Thursday, November 20, 2014

Then You Will Know

For a long period of time in my life, I used to only open my Bible to the New Testament; the only times I read out of the Old Testament was if I was looking at Psalms or Proverbs. I think my tendency to read so frequently out of the New Testament was because it is easier to me. It made sense, the language was more common, and quite frankly I enjoy reading about Jesus and the New Law. However, last spring after attending the VERGE conference in April, I decided to 'reevaluate' my spiritual life. I began praying that I would know and have a better understanding of what faith was. As I began to pray, I couldn't help but feel the Spirit pulling at my heart strings to examine the faith of the individuals of the Old Testament. So I embarked upon the journey of studying and examining such individuals and the ways that God transformed their faith.

This journey is one I hope to continue on for the rest of my life. As I spend more time reading out of the Old Testament, and it becomes more familiar to me, I am starting to enjoy it more and more. The Old Testament is no longer 'intimidating' to me. As I warmed up by studying the popular characters that I had grown up hearing about, I decided at the beginning of the semester to read a book, that wasn't so familiar to me. So I began the journey of reading through the book of Ezekiel. For those of you who have never taken the time to do so, I would recommend it. I think there are so many ways God reveals himself throughout the entire book. Three weeks ago, I finished reading through the entire book. As I finished, I realized that the book of Ezekiel, and a common theme I saw as I read through it, was extremely applicable to my life. A phrase that appears repeatedly throughout the book is one that has stuck with me throughout this semester, 'then you will know, that I am the Lord, your God.' I lost count of how many times God says such a thing to the people throughout the book, but it has to be at least 50. That's right 50 times. So what does that mean to you? Well to me, it meant it was certainly important. God did many things to reveal himself to his people, whether it was through destruction or delivery, he was constantly working so that the people would know that he was the Lord. So, as I do with any scripture I read, I try and relate it back to my life now. Since this summer, I've been making more of an effort to realize what God is doing in my life at this very moment; rather than looking back and realizing weeks later. This semester has been a difficult one, but a good one all the less. I've seen a lot of changes in my life, and more importantly I've grown to recognize that I know God has been at work all a long. When I see success in my new major, I'm reminded and I know confidently that the Lord is my God. He delivered me and carried me through a difficult time when I was trying to follow the plans of my own heart so that one year later  I could recognize and know that he is my God. When I see one of my HYPE kids ask a question about the Bible, or remember a Bible verse, I'm reminded that the Lord is my God. You get it. There have been so many circumstances, conversations, and people that helped me to better know that the Lord is my God. So as I read through the book of Ezekiel, I was thankful that as God helped the people back then to recognize that he was their Lord, he is still able to do the same for me today. 

Friday, October 3, 2014

Then & Now

2 months ago today, I watched as my 6th session campers packed their bags and drove out of the gates of Camp Deer Run. 12 hours later, I would leave, too, with my jeep loaded down with my belongings from the past ten weeks. My cheeks were tear-stained, and I questioned, as I do every summer, how could I possibly go back to the 'real world.' I was afraid, and fearful that I would forget. I'd forget how my heart had been molded; I'd forget memories; I'd forget the 'closeness' I had come to know with God. I was afraid that my 'dependency' on God would translate back into my own independence, the whole "I can do everything on my own" as I came back to Aggieland. That night as I left, I left a part of my heart; every time I leave camp, I seem to leave another piece of it in the piney woods. It is waiting for me I know, and I can feel it every time I return to that holy and beloved ground.

2 months later, I haven't forgotten. Something has been different about my life since this summer. My friendships with my fellow staff seem to have been more deeply rooted, and by this I mean a day doesn't go back that I don't talk to or pray for one of my friends from camp. My campers have been in contact with me more than ever. There's something wonderful about continuing relationships outside of the setting of camp. I love being able to listen, console, and pray for my campers while they are in the real world too. It makes me feel like nothing has changed.  

But everything has changed. I no longer get up at the crack of dawn and begin my day at flagpole devo as I hurriedly try to come up with a phrase or song for my girls to sing to the group leader. I know longer eat three wonderful meals, have three canteens, or have a hot dog roasted over a fire every week. I don't have the pleasure of worshiping in shorts and t-shirts multiple times a day. Instead, I sit in class after class, trying my best to focus on what my teachers are teaching me, all the while my mind is wandering back to the piney woods. I find myself thinking about the times where I couldn't do it anymore, and would spend dinner time crying in the deep freeze, until one of my best friends would come and pray over me. I remember being on so many medications, and asking God why I was becoming more and more ill right in the middle of the summer. As I sit in statistics, I can't help but change my problems into questions relating to camp, I mean what do you think the probability is that I will ever get to kill a snake at camp when it's known I'll most likely see 3 or 4? You get it. My mind wanders back to my home.

So what am I doing? What are you doing sitting in class or working day by day? Are you simply reminiscing and allowing your mind to wander? There have been many times where I catch myself thinking that my work was done the moment I left camp, but that isn't true. Or at least it doesn't have to be! Yes, I am a summer counselor. Yes, it's a summer job, but if you are willing, you can let it overflow into every aspect of your life.

As I left camp this summer, I thought to myself, the things I'll miss most are praying with people, whether it be staff or camper, daily. I'll miss the constant correspondence with my friends. I'll miss my closeness with God. I'll miss my campers. Then it hit me. I don't have to miss these things, when I have the opportunity to make them a day-to-day reality. I can still pray with people while I'm in school. I can text, call, or write my friends. I can seek God and pray that I will continue to draw near to Him. I can most certainly continue to minister to my campers, as I'd urge any counselor to do because honestly it takes more than a week or two to do so properly! I can find other ways to make my summer job year round. I'm involved with HYPE, which gives me the opportunity to teach. I actually had the opportunity to write the curriculum this year, and you can bet that I got my idea for our lessons this semester from camp. Camp comes and goes. It may be the best week, two weeks, or ten weeks of your summer. But the lessons learned at camp can be year-round.

So, it makes it easier. It's easier for me to continue living when I incorporate camp into my every day. Life is short-lived dear friends. It comes and it goes, and I don't have the time to sit around and 'miss camp' or be sad that the summer has ended, when I have the opportunity to continue growing. My junior year is going great. My sister is here now, and she loves college! Praise God for that alone. It is so good to have a piece of home with me here always. I love her eagerness to serve, and it is wonderful to see as God continues to grow our relationship. My classes are wonderful... well not statistics, but who cares about that one anyway. I'm finally in classes where I am learning about things that interest me and will benefit my future in nursing. Something new, I am babysitting a 4 month old now. I love it. This is my first time to work with a baby, and it has been a challenging, but so rewarding job, if you can even call it that. Church is getting better. I'm learning to prepare myself every time I enter the doors. I am overwhelmed with God's faithfulness. I am grateful for my sweet and dear friends who always find a way to lift my spirits and never cease to stop encouraging me. I am overwhelmed with God's goodness, and am finally able to see just how great his plan is for me. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Summer Reflections

I've had 20 days. 20 days to reflect, recover and rediscover who I want to be. In 20 days my life has changed from a full-time summer counselor living in a hot, un-airconditioned cabin in the piney woods of East Texas, to a life where I am back sitting in class trying not to become overwhelmed with school and the many activities I have going on. It's crazy to me just how much life has changed in such a limited amount of time, but I am thankful for the time I have had to process the events of the summer. It is such reflections, such self-discoveries that I am excited to finally write about.

The Lord our God did wonderful things this summer. I am sure many campers were impacted, but I, too, felt and bore witness to the ways that God molded and strengthened my heart.  It was in my weakest moments, the times where I felt most vulnerable that God did some of his best work in my opinion. In 2 Corinthians, "for my power is made perfect in weakness" has always been a statement that I hold dear to my heart. I take joy in knowing that God can make something beautiful out of my biggest flaws and insecurities, that in the ashes I make of my life, God's beauty can still be seen. It is such idea that I shared with my girls over the course of the summer. Through my 5 weeks of counseling in particular, I tried to share with my girls the ways that God worked through my past mistakes, through my weaknesses. I strongly believe in open honesty with my campers, and I believe that by sharing in my struggles with my campers it created a trust that is still evident today. Actually, I don't believe,  I know. I know that in moments where I bore my heart with campers, that they were encouraged to open up too. I know that in a moment where I couldn't handle any more 'girl drama' that God was using such petty drama as a gateway for me to hear and see a deeper struggle within my 14 year old's life back home. It always appeared to me this summer that in the moments where I wanted to wave my white flag and surrender, those moments where I couldn't handle anything else, the breaking moments, that God used my campers to reach me in a powerful way. The breaking moments, were always the times were God so evidently touched my heart, and taught me the biggest lessons. In my weakest times, God's power was always made known to me, because I knew that it wasn't me. It wasn't me bringing out the struggles being faced, or the revelations that were being made in the lives of my campers, it was God. God used me as an instrument, and in my weakest times, the times I wanted to quit, his power was made known to me and to the campers I was working with.

As I'm writing this, a particular memory from the summer is coming to mind. Some of you know that at the end of 4th session I began to get sick with the typical summer 'crud' that all of the staff seems to get at some point or another. 2 weeks later I was still sick and decided to go to the doctor, and I was diagnosed with bronchitis in addition to a sinus infection. A day after I received my diagnoses, I learned I would be counseling W6 for the final session of camp. My body was worn, and emotionally I wasn't sure how I would be able to handle it, but I trusted that God would carry me through. Also, I trusted that with prescription drugs I'd be fine in a matter of days. Well, as always my plans came crashing down around me in flames. Instead of recovering, I only grew more sick. All the while I had 11 girls looking to me to make their week at camp the most memorable, and most were looking to me for advice, emotional support, and to simply listen to the struggles in their lives. Satan was attacking me with feelings of disappointment and attacking me with lies of inadequacy. I was so sick, and I felt like I was doing a disservice to my girls by not being able to fully serve, teach, and love them due to my physical limitations. I mean it was hard trying to listen to 11 girls, and then teach them a cabin Bible when I was having a huge coughing fit every ten minutes. But even then, even in my body's physical weakness, the Lord carried me through. I am hesitant to say I made it through, because that has such a negative connotation. Yet, I did. I not only finished the race, but I was able to minister to 11 girls who were each hurting in unique ways. I faced challenges in this one week that I had never heard or dreamed of. I had never had a cabin until this point, where every single girl had something so significant and so destructive in their life. It was heart-breaking, but at the same time I loved watching as the Lord healed scars. Hearts were healed, courage was found, and sins were buried. While Satan attacked me, I saw God's power, and I fought back. While my body failed me, and my hopes for good health for the final week were burned, I saw God bring beauty of such ashes of my health. While I may have been ill, God still entrusted me with 11 girls whose lives were changed. Oh how I wish they knew the lessons they taught me in that week too!

So that is simply one memory, and if I were to recall them all, I'd never be able to finish. So in 20 days this has been the central focus and something I am encouraging myself to remember throughout the year. I never want to forget the summer, the lessons learned, the campers, the memories, and most importantly the way God changed my heart. He strengthened me, and helped me to learn that my weaknesses are still used for his glory. For when I am weak, then I am strong. Praise God for using me to glorify his kingdom!

Saturday, July 19, 2014


Seven weeks behind me and three to go. Even now I find it hard to believe just how quickly the weeks have come and gone. It makes me sad to think the majority of my summer lies in the past, but even then, I think of all the wonderful things God has done for camp, for my campers, and for me and I am filled with satisfaction and joy. While my cup overflows with joy, at the same time I find myself asking why too. Why do my campers have to go back to crummy home lives with parents that hurt them? Why did I have only 8 days to teach a camper about Jesus when she had never heard his name before? Why do I listen and cry with campers over broken lives, and imaginable pain? Why do these things and more happen? Why does it hurt me so much to hear, listen, and help my campers carry these burdens? Why do I have such a limited time with my campers and then have to send them back to the cruel, broken world where they struggle and fight temptation, the same world that I too fear returning too? Then I ask myself, "why do I question God?" What right do I have to ask 'why?' when my God has called me to trust Him and he has entrusted me with this wonderful opportunity and these campers? When the times get hard, I have to take a minute to remember that I am not alone. I remind myself that the cross signifies the suffering of the world. I remind myself that my Lord sent his only Son to die on the cruel cross. I remember that no one can look at God and ask why he doesn't understand our pain, because he too knows what it is like to suffer. He too has suffered with us, and has experienced pain. His only Son was separated from him, and in a firsthand experience, God watched as his Son died on a cruel cross to atone for our sins. God knows what suffering is.  The cross is a testimony, a living example, that it is not sinful to be in pain. Even upon the cross Jesus called out, "Why have you forsaken me?" (Matthew 27:46) If Christ called out, then is it wrong if I call out too? Is it a horrible thing for me to ask why, to ask God to make his purpose known to me? I also can't help but think of Job. A man who lost everything, a man who knows what true suffering is. I think of his example, and how even through suffering God redeemed him. So with all of this said, I don't feel as guilty for asking why. Instead I think of 'why' as a way for me to search for God's purpose in all things. I think of 'why' as a way for me to sympathize and be compassionate, because if I didn't ask why, would I even be doing a good job? If I didn't ask 'why' would I truly be doing my best to help my campers, because when I ask why I find myself turning to the Lord. I turn to the Lord and while I will never know why, I do find comfort in knowing that God knows what it feels like. He knows what suffering is, and to me that is of greatest comfort.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Even in exhaustion, God still is at work

It's that time of year again. The time where I am constantly wet and sticky between a combination of big spray and sweat. That time of year where my hair is always wet, and I don't know if it's because of the creek, the pool, sweat or the cold shower I just took. It's the time where my makeup is thrown under my bed and stays there for a majority of the ten weeks, and that alone makes me happy. Somehow in the midst of all these things the true condition of my heart and soul is revealed to me. It's not an easy time, because I serve as a funnel to hundreds of children, constantly giving everything I have to help these kids. Somewhere in the middle God teaches me a few things about myself as well. Already God is at work. I always expect to start seeing the 'aftermath' of his handiwork later in the summer, but this year he has humbled me and made his way known to me. I don't know why I always assume that as the summers progress and with this being my third year that I'd be 'used' to the exhaustion. Maybe it's because I'm getting older, or maybe it's because I've really grown to know how to reach my campers, but it's only the start of the 4th week and I feel pretty empty. This session has brought it's challenges, and quite frankly I love that. I love that I am able to lean on God and watch as he molds me and makes me stronger. I love witnessing as God speaks through me to comfort or reach a camper. I love being able to hold his children, and comfort them as they cry. I love praying with my girls continually. I love all of these things, but ultimately they exhaust me. As I try to help my girls carry their burdens, I find myself weighed down with my own baggage too. I am convinced that God uses these times to help me grow in my own walk too. In my exhaustion, whether it be emotional, spiritual, or physical, God reveals to me the beauty of my raw heart. He exposes my inmost being, and reminds me who he has called me to be. So as I see God answer prayers for my campers, as I see them make the decision to put Christ on in baptism, or as I see as two sisters come together I rejoice. I rejoice that in my exhaustion, God still reveals his holiness and his faithfulness. Last night was one of those nights. I have been praying this session for a cabin unity along with specific prayers for individuals. Last night, I felt myself running from camper to camper trying to be there for each of them as they needed me to the point where I had to sit down and simply cry out of emptiness. I had to thank God that while I was exhausted and feeling like I had nothing to give, that he was continuing to fill me up. He continued to give me words and almost like a calming whisper he told me to keep pressing, so I did. As I kept on going, I watched as God answered my prayers. I watched as my girls came together in new light. So I thank God for emptiness. I thank God that even in those moments when I simply need to sit, cry and pray, he can still use me. This session isn't over yet, and I can tell that my cabin has reached a pivotal point. Praise be to God!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Perfect Love

I don't pretend to know a lot about love, but with 10 15-17 year olds that's all they want to talk about. First kiss stories, the ideal date, and such ideas of everlasting love that every teenager desires are the conversations that fill my cabin nearly every day.
"Katelyn who are you attracted to? What should we look for in a relationship?"
 Such questions overwhelm me, because I'm not an expert. I haven't maintained a relationship for more than four months because quite frankly I used to stink at it. I used to not understand how to love people because for a long time I, myself, thought I was unlovable. I am unworthy of the love that my Savior shows me, and so I struggled for a long time to fight such feelings that the Devil filled my head with. Quite frankly I am lovable. I am desirable. I am wanted by the King, my Creator, the very God who sent his own son to die for me. It took me a long time to realize this, and I get frustrated even today when for a moment I let the Devil have a foothold. When the Devil makes his way into my thoughts and for a minute convinces me that no one would ever want me, I turn to God. It is through God that I know I am loved and that I can see the most beautiful love story. No, Jesus doesn't take me on a late night picnic and stargaze with me in the bed of the perfect truck as my girls most certainly wish he would, but he did something even better. He died for me, and for every single one of my girls. He died so that I could have the opportunity to teach them that true love doesn't look like a perfect first kiss, or a perfect date, but instead looks like acts of selflessness. Perfect love empowers you to be all that you can possibly be. It doesn't hinder you, discourage you, but instead it builds you up. I am grateful that I have had the opportunity to share this with my girls this far into the session. I am thankful that I am able to love on them, and help them realize that no matter what happens to them in life or what they do, they are lovable. It has been such a blessing to teach and show them how perfect love isn't of this world, but instead is something that is eternal. What began in death and resurrection, will end with an eternity with our Savior. That to me is the perfect love that I am trying to teach my girls this week.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Halfway There

Today, Monday, was a harder day. Well at least it seemed that way to me. It could be that yesterday we simply went to church and the beach, so back on the work grind could've simply been why it seemed harder. Like usual we got up early, hiked to the top of prayer mountain and had a devo of sort followed by time for prayer, reading or meditation. Our 'lesson' today centered on what keeps us from full-heartedly giving ourselves to God. What holds us back? Something Clay said really registered with me this morning. He said a lot of people are afraid that by giving everything to God they'd end up living in a hut in Africa. This didn't register with me because I, too, am afraid of living in Africa, no quite the opposite. I spent 30 minutes asking God why I haven't strongly considered making work like this a permanent lifestyle? If I am one the few individuals willing to embrace a 'hut in Africa' why haven't I already done it? While I sat there overlooking the valley of the mountain I couldn't help but think that God has given me an opportunity to pursue my education and truly make something out of it. As ready as I am to pack my bags, I can't really offer anything than manual labor. I have no income, no trade, and am on no way prepared enough to communicate. With that said, I was filled with the excitement that one day if I continue pursuing me education I will be ready. I fully understand God doesn't call the prepared, but prepares the call, but I think it would be a disservice to all involved should I quit school and move to another country at only 20 years old. Props to you that have done it though! So instead I pray God gives me an open window. I pray he gives me the knowledge and discernment to know when the time is right. Call me and I will go. Our meditation this morning was wonderful, and it got me thinking and praying for my future, but that was only the start of the day. Afterwards we ate another delicious breakfast and we had to wait around for a while. We got a later start because we were waiting to see if we needed to take a mechanic with us to Las Pitas. Don't hold me to that spelling because I'm not from here haha. Anyway with the trip being two hours, we wanted the first set of people to get there and try to fix the generator so in case they couldn't fix it we could bring him along. Turns out the mechanic wasn't needed, and we rolled out about two hours than usual. Two hours doesn't seem like much, but when you consider that we usually have finished half of our work and are eating lunch, our late arrival set us back. Upon our arrival, Hector surprised us with a treat. La gorobo (sp?) aka lizard. We ate our lizard tacos which were fantastic and then set about our work. Today we did a lot of the work without our main constructor. So it was kinda chaotic. We couldn't find the tools we needed and so on. Also it was significantly hotter today compared to our usual morning work schedule. Regardless, we finished our two outhouses. The process may have been chaotic, it may have included Cason accidentally pouring cement all over me and my hair (which I really hope comes out before I come home for the wedding) and it most certainly included good food, but regardless we finished the jobs and left with many thanks from the families. Today was also unique because I had the opportunity to sit down with Jarrod's wife and discuss the work she does in the clinic. She is a Nurse Practitioner and manages the clinics run by Mission Lazarus. In our thirty minutes talking I learned a lot. I learned of the struggles she faces financially, the difficultly of getting the prescription medications she needs, and also I learned about how she is in the process of 'revamping' their clinics. By this I mean that she is in the process of making the patients have more privacy all the while training locals the art of running the clinic. The way she spoke, and the passion she has for this work gave me chill bumps. It was almost as if God was whispering in my ear or that the Spirit was nudging me or preparing me. What she said next was truly no other than God answering a prayer from earlier that morning. She said that while they don't have a need for interns, she was considering have a student come down in the summers to assist her in the clinic. Preferably a future nurse. Bingo she said it. My eyes lit up and without a second thought I said such an opportunity would be right up my alley. I told her I would love to be considered and that I would be in contact with her should she decide to go through with such 'position' for next summer. Now if it ends up working out, who knows but God? I don't need to know details or have a set in stone plan, because nothing about mission work is set in stone, but in that moment I saw God opening a window that I prayed for this very morning. So while today's work was hard, my soul and heart were filled to the brim. We serve a faithful God, one who loves His people more than we can imagine. When I was filled with doubt and uncertainty, he reassured me that I'm on the right path. My day to come and serve people like this everyday will be here before I know it. For now we have a two hour trip home and then hopefully I can pick the concrete out of my hair and off my skin.

What I Live For

Mission work is my niche. I say that full-heartedly and confidently, because it is. There's something about stepping off a plane into a third world country that nourishes and awakens my soul. Where people are filled with fear , or even disgust at the lack of sanitation and poor living conditions, I feel like I belong. In a weird way, I envy these people. They have so little, but they are so full. Their hearts overrun with love and sense of family. They are generous beyond their means to us, Gringos, that can barely speak to them in broken Spanish. They feed us what little food they have to live on, and still do so insistingly and cheerfully. Before we left, I had a number of people tell me how brave I was and how I was doing such a 'good' thing. I was told so many things to such an extent I was almost embarrassed. I believe people have this vision of mission work, of it being glorious work where we come in and save those who we consider to be less fortunate. But to me it's not this way at all. I am humbled everyday, and convicted in every moment. Where people think I am helping these Honduran families, I can honestly say I am leaving with so much more. While we leave each family with an outhouse, we leave spiritually full, with a better understanding of Christ our savior. We humble ourselves, to serve these families who in reality are helping us in a way that will benefit us eternally. So no the work isn't glamorous, but it's still beautiful. There's just something about being on your hands and knees paving concrete and constructing an outhouse that not only fills my soul, but I know pleases my Creator. It's even better when a Honduran constructor complements you on your work haha. It's only been two days, yet we've already learned so much. Where the roads are long and terrifyingly bumpy, the coffee is sweet, homemade chicken soup and tortillas fill our bellies, and where we are strangers, this place seems more like home. It's always easy to hear God on trips like this. To be surrounded by his nature, and people who have full trust and faith that he will provide for them on a day-to-day basis, makes it easy to see and hear him. I can't help but feel my heart and soul being pulled towards work like this. This isn't my first mission trip and I'm confident it won't be my last. In my biggest dreams, which I know God is capable of working, I would love to have the opportunity to work down here for longer than a week. I would love to put my education to use, and give these families healthcare they need. Yet, as ready as I am to quit school and start working here, I know how important my education is. I know God has given me an opportunity to grow in my knowledge at school so I can one day better glorify him through it. For know I am content with that, but hold me to my word that I'll come back someday. Keep praying that God will open our eyes and hearts. Keep praying that His word will continue to grow and that these churches will continue to flourish. I speak for our entire team when I say we are blessed and so very happy to serve.

To the Work

So what exactly are you doing in Honduras? I mean I didn't know until I got to Mission Lazarus what work we would be doing. While I feel like my family was concerned about my lack of knowledge about the details of the trip, I simply trusted that the Spirit had led me this far and that he would see we had work to do. On our first night we had a debriefing about the expectations Mission Lazarus had and the work we would be doing. I have full respect and truly love the mission of Mission Lazarus. They don't simply give hand outs, but in an effort to stop dependency work alongside the locals. So when it comes to our work project, the families are expected to dig a 10 foot deep hole that is approximately 50 inches wide. That's where we come in. We build up and level out the hole with rocks first. Then we mix concrete (which we now really have the hang of) and then layer some of it out to make the hole more level. Then we lay the concrete slab and poor more concrete on it. All the while, we the girls are usually building the actually outhouse out of metal sheets that we screw together. Then you place the concrete seat, and place the metal house around it. Lastly you put on the door. It seems simple, and sometimes it is, but other times we have have to haul all of the materials (buckets, concrete, slab, metal, rocks) long distances, and up hills to get to the hole. On our first day, Paden and Cason, with the help of Hector, had to haul the 300-400lb slab a half mile. Keep in mind the roads aren't paved, there's tons of hills, so this act alone took at least 30 minutes and I feel like our boys are feeling the burn today. The goal is to build two a day, and we've got it down to an art. The boys deal with the heavy lifting, Shelby and Kelci are pros at assembling and I'm a runner (although I might add I'm pretty good at mixing concrete and pouring it down to smooth it out). Our first house took 2 hours and now it takes about an hour. What I love about the process is that it's us and the families working together. We only have one man who is bilingual, but somehow we manage to communicate. Usually we just all piece together what little Spanish we know in hopes of getting our point across. The process is fun and hard work all the same. The families feed us, which is awesome! The kids love to watch and it's just a great experience. Thus far our days have basically been us getting up at 5:30 to go hike up to a prayer mountain. We spend anywhere from a hour and half to two hours in mediation and prayer. It's a beautiful way to watch the sun rise and feed your soul. Then we eat breakfast and load up to make the 2 hour drive up in the mountains to work. Whenever we finish, we head back to Mission Lazarus for dinner, lots of coffee, and good conversation. The cabins we are staying in are extremely nice, and they even have hot clean water which is a rarity on trips such as these. I feel like we are staying more at a resort than the usual lodging for a mission trip. So basically we drive a lot, drink lots of sweet sweet coffee, work hard, and end our day with full bellies and lots of laughs. It's almost a fairytale for mission work. Oh that's the other thing, we have wifi which is how we are able to share pictures and communicate. So hopefully I can keep updating my blog, but for now Hasta Luego!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Exciting News for Aggie HYPE

As today was the last Aggie HYPE of the semester, I promised
my class that we would celebrate with snacks of their
choice. So we feasted on Hot Cheetos, Takis, and popsicles.
What a great note to end on! 
God is faithful. He truly is! About a month ago, we, the Aggie HYPE volunteers, received some alarming news. The news: we didn't have the funds to send our kids to camp. Regardless of what brought such lack of funds doesn't matter, but what does is that in that moment we made a conscious decision to trust that the Lord would provide. I love opportunities such as this one. I love waiting to see how God will provide, especially monetary funds, because it truly practices a great deal of trust and patience. With this said, we didn't receive the news that we needed approximately $4000 and then proceed to sit back and kick our feet up. No, quite the opposite. We began writing letters, contacting businesses, and brainstorming ideas of how we could raise the funds we needed to send 40 kids to camp at $100 a child within less than a month. After receiving such news, I remember going to lunch with a few of my best friends. When I told them the news, they immediately began giving me ideas of how to help raise the money, and names of people who I should contact. I'll admit as the clock began to speed up, I was worried that we wouldn't have enough to send all of the kids to camp. I surely didn't want to have to look a child in the eyes and say that due to lack of funds, they wouldn't be able to go to camp. No, that would break my heart. So instead I prayed, I prayed, and I begged God to provide. I was confident the money would come from somewhere, and slowly but surely it did. Today we received some very exciting news, we fulfilled our budget needs…and more. WAY more! God is faithful and every single one of our kids (of age) will get to go to Camp of the Hills this summer. We even made enough money to cushion our budget for next year as well. Like I said, why do I even doubt or stress when God constantly shows his faithfulness? I've attached some pictures of my 2nd graders that have truly become my own children this year. Thanks to God, and to the many supporters of Aggie HYPE, some of my kids will go to camp for the first time. I am overwhelmed with the support and love shown to my HYPE kids, and I ask that you will join me in praying for them as they have an opportunity to see Christ through a week at summer camp.
Tony has truly grown up to be quite an athlete over the past
two years. Earlier in the semester, I was able to go watch
him play basketball and let me tell you, he is probably the
only 2nd grader I know that can make a 3-pointer!

Alayna-I promise you that no one will ever make you
feel as special and loved as this sweet girl.

JJ- I have so many words for this boy, because he has stolen
my heart. He started out as one of my trouble makers,
I kid you not, and he still likes to give me a hard time. Yet,
I have seen him grow and now he loves to be praised
for his good behavior.

How can you not smile when you see this little boy? Don't
worry, I didn't give him negative points for posing
on the counter haha :)

Monday, April 7, 2014

"You're too ugly to love…"

Like the title says, my heart broke when such phrase was yelled into my face. No my heart did not break because such mean words were directed towards me, but my heart broke a little because of the girl who said them. Such a little girl has been hardened by the world, and I know that with the ease of the phrase it has been one that she's heard before. Before I get ahead of myself, let me give some background.

Yesterday started out as a typical HYPE Sunday. When my 2nd graders got to my class though, I knew it would be a challenging day. The rainy weather had kept them cooped up in their homes, and then with the sugar I supplied, I realized and watched as I slowly lost control of my class. Even with extra helpers, some of the boys were getting out of hand. Yet, as soon as things would get too far, I'd reign them back in, at least for a few minutes. Finally after reading the story, coloring, and sugary snacks, we met up with the other classes in the church parlor to watch a movie. Once again, my boys especially were bouncing off the walls at this point and with no gym or playground I knew things were about to get crazy. Most times we, the Aggie volunteers, embrace such enthusiasm. Yesterday was different because there is a big difference between crazy fun, and aggression. Quickly evident that all control was lost, we decided to load the kids up and take them home. It was clearly apparent that we as a whole were struggling. Some of the boys were getting rowdy and picking fights, and left and right volunteers were trying to separate kids. The bus was worse. Confined to a moving bus, the boys broke out into a fight and we quickly broke it up. I at the time was sitting at the front of the bus, and we decided to separate the boys. So a volunteer sent one of the boys instigating the fight up to sit in front of me. Thinking things had simmered down, I felt myself ease from the tension. Yet, as soon as my shoulders began to fall into place, I saw a little girl charging down the aisle to give the boy in front of me a piece of her mind, well actually her fist. Another volunteer and I quickly made a barrier with our arms, which angered her even more. She began kicking and screaming, so I did the only thing I knew. I picked her up and sat her in my lap embracing her. Trying to calm her, I kept a tight hold as she tried to bite, kick, hit, and pull my hair out. At the moment I did what I thought was best, and kept her in my arms to prevent her from hitting the other kids, but she was beginning to rage. She was screaming all sorts of things, to which I just kept repeating that I loved her, Jesus loved her, but such behavior was not going to be tolerated or allowed. Then she said it. "I HATE YOU! You are too ugly to love!"

Thankfully my self-confidence doesn't rest in the opinions of angered 3rd graders, but at the moment my heart broke. I hurt because with the ease of her words, and the anger in her eyes, I knew that she had heard such phrase before. Now I don't know who said it, or if it was even directed to her, but nonetheless my heart broke that a little girl would ever have to hear such an awful phrase. Yesterday was a difficult day at HYPE, and trust me usually HYPE days aren't full of such aggression and craziness. But in such moments of frustration, I still know that I have a purpose in this ministry. We are called to be difference makers, and I pray that in such moments of fighting that maybe that little girl will look back and remember how we, the volunteers, treated her. We didn't yell insulting things at her or hit her or any of the other kids fighting, instead we still showed love. Biting my lips, and holding back tears, I let a little girl take out her frustration, pain and anger, and instead I hope she saw Christ. I know I did. I saw myself in this little girl, fighting against the good, so filled with fury and frustration. Even when I get frustrated or fight God (figuratively), he still is there to embrace me, to calm me down. He forgives me, and never takes his arms away from me. So while it was easy to get caught up in what was a 'bad day' I look back and see it as a learning opportunity. I see myself in my kids, and I thank God for the lessons and the way he reveals himself to me in this ministry. I ask you all to join us in praying for the HYPE ministry. Pray for our kids and their families. Pray that we as volunteers will have the energy and strength to keep encouraging and loving on these kids. In particular, please pray that God will provide for this ministry as we are in the midst of fundraising to send our kids to camp.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Taking Life for Granted

"What did you do for Spring Break?!"

A simple question we all ask and all respond to without doubt or question. It's a societal norm and we are expected to partake in it. So like I had been doing with all of my friends, I asked one of my HYPE 2nd graders today what she did over her break. When she replied nothing, I dug a little deeper until she said she just stayed at home and watched tv. This was nothing out of the normal for her, so I let her be and didn't ask any further questions. A minute later though she turned to me with the biggest smile I had ever seen on her face and said:

"MISS KATELYN!!! I almost forgot!!! We went to a restaurant! Cheddar's!!! And I got fish and chips!"

Wow. Her enthusiasm almost made me sick with guilt because I didn't realize just how big a deal such occurrence as going out to eat was to one of my precious children. With my own recent trip to Tennessee in my mind, I had forgotten that such a simple thing to me, is a huge deal to her. To see her joy from simply going to a restaurant, and most likely getting a kid's plate made me saddened by the way I view life. Anything less than a fabulous trip or quality time with my family would probably have me disappointed, wishing I was able to go somewhere farther or eat something better. Yet, my second grader humbled me today. She opened my eyes to just how much I take for granted the material things in my life. I can't recall the last time I got so excited about eating out, and that's probably because I do so several times a week. But to her, one time going out to eat over Spring Break was more than enough to fill her week with joy and adventure.

I'm saying this to myself, because I don't want to keep getting used to life so much so that it takes more and more to excite me. No, I want to be like my 2nd grader who found such enthusiasm in life because she got to go out to eat. I want to take joy in the little things, the meals I eat every day, the laughs I share with friends, and the family members that fill my heart with joy.

In 1 Peter 4:7 it says, "Everything in the world is about to be wrapped up, so take nothing for granted." I don't want to become used to things in life, and come to expect them. I don't want to take anything for granted or ever cross a line where I feel entitled to anything. So today I was humbled, and while it hurt my heart for a minute I smiled because once again God has taught me a lesson in the most beautiful of ways.

She then turned to me with her smile still on her face and asked me what I did over the break. I smiled back and said, "Well sweetheart, I got to eat at Chick-fil-A with my family." 

She laughed and continued to smile, and I thanked God for the lessons I learn from my HYPE kids. 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Running the Race

I will never forget this moment. I was
so happy to have finished!
Many of you already know, but yesterday I was able to accomplish something that was quite significant to me: I ran my first half-marathon. I realize that to many people this wouldn't seem like an accomplishment, but for me it was so much more than simply running 13.1 miles. It was a goal I set in September when I registered, and I have been working and training in order to be prepared for the race. It wasn't an easy road; I started in August not being able to run a half mile without huffing and puffing, but through dedication and much help from God I was able to run 13.1 miles yesterday!

I'm a goal-driven person, and that is one quality I love about myself. I see a need, or I set a goal, and I will do anything to accomplish it. With that said, this half-marathon was much more significant than proving to myself that I could beat my body into believing I had been an athlete for 20 years. For one thing, it was special to me because when I was little my parents would parade my sister and I all over the state to cheer my dad on as he ran marathons. A long time has passed from then, but I never felt more proud to pick up a hobby that was so special to my dad. 

In college my friends have
began to call me Gambi, so
it made sense to put that as my
name right? Also, it was really
neat because 622 happens
to be my Pawpaw's birthday! :)
I chose my half-marathon because of its cause. Hosted in Waco, Miracle-Half was hosted by the Waco Fire Department and the proceeds were donated to Be the Match. So yesterday, not only did I finish the race, but I also registered to be a donor should I ever be found to be a match. Honestly it somewhat terrifies me that any day I could get a call saying I'm a match and then have to undergo a painful surgery, but if that's what it takes to save a life, it'd be worth it to me.

My support team. Love them!
My race yesterday was difficult. It's called one of the toughest half-marathons and marathons for the gruesome hills. I'd be lying if I told you I didn't have tears in my eyes as I ran miles 7-10 because it was constantly steep hills followed by painful speed downwards, just to climb right back up again. Other than the gruesome hills, I loved it! We ran through Baylor's campus, then down by the
Still smiling at mile 5!
river and even through the zoo. I was really looking forward to the zoo, but unfortunately the only thing I saw was an eagle. All throughout the race, every mile was dedicated to either a donor or recipient of Be the Match. It truly touched me to see at several water stations pictures were posted of the recipients, and strangely just seeing some of
the kids and adults that had been given life, gave me the strength to keep pushing on. I am blessed to be able to run, and so I ran for those who couldn't.
Nana & Pawpaw made their way from Austin
to come watch me. Love you two!

Before the race, my dad led my family in communion. He then read the infamous scripture about running the race for the Lord, and as cheesy as it was, it was truly encouraging to know that I was running for more than a prize, but I was running for the Lord. I loved having my family pray over me before I began my race, and their support is probably the main reason I was able to cut off almost 2 minutes off every mile yesterday. 

There is a scripture in Habakuk that I have grown to love. 
“Look at the nations and watch—
and be utterly amazed.
For I am going to do something in your days
that you would not believe,
 even if you were told."  Habakuk 1:5

Finish line in sight!
I love this scripture so much because we are promised by God great things, things that we cannot even imagine. If you had told me a year ago I would run a half-marathon, I would have laughed much like Sarah did in the Bible when she was told she'd bear a child. A year ago it would have been impossible to me, because I had never set foot in the rec for more than to cheer my friends on in basketball. But in a matter of 4 months I trained my body for a race that I'll remember for the rest of my life. I am excited to keep running and training, because it has grown to be something I love. It's my hope that one day I'll be able to use my hobby to race and raise money for an organization. I don't know if I'll ever be able to accomplish such a goal, but I know that in all things God will lead me. It's my prayer that I dedicated so much time to training, to beating my body down to build it up, that I will be able to do the same in my walk with God. There are far better things beyond this world, and it is my hope that I can truly begin running in my race for Heaven. As urgent as I am in running, it is my hope that I can have the same urgency, passion, and dedication to my walk with God.  With God all things are possible, and all glory goes to Him alone for carrying me through this experience. One down, many to go!