12.23.2013

13 Ways My Life Changed in 2013

This blog has been long abandoned this year....as I have been incredibly busy with so many wonderful things. Phew, God has turned my world upside down and made it into something beyond what I could have hoped for or imagined. Here I sit, in December, having no idea why it feels like New Years was yesterday. Here are 13 reasons that I am a different person than I was on January 1st.

1)I have survived living in my own home for an entire year.
This has been a crazy thing to learn. I have used a hammer, drill, wrenches, pliers, etc more times than I can count. Praise the Lord I had a father that let me tag along and watch him do this stuff. Despite learning how to fix a disposal, switch an outlet and replace a tub faucet thingy- the greatest lesson I learned from owning my own home was to ASK FOR HELP. Humbling.
 
2)I was able to see a baby being born.
If you have seen this miracle happen, you understand why it changes you. And how you look at every human being. The complete adoration I have when I look at this child is baffling. She has done nothing to please me, yet I am pleased in her existence. That's how Jesus loves us, and how He calls us to love others. Love them just because.
 
3. Sorry kitties, I am now a DOG person.

Welcome home, Polly Flinn. I picked this mini lady up in the Spring while working. After a crazy (and expensive) ordeal involving her permanently zombie-like eye ball, she is the perfect guard dog, and snuggle partner. She has stolen my heart. Which is good, because she has stolen...and CHEWED....every item in my home lower than four feet off the ground (such as my college graduation Bible.)

4)I have learned the reality that for every hopeless situation, God has an answer.
The picture for this one is solemn. It is from the memorial service of all of those who have lost their lives to the streets in Indianapolis this year. In the midst of hopelessness, we spoke of hope. I have walked right to the very edge of my bottom. To the place where I have thrown my hands up and said "I don't think I have an ounce left to pour out." My coworkers at Outreach, Inc. have walked with me through a year of seeing unbeliveable miracles in the lives of homeless youth, as well as many times of teary prayers where no answer seemed in sight. But God is good. His mercies really are new EVERY MORNING. And I am still in love with my job, and even more in love with Him.
 
5)I am no longer homesick less.
I am now a Hoosier. There. I said it. Indiana is my *home* now. I miss Pennsylvania so so much, and it will be years until I have the intimacy in friendship that I have with people back home, but this place has grabbed my heart. I am learning to love Indiana, and some days, I even delight in being here. Farmers, basketball, corn and all. Indiana's not too bad.
 
6)The internal work of discovering "humble confidence" is taking shape. 
Yep. That's a shameless selfie. Ha! But in the sake of being transparent, I wanted to put down a comment about the work God has been doing within my heart. Wounds from past ministry had me living life under the assumption that "if my voice was really heard, it would be bad." God has been healing this deep down to its roots. God has done amazingly amazing work in me, and its ok to say that "I am worth hearing, and what I have to say is pretty awesome." This sounds cliche or like something you would read on a motivational poster, but I am worth hearing. And when I recieve compliments, it isn't arrogant to be thankful. Every compliment adds to the crowns I get to throw at Jesus' feet. Glory Glory! I am ok with gaining those :)
 
7)I have discovered my undercover farmer.
If God were to tell me "Stop doing urban ministry. Right now." I know what I would do. I would be a farmer. With veggies and herbs and fruit trees. Ohhh, and have I mentioned my chickens? My mind is clear and my heart is joyful when I am out in my yard tending to my 'fields' and gathering eggs. On the third day of creation God said "It is good" twice. And THAT is the day vegetables and plants were created. It makes sense that time in the garden is healing for the soul. Ohhh, but if I were to REALLY become a farmer, I dream of owning cows. Grass fed ones of course :)
 
8)I know the delight of "one man's trash is another's treasure."
I took the leap this year. Right into a dumpster. Several times actually. It seems there is a whole resource at our disposal we aren't tapping into. I dipped my toe into the world of dumpstering this year and its actually a blast. And free, AND you get free stuff at the end. Just be careful to inspect everything VERY closely.
 
9)The wanderlust inside of me is bigger than ever!

Before this year I have traveled to far and distant lands (Africa, Asia, Central America, the Middle East) and loved every bit of it. I didn't realize the amazing thing it is to travel within the US. Now that I have seen the west coast, I am more excited than ever to spend time and (less) money exploring the states in years to come! Grand Canyon anyone?
 
10)I have become a part of the best neighborhood (in the 317 at least)
This neighborhood. It's so fun. My friends are here. The next door neighbor watches out for me. The children chase my chickens around and help in my garden. It's such a blessing to be here! Sure, it's not going to win any awards for "Best Place to Live in the US" any time soon (just wait...that time will come!), but it's home. And I love knowing the people that live around me. There's so great...and there is never a dull moment!
 
11)Every day I understand how much bigger Jesus is than my attempts to 'fix things'
It is almost laughable when I work so hard at my 'job'. It's always the moments when I am without an answer or 'getting out of the way' on purpose that God shows up and miracles happen. These are the moments when my voice doesn't break the walls down in someone's heart, but the Spirit does it...because really, He's the only one Who can. And I am learning how to shush and watch Him do it daily.
 
12)I have seen a dream given to me by God made real.
Four years ago, I don't know if I could firmly say "I believe God still gives prophetic words." But even then I heard one. God told me to stop teaching, and that He would give me a job in full time urban ministry. In the states. In faith (and with a considerable amount of fear) I stepped out. It's a beautiful thing to walk in the fulfillment of a delightful dream God has given you. Realized, after four years of frustration...this dream of urban ministry has been a joy each and every day. My God is good, and His love for me is as real as why my alarm goes off every morning and I get up to live out worship to Him. It's a rare gift, and I find delight in the Father Who gave it to me.
 
13)I am more confident that God is going to do things beyond my wildest dreams.
This year has provided me with reason after reason to know that God is real, He loves me...and He is ready to blow up my life for the kingdom, and for my own joy. I'm so excited to see what 2014 brings!!!

2.23.2013

The Day We Spent with the Talibes

If you have been anywhere within earshot of me in the past month, you know that I am in Senegal right now. This place has overtaken so much of my heart it is ridiculous. When I think about this place, the people here, and the things I have seen God do, my heart literally flutters.

As I write this, we are sitting in the hotel Massa Massa ('sorry sorry' in French - I have no idea about the naming) and we have just finished what we call "Talibe Day." Talibe mean 'disciple'. I am without hesitation, a Talibe Yesu, or disciple of Jesus. In Senegal there is a system of sorts in place where Talibe Boys are known as the ones begging on the streets of the city. Their parents live in the villages and cannot afford to care for them, or desire their sons to learn the Koran. So they send their sons at the age of 6 (or younger) to these Koranic schools, where they learn from a Daara. They memorize the Koran in hopes of using it for ceremonial purposes later in life.

The Koranic schools used to be in the villages, where family was near by and eyes of family were always watching and those who interacted with the boys knew them. Unfortunately, in the 1970s when drought and thus famine came, it was no longer sustainable for the Koranic teachers to stay in the villages and maintain their cost of living. So, the Koranic schools moved to the cities. This caused the parents to send their children far away, some over a 12 hour bus ride to live where they could not see them for most of their lifetime. The boys graduate typically at the age of 16 or 17, meaning they do not have contact with their family for over a decade.

The disconnection from family leads to other dilemmas. The boys are not near people that they know and who care for them. This opens up the door for much more exploitation and abuse. Because the parents cannot afford to pay a tuition to the Daara, the boys are sent out to beg on the streets. In a Muslim nation, this also allows those following the five steps of Islam to give alms, satisfying that religious need. This is where they encounter the harsh realities of city street life. Most get hit by cars, many get taken advantage of and a majority get sick.

The greatest and most obvious loss for them is the loss of being seen and cared for. Its an unwritten rule in every major city in the world that when you see someone begging, you turn away. You avoid looking into the eyes of someone that your heart knows you need to respond to, but can't help. If you give money, you are supporting the Talibe system. If you don't and he goes home to his Daara without enough money he gets punished for stealing, or laziness, or disobedience. Sometimes this is harsh, sometimes it is not as bad as a similar punishment would be in the village. But without knowledgeable eyes and people that know and care about the boys, the line is crossed into abuse far too often.

So what is the answer? Simply put. We don't know. What we do know is that when Jesus was on this earth, He didn't solve every social or economic problem. He will, but He hasn't yet. He loved, He looked into people's eyes and gave them respect, dignity and truth. So today we supported that calling for us to do the same.

There is a beautiful woman named Jane Hampton who has run a ministry to the Talibe boys for over 15 years. She pulls resources together to give them a day where they can get vaccinations, a bowl of oatmeal, play soccer, and be loved. While keeping open communication with the Daaras, Jane brings the boys in to her clinics for a day where they can get the shots they need (she keeps track on very simple cardstock using date stampers and handwritten notes) and also be seen, be cared for and loved.

My role has become my favorite over the two experiences I have had with Jane's ministry. It is called 'the triage table' but how I see it is one where I get to look each boy in the eye as I take their weight and temperature. I make them stand on the scale until I see a smile (they think I am just slow at reading weight). I want them to know that I see them, that I am not afraid to look them in the eye and smile. I see how they are fearfully and wonderfully made. They are human, they are image bearers of a God I am madly in love with.

Today was an extra above-and-beyond blessing. The 'street boys' that we saw last year, from only two out of the fifteen schools Jane ministers to were the SAME ONES we saw this year. I know it was only small glimpses into their eyes and momentary smiles when we didn't understand each other's language...but there was a previous relationship. I was able to build on it this year. When the boys walked up to me, they remembered me. The smiles came quicker and the moments were sweeter.

I know this was only one day in their lives out of years full of chaos and confusion. But I truly believe God opened up a door for us to be His hands and feet in a very obvious way to them. Just as He is our refuge and escape from this fallen world we live in, the environment Jane and the team created became that escape for the boys. They were free from the stress of begging for enough money to not be in trouble, and they were able to simply be boys. Even if it was only for a few hours. They escaped the reality of their situations for a brief moment and simply were.

I squealed a little bit every time I realized the handwriting on the cards was mine from last year. It was a special gift from God directly to me. I was building on previous relationships. They were small, they were momentary, but they were beautiful in a simple way. I could not have asked for a better first day of ministry here in Senegal. My heart is overjoyed with the blessing of this day, and the loving sovereignty of my God.

One of the sweet younger boys. 
Even the older boys enjoyed the time with the team.
The CFC team preparing the immunizations. 
 One of the many boys that our team had the wonderful pleasure of seeing for a second time.
The same boy above in 2012. 
 Emily went above and beyond in her service. She did wound care, something most of us shied away from very quickly.

8.19.2012

Oh, How He Loves Us . . .

"I just want to be loved."

These words were spoken to me by a client one day, the first day I met her actually. We had spent about four hours together talking about her life. She had turned 18 only two weeks before, and thus had been kicked out of her foster/adoptive home two weeks prior to our meeting.

This met my ears with a flood of emotion, and a flood of memories. Memories of moments where I have felt and known that I am deeply loved by a very real God. As I am writing this, I am coming to tears as I think about the depths of my soul where He has been and how He has healed those places.

Every female has those moments. Those thoughts in their heads. I'm not good enough. I'm ugly, unwanted, hopeless, and the worst . . . alone.

Throughout my walk with Jesus, trying to understand what it all means. What it means to know a God that created this world as a beautiful thing that glorifies Him, all while seeing fallness and anger and apathy all around me. How do you live that life? How do you sift through all of the crap and be joyful?

By believing truth. Not just memorizing words, not just flippantly saying "trust Jesus". . . but by taking the truth that is spoken so firmly and boldly in His Word and planting it deep in your soul so that it doesn't just touch the hurting place, but it takes root, it lays a foundation for further faith and deeper understanding to grow. And the very core of who you are - how you see everything and know everything to be is flipped on its head and you can't even view the world the same way anymore. 

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change and though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains quake at its swelling pride. Selah. The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our stronghold. Selah. Psalm 46:1-3

This becomes reality. You still go through the storms, in fact - you may encounter more as your faith is refined and put through the fire of sanctification, but you see them differently. You understand them as a part of God revealing Himself to be Who He says He is. Hard days come, and as Jesus Himself wept, you weep in moments of confusion and hurt.... but your core is firm. Who you know yourself to be isn't shaken, because that truth is rooted in your core. A Heavenly Father that loves you never leaves the throne and your identity as His beloved child can never be revoked. 

My eyes see everything differently.  The very random flower on the plant I walk by on my way to work? Well, its placed there by a Creator who loves me - so why not consider it a gift from Him, reminding me of His love? For me. The unexpected trial of moving halfway across the country only to find out it was all part of a web of deception? A chance for Him to show Who He is and prove His faithfulness to me. (Which He very much did in a fantastic way.) The place where I understand who I am because of Who is in control is beautiful. 

So we live life differently from that place. The weight of addictions....be it alcohol or drugs, or just the addiction of the 'being liked' by people fades away as we don't need the momentary bliss of it anymore. Do we enjoy moments of comfort, love and just plain fun with others? Of course we embrace those gifts...but we don't NEED to seek after them. Our needs are met. We are loved. We are completed by His love great love. Even on the tough days. 


7.05.2012

I really have no idea what I'm doing....

Relational support.

That sums up much of my role at Outreach, Inc. When it comes to case management, obtaining IDs, job searches, etc. I 'pass the kids on' to other workers. So my job? Relational support. Support them relationally.

Seems simple, right? Sometimes I feel like I should be DOING more...have more notes, process more paperwork, keep big bulky files of documentation of every moment of every day that I spend at the place I call "work".

But instead, I drink lots of coffee, spend lots of time listening, drive all over the city, learn the ins and outs of library branches and spend many moments of my day just laughing and enjoying the clients for who they are.

Then there are moments, at least twice a week, where I am overwhelmed. I am sitting with a girl, she is often in tears, and I have no words. My ears are listening to her, while my heart is waiting on God to provide the guidance toward the path He wants me to take. It often doesn't make sense.

Last week, a girl was so angry, she was threatening verbally to hurt herself and others. My response? I gave her colored pencils. HA! I'm not even kidding. . . this is what came about an hour or so later . . .





She told me it was the first time she could remember being that upset and she didn't end up hurting herself. Hmm, proof of Jesus being real? Yepper. 

 Today, I was in a similar situation. . . the overwhelmed situation. A girl was feeling deep rejection and when we got down to that tender spot of hurt, the Holy Spirit guided me as I expressed to her the deep love He has for her. Then I told her to go sit by herself for ten minutes and just ask God to talk to her. "He will just talk to me?" . . . having never heard an audible voice from God myself, I was a bit unsure of how to answer that, so I just said, "yes."

While she was off, I just kept praying and asking for God to show up. "PLEASE SHOW HER HOW REAL YOU ARE AND HOW MUCH YOU LOVE HER." . . in those or similar words over and over again.

She came back to me in tears, saying "God loves me, He thinks I'm special and beautiful and perfectly made."

No words I could have said with my mortal lips would have impacted her heart like that. He answered my prayer, calmed her heart and displayed His loving faithfulness. Was there a James-Earl-Jones sounding voice speaking from the clouds? I certainly didn't hear it, but however it happened, God spoke truth to her. It was a fantastically beautiful moment.

I have only been working at Outreach for a month, but almost a dozen stories are flowing to my mind like this. It's overwhelming and wonderful and precious. I'm aware that I'm in a sweet time in ministry here. Something special is happening for me to see Him working so clearly. I write these blog posts as a Gilgal. I want to remember the things God has brought me through, and always remember that He will continue to be this faithful, interactive God.

It's a fantastic place to be, a fantastic story to be living, and a FANTASTIC God to be serving.

6.05.2012

Little Moments. . . Huge Gifts

I am not a robot.

Therefore, I have emotional reactions to things. In this new endeavor there have been many moments when my body just wants to go somewhere alone and talk with God. Our conversation in those moments would mostly be (and has been) - - - "Wow. Are you SURE you want me doing this?"

The past week of digging in and really connecting with kids and hearing their stories has been hard. I could not love it more, but it has been hard. I have flipped life on its head in that I don't want the weekend to come. Sunday nights are a fight to sleep through, not due to anxiety, but excitement.

And it's hard. And when I say it's hard, I mean, it's beyond hard. If I could shut off the part of my heart that reaches down and feels what the kids feel it might not be as hard. But almost every time my eyes swell up with tears and I have to hold them back for the sake of the client.

Today, God gave me an amazing gift. It was a magical moment where I let the tears (only a couple) roll down my cheeks. It was perfect.


CrossFit. Yep. I went to CrossFit today. The workout was called Nancy. Apparently Nancy likes to beat up homeless teenage boys, and today she did a phenomenal job trying. . . but the boys did better.

I was there to mostly "encourage and empower" as the CEO directed me. So there was H, an overweight kid who has some developmental delays. Before we left for CrossFit I asked him if he was ready to have fun. He told me, "CrossFit isn't fun if you're a fat person." Hilarious.

So we head to the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department's training facility. (How awesome is that? These kids run, lift and bust their rears right along side the cops. I love it!) We get ourselves together and find out the workout is Nancy, which consists of a 400 meter run followed by 15 overhead squats. H's workout was modified to 200 meters and 10 squats with PVC pipe.

It was intense. He was finishing his second of three rounds and halfway through his squats, I was seriously worried he might not make it. And by "not make it" I mean, I thought we were going to have to drag H back to the van or call a medic in. So I stood with him and with each squat I told him he was amazing and the more he did, the less he had to do. Then I ran with him. My walking pace was quicker than his jogging, but he was doing it. He came back, finished ten more of the PVC pipe with a rest between each one. But. He. Finished. . . as the sweatest kid on the track.

So then to the most amazing part. Each time, the female police officer that leads the group hands out a teddy bear. Yes. A TEDDY bear. A brown fuzzy one. The kid that shows the most "heart" walks home with BABs, the "Bad Ass Bear." That means that twice a week, about twelve homeless teenage boys are fighting through intense workouts for a TEDDY BEAR. It could not be more perfect.

H won the bear. He won the freaking bear. This is when tears rolled down. It was this absolutely perfect gift of a moment where something beautiful happened right in front of me. . . then, when we were in the van driving back, he announced to everyone "Part of this goes to Megan, because she inspired me."

How do you NOT have emotional reactions to moments like this? Eat your heart out Hallmark commercials. The Outreach, Inc. kids have you beat any day of the week.

5.30.2012

Night Street Lessons


Tonight I dove deeper into developing my role at Outreach. I went on a hunt of sorts. L, my fellow outreach worker, took me to a camp nestled between the mega-million dollar Lucas Oil Stadium (home of Superbowl XLVI) and the White River. There we encountered a strip of land known to some as "the Jungle".

We hunched down and went under the bridge on one side to see a scattering of used up travel shampoos, burnt plastic spoons, empty sanitizer containers and other evidence of a typical squat location. The array of needles and spoons made it clear that this was a popular place to hide and shoot up. This was a moment where I nodded my head and thought, 'this is it. this is reality.' This is the reality of the life these kids live, and the reality of the lifestyle they are on the verge of slipping into.

Its the reality of who my God is. He is bigger than all of it. He is capable of healing the hurt that leads to the hiding, and the breaking away from society. And, for reasons beyond my comprehension, He has led me into this position where I am reaching out to these image bearing individuals.

As part of my introduction into this position, I am reading a phenomenal book entitled When Helping Hurts. It is incredibly insightful to be meeting the people of this city in line with reading this book. The understanding of what Christ did with us, does with us and will continue to be doing in us helps me to further develop my view of what "working with the homeless" means in Indianapolis.

What is success in homeless ministry? Is it when they confess their need for Christ? When they pass a GED test? Land a job? Get an apartment? The answer lies in looking at our own lives. When am I considered a successful woman? When I graduated college? When I landed a good job? When I buy a house? When I get married? (Gosh I hope not!) Its no different in determining when 'success' is reached with homeless.

Just like me, they are not projects. They are people. People befriend people. They invest in people, they take time to genuinely get to know each other. This is called friendship. It's called living life. Success in ministry isn't in the accomplished projects or number of boxes filled in on a list, but in the process of loving someone. Is a friendship successful when you're close enough to go to their house, go to the mall, go on vacation together? None of that makes sense.


Of course in this 'field of work' there are milestones. Points when you look back and see progress, see progress done by an interactive and powerful God. Glimpses of renewed views of self, God, people and the world. Its a gradual morphing of unhealthy and untrue views of things into an understanding of truth that causes lasting change. An unveiling of how God sees you. It's what made me into who I am. I even spoke to a coworker and said today, "I am not who anyone thought or expected me to be. And that is completely because of God stripping away so many lies I thought about myself and Him and life and replacing those with truth."

So I pray, HARD. I pray for eyes to see the hurts that are rooted in lies. I pray for the nudge that I am learning to feel more and more that guides my into speaking truth in those places. I am in tears as I right this, hoping, yearning, praying with each click of the keyboard, to be a mouthpiece. To be a tool used in the story of some of these youth that I will meet that God uses to breath the fresh air of truth into places where healing has to happen to break chains.

Lord. Use me.


5.28.2012

New Season! New Excitement!



Phew! It has been YEARS since my last post! I have been blessed beyond measure for a season of life in a church where I rested and grew and enjoyed phenomenal fellowship! Calvary Fellowship Church is officially my "home" where I feel rooted and loved. . .

But now. . . I am back out :) With my love, with my heart - in the city! Philly molded me, shaped me, HUMBLED me and brought me to an entirely different place in how I viewed myself in life and in ministry. Take that and add a couple of years of restful and amazing ministry in Chester County and I see how God lined things up in an amazing way to prepare me for this next phase.

I have decided to start the blog up again to share what is going on with everyone back in Pennsylvania. I have taken a job as a street outreach worker (SOW) at a ministry called Outreach, Inc. and I could not be more excited!!!!

As I am telling everyone, its the job I never thought I could get paid for! I will be the initial connection for girls (ages 14-24) that are homeless in Indianapolis. What I love about this ministry is that it is so in line with how Jesus loved us and reached us. Our relationship with Him is a friendship, and through that friendship, He guides us and changes us. The sinful thoughts, lies and misinterpretations of ourselves, our world and God Himself are brought out and cleansed and replaced with truth. This process causes deep change in us, it causes sanctification.

The beauty of Outreach is that it isn't a social service. It is friendship, and connection. We don't come down and 'touch' the homeless then go back to our lives. Each of us has committed to literally link arms with the kids and live life, being friends with them first, then as the Holy Spirit opens doors, we speak truth of who they are as image bearers into those darker places.

I sit here almost in tears of excitement, and anticipation for ways I know my God is going to show up and show that He is Who He says He is. It is extremely overwhelming, and that is exactly where I think every soldier of Christ should be. Overwhelmed, fully aware of the work that is out of our hands and completely  reliant on Him to prove Himself. . . which He seems to be in the business of doing - bringing glory to His own name.

I. AM. SO. EXCITED!

 Click Here To Check Out Outreach