Category Archives: lady in waiting: trip prep

Sign Me Up for a Life Change

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Among Christian circles, especially ones focused on missions, you often hear people say that the person going on the mission trip has a much more life changing experience than the people they’re going to visit. In other words, even though the “missionary” is going for the purpose of eternally impacting lives for Christ, it is believed that in actuality, the missionary is the only one whose life is greatly impacted. The thought behind this theory is that when you go on a mission trip, you’re leaving your home, job, family, friends and normal schedule and are thrown into a new, foreign and interesting place. Meeting new people and seeing how different their lives are from your own is impactful and stays in your memory for decades to come. For the people being visited though, in this case the people of Japan, they are staying in their home, job and normal schedule for the most part, and we will just barely interrupt their status quo.

While we will remember the people, places, events and conversations from our trip for years to come, the people we meet will quickly revert back to their routine and maybe one day they’ll say something like, “Remember those people from that country that did that thing? The guy was really handsome and the girl was always eating oatmeal? Remember them? Yeah, me neither.” Maybe this will happen. Hopefully not.

While I appreciate the humility in admitting the missionary is benefited more than those they’re attempting to minister to, this mindset has always rubbed me the wrong way. If this were totally true, then what the heck are we doing out there and why are we even bothering? Don’t get me wrong, I’m stoked to visit Japan, but I would never take my only two weeks of vacation to go there if I didn’t believe that God can do great things through me during my stay — things that make a real difference in the everyday lives of people, things that change the eternal destiny of people. I believe God can do these great things through me not because of me, but because of Him. The only thing I bring to the table is my availability, and luckily that is often enough for God to work.

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Crews Family

Though I agree the missionary often has life changing experiences on mission trips, I can’t agree that they are the only ones whose lives are changed. When I think about my mission trip to Australia in 2008, I vividly remember how over-the-moon the Aussies were to see the Crews family. Various members of the Crews family have been going on mission trips to Australia annually for several years, and there’s no doubt they’ve made an impact. A big impact. People cry when they arrive, they cry when they leave, they exchange emails between trips. Why? Because the Crews family has changed their lives. Many Aussies became Christians because of the Crews family, changing their course not only in this life but in the next. There’s no arguing that leading people into a relationship with the God of love and grace is life changing.

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Pam & Mark Adams

 

Another person in our church that has changed lives through a mission trip is Pam Adams. When she was in Africa, her team pulled bad teeth out of people’s mouths. I have no doubt that made a forever impact on Pam, but I’m even more confident that it impacted the people she helped. You know those people aren’t ever going to forget the day they got an infected tooth or two pulled. Pam changed their lives for the better by being available for God to use her.

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Diane & Gavin Williams

 

Or how about another woman from our church, Diane Williams. She has traveled to Kenya several times, helping with Tumaini Ministries, an organization that provides a home environment for orphans who’ve lost one or more parents from AIDS. As if the hands-on work Diane has done while physically in Kenya wasn’t enough, Diane has been a major advocate for getting orphans financially sponsored by other members of our church. She has lead the way in getting money to pay for these orphans’ food, clothes and education. Can you really tell me that her actions haven’t changed these kids’ lives just as much as they’ve changed hers?

 

 

As I physically and spiritually prepare to leave for Japan in a couple days, I release the negativity that comes with believing the trip will be more life changing for me than for anyone I meet there. I pray God will begin to open the hearts and minds of the people I will come in contact with, that He will give me the timely words of truth to share with them, and that He will work miracles that dramatically change their lives. I pray that God will show His love and grace through me, that people would want what I’ve been so blessed to have, a relationship with Him.

I couldn’t care less if people remember our names or how cute my ballet flats are, as long as God moves in their lives and positive eternal decisions are made or at least planted and start to grow.

I know this trip will change my life. I pray that the generally accepted Christian theory about mission trips is wrong, and this trip also changes the lives of others. Again, not because I’m awesome, but because I’m available.

Thanks for reading! My next entry will probably be the evening we arrive in Japan! Your prayers are so needed and appreciated!

Love, Jessica

“…I will make you a light of the nations so that My salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” -Isaiah 49:6

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Do You Remember the Very First Time You Heard the Name Jesus?

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As I prepare for my mission trip to Japan in two weeks, what keeps coming to mind are images of hypothetical Japanese people I’ll meet while I’m there. These are people God created just like He created me; people God thoughtfully crafted just as much as He did me; people God loves, wants, worries over, and rejoices over like He does me; people God has a plan for and desires a relationship with and hopes to spend eternity with, just as He does for me.

I am no different in value to God than every individual person in Japan. This truth can easily escape me because my relationship with God is usually just about me and God, rarely focused on how God desires a relationship with some random person I don’t know just as much as He desires one with me. I guess God does such a good job at being a personal God, making each of us feel special, that sometimes we forget that He is also a universal God.

As I think about these unidentifiable Japanese people, I wonder what it would be like for them to hear the name of Christ and the message of God for the very first time. As less than 1% of Japan is Christian, and the majority of people have never heard the Good News, it is very likely that we will meet many people who have never even heard the name Jesus. To give some perspective, when one of the missionaries in Japan asked a Japanese person if they knew who Jesus was, they responded, “Is that a band? Is that a type of cuisine?” They had absolutely no context as to who Jesus is and more importantly, what He has done for them.

It got me thinking, can I remember the very first time I ever heard the name of Christ and the story of His birth, burial and resurrection? NO! I grew up in the Baptist Church, spending three nights a week there, constantly surrounded by believers, attending Bible studies, church choir rehearsals, congregation BBQs.

Play at Green Hills Baptist Church. Matt thought I was the back of a sheep! Ha ha!

Trick-or-Treating at Church. My talented mama made my costume!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I accepted Christ as my personal Lord and Savior when I was six years old, so I barely remember life before conversion, much less when I first heard about Jesus. So I have absolutely no idea what it would feel like in my mind, my heart, my body, to hear this crazy, nearly unbelievable truth for the first time. I can imagine it’s something like, “So this all powerful mermaid god rose from the sea and turned into a man. He performed lots of miracles, was killed, but then came back to life and descended back into the sea. And if you believe this, you can live in the sea with him forever.”

Sounds crazy right? Well the story of Christ probably sounds just as crazy to people who have lived many years without hearing anything about it. But the difference is, the story of Christ is true, it is living, it is powerful, it completes our soul, changing us in this life and the next.

Most of us can’t fully relate to how it feels to hear the amazing story of Jesus for the first time, because even if you didn’t become a Christian until later in life, or if you’re not a believer at all, you’ve still probably grown up with the message of Christ around you. Throughout the years you’ve heard tidbits here and there, stories of Jesus’ miracles, a general overview of Christianity. So if someone were to share the Bible with you, you would have some logical context to plug it into.

As I meet and talk with people in Japan, I need to be extra sensitive to the fact that pretty much anything I say regarding Christ is brand new information to them, and could easily seem too crazy for them to even listen to. But on the other hand, I need to be in prayer that God would open their hearts and minds to this crazy truth, because God wants so desperately to have a relationship with them, like He has a relationship with me or you.

What if you never heard the name of Jesus and the Good News? Some of my non-believing friends would probably be ecstatic if we Christians would leave them alone, but at least these friends were given the opportunity, the choice. I can’t begin to imagine what my life would be like without Christ. If I were to be completely honest, I probably would have killed myself many years ago, due to a lack of hope and inner turmoil. Could there be a direct correlation between the 32,000 Japanese people that commit suicide every year and the fact that the country is less than 1% Christian?

Although intimidating, I am greatly looking forward to telling people about Jesus and His saving grace for the very first time.

Thank you for reading and for your prayers.

Love, Jessica

Easter Sunday at Church. My mom would match us so if she lost one of us, she could just tell the police, the lost kid looks just like this!

Mothers Day at Church. Hadn’t quite nailed how to be a lady yet.

God’s Checking Account

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When I first heard about the opportunity to go to Japan, nothing but excitement and joy spread throughout my entire being. But as the trip got closer, two things struck fear and doubt in me–the 20 hour plane travel, and raising the necessary funds to go. In just a few months I needed to come up with nearly $2,700. Impossible.

To give you a little background, I have traveled with Knott Avenue Christian Church on two major mission trips in the past, to Western Samoa and Australia. Both of these trips costs around the same amount as Japan, but I was at a completely different place in my life financially when I took those trips. I was working full time, single and rent free. Although I still work full time now, I am happily married and rent full, with a mortgage payment, that apparently has to be paid EVERY month.

You might see where I am going with this. I have always been so incredibly uncomfortable asking people for money to fund my mission trips, that for Samoa and Australia, I just wrote a personal check to the church and called it a day. In my mind, if I asked people to support me, they would be thinking, “If she wants to go on a mission trip, she should figure out how to go on a mission trip.” Why should I ask people to give up their Starbucks addiction for a month to have the funds to pass along to me when I should just give up MY Starbucks addiction to pay for myself?

Well this time around, our bank account and my husband said just paying for the trip was not an option. Panic set in.

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But God quickly comforted me by bringing me words my father often says. By the way, my siblings and I must publish a book of my dad’s sayings, as they’re all brilliant, though many reference manure. Anyway, Ron Rallis Sr. regularly tells me that the race is already won; all I have to do is go through the motions to make it so. In other words, I don’t need to be worried that I won’t succeed, because God has already determined that I will succeed, for His glory. If I simply follow the steps to get to the goal, victory is ours.

Now many times we don’t know what the final goal is, or we have a goal in mind and God has a different goal, but that’s neither here nor there. All that matters is that God loves us and always has an ideal plan for us. Though we’re often inadequate, if we just put one foot in front of the other, He will fill in the gaps and shortcomings. Though we don’t always know where God is taking us, there ARE a few times in our lives when we know exactly what God wants us to do. And those are the times when God has already won the race and all we need to do is be obedient in going through the motions to follow Him there. God has already told me that I will be going to Japan. He already knows our financial situation. He already knows how much I need to raise. He already raised the money. I just need to go out and collect it

And boy, did the Lord provide. With just a few Facebook posts and Facebook messages, I am almost at my goal, and I still have 2 ½ weeks to fundraise! The craziest part is, none of that money came from my three sets of parents. I was sure I was going to have to go to the bank of mom and dad to make up the difference. Almost $2,700 raised, and no hate mail saying, “pay for yourself and leave me alone.” Quite the opposite in fact. People WANT to give. They’re not giving because they want to get rid of me or because they feel guilty, but because they believe in the work God is doing in Japan. It has very little if nothing to do with me! What a relief! It’s not me asking people for me, it’s God inviting people for Japan. Wow, I started this fundraising journey so selfish and I didn’t even know it.

I have been selfish in past mission trips by not allowing God to move in the hearts and wallets of other believers, and I have been selfish this time around by thinking people were giving to me when they’re really giving to God to bring Him glory and further His Kingdom. I officially feel like a chump. I’m so glad God loves and uses chumps.

Not only has God humbled me through this process, He has brought me a mission trip family. Though I didn’t realize it at the time, I felt very alone on my trips to Samoa and Australia. I went with great teams and did some great work, but after a long day or difficult conversation I felt homesick and alienated. I had no connection to anyone who wasn’t in the thick of it with me. No one standing behind the ropes that mark the race, cheering us forward, giving us water and snacks, and telling us there was a celebration party waiting at the finish line. Boy, did I miss out on a big aspect of the trip. And who knows for sure, but I was probably less effective than I could have been if I had felt a team behind me back home.

ImageAs I look at the team of people contributing to my trip, either through funds or prayer, I actually get emotional. It is such a wonderful and diverse group. Men, women, children, college-age, young marrieds, single sensations, empty nesters, people who will hardly notice that funds even left their account, people who picked up a shift to cover the loss. This is the team. We are now all connected. Thirty-five very different people all coming together for one trip that could make an eternal difference for many. I’m overwhelmed by how beautiful that is.

To all my financial supporters, your generosity is humbling. And to all my prayer warriors, your prayers will directly contribute to the effectiveness of my trip.

One lesson I’ve learned through all of this is to not let the fear of naysayers rob you of experiencing the joy that comes from yea-sayers. Sometimes the naysayers are actual people, sometimes it’s our own insecurities, and sometimes it’s the devil. But regardless, they’re the minority and shouldn’tprevent you from going through the motions to finish the race God has already won.

Now to figure out how to conquer that 20 hour plane ride. Hmm.

Thanks for bearing through the mind that is Jessica. Until next blog entry.

Love, Jessica

“If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.” – James 4:17

My, scratch that, God’s To-Do List

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Here we are, five weeks away from traveling to Japan for a two-week mission trip. It’s something Matt and I have been dreaming about doing for the past couple years, and now it’s only five weeks out! I have to take this opportunity to quote FRIENDS, because heaven forbid I let one of those opportunities pass.

Joey: Am I psyched? The lead in my own TV series? I’ve dreamed about this for years! Why have I not been preparing?

Me: Am I psyched? A mission trip to Japan? I’ve dreamed about this for years! Why have I not been preparing?

In the late hours of the night, I often become overwhelmed with the list of things I have to do, and sheer panic sets in when I realize there are some things on that list I just don’t have time to accomplish…like learning fluent Japanese, mastering the art of vocal harmonies, memorizing that box of flashcard Bible verses, and tactfully keeping down fish heads after consumption.

But I am learning to at least attempt obeying that phrase I’m so sick of hearing and wish people would stop saying: let go and let God. Crud, I just said it myself, huh? Well you see, I am a major planner. I like to joke that I have to-do lists filled with to-do lists. For example, an item on my to-do list might be: “make a list of things we need to complete our living room” or “make a list of goals to accomplish during June.” While this is laughable, it’s also very real. I live by my to-do lists, and I get very anxious when things aren’t getting checked off.

God has been yelling to me this week, since I’m usually deaf to His whispers, that I don’t need to be overly worried about having every little thing perfectly prepared, because He has been working hard over the last couple years to prepare me as a person. God is a refiner’s fire. He has been slowly, and often painfully, refining me. Melting me down, separating out my impurities that decrease my value, ridding me of them, and leaving me much closer to the gold He originally created me to be. I HAVE been preparing for this trip, but not in a way that’s easy to check off my to-do list. And that’s okay. In fact, it’s better, because it has eternal value.

My pop always says, “There are only two things in this world that last forever: God’s Word and people.” Although my never ending to-do list looks important and matters in my day-to-day life, I can feel already accomplished in knowing I have been investing the last couple years of my life in God’s Word and in people.

I am by no means where I hoped I’d be at this point in my life. I really thought as a teenager that by age 29 I would have more success, more control and more sanity than I do, but I have come leaps and more leaps from where I was a couple years ago. Maybe my biggest hang up in progressing has been decades of focusing on my to-do list first, and God’s “Will list” second. Too much planning can leave no room for God to move and do things I never thought to add to my to-do list.

As I reflect on what’s important to me in life, I keep coming back to “being in God’s Will.” If I can make this my focus: seeking God’s Will, finding God’s Will, following God’s Will, then everything else will fall into place. It just has to. And even if it doesn’t, it doesn’t matter because I’m in God’s Will. I want so desperately to know that I am in His Will, because then I can release all the pressure of doing other things. I’m not an actress on Broadway, oh well, I’m in God’s Will. I’m not debt free, oh well, I’m in God’s Will. I’m not a mom of three kids, oh well, I’m in God’s Will.

Now don’t get me wrong, being in God’s Will does not mean being lazy on pipe dreams, it means having freedom from guilt tripping myself for not being something I was never created to be anyway. I am not one of those people who grab on to excuses for not doing things, I am a person who feels worthless if I’m not doing everything. So being in God’s Will allows me to focus and be content where He has me now, because why would I want to be anywhere else if He wants me here? I wouldn’t!

So, to sum up, “we’re having fun, you look young.” Sorry, another FRIENDS reference. But seriously, to sum up, to-do lists are only good if they don’t overshadow the time and energy put into becoming the person God wants you to be. And secondly, actively seeking and living in God’s Will is all you need to be concerned with.

Hopefully these revelations will calm my spirit enough to allow me to get some much needed sleep between now and the big trip. And even more importantly, will give God the opportunity to intervene as much as possible, both while preparing for Japan and while being in Japan!

Thanks so much for reading my very first blog entry in the history of Jessica!

Stay tuned, as next week I’ll be writing about The Bank of God: trusting God with the financial aspect of a mission trip.

If you’d like to read more about our Japan mission trip, or contribute financially, please click here.

And, for your viewing pleasure, I’ve attached one of the FRIENDS clips I quoted. This is the worst/best “define the relationship” conversation in the history of mankind. Enjoy!

Love, Jessica

“Tell of His glory among the nations, His wonderful deeds among all the peoples.” -Psalm 96:3