Serving in Love: A REACH Update
Team Canada is living and working in Thunder Bay, Ontario. Their main focus is building relationships with First Nations youth to share the love of Jesus with them.Their normal schedule includes helping out at a local church throughout the week, volunteering at a youth center, and hanging out with teenagers.
This week, like so many others, has flown by. One thing that we did again this week was have a worship night at the youth center. Personally, I really enjoy the structure of these evenings. We usually have a song set picked out, however, after we are done with those songs, we have been leaving time for song requests and closing in a time of prayer. This week people stayed for a while after the worship time was over. Some played pool, others sat and played instruments. In all, it was a really good evening. There was a sense of community there that was so awesome to be a part of. It wasn’t about getting all of the words right, or all of the notes right. It was more about praising God and encouraging each other.
One thing that God has taught me through this program is about the different forms that church can take. Church can be on a Sunday morning when a group of Christ followers meet in a building; or, it can be a group of Christ followers sitting around a campfire talking about what God is teaching them and doing in their lives. Both of these things are equally church. We are blessed to have the opportunity to know God and to serve him. And we are also blessed to be able to walk with each other as we serve him together.
Team Himalayas is working in a region that has been devastated by a natural disaster. Their day to day activities vary, but they’ve included digging toilets, widening roads, pounding rocks, mixing/pouring concrete, tearing down houses, meeting with local believers, building relationships, and preaching in outlying villages.
On Sunday, we left to come back to the city for a little breather. After we said our goodbyes to the locals that have grown so dear to us over the past month, we hiked down the mountain into the town to wait for the bus. On the bus ride, Jared and I sat together. I was by the window and Jared was by the aisle, and an older man kept leaning on Jared’s seat and basically sat on his lap, as he looked like he was growing weary. Jared said he felt like he should give the man his seat, but he kind of pushed it aside. After a little while, another man in the aisle began talking to Jared and me, and we had a nice conversation with him. He was fluent in English. It started out with generic questions, and after a while, we began to connect the dots and we found out that he was a Christian. Anyway, when we began talking with him, Jared got up and offered his seat to the elderly man, which he gladly took. Jared and I took turns standing, and talking to the friendly man for the rest of the bus trip. When we got off at the place near where we would be spending the night, the man invited us to his home and store, where he generously gave us some delicious cake and tea. He told us about how his family came to faith, and how he uses his little bakery as a ministry in the town. Just meeting this man was such a God-moment.
Team South Africa
Team South Africa is serving with Door of Hope, an orphanage in South Africa that rescues abandoned babies. Their days include holding the babies, feeding them, playing with them, and changing many dirty “nappies.” Their days are long and their work is rarely glamorous, but they play an important role in saving the lives of dozens of children.
The team has continued a tradition from our DTS—Sunday night worship. Cassidy, who is very gifted musically, brought her guitar along, and on Sunday evenings we just sit and worship together. The other Sunday, we sang about how deep the Father’s love is for us and how he is such a good, good Father. Since being here, I feel as though God has taken my knowledge of his Father’s heart for me and expanded it experientially. The love that just wells up in me for these orphans is a taste of the way God feels toward his children. As I witness the fatherless becoming sons and daughters, God has been growing my love for the Gospel. I can’t contain my gratitude when I consider that the Lord of heaven traveled very, very far to rescue me, adopt me into his family, and give me his name.
A quote by Oswald Chambers has challenged me recently: “If through a broken heart God can bring his purposes to pass in the world, then thank him for breaking your heart.” While it would be easier to distance myself emotionally from these children, knowing that we’ll have to say goodbye in a few short months, that is not my calling as a believer. We love because he first loved us. “Father of the fatherless… is God in his holy habitation. God settles the solitary in a home…” (Psalm 68:5-6) Every orphan finds their true home in the Father’s arms, but who are his hands and feet on this earth? We are! If we do not love, care for, and adopt orphans, who will?
Team South AsiaTeam South Asia is serving in a closed region of the world, which prevents us from sharing much about their ministry. They have spent the first two months of the year volunteering at an orphanage, leading devotions for the children, building relationships, and helping with homework. They will spend the next part of their outreach traveling to villages to encourage the persecuted church and to share the story of Jesus with some who have never heard it before.
Last Friday we drove down and then back up “Monkey Mountain” and just relaxed a little while as our tour guide showed us some scenery. As you may have guessed by the name of the mountain, there are many monkeys that are sitting on the side of the road and wait for people to throw food out of their vehicles for them. We just happened to have a bag of peanuts with us so I was throwing some out while we were passing the monkeys, and then we ended up stopping on the side of the road by a couple dozen monkeys. The monkeys were only a few feet away, and pretty soon I just started holding out my hand and they were taking the peanuts right out of my hand and eating them! Then one of the monkeys saw the whole bag of peanuts in my other hand and he jumped up in the window frame of the Jeep and started grabbing at the whole bag! I freaked out a little bit from excitement, and he jumped down pretty quickly after he realized he wasn’t going to get any more peanuts. Needless to say, this was definitely a highlight of things I’ve experienced in South Asia—a monkey inches from your face outside of a cage is a whole lot different than at a zoo!
Team SpainTeam Spain is serving in Granada, a city in the south of Spain. They spend their weeks studying language, building relationships at a local youth group, reaching out to the homeless in the city, preparing English curriculum for a nearby summer camp, and sharing Jesus through relationships.
It has been encouraging as we get busier, but we have to remind ourselves that it is not in the doing that justifies our being here… it is simply that we are adopted children of God. If we can rest in that truth, we will literally walk into opportunities without even trying. It seems the more we try to do, the less we have; the more we try to relate, the harder it is; the more we worry about the future, time goes slower. The point is, God’s kingdom is upside down… at least to us. But, that is okay, because he is one hundred percent sovereign and will ONLY allow and lead and give what is best for us. This trip, this team, the stuff we are doing… it’s all a set up to bring him glory. So, why not trust? Please pray for our health as we are traveling to the camp on Sunday. Also, pray for his Spirit to continue to bring new life and new motivation into our souls. Thanks for reading! May our good Father grant you unspeakable joy, no matter the circumstances.
Team ThailandTeam Thailand is living and working in Bangkok, Thailand. For the past few months the team has spent much of their time teaching English at a local temple school, though that part of their outreach is coming to an end. They will spend the next three months reaching out to Cambodian immigrant children, leading the long-term team in prayer, mentoring the children of the long-term team, teaching English, building relationships, and traveling to other ministry sites in the region.
So here’s a little update on what my team and I have been up to lately. We have been teaching English to first and second grade kids for about five weeks so far, and we only have about three weeks left. It feels like the time is just flying by so fast, and before we know it, we’ll be done teaching those crazy, fun-loving kids!! The weeks can sometimes be stressful with loud screaming in the classrooms, followed by some kids crawling on their desks and being shot at by rubber bands, LOL. But there are also very rewarding moments with them as well. Some days when I’m at the school, some girls from one of the classes I teach will run up to me yelling, “teacher, teacher!” and give me a big hug, and sometimes they’ll even tell me that they love me. Some of the girls made me paper hearts and paper butterflies. They love to make me things while in class, and then write both of our nicknames on it. Those kids have definitely stolen a piece of my heart. It makes me realize how lucky I am not only to be able to teach these kids, but to also just love on them like Jesus would.