Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Our Prayers on the Pier

We headed out to la playa (the beach) on Thursday evening to evangelize and to invite young people to a party that we hosted the following Saturday. This was our 3rd attempt to do this. The first two times had been rained out by massive downpours. We walked up and down the shoreline offering free hugs and passing out invitations to local children and teenagers. One of the boys from the Church youth group carried around a stereo so we had background music wherever we walked. It was awesome! I went into the night a bit nervous – evangelism is something I’m not comfortable with. And in America, we’d probably be laughed at and shooed away. But here on the island of San Andres, the people we encountered were warm and welcoming and pretty excited to see us. The weather was perfect and the whole night was a pretty incredible experience. At one point we took a break and walked out onto a pier. The sun had already set at this point but the sky lit up with stars. After we said a prayer as a group, I walked to the end of the pier by myself and said a prayer of my own. I looked out into the water and heard the waves crashing, felt the cool breeze, and smelled the ocean water. My heart skipped a beat and for a few seconds I could close my eyes and transport myself back to Hawaii. It filled me with joy and I yearned to be back home.
I often say a prayer along the lines of “Lord, let your will be done.” but I’m learning a lot about praying boldly. It’s something that I hadn’t really thought of before but it makes sense. How can you expect to receive something that you don’t directly ask for? Of course I want His will to be done but it’s ok for me to boldly state what I wish to be done too. I started this new technique at the beginning of the race by asking God to strengthen by ability to pray. I wanted to master this beautiful art.  My pastor once told me, “Don’t pray for something to be easier, pray for greater skills”, so I did just that. And He answered me in big ways by giving me the opportunity to pray and pray and pray some more for friends and strangers alike.
That night on the pier, when I closed my eyes, I started my prayer by asking for His will to be done after the race (I pray about life after the race often) and then I stopped myself and asked Him for what I really wanted – to continue my life in Hawaii. Returning to my home on the island has always been my intention, but I know it’s up to Him.
As we walked away from the pier, my teammate, Kelsay, noticed a man who looked troubled. Something was tugging at her to go back and speak to him. She asked if I could go back with her and help her translate. I honestly hadn’t noticed the man, but I know the kind of pull that she described, so I happily went beside her.
He stood on the pier alone, looking out into the sea. As soon as I looked into his eyes I saw the look that she described. He seemed lost. We spoke to him a bit which seemed to startle him. He was visiting San Andres from Medellin. Kelsay said to him “Jesus te ama” (Jesus loves you) and he stared at us blankly. We asked if we could pray for him. “Me?’, he asked, wanting to know what the catch was. I told him that there was no catch, that we simply wanted to offer him prayer. After some hesitation, he accepted our offer. We held hands and in the dark, alone, on the pier, we prayed. Boldly. We hugged him afterwards and his eyes were glossed with tears. He admitted that he was glad to have met us and was very grateful for our prayers.
I don’t know what God will do with the prayers that were said that night but I know that He heard them.

Monday, January 23, 2017

The Day I Jumped

There’s a giant rock in Waimea Bay that people cliff jump off of. Many of the locals have grown up jumping off of it since they were young and you can often find a line of people of all ages and backgrounds waiting for their turn off the cliff. But not me. I’ve been to Waimea Bay countless times and twice I went with the intention to jump, but didn’t. And then I told myself that I would jump before I left for the race, but I didn’t.
People often use the word brave to describe me. And in many ways, I do consider myself brave. Many big ways actually. But there are smaller things (that are big to me) that most people don’t know about me that make me feel the opposite of brave. Like the fact that at 29 years old, I don’t know how to ride a bike because I’m afraid I’ll fall. Or that I had to hold my breath to jump off of a ledge that was only 2 feet tall today. Or that my first time camping was at training camp for the race. Or that there’s that big rock in Waimea that I keep avoiding. I’m actually quite fearful in my day-to day life. As a young girl, I quickly became my mom’s best friend and my brother’s second mama. Our little tribe of 3 was our first priority and simple things like playing outside, getting dirty, and jumping on beds just didn’t have a space in our lives. My mama was (is) extremely protective of us and the older I get, the more I realize how much it’s affected me. But she did the best she could and ironically, my childhood may be the root of a lot of my fears but it’s also the root of my courage.
A few days ago after classes with our translator, our host family surprised us with a spontaneous trip to one of the island’s natural pools. It was the day of the inauguration of America’s 45th President and it had been a heavy-hearted day for me full of tears and frustration. I really felt like this little trip was another wink from God and He never disappoints.
We were so eager to see a part of the island that we had not seen yet. We walked through the gates to this little place of adventure and saw a diving board that went straight off the edge of the island into the Caribbean sea below. Beside the diving board was a huge slide that went into the same vast sea. The other six girls on my team lit up with excitement. I on the other hand could feel knots forming in my stomach and my heart began to race. We changed into our swimsuits and the girls went straight to the diving board. Initially I said I’d stay out of the water to watch our things – this was a classic move of mine. But our host family kept insisting that they’d watch everything which left me out of excuses. So to the line I went. It felt like less than a second and it was already my turn. Before I could even step on the board, I turned away and said I couldn’t do it. The girls on my team kept encouraging me and all I could really do was try my hardest to hold back tears.
When I applied to the race I realized that the reasons I hadn’t applied sooner were all fear-based. And it was then that I decided that I won’t let fear stop me again. Maybe health or circumstances could stop me, but not fear. Fear won’t stop me from being obedient to God’s calling for me. And if I truly believe that statement, then how hypocritical is it of me to be fearful of something like a diving board? This is the conversation I was having with myself in my head. So back to the board I went.
It was my turn again. My heart was racing, my chest was tight. I prayed. I stepped onto the board and quickly walked to the end before I could change my mind again. I turned back to the girls and they said encouraging things that I can’t even really remember because it all happened so fast. I kept saying “I trust you” over and over again in my head and then I said it aloud just as I stepped off the ledge. I jumped.
The whole world got quiet. I hit the water and still silence. It was like the whole world paused. I came up for air and looked around. People were talking and laughing and swimming and the next person was ready to jump. The world kept spinning and no one knew the big thing that had just happened inside of me. I realized that it was the first time, in a long time, that I truly put 100% of my trust in Him, giving up all of my control. I not only told Him that I’m all in, I showed him.
I couldn’t believe I did it! I still can’t really believe it. I even slid down the giant slide afterwards while my adrenaline was still running high. Now don’t get me wrong – none of it was fun for me and if we go back, I don’t think I’ll do it again. My stomach is literally in knots as I write this post and relive it. But it’s important to me that I did this. It’s significant. It’s another wall broken down and it makes me feel stronger and closer to Him.
One day I’ll face that big rock in Waimea Bay. But for now, I’m proud of the jump off of a diving board in the Caribbean Sea.
You guys… I jumped!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Life Around the Table

One of the things that the race is pushing me out of is the desire to control my plans. Time and time again God has shown me that His plans are far greater than mine. And here, week 1, in San Andres, Colombia, is no different.
My team and I have been incredibly blessed by our ministry location this month. We’ve been sent to a small island in the Caribbean called San Andres. When I say small, I mean it. It’s about 8 miles long and 2 miles wide. We could literally walk the entire island in a day if we wanted to. The sea around us is unlike any I have seen. They call it “el mar de 7 colores” – the sea of 7 colors – which is so fitting. The culture is a perfect mix of latin and islander – vibrant, casual, warm, and slow-paced. With my Latina and Hawaiiana background, many things feel familiar to me and I have oddly felt very at home since our arrival. We live on the second floor of a church called Centro Familiar de Alabanza (Family Center of Praise). It’s a modest home in the center of San Andres with a touristy area on one side and an impoverished area on the other. (For my Hawaii friends – imagine Waikiki on one side and Waianae on the other.) Our hosts – Pastor Arnold, his wife, and two sons – live on the floor beneath us.
Coming into our first month, I had high expectations. I yearned to serve well, often, and immediately. When we received the details of our first mission, they were very vague. The ministry that we are serving here is asking for help growing their Church but not necessarily in specific ways. We’ve been asked to teach English classes and interact with the youth. We attend 4 church services per week and have Bible studies with some of the Church leaders. Much of our time is left open to make it our own and while this seems like “free” time, it’s been anything but that. Our days have been long but they have been full. So full of the Lord and in ways I never expect. It’s taken patience and trust for me to let go of always having a plan. We often don’t know what our day will look like until the day of and sometimes we receive our plans right before they happen. But even in what feels like chaos – I keep finding a sense of peace, knowing they’re His plans, not mine anyway.
During training for the race, they really emphasized the idea that ministry isn’t always assigned and doesn’t always take place at our worksite. I’m learning to live this way instinctively, knowing that the whole world is my mission. It’s been a week here and I can already see that most of our stories will have taken place in an unplanned location - the table in our bedroom. This table is where we have our Bible studies, Spanish & English classes, team time, breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It’s where we talk and write and play games. This table has already seen us cry from sadness and joy, it’s seen us laugh so hard we can’t speak, it’s seen us pray boldly and break down so many barriers of trust, language, and more. It’s where I learned to share my testimony in Spanish. It’s where card games are taught using hand motions and google translate. It’s where our new teen-aged friends come to hang out with us and where we told a single mother that she is part of our family now. It’s where a 12 year old boy sits after school each day unexpectant of anything from us. He knows no English (yet!) but finds joy in our presence  - and we find so much joy in his.
We do life at this table. I’m learning to let go of my expectations because His plans are greater.
We live on a beautiful tropical island yet my favorite place in this paradise is this table in our room.