Category Archives: Missions

Shine a Light on Slavery Day – April 9

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Hold Loosely

This past weekend, I felt the need to get rid of some things. I went through my closets and donated four boxes of clothes to Goodwill. There were clothes in the depths of my closet that I haven’t even worn this decade. Since returning from the recent mission trip, it seems necessary to simplify my life. And I’m not totally sure why … Ireland isn’t exactly a third-world country where I saw people in utter poverty. It’s not like I went to Africa like Annie or to Nicaragua like Ally (both are out of the country right now on mission trips—go check out their blogs and then come back here!) However, taking a week to totally focus on serving God in a foreign country—without television or cell phones or internet (except to post a few quick blog entries)—shifted my priorities. I feel the need to have less stuff and less clutter in my life.

I am reminded of a verse that I’ve always pondered. In Luke 14:33, Jesus says, “So you cannot become my disciple without giving up everything you own.” I have always wondered how literally we should take this verse. I don’t believe Jesus is asking me to go out and give away everything I own and live on the street in a box. Instead, I believe that he is asking us to hold loosely. So often, we cling tightly to possessions and surround ourselves with stuff because we believe it makes our lives more meaningful or entertaining. “Giving up everything we own” means giving up our hold on things—acknowledging that none of it is ours and remembering that our Father is the one who gives and takes away.

It is so easy for me to get caught up in the latest fashion trends and fill my closet with clothes. Or to feel envious of someone’s beautiful home and fill up my house with decorations. It is easy to lose perspective when I’m focused on myself. I think our downward-trending economy is teaching all of us that we can live without a lot of things that we previously considered necessities. More than ever, I am learning to cling tightly to my Jesus instead of my possessions.

What do you think? I would love to hear your thoughts on this verse and the concept of holding loosely.

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A Labor of Love

It is amazing to see God change so many lives in one short week. I didn’t have a lot of expectations going into the Ireland mission trip but even my highest expectations were exceeded by God’s plan for our time in Dublin. I am now back in the States and still processing everything that happened in Ireland. Although I posted a few quick blog entries during the trip, I didn’t have the time to share deeply with you.

On Monday morning, we met Doug. He is a 46-year old recovering heroin addict who is HIV-positive. Doug is struggling to break his addiction to heroin. After many years of prayer and counseling by Christian family members, he recently professed faith in Jesus Christ. We also met Doug’s brother, Jonathan, who lives with him in the apartment and who is also addicted to heroin. Jonathan is not a Christian. Our task was to clean and renovate the apartment (i.e. flat)—to transform it into a place that Doug is proud to claim as his own.

As I walked into the flat on Monday, I was struck by many things: the mess, the smells, the darkness, the amount of work to be accomplished. However, I was also struck by Doug’s openness and honesty with us. He did not hide his struggles from us. And although he did not understand it, he was so grateful for our willingness to help him. His fragility overwhelmed me. Looking back, I see God’s hand gently guiding us into Doug’s life. Our team jumped right into the project with energy and determination. We surrounded Doug with love and laughter.

By our second day at the flat, we felt more comfortable there. In addition to the progress made on the renovation, God had given us an overwhelming compassion for Doug and Jonathan. In particular, my heart was breaking for Doug. I asked God to give me a specific way to connect with him.

I had never mentioned to Doug that I’m an aspiring writer. However, Doug approached me that day and wanted to share his journals with me. I stopped cleaning and sat down with him. The more I encouraged him (because his writing really was phenomenal—from the heart and so real), I watched him become more animated and alive. I realized that God was giving me a connection with Doug. I mentioned to him that I am attempting to write a book. His face lit up and he pulled me over to his computer. He had started writing a book and asked me to read the first few pages and give him feedback. As I read the words aloud with Doug expectantly crouched by my side, my eyes filled with tears. The story he wrote was amazing; I told him that God had given him a gift. I was able to encourage him to continue telling his story through the written word. Later that day, the initial connection we made led to another conversation. I don’t remember the exact words, but I was able to share with him that his sins are no worse or bigger than my sins. We are all sinners and we all need Jesus. However, God loves us unconditionally. He seemed skeptical, but I trust that God is nurturing the truth in his heart.

Wednesday was our final day at Doug’s flat. We brought light and laughter to Doug’s apartment; we tried to show Doug through our words and actions that God loves him unconditionally. Then on Wednesday morning, Doug gave us an unexpected gift. He led us in worship. As we gathered in a circle to pray just like every morning at the apartment, Doug said that he wanted to play us a song. He went over to his computer and played Hillsong’s worship song, Power of Your Love. We stood in a circle and worshipped God together—with Doug leading us. Whenever I hear these lyrics in the future, I will immediately be back in that apartment at that moment:

Hold me close
Let your love surround me
Bring me near
Draw me to Your side

And as I wait
I’ll rise up like the eagle
And I will soar with You
Your Spirit leads me on
In the power of Your love

(Lyrics by: Darlene Zschech)

During our three days at the flat, the transformation was astounding. Twelve people performing a labor of love changed the apartment into a new place. It took a lot of hard work: hauling loads to the dumpster, sanding down and refinishing furniture, scrubbing tile, washing baseboards, moving furniture, removing carpet, replacing carpet, painting, and so on.

What a beautiful picture of how God works in our hearts. He knocks on the door of our “apartment”. We let him in to see all of the messy parts—to shine light on the dark corners, to expose the things that we have kept hidden so well from everyone. He performs a labor of love—never judging—just cleaning and sanctifying all the parts of which we are so ashamed. He doesn’t ask for anything in return; it is a gift. And that place is now changed forever—by the power of his love.

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Friday Flair~Ireland: The Week in Pictures

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It’s almost 11:30pm on Friday night here in Dublin, but it’s still Friday! I wanted to post some pictures from the week. I’m processing all of the amazing things that have happened this week; God is so good. He has definitely worked in many obvious ways during this trip to Ireland.

Here are some pictures that may tell their own story:

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I will write much more about our experiences next week. Hopefully, these pictures will give you a taste of the week here in Ireland until I can share more.

Not to us, O Lord, not to us
But to your name goes all the glory
For your unfailing love and faithfulness.
Psalm 115:1

Happy Friday!

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