Where is H O M E?

Originally posted on {Jenna's Journey}:

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I vividly remember a conversation with a few Pine Cove camp friends Krista and Meredith at the good ole laundramat one Saturday deep in the heart of Texas last July. I was in the midst of reading “Kisses for Katie” and remember discussing this one quote that was dear to each of us in a different way. It has a special meaning, especially when you feel far from home.
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“My heart lives in so many different places. With so many people. But God whispers to me that I really have only one Home, and that is WITH HIM. I will never be content on this earth. I will always be a nomad. It was meant to be that way. My heart was created with a desire for home, a rest, a sanctuary, and that can be found only with Him in Heaven. And I will continue bouncing from one home…

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Finishing the Race.

If you haven’t heard, I am safely back in the States! This post is a little delayed, just from life! Many times posting gets pushed to the back burner. But nonetheless, it’s midnight and what better time to catch up on blogging?

Over the next few weeks, I’ll fill in the blog with posts about my time in Guatemala. There’s many drafts and untold stories that I never shared while I was there, but that I will eventually get to! But for now a little conclusion about the trip.

My time in Guatemala was life-changing, heart-changing, and wonderful. I have never felt so centered in on God’s will. I had a peace and joy the entire time that I was exactly where I needed to be. What a blessing to be able to experience that feeling! Serving the Lord in this way was such an amazing opportunity. I am so thankful.

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Before I left for my trip, my best friend Maddison arranged a letter for me to read every day I was there. God spoke through her on many occasions in the letters. On the last day, it was loud and clear! And exactly what I needed to hear. Here is a snippet of what she wrote:

I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me- the task of testifying the gospel of God’s grace.”

Acts 20:24

Our life as Christians is full of many different races all coming together in our task for life- to testify the gospel of God’s grace. You my friend are finishing one of many races… You can trust and believe that though this race is over, your life task is far from over!

If I’m being honest, when we were preparing to leave Guatemala I was miserable. How could I walk away from everything I had seen? The relationships I had formed? The people I had bonded with and loved? That feeling of perfect peace? The knowledge that I was serving the Lord and serving Him well? The goodbyes we had to say were some of the hardest I’ve ever experienced. I couldn’t go back home to life as normal. I wasn’t the same person, my heart is changed.

But Maddison’s words gave me comfort and hope. I’m only beginning my race, it’s nowhere close to being over. My month in Guatemala ended, but the work that God is doing in me and in that country did not. There is much more yet to be done! And I feel confident that my race will lead me back to Guatemala one day, hopefully soon!

This trip has truly taught me what our purpose as Christians is- to testify the gospel of grace. I can’t imagine a more joyful or perfect task for my life! My sole purpose, in everything I do, is to display the light of God here on earth. I don’t know how it took me so long to learn this, but it is a life changing truth. And I am thankful for the opportunity to be the hands and feet of Christ, carrying out this task.

Thank you all for supporting, following and praying with me. Lives were changed, and huge movements made for the Kingdom of God. I could not have done it without all of the support and prayer. Thank you for playing a part!

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Be sure to subscribe for follow ups on the life changing experiences I had and the beautiful people I encountered. There are some stories you won’t want to miss! :) Also please continue to pray over the lives and hearts of the people of Guatemala. Your prayers are working!

A favor…

Hola Amigos!

Today I’m writing to request prayer. One of the most valuable and life changing lessons I’ve learned in this experience is the importance of communication with God! Lately I have been feeling overwhelmed at the thought of all of the things I want to pray over. There is so much need here. There are so many people, so many thoughts, my heart is full of anguish for these people, but also joy and hope that is present through Jesus. I know that I cannot come anywhere close to fixing the pain and brokenness that exists here, so all I know to do is pray. And ask God to move and work in this country.

So here is my request. I’m going to list some requests and even some specific people that are on my heart. Some of this will be long (I know, not a good blogging technique, lo siento;). So what I’m asking is that you choose one or two requests, and try to commit to praying for that bullet as often as you think of it! I will probably do this again at the conclusion of my trip as well. Prayer is so powerful. It took me so long to learn this, but it is so true. My human body, mind, and heart are not capable of accomplishing anything on my own, and therefore I turn to God.

  • Pray for the words and work my team and I are sending out everyday. Pray Isaiah 55:11 over us; that God’s word will reach His people and that we will be instruments for the purpose He desires to accomplish.
  • Pray for Celeste, Liss, and Joseline. These are three precious girls that we get the joy of living with here in Guatemala. Pray for our relationships with them and their relationship with the Lord. Pray healing over their hearts and joy in their futures. Thank God for their generosity and the blessing it is to know them!
  • Pray for Sally. A precious girl who just left us yesterday to return to her home in Helapa, Guatemala. Her time staying with us was not long enough! Please earnestly pray over this sweet child. Pray that the Lord’s presence and protection will surround her always. Pray for God’s provision for her and her family. Pray that she will find a way to get an education and be able to work hard for a better future. Pray for the hearts of her family. Pray the the love of Jesus enters her home. Pray that God will reveal Himself to her like never before. Pray that she will learn of God’s character: His grace and forgiveness and His plan for her future. Pray healing over her and peace.
  • Pray for another friend, Susy. We wish we got to see her more often! She is Sally’s sister. The weekend we first met her was the first time she had seen her sister in over 7 years. Pray for healing over her as well, and peace in her family and relationships. Thank God for the joy she has and her beautiful spirit. Pray for provision and a prosperous future for her. Pray that her relationship with God will grow and that her life will forever be changed by His presence.
  • Pray for the NGO (non-governmental org) staff that we are working with at Buckner, as well as all of our wonderful friends/translators. Praise God for the hearts of these people! Thank you Jesus for their willingness to serve and love! Pray over them as well! Pray that they will not grow weary of running the race. We are here for one month of our summer, such a short time, yet we are already feeling the effects of physical and emotional exhaustion. These beautiful people are here everyday. This is not a ‘trip’ for them, it is life. And they are doing remarkable things for the Kingdom of God. They are transforming communities and changing lives. Their work is so hard, but so incredible. Please pray for the fruit of their work. Pray for energy and encouragement for them. Thank God for their presence here. And pray blessings over their lives.
  • Pray for the San Jose Pinula, Jocotenango, and El Cerrito communities. There is inconceivable need here. There is a never ending list. In fact, I can’t describe it or relay it to you. Words on a blog are not enough to express the lives and hearts of these people. Please pray over them what the Lord lays on your heart. Pray for their poverty. Pray for their pain. Pray for their loss, abandonment, hopelessness, and need. Pray for the parents and pray for their children. Pray for wisdom and guidance. Pray for their spiritual and emotional deficiencies. Please pray that they come to know Christ for who He actually is and love He really gives. Pray truth into their lives. There is so much more I can’t even put into words, so just pray as you feel led. Pray for a better future.
  • Pray for a woman I will never forget (and her family). I want to tell you her story later, when I have more time and space. But she is a single mother, abandoned by her husband. She is a mother of 6 and the only one earning money for the household. Q300 per month, thats $38 for 7 people. They don’t even have enough money to feed themselves. Also for another family, 6 children plus the parents. Right now they have no income. They all live in a one room house, and one of the children has a health problem that needs to be attended too. Pray for guidance as I work with the social workers to find ways to provide for these families in small ways.
  • Pray for the man I sat next to in church on Sunday. Weird, I know. But I just feel the need to pray for him. I don’t know his name, or anything about him really. I do know that he is a dad, and that his own parents have passed away. I know that this Sunday he came to church alone, and that he was very appreciative of the hugs I was happy to give. I don’t know his story, or his needs. But I know he is a child of God and he was placed in my path for a reason!

Please, please, please join me in covering this country and these people in prayer! I wish I could convey how needed and appreciated it is for you to simply lift up your words and open your heart to what God wants to do with it all! It is very cloudy for me to see the purpose of some of this brokenness, but the beautiful thing is that I don’t need to understand. I just need to turn to Jesus and ask for his help, just as I’m asking for yours. So please join me in believing God will change these lives. Have tremendous faith that these prayers can alter the future of generations. Thank God for what we know He will accomplish here. Have great faith.

“Now to Him, who is able to do immeasurable more than all we can ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus, throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”    -Ephesians 3:20-21

Will you join me in praying for these people of God?

A City on a Hill

This is a post written by Scott Smith, the afternoon DJ for K-Love radio station (The Scott and Kelly show). We just said goodbye to him and the rest of the Shoes for Orphan Souls trip that joined us this past week! He has written about El Cerrito, one of the Community Transformation Centers we work with here in Guatemala. El Cerrito is a difficult area because it is particularly impoverished and the people here seem to be a little more rough. This is where my team and I will working for the next week! Please pray for the hearts of these people, that they will be softened and have open arms to the love of Christ and the provision and grace that comes alongside a relationship with Him. 

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Here’s what Scott has to say:

For most of us reading this, it would hard to imagine keeping a family afloat for $260 a month, yet that is exactly what the average family of 6 survives on in the village of “El Cerrito”.  As if that weren’t difficult enough the community is plagued by violence, and sits under the bridge that sadly has become Guatemala’s most popular suicide destination… Just reading this probably has you feeling a bit more depressed than when you started, imagine waking up to this reality everyday.  So what do you do?  Should you allow hopelessness to immobilize us?  Of course not, but how often do we?  How often to we try to insulate ourselves from others hopelessness, so that we don’t have to be bothered?
In the Bible, Jesus gave us the distinct privilege of being the ones who take His light to the World, but how often is it that sharing that light is the last thing on our minds?  Jesus said the “you” are a city set upon a hill, a light to all the World, a light that should not be hidden.  Seeing El Cerrito and the families living there is a reminder that people need what you have to give…HOPE!  More than just the shoes that we gave the children yesterday, we endeavored to leave them with a message of hope; all week long we have been sharing the story of Queen Esther, and reminding the kids that no matter where they are, or what circumstances they face, God has a plan for them, that “He has created them for such a time as this” to be used by God.  In fact, God used the children of El Cerrito yesterday, to show us that hope thrives regardless of our circumstances.  We came to encourage them, yet it was God reminding us that life isn’t about a pay check, or the size of our house, but the size of our heart.  They were filled with such love, not only for God, but for one other.

As Christians, we are to embrace the ideals of “faith”, “hope” and “charity”, so often we do quite well with faith and charity, but we struggle with bringing hope, and yet it can be the thing that most often is the catalyst for change in someone’s live.  Hope can be a hard thing to grasp because it must be practiced through the virtue of patience, which continues to do good even in the face of apparent failure, and through the virtue of humility, which trusts God even in times of darkness.  Often times we must be reminded of the promise of Hebrews 6:19,

“We who have run for our very lives to God have every reason to grab the promised hope with both hands and never let go. It’s an unbreakable spiritual lifeline, reaching past all appearances right to the very presence of God!” 

When you cling to that hope, you can offer that hope to someone else in need, and before you think it takes going to a place like El Cerrito, think again.  Hopelessness isn’t a condition of socioeconomics, it is a condition of the heart.  There are people that you know, that need the hope that you have, in Christ, so share it!

You can find the rest of Scott’s posts and his other thoughts here:

http://www.klove.com/blog/scottandkelli/

It was such a joy to have the privilege of working with Scott and the rest of their trip this past week! We so appreciate them and everything they have contributed to the people here. We are thankful to know that there are others who share our heart for these people and this country, and who are working to make a difference for the kingdom of God! Thank you, Jesus, for these people!

Home is where the heart is.

We’ve heard this phrase time after time. Everyone knows it. We think of home and certain things come to mind. It’s different for everyone, but for me its things like family, love, comfort, and familiarity. But what about the people who don’t have a home. The kids who have never known family, or even love. Not only are they “houseless”, meaning they don’t have the four walls or comfy bed, but they are truly without family or community. What about the orphans?

“We learned that orphans are easier to ignore before you know their names. They are easier to ignore before you see their faces. It is easier to pretend they’re not real before you hold them in your arms. But once you do, everything changes…”

– David Platt, “Radical”

This week has been very unique to our experience in several ways. There is a short-term mission trip here from K-Love radio station in the states! Two of the DJs, as well as two Christian artists (Mike from Mikeschair, and his wife Molly from City Harbor) and then several listeners of the station are all here for a shoe trip! There are 29 of them total. Having  them here has been so special and has taught us so much! Because of them (Jesus working through them), we have been able to distribute hundreds (hundreds) of shoes! There is so much joy in this service. We get the privilege of washing each person’s feet, giving them socks, and putting their shoes on for them. [Luke 13:12-17]

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Three days this week were spent in a local orphanage. Unfortunately, I hate to say that the conditions here are very poor. It felt more like a prison than a place to call home. The brokenness here was overwhelming and everyday brought tears for our team. I will never forget many of these faces. One of the hardest things to learn about these children, is that many of them have families outside of those walls. They know them, and love them. Sometimes their family members even visit them. But most of them know what abandonment feels like. They have been told they are not wanted, not worthy of love. They have to imagine a life outside the concrete walls and barbed wire, and know that it is unobtainable for them. Adoption is not even an option; it must feel very hopeless to them. The orphanage is severely understaffed. They experience day after day with no hugs, no encouragement, no love.

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Those kids need Jesus. They need to understand that there is hope, and this world is not our home. We are strangers of this earth. Our heart belongs to Jesus, and that is where we will find our home. They need to know that God is the father that does not abandon. He goes before us and walks alongside us. That is where we experience love. Thank you God.

For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.” Hebrews 13:14

“Their mind is set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.”   Philippians 3:19-20

In Jesus name we were able to go to this orphanage and show them love. For a few hours they could have as many hugs as they wanted. For a little while the boy who cried in my arms had someone who cared, someone to hold him, to tell him its okay. Who knows how long its been since he’s had that. If I accomplished nothing else the entire time I’m here, it would be worth it. We also need to understand that we do not belong here. As Christians we have to know that the suffering will end, and there will be a day when that little boy will have eternal happiness and experience unconditional love.

You can (and have) helped make sure he knows about the love of Christ.

“Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Luke 12:33-34

Please pray for the health of our team for the remainder of our time here. Each of us are experiencing a variety of health issues :( One of our team members in particular could use prayer for the stomach virus she is battling. Also pray for what we think may be a pinched nerve in my lower back. Your prayers for healing have already drastically improved my back pain. The Lord is listening! Thank you so much for your prayer! 

Catching Up!

Hola mi Amigos! 

My team and I have safely gotten to Guatemala and are fully settled in and already on the move! We have been without internet for a few days, so I haven’t been able to update! There is so much more to tell than I can say. I am overwhelmed trying to explain how much this country and these people already mean to us! 

As you can imagine, things are very different here in Guatemala. Everything from the weather (which is absolutely perfect), to the language, the food, the scary driving techniques, and the bugs. But what has been so interesting to see, is how in many ways, we are actually the same. Such as a mutual love for pizza, laughter, Vin Diesel and Maroon 5. But as one of my team members pointed out, the most important similarity is that we all love the same God. In this country where we are foreign, surrounded by new and unfamiliar things, we connect with people through our relationship with Christ.  As we sat in church this Sunday, this fact was abundantly clear. God is the same no matter where we are or who we are. The Guatemalans experience life in a radically different way, but still live by the same truths and find hope in the same promises. They serve the same God. A God who remains the same yesterday & today, in American & Guatemala, and to the ends of the earth. 

This is a short post, but we are very tired! Hopefully I will have more time/energy to post a more detailed update soon:)

In the mean time, please pray for us! Here’s some requests:

  • Energy! We are only here for a short few weeks, we want to be able to give everything we have!
  • Safety/Health- thank goodness we are all healthy and we’d like to keep it that way:) Guatemala can be tough on the American tummy.
  • The people of Guatemala- there is a never ending list of physical needs, but please earnestly pray over their spiritual needs. That they can find hope and love amidst the brokeness of this world.
  • The NGO staff we are working with here in Guatemala- They are incredible! Some of the most amazing people I’ve ever met. I will tell you more about them, but pray that we can be an encouragement and help to them.

Muchas gracias! Thank you so much for all of the prayers and support! They are so necessary and so appreciated. Look for an update soon :)

Closing In

Well, we’re almost there! Today I begin the journey I have been preparing for since January! And that so many of you have been such a huge part of preparing me for as well. In about two hours I will be landing in Dallas for team leader training! These next two days are going to be a whirlwind of information, preparation, and excitement! I feel a weird mix of emotions as we start closing in on Guatemala: nervous, excited, expectant, and a little unprepared for what I will find there. But the Lord will be faithful in equipping me and my team, I’m sure.

[“The One who calls you is faithful, and He will do it.” 1 Thessalonians 5:24]

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Also, my wonderful team members are getting to Dallas alongside me tomorrow when we will meet for the first time! Buckner in Guatemala sent us this sweet greeting, showing us how excited they are for us to arrive! I’m so excited to get to work alongside these people. Join me in praying for safe travels for us all!

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Here we go!

So small(muy pequeno)

Rachel:

Wonderful words from Kelli, another member of my team going to Guatemala! Can’t wait to see what the Lord’s plan is for each of us and our time there.

Originally posted on To Guatemala, With Love:

I don’t think I have ever realized just how small I am. For those who know me, this may come as a shock, people tend to look over my 5 foot frame. But this time, I’m not talking about my size so much as who I am in the body of Christ. It’s amazing, when you think about it, how little your problems truly are compared to what God is doing through you.
When God asks us to trust Him He doesn’t make it easy. He breaks us, molds us, and makes us into who HE wants us to be. We are so small. And yet, despite that, in our weakness, the Lord is made strong! How amazing a thought!! When I am weak His strength is growing!
I’m learning that anything we do outside of the Lord’s will will eventually turn to ashes, but when we’re…

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Where did that come from?

As I’ve said, God has been revealing Himself to me in crazy, unexpected ways for the past year. It seriously amazes me to look at where I was last August (2011) and to see where I am standing now. Only by the grace of God. I don’t know why He chose me, but I’m so incredibly thankful that He did :).

All of that to say… I’ve learned a lot! About myself, God, life, relationships, others, and so much more. God’s hand in my life has been extremely evident. He has strategically placed people, situations, experiences and thoughts into my life to help me learn all of these things! Most of the time I’m in awe of how perfect His timing is. I’m often left saying “Where did that come from?” because things just pop into my life unexpectedly and of course, perfectly.

Life Lessons from God

1. Let Go

Control is not something I was designed to have. In fact, I never really had it, but instead what I had was an illusion that I could plan and perfect my life to be how I envisioned it. But that is not the case! And praise God for that! Because what I’m learning is that my life is not safe in my hands, nor are any of the people I love and care about. I would much rather hand them over to God, where He can take care of them and hold them much more adequately than I can. Sounds easy, right? Why not hand everything over to the designer of life and healer of brokeness? Wrong. This is the hardest lesson I’ve had to learn. And I still fail daily. But when I start to grasp at all of the things I’m struggling to give to God, BAM. I am reminded of this lesson. Where did that come from, right?

2. You can’t have all the answers

Trust. Faith. Believe. These are words tossed around pretty frequently with Christians. They’re easy to throw out there and they sound pretty good! But man are they hard to put into action sometimes. I am constantly questioning “why” or “what if”. Our lives are full of the unknown. This is so hard to accept. As I look toward Guatemala, I’m realizing that everything about this summer is unknown! I think I’ll find myself asking “Where did that come from?” a lot. But that’s okay, because the peace I have found in knowing who goes before me and walks along side me is irreplaceable.

3. We’re stronger than we think.

I’ve always joked with friends and family that I am a “delicate flower”. (“Petite sunflower” as my mom says). I’ve always considered myself to be fragile, I think a lot of women do. In the past, I’ve considered this a weakness and relied on other people strengthen me. I filled my life with “can’t” and inadequacy. And I never realized it, that was just how I was. But one day a song came on the radio.

“Well You must think I’m strong, to give me what I’m going through. Forgive me if I’m wrong, but it seems like more than I can do. I know I’m not strong enough to be everything that I’m supposed to be. Hands of mercy won’t you cover me. Lord right now I’m asking you to be strong enough for both of us.”

Holy cow, check out that empowerment! We aren’t always strong enough on our own. But thankfully we don’t have to be! God equips us for every single thing we encounter. It is really hard sometimes. But I have found comfort by realizing that I’m not fighting alone. And there is always a purpose!

Man, did I enjoy writing this post! These are just a few of the things God has been faithful in revealing to me. He has also been faithful in providing over HALF of the funds I need for Guatemala! THANK YOU for your obedience to His call if you have felt led to donate. I still have a ways to go and the deadline for funds is quickly approaching with just a few weeks left! Please pray over what your part in the Lord’s plan for this summer may be. If donating to my Guatemala fund is a part of that then you can donate here on the tab to the right! Thank you!!!

An Unexpected Offer

    Team Leader

Before I was chosen by Buckner and accepted into this program I had to complete an interview. In the interview, they asked me if I would consider accepting a position as Team Leader for my trip. That caught me off guard, and I proceeded to tell them that there had to be someone better for the job than me! (That was a real selling point for my acceptance, I know. Let’s just say that God must have really wanted me in Guatemala!). None the less, I was offered the position. I took a long time to think about it. Two weeks longer than the allotted time, in fact. And after seeking out the wisdom of others and a lot of prayer, I decided to accept the position! I realized that during my interview, I was underestimating the power of God and His ability to use me wherever I am needed. Becoming Team Leader adds a whole new dimension of responsibility to this trip, but also a much deeper trust and faith in God. I spoke to a friend who has also served as Team Leader in Buckner, and learned a little more about the job. It means I am the source of communication between my team of three and our superiors. It means I am now in charge of the finances for all of our members. And it means that I get to help create our schedules and help decide which projects to take on or sites to visit. I’m sure there is more to it, but as of now that’s the basics! I am not the best choice for this job. But Jesus is and He’s on my side.

As I’m writing this I’m overwhelmed with the task of accurately explaining what God is doing in my life. Can I just say that He is SO GOOD. He is so obviously working on me in so many crazy different ways. A year ago, I never in a million years would have considered this trip and I never would have had the opportunity to grow in my relationship with Christ and serve Him in this capacity. God is working on my trust muscles. He’s saying “Here’s your opportunity. This is where you’re supposed to be. I will equip you. Let me affirm your choices and the path I have set you on.” Over and over again I am becoming aware of the Lord’s plan for this season of my life. It is the most amazing feeling in the world knowing that You are walking in the way God has so clearly set out for you.  There is an incredible peace that comes with a relationship with Christ. Seeking after Him, not just with this trip but in every area of my life, is the best thing that has ever happened to me. If you would like to talk more about Christ, His character and life and the effect it has had on my own life, PLEASE contact me!

But for now, please, please join me in praying over these requests:

  • Safety for me and my team.
  • Open hearts in the people of Guatemala
  • Peace and trust for our families as well as ourselves
  • The provision of finances and creative fundraising ideas
  • Preparation and development of my skills and spirit for whatever I may encounter
  • SALVATION, that people will come to know Jesus in Guatemala, and right here. On all streets.