Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Weeks 9, 10, 11

Hi All and Happy St. Patty's Day!! :)

I realize it's been awhile since I've written anything and I want to aplogize for the delay! The past few weeks have been a whirlwind of events it's hard to even know where to begin! As you know we are in Belize now so we've been spending time at the Destination Paradise Base in San Pedro. We've gotten to know the students in the Diver's DTS a lot more so it's been so fun having new people to hang out with. AND they have two dogs and two cats here so I'm in heaven :)
Things have been going really well and I cannot believe that this is our last full week in the lecture phase. Time has really flown! I have learned so much about myself, living in community, about God and his awesome character, and so much more. I know that I am going to continually be reminded of all that I've learned here and new revelations are going to continue to come even after I am officially done with this phase.

Here's some highlights of the past few months as the lecture phase comes to a close:

*"Team Awesome Takes a Faith Trip"- How do you develop and grow in faith? Well, you put yourself in a position where you have to have it! And that's exactly what we did. Two weeks ago, lectures started as usual on Monday morning, but one thing that was odd was that there were 6 white envelopes laying on the table with all of our names on them. Inside were letters from our staff, giving us a challenge. We had just spent the past few days studying faith and what it means to have faith and now we were being asked to put our faith to the test. Not knowing any details of what was to come, our staff asked each of us to go get a backpack, and pack our bibles, a journal, a change of underwear, and a toothbrush. We weren't allowed to pack any clothes other than what we were wearing, and we couldn't take any money or ID's. The staff then shuffled us off the boats and out to a van that was waiting for us, which then took us to the bus station in Belize City.
When we got to the bus station, we were split into two groups of three. Then, much to our surprise, the staff whisked us onto a bus, handed us two envelopes and a pocket bible, and waved goodbye! After we were on the bus, we opened up the envelope where we found out some more details of this trip. As it turned out, the bus we were on was heading to San Ignacio, which is about 3 hours from Belize City and 10 minutes from the Guatemala border. We were to stay there in San Ignacio for two days and two nights and put our trust in God that he would take care of our basic needs of food, accomodations, and a ride back to Belize City. We were also told to pray about building relationships with people there, specifically meeting someone we could give the pocket Bible to.
Well what happend over the next two days was probably one of the biggest lessons in grace and humility I've ever had! My mindset going into this whole thing was naturally geared towards myself. "How can I show the face of God to the people we meet?" "How can I bless these people?" "What great things can I do in San Ignacio?" Well as soon as we got there, it quickly became not so much about us blessing other people, but more about other people blessing us! I could go on and on about all the details of the trip, but for time's sake here are the highlights:
-Hanging out with an eclectic group consisting of Canadian Hippies, a rastafarian drummer named Jack Rambo, a Nicaraguan gypsy, and a wanderer named Darius* (*sidenote: after spending a lot of time with Darius and learning about his past and his quest for truth, meaning, LOVE, and purpose, we felt that he was the person we should give the Bible to. He was en route to the Amazon to find some sort of natural-growing hallucinogen and spend time there 'tripping out' with the natives. We thought the bible would be some good reading material for his trip down there. I pray that the seeds we planted in his life will continue to be watered and harvested, some way, some how).
-Meeting a local named Max who so graciously invited us to his home to spend the night with him and his family (His wife, their two young kids, his brother and his wife and their two kids were living together in a small 3 room house). I was so humbled at Max's generosity. Though he didn't have much and his house was modest, he invited us in with open arms and showed us amazing hospitality even though we didn't have anything to give him. After hearing our story and that we had no money, he even bought us breakfast and lunch the next day.
-Fortunately God totally provided a means for us to bless and give back to Max as we were able to help him make a really sweet flyer for his guided adventure tour business. We found an internet cafe and spent the afternoon of the 2nd day making him a flyer to hand out to people.
-Meeting a group of medical students from Michigan who were doing a short term medical mission with a group called Pro Belize. Through the med school students, we got connected with some local people who were affiliated with Pro Belize and Becky and Kara were able to share their personal testimonies with two of them. One guy we met named Jose graciously treated us to an Italian meal our second night, and another friend we met through Pro Belize put us up for the night. He gave up his bed for us girls and slept on the concrete floor. Also through the friends we made at Pro Belize, God provided a ride home because one of the people there had connections with the bus system and we were able to get a free bus ride.
There is so much that I could say about this trip and wish I could better articulate the experience we had. I think the biggest thing I learned is the power of grace. At first it was very hard for me to accept things from people knowing that I had nothing to offer in return. I realized that my pride was getting in the way, much as it's gotten in the way of recieving God's grace. I have been too proud to admit that I need grace and that I can't do everything on my own. Also, we've been so accustomed to the idea that NOTHING is free, so it makes it hard to grasp and accept the concept of grace. The people in San Ignacio showed us grace like no other, and so by humbling myself and openly accepting their generous gifts, I later realized that we were indeed blessing them by allowing them to bless us. Too, God showed his faithfulness and provision during that trip in an amazing way. Not only were our needs provided for, but they were provided in ABUNDANCE.
I realize this is quite an abbreviated story, but please email me or post a comment if you want to talk more about the experience! I'd love to answer any questions you have!

Class- Class has been going really well. We've had some amazing speakers over the weeks who have taught on topics ranging from The Father Heart of God, What is the Gospel?, Relationships, Biblical Worldview, Personality and Spiritual Gifts Assessments, Spiritual Warfare, and God's "Pinky Promises." Each speaker has a totally different teaching style and something completely unique to offer. It's been great learning from people who's lives are a testament to God's goodness.

Personal Growth- Growth and learning has been continuous since day one. Big revelations and "A-ha" moments have been fewer and far between than I thought they would be. Rather, I think most of the growth has been subtler and maybe even something I don't or won't recognize until later down the road. Without a doubt though, I know that I am not the same person I was three months ago.
Last week was hands down the best week I've had here in regards to personal growth. Our speaker last week was Tiffany Thompson who was speaking about what she called "God's Pinky Promises." (the Pinky promises are 5 specific Bible verses that have shaped her life, each one starting with the letters in PINKY). One thing that made the week so great was that everything in her teaching was centered around the color pink which made me extremely happy b/c it's my favorite! But really the discussions and her teachings just really opened up new revelation to the way that God sees me. For the first time in my life I felt God's LOVE in a way I haven't felt it before. I've always heard that God loves me, and before I got here I thought I believed it, but I have realized that I had bondages and things in my life that were keeping me from fully letting his love in.
That all changed last Friday, when I happened to get up extra early due to mosquitos biting me. Since I was up anyways, I decided to go out for a run. This run quickly became the best run of my life. As I was running along the beach as the sun was coming up, I felt God telling me just how much he loves me and how much he thinks of me! "Precious are your thoughts towards me, O God. If I were to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand." Psalm 139:17-18. Every sight that my eyes fell on, the flowers, the palm trees, the sparkling ocean, the sun, everything....I felt that God was telling me it was there just for me, like a gift, because he loves me. The pink flowers kept grabbing my attention and I felt God saying, "I got these for you, my beloved!" He kept telling me to just let him love me....quit striving and working so hard in my own strength, but just recieve and respond to his love! What a freeing thought that is! It's really hard to put into words the feelings that I felt but I can say for sure I've never been so aware of His presence. It was like I was seeing everything in a new light.
So later that morning, during worship and devos (keep in mind I hadn't told anyone about this amazing run yet), Tiffany came up behind me and handed me a beautiful pink flower, gave me a hug, and left without saying anything. I knew without a doubt that God had told her to give that to me just as a reminder of my "conversation" with him from earlier, and a symbol of his love. Then, after devos got over, we were waiting for class to begin and another speaker who was there for the divers (I hadn't talked to her a day in my life) came up out of the blue and asked if she could pray for me. She said she had this incredibly intense feeling, so intense that she felt she couldn't even start teaching class until she had the chance to talk to me. Well she started telling me that she kept seeing this absolutely beautiful room, and that God was was bekoning for me to come in, yet I was being hesitant. She said He just wanted me to RESPOND to the invitation to come in to his love! Again, He was wanting me to lay down everything that was keeping me from accepting His love and just come in...just let him lavish me with his love! Crazy, especially considering my morning so far!
But it wasn't over yet, because after class started another totally out-of-the-blue thing happend when Lynn' s dad (who is at the base visiting this week) came into the room, interrupts class, and handed me a chocolate covered banana from the little store down the road. For no apparent reason and with no explantion! Seriously it was like God was giving me a birthday and just surprising me again and again with one thing after the next! Things like that just kept happening all day and since then I haven't seen things in the same way. It's an amazing thing to finally experience the freedom and love of Christ--something that I had thought I knew a long time ago!
Like the faith trip, this is another thing that's really hard to put into words, so please contact me if you have questions or want to talk more!

Updates-Outreach begins a few days early due to travel schedules! We will be leaving Belize on Tuesday the 22nd and will head to Bangkok, Thailand. We'll be there for a few days in order to get our visas, and then will fly to Mumbai, India to officially start our outreach work! We have the first few weeks of the trip planned and then are leaving the second half in open hands to where God may call us. So for the first few weeks we will be in and around Mumbai and Pune and will be working in an orphanage and helping out with some church planting. After the first few weeks there are loose plans to go to Delhi, but again it's being held in an open hand. Internet availability will most likely be extremely limited during the outreach but I will try my best to keep you updated on what's going on!

Prayer Requests-Several of my team members are still working to raise support for the remainder of their DTS fees, please pray for financial provision for them. Please pray for our outreach leader, Louise who has been working tirelessly on getting all the travel arrangements and details worked out for outreach. Pray that last minute logistics would come together and the peices would fall into place. Please pray for my team's last few days together here on base (half the team is going to Nicaragua, half is going to India). Please pray that we would be encouraging to one another and enjoy our last days together! Please pray for safe travels to Nicaragua and India and to the stops between. And finally, please pray that both teams would go out in boldness, strength, and courage, knowing that they have authority in Jesus name for all that is to come!

Love and Blessings,