Peru 2017

20171022_110958.jpgPeru the second time around was something else!

I am so thankful for my time in Peru these last two weeks. I had forgotten the many challenges of living in a country where you can’t flush the toilet paper or drink from the tap. This was my second trip with Medical Ministry International – and my mom’s first. The trip was titled “Cusco Extreme”. I actually heard about it the last time I was in Peru and was intrigued. My work graciously allowed for me to take off for this specific time period. The team consisted of 3 Americans, 3 Canadians, and several Peruvians. We had a family doctor, a dentist, an LPN, 2 RNs, and my mom served as a general helper.

The Cusco part of the name meant it was based out of Cusco, Peru. Cusco is a smaller city in Peru, and is the city you fly to on your trek to Machu Picchu. It’s culture is richer than other cities like Lima or Arequipa and as you go further out you see the women wearing traditional skirts, hats, and a colorful blanket wrapped behind them with a child inside. In more rural parts you may find your elementary knowledge of Spanish is worthless as they speak Quechua – a language that has no similarity to Spanish! The extreme part of the trip meant that instead of sleeping in beds in hotels and taking vehicles to the clinic sites we slept in sleeping bags in schools and huts and hiked to different villages to hold clinics. Some days hiking was a few hours, some days hiking was 10 hours. Sometimes the hikes were on roads and trails, other times hikes were going straight up a mountain without a trail or map. Most trips with MMI have you sleeping in the same hotel every night and riding the company bus to each site – no hiking and sleeping in the middle of nowhere.

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Our sleeping arrangements

Before I go any further I’d like to paint a picture of the medical system in Peru. They have a national health care system with strict rules. If someone gets sick or injured regardless of severity they have to go to the local clinic which is staffed by a nurse or a nurse in training and no doctor to be found. The staff there decide if you “require” further attention and they write a paper to refer you to the health center. But at their discretion they can say “it’s just a broken clavicle, you’re fine”. At the health center they look at you to decide to either help you, send you home, or send you to the hospital. At their discretion they can say “it’s just a broken clavicle, you’re fine”. At the hospital they look at you to decide to either help you or send you home. At their discretion they can say “it’s just a broken clavicle, you’re fine”. If you made it through all the obstacles and they allow you to have surgery or other specialty you are now stuck in the hospital for days, weeks, or even months waiting for the promised medical care. During those days, weeks, or months you’re spending at the hospital you are unable to attend to your crops or animals and your family may starve while you’re waiting for medical attention. While there are “Emergency rooms” in the larger cities they can turn you away, require you to pay a large sum of money, or even close for a holiday or party!

One other key player is the pharmacy, you can walk into any pharmacy and they can “diagnose” you and give you all sorts of prescription medications without having to see a doctor – you can get sutures, lidocaine, parasite treatment, antibiotics etc. Unfortunately there is financial gain to be had if pills are sold as a result of the diagnosis which leads to some problems of inappropriately medicating. For example if you walk in complaining of back pain they may “diagnose” you with a kidney infection and start you on antibiotics when you probably strained a muscle in your back an ibuprofen would’ve been more appropriate.23172589_1639494562783721_5425034540933979277_n.jpg

In addition to all of these challenges you have the terrain of Peru where we were located: altitude of 10,000 feet, steep mountains, terrible roads, and in the rainy season all the dry dusty roads turn into mud pits. The towns we visited are so remote that they feel like the government has forgotten them. Healthcare services are far away so getting care takes time away from work. In addition the initial clinics may dismiss their complaints even though a real, treatable problem exists. As a result even though they saw a doctor they don’t have very much trust in the system. In fact we saw a number of patients who used us as a second opinion.

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Hiking on a nonexistent trail

Our group hiked around rural Peru and held clinics in 4 towns (we planned to go to more but ended up doing an extra day of clinic in one town rather than 2 half days in other towns – apparently it’s difficult to round up ~10 horses to cart our stuff across the mountains).

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Pastor Edgar doing health education

At each clinic site after the patient was registered while they waited they heard talks from the Peruvian pastors. The pastors were equipped with all sorts of education materials to teach about physical, spiritual, and mental health. We brought a doll to help demonstrate proper lifting techniques, we brought a variety of herbal teas to encourage drinking fluids (they all drink 1-2 cups of water a day!), we brought toys, vitamins, and tooth brushes for children. They also did the education about the prescriptions they were given. At some point the doctor would call them in, each patient took 20-30 minutes because they all had so many complaints. The doctor would then prescribe various medications and sent them back to the pastors who were continuing to educate. I worked in the pharmacy so my job was to fill all the prescriptions the doctor ordered – it was lots of Tylenol, vitamins, omeprazole, parasite medication, and their version of Icy hot.
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The doctor using two translators (Quechua->Spanish, Spanish->English)

The main complaint for almost all of them was back pain (they spend years working in the fields), headaches (they don’t drink water), foot pain (you should see the sandals they wear! Forget about arch support), and abdominal pain (lack of water, constipation, chewing coca leaves, parasites, gastritis any number of things could be adding to this). While we didn’t have a lot to offer them, and we were generally unable to provide curative medicine we did something the Peruvian government cannot do: we listened with compassion, we cared, we educated, and we offered hope.
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Dentist Cal doing his thing

We also had a dentist on the team (and my mom served as the dental assistant). He saw patients of all ages throughout the day. They have no preventative care and as a result he needed to pull many teeth. Often they would come in requesting a filling and when Cal took a look he would find there was nothing to fill as the tooth was rotting away.
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Pharmacy!

I went to Peru with the expectation that the most important thing we would provide was medical care. While we did provide medical care (mostly symptomatic medicine rather than curative) that was only a start to our mission. I cannot emphasize enough how needed health education is in the rural areas of Peru. These people don’t know that urine doesn’t have curative properties or that you shouldn’t look at the sun or that it’s normal for feet to hurt after a long day of walking in sandals. They may have never been taught the importance of boiling water or washing hands or brushing your teeth with fluoridated toothpaste.
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Cal seizing the opportunity to teach dental hygine

However, the most important part of our mission was bringing the message of the gospel and encouraging the Christians already living there. As I mentioned before we had 2 pastors with our group each week. When they weren’t doing health education they were sharing the gospel story, they gave gospel bracelets to the children, and did individual counseling and prayer for people who requested it. One day while I was working in the pharmacy the pastor came in with a young couple. He spent about a half hour talking to them (I assume it was marriage counseling, my Spanish isn’t that great…), encouraging them, and praying with them. Our coming to Peru to provide medical care served as an avenue for the pastors to reach the people in these distant villages and I am thankful that I got to be a part of that.
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Via Ferrata

In between the two weeks we were in Peru we had the weekend off so my mom and I retraced my steps from my trip in 2012. We did the Via Ferrata in the Sacred Valley (giant metal staples you climb up the mountain on and zipline down), explored Qllantaytambo, took the train to Aguas Calientes, shopped for alpaca wool items and other souvenirs, ate alpaca, and finally went to Machu Picchu. I have to say traveling with someone else is much nicer than going alone (assuming you like the person you’re going with). Since I knew what I was doing while buying tickets I bought tickets to climb Wayna Picchu Montana (the giant, steep mountain in the background of any classic picture of Machu Picchu). That was an arduous journey as we were climbing up the steps the inka’s built for their tiny size 12 kids feet but it was a neat experience and they strictly limit the number of people allowed to climb up that specific mountain (200 at 7am, and another 200 at 10am). Due to the fog we were unable to see Machu Picchu from the top but I think it was worthwhile.
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Climbing the steps of Wayna Picchu

As my time ended in Peru I was glad to go home to my own bed. While I don’t think I could make myself do a trip like this next week I do believe that God has called me to continue to go on these trips as a medical professional throughout my career and I’m excited to see that unfold. For now I need to study for the GRE to start grad school (hopefully next fall) to become a family nurse practitioner but stay tuned for whenever God allows me to go on another – you can be sure I will be asking for donations again!
Here is a link for more pictures! https://photos.app.goo.gl/6vx41bHTvrHfhGJl1
Medical Ministry International – Canada is the group I went to Peru with. Anyone can sign up to go on a trip as a medical professional (they need doctors, dentists, opthalmologists, optometrists, nurses, PT’s, OT’s, PT/OT techs, surgical techs, pharmacists etc.) or general helper. They have trips all throughout the year to several countries that they work closely with. http://www.mmi.org/
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A New Season

I’ve spent this last week in Harrisonburg doing some orientation things before I head back to Fairfax for my nursing capstone. While going through some of my belongings I found a journal from 2 summers ago.

The summer of 2014 was very different than the summer of 2016. I was hurting, depressed, confused, discouraged, and burdened. I was still still shell shocked about my rejection from nursing and struggled to hope I would get into the program on my second try.

To me it felt like my whole world was ripped apart. My plans for the future were unknown. Few things brought me comfort in that time. I remember reading Job (classic thing to read when you’re suffering, I know) and it brought me some slim piece of comfort knowing that Job had EVERYTHING ripped away from him for a time, but then God brought restoration above and beyond what Job had ever had before.

But I had to wonder about what would’ve been written if Job had 43 chapters. “Sure at the end of the trial he got back more than he initially lost – he was blessed beyond belief. But yet that doesn’t erase the pain of losing everything, or the depression and despair and feeling like God turned his back on them; It cannot erase the fact that his children were gone. Did he find joy in his new life? Was he able to love again? Able to forgive his friends? Able to move on beyond that?”

Those questions went unresolved (and they are still unresolved)…but for me, in my case, the answer is yes.

I did get into that second round of nursing school. I started doing super well in school. I made friends with other nursing students. I loved what I was studying. I found purpose in studying. My mood started to improve when I started a new med (#14). I got into the nursing honor society. [I struggled with my roommate].  I started Crossfit and found I could stop counseling because of it. I got an externship at Children’s National Medical Center. I’m nearly done with school and have a bright future with fewer unknowns than the average undergrad student.

I am finding joy. I am finding beauty in my situation and have seen so much good come out of being 1 semester behind.

Does it make that initial rejection hurt less? No. Does it make everything all better? No. Does it make me more thankful? Yes. Does it suck less now?  Yes.

IT.WILL.GET.BETTER.

I am inclined to think that Job did find joy in his new life. Nothing in his new life could replace his old, but I think he did eventually find joy.

Psalm 27:13-14 “I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”

 

It stopped raining

I’m still in school at JMU and recently we encountered lots and lots of rain. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j-Bv5mxlyzE). It rained for a solid week without pausing. And then suddenly one day it stopped raining. I didn’t even notice.

I was talking to some friends a few days later and they expressed how much happier they were now that the sun was out. Not only did I agree with what they were saying, I realized it was that much truer for me.

You see, in my life it had rained for the last 2 years. A deep depression overcame me – a second time. It rained for nearly 2 years. There were a few days where I saw the sun, but not nearly enough. I felt like I was drowning in the rain called depression. For two years I found myself struggling to fight to breathe – so much so that I was put on a stimulant so I could muster enough energy to pull myself out of bed so I could study so that my grades didn’t plummet and so repeat the cycle. But that couldn’t stop the rain.

The rain started to pour when I didn’t get into the nursing program the first time, and barely let up for me to celebrate my getting in my second try. It continued to rain as I started the program and life started to make more sense. It rained through two incredible summers filled with hiking and canoeing – both activities that I love.

The worst part about the rain is that it separates me from God. I can’t feel him when it rains. I know he’s there and I know his love for me remains the same, but when I pick up the bible and begin to read it’s no different from a textbook. When I close my eyes to pray It feels like the rain is pounding so hard against the window that God can’t hear me. And I find myself missing him. Missing the ability to lose myself during worship at church.

But then at the end of this summer I tried a new medication (the 7th attempt to stop the rain) and the clouds parted and the rain stopped. I found myself with energy I forgot I ever had. I lost myself in worship. I laughed with abandon. I folded up my umbrella and peeled off my rain boots because it stopped raining.

So now I resolve to be thankful for the absence of rain. I refuse to take this season of life for granted. I know that rain may very well come again (or maybe not), but I am choosing to live aside from that.

Genesis 8:1-2 “But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark, and he sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded. Now the springs of the deep and the floodgates of the heavens had been closed, and the rain had stopped falling from the sky.”

Renewed Day by Day

To be honest, I’ve been struggling. I’ve been struggling to find a way to say “I got into the second round of the nursing program and will start clinicals in a little more than a month”
I’ve been struggling to come up with adequate words to describe God’s faithfulness in providing me a camp job that he clearly went ahead of me to create.
I’m struggling to find words to report how I grew in that experience I leading 9 15-year-old girls along 63 miles of the Potomac river and 75 on the Appalachian trail (it was both awful and better than I would’ve ever dreamed at the same time).
I’m also struggling internally. The initial rejection from the nursing program really set me back – beyond what a later acceptance could fix. And for someone who is already prone to depression it was exactly what I needed to trigger a depressive episode – a bad and long-term one. I hesitate to call it a relapse, because this is so different from it ever was before. It’s not the utterly hopeless kind, but rather the kind that paralyzes you for long periods of time that you know better than to sit in your bed unless you plan to stay for a few hours. It’s the kind that causes you to order delivery pizza when the pizza place is 3 blocks down the road because you cannot fathom walking into your kitchen trying to find something to make that you’re willing to eat. It’s the kind that gives you tunnel vision so that you don’t even realizing that you are ignoring your best friends because you’re just trying to survive. It’s the kind that drains me of all energy and by the time homework gets done I have nothing left to give.
And it is hard. It started last spring, and while the summer seemed like a break from it, I’ve come to realize that I poured all my energy into denying the reality of depression in my life. It was by the grace of God that I was functional 95% of the time. Of course the second I stepped back in Harrisonburg I no longer had the energy to fight the depressive state – I no longer had a purpose to fight it. Camp gave me purpose outside of myself and that seems that depression can make you pretty dang self-absorbed.

But this time it’s different. I am actually seeking help. I’m seeing a counselor. I’m changing medication around. I’m going to group therapy. I’m eating healthy. I try to get enough sleep. I do everything physically possible to give myself the best chance of feeling okay. And yet it is not enough – not yet anyway. Darkness is a real thing now and it can drape itself over my life-like a wet wool blanket any time it chooses and I better hope that I don’t have anything important that needs to be done because it won’t be.
I know that this isn’t forever, but that doesn’t keep me from crying out to God “How much longer?:, “Why is this my cross to bear”, and “I need you”. To be honest sometimes it feels like my prayers aren’t heard. I know they are heard and cared about, but I’m not seeing the quick fix that I think I want.
This summer I started praying that I would be able to come off my medication soon after all, I’ve been on them for 5 years at this point. It’s frustrating that and not coming off I’m just going to some new stuff. This is medication number 13. It’s potential side effects are pretty nasty (nausea/vomiting, weight gain, and hair loss – all of which I’ve either experienced before or am already prone to), but I’m running out of options at this point. I try to find the humor in it though – we’re treating my depression as though it is bipolar by using anti-convulsion medications off label – well actually I’m taking an antidepressant, 2 anti-convulsion, 1 stimulant, and a sleeping medication.

Today things are better, but I refuse to take that for granted. And so I press on holding tightly to verses like 2 Corinthians 4:16-18.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Continuing to Wait

Isaiah 55:8-9
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Praise the good Lord that this is trustworthy and true and that I can hold on to this for dear life!

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My stomach lurched when I read this for the first time. I’m not very good at facing rejection (is anyone?). And unfortunately any form of “resilience” I may seem to have is just me hoping not to cry AGAIN.

I’ve spent significant amounts of time not just crying, but actually weeping until I find myself collapsed on my bed, on the floor of my kitchen, or on the sofa.

I try not to think about the significance of this one email and how it changes my future. This one email means my parents will be spending at least another $9,000 on my education. It means I can’t be an AO! counselor this summer (something I’ve dreamed about doing for years) because I have to take a maymester class (and get an A in it). It means that I won’t graduate with my friends in May 2016 like I was supposed to. It means I can’t disciple someone this semester because I have to get all A’s (including physiology). It means I will be spending December 2016 studying for the nclex (provided I get in to the program next semester) instead of enjoying Christmas with my family.

People have told me it’s just a speed bump, but as my friend (and former co-counselor) Emily said as she lamented with me: It’s one of those speed bumps that pops your tires and TOTALS YOUR CAR.

I know that I know that I know that this isn’t the end of the world. I know that I will have other summers and other semesters to disciple someone and other friends to graduate with and other Christmases that I won’t be studying. I know that there are 45 other students out there who were qualified for the nursing program that also got rejected. That’s what happens when 135 people apply for 90 spots. But that doesn’t change how much it hurts.

Knowing all those things can’t keep me from looking back and thinking “was there anything else I could’ve done?”, “I could’ve spent longer studying for that exam”, “I was on the verge of an A in those classes, why didn’t I try harder”, “I should’ve given up my social life sooner”. Would have, could have, should have. But I didn’t. And that sucks.

So now I have to sit and hope and pray that things begin to resolve: That I find something meaningful to do with the rest of my summer when maymester ends; That I don’t allow my depression to take advantage of the situation; That there is a hope and purpose for all of this present pain (Romans 8:18); That I own my decision to continue with nursing, or put that on the shelf for the next few years and pursue a Health Sciences degree.

And the irony of the situation: the day before I found out about the nursing program I had made a prayer/art journal thing that said “may my idols fail me”. I don’t think one of my prayers has been answered so completely as that one just was.

And so, I leave with a quote that came from TWLOHA: “Surround yourself with good people and keep breathing”. That’s the plan. Surround myself with good people, cry out to God, and keep studying as though my life depended on it.

The Waiting Game: Why I want to be a nurse

The Waiting Game [ and why I want to be a nurse]

For those of you who know me from JMU may be aware that the nursing department has decided to tell people of their acceptance into the nursing program in waves. For everyone else: I was told that I would find out whether I got into the nursing program on February 15th. However, on the 24th of January a number of people received a notification that they were accepted into the nursing program, and the rest of us heard nothing (in other words most of us are still waiting to hear if we were accepted or not while a select few found out on Monday). I don’t really know the politics behind their methods, but I do know that it’s pretty dang stressful to log into Facebook and see that another friend has found out they’ve been accepted to the nursing program while I continue to wait.

So in the mean time I’ve decided to dig deep and share with you something that very few people know about me: why I want to be a nurse.

When most people ask, I find a short answer because the real reason is far more complex than “I just want to help people”.

As many of you know (and if you don’t just look back to older posts) I attempted suicide my sophomore year of high school. I found myself in a deep dark depression plagued with anorexia, self-injury and eventually suicidal thoughts. I pleaded with God over and over to take the unexplainable pain away but he didn’t. My family did everything they were supposed to do: They loved me immensely, they fed me, they took me to the doctor, dietitian and therapist. When therapy wasn’t enough they brought me to a psychiatrist in hopes of finding a medication that might ease my darkness and pain. But in the end no one can save you from yourself. On May 9th, 2010 I attempted suicide. A long chain of events happened which led me to go to the emergency room and then to another hospital that could take care of me better.

In that hospital while my body was recovering from my suicide attempt, I had to be watched around the clock by nurses (we called them sitters). I had many sitters throughout my 48 hour stay. One in particular stood out to me.I have no idea what her name was, but I do remember the words she said and what they meant to me.

She was the one sitting in my room as I woke up. It was around 7:30am. She must’ve had her coffee because she was so cheerful and I’m pretty sure she didn’t stop talking the entire time she was in there. She took the time to look me in the eyes and say the most encouraging things to me: she said with full confidence that I was alive for a reason; that there was a reason why my suicide attempt didn’t work; that life would get better; she told me not to worry about what the kids at school might say when they found out what happened; she even told me that the cops weren’t going to come and question me even though suicide is technically illegal. She brought so much hope to me that day despite the fact that she wasn’t there for more than an hour.
She left a sense of hope in the room. Ironically enough that day is one that I will cherish for a long time. By far it wasn’t the best day of my life, but it was one of the more meaningful ones. Throughout the day my closest friends came to be with me. We just talked like it was any other day, but this day was so much different because the entire time they were there they just loved on me. I was able to tangibly see that I was LOVED, and that was huge.
I still had a long long road of healing ahead of me, but perhaps for the first time I realized that it was possible to get better. That rescue was possible. That there was hope. That this was not the end of my story. That day in the hospital gave me so much hope for the next 16 days that I would spend in a nearby mental hospital where I wasn’t allowed to see friends.
That day, May 10th 2010, Jesus used that nurse to give me hope for the days ahead.
And so, that is why I want to be a nurse: to be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ by doing anything I can to bring comfort, hope, and healing to anyone I come across in my profession.
Isaiah 61:1-3
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor.

Summer’s Best 2.5 Months

Here is what happened this summer in numbers:

I lived in 3 different cabins

Over the course of 8 weeks (plus 2 weeks training)

With 4 different co-counselors

And 41 different girls

I woke them up 40 mornings

Made sure they were on time to 36 morning exercises

Ate 132 meals

Watched 12 summer life nights

Instructed 24 days of swimming and competitions

Cheered them on at 18 meets

Timed their 32 showers

And sang at 44 dining hall singings that needed to be over after 1 song, but went on for 3 more, with 19 “down-in-my-heart”‘s

I had the privilege of going through Casparis cave 5 times, and rafting one time, camping at Camp Carmel 6 times.

And those are just the numbers

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I worked 4 terms, which was 4 2-week sessions with 9-11 girls each time (averaging 10.25) in my cabin, along with one co-counselor.

Let me tell you, I loved those girls. I was on my knees for them on daily basis. I poured out every ounce of energy inside of me, and when I came up empty (read: 10 o’clock in the morning some days), God was more than enough for me. And along the way I managed to have a blast as I occasionally pretended to be a cave man, Mr. Beaver (from Narnia), and a camp counselor (Just kidding, that was real life). I also did some side things, like stuff a brownie in a girl’s mouth, pushed kids into the pool, and danced around in the morning to wake them up and so much more.

I learned so much about life while I was there. The first thing that comes to mind is marriage. Go figure that at a summer camp I learned about marriage. But it makes a lot of sense, I spent 2 weeks with 10 or so kids, with another (girl) counselor. We were the ones who were responsible for their wellbeing the majority of the time. I lived along one other person, and we had to be consistent about everything, and really sensitive about how to love and support them, and each other. I learned when we had really difficult kids how important it is to invest in our relationship as “parents” , because when it’s all about the kids, we get exhausted and stressed and at the end of the day, when they all leave, there isn’t a relationship to show for the fact that we just spent 2 weeks doing life together.

I learned a lot about God too. I got to see a glimpse of what he sees. I saw kids blatantly ignore what we were saying and the rules we had set for them. I realized that I do the same thing to God. He tells me to do things, and I flat-out ignore him. As I continued to vigorously dive into the bible, I came to the realization that every single law that God set for us is solely for our protection – so that we could live life to the full. And those were the rules we set for the kids: don’t throw rocks, wear shoes, eat your vegetables etc, so that they would avoid the possible consequences: concussions, splinters, and constipation.

I learned what it means to do something whole heartedly. It is so easy for me to try to do something, but give up before I’ve fully exerted myself so that if I fail, I have the comfort of knowing that I could’ve tried harder, and wasn’t actually a failure. I started the summer with that attitude, and it sucked. When we were getting trained for high adventure (rock climbing, repelling etc.), we had to do the activities so we could practice on each other. I think I made it 2 steps up the tall rock wall (it’s a difficult wall), and then I gave up because I didn’t feel like failing. As time at camp went on, I saw what it looked like to try your hardest and fail, and become a better person because of it (maybe it’s because I spent a lot of time refereeing the 3rd/4th grade girls competitions, and repeatedly telling them to put their all into whatever activity they were doing). Mid summer, on the day between terms, I decided to try it again, and I decided I was going to put my all into it, because that is when God is most glorified. And I did. And I got almost half way up. I was so proud of myself in that moment, to see that kind of progress. But I didn’t stop it there. During the last term, when no kids were at the rock wall, I got another counselor to belay me. And I freaking climbed all the way to the top. It was so glorious! To see how God had really changed my heart about what it means to glorify him in my everyday actions, but then how strong I got over the summer was pretty sweet!

And at the end of the day, my summer was about grace. It was only by the grace of God that I am alive, that I was accepted to be a counselor, that God would satisfy this desire of my heart (I’ve wanted to do this since I was in 3rd grade). It is by grace the many times I was able to share the gospel with middle school girls, and to live it out every.single.day. It is by grace that God would even consider using the words from my unclean mouth to speak truth into their lives. It is by grace that God provided 4 co-counselors that really got me, and were so easy to work with. It is by the grace of God that I got to live in the woods in community. It is by his grace that I spent time in his creation, stargazing every night, caving, camping, hiking, and swimming in various bodies of water.

I’ve realized that this is probably way longer than it needs to be, but it does not contain nearly as many things as I wish I could share. I guess the moral of the story is that you can’t put 2.5 months into words, and God is good.

Passionate

Last week I was a part of a movement so much bigger than myself. In fact, I was a part of a movement with more than 60,000 other college age adults(?). Coming back from it, I have found it difficult to express what it was like. Based on my insufficient words, people came to the conclusion that perhaps I was “underwhelmed”, or “disappointed”. But tonight someone said something that resonated with me. Passion was “overrated”.

 

 

Don’t get me wrong here. Passion is an incredible experience. There is nothing like it. And maybe it is even like a piece of heaven when you are surrounded by people wanting nothing more than to worship God.

And I’ll admit that it was pretty freaking awesome to be led in worship by Chris Tomlin, David Crowder, Jesus Culture, and other well known Christian artists. But you know, maybe I realized that at the end of the day they are just people who are singing the same songs as we are. They didn’t write them to stand on stage like that with 60,000 people singing with them, they were written to God, and we come together as one unit to sing praises to our Jesus. And it was then that I realized that it didn’t matter who was “leading” worship – it shouldn’t ever matter because worship is something intended to be between us and our maker. And maybe it might have also even been a little distracting considering how redneck/caveman David Crowder looks.

 

It’s not like I’m better about the whole thing (okay so there were multiple times when I was self described as “grumpy” which can mean a lot of things, but give me a break, it took 12 hours to get there). God was not silent. God did not allow his voice to be drowned out by 59,999 other people in the Georgia Dome.

He revealed to me (I have no doubt that this would’ve happened wherever I was during that time frame) what this year should look like. He convicted me of all of my whining and complaining that I do ALL THE TIME. Lately I’ve noticed that I complain about EVERYTHING; I’m actually surprised that I have friends. But through that, God has really been pushing that I need to have Joy. So this year, 2013 is going to be the year of joy.

2008 was the year of change as I deticated my life to Jesus for real.

2009 was the year of beginnings, of firsts, of darkness, but also love.

2010 was the year of deep deep pain and darkness that seemed as though I was forever drowning in it. It was almost the very last year of my life.

2011 was a year of painful healing and figuring out how God had anything to do with the deep deep pain and darkness that I still fought with frequently.

2012 was a year of restoration. Of life and love. Learning to love God and run after him with everthing that’s inside of me. Learning to be independent but yet completely dependent.

2013 is going to be a year of Joy and ebenezers. Of beauty and reckless abandonment

Sherpas

Last week I had to read an article about Sherpas. It was for my south Asia class that I complain about ALL the time. That being said, while this article was lengthy, even more so when you combine it with the other 3 that I had to read, I got a lot out of it.

Some context: the article was about south Asia (duh), and a group of people called Sherpas.

In this society there was a large gap between the rich people, and the poor people. The way they showed their status was by what they carried. The big people (read: rich) didn’t carry anything because they could pay someone else to do that for them. The middle people carried things, but only THEIR things. And then there were the small people (read: poor), and they not only carried their things, but they carried the big people’s things.

The economy was getting messed up, and as a result the gap between the big and small people was increasing, as the number of small people also increased. This led to small people getting further and further into debt.

Now picture this: A surge of explorers come to try to climb the worlds tallest mountain: Mount Everest. This mountain also happens to literally be in their back yard. It is clear that there is now a new way of work: carrying the things of the explorers up the mountains.

Enter a problem: competition. The Tibetans wanted this work as well, and so now there was competition as to who would carry their things.

So the Sherpas had a plan: they became extremely good at their job. They were known for being cheerful, loyal, loving, and in good spirits. As though it was their pleasure to carry things for these people up these mountains.

And so to the point: we as human beings are broken. Our entire lives we have carried this baggage unique to us and the experiences we’ve been through. We hold on to it thinking that we can be strong enough to not need help. But the truth is we do. We often find ourselves trying to make it up this mountain, and we are not meant to carry these things on our own. And that’s what Jesus did. He has freely offered to become a servant, a small person, to carry our baggage so that we don’t have to. Not only does he carry it, he wants to carry it. It isn’t too heavy for him, and he is willing. That’s what he did dying on the cross, he became a servant – a Sherpa to us all – to carry our baggage up the mountain for us.

I guess there is some value to this class despite the high amount of reading (especially for a gen-ed).

Picture of Traditional Sherpa

I hope you’re letting your Sherpa carry all of your things.

Oh Guatemala

Oh Guatemala There are no words to describe just how wonderful Guatemala was. But the following is my humble attempt to capture just how God showed up every day, in every possible way. I went with a group called AIM, Adventures in Missions. I have nothing but good things to say about this organization. I was really excited to learn just how well the money was used; even the permanent staff at this organization has to raise about half of their salary. This means that almost every penny of your support went towards my trip. My trip began in Gainesville Georgia, about an hour away from Atlanta. There I met up with my team, and began the training process with about 7 other teams going to other locations. At training camp we did a lot of team building things, we did some cultural exercises, there was some time to plan any children’s activities that might arise, we learned a drama, and they also focused on us listening to God’s voice, along with leaving all of our spiritual and emotional junk behind. This lasted 4 days, and then Monday morning, at 2:30am we left for the airport to go to Guatemala. My team consisted of 2 girl leaders, 1 guy leader, 8 girls, and 1 boy. The team was so great, and everybody worked together so well. We called ourselves family, but that’s exactly what we were, we had our issues, but it wasn’t anything major, and we would get over it quickly. 2 of the other teens reminded me so much of my siblings, which I thought was hilarious. One of the girls was nearly fluent in Spanish, which was a big blessing since I was the next best with my 3 years of Spanish class, which wasn’t going to get us far, although I understood most of the Spanish parts of everything. God was clearly in the middle of everything, and allowed us to get really close as someone shared a testimony almost every night of the trip. It also wasn’t uncommon to see two people apart from the group talking about God, and encouraging each other to further their relationship with God. Our contact, Antonio, picked us up from the airport and drove us for 5 hours through the mountains into San Pedro. Antonio was amazing. He had begun a church in San Pedro, in Spanish; it is still very successful with a radio station attached and everything. But Antonio knew that God had more in store for him. So he moved his ministry to San Pablo, where only about 10% of the people knew Spanish. Therefore he began his new church as the first church in San Pablo that had services primarily in Tz’utujil, the local Mayan dialect. No one really knew what to expect, there were a few things we thought we might do, and we were told hostel type living. But we quickly learned that the pastor, Antonio was going to be running the show. For three weeks we woke up, and at breakfast our mission was revealed to us by Antonio who knew about 3 phrases in English. We stayed in San Pedro La Laguna, which was a very touristy place for hippies and backpackers, so every day we would jump in a truck and drive for a half hour into San Pedro, across the lake. Mostly all they wanted us to do was to pray with them. Every day we went into their houses and prayed the most powerful prayers for these people. After the first day we stopped popcorn prayer, and just all prayed at once, and the Holy Spirit was so strong moving through us in those houses every day. On our very last day praying with these people, we were exhausted, ill, and homesick. Our first house we met a girl who had broken her foot, and they had no money to pay for medical treatment. We were told specifically by our leaders that we were there to pray, and could offer no other help. And with this in mind we prayed even harder, for 30 minutes we just prayed for a miracle. We left knowing that God was in control, and in the peace that a medical team was coming a few days after us. At the next house we went to, they believed in the witch, but were willing for us to pray for them, and the Holy Spirit followed us in, and we prayed for their specific prayer requests, asking for the Holy Spirit to be in their house, and for their children to know God. We prayed so hard for those things. Upon leaving that house, their mother-in-law was standing there, and verbally assaulted the pastor, and called us “Bulls” and told us to never pray for them again. We stood there for a moment just praising God that the people know just how powerful he is, and that God really was working through us. The last house that day we walked in expecting to pray some generic prayer, but in this house, they picked up a baby who looked to be a few days old, and placed him in my arms. They told us that he had been born at 10 that morning. Standing there we realized that this was the miracle that we had prayed for the first house. And our group had the privilege to pray truth over this new-born baby, and pray that he would turn to God as he grew older. Another day we had a chance to visit the witch of San Pablo, it was so sad. We got there and he asked us to pray for his family that they would find God, and find happiness in God, but for him it was too late. We tried as hard as we could through double translation to tell him that God makes all things new, and prayed hard. In that room the prayers went from practically whispers, and turned into yelling and crying out to God on behalf of this witch. There were other days where we conducted a children’s thing that only slightly resembles VBS. Those children were gifts from God. We loved on them, and because we were there for three weeks, we had relationships with them. They got so comfortable with us that some of the little boys just attacked me over and over. They laughed so hard in that time and I couldn’t stop smiling. On one occasion we actually saw the world vision school, and the logo was everywhere. Then another day I got to talk to some kids, who were walking around with their world vision school book, and I asked them some questions about their sponsors, and their faces just lit up and got so excited to tell me about their sponsors. We participated in both the Thursday and Sunday services, we sang in English, and performed our Drama which shows creation, the fall, and then Jesus’ redemption through his death and resurrection. It was very well received. Other times we were invited to sing in English for Antonio’s radio show which broadcasted us to 26 towns around Lake Atitlan. We were blessed richly to stay in a hotel with hot water in 2 rooms, with a breath taking view every single day. The hotel owners are Christians, and put their heart and soul into treating us well. That said, there were also some bizarre practices, such as putting everyone’s pillow on the roof one day, I guess to air them out? Occasionally we would come back to clean shoes, or even fixing some of our stuff. We had a water cooler that was a little janky because it had specks of unidentifiable stuff floating in it, and towards the end of the trip we realized that it was just getting filled up from some source on the roof, but no one really got badly sick. That was one of our other huge blessings; illness was never very severe, just inconvenient. The most severe injury consisted of someone’s finger getting nearly sliced off by a machete, the machetes that we were given to pull weeds… I learned a lot, and changed so much just from being in a community like that and serving in those ways, and I know there is so much stuff that I don’t realize has changed yet. But I can tell you that God changed my heart a lot, and my attitude about a lot of things. He gave me the ability to let my past be my past, and not let it define me. I saw such a great picture of what it looks like to be set apart as a Christian – in Guatemala it was clear that we were gringos, and we clearly did not belong, and it should be the same way when I am anywhere, that God must be so evident in my life that I am set apart. God has also put on my heart another trip by AIM, it consists of going to 11 countries in 11 months. It’s called The Great Race. But that won’t be for a while since it’s for ages 21-35. However even in this desire, I’m not as stressed about my future because I know that God has a plan for it, and my life is safe in his hands. Thank you so much for supporting me, by your donations, and by your prayers. In Guatemala we were really able to encourage the Christians there and to bring the presence of the Holy Spirit into these houses. It was a beautiful experience. It felt like home, and I will be surprised if I don’t end up back there later in my life for a mission, vacation, or Spanish school.