Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Part II // BEST Summer of my Life. Thank you, LORD.

Here's Part II of what God did in my life this past summer at PVM. He's awesome!

This summer God helped me to see people through his eyes, as human beings created in his image. I've struggled with valuing people for who they are rather than what they look like for years, even though I know that God commands us to value people regardless of their physical appearance or the way they act and speak. I don't know how it happened, but God worked in my heart and now I am less judgmental than I used to be. It's a process, and there are definitely still times where I only focus on the outer appearance of individuals, but overall, God is making it possible for me to love all people with his love and focus on their hearts, which is what really matters.

Also, this summer my heart has been burdened for the many people who suffer daily for their faith in Christ as I've played the game Underground Church each Wednesday evening at PVM. Underground Church is an opportunity for the campers to share their testimonies of how God has saved them and worked in their lives with staff members who are either Citizens (ordinary people who are not Christians) or ACC (political leaders who are opposed to Christianity). It is also an opportunity for the campers to experience persecution for their faith on a much lower level than it would be in reality for Christians in a country where Christianity is illegal. The game  provides excellent teaching opportunities and I've witnessed the impact it can have on hearts that are open and surrendered to God's will.

I myself have been changed because of Underground Church as I've played a Citizen in a few games and walked around with my cabin of Christians a couple of times. Watching young kids share the love of Jesus with Citizens and ACC alike and sharing their personal stories of what God has done for them is phenomenal. The vast majority of kids refuse to let the ACC make them declare that God isn't real, and they're willing to suffer for what they believe by laying on the ground or having their heads covered in shaving cream. Granted, the kids do complain about the "punishment", but that doesn't change their determination to stay true to Jesus and his Word.

Playing Underground Church eight times in the last nine weeks has given me greater confidence to tell others about Jesus and how much he loves them. God used the kids to teach me how to better know how to initiate conversations about him with unbelievers. Their eternities depend on whether they know him or not and I definitely don't want to waste any opportunities to share Jesus' love!

The past summer at PVM has been spectacular and God has taught me more than I ever could have dreamed or thought possible!

Let me end with a couple of Bible verses that God has laid on my heart recently:

By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.

In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone.

The more you grow like this, the more productive and useful you will be in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But those who fail to develop in this way are shortsighted or blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their old sins.

So, dear brothers and sisters, work hard to prove that you really are among those God has called and chosen. Do these things, and you will never fall away. Then God will give you a grand entrance into the eternal Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. -2 Peter 1:3-11


"If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance and relief for the Jews will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die. Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?" -Esther 4:14

Love in Christ,

Monday, July 30, 2012

Part I // BEST Summer of my Life. Thank you, LORD.

Without a doubt, this summer has been the best summer of my life. God worked in my life in so many ways and taught me a whole lot. He taught the other staff members and campers a lot, too. The theme for the summer was Wanted, so all of our nightly skits had a Western theme and the staff members were given cowboy hats to wear on Sundays to welcome the new campers as they arrived with their parents. The theme verse was Luke 9:23, and throughout the nine weeks that I was at Pleasant Vineyard Ministries Camp (PVM) God helped me understand what it really means to deny myself and take up my cross each and every day. For the staff, the recurring theme in our lives that God was working on in our hearts all summer was surrender. God taught me to surrender my family, all other relationships, my job, my plans, my expectations, etc.

When I arrived at PVM I didn't know anyone, other than my bosses Tom and Bryan, who I'd only met once before, so I was pretty shy (like I always am in new situations) and I struggled with homesickness, especially during the first couple of days before most of the staff arrived. I honestly wanted to leave at the beginning of the summer because I was lonely and afraid, but I had to learn to trust God that he had me at PVM for a reason. It took a few weeks, but over time God allowed me to form friendships with many of the staff members. Each and every one of them loved me like Christ loves me, and it was a blessing to work with them. I admire them greatly for their undying love for Jesus and willingness to continually pour out their lives as a living offering to God. As a staff, we planted a multitude of seeds this summer and I'm so excited to see what God does in the lives of the kids throughout the year and into next summer.

God helped me to surrender all of my relationships to him as I continued to grow closer to him these past nine weeks. I finally understand that God is the only One who can completely satisfy my deepest longings and desires, whereas before camp, I still thought that somehow another person would be able to do that for me. God brought me to place where I can honestly say that he's my only desire. I love everything that he's blessed me with, but they're the gifts, and he's the Giver, not vice versa.

When I was asked last minute to switch from being the camp photographer to being a counselor for the last two weeks of camp, God was teaching me to surrender my job. I thought that I would have the same job all summer long, and I was pretty excited about it since I love taking photos, but God had other plans. It was also a lesson in becoming more flexible and allowing God to work through me, rather than me working for God. You see, I was working for God all summer long, but I had to get the place where I was willing to let God have his way and use me where he wanted me, rather than where I wanted to be, doing what I wanted to do. And I'm so glad that God gave me the opportunity to be a counselor to two great groups of girls in grades 4-6th. He made it pretty clear to me these past two weeks that I'm supposed to work with kids as my life profession. I don't know where God's going to take me after I get out of college, or even what he's got planned for me in the next couple of years while I'm still at school, but I'm really excited to see God's plan unfold because it's going to be marvelous and so much better than I could ever imagine!

If life went the way I planned it, it would be pretty miserable, so I'm thankful for a God who knows me better than I know myself, who knows exactly what I need and when I need it. No matter where I go, I'm always leaving friends and having to say goodbyes, which I hate. If you're a missionary kid or pastor's kid or live any other kind of life that requires frequent moves, you'll understand. Saying goodbyes at the end of this summer was so difficult, and now I miss my PVM family, my Ukarumpa classmates, and my Cedarville classmates a great deal. I wish I could see all of them right now, in this very moment. I wish we weren't so far away from each other, and I really wish that I had a car and could drive places, but alas, I have no car and I don't even have a license at the moment. And yet, God has provided for all of my relational needs wherever I go, including this summer at PVM. He's just such a good and loving Father! Praise Him. Saying goodbyes wouldn't be painful if there wasn't any commitment or love, so I have realized that the pain is worth it, but of course I look forward to heaven when all believers will live in community together. What a day that will be, living with our King!

That's Part I of the amazing summer I had at PVM. The underlying theme that God laid on my heart was surrendering to him and his will, and as I let go of one thing after another, I fell more in love in God and was motivated to serve him more. James 2:14-17 comes to mind as I mull over all that God's taught me recently:

What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?
So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.

My faith grew and as it did, God worked through me to do many good deeds. I praise Him for everything!

Love in Christ,

Thursday, July 12, 2012

70 sextillion.

"70 sextillion known stars in the universe. That's 70 + 22 zeros. 70,000 million million million. And Jesus made them all & holds them all." -Stephen Miller

That's A LOT of stars. Take a moment to think about that and reflect on the amazing universe that God created. We serve a mighty God who loves and cares for each one of us more than we can imagine. I hope you feel wanted because God certainly wants you! :)

Then he said to the crowd, "If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me." -Luke 9:23

I never wanna leave.

I love this camp so much. God has taught me a whole lot while I've been at PVM, and the recurring theme has been and continues to be surrender. Surrendering to God isn't easy, but God has taught me to, "Surrender everything you are to the LORD and let Him lead you in accordance to his will. His blessings abound to surrendered hearts."

And I've certainly experienced God's blessings this summer at PVM. God has given me great relationships with people I only just met at the beginning of the summer. He's allowed me to share my testimony with a couple of friends and be an encouragement through words and time spent with others listening to what they have to say.

Some days are difficult and I struggle to control my life, but then I have to take a step back and say, "God, I surrender to your will. Be the LORD of my life today. I will go where you send me." Yesterday was one of those days where I was struggling with several situations in my life and I talked with God about them while taking a walk around camp. It was peaceful and I could freely share my frustration and misunderstandings with God. He understood and led me to 2 Corinthians 12 which talks about Paul's thorn in the flesh and how God's power works best in weakness. Verse 9 says: Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.”

I'm so encouraged that when I am weak, God is strong. My achievements may not amount to much, but  through Christ, I can do all things.

I'll end with a quote that I read in the book, "Surrender" by Nancy Leigh DeMoss earlier tonight. It speaks volumes about what has been on my heart lately. God wants you and I to be fully surrendered to  him and to live lives of obedient service to him.

Surrender isn't the surrender of the external life, but of the will; when that is done, all is done. There are very few crises in life; the great crisis is the surrender of the will. -Oswald Chambers

God bless you all!