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Leaving My Comfort Zone

21 Sep

Blog post by Emily B., Team Haiti 2012

My journey to the point of going on this trip to Haiti really began when I first learned about the new job my dear friend Emily Hilburn took. It’s been such a blessing to see how God’s used her in this ministry, to pray for her and to support her.

A little over a year ago, my office got a flyer from OATH (Oklahomans Against Trafficking Humans). Since then, I’ve done research on human trafficking right here in Oklahoma City and have seen first-hand what the local Church is doing to help this sad and heart-breaking situation. I had no idea it was so prevalent! Anyway, while this isn’t an orphan issue per se, we’ve been learning in our Journey 117 conference calls that it is an ‘orphan causing issue.’ Through all this, I can see how the Lord’s been preparing my heart for going on this particular trip to Haiti.

My final decision to actually go on this trip was through God totally opening the door wide (and through Emily’s suggestion and hinting that I should go). Work schedule worked out, Emily will be leading our team, and the day I decided to go, I happened to read that day’s Operation World email about a country to pray for – Haiti!

For me, this is a step of obedience. This is very much out of my comfort zone – but since when is the Christian life supposed to be comfortable? The Bible says Jesus cares for the orphans…so I should too! He’s challenging me in new ways, and I’m seeing His heart for orphans pretty much daily now…we haven’t even gone on the trip! I have no idea what He has planned after this trip, but I trust Him and know He’ll use this. It will be hard to go for only a week, but I hope and pray there will be life-long changes while we’re there (for the Haitians we meet and for the members on our team)…or at least seeds planted. I’m thankful we’ll be helping existing ministries that will still be there after we leave.

These little ones we’ll come in contact with are precious in God’s sight…He loves them more than any of us can ever imagine!

Emily resides in Oklahoma City and will be serving with Journey 117 in October on Team Haiti.

Pondering the Word ‘Orphan’

19 Sep

Blog post by Katy P., Team Haiti 2012

When I think of the word ‘orphan’, there are a lot of words that come to mind. Two of the dominate words are: starving and parent-less. There are a lot of orphans that are starving and have no parents, but there are also orphans who have to deal with much more terrifying and deadly things than that. Poverty, child labor, HIV/AIDS, sex trafficking, etc. are not the first things that come to mind when I think of orphans….but they should be.

Knowing that children all over the world face these kinds of terrible things makes me want to help them in any way possible. One of the reasons I am going on this trip to Haiti is to see firsthand what these kids go through on a regular basis. I want to be able to come back with a better understanding and know how to tell others what is going on and how they can help. I not only want to help with their everyday needs of clothing, food, and supplies, I want them to know that there is a loving, caring God who loves them unconditionally. He will be there no matter what happens in their lives.

On my first trip to Russia, I got to work with orphans. At one of the orphanages there were rooms with babies who never got held; they were fed by their bottles being propped up by pillows and they lay in their cribs all day staring at the ceiling. There was another room with kids that were disabled; they had all kinds of toys, but they were not allowed  to go anywhere because of their disability. In that room there was one little girl who had no legs, so she would scoot to me using her arms.  She was so happy. Another boy had no arms or legs, so he would roll to me. Still there were other rooms I could not go into because those were the rooms with the “sick” kids. I was never told what the symptoms were; all they could tell me was that the kids were very “sick.” Seeing and hearing all they went through really got to me and broke my heart. It got me thinking of what I could do and how I could tell others about how they could also help.

I realized that I am happiest when I am helping someone else. Whether it be somewhere in another country or right next door, I love working with kids. I can walk into a restaurant, store, church and anywhere else, and have a child smile or wave to me and it makes my day. I love to smile or wave back and to know that my smile or wave has made their day. It is one of the best feelings in the world.

A lot of people ask me “Why Haiti” and I honestly don’t know how to answer them. God has opened this door for me and I am going to step through it. Although I don’t know what is going to happen on this trip, I know that God has it under control, and I can’t wait to see how God is going to use me for His glory.

Katy resides in Oneida, KY and will be serving with Journey 117 in October on Team Haiti.

To Really Follow….

17 Sep

Blog post by Vivian M., Team Haiti 2012

Earlier this year I went on a retreat where I was asked two questions:

“What does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus?”

“What does it mean to follow – really follow – Him?”

Examples were then given of how different individuals answered these questions and their lives are a reflection of that. It was the last one that struck me. A picture of a girl only a couple years younger than me standing with her family in a middle class neighborhood flashed onto the screen. This girl had left all that was familiar to care for orphans in Africa and had been there for the past 4 years. Many of the other examples were older men and women that I didn’t identify with, but this girl – it was a little to close to home. This was my first push that I needed to step out of my comfort zone and do something.

Within the next couple weeks, a woman in my small group started talking about the adoption process her and her husband were going through to adopt a little girl from Ethiopia. She shared about the difficult situation of so many of the children in Ethiopia and how this is what God had led them to do.  Push number two.

I began to educate myself about the real situations of orphans worldwide and my eyes were opened to issues of child labor, child soldiers, sex trafficking, gender inequality, HIV/AIDS and other diseases that affect this population.  I did not know what I supposed to do, but I figured the first step is to understand the problem and God will let me know what is next. He did. Soon after, I learned about World Orphans through some family that went on a Journey 117 trip to Uganda.

While I am still figuring out what it means to be a disciple of Jesus, I have figured out that as I grow closer to God, I start to care more about things that are important to Him.  This trip is the next step for me in following Jesus and I am so excited for ways that God can use me!

Vivian resides in Virginia and will be serving with Journey 117 in October on Team Haiti.

Aligning Paths for Service in Haiti

15 Sep

Blog post by Amanda F., Team Haiti 2012

If someone asked me a year ago where I would be today, I would have never dreamed that this would be the answer. I am so thankful for the series of events that have lead me to the most exciting and rewarding experience of my life. The road to this place in life has been rocky and broken in places but, in the end, God has always shown himself.

I was raised in a Christian family and grew up going to church every Sunday. It was the norm for our family and I went because it’s just what we did. Throughout life I had the basic foundations of Christianity instilled in me, but I never had a real relationship with God. Around June 2011, six months after graduating college, I kept hitting roadblock after roadblock as I was trying to get jobs and move onto the next step of my life. I finally realized I couldn’t do life alone.  My brother and sister-in-law, whom I was living with at the time, are very strong Christians and sat me down one day to stress how badly God wanted me. For once, I listened. I began going to The Rock shortly after and have been growing more and more in my faith ever since.

Shortly after I started attending The Rock, I decided to start the Foundations courses to learn more about the faith I had claimed for so long. I had been praying and praying for God to make this giant church seem smaller and to help me gain strong Christian friends. It was the final day of the four-week course and, although I learned a lot, I hadn’t yet found the answer to that prayer. At the end of class a girl my age came up to me and introduced herself. She said that she held a small group at her house and, after hearing part of my testimony, she felt God urge her to invite me. She felt we had a lot in common. I was elated! After joining the group and becoming closer to this girl, she revealed to me that talking to a complete stranger was completely out of her comfort zone and the only reason she had the guts to talk to me was because she felt lead by God. Continue reading

Following My Heart to Haiti

13 Sep

Blog post by Andrea H., Team Haiti 2012

Putting my journey into words is a difficult task for me because I feel as though I could write a novel about it. I have been through many different life experiences to bring me to where I am today.

Since I was very little I have always had a passion for children and youth. As I have grown up I have continued to surround myself with children working with youth sports, babysitting and volunteering for many different city youth events. When it came time to make a decision on what I wanted to major in and choose as a career for the rest of my life, I chose teaching. I always dreamed of being a teacher, and a few years down the road in college I realized that special education was the specific area that I wanted to focus on. I realized I wanted to work with children with special needs because during my volunteer hours that I had to do to receive my bachelor’s degree, I became aware of the vast need for teachers and advocates in this area of concentration.

There are so many children and families that are overlooked and not helped in the way they should be. The more time I spent with these children the more my heart started to melt for them. I truly have a special place in my heart for all children but more importantly those children that are in desperate need of help. Continue reading

I Took One Step, God Multiplied it to 9,000 Miles

13 Jul

Blog post by Sarah O., Team India 2012

Sometimes I feel like I don’t really have a Story. Like, with a capital “S”. I just have a story, with a little “s”. I’ve had no great adversity, no real struggle, no dramatic motivating factors. I was never really outgoing, never really smartest or fastest or best at anything in particular. I was just a quiet child, younger of two, with an ordinary upbringing and four loving parents (divorce can sometimes be a blessing). When I was about twelve, I decided that was all there was to me: just sort of an indoor girl who didn’t like confrontation. It wasn’t until I was maybe around 17 that I finally decided that if I was going to sit around and wait for an external factor to make my life meaningful, I was going to be waiting forever. My life is what it is, and I have plenty to be grateful and proud of. How many punch lines my story had was ultimately irrelevant—it wasn’t about what I brought to the table, but what God was going to do with it.

Everything I have in my heart for orphans comes from God. I’ve never been truly abandoned, never been truly hungry, never been truly alone, and I cannot fathom what that must feel like. My life has been blessed. I don’t see any possible way for me to ever be content with what I have when I know someone somewhere has appallingly less and I can do something about it. My desire is to bring some good into the world, to put more in than I take out of it. How can anyone not want to pick up another human being who’s fallen down?

Every human being deserves a normal childhood where they don’t have a care in the world, and I want to be a part of an organization like World Orphans that helps to alleviate some of their hardships, provide for them their basic needs, and let them have back a few precious moments of carefree childhood. Children are the future. Maybe there is literally nothing that can ever be done to change the hearts of the greedy, the perverse, the corrupted, the selfish, the angry, the brutal, the ignorant. But what we can do – what everyone can do – is help to raise a new generation that cares, sympathizes, helps, heals, creates, and selflessly loves.

Why the orphan? Because someday the orphan will be the adult. Someday the orphan will be building the future. Someday, every child that is taken care of now will hopefully in turn take care of another. Every child has the ability to put some good into the world, if they are given the chance to reach their future.

Continue reading

From Perspectives to the Mission Field

12 Jul

Blog post by Laura P., Team India 2012

My journey to Journey 117 started when I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.  However, to make a long story short, I’ll fast forward years later when I was sitting in my college bible study during my first year of nursing school, hearing a friend talk about the class Perspectives that she was taking.  Perspectives on the World Christian Movement is a course all about Christian missions and our place in God’s purpose for the world.  It sounded fascinating, and I knew that I desired to learn more about God’s purpose and His path for me in missions.  God’s timing was not for me to take the course that spring but to wait another year and take it in Spring 2010.  I am confident that it was God’s timing, because that is when I met Emily Hilburn (Mobilization Coordinator for Journey117).

Laura (left) and Emily (right)

Emily and I were assigned to the same table. Too often, we found ourselves the only two laughing out loud at many of the speakers’ jokes.  We got to know each other throughout the semester and at the end of the course, we were both interested in helping the coordinating team the next year.  Little did we both know, God planned on us coordinating the class together!  So there we were, on a plane to Colorado for training!  Our friendship only grew from there, and we discovered that we are great travel buddies!  We had a fun and successful year coordinating Perspectives together and loved seeing the growth not only in our students but also in our own lives.  During that time, I got to see Emily go through the process of connecting with Journey 117 and through lots of prayer and seeking God, she took her dream job!  What a blessing!

Continue reading

It Started with a Broken Heart

11 Jul
Blog post by Mandy M., Team India 2012
My journey to this missions trip, honestly, started from a broken heart.  In the fall of 2010, I was happily engaged and busy planning a wedding to a man I was truly in love with.  I felt confident of the path I was on and content with where my life was heading.  One month before the wedding, however, my fiancé abruptly called it off and my world went into a painful tailspin.  I spent the next year grieving the loss of that relationship. . . and the dreams I thought would come true.  I relied heavily on my faith, family and friends to get through those first few months.
It was during that time that I was lead to Isaiah 43:18-19: “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” It became my prayer for the next year.  I prayed for the favor of God, to be boldly used and that He would spring something new up in my life.  I knew that since my life took such a dramatic turn, He must have very different plans for me and there was a great sense of adventure in that. I also had a burden to seriously started praying for a missions opportunity.  I have felt, for many years, the tug to pursue oversees missions but it wasn’t until the unfolding events of the last two years that I began to earnestly seek a way to serve Him in this capacity.  My desire to be near Him, to serve Him even more, was growing deeper and deeper.  My broken heart was healing and I was seeing the new adventures He was bringing my way.
I have always had a heart for children.  When this opportunity to serve with Journey117 opened up early this year I knew it was a great fit and felt so blessed to be able to serve!  I cannot wait to see how He uses all of us next month and know that this is only the beginning of something even greater in store.  We serve such an awesome God.  He takes you places you sometimes least expect and the road is often extremely bumpy.  But how He loves us!  I simply want to world to know this!  I am truly thankful for this opportunity.
Mandy resides in South Dakota and will be serving with Journey117 this month on Team India. 

To See Them Smile

10 Jul

Blog post by Lauren Y., Team India 2012

I can’t believe I’m leaving for India in a little over one month! Two years ago when God laid the kids in India on my heart, I never imagined I’d actually be able to go make a difference in their lives. I feel so completely blessed to have this opportunity.

Ever since 8th grade, I’ve attended mission trips with my church or school. Usually these trips involved working with kids in some way. I always got such joy out of playing with them, loving on them, and seeing them smile.

I realized that I am most happy and content with my life when I’m helping someone else to be happy. My mom helped me realize this fact when I came home from helping with VBS just beaming and filled with stories. She said, “You might want to consider studying to become a teacher!” So that’s exactly what I did. As an Education major, I’ve had the opportunity to work with many different kinds of kids. I realized that I’m often drawn to those who come from difficult backgrounds or are less fortunate than many. I feel as though so often these types of kids are neglected or overlooked.

This is why I’m so drawn to India. Often times I think people are either unaware of the amount of kids living in the streets, or they don’t know what to do about it. I know I can’t fix the situation these kids are in, but I can at least let them know how much they’re loved and give them hope for the future. When I was looking for organizations going on mission trips to India and I came across Journey 117, I was so drawn to what they were trying to do. Loving on kids, just as God loves us, learning about what God would have us do to give justice to the oppressed, and enlightening others on the topic of injustice in the world.

People often ask me, “Why India?” And honestly, I don’t have a definite answer. All I know is that God has given me a passion for the country and its people. For about 2 years, I have been praying for an opportunity to go, and finally God has said, “Yes!” I can’t wait. Although I am so nervous and anxious, I am so excited that this trip could be the beginning of a whole new chapter in my life!

Lauren resides in North Carolina and will be serving with Journey117 this month on Team India.  

The Journey117 Nicaragua Team is Prepped and Ready

9 Jul

Blog post by Team Nicaragua 2012

Over the past 7 months,  we’ve seen God provide in an amazing way through our fundraisers and letters!  Although the amount we needed to raise seemed insurmountable at first, we’ve raised above and beyond what we hoped for.  We are excited to be able to bless the various ministries and children we’ll be working with in Nicaragua.  Thanks so much for your support of this trip!

During our time of preparation, we’ve learned to work together as a team as we made jewelry, waited tables at our Fiesta Dinner, hosted a golf scramble, priced donated items at our garage sale, hauled rocks for a work project, and spent many hours preparing for ministry with kids.  We’ve also spent hours working on homework and discussing issues such as orphan ministry, Nicaraguan culture, and how to serve effectively on a short term trip.  Even though we haven’t gone to Nicaragua yet, we’ve learned so much already!

With less than a week before we leave, we are in the final stages of packing and last-minute details.  We are excited to begin serving in Nicaragua!  We leave Saturday, July 14 and will return Tuesday, July 24 (at 1 a.m.).  Thank you for your encouragement throughout the past 7 months, and your prayers while we are in Nicaragua.

Team Nicaragua 2012

Team Nicaragua will be serving with Journey117 in July.