You are My Friend

unnamed-3.jpg

Like most, if I look back at my life, I can count very few who have been there for a long time and stuck around until now. Like most things, some friends come and go. But once in a while you will find people who come into your life, and stick around, and continue to pray with you and see you for who you are.

We take people like this for granted. We take the word “friend” very lightly. I’m learning a lot about friends and also what it means to be one. On the mission field, people we meet and become very close with in a short period of time constantly encounter us. When you truly put relationships first, you become friends quickly and are bonded by not only the experiences you share but also the lifetime warranty that someone knows you, will stand in the gap for you, pray for you, and even if you don’t see each other again, will await eternity together.

Recently, in a small, rural town in Northern Namibia, among the trees and bush lies many people called the Himba tribe. Their traditions span down from hundreds of years ago. Coming from the Western World to them, it’s as if time stands still seeing their huts made of dirt, the way they cook over a fire, dress in next to nothing, and live with almost nothing. To the outside world, we wonder why, but entering into these places, you see it’s about families and traditions.

On our first week up in Northern Namibia, we traveled about an hour outside of the town we were staying in to a Himba Kraal (a communal place they built with many huts and fires and cattle). We had lived among them in the town we were staying but to truly step out of anything familiar and into their land was amazing but so different. I was awestruck that God created them knowing full well that every people and nation would be so different, yet here we were together in a bit of a stare down because of the language barrier.

I was not sure how we were going to communicate but I kept asking God to allow the doors to be open as He wanted. We walked to the top of the hill where they were going to build their church. Previously, they were gathering for church by a tree. This particular tribe is one of the few who have come to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior and you could sense Him and feel the peace there. As we were on top of the hill, the Himba women looked at us and we looked at them, unsure of what to do or say. We do not speak one word of the same language. Thankfully, one of us remembered how to ask for their names and so in the best Herero I could mutter, I asked the first lady her name. We laughed a bit but she realized I was asking for it and she told me, and we went around the circle and said our names and laughed at how they couldn’t say our names and we couldn’t say theirs.

What happened next, it something that will stay etched into my brain for my whole life. It brought the meaning of every knee will bow, every tongue will confess and the nations will come before Him. I simply asked our translator what the word “friend” was and I looked at my new friend and told her in Herero, “you are my friend.” She smiled a big smile and looked back at me and pointed at me and said in Herero and through excited squeals "friend, friend." We walked hand in hand down the hill and she took my right hand and put a bracelet on and pointed at her heart. I don’t even know how to describe such a simple gesture but I truly meant it, and I know she did too: We are friends. Not just the friends who will see each other a lot and laugh but for eternity, she will be my friend. The rest of the day we sang and laughed with them. We tried on each other’s shoes, we prayed with and for them. I’ll never get to tell you the way I saw God but I saw Him in each of their faces, I felt Him in their presence and I truly believe I will see them again.

I pray that I never forget these moments where it’s not about how much I will see people or how many words were said, but the meaning from the heart when we looked each other in the eye and said we are friends. We meant it. We felt it. And I want to be that kind of friend. I know I can look back and remember the tribe we visited and they can look back at the girl who came to them and could barely say their name but was able to pray over them. I was challenged to not just say we are friends but to be one, then and until I see them again.

God is just so amazing. While being in Namibia and taken out of the city where I live in South Africa, I was able to contemplate God and think about how big and how vast He is while watching elephants cross the road, or the sun set over the lions and cheetahs land. He is the breathe of the Himba tribe and He is the blood that makes my heart beat. We are all one body, connected through Jesus Christ and I want to be a friend and find a friend in every part of the body that I meet.  I want to remember what Christ did daily and not only just remember it but be about it. Share that love. That unconditional love that He wraps me in. Share the grace. The grace that He gives daily so we can continue to fight the good fight. Share His promise. The promise of eternity with Him and our family of believers. Share His friendship. The friendship I have in Jesus and my Father in Heaven.

Lord, I pray to always be brought to my knees from the things of the Kingdom and to share everything you’ve given me by seating me in the Kingdom with you. Thank you for your love at this moment and forevermore and when the nations will come together, I pray for all of my friends, that we will worship together in Heaven. 

Suffering With

Compassion: the humane quality of understanding the suffering of others and wanting to do something about it

What does it mean to suffer with someone? We hear of suffering every day, we see it and we sometimes feel it, but a lot of times it’s easier to say we’re praying for someone and not actually step into the situation. Don’t get me wrong, praying is absolutely necessary and vital, but what if we take it a step further?

When I look at the ultimate example of compassion, I think of Jesus. He came to earth, lived a perfect life of no sin but all the while He suffered with many. He walked beside people, He wept for death, and then gave His life. Matthew 27:50

While my team and I have been in Mozambique, we first hand stepped into a situation far deeper than our own lives. Colonized by the Portuguese, Mozambique lived under that rule for many years and when colonization ended, a 20 year civil war broke out leaving the country utterly devastated. Mozambique is unlike any other place in Africa I’ve been but it’s also amazingly beautiful. I can see God everywhere I look.

Just in the first week, we came here, stayed in town, lived with families, ate food with them, started learning their way of life, prayed with and for them, we talked about God in different languages, and saw glimpses of healing happen from just smiles, hugs or a simple game.

When love goes somewhere, it breaks down barriers.

I’ve come to know a deeper sense of compassion. In just a few days, we entered into suffering with people but also the joy that comes with it.

I usually feel like I don’t walk away with much to show. I’ll show pictures of a village, or kids, or my host families, but to really get to the heart of change and what really happens here, I need to explain how we enter into communities. I’m not here to fix them but I’ve come to suffer with them, to love them with the love God gave me, to laugh, to weep with them, to eat, pray, and worship. And that’s priceless. Every place in Africa, from my home in South Africa to the villages of Mozambique, has shown me more of God’s heart for His people and given me compassion for each one.

 

 Kids running after our car when we enter the village. One of the sweetest sights for me. 

Kids running after our car when we enter the village. One of the sweetest sights for me. 

 Walking to the river with a sleeping baby  

Walking to the river with a sleeping baby  

IMG_5645.JPG

Day time in Mocuba 

IMAGE.JPG

The Chief and his family 

IMAGE.JPG

City streets of Mocuba 

Heart Like an African Taxi

There’s a saying in Africa that we typically use in our family, “heart like an African taxi, there’s always room for one more.” Unless you’ve been in an African taxi, this would make zero sense. Let me break down the process with you.


We were in Lesotho at our base camp getting ready to go on a two week home stay in the surrounding villages. They told us we’d be ready early in the morning and the taxi will take us to town then another to our new homes. So we said our goodbyes and headed down the mountainous terrain. Immediately loud, colorful music with beats that could be heard for miles was playing and our new besotho brothers and sisters were dancing and laughing urging us to dance like crazy with them. We stop, pick up a person, music played and we danced. We stopped, picked up another person, music played and we danced.


As we got to town and to our next taxi, we realized, these taxis do not leave town unless they are completely full. So sometimes you’re waiting hours until the 15 passenger taxi is full. We waited about an hour before we set off to our host sister, Mpeo’s, house in a village about an hour and a half away. Music played and the same process happened: we stopped and picked up people. Everywhere few minutes, we stopped until people were literally standing in the doorway and we were driving with the door open. It’s an experience to say the least but it got me thinking.


I want my heart to always be like an African taxi. Isn’t that God’s heart toward us? He chases us down, stops, let’s us in His love and wants us to enjoy our presence in Him. I want to be the one that stops for the next person because they won’t just “catch the next taxi,” they are worth it to the kingdom of God and I want them to know.


If there’s anything that I’ve learned in my time in Africa in the last few years of any importance, it’s that love is so vast and unique. God’s Love is like an African taxi: it stops, let’s us in with all our baggage and carries us where we need to be. Love looks different and the way God shows us love is amazing.


Love looks like my host sisters who’s known me one day hold my hand through the entire village because she didn’t want me to be lost. Love is our other host sister running through a field to greet us because she couldn’t wait for her other two sisters to come. Love is our host mom bringing out an old family photo album and pictures of her husband who passed away because she wants us to know about her life. Love is our host sister dancing and playing soccer with us on the side of the Lesotho mountains in our small village. Love is praying in Sesotho or our host mom eating dinner last just to make sure we had enough. Love is five of us sitting a small room praying in two languages to the same God before we go to bed.


Love is so vast. God’s love is so unique. It stops for the passerby, the stranger, and even the friend. His love dances with us in eternity. His love radiates hospitality and goodness. I want to pray for my heart to be more like an African taxi because God’s love is just like that, His kingdom is like that - limitless and always willing to stop for you.


“If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.”

1 Corinthians 13:3 

 

 

IMAGE.JPG
IMAGE.JPG
IMAGE.JPG
IMAGE.JPG
IMAGE.JPG
IMAGE.JPG

Kingdom Moments

Often times in working with many people, communities, and teams, there is so much wear and tear on my mind, body, and soul. By the end of this last week, I totally felt like a truck had run me over. Twice. I was sore physically from working long hours in the fields in our squatter camp of Mooiplaas. I was mentally exhausted from the relational aspects that come with dealing with many different types of people and lastly, I was aching emotionally from a hard week of battling for truth, keeping God in the center, and being in between many different facets of team and community dynamics.

I began to think in my mind how this last week was a bad week and how I just couldn’t wait for some rest at some point. But, the rest didn’t seem like it was anywhere on the horizon. I was struggling to see a point in being drained so much. While I was sitting in a meeting Friday in our community, just waiting for lunch, I wrote the questions down, “What does the Kingdom look like to you?”

I smiled.

There were moments this week that took my breath away because I realized how much I love seeing God’s Kingdom come to life but also how much I love South Africa and where God has put me. Some of my biggest prayers for working in the communities here in Africa are to see God’s Kingdom here between the blessed and broken mindset. We’ve been studying a lot about the Kingdom and I’m learning it’s sometimes in the little moments that we see God’s Kingdom in big ways.

I saw the Kingdom and faithfulness in returning to a school after two years to smiling faces that remembered me and were shocked and happy I returned.  I saw the Kingdom in seeing kids come to life by dancing and smiling as our team worked with them to show them how loved and cherished they were. I saw the Kingdom come to life in teachers and workers who do not waiver in their commitment to teach kids about life and school beyond their circumstances of living in a squatter camp. I saw God’s Kingdom come down to earth when two groups from America and Africa sang worship hymns in Sepidi, harmonizing under the sun, and singing about the love of our one, true God. I saw the Kingdom in team member’s as their worldview’s were being shattered but built back up for God. I saw God’s Kingdom in new ways in the pure joy in worshipping and through song.

These moments were more than just moments for me. They were seeing the seeds being planted; growing, and harvested in all of the people we encountered this week. As I read this week, I came across a verse that now looking back, God used to show me these moments.

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:18

In the moments where the days are long and the weeks are hard, I want to remember to keep my eyes fixed on the Creator of the Earth that is unseen to the blind eye, but when looking around, I can see Him everywhere; even in the mundane and the amazing moments. I want to look to the eternal to keep trudging along. While I look all around me and see brokenness, I can look to God to show me His Kingdom in whatever we are doing. This week was extremely hard, but God’s Kingdom is everlasting and beyond worth it. This week, I urge you to ask yourself:

What does God’s Kingdom look like to you?

 

IMAGE.JPG
IMAGE.JPG
IMAGE.JPG

Come As You Are

 

I think if I were to poll one hundred people, most would be like me. In life, we tend to look at things that happen to us. We react. We ponder. We worry. We wonder. We change. We move. We ebb and flow within our circumstantial limits. A lot of what happens to us defines how we move forward. Something good happens, all is okay that day. If something bad happens, it affects who we are. Simple, right?

Nope.

Sometimes I feel like for 27 years of life, there’s been a lot that has happened that has directed my steps. Through others sin, hurt, abuse, and pain, it led to my reaction of my own sin cycle of addiction, cold-heartedness, and eventually jail – chains I put on myself. This cycle led to depression and an unwavering self-doubt that I had any purpose in life. Undoubtedly, I reacted in a bad way to the circumstances in my life. I was fickle in my thinking that I could handle life on my own.

You see, something happens when we rely on ourselves. We simply just cannot do things in our own strength. About a year and a half ago, my life changed. That’s almost an understatement. Through a divine encounter with broken, messy grace, God captivated my heart fully while in the middle of an African desert. I came with the pretense that I would be serving God, but really what I found out is that I didn’t really know God. But, He had other plans to save my life.

I can’t really pinpoint what exactly happened. It was a mix of having nowhere to go but God. And also, people that God placed in my life, that for the first time, spoke words of life into me about God and His love that I still hold onto today. I think God is sometimes funny like that. He knows me, His child, so well that He knew He had to bring me out into the middle of nothing to get my attention. If you know me, you’re probably laughing right now.

It was here in Africa that I started to realize that I had to face what had happened but not on my own. In Christ’s strength, He took every single circumstance that had happened to me or that I had created on my own and nailed it to the cross. The grace of the Cross is messy and beautiful. Tragic and amazing. Hard but wonderful. When I finally believed that I had worth and identity in Christ, my whole world changed. 

“You have to make what Jesus did for you bigger than what has happened to you.”

When I first heard that quote, I was so convicted. I think we tend to live our lives reacting to things that happen to us. We blame our circumstances on others or what is going on around us. For the first time in that African desert, I had to come to the conclusion that the blood of Jesus Christ took care of every pain, hurt, mistake, shame, or hopelessness that I feel. Jesus died for ME. For you. For all of us, so that we may live in freedom. There is absolutely nothing less or more I could do to be saved. Christ redeemed me.

It’s been a little over a year and a half since I first came to Africa and I find myself here again. But not here by my own effort. Only by the loving kindness and grace of God. He brought me this far to write this part of my story in using what had happened in my life to speak to others. I can walk in freedom because of Christ. I can look at the things that happened and not be completely and utterly devastated because I can look to a savior who is the ultimate comforter.

“The Lord is my shepherd. I lack nothing.” Psalm 23:1

As I sat there and read this verse this morning, one I’ve read a thousand times, I am amazed that it puts right there how we need to live. I lack NOTHING. This doesn’t mean that everything is okay but could be better. It doesn’t mean that I need to be defeated because of situations in my life. It doesn’t mean I need to worry about what is going to happen. It literally means there is NOTHING that I need more than Jesus. If I am resting in His love and freedom, my life lacks nothing.

And that’s where I find myself. God brought me out of unbearable chains so I can turn around and tell others that they too, lack nothing. On the days where life seems a little bit harder, I constantly am reminding myself that the Lord is my shepherd and I lack nothing. Nowadays, instead of singing the tune of living in the hurt, I can absolutely say that freedom in Christ is better when I truly step into it. When we fully surrender to His love, we are consumed and from that, want to love others.

I’m amazed daily that this is the story God is writing in my life. I’m amazed that God put me back in the place that is home with people who are family and allows me to tell of His life-saving love. I want to always remember that there is nothing in this world that is greater than God’s love for us. And for you too, friends, there is nothing too big that God cannot handle. He loves you just as you are.

Jesus didn’t say “come to me when you are perfect.” He simply says, “Come as you are.” Let’s come to Him today. Life may be messy but God just wants to love you right now. Rest today in that. I know I am.

 

IMG_3023.JPG
IMG_2943.JPG

Positively Broken

“Lord, let me always be led to praise You with people who You care about so much.” This was the prayer I prayed at church the other day. You see, here in Darling, church looks a lot different than what we are used to in America. There’s no stage or hundreds of seats. Mostly here, it’s an old church building, a guitar, and people who are willing to love the Lord with all they have. At a farm called Klipvlei, I had a moment that I don’t think I’ll ever forget.

Often times, as someone who works in the mission field, I pray for God to break my heart for His children. Many days, I wrestle with walking out of the situations we see and leaving the kids or adults there. Not because anything was done to them, but the poverty is so high because of circumstances they find themselves in. On the farms especially, alcohol use is prominent as well as drugs, violence and more. Many times in church, the alcohol smell lingers and it’s not uncommon for someone to be drunk. It’s not a very comfortable atmosphere, but the ways God moves is always incredible.

“Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and positively broken.” – C.S. Lewis

I read that this morning and can actually feel the heartache. Heartache of knowing the type of pain these people are feeling because that was me drinking my life away. Heartache for the shame that goes with it because I had to deal with the consequences of drinking. Heartache for the circumstances I see and their lack to want to rise out of it. Heartache that I can only do so little. Heartache that a hug and a prayer sometimes doesn’t feel like enough. Loving people is hard. Loving them how God wants us to love is heartbreaking.

Today as we were worshipping, I saw a lady who was crying. Our eyes locked for maybe one second but almost immediately tears welled up in my eyes. As we sang and clapped and shouted praise to Jesus, my heart was breaking for the tears in her eyes. She was very old and had a face where you can tell she has lived a lot of life. She was singing and crying and I was crying knowing her heart hurt. God was stirring in my heart for me to share how much He loves her and I almost leapt over to hug her. As the service finished, she asked the Pastor if someone could pray for her and she literally opened her arms and walked to me and I was able to pray right then and there for her. After praying, we talked and laughed and her story was as heartbreaking as I saw in her eyes.

I don’t say this story because of anything I’ve done but to show how big our God is. In that moment, a girl from America, and an older lady from Africa were able to share the love of God and how big it is for all of His children. No matter her circumstances or her past, God’s love for her was evident. We laughed and cried together. God broke my heart for her without ever hearing her name knowing that later in the service we would meet and I would get to pray and hug her neck.

I’m so thankful for a God who goes to the ends of the earth for us. I’m thankful that He is a God who loves us so much to break our hearts for what breaks His. I’m ultimately thankful for Jesus, and that through the heartache and through the pain, the love of the Father is so evident that I am allowed the opportunities to share His love. There is something so special about Africa. The way people worship. The way people depend. The way they praise without abandon. The way they love. If there’s anything I am holding onto, it’s the grace of a Father who knows my heart so much that He allows me to share a little of my story each passing day here. I’m able to love and positively have my heart broken in the best possible way. Thank you, Jesus. 

IMAGE.JPG
FullSizeRender.jpg

For the One

Continually people ask me about the mission field. I hear questions of “what’s it like?” “Is it amazing?” “Do you tell so many people about Jesus?” “What do you do?” Mostly, along with each of these questions there’s a statement of resounding, “That’s so cool.” “I would love to do that.” “You get to travel to so many places.”  And I normally smile and laugh and agree. It is amazing, and I do get to go to some cool places, but that’s not the reason I love and am thankful to do what I do. The funny thing is, part of me laughs because most of the people I’m talking to also do these things, but in a different capacity.

 Over the last two years, my faith journey has been tremendous by nothing that I did. To say it was or is ever easy would be completely smashing the immeasurable grace God has poured out over my life. He allowed me to be saved from sin, other’s sin, bad choices, bad consequences, and overall has been in a process of redeeming so much hurt from my past. Recently in a sermon from someone who I hold very close to my heart, we were asked, “Who is Jesus to you?” I immediately said “Savior.” And he continued to press in after a few more answered and said, “if Jesus is all the things we say He is, we need to live that out.”  If Jesus is my Savior, how can I not walk around with joy in my heart wanting to give that gift to every single person?

Therein lies the answer to the questions above about what I do and if it’s amazing. It’s all those things, and more. But, I didn’t have to come all the way to Africa to do it. I’ve learned a lot in the last few years about being faithful where we are. Pressing in. Doing the hard work to love others and really love them in any season and any place of life. It’s hard. It’s uncomfortable when our plans don’t line up with what we expected out of life. But one thing I do know about Jesus being my Savior is that He died for my sins, so I could go on living life and loving people how He would have wherever I am.

I’m amazed at grace and redemption every time I open my eyes in Africa.

Immediately when I landed, I felt home. Peace washed over me like waves in the ocean and I felt renewed, amazed, and incredibly thankful of the gift of being here. I walked back into family and friends and it’s nothing short of amazing that God gave me more than I could have imagined or expected to be able to come back to Africa to spread His hope and love.

 Recently, in our farm community of Darling, South Africa we were in a small church service on one of the farms. I counted the number of people at the service that were not the missionaries, or staff of the organization we work with. 11. I kind of stood amazed because a lot of times we think of large gatherings and big buildings for church. I stood amazed that as I heard them worship the songs we know but in a way only you could hear in Africa, that the sound was loud and I could feel God was in there. We drove about 45 minutes to get to this church and it wouldn’t have mattered if it were 11 people or 1,100 people – we would go for them anyway. God was with us, before us, and after us.

As I start life again in Africa and this journey God has brought me on, He is constantly reminding me to live out who I say and believe that He is.  He is my Redeemer, my Healer, my Savior, my Author, my Maker, and so many others. If I know these things to be true, I want to live that out with my whole being. I want to love others so well that they only can see Jesus in me and what He has done for all of us. I want to remember that even if it’s only for one person that I was sent to earth to spread Hope to, I will love the best I can for the one. Wherever we are, we can love. We can remember Hope. We can step forward in faith without seeing the whole picture because the One was sent for us.

 

IMG_2262.JPG

One of the farms we were on

IMG_2191.JPG

Sunrise in Darling  

IMG_2345.JPG

Our farm and ministry center - Jeria Sending  

Oh, He is good

I’ve only been in Africa a few days but I still have to constantly remind myself how faithful God is. I know He is.  Very few know the process of what it took to actually get here. He moved mountains, stood with me in the hills and valleys, but even in knowing that, as soon as I got the chance to sit down, I got scared. I was worried about the future, scared of adjusting to African culture (again), I missed people, my dog, my daily Texas sunset. But in all of those, I am reminded that the price Jesus paid for me is so much bigger than those tiny worries.

None of those comforts, trials, valleys, or doubts can describe what He did for me and you and how good God truly is. His love reaches far and wide even when I’m nearly out of everything it takes to feel love and love in return. God remains when everything good in me does not.

In Romans 8:31- 32 His word says, “ If God is for us, who can be against us? He did not spare his own son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give you all the things?”

Amazing, isn’t it? The God of the universe, the creator of the heavens and the earth gave his son for me. For you. For sinners. For poor and rich. For Americans. For Africans. There is nothing that we can do that can separate us from His love. As I sit here, trying to grasp that, the present worries seem to fade. Life on the mission field brings lots of discomforts, but the big picture of Hope is life giving.

Daily already I’m brought to praise as God shows his faithfulness to me through seeing the people I became so close to and daily I’m reminded if I don’t turn my face to God, I am easily distracted from the purpose He designed me for. God’s love is so vast and I’m so thankful I can see Him in action here in Africa.

Adjusting is always hard. If you know me, you know change is not my thing. But my thing is to follow a God who loves us so deep, cares so much, and is in every detail of our highs and lows. I want to sing of His goodness when things are smooth and I want to be brought to praise and say He is good when life doesn’t feel good.  He is good. 

The last few days have been filled with reunions, hugs, love and returning to show God’s faithfulness to others. To be the person God uses for that cannot be matched. I’m humbled, thankful, and praying to never lose my wonder in a creator who is so, so good.

My team and I are off to Darling, South Africa for a month of farm ministry. I’m thankful for each prayer and person who is there through this process. I am in kind of a twilight zone with jetlag and lack of sleep but I stand in awe of actually being here. As I enter this next month, my prayer is to remain steadfast in love and bear in love with one another – my team, the community, and anyone we come in contact with. 

IMG_2147.JPG

Ntombi - such a sweet reunion  

IMG_2151.JPG

Street view - Centurion  

 3m South Africa  

3m South Africa  

Letter to Myself

The following is a letter I wrote to myself when I returned from Africa for the first time, nearly 10 months ago. I read it again today and I cried. Not sad or happy tears but tears because I'm thankful for how God works. I'm thankful that when I feel like a failure, He is there. I'm thankful that when I'm lonely, He guides my path. I'm thankful that for the unknown, He is my home. I hope by sharing this, you can be encouraged to look at what God has done for you, I know I'm thankful He is always there for me in good times and in bad.  

 

"Hey julia,  

I'm so proud of how far you've come since going to Africa and coming back. You just seem so at peace. I want you to remember some things from this experience. Always remember to carve out time with God - your relationship with God means more than anyone else. Remember how faithful he's been during this time and your whole life. Pray without ceasing - God takes care of it all. I also want you to remember to choose love. Choose love when you don't want to. Choose love when you're tired. Choose love even when it hurts. That's how God has loved us. I hope at this time in your life you've figured some stuff out (P.s. I haven't). I know you want to go back to Africa - I hope you make it back. I also hope you are bringing hope to people no matter where you are. People gave you hope when you least expected it but you most needed it. Be that person for someone. Lastly, I hope you forgive more. It hurts to hold onto the hurt. Remember how Jesus and people forgave you. Remember how beautiful you are - how God made you. Remember how much He loved you and also His grace in your life. Be kind, always smile and have joy. 

 

Love,  

Julia."

 

 

IMG_1195.JPG

God Just Wants Our Yes

In July 2016, I prayed a prayer that would forever impact my life today. I simply asked God to lead me to His path wherever that was. I prayed and said “God, I’ll follow where you take me.” Over the last nine months, I had a feeling on my heart that God would send me. I knew I wanted to go to Africa. More specifically, I knew I wanted to be in South Africa, working on building the relationships I fought so hard for in the communities I was in. I prayed some pretty bold prayers but over the course of these last nine months, God was doing something even I can’t explain.

I think God sometimes puts desires in our hearts for people and places to draw us closer to Him. Before leaving on my first mission trip to Africa, I had big dreams. I wanted to move to New York, become an Advertising Executive, and live the lifestyle of such. I thought that by doing that, I would have “made it.” I was striving for worldly success because that’s all I had really known; that’s how I gained love and acceptance.

Upon arriving in the desert of Africa, without cell phones, without basic amenities, I really had to come to terms with myself, my past and my future. Was I living for myself or was I really living for God? Now I know He doesn’t do this for everyone, and our stories all look different, but for me to have a wake-up call about my life, God put me right in the middle of a desert so all I could run to was Him. That first month, I spent hours reading the bible, just praying hoping that in some sense I’d find healing or a purpose. When you have nothing to run to, God is right there waiting with open arms.

Over the next 5 months in Africa in late 2016, I started to dig deeper into who I was. I started to realize my identity was not my past, nor my job, nor anything else in between. Christ is in me and that is who I live for. God brought me to Africa to realize His love for me and then sent me back after turning my life and heart upside down. Over these last six months, I’ve had somewhat of an identity crisis. I was so transformed while in Africa that I didn’t know who I was in America anymore. My desire had switched from wanting to gain worldly success to wanting to glorify God in all that I do. But what does that look like here?

Honestly, these last months have been trying. Past hurts, pain and life all happened and I was struggling without a plan or a purpose. I’ve begged and pleaded and asked God to send me but knew I had to be faithful where He put me. I had fallen so deeply in love with people and places but I knew I had to say “yes” to God and not people or places. Honestly, for a time, I wanted to go back because of my own selfish desires but over time, through God revealing my brokenness in many ways, I had to learn to say “yes” to Him and His plan. I decided to keep saying “yes.” I said yes to teach English to International students here in America. I said yes to new colleagues who have now turned into close relationships. I said yes to serving and loving right here, right now. I said yes to God. Wherever He put me, I was going to say yes to His plan. So God put opportunities in front of me for Uganda and I said yes to that too. I went as far as sending out support letters and I was all in for God because I realized I wanted to follow Him, even if it wasn’t what I wanted.

Read that last line again, “even if it wasn’t what I wanted.” I had to come to a place to honestly admit to my heart and self that I wasn’t going to do what I want but rather I was going to desire Him and have Him work on my heart. I have gone back and re-read some of my prayers and I realize how God was changing and working in my heart. He was filling me up to love and serve and all the while realizing that wherever I am, I can spread His hope and love. Wherever I go will be to serve Him and love people.

So, last week when I got a call that was exactly what I wanted, I was confused. I was so dumbfounded that God was literally placing in front of me what I had prayed about. My previous mission organization wanted me to come back to help and work in South Africa. This would mean I get to utilize my skills that I graduated with, all while leading other teams, serving in the communities I had once been and living in South Africa. I wrestled with this idea. I wanted so much to say “YES” and jump right in but I was hesitant only because it seemed too good to be true. I talked to trusted advisors and mentors in my life and I prayed for God to put a peace over which decision I would make. And through that process and prayer, I felt God giving me the choice of two places that He has led me to and would let me serve Him in. I was so amazed that this is exactly what I prayed about that all I could do was thank Him for His faithfulness and thank Him for knowing my heart.

Just like before, I will be leaving for Africa but to South Africa. This time however, God has captivated every inch of my being, He knows my desire is to love Him and serve others and in turn, He is allowing me to return to communities and use my gifts He’s given me to draw people towards Him. My heart is doing back flips with how overwhelmed I am by His power and presence. God hasn’t promised everything will be easy. He just promises faithfulness. Just like 2,000 years ago to today, He is faithful. He is faithful when things don’t go our way, He is faithful in wanting good for us, He is faithful in the trials and pain, He is faithful in knowing our hearts, and He will continue to be faithful with the seeds that are being planted.

I realized something through this process; God just wants our “yes.” I had to get to a place with God where I was all in for HIM. Not all in for what I wanted but all in where ever He led me. He could have sent me to a crowded urban city in China or a suburb in Australia or a small town in rural America. I had to take my prayer to heart and be willing to go where He wants. Something crazy happens when we make God our heart’s desire; we start to desire things that are of Him and for Him. God is such a good God. He wants to give us gifts and He wants to love us. He wants to fill our hearts so we can serve others like Jesus. He wants to do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine. God just wanted me to say “yes” to Him, “yes” to His heart, “yes” to serve Him and to love others like He does. And through that, He actually gave me immeasurably more than I could have asked or imagined.

IMG_1581.jpg

Abiding in Him

Abide. To remain in place. To wait patiently for. I’ve noticed in scripture that abide is a word used when speaking about God. Abide is especially used when speaking of the promises of God. Waiting is a word we are all familiar with. But, waiting to me seems like kind of an impatient word. I don’t want to simply wait for the Lord. Waiting implies I want everything to operate out of God’s timing, for all of my desires to be met now. That’s how we live today. Everything is in the now. But what I really want is to abide. I want to remain in place, in awe of Him and wait patiently for Him to do His job.  As I’ve read and listened and prayed, the Lord has been teaching me how to abide in Him.

Over the last few months, I’ve had to learn re-learn patience. Patience and abide go hand-in-hand but with abide, prayer is involved. I’ve had to learn to have patience with a Godly mindset which to me was abiding in His word, saturating myself with His love, filling myself with joy because when everything around me is hurting, I am in need of abiding in a constant Savior.

 I’ve realized the importance of abiding in a God worldview and not the different worldviews I’ve lived in. Since returning from Africa almost five months ago, I felt God put me in a waiting pattern. I felt a desire and a strong pull on my heart to be in Africa. Most who know me, know how torn I was at returning. My two worlds were ripped apart and I was left trying to start over with no place in mind.

Now, while my world was confused and messy, God knew what He was doing and I can clearly see that now. But, rewind back to January when I stepped back into Canyon, Texas, a town I had intentionally tried to leave, and I was confused. Why had God brought me back here? What was my purpose?

Living life questioning my purpose seemed to leave me so lost. God was so patient with me as He taught me how to abide in Him. He provided a job that I have come to love working with international students teaching English. He provided a place to live knowing I probably wouldn’t be here long. But, most importantly, the Lord provided comfort. First and foremost, it came from Him, but it also came in every person and place I was. I realize God brought me back to my small town in Texas to show me His love for me through the people He has placed here. From the teachers I’ve worked with, people at my church, to new and old friends—they have all rallied around to support and love me and show me how God works in so many different ways. To say I’m thankful for all the newness is an understatement. I was so resistant at first but my heart overflows.

I was still praying for what God wanted. I took my job knowing it may have been temporary. The pull for Africa never really left my heart and I spent a lot of time searching God’s will in the situation. I prayed, fasted, cried, talked, wondered but it was still there. I had no idea what God wanted but kept praying for His will in every situation. I prayed to remain faithful where I was and to show me His path.

And show me He did, but not in the way I had thought. I had my heart set on the places I’ve been with the people I knew. But, God in His goodness had something different in store. I knew Africa was in my heart but didn’t know the plan and I was okay with that. About two weeks ago, I came to a point where everything kind of hit me hard. I didn’t know what my purpose was here and I’m sure I was being impatient. Someone close to me ended up telling me a story about letting God take control and that same day I prayed to God for Him to take the reins of my life. And take all of them. I was tired of trying to figure out what He was doing. Remember, my job is to abide and let God figure the rest out.

Over the last half a year, God has been revealing His faithfulness in my life in different ways. Prayers have been answered and a lot were not. But the open door and “yes” to a prayer I’d been praying for so long was answered not even a half of a day after I said “God you take my life and let it be yours.” The day after I prayed that prayer, I was accepted into a program to work with abandoned children and women at a ministry in Uganda for a year starting in January. My heart had been so drawn toward this ministry and God opened so many doors, I couldn’t say no.

 I think as followers of Christ we are constantly in an ebb and flow of giving God control. Even with this answered prayer, I still struggled to say YES to God. I realized how in our weakness, He is strong. I doubted whether I could leave so much support and a job. I doubted myself so much. Coming from pain in the past, through depression and anxiety, through battles I could never have imagined, could God really be answering this prayer and desire to follow Him wherever that leads? Could He actually use me? What will people say? I could have tried to talk myself out of it, but I told God I would keep saying “yes” to His plan until He said “no.”

So, here I am, nine months away from stepping out in faith again, but I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. I will be again leaving but this time; I know I have a place to come back to. God wasn’t sending me back here without purpose. He sent me back to find Him in the uncomfortable places, to spread His message of Hope, to realize my deepest desire is to love and follow Him, and He sent people who I am forever grateful for. I want nothing more than to glorify Christ in everything that I do. I want to abide in Him well now and abide in Him well when my world is turned upside down when I leave for Uganda for a year in January. I cannot wait to be in Africa again because part of my heart is there. Part of my heart is also here. God has been so faithful to bring joy in uncertainties. He has been faithful not only in the last year but I can see His faithfulness through my whole life. I have a story to tell, His story, and I pray that His hope can be seen while I’m teaching here this year and when I leave for Uganda in January and even when I return here again. I pray to abide in Him all of my days and to follow where He is leading. I truly don’t want to miss what God is doing and I hope to play a small part in His story.

As excited as I am, I am also nervous but more importantly, I’m expectant. I’m expectant that God is going to work right now, this year, and will always be working. I am expectant that God will teach me things that help provide Hope to others.  I am expectant that He will use past pain, suffering, and hurts to help others. Last, I’m expectant that God CAN use me because even though to the world, I may be unqualified, to Him, I am chosen, loved, and redeemed.  So there’s the big news: I am headed to Uganda in January and I simply cannot wait but I also want to abide in Him while He works.  I’m speaking to myself when I encourage others to keep abiding, keep seeking, keep following Christ and keep on loving to show people Jesus. He hears you and knows your heart and what you need even through the trials life brings. Abiding in Him is worth it. Uganda love it!

I STILL Don't Know What I'm Doing

It is funny I titled this post with the same thing I titled my last post almost two months prior. But, it is true: I have ZERO idea what I'm doing, still. I've been back from Africa almost two months and my heart longs to be there now more than ever. While I pray about being back there, I know it's my job to be faithful in the here and now, which is often hard.  God is so faithful, has always been faithful and will always be faithful. But faith is SO hard to have, especially when you have no idea what God is up to. I've realized this more and more as I go about my day to day life, working, living, and continuing to pray about every decision and the future. In Hebrews 11:1 it says "Faith is the confidence that what we Hope for will actually happen; it gives us an assurance that we cannot see." How beautiful is that truth? 

The root of my Hope is and will always be Jesus and I want nothing more than to spread that exact word for the rest of my life.  It is so encouraging though that this side of heaven with all the hurt and pain, faith means believing, and I mean truly believing that what we Hope for will actually happen and that Jesus will come. God has our best interest in mind and He is a good, good father. So many times in the past two months, I've prayed, cried, and wondered what God is doing with my life and with this life. I wish I had a better answer than just to have faith but it's what I hold steadfast to. 

God didn't bring me, you, or anyone this far for nothing. He didn't die in the worst, most painful way possible to leave us with nothing. He didn't redeem our lives, bring us from our dead, sinful selves, to a vessel for His love to stay silent. While I actually have no idea what each day holds, I know who holds my everyday. And while my heart longs to be in Africa again, my heart will and always will be with Jesus first wanting to spread His love far and wide. I'm thankful knowing that our faith isn't based on anything we do, but just following, living, serving and loving like Jesus would. So, yeah, I still have no idea what I'm doing, and that's okay, but I know with my whole heart that His plan will be immeasurably more than I can ask or imagine for me, you, and all of us. And, Thank God it is. 

I Don't Know What I'm Doing

I'm back in America. It's been a week since I landed but I don't feel home. I don't feel a sense of belonging like I'm back in my home country. I actually feel lost. I've visited friends, been to familiar coffee shops, my old work, I've seen familiar places but nothing feels familiar.  I've been in shock almost because every part of me feels like it belongs in Africa. I thought it while I was there but I feel it more being back. Every fiber of my being misses South Africa, the family I left there, and the communities. While I know I will make it back, I just don't know when. And in this time of waiting, many have said "so what's next?" And I laugh, and I cry a little because I don't know what I'm doing. I really don't. It's taken me a while to be able to tell people my true heart. 

There is so much emphasis on a job and what's next and where to that I almost laugh. If there's anything I've wanted to bring back with me to Africa it's that my fate isn't the job I'm going to have or where I'll live although those are easily the questions I'm asked. What I do know is the message I want to bring back with me while I'm here. 

Hope. 

A simple concept but means so much more. I was able to be in and see a few communities that I realize now are somewhat hopeless. The poverty, the alcohol, the drugs, gang violence or any other situation could hinder the hope in any community. I saw a lot of kids who were going to grow up in the same situation their parents or friends were in unless they were given a different hope. I realized after being in a few communities that I want to be someone who spreads that message of hope and of love of Jesus. If I do anything with my life, it's wanting people to know that He gives hope to any circumstance, any brokenness and anyone. 

So, no, I'm unsure of what is next. My heart has been left in South Africa, and I will keep praying to make it back soon but I also know that there's a message of hope that needs to be spread. I don't know what I'm doing for a job, or a home and that's okay because I want God to put me in situations to spread His love and hope. And in the meantime, I will pray, I will remain faithful and I'll go wherever He is leading for this time in the states.

 

A Heart for Africa

It's a little over two months into my time in South Africa and I can't imagine being anywhere else. With three weeks until I step into a huge unknown of the future, I can't help but think of how my heart beats for Africa.   There's something special about being here, seeing how blessed Africa is but also broken. The people here know how to capture hearts, live for God, and can cook food like I've never had before. The land and creation in Africa is some of the most beautiful I've seen. And, although there are many different religions and beliefs, God is so present in Africa.

In each place I've been: Namibia, Centurion, Darling, Cape Town - God is so present in creation. I've seen stars so bright under the Namib desert, I've nearly been brought to tears. I've walked up part of Table Mountain in Cape Town and got to gaze at the ocean down below. I've lived in the bustle of the city and seen the beauty of how the streets move with business. I've watched the sun set over the hills of Darling and realized that only God can paint something that amazing. The beauty here is simple but artistic and God-given. Many see Africa as mud huts and animals, but the beauty that I've been able to see, live and breath has been appointed by God to this beautiful country. 

The people in Africa rival anyone I've ever met. Africa is so diverse in many different areas. I've seen townships, nice houses, big cities, and small huts and in each place, the people have etched their way into my heart. There is a joy about the people here no matter the circumstances that draws you in. I've had the opportunity to see some of the poorest places but fall in love with the people and how our hearts rest so closely with God. I've also seen some of the richest places and have been able to connect two cultures regardless of color or class. The meaning of relationships to the people in Africa is everything and for that I'm so thankful. There's no agenda but to just talk, get to know someone, and to love them. If there's anything I've learned, it's how to live and love by spending time with people and investing in them. 

God is the God of me, of you, of the people in Africa and of the places. As much as my heart beats for Africa, His heart beats more for me, for you, for everyone on this earth. He wants joy for us, He desires relationship with us, and loves us despite what our circumstances, our struggles, or hurts are. Being in Africa has been a beautiful image of God's love and has made my heart fall in love with people and places I never knew possible. I'll be back, Africa, I'm sure of it. 

Oh, Darling

For the past week, I've been given the opportunity to travel to Darling, South Africa, a small farming community just an hour outside of Cape Town. Most commonly known for its wine and olives, Darling is a little serene countryside town with a whole lot of Jesus.  What's striking about Darling is it's beauty. There are rolling hills, rows and the rows of farm lands and so much green. When looking at such a place, experiencing a sunrise or sunset, it's easy to see that God is here. 

While it's pretty, and has been an amazing change of scene, the people and the work being done here has been the most honorable.  The mission field is so vast and working for the Lord looks a lot of different ways but here in Darling, it's a non stop outreach from schools in the morning, to farm visits at night to twice weekly church services on different farms. Jesus is here with a power and passion. 

My favorite part of any church service is worship. There's just something about being still and being able to worship with hands held high but in Darling, it looks a lot different. The worship is upbeat, lots of clapping and even dance moves. It's so full of energy and joy that it's hard to even remember the brokenness in a community with alcohol and/or drug issues. 

I think that's how God wants us to look at our lives: so full of energy and joy that we don't look at the brokenness but the goodness in Him. God didn't leave Jesus hanging on the cross to constantly remind of us of being broken, He restored Jesus, brought Him back again three days later so we would remember healing, love, and forgiveness. While it's good to remember how far God has brought us out of brokenness, it's also important to remember His Love, His kindness and His joy. And with that, Darling has sealed a special place in my heart, reminding me of the constant joy God gives us, even through the hurts in life.

Beacon of Hope

When looking at the school, Ditshego, that I've been working at, there's absolutely no reason I seem like I belong there. With a large language barrier, completely different culture and way of life, and the people, I look like I don't belong. I've been reflecting a lot on the Kingdom and the picture it paints for God to place me in that particular school for this time in my life.  It's not hard to point out the joy or talk about the joy that the kids and adults have in Africa. It's quite possibly my favorite part. But, I've also been exposed to nearly the opposite of joy: fear. Serving in a community that is very materially poor, I've heard stories that will forever be engrained in my mind. 

Most days the staff and I laugh, joke, pray, teach and work together. But last Wednesday was different for me:  One worker was telling me of her husbands infidelity, a child needed to find clothes to wear because his had so many holes, and some kids during school washed their clothes because they may not get to at home. Nothing in particular happened to me that day but I was shaken. 

I was shaken from the brokenness that I couldn't even imagine. And I was shaken by joy despite any of these circumstances.  I can't say I've had to live like that but I can relate in brokenness and hopelessness in a different degree. 

I prayed. 

I observed the rest of that day and the days following and still saw so much joy despite the circumstances. When hearing stories like the few above, it would be easy to forget and move on but God doesn't forget, he reaches out and loves. 

While I've never experienced brokenness quite like the community of Mooiplaas lives in, I realize that there is so much hope. The same goes for my life. And with that realization, I know I belong exactly in this community because while we come from different circumstances and backgrounds we are loved by the same God. We are cherished, given a future and have hope even in our brokenness. It's a beautiful picture of the Kingdom and how God puts different people together. 

I still won't be able to wrap my head around that kind of experience, but I don't have to because even in that brokenness, God can bring hope. Ditshego in itself is a beacon of hope and life in an otherwise broken and hopeless community. God is present, God is there, has always been there and will still be there years from now. Until then, I'm praying for more hope in the brokenness, for joy to overcome fear and to be a light in a sometimes dark place. 

You Are Welcome 

Without having a total cliche western view of Africa, I want to accurately describe the community I've started working in and have come to love. Mooiplaas is made up of about 16,000 people. It's a place you would not know was there unless you were trying to find it. From the road, you can see the big trash hill that lies next to Mooiplaas. As you venture into the township, you must go via dirt road passing piles of trash being burnt, small tin houses and honestly poverty like you may not have ever seen before. The pre-school, Ditshego, is in a small corner right at the beginning of the township.  Upon entering the school last week, I was smiling in nervousness, thankfulness, and empathy. My heart sank driving in and my mind was consumed with thoughts. I met teacher after teacher who were smiling. The principal was gracious to receive help and my thoughts turned into excitement. 

"You are welcome." 

Out of the 10 or so teachers at the school, each one of them made it a point to let me know I was welcome. Despite our differences in looks, occupations, and even circumstances, they were incredibly welcoming. I immediately thought to the Kingdom. As I tried to hide tears, I thought how intricate our God is to put people like us together, welcoming us all into his kingdom. 

Throughout my first days, kids started to open up. I saw pure joy, imagination, wonder, love, kindness, hard work, and intelligence out of each child and teacher I encountered. Despite any circumstance they may have been in, there was joy in each person at that school and even throughout the kids and adults we encountered in the town. We all shared smiles, laughs and love without questioning anything else. 

God's kingdom is all inclusive. There's no social status, hierarchy, or differences, there are just people like you and me living in a broken world. There is no us and them, there is we. Wherever we are, whether it be the richest place in America, or Mooiplaas in South Africa, God's kingdom is evident and His presence is strong. You are welcome. I am welcome. We are welcome. 

Home

Since getting back from Africa, the in between, and coming back to Africa, home has been on my mind. Ive beent thinking a lot about home, but not in the way that you think. Home is a safe haven, a comfort, a peace-filled place that sometimes we don't always get.  Because of the instability of my life in the last six months, I've struggled with the concept of home. Yes, I have a house I grew up in, but that's not my home. I have a community where I built some of my young adult life, but that's not my home. I have places, people, and things, but none of these are home.

I was in a conversation a few mornings ago and we were talking life, struggles, and joys when home was mentioned. But not the homes I mentioned above. 

"When I go home, I don't want to find out I had missed out on what God had for me." 

"When I go home, I want to be content knowing that was the next step." 

I sat in awe of God and the message he was sending through someone so dear to me. Home isn't a place. Home isn't a building but it is knowing God and His truth. Home is growing deeper in our relationship with God, that we are always at home with Him. 

Home is knowing that God holds the day we're in. Home is knowing our future hope is in God. Home is going through struggles but staying sound in the fact that God is there and He will always send helpers. Home is heaven, and living in pursuit of God until we get there. 

I've been back in Africa for one week. I've been traveling non stop for four months. I haven't had a solid place to rest or call home but today I am resting in knowing God, following God, and pursuing God until I can reach home. Home is where I am right now, not the past, but in Him and with Him. 

He Knows Your Name

I've been back two weeks now with plans of going back to Africa but I'm still reflecting on my time and the lessons learned. For the past three months, I spent time in church listening in Afrikaans. Although I loved the cultural experience, I was thankful to worship in English this morning. The message that stuck out to me brought me back to my time in the desert in Namibia, one of the sweetest times in my life where i grew, learned and loved.  Let me take you back to our first weeks in the desert, quite possibly some of the hardest two weeks: adjusting to a new culture, death in our teammates families, getting used to new people and a whole new environment. The kids were so welcoming and loving. They threw their arms around us and loved us without end. Before long, hundreds of kids were spouting their names left and right. Constantly, they were asking us "what's my name?" The sinking in my heart when I couldn't remember will not be forgotten. As I got to know them, I learned their names, mannerisms, and more about their life. 

I began to think of God. He doesn't need that time to get to know us. Those kids didn't need us to know their names, they had a BIG God who knew their name. He knows my name. He knows our futures, our lives, beginning and end. 

He knows my name. What a powerful message. In church this morning, a song played. "Like the dawn, He is faithful." I thought back to the sunrise in the desert, over kids who didn't have much, who didn't need much but God to know their name. 

As I am lost, unsure of my next step after Africa again, I can rest that I am seated and Jesus knows my name. He doesn't count the time I spent in jail, he doesn't count my life off the beaten path, he doesn't count my faults but He knows my name and He saved me. As I prepare to step out in faith, I want to remember names but I also want to spread the message that Jesus knows YOUR name. And that's the only promise we need. 

Hope in Brokenness

Doctor. That's what one of the kids I met at JP Brand Primary School wanted to be when they grew up. I also heard answers like lawyer, vet, and teacher. I almost couldn't believe the hope I was looking at when I heard those words. These kids, mostly, have nothing compared to American standards. This one kid in particular had all odds against her: divorce at a young age, abuse, death, alcoholism all within her family. Yet, on this day, I saw nothing but hope.  I began to think about my own life. Although in a much different situation growing up with good money, I had experienced those hardships too. There was divorce at a young age, alcoholism, death, abuse, and jail all thrown into my story. But here I was, at a school in the middle of the desert, bringing love and God to kids who have basically nothing. 

In those moments, our stories intertwined. I saw the hope of a young child and the hope of myself and in this was the most important lesson I had learned on this trip: hope in brokenness. Two different stories brought together by this hope. Two stories of brokenness, loss, hurt, pain but triumph because of Jesus Christ. 

This led me to think about the cross. The cross symbolizes hope but for me it symbolizes brokenness too. As Jesus hung on the cross, he was bloody, beaten, bruised and broken crying out for God to help. But in a moment of death and life, all hope was given because of the sacrifice he made. 

In the brokenness of the cross, we were given hope. While this may not seem like much, on that day out in the desert as the sun set, I began to comprehend the hope in brokenness that Christ gives us. A hope so deeply rooted in sacrifice that it didn't matter that a young kid from Africa and a girl from America lived two different lives because we were each given hope in our brokenness. We are redeemed, beautiful, and worthy and Christ did that for us. Without hope, this precious moment would not have happened. Without hope, we have nothing.