Wednesday, October 26, 2011

On the road again!

Wow, has it really been 9 weeks since I was last in South Africa! The time really did fly by. Everyone told me it would...but I have to admit, at the beginning of this trip I found that to be an impossibility. My last few days in Madagascar were interesting to say the least!

Last Friday my camera was stolen right out of my jacket pocket - I didn't realize it at the time, but I think it happened while I was getting a very crowded bus. So that was definitely a bummer, but fortunately I had saved most of my pictures on my computer already - and fortunately it was the last few days instead of the first few days of my trip. But still...a bummer.

Then Saturday I had a really nice time with my friend Yant - we went into the city and went shopping and had lunch, then at night we had a braai (South African BBQ basically). Unfortunately something didn't settle very well and Saturday night I woke up feeling really nauseated, and then was throwing up and sick all night.

Sunday I was supposed to attend two church services, but woke up still feeling really weak and sick - so I stayed in bed all day on my last Sunday in Madagascar :( I think my body was just telling me I needed a rest!

Monday, I felt better but still not 100%. Monday morning I led a prayer time/Bible study with some of the OMers and volunteers. It was sort of an emotional time for me, saying thank you to everyone for all their kindness and generosity. I will definitely be missing them.

Yesterday I afternoon I headed to the airport and said my final goodbyes! I'll be here in South Africa for a week, it's been very nice and relaxing so far, feels like a mini-vacation! I can't wait to come home, but if you've gotta be somewhere else, South Africa is not a bad place to be.

This week I'll be processing through all the different things I experienced and what I learned. There's something slightly intimidating about returning back home to the familiar when you know you're different now. But God has never been far from me, and I know He'll be with me in Texas also.


Thursday, October 20, 2011

Charcoal Spinach and Quotes

With only 5 days left until I board a plane bound for South Africa, and the very last week of my journey, I'm finding it difficult to stay focused on the task at hand. I've come to love this country very much and I know I'll miss everyone I've come to know - but I still found myself looking at google images of the Dallas skyline a couple nights ago. And I must say the pictures of the Trinity River were pretty deceptive. I was saying, it's hard to feel really driven to finish the work here - but I know I'll be disappointed in myself if I give up now. 

Things to do before I leave:
1. Evangelism/Door-to-door in a suburb of Tana
2. Attend two church services on Sunday...for those of you who've never attended Malagasy church...that means all day
3. Go shopping
4. Finish a load of communications work!
5. Find King Julian - ok...this one probably won't happen

Things I will miss about Madagascar:
1. The delicious and giant mangoes
2. The beautiful sunsets
3. The way people stare at me...okay maybe not...
4. The mountains
5. The daily afternoon rain showers
6. The people 
7. The relaxed atmosphere

Things I will not miss about Madagascar:
1. The bad air
2. The bad roads
3. The way people stare at me - for real this time
4. The unpredictable water and electricity 
5. The extremely loud church next door 
6. The complete lack of toilets/toilet paper everywhere you go

All that said, haven't had many crazy adventures since the last time I wrote. Unless you count burning a pot of spinach a crazy adventure (which I don't) - imagine charcoal in spinach form....ya, it was about as pleasant as it sounds! But I've also learned some important skills - like writing key ministry plans, and things of that nature. Well to wrap it up - I thought I'd share with you some of my favorite quotes right now. They kind of represent what's on my mind and sometimes you just can't say it any better yourself after you've already read it! As always, thanks for reading and praying, I love you all!

"The greatest good you can do for another is not just share your riches, but reveal to them their own." 
- Benjamin Disraeli

"If man is really fashioned, more than anything else, in the image of God, then clearly it follows that there is nothing on earth so near to God as a human being. The conclusion is inescapable, that to be in the presence of even the meanest, lowest, most repulsive specimen of humanity in the world is still to be closer to God than when looking up into a starry sky or at a beautiful sunset."
- Mike Mason

"There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilization - these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit - immortal horrors or everlasting splendors." - 
C.S. Lewis (Weight of Glory)

"The Blood does not cleanse excuses, but always cleanses sin, confessed as sin: then revival is just the daily experience of a soul full of Jesus and running over." 
- Norman P. Grubb

Friday, October 14, 2011

A Few of My Favorite Things

Yesterday I was journalling, and I decided to start reflecting on what's been happening in my life over these past months and years. I thought I'd share a few things here!

8 Things I've Learned Recently:

1. I'm passionate about communications - not just writing, but all forms of communications.
2. God is both mysterious and personal all at once.
3. If something needs to be done, just do it! Still learning this one...
4. My family is the best in the entire world.
5. I like cooking for fun, not because I have to
6. Dry spaghetti is gross
7. You can eat moldy bread if you just take off the moldy parts. Once you get past the smell you'll be okay!
8. God is for me - not against me - I carry His name!

3 Examples of His faithfulness to me:

1. Texas A&M University
If you knew me back when I was deciding where to go to college, you'll probably remember that initially I wasn't too excited about Texas A&M. I had other plans for my life. But God brought me to College Station despite my attitude, and it has been a HUGE blessing! Firstly, the relationships I've built and the things I've learned about Jesus and myself have shaped who I am becoming. Secondly, my education has been supreme. Seriously, I go to a great school - I'm challenged there and supported by the faculty. I love my major! What kind of secular academic institution not only gives you academic credit to do missions for a semester, but also encourages you to do it, and puts you on the front page of their student newspaper? Also Breakaway Ministries and Grace Bible Church have both been pretty life changing!

2. Faith Bible Church Internship
I knew I should be worried when May 2011 arrived and I still had no plans for my summer, but somehow I knew the Lord had good things in store for me. He proved He did when the youth pastor at  Faith called me up and offered me a position as his youth intern! FBC is the church where I grew up, where I really encountered Jesus for the first time, and where I learned what it means to be His disciple. The internship was a BLAST! I also learned a lot about church ministry and got to know the high school kids - they're amazing!

I mean when you really think about it, how in the world did I end up here? Of all the places in the world, I have to admit this is one I never even considered going to. (I decided that on my blog I'm allowed to end sentences with prepositions.) But all the lessons I've learned, the things I've experienced, the people I've met have been invaluable to me! He has never once abandoned me or left me to my own devices. He has given me strength for each day and grace for each moment. Sometimes it takes traveling 10,000 miles away from home and all it's comforts to realize HE IS ENOUGH FOR ME. All the time, everyday, no matter what.

I also picked up the old habit I had freshman year of writing a list of 50 things I'm thankful for everyday. I'll spare you that list though ;) some things are completely ridiculous and some are serious. Either way, I think it's so healthy to sit down and take the time to give thanks. Engage your mind in thinking about how grateful you are instead of how much you want. It wasn't difficult at all to come up with 50 things, I'm sure you could keep going for hours once you get started!

What's something you're thankful for today? I have one week and 4 days left in this country, I'm thankful for that!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

John Piper, Jesus Bumper Sticker and a Prostitute

Well hello everyone!

Since the last time I wrote, I:
1. Rode on the OUTSIDE of the bus in downtown Tana - it was crowded so I had to hang out the back...
2. Attempted to make guacamole - they have the strangest avocados here
3. Showered in the dark
4. Talked to friends on skype!!
5. Attended a prayer meeting at Tana City Church
6. Was really convicted by this thought -- if it's more difficult for me to share Jesus with the lost people in my life than to sit by and not share Him, something is really wrong in my heart...It should be the most difficult and painful thing in my life to keep Him to myself, and that's the truth. 
7. New favorite John Piper quote = "The goal of missions is the gladness of the nations in the glory of God" (see Psalm 67)

I don't have too many cool stories to write this time around, so sorry! I've mostly just been staying at the house in Tana and writing some updates. But I'll share my 5th OM update in my series, they usually edit the stories before they put them on the internet and make them more "OM friendly" I guess...but this what I wrote pre-editing! Thanks for taking the time to check up on me, I appreciate every single one of you!

Also...I just think this is funny - this was on the inside of my taxi haha

The moment I set my foot on the bike pedal the rain started falling. "It's going to be a long 10 km..." I thought to myself. It was on a recent outreach to Manakara, a city in the southeast of Madagascar, that I visited a truly rural village for the first time. This village can only be reached on foot or by bicycle. After carrying the bike through a steep mudslide in the tropical rain, I started to doubt my decision that riding was a better alternative to walking. Nevertheless, 10 km later I was standing in the village of Maroala covered in mud and sand. Though I had tried to mentally prepare myself, I was still shocked at the poverty in front of me. As I looked at the children with swollen bellies and mothers with hopeless looks in their eyes, I wanted to shut them out and cause my heart not to feel for them. The team had brought clothes for these people, which we passed out after a gospel presentation. Still, I was distressed that I had no food to offer, no immediate relief. But I heard Jesus reminding me, "I am the Bread of Life and Living Water, whoever comes to me will never be unsatisfied." He's our great provider and ultimate satisfaction - join with me in praying that His name will be made great in the village of Maroala. 

Since I've been in Madagascar, I've experienced things I never imagined I would - like riding a bike through the jungle. Most of these experiences have made for hilarious stories that I'll never forget, but some have broken my heart. For instance, I never thought I would hear a little girl say she wants to grow up and be a prostitute. But the dark reality is that prostitutes on the small island of Sainte Marie, off the northeast coast of Madagascar, appear to be the most wealthy and satisfied individuals. They have the nicest clothes and the most customers. This little girl doesn't realize that these women are used, abused and hurting. She doesn't realize that she's been created with value, she hasn't been taught to dream beyond her small island home. On the other hand, while visiting a Christian children's home in Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar, I heard a little boy say he wants to grow up and become a pilot (he thinks, "it would be fun to drive around up in the sky, where there's no cars"). His caretakers at the home have encouraged him to follow his dreams; they'll support him in his education. He's flourishing in his environment of love and support.
I felt so saddened at the answer of the little girl, thinking if she only had more love and support perhaps she would dream beyond prostitution; and then it hit me: maybe the Lord looks upon us - His church, and feels the same emotion. He has provided unfailing love and the unending support of a Father, yet what do our dreams look like? Can we see beyond our circumstances - do we believe anything is possible with Christ, that He can really change a nation? The vision of OM Madagascar is to empower Malagasy Christians "to run faster and fly higher," because we serve a big God who is capable of all things. Let us pray for this nation, interceding on their behalf that God would do miraculous and marvelous things among them, not diminishing His might by asking only for small things.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Pictures + Akany Avoko

Here's some pictures from Manakara! 

The "road" we rode our bikes on...and this was a nice stretch

I got a little muddy, good thing I had my chacos!

Typical scene in Madagascar, lots and lots of kids, lots and lots of grass huts

Monster stickers on the back of my bus!

I've been enjoying some down time here in Tana lately. But also writing stories and updates, and some other miscellaneous communications work. On Thursday I went and visited a children's home called Akany Avoko, I was really excited to go visit because I followed their blog before I came to Madagascar. It's an amazing place! They house 120 children, mostly rescued from abusive families or extreme poverty. But Akany was originally started for girls who have been accused of petty crimes and are awaiting trial - the justice system here in Madagascar is very corrupt, and children are guilty until proven innocent, so they stay in prison awaiting trials that may never come. But Akany gives them a safe place to live. You can check out their blog here!

Well, just one month until I board a plane bound for TEXAS! (aka, greatest place on Earth!) Thanks for your prayers for me in this last month - please pray for creativity and inspiration as I try and tell the world about what God is doing here in Madagascar -- it's hard to narrow it down!