I can't believe it. We are finished. We have been on a little island off the coast of Thailand called Koh Samet "debriefing." Basically we are processing everything that we have seen, learned, and done. I cannot believe everything God has taught me... it's crazy. We've been filling out worksheets that have helped us process what God has done through us and although it's a little annoying, it's good. Since I will be jumping right into school and a new city as soon as I arrive home I'm really trying to think this all through now. I just wanted to share a litte of what I wrote on one of the exercises. I think this sums up everything I've learned and the ways I've changed over the past 6 months.
Thursday, July 30, 2009
Saturday, July 25, 2009
Today I rode elephants in Thailand. Maybe a little overrated, but totally worth all the pictures. I was also able to hang out with daddy tiger and baby tiger...war eagle. Good day. I've always wanted to ride elephants in Thailand. I mean you can't come all the way here and not...you know?
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
The past few days have been good. We are now staying in a "guest house" (i.e. hostel) complete with A/C (something we haven't had at all on outreach), a toilet that flushes, and shower. We're all sleeping good and I can't begin to describe how nice it is to sleep with covers ALL night! We only have 5 more days of ministry which is absolutely crazy. The team is tired and excited about Israel BUT, God is not finished here. Our ministry has been lower key than most countries, but very good. Not a day goes by where I don't think about reunions with friends, wicklow, and america. But with that comes nervousness. I'm a scared about returning. I'm scared about complacency, routine, relating, and not remembering all that I have seen and He has done over the past 5 months. How do I begin to process it all when school starts immediately after I return?
The past couple days and the remainder of our time here I am really practicing discipline, as I know this will be hard at home. And although this is good its reminding me of routine and being in routine grosses me out (to be honest). Routines so easily begins feeling monotonous and boring. What I thrive off of is a real, intimate, and adventurous relationship with God. A relationship that is completely dependent on God for everything. I want to rely on God and it's hard when everything is at your fingertips and your main focus is school, not ministry. I know that discipline is such a good thing but I am asking God to teach me what it looks like to be disciplined, adventurous, and dependent at the same time.
I am also being reminded that God is consistent. He is the same in every nation. And He yearns (more than me) for this deep, intimate relationship to continue. I love the verse in Psalm 139 that says, "Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?" He is always there. Always. Nothing can separate me from His loving presence. My security rests in Him alone and He is totally trustworthy. This is a glorious adventure in which He is always doing something new.
Pray for this last week. Pray for focus. Pray for dependency. Pray for Pattaya. And pray that God would continue revealing Himself.
Saturday, July 18, 2009
We are primarily working with the Tamar Center which is a place that gives prostitutes an opportunity to leave the bar scene. It gives Thai girls a positive opportunity to learn English and a trade skill to make money to support their families. They do things like card making, baking, they have a coffee/sandwhich shop and a hair salon next door, and they also do some sewing. It's also a really cool way to get to build relationships and through that share Jesus with them. They have a really good thing going… So we get to help teach the English classes and then in the evenings we head into the city, Walking Street, to go to bars and meet girls to invite them to come to the Tamar Center.
We are also working a little with a ministry called Southern Cross. This is a very cool organization that targets Chinese Tourists. Many tourists from China come to Thailand so this organization uses it as an opportunity to hand out Chinese bibles and a Jesus Film. Obviously this is really cool because bibles/Christianity are forbidden in China. 170,000 bibles were given out last year. We helped package these "give-a-ways" and then went down to the pier to hand them out. We've also come across many people and teams from the states (Virginia) working with this ministry. It's been nice to hear some "southern" sounding folks around.
It's still hard walking down the “red light district”...very surreal. Lined with bars, clubs, you name it, it is one of the saddest sights I have ever seen. I am not a very "spiritually sensitive" person (so to speak) but the closer I get (physically) to this district I can just feel darkness and grief fill my heart. Crazy. Still praying not to be overcome by evil, clinging to good (Romans 12:21).
Preparing and thinking a lot about home. SO excited, but so nervous. It's going to be a fight. For now I'm pressing into what I know will be hard. Got my class schedule today....ah. Saw Harry Potter last night, so so so good. Ok, good night.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Last night we went to "Walking Street" which is one of the main strips in Pattaya. I was with one local girl (from the Tamar Center) and our goal was to invite girls to English classes, hang out, and talk with hoping to reveal Jesus to them. I don't know what to say. This was the hardest hour of my life. As soon as we got out of the taxi we were immediately bombarded with flyers (porn) and being invited to an array of sexual shows. Girls/prostitutes everywhere. Sleezy men everywhere. I knew this went on but I have never in my life experienced anything remotely close to what I saw. We made our way to one bar to sit and get a drink (coke of course). In this one bar there had to be over 100 prostitutes. Precious, beautiful girls. I began playing Connect4 (I know, wierd?) with one of the girls while my translater talked. I was trying to take in my surroundings. There were girls that couldn't be more than 15 years old all the way up to 50. Since it was early the bars were not busy at this time. The girls were doing their makeup, being completely normal until a guy would walk by. The whole bar would errupt with the girls calling men into the bar. Money, its all for money. For survival. They're not sluts. They believe it is the only way to provide for their family. I saw how beautiful each individual was. How this life isn't their desire. I saw innocent individuals whose eyes were filled with pain and hunger for something more. And don't even get me started on the men.
So, as I was sitting there I found myself struggling to hold back tears. I have NEVER in my life felt such heaviness and brokeness. My eyes were stinging, filled with tears for these girls and this lifestyle. Darkness. A feeling so overwhelming. A feeling I've never felt before. I couldn't shake it, and I still can't. We left and the tears starting pouring. They continued most of the night. I know this is just a taste of God's heart.
My struggle while being here is going to be focusing on the light. How do I see light here? All I saw yesterday was darkness. I'm trying to see God moving. What do I do with this feeling I have? I am reminded that I am the light. But, is my light big enough? I don't know. I don't know how God will use me here. But, I want to be used. I want to be the light in this city. I cannot dwell on the darkness. I am clinging to Jesus with everything in me. Pray for this city. Pray that I can see the light outweighing the dark.
Monday, July 13, 2009
Sunday, July 12, 2009
Friday, July 10, 2009
We are leaving Cambodia on Monday and heading to Thailand. It's sad to leave Kampong Thom because we have built many relationships and met many people that I love. But, who knows? Maybe I'll be back. The past several days have been good. We have continued on with our schedule of evangelism in villages and teaching. I started the week feeling very tired and weak and for the first time 2 Corinthians 12:8-10 (My power is made perfect in your weakness) has become a true reality for me. I now know the truth of this verse. In the midst of being physically tired, I have never felt spiritually stronger. I was given a fresh burst of "spiritual" strength and excitement to make it through one more week here. I have been clinging to Jesus, knowing that He is working through me. I freaking love Jesus. Seriously.
I've also been realizing how fast these 6 months are slipping through my fingers. I am not able to process all of the places, people, and things I've learned fast enough. Starting with 3 months of "lecture" phase in New Zealand... basically those 3 months were what most people learn in church over the course of 3 years. Crazy. It's just hard to process it all and I want to get everything I can out of this time. Still thinking a lot about what it's going to look like when I get home. I know I am going to have to FIGHT for what I've come to know and love. In these final weeks I am going to be fighting and pressing in to the things I know I will struggle with when I get home. I am praying that God will seal all of this. Emrie and I have grown to be such good friends (FFL). She was planning on continuing traveling but has decided to go home right after graduation. I am SO thankful for this precious friend. Although we will not be in the same state, she will only be a phone call away and I know our friendship will continue growing when we are home. I will have her to process this all with. Praise the Lord. I am also reminded of how amazing and unique my community at home is. I am so thankful and blessed to have the friends I have at home.
My birthday was so good. Thank you to everyone who sent emails or facebook messages. It is so good to hear from you even though we are on complete opposite sides of the world. My team and the Cambodians made me feel so special. Here are a few things that made this day special:
-23 balloons that fell during our meeting (each having reasons they loved me).
-My precious class singing Happy Birthday to me in their accents.
-Planting rice and sharing the gospel.
-Telling my favorite Bible story (Daniel and the Lion's Den)
-Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and junk food with Emrie.
-Asian cake, homemade french fries, and coke.
-Homemade cards and presents.
It was definitely a birthday I will always remember. Thanks to everyone who made it so special.
This morning I woke up completely exhausted but my very first thought was being dependent on God. I was overwhelmed that this literally was the first thought in my head. I must be completely dependent on Him, just as Jesus was completely dependent on His Father (John 5:19). God is here and I am depending on Him. He gives me words in my weakness. I feel His presence in me. I am so thankful for that.
Sunday, July 5, 2009
I am going to attempt to update you on everything that has been going on here. It has been WONDERFUL. We are being used for His glory and it is very cool to feel purposeful in fulfilling His plan. I have never in my life felt more grounded in who I am in Christ. Here is a little of what my life looks like right now...
Everyday we wake up early for breakfast. We usually have a team meeting to pray for the day. Since I am in charge of food during our outreach, every few days I will go to the market with Rose. This is always an experience. WARNING: Never go to the market with a sensitive stomach. At the market you will find pig heads, feet, legs, cow intestines (and every part possible), chickens (dead and alive), hanging from ropes. Always covered with flies. The smells are unreal. We buy fruits, rice, beans, and this meat that I described from different vendors. FUN.
In the mornings we either head to different villages for a prayer walk or to visit church members. We are also always given a bit of time to prepare for our classes we teach every afternoon. In the afternoons we go into villages and straight up present the gospel to people. A couple of us will go with a translator to wherever Jesus leads us. This usually entails telling people who literally have never heard about Jesus the whole story of how and why He died on the cross for us. This sounds like it would be easy. But, it is difficult trying to simplify the gospel. There is SO MUCH to tell them about Jesus and His character and there is never enough time. This is real though. I love it. No sugar coating, this is it. This is what being a disciple is, stripped down to the basics, in the middle of villages, sharing good news to people. WOW.
After evangelism we break into our pairs and head to our schools to teach Bible and English. Mandie and I cram on the back of a motor bike for a 30 minute ride to Samaroang Village. I never thought I would enjoy teaching, but I love it. I actually enjoy having my own children, classroom, and chalkboard. We are loving our children and we work very good together. It is such a cool opportunity to educate while at the same time sharing Jesus with them. We come home just in time for dinner, usually some card games (NERTS!), and a time of worship and sharing with the team. So, that's a little of what our daily schedule looks like here. Life in Cambodia is good. Really good.
God is teaching me so much. The other day, I was preparing to give the Bible lesson to my class. As I was re-reading and breaking down the story of Moses and the burning bush, God definitely spoke to me through this story I've read and heard since I was a child. I always love being reminded of how God used such an ordinary man (Moses) to fulfill a huge purpose of setting His people free. In Exodus 4, Moses tells the Lord that he is not eloquent, and that his speech is not good. But God still says, "NOW GO; I WILL HELP YOU SPEAK AND WILL TEACH YOU WHAT TO SAY." But, Moses still doesn't go, and begs God to send someone else to do it. The Lord was angry with Moses but He doesn't leave Moses standing in the dark, He doesn't give up on Him. God sends Moses' brother and basically they tag team it. I love this because I always feel lacking in the communication department. I never feel like I have the right words. I want to learn to believe and trust that when I am given a task that seems impossible He will fill my mouth with words. But, it is also cool to know that when I have little faith and fail to trust, He will never leave me hanging. He is a good God. I love that.
Every individual we talk to asks us to pray for rain. This is supposed to be their rainy season but it is very dry. They NEED the rain for rice and crops. The need it to survive. What they don't realize is that God is here is Cambodia. His Spirit is moving. The other night we were worshiping on the porch (the clouds here are unbelievable and every night the skies are usually filled with electrical storms). His power was being revealed to us through nature. The cool breeze reminded me of the sweet presence of my Maker and I cannot describe how refreshing it was. We were asking God to rain down, physically and spiritually over this land. It began raining! He definitely made His presence known. I pray that the veils will be removed from their faces. I pray for a revival in Cambodia.
During worship, as I was looking onto the land of Cambodia, I was also reminded of how tiny I am and how HUGE the universe is. BUT that even though we are SO TINY and SO WEAK, He still wants to use us in HUGE ways. He wants US to fulfill His HUGE plan. We are His vessels. When we go to villages to evangelize there is such a sense of urgency. I want these people to hear the gospel before life is gone. They need God to make himself known to them and the way He does this may be through us. My faith is building daily because of constantly speaking out and telling people about the Jesus I have come to know and love.
I watched the movie Into The Wild the other day. I LOVED it. I could probably post 10 more blogs on the movie and my thoughts that came with it. But, I won't. If you haven't seen it, watch it.
We had a little 4th of July celebration. I bought fireworks in the market that resembled and sounded more like missiles. The police did show up which made it feel like a true American holiday. God Bless America. I love my country.
One more week in Kampong Thom, then w're heading to our 4th and final outreach destination....Thailand!