|Posted by Alyssa on March 30, 2016 at 11:30 AM||comments (1)|
People hurt people. Most of the time it’s unintentional but it’s the reality of being human.
If you’re alive then you’ve been hurt and you’ve hurt others—maybe even yourself.
So how do we deal with the hurt we’ve given and the hurt we’ve received?
I thought I had a handle on forgiveness.
Gathered in a small pre-school classroom lined with toys and curriculum, two guys from our team took turns sharing in front of church.
Neither of them had prepared, feeling God say, “I’ll tell you when it’s time.” When they got up to speak they both began to talk about the same topic: forgiveness.
There is something powerful about the way God directs two very different people to discuss His topic.
I thought, “Cool, these people must need to hear it.”
God responded, “Yes, you do.”
He opened my mind to mounds of unforgiveness I had buried so deep in my heart I didn’t even know it existed.
“Okay, cool. But what now?”
Then Nico started talking about his own forgiveness journey and the letters God told him to write.
He started with a list, a long list of everyone who had ever hurt him (including himself) and he wrote a letter to each.
Then God told him to burn the letters. Because it was over; it was done.
God can speak through any means but I love when He chooses to speak through His people—when He reminds us we’re not in this fight alone; when He reminds us our stories matter.
And God spoke, “Write—and then burn.”
So I made a list and I began to write. And I started to heal; I started to let go.
And then I lit them on fire.
I did it one by one. As each page lit with red flames my heart released the pain outlined in those pages—rejecting the lies they represented and accepting the truth God poured out on me throughout the writing process.
I saved the hardest for last: my letter to myself.
Due to the number of pages and the unpredictable gusts of wind from the mountain, my letter took the longest to burn. (Symbolic, I think.)
But it burned.
Every word, every lie, every hold it had on me.
It all went up in beautiful flames.
Forgiveness is hard.
We believe forgiveness means it didn’t hurt, it didn’t matter. But it did, and it does. Our feelings are valid—they’re real—but they don’t have to steal our joy. We have a choice.
We can let it go. Let it all go.
Let it burn.
|Posted by Alyssa on January 28, 2015 at 4:25 PM||comments (0)|
This picture of a JAM camp in Cape Town came into my newsfeed last Sunday and made quite an impact.
Let me back up a bit.
My mind often processes big events at tortoise pace. When I went on my first missions trip my mind didn’t catch up to the fact that, after years of hoping, it was actually happening until after I had returned home.
We were there for three weeks. Yeah, slow.
For the past couple months I have been attempting to bring my mind up to speed with the coming life change. I would repeat over and over in my mind, I’m going. I’m going. I’m going. I would picture myself on the base, with my friends, surrounded by campers. Nothing worked.
My mind just wouldn’t believe.
I’ve been worried that I’ll have a meltdown down in the airport if I can’t convince my mind. (And I really hate to make a scene.)
But what can I do? It just doesn’t understand.
Here’s where that picture comes in. I don’t know what had previously been going through my mind but when I saw it…well, here’s how it went.
Yay, a picture! I love pictures. Aww, look at all of them. Are they in Cape Town? Yes, I remember that coast. That’s where I’ll be. Thant’s where I’ll be. I can’t wait.
I looked up from my laptop to my packed suitcases. I’m ready to go.
And just like that, my mind believed.
It amazes me how the smallest of things can have the biggest impact. For the first time I felt ready; not just because I was packed or excited or could finally see myself there but confident in God’s preparation of me. I could finally say, I can do this; let’s go.
God is good.
(Add any more words to that sentence and it either becomes redundant or cheap.)
He always knows exactly what I need and doesn’t hold back. I’m sent into awe every time He demonstrates this promise.
As I was thinking through this blog post I came across the words of Paul from Ephesians 3 and oh my—are they applicable to my life.
8 Just think! Though I did nothing to deserve it, and though I am the most useless Christian there is, yet I was the one chosen for this special joy of telling the Gentiles the Glad News of the endless treasures available to them in Christ; 9 and to explain to everyone that God is the Savior of the Gentiles too, just as he who made all things had secretly planned from the very beginning.
14-15 When I think of the wisdom and scope of his plan, I fall down on my knees and pray to the Father of all the great family of God—some of them already in heaven and some down here on earth— 16 that out of his glorious, unlimited resources he will give you the mighty inner strengthening of his Holy Spirit. 17 And I pray that Christ will be more and more at home in your hearts, living within you as you trust in him. May your roots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love; 18-19 and may you be able to feel and understand, as all God’s children should, how long, how wide, how deep, and how high his love really is; and to experience this love for yourselves, though it is so great that you will never see the end of it or fully know or understand it. And so at last you will be filled up with God himself.
20 Now glory be to God, who by his mighty power at work within us is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of—infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, or hopes. 21 May he be given glory forever and ever through endless ages because of his master plan of salvation for the Church through Jesus Christ.
I took this translation from The Living Bible because I love the flow of the language but I can’t help but notice its name: The “Living” Bible. Yes, His Word is alive! It is as applicable to our daily lives as it was to the early church thousands of years ago.
I don’t deserve this amazing opportunity. I am messed up, I face real struggles but He chose me to explain. When I think of all He orchestrated to get me to this place in my life I am overwhelmed. He has been (painfully) teaching me to trust in Him; showing me His love all along the way. I don’t understand it. He supplies all my needs, not just physical and spiritual but emotional as well. He takes care of me.
God has emotionally prepared me for this transition with His revelation through that photo but went a step even further the following day and settled my anxious heart by providing my visa 9 days before my departure date.
God blesses the undeserving.
God is good.
|Posted by Alyssa on July 29, 2014 at 11:45 AM||comments (3)|
I am an awkward person. I generally feel awkward in “normal” situations. I’m working on it and I’m getting better but I generally take great pains to avoid as many awkward situations as I possibly can.
Then I became a missionary.
The life of a missionary (I’m learning) is like a never ending carnival of awkwardness. No other profession in the world requires its workers to ask people for money with no promise of material goods or services in exchange.
Fundraising is terrifying. It’s uncomfortable. But it’s worth it.
There’s nothing quite like the feeling you get when someone understands your passion and is willing to sacrifice to make it happen.
I’m discovering that there is a lot more to fundraising than I ever realized.
For past mission’s trips I’ve sent out bundles of letters and participated in auction dinners and garage sales but for the most part, I wasn’t the one doing the planning. Now, in case you don’t know, I LOVE to plan. Sometimes I love it so much I never actually get the thing done that I took months to plan.
As I began to piece together my fundraising strategy I scoured the internet for ideas. And I found them…a lot of them. Which ones do I choose? It’s all a bit overwhelming. And like I said before; I’m good at planning, bad at executing.
I’ve written letters. Boy, was that a different experience. This is the big leagues now. I can’t just write a measly letter, put it in an envelope, add a stamp, and call it good. No. I wanted to show that this is important to me, I wanted to be professional. Sometimes professional is downright exhausting!
I had no idea how much work would go into sending out those packets. And it was completely worth it. God began bringing in the money immediately. I had prepared myself for slow responses but I’ve experienced the exact opposite. I have felt so loved and encouraged by the outpouring of support and funds for my ministry.
But it isn’t time to rest. God has brought in almost 40% of my support (which I still can’t even comprehend) but we’ve got another 60% to go!
I have some totally awesome t-shirts in the works to help raise support and a Thirty-One party. (https://www.mythirtyone.com/forms/frm_event_my_events.aspx) But there’s so much more I would love to do. Auction dinner, change drive, movie night, craft night, garage sale, internet/Windows courses, slave labor…I can’t decide and I can’t make it happen on my own.
Help me choose! Or help me do them all! I want to hear your thoughts and opinions. If you have other ideas, throw them onto the pile. But most importantly, I need some executers!
There’s five months to raise my remaining support. Is it possible? Completely. But I can’t do it alone.
The locals absolutely love to watch American's attempt the traditional dance pictured below. I was petrified. I hate looking like a fool and could not bring myself to step out of my comfort zone during my first trip. But I forced myself the second time around. I was still nervous and felt like an idiot but, this time, I was not alone.
|Posted by Alyssa on November 20, 2013 at 11:30 AM||comments (0)|
I have made my fundraising debut. The shares and page views are beginning to pile up. It's been awesome to see an increase in the views of this website and blog as well. I usually know who is reading my blog based on geography but it's an added joy to see that I'm getting new traffic from GoFundMe! There's nothing more exciting at this point than getting the opportunity to share my passion for South Africa.
Please pray that God would bless this fundraising campaign, keep me calm and patient, and that this campaign/website/blog would get people excited about the work God is doing in South Africa. I ask that you would also be in prayer about whether or not God has called you to support my ministry financially. I read once that God already has all of my supporters in place, I just have to find them. I love knowing that all the hard work is already taken care of! While you wait for His leading, share my page with as many people as you can. "People can't give if they're not given an opportunity."
Thank you for your continued support and love.
|Posted by Alyssa on November 20, 2013 at 12:25 AM||comments (0)|
I've begun the fundraising process! I created a fundraising page at GoFundMe.com and launched it today. Check it out, start praying, and share the link with everyone you know. http://www.gofundme.com/5cqfac
This all seems unreal. This time last year I had no idea what I would be doing after graduation much less had any inkling I would end up in missions. This year has been insaine. Not to mention, I'll be in South Africa in a little over a month!!
|Posted by Alyssa on October 30, 2013 at 10:35 PM||comments (0)|
Yes, I am still alive! God has been teaching me a lot about trusting Him lately. In praying about the trip in January to South Africa He interrupted me and started yelling, "Stop it! Stop it. Stop it. I've already told you you are going. Stop and listen to Me. Trust what I am saying to you." I was shocked. God's never yelled at me before. (It wasn't an angry or scary yell, just something to get my attention.) So I've been working on my trust issues. It's still hard for me to say this but...I'm going to South Africa this January.
There, I said it.
Moving on, I sent my application to Christian World Outreach today. Wow, that was bizarre to type. The reality of what this step will bring definitely has not even begun to sink in to my mind. Please pray that the process would go smoothly and quickly. I really need to start raising money for my JAM year. I know God can do whatever He wants, whenever He wants but I don't want to down play or dismiss the role He's given me in all of this and I want to do my best to start raising money as soon as possible.
I've begun to realize recently how much God is/has changed my life already this year: definite direction in vocation, place/call to missions, culmination of my entire life and being...He has been working! Thank you so much for all your love, prayers, and support. I cannot tell you how incredible it feels when you get excited with me.
|Posted by Alyssa on September 4, 2013 at 7:35 PM||comments (0)|
My time away was relaxing, refreshing, and frustrating. The first couple days were great. On Wednesday for my devotions I read Ephesians 6. The verse that struck me the most was, "Be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power." I know that I have access to God's great power through the Holy Spirit, we all know that. But do we access it? I know I sure don't. I know it's there, I know He wants me to use it but I just forget, or am afraid He won't give it to me. Psalm 84:11, "For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless." Again, something I know but rarely bring to mind. This was a great reminder that we possess the ability to defend ourselves again spiritual attack.
Then on Thursday I began reading Philippians. I love this book. Paul was in jail and yet he took time to encourage the Philippians and let them know he was praying for them. What a great reminder that even in the midst of our own struggle we have no excuse to make our prayers all about us. Paul has such amazing perspective when he talks about being in jail. Instead of focusing on the fact that he is locked up, away from friends and family, and unable to preach like he had been, he tells the Philippians that because of his circumstance, the whole palace had the chance to hear the gospel. God never makes mistakes and He always places His people where they can be most effective. And because Paul was in jail, other Christians were incited to spread the gospel. Paul could rejoice, even in jail, because his focus was where it was supposed to be; on God and the spreading of His Word. He ends by asking the Philippians to pray that he would fearlessly preach the gospel. Paul was carefully not to let himself, or others, put him up on a pedestal of the "robotic evangelist".
Then on to Philippians 2. "Who being in VERY NATURE GOD, DID NOT consider EQUALITY with God something to be grasped, but MADE himself NOTHING, taking the very nature of a SERVANT, being MADE in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he HUMBLED himself and became obedient to DEATH-- even DEATH on a CROSS!" I will never fully understand the gravity of these verses. Here's a bit of what I wrote in response:
"Jesus had everything. He was everything. And He CHOSE to give it all up, for me. He was poor, He could have changed that. He wasn't handsome, he could have changed that. He was humble, He didn't have to be. He let them mock, beat, and kill Him, He could have stopped it all. He got sore feet, for us. He became a fetus, for us. He limited His power in every way, for us. He put Himself in danger, for us. He was mocked, for us. He ALLOWED Himself to be captured, for us. He was beaten, for us. He suffered, for us. He died, for us. He went to Hell, for us. He came back to Earth, for us. He sent His Holy Spirit, for us. EVERYTHING He's EVER done, or EVER will do, has ALL been for US."
The things that were reiterated in these passages are the same things He has been teaching in since before the beginning of this whole missions process. So, you're probably wondering, why did I open the post by saying that my time was frustrating? There were times that I felt God was ignoring me. I was crying out, asking for direction, for Him to definitively tell me what to do next. But He didn't answer. The saying, "God can't direct you unless you're moving" frequently came to mind and I felt Him saying, "I've BEEN leading you but you haven't been paying attention. You've been too scared. Scared I will change My mind, scared you will make the wrong decisions, scared of trusting Me. I told Abraham to go and he went. He didn't know where I was planning to take him; I did. I always have a plan. I do everything for a purpose. Start moving and I will guide you. I'm teaching you to trust Me so I'm not going to share My exact plans with you just yet. Trust Me."
So I am trusting in my God and I am on the move. I will be applying to Christian World Outreach (CWO) as an intermediate missionary (meaning I will be working under JAM and not CWO, officially) and I will begin raising support to return to South Africa as early as January of 2015. I ask that you would pray that I would learn to trust Him and be attentive to His leading and that the application and support raising process would go smoothly and speedily. =]
|Posted by Alyssa on August 28, 2013 at 10:10 AM||comments (0)|
Today I leave for my time away with God. I am so thankful to have time to spend completely with Him and excited for all He will teach me over the next few days. Lord willing I will come back with some answers to my many questions; when to go back to South Africa, what agency to go through, how to be best prepared...
I may post daily, I may wait until I'm home; either way, I will share what I learned and the decisions that I hope will come from this time. Please be in prayer that I would not get distracted and that I would be an attentive listener to His leading and teaching. I know many are specifically praying for decisions to come out of this weekend and I feel very blessed to have so many supporters already.
The JAM staff are also going on a retreat this weekend and I know it's no coincidence that God wants us all completely focused on Him at the exact same time. God has amazing timing and I can't wait for Him to tell me when He wants me back in South Africa.
|Posted by Alyssa on August 6, 2013 at 12:40 AM||comments (0)|
These past few months have been filled with internal debate; "Should I go through this agency, or this one?", "Should I do a JAM year first? When? 2015?", "Should I be raising support?". I have been praying on these things, and more, but have not taken the time to sit and listen to God's answers. As the fall semester approaches, my need to answer these questions has increased. That's when God gave me a brilliant idea. I need to get out of here! No, really. This summer has been the craziest summer I've had in years and I constantly feel bombarded with distractions. Some good, some bad, but distractions none-the-less. God brought to mind Nehemiah ministries. They are a local ministry that has a cabin for pastor's and missionaries to be able to get away and rejuvenate. As I am no longer technically a pastor's kid and I am not quite yet a missionary I wasn't sure if I would be able to stay at the cabin. Not to mention that I had this idea about a week ago and I only have a month left before school.
After filling out the request form, I got an email from the director accepting my request! I had looked into a couple other ministries but was hoping to get into this one because I don't have a car so someone would have to drive me there and Nehemiah Ministries is only fifteen minutes away. I had originally thought that they only had an opening for one night in the middle of the month but after talking with the guy I learned that they had a three night opening this month and it works perfectly with my schedule. God is amazing. I don't know if I will have any definitive answers after this retreat but if I don't it won't be because I haven't stopped to listen for God's leading. With how much He's orchestrated this retreat I really hope He will reveal to me the answers to these questions. I would appreciate specific prayer for His leading and this time away with my Lord.
|Posted by Alyssa on May 23, 2013 at 1:20 PM||comments (0)|
Finally finished the video's and page for my bracelets; Fuel. (< Check it out!) It's been a lot of hard work but so exciting to actually be raising money to return to South Africa! I sold the first of the bracelets at my garage sale this past weekend. It was such a blessing to be able to share a bit of my passion for South Africa with strangers and then also to have them support me by buying a bracelet. God used that garage sale to bless me in so many ways. He's fantastic.