Sunday, October 23, 2011
One of the things that we love about the area retreat is working with such a wonderful team of youth leaders. It is a blessing to come together and watch all of our gifts compliment each others. It is awesome to be encouraged by one another, and to see how much we really do need each other as we work to serve. Drew and I always feel so sad at the end of the retreat not only because of having to say goodbye to the students that we have built relationships with, but also having to say goodbye to many of our dear friends who are on the team but live in different parts of the U.S. This past week was filled with lots of laughter and memories!
Thursday, October 20, 2011
Well we finally made it back from the Asia/Pacific Area Retreat! We had a wonderful time getting to know the different MTW families, and it was a joy to work with all the volunteers and teammates that make these trips possible. It was AMAZING!
Over the next few days we will fill in with more specific information about what we did there and how it all went over, but for now I'll just toss up a few pictures to give a small taste of the adventures we had.
The view from a Detroit Airport window, reflected in the coolest fountain in the world!
Sunrise over one of the buildings on the hotel campus in the Malay forest.
Students during a youth meeting
Linds and me in front of Singapore's famous Merlion!
Sunday morning worship with all the missionary families
Me on the flight back over the Pacific
It was an awesome trip, and we have been extremely encouraged by the relationships we built and the responses we received from the families we worked with. Thanks so much for all your prayers during these last two weeks - we are very much aware that though Linds and I are able to be the ones on the ground, the work that is being done is an extension of your love for these students as well. Thanks again for keeping up with us and supporting us in this ministry!
Friday, October 14, 2011
I have been leading worship this week and have really enjoyed hearing the voices of all the leaders and MK's singing praises to our King. Yesterday we took some time to pray out loud as a group and lift up words of praise to God. We heard multiple students praise God for "this youth group!" These words are particularly significant to us because for many of these students this week is their one opportunity to be around leaders and other students who "get them." The uniqueness of this event is something that can add a lot of pressure and insecurity for some students - however, we have already heard several turn-arounds from students here with us who came in expecting to not fit in and to be treated poorly but who have expressed to their parents how much they are loving their time here. One mother last night approached us with tears in here eyes talking about how dark many of the challenges of their location have been, and how much it has meant to her that she can see her son laughing and feeling included! We were so excited to hear these things and really do praise God for what he is doing through our team, and how we are able to love and encourage these students this week.
Yesterday during worship Drew and I had a chance to share a testimony about how God has been working in our life. It's always a joy to take time to reflect on what the Lord has been teaching us and then to be able to share that with others. Two of our other teammates shared as well.
Last night we had a retreat wide line dancing party. It was so much fun! There was lots of laughter and more connection to students. It's amazing how some young people will allow themselves to be silly when they see adults running around acting crazy! This is definitely one of my favorite parts of the retreat!
Today we all have a day off and many of us are going to explore Singapore. We have to drive over the border out of Malaysia and into Singapore so you know what that means, more stamps in our passports! :)
We are really looking forward to taking some time soon load up a bunch of our picture so that we can post them on here to share with all of you!
Many of you have contacted us letting us know that you are praying for us and we so appreciate it! God is answering prayers!
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
This morning all the families will be trickling into the resort, and we are feeling the all the anxiety and excitement that goes with it! Tonight we host the Open House in the youth area we've set up, in which all the students and their families are invited to come by to hang out, get to see a little of who we are and what we'll be doing, and even get to see a little of who they are as a group! It's easy to think about this as though all the students already know each other and have pre-existing relationships, but in fact because they all live in different countries around the continent, they are all coming into this pretty new themselves! Please pray for us today that
- we would be able to easily remember lots of names and faces
- that the whole group would be able to gel pretty easily
- that we the leaders would be able to create a safe, fun, and welcoming environment
- that the students would be ready to invest in the time as well.
Monday, October 10, 2011
We did it! As we climbed off the final airplane after 27 hours of travel and noted how swollen our ankles were it finally began to dawn on us that we are really here on the other side of the globe and that this event that Linds and I look forward to every year has finally come: the Area Retreat! For us, this is almost better than Christmas :)
We love these retreats for many reasons, and in the last day or so that we've been here we've already experienced many of them. We love our team - it is always a privilege to be able to work with like-minded people who are able to complement each others' gifts and abilities without any jockeying to the spotlight but with a delight to put others first. We love tasting a new culture - experiencing the different nuances of how life works and what values and priorities are held always reflects God's creativity uniquely, and by getting to know his creation in a new light we also get to know the Creator in a new light as well. We love our tasks - the opportunity to help design and build a youth ministry experience during this week draws out much of our own creativity (just wait till we post the videos we are making for this year)! We love all of the people that work for this organization - the opportunity to meet together with so many amazing men and women who are using the gifts and lives that God has given them is always so humbling and encouraging. When we are here it is a wonderful reminder that even if it isn't always making headline news, God is working constantly and powerfully through his people in his world.
But most of all, we are excited about meeting all of the students! Only a couple have arrived so far, but over the next few days the families are going to come pouring in, and on Wednesday we will get to start meeting them all face to face, playing games together, getting to know one another, meeting in small groups, worshiping together, and simply just plain ol' hanging out together. We love it, we are so excited, and we are incredibly thankful for all you who are praying for us while we are here and who have helped make it possible for us to come. Please pray for us today as we begin meeting as a whole team (the first time in person) and planning what the week will look like.
Tuesday, October 4, 2011
This morning I taught a lesson on the hope of redemption. I set the stage for the conversation with a movie clip from the Shawshank Redemption. What a powerful movie! I showed the part where Andy receives books, records, and a grant to provide a library for the inmates. He puts on one of the records and hears music for the first time in 6 years. It brings him so much joy that he can't help but share it with the other inmates in the prison even though he will get punished for it. As he blasts the beautiful sounds of a woman singing in Italian the other inmates stop what they are doing. The sound of the music captivates them and as one of the other characters says, "It was like some beautiful bird flapped into our drab little cave and made those walls dissolve away. And for the briefest of moments every last man at Shawshank felt free" It's such a powerful scene as all of the men stop in their tracks allowing the music to take them to a place that they had not been in a long time.
Later Andy is talking to his friends about his little stunt with the music after he is released from isolation. Even after two weeks in the hole Andy has a joy and peace about him. Andy expresses that the music was with him even as he spent time in isolation, but his friends don't get what he is talking about. Andy explains what the music does for him, it reminds him that there is something outside of the walls of the prison. The the sound of the music brought him hope and allowed him to hope for something more then his present circumstances.
What an awesome illustration of how the beauty around us gives us hope and reminds us of God and his promises to one day make all things right. It reminds us that there is a Creator whose has blessed us. It reminds us that there is something inside all of us that longs for so much more then sin and brokenness because we have been made in God's image.
I am currently sitting at Starbucks looking outside the window while I write this post. I see beautiful yellow pansies outside, my empty mug next to me that contained a delicious Americano, the empty chair of my dear friend who was here with me just hanging out, the great music playing in my ear, and the clock showing me that in just a few hours I will be able to hug my husband again once he gets off work! I am so thankful for the beauty around me that reminds me of the hope that I have in Christ!