Asia, Auto, Food, Health, Missions, Religion, Travel

Not of this World

I’ve done it, guys. I think I finally have mastered the art of riding side saddle on a motorbike. Hands politely in my lap, balancing carefully as we go around the corners. I’m officially a Southeast Asian lady. 
So far, I think I’ve had my picture taken about 73 times since I’ve been here. This morning, I saw one of the ladies in our nutrition training session trying to take a picture of me as we were preparing to begin. So, I stopped what I was doing and stood still to smile for a picture. Because, if you’re going to take my picture, I atleast want it to be a good one. Then, that opened the door for personal pictures, so some of the other women took pictures with me. 


I forget sometimes that I stand out here. I’m trying my best to blend in. I wear the Lao skirt. I sit side saddle on the back of the motorbike as we navigate the streets of the town. I know their greeting, so I greet the people that I meet in their own language. I fold my hands and bow politely when I meet someone. 

Today, one of the women brought me a Lao traditional basket of black rice (because I had asked some questions about it yesterday), so I took it for lunch. As we were walking from the hospital back to the motorbike, with my Lao skirt on, carrying my Lao basket of rice, I thought to myself, I am blending in. Adopting a few of the customs. Dressing like them. Eating like them. 


Then, I looked up, came out of my day dream, and realized that I am a blonde girl, who is about a head taller than everyone here, and people are still staring at me. Actually, they’re staring at me more than if I were dressed in my normal clothes.

Why?

Because they can see by the way I look, by the way I act, by the way I speak, that I don’t really belong here. Not that I’m not welcome here. I feel very welcomed here. But, by taking on some of their culture and adapting to some of their ways, they’re wondering even more: who is she and what is she doing here? She’s obviously different, why is she trying to be the same?

The Bible speaks about this phenomenon a little bit too. In Romans 12:2, the apostle Paul urges the believers to not conform to the pattern of this world. Again, in John 18:36, Jesus reminds us that His Kingdom is not here in this world, but beyond. 

As believers, we are called to be different. The way that Christ lived, the example that He gave for us to follow, doesn’t look anything like what this world promotes. Where we want to hate, Jesus said to love. Where we want to judge, Jesus said to forgive. Where we want to fight, Jesus said to make peace. 

Like me in a Lao skirt on the back of a motorbike, true believers stand out, even in the midst of the world all around us. Why?

Because we don’t belong here.

Advertisements
Standard
America, Asia, Missions, Religion, Travel

Giving Up

Jake says that my life is just one continual series of blonde moments. I think he might be on to something…

IMG_0906.jpg

Like this subway selfie I took right after I put on the public lip gloss tester inĀ It Takes Two

Seriously though, I do (almost) everything with a reason and intention. I’ve just been noticing that my reasoning is different than everyone else’s.

On Wednesday night, we’ve been teaching about the Fruits of the Spirit and this past Wednesday, we were going to cover Patience. I was assigned the task of coming up with an activity that the kids could do that went with the lesson. So, I found a game that involves a team stacking cups with a rubber band tied with strings.

Screen Shot 2016-02-19 at 10.53.24 AM.png

I failed to realize that it would require more patience to tie the strings on to the rubber band than to play the game. I also failed to realize how much time it would take to tie the strings on. So, I was running late to church, as usual. In my rush to get on my way, I thought, I will put these rubber bands with the strings on my wrist so I won’t lose them! See, I was thinking ahead and realizing that it would be very likely that I would lose them between the house and church. So, I put them on my wrist and this is what they ended up looking like.

Screen Shot 2016-02-19 at 10.55.38 AM.png

Rubber band catastrophe

So much for thinking ahead.

I give up.

I’ve kinda wanted to give up on a few things lately actually.

If you’ll remember: I started this blog really because of a nutrition project I felt led to be involved in. If you’ll also remember: I felt a call to missions a long time ago. And, I committed to that then. I told the Lord I would do that. I would do what He wanted. And, in saying that, what I really said was, I won’t do what I want. Because automatically, when you say yes to God, you say no to self.

Screen Shot 2016-02-19 at 11.03.02 AM.png

First time in Laos

Lately, though, I’ve felt a pull to give that up. I decided I wanted to stay where I was, focus on work, and in essence, focus on me. Did I actually tell myself that I wanted to give up on what God was doing in my life? No.

What I did say was that I wanted to choose where God was going to use me and how I was going to be used. I still wanted to be used, I just wanted it to be on my own terms. Which is never a good idea. But, I convinced myself that it would all work out just fine.

I mean, surely this commitment to missions that I’d made had an expiration date, right? That’s the way to live your late teens and early twenties. But, eventually, you need to “settle down”. Isn’t that what society tells us?

Plus, God can use me at home, right? I hear people say that to me all the time. And, I believe that 100%. I told myself that He could use me more effectively at home than He could with me tracking myself around the globe. I reasoned it all out and it sounded really good to me. Just like the rubber bands on the wrist thing.

I think I ended up with some tangles in my plan though.Without fully realizing it, my new commitment to serve where I wanted and focus on me meant saying yes to myself and no to God.

The problem was: I decided I was done. The nutrition program was tentatively going to require traveling to Asia twice within a few months. So, I established in my mind that I couldn’t do that. Once, maybe. But, not twice. That was too much. That wasn’t what I signed up for. Those weren’t the terms of my contract when God called me to do mission work.

Then, I heard a word from God. Literally, one word.

Follow.

When Jesus called His disciples from their boats on the Sea of Galilee, He didn’t tell them how long they’d be gone. He didn’t tell them what they were signing up for. He said: Follow Me.

He didn’t continue that phrase with a timeline. He didn’t say: you can go back to fishing after a few years with me. And, it wasn’t a question. Jesus didn’t say: do you want to follow me? Do you want to try it out and see how you feel about it? He didn’t give them an itinerary or a list of terms and conditions.

It was a command.

Follow Me.

And, it’s still our command today. Without question. Without concern.

Follow.

Standard
Culture, History, Missions, Religion, Travel

Second Story Room

Pictures seem to be a sensitive subject. I was told to ask if I wanted to take a picture of someone. I completely respect that and they return the favor. (For the most part. I have caught a few people taking pictures of me when I wasn’t looking. I don’t mind, it’s just a little odd. Which, I guess, is good to know how it feels) I don’t usually ask any of the women, but they don’t hesitate to ask me. One girl came up to me yesterday and asked to take my picture, so I posed with her while someone snapped it. But when I asked her if I could take one with mine, the answer was no. 

The women especially do not go for the photographs. Except for this one. I was told, rather than asked, that I was going to take a picture with her. Then, the person beside her was cleared out of their chair so I could sit down. And, the cameras were brought out. 

  
With all of that being said, I did take pictures of the Syrian families I visited. They were very willing to be photographed. However, since some of them shared so openly about their faith, I think it’s best not to attach pictures to all of their stories.

We entered a narrow alleyway, were led up two flights of stairs and welcomed into a small, bright room. Taking our shoes off and sitting down on the mats placed around the walls, we made ourselves comfortable and the story began. 

  
This is another Syrian family: a husband, wife and 4 young children. The youngest was just a newborn, only 24 days old. They have been in Jordan for 2 and a half years. They lived in the town in which the uprising started. The man was an Arabic teacher, the woman a high school chemistry teacher, both with college degrees and good jobs. They were surrounded by family, most of which are still in Syria. 

As we sit and talk to them, we are encouraged to ask questions. My same question for every family is always: how did you get here? Their town was close to the Jordanian border, so they walked. 10 miles with their small children. The boy was 5 months old at the time, their girls 2 and 4 years old. They took nothing with them, except a bag of medicine. No clothes, no personal belongings. Imagine loading up your small children and fleeing into the unknown. The Syrian army was shooting at them from a distance as the walked. 

Since this was at the beginning of the conflict, many people had decided to flee at the same time. They said their group totaled 700 adults and 200 children. It was a literal exodus. At evening, as they approached the border, three bombs exploded around them. But, they made it. 

Local families have ministered greatly to them and because of that, they have come to know Jesus. When the woman was asked what convinced her to believe, she said: “Jesus was the only one who said, I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one else said that. My background has only been confusion. This was clear to me.” 

God is love and in a place that violence and war and radicalism has wrought so much destruction, the love of Christ shines bright. “I read in the Bible about how Christ loved the world and came to give us eternal life.” What a light giving message that is to someone who has wandered in darkness for so long. 

When they were asked about the future, their response was one of faith. “The Kingdom of God is like a seed that has produced a large tree. We hide ourselves in that tree.” Come what may, their faith is sealed and they rest assuredly in that. 

War is obviously terrible. There are lives lost, hate spread, homes destroyed. What can be good in this? Is there anything at all that can come from something so awful? Yes. The Lord promises us in that He works ALL things together for our good. And that promise stands, even in times of war. At the end of our visit, they proved this to be true. “The only benefit from war is that we have learned of Christ and received eternal life.” 

The Lord’s work will prevail. Always. He is removing people from Syria and displacing them around the world, places they never dreamed they’d have to go. And He is placing people there to minister to their needs. Everything has been taken from them, but through the grace and love of Christ, they are receiving life they never knew of and a new home for eternity. 

Standard
Asia, Missions, Travel

I Can’t Do This.

I have the best friends. I mean, I always think it is kinda dumb when people say that. Of course everyone would think their friends were great. If they didn’t think that, then they wouldn’t be friends with them. Right? But, still, I do have really great friends.

One of my friends decided to do something really thoughtful for me and wrote encouraging messages to be read at any time on this trip when I was feeling in need of a pep talk. How nice is that?

[Side note: Personally, I think encouraging other believers is one of the most under-utilized practices in the church. Or maybe I just rely on encouragement from others more than anyone else. But, I really do think we need to practice this more. If you feel led to say something uplifting to another believer, do not miss that opportunity. Write a note, say it, send a text, whatever you have to do. But, be encouraging, lift each other up! How strong would the church be if each of it’s members felt the support and encouragement of other members? A kind word or note from other believers has helped me hold on to the end of my rope more times than I can count.]

I’m gonna be real for a minute: the mission field in Laos is rough. And, it was especially so for me on this particular trip. I want to be the hands and feet of Jesus, but I never read anywhere about Him sitting in a bunch of business meetings. I think administrative duties are just not my calling. It feels really fruitless to me. It feels devoid of anything having to do with the Gospel. I want to be able to share and love the way Jesus did. But instead, I’m stuck at a desk taking notes about hospital procedures. Jesus is never mentioned, lost souls are not won, and my hands are tied.

I woke up on the morning of our second day of meetings and literally my first thought was: “I can’t do this.” Which I knew was a terrible way to start the day. So, I got my Bible and out fell my little envelope of encouraging messages. I figured if these were for times I needed encouragement, this was the occasion. I randomly selected one and this is what it said: Mark 9:23- “What do you mean ‘If I can?’ asked Jesus. Anything is possible if a person believes.”

You know those moments that God speaks right to you? This was one of those. Sitting in meetings may not be my thing. And, I may think this all feels fruitless. But, newsflash: it’s not about me. I’m not in charge and if this is the path that The Lord has chosen, it’s the best way. Laos won’t be won overnight, the Gospel will not be spread there in only one way, and it will be a long road. Those meetings might feel devoid of the Gospel, but those Lao doctors and nurses sitting across from me, taking notes too, need to know Jesus.

Not all mission work is going to be fireworks and revivals. Sometimes it’s going to be note taking and hand shaking. And that’s okay. Jesus can shine through the darkest (or dullest) of circumstances. So, I’ll claim His promise, stand strong in His Truth, and continue to work in whatever way He leads.

Standard
Culture, Religion, Travel

Where Am I & How Did I Get Here?

To really answer the question that my title poses, I am currently in Seoul, South Korea and it is 5 in the morning. So, jet lag has officially kicked in. We arrived last night at 8 (after roughly 25 hours of no sleep), got a small “dinner” (my international standard fare of a yogurt cup and a string cheese, I love dairy, what can I say?), and promptly went to sleep. But, I guess that’s not really the exact point of the title.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the journey The Lord has taken me on. And, I think instead of a formal introduction post (I’m still assuming the three people reading this already know me, hi mom!), I’ll just try to give a little background information to maybe clear some things up. If I’m gonna go way back in the archives, I first felt a pull to missions when I was 12 and I have no idea why. It really is something that I still can’t explain, but I remember questioning God, saying how am I supposed to do anything? I’m 12. But I read a quote recently that transformation happens on the other side of surrender. And I surrendered to that, not knowing what that meant at all. Because when you’re 12, you don’t ever really know what anything means. But, I did learn one thing: missions comes in all different forms and we are all called to share the gospel in some manner so in that way, everyone is called to missions.

Back on track though: I went to college, got involved with the Association of Baptist Students there and wanted to go on a foreign mission trip. So at the ripe old age of 18, I set out with a group of people I had never met before (I met them for the first time in the airport, boarding our flight) to go on a medical mission trip. Looking back on it, I can’t really believe I did that. I mean, I’ve done some crazy things (some of those details will, I’m sure, be filled in later), but I think now that I was pretty bold. I had no idea what to expect and to be honest, it was really spiritually tolling for me. I don’t think I was fully prepared for it. It was a great experience, but it stretched me in ways that I’m not sure, at the time, I wanted to be stretched. Now, on my seventh trip, it is amazing to see where The Lord has brought me.

18 in the Dominican Republic

18 in the Dominican Republic

I’m a really detail oriented person so I am trying to stay focused on the important stuff. I love nutrition. And I love food. I love eating food, cooking food, growing food, everything about it. I switched majors a few times in college and in the process ended up taking a basic nutrition course as a requirement. I was hooked. I had no idea that they offered these classes and I promptly went and switched my major to “Food, Human Nutrition, and Hospitality”, three of my very favorite things. Namely, my area of concentration was Dietetics. I graduated in 2013, and as the date was approaching, I had no real certain idea of what I was going to do. But, The Lord is faithful in all things. An opportunity presented itself and I took on an internship with my college ministry. I worked with them in the Fall semester and I knew a trip was coming up in February to Laos and I knew I wanted to go, but I didn’t know how. The details worked out and we bought plane tickets, and scheduled to meet the group there. The medical missions group I travel with set up to have clinics in different villages there over 10 days and we traveled with the supervision of the government and local health officials to offer health care to these remote areas. The partnership in Laos dates back a few years and because of the mutual relationship, they will occasionally ask for help in accomplishing different health projects. And, it just so happened that on this trip, they expressed a need in one area in particular. Nutrition. So, after a year of praying and prepping and planning and re-planning, we are going to explore the possibilities. We’ll be having meetings with different government officials and groups to see how we can help. God lined up all the pieces, put them all together, so here I am. And here you are, joining in the journey with me. So, I guess we’ll see where this goes!

Standard
Culture, Food, Health, Religion

What is Hidden Hunger?

I had quite a time deciding what to name the blog. I want to cover details about missions and how nutrition can (and is) tying in with that. But, I didn’t want to be too specific to that work because there will obviously be more than just that. Some of my top choices were “Princess and the Pea” (there’s a story behind that, maybe I’ll share that some day), Sticky Rice Confessional, and the one I chose, A Hidden Hunger. This has been a subject The Lord has placed on my heart for awhile now and it truly encompasses so much of the ideology I want to express. As many of you probably already know, I graduated with my bachelor’s degree in Dietetics from the University of Arkansas in 2013. I need to do a whole post on exactly how I got to where I am today. Well, probably not precisely where I am today because I’m currently in a cramped airplane seat on a 14 hour flight to Korea. Although, it might be interesting to detail to you exactly what got me here. But, that’s for another time. Where was I again? I think I was trying to explain the idea of hidden hunger.

Anyway, the technical definition of hidden hunger is micronutrient deficiencies that are masked by a seemingly healthy individual. In a nutshell, a person can look healthy, be of a normal weight and appearance, but still have deficiencies that are not necessarily presented in their physical state. For example, I look normal (debatable to some, but you can make your jokes later), but I typically have borderline iron levels. You wouldn’t know that by looking at me. This idea of hidden hunger first presented itself to me on the mission field last year. There were people who looked healthy with underlying deficiencies that were causing different health disparities when explored on a deeper level. This was a problem. But as I began thinking and praying about this hunger, the greater issue surfaced. We see people, all over the world, going about their lives, doing their daily tasks, seemingly fine from the outsider’s perspective. However, there is a hidden hunger, one that they are constantly looking to fill, one that hasn’t been satiated. It is the hunger for a personal relationship with Jesus, the Savior and Son of God who died so that we might be set free. I’ve met people who have never even heard the name of Jesus before, yet they have this deep longing for something more. They are searching because they know that something in them needs to be filled. Like a belly rumbling, so is their soul deep within them, saying give me what I need. And what they need is the love and grace and saving power of Jesus. Until we satiate the true desire of our souls, we’ll never be complete. This is the true hidden hunger. So, this is where my journey begins.

Standard
Culture, Religion

To Blog or Not to Blog, That is the Question…

I’ve begun thinking about starting a blog again. I mulled it over awhile back, but seeing as how it is hard for me to commit to a nail polish color, I didn’t figure I would keep up with it. But, because my latest houseplant venture (a sage plant I’ve managed to keep alive for approximately 213 days) has been successful so far, maybe I’m ready to commit. Not that I feel like I have anything super profound to offer. I guess maybe that’s been one of my hindrances as well. Blogs have always intrigued me. I’m a kind of private person so writing my thoughts and sharing them with the world seems a little daunting. Not that I’m sharing any scary details (well, not yet at least.) And, the handful of people who I think might read this probably hardly count as the whole world. I guess I’m just not used to putting much of my life on display. However, I have been praying and pondering lately about how to share the things The Lord is teaching me and the journey He has me on. So, maybe I need to be a little more open. I guess I question whether sharing more would be about building myself up more than glorifying what God is doing. I don’t want to take credit for anything, thinking I’m doing anything in my own power. I know that’s not true and I don’t want to portray that. So, I guess if this is the beginning of a blog, that needs to be my prayer. Not to me, but to Thine be the honor and glory and power forever, amen.

Standard