Sunday, December 9, 2012

{{the Word became flesh}}

Already a week into Advent, and I am just now posting this year's daily Scriptures.  {I put up my tree late this year, too--such is the life of a busy student/career girl!}  Anyway, the readings are embedded below if you want to follow along!

We've been doing a study on Advent for our Sunday morning youth small groups at Walnut Hill, and this morning we talked about the Incarnation and what it means for us that "the Word became flesh..." (John 1:14). 

As I was developing the material the past couple of weeks, there were several practical applications that struck me: 1.) Jesus is fully God, so he deserves our worship, 2.) Jesus inhabited a body, so God cares what we do with our bodies, 3.) Jesus "moved into the neighborhood," (as Eugene Peterson has paraphrased John 1:14 in the Message), so it matters how we inhabit the places we live.  Wow--it was a lot to cover in one morning!

But before we launched the small groups, I shared with students for a few minutes about why Jesus had to come at all.  I tried to connect for them the two dimensions of God's Word--written (the Bible) and living/Incarnate (Jesus!).  God's written Word is manifest in the Person of Jesus Christ who comes to fulfill the Law and Prophets (Matthew 5:17) and to accomplish what the law could not do (Romans 8:3).

Fittingly, one of tonight's Advent Scriptures is Psalm 115.  Last year, I blogged about a song called "One Winter's Night," that has truly become my favorite-of-all-time Christmas carol.  There is a line in the bridge that confused me a bit when I first discovered the tune:

the gods we trusted and became
will find no solace here

The gods we trusted and became?  This was an odd concept to me.  But that same week, I read Psalm 115 and it all made sense:
But their idols are silver and gold,
made by the hands of men.
They have mouths but cannot speak,
eyes, but they cannot see...
Those who make them will be like them,
and so will all who trust in them.
(vv. 4-5, 8)
The point is, we become what we worship.  Since last Christmas, I've noticed that this theme of becoming like our idols is repeated often in Scripture, especially in the Psalms and in Isaiah.  And in my Old Testament class at Gordon-Conwell this fall, Dr. Carol Kaminski has lectured on this concept a good deal. 

At the first of our three class meetings of the semester, Dr. Kaminski said, "We have to learn to listen to the voice of God in our lives, otherwise we treat Him like some dumb idol." 

For this YHWH God has always been a speaking God.  His Word went forth as He created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1-2). And when gave Moses the Law at Mount Sinai.  And through the prophets when the people were so steeped in idolatry that they would not listen and repent.  

And finally, when He could stand it no longer, God spoke through the Word Incarnate, Jesus, "the image of the invisible God" (Colossians 1:15).   
{The Word became flesh!}

May you hear Him speak this Christmas.

Now that is God shouting. You can't mistake it. Christ is God, and you see every attribute of God manifest in him. His judgment, his justice, his love, his wisdom, his power, his omniscience. It's all there in person as we see Him walk through the world, working his work, living his life. The fullness of God may be seen as it was never seen before in Jesus Christ.
John MacArthur 

Advent Readings 2012

Monday, August 20, 2012

farewell to a saint, sister, and friend

Summer Trips have just ended, and I still need to write and recap about Mississippi and Portland.  But tonight my heart is back in Nassau.  Our beautiful Bahamian sister and heroine of the faith, Ms. Moxey, has gone to be with Jesus.

It is a curious kind of sadness, loosing a saint in this life.  Beautiful because she is not sad!  She is, as my friend Tim reminded me, running with Jesus, just like she said she would.  And heart-wrenching because I won't have the great honor introducing my students to her again this side of heaven, or of sitting and holding her frail hand while she reads aloud the hundredth Psalm from her well-worn Bible for the hundredth time.

It's here at the barn, in the still of the night with only crickets chirping and horses munching the last of their dinner, that I got Tim's text.  I bury my head in Aiden's big, soft shoulder and cry the tears that have been stored up for this day since I first met Ms. Moxey two years ago.  Aiden is good company for teary-eyed moments--he reaches around to rest his head on my shoulder and lets out a deep sigh.  I'm not one of those animal-people who think that my horse has a soul and feels compassion; but I think of Romans 8:19-22, that the creation groans and waits for the world to be rescued from its brokenness.  My big thoroughbred is sighing with the rest of creation tonight {and every night}.  It reminds me that as I cry, I'm not the only one who senses deep down that things are not as they should be.

Ms. Moxey knew it, too.  Oh, how she knew it!  And her whole life was a revealing of the Kingdom that is both now and coming.  You could feel it so powerfully in her tiny little bedroom, as she talked about the goodness of God and the fierceness of His love.  Ms. Moxey taught us how to long for heaven, because heaven was so near when you were in her presence.

She also taught us how to live with boldness in the wait for heaven.  The Angel of Courage, I called her--so named for the Willow Tree Angel with her hands raised in triumph above her head, a posture Ms. Moxey often took to express her joy.  When I feel anxious or fretful, I think of Ms. Moxey, facing the hardships of her difficult life with her face set upon the God who promised good to her, unafraid of what horrors AIDS might bring her.

She taught us to trade bitterness for joy.  Never in my life have I known someone with more reason to live out of resentment, and yet my students will tell you--she was the most joyful person any of us has ever met!  It wasn't a put on, phoney-Christian kind of joy, either, but the kind that let you know she had most certainly been with Jesus.

And she is with him now.  Face to face at last.  Her body, once ravaged by AIDS, now restored to the perfection God intended in the Garden.  Her spirit, more alive than ever {though it's difficult to imagine how anyone could be more alive than Ms. Moxey!}, and her face, radiating the Father's glory in even greater brilliance than it did while she graced this earth.

My students have learned Ms. Moxey's lessons well.  Today, as one of my girls and I were--oddly enough--working on a little project for Pastor Joseph in Nassau, she said to me, "it just doesn't really matter what happens in my life, whether I get married or where I live.  That's nothing compared with the things I know God has for me to do."  Another called me after we heard the news tonight and said, "Chelsea, I can't even cry or be sad!  I'm just so full of joy that she is with Jesus, finally."  And so Ms. Moxey's legacy of joy in all circumstances lives on.

On my last visit to see her, it certainly seemed that it wouldn't be long.  A stroke had further wrecked her body this year, and she was less herself at times because of the heavy medication she hated taking. As I read to her from Revelation 21, tears threatened to choke the words:

 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
(Revelation 21:3-5)

As I read, she seemed to so especially close to Jesus, so ready to be Home!  

And tonight, as I think about this brave woman who has taught me so much about the heart of God, I too am longing for Home.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Nassau 2012: All the sad things are coming untrue

On my much needed day off yesterday, I took some time to think and write and debrief.  I know from past years that this process often takes weeks, but I'm off to Portland with another team on Sunday--so I'm praying God will give me favor in decompressing everything quickly.

I had the opportunity to speak to the whole Mission Discovery group (our students and three other groups from around the country) on Thursday night during our evening service.  I always like to claim Thursday night because for most of the teams, the week is over at that point, and students have just said their heart-wrenching goodbyes.  {{of course, our team worked an extra day this year, so my own kids weren't quite in debriefing mode yet.}}  I love to talk to everyone at camp about the Kingdom that has already been initiated but that is not yet here in fullness.  I love to tell them that when they feel knocked backward by the need they see in Nassau, they need not lose heart!

For part one of this year's talk, I borrowed from a sermon I heard recently by Mike Erre, my friend Emme's pastor in California.  It's called "The Cross-Shaped World," and I've listened to it six times over the past couple of weeks--it is so beautiful!!  {Listen here.}  I explained that on the cross, Jesus turned a Roman torture symbol into the means by which we are saved.  Paul writes: "Having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross" (Colossians 2:15).  I told the students that so often, we mistake the gospel for only the thing we teach to unbelievers--when really it's the hope we have for every part of life!  But, I shared with them that the cross isn't the end of the story.  If it were, we'd all be pretty hopeless.  But there is a Day that's coming when our great Savior will ride in on his white horse and save the day (Revelation 19)!  He will make everything new (Revelation 21).  We celebrated this reality with an Ecumenical (there was another non-denominational church, a Chinese church, and a Methodist church with us) communion service with orange juice and Cheese Nips.  It might have been the most boot-leg communion service ever, but it was beautiful, and God was there.

Here's what I'm wrestling with upon my return:

Sometimes I have a harder time believing in redemption for my students than for those broken Haitian kids.  Our lives are so cluttered, here in the States where we play it so safe.  The Haitian kids with their grubby hands and bruised, bare feet have treasures that my own kids do not.  They are rich by comparison--they see fully their own need, and they know what it is to have that need met by Grace.

I hope that as my students process what they have seen, they will not be the same.  But I know it's a bold hope because I see the reality in my own life.  Ms. Moxey and Anna's kids and Pastor and Madam Joseph keep on challenging me.  My heart is filled, I pray for them, seek ways to better their lives, wait for next year, repeat.  But in the meantime, I still shop at the same stores, still eat the same rich food, still prioritize travel and leisure, still clutter up my life.  {{What would it look like to let go of some of that?}}

And I feel hopeless for my students because if their thick-headed teacher doesn't even get it, how will they, these walking paradoxes who are all joy and selflessness one moment and all sass the next?  They are mirrors--the same stuff that's in them is in me too, only bigger and worse because I'm really old enough to know better.

"All the sad things are coming untrue," Tolkien writes.  And I have to remind myself: that goes for the Haitian kids and their empty tummies, but also for my students in the hurt they face stateside.

It's easy to look at the Haitian kids and see that they are oppressed, by a government and a people that does not want them, by the forces of poverty that keep them bound.

{{But my students and I--we are shackled up with all this stuff, with our safety and our comfort.}} 

Those Haitian kids, in the immensity of their need, are closer to that Day that we are.  In their lacking, they can taste the abundance that is to come.  It feels far off to me, here in the States.  But in that little Haitian slum where God is so near, I can almost taste it too.

There's a land where our shackles turn to diamonds;
When we trade in our rags for a royal crown.
In that place our oppressors hold no power,
And the doors of the King are thrown wide!
Caedmon's Call, "Mother India"

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Nassau 2012: Days Four and Five

Not much time to write this morning, so I'll leave it at this: our hearts were pricked as we left the church yesterday--we who have held these hungry Haitian kids, wiped their little noses, and dried their big tears. I'm really proud of the team for how hard they worked this week, finishing a good chunk of the roofing project and giving 110% of their energy for the kids each day.

When the Mission Discovery staff asked us last night what we are "taking home" from Nassau, all I could think was that I am taking home 17 high school students-- who I hope have been changed forever because of this experience, who I hope will now take responsibility for the things they have seen.

I think we all shed some tears yesterday, and it feels a little funny to be transitioning into a beach/debrief day pray for us that we'll continue to process, even as we head out this morning to unwind!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Nassau 2012: Days Two and Three

We've just finished day three in Nassau, and the team is doing great!  Wednesday and Thursday are always the toughest days on site {{we'll get a burst of energy on Friday, our last day!}}

Last night, one of the girls reported that CiCi had reminded her that God is at His strongest when we are at our weakest. Good words for today, since we had a rain storm that set us back a couple of hours on the roofing project and three students who were down for the count due to exhaustion! {{not to worry, parents: we pumped them full of Gatorade and they are feeling great today!}} Josie's favorite "God sighting" (as we call them here at camp) was when a precious little boy came and played nurse to her while she wasn't feeling so hot. As she was lying on chairs in the church sanctuary, he came and sang to her and stroked her hair! It was a really sweet moment, and I was able to catch the end on film.

It was awesome to see the students working so hard on the roof today, in spite of the fact that we were operating with a few men down. They are really getting the handle of shingling, and they worked their tails off today tearing off the next section of the old roof.

Here's the thing I'm learning about God (in Nassau and in life): He is close {{maybe closest!}} to the brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18), the hungry, the sick. On Tuesday and again yesterday, Kiara (one of the kids who lives near Anna, a Haitian woman in a neighboring village who's kids we've befriended over the years) was acting out. Both days, I wanted to understand why she was being grumpy. Our conversation went like this:

"Kiara, are you sad?"
::nods her head::
"What kinds of things make you sad?"
::shrugs her shoulders::
Are you sad because your tummy is hungry?
::nods her head and starts to cry::

We've been able to share our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with Kiara and the other kids from Anna's house the past couple of days, which is a joyful experience. But there is a heaviness in knowing that these kids we love are hungry so much of the time. I'm reminded that we serve a God who put on flesh to experience the worst of human suffering. He is the God who identifies with Kiara in her need, and He is putting all things right.

The team is excited to have two more days at Carmichael! Please keep praying that God would teach us much and accomplish much through us.

But He said to me, my grace is sufficient for you; my power is made perfect in weakness.  Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weakness so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weakness, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Nassau 2012: Day One

Hello from Nassau!

The morning before we left, I had breakfast with a student who came on the trip last year, and she asked me what I was most looking forward to.  I told her that as excited as I was to hold the Haitian babies and to be reunited with Pastor and Madam Joseph, the thing I love most about this trip every year is watching students experience it.

There is just nothing quite like seeing the sadness in their eyes as they look upon real poverty for the first time, or watching them wrestle with God as they try to understand how He can be loving and Good in the midst of such brokenness.  The joy on the Haitian kids' faces is priceless...but every bit as beautiful to me is the joy on my students' faces as they give the day's hundredth piggyback ride, swing a kid around in the air, or recognize that maybe it's not we in the States who know God best, but instead, the least of these.

We're reflecting as a team on the gospel this week--the truth that God created the world, that mankind sinned, corrupting the perfection of creation, and that God has come in the flesh to redeem it {{us!!}}.  But that's not all--He will come again to restore all things to himself, to put everything right fully and finally (Revelation 21).  That's the hope we have for the brokenness we see in Nassau this week.  In the midst of poverty and oppression, God calls us to image forth His own redemptive nature, to begin the work of restoration in the here-and-now.

He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for his Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.
Proverbs 14:31

Here are some pictures from our first day!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Summer in Bethel and all over the place

These past three months have brought lots of my BFFs to my little corner of the world, where the Cloud has settled for now.

In April, Sarah and her hubby Luke (Tyler, TX) visited New York, and we met up for a day of sightseeing and eating great pizza!

In May, Emily and Hudson (Columbia, SC) came to Connecticut and we spent a lovely day in Greenwich sailing and grilling out with some of Hud's fraternity brothers from Wake!

In June, Josh and Katherine (Nashville, TN) and Matt (Birmingham, AL) came for a weekend of reliving the good old days and seeing my life in CT!  Josh and Kat spent another night with me later in the week, after they made a trip to NYC to celebrate their fifth wedding anniversary!

Earlier this month, I flew home to Illinois to celebrate Grandpa Corwin's 90th birthday and his and Grandma Cherry's 65th wedding anniversary! 

After the festivities, Taylor and I drove her car back her to Connecticut so she could spend two weeks with me!  My mom flew out this past weekend to drive home with her, so we had a few days of fun, just us girls!
                                                          Mom and me at Greenwich Polo

  Taylor and me getting ready to pick fresh strawberries--YUM!

This morning, the party's over.  My mom and Taylor have just started the 15-hour long drive back to Illinois, and I have a LOT of laundry to do.  I'm a little sad that all these much-anticipated visits from some of my favorite people are over!  But I'm feeling blessed by how much LOVE there is in my life!!

Over the next few weeks, I'll be traveling a lot with students!
{{I'm glad to have a few days to recoup before the party starts again!}}

On Sunday morning, I'm taking two students and one former student {now a college girl!} with me to Mississippi!  We're going to check out a new location for Summer Trips--possibly a place we'll send a larger group of Walnut Hill students next summer.  I'm really excited about the opportunity to spend some quality time with these girls as we travel, and for them to have a say in how we move forward with trips.  Please pray for our safety as we travel and that God would give us wisdom about this work site, a home for orphaned children in Columbus, MS, where a Walnut Hill family has just taken over leadership.  {The South is calling my name, and I cannot wait!}

Following fun times in Washington, CT on the Fourth of July, I depart with a team of 17 high school students and three other adult leaders for our annual trip to Nassau, Bahamas.  This is the absolute highlight of my work at Walnut Hill, where I just feel I am so in my "sweet spot."  The chance to take older students to a place where they encounter real injustice and to help them grapple with how God has called each of them to be an agent of His compassion is the most exhilarating experience.  Please pray for our team, that each student would grab hold of the God-sized vision of justice in the world through His Church!  {I can't wait to squeeze those little Haitian babies, or to be reunited with Pastor and Madam Joseph, or to see how God reveals Himself in the lives of some of my favorite high schoolers!!}  

After a week to repack and take care of some details in the office, I'll leave with our largest team (30 students and four other adult leaders) for Portland, Maine!  Please pray for this very young team (mostly 8th and 9th graders) as they serve with African and Asian refugees and as they begin to discover their role in the global Church!

Josh and Matt and I were reminiscing when they were here about our experiences at camps and on mission trips growing up, and Josh and I retold some stories from a leadership camp we attended after my freshman and his sophomore year in high school.  We laughed a lot remembering how this good ole' Southern Baptist boy taught us leadership skills--and how there was this undercurrent that suggested that since we were white and wealthy, we had the premium on leading like Jesus. {{YUCK!}}

Josh recalled how this guy had said that in order to be successful, you needed to shower in the morning {{WHAT?!}}, a message that presented lots of confusion about what it meant to lead well.  I came home from the trip thinking I had to be the very BEST at everything I did.  I have an old journal entry in which I had written a vow to myself that I would be the best daughter, the best friend, the best student and the best Christian I could possibly be.  {{EEK!!!}}  Those messages were so harmful for Josh and me in different ways; they were so NOT the gospel that our confused high school identities so desperately needed.  I'm not blaming my near self-destruction the following year on that leadership experience, but it is sad to me that those messages from well-meaning church people contributed to my confusion about who I was.

When I think about what we at WHY Ministries hold out to students as we take them on trips, that leadership trip experience is the exact opposite of what I want them to receive!  Instead, I want them to hear the message of the Kingdom, that Jesus came to redeem them and to invite them into a larger Story, one that is for ALL people regardless of talent, income, ability, or race.  He's invited them to participate in his suffering and his life as a part of his Church around the world.  {{I want our trips to ooze the gospel of his grace!}}  Here's to a summer of that!

What about you?  Where are your summer travels taking you?

I pray that the Cloud {{God's sweet presence and direction!}} will go before you!

Monday, April 30, 2012

what marriage tells us about the gospel

This Sunday, our high school pastor, Ryan asked me to teach on a passage that people love to hate: Ephesians 5:21-24. 

It's about submission to one another in the church, and specifically about wives submitting to their husbands.  What a difficult teaching!  But it's a beautiful one, at that. 

We talked with students about how submission has been twisted in our world--we see abuse, slavery, war, and oppression all around us, all in the name of submission.  But this is NOT what the apostle Paul had in mind when we wrote these verses to the Ephesians. 

He had JESUS in mind.

Jesus, who loves the Church as his Bride, modeling how a husband should love his wife.

Jesus, who submitted to the authorities who nailed him to a cross and crucified him. 

Jesus, who submitted most of all to his Father. 

Paul writes in Philippians 2 that Jesus "did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking on the likeness of a servant." 

Jesus knew he was equal to God...he didn't have to strive for that equality.  He laid down his rights and willingly gave up his life in order to become a "fragrant offering and sacrifice to God" (Ephesians 5:1). 

Jesus doesn't ask us to do anything he hasn't already accomplished for us.
  (Man, I love him for that!!)

When we hold all this in mind, submission starts to look different.  It starts to seem like something I actually WANT.  And it shows us that marriage is not for just two people.  It's for all of us in community together.

When I was telling someone that I’m teaching on this passage today, she said “Shouldn’t a married person be doing that?”  Here’s the thing: this passage isn’t about married people.  In fact, marriage isn’t about married people.  It’s about God.

California pastor Mike Erre has said that God is a god of props.

He knows we are forgetful, that our tiny pea brains can't handle all He has for us.  So in His infinite grace, He gives us ways to remember.

He gave Noah a rainbow.  He told Abraham to build a rock pile.  And to the Church, He gives the sacraments: baptism reminds us that the Spirit raises dead people to life. Communion reminds us that Jesus gives salvation.

In the same way, marriage is a prop that shows us the gospel.  When we see a husband laying down his life for his wife, we see Jesus laying down his life on the Cross.  And when we see a wife submitting to her husband's authority, we see Jesus willingly submitting to the Father.  In another dimension we see in the husband and wife a beautiful picture of Jesus and his Bride, the Church.

We are all called to submit. I confess that I am lousy at this most of the time. My upbringing, my education, my experience have all made me feel pretty entitled.  Can you relate?  Sometimes I feel like I should get to do whatever I want, like the world owes me something.  I think the place we live here in New England kind of cultivates that.

But the gospel says that we are to be like Jesus and lay aside our rights.  That means submitting to our teachers, our bosses, our parents, our youth leaders, and sometimes even our friends.  It is difficult work!  But Paul says that it will show the world Jesus and his amazing love.

And God gives us every resource we need!  He also gives us the awesome privilege of representing Him in our relationships with one another.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

On swollen knees, community, and the God who heals

This week, I had a doctor's visit with a physiatrist from the Walnut Hill family.  I've had chronic pain and swelling in my knees for ten years, and to be honest, I had pretty much ignored the obvious signs that something was wrong.  In hindsight, I'm 26 and relatively healthy--so I should really be able to jump my horse, go for a run, or play some light tennis without my knees swelling up to the size of saucers.  As I was telling my doctor about my symptoms, he cracked a joke about how people who let these things persist for say, ten years without seeing a doctor, are pretty delinquent.  I then had to admit to him (rather sheepishly) that no, I hadn't been to see a doctor about my problem since it first showed up when I was 16.  Oops.

The good news is that with physical therapy, nutritional supplements to boost my joints' ability to repair themselves, and maybe some ugly old lady shoes from the podiatrist, the problem (stemming in an alignment issue with my hips and my flat feet) should be corrected in time.

The whole thing got me thinking, though.  I mean, I'm generally a lot more disciplined about my spiritual health than I am about my physical health.  But in both arenas, there is sickness I ignore at times.  I want to believe in my own self-sufficiency.  I want to believe there's nothing wrong.  I live on the surface of things instead of in reality sometimes. 


At the heart of it--if I'm really honest with myself, and with you, dear reader--I don't believe the gospel.  Ouch.  That is tough to write.  But here's how I know it: If I really believed that Jesus is after Restoration, if I really trusted that he came to redeem me, body and soul, then I would jump at the chance to be healed.

This idea that our bodies are of secondary importance to our souls smacks of the Gnosticism the Early Church battled.  God has created us as people with bodies, after all.  Christ came to us in a body.  And therefore, God cares very much about our bodies and what we do with them.

I confess that it is difficult for me to believe that healing in my body is oh-so-connected to the gospel.  That is why I've ignored my swollen knees for ten years.

Last night, I was at a worship gathering at my friends the Mancinis' house.  As I tried to get settled on the floor of the living room, I was suddenly hyper-aware of the pain in my knees.  It's nothing new for me to have to switch positions every two minutes because of the discomfort caused when I sit cross-legged--but for some reason, I was suddenly aware of how abnormal that is at my age.  (There is something powerful about finally, finally voicing our need.) 

After we sang six or eight songs and lots of people prayed about a variety of things, I confessed my brokenness before my community--the group of college students and 20-and-30-somethings present.  After I shared my story and prayed thanking God for his grace to me even when I ignore my own need, my friends laid hands on my knees and began to pray.  They prayed for God's Kingdom to break out in my body.  For God to do a miraculous work.  For faith that we would believe in Him as the Able Healer.
And an amazing thing happened: although my knees are still cracking and my hips are still misaligned, the pain is gone!  I can kneel.  I can sit cross-legged.  I was even able to ride today, short stirrups and all, with no discomfort.  He is able.

Someone prayed last night regarding Luke's account of the paralytic whose friends lowered him through the roof to get him in front of Jesus.  I feel a lot like that man, who was healed through the faith of his friends.  Community is a beautiful thing.

I gather that I will still need physical therapy, and the vitamins, and maybe even the ugly shoes to restore my body to its proper order.  {{thank you, Father, for the way your healing can come in practical, everyday ways!}}  But I'm praising God today for the reminder that when we call out to Him, He is faithful to answer us.  The physical healing I received this weekend is a signpost to me of a spiritual reality.  In the face of our delinquency, God is merciful.  He meets our brokenness with boundless grace.

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.
Matthew 7:7

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Hot Off the Press

Another one of the students from the Nassau team, a senior named Josie, just completed her college essay--and I am dying to share it with you!  I am soooo proud of my girls and they way they use their experiences serving our Haitian and Bahamian friends to show others the face of poverty.  Their passion for the global Church is a beautiful thing to behold!

I walk along the long dirt road with the hot sun beating on my back. With each step my team members and I take, a puff of dust elevates from the ground. Little shacks line the road and a rocky path leads deeper into the area. Our group divides as we approach the first shack. A group of women sits under a cluster of trees with car parts and debris scattered about. As we greet the women, small figures begin to appear through the doorway of the house. “Would they like to come out and play?” my teammate asks one of the women. Upon their mother’s call, the children come out of the house and run toward us. What happens next is unexpected. I feel arms surround my body in a tight embrace, and a sweaty forehead against my shoulder. The children grab our hands as we lead them back to the church. They introduce themselves with Haitian names as we approach the building. Others on our team have gathered children from the neighborhood as well. Each little face I lay eyes on is illuminated with a smile. A girl has beads all throughout her hair. Another boy has two different sized shoes. Joy radiates throughout our group for the next week.

I sit with a boy named Joshua on my lap under a wooden gazebo. We listen to our Vacation Bible School lesson. As I see each child’s hand excitedly go into the air, and listen to each triumphantly say his answer, I am reminded that this is what I live for. Working with children is my passion, and serving others is what I feel I am meant to do.  I hope to study elementary education, and later to teach and serve in the mission field. I dream of providing help and rehabilitation for young women and children who have suffered from sexual abuse. I want to be able to show others the power of healing and to renew joy.

Later in the week, I find myself walking into a room the size of a closet to see a women as frail as a small child in bed. Miss Moxey, who is living in an AIDs camp called All Saints, greets us warmly. As I sit on the bed beside her, she shares her incredible story of how she contracted AIDS from a blood transfusion after being hit by a drunk driver in Miami. Miss Moxey has refused medical treatment since the 70s, her children have abandoned her, and she is paralyzed from the waist down. Still, she is strong. I can’t help but cry when she speaks of her undying faith in God. Visiting with Miss Moxey and other patients like her reminded me that to be able to serve is one of the greatest things I can do. 

Now I am preparing to walk down another long road, a journey into my future. I have always had extreme empathy for others around me, and my mission trip to Nassau, Bahamas showed me how I can use that gift to engage in community wherever I am. I know that I would be a fantastic addition to your university. I am looking forward to becoming a part of the community on campus and continuing to explore opportunities to serve locally and globally.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Read this today.

The highlight of my day was reading students' college essays.  True story.  It is one of my favorite parts of my job...especially when they write their essays about our trip to Nassau!  Here is one of the essays from an awesome senior named Abby, who has already sent it to colleges up and down the East Coast :)  I always learn so much about the Father's heart through my students' experiences...and I think you will, too!

“There are starving kids out there who would love to eat that,” was a familiar phrase as I stared at half eaten plates of food growing up. 

It’s different now. I know their names. 

Nakiesha, Wedeline, Kyria – and the list of impoverished children I now know goes on. 

Behind the paradise of Nassau, Bahamas lies a swarm of Haitian refugees. They fled the hell of Haiti for a better life in Nassau, yet found themselves still surrounded by poverty and the shame of being unwanted immigrants. With time, somehow their plans for a better life disappeared as they struggled to provide food and clean clothes for their families. Garbage piled up outside, cars settled like ghosts in their front yards with motors and spare parts lying everywhere. Old furniture and toys were left outside overnight and unstuffed by looters and animals. Over time, they became blind to the grime around them and allowed their toddlers to play in squalor among broken glass buried inches deep into their dirt roads.

In July of 2011, I am a volunteer at a Bible Camp near those very roads. As the Bahamian heat beats down, I thank God ten year old Kyria didn’t pierce her foot on a nearby shattered bottle. Yet as I look back down, I realize glass is everywhere and there is no way I can gather it all up. Kyria then begins to climb a pile of trash to pick fruit from a tall tree growing atop it. As I watch her, toddlers swarm around me with the question “I can go on ya back?” in their Creole accents. I pick up one each hip and begin to cry at the realization that their poverty is far from over. They are three year olds who are being taught ambivalence to their own squalor by parents who were raised the same way. I soon realize that the tropical trip I spent a year working to pay for would break my heart, as well as inspire me to spread the word about this injustice. On the trip I smelled poverty, held its hand, kissed its little faces, and cried as its youth told me stories of rape and abuse much too old for its age.
I was in no way naive to hard times upon entering the trip. As a child, my parent’s financial collapse and subsequent divorce led us to rentals and awkward social times in the wealthy Connecticut suburbs. I began working and saving money since my sophomore year in high school. This has left me with a strong work ethic and determination to take charge of my life and do what means most to me, which is helping other people. On my trip to Nassau, I realized true poverty incomparable to the Fairfield County poverty line my family occasionally fell below, real social class rejection, and the work it takes to change a community. While my sister receives a college scholarship because of her work, and I have opportunities despite my economic background, the children I came to love have little view of this future.  

I realized that the cycle of poverty takes generations to break and millions of volunteers willing to sacrifice their comfortable lives for 110 degree heat, tarantulas, piggy back rides, and the vision of a better life for children they don’t even know. As I returned home, I became conscious of the ambivalence of so many people to the things I had seen, and it caused me to want to become a voice for those who have none. I am now willing to seek out those in need, and help them in any way possible because I want to do good in the world.