Monday, February 25, 2013

the dominoes, the journey, the countdown

"Have you ever thought that if one thing hadn't happened, a whole set of things never would have either?  Like dominoes in time, a single event kicked off an unstoppable series of changes that gained momentum and spun out of control, and nothing was ever the same again.  Don't ever doubt that a mere second can change your life forever." 

I've thought about this many times, actually, and it's so true.  It's crazy to trace life events backwards -- events that maybe seemed insignificant at the time, but one thing led to another and as a result, your life is totally different than it might have been if that first little thing had never happened.  

And God is orchestrating all of it.  Every encounter, decision, roadblock, conversation, trial, surprise, and turn-of-events, He is orchestrating for our good and His glory....making everything beautiful in its time.  

I can't wait to see what beautiful things He is planning down this path He's leading me on!  It's less than 50 days until I set out on the actual trip to Alaska, but the journey has already begun.  And this is one of those things that I can look back on the past few years and see the "dominoes in time" that have led to this moment. 

He's making everything beautiful in HIS time and I'm crazy excited. 

Friday, February 8, 2013

The Alaska Story

Hey friends!  So, I shared on Facebook yesterday that I'm going to serve at Echo Ranch Bible Camp in Juneau, Alaska this year.  Some people have asked how I found out about this opportunity, and other specifics.... so I thought I'd share a testimony of how this came to be.  It's really a God thing.  Here we go.

It really started over a year ago, in December 2011, at the Christian Camp and Conference Association's national convention.  I knew then that I wouldn't be working at Camp Ba Yo Ca much longer, so while at this conference, I was on the lookout for new job opportunities.  The previous year at the conference, I had met this guy named Nick who worked at Echo Ranch (you meet lots of cool people at these events!), so at the 2011 conference, we met up again, and he brought up the suggestion that I should come work at Echo Ranch that summer (2012).  It sounded like a cool opportunity, and I strongly considered going.  We talked details on the phone a few times after the conference ended.  But in the end, I decided not to go.  It wasn't "the right thing at the right time."  I didn't have peace about it and neither did my parents.

As it turned out, that was the right choice.  I spent summer 2012 serving at VBS and going on mission trips to Kenya and Romania.... and knew I was *exactly* where I was supposed to be!  It was an amazing summer of growth and ministry.
But I was frustrated, because by the end of the summer, God still hadn't revealed any direction about my next job or long-term ministry position.  I'd been diligently (sometimes desperately!) searching and applying for ministry jobs for months!  That pattern continued after the summer, but I kept running into closed doors.  And at this point, I hadn't really thought about Echo Ranch Bible Camp in months.

On September 15, 2012, I attended a Beth Moore conference, where she spoke about asking God for the desires of your heart and living a bold life for Him.  During one of the breaks that day, I wrote down a prayer in my notebook-- "God, I don't want to live a small, safe life. I want to live an abundant, audacious life for You. A faithful and faith-filled life - adventurous and bold and joyful.  Oh Lord, how I want You to call me to something huge, something frightening, something beautiful. What will You call me to?"  Another significant moment of that day, looking back on it, was a line from Beth Moore's prayer for the conference attendees.  She prayed for me and the other ladies there, "Awaken anything that has died an unnecessary death in her."

Fast forward, continuing to search for a job, etc.... in October, Nick happened to be in town, and we got together to catch up.  The subject of me working at Echo Ranch came up again.  No pressure, just a suggestion.  So I began to think and pray about that again.  As I prayed about it over the next couple of months, God began to show me that this was where He was leading!  Answered prayers, conversations with people, etc, confirmed this for me.

And it was confirmed, too, by the enemy showing me he did NOT want me to go! The devil began to throw all sorts of fears and accusations at me to convince me I couldn't/shouldn't go serve in Alaska.  He brought up past [false] feelings of failure and inadequacy to make me question, not only my ability to serve at ERBC, but my qualification to serve in camp ministry at all.  This wasn't a "holy hesitation" from God; this was straight-up fear and doubt from the enemy!  There's a difference!

On the day I was ready to submit the application -- a Sunday afternoon in mid-December -- I knew it was what God wanted, but was afraid to hit the "send" button.  I went and sat in my bedroom floor and prayed.  I have this thing saved on my iPod from that same Beth Moore conference; it's a compilation of several pages of Scripture verses about fear and courage.  I sat there and read through every one of those verses and prayed through them, until God gave me peace.  With that peace, He brought to mind Isaiah 30:21, "This is the way; walk in it."  That was my answer.

And that brings us to yesterday, when I got the "congratulations on being approved to serve at Echo Ranch" email.  I am so excited to see what this season will hold, and how God will allow me to serve the campers and staff of ERBC!  Thank you all again for your support.  Please pray for me as I start fundraising (all ERBC staff are self-supported missionaries) and prepare physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually for this summer of service in Alaska.  God is really, really good, and I know He has good things in store :-)

Monday, February 4, 2013

the unadoptable have names.

This afternoon, I went shopping to buy gifts for our sponsor girls in Kenya.  It was a blast... I got them some clothes, hair things, nail polish, and a game for the girls' dorm (orphanage)... it's so much fun choosing things for them.  And now I just wish I could be the one to go and deliver the gifts!  I miss them, and all the kids, so much.

Orphans have been heavy on my heart for the last couple of days.  Orphans and foster kids -- especially the "unadoptable."

Yesterday I was talking with a couple of friends, one from Russia and one who does extensive mission work in Kenya, and we had a lengthy discussion about adoption.  Adoption is extremely difficult and almost impossible in both of those countries, as it is in others, too.  You might know that Russia has recently closed off American adoptions.  Guatemala did the same thing a few years ago.  And Kenya's laws are so limiting that they make most Kenyan children unadoptable.  All of these laws and rulings are trying to protect the children from "adoptions-gone-bad."  I get that.  But in the process, they've sentenced thousands and thousands of children to life in an orphanage, in poverty, and with a bleak future, if they live that long.  Just being honest.

You've probably heard the statistic that if every Christian family adopted a child, there would be no more orphans left in the world.  That's an amazing thought.  But one of the ladies I was talking with yesterday brought up this point -- that's a great statistic, but even if all the Christian families were willing, a huge percentage of those children can't be adopted because of their country's laws.  They are in the hands of their government, stuck right where they are.

That breaks my heart.  It really does.

I think it hurts me more deeply because I can put faces and names to this tragedy.  I know these children, these precious, unadoptable ones.  I have hugged them, kissed them, played games with them, painted their nails, taught them songs, wiped their tears, heard their stories.  For some of them, I'd be the first in line to welcome them into my home and call them my own...if it were only possible.  But it's not.

And even here in the United States, while we don't necessarily have the same laws, too many children are deemed "unadoptable," because of age, health needs, behavior, or a combination of those.  Seriously, who gets to decide that these children don't deserve a loving family just as much as a younger, healthier child?!

It makes me want to cry.
And I ask God, what can I do?  But so far, there's no answer.

Hosea 14:3 says, "In You the orphan finds mercy."  And Psalm 68:5 says God is a "Father to the fatherless."  I take comfort in knowing that He sees and loves every single one of those children, and has plans for each one.
But we also have to remember that He says "Pure and undefiled religion [is] to look after orphans and widows in their distress..."  (James 1:27)  So if you can foster, foster.  If you can adopt, adopt.  If you can volunteer in an orphanage, volunteer.  If you can raise awareness, raise it.  Do what you can.  It's God's calling.  It's our responsibility.