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'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" 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


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!