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”.

 

 

 

“Abuser of God’s Grace”

Eating dinner at PF Changs in Boston

Eating dinner at PF Changs in Boston

Tomorrow as we all gather together with our friends and families to celebrate Thanksgiving, we have something very special, undeniable and unmerited to be thankful for; Grace.  Grace is the gift from God that keeps on giving. The gift that connects us to Him and His great love. Grace is the reason I and many of you, are still alive today. God’s grace is the life-giving blood of His son, that has opened the door for us to receive eternal and permanent forgiveness and entrance into a love relationship with the God of the universe. Without grace, you and I would have no reason to be thankful, joyful and filled with hope. And while grace is a wondrous, beautiful gift, one I am sure many of us have or at least should have experienced a hundred times over, it is also one of the most abused God given gifts.  And I too have been guilty. I too have been an “abuser of God’s grace”.

 Two weekends ago, I took a drive with two friends to join a bunch of other friends from Eating Dinner  ATS and church ( Living Christ Church in Nyack, NY) for “Holy Spirit weekend”. We make this trek yearly to join Dr. Rob Reimer, Dr. Martin Sanders and Dr. Ron Walborn at South Shore Community Church in Brockton, MA, as they address topics like; the soul, the gifts of the Spirit, healing (of the soul, body and mind) etc. We go to these weekends in a search to learn, to grow and to encounter the Lord in a fresh new way and every year we come back renewed. This was my first Holy Spirit Weekend in Brockton. I was excited, filled with hope and expectation, sure that God had something new for me there, and surely He did.

 We got there 30 minutes before the first service Friday evening after being stuck in unpleasant traffic. I set up my table display for ATS with the help of a Nyack College colleague and got ready just in time for the worship to start. Dr. Martin Sanders spoke that night and out of all the wonderful things he said there is only 1 phrase I could remember “some are abusers of God’s grace” ( slight para-phrase). I remember this statement because of the way it pinched my heart, and I could not understand why. I chose to ignore the pinch, but that did not last very long.

At the end of the message, there were different response stations set up, for us to go to and be with God. A cross set at the front left of the sanctuary, for us to write and nail down our sins, struggles etc to the cross. A resolution station at the back left of the room, for us to make and write resolutions with God. A communion station in the back right, for us to partake of the Lord’s supper and a prayer station in the front right corner, to receive prayer from others. I went to the cross and found myself nailing some very familiar struggles to it. Then I confidently walked over to the communion table.

I picked up my little cracker and cup filled with grape juice, as I began to thank God for His sacrifice and prepare to take the communion, I heard God in my heart say very clearly; “You are an abuser of my grace, do not take communion, turn around and repent.”. I felt a deep sense of guilt, I knew God pegged me. He was right, I was/am an abuser of His grace.

Thoughts of the many times I have sinned knowing subconsciously He would forgive me, plagued my mind. Don’t get me wrong, I am not the kind of person to do something wrong just because I could get away with it, at least consciously. I never fell into temptation with the thought “well at least I know I can get away with it, cause God will forgive me.” But I have always known that His grace is sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9) and I have learned that even in my failures, I can come boldly to the throne of Grace and receive mercy ( Hebrews 4:16).  And so this sense of knowing that I am forgiven, in a sick and twisted way, propelled my fleshly addictions.

 As I turned around and walked back towards the front with my cup and cracker in hand, I felt my heart-break. I knew I had offended God. I knew I had taken advantage of His goodness and mercy and it made me nearly sick to my stomach. I used to despise when people “abused His grace” and yet I was guilty of the very thing I once hated. I hastily wrote my sin on a piece of paper, nailed it to the wooden cross and took the communion. As I walked back with my little cup, I could not hold back the tears. I saw one of the awesome girls from my church and I told her what God spoke to me and why. I cried tears of repentance, tears that longed for deep change and tears that were aware of how much my struggles, hurt God.

My friend prayed for me and something she said really stood out to me ” God is saying Thank you, thank you for acknowledging me…” And in that moment I felt His grace and love once again. Because really all God is looking for; are hearts that are willing to admit their sinfulness, hearts that are willingly exposed before Him, hearts that long for true repentance ( a turning away from sin) and hearts that yearn for Him, to please Him and love Him above all others.

 So many of us have been stuck in cycles of sin, we make excuses ( I am really good, at finding those), we sin, confess, and sin again. This is offensive to God. This hurts His heart, but in His great LOVE, MERCY and GRACE,  He continues to shower us with the same grace we take advantage of.

My resolution is to NEVER BE AN ABUSER OF GOD’S GRACE, again! To be a woman who truly lays a hold of His forgiveness and kindness and turns once and for all from the very things that nailed Him to a cross.

Because truth is when He forgives us it’s permanent, and so is His freedom from sin over our lives (so let’s walk in it)!!

And THAT is something to be Thankful for!

     HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!!! 

Thankful

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