Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Moving Forward, Remembering What's Behind

It's so incredibly good to be home. I was welcomed by family and perfect fall weather. Nothing beats that. Since getting home, I have filled my days spending time with loved ones who I missed so much while I was away, and am beginning to realize much of my time will soon be being spent on finalizing wedding plans. Business lies ahead, but I cannot move forward without reflecting on what I've just experienced, on the things God has taught me. It was such a stretching experience...

Leaving my students was extremely difficult. I was given an amazing farewell at a whole school assembly, where my second graders lead a special program for me. I was left speechless and in tears. When it was over, little Nonto, who I wrote about in my last update, was sobbing. The same tough little girl who never shows emotions fell apart, and it ripped my heart out. It wasn't like a normal teacher's goodbye with these children, I knew I'd probably never see them again. And these children are so special, so craving of love. Just like I had to learn to trust God in every other area of my life while I was there, I had to learn to trust Him to continue taking care of them. For as much as I love and adore them, I know He does so much more. I loved them with His love during the time I had with them; I pray they continue to carry it with them.

The Mayville girls also gave me a grand farewell, as they showered me with gifts and love. The time I had invested in these girls lives proved to be of so much value to them. That's what people need...purposeful time devoted to their lives for the glory of God. I was obedient to plant the seed into their lives and God has been so faithful to make it grow. I feel so blessed that God allowed me to witness the growth. They have such an eagerness to dig into their brand new Bibles and devote their lives to a relationship with their Savior. It's absolutely incredible.

Some of you may know that Brad, my fiance, came and spent my last week in South Africa with me. It was so unbelievably incredible to have him there beside me, ministering and exploring a new place. We spent a few days with the kids at the children's home, and my heart was once again captivated as I watched him with those kids. I feel so blessed to have him as my leader and teammate. God has made it so evident that Bradley is the man He created me to be with, because we can serve Him better together than we can apart. I tell you all of this so I can ask for prayer for our future together. God has heavily pressed both of our hearts to share His love with needy children, and we want to be faithful to answer His call whenever and wherever that may be. If there's one things I've learned more than anything from this experience it's that following God's will and living a life devoted to bringing Him glory is more satisfying than anything else this world can offer.

I want to leave by challenging each of you to put yourself in a situation where you are forced to totally depend on God. I know that is difficult in our comfortable lives here, but I can testify that learning what it means to truly rely on God is something that every follower of His should understand. God is so faithful and works in such indescribable ways, but how will you know if you've never allowed Him to truly reveal Himself? As stretching and as difficult as this experience was at times, I feel so blessed to have had this opportunity to see God in His loving power. Thank you all so much for you prayers and support; you made an impact in ways you could never imagine.

To God alone be the glory.

My Students

Never a shortage of love

Nonto <3

Mayville Girls

Painting shirts at the Children's Home

Loving each other, Loving our Savior

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Lessons Learned

I have no big story or revelation to share today, just life as “normal” here. I’m nearing the end of my journey and although I’m exhausted and overwhelmed, God has infused me with His strength to carry on. I want to finish strong and leave a lasting impression for His glory in the lives of the people He has put in my path here.

God has been revealing to me how He works in so many different ways. Sometimes He asks us to be bold and proclaim His truth with words, and other times He asks us to reveal His love simply be listening or acts of service. On Thursday nights, I go to a homeless shelter and sit with a 70 year old Indian man and listen to him carry on about years gone by. On a recent Thursday night, I began having doubts about how affective I was really being. While I was on my way there I started thinking, am I wasting my time? But then God quietly reminded me of the life of Christ and how he devoted His life to the needs of other people. He reminded me that a life modeled after Christ, is one that requires you to take your eyes off of yourself. And during the time that I sit and listen to Roy share what’s on his heart and mind, my focus is taken off of myself and given to Roy. And when I serve Roy, I’m serving God….

“ Truly I saw to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” – Matthew 26:40

Another lesson God has been teaching me is how to love the unlovable. Two little girls come to mind when I think of this: Apiwe and Nonto. Nonto is one of my students, Apiwe is in third grade, and both live at the children’s home I go to on Saturdays. These little girls do not have any real friends, because they annoy or frustrate nearly everyone around them. Nonto is needy, always asking for things, and to any teacher out there who’s reading this…she’s one of those students who’s in her own little world and could care less if she totally misses everything you say. Apiwe is a little mentally slow and awkward to all of her peers. She just can’t seem to socially relate and is naturally left out. To put it bluntly, these 2 girls are not the ones you would naturally cling to and fall in love with. But oh do they need love! They need to be treasured and adored and treated like the little princesses they are. They need stability. Apiwe was taken from her home in 1st grade because her step father raped her…on a regular basis. The mother knew about it but didn’t say anything out of fear. When the neighbors would hear her screaming, the step father would just pop his head out and say that she is refusing to eat her food. This went on for a long time, until someone finally stepped in. Now she’s living in an orphanage and is scarred in so many ways. She is only in 3rd grade and is always trying to act provocative; she doesn’t know what normal is. Nonto’s story isn’t allowed to be shared, but it is obvious abuse was prominent. If you could be around her for just 5 minutes, you would easily see this little girl has had a life of trauma at such a young age. When I first started teaching, she really frustrated me. But then God put such a soft spot on my heart for her. I long so bad to take her home with me and raise her in a stable, loving family, like every child deserves to have. These girls need such love, and they are just 2 among so so many.

As my time here is starting to come to an end, the fact that I have to leave Nonto and all of my other babies is beginning to sink in. I am very excited to be home again, but it is going to tear me apart to leave these precious ones behind. Their lives are filled with such chaos and destruction, and I’ve strived to create a place of peace and safety for them, but will that remain when I leave? At the end of last week, one of my students told me that several other boys in my class have been taking pieces of chalk into the bathroom, crushing them under their shoes, and then sniffing them like drugs. This obviously wouldn’t make you high, which means they are just doing it to pretend like they’re doing drugs. They are 7 and 8 years old might I remind you. They see older brothers, fathers, uncles, and friends using drugs so often that it is such a normal thing for them. My heart broke, as it seems like that is where there lives are heading.

And that’s why it all comes back to TRUST: the biggest lesson God has been teaching me since I left on 2 ½ months ago. Just like I have learned to trust Him to protect me, to give me strength for each day, and to work out situations that seem hopeless, I have to trust Him that He will take care of these precious children when I leave and place someone else in their lives that can be light to them in this dark world. For as much as I love them, I know He loves them an unfathomable amount more. They are in His care. God commands us to plant His seeds, but He never promises that we’ll be around to watch them grow.

I have several things I would love for you to pray for: I was able to send some of the girls from Mayville, the slum where I lead Bible study on Sunday afternoons, to a girls retreat this past weekend. They had never experienced anything like this before and were so excited. Please pray that the truths they heard over the weekend would sink into their hearts and change their lives. I also will be passing out Bibles to all of the girls today, so please pray God will open their hearts to His Word, so they can learn to depend on it for the remainder of their lives. This is also my last week of school, so please pray the transition is easy on both me and my students. And that I will shine brighter for Christ than ever before during my last few days with them. I also will be leading a “Teaching English and Phonics” workshop to a group of teachers at a very poor farm school not too far away next Monday. Please pray for wisdom and confidence, as I try to help the teachers prepare for teaching a language not their own to their students next school year. And finally, please pray for safety for my Bradley as he leaves on Friday to come here!!! He will be arriving Saturday morning and will be spending my last week here with me, and then we will be leaving together the following Saturday to come home.

There is so much work to be done during these next 2 weeks. My hearts’ cry is that every moment left here will be spent bringing Him glory. For He alone is worthy!!!

Thanks for the prayers!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Beauty of Being INCAPABLE.

Philippians 4:13 – “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”

The most misused verse in all of Scripture. I never used to quote this verse after seeing it one too many times written on people’s basketball lockers or running shoes, as if the strength Paul was referring to when the Spirit lead him to write this verse was meant to help someone win a basketball game, or run a marathon, or                            , you fill in the blank. We mock God to think this strength that He is so willing to grant us is merely used for our puny little hopes and wishes. It is so much more than that.

In the verses before this Paul is talking about the ability he has in the Spirit to endure every circumstance imaginable. To be in the midst of plenty and in the midst of great need. No matter what, He is confident to carry out the work of Christ because of the Spirit that is within Him. Without the strength of the Lord, he knows he is incapable to effectively endure life’s circumstances.

I now understand this. The word INCAPABLE has a new, beautiful meaning in my life. This may sound strange, especially considering my roots. I come from a long line of stubborn, hard workers; the word incapable should be anything but beautiful. It’s in my blood to want to do things in my own strength, by my own hard work and sweat. But coming here and seeing the work God has laid out before me has made me realize just how foolish that mindset is…

I could never have imagined all of the plans God had in store for me here. I could never have imagined completing the work He’s set before me. I am 21 year-old American girl from a small town in a foreign country, how much do I really know? On Sunday, at the Bible study in the slum with that beautiful group of girls, I decided to open up with a little “game” called ‘Beefs and Bouquets’. (If you’ve been in a Bible study with me, you know exactly what I’m talking about =) ) You go around the room and say a beef (something bad) and a bouquet (something good) about your last week. It’s a good way to get people talking and know how to pray for each other. When I’ve played this game before, the beefs tend to be along the lines of “I did bad on my exam” or “My boyfriend and I aren’t getting along.” Needless to say, I wasn’t quite prepared for the beefs I was about to hear in that crammed full hut of girls ages 6-16: my mom beat my sister until there was blood coming out of her ears….again, I wanted to kill myself because I don’t see any hope for my life, my family is all dying around me, my mom won’t stop drinking, and the list went on… I just sat there, begging the Spirit to give me Words to say. How do I make them understand that Christ adores and cherishes each one of them? That there is hope and peace in Christ? Their whole lives they’ve been surrounded with abuse, death and poverty. How will they believe me?

Then there are the precious children at the children’s home. Some are true orphans, some are there because they suffered so much abuse at home. All are hurting so much. When I was playing with the little ones this past Saturday, they fought for my attention so constantly, it was exhausting just to keep track of which one I picked up most recently or threw the ball to last. Little boys, ages 5-9 were dying just to be held. (How many 7-year-old boys do you know who just want to be picked up and carried around all day?) Then later that day, I walked to a store nearby with some of the older girls. The one was sobbing because one of the workers at the home was saying nasty things about this girls’ father, who had died several years ago. She said she gets picked on all the time by the staff and if she doesn’t say anything, she is harshly scolded for being rude, and if she does say something, she is scolded for speaking her mind to an adult. This 12-year-old girl has been at the home for 9 years. This is all she’s knows.

And then there are my 56 beautiful students who have totally captivated my heart. (No, I didn’t miscount…one of my students left the school) These precious babies are the main reason why I am here. Every morning when I wake up, I expect to be completely worn out due to the amount of energy and love that each of these students takes out of me on a daily basis. But as I go throughout my day, the thought never even crosses my mind that I feel tired. I am completely renewed each day.

Recently, I’ve been asked to complete a very scary, overwhelming task. When I first realized what was being asked of me, I thought, “You’ve got to be joking. There is no way I am capable.” The main teacher I am working with, her husband is a principal at an extremely poor farm school outside of the city. While talking with them on my ride to Mayville (the slum) on Sunday, he began to express his concerns for the government’s new policy on teaching for the next school year and how his teacher’s are going to fulfill the requirements. Starting next school year, which is January over here, primary teachers will be required to teach both English and Zulu in the classroom. The problem with this for his school is that the teacher’s can speak English, but they have no background in phonics or written English language rules whatsoever. They really don’t have the understanding or the resources to teach it, but it is a government requirement. I was listening with concern for his school, not prepared that I would soon play a major part in this discussion. Before I knew it, I was being asked to run a phonics workshop at his school. At first I thought, “Oh how awesome that would be to get to teach children in a new setting like that! Sign me up!” It wasn’t until after I had agreed that I found out he was talking about a workshop for the teachers, not the students. I got home later that day, praying fervently that the workshop would fall through and I would avoid this crazy idea. Well, today I got the date for it. I will be leading a workshop on phonics and how to teach it on Monday, October 3rd, during my last week here, because the school will be on holiday that week.

My initial thoughts were so overwhelming. I will by far be the youngest person there, with the least amount of teaching experience, trying to explain how to teach phonics to a group of people who have never even heard of phonics before….all in one day. I didn’t sign up for that. I am INCAPABLE.

And that’s when it hit me. I am incapable!!! I have been incapable of accomplishing ANY of this! I am incapable of having enough energy and love everyday to teach so many new things to so many attention-starved children.  I am incapable of having the boldness to speak to homeless Muslims about who Jesus is at a homeless shelter. I am incapable of having the energy on Saturdays to love on desperately hurting children. I am incapable of truly comforting young girls who are continually criticized by the only people they have in their lives to take care of them. I am incapable of finding the right words to say to girls who are daily abused and hopeless, wanting to end their life. I am incapable of teaching people twice my age how to teach a foreign concept, not even in their own language. I am completely incapable.

And this is where it turns beautiful. Because I am incapable, I have come to see just how CAPABLE God is! There is not other way to explain the continually energy, love, words, guidance and joy that He continually puts in me only to pour out of me. There is absolutely no way I could do any of this by my own strength. God has proven to me over and over again how He will faithfully give me the strength I need to accomplish His purposes when I am obedient to Him. Because of this, I know I can trust Him to give me the strength and wisdom I will need to carry through each day, to lead a workshop for Zulu teachers, and to do whatever else He is going to bring my way.

His strength is the only reason I can do this, so He gets ALL the glory.

“Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. FOR THIS I TOIL, STRUGGLING WITH ALL HIS ENERGY THAT HE POWERFULLY WORKS WITHIN ME.”   - Colossians 1:28-29

Sunday, August 28, 2011


I don’t really know where to begin. This past week and a half has been a whirlwind, much of it spent being in awe at God’s amazing work.

Words could not express how excited I was for Kala and Kelsey to arrive; to have family here with me, understanding what it is I see everyday. I knew they were bringing a lot of supplies, but oh my goodness I could not have prepared myself for the crazy amount that they brought. When they rolled in those seven, stuffed suitcases and opened them all up, I was speechless. I just sat there, completely in awe at your generosity. As we began to dig through all of them, my mind started running a million miles per hour thinking of all of the ways these supplies could be used. I had to sit back and close my eyes for a second and just pray for wisdom to know where each and every donation should be placed. It was quite an overwhelming task organizing it all. (a good overwhelming, I might add) Items were counted and separated based on type and need. Finally, we finished and our end result was one suitcase full of teaching supplies for the math teacher, one suitcase full of teaching supplies for the literacy teacher, one HUGE suitcase full of school supplies for the students, a suitcase full of lunchboxes and water bottles for the students, a suitcase full of children’s clothing, AND another HUGE suitcase full of toys and nail polish and all things random. Yeah, it was insane. God is good.

I feel like I could just leave it at that and everyone could leave amazed at God’s goodness. But I suppose since you were the ones to give, you deserve to know where your donations went. =) Friday morning rolled around and us 3 girls took the 2 suitcases for the teachers, the huge one full of school supplies and the other huge one full of lunchboxes and water bottles. We arrived early to meet with the teachers and get organized, and we ended up spending a good portion of our morning trying to keep kids out of the classroom. Haha The teachers were amazed…they are still talking about how shocked they were today. I kept telling them my sister and cousin was bringing a ton of supplies, but I don’t think they had any idea it would be that much. They couldn’t believe they each had their own bag full of supplies to teach with. (and let me assure you, those teaching supplies are already being used literally everyday) They LOVED it. And those words don’t even do it justice. Then, we got to laying things out on students’ desks. It was so fun! I couldn’t wait for the kids to be let in. They were so excited! I wish each one of you could have been there to see how appreciative they were. It was amazing. And let me personally thank you, because teaching since that day has been SOOOO much better. No longer am I CONSTANTLY interrupted with, “I don’t have any rubber” (eraser), or “I don’t have any Prittz” (glue), or “I don’t have a pencil.” They all have now and are putting it to wonderful use! At the end of the day, we passed out the lunchboxes and water bottles. I think the kids were in shock at all of the surprises. And it was so fun to see them using all of there new things the next week. All three of us were flooded with thank you notes from both students and parents.

While the majority of the donations went to the school, there was still a large amount left to be distributed elsewhere. On Sunday, we headed to Mayville (the slum) with bookbags stuffed full of all the clothes. We met with a group of girls that get together every Sunday afternoon for a discipleship-type group and got to spend time laughing and learning with them in a tiny one-room “house”, and then leave them with all of the clothes. Because of going there that day, it has now opened the door for me to go back each Sunday and lead a Bible study for them. Today, I went and was flooded with questions about how to recover from rape and abuse. These are YOUNG girls, and these are real problems they face everyday. I am very nervous for such a deep task, but at the same time I am so excited that God has granted me the privilege to spend time talking to these girls about His Word and mentoring them through life’s difficulties.

And the giving still didn’t stop there. =) On Monday after school, we took the huge suitcase full of toys, balloons, make-up, nail polish and all kinds of random fun things to St. Martins, the children’s home I go to on Saturdays where several of my students live. The kids were CRAZY EXCITED! It was mad chaos distributing it all, but it was so wonderful to bring so much joy to them through such simple things. Because of this distribution, I have been welcomed there with more open arms and was even allowed to take a few of the girls out of the orphanage to buy them lunch this past Saturday. The kids at this orphanage crave attention. When I was there yesterday, the little ones fought endlessly to sit on my lap and be closest to me to hear me read them stories. The littlest things mean so much to them, so you can imagine what huge suitcase full of new toys did for them.

Are you tired of reading? Cause I haven’t even told you the best parts yet. =) We were able to use money that was contributed to pay for the tuition of 3 students at Carrington who didn’t have the money to return the next year. These 3 students were carefully chosen, because they each only have 1 more year left before high school, and in order to apply for high school here, you have to have a clean slate. And if you can’t afford Carrington, which is really cheap, that means you’ll be going to a school in the slum, with next to no chance of making it to high school. The money was given and the 3 students were told on the last day the girls were here. The principal was crying and the children were speechless. It was a beautiful moment.

And then finally, there’s Mary. Meeting Mary on the girls’ last night here was a direct intervention from God. There’s so much I want to tell you about Mary, but it will have to wait until my next post. I think I’ve given you enough to chew on for now. All I ask for you to do right now is to pray. Pray for her safety, and pray for wisdom for myself as I figure out how to help her. I promise I will explain in detail soon.

I think it’s easy to see how huge of an impact your gifts have made. 56 second grade students. 2 teachers. 3 sixth grade students. 1 principal. 80 orphans. 25 girls from the slum. 1 sweet girl and her baby from the streets. All of these and so many more were hugely impacted by your gifts, including myself. And the best part is that the giving of these gifts has led to so many open doors for me to continue to share the love of Jesus and His message while I am here. It will not just last until the lead runs down on a pencil or a balloon pops, it has the potential to last for all eternity, because those pencils and balloons, those math bingo games and crotched hats, those toothbrushes and pencil sharpeners, have opened the door for me to share about Christ’s love. It’s amazing what God can accomplish through us when we’re willing to make the sacrifice.

Thank you all.

If I may, I would like to personally ask for some intense prayer. It was extremely difficult to see the girls leave this past Thursday. I miss home so incredibly much, yet I know there is so much more God has for me to accomplish here. When they left, I felt so overwhelmed at all the tasks set before me, like there was no way I could manage it all on my own. And you know what I’ve learned? I can’t do it on my own. I am in desperate need of God’s strength to get through each day. Please pray that I am flooded with His strength and joy, so I can effectively minister for His gospel while I am here.

Less of me God, more of You. 

Sunday, August 14, 2011


I have been overwhelmed by the news of your generosity. It’s only a few days away from Kala and Kelsey’s arrival, and I absolutely cannot wait to get a peak inside those suitcases! The impact that all of it will have on these children’s lives will go beyond what you can imagine. Let me prove it to you….

Meet Smangele. 

One of my poorest and most neglected students. From my very first day at the school, Smangele captured my attention. I can’t really put a finger on why exactly, but I think it was God leading me to a plan He had in store. She was timid, extremely timid. She would never speak out in class and when she talked right in front of your face, you could barely hear her. Her English is very poor, due to a lack of support from home for her schooling. Before, when she would ask her mom to sign a report card or help her with anything, her mom would yell at her for bugging her and tell her to leave her alone, in not such nice words. She was quickly falling behind from the rest of the class and no one seemed to have time to care.

One day, I noticed her shoes. They were completely fallen apart….the backs worn through and the buckles flapping lose. She might as well have not had anything on. I noticed them because I saw another student kicking mud all over the back of her legs, she was clearly picked on. I pulled her aside to check the size, but it was worn off so I whipped out a ruler and measured…21 centimeters. After school let out, I was so anxious to get to the store to buy her a new pair of shoes. God had burdened my heart for this little girl tremendously. 22 dollars later, I walked out of there with the perfect pair. I couldn’t wait for the next morning to come. Little did I know God had much more in store than a comfy pair of new shoes.  

When I found her the next morning, I put my hand on her shoulder to guide her into the room before the rest of the students could come in. She flinched and through up her hands in defense as soon as I touched her; my heart hurt to think of what had caused her to react that way. She relaxed when she saw it was me and followed me into the classroom. I pulled off her old pair of shoes and pulled the new ones out of the box. You should have seen the look on her face. Such anticipation, such disbelief. I gently slipped them on and buckled them, wanting her to feel like a little princess. She had the biggest smile on her face, and I would have been content with just that moment. But God had a bigger plan...

A fellow 2nd grade teacher wrote out a note in Zulu (the mom doesn’t know English) explaining where Smangele’s new shoes came from, so she wouldn’t get in trouble. That same week, I began tutoring Smangele and another very poor little boy who struggles with English after school. You should have seen how excited they were to “get to be tutored!” Seriously, the individual attention they crave is overwhelming. The next day, Smangele had a note for me from her mom, written in Zulu. I had the same teacher translate it for me, and it was obvious her mom was extremely thankful for this small gift. She thanked me over and over. Each day that passed, Smangele began to emerge more and more from her shell.  I began the tutoring on Monday and gave her the shoes on Tuesday. On Thursday, when she got to school, she ran up to me to show me her notebook. With great pride, she showed me the page where her mom had helped her study for her spelling words the night before. She kept saying, “Look Miss! My mom wrote the word ‘men’ for me! Look! She wrote it for me cause I didn’t know it!” You know why she was so excited by such a simple thing? Her mom had never helped her before. Before, Smangele was just a nuisance, now, her mom saw value in her.

On Friday, Smangele volunteered to pray in front of the class. She STOOD in front of the class and prayed as best she could in her broken English. When she looked up from her squinted eyes, she gave me the biggest smile. Smangele was confident. All of this happened as a result of $22 and 30 minutes of tutoring each day after school. Smangele was a joyful, confident little girl and Smangele’s mom was a helpful, caring mother. I was absolutely blown away at what God could do with such a small gift, all He needs is a willing heart. These children LONG for attention and someone to show that they care. Every single day, students are begging me to tutor them after school. What am I supposed to say to a child that looks at me every day and says, “Miss, can you take me today? Can I go with you today? Please, let today be my turn.” It’s so unbelievably overwhelming. As I’m trying to help one student with their class work, there is ALWAYS at least 6 hands tapping on me to help them. My mind runs a million miles per hour all throughout the day as I am learning to help at least 5 students with 5 different questions, all at the same time. All students who need their questions answered slowly, in broken down English. And even then, at the end of the day, I know there were several that I missed.

I wanted to share this with you to give you an idea of just how much of an impact your donations are going to make. If one pair of shoes lead to changing a little girls’ entire life, can you imagine what 4 huge suitcases stuffed full of supplies will do?!?! And even for my own daily exhaustions’ sake, I cannot wait to have 4 extra hands, 4 extra ears, and 2 extra mouths there beside me to help these children and give them the individual attention they crave. I just know God is waiting to change hearts and lives as a result of your donations. So thank you, thank you, thank you. You have beautifully demonstrated exactly how the body of Christ is supposed to function. God is about to work mightily.  

"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'"   - Matthew 25:40

Saturday, August 6, 2011

It wasn't meant to be this way.

“And God saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good.” –Genesis 1:31

Have you ever cried, sobbed rather, at how fallen humanity is? Today I did, for the first time. I saw a lot today and this week, and at the end of the day all I could do is curl up in bed and cry. We have fallen so far. God had perfect harmony and a plentiful world in store for us, and we lost it. We really, really lost it.

Let me back track a bit, so you understand where I’m coming from....This week, I found out several of my students are HIV+. I saw more and more often my babies without lunches. I was informed that the reason you can never hear Thabile when she’s trying to talk is because she’s verbally abused at home. I had a conversation with a teacher about another one of my students (who is 8 years old, by the way) who was recently informed of this little girl’s sexual attempts with other students. This same little girl who has severe anger issues, and who spends 3 hours after school every day alone with a security guard while she waits for her mom. (all things pointing towards sexual abuse) This morning at the children’s home, I heard stories from teenage girls about how they ended up there, either from the loss of their parents or some form of abuse. I heard them say that several of them had been raped. Today, I was reminded of what several of my students’ lives are like as I drove through the squatter huts. Metal, cardboard and wooden slabs stuck together to form one little room that an entire family lives in, 2 rooms if they’re lucky. The “better-off” ones from this area live in government built houses, which are the same size as the huts, just built with cinder block. Thousands of these tiny “houses” clumped together for as far as the eye can see, amidst mud and garbage.  Also today, at a Zulu pre-wedding ceremony, I saw people, who are “created in God’s image” be consumed with alcohol. I heard them change the words of a worship song from church so that the song praises alcohol, not God. I watched vulgar, drunk men lose control. As I sat there, I just wanted to cry. Not because I was scared, but because my heart HURT for their brokenness. For the peace they are lacking. How did things come down to this? And my heart didn’t just fall apart for those people’s brokenness, it crumbled even more on the drive back to where I’m staying, when I saw the shift from the Zulu huts to the British-like middle class homes. These people, who are “better” because they have more ‘self-control’ and ‘dignity’. Who just can’t shake off their pride, and so they live their comfortable, separate lives, as if there aren’t people in desperate need right down the road. 

I was miserable as I looked out and thought, how could the world be this way? How can all these evil things be happening? How can there be mud huts and secured, multi-bath and bedroom homes within just a few miles of each other? I just couldn’t digest it all. When I crawled into my bed and let out my frustration, all my thoughts led to this: how in the world could God actually love us? How could Jesus leave HEAVEN and come down to this rotten, filthy mess we’ve made and DIE for us? This is a love we can’t even begin to comprehend. I opened my Bible to the very beginning and read the first 2 chapters of Genesis, then I stopped. Up to this point, the world was perfect. It was just how God intended it to be. I laid there and closed my eyes and imagined what it might have been like. We have no idea, because Genesis chapter 3 happened. I didn’t even want to keep reading. I just wanted to think about living in perfect peace and harmony. But, I knew deep down, now’s not the time for that. Like or not, I live in this fallen world. I am a part of this sick place where horrible things happen to innocent children and where people shiver in slums while others are sipping on hot tea right down the road. I felt so depressed at the thought of it all, and then a notecard with a verse scribbled on it fell out of the front of my Bible…

Nehemiah 8:10 – “The joy of the Lord is your strength.”

I gave a sarcastic laugh. How in the world am I suppose to have joy in the midst of this??? I thought about this for a while until I heard my Savior’s still, small voice. I can have joy, and I have to, for it is the only way I will have the strength to get through each day. I can have joy because I have that deep down peace and hope that comes only from being His child. Because I know that I am in the center of God’s will and that through His strength I can make a difference. This week, despite all of the terrible things I heard and saw, I also saw God work mightily through one small act of kindness towards 1 child. (more to come on that story) This world is a mess, and it is in a downward spiral. But that does not at all mean that we are allowed to just give up, or even lose any joy or peace over it. We are commanded to follow Jesus’ example, which means loving people unconditionally and helping the helpless. And we can do this with joy, as we look forward to what’s to come. No matter where we are in this world, there will be hurting people in need of Jesus all around us. Will we reach out to them? 

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart, I have overcome the world.”    -John 16:33

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Want to Help?

Since the day I left, I have seen and felt just how amazing and necessary the body of Christ is. I have been SO uplifted and filled with joy because of your prayers and words of encouragement. It is incredible to see God’s people being knit together. So before I say anymore, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!

Some of you may know that my sister, Kala, and my cousin, Kelsey are coming to visit in a few weeks. My sister has recently told me that several people have been asking if they could send her with donations for my students. You should have seen me jumping around the room when I read that email. The wheels in my head started turning when I realized just how amazing this could be if we all pull together.

I thought it would be good to sit down with my cooperating teacher and see what she thought about it and if she could help me make a list of the needs. This time, you should have seen her jumping around with excitement. She was seriously pumped at just the thought of it, so we sat down and started the list. Let me warn you, the list is extensive. It ranges from toothbrushes to base-10 blocks for math class. But I can assure you they are all NEEDS.

With how supportive and encouraging you all have been, I just know we can pull our resources together and SHOWER these students with these gifts. My only regret with it all is that I wish you could each come hand deliver your gift, so you can see the looks on the children’s faces, because they are going to be thrilled. I will make sure and take pictures when we’re passing them out.

So here its is (in no particular order):

- notebooks/writing paper
- educational games/toys
- clothes (7-8 year old children)
- pencils
- erasers
- teaching materials (especially math!!!)
- toothbrushes/toothpaste
- washcloths
- underwear (7-8 year old children)
- winter hats (like beanys)
- scarves
- children’s books
- water bottles
- lunch boxes
- hair bands
- pencil sharpeners (not electronic, just little personal ones)
- pencil bags
- stickers
- crayons
- any other school or craft supply
- any pretty much anything else you think a 2nd grader might like
- I’m also working with 2 incredibly selfless teachers who could really use some desk/teacher supplies! They have to improvise quite a bit.

Okay, I think that should give you a pretty good idea. haha I hope I don’t sound to forward in this post, but I just have such a peace and excitement about what I know God is going to do through this. If you’re from my area, you can contact my sister Kala with your contributions, or any other member of my family. If you’re from the Hartville area, you can contact either my cousin Kelsey or my fiancĂ© Brad. And if you’re from neither, you can contact who ever you want. ;)

Thank you again so much for all of your prayers and support. I have been so blessed and am so grateful. Tonight, I'm going to a homeless shelter to pray with them and minister to them, so please pray for guidance and courage. On Saturday, I’ll be going to an orphanage where several of my students live, so please pray that I would be able to pour out Jesus’ love on the children who crave it the most.

Acts 20:35

Contact Info:
Kala: (330) 204-1206;

Kelsey: (330) 933-4041;

Brad: (330) 495-6823;

My Parents: (330) 364-0099;

My sister, Kristi: (330) 602-2136;

Thursday, July 21, 2011


57. The number of hearts to adore, minds to enlighten, and souls to bathe in prayer. 57. The number of names to memorize, smiles to capture, and bodies to nurture. 114. The number of hands to hold, eyes to model Christ to, and ears to speak encouragement to.

Some are orphans. Some are slum kids. Nearly all come from poverty. ALL craving love.

I am 1 person, with only 1 heart, mind and soul. With only 2 hands, eyes, and ears. I’m young, with not much experience. I’m here by myself, without fiancĂ©, family, or friends to confide in. The school has 1 copy machine, which you’re only allowed to make 20 copies on. I have 57 students. School supplies are extremely lacking and technology is nearly vacant. My students do not have textbooks and next to no curriculum. At lunch, students who are fortunate enough to be sent to school with lunches break apart their sandwiches to share with those who do not have one.

Considering these calculations, I’m way over my head. I’m not smart enough, rich enough, or built with enough hands. Not to mention my weakness when it comes to missing home so much it hurts. And this is only week 1.

Sometimes in the evenings, when I get lonely, I think this through. Satan tempts me to despair as he lays out the circumstances of my situation. But just as he is about to have the victory and steal my hope and joy, I remember…

I have God on my side. The maker of the entire universe has completely paved the way for me to be here. The lover of my soul and sustainer of my breath is right here beside me. My hope, joy, and peace can remain because He is near. I CAN consistently shower these precious children with unconditional love, because it’s the same love I get from Him everyday. He is the only one I am dependant on. My knees hit the floor every morning as I plead with Him to fill me up so full with His love, joy, hope, and peace that it pours out from me into the lives of my students. I hunger and thirst for His Words everyday, because I know they alone will sustain me.

It’s amazing what you realize when the things you thought you were dependant on are removed. You come to know that you actually are not dependant on them at all. God is all You need, and He is faithful.

I’m still learning this, and let me tell you, it’s a very hard lesson to learn. Satan tries to bring me down every single day. Thankfully, our God is greater. =)

“O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water. I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you.”   - Psalm 63:1-5

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Satan can't stop me, God's on my side.

Wow. God must have something in store for me here, because Satan has been trying hard to keep me from coming. I must first say that I've arrived safely and am getting settled in. Getting here, however, was an adventure all on it's own.

I wrote my first blog at the Philadelphia airport. After 8 hours there, I boarded a plane for Frankfurt, Germany  and after 7-8ish hours arrived at this dark, quiet airport. WHen I first checked in at Cleveland they could only get me my first 2 boarding passes and told me that once I got to Frankfurt, just go up to the gate and get my last 2. I found my gate, but there were no flight attendants there. I didn't worry though, because I knew I had 12 hours at this place, so I had time to wait. THere was literally nothing at this aiport. I was stuck in this one hallway, with almost no one there and nothing to do. There also was no where to exchange money to get euros to make a phone call, so I had to buy much too expensive gummy bears in order to get some change back in Euros. I was able to make a very quick and expensive phone call to Brad, which was mostly me crying because I was tired and lonely. There was no internet connection and hardly anyone around, and basically none who knew English. I decided to take some sleeping pills and pass the time that way. WHen I woke up, I still had more time to kill, which I will say again, was extremely difficult to do in this airport. FINALLY, about 2 hours before the flight, a HUGE plane pulled up and lots of people starting showing up. This was the biggest plane I had ever seen. 2 full levels and just ridiculously large. Workers finally arrived at the gate, and I went up without worry to get my ticket. WIthout even looking me in the eye, the man handed me a ticket and told me I was on standby, the plane was 20 people overbooked. WHAT?!?! I was confused. We made this reservation months ago. He quickly pushed me aside and told me just to wait around. This is when I started to panic a little. I tried the internet again, all forms in German, and still couldn't get it to work. I finally found someone to translate the big red letters on my screen for me and he said that it said the internet was down due to technical difficulties. Wonderful. I bought another much too expensive candy bar to get some euros to call home and NONE of the phones worked. I literally tried 5 phones, and not one of them would work. I became quite a site to behold as I'm pacing this place crying and trying every phone. While all of this was going on, people began to board. I decided to try talking to a different man at the gate. THis one was much nicer, but he still told me there was nothing he could do. For some reason this was the only flight that wasn't booked. The earliest he could get me out was in 5 days. Yes, 5 days. I lost it. Poor man didn't know what to do as I stood there at his counter sobbing. He told me just to take a deep breath and go pray for a miracle. I stood there for the next half hour until every person had boarded that plane. The man checked his computer and then looked up at me with a hopeless expression on his face. He came around the counter up to me and said he was so sorry but the plane was completely full. He just stood there as I cried and another older lady was yelling something at him in German, and then all at once, he walked over to the counter and said, let me try this one thing. He turned around, looked me right in the eye and said "Don't get your hopes up, this has never worked before." He made a phone call and rambled on in German. Finally, an older man in a neon vest who looked like he worked for the airport, but mom is convinced was an angel, smiled at me and winked. My first glimmer of hope.

The man who had been trying to help me turned around with a smile and said, "I guess miracles do happen, I got you a seat." I didn't know what to do so I ran up and gave him a hug and my leftover euros and told him to go buy himself a drink. haha He ran me down the terminal and gave me quick instructions. I'd be sitting on a jump seat with the crew during take off and landing and during the flight, I'd sit in a smaller jump seat in the back of the plane. When I stepped on to this plane I was in awe. A huge grand staircase led up to the first class and business class. I obvoiusly wasn't going there. THe main flight attendant led me back halfway through the plane and sat me in a jump seat in the "kitchen" area. I buckled in and sat there with the crew during take off. I then was moved to the very back of the plane. Now, I must say again that this plane was HUGE. I thought I had reached the back 3 times. Finally, I made it back there and there all by itself was this tiny fold down seat with next to no cushion by an emergency evacuation door. That was me. Facing backwards, all by myself, next to the restrooms and the air vent. I sat down and as my teeth chattered from the cold air blowing on me all I could do was laugh, this was my life. I took some major sleeping pills to try to eliviate the misery and woke up a few hours later covered in a blanket and pillow, they took good care of me back there. =) Passing the rest of the time in that seat was pretty miserable, but I managed. When people would come bak to use the restroom they would either stare of giggle. I was quite the show. Then they would go back to their brand new cushiony seat with personal tvs. Coach class seats never looked so inviting to me as they did then. haha

Anyways, the story doesn't end there. For some reason you're not allowed to sit there during landing, so I had to be moved back up to the middle of the plane where I was for take off. I got all strapped in and was ready to land when things got messed up again. One of the flight attendants seat belt was stuck in her chair. The main flight attendant came up to me and told me to quickly get up and give her my seat. SHe then grabbed my bookbag and through it behind someones seat, grabbed my arm and literally run up to the front of the plane. We went all the way up to the cockpit, minutes before landing and she opened a door that led into a closet. Yes, you guessed it. She shoved me in there and told me to keep quiet and not to come out. It was all I could do but burst out laughing. I could hear the pilots talking and feel the rumblings of the plane. It was a bit scary, but still all too hilarious.

I was finally rescued after we landed and was allowed off the plane. My last little flight went much smoother. I'm so thankful for the flight attendants on that flight, I knew they risked their jobs for me. We serve a God who still works miracles people. It sure encouraged me as I thought that GOd must have something good in store for me here, if He made that much of an effort to get me here. What an adventure already.

School starts in 2 days and I'm very anxious for that. Please continue to keep me in your prayers. I'm excited to meet my children. I miss home and everyone so incredibly much and I think it will help once I have some babies to take care of. I get lonely at night, but it is teaching me to cling to God's Word. He is always present with me.

Sorry this is so long, but I thought I should share. =)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

One foot in front of the other.

I expected saying goodbye would be extremely difficult, but you can't really prepare yourself for something you've never done before. My puffy eyes remind me of the constant tears I've cried over the past 24 hours. I felt like this day would never actually come, the day I would leave my loved ones to travel for 48 hours to the other side of the world by myself. Reality set in though as the goodbyes began to be unavoidable. Last night, as Brad and I sat up on my roof putting off the inevitable, I gasped between sobs that I don't want to do this. I couldn't do it. Who's crazy idea was this??? I can't leave. I want to stay home with my family. All the normality of my life at home came to the forefront of my mind...I want to workout with Kala in the morning and help Kristi clean. I want to take the kids to the pool and sing "read your Bible, pray everday" with them. I want to go on a date with Brad. I want to cuddle up next to him and share inside jokes. I want to enjoy family supper followed by jumping on the trampoline with the kids and playing games outside as we're surrounded by the rolling hills of our farm country. I want family, normalcy, familiarity.

And yet, somehow, in the midst of all the sobs, I sense that still, small voice. I try to ignore it as my flesh battles the spirit, but it can't be suppressed. Deep down I know the truth. I know God called me to this. And I know that He doesn't call us to normalcy or familiarity. He doesn't call us to easy things. (Luke 9:57-62) Verses like 2 Timothy 4:5 seem like they're written directly to me: "As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry." I feel so weak, so insecure, so doubtful, and yet I've managed to put one foot in front of the other. Everything in my flesh wants to just go home, call it quits right now. I'm sitting in the Philadephia Airport waiting for my next flight and I just want to turn around. It's so tempting. It's so difficult not to. And yet, I know I can't. God's strength alone will get me through this, will enable me to endure. He has blessed me beyond words, and it's robbery to give back to Him anything less than my life.

Please PRAY that I will have the strength and peace to carry on. I still have quite a few more hours in this airport, and I've got 12 to sit in the next one. Once I board this next plane, no more cell phone and maybe no more internet for some time. It's me and God, and that is enough.

"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go."     -Joshua 1:9