Tag Archives: ministry

Home to Pucallpa

At this time tomorrow, Lord willing, I’ll be in Pucallpa. In fact, by this time, I’ll probably be in Mama Rosy and Papa Jacinto’s house, having eaten my first Peruvian meal of 2012. The air around me will smell like dust, smoke, and chicken, and – if I have my way – I’ll be laying in the hammock.

As I got ready to fall asleep in Aunt Lora’s squishy pink bed (the same place I’ve slept the night before every Peru trip) last night, I commented to Mom that this year’s trip felt different. Of course there are the few major differences – going alone, length of trip, purpose of the trip, etc – but there has just been a different feeling hovering over the whole idea of the trip itself.

Between the flight from Detroit to Ft. Lauderdale and the 8-hour layover in Ft. Boringdale that Spirit Air has blessed me with, I’ve had a lot of time to think about that feeling. I think I’ve figured it out.

You see, up until this year, Pucallpa was the only place where I had ever gone maskless. Something about the combination of serving, pure love despite the language barrier, and the sweltering heat, caused my mask to fall off when I first stepped out of the plane in 2008.  It was one of the things I loved most about Peru – how free I was always able to be when I was there. How I was able to laugh and cry from the deepest place inside of me, to sing and dance without feeling embarrassed, and to love from the deepest place in my soul.

Towards the beginning of my time at Moody, however, something changed. I was assigned to read the book “True Faced,” and it convicted me in the deepest way. God gently reached down, tipped my chin upward, pulled off my mask, and threw it on the ground. It shattered into a million tiny pieces, never able to be worn again.

As a result, I lived out this past year with the vulnerable confidence that I had previously only felt in Pucallpa. I learned to laugh, cry, dance (this is a relative term. I still can’t dance.), and be a friend. I learned the true, radical, life-altering meanings of church words like “grace,” “trust,” and “faith.” And I was content on a much deeper level.

That’s why this year feels different. Rather than longing to go to a place where I can truly be myself, I’m returning to the place that first taught me who “myself” was. I’m going home, but I’ve really been home all year long.

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Major Changes

They say the average undergrad student changes their major about five times.  I’ve always regarded this statistic slightly pridefully, with the air of smugness that comes from “having it all planned out.”  I’ll graduate from Moody in 3.5 years with a degree in TESOL (and Bible, of course), and move to Central/South America. (Hopefully getting married somewhere in there.) There, I’ll teach English fulltime as a missionary and, on the side, work with teenage/young adult girls who have been abused or involved in the sex trade.  Sounds like a good plan, right?

Let me back up about four years.  I was reading the book “Zealous Love” by Mike and Danae Yankoski, and came to the chapter on human trafficking.  Tears poured down my cheeks and my stomach turned as I read the accounts of girls, often as young as 5 or 6 years old, who were sold into the sex trade.  An overwhelming feeling came over me as my heart broke for these women.  As a 14 or 15 year old, I didn’t really know what to do with that feeling, but I bookmarked a few blogs and vowed to pray for the women and children caught up in that sickening industry.

Last year, on a whim, I picked up a $5 CD at Family Christian Bookstore.  It was called “Freedom: Artists United for the International Justice Mission,” and it featured several bands I like.  As I looked over the packaging, I realized it was a fundraiser for IJM and included a DVD.  I watched the DVD one night and cried again as the stories of women who had been rescued from prostitution and slavery… but all I did was cry.  After all, I already had my plan (see above).

My plan started out really well.  I came to Moody.  I declared TESOL as my major.  I started Intro to TESOL.  I observed some classes, wrote some lesson plans… and… little by little, realized I don’t really want to spend every day of the rest of my life in a classroom/writing lesson plans.  Rather than being super excited for my upcoming classes, teaching for PCM, and my internship, I would kind of slump my shoulders and resign myself to the coming realities.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about feeling convicted and not knowing what to do about it.  After I wrote that, I started to pray a lot about where I was going with my life.  The books I’ve been reading, things I’ve been studying, and discussions we’ve been having at Gospel Community have made me realize I need to do something different.  I’ve been slapped in the face a lot lately with the reality that, while it is an incredible door into lives, English is not a basic need.  Those who are starving, being sold, without homes, or in desperate need of true love do not need to learn English.  They need food, freedom, shelter, or love.

As I prayed, I began to realize something.  When I think about my true dream – the thing I’m the most excited about when I tell people “my plan,” – it’s not standing in front of a class or writing lesson plans.  It’s the part I always refer to as “on the side.”  It’s the reason I attempted to interdisciplinary (basically a minor, for those of you who don’t go to Moody) in pre-counseling.  I want to work with girls who have been wounded, sold, and stolen.  Girls who had their innocence ripped away from them, who were so desperate for money that they sold their right to themselves.  I want to teach them that they have worth, that they are beautiful.  To LOVE them.  To show them the One who will never, ever abuse them.  From the first time I read about the issue of sexual exploitation, I have had a burden in my heart for those girls.

Yesterday, in chapel, one of our professors stood at the podium and said she had a “very exciting announcement.”  She announced that Moody was beginning a new major: Ministry to Victims of Sexual Exploitation.  As she explained the details, tears pooled in my eyes and my mind began scrambling.  The first conscious thought I had was, “I have to do this,” followed shortly by about six reasons why there was no possible way I could do this.

One at a time, throughout the day yesterday, God countered each of those points.  In fact, He didn’t just counter them, He gave me even more reasons why I needed to lace up my shoes and run.  I called my mom, who had been sitting in a chapel at Bo’s school while I was in chapel.  Their speaker was a missionary from Peru (of all places!) who runs a shelter for battered women… many of whom have been rescued from sexual exploitation.  The first class for this major fit PERFECTLY into an hour and fifteen minute hole that just happened to be in my fall schedule. 9-12 more credits from Mott would transfer in with the switch.

I got my change of major form this afternoon and filled it out.  When I went to the Missions Department to have it signed, the hallway seemed deserted.  “Okay, God,” I whispered.  “I’m 99% sure this is what I’m supposed to do… but if it REALLY is… just give me one more sign?” (Oh, me of little faith…)  I walked to the end of the hall, towards what I was certain would be a deserted office, and there was Dr. Sisk.  He signed off on my major change as chair of the Missions Department, and I was gone in about 30 seconds.

I could easily write another 900+ words about all of the tiny details, “coincidences,” and neon signs shouting that I should go ahead with this that have happened in the last 48 hours… but I’ll spare you the extra reading.  As of next week, everything should be approved, and my major will be officially changed from TESOL to Ministry to Victims of Sexual Exploitation.  Do I have a 5 or 10 year plan?  Nope.  But He does, and I know that there’s nothing better for me than His plan.

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Story Time- Part One

I wish I could take you out for coffee.  I would sit with you on the back couch at Jilly Bean’s, sipping a blended vanilla chai.  I could talk for hours, telling you stories of the ministry, the county, and the kids who have stolen my heart.  We would share laughter and tears as I attempted to show you why I have fallen head-over-heels in love with Crossroads Farm and Hillsdale County.

I can’t, though.  Take you out for coffee, that is.  I’m only here four more days, and two of those will be spent on an overnight trip with my Bible study girls.  Every second is scheduled, and I’m determined to squeeze in as much relational time with my friends and family as humanly possible.  Let’s take a rain check on the physical coffee date, and instead I’ll tell you some stories via internet.  It’s not as good, but grab some coffee and settle in… this could take a while.  Bear with me as I try to communicate my heart, as I try to make you feel a fraction of the yanking this internship has done on the strings of my heart.

Story One: Cole

Let’s rewind to the first day of my internship.  I was packing up my stuff to take to our car wash when the office phone rang.  A boy named Cole*, 12 years old, needed a ride.  “I can be at the Student Center in 2 minutes,” he said. “I have to go! I only have to raise $50 more before I can go to camp!”  I told him I would take him, and sure enough, he showed up within two minutes.

We talked the entire way to Hillsdale.  Actually, I misspoke.  HE talked the entire way to Hillsdale.  In the 15 minutes it took us to drive to town, go through the McDonald’s drive-thru for dollar drinks, and pull into Rite-Aid, I had learned all about his family.  I don’t see my dad very much, he doesn’t really like me. He says I’m annoying. But he’s awesome! Really! He’s so awesome! He works at a car dealership and he said he’d come today. I hope he comes today. My mom’s getting remarried on Friday. The guy’s nice, but I don’t really like his kids. And I think we have to move. I’m excited for Hiawatha, are you?

The car wash started (and ended) very slowly, but before long, a huge red Ford truck pulled up.  It was already practically spotless, but the tinted window rolled down and a way-too-well-coiffed-for-this-county man said “Heard there was a car wash around here.”

“DAD!” yelled Cole.  A quick glance at his face confirmed my suspicions- his smile nearly wrapped around his head.  Suddenly, it was Cole’s car wash.  He started handing people towels and scrub brushes as he handed out orders. “You, do the windows. Zach- tires. TJ, get the bugs out of the front. But be careful! This is my dad’s truck!”

As our little team scrubbed the truck, Cole exchanged small-talk with his dad.  “Dad, I’ve almost raised all my camp money by myself.  Only $50 to go!”
“All by yourself, kid? Really?”
“Yeah, Dad, all by myself! I babysat and did car washes and I’m almost there!”
“That’s great, Cole. I’m proud of you, bud.”  This produced another megawatt grin from Cole, who quickly ducked to dry a hubcap.

When we finished, Cole dad handed Paul his camp donation and jumped in his truck.  As he started to pull away, he rolled down the window and yelled, “Love you, Cole. I’m so proud of you, son, I mean it. Have fun at camp!”  And I thought Cole’s first two smiles had been huge….

*name changed

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