My World

One Church

Writing is a deeply personal thing for me. I made my roommate read the blog post I wrote below before sending it to my organization’s marketing department for scrutiny. My hands were shaking as I clicked send and my heart is racing as I do the same for this post.

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As a logistics coordinator for short-term missions, I am constantly encouraged by the faith of the missionaries I work with. Most times I feel like they have more to teach me than I can teach them! Recently, a short-term missionary I have been working with came to me with one of the most beautiful questions I’ve been asked during my time with TEAM: “How can I bless my home church through my mission trip?”

My heart soared. What an example of Christ’s love for his unified body! Here at TEAM, one of our highest values is the church—engaging churches both in our hometowns and those reaching the ends of the earth to foster communities where the gospel is known and spread. It is encouraging to know our short-term missionaries are just as passionate about raising up the church as we are.

Together we brainstormed the ways this short-term missionary could bless her church in Canada with her time serving in Mexico. As we dreamed, I realized this is something all missionaries could strive for—especially those going short-term who want their trip’s impact to spread beyond their return back home.

So if you are preparing to serve overseas (or would like to know how to encourage your local church in general), I challenge you to consider a few of these ideas to bless your home church with your international mission trip:

  1. Commit to prayer

This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 1 John 5:14

When was the last time you prayed for your home church? For the pastors to be strengthened in their marriages or the nonbelievers who visit to be touched by the gospel? This is a practice that is important at any time, but can be especially life-giving when following the Lord in his plan for you with missions. As you gather prayer support from your church family, ask how you can pray for them in return. Set aside time to pray specifically for these requests as part of your ministry before even entering your international ministry area.

  1. Engage others

For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. Romans 12:4-5

Let’s say you are going to France for a few months as part of a sports outreach with teenagers who desperately need someone to walk alongside them in discipleship. While you are excited to fill this role, you are worried that your two years of high school French classes won’t cut it when trying to have meaningful conversations with the students. At your home church one Sunday, you meet a woman who lived in France for years and is fluent in the language! Asking if she could help tutor you in French could not only bless you and your ministry in France, but also is a practical way for your new friend to use her gifts to further the kingdom.

God has given each of his children specific gifts and talents to be used for his glory and advancement of the kingdom. This could be a great way for people to practically support your ministry who are not able to financially contribute. Your mission trip can be more than an opportunity for your own gifts to be utilized, but a way to engage other members of your local church to put their God-given gifts into practice.

  1. Share your story

It is my pleasure to tell you about the miraculous signs and wonders that the Most High God has performed for me. Daniel 4:2

Just as your ministry starts before you jump on the airplane, it also doesn’t have to end when you get home. God loves to use time we set aside in service for his kingdom to teach, challenge, and inspire his children and it is the word of our testimony that conquers the enemy. Don’t be afraid to ask to stand before your church to share the way God has changed lives through your service. Boldly start conversation with supporters about the provision he granted in ways you didn’t even ask for. God will use these experiences to influence your heart, but could also have more plans for your stories than you could expect. Ask the Lord for opportunities to share the stories he has given you through your mission trip to multiply the impact of his work in your life.

  1. Foster a partnership

I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other. Let there be no divisions in the church. Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose. 1 Corinthians 1:10

The body of Christ is a single unit that cannot be divided by cultural, language, or geographical differences. In God’s sovereignty, it is entirely possible he is using you, short-term missionary, to provide a bridge between two churches to partner together in providing for each other’s needs. Perhaps through your time serving alongside missionaries in Guatemala, a need is expressed that someone in your church back home is the perfect fit to fulfill. Keep your eyes open for God’s prompting or opportunities to be a vessel uniting his people in one thought or purpose.

My World

That one time I met Ben Savage

Let me tell you about this one time when I met Ben Savage.

This past February I went to LA with a friend for a couple days to see a taping of Girl Meets World. I have been in love with the original Boy Meets World since my older sister introduced it to me years and years ago. Basically my childhood consisted of Harry Potter, N*SYNC, and Boy Meets World. Eric is quite possibly my favorite TV character of all time and I absolutely adore Cory and Topanga. So naturally, I have been stoked for the new spin-off series since it was announced a few months ago, although like any true fan I know it will never be as fantastic as the original. Nevertheless, when my friend found out how to get free tickets to a taping in Los Angeles, I could barely contain my excitement. Several weeks later, we were on our way to sunny LA!!

Once in LA, we met up with some lovely friends we knew from college who have since moved to California so we had ourselves a little reunion! We arrived at the studio and stood in the line forming outside, which was an odd combination of little preteen kids who was the show’s primary audience and young adults my age who grew up with BMW looking for a continuation to this wonderful part of our childhood. We quickly made friends with an awesome guy standing behind us who had been to lots of tapings before and told us we were in the perfect spot in line to get in. He was an aspiring screenwriter who had recently moved to LA from Atlanta to pursue his dream, and he already lined up a few impressive writing jobs! He attended as many show tapings as he could to get inspiration and grow familiar with the atmosphere he was working towards. Smart kid.

Blissfully enjoying the company of our new friend and another little boy celebrating his 10th birthday with his mom, the studio people started walking down the queue to check our tickets. You see, the tickets to show tapings don’t guarantee you a seat within the studio–it allows you to stand in the first come, first served line. We weren’t worried though since our experienced friend was confident we would get in. However, the studio people gave us a warning–there was a school group coming for the show so there could be a chance we don’t get in. My heart sank. Our friend told us there are about 100-125 seats in the studio and after careful eavesdropping, we discovered the student group could be as big as 45. Quickly counting our place in line, we might need a miracle for us to get in.

They started letting the front of the line into the studio. I prayed silently as we inched our way to the front. Then they cut the line off two people in front of our group. Crap. The school group hadn’t even shown up yet, why do they get special privileges? We were there first! What felt like hours later, the bus pulled up and everyone in line started counting the kids spilling out. 45 exactly. I tried to hold on to a small inkling of hope but everyone around me started getting upset. Did the kids even know what Boy Meets World was? There were several little girls behind us in line who didn’t. WE, on the other hand, grew up with Cory and Topanga, Shawn and Angela, the Matthews and Mr. Feeney. These kids have no idea the depth of the original show, the morals it portrayed, the example it set for my generation!

As we were watching these kids go through security and walk through the studio door, they kept looking at our line with haughty expressions. They knew they were the reason we couldn’t get in and seemed to enjoy our misery. One girl even waved sarcastically as she slipped through the door. I almost lost it. What a brat.

20140430-092309.jpgThen a black car pulled up, one you could tell was transporting someone important. Lo and behold, ANGELA steps out of the car!!!! From the original series!!! In that moment, you could tell the true BMW fans from the reaction. My generation was frantically whispering, “Look! It’s Angela!!!”, taking subtle yet stalker-ish pictures while some of the young’uns behind us were confused at the sudden excitement. Trina McGee (her real name, though she will always look like an Angela to me) seemed to be waiting for the okay to enter the studio so while she was waiting, she came over and took pictures with us!!! If we had gotten into the studio in the first go around, we wouldn’t have met Angela!
Flustered with the unexpected excitement, we started to resign to the fact that we probably weren’t getting into the taping. It was a huge bummer, especially since we flew from Denver just for this event. Our friend told us there was an awesome bible study we could attend that night in case the taping didn’t pan out, so I tried to let go of my frustration and figure out what else we could do with the night instead.

Then it happened.

The wonderful studio people came back to our line and LET US IN!!!! They admitted the two people in front of us, our group, and the small group behind us. My inner 90s child was rejoicing and spilling out everywhere!!! We were escorted through security into the studio where the pilot of GMW was playing on the screens to prepare the audience for the storyline. Then the writers and creators of the show were introduced and told us the vision of the show. The creator told us he wanted to keep the theme of BMW alive, full of values and morals, both episodes that will make you laugh and cry your eyes out (the episode when Joshua was born and had to be in the NICU still makes me absolutely bawl). Then he introduced the cast. When Cory and Topanga walked out, I could hardly stay in my seat. I couldn’t help but think “There they are!!! They’re standing right in front of me! This is real life!!!”

For the next three hours, we laughed on cue at various scenes. Cory was definitely the star of the show and just as adorable as he was in BMW. The show as a whole was as I expected it to be–really cheesy and immature like the rest of today’s Disney Channel shows. But there were still lessons to be learned and BMW wasn’t without its cheese as well. They have to appeal to the new generation of kids in order to get them to watch the show so this may be what it takes. Besides, the first season of BMW wasn’t the best either–they eased into the awesomeness. the episode we watched was similar to the BMW episode where Cory was invited to a geek party. The new girl, Riley, actually made friends with the geeks and became their queen. Somehow, that meant she turned into an anime character of sorts because that’s how geeks dress, I guess. The very last sene was akin to the Mr. Feeney moments where we all learn an important lesson of staying true to who we are. There’s hope for the show yet. If anything, watch the episode to listen for my laugh!

After the taping, there was a scramble to the front of the audience section to meet Ben Savage (and the little girls who were the new Cory and Shawn but let’s face it, no one was as excited to meet them). Ben Savage was so nice, trying to talk to as many fans as possible and sign our random pieces of paraphernalia. Finally, right as we were about to be ushered out of the room, we squeezed our way to the front to talk to Ben (I’d like to think we’re on first name terms now). He signed our pages and even took a picture with us. I wish I could remember exactly what we said to each other, but it was such a whirlwind experience, I’m just content with knowing we spoke to Cory Matthews in person and he was the nicest person I could have imagined him to be. I’d say our trip to LA was a success!

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My World

Turkish Delight…?

Story time!

If you know me at all, even one passing conversation in the grocery store, you will know one very important aspect of my life: I studied abroad last summer. I will find a way to worm this little detail about me into any conversation, even if you find it annoying. It’s something I’m most proud of and an experience that has changed my life.

Obviously, thanks to this wonderful experience through Semester at Sea, I have tons of stories. Literally, tons. A ton is what… 1000 lbs? I have a thousand pounds worth of stories. Here’s just one for you today:

Towards the end of July, I spent 5 days in Istanbul, Turkey. I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect in this city, but I was excited to find out. I had heard about Istanbul years ago and put it on my travel bucket list; now I was finally able to check it off!

On our first day in Istanbul, my friends Krissy, Ali, and I set off to explore the city. We wandered around a bit before breaking down and buying a map to find the Hagia Sofia and Blue Mosque–two attractions we were told to visit by several different experts on our ship. On our way, we stumbled across a beautiful park. After visiting major cities for the past month and a half, we weren’t used to seeing so much grass! We took endless pictures, played on the swing set tucked back behind a path, counted several busts of Attaturk (he was everywhere), and posed for pictures on a bridge crossing a tiny pond.

Soon, we grew tired and hungry. We found a quaint little cafe right outside of the park, so we wandered inside. It was completely empty except a couple waiters. Awkward. It was about 10:30 in the morning… perhaps it wasn’t open yet? Then one of the waiters spotted us and, a little too excitedly, waved us to a table. That was confusing… there was a bar displaying many different pastries and drinks with a cash register on the end. Surely that’s where we were to order? After a few more awkward moments of sitting, we decided to just go for it and order a couple plates of baklava and apple tea (best meal you will ever find in Turkey!). After a lot of pointing and attempted Turkish words, we finally ordered and returned to our seats. A few minutes later, the same friendly waiter brought us our plates of baklava. We offered, “Sağol“, but the waiter oviously wasn’t leaving.

To our surprise, the waiter–knowing very little English, mind you–started cutting up our baklava for us. As this was our first day in Turkey, we figured maybe it was a custom of Turkish servers to cut up the guests’ food… until he started feeding it to us. Starting with Krissy, the waiter came up behind each of us, one hand on our shoulder, the other hand holding a fork with a bite of baklava in its prongs and he proceeded to feed us the baklava!!! After each bite, he would set down the fork, grab a napkin, and wipe the crumbs from our faces!! We watched each other being fed by this Turkish stranger, stifling bouts of laughter but he could tell we weren’t used to this sort of treatment.

After feeding us our first bites of baklava, the waiter left so we could feed the rest to ourselves. We could not stop laughing, wondering if this was a Turkish tradition or if we stumbled into the wrong cafe.

A few minutes later, our waiter friend returned with free Turkish Delight for us to try… or rather, for him to make us try. Looking back, he may have just wanted to see if we would let him feed us again because that’s exactly what he did. After he fed Ali her piece and was wiping her face with a napkin, we all swear he tried to blow her nose.

Shortly after our friend fed us Turkish delight, we paid and left as quickly as we could, waiting to burst from laughter as soon as we rounded the corner. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed harder in my life!

After talking to a few other friends and eating at a couple more restaurants, we realized that it was not a Turkish custom to cut up guests’ food and feed them their first bite. If any waiter tries that, he knows you’re American and will go along with anything because you’re trying to experience the culture firsthand. I guess we did experience a certain aspect of Turkish culture… they can be tricksters.

My Books, My Brain, My World

Welcome to my world

I’m not good staying in one spot. If I have a day off with nothing to do, it frustrates me to death if I spent it inside with nothing to show for it. I live for adventures, all the way from exploring new foreign cities to finding a cool coffee shop I never knew existed. When I decided to study abroad, I chose Semester at Sea because you don’t simply stay in one country all summer/semester but rather eight or ten! That’s my kind of study abroad.

I think this stemmed from my love for reading. Growing up, my family had a tradition: almost every Friday night, my parents would take my sister and I out for dinner (usually Tia’s, a Mexican restaurant that has since closed, but gave kids tortilla dough to play with instead of coloring pages–a better alternative if you ask me!) then across the street to Borders Bookstore (now closing as well… how depressing). I loved wandering the maze of bookshelves, trying to decide which story I should delve into next. The few times I couldn’t decide on a book, or even find one that I wanted, I would be so frustrated. I couldn’t stand the idea of leaving a bookstore and NOT finding a book!

To this day, I find comfort in bookstores. While traveling abroad, I would find bookshops in almost every country and feel at home again. I bought my copy of The Great Gatsby from Pisa, Italy and I absolutely love it. I’ve met people who have never read a book for fun in their lives and it baffles me. Never??? I can’t even fathom life without my precious books! Sometimes I just sit in front of my bookcase and stare at them… A new adventure awaits me within each page. I can spend hours sitting on my couch but feel as though I’ve just journeyed to Hogwarts and fought alongside Harry and Hermione or followed Ray Bradbury to the future foretold within the tattoos of a strange fellow. I may be in the waiting room of a doctor’s office but feel as though I’ve been locked inside a room with Jack and his mom or escaped to Neverland with Peter and Tinkerbell. It’s always a new adventure, no matter how many times I read it.

Then there’s my journals. I have a large stack of them of various colors and shapes that I consider some of my most prized possessions. I’ve kept a consistent journal since 9th grade and now can’t image in how I would function without one. I always have something to jot down, mainly because I communicate best through writing. I’ll try to explain something to you and it just comes out as a confused mess. When I write something down, however, suddenly my brain comes out from hiding and pours onto the page.

When I write, I explore the recesses of my mind. It’s an interesting place up there… silly brain. Writing helps me discover what exactly has been going through my head and what thoughts have creeped in there lately. It’s not always pleasant, but it’s always an adventure.

As much as I love exploring lands that don’t exist or my own mind, having actual tangible adventures are my favorite. I rode a camel in Marrakech, Morocco, straddled two continents at once in Istanbul, Turkey, and backpacked my way through Italy for a week. I’ve spent a week living with a local family in central Mexico, playing Pictionary with the two daughters as a way to learn Spanish. I’ve spent 10 hours on a smelly Greyhound bus from Atlanta to Orlando, sitting among men who openly discussed their recent time in prison.

I like adventures. They make for great stories and keep my life from being stagnant. Journey with me as I embark on adventures of all sorts.