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,