7.31.2010

Sherry's Radical Experiment

So I've been reading this book called Radical by David Platt. Its seriously been a life changer for me. I have several things in the works, changes to be made in my life, and you can follow along with my blog and see what those are as we go.

Part of the book challenges you to live out a Radical Experiment for a year in your life. I'll detail this out later, but one of the parts of the experiment is to read the bible through in one year. I've done this once before and it was profound. And being challenged by Radical, now I wanna do it again. I want my mind saturated with God's word. David Platt says, "God has chosen by his matchless grace to give us revelation of himself in his word. It is the only Book that he has promised to bless by his Spirit to transform you and me into the image of Jesus Christ. It is the only book that he has promised to use to bring our hearts, our minds, and our lives in alignment with him....when you and I open the bible, we are beholding the very words of God - words that have supernatural power to redeem, renew, refresh, and restore our lives to what he created them to be."

A lot of us have been searching for God's will for our lives, what he has for us to do, say, act, feel, etc. Well, how can we know what God wants if we don't open up the book where he tells us, or where he wants to connect with us. It's like asking your mom what she wants for her birthday and she sends you a written list and you have it in your possession but you don't open it to read it and you still wander around perplexed and worried and confused as to what she wants. And you know what I think? I think that's just silly. But I've done it over and over and over again.

I feel God calling me to make big changes in my lifestyle. To live smaller so I can give more and do more for him. There is a world of people out there who don't know who he is, and Jesus is worth more to me than the American dream. I need direction in this, so I gotta surround myself in His word and see what God says about it.

So I challenge you to do the same. I really think it will change your life. Well, I don't THINK, I KNOW it will. I'm using an iphone app called youversion that has several bible reading plans to get you through a year. I'm doing the chronological plan (just because those who know me, know I like things to be in order) so to read the bible in chronological time order will be neat. I think youversion also has a blackberry app too if you don't have an iphone. Or just do it the old fashioned way and open your bible and read it from cover to cover. It doesn't matter how you do it, just do it!

So you, my 12 blog readers, I challenge you to join me!

7.17.2010

God Remembers

As I close this journal door on my time in Burundi {I know, I know - I'm behind}, I'll leave you with just a few things...If you remember in my first post here I shared about the Batwa village leader that Mark met who was named "no name" because his parents knew there was no future for him and no reason to put any thought into his name. He told Mark that he felt God had forgotten the Batwa. Mark told him that God has not forgotten them and neither would we (COF).

Well, here is Iribuka...


She is the first child born in the village of Matara (read the Burundi Posts below this one first to catch this entire story).

Guess what her name means?

It means, "God Remembers."

Wow!

There are many children in Matara, it's a place bouncing with energy and smiles and love. One of my favorite moments of the trip is playing with the children. I have such a hard time wishing I could communicate with them. But God created a universal language for us - it's called LOVE, SMILES & LAUGHTER!

This is my favorite photo of the entire trip!


I had so much fun on this trip - and this moment was just for me - and it makes me laugh out loud every single time I see this photo. It will be framed for sure! I can't wait to watch Iribuka and these children grow up!

Thank you so much my friends for your prayer support and financial support to go to Africa. I really am so grateful for each of you! I hope you've enjoyed this journey with me. I know I can't do it any justice - you need to see it for yourself!

I'll leave you with my pics in a slideshow set to a song. I hope you enjoy them! Thank you again!

7.16.2010

Batwa Students

If you haven't already, to connect to this story - catch up by reading these posts below!

"We are Family" - Burundi Day One

"No One Has Died This Year" - Burundi Day Two
"Our Names Are Written Down" - Burundi Day Three
"The Ones We Love Have Come" - Burundi Video

As referenced in these posts, I mentioned how COF sponsors over 30 bright Batwa students, to come alongside them as they receive an education. Kelley is really a huge credit to their success as she follows and monitors their work very closely. The children are excelling for the most part and we are so proud of them. The students are so sweet and very thankful for this opportunity. We were able to spend some time with them while in Burundi. We visited them at the student house and they danced and sang for us and big hugs were handed out all around.

On our last visit we played volleyball with them on the beach and had a great afternoon. This was a special treat for them and we loved spending this time with them.



Racing to the water!



There are sooo many more pics - you can see all the pics from our trip by clicking HERE and watching a special video slideshow I made with them.

After we left the beach the students came with us to our guest house where we were staying and had a pizza party with us! There were lots of hugs again and singing. They have such beautiful voices. They thanked us and prayed for us and we prayed for them. I'll leave you with a little video of them singing - so precious!

6.28.2010

"The Ones We Love Have Come" - Burundi Video

Below is a video with some footage and interviews from some of my friends on the trip. We produced this video to fit within a message at my church, so it's focused on generosity, but it captures some of the times I've shared about in my blogs below. To really connect to the video, please read the 3 blogs below first to connect to the experience.

"We are Family" - Burundi Day One

"No One Has Died This Year" - Burundi Day Two
"Our Names Are Written Down" - Burundi Day Three


If you wanna watch it larger - click the 4 arrows next to the word vimeo at the bottom! For an even better experience, after you click the 4 arrows - click the HD (to turn it on) in the upper right corner after you hit play!

6.17.2010

"Our Names Are Written Down" - Burundi Day 3

On this morning I was really excited about spending the day in Matara witnessing 10 Batwa weddings. One of the things the Batwa has lost over the many years of discrimination is "Official" marriages and Birth Certificates. They were so discriminated against that the government would not even recognize that they existed. No birth certificate would be issued to them, which meant no health care and no marriages, among many other things.

So this day was an amazing day! For the 10 couples to have an "Official" marriage meant they were acknowledged. They had been living together as a married couple for years, but were never able to make it official. I try to place myself in their shoes and imagine a presence that did not even warrant acknowledgment, and it's impossible for me to even fathom it.

As we drove up to Matara, all the couples were dressed up in their wedding clothes; the men in a suit coat, tie, new shoes and the women in traditional African wedding attire. I wish you could picture it, the men stood TALL with their chests out and the women looked so pretty and I could see they were a little shy.



At the bottom of the hill was the place where we did the civil ceremony. There was a little tent set up there and we sat to observe. A government official had come to Matara to do the ceremony and have the papers "signed." Claude interpreted to us, "by this man coming makes them feel very special." And then I realized, WOW - not only has the government allowed the Batawa the privilege of an official marriage, but he personally made the journey to the actual village himself to do the paperwork! It was a powerful, significant moment in the lives of these 10 couples.



We watched as all 10 couples came down to the tent with their maid of honor and best man and stamped their fingerprint into the official book.





Wow, "official"...how many Batwa can say that! I remember watching as the best man and maid of honor placed their hands on the shoulders of the couples as they recited vows to each other, and then they all placed their stamp in the book and I was thinking to myself, I wonder if these particular couples two years ago would even be able to imagine the way they've changed their own lives this past year. Of course I cried for each one with tears of joy!

After the civil ceremony, we climbed THAT hill {lol} in our dresses to go to the top to have the religious ceremony. We sat and watched as the pastor did the ceremony and the sweet Batwa couples faced each other. You could see the women and their shy faces as they stared into their husbands eyes; so sweet and so powerful all at the same time.

Afterwards we went to shake the hands with each couple and congratulate them. Then we had lunch with them. We had Goat meat and Kasava {which is a root type of thing with not much taste}. Kelley reminded us how important it was to receive hospitality from our friends. Typically no one would ever eat with a Batwa. Etienne said once that he ate with a non-Batwa and they broke the plates afterwards. So us receiving a meal from them would be a powerful statement. So we ate.

After the ceremony there were a few speeches made. There were a few that were very significant. One of the local area zone leaders {Matara is part of a larger community that is divided up and is governed by Zone Leaders} actually attended the wedding. He is not Batwa. He mentioned in his speech that it was wonderful what the Batwa are doing here and he acknowledged them by saying that it used to be that there were Hutus, Tutsies and Batwa, but then he said, "We are all Burundian." Wow, powerful statement. I was in tears.

Next the government official stood to speak. I thought it was a strong statement that he stayed for the religious ceremony. He talked about all that the Batwa were doing in Matara. He mentioned there were plans to put a road in soon that would be beneficial to the entire surrounding community. He said that the Batwa of Matara offered on their own, to help build the road. The official said, "We will build it together." This was significant to me because it meant that they truly understand that this land is theirs and that they want to be a part of the community to help better it. Then the official addressed us and said, "Thank you for what is happening here, you are showing us our prejudices. We are ALL Burundian." WOW, there are no words to describe this and how powerfully quick God is working here. The official went on to say that all the Batwa in Matara now has birth certificates, which means they are acknowledged as people by the government.

Included in the 10 couples that got married was Francois, the leader of Matara. I had been watching his sweet face throughout the process. He was sooo happy. I watched him in his suit and how he stood so tall and proud.



After everyone had spoken, he stood up to speak. He said, "I was so proud to be standing there like a man in my new suit, getting married officially. I am so happy. OUR NAMES ARE WRITTEN DOWN! You saw it {motioning to us}! If there is now any problem with Batwa, the government has to acknowledge it. You saw it, OUR NAMES ARE WRITTEN DOWN!" I can't describe the joy on his face. To KNOW that for the first time ever, he is acknowledged as a man in the eyes of others. I just can't even begin to imagine what this day felt like for him.



The bible says in Micah 6:8 - "...And what does the LORD require of you, but to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God?" We have been studying this passage with Kelley, and I am so proud to see justice happening here. She asked us to imagine justice flowing like a river and pouring like a waterfall - I'm seeing this in Matara and it's a beautiful thing.

6.14.2010

No One Has Died This Year - Burundi Day 2

Today we finally went to Matara. I'd been anxiously waiting for over a year to go. I have been praying for my friends and getting to know them and the work through our Communityfor Burundi Blog and from Kelley. So there was already love in my heart for the Batwa.

For those of you who do not know the work of Communityfor Burundi, I'll explain a little of what has taken place. After Mark, Claude, Kelley, David and Sydneyann visited Bubanza that summer, their eyes were opened, they could not leave Burundi and not take some kind action after seeing what they saw. But their hearts was to do so with dignity and respect; Allowing the Batwa to better themselves, not to hand out charity.

Since then Communityfor has not only housed the 34 Batwa students allowing them to go to school (I talked about in my previous post), but they've also acquired land that is NOT government owned, and then loaned it to the Batwa. This is GOOD land - called Matara (which means Life). They formed a committee of Africans who chose 30 families from Bubanza and other Batwa villages and moved them onto Matara. At Matara they are to build their own permanent homes and grow crops to sell to make a living. This happened just a year ago. The land that was purchased had a good water source and the soil was fertile. The Batwa had never lived on land like this before.

Earlier this past year when Kelley posted on the blog about the land, I commented that I wondered if they actually understood or believed that this was now theirs. I tried to place myself in the Batwa's shoes thinking how for generations they've been forced to live on dry, parched land, with unfertile soil, far away from anyone else...literally owning and having NOTHING. I wondered how hard it would be to convince them to work hard because this was actually THEIRS and would NOT be taken away from them. I know from my past work in other areas that after years and years and years of mistreatment and discrimination that it becomes a mind-set that's hard to break, because once you lose hope, that's a true poverty. Poverty of the mind I believe is the hardest to overcome.

Kelley talked to me about the ways they've gone about teaching them and helping them to break that mindset. That this wasn't something given to them that was not truly theirs, but something that THEY had to work hard at and something that will be handed down for generations and generations to come.

The past year I'd heard about how hard they've been working and I was anticipating seeing it for myself. This day was dedicated to meeting the Batwa at Matara and seeing what they've accomplished in the short time they've been there.

So we drove out of the city through the beautiful hills. This country is gorgeous. I'll have pics to post once I'm home. We took a left down a small road and across a bridge and saw them waiting there for us in anticipation. The women were all dressed in their beautiful colors and all standing gathered at the bottom of the hill to greet us. They were clapping and singing. As we got out of the trucks we greeted everyone with a handshake and an "Amahoro," which means "Peace." Their smiles were so big and an interpreter told me that the song they were singing was "The ones we love have come." This was precious to me knowing that they already love us just as we love them.

It wasn't very long until the dancing started. Dancing is a HUGE part of Batwa culture, and they dance a lot! :) So we watched them dance, but it wasn't long until we were dancing and celebrating with them. I danced with tears in my eyes overwhelmed with such joy to be here with more of my family.



After this we were introduced to "little Claude." Little Claude is an agricultural engineer. He has been working with "Big Claude," and the Batwa at Matara to cultivate the land. You really wouldn't believe how much they have done. The hillsides are covered in crops; Beautiful green crops, something completely different from what we saw in Bubanza. Even the Batwa here at Matara look so completely different. Their faces are filled out and their skin has a nice texture to it, they are healthy.

Little Claude took us around and showed us the sweet potatoes, cabbage - all the crops and explained how everything was done. He also showed us where they began making bricks to sell and told us of an upcoming new venture into soap making. They plan to harvest and sell at the market and each family has a trade to do to earn an income. It was amazing to see!

Then we climbed the hill.

There's not much I can say about this except you'd have to experience it, but I think no one else will have to experience it again because they are building a road to the top. BUT the hill is straight UP! The Batwa love the fact that we came and climbed the hill to see "their place." lol!

At the top of the hill we were seated in the multi-purpose room which is an open air two sided room and many of the families and their small children were there waiting on us (they are MUCH quicker climbing the hill than we are).



We were seated and were introduced to the 10 couples that would be married the next day. We presented each of the couples with new shoes, a jacket and tie for the men, and a traditional African wedding dress and sandals for the women.

The leader of the village, Francois, told us that Matara is a good land. There are schools nearby (you can actually see them from the top of the hill) and that the children are being educated. There's also a clinic nearby. Then he said something that struck me. He said, "no one has died this year." It just ran through my brain as he said it and I didn't really have time to think about it then, but I've been thinking about it since. The morning before, we met the oldest living Batwa, he's not very old. The life expectancy of the Batwa is around mid-40's because of the hard lifestyle. Death is an often occurrence in their lives, more so than what we are used to because of the discrimination they've suffered. Terrible land where food cannot be grown, children aren't educated and they cannot get jobs because no one would hire them, so they could not provide for their families. So being born a Batwa surely meant an early death. So by Francois saying, "no one has died this year," he wasn't just saying, "Oh, no one has passed away," in a way that we would. He was saying {I think} NO ONE HAS DIED HERE! BECAUSE we have our own land, we have food, we have water, we have education, we have a source of income! No Batwa has been able to say that for generations. No one has died here. That's a powerful statement.

6.12.2010

We Are Family - Burundi Day 1

We went to learn some Kirundi language at the Communication Language Center in the morning hours and then had lunch at Claude & Kelley's. Claude and Kelley are our partners here in Burundi. They work as the Burundi field service coordinators for Community For (Community of Faith's non profit for international work).


After lunch we went to the village of Bubanza. Bubanza is the first village that Claude took Mark, David and Sydneyann a few years ago to introduce them to the Batwa. To my non-COF readers, you should know that the Batwa were the original inhabitants of Burundi, known as the Pygmies (short people - now a derogatory term). As two other groups, the Tutsis and Hutus arrived, they became neglected and oppressed, and that oppression deepened with the colonization of Burundi by the Germans and Belgians. Ethnic discrimination and racism flourished and the Batwa found themselves at the very bottom of society. The Batwa became a landless people. The government now places them on dry plots of land and will keep them as far away from the road as possible as to not be seen. They did not have any place in the government, in the schools, or anywhere in society.

Bubanza is one of those villages. Dry, parched land...a long way from the main road. As we drove up to the village I tried to place myself in their shoes. It's really unimaginable; Not only the poverty but also the complete discrimination. I can't believe they'd want to do anything for themselves. Part of the work Communityfor and Community of Faith is doing is with some of the people from Bubanza. While Mark was in Burundi for the first time, he met the leader of the village and asked his name, the man replied with his name in Kirundi, and translated his name means, "NO Name." In Africa, families spend much time trying to come up with a name that describes WHO YOU ARE. And this family felt so much oppression that they didn't even feel that it would matter to make his name anything, they believed that God had forgotten them. Mark told him that God had not forgotten them, and that we wouldn't either. After this, the work of Communityfor Burundi began. (More on that later).

As we walked up to the village everyone was singing. My translator told me that the song they were singing was, "thank you for coming, we have been missing you." We walked up the hill on dry ground. As we got to the top, everyone was dancing and singing.



Later, we were told by leaders in the village that there were 600 families living there (1 family = generations of families living together = MANY people). He told us, "thank you for coming to visit," because we could be the voice to the outside world of the Batwa. Later David told them that we still haven't forgotten them and that we were still praying for them. Then we danced with them. I've never seen such joyous people in the midst of such severe poverty. We said goodbye and were on our way.

We left Bubanza and went to a reception at the student house. Again for my non COF readers - Community of Faith has purchased a house near a school is the city so that we can support the education of 34 bright Batwa students. Before, Batwa were not educated because of discrimination and also because they could not afford uniforms or supplies to attend. By moving these bright students to the house, they can get a great education and later attend university so they can become leaders within their communities.

As we drove up, we stood outside the gate of the student house and Claude proceeded to tell us that the students were very happy we were there, and waiting to meet us. He also mentioned that this was such a big deal, that really only about 60 Batwa have ever graduated from school. We went inside and the students greeted each of us with a giant hug and told us their names. After that we went on a tour of the student house. We walked inside of the girl's bedroom and noticed they'd decorated their room with home-made signs on paper with crayons and had made a paper chain across the room. Hanging on one of the paper chains was a sign that said, "Communityfor Burundi - One Family!" And I cried. We ARE family. I feel it and they feel it too. Even Etienne, one of the Batwa leaders in Burundi said it again later that evening after the students danced for us. He said, "We're not just friends, you are our family."

(Photo credit: Ellen Olive)

If you can ever come here at some point, please do, and come visit your family. When we are with the Batwa there's this very unique, instant bond you feel, I can't really describe it, but we are family. I am amazed at the work that is happening here and it's not a hand out - it's so unique what they do and how it's done (more on this later). I am thankful today for the wisdom of Claude and Kelley, and David and Sydneyann and for Mark and Laura. Thank you to my supporters who allowed me to experience this first hand.

I'll integrate photos and video to this post later....for our Photographer's photos from this day (Day 1) please click here and here.

6.07.2010

Matara is a Village in the City of Bujumbura in the Country of Burundi on the Continent of Africa

And I'm going there tomorrow! Be praying!

Blog updates will be on this blog...if I find internet. Most likely not, so you will probably be able to find the most recent updates at http://communityforburundi.org


6.05.2010

The Tragedy of a Single Story

I've been sharing on this blog lately about my travel stories and friendships that I've made throughout the years. My intention was to have this complete before leaving for Africa this coming Tuesday, but I just haven't had the time to get it done. Well, I've actually been struggling mostly on how to tell the next one in line without compromising the work there, but I'll figure it out and get on with it soon. But as for now, I'm taking a break from it because I will be leaving for Africa on Tuesday and if I have electricity, then I'll be sharing about it on my blog. If not, then I'll share once I return.

Until then (unless I can find some time between now and next Tuesday), I'll leave you with this video. It is a little lengthy but it is SO WORTH YOUR TIME to watch it. Thanks to Kelley Johnson and Sydneyann Binion for sharing this with me. Please just take a little bit of time, sit down, relax and watch it. It's powerful!

5.06.2010

OneDay 2000 - IMB - God is Amazing!

This is actually part 6 in my series on life travels. To catch up, or for this post to really make any sense, you should catch up by reading posts number one, number two, number three, number four and number five.

I worked on the volunteer staff team for Passion Conferences OneDay event in Memphis, TN in May of 2000. There were over 40,000 college students there - outdoors, camping in tents for 3 - 4 days. I already had my November trip planned for Global Missions Fellowship, but was still trying to figure out what God was wanting me to do with my life; but I had a strong feeling He was calling me into full time ministry. I didn’t know what that looked like in the area of missions and I was still trying to figure that whole thing out. Also I LOVED my job and was struggling to leave it for something I was so unsure about. I wasn’t unsure about the feeling that He was calling me, I just didn’t know what that was supposed to look like, and I wasn’t getting any kind of clear direction.

While there working {at OneDay} our leaders told us that this event was for us too. That if we needed to break away and join in on a talk or worship or whatever, to feel free to take part. I’ve really never been a part of something so anointed by God {but crazy at the same time} lol! I remember working on something near the field and hearing Beth Moore speaking about a trip she took to India. Of course it sparked my interest, India wasn’t a really popular place to go, so I stopped what I was doing and walked onto the middle of the field and listened to her.

She described her experience, and I could relate. Then she called out for those people who felt that God was doing something in their lives in the area of mission work. She said that maybe you don’t understand it, but you feel it - then she asked them to stand up. And I immediately started to tear up. It felt as if she was sent there to speak directly to me, and even though this was a college event and I wasn’t a college student. And even though I was there to just work, I had a great team leader that encouraged us to take part. So I stood up.

Then she asked other students to gather around those standing, and to pray over them. I remember standing there as people prayed over me and it was an overwhelming feeling. I realized that I just had to be patient and trust that God knew what He was doing and even if I didn’t understand, then I just needed to follow Him, one step at a time…whatever that was! And even though I didn’t know the entire “story” right then, I realized that I needed to just enjoy the journey to whatever it was He had for me.

After that experience I felt a peace come over me that I hadn’t felt in over a year as I had been struggling with what I was supposed to do with this “calling” I felt God had on my life. And even though it wasn’t panning out to what I thought it would be, I knew I needed to just trust Him and enjoy the journey.

So on this road of enjoying the journey; I decided I should really try this Baptist part of missions again…seeing that I was a Baptist. In my previous experiences with contacting/calling the International Mission Board (IMB), I never got any responses from them about a short term trip. Actually no one ever called me back after several attempts, so that’s why I found these other organizations to go with {I was pretty determined}. But I felt like I should try again, so I did, and again months went by with no return call or email.

Fast Forward…

Over that past year, I had become close friends with another young girl from my church. Her name was Becky. She had spent time in China right before I went on my first trip to India and had been feeling the same thing about God giving her a heart for the world and what that meant in her own life. We had a common bond and had become very close friends. She also worked with me at the OneDay event. While she was there she decided to attend Golden Gate Seminary in California. A lot of her work was in International Studies. She had taken some classes in ethnographic research and had recommended a lot of the materials to me. She knew I was a natural researcher of things and all that stuff would really intrigue me.

I visited her in San Francisco and she told me about some research trips with the school that she was thinking of signing up for the summer. I encouraged her to do it. We laughed and talked about how one day we needed to go on a trip together and how special that would be for both of us. We were kidding about who would give in first - my heart was in India and hers in China - so we decided that it might never happen.

Several months later, I was home {in Mississippi} and was really struggling with what to do next. I was looking for somewhere to serve for the summer. I was feeling kind of low and disconnected, no one in my church seemed to have a heart for the world and Becky was pretty much my only link, and she was away in California.

I was really searching one day asking God to show me the next step in the journey, and my phone rang {I’m not making this up - this is literally how this happened}. I answered it and it was a phone call from an IMB missionary in India. He said he was looking through some information I sent in over a year ago. I originally had been recommended to a different group for different reasons, but he said as he was looking through it, he saw where I’d listed in the line “Things that I Enjoy Doing,” where I naturally liked to research things. So he decided to pick up the phone and call me. He invited me to come do research on a particular unreached people group in Bangalore, India. Because of the nature of the research, I’d need to do it by myself. He said he felt something while reading my info and decided he needed to ask me to do it. I immediately said yes. I got more info from him, dates, etc, and we decided to talk more in the coming days.

I hung up the phone and literally my phone rang a few minutes later. It was my friend Becky calling to tell me that she was going with a team from her school to India that summer to do research on Buddhism in India. The more we talked, we realized that we were working with the SAME missionary, and that we would be there at the SAME time: SAME location…working on separate research…but together! How crazy is THAT!

We both didn’t know the other was talking to him. He didn’t know we knew each other - she was in California and I was in Mississippi. I sent the paperwork and request in a year before. WOW! We felt like this was just a little gift God was giving us.

In the next post I’ll describe an experience I had where I know God had her there with me for a very specific reason!

To be continued…

4.30.2010

Part 2 - Manipur

This is actually part 5 in my series on life travels. To catch up, or for this post to really make any sense, you should catch up by reading posts number one, number two, number three, and number four.

So we flew into Manipur, India. We had to get special permits while in Calcutta to visit this part of India. This was a restricted access portion of India because it was a heavily militant state. There were 34 groups, seven of them militant, fighting over control of Manipur, most wanting it to become its own independent Kingdom. We could only get there by air and could only travel in groups of no more than 4 with an authorized agent, and were not allowed out of the capital city for any reason. AND we had to be indoors by 8:30 PM every evening.

I say all that to say this, that the place was heavily guarded; they stopped us before getting off the plane and came aboard the plane and searched us and all our carry on luggage before getting off when we arrived. The streets were heavily guarded with a strong military presence, but other than that, we never noticed it or felt unsafe in any way. We knew we couldn’t go anywhere in big groups and we couldn’t be outside our rooms after dark, but really other than that it was nothing.

The evening we arrived, (before curfew), we went to have dinner with Mr. Peter Kashung. He was the pastor who lived in Manipur whom we would be working with. He was the son of one of the fiercest Naga Warriors, who were headhunters up until the beginning of the 20th Century, until a single missionary reached them with the truth about Christ. His father had over 200 skulls in his possession, but came to know Christ by missionaries. Peter also came to know Christ at a young age.

At dinner that night Peter shared much of his story and passion for reaching his country for Christ. He didn’t just talk about it, he had a plan. I’d never heard anyone’s strategic plan like this. This man was passionate about reaching his own country. At that point he’d already trained thousands of pastors and planted over 100 new churches in small areas near where he lived. I was amazed and greatly challenged by him.

He teamed up with Global Missions Fellowship (GMF - the organization I was with) in 1996 to help him plant more churches. He would train the pastors, and once a year GMF would bring a team that would group into two to three foreigners with a local, trained pastor and go door to door to speak with families in a small village. The white faces were a useful tool for the pastor to get a guaranteed audience. After spending time door to door with families, the pastor hoped to have enough relationship, that after the foreigners left (us), that he would be able to continue the relationship and at some point be able to plant a new church in that area; A church where this man would be the pastor. Very strategic work! I loved it!

So I spent the next several days in a certain village with a pastor spending individual time getting to know each family in the village. It was so fun. I love getting to know people from other cultures. There wasn’t a lot of pressure other than to make a relationship and I enjoyed that a lot.

The pastor is in glasses on the right

While we were there, there were a couple of days that there was some political unrest and threats and we were confined to our hotel and could not leave for two entire days. Those days we were able to spend praying for those we had met and we worshiped together. It was a nice time for our team.

A few days after that, we were able to go back to the village to continue getting to know them. The people were so hospitable to us, and I got a kick out of how the minute we’d walk up to a home, they always brought their best chair out immediately for me to sit in. If they didn’t own a chair, it would be their best mat. One time this family brought out this throne looking type of chair and my local pastor starting calling me the “Princess.” After he told our team this, the name stuck with my entire team. They already had a lot of fun with my accent, being a girl from Mississippi with a strong southern accent (most of it is gone now for my Texan friends who know me) but they were all from California and loved to poke fun at me. So the nickname “The Princess” stuck. My friends from that trip still call me that 

After our time was up in Manipur, we needed to fly back to Calcutta to catch a flight to our next destination, Singapore! While in India, it was the November 2000 presidential elections - yes the Bush/Gore election. We had no television or news access and had no idea who had been elected as President of the United States. At the airport in Calcutta we asked around and nobody knew who was President yet - we thought nobody knew - but we really didn’t understand that NOBODY knew! Lol!

Once we landed in Singapore, we asked again if anyone knew who won the election and again we were met with “I don’t know,” and we finally decided that no one but us really cared who was elected President of the United States.

Once we were checked into our hotel in Singapore, and turned on the TV - THEN we found out what was happening with the election process and that truly NOBODY knew who was President! It was crazy trying to watch the news to catch up with what was happening. I think several of us were glued to the television set. Finally after I’d had enough, we left our hotel to go hang out in the city of Singapore.

We spent a few relaxing days in Singapore and to have some down time to experience the city, and most importantly to get away and process and debrief our past weeks in India.

I processed how easy it would be for me to leave this trip knowing without a doubt that what we did was beneficial in a long term plan and that every single person we met would be involved in a future plan. Not left behind, not forgotten (not - ladies and gentlemen - the white people have left - lets get on with our lives as normal). It was super comforting to me knowing that a local team of pastors were there. At this point I began processing short term mission trips a little bit. How useful are they - do they help, do they hurt. What’s the purpose? I didn’t want to go someplace, share Christ with a bunch of people and then leave them with no follow up plan. This type of thing made my heart hurt and I was truly grateful that I could leave this time knowing this would NOT be happening. I was also thankful for meeting a man like Peter Kashung who left such an impression on my life. What a mighty man of God! How passionate he is about reaching his own country. Am I that passionate about reaching my own? He challenged me to my core. Later on I would come in contact with his daughter again that completely took me by surprise…that story will come later!

Oh, and on the way home our flight was delayed in Singapore and all of the team blamed it on me! By then they knew of my previous stories of flight delays, cancellations, lost luggage…they all told me that they didn’t want to be on the same plane as “the princess!” hahaha! I love these people! So thankful to not only have friends now all over the world, but all over the United States too!

4.29.2010

Calcutta and Impal, Manipur, India - November 2000

This is part 4 in a series of posts. You can catch up by reading post # One and # Two, and post # Three first before reading this one!

During my first trip to India I really felt like I could do this thing - serving in Missions overseas. But after the trip, as I reflected more and more on it, I really found this passion for serving/praying for missionaries and also for mobilizing people on the homefront. This is still my passion. Nothing brings me more joy than to be there to mentor a young person, to show them that they CAN do what they dream about. I also love showing adults that it’s never too late to serve this way - even if it’s short term. I have this passion that EVERY single person should travel and get to know people and other cultures at least once in their lifetime. It will change your life! Maybe one day God might change my direction to serve full time in another country, and I’ll explore that opportunity when it comes, but if I never do, I’ll still be giving my life to mobilize others. It’s a part of who I am.

Because I was passionate about mobilization and still thinking about my future, a friend recommended to me an organization called Global Mission Fellowship (GMF). She thought I might be interested in working with them as they worked stateside with permanent partnerships overseas and took teams 1-3 times a year. I LOVED this idea! Once I contacted them, they said that I should go on a trip first to get to know the organization and what they do.

Because I fell in love with India - it was an easy pick from their list for me to go to Calcutta and Manipur that year. It was again with a team of people I had never met before. The majority of them were from California. So I was to fly from Memphis, Tennessee to somewhere else (I forget where), then on to LAX to meet with the team and fly to Calcutta.

Well, {this is a trend for me} things happened with my flight - we sat on the runway for hours. I was flying into LAX and then needed to switch from the domestic terminal to the International terminal, go through security again (because of how the terminals were set up) and I was barely going to make it. If this happened, there wasn’t another flight out until the following evening, which would have seriously affected the travel plans in-country once the team got to India.

I knew I only had minutes to get to my connecting flight. I didn’t know how it would be possible, but I prayed I’d make it. The minute I got off the plane in LAX I was ready to run. As soon as I got out of the jetway I heard someone call my name. It was my trip leader (who was a GMF staff member). He asked me if I was ready to run. And we sprinted to the international terminal. He told me that he told two of the team members to refuse to get on the international plane until we got there. He knew the airport staff would rather wait than to try to go retrieve their baggage (since your baggage can’t go if you don’t). There was this LONG line for security (lots of international flights leaving at the same time) but we asked people if we could cut in line and they allowed it, and we arrived just as they were about to shut the door to the plane.

We made it! I sat next to my trip leader on the flight out and told him what just happened was no big deal. He laughed, but then I proceeded to share with him my story (from the posts before this one). He looked at me and said, “This trip will be a piece of cake for you after that!” I was a little relieved, although it was not proving itself to me at this point, lol. My friend, Dennis (the friend that passed away before my first trip) always had this catch phrase, “Making Memories.” I still to this day use it: If things go as planned, or normal…you’re more likely to forget them. Some whenever things aren’t “normal,” you’ll often hear me say, “Making Memories!” And it’s sooo true!

Hours later, we landed in Calcutta and of course my luggage didn’t make it - if I had to sprint to make it, then you KNOW my luggage wasn’t sprinting to make it! So I was a few days without my luggage, but I packed enough to get through the days in my carry-on. Thankfully we had a couple of days before we were to fly on to Manipur in the North East part of India, otherwise I might not have ever gotten it.

While in Calcutta we visited a very large Hindu village. We were told that we would need to have a visit with the high priest of the village first to get permission to visit. We were counting on spending the day in this village telling the story of Jesus thru storying, so it was important to get this priest’s permission. There were 25 of us on the team and as we arrived we got off our bus and began to walk towards the village. We were told that the priest is always protected and hidden by the people. (You have to understand that the sweet people of this village are very superstitious and scared of strange things - which white people were).

What I'm about to share here is something I've maybe told 2 people since it happened. I struggled with not wanting people to think it was about me, or that I was prideful. I didn't know how I could tell this story without it sounding that way and I just didn't trust that people knew me well enough to not think that it was about me, as people often make snap judgments about you without truly knowing who you REALLY are. I've become burdened to tell this story now because I feel like it's robbing God His glory in not revealing such a beautiful story of HIS work. So here goes:

We didn’t know how it was going to play out, but as we were walking down the road toward the village, one of the men with us pointed out that the priest was walking towards us. He was surrounded by other men from the village. Then the priest walked directly up to me {why, I have no idea} and the interpreter stood there and translated as the priest addressed me directly and told us that we were welcome here and that he would like for me to pray for him. I asked, “Now?” and the interpreter said, “Yes.” And I was terrified - what do I pray over this man who doesn’t know Christ and is revered as a “god” to these people. Not to mention that it will be interpreted and he will hear it along with all the male leaders of the village as they are surrounding us in a circle. It was an intense moment for me.

So I prayed. I prayed that this village would be blessed with good health, that they would have just enough for survival, that their leaders would make wise decisions about their peoples future. That they would get to know the one true God, the only one who could be their rescue, that their minds and hearts would be open to Him.

Afterwards the priest grasped my hands and said we were welcome there and then took off into the woods. I really didn’t know what just happened. After that, we got into teams of two (one team member and one translator) and I asked if I could go visit the priest at his home. I was told that he was always kept hidden and that it was not possible, that I wouldn’t see him again.

So we set out to go visit with the people. I played and told stories to many children.


Later on, one little girl kept pulling me by the hand and my translator said she wanted to take me to where they worship. The translator told me I shouldn’t go as it could be unsafe. But I told him I wanted to go. With much hesitation he agreed, but was not happy with me at all. As we walked, several other children followed us. Once we got to the temple, I saw some adults worshipping the many gods of the Hindu.

I proceeded to share my stories with the children who were surrounding me. After awhile I looked up and out of the corner of my eye I noticed the priest standing there listening to what was being said. I prayed hard that something he heard would touch him and open his heart to God.

Shortly after this it was time for us to go. So we headed back to the bus to go back to our hotel.

The next day we were to go to the Missionaries of Charity to work at Mother Teresa’s home for the destitute and dying or in the orphanage.


The rules only allowed females inside the orphanage, so we sent the men from the team to the home, and the female team members to the orphanage. We got to hear and see a lot of history of Mother Teresa’s work. I was in awe of the orphanage and the work being done there, especially with little girls. India still incorporates the dowry system and girls are just too expensive to keep {This situation will affect me on another trip you’ll hear about later}.


“I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.” -- Mother Teresa

The next day I finally received my luggage, just in time as we were off to Manipur - a restricted access area.

NOTE: After getting home, I could not ever forget that village in Calcutta, nor its sweet children or the kind priest I met. I prayed for them off and on. The following year GMF took another team to Calcutta and I received a letter from them saying that something absolutely amazing happened and that nearly the entire village were now God followers! This was THOUSANDS of people. Who were now God followers - of the ONE God! Amazing!

Now, off to Manipur - To be continued…

4.25.2010

Finally on to the Trip - India/Nepal

This is a series of posts - you should probably read post number one and two before this one for much of this to make any sense.

So after all that previous business, I finally boarded a plane to India, I couldn't believe after a year that I was finally doing this. The journey was super long. We flew Miami to NYC to London to Mumbai to Hyderbad then took a 5 hour train to Tiruvuru (in South India)over 36 hours of travel time.

The minute our feet touched the ground in Tiruvuru, we were running. The pastor who hosted us had never hosted a team before. We were in small villages, no electricity, no phones and he had promised we'd visit many villages and our time was limited, so there was no time to waste. They had been looking forward to and preparing for our visits to all these villages for months and months. Most villages had never had visitors before, so it was a big deal to them.



Because the pastor had not done this before, he promised we'd visit so many villages and none of us beforehand understood the amount of time we'd need to take in any village. Because of this, we literally were visiting villages constantly for weeks, traveling and visiting for about 20 hours a day with maybe (if we were lucky) 4 hours rest. Most nights we'd go to bed at 2AM to be up and leaving by 6AM the following morning. Initially we had no rest from the 36 hours of travel, we went straight to villages and for days and days did not rest over 4 hours a night. It was the most exhausting thing I've ever done.

We also could not cancel a village, that was just not an option. It would have seriously offended the Pastor and let down the people who had prepared for our visit for months. I can't even really do this part of our journey any justice without going into detail and there's just not enough space here to write it all. I have never been so tired in all my life. I loved it, but emotionally and physically we all were wasted.

After days and days of this, every single person on the team got physically sick. For me, this was my first experience on a trip like this, with international missions, and it shaped me a lot. (My philosophy on missions has changed throughout the years - my time in sudan significantly changed my viewpoint - but I'll get to that eventually). Through all of this I got to thinking about those people who serve full time, internationally. How for me, this was just a temporary thing. I could push through it and in a few weeks be back home. But my mind kept thinking of those people, who this is their life. And I was seriously burdened for them. How often we never even give them a thought. How they need us praying for them daily, for God to provide them with the energy, endurance, and health that they need to get through each day. During this trip, God broke my heart for the full time servant in other countries, and it's still there. My first instinct when I meet someone serving in this capacity is: "How can I serve you? What can I do to help? How can I pray for you?" I don't see this changing in my heart any time soon.

(I also learned as I became a team leader/organizer for many future trips how important preparing the people on both ends of a trip to make sure the experience/expectations is as best as it can be for both parties).

Fast Forward: During this time visiting villages, the Pastor's Brother and Nephew were our drivers. We were in jeeps on long journeys every day, so we had developed a great relationship with them. One night, in the middle of the night the police came to the house and informed the pastor that his nephew was killed on his way home. He was on a bike and hit by a big truck. Devastating. I can't describe this any other way.

The mourning period and burial for this (while we were there) was extreme culture shock. In this part of India, it was customary to have the body out near the road in front of the house (remember he was hit by a truck) for the family and everyone in the village to come and mourn with them, which was in a form of intense wailing. We were asked to stand next to the body during this, because he died as he was in service to us while it happened. Even typing this I still can't believe we went through this.

This was also so fresh for me as I was still grieving the loss of my best friend to cancer the week before I left. (Read first post here to understand this more). In my journal that day I wrote: "This reopens that wound and brings back that fresh pain of deep loss. Dear friends are like angels, I lost one just a couple weeks ago and now this family has lost their loved one. I hope God shows me something special to say/do for them. If anything I can just relate. I'm so sad. I was reading today in Psalms, looking for comfort and strength to get through this day - Psalms 18:30-32 - "As for God, his way is perfect; The word of the Lord is flawless. He is a shield for all who take refuge in Him. For who is God besides the Lord? And who is the Rock except our God? It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect." God promises us strength to meet challenges, but he doesn't promise to eliminate them. If He gave us no rough roads to walk, and no mountains to climb, and no battles to fight, we would not grow. He doesn't leave us alone, He is beside us, to teach us and to strengthen us to face them. So I'm facing this day, no matter what it takes. God is with me."

FF: After our time in India, we flew to Nepal to spend time in Kathmandu in an orphanage. The American missionary was there when we arrived at the airport. He took one look at us and said he was driving us straight to the orphanage and putting us to bed. I think we all slept over 20 hours straight from the exhaustion (mentally and physically).

Nepal was gorgeous. The Everest region was breathtaking. We spent most of our time in Nepal prayerwalking over the city. We went to a Buddhist temple where they sacrificed animals, we went to see the Kumari (Oh my goodness if you have time, read about this - I could type it here but it's too long. What we were told locally is almost exactly what's in the Wiki.)

We spent the 4th of July at the US Embassy in Kathmandu - which was super interesting in itself. Oh gosh, there's so much and I'm leaving nearly all of it out :( Ask me if you want more details. There's so much history on the house mom of the orphanage where we were - her father was one of the first ever missionaries allowed openly in Nepal (because he befriended the king). He spent lots of time trekking with people on Everest. There's this amazing story of the former Hindu man who ran the hotel we stayed at for a few days inside Kathmandu - how he accepted Christ. I don't even have room to share about how before we flew into Nepal, we went to New Delhi and our bus blew up, an airplane blew up in Nepal, and how we took a 10 hour drive over to Agra to see the Taj Mahal and back. How I saw Ghandi's tomb and was super challenged by Ghandi's words that he would have been a Christian had it not been for Christians. This man was such an influence over billions of people... Ugg - I just can't fit it all here.

I will end this by sharing this one last thing. We were in one of the many villages in India the first part of this trip, and a Christian family was in one of the villages (the only Christian family in the midst of a hindu village). They had just given birth to a new baby girl. They asked me to hold her as they held a ceremony. I had my friend, Keri, take a picture of me holding her. This little girl's photo has been on my nightstand for the past 10 years and I pray for her every single night before I go to sleep.



One of my dreams is to go back to this part of India some day to find her. I want to tell her that I fell in love with her and her people on this day, and that her photo has been with me for over 10 years and how I've prayed for her, for all these years. I want to hear her stories and I want to hear about her life, as she's been a part of mine daily for all these years.

You know, my missionary friends tell me that often a family will never forget us. That after we leave, we become a very important memory for the family. That often, if they have a photo of us or something we've given them, that it is a much talked about thing with the family for years and years to come. A treasured thing. I want the people with whom I've had the honor of getting to know and visit, to know...that it's exactly the same with me. That's why there's specific photos on my photo wall. That's why I come into my office regularly to look at them, think, pray, remember. They are a part of who I am. They've shaped my life. And I wouldn't trade anything in the world for it.

4.20.2010

(Pre) India/Nepal - Summer 1999

(Follow up to my previous post - read it first)

This was my first time out of the country. My first mission trip. And I really can’t talk about the trip without sharing some of the events that led up to it.

I was happy with my life in the beginning of the year of 1998. I was 24 years old; working, attending a church I loved, had amazing friends and family. Towards the spring of that year I went through some major struggles with some things that were happening in my life that affected it in all areas. I was heartbroken. Devastated. I don’t need to go into detail here, it’s not necessary. If you want to know the story, set aside a bit of time and ask me about it and I’ll share it with you, but it’s pretty personal.

Fast Forward: I ended up going to summer camp with our church as a chaperone with our students that summer. And it changed my life.

Through a series of messages and several situations, I felt a strong pull that God wanted me to be involved in international missions. I had a heart for it. I didn’t really know what that meant, because I’d never been around anyone involved in missions very much except those people who dressed up in weird outfits and spoke funny at church once a year. I knew I didn’t want to be THAT…but my heart was broken, wide open, for the “rest of the world.” It was very specific and I remember it as if it was yesterday.

Once I got home from camp I started researching what this meant. Did I quit my job and move to Africa? Did I go to seminary…because when you are Baptist and you’re called to missions, you go to seminary. But I sure didn’t want to go to seminary, but I DID want to do what God wanted me to do. I was confused and searching and there was no one out there near me, that I knew of, who could help me try to figure it all out. So I spent a lot of time with just me and God, He’s the best one to ask anyway. He told me to go to India. I knew it a whole year in advance.

During this year of preparation, I was pretty excited. I learned how to commit to something in advance believing that God would provide the way. But during that year my brother was in a terrible car accident. We were actually told he would not survive it. He was in a coma in a hospital an hour and a half away from us in a trauma unit. In all he was in the hospital for about a year, and survived it (thank you, God). But it was a tremendous time for our family.

Then another devastating thing: A few weeks before I was to leave, one of my best friends was diagnosed with cancer and passed away a week later, at a very young age. This person was super special to me, words can’t describe the kind of friend he was to me. Even now I’m crying thinking about him, our friendship, what he and his family meant to me. It just didn’t even feel real. It was so fast.

I struggled with if I should leave his wife, also a best friend, and their small child, who was like a little sister to me. How could I leave them when they needed me, plus the fact that I was an emotional wreck. I struggled with the decision to go or not to go for a while. I prayed and asked several wise people what to do. Finally his wife spoke to me and told me to go. She told me that he would want me to go and that she’d need me later, when I got back, when everyone else had gone on with their everyday lives. Leaving was very hard to do, but I agreed.

So the day came for me to fly from the airport in Memphis, TN to Miami, Florida for my training and then on to India. I was going by myself with a team of people from all over the states and knew no one on the team. This training time was also to be a time to get to know one another before we set off on this journey together. So I headed to the airport in Memphis. I think this was only like the second time for me to ever fly and first time to fly alone.

The trip to Miami was crazy! I won’t go into to many details, but everything that could have happened, did. I was re-routed, flights cancelled, flights delayed, etc. It was nuts! What should have only taken a couple of hours for me, actually took 6 airplanes and 14 hours! I was alone, an inexperienced traveler - didn’t know what to do when your flight cancelled (now I know...hehe!). I was booked on several flights in case one thing or another didn’t work out. I didn’t have a contact number for the people in Miami (they were in a hotel and this was the days before everyone had a cell phone). They called the airline when they noticed issues with my flights when trying to confirm to come pick me up at the airport, but the airline told them I was delayed until the next morning, when I actually came in on a super late flight to Miami (around 11pm). So I got to the Miami airport and no one was there to pick me up, and I still didn’t know of a way to contact anyone from the organization.

I did know the name of my hotel, so I went outside and found a shuttle bus that transported to the hotel, and hopped on. I was young, never travelled anywhere alone before (remember I’m a small town, Mississippi girl), alone in Miami, scared, nervous, didn’t know anyone, and couldn’t figure out why no one was there to pick me up…but for some odd reason, I was completely at peace. There was like a supernatural peace over me that entire day. I will never forget it. I knew I was missing the entire first day of training and getting to know my teammates, but that was pretty much my only concern. I didn’t know what I’d do once I got to the hotel, but was just taking one thing at a time. While on the bus I prayed that God would just take care of it, like He did everything else that day.

As my bus pulled up to the hotel, I was walking up the sidewalk and Steve, my team leader (whom I’d never met before) looked at me strangely and asked, “Sherry?” and I was immediately relieved. He explained that the airline had me booked on the morning flight also, so when he called they just told him that piece of info, and he didn’t know that I’d actually be arriving on the later flight. He said that something told him that for some odd reason I might actually come in on that later flight and so he was headed to the airport to see. I was so relieved. Thank you God.

He took me up to my room and introduced me to several of my female teammates. After explaining all that happened to me that day, they were so sweet to me. I wanted to stay up longer and get to know them better, but I was physically and emotionally exhausted so I went to bed.

The next morning I got up early and opened my bible to where I’d left off the day before. A few months prior I had decided to read the bible from cover to cover as a goal and that morning I was in the book of Deuteronomy. Chapter 8. I got to verse 2 and it jumped off the page at me: “Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart…” I thought about the statement and all that Moses in particular was referring to and I also thought about the past year in my own life. It wasn’t 40 years and it wasn’t in a desert, but it felt like it. It was a tough year in a lot of ways (from the horribly hurtful situation at the beginning of the year, to the near death of my brother, to the death of my best friend, to the hard decision to leave my best friend - his wife - at a time when she needed me the most, to the craziness of just travelling to the training). I was humbled, I was a mess, and in no condition emotionally to take off with a bunch of strangers to a foreign land, but I realized that maybe that’s just where God wanted me. I was broken and totally dependent on Him. Maybe the result of my year was to humble me and to know what was in my heart. I prayed that what God saw was good. And I prayed that He could use me in a powerful way. I prayed for a supernatural love for the people of India and Nepal, a true God-like kind of love. And I especially prayed that God would use the events of the past year of my life in a powerful way, somehow.

To be continued…

4.17.2010

Memories

There's this wall I have in my office/spare bedroom where I often go to just thank God at times for the work He is doing around the world, and the places/people He's allowed me to meet and visit. I often come in here to stare and pray for each of the places and also remember the journey.



God has allowed me to be a part of some amazing things. I've spent a significant amount of time in over 15 different countries witnessing what He's up to. I don't get to share about them enough with the people I love. Many of you have heard small glimpses of parts of these journeys, many of you have not but have asked me to, and I often struggle with what parts to share...

So, as my new passport is now empty, prepared for a new decade of traveling (as much as I possibly can) and also because I'm in a really nostalgic mood...I'll share here over the next several posts about the places that are closest to my heart. My heart is that as you read, that you wouldn't put any emphasis on me, but on the people in that location...I hope to open up a small part of their world to you and that you would pray for them as you read.

I've set my blog to import into facebook. So if you are reading this through facebook, I'm not sure how well the blog photos will import. If you're having trouble reading on facebook, you can read directly from my blog at http://sherrynarons.blogspot.com.

3.22.2010

Awayo

It's in HD - please click near the bottom to make it full screen! Beautiful!

3.06.2010

Authority

This past week I was reading and came across again the verse in Hebrews 13:17 - "Be responsive to your pastoral leaders. Listen to their counsel. They are alert to the condition of your lives and work under the strict supervision of God." It's a verse I've known for awhile. Even though I'm a strong female, I've always recognized the way God designed authority. Now, I'm pretty vocal when I disagree, but those who are in authority over me know, that although I'll share my thoughts and want to discuss it and be heard, that I would never go against what they have to say, because I feel that God designed authority in the way He did for a reason, no matter what.

This authority thing is tough sometimes because I know that when God places a person in authority over me, that His will for my life has to be filtered though that particular person. There have been times in my ministry that I've felt that I could not really trust the person who was in authority over me to make right decisions for my life. But through those times, God taught me alot about trusting HIM and the way HE designed things. I learned that all I have to do in those situations is pray. Pray A LOT for those who were my authority figures, that their relationship with Christ would be super intimate, that they would hear him clearly as they made decisions, for not only their own lives, but the lives of others who were under their influence.

Lately I've been a little lax in praying for my leaders in reference to their authority. Mostly because I know them and I have a whole lot of trust in them. I know they are praying, I know their relationships with Christ is super intimate and I have huge respect for them. I know I can trust them with my life and that their decisions are better for me than the decisions I could make for myself. Wow, there's a lot of comfort in that. I hadn't really thought about it until I read that verse again this week. I'm super thankful to have this sort of peace. It feels really good to be able to walk in that kind of trust.

Then I kept thinking about my ministry and how being on staff at this church automatically makes me an authority figure. I don't really like the thought of that very much. I don't like to be the person that God's will for people's lives could actually be filtered through me. It's scary to me. It's not that I don't like it because I don't want to do it, it's just that, I don't want to mess it up. It's a big deal. And I realize that being an authority figure automatically means my relationship with Christ just doesn't affect me, it affects a whole lot of people.

I like how the verse ends, "They are alert to the condition of your lives and work under the strict supervision of God." This means number one, I gotta be alert to the condition of their lives...which means my introverted self has to push outside my natural tendencies and find out "how you are..." Donald, (our worship leader and one of my authority figures) does a good job of this. On Fridays, our small team of 5 meets, and every few weeks he makes us share what's happening with us. Not just "what's up," but what's REALLY going on in our lives, the deep, sometimes beautiful, sometimes hurtful, sometimes ugly parts. And he shares himself too. I think this helps our team in many ways (how we get along, understand, and love each other), but I think it also helps him as he makes decisions about things that affect our lives...it makes him "alert to the condition of our lives." Then the verse ends "they...work under strict supervision of God." I'm so thankful that God's my supervisor, if I'm truly listening to Him, surely I can't go wrong!

1.05.2010

Who Do You Want to Be?

Tonight I heard a talk from Andy Stanley about knowing who you want to be, before you figure out who you are going to be in relationship with, and what you are going to do with your life.

He said he thought a lot about who he was going to be when he was in his late 20's. He said he figured it out by thinking about what he would want people to say about him at his funeral. He said he came up with 8 words for himself.

Honesty. (He is talking to college students - but the point to this is relevant to all)

"Do you know why honesty is important? Because honesty is the foundation of every single one of your relationships. And if you opt to be dishonest, you undermine a relationship. You cannot have a good relationship with a person if you are dishonest with them. The reason I must be honest...is because every single relationship that's important to me is at stake.

Purity - why be pure? No one else is. Nobody cares. You don't get an award for it. Everybody thinks it's kinda stupid. We don't even use that word anymore. Why be pure?

It can't be just because it makes God happy.

What's at stake?

And I read and I wondered and I thought, and I discovered something that I've been talking about since. Purity paves the way to intimacy. Do you know what's at stake in your personal purity? Not just guilt. Not just your conscious being violated. Not just a bad memory. It's way bigger than that. It's your ability to experience intimacy. Throw away your purity, and you throw away your potential for intimacy.

Generosity - why be generous? What's at stake?

Generosity ensures that the things that you own, never own you.

Generosity - I don’t mean when you have a lot, you give. I mean right now. Generosity - open handedness - ensures that the stuff you own, never owns you."

These are just 3 of the 8 words he came up with when deciding who he wanted to be. He said he figured out the words by imagining what he wanted people to say at his funeral. Then he figured out WHY these were important to him. After doing that, they ended up being the principles that he based his life on. They became the boundaries for his actions. And if he stepped outside of them, then it would be a failure. Not just 'Oh, I will just tell this white lie and nobody gets hurt.'

For him, when he thought about being dishonest, he remembered that his relationships were at stake, because he had thought about it before hand. He had purposed who he wanted to be and what was at stake if he stepped outside of that.

He says his 8 words were the 'wall,' his boundaries, that helped him become who he wanted to be. They kept him in check.

He mentioned there are a lot of pro athletes out there that have decided what they want to do in life...be a pro this or that. But they haven't thought about who they want to be. They got involved in moral failure and then it affected what they have done with their lives. He reminded us, that they figured out what they were gonna DO with their lives before they figured out WHO they were gonna be.

Andy mentioned that he knows that just figuring out the words of "who I want to be" is easy. But if you can figure out why those words are important and what's at stake if you act outside of those - then they can become the principles that you live within and help you become - really become - the leader you need to be.

And then the person - the leader that you are - will influence the relationships that you have and what you DO in your life in a powerful way.

If you haven't decided who you want to be just yet - maybe it can be something you think about this year. And don't just come up with the words - find out what's at stake if you go outside of them. I think it will be life changing.