The “Unchosen” Ones

IMG_0491This past week was another big answer to prayer! I received permission to volunteer in the orphan housing! Until now I’ve been going each week with with other volunteers but now I have permission to go on my own.

It really breaks my heart to have to go and then leave. Two of the kids tonight were playing a game with me, and I had my coat on (because I was cold) and they said oh, are you leaving? –no. Is your friend leaving? –no. How long will you stay? –for a while. Until tomorrow!? –:( no.

These are the ones who were left or taken and now they find themselves stuck–stuck because of their parents choices, stuck because of bureaucracy, stuck because of the older kids’ abuse, stuck because of satan’s lies….the biggest lie is that they are unchosen.

But we know the truth. They have been chosen, by God, for his compassion, grace and mercy. These children are so loved by God, they are set aside with a purpose, they have value in His eyes, and yet so many will never know that love or that purpose or value.

This week when I went to the home, I was joined by a group of others from a local prayer group…we all go to different churches, from different backgrounds, but united in this hope–to show the love of Christ to these kids. We sang songs, gave hugs, prayed with them, laughed with them, got to know them a bit more and of course surprised them with some treats. They blessed us too–when at one point they began to sing “Anchor” by Hillsong. The words echo from a deep chasm in their souls, which can only be reached by a deep and strong anchor. These children, so unsure of their future, sang about God standing unshakable in their life…..if that doesn’t move you to compassion for them, then ask God to move in your heart, to awaken you. Is our faith truly anchored by Christ?

So I wonder. How does God want us to love these children? How can we be Christ to them, how can we share Christ with them? Christ himself prayed about us in John 17:15 that we would not be taken out of the world but that we would be protected from the evil one…and yet I hope with my whole being for each of these kids to be taken out of the situation they find themselves in. So how can we encourage them while they remain in this reality? How can the Spirit show them that their life is not worthless, is not forgotten, is not abandoned by Christ?

God, open my eyes, open our eyes….teach us to love the orphan, to love the ones unchosen. Help us to teach them about your redeeming power, your love for them, your purpose for them. Let us be your arms to hold them, to embrace them and love them. Let us be your quiet and comforting, strengthening and encouraging voice. Let us speak truth with love. Let us hurt with them, cry with them and rejoice with them. Do not let our eyes be blinded to their trials. Let us not cover over their struggle with a shallow word, but let us be willing to go to the very depth of their heart to walk with them into your glory. God, open their hearts to you. Do the work that only you can do. Help them to hunger and search for you, and do not hide yourself from them. God show us how to love.

Anchor

I have this hope
As an anchor for my soul
Through every storm
I will hold to You

With endless love
All my fear is swept away
In everything
I will trust in You

There is hope in the promise of the cross
You gave everything to save the world You love
And this hope is an anchor for my soul
Our God will stand
Unshakeable

Unchanging One
You who was and is to come
Your promise sure
You will not let go

Your Name is higher
Your Name is greater
All my hope is in You

Your word unfailing
Your promise unshaken
All my hope is in You

(Listen to the song Anchor HERE!)

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“Looking back to move forward”

 

This morning with my church family we talked about the closing of this year and the beginning of next year! We wrote down some things that we were grateful for, what we mourned over, how we saw God moving, and what we’d like to leave behind in 2017. After writing these things down, we celebrated communion, being humbled before Christ, remembering His sacrifice for our sins and the redemption of life that He gives through His death. We then placed our notes on 2017 in a suitcase (which was then closed) as a symbol of closing the door on the past year. Not taking for granted the ways those things changed us, but as a closing of a passage and entering a new chapter.

Looking back at this time last year until now, SO much has changed. This time last year, I thought I knew where I was “headed” or what would be happening in the new year. But little did I know how much things would change….how much I would learn about my identity in Christ…how I would be awakened to the persecuted church…how I would mourn for things and people being stripped away…how I would be blessed with new opportunities….how God would confirm answers to prayer…It’s been quite an amazing year.

“But now, this is what the Lord, your Creator says, O Jacob,
And He who formed you, O Israel,
‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you [from captivity];
I have called you by name; you are Mine!

‘When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you.
When you walk through fire, you will not be scorched,
Nor will the flame burn you.'”

Isaiah 43:1-2

Honestly, even though the year began with some very deep valleys, as I look over the whole year, the blessings and surprises that God brought far outweigh whatever depths I thought were going to define 2017. It wasn’t even possible for me to dream of the ways in which God surprised me this past year and I am so thankful for what & how He brought me out from those valleys.

“Listen carefully, I am about to do a new thing,
Now it will spring forth; Will you not be aware of it?
I will even put a road in the wilderness,
Rivers in the desert….”

Isaiah 43:19

So as I look towards 2018, I hope to have more confidence and courage to follow where God leads, to live out my faith and share about Christ in a way that draws others to Him, to learn more about the people around me and about Christ and to trust Him in this crazy journey because who knows what kind of adventures He may be taking me on this year. I may not know what is up ahead, but with all my heart I intend to seek after Christ and ask Him to open my eyes to see how He sees and to love like He does.

Coming & Going

Here were the questions we looked at this morning & some of my reflections on the past year and the upcoming year!

2017

  • When did you feel close to God this year?
  • When in this year did you feel like God was absent?
  • What were some moments of joy and some moments of sorrow?
  • What disappointed you or frustrated you this year?
  • What surprised you this year?
  • Is there anything in this year you want to leave behind and not take with you into next year?

Feeling close to God in doubt and pain. Forgiveness between myself and ministry partners. Reconnecting with kids I love. Making new ministry friends in Egypt. Sorrow for leaving family. Sorrow for “ideas” changing. Surprised by a settled peace in where Christ has taken me. Many new relationships & community. Positive visible answers to prayer. Vikings kicking butt. These are a few of my favorite things.

 

2018

  • What do you think God is inviting you into in this next year?
  • What areas of growth might you pursue in your life next year?
  • What experiments might you try in 2018?
  • Are there questions or topics you’d like to explore in the new year?
  • What are you apprehensive about as you look towards next year?
  • What are you excited about?

New ministry beginnings. Greater depth of relationships with others & with God. “How does God love the orphan?” Growth in and experiments in rhythms of reading, evangelism, study & journaling. Courage to follow God where He directs. Pursuit.

 

Permission Granted

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Here we are, in the middle of a fantastic Fall season–isn’t this just a great time of the year? I don’t know how all of you enjoy the season, but growing up in MN I always enjoyed going to apple orchards & pumpkin patches, having bonfires & hayrides, apple cider and pumpkin muffins. What’s not to love about that?

This year, the Fall season in Romania is different but just this week has brought the same joy and excitement as I’ve had in many past years. Over the past month my visa situation which would enable me to stay has been on rocky ground–we first compiled all the paperwork necessary and paid all the required fees, only to discover that the type of visa I was applying for was unavailable to me! What a blow! So we went back to ground zero. There were only 30 days left until I would have to leave the country unless we could find another avenue for a visa. To make a long story short, we dived into the track of a religious workers visa, found a church that would sponsor me, did another round of paperwork & fees and then waited….and waited….and waited…..and then! We got a response. The officials in Bucharest approved my visa request, and then all I’d have to do is apply through immigration—and their machines were down. This happened on the last day of my 30 days! Normally if this happens, you have to pay a large fine, etc. etc. but thankfully we found someone at immigration who had compassion and mercy, and let me off with only a warning (since it wasn’t my fault the machines were down and I couldn’t move forward). So for a few days I went around town with all my paperwork in hand incase I was approached by the “troops” and asked to leave. Then on Friday, we got a call that the machines were working and I could go and finally get my visa! I was approved for five years! This means that I’ll be able to stay in Romania for five years, with the ability to come in and out without having to reapply for another few years!

 

Wow.

So here I am, this has been the best week—I got hot water back (after a month without it), I received not only a visa but a five year visa, and the Vikings beat the Packers. I mean. Come on. God is GOOD!

So please be praying with me about what this means for my future….where to spend more of my time, how to really invest here, etc. Pray for continued open doors and open hearts for deeper relationships. Pray also for my language comprehension…I’ve been learning a lot, but it seems that when I learn something new, I realize how little I really know at all. It’ll all come in time.

Also, a big blessing for me recently was a visit from two very good friends! We were able to spend two nights in Vienna, a morning in Bratislava and then see the place where I’m staying now and the people I’ve been in community with. It was so good to not only take a few days away but to spend those few days with friends from home who I miss terribly.  I’ll include a few photos from our excursions!

Last but certainly not least, I was able to get back in touch with all three of the kids that I previously was caring for in Timisoara! It was an overwhelming joy to be able to see them, talk with them, hug them and know that they’re doing ok. It just cannot be conveyed in words the blessing this was for my heart. Hopefully this will just be the beginning of a renewed relationship with them.

This is “all” for now. Please keep praying, and let me know that you are, it’s really an encouragement when people write or say hi! I pray God would bless you where you are, and that He would speak to you in new ways as this beautiful season reminds us of the death that shrouds the earth for now–but that God can take every situation and bring beauty from it. Amen? Amen!

 

 

Out of Egypt

Wow. What a wonderful experience I’ve just had.

This Spring I was invited to join a team to teach English in Egypt and I heartily accepted the invitation! We were going to work with a group of locals, young adults, who take their relationship with Christ and His call on their lives very seriously. For them, the risks are very high, but the risk is worth it and they are willing to share the Gospel no matter what that means. To be surrounded by people like this will really challenge you, as well as encourage you…..at least this is the affect it had on me.

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The area where we were, was exactly as I would have imagined for the country of Egypt…it was crowded, loud, colorful, dry & dusty, animals here and there, and riddled with fast drivers (though no one really can prepare you for HOW fast). Our English team was comprised of Americans, a Canadian, Polish & Romanian gals and a German! We partnered with a group of Egyptian believers who were so gracious and welcoming to us.

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Each day we would meet in the morning together, then go into our English classes, conversational & reading groups. We used the Scriptures in our reading group and it was so fun to open and study them with such young teens. Many have grown up in Coptic homes, which is a very strict ancient Christian religion, based deeply in tradition & works, so it was particularly exciting to share with them that God died for us before while we were still sinners and that it wasn’t because of anything we had done to deserve his grace, but that He offers it freely! We ended each night with another group session, a testimony, worship & group activities. …usually youth games are cheesy and lame, but this group really knew how to put together some amazing activities!

One thing that really encouraged me was during our evening program early into the week. We had just begun to worship, when all the power went out. It was totally black, and yet the worship team didn’t even skip a beat and kept on singing!

IMG_2663We sang for about 20 more minutes, with nothing but a few cell phone lights, and continued our whole evening program as if nothing was wrong. We did spend some extra time in prayer that night and it was so clear that the Spirit of God was present with us. This team was such a witness, in that despite the power outage, they pressed on and didn’t let it deter them but actually compelled them into deeper prayer and worship. It was amazing. I couldn’t help but thinking about what our churches would do if the power suddenly went out and stayed out for an hour…..would we have kept going? Or just sit stunned, wondering what we should do?

One of the many students who blessed me, was very quiet in the beginning, and always on her phone. But one day she brought her Arabic Bible and I found the scripture that I have written on my arm so she could see. Later on she found me and through a translator asked what concerns I have, because she had a list of them with verses in her Bible and she wanted to write my name by that verse so she could remember to pray! Wow. Who would have imagined that would happen!

(Later she gave me the note below as part of her homework–hilarious!)

 

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The Egyptian team shared with us about their ministries, educating children, witnessing throughout villages, leading Bible studies with women, teaching music, teaching video editing, and more. It’s incredible how they have found practical ways to influence their community & country with the Gospel. I would ask that you say a prayer for them–that they would continue in boldness, that they would be protected from the dangers surrounding them both physically and spiritually, that they would have provision for their needs and for open doors in witnessing. One lady said that at the market, a seller had remembered her name because she stood out to her as different than anyone else because of her kind character. These are just the opportunities one would ask for–an open person who is seeking the reason behind a visibly different life. Would we be noticed for the same?

On the last day we were in Egypt, we visited a monastery that was built over the place where some of the earliest Christians began a communal society. In the mid 200’s, Christian monks & nuns separated themselves from the rest of society, dedicated themselves to charity and prayer. It was an interesting place to visit. The newer monastery was similar to other places I’ve been, but significantly it is a place that most Christian and Coptic parents bring their children to be baptized. A short distance away was an archeological dig of the original site which was more interesting. Here, there are remains to the original baptismal, as well as other pieces of the settlement. Much has been stolen or removed for  safety, but from what we saw, it had been a very large and beautiful settlement of early Christians living in Egypt.

Over all, God really showed me a new kind of devotion to Him. The people I met face persecution daily, and yet have so much joy. They are cut down, shut in, kept out, etc and yet they persevere in Christ. It was refreshing to serve with a new group of teenagers too, to see their excitement to learn, to teach me Arabic, to dance during worship, and learning more about Jesus. There’s something great about trying to share the Gospel in a foreign language…..you’ve got to keep it simple. I’m sure there’s more I can say, but for your sake, I’ll end this post now.

Please keep them in your prayers! Just today, the government has closed down all Christian camps and another American team had to evacuate. Please pray. Our God is big, and He’s more powerful than any of the trials we face, we only need to trust in Him!

We had our English class under this tree. A new friend gave me this bracelet which quotes Genesis 45:5b which says “…it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.”