…and the journey continues.

I am at a loss of words. Wow. Did that really just happen? The last sixty days have flown by. They have without-a-doubt been the most wonderful, challenging, stretching, refining, joyful, amazing, rewarding (and the list could continue) two months.

The team: divinely placed. It was absolutely incredible seeing how He specifically put every single one of us together; each having different spiritual gifts, strengths, and weaknesses. I have grown to love each of these people so deeply and they have truly become my family. Saying goodbye was way more difficult than I imagined, but I know these are friendships and people that I will continue to walk through life with; encouraging and pointing each other closer to Him. Beyond blessed to have had the opportunity to serve alongside such wonderful souls.

The Journey: Incredible.

Hong Kong/China: the Lord’s strength was emphasized and revealed here. The bible is a gift from the Lord. We are fortunate and blessed to have access to this beautiful book. Many, many, many, many are not. My heart was broken in this country, but encouraged by seeing the Lord continue to enable His people to read and have access His word; even against one of the most powerful governments in our world. He is stronger than the most powerful army, and the bigger than the financial amount it takes to make the bibles.

India: beautiful, beautiful, beautiful children. The most joyful, loving, servant-hearted people I’ve ever met. They have nothing to call their own, but they have everything because they walk with Christ. This country was incredibly humbling. Bucket baths, six girls to three twin beds, insane heat, and yet, so much joy. The agenda for a majority of the days: sit with the Lord and love the children. After India, the Lord’s call for us to live simply makes complete since. He is so present here. Jesus plus nothing equals everything.

Uganda: we are made new. Completely. Once we belong to Him and are no longer of this world, we identify as nothing else, and nothing in the past matters. All week long we heard beautiful stories of the Lord’s redemption on people’s lives. The Lord is moving visibly through this country, and it shows. The people are hopeful, and their financial circumstances don’t define or overcome them. They are His, and He is theirs.

France: if you gain the world but don’t have Jesus, you still have nothing. Lost are the people here, and it is heartbreaking. Overall, France was probably the most difficult country for my team and I. We were attacked hardest here, but were also able to see the Lord’s love even so. He loves these people, and even when they deny His existence, they stand in awe of His creation. He still desires their hearts.

Nicaragua: joy in serving others. The church we were working with is absolutely incredible. So much joy. They give everything to others and truly love and care for others. They do so not just passively and just because they have been called to, but they find true joy and happiness in putting themselves last, serving others, and letting others see Jesus in them. Worship isn’t just with flags, trumpets, and dancing, but with lives.

After seeing five countries on four different continents, there is one constant: we are broken people, all in desperate need of Jesus.  The enemy has a hold in all of these places, and here in America as well. It just looks different in every country.

We are blessed to live in this country. We don’t have watch our backs when we bow our heads to pray, and we don’t have to worry when we say His name out loud. We don’t sit in fear when we sit in a church service, and we aren’t persecuted for owning a bible. We don’t have to wonder where our next meal will come from, and we have the opportunity to attend college, own a home, or drive a car if we would like. However; we don’t let Him work; we don’t let the Spirit move like He would like or is intended to. The challenge for life here in America: let Him move. Love others. Live simply and fill yourself with only Him. Don’t take anything for granted, and remember every blessing and joyous thing in life is a gift from our God.

Although the trip has come to an end, the journey has not. We have landed and are being settled back into the sixth country: America. ‘Missions’ doesn’t mean leaving the country; rather, it’s a lifestyle. Love God, love people, and live solely to glorify Him wherever you are in this world.

Thank you to everyone who has supported, encouraged, and loved me throughout this journey. If I met you along the trip or you’ve known me all my life, words cannot express my gratitude. Thank you for all of the prayers, for every single one was heard. If it was one prayer or 60, thank you. You each have played a significant role in my journey, and many others as well. I am blessed by each of you.

God is big. God is good. God is faithful. God loves His people.

Psalm 117: Praise the Lord, all you nations. Praise him, all you people of the earth. For he loves us with unfailing love; for the Lord’s faithfulness endures forever. Praise the Lord!

 

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Nicaragua

Wow. I can’t believe that we have just finished our last country. The past two months have flown by but have been two of the best months of my life! As I type this, my team and I are at debrief and will be heading back to Texas in four short days.

For the last leg of the trip and the past eight days, the Global Journey team has been in Somoto, Nicaragua. What an incredible time! We were working with an organization called “Hearts to Honduras” which do various types of mission work in Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica. We were specifically placed with the church ‘Brazos Abertios’, or ‘Open Arms Church’. Pastor Malone, his family, and the Open Arms church body were some of the most welcoming people I’ve ever met!

We had a huge change in Nicaragua, adding five new team members and going from seven to twelve total. This was absolutely wonderful, and the new team members brought new energy and excitement into the last stop. We all bonded quickly, and it was a true blessing getting to serve alongside these new friends!

Nicaragua: when it comes to worshiping the Lord, there are no boundaries. Church service on four different nights of the week, and during worship flags and horns are definitely present. It’s a fiesta for Jesus! Haha, there really is so much joy! They loved worshiping alongside us, asking us to lead dance and worship multiple times. They are so on fire for Christ, and it was such a wonderful thing to experience; two languages, two cultures, but one Holy Spirit.

During our time in Somoto, we visited many people in the church who are sick or needing prayers. We went to their houses, prayed over them, and gave them words of encouragement. Wow. It was so cool seeing how they truly loved and cared for one another in the church. Rather the person had been attending the church for two weeks or for two years, they each were loved and looked after. This was such a blessing. We also played with children in the village, shared the gospel, and visited a school and nursing home. Also during our time in Somoto, there were three baptisms out in the country in the river, and this was such a beautiful thing to be a part of! We sang songs of praise, and celebrated with our new brothers and sisters in Christ.

As we finish up the trip with debrief, we will, for the first time, really be looking back at all five countries. Thank you so much to all who have been in prayer! I will be posting more later, but for now, my team and I will spend some time resting in the Lord, and spending these last few days together!

France

St. Paul, France is located on the outskirts of Nice. With breathtaking views and incredible architecture, St. Paul is a highly visited place by tourists in France. The old city sits on top of a mountain, with deep valleys on all sides. After spending 21 days straight in two third-world countries, we went from living among the poorest people in the world to living among the wealthiest. The people who live here have climbed the “financial success” latter to the top, and there’s one thing that’s a visible and common factor among almost all. They are still unhappy.

I was not prepared for the spiritual warfare we would see in France. A misunderstanding among many; just because they can afford to purchase a bible doesn’t mean they have heard the good news. The statistics are 1 in a 1,000 people truly know Christ as their savior.

Everyone worships something. God created us that way; we are worshiping beings. If we aren’t worshiping the Creator of the Universe, we worship things such as money, ourselves, success, fame, other people etc. This is everywhere, but you can visibly see an abundance of that here.

One theme for this country that God has really shown me-His grace is unimaginably grace. There’s not a cap, and He continuously gives us gifts that we don’t deserve. Gifts of forgiveness, the gift of love. This is how we should view each other. We give grace and mercy to His people, because He shows it to us daily. Praise Him.

“The Lord is compassionate and merciful, slow the get angry and filled with unfailing love. He will not constantly accuse us, nor remain angry forever. He does not punish us for al our sins; he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve. For His unfailing love toward those who fear him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth.” Psalm 103 8–11

During our time in France, Global Journey had the privilege of working with the International  Baptist Church. The church has two locations; one in St. Paul, and one in Nice. It has been an absolute blessing getting to know this specific church body that consists of many different original home nations represented.

We have done a variety of different things during the past ten days. First off, we stayed at a campsite (with tents and all), which I loved! When we first arrived, the church had organized a “half-day of prayer” that they do quarterly. The topic that day-the nations. We separated into five different groups and prayed for a total of about three hours, just simply giving to God what is already His. This was such a refreshing time for the team!

A few days later, we also passed out sandwiches in Nice to a few homeless people on the street. My teammates Hannah and Ryan and I went in a group together. We would ask to pray over them, and then provided a sandwich and water. What a humbling experience. Almost all were so thankful, kissing our hands with tears in their eyes. Random acts of kindness isn’t seen often, and it was an awesome opportunity to tell them that they are important and they are loved by their heavenly Father.

During the remainder of our time at Nice, we were helping the church set up for a “bilingual camp”, which was actually a VBS. They go all out and really want this to be a fun experience for the children, they want them to feel welcomed and at home during that week. For many of the children this is the first time they have ever heard about Christ. There are 55 children attending the camp this upcoming week-33 of which come from unbelieving homes. If you feel led to do so, you could pray that the Lord would change these children’s lives this week, and that they would feel encouraged to share with their parents what they have learned here. I’m excited to hear about what all the Lord does during that week!

Our time in France has absolutely flown by and I can’t believe we are already done with four countries! Please lift up my team as today we being the last leg of our journey. Pray that we would finish strong, relying on the Lord’s strength to carry us throughout the next ten days! Thank you again to all whom have been supporting my team and I in prayer!

“Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.” -1 John 2:15-17

Uganda: Country of Hope

Uganda. The Lord’s beauty has shined bright in this country. Not just beauty in the physical sense, because Uganda in an incredibly beautiful land, called “The Pearl of Africa”. But more so the incredible beauty of the Lord’s character. Over and over again this week I have heard stories of His redemption, and have had the blessing of getting to know people whom were lost and a mile deep in sin, and He has completely made new and are walking faithfully with Him. If there’s one thing I was continuously reminded of in Uganda, it’s that the grip of Satan in weak and feeble compared to the incredible power of our God.

Even in a place where there is immense poverty and things such as witchcraft are engraved into the culture, it’s still impossible to miss the beautiful things the Lord is doing in this place. The people have hope.

During the past ten days, my team and I have been serving at Lulwanda Children’s Home in Mbale, Uganda. We were welcomed into the home of the program coordinator of Lulwanda, Natalie Rolfe (who is ironically an Aggie) and her sweet British roommates, tiffany and Sarah, along with her dear friend Melanie), made my team and I feel right at home. They each have incredible hearts and it was such a blessing getting to know sisters who are living life fully surrendered to Christ. We were also blessed to be at the orphanage at the same time as another wonderful team! The Thrasher team consisted of 12 adults whom are mostly all from Texas. They have become our parents during our time together, and He has taught me so much through them and their faith. It’s encouraging to see people who are pursuing Christ and being obedient to His will throughout their entire lives.

Our time spent at the orphanage and school located on the same grounds was short but most definitely sweet. The Thrasher team held a teacher conference during our time there, so our team would substitute teach the children during the school hours, along with help with any jobs that needed to be done around the property, such as building shelves, painting a room, or helping out in the kitchen. We weren’t with the children a whole lot, but the time we did have to love on them was wonderful! Many of the children come from incredibly heartbreaking  backgrounds, and the children often go through a visible change and are made completely new in body, spirit, and mind when they come to know Christ as their savior.

A personal highlight of our time in Uganda: ON Saturday Lulwanda/Thrasher team put on an outreach program called “Buckets of Hope”. The buckets consisted f soap, a mosquito net, rice, beans,, sugar, flour, and most importantly, God’s word. The food supplies were enough to provide for the family for about a month. A team of ten or so children, along with three adults, separated into thirteen groups and spread out among the village surrounding Lulwandas. The village is the rural and poorest areas, the houses consist of mud huts. A majority of Africans around the continent live in these tribal villages. We delivered a bucket to a house in need, and then tell them why we were there by sharing the gospel with them. The children would then pray over the people and home. IT was an incredible and humbling experience. The people were incredibly thankful, often times falling to their knees to give thanks to us and the Father. The buckets were filled with hope, and the people’s hearts were as well.

On Sunday we had the opportunity to attend a Ugandan church service. One word: joyful. The three hour long service was filled with His spirit from beginning to end. Not to mention most of the Ugandans had to walk a few miles to attend church. They would do whatever it took to be in the house of the Lord and surrounded by His children. They dance, sing, and shout praise to the Lord. They were incredibly joyful over the opportunity to worship our savior.

I will forever treasure the time we had in Uganda. God spoke so clearly in reminding my team and I multiple times of how our battle is not of flesh and blood. The enemy has had a strong hold on Africa for a long time, but the Lord is stronger and is redeeming lives one-by-one. I have been incredibly encouraged by the faith of the people who serve here, and He has been so good in continuing to unite, protect, and provide for my team. Thank you so much to all who have been lifting us up in prayer over the past month-they have definitely been heard.

Side note: if you would like to hear and see more about spiritual warfare around the world, the documentary “Furious Love” is on point.

“Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.” -2 Corinthians 4:16-18

India: They will be safe in His arms.

ImageWow. The last eight days our team has spent in New Delhi, India at Emmanuel’s Children’s Home. It’s difficult to put into words exactly what has happened during this past week, what this land is like, and how Jesus was found in the lives of children living in the slums of Delhi. It has been one of the most challenging, growing, loving, and joyful weeks of my life.

Outside the walls of the orphanage there is unbelievable spiritual darkness. A large number of the people here have never heard His name, and there is immense and incomprehensible poverty covering a vast majority of the country. However, inside the walls of the little orphanage, there is a simple home filled with more love for our Savior than I could have ever imagined. These 150 children and 5 staff members that stay here year-round are the most joyful people I’ve ever met. When they have hardly anything material-wise to call their own, they have more than they will ever need knowing Jesus. The world is telling them they are nothing, yet they know the truth and where their identity lies, and consistently rest in the unconditional love of Jesus Christ. Coming into India, I was thinking my team and I would teach the children about our God. Boy, was I wrong. These children taught us and the Lord used them in our lives in mighty ways. Their love for Christ is incredible and encouraging. The children wanted nothing more than to serve us and share with us the little they had to call their own. They consistently and continuously poured out love to us, and I am completely swept away. They never once felt sorry for themselves or complained about anything at all. They truly love and care for each other, and often times you will randomly hear sweet voices singing praises to the Lord. These children truly get it.

Seeing how the Lord provides and protects those who love Him in this country has been so amazing. There isn’t an abundance of supplies or finances to run the orphanage. One of the leaders of the children’s home said to me, “He’s given us a home, He’s given us food on the table. He is faithful and meets our needs.” He will provide, always.

For he will deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no one to help.
He will take pity on the weak and the needy and save the needy from death.
He will rescue them from oppression and violence, for precious is their blood in his sight.
Psalm 72:12-14

A sweet and rare occasion during our time at the orphanage was when we were able to take the kids to eat at a restaurant and to a water park. The kids generally leave the orphanage once a year. They were so grateful and we all had such a blast playing and laughing together! It also rained a little on the first three days we were there, which was such a blessing and cooled down the temperatures from the normal 115 degrees. We all laugh, danced, and sang in the rain each time! Absolutely joyful moments.

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My girls Karishma and Sujata playing in the rain!

When we were fixing to get on the bus to head back to the orphanage after a long day at the water park, Sheetal, who is six, suddenly had a really upset stomach. I picked her up as she softly and quietly wept, and I held her during the drive home.  As I cradled her in my arms, rubbing her tummy and just holding her tight, I felt heartbroken by the fact that she doesn’t have a mom who can rub her stomach when she gets an ache, or comfort her when she feels bad. However, the sadness and heartbreak I felt for the situation was suddenly turned into rejoicing and thankfulness that Sheetal will always have the arms of her Heavenly Father to run to. Our human, imperfect selves would even fail and disappoint her, but He never will. She is in the best hands she could possibly be in. She’s in the Lords. Living in a country where there is unbelievable spiritual darkness, Sheetal has heard the truth and is forever a daughter of the King. She will never be alone, even in the slums of Delhi. Praise Him.

I never imagined that saying goodbye would be as difficult as it was. After only one week, these people have changed my life. Seeing the faith of the missionaries who lead the orphanage and the children who call it home has been one of the biggest blessings the Lord could have given. I have never felt His love so tangibly. This life isn’t about us. When we no longer try to fill ourselves with material things of this world, and instead fill ourselves with His spirit, word, and love, we find ourselves smack-dab in the middle of His will. There truly is not a more beautiful place to be. Our entire purpose of creation is to worship our God. Jesus is the only way.

“You will be safe in His arms. You will be safe in His arms. The hands that hold the world are holding your heart. This is the promise He made, He will be with you always. When everything is falling apart, you will be safe in His arms. Cause these are the hands that built the mountains, the hands that calm the sea. These are the arms that hold the lame and they are holding you and me. These are the hands that heal the leper pull the lame up to their feet. These are the arms nailed to the cross to break our chains and set us free.” -Safe by Phil Wickham

Side thoughts: bucket baths really aren’t bad, Chapatis are the bomb, and Texas summers are bearable.

His powerful word & goodbye to HK.

I can’t believe our time in Hong Kong has come to an end. This truly has been one of the most incredible journeys. Coming into this country, I didn’t really know what to expect. Our heavenly Father has taught me so much here about His character, myself, and the precious gift of the bible. The words are life-giving, spirit-breathed, and He has shown me how it truly is a blessing that we are able to read the word of God and hold it in our hands.

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Sunday my team and I attended a local Baptist Church service here in Hong Kong. What an experience! It was so cool to see other believers, literally on the other side of the world, worshiping the exact same Lord. He is the same in Hong Kong as He is in the United States. The same Holy Spirit guides their lives and fills their souls, and people here are in love with the same Jesus. There was so much joy in this small church of 20. Our preacher was from Japan and the translation was a little difficult to understand, but the Spirit was still so present and moving. Such an awesome thing to feel! The words spoken are spirit led and His own, and the Lord will speak through an obidiant and surrendered heart, even when our first language isn’t the same.

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My team and I with a few brothers and sisters here after church!

Last weekend we had off, and my team and I had an opportunity to see the city and do some team-bonding! We had such a blast together! On Sunday night we went to Hong Kong Island and saw the Light Show at the harbor. So much fun! Monday was my birthday and it was so wonderful! My friends were so sweet and made the day super special!

During our short time in Hong Kong, there were 12,160 books brought into the mainland country. Praise the Lord for this! Humbled and amazed that He would graciously allow our team to play a part in serving Him in this way. I have come to love the people, culture, and organization we have been working with the past ten days.

Prayer requests:
For the people in control in the mainland country. The Lord desires their hearts just as much as anyone elses!
For the people who will be receiving the books brought into China. That they would be filled with joy at the opportunity to read His word, and that they would pass it on to all they can!
My team as we head to India in the morning. We would continue to be led by only His Spirit and that we would lean on Him for strength in a place of spiritual darkness!

Parable of the Lost Sheep
“If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them wanders away, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others on the hills and go out to search for the one that is lost? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he will rejoice over it more an over the ninety-nine that didn’t wander away! In the same way, it is not my heavenly Father’s will that even one of these little ones should perish.” Matthew 18:12-14

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Hong Kong

Today marks day nine of our sixty-day journey. Here is a little of what the past week-and-a-half has looked like:

My team and I all arrived in New Braunfels for training on May 31st and spent a few days there getting to know each other and learning specifics about each country, culture, and the work we would be doing. It was so much fun and such an important part of the trip. At first we were all just ready to jump on the airplane to start our first leg, but the Lord really taught us all a lot during those four days about ourselves and each other. It’s been awesome getting to see how He divinely crafted this team together. He has given each of us specific, different spiritual gifts that all are a crucial part of the body in enabling it to work the most effectively for His glory.

We left the states on the morning of June fourth and flew to CA, and then took a fourteen hour flight to Hong Kong. I’m thankful that we were given an opportunity to heavily spend time in prayer on the long flight right before the first stop. Our missionary contact picked us up from the airport and we were able to hear more about the situation here during the hour drive to our loft. Thursday was the first day of working with the mission organization in this country. I can’t be specific about the details of the work for safety of the organization and the brothers and sisters who serve in China, but I will say that the it has been awesome to see the beautiful ways in which the Lord is using their obedient hearts for His glory. One of the neatest things of this journey has been getting to know the hearts of the people who He has called to serve Him here. Hearing the specific ways in which He has protected, provided, and used them in this country has been incredible.

There is a crucial need for the word in China, and the church in the country doesn’t provide nearly enough. This is an act done by the government in hopes to try to keep the body small and under their control. As a result, there are millions of believers who have never read His word. Even through that unimaginable and heartbreaking reality, it’s amazing to see how He still prevails. Even when the country is trying to restrict their citizens from reading the word of God and physically holding it in their hands, He is still capturing the souls, redeeming the hearts, and changing the lives of many by His grace and unfailing love.

Psalm 46

God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
he lifts his voice, the earth melts.

The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Come and see what the Lord has done,
the desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease
to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”

The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.