A New Look Into Evangelism

A personal essay by Daniel Ortiz, Admissions Counselor

When I was told that part of the International Leadership Summit would be street evangelism and outreach, I immediately felt a knot in the pit of my stomach. It was the first week of a terribly harsh Winter season. I was ecstatic to see an email from the Christian organization, Envision, who was hosting the International Leadership Summit in Paris. My mentor, Dr. Martin Sanders, told me about this summit and how beneficial it would be for me as I am looking for my next steps into ministry and seeking to refine my skills and talents for kingdom change. I was very excited to see this email, until I saw the dreaded words, “street evangelism.” Just the thought of stopping people from their rhythms of life to tell them how lost they are, how they need to do what I say and read a tract made me extremely anxious, but what could I do? I was already committed to this trip and I agreed to participate in all activities “being open minded”. Little did I know, my conception of sharing the gospel was about to be restored

I grew up in an era of evangelism filled with rambunctious claims of the second coming of Christ, the fiery judgment that is soon to come and illustrious tracks that would give a visual aid to all the hollering and yelling in the streets of the Bronx. This was how sharing the gospel was taught to me and many other young Christians and frankly, it made me feel quite uncomfortable. I didn’t feel right about telling people that they are “wrong” or “condemned” especially because I didn’t know them. I didn’t know their life stories; if they have ever heard the gospel or what problems they might be facing. I was just supposed to assume that because they weren’t doing what I was doing, they were lost and I needed to give them a 4×6 booklet that would give them the key to the pearly gates and some wicked pictures of what happens if you throw the tract away and don’t listen to what is taught.

CTA button for Blog UGThe first day in Paris was such a whirlwind. After our six hour flight and four hour amazing race around the city, we were finally able to sit down and enjoy some Parisian pizza in one of the conference rooms at the American Church of Paris. Ben Stewart, the director of Envision, took this time to brief us on part of the schedule for the week. He referenced the time of street evangelism and ministry with a quote by St. Francis of Assisi. “Preach the gospel at all times and if necessary, use words.” This quote shook my core. I have never heard such an approach for sharing the gospel but it made so much sense to me. We can talk until our faces turn blue, but actions will always speak louder than words. I thought deeply about this quote for a moment, and then I began to think how it’s not about remaining silent about our faith, but the quality of the words we use. We were taught to evangelize, not with tools of condemnation and forced persuasion, but with love and relationship. We were taught to live our lives, enjoy ourselves and simply enjoy the people and culture of Paris, and letting the spirit speak through our life and actions.

street evangelism ParisNow let me explain something. Just because the approach of evangelism may not include very direct questions and statements regarding one faith and spiritual life does not mean it cannot be intentional. Our time for ministry and street evangelism was extremely intentional, just with a different approach than we might be used to. We spent a lot of time prayer walking. We were told about some key locations, either local churches that Envision was affiliated with or just areas that were known to be darker and holding some spiritual bondages. We were instructed to pray over these places and keep eyes and ears open for what the spirit had to say. We were also told to be in community, talk to people, and enjoy their culture. Talking to people without an agenda will give the spirit freedom to become known in any part of the conversation. Talking to people in love, just to get to know them or share a joke or just a bit of life demonstrates the kind of relationship our father wants us to have with each other. For some, that can be the best form of evangelizing.

I experienced this through the outreach done at Genesis, which is an art gallery and open mic held by one of the local churches. The international workers in residence use this place to share common interests with the people of Paris, as they have an artsy and talented culture. As I simply listened to many people share their talents at the open mic, I struck a conversation with a local student who is originally from Venezuela. I heard him speak in Spanish and decided to just join in with some Spanish slang to bring some familiarity to a foreign setting. We spoke for about an hour, just about our backgrounds, sports and eventually why we were at that place at that time. We did not have a conversion experience, nor did I share bible verses on why he needs to become a Christian, rather I just became a friend to him. I know that God was able to use that conversation to plant a seed, a seed that I might never see grow with my own eyes but I have faith that the seed planted will lead to something; a thought or a moment of curiousity as to why these Americans were so happy? Why did they want to know who I was and just talk to me? We just plant the seed, the spirit is the true gardener.

Another example of the evangelism we experienced was through an ESL project that some of our Nyack college students participated in. I briefly interviewed Maria Verano and Kari Nehlson, two current students at Nyack who were able to go to a foster home right outside of Paris. Most of the children at the foster home have been removed from their families because of drug addiction and abuse in their homes. Our students were able to work with 5th and 6th graders who were practicing their musical talents to travel to Florida and perform with a group of American students. Our students played games with the children, and taught them basic conversation such as introductions and traveling terms. Their evangelism focused on the tangible needs of the people, learning basic English and just having some people to talk to and play games; a brief escape from their harsh situations. This was a little different than the other outreach that was done, however it was equally as effective and necessary. Why just pray for the needs of people if there are things we know can be done for them. Evangelism should not be passive, rather a very active experience; reaching people where they are and helping their needs. That was how we shared the gospel of Christ.

Our responsibility as followers of Christ is to emulate what Jesus did while he walked this earth. He would go to those in need and those needs, allowing the spirit to use every conversation and every moment. I not only had the opportunity to finally understand what this meant through scripture, but I was now able to put in into practice with other fellow Nyackers  the tools we learned in a completely different culture! It was one of the best experiences of our trip to Paris.

 

Get Over Your “self”

Update during banquet

Nic & Rachael Billman. Two people who have truly learned how to love and put others above themselves. I love all of the amazing people, I have met and have the pleasure to do life with here at Shores of Grace.

” You need to get over yourself.” Were the tough yet loving words I needed to hear.

We think about ourselves like A LOT. Like all of the time, a lot. Like more than we think about anything or anyone else; there is a constant ” me, me, me; I, I, I” track playing in our minds. “I have no friends here, I can’t have deep conversations here like I do at home, I feel alone, no one will like me, people don’t see me or my gifts, I am not known, I can do better, ( insert your own self-track here_________) …”

If you’re anything like me and I am quite sure that you are, you are often thinking about yourself in one form or another. And while having thoughts towards yourself isn’t exactly a bad thing, you being the most important thing in your life, is. Yes, we ought to love ourselves, loving ourselves requires us to do some thinking, (God’s thinking to be exact) but that good thinking, those loving, kind and gracious thoughts towards us, could only come from one place…

God commands us to love Him above all else. When you are in love with someone, he or she becomes the object of not only all of your affection but your thoughts as well. God in essence has commanded us to keep our minds and thoughts on Him above all else.

Secondly God commands us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. However if all you think about is you, you’re not loving anyone else, but you. And even worse, if your thoughts towards yourself sound anything like mine, you only think about yourself, but you certainly don’t love yourself.

robynNI

My friend Robyn and I at our last banquet. She has been one of my blessings here at Shores of Grace. Her kindness and truthfulness, have helped me grow so much here.

To be honest, I spent the first half of my journey here in Brazil thinking about myself. About all of the things God was showing me that needed to change. I had a “me” fest going on practically 24/7. Until God gave me a wake up call and showed me how selfish and un-surrendered I was. And as exhausted from the war continuously going on in my mind, there was no way I was going to dispute His claim. He reminded me, just as my friend Robyn had done earlier that night, that I needed to die. That my “self” needed to be laid down, surrendered, and gotten over, once and for all. And so I did.

I repented to God, to my leaders here and surrendered my “self” the me, me, me’s, and I, I, I’s. I traded my thoughts for His own, for thoughts of Him and his beauty.

” You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” Isaiah 26:3

CTA button for Blog ATSThis is sooooooo true!!! As I have been practicing thinking about his goodness, his mercies, his kindness, meditating on his word, thinking about what he says of me and to me, I have entered into a level of peace and joy I had not experienced before.  It is the kind of peace that doesn’t budge during a dispute, a joy that isn’t robbed when others don’t find your joke as funny as you do. A hope that isn’t quenched by the lack of current fruit. A grace that sees the beauty that rests upon each person you encounter.

Getting over my “self” was literally the 2nd best thing I have ever done, 2nd only to my decision to say yes to a relationship with Jesus. My mind is free now to:

  • Enter into His presence without distraction
  • Know Him and who He says I am
  • Know and enjoy true peace and joy
  • Rejoice, always
  • See what God sees in people, as well as situations

And it is free from:

  • Anxieties
  • Worries
  • Insecurities
  • Distractions
  • Doubts

When Jesus said; ” Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added to you.” ( Matthew 6:33) He really meant it. Seek God. Want to know the kingdom? Get to know the King. Want to know how to get to know God? Start thinking about Him. Be so consumed with Him that He’s what oozes out of your lips, pores and actions. That’s the kingdom. All of these things; joy, peace, provision, hope, grace, identity, love, service; come from seeking Him. The kingdom is seeing the work of Christ being completed in you and therefore affecting and changing the world around you.

So as my good friend and God told me; Get over yourself. And find the King and the kingdom in the process.

LeilaandI

Finding yourself frees you to love you, all of you! And then and only then can you love…

 

Working with a Brazilian Ministry: From Orphan to Daughter

StreetChurch

Made a new friend at street church, she wears an eye patch because she was shot in the eye, and survived. This past Sunday she oded on crack, in the hospital a woman told her she wasn’t going to die because God has a plan for her. I came with the same message… He chases so hard after His loved ones. Truly He does not relent. Love never stops loving

I love Brazil. I love that I am literally living a dream, I dreamt for nearly 10 months. It is a privilege to do the little things to help keep this ministry (Shores of Grace) running, I have learned to love those things. My heart burns within me when I hit the streets with my team, my new family and I see the faces of those women, young men or children. Tears often fill my eyes as I experience the love of the Father towards them. The years at Camp of the Woods as a Guest Service representative comes pouring out, and I love it, the nights we have the Father Love Banquet. Oh what a delight it is to serve a drink to someone who is thirsty.

Yet my dream, Gods dream for me here in Brazil has proved to be a difficult one. These past few weeks I have been wrestling the skeletons of insecurity and pride, that have been rooted into the closet of my heart by the lies of the orphan spirit.  To be honest I was not expecting to come to Brazil and have the rug pulled out from underneath me. Looking back, I realize that expected to come here with so much to offer, so much to give and do and instead God brought me here to break me. To cut some more dead branches out of my life and to teach me how to truly be a “wounded healer”.

Banquet

Shores of Grace staff and volunteers ready for the Father Love Banquet.

I have spent days feeling alone, feeling not good enough, inadequate, and empty handed. And that’s because I have based my identity and my truth on what I could do, and on what others think of me. At home it was easy. I sang, I preached in certain places, I am in prayer ministry teams, I have good grades, people who see and call out my gifts, I have plenty of friends, a good reputation that follows me, but here I have NOTHING. No friends, no reputation, nothing to base my worth and joy upon other than God.

And that is where the struggle began. Because while I thought I knew who I was and whose I was, I surely did not. Let me tell you, this lesson has not come easy to me, at all. I literally feel like the dog who goes back to its vomit, nearly every day. I go eat the good meal of what God has to say, I throw up the lies and then bam, 2.5 seconds later I am eating my vomit and wallowing in self-pity as I do.

But I have made a resolve to win the battle for the inner life as Dr. Rob Reimer would say. I am not, nor will I be a victim. I will no longer be ruled by the opinions of man. Nor will I allow what I do or do not do define me. I am choosing to believe that I AM A DAUGHTER. Whether you think I belong in the family or not =).

A few days ago as I laid in bed with fever over and over again I heard God say, “I have chosen you, I have called you, I have chosen you, I have called you, I have put treasure on the inside of you, I will reveal my glory through you as I desire, when I desire, you are mine, you are mine, YOU ARE MINE.” These words pierced my heart and I literally laid there and cried.

CTA button for Blog ATSI know I am not alone in this struggle, I know many of you like me, truly don’t know who you are, you think you do, but if all of those things you base your identity on were pulled like a rug from underneath your feet, you’d end up on your face, just like me. But the good news is, God longs for us to be free, to walk in wholeness and experience the Spirit of Adoption that already defines us, in full. It’s time to kick that orphan spirit in the butt and embrace who we are!

Here are the ways He is teaching me how:

1- Soak in God. Practice His presence. The word says His thoughts towards us are so great in number, they can’t be told. Yet He burns to tell us what thinks about us. He wants us to know how wide, deep and long His love is for us.

You have multiplied, O LORD my God, your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us; none can compare with you! I will proclaim and tell of them, yet they are more than can be told.- Psalm 40:5

2- Word. Word. Word. – Get in it. The word is a double edge sword. It literally pierces our hearts. I am finding that the mPromisesore I read, the more I soak in, the less the lies play over and over again in my mind. Because truth sets the captives free.

3- Community. Seek it out. Speak. Be honest. And allow others to speak into you. Hiding, pretending does not help anyone. Want to live your best life now? THEN BE REAL ( Preaching to myself here).

But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Jacob,
    he who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
    I have called you by name, you are mine. – Isaiah 43:1

                                         I am His. You are His. We are sons & daughters of the Living God. And so here in Brazil I am learning how to move from being an orphan to being a daughter…

#HopeForHaïti

I had the privilege to close 2013 by spending Christmas in Haiti with a group of amazing missionaries. The 10 days spent with them in the beautiful Caribbean country of Haiti, were truly transformational. Words still fail me in an attempt to describe my experiences. But as they say “A picture is worth a thousand words”, so I pray that this photo journal of my experience will somewhat tell you the story. These are only a few pictures, which captured only a glimpse of all we experienced in Haiti. 

IMG_0137This was our view from the roof of the church/missions base: “Light for Living International Ministries”, in which we stayed. We had wonderful hosts and a team of people of who really served and loved on us during our entire stay. Haitian Hospitality is beautiful. I am eternally grateful for Pastor Reginald Celestine, his wife Johanne and the their ENTIRE loving church, who became like

our family during our stay.

IMG_0144

 Day 2 – We sorted through tons of donations: clothes, vitamins, medicines, sandals, and toys. Pictured from left to right; Steve, Jodie, Carmella, Paul and Aaron.

IMG_0145
Having fun while sorting… who says serving is no fun!

IMG_0143
BT Sorting through the toys, what a joy she is!
IMG_0170
Worship in Haiti was amazing. God truly responds to the hunger and thirst in the souls of man!
IMG_0179
Adam Livecchi of We see Jesus Ministries and Pastor Reginal Celestin did a great job tag teaming and bringing a message of hope and faith. That night several people received physical and emotional healing. I saw a girls right ear open instantly at the name of Jesus Christ!
IMG_0165
This little girl slept on that roof…. She was trying to keep it some what clean, this image broke my heart.
IMG_0192
Taking on the Streets of Carrefour for some street evangelism. Not only did we share the gospel message and pray others. But we gave out sandals, clothes and vitamins…
IMG_0201
Paul, Sarah and Andrea enjoying a tight squeeze…
IMG_0204
The sights and sounds of Haiti are captured perfectly while riding on the Tap Tap…

Things get a little crazy in Haiti, so we had our own security guards courtesy of Pastor Reginald. These young men work for the church.  Left to right: Oge, Paul (from our team) and Elie.

Things get a little crazy in Haiti, so we had our own security guards courtesy of Pastor Reginald. These young men work for the church.
Left to right: Oge, Paul (from our team) and Elie aka “Bang-Bang”.

IMG_0290

Tap Tap; “There is always room for one more.”
Photo Credit: Adam Livecchi of We See Jesus Ministries.

IMG_0229
Adam praying for a beautiful little girl, as the team became acquainted with the kids at the orphanage. 
IMG_0224
The children singing for us as we entered into the orphanage… It’s safe to say we all cried. These faces are painted into my heart and mind. Those loving children need to receive the love of the Father, but who will give it to them, if we don’t?? Who will go to serve them, if we don’t? 
IMG_0247
The moments I spent praying for this precious little man changed my heart… William, one of our translators praying with me. 

 

IMG_0275
Jodie; the kids loved her and she loved them, deeply.
IMG_0299
Carmella, sharing her testimony on Sunday morning as Pastor Ricardo Francois translated… if you haven’t, you want to hear this woman’s story! Ex Muslim, who is now a fiery woman of God!

 

 

 

It is so important to do everything we do, IN LOVE. I saw what love looks like through this wonderful woman, everyday in Haiti. Andrea.  Photo Credit: Adam Livecchi of We See Jesus Ministries.

It is so important to do everything we do, IN LOVE. I saw what love looks like through this wonderful woman, everyday in Haiti. Andrea.
Photo Credit: Adam Livecchi of We See Jesus Ministries.

BT and a young woman we met while doing some street ministry. This girl invited us up to her home, where we prayed to bless their household. BT proceeded to pray prayers of blessing over all of the children, it was beautiful.

BT and a young woman we met while doing some street ministry. After praying for her brother, she invited us up to her home. There BT prayed, prayers of blessing over her, her siblings and her cousins, it was beautiful.

Leaders and Pastors conference in Haiti. They all received solid teaching, a new leadership book from Adam and a good meal.

Leaders and Pastors conference in Haiti. They all received solid teaching, a newly translated leadership book from Adam and a good meal, because they are worth the investment. Photo Credit: Adam Livecchi of We See Jesus Ministries

Steve, surrounded by kids who were intrigued by his camera. He did such a wonderful job, engaging them and showing them their curiosity was valuable and appreciated.

Steve, surrounded by kids who were intrigued by his camera. He did such a wonderful job, engaging them and showing them their curiosity was valuable and appreciated.

 

 

Here I was a leading a young woman to the Lord. She'd heard my testimony that morning and Jesus captured her heart. It was a true honor to lead her in prayer and watch and the Holy Spirit made her new. Thank you Pastor Ricardo for this honor and Adam for trusting us to represent you and the Kingdom of God well.

Here, I was a leading a young woman to the Lord. She heard my testimony and Jesus captured her heart. God sometimes sends us for the one. After all he is the good shepherd who will leave the 99 to find the 1… It was a true honor to lead her in prayer and watch as the Holy Spirit made her new. Thank you Pastor Ricardo for this honor and Adam for trusting us to represent you and the Kingdom of God well.

 

 

Buying some sugar cane. One US dollar got us 3 canes.

Buying some sugar cane. One US dollar got us 3 canes.

We brought pampers and a couple of other items to this momma who had none for her new baby. Earlier in the day she met with a couple of our team members who prayed for her. In Haiti I quickly learned it is never enough to just pray, one must also serve, give and sacrifice...

We brought pampers and a couple of other items to this momma who had none for her baby. Earlier in the day she met with a couple of our team members who prayed for her. In Haiti I quickly learned it is never enough to just pray, one MUST also go, serve, give and sacrifice for others.

IMG_0374
This little boy was walking around naked, so Jodie and Nadine proceeded to clothe him.
IMG_0366
Luckner of We See Jesus Ministries Haiti, dropping off clothes and shoes to this woman in need. Though not smiling here, her joy and gratitude was inexplicable, she hugged us all.
IMG_0425
“Big Momma” as we affectionately called her, is raising her grandchildren, on her own. Something about her reminded me of my grandmother. Perhaps it was her strength and love. She was so happy when we came by with toys and clothes for her little ones… Earlier in the day the team had prayed with her and then prayer for her granddaughter who for the first time WALKED!
The kingdom of God is in the miracles and in the sacrificial giving/serving of the saints.
IMG_0443
Luckner helping Jodie and Nadine make it down this rocky hill safely. After making our rounds he took us on a mini tour which led to a mountain top, where we could see all of  Carrefour from the highest point. It was beautiful. 
the lame walk
And here she is! After the team prayed, this little girl walked for the very first time! Here we see Luckner and Adam leading her, in her first steps.
Photo Credit: Carmella Ayaad of We See Jesus Ministries.

IMG_0447

         May I always see what God sees when He looks at Haiti…IMG_0448

IMG_0453
This is how we got our water to shower and use the restroom. I was grateful for the efforts they made to ensure we had water everyday. 
IMG_0452
We were very well fed everyday thanks to our wonderful kitchen team lead by Johanne Celestin! Haitian Food is delicious! 

 

IMG_0456
The view on our way to Jacmel on Christmas Eve.
IMG_0464
The Nazarene church in Haiti, in which we served that morning and afternoon. These children did not make it inside of the church because we only had enough gifts for a 100 kids. However, thankfully we had enough shoes, vitamins and coloring books to bless them as well.
IMG_0468
Adam and Pastor Reggie giving a word of blessing and instruction.
IMG_0471
Some of the women who did not make it inside with us. There was such hope in their eyes, mainly because that day, the people of Jacmel knew that they were not forgotten. 
IMG_0474
A little boy was walking around in these sandals that were falling apart.
IMG_0476
Paul fitting this boy with new shoes, his joy is evident.
IMG_0477
He did not care that his new shoes were pink, he was happy that his feet were covered and protected.
IMG_0486
We attempted to go to a water fall in Jacmel, but because of time we were unable to. Instead Adam preached the gospel to the tour guides,the leader as pictured above came forth to accept Christ. A little while later the rest would follow…

leading men to Christ
Carmella shared her testimony while Nadine translated and the rest of the tour guides decided to accept Christ… Here we see BT leading them in prayer to the Lord.
Photo Credit: We See Jesus Ministries.
This little had a 1 month old wound, which was continuously bleeding and surely infected. Aaron and Jodie took the time to clean her up, apply medicine and bandage her up. That is the gospel.

This little girl had a 1 month old wound, which was continuously bleeding and surely infected. Aaron and Jodie took the time to clean her up, apply medicine and bandage her up. That is the gospel. Photo Credit: Adam Livecchi of We See Jesus Ministries

 

riding in the back of a cop car
On Christmas day we went to a boys prison in Delmas. YES, Prison. The boys behind those bars have committed all sorts of crimes. We had the privilege to share the gospel with them. A few of us shared our testimonies including myself. We led 10 of them to the Lord for the very first time. A bunch were physically healed. They all sung, ate well and received brand new sneakers ( thanks to donations collected the night before!) and toothbrushes and toothpaste. It was a very Merry Christmas indeed.
Photo Credit: Sarah Livecchi of We See Jesus Ministries.

the Haiti Team
The Haiti dream team left to right: Nadine, Alan, Myself, Andrea, Aaron, Sarah & Justice, Adam, Carmella, Paul, BT, Steve and Jodie. Out side of the boys prison in Delmas. #Christmas in Haiti!

IMG_0501

IMG_0526

IMG_0514

 

 

 

 

 

 

<—Took a ride on this water taxi! If you look closely Adam is enjoy an iced coffee while relaxing in the Caribean ocean, that’s the life.

IMG_0558

Photo Credit: Jodie Garcia

IMG_0529

Absolutely gorgeous!

IMG_0544

Mountains on 1 side, the ocean and it’s unending beauty in the other, a perfect way to end a perfect trip at Kaliko Beach.

CTA button for Blog UG

  

Check the video! The team describes the trip in 1 Word!

To Adam and Sarah Livecchi, I just want to say thank you for the opportunity to serve under your leadership yet again. I am grateful for you both and all I’ve learned on our trips together! Words can’t express how blessed I am to be a part of your family… I look forward to traveling and ministering with you again!

If you want to go on a short-term missions trip that will change your life, check out We See Jesus Ministries

Alan standing on a wooden plank to hug Oge goodbye. I think it's safe to say none of us wanted to say bye. But it isn't "goodbye", it's " see you soon, Haiti!"

Alan standing on a wooden plank to hug Oge goodbye. I think it’s safe to say none of us wanted to say bye. But it isn’t “goodbye”, it’s ” see you soon, Haiti!”

Christ’s Body

erins
I’m sitting here in my home staring at a computer screen and thinking, “where in the world did my summer go”. If you have been following my journey at all you now that i have been away at Beulah Beach summer camp working there since May 20th. I spent three weeks at camp for staff training, and then headed out for seven weeks being a leader for Beulah on the road, followed by three more weeks doing different jobs back at camp once that ended. I have learned many new things, grown as a person, laughed a lot, cried a little, and made countless lasting friendships. All the while the Lord was with me and taught me more and more about his heart for the world this summer. The highlights of those lessons were about love, generosity, discipleship, and the body of Christ.
The thing that sticks out to me looking back at this summer is the body of Christ and how God uses each person to bring about his will. I had the opportunity to participate in many different roles this summer, some of these include: leadership, staff member, activity director, friend, counselor, crew member, nursery worker, and a ton of other jobs. I did everything from leading games, teaching devotions, praying with campers to receive Christ, and even raking seaweed. I realize that I does not matter which role I was in that God was still using me to further his kingdom. Our entire staff of over 100 people had an important job to do in order for the camp to run. We all did our part do fulfill our ultimate mission of furthering God’s Kingdom by leading campers to Christ.
In addition to all of this I also learned much about leadership this summer as I was pushed to new limits in my role of Program’s Director for Beulah on the Road. It was a slow start as I was figuring out what exactly my job entailed at the start of the summer. But, I had a great boss over me who lead me towards excellence and by the end of the summer I was totally in my groove and made the position my own. I learned about prayer, hard work, patience, and trusting God as he provides everything we will ever need. I feel blessed to have been able to serve at Beulah Beach again this summer, and I am now looking forward to how I can take what I’ve learned and apply it to this next semester at Nyack.

Christ, Our Sp “ear” itual Redeemer

A dramatic, story-version of my life events and the truth of God’s sovereignty even in creativity. Enjoy!

 

My name is Erin Fox and there has never been a more appropriate name bestowed upon a human being as Fox. I am just that, a fox. My sole defect is the fact that I have but one single ear on the right side of my head. I lost my left ear in a truck accident when I was working a job at a Christian camp during my youth. I also have an affinity for dead bodies. Maybe not so much an affinity as the fact that dead bodies always seem to find their way to me.

CTA button for Blog UGI remember the first time a dead body found me. I was a young woman in college and I was visiting the county fair. It had been deemed “Veteran Appreciation Day” and a crowd had gathered around some bent over, grey and grizzled nonagenarians. The eldest, a man in his mid-nineties, sat unassumingly before the crowd his arms and legs crossed and his tilted down. The crowd of teary eyed baby boomers dressed from head to toe in stars and stripes were so elated by the speeches and the medals handed out that they didn’t seem to notice the eldest nonagenarian slipping into the warm sleep of death. The woman handing out the medals assumed the elderly gentleman had fallen asleep when in reality he was taking his first steps into eternity.

When all was said and done and the ambulance had come and gone I made it my mission to seek out the deceased man’s body with whom I had felt an unexpected kinship to. When I arrived at the morgue I found out that the deceased had no next of kin and so I claimed him as my own. As I filled out the proper paperwork so that I became the deceased man’s kinsman redeemer, so that he became grafted into my own family, I noticed that he was, in fact, an organ donor.

I had his body, who I now knew was named John Christian, transferred to the local hospital. I inquired about his organ donation. They were happy to oblige. The nurse at the desk inquired about my missing ear. I told her the sad story about my freak truck accident and how I got my earring caught on a truck and how it wrenched the ear from my head. The nurse smiled earnestly at me,

“Bless your heart, child.” She said, “you’re in luck, we have an ear transfer specialist on staff and with Mr. Christian’s ears available, we can transfer his body parts to you.”

I knew we had had a special connection the moment I laid eyes on his sweet, sleeping face at the county fair. That day I went under the knife and John Christian’s ear became my own. For me it was a spiritual transformation. I was his and he was mine. His ear had become my own and I was born again. He had become my spiritual father and I his daughter. He gave me a most precious gift: a new lease on life.

It was like the story of the man Jesus, a Jew, God’s own son, a veteran in the spiritual battle that is life. He died and his life was supernaturally transposed to our own. Through his life and death he made us his own children and gave us, too, a new lease on life. Eternal life. I was a woman with one 20 year old ear on the right side of my head, and the saggy ear of a 90 year old man on my left. I was forever transformed.

Esperança

For a week now, many of my ATS and NYACK college friends have asked about the mission trip to Brazil.  I have attempted to put into words the dramatic life change I experienced and honestly, words still absolutely fail me. Which is rather unusual, seeing as how I am someone who is quite talkative and verbally descriptive. It’s like no matter how much I think about it or how hard I try to explain it, I truly cannot fully put my experience in Recife, into words. And yet here I am writing this blog for you all to read and join in my experience. (And if you have not; do check out the Brazil photo blog)

Out of all the many life altering moments I encountered in Brazil, if there is one that truly changed me, it’s the following:

editedworship2On Wednesday night, the girls from the rescue home “Betania”, along with the “Shores of Grace” staff and our team got together for a time of worship. We gathered together in a room, and we sat around on the floor, on chairs and mattresses, and sang our hearts out as some of the kids colored and made drawings for us. The brokenness, weariness, hunger and thirst in the room was so thick, I am nearly positive you could cut it with a knife. There was an unspoken desperation for God, in me, in all of us. And as the minutes went by I could begin to feel the love and grace of God begin to satisfy our deepest longings for Him.  In a rather unusual scene, I began to sense the presence and pleasure of God, like I never had before.

CTA button for Blog ATSAnd then I saw her. A beautiful, young, 13-year-old girl. She sat quietly against the wall, crying. She cried and cried through nearly every song. And I could not help but stare. Something about her, caught my attention. Finally I asked God to make a space for me next to her ( as she was surrounded by others), so that I could join her, if it was His desire. Instantly the girl to her right got up, and began to color at a different spot in the room. She looked at me and noticed me staring, I got up, sat down next to her and grabbed her hand. For the next 20 or so minutes I held her hand as she cried. I cried with her. As I held her hand, I could feel her immense pain. I could feel the shame and the hopelessness she carried. My heart broke. How could someone so young, know such deep heartache? I knew she’d been prostituted and devalued, her tears spoke of the abuse she’d identified as her identity for as long as she could remember.

Yet in the midst of this hopelessness, I felt the depth of God’s love. I thought I had truly encountered this love, and I shared my personal experience in my post “Pierced by Love”. But honestly, what I saw and felt as I held this little girl’s hand was unlike anything I’d ever experienced before. I was caught in the middle of two realities. The reality of her pain and her past, and the reality of a hope and a future in Christ.

Despite all of my own personal experiences and lessons learned at the Alliance Theological Seminary, nothing could have prepared me for this moment. The moment in which the veil of my perception was torn down, and for the first time, in my entire life, I could see what God saw. Worship ended far too quickly for me. And I knew I had only but a couple of moments to share this love, and hope with her. I shared a few words with her. I gave her something tangible to hold on to. And then I asked her if I could pray for her. She said yes. (I, of course had a translator for this.)

prayer for betania girl

A special thanks to Adam LiVecchi ( from We See Jesus Ministries) for capturing this life changing moment for me.

I placed my hand on her shoulder and instantly I felt the Lord’s desire to redeem and make ALL things new in her life. I saw how He planned to use everything that was meant to destroy her, for her good and for His glory. I knew that no matter what horrible thing she’d gone through, He really had  “a hope and a future” for her. That her past was covered fully by the blood of Christ shed on the cross, and all God the Father was concerned with, was creating something deeply beautiful and profound out of her life.  I spoke deep words of life, that were not only for her, but for me. Words that let the both of us know, that regardless of what we’ve been through, we look like our Daddy and He soooooo delights in us.

She cried. I hugged her. We parted ways. When I was asked by Adam ( from We See Jesus Ministries), what I experienced while praying for her, because he could see how powerful the moment was, I could not speak. I cried. I sat on a mattress on the floor and cried. Because  that night I’d been given an eternal glimpse at” how wide, how deep and how long God’s love” is for us.

My perception has been changed forever. It’s like I got an upgrade on the prescription of my spiritual contact lenses. I understand in my very being, that with the same hope God looked at that girl, He looks at EVERY SINGLE HUMAN BEING on the planet.

There is not one person who is hopeless in the sight of God…

amazing people

Our team and some of the amazing ” Shores of Grace” Staff at the base. ( Left to right) Evan, me, Aaron, Caleb, Aline, Gi, Jonathan , Glaucia and Stephen.

Taken to “Shores of Grace” and ended up floating in an ocean of endless love…

worship-sunday I put this picture first, because this was a defining moment for me. It was during this time of worship on the Sunday night of my trip, at a conference at ” Living Waters” Church in the favela of Olinda, that God challenged me to leave the comfortable for the unknown. To trust Him, when He calls me into the scary things that make NO sense. And to truly say “YES” to Him, with all of me. A lesson I’ve been learning since I started at the Alliance Theological Seminary.
worship with betania

Worship with the “Shores of Grace” staff and Betania girls who were rescued off of the streets of Recife. There is nothing like being in a room filled with children and people who are broken and longing for the love of God. It moves God’s heart and He truly does respond to the praises of His people.

foot washer ” He [Jesus] had been given all things, all authority and what did He do? He took off his garments of a rabbi and he put on the garments of a servant. He got to the lowest place in the room and washed the feet of his disciples… No, you don’t need a microphone, if you’ve been given that much authority, you need a towel and a basin of water. This is what we do with the authority we have been given. We position ourselves to the lowest place so that we could lift others up to their proper place… we bring our best to the lowest places and we wash the feet of the people who serve us or of our enemies or of the people who are so broken that they need the cleansing of the Father…” – Nic Billman, Shores of Grace. ( photograph taken by Adam LiVecchi of We See Jesus Ministries)

love through hugs Sometimes a simple hug is all it takes to set a captive free… ( photograph taken by Adam LiVecchi of We See Jesus Ministries).

brokem by God's love Or a heartfelt gift and that truly shows how much someone is really worth… This young woman was taken off of the streets and now lives in the Bethany House. During our worship night, she cried and cried as I held her hand and she perhaps for the first time learned how much God loves her and how deeply he desires to make all things new in her life… street church

Street Church: This was one of the most surreal experiences of my life. We were worshiping and praying and serving those men, women and children, while most of them got high off glue, had condoms falling out of their pockets and laid on dirty, naked mattresses. And yet God was in the midst, pouring out His love, because He LONGS for the least of these… ( photograph taken by Adam LiVecchi of We See Jesus Ministries).

getting high on glue during the service Young man getting high off glue… ( photograph taken by Adam LiVecchi of We See Jesus Ministries).

off of the streets

And that night in the midst of all that was going on, this little boy and 3 others, were rescued off of the streets and placed in homes. That night hope was restored! ( photograph taken by Adam LiVecchi of We See Jesus Ministries).

 

bringing love and pizza to the prostitutes Bringing Pizza and presence to the prostitutes on the streets of Recife. Most of these women, wanted out, and if they only fully understood that freedom is found in Christ! ( photograph taken by Adam LiVecchi of We See Jesus Ministries).

aaron no shoes My dear friend Aaron, gave his shoes away to an older woman whose home we visited. She had no shoes she could fit into and rather than pray and wish her well, he took his shoes off and walked around the dirty and muddy streets of Favela the rest of the day. Because LOVE is an ACTION.

beach!! And then we had a day at the beach and it was AMAZING.

A feast

 

We had a FEAST on the beach. Kinda like fathers table, the food kept coming out, there was plenty to eat and drink and we could take as much as we want!

yep!

 

 

 

And I did zipline into the ocean and it also was AMAZING. zip line into ocean

 

 

 

We were all too happy to spend a day of rest at the beach. ( Pictured below: Back left to right: Aaron, Evan, Marcia, Eliana, me and Sarah).road trip to the beach!

 

 

 

 

CTA button for Blog ATS

The convoy! Now that’s riding in style hahaha! Pictured below:Left to right: Marcia, Eliana, Aaron, Caleb, Adam.the cool kids

this is how you bbq

 

 

And so in Brazil this is the way to BBQ! Outside, in a fire pit, with a fireplace, and the food taste AMAZING. This was at the “Shores of Grace” base.

we made memories

We made memories, we laughed, we cried, we became a family and I will forever be marked by every single one of them, and the rest of the amazing people I met in Brazil. Mishpat was had in Brazil, I think my ATS buddies would be more than happy to know this. (Pictured from left to right: Caleb, Eliana, Ricardo, Aaron, Evan, me and Marcia).

 

team worship time

The team got together for worship on Tuesday Morning. And the presence and love of God in our midst was truly overwhelming. I realized that truly choosing the road that leads me to know the more of God is the best decision I could ever make. And any other choice would truly be a loss… And I will never be the same again…  ( photograph taken by Adam LiVecchi of We See Jesus Ministries).

Don’t Search for Cool, Search for Jesus.

photo (3)The past three months of my life have been spent working in a church. One of the most interesting things about this experience has been seeing how the church operates during the week– what makes Sunday morning happen. I have also found that, in most cases, churches are trying to attract new people, and unfortunately, struggling to keep a hold of current attendants. Most church workers will tell you that each week is a constant battle of planning, formatting, and details that constantly have to be done and re-done in an effort to please everybody.
In my ‘church shopping’ while at college, I have found that most churches are either trying to be too hip, or too traditional. Many churches, whether their members realize it or not, struggle to find a happy medium that will attract new members while keeping a hold of current ones.

An article I read recently called How to Keep Millennials in the Church? Let’s Keep Church un-cool. (linked here), conjured up a lot of thoughts in my mind of what I want from the church. Now, I’m not saying I agree with all the points in this article, but there are a lot of good ones. Above all, I believe that the church can bend and change with culture– it has to in order to stay relatable. BUT, I also believe that the gospel never changes, and though it is always relatable, it is also a bit uncomfortable.

I think there is a problem with college students today concerning church. Many people my age stop attending church claiming they just can’t find a church they like. We look for a “cool” church, not a “deep” one. We look for a church with a young pastor and a cafe, rather than one that teaches the word of God in a real and authentic way.

My boss always says he wants his sermons to make the audience “squirm in their seats”. Bottom line: he wants them to be uncomfortable. Not because of the word pictures he uses or because he gets carried away on stage, but because the Holy Spirit spoke through him and convicted the hearts of the people listening.

I think people, especially college students, need to look for “real” not “cool”. Here’s why: Churches run by people 60+ aren’t “cool” and aren’t ever going to be unless 20 somethings get involved and bring a fresh perspective to the never-changing gospel message. I believe a church should welcome people in and make visitors feel comfortable, but that’s where the comfort stops. The worship and message should be so deep, and real that the presence of the all-perfect God becomes blinding in the midst of our tragically imperfect selves.

Don’t look for cool, look for Jesus.

 

 

Flexibility and Learning with God and Friends

Flexibility. That’s the name of the game. If you have forgotten or are just tuning in I’m two months into a summer away at camp. It has been an amazing journey thus far and wow have I learned a lot. It has been fun, and crazy, and emotional, but totally worth every minute of it. I have certainly learned a ton about leadership as well as seen God show up every day as he works in the lives of our staff and the campers. I have also come to realize the value in being flexible when it comes to camp or really any type of ministry.
CTA button for Blog UGIn this summer I have learned more about being open to change and to try and flow with the ups and downs that you are sure to encounter while sharing the gospel. There will be days when your alarm doesn’t go off or the rain keeps you locked inside with 150 campers all day. There are days when the microphones won’t work or you don’t get any sleep at all. But then there are days full of laughter, salvation, and the time when you get to help baptize one of your best friends. God stretches us and we have to be relaxed and moldable, but in the end God knows what he is doing and will show up in incredible ways.
So that is a small glimpse of what I have been learning as of recently this summer, but there are so many other great things happening as well. This week marks the end of the summer for a lot of staff members as it is the final week of Beulah on the Road. It will be very sad to see some people heading back to their homes and colleges spread all across the United States. However, I know and trust that these are solid friendships that I will keep throughout the years as we all think back to that crazy summer we spent together at Beulah Beach.
I am not really sure how to end this entry except for to honestly and a little cheesily thank the people who have come into my life this summer. You have truly changed my life in ways you may never even know or realize. God used each one of us to teach something to another. I will always remember this summer as one when I laughed a lot, made a ton of new friends, and saw God work every single day.
https://fbcdn-sphotos-g-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-ash4/1003017_10200719585526213_240483774_n.jpg

The Harlot

brazil flagAs many of you might or might not know, this Thursday I am leaving to Recife, Brazil. I am going with a ministry called ” We See Jesus Ministries”(http://www.weseejesusministries.com) . Our team is joining with Shores of Grace ministries (http://www.shoresofgrace.com) in Recife and our plan is to work with the women and children that flood the streets through the sex trafficking industry.  We are going to bring the love and light of the Father into some of the darkest corners of the earth. A light and love that I, myself need, all of the time.

I sit here thinking about the adventure I will be embarking on, about the lives I will be able to touch and the women, the women who are being abused, mistreated, judged, labeled, abandoned, rejected, devalued. And I recognize that I have been just as broken as they. And though my pain, my sufferings, could never truly be compared to theirs, we are no different. Humanly speaking, we have the same hopes, dreams, desires and longing to be loved, accepted, welcomed, forgiven, and embrace. We long for the ones who would give us a 2nd, a 3rd, or a 4th chance. In the sight of God we are identical, we are His children, whom He longs to embrace in His grace for all eternity.

Yet I find myself in a very distinct place and I wonder. I wonder, why is it that I, who have encountered the grace and love of God sell myself short for other passions, other lovers, time and time again. Why do I find myself like Paul, embracing the things I hate, while shunning the things my heart actually desires? Why is it that God has to, time and time again buy me from another? When He already paid the ultimate price for me.

I realize I am no better than an adulterous woman, I am no better than a prostitute forced to sell herself to live, I am no better than a harlot. I too needed to be rescued, I too needed a holy man to enter into the dark, unholy corners of my life and set me free. And I too have a price, sometimes, way too low for my worth, with which I sell myself to any seemingly promising lover.

I am no different from the worst and chief of all sinners and broken persons, and neither are you. While the gravity of our mistakes and failures and shortcomings varies, truth is, to 1 degree or another we are all messed up and in desperate need of grace.

And yet when the God of the universe looks at you and me, He sees a beautiful, spotless bride He longs to marry. He sees a dream come true. He is filled with unshakable desire and passion. He sees someone who’s worth exceeds the finest of diamonds and whose price would empty the bank account of the universe to pay.

 So as I go to Brazil, I go with my sin, covered by the blood of Christ ever before me.  I have been the harlot, but today I am the Bride of Christ.  I go with a new perspective. One that recognizes that the most important thing one could ever offer/receive is the love of God. Because only a true a encounter with the love of the Father could set the captive free. Only His love can heal the sick, only His love can save a lost and dead soul. It is only by HIS love.

 “And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy.  I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the Lord.”– Hosea 2: 19-20

Fun Summer Livin’…On a College Student Budget!

photo 1 (1)I love summer break, I really do. But, I have come to realize that the prime purpose of my summer is to make money (rake in the cash, if you will). Since I’m working a few jobs during my summer away from Nyack College, I have really exciting bi-weekly Fridays as I receive pay check after pay check. More often than not, it’s tempting to channel all that excitement into pampering my newly wealthy self with a mani-pedi, or dinner and a movie, or all of the above. But, since growing up is all about making wise choices, and being in college means growing up, I find myself doing most of my summer livin’ on a budget. I can imagine that many other college, and even high school, students find themselves in the same situation and, like I do, they struggle with how to have a fun summer with out spending a lot of money. Here are just a few ideas to get you thinking outside the box:

CTA button for Blog UG

 

 

Go exploring: This is one of my most favorite things. I love to bike, and finding new bikephoto 1 trails is always thrilling. I also suggest going on a walk with a friend in a park you’ve never been to before, or through a neighborhood that you usually just drive right past.

Host a “dinner and a movie” night: I love to cook; it is literally my last name. Instead of going out with friends for dinner and a movie, have everyone bring a movie to your house and cook a meal together. You can

photo 2 (1)make something easy like pasta, or something more daring like chicken cordon bleu. If it’s a nice night, break out the grill. Then, watch a movie or two while you eat.

Hangout with Jesus over coffee: Have some friends over and make a pot of coffee. Use stuff you have around the house like chocolate syrup, caramel sauce, sugar, etc. and make a coffee bar (If you want, ask all your guests to bring their favorite ice cream topping then surprise them when they find out they’ll be putting it in coffee). Then, while you all enjoy your drinks, have a Bible study or time of worship. This is great for small intimate groups, and it can be really refreshing to have some real, deep conversations with some people you love.

Create and decorate: This may be geared a little more toward the ladies, but my roomie and I love crafts. You can get cheap little magnet or sun-catcher sets at Walmart, and it’s so fun to get together with friends and make decorations for your dorm room. photo 2It doesn’t have to be your roommate– it can be anyone. I also love friendship bracelets, so if you’re doing this with friends from home, making bracelets can be a cute bonding activity for pre-separation.

So stay on that budget, all you crazy college kids, and don’t forget to think outside the box!

  • Real Time Web Analytics