Friday, December 27, 2013

London Lights and Christmastide

I spent Christmas in London this year, with my English family here, playing carols at the midnight service in Notting Hill, celebrating Christmas Eve with a party with the Argentinian side of our family and Christmas day with my American girls, running through deserted streets on Christmas morning, avoiding Oxford Street on Boxing Day (and wandering through Covent Garden instead), and eating loads of donations from Waitrose.

Christmas here is different from the American Christmases of my childhood, but they are still full of family, food, and love.

Christmas celebrations started on the 19th for me, because my friend Stephanie, who studied here in Canterbury with me three years ago, came to London for a few days. We met in Victoria Station, the very place we left each other exactly three years before, and spent the evening wandering our old haunts in London and remembering the freedom and excitement of being international students.

Christmas Eve is the day celebrated by South Americans, so we had a massive, base-wide celebration all night, with all sixty of us crammed into one of our homes, Argentinian barbeque, games, worship, and Secret Santa exchange.

I, however, left early to play the piano and lead carols at the midnight Christmas service at Notting Hill.

I spent Christmas in various living rooms of the houses on base, around tables, eating left over barbeque and spending time with people that I love. I keep learning how important it is to spend time with people who are dear, how time is what cannot be stolen away later. The conversations around the table, the snuggles on the couch, the laughter that fills our houses daily, those things remain.

I love actually having time with my friends, too, time to explore and drink coffee and stare at Christmas lights and have deep conversations on the bus.

And it's fun to inter-mingle traditions from all of our cultures. In this picture we have three Brasilians who live in Spain, one Argentinian-born English girl, and me, all eating English breakfast in London.

I miss my family's traditions back home, but I am young enough to enjoy making new traditions, to find the beauty in running around the Strand in the icy cold, to laugh when I get soaked to the bone for the fourth day in a row, and I am so loved. So wonderfully loved. In Luke, Jesus says that the people who give up their families and lives to follow Him will receive much more on Earth, then eternal life in Heaven. I have a taste of that much more here. I have such a large family here, such free-flowing love, such warmth. I can see the "much more" of His love.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

prime ministering

This morning, just before church, I chatted to David Cameron in a shop in Notting Hill.

Yes, David Cameron, the British Prime Minister.

I had been greeting people at the door of the church when one of the members said, "Oh, there goes Cameron!"

I thought he meant one of his friends.

A moment later, Christian, my arts team leader, came in and said, "Cameron and his family are just around the corner!"

By then, I realised that he meant the Prime Minister. We popped round the corner and discussed what God would want to say to David Cameron. Then Christian showed me which shop he'd gone into, and I went in to speak to him.

It was a little bit bizarre, strolling into a shop and chatting with David Cameron. To be fair, I did not know what he looked like very well. I also do not know a lot about his politics, other than what I read in the news. My only motive in speaking to him was to invite him to church.

It was just Cameron, his son, the clerk, and me in the shop. He told me that he'd just come from church, and we talked about it for a moment. Then I asked him if there was anything we, at our church, could pray for. His eyes grew tired, and he said, quietly, "Pray for Syria. We need to pray for that situation."

I started back for the church, then thought to ask him what I could pray for, but for him specifically. He said, "Pray for me. Please pray for me."

Then I left. I did not want to ask anything of him. I do not have an opinion on his politics, and I do not need anything from him. It seemed bizarre to me that I, a 23-year-old American, could stroll into a shop and talk to the British Prime Minister. Nobody introduced us, there were no formalities, and I talked to him about what I have talked to people about a hundred times on that very street.

And I saw that he is just a man. He is a man that wakes up in the morning, reads the newspaper, and feels despair about the situation in Syria. But instead of just wishing that things could be done, he is the one who has the responsibility to do something. And on top of that, he has to take into consideration his party and the British people and the leaders of the world and alliances and world politics. He knows what is really going on. And still he goes to church, goes shopping with his family, and lives a normal life.

What a burden.

But I also realised that he is the leader that God appointed. He is the God-ordained authority in this situation. And when he asked me to pray for him, I realised that I have been remiss in praying for him. He has so much responsibility, and I pray for him once a week, during intercession. But it is a responsibility he carries every day.

He needs our prayer. He asked for our prayer.

And I pray that God gives him wisdom. He is the one appointed to lead us in Great Britain, and I am certain that God has a way for all of this to be worked out. I am praying that God will speak clearly to David Cameron about His solution for Syria, and for the other issues at large in the world right now.

Will you join me in praying for Great Britain's Prime Minister?

Saturday, December 14, 2013

the promise of jewels

Sometimes, when I read the book of Revelation in the Bible, I get overwhelmed. The prophecies and visions of the end of the world (and after, in Heaven) should delight me, but they tend to confuse me.

This morning, I was reading Isaiah, and when I read chapters 60 and 61 where Isaiah prophecies about the time when Jesus will return, I got excited. He will be the sun. We, His followers, will inherit a double portion, and everlasting joy will be ours (Isaiah 61:7). But I have to admit that my favourite part was verse 10, when it says that the Lord will clothe me as a bride clothes herself in jewels. I cannot wait to look that beautiful for my Beloved.

I recently also finally understood why John called himself "the one that Jesus loved." It was not because he was unique in being somebody who Jesus loved (although he and Jesus did seem to be particularly close); part of Jesus' character is that He loves everyone and died for everyone. But John understood Jesus' love for him, and it was his understanding, in his heart, of that love that changed his life.

I am one that Jesus loves. And better than adorning me in physical jewels, which are of no value to Him, since He has control of all of the jewels in the world, He is making my heart beautiful. That means so much more to Him. It's the reason He came to Earth, took a human body, died, and descended to Hell to take the power of death from Satan. He did all of that for the chance to make my heart beautiful. He did it for the chance to prepare me to spend eternity in His light, instead of the light of a gaseous star. He did it for the chance to spend an eternity with me, to give me a double portion, to give me everlasting joy.

That is why I have to be holy. That is why I have to grow in righteousness. Those are more precious than jewels.

Those are the jewels my Beloved wants to dress me in.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

passing through my hands

I have a confession.

When I first became a missionary, I did not really understand how it was possible for me to give offerings. After all, all of the money that allowed me to be here in London was from an offering. How do you give an offering out of an offering? Is that even fair to the people who support me?

I understood that I had to tithe, but when God asked me to give money to others, sometimes I thought He was crazy. Even as I obeyed, I thought He was crazy. How can a person who has no money give money to somebody else?

I needed to grow a lot in my faith. And in my obedience.

I remember now the widow who put all of her money in the offering at the temple, and I remember Jesus' response to her sacrifice (Mark 12:44). He said that she put more into the treasury than all of the rich men, because she gave all that she had. What must that have been like for her, to give everything that she had, even her money for food?

My teammates and I have talked about this quite a bit recently, because we are trying to raise $3,000 each for our team outreach to Argentina in March. However, God keeps leading us to give offerings out of the money that we would otherwise save for Argentina. It seems counter-intuitive to give out of what we are trying to save to also do God's work, but God keeps asking us to give.

All of the money in the world is under God's control; I am just a steward of the bit of it that comes through my hands. So of course God can ask me to give offerings. He could even ask me to give up all of my money. It is hard for me, with my Western mentality of earning what I spend, to comprehend that. My parents raised me to be responsible with my money, to only spend what I had, and even to save money. It has been quite a task for God to undo some of my requirements about money and to change my heart into a heart that is willing to give an offering, even when it is the last money in my wallet, as it sometimes is. But the truth is, that money is not my money. It is a gift from God. And if it is God's plan to use it to bless somebody else, then I am just lucky to be the one who gets to do the blessing.

And after all of this time, I can finally say that it is a blessing. God is teaching me a lot about depending on Him, not only for direction, a ministry, and putting down roots in London, but also about depending on Him for the money that comes into my hands and the money that goes back out.

How many times have I been the recipient of that offering? How many times have I been the one blessed by somebody sacrificing their weekly Starbucks coffee, or their new cabinets in their house?

Just this week, I found out that my church back in the States is giving me a monthly offering of $100, which is 1/6 of what I need to live here every month. That money comes from the offerings of the people in that church, and they are faithful to God, who in turn provides for me. It is also one of the only monthly offerings that I receive, and I am so thankful for God's provision.

As the holidays draw closer, it is time for me to think about what I want to give as an end-of-the-year gift. It is something that my parents do every year, and it is something that I want to do, as well. They close out the year by giving an offering to a ministry of their choice, which in the past has been church ministries or individuals that God laid on their hearts. I do not have much money this month, but I trust that God will be faithful with the offering that I am going to give. I also trust that what He leads me to give will be exactly what is needed. God's funny that way - He already knows exactly what is needed, and I'm willing to bet that He's going to tell me what it is.

I am so thankful that God moved in my heart to show me the blessings that come with being faithful to give as He leads, even when I don't understand. I am also thankful that God provided for me for another year here. There were times when I had no idea how I was going to pay for plane tickets back to London from outreach, or how I would make rent, but God showed up every single time. That is a real Christmas miracle.

And if God moves in your heart to share with me this season, you can send an email to, and my mother will help you, or you can send a donation directly to me at by sending it to and putting my name in the subject line.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Here are some pictures from my time in Italy. The post detailing my time there is here.

In Florence, Italy, we stayed in a Christian camp. This is the container that we stayed in - Florence, Italy

The toilet in the camp (aka, a hole) - Florence, Italy. I used this for two weeks.

In Florence, Italy, we did daily street evangelism.

This is me in the Tuscan hills that appeared right behind the camp. I ran or walked here almost daily to talk to God.

Ezra and I led worship for the services nightly in the camp.

Sometimes I also sang during evangelism.

This is Florence in mid-morning, with the Duomo dominating the skyline.

This is our team in Ancona, Italy, a town on the Adriatic Sea.

The church that we served in had a radio station in the church.

This is me in the town where accordions were invented. The church took us to the museum and everything.

The church also drove us to Loreto, which is called the Second Vatican.

This is the beautiful coast of Ancona. 

Oh Mamma!

I have been back from my counselling school outreach in Italy for a week, and people keep asking me how it was. When they do, I never know quite what to say. Italy was the very top of my list of places I wanted to go, but it was still unlike my expectations. We ate pasta for lunch and dinner every day - as the first course. Bread, vegetables, and meat followed. Gelato is one of the most delicious delicacies I have ever had the privilege of tasting. The boys on the team picked olives in Tuscany, and they were given a bottle of fresh olive oil in return. It is exquisite.

But Italy is more than food. In one of the teachings that I gave, God told me to read Ezekiel 37, the passage about the dry bones. As I read it aloud (and waited for the translation), I realised that the passage describes Italy. There are so many dry bones in Italy, so many people who wander around, brushing by religion daily, but remaining lifeless. The Catholic Church reigns supreme, but there is not a god to be seen. The true god of Italy is probably seduction, which permeates magazines, advertisements, and the streets. Italy is known for love, but I would define it as lust. Women are a commodity to be bought and put to work, and to a certain extent, I experienced that within the culture. I am a Southern girl, and I am used to being a little bit taken care of. I am not surprised when doors are opened for me, when men walk me home after dark, or when I am helped to carry heavy things. But in Italy, those behaviours are not normal.

The outreach that I was doing in Italy was my counselling school outreach, and as such, I was frequently invited into people's homes. It was such an interesting experience, to be welcomed into various homes, to eat with families, and to watch the way that they interacted. Italy is a warm country, culturally, and is different from both England and the place that I was raised. Families are in and out of each others' homes constantly, and a problem in a family is often the business of the whole community.

I had the privilege, while we were in Italy, of seeing a man come to Christ in his home. His wife accepted Christ two months previously, and I got to watch her face as he prayed to receive Christ. It was one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen; the lines actually fled off of her face.

Ezra (my classmate from Minnesota) and I also led worship every night, and on some nights, we led some of the songs in Italian. That was one of the areas during which God showed up and ministered the most to my heart. I trained in opera growing up, and I was surprised by how easily I could sing in Italian again (and by how much of it I understood). God spoke to me through my rudimentary understanding of the songs, and I was so blessed to be able to worship with people of different nationalities, in a language that I do not speak, and to see how the Holy Spirit can sweep through a room, regardless of the language or my own comprehension.

I also did quite a bit of teaching on the outreach. Teaching is not my favourite activity, ministry-wise, but it is an area in which God always stretches me. When I taught about worship and heard the story of God humbling me in worship translated from English to Spanish, and then Spanish to Italian, I was reminded of the way that God always has a plan for me, and of how He has taken me away from my own plans and back to His plans for my life.

The counselling school was such an important five months in my life. It was hard; God pruned a lot of unhealthy things out of my life. He even pruned some things that were not bad, but that were keeping me from following His plan. On the other hand, God also showed me some next steps for my life, and He amazed me by how He has been preparing me uniquely since I was a tiny girl. So many of my interests, talents, and even childhood games have been preparing me for where God is leading me.