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More Than the Sand

If you have followed my Facebook posts at all, you will know that I have been having an incredibly difficult time transitioning into this culture. Today was my first day interacting with any of the refugees because I was fighting an allergic reaction when we got here on Friday. Today was another very difficult day for me.

Our team leader, Tiffany, had a migraine, so Hannah and I were on our own to meet up with the interns from Helping Hands and thankfully, we were successful! Our day was going to be spent at the beach with the women refugees, and I was so very anxious about it. But, God is good and He knew exactly how to speak to me today to calm my soul.

In order for what happened today to make sense to you, I should give a little back story. When I was growing up, I literally never wanted to go to a beach. The idea of spending all day in the heat and being covered in sand never interested me at all. That changed when I was 19, working a summer camp and heard a sermon over Psalm 139:17-18. Today, the Lord brought those sweet, sweet words back to my mind to bring peace to my soul and comfort to my heart. And those sweet words are what I want to share with you today.

If you did not know, before today, I had never experienced a beach. I have spent my entire life in the midwest and I have absolutely loved it, but unfortunately, there are no beaches in Kansas. Not only did Hannah get to experience sitting next to me on my very first plane ride, she also got to be right next to me when I ran into the ocean for the very first time!

I have never really been one who could spend hours at the pool in the water, usually 30 minutes and I am good. And that is okay. I had to remind myself of that though. After about 30 minutes, I was exhausted, so I went to sit out on my towel for the rest of the time. The longer I sat there, the more awkward I felt.. And that is when I had a sweet moment with the Lord.

As I was sitting and watching the refugee women interact with each other and with the children, I was praying for each of them, even though I knew none of their names. In those moments of laughter and freedom that I was watching, the Lord reminded me of Psalm 139. Two summers ago I was coaching at a camp for 8-11 year olds and the speaker preached on these two verses one night:

How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
If I would count them, they are more than the sand!

The purpose of this message was to show the kids that the Lord is continually thinking of them because He cares for them. But that June day two years ago, the Lord instilled these words in my heart. He said, “April, ‘the grains of sand in a sand box’ or ‘the grains of sand on a specific beach’ is not written there. It simply says, ‘they are more than the sand.’ Rest in that beauty. My thoughts of you and for you cannot be numbered. When you go to the beach, try to pick up a little bit of sand and count the grains- it is impossible for you! Just as the sand grains cannot be numbered by you, neither can my thoughts.” That day, I had my mind changed and I decided I wanted to experience going to the beach simply to put sand in my hand and two years later, here I am.

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As I was sitting and praying for these refugees, the Lord brought this beautiful truth back to mind and I knew immediately that I needed to share this truth with you today. I know I chose to be here and I worked hard to get here, but I think I can relate a little bit with some of these refugees. Like I said, I chose to be here, but at the same time, I feel I was ripped away from my comfort zone, my safe place. No matter how many conversations you have about culture shock, nothing can prepare you for the actual experience. I feel utterly alone and even though I am here with a team, I am the only one who is experiencing cuture shock for the first time. I feel awkward and so far out of my element. I know that my experience with these feelings will fade as I better adjust to this place; but I am also very aware that these refugees no longer have a safe space to go back to, they must find or create a new one. They do not have countdowns on their phones for 18 days from now when they go home; or 293 days from now when they get to graduate college, Lord-willing, of course. They may not even have phones for goodness sake.

While all of these thoughts were running through my mind, the Lord reminded me that His thoughts for the refugees are just as beautiful and vast as they are for you and me. His thoughts are for them and His heart hurts when their hearts hurt.

I am simply dealing with culture shock for a short time, only to return home in a few weeks and to fall back into the routine of my safe, comfortable life.
They are dealing with culture shock to change their entire lives.
AND IT WAS NOT THEIR CHOICE.

So I challenge you- next time you are near sand, pick up a handful and try to count the grains. Think about Psalm 139. Remind yourself that the Lord thinks of you always, and He thinks good things for you. But just as He thinks of you, He also thinks of others in the same way.

 

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Until next time,
April

 

 


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Be Still. Trust. Act.

I am currently in the air somewhere between Chicago and Montreal and it is still such a surreal feeling that I will be in Greece soon. As I am sitting here and my team is resting around me Psalm 46:10 came to mind,

Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!

I thought of how I have not really had a chance to sit and be present with the Lord a whole lot over the last few days because of crazy last minute preparations for this trip. So I pulled out my Bible and began reading in Jeremiah because I really like the story-format of the Old Testament a lot, especially in the midst of my quiet moments with the Lord. I like the Old Testament stories because I am always reminded that the Lord works in absolutely astounding ways through the most unlikely of people and that encourages me so greatly.

 

In the first chapter of Jeremiah, we find the call of Jeremiah:

Now the word of the Lord came to me saying,
“Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.” But the Lord said to me,
“Do not say that you are only a youth;
for to all whom I send you, you shall go,
and whatever I command you, you shall speak.
Do not be afraid of them,
for I am with you to deliver you,” declares the Lord.

Then the Lord put out His hand and touched my mouth. And the Lord said to me,
“Behold, I have put my words in your mouth.
See, I have set you this day over nations and over kingdoms,
to pluck up and to break down,
to build and to plant.”

Jeremiah 1:4-10

As I am sitting here flying above the clouds, I am meditating on these seven verses and thinking of how applicable they are to my current situation. The Lord knew me from the very beginning just as He knew you..I am not sure if you have fully grasped that yet. Before you were even in the womb, the God of the Universe knew exactly who you were going to be; He knew what your passions and purpose would be; He knew what your strengths and weaknesses were going to be. He knew all of these things because He was creating you so intricately to be specifically that. So not only were these words true for Jeremiah, they are also true for us, today.

I love this next part where the Lord kind of puts Jeremiah in his place. Jeremiah tries to make an excuse for why he thinks that he is underqualified for the calling the Lord has given but the response is, “Do not say that you are only a youth; for to all whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you.” The Lord refuses to accept man-made excuses because He knows just how truy capable we are. 

I laugh at myself, because this is exactly where I have been over the last eight months in preparation for this trip. I was accepted to be on the team and then I backed out because of finances. I had a come to Jesus moment on December 28, 2016 with Joshua 18:3 which basically says, how long are you going to put off stepping into what God has already done for you? God reminded me that He would never lead me somewhere that He would not provide the means to get there. After that moment in the quiet of the early morning, I remember praying, “Okay, God. If I really am supposed to go to Greece, provide my deposit before I move back in for the spring semester.” Later that day my sister, Keari, gave me the exact amount for the deposit and I cried and said, “Okay, I get it. I am going to Greece.” And here I am, in a plane on the way to Athens. There was a moment probably once a week at least where I would question if I was capable of what this trip will require, but God would always come through and prove Himself and His provision to me. As each money deadline approached, I never had the funds necessary, but at the last minute, He always provided..proving to me that the words He spoke to me that December day were tried and true.

As we make our way into Athens in the next 24 hours and begin our work in the ministry, my prayer is that we remember the power that lives in us and the strength that guides our path.

“Behold, I have put my words in your mouth.
See, I have set you this day over nations and over kingdoms,
to pluck up and to break down,
to build and to plant.”

Though our trip is taking place at the end of the summer rather than the beginning, I believe the Lord has spoken these words over us just as He spoke them over Jeremiah many years ago. He has plucked us up from our comfort zones and our safety nets, broken us down to bring us here so that we can continue to build into what He is already doing here and to even plant new seeds of His love.

Just as the title of this is Be Still. Trust. Act. my prayer is that during this journey, we will remember to first be still. Second, trust that the words God speaks to us are true. And finally that we will act boldly and confidently in everything we do in the days to come.

 

Until next time,
April