You’re Gonna Have to Hike…

“But you’re gonna have to hike.”

Little did she know that just days before as my team flew into the beautiful mountains of Haiti, I had looked longingly at the stunning mountain range and asked the Lord timidly, “Could I please go for a hike this week?”

I knew it was unlikely. We were traveling with a most efficient organization. Schedules would be unlikely to change, time would be unlikely to spare. An opportunity to leave the protected campus to gallivant in the mountains as my heart so desired would not avail itself, I was quite sure.

But boy, did I want to. I thought back on the opportunities I’ve had to travel this beautiful world, nearly every adventure has included time in the mountains. Coming from Florida, hiking was not a thing I grew up loving. Instead, it’s a love that has steadily grown through adventures abroad (and some stateside, too).

There was sadness in my heart as we flew into Haiti early that Wednesday morning and I gazed on the wonder around us. I thought briefly to the hikes I’ve taken abroad and felt again the tender way the Lord has spoken to me in the mountains. Knowing it was a foolish question, I asked again anyways: “Could I please go for a hike this week?”

I couldn’t help but giggle when Haley, the sponsorship coordinator at Mission of Hope, approached me at breakfast on our second morning to tell me she had arranged for me to visit the darling little girl I sponsor. But she was quick to explain:

“Idene lives at one of our partner schools in the mountains and it’s a little more involved for us to travel there. The whole visit will take several hours and to get there you’re gonna have to hike. The hike itself is an hour and half each way… If you don’t want to go, we understand.”

I’m gonna have to hike?

Oh, how sweet our Jesus is to us.

You hear a lot of things when you choose to go into ministry. It’s well intended, I imagine, but it gives your mind a bent toward pessimism and negativity.

I was told that business or teaching was a better career choice. I could just volunteer at church and achieve the same results. I was told I could use my intelligence for far more than ministry. I was told that people would hurt me. That ministry was messy. People wouldn’t love well. They wouldn’t listen. I would end up wasting much of my time. I was told people would talk about Jesus a lot more than they would act like him. I was told it wouldn’t be worth it.

They were right about the first part. Ministry is messy. People are manipulative and selfish. They say hurtful things – to you and about you. There were days and sometimes weeks that I dreamed of cushy 8-5, a job where I left my work at the office.

But no one tells you that pouring your whole heart into a group of students has the ability to wreck you in the best possible way.

No one tells you ice cream dates with fourth graders will be the highlight of your week. No one tells you that watching your students at “signing day” for a college sport will make you swell with more pride than your own finest day. No one tells you you’ll cry when you watch them share the gospel on a hot summer day in Haiti. No one tells you that you’ll beam as you watch them walk across the stage, and that you’ll wake up in the middle of the night wondering how they’re doing in college.

No one tells you you’ll cry the ugliest cry of your whole life as you drive away, with everything you own packed tightly in your little SUV. No one will tell you that leaving will be the hardest thing the Lord could ever ask you to do.

And no one tells you it will all be worth it.

People tell you it’s messy alright, and surely they aren’t wrong. But no one tells you how much better you will become. How deeply your heart will desire that they know Jesus. How quickly you would be willing to give up everything, if only they might trust Him with the pains & sorrows of their lives.

We’re quick to highlight the bad days and to discourage people from going knee-deep in the mess of another person’s life. We’re quick to tell people when it will be hard; when it won’t be worth it. Can I be the first to tell you?

You’re gonna have to hike.

Anything worth having in life – with the Lord and with others – is worth hiking for. You’re gonna have to hike…

To know Jesus intimately. To serve Him recklessly. To pursue the girl you can’t stop thinking about. To wait for the boy who seems to fumble through every word. To get the job you dream of. To create the family you long for. To be obedient. To be faithful. To grow. It will often be impractical and expensive. It will be easier to say ‘no’ and never think of it again.

That adventure into the Haitian mountains on a hot Monday morning was long, and it was hot, and we were wretchedly sweaty when we got to the top. My neck was purple from a sunburn and I was reminded how out of shape I truly am. Yet it is lodged in my heart as one of the dearest memories of my whole life. It was a hike, alright, but meeting Idene on her 5th birthday from a mountain top overlooking the nation of Haiti with the Caribbean Sea as a backdrop? I’d hike it again ten thousand times.

Whether you’re hiking through long days at camp, or volunteering to lead a middle school small group at church, or deciding if someone is worth it, or simply wading through a rough season personally…

Might we be quick to count others worth the mess. Might we be quick to invest, to love, to care deeply. To give all we have for the cause of others knowing and treasuring our precious King.

You’re gonna have to hike. And in case no one has told you yet, it’s going to be tremendously worth it.


Destination: Brazil.

We wandered the dusty streets of the market, weaving in and out of booths separated by cloth. Kiosks, tables, and men on the street each committed to selling their goods to the visitors. Our team of over fifty American teenagers must have been impossible to miss, but if there were disapproving glares from the natives, I was oblivious.

My pesos were burning a hole in my pocket & I had just discovered the wondrous concept of haggling. I could dispute the price of an item? I could offer to pay what I thought it was worth & walk away if you don’t lower the price enough? It became my favorite game & I won the prize of souvenirs for the ones I love back home.

In the summer of 2007, Jesus absolutely & utterly wrecked my heart for any semblance of the ordinary life I thought I might live. In the midst of feeling an urge to commit my life to full-time vocational ministry, yet having no idea what that would look like, I left North America for the first time. As I wandered the streets of Santo Domingo, meeting children, blowing bubbles, dancing, and laying the first stretches of a concrete sidewalk this community had ever seen, something in me changed. I knew in those moments that a life in suburbia would simply never do it for me.

It would never be enough.


In the seven years since my maiden voyage into missions, the Lord has graciously allowed me to travel to six different countries on six incredibly different trips. Learning a new culture, interacting with new people, worshipping with the beautiful souls that Yahweh has sprinkled across the globe is undoubtedly my favorite thing. Learning to articulate the promise of hope through Jesus Christ is a challenging & exciting task for me, and I am endlessly grateful for the grace He has shown to enable me to communicate His heart, despite my shortcomings.

Though a marriage & family is among my hopes & dreams, the season of singleness in my life has opened opportunities that I wouldn’t otherwise have! One of my favorite of those opportunities has been working at WinShape Camps in Rome, Georgia. Last summer I had the privilege of serving as the Worship Speaker for one of their girl’s camps. This gave me the wonderful responsibility of speaking every morning to nearly 100 elementary school girls. It was an absolute dream come true & I loved teaching God’s word to those darling little junior campers!


In addition to the summer camps that WinShape has in the states, the foundation also fosters a community of believers in Brasilia, Brasil. Each year, teams of camp staff travel to Brasilia to continue the ministry established years ago. By providing equipment & resources, the Christian community in Brasilia is enabled to expand their reach within the community. I have been invited to join one of the two spring teams & I am absolutely THRILLED.

As I am currently living and working with a youth ministry organization in Dallas, I see the Lord’s sweet hand in providing an opportunity for me to serve Him overseas. I am desperately committed to seeing young women walk in the freedom that Jesus has won for us on the cross, and my heart is forever torn between serving the women in my native country and the women in the countries that have won my heart.

I am grateful & humbled by another opportunity to go, and asking for your support to send me. I wish it didn’t seem cliché and insincere to say that I desperately desire your prayer above all else.

Your commitment to carry me through this journey by asking the Spirit to infiltrate my team & the community we will serve is my greatest need.

I know that Jesus has called me, and I know that Jesus will provide! Please hear my heart in this request – I need your prayer!! As with all things in life, it also takes finances to go. The WinShape Foundation makes it incredibly realistic for their staffers to partner on these trips! I will need to raise roughly $800 to join my fellow camp staffers on this journey. I’m excited to see how Jesus will provide as I work & raise support. If you are interested in partnering with me financially, you can do so here: Destination: Brazil.

As always, please don’t hesitate to contact me with questions or thoughts!! It would be my deepest delight to share more!

on earth as it is in Heaven,


When Yahweh Makes Me Coffee

One of the unrivaled joys of my life is the way that Yahweh makes me coffee.

You see, my Maker has crafted me to simply love a hot cup of joe. My addiction to the bean first started while serving on mission in Brazil. I can still smell the rich blend and see the liquid, black as the starless night, pouring from the pot to fill my mug in the morning. I didn’t drink coffee before that… it’s a life I try not to remember. 😊

Since that trip in 2009, I have grown to deeply love the way that coffee brings people together. Over coffee I have reconciled friendships, grown giddy with unexpected affection, written papers, read theology, watched movies, talked about Jesus, and shared stories. With laughter and tears, with new friends and old, in the morning, afternoon, and evening.

While in Malta last year, on one of my hardest days to date, my students invited me to her room at the refugee camp. She made me coffee and we talked about Jesus. It was a sweet way that Yahweh unexpectedly gave me that which I love most. {You can read more about that day here!}

Now in Fiji, I was struggling again, as I did in Vanuatu, with the way some of the methods we were teaching were playing out in the community. I confessed my frustration to my King, and my longing to see methods played out appropriately and effectively – something I had yet to see.

My prayers were expressed in conversation with Adina, my beautiful fellow intern from Romania. As we set out in the afternoon for our intentional gospel sharing time, we told each other of our struggles thus far. I said how much I wanted to see a relationship built with a family. She said how badly she wanted to see someone respond emotionally- not for the sake of tears, but because Jesus genuinely moved in their heart. We wanted to meet someone whose day would legitimately be better because we talked with them. Not an inconvenient nuisance, or burdened interruption, but a true blessing. Unimportantly, I mentioned that I was hungry. And off we went.

Totally by God’s leading, we ended up on a street and at the first home we passed, we saw a boy in the driveway. We told him we were helping with a church down the road and wanted to get to know some people in the area. He eagerly invited us inside where we met his brothers and grandmother, Kalo. We learned that Sam’s family had just returned to Fiji after living in the States for two years (which explains his incredible English!). We quickly discovered that Kalo is a strong believer, and she shared her beautiful testimony with us. We learned about her life and family, and she told us specific things that she needed prayer for.

When we finished praying, we opened our eyes to see Kalo weeping. She was so moved by our time together and so encouraged by our faith in Yahweh. She wiped her eyes and asked if we would stay for afternoon tea. She sliced bread and brought out butter and peanut butter.

We built a relationship. We saw true emotion and gratefulness… even in tears! She fed us. Every longing in our hearts was met in a stunning way.

Adina and I sat smiling across the table. It was easy to see Yahweh’s hand at work and hear His gentle whisper. Though it was tea instead of coffee, it was my King. Knowing what I love, seeing what I need, and stirring them together like the milk and sugar in my mug.


Malta: Final Report

Hi praying friends,

I must apologize for my delay in giving a final update. Finishing our time in the camps was emotional and challenging. It was incredibly difficult to walk away knowing that I will never see them again on this earth. It’s even more challenging to know that I might not see them again, if they never surrender to the Lord. It makes my throat tighten up even now.

I hate goodbyes. I hate the uncertainty, I hate the emotion, I just hate it. It’s even worse in this kind of circumstance. I spent two weeks pouring my heart out in the form of teaching. I sought desperately to communicate the gospel, but couldn’t articulate it enough.

Our last day in the camp was beautiful. When we arrived at the family camp in the afternoon, the women had set up our normal “school table” with a tablecloth, plates, cups, and covered food. They were all wearing their nicest dresses and make up (something they hadn’t done in two weeks!). It was evident that this was a special day.

We helped them finish cooking “dinner” and gathered around the table. It was such a sweet time and I fought back tears the entire time. Leaving is just so hard. We laughed as we ate salad, rice, fruit, and goat (yikes). They are just so sweet.

One of the camp directors was around and she told us later that she had never seen the women connect like that with a short-term team. Praise God for the relationships that He allowed us to build! I can truly say I loved those women as deeply as my heart is able and I long so much for the Lord to complete His work in them.

While we were in Valetta a few days before, we each bought a little gift for our students. After dinner I took Khadija aside and gave her a little gift, a picture of the two of us, and a letter. I bought her a blue scarf, and I got myself a matching one. I wore mine that last day and I told her that every time I wore the scarf I would think of her. She smiled so big! In the letter I took the opportunity to write out the gospel in the simplest way that I knew how. I wrote that I hoped she would keep the note until she could read and understand English. I told her I hoped she would find someone to translate for her.

I know it’s not much. It doesn’t even really seem productive. I’ve battled feeling inadequate and insufficient in our work and service. The good news is: I know they are lies. I read back over my first post where I said, “I care nothing if we see the fruit of this trip on this earth as long as I know that His word has gone forth.” Ya know, it’s really easy to say that before you go. It’s really easy to be hopeful in the beginning and to think that you’re going to save Malta in two weeks. It’s really easy to have confidence when you start seeing fruit.

It’s really hard to have a language barrier. It’s really hard to write the alphabet ten thousand times only to have her guess X every five seconds. It’s really hard when she stares at you blankly every time you say the name Jesus.

It’s hard, but the promise doesn’t change. I am confident that God is going to accomplish the purpose that He set for His words. I am so humbled that I got to be that mouthpiece, and I cannot imagine doing anything else for the rest of my life. I am confident that seeds have been planted and that Jesus is faithful to send someone to water those seeds. I don’t doubt for a single second that our time in the camps was filled with deep purpose.

I know that I cannot save. I know that Jesus can. Praise Him for that!! …and for a thousand other things.

Thank you so much for praying me through this trip. I could honestly go on for pages telling of the way that Jesus taught me during these three weeks. I very much anticipated doing a lot while in Malta, but I never would have dreamt that He would teach me so much about my own heart. He is surely doing a renovation in me and I anticipate the finished product.

I ask that you would continue to pray for the men and women that we served. I have hope that Jesus is going to harvest those seeds someday. My heart longs in a way I’ve never felt to see those women again. I want desperately for Jesus to send more people to them and I want them to be passionate about seeing His glory shine. There is a song I love called “What We Hope”, and I am claiming a line from that song:

“We’ll rest in what we don’t know, and we’ll speak of what we hope.”

That’s my banner, folks. I’m resting in the fact that I simply don’t know, but I will boldly proclaim the hope I have that Jesus will ransom their hearts and lead them to salvation.

Thank you, again. You mean so much to me!

in Christ alone,

The Invisible Team Members: A Story of God’s Faithfulness

Okay, people. Yahweh is most assuredly watching over us! I didn’t doubt that He was, but there is nothing quite so precious as when He makes it known! Check out how He showed us today…

After fighting a migraine Tuesday night and all day yesterday, I went to bed early hoping it would go away as I slept. In my hurting, I forgot to set an alarm…

In the bed next to me I found Hannah and Emily slept through their alarms and were still fast asleep…


Sleeping through all of the alarms left us very little time to get ready, eat breakfast, and catch the bus with the team, so Jordan suggested that we take our time and catch the 9:15 bus (instead of the 8:50 that the team takes). We gladly accepted his offer and the rest of the team headed to the bus stop.

Now, we bought 7-day bus passes last Friday and the bus driver gave us the resident discount (instead of the tourist price which is twice as much). We were very thankful, but were warned by Brielle (American missionary kid in Malta who has been living and serving with us… a precious new friend!) that it could cause us trouble if we encountered a ticket checker.

“Ticket checkers” are basically angry, mean men that work for Arriva, the bus company. They get on the buses randomly and check everyone’s ticket and grill the bus driver about who knows what. We haven’t been too concerned about them seeing as we’ve been riding the buses for over two weeks and we’ve never seen one.

Well, all that changed this morning.

We caught our first bus which takes us to the Marsa Park & Ride. This is where basically every bus in Malta connects. While Hannah, Emily and I were waiting at the Park & Ride for our second bus we saw angry, mean men in suits getting on and off every bus that stopped. Now would be a good time to imagine low, doomful music.

What’s worse than our resident priced tickets is what happened when Emily and Hannah taped their paper tickets to prevent tearing. Almost every bit of ink faded under the tape and you could only faintly see the valid date. We have had no issue for the last 4 days getting on and off buses several times a day. We knew that the ticket checkers, however, would not be so gracious. When our bus (which is a Mercedes Bens, by the way, but that’s not important…) pulled up we silently prayed that he just wouldn’t notice us or our problematic tickets.

The two angry, mean, ticket checker men got on the bus when it arrived. The first angry man went straight to the back of the bus to start checking tickets, while the other started checking the drivers credentials and what not.

The bus driver must have assumed that the angry, mean man would check our tickets because we walked right onto the bus. We walked to the back where there were 3 seats together (just beyond the angry, mean man). He stopped and looked at us with his angry, mean eyes, stepped aside, an motioned with his arms for us to walk past him.

That is, WITHOUT checking our tickets.

We sat down and looked at each other with wide eyes. “Holy cow, the team is not going to believe this!!” We were SO thankful.

We got to the camp and headed to the back room where the team was, as no students had yet arrived.

“We saw ticket checkers… Y’all aren’t gonna believe what happened.”

They all went silent and asked us to tell the story, which we recounted with a strong sense of victory in our voices.

They immediately smiled, looked at each other with confidence, and began to tell us their own experience with the angry, mean, ticket checking men.

Lauren had the same faded ticket problem from the tape, and the angry, mean man was NOT gracious at all. Apparently, he yelled, refused to believe it had a valid date, and gave her no option but to pay a fine and purchase a new ticket. He was so worked up about Lauren’s ticket that he ignored the resident priced tickets of the others. He charged them a fee of €10 and made her by a new 7-day pass (€12.50). The two of these charges together is roughly $45. All because of an angry, mean man… not because they did anything wrong!

They continued to tell us that they prayed for the angry, mean man to find joy. Knowing that Han and Em both had faded tickets, they knew that if we were also “caught” it would total charges of well over $100 (not the kinda cash we’ve got laying around by ANY means). So, they prayed also that we would simply be invisible to the angry, mean man.

Which is EXACTLY what God did!! The man motioned us to walk RIGHT passed him! Ah. So lovely.

I hope you’re encouraged by this teeny tiny story of God’s faithfulness. You need to know that God is good and His plan cannot be thwarted. You are absolutely incapable of messing up what He wants to do. Your willingness to be used for His kingdom (in ANY capacity) puts you in the perfect position for Him to accomplish wonderful things through you. Yes- fearful, broken you, with scars and painful memories and a thousand regrets. You are not too far from grace. You can be used.

Be willing. Be open. Be flexible. And know with absolute confidence that He has it worked out before you even discover there is a problem. Trust Him with your needs and watch Him do immeasurably more.

It’s truly the most wonderful thing.

I’m thankful still for your time and commitment. Please keep praying! Tomorrow is going to be a tough one as we say goodbye to our friends in the camp. Please pray for opportunities to verbalize the gospel and for boldness to take them.

I love you much,

Monday in Malta… Henna Tattoos!

Well, hey there!

I’m so thankful to again bring a joyful report! We started back in the camps this morning. Ruhia had an appointment and couldn’t come today, so I got to spend some extra time journaling and in the word. I (finally) finished Job on my journey through the OT (I’m way behind…), so I was awfully excited! I love the last couple chapters when Yahweh silences Job and declares His glory over the intricate world that He created. It’s so humbling to consider the servanthood of Job and the faithfulness of Yahweh to not only preserve him, but to teach him along the way. I love it. The end of Job also meant I got to start again in Psalms. Psalm 2 was particularly appropriate for me now.

Verse 8 reads, “Ask of me, and I will make the nation your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession.” Yes, the cry of my heart is that the island of Malta would see the glory and the goodness of the risen Lord. I pray that they will turn from their idol of religion and fall on their faces before the only true God. I would be so delighted if you would pause for a moment and petition the Lord for the salvation of the Maltese people.

Khadija was there this afternoon and we continued to practice writing and spelling her name. For some reason she has an incredibly  difficult time writing the letter on the lines of the paper. Instead, she scribbles the letters anywhere and everywhere on the page. It’s slow progress these days :)

We went for a little walk and I tried again to engage her in conversation about Jesus, but she simply could not understand. I’m praying for grace and trusting the Lord will accomplish His work. I am just a servant, and I know with certainty that my feeble efforts cannot thwart what He intends to do. I’m thankful that I get to be a part, however small, of His story in her life.

Our friend at the second camp, Faiza (a refugee from Ethiopia), invited us into her little room for a late lunch. She literally loaded our plates with a mix of: spaghetti (with a little bit of ground beef), salad (lettuce, onions, vegetable oil, olives), and french fries (potato slices cooked in oil (not as good as Daddy’s though!!!)). It was so sweet. We sat on the floor and shared a meal with this precious woman and her son. They are all so generous, despite having so little. It’s so humbling. She also gave me a scarf to try on and taught me how to wrap it around my head. She then exclaimed, “You’re a Muslim!” Haha, it was sweet.

After we ate Faiza gave us Henna tattoos on our feet! It was so fun to laugh and talk as our bodies became the canvas of her exceptional creativity.

We finished the day with a latte machiatto in Valletta, and rode the bus home. It was truly a lovely day :)

In other news, I’m learning to play guitar! I have a very gracious & patient teacher and we are having LOTS of fun :)

I’m praying God’s blessing on you precious people today. I can’t say enough how much your thoughts and prayers mean to me!

Love love,

“You are Muslim!!”
Truly the sweetest woman!!!
Latte Machiatto makes for a very happy Gwendo!
Me and the guitar are becoming fast friends…
Jaybo would be so proud of me! :)

Overdue Update!

I’m sorry for such a great delay in my updates! The week got away from us quickly! It’s amazing how fast time goes when you’re away… it seems as though we just arrived, but our time is truly almost over.

Before slumber wins the present battle, I want to update you and ask for your time!!

Last week ended beautifully as Ruhia correctly identified every letter of the alphabet!!!! Ya’ll! This is MAJOR progress. My prayer is that she retained it over the weekend. I’m looking forward to our time together this week. Please keep her, and our time together, in your prayers.

I still have mixed emotions about my time with Khadija (funny story: she was saying AND spelling her own name incorrectly… one of the women corrected her. Haha. Her name is Khadija [ka-dee-ja] ad we spent lots of time practicing how to say and write it!). Last Friday we were having our English lesson in her room. Towards the end of our time she decided she was done learning for the day, and she closed her notebook. We were sitting quietly for a moment when she noticed my tattoo and touched it. I read it aloud for her, “Life is Christ”, and found this as the perfect moment to begin a conversation about Jesus. I was using the most basic English possible as I presented the gospel, and she was nodding in understanding for much of it. She responded some and told me about her Muslim faith, but when I tried to dialogue and identify differences, she shook her head saying she couldn’t understand the English.

I know that Jesus is in control, and I know that he knows exactly what he’s doing. But it was so hard. I was so frustrated and went into the bathroom and just cried. I want so very badly to tell my sweet friend about the hope and peace that I have in Jesus Christ, and I couldn’t do that. I’m praying desperately for more opportunities, a deeper understanding of one another, and God’s grace to reign supreme. I would be so glad if you came alongside me in those petitions.

The weekend was great and included much needed rest. This morning we got to spend some more time with Mr. Doug Gresham (son of C.S. Lewis!) and enjoyed wonderful conversation (such a wise man) (so many stories)!

Tonight we had the privilege of serving a local youth group in their weekly service. We led worship as a team (a beautiful experience in itself), and then I had the deep honor of teaching God’s word. It has truly captured my heart and I was more than delighted to serve them. God really blessed me with that opportunity and I am so thankful. It was such a neat experience with a
translator! The Spirit was surely with us!

I should be asleep by now…

Again, I treasure your prayers and I am so indebted to you! You can see more neat pictures on the team blog at:

Goodnight! :)

H, Coffee, and Motorcycle Rides in Malta: The Perfect Day


We serve mighty and glorious God who loves us personally and intimately. Today I was amazed again by His precious love and the way that He speaks to me so sweetly. Refusing to allow me to stay in the place I am, He urges me ever onward until He is all I desire. Today was a manifestation of the divine at work and I am more than humbled to be a part of it.

Yes, I’m learning to find the beauty of the gospel wrapped in the package of the alphabet.

My morning in the first camp was lovely. Ruhia was there on time and ready to learn. I anxiously wrote the letters A through J, as we practiced yesterday, and hoped with every ounce of my being that H was retained in the night. A through G was perfect, and when I pointed to H she said, “X. No, H!”


Let’s be honest, this sweet woman says X for everything (which is unfortunate because it’s probably the least used letter in the English alphabet!). But she remembered!!! Before I even had a chance to respond she was correcting herself. I’m so proud of her.

This precious heart might not hear an articulate gospel presentation from me, but I am confident that she will know the alphabet by the end of the week, and I’m beginning to see the gospel in that.

While riding the bus today I was reading Shaney’s book through email on my phone, while listening to Jay’s music. I can’t help but brag about how proud I am of my precious siblings. Kelly just got a wonderful job in the city of all of our dreams (and Jason’s reality..). They are each are so amazing and I’m incredibly proud to be their sister.

The day only got better from there. Yesterday I met Kradga (pronounced Kra-dee-ja) in the afternoon camp. She is very smart and learns so quickly. She also had one of the most beautiful smiles I’ve ever seen. We had such a fun time yesterday giggling and learning the alphabet.

Armed with her pen and journal, she arrived right on time and was so excited to learn. After successfully identifying letters, their sounds, and numbers, I decided to take her outside on a walk to learn things like sky, trees, leaves, etc. She grabbed my hand and held it as we walked. I picked her a pink flower to help identify plants and colors (and because I wanted her to know she was so loved).

There was a man in the camp and Kradga started talking to him. I came to learn that he is a good friend to many in the camp. He is from Algeria and he came to Malta to play football, sought refugee status and was accepted; he speaks English very well and was very kind to talk to. Kradga was talking to him in Maltese and pointing at me. He stopped and said, “She loves you very much!” (Oh, my heart!) She kept talking. He told me that she wanted to make us coffee in her home upstairs.

We went upstairs to her sweet little home. It is smaller than my living room in Towers, and the bedroom that she shares with two other women is separated from the “kitchen” by a sheet hanging from the dresser. It was both humble and humbling. She made three cups of coffee and we sat and talked.

Muhammad is Muslim, but told me that he has been attending church for many years to learn the difference between Christianity and Islam. He asked why I was in Malta and I told him that while I wanted to teach English, I more so want them to know the love and joy that I have found in Jesus Christ and how it had changed my life. He translated that for Kradga and she smiled and nodded her head. This was right about the time that she had to attend another lesson in the camp and we all left. What a great start to conversation about Christ!

Now, my favorite thing in the world is to make a pot of coffee and enjoy conversation with old (or new) friends. How absolutely lovely was it that I not only got to share my purpose for being there, but with a cup of coffee, in my new friend’s little home, by means of a personal (Muslim!) translator.

God is good. And He is sweet. And He knows our hearts so intimately. He knows what we need and how we need it and how we can be the means of simultaneously giving others what they need. It is too beautiful. Please let Him do that in your heart and life. He will show Himself holy to you. He will meet your needs and exceed your wildest dreams.

We met up for dinner in Valletta with the rest of the team (who goes to a different camp in the afternoon). Then we went to the prayer house for a weekly meeting. The Maltese church members prayed over our team and it was powerful and moving. My heart was rid of selfish desires and prideful tendencies. Forgiveness. Restoration. Love. Grace. Mercy. So underserved. My cup overflows.

As if this day wasn’t wonderful enough, Eve (our missionary) said that one team member would have to ride home with Ben (her husband)… on his motorcycle. Naturally, I volunteered for the adventure! I now understand why folks are so set on driving those ever so dangerous forms of transportation… it was SO dang fun!!!!

Ah. The perfect day.

I lay my head to rest with a full heart, anxiously awaiting the rest of our time. And I thank you profusely for keeping up with me. It means more than words in a blog could ever express.

God bless you precious people,

The Letter H

In the weather report of my heart,  yesterday was dark and stormy with a high tornado warning and unstable shelter. Today, on the other hand, was sunny and warm with cotton candy clouds and a light breeze. Yesterday I went into the camps anticipating great conversations and gospel presentations. I was disappointed and discouraged when Ruhia couldn’t remember anything after the letter D.

As I was talking to Jesus last night He sweetly reminded me that this journey of faith is not short for a reason. I’m learning to be still and to be patient because He is preparing me for a future that only He knows. These lessons are precious and valuable and I don’t want to wish them away. I was refreshed and restored by my time with Him.

This morning, right before the students arrived for English lessons in the first camp, I read two emails (one from Mom and one from Dad) that were such a gift. Here’s a piece of what Daddy said:

“Jenn, I would give anything to go with you today and share the good news of our Redeemer to those in the camp. However I am once again finding that my position as a ransomed member of the house of God is to cheer you on. So sweet lady, today go strong, go bold, go totally abandoned to our Jesus. He alone will fill you with his PEACE and me with the JOY of knowing you serve our King with all your might.”

Saying I have the best parents on the planet is a gross understatement. For me to read this right before I entered a battle in which my adversary is seeking to steal, kill, and destroy every ounce of my joy and peace was a profound blessing.

I went into my work today ready to conquer the enemy and stand tall with hope. Wanting not to teach Ruhia the entire English language, but seeking only for progress. If I left today and she knew the letter E, I would be so satisfied. She arrived right on time and we began again with the alphabet. We learned all the way to J!!! Praise God!

Actually. That’s kind of a lie. We learned to J, not counting H. For a reason I simply cannot understand, this sweet Somalian woman can’t remember H to save her life. Having just gone through the process of learning Greek, I felt like I could understand the process of learning a little bit better (how neat for God to orchestrate that!). I was focusing on repetition, so I would write a letter on the little white board and have her say it. I started to do H every other letter because she knew the others so well. Y’all, H might as well have been Hebrew. She would look at it, (mind you: just moments after correctly identifying it) and with a blank stare say, “Um, X? No, M. No, S?” I almost giggled every time because it was so random! But rather than being frustrated (like yesterday…), I was hopeful and anxious for her to understand. Every time she correctly said “H” I would do cartwheels in my mind. I’m so proud of her progress and confident that she will know the alphabet before I return home!

Before I get hasty, tonight I am simply praying for the letter H. I might cry from excitement if I arrive tomorrow and she knows it. But even if she does not, I am thrilled for the opportunity to teach her the other letters.

That is just a snippet of what we experienced today. The stories we hear of their travel to Malta are mostly heartbreaking. So much turmoil and so much pain. Be in prayer for healing and restoration as they share these things with us.

So, dear friends, this is my mantra: I will go strong. I will go bold. And I will go totally abandoned to my sweet Jesus.

Thank you for committing to bring us before the throne. We truly need your prayers to carry us. I love y’all something fierce, and I’m so glad to be your sister and co-laborer!

Much, much love,
in Christ alone,

p.s. here’s a picture of me and Ruhia learning our ABC’s! :) She’s lovely. There are more photos where you can see her sweet face, but right now I do not have access to them. They will come soon :)

Learning to Trust.

Hello sweet friends,

Today was our first official day of work in the camps. We were up pretty late last night preparing for our time over the next two weeks. Our main work is teaching English to refugees in various camps across Malta.

We were all in the same camp this morning teaching English one-on-one. The boys were in one room and the girls in another, while a couple of the girls babysat the sweet little children of our students.

I was anticipating that the students would have at least a basic understanding of English, and we would just teach them new vocabulary, American slang, and some conversational phrases perhaps. All with the hope that through our conversation we would have the opportunity to share the gospel with them. Some of the students were at that level and neat relationships began, but others unfortunately were not.

I was super discouraged today by the lack of understanding that my student had. It truly would not have been much different if I had walked into a village in Somalia and tried to communicate with a woman there. The only English she knew was “A, B, C, D.” She guessed pretty much every other letter to be E or X. She could repeat anything I said, but she didn’t know what any of it meant. I would say, “You are Ruhia.” She would repeat, “You are Ruhia.” “No, I am Yenni (foreigners always default Jennifer to Yenni, not matter how many times I sound out “Jennifer”.. I figured I’d save the struggle), you are Ruhia.” “I am Yenni, you are Ruhia.” was her retort. See what I mean? It was just frustrating because she genuinely doesn’t know anything and she can’t do anything about it.

Ruhia is from Somali and has been in Malta for about 5 months. She has a six month old son who was born on the boat on her way here.

When refugees arrive they are placed in a closed camp (detention center) while they defend their reason for being here. You are allowed to seek refuge in another country from a war torn country or if you are suffering from religious persecution. Aka: you can’t leave just because you “want a better life.” When they arrive here they have to prove that they have a valid reason for being in Malta. They are also fingerprinted upon arrival. If they end up somewhere else they are sent back to Malta (or wherever they were fingerprinted).

It is so difficult to attempt to teach someone with no common foundation of language at all. I wish so badly I that could learn Somali overnight. I wish I was a better communicator.

I desperately want the opportunity to tell her about Jesus and the beautiful hope that I have in Him. I want her to understand Him and experience His love and right now none of that is possible. One of my teammates was sweet to remind me that she IS seeing Jesus through my patience and love. That will have to be enough for now.

I humbly ask that you would pray against the spirit of discouragement that fights to overpower my joy. Please pray that I will be content loving on these women by teaching them the alphabet and how to say their names. Please pray that I would have patience and trust. (I am quite certain that the Lord is preparing me for a time in life where I will need to display a mighty amount of trust and faith in Him. Just about every lesson in my life right now is focused on learning to trust Him without answers. I’m anxious to see what He is preparing me for.)

I wish I could express in words how deeply grateful and thankful I am for you prayers. They mean SO much to me.

Much love and only in the power of my precious Savior,