Keep up-to-date with the process, preparation, and happenings as I prepare to return to South Africa.
|Posted by Alyssa on February 3, 2015 at 12:05 AM||comments (2)|
Today my life will drastically change.
I’ve been waiting for this day for two years and now that it’s finally here I am stunned. This day of transition feels unreal; numb. I’m elated and yet completely out of my element.
I’m 24 years old and I still feel 18. But unlike when I was 18, now I’m sure of the world and my place in it.
Whenever I being to think, “What in the world have I gotten myself into?” I immediately remember January 18th, 2013—the day God revealed that South Africa was part of His plan for my life—and I know I couldn’t be doing anything else.
I accepted Christ when I was 6 and dedicated my life to the Lord on the mission field at 17. Every year I have given to Him but day to day distractions have too often come in the way.
I pray that this year will be different. I pray He takes a hold of my life in a way I’ve never experienced before.
I want this year to change me—completely.
Over the past two years God has shown me that there is a huge deficit in my trust of Him. He’s demonstrated His unconditional and faithful love and grace toward me. He’s proven His complete dominance and sovereignty again and again and again.
We’ve been working through quite a lot together and it has been downright painful more times than not but I’m so thankful for His patience and endurance.
When I think about how He will challenge me this year my stomach drops.
I don’t know if the past year was the hardest of my life or if it will be the next but, either way, this coming year is going to be monumental.
Just because this year is God’s will doesn’t mean it will be void of distractions or pain. I truly have no idea what I am getting myself into.
In the book, A Man Called Blessed, by Ted Dekker and Bill Bright, the character of Caleb equates faith and love to the action of jumping off a cliff.
“True love is found by stepping off the cliff…faith and love are bound together inseparably. If you don’t truly believe, you can’t truly love. If you don’t love, you can’t truly believe. Each is required for the other.”
“So if you don’t have belief, how are you expected to find love?”
“By doing the one thing man can do. By stepping off the cliff. When you step off the cliff, you learn very quickly to love the one who catches you.”
I absolutely love this analogy. It’s such a beautiful picture of what complete trust in God looks like in human terms. Stepping off a cliff goes against our basic survival instincts, it doesn’t come naturally.
This year is one of my cliffs. I’m afraid of the terror of the fall but confident in the One who has promised to catch me.
Today I step off this cliff by stepping on that plane.
Here goes nothing.
|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 January 9, 2015 at 1:40 PM||comments (3)|
10 days left to go. No visa.
I’m stressed. I’m confused.
Didn’t God just provide me with over 100% of my support? Didn’t He give me peace when I booked my flight for January 19th? Didn’t He provide me with the perfect first solo international flight itinerary?
Doesn’t He know I already have enough to deal with just preparing to leave my life?!
I don’t know what God is doing; I don’t know what He’s trying to teach me. I don’t feel as though He has turned His back on me—quite the opposite. I feel Him here, always at my side.
We live in a culture that’s hell-bent on self-helps and independent living. Accepting help is often seen as weakness.
I’ve always been pretty independent but when God told me He was moving me to South Africa I decided that if I didn’t do everything by myself then once I was on my own, in a foreign country, I would crash and burn.
So I did.
I think I had good reason (after all, my parents won’t be able to make all my calls and fix all my problems once we live on opposite sides of the world) but maybe through all of the struggles of the past few months God is trying to show me that I was wrong.
I live with an acceptance/denial of the value of independent living. I want to show that I’m strong enough—smart enough—to take care of myself, not putting the burden of my problems on anyone but myself. I also don’t want to live this life alone on Independent Island.
It seems as though God may be trying to teach me to rely on other people. Although—ironically—my faith in the expertise of others is exactly the reason why everything has seemingly begun to fall apart.
If He is trying to teach me to trust then why did He use situations that have taught me to verify, verify, verify…and take a shot in the dark because it still may be wrong? It doesn’t make sense.
Where is the happy turn around?
Yeah, it’s not coming.
I absolutely believe that I will be in South Africa when God has planned. He told me 2015 and He is the only being whose word I can fully trust.
I believe everything happens for a reason, even if it doesn't affect us directly.
But knowledge alone cannot change emotion. I’m still confused. I’m still stressed.
God give me strength.
|Posted by Alyssa on December 30, 2014 at 12:05 AM||comments (1)|
I love questions. I want people to fall in love with South Africa the way I have. But not all questions are constructive; in fact, they can be very damaging.
Questions like: “What about your health?” “What if there is unrest in South Africa?” “What if you don't reach full support?” “What about Ebola?"
What do these seemingly harmless questions have in common? They all focus on one thing: the negative.
If you're interested in reading my answers, click here.
Do you remember that blog post from a little while ago where I shared my struggle with negative thoughts that led to my depression? If you missed it the first time, read it here.
I can come up with a million reasons not to go (and I have) all by myself. There aren’t many questions you could ask that my over analyzing brain or my mother hasn’t already considered.
I’ve been down this road and I will not go back willingly. Negative thoughts derailed my college graduation, alienated my friends, and gave me some pretty intense anger toward God.
Please don't force me back. Help me fight.
I read a blog post about a year ago (couldn’t find the link. Seriously, I spent like an hour…) written by a missionary who had experienced the pain of a thoughtless comment. After explaining the situation and why it was so hurtful she began to describe what it’s like to live a life divided between two countries.
That post gave me the first real look into the ups and downs of missionary life, preparing me for unexpected bouts of homesickness and senseless comments.
I believe a writer’s purpose is to speak truth— especially hard truth. This post is my attempt to speak truth. Not only to protect myself or cause you to stop and think about the questions you ask other missionaries but, most importantly, to call attention to the meaning behind your questions. What are you conveying about our God?
These questions grieve my heart. I believe they reveal a belief that God’s power can be limited.
I honestly believe that most of the people who have asked me these questions are Believers. And that’s what terrifies me.
Do you really trust God? Do I?
I know how easy it is to believe I trust God without actually trusting Him. When I said “yes” to South Africa I felt like I had made it to the Olympics of the Christian walk.
I was going to be a missionary—the occupation of the “Super Christian.” Ha! God said, “Nope! You’re wrong.”
I’m still learning to trust and it’s a constant battle. Please don’t encourage the fight.
Should I be realistic about the dangers and potential obstachles? Yes. But I want be able to face those issues in a way that’s pleasing to God.
I want to say, “Okay, God, You’ve got this under control. Bring it on.”
|Posted by Alyssa on December 19, 2014 at 10:40 PM||comments (2)|
I have an overwhelming amount to be thankful for this year. Ready?
Second trip to South Africa, God’s continual and ever-present teaching in trust, the end of months of migraines, a spring semester not completely lost, God’s grace through depression, first publication rejection, a manual car, a job close to home, the blessing of fundraising, time with family, renewed excitement for JAM year, the protection of my sister, a car for when I return from South Africa, spiritual vacation to Nehemiah House, the improvement of my health, my return to Cornerstone, strength through the struggle, a job near school, fantastic roommates and friends, an amazing flight itinerary to South Africa, speaking engagements, my parents trip to Cancun, the love of a God whom I often treat like dirt, passed my German class, didn’t have to make a trip to Chicago during finals week, stamina during finals week, my father’s help throughout this visa process, 97% of my support…
Yes, that was a bit exhaustive and, yet, not nearly exhaustive enough. God has been overwhelmingly good to me this past year. I am thankful to Him for all His goodness and I am also thankful to all of you for all your prayers and support. I can’t believe God has brought in almost 100% of my support with a month still left to go! I am so thankful to each of you for your obedience and faithfulness in prayer and financial support that has helped me reach this level of support. I have seen your prayers answered time after time this year. Please don’t stop! I will need them all the more once I am finally on the field.
I can’t believe I will be getting on a plane in thirty days. It just doesn’t seem real.
Not too long ago, the thought terrified me; literally. I was so focused on what I would be leaving behind, loosing, that I lost sight of my purpose for this coming year. But God is faithful. During a chapel service at my school the worship team asked us to take time to talk to God. I used my time to ask Him to renew my excitement for South Africa—to show me what I would be gaining. And He did. Of course He did. He holds nothing back from us that would be for our benefit. He is good.
This year has been hectic, painful, rewarding, a blessing, and a time of learning for me. I can’t honestly say that I am thankful for every minute but I can honestly say that I am thankful for the place each of those minutes has brought me to as I prepare to leave my home for a year working in my beloved South Africa.
There is always much to be thankful for, no matter how bad it gets.
|Posted by Alyssa on November 20, 2014 at 12:05 AM||comments (0)|
I’ve written a few posts centered around the word “overwhelmed”. This one is different. I’m overwhelmed by God in a way I’ve never experienced before.
He continually chooses to bless me, even when I act like He’s nothing.
This song posted below completely describes my feelings toward God right now. Please take five minutes to watch this video and rest from all the craziness of life as you revel in the overwhelming goodness of our God.
|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.