches for us, intercedes for us, and He advocates for us. The Holy Spirit brings us life and sets us free. When I confess, I will be received by love and grace. It’s hard for us to grasp as human beings. We think in terms of us when we refer to how God sees the world. But he’s not like us, and we must see the world, the world He created, through His eyes. The love of God is beyond our comprehension.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

He is worth it

“Is it safe?”

That’s one of the first questions most people ask me when I go on mission trips. And my usual response is, “Yes.” But lately, it’s a question that irks me the wrong way.

For the past six years, the Machava Center in Mozambique has been a huge part of my life. I was just 19 years old when I first stepped , and honestly I haven't left since. Each year I went, there was a new challenge every time, especially the past couple times I've gone. And each time, I felt and witnessed God in new ways that I hadn't experienced before. Prior to my trip this past summer, people came up and asked me, "Why do you keep going back to Mozambique?", "Are you going to live there soon?", and, my all-time favorite, "Isn't that where you were robbed ... is it safe?"

Living a missional life, whether you’re in the states or overseas, doesn't always look easy or safe. It requires a huge amount of time, sacrifice, and commitment. You invest everything you have in the ministry that God sets before. Following Jesus comes with a price. And although it’s a risk that we need to take, it’s a risk worth taking for the sake of His Kingdom.

We can’t predict what will happen to us. We can’t always trust to have an emergency plan whenever obstacles come our way. Because when we’re called to follow Jesus, we give ourselves to Him. All of it. We give up control of our own lives, and allow Him to take the reins and guide us in the direction He needs us to go. For most people, including myself at times, it’s a terrifying thought to relinquish all control, not knowing what the consequences are. How will I know if that’s where I’m supposed to be? Am I going to be safe? We start saying things like “I believe that God will protect us, BUT I still want to do this” or “God use me when I go to [insert country’s name], BUT I still be the same person here” to justify how we want to live our life. When we limit ourselves to only reaching out to the places we feel or think is safe, we limit God’s power to work in our lives and in the lives of those we come across. We consolidate Him into this box we created of who we think God is and what we think He is capable of.

This is what I continue to remind myself on a daily basis:
God is good, and He is worth it.

I can say that because of the trials I’ve gone through in my life … I can say that wholeheartedly knowing that there were times where I was in danger … Because this summer, I witnessed God’s sovereignty and felt His unconditional love pour over me. If the stories in the Bible don’t convince us that we serve an amazing God who is sovereign over EVERYTHING, than we’re missing the point; we then choose to live a life in fear of the unknown rather than praying to God asking Him how we can be better servants for His Kingdom.

The book of Acts has really challenged the way I’ve been living my life the past few years, specifically this past year of growth. And I don’t think it’s a coincidence that as I am dealing with a lot of issues and questions in my life that my church is going through this series. To live a life knowing that there will be hardships as we draw near; to be a light in a world filled with darkness; to act in the same manner as the disciples showed us; and all that and more, knowing the repercussions that lie ahead (beating, robbery, death) — it’s faith that enables us to persevere through the troubles we face on a daily basis.

Reading about Paul’s ministry is such a great testimony. And what he wrote in his letter to the Church of Philippi is so true:

“What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ — the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.” (Philippians 3:8–9, NIV)

Is He worth the risk? 

We gave over 60 beanies to the children, older kids, tias & tios, and even a couple of the vovos
who live at and near the center.

Some of the bravest brothers I've ever met. More shocks to them.

Zekka's laugh can easily bring a smile to your face.

My brother Feliciano preaching up a storm at Som Do Ceu.
Definitely a man of God. 

Olinda & Katia: These girls stole our hearts.

Pascoal was always good at making you laugh.

I've never heard or seen true examples of people following God's will than these two:
Jesse & Raquel

Praying with the kids at the school

Isabel & Cacilda:  Women who help out the missionaries in the center and take care of the children.

A family that never gave up hope when times were hard. God definitely has his hand over them.
(Eric, Cecilia, Jessezinho, Gigizinho, Felisberto)

Our last night with the kids ended in a water balloon/bucket/cup-throwing fight. 


Wednesday, August 14, 2013


Three years ago, I married my best friend. 
Best decision I ever made.

Photo taken by Sam May

I'm so blessed to call him my husband. One of the first times I said "my husband" to his face, I cried ugly tears. Like legitimate ugly tears; pretty sure that's where the sob monster made her first appearance. My husband makes fun of me because I didn't even cry at our wedding; and yet I chose to weep when I called him my husband. 

This year has been an amazing year of growth for both of us. Looking back at the people we were then a year ago and who we are now, God has definitely played a huge role in our growth as a married couple. It's been a pretty eventful year for us. From scares to surprises, we continue to draw closer to God together. And it's been a ride. 

Photo taken by Miriã Braga

Sounds cheesy, but I love my hubs more than ever; I really do. As I mentioned in previous posts, God taught me a lot during my time in Mozambique this past summer. Learning to lead with my husband was a big step for us; and I'm thankful that we did it together. It wasn't always easy, but we had to trust where God was leading us. Where I was weak in areas, he was strong; and where he needed support, I was there by his side. There were times where we had to make sacrifices for our team, such as spending time apart. But even during those times, God drew us closer. Learning to be a married couple on the mission field allowed us to experience God's love in new ways (a post we will write soon). When you experience God's unconditional love firsthand, you learn to love others the way He does.

Happy 3 years love! Can't wait to go on more adventures with you. 

Photo taken by Maggie Carranza

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

mozambican feet

When I'm in Mozambique, I don't care what I look like. 

Messy, greasy hair. Little to no make-up. Legs and arms adorned with mosquito bites. Wearing the same clothes twice (or three times) in a row. Showering only every 3-4 days.

Yep. And my husband still loves me, including my not-so-glamorous moments :)

What most people, both my team members and the Mozambican people, notice about me when I'm there are my feet.

I call them Mozambican feet. I love the feeling of the center's sand in between my toes. If I could, I'd choose to walk around the center barefoot; even one time I walked all over the place with no flip flops for several hours (one of the girls was wearing mine). Most of the time, my feet are even dirtier than the kids there; that says a lot. 

I like who I am when I'm in Mozambique. Aside from not caring what I look like, I'm more carefree in the way I think, act, and say. And, more importantly, I get a little closer with God each day. I never have to worry about filtering how I present myself to other people; and I enjoy the freedom in that. It's a shame how I oftentimes return from my trips and, slowly but surely, return to the person I was. As much as I try not to, I go back to my natural habits: conscious of how I look before work, how I say things in front of new people, and how I carry myself in the public.

But when did all of those things ever matter? Who are we trying to impress? Our natural tendency is to think about how other people will perceive us. And most of our time is spent not only on our appearance, but knowing the right or "proper" words to say, or controlling how we act in a group setting. We have a desire to control everything in our life, so we try to control how people see us by basically becoming the person we think they want us to be. We waste time putting on this "false self," a made-up identity that deters us from who we are called to be. In reading Brennan Manning's Abba's child, I came across this quote which best summarizes how we ought to live:
"Define yourself radically as one beloved by God. This is the true self. Every other identity is an illusion."
When we know and accept that we are defined in Him, nothing else matters. So why should I care about wearing different masks to please people?

Here's something I've learned: When you're on a mission trip, you're called to step out of your comfort zone and be present with the person or people God places in front of you. If we get caught up with the distractions, the worries, and our own selfish needs, we miss the point and we miss out on the unique opportunities He gives us. 

I hope one day I can be the person who I was in Mozambique here in Orange County. Still working on it.

Sidenote: A little dirt don't hurt, right?
Hours after I walked around the center barefoot.
Amazing what baby wipes can do. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

back home to reality

I woke up today in my own bed, in my own room, in my own apartment ... I'm back in the OC.

About to fly home :(
Top (from left to right): Liz, Cecilia, Brian, Miria, Alex, Jesse, Edvaldo
Bottom: Korynn, Naomi, Maggie, Camille, me
We flew into LAX Friday afternoon. Exhausted, worn out, irritated, and, of course, sick, all I wanted to do was to stuff a burger in my face and shower (I didn't shower for 4 days #yolo.). Although I'm grateful for two days of much needed rest, I wish I could've taken this week off. 

Today is my third day back at work. It's been easier adjusting to my work schedule today than it was earlier this week. I don't know how I survived Monday, but I did. Monday was filled with three hours of answering emails, sharing stories about my trip with coworkers, sifting and reading through endless piles of edited articles, and drinking LOTS OF COFFEE. 

It's hard being present when my mind and heart is somewhere else. Like past mission trips, the "coming back home" portion is the hardest. Learning how to transition back to reality after experiencing a life-changing moment in your life is not easy; for the most part, you're never the same person before you left. But this time around, my "coming back home" process has been different. And I don't know why. Lately I've been blaming it on my jet lag and sickness. But deep down, I know something is off. 

Am I over thinking everything [Maybe I'm use to it since it's my fourth timeIt was a shorter trip.]? Possibly. Or is God working in me differently this time? Maybe.

All I know is this: We serve an amazing God, and He exceeded all of my expectations.

Maybe once I catch up on my journaling from my trip, I'll be able to process more. 

More stories to come.  
Our last Sunday service (for now).
Nos filhas, Olinda e Sheila.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

mozambique adventures

A little taste of our time here ...

portuguese e muito bom.

Six years ago, I fell in love with the language, Portuguese. Portuguese is one of my favorite languages to speak (kinda) and listen to. If you ever watched the movie, Rio, then you know what I’m talking about.

Bom dia.
Bom dia.
Tudo bem?
Si. Gracas a Deus.

Whenever I hear people speak Portuguese back home in the states, I always think of Mozambique. It was the first place I’ve ever heard anyone speak the language; who would’ve thought that a country in Africa could speak Portuguese?

When we arrived last Wednesday, one of the first times I had to speak Portuguese (since my last visit) was during customs. Each of us took two bags filled with our personal items, supplies for ministry, and donations; we had 16 huge bags total. Because of past experiences through this process, we were pulled aside once again so that the airport personnel could look through our bags.
         I went first. The guy who checked my bags was not the nicest personnel there; with my luck, I had the guy that was the most stubborn of them all. At first, I couldn’t understand what he said in Portuguese. Often times, the Mozambican people say their sentences really fast that it almost sounds like they’re slurring. So after saying a lot of “Que dice?” and “Eu nao entendo,” he proceeded to open my bag. With my best Portuguese (or at least the ones I could remember), I tried my best to explain the items in my bag. Bag after bag, it was the same. He questioned what he saw; and I, who was scared, confused, and exhausted, responded in the best way that I could, which I didn’t even know what I was saying sometimes.

When one of the missionaries, Jesse, came in, the first thing I said to him was “Vovo,” which means grandpa (an inside joke we had the last time I was here). Although, to some people, it may not be the ideal thing to say to someone face to face after a long period of time, it was comforting to speak the little bit of Portuguese that I knew to someone that I knew really well and knew I wouldn’t feel timid around.

Since arriving here last week, my Portuguese flows so much better and with a lot of ease. I may not always speak it perfectly, but it has allowed me to make new and keep existing friendships over. Since last week, I’ve been able to reconnect with old friends, learning about what they’ve been up, hearing their hopes and dreams, and sharing some of my stories with them. And I’ve also been able to develop new friends, young and old, through day-to-day conversations.

Singing and listening to worship songs in their language is one of my favorite things here. It’s such a beautiful thing to witness, how beautifully the words intertwine with the music playing in the background. Most of the songs they sing here, I sing back home; so to hear them in a different language, especially ones that I’m familiar with, is such an incredible experience. I enjoy listening to the voices harmonize and observing how passionate people are in worship.

 I’m falling in love with the language all over again.

Monday, June 24, 2013

seven more days

I love Skype. I can connect with friends and family all over the world through a computer screen. Such a crazy concept. We had a couple of minutes yesterday to chat with the missionaries in Machava; it didn't hit me until then how much I missed them, their uncanny sense of humor, and, most of all, their joyful spirits.

The Bragas and Marcolinos are perfect examples of people living out the Gospel. Four years ago, I had the opportunity to spend my summer with them. Not only was it an amazing experience, but it also opened my eyes to the daily struggles for these missionaries. Not knowing when money comes in. Threats from the community. Robberies. Exhaustion.  I even experienced some struggles on my end, and I was there for 10 weeks! At the end of the trip, one of the main things I learned was how real spiritual warfare is.

And as we're closing in on our trip, it's becoming more real to us how real and powerful spiritual warfare can be. Lies. Deceit. Inadequacy. Fear. It hasn't been the easiest road for us. But we're faithful that God has us here for a reason, and that reason is more than enough to return back to Mozambique.

Paul talks in Acts how "we must go through many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22). Over the course of our journey, we've experienced many, many struggles in planning for this trip. Issues with logistics, not having things go as planned, and even personal attacks. Obviously the enemy doesn't like what we're doing, so he's doing his best to distract us from God's mission. By instilling deceitful thoughts, he tries to rob God's joy from us. No one said following Jesus was safe (ask Mr. Beaver).
         Yesterday, however, after talking to the missionaries for just a couple of minutes, it made me realize that entering the Kingdom of God is doable for anyone. It requires faith, prayer, and support from your community. I was reminded of my time with them four years ago ... seeing the fruits of their labor, investing into their community, hearing stories of God's faithfulness. I remember specifically at the end of their day, I would sit around with them, eat some pao, and enjoy conversations with one another. Despite of their circumstances, they were still able to find joy in what they do. Because they were doing God's work.

To see and hear that once again on Skype was enough for me to know that this where God has us.

A year ago from today, I wrote a note in my journal for Brian to read during church service. "I want to go on a mission trip." I don't remember what triggered that thought; apparently it was important enough to distract my husband from listening to the sermon. But it was the first time in a long time we've felt the urge to go somewhere and serve others. And now a year later, here we are continuing to follow God in every step of the way. Yes there are bumps, battles, and bruises. But there are joys as well. Following Jesus comes with a price. And He's worth it.

Seven more days.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

just an envelope

I had my first meltdown prior to my Mozambique trip.

I'm kinda embarrassed about it, especially sharing it on my blog. But I think it's important to share because it's not often I share this part of who I am, especially when it comes to preparing for my trip.

A month ago, I was driving towards Newport Beach with my husband. The thought of returning to our second home hadn't hit me yet. Yes, I was excited and happy to be returning, but the thought of physically being in Mozambique again hadn't hit me. And as I shared my thought to my husband, I said, "Usually I start crying right now. Either with too much emotion or stress. I usually cry around this time."


It's almost 4 years since I've been to that beautiful place. Though it's been a while since I've gone on an overseas mission trip, some things don't change. Hours of preparation. Constant emails with the team and contacts overseas. Writing down lists and lists of needs. Losing sleep.

Yep. I knew that my meltdown was coming around the corner.

When it came, I felt like an idiot. We just came home driving from the IE celebrating Father's Day with our families. Exhausted, we still knew we had to do things for our trip. We didn't have the right size envelopes for our thank-you cards, so I volunteered to drive to Target to get it done that night. On my way there, I forgot to bring a card to use as an example; I called my husband, realizing that his phone might be dead. Every time I called him, it went straight to voice mail; my heart started beating fast. "I need to know the size so I can find the right envelope," I kept yelling in my car. And then there were the usual curse words that I threw in there, and blah blah.
      Finally at Target, still waiting for my husband to call me back, I looked through all the aisles that carried envelopes. I started piling them in my arms, like a crazy person. (Seriously, I was totally judged by the Target moms.) When my husband finally called me back, a sense of relief took over. Knowing the dimensions, I began to sift through my options until I realized none of these envelopes would suffice. Driving home disappointed (and leaving Target without buying anything), I felt like a complete failure. When I came home, I told my husband the tragic news; in turn he told me the info we wanted to write couldn't fit on the back of the photo. My heart started beating fast. "We need to get it done tonight," I kept telling myself. A sense of panic struck over. As my husband was trying to figure things out, thoughts were slowly poisoning my mind. Fear had crept in.

Still need to order crafts. Need to email Lynne for set safari times. Need to figure out shopping and packing the weekend before. Visas. Not enough with our budget. Still need to pay off stuff. You're not a good leader. Should've done it earlier. Your team is going to question you. 

"Are you OK?" he asked. Although the answer was, "I'm fine," it didn't hide the tears that were forming in my eyes. One look at my husband, and then the sob monster came out.

Why bother sharing this embarrassing story? Because these sort of things happen prior to preparing for any mission trip. As Christians, I feel we tend to fantasize the idea of missions and visualize how we want our trips to look like. Truth is: Things don't go your way. Never. You can be as prepared as you can be, but the realization of any mission trip is nothing can prepare you for the unexpected. Even the smallest, not-so-important details can set you off if it not done on your terms. Who knew that an envelop scavenger hunt would later result in sobbing helpless child?

If there's anything I'm continuing to learn throughout this entire 10-month process, it's this: God is in control. No matter what, no matter how much I try to control the little details, He is in control of everything. And until I release everything from my grasp and give it to Him, I'm stuck in a spiral of my own mess.

For the past couple of weeks of preparation, I compartmentalized a lot of my emotions about the trip. Stress. Fear. Anxiety. Nervousness. Uncertainty. All that and more was slowly building up to the point where I couldn't handle it. When I learned to let go these emotions, I felt a sense of peace. I felt like I could breathe again.

Who knew that a silly envelope would bring me back to reality...

Thursday, June 6, 2013

take me somewhere that this world can't provide

This song captures how I've been feeling lately. And I can't stop listening to it :)

[The Hummingbird Conductor Pt. 2]

Well I feel myself getting older and older
Lord, can you please make it stop?
I consume myself with the tasks of my labor
But how in the world could I ever have won?

Well I was born slaving to this way of thinking
But now I wanna be free
Take me somewhere that this world can't provide and
Change me from grain into wheat

This seems like a repeating bird
How long will it take me to learn
All the fabric of nature revers
A prayer can change all we've heard
Yeah it's true

And I wanna see your power at work
I wanna know how it feels
But every time I look in the mirror in my eyes
I see fear is my closest friend

But it doesn't end

Well sometimes I think I see God in a stranger
Down by the stream skipping rocks
Fifteen years is a long time to lay in the courtyard
Why don't you stand up and walk

And I'm tired of accepting the facts
Has changed all of that
Yeah it's true

And you make me feel like my heart is on fire
Rising up higher and higher
Help me forget what I learned of religion, now
make me again like a child

Lift your head from where you rest
There's no need to be in bed
Lift your head from where you rest
You're no longer bound to this
Lift your head and feel the peace
You are healed from broken means
Lift your head and feel the peace
You are healed from your disease

Dressed in righteousness alone
He heals the sick, He is our home
Dressed in righteousness alone
You heal the sick, You are my home

Monday, June 3, 2013

a snippet: lil' peanut baby shower

one day tripper

A few days before Memorial Day weekend, we decided to be spontaneous (well, our version of spontaneous) for the upcoming weekend. We decided to drive out to San Diego and spend a whole day at Coronado and Old Town San Diego.

It was the perfect day to be down there. Perfect weather. Not super busy. Good grub.

 Love him.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

and the countdown begins

I purposely haven't counted down the days to Mozambique for a variety of reasons. Days go by longer. July seemed far away. Drive myself crazy.

That is ... until today.

32 days

...until I hug my Mozambican family ... each and every one of them.
...until I speak one of my favorite languages.
...until I walk barefoot on the sand.
...until I worship and dance with my brothers and sisters.
...until I pray for the people in the community.
...until I eat some (bomb) rice and beans.
...until I see Mozambican sunsets.
...until I return to a place I truly love with all my heart.

Oh boy. Here come the ugly the tears.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

the church in antioch

If there’s anything that I’ve learned throughout this Acts series, it’s this: I haven’t lived for the moment. Each week, I learn a new lesson, a new understanding in my faith, and I always leave service wanting to learn more of God. Needless to say, there have been times where I felt the Holy Spirit really working in me during the response time, and I find myself leaving wanting so much more.
Leaving Sunday’s service, I felt once again God tugging at my heart.
As Josh mentioned during the service, there are three reasons why we, Christianity, exists.
The people, the disciples in Acts believed they were living the life of Jesus.
Every minute, every breath, was spent living out the Gospel. Ever want to look at how you can truly live out the Gospel? These guys had it right. They shared everything. They prayed together. They lived each moment together worshipping their hearts out. That’s where we need to be today. Not just raising our hands, tithing only what we want to give away, or putting a “church face” every single time we set our feet in the church. We need to live as the church; we must shift our mentality to think that way.
The disciples not only believed what Jesus taught them, but they were living it out in their community.
The presence and power of the Holy Spirit was living in them and enabling them to do God’s work. Through His presence, they were filled with a greater purpose; and through His power, they were able to bring thousands and upon thousands of commoners to Jesus — it spread like wild fire, and the world would never be same since.
There was unity in the body of the Christ.
The church in Jerusalem and the church in Antioch are a perfect example; though 300 miles apart, both of the churches were unified in the body of Christ (Acts 11: 19-30). How often do we think that our church, the way we practice our faith, is on a higher level than other religious practice within Christianity? As Josh bluntly stated, “We exist for the church; the church doesn’t exist for us.” Instead of separating ourselves from our brothers and sisters in Christ, let’s unite and be a family.
We have the same Father; therefore, we have the same purpose. So why are we wasting our time comparing our rituals, the way we worship, or even how we dress compared to the rest of the churches in the world. If our focus is on how we need everyone else to be like us in the church, than what Jesus did, why he came down in the first place, defeats the purpose. What we need to do is follow what the disciples did in Acts…because they got it right. If the Jesus we read in our books is the same Jesus now, why are we struggling to find our answers?
In the beginning of Acts, Jesus ascends into heaven, leaving the rest of the world’s fate in the disciples hands. What most people thought impossible, Jesus made it possible through them — from 120 to 3,000. And what we think is impossible is doable through the grace of God and presence and power of the Holy Spirit. So let’s continue this movement as the body of Christ.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

two months away

Brian & I have the opportunity to go on a journey with this amazing group of people. Expectations were shattered, obstacles were overcome, and we grew together. We're an interesting bunch. Different personalities, different walks of life, just different. And I like that. 

Prior to our first official meeting back in January, I was anxious. I was so nervous meeting our team. Feeling overwhelmed by my emotions, I realized two things. One, being nervous was a good thing. It showed that I really cared about our team and I wanted to make a good impression. And two, God is going to lead.

Being to Mozambique three times, I knew what we were going to do as a team for the most part. Obviously there's lots (and lots) of flexibility when you're on the mission field; nothing can prepare you for the unexpected. In fact, it's during those times I find myself relying on God more than anything. So, I wasn't really nervous about that. But it is my first time leading an overseas mission team. And leading a group with my husband. I've stepped into leadership roles in the past. And I've also co-lead teams and groups. 

But leading with my husband? 

We're leaders in similar ways, but also different in other ways. We're laid back; we try not to dominate conversations and allow the team think of ideas. He likes to prep what we're going to say before our meetings; I like to write out frivolous two-page notes of what we're going to go over. He has more of a natural flow with his thoughts; I have index cards & post its (for days). I'm good at remembering details; he has me to remember details. It's been a process learning how to lead a team together, but we make it work. And when things didn't go our way, we learned to shake it off and to keep going. 

Learning to let go of my expectations was hard. Really hard. I wanted to make this trip, this journey about God, but often found myself stuck in my fantasy of how things should run, what is to be expected from everyone, and how a leader should be. It was a constant battle, and often times felt spiritually attacked; but I knew God placed us in this position for a reason. Each time we met and/or hung out as a team, it became clearer that He chose each of us for this team specifically. So I learned to let go, learned to take a deep breath every now & then, and learned to just sit in the moment and be present with my team. 

When we found out we were leading back in October, July seemed like an eternity. But now as we have our final meeting today, these two months are going to go by quick. As I type this, my heart is overflowing with so much happiness and joy. I hardly ever cry; False: I'm a crybaby, but only in the confines of my home (and baptisms). When I look at pictures from the past and present, talk about Mozambique memories with friends, or, even worse, dream about sipping some hot cha and eating fresh pao with the crianças in the refettorio, tears emerge and I have to hold myself together before I become the sob monster.

I can't wait to go back home to Mozambique. 

Of course, Brian & I made similar faces.
Moçambique, we're coming for you!