"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him,
who have been called according to his purpose". Romans 8:28

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Season change: Healing in KC!

Greetings from Belton Missouri! I have been wanting to write this post for some time now, but just kept putting it off and I am glad that I did so that I can share with you all the full extent of what God has been doing during my time here.

It's been almost a month now since I left my home in Ohio and ventured out to Kansas City to follow my love here and begin a new season of my life. The getting here was faced with many obstacles and I had several doubts that this was going to work out, but I kept persevering. My living situation changed before even getting down here and I am now next door to my friend Anne living with her neighbor Beth. I know that God had this planned for both of us and it has worked out wonderfully, even though Beth has children my age! My car is also different than originally planned. Thirty minutes into my first attempt to KC, my little Honda would go no further! I had to go car hunting that Monday and with the help of a Godly car salesmen who has connections to IHOP, I was able to drive away with a 2003 Saturn L200 (which I have already ran into a pole)! My trip down here was long, painful, and quiet because of IPOD issues, but I finally made it! I started work the following day, enjoy my first full-time job, and am now fully trained as of Thursday.

I am only 15 minutes from the International House of Prayer and have been filling my time with hours in the prayer room, two small groups, teachings, and services. My first week here, I happened to be in the prayer room during the healing ministry. I went of course, but left feeling the same. However, I knew then that God would soon heal me and that this season of rest is a gift from him. It was difficult adjusting to my new life on my own, but it has been worth it all! I have encounter God and fallen more in love with him in just these past few weeks than I have ever. Sometimes we just need to be taken aside, to be still, and just allow him to minister to us.

Ok so ready for the full extent of God's awesomeness: last night at the church service, God began to heal me! I know that for some this is a strange occourance and many are skeptically until it happens to them or someone they are close to. I had been praying for healing and prayed with hundred's of times since March. I was a little discourgaged last night as others were giving their testimonies of how God healed them and seeing others dance and I just told God that I wanted to share my testimony of healing and dance for him. I started praying for others for healing. It was easier to believe God would heal others, but not me. However, he wants to pour out his affections on ALL of his children! We are ALL worthy to be healed! As I was praying with someone right before the service, I began to feel the pain move from my neck and back down to my left hand. I went back to my friend Anne and told her that my hand was hurting, but nothing else was. She prayed with me and then the message started. Now God's timing on all of this is pretty comical because the message was on SUFFERING! During the message, the pain in my hand happened three other times and then would go away. I could literally feel my neck and back tingling and things getting put in place. Crazy I know, but God's love is crazy (a book I highly recommend: Crazy Love)!

So after the service, I decided to test out my body to see if this was really happening. I sat on the floor without any support on my back for 20 mins, raised my left arm for a long time, and then I danced, haha. I know it's not very Nazarene, but I had told God earlier that I wanted to dance for him and he allowed me to. Two hours pass by and still no pain!! This is obviously a miracle because earlier that day I went to a museum with a friend and was in severe pain just walking!! Last night I slept on my side which I haven't done in 8 months and it was just another confirmation that God is healing me. Now there is still a slight pain, but I feel that is more from lack of use of my muscles than anything. Sorry this is so long, but God is just so worthy to be praised and I wanted to make sure that you all had the full story!!! Thank you again for the continued prayers and believing this would happen even when I didn't! I believe he wants to do the same for all of you! More prayers that this stays away are much appreciated!!!!

" Come and listen all you who fear God and I will tell you what he did for me. For I cried out to him for help, praising him as I spoke. If I had not confessed the sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened. But God did listen! He paid attention to my prayer. Praise God who did not ignore my prayer or withdraw his unfailing love from me". Psalm 66:16-20.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Silver lining

So you know the phrase, "Every cloud has a silver lining"? It means an optimistic and hopeful prospect in the midst of a storm or difficulty. I heard it in a few songs recently that have brought me encouragement. I always loved looking up into the clouds and seeing the sunrays bursting through the clouds. It makes me think of Gods radiating presence and is like getting a glimpse of heaven on earth. These past few months a storm has definintely been all around me, but God has not allowed it to consume me and has been faithful to provide. This past week I had a glimpse of that silver lining.

I have been diligently searching for employment over the last three months. I actually considered that my full-time job! Last week there was a major breakthrough and all my long hours of "work" finally paid off. I had two final interviews last week and was offered both jobs on the same day! One job is in Columbus and the other job would take me out to Kansas City. Many of you who know me know how indecisive I really am. I can't decide what restaurant to go to or what movie to watch, let alone which job to take! I recruited several of my close friends to listen to my dilemma and help me figure out which option was God's best for me. I wanted to chose the position that would bring the most honor and glory to Him and help me continue in the healing process.

Some verses that really spoke to me during this time:

"Show me the right path, O Lord; point out the road for me to follow. Lead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in you." Psalm 25:4-5

"I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you." Psalm 32:8

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take." Proverbs 3:5-6

"But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." Matthew 6:33

I flew out to Kansas City on Tuesday morning and went straight to the Christian Foundation for Children and Aging to meet with the staff in person. As soon as I arrived there, I felt a peace I hadn't felt in a while and just knew this was where I needed to be. It is an international non-profit sponsorship foundation which deals with impoverished children, youth, and adults in helping them reach their highest potential. I will be mainly on the phone talking both in English and Spanish with the sponsors and translating material from the field and the sponsors. I'll be moving in with one of my dear friends, Anne, and her husband and 5-month old baby girl and have another close friend and her husband that are only 40 minutes away. I will also be 15 minutes from the prayer room and will be going to the church services there. I feel this will be a time of receiving, resting, and healing.

I will be leaving next Friday the 8th, and starting on Monday the 11th. I know this is all happening incredibily fast and I only have a week to get everything together and move, but I feel God has opened these doors and has provided this opportunity for me to take and I don't want to hesitate any longer. Prayers are very much appreciated as the drive next friday will be quite painful and long. It's still surreal to me that I am actually moving and employed. It will be difficult to leave my family and friends once more, but I am filled with excitement for what awaits me in Kansas City!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Healing in solitude

I first want to apologize for the lack of blogging and silence in the past month. The truth is I have been experiencing so much healing and lessons learnt that I didn't know where to begin! This time in my life has by far been the hardest, but the most exhilerating! God has been so faithful and has revealed more to me in this time of solitude than all the years of church sermons, mission trips, and school combined!

As God did with Elijah in 1 Kings 17 when he took him to the Kerith Ravine for a time set apart before his ministry, I feel that he is doing the same with me. God provided for Elijah with a stream to drink from and birds to bring him food, and it has been true in my life as well. God often takes us aside for a season of solitude and allows us to experience pain so that we can draw even closer into his strong arms, listen more deeply to his voice, and grow in strength to do his work for the future. We can't run to our Mount Carmel experiences without first spending time in the desert!

These past few months have in no way been easy, but I have had the support of my loving father and close friends to help guide me along the way. I have spent the majority of my days praying, reading, and job searching. I feel that I have sent out atleast 50 resumes and have only had 4 interviews! However, I refuse to allow discouragement to set in because I know that as it says in Romans 8:28, God works for the good of those who love him and who have been called according to his purposes!

I have enjoyed the bonus time as I call it with my family and friends. I have learned to be content in all circumstances and to blossom where I'm planted. I even told my mom that I was happy to be home. She thought I was being sarcastic and didn't believe me, but I finally convinced her that I really meant it! For those of you who know me, you know that is proof that God has been doing some work in me!!

I'm not exactly sure what tomorrow will bring (or even the next hour), but that is perfectly ok with me. As I wrote in my last post, I eventually want to go to IHOP, but the timing is totally up to God. Please continue to pray for clairty and direction in this time. The excitment and anticipation of God's future plans has finally returned! I'll definitely keep you all posted on where I am planted next :)

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The next step

It has been over a month since I returned from my Peruvian adventure and began my life again back here in the states. There has been alot of adjusting, letting go, and tears, but I am at peace with everything and am embracing the idea that God's best is yet to come.

Even before I got on the plane in Peru, I was asked the question, "so what is next, what's the plan?". I have repeatedly been asked this since my arrival and my answer was usually, "I'm just waiting on direction and God's plans to be known". This was always so frustrating to me because for once in my life, I didn't have a plan and couldn't give a straight answer.

However, God has revealed to my heart what the next step of faith is to be. Before I even heard about Peru, I felt I was supposed to go to the International House of Prayer in Kansas City to do a prayer internship there, but I but that aside when Peru came along. Now that I am back, that desire to be there has only grown stronger, eventhough I was given yet another opportunity to serve somewhere else with the Nazarene church. It was hard for me to say no because this was the perfect open door, but I know that it is not God's best for me. Right now I am in need of healing, rest, and being ministered to, not ministering. If I want to be an effective missionary in the future, then I know I will need to be well feed and equipped to serve.

The internship consist of two-three month tracts where I would be spending 6 hours every night from 12-6am praying during the dark hours of night. I would be living in a dorm setting with others going through the internship. The community would be really beneficial for me during this time in my life. We would have classes, small group meetings, and fellowship together. There are even opportunities to serve in one of their ministries each week. I am interested in Exodus Cry, a ministry to help victims of human traficking. There is also an orphan justice center and a soup kitchen. I would be working with the leaders that are over these projects and many doors would be open for me to serve along side with them after the internship. I know after spending this much time praying and in God's word that I will get direction and healing and be ready to serve once more.

I deeply appreciate each and everyone of you and the roles you have played in my life. Thank you again to all who were sponsoring me during my mission in Peru. Hopefully everything was taken care of, but if you are still having issues, please let me know! The cost for the internship is $2200 for the first and $2000 for the second tract. This includes housing, food, classes, and ministry expenses. I am currently looking for more employment so that I can save up to head out to Kansas City as soon as possible. There are two different time frames for the internship: September 27th and January 17th. You all have done so much in supporting me and I just wanted to share this next step with you. If you are interested in helping me either financially or in prayer, please let me know! You can reach me at: brandi.courts@gmail.com. Here is a link to IHOP if you are interested in getting more info: www.ihop.org.

"Come to me all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light". Matthew 11:28-30.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Counting blessings

Though I miss Peru deeply and think of my family there constantly, it's times like this past weekend that make it easier to be at home. I had the privilege to be apart of my best friend, Shelli's, wedding. This was a day that I dreaded missing during my time in Peru and had even contemplated flying back just to see her. When I had received her invite in Peru, she mentioned that the date had been changed just so that when I watched the video, I wouldn't feel like I missed out on anything! However, God in his beautiful love, allowed me the opportunity to experience this day first-hand and to attend both my lovely roommate Kelsey's and my dear friend of 14 years, Savanna's wedding. It was definitely an exhausting experience, but it helped me realize how blessed I truly am and was worth all the driving and cake!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Empty My Hands

Just when I thought that I had surrendered everything over to God and that there was nothing else to give to him, he sheds light on another area of my heart that he wants control of. This is a difficult, long, and painful process. I have given him my dreams of being a missionary in Peru and thought that was what he had promised me for this season on my life. However, I am learning that he has not forgotten his promises to me and will fulfill them in his time, but what he wants now is for me to let them all go and be captivated with him alone.

I have found comfort in both the Psalms and certain songs during this time in my life. I want to share with you a song that says EXACTLY how I feel and is my prayer to God as I go through this trial.

Empty my Hands by Tenth Avenue North

Time to get off the floor

These past three weeks that I have been back home have been some of the most challenging times in my life. I thought that the real test of faith was giving up the next two years of my life to serve God in Peru, but that was actually quite easy and smooth compared to where I find myself now. I had security and community in Peru, here I don't know what the next day will bring, let alone the next few years! I am literally clinging to God during this time and trusting him as I step out onto an invisible road. That is exactly where he wants each one of us.

A friend of mine recently encouraged me to jump into the arms of God and allow him to carry me instead of having him pick me up off the floor. I didn't take his advice right away because it was easier to just stay broken, crying on the floor. That's where I have been for a while and it is time that I get up and allow his strong arms to surround me and gently carry me to where he has planned for me.

"When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you. Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand . You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever".

Psalm 73:21-26

I know that this is a time of purifying and refining me. The end result will be exactly what he has destinied me to be in order to serve him with all that I am.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Change in scenery

There are times in our walk where we run into a road closed sign and must take unexpected detours to get to our final destination. Last Tuesday I ran into one of those signs and now find myself back in London, Ohio on a detour from my original destination.

I had my interview with the leadership of Extreme and they have decided that I am not yet ready to come back and continue my work in Peru. This was devastating news because I have seen so much progress in my health during the past month, but I am not 100% and they do not want me to get to the point I was before. We shared with my group that I would be going home, they embraced me in prayer, and then asked what they could do to help me during this time. Direction and clarity are a good start.

Wednesday was my last day with my Peruvian family. The bond that we have formed in just four short months is so strong and unique that distance will not destroy it. I feel that one of my purposes in going to Peru was to be an encouragement to my team and learn to lean even more heavily upon God during times of difficulty. The group surprised me with a little party where they sang me happy birthday, had a beautiful cake, and a card that they all signed. I was then accompanied by several of my team to the airport where many more tears were shed, prayers were spoken, and a dear song was sang!

My experience in the Lima airport was quite epic and was filled with even more tears. I was unable to get on the flight I was booked because I was only permitted one bag. So I had to frantically go throughout the airport trying to find a ticket. God sent a few angels from a Baptist college in Wisconsin who were studying in Peru to help me out and take me in. I was able to get a ticket on their flight and had great comfort in traveling with a group instead of alone.

I arrived home on Thursday and am now living day by day trying to figure out where God will be taking me next. Although God has closed the doors in Peru, I know that he is faithful and he is not done with me yet. There are only better days to come. I am confident as Philippians 1:6 says, that he who began a good work in me will bring it to completion. I have found great comfort in my devotional lately and want to leave you with a quote from a poem by Bessie Porter.

" The Lord is sure to accomplish those things a loving heart has waited long to see; those words will be fulfilled to which she clings, because her God has promised faithfully".

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Enabled with boldness:Cusco

"Enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness"- Acts 4:20
After our main event on the 19th, I then traveled
to Cusco to spend a week doing impact with more than 80 other short-term volunteers! I was accompanied by two dear friends of mine from Ohio: Vicki Dunn and Steve Elam. I really enjoyed sharing my experience in Peru with someone from home so that they could relate to my love for the country!
This is a picture of a little girl from Mantay, a women's home that I had visited previously during my first trip to Cusco. I translated for half of the group as we went on a tour of the facility. We were all filled tears during the end of the tour as the guide showed us the nursery and explained the importance of nurturing and making sure these infants know that they are loved, unlike their mothers knew. Our time there included a puppet show which talked about the amazing love Jesus has for each one of us, balloons, nursery feedings, and a powerful testimony that brought many of the young women to accept Christ's open arm invitation.
Due to the largest festival that is celebrated in Cusco, we were limited to our modes of transportation for 80 people. Throughout the week we learned the art of flexibility and on Tuesday we went to the main plaza to pray with people. This was a difficult task because of the parades that were going on and the mentality from the Catholic church that they must pay for prayer. After explaining that it was free, my group and I prayed for jobs, health, the children of the world, and that the people of Peru would get closer to God with 7-10 different people. We then went around to the different plazas and prayed that God would fill the lives that were in that place with his light.

On Wednesday we returned to Oropesa where I went on my previous trip and had a medical clinic and a children's festival. There was a great turnout with over 50 children and 130 people who came to the clinic!

Thursday the 24th was Inti Raymi which is an Incan celebration of the summer solstace and has been intertwined with Catholicism. On this day they have several parades and tradiotions which include climbing up a mountain and sacrificing a llama. We were unable to do any ministry this day, so we were able to visit around the town and see the festivities. It is evident the hold that the enemy has on this city and that it is going to be the hardest of the 7 cities to plant churches because of the Incan roots, however God will be victorious and we were able to get a glimpse of that during our week there.

My favorite part of the week was on Friday when we went to visit the women's prision. This was another women only visit for our group. We had the opportunity to talk with the ladies and here their stories. Many of them are just like you and me with beautiful families and dreams, but had fallen on hard times and are now paying with their freedom. We gave them foot and hand massages and just loved on them with the love of Christ. Lonna Vopat shared her story once more with the women who could easily relate to her testimony. They were all moved by the work of God's redeeming love in her life and almost all of the women gave their lives over to the hands of their heavenly father!!! We then handed out gifts and Bibles to them with a promise that we would return and help them in there walk. One lady shared with me how several groups had come before, but our group was the first where she could feel the spirit of the Lord!

The rest of the week was filled with more children's festivals, another medical clinic, church service, and many trips to the plaza. I was able to help translate for the medical clinic on Saturday which was such a neat experience. Eventhough the majority were only getting prescribed vitamins, tylonol, and rolaids, many of them just desired to get attention, touched, and seen by an American.

Although we would have loved to have done more ministry and impact, it turned out to be a powerful week and many lives were transformed! My prayer was that all of us would return to the states with a fire that would spark the church in the states to share the same kind of love.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Amor Extremo

What an exciting time to be involved in the kingdom-expansion that is taking place in the southern part of Peru! I arrived on June 17th to my Peruvian home in Arequipa after several hours of travel and no sleep. The excitement and anticipation for Saturday's mega event was felt throughout the entire city. The Extreme staff and volunteers had been working on promotion and getting the last minute details ready in order to shake Arequipa for Christ, but what happened on Saturday was more than any of us could have imagined!

The event was held in a spacious fairground/event center that was perfect for all of the activities that we had planned. I helped both in the prayer room and with the woman's conference. Our special guests included Tammy Trent, an amazing Christian artist with a beautiful testimony, and Lonna Vopat, who shared her powerful and inspiring story that many of the Peruvian's were able to relate with. There were at least 1,000 women who attended the conference and more than 100 of them decided to accept the joy and hope that only Christ can offer them! I had the privileged to help with the consolidation process of with both the conference and after Nick's speech later that same evening. To be able to welcome new sisters into the family of God and get their information was such a huge honor.
The other activities of the day included a men's conference, childrens festival, medical clinic, and a guinea pig feast. The main attraction of the day was Nick Vujicic, an evangelist who was born without any arms or legs. He had the most powerful testimony I have heard before and shared of how he overcame major obstacles in his life to be exactly what God created him to be. Overall there were over 10,000 people who attended the event and over 1,000 decisions were made for Christ! It was definitely a victorious day for the church in Peru!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Times of refreshing

These past few weeks have been filled with many tears, prayers, healing, and loved ones. My first week home was one of the hardest times I have experienced in my life. I was filled with grief and confusion, not sure what the future held. However, through the chaos, I learned to lean even heavier upon the hands that hold my future and was determined that his plans for my life were far better than anything I could come up with.

Psalm 37:4, "Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart", is one of my favorite Psalms which I have read several times before and have often quoted in reference to something that my heart desired. What was I desiring? God's will? Just to be in Peru with my group? To see the kingdom expanded? God revealed to me that what I need to delight myself in is him, allowing him to satisfy all the longings of my heart and in doing this I will desire him, his plans.

So that is what I did during this time and what I experienced was more than just physical healing, but a spiritual refreshing of his presence. God was faithful and good and restored my health and I am now feeling the best I have felt in three months! I have also been encouraged and refreshed by the many lovely visitors I have had during my short time home.

I am planning on returning to Peru on Wednesday and serving as a short-term volunteer for Love Extreme in Arequipa and Cusco. I am homesick for Peru and it took returning to the states for me to realize that I truly love Peru and have made that my home. I can't wait to be reunited with my family down there and serve alongside them with this new strength that I have received. Although I am uncertain of whether I will be with my cohort or placed in the next group, I am confident that everything will workout exactly as it was suppose to. I will keep you all posted on the work that is taking place during Love Extreme. If you are interested in getting more info, you can visit: http://www.extremenazarene.org/ShortTermDetail.aspx?ID=10

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Inspiration in song

I know that there is a reason for all of this pain and he will reveal it in his time. I know it wasn't a mistake for me to go to Peru and that my work isn't finished yet. Through this trial I have found counsel and encouragement from many songs and my devotional, "Streams in the desert". Today's reading was about Abraham who had faith that God would fulfill his promises against all hope.

Great faith must first endure great trials.
God's greatest gifts come through great pain.

Though I am more confused and uncertain of what the future holds, I have found complete comfort in the hands of my father. A few of my dear friends sent me songs that explain EXACTLY what I am feeling and I wanted to share them here. Also wanted to share this verse from Isaiah 41:10:

"So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed , for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand"

Home again

What a whirlwind of emotions and events I have experienced since my last post! However, in the midst of all this, there is a calming peace and sense that everything is going to be the way it is suppose to be.

After a week of resting to see if there was any improvements, I decided that it would be best for me to go home and figure out the source of the pain. It was a difficult decision because I just want to serve in Peru and I have formed a beautiful family in Peru and couldn't imagine leaving, but I needed to think of what was the best for my health and what condition I needed to be in to do the most good in Peru. I spent all last week with my brothers and sisters and prepared for my journey back home.

Thursday night we went to the roof underneath the stars and sang worship songs and ended in prayer. This is my favorite activity to do with the group and was so blessed to have one last opportunity to share this with them. I was also serenaded by several of my teammates and received a flower and many encouraging letters. On Friday, we had an ice cream farewell and then I was accompanied with 27 people to the airport! I was overwhelmed with the display of love that I received from my family in Peru. Many tears were shed and it was probably one of the most difficult good-byes I have experienced. I arrived in Lima, spent the night in the district off, and went early in the morning to receive my residency card. I am now an official resident of Peru and can call it home. I left late on Saturday and after 14 hours of travel, I arrived in sunny, humid Ohio. The flight wasn't as excruciating as expected which I know is an answer to prayer!
It was so surreal to be back in the states and I have definitely experienced reverse culture shock, but I enjoyed seeing loved ones again. I was even able to surprise my entire family who had no idea that I was coming home. Their reactions were priceless!

Rachel Kuhn, who is amazing and I love very much, was able to find me a doctor from our church in Westerville who was willing to see me for free. I went yesterday to Dr. Stock who was so wonderful and thorough and finally gave me a diagnosis after three months of searching. She told me that I have soft muscle and tissue damage from a combination of my accidents. This is something that just takes time to heal, but with medicine and rest, I can hopefully heal a little sooner. We aren't really sure what the time frame is or if I will be well enough to come back in a few weeks.

Prayer requests for this time:
Speedy healing
That Extreme finds a Peruvian partner for me
My team back in Peru
That God would reveal what he wants me to learn during this time

Thank you all so much for your encouragement and prayers! I will be heading to Westerville church this weekend and to my home church in London the following weekend and am looking forward to seeing many of you! I also have the same phone number if you would like to call me while I am stateside.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Chaos, confusion, peace

This past week has probably been one of the toughest, but most beautiful weeks that I have experienced here in Peru. We have been living in the 40/40 training center for over a week now and began classes on Monday. The community here is very unique and I feel so blessed to be surrounded by so many who desire to waste their lives for Christ.

Chaos: As I have been sharing through these post, I been experiencing a great amount of pain in my neck and back which has worsened over the past two months. I met with the leadership here on Monday to discuss my pain and what needed to be done in order for me to feel relief. They care about me and want what is best for me; even if that means going home. We decided that I would miss out on our first week of class, rest and just go to physical therapy. If there was not any improvement by the following Monday (tomorrow), I would go back to Ohio to receive treatment. I had to share with my team that night the decision that was made and I was so blessed by all the prayers and words of encouragement that I received which continued throughout the entire week from both those here and at home. Another setback this week was when my Peruvian partner, Julissa, who I met on Sunday went home on Thursday without any warning. She had such a beautiful spirit and we were instant friends, but she had things at home that she had to deal with.

Confusion: As I went through all of the possibilities and dealt with all that was being thrown at me this week, I experienced more confusion of what to do than I have ever before. I am not the greatest at making decisions and generally appreciate others (especially God) just making them for me and telling me what to do. Along with many others, I have cried out to God for an answer of what it was he was telling me to do and what his ultimate will is for all of this. I know he is more than capable of healing me and allowing me to remain here to serve him, but for some reason he has been fairly silent. Through services, others, and personal devotions, I have heard so many conflicting answers which have only left me in more confusion!

Peace: However, through my times of forced rest, pain, and difficulties, my eyes and heart have been opened and sensitive to understand what it is God is wanting me to learn from all of this. Each trial we go through is there to help purify and refine us, but I hadn't completely grasped what it was that I needed to learn until all that I had taken for granted was being threatened to change. Am I willing like Abraham was with Issac to sacrifice his promise to me that I would bring light into the darkness of Peru in order to show him how much I truly love him and above all desire to be obedient to him? Am I willing to give up my new family here and accept that he might have different plans for me? Whatever happens, my love will be with me and will use me, so why worry? I am now at peace that whether I am healed and able to stay here or if I need to go home and get treatment, I will not be alone and it will all be work out in his perfect timing.

There has been little progress in the past week with my pain. The numbing in my arm is gone and I was able to sit for over two hours yesterday! However, I am in still a considerable amount of pain and am not sure if I will be able to withstand the long hours that are required of me. Tomorrow is decision day and I will let everyone know the next step for my adventure here! Thank you again for all your prayers and words of encouragement, keep them coming!!!
Encouraging passages that I want to share from this week:
Isaiah 41:9-13; Psalm 46,77,86; Phil. 1:16, and Joshua 1:6-9

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

If You Want Me To

So tomorrow is a huge day for our cohort because we will transition from our lives with our host families to moving to the Larry and Addy Garman training center with our twelve new Peruvian partners and beginning our missionary training. I have been praying for my Peruvian partner for over a year now and am very anxious to finally meet her and begin our ministry together. This transition would be much smoother for me if it weren't for my current health condition. I have many reservations about moving during this time because I am in constant pain and am just not as focused to begin this work.

However God has shown me his faithfulness and has revealed many lies that the enemy has brought to my mind. A few times this week I had my mind set on going home. Since I wasn't able to fulfill what I thought was my purpose here in Peru, I had decided that I was no use here and that I would be less of a burden at home.

How unfaithful was I to my betrothed! A few months back I had shared about the relation with the Jewish marriage customs and Jesus and how we are his bride, betrothed. In a marriage ceremony, the couple promise to be with each other during sickness or in health. When God called me to Peru, he didn't say it would all be easy or that I would be in good health the entire time, but he did say he would be with me. He has not given up on me or released me from this call, but as soon as things were difficult, I was quick to give up on him.

After many tears, prayers, and encouragement from my brothers and sisters in Christ, I finally saw my unfaithfulness and realized that God was allowing me to go through this time in order to be purified, disciplined, and grow in my faith in him. Yesterday Jarred shared in our prayer meeting from 2 Corinthians 12:7-10. I really love the words in the Amplified version:

7And to keep me from being puffed up and too much elated by the exceeding greatness (preeminence) of these revelations, there was given me a thorn (a splinter) in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, to rack and buffet and harass me, to keep me from being excessively exalted. [Job. 2:6.]

8Three times I called upon the Lord and besought [Him] about this and begged that it might depart from me;

9But He said to me, My grace (My favor and loving-kindness and mercy) is enough for you [sufficient against any danger and enables you to bear the trouble manfully]; for My strength and power are made perfect (fulfilled and completed) and show themselves most effective in [your] weakness. Therefore, I will all the more gladly glory in my weaknesses and infirmities, that the strength and power of Christ (the Messiah) may rest (yes, may pitch a tent over and dwell) upon me!

10So for the sake of Christ, I am well pleased and take pleasure in infirmities, insults, hardships, persecutions, perplexities and distresses; for when I am weak [in human strength], then am I [truly] strong (able, powerful in divine strength).

I feel that this may be a "thorn in my flesh", but God can use it to glorify him further if I allow him to. A reoccurring lesson in my walk with God has been to rely on his strength and not my own.

A song that a dear friend of mine sang to me a few years ago when I was going through some difficult times has become my theme song and is really my prayer during this time in my life. I am confident that God is healing me and great things will come from all of this and I am so excited to share it with all of you when it happens!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Endings and beginnings

We have officially been here for three months and just completed our first task: Spanish school. Our last week of classes was a perfect end to our time there.

I had a little trouble getting back into learning mode after my trip to Lima, but it was so good to be back with my family here and to be with my teacher, Elvira. Cailyn and I gave our presentations on Thursday and they each lasted over an hour and a half! Yes I talked in Spanish for that long! I talked about something that has completely changed my life and is the reason I am here in Peru today; my time at Mount Vernon. Our teacher was very interested in the contrasts of universities in Peru with those back home. I really enjoyed sharing about my classes, the opportunities that I had, and the beautiful friendships that formed while there. Cailyn shared about the Jewish marriage customs and it's relation with Jesus which we had shared with the group during a Bible study. It was just as powerful in Spanish and was definitely something that needed to be shared. This led into our final spiritual conversation in class with Elvira and God really helped give Cailyn and I the words to share. The other classes took advantage of the opportunity to share about their faith as well and I am confident that many seeds were planted during these past three months!

On Friday we had a celebration ceremony with the entire group and our teachers. Cailyn and I helped with organizing and it turned out surprisingly well. I was the presenter and was incredibly nervous because that was my first time speaking in Spanish in front of such a large crowd, but I think appropriate words came out. Cailyn and Alex did a few Christian songs in Spanish, including "How he Loves". We each received a certificate and a gift from the director of the school, Carmen. It was a great time of fellowship and our accomplishments were definitely worth celebrating.

We are now in the transitional phase of moving to Zamacola, meeting our Peruvian partners, and beginning our mission training classes. We have until Thursday to relax and enjoy some of Arequipa before our move. There are an array of emotions surrounding this change. Worries about communication with our Peruvian partners, living with 24 people, and taking college level classes all in Spansih! Please be in prayer as we begin our work here as missionaries and take in all of these new changes.

Also, please continue to be praying for my back problems. I am still in a considerable amount of pain and it is beginning to ware on my attitude, but I am confident that God is healing me and that there is so much to learn from this time. I started physical therapy last week and will be going for a while to see if this will ease the pain. Thank you all for your words of encouragement and prayers!!

Friday, April 30, 2010

Cost of burning

Extreme Peru's main purpose or theme is to "carry the light" into the darkness of Peru. Since being here, I have witnessed that there is much darkness that needs to be exposed by the light and good news of Jesus. I know to be a light that there is a cost. It's not always a pleasant experience, but there is pain that is often involved. However, once God has refined us by his fire, we will shine brighter than we ever did before the pain.

This past week was the climax of my pain. I have been struggling with this pain for almost two months now and was getting really discouraged that I wasn't able to do the things that I used to do. I felt that I had nothing to offer to my team or the people of Peru. I was talking to Cailyn about my frustrations and through our conversation God revealed one of the lessons that I needed to learn. I have always been one to serve others, but never feel that I deserve others service or help. This often hinders others from being servants and demonstrates that I really don't love myself the way that I need to. I also expressed to her my feelings of being useless and then read this in my devotional:

"Light is always costly and comes at the expense of that which produces it. An unlit candle does not shine, for burning must come before the light. And we can be of little use to others without a cost to ourselves. Burning suggests suffering and we try to avoid pain. We tend to feel we are doing the greatest good in the world when we are strong and fit for active duty and when our hearts and hands are busy with kind acts of service. Therefore when we are set aside to suffer, when we are sick, when we are consumed with pain, and when all our activities have been stopped, we feel we are no longer of any use and are accomplishing nothing. Yet if we will be patient and submissive, it is almost certain we will be a greater blessing to the world around us during our time of suffering and pain than we were when we thought we were doing our greatest work. Then we are burning and shining brightly as a result of the fire." Streams in the Desert

I don't think that God could had made it any clearer that this is what he was wanting me to grasp! Just to make sure that I got this, I also received this from my dear friend Rachel Kuhn in a message!

This past week I have been in Lima with Elizabeth Lewis, the Extreme translator, going to different tests and appointments trying to discover what is the source and remedy for this pain. Before leaving on Monday night, my entire Cusco team came to my house to spend some time with me and to surround me in prayer. My other teammates also sent me words of encouragement and I had several opportunities to pray with those back home as well. Elizabeth and I had some great fellowship here in Lima. I was even able to see the ocean at sunset (and many of you who know me know about my love for sunsets and beaches)! We were also able to say good-bye to a few of the Extreme staff members, the Drinkwaters and Leanne Bennett, before they went back home (please keep the Drinkwaters in your prayers as Mike undergoes more test to figure out what is the cause of his illness). Another added blessing to our trip in Lima was that we began our process for residency with my Cusco family who came up from Arequipa.

Going back to the cost of burning and being more of a blessing and all that God is wanting me to learn during this time. I went back to the specialist today and received wonderful news: there is no evident problems with my neck or with my muscles! I know I should have been praising God for this report, but instead I was more upset that there still wasn't a solution to my pain. I had been searching for answers and had put my hope in human hands instead of putting complete trust in the ultimate physician. I might not know where this pain is coming from, but I know that it is there and it is something that God is allowing me to go through in order to be that burning light for him. I appreciate all of your prayers and words of encouragement as I continue learning to be patient and submissive during this time of refining.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Pain into Joy

Last week I was filled with joy from the Lord and brokenness for the people of Peru, but after a spiritual high usually follows a spiritual low. I have definitely experienced that this week. I had shared in a recent post about the pain that I have been experiencing with my back and how I have been going to a chiropractor to try and get some relief. God has provided funds to make this possible, but for some reason I am not getting any better, but at times feel worse. My attitude was not pleasing to the Lord and I allowed my trial and circumstance to get me down further instead of relying on God's strength and allowing this trial to refine and purify me. Tuesday I hit the bottom and was just overwhelmed with the pain and the fact that I wasn't able to fully do the work that God has called me to do in Peru. I was questioning why I would be brought all the way to Peru just to experience this pain. My thoughts were very irrational and I wasn't allowing God to carry this burden for me, I was just trying to survive on my own strength, and that never works!

My beautiful roommate Cailyn, who received the brunt of my negativity, lifted me up in prayer, encouraged me with Psalm 139, and along with my brother Stephen, called a prayer gathering. Although I thought I was fine and didn't want to inconvenience anyone, it was exactly what we each needed. All of my Cusco family and two of my dear sisters from the Arequipa group came and embraced me in prayer and gave me many words of encouragement. We also lifted up those in Extreme because I wasn't the only one who was experiencing difficulties. It was a beautiful display of what the church is suppose to do: carry each others burdens. My sister Beth told me that this is God's way of purifying me and it will help me become more prepared for what is to come ahead. Another one of my brothers told me that there is a difference in joy and happiness. Happiness is outwardly, but joy comes from the Lord.

These past few days God has revealed to me that there are some trials and burdens that he does not intend to lift, but wants us to allow him to help us carry them. Last night at our group Bible study, Tia shared about protecting our energy source. There were times when I felt she was speaking directly too me. It was exactly what I needed to hear. She mentioned that when we are going through a trial, we need to ask God to give us wisdom to learn what we need to through it and to believe that what we asked for will happen. There was also a part about as we go through a trial, we need to make sure we aren't emotionally taking it out on others, but rather we need to turn our focus off ourselves and onto others.

My prayer and attitude about my pain has drastically changed and am now in the mindset that God will be glorified through this and that as I persevere, I will become even stronger in him. I know that the joy of the Lord is my strength, so I am going to choose to be joyful despite the pain, knowing that this trial will only last for a time.

" The righteous cry out and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. A righteous man may have many troubles but the Lord delivers him from them all". Psalm 34:17-19

"We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us". Romans 5:3-5

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Huacsapata: Their reality

Cailyn and I decided after weeks of being asked by our pastor's wife to go to Huacsapata with her, a mission about a 45 minute drive away from the church. Right now our church goes there on Saturdays to work with the children, Mondays for adults, and Wednesday for everyone. I didn't realize or prepare for what we were going into. I had heard stories of children receiving their one healthy meal a week, having no running water in the houses, and having community outhouses, but it didn't become reality until we drove way into the mountains and stepped out into the shack-filled, dusty pueblo.

We entered the little stone shack to a room filled with beautiful children covered in dust and dirt. There were about 30 children yesterday, but I was told that there are 50 children signed up to come. They were divided into age groups and I went with the older children into another one-room shack that I could barely stand up in. After a few games and a quick lesson about honesty, we went back to the mission and had lunch together. They all lined up to get their one healthy meal that they get a week. We ate with them to show that we were equally grateful for the food. A few of the girls were wanting help with English, so Cailyn and I helped them for a while and then we were asked by the pastors wife to come back each week and help teach English to the children. There was no way after seeing these beautiful faces and experiencing their reality that we could say we didn't want to be apart of this.

My thoughts:
My heart immediately broke for these children who I had just met. I was gripped by the thought that this is their reality, this is all they know. After spending a few hours sharing the Bible with them and giving them a bite to eat, we get to go back down to our comfortable, stable way of living, while they remain in these unimaginable conditions. They are equally loved by their creator, but by looking at their environment, it doesn't appear that way. However, we have the unique opportunity and privilege of feeding them both spiritually and physically and telling them just how loved they really are!

Paseos in Language school

So have I mentioned how much I love my Spanish class? It is just my Cusco mom Amy, twin Cailyn and I. We are learning so much, have a wonderful teacher, and spend the majority of class in conversation. We convinced our Elvira, our teacher, that it would be a good change of scenery to go out to a local coffee shop and have class there. She agreed and we had a wonderful time of conversation and coffee. It went so well that we have gone out every Friday for the past month!

Our second trip was a city tour around Arequipa. Even though we have lived here for 2 months, we haven't had the opportunity to see past the main road. We went to two different outlooks of the city, several historical churches, and saw a majority of the countryside. We also saw a historic mansion called El Fundador that was located right next to a very poor district. We even coordinated our clothing which made for great photo opportunities! This city is massive and breathtaking! There is a lot of work for the team down here, but the harvest is definitely plentiful!

For the past two weeks we have had Erica from England sitting in on our classes which has been such a delight! Since Cailyn and I were the only ones in our class that had ever experienced Mundo Alpaca, we decided to take the class there and then go into the centro for some cafe. Although nothing can beat my first trip to Mundo Alpaca, it was a fun time complete with more of Candy (the aplaca that I bonded with on my birthday) and fresh figs. After our alpaca adventure, we met up with Gary and Alex at Pura Fruta for some frozen yogurt and Cafe Britt coffee. Gary had Elvira as a teacher when he was in language school so he was able to come back and impress Elvira with his Spansih. He was also impressed with our Spanish which was quite an encouragement for all of us to hear!

This last Friday we went to a local fruit market and purchased several different types of fruit that are unique to Peru. We then returned to the school, washed them, and then had a feast! My favorite out of the 13 fruits we tried was the granadilla which looks like a sucker on the outside and is filled with slimy seeds that you slurp on the inside. I have now had three of those since our classs on Friday! Since it was Erica's last day and she still hadn't tried cuy (guinea pig), we decided to go to a local restaurant and experience a taste of Peru. It was as horrifying on the patter as it looks in the pictures! Elvira requested that we have the head on it so we could see it in complete form. There was more meat on it than I was expecting, which I'm not sure if that was a good thing. It tasted sort of like chicken, but the skin was a little too chewy for me. After eating, Elvira opened up the head and found a small bone that looked like an animal. It's tradition to find this bone and stick it in a drink and then have everyone take a drink of it. If you swallow the bone, then you are said to have good luck. I was the lucky one to swallow the bone! I'm not sure where our next outing will be, but I am looking forward to getting to know more of this beautiful place I call home!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Giddily and beloved

I just returned from a powerful Bible study with our group that Cailyn and I had the privilege of leading. This message was laid on my heart a few weeks ago and I was suppose to share it last week, but I believe that God's timing was perfect like always. When we came into our meeting, there was a dark heaviness over the entire group because of a variety of things that are going on with our ministry here in Peru, but when we left there was such joy and peace that filled all of our hearts. As Cailyn and I were walking back home, I was smiling and over joyed and the only word that I could use to describe how I was feeling was giddily.

Until recently I had never fully grasped the depth of what it means to be the "bride" of Christ. I had a revelation last fall where I saw Jesus as my betrothed and I was following him as a bride would her groom. There was even a cheesy FFH song, Follow Love, that went along with this revelation and really encouraged me to continue on this journey. However, I had never let it completely transform me until my dear friend Cailyn showed me the parallels between the Jewish marriage customs and Jesus.

Usually when we think of the Last Supper we think of Jesus breaking the bread and sharing the wine with his disciples to represent his body and blood that he would shed for us. This is not exactly how the disciples saw it that night because they were Jewish and we are not. They heard Jesus proposing to them. Crazy I know! You see according to the Jewish marriage customs, when a Jewish man found a woman that he wanted to marry, he would go to his father who would then go to her father and together they would all figure out how many goats and sheep she is worth. The Jewish man would then go to the woman's home in front of all their family and friends and prepare a table with a glass of wine and the marriage covenant presented to the woman. It was against the law for a Jewish woman to be forced into marriage, she had a choice. So he would offer her the glass of wine and if she put her lips to the glass and drank of the wine then it's as if she is saying I accept your life as my own and I will give you mine in return.

From that point on she was known as "the one who was bought with a price" and her betrothed would go away to prepare their home which could take up to a year. During that time there was no communication between them except through the best man. He was the messenger between the couple until the groom finished their house and came unexpectedly in the night to retrieve his bride.

See the similarities in what Jesus did? He offered a glass of wine to his disciples and to the church as a whole to accept his proposal and to become his immaculate bride. When we take of the cup he is offering, we are entering into his new covenant and are his betrothed. His dowry was not goats and sheep though, it was much more costly. It was his life. That's how much each one of us are worth! Then as the Jewish man goes to prepare a house for his bride, Jesus says in John 14:1-3 that he is going to his father's house to prepare a place for us so that we may be where he is. He doesn't leave us alone. He promises to send his best man to send us messages from him, the Holy Spirit (John 14:15-18). And as the Jewish groom appears unexpectedly in the middle of the night to obtain his bride, Jesus will one day return for us and take us up to the house he has prepared for us.

After hearing this, I am just beyond words and filled with love for my savior and betrothed. Though I have been a wayward wife and have been unfaithful at times, he is still committed to me. He is dedicated to each one of us and desires that we be equally as faithful. A song that has really touched my heart and goes along so beautifully with this message is the song "Beloved" by Tenth Avenue North. The artist saw this as what his marriage covenant between him and Jesus would look like. I encourage you to read the words and allow God to form his own marriage covenant with you!


Love of my life
Look deep in my eyes
There you will find what you need
Give me your life
Lust and the lies
The past you're afraid I might see
You've been running away from me

You're my beloved
Lover I'm yours
Death shall not part us
It's you I died for
For better or worse
Forever we'll be
Our Love it unites us
It binds you to me
It's a mystery

Love of my life
Look deep in my eyes
There you will find what you need
I'm the giver of life
I'll clothe you in white
My immaculate bride you will be
Oh come running home to me

You're my beloved
Lover I'm yours
and Death shall not part us
It's you I died for
For better or worse
Forever we'll be
Our Love it unites us
and it binds you to me yea now now

Well you've been a mistress, my wife
Chasing lovers it won't satisfy
Won't you let me make you my bride
You will drink of my lips
And**taste new life

You're my beloved
Forever we'll be
Our love it unites us
And it binds you to me
It's a mystery

Monday, April 5, 2010

Semana Santa highlights

These past few weeks have been filled with different activities and has kept me going everyday (which explains why I haven't healed from the gripe). We began our celebration of Semana Santa or Holy week with a birthday celebration for my new twin sister, Emily. Her Father gracious paid for all of us to go to a beautiful restaurant in the Plaza de Armas to celebrate with Emily. Our entire Cusco group happened to all wear the same color scheme which made for a grat family photo.

We also welcomed in two new members to our group. On Monday we had a breakfast for our friend Blake from Washington who came right off the plane with no sleep into the office for a great american breakfast! He will be in the next cohort serving in Tacna, but came down a month early to help out with a project in Cusco. Thursday we had a gathering at the Wilkins to welcome Gary Crites (who is from the same district as me) into the Arequipa team. Our cohort is now complete and we are excited to see what God has in store.

The Cusco girls had the opportunity to dine with the Linnels who are a couple from Alaska serving here in Arequipa. The food and conversation was amazing! We each went around and shared our stories of how we ended up in Peru and it was interesting to see how God has brought us all together.

For Good Friday, we had a showing of the Jesus film at one of the churches here in Arequipa. Over 30 people came to watch the movie and there were several of them that came to the Lord! What a perfect day to accept the beautiful sacrifice of our Savior!

On Saturday, Cailyn and I had the opportunity to spend the day with our local churches youth group. We took a one hour bus ride out in the middle of the dessert to the small little pueblo of Yura. There the nine of us spent time playing games and swimming in the natural spring water from the mountains. It was a great way to connect with some of those in our church and practice our Spanish! The bus ride home was a little rough though because we had to stand for an hour with about 55 people in a school-size bus!

Easter was definitely different this year, but it was still a day of celebration and praise. I was able to talk with the majority of my family on skype and then headed to a dessert gathering with all the Extreme staff here in Arequipa. I even had the chance to act as an Easter bunny and help with a hunt that we had for the children. My favorite part of the day was after our gathering when the Cusco team and Kindra Bible spent an hour and a half on the roof at the guys house singing songs such as Beloved, How Great thou Art, How he Loves, and He knows my name. We then shared our blessings, concerns, and requests and followed it by a time of lifting each other in prayer. I couldn't imagine a more perfect end to my first Peruvian Pascua!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Unexpected blessings

This past week God has demonstrated to me once again his faithfulness and how he provides for those who wait on him and how he always has a purpose even if we don't see it right away. A few weeks ago I was chatting with a friend from school who I haven't had many opportunities to talk with since graduation. Through our conversation, I shared with him what I was doing in Peru. He had just recently had doors shut for what he was going to do with his future and was sort of down and confused about what to do next. This wasn't the first time he had heard about Extreme because another friend had shared with him and so had I last year, but this time was different. I just encouraged him to listen to God's voice and that he would open some doors soon and I jokingly told him he should just come down to Peru for a few years. God's timing and plans are totally unexpected and mysterious because this talked was the cataylst of God's prompting on my friend and opened the door for him to be obedient to God. I found out last week that my friend applied, interviewed, and was accepted to come to Peru in May! We had known each other since freshman year of college and God knew all along that we would both be serving here in Peru. I'm so excited and humbled that God used me, even in such a small way, to help someone else hear their call!
Another unexpected answer to prayer happened last week. I have been in a lot of pain recently from a previous car accident and have had to return to the chiropractor in order to get some relief. Even though the visits are half the price of those in the states, it would take my entire allowance in addition to help from my family in order to afford the continued visits that are required. One of my new brothers, Stephen, has been faithfully praying with me each night for healing and that God would provide through this situation. The rest of the group has also been surrounding me in prayer and it's been such an encouragement! One night last week I was having dinner with the lovely Wilkin's family and was sharing with them my dilemma. They asked me how much it would cost to continue going to the chiropractor for the rest of my time in Peru. I did some quick math (which if you know me, math is not my strong point) and said it would be about $100 a month for 24 months. Jen and Cal proceeded to tell me of a new church plant who had graciously given them some money to go towards their trip even though they had raised over the amount they needed. The church told them they would know what to do with the money when the time came. The amount was exactly $2400! Tears were forming in my eyes as they told me that it was evident that the money was suppose to go to me to help with my expenses! I was humbled by their generosity and that of this new church! God is so faithful to those who wait and trust in him! We are still praying for healing, but for now God has provided in abundance!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Life lately

The last week and a half has been filled with meetings, Bible studies, classes, and fellowship. On March 12th we had the opportunity to listen to the director of Extreme Nazarene, Brian Tibbs, talk about the past, present, and future of Extreme to all the staff. This is a very exiciting time to be apart of Extreme and I am anticipating a bright future where many lives will be brought to the kingdom!

I have spent the last two Saturdays playing soccer with the Extreme staff and locals from the four churches. I had never played before, but I figured that it would be a great way to interact with those that I will be ministering with. Eventhough I twisted my ankle and scraped my knee my second day of playing, I really enjoyed the challenge and hope to become more coordinated as time goes on! The picture is of most of our group at a movie night that we had at the Wilkin's new home. My roommate and I have already been over to visit our old housemates three times! They are greatly missed! We also celebrated the birthday of another Cusco teammate, Emily, by having a photo scavenger hunt in the Plaza de Armas. It was all in Spanish, but we all had a great time and now have some amusing memories!

We have also began meeting with our Cusco team for a time on Sunday evenings to worship together and share about our week in addition to meeting as a cohort on Thursdays. I have really enjoyed the fellowship and the worship time that we have experienced. Today after our meeting, I was able to skype with the Faith United Nazarene church back home that has been supporting my time here in Peru. I really enjoyed being able to share with them about my experience and introduce them to my team. I hope to have more opportunities like this to share with those who have invested in advancing God's kingdom in Peru.

Saturday was another great time of fellowship with the youth from the four Nazarene churches here in Cusco. This was the first service that will continue every Saturday where the youth gather together to worship and hear the word of God. It was the most powerful service that I have experienced so far during my time here in Peru! Next week the service will be held at the church that I attend and I am looking forward to the continued fellowship and the new friendships that will come out of this time.

I have officially been living in Peru for 6 weeks and am half-way through our language training. According to the experts, you usually hit culture shock between 6 weeks and 3 months after being in a different country. I didn't think that this would happen to me since I have been able to experience similar cultures before coming to Peru, however I have learned that I am not an exception! This mainly hit me with a few instances with the combi's, waitresses and at the post office. There are times where my Spanish is misunderstood and we end up either somewhere unplanned or with unidentified food. With the post office, I had to go through customs to pick up my first package that I had received from my Mom. It was a grueling process that had me in tears, but I did finally received my coffee, peanut butter, and Reese's! However, if anyone would ever like to send a package, please make sure it's under 4 pounds so it will go straight to me. I am learning to deal with the things that I might not understand and am trying to find beauty in them instead and to embrace the differences!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Cusco: Love at first sight

So this past weekend I had the unique opportunity to go and visit my future home in Cusco, Peru. There was a short-term Extreme Team that was working and we were asked if we would like to come and experience first-hand what was being done. This experience was definitely apart of God's perfect plan and timing.
Nine of us left late on March 5th which was the one-year mark for when I first received my call to go to Peru. We had a 10+ hour bus ride over night from Arequipa to Cusco. As we were entering Cusco, I woke up and was in awe of the majestic green mountains that filled the landscape; it was more than I ever expected! My prayer was that God would help me have a love for the people of Cusco and see them the way he does, as being even more stunning than the mountains and worthy of his love.

As soon as we got to our hotel, we got onto another bus with the short-term volunteers and Extreme staff and went to the central market to do a children's festival. Our team learned the true meaning of being flexible and had the full missionary imersion during our three-day stay in Cusco. Many locals gathered around as we had several activities to attract their attention: Rico the Cuy, face painting, balloon animals, jump ropes, puppet shows, and salvation bracelets. I had some previous experience with balloon animals, so I helped in that area for the three hours we were there. It was an incredibly effective ministry and many decisions for Christ were made! There has been alot of rain in Cusco which has caused alot of devastation and has really hurt the economy. We were expecting more rain and cooler temperatures, but it was actually hotter than Arequipa and we all left with sunburns! We went to the site where they are building our new home to meet those who have put so much time and energy into this project. The views were beautiful and it was a neat experience to feel at home.

That evening we had a dinner at the hotel for the parents and children who were involved with the VBS' during the week. I really enjoyed the opportunity to introduce myself and our team to these people who we will be ministering to and was able to practice my Español! I also met a young woman named Maria who is from Cusco and is interested in doing missions. We talked about what it means to be a missionary, the beliefs of the Nazarene church, and how she could be involved. I got her information and sent it to the pastor in charge of the Peruvian 40/40's and am awaiting to see what happens!

On Sunday we went for a tour of the historical Plaza de Armas and made the decision to leave on Monday so that we could have one more day of ministry. We went to the church and met with Pastor David and Daisy who we will be working alongside when we begin our ministry. We were able to help with a clothing drive at the church before the service. The pastor's wife had invited several people who she knew were in need. We had a beautiful standing-room only service where three people made decisions to follow Christ!

Monday was a very special day of ministry and really helped me refocus on why I am here in Peru and gave me a renewed love for the beautiful Cusqueñans. All week long, the Extreme Team volunteers had been going to each one of the 18 sites where we are going to be planting churches and prayed over them and consecrated them with oil. We had the opportunity to join in these ceremonies at two of the church-plant sites.

After our second ceremony in Oropesa, we went out into the local plaza in small groups and asked people if we could pray with them and told them our plans of beginning a church there. It was an intimidating process at first because it was all in Spanish, but we met several people who were willing to listen to us and allowed us to pray with them. I was overwhelmed with the fact that this is where I will be serving and how ready the harvest really is!!

All of the women of the group then went to Mantay, a shelter for young mother's between the age of 12-18 that is located on the same street as our future home! It is owned my an organization in Spain and houses up to 16 girls who were victims of abuse and come from severe poverty. There are only two of these shelters available in all of Peru. They help these young girls develop skills and go to school so that they can become self-supporting and find jobs where they will not be exploited. We did mini manacures with the ladies and I was able to talk with a few of them and share about what we were doing. We then showed the Jesus film from the point of view of the women that were involved in Jesus' ministry. It was a powerful display of God's redeeming love and how each one of them are worthy of that same love and hope. All of the women who watched the video came up to accept Christ! It was one of those experiences that I can only describe as devine. We then helped them make the salvation bracelets and passed out gifts that we had for them. There was also a little workshop where the girls make items to sell in order to help them earn an income. If you would like to visit their website, go to: http://www.mantayamerica.org/. The shelter has asked us to come back and we are looking forward to starting a ministry and Bible study with these beautiful young girls!

Overall this was a powerful three-day experience that fanned the flame in my heart for the work that God is doing in Cusco. There are two more short-term trips that will happen in Cusco, one which I will be helping with, before we finally come in October. Now I am even more motivated to learn the language and go through our classes so that I can better serve the people of Cusco!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Redeemed by Love

"Fear not for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine". Is.43:1
Last week was very "tranquillo" as we would say in Spanish and was filled with good fellowship, rest, and love. My roommate and I borrowed the book "Redeeming Love" by Francine Rivers which is a fictional novel based on the book of Hosea. We have been reading together during our free time and just finished it last week. It is now one of my favorite books! It really helped me grasp how much God truly loves us, is persuing us, and has redeemed us so that we can be with him; even when we don't think we are worthy. I was able to see from the perspective of those that we will be working with here in Peru, how they might view God, and how I might show them their true value in Christ. Eventhough it's a little long, I recommend it to all!!!
Here is a brief outline of what last week looked like:
Sunday we met our pastors at our church for the first time since they had been away. It was also an actual day of rest which was a rarity back home. Our Peruvian host parents also returned from their two-week vaction at the beach. It is so nice having them home because my Spanish usage has increased tremendously!
Monday was also very restful with a study session with the group at a local ice cream shop (we did actually study a little)!
Tuesdays have become one of my favorite days of the week because all the Extreme staff in Arequipa comes together in the morning for a time of prayer. We have also been doing a corperate time of fasting in the mornings and join for lunch to break the fast together. My roommate Cailyn and I have decided to add to our day by fasting the internet since we feel that it is a huge distratcion at times. It turned out to be a really productive day and we plan on continuing that each Tuesday.
Wednesday Cailyn and I were invited for a night out with the beautiful Wilkins family who we have the privilege of living with! The picture above is all of us at Bruno's Pizzaria which was very tastey! I really enjoyed the fellowship and the opportunity to spend some time with our new family.
Thursdays have become our time as a cohort to meet and have a group devotion. I have really enjoyed our last few meetings and the insights that the group has to share.
Friday the group went out to the plaza to a Mexican restaurant called Tacos and Tequilla. We had such a wonderful time listening to the American music with our amazing burritos and tacos (without the tequilla of course)!
Saturday I woke up at 6a.m. to go on a 1 1/2 hour walk with my Peruvian parents along the countryside. It was breathtaking (the view as well as the hike)! I really enjoyed the opportunity to spend with them and practice my español! I then met up with the rest of the group to go out to celebrate the birthday of our new friend Rachael Miller who is the secretary for Extreme. After lunch, we walked around the plaza and then met with the director of Extreme, Brian Tibbs, for some Cusco coffee, pizza, and a movie. Though it was an exhausting day, I really appreciated the time that we were able to spend as a group with the Tibb's family.
Sunday we had a wonderful time at the church and are started to make connections and will hopefully be getting more involved shortly!
A month has passed by now since I left Ohio! It's hard to believe that it's been such a short time because I feel I have been with everyone here for much longer! I hope you all have a wonderful week and if you get a chance, I would love to hear from you all!! Dios les bendiga!