I gazed out the tinted grey window of the blue city bus that carried us through the hills of Ireland, the sunlight glowed beyond a canopy of clouds lighting up my first view of the sparkling emerald see. I nearly cried I was so filled with joy. It was supernaturally shiny, that moment. I could feel the Holy Spirit doing work that went far beyond the simple happiness a beautiful view produces.
The whole month, (month 1 of 11 on a 3 continent mission trip), was weird. I lived with my brand new family, a team of 7 strangers from all over the United States and 2 other freshly formed teams from our squad of 56, in the house of one Jim Moriarty.
That’s right, I was in Ireland living with Jim Moriarty, (that’s a Sherlock Holmes reference for all you sad people who aren’t acquainted with this classic).
Jim loved Jesus and as far as I could tell, was not the leader of a global crime syndicate…
We experienced physical, spiritual, and emotional trials that both challenged and bonded us as we began the first leg of our race (the World Race). Many of my teammates were dismayed to come face to face with wounds from their own past, but we worked through it together. It was the kind of month would continue to tell stories about as years passed. We laughed as much as we could so we didn’t cry, and sometimes we did cry.
Not for a single moment did that joy the Holy Spirit poured into my soul on the bus leave me. It was my rest, hope, and perseverance in everything I faced that extraordinary July.
Joy is so much more than a happy feeling.
Joy is thankful.
Joy is comfort.
Joy is strong.
“2 Count it all joy, my brothers,when you meet trials of various kinds,3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” James 1
Let’s say you wake up one morning with purple spots on your skin, dolphin ears (that was a joke, dolphins don’t have ears silly!), webbed feet, and you’re sneezing at 10 second intervals. What’s wrong with you?
There is obviously a strange illness at the root of your symptoms, we know that because of what we witness even when we don’t yet know the cause itself.
This like is our relationship with God.
When we know Him personally as His redeemed children, he works inside our hearts to change us from the inside out. Joy is a symptom, and it’s connected to the other work God does inside our souls.
Unlike an illness, when the Holy Spirit takes up residence inside us He continually produces new good work inside of us, manifesting in all sorts of ways, each work good spurring on more and more.
Joy is a fruit of the spirit that encourages other fruit to grow inside you and even those around you. Sometimes thankfulness, (you are grateful when you’re joyful are you not?), sometimes comfort (like the soothing smile of a friend when you are sad), and sometimes strength (because it changes the attitude with which you face your trials).
God gave me that gift of joy because he knew that I would need it, and so would my World Race family. They were each blessed by my joy in some way, and I was able to live it out because they understood the value of joy.
In Ireland, I did feel joy, but the work in my life and relationship with God that came with it lasted far longer than the feeling.
Encourage one another as long as it is today, and remember that joy is more than a feeling. Joy is a gift for you and others, a weapon against the trials we face, and a result of knowing the God who has already claimed victory for us through Christ Jesus.
That, is joy. =)
(Ali, Alyssa, Emily & I in Ireland)
The joy of the Lord is your strength. Nehemiah 8:10
As we completed the last page on our calendars I stopped, like most of you, to remember what God had brought me through these past few years. Finishing the World Race in 2013 was one of the most life changing experiences I have ever had. I went back to something I wrote months before leaving everything behind to start this crazy mission trip. My written words were humbling proof of the Holy Spirit working and I’d like to share the power I read in them with you.
11 countries in 11 months. This is what I wrote before I left in July, 2012:
Feb. 12, 2012
Every page of God’s word is dripping with reason so clear to me only by the Holy Spirit. If this is what I believe, that Jesus is LORD, then it’s time to live with Him on the throne of my life. When I consider my friends and family members, I know that God’s heart breaks for the lost and so should my own. If I were not here, who would preach Jesus to my own loved ones? Are not others’ loved ones, God’s loved ones, just as valuable? He has chosen me. I know now that He is all I need. The world needs Him.
From the treasures stored up in heaven, to the glory of my God, I have more than enough reasons to go. Every reason but comfort. That even, He promises He will give of Himself. Further, I believe I have been designed for this very purpose. It is my passion to speak the gospel shamelessly, fearlessly. To encourage. To go. To dive into new and unknown places. To love even strangers. To serve others with my unique gifts; be it cooking, making music, creativity, or just laughter from joy. HE is my passion. What makes my heart come alive. In all I am weak, He is strong: He is my heart, my commitment, my comfort, my perseverance, my strength.
I cannot paint Him with words. He is so real. I know this is my purpose. To follow Christ.
John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son that whoever believes in Him will not die, but have everlasting life.”
I am sent. Matthew 28:19 “Therefore go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
The need to hear it. Romans 10:14 “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?”
Love God. Love others. Love God=Love others. Matthew 22:37, 39 “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind…Love your neighbor as yourself.”
1 John 4:19 “We love because He first loved us.”
Matthew 19:29 “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will receive eternal life.”
Matthew 9:37 “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.”
Matthew 16:24 “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”
1 Corinthians 9:24 “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.”
Matthew 26:39 “Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
Matthew 25:23 “His master replied, ‘Well done good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with little so I will put you in charge of much. Come and share in your master’s happiness.’”
To be a part of bringing Jesus to all the nations. Revelation 7:10 “After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb.”
To be like Jesus.
Because I have nothing to fear:
Matthew 19:26 “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
Romans 8:38 “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Philippians 4:13 “I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.”
Philippians 4:19 “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.”
I don’t know what new mission I will be called to in 2016. It could be anything, I could be staying. Whether we go or stay it’s important to remember what the Lord has done in our hearts and lives.
Let us not be like the wandering Israelites as we walk into this gift of a new year.
Remember where God has brought you from.
Instead of planning your future, ask him how you can be a part of His plans.
“The LORD will fight for you, you need only to be still.” Exodus 14:14
I’ve traveled to Mexico, Venezuela, Ireland; Ukraine, Moldova (that’s in Europe), Kenya; Tanzania, Malawi, India; Nepal, Thailand, Malaysia, and Cambodia, for various mission trips. I’m not bragging. God called, I went. I’ve also had the privilege to spend a little time in South Africa, Romania and Singapore. In each place I found one thing every culture had in common: the way people sinned.
Whether it stems from pride, selfishness, or greed, every person I met was either trying to satisfy themselves with idols or continually surrendering this temptation to the Lord as a believer. The Johns (men who hire prostitutes) in India sin for the same reason as the Johns in Thailand. Corruption in the school system in Kenya rises from the same sin that leads to corruption of the government in Malawi. They all need a savior named Jesus Christ; the only one who can fill the longing in their hearts.
2. We all need love, desperately.
I saw many children begging in the streets. It broke my heart to stare down into the eyes of a filthy child holding his or her hands out, pleading with me to give them what they needed to survive.
I remembered the woman at the well.
The children I met thought they were most lacking money, materials, and food (which was often true, sadly), but what they needed even more than that was love. The love of a savior who could provide living water, words that nourish, and eternal life. This was true of the people I sat next to on Turkish Airlines (I highly recommend them) just as much as the people selling snacks at the bus stops in Africa.
*A little story: Once upon a time, my team was waiting for a bus to arrive beneath an underpass in Mumbai. A group of “untouchables,” (children), showed up asking for handouts. We didn’t have much to give them, our meager possessions bundled up in our backpack for the year; but we had time. A teammate of mine suddenly pulled out a bottle of red nail polish and the girls’ eyes lit up. Smiles abounded. There we sat for the next 20 minutes, giving the untouchables manicures on a dirty street corner.
3. America really is unique and different from any other country in the world.
I was blessed to experience parts of South America, Europe, Africa, and Asia from the inside, as the locals do. Living in the culture gives you an awareness that pretending to hold up the Leaning Tower of Pisa just does not. Overseas I was catcalled by dark looking men on the street, shoved around by scrambling passengers at public bus stops, and ordered to follow a mandated dress code in airports (ahem UAE *cough cough). Mandatory calls to prayer woke me up like the screams of a fire siren in Malaysia. Students in Kenya told me stories of how tribal feuds corrupt their opportunity to learn as literal fires break out in their schools. This is just the tip of the ice berg.
Did you know that in Ukraine they believe you will become infertile if you sit on the floor? My friends learned this over and over as random strangers refused to let them take a seat on the ground, even forcing the girls to stand up so they could stick their coat underneath them! Chivalrous as this sounds, it speaks to an attitude of ignorance. Don’t even get my started on the “right” way to do laundry in Tanzania.
From life under a government far from democracy to the constraints of a culture that doesn’t allow anyone to think for themselves, I have experienced a world that is nothing like the land I was privileged to grow up in. Having felt the suppression that women face in many other countries, I know for a fact that they aren’t treated as equals, I wasn’t. We take for granted basic freedoms like choosing the way we dress or having personal space on the train.
There’s something truly unique about the way we value and fight for freedom, independence and our dreams. There is nowhere in the world quite like America, and I have never been more grateful to call her my home.
4. What really matters in life are the people you share it with.
My favorite part of every journey I’ve taken has always been the people. My teammates and squad leaders, to be more specific. Of course there were incredible people I met in each country who have impacted my life, but there’s something about partnering with others to do life together. Sharing the struggles of world travel (TIA) and trials as missionaries with people who have chosen to love you-when you deserve it and when you do not-is the most life changing thing I’ve ever experienced apart from Christ himself. I know this is hugely because of the cultured we created like the one in Acts, but I don’t want to leave out the preciousness of having someone to laugh beside when that’s all you have left to do. All of the weird things I ate (like fried tarantula), beautiful wonders I saw (Cliffs of Moore), and miracles I witnessed wouldn’t have impacted my life like they did if I had no one to share them with.
I am reminded of what Christopher McCandles wrote in his diary before he died alone in the woods, missing the opportunity experience this: “Happiness [is] only real when shared.”
5. Sharing the gospel looks the same no matter where you are.
Go, Send, or Disobey.
We are all called to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ to the nations, to all men; those of us who have received Jesus as our savior. (Matthew 28:16-20).
It was a surprise to learn that being “on mission” in Africa and Asia during a long-term trip looked exactly like living out the missionary life at home in the ordinary. True, I don’t often get the opportunity to teach a lesson on James in a handmade wooden hut filled with Burmese men here in America (or ever), but people need Jesus in the same ways they do in the corn fields of Moldova (it’s a real place, I promise).
But what does this look like practically?
There are a lot of ways to share the gospel, and I’m not just talking about words. Every aspect of the way we live our life is an opportunity to share Christ. This might mean going hut to hut (or house to house) knocking on doors to share the gospel with anyone who will listen. It might look like harvesting corn or grapes in a village that doesn’t speak a lick of English, (save for the translations on gas station bottles of Fanta). Or, in America, offering to do laundry for an overwhelmed neighbor you might barely know. Even wiping down restaurant tables at work with a smile on your face is an opportunity to spread the gospel, (make the most of every opportunity, Ephesians 5:16, and do everything for God’s glory, Colossians 3:17).
Telling people about Jesus can look really different depending on who you are and whom you are sharing with. Use whatever gifts God has given you; be it listening, drawing or dancing. I’ve found that the best approach is to share from your experience. Tell others what Christ has done for you, how he has changed your life. Share your transformation story, even if you don’t have a wild testimony like Paul. God did exactly the same thing in your life that he did in the most visible 180 degree testimonies.
No matter where I go, people respond to questions. They love to talk about themselves. On college campuses there’s a huge sum of students (and teachers) who have never even thought about the answer to what they believe about life after death-because they’ve never been asked.
We are called to live exactly the same way as Christians with exactly the same faith and preach exactly the same gospel no matter where in the world we are or how insignificant we feel our work is. Every single human needs Christ. No calling ranks beneath the worth of another; the value of what Christ did for you on the cross does not lesson for any human.
You might be more traveled than I am, or you might be waiting to leave the state you grew up in for the first time. Either way I hope this blog encouraged you and challenged some of your perspectives. It’s my prayer that you’ll benefit from my experience and take this as an opportunity to live differently. That might look like an attitude change; it might look like finally going to that place you know God has been calling you to go for a long time. If God has already showed you these things himself, I hope that you’ll be inspired to share what you learned with others.