may viii - june ix, mmxvii
After returning from Tanzania last summer, I immediately planned to go back during 2017. I signed up for the trip and had begun to fundraise.
However, as junior year of college began and my life underwent changes and God continued to reveal Himself to me, I was led down a different path.
I had been following the refugee crisis for a little under a year by this point, and each day it seemed that my heart only got heavier with each news report depicting the updated number of migrant deaths that occurred while en route to refuge.
As October 2016 approached, I knew that Greece was where I needed to be. I felt it at my core, but I didn’t want to disappoint and let down those I had already committed to serving with again in Tanzania.
I met with a dear friend, Elise Akin, to hear about her experiences working in a refugee camp on Lesvos, Greece. I knew she would be honest and sincere in her experiences and guidance.
It was about this time last year that we met and the Lord said, “Go.”
Now, did I obey his command immediately? Nope.
I continued to doubt, question and fight Him. The truth is, I was scared. I was scared of what going to Greece may entail. I was scared of the reaction my family would have. I was scared of what my friends would say. I was scared to challenge myself.
Finally, on New Year’s Day, I applied to go. It took God causing my phone to slide off my chest and hitting the “enter” key on my laptop to get me to commit. I think He’d had enough of my stalling.
So I went! In total, I took nine flights and a total of 32 days to serve in a refugee camp on Lesvos.
Those 32 days seemed long at times while others flew by. The relationships, friendships and experiences will never leave my mind. Serving in Greece opened my eyes to humanity in a way I’d never experienced before.
I didn’t have an agenda. I passionately pursued real humans. I wasn’t there liberate anyone. I was there to be an ear to listen and a mouth to encourage.
I find myself returning to these experiences often since I left the island. They laid the foundation for where I go next, and God again confirmed that the next place won’t necessarily be safe.
Last week, Jeremy Courtney, a co-founder of Preemptive Love Coalition, spoke at Grace Midtown church in Atlanta. The pastors interviewed him about his experiences and about working and establishing an NGO in the Middle East.
He said he has learned to “do it scared.”
Do it scared. What? Seriously?
Yeah. Life is scary. Pursuing God’s will can be scary. Pursuing your passions can be scary. And if we let the enemy capitalize on our fear, nothing happens and we stall God’s will.
Love is the absence of fear, and when we live and walk in love, fear is nowhere to be found. When we act in love, fear can’t hold us back. And the best part, God is love.
So, where will I go next?
I have an idea of where I’d like to go. Actually, I know exactly where I want to go and what I want to do. But that doesn’t matter. God has always done something I never guessed He would do, and it has always turned out to be better than what I could have ever expected.
Posted on Oct. 15
july viii, mmxvi
I am finally getting around to putting a few photos and some dialogue up from our trip to Kome Island, Tanzania. Above, you'll see some of the photos that I took during our time on Kome, in transit and in the Serengeti (so beautiful!). I cannot express to you in writing how monumental this trip was. Going to Kome Island, a place where the vast majority of inhabitants seek false gods and other means of fulfillment and healing, such as witchdoctors, was so eye-opening. It blew me away when I encountered so many people that had with heard just a few things about Jesus, and it blew me away even more when I met someone that had never even heard the name "Jesus." The people of Kome Island were so hungry for the grace filled redemption story of Christ. There were so many people eager to hear more about Christ and put their faith and trust in Him. It was truly amazing that God allowed me to see what He is doing on the island. God far exceeded my expectations for the trip, and I am sure that He will always continue to do far more than my imagination can comprehend.
Multiplication vision is something that we discuss during our time of preparation for the trip. Multiplication vision is something that truly requires the work of many hands that are divinely inspired, and used, by the Holy Spirit. This is the model that we minister with. As one person prays to accept Jesus as a result of the Holy Spirit moving through us, our prayer and hope is that the new believer in Christ would share that with someone they know. Hopefully then, that person would share with someone as well, and so on. The village that I was a part of in church planting, Lugata, caught on to this vision quickly. On our final day of ministry, there were at least seven new believers that were told the Gospel by villagers that had become believers one or two days prior. A massive part of this amazing story is the amount of support and prayer that so many people provided. Without them, there is absolutely no way that this trip would have been possible. During our trip, God led 659 people to put their faith in Christ for the first time. Many of those people have never even heard the name of Jesus. Furthermore, 1350 people heard the Gospel, 11 churches were planted and 157 believers were baptized! Bwana asifiwe! (Praise the Lord!) Thank you all so much for committing to prayer, and thank you for your immense amount of support. Because of your faithfulness, the Gospel has spread to Kome Island, and it will only continue outward from there. I hope that you would continue to pray for Kome Island, and I pray that you will continue to follow the Lord's guiding hand.
I am hoping to add stories from our trip on this new page, so please check back frequently for stories of what God did while we were in country! If you would like to look into trips that are run through e3 Partners, please check out the link below. There is also another trip going to Kome Island next year! That link is provided below too. Mungu aku bairiki! (God bless you!)
e3 Partners website - http://e3partners.org
2017 Kome Island Mission Trip - http://e3partners.org/trip/kome-island-tanzania-tz17e/1011
april xi, mmxvi
God is so good. This past week over spring break I had the privilege and honor of journeying to San Isidro, Texas with 49 high school students from Cedarcrest Church for a mission trip. Can I just say that I am awestruck by what the Lord did this week? He exceeded expectations (when doesn’t he), and He used those students to show the community of San Isidro His love.
I’ll give you a quick run down of the week, and then I’m going to get super emotional and deep and crazy real quick, so buckle up!
We left on Saturday, April 2, and we got to Valley Baptist Retreat, where we stayed for the week, pretty late. The travel out there was smooth and uneventful, and I even had an amazing interaction with a passenger on the first flight (that story will be up later this week).
We woke up on Sunday and prepared to go to church at First Baptist San Isidro, our local church partner, to have a time of worship and teaching from Pastor Ricky. After church we went to all four worksites that we would be at for the week and prayed. So incredible! Each night we were there, we went back and spent time in worship, and one of the leaders would teach on the devotional topic for the week. After the teaching, the students would spend time in their family groups, and all of the leaders would meet to discuss the day we had and the day coming up.
From Monday to Thursday we would wake up at 6 am, and all of the leaders would gather together at 6:30 am to intercede in prayer for our students and for the day. Afterwards, we would get breakfast at 7 am, and after that we would have our quiet time with the Lord. We left VBR around 8 am each morning, and would be at our worksites from around 9 am to 3:30 pm.
The worksites included replacing siding, painting, roofing, building an entirely new room and building a new awning for a church to meet under. Those students worked their tails off, and did not complain one bit about anything. The heat was sweltering, the work was hard and we got exhausted very quickly, but every student and leader looked past those things and served the community to their fullest ability. It was truly incredible to see those students working hard to spread the same love that the Father shows us every single second of every day.
To provide a little perspective on the work we were doing there, I want to share some information that Pastor Ricky shared with us. We were working seven miles from the United States/ Mexico border. Where we were looked as if it could be a third world country. Most of the people in the area hardly have enough income to survive through the month. The reason they are so impoverished, and the reason why so many homes and churches are halfway built, is because the people don’t have enough money to build the entire structure at one time. They can’t take out loans. They don’t have payment plans. They have to build as the money comes to them. By us roofing a woman’s home that had sat in the Texas sun for two years without a roof, we put that woman three years ahead of schedule on her home building progress. We worked on her home for two days, and it propelled her three years!
We also held two block parties, one on Tuesday and one on Thursday. The block parties entailed of games, jump houses, face painting, a play, testimonies from students (so proud of them!) and foot washing.
The foot washing was the linchpin to the block parties. The foot washing serves as a picture of Jesus washing the feet of the disciples at the last supper. This is portrayed by the students as they wash the feet of the children in the community and provide them with a brand new pair of shoes. The students talk to the children and speak truth into the children’s lives while sharing the Gospel. This was one of my favorite moments of the week. One of the children that received new shoes ran up to our youth pastor, Troy, and Troy said, “I like your new shoes!” The child replied with, “Thanks! I like them too! God gave them to me!” My heart just about bursted from joy and fullness when I heard that! How beautiful! The Lord ended up providing shoes for about 400 children.
On Friday we went to each worksite and prayed over them. We prayed that the Lord would continue to move in those places, and that many would come to know the Lord as a result of what He did this past week. We also prayed for specific things that the pastors and families of each site requested. After visiting each site, we went to a gorgeous ranch that is literally in the middle of nowhere. We had amazing time of relaxation, baptisms (praise the Lord!), worship and foot washing. This time, Troy and Erin, another leader on the trip, washed the feet of all of the leaders, and after that we were able to wash the feet of the students.
Friday night was so beautiful and powerful. It was such an emotional night, and a perfect finale for the week that Lord had prepared and used us for. One of the coolest things that night happened right before baptisms. As we gathered around the pool to watch four students be baptized, the wind picked up. Keep in mind that for the duration of the week, the wind did not blow very much, and most of that part of Texas is made up of sand. The wind came in a forceful, but graceful way. It did not stir up dust and debris, but instead it was evidence of God’s presence. God had been with us, and is with us everywhere we go, but He made it evident that He was there and was ecstatic as the baptisms began! How gracious and beautiful God is!
The enemy had no hold on this past week. The enemy tried everything he could to stop what God was doing through illness, exhaustion, confusion, running late for our flights home and lies. But through it all God was faithful, and we endured it because He is already victorious!
In light of all that God did this week, I am so humbled and in awe that He chose me to take part in leading those students. Those students blew me away each and every day. Their eagerness and intense desire to seek after the Father and experience Him in a new way made me want to do backflips! I heard countless stories from students about the way God had used them and about how He was speaking to them. I know that nobody walked away from this past week the same.
The Lord has invigorated my spirit to chase after Him so much more than I have been. He solidified my decision to stay at Kennesaw State for the remainder of college. He has affirmed in me that missions and photography with missions is the calling on my life. He opened my eyes to the faithfulness of the people around me and of each student on the team. He orchestrated every single interaction, act and word. His beauty far exceeds anything I could ever imagine.
As I had the opportunity to wash the feet of a few students and leaders that I had really connected with, I was so overwhelmed with emotion. This was my fifth time going to San Isidro with the high school ministry, but my first time going as a leader. This was the first time I had the opportunity to wash the feet of anyone on any trip because each year I had taken photos, or I was a shoe-runner for the foot washers. The humility that I experienced in each foot washing was so immense. It was such an honor to wash the feet of the students because they had taught me so much this past week in how to love one another with brotherly affection and outdo each other in showing honor (Romans 12:10).
Worship every night was phenomenal. I have an absolutely hideous singing voice, so I’m glad that I wasn’t near anybody during worship, but it was so freeing to be able to stand and sing praises to the only one worthy of praise. The mindset of the room and the longing for the Savior each night allowed the spirit to move so mightily in us. The spirit guided us in worship so that we may look to the Father for all we need. Hearing the students shout and worship with all they had was simply amazing. All of the voices being raised to Heaven together was so overwhelming and beautiful.
The entire week was beautiful. God is beautiful. The people were beautiful. The students were amazing in their serving. Each leader was phenomenal in their leadership. The Lord orchestrated it all for His glory alone. Christ has risen, the spirit has been poured out and He is alive in us! That is the only reason this past week in San Isidro, Texas was as amazing as it was. Now that we’re home, the work continues. God will continue to move, and we will continue to follow. Man, I can’t wait to see how He finishes this semester off. I’m sure it’s going to be like nothing we could ever expect. I can’t wait.
mar. xxviii, mmxvi
This past weekend I had the opportunity to travel to New York City for the first time! It was such an eye-opening and incredible experience that I will not soon forget. My two best friends and I flew to Laguardia at 7:00 a.m. Friday morning and stayed until our flight left Sunday morning at 6:00 a.m. Thank goodness I was not piloting those aircraft because it would not have gone well to say the least.
While we were there we experienced so much. We were able to see Times Square, the 9/11 Memorial, Central Park and a plethora of other iconic sights. My two favorite things from the trip were seeing the 9/11 Memorial and biking from Madison Square Garden, down the Hudson River and over the Brooklyn Bridge to the Barclays Centre (talk about exhausting).
As we returned home, I couldn’t help but think about how intricate life is. Being someone that is overly obsessed with aviation, and overthinking, it was only a matter of time before I would begin to examine life like an airplane. Just go with it, I promise I’m not crazy. Well, maybe a little crazy…
I always have to have the window seat on an airplane. One of my biggest pet peeves is when people that sit in the window seat do not properly use the window seat. If you are one of these people, I’m honestly not very sorry about what I’m about to say. The window seat is not designed to be a comfy wall to lay against and sleep. The window seat is not designed to not have the shutter closed at all times. The window seat is not designed to be ignored because of extracurricular activities (ie: work, reading, etc.). The window seat is designed to be used. How does one use the window seat properly? You look out of the window! That’s it! Enjoy the view! Enjoy how amazing flight is!
Now that my rant is out of the way I can get back on track. I was sitting in seat 22 A (window seat) on American Airlines flight 874 from Laguardia to Charlotte. As we were cruising along between two cloud layers, I was looking at the wing of our Airbus A320. Being the aviation enthusiast that I am, I began to examine each of the rivets that hold this key component of our aircraft together. An Airbus A321 has approximately 500,000 rivets that hold the entire plane together. The A320 is a little bit smaller, but I imagine it’s close to the same amount.
The fact that 500,000 rivets are holding together that aircraft is astonishing! A rivet can be sizes ranging from 1/8” to 5/16”. That’s tiny! There are 500,000 tiny metal plugs that hold together a metal tube that is going 500 mph at 32,000 feet in the air! How is that even possible?!
As I began to understand how vital, and tiny, those rivets are, I began to see how intricate life is. Every single day we rely on an endless amount of things to get us through our day. We rely on our cars to get us from one point to another. We rely on the buildings we work in to hold us up and protect us. I’m relying on this chair right now to keep me from falling and making a fool of myself in the Social Sciences building. There are so many small, seemingly insignificant things that happen to us everyday that complete our day.
On a deeper note, think about all of the tiny interactions we have with people. We interact with friends, family and strangers every single day. A simple hello can change the course of someone’s day. One word can also tear somebody apart.
But what I think is the coolest thing of all is how God uses small things to move in the biggest ways. He orchestrates every single thing in our days. He orchestrates every interaction, every event and every decision. He places people in our lives to point us in a direction, or even take us there. He puts us in classes for a specific reason. He puts us next to somebody in traffic so we might display His love. There are so many things that He does that we don’t even give thought to. Everything happens for a reason.
It’s so cool to recognize when these small things happen because we can see how they hold our lives together. I have had times where an interaction with somebody, or an unforeseen event has come up, and it alters something in my life in order to keep me from encountering something that would take me somewhere I didn’t need to be. God has placed my steps so precisely so I may be able to bless others because of Him, as well as not lose my mind when one thing goes awry.
God is the riveter. He puts one rivet in at a time. It’s a painstaking process, but He loves His job because He loves to see the finished product. He loves to see His work held together neatly and cohesively. We won’t roll off of the production line until we are with Him in Heaven, but the building process right now is a wonderful thing. It means we are being shaped, crafted and reinvented all the time. Soon enough we’ll be ready for our first flight, and that day will be so beautiful.