"My soul thirsts for You... in a dry and weary land where there is no water." ~ Psalm 63:1
Wow... I cannot believe it's been so long since I've undated you all. My apologies! We hit the peak of the semester about three weeks ago with our final projects, Skills Test, and portfolios due all within a few days of each other, on top of our already packed schedule.
Thus, I have neglected these updates (and probably some much needed personal reflection), but as I take a breath, I realize the Lord has been moving. That's one of the biggest things He's been showing me too - even in the rush and in the driest places, He is still speaking to me and teaching me. For someone who generally needs a lot of alone and quiet time and space (and nature) to process and still my soul, this has been both a challenge and a point of growth in trusting that the Lord knows me and my circumstances and just how to meet me. He's also shown me that sometimes it's ok- even good- to not think so much and just do. Of course, I need to be wise and know what He's saying, but in a lot of situations, I have come to know what the Lord requires, and I shouldn't have to overthink and second guess every decision. He's a good Father, and He takes care of me whether I make the best decision or not. Which brings me to the next lesson I've been learning - God's grace and unfailing love.
In the busyness, stress and tiredness, I have found myself so aware of my weaknesses and need for God's grace. And as always, the lesson we were giving spoke right to where I was at two weeks ago. It was my favorite lesson: "God is love. He doesn't just say it, He shows it. God's love is the love you need." We talked to the kids about how God is different than people who say that they love you but then turn around and hurt and disappoint you- He doesn't just say He loves us; He died for us WHILE WE WERE SINNING AGAINST HIM to show us just how much.I needed to be reminded of this truth before I could even preach it, and God did that. I was able to share my own personal story of hurt in this area and how God's love was so different, and pray for children whose hearts were broken. One of my favorite parts of this week though was our time of worship. I taught the kids the songs that said, "No place I'd rather be than here in Your love" and "He loves us/me!". 1) They loved it, 2) it was amazing and touching to see kids really praying and worshiping, asking God to show them His love and heal their hearts. There were kids and parents with tears in their eyes. I don't think I can adequately express how beautiful and humbling it was to see this in the heart of the projects...
Our program lasts only a short 45 mins to an hour, and sometimes I often feel like- "is this doing anything? Are people really changing and getting it? Can they change when everything around them the rest of the week is so hard?" The odds are not good. And you feel like you're holding a match in a room of miles of darkness, and... you are. A few weeks ago, a man came over to me on my site and said, "Do you know where you are!?" Brownsville is one of the roughest ghettos in New York, and he looked at me with disbelief, wondering why "nice people" or this little white girl was here, and not scared. He told me and my teammate we were brave and thanked us for coming for these kids. That's why we go. If only one child gets it, if children experience the presence of God for only those few minutes a week, if a child gets a hug and told they're loved one time a week... It's worth it. The kingdom of God comes. Light shines in the darkness, and darkness cannot overcome it.
This past week, I rode a bike home from visiting my site, which I hadn't done in a few weeks so I wasn't completely sure of my route home. It was already dusk and getting cold, so I wanted to get home soon. As I made my way in the general direction, I made it a couple blocks and then a few streets ahead of me I caught sight of the big yellow truck! (My team was coming home from sidewalk at another site.) "Yes! Now I can just follow them!" I thought. I started pedaling faster and faster to keep up with them. Eventually I lost them because of traffic lights, but they put me on the right track. And then Jesus hit me: "that is what Yogi Bear does for these people. They're lost and don't know which way to go, but when they see these trucks, they see hope - they see the way home." We are light in this overwhelming darkness.
I feel I lost my vision after a few weeks and gained it back too late i.e. the last two/three weeks. Now, we only have one more week left with these children and their families! I can't believe it! There's so much work to be done, and so little time. But I'm trusting God to do miracles with the little, just like he did with the loaves and fishes. And He's already been faithful. I've had some of the sweetest times and God moments on Sidewalk and visitation the past two weeks. He's new doors - literally. I was welcomed in for a dinner with one of our Muslim families last night. It was amazing! They were beyond hospitable and I was able to talk with their oldest daughter for over an hour about fasting, faith and family. I even got to share my testimony with her! I digress... These things are making it hard to say goodbye so soon.
I don't know what the future holds. I leave for Uganda in just a few weeks - June 21st - I can't believe that either! I am both sad to leave this place that has given me so many wonderful experiences and friends, and excited for what's next. I think it's going to be completely different. But just like I walked into this not knowing what to expect and God met me, I know God is there and has even more to show and teach me. My prayer is just that I go with my spiritual eyes wide open because at the heart of all these stories and reflections is one thing: God is working. He's ALWAYS working. The question is: Do we see it? Jesus said, “The kingdom of God will not come with observable signs. Nor will people say, 'Here it is!' or 'There it is!' For you see, the kingdom of God is in your midst."
My encouragement to you today is to trust that He is working, His kingdom is coming - in and around you, regardless of how your circumstances appear to your natural eye. And if you cannot see it, or have lost your vision along the way, PRAY. He WILL show you. I know this message is much more all over the place than the previous ones - maybe because I am too- But before I go, I'd like to encourage you all with a passage that has been engraved in my mind and heart throughout these three months:
Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart... And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,”[a]made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.
7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. 12 So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you...
16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
~ 2 Corinthians 4
Please pray for God to sustain this vision for me in my last week of Metro and as I go to the next mission.
Grace and peace,