|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 January 21, 2015 at 12:55 AM||comments (1)|
It seems as though everything has gone completely wrong.
Round two of my FBI background check took two more days than expressed. I checked the tracking number on the package so many times that I was able to type it in from memory. (For those of you who know my relationship with numbers, this statement means quite a bit.)
Every time I typed that number and it came back as “not found” my heart sank. All we could do was wait, push back plans, wait, push back plans again.
It finally arrived Wednesday afternoon and we could head to Chicago the next day.
The South African Consulate in Chicago says that visa’s take five business days to process. What was our time frame? Two business days. Yeah, it wasn’t looking good but I knew that if God wanted me to leave on the 19th then He would make it happen.
That was not His plan.
I was sad, angry at myself for all my mistakes (and the office lady’s angry, defensive disposition did not brighten this reality).
I felt shot down, confused as to why God would allow all of this.
When we got back to the hotel I went to work changing my flight. I was stressed but so thankful I had purchased flight insurance. That is, until I learned it did not cover visa issues.
Breath completely left my body and was replaced by intense anger. At God.
I have a tendency to keep things bottled up deep inside where they are “safe”. I knew I needed to vent. And I did.
The anger that poured out scared me. And I was holding back.
I felt completely discarded by God, like He had played me.
Between a night of much needed sleep and prayers from just about everyone we’ve ever met, I woke up on Friday relatively calm. Whether by God’s grace or the power of the vent, I was no longer angry at God. (Sometimes it takes a day to realize how completely misplaced our emotions can be.)
It took most of the day— between differing time zones, phone calls, emails, faxes, and prayer— but it was finally resolved.
New departure date: Tuesday, February 3rd.
God is in absolute control. I can’t say with certainty why God decided to put my family and me through this but I have at least one idea.
The JAM year officially starts on February 3rd. I was going early because I had been invited to help out with the first two camps as well as to spend a little extra time with some of my best friends.
I had wanted extra time with them before the craziness of the program started but I had never told them. When I received the email inviting me to come early I was elated. God is good.
I love figuring out the reasons God may have allowed or prevented something in my life.
I struggle with insecurity in relationships, always have. My struggle is intensified by distance.
Through all the stress and anger and dejection of this whole process I believe God was trying to communicate with me: You are loved, even wanted.
Wow. What a perfect way to start a ministry.
Could this message have been accomplished in a less disastrous way? Apparently not.
God is all knowing after all.
|Posted by Alyssa on November 13, 2014 at 2:00 PM||comments (2)|
This is a prose poetry piece I recently wrote for my Writers and Styles class about my conflicting feelings toward moving to South Africa in January. I hope you enjoy this change of pace.
I Could, Except
I could not be more excited to go to South Africa,
except that I’m terrified.
I could not be more ready,
except that I’m not prepared at all.
I could not be more anxious to pack,
except that I have no idea what to leave behind.
I could not be more enthusiastic to spend a year in South Africa,
except that I will spend a year away from home.
I could not be more delighted to see my friends,
except for the ones I’ll leave behind.
I could not be content anywhere else,
except that I fear I will be content nowhere.
I could not be more relieved to have a departure date,
except that I have a departure date.
I could not be more eager to finally live my passion,
except that my passion is frightening.
I could not be more wired to write,
except that there is too much to write.
I could not be more useful with my talents,
except that my talents are drenched in culture.
I could not be happier to be stretched,
except for the excruciating pains.
I could not be more at peace with my decision,
except that I doubt it every day.
I could not be more blessed to be going to South Africa,
except that I’m equally blessed at home.
|Posted by Alyssa on November 4, 2014 at 12:10 AM||comments (0)|
You see this circle around me? I call it my comfort zone.
Everyone has one; the place without fear, the space where we feel most like ourselves.
I would say that my comfort zone is rather small. I can feel uncomfortable in just about any situation if I let myself over think (and I often do).
When I picture my comfort zone I imagine a circle that extends just a few feet from my body…with the outer ring three feet deep.
There is no “stepping” outside of my comfort zone. No. If I want to leave (and I rarely ever do) I have to drill my way out. It’s hard work.
I feel that I must point out that my circle has loosened, expanded, (even if just a little) over the past few years. (College will do that to an introvert.) I’m getting better at smashing through the circle, adding to my comfort zone (and making note of where I’ll NEVER go again. It’s a process, okay?).
When talking to people about what I consider awkward situations I often hear, “You’ll get over it.”
Okay, this is probably true. But how long until I’m over it? How many tears will I shed before I’m over it?
I don’t want to live my life trapped in this tiny circle. I want room to breathe. I don’t want to be in constant fear of what awkward situation will present itself that day.
I don’t want to be extraverted (that would mean changing who God made me to be) but I do want to live a life that is completely open to and wholly trusting of God’s plan.
If the last few years of college have served as an expander for my comfort zone then Africa must be the Jaws of Life.
I know that this next year is going to knock me out of my circle, there’s no doubt; but that doesn’t mean I’m not terrified of the prospect.
Where’s the uplifting, encouraging, Christian final thought? Sorry, there isn’t one.
Do I know God will be with me and will give me the strength to make it through? Yes, of course; but knowing won’t take away the emotional and physical pain of being stretched.
Why am I most afraid to lose control over my comfort zone? Because inside it’s warm and worry free.
|Posted by Alyssa on October 27, 2014 at 2:15 PM||comments (0)|
Haven’t seen a post in a while? Well, as you can imagine, life is a bit hectic right now.
I am currently (a little late, by the way) working on collecting all of my paperwork to submit for my visa. And let me tell you, it’s a lot! But it’s getting done, slowly but surely, and I have every confidence that God will provide my visa just in time.
I am also working on a few fundraising ideas that I’m really excited about! One in particular will be a way you can financially support my ministry without spending any more than you already do! How cool is that? Coming soon.
Now that I am an expert speaker (please note the sarcasm) I want to continue to use my presentation to share my passion for South Africa. I am currently in contact with the pastor of the church I’ve been attending while at school and hope we can work out a time for me to share but I’m also open to suggestions! Are you a part of a small group? I would absolutely love to come and share! Learn about the awesome work God is doing in South Africa and pray about whether or not He has called you personally or your group as a whole to support my ministry.
Oh, yes, and then there’s school. That is also happening.
And working at Jimmy John’s—that is happening too. God provides.
God has been so good to me this semester in particular. I have amazing, supportive friends and roommates; a job with the hours I need; and a class schedule that isn’t trying to murder me. Things may be crazy, they may be downright stressful at times, but things are good. God is good.
|Posted by Alyssa on February 6, 2014 at 11:20 AM||comments (0)|
To be honest, I wasn’t 100% confident of my decision until we landed in South Africa. And by that point, it didn’t matter.
Walking off the plane into the Johannesburg airport, I was immediately stuck with the sense that time had lapsed—that the previous year had simply been an airplane movie watched between bouts of unconsciousness. Git and Mignon were beautiful, even through sleepless eyes.
We spent one night at a B&B in Joburg where we soaked up the sun by the pool, napped on glorious beds, ate our fill of a fantastic South African Braai, learned a little about each other, watched a South African Soap, washed the travel from our bodies, and, finally, slept. The next morning we ate breakfast, packed up our things, and headed for the Apartheid Museum.
This being my second trip to the museum, I worried I would be bored with the same information. I discovered a second half to the museum I had not noticed the first time around. What’s even better is that much of it depicted the school systems during Apartheid (the subject of my impending thesis).
I caught up with Git and Mignon and we headed out to go pick up lunch for the group. This was the first chance I had to talk with them one-on-one about JAM and ministry. We encountered some difficulty with the GPS so while Git ventured to find food, Mignon and I sat down and talked more in-depth about the JAM year and my future with the ministry.
She then posted a question I had not expected.
With a grin she asked, “What do you think about living in Mavhusa?”
Almost exactly a year before, I found myself walking through the village of Mavhusa—little hands in each of mine, admiring the beauty of the mountains, the style of the huts, the contrast of the red dirt beneath my feet—thinking, “I could live here.”
The remainder of that trip was spent trying to discern whether or not God was calling me to South Africa. Likewise, the remainder of this most recent trip was spent praying about life in Mavhusa. This gave me the opportunity to ask Lifter, Mavhusa’s JAM missionary, specific questions about life and ministry in Mavhusa and really begin to imagine what that would look like.
I don’t have an answer yet (it is most likely a few years down the road) but the possibility is on my mind and in my prayers. I absolutely love the people and JAM team in Mavhusa and would be ecstatic if God placed me there. I know it would be challenging, without a doubt, but they have an incredible need for workers and it would be amazing to be a part of the great things God is accomplishing in Mavhusa.
|Posted by Alyssa on December 4, 2013 at 3:00 PM||comments (1)|
These past couple months, the impending changes in my life have begun to overwhelm. I feel as though I just graduated high school—I’m 18 and I have absolutely no idea what it means to be an adult in the real world. In less than five months I will have graduated from Cornerstone University with a degree in Creative Writing. I will have a degree. The concept seems so foreign to me—even now.
I will have finished countless years of school. I say countless because I honestly don’t remember my “first” day of school. That’s what happens when you have a sister five years older than you with the dream to one day be a teacher. “But that doesn’t count.” Really? Were you there? Did she come in to your room at six am on a Saturday and wake you up to tell you it’s time for school? As you sleepily drugged your way down the hall, through the kitchen, and down to the basement where she then told that you had to go back upstairs and get dressed? This was school and you dressed for school. She was tough.
The past 23 years have prepared me for this life (even those not-so-real Saturday morning home-schooling sessions). But I don’t feel prepared. I feel like a kid who hasn’t the slightest clue how to do this job. But that’s how God chooses to reveal His awesome power—in my weakness and insecurity and seeming unpreparedness. He knows I’m prepared—He’s the one that’s been preparing me. He’s known my entire life what I was going to be, who I was going to be, and where I was going to be. This is why He made me. This is it. And, again, I am overwhelmed.
I’m overwhelmed by the possibilities and the magnitude of it all but I’m also overwhelmed by His goodness. By all the little things He’s orchestrated in order to get me to this point.
He placed me in a loving family—a family that loves and serves Him. He’s given me countless opportunities to sit and talk with missionaries that have served across the globe. I’ve never had to wonder where my next meal would come from or where I would sleep. He gave me two loving church families. He provided the most amazing life-long best friend I could ever imagine. He gave me patient teachers that taught me to love the English language. He’s given me coaches that challenged me to work hard and trust my training. He gave me the opportunity to attend a Christian school for four years.
He’s given me godly pastor’s and youth leaders that I now consider friends. He provided me with more opportunities to travel overseas to serve Him than my parents could have ever dreamed. He took me away from all the expectations of my church to bring me to a place where I could truly dedicate my life to Him for Him and no one else. He put me through trials to show me that I can’t do this life without Him. He gave me the strength to make it through some difficult life changing times.
He gave me the opportunity to attend Word of Life Bible Institute where I first discovered my love of writing Bible study material. He almost ended my life to show me He is completely sovereign. He’s provided me with godly roommates that have always advised me to look to Him first. He provided the means so I could attend Cornerstone University. He gave me godly professors that truly care about, not only my craft, but my relationship to Him.
He made it impossible for me to pass up a study abroad class in South Africa—finally revealing to me how all my passions, interests, and dreams fit together. He’s given me godly future co-workers and current friends that keep my focus on Him. He surprised me with another study abroad trip back to South Africa. He’s shown me to appreciate the time I have with my friends and family before I have to leave.
He’s prepared me and given me much more than I could ever begin to express.
I am overwhelmed, and I am thankful.
|Posted by Alyssa on November 8, 2013 at 1:05 PM||comments (0)|
Today I paid the deposit for the South Africa J-term trip this January! I'm still in a daze. It's getting real and I'm getting excited. I emailed a few of the JAM missionaries a few days ago asking if there is anything we could bring with us that would be useful for the ministry. They responded that paper, crayons, paint and brushes, clothes, blankets and any other fun little things would be appreciated. Currently there are six students and two adults going on this trip so we have multiple bags we can add to. If you have any of these things that you would like to donate comment below.
|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 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.