home at last.

Two and half months spent in the heat, the sweat, and the splendor of serving the Lord in Chicago and now finally home! What a summer it has been! The Lord is good and has blessed me beyond measures. I cannot even begin to explain and write in words all that I have learned this summer and how my life has once again been shaken and changed.

Being home is great- my own bed, air conditioning, a working shower, my family, and the comfort of my home town. But is also opening to my eyes to the problems that my home town has, some which are the exact same of Chicago. At the end of the week when the groups were getting ready to leave we would always ask them to think and brainstorm about what they could take from the trip and go and DO at home. Service is great in Chicago and we appreciated it but they really needed to get busy at home. And now that I am home, I am beginning to ponder that same question. What can I do as one person, who really doesn’t live in my town except for around holidays, do to impact and help start some change in my home town?  Or what can I do at my college and that town? It is a huge and very vague and open ended question. How am I, how are you and we, going to continue to serve the Lord in our very own towns we call home? How are we going to live out the Lord’s commandments and make disciples among all nations, among all towns? What am I, what are you, going to do to make an impact?

Lots of questions and thoughts have been running through my mind this past week and a half and some I cannot even begin to form an answer. But I do know that my Lord and Savior who created me has all the answers. One thing I found it super easier to do while in a routine and working in Chicago was to routinely read my Bible. But now that I am home for a couple of weeks and lounging around the house with no set schedule, I caught myself getting off schedule with reading the Word. And I realized- that is NOT okay. If I want Him to continue abiding in me then I MUST continue to abide in Him. I must continue to read the Word before I start my day. It’s something that so many take for granted and think that they can get enough of reading the Word on Sunday mornings. So many people think it not necessary to read it on your own but to just hear it from the preacher or Sunday school teacher. Folks, that is not going to work. We must be doing our own spiritual work and diving into His Word on our own time and schedule. Reading and owning that book called the Bible is a huge privilege for us Americans and we need not simply shove it to the side or keep it displayed in the house for all to see and think we are reading it. Open that book up and read! I can testify from experience that a day with the Word goes a whole lot better that a day without it!

The past two and half months have been trying, hilarious, teaching moments, unforgettable memories, and all are priceless and a huge blessing. I thank all who kept me in their prayers, thoughts, and who sent words of encouragement. Y’all were also a huge blessing! I urge everyone to continue to fight the good fight and keep the faith! ( 2 Timothy 4:7) Love Y’all!

strength and rest.

“The LORD is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him.” Psalm 28:7. This summer has and is one great yet tiring summer. It has really hit home to me how we are to find rest in Him. That yes physical rest is great and needed, but finding rest in the Lord is what really counts. The past few weeks I have been excessively tired, but have truly learned how much I need and how to find true rest- in the Lord. This past weekend was one of the most fun weekends. We had two groups from Iowa come to DOOR and the staff absolutely loved them! They were amazing. They were beyond kind and invited us to come and stay with them for the weekend if we needed to get away for a day or two. Well seeing as they live in the country, I automatically took them up on it. Another staff, Danielle, went with me and we had a blast! The group and the community took us in like we were family and treated us like we were queens. We got to tour around some of Iowa and meet and visit with some great new friends. We are able to relax, see the stars, and even smell the smell of a farm! I got to experience a demo derby for the first time. Its funny how people think the south are the only “farm people”, but that is so not true. While in Iowa it was like being right back at home. On Saturday after Danielle arrived, we got the tour of Iowa City and got to eat some lovely ChikFilA. We also toured a dairy farm and got to see a turkey farm. Saturday night we had a bonfire and just sat around visiting and catching up with the group. It was so amazing. I finally got to be around the campfire and was able to see the stars and lay in the grass. While we were physically relaxing I also begin to completely rest in the Lord. I thought I had been “keeping up” and staying rested in Him all summer but I realized I hadn’t. I was able to sit in His nature and just soak Him in. I was sitting in His lap and completely resting.  This rest was absolutely amazing and just what I needed to finish out. I am still tired but know that the Lord will provide the strength to get me through this last week.

Our new group for the week came in Sunday. They are from Canada, Minnesota, and Oklahoma. They are a completely different group but are great. Even though it is only Tuesday I can already see some change in these kids, and even adults. As this is my last week, it is somewhat hard to be full and one hundred percent with these kids. But I realize that this is their first time in Chicago and that they deserve just as much energy as the first group. It is hard and a temptation to face, but I know that the Lord will provide. Also it is hard to think that this time next week I will be with my family and then in a few weeks be right back at school and back into the routine of school. Its crazy how much life can change and how dynamic it is. This summer I have really been stretched in many ways. But I have learned even more so that daily I must wake up and pick up my cross and follow the Lord, no matter what. No matter how tired I am, no matter how hot it is, no matter how uncomfortable I am- no matter what. I must ask Him daily for strength and also rest to get through the day. And He will provide! Love Y’all!

family and encouragement.

“Give thanks to the Lord! His love endures forever!” Oh how the Lord is so great! He always provides and will never leave us or forsake us. He has plans to prosper NOT to harm us! How great is our God!

These words of encouragement have literally helped me get through these past two weeks. We were blessed this week again with an amazing group. The groups are from Oklahoma, Virginia, and Massachusetts. They have been such a blessing to me and all of our staff. We have had our moments but all in all they have been great. The word of theme that has stuck out to me this week is encouragement and courage. Without these two things I do not think I could have or would be surviving my summer. Not only this group, but so many groups before this week have encouraged me personally and our staff as a whole. And the funny thing is, when they are encouraging us they don’t even know that they are. It is the simple thank you’s or the chats that we have on the bus or while washing walls. It is great! I was chatting with an adult sponsor yesterday while washing walls and she was a total God-send for me. Her words were exactly what I needed to hear at that point and time. She was telling me of her and her husband’s journey and of how she “got” to where she is now. The night before I had really been feeling down about some relationships and my purpose of goal for my life and she completely spoke life into me. And again today I was eating lunch with another adult sponsor and she lifted me up beyond measure. She was telling me of how much of an impact we as staff have on these kids and how we may not really feel it at the time but that these are seeds that are being planted or watered and we may never see the fruit. But because of our devotion and call to serve the Lord, great things are being done. How exciting is that? That great things are being done right now and right in front of my own eyes! God is so good!!

This week I have been primarily serving at an agency called La Casa Norte. It is a place for young adult males to live until they can get back on their feet or find another place. And being with these boys and also watching the interactions between the boys at the house and the boys who are serving has been such a blessing to me. It truly has made me appreciate the things that I have but also my family. Not only these boys at La Casa but also many people all over the world don’t live with their own family or don’t even know where they are. Could you imagine not knowing where your family was? I know that I could not and would not know what to do if I was separated from them permanently. I joke sometimes about not wanting to be home or having arguments with me sister, but I would never want for any of those joke to come true. I have learned that my family and I are beyond blessed to have what we have and the connection that we have with each other- not just the four of us but all of my family. I thought that I would not miss my family one bit this summer and that two months was a small amount of time to be away from home, but that has all changed. From the first night of being so scared to now being so close to going home, I can truly say that I have and do miss my family. And also appreciate and love each and every one of them. Family is such an important aspect in one’s life and the absence of that has an impact that is irreplaceable and leaves such a different kind of impact on one’s life. Now knowing what it is to be away from my family/ get to truly know people who don’t necessarily have close family and also having my family very close and dear to me, I can see and value and empathize with both sides. I now feel called to help and be a family to those who are not as fortunate as I. To not only help complete and heal that absence but also be the body and family of Christ. As Christians we are called to be that family- to churched, non churched, homeless, rich, poor, black, white- anyone. We are all equal in the eyes of the Creator and all are one huge family! So my challenge to y’all is to find and embrace a new neighbor! It could be a long lost family member, someone off the streets, or simple your neighbor down the road. Embrace and show the love of Christ! Love Y’all!

the Lord is so good!

What an AWESOME God we serve! The Lord is so good to us all! This week has started off great. I have a sense of rejuvenation and have energy that I simply don’t know where it has come from- but it’s great! Last week was an amazing week and I made so many connections with those youth. And this week is just looking great! We have four groups: Iowa, Virginia, Ohio, and Ontario, Canada. The youth seem quite but I think that that is just a first two day thing. They are eager and excited to be here and all seem pumped to serve the Lord.

Today I worked in a community garden and absolutely loved it. All those years of weeding the garden and doing yard work with the parents are now paying off-thanks parents! The lady who is “in charge” of the community gardens that we work in is an amazing lady. She is a complete volunteer and does all of this work because of her love for her community and the earth. She always talks to the groups and tells them about the neighborhood we are in and other stuff. Today she was talking and was telling them about how that Caucasians are the minority in a lot of the places around here. And she said something that really struck me. She told the group that “we don’t belong here and this isn’t our neighborhood”. Now I can side with and see how the place we were in wasn’t “our” neighborhood. But it really struck me that she said that we “don’t belong here”. I really disagree with her. I know that we might not live here so we are somewhat out of place while being and working here, but to me that does not make it or give it the right that we don’t necessarily belong here. If you really think about it, we as humans don’t “belong” anywhere in or on this world. This world is not ours and never has been. It’s been the Lord’s since day one and always will be. But for her to say that as Caucasians we don’t belong here to me just emphasizes and promotes the rising and existing effect of racism. I’m not saying the she, Ellen, is wrong or a bad person but that in all reality we all have free roam of the earth no matter what our skin color. We should not be told where or where not we can live. We should have the freedom that our forefathers installed and set out for us when this country was founded. If this country was founded as one nation under God then it should be lived in that way.

We had a guest speaker tonight that talked about the problems of injustice and the difference between service and justice. Both are equally good things “to do” but typically service is done more that justice. There is a difference between helping people with their immediate problems, justice, and helping people find the solution that is causing the problems that lead to necessary service. I find that most people go on mission trips for a week or so and feel like they are making a huge impact and changing the community that they are serving in. Which don’t get me wrong sometimes I’m sure they are. But in all reality if we simply keep helping over and over and over but never find the solution to the problem, will anything truly change? This is somewhat of a huge overlying idea and dream that many people are striving towards but may not be able to get there. We need to rise up as a Church and start serving and doing justice. We need not to sit in the pews at church and preach to ourselves, but we need to do as Jesus did and serve to the least of those, live and interact with all people of all kinds, and spread the love of Christ.

Galatians 5:14. Love Y’all!

what a week.

Oh my days. What a week this has been. From super happy moments to moments where I have wanted to pull every single hair out of my head- it has been great! And I would not trade this week for any other week. I believe that God puts us in every situation for a reason and He brought these kids here this week for a reason- lots of reasons.

At the beginning of the week I was a little worried that this group was not going be what I thought they were going to be. I must be honest with myself and with y’all. It seemed as though the kids didn’t wanna be here and the staff was tired and we didn’t know what to expect. But God showed us! This week was great. I was most definitely tested in my patience and self control this week. It’s always funny how He tests us in our weaknesses. Gotta love the Lord! The kids in this group I grew to love this week. There were a handful of them that I began to get close to and really got to have some great conversations with and spread the love of Christ. And even though the kids might not have seen it this week, I know that the Lord was moving in them in so many powerful ways. I saw transformations happen this week- the Holy Spirit was bust at work!

This week I really learned that life is all about relationships. We have been going to a suburb right outside of North Chicago called Evanston to a church called Reba Place. The guy who is “in charge” of the work that is being done there is just an awesome guy who has an awesome heart for the Lord. He is so on fire for God and for serving Him that is shines in all parts of His life. One of his goals for his neighborhood is to create peace in the local park. And his way of starting that and building that bridge is by creating relationships with the locals and with the people on the committees that make all the decisions. And he is so smart and so right. We as people cannot simply just go somewhere or into some place and start working and think that there is going to be progress if we simply barge in and not acknowledge the people who are there. We have to get to know the people who we are working or serving with before we can expect them to change or want help or give us any type of response. And that not only applies to service like serving those around us but that also applies to our day to day people relationships. We can’t simply live our lives with the people around us and expect life to grow and prosper. We can’t simply go door to door or neighbor to neighbor trying to spread the love of Christ if we don’t have relationships with the people who we are interacting with and encountering. We must take time out of our busy American lives to get to know the people one on one. We have to build relationships before we can expect change and growth. I think that that is something that today’s society forgets and does not do. Nowadays we are so accustomed to technology and instant access that we expect people to be like that. People are people-not remote controlled objects. We need to slow our lives down and take some time to truly and deeply get to know one another.

My mom and dad are coming home tomorrow from Belize! I am super excited for them to come home and for them to share their stories and experiences with me and the rest of the family/community. I know that the Lord has been at work not only in the people of Belize and the people they have worked with but also the people of the team from home. I believe that those people will come back with their lives changed. I can’t wait to hear stories!

I hope all is well with everyone and that all are staying cool in this blazing heat! Love Y’all!

rest and desire.

A new group has arrived. They are from Kentucky and Iowa are an interesting group. The weather here in Chicago seems to be getting hotter and hotter as the days go by. I thought I was escaping all the heat by coming north for the summer but clearly I was wrong. The heat not only makes everyone super sweaty but it is beginning to make everyone tired, including myself. I am finding it harder and harder to wake up every morning with a “ready to go” attitude. Most mornings nowadays I simply want to hit snooze on my alarm and stay in bed.  I find myself sometimes wanting to be short with the youth and just wanting them to do as I say when I say. With a new group and one that is not anything like the past groups, I find it harder sometimes to be energized and super ready to go in the morning. Now even more than ever I am realizing that I cannot rely on my own physical self rest, seeing as I am not getting much, but that I have to rely on resting in the Lord. It is something that is hard for me to do daily and instantly but something that I am learning very quickly.

My mom and dad are in Belize this week! I am super pumped that they are getting to go and meet my second home and second family and serve God in this way. I have been blessed that we have been able to make a few quick phone calls and I have been able to chat with my family down there- mom, dad, and all my brothers and sisters. My heart seems as though it is breaking that I am not with them this week. Belize and the people of Belize are a huge passion of mine and have a special place in my heart. Not going for two summers in a row has not been the easiest thing. Something that I am having to deal with again this summer is being content and one hundred percent with where God has placed me. It is so of this world to be in one place or have one thing and as soon as you are or have it you right away are wanting something else. It is Biblical to be in this world but not of it and sometimes that is easier said than done. Last summer I had to realize the same thing that God closed the door for Belize and placed me at camp. And this summer He has done the same thing and placed me in Chicago. Clearly the Lord wanted me to be here and meet the people I’ve met so far and He put me here for a specific reason, but it is really hard this week especially to not want to be here in Chicago but to want to be somewhere else. My heart is broken for the people of Belize but now is beginning to break for the people of Chicago. Somewhere in the Bible there is a verse that says “break my heart for what breaks yours” and I want to live out that verse to the extent. I feel like God has placed that verse and that prayer on my heart and that He is breaking my heart for what is breaking His. Sometimes it is not the easiest thing to see or deal with, but I feel that it is important for us as Christians to live and abide in His Word and do as it says.

Please pray for strength and rest in Him for not only myself but the whole staff. We know that God is at work and we only want to benefit not hinder. Love Y’all!

So many people having a day at the park. It’s so neat to watch all these cultures and different people come together over a simple water fountain in the city. We serve an awesome God!

So many people having a day at the park. It’s so neat to watch all these cultures and different people come together over a simple water fountain in the city. We serve an awesome God!

the week.

It has been a while since I have written. The main reason- this week has been crazy. Crazy chaos and crazy emotional and crazy good. How great is our God! This week we had 58 people and they were all from one group from Connecticut. They were an amazing and eager group of youth and adults. They had beyond lots of energy and were super willing to serve and learn from the Lord. This week not only did I have a splendid time with the youth and adults but I also was changed and learned many things.

Monday I had a day off and finally was able to go to the doctor. Some of you may know but some not, I have been sick for about the past six weeks. I don’t know exactly how I got the sickness but needless to say it has not been the funnest thing to live with. My boss was able to direct me to a doctor in a suburb nearby. She was beyond a blessing to me and was able to give me medicine that almost healed me completely! Glory be to God! But the venture to the doctor is what really started my week off and has even more opened my eyes. I had to walk to the green line, a part of the public transportation, which is somewhat of a walk. It’s about ten minutes. Which honestly does not seem long at all. But when you are the minority and somewhat concerned, it can seem like a long walk. The first few blocks of walking I was completely fine. As I started to cross more streets I began to receive more comments towards me- derogatory comments about my race and my reason for being in the neighborhood. People would slow or stop their cars down just to look at me and see what I was doing and how I looked. When I got to the station, I walked up the first ramp I saw. I got to the entrance and the lady asked me why I was getting on. She told me that I need to go to the other side for the direction I wanted but that I should really get off this train because I had no business being here. I know that she clearly meant this because of my race. I began to not only see and feel racism, but I was experiencing it. I had several people that day say racist things towards me as an individual. It completely broke my heart, scared me, and opened my eyes all at the same time. I honestly didn’t know how to react. Was I to be mad at the people for treating that way? Or was I to feel sympathy and feel how the African American race felt not even fifty years ago, not even a day ago? I was experiencing what some people experience every day. Most people think that since the laws were passed and justice was “served” that racism does not exist anymore. Well let me be the first to tell you that you are all wrong. Racism is still a thriving and hurting thing that goes on to this very day and I would even say it goes on in everyone’s town. It may not be as apparent as here in a big city like Chicago, but it is still alive and thriving all around this country and world today. Now some of you might be saying well of course it goes on today, but just in other countries. Well once again you are wrong. It is hard to explain to someone the hurt and the pain that comes along with it until you are actually involved in it. Racism and segregation is something that is poorly looked over in most of today’s society. Most upper class people tend to believe that it does not affect them and that they can and, most will, have nothing to do with it. I believe that this is something we need to change. We need to change this view in our society. I know that God has put this situation on my heart and put me in this situation for a reason. I don’t know that He will use me to change people but I do know that we all can at least begin to change our own personal attitudes and hearts and that that will begin to make the change.

Aside from the interesting experiences I had on Monday, I had a fabulous week. I had a few personal struggles but the Lord is good and got me through them all. The group was amazing and I learned so much from them. Once again I learned that you cannot judge a person by the first impression you get from them. I was blessed to be with a particular group of all girls for two days in a row. They were loving and servant hearted girls who taught me many things. The adult leader was phenomenal also and stretched and taught me many things also. This week has been a hard, hot, challenging, blessed, and all around wonderful week. On a personal note, my mom and dad arrived safely in Belize and will be serving the Lord there for this upcoming week. Please keep them and the team in your prayers as they serve our Lord in Central America. Hope all is well with everyone! Love Y’all!

Privileges.

By definition a privilege is a special advantage, immunity, permission, right, or benefit granted to or enjoyed by an individual, class, or caste. Wow. So by the actual definition a privilege is defined to either an individual person or a class/caste of people, so basically a group of people based on their status. Have you ever thought about your own personal privileges? Have you ever sat down and thought to yourself that knowing English is a privilege? Or that having a car is a privilege? Or that being able to walk down the street and not be in fear is a privilege? Well this week and really since I’ve been in Chicago I have really began to realize my own personal privileges and what value they truly have. As I said earlier there was a group from Italy this week at DOOR. And they were awesome! It was such a constant God moment seeing them grow and mature all week long and also getting to make the connections and relationships with them. But one thing that didn’t really hit me till the weekend is what they are going through while being here in the States. I mean obviously they chose to come to America and knew it would be difficult with some of them not knowing English, but I never realized how different it is for them until I was in there shoes. There were days where I was with the Italians all day long serving with them and showing them around the city. And there would be moments or hours where they would talk in Italian almost nonstop- and I had absolutely no idea what was being said or going on in the atmosphere around me. And watching them talking or attempting to talk to the local people and other youth here was a struggle for me yet a blessing. There were some people who would simply blow them off because they couldn’t speak English well and some who would bear with them and help them say what they wanted to say. But I had never really realized how important and privileged the knowledge of English is. I mean obviously while traveling to other countries you can somewhat see and understand that. But I just found it such a struggle to watch them struggle with their communication. I’ve never thought about not being able to communicate with the person sitting next to me at the table or not being able to listen and comprehend someone who is preaching. It is just something that I was encased with this week and thought I would somewhat express my thoughts on. Also one thing that I have really missed lately is the ability to be able to hop in my car and drive somewhere. Living in the city and being a part of this internship I do not have a car with me. I obviously knew that coming into this but thought it would be no big deal. This week though I have wanted to simple drive instead of walk/take the CTA for hours or have wanted to just get in my car and go. Some of you may not personally own a car but I know that I and a lot of us do and it is a privilege beyond. Having the freedom and the ability to “hop in and go” is something that a lot of the world can’t do- even those who are old enough and could possibly have access to a car. I have always grown up in the woods and never really had to worry about my safety in my hometown or while being out and about in my neck of the woods. Now there was always the “don’t talk to strangers” rule and general things like that, but I have never really walked around in fear for any part of my life really. But living in the neighborhood I am in and being the minority by a landslide, I am beginning to miss that privilege and truly value my home town. Now I am not saying that to scare everyone and for all to think that my life is in danger all the time. But in all reality, my housemates and I and the youth groups are typically the minority wherever we go except for downtown. The concept of walking three blocks from the train stop to my house with a fast pace and some fear is a foreign concept to me. I know that I am working on my confidence of my whereabouts and my safety, but daily I think back to simply walking around any and every where at home and never thinking twice about it. Privileges are something that we as humans and those who live in America, first world humans, take for granted. They are something that things like a roof, food, and shelter we know are privileges and are typically thankful for. But it is the minute privileges, the day to day things, that we simply skim over and think to ourselves that they our every day amenities and everyone has them. Well that is wrong and we should all re-think that. We should be grateful and appreciative of everything we have and can do. We should not only be grateful but we should think of those who are less privileged than us and try our best to better and be of service to them. It is Biblical that we are to live like Christ- and He gave and cared for all people, no matter what status, race, or age.

On a lighter note, overall this week was good. It was a larger group and very tiring, but it was good and was totally worth it. I have learned even more new things this week and have grown ever closer to God. Thank you all for your prayers and words of encouragement! Keep them coming! Love Y’all!

People, Foreign Languages, and Strangers.

Well the second group has arrived- and there are so many of them! People are everywhere in the church. This week we have eighty five people and they are from all over. We have a group from North Carolina (yay for the south!), Ohio, Minnesota, and Milan, Italy!! There are twenty youth and adult leaders from Italy that have come to serve in Chicago. I think that that is so totally amazing that they came all the way from Italy to serve the Lord! About half of them can speak English and the other half can understand but not speak it well. It has been quite interesting trying to communicate and navigate with them so far. They will be talking in Italian and bust into laughter and we will have absolutely no idea what is going on. But we are getting through and they seem to be having a blast!

Today I took a group, a rather large one, to an agency called the Gaia Movement. It is a place that is an eco friendly organization that helps to educate and protect our environment through gardening, recycling and the collection and distribution of clothes. It truly is a great organization and the guy in charge has a heart for the environment. Half of our group worked outside in the yard clearing for an upcoming garden and the other half worked inside taking apart items in order to recycle all pieces. It was service that we may not see the benefits of this side of Heaven but I know that someone will reap them and their life could be changed. It was interesting to see and to watch the reactions of the youth and even adults to the amount of work that Gaia does and the tedious and time consuming amount it is. Some of the youth were not too excited but by the end of the work day everyone was hot and tired and felt that they had accomplished something.

On the bus and train ride home we got several remarks and questions regarding the largeness and the purpose of our group of people. It is always neat to see and hear the local people’s response to what I tell them that we are here for this summer. Already I have received positive and negative. Today was all positive and very uplifting. I began a conversation with a man while waiting on the train to arrive. He was a local for about the past ten years. We began to talk about DOOR and then his life. The conversation kept going and eventually led to the Lord and both of our walks with Christ. He had an interesting story and had a lot to say about and to me. Even though he was probably not the most well off man, he began to tell me the “vibe” that he felt from me and what he saw me doing in the future. I was telling him that I had been looking at seminaries and he told me that even without knowing me for more than a couple of minutes that he knew that God had called me to the field of ministry. And that he sees me working with youth and possibly in an inner city setting or with those who are less fortunate. It was just amazing to be able to talk to this man, hear his stories and insight, and also be a listening ear for him. It was exactly what I needed today. One thing he said to me was that you never know who God might put in your life to help you discern your calling. I know he is and was a stranger and I will probably never see him again, but I honestly think God put him in my path today. He was a blessing to me and he told me I was a blessing to him. Stranger though he may be, he was a great one and is now a new friend of mine.

There are plenty more adventures and stories to come of this week. It has already been one long and fun day! I hope all is well with everyone! Love Y’all!