Sunday, December 13, 2009

End of an amazing semester

After 5 months of sunshine and adventure, my first semester in Hawaii is nearing its end. This week I will travel back to NC to spend a few weeks with my family at Christmas.

Over the past few months I have experienced God in a new way. I have seen Him change lives and seen His beauty in the creation all around me.

I am so thankful for this experience. I could have stayed close to my family and started grad. school or get a real job where I could make a normal salary. But I wouldn't trade this for anything. Being away from the comforts of home has caused me to rely on God more than ever and to further develop my personal walk with Christ.

I have made friendships with people from all over the world. I've experienced the unique and diverse culture of Hawai'i, and gaining knowledge that will help me in the future.

I'm filled with joy and wish you joy during this Christmas season!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Everyone To Know

Since I was a young girl, I have had a passion for missions. God showed me at an early age that there is a hurting world in desperate need of a Savior. Sometimes missions becomes routine for me and I forget how important it is. But every now and then, God fans the flame in my soul for lost people and it's simply all I can think about.

Today is one of those days. I was reading a statistic that there are 9,000 missionaries employed through the IMB and NAMB. That's great. However, when I heard that there are 15.8 million Southern Baptists in North America, 9,000 seemed to be too small of a number. I did the math: .00056% of Baptists are employed as missionaries. Granted, that's only Southern Baptists and many people are missionaries in their secular workplaces. I support those people 100% and fully believe that we need Christians to be doctors, teachers, and everything else.

But why is it that churches give less than 1% of their tithes and offerings to support missions? Should this not be the most important thing on our agenda? My heart has been broken today because I feel like Christians (myself included) have lost sight of the urgency of sharing the gospel with our brothers and sisters around the world.

I've experienced firsthand people who grow up never hearing the name of Jesus. They are so hungry to know who Jesus is and how they can have a relationship with Him. But sadly, sometimes no one ever tells them. They die before they ever have a chance to hear His name.
As Christians, it is our responsibility to go and make disciples of every nation, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything God has commanded us. That's the Great Commission!

So why are we silent? Even if we can't physically go, we can give. So why do I spend my money on things that are going to rot and collect dust when there is a dying world in need of the Truth? Not all of us are called to be full-time missionaries. I personally have committed my life to missions, but I believe that God has a different calling for each one of us. However, I do believe that if you are truly a Christian, missions should be a natural response. Maybe it doesn't mean going to a third-world country to feed orphans, but it could be sharing Christ with your co-worker or showing kindness to a stranger you encounter on the street.

My heart is beating so fast right now and I know that God has given me this irresistible passion to make His name known to the ends of the earth. I don't know where I'll end up, but I know without a doubt that whatever I do, I want to tell people about Jesus. He has saved me and changed me and I want everyone to know about His love.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Being in Hawaii has changed me a little I think. I've become less stressed about things that need to be done and decisions that need to be made. I've become more laid back. I want to enjoy the simple pleasures of life like sitting in the sand and marveling at a sunset or sharing ice cream and a conversation with a new friend. I guess I've come to appreciate life more.

Sometimes I still lose my focus. I become lazy in my walk with the Lord. Some days I'll sit on the couch watching LOST for hours before I even crack open my Bible. My priorities get mixed up very easily. But God is constantly showing me that only HE can sustain me.

Last week all of us working with International Baptist Ministries took a personal prayer retreat on Wednesday morning from 9-12. We could go anywhere to focus on the Lord and spend some quality time praying, worshiping and just being still in His presence. I decided to go to one of my favorite non-touristy spots.

Spitting Caves is a beautiful lookout hidden between two houses up in a ritzy neighborhood. When you step off the path, you find yourself on a huge cliff high above the most blue water I've ever seen. The waves are wild and crash up against the rocks. Water rushes into a cave and is then "spit" out. Every time I go to the spitting caves I am in awe of God's amazing creation.
I found a peaceful spot on the rocks. For a few hours it was just me and Jesus and what a sweet, refreshing time I had with Him. I brought my guitar with me (you should have seen me hauling that thing up a cliff!) and I spent some time praising him through music. I sang out at the top of my lungs as if I was the only person on the island of Hawaii. As I sang praises to God I looked into the ocean and saw 50-100 dolphins leaping right in front of me! I was giddy with excitement and amazement. I opened my Bible and immediately read a verse in Psalm 96 that says, "Let the sea resound and all that is in it." It made me think that even the dolphins were praising the Lord!

I went out there that day seeking discernment about some decisions I need to make about the future. I thought that after a few hours of seeking God I would have a clearer understanding of what I should do. That didn't necessarily happen. But when I left the spitting caves that day, I felt like God has restored to me the joy of my salvation that I so often forget.

I still don't know what I'm going to do next year. I don't know if or where I'll go to seminary. I don't know what kind of job I'll have or who/if I'll marry. But I know Jesus and that's enough for me. I want to have more of those intimate moments with Him- with no distractions.

I want to completely delight myself in Him. He is good and is continuing to amaze me.

My good Chinese friend Nick that I've mentioned before celebrated his 31st birthday on October 25th. On that day, Nick decided to follow Jesus. His joy and zest for Christ is inspiring and encouraging. His charismatic personality will surely bring others to Christ in the future. I am so excited to see where God will lead Nick and Shadow and my other international friends. He is going to use them in ways we could never imagine!

My time here in Hawaii is quickly passing by. I've been here 3.5 months and only have a little over a month before I come home for Christmas. I will be very excited to see family and friends when I come back to the mainland, but God has given me contentment in being far away from everyone and everything that was comfortable for me. I'm a work in progress, changing each day to become more like Christ. At least that's what I hope God will do in me.

Aloha friends. Thank you for your prayers and encouragement.


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Me of little faith

Colorful leaves, crisp cool air, soft sweaters, scarves, hot chocolate, fire places. These are a few of my favorite things... (insert Maria von Trapp's voice) about fall.

This fall is slightly different. The leaves are still green, and it's still 85 degrees every day. I'm not complaining, but it is weird to be in a seemingly never-ending summer. It makes me feel like I have no concept of what time of year it is. It feels like it's July to me, and here it is the middle of October already! I think it'll be really weird when Thanksgiving rolls around and I'll still be wearing shorts and t-shirts.

The semester is half-way over now and things are going so well. Thanks to those of you who have been praying. We have been seeing some very exciting things happen. The other day I was talking to my friend Shadow and I was joking with her about something. I said, "Now, Shadow, don't you lie to me!" She replied, "I can't lie now, because I'm a Christian."

I must have looked at her for about 5 seconds with a blank stare.

"What did you say?" I asked her.

"Yes, I'm a Christian now. I decided a few days ago that I want to believe!"

I was speechless. I never would have imagined that Shadow would make that decision after only a few months of being here. Once the shock wore off, I became very excited that Shadow would now be my sister in Christ! Please pray for her to grow in her walk with Christ and be a witness to her family and friends when she returns to China in March.

Recently in our team meetings, Joy has been challenging us to pray the "impossible." I put that in quotations, because impossible is not a word that applies when God is involved.

So many times when I pray for something, my heart doesn't truly believe. Though my lips are saying one thing, my heart is saying, "God, I know this would never really happen, but if by some chance you change your mind, it'd be cool...but I'm not counting on it."

I doubt that the God of the universe can change the hearts of my friends and do things that seem too big. Oh ME of little faith!

It's at times like this that I'm reminded of all of the times He has been faithful. I've seen Him answer countless prayers. I've even seen Him heal a paralyzed man in Sri Lanka. In Matthew 21:22 it says, "If you believe you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer."

Why do I have to constantly remind myself of this? How quickly I forget.

I pray that God will increase my faith. I want to believe that He can do anything and pray with confidence knowing that He is fully capable of doing anything.

When I make this change of heart, I think big things will happen.
My brother Nathan came to visit me this weekend. This picture was taken in a bamboo forest on a hike we took in Manoa Valley.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

i be learning choke, brah

So I've been in Hawaii over two months now and so much has changed. My life is completely different now than it was before July 24th. All that I knew and was comfortable with shrunk before my eyes as my plane left Raleigh and headed to a distant and unknown land.

Even though Hawaii is part of the U.S., I had to adjust to the culture here. To the people, the laid-back lifestyle, the food, even the slang.

For the past four years, I have been very comfortable. I went to a small school where I knew everyone, lived 30 minutes away from home, and could call on friends and family whenever I needed them. If I had a flat tire, I knew Dad was only a phone call away. If I needed a good meal, I could go home anytime and enjoy Mom's cooking. Life in NC was great, but I think it was time for me to leave my comfort zone for a while.

So this change has been good for me. Sometimes I miss the comforts of home. I wish I could walk around the UH campus and see familiar faces. I would love to hang out with my family on the weekends and meet with my girlfriends on Tuesday nights like I used to. But maybe God brought me to Hawaii so that I would learn to depend upon Him completely.

I have basically had to start over. I now live in a new place, I have new friends, and have a job. I feel kinda like a grown up in a way. I have enjoyed the adventure of continuing life in a brand new place. I have already had many new experiences:

-I can now cook meals other than popcorn and frozen pizza
-I am still learning to navigate the one-way roads of Honolulu...it's getting better!
-I make a little bit of money and am learning to spend it wisely
-I'm learning to speak pigeon "let's go grind, brah. nah, we going cruise." int. "let's go eat, man. no, let's hang out." (oh, and "choke" means "a lot"...in case you were wondering).
-I go to the beach at least once a week and for the first time in my life am a shade darker than transparent.
-I joined a hip hop class and enjoy making a fool of myself in a room full of coordinated strangers.
-I am more laid back and I don't care as much about physical appearance (I mean...I'm in HAWAII!)
-I have become addicted to the tv show LOST since I now live where it was filmed.
-I can read for fun and not feel guilty for not reading for school instead.
-Rice has become a part of my daily diet.
-I can now distinguish the difference between Japanese, Chinese and Korean people. (If their name starts with a "Y", they're probably from Japan. If it ends in "Kim, Kang, Park, or Joo, they're Korean. Everyone else is probably Chinese).
-And I'm pretty much a professional at using chop-sticks.

Those are all kind of silly things, but I really feel like this year of transitions has been/is going to be good for me. I'm not only learning basic life skills, but I'm being challenged spiritually. This could be the one time of my life that I have the time and freedom to do whatever I want and to truly invest in the lives of international students with no other obligations.

I am so thankful that God led me here. I hope to maybe attend seminary in the future, but I am so glad that I will have this experience under my belt. It is preparing me for ministry in a way that is real and practical. I'm learning things that I could never learn in a book.

God continues to show me that He is at work all around me...all around each of us. It's up to us to open our eyes wide enough to notice it. And not only notice that He's at work, but to step out and join Him. That's when things start to happen.

Time goes so fast. Before I know it my time in Hawaii will be done and I will be at a different stage of life. I don't want to wish the time away by thinking about the future. For now, I want to delight in the simple pleasures of life: The joy of waking up to a beautiful view, eating pineapple on a daily basis, living 5 minutes from the most beautiful beaches and mountains I've ever seen, and having a job that I love and doing a ministry that I'm passionate about.

So instead of worrying about what's next, I'm going to delight myself in today. Each moment is a precious gift.

Friday, September 18, 2009

His righteousness for my rottenness

Commotion... Laughter... Fellowship... Food...Culture...Spiritual conversations...

These are just just a few words to describe my experience with international student ministry. Each day is different. When I wake up in the morning, I never know exactly who I will see or what kinds of conversations I will have.

I like the thrill of going into the unknown. It takes faith, which God is graciously giving me more of as the days and weeks go by.

On Tuesdays I have the humbling responsibility of caring for the little ones as their mothers take English class. Sometimes they cry the entire time and I know that there's nothing I can do or say to make them feel better. But as I look at the pitiful tears streaming down their faces and hear their shrilling cries, I pray for God's hand to be upon them. To raise them into young men and women of God who will one day impact their countries and their families with Christ's love.
Each Thursday we welcome 150-200 people into our church to enjoy a time of food and fellowship. Sometimes I'm overwhelmed by the multitude of new faces. I want to talk to each and every one of them, but know that it's impossible. I look around and see different skin colors, hear different languages, and marvel at the fact that God has brought them all into the same room. I ask God to ordain my steps. To place me at the right table, to sit next to someone who needs a friend. Or maybe someone who God has placed in my path to encourage me.

Sometimes we talk about school- the struggles of studying and preparing presentations. Other times we share funny stories and embarrassing things that happened to us. My heart sings when a student asks me a question opens a door for me to share my faith.

That's the area I've been stretched in the most throughout the past 8 weeks: Sharing my faith. Though I still get knots in my stomach sometimes, I have come to find great joy in sharing Christ with others. I can't believe that God has allowed me to tell some of these precious students the most important thing they will ever hear! What a privilege!

Have I had my share of struggles since I've been here? Yes. I've learned that Hawaii is not necessarily "paradise" for the people who live here. I've felt attacked by the enemy at times and have felt distant from God.

I've been reminded that there is nothing good about me. I am a rotten mess. I am proud and selfish and desire earthly things. I have been convicted lately of my Pharisee-like qualities:

"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence...First clean the inside of the cup and dish and then the outside also will be clean." Matthew 23:25-26

Being a missionary, sometimes I feel that I need to have an extra layer of holiness. Even if I'm not where I should be spiritually, I try to cover it up to appear to have it all together. But the reality is that I don't. I'm nothing more than a filthy, infected cup that deceivingly looks clean on the outside.

But praise God for providing a way out. He has covered my rottenness with His righteousness.

Sometimes I forget. Maybe He has been showing me my filthiness so that I will run to Him and cling to His forgiveness and redemption.

I am so grateful for His mercy and grace. I want to be more like Him. I want this experience in Hawaii to continue to challenge me in my faith and increase my dependence upon Christ.

He is at work in my heart. The process is painful, but I don't want to be stagnant. I want to grow so that others can know Him.

This blog is not at all what I thought it would be when I sat down to write a little update. I guess I just needed to process what God has been doing in my heart. I need your prayers. Incredible things are happening here, but Satan is definitely trying to get in the way...let's pray that God will continue to do the unthinkable.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Life on the Island

Aloha!

The island life is still going wonderfully. We're in the full swing of things now. School has been going for the past two weeks and we've been able to meet many new students.

I keep wanting to look at a map and mark the countries that I have met people from. I bet it would be about half of them! I'm so fascinated by the different cultures and languages and even clothing styles. I feel so uncool in my simple t-shirts and shorts when my friends wear elaborate clothes from around the world. I can't help but hope that maybe they could possibly think that my American t-shirts are cool?! Nonetheless, I thoroughly enjoy developing friendships with so many lovely people.

So many things have happened in the past couple weeks, but I'll just focus on a couple things for a quick update.

Nick and Shadow (Chinese friends we met when we first arrived) are always at the International Centre or at the Church. I mean, they come to every activity and even come early to help set up and clean up afterwards. We joke around and call them our "interns." It's been really awesome to get to know them and journey with them as they learn more about Christ. They both have very vibrant personalities and are entertaining to be around. We're praying that someday soon they will both come to know Christ.

This past week was the first time I have felt slightly discouraged since I have been here. Nothing bad happened, but I think that the overwhelming excitement of being in a new place was beginning to wear off and I realized that I had been running on adrenaline rather than seeking God with all of my heart. I felt so hungry for God and regretted not spending more time with Him on my own. Sometimes when I'm doing ministry I become so consumed with serving and pourning into others that I neglect to spend enough time with God on my own.

I also felt like of the students I've met so far, I had a lot of surface level relationships, but not many that went very deep. I prayed on Wednesday of this week for spiritual renewal. I also prayed that God would send me one person that I could really invest in and get to know beyond the surface.

Within less than 24 hours, God had answered both of those prayers. After spending time with Him on Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning, my soul felt renewed and I was ready for whatever God had in store for me that day. At the free lunch we had on Thursday, I found myself sitting next to a Korean girl named Jean. She came to Bible study last week and I met her there, but it wasn't until this lunch that I really got to talk to her.

Jean grew up going to a Catholic church in Korea. She said that growing up, she knew about God, but she has never known Him. A few months before she came to Hawaii, she became very interested in learning more about God. She started reading her Bible and said she wanted to feel something. So when she got here, she heard about the Bible study we have on Friday nights and wanted to come so she could learn more.

As Jean was telling me her story, I felt like God was whispering in my ear, "She's the one. She's the one you prayed for." And I was thinking, "Well that was quick, God!" Usually I feel like God's timing is a lot slower than I want it to be, but this time my prayer was answered in less than a day!

I asked Jean if she would be interested in studying the Bible together and she said that she would love to. I told her that if she was too busy with school work, it's really okay, we don't have to meet, but I just wanted to offer. She paused and said, "I am busy...but I need to put the Bible first. I want to study the Bible."

I was thinking to myself, "Wow, she's not even a Christian and yet she has better self-discipline than I do!" So starting this week, we will meet every Tuesday at 2:30 to go through the book of John together. I've never really done anything like this before, so I'm sure it will be a good experience for me. I am so excited to see what God is going to do in Jean's life. She is so hungry for Him.

Thank you for your prayers. This ministry is truly incredible and we're seeing people from all nations become disciples. Praise God!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Language of Music

“Music is a language.”

That’s what Danny tells our guitar class each Tuesday night as we sit in a cozy circle in the International Baptist Center.

Our guitar class is different than most. It’s free- for all people, of all ages, from all cultural backgrounds. I joined the group when I got here a few weeks ago and have been so blessed to get to know Cake, Paul, Sissy, Diana, Renee, and many others through playing music with them.

The unique thing about music is that you don’t necessarily need to speak the same language in order to communicate with it. Music transcends all language and cultural barriers. The melody is the same, whether you speak Chinese, French, or English. The notes are the same. The chords are the same. The sheet music can be read by any musician in any part of the world.

Music is a gift from God that allows us to connect with people that we don’t think we have much in common with. I have seen this much in our Tuesday night class.

For me, it has been such a blessing to watch these students learn to play guitar. The way they learn is through playing songs such as “I have decided to follow Jesus,” “Amazing Grace,” and “Blessed Be Your Name.”

The majority of them are not believers, but through these songs, they are learning more about who Jesus is.

During the class this week, we were all sitting around the office and through the open window I could see a beautiful view of Diamond Head Mountain with the sun setting over the city of Honolulu. I paused for a moment and listened as my sweet Chinese friends sang, “Beautiful One I love, Beautiful One I adore, Beautiful One my soul must sing!” Some of the guitars were way out of tune and each friend strummed to a different beat, but it was a beautiful sound to my ears.

My eyes welled up with tears and I couldn’t help but praise God, not only for His beautiful creation, but for the beautiful work He is doing in the lives of my friends.

I was able to talk to Sissy yesterday afternoon and she had some questions about the lyrics of some of the songs we have learned. She asked me to explain the verses of “Amazing Grace.” First of all, I had a harsh reality check because I really had to think about the verses before I explained it to her. I wonder how many dozens of times I have sung that song without thinking twice about the meanings behind the words.

The same thing happened when she asked me to explain “Blessed Be Your Name.” Yes, the song is fun and upbeat, but when I was analyzing the words to explain to Sissy, I realized that the song is intense: “Blessed be your name on the road marked with suffering, though there’s pain in the offering blessed be your name.” This song is saying that even when life is tough and we experience pain and suffering, we still praise Him!

I had to say goodbye to Sissy yesterday. She is leaving for China in a few days. She didn’t accept Christ, but she said she thinks she will believe one day, it will just take time. I long for her to experience the love of Christ. Through our conversations, I learned how much she wants to know Him and she is gradually coming to understand that she doesn’t need to have it all together before she becomes a Christian.

God is teaching me every day. He is showing me that He works in ALL things.

Even through an old guitar that is out of tune.
(Cake, Sissy, Danny, Paul, Renee, me, Randy and Diana)

Monday, August 17, 2009

Week 3 and counting (the blessings)

It's been 2 weeks since my last blog post and so much has happened.

It's hard to believe I am going on 3.5 weeks of being here. The past few weeks have gone by fast, but have been extremely peaceful. My time here has been such a blessing and I have felt content since day 1.

After picking up about 50 students in the past few weeks, I've learned the HNL airport pretty well. I've also had plenty of experiences getting lost on those one-way roads in Waikiki :) It's all a part of the learning experience though. This morning was my last airport run. We picked up a sweet girl from Japan.

I absolutely loved picking up students at the airport and I can see how it is a crucial part of ministering to internationals. It is so important that their first experience in America is warm and friendly. Many of them are young, away from home for the first time, and are very nervous. I can almost always sense the relief when they sit in the back of our car, open their care bag and begin talking to us.

It is through picking people up at the airport that we have been able to establish some new friendships. We've been able to hang out with several of the students since then and it has been great to get to know them better.

Last week, Karlie and I met Nick and Shadow (both from China) for yogurt. We talked to them for a couple hours and had a great time. We were talking about our families and tv shows that we like, etc. and Nick suddenly said, "Can you maybe tell me some stories about Jesus?" The questions caught me off guard and suddenly my mind went blank and I was thinking, "Did he seriously just ask me this question? Where do I even begin??!" We asked him some questions and found out that he knew absolutely nothing about the Bible but was so eager to learn.

At a little table in Yogurtland, we were able to share the gospel with him. He has been to church twice since then and each time his smile just seems to get bigger. I'm praying for God to continue to work in his heart.

Another exciting story is about my sweet friend Sissy. Sissy is also from China and has been here for the past 3 weeks visiting her mom. Sissy and I got here at about the same time and I have gotten to know her through the guitar classes that our friend Danny teaches every Tuesday night. Sissy is 22 and is in medical school. For some reason I feel a special bond with her. She has a sweet spirit and is eager to learn more about God. We have been meeting on Wednesday afternoons to practice guitar and talk. It has been so great to sit around with her and her mom and drink tea, share pictures, and learn about their life.

Yesterday was her last Sunday at our church and she stood up in front of the congregation as Joy presented her with a gift. She said, "I want to thank everyone for the kindness you showed me while I was here. I think I am coming to know God."

That last statement warmed my heart so much. I have two more days with Sissy and then she will go home to China. The chances of me seeing her again are not very big, but I know I will keep in touch with her. Please pray that Sissy will accept Christ as her personal Savior and will be a light for Him in China.

This week is going to be very exciting for the ministry. On Wednesday, we are having The Big Giveaway, which is where we have a huge FREE yardsale for internationals. We'll have food and music, and set up our whole building with household items that people have donated. I can't wait to get in the full swing of things. My experience has been wonderful so far and the best thing is that it's just getting started!

Monday, August 3, 2009

The thing that makes my heart sing

I've been here 10 days now. In some ways, it feels like I've been here much longer. I already feel at home. I am surrounded by people who are so welcoming and kind.

I have already seen God at work in the lives of some of the internationals and I'm anticipating big things to happen this year.

As a recent college graduate, I am searching for God's will for my life. I'm not anxious about it, but I do seriously pray for God to place me where He wants me to be and to ordain my steps. A few months ago, I posted a blog where I mentioned that someone had given me the advice, "Follow your passion and look for open doors." Another friend gave the advice, "Find the thing that makes your heart sing."

I think I have found it. God has given me an indescribable passion to reach the nations with Christs' love. I love all people, but there's just something special about internationals that I am drawn to. I am passionate about Jesus, and passionate about them. This ministry makes my heart sing!

The joy I have when I meet a new international friend is indescribable. When I pick them up at the airport and welcome them to America. When I see them come to church for the very first time. When I hear them ask questions about Jesus. I long for them to know Christ and experience Him the way that I have.

My heart is singing.

A few days ago, Karlie met a sweet Chinese guy named Nick. He was walking around looking for the International Centre. She told him that church meets on Sundays at 9am and invited him to come. Yesterday Nick and his friend Shadow came to church! Both are Chinese and had never been to church before. Nick had the sweetest demeanor and smiled the whole time. Afterward, I was talking to him and he said, "This is my first time at church. The Christians are such kind-hearted people. I like this place. The songs are so nice, and the preaching so interesting. I think I would like to know about Jesus."

I was overjoyed to hear that this guy that Karlie just met on the street would come to church on his own and be so interested and excited about learning about Jesus! We're praying for him. Hope to have yogurt with him and Shadow sometime this week to talk.

Stories like this happen every day. Praise God for what HE is doing!

Joyfully singing,
Meredith

Monday, July 27, 2009

pretty sunsets and new friends


It's my third full day in Hawaii and I still can't believe that this is real. I'm not just on vacation...I am actually going to LIVE here! It's almost too good to be true. There are definitely going to have to be some adjustments. For example, I'm going to have to be really wise in budgeting my money and I'll have to learn how to cook! But I feel like those are skills that I need to learn now anyways.
The past couple of days have been great. Yesterday was our first Sunday at our new church, International Baptist Fellowship. This church was created for international students and has become a close-knit community of people from all over the world. It reminds me so much of Encounter (the international student ministry at Campbell), so I felt right at home. I went ahead and joined the church and look forward to getting really involved this year. It was wonderful to worship with people from so many different cultural backgrounds and I look forward to getting to know them throughout the year.
Karlie and I have had some free time to explore on our own. We went to Waikiki beach yesterday afternoon and stayed to watch the sunset. It is absolutely gorgeous here. It really looks just like the postcards and calendars that you see...but seeing it in person is just breathtaking! The beach is about a 5-10 minute drive from where we live and so far we have been every day. It's going to be really nice to just drive down to watch the sunset after work whenever we want!
Today was our first official day of work. We are working with Joy Turner and Amy Duncan (in the picture below) and they are both great! Joy is our motherly figure, and Amy is like a fun older sister. I've really enjoyed spending time with both of them so far. I went with Amy this morning to pick up our first international student at the airport! Her name is Ying Hu (though she named herself "Yolanda") and she is from China. I think that the airport shuttle is such a key part of this ministry. These students are coming from so far away and it makes such an impression to have a friendly face greet them and give them a free ride.
I stood outside the airport holding a little sign with her name on it, anxiously waiting to meet her. She walked out with one rolling suitcase and immediately smiled and said, "That's me!" We chatted and I found out that she is 21 years old and is here to pursue her masters and phD in electrical engineering. She will be here for 5 years and she is totally alone. What a brave girl! She told me that I was the first foreigner that she had ever spoken to! She was nervous to use her English, but she did great! She is such a sweet girl. We took her to the place she was staying and helped her get settled in. I've already been e-mailing her and I think we're going to hang out this weekend and hopefully she'll be able to come to church with us on Sunday.
Karlie and I went to a different beach this evening and went for a little swim as the sun was setting. Now we're hanging out at the International Center, drinking some hot tea and relaxing. More airport pickups tomorrow...can't wait to meet these new friends!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Aloha!

Well, friends. The journey has begun!

Yesterday morning, my parents dropped me off at RDU and I said goodbye to mainland America for the next 5 months.

I thought I would get at least a little bit sad, but I didn't. I feel like God has just given me so much peace and excitement about this new experience.

When I hugged my parents and told them goodbye, I turned around and had to contain myself from squeeling with excitement (I figured screaming while in the security line wouldn't be the best idea)...that's when it hit me that I was on my own. Ready to face this new stage of life.

I felt a little bit like Maria von Trapp with guitar in hand, preparing for adventure. I was tempted to click my heels and burst into "I Have Confidence!" but again I refrained (though I really was singing it in my head). When I get really excited I wiggle around and speak in gibberish. I guess that's weird, but I can't help it! Since there was no one there with me to share my excitement, I got out my little journal and wrote, "Oh my goodness, Oh my goodness, OH MY GOODNESS!!!!!!!!"

From Raleigh to Dallas to Los Angeles to Honolulu, I gained more confidence and excitement. When I stepped off the plane last night my friend Karlie was there to greet me as well as my new friends Joy and Roger Turner and Amy. They each put a flower lei around my neck and welcomed me to Hawaii.
They brought us to our dorm, located directly across from the University of Hawaii. We are staying in the Baptist Student Dorm, which is a really old mansion. It is super cool. Karlie and I will be sharing a room with another girl who hasn't arrived yet. Joy and Amy had been shopping for us and our beds were already made with colorful bedspreads. They are so sweet and thoughtful!

This morning, my internal alarm woke me up before my body was ready, but I didn't mind getting up at 6am because I was excited to look outside! It was dark when I arrived last night, so I didn't really get to see much. I hopped out of bed and looked out the window to see a beautiful sunrise of pinks and blues. I could see Diamond Head Mountain in the distance and the Honolulu sky line. I still can't believe this is where I'm going to live!

K-Love and I (you'll hear me call Karlie this most of the time) decided to start our morning off right, so we hopped in the car that we'll be sharing with Amy and her husband Danny and headed off to Starbucks, which is just a few minutes away. So that's where we are now! I feel like so much has already happened and I haven't even been here 12 hours! In a couple hours we're going to go to the beach with Amy and go to Wal-mart to buy some things that we need. I'll try to update you as much as I can.

Until next time, be praying that God will use this time to challenge me in my faith and that He will begin to work in the hearts of the international students that I will be meeting in the next few weeks. I am so excited to meet them. Oh, I wanted to share one last thing. While I was on the plane, I randomly opened my Bible and found a passage that really spoke to me. It's 2 Chronicles 6:32-33. I don't really know the context of this verse, so maybe I took it completely out of context, but I still felt like God spoke to me clearly through it. It says:

"As for the foreigner who does not belong to your people but has come from a distant land because of your great name and your mighty hand and your outstretched arm- when he comes and prays toward this temple, then hear from heaven, your dwelling place, and do whatever the foreigner asks of you, so that all peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your own people Israel, and may know that this house I have built bears your name."

While I was reading this, I began to think about how I am in a way going to experience this in Hawaii. People will be coming here from hundreds of countries- different religions, skin colors, languages and cultures. It is my responsibility to 1. Hear from heaven (pray for them and seek God's guidance) and 2. Do whatever they ask of me (serve them, meet their physical needs, and show them Christs' love). In turn, hopefully they will come to know Christ and fear him, so that ALL may know Him!

Oh man, I'm excited. Thank you Jesus!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Last few days on the mainland

Two days. That's all I have left in North Carolina before I embark on perhaps the most exciting journey of my life! I'm in the process of squeezing a years worth of clothes and chewy sprees into my two suitcases. On Friday morning, I will step on a plane with a backpack and a guitar and land on the island that I will call home for the next year. Hawaii.

I have anticipated this moment for the past year and a half. It hasn't seemed real until now. My mind is racing and my heart is overjoyed to be able to do the ministry that I love for an entire schoolyear.

I have no idea what kinds of experiences I will have in Hawaii. I am blessed to be able to live and work alongside with my dear friend, Karlie. Other than Karlie, I don't know a soul, but that's okay with me. I like the idea of meeting new people. People that God has gathered from all over the world and brought to the University of Hawaii for a specific and divine purpose.

I can't wait to see their faces. To pick them up at the airport and be their friend. I want to learn about their culture and make them feel welcome in America. I want to show them the love of Jesus through my actions and see God work in their lives, some of them for the first time. It blows my mind to think about the miracles that could happen this year...maybe even in the next few weeks!

People keep asking me if I'm sad or if I'm nervous. I can honestly say that I'm not. At least not yet. I have the strangest sense of peace that I know only comes from God. I feel content, knowing that this is exactly where God has called me to be for this season of my life. I don't know His will beyond this next year. But I know that from now until next summer, I am going to rely on God to grow me in my faith and use me as His servant.

I couldn't be any more excited. Your prayers are greatly appreciated as I enter this next stage of life!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

A Memorable Summer

It's hard to believe my summer at M-Fuge is already over! I have been home for a week now, resting and spending time with family, all the while processing the things that God taught me this summer. I would try to sum it up in words, but I think showing you some of my favorite pictures will help give you a glimpse of what my life has been like for the past two months...a sweet mix of silly, fun, worship, new friends, and life-changing experiences.












Sunday, June 14, 2009

M-Fuge Update

So I realize I've been terrible about updating my blog lately...sorry, friends! Camp has been fantastic so far. We had about 10 days of training and have already finished our first 2 weeks of camp.

The staff is great-25 awesome new friends from all over the U.S. I feel like I've made some quality friendships that will definitely last when I leave next month. I really love living in Nashville and we've definitely had some fun times on the weekends. We went swing dancing and cliff jumping last weekend. I just got back from a fun night at our friend Stacy's house. We cooked and had a bonfire with s'mores and had some great fellowship!

Camp itself has gone so smoothly. The first week was really small, so I just had 7 campers and 3 adults in my group, which was really great because we got to know each other really well. Last week, I had a group of 25, which was also fun!

My site is in Gallatin, TN and it's called the Shalom Zone. I have 60-80 lower-income children that come to camp every day and we do a little VBS for them each week. It has been such a blessing to get to know those precious children and learn their names and share the love of Christ with them! I will definitely be sad when I have to say goodbye to them.

God is definitely at work here- not only in the lives of the students, but in my life as well. This experience has been challenging for me...it's a fast-paced job where I don't get the 8 hours of sleep my body normally requires. I'm constantly surrounded by people, which is hard at times because I usually need a couple hours to myself each week. But God has been using this time to teach me things and draw me closer to him. I can't believe I only have a month left, but I'm trying to make the most of it.

If you want to send me mail, I'd be your friend forever!

M-Fuge Staff
Attn: Meredith Brunson
1900 Belmont Blvd.
Nashville, TN 37212

I'll try to post another quick update next weekend!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

It's camp time!

Hi friends! Just wanted to give a quick life update. 6 days after graduating, I left for my second summer as a Fuge staffer. I received my missions training in the mountains over the weekend and on Monday, I moved into my new "home" in Nashville.

The past few days have been super busy, but such a blessing. I was placed on a team with some truly incredible people- and I've only met half of them! The rest will get here tomorrow. We have had so much time goofing off and getting to know one another. One of the best things about camp is being able to meet and become family with so many other believers.

As we have been unloading box after box and setting up camp, I can't help but thank God for the opportunity to be a part of something so amazing.

Year after year, God changes lives through Fuge camps. It was at Centrifuge as a high school student that I answered the call to missions. And how cool to be a staffer 6 years later at the same camp that God used to shape my future!

I'm praying that God will do a mighty work this summer. That lives will be changed. That the people of Nashville will see Jesus when they look at us. I'm also praying that God will use this summer to mold me and make me more like Him.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Campbell Alumna!

As of yesterday, I am officially a graduate of Campbell University. It's a weird feeling. I am mostly excited about the adventures that await me in the next few months.

This weekend was great. I was able to spend some time with friends and family and reminisce on my college years. It was kind of surreal to walk into the convocation center and see so much orange and black. It made me proud to be a Campbell Camel :) You could feel the excitement in the building. I couldn't help but think back to my very first week at Campbell when the freshman class gathered for the medallion ceremony. I remember someone telling me, "Before you know it, you'll be graduating..." I now know how true that statement was.

I was so proud as I watched my friends cross the stage and receive the degree for which they had worked so hard for 4+ years. These are the friends I've lived with, traveled with, endured classes with and come to know as brothers and sisters.

I actually made it through the whole day without getting too emotional. In fact, in the midst of the excitement of graduating and having so many people to see, I actually forgot to pick up my diploma! Oh well- hopefully they will mail it to me. I guess I won't need it in Hawaii anyways ;)

It wasn't until I got home and began reading letters from some of my friends that the tears began to flow. I have made some amazing friends at Campbell and though I know we will keep in touch, I also know that it will simply never be the same again. Some of us are moving away, some are getting full-time jobs and some are getting married. I guess you could say we're becoming real grown-ups.

That's just a tad scary. Even though I moved my tassel to the left side of my cap, I don't feel any more grown up than I did before. Luckily, I have a lot to look forward to and don't necessarily have to move straight into "adulthood."

This week I'm hanging out with family, but I'm leaving on Friday for M-Fuge! I am going to program training in the NC mountains, and then I'll head to Nashville next week. I can't believe it's already time for camp again. I can't wait to meet the staff, visit my sites, and see God at work every single day!

Hooray for ending one chapter and moving on to the next!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Sweet College Memories

The past few days have been kind of a daze for me. I don't think it has really sunk in that I am officially finished with school. For the past 17 years, school has been my life, but when I finished my Spanish paper this afternoon, I also finished my formal education for the time being. I am not coming back after summer. I am done. Wow.

I was blessed with having absolutely no exams this week (actually, I take that back- I had one exam, but all we had to do was meet and go out for pizza...the professor paid- pretty sweet deal, huh?) so I have been doing a lot of reflecting in my time off. I've tried to spend as much time as possible walking around campus and soaking in all the memories I have in Buies Creek.

Today I sat outside by the fountain and reflected for a while. Every building, every path, even every bench has a memory that goes along with it. As I closed my eyes, I could remember back to freshman year when my family first dropped me off at my dorm. I was so excited about college. I didn't cry, I was just happy! I remember doing crazy things in the dorm, like having shaving cream wars, and going swimming in the fountain late one night. And of course, all the themed dress up parties we had!
I remembered the countless times I have tripped on the blasted bricks going to and from class. I remember when my friend Wee planned a "banana night" and we all wore yellow and made banana hats and played banana games! I thought back to my sophomore year when my group of friends consisted of six girls from 5 different countries. We would stay up late in Wafaa's apartment and drink Moroccan tea and laugh the night away.Some of my sweetest memories are with my international friends. Spending weekends and holidays with them, going to the beach, seeing them grow. As I walked back to my apartment today, I remembered the countless times Alicia and I prayer walked on that very path. Every Tuesday and Thursday from 12:30-2, that walk was our Jesus time. People passing by probably thought we were talking to each other :)

I remember all the meals I've had in Marshbanks (the good and the not so good!), the concerts and plays, the carnivals and trips to Sunni Sky's. It's so hard for me to fathom that my college experience is over. Tomorrow I will leave Buies Creek with all my belongings packed in my little Toyota and never move back.

I expected that I would be really sad right about now. I've always been a sucker for good-byes. 5th grade graduation was probably the saddest day of my life...seriously, we've got it on video! But for some strange reason, the sadness hasn't hit me. Maybe it's coming, but maybe it's not going to. I really feel like God has prepared me well for this life transition and I feel a peace about leaving and moving on to the places God has called me to be.

I will definitely miss people, no doubt about it. But I really believe that I'll be able to keep in touch with my friends as we go our separate ways.

These four years have been an incredible journey for me. I came in as an 18-year-old girl and I'm leaving as a 22-year-old young woman. My relationship with Christ has blossomed and I have developed friendships that I hope will last a lifetime. I have grown academically, spiritually and I now feel prepared to face the future with confidence.

I am so excited about working M-Fuge in Nashville this summer and then moving to Hawaii in July. So many transitions are about to take place. College has been absolutely wonderful. I'm so thankful for the friendships and experiences I have had at Campbell. I will always look back and remember the sweet memories I have had in "The Creek." It's been fun, exciting, challenging, and wonderful.

As wonderful as it has been, I'm determined that I will not allow college to be "the best years of my life." The future is bright and promising and I couldn't be more excited.

Let the good times continue!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Encounter- a journey to remember

It's 6 o'clock on Friday night and the Memorial House is filled with excitement, laughter and the aroma of yummy food. As international students walk in the door of the small white house, they are greeted with a hug and instantly become immersed in conversation with their friends.

We all join hands, bless the food and share a meal at the table together before we enter our time of worship. As the lights dim, a different atmosphere is set and the strum of a guitar echoes through the room. Beautiful harmonies float through the air, singing praises to the One true God. People from Nigeria, Ethiopia, Ivory Coast, China, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Moldova, Iraq, Taiwan, and many other countries lift their voices together.

The worship is real and honest. The presence of the Holy Spirit is so evident that it causes me to tremble. I am in awe of the fact that God has allowed me to meet so many amazing people from all over the world. No matter the color of our skin or the language we speak, He knows and loves each one of us intimately.

As we dig into the Word of God together, we are challenged by the different perspectives each person brings to the table. One girl talks about the war in her home country, another shares about how afraid she was when she came to America, not knowing a soul.

This is what Encounter is all about. It's a place for internationals and Americans to come together and fellowship, worship and love. For me, Encounter has become like a family. The friendships I have made with these sweet people are so deep because they are founded on the one thing we have in common: our faith in God.

Tonight was my last Encounter. I feel a mix of emotions. I'm heartbroken to leave some of the best friends I've ever had. But there's a part of me that believes I will remain close with them, even when I'm gone next year.

I also know that it's time for me to move on. God brought me to Campbell four years ago and has taught me so much. But now, He's leading me in a different direction. I praise Him because I will still be doing international student ministry next year. He is allowing me to do the thing that makes my heart sing!

I am so thankful for Encounter. It has been such a significant part of my college journey, and I will treasure those memories and friendships for a very long time.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Easter Update

Flora's baptism was beautiful yesterday. I couldn't hold back my tears as our friend Alicia read Flora's testimony and we watched Flora's face glow as she came out of the water, so excited about her new life in Christ!


She sent me a message last night that said, "I am really really excited about the baptism today! When I was standing in the water, I could not breath! I tried to find you guys. Everything was perfect, and I was totally moved by the Holy Spirit and could not help but crying! My tears kept coming out of my eyes when I changed my clothes and did makeups!"

Praise God for the work He is doing in her life and in the lives of many other students at Campbell!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The story that is still changing lives...

Easter has always been one of my favorite holidays. Not just because I have an obsession with candy and Easter baskets, but because the story of Christ's death and resurrection continues to amaze me.

Sometimes I have to remind myself that it actually happened.

When I was younger, I had the privilege of travelling to Israel with my grandparents. One of the coolest memories I have from that trip is visiting Jesus' tomb. I walked into the stone garden tomb...and it was empty! I stood in the exact place that Jesus' body once lay and three days later was raised to life. How amazing!

I'm constantly amazed at the story of Jesus. It happened so long ago, but is still so real and continues to change lives. I am so excited because tomorrow morning, my good friend Flora is going to be baptized.

Flora is from China and she came to study at Campbell in the fall of 2007. She accepted Christ during her first semester at Campbell and has continued to grow in her walk since then. Flora stayed with me this weekend as last night as we were falling asleep, we began to think back on her spiritual journey.

It is amazing how God brought her to the small town of Buies Creek to reveal himself to her. It was through different events and circumstances that she came to believe in Christ. She began coming to Encounter (a Bible study for international students) and grew in her knowledge of God. Now her boyfriend is a Christian and she is praying for her parents' salvation as well. God is using Flora and I believe that He has got a great plan for her life and will use her to impact many people for His glory.

I am excited to be there for her special day tomorrow. What better day to be baptized than the day that Jesus rose from the dead?!

Praise God because He lives!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Tuning my heart

Since I'm getting ready to graduate next month, I came up with a list of things I want to do or accomplish in my life. I'm putting them on here so I'll have some accountability!

-go back to sri lanka (preferably sooner than later)
-work with orphans in africa and/or india
-publish a book (or at least contribute to one!)
-go to seminary
-visit every continent (but not antarctica..too cold)
-record some of my songs (so i won't forget them!)
-hopefully get married one day and be a mom
-learn how to cook
-go sky diving
-be a missionary

It will be interesting to look back in a few years and see how many or if any of these things have happened. I guess it doesn't hurt to dream. Sometimes I have to check my heart though and make sure that my desires line up with God's.

A dear friend of mine was telling me yesterday how she was so confused and aimless about the future after her post-graduation plans recently fell through. She thought God wanted her in that position, but when the door closed, she wondered if she hadn't heard God correctly or if He was just changing the direction of her life. I have been in the same position many times, and it's a scary feeling. Sometimes God's voice is drowned out by the chaos of my life where my own plans and desires take over.

So here's a cheesy analogy: Today I was tuning my guitar and it took me forever to get the sound just right. If one of the strings is slightly out of tune, it messes up the whole sound. I had to keep plucking each string over and over until it was perfectly in tune in order to be able to play. I was reminded that God does the same thing with me. Sometimes I am way off. I don't take the time to listen to Him. I do my own thing, and I end up going really "flat." It messes up the sound. But recently my prayer has become, "Lord, I want to be in tune with you." It doesn't just magically happen, but He works on me for a while, plucking over and over, until I am perfectly in tune. I must admit I don't stay in tune for long, but I ask Him again and again to work in my heart and allow me to desire the things that He desires.

If we seek Jesus, our desires will become more like His. So even if nothing on this list ever happens, I just want to be in tune with Him.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Power of One

This past weekend I attended the NC Missions Conference. Every year I look forward to this conference with great anticipation because it is an amazing time of worship and fellowship with missionaries from NC and all over the world.

Terry Rae, a good friend of ours from South Africa, was the speaker. He has an amazing gift of speaking the truth. His words challeneged and encouraged me to be the one to stand in the gap for Christ in a world that is dry and deceived. Shane and Shane led worship for us. Those guys are incredibly gifted and have the most humble and honest hearts. It was a blessing to spend time with them this weekend and worship together.

Probably my favorite part of the weekend was hearing the stories of the missionaries from around the world. I pretty much want to get on an airplane and go on a world tour now, stopping in each of their countries to be a part of the amazing work God is doing! (seriously).

The theme of the weekend was "The Power of One." It was taken from the story of the little boy who gives his lunch to Jesus. He takes that one lunch and feeds thousands. Through the testimonies that were shared, I learned about the power of one.

One baby found in a dumpster in Johannesburg, South Africa inspired one woman to start an orphange.
One hole in the wall provided refuge for women who would have otherwise abandoned their babies.
One vision from God and one woman's obedience has saved nearly 1,000 babies through the Door of Hope.
One man living comfortably in India heard God's call to go to the poorest, most dangerous state in his country.
One well provided clean drinking water for an entire village. Now over 200 wells have been provided for the people of Bihar, giving them a chance to hear about Jesus, the Living Water.
One poor gypsy man in Ukraine had a vision that all of the gypsies in Ukraine would come to know Christ. The faith of this one man spread and now the KGB listening center has been transformed into a church where hundreds of gypsies gather together to worship.
All of these stories happened because of the One and Only, Jesus.

He is the one who changed my life. It is my prayer and hope that He will use me share his love with others so He can make a difference in their lives as well.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Burst the "Bubble"

How many people do you know who are not Christians?

Tonight at BSU we were talking about how easy it is to find ourselves in a Christian bubble. We surround ourselves with Christians, listen to Christian music, go to Bible studies and campus ministries every night. All of these things are great. But sometimes I get so caught up in doing these Christian activities that I neglect to actually invest in people who are not Christians.

My freshman year of college, I was in 7 different Bible studies. Every single night of the week, I had one or two religious meetings to go to. I soon realized that God did not desire me to spend all of my time with other believers. I was getting fed spiritually but I didn't have time to practice it because I was so busy.

Since I have been in college, I have been blessed with many opportunities to get to know people from many different beliefs and religions. These friendships have challenged me and strengthened my faith. God has broken my heart so many times and urged me to pray fervently for my dear friends. My greatest fear of going to seminary one day is that I will become so comfortable in the Christian environment that I will not interact with people who are not believers.

We should not be of the world, but we are called to be in it. That means that we may need to burst the Christian bubble we are in and show the world what Jesus is all about.

Meredith

p.s. Got my ticket to Hawaii today...it's official!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Times, they are a changin'

This past week has been full of changes (good ones!). My good friend Erica was married on Saturday and it was such a blessing to be a part of her special day. You can check out Story Photographers to see some beautiful pictures from the wedding. I thought you might also enjoy this "blast from the past" photo from Halloween our freshman year of college! I wanted us to walk down the aisle in our homemade silverwear costumes, but I guess it's better that we opted for the traditional bridesmaids dresses :)

I turned 22 on Tuesday! Usually I'm a little sad that another year has gone by, but for some reason I am really excited about being 22. I guess I just like the number and I feel like this is the age that I will become way more independent and adult-like. Kinda scary in a way, but I think I'm ready for it.

And then comes all the graduation stuff. I ordered my cap and gown the other day and tonight we had the senior dinner. Up until now, graduation has seemed like it was in the distant future, but now it's becoming more and more of a reality. When I walk around campus I just want to savor everything. I want to soak in the campus and meals with sweet friends. I really am excited about the changes that are happening in my life, but with the excitement comes a hint of fear and sadness that this season is nearing its end.

The other day I was visiting with a good friend and we were talking about life and the future and I casually shrugged and said, "You know, change doesn't really bother me. I actually really enjoy change." HA! The moment those words came out of my mouth I suddenly burst into tears totally unexpectedly. Then I couldn't stop laughing because I was thinking "What is going on inside of me?!" I truly do feel confident that the upcoming changes in my life are going to be good. But apparentally there's a part of me that is scared. Maybe that's normal. Even though it's a little scary moving on to the next stage of life, I know that God is in control and I'm so thankful I can rely on Him. I'm praying that as my life changes over the next few months that God will use those times to draw me closer to him than ever before. So I'm waiting in expectation to see where God will lead. Until then, I want to make the most of my last two months in The Creek!

Monday, March 9, 2009

meaningless, meaningless

I just got back from having a heart-to-heart conversation with a dear friend of mine (over a cup of chai tea, of course). I love talking to others and hearing what the Lord is teaching them- I always seem to be challenged and encouraged in my own walk.

We were talking about how as college students, we sometimes feel the pressure to graduate and apply what we've learned by getting a job and making as much money as possible. It's almost like the world has set up for us this cookie cutter idea of what life is supposed to be like. Do anything else and you're just asking for trouble.

I know I'm young and I've never truly had to live on my own and pay my own bills, but to me, money is just not that important. I honestly don't care about being rich or having a big house and fancy clothes. Those things are so temporary and fleeting.

My friend and I discussed Solomon's advice in Ecclesiastes. This guy was really wise and experienced and he was basically writing to tell everyone that everything is meaningless! He says that wisdom, pleasures, toil and advancement are all meaningless. "What does a man get for all the toil and anxious striving with which he labors under the sun? All his days his work is pain and grief; even at night his mind does not rest. This too is meaningless." Ecclesiastes 2:22-23

I don't want to wake up one day 10 years down the road and realize that my work and efforts have been for a meaningless cause. I'm not certain what type of career I will have one day, but I know that whatever I do, I want it to have eternal significance. I don't want to just work in order to pay the bills. I want to have a purpose. And my purpose in whatever career I have should be simply to share the love of Jesus. Period.

So I'm moving away to Hawaii for a year. It's crazy, exciting and scary all at the same time. Sometimes I feel like a slacker for not getting a "real" job yet. I'm not going to be rich...at all. But that's really okay with me. But I know that God has called me...and He is continually calling me, to be His hands and feet and share His love with those around me. For now, it's at Campbell, soon it will be with teenagers in Nashville, TN, and then with international students in Hawaii. God only knows where He will take me after that. It's an exciting ride and sometimes I feel like I'm just hanging on tight with my eyes squeezed shut, never knowing what is around the next corner.

I never want to lose sight of what truly matters: Loving Jesus and sharing His love with others.

Everything else...is meaningless.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Don't get too comfortable

After spending the past few days in San Francisco and having some alone time to reflect, I've discovered something...I don't want to tiptoe through life.

I've had people say to me, "Isn't San Francisco like...really liberal? It's dangerous right? And aren't there tons of gay people?!"

Yes, yes, and...yes.

But does that turn me off? Not a bit. If anything, that makes me want to go more.

Maybe I'm crazy, but the last thing I want to do is live a "safe" life. I could very easily live in a cute little house in the Bible Belt for the rest of my life and never encounter the "dangers" of the world. But is that really what I've been called to do?

I don't think so. There are so many people in the world who are starving for the gospel. Places like San Francisco and New York City and Europe and Raleigh desperately need Jesus. As Christians, I think it's easy to stay in our comfort zone. We think, "Oh, that's too far away," or, "That's way too risky."

Friends, we're called to be risk-takers.

I don't want to miss out on the things that God has in store for me because I want to play it safe. After all, if God is on our side, who can be against us?

Of course some of us are called to live in the Bible Belt, to minister to the quiet suburbs of America. But what if God is calling some of us to go to the "liberal" cities, to the homeless, to the dangerous places, to people who are very different from us. Would we be willing to risk our comfort zone to go?

I can't think of anything more fulfilling than answering God's call, knowing that He is in control and will provide protection and contentment.

So I've decided I'm not going to tiptoe through life. I am going to fix my eyes on Jesus and run with all my might.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Following my passion and looking for open doors

Right now I am at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary (GGBTS) in San Francisco, CA! I have about an hour before 24 comes on, so I thought I'd give a little update on my trip.

Nathan and I got here yesterday afternoon and spent the day touring the city. A Malaysian friend of mine who graduated from Campbell now lives in San Fran and offered to pick us up from the airport and show us around. It was so great to see her after 3 years and she and her boyfriend were great hosts for us! They took us to the main spots (Golden Gate bridge, Lombard St., Fisherman's Wharf, Chinatown, etc.) The last time I was in San Francisco, I was 10, so I felt like I was seeing it for the first time.
(Nate, me and Cheryl on the Golden Gate bridge)
I immediately discovered that I love San Francisco. Mainly because it is so cultural and diverse! When you're walking down the street, you see more Asians than Caucasians! I was somewhat surprised by the beauty of this place. It's been rainy, but it's cleared up enough for us to see how pretty it is. The grass is SO green, and there is a great mix of the mountains and the ocean. I couldn't help but smile as we were walking around downtown because I was so excited.

From the beginning of this trip, I feel like God has ordained my steps and put the right people in my path. On the flight to SFO, I was sitting next to a sweet older woman. I noticed that she was reading a book in Korean, so I immediately began talking to her. She asked what school I was going to visit and I said, "Have you ever heard of Golden Gate seminary?" She kind of chuckled and said, "I graduated from there!" GGBTS is a relatively small school, so I found it pretty neat that of the hundreds of people on the airplane, I would be sitting next to someone who went there! She was so sweet and gave me her contact information and answered a lot of questions I had about the school.

Nate and I spent the whole day today on campus and oh my goodness...I am in love with it! It is located on a hill and the view of the ocean and the city is breathtaking. The whole campus seems to have a common passion for missions, which really excites me. The students and faculty are all super friendly and helpful and I've felt very welcomed here.

It seems like as I travel more, the world seems to get smaller and smaller. The guy who gave us the campus tour is from Hawaii and I found out that he used to be the dorm manager of the dorm that I'm going to be living in next year at the University of Hawaii! Then the admissions counselor told me that she had the exact internship in Hawaii that I am going to have next year. I was able to ask her lots of questions and it was so cool to make that connection with her. And then as I was talking to another girl who works in admissions, I found out that she worked M-Fuge in Nashville, which is where I'll be working this summer. Crazy! I never thought I'd have so many connections with people on the opposite side of the continent! I felt almost like God was using those people to confirm my being here.

I don't know if I will end up going to school here, but I'm definitely interested and will need to pray about it. Your prayers would be greatly appreciated as well!

When we were on our tour this morning, we passed the president of the school, Dr. Iorg, in the hallway and he stopped and talked to us for a while. He was very down to earth and I was really impressed by him. He told us straight up that if you're not passionate about intercultural studies and missions, then Golden Gate can be a very uncomfortable and intimidating place. BUT, if you are interested in those things, then Golden Gate is perfect.

He said something that I think will stick with me for a while. He said a lot of young people come to him and share how concerned they are about figuring out God's will for their lives. His answer to them is always, "Follow your passion, and look for open doors."

Follow your passion, and look for open doors. That was such an encouragement to me. I don't need to have my entire life planned out. If I follow the passions God has placed within me, He will lead me in the right direction.

So I'm not too troubled about deciding which seminary to go to, because I believe God will show me when the time is right. I am so glad I was able to make this trip and it'll be interesting to see where I will end up in a few years :)

Well, Jack Bauer is about to save America again, and you're probably getting tired of reading my ramblings, so I'll sign off now.

Follow your passion and look for open doors!
Meredith

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Sri Lanka Sentiments

Today is a rainy day and I'm loving it. It's 12:52pm on Saturday and I'm still in my pajamas with no agenda for the day. Something about rainy days makes me sentimental. Actually...I think I'm pretty much always sentimental, but rainy days make it worse!

But today is one of those "I miss Sri Lanka" days. I've been having a lot of those lately. After spending four months in Galle, Sri Lanka over the past few years, I have developed deep relationships with the precious people over there. They became like my family.

Mama Sitha, my Sri Lankan grandmother, would bring me hot tea every morning. She would come into my bedroom and say, "Excuuuuuuuuuse me...teaaaaaaaaa!" in her cute little accent.

I miss waking up to the sound of Buddhist monks chanting in the distance and seeing monkeys jumping from tree to tree in the jungle surrounding me. I miss Sara. She accepted Christ while I was there and she became like my sister. Now she's living in another country with her new husband. I'm afraid I will never get to see her again.
I especially miss my friends from the village in Hikkaduwa. This particular village was very poor. Some of the houses were made of mud and had no electricity. I would go to this village every week to work on houses (but mainly, I played with the kids while everyone else worked on the houses!) Every morning, we would drive up in Pradeep's van with the windows down and I could hear the little kids shouting, "Mery! Mery! Play?!" They would grab my hand and take me to their homes where they would show me their photo albums and serve me tea and practice the few english words that they knew. They would turn on the radio and we'd do silly dances together and laugh. I would give anything to go back and see them, even if it was just for a day. It's hard to explain how much I miss that place. I crave to go back and my heart aches when I think about it.
(Anusha, Hassein, Violet, Geetani, Kasun, Dineshika, Achini, Hashinka and Tataranga from Hikkaduwa)
A few days ago, I received a letter from Hashinka, a beautiful 15-year-old girl from Hikkaduwa. It had been over a year since I had heard from her and I was beginning to worry I would never hear from her again. But when I opened my post office box and saw that little white envelope with red and blue lining, I could barely contain my excitement! I opened it as quickly as I could and right there in the post office, I burst into tears! haha- people must have thought I was crazy. I was just so happy to hear from my friend. I even sniffed the page to soak in any lingering scents from my beloved country. In her letter she said, "Mery, please try come to Sri Lanka. We are very eagerly looking for your arrival." My heart melted when I read that. I wish I could tell her how desperately I wish to go back. How I think of her every day when I see her face on my wall and pray for her and her village.

It's been a year and a half since I've been and it'll be at least another year or two before I would be able to go back. I thought it would get easier with time, but it's only getting worse. Instead of thinking of it less, I think of it more. I feel like God has called me to go to these people. My love for them is indescribable. The calling I feel is kind of scary in a way and I don't really know what it means. But something tells me I'll be going back someday. I just hope it's someday soon.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

"The least of these" is me.

Well, today marks the first day of my spring break, which is pretty crazy, because it's February and it's still cold. But that's okay. I'm looking forward to having some time to refresh and spend with famiy. I came home tonight to watch Taylor in his school's musical, Cinderella. He did a great job as a townsperson and had two lines: "Herman?" and "Macey?" I was proud of my little bro! Grandmother and Papa came up from Georgia for the weekend, so it's been nice visiting with them.

Nate and I are leaving in a few days to check out a seminary in California. I'll post more about that when I get back. I really have no idea what to expect, so it should be interesting. Other than that, I plan on getting some reading and writing done over break. I know the semester is gonna fly when I get back, so I'm trying to get things done now so I can fully enjoy my last two months of school!

Today I was re-reading some of Brennan Manning's The Ragamuffin Gospel. If you haven't read this book, you should. But just as a warning, it will mess you up! There were times that I was so convicted that I just had to close the book and pray. Today was one of those days.

Manning was talking about the verse that says, "Whatever you do to the least of my brethren, that you do unto me." This verse is quoted so many times, especially on mission trips, homeless outreaches, etc. I think I even have a t-shirt from a trip I went on with that verse printed on the back.

Manning goes on to quote Carl Jung when he said, "What if you discovered that the least of the brethren of Jesus, the one who needs your love the most, the one you can help the most by loving, the one to whom your love will be most meaningful-what if you discovered that the least of the brethren of Jesus...is you?"

Bam! That definitely gave me something to chew on. It seems so prideful for me to say that I'm serving "the least of these" because that implies that I am greater than them. And who defines the least and the greatest anyways? In scripture, it seems like the people that society viewed as the least were actually the ones who were the most in tune with the Lord. The people off the streets were the ones who showed up to the wedding banquet. And didn't Jesus say "the last shall be first and the first shall be last"?

Maybe I've had the wrong view all along. Maybe the poor and the outcasts aren't really "the least of these." Maybe "the least of these" is actually me.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Give Me Your Eyes

The other day, I had some time between classes, so I went and got some coffee at the student center. I found a little table in the corner and took a seat. I was writing for a while, but at one point, I put my pen down and just observed my surroundings.

I began to notice the people that were passing by. Some of them were people that I'm acquainted with, others were familiar faces, and some I had never seen before. I'm not sure how long I was "people watching," but before I knew it, I noticed that my eyes had filled with tears and I had no idea why.

I guess it just hit me that God allows me to cross paths with so many people every day and I usually don't even take the time to look at them. In The Irresistible Revolution, Shane Claiborne talks about how we tend to look at people, while Jesus looks into people. Many times when I look at people, I merely see their outward appearance. I judge them and compare myself to them. But as I was sitting there that day, I attempted to look into the people around me. I wondered what their stories are. Are they happy? Are they hurting? Do they know Jesus? My heart soon became heavily burdened for the strangers in the room with me.

Even though I didn't know them, I began to pray for them. For the guy ordering his wrap and for the girl next to me who was texting. I may never know them, but I prayed that I would care about them the way that Jesus does.

In scripture, Jesus always notices the people that everyone else overlooks. He sees Zacchaeus in the tree and asks to eat dinner with him. He sees the little boy with five loaves and two fish and takes an interest in him when everyone else thought the idea was ridiculous. He has compassion for the woman who was caught in adultery and defends her. He touches the lepers and sits at the table with the "sinners." Oh, if only I could see people the way that Jesus sees them!

Often times if I'm struggling with seeing a person or a situation with the right perspective, I'll utter the prayer, "Give me your eyes, Jesus. I want to see the world the way that you do."

Brandon Heath's song "Give Me Your Eyes" sums it up pretty well, so I'll close with this video from him:

http://vimeo.com/1710532

Meredith

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

As iron sharpens iron...

"As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." Proverbs 27:17

Every Tuesday night, some of my girlfriends and I get together for "accountability night." This has become one of the highlights of my week. Tonight, five of us just sat around in my apartment, sipping hot tea, laughing and talking about life. It is such a blessing to fellowship with one another and share what God is doing in our lives.
For me, fellowship with other Christians has always been an important part of my walk with the Lord. Often times, God uses those around me to speak to me and sharpen me (ouch!). Having this accountability group this semester has been so neat because we share prayer requests and check up on each other throughout the week. For example, tonight, I shared with them how I struggle with memorizing scripture and I asked them to hold me accountable to it. I wish I could say that I have the self-motivation to do things like that on my own, but sometimes I really need my sisters and brothers in Christ to hold me accountable.

When I was in high school, I had an accountability partner. I would spend the night at her house every Tuesday night (I even had my own little drawer where I would keep my pjs!) and we would pray together and study the Bible. Our friendship became so deep because it was centered on the Lord. I don't get to see her as often anymore, but she is still a dear friend and I will always treasure those times that we spent praying together and encouraging one another.

Though it is very important to have friendships with people who are not believers, I think that God desires for us to have fellowship with other Christians as well. A couple months ago, I was in a place where I had no contact with any other Christians for about two weeks. I didn't realize how hard that would be on me until I got there and felt utterly alone. Jesus became so real to me in that time because He was the only one that I could cling to. That experience reminded me of how thankful I should be for the Christian family and friends that I have.

That's my thought for the night. I'll try not to make my blogs too terribly long (I tend to get carried away!)

Rest in Him today!
Meredith

p.s. On a completely unrelated and not so serious note, I had my first energy drink today. I never buy those things, but this one was given out at a basketball game so I figured I'd try it since I had a test and wanted to make sure I stayed alert. Wellllll...I don't know if my mind was just messing with me or what, but I felt so strange and gittery in my class. I couldn't sit still and everything seemed exceptionally funny to me. At one point, my professor got tongue tied and I busted out laughing! And this was not a subtle laugh...it was loud...really loud! So I was bent over with my head on the desk and everyone in the class was laughing at this point. When I opened my eyes I saw a little red dot on my paper and realized that my professor was pointing his laser at me and everyone was staring at me...how embarrassing! So I've decided it's probably best if I stay away from energy drinks for a while!

Monday, February 16, 2009

I'm finally giving in

Well friends, now that my senior year of college is nearing its end, I am finally creating a blog. I know, I know, I should have done it sooner I guess, but I've kept a pretty consistent written journal so I didn't really feel the need for it. But I think it'll be fun to write my thoughts on this blog and hear what you have to say. Part of me feels really vulnerable writing thoughts for the world to read (though let's face it, only a very very small percentage of the world will actually read this thing...maybe 0%...in that case, I'm just writing to myself right now. Hey Mere!)

Okay, enough about blogging, I'm going to try to not be A.D.D. and actually write something!

So I'm in my last semester of college and I seriously cannot believe it! The past four years at Campbell have been absolutely incredible. Thinking about graduating is bittersweet. I am definitely going to miss good ole' Buies Creek and the awesome memories I have had here. I'm going to miss living within walking distance of everyone. I'll miss staying up late and sleeping in :) I'll miss going to Encounter every Friday night and my dear sweet international friends. Of course I'll miss the crazy random times (prank wars, dress up parties, swimming in the fountain, secret missions, road trips, etc.)

As much as I'll miss it, I must say I am very excited about the future! I have no idea where I'll be five years from now, or even two years from now, but I am just thrilled to be on this journey with the Lord and trust Him to lead me in the right direction.

I just filled out my contract to serve as a year-long missionary in Hawaii. I'm leaving in July and will be working with the North American Mission Board at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. And guess what I'll be doing?....International student ministry! I seriously could not think of a job that would excite me any more! God has definitely given me a passion for internationals and I can't get over how cool it is that He's allowing me to use that passion to serve Him! I don't know too much about the job yet, but basically I think I'll help teach English, teach Bible studies, and mainly focus on developing friendships with the students. I'll keep you updated as I learn more about it :)

The Lord has been teaching me so so much lately and I want to briefly share a little of it with you. I guess it comes down to two main things: His faithfulness and waiting on Him.

A few weeks ago I was at home and pulled out some dusty boxes from the attic and began to read some of my old journals from elementary and middle school (yes, my whole life is documented on paper). Some of the things I wrote were ridiculously hilarious and silly, but other times I found myself wiping tears from my face. Page after page, I was amazed at how God's hand has been with me my whole life. He has answered every prayer (even when it wasn't the answer I wanted to hear at the time). He has protected me and brought me through every trial. I was absolutely blown away by his faithfulness. He has been faithful to His promises in scripture and in my life. He was faithful in the past, He's faithful now, and I know that He will continue to be! I tend to worry about my life sometimes, but it's so wonderful to be able to rest, knowing that my life isn't up to me.

The next lesson God taught me was a little bit more difficult. The past few weeks, I've been struggling with thoughts like, "What am I going to do with my life?" "Where am I going to live?" "How in the world am I going to provide for myself?" yikes! I guess that's natural for a college senior. I know what I'm doing next year, but beyond that I have absolutely no idea. I've visited a few seminaries, so that's a possibility, but I really don't know what God is calling me to do yet. I've always been a planner and a goal-oriented person (I had my Campbell application filled out and ready to go when I was 14!) so not knowing what the future holds sometimes makes me feel anxious and stressed out.

I began to pray fervently for God to show me His will for my future and the clear response I heard was, "Wait."

Yeah, that was not what I wanted to hear. So I tried praying again...and again. But every time I opened up my Bible I would read about waiting on the Lord.

Psalm 27:14 showed up several times in my quiet times with God. "Wait for the LORD: be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD."

So then I began to pray that God would change my perspective and let me tell you, He totally transformed it! I've been listening to this song by John Waller called "While I'm Waiting" and it has been such an encouragement to me. It says, "I will serve you while I'm waiting, I will worship while I'm waiting..." As I continued to meditate on what God was telling me, He pretty much bonked me on the head and I began to ask myself "What's so bad about waiting?"

I dread waiting in long lines and waiting for important phone calls and waiting to be called at the doctor's office. But what if I used that "waiting time" to serve Him and worship Him rather than just complain and waste it! God has given me this season in life where I'm not tied down to any one place or person. Maybe I don't know what the future holds, but I don't want to waste the time He's given me just waiting for the next big stage of my life. I can serve Him now!

Phew, I could keep going for hours, but it's almost 3am and I have to get up for dance class in 6 hours (why do I do this to myself? oh, the life of a college kid!)

Have a blessed day, my friends!
Mere