More stories, as promised. :) (And they’re both wonderful examples of how what I’d planned for my day didn’t happen at all, and how God was still wonderfully sovereign over everything that happened.)
One day I was waiting with Debora for a girl named Norehanny to come, since we’d planned to meet up. But it was pouring rain, so she decided not to come. Debora and I were sitting there when a guy turned to me and asked for help with his English homework, so for the next hour I went through it with him and tried to explain some of the rules he was more confused about. When his homework was finished, I found out he’d already talked to Katie, a girl on my team, and he was thinking about coming to English club. I encouraged him to come, and I told him about why I was there, with Debora there to explain it more clearly. I never saw him again, but the Holy Spirit put him in my path, and I pray he’ll be thinking about some of the things Katie and I shared with him.
On another day I was waiting on the second stories of one of the buildings to meet up with a girl named Genesis before Bible study. I found out later she had class that she’d forgotten about, but I’d only waited about two minutes for her when a guy who knew my name came up to me. I didn’t remember meeting him (that became more and more common towards the end of my time there), but he asked me to practice speaking English with him and his friends. Once I went over there and met each person (there were around 10!), he asked me about the pictures he’d seen other gringos carrying. So I took out the soularium and went through it with everyone there. It was pretty overwhelming, as I tried to remember everyone’s name, how they were answering each question, and tried to listen while some of them talked to each other. But I prayed through it and God was faithful to still lead the conversation, as I then shared my testimony (in Spanish, since they said they’d understand it better - praise the Holy Spirit) and they all quieted. Three more people came and listened, and then they wanted to go through the soularium. One of the girls started talking about how she wanted God’s love in her life (like I’d shared in my testimony), but didn’t know how to seek it out or where to start. I asked if she wanted to know how, and she said, “Of course!” So I pulled out the 4 laws booklets and gave them to each person in the group (praise the Lord I had enough), and as soon as I opened it to explain and discuss it with them, they had to leave for class! But one of the girls, Ros, told me she was a Christian as they left, so I pray they’ll read through those booklets and take any questions to her. And I arranged a time to meet up with them, but that didn’t end up working out. Like I said before, though, God was still sovereign over my day, and I had some really awesome conversations that day. I’ll put that in my next post!
So, sad story… I had a post that I was working on that had stories from each day for my last two weeks on campus, but it got lost before I could post it. And now I don’t remember everything! But thanks for your patience through this last couple crazy weeks while time flew by.
I still have a lot of processing to do. These last couple of days have been pretty chaotic and stretching as I flew home to California on Saturday, ended up losing my entire purse with my wallet inside (with my driver’s license and debit card) in the Houston airport, and then got sick yesterday with your standard fever/achiness. This whole week has been anything but relaxing - even the flight back from Venezuela had problems, with our project getting split up on different flights and some of us having to spend Thursday night in Atlanta (praise the Lord my flight to California left Saturday, so I didn’t miss it).
I haven’t really had time to rest, and I was getting so frustrated yesterday, when it felt like everything was going wrong. But it’s not. :) I prayed through it and God met me, just as He did on the flight from Columbus to Houston on my way home when I started crying because I missed people from project and from Venezuela so much, just as He did when I was praying through how overwhelmed I felt during debriefing when I realized I might never see any of these people again. God was faithful through it all. If there’s been a theme to my summer, I would say it’s that God is so incredibly faithful.
He was faithful to bring me on a summer project where I could better learn what full reliance on Him and His Holy Spirit looks like. He was faithful to stir my heart with passion for His Gospel when I allowed laziness to get in the way of my desire to be on campus. He was faithful to bless my relationships with each and every person on project, giving me a wonderful, Christ-centered community and family for six weeks. Yes, leaving it was painful, especially as I realized I might never see any of them again (on earth, anyway), but God is still constant. He is still there, by my side. I don’t need anything or anyone else - He taught me that going into project as I fearfully anticipated meeting and living with complete strangers for six weeks, and He taught me that leaving project as I clung to this new community He’d blessed me with and that I had so many shared experiences with. God will always be constant in my life. He is faithful to meet me in my grief, in my laziness, in my feelings of inadequacy, in my impatience, in everything! I didn’t deserve this summer. I don’t deserve to be a minister of His Gospel and to see and participate in God bringing His kingdom here on this earth. But God showers those blessings on me, on all of us. His love is so wonderful. He is so faithful. <3
I’ll keep posting stories from the last two weeks to update you about what God was doing this summer - I’m sorry it took me so long to post! I just wanted to let you know where I’m at right now, and how God is meeting me through everything. Like canceling my debit card. :)
We all went to the humanities campus today, so I went sharing with Liesl, who also knows some Spanish. We went and shared with a huge group of girls, so it was difficult to really engage with all of them, I still really enjoyed talking with them and encouraging them to check out Vida Estudiantil. Be praying that they are encouraged to seek out God, whether that’s in Vida Estudiantil, church, or even seeking Liesl and me out again. Then I ran into Genesis again, and she came to the big Bible study that Vida Estudiantil has every Friday with me. We were divided into smaller groups, and she was in mine, which I really appreciated, because I wanted to hear what she had to say. It was all in Spanish, though, so I didn’t get everything, but I don’t feel like she has passion for Christ, so be praying for me to be able to really talk with her this Friday when we meet up before Bible study.
We split up our group today, because we didn’t want to overwhelm the orphanage, so half of us went to the orphanage and half of us went to downtown Valencia (Centro). I went to the orphanage, and I was really praying about how God wanted to use me, because last week I felt like I didn’t really make much of a connection with any of the kids there. When we got there I went up to a young teenage girl and a little boy who were both reading through a book. Their names were Barbara and Alex. I was so touched when they immediately asked me to read with them. When Alex went away playing with the bubbles we brought, I started talking to Barbara and found out that she was 14. I told her about why we were there, and she told me she was a Christian, so I started sharing about how God has worked and is working in my life. It was just a wonderful conversation, and we’re facebook friends now, so I’ll be able to stay in touch with her and encourage her in her faith. Alex was a sweetheart as well - he paid attention so well during the lesson, and he was asking me how to say colors in English (he already knew yellow, his favorite color) as he carefully colored in the words of his verse (John 1:12 - we had a good conversation about it, too!). There were so many fun things about today, and it would be easy to keep going, but I don’t want to make this really long. :) Please be praying for all the kids there to be experiencing God’s love through us. Please be praying for Barbara as she figures out what she wants to do with her life and grows in her faith in Christ.
We had our own church service this morning again. We listened to a sermon about heaven, which I loved. Especially now, thinking about that sermon in the context of our quiet times in Colossians (where this week we’ve been focusing on entering into suffering with Christ and what that looks like), it’s so wonderful thinking about heaven and the glory that will be revealed in us, as Paul wrote in Colossians. God put this passage on my heart just now, thinking about this:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to His great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen Him, you love Him. Though you do not now see Him, you believe in Him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. — 1 Peter 1:3-9
Can I get an amen?!!! :)
Monday & Tuesday
Tuesday, July 5, is the Venezuelan day of independence, so there wasn’t any school on Monday or Tuesday. On Monday I ended up hanging out with Debora and her cousin, Marcos, because we had a free day, and Debora wanted me to help her with the pronunciation in the song we’re going to sing together for the talent show on Friday (the Revelation Song by Hillsong, which Debora knows in Spanish). Tuesday is the family fun night, so we had a pool party with pizza, and the staff also surprised us with fireworks and sparklers that they had bought (fireworks are both legal and cheap in Venezuela). We set them all off in honor of the Venezuelan day of independence and in honor of the American day of independence.
Today my discipler Sarah joined me on campus, and we went sharing together. We first talked with a girl named Adriana (possibly, it was hard to hear), who was friendly, but more closed off than anyone I’ve talked to yet here. My Spanish had way too long of a break, what with our long weekend, so it was hard to understand everything she said, but the Holy Spirit was still moving. She became a little more vulnerable and shared how her brother was a good person, but died a couple of years ago, and she didn’t understand why. She explained this was why she believed in God, but didn’t really greatly a desire a relationship with Him. I loved being able to share with her that I related to her in thinking when I was younger that God was unjust. I shared how in my life God has used suffering and my firm belief in the perfect plan He has for our lives. She softened some, but she was having a hard time really thinking about that. Sarah and I shared the Gospel with her, and she has one of the Four Spiritual Laws booklets, but she had to leave quickly, so I only gave her my name in case she wants to find me on facebook. Please pray for her! My heart was so moved about the pain she has suffered and still is suffering. Pray she would seek out God.
Next Sarah and I talked to two girls, Lilian and Andrea, that were encouraging to talk to because they so firmly believed in God and knew that salvation was by faith, not by works. (That latter point has caused many a conversation on campus, because many of the students really struggle in believing that.) They said they would come to the Bible study on Friday, so be praying that they would come and would seek out Christian community.
Then we had English club! We went through the bilingual 4 Spiritual Laws booklets, which I think started really good conversations. I talked with Eurimer, who I met two weeks ago at English club, and Yhon. Both were Christian, but Bridgett and I really enjoyed talking with them about what faith truly means and what it looks like - a continual process of surrender to God, a continual reliance on His Spirit, and a continual pursuit of Him. :) It was a good conversation. Be praying that they would both pursue the Lord first and foremost in their lives.
On Saturday night the girls had an appreciation night for the guys. I was part of the crew picking desserts for the guys (picking out desserts is definitely a life skill of mine), and then each of the girls wrote an encouragement note for one of the guys. We all hung out in the girls’ apartment, and it was a sweet time of bonding.
I ate a schawarma today, which isn’t technically Venezuelan, but a lot of Venezuelans love to eat them, so I figure it counts. It’s actually from the Middle East, and it’s basically a warmed-up tortilla with lettuce, tomatoes, and some type of meat, as well as amazing sauces. It was delicious. (I also tried a bomba a couple of days ago, which is a doughnut filled with cream. They’re really popular here. Yum.)
We had women’s time on Tuesday, so we all got pedicures, which are a lot cheaper in Venezuela. My feet have never felt this beautiful before.
We were playing hot seat (when you can ask the person on the hot seat any question you want, and he/she has to answer), and Katie asked me what my dream job was. I of course had no idea and said I was praying about STINTing. She looked at me and said, “So your dream job is being a missionary?” I thought about that, let it sink in, and said, “YES!” Haha God is giving me a lot of clarity here!
Thanks for your prayers! I really loaded this post with prayer requests, so here is one more: please be praying for Vida Estudiantil students to step up and take ownership of their movement, because the summer project is leaving soon, as are the STINTers, and there will be a month when just Venezuelan students will be here.
“The task of evangelism is therefore best understood as the proclamation that Jesus is already Lord, that in Him God’s new creation has broken into history, and that all people are therefore summoned to submit to Him in love, worship, and obedience.” — NT Wright
Katie and I went sharing together again, and we decided to talk to two girls. Since they were both sitting on a bench, when we sat down on either side of them, Katie and I ended up just engaging one girl each. In my mind (since Katie’s Spanish is so much better than mine, and I rely on her for translations) I had an ‘uh oh’ moment, but I prayed for the Spirit to lead me in that conversation and for understanding. And it was an amazing conversation - God drastically increased my understanding of what Norehanny was saying, and I was so encouraged going through the soularium with her and sharing my life with her, because our mutual faith was wonderful to see. :) And it served as a reminder that it’s nothing I do that produces results in any conversation. (I really appreciate the language barrier as a reminder for me just to rely on God’s power in leading me.)
We took a break for lunch - I ate a pepito, which is the longest hot dog I have ever seen, with tiny pieces of fried plaintain (like french fries) and random sauces on top of it. (The food is really interesting to me, but sorry if it doesn’t interest you at all and you’re wondering why I keep putting it in this blog.) After lunch Katie and I had a really long, tiring conversation with two Jehovah’s Witnesses who were really only interested in telling us their beliefs. That’s hard enough in English, let alone in Spanish, so we both felt pretty drained after that! It was still a good conversation, and both girls were very friendly, but we ended up having to leave for the bus, and I didn’t like not being able to have a full conversation with them.
Since we have English club on Wednesdays, which starts at 12, and we got to campus a lot later than normal, Katie and I decided to go around and tell people about English club. It was a little discouraging at first, because people weren’t responding with the open friendliness that I’ve grown so used to, but eventually we ran into Veronica, Palminia, and Olga, who were so very friendly. They already texted Katie yesterday (Sunday), and we’re trying to make plans to hang out this week, but we only talked to them for 10 minutes or so. Please be praying for our conversation with them, because we didn’t even get a chance to talk about spiritual matters with them.
English club was wonderful. I led an advanced discussion group, meaning all of them had wonderful English, and my brain had a beautiful break with no language translations of any kind for a couple of hours. (Something I really enjoy about English club is that the point isn’t really to learn English, but to get to know each other. The STINTers have been putting it on with Vida Estudiantil.) I really appreciated how close our group got in answering questions like: “What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?” or “Who do you admire and why?” At the end, when our time was up, the 10 of us stayed in our circle, and I asked if they had any questions for me, and I explained why I was there in Venezuela. What I loved is that one of the guys, Daniel, then started sharing his beliefs, which meant preaching the Gospel. :)
I was privileged enough to go sharing with my two Venezuelan student besties today, Joanna and Deborah. In the morning, I first went sharing with Joanna, and we met a girl named Genesis, who was very friendly. I started the conversation in Spanish, like always, but eventually she started responding in English, because she’s an education major. That was a nice surprise! She said she was a Christian, and she knows and believes the Gospel, but from what I heard, she hasn’t been experiencing God’s love in community at all, so pray that we’ll be able to meet up this Wednesday, and that God would lead me in how I can best pour into her life.
Okay, honesty time: I started getting lazy and reluctant to share the Gospel. So when Debora asked me if I was willing to meet up with one of her friends in the comedor (their very, very cheap version of a dining commons) before going sharing, I said yes. Then, when I was sitting with them as they ate, I felt so convicted that God had given me exactly what I wanted, yet I felt guilty and restless. (I’m not saying that I’m here to go sharing all of the time while I’m on campus, because follow up with fellow believers, especially new Christians, is more important, but I am saying that I’m not on campus to just kick back with Vida Estudiantil students. And that’s so easy to do, because they’re all so fun and wonderful! And most of the conviction came from how I felt my heart had hardened to going sharing. Does that make sense?) So I prayed for God to soften my heart yet again to the power and magnificent love of His Gospel, and Debora and I went sharing after they finished eating. We engaged one girl sitting by herself in conversation, and I felt like I was really able to enter into the conversation (which can be difficult with Debora since she doesn’t speak any English). God totally blessed me that way, and then by watching as Yesmile accepted Christ. Be praying that we can follow up with her this week, and that she would fully understand the life-changing decision she made.
(We had our weekly meeting tonight, and Bart said that we’ve seen around 40 people accept Christ! Praise the Lord! Other students have some really awesome stories about how God is working here. It was so encouraging to here.)
REST! It was a holiday today, so there was no school, and we all really appreciated sleeping in. We still had an outreach event with Venezuelan students - we all met up at an ice cream place, ate ice cream, and played games. (I tried the torta zuiza flavor, which was vanilla with pieces of waffle cone in it. Manuel told me it was his favorite.) Some of the students I’d met at English club were there, and one taught Brian and me how to play calleda (not sure if that’s spelled right), a really popular card game in Venezuela. I still don’t get it fully. But I had the winning hand!
Some of the students here in Vida Estudiantil are raising money to go on a missions trip to the Amazon to preach the Gospel to indigenous people there. :)
I have now had blackberry, strawberry, passionfruit, pineapple, papaya, watermelon, and melon fruit juice. The fruit juices here are amazing.
Looks like a lot of follow up is happening this week! Please pray that I would be intentional about that, and that God would lead every conversation with His Spirit.