Sometimes My Time in Brazil is Like a Dark Night of the Soul

Beach Day

I got to enjoy a day at the beach with some of our ladies…

” Through the dark night of the soul there is still a bride coming forth…” – Rick Pino

 I arrived to Brazil filled with uncertainties. I had no idea what to expect. I knew in the depths of my soul I was meant to be here and I knew there was something God needed to do in me during my time at Shores of Grace. Before coming I ordered a book from Amazon titled “Mansions of the Heart”. I’d heard a lot about this book from one of my professors and mentors at Nyack College: Dr. Rob Reimer. My first two weeks here in Brazil I absorbed  this book learning many deep, valuable lessons that would prepare me for what I was going to experience here.  In hindsight it is amazing to see that God was so intentional about preparing me for the dark night of the soul. He would lead me into during my time here.

Thomas Ashbrook describes the dark night of the soul in his book “Mansions of the Heart” as a time in which the light of God lands on all of the dark and ugly things hidden in the depths of our hearts. It is a time in which God seemingly withdraws and painfully deals with us. My time in Brazil has been just that, a dark night of the soul. A time of growth. A time of healing. A time in which the light of the Father shone brighter than ever on the deep wounding of my heart and the behaviors that were patterned by them.

Street Church

Street Church. I met Luis a ex-convict who was hungry for the love of the Father. It was was so easy to love him and feel Gods compassion towards him. But it wouldn’t have been, if I had not allowed God to break me first.

I have battled with my beliefs versus the selfishness, fears, insecurities, doubts and anxieties that dictated  my actions and decisions on a day by day basis. And I came to a real place of brokenness and need which is exactly where God wanted me.

 God spoke over me, every single day; “It’s time” as one of my spiritual fathers always says… It was time, it was time for real, authentic, lasting change. It was time for me to stop running away from the ugly things hidden in my heart and instead allow the Holy Spirit to expose and remove everything that gets in the way of His love.

You know it is really easy for us to sit and read good books that teach us about Sonship, or sit in a class that teaches us how to allow the Holy Spirit to transform us from the inside out. Most of us have all of the right answers. We know what to do and how. But I think many of us are afraid to go deeper.  We are afraid of what we will find if we truly allow God to unmask and unveil our hearts. So instead we turn to needing the approval of man, working extremely hard or hustling, perfectionism, jumping from one relationship to another, sexual addictions, drugs, alcohol, etc to mask what’s going on within. We do not understand that God is a good father, that he exposes our ugly with the desire to teach us who we truly are, and replace that which was broken with the beauty of His son.

Banquet Ready

With Corey and Kaci ready for the Betania girls banquet here at Shores of Grace last week. It was so much fun honoring and showing our girls how loved they are.

 The dark nights of the soul are never meant to destroy us, yet often times because of our lack of cooperation they do. I remember God leading me into a time like this 2 years ago.  Instead of dealing I fled to drinking, smoking and refusing to see what laid deep inside. In the process I hurt many people I loved and even led. This time around I choose to say “yes”. I bore the pain, because after all Jesus suffered a lot more than I ever will. I didn’t turn my face, hide or pretend I didn’t see what was in my heart. I laid still on the operation table and as painful, miserable, hard, frightening it all was, I gave my perfect Father the opportunity to take the cancerous thoughts, failing organs of self, and replace them with himself.

CTA button for Blog ATSAnd now as I look in the mirror, as I prepare to leave Shores of Grace and Brazil I see a bride coming forth. I see the beauty of the kingdom on the inside me. I feel the confidence of the spirit of Adoption. I recognize the face of my Papa in my own. For the first time in my 6 years as a follower of Jesus Christ, I see a woman who is fully alive, dressed in white garments of praise, joy, and thanksgiving, girded in the truth and crowned with grace and mercy and walking on the shoes of peace.

May you too say “yes” and not choose the easy way out and see a bride come forth from the dark nights of your soul.

banquet Decorations

God exchanged the broken things for gifts and new delights. Some of the decorations we made for the Betania banquet.

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.

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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!

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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).

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

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