Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Just Be.

I know this update is way past due and these last four months have been full of new and exciting things, so I’ll try to keep this blog as short as possible. I’ve been home for nearly four months now and I can’t decide if it’s gone by quickly or not. So much has happened and I feel like it’s definitely been four of the most growing and changing months of my life, but I still remember the faces of the girls from The Oasis like it was yesterday. A year ago, I never would have guessed that my life would be what it is now. I’m a completely different person, in a completely different place than I would have ever planned for myself. And I’m saying that with joy, because God’s provision has exceeded any expectations I might have had in these last few months. I love looking back at the last four months because it clearly shows how good God is in even the small details of our lives.

Work: I returned home at a really bad economic time and the prospect of finding a good job seemed pretty slim. I was a little worried about money but (surprise, surprise) God provided everything I needed. My best friend, Jane, flew over from Montana to help me settle into my new apartment and to be with me during my first initial “reverse culture shock,” and her family sent her with money to buy me groceries and other odds and ends that I needed. What a blessing! I didn’t have a job for four weeks, and even though I was worried, I was so thankful for that time. It gave me time to unpack, settle, visit friends, and to just… catch my breath. Life at The Oasis wasn’t easy and I didn’t realize how much I needed that time of rest until the Lord gave it to me.

Just as God’s goodness has proven in the past: as soon as the money ran out, the paychecks came in. I was blessed to be offered a job at Whatcom Land Title, a locally owned title and escrow company! It’s an unlikely job to get in today’s economy, but I love that because it reminds me that God is bigger than we are (and the problems we’ve created for ourselves!).

Church: During my last week in Guatemala , I met Brian MacSwan, the youth pastor from Christ the King in Bellingham . (Big God, small world.) He was on a scouting trip for their high school mission trip this summer. We had dinner, were able to talk a bit, and exchanged contact information so when I returned to Bellingham , I met with Brian at the church one morning, and God sort of took over. To make a long story short, Brian invited me to come check out their high school youth group and see if it was something I wanted to be a part of. I had been praying that God would open up some sort of ministry and community opportunities for me in Bellingham , and that He did. I wish I had words to describe what a blessing Doxa has been in my life, but everything seems to fall short of the truth. These high schoolers are real, passionate, and growing daily. I am so thankful that God is allowing me to be a part of their stories.

God has been doing a lot in my heart this last year and a couple weeks ago, I knew it was finally time to make it public that I have chosen to live for Him. So on Sunday, July 5th, 2009, I was baptized at CTK by my Pastor and good friend, Brian! I was blessed to have good friends and co-workers that came to hug me and celebrate with me afterwards! God is good.

Through Doxa and Christ the King, I have met a lot of new Christian friends. This new community of people has been so encouraging! Which also leads me to…

Living: OUR NEW HOUSE! My new roommates and I recently moved into our new five-bedroom house! I met Chelsea, Megan, Allison, and Angie through CTK (four of us work with high school, and Angie works with middle school) and God blessed us with a sweet house and the nicest landlord imaginable. (Seriously, she baked us cookies, gave us flowers, five frozen pizzas, ice cream, chocolate syrup, and a Haggen gift card when we moved in.) And, what a shocker, God worked everything out for all five of us to be able to move in together. Does anyone else see a pattern here?

Signing the one-year lease on this house was a really big deal to me. It was the longest commitment I’ve made to a place in three years. Part of me is excited to have something stable in my life for a while, but another part of me freaks out every once in awhile wondering what in the world I’m doing.

Megan, Allison, Chelsea, Me (We're missing Angie)

Biggest Life Lesson: I’ve always been a planner. Total obsessive-compulsive list maker, organizer, can’t-go-anywhere-without-my-planner type of person. I realized that as soon as I got back to Bellingham , I was already thinking, “Okay, what next? Where next?” At that point God kind of knocked me on the head. “What about now? What about today? You’re in this place because I put you here for this very moment. Live it.” Since then, he’s been walking with me, teaching me about finding Him in the day-to-day living. I think it’s the most important lesson I’ve ever learned about my faith: Just Be. I just need to be in His will, obedient to His commands, and the rest falls into place without my lists or my plans. It’s a tough lesson for me, and daily I have to remind myself to be patient, knowing He will reveal the next step to me when I’m ready.

There are so many more things I could share – these last four months since Guatemala have been a whirlwind of change, fun, and growth! Mostly I’ve just been living and learning, sharing and enjoying life with friends, and experiencing God’s grace new every day. I’m excited for what the future holds and slowly learning to be more content with not always knowing.

The question I most often get asked is, “So what’s next? What are your plans?” To be honest, I still don’t know. I have a vision that God and I have been working on, but for now I’m waiting on Him to open those doors. It could be next week; it could be in five years, I don’t know. Guatemala is still on my heart every day, and it probably always will be, but right now, in this moment, I just need to be still and know that he is God. And my heart is totally content with that.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Love Them Like Jesus

Last weekend, during a 4 hour drive home from Huehuetenango, I got a revelation from God that just about knocked the wind out of me. It's one of those things that as soon as it really clicks with you, you go, "Well, duh. Why didn't I figure that out before?!" Yeah, it was definitely one of those moments.

I was listening to my iPod and "Love Them Like Jesus" by Casting Crowns came on. (Amazing song! If you've never heard it, it's worth a few minutes of your time: God really drew my attention to this part:

The life that she’s known,
Is falling apart
A fatherless home
A child’s broken heart
You’re holding her hand
You’re straining for words
You’re trying to make sense of it all
She’s desperate for hope
Darkness clouding her view
She’s looking to you

Just love her like Jesus
Carry her to Him
His yoke is easy
His burden is light
You don’t need the answers
To all of life’s questions
Just know that He loves her
And stay by her side
Just love her like Jesus

There have been at least a dozen times in the past five months when I've been with one of our girls that told me she was afraid of her Daddy. "He hurts me. I don't want to go back." "Kimberly, what does God think about parents that don't love their children?" "I like it here. You don't hit me."

I was holding her hand, straining for words, trying to make sense of it all. I've seen these beautiful, innocent children so desperate for hope and there was no way I could answer their questions.

"Just love them like Jesus."

We don't have to know the answers to all of life's questions. We just need to carry them to Jesus. We need disciple them, hug them, LOVE them. "Just know that He loves her, and stay by her side."

What a beautiful mission God has called us to. I am so thankful that I have a God who never expects us to know what to do in every situation. I am so thankful that my God simply draws people into Him. I have a God that brings hope into situations that we deem hopeless. I feel blessed that God has called us to be His arms and His feet. That we are called to CARRY people to Him - to PUSH people towards HIM.

Again, I've been overlooking the simplicity of it all.
My mission here is: to love them like Jesus.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Dios Es Amor

As some of you know, I've been looking at different options for coming back to Guatemala in the fall on a long term commitment. A couple of months ago, while I was beginning to look at different organizations, my Mom gave me the idea of looking at YWAM Guatemala City. It was the first idea that really excited me and ever since my Mom suggested it, I've been very excited about the prospect of returning to YWAM.

Last night I finally had the chance to go see the YWAM base with my friend, Alejandra. I met Ale when she was translating at an Evangelism seminar in Antigua last November and she's been with YWAM Guatemala for a couple of years now. I quickly fell in love with the base, the Latin atomosphere, and the thought of returning to this place full time. I spent the night with Ale in her room and we got to spend some time sharing our testimonies with each other and it didn't take me long to realize how much this beautiful girl blows me away. She came from a deep, dark place and has let God transform her life in unspeakable ways. Her passion for God shines through her every word.

It was an encouraging couple of days, to be back in that community living aspect with people from all over the world, speaking two different languages, yet sharing in one love and one passion - to transform the amazing country of Guatemala. I attended their Monday morning worship, again bilingual, and met with the base director. As he told me about their different types of ministries (tutoring programs, working with families living in the dump, prison ministries, breakdancing ministries for gang members, and a ministry called "Beauty" geared toward helping women find their beauty and identity in God), I could feel my heart thumping with anticipation for all that God has for this country.

Dios es fiel. God is so faithful. He has provided immensely as I'm preparing for life back in Bellingham. He has provided a safe and affordable home for me with another spanish speaker so I can continue to practice. I'm excited to get all of my stuff out of my storage unit (it's been in there for over a year and a half now!) and to finally be at home again.

A couple people have asked me lately, "Why are you going home?" They can't understand why I'd choose to leave my family, boyfriend, and the country that has stolen my heart. My answer was always, "That's been the plan all along. I'm only here on a six month commitment." That never seemed to satisfy them - or me.

Throughout my last five months here, I've fallen in love with this place. But, oddly, I've also fallen more in love with Bellingham. God has really convicted me about my life back home. He has blessed me with an amazing church community and amazing friends. I don't ever want to ignore that because I'm so caught up in my life here. I know, without a doubt, that Bellingham is where I'm supposed to be for awhile. I want to really dig deep into my relationships back home and help my community there in the same ways I want to help the communities here. I want to bless and encourage my friends and family, and I want to leave only when the time is right. Before I can start my life in Guatemala, I want to give Bellingham and the people there all I've got first.

Lately, I've been having this need to desperately love Jesus. It's so easy to just "love" God. To go through the motions, to serve children in His name, to sing worship songs, to quote scripture - but I want to desperately fall head over heels in love with my God. I want to physically miss him when I'm not spending time in the word or when I'm doing it all on my own strength.

Please be in prayer with me
  • about the decision to join YWAM Guatemala,
  • that God would provide a job back in Bellingham,
  • for my last 29 days here in Guate,
  • and that we would all remember to desperately seek Jesus and to never become satisfied with anything less.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

A Tribute to Friends

One thing I love so much about Latin America is how much they value family. I love that teenagers and people my age, will (for the most part) spend their Friday and Saturday nights at home with their families. I love that grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. are involved in every aspect of their lives. I love that kids don't move away from their parents until their married.

These things seem so natural when I'm living in the culture. But, when I think back to how it is in the States, I realize how drastically different it is. We all look forward to the day we turn 18 so we can move out of our parents house. Friday and Saturday nights are designated for hanging out late into the night with friends. Most of us couldn't even imagine living in our parents home until we're 25 - and definitely not living close to our parents after we're married.

I love my family more than words could ever describe - but I absolutely fit into my culture. I moved out of my parents house before I graduated high school. Since I was in middle school, I've spent nearly every weekend out with friends. I, like a lot of my peers, look back and regret the way I've treated my parents. I love, love, love my parents and I am so thankful for them.

But, one thing I love about my culture, is how much we value friends. One thing my friends from Guatemala and I differ in the most, is how we view friendships. Guatemalans are very loving, accepting people. They love their friends. But to me - my friends are family. We live together and go through every life's twists and turns together. We grow together and figure out where we're going in life together.

I don't even think I'm making sense anymore. What I'm trying to say is, I love my friends so much. Leaving Guatemala is going to be so hard, but returning to my friends is like returning to family. I can't wait to live with Stephanie and Rebecca. I can't wait to scrapbook, cry, and pray with Missy. I can't wait to laugh for hours with Jason. My friends have helped shape who I am. I truly would not be who I am today if it wasn't for these beautiful people.

I am so, so, so blessed.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

"I'm ready to learn."

Lake Atitlan - the view from our hotel

Today is exactly five weeks until the day I return to Bellingham. The last five months have FLOWN by. As I’m finally beginning to realize that my time here won’t last forever, I've spent some time reflecting on this experience and all that God’s taught me.

Before I left for this trip, I was asked on multiple occasions, “What is your purpose for this trip? What do you expect to get out of it?” I always wished I had a brilliant answer that would dazzle all of my future-supporters but the truth simply was, “I’m ready to learn.” Here is what I DO know: I want to spend my life as a missionary, yet I lack so much experience and training. I want to EXPLORE the plans God has for my life. I want to LIVE other cultures and LOVE people like Jesus has commanded me to do. “I’m ready to learn.” Easier said than done.

A few months ago, during a long school day, I was feeling really frustrated with the girl’s bad attitudes. I remember ranting to God in my head while I was trying to round up some of the little girls for class. I was pretty much telling Him, “God, this is NOT what I signed up for. I did not move to Guatemala to be treated like crap.” And I clearly felt God say, “It’s in those moments I want you here the most.”

God never promised me His work would be easy. In fact, the Bible clearly tells us that it WON’T be easy. Why do our attitudes show God that we expect Him to make our work easy and just the way we like it. I can lift my hands in worship and tell God I’ll go to the ends of the earth for Him… yet, I want out when a 13-year-old has a bad attitude one morning? Can I still show God’s love when I’m frustrated? That all depends on me. I can decide to give in to anger or I can decide to shine God’s love into their lives.

I love living and working here in Guatemala. I could never describe the joy I have found through this culture and the people of Latin America. Last week, I was walking through our campus back to my apartment and I looked over to the beautiful volcanoes. I stopped dead in my tracks – mesmerized by the beauty of this place. All I could think was, “I don’t want to be anywhere but here.” Guatemala has totally and completely captured my heart.
One of the volcanoes we can see from The Oasis

So, the real question – Have I learned? Absolutely. I have discovered passions that I never knew I had, I’ve met amazing people that have changed my life, and I’ve been able to take a more focused look on the visions for my life. I am truly blessed to be living out this experience.

Day to day life at The Oasis isn’t always easy, but I don’t know how I’m going to go home without these girls. I don’t want to go through my days without holding their hands, laughing with them, and watching them enjoy life. The joy in their smiles is pure evidence to me that God is moving in this place. He can heal the deepest of wounds and repair all of the mistrust hidden deep in a child’s heart. No amount of counseling or human help could ever do that. After all these little girls have been through, they have every right to be angry at this world – but, through their daily actions, they have taught me to love more fully and to trust deeply.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Kids Say the Darnest Things

Time for a looooong over due update. I apologize for the delay. I'll try to include as many cute pictures of little girls and puppies as possible to make up for it :)

It's been a crazy busy month - but so wonderfully entertaining. Life here at The Oasis is funny. The thought process of a child is so... simply beautiful. Sometimes their comments make me stop dead in my tracks with my mouth hanging open, or they can make me laugh until I cry. Sometimes I just have to smile, nod, and kiss the top of their head. But, every day I learn more and more about why God tells us to be childlike.

Sometimes I think the girls just try to say things to Becky and I to make us feel like idiots for not speaking Spanish fluently. A few weeks ago we were filling in as tia's in the green house when Angelica (age 11)(the girl on the left), came up to us in the kitchen and asked what chocolate smells like.
"I don't know... good?" -Becky
"No! WHAT. DOES. IT. SMELL. LIKE?!" -Angelica (They always start talking slowly and loudly - as if that's going to make much of a difference)
"I don't know! It smells like chocolate!" -Becky
"Oh, nevermind!" -Angelica

I was coloring pictures with Wendy (age 4) the other day and her little sister, Tanya (age 2) came waddling into the room to play with her. I said to Wendy, "You're a good big sister. You really love Tanya, don't you?" Her reply: "Yeah, because when I throw the ball she goes to get it for me. ...................but then she usually gets mad."

Yesterday Vicky (age 15) asked Becky if she's ever climbed Mount Everest. .........That's just funny.

Tanya is one of the cutest little chubby two year olds I've ever seen. (I am permitted to call her chubby or gordita because I was about 18 times her size when I was her age.) We always love to watch Tanya waddle around, looking for something to eat - even if that means resorting to dirt. We laugh a lot about how the only time you ever see her move fast is when a meal is announced as ready. So, it was pretty funny when I walked into the house and found Tanya like this:Sitting in a big bin filled with plastic food. She happily sat in there for an hour, shoving all of the food into her mouth and exclaiming, "MMM! RICO!!" (delicious!), while Wendy dragged the bucket around like a street vendor trying to sell all of us food "and my little sister." ("Only for 6 pesos!" Which, by the way, is MEXICAN currency. I don't know where she got that from, but it just made it all the more funny.)

Okay, one more that I can't resist sharing and then on to the REAL update. This blog is already turning out to be longer than I thought... I was sitting in class with my second graders last week (Mirsa, age 8; Aldi, age 7; and Sarai, age 8) when they asked me how old I am.
"21." -Me
"And Becky?"
"...........she's 18? Well... why can she jump so high on the trampoline?!" (Oddly enough, they all seemed to have this same random thought together)
"Well, .....she's almost 19."
"Oh! haha, okay."

That seemed to satisfy them (although, I'm still confused as to what age has to do with a trampoline. 1 track thought process, I guess). So now every time the girls ask me to jump (397556872x a day) I always remind them at "just how high Becky can jump!"

Okay, and now the REAL update. I'll try to make this brief.
  • Christmas came, and went. Like a big blur. I spent two weeks in San Cristobal with my family, helping out with some of their ministries and getting to participate in their big Christmas Eve dinner for the families that live in or near the dump. It was a huge blessing to be able to experience different ministries in Guatemala, to serve those that deserve it the most, and to be able to spend the holidays with my family!

  • For New Years, I got to spend three days in San Pedro Necta, Huehuetenango (about a six hour drive) with Oscar's family. San Pedro is a teeny tiny village way up in the mountains of Huehue (the road to get there isn't even paved). It was quite the experience and I have to admit, I felt extremely adventurous. San Pedro is where Oscar and his sisters were raised so it was a real blessing to meet their (entire) extended family and childhood friends. We also spent a day in Nenton (an even smaller village), where Oscar's dad (aka Pastor Oscar) grew up and I got to meet even MORE family. After lunch in Nenton, Pastor gave a short message and many people shared about how God has blessed them in this last year. Then they spent some time (in a big group hug, it was awesome) praying and crying with each other. Sigh. Only the Avila family. (The picture on the right is of myself and Oscar standing in the average doorway in San Pedro Necta. We could quite possibly be the tallest people in the whole village.)

  • The girls (at The Oasis) started school again this week. After a long summer break, it was a rough first couple of days getting them adjusted again, but Becky and I survived our first week and we're ready for the next few months! I am the second grade teacher for three beautiful little girls (pictured above) and it's been a real blessing to spend five hours every morning with them. We study Social Studies, Math, Bible, Natural Science, and Spanish. Yes, someone has entrusted me to teach Spanish -- which is more than laughable. And Becky is teaching math and science classes with some of the 4th, 5th, and 6th graders! We love our job :)

  • Oscar and I are the proud new parents of a sweet little 3-month-old Chow Chow. He's too cute for words so we'll just let his picture do the talking. Please meet: Coco Gordito Avila Glick
  • Oscar's Dad started a Bible study two weeks ago for their family, myself, and Lucy's fiance, Benjamin. We're going to be studying family, marriage, and discipleship. Even though we're only two weeks in, I have been greatly encouraged by our Friday night meetings. It gets really lonely at The Oasis with no fellowship or people my age (or people that speak English) to talk with. The laughter and fellowship from Bible study has left me feeling, not only encouraged, but closer to God. I see a lot of Jesus in the way the Avila family members live their lives and I am truly blessed to be a part of this during my time in Guatemala. Just last night we were talking about how Jesus calls disciples. We made a list of some of the characteristics we thought disciples needed to have. And now we have this list as a goal to work toward - to never quit and to keep striving to be the person that God can use to further His kingdom.
  • After my Dad was robbed at gunpoint a few weeks ago, I think we were all a little shaken up. We were forced to step out of the little comfort bubbles we've encased ourselves in and we were rudely reminded of how dangerous Guatemala really is. I found myself praising God because He had protected my Dad in that situation. "God was so in control!" But then, one night while I was discussing it with Cory, I had to ask myself, "Do I ALWAYS believe that God is in control? Or just in the situations that turn out to benefit me?" What if that man had shot my Dad? Would God still have been in control in that moment? I think, yes. He would have. Why He does things sometimes, I'll never know. But by choosing to follow Him, I have chosen to TRUST in Him -- whether it's something I understand or not. So, I've been forced to come to the reality of what if He decided to take me home early? Or my Dad? Or my Mom? Or Oscar? Will I be able to trust that He was still in control? Ever since I did a study on the book of Philippians a year ago, I've struggled with desiring Heaven, rather than the things of this Earth. As Paul writes, " die is to gain," Paul's mind and heart were completely focused on Heaven. He had grasped that our time here on Earth is so temporary, and Heaven is our home. I want to be ready to go home whenever God chooses to bring me. I want to be like Paul and long to be with my Lord in Heaven. I guess, Guatemala is another step to help get me to this point :) And I don't mean to sound so depressing and morbib. I am well aware at how much God has blessed us with protection during our time here and I trust that He'll continue until our mission has been carried out. "And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discenment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ." Philippians 1:9-1
  • To wrap up the longest blog I've ever written: Please be in prayer with me as I look for options about coming back to Guatemala in the fall. With each passing day, my passions, visions, and love for this country grow more and more. My friend, Heidi, and I have been spending one hour every day praying about Guatemala and our ministries here (current and future). God has given me so many visions that I can't wait to carry out. Every new day here and every challenge is bringing me another step closer to this future that I'm (im)patiently awaiting. I have a lot of hope for this country and God has a lot of plans - so I'm excited to work alongside the creator of the universe with the goal of changing a nation.

  • Please, also, be praying for the 41 girls living at The Oasis. Everyday we are met with a new battle and everyday we find renewed hope in Him -- the God who loves these girls more than we could ever imagine.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

I want them all.

A few nights ago, on the way home from dinner, Alfonso, Becky, Oscar, and I saw two women, four children, and a baby walking toward the hill. (Mind you, this “hill” I’m referring to is more like a mountain. It’s a little over a mile long and at the altitude we’re at, it often feels like you’re scaling Mt. Everest. Also, it is very dangerous, especially at night.) So, we pull over to see if they want a ride up in the back of the truck. One of the ladies had just had surgery and they were on their way home from the hospital, so she couldn’t sit in the back of the truck. So Oscar helped her into the front seat and climbed in the back with the rest of them.

At first I was in so much shock that this lady who could barely move, was about to walk up Mt. Everest, AT NIGHT, with five kids all under the age of six. I was just thanking God that we were able to give them a safe ride home when Becky nudged me and told me to listen.

Alfonso was telling her about Jesus. He was telling her about the confidence he has in Christ because God has always taken care of him. Then I heard Oscar laughing and singing sings with the kids in the back.

Instantly tears came to my eyes. I was so moved by the moment and by the way Alfonso and Oscar can so confidently share their faith with everyone they come in contact with. I had planned to sit quietly in the truck until we had gotten them safely home. Why do I so easily forget the confidence I have in my Lord as soon as I’m around a stranger? I somehow think that I have to discreetly slip in something about my faith and wait for them to ask me questions. Or, you know, live my life in a way that people will see me and and just know that I have God’s love. Well, most of the world isn’t looking for God’s love so how are they going to notice? And even IF that lady in the truck had been looking for it, would she have found it simply because I was smiling at the back of her head for seven minutes?

The truth is… I love God. And I genuinely want all the people of this world to find Him. I want the women and children from that night to feel His peace, comfort, love, and to see how faithfully He will provide for their needs – in the same way He has always done for me. And WHY shouldn’t I have confidence in telling people about all of that after God has repeatedly provided, blessed, and loved me?

I think I can get too comfortable with routines. “Okay God, I moved to Guatemala. I really love the girls at The Oasis. I promise to do my best to show these girls your love. Thanks for everything.” I think God’s knocking my head going, “HELLO?! You think the girls in the compound of The Oasis are the only people I am putting into your life that I’m reaching out to?! Think again, mi hija. I want them all.”

I have so much to learn. But, I am so grateful to have men like Oscar and Alfonso in my life. I learn new things about God through them everyday. Their life ministries are so much like how I picture Jesus’ life was. I am so encouraged in my faith every time I’m with them. They so confidently love God that they never even have to think about it – they simply live it.