Barriers and Barricades

My Best Friend-In-Law was talking to a large group of teenagers overlooking the Caribbean Sea at eight in the morning when it finally hit me, ‘I am here…I am in Puerto Rico’. I have been waiting so long to finally be here and yet it took me a couple days for it to finally sink in that this is where I will be for the next four and a half months. Its been about a week and I have already had a breakdown, a tears-soaked pillow and thoughts of returning home. You see, I had been preparing myself for this adventure for some months now, or so I thought I was. I don’t think I actually prepared for how hard it would be though. I was preparing for an adventure in a new place, a fresh start, but with some familiar faces. The idea of the familiar faces being there made it all a lot less scary but it also blinded me to the reality of hardships. I was blinded to the fact that there was still a huge roadblock, a wall that I needed to climb and wasn’t sure that I could.

My first full day in Juana Diaz was very relaxing. I had just come in late the night before from a long day of traveling so I slept until I couldn’t sleep any more (which for me was about 11:30am and I was so proud of myself for sleeping that long). Believe it or not, I slept really well. I have been blessed immensely with a room of my own and air conditioning. Praise God from whom ALL blessings flow. I spent most of the day settling into my new “home” and getting comfortable. Early that evening we met up with the current group for dinner (Every week there is a new “group” that comes down to help work at Camp Caribe for “Missions Trips”). We went to a nice indoor/outdoor restaurant and I ignored the language barrier because everything was still new and fun.

The next day we woke up bright and early to a very warm sun and heavy, thick air. We headed to camp for morning devotions and to say goodbye to that weeks group. It was only day two and I was already experiencing some of the islands best treasures. April introduced me to Domplines (Dome-plee-nays) for lunch, where she taught me how to order by myself in spanish, and Frappes (fr-AH-pays) for a refreshing dessert before dinner. The fun and adventures only continue on to day three as we had woken up to the alarm system man here to check the security (aka- set off the alarm multiple times first thing in the morning) and then the power going out shortly after his departure. On a tropical island with no power, you venture out to find cooler temperatures. I was excited to learn that April would be taking me to her favorite little coffee shop in a town I have been anxiously awaiting to visit. After sitting in Con Leche for a while we decided to head home and check the power and if we would be home for dinner that night or going out. We were going out that night as the power was still out and by time it did come on, the food items for dinner would be questionable. So, I had my first ever Famous Dave’s visit. Praise the Lord once again for the power and the air conditioning I have been blessed with during my time here in Puerto Rico.

The next morning was Sunday. Honestly, the day I had been dreading. I woke up still unsure of whether I even wanted to go to church or not. I was terrified. I showered with fear and got dressed in doubt and headed to church already discouraged. No doubt would I arrive and now know how to talk to the people who have been waiting to meet me, or be able to sing and to worship the God that I was so sure wanted me in this place, or be able to listen and grow from the sermon that morning. I cried through the worship service and walked out half way through the sermon to find comfort in my moms voice and wisdom.

I was a mere four days into my adventure in Puerto Rico and I was already having a breakdown. Did I misinterpret God calling me here? Was this not supposed to be my preparation for my next adventure I thought He was calling me to? I just assumed the language barrier here wouldn’t be such a big deal when I knew people who did know the language. I honestly didn’t even consider the fact that I would be completely out of my element trying to go to church. Discouragement, fear, doubt and weakness consumed me and I was ready to pack my bags and go home. I wanted to barricade myself so that no one could remind me of my failures and shortcomings. Hidden from laughter and humiliation that anyone could throw my way because I thought I was supposed to be here. But surely, God would not have called me to this. He would not call me to a place to spread His love when I cannot even communicate to the people of the Island, to tell them of His love. And if He is not calling me here, why would I think He would call me to an internship in Rwanda?

Monday came and I loved getting the opportunity to work with the current American group that came to serve with Camp Caribe. But time passed quickly that day and soon enough it would be time to open up Club Maravilla and I was already prepared to be discouraged and fearful. Full of doubt I got into the van to help pick up kids and bring them back for a few hours of games and crafts. I had allowed this fear and doubt to completely consume me so I sat there watching. I watched as an American group who knows less Spanish than I do interacted with the kids. Four Square, is pretty much an international language. And so is love.

Let’s be real, I am not encountering persecution and Timothy had a life of teaching that was so much harder than I have it right now, but the breath of God is the breath of God and his word is true to encourage a multitude of people. So I sat there trying to demolish my spirit of fear with the word of God because “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of sound mind” (Timothy 1:7). This repeated in my head as I stood in the four square line to kick some Puerto Rican kids butts. Which did not happen, by the way, because these kids are competitive and out for the kill.

Sunday is coming quickly and I find myself in the pickle every time I think about it. I naturally consume with fear and am ready to run as far away as possible at the drop of a dime (or nickel or penny or whatever coin you want to drop first). I have less than twenty-four hours to decide whether I go or not and I am still smack dab in the middle of the decision. I guess all that there is left to do is give it up to God and pray about it because I don’t think I can go into that church alone.

 

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The Fools Who Dream

I wish I could remember the exact moment in life when I knew that I wanted to be a missionary. When I realized my passion to help others. Or when I knew I was to devote my life to Christ. Truth is, I think those moments weren’t really “moments” at all. They were always just a part of my being. These passions and desires had been forming within me since my beginning. Because He knit me together in my mothers womb and He formed my inward parts (Psalm 139:13). Because the work of His hands are wonderful, various and complex, each living thing made in wisdom (Psalm 104:24). God was with me from the beginning, from my conception, my first heartbeat, my first breath, and he numbered my days before me (Psalm 139:16). I have always wanted to love.

Has anyone seen the Rogers and Hammerstein’s version of Cinderella? I watched the Brandi and Whitney Houston (and Whoopi Goldberg) version on repeat growing up. Seriously, when I fell in love with a movie I watched it non-stop. Ask my brother who can quote movies like Grease and Dirty Dancing due to my incapability of watching anything other than what movie I was currently obsessed with. Anyway- there is a part in the movie where the stepmother says “I’ve always been told I’ve got too big a heart” and the Calliope and Minerva in unison respond “You’ve got too big a heart, Mother”. This part always made me giggle because, lets be honest, it was far from the truth. This stepmother who cared too much about social climbing and outward appearance lacked genuine love. Even towards her own daughters. Sometimes I joke and throw around that line from the movie when I find myself overwhelmed with love and compassion. Because sometimes, I just feel like my heart is going to explode! And this can happen with even the tiniest of moments. I once cried for 20 minutes in a car ride home because my mother ran over a chipmunk. Or squirrel. Or a raccoon. Or something. Point of the story, “I’ve always been told I’ve got too big a heart”.

So, since I was in middle school I had this grand plan for myself. I was going to attend Moody Bible Institute where I would pursue a degree in Intercultural Studies and live my life loving those in desperate need and living happily ever after. In middle school, I also assumed the only mission field was Africa and so naturally I would fall in love with an African Native, have children who also wanted so desperately to love others. To quote my new favorite movie and probably the only movie I will watch for a while, “Here’s to the fools who dream”! Am I right? Apparently God’s plan for your life is not always what you had planned for yourself. I ended up attending Grace Bible College where a pursued a degree in music…I’m not kidding. Go ahead, say what your thinking because I’ve heard it all a million times and I have said it to myself even more. “What on earth are you going to do with a Worship Arts degree if you don’t want to be a Worship Pastor in a church?” right? You’ve got me! I have no idea. Whatever it is I am supposed to do with this crazy life, I am going to do it loving others.

Fortunately for me, Love is the bibles greatest story. God’s love is displayed throughout the entire bible. He made covenants with His people, He blessed them, He gave them (us) the greatest gift imaginable and all out of love. And because He loves, we love (1 John 4:19). That is one thing I have always known in the depths of my heart, is to love. This love has held me victim to those who have not always known it, and though I have always known love, I have not always shown it and that is where Christ enters in. He picks us up and resurrects our messes into beauty.

Unfortunately, Love is not an affection shown world-wide. To make that even more real, love is not an affection shown state-wide. Or city-wide. Or even in your hometown. There are dark homes that lie in the midst of the light and are surrounded by chaos and selfishness, and that is where our ministry lies. Each and every one of us is part of a grander plan that is yet so simple. To love others, because He first loved us.

This is a burden that has always been heavy on my heart. Because I know that I love so deeply, and care so much, and there are people in this world and in our backyards who have never experienced that love. During much of my life I could have been doing something about this burden. I could have shed my pride and selfishness and loved so many people who needed it most but instead, I cared too much. I cared too much about what others thought of me. I cared too much about avoiding rejection. I cared too much about failing myself over and over again when people would have rather received love from someone, anyone, else other than myself. I’ve spent very little of my time so far not caring about the world and its societal expectation while showing others the love that Christ has to offer. However, God’s grace is sufficient and His forgiveness is ever flowing. So her I am now, listening to the burden of my heart and following God’s leading.

This summer, I will be moving to Puerto Rico with my best friend (And Grace Ministries International Missionary) April Lorenz. April runs an after school center called Club Maravilla, where she spends her days loving children in a broken community who do not know what love is. She teams with an american camp, Camp Caribe, and their Missions Adventure Teams (run by none other than her Fiancé, so thats cool I guess) who make visits to Club Maravilla to laugh, play, hug, and teach these children. I will be volunteering my time between both of these ministries, loving Children and also giving a helping hand to Camp Caribe’s Mission Adventure Teams. I will leave for Puerto Rico on June 7th and will return the second week of October.

I do not know my future for I am simply taking one step at a time and trusting God’s will and provision for my life. There is a chance that when I come back in October for my best friends wedding, I will turn right back around to my new home in Puerto Rico. There is a chance that I will come home and stay in Michigan until God reveals His next steps. There is even a chance that I come back to Michigan for the wedding, and turn around and head in the next direction God has called me to. Like I said, I don’t know what God has in store for me. Not right now. All I know is that I desperately want to know Him more, I passionately want to love others, and that God will provide for me every step of the way. I just have to keep moving forward.