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July 18, 2014 | “He Cries With You”

The other day I had the opportunity to visit the women’s prison with a missions team from Indiana. I’ve visited the prison here in Port more times than I can remember but every time I get a little nervous because it’s definitely out of my comfort zone. God always shows up in big ways. As we were waiting for the guard to come with the key, I heard wailing coming from inside one of the cells. This was crying like I’ve never heard it before. It was a gut-wrenching, teeth-gritting cry. One of the Miskito women with us was talking to a lady inside and I heard, “Ai papika dan pruan nahwala” - “Her father died yesterday.” As the women talked more, I gathered that one of the prisoners, a nineteen year old girl, had found out that her father had passed away. She hadn’t seen him in over a year and wanted permission to go with her family to the burial, but the guard had laughed in her face and said, “For what? He’s dead; you can’t bring him back from the grave.”

As I stood there, hearing the pained, gasping sobs, my heart just broke for her. “I’ve gotta get into that cell,” I thought, knowing full well that the last thing a grieving person wants is a complete stranger trying to talk to them. But I felt the Holy Spirit telling me, “Be Jesus to that girl,” and pushing me forward.

As soon as I was allowed in, I entered the dark hallway where all the cells are. They’d opened the cell doors for visitation, so I went in and found the girl on her bed curled up in the fetal position, mattress soaked with tears. “Be Jesus,” I felt the nudge again. “How?” I wanted more. “Jesus what are you doing right now?” Immediately an answer came. “I see her, and I cry with her,” I heard. Sitting down at the foot of the mattress, I put my hand on the girl’s shoulder and said, “I just want you to know that Jesus told me he sees you right now, he feels your deep pain, and he is crying with you.” Still sobbing, she reached for my free hand and squeezed it tight. I sat there holding her like that, and cried with her. I just cried and cried. I couldn’t imagine the despair she was feeling, but God’s heart placed in me was broken for her.

I prayed quietly over her and felt the Spirit move as her sobs got softer and softer until she just lay there, completely still other than her rhythmic breathing. Eventually our time was up and the guard made it very clear. I squeezed her hand tight as I was leaving and told her again what Jesus had told me, this time in Miskito. She nodded acceptingly, eyes closed as they’d been the entire time. I left, wiping the tears from my own eyes and reflecting, “How great is the God we serve that He cares for us intimately enough to cry with us when we’re broken?” Thank you Jesus that even in our deepest moments of despair, You never leave us.

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Feeding Center
Feeding Center July 2014

July 08, 2014 | “That They Would Know Me”

Every time I’m back in beautiful Bilwi and plunge headfirst into the life here, I’m re-struck with the harsh reality of just how much work is involved with running a ministry. Yesterday I spent the day at the Feeding Center that I’ve grown to love so much, and it humbles me every time to see how everyone involved tirelessly puts in hours to keep it running. More than just a full-time job, this is a lifelong commitment. Julio and Reyna are constantly on the move as they dedicate their whole livelihood to this one cause.

It’s 1 pm at the Feeding Center, and eighteen picnic tables are packed tight with little bodies and hungry faces. Many of them have walked miles to get here, as it’s likely the only meal they will have all day. Typically, 1 pm is when the feeding program starts. Today is different. For some reason, the chicken is just now arriving to be cooked, and the women in the kitchen immediately get to work. What surprises me the most is that nobody seems to be phased by the massive delay…if I hadn’t known what time it was I never would’ve known they were behind schedule because nobody said anything about it! How do they keep over seven hundred hungry children under control for so long? Must be Jesus.

By 3 o’clock the food is ready to be served and the feeding begins. A few of us go with Julio to the trash dump miles away to take food to some of the kids there. Day in and day out, children whose families live there scrape through the trash looking for some form of alimentation. As an extension of Verbo’s feeding program, Julio has started bringing meals to the children there and despite they delay, today is no exception. When we arrive, dozens of kids run to the truck with big smiles. They have been waiting there three hours longer than normal, hopeful and trusting that Julio would be there. But instead of pushing and grabbing, the kids wait patiently in line as Julio tenderly explains to them that he brings the food in the name of Jesus, because Jesus loves them and wants to be in their hearts. “Jisas man nani kupiam wan sa.” The food is then passed out as big smiles turn into even bigger smiles.

Amazed at Jesus’ hand in the ministry, I see just how important these little lives are to Him. But it doesn’t come without countless hours of hard work. These people who work in the Feeding Center have given up their lives for the sake of expanding God’s kingdom. As I ponder how God has called me to do likewise, it’s easy for me to get overwhelmed discouraged. Sitting at one of the tables, I look around and see hundreds of kids with dirty faces but radiant smiles. Each one is so precious, but the inevitable questions knocks on the door of my mind time and time again: what’s to become of these kids? The unemployment rate here in Port is something like 80%…what future do these kid have? What can we possibly do to tackle a problem so untouchable? Thinking over this, I suddenly feel very, very small. What kind of lasting impact can ever be made when up against looming giants like world hunger and the cycle of poverty? And it’s in this moment that Jesus speaks to me, and the discouragement lifts and is replaced with peace. “The most important, impactful, and lasting thing that can ever be done is that they would come to know me,” I hear my Savior say. “All this is done that they would know me.”

I’m left speechless. So simple, yet so profound. The Gospel summed up in one basic concept: that God’s children would be able to know Him. I think back to how Julio interacted with the kids at the dump - him telling them about Jesus, and their little faces captivated by what he was saying. Even with bellies empty, they were receiving nourishment. “That they would know me…” The world would look at that and see it of little importance and instead favor the “tangible” things - business plans, construction projects, education programs, food distribution, medical care. And yes those things are inexplicably important. Jesus calls us to care for the needs of our brothers and sisters. They are children of the King and their physical needs matter to God, therefore they should matter to us. But at the end of the day, all of that is temporary. The things that seem concrete now won’t last. “The things of this world will fade away…” and the one component of all this that seems the most intangible, at least in the world’s eyes, is the only thing that will hold eternal.

That’s what I love so much about the Feeding Center ministry. Julio is committed to filling the hungry bellies of the children that come, that the food would nourish their bodies, but he is even moreso committed to filling them with the news of their Savior, that the love of Jesus would nourish their hungry spirits and give them a transformed life that will last. The Feeding Center will keep their doors open as more and more kids come not because they believe they will solve world hunger, but because they know each new mouth they feed is another child who gets to experience the love of Christ. “All of this is done that they would know me.”

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Right before regaining consciousness. Thank you Jesus for sparing her life.

April 30, 2014 | Drowning

2 Corinthians 12:9 “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

Exactly one year ago, April 30, 2013, was what I thought to be my last day in Nicaragua indefinitely. (Little did I know I would be back just a few short weeks later to stay the rest of the year, but that’s another story.) For my last day, Pastor Earl had arranged a beach day for me and the older girls from the orphanage. I was ecstatic to spend the afternoon with those girls I had come to love so much, but our fun was cut short by a scary incident that not one of us has easily forgotten. It had just recently stormed, and the winds were still really strong. While the majority of us were still on the shore, two other girls had ventured into the choppy water without informing us. What took place next unfolded like a dream, or rather a nightmare, with the world seemingly spinning and vision cloudy and blurred. One minute we were all taking pictures, the next we watched in horror as we realized two of the girls had swam too far out and were thrashing around with gasped breaths. Panic on shore was made evident with shrieks of “Li brisa!” and “Se están ahogando!!!” or “They’ve taken in water. They’re drowning!”

Nobody was doing anything but screaming, so in what felt like slow motion, I found myself tearing through the water toward the girls. The bigger of the two girls had managed to make it back to where she could touch the bottom, but mid-sprint I saw the littler girl stop thrashing as her head slipped below the surface of the water. I swam faster. The waves crashing around me threatened to take me captive too, but by the grace of God I reached the girl before she had gotten lost in the murky grey water. I’d heard countless times from lifeguard friends that there is a certain way you’re supposed to carry someone through water, but unfortunately I’d never listened. So the only thing I could think to do was grab her with both hands, sling her limp body over my shoulder, and kick back to shore. There is no way that I would have been able to drag her through the water in those conditions without God supplying me with huge doses of adrenaline. As soon as I got back to shallower waters, a bunch of the other girls helped me carry the girl back onto the shore where she coughed up what seemed like gallons of water and finally regained consciousness. We circled around her, thanking Jesus for saving her life. The nightmare was over, and the sun came back out. (Actually I’m fairly confident that the sun was out throughout the entire event, I just remember it as if it was dark, cloudy, and pouring rain from the time I set foot in the water.) Shaken up by the whole ordeal, the girls and I packed up and headed home, and the incident was never mentioned of again. That night when I was saying bye to the kids before my flight out that next morning, the girl came up to me, threw her arms around my waist, and enveloped me in a tight hug. Then without a word (I’d never actually heard her speak) she smiled at me and walked away.

Months later I found myself in the same ocean also in danger of drowning. A visiting missions team was in town and we had packed all the kids onto buses to take them to the beach for the day. A few of us had decided to try and swim out to a sand bar, and while the others made it out there pretty easily, I somehow managed to swim right into a rip current. I don’t think I realized what was happening at first. I like to think of myself as a fairly strong swimmer, so when I got absolutely nowhere after expending a good amount of effort, I got frustrated. The other people seemed to be even further away, and when I looked at the shore I could see that I had made no forward progress whatsoever. I tried swimming harder. Nothing. I felt like I was on a treadmill made of water. Nobody noticed what was happening (thanks guys) so I swear I must have continued like that for a good ten minutes. I could feel my muscles getting sore and I was breathing really hard. I started panicking, wondering how long I could keep this up. It felt like there was no way out. I know there’s a certain way to get out of rip currents, like swimming parallel to the shore or something, but nothing seemed to work. My mind recalled the water-rescue incident from months earlier, and I wondered if someone would come save me too, or if drowning would be my fate. Finally, one of my little buddies from the discipulado, Leniker, came to my rescue. Somehow he directed me out of the current and I was finally free! I never did make it out to that sand bar though.

I think it’s interesting how even though I “saved” that girl back in April, I then became the victim of a similar situation, needing to be saved myself. I think it’s an example of how God works – he doesn’t call on perfect people. He calls on people with flaws, and on those who will depend on His power for their strength. A lot of times we think that God only chooses to use people who don’t have struggles of their own, but I think it’s actually just the opposite. When He uses those who may be lacking in strength, He can magnify his immense power that is made perfect in our weakness.

A few days after my own near-drowning experience, I was in the market in town, and happened to see that little girl again (she had ended up leaving the orphanage to go back with her family shortly after I left in April). She noticed me too, and although she still didn’t say anything, she flashed that same smile she had given me the night I left. And with that, I lost sight of her in the crowd. That precious little girl mattered infinitely to God, and her story serves as a reminder that He can use anyone to further His will. Thank you, Jesus, for continuing to use me despite my flaws to build Your kingdom here on earth; may Your power be ever glorified in my weakness.

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"for unto such as these belongs the kingdom of god"

March 5, 2014 | Pura Vida: God on the Move in Ticolandia

So here I am in Ticolandia with only a few short hours before I have to say goodbye. My time in Costa Rica so far has been quite “tranquila.” If I wanted to sound like a “Tica,” I would say that it’s been “Pura Vida.” I actually wouldn’t mind sounding like a Tica; my linguistic brain has been picking apart the Tico accent for weeks now and it fascinates me, though I can’t seem to shake my half-gringa half-Nica accent that has locals scratching their heads wondering where in the world I learned Spanish. But anyways, like I said, it’s been tranquila. I’m not going to pretend like I haven’t had a lot of downtime here or that it hasn’t been super relaxing. The past few weeks have been littered with days of hanging out in San Jose, drinking ginger-mint lemonades, and enjoying plates of rice, beans, and plantains. There were days I even felt a little guilty about how unproductive I was. But then there were other days where I was brimming with life, experiencing kingdom things firsthand, and fully engaged with my passion. God is certainly moving in Costa Rica, and that was made apparent to me through the people I came across. I lived with the directors of an organization that ministers to the broken people who walk the streets of San Jose and is working with the governments of multiple nations to put an end to sexual exploitation and slavery. I spent time with missionaries who live in the poorest and most dangerous section of San Jose, a shanty town lined with tin shacks, where they are working daily in the lives of the residents to create a more healthy and stable environment. On several occasions, I hung out with a beautiful family who has committed their time and energy to work with various orphanages all over the region in order to invest in the next generation and remind these children of Christ’s love. I attended a church of passionate young people, filled to the brim on a Saturday night to worship their Lord and Savior. I got to know some of the students in the after-high-school “Gap Program” who want to take the non-conventional route as their next step in life. I met a Costa Rican couple in their late sixties who run an orphanage out of their home, providing for 46 children who all call them “Mami” and “Papi.” I happened to run into a wealthy hotel owner who sponsors this orphanage because she truly believes in the work that their doing. God is on the move in Costa Rica, and He’s hand-chosen some incredible people to be on the front lines fighting for justice in this world that so desperately needs it. I was honored to meet some of these warriors and witness the miracles being done through them.

It was an eye-opening trip for me. God has used my time here to further reinstate in me my passion for the lost and broken and to reconfirm my purpose and future goals. As soon as I landed in Alajuela about a month ago, something sparked back up inside of me. During the entire car ride from the airport to Sabanilla, my face was pressed up against the window, taking it all in. As I breathed in the sights, sounds, and smells of San Jose, I remember thinking, “my heart is singing…it’s absolutely singing.” It was the only way I could think to describe what I was feeling. It was like the very core of my being knew I was back in Central America simply by the heightened aliveness of my soul. I don’t know if it was the sun, the language, or the gallo pinto that did it for me, but I felt like I was one step closer to “home.” And I think that’s why God brought me here - to remind me that He has created me with a unique plan in mind, and when I’m lined up with that plan, that’s where I’ll feel most fulfilled. My heart won’t just be singing, it will be belting out the Hallelujah chorus at the top of its lungs. I’ll be honest, the first few days were hard; getting used to the idea that I was so close to Nicaragua, but not quite there. The similarities in the culture, the weather, the food, the slang, and even the brands on the billboards had me wishing to high heaven I was back in my “happy place” - the closest I’ve ever felt to that Hallelujah chorus. But God had new people for me to meet, new lessons to learn, and new experiences to be had, and by the end of it I didn’t even want to leave. He brought me here with a purpose and I’m ever grateful that He knows what He’s doing even when I’m left clueless. Ticolandia, you’ve been good to me. Me dio mucho gusto conocerlo. Farewell, Costa Rica, until we meet again. Chau!

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Little Gardener | April 2013

February 21, 2014 | The Gardener

God, being the wise and omniscient being that He is, knows that in order for us to grow, we need to be challenged. Yesterday He chose to offer me an opportunity for growth, and I, though hesitant at first, decided to step up to the challenge. Not only did it create growth in me, but I believe it planted seeds in others as well, and that is what God the Gardener wanted all along.

The plan was for me to tag along with Anna of Light Force International and the Cannon family of Five Stones Ministries to a teen girls’ orphanage in downtown San Jose to hear Anna speak to the girls. Last minute, Anna called to tell me that she wasn’t going to make it, but wanted to know if I would share in her place. Every part of my innate selfish nature wanted to immediately shut down the offer. That would be so intimidating; speaking to a group of street girls not much younger than myself, and in Spanish? “Say no!” my mind screamed. But from deeper within, I felt a nudge from the Holy Spirit pushing me to accept the opportunity, so I did. 

I had two hours to prepare what I was going to say and I was nervous! These were rough teens coming from heartbreaking backgrounds – the last thing they wanted was for a little white girl with a comparably cushy life coming in and telling them her story. But I knew that was discouragement from the enemy so I asked God what He wanted me to share with them. He told me three specific things: 1) That He is their perfect Abba Father who loves them, 2) That their identity is not what they’ve done, what they know, or how they act – it is that they are daughters of the King, and 3) That each of them has a specific identity and purpose that He wants to speak to them about. I wrote it all out, but then never looked at my notes again, trusting that God would speak through me. 

When we got to the house, all nervousness subsided. Yes they were rough girls. Yes they were eyeing me like they wanted to know just who I thought I was. Yes they had walls up and were guarded. But when I looked around the room at each one of them, my heart just swelled with love for them – the love of the Father – and I wanted nothing more but to share that with them. They were rough around the edges with a hard outer shell, but they were broken inside. You could see in their eyes the need to be wanted. So I shared all that God had put on my heart. I could see them internalizing it, and processing it, as seeds were planted in them. 

We interacted with the girls afterwards; they asked questions and we talked with them so we could get to know them more. I really connected with one girl in particular. Michelle Cannon had told me her story beforehand, and the entire time I mulled it over and over in my head. She was sixteen and had a lot of mental issues, which were visible in her slower manner of processing things. She had just had a baby two months before, but it had been taken from her and placed in another home as she couldn’t take care of it on her own. My heart just broke for her, because she didn’t seem fully aware of everything that was happening and because she was so innocent, yet so clearly hurting. I didn’t want to even think of what she must have gone through in her past, or what the baby’s father must have been like, or how broken it all must leave her. My heart truly went out to her, and to the other girls as well. The pain behind their eyes spoke volumes, and their desperation counteracted the walls they had build up. The barriers were just a facade; in reality they wanted to invite us in. These girls, battered and torn, were silently crying out to be loved. I just wanted to hug them all and cry with them, and let them know that they ARE loved. Our broken world seems to insist on continuously breaking others. I thought of how many more girls are in the same situation. My heart weeps for them.

God has given me a passion for the lost and the broken. Since that day when fifteen-year-old me prayed that life-changing prayer, “Break my heart for what breaks Yours,” God has given me His heart, love, and compassion for His children. Over and over He shows me this. Over and over He reminds me of everything I am passionate for. I as an individual do not have the power to save the world, or even a single person, but God has the power to work through individuals like me to accomplish His will and show His love for His children. He places us in the paths of others’ sometimes merely to be a simple representation of His love. He stretches us through challenges to grow deeper in Him, so that as we grow, we can plant seeds and encourage others to grow with us. Praise be to the God most high and exalted. Orchestrator, Story-weaver, Gardener.

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February 10, 2014 | At Any Cost

I’ve now been back from Nicaragua for almost 2 months and to be honest, I’m still having trouble readjusting to life back home. We all hear tell of culture shock, but reverse culture shock is rarely mentioned. After spending a year in an entirely different way of life, readjusting to the American lifestyle hasn’t been easy (plus this freezing weather sure isn’t helping). I miss Nicaragua; I had built a life there. I was so invested that I couldn’t imagine NOT being there. The people, the lifestyle, the joy… I miss even the tiny elements of it – washing clothes by hand, watching geckos slink across my ceiling, waking at 5 am with the sun… Missing it is a deep yearning, a slow burning ache. If I thought before I’d ever experienced heartache, this hurts infinitely worse.

I have to keep reminding myself that God has a plan in all of this – there’s a reason I’m home now. I have school to finish, new people to meet, and different experiences to encounter. I can already see how God has been orchestrating things in my life to fall together in a way that only He could manage. He’s also been placing people in my path at just the right time. I got some good encouragement from a dear friend Linda Davis a few days ago. She acknowledged how much I must miss Nicaragua and imparted some wisdom on me. She told me, “You have to look at any missions experience in this way: that it is for a season. You never know how long you will be there. But even though you know it could end, you still have to invest yourself fully wherever you are.” To give all of yourself and hold nothing back. That’s part of our calling to live like Christ, who held nothing back and gave Himself fully for the sake of the lost – us. We are called to do the same. The cost of investing yourself is that sometimes it can hurt. But the reward is seeing lives changed, and that makes it worth it.

I mentioned how God has been orchestrating things so skillfully and part of what that entails is a month long trip to Costa Rica. I just booked my tickets a few days ago, yet here I am already sitting at my gate waiting to board. That’s how my life seems to operate these days. Constantly changing, dynamic, and impossible to pin down. So while the full plan remains unknown to me, I rest in the fact that it is fully known to God. I don’t know when I’ll be back in Nicaragua but I pray that it is soon. As I take off in a few minutes to my next big adventure, I am so very grateful to serve a sovereign God who has called me to the greatest adventure of all time – following Him at any cost. 

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Giant thanksgiving celebration with the boys from the Discipulado

December 4, 2013 | Giving Thanks [that God doesn’t play marbles with the planets]

About a week ago, I was working on a project for the school – a little behind schedule because I’d been given the assignment last minute. Just as I had all the files loaded on my flash drive to transfer to the desktop computer, the power went out – as it so often does. This time around it was horrible timing. I let out an exasperated sigh and slumped back in my chair. Pastor Earl, sitting at the kitchen table, noticed my frustration. “Say ‘Thank you Jesus,’” he told me. I slowly turned to look at him, with a look of sheer annoyance on my face - eyebrows furrowed, upper lip slightly curled on the left side… that look. He softly chuckled and said it again, “Kaila… Say it. ‘Thank you Jesus.’” “Thank you Jesus,” I said with reluctance and then muttered, “for other things but not this.” I didn’t think Earl heard that part but apparently he did because he spoke up again, “Even for this. We can give thanks in ALL things.” I thought about the irrationality of thanking God for the lack of power, and it made no sense. Who thanks God for something like that? But then I thought about the verse in 1 Thessalonians that says “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” I decided to take it to heart, and instantly the frustration was gone. To be honest, I still don’t understand the logic of being grateful for a poorly timed power outage, but I do know that operating under a mentality of constant gratitude really does change the way that you see the world. It eradicates a lot of unnecessary exasperation. It was a good little pre-Thanksgiving lesson.

Thanksgiving was a few days later, and though I was thousands of miles away from where the pilgrims surely celebrated that first harvest with the Native Americans, I was not going to pass up on celebrating my favorite holiday of the year. So all the plans were made to cook a Thanksgiving feast and celebrate it with the boys from the Discipulado. There was going to be more than fifty of us! Thanks to the generosity of my parents back home and my Nicaragua “parents” here, two huge turkeys were shipped in from Managua, twenty pounds of potatoes were bought from the market, and all the other necessary ingredients were gathered. It was going to be a grand feast with all the trimmings.

The morning of Thanksgiving it poured rain. I pretended it was snow, and that the giant puddles of mud were frozen lakes. I went with Elisa to the market to buy all the things we still needed to cook dinner. Because Thanksgiving to me is such a big deal, it was odd to see everyone else out and about like it was just another day. Then I reminded myself, to them it was just another day. But that didn’t quench my excitement as we walked through the rain from shop to shop, arms laden with celery, pineapples, bread, and TWENTY pounds of potatoes. The rest of the day back at the house was spent cooking. Damaris did all of the hard work (like the turkeys) and I was put in charge of the potatoes and green beans. In the past I’ve always used a potato peeler, but this time around I had to learn to peel with a normal knife. Twenty pounds of potatoes later, I had blisters on my hands that to this day the kids still make fun of me for. But it didn’t matter – when the mashed potatoes were finally done, to me they were perfect. The best ones I’d ever made. When you make something from scratch, there’s a sense of pride that comes with it. Cooks, artists, writers, and musicians can all agree with me on this. Any time you create something, it’s like you have some kind of connection with the thing you’ve created. I know that sounds too deep for talking about mashed potatoes, but let me tell you, they were good mashed potatoes.

Finally at seven o’clock, the food was all ready and the Discipulado boys were all anxiously awaiting the legendary Thanksgiving meal. We brought the food out – two turkeys, potatoes, gravy, stuffing with cranberries, green beans, fresh bread, and for dessert an apple-pineapple fruit salad. I explained to everyone what Thanksgiving and how we celebrated it. We prayed and gave thanks to God for the meal and for the time of fellowship. Then the adults (I guess I’m kind of an adult now?) served up the plates of food for the boys and then for ourselves. As we were eating, in keeping with Thanksgiving tradition, everyone went around the table and said what they were thankful for. Common things were mentioned like family, friends, and shelter. I liked how almost everyone said they were simply thankful for life. Most of them even said they were thankful for the food – though I found out later that they didn’t even like any of it besides the potatoes (hehe) and the turkey, which they insisted on calling chicken. Hmm, grateful for something they didn’t even like… sounds like they are more familiar with the “giving thanks in all things” concept than I am.

I am trying to be better about that – about giving thanks in all circumstances. I have so much to be grateful for. I thank God for my family – whom I love and miss dearly – I’m grateful for how they continue to love and support me through this journey that I’m on. I’m thankful for my friends back home who also continue to love me even though I go off the grid for sometimes weeks at a time. I’m thankful for the friendships I’ve built here, where we can just sit for hours doing nothing but talking and it’s some of the best hours we’ve ever spent. I’m thankful for all the kids here that make my day with hugs and smiles and laughter. I’m thankful for my “Nica Parents” Earl and Damaris who work so hard and give everything they’ve got to share the love of Jesus with the people of the Puerto Cabezas (and beyond). I’m thankful for the Thanksgiving dinner we got to have, and the time spent celebrating with the boys and reflecting on all God has blessed us with. I’m thankful for my sponsors who support me in what I’m doing here and encourage me when I’m feeling defeated. And I thank God for giving me the opportunity to be here in this beautiful place that I love; I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

A long while back, we were sitting around the dinner table here, and Eli Lee – a missionary up on the Rio Coco with his wife and kids (all of whom are like family to me now) – was asked to say grace over the meal. I don’t remember the whole prayer, but one part has stuck out to me ever since. He closed by saying, “Thank you God, for loving us.” It was so simple, yet so poignant. It really connected with me. That’s such a huge thing, why had I never simply thanked God for loving me? I’ve kept that in my head since that night – to continue to thank Him for loving me. God is the God of the universe – the one who created all things with just a spoken word, the one who flooded the entire earth, the one who defeated armies and destroyed corrupt cities, the one who split oceans down the middle – yet at the same time He’s a God of immense unconditional love. He sees every sparrow that falls, counts every hair on our heads, and knows every need of ours before we even ask. He sits up in heaven and could be playing marbles with the planets, but He instead chooses to be present in our lives and desire a relationship with each one of us. To sit and reflect on that is just profound. Thank you God. Thank you God for loving us.

The morning after our Thanksgiving celebration I woke up a little later than usual, around six o’clock (I’ve been really slacking on my 5 am wake up call now that classes are finished and I don’t have anywhere to be by 7:30). Nobody was out in the kitchen or the living room, so I just stood at the doorway looking outside, trying to decide how to spend my morning. The weather was absolutely gorgeous, so I just started walking. I had no idea where I was going, I just walked. It was as if my feet where carrying me and I had no control over it. I thought about turning around, hesitant to be out starting my day so early, but my feet kept going.

I got to the gate of the orphanage and looked through. Nobody was out and about quite yet, so I paused for a second, thinking on what to do. But then my feet carried me again, up the stairs of one of the guesthouses onto its front porch. I sat down, feeling the perfect air with the gentle breeze, listening to the cries of cicadas and the chattering of birds, and I began to contemplate love and life and God. I felt a prompting to just sit back and feel God’s love for me. So I sat back and felt. The warm air enveloped me and it felt like love, but I got to thinking about how broken and undeserving I am. How often I mess up. How often I put myself above others and above God. So in a small voice, I asked Him a bold question. “God…why do you love me?” I earnestly desired an answer – why such a big, perfect, flawless God would love such a small, unimportant, flawed human like me. And an answer came. He told me, “Because you are my sweet child and I made you. The Creator is proud of His creation; and you, my dear, are a beautiful creation.” I sat there with chills, meditating on the profound simplicity of those words, “the creator is proud of his creation.” I sat there contemplating His love for me. I think it pleases God when we just sit in communion with Him and receive His love. When we’re not running around frantically trying to earn His approval. When we’re not filling our lives with busyness trying to gratify Him when sometimes all He wants for us is to receive His love – the love that He freely gives. For once I sat back and just received. I thought about how thankful I am to serve a God like that. “The Creator is proud of His creation.” Thank you Jesus for loving me despite my failures, for reaching me in my brokenness, and for being proud of me through it all.

I would encourage all of us to reflect on God’s love. Ask Him to show it to you. Ask Him to reveal it to you. Ask Him to tell you why He loves you. Reflect on it. It’s one of the most simple, yet most profound things we have to be thankful for – His love for us. As I strive to give thanks in all circumstances, from beautiful celebrations with my favorite kids to untimely power outages, it brings me great comfort to consider of how vast God’s love is for me. I can feel it in the gentle breezes that from time to time grace Puerto Cabezas with relief from the heat, and I can feel it in the pelting rain that forms small rivers and streams of mud with every drop. I count it all as blessing, though sometimes I have to be reminded. I thank You God for everything You have blessed me with, and mostly, I thank You for simply loving me.

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