Monday, June 24, 2013

Saying Goodbye and Swallowing Pride.

This has been a sad week for my friends here:
This week we said goodbye to our friend, Sega, who has been close friends with The workers here basically since they moved to Bosnia. On Saturday morning, Sega ended his battle with liver cancer. Though I did not spend a ton of time with Sega, I do not that every second spent with him was a joy. From doing corny push ups on the wall of the house while he waited on us, to almost getting run over by a semi while doing aerobics in the road, Sega kept us entertained. His kindness will never be forgotten among those whose lives he touched.
Another dear friend to The full time workers lost her husband yesterday morning. They have been spending their time trying to comfort these two families and helping them out in any way possible.

I say all of this to say that though I have only been in for a little under 2 weeks, this summer has been nothing like I thought it would be. But I am now realizing that that is OKAY.

My selfishness has been in overdrive this week, and I am embarrassed to even share this. The in the past few days, two sweet families' lives were being changed forever and all I could think about is when I'm going to be able dive into my projects for the next six months. Sometimes, I get so caught up in whether or not I'm being "used" by God and I'm not even giving God room to use me in the place that He needs me most.

God has a way of smacking us in the face with hard truths in times of extreme selfishness. As believers, we want to believe that God has a huge and complex plan for each and every second of our lives...

Church, we've missed the point.

Yes, we are vessels of love. Yes, we are the hands and feet. Yes, God has given us purpose. But, am I so crazy for thinking that maybe God doesn't have a specific plan for our lives? Am I crazy for thinking that God doesn't present us with a right or wrong path when it comes to college, jobs, etc.? Why do we have to limit God's ability to move in our lives?

To relate back to my situation: Why do I believe that I have to be in a specific outreach/role to be effective here? Answer: I shouldn't, and I think this belief is rooted deep within the pride of believers today. Maybe what God is trying to teach me is to be in the moment and not to limit His ability to move in my everyday conversations and actions. After all, our God-given purpose is to solely live it out and tell of the hope that He has given us. If we are doing that in whatever place or situation we may find ourselves in, I truly believe that God is at work.

All of this craziness to say, God can use you wherever you are. Quit worrying about pleasing Him with your decisions on where to go in the future and live out your God-given purpose NOW. Own the lostness around you and just live for Him.

Note: I'm not saying that God doesn't call certain people to certain places to work. I'm simply saying that many believers are wasting precious time trying to figure their direction out, while they missing the chance to let God move in their current setting. God is not limited to our situations.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Things to Come.

This week, my team sat down with the full-time workers here to discuss options for the rest of our time here. I will be spending the next 6 months with two wonderful girls, both of whom are staying in Bosnia for a year. Coming to Bosnia, all I knew was that I needed to fulfill my teaching English but that certainly is not all I wanted to do while I was here.

Before I came to Bosnia, I knew that whatever I did overseas, I wanted to work with special needs. In Haiti, that was an easy ministry to get into because there was a special needs orphanage right now campus. The Miriam Center is such an incredible ministry and it was a blessing to be able to be apart of ministry there all of that summer. Like in Haiti, people with special needs are somewhat outcasts in society in Bosnia. Until recently, there really wasn't any programs or intuitions to work with them. Not knowing if there was even an option to do so, I asked the full-timers if there was any chance of me connecting with a special needs program here and they said YES! I will be going with Jeff (full-time worker) to check out a place where I potentially serve for the next 6 months.

Another wonderful surprise that should be starting up soon are accordion lessons. Words cannot even describe how happy I am about this! Jeff told me the possibilities of this happening. The most likely option would be to trade me teaching English classes for accordion lessons from a man up in one of the villages I will be working in. No matter what, I will find a way for this to happen. I was made to play the accordion!

Lastly, our team will be conducting a women's health conference in Pepelari. Breast cancer is the number one killer of women in Bosnia. We will be teaching the women how to give themselves mammograms and teaching them practical ways to ensure that they are keeping themselves as healthy as possible. I am so excited to spend a few days in Pepelari and it has been said that the women will be teaching us folk dances while we are staying there.

Basically, for the next 6 months I will be learning language, teaching English, learning new skills, and trying to make friends with younger people in the city. Jeff and Beth kept telling us longer term interns that their goal for us is to become as independent from them as possible. Therefore, I'm hoping to have a lot of coffee dates and a lot of home visits in the coming months. AND I hope to be able to play you all some awesome folk songs when I get back :D

Thank you all for the prayers and support. I'm only a week in and so excited for the things to come!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Leaving on a Jet Plane

Day 1 of this awesome adventure was split between the 12th and 13th as a travel "day." I am beyond exhausted but I am safe and sound in Bosnia.  Here is a little something that recounts the traveling day that was written on the runway in Sarajevo, my final destination:

One of my biggest fears coming into this trip was making the journey to Bosnia alone. I've learned that traveling alone can be a lot fun though. So many nice strangers looked out for me by doing everything ranging from retrieving one of my bags that I left at security and to making sure I got to my gate for my flight even when this man was late for his. Kindness is all around and my faith has (somewhat) been reinstated. It's amazing how God provides in our seemingly biggest times of needs. I've never traveled internationally alone and have been dreading it for weeks. There are just so many things that could happen that could have left me stranded half-way around the world all alone. God has humbled me today. He took me way out of my comfort zone and has dropped me in the mercy of nameless strangers.

So to the guy who climbed half of an escalator to retrieve my forgotten carry-on... thank you. To the kind women who held my hand in the strongest turbulence I've ever experienced... thank you. To the man who put himself at risk of missing his own flight to make sure I got to mine... thank you (my parents probably appreciate it even more than I do!)  Lastly, to my new friend from Moldova, who made my 8 hour flight fun... thank you. Completely blessed by this traveling experience and hoping it's setting the tone for the rest of my 6 months!

Thank you for every thought and prayer as I headed into today. God truly answered in small but significant ways. Please continue pray for me as I go along with through this journey that God has presented me with.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Hold On.

This week, my family relived the day that my aunt was senselessly taken from this world a year ago. I still remember that call, almost to exact verbatim. There I was, in Louisville, for my week-long internship training and I was going to on a plane to Bosnia in less than 3 days. My world froze. The thing I remember feeling the most was helplessness to comfort the ones I love the most in their despair...

Here we are, one year later. Still broken, but still fighting to not let the evil of this world triumph. This year has grown me more than any before. I wasn't very close with my aunt, but I certainly loved her and the ones she loved most. I've felt more emotions than I knew I had the capability of feeling. I've learned to love better and fiercer. I've also learned about the Father and His love for us... finite, angry, messy, prideful, and imperfect humans.

When tragedies happen, why are people so quick to blame God? For the longest time even before my aunt was murder, I was haunted by the question, "Why do horrible things happen to good people?" and "Why would God allow such a thing to happen?" The answer is simple: This world is a cold, evil, and vile place that is "not under" God's authority. This world is Satan's playground and his forces are at work to cause any destruction he can.

Some may look at that answer and think that it is a cop out. However, this is clearly displayed through Jesus' temptation in Luke 4. How did Satan gain His power over the world? People fell to temptation. God is holy, which means "set apart." God cannot have a part in anything unholy. God did not want or allow Michelle to be cruelly murder. God does not desire for us to feel pain, depression, or anger. So, He did something about it and that is what allows me to celebrate Michelle a year later with hope for the future.

God redeemed us and defeated death.... HALLELUJAH! The chains are broken and we are free. Christ went to the cross with the sorrow of a mother that lost her child, with the evil of a dictator that slaughters half of a races population, with the cruelty of the man who took my aunt's life and with every conceivable evil in this world. And you know what that means? He ANNIHILATED it. It is defeated and has no power over those who love Him. He is the rock on which we can stand even through the darkest, most severe storms that this world can throw at us.

In closing, the simple words of an Of Monsters and Men song come to mind when thinking of this past year and wear my family is now:
The rocking of his house
Had me holding on,
But I knew that I was safe
From there on out.
-From Finner by Of Monsters and Men
As Tony Campolo said in one of our school's chapels this year, "It may be Friday, but Sunday is coming!" In other words, we may not see any good in the situation that we are facing in the present, but God has already beat evil. Hope is here, now, and forever. Amen.