Choose Joy

This is a concept that took me a long time to accept. Having experienced true depression in my life, the idea of being able to choose joy or choose to be happy seemed impossible to me. It is something that I still struggle with. Sometimes it is hard to be naturally happy and on those days it has to be conscious choice.

I have a little sign next to my desk that I made my freshman year of college that says, “Today I am choosing to be happy.” Somehow this little canvas sign has followed me for the last four years, through several moves, all the way to where I am now. During that time I was really struggling with my depression and I had to make the conscious decision to be happy or at least to find things to have joy in. At the time, like now, I had just moved to a new place and had to make new friends and have new experiences. Some days it is harder to choose to be happy than it is on others. I believe that it is okay to be sad sometimes and it is okay to not be okay all of the time, but it is not healthy to be sad or depressed all of the time.

I can say from experience, it feels so good to finally feel okay and even better to feel good, after not being okay for long time. Sometimes you have to choose joy or choose to be happy for days, weeks, months or even years before you really feel it.

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Me Too.

I have been debating posting this for a few weeks, but it is still on my mind. And as I am getting ready to block a guy on Facebook who doesn’t seem to understand how uninterested I am in him, I felt it appropriate. The Me Too Movement is the latest social media movement to raise awareness of sexual assault and sexual harassment that started a few weeks ago. The most upsetting thing about this is how common sexual assault and I think even more sexual harassment is. It is upsetting to me that it is more surprising to hear a female say that she has never experienced some kind of sexual harassment. It shouldn’t be something that is as normalized as it is. It shouldn’t be something that is accepted as a part of life, because it is awful.

When I say me too, I mean I was fourteen. He was my first boyfriend. It happened in storage closet at my first job. It wasn’t rape but it was enough to make me feel like trash for the better part of the last ten years. It will have been ten years ago next July.

It was something that I thought about every day for years before I decided to take my life back. I had to actively choose to not let what happened have control of my life. That was a choice I had to actively make every day until I stopped thinking about it, until I stopped letting the past define who I am now.

Now, when I tell a guy that I am not interested and he still thinks it is okay to send me inappropriate messages for weeks, it still makes me feel sick to my stomach. If someone tells someone else they are not interested in the other, it should end there. Woman or man, it shouldn’t matter.

Halloween and Memories

Yesterday was Halloween, which is a holiday that holds a lot of memories for me. The last time I dressed up for Halloween was my senior year of high school and my life was very different back then, I had different friends and was focused on school and getting ready for college. Yesterday, my roommates and friends dressed up and got half-off burrito bowls from Chipotle, a free donut from Krispy Kreme and a free donut from the Sugar Shack (a local donut shop), just for being dressed up.

Most people feel joy when they walk into a donut shop like Krispy Kreme and are engulfed with the smells of fresh donuts, however when I walked into the shop I was nearly knocked over with a wave of memories that I had put behind me. The summer between graduating high school and starting college, I worked at Krispy Kreme. So many things in my life changed that summer, some good, some not so much. None of those things actually had anything to do with Krispy Kreme, other than that was where a lot of decisions were made.

I am not trying to seem over-dramatic,  but that was a time in my life that I usually try to forget, I feel like I was a totally different person back then. I became someone that summer that I am not proud of. It took a long time for me to forgive the people in my life during that time, including myself, but I have forgiven them.

Why Go So Far?

Missionaries often get asked “why go so far away when there is so much need in your own backyard?”

Is there a need for the Gospel to be spread in my own backyard, in my own hometown or home state or home country? Absolutely. The people of Evansville, Indiana, The United States of America need Jesus, need to hear the good news that Jesus Christ loves them and can save them from their sins. But the Gospel is already readily available in those places. Evansville has at least three Mega-churches in the surrounding area, not to mention the hundreds of smaller churches. There are few places in Indiana or The United States that you can go to meet people who have no idea who Jesus Christ is. But there are areas of the world where people have still not heard this good news about Jesus and they have no one from their home culture to tell them unless some one goes to tell them.

In the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) Jesus tells his disciples to “Go and make disciples of all nations,” we understand nations to mean ethno-linguistic people groups, not recognized political countries. There are over 10,000 people groups in the world, 40% of these people groups are considered unreached with less than 5% being followers of Jesus in these people groups. This 40% has no Christians to spread the gospel in their backyards so to speak. Roughly three billion people in the world live in areas of the world where no one has ever known about Jesus. In these areas it is not that people aren’t followers of Jesus because they have heard and have rejected the Gospel, it is that they have never had the opportunity to hear the truth about Jesus.

Right now, 99% of mission work, resources and people go to areas of the world that already have Gospel available to them. The last 1% of mission work is in the areas of the world that have never received the Gospel. Hillside Missions and World Horizons are working to balance these percentages in the mission field by focusing their missions on the least reached areas of the world. It is still important that there are people still spreading the Gospel in the areas of the world that have already been reached, we should continue to teach the Gospel in these areas. However, this should not stop us from going to harder areas that have yet to be reached.

I was privileged to have been born in a place where I could easily go to church. I was able to accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior when I was nine years old because my parents took me to church and I was able to be part of a Bible study called Purpose Driven Kids when I was in the third grade. I was privileged to be able to go to a Christian summer camp the summer before I started high school, where I was baptized. I was privileged to attend a Christian university (IWU) and able to earn a degree in Children’s Ministry and was trained primarily in how to best share the Gospel with children.

I have my degree in Children’s Ministry, when I first started working toward that degree I believed that I would end up using it in a typical American church setting, probably in Indiana or wherever I could find a job. However now, after I finish this internship program I will be able to use my skills in Children’s Ministry in a non-traditional setting in a area of the world where children do not yet have the opportunity to learn about Jesus. I hope to one day be able to write and teach a children’s ministry curriculum in a country where children would otherwise never get to hear the Gospel.

So, why go so far to do missions? Because while teaching the Gospel is important to do here, there are areas of the world that still do not have access to the Gospel at all. There are areas of the world where there are no neighborhood churches to have outreach ministries. There are areas of the world where people have never had the chance to know that Jesus exists, let alone that He loves them enough to die and rise again for their sins so that they may live a better life.

I am privileged to be able to be part of a internship where I am being trained to do long-term mission work in areas of the world where the Gospel has previously not be spread.

 

Comfort Food

Growing up vegetable soup was my favorite meal and it still is my favorite comfort food. When I left for college I always told my parents that the one meal that I wanted when I came home was veggie soup, and so that is what my parents made almost every time I came home.

Yesterday was the first time I made this while not in my parents’ house. I made it with less veggies and with chicken instead of beef because that was what I had and the pot we have in the apartment is much smaller than the one at home. It is finally starting to feel like Fall in Richmond and it was stormy all day yesterday, so it was the perfect weather to make veggie soup.20171029_17591184431454.jpg

Cleveland, TN

Tomorrow we are leaving Cleveland, TN to drive back to Richmond after spending a week at a Missions Conference at Lee University. It has been great being here getting to talk to many college students about doing missions. We got to talk to quite a few who seemed genuinely interested in what we do. Hopefully some of them will join us in the next few years. 

Its been fun being out of the office recruiting but I will also be glad to be back in the Richmond office next week. 

My Neighbor

Who is my neighbor?

Next door or across the world,

You are my neighbor.

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In the Gospel of Luke Jesus explains to his disciples and other people listening that two of greatest commandments are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind and strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves. One of the men listening to Jesus asks him “who is my neighbor?” probably thinking that loving our neighbor would be as easy as just loving the people who live near us and are similar to us. But this prompted Jesus to tell the parable of the Good Samaritan. 

In this parable a Jewish man is robbed, beaten and left on the side of the road on his way into the city of Jericho. His is passed by a priest, a Levite, and a Samaritan. The Jewish priest and the Levite should have been the ones to stop and help the hurt man but instead they passed on the other side of the road. The Samaritan man helps the Jewish man, even though within their cultures the Samaritans and the Jews did not like each other, earning himself the title of the Good Samaritan. After finishing this story, Jesus explains that the Samaritan was a loving neighbor to the Jewish man because he showed him mercy and we are do likewise. 

We are called to love our neighbor and that is not just the people who live near us or who believe the same things we do or the people who are easy for us to love. We are also called to love people who are from across the world from us and those who do not believe what we do. And not just to love them, but to love them in the same way we would love ourselves. I am constantly trying to learn how I can love my neighbor and I am actively learning how to do this better. 

This post was prompted by the title/prompt for our pop-art gallery that we take with us on trips like the one we are on now. The title is “Who is my neighbor?” and it has been used in the countries that WH has art galleries to facilitate conversation about the Gospel with people who have yet to hear it. We also use it at Universities like Lee to start conversations with students who may be interested in doing missions with us. 

Lines

One of our prayers this week while being at Lee University is that sometime in the future we will be able to draw a line from us being here in 2017 to someone we meet here being on the field doing missions somewhere that has yet to be reached with the Gospel. This makes me think of my story of how I got into Hillside/World Horizons. I am doing this internship and training to be a missionary with these organizations because they came to IWU’s Mission Week in 2016. 

Last year interns and staff members from World Horizons and Hillside Missions came to my college, laid out a carpet and sat on pillows in the IWU student center with a sign saying to come do missions despite student debt. Having been recently told by a different missions organization that I could not do missions with debt, this grabbed my attention pretty easily. My friends joked that I was not actually going to go through with a missions organizations because I spent most of my time at IWU talking to all of the ones that came to our campus. 

Despite this here I am now. There is a line to be drawn from World Horizons coming to IWU’s 2016 Missions Week to me being here and doing what I am doing now. I am really glad that I get to be a part of this now.