Sunday, August 19, 2012

Journaling in Honduras

Honduras, the mission trip that I recently went on, was so incredibly amazing and awesome that I feel like I can't fully express it without telling everything. So, I copied down the notes from my journal that I wrote throughout the trip and added some pictures to them. And in case you don't want to read all of it or don't have time to, at least check out the pictures!
Click "Read More" below, if you're interested, and enjoy! (:

First Night

Questions to ask myself: Lord, why do You have me here? What am I looking for? What are my expectations?
I'm looking for peace, friendship, wisdom, confidence, and change. My expectations are that either Grace, my roommate for the trip, and I talk and are cool during the trip and that's it, or that we end up becoming really good, close, pursuing friends, which is what I have prayed for for a while.
"You are here so that you can pursue Grace, turn around the negative expectations, be confident in Me, find that you are beautiful, all while serving in My name. You are also here to change you attitude so that you may confidently live for me as I have loved you and called you." I have an attitude? "Yes, daughter. One that rebels when she is insecure, one that doubts, judges, and does not trust Me when I have it all in My hands. Now go and listen. Pursue, and when in doubt, place your trust in Me."
  • "Every single day is a new chance to go to the maximum. This is the only day that you have; it has never been, and it never will be again."
  • "What we ask for, we need to act out at."
  • "Taking responsibility, stepping up to the plate, for your growth and faith."

Day 1

Matthew 25:34-40="The Least of These": Not just when I help someone random or serve others but also when I pursue my brothers and sisters in Christ, I do the same to Jesus. Reminds me of when David spoke about seeing Jesus in others, loving and serving them as if they were Him. However, this also means that anything negative I do to others, I'm doing to Christ, right?
  • "Children often spell "love" T-I-M-E."
  • "Love is a universal language."
I thank God that I am constantly reminded of the fact that I need to pursue Grace, my roommate on this trip.

It was amazing to listen to the prayers and worship of the Honduran churches and participate in them today. I was in awe of how we prayed a lot of the same things that they did. Like "En tu nombre, Señor (In Your name, Lord)", "Eres maravilloso (You are marvelous)", "Gracias por Tu amor (Thank You for Your love)", "Levantamos Tu nombre (We lift Your name)", "yo cantaré de su gracia (I will sing of Your grace)", etc. I was expecting a lot of bitter faces, but what I keep seeing are loving, adoring, joyful, thankful, welcoming faces. Love really is a universal language. I'm definitely feeling like I should pursue social work, too. Something that God taught me during "quiet time" was that if I pray and believe that something is possible with God, it really can happen. So I'm going to continue to pray about a lot of stuff that I would consider miracles if they happened, and I believe that they are possible with God. Right as I just wrote that, Gavin knocked on our door and handed me a little note that his mom, Mrs. Pugh, wrote me. It says, "Dear Michelle -- Please know that I will be praying for you this week. You are so precious and I thank God for you. I'm so grateful God made you just as you are, and for your kind and gentle spirit. I love you -- Dana <3" Gosh, I'm so thankful for the Pugh's. Praise the Lord for everything He has given me and does for me! Amen!

Day 2

I keep noticing how even though we are the ones that pray we'll show God's love to the Hondurans, they're the ones showing it to us as well. We are learning probably just as much as they are, maybe even more, about Jesus through all of it. I don't really need to write this, but I will anyway: I'm bad with writing out long stories in a short period of time, just like I'm bad with telling them in a short amount of time, and I love lists, so here's what we did today:
  1. Before breakfast, we went to a K-12 school. There was a boy, maybe 8 years old who literally looked at me across the gym, sprinted over to me, hugged me, showed  me the grapes that he was eating, and ran off! It was the sweetest thing, and that kind of stuff never happens to me, so I will never forget it! (:
  2. After breakfast, we went to an elementary school. All the kids that we met were adorable. However, God's beauty shined especially and magnificently through this once girl while her and a few others were performing a dance for us. It brought tears to my eyes whenever they sang in spanish and danced to this song that's embedded. She would point to the sky, close her eyes, sway, and sing, "You make me Your daughter."(picture on the right) Their worship was just so amazing, and these girls are like freaking 4-years-old! I will never forget that either, especially because we have so much more than they do materialistically, but they are so much more passionate, so much more grateful, so much more genuine with their lives and their worship and their generosity. It really proves the verses of Mark 10:17-31. A lot of times, our possessions and things that we like to cling onto, even "simple" things that we say, "yeah, but it's different because I actually need that" about, get in the way of us living by the Spirit and growing closer to God. He is definitely answering my prayers and sought for peace, friendship (even with those that I did not expect), confidence (that is humble), change (potential, obviously since I'm still here), and wisdom. God is so awesome. I'm really feeling more of God, and I'm getting that fire that is set in my soul that I can't contain and I can't control. <3
  3. ¡He hablado en Español con las personas de Honduras solamente! Es divertido y interesante, pero yo me hizo nerviosa cuando estoy hablando con ellos porque tengo pensar mucho sobre qué y cómo yo dijo algo. Pero yo puedo practicar mucho entonces está bien. (:
  4. One of the most amazing experiences ever: the orphanage. There were about 50 niños allí. They came to grab our hands and hug us right as we stepped out of the vans, offering us their smiles and compassion, exactly what we wanted to do for them. It was amazing! I got to help cook, talk with the ladies who worked there, talk to the niños, get to know and have fun with a few of our students, too, pray frisbee, pray clapping games, and it wasn't until later that I realized, "man, and they are all orphans." I think God's showing me that I should pursue social work, living my life and career on mission. And praise the Lord for people like Emma Cramm and Austin Cariker who have been blessed with this energy and passion for children. It's amazing to watch God work through them. I'm so excited to see all the kids again tomorrow!
  5. Serving the Lord and giving myself completely up to Him so that He can use me and guide me with those kids made me forget all my insecurities, my lacking confidence, my sorrows, my worries, my self-image, my life back home, even! It's incredible, and good to remember in the future. (:

Buenas noches. ¡Hasta mañana!

Day 3

I'd like to list some interesting things about what it's like to visit here in Honduras:
  • can't flush the toilet paper down the toilet; the pipes can't handle it
  • can't flush the toilet at all in some places, and have to change the water yourself
  • can't brush your teeth with the water
  • can't open your mouth in the shower
  • have to get fresh water from jugs at the store
  • no one wears any shorts or skirts that go above their knees
  • people walking around with their family, begging for food day and night
God has definitely gifted and blessed me with... I don't even know what it is, but for young children. No, you know what it is?! JESUS! (: After having pancakes for breakfast and before going to work outside at the orphanage, I got to see this boy who, along with his brother, was dropped off there a couple weeks before.
Their mom has so many kids that they didn't count, and the workers don't even know his name. But every time I think of him, I want to call him "Gabriel". He's so malnourished that the first time he was there, his belly was huge and he has this body of a skinny 10-month-old baby when in reality -- he's three-years-old. Sasha, our youth pastor, said, "He was absolutely glued to Michelle." He just looked deep into my eyes with these gorgeous chocolate-brown eyes with gorgeously long eyelashes and smiled. It was, again, something even more amazing that I will never forget. He was just so beautiful. His body was incredibly stiff, and he could only move his arms and hands. Sometimes he'd make a happy grunting noise when he smiled, I guess that was his laugh, and his smile was so genuine, innocent, beautiful, angelic (hence the name "Gabriel" came to my mind). 

Afterwards, we went to lunch and then to an AIDS center. It was really, extremely challenging for me because with the elderly, unlike with kids to whom you can just smile, laugh, and play with, I really needed to and wanted to have conversations with them and understand them! I mean, one of the reasons that I love old people is because of all their stories and wisdom. But I would get so nervous with my Spanish! It was definitely out of my comfort zone, but it looked like they enjoyed themselves so I trust that the Lord spoke to them and was present in ways that we couldn't.

Oh! I forgot to write about the labor! We helped with a lot of cement mixing, water carrying and pouring, shoveling, digging, and it was so tough, but God definitely -- like I got to experience Him giving me physical strength to get through it all and give it my all and beyond without passing out in the heat!

Anyway, after that, we attended the youth service where David spoke about Mark 10:17-24, which I actually read just a couple days before, which is cool(!). His main points were basically how some of us have checklists (maybe in our head) for what we want to be like as Christians, but the perfect checklist is impossible for us humans, so check-lists and such are not what make you right with God -- it's where your heart is. It was the man's (in Mark 10:17-24) greed and possessions that kept him from God although supposedly he had honored all the 10 commandments his whole life (apparently)! After telling us this, David asked us what our this was that we have trouble surrendering to Him. A couple of mine are definitely clothes and self-image. I could go on and on about it but it just bums me out so I won't. At the time, I was feeling so awful, ugly, out of place, because I had only brought ugly clothes, and all the others wore really amazing and cute clothes. It was awful to me, and I didn't know what to pray, what to do, what to think. I could literally just have left and cried myself to sleep. But by the time we all got together, made jokes, played games, ate, had fun, I had forgotten about it again. I guess I just need to pray because I don't -- seriously -- I DO NOT want it around anymore. I DON'T WANT it to be one of those things that I just forget about til it comes back. I want it GONE.

Day 4

It was an interesting day for me, and it ended amazingly! After breakfast, we went to serve at a special needs school, and although I felt a bit uncomfortable, just because that's just not one of my God-given gifts -- working with people with special needs, God lead me through it and gave me all the energy, laughs, strength, and heart that I needed. It was amazing!

Then, we went to lunch, took an amazing nap that felt sooo good, drove to the mountains to visit a typical Honduran home & church. Then, we went to get food and decorations for the Dean's vow-renewal. It was sooo sweet and beautiful -- very inspiring.
I was reminded again of some scripture that I read in Mark 11:22-25. If I really believe, for example, that my family will be with me in heaven, that I get a best girl friend, that Gavin and I end up together, and I pray and I have faith, it's possible with God! This is such a hopeful, wonderful thing to remember, especially with this potentially stressful school year coming up.
Big day coming up tomorrow! Praise God! (:

Day 5

What do I need to surrender so that I can live more fully for Jesus?
  1. My attitude which God brought to my attention
  2. My stress with school, family, finding a job, college, etc.
  3. Self-image
I didn't even realize that I had an attitude, and I just find it beautiful that he told me and pointed it out. I have prayed Psalm 139's "Search me, O God, and know my heart. Test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life." I think it also goes along with the second thing that I need to surrender. The stress that I feel like I'm going to go through this year terrifies me. I have no idea how to deal with it because I want to work hard and give it my all during junior year, but I'm afraid. Self-image? I don't know where to start.
The trip is not over!

Before entering the waterfall...
After entering the waterfall!
A lot of today was fear -- it seems like. We went to the waterfall, and I did not expect it to be at all what it really was. I thought I was going to die. I thought Gavin was going to die. I thought the water was going to crush me. I thought it was going to wipe me away with it, but Gavin held my hand the almost the whole time, told me how well I was doing, not to worry, and God told me, "Michelle! I would never let anything happen to you! Trust me! It's okay!" And I hyperventilated and cried, but He got me through it, also buy the comfort and protection from those around me. Let me just describe what it's like so that maybe my fear is more understandable: you can't see anything. There's gushing, powerful water and mist constantly getting into your eyes. You can't hear anything. There's loud, gushing, powerful water pouring down on you. So, you have to depend on people that are holding your hand, and hope that your feet don't slipp or get caught in some hole between all the rocks, which happened to a few of us actually. It's also extremely slippery, of course, so while you're making your way in or out of the fall, you had to be super careful where you sat and stepped. I fell a couple times and got a nice scratch and bruise on my upper back thigh. War wounds! <3 One good comparison to how it felt while walking away from the waterfall was what Sasha said: "It feels like I just got done crying -- like I just got out a good, long cry." "It's cleansing in a way," said another.
Okay, the theme for today was definitely fear. I have a little "backstory" [but I won't post it on here]... ...[Anyways,] at beach camp, the boys played a prank on us by putting fireworks in our cabin, and I thought someone was shooting us, pulled the covers over me and buried my head in my pillow so that I wouldn't have to witness any of it. I was immediately reminded of my traumatizing fears of guns, gunshots... Then, this last night in Honduras, there was a shooting outside of the hotel across the street [later we found out it was the police shooting though]. First, three gunshots, after which I was panicking on the inside. Second, three more gunshots, much closer and louder this time. I ended up once again hyperventilating and bawling. Immediately, Gavin and Sasha, who know about my fears of guns and gunshots, came to comfort me. Gavin hugged and held me while I cried, and Sasha sat in front of me, held my knees, got me tissues, and prayed for all of us.

Now for a brighter change of subject! My roommate, Grace, who I mentioned earlier, has now become my first, official accountability partner! (: We got to talk a lot and get know each other, realizing that our personalities were really similar. Another answered prayer!

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