I See Jesus in You

“Let’s move all the chairs into a circle,”

The classroom erupted into momentary chaos as everyone grabbed their notebooks, Bible, water bottle and chair (all at the same time) only to then struggle to make a vaguely circular shape. There’s a sense of excitement but also slight apprehension as people settle back into their seats and try to quiet down. There’s nervous giggles and quick glances around the oval ring of chairs. Everyone wants to know what the speaker is going to do. We all know that the speaker must have a good reason for causing such a disruption. He sits and waits patiently for everyone to settle down, place their things back under their chairs and hush conversations.

“I want you guys to look around the circle and pick a person. Once you’ve picked a person, I want you to think about how you’ve seen Jesus in them this past week.”

The atmosphere changes and people realize that they’re about to be encouraged. A slight tension still lingers as they quickly realize they also have to give encouragement. For some reason we all love to be encouraged, but it’s hard to give encouragement. We feel too vulnerable in that moment. Awkward, even. We feel like we might get it “wrong” – like encouragement could be a bad thing. So there’s a long pause. No one wants to speak up first and yet everyone wants to be the first to get encouraged.

Finally, the first brave student breaks the silence. And slowly but surely, the affirmations start to make their way around the circle. People are taken aback by sincere words and the general morale of the group is lifted.

Then someone says my name.

I snap my eyes over to look into their face. I have no idea what they’re going to say and my heart is pounding like crazy. For some ridiculous reason, I’m nervous. What could they possibly say? How have they seen Jesus in me? It’s almost as if I begin to doubt that Jesus lives inside of me. A thought just about crosses my mind: there’s no way they’ve seen Jesus in you…

I have to shove down the lies that come up to take away the kind words that haven’t even been spoken yet. It’s a never ending battle. I have to coach myself to receive the encouragement this sweet girl is about to give me.

I sit there and study her face, nothing but genuine care in her eyes, as she talks about how she’s seen Jesus in me through the past week. There was no spectacular moment she mentioned; no act of great kindness or display of love that she pointed to. Instead it was a simple, “I see Jesus in you just by how you live each day. It’s like you’re walking through your day, holding God’s hand and before you do or say anything you look up at Him and ask if it’s ok. That’s how I’ve seen Jesus in you.”

I was blown away.

There is no way she could have known.

There’s no way she knew that that has been my heart’s cry for over a year. I’ve longed to have a relationship with God that is simply seen in how I walk through the house, how I speak to people, how I make decisions. There’s no way she knew about all of the hours I have spent praying and asking God to give me a heart like that. There’s no way she knew.

I had to sit in shock for a moment.

Slowly, I began to believe what she said. Could it be true? And in that moment, it all became worth it. All the struggles, all the victories, all the hours spent silently sitting with God. I felt like a little girl who had just created a finger-painted masterpiece. She runs up to her Daddy and says “Look Dad! Look at what I made!” I wanted Him to be proud of me, to show Him what I had made. But really, I know that it was all because Him inside of me. And I was so thankful and in awe of how He allowed Himself to be seen through me.

As the encouragements continued, I was just amazed by how God reveals Himself through His children. It’s just like biological kids. Some might have their Mom’s nose, another might have their Dad’s eyes. The same is for us as Children of God. We each reflect a different piece of His character. Some of us show God through how we work. Some of us show Him through how we treat others. And others show Him through their joy. I looked around the circle, realizing that we’re all unique and yet we’re all Children of God and He is seen inside of us – even in ways we might not realize.

So let this story be an encouragement to you, my friend. Keep striving to become more and more like Jesus. You may not even realize how people see Him through you!

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Two Weeks Deep

I suppose I should give you all a quick little update on what’s been happening around the base! Since January 8th, we’ve had 11 amazing students living with us. They flew in from all around the world – Canada, the US, Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands – and it’s been a super fun mix of cultures! That’s one of my favorite parts of DTS: being able to live in the same house with people from all over the world and experience different cultures around the dinner table! It’s super fun. 🙂

And these students are super fun as well! They’re energetic and up for just about anything at just about anytime. It’s quite enjoyable to watch them interact. Meal times can get a little loud and crazy with so many different conversations happening all at once, but it makes my heart happy because I know that the relationships that are being built over bowls of spaghetti are ones that will last for a lifetime. DTS is such a special time. It’s a chance to grow so close in such a short time. But the relationship is built on the common ground of wanting to know God more. So the friendships that come from a DTS aren’t just friendships that last for the 6 or 7 months; they’re friendships that last for a lifetime.

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SFDTS 2017!

So this is our crew! This is all of our students and most of the staff. I know. It’s a low quality picture, I know. (I know… what did I expect from an iPhone?) But the people in the picture are stellar. No fancy-schmancy camera could ever capture the great personalities that are in this group. It’s only been two short weeks, but I can already tell you that each of these people have found a spot in my heart and I’m so excited to see where this DTS adventure takes them!

Has it really only been two weeks?

On one hand, that feels right. But on the other, it feels like these guys have been here for a lifetime already. Lots of life can happen in two busy weeks! We had a couple of nights the first week to share stories and tell a little bit of how our lives have looked until now. Those nights are my favorite. Of course, we spring it on them right after they come, which can be intimidating (to say the least). But it’s a great way to bring everyone together and create an openness that isn’t really found anywhere else. And it’s fun to be able to hear where people come from – to hear about their family and friends, struggles and passions, their hopes and dreams.

Then after one week of settling in, we threw them all into street ministry! Last week, Davos hosted the World Economic Forum [WEF]. The town looks completely different for one week and there’s thousands of extra people walking around – big shot people who walk around in fancy clothes or are chauffeured around in shiny black cars. Our little ski town transforms quite literally over night! It’s pretty cool if you ask me. Since there’s so many people walking around town, we’ve decided that it’s the perfect opportunity to go out and bless random strangers! So we bake close to a thousand cookies, decorate them with happy little smiley faces and take them out to the streets of Davos in hopes of bringing some Joy into people’s lives! Our goal the entire time we’re out is to bless people and tell them that Jesus loves them. Sometimes, this goes really well. Sometimes, not so much. But it’s fun to push beyond our comfort zones and try something new. And it makes it worth all of the awkward interactions when someone is truly touched by our little act of kindness. Then we can pray for them and explain how much God cares for them and sometimes lives are changed by an interaction that happens on the street. This year, a few people our crew was able to talk with gave their lives to Jesus! And that’s amazing! Beyond that, I know lots of the students and staff were able to pray for many people, and it’s cool to know that God is working in their lives too – wether they recognize it or not.

Like I said, it’s only been two weeks.

[It’s already been two weeks?!]

We’ve already had some cool experiences. I can already see how people have grown. And it’s only been two weeks! It makes me so excited for what’s ahead. There’s no way to be sure of what God is going to do over the next 6 months, but I do know that it’s going to be good. I can’t wait! So stay tuned… I’ll do my best to keep you all posted. 🙂

 

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When You’re Not Looking… pt. 2

This post is part two of a series. If you missed part one, you can read it here.

 

From that moment in front of God and my classmates, I started to let God take my ideals and replace them with more trust for Him. Whenever I would start to feel sorry for myself (as lots of girls do… 🙂 ) because I felt hopelessly single, I would ask God to replace that with more trust for Him: trust that He would bring a man along in His own time and on His terms. I began to focus less on how single I was and more on who I was and who God had created me to be.

During this time, Benjamin and I actually started to become pretty good friends. He was a volunteer at our base and just always seemed to be around and ready to hang out. When I first met him, I thought we wouldn’t get a long at all. To me, he seemed way “out of my league” – even on a friendship level. I just thought we wouldn’t really have anything in common. But all of the sudden (I still don’t really know how it happened exactly) we were friends. He was the one skiing with me last year when I had my accident that put me out for the season. He came to the hospital with me and was a great support throughout that whole day and even through the rest of DTS.

And before I knew it, we were just good friends.

(In my mind, at least.)

There may have been a few times when I wondered if we were really just friends, Benjamin and I. I even remember my roommate Aleah telling me once that Ben “really adored” me. At that time, I was still trying to just focus on God and figuring out who He said I was. I didn’t have time for boys. And if I just told myself over and over that Ben didn’t actually like me, I believed it and it wasn’t something I had to try to figure it out. So basically, I ignored it – pretended it didn’t actually exist – and moved on with my life.

Fast forward to October of this year. I arrived back in Switzerland to staff the 2016 DTS and was so excited to see what God had in store for the upcoming season. I was back in one of my favorite places with some of my most favorite people and I couldn’t wait for the adventures ahead. I also felt like I was in a good spot. I could honestly say that I trusted God completely with my future – including marriage. I truly trusted that He had a good plan for me and I knew that no matter what happened, I would be ok with it – no matter what the outcome.

And wouldn’t you know it, Benjamin was back to staff, too. As our staff training went on, there would be these moments. I don’t really know how to explain them. We would be hanging out as a staff group and these random thoughts would pop into my head. They would skitter across my mind and they startled me every time. It would be a thought like, “Oh, did you see that? Did you see what Ben just did? That’s something you’ve said you wanted in a husband.” I never knew what to do with these thoughts or even where they came from. This was after I’d told God multiple times that I was not on the market when it came to boys. I was here in Davos to disciple the students that came through and to grow in my relationship with Him – not to chase after boys.

So these thoughts couldn’t be God, could they?

Since I didn’t know what to do with them, I just ignored them. Shoved them off to the side and decided I was crazy. My mind was just being a stereotypical girl’s brain and I could get over that. All I had to do was ignore them and just keep focusing on God. But these thoughts got my wheels turning. I started to think about what I actually looked for in a spouse and what God thought about my “list.” As the year went on, I began to realize what my heart really wanted. I wanted someone to dream with. Someone to grow with and to follow God alongside. My daily prayer became, “Lord, I want someone to dream with. Can I have someone to dream with? But give me patience. Help me to focus on what You’re doing in this season.”

Then one Sunday afternoon in March, it all began to click.

It was the week before we left on outreach and all of the sudden I realized what was going on.

 

 

…to be continued…

Sarajevo Round 2

Sarajevo, Bosnia.

It’s a beautiful city.

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In my opinion, at least. If you look close enough, you can see all the bumpy scars left from multiple wars – both in the physical and in the emotional. There’s so much hurt left over from a country that was torn apart. To outsiders, it looks like no one wants to move on. It looks like people in Sarajevo are hopeless. But if you look close enough, you’ll notice that there’s still hope. There’s always hope. As long as God loves people, there will always be hope. But sometimes our circumstances change how we view things. In the midst of pain, it’s hard to look for the hope. It’s hard to look past the wounds and see a life that’s beyond what we can see at the moment.

That’s how it felt with outreach sometimes. It felt like there was so much hurt in the city, how could we ever make a difference?

But if you look past the pain…. If you can shift your focus so you’re looking for hope instead of pain, you’ll find it.

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The outside of the Rafael Center – where Robert and Sandrina hold their fellowship and also where the children’s center is.
Robert and Sandrina have been living in Sarajevo for a while. They run fellowship and were in the beginning stages of starting a daycare/children’s center. The hope they have for their city is contagious. Even as we were doing labor work, I could feel my attitude begin to change. As I saw Robert’s hope, I began to catch the vision he had as well.

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The beginning of the Jungle Theater… where we would spend many hours painting art work and constructing a tree from styrofoam.
The beginning of starting a ministry is hard no matter where you are. It takes lots of work and lots of perseverance. When things don’t turn out how you had planned, it takes patience to push through and find another way of doing things.

As the weeks went on, sometimes it felt like we weren’t getting any where. It felt like no matter what amount of work we put in, there was always more that would need to be done. But holding on to the hope kept us going.

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The inside of the Jungle Theater.

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Watching “Bambi” in the Jungle Theater!
In the moment, it’s hard to see the impact we have sometimes. But looking back, we can see what our work accomplished. For one thing, we were able to build some good relationships with the people we worked with. And for another, we got to see the children’s center up and running when we left.

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The first kids camp to run at the new children’s center!
When we arrived, that building was empty. And when we left, it was full of colorful things for children’s to play in. We even got to play with kids for a few days!

For me, the growth I saw in my students made the whole trip worth it. When we left for outreach, we were all pretty comfortable with each other. But as time goes on, you see every side of a person when you live close with them. And there are moments when you are absolutely convinced that you can’t stand the other person. Every outreach team goes through that. But it makes it so much more amazing when you come to the end of outreach and you realize that you love each person on your team so much. Not because they are perfect, but because of who they are and who God is in them.

For me, that’s what makes outreach worth it. At the end of the day, Sarajevo still needs lots of love. But if I look at what God has done in the students and in me, it makes the whole trip worth it.

If we are faithless, He remains faithful – for He cannot deny Himself.   – 2 Timothy 2:13

That’s what I learned. For me, that verse talks about trusting that God is moving, even if it doesn’t look like we expected it too, He is.

Because He is still faithful.

Always faithful.