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…

Ministry is Being Faithful in the Little Things

Pao de Quiejo

Making Pão de Queijo for one of the Betânia girls birthday party… It was the first birthday she’s been able to celebrate.

” … You’re not looking for the big things, you’re looking for the day after day. You’re not looking for the flashy but the faithful ones…” Chris Burns, Faithful 

Many times we confuse ministry for the stages, the big events, the packed out meetings, the music, the messages, etc. While these are sometimes a part of ministry, they in and of themselves are not the ministry the Lord has called us too. Here in Brasil, God is teaching me that ministry is being faithful in the little things, in the day after day living.  Serving isn’t teaching a lesson, leading a group, or being in the front, most people can do all of those things. Teachers, preachers, and worship leaders are a dime a dozen.  Serving is being willing to get your hands dirty by doing the difficult and undesirable. Serving is re-mopping the floor, with a smile, after someone once again dirtied the floor you worked hard to clean. Because everything that we do, EVERY SINGLE THING we must do as unto the Lord, both the things that others see and praise us for, and the things that no one will ever acknowledge.

I have been guilty too of thinking that ministry is glamorous. Yes, there are moments that one gets to see big and powerful, fun things, but those moments are ALWAYS preceded by the day after day little moments one gives their all to.

“One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.” – Luke 16:10

Center Do Recife

With Nany (left) and Mirella the full time employees at Betânia, Shores of Grace. Here we were on our way to Center do Recife to purchase the items we needed for the BBQ, Amor do Pai banquet. It was a long ride and a fun adventure.

Honestly, there is nothing glamorous about being a missionary. There is nothing fabulous about giving all one’s life to serve another. Don’t get me wrong, I am having a blast here.  I love this country and all that I get to do here. But it isn’t about the flashy things and it isn’t flashy. Talking to a lady boy whose body is full of scars, on the streets while he tells me he wants bigger breasts isn’t flashy. Painting the dirty nails of a street worker while her next client looks on, isn’t glamorous. But  we love, we do the hard work, we spend our energy, time and money and live our lives for others because God is worth it, and they are worth it too.

The cost of ministry is often far greater than the price we want to pay. We go into things expecting this Hollywood type of life in ministry with signs and wonder and miracles all over the place; when in reality the most successful ministers and ministries are the ones who’ve risked their lives, who’ve slept on dirt floors, who take cold showers, who have up-rooted their entire families to a different country, sell all their possessions and live simply out of obedience. They are the ones who hug the lepers and befriend the least of these, these are the ones who clean and prepare a feast for the prostitute, the transvestite, the widow, the fatherless, who love, and smile and press on when they’ve had little to no help, or have felt alone, rejected and misunderstood.

Jesus isn’t going to admonish us on the day we stand before Him about the amount of people who attended our meetings or enjoyed our music. He isn’t going to ask us about how many people  we saw healed or prayed for. He is going is going to remind us about the ones we loved well, the ones we fed, clothed, visited and cared for.

prep

Banquet prep. It was amazing to see an entire group of people pull together to clean, do yard work, cook, grill,  decorate, build a fire, then tear down and clean again. All in order to honor the daughters of God. Indeed the ministry of Shores of Grace is one of full surrender, love and service.

“And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” – Matthew 25:40

This is my new reality. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love learning how to be faithful in the day after day. Because the ultimate reward is Him. My reward isn’t in public recognition, fame, or even the praises of man. My eternal, ever lasting reward is the one who will stand before me and say ” Well done my good and faithful servant”.

And so I challenge you, live the day after day for the one who lived all of His days for you.

 This is a 22 minute documentary on the issue of human trafficking here in Brasil. Some of my friends from here at Shores of Grace are featured in this documentary. It is worth your time, I recommend you take your time to watch.

CTA button for Blog ATS

Amor Parace com Algo

cafe meroI’m sitting at a cafe, enjoining a tasty Nutella crepe and café colado, staring at my computer screen and listening to Mama Heidi Baker while trying to come up with words to explain my first week in Brasil. It is not an easy task. Lately words fail to describe the emotions, transitions and thoughts that race through my mind. I am learning and experiencing so much. I guess I could tell you about my new bedroom, roommates, ministry assignments, Brazilian food etc, but none of it has affected me as much as what is happening in my heart.  My new friend Larissa articulated what I am re-learning in the depths of my heart so beautifully; “Love looks like something”  (“Amor Parace  Algo” Mama Heidi).

Billmans

Love looks like spending lots of $ on marshmallows, so others could have their first s’more.( Pictured top left: Nic & Rachael Billman, and Johnny honoring Gi for her hard work with Shores of Grace.  Bottom left: Larissa, Josiah, and Johnny enjoying s’more’s. Bottom right: Myself and Lindsey, who has amazingly also taken great care of me, and has become a good friend in the process)

Since I arrived on the Shores of Grace base last Thursday, there has been a daily constant in my life: love. More specifically “o amor do Pai”, the love of the Father. It is like I am waking up every morning to a treasure hunt that leads me closer and closer to the heart of God for myself and others. While I have known the love of God and He has been deeply transforming me in recent months with His love, my experience here is like nothing I have encountered before. It is beyond the right theological beliefs or understanding of correct doctrine, something is happening deep within me and I know I will be forever be changed. I cry daily. Not because I miss home, or I am experiencing culture shock or even because there is any particular sadness in my heart. I cry because I can feel the love of God overwhelming my heart, as I sit and read, as I watch little girls jumping up and down shouting the name of Jesus, as I wash dishes with a new friend, and in my broken Portuguese I get to share my story as he shares his with me. I cry because this love goes beyond a feeling.  It is something I literally see, every day.

Mae Robyn and I

Robyn aka Mae Byn (sitting bottom right) has so kindly taken care of me this past week. She has shown me the ropes, shared her life with me and has been a beautiful example of grace and kindness towards me. Thankful for her and the experience we have shared so far. Such as meeting and having coffee with a beautiful Brazilian woman! I am blessed.

I see it in a volunteer or staff’s patience with me in answering all of my constant questions. I see it as my new friends stop and love on the ones right in front of them. I see it in the way each person is honored and treated as valuable. I see it in the face of a boy or girl from a favela (a ghetto that is ran by drug lords, worst than any American “hood”) sinking into the lap of a man or woman whose smile beams with the love of Jesus. I see as an entire group of people has given their lives to bring grace and hope to the women and children on the streets of Brazil. “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” – John 13:35 Now don’t get me wrong, I have seen the love of God in others before, in fact, I would see it every time I gathered with my church family in Nyack, New York. BUT there is something very different about this experience for me. Before leaving for Brazil I prayed “Father, teach me how to love like you do”. Through my day-to-day experiences and interactions, God is teaching about the depths of his love for me, and the world. And He is teaching me how to love, like He does. He is literally showing me what love looks like.

worship

Worship at the Shores base Monday night. Lots of dancing and joyous celebration of the One who loved us first. Betania Girls, children from a nearby favela, full time staff, guests and volunteers all join the celebration.

Love looks like washing the dishes. Love looks like truly listening to someone else’s story, with grace. Love looks like cleaning up the floor after a little girl pee’d her pants and making sure she is clean and has fresh clothes. Love looks like spending all day in the kitchen to prepare a meal so that others would feel honored and cared for. Love looks like a hug at the right moment. Love looks like forgetting about yourself and putting the needs, hopes and desires of the one in front of you, first. O amor de Deus se parece com alguma coisa, e eu desejo de ser aquele que mostra o seu amor bem. (Gods love looks like something, and I desire to be one who displays his love well.) May this also be your prayer, for truly it is by our love that the world will know HIM.

Luau

Our Wednesday Night Luau with the nearby favela kids. How awesome it is to be able to display God’s love through fun!

CTA button for Blog UG

 

Poetic Prose: A Student Prepares for a Summer Overseas and Writes “Shifting Shadows”

ATSdeans

Selfies with the Deans of ATS Dr. Ron Walborn & Dr. L.A. Carlo

Transition: movement, passage, or change from one position, state, stage, subject, concept, etc., to another; change.

Transitions have been plenty these last couple of days. Friends moving away some forever, some for the summer. Graduation. The end of an internship. Packing and moving… The old is passing away and the new is coming.

It feels like I am trapped in a house caught up in a tornado that is being whisked away to a land far off… Except there is no literal wind carrying me to new places, nor am I trapped in a house that is being swept away,  I am willingly moving from one country to another. Packing up and changing my entire life for the next 11 weeks, leaving behind the comfortable, familiar and secure. To be real I am a little frightened. I know that even though I will return to NY in August, finish my degree and work for a place I love; when I step on that plane in 13 days there will be no going back for me. This transition will be sure to thrust me into the trajectory my life has always been meant to be on. It will usher me into next stage of my life and prepare for what is ahead in the years to come.

My 10 weeks in Brazil will involve heartbreak, as God will surely break my heart for what breaks his. I will experience culture shock, I will miss home, my friends, my family, my church and I will cry often, for many reasons. And in the end, I won’t want to leave the new place my heart will have grown to love deeply and call home.

mychurchIScoolerThanYours

My Pastors Jeff Salvesen & Martin Sanders, Shawna (taking the pic) and I during our staff photos for our new Living Christ Church Website (go check it out: http://www.lccnyack.org ) Photo Cred: @NyackChurch

10 weeks will be life altering, and I will have no control of it. I won’t have my loving roommate to cry to, and pray for me. I won’t have my pastors, elders and leaders to hug me, share firm words of truth and pray for me and I won’t be an easy phone call away from my family or friends, to carry me through.

How ever I know that I will be surrounded by new friends, some of which I got to know and  love last summer (during my first visit), who will lovingly and gracefully help me through. And I will have those moments in the quiet, in which the Lord will become realer to me than he has ever been. I have the surety in my heart that in the midst of it, God, who has already gone before me, will be there to carry me through.

First Flight

How it all began last summer… Found this gem while packing.

It would be honest to say that I need to grieve. It is the close of a chapter for me, and the start of act two. This means that I can no longer to resort to old patterns of behavior and thinking. I am now responsible for all I have learned and it is up to me to live it out. It’s time to step out of the shore, into the waters and go as deep as God leads me to go, with confidence. I’d been at home at the shore, I grew comfortable there, I was happy with the progress I made while sitting on my beach chair getting my feet wet. But now I have to live it all out, for real, out there, where I have no life vests or opportunities to run to the easy, the secure and the comfortable again.

Yet in the midst of the fear, and the grief, I am ready.  I am ready to take the plunge. I am ready to embrace the new, to open up this good gift he’s given me and I am confident in the one who makes a way in the sea for me! Because even though everything around me is changing, I can rest assured in the truth that He, my God, will never change; “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:17)….He is the constant in my life. He is the security I need.

“Thus says the Lord, who makes a way in the sea, a path in the mighty waters…Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. 19 Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”

– Isaiah 43:16, 18-19

moving day!

Finally moved all of my stuff into my friends storage space! Shouts outs to Koob ( in the red) & Chris for helping me move! Bigger shout out to the Kotecha’s for allowing me to store my belongings in their storage spaces for the summer!

Taking a Risk: Leaving the US to Serve in Brazil

planting

And also planted some flowers for our Easter service in good company! Photo Credit to @NyackChurch!

psf

Nyack College’s PSF class 2014 !

So much has happened since I last blogged; Lots of tears popped out of my eyes, anger was explored and roots of deception and bitterness in my life were finally uprooted. I Am now free from years of brokenness, internal struggles and dark secrets. I joined the healing prayer team for my church, Living Christ Church, and learned how to walk in my authority as a daughter of God. I witnessed a class of Nyack college students experience the freeing and the healing love of the Father. Then I began training the new admissions associate for the Alliance Theological Seminary as I prepared to transition. I accepted the position as Area Coordinator for Simpson Hall at Nyack College this Fall and said “See ya later” to my amazing roommate over a turkey bacon & egg breakfast (as we are both moving out of our shared space). I finally ended my 2nd year at seminary with a 4.0 GPA- this woman got Straight A’s.

These last few months have been incredibly difficult, transformational, and emotionally unnerving. But somehow I got through them all and I am now preparing for my next adventure; Spending 10 weeks this summer in Recife, Brazil working with Shores of Grace in their efforts to rescue women and children from sex slavery. I leave May 28th! woooohooo

off of the streets“In 2010 it is estimated that 40,000 sex workers were active during the World Cup in South Africa. Now four years later, the World Cup is on its way to Brazil, a country already known for its exploitation of sex workers…hundreds of thousands of women & children will be at risk for trafficking, violent sex crimes, disease, drug abuse and death. In the summer of 2013 I had the opportunity to see 4 children pulled off of the streets of Brazil and placed in a home where they were given a safe environment to live in for the very first time. God broke my heart over the injustice and exploitation of Brazil’s women and children. So in the summer of 2014, just as the World Cup begins, I will head back to Brazil to be a part of God’s rescue mission for the vulnerable.”

 (An excerpt from my support letter that perfectly articulates the need, & my heart to serve this summer.)

I am taking a huge risk; I resigned from my job, I am moving out of my apartment anbrokem by God's loved I bought an airline ticket believing that on the streets of Brazil loving those women and children is EXACTLY where I am meant to be. The center of God’s will for me this summer will be in a place of vulnerability to the unknown, of risk and of deep trust, as I count on Him to be everything I need to survive.

To say that I am excited is an understatement. This is a thrilling adventure into the unknown, may it be the first of many!!  In the moments of fear and discouragement (because they have come) I am holding on to those memories of last summer in Brazil, when God broke my heart and put his love in me for that beautiful nation and its people.

As a graduate student in Intercultural Studies, I have the opportunity to use this trip to fulfill degree requirements (2nd continent experience — required of ATS’ MA IC students), and put all I am learning in the classroom into practice, gain experience and hands on training in missions work to the poor, hurting, and marginalized. At the end of my trip I will put together a thesis that I will present to my Intercultural Studies professors.  How awesome it is to be a part of a seminary that sends its students out to do the work of the gospel!!!!!

 I cordially invite YOU into my adventure into the unknown. Please partner with me in this mission! I want to share my experiences, heart breaks, victories and day-to-day moments with you.

Throughout my time in Brazil I will blog weekly, so check-in to get the scoop of all that’s going down on the streets of Recife during the 2014 World Cup.

Also please, PRAY, PRAY, PRAY! I need prayers for courage, wisdom, and strength as I face these transitions.

 www.gofundme.com/MaddyBack2Brazil – If you have a heart for women & children in sex trafficking, but cannot physically go, you can still join in this mission by partnering with me. Your support will make a lasting impact in the life of someone who needs YOU.

rio

Thank you for partnering with me, believing in this mission and praying as I go into an “adventure into the unknown”.

 

 

 

God is Good

photo (6)Move-in day has come and gone for me and with the hustle and bustle of it all, God has been constantly revealing one thing to me: He is good. All the time. Period.

In Hebrews, the author talks about the consistency of God. In chapter 13 verse 8 God is described as, “the same yesterday, today, and forever.” So, the God who created the world is the God we serve today. The God who set the Israelites free from Egyptian captivity is the God we serve today. The God who struck the man dead after he had touched the Ark of the Covenant is the God we serve today. The God who came in the form of a man to take on the sin of the world is the God we serve today. Got that? God doesn’t change…ever.

Psalm 34 was written by David after he had experienced a very tense situation. Long story short, this Psalm is David’s reflection of God being with him. In verse 8, he says, “taste and see that the Lord is good.” In verse 10, he continues by saying, “The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.” Not only is God good, but He desires to bestow his goodness upon his children. That is amazing evidence of his love and ultimately, additional evidence of his goodness.

“But Jenn,” the skeptical voice in your head says, “bad things keep happening to me! School is stressing me out, my roommate hates me, and I’m a broken person. No one seems to care about me, and nothing is working out how I planned!” I might respond by saying “Bad things happen to good people (Romans 8:28, “All things work together for those who love Him.”), dear reader, God is with you and desires to make you whole. He cares about you, and it’s not about your plans, it’s about His plans.” And all of this is true, but it could be said more simply– more directly– God is good. A midst all your human-ness, God is good.

When the voice in your head protests, “But…But…” Remind it of Hebrews 13:8 (God is consistent), Psalm 34:8, 10 (God is good). Consistency plus goodness is a combination that you will only ever find in God. Even the best Christians aren’t consistent because they grow and change depending on circumstances and surroundings. And though they may be good and wish good for others, they will undoubtedly fail at one time or another. But God is good no matter what, no matter where, no matter who, no matter when. Always. Forever. Get the idea?

God is good all the time. All the time, God is good.

Like Looking into a Mirror

Pierce with PrestonClasses start later at Nyack College than at most other schools, so I am usually home to see my friends off for their first day of college. This year my younger brother, Preston, was one of the people leaving in late August to begin his secondary schooling. He is going to the University at Albany and majoring in computer science. My parents and I drove him to the campus and helped him move in last week. Seeing Preston settle into his room made me remember what it was like when I did the same thing at Nyack  College two years ago. For more reasons than our similarities in appearance, watching Preston’s move-in day was like looking into a mirror for me.

Preston and I are only eighteen months apart in age, so he has always been more like my younger twin than my little brother. This had its positives and negatives while we were growing up. Having a brother close to me in age was a good things because we always had each other to play with and talk to. It became a hassle, though, because we were in each other’s presence too often, which caused us to get under each other’s skin. We went from laughing and playing to fighting and bickering in an instant; Preston could be my best friend and my worst enemy all in the same day. All of this changed when I left home for Nyack. Once he and I had some distance between us we were able to realize how pointless our arguing had been and how alike we are. Now, when I go home for a weekend or a vacation, he is one of my closest friends.

Since I have two years of college under my belt and Preston has yet to experience college, I am in a position to truly be a big brother to him. I have the opportunity to be an example to him in areas where I have succeeded and guide him in areas where I have failed. This summer we have had some great conversations about what to do and what not to do in college, and I feel that I have really been able to give him some good advice and positively influence his future. I have realized that part of my responsibility as an older sibling is to encourage my younger siblings to do things better than I was able to do. As the oldest child in my family I will usually experience things before my brothers do, so I am looking forward to mentoring and guiding them as they experience things that I have already gone through.

A Nugget of Wisdom: “You Have Not because You Ask Not”

This is my last blog before I return to school at Nyack College. I’ve spent time with  friends, family, and a hearty amount with my mom. She reminded me of a nugget of wisdom that she has told me my entire life; one that I would like to share with you. I’m not sure what we were talking about, or how we got to the subject, but she stopped mid conversation, looked at me, and said Erin “You have not because you ask not”. I’ve always overlooked this phrase because I thought being content with what I have was a virtue. Being greedy was something that I never wanted to have in my life. Yet, I am realizing now more than ever that my mother was definitely on to something.

CTA button for Blog UG

You cannot live life in bashful desire for the things you are too afraid to ask for. I’ve put her words into action and because of that I have been immensely blessed. (I even had bacon for breakfast this week) You see, parents are great in the sense that whenever you ask, they love to supply and sustain their children with every need. It is coded within the DNA of every parent to nurture, protect, serve, care, and above all love their children endlessly. When children don’t ask, when we don’t approach our parents with things that we need, there is no way they can provide, and both are excluded from part of their innate nature of the relationship.

erinsThe same goes for the body of Christ. As I look back on this year, I am overwhelmed with how the Lord has been trying to teach me this lesson. In one of my classes at Nyack College, we talked about the importance of the entire church in sending out one missionary into the field. Obviously, there is one who is going, but they cannot do much with out the prayer, financial support, or the supplies that the church can provide when they stick together. God ultimately provides all these things, but sometimes—I mean most of the time—it requires us to humble ourselves and ask for support from others.

The church is meant to be a community that works together to further the kingdom by spreading the good news of Jesus Christ. So whether in everyday life, or in your Christian walk, remember that sometimes it truly is just as simple as asking and God will provide. Just as Abraham trusted that the Lord would provide the sacrifice, God still wants us to trust and ask for his provisions.

#EndOfAnEra

photo (5)As a youth leader, I follow many of my students on social media such as twitter, instagram, or vine. Consequently, I regularly scroll down my news feed and see tons and tons of hash-tags. Thirteen-year-old girls have made “hash-tagging” into an art. They will post a picture and come up with at least fifty words to individually hash-tag in the caption of said picture. I have seen a lot of reoccurring hash-tags the past few weeks such as “#goodbye”, “#summer”, “#IMissYouSummer”, etc. There is one hash-tag in particular that I have seen a few times recently and that is “#EndOfAnEra”; this one hit home with me.

I have done a lot of things this summer that I have never done before. I worked as a youth leader, lived a summer at home without my brother, visited friends from college, worked several jobs, and did many more things that were new to me along with many things particular to summer. As I look back on all of that, it is sad to see those things come to an end. I’ll miss my youth group kids, I’ll miss living at home with my parents, and I’ll especially miss getting several pay-checks every week; but what happens when something ends? Something new always begins.

At first, I thought to myself, “Going to college isn’t new. I’m just headed back to the life I lived last September-May”. But, it is new. There will be new people to meet, new classes to go to, and more places to visit in Nyack. On top of all that, however, the day-to-day college life will be different because this summer transformed me into a more mature and godly person than I was last September, or even last May. I hope that the run-of-the-mill dorm life and interactions with other students are different for me this school year– not because anything around me has changed– but because I have.

So, as summer ends, remember that new things are beginning. Closure, departure, and separation make way for opening, coming, and re-uniting. God has plans bigger than you could ever imagine, and you get to be a part of it. Last week, I heard a pastor say, “God has His story written and He’s invited you to be a part of it”. As summer ends and fall semester begins, embrace God’s plan, get on your knees and thank Him for letting you be a part of it. And, while you’re at it, thank Him for beginnings.

CTA button for Blog UG

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.

  • Real Time Web Analytics